1. Some part of us can survive death. We call that part a bardo voyager.
2. Work on self helps the death-survivable bardo voyager grow stronger.
Our third axiom will go something along the lines of how the Tibetans perceive the initial transition of the bardo voyager from the human biological contraption they've been renting out for this lifetime. They say you go into an intense space called the Clear Light, a space very difficult to maintain consciousness in. The common tendency seems to result in blacking out after a very short time and getting bounced out of it. Part of bardo training consists of learning to tolerate and stay in this space longer by simulating it before death.
English artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare gives a resonant description in his book, The Focus of Life (p. 36):
Death is named the great unknown. Assuredly, death is the great chance. An adventure in will, that translates into body. What happens after death? Will it be more surprising than this world? Could I say? My experience may not be the commonplace . . . Without doubt all will experience the 'rushing winds' that blow from within, the body beyond perspective, into cosmic dust, - till consciousness again develops.
I just received a copy of The Writings of Austin Osman Spare yesterday. He is a bit of a new discovery for me though I've long considered him quite knowledgeable in affairs of the bardo from reading of his methods in the works of Kenneth Grant. Along with that book came a copy of Last Words by William S. Burroughs which consist of the transcripts of his final journals.
The last word in Last Words echoes the last words of both Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary. These last words all give the Master Key for surviving death. It can also be found in the ecstatic poetry of Sufi mystics, Finnegans Wake, Illuminatus!, Schrodinger's Cat, Against the Day, some Woody Allen films, The Beatles, John Coltrane, Crowley, the popcorn exercise, the Starship Enterprise, and countless other places. Wake up and smell the roses burning.
Why would Leary and Wilson freeze their entropic carcasses if they each apparently had the Master Key for surviving ecstatically, that is to say, without a body?
Woody Allen, whose main concern about the afterlife at one time was how far it was from Midtown, confronts death a couple of times accidentally with the character he plays in Hannah and Her Sisters. It wakes him up a bit and leads to an amusing search for meaning and God before discovering the Master Key. It's the same key for death that Hemingway speaks of in Allen's recent Midnight in Paris film, reviewed here. Fans of Robert Anton Wilson's Maybe Logic might especially appreciate how Allen agnostically resolves the God issue in Hannah...
This Master Key seems like something you can learn about in a very short time but spend a lifetime learning how to apply. This Master Key, willing it into existence and functionality, represents our fourth axiom for surviving death
Bardo training includes getting familiar with the conditions, feelings, and sensations of death before dying. This can be done in a variety of ways and we'll cover some of those ways in the course of this examination. It does NOT include any kind of life threatening risk taking to get closer to death.
One technique recommended across the board in a variety of different systems and teachings aims to constantly remember that death is always only one heartbeat away. Don Juan says that Death is always just over your left shoulder, if you turn around fast enough you can see it. Remembrance of death becomes a shamanic aid because, personal observation will show, that all kinds of spiritual energies get activated and accelerated - that's the best way I have of putting it right now - around death. When someone dies, the Star that they are shines forth and radiates powerful spiritual energies, a cyclone of energy especially felt by their loved ones ... and not always easy to handle.
Robert Anton Wilson places a quite vivid reminder of death in his play Wilhelm Reich in Hell. He has a computer monitoring the growth of nuclear arms and emitting an ear-splitting whistling sound every time the firepower goes up equivalent to the bomb at Hiroshima. At the beginning of the play it goes off every few lines ... very chilling. Here's an excerpt to show what kind of resistance the Master Key works against:
"SADE: And what is the truth Freud dared not speak?
REICH:Everybody knows it by now. Look at the crime news on TV --
Computer whistles again.
REICH:or go into the emergency clinics and talk to the rape victims. Talk to the battered wives and the abused children. Our whole species is mad, emotionally plagued. We have been mad so long that every attempt to break out of the Trap just unleashes unconscious rage and increases the violence.
Computer whistles again.
REICH:We all know we're in the Trap, but nobody knows how to get out of it. We attack each other thinking that's the way out.
SADE: What? That is the truth Freud dared not speak? I thought he said all that in Civilization and its Discontents.
REICH:He would not say there was a way out of the Trap -- one way only --
SADE: Your way, of course.
REICH:The way I discovered, gradually, after many mistakes.
SADE: Which is?
REICH:Work on the breathing and the muscle tensions. And tell people frankly that there is no metaphysical Good and Evil in the human world any more than there is in the animal world or the chemical world or the physical world of gravity and mass."
I would add to that, deep relaxation. The final posture we did in every yoga class was called the Corpse pose and just consisted of laying on the ground with arms and legs comfortablely placed and deeply relaxing every muscle. It can become a great way to practice dying if one can arrest and slow down the headbrain chatter. Floatation tanks are also great places to relax deeply and practice death.