The Jerusalem Post published my new article “Why Do We Construct Theories and Philosophies about What Happens After We Die?“
Why does a person who is alive need to construct theories and philosophies about death? It’s an inseparable part of life, so why is it concealed from us?
The still, vegetative and animate levels of nature have no awareness about death. They feel weak when they’re nearing death, but only in terms of their survival coming to an end. Therefore, they have no questions beyond death, nor about the past, present or future in general. Those questions emerge only in humans, because we have a special point above the bodily, animal existence.
We feel no life while we are gametes in our parents. We don’t know how our parents met and brought about that initial live cell from which we developed. We also lack the sensation of how our body gradually disbands until something causes its death, as well as what remains of it afterward.
What we especially fail to understand is that, as opposed to animals and plants, we feel ourselves as existing in something higher and greater than our bodies. We can’t pinpoint this sensation, but in general, we call it “life.”
There is subsistence, living for the sake of survival and reproduction, and there is life, living for the sake of something greater.
We spend much of our lives contemplating, examining and researching this point of what life is and how we can fill our existence. This additional desire above our will for survival means a lot to us. We’re ready to toil and suffer for it.
Humanity’s development is leading us gradually toward an increasingly greater desire to understand the addition of life above our mere survival needs. What is especially evident in our era is that, while we have an abundance of life’s necessities — more than in any other historical period — the eternal question about the meaning and purpose of life awakens more than in any other era.
Yet, the answer to that question is elusive.
The myriad theories, fantasies and methods we have developed, whether religious or secular, are all baseless speculation.
It’s because the form of our current lives is sealed in our inborn corporeal-material nature, which is a desire to receive enjoyment and pleasure. We feel and identify ourselves in this desire and have no ability to envision anything outside of it.
Our sensations, thoughts, desires and fantasies are all aimed at the fulfillment of our desire to enjoy.
But is this our only desire?
If we had only the desire to enjoy, then we would be like animals, locked solely in an instinctive drive to fulfill ourselves maximally at every moment of our lives.
However, we have a very small point, a spark that comes from a higher level than our animal existence. Due to this point awakening in us, we ask the questions: “What is the meaning of life?” and “What do we live for?”
This point also awakens negative sensations in us — dissatisfaction, emptiness, depression, helplessness and despair — which our generation senses more than any other. We’ve organized our lives to allow us freedom from worries about providing for our necessities, and precisely because of this, the question about life’s meaning is liberated, causing more forceful demands to surface. As a result, many new problems in human society are emerging.
We think that we have all kinds of different cravings in humanity for money, honor and knowledge, for all kinds of things beyond the level of food, sex and family. However, we really only have the question about life’s meaning and purpose, which demands a response.
There are differing levels of feeling and awareness of this question in different people, and it is a major influence in our daily lives.
The different mannerisms, cultures, customs and beliefs of every nation are all ultimately responses to the question about life’s meaning and purpose. In our basic needs for food, sex and family, we are all essentially the same. However, the moment we enter our social desires for money, honor and knowledge, our lives are shaped by the character of how the question about life’s meaning and purpose surfaces in us, and how we respond to it. We differ precisely in how we respond to that question.
We move in different directions trying to answer the question about life’s meaning and purpose. However, lacking a true answer, one that gives us lasting fulfillment, we keep finding ourselves falling short, empty and desperate. As a result, nowadays we are witnessing a reduction in our mental and emotional development. In past eras, we had far greater respect for philosophy, science and the arts. Today, however, society is turning toward heightened comfort and convenience, and valuing technologies that can serve as a means to this end.
Despite all these comforts and distractions, it remains true that if we won’t find a satisfactory answer to the question about life’s meaning and purpose, then we will increasingly suffer. While the younger generation today focuses more on technologies, that will come to an end. With less and less of a drive to build families and give birth to children, they don’t want to be “ordinary beasts” that live as if in a herd, because the question about the meaning of life lives and breathes in them.
Up to now, the younger generation passively responds: “We’re not in your game. You want to live and succeed, so be it. It’s not for us.” The next stage after this generation will be sharper, and its response, far angrier.
The more the answer to the question about the meaning of life will elude us, the more we will see the rise and fall of all kinds of distortions that try to appear in its place. The legalization and promotion of hard drugs will rise to try calm us down. Technologies will continually emerge to make our lives easier, to make us feel content sitting in our residences all day. But such efforts won’t hold.
Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts will vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of life?” In other words, these numbered years of our life that cost us so heavily, and the numerous pains and torments that we suffer for them, to complete them to the fullest, who is it who enjoys them? Or even more precisely, whom do I delight? It is indeed true that historians have grown weary
contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one even wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and as vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life as always. –
Yehuda Ashlag, Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot.
Centuries ago, The Book of Zohar, as well as renowned twentieth century Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), predicted that starting from the end of the 20th century, the question about the meaning of life would intensify throughout humanity, demanding more and more people to seek its true answer. Those who remain unsatisfied with what our culture creates to deal with this question in the meantime, who keep exploring different approaches, methods and environments to no avail, are expected to eventually find themselves delving into the wisdom of Kabbalah.
The wisdom of Kabbalah is a method of how to perceive and sense the eternal reality while living our current lives. Attaining such a perception ultimately answers questions such as “What happens when you die?” and “What is the meaning of life?” because by doing so, we access our spiritual life that continues living after the death of our protein bodies. By engaging in the method, we undergo significant changes that reveal a completely different perception of reality, discover lasting fulfillment, a deeper connection with others and with the causal force of reality, and gain a sense of wholeness and harmony with the world around us. This wondrous wisdom is open to all, and awaits anyone with a sincere desire to find the core reason of why we appeared here on this planet.