In the case of death, on the other hand, our usual cognitive abilities have largely ceased to function and when we come back into this world from our experience we come back into a different mind with a different body and a whole new set of earthly attributes; in other words, we come back to a different reincarnation. Otherwise, the difference between Realization of the Self and death is nil.

Let’s also consider that, unlike St. John’s and Er’s experience, the Realization of the Self is not a random unexpected event. It is a very deliberate achievement obtained in a process that prepares the mind to interpret it and assimilate it. The acquisition of the direct knowledge of our Eternal Self, which in Jnana Yoga is known as Realization, doesn’t take place in a mental state previously devoid of expectations and awareness of the importance of the issue at hand. Realization doesn’t come to anybody who isn’t ready. The practice of that discipline prepares the mind for that transcendental moment, even if before attaining it we don’t know exactly what that moment is going to consist of.

The Bardo Thodol is very clear about the importance of preparation for death. That book is basically a manual on how to guide recently-deceased individuals into the Eternal Light of the Self. There are three basic stages or “Bardos” explained in that book. Anyone who had prepared themselves for the moment of death will very likely attain liberation during the first Bardo. Many of St. John’s visions, on the other hand, seem to be of the kind described at the bottom of the second Bardo and all through the third.

Those stages involve exposure to the horrifying presence of some wrathful deities. But St. John also saw luminous visions of Christ at different times during his experience. His vision of Jesus coming to his recue confirms the Bhakti Yoga – Bardo Thodol notion that someone as devoted to any prophet or deity as St. John was devoted to Christ, can attain liberation despite the presence of any wrathful deities. This also means that St. John probably attained liberation when he finally passed away.

Some details in Er’s near-death account also correlate well with some essential tenets in the philosophy of Jnana Yoga. In his description of the moment of reincarnation, for example, Er says that the reincarnating souls chose their future lives according to the habits they had had in their previous lives. That observation is perfectly in line with Jnana Yoga’s proposition that it is because of our inability to overcome the passions and attachments we have in this life that we are forced to come back into this world again.

In Jnana Yoga and in the Bardo Thodol, liberation from the recurring cycle of reincarnation comes only to those who have gotten rid of their earthly passions and attachments. Those who die having prepared themselves in such a way run directly into the Eternal Light as soon as they enter the After-Life state and don’t have to endure any painful exposure to any wrathful visions. Most importantly, by running into the Eternal Light they don’t have to reincarnate again.

Situations like the one in which St. John found himself at the moment of his apocalyptic vision don’t necessarily involve a lucid state of mind. A high level of selflessness and purity of thought is probably essential for such an exalted mental state to “descend” upon anybody, but the expectation that such event would happen to him probably didn’t exist in St. John’s mind. The element of surprise can be a determining factor in how we interpret what follows after the higher state of consciousness first hits our minds. Preparation for that moment is essential for understanding and assimilating whatever we’re faced with during that state of super consciousness.

But St. John doesn’t appear to have been ready for that moment. All those encoded mysteries in his vision, like the seven seals, Christ’s double-edged tongue, Christ’s voice sounding like the voice of many waters, etc., seem like romantic representations of words that St. John was probably unable to understand when Christ spoke them. St. John doesn’t seem to have drawn much intelligible meaning from Jesus’ overall teachings. He definitely must have had a real Revelation, but his interpretation of it looks highly fantastic and intentionally adorned with imagery that fits well with his obvious devotion to Christ.

In St. John’s eyes Jesus was the only possible savior of humanity, but in reality Jesus was just the only learned sage he had ever listened to in person. Obviously, St. John was unprepared to understand an enlightened man such as Jesus must have been. All that apocalyptic symbolism speaks only of how cryptic Jesus’ words must have seemed to St. John and the rest of the Apostles. Christ’s message was obviously way above the comprehension capability of the great majority of his contemporaries, including the Jesus Twelve.

Let’s recall that the Apostles were just common men, simple fishermen and the like, who weren’t supposed to even be literate at the time. There was probably only one or two of Jesus’ coevals who may have understood at least a portion of the things he said. Judas might have been one of those who understood him a bit, if we are to believe that the Judas Gospel is legitimate and true.

St. John’s admonitions to the different churches are again romantic interpretations of the final judgment that Er talks about and that the Bardo Thodol explains using different terminology. St. John’s vision’s admonitions to “do this” or “don’t do that” or else “this will happen to you,” seem like recollections of things he had experienced in his previous death stages and during his own personal final judgments. Either that or just recollections of things he had heard other people say during his life.

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