What happens when we die? Nothing? Complete bliss-"eternal life? Or a vague, substantial something?
Materialists and atheists would answer nothing. For them life is a purely biological process; when the body dies the personality dies with it, just as electricity stops being generated when a battery fails, To such people life cannot "go somewhere else".
These rationalists frequently point out that the age-old belief in the afterlife is merely a reflection of Man's terror of death, of personal oblivion. Throughout history he has either avoided the unthinkable or surrounded it with ritual and a childish optimism. The materialist believes this to be craven and intellectually dishonest, we ought to face the "facts" - after all, it is true to say that the one fact of life is death.
What of the concept of "eternal life"? Nearly all religionists have preached that we survive the bodily death-in one form or another. It is probably true to say that the more sophisticated the religion, the more certainty it envisages some form of "life everlasting' for some deathless element of the individual, whether in a kind of paradise or amid the torments of hell.
If the materialist is correct, no further inquiry need be made. If the religionists are correct, then it surely behoves each individual to look to his or her salvation. But in the context of religion, belief in the afterlife must remain a matter of faith, and only the experience of our death can prove us right or wrong.
But what if neither of these rigid concepts is incorrect? What if something- some lifespark, vestige of the human personality, survives and enters a new kind of existence, not as a form of reward or punishment, but merely obeying natural law? Today many psychical researchers feel that the balance of evidence suggests that "something" does survive; not necessarily for very long after death, nor necessarily the whole personality. According to them, parts of an individual's memory-system and personality traits sometimes seem to survive for a time, enabling the disembodied self to be recognised by the living who knew him, but later perhaps to disintegrate forever.
In Western culture death is largely a taboo subject. Most of us don't like to think about the fact that one day we will die. Many people hold to the point of view that we live only once, and that after death there is either an eternal 'heaven' or 'hell' or there is 'nothing' at all. Both these points of view are something of 'an easy solution'. If we have some fixed prospect then there is no need anymore to think about it..
Philosophically speaking, the concept of 'heaven' and 'hell' as static states is a bit childish. Nature herself shows that everything is in a constant change of flux, motion, change. Change is the essence of life. Plato provides some interesting food for thought in his Phaedo. Socrates argues in that dialogue that everywhere in nature we can observe the play of opposites: day and night, sleeping and waking, life and death, etc. Regarding the pairs of opposites he notes that everything has the possibility to pass into its opposite state. Every pair of opposites has transitionary forms, e.g. good and bad have as transitions: getting better and getting worse. Night comes forth out of day via twilight, and day comes forth out of night via dawn.
Sleep comes forth out of being awake and being awake out of sleep. With each of these pairs of opposites one can find transitionary states or forms. Moreover, one can understand that these opposites and transitional forms are always a state of something and that the appearance of this something is only a transition from one state to another. If this applies to all pairs of opposites then the question arises whether life and death are also such a pair of opposites. If so, then it would be logical that there are transitionary states for life and death too. Death is certainly opposite to manifest life, so let's start searching for transitionary states. One gets into life through birth. One gets into the state of death by dying. One can only die because one lives now. Analogous, one can only get into life because one has been dead before.
Conclusion: life and death come forth out of each other and pass into each other via transitional states. A very plausible reasoning indeed! One has only to observe the processes of nature to see endless cycles going on and on. The key question is what is it exactly that is going through these changing states? Answer: it is CONSCIOUSNESS.
Man is consciousness, and specifically gifted with the power of reflection, thinking. The personality (persona = mask) is a temporary vehicle builded by the real human monad in order to express itself on the outer planes of life. The higher aspects of thinking can be brought into expression on this outer planes too, thereby providing the means of verifying the truth of reincarnation, or, as some prefer to call it: palingenesis