I recently came across an article by Robert Lanza and Bob Berman, proponents of the "biocentric" theory presented in their book Beyond Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death.
The article, "There is no death, only a series of eternal ‘nows’," argues that
biocentrism, in which life and consciousness create the reality around them, has no space for death ... [E]verything we see and experience is a whirl of information occurring in our head ...
Of course, as you’re reading this, you’re experiencing a ‘now’. But consider: from your great-grandmother’s perspective, your nows exist in her future and her great-grandmother’s nows exist in her past. The words ‘past’ and ‘future’ are just ideas relative to each individual observer.
So what happened to your great-grandmother after she died? To start with – since time doesn’t exist – there is no ‘after death’, except the death of her physical body in your now. Since everything is just nows, there is no absolute space/time matrix for her energy to dissipate – it’s simply impossible for her to have ‘gone’ anywhere.
Think of it like one of those old phonographs. The information on the record is turned into a three-dimensional reality that we can experience a moment at a time. All the other information on the record exists as potential. Any causal history leading up to the ‘now’ being experienced can be thought of as the ‘past’ (ie, the songs that played before wherever the needle is), and any events that follow occur in the ‘future’; these parallel nows are said to be in superposition. Likewise, the before-death state, including your current life with its memories, goes back into superposition, into the part of the record that represents just information.
In short, death does not actually exist ... And if death and time are illusions, so too is the continuity in the connection of nows.
The model is interesting, but I think at a certain point it fails. If we assume that the needle of the phonograph corresponds to consciousness, then presumably death corresponds to the moment when the needle is lifted off the record. But at that point the needle no longer can play any tracks on the record. Yes, the information encoded in the grooves remains, but it is inaccessible to consciousness. It might be seen as a store of information akin to the Akashic Records, but it would not be part of a dynamic, living personality.
At least, this is how I read it. It's possible, however, that I've misunderstood what the authors are saying. as best I can tell, if your life "goes back into superposition, into the part of the record that represents just information," then "you" are not actualized and, as such, "you" do not exist.
A more complicated but perhaps slightly more satisfactory model occurs to me. It involves holography. (Somewhere, Art is cheering.)
Image from Phys.org.
A holographic plate consists of wave-interference patterns that encode the information necessary to generate a three-dimensional image. Such a plate can be either reflective or transparent. A beam of focused light reflects off the plate or passes through it, creating, in either case, a three-dimensional projection. For our purposes, let's imagine that the plate is transparent.
The projection is fully three-dimensional, a fact that a spectator can appreciate only by circling around the image. From any given vantage point, only part of the image – one narrow slice of it, so to speak – can be seen. To take in the entire image, one must move around it, seeing first one side, then the front, then the other side.
Now let's say that this three-dimensional image corresponds to the entire content of the spacetime universe. And let's say that the spectator slowly making his way around the image and taking it in bit by bit in sequential fashion is egoic consciousness. What, then, is the beam of focused light? I suggest it can be analogized to the higher self, the larger consciousness of which the ego is only a small fragment or offshoot.
The higher self converts raw information into rendered images (using the word image in the broad sense to include objects that can be felt, smelled, tasted, etc.). The higher self sees the entire panoply of images as a single whole; the focused light of its consciousness pervades the entire spectrum of information, illuminating all of it. The egoic self, in contrast, perceives the hologram from one particular angle at any given moment; its movement along the axis of time creates the impression of change, as each new slice of (rendered) information comes into view and previously observed information moves out of view. The ego's point of view is narrow and limited, while the point of view of the higher self is omniscient, at least as far as the spacetime cosmos is concerned.
This is how things usually work, but occasionally the ego gets a glimpse of the bigger picture. In bursts of inspiration known as "cosmic consciousness," or in certain kinds of drug-induced visions, or in near-death experiences, or in death itself, the ego is – temporarily and partially – merged with the higher self. From this vantage point, the ego perceives the whole spectrum of rendered information all at once. The experience is overwhelming. It can be described as seeing the world from God's point of view, seeing and knowing everything there is, bursting free from the limitations of time and space, leaving Flatland to enter a higher-dimensional realm, etc. It can also be described as a "life review," in which all the events of one's life are reexperienced either simultaneously or nearly so.
In all cases other than actual death, the ego soon detaches from the higher self and is left once more with its familiar narrow perspective. But the memory of the transcendent experience never completely fades. It can provide the impetus for personal growth, religious or spiritual innovations, and even the development of psychic powers.
In death, the aftermath is less clear. Some would say that the ego simply dissolves into the higher self, while others would say that the ego detaches and continues its progress in an illusory replica of the spacetime world. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, among other sources, seems to suggest that the newly dead person can, with an effort of will, maintain the ego's merger with the higher self, but in the absence of this will (and the highly cultivated self-awareness it entails), the ego will inevitably retrogress. This opinion seems to be seconded by many channeled communications stating that the earthlike realms of the afterlife are ultimately illusions that must be transcended, and that the ego is progressively sloughed off as spiritual evolution proceeds. It is also borne out by the many postmortem communications strongly suggesting the persistence of the individual personality.
The end result, in either case, would be the (immediate or eventual) immersion of the ego in the higher self, which, standing outside time and space, is indestructible and self-contained. This would seem to be the ultimate destiny toward which we are all striving.
That's not to say that the higher self known to us is all that exists. It may well be the case – in fact, I suspect it is – that there are many higher selves, and that they ultimately comprise all of the consciousness there is; the sum total would be akin to what we call God, and the awareness of all these higher selves together would encompass many planes of reality, not just our physical plane.