Charles Cowling

Posted by Vale

When I was at school there was a short lived craze for making yourself faint. If I recall, you hyperventilated and then got a friend to squeeze you round the chest, at which point you passed out.

It’s now claimed that this is equivalent to a near death experience. There’s a discussion here, with descriptions of how to to do it (along with a firm warning about not trying them yourself).

Here at the GFG we don’t think it’s a very good idea either. It may be unsafe of course but we also disapprove because, while we believe strongly that people should prepare for death, self inducing a near death experience is, we feel, one of the less constructive approaches.

Religions have suggested alternatives. Hinduism promotes the idea that life has stages and that after the Celibate Student and Family Man the good Hindu will become a Hermit in Retreat and, finally, a Wandering Recluse. Not surprisingly it notes here that practice of the last two stages has become almost obsolete now.

The Christian tradition of meditating on the ‘Four Last Things’ (Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven) may have more going for it.

Facing up to death, living with the knowledge of its inevitability, trying to prepare yourself all seem to me to be essential elements both of living and dying well. Meditating on Last Things would surely help prepare the mind.

But what Last Things might you meditate on? Death Judgement, Hell and Heaven don’t do it for me at all.

As an alternative I have started work on a personal list. It’s provisional at the moment but might include: meditation on ancestors and all that has made me the person I am; on the things that, from this vantage point, have turned out to matter; on the things that I have made or started; above all on everything that I have learned to love.

This feels like work in progress though. What would be amongst your Last Things?

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gloria mundi
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Ah Charles, the last bit isn’t always horrible! We’re scared it might be (well, I am, anyways!) and we remember the horror stories, but we forget those who “went out like a light,” “just keeled over there and then,” “when he woke up in the morning, he found she’s he’d gone.” Way to go, provided it’s not too soon, just before I’ve finished this..what, now? Me? Oh, bugger!

But this isn’t to disagree that a meditation on courage would be a very useful bit of prep.

Vale
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Vale

How moving and lovely Evelyn. It seems to me that there is a link between your experience and GMs ’emptying’. – that part of our preparation for death should be about shedding too. I’m not so sure about the self recrimination Richard. I grew up in a sincerely protestant household, went to church three times every Sunday in my youth and, frankly, wearied of the endless efforts to make us feel uncomfortable about ourselves. Original sin – that doctrine of helplessness in the face of our own natures – is simply a device to keep us in thrall to the… Read more »

Evelyn
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Evelyn

Near death experience? Not exactly mine……The day after my father’s funeral, I knelt alone at his freshly filled in grave, having planted a cluster of flowering snowdrop bulbs. As I sat back I experienced a feeling, an incredible sense of total serenity – oneness – peace.  I felt that everything was just ‘right’: the sky was blue, the birds were singing, nothing really mattered, and all was well and all manner of things were well…… I did not think of my husband, my children, my grandchildren, my friends of years,  I was aware of them but they were far from… Read more »

gloria mundi
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Sage words, O Vale. I can’t see how having a near-death experience actually prepares one for death at all (and we did that stuff at my school, didn’t seem very deathly at all to me, perhaps because I was more interested in trying to get the better-looking of my contemporaries to let me try it out on them….) I like your list, but I’d also want to turn outwards, as it were, and away from my own personality, my own ego; to meditate and enter that state of feeling entirely and only here and now, which in turn results in… Read more »

Richard
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Richard

I can empathise with knocking oneself out as an adolescent through over-consumption of wine, weed and whizz, but I’m unfamiliar with the craze you describe in your first paragraph! An interesting post on Last Things, Vale. The whole Judgement thing doesn’t necessarily need to separate faithers and non-faithers if Last Things are interpreted as assessment of both the good and bad things in our lives: our achievements (virtues) and our mistakes (sins). Your list in your penultimate paragraph seems very positive. Or does it include remorse as well as gratitude? Love—whether of God, humankind, life, or ourselves—can only be appreciated… Read more »