Does the soul exist? Does death exist? Do ghosts exist? Even if we don’t subscribe to the belief or reality of our soul’s existence, at several points in our lives we in India particularly hear that aatma kabhi martee nahi, aatma amar hai—the soul never dies, the soul is immortal. In November 2016 and then in January this year, UK’s Daily Express reported sensational claims made by scientists that the human consciousness lives on after death.

Sean Martin wrote that “The possibility of life after death is one of the greatest mysteries of humanity, but now experts are claiming that there is no death of consciousness—just death of the body… According to some well-respected scientists, quantum mechanics allows consciousness to live on following the body’s eventual demise…While scientists are still unsure about what exactly consciousness is, the University of Arizona’s Stuart Hameroff believes that it is merely information stored at a quantum level…British physicist Sir Roger Penrose agrees and believes he and his team have found evidence that protein-based microtubules—a structural component of human cells—carry quantum information— information stored at a sub-atomic level.”

Sir Roger states if a person temporarily dies, this quantum information is released from the microtubules and into the universe. However, if they are resuscitated the quantum information is channeled back into the microtubules and that is what sparks a near death experience. Sir Roger added: “If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul.”

Researchers from the renowned Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich agree and state that the physical universe that we live in is only our perception and once our physical bodies die, there is an infinite beyond. Some believe that consciousness travels to parallel universes after death. “The beyond is an infinite reality that is much bigger… which this world is rooted in. In this way, our lives in this plane of existence are encompassed, surrounded, by the afterworld already… The body dies but the spiritual quantum field continues. In this way, I am immortal.”

Way back in 1901, Duncan MacDougall, a physician from Massachusetts, USA, attempted in a controversial experiment, to measure the weight lost by six patients at the moment of death. One of the subjects lost three-fourths of an ounce (21.3 grams).  The scientific community rejected the results, published in 1907 and his 2012 photographs of “souls” as well. But the concept that the soul weighs 21 grams remains popular, inspiring a film 21 grams in 2003, The Empire of Corpses in 2015 and a “21 grams” song in 2015 etc.

In our times, Dr Robert Lanza was amongst the 2014 TIME list of the hundred most influential people in the world, and in 2015 he was named one of the top 50 “World Thinkers” by Prospect Magazine. In his path breaking book “Beyond Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death” one of the questions Dr Lanza raises is: does the soul exist? The new scientific theory he propounds says we’re immortal and exist outside of time. According to Dr Lanza, we believe in death because we have been told we will die. We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.

Dr Lanza’s new scientific theory called biocentrism refines many ideas. “There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling—the ‘Who am I?’- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?”

Biocentrism postulates that space and time are not the hard objects we think. Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, “Now Besso (an old friend) has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us…know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”  People have long believed that death is merely a transition from one form of existence to another and the concept of ghosts as a form of life after death goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, perhaps even earlier. Curiously, Albert Einstein himself may have laid a scientific basis for the existence of ghosts. What becomes of our energy when we die? If energy cannot be created or destroyed but can only change its form, could it not somehow take the form of a ghost?

It is well known that a surprising number of people believe in ghosts. According to a 2014 UK survey 52% of those surveyed believed in the supernatural. A 2015 survey by Chapman University revealed that more than 40% Americans believe places can be haunted. Overall, it has been found that 45% of the world’s population “believe in ghosts, spirits and paranormal activities”. The battle between such beliefs and a more scientific basis has always been never-ending and still seems to be far away from a clinching conclusion.

In a 2014 study, Goldsmiths, University of London psychologists asked participants to watch a video of a “psychic” supposedly bending a metal key with his mind. The findings were most interesting. “One person’s account can influence another person’s memory,” study co-author Christopher French commented. “There is a motivational side to belief in ghosts,” French explained further. “We all want to believe in life after death. The idea of our mortality is one we are not generally comfortable with.” As Dr Lanza, wrote, quoting Will Durant, the prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher best known for 11 volumes of the “The Story of Civilization” penned in collaboration with his wife,  “…. ‘The hope of another life gives us courage to meet our own death, and to bear with the death of our loved ones; we are twice armed if we fight with faith…’ And we are thrice armed if we fight with science.”