Life After Death
When Personal Identity Survives the Death of the Body



 
Life After Death
When Personal Identity Survives the Death of the Body

 
The dead are usually believed to go to a specific plane of existence after death, typically believed to be determined by a god or divine judge, based on their actions or beliefs during physical life.

In contrast, the term afterlife refers to another life in which only the "essence" of the being is preserved, and "reincarnation" is another life on Earth or possibly within the same universe.



Morgan Freeman dives deep into this provocative question that has mystified humans since the beginning of time. Modern physics and neuroscience are venturing into this once hallowed ground, and radically changing our ideas of life after death.

Freeman serves as host to this polarized debate, where scientists and spiritualist attempt to define 'what is consciousness,' while cutting edge quantum mechanics could provide the answer to what happens when we die.


The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, an individual which carries with it and confers personal identity survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means.

In some popular views, this continued existence often takes place in a spiritual realm, and in other popular views, the individual may be reborn into this world and begin the life cycle over again.

In this latter view, such rebirths and deaths may take place over and over again continuously until the individual gains entry to a spiritual realm.

Major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics. The dead are usually believed to go to a specific plane of existence after death (other than eternal oblivion), typically believed to be determined by a god or divine judge, based on their actions or beliefs during physical life.

In contrast, the term afterlife refers to another life in which only the "essence" of the being is preserved, and "reincarnation" is another life on Earth or possibly within the same universe.


A study conducted in 1901 by physician Duncan MacDougall sought to measure the weight lost by a human when the soul "departed the body" upon death. MacDougall weighed dying patients in an attempt to prove that the soul was material, tangible and thus measurable.

Although MacDougall's results varied considerably from "21 grams", for some people this figure has become synonymous with the measure of a soul's mass.

The title of the 2003 movie 21 Grams is a reference to MacDougall's findings. The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 with the express intention of investigating phenomena relating to Spiritualism and the afterlife.

Its members continue to conduct scientific research on the paranormal to this day. Some of the earliest attempts to apply scientific methods to the study of phenomena relating to an afterlife were conducted by this organization.

Its earliest members included noted scientists like William Crookes, and philosophers such as Henry Sidgwick and William James.J. B. Rhine, who was critical in the early foundations of parapsychology as a laboratory science, was committed to finding scientific evidence for the spiritual existence of humans.

Scientists who have worked in this area include Raymond Moody, Susan Blackmore, Charles Tart, William James, Ian Stevenson, Michael Persinger and Pim van Lommel among others. After 25 years of parapsychological research, Susan Blackmore came to the conclusion that there is no empirical evidence for an afterlife.

The Near Death Experience


Some, such as Francis Crick in 1994, have attempted a ‘scientific search for the soul’. Frank Tipler has argued that physics can explain immortality, though such arguments are not falsifiable and thus do not qualify, in Karl Popper's views, as science.

Tart conducted research into out-of-body experiences, or OBEs, that indicated the possibility that a person might be able to perceive targets at a distance removed from the physical body.

Later investigations have both corroborated and failed to corroborate "out-of-body" experiences transcending the confines of the brain.

In one instance, a hospital placed an LED marquee above its patients’ beds which displayed a hidden message that could only be read if one were looking down from above. As of 2001, no one who claimed near-death experience or out-of-body experience within that hospital had reported having seen the hidden message.

In 2008, Penny Sartori, an intensive care nurse from Swansea, published a book about near death experiences following 10 years of research. Sartori says that people who went through out-of-body experiences felt as if they floated above themselves and were able to accurately recount what had happened in the room even though their bodily eyes were closed.

Investigation of the afterlife also includes the study of (among others) cases of haunting, apparitions of the deceased (including, in some cases, information conveyed by those same apparitions), instrumental trans-communication (recording of paranormal voices on tape), and mediumship.