A New Understanding Of Life And Death.

After studying ancient Hebrew with an old Jewish rabbi, a friend once told me that the ancient term for God or Yaweh is pronounced “huuah,”…similar to the sound one makes when exhaling forcefully. He said that, in addition to being defined as God, it also means “breath.” My understanding of the Buddhist tradition is that consciousness is centered on the self; that by focusing on the consciousness, individuals may become one with the universe and choose the circumstances of their reincarnation. And my understanding of the Taoist tradition is that individuals do not exist on their own, but that they are part of the greater whole.

Each of these ancient traditions seem to align with a scientist’s new-found understanding of life and death.

In his book “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the Nature of the Universe,“ Dr. Robert Lanza offers a new concept of life, theorizing that life does not end when the body dies. It can last forever. And Lanza is most certainly not a mad scientist. In fact, he was voted “the 3rd most important scientist alive” by the NY Times and he was named “one of the 100 most influential people alive” by Time magazine. An expert on regenerative medicine and scientific director of Advanced Cell Technology Company, Lanza achieved recognition for his research on stem cells and cloning. More recently, he has focused on the connection between biology, physics, quantum mechanics and astrophysics.

This led Lanza to develop the theory of “biocentrism,” which holds that, rather than life and consciousness being a product of the universe. It’s the other way around. The universe is actually the product of consciousness. He theorizes that intelligence existed before matter…from the beginning of time. Without delving too deeply in the most wonkish details of Lanza’s presentation, I’ll try to summarize it by saying that some scientists have determined that consciousness exists within the microtubules of our brain cells, which process information. They argue that our experience of consciousness is the result of the effects of quantum gravity on these microtubules. When you die, the information is released from your body. But rather than vanish, the information simply dissipates into the universe.

Lanza’s theory holds that most people identify too closely with their bodies. They believe that when the body decays, their consciousness disappears, too. But Lanza theorizes that the body is more like a radio receiving programming signals. When the body (the radio) dies, the information and consciousness (the signals) still exist…much like the Taoist belief that when living things die, they remain part of the whole.

In addition, Lanza believes that there are multiple universes; that the body can be dead in one universe and continue to exist in another. The thought is that, rather than going to a heaven or hell, upon death our consciousness (or soul) may travel to a parallel universe…that we live on indefinitely in one universe after another similar to the Buddhist belief in reincarnation.

All of this may seem like science fiction. But Lanza’s theory is supported by other physicists and astrophysicists who contend that no physical laws exist which would prohibit the existence of parallel worlds. And corresponding with western religious traditions, some scientists even believe that our actions may determine the future and destination of our consciousness.

For as long as I can remember, people have thought that religious philosophy and science are irreconcilably at odds. But, as it turns out, they may share many of the same ideas. They simply arrive at them in differing ways.

The Tao Of Politics.

I am not a Taoist. Nevertheless, I have learned that the philosophy of Taoism has much to offer. The Taoist concept of Yin and Yang holds that nothing is ever entirely black or white; hard or soft; good or bad. Taoism teaches that good people can do bad things. It also teaches that those we consider bad can, on occasion, do good things.

This is particularly true as it pertains to politics.

For example, I know many who are otherwise caring, loving people who would deny food, shelter, health care and other human necessities to the unfortunate simply because their Republican Party preaches personal responsibility. They have become convinced that the poor are merely taking advantage of those of us who have been successful. They want to believe that the majority of the poor are lazy. Such thinking allows them to look the other way when they see someone who is in desperate need of help.

They cannot conceive that someone can work hard and still struggle to feed their families because they are underpaid by large, greedy corporations. They falsely believe that minimum wage jobs are entry level jobs that are the first step up the economic ladder. In past times, that may have been true. But in today’s economy, with many of our high-paying jobs now shipped offshore, for many people, the economic ladder has been pushed aside by greedy corporate executives.

Many Republicans refuse to accept that the American Dream no longer exists for many people; that the US is not the land of opportunity it once was; that no amount of hard work can pull many of the unfortunate out of poverty; that the US now has less upward mobility than most of the rest of the industrialized world.

As a result, many good Republicans cheered when the federal government cut $5 billion from the annual budget of SNAP (food stamps) – an amount equal to all of the charitable organizations in the nation (501c4 “charities” such as American Crossroads and FreedomWorks, not included). The same people who would gladly give food and money to a family member or neighbor are still clamoring to cut another $4-40 billion from SNAP at a time when 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 American children are dealing with hunger.

These grinches are not bad people. They are simply uninformed or misinformed.

These champions of personal responsibility and faith are convinced that social safety nets are not only unnecessary. They believe that social programs are creating a culture of dependence. They believe that the minimum wage, labor unions and government regulation are threats to our economy.

They believe that subsidies and giveaways to large corporations are good. But that subsidies and giveaways to people are bad. Why? If it’s true that corporations are people, shouldn’t they both be treated equally? If a half dozen banks are considered too big to fail, shouldn’t group consisting of millions of poor Americans also be considered too big to fail?

Taoism teaches that all things are part of a greater whole – the great Tao – and that if you harm another, in reality you harm yourself. Caring Republicans would be wise to keep that in mind.