Suicide and the Life After Death Factor
Posted on 11 June 2018, 7:23
Following the recent suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and travel show host Anthony Bourdain, there has been much in the media about the alarming increase in suicides in the United States, especially in the 45-64 age group. Considering that both Spade, 55, and Bourdain, 61, seemed to have had everything going for them, materialistically, at least, the media has been searching for answers
In a USA Today report, Maria Oquendo, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, is quoted as saying the trend among middle-aged adults is puzzling because people in that age group are more financially secure and have more experience in solving life’s problems. She further stated that the opioid epidemic doesn’t explain it all.
At least two reports referred to a popular book, Lost Connections, in which author Johann Hari opines that the suicide rate is up because modern living has resulted in people being isolated from friends and relatives, which leads to loneliness and depression. Hari, who has battled depression himself, states that such depression is most often viewed as a chemical imbalance in the brain and treated with medication.
I believe the answer to the “puzzle” is obvious, but since mainstream science and medicine refuse to recognize the strong evidence suggesting that consciousness survives death, it is never considered. The root cause of many suicides is most likely an existential one – a failure to find any real meaning in life. A Time Magazine report by Belinda Luscombe points out that happiness is not the end result of a sum of accomplishments, quoting Bourdain, “What do you do after your dreams come true?”
In his popular 1969 book, The Immortalist, humanist philosopher Alan Harrington expressed it this way: “An unfortunate awareness has overtaken our species. Masses of men and women everywhere no longer believe that they have even the slightest chance of living beyond the grave. The unbeliever pronounces a death sentence on himself. For millions this can be not merely disconcerting but a disastrous perception.”
As Harrington viewed it, when people are deprived of rebirth vision, they “suffer recurring spells of detachment, with either violence or apathy to follow.” Harrington, an atheist himself, saw mass-atheism as responsible for most, if not all, of society’s ills, including misplaced sexual energy. “Orgies, husband and wife swaps, and the like, more popular than ever among groups of quite ordinary people, represent a mass assault on the mortal barrier,” he wrote.
“The state of anxiety, the feeling of powerlessness and insignificance, and especially the doubt concerning one’s future after death, represent a state of mind which is practically unbearable for anybody,” wrote Erich Fromm, another humanist philosopher.
As Carl Jung, a pioneer of psychology and psychiatry, saw it, critical rationalism eliminated the idea of life after death. He noted that most of his patients were non-believers, those who had lost their faith. They were neurotics. “They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking,” he wrote. “Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning.”
Jung, who had a convincing near-death experience in 1944, went on to counter the mainstream view by saying that “a man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death, or to create some image of it – even if he must confess his failure. Not to have done so is a vital loss.” He added that the man who does not grasp the idea of life after death despairs as he “marches toward nothingness,” while the person who believes that he will survive death, though he may be uncertain, “follows the tracks of life and lives right into his death.”
Renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to it as “mass neurotic syndrome” – the result of an “existential vacuum,” a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. The more one seeks pleasure, Frankl observed, the more it eludes him. “Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree in which it is made a goal in itself.” A human being, he continued, is not one in pursuit of happiness, but one in search of a reason to become happy. Self-actualization, he further proclaimed, is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.
Even Sigmund Freud, who was not spiritually inclined, was concerned that one’s attitude toward death has a bearing on his or her psychological health. “Is it not for us to confess that in our civilized attitude toward death, we are once more living psychologically beyond our means, and must reform and give truth its due?” he asked. “Would it not be better to give death the place in actuality and in our thoughts which properly belongs to it, and to yield a little more prominence to that unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully repressed?”
The non-believer will immediately interpret all that to suggest that we should live for the afterlife and not for today. However, that is not what Jung and Freud were saying. William James, another pioneer in psychiatry, may have summed it up best when he said,
“The luster of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with. Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our suffering have an immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith and hope be the atmosphere which man breathes in; and his days pass by with zest; they stir with prospects, they thrill with remoter values. Place around them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and the popular-science evolutionism of our time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns rather to an anxious trembling.”
Jung, Freud, James, and Frankl were not suggesting that we live for the afterlife, only that we keep the larger picture in mind as we go about our daily activities. Otherwise, we risk succumbing to the Epicurean motto, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” while striving to be one with our toys and eventually wondering what to do after we accumulate enough toys.
I think Giambattista Vico, an 18th-century Italian philosopher, hit the nail squarely on the head when he wrote that men first feel necessity, then look for utility, followed by comfort, then pleasure, and finally luxury, after which they finally go mad – when “each man is thinking of his own private interests.” In that pursuit of pleasure and luxury, there is a certain social disconnection, which involves moral, intellectual, and spiritual decline.
“Despair over the earthly or over something earthly is really despair about the eternal and over oneself, in so far as it is despair,” existentialist Søren Kierkegaard offered, referring to the person in despair as a philistine. “Philistinism tranquilizes itself in the trivial, being equally in despair whether things go well or ill,” he continued, going on to say that many philistines don’t actually realize they are in despair, or if they do realize it they don’t understand what they are in despair about. Neither do their psychiatrists, the politicians, or the journalists.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: June 25
This is my first time reading your blog. What a thoughtful post with interesting comments. Several years ago I did some research at the National Archives on the causes of death among young men in the Navy and Marine Corps before World War I. There are lists and, of course, suicide was among the causes. In fact, it was widespread at the turn of the twentieth century. Young men committed suicide through various means. A lot of recent press has come out about the increasing number of suicides in the United States Armed Forces. I wonder how a belief in life after death factors in to the decision to end one’s own life while in the military today. Or even how various religious beliefs come into this. Death by suicide is a grave matter to members of the Catholic Church. Does that factor in to the number of suicides among the troops who are practicing Catholics? Just something to think about.
Robin R. Cutler, Wed 11 Jul, 15:14
Yes, but I also believe meaning is also required in the afterlife ie, things to do that are actually meaningful. What is actually available to us to gain meaning in this life?
Material accumulation,hedonism,sports,relationships knowledge etc.- It just all seems pointless . This might do for some people but not for all.
I really recommend the book “a philosophy of boredom” by the Norwegian philosopher Lars Svendsen I believe it to be the most comprehensive treatise on the “existential problem” there is.
Chad W Luter, Mon 2 Jul, 12:56
There was an article in today’s USAToday that goes somewhat to what is discussed above—not to the suicide aspect but to existential concerns underlying suicide.
The article is about all the straight people taking part in Gay Pride parades and celebrations. The article suggests that most of these young people are not in the least bit interested in the LGBTQ issues, but use it as an excuse to drink and party.
I’ve sensed this with various demonstrations I’ve seen on television. That is, many of the young people don’t know what they’re protesting or demonstrating against. They need a purpose of some kind and an opportunity to socialize with others, whatever the issue. But it is not really limited to kids and young people. It applies to all ages.
I believe it all boils down to the nihilistic and hedonistic worldview that our “civilized” cultures have adopted in the absence of a belief in a larger life. Of course, that’s just conjecture, but…...
Michael Tymn, Tue 26 Jun, 07:42
Kevin and Elizabeth,
Thanks for sharing and thanks to all others who have commented here. I thought it time to check on what Silver Birch had to say about suicide. When he was asked about the status of a suicide in the spirit world, he replied (I say “he” even though Silver Birch was believed to be a group soul):
“You cannot answer that right away. It depends on the earthly life that has been lived; it depends upon the qualities that have been developed; it depends upon the soul’s progress; and above all these things, it depends upon motive. The churches are wrong when they say that all suicide comes in the same category; it does not. While you have no right to terminate your earthly existence, there are undoubtedly in many cases, ameliorating factors, mitigating circumstances, to be considered. No soul is better off because it has terminated its earthly existence. But it does not automatically follow that every suicide is consigned for aeons of time into the darkest of the dark spheres.”
Michael Tymn, Sat 23 Jun, 18:57
Perhaps the final say should go to the late NDEr and psychiatrist Dr. George Ritchie, author of “Return From Tomorrow” and “My Life After Dying”, who learned firsthand during his NDE what happens to those who commit suicide. According to Ritchie, the quality of life a person initially finds after suicide is influenced by their motive for committing it. He classifies suicide in the following three ways:
(1) The first classification are those people who kill themselves in order to hurt someone, get revenge, or who kill themselves out of anger for someone else. They arrive in the earthbound realm out of hatred, jealousy, resentment, bitterness and total distain for themselves and others. Ritchie writes, “I want to make clear that it was impressed upon me that these were the ones who had the same type of powerful emotions which people who committed murder have” (p.25). Ritchie says such people mistakenly believe they are not committing murder which their religious training tells them is a worse sin than suicide. Their motive for killing themself is, “If I can’t kill you, I will kill myself to get even with you.” According to Ritchie, such people “haunt” the living by being aware of every horrible consequence their suicide had on others.
(2) The second classification includes those who, because of mental illness, confusion, or a terminal illness, take their own life. Ritchie states these people are allowed many opportunities from God to grow in love just as any other person would who had not committed suicide. In other words, there are no negative consequences for them.
(3) The third classification includes those who kill themselves from drug, alcohol, or any other addiction. According to Ritchie, these people can become stuck in limbo trying in vain to satisfy their addiction until eventually something frees them. This condition is also called an earthbound condition.
Concerning souls belonging to the first classification, Ritchie writes:
Kevin Williams, Sat 23 Jun, 01:04
“I understood from what I was seeing that these people and the average murderer also are confined in a state where they are given a chance to realize two very important facts. One, you can only kill the body, not the soul. Two, that only love, not hate, can bring them and others true happiness. I believe once they fully understand this, they are given the opportunity to continue their spiritual and mental growth.” More here: https://www.near-death.com/experiences/suicide/three-classifications.html
Thank you, Michael, for this important post that has brought so many great comments.
It does seem that the hopelessness and despair leading so many to suicide are the result of our alienation from God and the sense of purpose and meaning that is naturally present in the God-guided / infused existence.
Alienation from God is also alienation from Truth/Love, from our True Self, and from others, with whom we cannot sustain meaningful relationships when we remain closed off to the reality of our spiritual nature.
The despair is thus a call to re-establish this severed bond, to open our eyes to the Truth. It is a call for individual and social re-birth that can only take place through spiritualizing our lives and aligning them with our highest values, as God apparently intended.
Elizabeth Mika, Sun 17 Jun, 13:58
Yes, and I don’t want to minimize Jesus’ mission and message at all. His mission was to die to promote his divine message that loving others is the way to eternal life (Luke 10:25-28). It was this revolutionary, liberal, social gospel of love for the whole world (John 3:16), and its promise of liberation from death, which ultimately took over an entire world civilization. Not many martyrs would die for such a message if it wasn’t true or unless they were deluded. But no case could be made that Western Civilization was built upon a lie or a lunatic.
Kevin Williams, Sat 16 Jun, 03:23
Thanks for your comment and the link. Like so many other thing these days, semantics is involved. I believe the churches condemn suicide by considering it “murder” (of self), which is prohibited by The Ten Commandments, i.e., “Thou shalt not kill.” I don’t see the crucifixion of Jesus as suicide, any more than a combatant jumping on a live grenade to save a few others. I think “depression” is the key word to the kind of suicide that is of concern.
Michael Tymn, Fri 15 Jun, 08:27
That said, I hope you are right.
I note that four or five comments somehow disappeared from this section. I have no idea what happened to them. My apologies to those whose comments mysteriously disappeared. Webmaster is looking into it.
Thanks for your understanding.
Michael Tymn, Fri 15 Jun, 08:11
The Bible does not condemn suicide. Jesus died by “suicide by cop” to further his message and there is no disputing this fact. Jesus said in John 10:17, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” And the newly discovered Gospel of Judas reveals Jesus needed Judas to fulfill his mission. After all, Jesus couldn’t climb on the cross and slit his own throat. He needed people to do it for him. So Christians have no reason to condemn suicide.
In fact, the Church is guilty of unjustly condemning all suicides to hell and blaming Jesus’ death on “Christ-killing” Jews which directly led to anti-Semetic pograms such as the Holocaust.
So the notion that suicide is inherently unbiblical and evil is itself unbiblical and evil. The only problem I see with suicide is the possible bad karma it has on surviving loved ones. Christians say Jesus’ self-sacrifice was the greatest good because it caused the salvation of humanity. If so, then they must acknowledge that Jesus’ “suicide by cop” had a lot to do with it and that it resulted in the greatest good. More about this here: http://discoveringreligion.net/?p=912
Kevin Williams, Thu 14 Jun, 23:27
A reader of the blog just sent me an email with a link indicating that people with religious affiliations live 4-6 years longer than those without. Whether it is accounted for by fewer suicides, less existential angst, or fewer “lost connections” is uncertain. It is likely a combination of those three. The link is
Michael Tymn, Thu 14 Jun, 08:22
“However, there are gray areas, such as the terminally ill person who is in
great pain or is faced with great expense that will affect loved ones if
he/she chooses to live out his or her remaining days. I have often wondered
about that one myself and don’t know the answer. I am inclined to believe
that the afterlife ramifications would not be significant for that person.”
In my third book Science and the Afterlife I mention the post-mortem communications of Fred Myers. Here is what I wrote:
Like many other communicators, Myers strongly discouraged suicide, because the “despair, terror, or cynical disillusionment which usually accompanies the suicide is greatly intensified … the mood that drove him to self-slaughter will envelop him like a cloud from which we, on the other side of death may not for a long while give him release.”
However, Myers communicated:
I am not, of course embodying the post-mortem history of every suicide. There are exceptions – cases wherein the man who kills himself is filled with some noble purpose, sacrifices his life in order that, through his death, others may be relieved of want, or of the painful sight of a loved one slowly perishing of an incurable disease. The very mood, then, in which he commits the last dread act, has in it a certain fine fervour, a confidence … which redeems him in the black hours after his passing…. he is haunted by no inverted despair, no torment of self-pity.
Thus, in discussing the penalties that may be attached to suicide, you must bear in mind the character of the soul, the mood, the motives behind the act, and until these are clearly envisaged you are not in a position to calculate its consequences.
Chris Carter, Wed 13 Jun, 23:45
The discussion of suicide is a complicated matter. Whether or not it is ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘neutral is one of context, culture, place and time. In the Bible, Matthew discloses that Judas hanged himself on a tree. This has been interpreted in a couple of ways one of which tries to explain the hanging in Christian doctrinal terms as a crucifixion by hanging on a cross. But nevertheless, Matthew, in translation does say that Judas hanged himself from a tree. Perhaps, early Christians rejoiced in this news since as Christians there would have been no way to commensurately get back at Judas for his dastardly deed. Devout Christians (and Jews) were admonished in the Ten Commandments and by Jesus not to kill (other humans) but apparently it was acceptable in some cases for one to kill oneself, as Judas did, as punishment for some wrong-doing, a kind of an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” of the Old Testament.
Many people willingly allow themselves to die to mask a suicide as in “suicide by cop”, suicide by starvation or exposure, suicide by failure to receive treatment for curable medical conditions, and of course people who put their life at risk by engaging in dangerous activities, war, some sports, reckless driving and other dangerous activities. While technically death in these situations is not considered suicide, the end result is the same, that is, the person chose to put himself in a situation by his own behaviors knowing that the chances of death were high.
On the other hand suicide may be an altruistic decision by one suffering an intractable illness not only to end their suffering but also to end the suffering of those who love and care for them. Most people accept those suicides with understanding as one would end by euthanasia the terminal suffering of a pet.
There are those who are willing die to save the lives of others and that of course is seen as a noble cause even though as in battle many other people, often thousands of people, are killed in the effort.
So ‘suicide is indeed a grey area. In strict terms though, suicide is thought of as death by one’s own hand. That definition rather narrows the examples of suicide . - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 13 Jun, 21:59
Yes, the discussion here seems to have gone from the root cause of suicide, i.e., depression that can be traced back to an existential void, to whether suicide is necessarily wrong in the first place.
The other links mentioned above deal more with the latter. I’m pretty sure that all of orthodox religion holds suicide to be morally wrong and this is supported by all modern revelation that I have read. It says that we don’t escape our problems but continue to deal with them on the Other Side, which can be even a greater challenge. Some modern revelation suggests we continue to deal with the issue until the time that we would have died were it not for the premature exit.
However, there are gray areas, such as the terminally ill person who is in great pain or is faced with great expense that will affect loved ones if he/she chooses to live out his or her remaining days. I have often wondered about that one myself and don’t know the answer. I am inclined to believe that the afterlife ramifications would not be significant for that person. A factor to keep in mind here is that the suicide may deprive others of learning opportunities. To put it another way, the person’s continuing decline may be for the learning benefit of others and the suicide deprives them of those benefits. In other words, it is a selfish act.
Since I am 81 and could be in that situation in the not too distant future, I often think about that one.
The suicide question can be extended to those who decline treatment recommended by their doctors to extend their lives while preferring to let nature take its course. I don’t see that as suicide, but there is much gray area in there as well.
Michael Tymn, Wed 13 Jun, 19:27
Mike, This is too good to remain in blog form. Send it out to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or The Washington Post. The list of authorities you quote from cannot escape the notice of the editors of these papers. Expect rejection, but let them see the stampede that’s just now getting underway. People are fed up with despair, and many would-be suicides will instead commence a spiritual journey if properly led. These people need help, not a snub.
Stafford Betty, Wed 13 Jun, 19:08
I think we need to define “meaning”, there are I believe two ways.
A.That there is a purpose, in the sense of a afterlife that exists and a purpose to why we are here.
B. What I believe to be actual meaning in the sense of what you actually find interesting in life, whatever that may be.
People kill themselves over many different things although there are many common denominators. But if someone is afflicted by existential angst/despair/boredom than they are no longer gaining satisfaction.
Continuation of life after death will not solve this problem, after all they are escaping life in the first place! Of course survival could be a good thing if it is meaningful and intellectually satisfying, however that could be achieved if at all.
Chad W Luter, Wed 13 Jun, 17:11
Mike’s posting was about lives that lack meaning, when the afterlife is no longer a context for daily existence. Interestingly, the comments seem to have morphed into a discussion of suicide. That is, of course, relevant to the existential void that lies under the surface in many troubled people.
The social pressure and bias against suicide fails to make a necessary distinction. It is right to discourage, perhaps even prevent, suicide of someone whose life situation offers the potential of recovery from injury or mental suffering. Pain, physical or emotional, has the power to create a temporary false perspective. Probably almost everyone can recall a time in their life when they felt hellishly desperate—and many years later, can summon up the memory with little or no remnant of the anguish felt at the time.
The picture is different for those who have lived out their allotted time, have an incurable illness, and want to move on to whatever they imagine the next stage will be. Why should aged people living in constant pain be condemned to a comfortless round of medication whose only aim is to keep the body functioning a little longer?
Medical ethics need to take into account that in effect, forcing people to carry on in agonizing conditions is not “compassionate.” It is a kind of socially sanctioned torture, which is down to a widespread loss of transcendent values.
Rick Darby, Wed 13 Jun, 14:18
I think the reason suicide has been and is still being hotly debated and sometimes frowned upon is precisely because of your expression, “GOD FORBID”.
In some parts of the world people have been told for more than fifteen hundred years by the religious establishment that “God forbids it” even though there’s little or nothing in the Bible that indicates whether it’s right or wrong.
Of course, the Old Testament does command it’s followers not to kill and that could include oneself.
Many of the articles on this site suggest that killing oneself is impossible in that you can kill your body but your body isn’t you. So the question posited by some might be, “Do we ever benefit from committing suicide?” I’m talking about benefitting after we have done the deed not just by ending one’s physical life. The evidence from so-called afterlife communicators suggests that we “don’t”. We might not suffer eternity in Hell as religious orthodoxy sometimes indicates, but we are told that neither do we escape the reason we might commit suicide in the first place.
Personally, I don’t see it as morally right or wrong to take one’s own life but whether it’s a good or bad decision for the person concerned is another matter.
Michael’s previous blogs on suicide give an afterlife communicator perspective which seems to be consistent with many others.
Jon, Wed 13 Jun, 08:35
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 12 Jun, 23:06
No life is a “broken one”, rather, it is as you say, your life is one rich in experience and one which will, as it continues on perhaps to other experiences in other lives, benefit from your present experience however shaded it might be. - AOD
Anthony Bourdain was 61. For hundreds of thousands of years, people rarely lived into their ninetieth decade. This has only become possible in the last 100 years. When did we become obligated to hang on as long as possible? If people weren’t so afraid of death, maybe they wouldn’t impose their pointless strictures on other people.
What I don’t get is how it’s just fine to accidentally get hit by a car, slowly waste away from leukemia, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s until your body finally gives out, or be dragged into a pond by an alligator, but God forbid anyone go out on their own terms.
Gym Would, Tue 12 Jun, 21:53
Interesting article Michael and thoughtful comments and responses.
I have had the opportunity to see close up how suicide affects not only those immediate family members but also how it affects many who are not family but who are friends or acquaintances of the family. In the suicide I am aware of I think that it could have been a form of spousal and child abuse, abuse for which there was no comeback, no way to get even; the one who has died has won. Those who were left behind suffer wounds which will never heal in their lifetime. They have truly been abused, abused forever.
I think there is a certain egotism, and sense of superiority in some people who commit suicide and they throw a tantrum like a child who doesn’t get his way; only they die as a result of the tantrum.
When commenting about suicidal people Madelaine Lawrence asked the question “. . . how to you help those people with this emotional agony feel love and purpose and to know their lives can be better.”
That’s a good question to ask but I think that the answer applies to everyone with whom we come in contact not only those who may be suicidal. What are we doing each day of our life, in each moment to express love, true caring, empathy, and compassion to others—-to everybody. What are we, each of us, doing to promote a feeling of belonging to the tribe, the tribe of man for it is in belonging to a tribe that we feel safe, that we feel loved and appreciated, that we feel that we are home and that we feel protected. Not only will we help those who are thinking about ending it all but more importantly we will be eliminating the reason that people feel a need to do that in the first place. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 12 Jun, 14:21
“Bruce Greyson’s research on suicide attempters who had NDEs, documented they were less likely to attempt suicide again after experiencing the NDE. They felt love and a sense of purpose from the NDE. The question is how to you help those people with this emotional agony feel love and purpose and to know their lives can be better.”
I have heard of some psychiatrists and psychologists having depressed and anxious patients read accounts of NDEs.
Michael’s article reminded me of a documentary titled The Day I Died, which is mostly about Pam Reynolds’ amazing NDE on the operating table. But the documentary also includes an interview with a former ruthless businessman who had an NDE, and afterward completely changed his life, devoting himself to helping others. He states in the doc that his life now is immeasurably richer and more fulfilling.
Chris Carter, Tue 12 Jun, 02:01
I understand where Chad is coming from. That is why I think a belief in an afterlife is more likely to increase one’s happiness in this world if it is accompanied by a belief that a benevolent Higher Power is in charge of the overall scheme of things. I’m not sure a Godless afterlife is one I would want to experience.
Rich, Tue 12 Jun, 01:24
i have had several near death-experiences after which my life became extremely intensive and happy. then, after about a year, i started experiencing anxiety snd panic attacks convincing me that my life was going to end and i embraced this. however: after agreeing to residential treatement for depression in a german psychosomatic clinic, it took me months to realize i had become clinically depressed. since then i struggle with bouts of severe depression, sometimes self-harm and even attempts of suicides and the one thought at the end: this is not the end, this is a new beginning! however: i’m still here and accept my life as a broken one, an experience rich one and a one which will be not ended by physical death, if self-inflicted or otherwise.
manfred, Tue 12 Jun, 00:35
Thanks to all for those interesting comments.
I saw Johann Hari’s book, “Lost Connections,” referred to again in my morning paper. I didn’t mention it above, but he came up with nine reasons for depression, none of which touch upon believing or not believing in a larger life. He states in the book that someone mentioned prayer to him, but, being an atheist, he gave that no consideration. What exactly he would have people do after they’ve made connections with others is not clear. What do they talk about to get over the depression? Shopping trips? Escapes into movies, sports? Celebrity gossip? More adventures in hedonism?
The subject of suicide is also dealt with in my blog of December 15, 2014 in the archives at the left of this page, as well as in the feature articles.
Michael Tymn, Tue 12 Jun, 00:16
Great article Michael. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t believe life is supposed to be easy because we are all born into this world with some “mission from God” to do something to better this world. If life was supposed to be easy, then we would not have these missions to better the world. Jesus would have instead gotten 25 years to life with time of for good behavior. Instead he knew his unjust death would further his mission which it did.
And it certainly doesn’t help when a person has it all, but has no hope for an afterlife (such as was the case with Bourdain). Bourdain once said he would rather “die in the saddle than retire.” He also once said that if ever he “had a bad chest X-ray” he would go back on heroin. Such statements reveal a hopeless situation.
Bourdain certainly created “bad karma” against his family and friends by killing himself for which he will havew to make amends. But we know God is infinite in mercy and love, and will welcome Bourdain into the light whenever he be willing to enter into it.
Kevin Williams, Mon 11 Jun, 22:40
There are many issues that surround suicide. Besides not seeing their lives as having meaning or a purpose, I’ve seen a lot of emotional pain in suicide attempters. Years ago, when I worked part-time in an emergency room in a large urban hospital, I witnessed an attempted suicide patient come in to the ER every night I worked. Some attempted suicides are calls for help but others die from these attempts. The ones I talked to were suffering emotionally.
We don’t describe emotional pain well or enough or intervene in helpful enough ways. Edwin S. Shneidman, besides being a clinical psychologist, was also a suicidologist. He founded the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center during a time when little was known or studied about suicide. Psychological pain, also called emotional agony, was described as how much human beings can hurt. Shneidman believed it occurs when our psychological needs for love, connection, accomplishment are not met. Rather a person feels embarrassment or hurt or shame. A significant loss can lead to great emotional agony. These are more devastating to people with mental health issues, especially depression.
I only know about Kate Spade from what I’ve read and the collection of her purses I have in my closet. From what is being said, she suffered from depression, had sold her original business and started a new one with less success. She and her husband were separating. That’s a lot of emotional pain and maybe embarrassment. From what is written her sister-in-law tried to help and even volunteered to go with her to a behavioral health facility.
Bruce Greyson’s research on suicide attempters who had NDEs, documented they were less likely to attempt suicide again after experiencing the NDE. They felt love and a sense of purpose from the NDE. The question is how to you help those people with this emotional agony feel love and purpose and to know their lives can be better.
Madelaine Lawrence, Mon 11 Jun, 21:32
Well done Michael!
I work in healthcare insurance in a hybrid role between actuarial and economics. We study the conditions (diagnoses and procedures), contracts, etc that are driving costs. So I live in the data.This is a nationwide company (one of the so called “Big 5”). We cover employer groups as well as the ACA and Medicare. What I see in our individual (e.g. ACA) and employer group risk pools is that 33% of members (that’s insured people/covered lives) have been on psychiatric medication at some point and up to 25% in some risk pools are consistently prescribed. These are usually “mood stabelizers” and anti-depressants as opposed to heavy duty substances for psychosis. For many, we see prescription beginning in childhood, but also for those in middle age with good employment histories. Clearly ennui and angst are prevalent. It an epidemic.
Society and the spokespeople for “culture” mock the spiritual and push the vacuous and material. It’s downright cruel because we know that people are mostly conformists and going against this consensus is just too challenging for many. That and the demands of maintaining in a fast paced materialist society sap the energy and peace needed for contemplation and spiritual openness. I know. I get caught up in it all too if I’m not careful.
So sad to have so much and yet to be denied that which is most important.
Eric Newhill, Mon 11 Jun, 20:33
I do wonder if disenchantment is a natural “prod” for us to realise that life satisfaction is not to be found in this existence, but in a potential future existence. Disenchantment and indeed boredom should not exist if we are just biological machines. From a Darwinian point of view we should just be concerned with surviving and passing on the genes not looking for some sort of meaning, but we do look for meaning and the fact that some of us do puts another nail in the coffin of materialism.
But still the question remains what will make life satisfying in the afterlife, not just more existence although I suppose it’s better then the alternative,knowledge would be a contender but as the idealist philosopher John Leslie noted not all knowledge is desirable apart from answers to a few existential questions.
Chad W Luter, Mon 11 Jun, 19:07
If you’re lucky enough, you to come to understand and apply this truth -
“I slept a dream that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Bengali poet, Rabindranathn Tagore
Denise, Mon 11 Jun, 18:10
Well said, Michael. A common denominator is found in the psychological characteristics so common today: addiction, hedonism, “extreme” sports (e.g., bungee and parachute jumping), obsession with technology for its own sake, etc.
It’s easy to conclude that we need a spiritual revival along with a belief in the continuity of life following our time on the physical plane. Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—no government or church can induce spirituality, as opposed to religion, by external influence.
Moreover, it’s doubtful that a mere belief in survival, even if based on convincing studies or testimony by others, really fulfills our need for transcendence. When the doctor hangs the x-ray transparencies on the light box and points to the malign spots, and explains them in carefully modulated tones, anecdotes or even statistics don’t count for much to most people.
For true emotional balm, I’m afraid, only direct personal experience of states that at least border on the transpersonal or mystical will count for much. Regular spiritual practice is harder than intellectual study and demands greater tenacity. But to the extent that it bears fruit, the fear of death is defeated.
Within be fed, without be rich no more.
Rick Darby, Mon 11 Jun, 17:55
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And, Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
Shakespeare, Sonnet 146
Thanks, Mike! I so appreciate your work!
Jane Katra, Mon 11 Jun, 16:08
Thoughtful essay, Michael. One wonders why scientists and rationalists generally show no interest in the evidence for an afterlife. And yet, John Hick, in Death and Eternal Life, argues that we are morally obliged to examine that evidence, in light of the fact that so many human lives end abruptly, absurdly, and horribly.
Michael Grosso, Mon 11 Jun, 16:01
I believe most people of today accept some form of after-life, we have enough evidence to the effect. However there is so much speculation as to how this afterlife looks, what it is.
Denise McDermott King, Mon 11 Jun, 15:11
Many concepts, for that is what they are, float around in conversations like flotsam, repetition of other peoples words and experiences can sometimes limit the enquiring mind.
Many share concepts regarding what life is like on the other side, and if they have personal knowledge, it is only one very limiting view of the after death experience.
With any event in life, those who are experiencing the event will have their own unique aspect to share according to their own concept of it.
And this is my point, all are concepts and as such a concept is just that. Nature alone shows a myriad of variances and how conceited can one get if that one would even believe they have the definitive answers.
Yes, we have those who can contact the departed, but with rational thinking alone, without the spiritual aspect, what are they contacting?
In the case of suicides, the physical body has been destroyed, and effectively destroyed, but have they destroyed their emotional and mental body, the astral?
What is it that the medium is communicating with? And what is the caliber of the medium? Just because a medium is well known and can bring back as proof odd facets of knowledge of the departed, what does that prove?
All these questions come into play for the serious searcher of truth.
It saddens me, suicides that Is, for the suffering of the “deceased” which must continue.
If the physical body is destroyed, it is obvious they must be experiencing and looking onto the same things and situations they tried to avoid here, without the ability to alter, communicate or comfort with those left behind suffering.
This must be a living hell for the duration of the life allotted to the soul of the one dead.
Now I know this is not something anyone wishes to hear, we don’t discuss these aspects too readily, we don’t educate openly on death and more importantly, what is really avoided when one takes ones physical body in suicide.
But I feel that if we did discuss this more openly, and not just repeat what has mostly been said, if we did start asking rational questions, we could maybe assist those who are thinking of taking their lives, towards the understanding that it is futile. Not because of the old adage, “You will have to come back and face it again and worse,” but because of an enlightened aspect, that of, “ if one kills the body, and only the body, you will still exist for the duration of time allocated you in the astral (emotional and mental bodies,) observing that life you tried to escape and the ramifications for those left behind.
And all this without the ability to change it or comfort those loved ones. This must be a “living” hell.
Thank you for permitting this response ahead of time and for tolerance of my honest view.
That was from ..not ..for in my previous post
tricia, Mon 11 Jun, 13:53
Life is satisfying when service to others and meaningful relationships are at the center. I see the purpose of this life as spiritual growth - an expansion of understanding that we take into the next realm of experience.
Mark Ireland, Mon 11 Jun, 13:18
What made life so satisfying, full of wonder, and enchanting when we were children? I think this might be the default state.
To say what I said in a facebook post around 10 days ago:
I keep coming upon this word “disenchantment” a word originally credited to Max Weber. But that is simply the English translation of the German word “Entzauberung” whose literal translation is “de-magic-ation”. What does it mean? It refers to the condition precipitated by the birth of modern science in the 17th Century. The so-called “age of reason” has largely vanquished our image of ourselves as spiritual beings living in a world full of magic and ultimate purpose and substituted the scientific image of ourselves—namely the notion that we are simply complex biological entities with this being the only life there is.
This scientific message alienates us, robs our existence of all ultimate meaning or purpose, robs our lives of any colour or interest and substitutes a world of black and white that holds no interest to our yearning souls. A world that is dull, boring, and empty with nothing to feed our wonder. It leads to existential dread and a deadening of the spirit.
But such a conclusion in no shape or form is warranted since it all stems from a misunderstanding of the legitimate scope of science. Science has absolutely nothing to say about what consciousness is, what we are, what the world is, what it all means, whether Gods’, spirits, or magic exists. Contrary to what people believe it has nothing to say about any of those, it’s sole purview is to describe the course of our perceptual experiences.
In short, our modern conception of ourselves rests on a horrendous mistake.
Ian Wardell, Mon 11 Jun, 12:26
Yes, people have said to me what about this life, enjoy it while you can. An afterlife is unimportant, don’t think about it until the end of your life. Get laid, get drunk, have fun. Live for today!
If there is some ultimate purpose to our lives and the Universe, then this colours everything we ever do and think. If the world is suffused with ultimate meaning, if mystical principles and magic exist, if we are ultimately destined at death to enter another world, then everything we ever do takes on a different hue. Life becomes more of an adventure, something we pass through to some greater end. *Everything* changes.
Ian Wardell, Mon 11 Jun, 10:16
The fact is life is unsatisfactory.
People try to deal with this void with either material or in rarer cases intellectual pleasures, Obviously the latter being the more desirable.
The interesting question here is what will make life so satisfying in the afterlife?
Chad W Luter, Mon 11 Jun, 10:02
Wayne Becker, Mon 11 Jun, 08:52
I think that the world is in such a state of flux that people lose hope for any joy in the future, never mind after death. It is the young ones that I feel sorry for, and yet they do not know anything different. As we get older we lose the excitement for life. I will admit that I began my investigations into the afterlife with more that a little scepticism. For time to time I have to remind myself of the wonderful breadth of evidence that I have found regarding survival….that is when I begin to feel the joy again.
Tricia, Mon 11 Jun, 08:49
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