Maybe More of the Same…

This is the third 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, this one is about reincarnation, tomorrow will be about an afterlife, and the final one will be my concluding thoughts. 

With death and the afterlife on my mind I have been pondering what comes next for our consciousness when we die. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility that our consciousness simply disappears with our bodies. Today I am going to write out some of my thoughts on another option, reincarnation (for lack of a better term).

The idea that our consciousness moves on to another body or life similar to this is not a new one, but it can take some modern twists. My understanding, which is pretty minimal, of early thoughts on reincarnation saw our souls as attached to our body but distinctly separate. When we die our souls move on to another body that is in a uterus somewhere, or maybe there is a purgatory like system with a line that souls get in. I wonder if the attachment to a new body is random or there is some choice involved? Anyway, the soul gets a new body but generally can’t remember the experiences from the old lives on a conscious level. Some hypothesis say that past lives can be remembered through hypnosis, dream interpretation, etc. As far as I know most traditional views of reincarnation don’t allow for human souls to enter the bodies of alien bodies, but some allow for us to enter animals.

A more modern twist on this, and one that could hypothetically exist in our reality, is kind of like the Matrix. Imagine the human species (it could be an alien species but for convenience sake I will just say human) reaches a level of technological advancement where we are able to harness all the power in our sun or galaxy or whatever and can automate everything. We have overcome death and computers/machines take care of all our needs. Our time could instead be spent doing recreation and exploration. One of the forms recreation could take would be really advanced video games.

Right now, I might be nothing more than the character of a video game. Maybe an NPC, but maybe I am actually a playable character by an advanced human. It would be like World of Warcraft but created by people who are incredibly advanced technologically. Future humans would be able to design whatever universe they wanted and play any character they wanted, time could even be distorted so that playing a lifetime would take only a few minutes or seconds of “real time”.

Now, it might seem ridiculous to have advanced technology and games like this and decide to play as a random dude in the early 21st Century… but maybe not. Maybe there is something really exciting and monumental that is going to happen later in my lifetime that is worth experiencing first-hand. Or maybe priorities of the future humans have changed that experiences like an average life have value. Or maybe if you live forever you eventually get bored with being Kings and Generals and “important” figures. That was certainly the case for the Q in Star Trek: TNG in the Q-Continuum who spent time being a dog or a fence just because they had done everything else.

While ancient views of reincarnation can’t be verified with our modern use of technology I am not ready to discard them completely. There are lots of experiences that are necessarily subjective (taking DMT for example) but are also understudied, it is possible that consciousness does move on from the body and enters other bodies after discarding this one, like a snake casting off skin occasionally.

The more exciting, and at least technologically possible at this point, reincarnation hypothesis for me is the one involving technology. Our universe exists in some super advanced harddrive in the future and when I die my consciousness will return to the player who will remember this experience, grow from it, and maybe decide to play another round as Keira Knightley, Rosa Parks, Spartacus, or Bob the gas station attendant.

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Maybe Nothing…

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.