Death is the thought that you are separate from your Creator. (W-167)
What seems to be the opposite of life is merely sleeping. (W-167)
What happens when I die? Before considering anything else, ask yourself this: Who do you think you are? Who is the I that supposedly dies?
The “reality” of death is firmly rooted in the belief that God’s Son is a body. And if God created bodies, death would indeed be real. But God would not be loving. (M-27.5)
The Course tells us that you were never born and can therefore not die. This is difficult to grasp only if you identify yourself with your body. The body is, in fact, born in time, and it dies in time — everything within the dimension of time has a beginning and must have an end. We understand birth as a beginning and death as an end (because we think within the framework of time and space, which are tools of the ego). But do we perceive spirit as having a beginning and an end?
Even if you have a dual perspective of yourself — meaning that you “know” you are spirit but are still stuck on the idea that you are a body — birth and death make no sense. If you are both spirit and body, then birth means the beginning of the body and death means the end of the body. But where does spirit fit in here? This is a major hang up for many people who describe themselves as spiritual: they say they are spirit in a body. But how can something that has no beginning and no end (spirit) be contained within something that has a beginning and an end (body)? How can you put something unlimited into something that’s limited?
Spirit is formless; body is form. Can they both exist? How can something formless be contained in form? God is formless, and therefore you are formless. In this sense, any kind of form (including the body) is denial of God. Since God is the only reality, form denies reality. Because form denies reality, we make illusions to replace reality and believe that illusion to be reality.
There are not different kinds of life, for life is like the truth. It does not have degrees. It is the one condition in which all that God created share. Like all His Thoughts, it has no opposite. There is no death because what God created shares His life. There is no death because an opposite to God does not exist. There is no death because the Father and the Son are One. (W-167)
Ask yourself this: What part of me asks the question: “What happens when I die?” Spirit, being unlimited (everything, everywhere, all the time), does not need to ask such a question because it can’t even perceive such concepts as birth and death (which are concepts that are tied to time). The ego, which identifies itself with the body, is the one asking the question. Remember that God did not create this physical world, including the body. The ego did. This is why “death is the thought that you are separate from your Creator,” as Lesson 167 says.
The death of the body “proves” that you are a body, which “proves” the ego’s ultimate goal: I am separate from God. I am my own creator/maker/god. Once you wake up and see that you never separated from God because you simply couldn’t have, the body no longer manifests illness. (Illness is the ego’s wish to prove that the body is real and that God is dead, and the death of the body is the ego’s wish fulfilled.) An awakened one still appearing in a body will use the body as a vehicle for the Holy Spirit. Once the body’s usefulness is over, the body will be gently laid aside, the Course says.
Fear of death is always a manifestation of your mistaken identity. Spirit offers life, while ego offers death. But remember that the ego is just an illusion, a thought of separateness that spun out of control and made a seemingly complex reality that is nothing but a dream. When you ask yourself what happens when you die, know that the ego is still in control, which simply means that you’re still perceiving the dream as being real. Nothing bad or dangerous happens; you are just still sleeping.
Death is the symbol of the fear of God. (M-27.3)
The Course tells us that the body is not real (it’s part of the dream of the ego). If you really understand this idea, then asking what happens after the body dies makes no sense. What could happen when something that never existed stops existing? Nothing!
The real question we ask when we wonder about death is whether what we perceive as our individual self dies. This is, again, a question only the ego could ask. God created us as an extension of Himself. This does not mean that God created a bunch of little “mini me” gods. Creation means extension, and that is a concept foreign to the ego, which always thinks in terms of partitioning, separating and individuating. But in reality, which means outside of the time-space-body dream, there is no individual self and never was. The idea that there could be an individual self is the very thought that birthed the dream. (The tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God forgot to laugh, as the Course says). The idea of the individual self is death, because it denies that you are one with your Creator.
The curious belief that there is part of dying things that may go on apart from what will die, does not proclaim a loving God nor re-establish any grounds for trust. If death is real for anything, there is no life. Death denies life. But if there is reality in life, death is denied. No compromise in this is possible. There is either a god of fear or One of Love. The world attempts a thousand compromises, and will attempt a thousand more. Not one can be acceptable to God’s teachers, because not one could be acceptable to God. He did not make death because He did not make fear. Both are equally meaningless to Him. (M-27.4)
Some of us try to cling to the idea of the individual self by believing that we are spirit and that we are individual souls. This seems to appease our fearful minds: we know that the body will perish, but now we feel better because we accept that we are spirit, but we still want to keep some autonomy so we decide that we are individual spirits. And we are, in fact: after the death of the body, the formless essence lives on, seemingly as an individual soul, but only because that soul is still sleeping! The death of the body does not bring you any closer to enlightenment. There is a world similar to this one that exists outside of the physical realm, but that world is still part of the dream. This is why it makes no sense to view the body as a burden to self-realization. The body is nothing at all in itself; it takes on whatever purpose you assigned to it. The body can be a vehicle for ego or for the Holy Spirit. If this body dies with ego as its master, the thoughts of fear, separation, guilt and sin will persist. This is why we find ourselves in different bodies in seemingly different lifetimes. The cycle of fear and guilt goes on and on until we wake up. Is reincarnation real then? Yes, it’s a “real” part of the dream!
In the ultimate sense, reincarnation is impossible. There is no past or future, and the idea of birth into a body has no meaning either once or many times. Reincarnation cannot, then, be true in any real sense. Our only question should be, “Is the concept helpful?” And that depends, of course, on what it is used for. If it is used to strengthen the recognition of the eternal nature of life, it is helpful indeed. Is any other question about it really useful in lighting up the way? Like many other beliefs, it can be bitterly misused. At least, such misuse offers preoccupation and perhaps pride in the past. At worst, it induces inertia in the present. In between, many kinds of folly are possible. (M-24.1)
Once we let go of these many kinds of folly (once we let go of all form), we will wake up. Letting go of form includes letting go of your identification with the body, which is the only reason you fear death.
When your body and your ego and your dreams are gone, you will know that you will last forever. Perhaps you think this is accomplished through death, but nothing is accomplished through death, because death is nothing. Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind. The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you who are life. (T-6.V)