When you read the title of this article, did your mind's eye impassively stare or did it blink? Do you face the inevitable with tranquility or does your psyche squirm inside its mortal container? If you really wish to know how spiritually evolved you are, your relationship with death is undoubtedly the yardstick with which to measure your progress. If your ready to go at a moment's notice, then you are as spiritually evolved as your likely to get. If fear raises its ugly head when contemplating "the final frontier", then you still have a way to go.
The aging of the "baby boom" generation has brought with it an emergence (or reemergence, if you are an historian of mysticism through the ages) of spiritual awareness into civilization. Metaphysics is as widely popular as it ever has been; today, there is more mystical stuff than you can shake a magical stick at. At times seeming to border on a fad, practically everyone has had their share of spiritual growth. For many, this experience has increased their self-knowledge, but to what purpose? If you are one of the many "new agers" who thinks the acquisition of knowledge is the be-all and end-all of existence, you have another thing coming. To know the answer to the eternal question, "Who am I?" is a truly great achievement, yet one must also answer the other two of the trinity of existential questions, "From where did I come?" and "To where am I going?" If you have properly done your self-work on the first question, then you know the answers to the other two questions. You also know the other two questions are sort of trick questions, as one answer is the same for both.
While it is true spiritual growth leads to benefits such as a happier existence for both one's self and one's fellows, our present day spiritual culture seems to overlook the fact that the main point of all this accumulated knowledge is to be prepared for physical death. The history of esoteric knowledge is a consistent pattern of various civilizations' members being initiated into the wisdom of what happens when one dies. From ancient Egypt's "Book of the Dead" and Greece's Eleusinian Mysteries through Rome's Mithraic Rites and medieval Europe's Alchemy to today's Rosicrucian and Masonic Orders, the goal of each and every Society has always been the same.
Our present civilization may be unique in that there is more esoteric knowledge readily available to the uninitiated than ever before. One need no longer be a member of such august secret societies in order to know the deeper secrets of life. Unfortunately, individuals can do their self-work piecemeal without the oversight of a society to remind them for what purpose the knowledge is being learned. Our culture is generating a lot of spiritual awareness while giving few clues about how to face the ultimate mystery. In ironic contrast to the boomer generation's unprecedented collective soul-searching is its fascination with the idea that through diet, exercise, or miracle medicine the process of aging can be retarded, and by extension, prevented. It is simply a reflection of how much our culture avoids the process of aging and dying. Mystics of all traditions through the ages have referred to our bodies as "vehicles"; the analogy is exact. While most models are extremely fun to drive, they all wear out and break down in time, with no exceptions. Imagine how good the surviving Driver feels when extricated from the car wreck. Are you ready to get out of the car?
Until recently, we had very little information about what happens to us when we die, since hardly anyone bothered to come back and tell us about it. However, in the last few decades, due to modern medical techniques, there have been numerous cases of near-death experience (NDE) involving a remarkably consistent set of circumstances. NDEs report that at the moment of physical death, they rise up out of their bodies feeling joyfully liberated. They travel through a "tunnel of light" to the other end, where they are greeted by previously dead family and friends, living in a world looking much the same as ours. The NDEs then move on to meet a Being, variously described as the Buddha, Christ, Virgin, etc. There is an overview of the entire life and a conversation with the Being, who convinces them to return, much to their chagrin, in order to finish their Work of helping others here. With such reports, it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to suppose that those who do not come back from the death experience spend the rest of one beautiful day catching up with long-lost loves. That doesn't seem so bad.
If we were to use the idea of death as a constant backdrop to our worldly activities, we would lead far more beneficial lives, both for ourselves and others. When contemplating death, having thoughts like, "I can't go until I do such and such for so and so" or "I'll be ready to go as soon as I get this done" can be extremely valuable in determining a priority of values and understanding what your true Work is here. While the vast majority of us are born sleeping into the "Great Illusion" of physical reality, the Mystic minority spend their lives awakening to the true Source, the Living Light, from which we come; physical reality veils the brilliant illumination of true Reality as "through a glass darkly". The ovoid spheres of light that are our souls become enveloped in denser matter in the same way our planet surrounds its molten core with earth. In essence, we are all dirty stars. It is our Work to shine forth like Suns of God, knowing the Light is eternal and the dirt only temporary.
Why are so may of us afraid to come clean? In large part, it is due to our materialistic "system", which views physical loss as something to be avoided at all costs. Job, home, and family security are all dependent on one's ability to "buy into" the system. Want to keep the job? Be obedient and do what your told. Want to keep the house? Pay your taxes. Want to keep your family? Insure everyone. This materialistic philosophy can be summed up by the now-famous saying, "The only sure things are death and taxes". The mystic knows there is only one sure thing and in the real "land of the free", there are no taxes. The less one identifies with physical nature as all there is, the less afraid one will be of physical death. If society's members see past the illusory veneer of material possessions and are willing to let them go, they will have experienced the "little deaths" necessary to the preparation for the "big promotion". If one dies a little each day while living, then death, when it comes, will be more like living.
Before our "rat race" began, Native Americans lived in relative harmony with their fellow beings and environment, using as little material as possible without wasting any of it, and constantly "giving away" possessions to those who had little. There was no ownership and there were no taxes. Each individual had a highly developed spirituality involving a Mother Earth and a Heavenly Father with a Happy Hunting Grounds, where all the grandmother and grandfather ancestors dwelled. They have a popular saying, "Today is a good day to die".
Have a good day.