The Lord of Death, in the Indian epic of Mahabharata, asked his son about the most astounding aspect of the present world. The boy responded, “It is that all around us people can be dying and we don’t believe it can happen to us” (Halifax 6). Such typical refusal to accept death’s inevitability is particularly common in the modern Western society. Generally, the mainstream philosophers shunt any interest in paranormal matters like spirit possession, extra-sensory perceptions, spirit mediumship, reincarnation, and out-of-body experiences into the dark corners of their profession (Hales 335). Eminent philosophers like Antony Flew and William James, who take paranormal issues seriously, are dismissed as “nutty uncles whose excesses are to be indulged with a wink and a smile” (Hales 335). Nonetheless, philosophy should offer the public more information than the mere dismissal of matters of public interest because it would help to increase the value of philosophy outside scholarly debates. Furthermore, humans are considered as the only animal species that remain cognizant of their immortality (Stewart-Williams). Therefore, an investigation of the issue of life after death is crucial to the advancement of philosophy. Throughout history, people have made substantial efforts to acquire eternal life, although the hope has been pinned most recently on science. More frequent than the idea of postponing death forever, however, is the optimism that life persists after death. Such hope in life beyond the physical death is expressed in a variety of ways. For instance, some views are based on continued physical survival whereas others focus on existence outside the physical body. Perspectives in the first group include the concept of resurrection as expounded in Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, as well as the idea of reincarnation that is typical of Hinduism. Continued existence outside a physical body involves “survival in a non-physical body (an astral or ghost body), or survival as a disembodied mind” (Stewart-Williams). The two primary concepts of survival after death share the idea that a human being survives death in some way. Another common belief involves the view of impersonal survival. For instance, some branches of Buddhism believe that the mind of an individual merges into a collective or universal mind after the person dies. Nonetheless, the idea that life ceases to exist after death contrasts all of the most prevalent views on life after death. In the current essay, I argue that death liberates the mind and allows it to merge with the universal mind. Consequently, it forms part of the life force that keeps the universe flowing. Therefore, life continues even after death.
Philosophical Arguments for Life after Death
Life beyond death is impossible to prove or disprove because a person must experience physical death to disapprove or prove an afterlife. Moreover, dead people cannot reject it because it would be impossible for them to return to life. There is also a lack of any direct evidence that opposes the possible survival of life beyond death. Prevailing arguments only focus on refuting particular pieces of evidence that seem to support an afterlife. Additionally, such arguments point out that the absence of any direct understanding of what lies beyond death constitutes substantial evidence against survival after death. While it remains impossible to reject or prove the idea of survival after death, the scrutiny of available evidence and the use of rational thinking suggest that the belief in an afterlife is valid. For instance, it is difficult to imagine that a species like mankind could achieve an advanced consciousness of its existence but end the knowledge through death. Such a needless death lacks any biological or evolutionary benefit. Furthermore, “for a mortal life here on earth, the human mind is much more advanced than necessary” (Sandhu). The only possible explanation is that humanity has attained an advanced self-awareness because another life begins after the current one has ended. Therefore, the mere consciousness of human existence indicates that life is relatively more likely to continue beyond the grave. Such an understanding may explain humanity’s preoccupation and concern with the afterlife (Sandhu). It is also probable that mankind fathoms its possible mortality because it is already immortal. According to Sandhu, the possession of a soul helps to explain human consciousness. Hence, if life were to end in death, then a person’s existence would be pointless and demonstrate “the ultimate form of cruelty” (Sandhu). Since the dawn of human existence, mankind has always wondered the reason for its existence. No scientific reasoning, however, has succeeded in justifying animal or plant existence. It seems that the universe is not affected by the absence or presence of life and appears to receive no advantage from it. The rare earth hypothesis, for example, suggests that the earth could be the only planet in the known universe that somehow managed to establish favorable conditions for the emergence of life (“The Rare Earth”). Besides, much of the universe is too hostile to sustain life. Yet life, including the life forms with an advanced consciousness, succeeded in coming into existence. The only possible explanation is that a mysterious force within the universe played a critical role in driving the emergence of life on earth. Many consider the force as God. Sandhu reasoned, “Without a Creator or some spiritual force behind it all, would it not be expected there would be nothing?” Typically, it is hard for some individuals to believe in the possibility of an afterlife because it appears incredible that every person possesses a soul that leaves the human body after death and enters another realm. The dismissal of an afterlife is intensified by the busy daily lives that wrap people and minimize their reflection time (Sandhu). Consequently, they fail to ponder about the larger scheme of existence, partly because it lacks any significant bearing on their busy schedules, which are filled with distractions, responsibilities, and commitments. Nevertheless, if people were to place themselves in dark rooms free from distractions and contemplate deeply about the issue of life after death, then they might gain deeper insight into a concept that could be the actual truth. Possibly, they would realize that death liberates the individual mind and allows it to merge with the universal mind. As a result, a person’s mind forms part of the life force that keeps the universe flowing. Hence, life continues even after death.
Evidence for Life after Death
Typically, scientists consider the idea of life after death as unprovable. Nevertheless, Robert Lanza has claimed that quantum physics proves the existence of life beyond the physical death (Woollaston). Lanza explained that the hypothesis of biocentrism identifies death as an illusion that results from human consciousness. People often consider life as the interaction of carbon and a variety of molecules, which allows life to exist for a while before ending in death. The view represents the typical human belief that life exists only in bodies, and bodies eventually die. In contrast, Lanza’s concept of biocentrism postulates that death is not terminal. Additionally, the theory considers biology and life as fundamental to the understanding of reality and, hence, the universe does not create life but life itself creates the universe. As such, consciousness defines the size and shape of different objects. Lanza presented several examples to illustrate his perspective. In one experiment, for instance, participants reported that the sky was blue and researchers confirmed that they were correct. A manipulation of brain cells in the individuals, however, allowed them to see the sky as red or green. Therefore, the objects that people see cannot exist in the absence of consciousness (Woollaston). The biocentric view of the universe alters the normal behavior of time and space. Consequently, the realization that time and space are mental constructs means that the occurrence of immortality and death lacks linear and spatial boundaries. Likewise, theoretical physicists have suggested the existence of an “infinite number of universes with different variations of people, and situations, taking place simultaneously” (Woollaston). In a double-slit investigation, scientists observe a particle as it passes through a barrier with two slits. Usually, the particle moves through one of the slits in a bullet-like movement, but when the particle is not being watched, it employs a wave-like movement (Woollaston). Thus, it moves through the two slits simultaneously. The experiment shows that energy and matter exhibit the characteristics of particles and waves. Furthermore, the behavior of such particles is influenced by the observer’s consciousness and perception. Lanza cited “the double-slit experiment” to reinforce his claim that the occurrence of every possible event is already happening in the multiverse (Woollaston). Thus, death cannot happen in any actual sense. Instead, Lanza argued that after death, “life becomes a ‘perennial flower that returns to bloom in the multiverse’” (Woollaston). He added that life resembles an adventure, which transcends ordinary thinking.
Stories of out-of-body or near-death experiences have been narrated for ages, but objective investigations on the experiences have been limited. As a result, researchers at Southampton University recently conducted a study to investigate the validity of the claims. The scientists concluded that human awareness tends to persist for some minutes following death. Starting in 2008, the researchers examined “2,060 people who went into cardiac arrest (which they describe as ‘biologically synonymous with death’) at 15 different hospitals in the U.S., U.K., and Austria” (Moore). Among the 330 participants that survived death, nearly forty percent recalled experiencing awareness after doctors had identified them as clinically dead. It is suggested that the number of near-death experiences could have been higher if the memories of some of the patients were not dulled by sedatives and drugs (Moore). One of the most interesting cases in the study involved a patient who described various events that occurred during a period of three minutes after his heartbeat had stopped. The incident presents a paradox because the brain often ceases to function within twenty to thirty seconds after the heart stops beating but resumes its activities only after the restarting of heartbeats (Moore).
Arguments against an Afterlife
In an article published in 2010, Stenger expressed his opposition to D’Souza’s view that humans survive death. Usually, near-death experiences indicate that consciousness has the potential to outlive the body’s breakdown. Moreover, the experiences cannot be described as products of a dying brain. Nonetheless, Stenger pointed out that oxygen deprivation in situations where the patient is not close to death have been known to cause hallucinations that resemble the near-death experiences (NDEs). The researcher added that despite the availability of numerous NDE cases, no patient “has ever come back from an NDE with information that could not have been in their heads originally” (Stenger). A countless number of cases involving children that recalled particular details about their past lives has been collected in India, as well as other countries that support the idea of reincarnation. According to Stenger, however, independent investigations showed that the kids were already familiar with the people that they claimed they had met in previous lives. In most cases, the people were already living in nearby or the same villages. The investigations, therefore, refuted the concept of reincarnation. Stenger explained that the children made up the stories of previous lives in an attempt to ameliorate their social status or show that they belonged to a high caste. Others may have desired to attain the status of religious celebrities, which is a frequent occurrence in the Indian culture. Further analysis of the cases failed to generate convincing evidence for reincarnation. Claims based on the principles of physics point out that the existence of dark energy and dark matter proves the possible presence of a spiritual world. However, Stenger noted that dark matter or energy exhibits the properties of gravitational movements and inertia, which are synonymous with the characteristics of ordinary matter. Thus, dark energy and matter do not resemble anything spiritual (Stenger). Another claim used to support the idea of an afterlife is the possibility of multiple universes, which could possess different physical laws. The concept proposes that humans can live in such realms after death. Although the universes might possess different laws, Stenger argued that they comprise matter and, hence, cannot be candidates for the exclusive realm of spirits. The idea of morality has also been used to illustrate the likelihood of survival after death. D’Souza argued that moral values are “best understood under the presupposition that there is cosmic justice beyond the world” (Stenger). He explained that morality could not be explained using evolution because the theory is primarily a selfish concept that tends to oppose morality. Thus, morality can only emerge from an immaterial world that is not dominated by the theory of evolution. Interestingly, the same view notes that people feel compelled to adopt moral conducts because they anticipate rewards after death. Thus, morality is still based on self-interests. D’Souza added that atheists do not believe in life after death and, hence, lack a reason to adopt moral behaviors (Stenger). Although the view suggests that believers in life after death are generally more morally upright than the nonbelievers, current data has contradicted the model. According to Stenger, recent investigations have revealed that most atheists are somewhat more morally upright than theists. Moreover, unlike theists, the morality of atheists is not based on self-interests such as rewards in the afterlife. Thus, Stenger concluded that “D’Souza’s hypothesis is falsified by the data and can hardly be put forth as a case for the existence of an afterlife.”
Although well-grounded opinions against the presence of an afterlife have been expressed, there is a need to investigate the reasons that prompt people to hold on to such beliefs before denouncing the concept of an afterlife in its entirety. Numerous psychosocial factors and wishful thinking may offer some explanation for the widespread belief in the afterlife. Nevertheless, philosophers should avoid overlooking obvious explanations like the view that many people believe life exists after death “because they were told when young that we survive, and in day-to-day life we experience little that contradicts this view” (Stewart-Williams). Another important factor that is overlooked by the critics of life after death is the limitation of what the human mind can conceive. For instance, the mind is incapable of imagining nothingness. Thus, people cannot imagine their non-existence (Stewart-Williams). Therefore, it is very natural for the human mind to believe that it continues to exist beyond death. In this view, the belief in survival after the physical death helps to maintain social coherence and prevent the development of chaos associated with the absence of human purpose or lack of a sense of direction, which could emerge from the view that life ends in death.
Despite the current difficulty in disproving or proving the concept of an afterlife, the present study has employed philosophical arguments and scientific evidence to support the claim that life exists beyond death. Typically, people ignore the subject of an afterlife because of their busy everyday lives. Meditating in quiet surroundings would probably allow them to perceive the bigger picture and realize that their lives survive death to become a part of a greater universal life. Various arguments against the idea of an afterlife have been put forward. Nonetheless, the difficulty of disproving the concept of life after death suggests that the notion of an afterlife remains valid.
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