Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come…
“We’re almost at the end of our journey together,” says Michael, my peerless guide to the celestial realms. “So this is your last chance to ask any burning questions.” I am still soaring high after the exaltation of Thrones, but my face falls as I take in his meaning. Michael beams encouragingly. “Don’t be sad, Sybil. No mortal can remain in such transcendental states for long, but Earth has its own joys and solaces, as well as many tests and challenges ahead.”
“What do you mean?” I ask apprehensively.
“You are living in interesting times and there is much work to be done, great service required. Your ensouled species is entering the greatest transformation in its long and chequered history.”
“What’s that, then?”
“It is an Eschaton.”
“Ooh, apocalypse now! Should we start girding our loins?” I exclaim excitedly.
Michael fixes me with a stony glare, from angel to gorgon in a microsecond. A flash of lightning from his bright eye almost burns up my astral wings, while his own brilliance is obscured by a thundercloud frown as a glacial chill descends. “This is no laughing matter,” he admonishes me sternly. “Please understand that we are not talking about marching to Armageddon. You could go there again as you have so many times with ever more devastating consequences. But why would you even jest about turning your beautiful home-planet into a horror show?”
My wings droop under his rebuke, but quickly perk up as the sun comes out again with his radiant smile. “An Eschaton is simply an ending, a transition from one state to another. However, in this case we are speaking of a major paradigm shift. Humanity is about to take an evolutionary leap from the outer-directed, success-oriented values of the heroic or young soul age, to the inner-directed, relationship-oriented values of a more mature and civilized age. There are still many younger souls wedded to the glamour of celebrity, the drama of war, with no thought for the consequences, but the average soul age has progressed to the point where older souls are in the ascendency for the first time ever. Whether the shift happens smoothly or with many growing pains is up to you, but it behoves you to grow up fast. Wake up!
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!
“It is the job of older souls to take responsibility and play their part in these challenging times. That’s what this Eschaton is about.” Michael’s serious gaze softens into an expression of deep compassion. “You do have to pass through the darkest hour, but the dawn will come, is already coming and the horizon is brightening. Take heart, Sybil. You’ve done well here, witnessed mindfully and learned much. When your time comes to return to the Bardo, you will remember this voyage which will help you to cross over fearlessly.”
“This is a good moment to recap our learnings.” Michael gazes intently at me, rousing my full attention. “So there you have it. Pax or Paradise, Hell or Heaven? Which is it to be?”
“Well, first I must thank you for a most illuminating visit. I’m impressed at the variety of possibilities offered. Something for everyone in the bardo 😉 ” I gather my thoughts. “I knew from the beginning that Hell was not my place and am very grateful to Morgana for helping me understand I don’t need to go there, and of course to our own Parliament for making it optional rather than a pre-ordained punishment of our essentially sinful nature.” “That will do nicely.” Michael nods approvingly, and I continue more confidently. “I also understand that we humans bear collective responsibility to stop creating hell on earth as well as in the underworld: to replace war with peace, poverty with prosperity, corruption with integrity, pollution with purification. So I would choose Pax – Peace, not just for the afterlife but in life, on Earth. I understand we need to be awake and work hard for it. Our job is to build paradise on earth!”
Michael beams encouragement as he responds, “Just so. This is what we call immanentizing the eschaton, which is the great work ahead for you all. Now can you distil the essence of your insight in a nutshell?” I close my eyes, searching deep in my heart for inspiration:
“Very good!” I glow in the light of Michael’s praise, preening my wings as he continues. “Now … which will you choose?” I hesitate. “My choice is between Paradise and Heaven. Both have their attractions. I wonder if it’s possible to choose the best of both worlds – – the relaxed charm and natural beauty of Paradise with the exaltation and spiritual bliss of Heaven?” Then it comes to me clearly and I speak my heart’s desire.
If you live consciously, if you try to bring consciousness to every act that you go through, you will be living in a silent, blissful state, in serenity, in joy, in love. Your life will have the flavour of a festival. That is the meaning of heaven: your life will have many flowers in it, much fragrance will be released through you. You will have an aura of delight. Your life will be a song of life-affirmation, it will be a sacred yes to all that existence is. You will be in communion with existence — in communion with stars, with the trees, with the rivers, with the mountains, with people, with animals. This whole life and this whole existence will have a totally different meaning for you. From every nook and corner, rivers of bliss will be flowing towards you. Heaven is just a name for that state of mind.
“I’d love to visit Osho’s Bardo. It was so cool to see Osho sitting on the Throne of Heaven as if it was his regular darshan chair.” For a moment I am silent, reliving the bliss of that bygone Eutopia. I float through the gateless gate in my orange robe and mala, wafting through the tropical paradise of the ashram garden, embracing old comrades and fellow-travellers. Now I am sitting silently on the marble floor of Buddha Hall in the cool Indian morning, lulled into deep meditation by the calm cadences of our guru’s voice rising and falling like ocean waves, accompanied by the birds in the trees.
A polite cough stirs me out of my reverie. “That sounds like a good plan and feasible”, says Michael. “Osho Bardo is located in a sunny corner of the Pureland Paradise bordering on Asphodel Meadows, and the boundaries between the bardic realms are fluid.”
There is a long pause as he studies me benevolently. “Of course there is a 5th alternative … the direct route Home, which is the choice of most older souls….”
“Home? Now I’m really confused. Surely Heaven is our ultimate home?”
“Oh no! Steady on … You should realize by now that Heaven is neither a fixed abode nor a final destination. You get to the summit of one mountain, rest for a while, and then see ahead of you the next range. Pax and Paradise, Hell and Heaven are all phantasmagoria – impermanent phenomena of the lower bardic realms. It is fine to follow the coloured lights of the lower bardo, to sojourn there for a while, but be aware that it is a caravanserai. The journey must continue hereafter.”
“Not the final destination? What could possibly come after the Afterlife?”
“After the Afterlife comes the Beforelife!” I roll my eyes as Michael continues triumphantly. “Did you really think this would be the end of your journey? Your true Home is located in the higher bardo which we call the LBL: Life Between Lives. This is where you finally shed all vestiges of your personality and manifest as your true nature: pure essence — spirit. Here you reunite with the other members of your soul group and your guides. Here you process the lessons of your past life and prepare for your next life.
From a Buddhist point of view, the actual experience of death is very important. Although how or where we will be reborn is generally dependent on karmic forces, our state of mind at the time of death can influence the quality of our next rebirth. So at the moment of death, in spite of the great variety of karmas we have accumulated, if we make a special effort to generate a virtuous state of mind, we may strengthen and activate a virtuous karma, and so bring about a happy rebirth. (Dalai Lama)
“You have lived many lives, died many deaths, been reborn over and over. The wheel of rebirth is not a repetitive cycle but a spiral. It is an evolutionary process in which your soul develops and matures through many life experiences. You have been born into both female and male bodies, black and white, eastern and western, privileged and deprived, healthy and sickly, lives of rest and lives full of challenges. Eventually you, like all souls, will reach a point of ripeness in which you have experienced and learned all that you need to be fulfilled and finished with the cycle of incarnation. This is true Enlightenment. But that is another story, far in the future.
“For now you need to return to your world and play your [small but essential] part in the great work ahead. Go home and immanentize the eschaton!”
Exhilarated by the grand vistas opening before my inner eye, recovered from the disappointment of learning how far from journey’s end I still am, I finally feel ready to return to the challenges and joys of ordinary reality which we call real life.
Intent on our conversation, I hadn’t noticed the scene shifting around us, but in the pause I see we have been drifting gently downwards and are now standing near a golden gate. “Here we are at the sunset gate, the exit point for return journeys.”
Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main,
Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again!
Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn!
I hear a deep rumble, catch a gold flash, and suddenly the Solar Boat is there in front of us, as if materialized out of nothing.
“Your companion is here to take you back to your own world,” Michael smiles. “You have to meet him at the gate as he is non grata in the Inner Circle at the moment.”
“Oh come on, not my little angel!”
“I’m afraid so. He was caught napping on the soft red velvet cushions of the Throne.”
I smile fondly, remembering other naughtinesses as Michael continues with a steely glance, “I know you dote on him, but that’s not the worst of it. There was also a close encounter with the Bird, which almost ruffled a few feathers.”
Luckily we are interrupted by a loud MIAOW, and here is my dear friend standing in front of me, ears and tail up, piercing sapphire blue eyes gazing at me, is that a grin on his face? He jumps into my arms, head butting me playfully, purring loudly as I bury my face in his soft fur. Then he wriggles free and jumps down, pacing jauntily towards the splendid golden spaceship.
Michael beams goodbye to me with the full brilliance of his smile, which conveys unconditional acceptance of the magnitude of time and space and the soul’s experience of the dance between worlds. “This is just au revoir. You know you can always call me whenever you need me.” I nod with love and gratitude. “Go with Heaven’s Blessing. Love and Peace.”
Once more I follow Ra up the stairway and into the Solar Boat. As we enter, I glance towards the cockpit and reel back in shock, stifling a giggle. I thought I’d seen it all by now but “Surely that’s never a black sheep at the controls?”
Ra gives me an old-fashioned look and shrugs: “We Gods like to mix it up, and can shapeshift into any form. At dawn a scarab rolling up the sun. At noon a hawk soaring through the meridian. At sunset a ram forming souls out of Nile clay…” “What?” “… and then holding the souls aloft so that the divine light may shine upon them and give them life.” …
“Yes indeed. This is Khnum, our evening pilot.”
I nod politely at Khnum, admiring his magnificent horns, and shrug myself. If a robot can drive a plane, why not a ram at the helm of the Solar Boat?
I turn round once more to see the form of Michael still glowing angelically golden, and I continue watching as the solar craft lifts off gently, soundlessly … a brightness that grows distant but undiminished. Then I turn back towards Ra for our last fond farewell.
Shamanic journeys normally have to return the same way, but accompanied by the Lord Ra it is permitted to skip the scenic route and go directly home. So I departed from Heaven through the sunset gate in the Solar Boat, descending gently yet majestically over the horizon to begin my journey home.
Each of us suffers
the death we’re due, then given the freedom
of broad Elysium – the few, that is, who’ll dwell
in those blessed fields until the end of time
when length of days will remove the deep-dyed taint,
purify the aethereal sense and that sheer original stuff
of fire and spirit. The rest, when they have trod
time’s mill for a thousand years, the god commands
wave upon wave into the Lethe river, so at that stage
their memory is effaced and they go once more
to dwell beneath sky’s dome and start again
to long for the old life of flesh and blood.
(Aeneid – Book VI, Virgil, translated by Seamus Heaney)