Life, rest, sleep, death is a scale! 🤸🥱😴⚰️

Sleep little death
Could it be that sleeping is a “little death” and that death is nothing more than a “big sleep”? Photo by Kinga Cichewicz

It seems to me that life and death are not opposed to each other in a binary way but on a gradual scale, so that we can be more or less alive and more or less dead. Sleep seems to be a “little death” and therefore, on the other hand, death might be nothing more than “big sleep”.

Most people assume that we are either alive or dead. I, however, think that we will gain better insights into the nature of life and consciousness if we adopt a non-binary view of the matter.

In my view life and death are relative phenomena on a scale similar to day and night where we have all kinds of intermediate stages.

So that’s my framework for saying that sleep looks like death to some extent, and that death is only more of what sleep is to a lesser extent.

During daytime we are very much alive; that’s aware and in motion. But during sleep we are (almost) calm, silent and motionless, and we have (almost) no experience at the physical level.

Even more so this is the case in a comatose state of mind where we are totally unconscious. However, neither sleep nor coma is as much of unmoving and unconsciousness as is death and therefore death is further down that scale.

Sleep and death in plant life

If we look at plant life, I think this point is even easier to observe and realize. For example, flowers open up during the day and shut down at night, so it looks a lot like if they are awake during the day and sleeping at night.

But in winter plants have a more radical sleep that is “dead-like” to a further degree.

So, for example, the flowers, fruits and leaves of trees disappear in winter. These parts of the trees fall off and thus become dead flowers, fruits and leaves.

The trees themselves also look as if they were dead, but of course they are not completely dead and in spring they “come back to life” again.

So when it comes to plant life, it is relatively easy to see that the sleepers and the dead have some similarities.

To say that sleep and death are consequently the same is too much, but I think the two can best be understood as different phenomena on the same life and death spectrum rather than completely separate and diverse phenomena.

No real death?

Going a bit further down this line of thought it seems to me that the life/death scale is really a presence/absence scale.

Apparently life is the “presence” of consciousness, whereas death means “absence” of consciousness (on the physical level).

Where consciousness goes during its absence, we cannot know for sure, but when we are asleep it is supposedly in “dreamland”.

If it is true that sleep is actually a “little death” then, on the other hand, death might be just a “big sleep” where we have departed from the physical plane to go somewhere else but where that absence of consciousness is not necessarily tantamount to its extinction.

Personally, I think the scale indicates that there is no real death but only the coming and going of life and consciousness on the physical level.

Self-loathing: How I was taught to feel guilty in a past life

In some versions of Christianity sinners are warned against hell and damnation. Photo by Marc Schaefer.

Maybe in a previous life, I was taught to feel guilty and to believe in a version of Christianity where sinners are warned against hell and damnation. This is my personal story.

At a small gathering with a few of my closest friends, one of them, O, told us about a nuisance that tormented him for long periods of his life. He described it as a recurring pain in his forehead and also came up with a possible explanation: “It may be caused by an old belief that I am not allowed to feel good”. 

“Furthermore”, he said, “I think that in a past life, I preached sin and guilt and that a remnant of this sense of guilt is left there in my forehead like a dark stain”.

I doubt that O would get into that rather unusual explanation in other settings but the four of us share mostly everything. Since we are spiritually inclined, we are also very familiar with the concept of reincarnation and receptive to ideas about how past lives may have influenced this one.

I had no problems imagining O preaching such a medieval version of Christianity in a previous lifetime. I envisioned him filled with holy wrath taking his audience to task and warning them about the flames of hell and eternal damnation.

Then suddenly, to show what kind of a preacher he once was, he turned towards me, pointed his finger at me and said in a very decisive manner: “You are a sinner!” And more stuff like that. I was sort of paralyzed and felt as if I was taken back in time. I don’t believe in sin at all but for a moment there, I was captured by his words as if I was one of his past followers.

Feeling guilty and unworthy 

I didn’t get any religious upbringing and words like God, sin and hell were hardly even mentioned in my childhood home. Today I do believe in God but my concept of God is very different from the traditional Christian one.

To me God is certainly not wrathful, but all-loving, forgiving and benevolent. To think that sinners are unworthy and subject to God’s judgment, hell and damnation, is far from my beliefs.

Therefore I was baffled by the ease with which I responded to O’s words and suddenly adopted such unfamiliar ideas. 

How could that be? 

Looking for a plausible explanation, I asked myself if traditional Christian dogmas are actually not unfamiliar to me after all, but only forgotten; maybe I was once a true believer of them and maybe I was really present there in the flesh listening to O’s sermon several lives back.

If that’s the case, then, like O, subconsciously I may still hold remnants of those dogmas even if my conscious beliefs about God and the afterlife are totally different now. 

And then my present day self-esteem issues would make better sense; for instance the fact that I sometimes hate myself for no good reason at all.

Hidden causes of low self-esteem

O’s story and my reaction to it made me wonder if self-esteem (or the lack of it) is not just taught in the formative years of our present lives, as psychologists would have it, but also something we carry with us from past lives. 

The story also pointed to how opposing ideas about the self and its relation to God may coexist in our mentality: 

On the one hand a conscious belief that God is all-loving and that each one of us is absolutely worthy of that love, and yet on the other hand subconsciously we may fear to be unworthy and undeserving.

Even if we were not taught to believe in a wrathful, unloving God in this life we may still harbor that unfortunate idea and along with it a hidden “talent” for looking down on, or even hating, ourselves. 

The unconscious God image may possibly lay dormant or it may actively undermine our self-esteem even if our conscious beliefs are well suited to make us feel good about ourselves.

If that’s the case, then I think it is important that we become aware of our subconscious God image and try to counter its negative influence. Being aware of self-hatred, and its causes, makes us better equipped to handle it. Even just naming it has, in my experience, a very beneficial effect. 

Get to know more about handling self-esteem issues and further investigate the connection between worldview, God image and perception of self: HIGH SELF-ESTEEM: YOU NEED AN ALL-EMBRACING WORLD VIEW