Stones exist. We exist. What is the difference? 100 years from now on, these stones could exist, even if these would be broken down or dissolved into different forms. Not only stones, anything in this world from inanimate to animate would exist almost eternally, if we see them from the dimension of atomic or subatomic particles.
We humans are not exempted, either. While admittedly we will die one day, particles in our body would exist in different modes. In this perspective, we are also eternal. But usually, we don’t think of our life this way.
We are mortal, surely die, and won’t exist as we are after death. Mainly from scientific reductionism, just like a computer, the end of our brain (functionality of its neural networks) diminishes the ghost in the machine, self-consciousness, and we no longer exist. Perhaps we would be transformed into something else (soul, spirit, or wind, etc.), into the wholeness of the universe. Usually, however, we don’t think we do live and exist in this mode.
If so, what does it mean when we say, we are mortal? The focus here is our self-consciousness or self-awareness. The dichotomy between immortal and mortal resides only in the domain of our self-awareness. When we say, we are mortal, this means that we will surely die and our self-consciousness will vanish. When we are immortal, this means that we will never die and our self-awareness will forever remain as is.
Likewise, the dichotomy between eternity and temporariness takes place in the realm of our self-consciousness. It is because the concept of time exists in our self-awareness, too. If we think of ourselves (in our self-consciousness), then we think of ourselves in the past and future.
For example, when I regret what I did, in this very moment what I see is my consciousness here and now recalling myself in the past. When I worry about what will happen to me, then in this very moment what I see is my consciousness here and now envisioning myself in the future.
Perhaps in physics, time exists. But what we can do is only to capture the concept of time in our self-consciousness here and now. The physical existence of time is beyond our comprehension.
Thus, our self-consciousness dichotomizes the concept of time as follows:
- What it can capture: mortality and temporariness
- What it can’t capture: immortality and eternity
Death means the end of self-consciousness; hence, we can no longer think of ourselves in the past, present, and future. Without our self-awareness, such concept of time cannot exist.
Death, however, does not necessarily mean the end of our essential existence (in premodern, we call it soul, spirit, wind, and the like), even though it would transform and disperse the mode of our existence into the whole universe. Indeed, death is just one form of time-bound projection in the limited realm of self-consciousness.
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.John 12:25
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.John 10:27-28
Beyond and without self-consciousness and ego-driven time-bound fear, death cannot exist. There would be a vast horizon that our limited self-awareness can’t capture, which is called Eternity. Eternity is beyond the domain of self-consciousness and self-identity. When and if we forget our very self, then a glimpse of eternity would emerge. The resurrection implies such eternity as well.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:John 11:25
Image by Andrew Martin