death, consciousness and science

The age-old question for our species, perhaps the defining query of humans is: what happens at and after death?  Or, in other words, do we survive (bodily) death?  Let’s consider these questions and a book that addresses them in this essay.


flowers in park



We have just finished reading Beyond Consciousness – What Happens After Death, by Dr. Beverly Potter, Copyright 2008, Ronin Publishing, Inc., 239 pages.  We purchased this book late last year and finally got around to reading it this past week.

The substance or content of the book is built up around numerous, insightful quotations from other writers and sources both past and present, religious/philosophic and scientific.  Consciousness is defined in the first chapter.  Then an attempt is made to define death.  There is a chapter on the fear of death.  Evidence for the survival of personal consciousness after bodily death is sought throughout the several succeeding chapters on: science, near-death experiences, after-death communications, visitations, reincarnation (including past life regressions), remote viewing, and intelligent design.  This wide range or broad scope of the book is what makes it such a compelling and thought provoking read.  No tangible, physically dissectable, definitive “proof” or answer can be given, but the book does help to stimulate critical thinking on the questions.

Albeit being a bit New Age and at times speculative, the book brings to the reader’s attention the recent work of many consciousness researchers and authors that are not widely known.  The  last chapter, Suggested Reading, is a treasure trove of resources for the interested reader.  (One negative about the book is that it was either poorly proof-read and/or poorly type set as there are many spelling and grammatical errors in it.  One can see that homonyms were used for the correct words in places. It may be that for those who worked on the proofing English was a second language.)

Now, we will include some thought provoking quotes from the book.

“Denying the afterlife isn’t rooted in scientific fact, it is rooted in belief.”

the author, page 80

For some scientists, the new quantum physics developed from the early 20th century has led them to question old materialistic conclusions.

“Acceptance without proof is a fundamental characteristic of western religion.  Rejection without proof is the fundamental characteristic of western science.”

Gary Zukav, from The Dancing Wu Li Masters – An Overview of the New Physics, quoted on page 83

In science, inferences are made.  No one has seen a gravity field, yet we all know from experience what the effect of gravity is.  Gravity cannot be seen but it is real.

“Some people have difficulty accepting that something can be real but not physical.  Is there anything in science that is real but not physical? The effects of magnetism clearly demonstrate that something may exist, is real, is not physical and solid, yet it can fill space and move in time — as we know magnetic fields do.  If a common phenomenon like a magnetic field acting on iron filings can do this, could not the soul be an invisible, non-material, super-intelligent, animating force that similarly acts on and through the human body and the universe?”

Fred Alan Wolf (“Dr. Quantum”), page 92

A final quote:

“When science combines this evolving body of experimental research with contemporary laboratory research on the topic of survival of consciousness after physical death, we discover compelling evidence that leads to a notable conclusion: that the brain is not required for conscious experience, intention, and intelligence.”

Gary E. Schwartz, from The G.O.D. Experiments, quoted on page 194

my thoughts

Many persons who self identify as atheists also deny the possibility of an afterlife.  For them, when the body dies, consciousness also ceases.  The book gives quotes from recent writers and researchers who are not necessarily theistic and yet are coming to a belief that consciousness may or actually does continue after physical death.

From the many quotes and the discussion in this book, it does appear that some in the scientific community are beginning to recognize the limitations of science in addressing such questions.  As we have said in earlier essays, science is not competent to pass judgment on the spiritual dimension of human life, on the soul, or on the spiritual plane of existence because it lacks the tools to both observe and measure the spiritual.  One might opine that we need a “science of the soul”, but materialistic/physical science cannot fill the need – and that is being recognized by more members of the scientific community.

As well, there are now scientists who are coming to conclusions that are very similar to those from various religious traditions. When I read through some of the quotes from current scientists speaking about consciousness, these struck me as quite similar to what the Vedic philosophy/religion of India has to say about the soul of man.  (We, our souls (spiritual monads) are individual sparks so to speak of Lord Krishna (the supreme consciousness, the supremely transcendant personality of God)), we are part of his “marginal energy”.  We are eternal minute parts of the Divine.  Thus, yes, we are part of “the whole”.  And, the soul is the animating force.  When the soul departs, of course, the body will die and decompose.)

Both the Vedic teachings from India, and Catholic teaching in the West, led me (25 or more years ago) to the conclusion that mind (or consciousness) is not dependent upon the protoplasmic brain (a complex electro-chemical jelly). Rather the brain is a filter of/for consciousness – a reducing valve so to speak so that the individual focuses on and attends to the demands of physical survival in this world.  One might say that the human brain limits or constricts consciousness for the purpose of biological survival in this lifetime.

This same thought – that consciousness is not dependent upon the brain, is not caused by the brain – is touched on in the book. The book goes about it this way.  If consciousness is not dependent upon the brain, then it may be that consciousness can exist outside of the body, and if that is so, then consciousness may survive what we call death.

other related thoughts

Of course, we cannot rule out that the reason for some persons’ active disbelief in God (and an afterlife) is one of the logical consequences of a belief in God, specifically a God-given moral code.  Many persons today, shamelessly practicing hedonism are morally nihilistic because they know the way they live (and have lived) their lives is not moral, but rather is self-absorbed and selfish.

Self absorption, with its spiritual immaturity, or love and sacrifice for constructive ends – which will it be?

A life of love and service is to be encouraged.  Help others even when that requires “tough love”.

What character traits do you want to take with you when your life in this world is over?

suggested reading

Here are 2 thought provoking earlier essays that may interest some readers. The second of the 2 is the shorter, easier read.



copyright 2016 –


  1. Fascinating, rich reading, thanks. You really should have a podcast. One thing I just realised, reading this piece, is how odd it is that so many people who identify as athiests (which is fine, of course) automatically deny any idea of life-after-death – as if an afterlife is somehow the sole property of religion or a religion.
    Which it isn’t, of course. I’m almost certain that early, early, early human beings might’ve had some basic notion of (or beleif in) an afterlife – long before any organised or formal religion came into being.

    1. Yes, the idea/hope/belief in an afterlife after bodily death is not the sole province or property of religion. There are many possible sources for such beliefs in primitive, prehistoric human societies. The experiences and visions that shamans had are one possible source. Shamans were said to be able to enter the spirit world while in such trance states. Another possible source for belief is dream experiences. When we lose a loved one to death, we sometimes encounter them subsequently in our dreams. Early humans might have taken this for indication or evidence of survival of death. Mystical experiences and out of body experiences (NDEs are a subset here) may also have played a role. Even the observance of the cycles of nature may lead to beliefs in survival from one life to another. Spring always follows winter. Day always follows night. The moon dies and then is reborn each month.

      1. Yes, actually I’ve encountered a deceased family member in a dream right after they’ve died. It was very vivid; and although I never remembered the exact words or exchanges, I remember the strong feeling that they were basically just letting me know they were okay.

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