What happens to the soul when we die?
Soul will experience what mind calculated
Charles Gruber, Lawrence resident, practices Zen Buddhism, Sufism and Judaism:
My response to the question, "What happens to the soul when we die?" is necessarily my version. Your version is necessarily your version. My version is that everyone's soul (the eternal part of our awareness) will experience exactly what the mind calculated during corporeal life. Therefore, for some folks, heaven or hell, cosmic awakening or nothingness, or angelic transformation is what they expect, so that's what they'll get.
When I die, I will leave behind this well-worn body, rise above it and become an undifferentiated point of awareness. The time-space continuum rules will flex. To use a computer analogy, I will have had the history of my last birth and life and death inserted like a microchip into my soul's memory. There is infinite capacity in that memory. The memories stored in the chip interrelate with those of other lives so that when it comes time for me to recycle, my soul will manifest in a body with specific lessons to learn so I can continue the human part of my education.
The Great Mystery in all of this is that, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, you can be in my version of the "afterlife" and I can be in yours. The context of each version will be different. However, in my undifferentiated universe, that's OK. This Zen poem (author unknown) comforts me:
"The Human Route"
Coming empty-handed, going empty-handed -- that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going, are also like this.
But there is one thing which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
What is that one pure and clear thing?
Send e-mail to Charles Gruber at email@example.com.
God's love, mercy provides assurance
The Rev. Angela Lowe, board certified chaplain, Lawrence Memorial Hospital:
As my faith continues to seek understanding, the answer to many questions including this one is complex. According to the apostle Paul, the dead are not separated from God, nor are they sleeping. They are not yet risen either. They are with Christ.
Jurgen Moltmann, theologian and author, advocates that "the time between Christ's Resurrection and the general resurrection of the dead is not empty, like a waiting room. It is filled by the lordship of Christ over the dead and the living, and by the experience of the Spirit, who is the life-giver."
Our capacity to fully understand life on the other side of death is similar to a caterpillar's grasp of life on the other side of the cocoon. Through the lens of God's love, mercy and grace we can obtain assurance and comfort. I worship a God who "does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." God's steadfast love is as great "as the heavens are high above the earth." (Psalm 103:10-11) We have an assurance from God found in the Pauline epistle to the Romans (8:38-39) "neither death nor life ... will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus."
In life and in death, we belong to God. We live by grace and also die by grace. According to grace, the sin that we commit is condemned, while we ourselves are pardoned. That is the central message of the cross and the hope of the Easter message. The risen Christ is our proof that there is indeed life after death.
"The home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them. They will be God's people and God will be with them. God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will pass away." (Rev. 21:3-4)
Our souls will eventually reside with God because of God's love, mercy and amazing grace.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Angela Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.