If you believe, like so many profess to, in the existence of the human soul (or consciousness, if you prefer) as something separate from the material body, then you must also accept that the sharp distinctions we draw between life and death don’t make logical sense. How do you define life? Are you so completely entwined and identified with your body and its chemical processes that you can’t imagine a ‘self’ without them? It’s a bit like saying that your car is you, or your clothes are you; if you leave one and shed the other, are you no longer yourself?
I have written before about what all children know when their pet dies. After ‘death,’ the body has nothing to do with the pet. Everything that made that animal your pet departs at the moment of death. We do ourselves a disservice by asking WHERE the pet ‘went.’ The usual categories upon which we depend to locate a self do not apply here. Only in the material world can one say where you are in space and time. Does that mean that you do not exist after your material body ‘gives up the ghost’? Of course not. You exist, but not as a material entity. Sometimes we can contact the self that exists after physical death, and for centuries, human beings have done so. Contact with the non-material self has happened countless times and will continue to happen.
Why is this so hard to believe? For me, that’s the real mystery. There is abundant evidence dating back thousands of years that all cultures on this planet have engaged in practices designed to contact the departed. Contact with the ‘deceased’ has been empirically studied for 150 years. That’s all the Society for Psychical Research did for many, many years. In any jury on the planet, the case for life after life has been proven time and time and time again. Why, then, is our culture so loath to accept something that any intelligent human being, reviewing the evidence, would be utterly convinced of?
1) American culture focuses almost exclusively on the material world, because we are a capitalist culture that needs materialism to justify our economic system. If you focus exclusively on making this life comfortable and fun, then you need to buy a lot of stuff to accomplish the American goal of getting rich. YOLO is the supporting doctrine for consumerism. BUY baby, buy a lot, because you only live once!!!
2) Religion. If religion is the exclusive domain of the human spirit, then all expressions of that spirit can be controlled and defined by doctrine, often in the service of an economic and political system that directly benefits from that doctrine (think fundamentalists of any stripe).
OK, so you might think that this is all too pessimistic or too conspiracy-theorist, but it makes sense to me after years of contemplating this topic. If you agree, or if you don’t, write to me!
–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW