Does an afterlife exist?
Yes. And No.
Let’s specify what we mean by life and death first:
Life == The ability to experience, exist, and the ability to act upon those experiences and one’s existence.
Death == The cessation of life.
With that out of the way, we can say for certain that life certainly exists (or does it?). We can even verify that it is very much impermanent, shifting/changing and it is subject to a lot of cause and effect.
Death? Not so much. Obviously it’s a pretty permanent state, no changing it once you’re down (though there are real accounts of people coming back to life after hours of death, we’ll get to this later) and nothing that you can do will really resurrect the dead (for the love of all things good, please stop trying, everyone’s paranoid about zombie outbreaks these days.). That means it really doesn’t exist, right?
A friend of mine pointed out the obvious:
“Death is merely the absence of life.”
What she meant is that for example, “Cold” doesn’t really exist, and neither does “Hot”, there is only “Heat”, which could be measured by the vibrations of every individual particle in an object, eg. More Vibrations, More heat, less vibrations, less heat. We’ve been presented with a Black and White Fallacy when it comes to life and death. There is no life and death the way we understand it currently, only existence, which may increase and decrease at any given time and change according to internal and external factors. Therefore when we die, we only really just change.
Change, in this context, is a very weird thing.
Obviously, the world around us exists, it is whatever is not “us” whatever “us” or “ourselves” mean (We’ll get to that in later chapters.). And remember where I mentioned As Above, So Below? This is where it gets crazy.
“As Above, So Below”, otherwise known as the law of correspondence, states that there is a 1-to-1 correspondence between us, and the world at large. That we, Humans, or any Sentient Being for that matter, are patterned after the universe (or the other way around). This provides us with a symbolic map of our environment/s, useful in making sense out of things we shouldn’t be talking about.
We can say through experience that we have a mind and a body, and since both are impermanent, changing and is subject to cause and effect (we’ll just call them the three characteristics from here on, typing this sh*t is tiring), it is known that both exist in the same way (The mind and mental objects are just as real as physical ones). Radiating from ourselves to the world around us, we can immediately see that there are physical stuff we could move around, change, etc. According to the law of correspondence, there should be something in the outside world analogous to the mind, where mental objects can exist as well, independent of the person thinking the object.
It would imply that there must be a Mindscape or Ethereal realm that would support the existence of mental entities independent of a single mind, a kind of Spirit/Astral world would be a good way to describe it. Does this mean that the just-mentioned a product of our collective minds? Or are the contents of our minds made of the same stuff the Astral world does?
Chicken and Egg, really. I’m tempted to say they were made at the same time.
If we take this analogy further and look for hidden worlds by inferring them from our mind, we can say that there are finer, more ephemeral and ghostly realms in the Astral world the same way there are deeper parts of our mind we have yet to explore, like the Subconscious and the Superconscious (no, it’s not being worried too much if you look awkward. It’s the hypothesized Collective Consciousness linking humanity, and possibly, all sentient creatures, together.).
We keep on peeling through the Onion Layers of our Being, until we reach the sanctum sanctorum of our existence, Our True selves, Our Soul. Let’s define the soul as:
Soul == The Sentient Being’s True Self, the true core of their existence. Is Immortal, Immutable (does not decay/change) and is not affected by the laws of cause and effect.
Our definition as stated above makes the obvious analogy to be who we would normally call God, and we’ll define the term as:
God == Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent Being; Is Eternal, Unchanging and not subject to Causality, but rather, controls it.
The two above, wouldn’t exist the same way the Mind and Body does, because they lack the three characteristics. God doesn’t exist in the way we understand existence.
When we put it all together, we get this:
The Egg of existence
You can take that however you like. Either we are a Creation, or we are the Creator trapped inside his creation.
What people mean when they say matryoshka
Now, to clarify, it might suggest that the Physical world, Astral and the Direct Presence of the BIG GUY are all different places, stacked one on top of each other, but no, it is actually all mish-mashed together in an overlay that would give Adobe PS a run for its money. Same goes for the sentient being. The mind and soul are not necessarily contained within the body and each other like matryoshka dolls.
“That’s all fascinating and good, sir, but WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH DEATH AS CHANGING?!”
We’re getting there.
What I mean when I say matryoshka
As the Human mind is a fragmented beast, filled with contradictions of its own contradictions in more ways than Sunday, it usually dismantles itself and dissolves into the greater Astral environment, analogous to how the physical body decomposes into the earth around it (or gets eaten by worms and birds. I shudder to think what it would look like to eat the remains of someone’s Mind). Whatever parts that are left behind are what we usually call ghosts, which are actually just Mind-Corpses, Shells that have been left behind when the entire article broke. Sometimes they even leave imprints on places and objects, the same way we could leave our mark on a place and or object, or even a life, we might feel their presence long after they’ve left.
The Astral is where everything above, and everything we’ve never seen, or never want to see, are.
If we are to believe the Mages of the past, there are ways to prevent the mental disintegration, when the inevitable surrender of the Physical Body happens, physical death would only be the act of leaving a crumbling shell. It all comes out of a lifetime of training the mind to be a stronger, more unified creature. We’ll get to more of that in later chapters.
“Again, Afterlife, or No? What about reincarnation?”
As mentioned above, normally, people would die, and their mind-bodies would break apart normally. These would then become part of the mind of another creature altogether, the same way the body becomes part of the worms and other carrion that would feast upon your rotting corpses. What kind of creatures receive your “Mind-body parts” would depend on one’s state of mind and their overall mental and emotional health, the same way that the state of your body and the location of your grave/ body would determine the manner of decomposition and carrion that would eat your corpse.
For example, a person with a gigantic amount of misery, regret and guilt would likely to be encountering less than savory characters in the Astral, and knowing how sadistic some of them are, they might entertain themselves with your mind-body for a while before the inevitable CHOMP. Since time gets a bit blurry out in the Astral, the same way we have varying experiences with Subjective Time, it might feel like a literal eternity, a true Hell. A person in love for a long time, died without ever confessing to their sweetheart, would persist for a time, because their mind has hardened up to a certain point because of the passive mental training Love makes a person go through, not likely to encounter nastiness, but I’d still be careful.
So, recap, we’ve got:
* Life and Death are an illusion, only Existence and the changes thereof are there.
* Mental Objects exist as much as Physical objects do.
* There are levels of existence overlaid upon one another, physical and astral/mental.
* Death normally results in the decomposition of the being’s constituent parts, physical and mental, and re-absorption into their respective ecosystems.
* Certain measures can be taken to prevent the disintegration of the mental body, to make them act in unison and prevent them from flying apart the moment their common focal point dissolves (the sentient being, AKA: You).