When my husband [Carl Sagan] died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again.
Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous — not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… That pure chance could be so generous and so kind… That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time… That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful.
The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.
Enlightenment and Depersonalization/Derealization
It seems to me that there are many similarities (albeit some differences as well) between these two phenomena. One is considered the ultimate state of consciousness, another is considered a mental illness of sorts.
I had depersonalization a few years ago and I have to admit that some of what I have experienced in the last year resembles it. Enlightenment is like a choice to de-personalize one’s self, to step away from what one isn’t. It is happy, calm, and beautiful, and one does it very gradually over time and slowly learns more and more about what one’s true nature is, about what is real and what is illusion. One learns to seperate his or herself from one’s thoughts and from physical reality in a positive way. The ultimate joy comes from this.
Depersonalization is like experiencing side effects of enlightenment when one isn’t ready for it yet. It’s taking away everything that someone isn’t before they are ready to understand or learn that it isn’t who they are. It takes away everything that they thought was meaningful before they are ready to learn that it isn’t in fact meaningful in the way they thought it was. It shows them that nothing that they thought was real is actually real. It strips them of their personal identity, of their idea of “Self” and their idea of reality. This leads to depression obviously. Most people can’t handle the idea of external reality being an illusion, or of their whole identity being taken away.
Now this isn’t necessarily true, it’s just a thought I had. Do you think depersonalization is like experiencing side effects of enlightenment before one is ready to experience them? For example I experienced depersonalization for several months because of dxm and ketamine use. It was overall unpleasent, though at times I enjoyed the trippiness of it. I was also fairly depressed in this time because I couldn’t come to terms with leaving my whole identity and notion of “reality” behind.
Obviously there are parts of enlightenment that have nothing to do with depersonalization and vice versa, and there are major differences between the two when it comes down to it.
Just for the record, “Depersonalization is a subjective experience of unreality in one’s sense of self, while derealization is unreality of the outside world”.