Death and the Afterlife: RELI 273
Prof: Angela Sumegi
Monday, January 16, 2017: Week 2: Lecture 2
person is physically intact… is it sleeping, in a coma, meditation. All kinds of living states that mimic death. It is a transformation or process. Process of dying is a lot vaguer than “death”. We need to be able to tell the difference between who is dead and who is dying, we need to know the body is just dead enough so that it is still able to donate organs. We can dead, but still have not reached the point of no return. People are brought back to life all the time. Traditionally, heartbeat and breathing were the signs of life…now we have technology that can do this for a person…are they dead? Western science accepts that dead is a process that can be interrupted.
Worms: in the last moment of its life it emits blue light at the moment it dies showing the pathway to cellular death.
Criteria for defining the irreversible coma:
∙ Unreceptivity and unresponsive
∙ No movement or breathing
∙ No reflexes
∙ Flat electroencephalogram EEG. I.e. no electrical features in the brain.
Taphephobia: The fear of being buried alive. 18thh and 16th century Europe it was very real. Safety coffins- bell tied to dead person’s hand in the coffins.
What is death (Robert Veatch)
Death means a complete change in the status of a living entity
What is essentially significant to life? (Robert Veatch)
1. Flow of vital fluids
2. The soul from the body
3. The capacity for bodily integration
4. The capacity for social interaction
∙ Decay and annihilation of the physical body. If you want to learn more check out How will you describe climate change?
Has not stopped people from asking if there is life after death: Metaphysical.
∙ Our interpretations of death rest on our senses of life- sleep, peacefulness, being trapped, darkness, nothingness.
∙ Oblivion is not necessarily a fearful state, problem is that there has been nobody who has returned to tell us what death is like.
Shakespeare on sleep and death: for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come.
Death is defined at the sensation of physical and mental processes, but to examine it more deeply we must examine not only the facts, but the significance of the facts. Leads us to consider relation to death and identity. Birth and death are states that only refer to something separate. Birth and death are relating to separate identity. Of all the things that are lost, the most important is the loss of identity. In either case to understand death we need to explore how we define ourselves.
Two basic aspects to a person. To be a person involves immaterial counterpart, soul, or mind, life-force, or consciousness.
Across cultures, our identity is a relationship between body and that which is not body.
Small-Scale Tribal Communities
∙ Primal religions: 200 million of the world’s inhabitants
∙ Tarija’s: the ritual way of the ancestors If you want to learn more check out What are the three main types of business activities?
If you want to learn more check out What are the 3 periods of human population growth?
∙ Funerals have the slaughter of animals so that they can arrive with the dead in the afterlife
∙ Funerals can be advertised as a tourist attraction
∙ Statues of the dead: don’t touch them or disrespect then or there will be consequences
Indigenous religious world views
Three major characteristics related to:
∙ Duality of the Universe
∙ Duality of the person
∙ The social function of religion
∙ Shaman- a generic name given by scholars to those specialists in tribal or indigenous religions who communicate with the spirit world for the practical benefit of their community
∙ If the person is sick, the soul needs to be healed as well, death itself can be the result of physical causes as well as non-physical causes (soul-loss). Shaman has to retrieve it.
∙ There is also the intrusion of a soul into a person, and the evil soul has to be driven out by the shaman.
Some non-physical causes of sickness and death or primal religions are: We also discuss several other topics like What is the meaning of needs in marketing?
∙ Spirit possession
∙ Intrusion of a diseased spirit
∙ Spirit attack
∙ Violation of taboos
Underlying a lot of the treatments is healing the community because sickness is thought to be a marker of a disunity in the community. It is a sign of imbalance. To cure sickness, balance needs to be restores in their environment and community. Don't forget about the age old question of What is miranda's version of history?
Other characterizations of indigenous religions:
∙ Spiritualization od the world in which human beings exist
∙ Belief in the connections between visible and invisible worlds ∙ Humans beings are not separate from the natural world
∙ Other worlds are accessible to human beings
∙ Religion serves society
In primal religions, the understanding of the soul is very different. Concept of a soul is usually understood as a single undying essence of one person.
Characteristics of souls in indigenous traditions If you want to learn more check out Who are barak, lipson, and lerman?
∙ There may be many souls associated with a person
∙ Souls are mobile and somewhat material
∙ Soul is not necessarily eternal
∙ Reincarnation of dead through grandchildren, but some aspect remains as an ancestor
∙ Life is like the cycle of wind blowing up the mountain, where the dead are buried, and back down to the valley where the children are born. ∙ “Death makes life precious.”
∙ Each death represents the death of The Dorgan- the dead as one person is the death of the community. Whole community needs to come together to be healed.
∙ Dance every 12 years that transforms the dead into an ancestor ∙ Bush represents spirit power and the unknown
∙ Masked dancers are the ones who are mediating the spirit power and bringing it into the village to create healing
∙ Really important to recognize that each group has its own traditions; there is no uniform system that applies to all African religions,
The Yom bay of Northern Zambia
∙ The birth of a child is not the birth of a person
∙ Pointing to the difference between biological existence and social existence
∙ Child become person through rituals that introduce it to the community ∙ Infant that dies before the social rituals are disposed of without social recognition of a person
∙ Birth and death are social constructions
∙ The womb is called the house, and a grave is also called a house ∙ Rituals accompany birth.
∙ Father takes baby to the direction of the community and tells ancestors of its birth, purifies it with water and smoke, and carries it out into the community
New birth is just…another birth. How do we separate it from the jumble of life death and birth that is going on all the time?
Every 2 seconds, 3 people die. Lots more are born. So how do we make one life meaningful? And why is it important that this one life be meaningful to its parents. Because that is how they live. It had to be meaningful otherwise no one will care for it and it will die.
Same thing goes for human beings as people. If we are not regarded as important to one another, we will not survive.
Now how do we make this life meaningful? They announce it in the papers, they name it, they celebrate. All of this is kind of a ritual. Meaning and significance created through social relationship. Naming is important. The group has a name, country has a name, person has a name. in some communities, the name is so important, that they don’t use it to refer to the person because it is so scared. This is one of the crucial ways in which we bring something into social relationship with you. Would you eat a chicken that you named? No. because as soon as you name it, it enters a social relationship with you.
What about before conception? What makes a person a person upon conception? Do I exist in a couple of places (sperm and egg)?
To understand our end, we need to find our beginning.
Think of a table. Where is the very first moment of its beginning. Was is when the final leg was nailed on, when the top was sanded? Or was it when the carpenter has the idea to build it? Or when the person cut down the tree, or when the seed was planted to grow the tree?
Tibetan Religion By cremating the bodies, they return back to the basic elements. It cleansed by fire and reduces to ashes. They are then taken to flow down the river. They dissolve to become one ocean.
Understanding Death: Chapter 3 (Death in the Ancient World)
∙ Some scholars date the earliest between 30,00 and 50,000 years ago ∙ Something were found with the graves suggesting that they were being “sent along” with the dead
∙ Pollen surrounding the graves of Neanderthals suggests that the practice of leaving flowers on the dead’s grave is an ancient practice
∙ Emphasis on ritual surrounding death
∙ Believed that life could be renewed as an eternal blessing ∙ Person was a complex combination of 4 materials: physical body with a focus on the heart, souls called ba and ka, the name of the person, and the shade or shadow
∙ Sah: transfiguration through rituals and mummification for eternal life ∙ Attempted to preserve the heart
∙ After death, the ka continues to live in the mummified body ∙ Statues were also resting placed for the ka
∙ Name signifies uniqueness and individuality
∙ Shadow follows the person after death and protects them from harm and remains near the tomb and body
∙ Body was regarded as the home, and should then be preserved for all of eternity
∙ This is done through mummification of embalming
∙ Skin of male mummies were painted red and female yellow ∙ Most important part was the opening of the mouth
∙ Pyramid texts suggest 3 possible fates for the soul of the ruler: to live eternally with the Gods of the stars, to live with the sun god, or live in the underworld with the god of the dead: Osiris
∙ Coffins texts emphasize life with the god of the underworld ∙ The Book of the Dead: has an emphasis on judgement and mortality ∙ The person’s heart would be weighed on a scale against the feather of
truth. If the god of truth made it equally light, the person would be welcomed in the heaven of Osiris. But if the person’s heart was heavy with sin, the soul would be eaten by the “eater of the dead” Ammit.
∙ Much more pessimistic regard of fate
∙ Mesopotamian gods were petty and more concerned with their own affairs ∙ Humans were made to serve the gods
∙ There is no salvation
∙ Death is built into humans by the Gods for their own purposes ∙ Death rituals were driven by fear and appeasement for the gods ∙ It was the responsibility of the family to appease the spirit of the dead
∙ Zoroastrianism became prominent under the rulers of the Persian empire
∙ Belief in the supremacy of one lord, Ahura Mazda, they also believe in his brother, Angra Mainyu
∙ Human choices bring them under dominion of one or the other ∙ Death is not considered natural but brought to the world by the evil twin ∙ Fravashi: spirit that serves as a moral guide
∙ Upon death Fravashi departs to live in the celestial realm
∙ Good souls get to cross over the bridge to heaven with ease and meets a young lady, bad souls cross over a razor thin bridge over the fires of Hell and are met by an ugly old hag
∙ Hamestagan: when good and bad deeds are equal, the soul will go here where it experiences neither happiness nor sadness
∙ Bodies are disposed of in barren, rocky place where they feed the vultures ∙ Later the bleached bones would be buried to await the resurrection