Coleman Stavish ccs@colemanstavish.

com Musings on Existence after Physical Death Some believe that human consciousness—perception, memory, feeling, emotion, selfawareness, thought, and logic—is a continuously changing product of brain function, perhaps a reflection of neurological activity that can somehow reflect upon itself. In other words, whatever consciousness may be is the creation of the brain and the nervous system alone. Others believe that humans are infused with some sort of spiritual entity that cannot be isolated or identified in the physical world and cannot be adequately defined with human language. This spirit is believed to exist beyond the biological lifetime of its body, and that upon death, it may enter a blissful “heaven,” be cast into a torturous “hell,” be reincarnated into another body, or be forced to watch late 90s boy-band music videos on infinite repeat. Two prevalent beliefs are that after death, spirits have some sort of personal recollection of earthly life, and that spirits can observe or “look down on” earthly events and recognize earthly contacts. While these beliefs cannot be disproven, there is some compelling evidence that may force them to be refined. One’s sense of identity relies on memories. The brain is responsible for storing all of one’s memories. It is possible for a victim of brain trauma to suffer amnesia. In an extreme case, the patient could lose all of his or her memories. If humans have spirits that can exist beyond the flesh, they must not have any ability to store memories, otherwise it would seem that an amnesiac’s memories should be “replenished” by his or her spirit. In light of this, we can speculate that if there is any sort of existence after death, there is no recollection of earthly life. Is someone who loses all of his or her memories the same person as before?—beyond genetics, no. Post-amnesia, a person’s consciousness is changed substantially. It is essentially a new consciousness, unrelated to the previous one, which has ceased to exist. When someone dies, if a spirit persists without memory, it is a new, separate existence altogether. Any self-knowing or self-awareness of a spirit after biological death is beyond human comprehension, but an interesting question is whether there is continuity in the two existences— whether the spirit undergoes a transformation, during, before, and after which it maintains its identity, or earthly consciousness fades into nothingness and a spirit lives, disconnected.