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Author Topic: Death Anxieties/Wondering if I keep getting drawn back to paganism for a reason  (Read 5589 times)

Darkhawk

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Quote from: Ghost235;164942
Furthermore, if there is no afterlife than the hundreds or thousands of hours you would spend in all of those systems would be worse than useless as you are wasting the 1,051,200 hours of your life.  


It seems to me that treating a life well-lived as "worse than useless" is a bad gamble; since any plausible afterlife is unknowable that's trading the thing that is actually something one can influence certainly for an utter unverifiable.

I used to have a hobby of arguing with fundamentalist Christians on the internet, the sort of people who thought that "If you're wrong, though, you'll go to Hell!" was a sensible trump card.  And I would reply to them something like, "So, your argument is that I should give up something that helps me take care of myself and my family, better support my community, be a better, saner, and healthier human being, forswear myself and do what you say, on the chance that I might get a better result after I'm dead for choosing a path that increases the amount of suffering in the world, both my own and others'?  I don't like the idea of being that selfish."

The work we do in the world is not some trivial, ignoreable thing.  It's the only thing we know we have, and thus the only thing we can't honorably ignore.  "It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it." --Rabbi Tarfon

Quote
TL; DR:  It is almost a stastic impossibility that anyone will find the one correct way to prepare for and deal with the afterlife.  And that's pretty horrifying if you think about it.

 
It's only horrifying if you think that the afterlife is a hugely important thing.  To me, it's obvious that it isn't, and thus that worrying about it is a catastrophic waste of time and energy better spent on something actually productive.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Ghost235

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Quote from: Darkhawk;164945
It seems to me that treating a life well-lived as "worse than useless" is a bad gamble; since any plausible afterlife is unknowable that's trading the thing that is actually something one can influence certainly for an utter unverifiable.

I used to have a hobby of arguing with fundamentalist Christians on the internet, the sort of people who thought that "If you're wrong, though, you'll go to Hell!" was a sensible trump card.  And I would reply to them something like, "So, your argument is that I should give up something that helps me take care of myself and my family, better support my community, be a better, saner, and healthier human being, forswear myself and do what you say, on the chance that I might get a better result after I'm dead for choosing a path that increases the amount of suffering in the world, both my own and others'?  I don't like the idea of being that selfish."

The work we do in the world is not some trivial, ignoreable thing.  It's the only thing we know we have, and thus the only thing we can't honorably ignore.  "It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it." --Rabbi Tarfon

It's only horrifying if you think that the afterlife is a hugely important thing.  To me, it's obvious that it isn't, and thus that worrying about it is a catastrophic waste of time and energy better spent on something actually productive.


I think that I was not clear and for that I apologize.  What I was referring to was not a life well lived as much as if you pick a particular afterlife support system if there is no afterlife(or the wrong one if you think there is).  

For example.  Let's say that you pick the Tibetan bardo point of view.  I can tell you from personal experience that will take you a few thousand hours(at least) to properly prepare for with the retreats, empowerments, etc.,etc.  The majority of this time isn't really useful for anything else outside of this one project(so it isn't like beginning meditation where if you do it it helps other aspects of your life).  

If the Tibetan bardo point of view is wrong then you are wasting a whole lot of hours that you could spend towards the correct system or(if there is nothing to prepare for) doing things a lot more useful and/or fun(which takes on a whole new level of priority if life is a ticking timer to oblivion).

I'm not saying that life well-lived is a bad gamble.  I'm saying it is a gamble, just like any other position on the matter that we could take.  This is totally unacceptable(to me, at least) as we have to figure it out so we can either get ready for it and not figure out after the fact that we did it wrong.

With that said, I think that we may have to agree to disagree.  I go off of the "what you don't know can hurt you really quite badly for all of time" point of view of the afterlife. You, as you have clearly stated, don't.

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Quote from: Ghost235;164949

I'm not saying that life well-lived is a bad gamble.  I'm saying it is a gamble, just like any other position on the matter that we could take.  

 
But for me living the best life i can for myself and others has nothing to do with the afterlife and whether I'm being good enough or doing the right things to get a good one.

Living the best life I can is about making this world better and fulfilling my potential, it is very much about the here and now, not what comes after. I don't care what comes after
Knowing when to use a shovel is what being a witch is all about. Nanny Ogg, Witches Abroad

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Quote from: Darkhawk;164945

The work we do in the world is not some trivial, ignoreable thing.  It's the only thing we know we have, and thus the only thing we can't honorably ignore.  "It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it." --Rabbi Tarfon


Quote from: Jake_;164951
But for me living the best life i can for myself and others has nothing to do with the afterlife and whether I'm being good enough or doing the right things to get a good one.

Living the best life I can is about making this world better and fulfilling my potential, it is very much about the here and now, not what comes after. I don't care what comes after


These.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Redfaery

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Quote from: Darkhawk;164945
It seems to me that treating a life well-lived as "worse than useless" is a bad gamble; since any plausible afterlife is unknowable that's trading the thing that is actually something one can influence certainly for an utter unverifiable.

....

It's only horrifying if you think that the afterlife is a hugely important thing.  To me, it's obvious that it isn't, and thus that worrying about it is a catastrophic waste of time and energy better spent on something actually productive.

 
Hanging this here, and putting my 2 cents in as a Tendai Buddhist without any noticeable Tantric proclivities.

For me, there *is* no "afterlife." Only a "next life." And I only have limited control over how that will turn out, because I have a lot of karma that's stored up from previous lives. All I can do is be mindful of how I'm living in the present. Mindfulness is very, very important!

I'd actually say that dealing with shit from my previous lives has become more important than worrying what my next life is going to be. And that says a lot, because I don't worry about the shit from my previous lives! I have no control over my next life, but I'm not too worried about it, because I've accumulated a good amount of merit over my lives. I'm not going to be reborn as a hell-dweller or a hungry ghost. :p

It's not an either-or for me. The past is important. The future is important. But NOW is most important.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Tom

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Quote from: Redfaery;164974
I'd actually say that dealing with shit from my previous lives has become more important than worrying what my next life is going to be. And that says a lot, because I don't worry about the shit from my previous lives! I have no control over my next life, but I'm not too worried about it, because I've accumulated a good amount of merit over my lives. I'm not going to be reborn as a hell-dweller or a hungry ghost. :p

 
So how do you know that you indeed have this merit? That it's something that still counts towards lives beyond this one? And it must be terribly nice to not have to worry. Not many of us have that comfort.

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Quote from: Jake_;164951
But for me living the best life i can for myself and others has nothing to do with the afterlife and whether I'm being good enough or doing the right things to get a good one.

Living the best life I can is about making this world better and fulfilling my potential, it is very much about the here and now, not what comes after. I don't care what comes after

 
The original post on this thread sounds to me like a classic description of an existential crisis to me, and the panic attacks and anxiety are both things which I have experienced as well, thinking about existence vs. nonexistence in experiential terms, and the related set of questions (which is huge).

I am a huge fan of Alan Watts, and the way that he tackles this particular set of questions is, to me, extremely compelling.

Firstly, he does not assert the existence of any particular sort of afterlife, but rather, a sort of liberally-applied notion of rebirth. The way that I interpret this in my own belief is less in line with traditional Buddhist views of karmic rebirth, and more to do with what we know of conservation of matter and energy. Your resources, once broken down, will be reused by life, and the dance will continue, regardless of what you do. We know this to be true of the physical world, so if you ascribe to the idea that "That which is Above is as that which is Below," (a particular powerful idea in my own world-view), the same must hold true of the spiritual world. Your spiritual matter will not be naught; it will be transformed. (Part of the reason I love alchemy is because of its emphasis on these various forms of spiritual and mystical transformation.)

Secondly, he speaks of life -- ALL life -- in the same terms. All life is a dance, he says; the recombinant DNA which we wear for our journey is the energy of life, playing out a new tune, like a variation in classical music. We are all one -- we have the same building blocks, the same energy. We share these not only with other human beings, but with the whole world. So then, the question of death is not whether you return to a state of divine oneness that is outside of life, but whether your unique self -- your tune -- is being played right now. If you are alive, it is. If you aren't, it isn't. It's someone else's turn, and that's just how life expresses in our world.

Thirdly, he speaks of birth, to confront the experiential question. What is death "like"? There are few who can relate the tale, and it is reasonable to question their experiences as being highly -- perhaps even absolutely -- subjective. But we were born -- we came from nonlife -- and so we may be able to approximately guess the return journey in the same terms.

As for countering anxieties, I can think of one thing that tends to work well for me on most occasions, and that is to embrace and enact life-affirming and life-positive ideas. In many ways, this is a question of identity: if I see myself as separate from those around me, an autonomous and drifting leaf upon the stream of life, then I am alone, and will be alone, and fear my loneliness, both in life and in death. If I tie up my own identity with my sense of uniqueness, then I am one more voice in the crowds. But if I consider my identity to be tied in to the natural world around me, if I live the cycle of the seasons, if I try to keep my world clean and healthy, if I care for other living beings and hold their life as sacred as my own, then I am not just me -- I am them, too. And if that is the case, then my story does not begin in the mid-80s and end sorta-whenever; it begins 3.5 billion years ago, when the earth was only a casual billion years old. I am not alone at all, but am actually tied in to the vast history of life, of all known organisms, and we all share many common threads.

If I one day pump out a little bundle of joy, then he/she will be the next movement in my ancestral symphony; but even if I do not, I have my own music, now, and am joined in chorus with all that is around me. Who can be in fear when they are sung to sleep, woken with music, and invited to dance all day long? The times when anxiety or depression prevail are simply the times when I have difficulty hearing it, and are most often the result of me being an idiot, sticking my fingers in my ears and going "la la la," because I am just too tired to dance, or because the responsibility of that worldview requires me to do things that, for whatever reason, I don't want to do. As far as how that idea affects what I do now, it has to be a question of what I do with this life, this human incarnation. I can't know where the dance will take me; I can only choose to dance, or not to dance.

To me, that sense of interconnectedness amongst the earth's living creatures, our entire biosphere, and the practices which help the individual tap into those energies and sense of unity are all huge parts of what has drawn me to Paganism, especially Earth-centered and Energy-centered magic. I do not worship any gods or goddesses, but I guess the closest approximation to these ideas and their importance would probably be an idea of Gaia that is stripped of any particular mythology. The mystical practices that interest me are all about drawing myself closer to the source of life -- whatever it may be -- not only so that I can feel connected (which is a nice side effect), but so that I can actually see the truth of the world, and learn the best dance steps for my own tune. I'm not really trying to use magick as a method to achieve specific self-centered goals, but rather, as a spiritual practice that will make me a better person, and hopefully contribute to our shared life story in some meaningful way.

I don't know if any of that helps, but I hope so. I think everyone finds their own answers -- when you find them and know they're yours, that's part of how you know they're the right answers -- and so I can't pretend that my answer will work for you; but it is my experience with the question.
That which is Above is as that which is Below
And that which is Below is as that which is Above.
[/I]

Redfaery

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Quote from: Tom;165031
So how do you know that you indeed have this merit? That it's something that still counts towards lives beyond this one? And it must be terribly nice to not have to worry. Not many of us have that comfort.


I am sorry if I offended you. I used to have a lot of anxiety about what would happen to me after death, but then I became Buddhist, and the teachings helped me a lot. So no, I'm not worried. Is worrying a virtue?
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Redfaery

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Quote from: Redfaery;164974
I have no control over my next life, but I'm not too worried about it, because I've accumulated a good amount of merit over my lives. I'm not going to be reborn as a hell-dweller or a hungry ghost. :p

 
I'm clarifying this statement, because I've just realized how offensive it probably comes across to a lot of people, since I wasn't at all clear in defining the Buddhist concept of "merit," and it thus looks like I'm espousing some sort of Law of Attraction nuage bullshit. I'm not.

What I mean by saying that I've accumulated merit is that...well, you might say my karma is "good." Though as a Buddhist I cringe when I hear people talk about "good" or "bad" karma. Karma is cause and effect. It's neutral. You can have positive or negative karma, but not "good" or "bad."

If you ask me how I know that my karma is "good," I will tell you that I know it's good the same way I know yours is good. We're both human, aren't we? In Buddhism, one must acquire merit to be born as human. This doesn't mean that because you're human, your life is wonderful. In fact, you have to remember that Buddhism 101 is that life ultimately sucks. Being human is fortunate, because we're able to cultivate ourselves spiritually. That's about all there is to it.

As to how one acquires "merit?" That's really, really complicated. Acts of faith always earn one merit. Offerings are described as enormously meritorious. But there's also the merit earned through selflessness and compassion. And one also has to remember that karma plays a role in rebirth - and again, karma is neutral. Karmic ties are the reason dealing with past lives has become so important to me. I've discovered I have bonds to the past in the weirdest places.

For what it's worth - I think everyone here has a lot of merit, just from what I know of y'all. That's not meant to erase any suffering you've experienced, or imply that you're supposed to be 100% happy and carefree, because Buddhism starts from the stance that life basically sucks. Having a lot of merit doesn't mean that you'll be rich or successful. It just means that you'll be able to pursue a path of spiritual fulfillment.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Altair

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Quote from: Aspasia;165051

I am a huge fan of Alan Watts, and the way that he tackles this particular set of questions is, to me, extremely compelling.

Firstly, he does not assert the existence of any particular sort of afterlife, but rather, a sort of liberally-applied notion of rebirth. The way that I interpret this in my own belief is less in line with traditional Buddhist views of karmic rebirth, and more to do with what we know of conservation of matter and energy. Your resources, once broken down, will be reused by life, and the dance will continue, regardless of what you do....

Secondly, he speaks of life -- ALL life -- in the same terms. All life is a dance, he says; the recombinant DNA which we wear for our journey is the energy of life, playing out a new tune, like a variation in classical music. We are all one -- we have the same building blocks, the same energy....

(etc.)


It sounds like I should be reading this Alan Watts. This jibes very closely to my own beliefs, down to using the same metaphors, which inform my mythos.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Aspasia

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Quote from: Altair;165081
It sounds like I should be reading this Alan Watts. This jibes very closely to my own beliefs, down to using the same metaphors, which inform my mythos.


Watts was an Anglican seminarian and later a (self-described) "spiritual entertainer" who combined a lot of Western and Eastern thought in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. He was popular with alternative spiritualists and the counter-culture movement, but I think he had a lot more to offer than some of the other figures of the movement, because he had an academic background, and accordingly, he applied critical thinking and plain old logic to his process. In his lectures, he lays it out pretty simply, in a very Socratic way, so that it's easy to follow him from one point to the next.
 
I haven't actually read anything of his, but have listened to many of his lectures, which I highly recommend. (Something about his conversational, relaxed tone makes the concepts he's discussing seem very simple, and his conclusions blatantly obvious.)

There's a huge collection available at Sounds True, and a lot of clips and lectures available on YouTube as well.
That which is Above is as that which is Below
And that which is Below is as that which is Above.
[/I]

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