Physical Immortality and Death
Death is a Bad Habit - An interview with Leonard Orr
Leonard Orr is famous worldwide for creating rebirthing, a technique for personal transformation that uses continuous conscious breathing to precipitate deep shifts in body and mind. By his own calculation, over ten million people have benefitted from the method. Orr continues to train new generations of rebirthers at his Californian headquarters, Campbell Hot Springs, set amidst 600 acres of beautiful wooded hills.
Less well known is the fact that Leonard Orr's original interest was physical immortality. The discovery of rebirthing was an unexpected consequence of his researches into the possibility of staying alive forever. Orr's enthusiasm for physical immortality is laudably unegoistic. He gives his encouragement to just about anyone who is willing to question the inevitability of death, even people as unlike himself as Charles Brown, Bernadeane and James Strole, to whom he refers, somewhat mischievously, as "the holy trinity." In fact, CBJ's worldwide travels began with an invitation from Orr in 1988 to appear with him on a lecture tour of England. Since then, he has maintained a distant but amicable connection with the growing body of people who have chosen to connect with CBJ.
Everything Orr teaches springs from his own persistent search, a sometimes frightening voyage into uncharted waters of the self. With a wiry body, an electric gaze, and a disarmingly deadbeat sense of humor, Orr exudes the authority of experience, but also the slight sadness of a man who has travelled alone, respected by thousands but intimate with few.
We spoke to Leonard Orr at Campbell Hot Springs, sitting among the grass and stones where a temple is planned for the guru Babaji, Orr's Indian mentor and inspiration.
FA: People link your name with rebirthing. What part does physical immortality play in your work?
LO: Physical immortality has always been coupled with rebirthing. They go hand in hand. Rebirthing gives people access to their life force with enough power so they can become immortal. And physical immortality creates a safe environment in the mind so that you work out everything in yourself that is not total aliveness.
FA: Can you tell me about your personal experience of this?
LO: In 1961, while I was working in a public library, I came across a book about physical immortality called "How to Live Forever", by Harry Gaze. I took the book home and read it, and found it very interesting. That was when I first had an idea other than living to around seventy years. Shortly afterwards, I had my first experience of rebirthing.
FA: Were you seeking this experience?
LO: No.I was in my bath tub one day, and I simply couldn't get out. I didn't have enough strength. I was having what is now called a spontaneous rebirth. Soaking in the warm water had regressed me to infancy and prenatal consciousness. It wasn't until much later that I perfected rebirthing as a technique.
FA: How did your interest in physical immortality develop?
LO: The turning point for me was a period in the mid-sixties when I was suicidal for most of the time. For two years, I constantly chose life, and I began working with my mind to validate that choice, until I'd gotten the death urge out of my body. But then, one winter's day, I experienced an intense fear that if I went out of my apartment, something terrible would happen to me. I thought to myself: if I have to live with this fear all the time, how is it going to be fun to be immortal? I realized that although I had a theory of physical immortality, and a belief that death is controlled by the mind, I had never tested it. So I decided to surrender to the devil or the angel of death, or whoever it is who controls death - to give him an opportunity to kill me. I just let go, to see what would happen.
FA: And what did happen?
LO: Energy swept through me and I entered an altered state of consciousness. The words of my friends went through my mind:
"Leonard, if you keep playing around with weird ideas like physical immortality, something awful is going to happen to you." And I thought:
"Oh, maybe I did it, maybe I'm dead." So then I said to myself, "Why don't you check and find out? See if you can move your body."
So I raised my hand and sat up and realized I could still move myself. The next day, I was overcome by a tremendous amount of sadness. When I analyzed this emotion, I found that I was sad about giving up my old friend death. It was such a dependable old friend - it had gotten me out of scrapes lifetime after lifetime. Death itself was one of my few friends that survived death! Years later, I read a Sanskrit mantra which says you must cut yourself off from the dependence on death, as a cucumber cuts itself off from its vine. Physical death is the ultimate dependency.
FA: And physical Immortality Is the ultimate independence?
LO: Physical immortality is independence and even more dependency - dependency on life itself.
FA: You speak of "lifetime after lifetime": what part does reincarnation play In your thinking?
LO: Reincarnation theory is pretty basic. Through reincarnation, people destroy the physical body and go into the astral world, the world of the mind. Then they hang out there until they can go back to the womb.
FA: Why do that?
LO: Womb consciousness is a beautiful time, when everyone was a porpoise, swimming around in the ocean. All religious symbolism about heaven is womb symbolism. Heaven is called the womb of God, and the only access to the womb of God is through death. In other words, the only way to get back to the most beautiful time of our lives is by dying. Apart from rebirthing, there's no other return to the womb.
FA: How did these Ideas and experiences become integrated in your work?
LO: By 1974, I'd perfected many of my ideas about physical immortality, and decided to make them public by doing seminars or groups. I created what I called the "One-Year Seminar" - the same group of people meeting once a month for twelve hours. Rebirthing as a technique was created by the first One-Year Seminar.
FA: So rebirthing came out of your exploration of physical immortality?
LO: Yes. Birth is the closest most people come to death in this life, and the scariest experience they have. For myself, I didn't have any conscious birth memories until I'd gotten past my death urge. When I analyzed this, I found the reason was that I was afraid to. You have to unravel your death urge before you feel safe enough in your own mind and body to remember your birth.
FA: What is the death urge, exactly?
LO: A man came to one of my seminars and said, "You know, I've been so miserable that if anybody threatened to make me feel good I'd kill him. Is that what you mean by the death urge?" I said; "You've got it." The death urge is a psychic entity that has intelligence and an urge to survive, like every other psychic entity. The death urge is a very complex structure, and you have to dismantle it piece by piece, one thought at a time, one feeling at a time, till you feel it is no longer a major factor in your personality.
This can be very tricky. When the death urge begins to dominate your life, it's a surprise - specially for people who' ve been to seminars on physical immortality! When you have the death urge, nothing seems more stupid than the idea of living forever. The only thing you'd like to do is die and get it over with. Your relationships go to pot - and there's no greater pain then relationship pain. You have physical symptoms. Your body looks like it's turning to shit: it feels ugly and looks ugly in the mirror, so why would you want to be immortal anyway? Why not trade it in for a new model?
FA: How does one overcome the death urge?
LO: According to Babaji, the ultimate technique for conquering the death urge is to outlive it. You unravel all these feeling and then you just live through them. There's nothing else to do but commit yourself to your body and be there with yourself. Eventually it all passes and life becomes beautiful again.
FA: Can you tell me what you have learned about physical immortality from your study of Indian yogis?
LO: Immortality at the level of the yogis means being a total master of the body. To integrate your spirit, mind and body is the ultimate state of enlightenment. This means that if you change your body, you are not doing it out of victim consciousness or because you think death is beyond your conscious control.
FA: Is it necessary to be a master in order to be immortal?
LO: No. You are immortal until you prove otherwise. As long as you have your spirit, mind and body, you are practicing the truth. As long as you have a body, you are proof that you are immortal. But I think we should continue learning and growing, otherwise we will have a tendency to regress back into mortal consciousness. It's easy to become immortal, but it takes forever to stay immortal.
FA: What forms should this learning and growing take?
LO: There are three components of physical immortality: the philosophy, the psychology, and the physiology. For the philosophy, you should read books, listen to tapes, watch videos, go to seminars and talk to people. Keep expanding your knowledge of physical immortality, because the mind is eternally hungry. The psychology of physical immortality involves overcoming the death urge, in the ways I've described.
FA: And the physiology?
LO: To maintain a physical body, you need a successful relationship with the physical universe. The real secret to that is to become aware of your energy body. The energy body is already immortal - it survives death automatically. So what we have to do is understand this energy body and have a conscious relationship to it. Rebirthing is the key, because for most people it is the first experience of their energy body. Through rebirthing, the energy body becomes part of your physical senses.
FA: I understand you teach a practice called "spiritual purification." For example, your trainees here at Campbell Hot Springs spend a whole night alone outside, sitting by a fire. Can you explain what this is all about?
LO: Spiritual purification enhances your relationship to earth, air, water and fire - the fundamental components of the physical universe, and of the physical body. Air means breathing, and this is what rebirthing is about. Fire is magical stuff: it keeps us alive every day. When you sit by a fire, your energy body turns through the flames and you can experience energy changes in actual physical sensations. Water has to do with bathing. When you immerse yourself in water your energy body turns through the water and is automatically cleaned. The longer you soak, the cleaner you get. So to my mind the presence of indoor plumbing and warm water in our civilization has more to do with physical immortality than all the philosophies and movements put together. Earth has to do with food and food mastery, exercise and - if you want to participate in the economy - a career you love.
FA: What are the maIn obstacles to achieving physical immortality?
LO: Infancy - infant consciousness, that's the big one. Infant consciousness is helplessness and hopelessness, and that feeds the death urge more powerfully than anything.
FA: Is this why the concept of physical immortality is not more popular?
LO: Yes. And because people prefer to go along with the crowd, with their own habits of thinking. Death is a habit - it's a bad habit. But most people are not willing to work on themselves, are not willing to change any of their habits, not even the habit of smoking. They prefer to be victims of their habits. Also, people live in their past. Living in the past, being addicted to the past, keeps you from creating a new brighter future. In order to live forever, you have to be constantly on top of your own mind, learning new habits and destroying old ones. Every day, we produce stuff that becomes obsolete: if we don't destroy it, it becomes energy pollution. And energy pollution eventually turns us into a stiff.
FA: What has been your experIence with physical aging - receding hair, graying hair, wrinkles on the face?
LO: The wrinkles on my face disappear directly in proportion as I get rid of infancy emotions. Every time I have a birth memory or an infancy memory and release it, I lose wrinkles. So basically, wrinkles are psychological tension that's held in the face. You get them from negative thoughts, negative emotional patterns. In addition, you can get them from just participating in the world. But the source goes back to infancy problems.
FA: You've talked about psychological and physical self-mastery as a means to conquer death. But how can we master accidents, natural disasters and other forces beyond our control?
LO: They might be beyond control of the body, but not of the mind. If you analyze natural disasters only in this century, you will notice that everywhere they occurred there were large numbers of people dominated by the death urge, by helplessness and hopelessness. The group mind is powerful enough to create natural disasters, not to mention accidents. On the positive side, if you study automobile fatalities, you'll find that people have lots of little accidents before they have the big one. In the same way, if you look in your body you'll see the signs of mortality long before they kill you. That's what Jesus meant when he said, "The comforter will teach you all things." The comforter is the physical universe, the ultimate teacher about our creative and destructive programs.
FA: How can the altitudes of other people affect whether I live or die?
LO: As long as there are mortals in the world, the death urge is out there - and if you participate with mortals, you're going to catch it. Death is contagious. For example, if you study the statistics, you'll find a very high incidence of doctors dying of the disease in which they specialize. But physical immortality is just as contagious. The more immortals there are in the world, the more people will be going through the death urge in their minds, rather than acting it out in their bodies. You could almost say: the more immortals there are, the more temporary insanity there will be.
FA: Are you physically immortal, Leonard Orr?
LO: I am today. But it needs eternity. And if you want to see whether I reach 300, you'll have to stay around yourself.
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