Skip to main content

An Analysis of the Possibility of Life After Death

Neuroscientists study the possibility of consciousness after death, and I review this research to examine how our awareness might continue.

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' might point to life after death.

'Terminal lucidity' might point to life after death.

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.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

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 Donald H. Hoffman, 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.”

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.

To Conclude With a Video Discussion

John Ankerberg discusses with a group of scientists why near-death experiences do not provide sufficient proof of life after death.

Nancy Evans Bush gave a significant response, saying that you need a control group to determine the accuracy of the feedback from people who had NDE. The problem is that you can’t take them with you.


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.

5. Sara Manning Peskin, M.D. (2017, July 11). The Gentler Symptoms of Dying. The New York Times

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

7. Michael Shermer (July 1, 2012). What Happens to Consciousness When We Die. Scientific American

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 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 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.

Related Articles