Is There Any Proof of Life After Death?
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