Does the manner in which and the circumstances under which your soul leaves your body determine what happens to it after death? If so, to what extent? Do your feelings or physical trauma, either due to an ailment or violence, at the time of death influence the actions or journey or state of your soul in the afterlife? There have, for instance, been cases where a person has committed suicide in the heat of the moment, but been intensely remorseful afterwards, with the soul constantly seeking forgiveness from loved ones and refusing to leave earth till reassurance was given. There have been cases where a person has been brutally murdered, and the murdered person’s soul refused to leave earth without ensuring that due justice was meted out.

Quite obviously, peace eludes those who die in an unnatural manner unless certain supportive measures are taken to make matters easier for a suffering or affected soul, which includes those who have died an untimely death not at the hands of someone else but in an accident or other similar tragedy. In India, incidentally, special specific rituals are performed to bring peace to souls who meet with an untimely, accidental death.

However, what happens to those who were murdered and yet do not, in Brent Swancer’ words, “exert themselves on the world from beyond the veil of death in order to find the peace and closure they were denied in life”? In the last column, the case of several people murdered over several years through cyanide poisoning was mentioned and the natural questions that arose: could it be that since the victims likely slipped into a confused or unconscious  state or a coma-like state, they were unaware that they had been poisoned?

The bigger question here was: if they were unaware at the time of their deaths that they had been murdered through poisoning, would they not have become aware once their souls had been released from their bodies and come in contact with other souls, including those who had been killed with cyanide earlier? Contrary to the usual post death, “seek revenge, seek justice” pattern, why did these souls make no attempt to expose their killer? Could it be that the absence of violence and fear at the time of death held the key to their silence? Can one or should one infer from their silence that they accepted their deaths and moved on without any haunting desire to seek retribution for the person who murdered them?

In stark contrast to these cyanide poisoning deaths is the recent death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, chief of what the BBC called “the ultra-violent jihadist group Islamic State or IS” which evolved from a gang of insurgents to the most formidable and feared militant group in the world, expanding across continents from Africa to Australasia. There couldn’t have been much left of Baghdadi when after being chased and cornered in a dead-end tunnel, he blew himself up by detonating his suicide vest. He may have died like a coward, “whimpering and crying” as American President Trump tweeted, but, much like the deaths he ordered for countless innocent people, he died an ultra-violent, gory death.

Under such circumstances, what has happened to Baghdadi’s soul ? Has he become a ghost and is planning and plotting the downfall of those who brought him down? No longer detectable or indeed ‘stoppable’ by even the most sophisticated security gadgets, will he try and make an appearance at the White House or confront President Trump ? Or is he suffering for all the suffering he is known to have caused ? As I wrote at the time of Saddam Hussein’s death, the subject of death, souls and ghosts is obviously a very deep and complex one. Broadly and simply, when a person dies, eight things can happen.

Normally, a soul, in the company of messengers of the God of Death, loved ones who have died earlier or other spirit guides leaves for the astral world. At times, especially when emotional ties are very strong, the soul stays on earth till such time as the major death ceremonies are over and then proceeds to the astral world. Sometimes, a soul doesn’t leave earth at all even later, perhaps because of lapses in its body’s disposal, and becomes a ghost. Four, a soul becomes a ghost because it doesn’t want to leave earth and cannot be persuaded or forced to do so. This is relatively rare, but there are such instances. Five, a soul becomes and remains a ghost because it chooses to do so with a specific purpose, or has been assigned a purpose. Six, there are of course the pirs and other holy beings who, though not ghosts in the strict sense of the term, have chosen to maintain or have been instructed to maintain close contact with earth to help in a variety of situations.

Seven, there are souls who return and haunt a place or site only at specific times, such as an anniversary of an accident, the anniversary of their own death, or are present at the time of a major event in the life of a loved one and so on.  Eight, there are those unfortunate souls who are ‘captured’ and used as ‘slaves’ by voodoo practitioners, tantrics and others who dabble in black magic or necromancy. All these categories can again be divided and sub-divided, leading to more types of souls, ghosts, etc.

Now where do the cyanide poisoning victims and Baghdadi fit against this backdrop? Presumably, the cyanide poisoning victims got decent burials. Baghdadi’s ‘burial at sea’ is controversial. At the time of death, there seems to have been no anger or fear or violence or the knowledge of imminent death in the case of the cyanide poisoning victims. But there was still a high quotient of anger, some fear, ultra-violence and the knowledge of imminent death in Baghdadi’s case.

In the cyanide poisoning victims case, their deaths were most likely tempered both by the positive flow of energy from family members and others on earth and benign non-earthly influences and entities embodying love and caring. This inflow of positive energies to their souls probably and possibly accounts for their moving on without seeking revenge. In Baghdadi’s case, it is very unlikely that it was immunised in any way against hatred or negative, revengeful thoughts. It is evident that whether defiant or willing, his soul will need to undergo a very significant evolutionary process aimed at spiritual purification before it can move on. It is known that the fate of your body matters to your soul after death. What happens to you and around you at the time of death matters equally.