This section is not being presented in a way that modern day philosophy for the most part has become - which simply put it seems to have devolved to a linguistic analysis.
What if we cease to exist at physical death? Being mortal with no soul and there is no afterlife. It is the same as never existing in the first place. In my opinion, thinking the preceding in deep thought while alone with one having no hope of the possibility of an afterlife (along with a second part to it which I will not mention as it would not be right to give some people this needless apprehension) is the most unsettling thought there is. Needing to know and to the extent one needs to know all depends on the individual and the animal they are.
∙ Life after death can neither be proved nor disproved. This is because one would have to undergo physical death in order to prove or disprove it (and by its very nature, disproving it would not be possible). This is in contrast to something like astrology where one could undertake a study of people born at the same time and evaluate their personality traits and life outcomes at a later time to see if there is any correlation with time of birth.
There is no actual direct evidence against an afterlife - only arguments refuting the specific examples of evidence for life after death as not being sufficient proof. Although it can easily be argued that not having direct knowledge of an afterlife constitutes evidence against life after death. Life after death cannot be disproven; only the evidence in its favour can be scrutinized and rational non-believers are left to make the conclusion that life after death cannot be proven.
∙ It is hard to imagine any species (ie. mankind) would reach such a high level of consciousness of our own existence if it were all to end with this life. There is no evolutionary advantage or biological need for this. For a mortal life here on earth, the human mind is much more advanced than necessary.
Possibly we have reached such a state of consciousness, because there is a continuum to this life after this one ends? Just being conscious of our existence suggests that there may be an afterlife. Why else would we be aware of our mortality or be concerned with life after death? Possibly we can only fathom we could cease to exist because we never will cease to exist? In fact, awareness of our mortality or immortality and what it means goes beyond the awareness you exist (consciousness). Having a soul can explain consciousness, but if we do not possess souls, then how do we account for consciousness?
If it so happens that ones existence can end at any time and is not everlasting, it makes ones existence pointless in the first place and really, the ultimate form of cruelty.
∙ Why life? There is no scientific reason for the existence of life. The universe doesn't care if there is life in it - it does not benefit from it. Yet life, and especially more advanced life with consciousness like us humans, came about. A 'driving force' in the universe behind it that made it all happen would make some sense of it all. Many would call such a driving force, God.
Considering the fact we have our universe and matter and energy in it, we have to think why is there something rather than nothing? For without a Creator or some spiritual force behind it all, would it not be expected there would be nothing?
∙ It is difficult for some of us to believe there is life after death because it is all seems too incredible that we have a soul which leaves the body upon physical death and goes on to somewhere else. This is more so the case when many of us are wrapped up in our busy day to day lives with little time for reflection. Then we do not take time out to ponder how the bigger scheme of things might be because it has little bearing on our busy every day life with all its commitments, responsibilities, and distractions. If we were to put ourselves in a very dark room with no sounds or distractions when we aren't tired or sleepy, and engage in deep thought about the subject, then we may have more insight into what may actually be the truth. Of course the alternative, that there is no survival of consciousness, is all too hard to believe for many of us also.
∙ If we came from the 'other side', then should we not have fear of returning to it. So we should not have a fear of death as we could make the assumption that we would likely have some instinct built into us that we don't need to worry about our mortality since we are immortal. However, for the large part, this fear of death exists in most people to varying degrees.
Why are we not aware of where we came from and where we are going when we die? Why do we exist at all? What is the purpose of our existence and our life in this world? If we are reincarnated so that we may improve our souls, then should we not know this? If, as taught by Christianity this is our only life on earth, then why do we not have direct knowledge of this? Why is God not in direct contact with us? Maybe not knowing is a better 'test' for us. Going into this life on earth maybe we know the answers to the preceding questions, but once here this knowledge is 'taken' from us and we only can speculate - we therefore live our lives differently possibly and are not motivated by some selfish reward for a good life lived and the suffering we endure is of greater benefit to us. In other words, having direct knowledge of the afterlife would mean we would be motivated by reward (spiritual improvement) in our actions and would not suffer as much and therefore would not improve as much spiritually.
I don't think it was the intent of God or the 'universal consciousness' (assuming there is such) to reveal all to the satisfaction of everyone of us. For if it had, then surely we would all be believers. It all seems to be part of a greater plan to have it all this way.
I don't agree with some who believe mankind is not capable of understanding or comprehending this. For mankind not only has a great understanding of many difficult and complex areas of say science, but also made the discoveries to make it possible. At the very least, if all were to be revealed, the essence of it all should be understood by most.
∙ We probably need to endure a minimal amount of suffering while here on earth or otherwise we would regress spiritually (due to becoming more smug and taking more of a 'blame the victim' attitude when others suffer and therefore we would become less empathetic when not enduring any suffering ourselves).
∙ It is possible that God is the collective consciousness of the universe (or universes). This might be some type of energy field which is the source of all the knowledge, intelligence, and power that guides the universe (or universes).
∙ Many of us automatically make the assumption that if life was created or designed intelligently, then there must be an afterlife. However, we are assuming the Creator or the 'force' responsible for the creation 'cares' for us and has given us souls everlasting and it is possible this may not be the case (although there are many convincing arguments and evidence for an afterlife). The reverse, however unlikely, could also apply: that there is an afterlife without a Creator or God.
∙ There are 8 unique possibilities as follows:
As can be seen from analyzing the above, there are several possibilities. Life after death is not necessarily dependent upon a universe or life on earth having a Creator or Designer. Although of course life after death is so much more likely rationally having such.
∙ Life forms may have had to start out very simple and then became increasing complex as time passed because the souls to occupy them would have to advance through the reincarnation cycle. Logically this would explain why life on earth evolved the way it did as shown (be it inconclusively) by the scientific evidence.
Much like energy, I don't think its likely consciousness could come out of nothing. And I doubt (but cannot rule out), that it could be artificially created or induced or simply be some byproduct of sufficient neural or brain activity.
Some of us, especially many of you reading this website may feel that your personality ( level of empathy for other life, wisdom to an extent, sense of right and wrong, etc.) has not changed significantly since you have recall for (say age 3 or 4). Your sense of self was fully developed since that early age and has not changed significantly either. What has changed is your knowledge and added memories from life experiences as should be expected. Genes cannot fully account for this. To me this suggests that we could not have developed all this by age 3 or 4 and must have carried most of this in from a previous existence. This would apply to everyone but if you came into this world with a lesser developed soul, you would expect to experience greater changes in your personality and sense of self throughout this life.
∙ In reincarnation, one would expect that empathy is the personality trait that would definitely be carried from one life to the next. One could logically assume that a soul would not progress if it does not improve its empathy for other living things; then in subsequent lives it would be incarnated into equal or higher (more intelligent or of higher mental capacity) life forms. This is not consistent with the fact that some humans appear to have lower empathy for other life than do some animals. Possibly, higher life forms are not always incarnations of more progressed souls? For example, the soul born as a dog may have reached a higher level of spiritual development than most humans but may have taken this lower form in order to learn particular lessons in a more efficient way.
Another aspect of personality which would make sense to be part of the soul (at least partially) is wisdom. But its manifestation in the individual might be dependent upon the physical body (brain) occupied. Likewise, the empathy shown by the soul may also be likewise restricted by the physical body occupied. It may be likely that empathy and wisdom often go together - ie. a life form often won't have too much of one without having the other in the same range.
∙ If we ask the questions, who or what created our Creator if there is such? When did time start? Where did matter and energy come from? Most likely there is no start point and our Creator has always existed as have matter and energy. Contemplating the preceding, I am more inclined to believe that a Designer is ultimately responsible for the existence of our universe.
∙ A common argument against an afterlife is all the suffering and injustice in the world and God is nowhere to be seen to prevent it. Neither is the connection to an afterlife fully revealed (or not or hardly at all according to some) and we are left with so many unanswered questions regarding the nature of our existence. The possible rationale for this is:
(1) We are on earth to increase our empathy for other life and to be accountable for the effect of our actions and behaviour on the world. An example of this in practical terms is if we know that when we drive recklessly and our passenger dies as a result, we will feel badly. But if we know that they will be reunited with the same loved ones in the afterlife that they leave behind when they die, then our empathy for others will not improve as easily. This is because we know the loss is only temporary for everyone effected and it is as if the person who dies only just goes to a foreign land for what is a very short period of an infinite life. This might be why we do not have a complete knowledge of the afterlife. Note that with the full and complete knowledge of an afterlife, ones actions might improve but our empathy for other living things while here on earth would probably not improve to the same extent. Also, we may be motivated by spiritual reward and not progress spiritually to the same extent.
(2) Taking (1) further, we have decided to come into this world in order to 'fast track' our spiritual progression. We could have remained in the spirit world for this same time period but there, with full understanding, we would not advance as much (we would endure less suffering also). Though it is possible that we could also incarnate into other worlds or universes where full knowledge of life after death and/or God may be given during that lifetime.
(3) We may also have perfect knowledge in the spiritual dimension and we may not make the bad choices which causes others to suffer and progress spiritually and is necessary to build bad karma for us, thereby advancing us spiritually later when we suffer the effects of this bad karma.
(4) Karma and pre-destined events in our lives might work via something akin to a 'great' or 'grand' algorithm. We might 'input' all this into this algorithm prior to incarnation on earth.
(5) Since we are mentally developed to such an extent, we are given limited knowledge (through religion, logical arguments, near death experiences, etc.) so as to give us peace of mind, a sense of purpose and justice in life, and hope. As mankind has progressed through the ages, so as his mental sophistication and that is why greater evidence for the afterlife is needed to satisfy man, not mere almost blind faith. Maybe it is no coincidence that near death experiences are 'allowed' to occur so much more frequently.
(6) Empathy is something the soul must develop (as opposed to having it given to it) through suffering, loss. pain, etc. since it does not start with any. This would explain all the suffering in the world.
As others have put forth, maybe God wants to have all these experiences of life and that is the reason for life. Though some, including myself, think God could just 'dream' it all instead of allowing all the suffering to take place. I think very likely the suffering is necessary for the growth of the sum total of the consciousness plus the positive experiences in life is why there is life also (in addition to this spiritual growth). These positive experiences also make the suffering more tolerable (to varying degrees for each individual consciousness and the life lived).
∙ The same observation can easily have different interpretations. Take for example, the injustice of suffering on earth. Some take this as there is no God otherwise why would God let this happen. While others see it to mean there must be a God then to administer some form of ultimate natural justice.
∙ If we possess souls and are on this earth to learn lessons and improve our souls, then why do we endure suffering for which we already possess empathy to a high degree for when others suffer the same fate? Unless something like karma can explain this, then this would in fact be evidence against us having souls and a purpose (and hence, life after death). If this is all orchestrated by some supernatural means, then surely this type of needless adversity could instead be made to happen to a person who needs to learn the lesson or improve this type of empathy. Or it could just be that whatever external influence there is is minimal or not exercised at all - because all living things are given free will. Or there could be another purpose for it that we don't see readily or not at all in this life; it could be something that has to do with future events.
At birth (or conception or somewhere in between), the soul/mind (similar to software with related files) is downloaded onto the body/brain (similar to a computer hard drive). The soul lives through this body just like software does through a computers operating system, hard drive, CPU, etc. (which we can equate to the brain). The mind which is part of the soul works using the bodies brain. Memories of previous lives and the heavens is not known because the 'software' is not able to be fully deciphered by the 'computer' (the brain) and/or all the software isn't sent. This is analogous to a new computer software program not working fully on an old computer operating system or if not enough RAM is available or the CPU is too slow (eg. the latest software doesn't run fully on Windows 98 or less than 128 MB of RAM or Pentium III).
At death, the soul is 'uploaded' back to the heavens (internet server) along with modifications to its 'software' code (what transformations happened to the soul during its life on earth) as well as additions to its files (life experiences and memories).
We also have to wait for the brain (computer) to develop fully. This is why our wisdom and sense of right and wrong increase at such a fast rate throughout childhood without the benefit of all the life experiences to teach us - it is our soul 'coming through' as the brain develops and is able to interpret what it is bringing with it. This is especially true for the sense of right and wrong which develops very quickly in very young children. Also, our sense of right and wrong may have been given to us by the Creator so we might self evaluate and regulate our actions and behaviours.
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Harinder S. Sandhu
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This page was last updated on: May 22, 2010.