There are people who don’t want to believe in life after death. They seem more afraid of it than death itself. I find that a bit strange. Everything that lives seems mightily determined to go on living. We put a lot of time into sex, which is designed to replicate life. To live seems to be about creating new, more, and greater life—so why not life after death?
I have poked around many records of human experience, and made some discoveries, even written a book about the subject (Experiencing the Next World Now (2004). Different types of evidence suggest that human personalities do survive bodily death. Let me state it modestly: A case can be made for the survival of personal consciousness. When I say a case, I’m referring to quite a bit of material that cannot glibly be denied.
Now what puzzles me is that some people absolutely refuse, when challenged, to even look at the evidence, no less examine or discuss it. The reaction sometimes appears to be seriously phobic. An experience I had with two of my colleagues at university will clarify. I acquired an extra copy of what I thought was one of the best books on evidence for life after death by the British psychologist, Alan Gauld, Mediumship and Survival (1982).
I thought of two colleagues who liked to banter with me on the subject but whom I knew were clearly resistant to the notion of postmortem consciousness.
“Hey GK! (the philosopher),” I said to one of them I met in the hallway. “I’ve got something for you.” I extended Gauld’s book toward my colleague. He glanced at it and visibly recoiled.
“This is a first rate study of mediumship and its implications for the survival hypothesis. Gauld is a super-scholar and a no-nonsense thinker.” I waved the book before the philosopher enticingly.
GK paused, lowered his head and flicked his hand: “Words, they’re only words.” He gave me a wan smile, and walked away. That seemed a very odd response, given that the fellow made his living with “only words.”
Well, I thought, I’ll knock on C.L.’s office door, and offer him my little gift. A more cheerful fellow, a political scientist strangely detached from politics, more interested in literary pursuits.
With a smile, he replied: “Oh, thanks, but I couldn’t accept this (I detected a tremor on the right side of his mouth.) You see, I won’t be able to read the book until next year. Thanks, but hang on to it. Try GK, your fellow philosopher.”
I of course did not believe that C.L. was all tied up until next year. He just couldn’t stand the idea of reading anything that challenged his own worldview. Maybe I picked the wrong time to challenge them to think about such a momentous issue. Extinction or transformation? Nothingness or a new world of consciousness?
Still, I’m trying to figure out why some people just don’t want even to consider the possibility of the great after. It would be odd if our doctors and nurses just decided that everybody’s eventually going to die, so why fuss over patients. Why go through such lengths to keep so many botched and bungled bodies still breathing for a few more days, weeks, or months?
It would be very odd if doctors and nurses behaved like this because they value life, even the lives of those with suffering bodies. Their passion is to help and to heal, to prolong and improve life. Suppose that somebody claimed they had a cure for cancer. Suppose it worked in many cases. All the reports are available. Here are the documents, facts, numbers. Now suppose the medical authorities said they were too busy to read the documents, at least not until the year was out, or that after all the documents were just made of words. Needless to say, this would be crazy. A cure for cancer? The interest would have to be there.
But why would there not be a similar interest in the prospect of a cure for our very mortality. We are dutiful and driven to care for the sick and those in pain, and it is generally sad, tragic, or sometimes horrifying to witness the death of other human beings. Suppose, however, there were a cure—not specifically for any of the diseases, accidents, or injustices that take us out—but a ‘cure ‘ for death itself? Data proving that after death we retain our consciousness?
Why aren’t the medical pros paying attention to the research, old and new, that supports the evidence that our lives are not over after our bodies are buried or cremated. Or the poets, the philosophers, the theologians, the anthropologists, the historians? Why are they mostly absent from this conversation whose time seems right, especially at a time when people everywhere are dying in droves from the pandemic.
What’s behind this denial? It seems perverse to repress every intimation of immortality. Why the need to contract the idea of the human spirit and cut it down to size? Why at all costs resist the idea of the soul’s immortality? Why get so freaked out by the suggestion that somewhere in the depths of ourselves is a spark of divinity? Could it be some people just refuse to change their worldview. Or maybe it’s some old-fashioned fear of hell. Beats me. Any ideas, reader?