What happens to us when we die? This has been the ultimate question for both science and religion. Whether you have the whole afterlife drama mapped out or you believe we just die and that’s it, no one really knows.
My plan is not to uphold or deconstruct your notion of the afterlife. If you like your grasp of the afterlife and it helps you, then keep it. I would like to offer 11 perspectives that I hope will expand each of our understandings.
1. Consciousness is non-physical reality. Max Planck, the Theoretical Physicist credited with quantum theory says; “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
2. The afterlife is more like a conscious experience than a cloud with a harp. Science now supports what religion has been saying all along. Consciousness influences matter, it is not a derivative of it. The body does not create consciousness, but instead contains and conducts it. This was proven with the discovery of quantum entanglement via countless double slit experiments. Word becomes flesh (John 1:14).
3. The afterlife is eternal. Science is increasingly adopting the notion that our consciousness (like energy) does not disappear, but instead changes forms. The bible says we are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). This “mind of God” (consciousness) is the essence of Eternal life.
But where does our consciousness go?
4. The afterlife is a transfer of consciousness! Similar to sleeping. This aligns with the best of science, sacred texts, and human experience. Henry Scudder, a Puritan writer, describes sleeping as death practice. Our sheets wrap us like grave clothes and our consciousness shifts to another dimension. Upon awaking, we must reorient ourselves into our bodies again. Scripture often refers to death as sleeping.
5. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven (afterlife) is not solely a place we go to, but also the place from which we live (Luke 17:21). Scripture depicts the afterlife (Kingdom) as both now and not yet. String theory can explain simultaneously parallel dimensions and scripture clearly depicts this over and over.(2 Kings 2:11, Luke 3:22, Mark 9:2)
6. The afterlife is another dimension that is partially connected to this life. Some mediums are total scams. Some seem to be able to access people who have passed away. Hebrew scripture talks about a medium in En-Dor who brings Samuel back from the dead to talk to Saul (1 Samuel 28). This aligns with the idea that people go to be with God when they die. If God is accessible here and now, then that aspect of our loved ones who are now with God are also accessible because they are with God (Acts 17:28).
7. We can access the afterlife now. The afterlife is accessed when we bring our consciousness into the present moment. Prayer, meditation, contemplation, solitude, athletics, crafts, and many other things can be conduits that allow us to access the eternal moment here and now.
8. An afterlife with God makes more sense when God is understood as “BEING” not “A Being.” So what or who is God? Scripture tells us God is Light, God is Life, God is Love, God is consciousness, God is everywhere, beyond all things, in all things, and through all things. These are descriptions of BEING. Being is consciousness. Our being becomes shared with God and others.
All we have is metaphor. Our words fail to describe what we intuit at the graveside or holding a newborn. Scripture says we see in a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), but then we will know face to face. God is dynamism or Flow or Energy. As Richard Rohr would say, God is not the dancer, but the DANCE.
9. The afterlife is some sort of returning. If consciousness is where we start, it is also where we end. If we come from God, we will return to God. To be with God is to join in the consciousness of God, to share the mind of God. The bible uses the metaphor of a bride and groom joining in intimate union. We join the dance. Science says we come from carbon and return to carbon.
10. The afterlife depicts a new body. If the drop dissolves into the ocean its the end of the drop. Like waking up each morning, our consciousness after death is said in scripture to reorient itself within a new body. All are resurrected (Daniel 12:2, John 5:29). Jesus’ resurrected body contained the scars of this life. Something about our present life remains with us forever, yet all sad things will become untrue (Revelation 21:4).
11. The afterlife is not our goal; humility is. Religion has cashed in selling us tickets to heaven. For some, faith is an evacuation strategy based in fear and hate. If we possess the kingdom now, death has no sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). We cannot err by dismissing the afterlife either. The way we live now has a lasting effect beyond the grave. Ultimate Reality has no bandwidth for pride. Learning humility is our surest path to our best life now and the one beyond. (1 Peter 5:5, Zephaniah 2:3, Jeremiah 50:31-32, Luke 14:11, 18:14, 2 Samuel 22:27-28, Psalms 25:9, 18:27, 147:6, Daniel 4:37, Isaiah 2:17, James 4:10, Matthew 23: 11-12)