November 6th 2019

Death doesn’t exist – with Karen Voorhees

Karen Voorhees
I experienced death 4 times in the past 15 months. It is hard to let go of a beloved person and also of beloved pets. Death is real, they are buried, not part of our everyday life like they were before. But still, the notion that death doesn’t exist is intriguing and a deep intuition of our soul.


We all, everyone of us, has the experience that someone in their family or community died. So how can we dare to say that death doesn’t exist? People die and then they are gone, we don’t see them around us any more and no-one ever came back. That’s what we are taught to think inside our predominant materialist worldview. But what if it is wrong?

What does “death” mean, and what does “life” mean? Is it possible that our life continues in some way even when we have done our last breath and our body is buried? All spiritual traditions talk about eternal life or some continuum after the physical death. People who were dead and then brought back into life report about their death experience – or near death experience, depending how death is defined. So what shall we believe?

Science defines death for its purposes – to recover organs for transplantation the body is declared “dead” despite a beating heart, which not long ago was considered a sign of being alive. The body, once “really” dead is declaring the absolute end of a person’s life. This is the logical consequence of a worldview which recognises one body alone, the physical, and ignore all the others which are known for thousands of years and studied by many spiritual traditions.

Ken Wilber talks about the “right quadrants absolutism”. People who can see the world only from the outside perspective deny interiority because it is not measurable with materialist measurement systems. The quick conclusion: what we cannot measure doesn’t exist – despite the experience of millions and millions of people shows clearly that the immeasurable internal dimension exist and is very important for our wellbeing and balance in life.

So why can we say that death doesn’t exist? If we believe in an afterlife, in re-incarnation, in the existence of a transcendent soul which last even if the body has died, life, or better “existence” continues. It just transcends into a different form. Science denies this possibility, but it cannot prove that it doesn’t exist. Does that really mean that we are wrong in believing? Or does it just mean that science believes as well, only the opposite idea? Only because the scientific method of exteriors doesn’t work on the interiors, there is no justification to doubt the phenomena, but merely to change the scientific tools for the inquiry.

In our conversation, Karen Voorhees develops her ideas from her background in spiritual practice, using the integral model for her considerations. We also shared some stories about life and death and how we, personally, deal with the question. It was a rich and fruitful conversation on a topic which so many of us try to avoid – which is not a good idea, as seen in an example given by Karen.


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0:00 Heidi’s intro

0:30 Karen introduces herself – After Phd her interest went to Spirituality, spiritual literature of the world, experience in

meditation and accompanying dying people.

2:50 What does “death” mean? 

3:40 Several layers. Heidi talks about her experiences with death, especially Mark. Can “normal” science proof my intuition wrong? I cannot proof my experience right. Until 1800s Humans are souls incarnated intio a body, then the shift into: humans are bodies with a soul

6:00 The 4 Quadrants of Ken Wilber: Impossibility to proof the content of one with the tools of the other. 

6:55 Karen is a fan of materialism for what it achieved, but doesn’t agree that it is the only thing.

7:30 The basic axioms in science are not questions. Even it the method is right, when the primary assumption is wrong, good science doesn’t make it right.

8:25 Different science: Robert Shaldrake. Heidi’s experience with telepathy. Normal science: “it doesn’t exist because it cannot exist”

10:02 Karen about Calr Jung on Videos: the deep psyche believes in death of physical body, but not as personality, spirit, consciousness. Examples told by Karen. The passage is “all automated” = relief for a materialist.

15:40 Deeper levels than personality, deeper self doesn’t die. What we say are concepts, a mental map, not the territory.

16:50 Theory of Kharma which shapes our lives. The seed which we build further with free will. – Who choses? Which “you” do we talk about?

18:00 Wilber: there are many levels of “you”. Developmental levels.

19:18 The soul chooses the earthly parents? 

20:40 Karen’s teacher’s story of manifestation. “Who wants to go out and have an adventure?” Souls never in manifestation dance in glorry, as well as those who come back in the true home, they dance even better

23:50 A poem by Rilke.

25:37 A parallel to this world: gratefulness for your good life when you know what you have – would be the right attitude.

27:25 What spirituality did for Karen: opened her eyes and heart without heroic inflation.

29:10 Learning about humans, the believe that there is a reason for my existence. Heidi shares her experience with magic mushrooms: the universal grieving process.

32: Mark is dead, but he is not dead. Come into my energy again, let go of fear and doubt. The message: there is much more than normal consciousness.

34:25 The essence of the grief: existential desperation, for mistreating each other in the world, and the fact that we come and go, and it doesn’t matter, as we are still here in some way. Feel the connection with the Universe.

36:50 The reason for the material Universe: we need a challenge to go on. God wanted an adventure. 

38:00 a  story: question to her guru: why did God create this manifestation of suffering? – This is usually the question we ask God when we meet him on the 5th dimension – Karen wanted a “real” answer. She was taken out of her body. All has something to do with “love”. Confidence that there is something so much bigger than our bodies and personalities out there.

43:25 A parallel to dreams? Are dreams metaphors for the transitioning of life? Bodies are like our automobile. 

45:30 Subtle bodies. 8 dimensions. Dream bodies are more real than physical,  We exist in all dimensions in all time, but our personal consciousness is limited by our physical possibilities to perceive. Dead is like not using the car any more, but still have the other bodies. 

48:50 So she was able to be pressent when most other people wouldn’t have been: 6 months of constant whining before death of the mother in law.

50:00 Stay with difficult experience is part of human growth.