The influence of immortality has had a basis in human society for thousands and thousands of years. Whereas many people will fantasise about the idea that our physical bodies may surpass their lifespan, it is now universally accepted that no one can live forever (in the physical sense); yet the debate as to whether there is some essence, namely the human soul, that 'lives on' after our physical body has passed away continues to fuel much debate. Thousands of years ago the search for the Philosopher's Stone, a red coloured compound which was believed to greatly prolong human life, as well as turn metal into gold (and thus bring wealth as well as long life), became the holy grail of the medieval world. Buddhism in particular places much emphasis on the belief that our 'essence' moves from creature to creature through reincarnation, that we are reborn into a new body each time our physical one dies, and that our actions in the last body determine which new body we are put into. Christianity, unlike Buddhism believes that our actions in this life determine whether we spend the rest of eternity in Heaven of Hell. There are many people who will then go on to argue that if a person does not go to Heaven or Hell, they will become trapped in Limbo, wandering 'in between' the astral planes. Christian beliefs seem to have derived a lot from the teachings of Plato, be it that the changed Gods to God. The fact that immortality has played such an integral role in society and religion raises many questions. It begs an answer to the question 'what is motivating people to look for things (namely religious beliefs and actual objects, such as the Philosopher's Stone), that will secure their immortality Why do people want to live forever' Moving on from this question then we can ask 'are religious systems and people in powerful positions manipulating people's belief (particularly in the immortality of the soul, and hence the fate of it after death), in immortality to control their actions' A King, for example in medieval England could use the Church as a vehicle for ensuring that all his subjects obey his every order. Yes, it was believed that a King had 'divine right,' but were these 'rights' believed to be from God or were they a creation of the Monarchy, or an age old belief that the monarchy had corrupted The King could easily have, and did, punish heretics, using their deaths as a warning to others that if they too committed heresy their souls would be damned to hell, because an insult to the King is an insult to God himself.
It follows from this that I am sceptical of the idea that the soul will ascend or descend to its Christian resting place. Whilst I too humour the idea of the soul, I find myself drawn towards the idea of reincarnation. Perhaps it is my ego, yet as I sit and think, I cannot help but recall the teachings of Hume. He stated that we could never know our 'true self,'1 be that our soul or something else, because all we can ever experience (Hume was a renowned advocate of Empiricism2), is our perceptions. I am aware that I am constantly in a 'perceptive state' (thinking, reasoning, unconsciously or consciously), I cannot see how