Is There Life After Death?: John Cleese and a Panel of Scientists Discuss That Eternal Question

“I am six­ty-five years old,” said John Cleese as he began one year’s con­vo­ca­tion address at my uni­ver­si­ty, “which is near­ly dead.” It got enough of a laugh that I’m not sur­prised to find, look­ing it up all these years lat­er, that he seem to have deployed the line many times since. “I’m now incred­i­bly old,” he said last year in a video urg­ing com­pli­ance with coro­n­avirus rules. “I’m near­ly dead. I am 81 years of age.” Nev­er­the­less, he remains decid­ed­ly non-dead (and indeed active on Twit­ter) today, though no doubt real­i­ty-based enough to accept that he’s no less mor­tal than his fel­low Pythons Gra­ham Chap­man and Ter­ry Jones, who’ve pre­ced­ed him into the after­life — if indeed there is an after­life.

That very ques­tion ani­mates the 80-minute con­ver­sa­tion above. Put on by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Virginia’s Divi­sion of Per­cep­tu­al Stud­ies at the 2018 Tom Tom Fes­ti­val, it places Cleese at the head of a pan­el of sci­en­tists charged with prob­ing one ques­tion: is there life after death?

Many will find the evi­dence dis­cussed here fair­ly per­sua­sive, espe­cial­ly the doc­u­ment­ed “near-death expe­ri­ences.” In these cas­es “we have height­ened men­tal thoughts when your brain isn’t func­tion­ing; we have accu­rate per­cep­tions from out­side the body; we have meet­ings with deceased loved ones who you did­n’t know had died; we have meet­ings with deceased loved ones whom you did­n’t know, peri­od; and we don’t have a good phys­i­cal expla­na­tion for this.”

So says Bruce Greyson, Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Psy­chi­a­try and Neu­robe­hav­ioral Sci­ences at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia, one of the pan­el’s five dis­tin­guished non-Pythons. The oth­ers are Jim B. Tuck­er, the Divi­sion of Per­cep­tu­al Stud­ies direc­tor; Edward Kel­ly, one of its Pro­fes­sors of Research; Emi­ly Williams Kel­ly, one of its Assis­tant Pro­fes­sors of Research; and UVA Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Neu­robe­hav­ioral Sci­ences Kim Pen­berthy. Their work sug­gests to them that, while near-death expe­ri­ences may not reflect the detach­ment of soul from body, nei­ther do they seem to be straight­for­ward hal­lu­ci­na­tions. The trou­ble with mount­ing a rig­or­ous inves­ti­ga­tion into such a rare phe­nom­e­non is the nec­es­sar­i­ly small num­ber of cas­es. These researchers might thus con­sid­er tak­ing on Cleese him­self as a sub­ject; after all, the man’s self-pro­fessed state of near-death has last­ed more than fif­teen years now.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Is There an After­life? Christo­pher Hitchens Spec­u­lates in an Ani­mat­ed Video

Elie Wiesel (RIP) Talks About What Hap­pens When We Die

Hear Kurt Von­negut Vis­it the After­life & Inter­view Dead His­tor­i­cal Fig­ures: Isaac New­ton, Adolf Hitler, Eugene Debs & More (Audio, 1998)

Carl Sagan Answers the Ulti­mate Ques­tion: Is There a God? (1994)

John Cleese Plays the Dev­il, Makes a Spe­cial Appeal for Hell, 1966

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Peter Treharne says:

    The pro­gram is very inter­est­ing. One or two have the kno­lage but not have wit­nessed it. I Have and record­ed it.
    Sirs, I have 100% proof of para­nor­mal exis­tence after death. When my sis­ter died
    Around three years ago there was no prob­lems. When she was being cre­mat­ed that start­ed at 9pm on the day of her fur­fur­al. I was walk­ing past my secu­ri­ty cam­eras and could not believe my eyes. There were two orbs and they had faces in them. That evening around 1000 orbs came to my house and many asper­sions of pos­si­ble dead peo­ple. There was a lady organ­is­er she looked like a queen with a crown on or it was my moth­er who died many yeas before hand and with white curly hair.
    I had no idea how to save this from the secu­ri­ty but took pho­tographs with my own cam­era and have around 100 pho­tos of what hap­pened that evening.
    They are very infest­ing and 100% orig­i­nal.

  • Mark J Carpenter says:

    I believe there is MUCH MORE to our exis­tence than we sus­pect. Shel­drake has brushed against a frac­tion of these con­cepts. We will all know soon enough…

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