Saturday, 5 December 2015
"A whole universe inside a human skull, and then nothing."
-SM Stirling, The Stone Dogs (New York, 1990), p. 195.
I do not agree with that way of expressing it. We all perceive the same universe which is outside our skulls. Each of us sees, hears etc because of processes inside our skulls but that does not mean that the objects seen and heard are inside the skulls. We do not see the contents of our skulls but we do know that those contents are grey matter, not the universe, still less a different universe for each of us. But that is all about ways of expressing it.
Obviously, I do agree that something important happens at death. Each person's perception of the universe ceases. When discussing it like this, we seem to take for granted that there is no hereafter - and I do not expect one. (I have just met a group of Christians whose interpretation of the Bible is that consciousness ceases at death. Some individuals will be physically resurrected and others not but that is all.)
In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, Carl Farness quotes Pascal:
"'A little earth on our heads, and all is done with forever.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth," 1935, IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 343.
In Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Dominic Flandry asks his dead Orthochristian fiancee, later canonized, for a sign but hears only the priest chanting behind the iconostasis. The chanter heard but not seen symbolizes a voice from another world but Flandry, and I, can only regard this as a myth.