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Hope For Eternal Life - Why?

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Many Christians will say they 'hope' for eternal life. Of course, that usually means they are convinced they will enter eternal life after they die from this physical one (and/or some believe it will be a 2nd physical life due to resurrection of the body and a new earth), but my discussion here is asking just 'why' hope for eternal life is so important to those people.

 

Myself, I don't think there will be any life after this one. When my eyes close for the last time I think it will be like going to sleep and I won't awake. Personally, that doesn't bother me as I know it can't bother me once I am dead - because I won't know I am dead.

 

Yes, I will no longer experience the company of loved ones and friends, but I won't know it.

 

Yes some will mourn and miss me (maybe a couple I hope :) ) but eventually they too will die and no longer suffer any such feelings. The fact is I'm sure they will get over it long before they pass!

 

I guess this is heading toward Buddhism territory which I understand talks about letting go of the ego, which is possibly the thing that drives one toward such 'hope', that our ego, our 'self' will never die.

 

Anyone here hold onto that 'hope' and prepared to discuss why eternal life is so important to them? Are you afraid of no longer existing or do really desire 'eternity'?

 

Anybody here a previously heaven-believing Christian who now thinks more like me? Why is eternal life NOT important to you?

 

Maybe it's because I'm nearing 49, maybe it's simply because I read the latest PC newsletter which had an article on hell not being Jewish/Christian, but for whatever reason I am presently reflecting on just why some people think living forever is such a big deal, whilst others like me, don't really care for it.

 

 

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​Hi Paul,

 

I'm beginning to see that the "answer" is to be found in the "mystical", in knowing the eternal not as endless time but as a deepening of the present moment,

 

Not some "new age" mumbo jumbo. The contrast between the linear time frame in which we find ourselves and Reality itself is worth investigation - in the world of science/physics as well as the mystical traditions of the world.

 

Not finding new worlds, more seeing/knowing with new eyes - I think Marcel Proust said something like that.

 

And for me the heart of any new seeing is found not on the meditation cushion or in the realm of the advanced intellect, but "around the kitchen sink", in the giving and receiving of love within the family, the day by day grind. In gratitude. There really is no mystery.

 

 

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Joseph Campbell suggests that eternity/eternity is not some really long time or some point in time in the distant future but it is now.

 

​In Buddhism Stephen Batchelor says the point is not to be continually reincarnated but to get to the point where reincarnation does not occur.

 

And from a scientific point of view, to have some sort of eternal life would require an external energy source to maintain some form of "usefulness". So what are we to do with this eternal life that is sucking energy from somewhere and dissipating it? I can't help thinking it is some leech like existence. The world was just fine without me, with me and it will be just fine again without me.

 

I suspect this eternal life thingy is a metaphor that has gone off the rails by being taken literally.

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Eternal life simply means that your consciousness continues after death.

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Eternal life simply means that your consciousness continues after death.

 

 

You mean conscious like I am in a deep sleep?

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A great and unanswerable question but fun to consider.

 

As mentioned, eternal life is usually conceived in a linear time frame but if, from a Christian perspective, the idea is to live in relation with God/Being (or what the Eastern Fathers called the deification of humanity) the belief is that once achieved, such a life never ends. Life (eternal life because it is God or Reality) is given in the moment of creation and waits to be lived; it begins now and continues. Of course there is the reality that very few achieve such 'eternal life' in this present life, so one wonders what might be necessary if each of us must continue to purge the ego (or self-centeredness) until we become truly Human Beings (until we become Reality)? Some have speculated about different lives in different worlds (check out the late John Hick in this article on Resurrection where he also talks about Buddhism: http://www.johnhick.org.uk/jsite/index.php/articles-by-john-hick/18-resurrection); others speculate that a kind of purging continues after death. I also liked Spong's take on it in his book, Eternal Life: A New Vision.

 

Even with Campbell, if eternal life is 'now' he still calls it eternal which suggests 'more' or continuation or a deepening.

 

But to the original question: why believe? For me (and I believe for many Christians) it is tied to what I believe about God. Using metaphors, I accept/believe the insight that Reality is Love: this is the why of creation, the way of Reality and we are graced (gifted) by and with Life: the chance to be. For me, the Lover creates to become one with the Beloved (or, to reverse it, so the Beloved may have Life, Abundant Life). I belief in the faithfulness of Reality: 'this' is not a mistake, not cosmic happenstance - rather 'this' has purpose and that meaning is of utmost importance, so it will be sustained.

 

I do not (and oddly have never) fear death (for myself) so I don't fear or even think much about not existing and I have no idea what eternity means or looks like (I don't dwell on the details). I think we find our meaning and our life 'around the kitchen sink' and once found - it is ours! We not only find life, we give life and are life in all those moments; and once 'We Are' it begins and continues.

Edited by thormas

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But to the original question: why believe?

 

Why? What is the cause or what is the purpose?

 

Any purpose we find I suspect will be a confabulation in what is ultimately a universe without purpose.

What is the cause of the belief? The universe is some shape form or another.

 

Carl Sagan said We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

I think he could have said it more accurately ... We are a way for the cosmos to understand itself .... but what the hell.

 

The way I read Campbell it is now that we experience and life is not eternal

 

“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”

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I gave the why - it ties to one's view of God/Reality.

 

I don't buy the universe without purpose but neither side can prove their case so both are statements of belief.

 

I like what Sagan said but, for me, it goes beyond the cosmos knowing itself. Isn't that like having a kid because it all about you, his/her only purpose is so you can know who you are? We experience ourselves as 'independent' beings, in some way both part of and separate from the cosmos. I believe there is more to it in that 'we' are not merely a means to an end (cosmos knowing itself), we are also knowers and to be known in ourselves. In other words, we have our own value. But again, no proof, both sides deciding what speaks to them.

 

You might be right on Campbell (has been a while since I read him) just going on what you wrote that, for him, eternal life is now. Either he shouldn't use the word eternal if there is only now or the now partakes of eternity.

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I did have a brief glimpse of eternity in the now when I took a 2hr helicopter ride earlier this week and within about 15 minutes of takeoff I was busting for a wee! Needless to say that without a toilet on board, the next 1hr 45mins were an excruciating eternity - I felt time literally standing still! :)

 

Burl - how do you envisage your consciousness continuing after death? What does that actually mean? Can you describe what sort of sensation/experience you think that might be?

 

Tariki - I do sometimes find myself just enjoying the moment with friends and family, just sitting around enjoying each other's company, just being. When I associate gratitude with that I can't help falling back to earth and thinking "who/what should I feel grateful too". So I enjoy what I'm doing, but I don't connect being grateful for it because to be grateful, don't we need somebody or something to thank for our experience?

 

Rom - it possibly is a mistaken metaphor, but from a Christian point of view I think it is a belief that has developed out of more ancient beliefs in a 'Sheol'. I think Jews and early Christians believed in a Sheol, a shady sort of place under the earth's crust somewhere where ALL souls went to see out eternity (not like a heaven versus a hell but a sort of one shop that fits all). I think that stretched to maybe some 'remarkable' souls (e.g. Moses, Elijah, Jesus) having the privilege of living with the King, God, but the general peasantry had no such expectation. But as Christianity developed, I think then a belief developed that a reward for following Christianity was living with God eternally. Much like how Hell only developed in sync with developing Christianity.

 

Thormas - all questions are answerable, we just don't know the answer, yet! :) But certainly, living life now is the most important thing. Whatever may follow, or not, will happen no matter what we think or say. Enjoy the ride in the meantime. For me, part of enjoying the ride is asking questions and mulling over answers. Thanks for taking the time to respond (you and everyone else).

Edited by PaulS

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You might be right on Campbell (has been a while since I read him) just going on what you wrote that, for him, eternal life is now. Either he shouldn't use the word eternal if there is only now or the now partakes of eternity.

 

Campbell's point (if a read him correctly) was that eternal/eternity means a long time in the present day vernacular ... but a better translation is now. Campbell is explaining how eternal should be interpreted.

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Paul good thread, Carl Sagan, also said, “A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.” To expand this beyond the Earth there is one pure consciousness that many call God who creates us out of an all-pervading energy; therefore, there are innumerable forms of energy in this one ocean of energy. God is in all of us as spirit, soul or call it consciousness; therefore, we need to stop fighting over who created the world and respect the Divinity within everybody. Christian and Buddhist expand on this unity, but some don't, which just shows different lines of experience that lead to those conclusions and usually violence or war. If this energy is infinite than linear time is within it and we get trapped in our line of energy or sequence of events. Christians and Buddhist believe according to their sequence of events and those individual lines are within the infinite energy all happening at once in present time; past, present and future so I think Campbell is leading us to the experience of eternity in the moment by exhausting our linear history and future by following our bliss. Burl said it very well, "Eternal life simply means that your consciousness continues after death." The energy carrying information merges with the one energy or consciousness so reincarnation could be a possibility or eternal rest, sleep, bliss.

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Below are some thought on this subject by Alan Watts. I like his ideas and agree with him in that as long as there is a belief in an independent “I”, or “self”, there can be no real understanding of eternity as the present moment. Without the belief in subject-object-action, the question becomes irrelevant. We are essentially blocked from the eternal and subject to rebirth by attachment to a “self” that has no inherent existence to begin with. It is a trick of the mind!

 

“When you are dying and coming to life in each moment, would-be scientific predictions about what will happen after death are of little consequence. The whole glory of it is that we do not know. Ideas of survival and annihilation are alike based on the past, on memories of waking and sleeping, and, in their different ways, the notions of everlasting continuity and everlasting nothingness are without meaning... For there is no joy in continuity, in the perpetual. We desire it only because the present is empty... We do not really want continuity, but rather a present experience of total happiness. The thought of wanting such an experience to go on and on is the result of being self-conscious in the experience, and thus incompletely aware of it.

 

So long as there is the feeling of an "I" having this experience, the moment is not all. Eternal life is realized when the last trace of difference between "I" and "now" has vanished -- when there is just the "now" and nothing else. By contrast, hell or "everlasting damnation" is not the everlastingness of time going on forever, but of the unbroken circle, the continuity and frustration of going round and round in pursuit of something which can never be attained. Hell is the fatuity, the everlasting impossibility, of self-love, self-consciousness, and self-possession. It is trying to see one's own eyes, hear one's own ears, and kiss one's own lips.” Alan Watts – The Wisdom of Insecurity

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Thormas - all questions are answerable, we just don't know the answer, yet! :) But certainly, living life now is the most important thing. Whatever may follow, or not, will happen no matter what we think or say. Enjoy the ride in the meantime. For me, part of enjoying the ride is asking questions and mulling over answers. Thanks for taking the time to respond (you and everyone else).

Of course, all of these are opinions. We, none of us, know for sure. For the Christian is is Hope. And the now is all we know but the rest, fun to consider.

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Campbell's point (if a read him correctly) was that eternal/eternity means a long time in the present day vernacular ... but a better translation is now. Campbell is explaining how eternal should be interpreted.

Interesting, and the source?

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Interesting, and the source?

 

I can't remember in which of his books it was, but I would bet I read it in the Power of Myth and perhaps another.

My friend Google seems to agree

https://www.google.ca/search?q=etermity+is+not+a+long+time+now+Campbell&ie=&oe=

 

“Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off.... the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.”

Edited by romansh

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>>Burl - how do you envisage your consciousness continuing after death? What does that actually mean? Can you describe what sort of sensation/experience you think that might be?<<

 

Heaven as a holding queue awaiting a glorified bodily resurrection.

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Rom - it possibly is a mistaken metaphor, but from a Christian point of view I think it is a belief that has developed out of more ancient beliefs in a 'Sheol'. I think Jews and early Christians believed in a Sheol, a shady sort of place under the earth's crust somewhere where ALL souls went to see out eternity (not like a heaven versus a hell but a sort of one shop that fits all). I think that stretched to maybe some 'remarkable' souls (e.g. Moses, Elijah, Jesus) having the privilege of living with the King, God, but the general peasantry had no such expectation. But as Christianity developed, I think then a belief developed that a reward for following Christianity was living with God eternally. Much like how Hell only developed in sync with developing Christianity.

 

Yes all peoples seem to have had some strange beliefs regarding the afterlife at some time or another. At least strange to me. Never being strongly imbued with the Christianity meme it is not a hot topic for me ... A Christian afterlife. But how these things came to pass? We can take a look at certain fads take hold in society today. Take a look at how political correctness is taking hold. Voltaire's I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It. Can be safely dismissed in some quarters simply because it was spoken by an old privileged white guy. Anything disagreeable is now open to censure. I suppose this to will pass.

 

But many cultures have a belief in an afterlife. These can be seen (I think) as memes, aids or enticements to living a "better" life. The memes evolved over time and the most successful ones survived and replicated efficiently ... to take a page out of Dawkins's book.

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Tariki - I do sometimes find myself just enjoying the moment with friends and family, just sitting around enjoying each other's company, just being. When I associate gratitude with that I can't help falling back to earth and thinking "who/what should I feel grateful too". So I enjoy what I'm doing, but I don't connect being grateful for it because to be grateful, don't we need somebody or something to thank for our experience?

 

 

The heart of Pure Land is the Nembutsu. Not a calculation of logic, not a practice to gain anything or become anything. Just a cry of gratitude that Reality is the way it is. Thank you, gratitude.

 

Sure, to begin with, the mind picks out what it experiences as "good", as

"pleasure", but over time the "thank you" virtually becomes one with the breath itself, whatever the moment holds, gives or takes.

 

And my own experience is that this does not evolve into a docile acceptance, a compliant going along with the "way of the world", but is truly transformative and positive.

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“Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off.... the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.”

 

For the Christian (and others) the eternity that is now (perhaps the experience of a depth dimension of Reality) is never ending.

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Thanks Tariki, I agree we should be grateful for the vector we are riding and it is fun so when it disolves in the ocean of vectors that might be awesome too.

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Good one Paul,

 

I no longer choose to believe nor disbelieve. All i know is now and the question of a physical afterlife is irrelevant to me. "i" am temporary but "I" am without beginning or end whether in this form, another , or no form, that is all i know. Eternal life in the future seems to me a hope for those who are attached to the nature of physical life as an identifiable self that they want to continue or be improved. I have no such hope in what we identify as self but rather steadfastness in Life itself which requires no such identity. i have been privileged to experience no time nor locality nor sense of self and in it i rest in peace. In the fullness of time it seems to me perhaps all may awaken to this reality. If not nothing is really lost.

Joseph

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- it possibly is a mistaken metaphor, but from a Christian point of view I think it is a belief that has developed out of more ancient beliefs in a 'Sheol'. I think Jews and early Christians believed in a Sheol, a shady sort of place under the earth's crust somewhere where ALL souls went to see out eternity (not like a heaven versus a hell but a sort of one shop that fits all). I think that stretched to maybe some 'remarkable' souls (e.g. Moses, Elijah, Jesus) having the privilege of living with the King, God, but the general peasantry had no such expectation. But as Christianity developed, I think then a belief developed that a reward for following Christianity was living with God eternally. Much like how Hell only developed in sync with developing Christianity.

 

 

 

I will have to reread some things but I agree that the Jews believed in Sheol (and also still waited for the Apocalypse and the establishment of the Kingdom when things would change). The early Christians began to move away from Sheol because for them, the resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of all expected resurrections, the establishment of the Kingdom and a waiting place was no longer necessary. Christians believed that in baptism they were already 'experiencing eternal life' by accepting the Christ. I do agree that later Christianity saw the reward of heaven and the punishment of hell. Again, would have to double check but things changed drastically in the early Christian movement.

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Yes all peoples seem to have had some strange beliefs regarding the afterlife at some time or another. At least strange to me. Never being strongly imbued with the Christianity meme it is not a hot topic for me ... A Christian afterlife. But how these things came to pass? We can take a look at certain fads take hold in society today. Take a look at how political correctness is taking hold. Voltaire's I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It. Can be safely dismissed in some quarters simply because it was spoken by an old privileged white guy. Anything disagreeable is now open to censure. I suppose this to will pass.

 

But many cultures have a belief in an afterlife. These can be seen (I think) as memes, aids or enticements to living a "better" life. The memes evolved over time and the most successful ones survived and replicated efficiently ... to take a page out of Dawkins's book.

Just don't think belief in an 'afterlife' can be written off as a fad. Nor, are all beliefs in the 'continuation of life beyond death' understood or accepted as mere aids or enticements to live a better life. For some, the enticement is the gratitude spoken of by Tariki, the 'use' of the gift that one has been given: Life. And they find that by living a certain way (Loving), that life is lived more deeply and one becomes (or is on the way to becoming) their true Self. I am fine with a belief in an independent “I” or “self” with the proviso that the true Self (or the Real) is found in moving away from self and becoming what Reality is (believed to be): Love. And this is part and parcel of the belief that as one becomes Real, not even death can undo Life.

 

I get the idea of the cosmos (the Really Real or God) getting to know itself but I am drawn to the idea that the cosmos gives Life so beings can have it, share it and become it. In this I allow that the cosmos can 'learn' but it does so in relation with the other. This is the way we learn about ourselves. I did not have a child so I could know myself but so that she could have life, makes it hers and Live. And in this, the child does not become me, but becomes herself (hopefully her truest and Best self) and we have a relationship of two (and of course with others), not a mere exercise or indulgence of the one. I always go back to Alfred North Whitehead that the former, a relationship of the two, or the many in unity is a higher form of Beauty and more desirous that a unity of the one.

Edited by thormas

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Thormas ... I am not writing anything off as a fad. Just that I think fad is a accurate description at least in some ways.

 

I am sure if we were to research the nature of Christian afterlife over history it would not be a constant vision. This vision will be a reflection of humanity's understanding at the time and no doubt other memes that are floating about.

 

As prayers go I think Eckhart's Thank you works ... But then having an afterlife as a thank you makes little sense to me.

 

Life more deeply lived? True Self? Real ...

In some ways it is amusing .... my internet avatar romansh has a lower case r. This is a happy accident in that my world view came to match the mistyping.

 

The universe did not have life so it could know itself either. Teleology not withstanding.

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Thormas ... I am not writing anything off as a fad. Just that I think fad is a accurate description at least in some ways.

 

I am sure if we were to research the nature of Christian afterlife over history it would not be a constant vision. This vision will be a reflection of humanity's understanding at the time and no doubt other memes that are floating about.

 

As prayers go I think Eckhart's Thank you works ... But then having an afterlife as a thank you makes little sense to me.

 

Life more deeply lived? True Self? Real ...

In some ways it is amusing .... my internet avatar romansh has a lower case r. This is a happy accident in that my world view came to match the mistyping.

 

The universe did not have life so it could know itself either. Teleology not withstanding.

 

Perhaps I am misreading you but, on the face of it, I think such a description (as a fad) seemingly dismisses the beliefs of many others.

The vision might differ as some who had accepted a three tiered universe would differ from those who accept a 21st C cosmology and process philosophy. However, they share an underlying Faith in God and the Hope (which encompasses an 'afterlife') that goes with that.

 

I too like Eckhart's Thank you but but I never read him as dismissing the Fullness of life or the Continuation of Life (or after this life). Again, his vision differs from some who might expect gates, St. Peter and angels (and I too might differ with his vision that talks of souls) but after Eckhart said "we are fellow helpers of God, co-creators in everything we do," he continues "....then all work is divinely accomplished in God. And there too the soul loses itself in a wonderful enchantment." This sounds like the Beatific Vision or what some would call Heaven, others Oneness, Unity, Communion and on and on. It is also interesting to wonder if Eckhart's understanding of the soul losing itself in God is the total loss of the soul/self or how one might lose themselves (and find themselves) in their beloved. Eckhart seems to be the poster boy for a life deeply lived and one becoming their true or Real Self.

 

I go back and forth between the upper and lower case with my own name.

Edited by thormas

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