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Question on the After Life

Post  14clawsspe on Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:58 pm

Does the soul go the the underworld? It's something I haven't seen on here yet. Could some one answer this for me?

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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Erodius on Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:21 pm

This thread touches on the subject in a general way:
http://olympianismos.forumotion.com/t283-ascension-herakles

However, that is a somewhat general question, and the answer varies depending on what sort of Classical religion to which you mean it in relation.

However, in general, it would be accurate to say that any Classical religious movement conceptualized the afterlife in one of three ways.

On one hand, the common, nonspecific, practically-oriented religion of 'commonfolk' (think, essentially, "Hesiod's religion") had a generally similar conception of the afterlife to other religions of the same time, to archaic Judaism, for instance. In these, with the exception of a very few extraordinary individuals who are, typically, directly (and often bodily) drawn up to the heavens by the divine, the vast majority of humanity, aside from the inordinately wicked (who receive some odd and specific punishment, often based on their misdeeds), are destined for the same afterlife — a depressing, grey, boring, cold, dreary eternity in Hades for the Greeks, or Sheol for the Jews.

On another hand, there were, beginning with the rationalist movements, some groups that rejected the idea of any continuation of the self after death at all, the Epicureans being likely the most famous group to have adopted this idea. They believed in a soul that gave life to the body while it lived, but they believed that, like the body, the soul, and one's identity, dissolves back into the universe at death. For these groups, there really was no idea of an afterlife at all. At death, one simply ceases to exist as a particular entity.

Then, there are the Mystery religions, of which there are several, with their own origins, founders, and teachings, and of which different ones tended to be popular at different times and among different sorts of people. Orphism, Mithraism, Gnosticism, Isidianism, and Christianity are all better-known examples of Mystery religions. In a stronger sense than the common people's 'folk religion' as we might call it, these are all more along the lines of what we think of as 'a religion' in our modern sense, in that they have, generally, a specific, fairly closed set of myths, often contained in holy writings, founder figures, core beliefs and teachings, and, typically, require some sort of ceremonial 'joining' rite. As different as various Mystery religions can be from one another, they typically all share a similar basic frame:

1. a focus on one particular story out of their greater mythos, and, often, a particular event or set of events within that story

2. a belief in the pure righteousness of the divine

3. a focus on the life experience of humanity, and our sufferings and mortality

4. a belief that, at some point in a distant past, something happened that tainted us (usually some sort of rebellion or disobedience against God), and caused us to be mortal and to suffer. I.e. (what I'd argue is a central distinguishing feature of Mystery religions) that our suffering is *our* fault, not god's or the universe's.

5. a belief that something else also happened later on by which we are able to be freed from the suffering and death we have inherited from our past

6. a ceremonial focus, typically, on some sort of 'reenactment' of that event, which is, itself, believed to have profound power, this ceremony, its power, and its hidden meaning and symbolisms are the 'Mystery' in a Mystery religion

and 7. a belief in the immortality of the soul, coupled with, typically, very specific ideas about the soul's future depending on its choices and conduct in life.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Out of Phlegethon on Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:18 pm

Either it goes to the underworld, or is reincarnated (or reincorporated back into the divine).  It is difficult to say which.  I myself do not know.  Either way, it is imperative to deal with this immediate now in which we are all immersed, and to do so in a pious and ethical fashion.  Sobriety, rationality, tranquility...  But do not champion the intellect over the soul, which is pre-rational.  Learn to see all things with the eyes of Lynceus-- That Plotinian mystic vision that sees the divinity in this brute present; the holy, eternal powers prior to it, and immanent in it.
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Questions on the afterlife

Post  apseudos on Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:43 pm

Wow! So it looks like (unless you're specifically chosen by a God as something special) it's undifferentiated Greyness, undifferentiated Nothing or Heaven/Hell in glorious technicolour! No wonder the human race is so fragged.

Since there is no clear authority on this - just free-market competition - I think I'll go for the undifferentiated Nothing but defer to Laplace(?), Pascal(?) or (most likely) Descartes(?) along the lines of "I'll try always to do the right thing because, if God exists, I'm quids in - and if he doesn't, well, I've not lost too much".

This is where the "revalation" religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam) really win out. They don't prevaricate about the afterlife.


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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  DavidMcCann on Tue Jun 24, 2014 6:30 pm

I find the existence of the Homeric / Jewish view rather strange. The Mesopotamians seem to have agreed with them, but if one looks at beliefs across the world, most societies either accept reincarnation or have an ancestral cult which implies that the dead are not powerless shades. I wonder where such a depressing and rather unlikely view started.

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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Batman812 on Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:29 pm

Soooo I am still confused hahaha. If we die and we did not worship the gods and did things they consider bad we go to Hades?
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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Erodius on Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:44 pm

I would refer back to my response a few posts up — it depends on from which perspective you are speaking.

However, one thing should be understood – virtually all perspectives agree that all who die, that is, all who are not gods, wind up in the abode of Hades (though what this means varies by sect and movement). Hades is not, however, 'hell' – it has various regions: areas for good (though still mortally-bound) souls, areas for average souls, and areas for wicked souls.

It is only within the Mystery religions (and even then, only in some, not all) that there is the idea of a kind of celestial heaven for the saved initiates.

Christianity, Orphism, Hermetism, and certain Gnostic religions stand out in the idea of a deification and exaltation of a soul after death – almost all other ancient Western religions adhere to some variation of the idea that 'the Underworld is for everybody.'

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Batman812 on Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:56 pm

Ahhh ok so its really up to the person, what he believes right? Hope I don't offend anyone here but I would really like to, if I did very good in the eyes of the gods, to live near them when I die. It would be awesome to see them and speak to them and stuff  Very Happy cheers 
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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Erodius on Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:30 pm

Batman812 wrote:Ahhh ok so its really up to the person, what he believes right? Hope I don't offend anyone here but I would really like to, if I did very good in the eyes of the gods, to live near them when I die. It would be awesome to see them and speak to them and stuff  Very Happy cheers 


Well, no – it's not up to one's personal desire, exactly.  

Truthfully, the idea that you express, that of "living near the Gods . . . seeing them . . . speaking with them" would have been almost totally inconceivable to most average/mainstream people in the Graeco-Roman world. The idea of a direct contact with the Divine for righteous souls after death, which is now so much a part of our cultural ideas about death, was almost exclusively a characteristic of Mystery religions (and an almost universal characteristic thereof).  It has only become so commonplace now in the West because it is an idea present in Christianity, which is a Mystery religion.

These kinds of ideas certainly were among the reasons that the various Mystery religions became so broadly popular in later Antiquity. Among other things, Mystery religions offered their devotees hope, meaning, purpose and direction for their lives (things that we now almost synonymize with 'religion' itself) that the traditional public religion just could not give. Now, the public religion certainly continued to be observed, and *most* Mystery religions did not prevent participation in it, however, by the Common Era, the hearts of really devout people were in the Mystery cults, because of precisely such ideas as you expressed.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Batman812 on Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:23 am

Oh sorry I didn't realise that. So we are not allowed to see or speak to the gods in person, it's not possible for us humans right?
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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Erodius on Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:55 am

Traditionally, no – direct contact with the fullness of a deity is said to be more than the mortal body can bear – as went Semele, the mother of Theban Bacchus.

Interaction with the divine powers, instead, happens by way of intermediary daemones, who act as the earthly representatives (or, perhaps 'ambassadors') of the ultimate divine powers, and couriers between the deities themselves, and the lower orders of their dominions.

These intermediaries, likewise, are, generally, given simply the same name as the deity whom they attend, because they are, ultimately, extensions of that deity.

Thus, both the true deity Fortune herself, along with all the daemones who attend her, are together called 'Fortune', and so on.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  ÆtherNomad on Tue Mar 10, 2015 1:20 am

(Sorry for reviving and "old" thread, but it seems to me that, even though Erodius' answers are of great quality, they do not completely address the original question.)

First, I'd like to make a little remark about points 2 and 4 of Erodius' definition of Mystery religions: if you include Gnosticism, Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism in Mystery religions, then I think these points are not entirely true.

First, the religions I just named include a divine cause of evil: Angra Mainyu or Ahriman (who are strictly evil) in Zoroastrianism, Satan in Manichaeism, and the demiurge (who may be either evil or not powerful enough to create a good world) in gnosticism. It is true that these gods are inferior gods, and that the great gods of these religions are indeed perfect and good; however, in these religion, evil exists as a metaphysical principle, which is not the case in catholicism nor in platonism and neoplatonism, as the latter define evil as a simple lack of reality (all that is real coming from the One, and the evil being a simple consequence of the degradation of reality because of the indetermination of the prima materia).

So we have here two mutually contradicting views. Second, and it's a simple consequence of what I just said, since there is a divine origin of evil and suffering in Gnosticism, Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism, one could say that human beings are not entirely responsible for these problems. Sure, there's still some responsibility of mankind (how did we fall in this evil world corrupted by the evil god? and how will we leave it and return to our original nature?), but my point stands in spite of this.

It was just a remark. Now, I can talk about what really motivated my post: Plato's myth of Er in the Phaedrus and his cosmology in the Timaeus (for example in Timaeus 41d-42e and 90e-92c). According to these texts, which could probably be considered as deeply linked to hellenismos (but it's just a guess from someone who doesn't know much about it and doesn't practice it), the afterlife is a complex cycle of reincarnation.

Quickly said, your soul (like every soul) was originally created as a human being, which is the most perfect mortal possible; when you die, you have to be purified for a high number of years depending on your vices during life, and then you finish your waiting by contemplating the Ideas (and probably the Gods, as Proclus is identifying them to the various Platonic metaphysical entities); when a millennium is over, all the souls are gathered before some justice and fate Gods like Lachesis, and they are ordered in function of their vices during life; then, each soul has to choose its next terrestrial life in this order (meaning that most virtuous souls choose first and have better options), with the precision, however, that their vices and virtues will only depend from them and not from the life they chose; finally, once every soul has chosen, the souls enter the river of oblivion (Lethe), forget everything, and birth again. All of this is described in the myth or Er and in Republic X, 617d-618b.

The Timaeus adds to these stories that souls evolve over time depending on their vices and virtues. There is a cosmic hierarchy of living beings, which is, from the best to the worst: male human, female human, flying animal, terrestrial animal and aquatic animal. If you do too much wrong, your next life will be inferior in this hierarchy (it could either be a less fortunate life of the same category, of a life of an inferior category); inversely, if you do enough good, you ascend to a better life. However, it is perfectly possible to do beautiful things with an inferior life and ugly things with a superior one; for example, you could choose a life of king, which is an easy life, and then become a tyrant because of your own choices during this life, which would make you fall in the hierarchy. The ultimate goal appears to be finally joining your associated God among the Twelve: "He who lived well would return to his native star, and would there have a blessed existence". So it looks like the meaning of life is to return to the One, like in neoplatonist metaphysics.

By the way, for a poetical and philosophical view of the Hades as a dull and even afterlife, I recommend the reading of Paul Valéry's Eupalinos or The Architect, a beautiful and very pleasant as well as interesting dialogue inspired by Plato's works and yet answering to them.

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Please understand too that my first language isn't English; I am sorry for any grammatical mistake or litteral use of foreign expressions.

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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  calebofall on Fri Apr 17, 2015 5:46 am

I think behind all the gods there is a mystery of love and peace for all people. This includes the afterlife that shall hold no terror for us as well because we all will arrive there after death to live in happiness forever. For me the afterlife is a row of universes just like our own. I believe in the catholic hierarchy of heavens that has a judaic heaven, a common heaven, a saints' heaven and an angels' heaven and the beloveds' heaven, more we have not explored so far. And I think in every heaven you have to die again after a share of time that gets longer and longer per heaven. In this row of heaven lives we loose more and more of our evil aspects and fears and insecurities. It is wonderful and mysterious. And the gods grow closer and closer to us in these lives and accompany us daily and show us love and grace.

The greek idea of Hades appeals to me too. I think it is like a sphere that we can enter and explore, a bit like a parallel world that merges with our world here if we want to explore this world. We only need to pray to Hades and love someone and such, to enter these realities and to feel safe there. The Thanatos is a similar sphere to be explored and to find shelter in. In the afterlife we are more soulish than physical and enter these parallel worlds fully to dwell there if we want to, and we can reach these spheres from the heavens.

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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Fri Apr 17, 2015 11:27 pm

Whut

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Re: Question on the After Life

Post  spokane89 on Sat Apr 18, 2015 3:16 pm

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