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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 55 - 8/20/2001
What Lies Beyond?
What does your magical/magickal tradition, belief system, training, religion or Path say about what will happen to you when you depart this earthly realm via what we call 'death'? If your belief system includes concepts such as 'Summerland', 'Avalon' or 'Valhalla' as a final arrival point in the hereafter, what do you envision that place/state will be like? Is it permanent or do you move on from there? If your belief system teaches/advocates reincarnation, what steps does the soul/spirit go through in the process? Why does the belief that you have been taught or have chosen concerning the afterlife appeal to you? Do your beliefs- or non beliefs- in the continuation of the Spirit help you in your life today when you encounter hard times, illness or the physical death of a loved one?
| Reponses: There are 28 responses posted to this question.
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| Energy Cannot Be Created Or Destroyed; It Can Only Change Form." This... ||Aug 23rd. at 1:17:29 pm UTC|
|Nelli (Carmel Valley, California US) ||Age: 24 - Email |
"Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only change form."
This is a basic law of physics, and I think it applies to death just as well as to everything else. My "self" - my body, my mind, my thoughts and emotions, everything that is me - is a specific form of enegy at the moment, and we call that form human. When I die, the energy that makes up "me" will change form. Some of it will become pure carbon, and return to the soil. Some of it will drift off to join the greater streams of wave (or wave-particle) energy that are unseen (mostly) but are a great part of the universe; I believe that these streams of energy are what we influence or manipulate when we do what we call magick. They also make up "vibes", sound waves, light waves, etc.
As far as my "self" is concerned... I'm going with the Zen buddhists on this one - self is an illusion. It is a product of the mind, and when the mind is gone, the self is gone. I think that the mind, like the rest of our bodies, is made up of matter and wave-particles. The matter of my body/mind will return to pure carbon form as I am cremated, while the wave-particles woven into my "self" will be released into the greater whole of the infinite universe. I have a suspicion (or a hope) that the last thing my "self" will perceive as I die will be a sense of "light" as energy is released, and a fleeting sense of awesome and total immersion in and connection with the whole. And then the self lets go, and there is only energy. An ultimate and instant return to the Source, if you will.
Those energies that made up my body/mind will probably be incorporated into some other being or organized system, and perhaps those energies will still bear an imprint of "my" actions, thoughts and emotions. That is how I see reincarnation and Karma. And ghosts, actually.
Like an earlier writer, I don't fear death itself, but I am often mortaly afraid of dying violently, or before I'm done with what I want to do in life; and I am afraid to leave my loved ones behind. And my greatest fear is to die, not having lived at all. The answer to that, I think, is exactly what Wren wrote about in this weeks article - living as if it is the first day of my life (thank you, Wren, for pointing it out to us!!!). I see this as a way of living in the present moment - enjoying life for the first time, every minute! The wonder and vastness and richness of all-that-is is always there for us, each moment as wondrous as the last... but we are so wrapped up in our "selves" that we rarely take the time to really live, to be present not only for our life, but for life as a whole, and for the universe as a whole. By living as if this is the first day of our lives, we are constantly immersed in the wonder that surrounds us, and we are truly awake to the world.
| Like Nelli, I Think That The Elements Which Make Up My Body... ||Aug 23rd. at 1:46:07 pm UTC|
|Aeldwulf (Rockford, Illinois US) ||Age: 36 - Email |
Like Nelli, I think that the elements which make up my body will return to the Earth, and that the energy which make up my mind and soul will return to the Universal Spirit. I tend to think of this a return to the Goddess, or to the Cauldron of the Goddess, where I will become the raw materials from which new souls are made.
I do think that all of the memories, perspectives, and experiences which once were me will be remembered by God/dess, and that they will constribute to the evolution of the whole.
I do not, however, believe that my consciousness or individual self will survive death. I believe that death will "feel like" an eternal, dreamless sleep, a state of nothingness. Unlike some posters, I don't feel that there is anything wrong with this. Death will no doubt be peaceful, and certainly will be absolutely painless. However much I may enjoy the pleasures of this life, when I am dead I will not miss them, or even remember them.
This does not mean that I do not enjoy the pleasures of life or find life meaningful. Far from it! Life can be filled with beauty and joy. And the meaning of my life is to be part of the evolution of that which is greater than me: the Goddess, the God, the Craft, the universe, and the human race. Without such a greater meaning, my life would be pretty empty with or without an afterlife.
This means that those who have passed on are simply sleeping away eternity, but at least I know that they are at rest, and free from care. Most ways of dying hurt a lot, but once dead, no one is troubled any longer by the pain of dying, or indeed by death itself.
| I Hope That When I Die My Body Will Deteriorate And Return... ||Aug 23rd. at 3:37:26 pm UTC|
|LadyGaia (Twin Cities, Minnesota US) ||Age: 15 - Email |
I hope that when I die my body will deteriorate and return to the Earth. I don't hope for any continuation of my spirit and I instinctively feel that there will be none, although maybe there will be one because there are so many afterlife theories and believers. I do hope that death is peaceful and that it doesn't happen until I'm ready, when I've experienced and completed everything I need to do.
| Pagan Irish Tradition Certainly Talks About An Afterlife, Though It Appears To... ||Aug 23rd. at 9:43:32 pm UTC|
|Aedh Rua (New Richmond, Wisconsin US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
Pagan Irish tradition certainly talks about an afterlife, though it appears to take a variety of forms. One of the most common was/is the idea of the paradisical Otherworld, often called Tir na'n Og, or by various other names. Descriptions of it often sound eerily similar to the accounts of people who have had Near Death Experiences.
Another idea was that of Teach Duinn, the "House of Donn". Donn was the brother of Eremon, the first human king in Ireland. He made the mistake of insulting the Goddesses Eire, Banba, and Fotla when the Milesians (ie. humans) first came onto the Irish shore. As a result, he was cursed to die by falling onto the Skellig Rocks, off the Irish coast. As the first human to die in Ireland, he became King of the Dead. The spirits of the dead were said in some myths to stop on the way to the Otherworld to feast at the House of Donn. Usually, the House of Donn was situated on the Skellig Rocks.
These two conceptions are actually very closely related. Both involve the symbolism of crossing a barrier of water to come to another shore, there to be with one's ancestors and Gods. I imagine that I will cross a barrier of water, or darkness, when I die to another realm, one of great beauty, if the ancient accounts can be believed. There I will be with my ancestors, and with the Gods I worship, before returning to this world.
I tend to think of our time in this world less in terms of lessons we must learn, than of deeds we must do, things we must accomplish. I imagine that as we return tothis world we are each given our Dan, our "mission" for each lifetime. The purpose of these assignments is ultimately to make this world better, and to achieve the victory of the Gods over the Fomors, and other similar beings. All of this symbolism has a very militaristic cast, but I like it, and it works for me.
Perhaps if we succeed in many such life assignments, then we can be reborn as a greater spirit, or even a minor ancestral deity, a clan deity, if you will. And, if we ultimately succeed, and the Gods win, then this world will be a very good place, indeed.
Now, I am aware of the research which shows that the brain is extremely important to consciousness. But a lot of people have also reported near-death phenomena. What can this mean? If we don't need a spirit in order to have a mind, then how can the afterworld I have described exist? Well, perhaps the spirit isn't an original part of consciousness, but is added later. In short, perhaps the soul and the afterworld really exist, but are artificial, and somehow created by the Gods.
| I Wasn't Yet Pagan When My Father Passed Away Almost Four Years... ||Aug 23rd. at 10:36:41 pm UTC|
|Bryony Ravenwillow (Kansas City, Missouri US) ||Age: 32 |
I wasn't yet Pagan when my father passed away almost four years ago. According to the beliefs of the faith I was raised in, Dad wouldn't go to heaven because he never joined the "one, true faith". Instead, he would be in a kind of boot-camp purgatory. I found this unacceptable. My father was a wonderful man. Soon after, I turned my back on the Judeo-Christian God I had been raised to believe in, and a few months after that I began studying and practicing Wicca.
When I think of the afterlife, I think of a circle. In my pre-pagan days, the concept of the "Circle of Life" held a great resonance for me. I believe that the body returns to the earth at death, and is reborn in another form. The body lives on in the grass and flowers nourished by the earthly remains. There is a piece of the deceased in living things that go on, and so physically we never really die. We continue in other forms, mingled with other forms to make other forms. I also believe that the spirit continues after death, in much the same way. The spirit mixes and mingles with other spirits in the Goddess' cosmic cauldron, and when it's time to be reborn there are fragments of many different spirits reassembled into one physical body. It explains to me why we carry different genders, habits, and personality traits from life to life, different yet same each time. Physically and spiritually, we never really die, we simply change into different forms, a new facet in the jewel, a constantly shifting drop of water in the ocean. Birth, death, and rebirth, in a neverending circle. "We are a circle within a circle, with no beginning and never ending." And I no longer fear death.
| I Like To Think Of It Like Recycling. Changing From One Form... ||Aug 24th. at 1:40:18 am UTC|
|Angie McMullen (Montoursville, Pennsylvania US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
I like to think of it like recycling. Changing from one form to another. I like to think that we are born and die thru the Lady and that the Lord guides us thru this process until we are ready to be born and die again. It helps to ease the pain when someone passes over. It helped me when my father died and when various pets have passed on. The thought that life never truly ends and that the people I love are still here with me is very comforting.
| I Believe That An Understanding Of Life, Death, And The Various Planes... ||Aug 24th. at 4:05:55 am UTC|
|Big John (South Amboy, New Jersey US) ||Age: 40 |
I believe that an understanding of life, death, and the various planes of existence are probably a little beyond what a human mind can fully understand. For a man (or woman) to look into the cosmic mind of the goddess is a little like an amoeba trying to stare back up at the microscope into the eye of the scientist and trying to understand what is going through his mind.
I've given all this great thought and I have a few ideas. The best of which I'll share with all. Imagine, in the beginning, an empty cosmos except for one great being. Call this being the god/goddess. This being is truely omnipotent having full control of all that is around - yet is alone. Perhaps to better understand itself, perhaps to evolve, or perhaps just not to feel alone the god/goddess splits itself up into an almost infinite number of seperate sentient beings along with many different worlds for them to interact in. All are alive in themselves, but at the same time all are parts of the goddess/god. Think of it like the human body, we have trillions of cells, all alive in themselves, yet all are part of us. We are self aware and intelligent enough to wonder about the world around us but the cosmic consciousness that we are all part of is far to vast for us to see. Again thinking of the human body, we are aware of our finger as being part of our body, but is our finger aware that it is part of us? When we are feeling good, growing, helping each other we (in a small way) add to the whole. When we are feeling bad or hurting those around us we hurt the whole because we are all connected to each other.
In this view of the cosmos death is kind of a strange concept. It's our being part of the goddess/god the gives us our soul and thus allows us to be sentient and connected to each other. When we die our soul is still there because the goddess/god is always there. Our experiences are a part of the goddess/god and always will be. The individual is lost like a drop of water returning to an endless sea, but we will always be a part of every living thing in every world.
Of course, I have no idea if this view of the cosmos is the right one. It's just a thought. But, it's as valid as anyone elses. I have always felt that a heaven/summerland is a beautiful dream. Perhaps it's real, but it sounds too simple to me. Hell, on the other hand, seems to be something created to scare and control people. I no longer believe in or fear hell, but the very concept seems to diminish us all.
Life is many times wonderful and sometimes sad and lonely, but there must be a reason why we are here. Just as there must be a reason that we don't live forever. Perhaps it is so we don't carry too many bad experiences with us or perhaps it's so we don't attach too much value in material things. After all you can't take it with you! But I'm sure there is a reason and from some truely cosmic point of view it's the right way.
| To Spend All One's Time Wondering What Will Happen After Death Is... ||Aug 24th. at 12:30:02 pm UTC|
|Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) ||Age: 20 |
To spend all one's time wondering what will happen after death is not only pointless, its anti-spiritual. The truly great spiritualists of history, your Buddhas, Jesus's, Ghandis, Martin Luther Kings and the like, did not spend their time Philosophizing about the nature of the hereafter, they understood the most important lesson which is that spiritual nature is real and we needn't understand it to take strength, comfort, companionship, and wisdom from it. Besides, the answer is moot, firstly no one knows 100% for certain until they get there, crazy mixups, imperfections, and unpredictable occurrences exist everywhere, even in spiritual nature.
That said, I'll lend my vast knowledge of Near Death Experiences to the conversation. Recent medical tests have proven both the unique nature of spiritual experiences, and the validity and unexplainability of Near Death Experiences, as well as presenting somewhat of a profile of the "typical" experience. The "typical" NDE Experiencer does not say anything so blatant as "I felt a pain and then my soul left my body, " anymore than a butterfly wonders why it's not a caterpillar anymore when it leaves that cocoon. They describe a sense of floating, seeing themselves from above, often seeing the Doctors working on them trying to save their mortal lives. Then they see a tunnel of light, or a dark tunnel with a point of light at the end, and a feeling or a voice beckons them into the light, where they encounter spiritual beings like gods, ancestors, and mystical creatures. The other side is consistently described as a natural paradise. No NDE Experiencer I have ever spoken to has said they saw "the Kingdom of Heaven, " with streets of gold and great mansions and blah blah blah blah blah, they sometimes refer to the natural paradise of the otherside as "heaven" because that's the only term they know. To be fair, there probably are Kingdoms in the otherworlds, but those Kingdoms are not the otherworlds themselves. No NDE Experiencer ever says they were asked what religion they followed or what gods they claimed allegiance to, in fact one's morality in a single lifetime has very little influence on whether one enters the light or suffers in ones' own inner darkness. Sometimes NDEs don't involve entering a bright light, but rather crossing a river into the otherside paradise, such as the River Styx in Hades. In some more rare experiences the soul simply remains in the physical realm after leaving the body, which is of course frustrating to the spirit because they're less material than the material world they've remained in. Still other times a soul instantly reincarnates and carries a hugely intact portion of their past-life memories over into the new life, and sometimes these instantly-reincarnated people remember almost everything from their past life by the time they're only a few years old.
In very rare cases people experience a bad NDE, with visions of fire and brimstone and nasty monsters, or simply remembering over and over again all the bad times of ones' life, or the rarest case, utter darkness, total loneliness. It's important to remember that YOU decide almost entirely whether your journeys through the otherworlds will be pleasant or self-torturous.
| I Guess You All Know The End Of The Lord Of The... ||Aug 24th. at 1:12:46 pm UTC|
|Cat (Asheville, North Carolina US) ||Age: 34 |
I guess you all know the end of The Lord of the Rings, or the end of Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles. It's a very beautiful and very sad end; nearly everyone we're fond of goes on to the summer country (i.e. dies) but some have to stay behind and keep going. Someone always does have to stay to finish the book, because the summerlands story is the one that no one knows how to tell.
I don't know how to tell it either. Like Agent Mulder, sometimes I want to believe. I imagine this awareness not being lost, or seeing the people who are gone again, and it makes me cry every single time. It's the thing I don't hope for, because if I hoped for it I think it would kill me: to hope for what I can't believe. What I can hope for is for death to come easy, and without long preliminaries, and the near death experiences suggest that it isn't hard. Even if they're hallucination, it's comforting to know that. But no story tells us anything about what's really there; we don't know. We just have to keep going. You know what Darwin said, confronted by the natural cruelty of the world: "Let each man hope and believe what he can."
| Although I Believe It Most Likely That Our Individual Lives Completely Cease... ||Aug 25th. at 1:47:51 pm UTC|
|Secular Pagan (Minneapolis, Minnesota US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
Although I believe it most likely that our individual lives completely cease when we die, even if there does prove to be some form of afterlife it is important to realize that this life and this world is an end in itself, not merely a sort of way station or school through which we pass to "something better." The best way to prepare for any subsequent life, whether in an "ultimate" sense or simply in the "mundane" sense of the different stages of our mortal lives, is to live the present life fully, wholly, in alignment with our deepest, truest values. Keep uncovering who you are and simply BE that self, to the best of your ability and knowledge at any given moment. Give what you can to the world, to your community, and open yourself to receive such good as comes your way. In a word, LIVE. Here. Now. For how will you be prepared to live any other life if you haven't been really living this one?
Now if this life is the only one we have, if it proves (of course we won't know if it does!) that death is the cessation of our existence -- and this is what I believe is probably the case -- there is still meaning and pattern and beauty in the cycles of mortal life. We, as individuals, do not exist eternally, but Life, the "Great Life" of which we are all a part, goes on, even as our bodies continue to live through all of the birthing and dying of the individual cells that comprise it. We are born into this world, into the dance, to take our place in it for a time; we grow, we learn, we dance, and, when our part is complete, we pass away, to give other dancers their turn in the Dance.
| I Believe That We Are All Reincarnated Until We Achieve Perfection. Then... ||Aug 25th. at 2:40:16 pm UTC|
|Vwondola (Waycross, Georgia US) ||Age: 14 |
I believe that we are all reincarnated until we achieve perfection. Then we go to the Summerland(or anything else you want to call it). I'm not sure what it would look like, but i think that it would be absolutely beautiful. I intend to try my very hardest to achieve perfection in this life, then i will know what it looks like :)
| This One Question Thing Does Not Work Sometimes Because You Have To... ||Aug 25th. at 11:58:57 pm UTC|
|Nury (OZ, North Carolina US) ||Age: 1 |
This one question thing does not work sometimes because you have to test it out to see if your post can go through because for whatever reason sometimes they don't.
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