The role of death in life, 8 / by JW Harrington

“We humans are, however, not psychologically equipped to fully acquire such equanimity without an enduring sense of significance that extends beyond our own individual existence.  In The Broken Connection: On Death and the Continuity of Life, Robert Jay Lifton described five core modes of death transcendence:

“Biosocial:  by passing on one’s genes, history, values, and possessions, or by identification with an ancestral line or ethnic or national identity that perseveres indefinitely.”

“Theological: faith in a soul and the possibility of literal immortality;  or a more symbolic sense of spiritual connection to an ongoing life force.”

“Creative:  contributing to future generations through innovations and teaching in art, science, and technology.”

“Natural: identifying with all life, nature, or even the universe.”  [One recognizes that one is a tiny part of something that will endure.]

“Finally, experiential transcendence is characterized by a sense of timelessness accompanies by a heightened sense of awe and wonder…. such experiential states are most fulfilling when they occur in the context of one of the other four modes: playing with your children, engaging in spiritual rituals, throwing yourself into creative activity, being immersed in the natural world.”

-- Sheldon Solomon et al. (2015).  The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life, pp. 221-2