Heaven on Earth
Before you read any further, please watch the following video. It shows reconstruction of animal vision in real time:
For those of you who cannot fathom the implications — it demonstrates that since 1999 science has “reasonable understanding of how visual information is encoded in the thalamus,” as Yang Dan, assistant professor of neurobiology at UC Berkeley said.
If you have absolutely no clue how (also) mammal vision works, here’s a short summary (don’t get scared by all those Latin words):
- photons of light enter the eye and hit retina, which is the “innermost, light-sensitive layer of tissue of the eye” covered with photoreceptor cells
- these cells get “excited” and generate signal that travels trough optic nerve into lateral geniculate nucleus of thalamus
- thalamus serves as a relay that further transmits these signals into visual cortex of brain
- visual cortex is then responsible for generating “phosphenes”, or flashes of “light”, in one’s visual field that one learns to interpret as distinct patterns, or, in other words, images
It’s important to add that “phosphenes can be directly induced by mechanical, electrical, or magnetic stimulation of the retina or visual cortex as well as by random firing of cells in the visual system” (during meditation, while tripping on psychedelics, in dreams, etc.).
So, with this lengthy introduction finished, let’s go to the main point.
As you should clearly see by now, visual perception is an emergent property of brain. I won’t go into detailed explanation, but the same can be said about the four remaining senses, and also memory, speech, etc.
In other words — your mind, in its totality, is the product of your brain.
Thus, when your body stops working, it also means your brain, and with it also your mind. This we know as death. The point of no return. The end.
Body-mind complex, together with all its surrounding electromagnetic fields, which were generated by its processes (obviously not the other way round), ceases to be, and after a period of time more or less completely disintegrates.
Now, what all of this does not explain is consciousness.
There are two main ideas as for where it comes from — the older, religious or spiritual one, is that it is the primary constituent of the universe; the younger, scientific one, is that consciousness is a product of brain.
Future research may very well prove that it is, indeed, an emergent property of brain¹. However, at least for now, I have my doubts about it, because how can so many unique brains generate something that is completely identical and with no distinguishable attributes? And of course there is also another question. If it is emergent, what’s the minimal neural complexity needed to generate consciousness? In other words — how is it possible that even plants are (obviously) conscious? But I digress.
So, let’s say that consciousness is the “primary constituent of the universe”.
As I demonstrated earlier, body-mind dissolves upon death, and that leaves us with consciousness as the sole component that may satisfy the prerequisite to “survive”, and continue existing even after death.
Some people may argue that there is also what we know as Soul. Or Spirit, Atman (which is equated with consciousness), etc. However —
Existence of Soul is a hotly debated and loaded topic especially among Hindu and Buddhist traditions (it’s basically their only significant difference) and I don’t want to delve into it. Once you “touch the membrane of Soul”, it becomes clear that it is tied to “its source” so closely as to be indistinguishable. Imagine perfect multithreading. Basically, it’s a moot point.
But even if separate personal Soul existed, all we are left with would be some kind of “blob” of consciousness, which Soul inevitably must be (and in a very loose sense during one’s life it indeed appears to be, or as Bernardo Kastrup explains— universal consciousness has dissociative identity disorder), because everything else is body and mind.
In other words — however you look at it, consciousness is all that could ever remain after death. But consciousness does not think, it does not remember, and of course it cannot sense, and so on. Therefore it’s obvious that personal life after death and reincarnation are simply not possible².
But as I said, if I was asked today, I would say that consciousness (for a lack of better word, although during history people called it God, Brahman, Buddha nature, etc.) is that from which everything originates. So, that from which I (as a distinct person) derive my sense of “I-ness” will always exist (even if as a potential). And this is true for every “I”, yours included.
It is therefore naive to waste whole life waiting for some imaginary Heaven.
It is right here and now.
¹ Even if this was indeed the case, it would not preclude consciousness to be the “primary constituent of the universe”.
² Bible, too, speaks about God of the living, not dead, or Living God. Is it just a funny coincidence? I don’t think so.