What Happens When We Die?

by Joshua Tilghman on October 3, 2012

What happens at death? Is there an afterlife? Are we still aware of anything? If so, what it’s like? These are the types of questions today’s post will delve into.

A general search across the internet will reveal all kinds of interesting answers, but what does the Bible say? I will admit the subject can get confusing when studying the scriptures; there seems to be contradictory answers throughout both the Old and New Testaments. One could easily argue many different viewpoints from many different verses. That’s why I think it’s important to lay some groundwork before we discuss any one Bible verse.

Even though mainstream Christianity has taught that we are made up of spirit, soul, and body, I don’t think mainstream Christianity has done a very good job differentiating between the three, especially spirit and the soul. I believe this is because most of the beliefs from the mainstream Christian perspective are so limited that no real knowledge is ever presented. Let’s try to nail down the difference between spirit and soul. We’ll start with spirit. I am going to use Ecclesiastes 12:7 as a foundational scripture:

“…and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.”

This scripture references what happens to spirit at death. It simply returns to God. Notice there is no discrimination here. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mass murderer or a declared saint, the spirit returns to God when that person dies. So what exactly is it that returns to God? What is spirit?

If we could really answer this question with concrete thought and descriptions we could explain what God is because Jesus made it clear that God is spirit. But we can’t; human thought and expression, which is limited, cannot appropriately explain infinity. However, I do believe we can explain what spirit is not, and by doing this, we can come us closer to a general understanding of our subject today.

Spirit is not limited in any way. It is not created nor can it be destroyed. It is certainly not an entity, person, or individual. These things by their very definitions are limitations. It might surprise some people to hear that God is not an individual, but if God were an individual then God would have to have a cause. And that defeats the traditional idea of God, doesn’t it?

Explaining God as an individual is an old religious concept. Most people think of God as a cosmic individual because the Bible seems to say so. But these same people have not thought about it deeply enough. Common sense should tell us that to relay information about something beyond both time and space (God) to something both limited by time and space (us) is impossible. The only way to truly even attempt it is to use concrete examples and literal stories. Our brains operate in physical reality, so we must have concrete examples to grasp. But in all honesty the most accurate description given of God in the Bible is given to Moses at the burning bush. God tells him, “…I AM THAT I AM.”

Think of it this way: spirit is the first cause of all that is. It gives rise to all experiences. It is primordial consciousness itself. By this consciousness I am not speaking of awareness where an entity has the realization of itself in relation to situations and others. I am speaking of an oneness where nothing is lacking and infinite potential is constant. This oneness is truly whole. This oneness is also truly nothing (no-“thing”), and yet it is everything at the same time. Seems like a gigantic paradox, right? So…where do we go from here?

How can we know this oneness exists?

We need to shift our focus from understanding spirit to experiencing it! In fact, spirit is what you truly are. You can do an exercise right now to confirm it. Why don’t you try it briefly? Here’s how:

It doesn’t matter if you close your eyes or leave them open. Do whichever makes you more comfortable. Then stop thinking a moment. Don’t judge or label anything. Just observe. If a thought comes to your mind, don’t judge it. Just observe it. Do this for a few minutes, and eventually, you’ll switch from being the thinker to the observer. When you have truly experienced this shift in consciousness, you can say you’ve had a glimpse of spirit. There is no conscious thought taking place. It is just an emptiness that is full of potential. It can never diminish, nor can it ever burn out like thoughts and the body can. It is ever there, in the background of what you call you.

If you achieved becoming one with this observer, even only for a second, you just had a taste of peace. It’s a peace that surpasses understanding. Why? Because it cannot be understood; it can only be experienced!

We could never explain the raw power behind what the observer is! As God explained to Moses, it just IS. In fact, I am confident that it cannot not be!

Keeping all this in mind, the scripture from Ecclesiastes 12:7 should make perfect sense. At the death of the body, spirit (raw consciousness) is not limited and channeled through the body anymore, and so it merges back with oneness. Where else would it go? If we are really honest with ourselves, we have to admit that spirit doesn’t go anywhere. Spirit is already everywhere! God is everywhere! So at death, the spirit really isn’t traveling. It just isn’t filtered through the physical body anymore.

How is the soul created?

Before we can discuss what the soul is, I think it would be more appropriate to understand how the soul is created through the infinite potential of spirit. In order to illustrate this process, I want to bring your attention to an article in issue 2884 of New Scientist magazine. On pages 38-39 of that issue, Amanda Gefter discusses how reality isn’t based on matter at all. Rather, it’s based on math. In order to explain this notion further, Gefter explores what math is made of. Do you know what her answer ultimately is? Nothing! That’s right! Nothing!

I quote from the article:

“The late physicist John Wheeler said that the “basis of all mathematics is 0 = 0”. All mathematical structures can be derived from something called “the empty set”, the set that contains no elements. Say this set corresponds to zero; you can then define the number 1 as the set that contains only the empty set, 2 as the set containing the sets corresponding to 0 and 1, and so on. Keep nesting the nothingness like invisible Russian dolls and eventually all of mathematics appears. Mathematician Ian Stewart of the University of Warwick, UK, calls this “the dreadful secret of mathematics: it’s all based on nothing.”

To cap off her article, Gefter then goes on to say, “Reality may come down to mathematics, but mathematics comes down to nothing at all.”

How does this relate to our discussion? I want you to understand that our common notion of nothing is incorrect. There is no such thing as nothing. Nothingness (spirit / primordial consciousness) contains infinite potential, which is dynamic by nature. This dynamism is the reason for the creation of the soul. Sometimes this process is explained esoterically by understanding that spirit, the only true wholeness, must interact with itself. It does this through limiting itself. Many limited parts of the whole can then develop conscious awareness of itself because there are other parts in relation to it to interact with.

What is the Soul?

Now that we have discussed how spirit creates the soul, let’s discuss what the soul is. Fortunately, the soul is a little easier to understand than spirit.

Remember that we have already established that spirit is the dynamic power source. When this primordial consciousness interacts with itself, souls are born. A soul is the result of accumulated experiences of spirit with itself. Accumulated experiences are another way of saying more information that is being built up over time. By the way, energy is simply information in motion. Energy, then, can be equated to a soul “experiencing.” Information comes from the experience of consciousness interacting within its limited forms. Think of consciousness as being “Informed,” or as being “In-formation.”

In order for a human soul to develop, it takes many, many millions of accumulated experiences through many millions of different physical bodies. When I say physical bodies, I mean everything from hydrogen atoms to single-celled organisms to primates and then humans.

Every “thing” has a soul. The soul of a single-celled organism would be extremely simple compared to the soul of a human. It can’t express itself through speech, thought, and complex emotions like we can, but it can respond to stimuli in the environment. Over millions of years that single-celled organism will have reincarnated enough and responded to enough stimuli to eventually transform its soul into something more complex. If that sounds crazy to you, remember that it is no crazier than the idea that reality is built on math (information) presented by some very smart physicists.

Is Evolution True?

So did we really come from rocks like evolutionist say? I believe the answer is yes and no. Let me explain.

Our souls have evolved over thousands of lifetimes from consciousness evolution. We can say that we came from a rock, but we must remember that the rock is really not made up of particles. It is made up of math. Everything is. So to say that we came from rocks isn’t really that strange. Since everything is just the way information is reacting with itself, it makes since that millions of years ago the soul of my dog was limited to being a mere rock simply because the soul hadn’t been through millions of years of experience yet to change it.

If everything is just information, then why can I grab things and touch things?

The reason why anything (including us) seems to be real physical things made up of particles is because our souls became complex enough to create amazing brains to give us this experience. Think about a computer game. It presents worlds and characters to us as we see and experience the computer screen and controller. But really this computer game is made up of a bunch or 0’s and 1’s! It’s not really a person running around on the screen; it’s a bunch of zeros and ones. Our brains work the same way. When we pick up a rock, we aren’t really touching a physical object. Instead we are picking up a mathematical formula that our brains interpret as a solid piece of granite, quartz, or whatever. It is the hardware of our brains that allows us beings (accumulated experiences) to sense and experience physicality. The strange thing is that our brains are also not real. They, too, are just complex mathematical formulas interpreting other complex mathematical formulas. Life is truly amazing! The more complex the formula gets the more amazing life gets.

What happens when we die?

I have never died, so I can’t give you an exact answer. Consciousness and the soul are very complex concepts. It seems that near-death experiences bring a variety of different experiences for the person who “comes back” to tell about it. I suspect this is true because each soul has had different experiences through their lifetimes, so naturally information is going to be accumulated, stored, and processed in different ways after death.

What I can tell you is that the soul is immortal. Information is not destroyed, and since the soul is made up of accumulated information, it is eternal. And each experience brings change. Change is also eternal. In fact, if change and impermanence wasn’t a universal law, you wouldn’t be here.

You may remember your high school physics teacher telling you that matter cannot be created or destroyed. However, it can change form. In like manner, the physical body is the byproduct of a soul which does the same as it moves through cycles of life and death. This process is called reincarnation. A new body is designed from the soul after each life experience through an automatic process after death. I do believe that there are intermittent states that the soul may exist in before incarnating into gross matter again, but to me this is really not important. It’s more important to focus on our own conscious experience of the here and the now so we can bring heaven to earth.

Is it possible for souls to go to heaven and hell?

Yes and no. Yes, it is possible for a hellish experience, just like it is possible to have a hellish experience in a dream. And yes it is possible to have a heavenly experience, just like it is possible to experience heaven on earth. But these states are not permanent. Nothing in the universe is permanent. Look around. As we have already alluded to, one of the laws of the universe is change. Why? Again, because as we already discussed, spirit is dynamic, and it is always seeking balance within the whole. Therefore change must take place as consciousness has experiences. Information will always change with each new experience.

For a more detailed explanation to exactly what happens when we die read my article entitled, The Silver Cord.

So how does all this knowledge ultimately help you?

The soul is what makes all of us unique. Without the soul, there would be no body. Without the body, there would be no experiences to add higher awareness. But by connecting to spirit, our souls can find peace and rest as we experience what we call life.

I also want you to see the greatest mystery and paradox in all this. Even though consciousness must become limited to experience itself, it gains more awareness through the interaction of those limited experiences. Remember that head knowledge is one thing, but experience of something is able to bring higher awareness to the one experiencing.

Which example will give you a better understanding:

1)      Having someone tell you the stove is hot and will burn you?

2)      Actually being burned by the hot stove?

Of course the answer is being burned by the hot stove. And this is why life burns sometimes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, isn’t it better to have loved and to have been loved than to never have loved at all? Which experience brings more reward to consciousness in the end? Of course you already know the answer.

Even Jesus learned obedience through the things that he suffered. Didn’t you know that God himself came down to earth to grow in consciousness? And guess what? God’s inside of you! In fact, God is experiencing through the limited you, and all your accumulated experiences are adding to God.

In our next blog post I am going to reveal some more information about the story of Christ and what it represents for all of us. I have revealed it in bits and pieces throughout many of the articles on this site, but in the next article I shall go into more depth.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Brandon October 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

one of the the best articles I have ever read!
I wanted to thank you for all you have written
My story is a familiar one
raised in a strict church
rejected it
felt moved to seek a higher perspective
spends years and years reading
every spiritual and relligious text I can find
comes back full circle and realizes
the bible is so very full of deep truths
I was just given bad watered down versions as a kid
thinking back it seems like all my years in church as a kid
we only really studies maybe 10% of the bible
a bunch of cherrypicked
isolated pieces with no context
One day I just realized
I was Moses looking at the burning bush
mater on fire with spirit
but its not destroyed
oh holographic universe
you should look into these, they really opened my eyes


Joshua Tilghman October 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm


Sorry it took so long to approve this. I just found it in my spam box. Don’t know why it went there. Fried of mine had the same problem and she had to change something on her blog for her comments on other blogs to start working.

Thanks for the kind words and comments.


Christine Hoeflich October 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Great post Josh! And I so agree with what you wrote: That God = Spirit and that the soul is the individualized portion of God. And souls having had untold numbers of experiences in so many different forms, all the time evolving in this vast Universe. Thanks for helping us see the wonders in the Bible!


Tony November 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

Very beautiful post my brother. Please who decides what form the soul takes in the next incarnation?
God is nothingness :is it that God is the latent potential in every man even those who practice black magic get their power from him?
Nothing is permanent…. Not even a forever life in a state of bliss(heaven)?


Joshua Tilghman November 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm


It’s not that anyone decides the make-up of the soul or personality in the incarnation. It’s really you who decides by your actions, thoughts, and feelings from your previous lives.

And yes, nothing is permanent, except for the laws that govern the universe. Of course there can be permanent states of bliss, but this high state of consciousness is a long way off for most people.


Tony November 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Thanks Joshua,
I believe this is a never ending journey in God. Ever expanding consciousness.


Parsa August 27, 2015 at 2:04 am

Beautiful article. Great job. I dont know if you have read Neville Goddard’s work but his interpetation of the bible is amazing and eye opening. I also believe there might be another possibilities when we experience physical death and it might be experiencing a life in another planet where things are more complex. More like experiencing life in another dimension. I feel, it really depends on our degree of awareness in this lifetime we experience where we end up next. Anyways, enjoyed the article 🙂


Joshua Tilghman December 25, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Thanks Parsa.


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