They say that “ignorance breeds fear”. That is certainly true regarding bodily death. Note that I did not say end of being, yet many persons equate bodily death with end of being or a permanent dissolution or cessation of individual consciousness.
What if we could pierce the veil that separates us from the after death state? What if we, the living, could truly know what lies beyond and outside of this life?
Our feature image might be interpreted as atomized souls in the darkness of ignorance.
If there were a way for people to know, truly know such that belief could become actual knowledge (if this were possible), would such knowledge once obtained serve to motivate us to change? Possessing certitude about what lies beyond the veil, would we order our lives to the good? Would we strive to live more loving, constructive lives? But, alas, we know that living constructively and lovingly is quite challenging with so much conflict with other humans each and every day.
How will you choose to live the rest of your days not knowing what lies beyond the grave or the urn?
A discussion of the experiences of mystics and saints and other seekers throughout the ages and near death experiences (NDEs) is beyond the scope of this essay. The materialist, the physical science minded person will likely assert that these experiences can always be explained by changes in bio-chemistry within the protoplasmic brain from various physical causes.
other related thoughts
Let us briefly consider 4 possible or postulated fates for the human soul post death.
seamless continuation of consciousness after the body, the shell, has been sloughed off Many people believe in this postulated state, and not all are necessarily religious. Many “New Age” enthusiasts believe in variants of this idea. One may be in an intermediate state awaiting reincarnation and still retain one’s personal memories of the earthly life recently finished. This “in between” time is used for more fully integrating the lessons learned through earthly experiences. For some Hindus, the soul goes on from this world to either enjoy the fruits or blessings of his/her good deeds in a heavenly realm, or to suffer the pains warranted for his/her evil actions in a hellish world. Once the karma, good or bad, is expiated or used up, the soul is then reincarnated into a new earthly life. The individual soul is fully conscious during this time of reward or punishment. The Catholic Church teaches of 2 judgements for the soul. When one dies, his/her fully conscious soul is judged and goes to one of 3 destinations: Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. At the final Judgment, these personal judgments are essentially made known to all, and any remaining suffering souls in Purgatory are granted release and go on to Heaven. The souls in Heaven are then reunited with a “glorified” version of the body they resided in while on Earth.
reincarnation based on the law of karma i.e. not random (you do reap what you sowed) Here the soul transmigrates to the body of a baby (for some believers this takes place in utero, for others at the time of birth) rather soon after death. With reincarnation, one’s past life memories are either lost or buried so deep in the psyche that these are hard to retrieve or access. But, we are the sum or aggregate of our past beliefs and actions (thoughts, words and deeds). For Buddhists, the process of reincarnation is said to be like the caterpillar who crawls (or slinks?) from one leaf to another leaf (i.e. a seamless and fairly smooth process that takes little time). As the caterpillar’s hind or rear legs leave the one leaf, its whole body is now on the next leaf. Thus, there is no intermediate time between incarnations.
resurrection (body and soul) at a much later time This postulated state is favored by Protestant Christians. It seems the least logical of the four but is based on their interpretations of various Bible verses. A person’s soul or consciousness is suspended or dormant for an indefinite length of time until the Final Judgment. During this interval, one is completely unaware of everything and may be thought of as being in a deep, dreamless sleep or comatose state, or as being “dead”. Once resurrected, body and soul, one will reside in Heaven or in Hell forever and ever.
end of being If known with certainty, this would give many hedonists some vindication and relief. Shallow and self-absorbed as they are, they would continue to pursue pleasure selfishly with little restraint. Our lives would seem to have no ultimate meaning here. What a cruel jest on the part of the Universe! Observe the candle or the match being blown out. Watch the wispy smoky gas dissipate into invisibility. Could that be an analogy for our consciousness at the time of death, rapidly fading to oblivion (as in extinction)? If bodily death is also the termination of our individual consciousness, that would not by default mean that there is no God. Atheists would not necessarily be proved correct if death is the end for us.
There would be some souls that would still choose to live loving lives even knowing there was nothing to come after their time on earth has expired. Some persons have a giving, loving, caring nature that they cannot bury or discard.
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