Barry Long is one of my favorite spiritual teachers. His straightforward delivery and original way of expressing transcendent ideas, cuts through the mustard. In this transcription of his talk, The Thought of Death, he encourages us to approach death in a new and better way.
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden saw themselves as naked and thought appeared for the first time. The realisation that they were naked was the beginning of their mortality. From that first manifestation of thought, more and more thoughts built up in our consciousness until now we are immersed in a great blanket of thought and memory, as deep for instance as the atmosphere of the earth, because thought compounds itself by reference to previous thoughts. So now we look through a terribly heavy memory-consciousness – the burden of the human race.
Before Adam and Eve knew they were naked, they did not think. They lived with no fear of death. There was no reason to have a future. It was a simple life, lived in the present. Then, seeing things die or pass, man acquired a memory of the past. But he was not afraid of death because he was still aware of the living reality of nature, where there was no separation between living and dying. Gradually he lost touch with that ground within him. He lost touch with the fact of living and dying. He started to fear that what was happening in nature would happen to him. He started to invent a future. He thought about death.
Only when you think about death are you mortal. Otherwise death does not exist. ‘Death’ begins with thought. Every single thought comes from the fear of death.
If you can stop thinking you can enter the Garden of Eden – earth as it was in the beginning. To see the truth of this you have to become vast. Your consciousness has to embrace the evolutionary process I speak about as the myth of life on earth. It will take you deep down into your own unconsciousness, where the first thought of mortality is.
Even if you have stopped thinking, you are still trapped in the tremendous structure of the past – memory. But if you die inside yourself, if you die while you are alive – give up your past sufficiently, be in that thoughtless place sufficiently – you can take the mortality out of the memory. You can decomplicate your consciousness.
All the world out there is getting more and more into position to stop thinking. The evolutionary factor that helps all of humanity go towards the stopping of thought is experience. That gives understanding, which takes away the need for thought. The more we understand the processes of life, the less there is to think about – except that there is also more and more information to think about. But the evolutionary process is many-sided, so we see the introduction of computers, to handle information for us, and the increase in the world population, necessary to hold the increasing amount of information. Man will become more capable of accepting the influence of some external factor, awakening the need to stop thinking. Spiritual teachers endeavour to inculcate this in those they teach. The more you hear of this myth of life from me the vaster you become and the less you’ll think – because thinking is the fear of death. I give you through the myth the true structure of immortal life.
When you truly die while you are alive, the spirit puts you in a position where you keep dying. In my experience the process of dying is always going on within me; and it will go on until my physical death. If your heart has been broken, if the love of God is sufficient, if the people around you are sufficiently real, then any worldliness you pick up will be continuously destroyed. But you have to suffer the risk of madness and go through the moments of heartbreak and not give in, but hold on and let them roll over you – because to give in would be to run from death. You have to face death, which is one of the most dreadful things to live, but if you hold and do not leave the present moment, it will pass over you like a wave. It’s the same with madness. When it threatens you, just do not think. Hold. You will not disintegrate. You will not blow apart. It will all come together again.
~ Barry Long
Speaking to his meditation group in Highgate, London, 7 October 1981. https://barrylong.org and http://barrylongbulletin.tumblr.com/post/173203006352