Near death experiences are real experiences — experiences sometimes so profound as to be life-changing. For many people such experiences are seemingly inexplicable glimpses, and even proof of some sort of an afterlife, an immaterial and immortal life after death in some postmortem universe. This belief is the comforting assurance of some sort of “purpose” in the universe, and proof of some sort of afterlife with retention of all memories and personality for an eternity, either in some sort of heaven, or in some sort of hell. The idea of some sort of “hidden purpose” in the universe is nothing new. Indeed, William Alger wrote of this very idea during 1878 in the book, “The Destiny of the Soul”, as one of the reasons for belief in an immaterial soul and a immortal life after death — an afterlife.
To our forefathers, as well as many in the present, the very lack of any relationship of premature demise to belief system, morality, or degree of sinfulness, could only be explained by the reality of some unknown “inscrutable plan of God”, or some sort of intrinsic and fundamental “purpose” in the universe we all inhabit. Near death experiences undergone during periods of cardiac arrest, when there is no detectable heartbeat, breathing, or consciousness — a condition called “Clinical Death” — such near death experiences are claimed by many popular investigators and writers to be proof of the reality of a soul, or some sort of separable consciousness that continues to exist in some sort of afterlife, or life after death (Greyson 2003, Holden 2009, Lommel 2001, Lommel 2010, Parnia 2007). So how does a life after death as revealed by near death experiences appear, or is experienced?
The life after death revealed by the near death experience has many forms, varying from eternal ecstasy to a simple continuation of life as we know it on this physical world. For example, the example of a woman who was transported to a Christian afterlife shared with deceased family members.
Another example of a near death experience where the continued eternal existence with the same mental abilities as when alive was related by an elderly lasy who reported being unconscious for three days after a heart attack.
There are a simply enormous number of published near death experience accounts with many variations. But when carefully examined, this almost universal longing for an eternal life after death as a continuation of the same life in this physical world, together with the same personality and mental abilities as when alive, is very strange. Indeed, many of those who long for an eternal life after death, are people for whom death is a welcome ending to the boredom of their lives. Suzan Ertz, a novelist, once expressed this last idea in a single pithy sentence during 1943 in a novel entitled &ledquo;Anger in the Skies.”
An eternal afterlife is just that — eternal, forever, never ending. The holy texts of major world religions and near death experiences reveal that the mental properties of the immaterial soul are the same as those of the physically alive body. An afterlife spent in eternal obsequious fawning praise and slavish crawling before God in heaven, or alternatively undergoing never-ending ghastly torments in hell, would not be for just 10 years, or 100 years, or even 1,000,000 years — it would continue forever, until the universe itself dies and collapses into singularity. Most people would eventually become unspeakably bored because of memory of the unending repetition of the same things, over and over again. The ultimate consequence of eternity with memory retention is the same, regardless of how it is spent — everlasting, mind-numbing tedium. But luckily we are spared the terror of eternal tedium — there is conclusive evidence that the afterlife ostensibly revealed by near death experiences does not exist.
The totality of all evidence for the idea that consciousness and mind are products of the functioning of the brain and body is overwhelming and physically provable. This is evidence derived from observations repeatedly confirmed during anesthesia, observations during medical procedures, observations of the world about us, as well as observations made by those believing in the immaterial reality of a separable human consciousness, or a human soul. Alternative explanations, theories and arguments without provable facts remain just that — alternative explanations. Nonetheless, even reasonable and possible alternative explanations require serious consideration. So what are relevant absolute and supplementary proofs revealing the illusory nature of the soul as defined by millennia of popular belief?
Failure of memory function while under the effects of cerebral hypoxia, midazolam, propofol, and many other situations, all conclusively prove that the physical brain is the repository of all memories, and not the soul, or some immaterial and separable human consciousness (see page on discussion of memory location). This is powerful absolute proof that the functioning of the body is the origin and the generator of the near death experience and the out-of-body experience. No alternative explanations such as paranormal abilities, or other unknown abilities are possible.
A life after death as revealed by the near death experience, or the out-of-body experience is provably an illusion generated by the functioning of the body. However, this does not mean there is no afterlife. The absence of memory function outside the physical body only proves that the near death experience reveals nothing about the nature any possible life after death (see a more extensive discussion here Woerlee 2020). There may still be a life after death with entirely unknown manifestations and properties — only we know nothing about it, because it is as yet unknown. The only realistic advice for those wishing to believe in an afterlife is that given more than 2,000 years ago by the ancient Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE)… .