‘Undas’ and life after life (not death)

‘Undas’ and life after life (not death)
People visit their departed loved ones at the Manila North Cemetery ahead of the observance of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day after two years of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

What’s the meaning or derivation of the local word “Undas,” referred to in English as All Souls’ Day?

In Mexico, “Dia de los Muertos” means “Day of the Dead,” which in Tagalog is “Araw ng mga Patay o Namayapa.” In Spain, “honra” means “honor” or “respect”—hence, “to respect or honor the dead.”

In the Philippine province of Batangas, “Undas” is referred to as “Undras.”

In our Catholic parlance, Nov. 1 is “Todos los Santos” or “All Saints’ Day.” But in Tagalog, todasmeans “dead.” Could it be, hence, that Nov. 2, as “Undas,” etymologically signifies as “Un Dia de las Todas—a contraction, thus, of Spanish and Tagalog to mean “Day of the Dead”?

As it’s Undas time, a nagging question is in order: Is there life after this life? Or, is death the end of it all?

Near-death experience

Dr. Raymond Moody, named by The New York Times as the “father of near-death experience,” made a groundbreaking study of over 100 people who experienced “clinical death” (or near-death experience) and were revived, and who narrated, in their own words, what lies beyond death.

Moody’s pioneering work titled, “Life After Life,” originally published in 1975 and which has sold more than 13 million copies worldwide, introduced us to concepts associated with near-death experience, such as exiting from the body and rising above the (hospital) scene; the tunnel; the bright light and an enlightened being; the presence of loved ones waiting on the other side; and many others.

Another argument for the belief in the afterlife is the scientific principle of the conservation of energy, which supports the idea that the mind survives bodily death. It says that energy never just springs into existence or ceases to exist; it simply changes in form. If follows from this principle that mind or consciousness cannot just go out of existence or disappear at death.

Spiritual energy

To my appreciation, the conservation principle may apply only to physical energy. Thus, if the mind is viewed as nonphysical but spiritual energy, there is no reason to think that the conservation principle would indeed apply. Moreover, a guarantee for survival may be plausible if it can be established that the mind is a single, indivisible and indestructible unit.

Lastly, there’s also the argument from justice to justify the existence of the afterlife. It says that if life does not continue after death, there can be no justice. In this world, the innocent ones suffer, and often the good ones receive no reward, while the bad guys go unpunished. If this moral imbalance were not righted, the universe would not be rational or meaningful; it would be unjust, meaningless and absurd. Therefore, the unfairness of life in this world indicates that life must continue after death, if only to balance the scales of justice.

In the last analysis, it is interesting to note a plausible correlation between belief in the existence of God and belief in an afterlife.

The American philosopher William Hasker says: “The close correlation between theism and an afterlife is affirmed in Immanuel Kant’s Arguments for the Postulates of Practical Reason. Kant gives different reasons for postulating God and for postulating an afterlife, and it is highly plausible that the two postulates are inseparable. We ought to postulate God, because only in this way is it possible that in the end, happiness should be enjoyed by persons in proportion to their moral worthiness. We are told to postulate immortality because only an endless life makes possible a continued progress towards the goal of correspondence of one’s life with the requirements of the moral law.”

Bob Acebedo writes a column for the weekly OpinYon (https://opinyon.net). —Ed.

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