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RELI 2732 Study Guide - Final Guide: Sheol

Course Code
RELI 2732
Angela Sumegi
Study Guide

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RELI2732: Death and the Afterlife
Lecture 1: January 8, 2015
-Death is not something we usually think about/notice unless we or someone we know
are personally involved
-Also take note in natural disasters, wars, and death of public figures
-How much time can you devote to thinking about those things?
-What is death? Where do we go? What is life?
-Love, death and life are hard to define
-Dead body shows no inner being/personality
-Death can seem irrational and meaningless
-“Life is characterized by transformation, death is the greatest change in our life.”
-Death is usually associated with sadness, mourning, sorrow, and grief
-Loss of a loved one, no more communication, mourning the end
-Funerals reaffirm continuity
-Ancestors live in the memories of descendants
Lecture 2: January 15, 2015
-NDE= Near Death Experience
-Do NDE constitute life after death?
-Biological or psychological approach
An emotional response to the shock and trauma of death
Fantasy and wish fulfillment in the face of the horror of death;
Mythological archetypes buried in the brain that surface under extraordinary
Metabolic disturbance – imbalance in the body’s biochemical processes
Drug overload , of anesthesia, for example, during surgery
Endorphins - tranquillizing substance released by the brain
Limbic lobe seizure – temporary seizure of a part of the brain that affects
emotions, sensations, and memory.
Visual cortex hyperactivity , which explains the sensation of a bright light
approached through darkness or a dark tunnel
-Cannot completely account for experiences, what is consciousness?
-Number of states of living that mimic death; coma, hibernating, meditating
-At what point does dying become death: Breath and heartbeat (what about open heart
Unreceptivity and unresponsiveness
No movement or breathing
No reflexes
Flat electroencephalogram
Robert Veatch in Death, Dying and the Biological Revolution

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What is Death? General Definition:
Death means a complete change in the status of a living entity characterized by the
irreversible loss of those characteristics that are essentially significant to it.
-What is essentially significant to life?
Robert Veatch suggest four possible criteria for defining death:
Death can be defined by the irreversible loss of:
The flow of vital fluids.
The Soul from the Body
The Capacity for Bodily Integration
The Capacity for Social Interaction
-We bring concepts to death from life
-Stories, traditions, myths from religions to explain death and afterlife
-Material body is only one aspect of a person
Shakespeare - Hamlet III, i
To die, to sleep -
To sleep - perchance to dream:
ay, there’s the rub, for in that sleep
of death what dreams may come...
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
Some non-physical causes of sickness and death in primal religions are:
Spirit possession
Intrusion of a disease spirit
Spirit attack
Violation of taboos
Other characteristics of indigenous religions
Spiritualization of the world in which human beings exist.
Belief in the connections between visible and invisible worlds
Human beings not separate from the natural world
Other worlds are accessible to humans
Religion serves society
Not all traditions or beliefs are found throughout all African religions, or Native
religions etc.
Soul characteristics of indigenous traditions
There can be many souls associated with a person
The soul is mobile and somewhat material
The soul is not necessarily eternal
Soul can be present in a descendant (you can have the soul of your ancestor)

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Birth and Death among
the Yombe of Northern Zambia
George C. Bond in Living with Spirits: Death and Afterlife in African Religions.
The birth of a child is not the birth of a person
Social meaning i.e. personhood is given through ritual
An infant that dies before the social rituals are done is disposed of without social
recognition as a person
Birth and death are social constructions
The womb is a house and the grave is also a house
-Why is birth/life special? Survival value (if the birth was meaningless, nobody would
take care of it, baby would not survive)
-How do we express a life is meaningful? Name it, birth rituals, social relationship
-If a baby is born after 20 weeks gestation, at a certain weight, must have funeral/social
-Do we exist before conception
Death and Afterlife among the Warao Indians of Venezuela
Warao = boat people; wa = dugout canoe
The corpse is buried in a dugout canoe that represents the womb of the goddess of
the forest
Universe divided into deities of the world of Light and the world of Darkness
Food for the spirits of the world of light consists of flour, honey and tobacco
Food for the spirits of the underworld consists of human flesh and blood
The light-shaman deals with fertility and the spirits of light
The dark-shaman is responsible for supplying the souls that feed the spirits of the
The dark shaman is necessary because the primordial connection between the
living and the dead was broken.
According to the Warao, if the dark shaman did not nourish the spirits of the dead,
the world would come to an end.
An immortal afterlife in the heaven of the gods is guaranteed only to shamans and
master craftsmen—the boat-builders, basket-weavers and hammock-makers.
The deaths of ordinary people and especially children provide food for the spirits
of the underworld.
Death rituals of the Gurung of Nepal
In order for the deceased to reach the land of the dead the mother’s side of the
family must offer a white shroud for the death rituals
The shroud represents harmony between the two sides of the family, which
represents harmony between the living and the dead.
The actions of a pigeon represent the soul’s last goodbye to the family.
The shaman guides the soul to the land of the dead, the entrance to which is at a
specific place in the local geography. All the landmarks are familiar to the people.
Lecture 3: January 22, 2015
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