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Alchemy and Fear of Death

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In all of my reading concerning alchemy, the human spirit is presumed to be real. I guess that is mainly what keeps me interested. I fear death. I fear pain of death. I fear helplessness. And I'm not sure if I believe in life after death. It is very easy for me to say that I don't believe in it, because there is no proof, and I have never experienced anything that I would classify as spiritual in my entire life.

That overwhelming fear of dying really, really makes me want to take comfort in the possibility, if not the certainty, that I have an immortal soul.

Though, all my fears are rooted in the physical: fear of horrifying physical pain that I might endure in the throes of death, often irrationally so. When I consider what might happen to "me" after that, I am truly unconcerned. Either I will find myself a spirit, or I will find oblivion. It's the moments just prior that gnaw at my insides.

Most likely it is just chemical, and this fear is a physiological result of my instinct to survive. I have a powerful will to live, which translates to fear responses, and this is normal.

Within my mind, at this time, the ideas within the alchemical ways serve as a bridge--a link--between the physical and the spiritual. It gives me hope that through the practices I will undertake I will experience a clue to the great mystery... something to make the pain I might face bearable with the faith in what comes after.

Is it selfish that my desire is only to spare myself great misery, and that is the root cause of my seeking out some form of spirituality, rather than out of a genuine desire to become as one with the Universe, that I might have illumination, or to become as one with what some people might call God? I imagine it is selfish of me, by definition of the word, but I feel no guilt or remorse because of this.

There have been times where I have been cruel to others, and often felt no remorse, but as a human being I am indeed capable of compassion... if I choose to allow that emotion to take hold. I have no doubt that being male has something to do with this ability to easily suppress my caring emotions for other people.

Yesterday I watched a movie called Europa Report, and this film was the direct inspiration for this post.


It was about a mission to one of the moons of Jupiter. In the movie, the manner in which the first crew member died was utterly profound for me. It is a testament to this movie's realism, in my opinion, that I was so drawn into it that I felt such a surge of emotion for that character at that time. This man was on a "space walk" with another man, making a repair outside the ship. One man tore his glove on a sharp object, and the other drug him by their tether back to the airlock. The man whose glove was torn was on the verge of passing out, and the other man ended up having parts of his suit contaminated with a toxic chemical that, if exposed to air, would contaminate the entire ship. So, he detached the tether and thrust his unconscious companion into the airlock. Due to the way he was positioned at the time, as he pushed his companion, he was pushed backwards... and out of reach of any part of the ship. So he was left floating in space, helpless, like a man overboard watching the ship float away. The crew might have been able to save him, but he didn't have enough oxygen to last through the time it would take to depressurize the airlock, along with the time it would take to remove him from his suit (while in space--a horrifying prospect all by itself) so as not to introduce the chemical into the ship.

I can only imagine the horrifying feeling of utter helplessness, with the absolutely certainty that you have only minutes to live. Not to mention the absolute certainty that the death you are about to experience is going to be very unpleasant as you will gasp painfully for breath that will not come. It was unpleasant for me, even with the knowledge that this is just a movie, and I am not in that position.

As it goes, they might not have been able to go back for him anyway, because actual space ships aren't like sci-fi space ships, and this movie was very realistic in how it depicted its space flight. Real space ships can't flit around like X-Wings in Star Wars. The only thing that enables ships to navigate in space is mathematical calculations of trajectory based on the known (and therefore predictable) orbits of planets, or objects,... and most of those calculations, if not all, are determined prior to launch. It's not like a real space ship can simply "come about."

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CA Institute of Technology: "An interplanetary spacecraft's course is mostly set once the launch vehicle has fallen away. From that point on, the spacecraft can make only very small corrections in its trajectory by firing small engines or thrusters. Often the largest complement of propellant that a spacecraft carries is reserved for orbit insertion at its destination." (

Had I been him, I would have been very angry to be in that position, and needless to say I would have been very afraid. It's weird, because watching people get cut up, shot to death, or brutally smashed (etc.) doesn't bother me at all. I feel absolutely no compassion when death happens in such ways.

Drowning and suffocation are the exceptions. These manners of death terrify me to no end, and I'm fairly certain I know why. Once, when I was a child, I was playing in a pool with a group of older boys. They were splashing me, and holding me under, and I drown for a few minutes. The lifeguard revived me. Naturally, the boys claimed it was an accident. I have no doubt they were ignorant of the consequences of their actions, but I remember clearly the looks on their faces and the glee they shared at watching me struggle. And I will never forget their faces, nor will I ever forget the searing pain of being helpless as my muscles failed and I choked on the water.

So I imagine dying in space wouldn't be much different, and this movie helped to vividly bring back those memories. Of course, in my situation, it all happened very fast. There was no agonizing span of time for me to watch death approach, so my thoughts were purely on surviving. I cannot rightly imagine watching death approach, such as a convict having to walk to his own execution.

In the recorded last words of many of the people condemned to death by the state, so many seem to go bravely. Most of them that I have read turned to religion. Did they do so out of a genuine love of God and sorrow for what they might have done, or was it out of the need for comfort in the time leading up to certain, unavoidable death? I know not, but it seems I am, mentally at least, in a similar place.

I know that I will never believe in any of the deities which are described by man's religions, but there is the possibility that I might at least believe in something. Even if there is no proof, I continue to hope for a way to experience that something for myself. Perhaps alchemy is one such way.

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Updated 05-29-2014 at 06:18 PM by Eshai

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  1. Awani's Avatar
    Awani -
    Not to keep bugging you with the same subject matter but psychedelics, especially ayahuasca (taken in the right setting with experienced shamans) can for sure aid you in your fear of death.

    I recommend: (if you haven't read it)

  2. Eshai's Avatar
    Eshai -
    It's okay, dev. Like you said, setting is everything, and my aversion to such things probably mainly stems from the settings I was in during my own experiences with them.

    I have read the thread you link to.

    I slowly turned around and crawled (for ages it seemed)...
    I know this feeling all too well. How time is perceived has been an interesting subject for me for a while now.

    Pure love and compassion came now easily for me, and it was an immensely powerful state to be in. So powerful that it completely impressed me.
    Just out of curiosity... Have you ever witnessed someone go the other way? Have you ever watched someone give fully into their fear and hatred while having such an experience? (99+% of the time this does not happen, because the body is weak and, for the most part, physically unable to unleash violence.) For me, love is an emotion I have come to dislike. Compassion has mostly just given birth to pain, vulnerability, manipulation, and weakness in general. I simply cannot understand how it can be conceived of as being something empowering. For someone such as myself, this fundamental difference in perception yields striking differences in my experiences while under the influence. I think you have some understanding of this, as you mentioned experiencing "insanity," and others near you experiencing "insanity" as well.

    As you said...
    Ayahuasca with a bad shaman could end up very bad.
    Without them (the shamans) I would not do it at all! They are the guide through the other realms. They protect and they shine the light with their voices.
    Are they sober during the ceremonies?

    Please don't think I'm trying to mount an argument against psychedelics. I'm really not. I have no personal experience with Ayahuasca, nor do I have experience with being in a positive setting. I have always linked my own internal anger (as well as the violence around me) to such drugs. So it is with even alcohol, which I also do not consume (except in such things as tinctures).

    So with that aside, what you've written has been very interesting. I can indeed see the potential.

    I would love to have you (and others here) do a ceremony in the Amazon. And afterwards have a conference about it all. Sure would be some interesting discussions.
    Did anything ever come of this?
  3. Awani's Avatar
    Awani -
    Have you ever witnessed someone go the other way?
    Yes one guy became very afraid. He thought the Shamans were evil and he began shouting Jesus Christ, the next day he left. It seemed it was too much for him to handle.

    Are they sober during the ceremonies?
    No they drink ayahuasca as well (although just a little compared to the patients).

    Did anything ever come of this?
    Not specifically, but Ghislain went there and this fall I am going back with him and sleeveless. We are also having this: Alchemy Congress in Amsterdam with a Magic Truffles Ceremony

    But it would be too late for you to participate/apply... but if it goes well we'll do it again in 2015.

  4. Eshai's Avatar
    Eshai -

    First, thanks for considering allowing me to participate/apply, but like you said in the linked thread, it's better if we get to know each other better first (and so I think your post requirement/essay is wise).

    So yes, if it goes well... perhaps next year. At the very least I would not be opposed to the idea.

    For some reason, I am slightly amused that they are called "patients." I mean this in the most innocent way possible. *laughs*
  5. III's Avatar
    III -
    Hi Eshai,

    Tantra very definitely delves into the mysteries of life and death. You might say that Shiva represents recycler. There are many in Tantra that are more specialist in the death area. THE ORIGINAL AMERICAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, by EJ Gold a few other books very much deal with life and death including a training course for reading for the dead.

    For that matter Tantric Alchemy is a very good preparation for learning how to die and be reborn consciously by learning to do it a piece at a time.

    Dying is like falling off a log. It's getting to that log that can be very difficult and painful. One only has to face all fears and accept one's self as one is. Clearing all those things seen so that one can be in the light all the time, if that is actually the desired goal, takes a lot longer and many many visits to the Eternal. You might want to consider the difference between the goals of a Yogi versus Alchemist.

    I have nothing against using psychedelics. They can be very educational. However, anything learned well enough to be useful from farther off than a level or two has to be remembered for a long time. The most useful information to find out is your next step or two.

    Each time you can let go of this specific version of your life and go into Eternal time, one can come back into the version that fits one best at that time reflecting any real changes one has made in the self. If one fears letting go of the specific version for whatever reason, one can't re-enter in a different version life.
  6. Peter Barnes's Avatar
    Peter Barnes -
    You are not alone, I also have this fear maybe its called death phobia, but it isnt irrational in my opinion, ll we know is life and thinking about not being here for eternity is a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time and impossible to comprehend the idea of not being alive.