Death and the Afterlife – January 12th
Last class we talked about how ways that Death is defined in modern culture.
Noted that the definitions centered on physical facts of sensation, heartbeat and brain activity.
There is also suggestions that death can be defined as the loss of social interactions….interesting
comment because many people have to deal with the reality that someone they care for is
technically alive, but has absolutely no capacity for any kind of interactions (example someone
living because of a machine)….Slippery slope if we define death as a loss of social interactions.
One of the biggest questions of death in cultures is…what happens afterwards?
In many cultures, people have said that they have had a glimps of time beyond life, place beyond
this place…such reports have aspired belief or disbelief to many people
Professor read the WWI report of Vaughan Henshaw on his near Death Experience
-->This report basically describes that he saw a bright light and that he wanted to enter it to see
what's behind that bright light. But then he comes back down and sees his comrades beside his
body and he is confused that he sees his body…Then all of a sudden, he comes back to life again.
Near death experience-->NDE….now it is also called out of body experience -->OBE
In Tebetin budist literature…it is said that when they are dieing, the person would experience an
intersection between death and life….
Questions that arise:
DO these reported experiences constitute proof of survival after death or life after death?
Is this what happens to all of us when we die?
Perhaps for those who have been profoundly effected and altered by their experience.
Most of the scientific explanations have related to biology, or psychology to describe this….
The theme "return from the dead" seems to be universal across all the cultures. Check out the link
"The day I died" on YOUTUBE.
The scientific definition of death is defined as: the sensation of physical, then presumably mental
processes. But to investigate the phenomenon of death…we have to examine the significant of the
facts to us….what is the significance of the sensation of physical processes? What does death mean
Do all processes that define a person seize at death? This is the question that leads us to consider
the relationship between identity and death. (example the question, who dies?)
When we talk about birth and death…then we can think about the whole notion of dieing as
identifying ones self as something that exists separately…..
The most significant thing lost from death is the ones identity….because it's is the loss of one
identity… If we say the loss of creativity etc…that all comes from separate identity.
What am I, what is my identity? Who is the one who dies?
To understand death, we need to explore the ways we define ourselves…and how that self
definition relates to death…so words like, identity, soul, personality…..these are all concepts that
relate to the question "WHO AM I?" "What is my identity?" "What am I?" or more appropriate to
this course "Who dies?" "Who is the one"
This appears common to all cultures, past and present….All societies and cultures have expressed
their belief that the physical material body is only 1 aspect of a person….TO be a person involves
the immaterial counterpart……this counterpart to the purely physical body (the other non pure is
the non body part)…..we have the purely physical body…whether we call it a person, I, my, soul…….
…..It assumes a relationship of what is purely physical and what is not body…we also call it soul...
So we going to look at the different ways of …..How do different religions define a person in life and
in death….How do different religions understand the physical self, metaphysical self or the soul.
IN THIS COURSE, THE ABOVE LINE IS THE THREAD….AND THE PROF WANTS TO LINK EVERYTHING
When we look at a person and that person is dead….some people say that is "the" person but some
may say…no that is not so and so…that is just body and we are attached to it…we just think about
PROF WILL start by take a look at how small tribal communities define a person….Indiginous, or
SOME GENERAL FEATURES OF PRIMAL RELIGIONS
1. Visible and invisible worlds
2. Body and soul (s)
3. Communication with the spirits
4. Illness and death related to the condition of the soul
So first we going to talk about the duelity of the universe….(2 aspects)
1. Visible: represented by the village
2. Invisible: represented by outside of the village….(the bush etc)….generally there is great spirit
power that breaks into the visible world through animals, creatures etc at certain times….so there
is a sense of the visible and invisible interaction between the 2 worlds
SHAMAN: is a general name that anthropologists give to people (in primal religions) who are
capable of accessing the spirits power of the invisible and mediating between the invisible world
and visible world…The word comes from the name of a ritual specialist of a siberian people…but
not it is used for similar kinds of people in many kinds of people…..Shamanism
Different religions have different names of these shaman type of people….
FOR OUR PURPOSES JUST KNOW THAT SHAMAN IS FOR A PERSON WHO COMMUNICATE WITH
SPIRIT WORLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE COMMUNITY.
The Visible world is this world we live in and the world we perceive with our senses.
The Invisible world would be the world of the spirits which interacts with this world at certain
To talk about the duality of a person…..the person has a duel aspect….material and immaterial
(BODY AND SOUL)
Soul: In primal religions….it is use to describe that invisible aspect of a person….but quite different
from the understanding of soul from western religion traditions (christiananity, islam…)…
THE CONCEPT OF SOUL in the major world religions refers to some entity that is
metaphysical….meaning entirely beyond the physical world….having no physical aspect to it at all
Soul is usually in the western and eastern religious systems understood as: the unitary, eternal,
undying essence of a person….whether we are talking about Christian or Hindu…the concept is of
However when we look at primal religious systems…they speak of many souls associated with one
individual….they have a greater analysis of what this immaterial aspect of a person….Primal
religions speak of the life soul…which is that aspect where if you loose this soul, you will lose your
life…..they also speak of the dream soul…aspect of a person that wonders about in dreams….
shadow soul…wonders about in the grave yard after death….has form and is visible…not entirely
**Many kinds of souls or spirit dimensions, in primal religions, to a person
NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFERENT THAT CONCEPT of SOUL.
The video shown will deal with the concept of 8 spirit dimensions of a person….
REMEMBER THIS: In the video it said….at the beginning of the video…the narrator says….each
death is the death of a dogon and each death is the death of the dogon….what does he mean?
DOGON is the whole community or group seen in the video
So the narrator is relating that for small societies and groups….the importance of the individual is
related to the group….you are who you are according to how you related to the
community…..there is not a strong sense of individualism as experienced in our society…..the death
of the person is felt by the whole village…."the whole village has lost it's way…and the village has
to find it's way back again"
The relationship between death and identity……Identity in small groups (such cultures) is social
and communal not as we regard it as individual.
The coldness of death makes life warm.