Biocentrism – death and ethernity


The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with
the human body, but there is some part of it which
remains eternal.
—Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics
H
ow does the biocentric conception of the world change our
lives? How can it affect our emotions of love, fear, and grief?
How, above all, does it enable us to cope with our apparent
mortality and the relationship of the body and our consciousness?
The attachment to life and consequent fear of death is a universal concern, and, in some, an obsession, as the replicants in Blade
Runner made clear in their less-than-gentle way to all who would
listen. Yet once we abandon the random, physical-centered cosmos
and start to see things biocentrically, the verisimilitude of a finite life
loosens its grip.
Lucretius the Epicurean taught us two thousand years ago not to
fear death. The contemplation of time and the discoveries of modern
science lead to the same assertion—that the mind’s awareness is the
ultimate reality, paramount and limitless. Does it die, then, with the
body?
This is the point at which we leave science for a bit and contemplate
what biocentrism suggests and allows, rather than what it can prove.
The following is frankly speculative, yet it is more than mere philosophizing, as it follows logically and sensibly from a consciousnessbased universe. Those who wish to stick strictly with “Just the facts,
ma’am,” are under no compulsion to accept any of these rather provisional conclusions.
As Emerson described it in The Over Soul, “The influences of the
senses has in most men overpowered the mind to the degree that
the walls of space and time have come to look solid, real and insurmountable; and to speak with levity of these limits in the world is
the sign of insanity.”


I remember the day when I first realized this. From around the
corner came the trolley car, scattering sparks above it. There was a
grind of metal wheels, the tinkle of a few coins. With a jolt and a
sailing glide, the gigantic electric machine was on its way to my past,
back, block by block through the decades, through the metropolitan
limits of Boston, until it came to Roxbury. Here, at the foot of the
hill where, for me, the universe began, I hoped I might find a set of
initials scratched into the sidewalk or a tree, or perhaps an old, halfrusted toy, which I might put away in a shoe box as evidence of my
own immortality.
But when I reached that place I found that the tractors had been
there and left. The city, it seemed, had reclaimed some acres of slum;
the old house I lived in, the houses next door where my friends
played, and all the yards and trees of the years I grew up in—all those
things were gone. And though they had been swept from the world,
in my mind they still stood, bright and heliographing in the sun,

superimposed on the current setting. I picked my way through the
litter and the remains of some unidentifiable structure. That spring
day—which some of my colleagues spent in the laboratory carrying out experiments, and others in contemplation of black holes and
equations—I sat in a vacant city lot agonizing over the open-ended
and perverse nature of time. Not that I had never seen the fall of leaf,
nor a kind face grow old, but here, perchance, I might come across
some hidden passageway that would take me beyond the nature that
I knew, to some eternal reality behind the flux of things.
The extent of the dilemma was realized both by Albert Einstein
in the Annalen de Physik and by Ray Bradbury in his masterwork,
Dandelion Wine.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Bentley. “Once I was a pretty little
girl just like you, Jane, and you, Alice . . . .”
“You’re joking with us,” giggled Jane. “You weren’t
really ten ever, were you, Mrs. Bentley?”
“You run on home!” the woman cried suddenly,
for she could not stand their eyes. “I won’t have you
laughing.”
“And your name’s not really Helen?”
“Of course it’s Helen!“
“Good-by,” said the two girls, giggling away across
the lawn under the seas of shade, Tom following them
slowly. “Thanks for the ice cream!”
“Once I played hopscotch!” Mrs. Bentley cried after
them, but they were gone.
Standing in the rubble of my past, it seemed extraordinary that
I, like Mrs. Bentley, was in the present, that my consciousness, like
the breeze meandering across the lot, blowing leaves before it, was
moving on the edge of time.
“My dear,” said Mr. Bentley, “you never will understand
time, will you? When you’re nine, you think you’ve

always been nine years old, and always will be. When
you’re thirty, it seems you’ve always been balanced
there on that bright rim of middle life. And then when
you turn seventy, you are always and forever seventy.
You’re in the present, you’re trapped in the young now
and an old now, but there is no other now to be seen.”
Mr. Bentley’s observation is not so trivial a point. What sort of
time is that which separates a man from his past—which separates
one now from the next—and yet gives continuity to the thread of
consciousness? Eighty is the last “now,” we say, but who knows that
time and space—now seen as forms of intuition rather than immutable standalone entities—are not actually “always.” A cat, even
when mortally ill, keeps those wide calm eyes focused on the everchanging kaleidoscope of the here-and-now. There is no thought
of death, and hence no fear of it. What comes, comes. We believe
in death because we have been told we will die. Also, of course,
because most of us strictly associate ourselves with the body, and we
know that bodies die, end of story.
Religions may go on and on about the afterlife, but how do we
know this is true? Physics may tell us that energy is never ever lost,
and that our brains, minds, and hence the feeling of life operate
by electrical energy, and therefore this energy like all others simply cannot vanish, period. And while this sounds very intellectually
nice and hopeful, how can we be sure that we will still experience
the sense of life—that mystery neuro-researchers pursue with such
futility, like the dream hallway that stretches ever longer the farther
along the corridor we run?
The biocentric view of the timeless, spaceless cosmos of consciousness allows for no true death in any real sense.

When a body
dies, it does so not in the random billiard-ball matrix but in the allis-still-inescapably-life matrix.
Scientists think that they can say where individuality begins and
ends, and we generally reject the multiple universes of Stargate, Star
Trek, The Matrix and such as fiction. But it turns out there is more

than a morsel of scientific truth in this popular cultural genre. This
can only accelerate during the coming shift in worldview, from the
belief that time and space are entities in the universe to one in which
time and space belong only to the living.
Our current scientific worldview offers no escape for those afraid
of death. But why are you here now, perched seemingly by chance
on the cutting edge of all infinity? The answer is simple—the door
is never closed! The mathematical possibility of your consciousness
ending is zero.
Logical, everyday experience puts us in a milieu where defined
objects come and go, and everything has a natal moment. Whether
pencil or kitten, we see items entering the world and others dissolving or vanishing. Logic is a fabric woven of such beginnings and endings. Conversely, those entities that are timeless by nature, such as
love, beauty, consciousness, or the universe as a whole, have always
dwelt outside the cold grasp of limitation. So the Great Everything,
which we now know to be synonymous with consciousness, could
hardly fit within the ephemeral category. Instinct joins with what
science we can employ here, to affirm that it is so, even if no argument, alas, can demonstrate immortality to everyone’s satisfaction.

Our inability to remember infinite time is meaningless because
memory is a particularly limited and selective circuit within the neural network. Nor by definition could we recall a time of nothingness:
no help there either.
Eternity is a fascinating concept, one that doesn’t indicate a perpetual existence in time without end. Eternity doesn’t mean a limitless temporal sequence. Rather, it resides outside of time altogether.
The Eastern religions have of course argued for millennia that birth
and death are equally illusory. (Or at least, their core teachings have
done so. For the masses in every religion, there are more peripheral notions; in Eastern sects these include reincarnation.) Because
consciousness transcends the body, because internal and external
are fundamentally distinctions of language and practicality alone,
we’re left with Being or consciousness as the bedrock components
of existence.


The problem many face when pondering such things is not just
that language is dualistic by nature and therefore poorly suited for
such inquiries, but that there are onion layers of “truth” depending on the level of understanding. Science, philosophy, religion, and
metaphysics all deal with the challenges of addressing a wide audience with a huge spectrum of comprehension, education, inclination, and bias.
When a skilled science speaker steps up to a lectern, he already
knows who his particular audience is for that day. A physicist giving
a popular lecture, especially to youngsters, will avoid all equations,
lest the audience’s eyes start to glaze. Terms such as electron will need
to be briefly defined. If, on the other hand, the audience has a good
science background—let’s say it’s a talk for secondary school science
teachers—then statements like “electrons orbit an atom’s nucleus”
and “Jupiter revolves around the sun” involve already-familiar terms,
and no one would be left behind. Yet if the audience is even more
sophisticated, composed of physicists and astronomers, both statements would now be false. An electron doesn’t really orbit; it shimmers at a likely distance from the center in a state of probability
alone, its position and motion undefined until an observer forces
its wave-function to collapse. And Jupiter orbits not the sun but the
barycenter, the vacant point in space outside the sun’s surface where
the two bodies’ gravities balance like a seesaw. What is correct in
one context is wrong in another.
The same holds for science, philosophy, metaphysics, and cosmology. When a person strictly identifies his only existence with
his body and is certain the universe is a separate, random, external
entity, then saying “Death isn’t real” is not only ludicrous, it’s untrue.
His body’s cells will all indeed die. His false and limited sense of
being an isolated organism—this will end, too. Claims of an afterlife
will be met with an appropriately justifiable skepticism: “What has
an afterlife, my rotting corpse? How?”
The next level upward has our individual feeling himself to be
a living entity, a spirit perhaps, ensconced in a body; if he’s had
spiritual experiences or else religious or philosophical beliefs of

an immortal soul being part and parcel of his essence, then now it
makes more sense for him to accept that something goes on even
after the body is gone, and he’ll not waver in this view even as his
atheistic friends deride him for wishful thinking.


The concept of death has always meant one thing only: an end
that has no reprieve or ambiguity. It can only happen to something
that has been born or created, something whose nature is bounded
and finite. That fine wine glass you inherited from your grandmother
can have a death when it falls and shatters into a dozen fragments;
it’s gone for keeps. Individual bodies also have natal moments, their
cells destined to age and self-destruct after about ninety generations,
even if not acted upon by outside forces. Stars die too, albeit after
enjoying lifespans usually numbered in the billions of years.
Now comes the biggie, the oldest question of all. Who am I? If
I am only my body, then I must die. If I am my consciousness, the
sense of experience and sensations, then I cannot die for the simple reason that consciousness may be expressed in manifold fashion
sequentially, but it is ultimately unconfined. Or if one prefers to pin
things down, the “alive” feeling, the sensation of “me” is, so far as
science can tell, a sprightly neuro-electrical fountain operating with
about 100 watts of energy, the same as a bright light bulb. We even
emit the same heat as a bulb, too, which is why a car rapidly gets
warmer, even during a cold night, especially when a driver is accompanied by a passenger or two.
Now the truly skeptical might argue that this internal energy
merely “goes away” at death and vanishes. But one of the surest axioms of science is that energy can never die, ever. Energy is known
with scientific certainty to be deathless; it can neither be created nor
destroyed. It merely changes form. Because absolutely everything
has an energy-identity, nothing is exempt from this immortality.
Staying with the car analogy a bit longer, say you drive up a hill. The
gasoline’s energy, stored in its chemical bonds, is released to power
the vehicle and let it fight gravity. As it ascends, it uses fuel but gains
potential energy. This means that the fight with gravity has yielded a
stored form of energy, a coupon that never expires even after a billion

years. The car can cash in this coupon of potential energy at any
time, so let’s do it now, by letting the automobile coast down with
the engine off. As it does so, it gains speed, which is kinetic energy,
the energy of motion. It is using up its gravitational potential energy
as it loses altitude but gains kinetic energy. You step on the brakes,
which get hot, which is another way of saying its atoms are speeding up—more kinetic energy. Hybrid cars use this braking energy to
charge their batteries.

tmz

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