I was just wondering, what do you think are some argument for an afterlife and some of the arguments against there being an afterlife? Which side do you think has more merit (or which side do you personally agree with)?
Thank you so much!
Thank you for writing to me at All Experts / Paranormal Phenomena with your questions. Unfortunately any answer that I give will be wrong, right or indifferent as to who is reading it. All that I can give is data.
You are asking about the most ancient of mysteries. As man developed and developed a cognitive understanding that we were "alive", the question of, "What's up with Grog?" while he lay dead in the cave must have arisen. The second question must have been, "Where is Grog?" because unless one of them had experienced death themselves, they would be clueless. The natural assumption is that he was sleeping and dreaming. At least until the corpse started getting ripe. But that mystery has never been solved. The being asleep concept, although we now know otherwise, is still with us today - "Sleeping in the Hands of God" or "Resting in Peace" on headstones are reminders of that concept. This is a psychological method of the bereaved to not accept that the deceased is dead. That said, they may be partially correct, in that the deceased are not in fact dead as we know the term. One could stand at the event horizon of death and honestly ask, “To be or not to be, that is the question". A fraction of an inch forward and there is the answer.
There are theories, experiences, experiments and case studies conducted into the survival of the soul (mind/personality) after physical terminal death that support the hypothesis that we survive death, that an afterlife exists. There are almost as many counter theories as to why an afterlife doesn't or can't exist. The same holds true of near death experiences and data collected by reputable paranormal research organizations such as the Eidolon Project Canada. The problem, as is usual in cases involving a personal belief system, is that there are fanatics that blindly support an idea and pseudo-skeptical cynics who blindly deny anything that does not fit with-in their shells. Both are as bad as the other. They box their beliefs, refusing or afraid to step or think outside of that box. And their boxes are usually composed of biases and ignorance (using the term from its root, to ignore). The blind dissin' the blind. On a personal note, I wonder how many of these afterlife cynics lose a bit of their cynicism when they are on their death beds. I wonder how many are frantic with hope that their dying is not "the end". And I wonder how many of those who thrash about clutching at life until the last nano-second are those who have truly convinced themselves that the party's over and they are heading toward an empty, black void where they crease to exist in any way shape of form. Poor buggers!
The majority of empirically collected data regarding an afterlife comes from those who have studied Near Death Experiences ("NDE" -plural and singular usage). This is as close to discovering what lays behind the veil as one can get. This is where an individual stands on the brink of the event horizon* without actually passing into terminal death - the point of no physical return. (*I like to use the term "event horizon" to describe those who have clinically died, but who may be brought back to life or who have died and won't return to physical life. The term is from general relativity describing a point of no return. If an object is on the event horizon of a black hole there is a chance that it may escape the black hole if its speed and trajectory are just right (returning from clinical death) or crossing the event horizon losing any chance of escaping (terminal death).
Third you have the true skeptics, those who actually question, some going as far as to search for the truth. Many of the cynics call themselves skeptics. They do so wrongly. The term, from the ancient Greek noun, skepsis, means to question, examine, to inquire and/or to take into consideration. It does not mean to form a biased opinion and refuse any and all contrary possibilities. A true skeptic is open minded, and has the ability to see facts, and the possibility that these facts, point toward what may be the truth of the situation. The majority of research into afterlife and NDE are open minded skeptics. And that's the way it should be. My group falls into this category.
The fourth and final group that I consider are those who don't give a rat's behind one way or the other. And in all honesty, that's an okay stance to take! It would be a pretty boring forest if all birds sang the same song.
Let me proceed into the pros behind the idea that an afterlife exists after bodily, terminal death. Hardcore research started in the 1970's when Dr. Raymond Moody came out with his book, Life After Life. Although earlier accounts can be traced back to the Bible, the ancient Greeks and more modernly to 1825. Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross had a chapter on the subject in her first book, On Death and Dying but was talked out of including it due to the fact that a colleague thought that it may make the rest of the work look bad. One of the leading experts in the field today is P. M. H. Atwater. Other noted doctors and scientists has joined the ranks of those believing in an afterlife through their research. I'll omit naming them all. First I will list some of the pros, then continue with the ideas that confront the idea. Bear in mind that the majority of the ideas are based on NDE as the people involved actually stood on the or near the event horizon. Not all of the following occur in all cases, but often enough to make an impact.
NDE based “evidence” of after death survival of the soul/mind/personality:
1- The Out of Body Experience. Floating above one's corpse and looking down upon it, perhaps watching and listening to medical staff attempting (and obviously succeeding) to save the person. Incidentally one usually floats to the upper left part of the room. A feeling of utopia and peace is often reported, as is the lack of pain. Blind people may see. Some will hear astral music.
2- Being greeted by spiritual beings. These may include one's spirit guide, but more often one is greeted by predeceased loved ones and family, and the occasional pet. The feeling of love and peace that surround these beings is overwhelming.
3- The light. Often times the soul is swept along a “tunnel” and ending up in a pure brilliant, yet not uncomfortable light. It has also been described as blueish white and golden white.
4- Following this comes a “life review”. This is a panoramic view of everything that you have done since day one. Beside you is your spirit guide. [Take note that the accompanying spirit has been described as Jesus, Allah or any other icon of ones faith, as this is their personal mind set and it is the mind that survives death]. The life review shows you how your actions affected people, allowing you to see your interactions through their eyes and emotional responses. You become their feelings. This works for good and bad deeds.
5- The barrier. After the life review several things can happen. You might be told that it is not your time and be forced to go back. You may be given a choice, to stay or not to stay. By crossing a field, bridge, stream or other such barrier separating the maybe from the definite one decides their fate. This is the event horizon that I spoke of. Once crossed there is no going back. On earth you are terminally dead. There can be no resuscitation. However those who are still deciding may have that decision made for them as medical staff saves the body and the clinically deceased is swept back to their bodies.
1a- Non-NDE type of “evidence” includes Death Bed Visions. This occurs when a dying person, say in a hospice for example, see spirit beings, and predeceased loved ones near the time of their passing. They may see them days ahead of time or just prior to passing.
2a- Shared Death Experiences. This is a very rare occurrence, but has happened frequently enough to be researched. This is when one sitting at the bed side of a dying person shares their NDE. They have an out of body experience, travel through the light and may even share the life review (snoops)! However that is as far as they go. They return to their being as if nothing has happened. Bear in mind that time, if it exists at all, is different over there.
3a- Supporting evidence supplied by reputable and genuine para-psychological and paranormal research organizations. Unfortunately there are so many methods to fake evidence , or pseudo-evidence presented by “ghost-hunting” biased groups, that any reliable, honest data is swept away as garbage.
However, there are rare incidences when unexplained data is documented. These can include witnessing apparitions, hearing voices, being touched or having objects move without outside cause to name a few. Of course much of this is subjective and useless in the realm of “science”, but on an investigative and research level are important. As well many of the mentioned events are captured as photographs, video footage and audio recording. I possess such data.
The other guys – evidence debating and debunking the possibility of an after death existence. In no particular order these include:
a- Lack of oxygen in the blood stream (hypoxia). May cause Out of Body like sensations, the feeling of floating. The condition may also be responsible for seeing the tunnel and seeing the light.
b- That at the time of death our brain produces endorphins that may give us the feeling of peace, utopia and painlessness. In short, we go numb.
c- Drugs present in the blood stream during medical procedures. These may mimic (b).
d- The brains automatic response to ease the process of dying. This may include hallucinations such as seeing invisible beings, hearing disembodied voices or floating above the death bed (or wherever one is dying).
e- I'll group these together – wish fulfillment (wanting to see an afterlife), bias expectation, (people go to heaven when they die), and pure and simple fantasy.
f- The life review being caused by neurotransmitters and endorphins causing the parts of the brain responsible for retaining memory, namely the hippocampus to release those memories upon dying.
g- The hearing of astral music being caused by anoxia (almost total lack of oxygen, this is different than hypoxia which is a decreased amount of oxygen). Again, tunnels and light may result.
The above covers most of the points that I earlier made about the support of an afterlife. As to where I stand in my beliefs, bearing in mind that during my work at my avocation of research and investigation I must put my beliefs and biases on a door hook and don them again when the day is done. But that is easier said than done. I have personally witnessed and documented occurrences that despite all empirical and logical effort, can not be rationally explained away. Yet despite that, and as confusing as this may sound, at this time I do not believe nor disbelieve in an afterlife. I am swayed toward there being life after bodily terminal death, based on my accounts. But the honest answer is, “I don't know”.
Director of Parapsychology, Afterlife and Paranormal Studies,
Eidolon Project Canada Paranormal Investigation®
Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, Alberta
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