Saturday, 20 October 2007

Do We Ever Really Die?

I saw a dead body for the first time when I was 13 years old. The body was that of a boy who was hit by our school bus. My paternal grandfather died of cancer less than two months later. Both experiences brought me face-to-face with what I consider to be humanity's worst enemy: death.

Since then, I have been intrigued by the following question: do we ever really die? I tried to find some solace by turning to the Jerusalem Bible and to other Roman Catholic books. As expected, all the material I found in religious books was based on faith. I felt somewhat comforted by what I read and by the assurances uttered by various priests that no human being really dies; the spirit that resides in every person simply moves to live in another part of the universe, commonly referred to as "the spirit world". When I was still in my early teens, the religious material was enough. During those days, faith in God and in other related matters came easily to me. As time wore on, however, I felt the need for more scientific answers. Putting the religious literature aside, I started hunting books that treated death in a more analytic way.

Nowadays, I have quite a few books about the subject in my library. Many of them were written by internationally-renowned spirit mediums such as James Van Praagh. A number of scientific studies were carried out on various mediums and the results were quite interesting. Sadly, given that death is still widely considered to be an issue that falls within the religious domain, very few scientists have taken the plunge to conduct numerous studies about it.

As far as I am concerned, I must admit that death scares me. There are so many things that I would like to do! The fact that death could strike at any second compels me to believe that there is no time to waste; today could be my last day and I, therefore, have to work as hard as possible to achieve all my goals. Of course, this sort of thinking is the result of my fear that death could be the end. If I were absolutely sure that we do not ever really die, I would feel much more tranquil; I would be able to think that I have the rest of eternity ahead of me in order to make all my dreams come true...

Almost every time I watch the news or read the papers, I come across articles about people who lost their lives in car accidents, wars, and in many other ways. I always wonder about the goals that such individuals had and about how many of their goals they had achieved at the moment of their deaths. It makes me shudder to think that all those people will never be able to continue trying to translate their dreams into realities.

I get the same feeling when watching movies involving the killing of several people. Most individuals might be disturbed by the ways in which the people are murdered, but few seem to think about the implications of every death that is shown. In order to be more specific, I would like to mention Spielberg's Munich. The movie shows how a team of Israeli agents was sent on a mission to assassinate a number of Palestinian individuals who were supposedly responsible for the organisation of various terrorist acts. As each Palestinian was gunned down or blown to pieces, I kept wondering: what about that person's dreams? What about his family and friends? These issues were totally omitted from the movie. I am not saying that I approve the actions of those Palestinians, but I have often believed that murdering a person is not the best way to deal with a terrorist. Sadly, when watching such movies, the "bad guys" tend to be depicted as monsters who have never carried out any good deeds in their lives and who need to be killed in order to build a better world. Seriously, how many war movies are there which present an objective picture of the "evil guys" and which show the grief of their loved ones following their deaths at the hands of the "good guys"?

Back to the main question: do we ever really die? On the basis of what I have read until now, I must say that some of the books that I have read present various interesting points that strongly suggest that no person really dies. Having said this, the fact that so little scientific attention has been devoted to the possibility that human beings are immortal leaves many questions unanswered. Furthermore, it seems that the findings that have been reported so far are not strong enough to reject the possibility of other explanations besides the one that asserts that we never die. Consequently, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in my mind.

I strongly believe that since death affects all people, the scientific community ought to devote more time and energy to discover whether human beings are immortal creatures. I think that if death is currently the end of a person's life, it is fundamental for scientists to work harder on how to make people immortal. And assuming that death is the end, perhaps a time will come when science would also be able to resurrect all the human beings who have ever lived on this planet!!! I know that I am letting my imagination run a bit wild here, but what is there to lose by nurturing such a dream?

Image source:


Glenn Gerald said...

L-ewwel nett, nixtieq nikteb fuq esperjenza tieghi ma medium Malti maghruf. Intqajt mieghu gewwa l-hanut tieghu waqt li kont fuq xoghol, waqaft nitkellem ftit mieghu hdejn il-bitha tieghu, apparti li beda jighd li kien qed jara liz-zijju tieghi li kien ghadu kemm imut f'eta zighra, u kliemu kien konvincenti ghal ahhar, eventwalment bdejt nistaqsih fuq il-hajja wara l-mewt mill-perspettiva tieghu, li jara l-mejtin. Qalli li persuna umana hijja maqsuma fi tlieta, filwaqt li dik ta' l-annimali hijja maqsuma fi tnejn. Qalli li persuna umana hijja maghmulha mill-gisem fiziku, mill-ispirtu w mir-ruh. Il-gisem fiziku, mahluq ghad-dinja materjali, l-ispirtu huwwa dak li jzomna hajjijn kemm fid-dinja materjali kif ukoll wara l-mewt, w ir-ruh hijja dik li wara l-mewt tiddetermina nkunux fil-'genna' jew fl-'infern', naturalment, mhux il-genna tal-vjolini w l-infern tan-nar u l-friket! Imma meta nighdu l-genna qed nighdu stat ta' trankwillita w paci, u meta nighdlu nfern inkunu qed nighdu stat ta' disperazzjoni. Ovvjament l-annimali m'ghandux ir-ruh ghal ragunijiet ovvji, imma skond dan il-medium, l-ispirtu taghhom jibqa ezistenti daqs taghna. Jiena personalment insib li t-'teorija' li tani dan il-medium hijja konvincenti hafna, w irrid naghmilha cara li jien miniex xi tip ta' bniedem li tikkonvincini mix-xejn. Imma, fir-realta`, ghal inqas sa fejn naf jien, l-ebda xjentist ghadu ma sab minn fejn gej il-hsieb, jew x'jixpruna l-bniedem/annimal biex jiccaqlaq. Ghalkemm nerga nighd, lil dan il-medium sibtu konvincenti hafna, xejn ma jista jkun realta` jekk m'hemmx prova xjentifika.

maressa said...

Jien nibza mill mewt tieghi... u aktar u aktar mill-mewt ta nies 'close' hafna tieghi...

kieku t-teorija tal-medium li semma glenn hija vera taghmel kocc sens, ax qisha tigbor fiha kemm il-lat spiritwali ta bniedem, u l-lat xjentifiku ukoll...

David Cuschieri said...

Glenn u Maressa,

Nirringrazzjakom hafna tal-kummenti interessanti taghkom! :)Nittama li jkun hawn aktar nies li jixtiequ jaqsmu xi esperjenzi jew hsibijiet taghhom dwar din it-tema li tolqotna lkoll.

X'tahsbu dwar il-Ouija boards? Jiena ma semmejt xejn dwar l-uzu ta' Ouija boards fl-artiklu tieghi, izda nista' nghid li smajt bosta stejjer li jitolbu studju aktar profond dwar il-"komunikazzjoni" li ssir permezz ta' dawn il-boards.

Jiena ghadni qatt ma mort ghand medium. Biex inkun onest, ghadni ma smajtx b'medium veru tajjeb hawn Malta. Gieli gabu xi nies fuq it-TV, izda zgur li ma tawx it-tip ta' informazzjoni dettaljata li gieli rajt hiereg minn fomm mediums ohrajn fuq il-Living TV, biex insemmi stazzjon li jiffoka hafna attenzjoni fuq x'jigri meta persuna "tmut".

Nemmen li dan is-suggett ghandu jigi analizzat b'mod xjentifiku u mhux permezz ta' ideat religjuzi jew permezz ta' xi hsibijiet superstizzjuzi.

Maressa said...

ouija boards and medium... i'm not planning to even go anywhere near. one, i think i would be afraid, number 2, the ouija board is pretty nasty

Glenn Gerald said...

Mela dejjem nikkwota l-dan il-'medium', jighd li l-ouija board hijja xi haga perikoluza hafna ghaliex fiha inti tkun qed tobbliga spirti jersqu lejk anki jekk dawn ma jkunu 'disposti'. Dan il-'medium' jighd li hu jara l-ispirti b'mod natural, tant li qalli li ghamel zmien minn hajtu jisthi jinhasel u jkollu x'jaqsam seswalment ma mara, ghax kien jara nies ohra jarawh f'mumenti intimi bhal dawn. Jiena personalment kif ghedt insibu konvincenti hafna l-dan il-'medium', jighd ukoll li l-'materja' ta' spirtu hijja hafna irqaq minn duhhan ta' sigarett, minn jaf, forsi xi darba jigu 'vvintati 'cameras' li kapaci jaqbdu 'materja' tant irqia :))!!

David Cuschieri said...

Thanks once again for your input! :) Yes, I have read and thought that if there is such a thing as a "spirit", this should not be seen as something radically different from the earhtly body. I think that it is perfectly possible for the "spirit" to be made up of certain elements that have still not been discovered because we still lack the scientific tools to observe them.

Does anyone have any stories about people who used the Ouija board? I once read an article which said that a group of individuals supposedly managed to contact Adolf Hitler via a Ouija board!! I ask myself: was it real contact or was it all the product of one's mind?

L-Imżebbel said...

To David and Glenn:

There is a lot of scientific evidence that suggests that consciousness is neither produced by the brain nor reside in it.

Personally I don’t trust most mediums as I believe that most of them are frauds, but the results gathered by near death researchers are undeniably positive.

These dazzling cases are very significant to anybody who is interested in the nature of consciousness, which at any rate, is one of the basic foundation stones of plenty of philosophical and religious systems.

If these studies are correct - and I have a certain degree of confidence that they are - they would provide us with a strong scientific reasons to proof materialism as false and our views of terminal death as erroneous.

I have spent over a year and a half examining these studies, and try as I might, after having spent 10 years using the Occam razor, I just couldn’t refute the evidence. One of the most astonishing cases I came across was the near-death experience of the atheist philosopher Sir Alfred J. Ayer, but there many other mind blowing cases that materialist science, particularly neurology, just can’t succeed in explaining away.

For more information about the findings of these studies, I suggest you consult the Journal of Near-Death Studies, or just google Near-Death Studies.

This research led me to discover various other fields of knowledge, previously alien to me, that have suggested me that there’s much more to us than some bigoted materialists are telling us.

Confronted with all this, I had to admit that as regards certain issues I have been wide off the mark all along. Admittedly, my ego had never suffered such a terrible blow, but in the end, Truth is far more important than me being the smartest brainiac around.

And this leads me to the next point that you have raised. Since the Enlightenment, the Western scientific establishment has invested countless cash and energy to acquire the authoritarian status it seems to enjoy nowadays.

In a way this was highly beneficial, especially for our intellectual and material advancement. But instead of doing away with the irrational aspects of spiritually, mainstream scientists deluded themselves into thinking that they could explain the universe by empirical methods alone. Eventually, Continental and Anglo-Saxon philosophy followed suit, resulting in an unbalanced state of affairs in our worldview.

The discovery of quantum mechanics, the advent of Eastern philosophy in the West and the ensuing conception of various integral theories were indeed encouraging events, but I am still not convinced that these revolutions in thought have gained enough momentum to challenge the status quo.

The 60s brought us innovative ways of looking at the world, but sadly, that generation was perhaps too naive to sustain its efforts towards disseminating successfully their new ways of thinking.

Now the scientific establishment is doing anything in its power to suppress anything remotely spiritual to come to the surface, just like The Catholic Inquisition went to great lengths so as to suppress the spread of any scientific or esoteric knowledge. Worse still, the countless atrocities caused by the fundamentalist factions of organized religions are increasingly convincing thinking and secular people that this whole business of religion belongs to crazy terrorists and irrational freaks. I don’t agree with such sweeping statements, but I admit that they do have a point.

And despite the ongoing efforts by plenty of recognized scientists in consciousness and near death studies, I’m afraid that the materialist crusade led by narrow science doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

This is why I often say that there seem to be some striking parallels between organized religions and narrow science. Sadly, the likes of Dawkins, Dennet and Hitchens seem to be more fond of nurturing their supposedly infallible reputation than to provide us with genuine answers to our perennial questions.

But as Kant had put it: Dare To Know, and this is precisely what we should always strive to do if we are really serious about the Socratic maxim of knowing ourselves.