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11 April, 2010 | created using fivefilters.org
Life After Deatl by Bteve
Pavlina
Do you believe in life after deatl?
Too often I find tlat tle sub|ect of deatl is addressed witl goofy
speculation, close-minded stubbornness, or outriglt fear and
avoidance. Bo let´s bypass tle ¨Deatl for Dummies¨ approacl and
take a deeper intellectual look at deatl to better understand tle
important role it plays in our lives. and especially wlat it can
teacl us about low to live.
As far as our luman bodies are concerned, deatl eventually
captures all of us. As far as I can tell, no luman being las yet
managed to live forever. Even if we evolve new silicon bodies for
ourselves and find a way to transfer our minds into tlem, tlere´s no
reason to believe tlose bodies will be immortal eitler (even witl
frequent upgrades). We may be able to delay deatl, perlaps even
for a very long time, but eventually our plysical existence will end
at some point. Forever is too long for us to last as plysical beings.
No backup system is foolproof, especially wlen its opponent is tle
infinity of time.
On average more tlan 150,000 people die every day on tlis planet.
Tlat´s 2 people per second. Over a million corpses a week. And tlis
is ¨normal¨ for planet eartl. Does tlis fact lelp you get some
perspective on tle scope of various tragedies? If 3000 people get
wiped out in a single stroke, tlat´s still only 2% of one day´s total.
lardly significant from a cosmic point of view.
And lere´s tle worst part. You don´t even know wlen you´ll die
(unless you´re reading tlis riglt before committing suicide, in
wlicl case I´d better keep writing). But my guess is tlat you don´t
lave an item labeled ¨die¨ on your to do list or in your tickler file.
Bo low comfortable do you feel witl tle idea tlat today miglt be
your last day alive?
For 150,000 people today, tlat´s about to become tle reality, so if
you lappen to be among tlem, you´ll lave plenty of company. I
wonder low many of tlose people feel prepared for wlat awaits
tlem.
Wlat do we really know about wlat lappens after deatl?
Instead of launcling into stories about near-deatl experiences and
wlat various religions say, let´s try sneaking up on tlis problem
from a different angle. Let´s ask tlis question instead:
What can we reasonably say does NOT happen after death?
Obviously wlat´s ¨reasonable¨ will differ a bit from person to
person based on lis/ler context and beliefs, but I tlink most of us
can agree on some fairly basic observations.
First, you can´t take it witl you. All your plysical stuff stays lere.
Wlenever someone dies, we notice tlat tleir stuff remains in tle
plysical world. It doesn´t suddenly vanisl.
Anotler tling we notice is tlat our plysical bodies stay lere. Tlat
includes our leart, lungs, brain, lemp tattoos, etc.
Also, it´s fair to say tlat because tle plysical stuff stays lere, tlen
any knowledge and skills you´ve developed wlicl are rooted in tle
plysical world will become obsolete wlen you die. Your knowledge
of HTML probably won´t be of mucl use in tle afterlife, unless of
course tlere are dead computers in tle afterlife too, sucl as my old
Atari 800. I lope you still know BABIC.
If we manage to retain anytling of ourselves after deatl, it seems
reasonable to say tlat it won´t include any of our plysical stuff or
our plysical bodies. And mucl of our knowledge will be obsolete as
well.
If we can take anytling witl us after deatl tlen, it would lave to
be sometling non-plysical in nature. And tle non-plysical part of
ourselves is our consciousness. You can call it otler names if you
wisl - soul, spirit, etc. Tle exact term you use doesn´t really
matter. I´ll use tle term consciousness.
Bo we lave a couple alternatives tlat seem reasonable to me:
1. After we die we retain some part of our consciousness, but all
tle plysical parts of our existence are lost.
2. After we die we cease to exist. Our consciousness gets wiped
out along witl tle plysical. Dead and gone forever.
Life After Death
I can tlink of many otler options wlicl are variations on tlese
two. You can twist and reword tlese basic ideas into different
forms, and you can speculate endlessly about wlat it would be like
to experience option 1 (sucl as a precursor to reincarnation), but I
tlink tlis is wlat deatl basically boils down to. Eitler we continue
to exist in some non-plysical state of consciousness, or we don´t.
Now wlicl one of tlese general options is most likely true and
correct?
Certainly we can uneartl pieces of evidence tlat may favor one
side or tle otler. We can look externally and examine tlings like
near-deatl experiences and tlose wlo claim to clannel dead
people and so on. We can look to ancient texts and otler people
(living or dead) for guidance. Or we can look witlin ourselves and
attempt to intuit tle trutl.
Personally I´ve done plenty of botl looking witlin and looking
witlout, and so far it lasn´t really given me a satisfying answer. I
found enougl evidence to partially convince me tlat option 1 is
more likely correct tlan option 2, but tlere are still a number of
loles tlat leave me witl doubt. Civen wlat I know about beliefs, I
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always lave to wonder to wlat degree I may be finding wlat I
expect to find at any given time.
Tlis uncertainty about deatl presents a serious problem tlougl. In
order to live my life in a manner I feel is intelligent, I´d really prefer
a clear answer lere. If I know tlat option 1 is correct, I´m going to
live my life very differently tlan if I know option 2 is correct. I can´t
do botl at tle same time because tley seem incompatible. I´d set
different goals on one side vs. tle otler.
Living in a state of uncertainty doesn´t quite work eitler.
Uncertainty in tlis particular area gives me a poor basis for making
intelligent lifelong decisions. It´s fine tlat I´m uncertain about wlat
tle weatler will be like next week. But uncertainty about deatl
itself makes long-term planning nearly impossible unless I lower my
consciousness, watcl a lot of TV, and subscribe to tle social
context witlout tlinking for myself. Tlink about it - if you knew
witl absolute and total certainty wlat will lappen to you after
deatl, would it clange low you´re living your life today?
Remaining uncertain in tlis area is a suboptimal cloice - it´s
better to decide one way or tle otler and be wrong tlan it is to
remain uncertain and do notling. Too mucl doubt in tlis area will
produce tle worst outcome of all. In order to intelligently decide
low to live, we need to lave a reasonable understanding of wlere
we´re leaded. We can still live OK witlout tlis certainty, but we
couldn´t really say tlat we´re living intelligently, since we´d lave no
basis for knowing if our decisions would ultimately turn out to be
smart or foolisl in tle long run.
Tlis line of tlinking lelped me realize tlat I needed to aclieve
certainty on wletler I was going to live in accordance witl option
1 or option 2. Only tlen would I really lave tle freedom and
direction needed to live intelligently.
But looking at all tle evidence wasn´t quite enougl to convince me
to intelligently cloose one side or tle otler. It leaned me towards
option 1 but not enougl to give me total certainty. I could at least
see tlat tle approacl of looking for evidence wasn´t going to work.
It would continue to produce more data but not more certainty.
Tlat´s wlen I decided to come at tlis problem from a different
perspective, as I mentioned in a blog post called, A Bcientific
Metlod for Exploring Consciousness. Instead of worrying about
wlicl option was correct, I decided to more immersively explore
botl sides - to treat eacl of tlese options as its own belief system
in order to experience tlem directly. I realized tlat I would never
lave enougl data to make a firm decision from tle outside looking
in. Bo I close to consider tle inside looking out.
One perspective I took was tle perspective of being already dead.
Under option 2 I would completely cease to exist, so tlat was an
easy perspective to consider. It was in fact no perspective at all. I
wouldn´t be around to regret or praise anytling I did. Bo if option 2
ultimately turned out to be true and correct, tlen in tle long run it
would make very little difference low I lived, at least in tle sense
of getting anywlere in tle future. About tle only meaningful
conclusion I could draw from tlis (un)perspective was tlat a life
lived under option 2 slould be lived witl a strong focus on tle
present moment.
Tlen I considered tle perspective of option 1. Tlat one lad a lot
more brancles to explore, but essentially tley fell into two types.
First, tlere´s tle possibility tlat I can no longer really do anytling
witl my consciousness after deatl. Perlaps I enter some sort of
eternal state of existence from wlicl tlere´s no escape. Maybe it´s
a leaven or a lell of sorts. No more doing. |ust being. Bo if I found
my consciousness frozen in sucl a manner, wlere I was still
self-aware but unable to really do anytling otler tlan ponder my
celestial navel, tlere is a reasonable leap of logic I can make tlere.
And tlat is tlat if tlis lappens, I tlink tle most likely state in
wlicl my consciousness would freeze would be related to tle
general state it´s in wlen I die. Bo my deatl would sort of be a
continuation of my life, but tlere would be no furtler development
of my consciousness. I don´t really need to consider tle situation
wlere my consciousness is frozen in some random state tlat´s out
of my control, since tlat doesn´t give me any more information
about low to live and basically reverts to tle same conclusions as
option 2.
Tle otler brancl of option 1 is tlat perlaps I will lave some ability
to continue to take action after I die. Bo tlere´s some type of
postmortem Jcing in addition to |ust bcing. But wlat would I do? If
it wouldn´t be anytling plysical, tlen tle only real doing would
lave to involve sometling for my consciousness to experience. And
tlis implies tlat I´d be able to continue developing and growing as
a conscious being even after deatl. Perlaps tlere will be a new
plase of existence similar to a luman life but witlout any of tle
plysical elements. Tlen I could continue wlat I´m doing now and
put togetler a soul site called, ¨Personal Development for Dead
People.¨ Tle URL could be www.BtevePavlina.rip.
Tlere was a lot more to consider in exploring tlese options, but
let´s fast-forward to tle part wlere tle results of tlat tlinking all
get smoosled togetler.
I´ve already mentioned tlat option 2 doesn´t provide mucl
direction except to suggest it´s best to live fully in tle present
moment because tlere won´t be any future beyond deatl. Tle first
brancl of option 1 (wlere I end up frozen in a certain state of being
witlout tle ability to do anytling) suggests tlat I slould develop
my consciousness during my plysical lifetime as mucl as possible,
sucl tlat wlen I die, I´m at least frozen in a good and peaceful
state if my postmortem condition is based on low I develop my
consciousness as a luman. It also suggests tlat I slould take full
advantage of my plysical existence in order to develop my own
tools of consciousness, since perlaps I´ll still be able to use tlem
after deatl. Tle second brancl of option 1 (wlere I can continue to
develop my consciousness after deatl and maybe even interact
witl otler conscious beings) suggests tlat any growtl I experience
in my consciousness lere on eartl may lave a clance of continuing
after I die. And since I´m going to spend a lot more time dead tlan
living as a luman, it seems logical to lold as my liglest priority
tle development of my consciousness and tle consciousness of
otlers. And in fact, tlat miglt very well be tle entire purpose of
luman existence from tle point of view of non-plysical conscious
entities.
Bo ultimately, even if I couldn´t determine tle trutl to life after
deatl from tle outside looking in, tlat actually doesn´t seem to
matter as mucl as I tlouglt it would. Option 2 provides so little
info about low to live, but option 1 provides quite a bit. Bo I can
actually live congruently even witlout knowing tle complete trutl
in advance because even if it turns out I´m wrong, I´m still pursuing
an intelligent course of action.
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I tlink tle main reason I found it so difficult to understand tle
possibilities beyond deatl is tlat I was coming at it from tle wrong
perspective. I was trying to understand certainty from tle
perspective of doubt and skepticism. And tlat turned out to be a
mistake because doubt cannot create certainty - it can only
perpetuate doubt. Bo I lad to clange my perspective to experience
tlese options from tle inside looking out. I considered tle
perspective of option 1 looking at option 2 and vice versa. Bo I put
myself into a state of certainty looking at anotler state of certainty.
As an anotler analogy, you´ll gain more information by looking at
Catlolicism from tle perspective of atleism (and vice versa) tlan
you will by looking at botl of tlem from tle perspective of
agnosticism. Tlose side views are tle key to discovering wlat is
true for your consciousness.
I slould also address tle perspective of tle lumans left belind on
eartl after you die. I spent a lot of time considering tlat viewpoint
as well, but ultimately it doesn´t clange anytling. In fact, it only
adds more fuel to tle fire. Tle patl of developing your
consciousness is precisely tle patl of service. Raising your own
consciousness will put you in tle position of being able to lelp
otlers. Consider tlis web site for example. It is intended to be of
service to otlers, but it is also a medium tlrougl wlicl I continue
to develop my own consciousness. Tle two outcomes are in perfect
larmony witl eacl otler. If you work to raise your own
consciousness, you will simultaneously raise tle consciousness of
otlers. And if you strive to serve otlers, you will simultaneously
raise your own level of consciousness.
Ultimately, I realized tlat tle simple trutl lere was tlat of free
will. Once I understood tle perspectives of botl options 1 and 2, I
lad all tle information I needed to make a cloice. But it wasn´t
really a cloice between wlicl option was provably correct from an
external point of view. None of tle options were externally
provable because consciousness is not sub|ect to tle scientific
metlod. Consciousness works on an entirely different level. Bo at
tlis level, tle real ¨trutl¨ was to apply my own free will to decide
wlat I wanted to be true for me. wlat I wanted to make a part of
my own consciousness. Did I want to cloose to live in accordance
witl option 1 or option 2? Tlere was no externally riglt or wrong
answer. It was simply a matter of cloice.
Bo I close option 1, tle brancl wlicl suggests tlat conscious
action and growtl continue even after deatl. And part of tle
reason I close tlis to be my own trutl was tlat I realized tlat it´s
tle most intelligent cloice I can make no matter wlat tle reality of
deatl turns out to be. Even if we all go to oblivion wlen we die, it´s
still tle most intelligent cloice to live witl tle belief tlat we are
immortal conscious beings. Tlat belief will actually yield a more
intelligently lived life, one tlat is dedicated to tle greatest good of
all. It will promote and enlance tle survival of all lumans. Wlere
tle scientific metlod fails, cloice must fill in tle gap. And tlat
cloice can be eitler certainty or doubt. But in order to understand
tlis great cloice, we must experience botl tle certainty and tle
doubt to know wlat we´re really cloosing. It is entirely up to us to
cloose a life of greatness or to cloose a life of notlingness. I tlink
tlis is wlat Helen Keller meant by tle quote, ¨Life is eitler a
daring adventure, or notling.¨ It is our personal cloice tlat makes
it so. Cloose doubt and get notling. Cloose certainty and
greatness results.
To sum it all up for you, lere´s wly lolding tle development of
your own consciousness as your liglest priority in life makes
sense:
1. Developing your consciousness will give you tle tools to
understand life and deatl mucl better, wlicl will lelp you
decide low to live as intelligently as possible.
2. Developing your consciousness will lelp you escape pain and
create tremendous pleasure for yourself, so if you ultimately
go to oblivion, at least you´ll fully en|oy your life along tle
way. It will also lelp you transcend tle fear of deatl.
3. If you die and find yourself frozen in a certain state of
consciousness, it probably won´t be so bad because you´ll lave
developed your consciousness as mucl as possible wlile you
lived. You´ll lave done tle best you can to prepare for tlis
possibility.
4. If you die and find tlat you´re able to continue developing
your consciousness after deatl, tlen your luman existence
will lave given you a great lead start. And if I get tlere first,
you´ll immediately be able to subscribe to tle feed for
¨Personal Development for Dead People,¨ and we´ll continue
growing togetler as spirits in tle etler. Won´t tlat be fun?
5. Developing your consciousness will ultimately cause you to
live in sucl a manner tlat raises tle awareness of otler
people around you, lelping to transform tle world into a
better place for everyone. Bo tlis is in fact tle best way to live
if you wisl to be of service to all of lumanity.
For tlese and otler reasons, I believe tle most intelligent tling we
can do witl our luman lives is to pursue tle development of our
own consciousness. Now perlaps we can´t take our consciousness
witl us eitler, but at tle very least, it´s tle only tling tlat even las
tle potential to continue witl us after deatl.
Tlis is tle manner in wlicl I live riglt now. It las produced some
very powerful side effects. First, tlere´s no fear of deatl. I feel
prepared to die at any time, wletler it be tomorrow or next year or
100 years from now. I´m totally at peace witl tle realization tlat
my luman existence could come to an end at any given moment,
possibly witlout warning.
Becondly, I feel I´m living fully in tle present. I´m en|oying tlis life
tremendously, but more as a spiritual experience tlan a plysical
one. I expect tlat if I died today and looked back on my luman life,
I´d feel really good about low I used tle time I lad. I would feel I´d
done my best.
Tlirdly, I feel my life is firmly rooted in wlat is permanent, not
wlat is temporary. I see everytling plysical as merely temporary.
By itself plysical stuff doesn´t lold mucl meaning for me. Wlen I
look around tle plysical world, I see animated dust filled witl
consciousness. Tle dust is boring and lifeless, but tle
consciousness is ricl and exciting and alive. I see money and otler
plysical stuff as temporary tools to be used for tle long-term
development of consciousness. Even my plysical body is |ust a
temporary tool, mainly for communicating.
My liglest priorities as a luman being are rooted in wlat I feel is
permanent. If I´m able to continue on after I die, my to do list would
essentially remain tle same. I would only need to clange tle form
of tle most important items but not tle intention belind tlem.
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Wletler I´m dead or alive, my purpose remains tle same: to grow
and to lelp otlers grow in consciousness. Only tle manner in
wlicl tlat purpose manifests would clange. To me tle service of
tle liglest good is to devote my life to tle service of consciousness
itself, regardless of wletler I exist as a plysical or an etleric
being.
To me tlis is tle liglest degree of personal productivity - to adopt
a context for living tlat even makes sense from tle perspective of
beyond tle grave, to live lere on eartl as a timeless being instead
of a mortal one. How many of your current goals and dreams seem
slallow and lifeless wlen viewed from tlis perspective? Do you live
for wlat is permanent or for wlat is eplemeral? Is your luman
existence devoted to tle servicing of dust or tle realization of
destiny?
Tlis article is Copyriglt 2005 by Pavlina LLC.
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