Does the spirit world exist? In other words, do we continue to exist after we ‘die’ in the physical world?
Throughout the history of mankind there have been religions and belief systems based on the belief of ‘life after death’.
Tribes that remained unconnected to the outside world until very recently (such as the Z’oe) historically hold beliefs that they are spirit and their physical bodies are merely disposable containers through which they interact with what we perceive as the physical dimension. When the physical body no longer supports them their spirit is released and they move into another realm – the ‘spirit world’. They believe that they are part of a greater energy system we often refer to as ‘nature’.
The same core beliefs have been and are held across the spectrum of humanity wherever they have existed on this planet, regardless of whether they have had contact with other human groups or not at some point in history.
Some belief systems and religions believe that the cycle of birth and death is a never ending process of reincarnation, while others believe that entry into a spiritual realm is the ultimate and only goal.
There has never been proof beyond doubt that any of these beliefs are fact. But that doesn’t mean there is not fact contained within them.
Human beings like to be able to explain things – even those things we have little knowledge of or for which we have little understanding. So it is of no surprise that tales and stories have emerged from the strong belief that our physical existence is temporary. Folklore, religions, and myths have all developed in an attempt to relay concepts or information to other humans within the context of understanding at the time.
We are no different today. We often see opinions and presumptions (including misinformation) presented as factual evidence of some concept, when they are nothing of the kind. These ideas then gain popularity and before we know it masses of people are believing them as authoritative fact through their desire to be socially compliant and accepted. In some cases, vast organisations have been based on them – such as Scientology.
If we think back a few centuries, the perception of electricity was as some kind of mythical magical thing related in some way to ‘the Gods’ – yet now it is something that is such an integral part of our everyday lives that most of us hardly give it a second thought. As our knowledge progresses as time passes much of what we consider to be ‘mythical’ or ‘paranormal’ today may be run-of-the-mill fact in the future.
What follows is my own theory of why a belief in an afterlife has been so prevalent throughout human history. It is based on my knowledge and understanding through life experience and learning.
I have based this theory on logic and factual information based on our current scientific understanding of the world we live in and which is readily available. I have made some presumptions which will be influenced by my personal views and processing of the world, and these will be clear as you read on.
The first thing is that for the same core belief or beliefs to have existed through to the present day means (of course) that there is a reason for it. Either there has been some kind of perpetual mass delusion or cultural compliance for a significant proportion of the time we humans have existed, or there are very real and tangible reasons.
I have chosen to leave aside reference to the texts of established religions. The reason being that at best they are flawed interpretations of events within the context of the time their documents were written by man, and at worst are manipulative mechanisms designed to control populations. Either way, they are distractions which are unnecessary and wholly unhelpful and are as much value as any folklore or myth.
We can start this exploration with the fact that our species exists, and has existed on this lump of rock for some time in some form or another.
Our physical form is a complex organic life-form which controls an incredible amount of electrical activity. In turn this electrical activity enables us to perform physical functions, such as breathing, walking, and so on. In addition, this electrical energy facilitates something else which is an important aspect of our presence – our perception that we have an individual personality, soul or spirit – mental functioning – which we consider to be separate from our physical form, and from the reality of the physical world.
Even though they are interdependent, we perceive two main aspects to our existence – the physical and the mental.
Our mental functioning includes our perception of the world around us, the memories we form as we progress through life’s journey, our emotions in response to our processing of information, and our thinking through which we analyse complex information.
Everything we do with our minds has a purpose which will affect our immediate and long-term actions and how we process information in the future, whether we are processing the steps in a manual task or thinking about more abstract concepts in our lives.
Understanding the relationship between the mind and the brain is something scientists have been struggling to achieve for many years. Although some progress has been made with the help of modern technology, they are a long way from understanding the complex interactions that facilitate our range of mental functioning we refer to as the mind.
For example, scientists know that there are areas of the brain which are more active for certain functions, such as our ‘fight or flight’ response, visual information processing, storing memories, and so on. But understanding the mechanics of how emotions such as sadness, altruism, and empathy are generated and processed by the brain remain a mystery.
The scientific world tends to be dogmatic and gets bogged down in its own mess which does as much to inhibit progress and it does to aid it. As scientists are discovering – especially in the world of physics – the laws and theories that have been relied on for decades – sometimes centuries –do not apply to many discoveries made in the modern world.
Fortunately, there are more progressive researchers who use a wider spectrum of evidence and knowledge – the ‘mavericks’ or ‘free-thinkers’ within the scientific community who push the boundaries of research into new areas.
In considering the question of ‘spirituality’ the area of scientific study that is of interest to us is that of ‘consciousness’.
When we experience something (such as looking at a picture, or hearing a piece of music, and so on) our brain processes sensory information such as sight and sound, which in turn is responsible for our emotions and thoughts. It is this subjective awareness and perception of information that is consciousness.
The two leading researchers and experts in the area of consciousness are undoubtedly Professor Roger Penrose and Professor Stuart Hameroff. Through their own research and collaboration with others in the field, they have been able to develop real and viable theories (Orch OR) for the complex workings of consciousness within our brains.
Subatomic particles stored in microtubules in the brain take on specific formations which relate to our memories and consciousness – the mind. In quantum consciousness, when these particles are disrupted they quickly return to their previous formation – maintaining their structure and therefore the information they represent.
It was once thought that when the brain experiences deficiencies or problems on one side, the task would be passed over to the other side of the brain to perform. Although it is true that the brain will attempt to form new connections to perform basic functions (such as manual tasks) when part of it is damaged, the same is not true in activities of consciousness.
Research by Hameroff et al has proven this is not the case when referring to the mind, and the task of storing memories etc. is duplicated somewhere else. In other words, whatever the mind creates is also stored somewhere else in space and time. Therefore, the mind is able to exist independent of the body’s energy control system. So when the physical body starts to change through the process of morphing from one state to another (the process of dying) the mind is still able to exist.
From Professor Hameroff’s website:
“My research involves a theory of consciousness which can bridge these two approaches, a theory developed over the past 20 years with eminent British physicist Sir Roger Penrose. Called ‘orchestrated objective reduction’ (‘Orch OR’), it suggests consciousness arises from quantum vibrations in protein polymers called microtubules inside the brain’s neurons, vibrations which interfere, ‘collapse’ and resonate across scale, control neuronal firings, generate consciousness, and connect ultimately to ‘deeper order’ ripples in spacetime geometry. Consciousness is more like music than computation.”
There is also a video of the science programme ‘Through the Wormhole’ in which Hameroff explains his theory. It is available on YouTube (as of September 2016).
Although many have tried, no one in the scientific community has been able to provide tangible criticism of the theory. In fact, experiments that have been completed thus far reinforce it and have proven that particles can exist in more than one place at the same time, and as one experiences change so does the other – no matter where they exist.
Another theory which has implications when we consider other realms is that of thermodynamics.
The laws of thermodynamics (in simplistic form) state that energy can not be created and can not be destroyed.
If these laws are correct, it means that the same amount of energy must exist in the universe all of the time.
Therefore, because we are part of the universal energy system then we must continue to exist.
The laws of thermodynamics have been proposed as proof by advocates of the existence of a spiritual realm. However, there is an error of thinking in many references to this theory.
Energy is composed of different forms. Just because something is one form of energy does not necessarily mean that it will maintain that form.
For example, when an organism dies it does not continue to exist in the same form as when it was alive. The structure changes and the lifeform morphs into one or more other types of energy. When we use compost or fertilizer made of plant material, what we are doing is using a morphed form of the ‘live’ plant to provide energy to other forms of life – such as flowers or vegetables.
Similarly, when we eat something, we are using the energy contained within whatever we are eating, not to create energy, but to morph into another form of energy our bodies can use.
This process occurs when our organic bodies ‘die’. They do not continue to exist in the same form as when they were when alive, but morph into other forms of energy which provide fuel (energy) to other organisms. Similarly, if we are cremated, the energy contained in our bodies is quickly transformed into other energies which go on to provide fuel (and building blocks in the form of carbon) for other things.
So although our organic material does continue to exist, it exists by changing into several other forms of energy. It is feasible that the same energy would be recycled to such an extent that at some point in time (most likely a mind-boggling period) we would contain bits of our former selves.
In many ways, energy represents the ultimate form of recycling. But as I mentioned previously, this is within the confines of our current knowledge so could change dramatically in the future as our knowledge expands.
The time the human species has been in existence in relation to the age of the universe (or even the earth) is miniscule. Our development of scientific theory has occurred within an even tinier time frame.
It would be illogical and arrogant to think that we have advanced knowledge of the complexities of the universe. We are still at a very early stage of discovering the wonders which exist around and in us, and although we are relatively advanced compared to times past we are still very ignorant of the foundations of our existence.
So is there a ‘spiritual realm’ (or whichever other label one chooses to use to describe it)?
I would propose that there is.
At the most fundamental level we are part of a greater energy system, and whether we consider it to be nature or some kind of supreme energy/being the essence is the same.
We exist in the physical world, which is defined by the things we can interact with and experience on a normal daily basis. The reason we can experience these things is that they are constructed and vibrate within a range we can detect. It is important to remember that nothing is solid – not even the densest material known to man (Osmium with a density of 22.6 grams per cubic centimetre) is solid.
For some things we need specialist equipment to experience them – such as radio, internet, television, forms of light and sound, and so on. At our current stage of scientific knowledge, we are able to experience a tiny amount of the whole frequency spectrum which scientists know exists and that which they theorise exists beyond.
Although descriptions of spiritual realms are often referred to as external to our physical world, it is feasible that another realm (or realms) of a different construct exists within the spaces in our own fabric and vibrational range. In effect worlds within worlds.
As more mysteries of the universe are solved so our understanding of why billions of people over the course human existence have and do believe in a spiritual realm will expand.
The facts that our minds can independently exist somewhere in space and time, and that our physical bodies are recycled rather than disappear is only the start.
Once we start to separate the concept of spiritual realms from the flowery explanations provided by belief systems we can see a much clearer picture of tangible answers.
Quantum consciousness and thermodynamics are two of many scientific theories which could lend themselves to providing information from which we can discover what happens to us when our physical bodies ‘die’, and how our ‘self’/mind/spirit/etc. could continue.
If different dimensions exist within one another I would propose that it is reasonable to speculate that these realms or dimensions could occasionally cross-over or interact with each other in some way – thereby manifesting as paranormal activity of some description.
I would also speculate that some people who claim to have had paranormal experiences, or who claim to be able to access the ‘spiritual realm’ (with the proviso that they are not one of the many charlatans who plague this area) are using a limited range of natural abilities.
Perhaps these natural abilities in all of us have become diluted over time as we have evolved under the distractions of living in the physical world.
As to the ‘physical world’, well it only exists in our minds – nowhere else. What you perceive as the physical world will not be the same as someone else’s perception.
For example, when you see a colour you have internal processing which tells you which colour it is. These references are only processed in your mind – nowhere in the external world. When another person sees a particular colour they also have their own internal processes which only exist in their mind. You will both agree on the colour because each of your personal internal processes indicates that the colour has the name/label you have learned is assigned to the experience.
There is no way to know if the processes we use give us the same experience of reality as another person. Although the mechanics are the same (or very similar) it is the processing in the mind that is different.
If you are open minded enough to accept that the universe is full of infinite possibilities – or at least that this world we live in is full of discoveries yet to be made – then the existence of some other realm is highly probable and can not be denied at the most basic level of logic.
After all, you believe that wind, electricity, radio waves, and so on exist, yet you can not see, hear or touch them without other things that interact with them or suitable instruments. They are energy, the same as any potential ‘spiritual realm’.
In my opinion the existence of a ‘spiritual realm’ is not such a mystical and unknown thing. What does remain a mystery to me is its purpose and functioning. But perhaps sometimes things just exist – things with no labels – things that just ‘are’ – and things which rely more on our natural feelings and deep senses to understand them rather than rational and logical investigation and thought.
At the very least, I hope that this theory has made you stop and think a little about our function and purpose in the world, and how we are part of a universal system. You may agree or disagree with my theory – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you look for reliable and factual information for yourself to help in your own evolution and understanding.
“Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.”– George Bernard Shaw
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