Mandela liveth still

Published: Monday | December 16, 2013 Comments 0

By Garth A. Rattray

I was quite taken with the recent Las May cartoon of a broadly smiling Nelson Mandela ascending a stairway to a door labelled 'Freedom'. The stairway had the words 'A Luta Continua' written on it. The phrase, which is Portuguese in origin, means 'The struggle continues'. It was used by Samora Machel of Mozambique to garner support against the presence of colonial Portugal.

The metaphorical cartoon held a deeper meaning for me. I believe that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, so the cartoon jibed well with my personal beliefs that we shed our flawed/mortal bodies and move on to a spiritual existence.

I hate the sadness and grief of funerals so much that I plan to boycott my own. It's very natural for the friends, relatives, and family members of Nelson Mandela to mourn his transition. However, the rest of us only knew the personality that was Nelson Mandela, not the person, so we are 'mourning' the loss of a great personality.

This remarkable and unique icon fought for his people, his country, his race, and indeed, for the human rights of everyone. While he was incarcerated, he evolved from a labelled terrorist into a celebrated, decorated and revered proponent of non-violent change. Therefore, we should celebrate his great personality and be relieved for him. After all, he was trapped, imprisoned in a worn-out and failing body. Now he is truly free.

His life should be held up as an example to individuals and groups which seek to achieve their goals with violence and carnage. Offensive actions designed to cause the death and destruction of anyone can never be justified. Hopefully, one day, cold-hearted criminals and fanatical terrorists will see things as the evolved Mandela did.


And so Mr Mandela passed on into the great beyond - beyond space and time. However, there are many people who believe that that is the end of him; that all that he was has ceased to exist. But many of us believe otherwise; that the soul within us, the part of us that is not of this physical world, continues to survive for eternity.

Some individuals believe that 'life' begins when we are born and ends with the demise of our bodies. It's true that the cessation of life can be measured when there are no brain waves on an electro-encephalogram (EEG). Foetuses also have brain waves (before their first breath), so that begs the question, do foetuses have souls, or are they empty vessels waiting to be inhabited when the first breath is drawn? And do we have souls, or are we only products of well-organised cells, tissues, organs and systems?

And, at the other end of our lifespan, if we have a soul, does it survive after the body dies? The EEG will show that all (physical) life has ceased; but is there an indiscernible spiritual life after this one?

The EEG can measure the physical activity of the brain; it can even measure the physical effects of thoughts, but it cannot detect or measure the genesis of a thought. Whatever part of us initiates a thought, that part is controlling (piloting) our bodies. That is the part of us that is immeasurable, that is the part that is set free when our bodies can no longer accommodate it here in this world.

Not many people are going to have the worldwide impact of a Nelson Mandela, but we all have our unique roles to play in this world. It behoves us to choose to contribute positively so that our souls can truly rest in peace one day.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and

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