Crossing the bar

My wife and I were discussing the recent death of a close friend. We wondered about the experience of crossing the threshold from life to death to eternal life. And of course our imaginations failed – because we can only imagine (as Kant pointed out) in terms of time and space. But time and space only have meaning in a material world. Whatever will be our first experience on the other side is hidden to the human mind. We may use human concepts like seeing God, or being cleansed in Purgatory, or meeting deceased loved ones – but these are just labels for concepts which, until they occur, have no meaning.

And then I remembered that one Blog contributor had suggested that we might look at near-death experiences. These are well documented, and would certainly suggest that we will understand life after death in human terms. There are many accounts but enough similarities between them to suggest that they describe an experience which is essentially true. Reports of a bright light and a tunnel – or something similar – through which one has to pass, a sense of connectedness, are typically reported. So are: life flashing before the eyes, feelings of peace and joy, and perceived encounters with mystical entities.

However, as you might expect, there are sceptics – mainly people of a scientific rather than a religious bent. They are quick to point out that such experiences can occur to people who are not in fact dying, and that the vision of the entrance to heaven is coincidentally in line with contemporary religious culture.

But of course there is a riposte. A J Ayer, the distinctively secular philosopher, reported such an experience, and there is some evidence that he said to his doctor, “I  saw a Divine Being. I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise all my books and opinions.” (See the account in Wikipedia). Perhaps even more convincing was the recent account in Newsweek magazine by a brain surgeon of his near-death experiences, when he was seriously ill with bacterial meningitis. This was a ‘hardheaded’ scientist telling us how it is. And I agree that the evidence strongly supports these accounts by two people of substance. But I have to say that I think that they have nothing whatsoever to do with the supernatural.

My first reason for this is prima facie. I do not think that life after death is much the same as before – but with the addition of bright lights and angelic choirs. That sounds a mite too convenient for me. Second, there is a well sourced theory that the brain does not close down immediately – even at clinical death. One would expect its activity to continue if only for a few seconds on its way to a final stop. (However that does make me wonder about what goes on in the head of an aristocrat as it tumbles down from the guillotine.)

Thirdly, near-death experiences are more open to investigation than heretofore because cardiac resuscitation is more common. In a 2009 study of such patients, those who reported near-death experiences showed significantly higher blood carbon dioxide levels than those who did not. Why carbon dioxide should have such an effect does not appear to have yet been established, and requires further study. But the factors which we might expect to associate with the experiences, such  such as sex, age, level of education, religious belief, fear of death, time to recovery or drugs given, showed no correlation, in this study.

So, though I do not doubt that some dying people have such an experience (and that would include people who actually do die and so cannot report) I believe that there is a natural explanation by way of abnormal brain activity causing this illusion. However you may have had, or may know people who have had, near-death experiences. So tell us about that, together with your views on the whole question. And if you have pictured what you will experience in the instance after death, share it with us. It will be interesting to know whether such accounts are similar or vary wildly.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Quentin queries, Spirituality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Crossing the bar

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    My neighbour, who was once nearly drowned on a caving expedition, reports something like the “light at the end of a tunnel” effect (as would be particularly appropriate) and being told to go back as he wasn’t due yet.

    • ionzone says:

      I hear you need an appointment!

      Personally, I don’t know. When the brain shuts down permanently it really does shut down permanently, studies with rats show that the brain looses its charge. In other words- there is a hard point of no return and if you brought someone back after then they wouldn’t be the same person.

      There are scientists who say the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ thing is your optic cells dying. This is, in my opinion, rubbish because that doesn’t make sense when you consider that the people who tell us this come back, and also people who see this light see way, way, more than just a white spot, a splodge, or something closing in from all sides – which is what you would expect if the cells associated with vision were dying. That and temporary or permanent blindness. Personally I think that the scientists are reaching just as much as the religious people here – both sides want their version of events to be true. There is, in fact, no such thing as a person who is not biased and no such thing as a person who does not subscribe to an ideology. When a scientist tells you the results of something like this they let their opinion tell them what the evidence means just as much as we do.

      Personally, I really don’t think that science is even capable of addressing the issue because they still cling to the outdated concept of absolute materialism – they can’t talk about God any more than a tree can talk about tap-dancing because they are honour-bound to record an ‘inconclusive’ cause or simply write it off. I am also reminded of the almost constant problem of patients (or relatives) being waved off by doctors and then dying of something as simple as meningitis, etc, because people, even very smart people, end up thinking that just because the saying is “when you hear hoof-beats think horses, not zebras” that that means zebras don’t exist and anyone who claims to see one (or that their daughter has menagitus) is hallucinating. To give you an idea of how common this is you need only to google it, or ask almost anyone who has gone to hospital with some kind of internal pain.

      https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Doctor+ignored+menagitus&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=fflb#hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&hs=Rke&tbo=d&rls=org.mozilla:en-US%3Aofficial&channel=fflb&sclient=psy-ab&q=Doctor+ignored+died&oq=Doctor+ignored+died&gs_l=serp.3…7692.8741.0.8845.5.5.0.0.0.0.305.763.0j3j0j1.4.0.les%3B..0.0…1c.1.PPDINoPuIIw&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.d2k&fp=fc7fe2b45ce62c75&bpcl=40096503&biw=1304&bih=581

      Personally I would say that the carbon dioxide is important because it means that the brain is starved of oxygen. This could mean hallucinations, but hallucinations tend not to be particularly specific, especially if the person doesn’t know they are close to death, and, lets face it, people generally don’t.

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        Anoxia does have an effect. I remember vividly nursing anoxic patients who were usually completely out of it till their blood gases returned to normal. Once I had to spend half an hour with a patient going round the ward measuring the walls for the plasteing he was convinced he had been sent to do..next day it was abject apology all round.

  2. Vincent says:

    I have to say that the issue which interests me here is: “We may use human concepts like seeing God, or being cleansed in Purgatory, or meeting deceased loved ones – but these are just labels for concepts which, until they occur, have no meaning.”
    First, I am not sure whether this is strictly true. For instance there either is or isn’t a process of cleansing us of our sins and the deserved punishment. If it is meaningful to ask that question then the answer to it must be meaningful — even if our imaginations are not up to full appreciation.
    Leaving that aside, I do of course accept the irrelevance of time and space in our after lives. But surely, however inadequate our current understanding of this may be, we do have to have some grasp of it – if only in human terms. Jesus himself used human words to describe heavenly things, so it must be acceptable for us to do so.
    Quentin may be being philosophically pure — but he makes the prospect of after life uninviting.

  3. Rahner says:

    “But time and space only have meaning in a material world.”
    Aquinas argues that “my soul is not I” and surely the idea of a resurrected body means that space and time will be a component of the afterlife. I doubt if it is coherent to suppose that human experience, consciousness and communication can exist in some timeless realm which as timeless is presumably not before, after or simultaneous with anything else…..

    • Vincent says:

      I’ll grant you the resurrection of the body in space and time — precisely since (I presume) the risen body is material. But how about in between? Homo sapiens first appeared c.200,000 years ago. Long time to wait, if time is involved.

    • tim says:

      I don’t think that timelessness necessarily excludes succession or change – consider a two-dimensional graph. Presumably those who get to Heaven experience eternity in much the same way as God does – at least partly from outside Time. The Trinity is ‘before all ages’. About near-death experiences I am stolidly agnostic.

  4. St.Joseph says:

    I wonder what St Thomas Aquinas meant by ‘my soul is not I’.
    Our soul must be I, it is a part of our being. Even if we are not aware of the goodness that we receive from Gods Gifts of Grace in the way we live our lives, our soul must take on the image of God. I seem to think that when we die our soul moves into another dimension and we are really not too far from our existence here.
    ‘I live I not now, but God lives in me’. We are moving all the time closer to our next life depending on how we live in the body. in perfect Supernatural Grace.
    Just my thoughts.

    • St.Joseph says:

      P.S.
      That is why I believe it is so important not to abort babies from the moment of conception as our soul is made in the image and likeness of God,and then takes on our bodies .
      Of course if aborted our souls goes back to God,if it carries on in this life-it will either be corrupted or stay in the Sanctifying Grace from our Baptism and continue fighting sin until we die,and hopefully end up with the same state our soul was when He gave us at conception.

  5. johnbunting says:

    I find, and I suspect others do also, that there is a strong temptation to imagine the afterlife as having all the things that we find most enjoyable in this life. Maybe it’s too easy to interpret Jesus’s words, “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly”; in that way. And I rather like one of William Blake’s proverbs: “Eternity is in Love with the Productions of Time”.

    The belief in resurrection of the body implies physical activity, which in turn implies space and time.

    The more I read the New Testament, and think of a life to come, the more I feel that the only answers to the questions it raises would be to hear Jesus Himself expounding it. Apart from anything else, I’m sure He is a superb conversationalist. Now there’s something to look forward to, over a glass of wine.

    • St.Joseph says:

      johnbunting.
      I think that we do die to things of this life-‘Eyes have not seen nor ears have not heard the wonders that God has in store for us that love Him.
      We have to die to things of this life..and at times can have a taste of Heaven in a spiritual sense when our soul speaks to us of the everlasting life.in our senses.especially when we contemplate in silent prayer.
      We see the beauty of God all around us in the Magnificence .of His Creation.,when we have time to meditate on that.
      The Magnificat Canticle .’My Soul Glorify’s The Lord And my Spirit Rejoices in God My Saviour’ That to me is the perfect Peace of the After Life..

  6. tim says:

    “My soul is not I” presumably means that my soul is not the whole of me – we are a union of body and soul – while alive, and after resurrection. Interesting that in the passage I quoted last week Pope Benedict criticises people who wish to consider humans as pure spirit, taking no notice of the body’ they’ve been provided with! “Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will” (emphasis added).

  7. St.Joseph says:

    Jesus went from beyond earthly death to eternal glory.He came so that we would come to that eternal glory. This fact has a fundamental effect on how we live life.If we believe that this life is a short preparation for a transition at death to an eternal life of glory and bliss, our view of life will be different to someone who believes that there is nothing beyond death and one has to get what one can in the few years on earth. This difference is very relevant today when so many values and assumptions that there is nothing when we die.
    The fact that we believe that Christ has Risen the purpose of life is different from the majority of those in the society we live in.
    I don’t think we can speculate what Heaven holds for those that love Him. But it does not prevent us from wondering. But one thing we can be sure of and that is that we will be swept up into the fullness of His Love which we can not begin to imagine with our limited earthly concepts.

  8. Singalong says:

    I think that life in Heaven is in such a completely different dimension that we cannot really imagine how it will be, just have a few ideas by thinking of Christ`s glorified body after His Resurrection. He came and went, He cooked breakfast on the shore of Lake Galilee, He asked Thomas to put his hand into the wound the spear had made in His side.

    I like to think of it as a very dynamic place and state, with all the wonderful scenes and activities the Maker of the universe shows us on this earth, rolling seas, majestic mountains, soaring music, as well as love, togetherness, fulfilment. The customary prayers for the dead do not reflect this picture, may they rest in peace, eternal rest give unto them. I would like to ask for more active and life filled prospects for them and for ourselves.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong.
      That is a beautiful thought. I like what you said.
      I often think of Jesus’s words to Mary when he spoke to her after the Resurrection
      ‘Don’t touch me now, I have not yet ascended to my Father.
      When he Ascended into Heaven I think He took His seat at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, as we say in the Creed in His Glorified Body.which we take on when we are glorified in Him.A Feast of Revelation not the end but the beginning (I heard in a sermon The sending of the Holy Spirit being the Church on earth with His presence forever in the Eucharist ,Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. living in us as a part of that Body Blood Soul the Church not us or a building ( I don’t know about Divinity) that would be a little presumptuous to claim that for us on earth.

      .

  9. Brian Hamill says:

    It is fascinating to read the thoughts of others on this topic. About the point of death and judgement, perhaps we might think in terms of meeting the One who has loved us from before the foundation of the world and who rejoices with great joy at our coming to share ever more fully in his experience of the Love, the Holy Spirit, which he has shared from all eternity with the Father. The word ‘judgement’ has such a bad taste to it; this is probably owing to the Fall. But we will stand in judgement before the One who, by the Incarnation, has shown us both his love for us and his willingness to share fully in every moment, good and bad, of our lives. He shares so completely that he knows me from the inside as well as from the outside. He thinks my thoughts and feels my feelings, and so he really is the only one who has gained, by his life and death on earth, the right and the possibility to make a true judgement. He really can be trusted. When we reach that stage of living trust, we are ready for the judgement of mercy.

    • St.Joseph says:

      We were created to be with the Lord for all Eternity, many Christians have the idea that God makes it pretty difficult to get be there. We feel that He is watching and His judgement is severe. And it is said that we Catholics come from a tradition that implied God was a severe judge. The idea of God making it difficult for us to get into heaven is the very opposite to what we read in the Gospels. But God longs for us to be with Him in heaven and will do anything and every thing to get us there. He was even willing to lay down His life for us that we might be there. Jesus came to show us the way and is still doing everything possible to help us. That is a fact and everything which suggests the opposite I believe is wrong. The problems lie with ourselves.!

  10. Singalong says:

    I saw this in the newsletter of a previous parish during November, and think it might complement Brian`s reassuring thoughts.

    Some words of the late Cardinal Basil Hume:

    “A priest started his homily at a funeral saying: ‘I am going to speak about judgment’. There was dismay in the congregation. But then he went on:

    `Judgement is whispering into the ear of a merciful and compassionate God the story of my life which I have never been able to tell. Many of us have a story, or part of one, about which we have never been able to speak to anyone. Fear of being misunderstood, inability to understand ourselves, ignorance of the darker side of our hidden lives, or just shame, make it very difficult for many people. Our true story is not told, or only half of it is. What a relief it will be to be able to whisper freely and fully into that merciful ear. After all, that is what He has always wanted. He waits for us to come home to Him. He receives us, His prodigal children, now contrite and humble, with an embrace. In that embrace we start to tell Him our story, and He begins that process of healing and preparation which we call Purgatory`”.

    And that, dear people, is the image of Purgatory I recommend to you.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong.
      I believe that is also the process of healing in the Sacrament of Confession.
      Our Lord told the sinners to ‘go and confess your sins to the priest.Which they did,but only one came back to thank Him.
      I often wonder if the Washing of the Apostles feet at the Last Supper was pointing to the Sacrament of Confession, when the priest washes our soul clean- the meaning being that Jesus is ‘serving’ us with His forgiveness when the priest takes on the part of Jesus and absolves our sins in Absolution.then we receive Him in Holy Communion as a
      Thanksgiving.
      Any thoughts about that? As a movement towards Heaven?

      • Brian Hamill says:

        St Joseph, You bring forth one of the most beautiful images of the Gospels in referring to Jesus’ washing the disciples feet at the Last Supper as a reference to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It might be of interest to note that I recently came across a book on Purgatory which used a famous painting of this scene on its dustcover and thought ‘Wow! What a turnabout from the usual fires and torments image – and how truly Jesus-like!’

  11. Mike Horsnall says:

    Sounds ok to me. I fail to understand how we can anthropomorhize heaven and yet still keep a straight face!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall.
      What makes you think one needs to keep a straight face when contemplating Heaven-there is such a thing as ‘ Sing my soul my Saviour God to Thee’ where ones heart bursts open with ‘How great Thou Art’ ‘How great Thou Art!
      We only frown when contemplating Hell-not that I do that!
      Our Lady smiled often when She appeared to St Bernadette-so we are told.

  12. Mike Horsnall says:

    Thats great St Joseph but its not what I said. “Anthropomorphise” means basically ‘make like us’
    We tend to try and make heaven ‘like us’ as we are now and according to our own rules now…this is such a hoot its amazing that we manage to keep a straight face while we do it….no appetite for mystery!
    Tim,
    ““My soul is not I” presumably means that my soul is not the whole of me – we are a union of body and soul – while alive, and after resurrection.”

    Probably includes the idea that not all of what we are can quite be fitted into one place at one time!
    This I think is kind of the idea behind the assertion that the true church subsists most in the Catholic Church-what it actually is no eye has yet been prepared to see-but when it comes we will see and be part of it…same for us, in fact we do not fully know who we are…
    Happy New Year anyway!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall.
      I think anthropomorphize is making ‘us like Heaven’ The other way around, not as you say ‘make like us’. I took your comment to mean that we had to be straight faced in thinking about Heaven and it would be difficult to keep a straight face!
      Correct me if I am wrong!
      Oh and your last comment-how would you think the Catholic Church can improve by practising other religions.
      Obviously other religions have part truths but the Catholic Church has the whole.I am speaking now about the Magisterium, not those who think what they do or believe is the Truth.

    • johnbuntingj says:

      Perhaps, Mike, the tendency to anthropomorphise might be allowed to go far enough to admit some continuity between the present life and the life to come. Without a few memories, we would in effect be a new creation, rather than risen from the dead. As for keeping a straight face……. well, that’s hard enough at times in the Church here below. Some modern hymns, for a start. Ever tried singing “My God loves me” to the tune of “Plaisir d’Amour”?
      Happy New Year to all.

      • St.Joseph says:

        johnbuntingi.
        Ash Wednesday reminds us that our bodies are ‘ashes to ashes dust to dust’ so believing that our souls are immutably -never dies. Hopefully our soul will be in the state of Grace. My mother used to tell us as children ‘Always be prepared to meet your Maker’.
        We are meant to be praising God when we sing Hymns but not a lot of thought goes into the words sometimes- ‘Our God Love’s us’ as it is now is considered to be a Communion Hymn according to the Liturgical Hymns Old and New Book. I feel it is misplaced in some of the words.’If’ it was needed it may have been better placed in the Offertory section
        I suppose some may think it is ‘pretty’ I know Jesus said ‘unless you become like little children’ but that goes overboard a bit. in sentimentality not to be confused with love.!
        I would not have to restrain myself to a straight face-only more sorrow.

  13. Iona says:

    johnbunting – frequently!

    “The resurrection of the body” is an article of faith; but very difficult to reconcile with the idea of an existence somehow beyond time and space.
    Jesus’s resurrected body seems to have had some characteristics which are easily recognised as bodily (could be touched and felt; could speak audibly; could build a fire, cook fish, and eat) and some which are anything but (could somehow become present in a room without having come through a door or window; or abruptly cease to be present in the same way). Maybe the explanation is that our understanding of space and bodily existence is incomplete, – I mean, the understanding which we use in commonsense ways, – and also our science-based understanding, which is itself not the same as common-sense understanding.

  14. Singalong says:

    We can`t understand yet, can we? I wonder about the numbers involved, apparently about 108,000,000,000 people have so far been created by God. It is awesome and rather frightening to think that he knows all about each one, and has prepared a place for us all.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Of those millions of people created by God- not all have received the gift of understanding, how many have been baptised ,we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit of Sanctifying Grace when we are baptised and also the continued receiving of Grace with the Sacraments.
      We have to feed our souls as well as our bodies, many who do not believe are feeding their bodies to even believe in a soul.I think people can receive Grace by their good works. Baptism of the Spirit which spoke about when He said John came to baptise you with water,But I say to you I will send you another Paraclete etc etc.
      2000 years is not a very long time to convert the whole world! Our journey does not stop when we die.That is why we pray for the dead- and offer up Holy Mass for the souls in Purgatory, and ask the Saints to intercede for us on earth.

      Brian Hamill. Thank you for your comment above.

    • Brian Hamill says:

      Awesome and frightening indeed. But perhaps even more awesome and frightening is the simple fact that God is in continuous creation of every particle, known and unknown, in this universe, and perhaps in a few others too. This act of continuous creation requires the whole of God’s power for every particle. The fact that his power is truly infinite and not just some very big number is very helpful here! Strangely enough the same basic fact is also incredibly comforting since it also applies to every particle in my body at this moment. So, since God’s sole power is Love, that means that my continued existence is the continual proof of God’s love for me. It is comforting to call this to mind now, and even more when I shall pass through the Gates of Death, for it would be very ‘unreasonable’ of God not to carry me on the wave of that life-long love into his eternal embrace. ‘All’ I have to do is to trust him, and ‘there’s the rub’. That is the life-long work of my response to his love.

  15. Mike Horsnall says:

    John Bunting 5.48pm,

    Yes of course John…Of course we ‘make God like us’ …because ,in a way, God has made us like Him. Of course there is some continuity because a little of us already lives in heaven-so yes , joyously and mercifully we peer into the future with just an echo of wlecome in our ears and a sense of kindred with the vast living love from whence we came and to whom we go back to. The doxologies of the Apostle Paul are worth close study here I think…no eye has seen..the all surpassing glory and so on. Really we should,instead of sincere and earnest debate,inching along for fear of putting a foot wrong in our petty sinfulness…really we should laugh and sing -delerious with joy. Thats what is funny and must really crack the angels up-especially on a sunday when the choir is having a cranky day_ I can just imagine Gabriel nudging Michael saying
    …”oh dear look at this, they’ve all forgotten who they are again…. bless em..!!”
    St Joseph 5.18pm:
    Its not a matter of other religions…..Here in our temperate climate- when the conditions are right on a wet day, you might see a rainbow . You see it shine out wonderful at a precise angle, the light splits in the atmosphere for our eye and we see beauty for a second or two before it fades-nothing has changed, the sun is still the sun, your eye is still an eye and the atmosphere is still wet-but for a moment you caught a glimpse of the gorgeous radiance of creation. Such is the church, a place where the enormous all surpassing marvellous reality of God becomes briefly focused and we can ‘see’ something -at eucharist perhaps-then the glory fades. This is what I meant by the true church subsisting in the Catholic Church which is, if you like the rainbow on the earth-a sign of Gods favour to man…….good innit!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall.
      As beautiful as your description is of Gods Creation-I still don’t get it.
      God made us in the beginning more beautiful that the Universe He raised us up to be in ‘charge’ of the rest of Creation.We do not make anything only what the Lord gives us ‘first’ It is not a case of looking at ‘I’
      Anthropomorphise according to the dictionary means to attribute or ascribe human form or behaviour to (a god) animal or object.
      Yes God did make us like Him in the beginning, but His soul ‘likened’ to Him. He took on ‘our’ human nature so that we could take on His Divine. He came because we were ‘unable’ to do that,He had to come and show us the Way to Truth.
      We don’t leave the Eucharist behind when we leave, it grows and grows in us, it is centre and focus of our life ,our eyes fixed at all time in our soul, ‘seeing with our soul in other words.
      I know we have other work to do but it is like an itch,never going away from our mind.
      Do we look after His Creation as we ought.?

  16. Quentin says:

    You will remember that, at the time the case was made for civil partnerships, a strong argument put forward was that a homosexual couple were economically interdependent in the same way as a married couple. It was unfair that, on the death of one partner, inheritance tax would have to be paid on house property owned. In many instances the surviving partner would so lose their home to the Inland Revenue.

    It was pointed out at the time (but ignored) that a couple such as two brothers, or an aged father cared for by a grown up daughter, were in exactly the same case. I hear nothing of this argument now. I think I would have rather more sympathy for homosexuals intent on marriage if they canvassed for the righting of this injustice, before they started a new campaign. They would in fact have a stronger case if civil partnerships were opened to others (who had no sexual connection), on the grounds that their relationship was essentially different.

    In fact I think that I could weather the crassness of homosexual marriage if that were the price payable for justice to other (non-sexual) partnerships.

    • Iona says:

      Quentin, that same thought has often struck me: – I mean, that a civil partnership would be an ideal vehicle for two people sharing a house, be they parent and child, siblings or just two friends. I suppose, as things stand, they can draw up a contract of some sort to safeguard the one after the death of the other, but a civil partnership would be a ready-made contract that everyone could understand. The question of the exact nature of the relationship needn’t come into it. “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.

      • Quentin says:

        You could certainly draw up a contract or make a will etc. The problem which remains is that Inheritance Tax (above the statutory allowance) will be payable on the death of the first of the owners who dies. So, in one case I know, the spinster daughter is about 50 and her widowed father about 30 years older. They jointly own the house they share. In the case of a civil partnership, Inheritance Tax is not paid until the second death (and both statutory allowances are operative). As it is, Inheritance tax will be payable when the father dies (on his share of the house and any other estate), and the daughter will have to sell the property to find the money.

        In the situation I propose it is the interdependence of the two people’s fortunes and household which is the bond, not sexual exchange. It always struck me as ironic that I could set up house with an old friend, neither of us being gay, — and get the benefits of a civil partnership, but I couldn’t do so with my own brother.

    • Singalong says:

      Quentin, I don`t think “gay marriage” would be just crass. I think it would be much more fundamental, the last nail in the coffin of real marriage as a lifelong, life giving union between a man and a woman. Our parish priest believes that already many so called marriages are nothing of the sort because this is not what the couple are aiming for.

      Social and financial injustice for the situations you cite should be addressed of course, and so should the broken promises to give tax allowances to married couples, but I don`t think it could be a trade off.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    Mike Horsnall.
    What help do you suggest I need. I would be interested to hear your reply!

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      You need to read chapter eight of Lumen Gentium if you want to clearly understand the rainbow analogy -you did ask about it. The visible and the invisible church is the underlying principle….happy reading. Otherwise St Joseph I am sure you have already reached a level of perfection to which I cannot attain and so want for nought!!

      • St.Joseph says:

        O Dear me are upset now Mike!!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Mike Horsnall.
        Out of interest I read Lumen Gentium cpt V111 as I could not see your distinction to the rainbow analogy that you said I had asked about-which I did not think I did. I was asking about the ways we abuse creation,including Gods creation in the unborn.
        Perhaps you will make it clear.
        I think Mike that as a cradle catholic our language differs in our speech, so we do have a slight difference in understanding each other,
        Your mention of ‘at eucharist’ at 2.17am-a small example-whereby my language would be the ‘Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’ .
        Your statement above ‘ Otherwise St Joseph I am sure you have reached a level of perfection to which I cannot attain’ .
        To me it is obvious that you will not understand my language-it is not perfection -but more of a appropriate way of speaking about certain things pertaining to holiness to which I am used to now in my 70s

        I wish all on the blog a Happy New Year

  18. St.Joseph says:

    To keep within the subject of Quentins Post.
    When my husband died he had a lovely smile on his face and he became younger and dark hair.,my son was in the bedroom and they looked so much alike.
    Also one night before his funeral, I was wakened by a strong heat and as I opened my eyes my husband was smiling at me, and then vanished quickly,definitely not a dream,as I was not thinking about him-maybe worrying about the funeral-but don t understand the heat.
    When my mother was close to death, but did not die then, died at 65, she was answering the Rosary to someone -she recovered from a very close death. My son who was 12 (49 now)he was so upset,and the priest said to take him home, we called into the church-went to Confession and he lit a candle for his Nan it was 8 0 clock, Confession was just over so I remember the time-when I got home the phone rang and the priest said my mother was sitting up drinking tea, he said he thought she died., just after 8 .O clock . She used to say that the Lord answers children prayers. I think I have told this before a few years ago on the blog.She said she did not have long to live, she had changed and said that the Lord had given her a little time more.She died suddenly shortly after that ,35 years ago. .

    • ionzone says:

      “Anoxia does have an effect. I remember vividly nursing anoxic patients who were usually completely out of it till their blood gases returned to normal. Once I had to spend half an hour with a patient going round the ward measuring the walls for the plasteing he was convinced he had been sent to do..next day it was abject apology all round.”

      This is pretty much what I mean really, if it was a hallucination you would expect random stuff like this from their everyday life – basically a waking dream., The fact that what they see is incomparable to a dream and doesn’t tally with the stuff people try to write it off as is very, very interesting.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Ionzone.
        I wonder if that was what happened to my late husband when he was in hospital ,he had his first Chemo for a small tumour on his bladder, and in the night he got out of bed and woke all the other patients shouting ‘Fire’ get up the place is on fire’, he was so embarrassed the next day, so he could not have any more,so unfortunately he had an a operation and picked up a hospital bug and died,never ill in his life at 67.

  19. Singalong says:

    I nearly drowned once in my early 20`s. I felt very calm, my life flashed by, and I remember thinking I can`t die yet, I haven`t done enough for God, and then the emergency was over, so it was not a near death experience as such. The ones I have read about describe leaving the body, seeming to float above, and seeing in detail things which would be impossible to see from the body, round corners, or on top of cupboards, and the accuracy has been verified afterwards. There does not seem to be any physical explanation for this, though perhaps descriptions of light, and feelings of warmth and love, might be the result of the person`s beliefs and experiences.

  20. Quentin says:

    I am very impressed, indeed humbled, by these sensitive accounts. Thank you.

  21. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin.
    Sometimes these thoughts are kept hidden whereby become memories deep inside and it takes a reminder to bring them to the surface and remembered again, and to me makes me realise that it happened and was not an illusion Thank you for reminding me.

    St Padre Pio was know to be in two places at once,many references to this is noted. Bi-Location I think. Some of them are amazing. Has anyone heard of these? or from other sources.

    Not changing the mood,but my grandmother a wonderful story teller I spent many years with her, a strict Carmelite war widow hermit in her home I loved her dearly and her stories. One she used to tell was about a young man in his town who hit his mother, and when he died his arm used to come up out of the grave-I used to be mesmerized with her stories. Obviously false and Irish of course.

  22. Singalong says:

    I have just read a blog about Judgement Day by Fr. Dwight Longenecker which I think is related to this week`s Post and well worth following the link.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2013/01/judgement-day.html#comments

    • St.Joseph says:

      Singalong .
      Thank you for that info, Very interesting also the comments.
      He speaks about the atheist seeing love as he sees it not being Gods Love, so therefore when he meets Him he will instantly recognise that it is, and be happy in His company.Therefore would not be in Hell.

      The first Reading on 2nd January I quote the first few lines 1 John:22-28.
      The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ-he is a liar,he is Antichrist; and he is denying the Father as well as the Son,because no one who has the Father can deny the Son,and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well. Keep alive in yourselves
      what you were taught in the beginning as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you,you will live in the Son and in the Father; and what is promised to you by his own promise is eternal life.

      What does that say to the lapsed catholic who has become an atheist in Fathers talk on Judgement I wonder!
      I thought about it after Mass.

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