Afterlife, Sir? No, Sir.

I've spent the last few blog entries if not explaining it away then at least arguing that an afterlife is unlikely and that this is all we've got.

This isn't as cheerless a claim as it might first sound. Many materialists gloomily cry "This is all there is!", their faces contorted in melancholia (and, not to put too fine a point on it, no small measure of glee at spreading the bad news). I don't subscribe to this point of view; I'm trying to explore and expand my knowledge of our existence. I'm not starting from a traditional position of Heaven and Earth and then scribbling out great swathes of the firmament; I'm starting from a single cell and marveling at how far we've come and what it means to be conscious in the four dimensions of spacetime, and many worlds of the quantum multiverse.

However, my subconscious obviously isn't entirely happy with my recent activities as several times over the last few days I've dreamed about the afterlife. On the first occasion I was dead; on the second I was still alive but had an extended weekend pass, not unlike Dante's in the Divine Comedy. I've no idea why I would dream such things immediately after working out to my satisfaction that the afterlife doesn't exist.

Perhaps it's my subconsciousness's way of reminding me to keep an open mind; in life and indeed in science there are no absolutes. Newton's laws of motion fully explained the clockwork universe until Einstein came along; likewise materialist theories currently explain our clockwork sentient brains... until we discover something new. Of one thing I am certain, we haven't discovered all there is to know and I am sure there are whole areas of science yet to uncover, areas that will force us to re-evaluate and rebuild physics from the ground up once again.

The afterlife in my recent dreams has been crowded. On the second "weekend pass" occasion I met someone I knew who had recently died. Not unusual in itself, and of course something that can be easily explained as wish-fulfillment. However, it's not the first time something like this has happened to me, and whilst not advocating it as proof of survival of death, I think it's an interesting enough phenomenon - and not that uncommon either - to warrant further investigation or discussion.

The first time it happened to me was years ago, shortly after the death of my grandmother. In a dream I found myself in a garden; across the way a group of young people were engaged in an activity that looked like some kind of game. One of them, a small young woman with dark hair who was dressed as a Native American squaw, suddenly ran over to me.

"What are YOU doing here?" she said.

She seemed very surprised at my presence, but also impatient to get back to the game. She told me it was good to see me and then ran off. It then occurred to me that it was my grandmother; she didn't look anything like I remembered her, she was young! However, I later saw photographs of her in her youth and there was some resemblance. This does makes sense; if there was an afterlife it would only be natural for us to want to revert to the visual form in which we were the happiest, the one we felt was quintessentially us. For me that would be about twenty-one.

All dreams of course; until there's a workable theory of such Weird Shit I'll stick to the materialist viewpoint. It's very interesting though, isn't it?


Can't remember if UI've recommended this to you before or not, but "Sum - 40 Tales from the Afterlife" is a short and rather wonderfully thought provoking speculative fiction read about materialism/spiritualism's offerings on the afterlife.

Me, I'm a materialist, but with absolutely no joy in the fact of mortality. In fact, quite the reverse. An existential despair about what's the point of it all...? Most people seem quite able to keep this trenchant fact remote from their everyday thougts and thereby function quite well. I have to write to keep it at bay, not sure how that mechanism works -guess all the vebiage is a sort of white noise and fingers in the ears whistling so the unnerving thoughts don't creep back into consciousness.

Still nevwer had the function of dreams satisfactorily explained. My best guess it's a claring house of words and images that do not readily fit to pattern recognition templates the brain operates from and through dreams, the brain is ramming them into those toddler shape slot toys to make them fit. A dcewased person may turn up in your dream as a process of your brain shifting them over into the deceased category.
Catmachine said…
Yes, I bought "Sum" on your recommendation, but have yet to read it. It's currently in the pile of what must now be approaching 100 books waiting for me to read them.

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