A Natural After-Life

As people like to post crackpot theories that are congenial to them, I thought I’d plop this down here.

I was thinking about how dreams can seem (from the point of view of the dreamer) to go on for very long periods of time, even if the dream, from the point of view of an external observer, might only last a couple of minutes. And I noted that it might be the case that as we lose executive function in geezerhood and become more and more a batch of autonomous, unconscious functions, our dream experiences get phenomenologically longer and longer. [If I knew something more about relativity theory maybe I could analogize this with the difference between falling into a black hole from the vantage of an outside observer and the vantage of the falling person, but alas….]

Anyhow, it seemed conceivable to me that one’s unconscious (where Freud said “time does not exist”) dream experiences might increasingly “stretch” until, at the moment of death, they becomes “endless” (or eternal or something like that).

If this were the case, everyone would have his or her own personal eternal afterlife, and the characteristics of each of these states would have the nice feature of being to some extent a function of how well we had “worked through” things in our lives. “Redemption” would kind of be in play, since, presumably, those who feel guilty about things they’ve done and haven’t “karma-cleaned” as it were, would be likely to have a less pleasant after-life. You’d also get to “interact” with all your loved ones, and your memories of them would be in some sense better than what you can consciously access–because, again, the unconscious has no “history,” so everything’s in there in tip-top shape.  Finally, I liked the connection with the William James excerpt from “Varieties of Religious Experience” that I’d recently posted here:

Let me then propose, as an hypothesis, that whatever it may be on its farther side, the “more” with which in religious experience we feel ourselves connected is on its hither side the subconscious continuation of our conscious life. Starting thus with a recognized psychological fact as our basis, we seem to preserve a contact with “science” which the ordinary theologian lacks. At the same time the theologian’s contention that the religious man is moved by an external power is vindicated, for it is one of the peculiarities of invasions from the [pg 513] subconscious region to take on objective appearances, and to suggest to the Subject an external control. In the religious life the control is felt as “higher”; but since on our hypothesis it is primarily the higher faculties of our own hidden mind which are controlling, the sense of union with the power beyond us is a sense of something, not merely apparently, but literally true.

The idea here is that “God” is really us, but that should be OK, at least from a personal standpoint, because the autonomous functions of the brain are about as “Other” as any spaghetti monster might be. We have no control over them: they completely run the show. Thus, those portions of our “minds” of which we are not conscious ought to be seen as being extremely potent and sufficiently “outside,” just like any father-figure ought to be.

Anyhow, when I mused about this stuff, I figured that I couldn’t have been the first to do so, and googled “dreams after-life.” One of the first things that came up was this piece by Bryon Ehlmann, a retired Ph.D. in computer science.

Ehlmann’s piece there isn’t very detailed, but he links a recent publication of his in the “Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research” (which can be seen on his academia.edu page). And he has a more recent–and more technical–article, still in draft on his academia page–in which he offers what he takes to be a proof of this theory.

I haven’t read this latter paper yet, and I’m skeptical about “proofs” generally. But I can imagine empirical dream studies of older and/or cognitively impaired individuals to find out if this “stretching” is actually going on. I’m doubtful even of the likelihood of strong empirical support, tbh. I mean it’s obviously a woo-drenched theory, something that can make the fearful naturalistic type a bit less anxious. I recognize that this is no more than a theory that is congenial to me….but I can’t deny that it really is comforting. And there’s nothing supernatural about it–except maybe the inferences.

ETA: I corrected the name of the Journal in which Dr. Ehlmann’s paper appeared.

134 Replies to “A Natural After-Life”

  1. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: are you confusing the many worlds interpretation with the multiverse?

    check it out

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/05/26/are-many-worlds-and-the-multiverse-the-same-idea/

    peace

    Thanks fifth… I might be…

  2. dazz dazz
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: are you confusing the many worlds interpretation with the multiverse?

    Exactly, LMFAO

  3. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: are you confusing the many worlds interpretation with the multiverse?

    check it out

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/05/26/are-many-worlds-and-the-multiverse-the-same-idea/

    peace

    Unfortunately, the article you linked contradicts itself…
    The no cloning theorem quoted in the article contradicts the idea of the many worlds theory…
    So, both multiverse and the many worlds theories remain in the world of science fiction dazz the expert operates comfortably by jumping the gun as usual…
    Poor dazz full of gazz… can’t stop embarrassing himself….

  4. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: So, both multiverse and the many worlds theories remain in the world of science fiction

    Neither of these ideas can be tested. That does not stop sciency minded folks from believing them.

    peace

  5. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Neither of these ideas can be tested. That does not stop sciency minded folks from believing them.

    peace

    Of course… and their motive is twofold:
    the avoidance of the fine tuning of the physical laws and the metaphysical implications of the fine tuning of those laws…
    Since nobody holds the scientists responsible for withholding this information, the regular folk believes them…

  6. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: and their motive is twofold:
    the avoidance of the fine tuning of the physical laws and the metaphysical implications of the fine tuning those laws…

    Actually I think they like the many worlds interpretation because they believe it allows them to get to wave collapse with out a conscious observer.

    Though I think they are mislead in this regard.

    peace

  7. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman,

    I personally think that quantum consciousness remains the only valid possibility of the afterlife… Unfortunately, there is no evidence that quantum consciousness/soul can be aware on its own without the functionality of the brain…

  8. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman:
    walto,

    Hey walto,

    Did you read that bit of Scifi that I linked? I found it to be very thought provoking.

    It was exploring immortality from the perspective of the many worlds interpretation of QM.

    You should check it out.

    peace

    I will. Thanks.

  9. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: I personally think that quantum consciousness remains the only valid possibility of the afterlife…

    I think the only valid possibility of the afterlife is union with Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25) and who conclusively demonstrated that reality to us.

    Just exactly how that works itself out is interesting speculation but I have no doubt that our brain has a role in the whole process.

    We won’t be disembodied spirits after all.

    peace

  10. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Actually I think they like the many worlds interpretation because they believe it allows them to get to wave collapse with out a conscious observer.

    Though I think they are mislead in this regard.

    peace

    That’s is another valid point! 😊

    It seems it all boils down to the avoidance of the metaphysical implications of the wave function collapse and nature of reality due to consciousness observer outside of space-time-for that lack of better word for space with the possibility of no time concept…

  11. dazz dazz
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: Unfortunately, the article you linked contradicts itself…
    The no cloning theorem quoted in the article contradicts the idea of the many worlds theory…
    So, both multiverse and the many worlds theories remain in the world of science fiction dazz the expert operates comfortably by jumping the gun as usual…
    Poor dazz full of gazz… can’t stop embarrassing himself….

    J-Tard, self proclaimed QM expert with the reasoning skills of a peanut, tries to make pathetic excuses. Heh

    Look buddy, it’s no big deal, we all knew you were clueless, just like we know you lack the intelligence to notice your own stupidity.

  12. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    When dazz is ever without gazz and finally makes a real contribution to any of the OPs, can someone please alert me? I’m tired of reading his embarrassing comments that have only one recurring theme;
    ‘How can I get J-mac for exposing my inadequacies on TSZ??? I think today is the day…
    I keep my fingers crossed…’

    If admins don’t do anything about trolls like dazz, what else can be done?

  13. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: We won’t be disembodied spirits after all.

    Of course not ,that would be ridiculous.

  14. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: that would be ridiculous.

    why is that exactly??

    peace

  15. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: why is that exactly??

    peace

    To think otherwise would be challenging the power of revelation, after all.

  16. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: To think otherwise would be challenging the power of revelation, after all.

    Not at all.

    If it was conclusively revealed that we would be disembodied spirits at the resurrection I see no philosophical or empirical reason to doubt that such a thing is possible.

    I don’t think that the possibility of humans being disembodied spirits is ridiculous just unprecedented and unsupported by the data we have.

    peace

  17. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Death is much less scary when you consider that each of us was nonexistent for billions of years before our conception and birth. Death is just a return to that state of nonexistence and oblivion.

    I thought of that today when I came across this quote by Zhuangzi:

    How do I know that in hating death we are not like people who got lost in early childhood and do not know the way home?

    That said, the journey home can sometimes be quite difficult and uncomfortable. Being dead is not so scary, but dying can be.

  18. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths: Being dead is not so scary, but dying can be.

    It’s funny you wrote that because this is more or less the first thing I found suspicious about random processes instilling in us the fear of death…

    Spending a lot of time on a farm as a child as have seen a lot of animals dying; either because we needed dinner or because there were so many of them around that often there would be one of them just dying of old age or…too many deleterious mutations… whatever…
    The animals were never scared of dying…I even watched my favorite dog die, and she wasn’t scared… She didn’t have the same look or face expression as a colleague of mine who was dying of cancer and knew he had few days to live…
    He was frighten… He was looking at me as if I had the WHY answer…

    Why would random, natural processes instill in us the desire to live and the fear of death, and leave out 10 billion other species without it?

    To me, this is one of the top 10 reasons why random, natural processes as creators of life stink really bad…

  19. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac,

    The animals were never scared of dying…I even watched my favorite dog die, and she wasn’t scared… She didn’t have the same look or face expression as a colleague of mine who was dying of cancer and knew he had few days to live…
    He was frighten… He was looking at me as if I had the WHY answer…

    Your colleague knew he was dying. Did your dog know that she was dying? If so, how do you know that?

    Why would random, natural processes instill in us the desire to live and the fear of death, and leave out 10 billion other species without it?

    Nature selects for behaviors that promote survival and reproduction. Such behaviors needn’t be accompanied by an awareness of death. The cockroach runs for cover when you try to whack it. It doesn’t have to reason “Hmm, if that shoe hits me, I might die, so I’d better run for it.”

  20. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths: Your colleague knew he was dying. Did your dog know that she was dying? If so, how do you know that?

    She was in pain, bleeding and having shortness of breath, gasping to the point of choking with her own blood…

    You wouldn’t know you were dying in such circumstances?

  21. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths: Nature selects for behaviors that promote survival and reproduction. Such behaviors needn’t be accompanied by an awareness of death. The cockroach runs for cover when you try to whack it. It doesn’t have to reason “Hmm, if that shoe hits me, I might die, so I’d better run for it.”

    I’m actually glad you believe this s..t…

    But then again..what other choice do you have..?

  22. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac:

    I’m actually glad you believe this s..t…

    Since you’re not even bright enough to understand how evolution works, what hope do you have of arguing against it?

  23. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac:

    She was in pain, bleeding and having shortness of breath, gasping to the point of choking with her own blood…

    You wouldn’t know you were dying in such circumstances?

    I would, but did your dog? Did she even have a concept of her own mortality?

    You’re a J-Mac, but a brighter person would ask those questions.

    And by the way, why didn’t you have her euthanized if she was suffering so badly?

  24. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: She was in pain, bleeding and having shortness of breath, gasping to the point of choking with her own blood…

    You wouldn’t know you were dying in such circumstances?

    Believe it or not, keiths is considerably smarter than most dogs–even than German Shepards, boxers and poodles.

    Gotta have the concept of death to know you’re dying, n’est pas? Even many toy Schauzers lack that, apparrently.

  25. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    walto,

    Believe it or not, keiths is considerably smarter than most dogs–even than German Shepards, boxers and poodles.

    Yes, and that’s why I’m a cat person. More of a challenge to win them over.

    P.S. How’s Impossibly Soft Cat doing?

  26. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: Believe it or not, keiths is considerably smarter than most dogs–even than German Shepards, boxers and poodles.

    Since when have you changed your mind about keiths? I don’t read all the comments here but last time I saw your comment about keiths it wasn’t as encouraging as this one…

  27. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths:
    walto,

    Yes, and that’s why I’m a cat person.More of a challenge to win them over.

    P.S.How’s Impossibly Soft Cat doing?

    He’s doing well, thanks, just turning 9. Can’t seem to brush him enough to prevent a lot of summer hairballs, but, fortunately, he doesn’t mind being raked.

    He’s as gentle as he is soft.

  28. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: Since when have you changed your mind about keiths? I don’t read all the comments here but last time I saw your comment about keiths it wasn’t as encouraging as this one…

    I spelled ‘shepherd’ wrong.

  29. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    walto,

    I spelled ‘shepherd’ wrong.

    And ‘Schnauzer’.

    ETA: And ‘n’est ce pas’.

  30. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    walto,

    Can’t seem to brush him enough to prevent a lot of summer hairballs, but, fortunately, he doesn’t mind being raked.

    Yeah, that’s the thing about long-hairs.

    I’m glad he’s doing well.

  31. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths:
    walto,

    Yeah, that’s the thing about long-hairs.

    I’m glad he’s doing well.

    Looks like keiths and walto are best friends again… This is another TSZ miracle… 😉 lest they forget…again…

  32. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths:
    walto,

    And ‘Schnauzer’.

    ETA: And ‘n’est ce pas’.

    Youch!

  33. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths,

    Thankee

  34. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: And ‘n’est ce pas’.

    En effet c’est “n’est-ce pas?”, n’est-ce pas?

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