Introduction classical point of departure in defining Death seems to be Life itself. Death is perceived either as a cessation of Life - or as a "transit area," on the way to a continuation of Life by other means. While the former presents a disjunction, the latter is a continuum, Death being nothing but a corridor into another plane of existence (the hereafter). A logically more rigorous approach would be to ask "Who Dies" when Death occurs. In other words, the identity of the Dying (it which "commits" Death) is essential in defining Death.
Those of a religious nature would argue that we are far more than that; they would argue that we have a soul. A soul is, for a layperson hard to imagine. How do you describe it? It is not something that we can detect, it is a spiritual thing without any physical substance, and it is this that supposedly lives on after our mortal bodies have died. So where is the soul while we are alive? It can be assumed that it must reside in the brain, as that is where we reside. It can also be assumed that when the brain dies the soul is released. That being the case the soul is able to survive without the need of a body, it is obviously independent of the body. So why does it need a body in the first place? Perhaps it needs a body to develop and is unable to leave it until the body dies.
We can alter our life today simply by learning not to fear death. And by fearing death less we discover that we live life more! Shakespeare comments on this in Julius Caesar:
It seems to me most strange that men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come."
Gladys Hunt, in her book, Don't Be Afraid To Die, says, "Psychiatrists are now saying that death is the most important question of our time and that fear of death festers a variety of psychoses... Some psychiatrists believe a massive panic over death pervades young and old alike in our culture."
What about people who are dying? How does their fear of death limit their remaining months, weeks or days? Does it limit their remaining life experience due to a fear of accelerating their death? Does it distract them from their experience with loved-ones due to a fearful focus on death? And is it possible that our fear of death negatively affects our ability to heal from life- threatening, although not yet terminal, illnesses and conditions? Although we may never know the answers to these questions, there is no question that people's fear of death only adds to there suffering with a multitude of effects.
Facing death is raw and scary both for the person dying and for the loved ones close to the one who is passing on. Relating from the heart as separation nears is profoundly intimate and often terrifying. Some people ask to have no contact with their loved ones as they die because it is too painful to feel the emotional bond or the other person's pain and loss. Likewise, the one(s) being left may also disconnect in order to escape heart or soul wrenching pain.
Psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Moody, in his classic book Life After Life, has pioneered in showing us that consciousness continues after death. His new work, under way, is truly remarkable. His subjects sit in a dimly lit room, focusing relaxed concentration on a mirror slightly above them (so they won't see their reflection). Eighty percent of the time, they are able to perceive those on the other side. Remarkably, some of the experimenters have witnessed those from the other side, the dear departed, actually step forward from the mirror! (This was a personal communication).
All the prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless. The very fact that all the prophets of God have dealt with this metaphysical question of life after death so confidently and so uniformly - the gap between their ages being thousands of years - goes to prove that the source of their knowledge of life after death as proclaimed by them all, was the same, i.e., Divine revelation. We also know that these prophets of God were greatly opposed by their people, mainly on the issue of life after death as their people thought it impossible. But in spite of opposition the prophets won so many sincere followers.
The question arises: what made those followers forsake the established beliefs, traditions and customs of their forefathers notwithstanding the risk of being totally alienated from their own community? The simple answer is: they made use of their faculties of mind and heart and realized the truth. Did they realize the truth through perceptual consciousness? Not so, as perceptual experience of life after death is impossible. Actually God has given man besides perceptual consciousness, rational, aesthetic and moral consciousness too. It is this consciousness that guides man regarding realities that cannot be verified through sensory data. That is why all the prophets of God while calling people to believe in God and life after death, appeal to the aesthetic, and moral and rational consciousness of man. For example, when the idolaters of Makkah denied even the possibility of life after death, the Quran exposed the weakness of their stand by advancing very logical and rational arguments in support of it:
And he makes comparisons for us, and forgets his own (origin and) Creation: he says, 'Who can give life to (dry) bones and decomposed ones (at that)?' Say, 'He will give them life who created them for the first time! For He fully knows all! - The same who produces for you fire out of the green tree, when behold! Ye kindle therewith (your own fires)! Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like thereof?' - Yea, indeed! For He is the Creator Supreme, of skill and knowledge (infinite)!" (Quran: 78)
Belief in life after death is a source of personal security, optimism, and spiritual betterment (1 John 3:2). Nothing offers more courage than the confidence that there is a better life for those who use the present to prepare for eternity. Belief in the unlimited opportunities of eternity has enabled many to make the ultimate sacrifice of their own life in behalf of those they love. It was His belief in life after death that enabled Jesus to say, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26). It is the same truth that prompted Christian martyr Jim Elliot, who was killed in 1956 by the Auca Indians, to say, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
While some believe it's impossible to know whether there is life after death, belief in immortality is a timeless phenomenon. From the pyramids of the Egyptians to the reincarnation of New Age thinking, people of all times and places in history have believed that the human soul survives death. If there is no consciousness or laughter or regret beyond the grave, then life has fooled almost everyone from the Pharaohs of Egypt to Jesus of Nazareth.
It would be difficult to believe that life is good if we knew there was nothing beyond the grave to compensate for problems of inequality and unfairness. While some people seem destined for happiness, others are born into terrible relationships and circumstances. If we could be sure there was nothing to offset unequal distribution of suffering, many would have reason to curse the day of their birth for the way life has treated them (Job 3:1-3). We could agree with King Solomon who at a low point in his life said, "I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed -- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors -- and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, which is still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 NIV).
There is much about life that doesn't seem to correspond with personal problems of unfairness and hardship. But for all that is hurtful and unequal, there is beauty and balance. For moments of horror and violence, there are times of harmony and peace. As age-worn bodies succumb to pain and weakness, children and young animals play with carefree joy. Human art, in all of its…