Life After Death: Conceptions of the Afterlife
The question of survival beyond physical life on Earth has confounded the human mind throughout history. The religions of the world invariably propose some form of survival, though views of the nature of the afterlife vary across traditions and divide significantly over the question of reincarnation. Many consider the evidence for both survival and reincarnation to be compelling, though not irrefutable. This essay reviews the literature over the past four decades on near death experiences, communication with deceased souls, and reincarnation.
PROBLEM OF HUMAN SUFFERING
Suffering on both an individual and collective level is pervasive in this world. The fact of suffering brings to mind an age-old question: If there is a God, and God is loving and benevolent, why does God permit so much suffering to occur on earth? This essay explores various answers offered throughout history to the perennial question of how a benevolent God could allow for human suffering.
REFLECTIONS ON CONSCIOUSNESS
Consciousness is notoriously difficult to define. Its ineffability is remarkable, or paradoxical, given that it is so intimately connected with our moment-to-moment experience. In attempting to understand it, we can start by defining consciousness as a state or quality of being that is characterized by sentience and subjectivity. This essay explores in some detail what is meant by these defining characteristics of consciousness. It also examines long-standing questions about the relationship of subjective consciousness to the physical brain.
UNITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The idea that all minds are joined is a long-standing conviction of Eastern philosophy as well as Western mysticism. The famous quantum physicist Erwin Schrodinger noted, “Mind—by its very nature—is a singular entity. The overall number of minds is just one.”
Common to all of these perspectives is the idea that the deepest foundation of each individual mind is a universal consciousness that pervades the known Cosmos. Each individual’s consciousness is embedded in (or is an extension of) a proposed ‘Infinite Mind.’
TOWARD A LARGER UNIVERSE
The known physical universe in the twentieth-first century has turned out to surpass our wildest expectations in scope, comprising over 200 billion galaxies spread over an area that is at least 92 billion light-years across. The total number of galaxies throughout the entire history of the universe exceeds two trillion. For mainstream science, the universe ends with this view, with the conjecture that further galaxies may exist beyond current limits of observation.
This scientific view neglects thousands of years of human experience. Virtually all of the world’s religions subscribe to the idea that consciousness or the soul survives physical death and continues on in a heavenly realm that exists apart from space, time and the physical universe. For the past forty years, an extensive literature on near-death experiences has provided compelling (though not indubitable) evidence that this may be true.
THE SCOPE OF THE UNIVERSE: THE BIRTH AND DEATH OF THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE
This essay begins by discussing the scope of the known physical universe, with its current estimated 200 billion galaxies extending out to the limits of observation, about 46 billion light years away. What follows is an exploration of the birth and early evolution of the physical universe as understood by modern astrophysics. A series of early “epochs” of the universe, each lasting only a few nanoseconds, such as the Planck epoch, the Inflationary Epoch, the Quark Epoch, the Hadron Epoch, and several others up to recombination, where atoms formed and light was released, are described. The essay concludes with three different models describing the ultimate fate of the universe: big freeze, big crunch, or big rip.
THE SCOPE OF THE UNIVERSE: THE NON-PHYSICAL UNIVERSE
This essay takes up questions about entities widely understood cross-culturally but not included in the physical universe studied by science. Such entities include angels, spirit guides, deceased souls, ghosts and other entities which have been the subject of human curiosity for millennia. If the aim is to define the ultimate boundaries of the complete Cosmos, then there would seem to be a need to accommodate these non-physical entities as well, even if they don’t fall under the purview of science.
Giving credibility to angels, souls, ghosts and other such phenomena requires expanding our epistemology—our theory of what can be knowable—from the empiricism of science to a broader model including other, non-sensory forms of knowing such as intuition, vision and revelation. While these ways of knowing do not achieve the degree of consensus achieved by science, to exclude them would be to eliminate broad aspects of the Cosmos that humanity has embraced throughout its history.
This essay touches on many other topics such as the makeup of the non-physical universe, the mind-body conundrum, the afterlife, the soul, and even different types of space. It arrives at a conception of the total Cosmos that includes not only the entire physical universe but many, if not unlimited, non-physical dimensions as well.
DEITY AND SPIRITUALITY
The names of Deity vary across the world’s major religions. So do each religion’s conceptions and theologies. So how is it possible to approach a common, universal concept of deity?
A perfect definition is impossible. The inherent nature or essence of Deity is generally viewed as ineffable—beyond our comprehension. However, there do appear to be certain common attributes traditionally ascribed to God throughout a majority of religions. This essay attempts to enumerate some of these common attributes.
TOWARD A SYNTHESIS OF SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY
Science and religion have had a long history of conflict over the past several hundred years. They are two areas of human inquiry and experience that are fundamentally different in purpose, yet they have a shared interest in understanding the world. Both are seeking to plumb the nature of reality, even if their methods and results in this endeavor are quite different.
Science seeks objective truth about the laws and principles that govern natural phenomena. Religion seeks existential truth about the ultimate meaning of human life in the face of inevitable death. The essay suggests that we need a view of the Cosmos large enough to embrace both kinds of truth.
THE UNIVERSAL CONTEXT
What is the context in which religion itself operates? It seems evident that if we are to understand religion on its own terms (not explain it in terms of psychological, sociological, or cultural constructs), then the proper context would be the “total Cosmos.” Religion focuses on the individual’s experience, development, and relationship with the entire Cosmos. Moreover, “entire Cosmos” does not mean just the physical universe. Certainly religion is not talking about our relationship with galaxies or the big bang. A more accurate definition of “entire Cosmos” would be “all that exists”—reality in its broadest reach or totality.
Natural ethics finds the ultimate basis for ethical conduct in “natural laws” or a “natural order” inherent in the workings of the universe.
In modern times natural ethics has fallen out of favor. Ethics is no longer based on universal principles inherent in the Cosmos but rather on some form of social utility. Human societies make up their own ethical conventions. The idea of universal ethical principles apart from a given culture’s particular set of norms remains an abstraction.
A truly natural ethics restores a universal and spiritual foundation to ethics. The basis for “right” conduct is found neither in human convention (ethical relativism) nor in specific theological views (religious prescriptions of morality). Instead, the universal principle of unconditional love—or compassion—becomes the basis for human behavior across all cultures.
LIFE FORCE ENERGY
What we speak of as “life force” in everyday conversation is not recognized by mainstream science.
Yet the energy of life is so much a part of us, and so obviously present, that it would be absurd to deny its existence. Still, the energy we are so intimately in touch with doesn’t seem to fit easily into one of the four categories of energy permitted by physics: electromagnetic, gravitational, and strong and weak nuclear forces. It appears to be something else. Our understanding of what the life force actually is remains controversial and mysterious. This essay aims to provide ideas and a framework for understanding it.
A central thesis of this website is that the Cosmos is enchanted—that it is infused with consciousness at every level where any kind of “organized whole” exists, from atoms all the way up to galaxies. What we consider “subjective,” the meaningful context of human experience, is not confined to human consciousness but extends throughout—and beyond—the physical world we observe with our senses.
Throughout much of the twentieth century, only a few innovative thinkers went outside the box imposed by mainstream science. One of these was Carl Jung, who in his later years developed the concept of synchronicity.
Synchronicity is an acausal correspondence that connects the human psyche with the Cosmos. There is no sharp distinction between subject and object. Instead, inner meanings are connected seamlessly with outer events. This essay explores the idea of synchronicity in some detail.
A Brief Note on the Cosmos
A brief thirteen point essay summarizing my current understanding of several aspects of the greater Cosmos we inhabit. It may be viewed as the capstone to the preceding twelves essays.