We all die….
On November 22nd 1963, the Beatles released their second UK Album “With the Beatles” and I was entering my terrible twos and was busy drowning beatles and other insects in a bucket of water just to see them drown. It never dawned on me that on that day three well-known people would die. These three men, John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis, lived very different lives but each left a different spiritual mark when they died. Kennedy was a nominal Catholic but was a man of the world. Huxley was an intellectual who was drawn to Buddhist mysticism. C. S Lewis was an atheist who became a Christian.
J.F Kennedy was the President of the United States from 20th January 1961. For Kennedy, faith was a private matter and it appeared that he did not let it affect his public life. Kennedy was brought up in an Irish Catholic heritage and it was said that he prayed every night but according to his wife, his nightly prayer ritual was essentially crossing himself on his knees which took him 3 seconds every night. Others have said that church bored him. He commented to a friend that he is Catholic just to please his father. Matters of faith did not interest him at all.
Author Aldous Huxley, on the other hand, came from a more secular heritage than Kennedy. His grandfather was Thomas Huxley, a well-known palaeontologist and a key defender of Charles Darwin. His great-uncle, Matthew Arnold was a prominent British intellectual, poet and religious skeptic. His brother, Julian, was a famous biologist and was knighted in 1958. Despite his upbringing in skepticism, Huxley started to embrace Buddhism. When his first wife was dying in 1955, Huxley chanted from the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” as she passed. Huxley’s second wife, Laura, did the same for him when he died. Huxley blended his Buddhist beliefs with his thinking and writing. He experimented with drugs to help him in his meditation so that he can become more aware of his spiritual side. But he disapproved using drugs for recreation or entertainment. In 1953, he experimented with mescaline, the active ingredient in peyote, used among Native Americans for ritual purposes. Huxley wrote a famous essay titled “The Doors of Perception” outlining that experience. The rock group “The Doors” took their name from Huxley’s essay. For Huxley, his Buddhist beliefs was to help him become less egoistic and selfish and more altruistic.
C.S. Lewis and Huxley were both religious skeptics at Oxford during the years just before World War I. But thereafter, they went down separate paths. Lewis became a Christian. Lewis described his conversion as a chess game with God and he lost. He had a spiritual experience and he called it ‘joy’. It was a deep desire for God. He writes about this experience in his book “Surprised by Joy”. Faith for C.S. Lewis was about giving his whole life to God and to live according to His will. In his book “Mere Christianity” he writes “Give Me all of you! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want you! All of you! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to kill it! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to Me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them all over to Me, give yourself to Me and I will make of you a new self – in My image. Give Me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”
These three men lived different lives but they all died on the same day. I wonder if they have found in death what they have been seeking in life. I wonder if their different beliefs about life matters when they entered eternity. We all die. But will we all be together in eternity?