PSY 802 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Banana, Christian Mortalism, Egyptian Pyramids

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PSY802 - Class Notes - CHAPTER 1
THE CHALLENGE OF DEATH
Lecture Topics
Death: A Taboo Topic
Historical Views of Death
The History of Hospice Palliative Care
Why Education in Thanatology is Needed
Death: A Taboo Topic
Why do you think death is a taboo subject?
Death over Dinner
Death: A Taboo Topic
Present generation has become deconditioned to the idea of death (Carr, 2006)
A century ago, common for 3 or 4 generations to live together. Firsthand experience with death would have
been normal
Children would have joined their parents in the “death watch” at grandpa’s bedside.
Death: A Taboo Topic
Percentage of deaths in Institutional Settings:
By 1949 – 50 %
By 1959 - 61%
By 1979 – 70%
Present – estimated 80%
Hiding death from the living
Thanatology
The scientific study of the area of death, dying and bereavement
A History of the Portrayal of Death
The Ancient Perspective
Early literature suggests death is not a natural outcome of life, but a curse imposed on humankind by a vengeful
power in retribution for humankind’s wrong doing
Origins of death and suffering - Bible’s book of Genesis, story of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve
Perfect place to live – but one stricture imposed: they should not eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
Eve tempted by the Devil, ate the fruit, induced Adam to do the same
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God punished them – driving them out of the Garden of Eden. They would be masters, but they would also
know death
Origin of Death
Sir James Frazer’s Classification, collected stories from throughout the British Empire and devised 4 general
classifications
a) The Two Messengers: Two (animal) messages are carried from the supreme being to humankind. One of
eternal life and one of death. The message of death is received
b) The Waxing and Waning Moon: Moon regularly seems to disappear and then return. This lead to the idea
that people lived, died, and then lived again. But in some way people lost the ability to return
Origin of Death
c) The Serpent and His Cast Skin: God Hated snakes - sent a messenger to tell people to shed their skins in
renewal and so live eternally. The messenger was also directed to tell snakes to shed their and die. The
messenger, however, made and error and reversed the messages.
d) The Banana Tree: People asked God for something other than what has been given to them (change of
food, Celebes version). God let down a stone on a rope. The people protested and next God let down a
banana on a rope. In punishment for their demands they will be like the banana tree and die after they have
produced their own fruit.
Life After Death
Ancient Egyptians (circa 2500 B.C.E): Individuals have at least 4 types of souls, which would live on in
various ways after death. The Egyptian Pyramids demonstrate belief in immortality.
Death not an end but a transition to another place
Ancient Greeks: regarded death as a passage into an afterlife (Homer in the Odyssey, 1000 B.C.E; Plato
the Republic, 370 B.C.E)
Both Christianity and Islam see death as an ending of life on earth; life is eternal after death
Life after Death
Heaven: seen as a post-death place of perfection and happiness; the house of God (or gods) and other
spiritual beings
Hell: The abode of condemned souls (and devils in some religions); the place of eternal punishment for the
wicked after death. Hell is ruled by Satan
Purgatory: According to Catholicism, purgatory a space between heaven and hell. A temporary place of
souls who are destined for heaven but not yet ready
Heaven is understood to be the highest good attainable for humans, hell is the most punitive
Classification of Philippe Aries
Philippe Ariès: society’s view of death was organized around individual’s self-awareness, defense of society against
the death, the belief in an afterlife, and existence of evil
a) The Tame Death
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b) The Death of the Self
c) Remote and Imminent Death
d) The Death of the Other
e) The Invisible Death
The Tame Death (500-1100AD)
Death is familiar and a public event
Death is seen as an uncontrolled force that threatens society and which society must defend itself against
Elaborate ceremonies are performed at the time of death to express this apprehension (final ceremony often
one of celebration). Pray so that the dead rest in peace, and also so that they do not haunt the living
Poor buried in common grave and the rich in churches. Cemeteries are seen as common places
Halloween: to tame the dead society makes rules that the dead can return only on certain days.
The Death of the Self (1100-1600)
Emphasis on the last judgment became more important and death now treated as an event (soul’s fate was
decided)
The identity of the individual remained distinct after death, and the dead were seen as still living on in an
afterlife
Dead are “living” in some fashion in the afterlife – heaven, hell, limbo
Remote and Imminent Death (1600-1800)
The Age of Reason (emphasis on rational thought of emotion) – was in full swing, yet death was
increasingly portrayed as savage, even sexual
Death was viewed with a mixture of horror and fascination as pain and pleasure intermingled
Fascination with cadavers. Eroticization of death as people keep parts of the dead (e.g. heart or hair)
A dark specific universal fear – being buried alive
Cemeteries are moved out of town – no longer seen as public places
The Death of the Other
Focus on relationships broken by death. Focus is on the pain of separation from the dead loved one, as well
as a longing for death which will bring reunion.
Around the 19th century a person’s own death was no longer seen as evil but as a state to be desired, as it
meant reunion with the decreased
Death is natural and beautiful and a release from pain. Afterlife does not involve suffering
Death was not seen as wild and savage
Dead are “pseudo” living – may haunt places. Rise in spiritualism
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