A century of debate for and against survival
Consciousness and the death of physical body
The human condition involves in the living persons the consciousness of having to die, and so sooner or later we ask ourselves some questions about what will happen to our conscious Ego after the death of our body. There is no doubt that death marks the end of all those complex and highly organized activities that we have considered in the section on life. Depending on her/his psychic orientation, each one forms an idea of what might be the experiences she/he will encounter after death, provided that she/he can continue to have a consciousness able to record some form of continuity with the earthy existence experimented by the Ego. Exceptions are those who believe that the conscious Ego can not continue to exist after death. In this case one can not even speak of a condition of being dead as opposed to being alive, since at the time of death, or even before (if one enters a state of coma), with the loss of consciousness it will be missing every faculty of perceiving and therefore of existing and recording the existence or non existence of anything, including the Ego.
The efforts to know what will happen after our death
However, as we have repeatedly observed, what we believe depends on what is suggested by our psychic orientation as a result of those particular tunings of the human psyche that determine and condition our way of being in this life. In the hope of reaching a form of trustworthy and secure knowledge of the destiny that awaits us after death, many researchers have conducted systematic and thorough investigations of everything that could have a connection with the state of post mortem existence. Some of these researches have already been mentioned in the sections on mediumistic phenomena and psychical research, so in the pages of this section will be evaluated the results of more than a century of investigations, studies and debates, to see what conclusions can be drawn from them.
Involvement of the conscious Ego in the human psychic experiences
There is, however, an important premise that should not be forgotten: the condition of earthly life binds us all to the human psyche, except for some rare exceptions represented by those human beings who are defined as enlightened or awakened in life, whose Ego seems to exist in a separate dimension, indifferent to the condition in which the body is. In the sphere of the human psyche there can happen practically everything, and every particular tuning is contrasted – for good and evil – by its opposite, which perhaps does not involve our Ego, but certainly that of other human beings whose psychic orientation results to be very different from ours. In this condition, which we may consider a sort of subjection to the instances of the psyche, one of the commands we are more concerned with is the survival of the body, which permeates our entire social culture by exorcising, removing and rejecting death as something ill-omened. It is important not to forget that death is an event that affects us all indiscriminately, for the mere fact that we were born, and therefore it can also arouse some legitimate curiosity and some interest.
One also may wonder why the current socio-cultural programs that affect our mind insist so much on the value of life and the importance of its lenghthening (even forced). It is true that a life consciously lived in all stages, from childhood to old age, is a more complete experience than a traumatic interrupted life, but there are exceptions represented by risk research or voluntary suicide: it is commonly believed that suicide is caused by distressing or desperate life conditions that activate psychic tunings aimed to body destruction, and in many cases this is certainly the case, but there are also forms of suicide that may be considered as a voluntary and logical conclusion of life (as the Stoics did), or that are experienced as a release from a demeaning life condition due to the limits of the body. One might ask, in any case, what real value can have for the conscious Ego a life that is still conditioned by psychic forces whose purposes are out of our reach.
Painful conditions that may precede death
Moreover, beyond the event of death – which in itself constitutes an episode, if not instant, however quick enough – for many people the end of life is preceded by a more or less long period of psychophysical decline, not rarely associated with various types of suffering due to old age itself or terminal illness. These are unrelenting and painful experiences not only for those who live them in first person, but also for those who are involved by affective bonds. Under such conditions, the prolongation of a condition that is artificially considered vital, with the sole purpose of delaying as far as possible an event that in any case will have to occur, is symptomatic of the low level of psychic evolution that determines the current sociocultural constraints. Often, in fact, the extension of a person's life and suffering is not carried out in accordance with her/his will and desires, but is imposed in compliance with social purposes that remain for us obscure.
Saying so is not meant to present or defend a devaluation of the experience of human life: such a position would represent only a negative psychic tuning, to which one could easily oppose others that emphasize the many positive, interesting and even rewarding aspects of life. It seems to me, however, more important to highlight how, in experiencing those particular psychic nuclei that represent the quintessence of our inner life, each one of us performs a sort of assignment given to him/her by destiny, obeying the commands he receives through the most direct and efficient device: his own mind. Within this system, as the life of every human being proceeds, it is possible to experience moments of joy and happiness, to which usually others alternate of pain or sorrow, but it seems rather evident how, in the wide range of psychic experiences in which we all are involved, the negative ones are widespread, if not predominant. For this reason, to a moment of happiness I experience, I can always oppose a moment of unhappiness or distress lived by another person: this fact alone is sufficient to ask themselves some questions about the meaning of life.
What is the meaning of life?
To assume that our task as human beings is to transform the psyche's mostly negative experiences into positive ones, the fact remains that all human history has been deeply and chaotically marked by the negative components, so that, in the current state, we might also wonder if the psychic phenomenon is not ambivalent and conflicting by its nature itself (a concept that has been well-assimilated within some cultures). It follows that every human creature would be destined to play its role on the stage of life, for good and evil, for the mere fact of coming to the world. So, at the very moment when the conscious experience of a person would be missing at all with death, nothing and no one would be able to provide an explanation or justification for the reasons he/she lived, for the purposes of the general order of things in the physical world and for the dynamics of the psychic phenomenon. This would reduce us human beings to the role of automatons, employees forced to live in the day, working and fulfilling our tasks in accordance with the programs and commands received from outside and inside, until death comes. Throughout our livfe we may be more or less lucky, more or less happy, more or less skillful, more or less admired or gratified, but all this would be just the consequence of our destiny within a system that – not expecting any continuation of the existence of the conscious and intelligent Ego over this life – would never give us any information and no knowledge of the purpose of our life, beyond the role played in the social sphere.
An important value judgment
Since this life takes place over time, any psychic experience corresponding to a certain event, however memorable, meaningful, exciting, or inebriating it may be, is destined with time to fade into memory, provided that the mental tools that make memory possible continue to function satisfactorily. And since with death, in any case, the operating system par excellence, that is the brain, is no longer working, the only trace that would remain of us would be the one stored in the memory of those who survive: from the point of view of the conscious Ego and intelligence this seems to me a rather unsatisfactory prospect. So, even before asking whether the survival of consciousness to death is possible or not, one should question what our judgment of value should be about the human condition experienced in this life by the conscious Ego. Although it seems clear to me that the forces that determine the phenomena of life and psyche are of a order of magnitude far superior to the weak resources we have, this does not imply that the conscious Ego must remain passively and acritically subject to those forces, thus recognizing and endorsing their power.
Our true home
It is true that we are unduly subjected and enthralled, through the body and its needs, to the demands and commands we receive, and it is also true that we are sensitive to the flatteries, illusions and rewards offered by the psyche in form of emotions and joys (not rarely dearly paid), so as to involve and effectively enmesh us in the dynamics of life. But without having to rebel through some form of body destruction, we are also free to live our lives by preparing ourselves for a different dimension, more congenial to the needs of freedom, creativity, sympathy and love relevant to the conscious Ego, needs which during this life are largely disappointed. For this reason the survival of bodily death by our consciousness and our intelligence can be considered first of all as the manifestation of a right, the need to be able to go to our true home after a journey (interesting and fascinating, but certainly tiring and not rarely distressing) in a foreign land. It is therefore possible to face death as the access to a dimension in which the meaning of the universe and of our existence – which in this life has been darkened – rather than being disclosed or taught, becomes manifestly evident in the context of a true direct knowledge, and all existing creatures are interconnected in a more harmonious system, permeated with intelligence and love. Any other attitude would be for the conscious Ego a passive, consensual and powerless recognition of our wretched human condition as servants or automatons.