Is Controlled Death the Key to Physical Immortality?
Apoptosis is our organism’s tightly regulated and highly efficient cell death program. Apoptosis works with a genetically encoded signaling network: when our organism recognizes that a cell is damaged, it uses signal substances to trigger death receptors in its cell membrane, inducing the damaged cell to commit suicide and dissolve. Apoptosis can also be triggered from inside a cell, for example when a cell deems its DNA damaged.
Apoptosis is a program of Biblical proportions: in an average human adult, it replaces between 50 and 70 billion cells each day. After a shower, you rub a mind boggling 10 million dead cells off your body. Savor this: controlled, perpetual dying is the foundation of our body’s survival. Accordingly, when there’s a problem with an organism’s apoptosis, sick cells survive and grow in an uncontrolled manner – the result is cancer. Of course scientists are very keen to learn how apoptosis works. Imagine: instead of killing cells with chemicals and causing a lot of collateral damage, doctors could simply induce sick cell to commit suicide.
Scientists are still looking for the reason why our organism ages and dies; theoretically, it could go on forever regenerating itself – with the help of apoptosis. Conclusion: aging must be the result of a malfunctioning organic death program. But simply boosting cell suicide isn’t recommended. Apoptosis research classify two kind of ailments: ailments which are caused by insufficient apoptosis (e.g. cancer, arthritis, …) and ailments which are caused by an excess of apoptosis: (e.g. HIV, Parkinson, etc..). So, the key is balance: not too much and not too little death.
Now, what has this to do with immortality? Well, almost all spiritual traditions hint at an immortal, physical body that can be constructed by obscure mental practices and they agree that dissolution and equilibrium are the two secrets of this great work. Is apoptosis the lost secret to physical immortality? Was Methuselah for real?
In spirituality (and physics incidentally), there’s no death-death, only transformation, and what is apoptosis, but a perpetual, organic transformation? Tarot card 13, Death, is said to hold the secrets to immortality. Paul Foster Case commented on this Tarot card: “When somebody is able to balance the destructive and constructive forces in his body he is able to prolong his life far more than an average human being.” That sounds pretty much like apoptosis, doesn’t it?
If Paul is right, it should be possible to manage apoptosis by mental means. Carlos Castaneda seems to agree with this: The power of man is incalculable; death exists only, because we have intended it since the moment of our birth. The intent of death can be suspended… – The Wheel of Time, page 265.
Maybe, by hanging onto our old ways of thinking and feeling we suggest to old cells to hang onto their lives longer than they should. Or we hate ourselves so much that our body tries to dissolves itself. Whatever we think and feel is incorporated into our subconsciousness and subsequently into our organism (Tarot card 18); so, why shouldn’t our thinking and feeling influence apoptosis as well? That the mind influences the body is already an accepted fact and the subject of an independent scientific research field. If you want to read more, here are two websites elaborating on the matter:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychosomatic_medicine andhttp://www.psychosomatic.org/about/index.cfm.
What else can we learn from Tarot card 13, Death? It shows a white skeleton (our higher self) harvesting wisdom (man’s head) and understanding (women’s head and feet), and reaping karma (hands – response to action). Unaffected by circumstances, our higher self is marching through our string of incarnations (the river) towards sunrise. The sun is a symbol of life in general and in particular of the life-power (the energy with which we perform the great work). The rising sun, on the other hand, is a symbol for evolution.
The blade of the scythe is formed like a moon crescent – a symbol of memory. The proper handling of memories is another key to immortality. Carlos Castaneda talks about the erasing of ones personal history as a key to thesecret option of dying (we added this long quote, because this is may be the single most important practical spiritual exercise): Don Juan had given me very detailed and explicit instruction about the recapitulation. It consisted of reliving the totality of one’s life experiences by remembering every possible minute detail of them. He saw the recapitulation as the essential factor in a dreamer’s redefinition and redeployment of energy. “The recapitulation sets free energy imprisoned within us, and without this liberated energy dreaming is not possible.” That was his statement. Years before, don Juan had coached me to make a list of all the people I had met in my life, starting at the present. He helped me to arrange my list in an orderly fashion, breaking it down into areas of activities, such as jobs I had had, schools I had attended. Then he guided me to go, without deviation, form the first person on my list to the last one, reliving every one of my interactions with them. He explained that recapitulating an event starts with one’s mind arranging everything pertinent to what is being recapitulated. Arranging means reconstructing the event, piece by piece, starting by recollecting the physical details of the surroundings, then going to the person with whom one shared the interaction, and then going to oneself, to the examination of one’s feelings. Don Juan taught me that the recapitulation is coupled with a natural, rhythmical breathing. Long exhalations are performed as the head moves gently and slowly from right to left; and long inhalations are taken as the head moves back from left to right. He called this act of moving the head from side to side “fanning the event.” The mind examines the event from beginning to end while the body fans, on and on, everything the mind focuses on. Don Juan said that the sorcerers of antiquity, the inventors of the recapitulation, viewed breathing as a magical, life-giving act and used it, accordingly, as a magical vehicle; the interaction being recapitulated and the inhalation to pull back the energy that they themselves left behind during the interaction… Don Juan stated that the old sorcerers’ rationale behind the recapitulation was their conviction that there is an inconceivable dissolving force in the universe, which makes organism live by lending them awareness. That force also makes organism die, in order to extract the same lent awareness, which organism have enhanced through their life experiences. Don Juan explained the old sorcerers’ reasoning. They believed that since it is our life experience this force is after, it is of supreme importance that it can be satisfied with a facsimile of our life experience: the recapitulation. Having had what it seeks, the dissolving force then lets sorcerers go, free to expand their capacity to perceive and reach with it the confines of time and space. – Carlos Castaneda, The Art of Dreaming, page 148
Mind that don Juan was by no means allegorical:“The sorcerer seers of modern times call this process of invalidation the ticket to impeccability, or the sorcerers’ symbolic by final death,” don Juan said. “And in that field in Sinaloa, I got my ticket to impeccability. I died there. The tenuousness of my new continuity cost me my life.”
“But did you die, don Juan, or did you just faint?” I asked, trying not to sound cynical.
“I died in that field,” he said. “I felt my awareness flowing out of me and heading toward the Eagle. But as I had impeccable recapitulated my life, the Eagle did not swallow my awareness. The Eagle spat me out. Because my body was dead in the field, the Eagle did not let me go through to freedom. It was as if it told me to go back and try again.
“I ascended the heights of blackness and descended again to the light of earth. And then I found myself in a shallow grave at the edge of the field, covered with rocks and dirt.”
– Carlos Castaneda, The Power of Silence, page 191ff
Mind the phrase ascended the heights of blackness and descended again to the light of earth. A very similar phrase occurs in the Emerald Table of Hermes: It ascends from earth to heaven and descends again to earth, and receives the power of the superiors and of the inferiors. Many believe that this is exactly what happened to Jesus Christ: Jesus’ ego (Son of Man) ascended to heaven, united with the universal Christ (Son of God), and descended again, bringing the universal Christ down to earth. Shortly after, Jesus (his body and mind) was transfigured(transformed) – by the Christ-consciousness he brought with him. On a side note: in Alchemy the Christ-Consciousness is called Stone of the Wise.
Another key is apparently self-identification. We gotta keep our ID fluid and avoid getting stuck with a particular state of ego. This is howKrishnamurti put it: we shall die psychologically every minute. Of course, we need to reach out to our higher self at the same time, otherwise we will just stumble from one identity crises to another. To put this back into a Christian context: keep the ego short on a short leash and reach out to the cosmic Christ on a daily basis. We’re reminded of 1Chor 15.31: I swear by the bliss I experience through you, Jesus Christ, that I die daily.