There are two conceptions of afterlife: metaphorical and literal. After spiritual ego death, one's mortal corruptible self has been sacrificed and has died, and one is by definition in the afterlife, in the kingdom of god, ascended, beyond the last judgment.
That type of death and immortal life after death is certain and is the ultimate experience for which we have evidence. What about literal bodily death and some literalist type of eternal life in heaven? There's little support for it in Biblical scripture. Scripture lends itself more to the mystical, "awakening to the kingdom of god" approach, with "death" and "last judgment" interpreted first mystically per mystery religion, and only weakly in the literal sense.
The "mystery" of the scriptures is set up through deliberate, playful conflation of literal with mystical death. I have yet to check the concordance, but there is much more about the kingdom of god, than the conventional heavenly afterlife in the scriptures.
Mystically, it is certain that we can awaken to timelessness, learning to think of time as essentially illusory. This kind of eternal life is certain. Literal eternal life is entirely speculative, conjectural, needed to prop up the illusion of conventional freewill moral agency, and is motivated by wishful thinking rather than evidence, so I formally reject it as groundless.
The only evidence for literal eternal afterlife is mystical timeless rebirth. The only "evidence" for literal life after death is mystical rebirth. Thus mystic death and rebirth looms much larger than the literal afterlife, which is inherently and necessarily entirely hypothetical. There is not the slightest reason to believe in the afterlife. If you believe in it, then you might as well believe in anything you want, at all -- ESP, crystal worship, UFOs, and miracles.
I only believe in that which we have grounds to believe in, such as that the greatest religious experience is that of mystic death and rebirth, also known as seeing God or becoming enlightened, regenerated, saved, or redeemed out of the deterministic cosmos. In this characteristic style, I concluded that the real meaning of religion is firstly mystical/esoteric (no historical Jesus, Paul, Buddha, Peter, John, James, and so on), and only weakly and degenerately literalist.
I concluded that time, free will, and the separate self as control agent are all significantly illusory, in all likelihood -- it was a matter of choosing between this view, and chaotic "anything goes". I concluded, in this same spirit, that entheogens (not meditation/contemplation) are the true central and original method of the major religions.
In conjection with these views, I concluded that enlightenment is actually simple, rational, and comprehensible, and that the fully developed mind only "transcends rationality" in a specific, mild, restrained sense; I generally reject any attempt to characterize enlightenment or mystic insight as being essentially beyond comprehension -- instead, mystic insight is essentially comprehensible and even simple and summarizable, and has only a limited element of transcending rationality.
Revelation is mainly rational, and just partially beyond rationality. In line with these conclusions, which all choose a comprehensible and justifiable definite position instead of an "anything goes" alternative, I reject the literal afterlife as groundless conjecture.
The "belief" and "faith" in Christianity are really about surviving mystic experiencing of ego death and rebirth and somehow transcending the presumed- and experienced-deterministic world -- not about gaining a literal afterlife. In fact, I strongly associate the literal afterlife with the entire egoic, lower way of reading the Christian mythic system. The literal afterlife is a belief fit only for those who read all religious myth literally.
We have reason to believe in mystic rebirth after ego death; such transcendent faith is a necessary part of the mystic drama, for life to resume and continue out of the depths of powerlessness and ego death. This sort of afterlife is definitely relevant and tangible, in contrast to literal afterlife, which is entirely conjectural, hypothetical, and speculative, and lies outside the realm of the known and experienced.
My intention here is to put forward an entire mentality: it is the mentality which enabled me to crack the puzzles of myth-religion and the Christian mystery religion, making full rational mystic systematic sense out of the scriptures.
>I'm a born catholic, turned Baptist, turned agnostic. During my Catholicism childhood, I just followed the teachings of the people I trusted (family, teachers, and priests). When I started to think for myself, I became interested in the wealth of Bible knowledge offered by Baptists. When I really started to think for myself, I became even more interested in the Bible and religion. The more I dug into scripture and history, the more I lost faith.
>Now I'm agnostic. I can't help but look into that big sky of ours and still wonder, "Is there something more to this life?"
>There are many concepts I don't understand. If there is no afterlife, how can atheists be so peaceful with this thought? If I ever come to the conclusion that there is no afterlife, how can I cope with the pain of this realization? How does an atheist cope with the finality of death, the end of their loved ones, and the end of their own self?
>If I was 100% positive that death was final, would it even be beneficial to tell anyone? Who's better off? The person who must cope with the finality of death, or the person who sincerely believes in an afterlife? How could I tell my grandmother that she'll never see my grandfather again? Isn't she better off just "believing" she will see him........until she is dead anyway?
>My aunt was reading a near death experience book the other day, and I picked it up. I decided it was a big lie after investigating the author's character. If NDE's do happen, what are they....really? Could it be that we create our own NDE by what's in our own unconscious? Are near death experiences just a flicker of what our unconscious has been fed to believe throughout life?
>I love the emotional, spiritual, and psychological insight I have after smoking marijuana. I love the appreciation I have for every moment after experiencing ego death. But what does this really benefit me eternally? It pales in comparison to an unending life. Does anyone on this newsgroup believe in an afterlife?
Current breakthrough of the hour: "death penalty" as metaphor for mystic death. "Death penalty" for revealing the secrets of the mysteries: just a figure of speech? Prometheus as suffering (ego death) *unjustly*.
The genuine mystic may ask: Why do I deserve to die*, when all I did was hold the delusion of my own metaphysical sovereignty?
I have been on one long breakthrough recently. I have cracked the code, have learned to think in the mythic framework of the Greeks.
I have finally made full connection between the Greek mythic themes and the theory of ego death. I can trace Paul's "we die and rise with Christ", to Mark's "we are metaphysically like Jesus: upstart rebels who carry ourselves as sovereigns and are crucified mystically with Jesus", to the orthodox "We are all sinners in rebellion against God and are rightly subject to the death penalty. Only Christ's death, as us, can clear our sins and make us right with God's perfect judgement."
The historical study of the origin of Christianity leads us back to Dionysus, Prometheus, Mithras, Paul's Christ, Mark's gospel crucified Historical Jesus, to the Orthodox Jesus Christ. Either you can explain the mystic code behind all these, or none -- and they are each distinct.
Explaining the metaphorical allusions to mystic experiencing in Paul's framework (the early, "authentic" epistles), is different from explaining the metaphorical system in later Orthodox Christianity, just as much as Dionysus and Prometheus are different permutations or a different dialect of essentially the same mystery-language.
It is interesting to see this same mystery-language encoding in acid-rock lyrics. Acid-oriented rock is the authentic mystery-school of our time.
Now I am entering a period of *systematically* mapping out each myth in terms of the theory of ego-death, just as, once I cracked the code of acid-rock allusions to altered-state phenomena, I was able to sweep across the lyrics of many Rock artists, to identify the clearest examples of such allusions.
Now I do the same with myths: armed with the interpretive framework of the cybernetic theory of ego transcendence, including the code of the mystery religions, it becomes routine to spot these mythic patterns in myths I have only recently heard of. Research is now reduced to pattern matching, and by this point, I don't even really need to follow through. Here is the key that does unlock the doors -- try it yourself.
Example: Metallica song "Ride the Lightning"
During the global meaning-shift during initiation, the mind's understanding of the concept of "eternal life" shifts along with the understanding of concepts such as time, self-control, and personal agency. In experiential allegory, "eternal life" refers to the experience of timelessness, or the discovery of the fact of timelessness. This is the true, main mystic meaning of "eternal life".
The mind that overcomes delusion and takes a higher perspective consciously enters Heaven and the eternal life now, in this life. That is as certain as anything could be. What happens after bodily death? We can only conjecture. The mature mystic stance is to be relatively certain in the kind of salvation and meaning-network reindexing that we can have in this life during initiation, but to be agnostic and not cling to the lower hopes for infinite extension of mundane personal existence within time.
Thus we can say that the mystic elevates the mystic definition of salvation, Heaven, Belief, and eternal life above the mundane, lower, Literalist Christian definition of salvation, Heaven, Belief, and eternal life. Is there a Heaven or Hell for us after bodily death? moral judgement then? That's sheer speculation, which the mystic considers to be in some way unimportant.
By any measure of value of the things in life, surely mystic enlightenment and mystic awakening to the kingdom of Heaven while in this life is the most important thing in this life.
The Extropian wish for endlessly extended personal continuation, even envisioned as a more or less Christian-style eternal afterlife, must be seen as an almost irrelevant issue. Enlightenment, sin cancellation, reconciliation with God and so on does not centrally pivot around Literalist eternal afterlife in heaven, but rather, the discovery of timelessness in the mystic altered state, shown and revealed and unveiled by the Holy Spirit during the uncovering ("apo-calypse") of the hidden mystery.
I'm finding some interesting "ego death" newsgroup postings.
Subject: Trip Report: 1 Geltab as [at] a Rock Concert
> (we were gonna meet up with him later). His response was something like: "I don't know, we'll see what happens when it happens." And that simple point got me thinking about how time is like a book, in that it's all already happened, but you just haven't read that far yet. When you buy the book, the whole sequence of events -- from start to finish -- is already written, but you, the reader, must experience it linearly -- one word after another. It's one of those things that seems so profound when you first think of it, and it seems so world shaking (like I've figured out the fabric of time), but then when you sober up, you realise that it's no big deal; like "what's so special about that?"
>Actually, your altered self was correct in seeing this as profound. The insights in that direction lead toward the full experience of ego-death. If your future thoughts are set, this implies a single future that effectively already exists, in which case the present you lacks a certain kind of control over your own future thoughts. Instead of you controlling time (or your future mental actions), time controls you.
>The sense of timelessness in deeper trips was one of the biggest - and sometimes scariest - revelations to me. Christopher Mayhew, a British MP, took 400mg [ug] of mescaline before TV cameras 1955 and became absolutely convinced that part of us exists 'outside time': "After brooding about it for several months, I still think my first, astonishing conviction was right - that on many occasions that afternoon I existed outside time. I don't mean this metaphorically, but literally. I mean that the essential part of me (the part that thinks to itself, "This is me") has an existence, quite conscious of itself, in a timeless order of reality outside the world as we know it. Though perfectly rational and wide awake (Dr. Osmond gave me tests throughout the experiment which showed no significant falling-off of intelligence) I was not experiencing events in the normal sequence of time.""
>>A number of references speak of a Gnostic sarcophagus that depicts Jesus as beardless man with a wand raising Lazarus who is wrapped like a mummy.
The Beginnings of Christianity: Essene Mystery, Gnostic Revelation and the Christian Vision
The cover shows a mosaic portraying a beardless man, no wand visible, raising Lazarus who is (always) wrapped like a mummy; the back cover gives information about it.
Can't tell whether beardless or wand:
There are many of the standard, bearded Jesus, no wand:
Do these show a miracle? Or is it merely symbolism? Actually, it is a descriptive report of an actual supernatural, miraculous, magical occurrence that happens in the mystic state of consciousness: the restoration, though logically undecidable and ungroundable and logically non-defensible, of the practical sense of being a power-wielding, freely self-controlling agent.
This mystic-state controllership event is an experiential miracle of consciousness, similar to Douglas' Hofstadter's study of infinite regress of levels in the book Godel, Escher, Bach, in which the last normal section is "The Self-Symbol and Free Will" (presenting a "no-metaphysical-free-will" view).
The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Kersey Graves
The forward by Acharya S in this edition of the book addresses the reliability of Graves and destruction of scholarly texts.
Acharya rests her view mostly on a category of books expressing a particular interpretive framework defined by a certain type of turn-of-the-century-style demythologization or history of religions.
Is Barbara Walker's book credible at all? Does she cite credible evidence? Acharya often cites Walker's book.
The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
If there are clear parallels between the "Jesus raising Lazarus" story and some Egyptian "Horus raising El-Azar-Us or El-Osiris" story, and given that there is a gnostic sarcophagus or maybe two that depicts Jesus as beardless man with a wand raising Lazarus who is wrapped like a mummy, that would suggest the primary of the mythic mystery interpretation over the literal historical report interpretation. In that case, the story of the raising of Lazarus should be considered through the interpretive lens of pagan mythical mystery layer, as opposed to first viewing the story through the interpretive lens of literal, unique incident report.
A search may or may not find credible sources demonstrating the existence of some Egyptian "Horus raising El-Azar-Us or El-Osiris" story. There is at least one ancient picture of a Jesus-like figure with a wand raising a mummy-wrapped figure. A wand would indicate divine magic power to raise the dead. The canonical Jesus figure is portrayed as a channel of some sort of transcendent, supernatural power to raise the dead.
The central question at hand is, what sort of thing is the canonical story of Jesus raising Lazarus? Which kind of interpretive framework is appropriate to give primacy to? Was the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from among the dead intended to be primarily read as a mythic description through the pagan mystery interpretive lens, or as a historical report of a unique incident through a literalist interpretive lens?
The first work to do toward resolving that question is to clarify what the mystery-myth description amounts to. Today's audience already knows full well the literalist interpretive framework that is offered as the fully predominant one in today's church and in today's conservative and liberal historical-Jesus scholarship. The interpretive framework which is not obvious today and needs work to clarify and spell out, is the pagan mystic mythic mystery view of Jesus' raising of Lazarus. What is the opposite of the interpretive framework of modern historical-Jesus scholarship? What have they eliminated?
Modern historical-Jesus scholarship has eliminated the realm of the mystical, magical, supernatural, and miraculous. Liberal rationalist scholarship has particularly eliminated that realm. There is an interpretive framework which is neither conservative Christian, nor liberal-demythologizing, nor atheist debunker, but another interpretive framework, that of metaphor describing transcendent mystic-state phenomena. The realm of the 'mystical' is covered there in the phrase 'mystic-state', and the realm of the 'magical', 'supernatural', and 'miraculous' is covered there in the phrase 'transcendent phenomena'.
The ancients grouped mystic, magic, supernatural, and miracle together; therefore, to understand what they meant, modern researchers must also construct some interpretive framework which likewise accounts for, as a group, mystic, magic, supernatural, and miracle.
Did the ancients mean for the story of Jesus' raising of Lazarus to be read first of all as a literal report, through the interpretive framework of literal historical reportage?
Or, did the ancients mean for the story of Jesus' raising of Lazarus to be read first of all as a mystic, magic, supernatural, and miracle, through the interpretive framework of mystic, magic, supernatural, and miracle?
Which of these interpretive frameworks the ancients meant will suggest whether the Jesus figure and his lifestory was meant first of all as a literal report to be viewed through the interpretive framework of literal historical reportage, or through the interpretive framework of mystic, magic, supernatural, and miracle.
There is a certain commonality and alliance between supernaturalist conservatives and mystic transcendent-experiencing allegorists, against liberal demythologizing literalists. Consider formulating a certain combination of the "supernaturalist conservative" conceptual framework, the "liberal rational demythologizing" conceptual framework, and the "mystic transcendent-experiencing metaphor" conceptual framework.
According to a 2-layer conception of myth and initiation, which is well supported as characteristic of Hellenistic culture, the story of Jesus' raising of Lazarus was intended to be "first" read as a literalist report -- "first" as meaning "initially" as against "ultimately". For the beginning initiates, the story is intended literally, but for the advanced initiates, the story is intended as metaphorical description of transcendent mystic-state experiencing.
Before even bothering to scour the libraries for parallels that are closely matching in the *surface* story elements, a more substantial and promising approach is to formulate a robust model of the underlying themes according to a interpretive framework and conceptual system of "transcendent mystic-experiencing metaphor".
Then we can analyze stories across religions even though they usually don't match as closely as Kersey Graves claimed, and still recognize the same general meaning and character and allusions to mystic experiencing throughout general types of stories and themes, such as, rather than focusing literally on the surface story-element of "crucifixion", focusing instead on the idea of fastening, hanging, and bonding of the body with the physical world.
There are few references to crucifixion in myth-religion, but there are many references to fastening, hanging, and bonding of the body with the physical world:
Mask on a garment-covered pillar (Dionysus)
Turning to stone (Medusa)
Turning to a pillar of salt (Lot's wife)
Chained to a rock (Prometheus)
Chained in prison (Paul)
Nailed to a cross (Jesus)
Lifted up and stuck in a tree's branches (Pentheus)
Fastened to a wheel (Ixion)
Hanging from a tree (Absolom, Wotan)
Nailed into a box (Osiris)
Enclosed in a basket in water (Moses)
Stuck inside a big fish in water (Jonah)
Embedded in a tree (Osiris)
Stuck to a throne (Hera)
Stuck to a throne in Hades' (Peirithous)
Surface story elements aren't identical and therefore don't suggest reading the Jesus stories through the mystery interpretive framework as we agree to read the pagan myth-religion themes -- but we *can* look for and then find a deeper thematic level which *does* suggest reading the Jesus stories through the same, mystery-mystic-mythic framework as the pagan themes. If advocates try to rest their case for the mystery-myth interpretation of Jesus on the basis of exact *surface* parallels, that's a weak foundation and a weak theoretical model, a thin an easily dismissible interpretive framework.
Exact surface element matches are fine to look for, but the main action to focus on is what those surface elements functionally express as far as transcendent mystic-state experiential phenomena -- an area that the 19th-Century modern rationalist mode of scholarly thinking is barely equipped to theoretically model, typically falling too far toward wide-open, anything-goes occult esoteric interpretation (devoid of much concrete satisfaction for our wish for rational, explicit understanding of mythic meaning), or too far toward rationalist scientific demythologizing.
The post-Modern, 21st Century is better equipped than the 19th to draw from the best of scientific thinking, mysticism studies, myth studies, comparative religion, and esotericism scholarship, as well as conservative and liberal scholarship of Christian origins. One of the latest areas becoming open to fresh scholarly investigation is the relation between pre-modern thinking about mysticism, magic, miracle, and the supernatural.
Book list: History of Esoteric Philosophical Magic (or, History of Magic in Western Esoteric Religion)
Who Wrote the Gospels?
The translation of El-Azur as "God Helps" is relevant for reading the Lazarus story primarily through a "mystic-state metaphor" rather than "literalist reportage" interpretative framework. In the midst of the experience of mystic spiritual death, one is powerless to recover vital life as a power-wielding agent; such recovery is given from outside the agent/initiate, from a source that transcends or underlies the personal agent who, in the ordinary state of consciousness only, is conceived and experienced as a simple primary self-moving control agent or king-like governor or steersman moving himself through spacetime.
No allegorical name could be more relevant for the spiritual rebirth theme than "God-Helps".
John 11:16 indicates that the story of Lazarus is not primarily about literal death and resurrection, but rather the standard, common, and widely known spiritual death and rebirth experience: 'Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."'
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
The Lazarus story has a connection with Egypt, parallels to the Pyramid Texts, the 'word play' of Bethany (Beth-anu...House of the Sun) and Lazurus (El- Azur... God Helps, El-Osiris) and the general Alexandrian influence of Hellenistic Judaism.
Randel Helms in the book 'Who Wrote The Gospels' examines this subject pp 121-126.
Helm's book, Gospel Fictions, seems to state that some 'pyramid texts' describe a story of Osiris being raised from the dead by Horus. Many of the details of that story have analogs in the story of Lazarus.
Helms' book 'Who Wrote The Gospels' has a section on Lazarus. On pages 121 - 126 he talks about the Lazarus myth in relation to the Pyramid Text. He uses Faulkner as his primary reference.
Pyramid texts English reference:
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts
Translated into English
Oxford University Press, 2000