Is the end really the end? Is the adventure over? Religions around the world differ in their opinion about what happens after we die. All cultures have last rites or rituals performed on the body even some taboo. Throughout history, these traditions have been passed down through the generations as part of a rich oral tradition. The idea of spirits and ghosts have been around for centuries encompassing not just superstitions but spiritual beliefs as well. When does the journey end on this earth? The only window into what’s next is the idea of a near death experience where the person has come so close to death or are pronounced clinically dead that they experience an out of body experience, levitation, the presence of light, and possibly many other events. Is any of this real? We will explore this question and many others.
Religious and Non-Religious Beliefs – Afterlife vs. Death
Above is a collection of documentaries explaining different rational and beliefs of the existence of an after life from the viewpoint of major world religions, ancient beliefs, myths, and non-believers. I am by no means taking sides as I do believe we live on in some way when we die, but this section is meant to give an unbiased view of all perspectives regardless if you believe or not. The idea of an afterlife is not universal, however is influenced by attitudes, environment, science and religious beliefs. No matter what you belief this page serves as a way to demonstrate and debate the idea of an afterlife.
Sometimes Wikipedia explains it better than I can, so here is an excerpt from an article explaining Afterlife:(Wikipedia)
In philosophy, religion, mythology, and fiction, the afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the Hereafter) is the concept of a realm, or the realm itself (whether physical or transcendental), in which an essential part of an individual’s identity or consciousness continues to reside after the death of the body in the individual’s lifetime. According to various ideas of the afterlife, the essential aspect of the individual that lives on after death may be some partial element, or the entire soul, of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity. Belief in an afterlife, which may be naturalistic or supernatural, is in contrast to the belief in eternal oblivion after death.
In some popular views, this continued existence often takes place in a spiritual realm, and in other popular views, the individual may be reborn into this world and begin the life cycle over again, likely with no memory of what they have done in the past. In this latter view, such rebirths and deaths may take place over and over again continuously until the individual gains entry to a spiritual realm or Otherworld. Major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics.
Some belief systems, such as those in the Abrahamic tradition, hold that the dead go to a specific plane of existence after death, as determined by a god, gods, or other divine judgment, based on their actions or beliefs during life. In contrast, in systems of reincarnation, such as those in the Dharmic tradition, the nature of the continued existence is determined directly by the actions of the individual in the ended life, rather than through the decision of another being.
Superstitions About Death and the Afterlife
From the passing of a loved one to preparation of the body to the lamenting of the dearly departed, the idea of the death can sometime appear taboo to some and universal to others. The rituals performed are a way to ensure that the dead will pass smoothly into the afterlife and not wonder the world for eternity. Some rituals date back centuries while other date back to the beginning of human history. For some people, these rituals are so deeply ingrained in their culture and society to not see them is taboo. Why do people still believe in superstition in the face of science? There is no universal answer to the question as some don’t see it as superstitious and other dare not question it. Below are some superstitions from around the world that center around death.
- When someone dies you should close the curtains because should a moonbeam shine through the window onto the corpse or coffin then the devil sends his demons down it to steal the soul.
- Stop all clocks at the time of death to confuse the devil and give the soul time to reach heaven.
- In Ireland the dead are carried out of the house feet first, in order to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow him.
- Family photographs were also sometimes turned face-down to prevent any of the close relatives and friends of the deceased from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.
- Cover all mirrors at the time of a death in the house or the soul will be trapped within the mirror.
- Never speak ill of the dead because they will come back to haunt you or you will suffer misfortune.
- The souls of the dead who may happen to die abroad, greatly desire to rest in Ireland. The relations consider it their duty to bring back the body to be laid in Irish earth. However, even then the dead will not rest peaceably unless laid with their forefathers and their own people, and not amongst strangers.
- It is believed that the spirit of the dead last buried has to watch in the churchyard until another corpse is laid there; or has to perform menial offices in the spirit world, such as carrying wood and water until the next spirit comes from earth. They are also sent on messages to earth, chiefly to announce the coming death of some relative, and at this they are glad, for then their time of peace and rest will come at last.
- If someone has trouble dying, then one may lift up just three tiles on the roof.
- If a sick man wishes to die, then one should open all the windows, fill any object in the house which is empty and turn it over, so that the soul is free to leave and cannot stay anywhere. One should also take the vinegar away, so that it does not sit around; hang the bird cage somewhere else, tie the cattle up differently, and move the beehives.
Ghosts As Proof of An Afterlife?
In traditional belief systems and societies, a ghosts also know as a specter, phantom, apparition or spook is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that appears to the living through an invisible presence to translucent to barely visible shapes to realistic lifelike images. The attempt to contact the spirits of the dearly departed is know as necromancy or a seance. Many people belief in the spirit world dating back to ancient times. Certain practices ranging from funeral rites to exorcism to spiritualism and magic try to rest the spirit in hope of bringing peace to the living and the dead. Ghost can haunt or possess a place, an object, or people associated with their life according to many stories told by those who encounter them. Below are some interesting facts or observations about the idea of ghosts from How to be a Ghost Hunter by Richard Southall.
- A collective apparition is when a ghost is seen by more than one person.
- Ectoplasm (remember slimer) varies in color, size, smell and color. It appears as a liquid usually and is left behind by a ghost.
- Southall gives four reasons why ghosts are in our world: Unfinished business, doesn’t know its dead, wants to say goodbye, and offer guidance to loved ones.
- When goes try to manifest themselves a cold spot or shift in the magnetic field will occur.
- Ghosts may not be seen with the naked eye as the most common sighting is captured on film.
- Ghosts will drain the batteries of equipment when trying to manifest.
- The essence of a ghost comes through as an orb or ball of light in photos as they are rarely apparent to the naked eye. Sometimes they are difficult to determine the difference between them and light reflections or dust.
- Ghost are not only kind and friendly as they can also be very violent even cause death to the living.
- Poltergeists are spirits or non human entities that move object, play pranks like tampering with lights or causing harm to people.
- Reports of ghost have existed through time even before biblical times, historical and religious references. According to Ghost Facts | Facts About Ghosts, one of the most famous records is from Athens in the first century A.D. Pliny told people his home was haunted by an old man with a white beard who went around rattling chains.
- Ghosts can move objects, interact with their environment, manifest, make sounds or speak conversing at low decibel levels where the human ear cannot hear them clearly enough without a tape recorder.
- There are thousand of haunted places found throughout the world. You can view a nice index of them right here, and a list of famous hauntings right here.
- Many photos have been faked through different methods over the years and have proven to be faked.
Near Death Experiences as Justification for the Soul Therefore Afterlife?
A near death experience by definition is a distinct subjective experience where people are near death or clinically dead, however people are experiencing profound grief, deep meditation or daily routine have claimed to have such an experience without being close to death. Others included serious injury, car accidents, military combat, childbirth and suicide attempts as contributing to a near death experience. While most experiences are pleasurable, a small number are considered distressing. Across history and in many cultures around the world, people describe powerful experiences that follow this general pattern and features as their visions involve movement through space, landscape, presences, intense emotion and belief in a new understanding of the universe.
It makes sense that with advances in technology and science that people want to understand the biological, psychological, neurological, and chemical explanations of a near death experience. Common explanations by the science community involve lack of oxygen, excess CO2, seizures in the temporal lobe, drugs like DMT or ketamine, hallucinations, the psychological avoidance of death, normal shutting down of the brain, and many more. No scientific explanation so far can completely explain all aspects of these experiences or their effects as thousands of these documents cases challenge mainstream western thinking and beliefs. The idea of an afterlife may be challenged and some people develop new interests and abilities after. One subject of much debate is whether the consciousness resides in the physical brain only. According to the prevailing beliefs of the developed world, these things are not possible. Even though, religion and near death experiences are not mutually exclusive, numerous studies show a correlation between the depth of the near death experience and the importance of religion or spiritual activity in the person’s life. Some believe the experience gave them a glimpse of heaven leading them to believe strongly that God exists and the afterlife, while some believe in a deeper purpose of life as religious and spiritual teachings express and that there is something more beyond physical existence. ( International Association for Near Death Studies)
“To die, to sleep -To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub,For in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” ― William Shakespeare, Hamlet
“I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.” ―Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions
“He meant the Kingdom was over, the Kingdom of Heaven, it was all finished. We shouldn’t live as if it mattered more than this life in this world, because where we are is always the most important place…. We have to be all those difficult things like cheerful and kind and curious and patient, and we’ve got to study and think and work hard, all of us, in all our different world, and then we’ll build… The Republic of Heaven.”― Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass
“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.”― David Searls
“Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all.”
― W.B. Yeats
“But how can the characters in a play guess the plot? We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. To play well the scenes in which we are “on” concerns us much more than to guess about the scenes that follow it.”― C.S. Lewis
“He Is Not Dead
I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead. He is just away.
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
He has wandered into an unknown land
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.
And you—oh you, who the wildest yearn
For an old-time step, and the glad return,
Think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here.
Think of him still as the same. I say,
He is not dead—he is just away.”
― James Whitcomb Riley
“That human life is but a first installment of the serial soul and that one’s individual secret is not lost in the process of earthly dissolution, becomes something more than an optimistic conjecture, and even more than a matter of religious faith, when we remember that only commonsense rules immortality out.”― Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature
“I believe humans have souls, and I believe in the conservation of souls.”― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
“It’s an insidious idea, this notion that there is life after death. The promise of a reward in the afterlife has been used as an excuse to deny help to the poor, helpless and oppressed; to explain away human misery rather than deal with it. It is an idea that is used to encourage young men and women to kill themselves, and others, so that they can become martyrs. It allows victims of injustice to be told not to worry because justice will be done in the afterlife. It depresses me to think that so many people on the planet live their lives with this notion. Can we truly fulfill our potential as a species as long as we hold on to, and encourage, the perpetuation of the lie of life after death?”― Alom Shaha, The Young Atheists Handbook