Every doctrine of the afterlife has run into the same problem, which is that of belief. For centuries the existence of life after death has been couched in religious terms, which necessitates believing in religion before the question of the afterlife can be approached. Is it possible to say something more firmly grounded than mere belief, which falls so short of certainty?
With the continuing decline of organized religion in developed countries, a strain of rational atheism has arisen that seems to have the backing of science. In this view, since we lack data from people who have died, there is no reason to abide by age-old myths concerning a promise of life after death. Fundamentally, the death and decay of the physical body points to the death of the mind, because to a physicalist the mind is a product of the brain.
The weakness in this viewpoint is twofold. First, it is founded on unproven assumptions. No one has proved that the brain produces the mind, only that brain activity parallels mental activity. By analogy, the heart beats faster when someone gets excited emotionally, but by no means does this prove that the heart produces emotions. The second flaw is that receiving no data from people who have died begs the question. Entire theories of cosmology delve into string theories and the multiverse with no data and indeed no chance of gathering any data. There are certain boundaries that physical exploration cannot cross, but this obstacle doesn’t invalidate their existence.
Questions of life and death, including the existence of life after death, seem to resist any firm conclusion. Most people tell pollsters that they believe in God, the soul, and the afterlife, but for all practical purposes we live in a secular society. The reassurances of organized religion no longer persuade millions of modern people, while on the other hand, there is a sharp rise in skepticism, doubt, and atheism.
Living as if we are mortal is the choice most people now make—for practical purposes, they live as if nothing existed before birth and nothing is likely to exist after death. Yet there is another choice rarely discussed, which one might call practical immortality. It rests upon a simple but life-changing decision anyone can make, the decision to identify with consciousness.
Right now everyone’s allegiance is split. We identify with our bodies some of the time and with our minds the rest of the time. If you run a marathon, go to the doctor for a checkup, feel attracted to someone else physically, or drag through the day for lack of sleep, you are identifying with your body. When you feel sad, have a bright idea, or argue about politics, you identify with your mind.
These may seem like obvious things, but it is due to split allegiances that death poses so much fear. If you think that life ends when the physical body ends, the prospect is rarely pleasant, and no matter how much spiritual literature you read, a mental conviction that physical death isn’t the end won’t resolve your fear. Everyone seems to agree that nothing can be known about the existence of the afterlife until we get there—or not.
Goodbyes are never easy. Saying farewell to a loved one who’s dying can be one of the toughest things you’ll experience in this lifetime. No matter how ready you think you are, it’s never easy when the time actually comes. If you’re dealing with this at the moment, my heart goes out to you.
When my mom went into long-term palliative care, I received a small booklet by Hank Dunn called Hard Choices for Loving People. It prepared me to cope with one of the most emotional and arduous times in my life! I share the following excerpt in the hope that you’ll find some comfort in the words now or in the future:
There are two ways to hold on. We can grasp tightly as we would a coin in our fist. We fear we will lose it, so we hold it tight. Indeed, if we open our hand palm down the coin falls from our possession, and we feel cheated. The other way to hold on is by opening our hand palm up. The coin may sit there, or it could be blown away or shaken out of our possession. But while it is there, we are privileged to have it. We hold on with an open hand. Our hand is relaxed and we experience freedom.
The other day we were at the home of Maria Menunous where I was taping her Sirius radio show (it will air next month and then be available on her podcast).
We were standing in her garden while two beautiful yellow and black butterflies flew in tandem, circling us for several minutes in a beautiful dance.
I really felt as if those butterflies were friends from the other side saying hello, reminding me they were nearby…. I believe they send us signs and find ways to remind us that they truly are always with us….
There are many fears we humans suffer.
On different lists they put in first place a number of associated fears. One says our greatest fear is Failure. Another, underscoring that we are animals of a pack, says the top fear is Loneliness. Psychology Today says it’s public speaking. They blend into each other: we fear an alteration in our group status.
The interesting one shows up as Number Two on almost all the lists: fear of death.
“In the midst of life,” wrote the cynic Ambrose Bierce, “we are in death.” Jesus tells us no man knows the hour and day of his death.
Where does death rate on your scale of fears?
Death Is Loss
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ---Norman Cousins
Losing a loved one is never easy.
On September 27, 2017, my dear mother made her transition from her body.
My mother was the purest soul I’ve met in this lifetime. She was unconditional love beyond human understanding. Her only desire was to serve and do God’s work in all ways.
I was so close to her my entire life, but strangely in her passing even more so. I feel her everywhere now. It’s once she left her body that I understood who she really was now that her loving was no longer limited to a human form.
In the year she knew she was dying, I once asked her if she was afraid. She simply looked at me with unwavering conviction and kindness and said, “Not at all. I am not this body. The soul lives forever. I am ready for whatever God wants for my life.”
In her last months, I realized my mother’s true greatness was in her depth of surrender to the Divine.
My favorite memory (I have so many) was simply holding her in my arms one day, my heart bursting with love, looking her in the eyes, and sharing what a profound privilege it was to incarnate in this lifetime as her son, to have had the opportunity to be loved by her and know a soul as beautiful as her.
Just before the opening of the event we walked on the beach. It felt so good to just feel the sun and begin to get in a space that welcomes new experiences. We strolled for a bit before I decided to sit down and take it all in. My partner continued on.
Once seated, I discovered what had energetically pulled me; why I had stopped walking. There was a lone seal. It had recently suffered significant injuries and appeared thin. He struggled to move along on the sand. The water was slowly coming in. The seal worked hard to stay ahead of the rising tide.
More people stopped. Someone put a call into a marine life rescue center. The dark gray and white water neared the seal as we made eye contact . This image has stayed with me.
Over the years I have been asked thousands of questions about the Afterlife: What happens when you die? How does it happen? What do our loved ones have to say? So, after awhile I started writing them down. Then, once I finished writing my book, The Love Never Ends, I put a little book together called Answers-About-the-Afterlife. These are some of the top questions and answers from that book. I hope they bring you some insight … and maybe even answer some of your own questions. ~ SDJ♥
My mother died in very early February of 1967, and I was at her hospital bedside. I had been sitting there quietly while she was sort of resting, I was just being spacious and aware, and noticing what was happening. As the relatives, doctors, and nurses came into the hospital room, one woman came in and said, “The doctors just told me there’s a new medication that we think will help,” and I just listened to the cheery tone of the nurse, realizing my mother was being surrounded by a conspiracy of denial.
At one point after this, when nobody was in the room, my mother turned to me and she said, “Rich, I think I’m gonna die,” and I said, “Yeah, I think so too.”
Can you imagine what that must have been for her to have somebody just affirming what she knew, but couldn’t get anybody in the whole situation to validate for her?
She asked, “What do you think it’s gonna be like, Rich?”