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Immortality in history

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Immortality, or prolonged life ad libitum, implies the notion of a form of life or at least of thought escaping death, or of life after death, physical and / or spiritual of spirits and souls (body-soul problem), of a natural, divine, allegorical, memory, or other nature … It is one of the major controversial themes of all the history of Humanity, anthropology, medicine, science, metaphysics, of philosophy, psychology, mythology, religious faith, and the arts, literature, and culture …

Immortality anticipating Time, allegorical sculpture by Georges Récipon in 1900, from the roofs of the Grand Palais in Paris.
Credit: Eutouring, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Immortality_Outstripping_Time.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0 license

(Immortality anticipating Time, allegorical sculpture by Georges Récipon in 1900, from the roofs of the Grand Palais in Paris.)

Depending on the views, beliefs, and faith in various religions, immortality can be about the soul, the body, or both. It can be considered in its figurative (posthumous) or proper (earthly) sense. The origin of this concept is not certain.

The men of Cro-magnon and even of Neanderthals buried their dead with flowers or tools, and has been noted the presence of ocher in the graves of the Cro-magnons. Even if this thesis has been presented, nothing allows us to determine whether these objects were placed there while thinking of a possible beyond or if they were more simply posthumous marks of affection in the same way that we flower the graves of our dead.

One of the oldest mentions of immortality (amrita) (between 5000 and 1500 BC) is found in the 10th mandala of the Rig-Veda. An earlier Sumerian poem deals with the visit of the sovereign Ur-Nammu to the gods after his death.

The Egypt of the Pharaohs for its part had its Osiris, weighing the good and evil of the life of the dead to determine where to point it. Immortality is initially the lot reserved for pharaohs only, who are supposed to be able to provide it to members of their entourage. According to the ARTE documentary in reference, it ends up being hoped for even by members of the people.

The bricks used to build the Tower of Babel (Etemenanki) – in fact a ziggurat – in the 6th century BC bear the following inscription, which was engraved in their mold: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, had this tower erected in homage to the god Marduk. Lord Mardouk grant us eternal life”. In the same cultural sphere, the Epic of Gilgamesh describes the quest of a hero seeking immortality following the death of his friend Enkidu. He will not obtain it, only the gods being immortal, and will be condemned to die too, and to lie down in the sleep of death.

Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam, 1511, Sistine Chapel of the Vatican in Rome(Allegorical symbolic representation of the mystery of the creation of the world, of life, and of Humanity, by Michelangelo (The Creation of Adam, 1511, Sistine Chapel of the Vatican in Rome).)

In the 4th century BC, Plato wrote his philosophical remarks on the immortality of the soul (cf. Phaedo).

According to the philologist Ernest Renan, the majority of the Hebrew people worship the God of their fathers without expecting any reward in the hereafter, nor even the existence of a hereafter. While this is certainly not forbidden to believe in it, nor in a physical resurrection (vision of Daniel 8 Chapter 12), religion itself does not commit to this subject. Ecclesiastes, for example, declares that the dead see nothing and feel nothing. However, the Pharisees later believe in the immortality of the soul, unlike the Sadducees, according to historian Flavius ​​Josephus. The book of Tobit (2nd century BC) evokes life after death, although that of Job just mentions his trials as a consolation during his lifetime. If the dead no longer hope for life here on earth, it is considered conceivable to wake them up and question them, since the God of the Old Testament explicitly forbids his followers to do so.

The European and Byzantine Middle Ages align with the symbol of Nicaea (first Creed, established by the Council of Nicaea in 325 – subsequently amended) which mentions “I believe in the resurrection of the flesh”. This affirmation of Nicaea innovated compared to the Greco-Roman religion promising at most a posthumous existence in Pluto (Hades), which in principle did not allow any member of its workforce to return to Earth. Only his “occasional visitors” (Orpheus, Telemachus) and, six months a year, his wife Proserpine (Persephone) had the right to do so.

In the 19th century, spiritualism developed a doctrine based solely on the immortality of the Spirit and claimed to communicate with the spirits of the dead. If Bertrand Russell does not reject this phenomenon a priori, he nevertheless recalls that even verified, it “would indicate that we survive, but in no case that we survive eternally”. He adds two other restrictions, one relating to our difficulty in objectively testifying when powerful affects are in play, the other to the need for defined protocols to validate the possible phenomenon of personality survival after the cessation of vital functions of the body, which he personally considers implausible.

Translated from Wikipedia

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