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Death

J. Vaughn Boone

Love flows from J. Vaughn Boone the way water flows down a river, freely and abundantly. I suppose, being human, he must have other traits and aspects, just like the rest of us; but the love this man radiates is so powerful, it is very difficult to distinguish anything else about him.

We met Vaughn many years ago at a Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship conference at which he and we were among the speakers. The conference took place on the campus of Carleton College in Minnesota, where the participants were all housed in dormitories. Our room was next to Vaughn’s. Even before we were introduced, it was apparent to us that someone extraordinary was there. Truly, just walking by his door, one could feel the energy within.

Vaughn has written a new book called “The Initiation”. In it, he tells the story of a mystical encounter that occurred to him some years ago, during which he was led by spiritual masters and adepts through an inner self-exploration and consideration of the great issues and questions which face us all. The following article, concerning death, is drawn from this book.

Concerning the initiation in the book’s title, Vaughn observes, “I know it was not a real experience by earthly standards, but for me it was and still is just as real as any third dimensional experience I have had”.

“The Initiation” is published by the author, who holds the copyright. We are very grateful to him for permission to post this material on The Zoo Fence, and for his continued permission to post an excerpt from his book “De Riva, The Magic Formula” here.

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“To speak of death requires audacity. But not to speak of death means overlooking a basic reality, just as real as birth or life itself.”

When I sought to pursue my thinking along this line, I was most reluctant; and upon examining my motives, I realized that it is only a natural and normal impulse to try to evade unpleasant issues. But it behooves each of us to make up our mind about the basic realities of our existence.

“The hardest words to say are words to a friend who has lost a loved one. We want to express our concern without re-opening a wound which they feel so deeply. And how can we ourselves face the death of a loved one without becoming embittered? Can we ever understand God’s will when it comes to life’s ending? Or shall we call it Life’s beginning?

“How can we know where life begins and where it ends? Life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. Can we say that the nose cone is more or less of a reality than the rocket stages which sent it soaring? Who is to say but that life after death is the reality? That this life is but the dream that stirs us to action, even in our slumber. Someday we may awaken, and half remembering, find the dream fading away.

“In the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, there is a thought that melts my heart with gladness, for I realize someone preceded me in my thinking. I quote:

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt in the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides,
That it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered.

Only when you drink from the river of silence, shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance.

“All religions of the world are based on our seeking favor from a power greater than our own. The longing for eternal life keeps all humanity seeking a way to bridge the unknown. Yet when we stand in the presence of death, we are humbled, for it is here our reason stops. We must go on by a force called “faith”. We are not given to understand this. We are human. A God that we are capable of understanding with our finite minds would not be great enough to control the universe. Our insight covers only a small speck of the total reality. We cannot follow except through faith.

“But we have heard people say “How is it that we can believe in the goodness of God and see so much suffering of innocent people around us”. It is one thing to see a person who has led a disreputable life suffer, but it is another thing to see a small innocent child racked with fever. So we strike out in anguish and say how can a god who is good and just allow this to happen. The answer is that God through nature can be no respecter of persons. This is a world of law and order, where all things and all people are subject to the law of cause and effect. When exposed to contagious diseases a good person can catch the germ as quickly as a wicked one. The world would be an unscientific and unpredictable place were it not this way.

“The psychologists tell us that there are only a few basic desires. The chief one is the wish for eternal life. By a process completely reasonable, we determine that since our physical needs are met in this life, is it not reasonable to assume that a God who cares for us in this life would not also care for us in the next? So we take the giant step into the future with full faith that death is only a horizon for a believer.

“Indeed, the walk of life becomes just one step after the other. When we were babies, the early walks were in the arms of someone who loved us and wanted us near them. The next steps were steps of our own, amusing and delightful to our parents. They were unsteady and awkward, but as time went on, we gained confidence and stepped lively and happily. On through adolescence and into young adulthood, we walked our several paths of life, feeling our strength and independence — walking alone.

“On we walked to middle age with our steps growing slower as we shouldered the burden of life. Often our shoulders sagged beneath the weight; backs and spirits sank. If we are spared thus far, we walk into old age with our steps again being slow and faltering. The path grows dim. No longer does it have the rosy glow that we saw when we were younger. Then we find that we are again retracing our steps in memory.

“The next step is to eternity. Death loses its fear in the safety of the arms that bear us over: The arms of God, our Creator.”

And the Moderator stood and looked at me with puzzled expression saying, “You speak of death even as you would speak of a friend, yet we perceive that your step is not yet slow. Your shoulders are not yet bowed, and the wrinkles of age have not yet left their mark upon your brow. Do you feel that you could indeed face death, and feel that you have not been cheated, and that you have tasted your share of life?”

And then I searched the sea of faces for an answer for a very long time, and then the answer came in simple rhyme:

If he who holds my book of destiny and flips the pages one by one
Should suddenly and without warning, say to me “Your day is done”,
Would I be able to accept it as a plan of the Divine,
And say and mean it, “Not my will, but thine”?

Looking backward for the answer to all that is a part of me
My thoughts go wandering, sailing both fast and free.
Comes back the answer, three score and ten does not apply,
For one who has lived so long and actively as I.

For in wakefulness I have been ever dreaming, in sleeping yet awake.
With mind and spirit soaring far afield for interest’s sake,
As with two bodies, served by the selfsame heart,
I have lived two lives, both full, separate and apart.

With hands meant for healing I signed the written page.
My soul would be for poetry while my mind works for a wage.
My voice made for preaching, discusses worldly fare
While my eyes search for beauty, God’s artistry to declare.

Could I call it all now finished? My race on earth be done
When I know by the grace of God, I have merely just begun?
To some it may appear that this is but the end
But something tells me that I shall then just begin.

The Moderator looked intently at me.

“Death and birth are but signposts along our eternal path, for neither is an end or beginning but are both. Does that sound like a riddle to you? It has always been so for those who have never come to recognize and honor their ‘foreverness’.”

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