“I hear Daisy has gone now,” I remarked to a friend.
Daisy was elderly and ill. She’d taken to her bed and had been refusing food for some time, so it wasn’t a surprise.
“Yes,” Ali replied, “and boy is she in for a shock!”
I looked up in surprise for a moment, then realised what she meant.
“You mean she didn’t believe there would be anything after life?”
“Exactly,” Ali smiled. “She was adamant that ‘she’ would die along with her body. End of. What must she be thinking now?”
It’s the third time recently that such an idea has been placed in my mind. The first was when I read a highly praised and undeniably well-researched and well-argued book called The Mind in the Cave. Its author, David Lewis-Williams, speaks eloquently and convincingly about the world view of our ancient ancestors – those who decorated caves and rocks with incredible images of animals, geometric shapes, figures who appear to be somewhere between animals and humans etc. It’s a great book, but for me, there is one huge issue I’ll be bold enough to disagree on. It’s what Professor Lewis-Williams terms ‘the brain/mind problem’. Here’s the way he resolves it (and, I’d suggest, the reason a book that deals mainly with ‘altered states’ has been so well received in scientific circles):
Two things we do know are, one, that the brain/mind evolved, and two, that consciousness (as distinct from brain) is a notion, or sensation, created by electro-chemical activity in the ‘wiring’ of the brain.
The second was a recent BBC documentary following three ageing British astronomers on a journey to recapture some of the finest moments of their younger days, when they had held eminent positions in observatories in the US, in the post Sputnik race-for-space of the mid-twentieth century. They were lovely guys and all had enjoyed happy and successful lives. Now, though, one was terminally ill and the others were in, shall we say, the late autumn of their lives. Unsurprisingly, as they trekked through the mountains, the discussion turned to death. One, despite his scientific training, clung to the Christian faith. He admitted he didn’t see much logic in it, but still felt comforted by the God he’d been brought up to believe in and the idea that there would be an afterlife. He mused, rather sadly though, that there probably wasn’t any need for astronomers in Heaven. His colleagues seemed to adhere more to Daisy’s view, and that, presumably, of Professor Lewis-Williams. When their bodies and brains died, so would their consciousness. That – obviously, in their minds – meant no further existence. As an 11-year-old I once taught commented, “I don’t think there’s anything after we die; it’s a bit sad really.”
It is a bit sad. Has humanity, throughout its entire existence, had to make an unpleasant choice between, a. trying hard to hold faith in a religion that often seems illogical and unlikely, or b. accepting that our brains are so great, they can almost have us believing, sometimes, that there is something beyond this existence, although they know that not to be true?
What a terribly bleak choice. When faced with it – many years ago – I didn’t like either of the options. That’s why I’ve been on this fascinating journey, the one I’ve attempted imperfectly to document in this blog. I believe now that I have proof that our consciousness exists above and beyond our physical bodies, however complex and impressive the ‘wiring’ of the brain may be. I believe that there is no need to die in order to understand what is often called ‘God’ and that an ‘afterlife’ is not a possibility, but a given. More than that, I believe we are here, right now, to explore this very issue, so that we no longer need to be sad or scared, hopeful or doubtful about death.
As Koimul so eloquently puts it: THIS IS THE GREAT EXPERIMENT. IT IS TO LIVE IN YOUR EARTHLY BODY YET SEE INTO THE ETERNAL.