Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: A Brief History of Death

'A Brief History of Death' by DOUGLAS J. DAVIES, is a part of a series of books on interesting topics:
– A Brief History of Heaven, A Brief History of Heresy, A Brief History of Islam, A Brief History of Death, and A Brief History of Saints
It begins by putting the history of death as a history of self-reflection, asking questions like, Who are we? Whence do we come, and whither go after death?
The book then sketches some other myths of death’s origin. How the early traditions, like roots of Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion expressing the human sense of morality, popularized resurrection and post-mortem judgment.
How religions originating in India, by contrast, set less dependence to things, either by this world or any imagined and perfected landscape of eternity. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism took death to be part of the immense cycle of ongoing existence from which the vital self should and might be released.
Whatever the origin of religions, it remains the case that they have been the prime channel for explaining and coping with death. Whether it is the nature of moral acts and their outcome within the framework of transmigrating souls and reincarnation, as practiced by Indian religions, or the use of resurrection as another way of dealing with the evaluation of moral life in relation to the divine, religions have been playing a pivotal role in our appreciation of death, by permitting our entry to paradise with full honours.
Further chapters examine some of the dynamics of death rites, both by involving ideas of the soul and human destiny on the one hand and varieties of funeral ritual on the other. The role of religions in offsetting the sense of loss experienced in death and the sense of hope we all get is made clear. Then comes the fear of death. The deep anguish of leaving one's family and, the wider psychological and philosophical themes, are scrutinized, again in the light of religious therapy. Quoting instances of history where the death of famous people caused a shift in our view, the book ends with an observation that our view of the meaning of life, values and beliefs, is dynamic, and the history of death depicts this dynamism even in our appreciation of life in its entire reach.

However, this book fails in giving a logical background to the fear of death, which I have tried to address in my books.

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