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The concept of spiritual death has varying meanings in various uses and contexts.
Buddhadasa called duḥkha spiritual death. Sangharakshita uses the term "spiritual death" to describe one stage in a system of meditation, where insight is gained into delusions about our existence.
Followers of Ascended Master movements such as the Theosophical Society, I AM Foundation, and Elizabeth Clare Prophet have a different definition of the second death, the final extinguishing of the identity of a soul deemed by God to be beyond redemption. In this theology, people are believed to continue to reincarnate for many lifetimes on Earth with one of two final outcomes: 1) Reunion with God in the ritual of the Ascension, like Jesus, or 2) Final judgment at the "court of the sacred fire," where the soul would be destroyed forever.
John B. Calhoun saw the social breakdown of a population of mice given ample resources as a second death. He saw this as a metaphor for the potential fate of man in an overcrowded but resource rich environment and made reference to the second death of the Book of Revelation. Conservative Christian writers, such as Bill Perkins, have echoed this warning.
In his famous anti-war address "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," delivered 4 April 1967 at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City, Martin Luther King Jr. observed that "[a] nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994): 810.
- Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, "Happiness and Hunger", 1986 Archived 6 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- John B. Calhoun, "Death Squared: The Explosive Growth and Demise of a Mouse Population" Proc. roy. Soc. Med. Volume 66 January 1973, pp80-88
- Bill Perkins, "Six Battles Every Man Must Win", Tyndale Press, 1993, p 10