The Heaven of Your Natural Afterlife: a More Revealing Look*
The theory of a natural afterlife defines a dreamlike, timeless heaven. Though hard for humans to envision, it has many very desirable attributes.
Frankly, some readers of my previous article, Perhaps Heaven Is Your Never-Ending Dream and Natural Afterlife (HubPages, 2013), may have thought I was trying to sell them an empty bottle of expensive perfume. That article presented the theory of a natural afterlife and provided evidence supporting its plausibility. This theory describes an afterlife, possibly a heaven, which is hard to envision and thus hard to appreciate, perhaps seeming a bit underwhelming to some. In this article I provide a more revealing look at this heaven so that, hopefully, it’s easier to envision and can be seen as very desirable.
Overview: Basically a Timeless, Everlasting, Dreamlike NDE
The theory of a natural afterlife is stated below.
Your natural afterlife is the dreamlike near-death experience (NDE) from which you never awake—essentially, relative to your perception, a never-ending experience (NEE).
The theory, which is also called the NEE theory, doesn’t specify what this NEE and natural afterlife will be or even guarantee you’ll have one. But to put a positive spin on the theory, substitute “heaven” for “natural afterlife” and call it the NEE theory of heaven. How the NDE becomes an NEE is briefly explained below; however, if you need to be more convinced of natural afterlife’s plausibility, you should read my previous article or a later one referenced in the notes at the end of this article. This later article argues that the NEE theory may someday be proven but for now its validity is nearly certain.
The afterlife the NEE theory proposes is natural, versus supernatural, because it requires no “leap of faith” from what science knows or theorizes about our natural world. It does, however, require some imagination to envision.
What is it like to never wake up from a dream? None of us have ever experienced this. Suppose you’re having a dreamlike near-death experience (NDE)**, believing you’re in heaven, but then you die. Consequently, when all mortal material-based consciousness ends with death, you never consciously realize that your NDE has ended, i.e., that you’re not in heaven. You don’t “see” the NDE screen go blank! Although your NDE does indeed physically end, from your mind’s perspective you’re in your NDE forever. So, basically, an NEE heaven is an NDE that with death becomes for you both timeless and everlasting.
Defining and desirable attributes
Attributes of the NEE Heaven
Is this NEE heaven the kind most people expect? No. But can it be? Is it desirable enough to be? The remainder of this article attempts to persuade you that the answer to both questions is “Yes”. To do so, we’ll examine in detail the NEE heaven’s possible attributes, which are listed in the adjoining table. I say “we” because you will need to use your imagination.
Some of these attributes may not be achieved in the way you might expect. All of them, except one, are possible via the natural afterlife described by the NEE theory. That is, they don’t depend on a belief in the supernatural. The lone exception is, of course, the divine attribute—which is achieved via an easy “add-on” to the theory, i.e., a religious faith.
Dreamlike, Timeless, and Everlasting
We examine the dreamlike, timeless, and everlasting attributes together since they collectively define the basic nature of the NEE heaven. Understanding this nature is the key to appreciating the natural afterlife.
The NEE heaven occurs within a dreaming or dreamlike altered state of consciousness. An afterlife within such a state of consciousness may be partly the reason why this state exists.
But how is an afterlife possible within such a state when the brain is dead? The NEE theory hinges on the assumption of an imperceptible death—i.e., the inability of knowing the moment of death and thus not knowing that an NDE has ended. We know that one can be unaware of falling asleep in going from a Conscious to an Unconscious, Dreamless state when watching a movie. Therefore, the odds seem excellent that one is unaware of death in going from a Unconscious, Dying state to an After-life state when having an NDE. With death, as with falling asleep, one simply loses their sense of time, not their sense of self or their awareness of the present moment. With the NEE, this is the final NDE moment.
Before deeming the NEE heaven worthy of further consideration, one must understand its timeless and everlasting aspect. If you don’t, an Appendix given at the end of this article uses a thought experiment that should help.
With respect to general expectations and desirability, the timeless attribute of the NEE heaven is the most difficult to appreciate. Although many believe in a heaven running on human-time, if one believes that God is not governed by human-time, one should not expect heaven to be. Also, some physicists now think that even within our universe, time is not a fundamental property, but rather a human illusion that emerges from a universe that at its core is timeless. Thus, one might expect that the death of human brain enabled consciousness would mean the death of time—more precisely, one’s sense of time. Actually, our human sense of time would be quite undesirable in heaven. Given its generally expected eternal and perfect-world attributes, time would likely create incredible boredom—especially if no decisions could be made lest they be imperfect.
No events occur in this timeless heaven, but who needs events? First of all, you won’t know that nothing more will happen, and thus you won’t miss a thing. Essentially, you’re left in a state of unspoiled anticipation of more heavenly moments to come. Second, is it life’s events that give us pleasure or is it the feelings aroused by these events? We are always told to “live in the moment.” Well, the NEE heaven can be a moment when you feel the supreme pleasure of knowing you’re in heaven forever. Once this happens, should you really need or want more?
In the NEE heaven, an eternity of human time passes by without your knowledge just as it did before you were born. But why should you care if indeed, unlike your before-life, you remain in a static state of “wonder, love, and contentment” as described in my previous article?
Imagine your most intense dreams, the ones that seem all too real. Most likely, the intensity of your heavenly dreamlike NDE and thus your NEE heaven is even greater.
Such intensity is supported by what some scientists theorize based on research about the brain and NDEs—and given the NEE theory, about NEEs. Andrew Newberg, a professor in radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, speculates that when one dies, two parts of the brain that normally work in opposition instead cooperate “giving a person the sensation … of seeing things vividly, including memories of important people and past events.” See Can Science Explain Heaven? by Lisa Miller (Newsweek, March 25, 2010).
This same article states that scientists have claimed since the 1980s that NDEs may result from a “physiological self-defense mechanism” that kicks in near death. The brain naturally releases protective chemicals to guard against damage during trauma. These chemicals are known to trigger intense hallucinations, or dreams, having features similar to NDEs and to those induced by a stiff dose of the party drug ketamine.
For more on the intensity of NDEs, see 'Afterlife' feels 'even more real than real,' researcher says by Ben Brumfield (CNN, April 10, 2013).
In your dreams, are you there physically or spiritually? Obviously, you aren’t there physically. You and others—whether deities, humans (deceased or not), or other creatures—are in your dreams only in essence, i.e., in spirit. The same is true for NDEs. Thus the NEE heaven is spiritual.
This means that physical handicaps and ailments can be left behind. You could be the person you wish to be and also see others as you wish them to be. Could one dare say that it’s your soul that survives via your NEE?
The NEE heaven is wonderful, delightful, idyllic, perfect, peaceful, pleasurable, enjoyable, harmonious, joyful, ecstatic, and of course heavenly. These are many of the synonyms listed for “blissful” in a thesaurus. The many books and articles written by individuals about their NDEs attest to the use of these adjectives to describe the NEE heaven.
On person in trying to grasp the NEE heaven described it as a “blissful now.” It is a blissful moment that’s eternal. Nothing can or needs to happen that will improve upon it.
Since the NEE heaven is an eternal, blissful moment, no decisions need be made. No decisions and no events mean that no evil can occur. Thus the philosophical inconsistencies related to free-will, evil, and desirability inherent in the traditional view of heaven simply do not exist for the NEE heaven.
An NEE heaven that is blissful should also be worry-free. Specifically though, the NEE heaven is the best of your pleasant dreams. In such dreams real-life worries are forgotten. Also, those who publicize their heavenly NDEs mention nothing about worry.
Moreover, a timeless and thus eventless heaven makes for a worry-free heaven. You won’t be looking down to see events happening “below” as some may envision. Thus you’ll be spared the worry and anxiety that likely would come from seeing unpleasant, earthly events.
Being both perfect (see above) and worry-free, the NEE heaven is a paradise that again, as far as you know, you will never leave.
In my previous article I described the NEE heaven as distributive (versus centralized). This term is often used in computer science. Here, however, I use the term “personal.” The NEE heaven is personalized to provide a heaven that is just right for you.
Who or what does the personalization? If you believe it is God, see “Divine” below. If not, it could be personalized, as is any dream, based on your particular memories and beliefs.
These memories are based on a lifetime of conscious experiences. They include visions of your loved ones, those already deceased and those still alive. Many people have reported seeing loved ones in their NDEs.
Your beliefs include your religious beliefs, especially your beliefs about heaven and the type of God you expect to meet there. If you don’t believe in a God, your NEE heaven could reflect the positive feelings you have towards your life and an experience that makes you happy.
One benefit of personalization is that you may not see the multitude of people with whom you must share heaven. I for one don’t always enjoy a crowd.
The NEE heaven can be seen as divine, meaning it is “controlled by a transcendent being or beings.” Whether this is true, however, is based totally on one’s religious or spiritual faith and thus represents a faith-based, divine “add-on” to the NEE theory.
For example, the theory can be seen as very compatible with a belief in God and Heaven. The NEE heaven is given by God since he has created in humans, perhaps via evolution, the ability to dream and have NDEs and the inability to know the moment of death. He has also created, if certain scientific hypotheses about NDEs are true, human brains that produce NDEs when shutting down. At death God delivers us into his hands, his spiritual realm, via these NDEs. The content of the NDE, thus the NDE heaven, is controlled by God just as a central computer system controls assess to a global database. The system distributes to each user work station a view of the database content that is personalized to a particular user’s needs. Similarly, at near death God plants into one’s mind a view of the totality of Heaven that is personalized to their needs. Possibly, this personalization may be necessary because only God can comprehend the boundless whole of heaven, which is beyond human understanding.
However, if “with God all things are possible” [Mat. 19:26], the NEE heaven could be a mere “waiting room” into an even more majestic heaven that only God can reveal to us. This view makes two seemingly contradictory Christian beliefs consistent.
The heavenly revelation occurs not at death but only later upon Christ’s second coming.
Heaven awaits us immediately upon death as in Jesus’ words to a criminal hanging beside him on the cross: “today you will be with me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43].
A totally different view of the NEE heaven is possible for those who are less religious yet believe in a spiritual dimension to our world where individual consciousness, i.e., the soul, survives death. Here, the frozen final NDE moment, which is the NEE heaven, might be seen as a resting place for souls, which perhaps later will to be reincarnated into another being.
In Conclusion: Fulfilling
I believe that not only is the NEE heaven plausible but it is fulfilling. Here, I have tried to show the latter by more thoroughly examining with you its defining and desirable attributes.
Yet, whether it is fulfilling to you likely hinges on one question. Are you willing to accept that heaven may be a timeless state rather than a place in time? If you are, than you have smelled the fragrance of that expensive perfume and know that the bottle is indeed full.
- * - This article was the second written on the natural afterlife and has been updated only slightly, mostly to reflect some revised terminology. For an article that provides a more comprehensive, in-depth, and scholarly discourse on the natural afterlife, including a near proof of its existence, see The Theory of a Natural Afterlife: A Newfound, Real Possibility for What Awaits Us at Death. It can be accessed as originally published at http://jcer.com/index.php/jcj/article/view/618/632 (no sign-in required), or a version with minor revisions can be accessed at www.academia.edu by clicking on its title. A more recent, yet unpublished article on the natural afterlife, The Theory of a Natural After-life Consciousness: The Psychological Basis for a Natural Afterlife, generalizes the theory of a natural afterlife, giving it a strong psychological basis. In “proving” (based on empirical truths) a natural after-life consciousness, the article proves the existence of the natural afterlife. A preprint copy of the article can be accessed at www.academia.edu by clicking on its title.
- ** - Here NDEs are not differentiated from end-of-life dreams as only the dreamlike aspects and intense reality of NDEs are relevant to the theory of a natural afterlife. In fact, in older versions of this article, what here is called a never-ending experience (NEE) was called a never-ending dream (NED). Indeed, end-of-life dreams may also provide the basis and content for the natural afterlife.
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Appendix: The Movie Watching Thought Experiment
Assumptions. You are watching a movie. To simplify and make a proper analogy, assume you as the viewer fall asleep and awake unhesitatingly and sleep very soundly without dreaming. Also, assume the video device never breaks down and your body’s stamina, e.g., its nutritional needs, and comfort are immaterial. That is, the device and body are unaffected by time.
For each scenario of this thought experiment, imagine you get to a movie scene where you’re absolutely captivated, inspired, fulfilled, and overjoyed at what you’re watching. It’s by far the most thrilling moment you’ve ever experienced in a movie. This moment includes your eager anticipation of more to come. Call it the Most Marvelous Movie (MMM) moment. Now we examine four scenarios.
Scenario 1. Normally you would never fall asleep at this time, but you do. A few minutes later you awake. Recalling the MMM moment and seeing what’s now on the screen, you realize you must have fallen asleep. You’ve likely had a similar experience before, dozing off and not realizing it until you wake up.
For the three remaining scenarios, instead of falling asleep on your own, unknown to you, someone hits the Pause button. Pretend this button not only controls the movie but you as well. The movie is frozen, and you are now instantly and unknowingly unconscious—i. e., sound asleep. The remaining scenarios differ on what happens next. The diagram above depicts the possible states and transitions for both movie and viewer.
Scenario 2. After a few minutes someone hits the Resume button, which controls both the movie and you. You instantly regain consciousness and see the movie continuing exactly from where it left off. Will you even know you had fallen asleep? No! Let’s say a few hours had elapsed before the Resume was hit. Does the amount of elapsed time between Pause and Resume really matter? Again, recalling our assumption about the endurance of body and device, no!
Scenario 3. No one ever hits Resume. As far as you know, you're still in that MMM moment. And, you'll never awake to discover otherwise. For you, time has ceased. You won't sense nothingness. There's just no time for it.
Scenario 4. Someone immediately hits the Stop button killing the movie. Again, no one ever hits Resume. You'll never notice when the screen goes blank. Others will, but you won't because you’re unconscious.
The only thing you'll be aware of (since your sleep is sound and dreams aren’t allowed) is that MMM moment. For you, it's timeless. And, you won't ever lose your sense of self since you're still in that MMM moment.
Moreover, to you the time that elapses between the Pause and the Stop matters none. It could be an eternity. Thus, the Stop is irrelevant. You simply continue to excitingly anticipate the next scene. For you, the MMM moment and thus the movie are essentially everlasting.
Meaning. The heavenly NEE experience is like the last scenario. This analogy likens this experience—involving an unconscious, dying state and a dead, after-life state—to a more fathomable one—involving a living, conscious state and a living, unconscious, dreamless state.
In the analogy, an NDE is like a movie. A dying person is like a movie viewer. An NEE heaven is like a MMM moment. In a deteriorating brain some physiological event within a “Dying with NDE” state “Pauses”, if only briefly, the NDE. (See again the NEE Theory Model.) Then, the imperceptible death “Stops” the NDE and moves the person unknowingly from the “Dying with NDE” state to the “After-life with NEE” state. (Unlike a movie, an NDE once “Paused” likely can never be “Resumed.”)
In Scenario 4, the MMM moment was the only thing you were aware of when Stop was hit. Similarly, your NEE heaven will be the only thing you’ll be aware of when you die. Again, this is because you’re not aware of your death. The condition of your body is irrelevant. For you, your NEE heaven is timeless.
Also, in Scenario 4, the time that elapsed between your MMM moment and the Stop mattered none. Similarly, the time that elapses between the last moment of your NDE and death matters none. It could be an eternity. Thus, death is irrelevant. You simply continue to excitingly anticipate the next moment. For you, the final moment of your NDE, your NEE heaven, is essentially everlasting.
Do you think the NEE heaven is plausible?
Would you be content with the NEE heaven?
Has the NEE Theory of Heaven increased your belief in an afterlife?
© 2013 Bryon Ehlmann