Death and afterlife

  Reading chapter 7

As it was in the beginning, so it shall be in the end.

In chapter 4, “Continuous Creation”,  we looked at two plausible scientific/mythic explanations for the existence of our cosmos:  the Big Bang and eternal inflation.

Now, in “Death and Afterlife”, we seek yet again to peek behind the curtain.   Process Theology joins Jewish tradition in offering two plausible paradigms.

Death and patterns of energy

A Process perspective on death and afterlife affirms the same speculative metaphysics as all Process insight: we generally think of ourselves as substances, but we are actually organized patterns of energy.

A Process perspective also allows us to formulate a plausible understanding of life in the coming world: we are not substances now in life, and we will not be substances after life ends.  We are patterns of energy now, and it is reasonable to believe that we will continue as patterns of energy in God’s eternity.

Afterlife and the many possibilities

Judaism posits belief in eternal life; but, beyond affirming faith in some form of continuing existence, Jewish wisdom is remarkably open.  Judaism has used terms such as Garden of Eden, Paradise, Hell – as well as olam ha-ba ( the coming world), resurrection, reincarnation, end of days – but has never defined these terms with precision.

From a Process perspective, once our lives are finished and done we will continue to exist – as we have lived – on multiple levels.

One possibility is that death will mark the end of our individual consciousness. Our energy patterns will continue unabated, but there will  be no governing central organization, no self-reflective awareness that continues beyond death.  We may go to sleep as discreet individuals and awaken as the totality of the cosmos.

A second possibility builds on the first, adding the plausible hope that our consciousness and identity will continue unimpaired.  As God is process, and as God is the One who is supremely connected to everything, supremely related, and forgetting nothing, we may remain eternally alive in God’s memory, in God’s thought – which, it turns out, is what we have been all along.  (p. 58-59)


One thought on “Death and afterlife

  1. I used to tell the inmates of my prison “ministry” that Judaism has a very honest answer to “Is there an afterlife.” It is that we don’t know. But we also do not know what it is not. Therefore any belief in the afterlife is an act of faith. Therefore believe in a wholesome after-life, Heaven for example. Believe if you will in the opportunity to relive your life or be reiterated in a future life. Whatever you choose, choose something wholesome. It was my belief that God would give you the afterlife in which you believed.
    I now concur with Rabbi Artson’s conclusions as far as they go. One possibility is that the sould disintegrates and its energy goes back to God. Another is that the soul does not disintegrate but goes back to God with all its wisdom, and becomes part of God’s total consciousness.
    In the abstract I now believe as follows in terms of God the merciful.
    1.One possibility is that there is no afterlife. When you die that’s it. So live your life to the fullest. It may be all that you get. If you have lived a life with in retrospect many regrets or with unforgivable sins, then having no afterlife may be an act of mercy.
    2. As Rabbi Artson suggests, your soul may return to God under God’s eternal protection and be with God where ever
    our ubiquitous God is. If God is everywhere, your spirit will be everywhere.
    3. Your soul returns to God, with all its wisdom and becomes part of God’s overall wisdom and is everywhere.
    4. There is no Heaven or Hell in the afterlife. You make your own Heaven or your own Hell or something in between during your current lifetime. And, if your actions are contrary to God’s commandments or Will, you will face punishment in your lifetime; and if they are consistent most of the time with God’s commandments and Will (love thy neighbor as thyself; do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God) you will be rewarded in your current lifetime. That reward is guaranteed because virtue is its own reward.
    Speaking personally, do yu now believe that you are living right now your afterlife? Is this yur Heaven? Is this your Purgatory, a learning experience designed to help you change your ways? God does not want the death of sinners, only that they change their ways. But what happens when you do not learn the lessons you were sent to learn or do not change your ways?
    And what happens if your inner soul is either dormant or out of control?
    When such thoughts were put into my mind, I became very pessimistic. But at least I have been given surcease, a few more months, hopefully years, of grace to do good in the world, be good to others, and enjoy the process..
    Consider each day as if it were the first day of the rest of your life and as if it were the last day of your life. As our p Jewish prayer says, “Live with hope in your heart and eternity in your thoughts..”

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