Thursday, April 15, 2010

Darryl Reanney and "The Death of Forever".

Many years ago I bought Darryl Reanney’s book The Death of Forever: A New Future for Human Consciousness . A little background to Reanney, from his own autobiographical comments, is that he started out as a skeptic but ended up a believer, well sort of. Reanney’s credentials were, indeed, impressive. A molecular biologist and an internationally recognised authority on the origin of life, and also the author and presenter of Genesis (somewhat in the mode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos), a seven part series produced by the ABC. I highly recommend reading Reanney’s book, if for nothing else than intellectual stimulation and unorthodox thought coming from “scientific circles”.

Here is Reanney with Phillip Adams (podcast), on an episode of Late Night Live in 1993 (Reanney died of Leukaemia in 1994):

Darryl Reanney with Phillip Adams on Late Night Live

Quite a fascinating interview. Note that towards the end of the interview Phillip notes that Reanney expressed the opinion that he was “kidding himself”. My understanding is that he was uneasy about his sequel (Music of the Mind) to The Death of Forever as being “too speculative” and “unscientific”. The explanations for consciousness are legion, but to date, not a single person on the planet understands how consciousness originated, and that it must somehow be connected to some form of life after death is even more speculative. Reanney notes during the interview that the human brain makes “constructs”, but is it possible that Reanney’s own ideas are themselves nothing but “constructs”? Nevertheless, I think there is some merit in at least pondering his ideas. In his book, Reanney leaned somewhat to Buddhism as being the religion that is “closest to science”. Maybe he didn’t have enough time to examine the Buddhist concept of hell/s, which is as primitive, and perhaps even more perverse than the Christian view of hell. Reanney also talks about near death experiences, but seems to have a rather superficial knowledge of them, for example, why many Japanese NDErs do not “see” a tunnel, but a cave, and why the “Being of Light” is interpreted according to the religious biases and upbringing of the one having the experience. NDEs, for anyone who has studied them, do not come neatly packaged and explainable, nor do they necessarily point to a life after death, because every one who has experienced an NDE didn’t, in fact, die. A few minutes, or even a couple of hours of death, does not indicate final death. It may well be that some part or portion of “us” survives death, but I wouldn’t base such speculative ideas on the writings of Darryl Reanney as the final word on the subject, particularly in regard to his pre-death admission that they were too speculative. His contributions are, nevertheless, worth pondering.

I don't believe that science has all the answers, nor that it can summarise "truth" by equations and pure logic. I'll leave that to the mathematicians, but I equally don't see any reason to accept any concept or idea without consistent evidence to support it. My study of NDEs, if nothing else, only supports the idea that they are not only inconsistent, but seem to point quite heavily as having arisen in the brain. We would all like to live forever, perhaps, and maybe our "constructs" are biased by that idea, and maybe the brain is more than capable of creating this illusion of "foreverness", which, in the end, lead Reanney to feel that he was "kidding himself".


  1. Hi, I am from Melbourne.

    Please find a unique Understanding of Consciousness,"God", religion and science too via the sets of essays on this site.

    Plus The Ancient Reality Teaching

    Plus a set of interesting essays re this author and both modernism and postmodernism


  2. Anon from Melbourne, thanks for the links. I hadn’t heard of “Adi Da”, but I’ve done some reading up. He seems very similar to Meher Baba Meher Baba , though Baba was never, as far as I’m aware, accused of various forms of corruption. I’m also interested in what former followers have to say, and more critical analyses, such as found here

    Adi Da and His Voracious, Abusive Personality Cult

    Not that I’m suggesting that Adi Da had nothing of importance to contribute by way of thought (many seem to think so, even some former followers), but there seems to be a trend of contradiction, power-seeking and egocentrism that envelopes some of these “gurus”, which I guess some accept as a “necessary” part of “enlightenment”. I’ll observe, but never be a part of these movements. The “human condition”, and it’s sometimes a very sad condition (as in intensive care), thankfully isn’t eternal.

  3. Note that towards the end of the interview Phillip notes that Reanney expressed the opinion that he was “kidding himself".
    Philip Adams displayed a lack of respect to Darryl by making this remark at this time. Very poor taste IMO.

  4. While there are no single, universally accepted "Christian" or "Buddhist" understandings of hell, the Buddhist presentations (and I agree they are as baroque and gruesome as Medieval European ones) at least are always temporary and provisional as every other condition, even if the temporary in question extends over unimaginably huge stretches of time. Eventually it ends; meanwhile the mainstream Christian view is that the condition of torment is absolute and eternal. The commonality is the assertion that some nightmarish experience of total pain exists to destroy the minds/identities that perpetuate delusion and ethical misconduct. Both are as impossible to contemplate as they are to dismiss.