A really interesting article by Courtney Weaver in a recent edition of the Financial Times Weekend magazine caught the anthropopper’s attention, not only because of the sheer weirdness of the subject – it’s about cryonics, a technique of freezing dead bodies in the hope that science in the future may find a way to bring the corpses back to life – but because of the astonishing beliefs about life and death processes that lie behind the concept.
As with the arms race and the space race, it is the USA and Russia which are slugging it out in a new and literally very Cold War to establish supremacy in the business of making money from individuals seeking the prospect of future immortality. People who believe in cryonics think that, if a human is cooled to -196C at the time of clinical death, it could be possible to resuscitate them later at a time when science has advanced sufficiently to cure them of old age or illness.
To accommodate people with this belief, the Russians have one of the biggest cryonics companies in the world (KrioRus), which will charge $36,000 to freeze and store a full body or, even more bizarrely, only $12,000 for a head. This has given them a huge price advantage over the leading American company (Alcor), which charges $200,000 for a full body and $80,000 for a head. Needless to say, you get what you pay for and in the cheaper Russian version, its 45 cryopreserved ‘patients’ are stored together in two containers, hanging by their ankles from individual pulleys in liquid nitrogen; while the heads and brains of those cheapskates who have chosen what is called a neuropreservation (head only) are stored on the floor of the same containers. KrioRus also stores more than a dozen deceased pet animals in these containers, which gives you a clue that this may not be the most upmarket kind of operation.
Alcor in the USA, on the other hand, keeps its 141 frozen patients in individual shiny steel capsules in a room with a bullet-proof viewing window and seems to be altogether a more classy kind of set-up that has attracted some famous clients. The head of US baseball star Ted Williams is stored at -196C in a steel flask in Arizona, while PayPal founder Peter Thiel and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil are booked in to be preserved when they shuffle off this mortal coil. News anchor Larry Page is also said to be about to sign up in preparation for when he signs off.
In both countries, though, the process is broadly the same: get to the patient as soon as possible after clinical death has been pronounced and then cool the body over the next few days to bring it down to -196C using nitrogen gas. To quote from Wikipedia, “the stated rationale for cryonics is that people who are considered dead by current legal or medical definitions may not necessarily be dead according to the more stringent information-theoretic definition of death. It is proposed that cryopreserved people might someday be recovered by using highly advanced technology.”
According to Ms. Weaver, people who choose to sign up fall into two categories. “The first consists of people who consider themselves pioneers and would be quite content to come back in the future, knowing no-one and nothing of the current culture. The second is of people scared both by the prospect of death and by the finality that comes of saying goodbye to a loved one for ever, a feeling most skeptics would find it hard not to empathise with.”
Apart from the obvious weirdness, what is really odd is the mindset and belief system that lies behind cryonics. The article quotes two cryonics pioneers, a husband and wife, Maria and Gary from Los Angeles: “If you wait 100 years or 1,000 years or however much time it takes for the technology to develop, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure it’s a split second for your experience. It may be a one in one thousand chance. But the alternative is a 100 per cent guarantee annihilation of your existence. And if you don’t like it in the future, you can always die again if you want to. You can take a peek and say ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t. I’d rather be dead’. People think cryonics is freaky but lying in the ground and decomposing isn’t? What’s the difference?“
Evelyn Waugh! thou shouldst be living at this hour – the world hath need of an updated version of The Loved One, your short satirical novel about the American Way of Death.
But perhaps Maria and Gary and all the other people contemplating cryonic preservation for themselves or their loved ones would do even better to read Rudolf Steiner about death and what happens after death. Other cultures, eg the Tibetans in their Book of the Dead, or the Ancient Egyptians in their Book of the Dead have prepared their peoples in the knowledge of how to die and what will happen after death; but in the West, the only person I know who has done this in a really comprehensive way is Rudolf Steiner.
Have a look at Steiner’s Theosophy or his lecture series on Life Between Death and Rebirth. There’s also a useful video on Death & Reincarnation, presented on YouTube by Brian Gray of Rudolf Steiner College.
Maria and Gary and other cryonics fans, save your money and stop worrying – did you but know it, you are in fact already immortal!
32 responses to “Cryonics and the Fear of Death”
When the author says “did you but know it, you are in fact already immortal!” – this has to beg a few thoughts in the light of our modern world, and the nature of thinking that has created it.
Now it is most certainly true that all humans have had a past incarnation, usually two in each epoch. This could come about because people at that time did not think in an intellectual manner, but in a far less conscious way that was not demanding on the reserves of one’s etheric body.
I will add that I am still untangling such thoughts in my own mind, digesting, if you will, but I know from myself that if I am engaged in an intellectual pursuit, then I find it quite draining. This is of necessity apocryphal evidence, but then, those who demand evidence are, by and large, those who cannot reason things out for themselves. Reasoning, in that it is independent of earthly evidence, is far less damaging to the etheric body.
In any case, it is in the order of creation, as many of you will know, such damage as caused through our thinking is generously repaired by the angelic hierarchies during our hours of sleep. Thus we can live another day, and one aspect of Rudolf Steiner’s evening meditation is that one is grateful for the part the angels play in our lives.
So, my question is this: what if a person who has consistently drained their etheric resources should die? If there is so little of their etheric body left to dissipate into the ether, what is there for them to return to?
In a like manner, such thinking is so devoid of character that the astral body is all but a wraith itself, and would thus be unable to recognize what was left of their etheric body, should they wish to form their next physical body.
What are your thoughts on this?
You may find it helpful to read Rudolf Steiner’s Theosophy to get an overview of what he has to say about the various bodies at the time of death, which is somewhat at variance with what you’ve expressed above. I’d be interested to know what is it that makes you think that you have drained your etheric resources – but I don’t think there is anything for you to worry about in terms of your journey between death and re-birth into a new physical body, as the etheric body is not involved in the process; after death it dissolves into the general ether of the earth. It is your ‘I’ or individuality that goes on into what Steiner calls higher devachan in the spiritual world between two lives, and starts preparing the next life on earth.
I would like to stick with the concept of the etheric body for this comment – because whilst it is dissolved in the etheric being of the earth, that is most certainly not the end of the matter. After all, if one re-incarnates, one does bring karma with one – and that karma is imprinted on one’s etheric body, is it not?
When the ego accepts the challenges of a new earth life, it then descends and in the course of time, the etheric body belonging to that ego re-solves itself, reversing the process of death where it dissolved.
The problem I see is that when a person is too tied to a style of thinking that is based on karma – that is to say, evidence, facts and what other people have said – they are not in a position to free their thinking, are they? One can only do this if one steps beyond facts, and for this it is essential to understand the nature of the fact in terms of thinking, feeling and willing. Which isn’t that hard; the problem is to try and establish the nature of a fact with someone who sees them as the be-all-and-end-all.
Quite how basing one’s thinking on karma depletes the etheric body is, as mentioned, a process that eludes me at present – but the key is that intellectual thinking is karmic. Free thinking cannot be: it would be a contradiction in terms.
As I understand it (and please correct me if you think I’m wrong), you do bring your karma with you when you re-incarnate – but the kind of karma I think you mean does not come imprinted on the etheric body. There are several types of karma: e.g. there is psycho-social karma in the astral body and there is biographical karma (which I suspect is what you mean) in the ‘I’ or individuality. There is also, however, biological karma which relates to the inherited physical body and the etheric body which sustains it – but I don’t think this is affected by whether or not you believed in karma in your previous life!
When you understand how the Astral imprints itself on the Etheric Body, you will understand the difference between psycho-social proclivities and karma.
(As a post script – which need not be published – it is common for my comments to be unacceptable on a popular, open site such as this. Indeed, it was on account of one of my comments that the Rudolf Steiner Quotes site forewent commenting altogether. There are too many people who want their anthroposophy and their current patterns of thinking. There are too few who are willing to accept the challenges that the world brings them, but then, to act in such a way is to ignore the deeds of the angels closest to one. That in itself is hardly conducive to a healthy after-life. It is difficult enough even if one tries!
My own blog does not deal with anthroposophy at all, at least in overt terms; nor do I speak of it when I have occasion to meet the occasional neophyte. That does not mean that I cannot, it only means that I usually employ their own terminology in an attempt to bridge the gap between intellectual thinking and the realities of a reason based on having understood the character of Goethe’s holy open secrets.
I do have a blog that deals with more detailed aspects, such as the nature of the doppelgänger; but little of it is indexed, and thus all but impossible to track down. I am happy that it should be so. It is not for the timid of heart.)
Ah, Jeremy! Our cascade of serendipitous synchronicities continues! Once again, with just 2 Internet links, you activate deep anthroposophical memories of mine that can only do me good when it comes my time to sojourn in Kama Loka.
Indeed at this point, I feel compelled to request that, if I happen to “shuffle off this mortal coil” before you do, Jeremy, that you become my guide, first through my 3-4 day panoramic etheric retrospective and then on occasion during that much longer “astral trudge” through Kama Loka.
(If karma decrees that you croak before me, then I’ll try to reciprocate, but of course, you may not want me crashing the party of your own retrospective, so I’ll wait for the invitation.)
Now, on to the links! It is not just that I know Brian Gray well as a classmate at Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento, CA, but that the location of this video is in Philadelphia Hall on that very campus, a building that was constructed while Brian and I were living in the Steiner community there during the early 1980’s.
You will notice that the blackboard triptych that Brian uses is such that the hinged panels left and right close up to hide themselves as a contiguous wall, blending in quite seamlessly with the same Lazur painting motif. That is an important feature of this multi-purpose hall that is used not just as a classroom or lecture hall, but also as a performance space for theatre and music.
And so, as I watch Brian in this video, I am also brought back in time to the many rehearsals and performances I made there as an actor and playwright/translator while working closely with the acting teacher and “Sprachgestaltung’ (speech formation) coach Merlyn Querido, especially during the years 1983 through 1985.
And then I open your other link to the Steiner lecture whereupon I see immediately that the whole lecture cycle on was translated into English by none other than René M. Querido, husband of Merlyn and President of RSC when Brian and I were together there.
As you might gather, the topic of death and rebirth was of great importance to René and so I shall be next commenting on the actual content of your latest blog offering.
Once again, Jeremy, hearty thanks for the memories!
“When you understand how the Astral imprints itself on the Etheric Body, you will understand the difference between psycho-social proclivities and karma.”
At seven years of age, beginning with the change of the hereditary
teeth to the ones that mark our unique individuality, the Etheric Body begins to stream into the physical heart of birth, and this intense raying in activity effects the complete transformation of the heart into an entirely etheric structure. Imagine the burning bush seen by Moses on Mount Sinai and you will see what actually resides within your own breast.
At about fourteen years of age, at the completion of this great instreaming that begets our individual etheric body, a grand convergence occurs. This is when the compact kernel of our Astral Body, also outside of us since birth, slips in carrying all the karma worked out in the life in higher worlds before our birth. Thus, it can be said that from birth until about fourteen years of
age, we are as karma-less as Jesus of Nazareth was.
Now, what commences is a great conjunction we can call: The Astral-
Etheric Heart, where the irradiated heart imbued with the individual
ether is joined with the compact kernel of the human astral body,
and therein, from fourteen to twenty-one years of age, each
undergoes its separate and polaric activity. The etheric body
contracts more and more closely into the physical form, and the
astral body expands in order to completely imprison itself into the
organs and the nervous system; all the way to the nerve endings.
Steiner’s lecture, “The Human Heart” describes very well this process, and what you have been inquiring into.
Steve, why do you not express this using your own words? After all, if one truly understands something, has digested it as the good doctor might say, one can speak of it in many ways because one has penetrated that which veils the underlying process.
After all, you allude to my point, but cannot point to it directly: for my point was how can one work in one’s adult life – after all these things you describe have come to pass – and thereby change one’s karma?
But one cannot hope to change one’s karma without working in and with it, can one? That implies one has a degree of life experience that one cannot hope to arrive at through reading books.
So, here is the problem: how can one do this, in a world where most people do not even know it can be done?
Gemma, I was expressing this in my own words. I only referred to the lecture as a follow on for further clarification. So, the point is that our karma is imbedded in us, and it comes from the Wisdom of the Hierarchies during the life between death and rebirth. I was not aware of how much you knew about the process. I have had likely as many years of life experiences as you to ponder on, especially in this 10th period, where the memory-review has become very effective.
Thus, karma is something that is ours to deal with from birth, but doesn’t take effect until around the age of fourteen, when the astral body enters. Changing it is not the issue, but growing to understand it. Karma is a yoke to be fulfilled, and not changed.
Now, changing consciousness is definitely something we can do in life, although most people do not know of it, or how to try. Maybe we should start with that possibility. Karma, on the other hand, is to be fulfilled, and not changed. The changing comes in the interim between this life and the next.
That is why I expressed myself earlier like it came from merely reading a book.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thankyou for the clarification, Steve, I appreciate that. I will add that most people I speak with on such matters can do little else than copy and paste the words of Rudolf Steiner.
I did mention that working with one’s karma implied that one must work with what is there; one cannot undo the past any more than one can undo one’s karma. There are people who imagine they can, but that is an illusion that must be dissipated before they can set about doing something truly positive in their life.
Through this processon one is able to perceive the more subtle elements of human interaction which allows one to work with what one has. Thus one may build on that which is useful and cast aside that which is not.
Now when all our deeds have a karmic response, one is now looking to the future and not the past. With this in mind, one may act in one’s own best interests and avoid all mistakes – or one may take a risk and speak forthrightly with others that they too may wake up. The latter has been my stance, and I have incurred the karma that results from upsetting people.
I will add that had they worked with their karma, they would not have been upset. That was the risk I took, and I took it willingly.
In closing I would like to know what you mean by the “10th period” as this may mean what I suppose it to mean, but cannot be certain. I would also like to mention that if you speak for yourself using the personal pronoun, your comment would have read a little less like an academic treatise. I trust you accept my speaking in this forthright manner with the grace that wisdom bestows.
Thanks Gemma. Here are some further thoughts for consideration.
Thinking does not arise in the head but rather, in the heart, as a causal force of spiritual beings who take up residence there with the great astral-etheric alliance that forms at the beginning of the 3rd developmental life cycle. By way of this polaric expansion-contraction out of the Astral-Etheric Heart is formed the ground of the Ego, and bestowed as the Crown of Creation at the age of 21.
Steiner’s lecture, “The Human Heart” is what was recalled for me
when describing these impressions. And it is also important to note
that when the conjunction occurs, at age fourteen, that spiritual
beings of a certain order enter this fine and sacred center. They
enter therein for the purpose of creating the streaming force for
thought itself. You see, and this isn’t well known in the annals of
the history of philosophy, thinking and the reasoning power that it
outputs in the human head is a product of the reaction of spiritual
beings who take up residence in the human heart at age fourteen.
And they react to this inevitable contraction of the etheric body by
streaming their force of wisdom contained, into the head.
These spirits, The Kyriotetes, or Dominions of the Sixth Hierarchy,
bear this task for human evolution, and as a result they experience a certain imprisonment in the heart, which progressively becomes colder and colder as their force for thought power streams out of them upwards into the head of man as a result of the in-drawing of the etheric body into the physical body.
What this means is that humanity thinks today with a faculty that is
entirely owed to spiritual beings who are now held prisoner within
its own breast until such time as we ourselves becomes conscious
enough to realize that we must stream a force of warmth out of our
own inner being, and its resolve to free them. And this is
how bliss arises in human perceptual experience; for these beings,
the mighty Spirits of Wisdom Themselves, have untold secrets that
only their freedom can reveal to mankind.
Spiritual Science is the method that exists to effect this
liberation, because it not only fully realizes this situation of the
sacrifice of the Kyriotetes, but also provides the means for the
forming of the needed instruments of the consciousness soul, which
serve to stream the loving warmth forces back down to the human
heart and those beings imprisoned therein.
Thankyou for the lecture.
Two things come to mind. The first is that heart thinking is not as easy as you make out; indeed Rudolf Steiner himself stated that intellectual thinking is actually based in the brain. Do you know when you are thinking in each manner, because it is only when one has realized one’s own intellectual capacities that one can strive forward to harder things.
The second is that you did not explain what you meant by the “10th period”. I did ask, and in polite society, it is usual for someone to answer. I would appreciate an answer. It would give the semblance that you were conversing rather than just talking at me, or giving a lecture.
If you cannot bear to converse with me, then it would be simpler to leave the conversation. This is what I will do if you cannot answer me, or be bothered to converse with me as is polite in such circumstances.
I am conversing with you. There is a rather long time interval between what is written and when it gets posted here. What appears as a lecture is merely an efficient way of expressing facts in a digest form since this is the comments section, and brevity is appreciated by the Anthroblogger.
The 10th period refers to our seven-year life cycles, which means that I have completed the 9th, i.e., Saturn, and am now in the period that I relate to Uranus, which is associated with the Crystal Sphere of Aristotle.
I looked you up on your blog where we could actually talk all day with plenty of opportunity to explain more fully with experiential data.
That was what I imagined you meant by the tenth cycle, but I did want you to clarify your statement and I appreciate your response.
For myself in that case, I am still in my seventh, not my tenth.
As to brevity, that is usually achieved by speaking directly to the one you are conversing with, and responding to the things they said – but without digressing into the realms of the intellect. Whilst useful, they do tend to make one’s comments over-long.
Awesome review on the Kyriotetes Steve, thank you.
Gemma I have been following this thread and I am concerned for you in that you do not seem to have an adequate grasp of spiritual science knowledge therefore in your confusion you are on the defensive and can only retaliate by being antipathetic.
Gemma wrote: “So, my question is this: what if a person who has consistently drained their etheric resources should die? If there is so little of their etheric body left to dissipate into the ether, what is there for them to return to?”
If I may suggest it would be insightful to yourself to try and answer your own unknowing question if you can.
Thankyou for your concern; as to my antipathy, that is fully conscious and is used as a tactic online because one is limited to words alone. When conversing in person, one has the whole panoply of signs and emotions to guide one – which makes matters much easier.
As to my question, yes, I can answer it. Have you the perception required to determine if your thinking is draining your etheric? If you can, the answer to my question would be meaningful to you.
You are right there we do not experience the whole panorama of the human being when conversing on line yet words are insightful and should be used in care.
“Have you the perception required to determine if your thinking is draining your etheric? ”
I am intrigued by your question please explain further.
Caryn, if you understood what heart thinking does for one, then you would understand how the other, intellectual kind of thinking drains one.
To those who know, it is quite clear – and can only be indicated, not taught. That is the secret of the esoteric training: it is something one must strive for in oneself. Strive enough – and this may take years as it did with me – and you will find that things unfold for you, and those things that unfold will surprise you.
Because nothing beyond the Threshold bears any resemblance to this world, save in one respect. Thus anything that you can expect will be something that exists on this side, not the other that lies beyond the Abyss.
So, do as Rudolf Steiner asked of all of us, and practice the exercises. If you are already, practice them the more, as I do.
As to conversing online, do not make assumptions based on your own antipathies. Antipathies are part of the make-up of the intellectual mind. That is one of the easiest ways to tell people apart, when online.
Thank you for the reply Gemma. Are you therefore implying that the supersensible world is not intellectual and therefore with this the sensible world is also not intellectual.
I wasn’t implying that, I was stating that to the best of my abilities.
If you have read – and grasped – Rudolf Steiner’s “Philosophy of Freedom” you will have realized that this was his sole reason for his writing it. That is to say, one cannot grasp the reality of nature by imprisoning it in intellectual thought.
I will add something too: modern science is based on being able to prove a hypothesis. They achieve this by testing, and finding out if they are able to repeat the test, time and time again. On the basis of this, they have created an entire schema by which they can understand their world. This is the result of an intellectual approach to the world we live in.
Yet even a child knows that no two leaves are the same.
That is to say, in nature, nothing ever happens twice. Not ever. Not even remotely. Yet one can easily spot two oak leaves from a sycamore leaf or that of an ash or beech. Yet no two are ever the same. The answer lies in the nature of the archetype, Goethe’s “Urbild”. That which forms oak leaves, and is quintessentially different from the ash or beech.
If this knowledge is taken to heart, entire libraries of scientific knowledge will be cast out – but to the scientist, such learning is too close and too dear for them to discard. Perhaps you can begin to see the challenges we are faced with in our world?
So what we are really talking about is materialism. Materialism that does not take into account the spiritual side of things and because of this one-sided approach it cannot be called intellectual as there is only one eye open. However, upon saying this, is it not a natural process for human being’s to study and understand the material world they live in.
The so called cryonics attempt to preserve the physical body hoping it might come back to life must be one of the worst superstitions of scientific materialism so far because all they are doing is keeping the physical body from decomposing for longer and one can only but have compassion for them in this attempt.
Yet, if we look at man’s knowledge in natural science I cannot agree with you that entire libraries of scientific knowledge will be cast out. Man has applied himself diligently to the task of understanding the sensible world around him and through this has discovered, admittedly or un-admittedly, how marvelous divine intelligence is.
I enjoyed reading your contemplation on the archetype. I have thought to myself involution contains the archetypal form and evolution expresses the multiplicities of the archetypal form.
Steve, I interrupted your conversation, your considerations are always appreciated.
There is one problem with man’s knowledge of natural science, and that it is based on the practice of repeatability. This is because of several psychological factors, one being an unawareness of the quality and existence of the subconscious. Further to this is a study of what Rudolf Steiner called the Shadow Man or the Double. My private blog has some forty posts concerning these phenomena, all of which are practically unknown to modern thinking.
Well, they would be, wouldn’t they? How can you test something for repeatability if you cannot perceive it in any way???? An understanding of thinking, feeling and willing is essential if one is to step away from a science based on ‘facts’. (1)
This is extremely important when understanding modern science; one must understand what the scientists cannot see or comprehend.
One outcome of this is the idea that thinking is centred in the brain – which for the material elements of thinking (intellectual, logical thinking) it certainly is. It takes one further step to think of the body as the be-all-and-end-all of existence.
As you will be aware, we live in the Fifth Epoch of the Post-Atlantean Great Epoch. At this time we are re-living the thoughts and deeds of the Egyptians, who lived in the Third Epoch. Only their practice of mummification had very different intentions and outcomes than those of the present forms of “mummification”, one form of which is cryogenics.
As I say, I could go on…
(1) Facts do not grow on trees: https://gemmasponderings.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/facts-do-not-grow-on-trees/
OK, Jeremy, I realize the scale is microscopic, but still in all, scientists now have a smashing cryogenics success story, bringing two critters back to life after being frozen for 30 years — and one lived long enough to reproduce.
Might we call this present success story an exemplar of Uncle Ahri’s new field of “homeopathic cryogenics?” Can you not hear his new rallying cry:
Today the waterbear! Tomorrow the anthroposophist!
(Who needs reincarnation when you have liquid nitrogen? — Or Antarctica for that matter!)
Well, that’s very interesting, Tom – but as I understand it, these tiny creatures were still alive at the time they were frozen, whereas in cryonics the humans concerned are clinically dead, and are then frozen. Today the waterbear maybe but tomorrow it certainly won’t be the anthropopper. But how about you and Staudi? You could get yourselves deep-frozen before your time is up (I can just see you both hanging by your heels in a nitrogen-filled cryostat) and then return at a later stage when Ahriman and his minions have eliminated all knowledge of the true nature and destiny of human beings. Just think of it – a truly material world and you won’t have to bother arguing with all these irrational anthroposophists! Doesn’t it sound…well… heavenly?
Hi Jeremy pleased to meet you and thank you for the space and time. I have to say, and Steve might agree here, Taddy’s keen wit has not gone unnoticed. One has to have a peculiar sense of humour to see the fun in life – hey Taddy!
I did reply to your last post Gemma but for some reason it did not go through (never mind though, in the opposite of thawing out it was a bit of a mumble surfacing from intense heat)
Thanks for your comments – but who is Taddy?
If for any reasons, related perhaps to WordPress problems, that you have difficulty in posting a comment, do email me with it and I can post it on your behalf.
Thanks so much Jeremy, will do. Taddy is short for Thaddaeus and is none other than Tom. Well, at least the name I call him from when he was going through his Judas phase. Thaddaeus was the brother of James.
Sorry that your message got itself devoured by the electronic ether, Caryn.
As to homeopathy, it is a world away from the merely microscopic.
And now, to see about some fruit bushes a neighbour has donated to the cause. Sorry, that should read “greedy little me”.
Ah, thank you, Caryn, all is explained. Yes, Turncoat Tom or Taddy is well known (and sometimes appreciated) in these parts.
Well you see there were two disciples called Judas. Judas, the betrayer, was the one. The other Judas is named in Matthew as Lebbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus, in Mark he is called Thaddaeus and in Luke he is called Judas the brother of James.
Hence I call Tom – Thaddaeus