J is for Judgement, Morality and the Afterlife

I was going to write about another topic, but this has been playing on my mind lately, what with the Jewish Archangel of Death otherkin fic I’m currently writing, and I think it’s time I sat down and wrote out my thoughts on this topic. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Like all entries of this sort of contemplative nature, this is just my truth and nothing more. There are countless ways to see the Afterlife; this is merely one of them. It is not a place that, I think, can be described with any certainty, until we get there. So for now, we have our theories, and this is mine. Take from it what you will.

I’ve known, I suppose, in the way that you know, that when you’re a Kemetic recon, it’s quite acceptable to adhere to their view of the Afterlife, that the Soul is judged in the Hall of the Two Truths, and if it balances, you get to turn into an Akh and become one of the Ancestors, and if it doesn’t balance, Ammit eats you out of existence. And, yeah, I suppose I went along with that for a long time, but it’s taken me a while to figure out that I don’t think I ever really actually believed it. Which is a very odd thing to realise after being Kemetic for so long.

Perhaps it’s one of those weird side-effects of growing up Christian, with the idea of Heaven and Hell and eternal damnation, but as I’ve got older, and figured out my path and beliefs, I really don’t think I can believe in that sort of dichotomy when it comes to the Afterlife anymore. I just- I just don’t think it works like that. Even if, as Hemet (AUS) once said, that it’s really only the very small few who get devoured by Ammit, I still feel like I’m being … threatened … into keeping Ma’at. And by that I mean that the imperative to act morally and do good in the world is tied to/comes with/is associated with the threat of having your soul extinguished out of existence. I still can’t decide if that’s better or worse than eternal damnation. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure that out. (In saying this, though, I’m not judging anyone who believes in the Kemetic view at all; it just doesn’t work for me.)

For a long time now, I’ve had this collective view of the Afterlife, that it’s one single place with, perhaps, a lot of separate rooms for the various different views of the Afterlife to exist. Like, it’s this big circular place, really cavernous and dark (because my Afterlife is something of an Underworld but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s Under anything; I mean, it could be Under Nut/the Sky and not be buried deep in the Earth. IDK) , and on the outside are all the separate rooms for each of the religious traditions/versions of the Afterlife. Everyone goes where they’re meant to be. I’m a hard enough polytheist to believe every God exists, even ones I don’t worship, and soft enough to embrace the aspecting/synchretising thing where Gods join together, wear different masks, and generally fuck with people’s heads.

But each of those little rooms on the outside have a doorway into a big central collective meeting hall/camp fire/village green where all the souls can mingle if they want to. I mean, if you go back far enough, we do share a common ancestor, so I’ve never felt like it made sense for each religion to shut themselves off from the rest. It’s the sort of place where all the ancestors can exist together, and learn from one another, before making the decision to live again, or stay there permanently. I don’t even see this communal space as The Only Place That Counts As ‘Heaven’ either. It’s one of many places where souls can gather and live out their Afterlives. Maybe the Summerlands are out there, and the Elysian Fields, and Gan Eden, and Heaven, and Nirvana, and what have you are all there somewhere too as places you can go. But I think that one meeting space is particularly important as it’s so close to the other rooms. The rest are more … abstract and vague. Elsewhere. Maybe Above? IDK. /I never said I had a map of this place, fyi. There could be layers or different districts or something. IDK.

Part of what got me thinking about all this again is that I’ve been researching Judaism for that fic I mentioned above, and the views of Angels and the Afterlife in particular. I was intrigued at their view of what the Afterlife is like. (At least, from an Orthodox point of view; I believe in knowing the rules before you break them.) That Gehinom, even if it’s meant to be something like the Christian Hell, it’s not a permanent sentence, iirc. No one stays there more than 12 months, I think, which is why they only recite the mourner’s Kaddish for 11 months, as they don’t believe anyone will be there the full twelve months. I hadn’t been aware that’s how the Jewish Afterlife worked, probably because of the ‘Judeo-Christian’ descriptor that seems to imply (at least as far as common knowledge goes in my part of the world) that the two religions are more similar than they are different, which I’m pretty sure isn’t true, now that I’ve Done My Research.

I don’t know, but there’s something about that Jewish view that struck a chord with me, that no one is damned forever. There is space for redemption, and maybe a soul who’s not perhaps been as good as they’d have liked, has time to think about that and work through any issues they need to work through before going through that judgement to get into Gan Eden. And the more I think about that, the more I realise that I think I’ve always held this view, if not always able to articulate it. I think sometimes we do need some time to get our shit together after we’ve died before we submit to judgement, and maybe some people need more time than others. Death is a big transition to make. It stands to reason that maybe souls need some time to adjust to that before they go through judgement or whatever.

The way I see it, humans aren’t perfect. And as much as we strive to be good people, we’ll never be perfect. No matter your belief system, I’m pretty sure there’ll be something you’ll feel you have to ‘confess’ to at that moment of judgement. (If ‘confess’ is the right word there; it’s the only one I can think of right now.) But then I keep thinking back to that Red Dwarf episode, where they’re faced with The Judge (or whatever his name is) and have to justify their existence. To themselves. I… have to admit I kind of really like that idea, too. Maybe perhaps not as a Final Judgementy thing, but perhaps as a process that might help a soul get to the point where they’re ready to be judged.

Maybe people would call this process something akin to Limbo, but I don’t know. It’s not really a waiting period, it’s more a cleansing period, where you take the time, once you’re dead, to prepare your soul for judgement. It’s like… It’s like making sure you’ve got the right group of Pokémon, training them up enough, that’ll enable you to beat the Elite Four in one go, rather than stumbling at the first hurdle. If that’s at all an appropriate metaphor. It’s about not going before you’re ready to face that challenge. That sort of thing. Everyone plays differently and uses different tactics when approaching the Elite Four. Some train to level 100, others stop at 50; some take a very diverse team in prepared with type advantages for everything they’re going to face, others maybe only have 2-3 hard-hitters who do all the work. They’re all valid ways of preparing. It’s like that with this rest period too, I think. How we each prepare for that judgement is up to us, and we’re all unique.

I mean, I do believe in reincarnation too, but it’s definitely a choice, and can be undertaken for any number of reasons from having lessons to learn to merely just enjoying being human. I suppose I’ve come to see the Afterlife as more like a period of rest between lifetimes, and that rest can last as long as it needs to. Which might be why I’ve never particularly gelled with the idea of an Afterlife where my soul is judged before I can proceed to either happiness or damnation, because it usually feels so, well, final. Maybe some people need and get that judgement ritual, and maybe I will too once I get there, but I don’t know. I just feel like… there are other ways to view the Afterlife, as a weird brand of Kemetic, that makes more sense to me. Which is not to say other views are wrong, either; I would never presume to know how the Afterlife is going to be like for everyone ever. I can only speak for myself about how I see things.

I don’t know. Maybe my pessimistic cynical self does actually believe that people are generally decent under most reasonable circumstances. Religion isn’t needed to live a good and moral life. And I’ve never been one of those Kemetics who has ever considered the 42 Negative Confessions as an acceptable moral code to live by, as if they are some sort of Kemetic equivalent to the Ten Commandments. I… just think it’s some weird ex-Christian hang-up, that you need to have a set of rules by which you live your life. (No offence to anyone who does find it useful in this way though; I’ve never seen the attraction in using a customisable list designed for the Dead as a moral guide for the Living. But to each their own. If it works for you, awesome.)

And that makes me pause, too, because my moral code can pretty much be summed up by the following points:

  1. 1. Ma’at rules, okay? If the Gods have to obey Her, so do you.
  2. 2. Don’t be a dick. To any person, God, or spirit.
  3. 3. Magic is not a cure-all, though it does have its uses.
    1. 3a. Mundane BEFORE magic; only turn to magic if you have exhausted all mundane methods of dealing with a situation.
    2. 3b. Mundane WITH magic; if you’re casting a job spell, for example, it’ll work better if you actually go out looking for one and not just sit at home waiting for someone to offer you a job.
  4. 4. The Universe will do what it wants to, whether you like it or not.
  5. 5. Everything is connected to everything else; if the Earth is sick, chances are, you probably are too, so look after the goddamn planet. You’re not getting another one.

I just don’t see why I need anything more than that, with perhaps a generous sprinkling of good manners and common sense to fix it all together, y’know? Like, why does it need to be more complicated than that? I don’t know. Maybe others need more rules than that, stricter boundaries or something, but for me, that’s enough. That covers everything without being too prescriptive about specific behaviours, I think. Be a decent person, do good for the world, and you’ll be alright. I kind of reckon the Gods generally just want us to be good people anyway and are willing to help that happen. That’s how I see it, anyway. Others will probably disagree, but that’s life. If we all agreed on the same religious things, we wouldn’t have so many different religions, so.* shrugs*

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