This is the second post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, this one will cover the elimination of consciousness at death, tomorrow is about reincarnation, the fourth will be about an afterlife, and the final one will be my concluding thoughts.
Yesterday I talked a bit about what I would like to happen to my body if I die. Basically, return me to nature, let the animals feast upon me, or my partner can do whatever the hell she wishes. I’m dead. I won’t feel anything. She can burn me, bang me, abandon me, blast me into pieces, or send me to Europa. Whatever she wants and makes her feel better, I won’t feel it because “me” is no longer a concept that applies to that body.
But what happens to our consciousness*?
I feel like there are three primary possibilities: they disappear, they move to another body, or they move to an afterlife. There are many variations of the latter two that I’ll ponder on in future posts but this post is about the first possibility, that we simply die.
Our current understanding of science and the natural world seems to argue that when we die our consciousness is eliminated with our bodies. To my knowledge there have not been any peer-reviewed studies that show our consciousness can exist outside of our bodies and that it continues to exist once our bodies die. We are stardust and to stardust we shall return.
The scientist in me loves this, but is also open to more information (as all scientists should be). It would be a fatal hubris to assume that what we know about the human experience now is end of knowledge. It is possible that we are simply unable to measure, read, or understand the spirit at this point (or maybe any point). Reality doesn’t conform to human knowledge. Sight existed long before we understood light, it is possible that consciousness exists in a state that can leave the body after death but we just don’t have the technology to view it.
That being said, I don’t think that is likely. From what I know at this point it seems likely that our consciousness dies with our body. I’d like more research though, particularly into the experiences people have had on DMT and other psychedelics that seem to open gateways in people’s minds to other dimensions and lives. But then again, I like research into all the drugs I enjoy so maybe I am biased.
Either way, the idea that after death there is nothing isn’t a scary idea. I have no reason to fear what I will experience when I die then I do to experience fear when thinking about life before I was born. If consciousness is nothing but an evolutionary side-effect it actually makes me smile a bit. 100% of my existence, that was forged in the heart of stars, will be used to provide life for other creatures and eventually be blasted around the universe. The atoms will never arrange themselves in a way that makes “me” again but it will join with other atoms to be a part of other lives and reactions.
That is immortality.
* I’ll be using the term consciousness but you could also call it a soul, spirit, or something else.