The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: fear

An eternal soul or eternal ego?

I am not a religious person. I am not atheistic either — I do not vehemently believe in the non-existence of a god.

Last night, hanging out with a friend brought about an interesting discussion about religion. We were talking about how in the medieval periods, churches used stories of hell, fire and brimstone to scare people into believing in Christianity. My friend said people eventually started going to church to be intentionally frightened because it was on some level, entertaining. I said how I learnt that because most people were illiterate, religious art in that period were dramatic, flamboyant and scary, to achieve the same effect of scaring people into belief.

That reminded me of a conversation I had with another friend a week before about the eternal soul. That friend is Catholic and believes in a higher power. I asked him, “What do you think happens to us when we die? Do you believe that we have an eternal soul that endures beyond our physical bodies?” He said he believed that there must be something beyond just the finality of death, and he believed in an eternal soul. I then asked him, why must we have an eternal soul; is it that bad if whatever we know and think ends when we die? He said, wouldn’t that be depressing if all we ever are just stops there, and that he feels that we exist to achieve a higher purpose.

That, to me, sounds a little like the fear of letting oneself simply end; to die. The ego prizes itself so much that it creates an afterlife to exist in the minds of those still living, so that fears of its finality may be placated. In a way, that is the premise of the Christian hell, isn’t it? Just as good souls go to heaven, for bad souls to go to hell, the soul must be eternal first, before it can go anywhere after a person’s death.

The fear of hell isn’t a fear of hell itself, but a fear of what might happen to one’s eternal soul.

If you told a person he could be condemned into hell, but be untouched by hell’s eternal damnation, the “fear” of hell dramatically decreases. Likewise, if you told a person his or her soul would ascend to heaven, but the soul lies in a perpetual possibility of a fall to hell, heaven becomes less desirable. It is a person’s conception of their own soul that creates the existence and purpose of a heaven and hell, and not vice versa.

The key to religious faith is not in external entities; not in a god/God, not in a heaven or hell, but in that one does not simply die after one dies. That is all it takes.

We console ourselves that our dearly departed are better in the afterlife, because we believe they have continued existence after death. When we think about the ghosts and souls of others, in essence we are reminded of our own because we believe that we will one day be like them, enduring in the minds of others.


One minute

The hand grasped my neck, and I could feel each individual finger intimately. I gurked out of reflex as I felt the grip tighten. It really hurts, and then it didn’t any more, but what remained was feeling of the tightening of a vice. It’s funny how you become so much more acutely aware of your senses when you are about to die.

I tried to breathe through the strangling grasp; a thread of air slipped in, creating a little wheeze and whinny as it went in. Our hands meet, as I tried to push the hand away as that other hand pushed itself against my throat. The heart feels fit to burst as it rapidly inflates and deflates, trying to send what little oxygen each pumping of blood contained around the body. The oddest sensation of bursting welled up in my chest; something wanted to come out. It was like my heart wanted to quit this suffocating body and burst straight out of the chest to take in a sharp, sweet breath. But no, ribs and flesh occluded it, and the offending grip blocked its only exit out.

I’ve always thought the dancing dots in front of eyes that I’ve read in books were a cliché, a myth. Right before me, indeed, were dots. The kind you get when you stand up too quickly when you’ve been squatting for too long. But instead of just flashing stars, they started to move. And they weren’t swirly things either, more like the kind of movement static makes on television. Messy, gussy, interpolation. The face feels kind of flushed. My arms felt itself beat. My legs flailed jerkily. I don’t