No, not mine. Or at least not the way you might think.
One day I was just sitting on a rock up on the top of my favorite butte, feeling slightly depressed and staring off into space. The gorgeous view faded out as I sank deeper into a state of meditation. Yet even then, I couldn’t get the thought of suicide and our society out of my mind. I was thinking about the way suicide is perceived in our society: It’s taboo. It hurts everyone around them. Also, society says that suicide doesn’t really solve the problems the person committing suicide is trying to get away from. Or something to that effect. No matter how I looked at it, I just could not get my head around the question of how the heck they knew that last part.
It was then that I finally became cognizant of some thoughts not my own, as if I were hearing a voice I couldn’t quite make out. Every time I tried to focus on those thoughts I would lose them. It was only when I gave up and just quit thinking that I began to understand what those thoughts were saying. And that is how I met a Releaser.
We can’t get out of our dead bodies on our own. We have to have the help of a Releaser. The interesting thing is, when we die, we are completely disconnected from the host body and while we can reach outside the body to some extent, we are not able to leave our own bodies completely. There are hundreds of thousands of Releasers but it takes a certain kind of Soul to work as a Releaser. Eventually even the best Releaser has to give up the job because it just can’t deal with the consequences any longer.
And one of those Laws is…a Releaser cannot release a Suicide. The Releaser is constrained by this Law and must brand the Soul of the Suicide so that any other Releaser coming across that particular Soul will immediately know they are required to move on without Releasing that Soul.
This is a tale of one such Releaser….
There’s a lot I can share with you and it doesn’t matter if you try to tell other hosted Souls, as we call those residing in a living body. After all, who is going to believe this is anything other than fiction?
Ask me my name and I could not tell you. Not because of any such silliness as “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you” but rather simply because I’ve been a Releaser for so long. Being a Releaser means you have to interact in a very direct way with the recently dead, and those Souls tend to be somewhat disoriented. In that state, despite our best efforts, a Releaser assimilates the memories thrust on us by the recently dead. So, I have memories and names that are real to me, along with those of my own. Over eons and after billions of Soul releases, I can no longer tell which are truly mine and which have been thrust on me. Call me what you will, the simple thought of me is enough to single me out from all the other Releasers and so identify me.
But you were thinking about Suicide. Those are the saddest Souls to encounter, and none of us Releasers ever want to be the one to encounter a recently dead Soul that has committed suicide. Let me tell you a little bit about Death, Souls, and…Punishment.
“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.” So said Oscar Wilde, a writer who lived from 1854 to 1900.
Death for you is not what you think it is. Of all the religions on this planet, those embracing reincarnation come the closest to grokking it. I love that word, Heinlein’s ‘grok’ from Stranger in a Strange Land. It is one of the most encompassing yet specific words related to understanding. Back to topic, Death is only the wearing out of the current host body that a Soul is inhabiting. It does not mean that Souls then go to a heaven or a hell; it just means that the current chance to experience sensations has ended. The host is not sentient in itself; it is merely a collection of living mindless cells that have been engineered to co-exist in a certain configuration. When the host wears out, it simply cannot be controlled by the Soul any more.
I’m sure you’ve some glimmerings of the lives of Souls now. Let me confirm or disabuse as the case may be. First, throw out the idea that Souls are immortal. We aren’t, although by your restricted perceptions as a hosted Soul we might as well be. As an example, I am some ten thousand six hundred forty-nine of this world’s years. I am considered rather young and have only been a Releaser for eight hundred and ninety-nine years. We are born, live, and die. Like you hosted Souls, we wonder what happens when we die. But unlike you hosted Souls, we have all our memories: of all the times we were hosted, of all the times we were evolving. We remember everything about our entire lives to this point. It is usually around six to ten thousand of your years when we start residing within a host, before that point we are really too young to gain anything from the experience. Generally, we will develop a driving urge to seek out a mate around eighty three million years and die around sixty-nine trillion years. I tell you this, because it has a very direct and important bearing on what happens when you commit Suicide.
Back to Death for a moment. As I said, it usually means your host has worn out. When we are given permission to inhabit a host, there are certain restrictions imposed for various reasons, some having to do with sanity, some having to do with the type of studies we wish to experience, and others having to do with responsibilities. It is the latter that I wish to explain a little.
It would, of course, be foolish for a Soul to inhabit a host and then just cast it aside whenever it wished. Believe it or not, Souls have certain responsibilities to their hosts and so Suicide is not tolerated as a means of ending the experience of inhabiting a host. That does not mean, however, that a Soul cannot commit Suicide at all. After all, there are lessons that can be learned from Suicide just as there are from living the full lifetime of the host. Take, for example, the Japanese Samurai who commits ritual Suicide which can be either a noble sacrifice or ignoble humiliation or someone who performs a noble act like that of Dickens’ character Sydney in A Tale of Two Cities. Finally, there is the act of despair where the hosted Soul just can’t cope any more. The emotions and lessons that derive from doing the honorable, but terminal, action are quite different from those performed in the pits of despair. Therefore, if the Suicide is explicitly planned for as part of the learning cycle, Suicide might well be approved for that particular incarnation. Only then is a Soul permitted to perform Suicide, whether noble or ignoble, as a way of ending the relationship with the host.
The relationship between a host and Soul is therefore both symbiotic and parasitic. One way of ensuring responsibilities towards the host has to do with the insertion of the Soul into the host. This is done in such a way as to make it nigh on impossible for the Soul to leave the host on its own. The binding between Soul and host goes well into the atomic level, almost down to the particle level. This, along with the restricted memories imposed on the Soul, ensures that the Soul cannot simply depart the host just because, for example, the Soul becomes bored or can’t deal with the experiences selected for learning.
And so, Releasers are needed to aid the Soul in departing from the worn out host. Releasers are selected from those Souls that are willing to take on that task of releasing Souls. There are certain requirements that Releaser candidates must meet, including having experienced at least six hosts, preferably more. There is also a particular test that must be passed before becoming a Releaser. More about that in a moment.
There are Laws that the Releasers are bound to. Due to the nature of the job, especially for youngsters like me, the Punishment for each Law that we are bound to has been experienced by every Releaser. Thus, we know what the Punishment for a Law is like and that the penalty for ignoring any particular Law is the associated Punishment. So, the Punishment we Releasers mete drives us to make sure that we understand the Law, the consequences, and the risk of being wrong. We Releasers have a weighty burden: we must be judge, jury, and executioner.
Suicide is the easiest Law to understand and the Punishment is far worse than Death. You hosted Souls have a saying, in part, that Suicide hurts the person committing Suicide and that is very accurate. As I have already mentioned, a Soul cannot depart a host by itself; it needs a Releaser’s assistance. To date three Souls have managed to release themselves from their host, but the risks of doing so are great. Only one of those Souls ever recovered its true memories. The other two Souls to manage self-release became what you call unbalanced. Their memories are lost to them forever and they cannot gain any new memories, they can only live in the moment.
So, with Suicide being against the Law, what is the Punishment? The Soul committing Suicide is not Released and is also branded by the Releaser assigned to them so that any other Releaser that comes across that Soul afterwards will not Release it.
While it is true that the Soul thus avoids whatever was intolerable to it while in the host, that Soul is now essentially sentenced to life in prison. And no, the Soul is not free after the host has completely decayed and dispersed, as you say, “into the dust from which it sprang”. The binding of the host to the Soul and vice versa goes beyond the atomic layer, remember? For some sixty-nine trillion years, that Soul is trapped with those sub-atomic particles that comprised its host. And then it is finally free…when it dies.
I mentioned that each Releaser has to undergo the Punishment for each Law so that we understand what we are committing that Soul to. Even when I knew that I would be Released, this was by far the worst Punishment of all the Laws. For this Punishment, I had to live the lifetime of a host, and was unable to depart after that host wore out. It was horrible being disoriented by being stuck in a host that I was no longer able to animate, yet with all my facilities intact. I was interred and so suffered both being unable to be free of that host body for a long time and the panic of being unable to keep myself whole as the host decayed into its components. Others have been burned and as with the decaying, when the ashes are scattered they were ‘stretched’. It is a horrible feeling, being stretched like that. At the time of my training, coffins were not typically used, and so I could feel myself bound, I could hear the voices and feel every part of the burial, but I could not interact with them or my worn out host to let them know I was still there.
Oh, I could stray from the physical host, but I could not go far, no more than the equivalent of a mile or so at first. Beyond that point I could not go. After a week the disoriented feeling and panic began to fade. Even if I were constrained by the host, I could still roam and have a life of sorts. Once in a while I would meet another Soul, but usually they avoided me. And then the stretching began. I felt as if I were being drawn out, becoming somewhat thinner and lighter. At first it was just noticeable, but nothing unpleasant, just like stretching a sore muscle. But as time passed, I noticed it was making me more and more disoriented and I felt like I was being stretched out so much there was less and less of me. Eventually I finally understood that was due to the worms eating my host and carrying off what they ate. What they or other insects did not eat simply decayed away and became more insubstantial. In a strange way, that contributed to my feeling of thinning. In time I was so spread around by worms eating my host, birds eating the worms, animals eating the birds, and so on that I felt stretched out to the breaking point. I became so drawn out that I could no longer move about as I had once been able to. I felt that if one more part of me was moved further away, I would break into a million microscopic pieces and so die. Yet, I could still be stretched even thinner and not die. Worst of all was that I still had all my facilities, even then. I could see, feel, and think. I was, but I could do nothing: I could not move, I could not do anything, I simply was. I could only observe. And I was absolutely, totally bored despite being so agonizingly aware of being disoriented all the time.
I know now that I would never have died until I died of old age. I cannot think of a more horrid fate — to exist, to simply be and yet unable to interact in any way whatsoever with the existence around me.
It was a hundred years after my host wore out that I was finally Released.
I expected it would be a joy, a wonderful thing. It was not. Stretched out as I was, it was pure agony for weeks afterwards as I slowly gathered all my dispersed being back into one coherent whole.
There is no way I would willingly wish that on any Soul. Yet without the Laws we Souls would be nothing more or less than parasites, using and discarding hosts at the slightest whim. From my own experience I assure you it’s true enough, what you were trying to understand: committing Suicide does not really solve the problems that Soul is trying to get away from. Indeed, I have no choice but to believe that the Suicide’s problems get worse. To be trapped for trillions of years, unable to be anything but aware….
At that point the voice of the Releaser was gone. I don’t know if that amazing story was the result of my own mind talking to me while meditating to help myself understand what happens to people that commit suicide or if the Releaser was real. If real, I think I could recognize that Releaser were I to have the opportunity to talk with him again. Although I must admit it did all the talking and I all the listening. All I know for sure is that when I came out of my meditative state, I was surprised to see the long shadows on the ground. It had actually been late morning when I’d arrived up on top of the butte and here it was late afternoon. Looking back at all I wrote, that seems an awfully long time for such a short talk. Someday I will have to come back up here where it’s quiet and peaceful and see if perhaps the Releaser, my subconscious, or my Soul, whatever it was, will talk to me once more.
Until we meet again.