QR7.1.6 Evaluating Deliverance

An all-powerful divinity must also exist inside us, so the third premise essentially applies the first premise to humanity by proposing that we have a back-door to immortality. That we can survive death is perhaps the most outrageous premise, as it seems to deny that everything eventually decays and dies, yet scriptures don’t deny death. They merely claim that it needn’t be the end of existence. The last words of the Buddha were “Decay is inherent in all compound things. Seek wisdom and work out your salvation with diligence.” The Koran confirms that “Every soul will taste of death.” (Koran, 30. 57), but if the body dies, what carries on after it?

In the Zend-Avesta, eternal bliss is found in the Kingdom of the Good Mind, which isn’t physical:

Because of the goodness in his thoughts, in his words, in his acts, unto him Ahura-Mazda shall grant the Kingdom of the Good Mind” (Yasna 51, 21).

In the Old Testament, the “dust” of the body returns to the earth but the spirit returns to the eternal God:

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes, 12.7).

The logic is that when the physical body dies, the non-physical spirit can carry on. Hindu scriptures concur not only that human beings can defeat death, but that it can occur while alive:

When all the knots of the heart are destroyed, even while a man is alive, then a mortal becomes immortal. This much alone is the instruction of all the Upanishads.” (Katha Upanishad, 15).

In Taoism, one becomes immortal by returning to the original state of the eternal Tao:

All things are in the process of appearing and disappearing … The original state is eternal. To understand this eternality of emptiness is enlightenment … To have attained Taohood is to be unified with eternity. One can never die even with the decay of his body.” (Tao, 16).

The Buddha gave the original state many names, including truth-essence, suchness, essence of mind, noble wisdom, the eternal-unthinkable and transcendental intelligence, perhaps to avoid deifying it:

Transcendental Intelligence rising with the attainment of enlightenment is of a permanent nature. This Truth-Essence, which is discoverable in the enlightenment of all those who are enlightened, is realizable as the regulative and sustainable principle of Reality, which forever abides … The eternal-unthinkable of the Tathagatas is the ‘suchness’ of Noble Wisdom realized within themselves. It is both eternal and beyond thought.” (Lankavatara, p347).

The Bible also recognizes a “well” within oneself that leads to everlasting life:

But whosever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John, 4.14).

Chinese scriptures said much the same centuries earlier:

As rivers have their source in some far-off fountain, so the human spirit has its source. To find his fountain of spirit is to learn the secret of heaven and earth. In this fountain of mystery, spirit is eternally present in endless supply.” (Tao, 6).

The Koran also attributes immortality to divinity but not the physical world:

“That which ye have wasteth away, but that which Allah hath remaineth.” (Koran, 41.96).

The common theme is that the divinity within us can survive death because it isn’t physical. Eastern mystics compared it to space, that appears empty but contains all things. In the west God ‘breathed’ a soul into the ‘dust’ of the body (Genesis, 2.7). In both cases, the divinity within has no material substance, so Buddhism and Taoism called it the emptiness, and western religions equate it to God’s ‘breath’.

The modern candidate for this role is consciousness, here defined as the ability to observe. If it is physical, it will end when the body does, but if it isn’t, it may survive. The question of whether anything can survive death then depends on whether human consciousness is physical or not.

In scientific terms, either observation is a physical event or it isn’t. These alternatives are mutually exclusive, as if observation is a physical event, nothing else is needed, while if it isn’t, then something else is. It is a simple choice, but physicists repeatedly struggle to explain observation in physical terms, though they accept it occurs:

  • We experience observation but no physical mechanism can explain how matter that is busy interacting with other matter can also observe its interactions (Reason, 2018) (6.3.14).
  • Cell activities like photosynthesis, where bacteria observe photons, require millions of molecules to act in a unified way that is so unlikely by the laws of physics as to be physically impossible (6.3.1).
  • How distant areas of the brain bind their activities into a single conscious experience can’t be explained by information integration based on a central processing area (6.1.6).

In contrast, quantum reality explains these effects as follows:

  • Observation in general occurs when quantum waves interact in a physical event, as restarting entangled at the same point lets the entities that generate those waves observe each other.
  • Tubulins in cells synchronize receptor molecules to entangle them so they observe in a unified way.
  • Brain synchronies entangle nerves into the global observation that we call consciousness (6.3.7).

The theory that observation is a physical event is thus rejected because it can’t explain how matter, cells, or brains observe. It follows that the idea that observation is physical is a myth with no evidential basis. Those who deny that observation is a quantum event must otherwise explain it, which they haven’t done, so there is no reason not to accept that it is. Nor is it unexpected that physical reality is observed from outside itself because it is an act in itself.

Observation occurs when quantum waves collapse in physical events, hence to observe an entity one must physically interact with it. Attributing observation to quantum mechanics is better than the panpsychism that matter observes by a method unknown to physics (Strawson, 2008).

Evolution then produced larger entanglements that observed more, until our brain waves created an “I” experience. Over millions of years, humans evolved a self because it helped survival, not because it was real. Even today, identity issues, not knowing who we are, affects the will to live. Yet a consciousness that exists for an instant then is laboriously regenerated by a brain cascade is hardly immortality. The mind that western thinkers focus on is nothing if not transitory:

It would be better (for one) … to regard his body … as his self rather than the mind. For it is evident that this body may last for a year, … or even a hundred years and more; but that which is called thought, or mind, or mind-consciousness, is continuously, during day and night, arising as one thing and passing away as another thing” (The Word of the Buddha, p39).

If consciousness isn’t physical, it doesn’t inherently decay, but it does grow and shrink. Consciousness changes by day and night, as nerves join or leave the synchrony, so it isn’t constant. In diseases like Alzheimer’s, as the brain fails so does consciousness, because the ability to observe sits atop a great evolution that death unravels. If sleep and disease diminish consciousness, how can it survive death?

The droplets of consciousness that coalesce into an observer could dissolve at death, just as the body decays into atoms. Therefore, consciousness could survive death, as scriptures say, or it could be recycled back into the quantum bulk, to be re-used elsewhere.

     The deliverance premise isn’t that immortality is likely but that it is possible, because: “… many are called but few are chosen.” (Matthew, 22.14). Nor is it that brain functions like thought and memory survive, which seems unlikely, but whether the observing I does. Can the observer transcend physicality as scriptures claim? To investigate further needs a method, so the next section considers how science can apply to the observer experience.