A religion class.
RE 313 DE
11 April 2005
The Beneficial Mystery
You can travel to any corner of the earth and find people who have pondered the meaning of life. Religion exists to give life purpose and there many different doctrines explaining life’s meaning in a wide variety of ways. The inception of all the different religions was an inevitable development in all human societies because we all have to deal with mortality. Death is feared by most because it has been known to unexpectedly take victims at random; striking some not until their physical bodies expire, while touching others before their bodies even get to develop. Death does not discriminate. To combat the feeling of death’s haunting ambience, religion often promises some sort of life after death. In most doctrines this ‘afterlife’ is completely opposite to the life as we knew it on earth’s physical plane. These belief-systems claim that within the human body there exists an undying essence or immortal soul that lives on after our human bodies are taken from us. Among the major religions that believe in some kind of life-after-death are Christianity, Islam, and some sects of Judaism. Other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism believe in the afterlife as well as reincarnation. All these religions attempt to lay out laws and guidelines for humankind to follow here on earth in the hope that adherence to these laws will guarantee safe passage to and the presence of a comfortable spot in the afterlife. Naturally, every religion asks of its followers that a certain degree of faith be put in their teachings. To strengthen our faith they have us worship likeable deities, prophets, and messiahs; in whose greatness we cannot help but cower and follow blindly.
One cannot help but ask in self-reflection: what if these man-made religions have gotten it all wrong? What if their endeavors to prepare us for the next life were all in vain? What can the religious institutions or anybody really know about the afterlife? True spiritualists, in the spirit of conspiracy theorizing, maintain that the heads of these religions are withholding some dangerous secret from the public that proves their connections with beings who are seemingly omnipotent in the next world (if there is one) and in control of life and death. Most of our knowledge about the afterlife comes from the near-death-experiences (or NDE’s) of those who claim to have some residual memory of their brief encounter with existence on the other side. In my opinion, such accounts are totally unreliable because they are shaped entirely by the discourses to which the person giving the account has been exposed to in their lifetime. I therefore automatically dismiss many of Sukie Miller’s findings as conjecture. As a psychologist researching what she has dubbed “afterdeath systems”, she found that there were four common themes. The first is a stage one Miller calls “The Waiting Place”, where the body is left behind and whatever remains is prepared – through the eradication of earth-bound addictions – for the next stage; that being the stage of Judgment. In this secondary stage one’s life is weighed in terms of the good and bad deeds committed while the individual was alive. In Christianity, if the bad outweighs the good, the individual is sent to sent, and if the opposite is found, the individual is sent to heaven. In Buddhism and Hinduism karma determines the future life of the person. In the Persian Baha’i religion your own view of your contribution to the evolution of humankind determines your direction in the afterdeath. In Tibetan Buddhism the idea of immediate reincarnation is put forth and it depends on one’s own ability to conquer the illusions and delusions projected by their own mind; failure to do so results in reincarnation into a lower and often animal or even insect caste. Following the Judgment stage, and depending how one was judged, the next stage is the Realm of Possibilities. In this stage many ideas of heaven and hell are put forth by all the doctrines. Lastly, Sukie Miller describes a stage called the Rebirth, whereby a soul is reincarnated into a different body. Reincarnation is not as widely believed amongst the religions as the actual afterlife is. This is most likely because the religions are hopeful that they will not have to return to life on earth. Those who created and who are adhering to the rules of these religions generally wish to move on to another stage of existence and transcend reality as they used to experience it. In this new and exciting place, life, for those going to Heaven, would be a walk in the park compared to life on earth. Therefore, they would not imagine a reincarnation in physical terms, but rather in spiritual terms, where the body is left behind for a new non-corporeal body.
In my opinion, the afterlife is most likely resembles the third stage Sukie Miller describes; the Realm of Infinite Possibilities. Logically, I believe the thing humans can expect at death is anything. My own personal vision of it is one that instantly places me in my new spirit based, intangible body, and leaves me completely and utterly alone. No white light at the end of the tunnel or a comforting guiding voice will greet me after I die; I will be confronted with complete solitude. And with nothing but my own consciousness to keep me company I will be left to either slip into the oblivion of eternal insanity or do what has been called “one-ing yourself”. The term comes from an urban division of the Nation of Islam called The Five Percent Nation, and it means to center, collect, and establish yourself no matter what your surroundings happen to be. Vowing to never adhere to one single religion, but instead to know what they all offer and apply that which personally applies to me from that religion to my life. I also believe the yin and yang are forces that act upon every aspect of life, taken from the Taoist Buddhist Theory, and that the afterlife will be no different with the opposing forces doing their battle there as well. I also believe there is not just one God, but two; actually a God and Goddess – which is very pagan. My point is that each individual’s afterlife will be different because their own minds will create it as they pictured it in life. With this is mind, I would have to note that the afterlife seems more like a collapse into one’s own self-made universe, where we see life after death through our own unique eyes.
I think that if humans knew what the afterlife actually held life would loose its mysterious and adventurous nature. For instance, if we knew that we would all go to Heaven and be greeted by our lost loved ones and be able to fulfill all our wildest dreams, people would be so eager to die that the average life span would be as long as it took for an infant to realize that paradise was only a wrist-slit away – assuming that suicide is not a sin in this afterlife. Life, with this model of the afterlife in place and acknowledge as true, would loose all its gusto and its beauty. Civilization would not have progressed as it has in the last two thousand years if people we just lining up to kill themselves. There would be no architecture, no music, and no romance, to name a few. Frankly, a world with such knowledge is one I would not want to be a part of because for all I know, my mother, with the knowledge that death was immediately followed by paradise, might have smothered me as soon as I exited the womb to protect me from the inevitable emotional roller-coaster that life really is. Imagining the opposite, that it was known by all that life after death was a terrifying Hell, its seems evident that civilization might even be further along in progression than it was know; maybe in that world, death and the life it brought would be feared so much that a fountain of youth would have been created, so that everyone could live forever and not have to experience the Hell that was the afterlife. Whatever the case is, it is clear that knowing what comes next would not be without its consequences to life as we currently know it. I see nothing but anarchy resulting from such knowledge.
Perhaps by the time the next millennium arrives and passes by mankind will have finally discovered the truth about life after death; simultaneously solving the great mystery while sucking the ‘joie de vive’ out of existence on earth. In retrospect, I’m sure the people of the future who uncover the truth – and they probably will, what with today’s boundary pushing scientists, who are only years from cloning an human – will have wished they had held back the truth, because living in uncertainty was so much more exhilarating. Presuming that today’s leading religions have not already uncovered the truth, I hope that if they have, they continue to keep the dangerous truth a secret from the public. My justification for this is simple and I think it can easily be agreed with: some things are better left unknown.
Miller, Sukie. AfterDeath: Mapping the Journey. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.