History of Afterlife in Different Religions Scientific Beliefs

About the views on life after death and the afterlife and history of the beliefs in science.



There is no scientific proof of an afterlife, but recent studies (such as those of Doctors Raymond Moody, Karlis Osis, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and Kenneth Ring) describe fascinating experiences. Thousands of interviews with the dying, the "clinically dead," and their physicians reveal a consistent pattern in the accounts of near-death experience. Not every nearly dead person remembers such an experience; one study indicates that about half do. Not all the elements of the "core experience" occur in each instance, nor are they in the same sequence. But in each case the same journey is described, with different people encountering different segments of the whole. The vast majority of people travel along the initial stages of the journey; only about one fourth go most or all of the way. Neither religiousness nor prior acquaintance with near-death research affects the likelihood of a person's having such experiences. However, brain impairment, drugs, and alcohol are inhibiting factors. What follows is a generalized description of the "round trip," based on the studies of Moody and Ring.

The person near death is filled with a sense of peace and well-being, which soon turns into happiness or overwhelming joy. There may be a windlike sound or ringing in the ears, but usually all is quiet and there is no pain. He may be aware that he is dying or already "dead." Next he finds himself at a distance from his physical body, looking at it from above or from a corner of the room. All this seems real, not dreamlike: hearing and vision are sharp, the mind is alert, thoughts are logical and coherent. He can hear the conversations and watch the actions of doctors and nurses, friends and relatives as they grieve or try to resuscitate him. He notices that he still has a body but of a different kind from the one he has left. It is weightless and without sensation.

He soon becomes aware of "another reality" into which he is gradually drawn. He enters a dark void, beyond time and space. Sometimes the darkness is perceived as a tunnel, narrow at the entry and getting wider as the physical world recedes. He may experience feelings of loneliness but not of fear. Serenity and peace continue to fill his consciousness. He floats through the still darkness toward a bright light. It emits vibrations of love, warmth, strength, and security. The light becomes identified with an unseen presence, a godlike being, perhaps God himself, who emphasizes the importance of acquiring knowledge and loving one another. The presence speaks to the person in a masculine tone or simply projects thoughts directly into his mind.

He knows he has reached a boundary or threshold. The presence communicates to the person that he must choose whether to proceed towards the unknown destination or return to physical life. He is shown, as if on a movie screen, a rapid replay of the events of his past. He may be given some information about his future life in case he decides to return (e.g., that he will have children or suffer more pain). His mind rationally considers the alternatives, then decides to return because of obligations to the living or unfinished earthly business.

Sometimes the person may catch a glimpse of the ineffably beautiful "world of light," where there are unforgettable colors, crystalline blue lakes, golden grass, fields and meadows with music and singing birds. In this world there are structures which resemble nothing on earth. Here he is temporarily reunited with deceased friends and relatives, who greet him and urge him to return to life. The person feels great joy in the reunion and is reluctant to leave.

Once the decision to leave is made, the experience terminates abruptly. Now the person is wrenched or jolted back to life, reentering the physical body as if through the head. Or he may be unaware of how he returned. Afterwards he can find no words adequate to express his experience and is reticent about discussing it for fear of being misunderstood or ridiculed. However, he is convinced that life after death is not merely probable, but "a veritable certainty."

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