YOLO – You Only Live Once – Do You?

“If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, it is enough if you prove that one crow is white.” William James

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“These are the kind of data I wouldn’t believe, even if they were true.” (A skeptic, qtd. in Schwartz 122)


YOLO – You Only Live Once – Do You?

People have been searching for answers to immortality since humans exist. As more and more pieces of the puzzle emerge, we come to understand that in this dimension the full picture might remain elusive, so an interpretation of the clues so far available is left to the individual. What the character suffering from an incurable disease in Nadine Gordimer’s essay “Terminal” believes is that once we die, that’s it. There will be nothing, an end of consciousness, not even an awareness of the termination of life. Since she does not want to wait until she turns into a helpless, bedridden object, she attempts suicide but is rescued by her husband. It is clear that she is not afraid of dying, expecting nothing but a black stillness “afterward:”

Ever since she was a child she had understood it as a deep sleep, that’s all. Ever since she saw the first bird, lying under a hedge, whose eyes hadn’t openend when it was poked with a twig. But one can only be aware of a sleep as one awakens from it, and so one will never be aware of that deep sleep – she had no fear of death…( 526)

Since the early 1970s, resuscitation techniques have become so advanced that thousands of people were brought back from the brink of death. Many who were saved reported phenomena known as near death experiences (NDE) and out of body experiences (OBE). NDErs, as the survivors are commonly called, described being in the presence of a bright, peaceful and loving light and of meeting deceased loved ones. Almost all who experienced being in that realm wanted to stay there or cannot wait to go back once they die. Not only do NDErs testify about a life after death, but they comprehended that we all lived multiple lives.

If these experiences are true, the current popular credo, “YOLO” must be false. Backed by mounting research and evidence, scientists can now claim that there is life after death and that we have to come back until we learn the lessons we need to fulfill our purpose on earth – a task for which more than one lifetime is needed. I am saying that YDOLO – You Don’t Only Live Once!

One of the biggest doubters of a continuation of life after death was Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who used scientific evidence as the basis for his understanding of life and death. In 2008 this changed when he was the victim of a rare bacterial meningitis infection that inactivated the neocortex of his brain, putting him into a deep coma. For seven days he experienced “death.” Alexander writes about “flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky…which were quite simply different from anything [he had] known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms” (3). He also talks about a booming, glorious sound like a chant, and a woman accompanying him who had “a look that, if you saw it for five seconds, would make your whole life up to that point worth living” (3). This woman, he found out later, was a deceased sister he never knew he had (he was adopted). Dr. Alexander also received a message consisting of three parts: “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever”, “You have nothing to fear,” and “There is nothing you can do wrong” (4); but the greatest message of all was LOVE. Alexander claims that all his questions were answered, transmitted without words, and with the certainty of knowledge that we will know everything after we die. When he woke up, he knew that he had been in the presence of a Higher Being. Getting a glimpse of continued consciousness after bodily death and discovering the truth had a profound effect on his life, taking away all his fear.

Dr. Alexander’s testimony about what he experienced while he was almost dead is very similar to other NDE survey results. His statement on the aftereffect of his NDE contains proof that his had indeed been a near death experience, not a hallucination, which would not have had a life changing effect.

“Taken together, it is safe to say that between 1975 and 2005, at least 55 researchers or teams in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia published at least 65 research studies involving 3,500 NDEs” (Holden 7). Of the thousands of surveys collected, almost all near death and out of body experiences progressed in a similar order: an out of body sensation, tunnel or bright light experience, overwhelming feeling of peace and love, encountering beings of light, going through a life review, a reluctance to return, and transformation/aftereffects which get stronger as the years pass.

Stafford L. Betty, the author of an article on the topic in a major religious journal, explains that we know a NDE is not a hallucination because NDEs are very similar to each other. If they were hallucinations, they would be very much different from each other (196). A near death experience has lifelong aftereffects such as the NDErs losing their fear of dying. They also reported more happiness, increased intelligence, and heightened psychic abilities. All experienced an awareness of total peace and unconditional love. When they returned to life, they were more empathetic to others’ needs and also more accepting and loving of themselves. Almost none of the NDErs wanted to come back to their lives unless they felt they had unfinished business such as raising their children. They encountered family and friends, but only the ones who had already passed. Throughout an NDE, many people have an out of body experience and correctly report proceedings that were going on around them as well as in other rooms while they were in a death-like coma. During hallucinations, people have no idea what happens around them. Also, their lives are not transformed and they are not healed, as happened in many cases of NDEs.

“Three-quarters of Americans believe in a life after death, but only one-quarter believes in reincarnation” (Weiss 47). All major religions acknowledge the immortality of the consciousness, spirit or soul, yet it depends upon people’s expectations whom they might meet in the afterlife: Jews will not recognize Jesus but Hashem, Catholics might encounter Mary or the archangel Michael, Christians see Jesus, and Muslims Allah, but all meet God. Whatever people’s belief of a Higher Being might be, that’s the entity they translate as seeing. Even atheists described being aware of an intense presence of love and peace.

All major religions accept the possibility of reincarnation, but at least one was forbidden to teach it. Jeanette Dunlap, author of Reincarnation And Survival of Life After Death, informs us that an empirical ruling almost 1500 years ago forbade Christians to believe in reincarnation:

History records that the early Christian Church believed in reincarnation and of the soul’s journey back to oneness to God. An Empirical decree by Emperor Justinian in 545 A.D. forced the ruling cardinals to draft a decree that anyone who believed that souls come from God and return to God would be punished by death. Due to this decree, biblical proof of awareness after death needs to be addressed…there are biblical scriptures illustrating the “awareness of the dead.” (159)

Dunlap explains that many Christian denominations continue teaching that there is no awareness after death. Meanwhile, “there is a contemporary attempt that scientifically studies and verifies reincarnation through past life memories recall, past life regression, meditation and mediumship” (160). One of the most famous regression therapists is Dr. Brian Weiss. Through regression therapy, a hypnosis that leads people into previous lives, Weiss has encountered thousands of cases where individuals reported detailed accounts of their prior lives which were later confirmed. Not only that, but he insists that everyone lived or will live hundreds of lives, and is convinced that we will meet the same people from past lifetimes over and over again! There is a genuine recognizing in people who participate in his regression therapy of seeing their mothers who are now their children or the other way around, people who were lovers in previous lives who recognized each other as soul mates in the present one, and groups of people, such as families, reincarnating together to take on different bodies in the next life, while their souls stay the same. Dr. Weiss uses the example of one of his patients this happened to:

Jenny Cockell, a British woman, discovered the children whom she had born during her previous incarnation as Mary Sutton in Ireland in the early 20th century. Five of Mary’s children were still alive when Jenny found them in the 1990s. They were able to completely confirm Jenny’s past-life recall of even minor events in their childhoods, events that occurred more than 70 years prior to their emotional reunion with Jenny – the reincarnation of their mother, Mary Sutton. (48)

This would also explain déjà vu and have-we-met-before sensations.

Discovering through regression therapy who they were in past life times and how they died has helped many patients in the present life to let go of fears and health problems. Weiss calls these “past-live PTSDs” and points out that the way to validate past-life experiences is through the disappearance of phobias or illnesses. The only way this is possible is through an actual memory, not merely by imagining about being healed (83). Dunlap echoes this assertion as she writes in her article:

Past life regression can untap realms of hidden memories to discover past life. Hypnotic regression and past life therapy studies are often used to prove or verify existence of past lives: 77% of clients’ problems were helped and 23% of clients’ problems were considered cured. (162)

Testimonies exist of scientists who set out to disprove the possibility of life after death and reincarnation. One such scientist, Dr. Helen Wambach, is mentioned in Weiss’s book. As she began her experiments and scientific investigation she realized that the more she uncovered, the more she disproved her own conviction. At the end of her research she admitted in a publication that she “now not only believes in reincarnation but knows it” (222). “Thanks to the tireless efforts of researchers, we can legitimately state now that reincarnation can be accepted on the basis of clinical data and not solely by belief” (Weiss 49).

Another possible way to verify that our consciousness stays intact after our earthly bodies wear out is through the research done by Dr. Gary E. Schwartz on the beliefs of Harvard professor William James. In the early 1900s, James was convinced that our consciousness never dies and continues to attest his hypotheses from the other side! With the help of two certified mediums James was able to ‘work’ with Schwartz on validating this assertion. Schwartz also met with Susy Smith who “had published two books supposedly in collaboration with James since he had passed” (127). Smith claimed that her primary guide from the other side was William James and that he was interested in participating in more research (Schwartz 127). After establishing that the mediums were authentic and validating that everything they related in regard to William James was accurate and impossible to know otherwise, Schwartz concludes that “the totality of the findings appears to have the ‘look and feel’ of consciousness and intention” (144). It is interesting to note that when Smith herself passed away she was able to affirm her own continuing consciousness from the other side. Predictions she had made while still alive were confirmed through a medium who relayed messages from Smith after her death. “The emerging spontaneous evidence appeared to be consistent with the thesis that the survival of consciousness hypothesis…was potentially viable” (Schwartz 146).

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who wrote many books on dying and the afterlife, sat at the deathbed of thousands of patients. Through their accounts, right before they passed, she acquired absolute certainty that nobody ever dies alone, even if a person would die in outer space. Each one of us will be met by deceased loved ones and either sent back if it is not yet our time or be reunited with deceased friends and family until we chose another body to be born into. Dr. Kübler-Ross states that:

What we hear from our friends who have passed over, people who came back to share with us, is that…you will be given an opportunity, not to be judged by a judgmental God, but to judge yourself, by having to review every single action, every word, and every thought of your life. You make your own hell or your own heaven by the way you have lived. (35) Death does not exist. (17)

There is more substantiation for life after death and reincarnation: 1) Our pets will greet us on the other side. “Every research medium the author has worked with has claimed that animal consciousness is no different from human consciousness in its essence; i.e. it continues to survive after physical death” (Schwartz 130), and 2) You will not be punished for committing suicide, but you have to come back to learn the lesson. “There is a commonality among people who take their own lives – as well as among children who die young – in that their souls are returned to earth more quickly, for there is still so much that needs to be learned” (Weiss 223).

After compiling so much evidence on life after death, what proof do we have that we only live once? After thousands of near death experience reports trying to explain the awareness of an indescribable light filled with peace and love many call “God,” the question is: How could there be only a black void that awaits us at the end of our earthly life? Doctors, regression therapists, and mediums have encountered agnostics and atheists who, after coming out of a NDE, admitted they were wrong. We don’t even have to try to wrap our human mind around this phenomenal idea. When Moses asked God at the burning bush, “What is your name, whom shall I tell the people sent me,” knowing it was impossible for them to fully comprehend Him, God replied, “Tell them, I am who I am.” In other words, don’t try to understand. Just look at where the evidence is pointing.

“The history of science reminds us of countless instances where what was once assumed to be science fiction eventually became science fact” (Schwartz 150). We will one day have to accept, with the development of the necessary tools to attest that consciousness persists after physical death, that our spirit exists as never-extinguishable energy. Schwartz emphasizes that the world is at yet another “paradigm shift,” a change in our basic worldview, just as humans once had to accept the fact that “the sun does not spin around the earth,” but vice versa, or that “the earth is round, not flat” (149). We can now add these clues to our findings:

We are all one.

There is nothing to fear.

All is love.

We can never die.

We have many lives.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.” (Richard Bach, qtd. in Tod Kelly)


Works Cited

Dr. Alexander, Eben. “My Proof of Heaven; A neurosurgeon’s journey into the afterlife.” Newsweek, 00289604, 15 Oct. 2012. Vol. 160. Issue 16. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Betty, Stafford L. “Five Reasons That NDEs Point To Life After Death: A Dialogue.” Journal Of Religion & Psychical Research 28.4 (2005): 195-202. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Brainyquote.com. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin Quotes. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.

Dunlap, Jeanetta W. “Reincarnation And Survival Of Life After Death: “Is There Evidence That Past Life Memories Suggest Reincarnation?” Journal Of Spirituality & Paranormal Studies 30.(2007): 157-170. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Gordimer, Nadine. “Terminal.Reading Literature and Writing Argument.  Ed. Missy James and Alan P. Merickel. 4th ed. Boston: Longman. 2011. 524-526. Print.


Holden, Miner Janice, Bruce Greyson, and Debbie James. The Handbook of Near- Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2009. Print.

Kelly, Tod. “The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.” Politics & Foreign Affairs.  September 2, 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Life After Death, revised. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts. 2008. Print.


Lightafterlife.freeforums.org. “Leonora Piper by Graham Jennings.” Two World Issue 4419. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.

Schwartz, Gary E. “William James and the Search for Scientific Evidence of Life After Death  Past, Present, and Possible Future.” Journal of Consciousness Studies.   Vol.: 17.  iss.: 11/12. 2010. Start Page: 121-152. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Weiss, Brian L. M.D. Miracles Happen; The Transformational Healing Power of Past-Life Memories. New York: HarperCollins. 2012. Print.