Course No. 6822 | .M4V, AVC, 584 kbps, 856×480 | English, AAC, 160 kbps, 2 Ch | 24×30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 9.31 GB
Lecturer: Professor Mark Berkson, Ph.D.
It’s a universal truth: Everyone—including you—will eventually die. Other forms of life on our planet will also die, but we might be the only living creatures who cannot help but contemplate our own mortality. After thousands of years of pondering it, we still find death one of life’s most perplexing mysteries—yet it doesn’t have to be the most frightening.
Death serves as the horizon against which our lives unfold and shapes the choices we make about how to live. In fact, the knowledge of mortality has inspired much of human activity—religion, philosophy, music and visual arts, even scientific endeavors and monumental architecture have all been driven by our understanding of death. Whether viewed as a transition to paradise or punishment, an ultimate separation or ecstatic joining, the end of existence or the beginning of a new way of being, many cultures have learned to see death as a window into the true meaning of life. The subject, therefore, deserves our close consideration.
Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures is an uplifting, meaningful, and multidisciplinary exploration of life’s only certainty. While we’re predisposed to look on death with fear and sadness, it’s only by confronting and exploring death head-on that we can actually embrace the important role it plays in our lives. Death, it turns out, is a powerful teacher, one that can help us
think responsibly and deeply about the meaning and value of life;
connect with the beliefs and traditions of cultures and faiths different from our own;
gain the wisdom and guidance to live a richer, more fulfilling life while we have it.
As religion scholar and award-winning Professor Mark Berkson of Hamline University says, “Reflecting on death and dying is an essential part of the examined life.” Take a wide-ranging look at this undeniably confounding and fascinating subject. Bringing together theology, philosophy, biology, anthropology, literature, psychology, sociology, and other fields, these 24 lectures are a brilliant compendium of how human beings have struggled to come to terms with mortality. You’ll encounter everything from ancient burial practices, traditional views of the afterlife, and the five stages of grief to the question of killing during wartime, the phenomenon of near-death experiences, and even 21st-century theories about transcending death itself. Prepare for a remarkable learning experience that brings you face-to-face with the most important topic mortals like us can consider.
Get Answers to Profound Questions about Death
“Thinking about death is not simply the price we have to pay for a fuller, more honest understanding of our lives,” says Professor Berkson. “Reflecting on death can have a remarkably positive effect on one’s life.”
With personal and cultural enlightenment as the overarching goal, his lectures provide you with comprehensive, eye-opening answers to several major questions surrounding the topic of death.
How do we think and feel about death? Several lectures are devoted to the ways we conceptualize and form attitudes about death—as good, as bad, or as nothing at all. Topics you’ll explore include common symbols of death, different medical and spiritual definitions of death, the phenomenon of death denial, and the rationality of fearing our eventual death.
How do we experience death? Emphasizing the fields of sociology, anthropology, and psychology, you’ll get an in-depth look at how human beings from a cross-section of cultures and traditions experience death—both their own and that of loved ones. How do different people cope with grief in different ways? What are the backstories behind various burial rituals? What does it mean to die well?
How do religions approach death and what comes after? A major part of this course is devoted to comparing and contrasting Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian attitudes toward death. You’ll learn how these great world faiths explain the existence of death, their beliefs regarding what happens to us after we die (including various manifestations of paradise and hell), their rituals for handling corpses, and much more.
When (if ever) is it justified to take a life? You’ll also get an opportunity to plunge into the fierce debates over the deliberate taking of a human life, whether through suicide, euthanasia, or warfare. In all cases, Professor Berkson presents both sides of the argument, giving you the cultural background and information you need to better understand others’ opinions and beliefs, and to better support—or revise—your own.
How important is death to our understanding of our humanity? Spend time focusing on what natural science has revealed about death and the process of dying—and the possibility of somehow transcending or avoiding death entirely. Also, probe historical efforts to extend human life, and ponder the ethical and social dilemmas of immortality.
Professor Berkson is a gentle but persistently curious guide, leading you through these topics with wonder, reverence, and occasionally even humor.
Join Great Thinkers in Pondering the Problem of Death
Throughout Death, Dying and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures, you’ll hear a chorus of voices from multiple disciplines, cultures, and time periods as they offer their unique, sometimes shocking, and sometimes refreshing perspectives on the problem of death. These voices range from noted poets and celebrated scientists to philosophers (both ancient and modern) and spiritual leaders, including:
the Buddha, who, in an effort to help people find freedom from suffering, taught that if we don’t have a distinct self to begin with, death really takes nothing from us
St. Paul, whose writings in the New Testament about the defeat of death through Jesus Christ (“O death, where is thy sting?”) have gone on to inspire billions of Christians around the world
Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher who believed that because death deprives us of sense experience (and all good and bad consists of experience), it can’t be bad for us at all
Albert Camus, the popular Existentialist writer who questioned whether or not suicide was the appropriate response to the hopeless absurdity of life
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, whose groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969) introduced readers to the now-classic five stages of the grieving process
Dylan Thomas, whose oft-recited poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” is a rousing cry of defiance, urging the reader to fight back against death as long as possible
Some of these voices and viewpoints will console you; others may trouble you. But all of them will add intriguing layers to your understanding of what death and dying have meant to so many people who came before you.
Lectures That Will Magnify Your Life
A master scholar and multi-award-winning teacher, Professor Berkson is a wonderful instructor who treats the subject of death in great detail—while respecting the importance of numerous beliefs and ways of thinking about the topic. He’s as adept at talking about Puritan burial rites in colonial America as he is breaking down the ethical complexities of taking a life to alleviate suffering. He’s a teacher who’s not only an expert in such heady subject matter but also someone constantly in awe at just how powerful death has been across cultures and throughout time.
Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures acts as a memento mori (a reminder of death common to medieval art): something used not for the sake of morbidity but as a spur for people to perfect themselves while still alive.
“Many religious traditions teach that a form of regular death reflection can deepen one’s appreciation for life,” Professor Berkson notes. “And in some traditions, it can actually lead to spiritual transformation or awakening. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Whoever rightly understands and celebrates death at the same time magnifies life.”