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Life After Death


Question & Answer

Q: By Brandon S.
I want to ask you, what do you believe will happen in the afterlife? Are we as the human race going to be okay? Should I worry about what’s going to happen to me after death? My Girlfriend who believes in god but struggles with what to believe in exactly, is she going to be okay? I’m terrified right now, you seem to be one of the very few looking past religious Dogma. I need your help, just at least some insight into what I should be doing, praying for, anything.

A: By Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox


Dear Brandon,

Regarding “Dying, Resurrection, Reincarnation,” I have written about this about 20 years ago in my book One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Flowing from World Faith Traditions as one of the 18 themes I treat that seem to me to be common to all world religious traditions. All ask and posit answers to the mystery of life (or not) after death in their own ways. One point I make is that the Reincarnation motif has more in common with the Resurrection motif than we usually recognize. Not only the idea of the “communion of saints” but also the notion of the purgatory hypothesis for example, which posits that if we don’t learn love this time around we will learn it someplace (called purgatory) another time around so to speak, echo many teachings on Reincarnation.

But what I would stress today in answer to your question is this: St Thomas Aquinas has a remarkable teaching about resurrection where he says there are two resurrections. The first is waking up in this lifetime and if you do that you don’t have to worry about the second (meaning, it will take care of itself).

The Biblical term “eternal life” is saying the same thing: Eternal life begins in this lifetime and does not cease. Meister Eckhart says that at death life dies but being goes on. Thus if we have learned to live life at a deep level, that of the true self and of the Christ within, we undergo his death and resurrection, we are “in Christ.” Thus we move beyond our fear of death which is a fear of the death of the ego, but does not include the death of being. Hildegard of Bingen said that “no beauty is lost in the universe” and Einstein said that no energy is lost in the universe. To the extent that we live our lives at the level of being and drink beauty and birth it, and imbibe energy and share it, nothing is lost.

I disagree with some Biblical commentators who want to throw out all the resurrection stories as fiction of some kind for this very simple reason: I hear stories of resurrection all the time from people even today. Just yesterday I was in a dialog with Bernie Siegel and he was talking about how his wife, since she died a few years ago, communicates with him on a regular basis. I have had such experiences too, as for example with my Lakota teacher and friend Buck Ghosthorse who died several years ago. I have a friend who is not a religious person at all but tells me this story: A few months after his mother died she appeared to him at the end of his bed and they had a conversation. She said, among other things, to live the life of values that she had taught him. This man, who is a blue collar worker who builds things with his hands, is not the least bit new age and is utterly grounded. Every time he repeats the story his eyes fill with tears.

A number of times I have addressed audiences and told this story and then told them to shut their eyes and then asked: “How many of you personally have had experiences like this with a person you knew who died?” Usually about 80% raise their hands. And I also ask: “How many know others whom you trust have told you experiences like this?” Usually about 75% raise their hands.

There you have it—Resurrection is a common human experience for many and our Biblical exegetes should spend perhaps less time with texts trying to debunk the resurrection stories and more time hearing peoples’ experiences.

Then there is this story. The late Navajo painter David Palladin suffered profoundly as a young soldier in a concentration camp during WWII, a suffering that his elders said initiated him as a shaman. After he died I visited his wife in their home where he painted and she told me, “frequently dead painters would come at night and dictate paintings to my husband.” She then left the room and came back with a painting which I identified immediately as a Paul Klee painting. And sure enough, in the bottom corner, it was signed Paul Klee (who had been deceased for decades). “I remember the night that Paul Klee came and dictated this painting through my husband,” she said.

Yes, life is more interesting and more multi-dimensional than many people—including I dare say many Biblical exegetes—are aware. All the more reason to wake up in this life time, to undergo Resurrection # 1. Waking up to our role in making gratitude and love and justice happen is the first Resurrection. What comes next will take care of itself.

Finally, a word from the great psychologist and student of culture, Otto Rank. He says that the very meaning of “soul” is humanity’s quest for immortality and there have been many efforts over the centuries to identify immortality ranging from the tribe itself, to pyramid building, to beauty; to children, to law itself. Yet for him there is one revelation that stands out: That of Jesus and Paul who by their teaching of resurrection actually democratize immortality and by removing the fear of death for everyone make full living possible (the first Resurrection). Now please note this fact: Rank was not a Christian but a Jew.

Thank you for your important question. I hope my response opens up some doors for you and your girlfriend.

~ Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox holds a doctorate in spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris and has authored 32 books on spirituality and contemporary culture that have been translated into 69 languages. Fox has devoted 45 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship. His work is inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and has awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. He has helped to rediscover Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas. Recent books include The Lotus & The Rose: Conversations on Tibetan Buddhism and Mystical Christianity with Lama Tsomo; Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the God Without a Name; new paperback version of Stations of the Cosmic Christ with Bishop Marc Andrus.  A Special Eckhart@Erfurt workshop in June, 2019.

With young leaders Fox is launching a new spiritual (not religious) “order” called the Order of the Sacred Earth (OSE) that is welcoming to people of all faith traditions and none and whose ‘glue’ is a common vow: “I promise to be the best lover of Mother Earth and the best defender of Mother Earth that I can be.”

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