There’s something fundamentally wrong with our funeral traditions, and the way we treat our deceased loved ones in general. Unless we don’t change this unhealthy attitude, we not only harm ourselves psychologically, but cause physical harm to our environment, as well. But before I tell you exactly what it is, I’d like to go back in time to the very first funeral in history.
Although burial and other ways of dealing with corpses is probably as old as humanity, the oldest proof of some kind of pre-historic funeral dates back to 300.000 years ago. We can know this by examining the remains found in caves and other burial grounds. The signs show that many of our early ancestors were buried with flowers.
Archeologists suggest that this is a sign of religion, and the custom lives on to this day. But I’m not so sure about that. We all know that decaying bodies leave a foul stench, and the smell of the flowers could serve just to make the air bearable.
Otherwise, what’s the logic of sacrificing living plants for a dead body? Even if it’s just meant to be symbolic, I think killing a beautiful flower is a really bad symbol for the celebration of life. Besides, it won’t resurrect the dead, so why bother? If it was up to me, I would ban this stupid custom everywhere in the world.
The next milestone in the history of funerals arrived when people started burying the dead with so-called grave goods. These are usually personal possessions, supplies to smooth the deceased’s journey into the afterlife or offerings to the gods. They not only included such basic things as pottery or tools, but sometimes people would kill the servants or the wife of the deceased, so they can be together on the proverbial other side.
I take the appearance of grave goods as the first true sign of religion, which clearly shows what a childish superstition it really is. You see, the root of all religions is the denial of death, and that is exactly my main problem with them. That’s why Immortology is so different from religions: one of its main tenets is to accept death.
The biggest misunderstanding around the topic of death is that a person is equal to his body. From this one false belief alone, dozens of unhealthy funeral traditions were born, which all aim to preserve the body in one way or another. What’s the basic logic behind body preservation? If the body survives, then the loved one will somehow survive too. But this is nothing more than wishful thinking combined with a complete misunderstanding of life.
Besides simple grave goods, religious people invented all kinds of elaborate methods to inhibit or prolong decomposition. The Egyptians were the masters in this area, who mummified their pharaos, buried them with treasures, erected pyramids and made a big fuss about their funerals in general. They committed the same mistake as all other death-denying religions: preferring an imagined afterlife to living the lives they already had.
Pagans were not free from this unhealthy attitude either. Although they mostly cremated their deceased, they wove all kinds of childish fantasies around the spirits of the dead. Halloween is a prime example of this pagan attitude, in spite of the fact that it was incorporated into Christianity. On this night, it is believed that the veil between the living and the dead becomes thinner, and our dead relatives come back to haunt us.
According to this logic, we then have to defend ourselves, wear scary masks and carve out pumpkins to scare away the evil spirits. Sometimes, the goal is just the opposite: to offer hospitality for these wandering souls. Places were set at the dinner table and by the fire to welcome them. It’s easy to see the implicit hope behind this festival: that after all, death is not permanent.
But pagan beliefs are nothing compared to the disastrous influence Christianity had on our funeral traditions. The biggest religion in the world is against cremation and prefers embalming and burial in caskets – the most ecologically damaging option. The reason? Supposedly, the corpses buried this way will all rise from the dead on Judgment Day.
There’s no other way I can imagine this than as a worldwide zombie apocalypse. Have they even thought about where they’ll put all these people? But of course you’ll only be resurrected if you’re a believer. The Church promises immortality only for the followers. And the “proof” for resurrection is none else than the first zombie in history: Jesus Christ himself.
During a typical modern-day funeral, we wash, dress up and paint the corpse to make it look as if it was alive. We put comfortable pillows in the casket as if the dead felt anything. In some cultures, they even seat the corpse on a chair, pour out the favorite drink and light a cigarette in its mouth. It seems we do everything to keep at least the illusion alive.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether we imagine the dead continuing on in their physical bodies or as immaterial spirits, because both are just imaginations. Somebody who’s dead is dead, end of the story. Game over. Finished. There’s no continuation and no communication either, so deal with it.
Sorry to be so blunt, but this seems the only way I can make people get my point. The essence of the person you loved is not in the body, and never was. This doesn’t mean however, that we shouldn’t deal with the body in a responsible, conscious and ecological manner.
Embalming is the most artificial and environmentally harmful method, and it’s completely unnecessary. Cremation is slightly better, but what I vote for instead is natural burial. Depending on the laws, it might be already available in your country, just do some research.
All your life, you’ve only taken and taken away, and now it’s your chance to give back something to nature. You ate thousands of plants and animals during your lifetime, so why not offer your body as food for other living beings? Your body is part of the Earth, so the most natural thing you can do is to let it return to where it came from.
Natural burial is not only natural biologically though. It’s also the most natural, healthy and spiritual answer to the question of death. It doesn’t mean that you cannot or should not cherish the memories of your loved ones, but as far as their bodies and personalities are concerned, those are finished. Denying death is bad, but it’s okay to decay.
If you want to know more about death from a spiritual but down to earth perspective, you should read my book: The Power of Death. Click on the link below, and get it now! I’m deadly serious.