Death Makes Life Possible – Mapping Worldviews on the Afterlife
A six-week live transformational learning telecourse taught by Marilyn Schlitz, PhD
Humans have always been fascinated by the possibility of a “larger reality” that lies beyond death. Throughout history and in every culture, people have created models and practices for understanding death and they have developed cosmologies for engaging with the afterlife. As each of us confront issues of mortality—our own or others—we may sense that there is more to our existence, more layers or dimensions than we usually comprehend as we go about our daily lives. For some, this awakens an imperative to foster our kinship or interconnectedness with a greater whole.
There are many explanations and conjectures about what happens when we die, ranging from scientific materialism to religious/spiritual views of immortality. Ideas about life after death impact how each of us approaches death – and how we live our lives. In this course, we will examine some of these views, considering diverse models of reality and our place in it. We will also reflect on our own worldviews about death. In this process, we will explore the possibility of an afterlife and consider diverse views in the context of other people’s beliefs and practices that may conflict with our own. This six-week learning program will invite us into the most intimate and meaningful conversation we can have today about who we are and what we are capable of becoming.
Lesson 1 – How Death Makes Life Possible: The Great Cycle of Life
This opening lesson offers a deep and sweeping tour of how death is viewed from different worldviews, belief systems, and cultural perspectives. Participants will be invited to consider their own worldview and how it informs their life journey. We will also consider the controversial nature of the afterlife as held by various truth systems. Students are encouraged to explore their reactions to alternative perspectives, and consider the healing nature of the inquiry into the ways Death Makes Life Possible.
Lesson 2 – Noetic Experiences and the Afterlife
For many people, an experience of Noetic or transpersonal realms suggests worlds beyond the physical and even beyond life. We will be invited into their worldview and then have the opportunity to consider personal experiences that shape our worldview. We will consider ways that we can communicate with others about our worldviews on the afterlife in the face of diverse and sometimes conflicting models of reality.
Lesson 3 – Exploring Worldviews of Death, Dying, and the Afterlife
Diverse views of the afterlife exist and co-exist in our modern world. In this lesson, we will consider several diverse views and share our thoughts and reactions to these sometimes competing worldviews. We will consider practices for helping us to hold the multiplicity of views while moving more deeply into our own core beliefs. We will consider the ways in which our life in a multi-cultural society leads to greater possibilities for our shared experiences.
Lesson 4 – Bridging Subjective and Objective Realms: Science of the Afterlife
Recent breakthroughs in science are exploring mediumship, reincarnation, near death experiences, journeys out-of-body, mysticism, neuroscience, and non-local consciousness. Data from diverse disciplines provide an expansive view of possibilities. Delving into the rigorous scientific practices enables the student to engage with and discuss the implications of some of the most recent and compelling scientific findings.
Lesson 5 – Practices for Death Preparation, Grief, and the Call to Transformation
Transformations in consciousness are linked to people’s beliefs and experiences of their own mortality and what lies beyond. We explore the ways that diverse cultures and worldviews have developed methods and practices for dealing with death, grief, and loss. How we interact with our dreams may help prepare us for the experience after this physical life. Art can be used to explore possibilities of the afterlife as well as a tool of transformation from this world to the next. Students will recognize and deal with the struggles and pitfalls inherent in confronting our own mortality and that of our loved ones. And how pondering death makes life possible.
Lesson 6 – Healing Self and Society: An Emerging New Story
It is at the meeting place of science and spiritual wisdom traditions that we are discovering a new paradigm of reality and what it means to be fully human. Subtle yet powerful shifts of intention and attention, supported by the combination of wisdom, evidence, stories and questions about the meaning of life help people discover what they need to imbue the transformative spirit that comes when life and death are seen as a seamless whole.
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