H. H. Price produced a thoughtful and stimulating paper some years ago in
which he deduced, from philosophical and psychological considerations, the sort
of life one might expect after the death of the body, assuming we still existed.
His deductions agree very well not only with the ostensible information through
mediums and the near-death experience but also with the teachings of Hinduism.
Clearly after death we would have no information coming in via the senses and
therefore no sense perceptions. How could we experience a world? It would surely
be a kind of dream world: when asleep we have no sensory input but still have
experiences. After death George would really come into his own and produce
objects of awareness about which we could have thoughts, desires and emotions.
The next world would, on this argument, be a world of mental images. It would be
quite solid - there is nothing imaginary about mental images. Sometimes objects
would behave in a queer way but this would not be too disconcerting and our
identity would not be broken. An image world would be, to those who experienced
it, just as real as this one; in fact they might have difficulty in realizing
they were dead. It would be a perfectly good world, in which one would feel
completely alive. But what about a body? (Saint Paul had that difficulty! 'How
are the dead raised up and in what body do they come?') They could have images
representing the body they had here. They might find that their image bodies
also were subject to peculiar causal laws in that wishes tended automatically to
fulfil themselves. The body could be young and vigorous and dressed in any way
that its owner wished. A wish to go to New York City might be followed at once
by a set of New-York-City-style images and the owner of the body would realize
that 'going somewhere' was a little different. He or she might conclude that the
body was not the same as the physical body and might call it a psychic or
spiritual body, very like the old one but having different properties.
We have earlier explained, and shown by means of an experiment, that this body
(and this world) would not be in physical space but in its own space. Passing
from the physical world to the next might be thought of as a change of
consciousness, like waking to a dream. It would involve a change from a
perceptual consciousness to an imaging type of consciousness. You might suggest
that discarnate minds are thus in a state of perpetual delusion. If so then they
would have to put up with it. However, we say delusion only because the
experiences would be different from those of the physical world. People in the
next world would be deluded only in the sense that their bodies and their world
were not really physical though they might mistakenly think so. But it is
another world, as it should be, having different space and laws.
Would a world of mental images be private? Not if we accept telepathy. Telepathy
might be more common in a disembodied state than it is here and the image world
might be the joint product of a group of telepathically interacting minds and
public to them all. It would not have unrestricted public access as it seems
likely there would be many such worlds for each group of like-minded
personalities. There are a number of groups of people having rather narrow
religious ideas possessing very clear views as to what 'heaven' is like. They
would discover that they were in such a world, with all the 'unbelievers' being
excluded. ('In My Father's house are many mansions.')
Such a world would be mind-dependent. It would be dependent on the memories and
desires of those who experienced it; memory, as Price puts it, providing the
pigments and desires painting the picture. Desires unsatisfied in earthly life
might play an important part. This could seem agreeable, but desires repressed
because they were too painful or disagreeable to admit might also be important,
and the same might be true of repressed memories.
Such an after-death world of mental images has been well described by Hindu
thinkers as kama loka or 'world of desire'.
Material possessions clearly cannot be taken into the next world - but this
would be no loss because if they were remembered well enough, image replicas
could be produced of them.
Price mentions the scathing remarks of some people concerning the materialistic
character of what comes through mediums. Agreeable houses, beautiful landscapes
and gardens are described. They argue apparently that this materialistic
character is evidence against its genuineness. On the contrary, this is evidence
for its genuineness as most people do like material objects and are
deeply interested in them. If the objectors are saying that such a world is not
worth having and would prefer a different state because they find this
uninspired and unsatisfying - then they will indeed experience something
different. A mind-dependent world would tend to be a wish-fulfilment world.
In case you think this is too good to be true it is easy to argue that it is the
reverse. There would be many next worlds, not just one, and the world each of us
could expect after death would depend on the kind of person we are. It is easy
to see that some people's next world would be more like purgatory than paradise
because they have conflicting desires. Few of us are completely integrated
personalities and, Price suggests, the one-pointed saint probably comes the
closest. Sometimes when our desires appear to be relatively harmonious,
appearances can be deceptive. Conscious desires are not in apparent conflict but
this may well have been achieved at the cost of repression. There are
unconscious desires conflicting with the neatly organized pattern of conscious
life: the seeming harmony might vanish after a person is dead. Formally
repressed desires would be manifested by appropriate images, and they might be
horrifying - as some dream images are for the same reasons. (The 'secrets of the
heart' would be revealed.) They would certainly be wish-fulfilment images but
the wishes would be in conflict with others and the resulting emotional state
might be worse than the worse nightmare - worse in that the subjects are unable
to wake up. They might find themselves doing cruel actions which they never did
in earthly life: but the desires would have been there even though repressed and
unacknowledged. Cruel desires would fulfil themselves by creating appropriate
images. But unfortunately for their comfort their personality encompasses
benevolent desires too so they are distressed and horrified even though, in a
sense, the situations are expressions of their own desires. For instance,
psychoanalysts tell us that there is often an underlying urge to be punished -
the result of guilty repressed feelings.
It is clear that such unpleasant experiences would not be literally punishments.
They would he inflicted by no external judge but each person's purgatory would
be just the automatic consequences of his or her own desires. The life after
death, on these arguments, would be an expression of what each person truly is -
it will all depend on what we have made of ourselves during earthly life.
At first sight one might think that an image world contained no hard facts and
so there was nothing objective. However, a man's or woman's character is
objective in that it exists whether we like it or not.
The next world as pictured would be subject to law but not to the laws of
physics: such laws might be more like the laws of psychology. If we dislike the
image world our memories and desires create for us - if when we get what we want
we are horrified - we have to set about altering our character, and this might
be a long and painful process.
Some people say all desires, even permanent and habitual ones, would wear out in
time by the mere process of being satisfied. In such cases this dreamlike
purgatory would be only temporary but it would be where we are brought
face-to-face with what we really are. When that has perhaps become a thing of
the past - what would the world after that be like? Would we still have personal
identity when we are not even dreaming? Price puts the question: would the soul
become something greater? What sort of experiences could we imagine for it? He
refers us to the mystics, who have tried to describe (in allegory, because there
is nothing equivalent here) this higher state of consciousness - which they
experience while in the physical body.
Price's account of the next world is, you will appreciate, in some respects not
at all unlike what we have in effect suggested this world may be like. We
postulate a physical body having five senses but actually all we really know is
that we have experiences, images, in the mind. Those images are all we have.
'Material objects' are just collections of ideas.
Price wrote his paper along these lines before the information about near-death
experiences was available. So far as they go, these experiences appear to
confirm his views. Scriptural writings appear to do the same. I do not think
that Price was far wrong in his descriptions of the hypothetical 'next world'.
Certainly they agree very well with the evidence presented earlier in this book.
Perhaps, if we think there is something significant and possibly important and
true in these views, it might be a good idea to start to improve our characters
right now! It could be much more painful to let the next world do it for us!
Arthur Ellison's "The Reality of the Paranormal" (London: Harrap, 1988).