On this day, September 8, in 1993, a good friend of mine passed from this life during a heartbreaking US Army accident.
He was an extraordinary person, with a warm sense of humor that was uniquely his own and impossible to describe accurately -- impossible to pin down in words because it was a sense of humor that was animated by his inimitable personality.
About the uniqueness of such a friend, and the way he enlarges those souls with whom his soul interacts, C.S. Lewis once famously wrote:
Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but "A's part in C," while C loses not only A but "A's part in B." In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him "to myself" now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, "Here comes one who will augment our loves." For in this love "to divide is not to take away." Of course the scarcity of kindred souls -- not to mention practical considerations about the size of rooms and the audiblilty of voices -- set limits to the enlargement of the circle; but within those limits we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. The Four Loves (1960), 61-62.
Not only does our friend live on in eternal agelessness in the memories of the many whose lives he touched, but I believe (as did Lewis) that there are also good and cogent reasons for believing that the human soul does survive the death of the body.
Some previous posts which have presented some of that evidence or touched on that subject include:
Some would argue that the NDE evidence included in the blogs above cannot be counted as evidence that consciousness can exist beyond the death of the body or even during brain conditions so similar to actual brain death that they can be described as "death-like." They argue that such reports are probably just flickers of electrons which create comforting images, often involving loved ones, that the mind forms into a dream-like recollection after it "wakes back up."
As Chris Carter points out in the book cited in the second link above, this may be a valid objection to consider, but it is countered by the fact that the overwhelming preponderance of such experiences in which subjects reported seeing loved ones involve only loved ones who have already passed from this life.
I have another close friend who is a doctor and who has worked in hospice and in palliative medicine for some years and who has been present on numerous occasions when a person passes from this life, and many such occasions in which there is a "deathbed vision" in which loved ones are seen before death. He confirms from his own experience what Chris Carter reports in his book: the witness who sees these presences (unseen by others in the room) invariably describes those who have already gone before, and not who are still living. Chris Carter reports more than one instance when someone reports seeing a loved one whom they did not know had passed away.
Unlike near-death experiences (in which the vision usually takes place when the brain of the subject is unconscious), these deathbed visions are reported by completely conscious and often completely coherent subjects, which undercuts the objection described above, as does the fact that they almost always involve visions only of those who have previously passed away.
This is powerful evidence for the conclusion that such reports go beyond mere "wishful thinking" or "comforting delusions of the brain."
Further, Chris Carter notes that -- in thousands of reports from around the globe by survivors who described a near-death experience -- an extremely high percentage of those who had a powerful near-death experience report that it changed their entire view on the nature of death, that they no longer feared it, and that they were profoundly convinced that the soul survives the death of the body.
This conviction is remarkably similar to that which Oxford scholar and philosopher Dr. Jeremy Naydler reports as forming the most essential result of the mystical experiences described by ancient "Eleusinian and later Hellenistic mysteries, the dialogues of Plato, and certain of the Hermetic dialogues," and which have a parallel in the Pyramid Texts of the Pyramid of Unas (the oldest existing original text in the world that we know of). In his outstanding book, Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt, Dr. Naydler reports that all these texts describe common experiences, such as "cosmic ascent, or ecstatic flight away from the earth and away from the physical realm," and, most significantly, that afterwords those who have had such an experience have a deep awareness "that he or she is a spiritual being as well as a merely physical being. This direct experience of one's spiritual and immortal core is often expressed in the language of rebirth" (120-121).
All of this does not undo the terrible loss of a life tragically cut short at the age of 25, or the immeasurable way in which (as Lewis describes above) his departure diminishes the circle of friends and family who were once illuminated by his presence in a way that no other can replace.
But, for those who dread the arrival each year of the awful date that they can never forget, it may give some solace to know that it was not the ultimate end but that there is real evidence that the soul does indeed go on.
Rest in peace, brother -- we miss you.