Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Of the many unexplained questions in science, one perhaps reigns above all others: What happens when we die? And yet despite it being a worldwide, universal curiosity, it’s also a question that remains (in many ways) as unanswered today as it has been for thousands of years before now. Our many advancements in science and technology haven’t really brought us any closer to finding out the truth… so even the most bizarre theories can’t be totally discredited. This is Unveiled and today we’re exploring four of the strangest theories on what happens when we die. Do you need the big questions answered? Are you constantly curious? Then why not subscribe to Unveiled for more clips like this one? And ring the bell for more thought-provoking content! Studying what happens after death is a nearly impossible task, with most scientific methods either falling short or failing to even begin. Researchers can’t observe the afterlife by sending a probe there; we can’t find answers by peering into someone’s mind; and science can’t even stage experiments direct, because having a control group would require effectively killing the participants - which, to put it mildly, is unethical. The closest anyone can really get to discovering (on a scientific basis) what happens when we die would be by accidentally studying a dying person’s brain before, during, and after they pass. I.e., they’d have to have been inside something like an MRI machine (by chance) at the exact time they died. And this did in fact happen in 2022, when an elderly man had a heart attack while his brain was being scanned. We took a closer look in another recent video (so be sure to check that out after this) but the main lesson learned in this particular case was that there is neurological evidence that your life does flash before your eyes. But, still, as this is just one case, academics are wary about drawing too wide a conclusion from it. All of which means that science in general cannot say with certainty about what comes next... which leaves room for many competing theories, ideas, and beliefs. First, we head back to the Aztec Empire, a reasonably short-lived but still majorly influential civilization in Earth’s history. For a time, Aztec rule dominated large parts of Mesoamerica, producing key advancements ranging from roads, to medicines, from written law to poetry. On the darker side of the Aztec story, however, there’s a now infamous practice of human sacrifice. It’s thought that thousands were killed every year to appease the Aztec gods, with some estimates reaching as high as a quarter million sacrifices made annually. It’s further thought, however, that the sacrificial victims themselves believed they had a bright afterlife ahead of them… because the Aztecs deemed it was how you die, and not how you lived, that would most determine what happens to your soul. Warriors who died in battle, women who died in childbirth, and victims of sacrifice, for example, were promised afterlife honors… like being responsible for the raising of the sun. It was said that they would then turn into beautiful creatures, too, like hummingbirds or butterflies. Meanwhile, in some circumstances, including in accidental death, another version of paradise awaited. If you were fortunate enough on Earth to live to old age, however, that would also be unfortunate… because you’d have just earned a ticket to the underworld. People who died of natural causes were thought to go on a grueling, years-long journey into the deepest depths of the afterlife where they would be forced to serve the Aztec god of the dead. We can clearly see, then, how science has turned this particular belief upside down in the modern world. Next, and to another civilization somewhat preoccupied with death; the Ancient Egyptians. For them, the process of death (which doubled up as something of a trial) was an extremely important and detailed event that the living were a part of as much as the deceased… and, so, the highest-ranking figures especially were afforded all the rites and rituals possible. After mummification, it was said that the dead individual, perhaps a pharaoh, would ride a boat through the underworld. The unsavory inhabitants of this place included frightening, reptilian creatures and fire-breathing dragons... but the dead could sail past. After next arriving in the land of the dead, Duat, a slightly more welcoming place, it was said that the recently passed must then remember and recite various, specific spells… and only then were they able to finally move into the judgment room. Now, the belief was that their literal heart would be weighed against a feather of truth, with the case of the dead presided over by the Gods above. If the scales fell equal, then that person was granted immortality in the afterlife. But if the scales didn’t match, they were to be devoured by a part-hippo, part-lion, part-crocodile demon called Ammit - otherwise known as the eater of hearts. The living could help the dead toward the better outcome, though, by burying them with valuables, leaving offerings, and writing spells on their coffins. But still the worst fate in Ancient Egypt was to not have a chance of an afterlife at all. Those who were deemed to have disobeyed the pharaoh were met with a fearful “double death” by decapitation, with the idea being that this prevented you from even having the opportunity to live forever. Today, we can speak so vividly about Egyptian beliefs because they left relatively detailed records, but that’s not the case with all groups… and one culture that’s popular now despite fewer surviving records is the Norse vikings. Nevertheless, what is known is that the Norse also placed a high value on how someone died, with the ultimate goal being to die in battle so that you’d be taken to Valhalla, rather than the frosty world of Hel. Here, you could expect to meet with the other gods, to eat, drink, and battle some more… and all in preparation for the true end of the world, occurring long after your own demise, Ragnarok. But, to the Norse, dying could lead someone down multiple paths, too… an idea perhaps related to the belief that the soul had different parts, as well. A dead person could end up in a number of separate locations, then. They could die and remain on Earth, inhabiting their coffin or their house, or they could find themselves transformed into an especially malevolent spirit known as a Draugr. There were more positive options, though, including the possibility of being reincarnated upon death… and perhaps even returning to Earth as one of your very own descendants. But finally, and today’s last “theory” isn’t from an ancient culture or specific civilization; rather, it spawned from a particular and much-adapted short story written by the US author Andy Weir. It’s called the Egg Theory and the idea borrows from certain other popular concepts in major religions, like God and reincarnation, but presents a unique perspective on them. The story follows a character who dies and meets with God, at which point he’s told something strange; that time is only a construct and a human invention, and therefore that it isn’t real. But that reincarnation is real, and according to the Egg Theory it happens every time you die. This means you can be reincarnated at any time throughout history, and as any person. In fact, you eventually will be reincarnated as any (and every) person, because the Egg Theory says that there’s actually only one soul in the entire world, and it’s your own. In essence, the idea is that everyone who has ever been alive has also been the very same person, reincarnated into every life possible billions and billions of times over. Every person you’ve ever helped has been yourself, then, and every person you’ve ever hurt has also been you. And there’s a reason for this reincarnation as well. In the story, God tells the recently dead character that their constant respawning enables them to mature enough to become the next God themselves. Broadly, then, it’s a particularly thought provoking version of the afterlife, because it presents an entirely new perspective to everyone’s living lives. At one point in time, as per the Egg way of thinking, you’ve been Cleopatra, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln… and you’ve also been every single person you’ve ever hated or loved. As well as every single person you’ve never actually met before. It’s important to note that the word theory is used here in a general sense and not a scientific one. To a scientist, a theory is a well-tested set of explanations for the natural world that have repeatedly been shown to be consistent. But here, a theory is more a guess or idea that someone or some people have about something unknowable. Ultimately, there are no strictly scientific theories about what happens when someone dies, because there’s no way to know or test it. That massive mystery might always be there for us... but still, we’ll forever try to make sense of it. So, which of the ideas in this video are you most intrigued by? What do you think? Is there anything we missed? 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