near death is near death and your transcendent (identity) soul
Before returning to some colorful photo essays, let’s briefly address these topics. Links to related essays are at bottom.
As we all are currently serving a life sentence on this earth, we all know that one day we will experience death. Despite our myriad and often petty differences, this is common to our humanity. Birth and death are the things we must do alone, as individuals. As well, no one can do these things for us. (I should say bodily death.)
The topic of near death experiences (NDEs) has interested me for many years. Books on the subject have been around since the 1970s. (Sometimes, out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are also mentioned when discussing NDEs.) While an undergraduate in the late 1970s, I read much on various religions, and on reincarnation. The Tibetan Book of the Dead was read in 1979 or 1980. It deals with the several week time period just after death before the soul moves on to its next life.
By now, most readers are familiar with accounts of NDEs. A person loses consciousness, usually because of severe physical stress, shock, and/or trauma (heart attack, drowning, drug overdose, etc.). He/she feels him/herself to be disconnected from the body although still conscious and aware of the surroundings. Leaving their body behind, the individual often times is met by friendly beings, sometimes “recognized” as deceased loved ones. There is also the inviting tunnel of light or a luminous being (sometimes thought to be God or an angel). All this ends when the person is resuscitated by medical personnel. There are cases of individuals being resuscitated after they had been pronounced “dead”.
For those who claim to have had near death experiences, just what has occurred? It is not easy to answer this query. 2 things need to kept in mind. First, science cannot help us that much in this area. Science has its limitations. (Heresy to those who adhere to scientism.) For example, what can science do when the medical instruments in hospital show no brain wave function during the time the subsequently revived person claims a conscious experience? (Mind and brain may not be synonyms. Mind may just transcend – and therefore not be dependent upon – the protoplasmic jelly of the brain.) Second, we need to carefully think about the terms we use in connection with this phenomena. If death is a state from which the individual cannot return, then these “near death” experiences do not tell us much, if anything, about the after death state. In other words, “near death” is qualitatively different from death, and the death state is still unknown. Some have asserted that the recurrent element of the tunnel with the bright light at the end of it is simply the very deeply buried memory of transiting the birth canal while being born – this long forgotten memory being triggered by the severe trauma of the medical emergency. Odd, there have been references to this tunnel of light by individuals who had been delivered via Caesarean delivery. Changes in blood chemistry in the brain (oxygen deprivation, release of stress hormones) have also been put forward as an explanation of NDEs.
The sad fact is that we may never truly be able to “know” what the after death state is like until we get there ourselves. I use the word “know” in the sense of how we know a particular chemical reaction will occur in the chemistry lab when we mix certain chemicals under controlled conditions of temperature and pressure. These are repeatable exercises with known outcomes verified time and again. We cannot achieve such knowledge when it comes to death.
Accounts of NDEs from around the world are comforting to people today. These accounts lead us to believe that personal identity or consciousness survives the bodily death which will ultimately claim us. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, mediumistic and spiritualist seances were the popular rage as these were thought to give us proof of survival after death. Many of these mediums were frauds and charlatans.
Faith and hope may have to be the main supports of our belief that we survive bodily death. But, logic also points to, if not the probability, at least the possibility of a spiritual plane of existence that is not measurable by our physical, material instruments in this world. Sir James Jeans, the British physicist (died 1946), in his writings opined that the more we learn about the structure of the universe, the more it resembles a thought. A thought in the mind of a creator God? (This view was expressed in either The Mysterious Universe (1930) or in Physics and Philosophy (1943). I read both some years back.)
Personally, I do believe that our human consciousness, our spirit souls, do survive bodily death. The body is dependent upon the soul with its life force. When the soul departs, the body dies and decomposes. (Life comes from life. That was the subject of a book by Srila Prabhupada. The scientists have not been able to create life in the laboratory. They are always using already existing life (living cells or tissues) in their bizarre, even macabre experiments.)
And this leads to the second part of our essay. Your identity, your soul is transcendent. It is absurd to think that your personality could be “downloaded” into an artificial body so as to prolong your life on this earth. Yes, your thought patterns, perhaps many of your memories could be downloaded into an electronic computer housed in an artificial body made to look like you. Such a body might be able to see, to hear, to touch, etc. But, the real “you” would not be there. It would be an imitation. (A photograph of you is not you.) This idea was written about in science fiction in the 1960s. Now, there is some interest in the scientific community on the technical feasibility of transferring a person’s personality, their consciousness into a human like machine. As the soul is not material, being neither matter nor energy as we know these things, it cannot be captured or copied or altered by man’s science. (Not being able to create life, the scientists are interested in trying to extend or prolong already existing life by various artificial and unnatural means.)
Just food for thought. As the journey is important as well as the destination, make the best of each day.
For the benefit of new readers, here are links to earlier related essays.
Thanks for reading. Practice random acts of kindness.