Have You Ever Died?

Founder’s Note / Jan. 24th, 2021 Posted by: Okhiogbe Omonhinmin

If you believe in reincarnation then your answer would maybe be yes. The various concepts of death oppose each other sometimes but still have the ability to point to something bigger than us, something that is sure to happen.

Even though thinking about one’s own mortality isn’t common because of fear, this question gives us the chance to think about death as an idea that is to come.

In many African spiritual practices, it is believed that we live, die and come back to continue what we started or haven’t finished. These beliefs are very well connected to the various concepts of reincarnation practiced by the non-abrahamic religions who believe that we come, we live, and die, to be judged by the way we lived on earth. All of these ideas are fascinating to me.

Once you open up to other possibilities, you see the richness that all of these ideas present. You then begin to see their individual connections to each other, even the line that connects those who don’t believe in God to those who do is revealed, and for me this is fascinating and intriguing.

There are various types of deaths. I am not speaking about the many ways that physical death occurs legally here on earth; be it natural, an accident, suicide, homicide or undetermined. I am rather expanding the idea of death to include things like this statement by apostle Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12:2: “I know of a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.”

Many people who believe in reincarnation, karma and the many belief systems that come with that speak about understanding Paul’s statement even if a number christians don’t because their belief system tells them about one heaven and that one must die, wait for judgement or resurrection to enter it. Whereas these other belief systems see this occurrence as an out-of-body experience, an experience where spirit or soul leaves the physical body and can go as it pleases. Only through near-death experience or with certain spiritual exercises can one achieve this state.

So I ask again: Have You Ever Died? It could be when one loses their core belief and values. Distrust or alienation from others can cause this death, or stress, PTSD and all forms of mental instability can cause or lead to this type of death. Or maybe it is intellectual death? Just like Confucius said: “Learning without thought is labor lost. Thought without learning is intellectual death.”

Learning without thought = you might learn the wrong things which makes the effort you put into learning useless.

Thought without learning = you think but you don’t learn from your mistakes.

Intellectual death = no progress. As simple as this might sound, someone who believes in the idea that all things happen for a reason would tell you it was all meant to happen and this is why I find these ideas fascinating, there is always something to corner you or take you out of a corner.

Spiritual death — in a lot of religions or spiritual practices — is the big death and it occurs when one is separate from God, separate from the Divine, separate from their center, separate from nature. When one is no longer centered whether it’s through prayers, yoga, meditation, contemplation, exercise, whatever you do to be centered, when you stop doing that which centers you, you gradually die spiritually and eventually become untethered.

In Christian theology, spiritual death is separation from God caused by sin. In Buddhism, this is referred to as duhkha. In social science, it can be seen as a state where people in an overcrowded but resource-rich environment are left to fend which can lead to a complete breakdown. Environmentalists, nature lovers talk about pollution as another form of death because death to mother earth is death to all.

This image is my personal sketch diagram of life & death. Feel free to add to it.

Reincarnation within the Yoruba family is linked to names like Babatunde meaning “father returns”, Yetunde “mother returns”, Babatunji “father wakes once again” and Sotunde “the wise man returns”. They all offer vivid evidence of the Ifa concept of familial or lineal rebirth.

In Life After Death In Yoruba Ontology: A Critique by Mohammed Akinola Akomolafe, PhD. He says “The idea of reincarnation among the Yoruba is indicative of the belief in the immortality of life. The actual word for reincarnation in Yoruba is Atunwa. As a matter of fact, the word Atunwa implies the second rebirth of a person or the shooting fourth of a branch, or born again”. https://www.lasu.edu.ng/publications/arts/mohammed_akomolafe_ja_09.pdf.

To simplify this we can observe the various concepts, for instance; we die when we sleep, we die during our short naps, we die when we are lost in thought creatively or not (Soul, the Disney animation movie explained this so well), we die whenever we we have an experience that alters our lives good or bad.

Death is so feared but still so close to us, death is so far the only thing that truly keeps to its promise. How could we not take our time and truly get familiar with this experience from wherever we decide to enter it? Death has so much to teach us about the past, present and future, the fear of death keeps us stagnant for as long as our fears exist.

So let’s think about it again: Have You Ever Died? If your fears make it hard to think of an answer, think about every single moment you felt re-energized, refreshed, renewed, detoxed, all of these processes of starting over are forms of death that take us through seasons. After winter or harmattan come the seasons that bring life. The fear that comes with death is so solid but when you start to embrace death as an idea or experience, life takes a new meaning. Life takes on a new meaning, and those things that clouded your sight disappear.

So, ‘Have You Ever Died?’ could also mean do you experience living? Maybe you will agree that death and life are a combined force that happen together. And if we live daily then we die daily,it is only a process of transition to something else, old, new or to nothing at all.

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