According to James Van Praagh, author of many books on communication with the dead and the inspiration behind the Ghost Whisperer TV show, we carry our old beliefs and habits with us after we die. This allegedly applies both to earthbound spirits and those that have progressed into the light, which is to say they moved onto higher planes of existence. This is discouraging news for anyone who expects to receive some answers after death or at least free ourselves of the stupid habits, phobias, and quirks we have accumulated over a lifetime.
When I die, I expect to be brought into a briefing room of sorts where some experienced soul will explain everything about life, the universe, and everything. With all eternity to look forward to, there must be plenty of time and opportunity for learning, no? I especially want to know how quantum theory really works and if string theory is the bunch of crap I think it is. I can’t imagine a heaven where there is nothing to do other than to float around worshiping some all-knowing deity who doesn’t want to share the secrets of the universe with the rest of us.
Can we really stay just as ignorant after death even after we shed our earthly influences? One would think that we would at least suddenly remember what happened during many past lives and be able to benefit from many diverse experiences, resulting in a sudden “aha” moment of truth! If we are able to read thoughts, then we would instantly know what everyone else thinks about us and they would know all the embarrassing things we did in the past. Everything would have to change. How could we not know more or be smarter, wiser and more accepting of others?
I was really hoping to be present to watch as some ignorant jackasses die and finally realize what how stupid they have been all their lives. That would be an even better reward than 77 virgins. I could just sit there, sipping whatever a soul of pure energy needs for sustenance, watching the newly dead arrive, blushing and embarrassed at their own ignorance and asking for my forgiveness (as if I’m qualified to offer it). Doesn’t everybody long to hear someone they know acknowledge that you were right all along? Doesn’t everyone really want to say “I told you so?” Of course, I’d have to carry my pride and personal grudges with me after death for this to be the case. And if that were so, then there is a good chance that I’d have to put up with some other pompous ass I couldn’t stand who was likewise waiting for me to show up so he could display his superior intellect or maturity.
Somehow, it just doesn’t sound likely and this isn’t how near death experiences are described. All we hear about is that people we loved come to meet us and lovingly help us move into the light. If these people were still the same imperfect creatures they were when they were alive, then dying would be a pretty embarrassing and uncomfortable situation for the newly dead. Since it isn’t described in that way, then we can’t possibly stay the same. Either we all suddenly learn from our mistakes and use that to transform into loving, sympathetic, empathetic creatures, or we continue to be the same ignorant fools we’ve always been. If we are still fools, we somehow must be kept isolated from all the other ignorant fools. If we were not kept isolated, these others would probably make our life after death pretty much the same as life before death.
If we remain basically the same, then what is the point of reincarnation in the first place? I thought the idea was to progress through diverse experiences. According to Mr. Van Praagh, nobody is there to judge you except yourself. In some cases, he describes the process by which souls review their life in order to learn lessons and prepare for the next life. Others may be there to help and encourage you, but it is essentially up to you to figure things out. This sounds a lot like life as we know it now. I think we call it therapy, or sometimes an intervention.
Can we read each other’s thoughts after death? If so, how could there be any form of games or competition if everyone had total access to the thoughts of others? Is paradise devoid of games and fun? Is it devoid of sarcasm and the kind of humor that often comes from poking fun at others, which is usually the best kind? Are extraterrestrials telepathic? If so, we could ask them what they do for fun other than experimenting on humans and cows. Maybe they are already dead, which is why it is so hard to catch one of them.
Does everyone who goes to heaven get a mansion, as suggested in Ricky Gervais’ movie The Invention of Lying? It sounds reasonable if we have to exist somewhere for all eternity. Of course, it wouldn’t be a real mansion. It would probably be a virtual one that we imagine and create ourselves. If I were a being of energy who could build a virtual mansion or an entire world using only mind and energy, without having to worry about the law of gravity or limitations of space-time, my home would probably be pretty outrageous and constantly changing. I might live in a spherical, gravity-free house with no ceilings or doors and would teleport from room to room. The sun would permeate it from the inside or through windows all around. My garden would have snow fountains and chocolate covered strawberry trees.
Of course, if my home was so unusual that it scared everyone else away, I might have to moderate my designs to accommodate the tastes of others. But compromise and trendiness are traits we already exhibit too much of in our daily lives. Do we have to conform with everyone else even after we are dead?
In a virtual world, people should be able to visit each other’s virtual homes and, when they see something they like, be able to copy it. So, we would all end up becoming collectors of the ideas and designs of others. Would this become a form of competition? If so, would there be some kind of intellectual property rights that would guarantee us at least some form of credit for our creations? Would we care? If we don’t care what others think, what would drive us to create in the first place instead of just keeping it tucked inside our own thoughts, assuming that privacy is even possible? Do we all have to share everything after we die, including our thoughts? Would it drive us crazy? Would it turn us all into an interconnected selfless mass of souls connected for all eternity like the Borg Collective from Star Trek? Maybe we should try this all out in a virtual computer game before we die, so we can set our expectations and avoid excessive shock.
On the other hand, if everything is mind and energy, wouldn’t we be able to create our own visions on top of everyone else’s? For instance, if my wife were to decorate our virtual home with her favorite art and nick knacks, couldn’t I simply visualize a totally different form of art on the walls and a room stocked with my favorite things? When I walk into a room, I would want my wife’s decorative pillows to vanish from the couch or the bed or the chair or wherever else she decided to stick her ubiquitous, color-coordinated piles of fringy fluff. Since objects would be nothing more than creations of mind or energy rather than matter, nothing would be permanent and could be perceived differently by everyone. I think this kind of virtual reality is what Google Glass and Facebook’s Oculus Rift will eventually be able to do here on Earth, so maybe we’ll figure out how well this works soon enough.
For that matter, she might visualize herself differently from the way I visualize her. And the words I speak or think could be translated differently so that she hears what she wants to hear instead of the inappropriate babble that is likely to come out of my mouth or brain. She might perceive herself in her favorite stylish J. Crew clothes while I mentally picture her in her sexiest underwear or swimsuit. Of course, she would know it once she read my mind, but would she care? Would I even care without hormones and a body that is able to get sexually excited? Would we all want to dress in drab blue Mao clothes or Men-in-Black suits just to avoid bringing up any memories of the hot sex we are no longer able to enjoy? Or would sex become something that is based purely on mental stimulation? Wouldn’t it be ironic if we could now read the minds of our lovers and know exactly what they want, how they want it, where they want it, when they want it, and be able to materialize in any physical form desirable with any kinds of toys imaginable, yet be unable to act upon our desires!
The more I think about it, heaven or life after death sounds less like paradise and more like the candy store from hell–it looks good, but you can’t touch the merchandise or do anything fun! I think I would prefer Earth with virtual reality technology. After I die, I think I will have to make a special request: send me back to Earth again, pleeease!