Glenn Stok analyzes and writes about peculiar aspects of life, based on his studies of theoretical and critical philosophy.
First, Let's Define "Death"
Based on a report in the medical journal Resuscitation, scientists studied over 2,000 people who went into cardiac arrest. Roughly 40% recalled awareness while they were clinically dead.1 Is that proof of life after death?
The problem I have with that study is that our definition of clinical death may not be accurate. The best method to determine death keeps changing.2
An article in Time Magazine3 discusses near-death experience and relates it to being clinically dead, but the author goes on to say this is “with an absence of heartbeat and breathing.”
Once again, I have a problem with that explanation. All too often, patients have been incorrectly declared dead when they just lacked brain activity.
Is the Proof of Life After Death Disqualified?
Besides my reasoning for the need to be careful with accepting the results of various research studies, I can see the other viewpoint. We don't know if this is proof. We might just be overlooking something else.
Recent research indicates that consciousness might be in a more primitive section of the brain that is not recorded by an EEG.4
Our own experiences might be clouded with incorrect interpretations. Let me explain one concept that I personally witnessed: I noticed extreme mental clarity before the death of my aunt.
Terminal Lucidity May Be the Best Proof of Life After Death
Terminal lucidity is mental clarity before death. The term was coined in 2009 by Michael Nahm, a biologist.5 It’s the phenomenon experienced when someone who is dying has lucid conversations with those who had died before them.
That gives us something to think about. Could it mean that the deceased actually has an existence in the afterlife and that they are available to converse with when one is ready to move on to the hereafter? If so, were they waiting to be contacted?
Even some Alzheimer's and dementia patients are known to display terminal lucidity when dying.6
The word "terminal" means near the end, and "lucidity" has several meanings: rationality, clarity, sanity, and saneness, to name a few.
I Witnessed Terminal Lucidity
I experienced this phenomenon watching my 98-year-old aunt the day before she died. She began to have conversations with her husband, who had died many years earlier. I listened to her speak as if she was talking on the phone.
I thought she was merely hallucinating, but other people had told me they noticed similar things with a dying person. I find that very interesting. When I listened to my aunt talking with her deceased husband, she sounded entirely coherent.
Sudden Improvement and Mental Clarity Before Death
The sudden improvement before death one tends to have, and their lucid discussions with the deceased, might imply there is an afterlife.
I value the notion that there could be a hereafter, and I have questions that need answers. What’s it like? Is everyone young and healthy again?
If the dying suddenly become clearheaded and able to talk with the deceased, that might imply that everyone is mentally lucid in the hereafter. Maybe they're all young and healthy once again as well.
Physical Matter During Life vs. a World After Life
All our observations of our physical world are experienced by our senses sending signals to our brain. At least that’s the case when we are alive. Our brain interprets what our body sees, feels, and smells. All physical matter in our environment is recognized this way. I read an article in Scientific American7 where the author, Michael Shermer, discusses this concept, and he quotes a cognitive scientist from the University of California:
“The world whose existence does not depend on the perceptions of a particular observer, consists entirely of conscious agents.”
— Donald H. Hoffman
Hoffman’s view is that we construct reality in our minds based on the input through our senses.
That leaves a question in my mind: is the world of matter around us actually real? Our consciousness and everything we experience might be a virtual manifestation in our minds. We may not even be physical beings. If this were true, it supports the concept of life after death.
Where Is Our Consciousness?
That brings me back to the question many professionals are trying to determine today, as mentioned at the beginning of this article.
The most profound example that I read about the possibility of life after death is a book by Dr. Alexander, a neurosurgeon who was declared clinically dead after contracting bacterial meningitis that attacked his brain.
He lived to tell his story of what he experienced while in a coma.8 His consciousness continued to function, although no brain activity was detected. He even experienced what was going on in the world remote from his hospital bed.
I would tend to dismiss everything Dr. Alexander claimed about his near-death experience if it weren’t for the fact that he is a well-regarded neurosurgeon in the field.
His story leaves me wondering if it could actually be true that we will go on to a new life after we die—an existence with conscious memory of our life on Earth, but without the nuisance of time and physical matter limiting our ability to experience an endless delight.
1. Elizabeth Armstrong Moore. (Oct 9, 2014). Study finds evidence of some form of life after death, USA Today
2. Sam Parnia, D. G. Walker, R. Yeates, Peter Fenwick, et al., "A Qualitative and Quantitative Study of the Incidence, Features and Aetiology of Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest Survivors," pg 150.
3. Laura Fitzpatrick. (Jan 22, 2010). Is There Such a Thing as Life After Death?, Time Magazine
4. Pim van Lommel, (2009). “Endless Consciousness: A Scientific Approach to the Near-Death Experience”, Chapter 8.
6. Michael Nahm PhD; Bruce Greyson, M.D. (December 2009). Terminal Lucidity in Patients With Chronic Schizophrenia and Dementia: A Survey of the Literature. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, Volume iii-x Issue 12 - pp 942-944
8. Dr. Eben Alexander, M.D. (2012) Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. New York, NY, Simon & Schuster
© 2017 Glenn Stok
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on August 16, 2018:
Martino - I find it strange that Dr. Alexander knew of discussions people were having outside his hospital room. His brain couldn’t have made that up. That disturbs me too.
It’s hard for me to accept that too, which is why I made the title of this article in the form of a question.
Martino on August 16, 2018:
The issue I find with most arguments about life after death is that they just make no logical sense. For example:Dr. Alexander, a neurosurgeon who was declared clinically dead after contracting bacterial meningitis that attacked his brain.
He lived to tell his story of what he experienced while in a coma.8 His consciousness continued to function even though no brain activity was being recorded. He even experienced what was going on in the world remote from his hospital bed.
That just proves nothing to me, because his brain could've made that up the second he woke up, so. While he was in coma there was no brain activity, but as soon as he woke up his brain made everything up, maybe because his brain was not working for so long so when he woke up his brain had something like a "boost" and it made that stuff up. Sorry for my English I hope my point comes across
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on January 14, 2018:
Linda Crampton - Having experienced unexplained events is what makes me research these topics too. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed reading my articles on these subjects. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 14, 2018:
I enjoy reading your articles about consciousness and the nature of existence very much, Glenn. I've had some unusual experiences which have encouraged me to explore these topics. Thank you for sharing your experiences and ideas.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on October 31, 2017:
Liz, I find your story of your cat very interesting. I never considered that the same type of lucidity can occur with other animals nearing death. But why not. After all, they are living creatures too. Sorry that you went through such as ordeal, though.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on October 31, 2017:
I agree with much of what you say, believe, and postulate.
I do think, however, that there is more of a chance that reincarnation is real, and that we may "go around" multiple times, until we have learned all we are supposed to learn. I'm keeping an open mind on that; though Nell Rose has some verrrryyy interesssstttiinnngggg articles on exactly that matter!
As far as the 'sudden lucidity' factor, I saw it happen with one of my cats. He was a big kitty; a beautiful orange tabby color, and at least partly Maine Coon...he came in at around 15 pounds, without being fat.
We had him about 16 years, and in his last year, he began dropping weight. In his last months, he started throwing up all the time...massive amounts...and finally started refusing to even eat.
After a good number of vet visits, including a specialist, he was found to have a 'large mass' in his intestines (translation: cancer). Poor kitty; no wonder he lost half his weight and looked in such a sorry state. He became depressed; lethargic, and we sadly knew it was time to bid farewell.
At the vet's office, on the day he was to be euthanized, he suddenly perked up, was interested in what there was to see out the window, and in the fish tank in the corner. Then, it was time to lift him onto the exam table.
At that point, I felt like a murderer, because he'd suddenly shown 'life' he had not for months prior. I cried and cried for days.
Since then, though, I've spoken with other pet owners who've noticed the same phenomenon; it gives much credence to the topic of this article. He was probably talking to another of our kitties, who had passed previously, and to our dog, who had passed 10 years prior. "Tigger" was 15 years old...
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on June 21, 2017:
That's a good point, Peggy – Our body is a physical essence that ages with time. Our soul can perhaps live on to eternity.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 21, 2017:
I truly believe in another life past this one. Our body is mortal but our soul is not. I have written an article regarding why I believe the way I do here on HubPages. In addition to the many books I have read on the subject I have had some personal experiences with family members which lead me to believe the way I do. That is not even taking religion into the equation. Most religions would have people believing that life does continue in an eternal realm. It gives me comfort to think that I will see my loved ones again when I shed this mortal body of mine.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 27, 2017:
Sally - We all have experiences like that. I know I have. Most people dismiss it as a coincidence. Others, like you and I, like to think it means something more — from a spiritual side.
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on April 27, 2017:
Talking of dreams! On two occasions I have had dreams which I can only say were not of this place. In one I clearly saw my father, long deceased walking two St Bernard dogs but the scenery was nothing like I have seen before or since. As far as I know he had never owned any St Bernards and or even walked a dog. In an odd sort of way, I am comforted by this. In the second dream, I was sent a message to say that my own death was imminent. In fact, I misread the message, for what actually happened was that minutes after I woke we received a phone call to say that someone very close to my family had died. I guess I definitely believe in some kind of afterlife and find it comforting to think that life just not end:)
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 27, 2017:
Thanks Sally. I often imagine some kind of progression too. Maybe we will never know when we die. We will just continue functioning as in a dream state. When you are dreaming, do you know you're in a dream? I believe the common answer is that we only know it after we wake up. So death might be a continuous dream from that point on.
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on April 27, 2017:
Life after death is a fascinating subject. Like you I would like to believe that there is something after death, perhaps a progression of some sort otherwise what use is all this knowledge that we have gained on this side. I do know people that attend spiritualist churches and I even admit to having been myself a few times. They clearly believe in an afterlife and gain a great deal of comfort from it.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 26, 2017:
Paula - You brought up additional points that I had not thought of, and your creativity adds value to the subject. If all we have are "souls" then speech is not necessary. Interesting. Maybe telepathy is not necessary either. Maybe we are all linked together in some way. As I said near the start of my article, "it may be completely different than we can ever imagine."
I'm sorry to hear that your thoughts along these lines caused you depression and anxiety. I once had a teacher in college tell me not to think about the things I think about because it will drive me insane. Now, many decades later, I think I'm still okay. LOL.
Your last paragraph has a very enlightening meaning in it that we all should take to heart. Thanks for your comment.
Suzie from Carson City on April 26, 2017:
Since the majority of those who believe in life (or existence) after death, agree that the body disintegrates and only our soul transitions to where it "we, as a spiritual being" will continue, age and appearance would be a non-issue. If we recognize one another, it would have to be our essence that is familiar~~correct? Even communication would be silent and transmit via telepathy.....there's oh so much more to consider when we think about this subject.
At one time, I put a lot of thought into this, even doing some research on various studies. Then I realized that it seemed to cause me depression and anxiety. I have to admit this in itself tells me what I think at my deepest level.
It can be beneficial for some to delve deeply into this mystery or simply embrace sheer faith. For me, I've chosen to take the simple, more realistic/common sense route. One way or another, if it's eternal nothingness or an existence of eternal bliss, we do not know, we cannot return with a message....so, enjoy this life and the rest .....who knows?