My personal thinking and conclusions at 83 on this matter
Throughout my life and even as a very young child, I have given much thought to this. We live just a limited amount of years and that is it. Is there more and what might that be? I am now 83 years of age and I must admit now that I’m getting closer to the end this present experience. Time is running out on me so I do question is life finite and if it is not what happens after this mortal container that I live within finally stops functioning. I now find myself of late attempting to come to some conclusions concerning this matter. In general my feelings concerning what the very near future will bring to me or perhaps not bring to me causes me to ponder quite a bit concerning this matter. Is it the truth of this matter that this experience that I and others find themselves in does end and that is all there is. I would like to believe that we are more than a physical container that because of some chemical as well as electrical actions and reactions exists.
I now find myself living alone away from the many loving individuals that I have spent my time here with. Over many years I have seen my brothers pass from this experience at very early ages. Frank left in his 30’s. Morty only made it to 50. Ronny was killed in a terrorist attack at La Guardia airport when he was in his early 30s. Dad had a long life and I was with him when he passed away at 77 years of age. Randy my daughter left this world in her 40’s, Mart passed away many years ago. My wife Mimsie who was my first love and even though we were apart for many years after what I thought for 23 years was a loving and productive time at her end there was much bitter feelings nevertheless she also went on to what I hope is a happy and meaningful experience. I can’t even count the number of friends and acquaintances that in a physical way have gone on as well. I was very fortunate to be with mom until she left this world at the age of 90. It has been many years since they have all been gone from me in a physical sense. None of these very dear soul in truth has ever stopped being by my side and at this moment are very near to me. There has not been a single day since their leaving this experience that I haven’t thought of them. Now in a very short time I myself will be moving on hoping to be with them, however not knowing if that will be my fate.
It upsets individuals that I speak to presently, when I make the statement that I am ready to at last find out for myself if there is an afterlife for it seems to trouble them. I do not have a fear of death. I do not believe in what most religions see as a heaven or a hell waiting for me to be my next experience. On the other hand, I have quite a bit of apprehension concerning what my future if there is a future would be like. I know what I would wish it to be for that would be a time when once again I would meet up with the many individuals that I have been fortunate enough to spend this experience with. This would not only include friends and love ones who were human, but as well the many animal friends such as Tarzan, Rocky and Babe. My present fantasies of what I would hope would be a truth would be that after I move on from this experience that I would find myself sitting at the top of one of my horses, riding in a wooded area with Tarzan, Rocky and Babe running freely by my side. In this fantasy I would be able to ride back out of that wooded area and be greeted by my human love ones and friends. This would be heaven to me.
In order to bring my thoughts together, I thought that it would help to think about what others throughout time have thought about concerning the hereafter. Doing this has allowed me to better come to certain conclusions about what might be the truth concerning this matter. So here I will state a few ideas concerning the thinking of other philosophies and thoughts of what the hereafter is within their beliefs.
To start off with a brief definition of the term afterlife might be of some aid. This is the dictionary definition that I found: “A life that some people believe exists after death.” In a book The Essence of Buddha, p. 106 I read. “A large proportion of human suffering occurs because people think they only live once. When they become fully aware that the present life is only one point in the eternal flow of time, and that they have lived in the past and will live again in the future, they will understand that their future lives will depend on their present life and also that they can choose what kind of life they will live in the future.”
The Buddhist sees death as a continuation of the soul, but consider it as an awakening. Once a person dies on this earth, he will be reborn to a new life here and the status of that life depends on the work he did before his previous death. Buddha asserted that what keeps us bound to the death/rebirth process is desire, desire in the sense of wanting or craving anything in the world. Hence, the goal of getting off the Ferris wheel of reincarnation necessarily involves freeing oneself from desire. Nirvana is the Buddhist term for liberation. Nirvana literally means extinction, and it refers to the extinction of all craving, an extinction that allows one to become liberated.
Within Hinduism there is a belief of reincarnation. To the Hindu death is a very spiritual experience. The soul travels for some time to another world and finally returns again to the earth to continue its journey. Moksha is the traditional Sanskrit term for release or liberation from the endless chain of deaths and rebirths. In the southern Asia religious tradition, it represents the supreme goal of human strivings. Hindus to the best of my understanding believe that the soul may travel to a form of hell, however the Hindu hell is quite different than what most Christians understand hell to be. Unlike Western hell Hindu hell worlds are not final dwelling places. They are more like purgatories in which sinful souls experience suffering for a limited term.After the term is over, even the most evil person is turned out of hell to once again participate in the cycle of reincarnation.
While searching for answers I found some information about the Jewish beliefs as to the afterlife that I had not known about and was somewhat surprised to read about. Judaism primarily deals and is interested in life here now rather than the afterlife. There is very little dogma concerning the afterlife within the Jewish religion. Within Judaism much is left up to the opinions of the individual. As far as the Old Testament is concerned the subject of death is treated very inconsistently. Many Jewish texts seem to lead to a belief that the physical death is the end of life. This is the case with such central figures as Abraham, Moses, and Miriam. Neither the Torah nor the rest of the Hebrew Bible describes a heaven or a hell. This being true Judaism is a very ancient religion with many writings other than the Old Testament. Some Jewish scholars speak of a sort of hell referred to as Gehennom. Interesting enough the Gehannom is taken from Hennom where pagans once sacrificed children. Gehennom is quite different than the Christian concept of hell for it is a place of cleansing of the soul and is not perpetual everlasting punishment.
A surprise to me was to find that within the Kabbalah, Jewish scholars speak of a transmigration of the soul. What is written is that every Jewish soul has to return to this world if it didn’t complete the performance of 613 commandments. This is a form of reincarnation. Literally, this is translated according to the Kabbalah the Garden of Eden (Gahn ehy.Dehn). The important difference from the Christian understanding of this place is it is not a place at all for it is spiritual perfection. Interesting enough, as I understand it, it is like enlightenment as spoken of by the Buddhist and also the Hindus. It does appear to me from a human standpoint that the concept of reincarnation is a more purposeful and a just concept than what the Christian world believes the afterlife. Although the process may be somewhat different among various religions, individual entities do find themselves caught up within a just learning process where one is rewarded for his or her deeds and must continue to learn from mistakes made in his previous existence. There is a goal and a purpose of this form of thinking and that goal is where an entity finally reaches enlightenment, spiritual perfection, nirvana or what ever any particular religion desires to refer to as.
The vast majority of Christians believe when the spirit leaves the body, it goes to the spirit world and awaits the resurrection. At that time, the spirits of all humankind will be joined eternally with our perfected bodies, and we will be judged by the Savior to determine our eternal destination after this life. Christians believe in some kind of heaven in which believers enjoy the presence of God and other believers and freedom from suffering and sin. It is clearly stated that those who do not follow and believe in Jesus will ultimately end up in hell, while those who do will achieve salvation and end up in heaven. Here we have an anthropomorphic God figure making judgments concerning the everlasting existence of either physical or spiritual entities in a physical place of heaven or hell. To me, I find this concept very lacking, more human than spiritual and based on a fear of a God more than a love.
Muslims believe that the present life is only a preparation for the next realm of existence. For them death is merely moving from one world to another. It can be described as a journey through a separate dimension of existence. The Prophet taught that three things can continue to help a person even after death; charity which he had given, knowledge which he had taught and prayers on their behalf by a righteous child. Muslims believe the soul remains in a kind of “soul sleep” until Judgment Day. When the Day of Judgment arrives, everyone is judged according to their deeds in life. Many Muslims believe that non-Muslims can attain heaven only after a period of purification in the fires of purgatory. (They do believe in a form of heaven and hell). According to the tenets of the Muslim faith, death is the complete end of physical life and the beginning of a period of rest until the day of resurrection when Allah judges the living and the dead.
To me the Christian as well as the Muslim concept of a heaven or hell where an anthropomorphic god decided to reward or punish an entity for a transgression of that God’s set of laws and that God’s human like failings are a human concept which I find lacking in depth. This would also be true of what some Jewish scholars interpreting Jewish writings to be that one can only reach spiritual perfection by following 613 laws that were written by humans obtained through prophecy from an anthropomorphic God.
Atheist as well as those who follow the philosophies of pantheism do not believe in an afterlife. Atheists maintain that the concept of humankind, having a unique supernatural soul is simply a primitive notion which has no basis in fact and that religious organizations are guilty of perpetrating a colossal fraud on ignorant and gullible people, chiefly through indoctrination. By accepting that life is only for a finite period, short or long, the atheist is confronted with the matter of how best to spend the available time and therefore, if suitably informed, will most likely spend the time worthy of a human person.
To a believer in the philosophy of pantheism life after death depends entirely on the life of the living. It is achieved through deeds, descendants, inheritance and remembrance.They see death as a return of the physical elements that we are made of back to nature and the end of the individual’s existence. As the laws of thermodynamics tells us all matter cannot be destroyed, however it does take other forms. Human experience might take form in a flower, another living being or just reform itself along with other atoms in some inanimate thing such as soil or rock.
At the time of his writing, it is also a time of individuals working the public for nominations to the presidency of the United States. Hardly a day can go by when one of the candidates in his appeal to the nation doesn’t spout out that our nation is a Christian Jewdistic nation. This of course is not a truth for our forefathers in most every case where Deist or Universalist. In much of the philosophy of the Deist, I find common thought. The Deist much like the modern Jew leaves the idea of an afterlife up to the individual. In simple terms a Deist believes that God does exist, however the Deist believes that all truths can only be determined by reason and logic. Is there an afterlife may be best stated in a quote from Thomas Paine a Deist who wrote; “I believe in only one God: and I have hope for happiness in an afterlife.” Thomas Paine and myself have like feelings on this matter. The most important word in this quote to me is the word hope. My understanding is too limited within my present being to ensure any definite conclusions on this matter.
When I started to write this essay I stated that I do not have a fear of death at this time, yet I am apprehensive concerning that matter. I hope that in some personal form of my entity the afterlife fantasy that I hope for will come about. Presently my understanding is much too limited to come to any definite conclusion on this matter.
I differ in my understanding with some views of the pantheist and do agree with other basic facts of science that they hold. I do find it interesting as well as comforting that if I do not have a personal afterlife that being a flower might be a worth while thing to be. This thought does cause me to smile. Einstein tells us and has proven that matter is energy. Energy can take various forms as matter and does not on a quantum level exist under the same laws as it does within the macro universe. Energy is what is referred to as consciousness or information and therefore metaphysical and spiritual as I view it. If my beliefs are correct here I do believe that the entity, the Ira Presslaff, who is penning this essay is more than a physical being. He and all other entities, including his animal friends are spiritual therefore there is an afterlife in a personal manner in some form or other that I most admit is beyond my present comprehension.