Live to Die

Spring 1993

 

Death is Near

            Death is something we can not escape from.  Death to some is the end and others the beginning.  To some it is a goal and others it’s avoided at all cost.  I believe that when you die your spirit goes where ever you expect it to.  Kind of like a dream.  You are in control of your life before and after your death.  Some people believe they will go to a nice place, some people think they will go to a bad place.  There might be people that believe their spirit will go into a tree or animal, and that’s where it is going.  It’s a wonderful thought that we are in control of what happens to us after we die.  It’s also a nice but scary thought that we are in control of our lives while still alive.

 

How I Came to Feel This Way About Death

            It took me some years to figure out this “control over life after death” theory of mine.  I’m still thinking it through and have left my mind open for other theories.  I came to this conclusion through observation of my friends and other people around me as well as an inner intuition.  The beginning of my concept on death started on a farm in eastern Washington in about 1973.  I was five years old and ready to absorb all things around me with an open mind.  My parents were hippies and were very liberal.  They allowed me and my brothers to develop our own views and tried not to impose any one view as being the right one.  I think it was important to them that we develop our own views.  I think it was important to them that we develop our own views.  As you could guess there was no forced Sunday school or any other forced spiritual teachings.  My learning happened mostly outside.  I remember one day that I witnessed death first hand and even participated in the event.  One cold December morning my dad said it was time to butcher some of our chickens.  I didn’t know what he meant by “butcher”, but I soon found out that it meant kill.  He took me out to the chicken house through the fresh snow.  I made fun foot prints as we neared the coop.  I took a seat on the fence and watched my dad prepare to butcher the chickens.  He reached in the coup and created a large commotion of flapping and feather flying.  He pulled out a chicken by its skinny legs.  It was Flash!  Flash was one of my brother chickens.  We named all the big roosters after cool guys from TV.  My dad put Flash’s little chicken neck on the chopping block and with a swift thrust of his hatchet he cut off Flash’s head.  Then he threw Flash to the side in the snow.  Flash soon became motionless.  I told my dad I was going to go inside and watch cartoons.  He continued on with his task of killing our chickens, and I started thinking about what happens to livings things once they die.  When ever we would eat chicken I would ask “Is this Flash?”  I guess I realized that Flash had a purpose in life.  His purpose was to live and die so our family could eat him. 

            My other experiences with death were with cats.  Our neighbor had a couple cats which were capable of breeding high number of kittens.  Mr. Bradkaus could not afford to have any more cats, and the humane society was a foreign word to this German immigrant.  Whenever they would give birth Mr. Bradkaus would have a kitten death day.  I would sometimes be present when he would do these mass killings.  The same day that the mother cat would give birth, Mr. Bradkaus would get a bucket of warm water and hold each kitten under until it was as lifeless as Flash the chicken.  I think it is very traumatic for a five year old to witness life and death in the same day.  It did help expedite the process in which I was to learn about life and death.  I learned that life can be short and you must make the most out the time you are here.  I also learned how easily living things can be killed.  I thought to my self “I hope I never become too expensive to feed.  It would be easy for somebody to hold me under water or cut my head off too.”

            One thing that I learned as a boy on that farm was that animals had no spirits.  They were too stupid to have spirits.  They had no emotions and were incapable of thinking about what they were going to do after they died.  As I grew older I began to realize that we do have spirits.  I believed in thins such as ghosts.  I believed that ghosts were once real people that died and didn’t know were to go or what to do once they died.  I still believe that people who don’t know what they want to do after death will roam about trying to figure out what they never figured out when they were here.

 

Why my Concept is Important to Me

            This concept of death has helped me to realize my stay on earth is limited.  I should strive to do everything I can do while here on earth.  I think that once I die I will be at rest.  Therefore I must do all I can do and try and live a life full of things that make me happy.  Sounds selfish, but it’s not.  If helping other people makes me happy then that’s what I should do.  If jumping from a bridge makes me happy then I should do that.  There are limits to doing things that make you happy.  If what you do harms others than it’s not making them happy and if everyone is doing things to make others unhappy so much energy will be wasted fighting off these people making life unhappy that you will have no energy to make your self happy.  So, I try and do things that benefit me, but don’t harm others.

 

How my Concepts Translate Into Psychology

            According to Binswanger’s Modes of Existence.  I would say I have a simple, positive, and open world design.  My view on life and death is very similar to Heideggers.  After reading the section on Existential psychology I learned that I am an existentialist, but I can relate to most of what it’s all about.  I believe that humans possess free will and are responsible for their actions.  I try and lead an authentic life and think that all people should aspire to lead more authentic lives.  I believe that human nature is neutral and we choose to be good or bad.  Live life to its fullest and do whatever you choose to do before and after you die.

 

Look More

            I intend to look into the subject of the possibilities of life after death and read into what other people have found out on the subject.  I am interested in what Swedenborg has to say about life after death.  I also want to look into what Christians say about what they think happens after death.  I also want to look into what Christians say about what they think happens after death.  I am also interested in reincarnation.  I intend to research all of the above. 

 

Near Death Experiences

            I think that there is such a thing as a near death experience, and there have been enough recounts by people who have experienced these that are hard to say that they don’t exist.  These near death experiences all have some aspects in common.  The people who have experienced NDE’s claim to have had some or one of the following: an overwhelming feeling of peace and well-being; an out-of-body experience; a sensation of floating through darkness or a tunnel; meeting spirits, dead relatives, and religious figures; an encounter with a presence or a brilliant light; a feeling of being in a realm of ethereal beauty; a life review; and a sense of reaching a limit in which the person feels he or she can not or should not go past.(1985, p.21)

 

Is This Grounds for Life After Death?

            No way.  Some people life to use this as an argument for life after death.  When people are in a corner and don’t know what to say when confronted with the statement of-there is no life after death?  They say “Oh yea, well what about all the near death experiences that people have?”  I read an article in The Journal For Near-Death Studies that gave reasons why near death experiences are not proof of the after life.  I found this article in the Spring 1985, Vol. 5, No. 1 of the for mentioned journal.  I found these articles in the Spring experiences are not proof of the after life.  I found this article by using CD ROM in the Hamilton Library.  I started my search in the PsycLIT data base using the words: life after death.  I was flooded with entries so I tried the words future life.  I found an abstract from the Journal For Near-Death Studies and was interested in what it had to say about NDE’s.  I went to the Journal call number book and couldn’t find a call number for the Journal I was looking for.  I asked the reference desk person to help me and they found my call number on the computer that was on their desk.  I’m not sure if they were in UHCARL or not, but they found the call number and I wrote it down.  I went to the second floor and found the journal where it was supposed to be.  The call number is BF 789 D4 A52 V.5 1985-87.  This Journal falls into the Psychology category.  Maybe it might be considered parapsychology.  I think the authors’ views are impartial due to his stance on the subject.  I selected this Journal article because it sounded like a new view point and I wanted to find out why the author felt that NDE’s were not proof of life after death.

 

Reasons For The NDE

            The reasons for NDE’s are a mystery to us, but there are some ideas of why they occur.  The survivelist explanation of the out of body experience is that the persons experience is due to memories, educated guesses, and perceptions made in a semiconscious state.  One argument is that the person visualizes the information and doesn’t really “see” anything at all (1985, p. 22).

            I think the near death experience is as real as a dream.  A NDE is your final dream.  It’s kind of a conclusion to your life or a summary.  Another reason I feel like the NDE is merely a final dream is that when people recall what they had experienced the story stays close to the individuals’ religion and culture.  Erlendur Haraldsson and Karlis Osis did a cross-cultural study of NDEs and found that Hindus spoke of seeing temples; Yamadoors saw messengers of Yama; and Christians saw white pearly gates, angels, and Christ (1978, pp. 39,64).  This all relates to my earlier thought that people are in control of what happens to them.

 

After Death?

            The topic of life after death is a topic that has intrigued me since childhood.  I have always wondered what happens after death.  I remember asking this question to the adults around me as I grew up.  I was usually hushed with the answer of; “You will become one with God” or “If you are a good person you will go to heaven and if you are a bad one then you will be sent off to hell.”  I guess that simple answer was sufficient for a five year old.  Now I want to know about what exactly I have in store when I die.  I want proof that that’s what will happen to me.  I want to know exactly what I can expect upon arrival to Hell or Heaven.  It’s difficult to find people around me that can answer my new questions.  I’m so fortunate to be at the University of Hawaii where Dr. Jakobovits teaches.  Dr. Jakobovits has lead me to the man with the answers.  The first day of class

Dr. Jakobovits mentioned a man by the name of Swedenborg.  With this assignment I have been given a reason to read more about what Mr. Swedenborg found out about the after life.

 

The Presence of Other Words

            The first book I checked out was a book about Swedenborg’s psychological and spiritual findings.  The book was entitled The Presence of Other Worlds.  I found it in the UH Hamilton library under the call number BX 8748 V3.  The author of this book is Milew W. Van Dusen.  In order to find this book I used the UH CARL system.  I did a name search on Swedenborg and came up with 33 items.  I looked throughout the 33 items and found this book was not checked out.  I went to the second floor and found the book where it was supposed to be.  I was very interested in Swedenborg’s views on the after life and thought that his view would be worth looking into.  The author of this book is a clinical psychologist with a interest in maintaining a unity with science and religion.  I trust the material he has written, but I don’t think he is writing the book from an objective point of view.  He writes this book from a large amount of research done on Swedenborg.  If we had to put this author into a class of ism’s, he would fall into either Anti-Aristotelianism or maybe even Existentialism.  From this book I got a better look at some of Swedenborg’s views on the after life. 

 

Don’t Believe The Hype

            When you die, that’s it.  You die.  Dead.  Nothing follows.  This is what I believe sometimes.  It sure is an easy answer to a hard question.  It’s not a very comforting answer, but it is one that is accepted by a number of people in this world.  Swedenborg says these people will be bouncing on their heads in heaven and doing things backward.  If that’s the case I might be one of those people.  Swedenborg says they will be riding backwards on horses, but I think that is out dated.  I will be ridding my motorcycle backwards.  Who knows maybe by the time I die I will see it in a different light.  Maybe by the end of this paper I will be turned around.

 

Death and Mysteries

            One book that was helpful in confusing me even further was a book titled Death And Its Mysteries.  On page 154 the author introduced me to materialism.  Materialism recognizes that man is different from other living species because of his highly developed brain (p. 154 Lepp).  Materialists believe that when man dies his mind dies as well.  ?They say; man must be content on the fact that they were contributing factors to society and that they are making room for future generations (p. 131).  The author doesn’t agree with the materialist point of view, but he presents it to the reader as what other people believe.  The author is a Duelist.

             I found this book in the Hamilton Library by using the UHCARL system.  I did a word search on “Death”, then added “after” to my search.  I came up with a list of thirty or so books under “after life”.  I wrote down the call number and found the book on the second floor of the library.  The Library of Congress call number is BF789.D4L43.  Lepp is a psychologist who felt that he could shed some light on the mystery of death.  He researched the topic and found out a vast amount of information and transcribed into a book.  I trust his research and value his opinion on death.  Lepp helped to shed some light on the mystery of what happens after we die.  I selected this book because it had a section in it on reincarnation that I wanted to make reference to in my paper.  In the beginning of this paper I mentioned my feelings on animals and what happened to them after they die.  I still don’t think animals have spirits.  So the people at the humane society that put all those animals to sleep shouldn’t have to worry about bad Karma.

Materialism Too Much?

            How about reincarnation?  I think reincarnation falls between materialism and the traditional Christian view of death.  Okay, so if there is a spirit and you believe that your mind and body are two separate entities, then what happens to the spirit when you die?  Another option that is given by Lepp is the idea of reincarnation.  The spirit doesn’t die, it gets recycled.  I like this idea better than the idea of no spirit at all.  The author says that he believes the spirit can go into other forms such as animal or vegetation (p.168).  The fact that humans have only been here a short while up a question.  Were souls created when man was created?  Animal must have should too.  Swedenborg said that when animals die they cease to exist.  Dr. Jakobovits broke the bad news to me that there is no dog heaven.  It wasn’t bad news to me, but when I came home and told my twelve year old dog she was just shattered.  This doesn’t go with what heaven is all about according to Swdenborg.  According to Swdenborg we get to be around things we love in heaven.  My grandma considers her cats her children.  She loves them to much that if God deprives her of those in heaven she will not be a happy camper in heaven.

 

I Fought in Vietnam

            As I grew up I tossed the idea of reincarnation around.  Starting at the age of 12, I believed that I was reincarnated from another human.  The human soul that I received lost its body in the Vietnam war.  I really did feel like I acquired my soul from a male soldier killed in action.  What lead mc to believe this even further was the fact that I was horn in 1969 during, some of the heaviest fighting in Vietnam. Maybe that is why I have always had a fascination with being a soldier. You are probably saying to your self, “Yea, that’s why you think you were a soldier in your past life.” If you are going, to ask that question you may as well be asking, “What came first the chicken or the egg?” Maybe my views on reincarnation came from my mother. She believes that after we die we arc sent up to meet with our creator then he sends us hack down to try it again if we need to do it again. I asked her if she believed in hell, and she said she didn’t believe in hell. She said that people have to Jive with the bad things that they have done.  That is the hell they must live in. Her views are similar to Swedenborgs.

 

Loose Ties

What if we die. with too many loose ties?  What I mean by loose ties is to leave. with too many -unresolved problems. Problems that will prevent you from being at rest. when your spirit leaves your body. I now consider myself of a duelist and I believe that the spirit of your body leaves your body when your brain dies. So, what happens to a spirit who is lost? I think there is such a thing as a lost spirit, and when This lost soul is in transition to the other dimension it gets equally lost in which direction to go. This lost soul has a choice between going forward to “Heaven” or going back to the real world. The spirit can not go back to the real

world because it has no more physical body to occupy. I think that the spirit is free to continue onto heaven, but the soul chooses not to. Some of the reasons for the spirit to not want to leave are revealed in a book entitled Reflections on Life After Life.  I found some interesting. material in this book on this subject. The author of this book is Dr. Raymond A. Moody. Jr. Moody hypothesizes that these spirits are unable to surrender their attachment to the physical world due to unsolved problems with loved ones, Moody also suggests that the spirit might be tied to a object or habit (p. 26). Moody interviewed one individual that had been dead for fifteen minutes. This person claims to have seen “bewildered spirits” while on her way upward. She said that these people seemed to not know where they were going, who to follow, or what to look for. She said these spirits seemed crushed and hopeless. She said they were moving, around continuously looking downward as if searching for something. (p. 2.7).

 

Trapped Spirits

            If the spirits who are trapped could somehow get back down to earth to do what ever it is that they have to do then they would. I think that sometimes these spirits escape the confines of the lock down and come back down to earth as ghosts I don’t think too many of the spirits trapped escape, but those that do escape come down and try and take care of unfinished business. If they are satisfied with what had to he changed on earth then they can proceed to a resting place or proceed up to he reassigned to another life. I think most sp are limited to a number of years as escapees. The people. that the spirit knows will eventually die and the spirit will no longer need to settle it on earth.

            I found Reflections on Life After Life in the Hamilton Library by using the UHCARL system I looked under After Death. The book sounded like it would be useful to my paper, so I wrote down the call number. Which is BL535 M66 1977 c.2.  This book helped me by giving me some examples of first hand 

experiences on the transition phase of dieting. The author did extensive research on cases of people who had died and come back to tell about the experience. I trust that he recorded the people’s experiences accurately. I don’t know if I trust what the people were saying because what they were saying could have been clouded with their own pre-conceived ideas of what it would be like in the after life.

 

Primitive Thought on Death

            Death has been a mystery to humans since the beginning of our existence. The concepts of death have changed over time, but some of them still exist today. I was able to find a book with information about the beliefs of our primitive ancestors. The title of the book is Life After Death. I found this book in he UH Hamilton library by using the UHCARL system. I did a word search on the words Life After Death. I came up with a number of interesting topics and found Life After Death I wrote down the call number (BL535 L54 1976) and went to look for it on the second floor. I found the book where it was supposed to be. The author of the section I used is Conic A. Burland. The author is a trusted source and did extensive research on the subject of primitive societies.

            The views of our ancestors are good examples of what my theory of life after death is. The men of the N. American plains believed that they would go to a “happy hunting grounds” where life was pleasant and glorious. The Eskimos believed that the after death life wouldn’t be a very happy place. Most of the primitive cultures believed in spirits and ghosts (pp. 39-45). All of these cultures had a different concept of death. ‘What ever they believed would happen to them would happen to them. As I stated earlier people have free will, and can choose what happens to them after death. If it’s hunting that makes you happy then that’s what you will be doing if you believe in life after death. This is close to what Swedenborg says will happen after you die, Swedenborg says that in heaven we will be doing the things that make us happy. Swedenborg makes more and more sense the further I look into the subject of life after death.

 

Swedenborg In Living Color

            No, not the T.V. show “In Living Color.” As I was doing a search in the UHCARL system I found a Video about Emanuel Swedenborg. The video is titled Swedenborg, The Man Who Had To Know., The call number for this video is VIDEOTAPE 5898. As I was search the 33 listings of my word search on Swedenborg I found this video. It looked interesting and I wanted to find out more about Mr. Swedenborg. The producer of this tape is the Swedenborg Foundation Inc. I think they probably have views that are impartial to what Swedenborg has to say. The video seemed to be based upon what is known of Swedenborg’s life and I trust that the facts are correct. I found this video to be very informing and helpful to my struggle with what happens to us after death of our brain and body. At the begging of my paper I didn’t really have a set theory about life after death. I just took bits and pieces from other peoples thoughts and tried to put together a theory of my own. This video helped me to tie some loose ends on my theory.

 

Conclusion

            I have looked at a number of sources on this subject and found my library research to be a very valuable tool in helping me to deal with my own questions about life after death. Since I started my research I have changed my views on life after death. I now think that there is some sort of other place that your spirit goes. I also think that there is no hell. I now feel that there is no right or wrong answer about what happens to the spirit after death. I still believe that people are in control of what will happen to the spirit in the after life. The research I did also pointed out that I am very influenced by what others around me believe. I learned that most of my concepts on the after life are similar to my mothers. I think that her ideas were made known to me at an early age as a bases for creating my own beliefs. I would recommend that future students be giving an assignment similar to this one, because it forces the student to research a number of sources and broaden horizons This exercise is valuable because of it’s open ended topic selection. Having the topic left open to the student lets that student find a topic that interests him or her, this helps the student develop new ideas on the topic.

            I now feel better about death and not as afraid as I was before I started this paper. I feel more confident about my fate. Death is near, but I’m not scared of it.

 

 

Bibliography

Baum, H.-Kieffer, T. Swedenborg, The Man Who Had To Know, 1987. Video

Burland, Cottie, A, Primitive Societies in Life After Death, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976, pp. 39-53.

Krishnan, V. Near-death experiences: evidence for survival?. Anabiosis, 1985,5, 21-34.

Lepp, I. Death and Its Mysteries, New York: Macmillan, 1968, pp. 166- 185

Moody, Raymond A. Reflections on Life After Life, Harrisburg Pa.: Stockpole Books, 1977, pp.

Van Dusen, Wilson Miles, The Presence of Other Worlds, New York: Harper & Row, 1974, pp. 64-94.

 

 

 

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