By S. Mahalingam –
All religions assure us we’re special: our consciousness survives bodily death. However, based on science, humanism declares that if certain parts of the brain die, consciousness also dies.
When there’s a lot of verified evidence (albeit anecdotal) of afterlife, we’ve to take serious note. If such evidence is of three, quite separate types – as follows – we cannot justifiably dismiss them outright and declare the entire bulk of evidence as “inconclusive”:
(i) Verified details of near-death experience by patients, including self-review of past actions;
(ii) Verified details of previous life, by children under hypnosis, including untaught language;
(iii) Over 500 tape-records recorded by sitters, now stored at the University of Manitoba, which serve as evidence of direct communication between spirits of dead people and their loved ones during séances conducted by the most tested, silent, direct voice medium Leslie Flint (1911-1994). The séances were held at various locations, including places not open to prior adjustment to commit fraud – but always held in the dark (infrared cameras permitted). Everything was thoroughly scrutinised by professionals who were sceptical about Flint’s renowned ability to attract the spirits of dead people. Despite the abysmal record of fraud by most mediums, no such thing by Flint was ever found during his career lasting 40 years; yet doubts by diehards continued: “he was using ventriloquism”, and, with his lips were sealed, “he must’ve been talking through his stomach.” It is clear that the spirits have no voice box, and their conversation with the sitters was through an ethereal ‘voice box’ formed ad-hoc by Flint, few feet above his or his sitters’ heads for conveying the spirits’ thoughts in his language – with difficulty and with varying clarity and modulation, but with passable similarity to the dead persons’ manner of speaking when living.
The ensuing book Life after Death by Neville Randall gives first-hand accounts of the far more pleasant spirit world to which, when we die, might be escorted and met by people we had loved. To the spirits it was a natural transition from one kind of experience to another, without pain or fear. They took a while to realise that they were dead. The new world seemed to them to be as real and diverse as ours – with all sorts of voluntary occupations – but far more beautiful. Conversation is by thought, so is (instantaneous) travel to anywhere – even into our world: they can see us but we can’t see them. The book gives plenty of fascinating and detailed information about life there, as told by the spirits. It seems all they needed to get there was dutiful obedience to their own conscience. But even there, lives aren’t everlasting. They either fade away after a very long time or, if they deserve, move into a yet higher realm.
Sceptics reject all of the above evidence as impossible, yet they’re prepared to accept as the truth whatever science says. Even Albert Einstein rejected as impossible, John Bell’s insight in the 1960’s that strange, weird, “spooky” and instant, non-local quantum connection exists in the universe, yet it was proved experimentally – and accepted – two decades later.
Apart from the overwhelming and wide-ranging anecdotal evidence, there’s a logical basis that underpins the belief in afterlife. Among all forms of life only we, humans possess a conscience, enabling us to reason out (using our mind through our brain) if our actions are morally right or wrong. It is nature’s special gift to us; so we are duty-bound to use it in good faith – devoid of spurious, self-satisfying justification – when faced with morally right/wrong issues. It doesn’t matter if we decide wrongly provided that our own conscience genuinely believes that it is right. Knowing how penetrating ,perceptive and incapable of being fooled the ‘mind’ of nature is and how pervasive, inescapable and inexorable her laws are, we can logically expect to enjoy/suffer the positive/negative effects of obeying/disobeying our conscience, right up to the date of death. For this, our minds must be capable of surviving death and existing in some form (not necessarily human) at least for some time – or none of these – as judged by Mother Nature as ‘blindfolded goddess of justice’: the logic of afterlife’.
A universal survival instinct; three types of anecdotal evidence in plenty – at least a few of which are likely to be true, which is sufficient proof – and an underpinning logic, all combined, point to a hypothesis that at least on balance of probability, if not beyond reasonable doubt, humans have a conscience-based consciousness which can survive bodily death.
This is also what religions say, but they are based on faith and are so divisive that they were responsible for so much death and destruction throughout the ages – a never-ending curse. In contrast, the above hypothesis is based on evidence, reason and logic – and is unifying, because it provides a common basis for all of them. However, it cannot displace them, because they satisfy the spiritual needs of their communities, which the hypothesis cannot do.
However, one problem with the hypothesis is that testable ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ cannot be found. Without it, humanism considers any evidence, however numerous, as “inconclusive” even though they’re backed by logic. And based on studies of the brain, humanism concludes that consciousness (mind) is entirely dependent on the brain. So humanism loudly proclaims its opinion that nothing can possibly survive bodily death – music to the ears of those who fear possible moral justice after death.
Danger to society from such emphatic claim is that unscrupulous people, especially criminally inclined ones, are likely to conclude that they’re sure to avoid moral justice and accountability after death, so they can do anything – damn the others, but don’t get caught! This attitude is likely to become infectious, leading to increasing strife, immorality and crime.
The issue is far too serious for all of the evidence of afterlife to be summarily dismissed as inconclusive – the same can be said of humanists’ opinion, because there’s increasing opinion among scientists that mind can be independent of the brain.
Bane of humanity is the plethora of conflicting religious and sectarian beliefs which breed hatred and disharmony. Humanism arose as a unifying influence. But despite exhortations by humanists to promote ethical conduct, society is likely to suffer increasing immorality and selfishness. What’s important to note about the above hypothesis is that, even if it is on balance of probability wrong, its effect on society will be beneficial, whereas, even if humanism is on balance of probability right, its effect will be harmful.
So humanism owes it to society to review its position vis-à-vis the above hypothesis, and adopt a ‘carrot and stick’ approach in order to promote morality and harmony. The least that they can do is to proclaim that there’s no proof beyond reasonable doubt that afterlife is not true and that it might be true on balance of probability. Scientists, for their part, can help by declaring that on matters relating to afterlife, truth beyond reasonable doubt cannot be found, and truth on balance of probability is all that can be expected. Readers can help with specific comments on the hypothesis and suggest amendments on the basis of their own insight.
What Happens To Me At Death?By Shyamon Jayasinghe