Have We Always Believed in an Afterlife?
From thousand-year-old cave paintings to modern-day texts, man has always found the idea of an afterlife not only interesting but also something that is a part of him. The biological makeup of the human species has not changed from the beginning of time. Therefore, the process of conscientiousness is the same as it was for our earliest ancestors. The human species has a self-realization, meaning there is awareness in the eventual death of the physical body.
Some of the modern-day phenomena, such as near-death experiences and deathbed visitations, also took place thousands of years ago. This led individuals to question if there is more to their existence than what they can observe. Out-of-body experiences, ghosts, and voices of dead relatives could have influenced early communities to believe in an afterlife.
In ancient cultures, myths based on folklore may have been used to explain the afterlife. These myths morphed into more organized structures as populations increased and moved throughout the world. All the great civilizations of the past have had some belief in an afterlife. They have varied in their specifics, but all have some type of explanation as to what happens after the physical body dies.
Afterlife-based belief systems have been the root of invasions, creations of great works of art, and the persecution of individuals and societies who wish to practice their own ideas concerning life and their eventual death.
Many of the belief systems seem to come from one another, with similar descriptions of heaven and hell in the West and reincarnation in the East. Some groups do not associate with an organized religion but consider themselves to be spiritual, to be connected to an outside source, and therefore connected to their own god.
Modern-day humans might try to relate their own mortality to their religious or cultural upbringing, but their awareness of their ultimate fate could cause them to question the true meaning of life.
Are We Hard-Wired?
Some believe we are hard-wired to believe in an afterlife — that it is built into our brain from the time of our birth. Neuroscientist Rhawn Joseph of Santa Clara, California, believes there is a neurological explanation for spiritual experiences and God. Humans experience God primarily through the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for processing and memory of emotional reactions. He states, “These tissues, which become highly activated when we dream, when we pray … enable us to experience those realms of reality normally filtered from consciousness, including the reality of God, the spirit, the soul, and life after death.” Others believe that if this is true, humans could use this part of the brain as a doorway to connect to the otherworld.
Often, modern-day reason is used to discredit the possibility of an afterlife. However, science has begun to open the doors to the possibilities of evidential proof of the existence of an afterlife through quantum physics and string theory, which will be discussed later in this book.