Over the past few years I have lost two people that I was very close too. The first, my Nan, died of Cancer at the end of January this year. It was too late before we found out she had it and there was nothing that could be done to help her. Two years ago another friend of mine, quite young, was killed in a car crash. Their deaths are still raw in pain for me…but when has life ever been fair?
Anyway, this situation has got me thinking about how I see death as a Naturalistic Pantheist. A few years ago I was a Christian and would have taken comfort from the fact that I would see her again one day in heaven. Now, without those beliefs, where will I find comfort? Can Pantheism give any help?
I believe it can. Pantheism says that “We see death as the return to nature of our elements, and the end of our existence as individuals. The forms of “afterlife” available to humans are natural ones, in the natural world. Our actions, our ideas and memories of us live on, according to what we do in our lives. Our genes live on in our families, and our elements are endlessly recycled in nature.“
Pantheism does not promise an afterlife in some heaven, nor in hell. Pantheism promises only natural forms of afterlife – we will live on in the memories of those who knew us and in our genes passed down through our children. But Pantheism also goes further…it says that at death we begin a process of transformation, of changing or recycling. Our atoms become part of nature again. When we are buried, our atoms become part of the soil, that becomes part of plants, that becomes part of the animals and so on in an endless cycle. If we are cremated, some of our atoms join with the atmosphere and become part of that. The point is that none of our atoms or energy is destroyed, we are not “gone” because we become part of the world again, the world we came from. Our atoms have been in existence since the very beginning and will be until the very end of the universe. We do not die, we are transformed. Our consciousness may end, but the very essence of who we are, the elements that make us up will never be destroyed but will continue to exist for all time. When we die, we do not just rot in the ground, but become new things, new creations. We may become a flower or tree, become part of insects or animals, become rain or the wind. We become part of the natural world once again. How beautiful a thought. I think the following help to sum this up well…
And a couple of poems by various people…
Friend, please don’t mourn for me
I’m still here, though you don’t see.
I’m right by your side each night and day
And within your heart I long to stay.
My body is gone but I’m always near.
I’m everything you feel, see or hear.
My spirit is free, but I’ll never depart
As long as you keep me alive in your heart.
I’ll never wander out of your sight-
I’m the brightest star on a summer night.
I’ll never be beyond your reach-
I’m the warm moist sand when you’re at the beach.
I’m the colourful leaves when Autumn’s around
And the pure white snow that blankets the ground.
I’m the beautiful flowers of which you’re so fond,
The clear cool water in a quiet pond.
I’m the first bright blossom you’ll see in the spring,
The first warm raindrop that April will bring.
I’m the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine,
And you’ll see that the face in the moon is mine.
I’m the smile you see on a baby’s face.
Just look for me, friend, I’m every place!
A long time have I lived with you
And now we must be going
Separately to be together.
Perhaps I shall be the wind
To blur your smooth waters
So that you do not see your face too much.
Perhaps I shall be the star
To guide your uncertain wings
So that you have direction in the night.
Perhaps I shall be the fire
To separate your thoughts
So that you do not give up.
Perhaps I shall be the rain
To open up the earth
So that your seed may fall.
Perhaps I shall be the snow
To let your blossoms sleep
So that you may bloom in spring.
Perhaps I shall be the stream
To play a song on the rock
So that you are not alone.
Perhaps I shall be a new mountain
So that you always have a home.
At the festival of Samhain, we remember those who we have lost and honour them. This year when I remember my ancestors, I shall include a picture of my grandmother. I shall light a candle for her and remember the good times together. Honouring our ancestors and remembering our lost loved ones each year on Samhain is an important part of my Naturalistic Pantheist Practice and helps me to remember and never forget those who have had such an important influence on my life. She will become an Ancestor.
What does Naturalistic Pantheism have to say about funerals? In my opinion, natural burials are an important aspect of death and funerals for Pantheists. Being buried in a natural place, in a natural way, not filled with chemicals first, so that there are few barriers to our transformation back into nature is key. Thinking about my own funeral, I want to buried (rather than cremated) in a woodland, with a tree on top of me so my atoms become part of that tree. I want a funeral with songs that emphasise the beauty of the world and the circle of life. And I want a party!