• simmerdown
    19
    I've been reading about a theory from Dr. Bryan Ehlmann which supports a "natural afterlife." Basically, he suggests that if non-existence follows after death, then we will be forever locked in a state of experience comprising of our very last moment. He uses the following thought experiment:

    "You’re totally engrossed in watching an extremely exhilarating movie. Then, without knowing, you unexpectedly, without any perceived drowsiness, fall asleep. For you the movie has been unknowingly paused, while in reality (that for others) it continues on. Until you wake up, you still believe you’re watching that movie."

    He suggests that because we will never perceive any indication that our consciousness has ceased when we die, we will continue this final state of consciousness forever and that in this state, time will become infinite.

    I'm not doing the best job at articulating it, but one of his papers on the topic can be downloaded here:

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320552180_The_Theory_of_a_Natural_Eternal_Consciousness_The_Psychological_Basis_for_a_Natural_Afterlife

    Some of my thoughts on the topic:

    - There will no longer be a self to consciously experience this last moment, so how can it be that this moment will continue forever?
    - How specific is this static moment? Is it an everlasting experience of the second before we die? A millisecond? This quickly becomes an irrational thing to discuss.
    - What if we die in some horrible way and are suffering until our last moments? (e.g., burned alive, suffocation, etc.) If we take this theory seriously, then that provides some pretty daunting implications. An eternity of extreme pain locked into a single moment? Yikes.

    Overall, I don't know what to think about the plausibility of this theory. It makes sense to me that without a transferred state to let me know that I am no longer conscious, then from my point of view, I won't know that my final moment of consciousness has ended. But as mentioned, how can consciousness exist without an entity to experience it?

    What do you guys think?
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    I don't know. There's a difference between pause and stop in movies right? The former allows for resuming experience which death doesn't allow. I think death is final - a stop.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    For you the movie has been unknowingly paused, while in reality (that for others) it continues on. Until you wake up, you still believe you’re watching that movie.simmerdown

    I would not believe anything, because I am asleep. That consciousness has been abruptly suspended does not mean the experience immediately preceding this interrupt is itself somehow suspended indefinitely. It just ends.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    What if it is true? What implications follow from it?

    Antinatalists would be jumping with ''joy''!
  • Fumani
    42
    I speak about this issue immensely in my book https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NRLRCRW/ref=dp_olp_1?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1DCQ50D8C66RY&coliid=I35N2QWQQLQQG9

    I follow Ludwig Wittgenstein's conceptions on what eternity is, basically timelessness.
  • wax
    301
    so in this frozen state, what actually would be experienced?
    If you died with a clock in the room, that clock wouldn't move.....seems as though there would be nothing to experience, no way to even think about anything.

    I think an argument for an actual afterlife, can be linked to the OP referenced idea in that you can't go from being conscious to being nothing;; there would be no continuity.
  • SophistiCat
    785
    What do you guys think?simmerdown

    At first glance this sounds really stupid. Considering that the author's previous article was published in a crackpot open-access "Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research," I'll save myself the effort of looking further into this.
  • simmerdown
    19
    so hypothetically, if you were in a prolonged state of suffering that would likely last for the rest of your life, do you think it would it be better to end your life?

    what does that lack of continuity say about nonexistence though? If we never continue out of existence, then would there not be any difference between existence and nonexistence from our standpoint? If that's the case, wouldn't that make existence some sort of experiential illusion that cannot be valued in any way?
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27

    I very much appreciate that you seem to be trying to grasp my theory instead of just readily dismissing it as ridiculous as is often done. I know it is way "outside the box" and requires much contemplation on one's part before it can be accepted. First, I will address your questions and then later reply to some of the comments of others.

    I am new to The Philosophy Forum and yesterday initiated my first discussion by posting a short essay. See A Natural (vs. Supernatural) Eternal Consciousness and Afterlife. The essay may help you and others better understand how a seemingly impossible natural eternal consciousness (NEC) is possible given a non-existent brain. I will reference this essay below and dialog further on the NEC as part of the above referenced discussion rather then here. I do this because I would like others to at least read the essay before they engage in a discussion of the NEC and I would like not to have the address the same questions and concerns in two different places.

    You first question: "There will no longer be a self to consciously experience this last moment, so how can it be that this moment will continue forever?"

    The sense of self is present in the last conscious moment. Then it is no more. BUT, this lost of self in never perceived by the dying person. The last conscious moment is experienced at a point of time t, and this experience can never be undone from the perspective of the dying person. It is irrelevant to the dying person that the moment will not continue forever, i.e., after t.

    Second set of questions: "How specific is this static moment? Is it an everlasting experience of the second before we die? A millisecond? This quickly becomes an irrational thing to discuss."

    Conscious moments are perceived approximately every 40-50 milliseconds. The duration is irrelevant since it is unchanging. It is deceptively everlasting, but again only from the perspective of the dying person, the second before brain death if it occurs before one second before such death. It is not, however, everlasting from the perspective of the living. I don't believe it is "an irrational thing to discuss" as long as we keep the two perspectives straight.

    Third question: "What if we die in some horrible way and are suffering until our last moments? ..."

    This is the common concern of many when first encountering the NEC theory, i.e., with Hypothesis 2 (see essay in the above referenced discussion). The article you and this discussion references states: "Will this perhaps terrifying moment become the NEC? Or will it, as often seen after recovery, have been graciously replaced via amnesia and a “rewind (◄◄)” to some prior present moment?". Also, a horrible last moment can be supplanted by a subsequent dream or NDE moment. Whether this is done by nature or a God is a question for philosophy and religion. For those who cling to Hypothesis 1 despite its uncertainty (see the essay), your question can (or should?) be seen in some respects as similar to the question "What if there is a Hell?"
  • emancipate
    117
    Conscious moments are perceived approximately every 40-50 millisecondsBryon Ehlmann

    Where did you get this from?
  • aporiap
    155
    Sleep is analogous enough and I feel it's clear from that you drift away at some point -- you are conscious of your final awake moment and then cease being conscious of anything. It's not like when you wake up you remember being in a state of suspended animation in your last moment conscious before sleep; you just wake up and either have no memory of the night or you remember being in a dream.
  • christian2017
    415


    this would fall in line with what some call a collective consciensce which is common in alot of religions. In some ways a collective consciense through out the universe makes sense to me or at the very least i believe it is a strong possibility. As to why believe this is highly plausible is that i think consciousness is a strange enough concept to that requires much more than basic mathematics and even physics to understand that i think that it would take a single person or set of people that studied the issue thousands of years to come up with a good solution to what causes consciousness. As to the OP i think that theory comes closer to the truth than what alot of people who call themselves educated happen to put out there.
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27


    Elliott, M. A., & Giersch, A. (2016). What happens in a moment. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(1905). DOI: doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01905.
  • BrianW
    785


    That theory is mainly about trying to figure out NDEs and such. Coz death isn't just about how/what a person perceives, it's also how/what they're perceived as. A person can alter their perception into various simulations of consciousness but how does a person alter everyone else's perception into simulating his/her death? Death is beyond a person's subjective report in consciousness, it has objective ramifications too, e.g., the dead body.
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27

    There's the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" and perhaps one shouldn't judge an article solely by its publisher. New ideas that challenge current orthodoxy, e.g., that the earth revolves around the sun, are at first widely and readily rejected, even ridiculed. Also, it doesn't help when the idea is hard to grasp, provocative, and put forward by someone not in the related discipline, here for the most part psychology.
  • frank
    2.8k
    But as mentioned, how can consciousness exist without an entity to experience it?simmerdown

    This has been the premise of more than one movie. Signs appear to the protagonist that something is wrong. Finally the dream collapses.

    But the idea of an unending dream is interesting.
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27

    So, when you are dreaming, at what point do you know that the dream is over and that you are no longer experiencing it? Answer: Not until you wake up. And if you've experienced general anesthesia, at what point do you know that you are not in the operating room being given the anesthesia? Answer: Not until you wake up (experiencing a new present moment). And if you never wake up?
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27

    But how do you know it ends?
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27
    The NED theory claims that death is a forever Pause relative to the dying person and a Stop relative to the living. Thus its relativistic nature.
  • aporiap
    155
    So, when you are dreaming, at what point do you know that the dream is over and that you are no longer experiencing it? Answer: Not until you wake up. And if you've experienced general anesthesia, at what point do you know that you are not in the operating room being given the anesthesia? Answer: Not until you wake up (experiencing a new present moment). And if you never wake up?
    Well I simply think you cease being conscious of anything -- there is no experience at all at a certain point. You never become aware or know of when exactly that happens, but it does happen. There's a difference between replaying or being stuck in a moment and having a final thing you're conscious of and just ceasing to be aware of it, without being aware that you became unaware of it. I'd imagine in the former case - [the eternal experience of the final moment case] -you would recall being in a moment for an extended period of time - would you agree with that?
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27
    You can't just "simply think" when it comes to grasping the NEC. :wink: You have to think deeply, putting and keeping yourself in the mind (i.e., within the perspective) of the dying person to the end.

    You state "I'd imagine in the former case - [the eternal experience of the final moment case] -you would recall being in a moment for an extended period of time - would you agree with that?" Absolutely not! Memory and recall is not necessary for the NEC because it is timeless. Such things are only applicable to the passage of time.

    You state: "there is no experience at all at a certain point. You never become aware or know of when exactly that happens, but it does happen." This is true from the perspective of the living but irrelevant from the perspective of the dying person. From this latter perspective, there is the awareness of an experience as represented by a final conscious moment and, though this moment is materially erased, it will never be psychologically erased because it's never replaced by another moment. Moreover, it can't be forgotten as that takes time, which for the dying person has unknowingly ceased.

    Think about it!
  • whollyrolling
    412


    There's no way to sensibly articulate this, so it's understandable that you were unable to. The "mind" is physical and requires certain physical parameters to be met in order to maintain consciousness. It requires physical stimuli and chemical and energetic processes, all dependent on living tissue, in order to be experienced.
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27
    I believe the brain is physical and the mind is a process that produces consciousness. Consciousness itself, however, is not physical and in regard to the natural eternal consciousness (NEC), does not have to be maintained. To "maintain" implies the passage of time. The NEC is timeless.
  • Joshs
    712
    The NEC is timeless.Bryon Ehlmann

    If there is no time, there is no change. If there is no change, there is no contrast. If there is no contrast, there is no presence. If there is no presence, there is no NEC.
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27

    "If there is no time, there is no change." True. "If there is no change, there is no contrast." True, at least there can be no contrast between two different states occurring at different times, say time t1 and t2. "If there is no contrast, there is no presence." False! There is still the presence of the state occurring at t1. "If there is no presence, ..." But there is a presence! Therefore, your conclusion does not follow.
  • ZhouBoTong
    305
    He suggests that because we will never perceive any indication that our consciousness has ceased when we die, we will continue this final state of consciousness forever and that in this state, time will become infinite.simmerdown

    Probably a crazy tangent but this reminds me of the idea in physics that we can never see an object cross the event horizon. This ends up being wrong, but the illusion is created due to a misunderstood matter of perspective. Might the transition from consciousness to unconsciousness also naturally occur, but we don't understand how due to our limited perspective?

    hmmmm, I can't tell if that is a clever association or just a bunch of BS. Philosophy right?

    In any case, I have NOT been convinced that our final moments will last forever.
  • I like sushi
    1.2k
    What do you guys think? — Simmerdown

    I think to use the term “theory” in an academic context give the content of the paper is both disingenuous and likely purposefully deceitful.
  • Joshs
    712
    How do you know there is a presence if if it isn't internally differentiated? Presence implies absence. The idea of a presence with no content , texture, contour, outline, features, is incoherent.
    There is still the presence of the state occurring at t1.Bryon Ehlmann
    How do you know there is a t1, if t1 itself isn't differentiated from what it isn't, from the others that it isn't? If t1 has no beginning and no end , then it isn't an existent at all. and if it begins, then it constitutes a difference.
  • Bryon Ehlmann
    27

    You state: "The idea of a presence with no content , texture, contour, outline, features, is incoherent." I agree with you here, as I make clear in my article Why Something vs. Nothing and the Essentialness of Consciousness.

    In analyzing your statement

    "If there is no time, there is no change. If there is no change, there is no contrast. If there is no
    contrast, there is no presence. If there is no presence, there is no NEC."

    I believe it's important to clearly identify the observer and what is being observed if anything. It is also important to recognize that with the NEC we are not just dealing with a timeless state but with the transition into this state. With the NEC the observer is the dying person and what is being observed, or perceived, is their final conscious moment--be it an awake, dream, or NDE moment--followed by timelessness, which cannot be observed. This final moment is observed by the dying person in some state of mind at t1. Then the dying person transitions into a forever timeless state and thus (assuming no supernatural afterlife) there is no state at t2 wherein anything can be further observed. Thus there is no change from the state at t1 that can ever be observed and thus no observed contrast between the state at t1 and a subsequent state at t2. However, contrast in "content, texture, contour, outline, features" was observed by the dying person within the state at t1, Furthermore, from the perspective of the dying person, this state is still present in the mind as the final present moment is not supplanted by another--i.e., no perceived "blank screen", "The End," or observed darkness moment (unless the darkness behind the eyelids is the visual part of the final moment). Thus from the perspective of the observer, the dying person, there is contrast and presence and both are imperceptibly timeless.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.4k
    What do you guys think?simmerdown

    I think bodily death is irreversible and unavoidable. I like to think it's possible for some (non-physical) part of me/us to continue afterward, but that's just speculation, just like saying that the world our senses show us is Objective Reality. We speculate, and cling to beliefs we feel close to.

    But being stuck in our final moment eternally? I can't make it make sense. Can anyone else? :chin:
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