In my last entry in the religion series, the conclusion was reached that life after death was a universal belief because we were unable to resolve the conflict between two realities – the existence of self and the death of self. As both were accepted as absolutes, a third reconciling ‘truth’ had to be that there was life after death. This conflict needs to be faced and not rationalized.
Physical death of all life need not be dwelled on. It is obvious.
But what of the self or, as it is more commonly thought of, as the soul? The general view is that we have an inner permanence that is somehow independent of the physical body.
We can approach the question of permanence of self by examining the experience of life that has already occurred. We need to examine our relationship with and understanding of our past surroundings, especially our past social surroundings. Recalling experiences from early childhood, later childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, mid life, etc., one sees that, at these different times of life, there were entirely different perspectives. There has been no permanence yet we are willing to project a permanence into eternity.
Is it one of these past selves -- childhood or peak adulthood, the one to be projected forever? Or is it our ‘self’ at the time of death that is to be forever so? Is a child who dies always to remain a child? Is an adult who becomes demented in his final years always to remain so?
Not much thought is commonly given to these questions. The reason is that the belief is fragile and easily upset by too many questions. I recall my father saying that he expected to meet his father in heaven and that his father would be just as he remembered him. This would mean that my father would remain forever young and his father forever old. That would be great for my father but my grandfather would likely not prefer to be forever old!
I think that you can see from this line of reasoning that the reality of some fixed self is a fiction.
So is it then that our existences are nothing more than what we experience in the here and now and that all of our efforts are but ripples in a bucket of water? What is the alternative to the comforting belief of the everlasting soul?
This I will address in my next entry.