by: Varghese, Roy Abraham
Publisher: The Career Press, Inc, 3 Tice Rd, PO Box 687
Location: Franklin Lakes, NJ
Cover: Dutton & Sherman Design
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 1/2/2010
Summary: Logical argument for life-after-death, morphing into an argument against reincarnation.
Life after death.
You either believe there is some aspect of your spiritual self that survives the transition of the physical body from life to death, or you don’t. You either believe that some part of your spiritual self has been on this earth before, that you are a “born again” spiritual essence, or you don’t. There is no scientific proof. There is no scientific protocol to establish life after death, nor reincarnation. I believe in both the reality of life after death and in reincarnation and, to borrow a current self-serving solipsism, “god-willing”, there never will be such proof.
So, we take up THERE IS LIFE AFTER DEATH by Roy Abraham Varghese and discover the edifice that is faith and science. Imagine this edifice as a single story structure in which perception is solely a matter of focus and belief a matter of feverish activity followed by catalytic moments of outward stillness.
The first part of THERE IS LIFE AFTER DEATH is an extremely effective argument against using science as a yardstick to measure the validity of life after death. Varghese successfully shapes the argument by drawing a distinction between the physical world and the non-physical. This has been done before of course. But the sticking point is always defining precisely what constitutes the non-physical. In Chapter 6, under “10 Hard Transphysical Facts”, Varghese lays out a reasoned argument as to why there is a non-physical world, having tackled the “the brain as a computer” analogy and the whole concept of a physics derived definition of the human mind (Francis Crick’s “nerve cells and their associated molecules”). The question might arise as to why Varghese takes nearly 300 pages to restate the obvious. Well, it does not take much digging to find the answer to that quandary.
Aside from tantalizing tidbits such as pointing out that demographer Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau estimates that 100 billion people have died since the beginning of history (whenever that was), and that 234 people will die “while you’re reading this page”, Varghese goes the extra mile to argue that “human persons retain their identity in an after-life”. It is an amazing supposition. He devotes the last half of the book attempting to justify it.
What is a human person’s identity?
After repudiating the validation methodologies of science as an argument against the existence of life after death, Varghese resorts to a scientific methodology-logic–to argue that it is the complete person, the personality and spirit, which survives death. This is something new. It is a reach beyond Plato’s “know thyself”. In a section of chapter 7 titled “The Human Person-A Psychophysical Organism Capable of Thinking and Willing”, he attempts to show that the “person/I/self” is an interaction of spirit and the physical. It is this interaction that results in personality, or the person’s identity. The logic is flawless. The supposition brings to mind a number of quotes. Among them:
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool that for him” – – Bible, Proverbs 26:12
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you” – – Bible, Corinthians 3:16
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ . . . And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 18:1-4
According to Varghese’s argument, all our love ones who have died, passing from our physical lives, survive as “persons we know” and will greet us when it is our turn to exit the physical world. It is a nice argument. According to this argument, the loving and wise grandfather who influenced you in your early life will meet you on the other side of death and be just as loving and just as wise, as perhaps his grandfather before him. It is an argument like the fundamental argument for life after death. No science. Dig a little deeper into Varghese’s argument however and we find an agenda sprouting from an interpretation of Christian doctrine. The Christian belief in an after life is modeled after the resurrection-body and soul-of Jesus Christ. In short, a “person” goes through the process of life-choices and arrives, in the end, at the gates of Heaven or the portal of Hell. End of story. For this reason, Varghese argues against reincarnation. Indeed, how can there be reincarnation if the “person” survives after death? Since it is the physical body and the soul that makes the “person”, a “person” just can’t jump into another body and be the same person, escaping the final disposition of their life. Flawless logic.
After quoting a poll showing that “an incredible 70 percent” of people who have experienced a near-death-experience believe in reincarnation, Varghese points out that this belief most likely stems from “New Age literature” which promotes a belief in reincarnation. He them elevates a belief in reincarnation into the “theory of reincarnation”. And, to prove the point, he exhibits a list of four critical questions highlighting the implausibility of the “theory”.
The acrobatics of arguing faith makes senile centenarians of us all-all including children. Children however have a fall-back position: because my mommy said so.
After reading THERE IS LIFE AFTER DEATH, the only explanation I can find for Varghese’s argument against reincarnation is his desire to support the premise that personality survives death. The tactic of using the same logic to support life after death and the implausibility of reincarnation negates both arguments. The juxtaposition however of pro and con arguments standing side-by-side, constructed from the same scaffolding, is rather startling. The tactic makes THERE IS LIFE AFTER DEATH worth reading as a primer on how NOT to argue matters of faith.