first edition first edition


Universal Awareness: A Theory of the Soul, in both its original (2011) and its second (2022) edition, is the outcome of a search for possible answers to some profound questions such as 'Why was I born the person I am?' and 'What happens to me when I die?'

I have attempted to answer these questions by exploring and challenging, in strictly logical and rational ways, the world as represented in thought and language by the human mind (our mind's 'map of the world') in order to gain a more accurate representation of the world in reality. For these purposes I have relied heavily on the knowledge, ideas and discoveries of well-respected philosophers and scientists.

The theory's starting point is that for any of us there is no life before our birth or after our death; so when we die, we lose consciousness forever. However, by following a lengthy and detailed line of logical arguments and reasoning, and being careful not to contradict our current knowledge of the world, particularly science, the theory arrives at a different conclusion.

The theory is not simply about what happens to us when we die and whether oblivion or some form of afterlife awaits us. It goes well beyond these considerations. But to start with, in the next section I summarise the theory's answer to the question 'What happens to me when I die?' The statements also apply to you and any other sentient being. They are still, for the most part, expressed in language that is more appropriate to 'the mind's map of the world' than that of the theory (hence my use of expressions such as in a manner of speaking), but this is unavoidable and should not cause confusion. So here goes.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next part below, 'WHAT HAPPENS TO ME WHEN I DIE?'


When I die, although all the material of which I am made will remain in some form, it will no longer be structured to engage in the activity of being me, the person I am. Hence, the person I am now will cease to exist. No heaven, no hell, no spirit world, or whatever (note 1).

However, my awareness of being -- my 'Soul' in the terminology of the theory (note 2) -- will 'survive'. This is because the theory considers self-awareness as an emergent property of the universe itself; hence the term 'Universal Awareness'.

On my death, in a manner of speaking I cannot be aware of being the person I am before death occurred, so I will be aware of being another entity capable of consciousness and self-awareness. This may be any sentient being in the entire history of the universe within the time frame that such beings are viable (note 3).

Thus all beings capable of self-awareness, again in a manner of speaking, 'share the same Soul'. We may refer to this as the Universal Soul.

The theory adopts an understanding of time which means that Universal Awareness is timeless. Our 'awareness of being' is eternal, with no beginning or end. Therefore you and I are forever aware of being some sentient entity.

However, in reality it makes no sense for me to ask, 'Who will I be in my next life?' or, 'Who was I in my previous life?' The time frame of any individual's life, as consciously experienced by them, belongs to the individual and ceases on their death. There is no series of past, present and future lives as envisaged by some religious and philosophical belief systems. So, although it is inevitable that I will wonder who I will become when I die, this question does not really make any sense in terms of the theory (note 4).

When you are ready, proceed to the next part below, 'A CLOSER LOOK AT THE THEORY'.


1. We shall see that in terms of the theory, it is more appropriate to express the question as 'What happens to me when the person I am dies?' or even 'What happens to the person who I am aware of being dies?' Be prepared for some convoluted statements such as these! (Later, I shall explain that the word 'person' will be used in the sense of an activity rather than an entity or object.)

2. I tend to use a capital letter for 'Soul' when I am using it in the sense intended by the theory. That is, 'Soul' is the 'I' in the questions 'Why was I born (my name) and not as someone else?', 'Have I previously lived as someone else?', and 'When the person who I am aware of being dies, will I be aware of being another person?' 'Emergent' here means it just happens naturally, for no purpose.

3. There may be a case, not developed in Universal Awareness, for maintaining that it is 'any sentient being in that part of the universe where consciousness has emerged' (e.g. planet Earth for you and me).

4. This is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of the theory to comprehend because it represents time in a way that is so alien to how we understand and experience it. It is one that is taken seriously enough by philosophers and scientists to give me sufficient confidence to adhere to it.


It is very likely that you are finding the answer to the question 'What happens to me when I die?' strange, confusing and much too 'New Age' to be taken seriously. Why should you or any other rational person even entertain such an idea? And what justification can I give for asking you to take it seriously?

Let's see if I can reassure you. ....

When you are ready, proceed to the section below, 'In What Way is Universal Awareness a Theory?'



1. In What Way is Universal Awareness a Theory?

Universal Awareness is a theory in the sense that 'this is how things might be.' It is the result of thinking logically and realistically about the world, without referring to religious or supernatural ideas or entities.

It does not make any assumptions that are contradicted by science, but it is not a scientific theory; there are no ways of testing it in ways that could support it or disprove it. Perhaps this will always be so.

If true, the theory of Universal Awareness has far-reaching consequences for how we understand human existence and our place in the world.

When you are ready, proceed to the section below, 'Key Distinction: The Real World and the World Constructed by our Mind'.



2. Key Distinction: The Real World and the World Constructed by our Mind

See chapter 1 and Appendix I of the revised edition.

The theory accepts the objective existence of the universe ('the real world'), regardless of whether it is inhabited by sentient beings who are observing it.

However, the world as each of us experiences it is only ever the one constructed by our brain, our mind. This representation can never accurately mirror the real world around us; it is only like a map of that world. But whereas normally we can look both at a map and at the place it represents, our mind's map of the world is all we ever have to go on (note 1).

The Theory of the Soul attempts to go beyond our mind's everyday ways of representing the world and achieve more accurate ones. We can use science to help us, but we can also examine those ways in which we think about and describe the world that create anomalies -- confusion, conundrums, paradoxes and unanswerable questions. We can then seek other ways of thinking and communicating so that these anomalies no longer arise, thus -- potentially -- providing us with a more accurate representation of reality (note 2).

However, as above, the theory acknowledges that the way that it itself represents the universe can only ever be a construction of the human mind.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'A Working Model'.


1. I repeatedly emphasise throughout the book that all analogies are flawed. Perhaps we can argue that any way that our mind understands and represents the world is an analogy (or metaphor -- an 'as if' way of thinking) and therefore flawed.

2. Most of the anomalies described in Universal Awareness are already well-known and debated interminably by philosophers. Perhaps more emphasis should be given to the fact that they illustrate problems concerning the way we represent reality (our map) rather than reality itself. Universal Awareness does not provide provably correct answers to the questions raised by these anomalies; rather, these anomalies do not arise in the theory.

3. A Working Model

See chapters 3 to 5 of the revised edition.

For convenience (hence the expression 'working model'), the theory considers a human being in three parts (note 1).

Firstly, we have the physical body, especially the brain and nervous system. This is called the 'Host' (note 2).

Then we have the 'Person'. When we use this word, we usually mean someone's unique 'personal identity' -- Sally Jones, Raj Patel, your name, my name, etc. (note 3).

The third part is the 'Soul'. In some contexts, 'soul' means very much the same as Person here, as when people say that when someone dies their soul (the person they were when they were alive) goes to heaven or to the spirit world. However, in terms of the theory, Soul is our 'awareness of being'; aware of being the person we are now and of always having been so. In this sense we may, for example, wonder whether our Soul survives after our death so that we are then aware of being another living person, or whether we have had a previous life as another person -- i.e. different Persons but the same Soul. This is the meaning of Soul here.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'Key Idea: A Person is an Activity'.


1. The theory is very mindful that many distinctions ('A' versus 'B' [versus 'C', versus D etc.]') that appear on our map of the world may not accurately represent the real world; that is they arise from the mind's representation of the world ('as if' ways of thinking) and are not present as such in the natural world.

2. As with Soul (see earlier), I capitalise the first letter of Host....

3. ....likewise, Person.

4. Key Idea: A Person is an Activity

See chapter 6 of the revised edition.

The Theory of the Soul makes much use of another distinction of convenience, namely things or objects (entities), on the one hand and, on the other, activities (note 1).

Consistent with the theory, we would normally say that a Host, the physical body of any sentient being, is an object. And, without wishing to sound offensive, we would usually agree that any person, including oneself, is an object.

Now, normally I do indeed think of my body as a physical object that performs lots of different activities. One such activity is being 'me as a person'; so rather than represent 'the person I am' as some entity or object, the theory considers 'me as a Person' to be an activity, something my physical body -- brain and nervous system included -- does. Among these activities is being aware of the surrounding world as well my body and its activities, including those of my brain such as thinking and remembering (note 2).

In other words, the theory makes a clear distinction between Host and Person, by defining Person as an activity -- what the Host does, including (and in particular) conscious awareness and self-awareness (Soul).

More strictly in terms of the theory, 'Host' is defined as any object that is capable of engaging in the activity of consciousness, including awareness of self.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'Personal Identity'.


1. The term 'of convenience' is used apologetically for reasons given in note 1 of the previous section.

2. 'I am what I do' is a common assertion, but here it has a very literal meaning.

5. Personal Identity

See chapters 8 to 12 and Appendix II of the revised edition.

Despite the fact that our body (our Host) is continuously changing in its structure, composition and functioning from birth to death, we think of ourselves and any other individual as being the same person throughout life; that is, our personal identity is preserved over time.

However, from the perspective that every Person is an activity of their Host (and from other considerations presented in Universal Awareness) the question 'Am I the same person over time?' no longer applies. Once again, this much-debated question arises only from our mind's way of thinking about the world and not from reality itself, and no amount of scientific investigation will provide a definite answer. In other words, the idea of preservation of personal identity is, in reality, meaningless (note 1).

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'Key Idea: The Universe as One'.


1. In other words, it's not a case of whether we are the same person from moment to moment or a different person. Our personal identity is our mind's way of experiencing the world but this does not apply to the world in reality. Why is our experience of having a personal identity that is continuous over time so compelling? This question will be addressed later.

6. Key Idea: The Universe as One

See chapters 20 to 25 and Appendices III & IV of the revised edition.

To the human mind, the world consists of countless things or objects engaged in their own activity. This way of representing the world leads to all sorts of well-known anomalies. These anomalies disappear when, in line with the theory, we represent the universe as one organic whole, one object engaged in one activity. In other words, any activity that we identify in the universe is an activity of the universe itself.

So, for any event where we say X (an object, say a rock) is doing Y (an activity, say falling) we can say instead that the event is an activity of the universe. Expressed more specifically, the event is occurring at a part of the universe where the universe is so structured as to enable it to engage in the activity in question (in this case 'a rock falling').

This idea is conveyed using the image of the universe as one vast ocean; what the human mind would identify as objects in this ocean are, more simply, parts or areas of the ocean and whatever is going on in these parts is activity of the ocean as a whole.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'Key Idea: Space-time'.



7. Key Idea: Space-time

See chapter 13 of the revised edition for an introduction to this idea, which is developed further in later chapters (see section 10).

The theory makes use of the scientific idea of space-time, whereby any location in the universe may be represented in terms of four dimensions, three of space and one of time. Thus it is theoretically possible to think of the universe over its entire history in terms of four-dimensional space-time and likewise the ocean in the above analogy. Hence any event in the universe occurs at its own unique location in space-time.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'The Meaning of Universal Awareness'.


You may find that when you are struggling with certain aspects of the theory of Universal Awareness, it can help to remind yourself of the idea of space-time (see later).

8. The Meaning of Universal Awareness

See chapter 26 of the revised edition.

Now let's apply the last two ideas to the working model outlined in parts 3 and 4.

According to the theory, a Host, namely any sentient creature including you and me, is part of the universe; it does not contain any fundamental material that can't be found elsewhere. And how it behaves is subject to the same laws of nature as everything else.

But now we must consider that any activity of a Host ('being a Person', including being conscious) is an activity of the universe. In other words, we may say that Hosts are rare and minute parts of the universe where its composition enables it (the universe) to engage in the activity of being consciously aware of its own structure and its own activity.

It is crucial to understand that 'part of the universe' is not just referring to the object in question but includes all the environmental essentials for the event to occur. This is obviously the case with the falling rock given earlier, but it applies equally for any activity involving 'me as a Person'. Clearly, as with the rock, my physical presence is essential for such an activity to take place, but so is much more of the space-time universe around me. Thus the theory avoids representing events as the activities of separate objects.

To sum up: of myself, the theory states that at any moment, the person I am is an event, occurring at a part of the universe where its structure enables it to engage in the activity of being this person 'me'. Hence any statement 'I am doing X' is translated as 'the universe is doing X'. Likewise for everyone else.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'The Universal Soul'.



9. The Universal Soul

See chapter 27 of the revised edition.

Let's now consider the implications of the above. We are using the term Soul in the sense of 'awareness of being' but now the theory is saying that our Soul is an activity of the universe itself that occurs at those locations where its structure enables it to engage in being a Person -- crucially, being aware of itself and its activities.

Thus the theory is representing the Soul as a property of the universe, something the universe is capable of doing, namely being self-aware. When referring to this you may consider using the term 'Universal Soul'.

To summarise: you and everyone else who lived before you, who lives at the same time as you, and who will live after you, may be said to share the same awareness of being or Soul.

However, the universe's self-awareness is only experienced at the level of each individual Host. So far as we know, simultaneous awareness of being more than one Host, and thus experiencing being more than one Person, is not possible.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'Key idea: Every Event in the History of the Universe "Exists".'


This is another aspect of the Theory of the Soul that is very difficult to grasp because it is so alien to how we normally understand our existence in the world, and appears self-contradictory. That is, the theory is stating that, in a manner of speaking we all share the same awareness of being -- a Universal Soul -- yet, at any moment, each one of us can only be aware of being the individual we are! It takes much mental concentration to make this idea work, and an apt analogy from everyday life has so far eluded me. (Perhaps an analogy involving the process of psychological dissociation may work, specifically parallel or split consciousness.)

10. Key idea: Every Event in the History of the Universe 'Exists'

See chapters 14 to 17 and chapter 19 of the revised edition.

If you are now thinking that the last two paragraphs above make no sense at all, then you are correct. But only in terms of how we normally think about the world. Before they make sense, we must examine the way we understand time and existence and come to a very different way of thinking (note 1).

Science has yet to understand the real nature of time, but it accepts that is not the same as how it is experienced and represented by the human mind.

The theory acknowledges that time exists in reality and has some property (note 2) that our mind represents as 'time's arrow', i.e. time moving forward, with a 'before' (what has happened), a 'now' (what is happening), and an 'after' (what will happen). In other words, relative to one event, other events or 'moments in time' occur before, after or (ignoring considerations due to relativity theory) simultaneously with that event.

Hence, what are past ('before') moments and events and what are future moments and events ('after') must always be defined by reference to some other moment or event. And when, in daily life, we refer to our past and our future we usually do so in relation to our present moment, our now.

However, there is no event or moment that defines 'now' for the universe itself -- i.e. at what stage it is now in its history. That is, there is no universal present which defines what exists as 'now' in the universe, and hence what is in its past (no longer exists) and what is in its future (has yet to exist). All moments and events in the universe throughout its entire history can be said to 'exist' or 'be happening' (note 3).

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'Death'


1. This discussion has nothing to do with the theory of relativity, which also challenges the way we think about time and existence (as does quantum physics). Neither does the discussion contradict these spheres of knowledge.

2. As to the nature of this property in reality, the theory has nothing to say (with the possible exception of material summarised in the section 'Why we Experience Continuity of Personal Identity' under 'ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS' below)

3. It may help to think of 'now' as akin to 'here' and 'not now' as akin to 'there'. Thus 'now', as with 'here', is unique to you; 'now' defines what exists for you. 'Not now' events or moments in time, past and future, do not exist for you, but you may still think of them as happening 'over there' or 'somewhere else' in the space-time universe, using the ocean metaphor if it helps.

11. Death

See chapter 28 of the revised edition.

Let's now rephrase our earlier question thus: What happens to you when you die?

When you die, all the material of which you (your Host) are made will remain in some form, but it will no longer be structured in a way whereby the universe can engage in the activity of being you, the person you experience being. Hence, the person you are now will cease to exist. No heaven, no hell, no spirit world, or whatever.

But death is not oblivion for your Soul, as self-awareness is a property of the universe, something the universe does, whether the person you are exists or not. Because of this, and by equating 'I' with Universal Awareness or, if you prefer, the Universal Soul, and being mindful of the above perspective on the nature of time, you may say, 'I am always aware of being someone', meaning any sentient being that has ever existed in the entire history of the universe.

Despite this, the notion of transmigration of the soul, in the sense that we are all living a sequence of lives (previous lives, present life and future lives) is incompatible with the Theory of the Soul. It makes no sense to ask, 'Who will I be in my next life?' or 'Who was I in my previous life?' The time frame of the life of any individual, as consciously experienced by them, belongs to that individual and ceases on their death. But such is our everyday understanding of time that it is very difficult not ask these questions (note 1)

Hence, Universal Awareness is timeless. Our 'awareness of being' is eternal, with no beginning or ending. We always experience awareness of being someone, if not the individual we are now then some other individual or sentient being. We cannot escape this.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next part, 'ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS'.


1. As is often the case, it is much easier to communicate these ideas in words and expressions more appropriate to the mind's ways of representing the world rather than those of the theory. To attempt to do otherwise would require some extraordinarily convoluted statements, as

I think you will have realised by now!


Three more sections follow. Two of them are a little more technical than the previous sections. They examine in further detail the link between consciousness, time and existence and explore our compelling subjective experience of being one person over time, from our earliest to our final years. The third section is a further exploration of the nature of conscious awareness from the perspective that it is a natural property of the universe.



Consciousness, Time and Existence

See chapters 13 to 17 and chapter 19 of the revised edition.

The theory adopts a construct termed 'discrete conscious event' (DCE). A DCE is any moment of conscious activity associated with a unique Host, including awareness of being (Soul). And it is experienced by the Host as 'happening now'. It is a 'now moment'.

Thus any DCE defines what exists now, what no longer exists (events before the DCE), and what has yet to exist (events after the DCE) -- but for that Host only.

As with any other event in the universe:

  1. No DCE has the privilege of determining what moments and events constitute the universe's present, past, and future
  2. Every DCE occurs at a unique location in space-time;
  3. All DCEs of all Hosts in the universe's history 'exist'.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'Why we Experience Continuity of Personal Identity'.



Why we Experience Continuity of Personal Identity

See chapter 18 of the revised edition.

For any DCE, the Host is structured to be aware of 'before' (i.e. past) experiences (especially immediately 'before'). It is also structured in a way that largely determines the DCE that is experienced in the immediate 'after'.

Thus, throughout one's life, one experiences each DCE as part of a seamless stream of conscious events (interrupted by periods of unconsciousness) along a timeline from past to present to future.

From this arises our subjective impression that we only have the conscious experiences of one person at any time, the person we identify as 'me', and we are this 'same person' over time. This is despite the fact that the Person we are is not an object but an activity of our Host, and our Host is continuously changing in its material composition, structure and functioning.

Allow yourself enough time to think about all of this before you feel ready to proceed to the next section, 'The Preservation and Expansion of Universal Awareness'.



The Preservation and Expansion of Universal Awareness

See chapters 30 to 36 of the revised edition.

Universal Awareness is an emergent property of the universe. It happens naturally and for no purpose.

In a similar way to life (in the biological sense) Universal Awareness has a tendency towards self-preservation and self-expansion.

The above is exemplified by the individual and collective activity of terrestrial human beings. All such activity is framed, in the Theory of the Soul, as activity of the universe.

This activity includes that which we call science. Science (both theoretical and applied) may be represented as an outcome of the in-built tendency of Universal Awareness (and not merely life itself) towards self-preservation and expansion.

The above includes what we call 'the achievements of science'. Where these replicate material and events present in locations of the universe where Universal Awareness is absent, the everyday distinction 'natural' versus 'human-made' or 'synthetic' is not applied. All such phenomena are 'natural'; the latter simply occur in those locations in space-time where the structure of the universe enables it to be self-aware.




The next part examines the implications -- moral, ethical, personal etc. -- of the theory of Universal Awareness in your life. Now you may have some doubts and scepticism about the theory, or you may reject it altogether; perhaps it is incompatible with your religious faith or you own worldview or philosophy on life. For present purposes I am asking you to adopt a 'What if it's true?' approach and then see what you come up with. So why not spend some time thinking along these lines before moving on to the next section?


Most religions, whatever the size of their following, are ways of addressing 'the big questions' of life: First, there are what philosophers call existential questions: How did the world begin? How did life, in all its diversity, start off? How did human life originate? Is there an ultimate purpose to the universe, life and humanity? What happens to us when we die? What is the ultimate fate of the universe itself? Then there are 'big questions' about morality: What is good and bad or right and wrong? What makes a good person? How does one lead a good and fulfilling life? What happens, or should happen, to someone who behaves badly? Why is the world so unfair -- why do people suffer so much while others enjoy such great fortune, regardless of whether they are good or bad?

We can seek answers to these questions by consulting religious texts and reading and listening to what religious teachers say. But even if we commit ourselves to a particular religion, and even if we accept wholeheartedly the doctrine of that religion, ultimately it is our choice how we answer those 'big questions'. The same goes for non-religious philosophical world views.

In fact, even people who do describe themselves as adherents of a particular religion may still be selective in what answers they accept and what they do not.

Many people reject religion as a basis for seeking answers to 'the big questions' and turn to what logical thinking and rational and scientific study reveals about the world and ourselves.

Finally, many people are not particularly interested in spending time thinking about these 'big questions' but they still live their lives quite contentedly!

Even including the last-mentioned group, I have been talking about what we often call one's personal philosophy on life, one's answers to those 'big questions'.

What is your personal philosophy? If you would like to think about this by considering all these 'big questions' in turn and how you would answer them, I have devised a scheme entitled My Personal Philosophy to help you, which is available at https://mypersonalphilosophy.com/.

As I say on that website, making explicit your personal philosophy on life may be helpful to you in 'guiding you through the ups and downs of everyday life, conflicts that arise, uncertainty, moral and ethical challenges, and so on. Remaining true to your personal philosophy-being more conscious of and committed to those ideals and principles which are important to you and which you trust and value-may provide you with greater inner strength and self-reliance and enhance your self-respect and sense of self-worth.'

Now let's consider what would be the implications for you were you to adopt the Theory of the Soul as your personal philosophy on life. Whether or not you truly believe the following premises, imagine that you do so, absolutely. Then consider what each one would mean for you.

Whether or not you truly believe the following premises, imagine that you do so, absolutely. Then consider what each one would mean for you.

(Note: For present purposes, the pronoun 'I' is used in the everyday sense of the word, while 'I' is 'I' in the special sense of your 'awareness of being', what the theory defines as your Soul. The expression 'the person I am aware of being' is abbreviated to 'the person I am' or just 'me' and is your personal identity.)


The universe exists in reality, whether or not I or any sentient being exists.

I have no reason to believe in the existence of any kind of intelligence or divine being that created the universe and has a presence within or separate from the universe.

I have no reason to believe that the universe exists to fulfil some ultimate plan, purpose or intention, likewise life, including human existence.


Some people argue that believing that the world was created by an intelligent being such as a god is irrational and that religions are simply stories that we invent to explain what do not know or understand. But is it really irrational to look at the world -- the galaxies, stars, planets, our planet and the natural world-and think that there must have been a beginning to all this, that it can't just have come about on its own? Surely there must have been a creator with the know-how to construct everything that we see about us. And if there were, then in doing so, he/she/it must surely have a plan, a purpose, an intention? After all, when I look around me now, I see the contents of the room I am presently in and, through the windows, my garden, my neighbours' houses, and their gardens. I probably wouldn't ask the question how all these things came to be in place, but if I did the answer would be that they are the results of the activities of intelligent beings with their ideas, purposes and plans, and the know-how to realise these.

Even some scientists who are not religious have put forward ideas of an intelligent designer or creator (e.g. the notion that the entire universe is a computer programme). So you may find the premise that there is no creator very difficult to accept.

I only ever experience reality as represented by my mind

As with any other sentient being, the universe as I experience it at any time is a representation constructed by my mind. It is akin to a map, but unlike an everyday map, I cannot compare it with the territory that the map represents. All I can say is 'the universe is.'

However, I can improve on the accuracy of my 'map' by exploring the universe in a rational and logical manner; this includes studying the accounts of others who do, and have done, likewise.

Thus I accept the consensus accounts of scholars and scientists of the origins, history, and nature of the universe and of life, including the species to which I belong. Even so, these can only ever be 'mental maps' of reality.


Not all people will agree with this philosophy, but again I ask you to imagine that this represents your way. Think deeply about this. What are, or would be, the consequences for you? Does it make sense to you? How do you feel when you think like this? What difference does it make to how you think and feel about your life? How might it influence the way you behave?

There are no right and wrong answers to these questions, as these are personal to you. One thing that comes to my mind is that even though I accept this philosophy, I don't necessarily go through life thinking this way all the time. Like most people, for everyday purposes I manage best by accepting reality as I perceive it! But now and again, I find it helpful and instructive to remind myself of the above premises and to consider that they are true for everyone, even though not everyone would accept them.

The person I am

Sentient beings like me occur at those part of the universe where its structure and composition allow it to be self-aware; that is, to be aware of its material structure and its activity.

Physically, the person I am is a minute part of the universe. That is, my body, including my brain and the rest of my nervous system is entirely composed of elements, all of which exist in the rest of universe. All the atoms and molecules of which I am constructed are drawn from the environment around me and are recycled by returning to that environment to be used by other life forms. Indeed, it has been calculated that a person's body at any time contains atoms that were once present in every person who has ever lived.

Universal Awareness I use the metaphor of the universe as a huge ocean and you as a minute part of this. How does it feel to think of yourself as a tiny bit of the physical universe in this way?


Some people believe that life is only possible by the presence of some special entity or process (e.g. a 'life force') that cannot be explained by the laws of physics. Similar ideas are expressed concerning consciousness. You might think it demeaning to think of yourself as 'a tiny bit of the universe' whose existence is not part of some ultimate purpose or plan. But remember that you are one of those rare and possibly the most extraordinary bits of the universe where consciousness and self-awareness is possible. So maybe you, along with everyone else, are allowed to celebrate your existence, whatever you are doing in your life!

I am an activity of the universe

Concerning my personal identity, what I understand as 'the person I am' is an activity. It is not just an activity of my body; at any time it is part of the wider activity of the universe and not separate from it. It is something the universe does. This activity is subject to the same physical laws that govern the activity of the rest of the universe.


Once more, the above premise runs contrary to our everyday way of thinking (the usual mental 'map' that we use to understand the world and make our way around it). And again it is our everyday way of thinking that stands us in better stead for most purposes. But what does it mean to you to think in this new way, namely that you, as with every other person, are physically a part of the universe that is constantly changing in its structure and composition, and the person you identify as yourself is an activity of that object, interacting with the world around you? Think deeply about this (the ocean metaphor may help here) and explore what kind of feelings it evokes about yourself and other people. Again there are no correct or incorrect answers.

When I die

When my body, including my brain, ceases to function, the person I am aware of being ceases to exist. This is my fate when the person I am dies and applies to every sentient being. Hence, there is no afterlife, such that the person who I was exists somewhere else, say in heaven or in the 'spirit' world. The material of which that person was composed at death remains part of the universe, but it is not organised in a manner that enables the universe to be aware. In a manner of speaking, the universe 'can no longer engage in the activity of being me'.


It may be that, like many people, you believe that the person you are now will continue to exist in some form after death and you may feel that you have experienced evidence of this with respect to other people after their death. (Note that we are not including here the idea of reincarnation as another person.) And you may find the above assertion unbearable. We all mourn the death of loved ones, and it is a great comfort to believe that we will be reunited with them when we ourselves die. This may be especially so if the deceased person is a child or someone who has endured a life of great suffering and 'has gone before their time'. Hence, comfort also comes from believing that they have 'gone to a better place' where they have eternal life without suffering.

It is for these reasons that I myself would never insist to anyone that we only live one life and that's it-no afterlife of any kind. Many people accept this, but across the world and for most of our history, so many people's lives are, and have been, stunted and blighted by suffering owing to malnutrition, poverty, disease, enslavement and war. In contrast, I have had a long and relatively comfortable and fulfilling life and you might say that people like me are privileged to entertain the belief that when we die, that is the end and there is no going to a better place, no being reunited with loved ones, no eternal life. Compounding this is the rejection of any kind of intelligent being such as an all-powerful and merciful God, who has created the world and each one of us with a plan and a purpose in mind. How could life be so cruel and unfair that all you are getting is just one life when that life is blighted by pain and misery?

Perhaps the belief that the person we are has only one life gives us added incentive to make that life a good one and to help others to have a good life too.

But I have only been talking about one of the implications that follow from the theory of Universal Awareness when we are thinking about death. There are two more that, if you accept the theory, radically alter the way you answer that fundamental question 'What happens to me when I die?' and that, in each of their ways, provide some hope and comfort that many would find lacking in the simple rejection of an afterlife.

Every event exists

I believe that the people whom I have known live on with me after their death in my imagination, in the way they have shaped and influenced me and the world around me, and my memories of them. However, no communication now is possible between us in the same way that there was when they were alive.

But there is more. Every conscious experience, past, present and future, that I have in my life exists. I can think of what I am experiencing now as happening 'here' and any event that I have consciously experienced in my past as still happening 'over there'. The same applies for everyone else. So I may think of all the events in the lives of those people who have died as happening 'over there', though again no communication is possible between me 'here' and those people 'over there'.

Moreover, I believe that conscious awareness is eternal. There is no fixed universal timeline that brings an end to all of this.

Once more, I invite you to think deeply about this and what it means for you when you contemplate your life. What are the implications of believing this for how you feel about your own mortality? And what are the implications for how you feel regarding the people in your life who have meant so much to you, but are no longer with you? Does it bring you comfort, distress or mixture of feelings?


Speaking for myself, I have mixed feelings when I think in this way. Yes, it brings me comfort to believe that the people I knew (and myself too) are enjoying all those happy, fulfilling moments of their life that are in my past (before my present 'now' experience) 'over there' and will be forever. But I have to accept that this also applies to the sad, distressing and painful ones too.

There is a loose analogy that might be apposite here. Consider a great work of art such as a painting, drawing, or sculpture, or even a magnificent construction such as a palace, a cathedral or a even a bridge. Suppose that this was created in your past but still exists in your present. We may say that the artist or architect concerned has created something that is positive and permanent-that is, the pleasure and delight that it brings is not confined to the moment it was created and then it's all over.

Now think of the good moments of your life in a similar way to those artistic creations. Once they cease and are in the past, rather than sadly thinking that they are over and will never return, think of them as everlasting, like those works of art, still giving the same pleasure, even though you as you are now can no longer consciously experience them (except of course [but not always] in memory, which itself is usually a pleasurable experience). Perhaps this will help you when you are 'mourning the past'. Perhaps also it will give you an incentive to create as many good moments for yourself and for others as you go through life, thinking of yourself like an artist creating permanent works of art, and the enjoyment that they bring as everlasting.

We now come to the second of the two additional implications the Theory of Universal Awareness has for the question 'What happens when I die?'

I am always aware of being someone

I believe that I-my soul (meaning my awareness of being)-is not limited to me, the person I am. Awareness of being is a universal activity, such that every sentient being has, in a manner of speaking, the same Soul, the same awareness of being. However at any moment I can only be aware of being one person, the person I am that is living one life as a continuous stream of conscious events along a timeline from past to present to future. So when the person I am aware of being ceases to exist, I does not do so. I am aware of every conscious experience of every entity that is capable of self-awareness.

At this juncture some uncertainty in the theory of Universal Awareness must be acknowledged. What is meant by 'a sentient being'. Are we just speaking about human beings? Or do we include other creatures, and if so what other creatures? How about robots possessed of artificial intelligence? And do we include entities that are self-aware in every locality of the universe? The theory of Universal Awareness provides little guidance on these questions.

Whatever the case, I invite you to think deeply about all of this and what it means to you.


This may be the most challenging of all the implications of the theory of Universal Awareness, one that may be very difficult to get one's head around. It is saying that I am aware of being of every sentient being who has ever lived before, during and after the person whom I am aware of being right now. Now, there are people I (here meaning the person I am now) would love to be and people who I would hate to be. So again you may contemplate this aspect of Universal Awareness with a mixture of feelings. And remember again that it is an eternal process; there is no point when all of this comes to an end.

Perhaps believing this gives us an added incentive to do what we can to maximise the happy and pleasurable events in our lifetime and minimise the unhappy and painful experiences, both for ourselves and others. So we should keep in mind the Golden Rule, namely treat other people as we would have them treat us.

Further exploration

There are many more implications of the theory of Universal Awareness for your understanding of yourself and others and how you think of and react to the world, including the world of people. There is one more that you may like to think about now and which I find very profound. It concerns what in Universal Awareness I call 'the unlikeliness of you'. Consider all the events and conditions (going back indefinitely in time) that were necessary for the person you are to have been born. To get an idea of just how many of these there are, bear in mind that as far as we know, you are the product of one unique sperm fertilising one unique egg. A different sperm and/ or a different egg would mean a different person. If you think about this, you must conclude that only a vanishing small number of people are ever born! Yet one of them was you. Need this astonish you? Not really. Some people must be born just as some people must win a lottery prize. When I think about this, what really astonishes me is that my I, my awareness of being, exists at all. That is, I think about the myriad of events and conditions required for me to experience conscious awareness of the universe, the absence of any one of which would deny me this, according to our usual way of thinking about the world. But when I am doing this I am attaching my awareness of being to the person I am, However, according to the theory of Universal Awareness, my awareness of being does not depend upon a particular unique individual coming into existence against all probability. There is only one awareness of being (which we may call the Universal Soul if this does not sound too mystical). So there is nothing to be astonished about.

One could probably write a sizable book entirely on matters such as these that arise from the theory of Universal Awareness. But not now! I encourage you to continue exploring for yourself all the implications of accepting the theory. This can be very challenging because it requires you to think about the world in ways that are very different from how you normally do, so you will need to continually remind yourself of the basic tenets of the theory. But above all, see how much you can live your life according to the humanistic values and principles that arise from the theory that have been summarised here