Mortality and the Afterlife

by Cynthia Ivan

Life and death, and the metaphysical theology disseminated, propelling the human consciousness. Is there life after death? When we die, is there another life beyond the world we know, is there life after death, an afterlife?

We can find significant evidence to support the claim that the soul lives on in the next life after physical death, in areas such as religion, a cultural aspect, and an individual-based belief system.

In Christianity, the Bible, Luke 24:51, says that after Jesus was resurrected and rose from the tomb, he ascended through the clouds into heaven. In Alaskan Native Yupiaq culture, the oral teachings of our ancestors, we are told to bury the dead with the tools of that individual, so that they may take with them those tools into the next life. Because without their tools they would not be able to survive in the afterlife. If a man passed and was a great hunter, he would be buried with his hunting equipment/tools, or a woman would be buried with her uluaq (tool used to cut game and fish).

An individual’s belief is based on phenomenological experience with life and death. Just as John Jeremiah Sullivan’s brother Worth in “Feet in Smoke;” after his life-after-death experience, before being revived, when he recalled a vision he had on the banks of the river Styx, when the boat of Charon came to take him across to the underworld, known as Hades.

We as human beings long to believe in immortality, to immobilize infinity of the eternal psyche. That’s where religion, culture, and personal belief all come together to prove a world beyond and the possibility that the heavens do exist. 

The question now is, how do we eternalize the mortal soul of man and woman? It is believed from all, a far reach, and wide range of perspectives connecting each of the three aspects named to morality. How we choose to live here on Earth is a predetermined destination of the soul.

To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must live by the word of God. In the Bible it is written that Jesus is the son of God, he is the way, he is the truth, and he is the life, not one shall go to the father though through him alone (John 14:6). Emphasizing on love and forgiveness, do to your neighbor as you would want him to do to you. Basically, treat others how you would want to be treated. To love and forgive even when persecuted, unconditionally. Just as love in the Yupiaq tradition and culture is strongly emphasized and practiced.

Long before the missionaries came to our land and spread the word of God we were taught to help those in need, to give to those that cannot provide for themselves. First and foremost the elderly, then the widowed, and the orphaned. Our Yupiaq ancestor’s ak’a tamaani (way back then) believed in Ellam-yua (great spirit in the sky or creator). As an elder would say and motion, something more, as he reached out and pointed to the sky.

Idealistically, through individualism we believe in a higher power, that there is an unknown life force that perpetuates the universe. We are measured by our good deeds done here on Earth and on which morals we choose to stand and live by, and karma determining one’s fate.

The veridicality of mortality is commonly feared, because it is the end of life as we know it. However, the affirmation of our beliefs whether it be religion, culture, or personal, reassures that the essence of life continues on in another life form in another life somewhere in the universe, concluding an afterlife.

In an article written by Andrew J. Dell’Olio, he argues that near death experiences (NDEs) suggests the life after death phenomenon. He lists ten experiences of people who were clinically dead. In an ATV collision when I just turned thirteen, I experienced four of the ten listed, including an out-of-body experience, also discussed in the article.

The ATV came to an abrupt halt when we crashed into a stump in the woods. I flew superman style smack face first into a tree and when my body hit the ground, my soul shot out of my body and I was suspended in the sky directly above my body. I watched my friends rush to my body below crying and afraid that I was dead. Then, in an instant, I was astrally projected back into my body and was up walking down the road drenched in my own blood.

In a painless dreamlike state, animated in a cartoon like world, having flash backs from earlier that day and having picture flash backs of memories from my past. How strange to believe this to be possible and how else to explain this phenomena but to believe in an after life and the supernatural.

Coming from a strong religious, cultural, and individual belief, I do not fear the death of my flesh, my vessel so to speak. But the death of my immortal and eternal soul. It is an affirmation in my faith, to live life here and now on earth. To not be stunned by the fear of death, to experience life to the fullest. To live happily no matter the atrocities life may throw at you. Just as Nancy Mairs tells us in “On Being a Cripple” how she lived and loved even with the condition she lived with being a handicap. She married had children and accepted her fate that she would one day die from it. Although she did not live in fear, she did not live in despair. She was not stunned and she lived her life with love and apparition — just as we should all. She did not blame God.

We can use our religion, culture, and personal affirmations that we will meet those we love again in the next life, and that there is a world beyond, a place where our souls go after death.

Cynthia Ivan is a resident of Akiak, AK.

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