As a woman looking at (sadly, through a rear-view mirror) I have recently researched and mused on this - for THOUSANDS of hours. And one thing immediately became apparent; the passages, blind alleys and rabbit holes I was going down had been trod before - MANY times, over thousands of YEARS.
Could I REALLY work out something that had defeated wiser men or women for a millennia?
Well, there is one small advantage - these days, SCIENCE HAS ADVANCED.
Now given that Science is almost useless in this area - requiring DATA, of which there is zilch available - you could be forgiven for thinking this would avail me little. But at least it enabled me to reject the FIRST bogus belief. Reincarnation.
I had reluctantly begun to accept the possibility that Reincarnation might be a thing, due to it explaining how PERSONALITY is displayed in high-functioning baby animals (puppies, kittens) that have clearly been subjected to identical conditioning and upbringing.
A scant month in and the inquisitive one, the bold one, the timid one, the drama queen and the affectionate one (take THAT one) all emerge.
I already knew that INSTINCT (fight or flight, avoidance of danger and suchlike) had been explained as "race memories" (nowadays known as "genetic memories") acquired by Mankind through Evolution.
But it seemed only "past lives" could account for those "hard-wired" personality traits - until I discovered something that blew the lid off all that.
The Human Genome was finally "mapped" in 2003. However, this only spelled the BEGINNING of a project that will take DECADES; identifying what the many thousands of "base pairs" actually DO.
Initially, interest centered on traits like people's sex, sexual orientation, color of eyes, skin and hair, size, shape and so on. Then inherited diseases, like porphyria, certain cancers, etc.
But very recently, no less than FIVE MAJOR PERSONALITY TRAITS have been discovered in these strands.
And this makes sense; a couple producing a bunch of kids who are all jocks - or nerds - or creatives - or traffic wardens - makes NO sense. DIVERSITY is the key to survival.
So bang went Reincarnation. And a good thing too. It is clearly BULLSHIT, dependent as it is on dreams, visions and the hokey art of "regressive hypnosis".
"I was Cleopatra's handmaiden." "Really? Say something in ancient Egyptian." "Huh?" "Okay, what did she look like? Anything like the young Liz Taylor?"
You get the picture.
Also, Science - and just plain COMMONSENSE - quickly deals with Religion and Spiritualism as well.
Heaven and Hell (Nirvana, Shangri-La and The Pit, Hades - whatever) are clearly the products of stories that were invented by religious leaders to keep "god-fearing" men on the straight and narrow, in the absence of effective policing.
Living Under Their Own Recognizance, using Carrot And Stick.
But take the concept literally and it immediately falls apart. The idea the entire human race can be divided into Good and Bad People (everyone considers themselves good, subjectively) like the players in a weekend golf tournament ("The Cut") is farcical.
In fact, NOTHING about religion stands up to close scrutiny - just look at its HISTORY.
And Spiritualism fares no better. Becoming popular in the late Victorian Era, this con trick was practiced by failed magicians who used stage magic and mentalism techniques, cold reading and early scientific technology (electricity and drugs) to part the rich, recently-bereaved from their money.
"For ten dollars, you can speak to George." "Money is no object - I'll give you a hundred dollars." "Madam, for a hundred, you will speak to George - while I drink this glass of WATER."
Again, you get the picture.
So what DID I learn from my research and musings? Well, a lot more than I expected.
However, at this point Science began to fail me. It is fine for answering questions that begin with "where", "when", "who", "what" or "how" - but USELESS at ones that start with "why".
And without that all-important data, it COLLAPSES. I needed something else.
Philosophy is just navel-gazing and theories. Mostly from long ago.
But I realized that Science had a Poor Brother - LOGIC. Allied with Instinct, this might just shed more light on the subject. But I still needed as many FACTS as I could assemble.
And those came from an unexpected direction; the 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey".
The star of this epic is a computer named HAL 9000. Its writer, Arthur C. Clarke, had a grounding in Science and while his predictions all failed to come through, most were due to social and economic reasons - NOT SCIENCE.
For instance, the myriad TV channels are COMMERCIAL.
And the giant, revolving space hotel is merely an international shanty-town.
Then there is - or WAS - Bell and Pan Am.
But one item that had NO shortage of finance - or political, military and commercial will - was Artificial Intelligence which, while not directly referred to in the film, were clearly present in HAL 9000.
And Science has now had FIFTY YEARS to replicate Intelligence - or even FIND it, in the human brain - but so far, has dismally FAILED to do so.
So FORGET about it finding or replicating CONSCIOUSNESS.
Of course, companies routinely talk about AI as if it EXISTED - the Roomba, Siri, et al. But they are SALESMEN. The Roomba has a dedicated computer which enables it to "map" a room and go to its charging point when its battery runs low - and Siri merely connects people to the Inter-web via a speech recognition programme, a speech synthesizer and various computer protocols.
My DOG is more intelligent than Siri.
And various organisations have PRIZE MONEY awaiting anyone who proves they have achieved REAL Machine Intelligence. It goes unclaimed.
Thus I began to wonder WHY Science had failed in this endeavor - and so, using Logic, here is what I came up with...
I BELIEVE that while our operating system, programmes and memory (that which Science CAN duplicate in a computer) are firmly rooted in our Physical Brain - our Upper Brain, with its consciousness and intelligence, is ELSEWHERE.
So when our heart stops pumping oxygenated blood to our brain, causing our neurons to stop firing, our synapses to whither and our engrams to decay - and we DIE - the Upper Brain PREVAILS.
Well, everything our Five Major Senses - and twenty-odd MINOR ones - plus our technology - can detect, I call the CONTINUUM. Which makes the location of our Upper Brain the EXO-CONTINUUM (you can call them the Cosmos and Exo-Cosmos, the Universe and Exo-Universe - it matters not - these are just names).
The point is that when we peg out, our Upper Brain should live on - although probably without our MEMORIES of This Place (which is just as well - no-one wants to spend Eternity mithering about the things they should and should not have done Here) since they are contained in the engrams of our Physical Brain.
But where will it end up? Another dimension? Another planet? Perhaps even another Continuum?
And what IS the Exo-continuum?
And hey, while we are at it - what is the Secret/Purpose/Meaning Of Life?
Oh, and what exactly is TIME?
At this point, Logic joins Science in having NO ANSWERS.
And nor does anyone else. A person who has "crossed over" (to use a spiritualist expression) can NOT return here to tell us anything, since their VESSEL IS GONE; slowly decomposing or quickly burning up (I prefer the latter).
However, it is reasonable to hope all the answers will become apparent after we expire. And it is certain there will be no angry deity there, waiting to "judge" us.
Evolution answers most questions about the Continuum - so why not the Exo-Continuum too?
But supposing I am WRONG (it could happen) and all that awaits us after death IS darkness and silence?
This is where an Original (to ME) Thought on this matter came in. Logic and Science say - in the absence of contradictory data - that consciousness dies with our bodies. And that anything in addition to the Universe is illogical.
But then, is an Exo-Continuum any MORE illogical than the CONTINUUM?
Surely THAT should be darkness and silence too? And yet - here we all are.
I am writing this and you are reading it - at a later point in time. This is real. So why not Another Place? Right now, we are tethered to our Physical Brain and body in this Continuum. But when that tether lets go, we will "return" (we never left) to the Exo-Continuum, our consciousness and intelligence - our Soul, if you like - intact.
Then we go on...SOMEWHERE.
My Instinct says our chances of survival are favorable - but let us not hurry to reach the Next Place. First, we need to get everything we can from THIS Place.
Learn all we can. Experience all we can. Achieve all we can.
That way, if this IS All There Is - at least our time HERE will have MEANT something.
SIDE NOTE (ADDITIONAL QUANTIFIER):
Human beings have been “passing on” for many, many thousands of years without the benefit of “science”. Yet, they managed to do this without any “scientific proof” of the outcome. Some of them have even done it with a very peaceful attitude about what may happen to them.
Science is completely based upon theories and the testing of them through measurements which are made by means of physical instruments. My assertion is that any dimension which is above the physical cannot be measured and therefore cannot be proven by means of physical measurements. The nearest that we can come to proof are OBE’s (out of body experiences) and NDE’s (near death experiences) which have been experience by many people.
Yet, there is another kind of human experience which you may not be familiar with. This is introduced in a book named, “Life before Life”, by Jim Tucker, M.D. and Ian Stevenson. They are associated with the University of Virginia in an on-going scientific study.
This is a very scientifically controlled study of children who remembered their past life and were reincarnated within a very short time. The advantage was that they were reported within a short time span of their reincarnation and were often reported within third-world countries in which there had been no contact between the child’s previous life’s friends/relatives and his present family. This gives the investigator the advantage of corroborating the memories of the people/ events of his past life with the people who were still alive from his past life.
The past life of the child was in a city or country setting in which no communication had occurred during the period between his past and his present life that would contaminate his story. The remembrance of a previous life of a child usually disappears by the age of six of seven due to the strong influence of the culture in which he is raised.
The other comment which I wish to make is that what is called, “death” is the most subjective and intimate experience of a person’s life. It is not a “social” event. It will never be something that science can solve.
Your conception and birth were your first social events, which blossomed out from there into a greater sociability. Your “death” is something that, you have to adjust to and deal with alone. Your attitude and faith are essential to a peaceful and pleasant” passing over”.
This is the most subjective experience that you will ever have. It can be the greatest culmination of all the experiences of your life! The essence of all the positive things that you have done in your life will come into you to help you pass over into a higher dimension.
Yes, I believe that there will be loved ones who have passed beyond who will help you at that point. But, the significant point is that it will help you very much if you have faith that you are opening to a greater life beyond the physical.