Your Natural Afterlife: The Non-Supernatural Alternative to Nothingness
This overview of the natural afterlife gives a scientifically plausible, logically consistent answer to “Where is heaven?” and may change forever how you view death. It abbreviates a more comprehensive, in-depth, and scholarly article 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 (or dream)* 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, 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 some supernatural consciousness continues after death but because with death, when mortal material-based consciousness ends, you will not perceive and so will never know the following:
- 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.
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 never knowing that your dreamlike NDE has ended, thus forever “believing” it has not, 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 with near certainty you won’t perceive your moment of death and its accompanying loss of consciousness (just as you don’t perceive the moment you fall asleep). And why does your NDE then become everlasting? Because with an imperceptible death (as with falling asleep) your perception of time imperceptibly 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 perceive nothing more yet nothing less (certainly not nothingness). There’s simply no next moment to replace your final NDE moment and nothing, no event, to signify to you that your NDE is over. The final NDE moment thus becomes your forever present moment. It embodies your NDE at a point in time and includes an expectation of future moments (as does any present moment) and your sense of self (as does any dream). In your mind, this forever present moment thus results in a NEE and natural afterlife as depicted in the above figure.
To appreciate such a timeless afterlife, you must be able to not only envision but value being left at death in a static, dreamlike yet intensely real-like and emotional state of mind enjoying an everlasting, ideally heavenly moment, 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-like 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 inconsistencies as one can logically experience a relativistic 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 a supernatural 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.
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 similar to 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 thus 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.
The following features make this afterlife extraordinary.
- It’s supported by science—i.e., requires no supernatural beliefs.
- Its aspects are logically consistent..
- It was apparently never part of the discussion before being first identified by a 2013 article9.
- It’s a gift of nature (perhaps from God) resulting from our amazing ability to have dreams and dreamlike NDEs and perhaps our brain’s propensity to induce the NDE, 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 associated consciousness continues or arises sometime after death.
- Its content is mysteriously produced and personalized, either by nature or by a God as you may choose to believe.
The timeless and relativistic aspects of the natural afterlife that make it difficult to understand and appreciate also make it difficult to explain. You can find more explanation and discussion in two additional articles 9, 10 and in the article referenced above in the abstract.11 Also, a recent and as yet unpublished article, The Theory of a Natural After-life Consciousness: The Psychological Basis for a Natural Afterlife, provides extensive explanation and validation of the natural afterlife in the context of a more general theory of a post-life consciousness.12
- 'Afterlife' feels 'even more real than real,' researcher says, Ben Brumfield (CNN, April 10, 2013)
- Sam Harris, 11/11/2012
- Charles Q. Choi, 9/12/2011
- Josh Clark, 10/23/2007
- Colin Lecher, 10/10/2012
- Michael Shermer, 4/13/2013
- Victor Stenger, 10/11/2012
- Consciousness: an Introduction, Susan J. Blackmore (Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 362.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 article provides a comprehensive, in-depth, and scholarly discourse on the natural afterlife, including a near proof of its existence. The article 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.
- The Theory of a Natural After-life Consciousness: The Psychological Basis for a Natural Afterlife, Bryon K. Ehlmann (academia.edu, 2018). This as yet unpublished article generalizes the theory of a natural afterlife giving it a stronger psychological basis. The article posits a non-supernatural, timeless and everlasting consciousness that in the mind of the dying person survives death. Its content can range from “near-nothingness to nirvana” as the article states. In “proving” (based on empirical truths) a natural after-life consciousness, the article proves the theory of a natural afterlife. A preprint copy of the article is available on academia.edu and ResearchGate.
- * - 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 can also provide the basis and content for the natural afterlife.
- ** - A “nothingness” without consciousness is actually illogical. See Why Something vs. Nothing and the Essentialness of Consciousness (HubPages, 2014).
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- An earlier version of this article entitled “The Theory of a Natural Afterlife: An Overview” has been published by invitation, January 2017, in the Scientific God Journal, 8(1) 104-109.
- A .pdf version of this article is available on academia.edu at: Your Natural Afterlife: the Non-Supernatural Alternative to Nothingness.
What did you believe you would experience after death prior to reading this article?
If you chose A above, do you believe that the natural afterlife is possible after reading this article?
If you chose B above, do you believe that the natural afterlife is possible after reading this article?
If you chose C above, do you believe that the natural afterlife is possible after reading this article?
© 2013 Bryon Ehlmann