One of man’s greatest concerns, ever since he emerged from his pre-human estate, has been with the question as to whether his existence terminates with physical death, or whether there is something that survives, either as an individual entity or as a part of some larger whole. All of the world’s major religions promise survival in one manner or another, but, as pointed out in Chapter 10, it is necessary to view these assertions of the religious authorities with a considerable degree of skepticism, since it is quite conceivable that the strong human desire for survival may be the source of the religious convictions on this subject rather than any actual revelation or insight, and that here again, as in so many other human conclusions, the wish is father to the thought. Recognition of this possibility has, in fact, resulted in growing doubts even among the members of the religious communities. Willard L. Sperry gives us this assessment of the current situation:
There is no single article of the traditional Christian faith less confidently affirmed today than this about immortality, and none so generally neglected or doubted.418
The growth of this spirit of skepticism in recent years has been largely a byproduct of the increasing impact of science on human thought, and the corresponding weakening of religious influence. Within the confines of orthodox scientific thinking, there is no room for the concept of an existence outside the boundaries of the physical universe. “Everything that happens in it [the universe as a whole], during the course of an evolution which never ceases, is the result of purely physical laws,”419 the scientific materialist contends. He ridicules the idea of survival after physical death. Only “feeble souls harbor such thoughts,”420 says Einstein.
The atmosphere of omniscience, generated by many spectacular triumphs, that now surrounds physical science makes it difficult for the ordinary individual to take issue with this dictum, particularly when the principal opposition is not prepared to offer anything more than some unsupported assertions that he is told he must accept on “faith.” In reality, however, the orthodox scientist is likewise asking that his conclusions be accepted on faith. He does not know that everything which happens in the universe “is the result of purely physical laws.” There are immense and significant gaps in his knowledge, and he has no assurance that these gaps will ever be filled. He believes that this can be done, and on the strength of that belief, he is asking (often demanding) that his opinion be accorded the status of an established fact. He does not know that the boundaries of the physical universe that he is exploring encompass the whole of reality; he is merely assuming, first, that whatever cannot be brought within the scope of science does not exist, and second, that since science has not thus far been able to detect anything outside the physical universe, there cannot be any such thing. Here, again, he is asking that these assumptions, far-fetched as they are, be accepted purely on faith, as the equivalent of facts.
If we look at the survival question from a logical standpoint, without being influenced either by the current prestige of science or the emotional impact of religious beliefs, it is obvious that the conventional scientific assertions on this subject are completely without factual support. The scientists are merely advancing an opinion based on a belief as to what future discoveries will and will not reveal. Such assertions are no more than speculative; they cannot legitimately claim to be soundly based, or even to be scientific. The results of this present study, which show that the current scientific opinion with respect to the survival issue is completely erroneous, should therefore be no occasion for surprise.
In the preceding pages, we have developed a factual basis for a genuinely scientific consideration of the survival question, and the objective of this chapter will be to present the conclusions that can be derived from these factual premises. It is clear, both theoretically and from observation, that the material structure of the biological organism cannot survive for any extended period after death. Loss of control by the life unit does not necessarily result in immediate destruction of the material structure, but this structure is one which has been developed by means of processes that act in opposition to the laws of the inanimate sector—particularly the Second Law of Thermodynamics—and as soon as the control by the life unit is relaxed, the inanimate processes become effective, and they begin to destroy the organism. Neither can the life unit itself—the electrical structure, we may call it, somewhat loosely—survive after severing its ties with the material structure. Although not material, the life unit is nevertheless a physical entity, and it exists wholly within the physical universe. Furthermore, it is a type of structure that can exist in the material sector only if it is associated with a material structure, as an independent body composed of cosmic units would not be localized in space. Hence death, the process in which the association between the life unit and the material structure of the organism is severed, terminates the existence of both of these Level 2 components.
At Level 3 the situation is different. The control unit, the Sector 3 aspect of the human individual, is not a physical structure; it is neither material nor cosmic. It exists in association with the biological structure, but not in the physical universe, in much the same manner that a point X lying on a line AB may also have an existence on another line CD because these lines intersect at X. If the line CD is erased, this does not mean that point X disappears. It still remains as an element of the intact line AB. Similarly, the control unit, which is inherently a Sector 3 structure, remains intact in Sector 3 (existence as a whole), even though the biological organism with which it was associated is erased; that is, its existence is terminated. A physical process can operate to destroy the association between a Sector 3 structure and a physical structure, but it cannot destroy the Sector 3 structure, inasmuch as physical processes exist only within the physical sectors of the universe.
As already brought out in the earlier discussions, we may conclude, on the basis of the foregoing considerations, that survival is a certainty. It is evident, however, that the nature of this survival is considerably different from anything that has been visualized heretofore. In fact, we must redefine the word “survival” if it is to be applicable at all. Ordinarily this word signifies continuation into a later time interval, but in this case, the surviving structure does not exist in time at all. It is independent of both time and space. When we say that the Sector 3 structure survives the death of the biological organism, what we mean is that death does not terminate the existence of the Sector 3 structure.
We can be sure that nothing physical survives. The “resurrection of the body” that is envisioned in the doctrines of some religions is simply impossible, if these words are to be interpreted literally. Whatever validity such doctrines may possess can only be in a figurative or allegorical sense. But the fact that nothing physical is present in the surviving structure has still further implications. All physical processes are terminated. This means that the biological “Law of the Jungle,” the pattern of behavior that we call “evil” in those respects in which it is contrary to the ethical code, and all aspects of the human personality that are associated with the purely biological behavior, expire with the physical structure. Whatever truth there may be in Shakespeare’s contention that “the evil men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones” is limited to the physical universe. In application to existence as a whole, the reverse is true—evil does not survive in any form.
As brought out in Chapter 7, the dividing line between Level 2 and Level 3 is not between animal and man, but between man and ethical man. Early man, who lived and behaved as an animal, was purely a biological organism. “As we look back into human beginnings,” says Breasted, “we discover at once that man began as an unmoral savage.”421 His existence, like that of any other animal, terminated with the dissolution of his physical structure. Not until a control unit from Sector 3 entered into a combination with the physical organism was there anything in the human structure that could survive. And when the end comes for the physical structure, it is this control unit—the Sector 3 structure—that survives; not because it is good and deserves to survive, but because it is inherently indestructible (physically at least).
These scientific findings are in conflict with many religious teachings which call for posthumous punishment for the evil-doer. Where only the good survives, there is no place for punishment. It is evident that this is one of the places where an element of anthropomorphism has entered into religion. Rewards and punishments are normal features of human life, and it is only natural that man should expect them to be part of any post-human existence as well; particularly if, as the religious teachings assert, existence as a whole is governed by a just and powerful Deity. Obviously the scales are not balanced during life on earth—all too often the wicked prosper while good goes unrewarded—and it has seemed quite logical that the demands of justice must be satisfied by appropriate measures in the hereafter. It is only a short step from a strong conviction that something ought to be true to a belief that it is true, and it is therefore quite easy to see how the idea of punishment for evil-doing would make its way into religious doctrine.
The concept of eternal punishment is repugnant to many thoughtful persons, and a growing number of individuals, both within and without the religious organizations, have repudiated this idea, without having anything concrete to take its place. The present study now discloses the existence of the kind of an alternate pattern of consequences that is needed; one which satisfies the general desire to see justice done, without the harshness of the “eternal punishment” policy. Reward and punishment, we find, have no applicability to the survival situation. There is no need to weigh the individual’s good deeds against his evil deeds and strike a balance. The “judgment” is automatic. If, at the time of death, there is something capable of survival, it survives just as it then exists. If there is no Sector 3 structure to survive, nothing survives. Evil is not punished; it simply expires with the biological organism whose uncontrolled motivations produced it. A few observers have already recognized this (perhaps by insight or intuition rather than by reasoning) as the logical and appropriate fate of the evil-doer. Sperry, for instance, expresses this opinion:
I cannot see why the destiny of the undeviating sinner may not be, ought not to be, naked nothingness. Hell, so construed, would be merely zero.422
We should recognize that there is no reason why the universe must conform to what the human race considers right and proper, but from the facts which were brought out in Chapter 18, it is clear that a human consensus on simple matters of right and wrong (or any other moral subject that is easily within the grasp of the common man’s intuitive powers) is more than human; it is a human interpretation of information received from Sector 3 sources. It is quite significant, therefore, that the conclusions reached with respect to the ultimate fate of evil through a scientific process of deduction from factual premises satisfy the human criteria of just and proper action, complying with the accepted principle that evil should not triumph in the long run, while at the same time avoiding unreasonably harsh measures such as everlasting punishment.
On this basis, it is immaterial whether the “good” personality, the Sector 3 structure that survives, is of long standing or a relatively recent product. What has occurred in the past is no longer of any consequence. All that matters is what now exists. This provides the answer to a question that has disturbed many persons: that of the relative standing of recent converts to good behavior as compared to that of life-long adherents of high moral principles. The tendency in religious circles is to accord equal standing to the latecomers, a policy that is hard to reconcile with the coexisting doctrine of a final judgment based on an evaluation of one’s actions during his life span. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, for instance, those workers who started at the eleventh hour were paid the same wages as those who had worked all day. The latter are reported to have protested, and if we look at the situation from the “wage” or “reward” standpoint, it is clear that their protests were well-founded. The ecclesiastical attempts to rationalize this situation are singularly unconvincing. For example, Herbert Lockyer, in his discussion of the parable, describes the “principles” that will govern “the distribution of rewards for service” in this manner:
- As His laborers, we are guaranteed a full and just remuneration for our service whether long or brief.
- It is not for us to question His choice of laborers nor their respective reward.
- He retains to Himself the privilege, the exercise of His goodness and grace, whatever might be thought of His generosity.423
There is not even an attempt at explanation or reconciliation in these or the similar comments that are made by other religious writers. We are simply told that any question is out of order. The only logical conclusion that we can draw from this attitude on the part of the religious authorities is that they cannot produce any rational explanation. This is quite understandable, since the “equal treatment” doctrine is irreconcilable with both the “final judgment” concept and with the “wage” concept in terms of which the parable is stated. Inclusion of this parable in the canonical texts in spite of the open contradictions which it introduces suggests rather strongly that this is an item which has been received and accepted as an authentic revelation without any clear understanding of just what was being revealed.
However, if we recognize that the structure that survives is that which exists at the time of death, and that whatever may have existed or may have been done prior to that time is irrelevant, the equal treatment accorded to the latecomers is entirely logical. According to our findings, there is no such thing as reward or “remuneration for our services” to religion. Indeed, the whole concept of ethical conduct as a “labor” or onerous task for which one should be compensated is itself inconsistent with the moral code. An ethical man, under the direction of a control unit from Sector 3, does not find it burdensome to do the right thing; this is what he wants to do.
The spiritual person is good, he is chaste or charitable, not because he desires to gain anything in this or the other world. It is his nature to be so; his goodness is motiveless.424 (T. R. V. Murti)
The finding that survival is contingent on the existence of an adequate Sector 3 structure makes it evident that “deathbed repentance” accomplishes nothing, so far as survival is concerned. Something on the order of repentance may be a prerequisite for altering one’s course of conduct and commencing the building of an ethical structure, but positive action is necessary for the actual construction. If no structure capable of survival has been erected before it is too late to take action, regretting this fact at the last moment will not change the situation. Nor does this scientific analysis give us any ground for believing that “forgiveness” or “remission of sins” by any religious power or agency would be any more effective. According to our findings, the record of the past is wiped clear in any event; only the existing state of the Sector 3 structure has any significance.
It should be noted, however, that the religious viewpoint can be regarded as having a real meaning if we apply it to situations other than those where death is imminent. Since only the good survives, if an individual turns over a new leaf and starts building a good moral character, whatever evil he has done previously will have no bearing on the final result (except to the extent that the habits developed during the past may make ethical conduct in the future more difficult) and thus, in effect, the past record is canceled. From the religious point of view, this can very well be expressed by the statement that his sins have been forgiven.
It is clear that this view of the situation that we have derived from a scientific analysis rules out “mercy,” as this term is applied in religious circles. The destiny of each individual is determined according to the rules—that is, according to the nature of the ethical structure that he has built for himself—and there are no exceptions or deviations. But it should be realized that the religious concept of a merciful ruler and lawmaker is illogical in any event. “Mercy,” says the dictionary, “implies compassion so great as to enable one to forbear punishing even when justice demands it,” and this is undoubtedly the sense in which the term is used in religious parlance. But such a concept is logically inapplicable to a lawgiver. A judge may show mercy to an offender by giving him a relatively light sentence where he could have imposed a heavier one. He may, for instance, specify five years imprisonment under circumstances where a sentence of twenty years would have been justified under the existing statutes. But the legislature would not be merciful if it amended the statutes to reduce the maximum sentence for this offense to five years. From that time on, anyone who receives a sentence of five years imprisonment for this particular offense is not receiving mercy; he is being punished to the full extent of the law. Justice no longer demands any greater punishment.
The same considerations apply to the Deity as He is envisioned in the Western religious systems: a lawgiver as well as a ruler. Whatever change He may make in the application of the law is a change in the law itself. Those who have sufficient faith in the doctrines of their particular creed will be treated mercifully, many religions assure us, but if it has been decreed by the Supreme Authority that those who have this faith should be given preferential treatment, then they are entitled to this treatment under the law that has been promulgated, and in getting it, they are merely receiving justice, not mercy. Most persons seem to regard the religious promise of mercy as something special that relieves them of the penalties that are assessed against less favored individuals. But obviously there must be some basis for selection of the fortunate ones, and whatever this basis—Requirement X, let us say—may happen to be, this is part of the law: the rules laid down by the lawgiver. The full text of that law includes a statement that the penalties do not apply, or apply only in modified form, to those who meet Requirement X.
The religious concepts of “mercy,” “forgiveness,” and the like, are based on the assumption that each person must ultimately face a judgment in which he is held responsible for his actions during his lifetime. As brought out earlier in this chapter, the findings of this work indicate that the record of past deeds has little or no bearing on the survival issue, regardless of whether that record is creditable or discreditable. Survival is determined by what one is, not by what one has done. Unless some positive action has been taken to build an ethical personality, an unblemished record of conduct is of no avail. Good conduct is not necessarily indicative of good character. Of course, the good can generally be relied upon to do good, or at least what they think is good, but we cannot reverse this statement and say that those who do good are good. Here the question of motives is decisive.
Actions that are taken in the hope of reward or in fear of punishment may benefit the community, or some of its individual members, and for that reason may be wholly commendable, but actions dictated by motives of this kind are part of the life of a human being as a biological organism—an animal—not part of his life as an ethical man. The nature of the anticipated reward or punishment is immaterial. Actions taken to gain the approbation of fellow citizens or to better one’s chances of a pleasant existence in a hypothetical hereafter are looked upon more favorably by the community at large than actions taken for material gain, and actions dictated by a desire to avoid Divine retribution are likewise regarded as more commendable than actions dictated by a desire to avoid the penalties of the criminal laws, but in principle there is no difference. All of these anticipated rewards and punishments are simply the human equivalent of the carrot and the stick, and they are part of Sector 2 existence. If Sector 3—the ethical aspect of man—is in control, actions will be taken because they are right, not because of any benefits that are anticipated.
As soon as a man does an action because he thinks he will promote his own interests thereby, he is acting not from a sense of its rightness but from self-interest.425 (W. D. Ross)
This is a place where legal and moral judgments diverge. From the legal standpoint, it is immaterial whether a person refrains from committing a crime as a matter of principle or because he is afraid of punishment. But from the moral standpoint, one is a moral decision; the other has no moral significance. “Our decisions about the standards of right action and moral virtue,” says Abelson, “should be consistent with the conditions under which we hold people responsible for their actions.”426 The example just cited shows that this is impossible. Indeed, our finding that there is no ultimate reward or punishment means that the concept of “holding people responsible” for their lack of compliance with the moral code is meaningless. There is no such thing as moral responsibility in this sense, since there is no judgment and no penalty. Individuals have legal responsibility for their actions, which may result in penalty or punishment. They also have social responsibilities, and the manner in which they discharge these may bring praise or blame from their associates, but they are not held responsible, in this sense, by any moral agency. Of course, the moral aspect is taken into consideration in both the legal and the social situations, but it is not controlling in either case.
Whether a particular act that has some moral aspects complies with the moral code is a matter of objective fact. In some cases, a complicated balancing of positive and negative moral values may be required, but the final answer is always either yes or no. Even if the wrongdoer was mentally incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, his violation of the code has exactly the same moral standing as if it were deliberate. No question of “responsibility” is involved here. A pattern of violations of the moral code indicates a lack of progress toward the ultimate goal of human existence, and no progress is no progress regardless of what the underlying reason may be. It is true that there is an element of inequity in a situation in which an individual who cannot improve the Sector 3 aspect of his personality has the same standing as one who deliberately chooses not to do so, but if equitable treatment is to be achieved, it must be accomplished by some collateral means. The equity issue will be given some consideration in the next chapter.
Some of the conclusions reached in the development of thought in the preceding pages will undoubtedly distress many sincere and well-meaning persons. In particular, rejection of the reward and punishment concept is a major departure from generally accepted thought, and to many it will seem to strike at the very foundations of religion. “Catholics and orthodox or ’fundamentalist’ Protestants alike find it very difficult to conceive how men can lead a moral and religious life without the threat of a Final Judgment lurking in the background,”427 reports J. H. Randall. There are many in these and other denominations who will question this statement when it is expressed in these somewhat pejorative terms, but it can hardly be denied that all organized religions that promise survival into a new existence portray the pleasures or discomforts of that existence as contingent upon the nature of the individual’s behavior during his earthly life. On the other hand, our findings are that actions taken in the hope of reward or in fear of punishment have no moral significance one way or the other. This means that those who listen to the assertions of present-day organized religions are being promised rewards that they will not receive and remission of punishment that would not be inflicted in any event.
But, after all, must we be bribed to do what is right? Isn’t there something more satisfying about the conclusion that ethical man is honest because he wants to be honest, not because he expects to receive a reward for this conduct in the hereafter? Isn’t it more to the credit of the human race if its members are kind and considerate rather than harsh and cruel because they want to act in this manner rather than because they are trying to avoid eternal punishment? In our capacity as scientists, we merely accept the truth as we find it, without any personal feelings of approval or disapproval, but in our capacity as members of the human race, we should be more than pleased that the results of the investigation took the form that they did, rather than confirming the doctrine of eternal reward and punishment, the Heaven and Hell that have come down to us from our primitive ancestors.
In any event, this is a scientific development: a step-by-step construction of a logical structure on factual foundations, and since the conclusions that are reached in the process are necessary consequences of the established facts upon which the whole structure of thought is based, they are integral parts of that structure and they cannot be discarded or modified, regardless of what emotional reactions they may arouse. Of course, if a conclusion conflicts with observed facts, or if it is inconsistent with scientific conclusions previously reached and verified, the logical inference to be drawn is that there has been some mistake in the reasoning upon which this conclusion was based. In this case, a restudy of the problem would be in order. But the conclusions now under consideration do not fall in this category. They are not only consistent with the observed facts, but also resolve many of the contradictions and inconsistencies in previous lines of thought. The inevitable objections therefore cannot be allowed to influence the presentation.
This is particularly important in view of the fact that one of the major reasons for developing a clear and consistent picture of the non-physical aspects of human life is to provide logical thinkers, both scientists and non-scientists, with a view of the universe and their relation to it which they will find acceptable: an alternative both to the cold and sterile mechanistic viewpoint on one side, and to what Reinhold Niebuhr calls “the anachronistic ethics and incredible myths of organized religion,”368 on the other. If we are to satisfy this need, there can be no compromise with the truth. We must follow the development of the logical structure wherever it leads, regardless of emotional preferences or prejudices.
When the basic question of survival is answered in the affirmative, the next issue that arises is whether we survive as identifiable individuals. Are we still ourselves? This is a more difficult question to answer on the basis of the facts at hand. There is no doubt but that survival takes place on an individual basis, since the individual control units are the entities that survive, but where this control unit is still in a status analogous to that of a unicellular biological organism, the surviving unit can hardly be considered as having any real identification with an individual. If there has been enough development of this unit so that a definite ethical personality has been constructed, then we can envision something equivalent to survival of a specific human individual. Just how far this development would have to proceed in order to generate enough identifying characteristics to enable the surviving entity to be recognizable, to itself or to others, as a continuation of the human existence of which it was previously a part, is far from clear.
Since memory is a physical process, it cannot be expected that an individual will retain any memories of his earthly life. This might seem to close the door on survival as a specific individual, inasmuch as memory is commonly regarded as essential to continuation of the same identity. But it is not at all certain that this is actually true. Is an amnesia victim, for instance, a different person just because he cannot remember his past? Then, too, most of us have few, if any, memories of the earliest years of our life. Here we have what is unquestionably a continuation of the same individual existence without continuity of memory. Perhaps continuation of identity after death involves something of this nature. However, we should also bear in mind that even if a person must have a certain amount of knowledge of his previous thoughts and actions in order to maintain his status as a specific individual, it does not necessarily follow that this knowledge must be derived from memory. Whatever is available from memory is also available by means of clairvoyance. The ESP abilities thus far demonstrated in the human race are not adequate to serve as a substitute for memory, but it would be reasonable to conclude that these abilities will reach a higher stage of development in any more advanced phase of existence. Thus the memory issue is not a critical one.
Other purely physical characteristics—skills, habits, etc.—likewise terminate with the physical structure. These include the physical facilities that handle the acquisition and processing of information: the information storage and thinking mechanisms. It follows that knowledge acquired through the senses is not carried forward into the new existence. On the other hand, intuitive knowledge, which is received through Sector 3 channels, should be retained. In the preceding pages, we have been looking at the development of the Sector 3 component of the human personality mainly from the standpoint of increased understanding of and compliance with the moral code. There should, however, be a corresponding growth in knowledge of other kinds. It would seem, therefore, that even without the physical knowledge that he leaves behind, a human being who has made any significant forward progress during his stay on earth should enter his new existence, whatever it may be, as a reasonably well-rounded individual.
One more question remains to be considered: Do those who survive beyond physical death communicate in any way with the living? The possibility of physical manifestations—ghosts or apparitions—can be summarily dismissed, as nothing physical survives. No doubt many of those who claim to have had experiences in which such objects were seen or heard are quite sincere in their accounts of the events, but sight and sound are physical, and they can originate only from physical sources. The situation with respect to communication through Sector 3 channels is quite different. Such communication should theoretically be possible, but there are some questions as to how effective it is under the circumstances.
The nature of the existence into which the individual enters after leaving the physical world has an important bearing on this issue. If he were to enter another existence similar to that on earth, or one not much farther advanced, his capability of transmitting messages would approximate the telepathic transmission capacity of human beings; that is, it would be very limited. Furthermore, since his capacity of clairvoyance would be no greater, he probably would not have any significant knowledge of his previous life. But if he enters some more advanced type of existence, he should have clairvoyant knowledge of his earthly life, and a telepathic transmission capacity on the order of that of the sources from which we receive most intuitive information. Under these circumstances there is a definite possibility of reception of messages from such individuals.
But we need to take into consideration the nature of the subject matter. This communication, if it takes place at all, is between Sector 3 entities, and it involves only matters that are relevant to Sector 3 existence, or to the Sector 3 aspects of human existence. The ordinary affairs of human life are the concern of the physical aspect of the human personality: Sector 2. Human individuals may, to a limited degree, draw upon the Sector 3 storehouse of information, by means of clairvoyance, for items of information about these Sector 2 matters, but these items are no longer of any concern to those who have left earthly life, and they do not constitute matters of mutual interest which could serve as subjects of communication. Thus, the subject matter of any communication from a departed individual will be essentially the same as that of intuition in general, and since the reception will be intuitive, it is doubtful if a communication of this kind could be distinguished from any other intuition. In any event, there is no known criterion by which we could identify an intuitive communication as originating from a specific individual.
This picture of the communication situation derived from theory has no place for phenomena of the kind commonly known as spiritualistic, in which “spirit messages” are claimed to be received through specially qualified persons called “mediums.” This does not necessarily imply that spiritualism is totally fraudulent. There has been, and continues to be, a great deal of deception and trickery in this area, and it is difficult to evaluate the results that are claimed to have been obtained, even though many competent investigators have attempted to monitor the “seances,” the sessions in which the communications are claimed to be received from spirits. However, it appears that, in at least some cases, information is actually being obtained by non-physical means. But if this is true, the considerations outlined in the foregoing paragraphs indicate that this information is obtained through the common ESP processes, telepathy and clairvoyance, and that attributing it to spirit communication is not justified.