Thoughts on death and afterlife, by NaturalPantheist
Today we continue our late autumn theme of “Death and Life” with Natural Pantheist. The theme for early winter will be “Beginnings”. Send your writing and art to humanisticpaganism [at sign] gmail.com by September 21, 2013.
Over the past few years I have lost two people that I was very close too. The first, my Nan, died of cancer at the end of January this year. It was too late before we found out she had it and there was nothing that could be done to help her. Two years ago another friend of mine, quite young, was killed in a car crash. Their deaths are still raw in pain for me…but when has life ever been fair?
Anyway, this situation has got me thinking about how I see death as a Naturalistic Pantheist. A few years ago I was a Christian and would have taken comfort from the fact that I would see her again one day in heaven. Now, without those beliefs, where will I find comfort? Can Pantheism give any help?
I believe it can. Pantheism says that “We see death as the return to nature of our elements, and the end of our existence as individuals. The forms of ‘afterlife’ available to humans are natural ones, in the natural world. Our actions, our ideas and memories of us live on, according to what we do in our lives. Our genes live on in our families, and our elements are endlessly recycled in nature.”
Pantheism does not promise an afterlife in some heaven, nor in hell. Pantheism promises only natural forms of afterlife – we will live on in the memories of those who knew us and in our genes passed down through our children. But Pantheism also goes further…it says that at death we begin a process of transformation, of changing or recycling. Our atoms become part of nature again. When we are buried, our atoms become part of the soil, that becomes part of plants, that becomes part of the animals and so on in an endless cycle. If we are cremated, some of our atoms join with the atmosphere and become part of that. The point is that none of our atoms or energy is destroyed, we are not “gone” because we become part of the world again, the world we came from. Our atoms have been in existence since the very beginning and will be until the very end of the universe. We do not die, we are transformed. Our consciousness may end, but the very essence of who we are, the elements that make us up will never be destroyed but will continue to exist for all time. When we die, we do not just rot in the ground, but become new things, new creations. We may become a flower or tree, become part of insects or animals, become rain or the wind. We become part of the natural world once again. How beautiful a thought.
A long time have I lived with you
And now we must be going
Separately to be together.
Perhaps I shall be the wind
To blur your smooth waters
So that you do not see your face too much.
Perhaps I shall be the star
To guide your uncertain wings
So that you have direction in the night.
Perhaps I shall be the fire
To separate your thoughts
So that you do not give up.
Perhaps I shall be the rain
To open up the earth
So that your seed may fall.
Perhaps I shall be the snow
To let your blossoms sleep
So that you may bloom in spring.
Perhaps I shall be the stream
To play a song on the rock
So that you are not alone.
Perhaps I shall be a new mountain
So that you always have a home.
by Nancy Wood, Many Winters: Prose and Poetry of the Pueblos
This essay was originally published at Naturalistic Pantheist Musings on June 10, 2012.
In the comments below, discuss how your Naturalistic Paganism helps you cope with the loss of loved ones, either actual or anticipated.
NaturalPantheist: A former Christian, I now see myself as a Naturalistic Pantheist with an interest in Druidry. I blog at Natural Pantheist Musings on issues relating to scientific and naturalistic approaches to spirituality. I’ve lived in both China and the UK and I love to travel. I’m a country boy at heart but also strongly believe in getting involved in my local community here in Devon, UK. My interests include religion & philosophy, social media & technology, current affairs and walking. My blog is at naturalpantheist.wordpress.com
This Wednesday, we hear from our first new columnist, Glen Gordon, Postpagan Ceremony & Ecology: “Death Song”. Don’t miss it!