Instead of being unknowable, perhaps the afterlife is something we haven’t looked at hard enough. And if so, why not?
For one thing, the mind is addicted to repetition. We pursue the same desires today that we had yesterday. Even our thoughts today are generally about 90 percent the same as the thoughts we had yesterday, according to some studies. Habit rules our actions; a fixed roster of likes and dislikes governs our taste.
On the positive side, psychologists point out that the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain motivate us every day, and generally to good effect. We’re reassured by what we know.
At the same time that is reassures us, repetition has a deadening effect. By keeping out what’s new, it forces reality into the strait-jacket of the old. Each of us lives behind a wall, beyond which lies the infinite potential of the unknown. Only the smallest gates are built into the wall, and we stand guard at these, allowing one experience to enter but excluding another, calling this experience good and that one evil. As long as we keep on taking in reality so selectively, freedom is a remote possibility.
In this regard, death is a great gift, because it throws open all the doors and windows. Dying forces us outside the wall. Instead of seeing the familiar things we’ve assiduously collected and labeled as reality, we must start over.
Whatever our dream is right now, that dream continues. Consciousness is tied by thousands of threads to old memories, habits, preferences, and relationships.
Who are you? You have to know where you are right now, in order to know where you will be tomorrow, and the afterlife is just a special kind of tomorrow.
Adapted from Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).