Death is an issue that we all face no matter what our personal beliefs are so What Happens When We Die?, is one of the greatest questions of life. Generally we are very reluctant to think of our own expiry. Death is a great equaliser and no matter what or whom you are in life, eventually we all have to face the reality of dying. Is death the end of our consciousness and existence? In spite of hundreds years of research, Science cannot prove when or where life began.
Researchers have found that the human nervous system and brain operate largely through electrical impulses. The brain requires blood and oxygen to function, when breathing, if our blood circulation is impaired, the brain simply does not function or ceases completely. Humans are a complex structure composed of many co-operating interactions within our bodies. We have a desire to understand and influence, search for explanations through our natural curiosity and yet, we are so preoccupied with the everyday concerns of our lives that death is pushed into the background until we have to face it through the loss of a loved one.
Our thoughts turn to their demise and we decide whether we believe they are gone to a better pace, is there a better life after death, does death bring a new life, are our departed loved ones sleeping and awaiting reawakening, or does death signify nonexistence ….(Atheist). The sheer grief and pain of death, the loss of a loved one causes suffering for those left behind. We carry out an array of customs during the burial of our dead, we commemorate them in memory of their lives as mankind has a need to go through a ritual in order to try to understand what happens when we die. Is it normal to want a future life after death or is death necessary as our limited world cannot conceivably harbinger all life eternally?
We question “What is Death? What is life? Is death a simple and definable end to life? Where does our spirit go when the bond between our material body is dissolved? Is death permanent? We wonder whether upon death when our physical body disintegrates what happens to our soul?. If we do return, do humans have the ability carry memories of past events into their present life?”. Our attempts to understand death generate fear, controversy, self-questioning and rationalisation.
In every culture when a loved one dies ceremonies are held by family and friends to reminisce about the dead. Universally, although cultures differ, praying plays a highly important part during the death ceremony. The finality of death is frightening and humankind have dealt with their loss since the beginning of time through ceremonies which us to get through what we don’t understand. Death has been depicted by macabre images such as the Grim Reaper coming to take away a person’s soul. The scythe is a symbol that he reaps the soul of both saints and sinner alike; “The Harvest of Souls.”
Physical death is the Bottom of Form 1
cessation of bodily functions, when your heart stops beating, your brain stops to function and you stop breathing. It is also the severing of the connection between our spirit from our physical body and when consciousness finally leaves our human form to go to the next life. The mind or soul is not a physical part of our bodies, it is formless and a separate entity from our human body form. Questions are raised upon death; when the body disintegrates at death does our consciousness cease? This is where we search for spiritual answers through religion, creators, God, Gods and Goddesses.
During our lives we seek to find answers to the many questions we have about death and man, since the beginning of time, man has tried to conceive a way to escape death. Questions range from; “Is death permanent? Does our spirit carry on in another form and at a deeper level of consciousness? Can be reincarnated and come back to Earth? If we are reincarnated are all of our previous memories erased? Is there a creator who will welcome us into our new existence? Are we merely a collection of cells, molecules, skin and are we just another cycle of nature? Are we a natural part of evolution? Is there an afterlife? Is our physical demise temporary? Where, if anywhere, do we go?
Scientists find it difficult to accept a life after death theory. However, they have to accept unintelligible natural phenomena and other realms of reality through their own facts based on Quantum Mechanics. Death can be considered either as the end of existence or as a transition to another state of being or consciousness. The Hindu’s deal with death by viewing life as an illusion and learning through the levels of reincarnation the true meaning of life and both religion and mythology concern themselves with what happens to our essence after physical death.
There are many causes of death such as the natural process of aging, natural death, illness, disease, suicide, homicide, natural disasters, accidents and wars. Universally, death rituals can vary extensively depending on religion, race and culture however, rituals and ceremonies are cross cultural such preparation of the corpse for a funeral and the ceremony surrounding the disposing of the corpse. Although practices may differ from culture to culture, death ceremonies are the norm and can include a three day watch of the corpse, gathering of relations and friends to mourn their departed right through to elaborate rituals which go on for weeks.
The Ancients flourished on a social structure where rites of ancestor worship and spiritual beliefs were the norm. The Celtic Druids had a strong belief in sacrifice and believed in the reincarnation of the soul into another form hence they did not fear death. The ancient Egyptians practiced forms of ancestor worship and believed in rebirth after death and considered death as “merely a temporary interruption.” The Mayans were a very religions people who lived in fear of their destructive Gods so their funerals were held with great respect and ceremony. Shamanism is based on the belief that spirits and invisible entities permeate our visible world. The Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and came down to earth to rid them of original sin thus saving their souls and after death, returning to God in Heaven. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Bible is the Manual for Life, Jesus is the Son of God however, they are not Trinitarian. On their death they sleep until God calls everyone who has departed this Earth for Judgement Day and those who lived their lives according to the Bible, will live back on Earth and be reigned by a Council in Heaven.
Taking the Bible as an example we determine that the word Heaven, which is used in a strictly material signification as forming a part of the created universe. In Genesis i.1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The ancient Hebrews, however, seem to have entertained strange notions as to the structure of the material Heaven, believing it to be a solid arch resting on pillars, and having foundations. Thus, in Job xxvi. 11, “the pillars of Heaven tremble, and we are astonished at his reproof.” In other passages of the Bible Heaven is compared to a curtin, or the covering of a tent, as in Ps. civ.2, “Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtin”.
The ancient Jews believed that there were several different Heavens; “the lower, the middle, and the third or higher heavens”. The lower level of Heaven was considered to “take in the clouds and the atmosphere; the middle as being the stellar or starry region; and the third as being the Heaven of Heavens, or the habitation of God and his angels”.
The word Heaven is not only used in a material but also a spiritual sense, to indicate the future abode of the righteous after death. The belief in Heaven beyond the grave, accordingly, is not limited to Christians, being a recognized creed of Heathens, Jews, and Mohammadeans. Among the ancient Romans and Greeks, the Heaven to which the good ascended was named Elysium. The precise location of Elysium was a topic of debate for generations; writers of classic antiquity declared the happiness of the souls in Elysium to be complete and allegedly, some believed that the departed souls would return to earth again.
Eternal blessedness was, in view of the ancient Pagans, reserved for those who were distinguished for their exhalted virtues and who were accordingly admitted into the “society of the Gods” and could, at any time, return to their ancestors on this earth. Summerland, a place for resting of the soul until it is ready to continue on a journey of self, until the person learned and escalated to the higher realms of eternal consciousness.
Heaven of the Hindu culture is the absorption on Brahm and of the Buddhist, annihilation or Nirwana. The priesthood of the ancient Egyptians taught the “immortality of the soul under the mane of Palingenesia, or second birth, being a return of the soul to the celestial spheres; or it’s reabsorption into the Supreme Being. This doctrine was allegedly “inculcated only upon the illerate multitudes who could form no conception of the existence of the soul without the body.”
The ancient Scandinavians, believed in two different heavens; one, the palace of Odin which they named Valhalla where this divinity received all of those who died a violent death; and the other called Gimli (place covered with gold), the everlasting home of the righteous where to “enjoy ecstatic and perennial delights.” Those received into the palace of Odin, heroes, believed that every day would be filled with fighting, eating, drinking and surrounded by virgins.
Jewish Rabbis teach that there is an upper and lower paradise or heaven with a fixed pillar of Zion. On every Sabbath or festival, the righteous climb up and feed themselves with a glance of the Divine majesty until the end of the Sabbath or festival. “The souls of the righteous”, according to the Jewish Rabbis, “do not ascent to the upper paradise immediately after they have left their body, but they are represented as undergoing a pervious kind of novitiate in the lower paradise, which is situated half way between this corporal world and the upper Heaven.”
Mohammadeans believe in “a Heaven prepared for the blessed among the faithful”; a place for those who are true to their religion and followers of the holy prophet Mohammed. Here, they shall spend eternity and shall “join him in perpetual light and all heavenly pleasures, always beautiful, in their full strength and vigour, brighter than the sun, and thought worthy to see the face of the Most High God, and to adore him”. They hold that there are eight Heavens of varying degrees.
We have looked at varying traditions in the belief of Heaven and now shall look at the belief in Hell. Both in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures there are two words, Sheol and Hades which are sometimes translated into “hell” but which denote the world of departed spirits in general; while two other words Tartaros and Gehenna, signify the place of eternal punishment reserved for the unrighteous and wicked after death. The Amenti of ancient Egyptians, the Patala of the Hindus and the Orcus of the Romans, refer to a future state; but the doctrine of a future punishment is found embodied in all religious systems whether Christian, Heathen, Jewish or Mohammedean.
Hell is believed to be a “place of eternal torment, a bottomless pit, a worm that never dies, the fire that shall never be quenched.” The Jewish Rabbis believe in an upper and lower hell. Gehennon, to which the Talmud adds seven other names, is said to be applied to seven mansions into which hell is divided. Many Jewish people believe in hell, not as an eternal dwelling-place of the wicked, but, to the Israelites at least, as a place of temporary purgatorial punishment. It is believed that the very wicked shall be eternally annihilated.
The Mohammedeans, like the Jews, divide Hell which they call Gehennon, into seven portions, but they are not totally agreed as to the inhabitants of these districts. The most common opinion is that Gehennon, is “destined for those worshippers of the true God who have not acted up to the principles of the faith which they have professed; the second division, called Lodha, is for the Christians; the third named Hothama, is for Jews; the fourth, denominated Sair, is destined for the Sabeans; the fifth, called Sacar, is for Magicians or Geubres; the sixty names Gehim, will received Pagans and idolaters, whilst the seventh, the most severe place of punishment within the lowest depths of the abyss, is named Hooviat, and reserved for the hypocritical professors of religion.”
The Hindus believe in a graduated scale of future punishments as well rewards; “the less wicked being sunk into a lower position in the next birth (reincarnation), the more wicked being sent down to one or other of the innumerable Hells, to reappear, however, on earth, in mineral, animal, and vegetable forms before they rise to the human, the most wicked of all beings doomed to experience the misery and woe and perdition until the time of the dissolution of all things”. The Buddhist tradition has a system of eight principal narakas, or places of torment, all of them situated in the interior of the earth and “so enclosed it makes it impossible for escape”.
Gnostics, (gnosis, knowledge), the general name applied to various classes of pagans or heretics, arose in the early period of the Christian Church. They derived from the school of philosophy and denoted a higher and esoteric science which was designed to express the superiority of their doctrines to those of the Pagans and Jews. The systems of Gnosticism were various, all of them referable to two fixed historical centres, Syria and Egypt. Hence, there was a marked difference between the Syrian and the Alexandrian Gnosis, the former being characterized by a predominance of Dualism, the latter by a predominance of Pantheism.
It is impossible to even cursorily examine Gnosticism in the diversified aspect which is assumes, without being at almost every point reminded of the old religious systems of Asia, Buddhism, Parsiam and Brahmanism. Gnostics believed in intuitions and symbols rather than conceptions. In the eye of the Gnostic “everything became hyposaterized,” which, to the Western thinker existed only as a conception.
The foundation of most of the Gnostic systems lies in the idea of two different and opposite worlds, the one “region of light”, the other “the region of darkness”; one a region of purity and the other of sin; a superior world and an inferior world. The primal source of being was the Bythos (like the Brahm) of Hinduism in which was an invisible, incomprehensible being, enjoying perfect quiescence and from whom all emanations proceeded. Following their line of thought, they alleged “the God or Jehovah of the Jews to be Demiurge, and the law they promulgated in the Old Testament to be inferior and imperfect” whereas, the law which Christ promulgated in The New Testament was “the expression of the mind of the Bythos or Unknown Father.” Most Gnostics reportedly believed “that salvation rested merely on knowledge; and that a man who possessed knowledge needed no more.”
The realisation of human mortality lives with each and every human being and ghost stories, spirits and haunting’s have been a part of our history, handed down from generation to generation. We are taught about spirits, Witches, Angels, Demons, Gods and Goddesses and the paranormal world is rich in psychics, supernatural events, divination and with people who have real experiences with the paranormal such as out of body experiences, direct interaction with ghostly phenomena and near death experiences.
Sceptics cannot ignore or dismiss paranormal occurrences just as Science cannot explain the unexpected e.g., apparitions, ghosts, haunting’s, orbs or the supernatural. To sum up, no matter what our personal faith, belief, religions, culture or race, it is up to you whether you believe that the evidence is strong enough to justify your belief in paranormal, the supernatural and an afterlife.
Near death experiences (NDE), the age-old debate, have been occurring for centuries. In the year 360 BC, Plato writes about a soldier named Er who recalled his NDE. Near death experiences are quite common and have been recorded through history. You may have heard someone who nearly died saying that they experienced their “whole life flashing right before their eyes”.
NDE’s have been a part of mankind’s existence for thousands of years, as some ancient civilizations have recorded these supernatural encounters. With this history, many different explanations have come as to what could be the cause, or if the afterlife is real.
Millions of cases are documented worldwide of NDE’s, or near-death experiences. As they are such a common occurrence, Scientists have conducted research into thousands, if not millions, of cases. During the past 30 years, near-death experiences have been the focus of intense Scientific studies at Universities and Medical Centres around the world and they can no longer dismiss this phenomenon as hallucinations, chemical changes in the brain just prior to death, or as a pharmacologically induced experience. Science has questioned and studied NDE’s experiences and one thing agreed on by all those involved in research is that near death experiences really do exist.
No two near death experiences are the same; they are as unique and as individual as the person who goes through this experience. People who suffer severe trauma, clinical death, or those who nearly die, have reported similar traits during their near-death experience and many believe it to be very real and have significantly changed the views on life, spirituality and particularly their views on death. Some common experiences do occur however, not all NDE’s follow a pattern.
Common traits that have been widely documented with NDE include:
Feelings of Peace and Terror:
These feelings may include acceptance of death, total calmness, feelings of peace, being emotional and physically comforted. The person sees a bright light filling the room which they interpret as Heaven or God. Then there are those cases documented of people who do not have a feeling of peace, did not meet with family or friendly spirits. Rather, they experienced terror as while being attacked and upset by demons.
(OBE): Out-of-body Experiences:
The person feels that they have left their physical body. They observe from above, often describing the sight of doctors working on him. In some cases, the subject’s “spirit” then flies out of the room, into the sky and sometimes into space. We have all heard stories about someone on the verge of death seeing a bright light at the end of a long tunnel, revealing that they have entered another dimension or realm, seeing spiritual entities and deceased family, friends and loved ones.
The persons spirit may take a bit of time to look around and then notice a bright light. The light may start out to be small and then become larger as the spirit of the person moves toward it. In some cases there is not a tunnel, but a very bright light that fills the room. The light is brighter than anything the person has ever experienced on Earth, but they are not bothered by the it.
General feelings that people experience include euphoria and report floating feelings and beautiful visions of scenic places. The majority of people who experience near-death say they feel “very happy with a wonderful sense of calm and belonging.”
Another Realm or Dimension:
Other people that experience NDE’s say that they are led to another realm, most have positive experiences however, a few have reported a negative experience in which they get a feeling of loss of control and falling into a deep bottomless chasm.
Near death experiences moves the person beyond this natural world and into worlds unseen, usually commencing with a tunnel of light which they are compelled to enter. This bright light pulls them into another realm and, as they leave this world behind, they experience sightings of spirits, family and their departed friends. Lastly, they experience a life review, where one sees their entire earthly life in fast forward.
Once on the other side, they have reported being surrounded by entities, some of them they knew were dead and others who are there to talk to them. Some report being told certain things and are asked to go back to their bodies.
The most common report for survivors of outer body experience(OBE) is that people feel they have been given a glimpse into Heaven as they encounter “beings of light,” or other representations of spiritual entities.
Spiritual Beings and Entities:
When a person experiences NDE most report that the feeling surrounding the spiritual beings and entities are pleasurable, and they feel completely disassociated with their physical body, have the ability to see through walls and they relate stories about what was happening outside the room where their physical body was pronounced clinically dead. Some report the transcendental or mystical elements emit a sense of complete peace and contentment and, on their return after communication with the spirits or entities, it has been reported by many people and they describe a male voice telling them that it is not their time and to go back to their earthly physical body.
Returning to the Physical Body:
On returning to their physical body, in most cases, they have a sense of being reborn, seeking to learn more about themselves, are stronger, self confident and pursue a life of truth with heightened appreciation and contentment. The typical near-death survivor emerges from their experience determined to live life to the fullest and most do not fear death.
Negative NDE Experiences:
Unfortunately, for others, the experience may not be a positive one. Some people have said they have increased fear, suffer from depression, and focus more on death. However, thankfully, it is a very small percentage that experience negativity after recovering from their NDE.
Many survivors of NDE struggle with a fear of mental illness, ridicule and fear of rejection. Problems associated with negative experiences of NDE include depression, isolation, with a difficulty in explaining their experience to their family or to the medical profession and angry due to their difficulty after this experience to return to their previous beliefs.
Those who experience a negative NDE can become very distressed, retreat into themselves, take years to adjust a near-death experience, believe that their experience was a hallucination rather than a real experience, fear to seek help or counselling and may feel that they have lost control over their minds. For these people, their mental stability is challenged as is their belief systems. The effects of those who experience negative NDE are often life-altering.
No Scientific explanation to date can account or explain all of the aspects of near death experiences, why they happen or what are the causes and effects. NDE’s follow a broad general pattern that crosses cultures; they remain in memory for decades as being “realer than real.” Scientists have delved into various forms of studies and a couple of examples include; lack of oxygen is not a factor in all NDE’s, nor is the presence of drugs or medication responsible.
Sceptics have a big problem with the belief in Near Death Experience because it is impossible to define the line between when life and death occurs. Definitions of death can vary from continent to continent and from culture to culture e.g.; what makes a person?, Define the soul or spirit in a person? – and as none of this can be proved scientifically. However, this does not discount the real fact that many sincere and honest people have near-death experiences and that Scientists and Medical Practitioners have investigated the phenomena with no solid result or evidence to refute their experiences.