The Last Judgement, Godzilla and Deep Impact

(Many of these essays here on this web-site are intended for our post_Christian agnostic, skeptical, humanitarian-believing brothers and sisters, who have had little knowledge, if any, of the fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church.)

I believe many people see the Last Judgment as some kind of disaster movie where Our Lord appears as some great giant Godzilla-like or comet-like approaching figure bringing with His presence great physical disasters, disasters which may presage the coming. There are many disaster movies, but which end with man very much immersed in the same sins and life-styles as before the disaster. Man does not change much through suffering disasters.

At the Last Judgment it could well be quite the opposite: time and space of our universe stops instantly. The dead arise instantly. And all see at the same time, in the very front of each and every one of our consciousnesses, Our Lord, present to our eyes with a reality never seen before – a reality unavoidable. One’s eyes have nowhere to look, neither up nor down, nor sideways, but only gazing at the face of Our Lord and His wounds. There is nowhere to go, for there is no time and space in which to go to or to turn to. Eternity, Our Lord’s eyes and wounds are immediately present to all. The old world is gone.

The Judgment takes place instantly through the gaze of Our Lord’s eyes. There are only one of two responses to that gaze: of love or of hate. For those who hate, Our Lord said they would wish for the mountains to fall on them, because there is no way to escape from the eyes of Our Lord. We know in His life on earth, Our Lord’s relationships with us drew no intermediary responses: He was either loved or hated. There was no indifference of men to Him. He spoke by command and instruction and testing questions. There were no conversations and there will be no conversations in the Last Judgment, no appeals, for we will have judged ourselves by our response to His gaze and to His wounds which we each have caused.

In one instant, our hearts may reach out in sorrowing love for Him, sorrow for hurting Him so much for our sins; or sorrow for the horror of our rejection and the deliberate ignoring of Him and the consequences that brings. Those eyes of Our Lord are the eyes of Judgment. Instantly we see through His eyes the state of our souls and our hearts, our life, our works. No words need be spoken. Those eyes in the very front of our consciousness are the Judgment itself.

For those who love Him, in that one instant our purgatorial fire of sorrowing love is measured not in years but in the intensity of that love. We humans measure time in purgatory by being trapped into using time and space to explain events in eternity which has no time. So, the “time” between the Particular Judgment at death and the Last Judgment may be instantaneous – the only measure being the intensity of that loving sorrow for Our Lord.

And in the next instant, there is a new universe created for us, with a new kind of time and space and dimensions, with new kinds of bodies, impassible in time and space, perhaps even different times and spaces for everyone to live eternally. “There are many mansions” Our Lord said which are prepared for His followers. Endless bliss – a bliss proportioned to each – is promised for those who love Our Lord, even to the weakest of those who love Him.

The hope for many, who are ignorant or complacent regarding Our Lord and the Last Judgment, is commanded by Our Lady of Fatima that we pray after each Rosary decade: “Save us from the fires of hell and lead ALL SOULS to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.”

Covid-19 and the Prospect of Death

(Many of these essays here on this web-site are intended for our post_Christian agnostic, skeptical, humanitarian-believing brothers and sisters, who have had little knowledge, if any, of the fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church. Yet, much of the underpinning of these thoughts are just the common sense philosophical pretty-strong arguments of non-Christian, pre-Christian Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the widely-held beliefs of mankind over millennia.)

Covid-19 – we all are getting quite unsettled by it. Thoughts of one’s demise arise more frequently than in the past, even though we shrug off the prospect of Death and say: “Gotta go sometime,” the idea of Death stays just underneath our consciousness like a bad smell.

Well, Death is a horrible prospect no matter what way one looks at it! I do not, definitely not, want to die, and nobody else wants to die as well. Death is an awesome fact of life. It is the end of life, my life, my whole series of prospects, adventures, relationships, hobbies, everyday awareness of things as they are. Death is the end. The End.

Death is the most unnatural event, most ghastly thing that is going to happen to everyone born on earth. Yes, animals die, but they don’t know it. To us human beings, it is a confrontation of something not right. Death is not right. There is something wrong with life, existence, if we have to die! I mean, what is the meaning of life if we have to die. Eventually, there is nothing left of us in this world which will remain. Our works, our achievements, our families, even our grave stones will disappear eventually. Nothing remains. Death takes it all.

Or does it?

The fact of Death raises two possibilties: either we human beings are constituted of purely material objects, or we have a soul, an essential constituent, which exists after Death.

The first possibility, that we are purely material beings, is pretty stupid, really. Matter does not look at itself, chemicals don’t stand outside themselves and think. Pure materialism is just outrageously stupid. It is obvious that no matter how much we explain our functioning in material terms, it is the very fact of our standing outside ourselves explaining material causes which is contradictory. What is the thing which stands out, which sees the picture, the logic, the whole rather than the material parts? It ain’t matter!

Just suppose we are nothing but material processes, then there is no meaning to anything, there is no meaning to a bunch of protons and electrons, no matter how complex they are assembled. “Meaning” is something beyond the parts: and that is the constituent element of a human being which allows us to give meaning to anything and it can’t be material. So there is a constituent element of being a human being called the “soul” for want of a better word. I hate using the word “spiritual”. Too many silly connotations with that word. Even the word “soul” has too many silly connotations. But we have to use such words but try to be as accurate in our use of them as is possible.

So, to the second possibility: we have a soul, an essential part of being a human being. And when we die the soul continues to exist. This is not rocket science: for ever since man has been earth mankind has and will always believe in life after death, some kind of personal existence. That is just common sense. Almost all believe in life after death, one big reason being the need for justice after death, some kind of ordering of the good and the bad, some kind of punishment and reward. Otherwise, if there is no justice then there is no good or bad, no consequences for the evil man who may be full of hate and kill millions of people but is kind to dogs and small children, and dies peacefully in his bed.

However, there are many, many beliefs about what constitutes this kind of “soul” existence as there are cultures and individuals on earth: from the idea that this soul transmigrates to another plane of physical existence in another material being, to the idea of a “ghost-like” being that is just like a physical human being without the “physical” body.

So, let’s examine the idea of the “soul”. It is a principle of life which gives order and direction to the physical elements of a body. In a human being, this “soul” is self-aware to the point of being aware of its being self-aware – our soul looks onto itself’s own self-awareness, and one can conceptualise an infinite number of steps of being aware of self to aware of self on to infinity. So, the meaning of the soul is to end in some kind of being in touch with the infinite – a huge jump from being just a functioning material being, fulfilling its normal physical requirements. Whatever happens after Death, this “soul” is still aware. And therefore our life is not completed at death.

Sure, we can no longer call the soul a human being: it’s not, it is missing a body. What a huge wrench, a huge divorce of two elements which makes us human. That is what makes Death horrible, unnatural. It stops the fulfilment of being complete: of reaching the truth, of achieving the highest dreams we can think of, because without a body, the soul after death is not complete either. Mr John Doe is no longer, even though his soul lives on. His soul is not a human being!

What is worse is that this soul has no longer a body to inform it of the senses which it requires to operate: no touch, no sensation, no physical world to respond to, to interreact with. It lies open to whatever constitutes the non-material universe, of which we know very little. And since it is sense data which gives the soul options to choose one thing over another, the will is probably fixed after death. The will needs data to choose options. A mystery is that one cannot know whether the will or orientation of a person’s soul to reality after death can change. The same with understanding: does the soul understand the state it is in? Is it aware of things in the physical world? The soul will still be “individuated”, that is, it is different from anyone else’s soul, because it’s understanding and memory and habits of thought have been imprinted on it by it’s body all its existence.

All the above discussion is pretty much basic Aristotlean philosophy. It is fairly minimalist. Aristotle worked with a scientific mind from first principles and made no assumptions beyond the limits of reasoning. The Catholic Church’s teaching about the soul are pretty much the same as Aristotle. The above fits with common sense reasoning without being sensationalist.

But where philosophy ends, religious beliefs begin.

The big questions are about the soul and God, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Since we live in a post-Christian world many people choose to minimise the role of all of these beliefs. They have heard about Jesus and love and mercy, about heaven being the reward for good people. They believe that most people are “good”. They are also infected with the Enlightenment belief that we are all born “good” and that good and evil actions are only really caused by social and economic factors. So, when we die we have this vague belief in some kind of justice for the really “bad” but the rest of us get to some happy place called “heaven”. Furthermore, many believe that the soul then flies around like a happy bird, somewhat similar to the beliefs of New Age spirituality: Eastern religious beliefs without the uncomfortable other beliefs of Hinduism or Buddhism. Those religions have their heavens and hells as well as Christians.

And the idea of “heaven” is quite vague in many minds. “Heaven” is where we have a good time, pursuing our pleasures, or being born higher up with the gods, or losing one’s self in the eternal Buddha of nothingness, or a place where one meets up with all those other “good” people – our family. In many ways, post-Christian belief in a heavenly life after death is similar to pagan beliefs: a place of comfort for the good, contentment, happiness. And so did the ancient Greeks and Romans and other cultures believe that the good rested well in Elysium wandering peacefully among the dead.

The Christian idea of Heaven is totally different from all of these. It is quite confrontational! Heaven is the one to one personal, ecstatic, vision of the very heart of God – the face to face loving relationship with Jesus, Creator of the Universe. Only those who are perfect in holiness are able to enter this state of being.

So, contemporary post-Christians are unsettled by the thought of Death, yet ignore the consequences of belief in the nature of the after-life of the soul. Well, it is very unsettling to realise that the soul after Death is open to the spiritual world, without the veil of the body. That means that the soul is open to the effects on it of all the spirits, good and bad. But more than that, the soul is open to the presence of God, and that means Judgment: is my soul “good” in God’s eyes? What we believe to be the average “good” person may well be not enough in God’s judgment. After all, the First Commandment is that one should have no other God’s than Me, in other words, the main goodness God is looking for is loving piety and humility. Does this soul have the habit and thought processes of piety, worship, and loving complete humble surrender to God, with no hint of that inner rebelliousness every human is born with. Didn’t Jesus say that the first commandment is to love God with all one’s might, strength, heart, soul, etc. Those are the qualities of a “good” person, nothing to do with being measured by what is meant by “good” in this world!

So, when a person dies, the soul is immediately judged according to the first commandment. Without love of God, the soul cannot enter heaven. It can’t change its mind.

I can imagine the kind of conversation a typical modern “good” person’s soul might have with God at Death: “I have done lots of good things in my life: looked after the sick, the poor and been kind to everyone.”

And God’s reply: “But I have called you to pray to Me, to lift up your heart to Me, to find Me in your local church, many times in your life, and you have rejected those calls in the hope that this shopping list of good works is a suitable substitution for loving Me. I am your Creator and you have consistently refused Me because in your heart of hearts you are a rebel saying ‘I will not serve’. And even those good works which you have done, were at My initiation and direction. It is the return of love in your heart for Me which I desire and died for on the Cross.”

However, many of us will die in that “grey” area of loving God but not wholeheartedly. Of dying in sorrow for one’s incomplete love of God, yet willingly surrendering oneself to God and joyful at seeing Him at last. And this kind of soul will fly towards Him in increasingly loving joy and sorrow, burning up with incomplete fulfillment of love, yet secure in knowing that soon it will possess the fullness of that union with Him.

Otherwise… Let us not contemplate the alternative possibility.

So, Death is indeed an awesome prospect and one’s life ought to be oriented to that fact, to be in a position of hope that one’s will is not so rebellious, that one’s life is directed to being open to God. That is why Catholics ceaselessly pray that Our Lady intercedes for us “now and at the moment of our Death”.

Why “at the moment”? Because that moment is when the soul comes under attack by the enemy, either by keeping it complacent in its self-sufficiency, or tempting it to hopelessness. All the wiles of the enemy are brought to bear at that moment of Death. Catholics are taught to pray for “final perseverance” and to have a “holy death”, and to receive the Last Rites by a priest, so as to dispel all and every attack by the enemy.

The finest final act is for one, at the moment of Death, to lovingly offer one’s death with God’s death on the Cross, as a loving, willing sacrifice for others, to the point that one willingly accepts even greater pains to unite oneself with Him.

So, Death loses its sting. It is defeated and becomes a source of victory. It is to be looked at as a final gateway of one’s life, the race which has been won for us. We cross the finishing line into the “humble triumph” of the Cross and the Resurrection of the Dead.

Covid-19 then is a call to prepare for and to welcome Death.

The Fall of Mankind

Our First Ancestors – Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve – our first ancestors, generators of all mankind, the pair, wonders of the Universe!

We cannot understand ourselves without knowing our nature, and we cannot know our nature as human beings without knowing our genesis. We are all children of Adam and Eve. We carry within ourselves their nature. They generate to us through time what it is to be a human being.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.”

And it was so.

The Image of God
Adam and Eve were made in the image of God. Not just an animal, a living, breathing thing – but in the image of God: a self-conscious, self-reflective being, a being capable of understanding truth, free to choose among the good things presented to him. Being an animal, transmission of reality is borne through the senses, but being in the image of God, their intellects are in union with the essence of all things sensed. Fundamentally truth-seekers, knowers of the Universe of things. Their intellects go out to all things and unite with them. That is what we are made for: to know truth, to know God, to know what is good, what is the higher good and the lower good and to choose from them.

A little like angels. But angels see the essence of things directly; Adam and Eve indirectly through his senses. Angels live outside of time; but our parents live and us within time.

In the Image of God, Adam and Eve were created with an inbuilt need to direct each everyday act towards God – to love and serve God. The intellect of Adam and Eve demands that they know the Truth – God Himself. Their wills demand that they will, love, and desire, heart and soul, God Himself: that Adam and Eve need the full vision of God to be completely happy and fulfilled as a person.

The fundamental relationship between Man and God is an absolute ingredient, essential to the whole nature of what it is to be a Man. Man is created as a being, a thing, which needs to be in a total relationship with God – a marriage, if you will. Just as the soul and body are constituents of a human being – marriage partners – so also is it necessary, for man to be wholly man, for man to be with God.

This of course means that after the Fall there is no such thing as a fully natural Man. A truly constituent Man is one with God. Without God Man falls apart and becomes disintegrated.

So, they were given great gifts in order to fulfil Man’s nature: God gave them the special gifts of Himself. Firstly, God gave the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of God in their hearts, souls and to the very depths of their being.

Secondly, God gave them the gift of infused knowledge of God and nature – angelic knowledge. They had no limitations to their knowledge of things. Their intellects were clear, super-intelligent, knowing the inner essence of each thing directly without analysis – infused knowledge. Thus they knew God, knowing God not just through the senses but by infused knowledge. God talked to them directly. There was no doubt in them as to whom they were with. No doubt either in them over their closeness to God.

Infused knowledge meant that Adam knew an animal or plant in its very essence, as an angel knows. This means that Adam knew not only the parts of things by sense observation, but also, the whole inner essence directly. Each and every cause of each thing. Adam really knew – became one with everything. Adam could sense each animal and plant in depth.

Thirdly, they were given the gifts of immortality and impassability. Adam was immortal. Death had no claim on him. So, although other living creatures died, Adam enjoyed the fruits of immortality – no disease, no weakness, no anguish, no fear, no clashing instincts, no unruly desires, no shame. The gift of impassability meant that Adam could not suffer any injury – nothing could pass into him. Therefore, heaven was present on earth.

Adam and Eve were truly innocent. They experienced no shame, no remorse, no lack of control over their bodies. What they willed to do they did. No unruly passions. Their passions matched the demands of reason and will. They were like children, totally trusting in God.

All these gifts made Adam and Eve the perfect human beings – the Lord and Lady of the Universe!! Lordship over all the material world. With Lordship came real Power.

The Rule and Power of Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were created as the center of the Universe: the link between the material universe and the world of spirits. This means they were given the rule, as Lord and Master of the material Universe: which means the earth is the centre of the material Universe. Regardless of one’s ideas of galaxies and theories of the expanding universe: the earth, Adam and Eve’s progeny, are the Lords of all the worlds in time and space. There are no “aliens”. No matter how far we explore the material universe, we will find no other living things, which do not come under the rule of Adam.

Adam and Eve are given the right and the power to rule over all living things.

“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.”

Adam and Eve, before the Fall, had real, effective power over all living things. This means that they had the summation of all the instincts of the animal world – as Lord and Lady. They knew living things in a depth greater than any scientist, not only how they lived but also they had the power to control them. For instance, we, even today, observe animals’ awareness of the subtle changes to the environment, to atmosphere, to evil events, to threats, etc. Adam and Eve could control animals by their very presence, their knowingness of them. At the very beginning, Adam named the animals and by virtue of naming them became their Lord.

Indeed, the lion and lamb could sleep at his side. No animal would worry them. Adam and Eve were actually the mightiest – the most powerful and knowledgeable of all of mankind who have ever lived on earth!

How small, ignorant and ignoble we have become!

The Unselfconscious Adam and Eve

Because of all these gifts of God to Adam and Eve, there was no need for them to analyse reality. Reality was a given. There was no “science”, no Adamic “investigation” into reality. No self-consciousness examination of cause and effect. No questioning of reality.

So, if we could see Adam and Eve then, we would be stunned and shamed at a sight of such truly magnificent creatures: a presence emanating from them that would stun us with our own lowness. We would bow down to the ground in their presence: the King and Queen of Humanity.

And they would be shocked at the existence of us miserable examples of humanity.


The Fall

The Fall of Adam and Eve is the first of the two greatest event in the history of mankind. It is not to be put aside by supposed scientific examination. The event cannot be examined neither by science nor historical research. But the Fall is absolutely evident in our own natures: we know that something has gone wrong!

What went wrong was the Fall!

Adam and Eve rejected walking and living with God. They chose to become as gods – to seek knowledge, knowledge of good and evil, to examine “why?” and “why not?” The temptation was to disobey God in order to know “what if?” To become as gods meant for Adam and Eve to stand back from themselves and to try seeing alternative options, one option being to take and eat the apple.

The evil entered them before eating the apple – the choice was already made: to be as gods. The serpent, Satan, assisted the process, by giving them the option.

To disobey God meant rejecting all the gifts. To choose to be gods was to choose the pride of life: this garden is mine; this knowledge I have been given is mine; I own it all. This all is mine. The great decision to stand apart from God created a division in Man’s nature: fundamentally he will now become “unnatural”!

In an instant Adam and Eve lost the gifts: they lost the indwelling of God in their hearts in rejecting God. They turned from the love of God and in doing so rejected His gifts.

They lost the gift of infused knowledge – knowledge now would have to be worked out through analysis, deduction, abstraction. But they would have retained the memory of all that they previously knew. Thus there would now be a degenerating knowledge of Man about Nature as time progressed.

They lost the gift of immortality and impassability. They would die. They could be injured.

And the consequence of mortality is that heaven is lost. No man nor women would enter heaven. The very nature of Man is to be in the Image of God. Our nature is to live forever with God as physical beings in paradise. Death is the result of the disjoint reality of Man divorced from God. The afterlife would now be a place without the presence of God. Death and an afterlife without God are totally Unnatural to Man. Hell, Hades, Sheol, are all terms describing the “unnatural” end of Man’s life. Every man feels this loss, this challenge of Death – the loss of one’s body – totally depressing, and an end where one’s soul is divorced from the body to wander in the shades for eternity.

And they lost their innocence. They knew shame. Suddenly both Adam and Eve were aware of their lack of control over their bodies: the flesh warring against the soul. Only the Love of God indwelling in them could keep their being integrated. Without that indwelling of God the will is at war with the body. What they will not to do, they do; what they will to do they do not! Lust in all its aspects – thirsting for sex, power, possessions – is at war with their wills. The sexual passions run riot through their bodies – their bodies visibly demanding satisfaction. All a great visible shame. Their bodies had to be covered.

Personal sin now enters the life of every man: not only the Original Divorce from Heaven brought about by the transmission of Adam to his progeny, but also the prideful rebellion of each man’s heart against God: the aggregation of little to big transgressions of the will against what is good, and each one’s willingness against Nature, God and His goodness demanding Just deserts.

They lost also their Lordship of the visible World: now dominated by disunity and discord, death and disease. Satan now becomes the Prince of this world, rather than Adam and Eve in unity with the Holy Angels in Heaven. Nature is now divorced from mankind. Animals will now bite and threaten. Even the very course of the stars and planets and interaction with the earth now are out of kilter. The harmony of the earth and the universe is now disrupted by earthquakes, and violent storms from which we would have been protected. The Nature of the Material Universe now heads downwards.

The biological decay of the Universe affects us right down to the microscopic core: viruses multiply; cell divisions cease without reason; or cancerously multiply; and cells start dying without known biological triggers. The Lord of the Garden of Eden, is exiled into a world of dying and death.

The Effect on Mankind and History
From now on all men inherit all the inabilities, the disjointedness, the lack of integrity, of Adam and Eve. Man is disjoint with the Universe and Nature. Man is now fully open to all the snares Satan and his minions lay before such weaklings! There is no Progress now, but a Great Fall Down through Time of Mankind. Knowledge of God slowly weakens until, as thousands of years go by, man even questions the existence of God. Knowledge of spiritual realities becomes muddied, superstition grows, scepticism grows, and the universal feeling of alienation becomes the ground of people’s existence. Hopeless.

Since we all have to suffer the discomforts of tiredness, ignorance, disease and eventually die, technology and religion now become the marks of mankind on earth. Technology – the making of things, of wheels, of fire, of an infinite variety of implements, of roads and cities, means of transport. All to lessen the impact of approaching death, to mark time! to make some kind of contentment until death.

Religions are founded to assuage the onset of misfortune on earth and to ease the prospect of death. All die knowing there will be reward and punishment for the unavoidable evils we cause in our lives. Justice hangs like a sword above our heads. Death and the afterlife threaten. Mankind sacrifices to the gods to make up for the underlying evil in our hearts.

Mankind progresses in technology, while trying to avoid the inevitable. And the progress of technology, the ever-growing complexities of social, political and economic global life, cushions Mankind from the inevitable, and indeed makes Man even forget the inevitable, until Man turns his back on Death, pretends that it does not exist, or has little import.

And Nature? Nature falls with Man. Over time all the species of the earth will gradually die away. The Gardener has lost his way.

The Future
Without the grace of God, Mankind will make greater and greater civilisations, exceedingly complex, world-binding, soul-binding. Mankind will become as little spoilt children teased with the promise of endless pleasures, and obedient to vindictive Masters given over to the Prince of this World.

The Afterlife: Heaven, Hell or other?

Our Modern Age seems to have a very vague sense of the afterlife: most of us definitely do not want to even think about it. When we do, it is when someone close to us dies, a friend dies, a child dies … and we hear vague statements about the deceased somehow in some way surviving in some kind of afterlife.

It doesn’t really matter that we see ourselves as atheists, but more probably, agnostics – God doesn’t come into it. We still have this “hope” that something of ourselves survives death: as a soul, as a bird, as a star, part of a rainbow, a something more than a memory, a sort of angel or fairy thingey.

Those intimations are indeed from the vast store of mankind’s beliefs since time began! Every race, religion, tribe, clan, kingdom, civilisation, believed in some kind of afterlife, even the caveman. One of the oldest remains of the most ancient grave sites of pre-historic man had grave goods as part of his and her burial – goods to accompany the dead on their journey to the afterlife.

There are common strands in mankind’s beliefs about the afterlife: a place of punishment and reward, a land of shadows, where there is some connexion between the living and the dead, some kind of journey takes place, and there is final destination determined by one’s actions while alive.

This place of the afterlife is called by many names: Hades to the Greeks and Romans, Sheol to the Jews, and the names of the various “heavens” and “hells” in Buddhism and Hinduism, “happy hunting grounds” of the North American Indians, the home of the ancestors in very many cultures, etc. In both China and Japan there is a very deep connexion between the ancestors and one’s family. Traditional beliefs entailed the idea that there remains some kind of real connexion between the living and the dead.

As an aside here: Buddhism has become an alternative belief for many non-religious Moderns – quiet meditation, a take-it-or-leave-it disciplined way of life, a set of non-threatening moral commands, and an end in eternal bliss. Yet how disturbing it is to see paintings in Thailand of the tortures in the Buddhist Hell – the absolute horrors of the damned – those who break the traditional natural laws common to mankind. And then to look back and examine the very real strictures of traditional Buddhism in contrast to the cafeteria Buddhism of Moderns.

Together with these common traditional beliefs about the afterlife, is the common need by the traditional bereaved to help the dead on their journey by prayers and grave gifts for sustenance for the trip. Traditional rituals also made the very necessary sacrifice of an animal or precious thing to mollify the spirits in charge of the departed.

It is natural to mankind to believe in an afterlife of some kind. Modern confusion comes from the decline of Christianity in the Western world, the separation of modern people from their traditional cultures which gave a secure understanding of death and the afterlife, and the growth of religious agnosticism, which has cast modern man adrift at the very time in his life when he confronts the “fact” of death.

What happens is that the death event calls up one’s own standing to one’s religious beliefs – guilt generally – a determined running away from anything resembling “superstition” (after all, we are progressive, scientific people), but then the need also to handle the huge impact death has on our lives.

After all, the fact of death is the most confronting, truly terrible event in our lives. There is no avoiding the fact. This fear of “nothingness” or the fear of the totally unknown experience or the fear of losing one’s body is truly a terrible event. Even to those who believe in an afterlife: death is the tearing of one’s body away from the person. “I, the me, the identity, may indeed survive, but there is no way that whatever comes next, will ever be the same, without my body, the physical expression of what makes me a human being!” Such grief there is in the prospect of one’s own death or that of a loved one. One will never be in that experienced relationship ever … ever again. What a loss!

“Heaven”?
And so, we mix up a whole vague set of ideas to make us comfortable. Some vague sense of Heaven is mentioned. We need to feel that our loved one is happy in some way, and so we talk about “heaven”. But what or where is “heaven”.

Traditional non-Christian heaven is totally unlike Christian heaven. The trouble is that modern man mixes up the bits of the Christian heaven with bits of the old heavens of the past. So, lets get things straightened out!

Yes, indeed, in the non-Christian traditional heaven,a good person who dies, an innocent child who dies, may indeed go to a place of happiness – a happiness of light and beauty, a gentle refreshment of “heart” and soul. The person is rewarded by the demands of justice riding through the universe that good shall be rewarded and evil punished. There is no escaping the demands of justice, otherwise life on earth is totally meaningless: anyone can do anything evil they like and get away with it at death! Those agnostics who thirst for justice in the modern progressive thrust of political debate, who are the first to speak out about the obvious injustices of this world, must then by logic demand that justice be done, otherwise their words are just pointless! And so, nature demands justice! it is part of our DNA. If not in this life then in the next, Justice will come: the good are rewarded and the evil are punished.

Justice demands punishment, the “law of Karma” or the Natural Law, or the “Tao” of the East, is written in our conscience, governs the universe, nature demands reward and punishment. Those who need punishment are sent further “down” the levels of a Hades or Sheol; those who are the just are sent further “up”.

Where does the idea of forgiveness, and softness regarding death?

We all fail by the demands of Justice. The traditional “heaven” looks to be filled only with the souls of the very young and the souls of the few “just” men and women.

And so, we mix in Christian belief in the forgiveness of sins (from out of thin air!), and the old traditional belief of heaven, leaving a vague sense of everything being all right after all – no need for sorrow except for the personal loss of relationship, and a vague hope that we will see or be with our loved one again in some way or another.

The Christian heaven is totally beyond such naturalistic traditional beliefs. The Christian belief is that we are called to be perfect, to be with God Himself, to become God-like, to share the vision of the intensity of the love of Almighty God, God about Whom it is said: “To see God is to die!” – a vision so beyond imagining. More frightening than Death itself! More frightening if not for Love itself. If we are not perfect and full of Love when we die, we, if willing, will be made lovingly perfect – a very, very painful but loving process for most of us. And finally, we will have our bodies back, glorified, “super-bodies” physically and joyfully, ecstatically, in touch with our loving families, and friends.

The Christian heaven is nothing like the traditional belief in some “heavenly” after-life. No place of relative peace and happiness, of those demeaning images of playing harps, but a thrusting into a full personal facing-up to and with God Himself. And the so-called “forgiveness of sins” that we so magically call up to comfort us at the thought of death, comes at a price! Justice dying at the hands of Injustice for Mercy’s sake: a price we are all called to pay.

So, us Moderns scramble around avoiding the confrontation which death brings concomitant with religious belief. We end up “celebrating” the life of the deceased, but not giving them what they may desperately need – prayers to help them on their way. To pray for them and to make sacrifices, would entail belief in some kind of invisible authority above us. Even many Christian funeral rituals have mainly succumbed to the modern need to celebrate a life rather than to mollify the guardians of the souls.

To avoid such religious complications, we mix in a little reincarnation here or a little New Age Spiritualism here: the deceased becomes a bird, a fairy, a sparkling thought, and maybe even a little angel. But real connexion? We avoid the very real connexion with the deceased soul, spirit, a real being – good or bad – who we may pray to (to talk entreatingly with), who may pray for us, may hear our prayers, and may silently be present in our daily lives. Traditional beliefs firm up these connexions.

But we Moderns honour them with a photo as a reminder to ourselves, but avoid their presence in our continuing lives just at the time when we most desperately need them, in case that entails the supposed “silliness” of ghosts, goblins, and “spirits”.

For all others, except us Moderns, the whole event of death and the process afterwards is accompanied with age-old ritual which encompasses the whole nature of man and the very general sensible beliefs about the afterlife and death. It is still of great comfort to the dead to visit the grave site and lay flowers, gifts of life, not just as a memory, but a real reaching out to the dead – “I am here, dear. I am with you. Pray for me.”

And so sad this all is – this Modernity, this creeping atheism, a world of nothingness, of nothing good nor evil. If the traditional belief in an afterlife is true – that there is some real justice in the Universe; that there is some final meaning somewhere – then many of us Moderns who die are drastically missing out on the prayers and the sacrifices which are needed to accompany us and to sustain us after death.

Thankfully there are many still who offer those prayers and sacrifices for us all, including the Moderns.