She’s only seventeen but after battling incurable progressive muscle atrophy for several years, Ankita looks like a ghost already and she knows it. An avid internet surfer, she knows death is very close and there are two questions she’s researching almost obsessively these days. What will happen to my soul after I die? Is there life after death? These are in fact questions which have been of supreme interest for both healthy and ailing people since ancient times. I shared with brave Ankita the recent 4 September issue of Conscious Lifestyle magazine which carries a fascinating article excerpted with permission from “The New Science of Psychedelics: At the Nexus of Culture, Consciousness, and Spirituality” by David Jay Brown, a master’s degree holder in psychobiology from New York University, a former neuroscience researcher at the University of Southern California and author of more than a dozen books. The article shares insights from the world’s top scientific and spiritual experts on whether there is life after death, insights which are so interesting that they’re worth summarisng for readers.
Ram Dass, Psy.D, spiritual teacher, former Harvard professor and LSD research pioneer said as part of his reply, “From a Hindu point of view, consciousness keeps going through reincarnations, which are learning experiences for the soul. I think what happens after you die is a function of the level of evolution of the individual… All the Bardos in the Tibetan Book of the Dead are about how to avoid getting caught in the afterlife… To me, it’s all an illusion—reincarnation and everything—but within the relative reality in which that’s real, I think it’s quite real.”
Mathematician and physicist Peter Russell, author of The Global Brain, said “…a lot of our concerns about life after death come from wanting to know what is going to happen to this ‘me’ consciousness. Is ‘me’ going to survive? I believe that this thing we call ‘me’ is not going to survive… in the end it’s going to dissolve. A lot of our fear of death is that we fear this loss of ‘me-ness’… It’s interesting that people who’ve been through the near-death experiences and experienced this dissolving of the ego and realised that everything is okay when that happens, generally lose their fear of death…”
Pediatric surgeon and physician Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles, said: “I believe in life after death. I think this shows in animals too. There’s a certain wisdom that they have. What I am sure happens to consciousness after death is that it continues on… I personally believe from my experience, for instance, that one of the reasons I’m a surgeon in this life is because I did a lot of destruction with a sword in a past life—killing people and animals… at a deeper level I chose to use a knife in this life to cure and heal with rather than kill with…”
Physician and Consciousness Researcher Larry Dossey, author of Healing Words: The Power of Prayer, said: “…we are led to a position, I think, where we see that even though the body will certainly die, the most essential part of who we are can’t die, even if it tried—because it’s non-locally distributed through time and space… Death is no longer viewed as the total destruction of all that we are… but the thing that really gets my juices flowing is the implication of this research for immortality… The fear of death and whether there is life after death has caused more pain and suffering for human beings throughout history than all the physical diseases combined. The fear of death is the big unmentionable—and this view of consciousness is a cure for that disease, that fear of death.”
Doctor, developmental biologist and psychedelics researcher Rick Strassman’s book DMT: The Spirit Molecule makes a convincing case for the possibility that endogenous DMT in our brains helps to usher our souls in and out of our bodies. His take: “I think life continues after death, but in some unknown form… a lot depends upon the nature of our consciousness during our lives—how attached to various levels of consensus reality it is. My late/former Zen teacher referred to like gravitating toward like in terms of the idea of the need for certain aspects of consciousness to develop further, before it can return to its source. That is, doglike aspects of our consciousness end up in a dog in a life after death, humanlike aspects get worked through in another human, plantlike aspects into plants, and so on.”
Parapsychologist and consciousness researcher Dean Radin, author of Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities, said as part of his reply: “… as to some kind of a primal awareness—life after death—I think it probably continues… when you go into a deep meditation and you lose your sense of personality, that may be similar to what it might be like to be dead… If there’s anything that psychology teaches it’s that people are different. So I imagine that there may be as many ways of experiencing after-death as there are people to experience it. And no one explanation is the ‘correct’ one.”
Biochemist, cell biologist and parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake, author of A New Science of Life, said: “… I think our minds extend beyond our brains in every act of vision… when we die, it’s possible, to my way of thinking, that it may be rather like being in a dream from which we can’t wake up… It’s possible that we could go on living in a kind of dream world, changing and developing in that world, in a way that’s not confined to the physical body. Now, whether that happens or not is another question, but it seems to me possible…”
In Brown’s words, “Death is, perhaps, the greatest mystery known to human beings. While there is compelling evidence that there is life after death and that consciousness survives death, there is also compelling evidence that it does not and the truth is no one knows for sure what happens when we die.” That’s exactly what young Ankita, preparing for death, felt after reading the excerpted bits in Conscious Lifestyle. And yet account after account from a variety of sources underlines the reality of life after death, the reality of other worlds. As parapsychologist Sheldrake theorised, it may be that expectations affect what actually happens. It’s the “may be’s” that will ensure, as they have done down the ages, that the mystery of life and death remains eternal till researchers crack it. But will that ever happen? May be.