As Benjamin Franklin so famously noted, ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’. Although many of us jump through endless hoops to prepare our tax returns, or to evade them altogether, few of us in our culture do much to prepare for death – bar perhaps drafting a will and some directives about where we wish our corpse be interred or ashes dispensed to the four winds.

In stark contrast to most other societies, from indigenous tribes to Eastern cultures – where death is seen as a celebratory rite of passage and those attending funerals often wear white rather than back – we tend to avoid talking about death altogether; but then spend much of our time thinking about it. In a sense, it has become our greatest taboo, now that the scientific priesthood of materialism has replaced religion at the cornerstone of our belief system. We are born, we live, we die – and that’s it.

The overall impact this creates on our healthcare systems is quite staggering and our efforts to prolong life at all costs frequently entail treatments that most doctors themselves would reject, with some studies suggesting that up to 75% of doctors would refuse chemotherapy. Now that iatrogenic death – caused by the side-effects of prescription medicines – is rated as the third leading cause of death in the US after cancer and heart disease, this would seem to indicate that we have lost the plot as a culture when it comes to dealing with death and old age. We are quite literally dying from the drugs that are supposed to cure us – surely a sign of the human species behaving at it’s oxymoronic extreme?

Over the following months I will be using this blog to explore our attitudes to death and dying, asking fundamental questions about how we approach those final moments. For example.

  • Can some psychedelic medicines help all of us – not just the terminally ill – prepare for death and the possibility of a ‘conscious exit’, attempted by luminaries such as Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary?
  • How is death approached in other cultures?
  • What is the future for high-tech possibilities, such as the science of cryonics, or exotic attempts to re-integrate with the stardust from which we came via ‘space burial’?
  • What can we learn from reports of Near-Death-Experiences (NDEs)?
  • Is there something to learn from philosophical and spiritual traditions which purport to diminish, or even eradicate, our fear of death altogether?

I hope you come along!

The death and taxes kit from G&S design

The death and taxes kit from G&S design

Rory Spowers (12 Posts)

Rory Spowers is a writer, researcher, campaigner and filmmaker, based in Ibiza, Spain. His books include the critically acclaimed Rising Tides which has been compared to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Naomi Klein's No Logo, as a 'wake-up call to action'.