Getting Answers: does our soul survive bodily death?
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - What happens when we die? Does our soul survive bodily death? Scientists and experts point to evidence that death is not the end and that our soul lives on connecting with loved ones who have passed on.
Peter Panagore knew that he was in trouble. In British Columbia, on a treacherous ice climb with a friend, things went downhill quickly.
“When we got to the top, the sun went down and the temperature dropped to 30 degrees in an instant and the darkness fell. We were in a desperate situation and we knew we were going to die there,” Panagore explained.
Panagore developed hypothermia and things got even more dicey when his rope snagged on a rock pinning him in. Things were looking bleak. The UMass grad remembers the moment in 1980 like it was yesterday. What happened next would change his life forever.
First, darkness surrounded him, then, as Panagore explained, “Way far in the distance, a pin prick of light poked through the darkness. This illumination was brilliantly tiny and brilliantly illuminative, and it rushed toward me past this vast distance at an incredible rate of speed…I knew I was in the presence of what we call God, but it had no gender, it had no religion. It only was love and it filled me and showed me myself. It showed me my human self, it showed me the life I had just lived,”
Panagore experienced what researchers call a near-death experience, which Dr. Jeffrey Long, who studies these experiences, described as a lucid experience occurring at the time of a severe life-threatening event. He founded the Near-Death Research Foundation in 1988 and said there is evidence proving these experiences are real.
“In my 20 years of research, I have investigated over 4,000 [near-death experiences] and there are multiple lines of evidence verging on the understanding that NDEs are, in a word, real, along with their consistent message that our consciousness survives bodily death and that there is an afterlife,” Long explained.
He told Western Mass News people across all cultures and religions report similar experiences of NDEs - seeing loved ones that have passed on, having a life review, and also being in the presence of a spiritual entity that encompasses them in love - but could these near-death experiences be simply hallucinations or the loss of oxygen to the brain? Experts and doctors studying these experiences said they are medically inexplicable.
“At a time when people’s brains are seriously impaired, whether they are under anesthesia or they are in a cardiac arrest and they can’t be given full brain function, they have what they describe as the most vivid experience of their lives. Their thinking is faster and clearer than ever. Their perceptions are extremely vivid and we have no physiological explanation for how this can be,” said Dr. Bruce Greyson, professor emeritus of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Greyson has been studying NDEs for 45 years and said the argument that NDEs are due to lack of oxygen to the brain is contradictory because those with NDEs have better oxygen supply to the brain. Also, what about drugs influencing these experiences?
“Similarly, people who are given drugs as they are approaching death tend to have fewer NDEs and less elaborate ones, so it’s not that either. You test one hypothesis after another and you find the data do not bare them out,” Greyson noted.
How long have we pondered the mystery of what happens to us when we die? People have shared such experiences in ancient Greece, since eighth century BC, according to Debbie Felton, professor of classics at UMass Amherst.
“There was no consistent viewpoint, but on what happens to you when you die and whether you have a soul that survives or not, but the beliefs varied in antiquity as they do now. A lot of different beliefs and there were also people who thought that’s it that after you die you were in a state like before you were born,” Felton said.
While Felton said her research does not include NDEs, as we see today, “we do have descriptions of people who apparently were dead and came back to life.”
All these experiences have one common theme to this day.
“What they all have common is they want to believe in an afterlife because how our can our consciousness, how can we with our egos conceive of the idea of not existing for eternity? It’s horrifying if you dwell on it too much,” Felton noted.
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