All spiritual beliefs and practices, postulate some form of an afterlife. We are warned to live well, for if not we will suffer grave consequences upon our death.

According to The Egyptian Book of the Dead the soul would be led before the god Osiris who placed the heart (of the soul) on a great golden scale and balanced it against the white feather of Ma’at, the feather of truth. If the heart was lighter than the feather then the soul was freely admitted into the bliss of the Field of Reeds. Should the heart prove heavier, however, it was thrown to the floor of the Hall of Truth where it was devoured by Amenti and the individual soul then ceased to exist.

Christian teaching also suggests the idea of judgement after death, that God will treat people in the afterlife according to how they lived their life on earth. The hope is that there will be access to the Kingdom of Heaven; possibly a physical place, where the soul resides after death or perhaps heaven is a metaphor for the state of being united with God.

If devoid of grace, the soul is sent to hell, a place of suffering and a spiritual state of being separated from God for eternity. Purgatory is an in-between state where the majority of people wait whilst preparing for heaven, through a period of cleansing from sin.

Islam has similar teachings and promises a day of judgment when all humans will be divided between the eternal destinations of Paradise or Hell.

The common thread is that our life will be reviewed and judged, that there will be no escaping our misdeeds.

Advances in resuscitation and the medicalised management of end of life, have enabled science to study the dying process and to validate the teachings of all faiths; that consciousness survives physical death.

The Phenomenon known as Near Death Experience (NDE) provides a fascinating glimpse into what might lie beyond the veil. The NDE has a number of key elements found in reports throughout history, across all cultures and religious beliefs;

• Intense emotions: commonly of profound peace, well-being, love; others marked by fear, horror, loss

• A perception of seeing one’s body from above (called an out-of-body experience, or OBE), sometimes watching medical resuscitation efforts or moving instantaneously to other places

• Rapid movement through darkness, often toward an indescribable light

• A sense of being “somewhere else,” in a landscape that may seem like a spiritual realm or world

• Incredibly rapid, sharp thinking and observations

• Encounter with deceased loved ones, possibly sacred figures (the Judges, Jesus, a saint) or unrecognized beings, with whom communication is mind-to-mind; these figures may seem consoling, loving, or terrifying

• A life review, reliving actions and feeling their emotional impact on others

• In some cases, a flood of knowledge about life and the nature of the universe

• Sometimes a decision to return to the body

REF: Internal Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS)

There is now a large body of research that appears to support the reality of these phenomena; patients reporting events, often from other rooms or places when their vital signs (heart and brain output) showed a cessation of activity. This seems to suggest that consciousness can exist separate from the body and outside of time and space.

Frequently patients return with a renewed sense of life purpose, a more altruistic perspective and no longer any fear of death.

• van Lommel, P. (2013). Non-local Consciousness A Concept Based on Scientific Research on Near-Death Experiences During Cardiac Arrest. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 20(1-2), 7-48.
• Greyson, B. et al. (2009) Explanatory models for near-death experiences. In The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences (Holden, J.M. et al., eds), pp. 213–234, Praeger/ABC-CLIO
• Parnia, S. et al. (2001) A qualitative and quantitative study of the incidence, features and aetiology of near death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors. Resuscitation 48, 149–156
• Kelly, E.W. (2001) Near-death experiences with reports of meeting deceased people. Death Stud. 25, 229–249
• Greyson, B. (2010) Seeing deceased persons not known to have died. Anthropol. Hum. 35, 159–171
• Holden, J.M. (2009) Veridical perception in near-death experiences.
• In The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences (Holden, J.M. et al.,eds), pp. 185–211, Praeger/ABC-CLIO