Consider that undergoing anesthesia completely suppresses consciousness. If one posits the existence of an immaterial soul which survives bodily death, how do they reconcile that the immaterial soul cannot even experience consciousness when one is under anesthesia?

Edit: Some people have been worrying about my use of the word "soul". So, let me revise my question without making reference to this concept.

If I am not able to experience awareness during anesthesia, why would one suppose that I could experience awareness after having my head completely chopped off?

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    Do you have any references to arguments making this claim? Context will be essential for answering a question like this. Arguments about consciousness are fickle enough about definitions and meanings. Arguments about souls can be even worse.
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 8, 2017 at 0:50
  • It is common knowledge that Christians claim there is some immaterial conscious being that pilots the body. Nobody knows how to define a soul but we all sort of know what it means.
    – user7348
    Nov 8, 2017 at 1:41
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    But Christians don't claim that the soul is "some immaterial conscious being that pilots the body." Christians sleep too, and theologians reject the idea that the soul "pilots" the body.
    – user3017
    Nov 8, 2017 at 1:52
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    @user7348 That would be a good addition to your question. You should edit it in. It would permit one to answer by looking at his specific opinions on what may need reconciliation and address it from his point of view. In particular, we can look up whether he asserts that "undergoing anesthesia completely suppresses consciousness," an integral part of the question.
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 8, 2017 at 5:13
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    @user7348. William Lane Craig isn't a theologian, but the point is that there is no Christian doctrine of the soul that would be challenged by the unconsciousness produced by anesthesia. You're argument doesn't work unless you assume some principle such as: The soul's existence can only be sustained as long as it remains conscious. But God made souls much more durable than that, so your argument is trivial.
    – user3017
    Nov 8, 2017 at 9:11

2 Answers 2


From the first person perspective, having survived a near death and a long surgery under anesthesia, for me it was just like time travel. The lights faded out then came right back on another place and time. I imagine death would be the same sort of thing. It would just fade out then immediately come back on somewhere else maybe, somewhere in the past or the future wherever something that is creating my consciousness exists. I may not have any memory of dying or this life, but unfortunately perhaps, from the first person perspective, I suspect it goes on. It could be eons in the future in a distant galaxy perhaps or perhaps some other level of being. You do not experience any time in non-existence. Nonexistence doesn't exist. It might be like a little déjà vu, and you go on with your life in the past forgetting the whole thing or come back online as some other person. Or you could end up in some awful life or brain, purely by chance. Maybe inside a pig in a factory farm or as a lab animal. If all it takes is for some form of matter to arrange in some way like my brain and there is nothing controlling it, it seems there are a lot of places I might end up sometime. Get it together folks. I don't want to have to live through your little lives if they aren't good if that is the deal, but I guess then I would just be talking about my future or past self... Odd little world we are in here.


This is answered in the literature of wisdom traditions (correctly or not). We would remain conscious during sleep and anasthethia but this would be a level of consciousness undetected by most of us the content of which is not remembered afterwards.

Meditators explore these levels of consciousness and part of the task is to become accustomed to consciousness in its timeless and spaceless state. Those who do this say that consciousness does not switch on and off. The Dalai Lama notes that only those who have become accustomed in this way are ready for death, partly because they will be free of the confusion that the rest of us will feel in such bewildering and unfamiliar surroundings.

There will never be any sense-based proof of this so we're free to dismiss it, but we're also free to investigate whether there is some truth in it. The trouble is that it takes time and effort and this makes the evidence inaccessible to all but a few.

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