“What is death?” This is a question for the young and for the old, so please put it to yourself. Is death merely the ending of the physical organism? Is that what we are afraid of? Is it the body that we want to continue? Or is it some other form of continuance that we crave? We all realize that the body, the physical entity wears out through use, through various pressures, influences, conflicts, urges, demands, sorrows. Some would probably like it if the body could be made to continue for 150 years or more, and perhaps the doctors and scientists together will ultimately find some way of prolonging the agony in which most of us live. But sooner or later the body dies, the physical organism comes to an end. Like any machine, it eventually wears out. For most of us, death is something much deeper than the ending of the body, and all religions promise some kind of life beyond death. We crave a continuity, we want to be assured that something continues when the body dies. We hope that the psyche, the `me, – the `me’ which has experienced, struggled, acquired, learned, suffered, enjoyed; the `me’ which in the West is called the soul, and by another name in the East – will continue. So what we are concerned with is continuity, not death. We do not want to know what death is; we do not want to know the extraordinary miracle, the beauty, the depth, the vastness of death. We don’t want to inquire into that something which we don’t know. All we want is to continue. We say, “I who have lived for forty, sixty, eighty years; I who have a house, a family, children and grandchildren; I who have gone to the office day after day for so many years; I who have had quarrels, sexual appetites – I want to go on living”. That is all we are concerned with. We know that there is death, that the ending of the physical body is inevitable, so we say, “I must feel assured of the continuity of myself after death”. So we have beliefs, dogmas, resurrection, reincarnation – a thousand ways of escaping from the reality of death; and when we have a war, we put up crosses for the poor chaps who have been killed off. This sort of thing has been going on for millennia.
Saanen 7th Public Talk 21st July 1963