Is There Life After Death?

So today we’re going to tackle a question
that has confounded mankind for millennia;what happens when we give up the ghost down
here on terra-firma, when the heart expires,the brain stops receiving oxygen and your
friends start putting together a top ten listof your favorite songs for your no doubt bleak
funeral. Many people still believe that our time on
Earth is spent in some kind of vestibule toheaven, a kind of waiting room where we stay
while the Almighty like a divine accountantgets out his calculator and starts subtracting
all our sins from the good things we’vedone. You have to believe in the right Him of course,
and so for centuries cultures having beencalling out others as infidels or heretics. Heaven they say, isn’t open for all, some
names aren’t on the guest list and they’renot coming in. According to some people, heaven isn’t big
enough for all the religions, and even intoday’s politically correct world the eternal
ethereal hotel in the clouds isn’t exactlyan inclusive joint. But there is more to after-life theories than
the precept of heaven, so let’s now investigate. Let’s start with the ancients and we’ll
get around to what modern people, modern religionsand modern science, say later. Many ancient Greeks believed when they died
the soul separated from the body. They then entered the Underworld, where the
main man in charge was called Hades. As you’ve seen in our episode on Hell, words
like Hades and Tartarus pop up in old texts of the Abrahamic
religions. In Orphism, an ancient Greek religion, there
was life after death. Graves have been uncovered with tablets in
them that gave instructions for the dead forwhen they entered the afterlife. The Underworld was not easy to navigate, so
the Greeks might have left some notes forthe passed over person. But not all Greeks thought alike. The philosopher Plato was perhaps less superstitious,
and he believed we had a soul before we wereborn and we had one after we died. He once wrote that the trauma of birth makes
us forget what we had learned in our pastlife. He called this “anamnesis. ”He seemed to believe in an eternal spirit,
but not exactly one that has to navigate beastsin the Underworld. This dualism he talked about of soul and body
would take root in many beliefs to come. Some scholars say for Plato our soul is our
true form, our true self. What you need to know is that ancient myths
from the Greeks and other places around Europesuch as the ancient Germanic cultures held
the belief that there was some kind of underworldand it wasn’t a very nice place. Another assumption came later, and that was
if there is a terrible place to be, theremust be a nicer place, and that as we know
wasn’t down below but up in the sky; TheHotel Heaven as mentioned earlier. But then we had philosophical points of view
that dealt with a life-death dualism, thatinside us was spirit. This was based on reason more than crude superstition. Many of you today might still believe this,
the belief that contained inside us is somethingelse and perhaps that is connected to a collective
spirit. Maybe it does not take human form, meaning
it’s not the diaphanous fella that turnsup at the Pearly Gates to barter with St.
Peter, nor the lucky soul that feasts on greatfood with his stock of pure women, but merely
consciousness. That’s why some people talk about this mainframe
of thought, the collective unconscious, akind of matrix we are plugged into but don’t
always receive a signal from. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Hegel believed this to some extent, that whathe called “absolute spirit” could transcend
death. He wrote that once we had become absolute
spirit through a journey of self-discoverywe could understand infinity. Hegel is really confusing, but let’s just
say that like in some religions he believedwe could transcend this life. If you saw the recent Joe Rogan show with
the always personable British particle physicistBrian Cox, Rogan brought the matter up that
there might be a soul, perhaps connected toa great plexus of other souls. Cox countered, saying scientists would know
if a soul existed, even as a thought, becausethey had incredibly sophisticated methods
of measuring or just seeing energy. Everything in this universe has some kind
of energy, and if we had a soul, argued Cox,we’d know. But if you are religious, you could just argue
that God works in mysterious ways and scientistsare just brazen for thinking they could detect
this soul. That’s an argument you can’t win, because
in religion you just have to take a leap offaith. Empirical truths might hold some weight with
religious people, of course, but perhaps notwhen God and the afterlife are concerned. We must also remember that men in the clouds
with lustrous white beards is more of a whimsicalversion of life after death, and it’s arguably
superstitious when you consider the worksof serious theologians. Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century for
instance argued that because humans can thinkof abstract ideas without actually needing
to see things, basically that we have imaginations,the mind didn’t need the body. Like many before him, Aquinas believed the
soul to be separate. He once said, “Soul is not the whole human
being, but only part of one: my soul is notme. ”Aquinas was one of many Christian philosophers
that attempted to reconcile more down to Earthphilosophy with religious beliefs. When the body died, something lived on, but
that had nothing to do with men with pitchforksor angels playing harps. Now let’s look at Buddhism. You’ve all heard of the concept of reincarnation,
but often it’s misunderstood as being areward or punishment for something you did
in this present life that affects what kindof creature you will return as. Sometimes called metempsychosis, what this
really means is not that you’ll come backas a cockroach for cheating on your girlfriend,
but that there are realms you can come backin as the same soul. That death is a cycle, and you can with good
enough karma achieve Nirvana, the end of thecycle; no more rebirth and therefore no more
worldly pain. Someone might argue again that the soul does
indeed exist as separate from the body andwhen one body dies this enters another cycle
in another body but the soul remains the same,just trying to achieve a state of nirvana. Another belief perhaps similar is “eternal
return”, which can be found in ancient Egyptiantexts and also ancient Indian texts. Everything in the universe is cyclic, which
includes your existence. That might also mean we are destined to live
the same exact existence again, for eternity!If that’s true you should embrace your life,
as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote. If some entity came to you in a dream and
told you would live this life over and overfor all of eternity, with all the pain and
anguish as well as happiness, would you feelbad about it? asked Nietzsche. It’s not religion, but a thought experiment. If this eternal recurrence were true, you
should love life and all that happens. This could make you a better person, a happier
person. Religion can also act as a positive thought
experiment. If you believe it is a sin to cause others
pain, and we all know pain, and that thiscan lead to not going to heaven, then perhaps
you will act better. We might also add that for some people causing
pain to others gets them into heaven, i. e. the Christian crusades, religious extremism,
countless fundamentalists today that havelittle respect for certain people’s right
to freedom. People disagree on what gives us good karma,
what gets us silver stars from God, and thisposes a significant human problem and has
done so for thousands of years. What we are trying to say is that belief in
an afterlife can perhaps be positive for youand the society in which you live and the
world as a whole, but it might also lead todisharmony. Ok, enough religion. Brian Cox might tell you that you don’t
have a soul, but he admits science doesn’tfully understand how consciousness works. As a physicist, for him it’s all about energy,
and nothing to him shows that we have thisextra piece of matter in our bodies that is
a soul. But Cox also admits that Atoms (what we are
made of) can be confounding things. Do we really understand how the constituents
of the atom interact?Perhaps the soul exists somewhere in subatomic
particles. Cox admits that science can be a work in progress,
he only says from what he knows right nowhe doesn’t believe in a soul. Religious folks might also ask, what came
before the Big Bang and this universe makingparticle?No one knows. Science admits this, while religions are often
more stubborn, dogmatic. Ironically, leapers of faith are often surer
than scientists. Perhaps people should keep leaping in directions
their entire lives?That’s what science would say, but scientists
can be stubborn too at times. Back to consciousness. We have certain physical properties that others
have, this is the fleshy machinery of thebrain and the chemicals that oil the many
parts. But, and this is very important, we have ‘us’,
meaning we have personality, we have character,some might even say an aura. Some thinkers, serious thinkers, say the fact
that there is this identity means we mighthave a soul. If the physical part dies, what happens to
that special part that made us, us. Then we are back to where is the energy and
we might ask if this soul can only exist withthe physical parts. Maybe we have a soul, but it dies. We are special, but not immortal. If you’ve ever heard of the philosopher
George Berkeley you might know he was interested
in what happens right after death. Did anything travel, did we move on?It’s said he once asked one of his students
to hang him and take him down just after hestarted dying. Apparently this experiment didn’t do much
except cause him lots of pain. But did you know that research in the USA
said 18 percent of people brought back fromdeath after a heart attack had a near death
experience. This for some is proof of life after death,
while some scientists say we just go intoa dream mode. Others say the Pineal Gland releases the substance
DMT at death and if you’ve ever taken thatstuff you will know fantastic, sometimes unexplainable
things can happen. Science says our brains definitely work for
a while after the heart stops, so somethingis going on. We don’t think near death trips are a good
example of life after death. Others believe in the 21 grams theory, that
after we die we lose 21 grams and maybe thatwas a soul exiting. Scientists disagree, however. OK, so we have self, which is consciousness
that we don’t properly understand. We have a universe that we don’t really
know is infinite or not or if there was anythingbefore it. We are made up of bits of the physical universe,
atoms from the stars, and to some extent ata quantum level we don’t always know what’s
going on. We might go out on a limb here and say that
if there is a soul maybe it can only be foundby understanding the engineering of this universe
down to the smallest level. Maybe there is more to see. What haven’t we seen?If we have a soul maybe it’s in the small
print, and perhaps we just haven’t beenable to read that yet. This of course might not mean there is a God,
a hell, an underworld, but it might explainhow we are all different and yet part of the
same thing connected perhaps in a way we don’tyet know. That indeed we are all pure spirit of some
kind. Perhaps even science will reconcile with religion
in the future but in ways we still can’tfathom. Others might just call us temporary space
trash made of carbon and proteins not connectednor eternally soulful. We will at least live on in a way in an atomical
sense. So in some ways, there is always some life
after death, just not with an “I” involved. We can safely say we don’t know, but we
have enjoyed talking about it. You know what we are going to ask you, and
that is what do you think about this?Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other show
What Happens When You Die!?Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

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