What’s truly going on after we die? Peter Noble, a microbiologist from the University of Washington has done some fascinating research in the field of post mortem life. Noble has identified 500 specific genes that become more active and alive after physical death, peaking 4 days after someone’s passing.
So how does the dead become the undead in us? And why? Or, as another scientific paper puts the problem, “[This is] a continuing enigma in the study of biological systems is what happens to highly ordered structures, far from equilibrium, when their regulatory systems suddenly become disabled.”
Although scientists have previously noted some “alive” genes in the form of microorganisms that stay active in our bodies for some time after we pass, Noble and colleagues systematically evaluated more than 1000 cadavers. The team measured which of these genes were functioning in tissues from recently deceased mice and zebrafish, tracking changes for 4 days in the fish and 2 days in the rodents.
What was even more fascinating about Noble’s discovery is that the “alive” genes still showing a spark in a dead body, function much like those when we are first born.
Many of these postmortem genes are beneficial in emergencies; they perform tasks such as spurring inflammation, firing up the immune system, and counteracting stress. The function of other genes was much more shocking.
“What’s jaw-dropping is that developmental genes are turned on after death,” Noble says.
These genes normally help sculpt the embryo, but they aren’t needed after birth. One possible explanation for their postmortem reawakening, the researchers say, is that cellular conditions in newly dead corpses resemble those in embryos.
Whoa. Did you get that? Why would a human being evolve to have cellular conditions in a corpse that allow for a literal rebirth?
The Tibetan Buddhists have an answer, as do many other cultures around the world which believe contemporarily, as in ancient times, that our bodies are just a vessel, but our consciousness carries on.
Perhaps these 500-plus genes are needed to help carry consciousness into a non-physical state.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that conditions just after a person’s passing are ripe for them to determine their next incarnation, based on their previous life’s spiritual work.
We can reincarnate without consciousness, simply pulled by the sway of karma (recurrent thoughts and actions) into a life that much resembles the one which we have currently taken or we can reincarnate consciously. This means that our egoic self (the part of us with a personality, emotions, beliefs, the things that give us a sense of “me”) does not reincarnate, but that our essence, or Buddha Nature simply takes another form without the personality which we used to define “us” before. In Tibetan Buddhism, Bön, and other spiritual traditions, the highest attainment at death (or through meditation) is the Rainbow Body.
Dzogchen is the natural, primordial state or natural condition of a human being and the practice of Dzogchen is a body of teachings and meditations aimed at realizing that condition – the Rainbow Body.
As Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche has explained:
“Trekchö is the thorough cut of cutting through, cutting the obscurations completely to pieces, like slashing through them with a knife. So, the past thought has ceased, the future thought hasn’t yet arisen, and the knife is cutting through this stream of present thought. But one doesn’t keep hold of this knife either; one lets the knife go, so there is a gap. When you cut through again and again in this way, the string of thought falls to pieces. If you cut a rosary in a few places, at some point it doesn’t work any longer.”
What the Rinpoche is talking about is letting go of the physical and egoic bodies. We then achieve what has been called a Golden Body, or the Celestial Body. We are called Cloud Walkers. We experience a state of God-realization in which Divinity descends and transforms the spiritual, intellectual, mental, vital and physical bodies. This state is likened to physical immortality or the highest perfection.
No wonder we have a few genes that hint at the possibility that our entire physical form can transcend death.
(Featured image Shuttershock)