Life After Death


As the irritating, yet monotonous beeps of the life-monitor in the
emergency room began to slowly die away, George struggled to hang on. It's not
my time yet, he thought. Please, give me just one more day… The beeps soon
became increasingly far in between, while the doctors frantically bustled on in
a futile attempt to stabilize the dying man like a bunch of panicking bees
trying to save their doomed hive from a pouring rain. The world turned hazy,
then completely dark, as George felt himself slowly floating into the darkness.
He flew and flew without end. Then there was the light - that infamous "light
at the end of the tunnel." (Randles 2) It gave out a strange, comforting warmth
that enveloped him, easing his fears and relieving all doubts. George somehow
knew what to do - to just let go. He felt quite at home.
Back on earth, the rhythmic, mechanical beeps suddenly turned into a
solid, continuous high E, signaling the end. George was about to cross over.
Being bathed in the strangely comforting light, he was soon greeted by his long-
lost friends and relatives, beckoning for him to come, come join them. George
wanted to stay. More than anything he cared for, George wanted to stay right
here, basking in the light of love. But he felt something pull him back. Wait,
not yet, he thought. It's not my time yet... The next moment, George was
somehow reunited with his physical body, lying on that uncomfortable hospital
bed, amidst the doctors sighing in relief, surrounded no longer by that soft
glow, but again by that rhythmic beep, beep, beep…
Is there a parallel between George's account of a near-death experience
(NDE), and what really happens when we ourselves die? Is there indeed a part of
us that conquers death and continues to live a different kind of existence where
it has new powers and undergoes unfamiliar experiences? Is there really a
heaven, or numerous heavens, full of blissful joys awaiting some of us and a
hell, or countless hells, full of different punishments for others? Or is
physical death, in fact, the end of life as we know it? Such questions about
death and dying has intrigued humanity since the dawn of time. One area to
which we might look for some answers to this puzzle is religion. Unlike science,
dealing only with the material and tangible, traditional religion takes another
view of our reality by recognizing the validity of metaphysical experiences.
World's major religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, as well
as primal pagan ones, such as the Greek and Roman mythology, although quite
different in basic fundamentals of belief, all attempt to give its followers an
explanation of the world on the other side of life.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Hades is the god of the dead. He was the
son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea and the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. (Cumont
34) When the three brothers divided up the universe after they had deposed
their father, Cronus, Hades was awarded the underworld. There, with his queen,
Persephone, whom he had abducted from the world above, he ruled the kingdom of
the dead.
The underworld itself was often called Hades. It was divided into two
regions: Erebus, where the dead pass as soon as they die, and Tartarus, the
deeper region, where the Titans had been imprisoned. It was a dim and unhappy
place, inhabited by vague forms and shadows and guarded by Cerberus, the three-
headed, dragon-tailed dog. Sinister rivers separated the underworld from the
world above, and the aged boatman Charon ferried the souls of the dead across
these waters. Somewhere in the darkness of the underworld Hades' palace was
located. It was represented as a many-gated, dark and gloomy place, thronged
with guests, and set in the midst of shadowy fields and an apparition-haunted
landscape.
To Greeks and Romans, life after death was not a pleasant thing. Hades,
a dark and gloomy place, was originally the apparent destination for all - the
good and the bad. Perhaps with the unintended influence of the incipient
contemporary Christianity, Hades was mollified into a much more organized place,
giving rewards to the good and punishments to the wicked. One notable aspect of
this mythology is that Greeks, much like most of the major religions today,
believed in an eternal, undying self in each of us that conquers death and
carries on another life after a physical death.
Today, unlike the Greeks and Romans, Hindus do not believe in a set
place where our undying selves end up after the