"What is Consciousness (in Its living form, and altogether)?"
I contracted all of the childhood diseases, including a relatively mild case of polio, and, at times, became delirious with fever. This suffering grew a certain depth in me as a boy, because outwardly there were few of the possible overwhelming tragedies.
In delirium, I would experience tremendous fear and an awesome mortal separateness, such that death became very real to me during those incidents.
During one of those episodes, I believe when I was about five or six years old, I had a dream that impressed me very deeply.
I saw a neat green grass field moving up and away from me, and there was a beautiful full oak tree at its highest point, on the horizon. It was a clear blue day. I did not see myself in the dream but felt as if I were stationed at my point of view at the base of the rise.
There were three women in black gowns, like nuns, walking away from me, up the hill. And I felt this tremendous loss and separation, as if I were being left behind.
I woke up crying, with an intense fear of death. And I asked my mother about death. She tried to console me with assurances about God and the afterlife. But a fear was planted in me from that time, such that death was always thereafter a fascinating mystery to me.
I often thought about that dream. I felt it was not a dream at all, but a memory of past death, or an intuition of future death. And the importance of that dream, or of death itself, was never the fact itself.
For this reason, I never became particularly motivated to investigate spiritualistic psychism, which pursues the link between living beings and those who are outside this life. For me, the interest in death has always been a matter of investigating, or deeply considering, the present relationship between life-consciousness and death.
I have not truly been concerned with where one goes after death. In my very earliest years, it was always clear to me that — no matter where one goes, or where one is — one is always the same fundamental Consciousness. Indeed, I observed and experienced all events from the "Point of View " of the "Bright".
I was Being that Radiant Consciousness, Which is untouched. But I gradually became combined with the mortal experience of identification with the body-mind, and a great question arose in me, more and more persistently and profoundly:
What is Consciousness (in Its living form, and altogether)? What must occur within It for It to remain as It is (untouched and Free and Blissful) even while, in Its living form, It already bears the certainty (or the tacit knowledge) of death?
It was this question, felt as a true dilemma, which caused me to indulge in a rather awesome adventure some years later, when I was about nine years old.
My father and I shared a passion for animals, although my mother usually took care of them. I was given a black cocker spaniel named "Bootsie" as a present for Easter.
The cellar of our house was my free space — and I spent long hours secluded there or playing with friends, where I invented spaceships and boats for us to ride in.
I kept a large chest of small toys and would play quietly there with my hoard. I was not exclusively introverted, since I also constantly played outdoors and with friends in the woods all around us, but there was a strong interior activity in me that I also enjoyed without feeling the need for company.
One day, I went into the cellar while my father was at work and my mother away shopping. As I walked into the room, I saw Bootsie lying in an old overstuffed chair in the corner of the cellar. I called her and rushed over to pet her. And she was dead.
I do not think I had ever touched a dead one before, and certainly not one that I had loved and known alive. She was stiff, lying as if in sleep, and her warmth was nearly gone.
I was immediately overcome by terrible grief. I ran upstairs and sat and rolled in my room, and wept for what seemed like hours. But there was not only grief. There was also fear and guilt.
I was stuck with some kind of knowledge that I was afraid to tell. My door was closed, and I heard my mother in the other rooms. She must have heard me crying, but I do not think she came in to me. She must have gone and found the dead animal and decided to leave me to my father. Then he, too, came home, and they opened the door to me.
My father asked me what was wrong, and I was trying not to show my grief. But then I told him, "Bootsie died." And I fell in his arms and wept.
After several hours of consolation and quiet, I had controlled my grief. Then I made a very strange decision. I could not bear estrangement from love. I prayed to God to receive Bootsie and care for her.
And then I told Him that I wanted Him to take me also. I needed time to make the transition from my life and love in the world, and so I told Him it should be at 9:00 P.M. two days from then — I believe, on a Sunday.
next: The Meaning of Death