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ParSal190

Afterlife

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Hi everybody,

 

You seem to have discussed this at least sporadically in other threads in this section, so I apologize if I'm rehashing things.

 

I am, as the topic suggests, interested in your views on the afterlife. But while I'm interested in all perspectives, I'm particularly solicitous of those of you who don't believe in an afterlife, or at least take seriously the possibility that there's not one. I'm frankly wondering how you handle it. I don't mean that in the sense that I'm challenging you or otherwise trolling. I just need an example for gathering strength.

 

If it were just me, well, yes I do for myself feel anxiety and even sometimes fear at the possibility. But lately I've been worrying more about my wife.

 

I told you somewhat about my wife in my intro thread. I love her very much. One of the unusual things about us is that she is somewhat older than me, enough so that while I'm not in my declining years yet, she...she's at least close. The odds are good that she'll die well before me. And lately it's really been killing me. I've not been sleeping well and I've been edgy. It's about 5 AM local time as I finish this. Yes, I've made some other posts tonight but part of it has simply been passing time because I can't sleep. My wife is snoring contentedly in the bed behind me at the moment, but I live every day lately in fear of the day or the night the snoring will stop.

 

I'd like to believe in an afterlife. About a month ago, I got Jeffrey Long's "Evidence of the Afterlife" from our local Borders trying to garner evidence for some objective reason for hope. The near death experience stories are compelling, and as anecdotal evidence goes it's not bad. But it's not anything like absolute proof, of course, and I can think of all sorts of reasons why what they're experiencing is pure physiological, the last gasps of the brain on its way to death.

 

The kicker is that my wife is far more sanguine about this than I am. As a Wiccan, she believes in reincarnation, with a stopoff between lives, if I understand her correctly, in a realm called Summerland, which is sort of like Heaven but more of a nature abode.

 

I must sound so solipsistic, but I'm really in pain over this. I can't understand why life even hypothetically has to end with bodily death. Even with all the pain this life offers, I can't understand why any good God would order it that it would just...end. Forever, and for everybody.

Edited by ParSal190

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Hi ParSal,

 

I understand your sentiments - it is hard to bear the possibility that this one life is it, especially when it comes to our loved ones. But short of actually experiencing a life-after-death scenario or a state of being out of the body, one is left with only one option, in my view, that faces the issue squarely and yet hopefully. And perhaps it is about something more fundamental than any particular experience. I think we have to explore what it means to be a self. That is, after all, our main concern, isn't it? We worry about an afterlife because we worry about the self.

 

All religions seem to point to the transformation of identity as an integral aspect of faith. Christianity no less. What is it that truly endows life with ultimate meaning? God's self. Sure, there is the belief that God has planned an afterlife in heaven, but fundamentally heaven is about God too. So if you can't stand God, it wouldn't be much of a heaven (might it then be a hell?). Somehow identifying with God 'redeems' our lives and 'overcomes the world'. Dying to the old self, rising with Christ.

 

Reincarnation is an interesting view of things. And while, of course, it is not the Christian idea of becoming 'born again', I think there may be parallels between the two were we to get creative. :D

 

I always liked something I read from Alan Watts: How would we know we are alive if we weren't once dead? A semantic trick, or perhaps something more?

 

In his book Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown he writes,

 

"Most people...shrug their shoulders and say, 'We come from nothing and we return to nothing--and that's the end of it.' But I demur. For it strikes me as utterly amazing that I did in fact come from this nothing. If I came from it once, I see no reason why I could not come from it again; for if, as is indeed the case, I did come from it once, this nothingness is, to say the least, unexplainably frisky."

 

Perhaps even more elegant is something Marcus Borg wrote. It has stayed with me ever since one of our members here quoted it. Something like, 'When we die, we aren't dying into nothingness, but into God'.

 

It is, after all, in him that we 'live, move, and have our being'.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike

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Greeting ParSal,

 

Good to have you here and thanks for your story.

 

From our experience and science we see that there is indeed life and death all around us. In a sense most would say death is the opposite of Life. But i would say death is the opposite of birth only because Life itself is One and has no such opposite. While we see the changing of life forms all around us ever evolving, there is evidence to support the destruction of life but perhaps it is only a change of form. Some forms are dense enough to be visible while others are invisible. Then there is the formless also that cannot be described in the words or terms of form.

 

As Mike, i believe pointed out, most all religions postulate the transformation of identity. In Christianity, we die to self yet become alive in Christ. These are only words but there is a realization that they point to. That is part of the journey each one of us as separate makes. But the real question is... Are we really separate identities or are we in the formless One Whole without division? The world of form clearly seems to say we are separate individuals but a deeper search subjectively reveals that in essence we are formless and One.

 

As long as one strongly identifies with form, there will be a fear of death and an attachment to form. That self shall surely die because that is the nature of form and creation (birth and death). This is quite natural and normal and a cause for alarm only to him/her which thinks and identifies with that which is created and dies. In my view, that which sustains and is the essence of this life cannot die because it was not created and in it you move and have your real being.

 

I think Sri Ramana Maharshi said it well when he said....

 

All religions postulate the three fundamentals, the world, the soul, and God, but it is only the one Reality that manifests Itself as these three. One can say, 'The three are really three' only so long as the ego lasts. Therefore, to inhere in one's own Being, where the 'I', or ego, is dead, is the perfect State.

 

Just a view to consider and find peace in,

Joseph

 

PS Your wife is alive in this present moment and this present moment is all we have. Enjoy it fully.

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Hi again, and thank you all for your kind responses. I do normally try to enjoy the moments my wife and I have together, but I've really redoubled this the past few days. Mike, your reference in particular to Borg's comment about our not dying into nothingness but rather into God was particularly meaningful. Also to Mike, at least some of the NDEs in Long's book that I noted apparently actually were, or at least the subjects experienced them to be, out of body experiences. I don't know what to make of this, but it is a bit more difficult to explain purely in terms of the physiology of body death than other more common facets of NDEs.

 

I have unique kinds of interior strength of my own, in retrospect, but one of the things I love and envy about my wife is her rock-solid faith in the basic goodness of the divine. That's one of the things that didn't change about her even when she converted out of Christianity. In many ways she's more spiritually attuned than I am. I think it adds up to she trusts the processes more. In fact she once told me of a pre-birth experience she believes she had. As the story goes, she apparently had lived a previous life as a golden retriever, and was talking to God still in that animal form about her next life. Apparently he offered her the chance to be a human in a coming life, saying she would do much good in her life but that it would be hard. She accepted without question. I don't know what to make of her story regarding its objective reality, but I know that having this vision in this life was very meaningful to her and it did, and does, impact the kind of person she is. And she has in fact had something of a hard life, and she has regardless done a lot of good.

 

I am feeling, if not precisely "well" regarding this issue, at least a bit better. I can't honestly say I never will fear for myself or my wife again, but your comments have helped me put my mind at ease somewhat. Again, thank you all.

Edited by ParSal190

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Good Morning, ParSal...

 

Thank you for your post. I believe that we, each and everyone of us, are on our own individual, personal Spiritual Journeys and that Wisdom is revealed to us as we go along. It is right and natural that we question, investigate, and struggle with ideas of the Unknown. Faith is not an event, but a process...one that entails our entire lives, both inner and outer. As we deepen through this process, we come to certain Leadings, a Quaker term for an intuitive drawing toward an understanding or the pursuit of glimpses into a deeper meaning. Follow those Leadings. I myself have often reflected on the idea of an Afterlife, but not in the usual sense of the word as in our ideas of 'Heaven'. Perhaps God is a spiritual destination, a Place that we are released into. Perhaps God is a state of Being that we become. Perhaps God is just the first of other Spiritual homes that we arrive at after our Spirit is released, an idea akin to those of the ancient Gnostics. It is not so much something that we need to identify and attempt to know in the concrete in this life, but something that we will experience on a Spiritual plane when our material life ends. By knowing that we, all of us living this very moment, are Children of God, each holding the Light of God Within, we can continue upon our Journey assured that our future Spiritual Selves will continue as part of that Journey. And as with any journey, we don't know what what lies around the corner. And we don't have to...It will be revealed to us in time. Be comforted by knowing that the Spirit of God is Within and that your own Journey will continue as it has all along.

Edited by Quaker Way

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Hi there ParSal190,

 

I know exactly where you are coming from! I have the same thoughts myself about my husband. He is the one person who truly understands and supports me (I take medication for OCD) so it is important to have someone like that who understands. He takes meds for bi-polar disorder.

Funnily enough i have been interested in the afterlife ever since being a little girl. I don't know why. I was very religious as a little girl (bought up as a catholic) i loved going to church and looking adoringly at the statues but at the age of 16, i got into wicca.

Then i went on to the protestant church after that in general. My husband jokes that he doesn't know which religion i will choose from month to month!!!

 

I have read lots of books concerning the afterlife and near death experiences. I am fascinated by them.

 

But something happened to me a few years ago that cannot be explained away.

 

I found my neighbour in her home after she'd had a stroke and was taken to hospital.

I found out later by her relations that she had died at the exact moment i had this experience. I was in my bathroom and suddenly the smell of cigarette smoke wafted in (she used to smoke). It couldn't have come from outside as i was too high up and my neighbours didn't smoke. I felt more than heard, 'Joyce has died'! I knew when she died precisely.

That spooked me out. Was it her or an angel, i don't know! But someone was bothered enough to tell me.

 

Now you may think, wishful thinking, as she was a close neighbour but as people we weren't close at all. We had nothing in common except that i was her neighbour since i was a little girl but she had become very bitter over the years, never having married, i feel.

 

I have no concrete answers to give you except that some NDE's are very interesting especially when people say that they saw relatives in another room and described their colour of clothes etc or saw a shoe outside on a roof and it was later verified.

 

Hope this helps

Godbless

Nutkins

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Guest billmc

My son and I recently visited Kennedy Space Center. While we were there, we watched a film called "Hubble in 3-D." It not only showed us the space telescope in 3-D, but, through computer animation of actual Hubble photographs of deep space, the film took us as deep and as far back in the universe as we can presently go. We witnessed the birth of stars and the death of stars, much of it fraught with...how would I describe it?...violence? labor pains? And, yet, it was still beautiful. By the end of the film when all of the cosmos was drawn together, although the movie itself didn't mention it, I couldn't help but think that God was behind all of this and that nothing is ever truly lost or wasted.

 

This was a powerful thought for me. Nothing is ever truly lost or wasted. The universe is simply (or complicatedly) set up that way.

 

And as I looked at my 11-year-old son, I couldn't help but think how fortunate I am to spend some time with him and that I should relish each and every moment.

 

In all honesty, I'm agnostic about what "form" we will have after this life. Different religions and different cultures have, of course, different beliefs. So I don't really have any "proof" of an afterlife. What I can say, though, is that we live in a universe created by God (IMO) where nothing is ultimately wasted or lost. It all "counts" somehow. So though I don't know about the afterlife, I try to make everything now count for as much as I possibly can...and I trust the rest to my Creator. If God is powerful enough to create once, I believe God can do it again.

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If our matter, the heavier elements were born from hydrogen and helium in the belly of a dying star and blown out into the universe to come together billions of years later in such a way that it formed you and I with all that entails, I'm sure our matter will again be recycled into that beautiful machine that is the universe for ever more. Of course it's less of a machine, more of an organism with all its interdpendant parts working in unison, us being part of that organism. All atoms are like littles solar systems, full of and held together by energy. That energy permiates the entire universe in one form or another. I think of this energy as God, inside creation and part of the process, growing and evolving with us. In this way, I know I'll be part of the universe for eternity. What that means for my consciousness, another form of "energy" who knows, I can only hope.

 

Paul

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I know in other forums, I am a minority of one. I consider that it may be the same here.

 

I do not see it as after anything. I know that God created all there is and I know, in my heart, that when he finally brings time to an end we go on in him.

 

Some years back I thought I lost my faith. Now I know what was wrenched from my grasp was all my petty little personal beliefs I picked up along the way in church and from family members and friends. They were my toys. God "broke" them; that is, he took them away because they came between me and him.

 

He wanted me to have a vital, living, breathing relationship with him I found in prayer and return to all the time. That relationship, I think, will continue beyond the grave for me. The biggest single question in my mind is, will I experience my relationship with God as Heaven or Hell in what is to come? Ultimately, it depends on what I make of it.

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When I was in Helena for my daughter's wedding we attended the UCC church.The pastor, who was responding to a request from the congregation, preached on heaven. She was courageous to take this on. She acknowledged that there were many stories of near death experiences and accepted them as evidence. Observing that these experiences were of reunions which involved only a few people of recent acquaintance and not multitudes, she suggested that this happened immediately after death, but was temporary. After that she felt that no one could know. At least she couldn't know This was an interesting way to speak publicly about heaven.

 

dutch

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ParSal:

 

<I am, as the topic suggests, interested in your views on the afterlife.

 

I have many thoughts on this but will spare you most of them.

 

Firstly, I do not believe in the afterlife and believe we need to make the most of the life we are assured - this one. That does not mean party and indulge. It means being happy. Most often making others happy makes me happy. That is what I live for.

 

Secondly, my wife during re-titration of blood pressure medicine coded for at least 45 seconds. She describes it as just going to a peaceful sleep. I feel when death comes that is what is experienced - a never ending very peaceful sleep.

 

Thirdly, I believe it was Tom Hanks's aged character in The Green Mile who said he had been cursed with everlasting (at least extreme longevity) life and that is worse than death. Is it not the Vampires' curse that they have to live forever?

 

I believe Joseph Campbell was quoted as saying, "By definition one cannot have life without death." An employee once said death is more difficult on the survivors than the deceased. I agree. This appears what you are fearing as any normal person will. However, most would recommend enjoying and celebrating the life you've had with your wife rather than fearing life without her.

 

Ron

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ParSal,

 

Like you, I would like there to be an afterlife, some continued existence of my self on some identifiable level (and those whom I love), however I don't expect that to be the case.

 

We die each night when we fall asleep, and I expect that this is what 'the end' will feel like. Subsequently, I don't fear death as I believe I simply won't know that I'm dead, once I am.

 

As mentioned earlier in this thread, death certainly seems harder on the survivors who are clearly still alive with functioning brains that recall memories of the lost loved one. That hurts. I believe this is where the notion of an afterlife comes from - our desire not to see an 'end' to our identity (or that of our loved ones).

 

I acknowledge that some claim out of body experiences and other strange happenings such as outlined by Nancy above. I too have experienced 'something' which I cannot explain which does leave the door slightly ajar concerning an afterlife of some type. But even then, that doesn't scare me. I figure that if there is something on the 'other side', it will be to our benefit somehow - a natural part of living and dying.

 

I also take some reassurance somehow, that millions & billions of people have died before me. It (dying) has happened, without any doubt, to every single person that has lived on this planet prior to the year 1850 (I'm being generous just in case there is some 162yr old hidden in some mountain village somewhere in the world!). It is natural and therefore something we are meant to go through, for whatever reason.

 

What I do know is that I have this life now. To borrow a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption - "Get busy living, or get busy dying". It's our choice. Why dwell on the fact that we're going to die. We are anyway and there's nothing we can do about it. So do what you can to enjoy your life now.

 

Cheers

Paul

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We die each night when we fall asleep, and I expect that this is what 'the end' will feel like. Subsequently, I don't fear death as I believe I simply won't know that I'm dead, once I am.

 

I think the above is a good analogy.

 

We die to self each night yet we know from the testimony of anyone still awake that we still exist. I think one will find that if we identify with self (being the temporal role we play in this life), this self indeed dies as in deep sleep but if one identifies with Life itself, one will find there is no death of 'being' or essence except to the illusion of self in this life similar to a chapter of a dream.

 

Joseph

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I believe that after death we retain some kind of awareness, anything else would (IMO) be complete annilation, Physicists claim that information can never be lost...so why can't we "exist" in a way that's a mystery? Paul, I think you said it very well indeed. Although I think God is "More" than the energy of the universe. I also think that the energy is a part of God.

 

That energy permiates the entire universe in one form or another. I think of this energy as God, inside creation and part of the process, growing and evolving with us. In this way, I know I'll be part of the universe for eternity. What that means for my consciousness, another form of "energy" who knows, I can only hope.

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When I was in Helena for my daughter's wedding we attended the UCC church.The pastor, who was responding to a request from the congregation, preached on heaven. She was courageous to take this on. She acknowledged that there were many stories of near death experiences and accepted them as evidence. Observing that these experiences were of reunions which involved only a few people of recent acquaintance and not multitudes, she suggested that this happened immediately after death, but was temporary. After that she felt that no one could know. At least she couldn't know This was an interesting way to speak publicly about heaven.

 

I've had some interest in near-death experiences over the paast couple of years, and have read many stories. I was actually thinking about making a a thread to get people's opinions on them.

 

Obviously the stories can't be verified, but I can't discount them either. There are just too many to think that everyone who has shared their story is making them up. They gain nothing from it. The vast majority say their experiences were definitely real. So it seems like there's something to it. If anyone is interested in reading about them, twi good sites to check out are http://www.nderf.org/ and http://www.near-death.com/. The nderf site has a few thousand stories now, and they add more every two weeks or so. I'd be interested if peop0le thjink they are a hoax or not.

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There’s a Newsweek cover story about a neurosurgeon who almost died in 2008 and had visions he describes in this article --

 

http://www.thedailyb...-afterlife.html

 

His book Proof of Heaven is coming out next week.

 

His story does seem exceptional-- “I’m not the first person to have discovered evidence that consciousness exists beyond the body. But as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled to this dimension while their cortex was completely shut down, and while their body was under minute medical observation, as mine was for the full seven days of my coma.”

Still you have to take into consideration that Alexander was raised as a Christian (though “in name only”) and was familiar with accounts of NDE’s.

Ray Moody says, “Dr. Eben Alexander's near-death experience is the most astounding I have heard in more than four decades of studying this phenomenon…"

I’m fascinated and skeptical at the same time; but it is reassuring in a way to think about the cosmic voice he claims to have heard --“there is nothing to fear, nothing you can do is wrong, you are loved and cherished forever.”

Edited by rivanna

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Wolfgang Pauli was awarded with the Noble Prize for his work in physics. He was a long time associate and friend of C. G. Jung. When facing his own death he said (to paraphrase) ... I spent a long time examining my life as it was, but my great mistake was that I never examined the reality of my own death. Something to think about.

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It is very difficult to subjectively investigate death and those who do die and are brought back seem to have a variety of experiences, although many are remarkably similar. I had a post op speed wobble after an ankle reconstruction when reacting badly to a drug I was given. I remember a strong vertigo feeling like I was withdrawing into myself, not just peripheral vision but everything - I felt no fear. I also felt a flood of warmth wash over my entire body as this happened, then nothing. It was pleasant but was a foreign feeling to me, something I've never felt before or since.

 

I technically stopped being human for a short time before becoming one again very soon afterward with no recall of anything inbetween. I don't know what that means to anyone else, I think only I can know about how something which happened to me was experienced and felt. I can't say whether or not that experience means anything with regard to afterlife; my position on that has been mentioned in this thread in a previous post. If in fact that was death, albeit very briefly, what I can say is that there is nothing to fear.

 

Paul

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we all will find out one one of these days hopefull later rather than sooner.

 

steve

 

Unless there isn't anything, in which case we won't know, will we! :)

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It is odd that one of the worlds greatest faiths, Buddhism, sees the sheer fact of ongoing lifetimes as something we need to escape from, while another sees an "afterlife" as a hope.

 

Really, I have found that we need to consider deeply just what life is, what Buddhism means by life being suffering (dukkha) , just what "eternal life" - or nirvana - might mean. Leading on from this, just what is the "self", just who or what can possibly be "eternal". And would we really want the "self" we often take for ourselves, with all its baggage, to go on and on and on - no matter the loved ones we now know.

 

Considering such deeply can take a lifetime! Or longer! And while we ask such questions, life passes us by on the other side of the road. Our loved ones perhaps go unloved, our life is not lived, and we end with perhaps a set of beliefs and pious hopes that are nothing more than dust.

 

The "answer" seems to be to live in the moment, in a way that many faiths speak of us "selflessly". Sadly our baggage gets in the way, the future always seems more important than the "now" and our entire life a series of anticipations and epitaphs.

 

Faith would seem to come into it. Not "belief" as a clinging to, but faith as a letting go. A letting go of "self" and its concerns for future life. How to have such faith? Ask me another. There seems to be no formulas, no set road to walk, no set prescription.

 

I must end with a quote from Thomas Merton.........Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.

 

I would question the word "interior", which appears far too dualistic, yet such is a minor quibble. We just need to walk on.

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The real question is....

 

Does one live their life differently depending on ones belief in an afterlife?

 

I think not......

 

steve

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