This is the fifth post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, the second covered the elimination of consciousness at death, the third was about reincarnation, the fourth was about an afterlife, and the this final one will be my concluding thoughts.
Our society has an unhealthy relationship with death. It is something we pretend isn’t happening but we all know it will likely come to each of us. As far as I know there has not been anyone who has been able to escape it, though the film “The Man From Earth” had an interesting premise and you should all go watch it on Netflix. Part of our fear comes from how sheltered we are from death in the modern world and part of our fear comes from not knowing what happens afterwards.
Nobody actually knows what happens to our consciousness after death, and anyone that says they know really mean they have a hypothesis that is based on subjective feelings or intuition. Regardless of what happens we really shouldn’t have anything to fear, the most likely scenarios are either neutral or good. Though I have no more empirical knowledge about death than the next person I think the likelihood of each scenario we discussed is as follows (first being most likely and last being lease likely):
- Nothing. I think it is most likely that when we die our consciousness dies with us. This hypothesis fits best with our current understanding of life and our universe. That isn’t to say it is the only possibility though, it is possible that humans have a consciousness that exists separate from our bodies and upon bodily death that consciousness continues to exist. We just don’t have, and may never have, the technology necessary to measure that. I still think that is unlikely though.
- Video Game: The next likely scenario to me is that our entire existence is really a simulation or game for a technologically advanced species and our consciousness is all that is “real” about this universe.. Upon my death my consciousness will return to the future and play a new game or do whatever it is advanced species who have overcome death and can harness all the energy needed to never need to work. This hypothesis also has the benefit of fitting within our understanding of the universe and human nature, though I’m not sure if it could ever be verified. If a species can create a simulation this advanced surely they can program it to prevent the characters from discovering it.
- Traditional Reincarnation. Now we move much further down the likelihood scale for me. The first two exist in cooperation with our understanding of the universe while the rest require more subjective measures. If our consciousness stays alive and moves to another being after death we have no objective way to check that. Instead, subjective measures like past-life regressions, DMT use, and patterns of spiritual traditions that exist throughout different cultures are all we have.
- A General Afterlife. Perhaps when we die our consciousness does move to a heaven (or hell) but no religion has it specifically right. Humans have rewritten, translated, and passed down orally almost all of the divine documents in the world and a lot has been messed up. The prophets were also all human who may have gotten the spiritual path or message from a being from another universe but things got lost in translation or were dummied down for the audience. Instead of any religion having a monopoly on truth it seems more likely that patterns that exist almost universally throughout religions should be trusted instead of worrying about the details of which person to deify.
- A Specific Afterlife. This seems like the least likely scenario to me. The idea that one specific modern interpretation of a prophet’s words is the truth is unverifiable and seems to ignore everything we know about history and science. It also seems to point to a cruel and selfish deity who would punish and torture good people because they grew up in a place where the “wrong” religion was more common.
So, there we go. Just my random thoughts on death and the afterlife. Things like this go through my head a lot when working (stocking groceries isn’t a very mentally intensive activity) and I like to play with different scenarios. Maybe I’ll do more multi-post series in the future, this was fun.