Of the three great questions — Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? — the third holds us in particular suspense as we contemplate our own mortality. There is no direct evidence about what proceeds human consciousness, but there are stories from people who have been pronounced clinically dead.

"I saw nothingness. Black, long, empty, but I had a feeling like everything was great and nothing was wrong at all. Imagine how preexistence felt, much the same as post existence."

This testimony, and others that follow, come from a new Reddit thread that asks those who have been pronounced clinically dead to share their experience. 

"I was getting an angiogram done, wide awake watching the screen and talking to the doctor. Alarms started to go off and everyone became panicked. My world became soft and foggy and everything faded to black. Next thing I remember was opening my eyes and hearing a doctor say, "We got him back." It was really a peaceful feeling more than anything."

At Big Think, our experts have ruminated on death, and the questions of belief that naturally follow. Philosopher Simon Critchley says our unique historical tendency to create rituals around the event of death tells us that we value some ways of dying over others — that there is such a thing as a good death.

Research done by American physician Dr. Sam Parnia, who studied the experiences of heart attack patients whose hearts had completely stopped, found that 40 percent of people retained awareness several minutes after they were pronounced clinically dead. Here are some more of the testimonies:

"I was standing in front of a giant wall of light. It stretched up, down, left and right as far as I could see. Kind of like putting your eyes six inches from a fluorescent lightbulb. The next memory I have is waking up in the hospital."

"I see a vivid "flashback" of myself in the ambulance being taken to the hospital and I am stood in the ambulance looking down on myself / others in the ambulance."

"Pure, perfect, uninterrupted sleep, no dreams."

Despite the voracious technological progress of the last decades, we shouldn't expect to outwit death anytime soon. Claims that we might upload our consciousness onto computers — an event known as the singularity — are faulty, says philosopher John Gray, because both our body and mind allow us to experience the world in the way we understand as being alive.


Read more at The Independent.

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