I read a while back that because your body contains energy and because energy can’t be destroyed, when you die it’s your body’s residual (‘life force’ or ‘psychic’) energy supply that becomes the ‘you’ in the realm of the afterlife. Sorry, ‘fraid not. It’s an interesting idea but with no ultimate merit.
It is crystal clear that when you die your physical body goes nowhere; not to La-La-Land Hell; not to Never-Never-Land Heaven. More likely as not you’re buried, cremated or given to the medical students to gawk at and dissect. What about that other ‘half’ of you, your energy? Where does it go, if it in fact it goes at all?
An Energetic Afterlife: The living body is full of energy. What happens to all that energy when the living body turns into the unliving body? Energy, after all, can neither be created nor destroyed; only changed in form. Can you take your energy with you to an afterlife; in fact is it your body’s energy that becomes ‘you’ in an afterlife? Alas, no. Let’s examine the various forms of energy, see which forms apply to the living body, and what happens to those relevant forms of energy when you start to push up those daisies. I’ll start with the non-starters, for starters.
Kinetic/Potential Energy: Kinetic energy is energy of motion, but after you die, you don’t move, so your kinetic energy is zero. Your potential energy is also zero unless an outside force propels you into motion and you (well your body) gain kinetic energy, but you have no control over that motion. If you just lie forever on the slab (or in the grave), your potential energy is for all practical purposes, zero.
Gravitational Energy: Your living body has mass therefore it has gravity. Your dead body has mass, therefore gravity. Gravity stays put when you die; you don’t take gravity with you into the great unknown, or rather gravity doesn’t take you into the great unknown.
Nuclear Energy: Nuclear energy comes in two forms. Firstly, there’s nuclear fusion which does not happen inside you unless you’re a Sun God (or the Sun) or an H-bomb. Secondly, there’s nuclear fission which comes in two forms, fast and slow. Fast nuclear fission is akin to an A-bomb going boom. Slow nuclear fission is radioactivity. You are slightly radioactive since some of the carbon you ingest is radioactive not to mention radioactive stuff from nuclear fallout and the natural environment that gets into your system. But once you die your intake ceases and that radioactive energy just ticks away and decays in the fullness of time down to nothing, or at least down to non-radioactive substances. All those alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays just go back into the environment.
Sound Energy: The energy of sound is apparent when sonic booms rattle windows and opera singers shatter wine glasses. Alas, while you may have been the biggest loudmouth on the block while alive, when you’re dead, you can hear a pin drop!
Solar Energy: Ultimately the product of nuclear fusion, you can lie in the Sun and get a nice tan and your quota of Vitamin D, but sitting in the sunshine won’t increase your athletic abilities or contribute in anyway to increasing your body’s supply of energy. If that’s what you want, eat sugar.
Thermal/Geothermal/Heat Energy: Sitting in a hot tub; soaking in a thermal hot spring may make you feel good, but such pursuits do nothing to increase your energy levels. Again, if you want more energy reserves (body fat), eat lots of sugar.
Wind & Wave Energy: You may pass wind and make waves but these forms of ultimately what is solar energy transformed contributes nothing whatever to your energy quota and is irrelevant from the point of view of any afterlife you aspire to.
And now let’s turn to forms of more energetic relevance.
Body Heat: On average, your body is warmer than the surrounding environment, so when you die, this infrared (IR) heat energy in keeping with the second law of thermodynamics cools off and obtains equilibrium with the temperature of the surrounding environment. Your IR energy just goes into warming up the surroundings until your body and your surroundings are the same temperature. Your dead body, while you still have a body, will contain heat energy since your dead body has a temperature. But since that temperature is the same temperature as the surrounding temperature, that energy is useless for performing any actual useful function. Besides, that heat energy stays with the dead body. Now what would be impressive is that when you die your body temperature immediately drops way, way, way below room temperature as if your entire packet of body energy just packed up and moved somewhere else. Alas, that doesn’t seem to happen. In fact, to be honest, it doesn’t happen full-stop.
Chemical/Electrical Energy: You do have lots of chemical energy within you, all manner of chemistry is going on inside you and some of that chemical energy is converted to electrical energy. What happens to that electrical energy when you die? Well, what happens to the electrical energy in a wire leading to the light bulb when you turn off the switch? Same difference. That’s in fact one definition of death – no electrical energy present.
Body Chemistry: What about all that chemistry inside you? Well, when you die, your bodily chemistry goes into reverse. Entropy resumes its natural order and increases. Your disorder increases. Your body’s chemistry breaks down and decays to less complex chemistry (giving off odours in the process), but that decay is caused by other organisms, usually microbes. Microbes decrease their disorder by causing yours to increase. You no longer eat; you are now the eaten. Your chemical/electrical energy becomes their chemical/electrical energy. You don’t take it with you; you don’t share it; you give it all away. Your loss is the gain of others. When the very last bits of you are consumed, fossilized, weathered and eroded away to dust and below down to individual atoms scattered to the four corners of the globe, then there’s no ways and means of talking about your energy – it’s gone; not destroyed, just gone.
Body Chemistry Frozen: So what if your body is put in dry ice or liquid nitrogen, etc. where no microbes can get at you? Well, you’re entropy (disorder) might not increase, but it doesn’t decrease either (you’re entire life is one long battle keeping disorder at bay). In short, once you’re dead, there’s no way to decrease disorder; the best you can hope for is a stalemate. But again, your dead body’s temperature is the same as its surroundings, so nothing useful can be accomplished; there’s no net energy flow from A to B or from B to A. What about just being put in a sterile environment at body or at least room temperature? Alas, that won’t work since your dead body will be consumed from the inside by the billions of hungry microbes already living inside of you. If you’re frozen stiff, then the microbes inside you are also frozen and can’t munch on you.
In conclusion, all the energy that’s part and parcel of, and in you right now as a living being will get disbursed into the wider environment once you kick-the-bucket. You can’t have an energetic afterlife based on your energy reserves at time of death. There just is no association between your energy and an energetic afterlife. Sorry ’bout that!