you can't take it with you, apparently

You may have heard of the late Kerry Packer? In life he was one of Australia's wealthiest, a multi-billionaire. Some months before his real death in December 2005 he had a "phoney death" in which his heart stopped working for over ten minutes. He was was pronounced clinically dead by medical staff. But amazingly he revived, came "back to life" (?) and concerning his experiences during those 10 minutes, made a number of comments that were widely reported at the time.

I can't remember his exact words, but they were to the following effect, "I've been there, and come back. And I can tell you all, there's nothing there. Nothing. No tunnel. No light. It's all rubbish..."

Of course, the fact that Kerry Packer believed he found nothing, saw nothing, doesn't prove anything either way. But I tell the story because it reminds me of something I read a number of years ago. Can't remember the exact words or where I read them but they were to the effect that what you experience during and after the thing labelled as "death" is exactly what you expect to experience --- no more, no less. If you expect nothing, you get nothing. If you expect hellfire and brimstone, you get hellfire and brimstone. If you expect 900 doe-eyed houris (or whatever the exact promise is in the Koran) then you get 900 doe-eyed houris (as reward for making jihad against the infidel).

I don't unequivocally agree or disagree with Mr Packer, or with anything in the preceding paragraph: I'm still making up my mind.

Kerry Packer "died" with the firm conviction that nothing lies beyond death. And if the story is true, he got what he asked for. ("Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it!") By virtue of being human, of being a creator, that was the experience he created for himself --- the experience of finding nothing.


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mgeorge said...

There is a TV program that focuses on such temporary experiences of "death", on a channel called BIO. Strangely, the only people they found (over a few episodes I saw) all described the classic Western "loving light" experience popularised from the 1980s. Their names suggest no other cultural background. Perhaps the identity of the party funding the show will cast some light on this. This is like the paucity of cases of "reincarnation" outside South and East Asia - except for Western tourists who have just visited a "medium".

"Doubt everything; find your own light." - Gauthama Buddha (last words according to Theravada tradition)
"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." - Voltaire
"I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything... I do not feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose... Most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge..." - Prof. Richard Feynman, Pleasure of Finding Things Out, 1999
"Doubt is thought and thought is life. Systems which end doubt are devices for drugging thought." - Prof. Albert Guerard (novelist)

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, your hard-edged logic and analytical mind almost always cause me to re-evaluate my own thinking on things. So much so that when I read my own words "I'm still making up my mind" I feel a small twinge of unease at the prospect of one of your comments forcing me to think more clearly. Thank you, I wouldn't have it any other way. The quotes are great too.

mgeorge said...

I need to clarify. My quotes on doubt were in praise of your admission of not being sure. When one is sure where one need not be, all hope (of improvement) is lost. The mind can be retired at that stage.

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, thanks for your clarification. In similar vein to Rumsfeld's things we know we don't know, and things we don't know we don't know, there are 1) things we believe that we know (believe?) to be true, and 2) things we believe that have not yet been proven, and (sadly) 3) things we believe that we know (believe?) to be false (per cognitive dissonance). If people could stick to (1) and avoid (2) and (3), the world would be a better place. Sometimes people fight more bitterly and with greater determination in relation to things they know to be false, but they fight all the harder because they WANT those things to be true... as if defending them somehow turns them from false to true. Magical thinking. But there is a place for it --- I don't know where that place is, but it's gotta be around somewhere!

mgeorge said...

A relevant article that just popped up on New Scientist:

"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Prof. Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays, 1950

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, interesting article, thank you. Belief-dependent realism -- very expressive phrase --- partial explanation for why people tend to vote the same way as their parents, adopt the same religious beliefs, like /dislike the same foods, etc.

And to prove the rule are the exceptions --- people whose irrationally extreme rejection of the values and beliefs of their parents and culture simply demonstrates the strength of those bonds in the first place.

Nor is the supposedly evidence-based world of science immune, per the phenomenon of paradigm shift that Thomas Kuhn describes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Thanks for your comment and link.


Interesting one. Life after death is the greatest mystery ever, perplexing people from all over the world, from all climes and creed. We believe life after death is exactly what we perceive now, or try to understand things with our senses, but death is a physiological function where body dissolute and consequently all our senses..Don't you think that 'nothing' is everything? Why we expect? As every expectation comes with a dissatisfaction as its shadow, yet we can't cease to expect. And that's (according to Hinduism) Maya.

According to Vedanta philosophy, When this body dissolves, the vital forces of an organism go back to the mind and eventually mind also becomes dissolved, as it were, into the Prana (vital force) and that Prana enters into the soul of organism, and the soul of organism comes out, clothed, as it were, with what they called it spiritual or mental body or whatever you may call it.


And in this mind, (which is not separate from our bodies yet not a body in a strict sense) is all our past Samskaras or say reflections of previous Karma accumulates. Just as in the lake waves rise, and then fall down and disappear, so these thought waves are repeatedly rising in the mind stuff, and then disappear, but they do not disappear for ever. They become finer and finer and all ready to start up when they are called to do so. What we call memory is just the initial form of calling back of previous thoughts, which have gone into that finer state of existence. Thus, every thought we think is lodged in the mind. It is all there in fine form, and when an organism dies, the sum total of the impressions is in the mind, which again works upon a little fine material as a medium. The soul, clothed, as it were, with these impressions and the fine body, passes out, and the destiny of the soul is guided by the resultant of all different forces represented by the different impressions.

This is how our works actually governs our destiny.

masterymistery said...

Shubhajit, thanks for your interesting comment, including description of the mechansim/process of incarnation and dis-incarnation.

masterymistery said...

Shubhajit, thank you for your comment, your clarification of these aspects of metaphysics is very helpful and interesting --- answering questions that have been floating around i8n my mind for a while...

puny human said...

From this believer in many gods and in life-after death: I would quote my teacher Jesus on this one. "It's harder for a rich man to enter heaven that it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." Of course Mr. Parker didn't experience anything. That's his own private little hell . . .

masterymistery said...

puny human, it has a certain irony! If not appropriateness. Thanks for your comment.

MK Infotech said...

I need to clarify. My quotes on doubt were in praise of your admission of not being sure.
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masterymistery said...

MK Infotech, thanks for your comment. I enjoy praise!