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Your Natural Afterlife: the Non-Supernatural Alternative to Nothingness

Updated on July 27, 2017
Bryon Ehlmann profile image

Bryon is a retired computer science professor, now seeking to employ an open mind and his analytic skills to better grasp our amazing world.

This natural afterlife overview gives a scientifically plausible, logically consistent answer to “Where is heaven?” and may change forever how you view death. It abbreviates a more comprehensive and in-depth, scholarly paper entitled The Theory of a Natural Afterlife: A Newfound, Real Possibility for What Awaits Us at Death.


You’re dying having what will be called your near-death experience (NDE) should you recover. Within this very intense, “even more real than real”1 dreamlike experience*, you believe you’re in heaven. You’re overcome by marvelous feelings of wonder, love, and contentment and excited about such a glorious eternity. With death and the end of consciousness, this is your never-ending experience (NEE) and natural afterlife. At least, so posits the theory of a natural afterlife.

But how is such a natural afterlife, based on an NDE, possible when presumably any dreamlike experience ends with death and a non-functioning brain? Ironically, it’s possible not because individual consciousness continues after death but because when and if all consciousness ends with death, you will not perceive and so will never know that:

  • You’ve now just died. You’ll get no indication, like a “The End” or dark “NDE screen.”
  • Your NDE has ended. You'll never notice that nothing more happens in your NDE.
  • You’re now timelessly suspended in your NDE, while for others time is marching on. Is this happening just before or after you’ve died? You can’t tell. Relative to you, death is irrelevant and your NDE is essentially your NEE.

The situation is like watching an extremely exhilarating movie and not knowing that you’ve unexpectedly, with no perceivable drowsiness, fallen asleep and for you the movie is paused, while in reality (that for others) it continues on. Until you wake up, you still believe you’re captivated in that movie.

An NDE, our event relative time perception, and an imperceptible death result in an NEE and natural afterlife. Others know your NDE has ended but not you.. Instead, you are unknowingly suspended in an NEE.
An NDE, our event relative time perception, and an imperceptible death result in an NEE and natural afterlife. Others know your NDE has ended but not you.. Instead, you are unknowingly suspended in an NEE. | Source

Understanding and Appreciation

The natural afterlife is hard to understand, even harder to appreciate. To grasp it, you must be able to imagine what it’s like to never wake up from a dream, something you’ve never experienced. You must imagine not knowing that your dreamlike NDE has ended, thus forever believing it hasn’t, despite knowing now that it will. And, you must imagine an eternity rushing by in what for you is an everlasting, yet unknowingly final NDE moment.

But before such imagining can occur, perhaps it must be better justified. So, why will you never know that your NDE has ended? Because you almost certainly won’t perceive your moment of death along with its accompanying loss of all consciousness (just as you don’t perceive the moment you fall asleep). And why does your NDE become everlasting? Because with an imperceptible death (as with falling asleep) your perception of time ends because perceived events (here NDE versus real events)—whose sequence defines our sense of time, i.e., our event relative time—imperceptibly cease. You experience nothing more (not even nothingness), no next moment to replace your final NDE moment and signify to you that the NDE is over. Thus, the final NDE moment—which essentially embodies all of your NDE at a point in time and includes (as within any dream) your sense of self—becomes in your mind the forever present moment, which results in a timeless NEE and natural afterlife as depicted in the above figure.

To appreciate such a timeless afterlife, you must be able to envision and value being left at death in a static, dreamlike yet intensely real-like state of mind enjoying an everlasting, ideally heavenly moment—one heightened by a never-ending anticipation of many more such moments to come. For some, this vision must replace the traditional vision of spending an eternity of human time in a time-perceptive, perfect world. Actually, such a world isn’t logical since perfection implies no challenges, no free-will lest decisions be bad (even evil), and thus an eternity of boredom. Certainly, not perfect! A timeless afterlife on the other hand has no such inconsistencies as one can logically experience a relatively forever, perfect moment—in reality, the optimal heaven.


The natural afterlife differs from the supernatural afterlife or the nothingness** that for centuries were considered the only possibilities for what one experiences after death. For example, the natural afterlife wasn’t considered by the authors of many bestselling books each claiming, based on a personal NDE, that consciousness survives death—e.g., Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander (Simon & Schuster, 2013). Nor was it considered by the authors of many scientific articles each claiming that NDEs provide no evidence of an afterlife since they’re induced by the natural physiology of the brain shutting down—e.g., The Death of “Near Death”: Even If Heaven Is Real, You Aren’t Seeing It by Kyle Hill (Scientific American, Dec. 3, 2012). Actually, NDEs, while providing no proof of an afterlife, provide evidence for the natural afterlife as does the science attempting to explain them.

Books claiming NDEs as proof of Heaven. NDEs provide no proof of heaven but do provide evidence for the natural afterlife.
Books claiming NDEs as proof of Heaven. NDEs provide no proof of heaven but do provide evidence for the natural afterlife. | Source
Popular science articles on NDEs. The science that refutes the claim that NDEs provide proof of a supernatural afterlife provides evidence of the brain's propensity to create a natural one.
Popular science articles on NDEs. The science that refutes the claim that NDEs provide proof of a supernatural afterlife provides evidence of the brain's propensity to create a natural one. | Source

Evidence for the natural afterlife, however, doesn’t guarantee that you will have one, that it will be heavenly, or that it’s the only one possible. You may not have an NDE, in which case your afterlife may be just like your before-life. Or, your NEE may be of a perfectly marvelous day on the beach, which for you may be the ideal heaven. Or, unfortunately, your NEE may be a hellish nightmare. Up to 15% of NDEs are such by one estimate.8 Also, your NEE could be overridden by a supernatural afterlife at death or sometime thereafter. The theory of a natural afterlife doesn’t preclude this.

It merely defines a new, very plausible after-life alternative, whose possibility can impact how one views death (and life), which is its main significance.


In a nutshell, your natural afterlife could simply be described as dying while believing you’re in heaven (or hell) and for all eternity never knowing otherwise.

In a nutshell, a simple description of your natural afterlife
In a nutshell, a simple description of your natural afterlife | Source

The following features make this afterlife extraordinary.

  • It’s supported by science—i.e., requires no supernatural beliefs.
  • It doesn’t suffer from logical inconsistencies.
  • It was apparently never part of the discussion before being defined by a 2013 article9.
  • It’s a gift of nature (perhaps from God) resulting from our amazing ability to have a dreamlike NDE and perhaps our brain’s propensity to induce one, our event relative perception of time, and our nearly certain imperceptible death.
  • It can be seen as acceptable to both theists and atheists and doesn’t preclude a supernatural afterlife if some type of consciousness continues or emerges sometime after death.
  • Its content is mysteriously produced and personalized, either by nature or by a God as you may choose to believe.

The difficulties in understanding and appreciating the natural afterlife also make explaining it difficult. You can find more detailed explanations and discussion in two additional articles 9, 10 and in the paper referenced above in the abstract.11


  1. 'Afterlife' feels 'even more real than real,' researcher says, Ben Brumfield (CNN, April 10, 2013)
  2. Sam Harris, 11/11/2012
  3. Charles Q. Choi, 9/12/2011
  4. Josh Clark, 10/23/2007
  5. Colin Lecher, 10/10/2012
  6. Michael Shermer, 4/13/2013
  7. Victor Stenger, 10/11/2012
  8. Consciousness: an Introduction, Susan J. Blackmore (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 362.
  9. Perhaps Heaven Is Your Never-Ending Dream and Natural Afterlife, Bryon Ehlmann (HubPages, 2013). This is the first article ever written on the theory of a natural afterlife. It gives a more religious and philosophical perspective on the theory, arguing for its plausibility both philosophically and scientifically.
  10. The Heaven of Your Natural Afterlife: a More Revealing Look, Bryon Ehlmann (HubPages, 2013). This article attempts to better explain the natural afterlife and argues for the desirability of the heaven that it makes possible. The article also discusses a religious “add-on” to the theory.
  11. Ehlmann, B.K. (2016). The theory of a natural afterlife: A newfound, real possibility for what awaits us at death. Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research (JCER). 7(11) 931–950. This paper provides a comprehensive, in-depth, and scholarly discourse on the natural afterlife, including a near proof of its existence. The paper can be accessed as originally published at (no sign-in required) or a version with minor revisions can be accessed at by clicking on its title.



What did you believe you would experience after death prior to reading this article?

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If you chose A above, do you believe that the natural afterlife is possible after reading this article?

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If you chose B above, do you believe that the natural afterlife is possible after reading this article?

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If you chose C above, do you believe that the natural afterlife is possible after reading this article?

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Your comments are appreciated. Give them below after the “More by this Author” section.

© 2013 Bryon Ehlmann


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      Galaxyvoyager128 6 weeks ago

      So basically instead of just dreaming you become the dream and don't know you are the dream. I am confused. Maybe this is what I will experience if I'm in vitro preservation. XD

    • Bryon Ehlmann profile image

      Bryon Ehlmann 3 months ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      To Aleeza:

      The natural afterlife is indeed difficult to understand (and explain!) because of its relativistic and timeless aspects. I greatly admire your persistence! Such persistent is what forces me to try to better improve my explanations and articles. I also am very sorry for the loss of your brother at such a young age.

      Have you read my paper "The Theory of a Natural Afterlife: A Newfound, Real Possibility for What Awaits Us at Death"? The paper provides many analogies and thought experiments, which I think should help in trying to grasp the paradox inherent in the concept of the natural afterlife, which is that both of these seemingly inconsistent statements are true: 1) “if I die having an NDE, it will become my … never ending experience” and 2) “consciousness is gone when brain is dead,” which is an assumption (not a conclusion) of my theory.

      The relativistic aspect of the natural afterlife makes these two statements actually consistent. We are dealing here with two perspectives, i.e., two realities: that which is in the mind of the dying person, which with an NDE is dream-like and spiritual, and that which is in the mind of a living observer, which is materialistic. Perhaps I need to indicate more clearly in my articles from which perspective I speak. Statement 1 above is true relative to the perspective of the dying person, while statement 2 is true relative the perspective of the living observer.

      The timeless and everlasting aspects of the natural afterlife may also be explained more clearly by explicitly indicating the perspectives. The natural afterlife is timeless only to the living observer in that they know it to be only a moment, or instant, of time, not a span of time. It’s like a picture, which is a snapshot in time. However, the dying person does not know that it’s timeless because they don’t know that another moment, like the next frame in a motion picture, will not occur. Thus, to them it’s not timeless. In fact, it’s likely that within their last moment of time they are eagerly awaiting the next. The natural afterlife is not everlasting to the living observer because they know that the NDE ends. However, it’s everlasting to the dying person because they will NEVER know that their NDE is over, thus to them it is an NEE.

      Hope this explanation helps. Please let me know if it does as I may incorporate something like it in a future paper and make some changes to my published ones.

      In your “one syncope” it seems you simply experienced timelessness, just like we do many times in our beds when falling into a dreamless sleep or just like some may indeed experience in death. You did not, however, enter this state of timelessness from an extremely intense NDE-like experience, unlike with the natural afterlife.

      It is uncertain who or what determines whether one has an NDE or what its content will be. This leaves the door open to the possibility of a “higher consciousness” that somehow plays a role or into which we are somehow plugged.

      The theory of a natural afterlife at least finally identifies and describes an afterlife that is logically consistent and within the realm of scientific possibility. As such, it provides greater hope that death is not merely the beginning of “nothingness” and the total death of self. Your brother could now be immersed in his heavenly natural afterlife, perhaps even one that includes your spiritual presence. And when you die, you may likewise reunite with him. Hope this can give you some comfort.

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      Aleeza 3 months ago

      Thanks Dr. Ehlmann

      Your concept is really not very easy to understand. But I insist on understanding it. I lost my only brother (and only sibling) less than 4 months back. He was only 36, a healthy, kind and happy dental surgeon. I have since been trying to comprehend what death is and if there is an after life. From what I understood from your paper, if I die having an NDE, it will become my last and never ending experience because I won't be able to perceive the moment of my death and thus not perceive whether the dream continued or stopped or whatever. But to me it looks like that will happen only if my consciousness will still continue after death. The never ending experience will be an experience after all. And we can't experience anything without consciousness. On the contrary, the assumption/conclusion of your theory is that consciousness is gone when brain is dead. Then how shall a dead person continue to have an experience?

      I have experienced one syncope in my life. I clearly remember when I was unconscious, I experienced nothing. In fact, not even nothingness. There was absolute zero, nil...When I regained consciousness my life started from a few minutes before I went unconscious. Between these two points in time, there was not even nothingness. I feel, if there is no after life then what I experienced during my syncope is what actually happens when we die. There is not even nothingness. There is absolute ZERO.

    • Bryon Ehlmann profile image

      Bryon Ehlmann 3 months ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      To Aleeza:

      The theory of a natural afterlife does not deny any of what you claim. It simply states that if you die while having a near-death experience (NDE) and if all consciousness ends with death (and is not replaced by some type of supernatural consciousness), then the last moment of your NDE will be, relative to you, timeless and everlasting, i.e., a never-ending experience (NEE). The theory does not attempt to explain all paranomal phenomena.

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      Aleeza 3 months ago

      But how do we explain dream visitations, which are common occurrences and have striking commonalities despite varied cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs of people who lose their loved ones. The deceased loved ones appear younger, healthier and happier. Where do they come from if there is no supernatural afterlife? They even appear in dreams of relatives or acquaintances who are not really grieving. So, it can't be assumed that those dreams are just hallucinations or unconscious realizations of an actively grieving brain.

      Quantum physics also seems to be considering the possibility that consciousness is independent of brain. It was and will always be. And uses brain just to translate itself into physical while we are inhabiting this physical realm.

      The accounts of near death dreamers reveal that they don't experience just a static kind of scene or feeling. Some of them go beyond, visit a majestic scenery, experience overwhelming visual, emotional and auditory delight, meet people, have conversations with them and are told that they must return because its not their time. But your theory seems to be ignoring these accounts, if I am not misunderstanding your point. It would be helpful if you could shed some light on this.


    • Bryon Ehlmann profile image

      Bryon Ehlmann 4 months ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      To Helen:

      First, I want to say I am very sorry for your loses, which are a lot to bear in just one year.

      "Why would we be any different" from "a flower, a tree, or an animal"? Because we are different in so many ways from a flower, a tree, and most animals. For one thing, we have a very different type of consciousness.

      The natural afterlife requires no belief in a God, so the rest of your comment, much to which I can agree, is not that relevant to the article other than to state that you, like me and many others, do not require a belief in a God or an afterlife in order to be a good person.

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      Helen 4 months ago

      If there is nothing we will not be able to know. I have lost my mother and my husband this year and I do believe, the end is the end. Just like a flower, a tree or an animal. Why would we be any different. That doesn't mean I am going to do what I please and not be a good person. I feel good when I do something nice for someone, not because a God tells me to be nice, but because I feel it. I know lots of people that really believe in God, but when their help is needed, they are nowhere to be found. Do they think that, at that moment God is no watching? I believe in myself, and I know I am always watching.

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      Lathaniel 16 months ago

      I have been wondering for some time, if i actually woke from my NDE or not. This ties in with that exactly, how do you know if you are in NED or alive?

    • Bryon Ehlmann profile image

      Bryon Ehlmann 23 months ago from Tallahassee, Florida

      Reply to Larry:

      I don't know how "people think consciousness will stay organized after death without a brain." The natural afterlife does not depend on consciousness staying organized after death. In fact, just the opposite.

      It is quite reasonable to assume that someone can have an NDE, yes a "near-death" experience, just before dying--i.e., "near" to death. Unlike some, they simply don't recover to tell about it.

    • profile image

      Larry 23 months ago

      Since we know the consciousness directly depends on a living brain, how do people think consciousness will stay organized after death without a brain?

      NDE means -near- death experience, not death experience.

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      Mary Wilson 2 years ago

      Thank you for confirming what I have been feeling for a long time. Hope you will continue to research all of this and keep us informed.

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      paula marie deubel 2 years ago

      In other words, our very last memory, only experienced subconciously

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      Lyn Bigge 2 years ago

      Just check the silkworm...if that same energy can be transferred/transformed into something as beautiful as a butterfly, who am I to think in another hey?

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      Joe Waldron 3 years ago

      I think you are the right track

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      Mac 3 years ago

      Hopefully by the end of my lifetime we will actually know EXACTLY what happens when we die, it would be really cool to know :) But Nothingness just wouldn't be my ideal After-life, even if we don't notice the nothingness!

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      Synergy 3 years ago

      So basically like the movie "Source Code"? doesn't sound half bad