What Happens When You Die?

In 1789 Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to French Physicist Jean-Baptiste Le Roy. In the letter he wrote “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And he was correct, taxes are a pain, death doubly so. Mortality is inevitable, it can be prolonged, if we eat enough green foods and do enough squats, or so our mothers tells us. But eventually enters entropy; The second law of thermodynamics states that everything that is ordered will return to disorder. Due to entropy our ordered system that we call life, must eventually decay into chaos and thus death. So what happens when our time is up? And I’m not just talking about the physical effects of death. More importantly, where do we go? If anywhere. Now, there are 4,200 religions in the world today and all of them have a slightly different opinion of the afterlife. But in truth only one group of people actually knows what happens when you die and that’s the dead. So let’s ask them shall we? No really, let’s ask them. You see there are a group of people who claim to have died and then come back to life. And they’re not a small group of people, in America alone, eight million people claim to have had an NDE, near death experience. Many of whom claim to have passed over to the other side and experienced something, before being dragged back into the real world again. So what did they experience? Did they catch a glimpse of what really awaits us all beyond the grave? In 2011 a man was mid-way through major surgery, but it went wrong and he quickly bled out, he was declared dead for several minutes. Amazingly the surgeons managed to revive him. He described his minutes in the afterlife like so: "I woke up in what looked like space but there weren't any stars or light. I wasn't floating so to speak, I was just there.”, he also said that he felt nothing, he wasn’t hungry, tired, cold or hot, he just felt peace. “I knew there was light and love somewhere nearby but I had no urge or need to go to it right away” he quoted. Another case tells of a college student who overdosed on sleeping pills in his dorm room. Paramedics came quickly but during the ambulance ride he was clinically declared dead for three minutes. When he awoke he described seeing his own unconscious body inside the ambulance and he witnessed himself flatline. Was he actually seeing his own body as a spirit or was it just an unconscious hallucination? Amazingly the patient was able to describe the paramedic inside the ambulance and could even recall her name, despite not physically seeing her before or after he fell unconscious. A similar story of an outer-body experience comes from a boy, who when 8 years old, drowned at his local swimming pool, in the deep end. He suddenly awoke, stood at the opposite end of the pool, where he witnessed two lifeguards pulling his non-responsive body out of the water. He saw them attempt CPR for five minutes on his own body, without any success. He watched himself get put onto a stretcher and followed himself on-board the ambulance all the way to the hospital. Whilst aboard the ambulance he started to feel a warm motherly presence urging him to wake up and after a few seconds he had returned to his body and was brought back into the real world. He noted that waking up from his deathly state felt like being shot through a cannon at the swimming pool where he drowned and landing inside the ambulance, several streets away. There are thousands of these stories from around the globe and everyone experiences something slightly different. So researchers compiled a list of the most common experiences people claim to have felt when declared clinically dead then brought back to life: Most people feel a rapid transit inside a long and dark tunnel. Many have an out-of-body experience where they can see their own body, usually from some distance away, although their body has different characteristics to what they knew during their lifetime and appears to be very different in nature somehow. They witness every attempt being made on their physical body to bring them back to life. They often sense a warm presence or meet their relatives who urge them to return to the world of the living. There is usually a boundary that represents the border between life and whatever is beyond life, that seems to draw closer and closer. So many people have an out of body experience but not everyone. Many people experience a deep, intense blackness, or slip into a strange other-dimensional void where they no longer feel anything but are still aware of themselves. Others tell of being able to see time as a physical object that they can browse through and even manipulate. As if their whole life is pages in a book that they can flick through at will. So there we go, surely all these thousands of accounts of some kind of afterlife, is well proof that there is something beyond what we know. Hmm, unfortunately we shouldn’t be so hasty to make that call. Through his research, Dr. Rick Strassman believes that all these near death experiences are actually fictitious hallucinations in the brain caused by a psychedelic drug called DMT. DMT has a long history of making people see things that aren’t really there. Amazonian tribes have been taking a natural, homebrewed form of DMT, called ayahuasca for hundreds of years, as part of their healing rituals. After death, the tissue of the Pineal gland decomposes very quickly, releasing substantial amounts of DMT around the body; you see DMT is actually produced naturally inside our bodies. In 1993, professional drug-taker Terence McKenna, seriously he made a living by taking psychedelic drugs and writing about his experiences, said the following about DMT “You cannot imagine a stranger drug or a stranger experience.” In fact, DMT is the most powerful hallucinogenic drug there is. Now I think if a small amount of DMT can make you hallucinate that you’re Mexican and you live inside a taco then I’m fairly confident that it’s powerful enough to make you have an out of body experience during an episode of temporary mortality. Furthermore, research has shown that the events that are experienced by a person during a near death experience are very similar to what people experience when they take DMT recreationally, stuff such as passing through a tunnel and having an out of body experience. So the case is strong that this naturally occurring drug could be responsible. Understandably, people who’ve had these experiences aren’t usually too pleased with this explanation, because to them it felt so real. Many people say their brief encounters with the afterlife actually felt more real and tangible than the real world. But DMT is an extraordinarily powerful drug, it causes us to hallucinate by actually firing the neurons in the brain associated with these particular visions, so in a way these people are actually seeing these events. But what is seeing? In truth our brain is capable of making us see anything it wants us too, even if it’s not really happening in front of us. As well as interpreting the data entering our brain via our eyes our brains can also completely make up visuals, and we have no way of telling apart the real visions from the fake. So it’s a good job that most of the time, our brain plays nicely. Or so we think it does. Death is a complicated process, it’s not as black and white as you see in movies. There are actually two stages to death, the first is clinical death. This happens as soon as the patient stops breathing and their heart ceases to pump blood. This usually lasts for up to six minutes, during this stage the major organs are still alive. These minutes are crucial, and if a patient can be revived during these six minutes they can avoid permanent brain damage. After six minutes however comes the second stage of death, biological death. The organs begin to shut down and cells start to degenerate. Within 12 hours the skin loses its colour and rigor mortis sets in, making the body rigid, freezing it in place. This is caused by calcium leaking into the muscles which causes them to contract and tense up. But something even stranger happens at the exact moment of death. As was discovered when Dr. Duncan Macdougall conducted a macabre experiment in Massachusetts on 10th April 1901. He gathered six dying patients, somehow. And put them onto specially made beds that were also very precise weighing scales. He observed the weight of each patient very closely at the exact moment of each of their deaths. What he noticed was that at the exact moment of death each patient lost 21 grams of weight. Macdougall factored in every other form of weight loss that could possibly occur at the moment of death, such as sweat evaporating from the body and the final breath exiting the lungs, but nothing came close to accounting for the 21 grams of instant weight loss. Macdougall’s only explanation was that something we couldn’t see had suddenly left the body, could it be the patient’s soul? Does the human soul weigh 21 grams? Well we should take Mcdougall’s results with a pinch of salt because his experiment had a few flaws. Firstly, six patients is nowhere near a large enough sample group to get a reliable result. The weight loss has also been blown way out of proportion, only one of the patients lost 21 grams, three other patients lost weight of different amounts and two of the patients were excluded from the results because of mechanical failures with the equipment. Also the scales that Mcdougall was using were only accurate to 6 grams anyway. So Mcdougall’s experiment shouldn’t be trusted entirely, but it’s certainly interesting. Something must have happened at the point of death to trigger the scales to alter their readings. The experiment hasn’t been repeated since on more modern equipment because apparently it’s now unethical to pop Gladdis on a weighing scale just before she kicks the bucket. Modern studies have been conducted to try and uncover the secrets of the afterlife, although they have tended to be less practical than Mcdougall’s experiment. Recently the British teamed up with some Germans and studied 2,000 cardiac arrest patients who had been declared clinically dead and then resuscitated. 40 per cent of the participants reported having a conscious awareness whilst they were technically dead, many of whom said they had an out of body experience and could see themselves from a third-person point of view. Of particular interest was a 57-year-old man from Southampton, who was able to accurately describe everything that happened to himself and every procedure the doctors carried out on his body after his heart had stopped. He could even recall how many times the life support machine beeped. He apparently saw everything from the corner of the room. According to the doctors present, everything he said happened, really happened. The scientists involved in the study concluded that some of the patients accounts of what happened whilst they were clinically dead were so frightfully accurate that therer indisputably is life after death, and went as far as to say they had “confirmed” the existence of some kind of afterlife. Others are more critical and simply blame the patient’s experiences on DMT, claiming they were simply hallucinating whilst unconscious. In truth we have no way of knowing for sure what happens when we’re laid to rest, and we will probably never find out, until our time is up. But does it really matter? Sure it might be interesting to think about, but spending one’s precious time trying to answer an unanswerable question is ironically just a waste of life. So if you think about it by watching this video I’ve just wasted several minutes of your life, sorry about that.

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