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What Is It Like To Be Dead?Near-Death Experiences, Christianity, and the Occult$
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Jens Schlieter

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190888848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190888848.001.0001

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The “Death-x-Pulse,” or: How to Imagine the Unimaginable?

(p.267) 4.2 Excursus
What Is It Like To Be Dead?

Jens Schlieter

Oxford University Press

This chapter, an excursus, embarks on a more philosophical interpretation of consciousness and experience. Building on Thomas Nagel and Niklas Luhmann, it is argued that human consciousness, defined as a process of self-reproduction of never-ending new possibilities, is perplexed by the task of imagining its own nonexistence. Given that consciousness is not equipped for this task, that is to imagine death (its own nonexistence), it will react with a search for meaning, a context for the existential threat. The excursus argues that this leads to the highly accelerated activity of consciousness. It may result in a phenomenon reported by a certain number of near-death experiencers, namely, the life review. In short, then, the life review is a highly accelerated search for meaning. These deliberations are further substantiated by a comparison with “wake-up dreams,” in which a similar structure becomes visible.

Keywords:   theory of consciousness, life review, nonexistence, wake-up dreams, Niklas Luhmann, Thomas Nagel, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche

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