Image source – Pixabay
There is hardly anyone who is not afraid of death. The reason for this is that death is the end of life and existence. All that we enjoyed in this world, the precious moments we spent, our dear ones, our experiences, our memories – they all come to an end with death. Traditionally, science has viewed death as the end of life. According to science, as long as the brain functions and the heartbeats, life exists. The moment the heart ceases and the brain function stops, a person is dead and that’s the end of his life.
Most religions have always stated that death is not the end. Spiritualists have always been of the opinion that life in the body is not located in the cells. They believe that life is because of the soul or the spirit. When a person is born, a spirit enters the body. As long as the spirit remains, the person is a living being. When the spirit leaves the body, life ends. Hinduism and Buddhism state that the body is merely a shell, it is the spirit that defines the individual. A question that would have come to your mind is what happens to the spirit after death?
Does the spirit die after death? Is it extinguished? Does it survive as a ghost or lost soul? Is it reincarnated into another being? How long will a spirit continue to exist in the universe? All these questions come up when you try to answer the question of what happens to the spirit after death? Let’s try to understand the answer to this question from the point of view of spirituality, religion, and science.
What does science say?
Image source – Pixabay
Most scientists mock at spiritualists and religious beliefs claiming that there is no evidence to support their views. Scientists have always believed that there is nothing called the spirit. They say that life exists because of the functioning of the body. However, there have been many studies carried out that have led scientists to rethink their views. Science now is throwing up answers to the question what happens to the spirit after death?
Some scientists have studied experiences known as ‘Near death experience’ or NDE. A well-known scientist who has done remarkable work in this area is Dr. Sam Parnia (who was recently featured in a Netflix show ‘The Story of God’). According to Dr. Parnia, the spirit or human consciousness can exist without the human body. Dr. Parnia has made a detailed study of more than 100 patients who suffered a major cardiac arrest and were believed to be dead. They recovered and were brought back to life. Many of them narrated their experiences when they were believed to be dead, which made Dr. Parnia carry out a detailed study.
The experiences of these people are referred to as NDEs. Common features of NDEs are:
- They experienced being out of their body and seeing their own body lying on the bed.
- They were able to visualize things happening in the hospital room and even hear what the doctors were saying. Some of them were able to quote it later.
- Some people experienced floating in the air and were able to see things outside, which were verified to be correct later.
- They saw a white light summoning them and felt a sense of peace.
- Most people had a life review where they saw their entire life move before their eyes.
- They came into contact with an ethereal being who told them that they still had more to do in their life.
- This was followed by waking up to life on the hospital bed surprising the doctor who thought it was all over.
These studies have been carried out by other doctors and scientists. They believe that consciousness or the spirit is different from the body. Even if the body dies, the spirit can exist.
Reincarnation is another belief in some religions that science scoffs at. There have been studies in this area too. Dr. Ian Stevenson is a well-known researcher who believes in reincarnation, which is the spirit taking birth again in another body. The summary of his study is that:
Children have the ability to recollect their past life by the age of 5. They can narrate incidents from the past life.
Dr. Stevenson verified many of these incidents and found them to be true.
The reincarnated persons have birthmarks that seem to be related to the way they died in their previous lives.
There have even been instances of a child identifying who murdered him/her in the past life and even reuniting with the previous family.
All these studies have led Dr. Stevenson and other researchers to believe that the answer to the question what happens to the spirit after death is that the spirit comes back to the world after being reborn. The memories of past lives can exist and sometimes are revealed. Spirits undergo a cycle of birth and death going through various incarnations and now there are studies to justify this.
What does religion say?
Christianity and Islam believe in the principle of judgment day. According to them, the person remains in a state of sleep or suspension until the day of judgment. That is the day when God judges their actions on earth. God then rewards them by sending them to heaven or punishes them by casting them off into the darkness of hell. Catholics believe in the concept of purgatory, where the spirit stays after death to undergo purification. When the living pray for the dead, it helps cleanse the spirit and they can be resurrected, if God wishes. Protestants do not believe in this intermediate stage but believe in resurrection.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the spirit leaves the body after death and stays in the underworld (the abode of Hades). Heaven was the final destination for pure spirits whereas the evil spirits were sent to hell. Judaism has similar beliefs of the spirit being judged after death. Based on the judgement, the spirit ends up in the world to come. Hell or Gehenna is believed to be a place for purification of the spirit.
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism believe in the concept of reincarnation. According to these religions, the moment a person dies, the spirit leaves the body and is judged based on actions done on the world (referred to as Karma). Those spirits with positive karma get to spend time in heaven before they are reborn and lead a happier life that before. Those with negative karma go to hell to suffer from their sins, and they need to suffer even in the next life. The objective of life is to keep gaining positive karma until reincarnation is no longer required. The spirit would then stay in heaven forever. A spirit’s ultimate aim is. Heo lose its existence and merge with God (known as Mukti or salvation).
The thoughts of Spiritualism
Spiritualism refers to a belief that spirits exists outside the body. It believes in the concept that it is possible to communicate with a spirit through a medium or through other sources. One of the key proponents of spiritualism was Edgar Cayce. He said that there were nine realms or abodes in the spirit world, which is also referred to as the afterlife. When a person dies, the spirit moves to different levels. He compared the nine realms to the nine planets in our solar system.
Other spiritualists state that there are seven realms. Their philosophy is similar to that of the concept of Karma. According to them based on the experiences in life, the spirit evolves. A person who lives a spiritual life of goodness without evil would be able to evolve faster. An evolved spirit can move to higher realms easily. The spirit with no evolution remains at the first level, which is hell. The final level is synonymous with the Hindu concept of Mukti, where the spirit becomes one with the Universe.
So according to spiritualism, the answer to the question what happens to the spirit after death is that it moves through various realms. This movement depends on life experiences. It continues until it reaches the destination, which is a merger with the supreme spirit or the Universe.
The New Age movement
According to those who believe in the new age movement, death is a door that takes a spirit out of the human body and moves it to the next life. The New Age concept is similar to that of Hinduism and believes that a spirit is reborn again and again until its spiritual needs are fulfilled. Once this is done, the spirit develops to the highest extent after which it becomes one with the supreme consciousness.
To sum up, the answer to the question what happens to the spirit after death is that the spirit exists outside the body and can take a new form and a new life. The progress of the spirit depends on what happens during its life on Earth.