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Hallucinations Science

Why Near-Death Experiences Are Not Hallucinations

Skeptics claim NDEs are only the product of the brain occurring during life threatening situations. They claim the brain produces an avoidance response to such situations in the form of endorphins flooding the brain thereby causing hallucinations. Skeptics also claim NDEs are a hallucinatory experience similar to hallucinations brought on when LSD is introduced into the body. They point to scientific studies showing how psychedelic drugs, meditation, and other triggers can be used to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness, such as an NDE, and claim this falsifies the Afterlife Hypothesis. But hallucinogenic drugs cause distortions of reality, alterations of body image, and disorientation as to time and place.

The major difference between hallucinations and NDEs is that NDEs do not involve such distortions of reality. NDEs have been described as perceptions of a hyper-reality superimposed over current reality. NDEs can be induced in many ways and the Triggers of the NDE section of this website lists them and provides examples. But all this proves is there exists a biological component to NDEs. Near-death researchers do not deny the existence of a biological component to NDEs. Near-death studies have discovered the existence of a metaphysical “umbilical cord” connecting the physical body with the subtle body during the out-of-body experience component of the NDE. This cord corresponds with a boundary or “point of no return” during NDEs which cannot be crossed without resulting in irreversible death. Evidence shows that when this cord is severed, this point of no return has been crossed and death results.

There is also an assumption among skeptics that a person’s subjective experience – even consciousness itself – is not objectively real. They assume only physical things are real and anything else is not. These include the experiences of intuition, the taste of wine, or even seeing the color red. But there are serious problems in denying the existence of subjective reality. Here are some comments by experts in this field:

Psychologist John Gibbs states:

“NDE accounts from varied times and cultures were found to be more orderly, logical, defined and predictable than comparable accounts from drug or illness-induced hallucination. Impressive data from Tart, Moody and Carl Becker also argue for the objective elements of an NDE, including returning with knowledge later verified and third-party observations of odd death-bed phenomena (such as luminosity or apparitions).”

Neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick, describes the difference between the NDE and hallucinations:

“The difficulty with those theories is that when you create these wonderful states by taking drugs, you’re conscious. In the NDE, you are unconscious. One of the things we know about brain function in unconsciousness, is that you cannot create images and if you do, you cannot remember them.”

Fenwick describes the unconscious state of the NDE:

“The brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences … an unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working. The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these experiences (an NDE), you come out with clear, lucid memories … This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact.”

So it appears we may never know exactly what an NDE is or what produces them, until science can define exactly what consciousness is. We may have a long way to go to learn this.

Dr. Kenneth Ring, the leading figure in NDE studies has this to say:

“Drugs, anesthesia and medication did not seem to be a factor in inducing these impressions and exquisite feelings of an NDE. Indeed, drugs and anesthesia seemed to be more likely to cause a person to forget memories of an NDE.”

Dr. Ring concluded NDEs are not hallucinations because hallucinations are rambling, unconnected, often unintelligible and vary widely, whereas NDEs tend to have similar elements of a clear, connected pattern.

Ketamine is a drug which several researchers feel creates effects which are similar to NDEs. However, they have not published controlled studies to substantiate their point of view. Scott Rogo describes similarities between NDEs and ketamine induced visions, but ultimately feels ketamine often causes bizarre, paranoid visions not seen in NDEs.

It is interesting to note that Karl Jansen, a leading ketamine researcher, not only believes NDEs and ketamine induced visions are the same, but is convinced that BOTH induced real visions of a real god. For this reason, he considers himself a very spiritual person as a result of his ketamine research.

Dr. Jeffrey Long states:

“One concern of NDE skeptics is the concept of a dual physical and spiritual life presence, with the spiritual presence surviving bodily death. The physical presence is easily discernable, while the spiritual presence is generally not easily discernable. It is very helpful to personally have an NDE or NDE-like experience to address such concerns. For virtually all NDErs, an NDE cures NDE disbelief. However, only approximately 4% of the United States adult population have a personal history of NDEs. Others find they are opened to the possibility of a dual physical/spiritual life presence through other spiritually transformative life events.

“These life experiences may include, but are not limited to, markedly serendipitous events, other personal paranormal experiences, and acceptance of other people’s accounts of their spiritually transformative experiences. I personally believe that if such spiritually transformative experiences are sincerely sought, they are likely to be encountered. NDE research is somewhat unique due to the subjective nature of the experience. This subjectivity precludes certain conventional scientific methods of studying NDEs, such as replicating NDEs or studying physical changes associated with the experience.

“This inability to study NDEs via certain accepted methods of conventional scientific verification results in the need for some element of faith to accept the reality of NDEs. I think this necessary element of faith is a problem for many people in accepting the reality and significance of NDEs. Mitigating against this concern is the fact that NDEs are relatively common. Millions of people have had NDEs. NDEs are quite varied, but the consistency of the NDE elements (OBE experience, tunnel, light, meeting other beings, etc.) is striking. There is no plausible biological explanation of NDEs. There is no other human experience so dramatic, shared by so many people, and so relatively consistent in its elements. The preceding suggests faith in the validity of NDE accounts is the most reasonable conclusion from the evidence.”

Dr. Stanislav Grof agrees:

“I had my training as a psychiatrist, a physician and then as a Freudian analyst. When I became interested in non-ordinary states and started serving powerful mystical experiences, also having some myself, my first idea was that it (consciousness) has to be hard-wired in the brain. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how something like that is possible.

“Today, I came to the conclusion that it is not coming from the brain. In that sense, it supports what Aldous Huxley believed after he had some powerful psychedelic experiences and was trying to link them to the brain. He came to the conclusion that maybe the brain acts as a kind of reducing valve that actually protects us from too much cosmic input. So, I don’t see, for example, that experiences of archetypal realms, heavens, paradises, experiences of archetypal beings, such as deities, demons from different cultures, that people typically have in these states that they can be somehow explained as something that comes from the brain. I don’t think you can locate the source of consciousness. I am quite sure it is not in the brain not inside of the skull. “It actually, according to my experience, would lie beyond time and space, so it is not localizable. You actually come to the source of consciousness when you dissolve any categories that imply separation: individuality, time, space and so on. You just experience it as a presence.

“People who have these experiences can either perceive that source or they can actually become the source, completely dissolved and experience that source. But such categories as time and space, localization coordinates, are not relevant for that experience. You actually have a sense that the concepts of time and space come from that place. They are generated by that place; but, the cosmic source itself, the cosmic consciousness cannot be located certainly not in the material world.”

So the real questions are these: What is consciousness? Where is it located? Can it exist separately from the brain? Is the NDE a phenomenon for which consciousness transcends the brain? If so, what about other phenomena such as lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences? We can all concede that these states of consciousness all have a chemical basis. But are they only a brain thing? Is the mind only the product of the brain? Near-death studies are revealing the ability of consciousness to transcend the dead brain. One of the best examples of this is the NDE account of Pam Reynolds who perceived verified events in the operating room while being brain dead.

Related Articles

a. Compare Larry Hagman’s Mystical Experiences – One NDE and the Other LSD
b. The Spiritual Scientist on “Are NDEs Hallucinations?”
c. NDEs: Brain Physiology or Transcendental Consciousness? Or Both?
d. Greg Stone’s Critique of Susan Blackmore’s Dying Brain Hypothesis
e. Scientific Theories of the Near-Death Experience
f. Dr. Kenneth Ring on Why NDEs are Not Hallucinations
g. Dr. Melvin Morse on Why NDEs are Not Hallucinations
h. Dr. Pim van Lommel on Why NDEs are Not Hallucinations
i. Links to articles which support NDEs as life after death experiences

Categories
Hallucinations Science

Timothy Leary, LSD and Near-Death Experiences

The following is an excerpt from Ralph Metzner‘s excellent book, The Psychedelic Experience. It is based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead and co-authored by the late Timothy Leary.

A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity. Such experiences of enlarged consciousness can occur in a variety of ways: sensory deprivation, yoga exercises, disciplined meditation, religious or aesthetic ecstasies, or spontaneously. Most recently they have become available to anyone through the ingestion of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, etc.

Of course, the drug does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key – it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical – the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social – feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural – prevailing views as to what is real. It is for this reason that manuals or guide-books are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories which modern science has made accessible.

Different explorers draw different maps. Other manuals are to be written based on different models – scientific, aesthetic, therapeutic. The Tibetan model is designed to teach the person to direct and control awareness in such a way as to reach that level of understanding variously called liberation, illumination, or enlightenment. If the manual is read several times before a session is attempted, and if a trusted person is there to remind and refresh the memory of the voyager during the experience, the consciousness will be freed from the games which comprise “personality” and from positive-negative hallucinations which often accompany states of expanded awareness. The Tibetan Book of the Dead was called in its own language the Bardo Thodol, which means Liberation by Hearing on the After-Death Realm. The book stresses over and over that the free consciousness has only to hear and remember the teachings in order to be liberated.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is ostensibly a book describing the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an intermediate phase lasting forty-nine days, and during rebirth into another bodily frame. This however is merely the esoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their mystical teachings. The language and symbolism of death rituals of Bonism, the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, were skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions. The esoteric meaning is that it is death and rebirth of the ego that is described, not of the body.

Tibetan lama Govinda indicates this clearly in his introduction when he writes: “It is a book for the living as well as for the dying.”

The book’s esoteric meaning is often concealed beneath many layers of symbolism. It was not intended for general reading. It was designed to be understood only by one who was to be initiated personally by a guru into the Buddhist mystical doctrines, into the pre-mortem-death-rebirth experience. These doctrines have been kept a closely guarded secret for many centuries, for fear that naive or careless application would do harm. In publishing this practical interpretation for use in the psychedelic drug session, we are in a sense breaking with the tradition of secrecy and thus contravening the teachings of the lama-gurus.

Following the Tibetan model then, we distinguish three phases of the psychedelic experience. The first period is that of complete transcendence – beyond words, beyond space-time, beyond self. There are no visions, no sense of self, no thoughts. There are only pure awareness and ecstatic freedom from all game (i.e., role playing) and biological involvements. The second lengthy period involves self, or external game reality – in sharp exquisite clarity or in the form of hallucinations (karmic apparitions). The final period involves the return to routine game reality and the self. For most persons the second (aesthetic or hallucinatory) stage is the longest. For the initiated the first stage of illumination lasts longer. For the unprepared, the heavy game players, those who anxiously cling to their egos, and for those who take the drug in a non-supportive setting, the struggle to regain reality begins early and usually lasts to the end of their session.

Words like these are static, whereas the psychedelic experience is fluid and ever-changing. Typically the subject’s consciousness flicks in and out of these three levels with rapid oscillations. One purpose of this manual is to enable the person to regain the transcendence of the first period and to avoid the prolonged entrapments in hallucinatory or ego-dominated game patterns.

You must be ready to accept the possibility that there is a limitless range of awareness for which we now have no words; that awareness can expand beyond the range of your ego, your self, your familiar identity, beyond everything you have learned, beyond your notions of space and time, beyond the differences which usually separate people from each other and from the world around them.

You must remember that throughout human history, millions have made this voyage. A few (whom we call mystics, saints or Buddhas) have made this experience endure and have communicated it to their fellow men. You must remember, too, that the experience is safe (at the very worst, you will end up the same person who entered the experience), and that all of the dangers which you have feared are unnecessary productions of your mind. Whether you experience heaven or hell, remember that it is your mind which creates them. Avoid grasping the one or fleeing the other. Avoid imposing the ego game on the experience.

You must try to maintain faith and trust in the potentiality of your own brain and the billion year old life process. With your ego left behind you, the brain can’t go wrong.

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Hallucinations Science

Naina’s LSD Near-Death Experience

I just read on your website about the LSD near-death experience. I have been researching for a long time on this subject because I had a very similar experience about 5 months ago when I bad tripped on 800 micrograms of LSD. I think you might be interested in knowing what happened.

It’s crazy how you can just loose control over everything. I got a heart attack because I couldn’t handle what was happening to me. It was sheer paranoia – confusion to the extent of not being able to take out words from my mouth to speak. Turning into a heart attack I choked until I died and for 1 minute I was dead. It’s like I did it to myself.

When I was going to go, I knew I was going to go, and I was holding on so tight. But then I couldn’t take it anymore and I gave up.

I had been seeing colors around me for hours before that, due to the acid of course, and they started spinning faster and faster.

The air around me and the voice in my head started spinning faster and faster. I could feel it, hear it, and see it. All the colors fused together to become this white light.

When I died it was so strange. I didn’t want to go but I was so exhausted by the experience I just let go.

I felt this 10-foot big man carrying me up some stairs. I felt as light as a feather. I thought I was going to heaven but when I finally opened my eyes I was back in the room, alive, with my friend sitting beside me. But then I thought I was dead. I didn’t know I was alive.

I got a glimpse of hell which you cannot imagine. It’s nothing like what people say it is. It’s all about repetition of your fears.

I was on acid, so what I saw was strange. In reality of my sight, I saw my friend kill me again and again and again and again, forever. But the truth was that I was afraid that the only people I trusted would go against me and try and harm me. That was my greatest fear I guess, and death of course. So that’s what happened. That’s what hell’s about.

Well I do not know whether what I saw actually happens after death or if it’s just something we have to go through to understand life better when we are not learning, eradicating our fears, and bringing us knowledge. But what I think hell, heaven, and alternate realities are all in this planet, its just the way you perceive them and after you die, you don’t go anywhere near these realities. That’s what I think. That’s what I hope.

What saved me from that experience was when I saw the same friend (the one I thought who was trying to kill me) cry, I felt love, trust and compassion for him. That’s how I came back – because of love. Love saved my life and that’s how I got back to what everyone else calls reality.

An experience like that would drive people mad forever, but I got back, and today I am struggling to figure out what’s going on. I am getting there.

I did acid to figure out everything about life, to get knowledge and I got too much. So it’s time for registration. I agree with the person who wrote about their experience that God is love, because the love inside of me saved me.

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Hallucinations Science

MaryJane Escobar’s Drug Triggered Near-Death Experience

The following is MaryJane Escobar’s NDE testimony sent to Kevin Williams by email.

I had an NDE when I was 20 years old on my birthday.

I was a troubled youth. I had my first child at 14. I was abandoned by my family to make my way on my own. When I was 18 years old, I gave my son to his father due to homelessness. I could not get over the separation from my child. It was the first experience that I had with unconditional love.

I fell into a relationship that was terribly destructive for me. I started using drugs heavily. I had no will to live and wanted to go and leave this life of hell forever. I got my wish.

I was up all night using drugs. I overdosed and went into convulsions. Just before it hit me, I shot out of the top of my head and lingered only moments while everyone freaked out. Then I was in a dark cobblestone tunnel that seemed wet. I was a sphere illuminating everything around me .

It felt to me like a completely natural state. I was flying so fast through the tunnel excited to reach the end. As I came closer to a bright light I noticed that the tunnel veered to my left. I was close and could now sense some kind of magnetic force pulling me into the light. It was incredible and overflowing with unconditional love, forgiveness, and empathy. I was completely surrounded by many spheres like myself. All of us were attracted to this huge sphere where all of the wonderful feelings were emanating from.

But just as quickly as I had got there I was sent shooting back into my body. There was a young paramedic holding me and calling my name and telling me to breathe. I was so angry! I had been robbed of peace, love, forgiveness, empathy, and deep understanding. I did not want to breathe. I kept resisting the paramedic and he just became more and more determined to keep me breathing and alive .

On my way to the hospital, he told me I had been dead. My heart had stopped just seconds under 5 minutes. He did not think he was going to be able to revive me. He was so proud and happy because he had saved my life. I was full of rage because I felt robbed of the one thing I had been seeking my entire life – love, understanding, and acceptance .

After that experience a chain of motion was inflected in my life. I became drug free. I married and had two more children and was reunited with my first child. I have been married to the love of my life for nearly 18 years.

Three years ago I began having dreams of being in a very bad head-on collision. I was so certain that I would die in my 89 Toyota Corolla. I could see my head hitting the windshield and the engine ending up on my legs. Extremely vivid and for 4 months. My husband became so concerned that he bought me a ’97 Mazda 626. He brought it to my work and I got in and drove it. I sensed that this was a safety option and that I was being given a choice. Die in the Corolla or be injured and live with the Mazda.

I had it two weeks and I never made a payment when the car accident happened. I was hit on my head and my face was destroyed. My back and neck were disabled. I required four reconstructive bone grafting surgeries on my cheek bone, bones around the sinuses, and all the bone and root structure above where I once had teeth. I ended up losing thirteen teeth total. My thought just before we collided was that I will live through this. And I did. But I lost my identity. I lost my way of coping with stress by exercise and my career as Personal Trainer, Aerobics instructor, and Choreographer to fitness competitors .

I hid for an entire year while they worked on my face. But something very wonderful came out of all this pain and suffering. I developed a deep well of compassion for people, and then became extremely intuitive to the point where it sometimes scares me. Even though my life has changed so much from this collision, I have been able to open my own outcall training business and work with people who just won’t step foot in a gym because of self-consciousness, work hours, or do not have the time to fit in for a gym.

It was a long road back for me. But I made it and developed quite an education in humility, forgiveness, sincerity and understanding. Also, because I lived through it, I learned so much more about the human body and dental care. Medical terminology has become so easy for me to understand.

I don’t know if the head-on collision had anything to do with the NDE fourteen years prior, but I definitely feel that I was given a clear choice: leave this life and my beautiful children, grandchildren, and wonderful husband or stay behind but be forced into growth. I chose life. I chose to grow no matter how painful the growing pains were and sometimes still are.

Thank you for your time and allowing me to share.

MaryJane: HeartsRox@aol.com

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Hallucinations Science

Larry Hagman’s LSD Near-Death Experience

Larry Martin Hagman (1931-2012), www.larryhagman.com, was an actor best known for playing the ruthless oil baron, J. R. Ewing, in the 1980’s television show “Dallas“, and the astronaut Major Tony Nelson in the 1960’s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie.” His television appearances also included guest roles on dozens of shows spanning from the late 1950s up until his death, and a reprisal of his signature role on the 2012 revival of Dallas. He also worked as a producer and director on television. Hagman was the son of actress Mary Martin. He underwent a life-saving liver transplant in 1995. Although Hagman was a member of a 12-step program, he publicly advocated marijuana as a better alternative to alcohol. He died on November 23, 2012, from complications of acute myeloid leukemia. The following article was written by John L. Griffin, PhD for the former World University of Ojai, California about Larry Hagman’s experiences with LSD and NDEs.

Larry Hagman’s Life-Enhancing Near-Death Experiences
by John L. Griffin, Ph.D.

Actor Larry Hagman’s perspective on life is the polar opposite from that of his famous character, J.R. Ewing, on the popular, long-running Dallas television series. He sums it up at the end of his recent autobiography when he states:

“The only answer is love.”

Although he credits his solid marriage and his family for helping shape his love-centered worldview, he also believes that he has been positively transformed into a more compassionate, loving human being by his near-death-like experience or, rather, experiences.

An NDE is considered to be where someone “dies” – meaning the person would be considered clinically dead and without vital signs – but resuscitates and comes back to life. Research with people from various cultures has established that these experiences are usually truly life changing and that the NDErs often feel that they have a mission to be as loving and caring as possible. They want to be helpful and their methods of doing so are sometimes quite creative.

Larry believes he not only had one experience of this type – but two – and they have both been enormously life changing and enhancing for him. Both experiences contain classic NDE elements but they also share similarities with what I like to call Threshold-of-Death Experiences (TDE), more commonly known as Deathbed Visions (DBVs). These occur when a person is either approaching death or is just about to die. Concerns of the world are slipping away and innate psychic sensitivity comes to the fore so that visions are seen of what clearly appear to be the other world of the after-life. Sometimes other witnesses share these visions. These TDErs may be medicated with drugs but in most cases are not. The remarkable consistency of these experiences, established by research studies, provides one of several persuasive presentations of evidence in the online course I teach, Evidence of the After-life.

Although Larry lives in the small, coastal mountain town of Ojai in Southern California, where I live and teach at World University, I never had occasion to meet him until recently. In the latter part of 2001, I happened to see him on television on the Larry King Show where he mentioned, in passing, having had an NDE. Actually, there had been two experiences in his opinion, as his serious experiment with LSD in the sixties had produced a psychic journey remarkably similar to his later medical NDE.

I thought at the time that I should try to interview him about these experiences and turn it into an article for my online Thanatology course on the World University website. Our mission at World University is, of course, to educate people and to do that you must get their attention. Many of the visitors to our website are drawn there from an innate interest in education and our particular spiritually and globally aware educational approach. But, as we all know, for a variety of reasons the general public’s attention is particularly drawn to what a celebrity has experienced. Aside from being an intriguing “local interest” story, Larry’s celebrity status may help draw attention to this incredibly important and profound experience whereby a person seems to gain not only a preview of the after-life but a key to the most important qualities to manifest while living in this world.

Not long after Larry disclosed his NDE on television, I learned that he would be at the Local Hero Bookstore in Ojai for a book signing. I stopped by to find a diverse group of people in a friendly and almost festive atmosphere in the large patio behind the store. And there was Larry, jovially signing away. I waited my turn in a rather long line and then was face-to-face with an open and engaging man who seemed a lot more like Major Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie than J.R. Ewing on Dallas. Still, there did seem to be a bit of a Texas persona, but a genuinely friendly, down-to-earth one. I got right to the point and asked if I could arrange an interview about his NDE. After briefly explaining World University’s Thanatology Program in terms of care for the dying, bereavement counseling, and conscious living and dying – particularly in light of the implications of the NDE – he understood and agreed to meet with me. Taking a ten thousand dollar bill from a stack next to him, he wrote his phone number on it, saying “Give me a call.” On the face of the bill was a picture of Larry in a ten gallon Stetson hat underneath a banner proclaiming, “The United State of Texas.” Alongside was a declaration in smaller letters: “This note isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.” On the reverse was the motto, “In Hagman We Trust” over a picture of the Southfork Ranch from Dallas. Also included was a reminder to make arrangements to donate our organs: “This is printed on recycled paper. Why not recycle yourself? To receive an organ donar card, please call 800-622-9010.” As a liver transplantee, Larry works diligently to motivate more donors to save more lives.

Before following up and calling to arrange an interview time, I read Larry’s book, Hello Darlin’. I first came across his account of his LSD induced NDE-like experience.

LSD had been recommended to him and he finally decided to try it. Well aware of the potential hazards of such a powerful drug and treating it quite seriously, he took it under the best controlled conditions he could arrange. Under the guidance of a friend with LSD experience, in the comfortable and secure environment of his home, and wearing a hooded monk-like robe made by his wife, Larry began his LSD adventure.

The trip began with a strong buzz just below his navel (the basal area of the kundalini energy of yoga). He was reminded of the term vibrations, which he had often heard used by his friends who had become part of the higher consciousness crowd. Never really knowing what they were referring to, he suddenly thought he experientially understood – they were happening to him! Then the visions began.

The entrance to a cave appeared across the room from him, guarded by two octopus-like creatures accompanied by two entities that looked like feathery lions (reminding me of mythological Griffins, who are sometimes described as guardians of treasure). Turning his head, he saw his grandmother – who had died when he was a child – hovering above him with a wonderful, comforting smile on her face. She assured him that it was all quite natural. He was at the gate of all new experiences and, despite the guards, he need not worry. Her advice was: if pulled, don’t resist and if pushed, don’t fight it; go with the flow (a dictum very much like the essential principle of the Chinese art of Tai Ji). Then a deep understanding dawned on him. Larry had been attending lectures and reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead and books about Eastern mysticism. Their meaning had eluded him, but now he felt that he could finally grasp it. It was all basically summed up in what his Grandma had told him. The constrictive ego could be put aside and the unitive flow of life embraced.

The interview with his Grandmother ended and the cave claimed his attention. Moving toward it and reaching its entrance, he was sucked inside and rocketed down a tunnel, at the end of which was a light. He emerged into a place of bright and diffused light where he saw a person of indeterminate sex who called out to him without speaking. In typical out-of-body and near-death fashion, the communication seemed to be telepathic, as the being informed him that:

“This is a glimpse of where you’ve been, where you’re going, where you are all the time.”

Put into the terms of yoga psychology:

“You are That” and “That” is our true nature.

Despite the deep insights he had already experienced, it was too much for Larry to fully comprehend. The person seemed to recognize this in giving him this message:

“You don’t have to go any further – Having seen this is enough for now.”

This interview also over, he was pulled back out through the tunnel. The guards at the cave entrance were asleep and he could not see his Grandmother, whom he wanted to thank for taking him through the entrance. He reflected that, although he hadn’t thought of her in a long time, she had been there when he needed her.

With that part of the experience obviously concluded, he got an orange from the kitchen and broke it open. Its cellular structure was pulsing and it looked to him as though the cells were alternating between life and death, which seemed perfectly natural. Looking up from his scrutiny of the pulsating orange, he saw his reflection in a mirror on the wall. He too, was pulsating. Cells were dying, while others were in the process of being reborn. An intricate picture, every cell was in constant motion and he realized that he was a constant flow of energy as, indeed, everything was. The scope of realization widened with his conviction that:

“I was part of everything, and everything was part of me. Everything was living, dying, and being reborn.”

The friend, who had not taken LSD with him, drove Larry around Beverly Hills equipped with a sixteen-millimeter camera with which he could zoom in on plants, flowers, and people. Their cells were also pulsating and changing.

This experience shares a number of similarities with near-death, out-of-body, and certain shamanic experiences. These are usually intensely transforming and empowering, and Larry’s was no exception. Besides self-insight, he also saw much deeper into people’s emotions and how they were expressed through body and facial language. But most importantly, his view of life and death were profoundly altered. So-called dying was actually only a transformation into another expression of the vast creative energy that underlies everything. He concluded that:

Death was just another stage of our development and that we go on to different levels of existence.”

He believed he had an understanding of God consciousness. Fear of man-made concepts of heaven and hell dropped away and he quit worrying. He felt at home in the cosmos. It was all so clear and so familiar.

Toward the end of the book, Larry relates his second NDE-like experience, which occurred in the hospital Intensive Care Unit following his liver transplant operation. Although heavily medicated, he was conscious enough to focus on what he calls his “celestial song” which he believes each of us uniquely has, just waiting to burst forth:

“Everyone has their own unique song, an inner melody that fuses each of us to the deep, modulating, harmonious hum of the celestial orchestra that’s the collective energy of everything that’s ever lived and ever going to live. It’s our life force. The power of the universe.”

Shamans discover their sacred songs during their vision journeys. An anthropologist friend of mine completed a Vision Quest under the direction of a Chippewa medicine man many years ago. He attained his vision, was given messages, and learned his sacred song. Larry experienced his own vision journey, propelled by the cocooning conditions of the hospital and the medications but most importantly by his meditation on his song. He had turned his isolation in the ICU into a context similar to the isolation of a shamanic journey or vision quest where a ceremonial, meditative practice is enacted. It gave him:

“…a feeling that was ecstatically happy and familiar – and it confirmed what I’d always suspected, that every one of us living creatures is part of a collective energy that is also ecstatically happy and familiar. The culmination of that energy is love. It’s with us now, it always has been, and it always will be. Every one of us has this familiarity. We know it. The problem is, we bury it under so much apprehension and worry.”

As with his LSD experience of years before, he:

“…glimpsed over the edge of this level into the next, and there was that person again…”

The same being, who had welcomed him into the light from his travel through the tunnel under LSD, welcomed him again. But he understood that it was “not yet time to cross over.” He was also allowed a deep insight and understanding:

“This was not the end. There were more levels, an infinite number of levels, of existence, each one adding to the hum of the cosmic orchestra, as if we’re always spiraling upward until we reach a state of atomic bliss…”

It occurred to Larry that every religion he knew of had tried to figure out the meaning of life and had essentially reached the same conclusion – the meaning of life is love. The chapter of the book containing this account of his second NDE-like vision ended with his assessment:

“Don’t worry. Be happy. Feel good.”

When I reached the end of the book and realized that he concluded with the same exhortation, I felt that this indeed summed up Larry Hagman’s life, although he resolved that he wasn’t going to give in to the urge to do this with his autobiography. As he states, he’s “still playing the game…”

Whether Larry’s hospital experience might have been a true NDE, in that he briefly slipped over the line between life and death and then returned, or was more in the nature of a Threshold-of-Death Experience where he came close to death but did not die, it had the kind of life-enhancing impact usually associated with these powerful events.

It was early January, 2002, when I met Larry at his mountain-top estate in Upper Ojai. Accompanying me was Nourhalma Reyes, a daughter of the founders of World University in Ojai and a member of the Board of Trustees. Nora, as she is generally known, has had out-of-body experiences since she was a small child. Her father and mother, who shared this ability, treated it as a normal experience and encouraged her. In 1983, as a result of a horrendous highway accident, she had an NDE herself which her father mentions in his book, Conscious Dying. She had watched, outside of her body, as her mother knelt over her “dead” body and pleaded with her to come back to it. Only her mother’s distress persuaded her to return to a badly injured and extremely painful body.

Larry greeted us warmly in the spacious circular parking area of his Texas-sized estate. Leading us down the entry hall, he stopped to admire a fresh bouquet of red roses. As he extolled their beauty, I was struck by his genuine childlike sensitivity and love for the beauties of life. When we reached his study, we seated ourselves around a large coffee table piled with books and video tapes. As we were served refreshments, Larry had to excuse himself briefly to get something in another part of the house. While awaiting his return, Nora and I were drawn to the large windows looking out over green valleys, flatlands, distant cities, beaches, the Pacific Ocean, and two of the Channel Islands. On this mild, sunny and clear mid-winter’s day, there could be no doubt why the Hagmans call their home “Heaven.” Soon, Larry was back and we had seated ourselves again. I mentioned that Nora was an NDEr herself and Larry wanted to hear all about it. For the next two hours we talked about life and death, altered states of consciousness, various religions and spiritual traditions, karma and more. Larry was remarkably animated and totally interested in the various, but related, subjects we discussed.

We loved the visit and Larry said that he enjoyed it, too. But he had other matters to attend to, so our time together came to a close, but not before I had a chance to ask what he had learned from his NDE. Although I had read his reactions in his book, I was interested in a personal, off-the-cuff summation. He first referred in passing to his positive mind-altering LSD experiment, with its pronounced near-death elements. Then, cutting past the details of his medical related NDE, he concentrated on the most important thing about it: what it meant in his life.

He summed it up by saying that it had made him so much more aware and appreciative of everything about life. Our interconnectedness continues to be so apparent and this has made him more compassionate. Wanting to help others and the world is a definite force in his life. Still, he knows that he can only do so much, so he chooses to aid causes he not only believes in but which also interest him and give something back in a kind of symbiotic energy exchange. But Larry and his wife have involved themselves in many community service projects of various kinds. The “crossing over” altered-state of consciousness experiences, whatever they may be termed (perhaps “near-death-like experiences” is the best description), gave him a belief that life continues, that the show goes on in ever varied and unfolding settings, and that love abounds, with its feelings of ecstasy and deep bliss. I was reminded of the concepts of Prema (unconditional divine love), Leela (the divine play of consciousness), and Ananda (divine bliss) from the spiritual tradition of India. It was now late afternoon and as he walked us down the long hallway to the door, the low mid-winter sun was coming in through the west-facing windows and softly flooding across the colorful Spanish floor tiles. Larry bade us stop and enjoy this vision for a time before proceeding to the parking area. It was indeed a glorious sight – the type we may find right before us but too often hurry by.

Copyright John L. Griffin, PhD for World University of Ojai, California

Read more about LSD and Near-Death Experiences here

Categories
Hallucinations Science

Karl Jansen, Ketamine and Near-Death Experiences

Karl L. R. Jansen, M.D., Ph.D. is a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and is the world’s leading expert on ketamine. He has studied ketamine at every level. While earning his doctorate in clinical pharmacology at the University of Oxford, he photographed the receptors to which ketamine binds in the human brain. He has published papers on his discovery of the similarities between ketamine’s psychoactive effects and the near-death experience (NDE) during his study of medicine in New Zealand. Dr. Jansen believes that ketamine can have potent healing powers when used as an adjunct to psychotherapy but warns of the addictive nature of ketamine. Because of this risk, he has developed new methods for the treatment of ketamine addiction. Dr. Jansen left Oxford in 1993 to train in psychiatry at the Maudsley and Bethlem Royal Hospitals. Dr. Jansen welcomes correspondence on the topic of ketamine. He can be contacted via e-mail at k@btinternet.com. Recent ketamine studies have shown how the brain completely shuts down during the “K-Holeout-of-body experience.

Table of Contents

  1. Dr. Jansen’s Research Subject’s Near-Death Experience
  2. Dr. Jansen’s Research Subject’s Ketamine Experiences
  3. Does Ketamine Produce Near-Death Experiences?
  4. Dr. Evgeny Krupitsky’s Ketamine Research
  5. Examples of Ketamine Induced NDE experiences
  6. How Dangerous is Ketamine?
  7. The Ketamine Model of the Near-Death Experience

1. Dr. Jansen’s Research Subject’s Near-Death Experience

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Karl Jansen’s book, Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, where he documented one man’s NDE and how it is nearly identical to a ketamine experience he had a week later. The man lost his wife in a tragic fire and had the NDE while trying to rescue her.

I had an NDE about 6 days before the first time I took ketamine because my then partner died. She had a party at her flat and the flat caught fire. I got out of the flat and thought that she was out as well, but she’d been really drunk and she’d slipped and fallen and pushed the room door shut. I got out and shouted, “Christ, she’s not here!” and went back up. The flat was full of thick smoke. I thought, “Right, what you do is you get down on the floor and crawl along the corridor.” But there was no air there. I crawled along and couldn’t see anything. I could hear her and I was trying to push open this door but I couldn’t. I was overcome with smoke, and clink!

The next thing it was like white light and then everything going very fast. All these sounds and things sounding far off and very close and far off, then whoosh! You’re out of your body and there was all this light. All this sounds really crap, like one of those 1940s Old Testament films … It all happened so quickly. The next thing, it’s very bright, you’re out of your body, flying through the night and there’s light, there’s light. Er, well, it’s pitch black and there’s light – that’s a better way of describing it.

You go into the light and you just feel that everybody who has ever died is there. Not heavenly choirs as such, but there’s certainly a lot of people around you and you get waves of concern. And the next thing was swoosh! And it was back to the everyday world very quickly. When I came back it was so abrupt, and I was fine really – I had a very narrow escape. Your first impression would be that you fly up in the air but that can’t be. I’d have laughed at myself ten years ago for saying this kind of thing.

So I had an out-of-body experience and then I got hauled out of the flat by ambulance guys who put an oxygen mask on my face. My partner was on a life-support machine from the Saturday until Monday, when they switched the machine off.

2. Dr. Jansen’s Research Subject’s Ketamine Experiences

I had acquired the “K” (ketamine) a week previously for the party, but didn’t do it until a few days after she died. It was the first time I had taken “K”.

I had the flat to myself. Everybody was out and I sat in the front room on a big comfy chair and just took this stuff. Within about 5 minutes I was out of my body. I was still numb after what had happened. It was like being outside of myself but still there.

I could smell this perfume she used to wear. I could sense her all round me. It was like a way out and it was exactly like the out-of-body thing. It was very upsetting and it did shake my atheism, very much so. It made me aware of it not being the end when all this ends.

I tried “K” again quite a number of times and the same thing happened every time. It was like this pure consciousness. I hadn’t any shape. You could fly and you could actually travel although you are still in the same place. You are in the place where everybody is who has ever died. It’s this big entity. It’s not like an old guy with a beard. It’s this sense of energy that everybody who has ever moved on is there together and it was like she was looking after me. Precisely the same thing happened with the “K” as happened in the (burning) flat, which to someone not expecting it would be pretty scary. It was exactly the same.

I thought that I would never find anybody again and why hadn’t I died as well, why hadn’t I managed to get her out of that room? I thought it was my fault, I blamed myself for ages. I had a half-hearted idea of taking loads of pills and not waking up but what’s the point in that? I’ve already been to that place once and they wouldn’t have me then, so why would they have me the second time?

Concerned friends and parents made me go into counseling and therapy and to see psychiatrists. I was put onto various things like Prozac, but I was finding that my own “extra treatment” (the ketamine) was doing me a lot more good because “K” is very cathartic. I was doing it because it made me feel better, except the first time when it was quite a shock. It made me feel a lot less unhappy knowing that she was still there in one way or another. It would have taken a lot longer for me to recover if I hadn’t taken “K” because it gets rid of a lot of hurt instantly … It’s very reassuring in a way.

3. Does Ketamine Produce Near-Death Experiences?

It is possible that Ketamine HCL (Ketalar, Vetalar, Ketaset) can induce NDEs. Dr. Karl Jansen has extensively researched this topic and links to his work can be found at the bottom of this page. The following is a summary of articles on the Internet concerning Ketamine as related to NDEs.

Ketamine is an anesthetic that is available only to physicians and is “scheduled” in several states. Since anaesthetizing levels of Ketamine “knock you out”, the dose required to have an experience is 6 to 10 times smaller than what is given by veterinarians and physicians. “Ketamine is a prescription only medicine and so is not covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act. This means that possession of ketamine is not a criminal offense. However, under the Medicines Act, unauthorized supply is illegal.”

Tunnels, experiencing God (even if it is you) and oneness, meeting others, out-of-body experiences, life-changes (including “values”), sometimes frightening experiences, seeing the future, experiencing a true reality, believing that you have died, and experiencing things that words cannot describe are all common elements of Ketamine and NDE experiences.

The life-changing aspects of Ketamine are so strong that research in Russia claims that it is very effective in curing alcoholism, phobias, depression, and neuroses. Yale received approval to conduct a double-blind study to confirm the Russian research as it relates to alcoholism. The Russian researcher (Dr. Evgeny Krupitsky) has recently received $24,000 to study the effectiveness of Ketamine in curing heroin addicts.

4. Dr. Evgeny Krupitsky’s Ketamine Research

A dose of 50 mg (.7 mg/kg) induces a motion picture of colored images when eyes are closed. When eyes are open, ordinary reality remains but assumes an unusual air. Orientation is resolved. On 100-150 mg (1.4-2.1 mg/kg) ordinary reality disappears even when eyes opened. Perceptions of one’s own body also disappear. The subject discovers himself as a point of consciousness which moves in very strange worlds yet the feeling of self remains. On doses higher than 150 mg (2.1 mg/kg) intramuscularly, the feeling of individual self dissolves. The process of losing one’s individuality can be horrifying and felt as a real death. If the subject can relax and let go, this process may be ecstatic. After the loss of the feeling of one’s individual self, the experience is indescribable. There exists only “That which is aware of Itself.”

The changes in the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) after Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy (KPT) session testified to positive personality changes. Changes in the Color Test of Attitudes after KPT testified to a positive transformation of the unconscious emotional attitudes of our alcoholic patients towards themselves and their significant others. Changes in our Spirituality Scale testified to a significant increase in the level of spiritual development after the ketamine session. All these psychological changes favored sober life. As a rule, we also observed positive transformations in our patients’ systems of life values, purpose and meaning, but these changes had not been previously measured quantitatively with psychological tests. Clinical impressions and indirect evidence from the Spirituality Scale suggested these changes, but not a rigorous scientific proof.

5. Examples of Ketamine Induced NDE experiences

These comments were taken out of context, but it gives you a sense of how similar the experiences can be. I complained to Dr. Karl Jansen (the only researcher I am aware of that is concerned specifically with Ketamine as it relates to NDEs) that the Ketamine experiences have similar qualities, but my overall impression is that they are not as profound and centered on love. He replied that the setting of the experience makes a lot of difference. Taking a recreational drug in your house is much different from being in a hospital or other sudden situation where you may be in pain or afraid that you are about to die. Here are some excerpts:

Example 1: “Looooooovvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeee, Reeeaaaalllliiiiittttyyyyyyyy, Hoooommmmmeeeee. I was God, I saw light and warmth. This is Home. Sooo familiar, where we belong. Where we go. Everything is perfect, no words, just basic feeling. Love, Reality, Home. This was about the only words that I could bring back. Really no words there, but strong feelings. I Knew I was God and that I wasn’t a little while before, but didn’t have any idea what I was before. I was completely calm and comfortable, it was Home. Perfect. I wasn’t alone either.

Example 2: “(Buzzing occurred) Most of the time I felt like a pure light that could flow like lava and make sweet guitar-distortion sounds, I was burning very bright. I could just ‘be’ in this state, it felt beautiful. Other times I would have conscious thoughts, I would note that I felt godlike, I would love myself, it was great. When I’d think of my friends I’d feel very warm, but the couple times I tried explaining to them how I was feeling (I had to get up and piss quite a few times, was still dizzy), I felt the words totally inadequate, and I’d lose the feeling.”

Example 3: “(Buzzing occurred) Tunnel vision and a feeling of ‘being deep inside your own body’ occurs.”

“Reality as we normally experience it had crumbled into a different form. It was as though the world broke up, revealing another dimension. The subject was there, and not there at the same time – there was no apparent boundary between the subject and object – the world and I became one … Although it was certainly an extreme experience, it was fundamentally unsatisfying. No real insight into the world, or even the experience were gained,

Example 4: “Bubbles, bouncing babies and bubbles, she kept saying.

“I can’t feel my body anymore except this overriding general fuzziness. The lines on the ceiling become a tunnel and I am flying down it faster than sound approaching the speed of light…

“Oh no, the tunnel takes a big dive downwards! I am facing straight down this big tunnel and I am falling. . . .

“Now there are rules. I can see them all. I am outside my room looking down at us and I know all the rules. There is so much going on outside of us. Other people, other rules, other things, that we are not allowed to see in the day to day. More knowledge. Who is next to me. What is next to me. I know it is something important. I say who is there.”

Example 5: “One friend of mine who took it thought he had died, but he wasn’t frightened or upset by this at all, which should give you some indication of just how weird things can get.”

Example 6: “It sort of dissociates you from your live. I drifted trough worlds of other dimensions from inside the cosmos towards the outside of the circular thing which is called the universe.(Sounds strange, but that is what I felt) I also had the feeling that I have learned a lot of spiritual things. It is perhaps truth, there was not especially much fun. But I was satisfied and content as I would be after a long adventure holiday.”

Example 7: “I realized then that I didn’t travel between theses two worlds but only shifted my attention in a different direction. I always was and probably always will be in this world I found there, but living different lives I will enter different ‘simulations’.”

“I floated back with a peaceful and content feeling. I felt that I had experienced something good, something special. I was slowly entering my body, like putting on a garment: legs first, then arms, chest, head. At the same time, my sight and hearing returned as I was shifting my attention to these senses. Everything felt a bit unreal at first, but this went away after a while.

“This experience felt to me as real as anything I know from this world. Now, three Months later this hasn’t changed. I consider this level possibly dangerous for unexperienced users, because of the strong impact it has on your life. In my case, experiencing reality as ‘just a game‘ could have easily driven me into suicide, if I wasn’t happy with this life.”

They have been reported as spending a great deal of time analyzing conversations that they have held with the various Ketamine entities. These beings offer great insights into life, the universe and everything. In the words of one such traveler into the realm of the hyper-real, “It is no great accomplishment to hear a voice in the head. The accomplishment is to make sure that it is telling you the truth.”

6. How Dangerous is Ketamine?

Although most of the comments on this page about Ketamine are positive, and it is routinely used as an anaesthetic in much larger doses, Ketamine is not a safe drug. For example, you can pass out, vomit, and suffocate. Depending on your source, you may not know how large a dose your are taking. If I understand some of the user’s comments correctly, it seems that Ketamine may produce substantially negative and long-lasting psychological effects, bringing to mind fears of LSD trips that can ruin your life. Here are some of the negative comments about Ketamine experiences:

a. Comment #1: “People who have taken the drug report a range of effects from the unpleasant, to the downright dangerous. Reports from America offer numerous examples of users who get trapped in repeated, compulsive administration of the drug giving rise to incidents usually associated with bad acid trips, with people believing that they can fly or attempting to get out of moving vehicles. Others have suffered paranoia or severe delusional states. In the last few months, it has been increasingly evident that such incidents are no longer limited to the USA. Having the Ketamine entities lie to us may be the least of our worries.”

b. Comment #2: “In fact, though I may be wrong on this, I would consider such an adventure to be a high risk one. Please be careful.”

c. Comment #3: “Not a bad idea to have a straight person around while you’re doing it, especially if there are open flames nearby or anything like that. Like I said, you’ll be very out of it.”

d. Comment #4: “After my experience with ketamine, I was advised, and agreed, to take a semester off from school. I was warned that I might experience flashbacks. I did not.

“I awoke from the anaesthesia to the the most petrifying, unpleasant experience of my life. I experienced hallucinations that were beyond description. I, also, experienced severe memory loss … I was unable to recognize family and friends. I was, also, very anxious and restless. I said things that made no sense. According to the attending anaesthesiologist, I was “insane” for five days. The attending, later, went to NIH to brief the doctors, there, of my reaction.

“My family and I were later told that my reaction was worse than the norm, but certainly not atypical. I have always been surprised that this drug is still available, but I understand it does have positive pediatric and vet. uses.

“As a result of my experience, though, I would would certainly wonder why anyone would wish to experiment with ketamine. That is only one persons opinion, though.”

e. Comment #5: “[Ketamine experiences] are possibly dangerous for unexperienced users because of the strong impact it has on one’s life. In my case, experiencing reality as ‘just a game’ could have easily driven me into suicide, if I wasn’t happy with this life.”

It is significant that 30 percent of normal subjects given ketamine insisted that they had not been dreaming or hallucinating, but that the events had really happened.

7. The Ketamine Model of the Near-Death Experience by Karl Jansen

a. About the Author

Dr. Karl Jansen was born in New Zealand and trained in medicine at the University of Otago. After registering as a medical practitioner, he proceeded to carry out brain research at the University of Auckland as a research fellow of the New Zealand Medical Research Council. At this time he became interested in ketamine and its effects and published his first observations in this area, and also in antipodean use, users and consequences of psilocybin-containing mushrooms. He then went to the United Kingdom, and attended the University of Oxford (New College) were he completed a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Pharmacology. He was the Glaxo Fellow at Green College. On completion of his studies at Oxford, he went to the Maudsley Hospital and London Institute of Psychiatry to complete his training as a psychiatrist. He is now a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. His current research interests are the ketamine model of the near-death experience and the consequences of long-term, high dose recreational use of Ecstasy (MDMA).

He would like to receive correspondence concerning the subject of this paper.

Dr. Jansen has the following to say about the journal article that follows:

‘I am no longer as opposed to spritual explanations of these phenomena as this article would appear to suggest. Over the past two years (it is quite some time since I wrote it) I have moved more towards the views put forward by John Lilly and Stan Grof. Namely, that drugs and psychological disciplines such as meditation and yoga may render certain ‘states’ more accessible. The complication then becomes in defining just what we mean by ‘states’ and where they are located, if indeed location is an appropriate term at all. But the apparent emphasis on matter over mind contained within this particular article no longer accurately represents my attitudes. My forthcoming book ‘Ketamine’ will consider mystical issues from quite a different perspective, and will give a much stronger voice to those who see drugs as just another door to a space, and not as actually producing that space’.

b. Abstract

Near-death experiences (NDE’s) can be reproduced by ketamine via blockade of receptors in the brain (the N-methyl-D-aspartate, NMDA receptors) for the neurotransmitter glutamate. Conditions which precipitate NDE’s (hypoxia, ischaemia, hypoglycaemia, temporal lobe epilepsy etc.) have been shown to release a flood of glutamate, overactivating NMDA receptors resulting in neuro (‘excito’) toxicity. Ketamine prevents this neurotoxicity. There are substances in the brain which bind to the same receptor site as ketamine. Conditions which trigger a glutamate flood may also trigger a flood of neuroprotective agents which bind to NMDA receptors to protect cells, leading to an altered state of consciousness like that produced by ketamine. This article extends and updates the theory proposed in 1990 (Jansen, 1990b).

c. Introduction

The near-death experience (NDE) is a phenomenon of considerable importance to medicine, neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, philosophy and religion (Stevenson and Greyson, 1979; Greyson and Stevenson, 1980; Ring, 1980; Sabom, 1982; Jansen, 1989a,b, 1990b). Unfortunately, some scientists have been deterred from conducting research upon the NDE by claims that NDE’s are evidence for life after death, and sensationalist media reports which impart the air of a pseudoscience to NDE studies. Irrespective of religious beliefs, NDE’s are not evidence for life after death on simple logical grounds: death is defined as the final, irreversible end. Anyone who ‘returned’ did not, by definition, die – although their mind, brain and body may have been in a very unusual state.

There is overwhelming evidence that mind results from neuronal activity. The dramatic effects on the mind of adding hallucinogenic drugs to the brain, and the religious experiences which sometimes result, provide further evidence for this (Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981). One of the many contradictions which ‘after-lifers’ can not resolve is that “the spirit rises out of the body leaving the brain behind, but somehow still incorporating neuronal functions such as sight, hearing, and proprioception” (Morse, 1989, original italics).

All features of a classic NDE can be reproduced by the intravenous administration of 50 – 100 mg of ketamine (Domino et al., 1965; Rumpf ,1969; Collier, 1972; Siegel,1978, 1980,1981; Stafford, 1977; Lilly, 1978; Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981; White, 1982; Ghoniem et al., 1985; Sputz, 1989; Jansen, 1989a,b, 1990b, 1993). There is increasing evidence which suggests that the reproduction of NDE’s by ketamine is unlikely to be a coincidence. This evidence includes the discovery of the major neuronal binding site for ketamine, known as the phencyclidine (PCP) binding site of the NMDA receptor (Thomson et al., 1985), the importance of NMDA receptors in the cerebral cortex, particularly in the temporal and frontal lobes, the key role of these sites in cognitive processing, memory, and perception, their role in epilepsy, psychoses, hypoxic/ischaemic and epileptic cell damage (excitotoxicity), the prevention of this damage by ketamine, the discovery of substances in the brain called ‘endopsychosins‘ which bind to the same site as ketamine, and the role of ions such as magnesium and zinc in regulating the site (Anis et al., 1983; Quirion et al., 1984; Simon et al., 1984; Benveniste et al., 1984; Ben-Ari,1985; Thomson, 1986; Coan and Collingridge, 1987; Collingridge, 1987; Contreras et al., 1987; Rothman et al., 1987; Mody et al., 1987; Quirion et al., 1987; Westbrook and Mayer, 1987; Sonders et al., 1988; Barnes,1988; Choi,1988; Monaghan et al., 1989; Jansen et al., 1989a,b,c, 1990a,b,c, 1991a,b,c, 1993).

d. Characteristic Features of the Near-Death Experience

There is no internationally determined and agreed set of criteria which define the NDE, no list of ‘research diagnostic criteria’ similar to those provided by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for psychiatric disorders. This lack has allowed some critics of neurobiological models to dismiss these models because some particular criterion which they believe to be important may not have been fully accounted for by the model being proposed, although it may well be that a consensus, statistical definition of the key features of the NDE would not include those features – just as, for example, the APA definition of schizophrenia (1980) represents an international consensus and avoids the sectarian views of a few, or inclusion of obscure cases which do not meet the general rule. For example, Gabbard and Twemlow (1989) argued that Saavedra -Aguilar and Gomez-Jeria’s neurobiological hypothesis (1989), which was based on temporal lobe electrical abnormalities, did not have general validity because Gabbard and Twemlow had identified 5 cases in which hypoxia and stress did not appear to be a triggering factor (temporal lobe epilepsy, and many acute psychoses, can occur spontaneously without any apparent triggering factors). These cases are certainly not adequate grounds for the dismissal of neurobiological models.

Ketamine administered by intravenous injection, in appropriate dosage, is capable of reproducing all of the features of the NDE which have been commonly described in the most cited works in this field, and the following account is based upon these (Domino et al., 1965; Rumpf, 1969; Collier, 1972; Siegel,1978, 1980, 1981; Stafford, 1977; Lilly, 1978; Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981; White, 1982; Ghoniem et al., 1985; Sputz, 1989; Jansen, 1989a, b,1990b, 1991c, 1993). Important features of NDE’s include a sense that what is experienced is ‘real’ and that one is actually dead, a sense of ineffability, timelessness, and feelings of calm and peace, although some cases have been frightening. There may be analgesia, apparent clarity of thought, a perception of separation from the body, and hallucinations of landscapes, beings such as ‘angels‘, people including partners, parents, teachers and friends (who may be alive at the time), and religious and mythical figures. Transcendant mystical states are commonly described. Memories may emerge into consciousness, and are rarely organized into a ‘life review‘ (Greyson, 1983).

Hearing noises during the initial part of the NDE has also been described (Noyes and Kletti, 1976a; Morse et al., 1985; Osis and Haraldsson, 1977; Greyson and Stevenson, 1980; Ring, 1980; Sabom, 1982). Ring (1980) classified NDE’s on a 5 stage continuum: 1. feelings of peace and contentment; 2. a sense of detachment from the body; 3. entering a transitional world of darkness (rapid movements through tunnels: ‘the tunnel experience’); 4. emerging into bright light; and 5. ‘entering the light’. 60% experienced stage 1, but only 10% attained stage 5 (Ring, 1980). As might be expected in a mental state with a neurobiological origin, more mundane accounts also occur, e.g. children who may ‘see’ their schoolfellows rather than God and angels (Morse, 1985). It is clear that NDE’s are not as homogeneous as some have claimed.

e. Ketamine and Phencyclidine

Ketamine is a short-acting, hallucinogenic, dissociative anaesthetic related to phencyclidine (PCP). Both drugs are arylcyclohexylamines – they are not opioids and are not related to LSD. In contrast to PCP, ketamine is relatively safe, an uncontrolled drug in most countries, and remains in use as an anaesthetic for children (White et al., 1982). Anaesthetists attempt to prevent patients from having NDE’s (emergence phenomena) by the co-administration of benzodiazepines and other sedative substances which produce ‘true’ unconsciousness rather than dissociation (Reich and Silvay, 1989).

Ketamine produces an altered state of consciousness which is very different from that of the ‘psychedelic’ drugs such as LSD (Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981). It can reproduce all features of the NDE, including travel through a dark tunnel into light, the conviction that one is dead, ‘telepathic communion with God’, hallucinations, out-of-body experiences and mystical states (see ketamine references above). If given intravenously, it has a short action with an abrupt end. Grinspoon and Bakalar (1981, p34) wrote of: ‘…becoming a disembodied mind or soul, dying and going to another world. Childhood events may also be re-lived. The loss of contact with ordinary reality and the sense of participation in another reality are more pronounced and less easily resisted than is usually the case with LSD. The dissociative experiences often seem so genuine that users are not sure that they have not actually left their bodies.’

A psychologist with experience of LSD described ketamine as ‘experiments in voluntary death’ (Leary, 1983, p375). Sputz (1989, p65) noted: ‘one infrequent ketamine user reported a classic near-death experience…”I was convinced I was dead. I was floating above my body. I reviewed all of the events of my life and saw a lot of areas where I could have done better”. The psychiatrist Stanislav Grof stated: “If you have a full-blown experience of ketamine, you can never believe there is death or that death can possibly influence who you are” (Stevens, 1989, p481-482). ‘Ketamine allows some patients to reason that … the strange, unexpected intensity and unfamiliar dimension of their experience means they must have died..’ (Collier, 1981, p552).

Attempts to explain NDE’s as hallucinations are sometimes rejected by spiritualists because many persons insist upon the reality of their experiences (Osis and Haraldsson, 1977; Ring, 1980). However, 30% of normal subjects given ketamine were certain that they had not been dreaming or hallucinating, but that the events had really happened (Rumpf et al., 1969; see also Siegel, 1978). What is a hallucination?: “a hallucination has the immediate sense of reality of a true perception … transient hallucinatory experiences are common in individuals without mental disorder” (APA, 1980). The apparently clear sensorium of some persons who have had NDE’s has also been used to argue that the NDE is ‘real’ and not a hallucination (Osis and Haraldsson, 1977; Ring, 1980). It is thus important to note that hallucinations in schizophrenia typically occur in clear consciousness and are believed to be real (APA, 1980). A personal conviction of the ‘reality’ of an NDE does not invalidate scientific explanations. Some users of LSD have claimed that their minds are clearer than usual, and that the LSD world is real while the ‘normal’ world is a veil of illusion (Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981). Cardiac arrest survivors have been reported as describing their resuscitation in detail (Sabom, 1982). Ketamine can permit sufficient sensory input to allow accounts of procedures during which the patient appeared wholly unconscious (Siegel, 1981).

f. Glutamate, NMDA and Sigma Receptors, and the Hippocampus

Most large neurones in the cerebral cortex use glutamate as their neurotransmitter. Glutamate, an excitatory amino acid, is central to the function of the hippocampus, temporal and frontal lobes (Cotman et al., 1987; Fagg and Foster, 1983; Greenamyre et al., 1984; Monaghan, Bridges and Cotman, 1989; Jansen et al., 1989c, 1990a) and plays a vital role in all cognitive processes involving the cerebral cortex, including thinking, memory and perception (Monaghan, Bridges and Cotman, 1989; Oye et al., 1992).

The major neuronal binding site for ketamine is called the PCP receptor, which is itself attached to the NMDA receptor (Monaghan, Bridges and Cotman, 1989). As they are part of the same macromolecular complex, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. It was formerly believed that the sigma and PCP sites were the same entity, but it is now clear that sigma receptors are very different, have a unique distribution in the CNS, and are not a form of opioid receptor (Walker et al., 1990; Jansen et al., 1991b) .

There was initially some debate as to whether the hallucinogenic properties of ketamine were due to NMDA or sigma receptors (Jansen, 1990b). These effects are now largely attributed to NMDA receptor blockade (Krystal et al., 1994). Sigma ligands with a high degree of specificity (e.g. (+)pentazocine) do not produce NDE’s at doses where most of the binding is to sigma rather than NMDA and/or kappa opioid receptors (sigma receptor ligands frequently have affinity for NMDA and/or kappa opioid receptors at higher doses) (Musacchio et al., 1990; Walker et al., 1990).

When glutamate is present in excess, neurones die via a process called excitotoxicity. Conditions which have been proven to lead to excessive release of glutamate include hypoxia/ischaemia, epilepsy and hypoglycaemia (e.g. Rothman, 1984; Rothman and Olney, 1986, 1987). Blockade of PCP receptors prevents cell death from excitotoxicity (e.g. Rothman et al., 1987). The brain may thus have a protective mechanism against a glutamate flood: release of a counter-flood of substances which block PCP receptors, preventing neuronal death. Considering the sophistication of the brain’s many known defences, and the vulnerability of neurones to hypoxia, a protective mechanism against excitotoxicity seems very likely. This is the only speculation in the process outlined above: the other statements are strongly supported by experimental evidence (Benveniste et al.,1984; Simon et al., 1984; Ben-Ari, 1985; King and Dingledine, 1986; Rothman et al., 1987; Westerberg et al., 1987; Hoyer and Nitsch, 1989). A peptide called a-endopsychosin, which binds to the PCP receptor, has been found in the brain (Quirion et al., 1984). Certain ions such as magnesium and zinc also act as endogenous PCP channel blockers (Thomson, 1986; Westbrook and Mayer, 1987; Cotman, Monaghan and Ganong, 1988), and it is possible that these ions are centrally involved in producing NDE’s.

g. Scientific Hypotheses and NDE’s

Claims that NDE’s must have a single explanation (e.g. Ring, 1980), or that a scientific theory must explain all of the experiences ever given the name of NDE (e.g. Gabbard and Twemlow, 1989) are difficult to justify. It is well established that mental phenomena have multiple causes and variable expressions. The NDE is more likely to be the final common expression of several different causes. Even then, the final ‘common’ expression contains sufficient variability to suggest different types of NDE, for example in Ring’s study (1980), only 10% ‘enter the light’. A multi-levelled interpretation is thus the most useful. The glutamate hypothesis of the NDE is not intended to apply to every NDE, and is not necessarily incompatible with the theories described below.

h. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

It has been claimed that there is some similarity between the phenomena experienced in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and NDE’s (Persinger and Makarec ,1987; Saavedra-Aguilar and Gomez-Jeria,1989). Glutamate is the key neurotransmitter in the temporal lobe, particularly in the hippocampus, and is implicated in epilepsy. The neuropathology of epilepsy is believed to result from excito-toxic cell death (Ben-Ari, 1985; King and Dingledine, 1986; Olney, Collins and Sloviter, 1986; Mody and Heinemann, 1987; Cotman, Monaghan and Ganong, 1988).

A neuroprotective system might become active in any excitotoxic situation including epilepsy. The degree of damage, and the mental state, resulting from a glutamate flood may depend on the final balance in each neuronal pathway between excito-toxic forces and neuroprotective mechanisms. Persons who were oxygen deprived for prolonged periods and had a profound NDE, sometimes survived the episode unimpaired (Sabom, 1982). The lack of apparent brain damage may result from a very effective mechanism for glutamatergic blockade in those individuals.

It is also possible that ketamine has its effects by mimicking some of the pathological processes seen in temporal lobe epilepsy. Even though ketamine blocks glutamatergic transmission, and prevents excitotoxic cell death, the effect of ketamine upon the human electroencephalograph (the EEG) suggests that it can be epileptogenic – the final result of ketamine acting in the brain is the result of a complex interplay of forces. There is a reduction in a wave activity, but b, d and q wave activity are increased (Schwartz et al. 1974; Pichlmayr et al., 1984). Ketamine acts both as an anticonvulsant (e.g. McCarthy et al., 1965; Celesia and Chen, 1974; Taberner, 1976; Leccese et al., 1986; Mares et al., 1992) and as a pro-convulsant (Bennet et al., 1973; Gourie et al., 1983; Myslobodsky, 1981). Myslobodsky (1981) reported that ketamine could produce epileptiform EEG patterns in human limbic and thalamic regions, but that there was no evidence that this affected other cortical regions or that fits were likely to occur. This is consistent with the NDE model presented by Saavedra-Aguilar and Gomez-Jeria (1989) involving limited electrical abnormalites in the limbic system. Thus production of NDE’s by ketamine is not at odds with proposals that NDE’s may result from abnormal electrical activity. Reich and Silvay (1989): ” it is hard to draw objective conclusions regarding the anti-convulsant properties of ketamine…animal data are particularly difficult to interpret because of interspecies variations”. Ketamine is probably anticonvulsant at NDE producing doses (Myslobodsky, 1981) suggesting that a PCP receptor blocker is released to produce the NDE.

i. A Flood of Endorphins

Carr (1981, 1989) proposed that NDEs resulted from a flood release of endogenous opioids (endorphins). It had been reported that survival time was increased by giving opiate antagonists (e.g. naloxone) in fatal circumstances (Holoday and Faden, 1978). More recently, a sudden increment of b-endorphin has been reported in the brain and body fluids of dogs who are ‘conscious’ at the moment of death (Sotelo et al., 1995). It is now known that a glutamate flood results in excitotoxic cell death in hypoxia/ischaemia and epilepsy (see above). However, glutamate is an amino acid. Endorphins are unlikely to produce NDE’s as they are not potent dissociative hallucinogens (Oyama et al., 1980). Injection of b-endorphin into the CSF has analgesic effects lasting well over 22 hours (Oyama et al.,1980). This does not match the time course of a typical NDE which is relatively brief. Ketamine produces brief, deep analgesia (White et al., 1982) due to NMDA (PCP) receptor blockade ( e.g. Schouenberg and Sjolund, 1986; Parsons et al., 1988). The limited psychotomimetic properties of some opioids (e.g. (-) pentazocine) result from binding to k opioid receptors, and to PCP receptors at higher doses (Pfieffer et al., 1986; Mussachio et al., 1990). However, the effects of (-)pentazocine binding to k receptors, at doses which are relatively selective, are described as ‘feelings of cheerfulness and strength’ (Belville and Forrest, 1968), a description bearing no resemblance to the dramatic effects of ketamine or NDE’s. With higher doses, more marked effects may appear as a result of binding to PCP receptors – but pentazocine is not an endorphin. Claims that sigma- selective (+)isomers of benzomorphan opiates have psychotomimetic effects are not generally supported by human trials, carried out in the 1960’s, which demonstrated that it is the (-)isomers which have psychotomimetic properties – and these may prefer PCP receptors rather than sigma sites (review: Mussachio,1990). The naloxone-reversible component is due to k opioid receptor binding, while the naloxone insensitive component is due to PCP (i.e. NMDA) receptor binding, not sigma binding (Walker et al., 1990). The role of opioid receptors in ketamine effects is contoversial (Reich and Silvay, 1989). Naloxone could not reverse the effects of ketamine in humans (Amiot et al., 1985) and dogs (Vaupel, 1983). However, ketamine is supplied as a racemic mixture of (+)and (-) isomers. The controversy may be resolved by studying the separate effects of the isomers, and the doses at which these appear. As doses rise, drugs bind to a wider range of receptors. Ketamine can induce NDE’s at doses about four times less than those required for anaesthesia (Stafford, 1977; Lilly, 1979; Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981; Sputz, 1989). White et al. (1980) reported that it was (+)ketamine which has some opioid binding properties and which produced the most anaesthesia, while (-)ketamine produced more NDE’s (described by anaesthetists as ‘psychic emergence reactions’). White et al. (1985) went on to show that (+)ketamine is about four times more potent as a hypnotic and analgesic, and has different effects upon the EEG.

Saavedra-Aguilar and Gomez-Jeria (1989) cited animal experiments showing b-endorphin to be epileptogenic to support an argument that b-endorphins produce NDE’s (e.g. McGinty et al., 1986; Henriksen et al., 1978). While b-endorphin may have had these effects within the rat paradigms used, opioids usually produce calming, inhibitory effects in humans – not excitation or states resembling epilepsy (Meltzer, 1987). Released peptides probably have protective functions rather than contributing further to excito-toxicity. The finding of Su, London and Jaffe (1988), that some steroids bind to sigma receptors, was cited to suggest that steroids could play a role in NDE’s. However, the steroid was progesterone which is not a hallucinogen. Schwartz et al. (1989) reported that the affinity of progesterone for the sigma site is insufficient to result in significant receptor occupancy, except in pregnancy.

j. Hypoxia and Hypercarbia

Hypoxia

Blacher (1980) suggested that hypoxia induced NDE’s. This has been criticised by some authors (Sabom, 1982) as studies involving a slow fall in inspired oxygen produced mental clouding rather than NDE’s (Henderson et al., 1927). However, these studies are not an accurate model of events in, for example, cardiac arrest. Sudden hypoxia causes an excessive release of glutamate with resulting excitotoxicity, which can be prevented by ketamine (see previous references).

Hypercarbia

A CO2-enriched breathing mixture can result in typical NDE phenomena such as bodily detachment and the perception of being drawn towards a bright light. Diverse personality types produced broadly similar reports, suggesting a shared neurological substrate (Meduna, 1950).

k. Serotonin

Like endorphins, serotonergic effects may be contributory but are unlikely to play a central role in the NDE. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD are serotonergic in action and produce a mental state very different from NDE’s . There is frequently an overwhelming increase in sensory input from the external environment (Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981), in contrast to the dissociation produced by ketamine. Psychedelic visual phenomena bear little relationship to the dream-like images of ketamine and the NDE. ‘Ego dissolution’ experienced on LSD has a different quality from the conviction of having died which may arise with ketamine. Loss of contact with the external environment leading rapidly to the ‘tunnel experience’ is not a typical psychedelic drug effect, although it may occur.

l. Psychological

a. Depersonalisation: The NDE may be an adaptive mechanism which alerts one to the threat of death while potentially overwhelming emotion is held at bay. The reality can then be integrated without panic (Greyson, 1983; Noyes and Kletti, 1976a,b). This model is applicable when death is psychologically near as when falling from a cliff. While protecting nerve cells from excitotoxicity is then irrelevant, glutamate and NMDA receptors would be involved in producing the experience as they play a key role in cognition and perception.

b. Regression in the service of the ego: confronting death cuts off the external world resulting in regression to a pre-verbal level. This is experienced as mystical ineffability (Greyson, 1983). Losing contact with the external world is one of the most typical effects of ketamine. This is partially due to blockade of NMDA receptors involved in sensory transmission. NMDA receptors play a central role in the transmission of data from all sensory modalities (Davies and Watkins, 1983; Greenamyre et al., 1984; Headley et al., 1985; Cotman et al., 1987; Cline et al.,1987; Monaghan, Bridges and Cotman, 1988; Kisvardy et al., 1989; Oye et al., 1992).

c. State dependant reactivation of birth memories (Grof and Halifax, 1977). Movement through tunnels towards light may be a memory of being born : a ‘near-birth experience‘. NMDA receptor blockade could be the mechanism for such a reactivation of primitive memories.

d. Sensory deprivation: memories may normally be suppressed by a ‘gate’ which admits primarily external signals when we are fully conscious and concentrating upon an external task (Siegel,1980, 1981). If this input is dramatically reduced (e.g. by ketamine or a heart attack) in combination with central stimulation (e.g. by excessive glutamate release during hypoxia, epilepsy, or arising without external provocation), stored perceptions are released and become ‘organized’ into a meaningful experience by psychodynamic forces in the mind in question (Greyson, 1983). The ‘white light’ may result from CNS stimulation , and also a possible lowering of the phosphene perceptual threshold (Siegel,1980, 1981). Sensory deprivation can produce profound alterations in consciousness (Lilly, 1961,1978).

The hippocampus is the anatomical location of the ‘memory gate’ described above. NMDA receptors form the molecular substrate of the gate. NMDA receptors have their highest concentration in the hippocampus, a part of the medial temporal lobe where data from the external world is integrated with internal programs. The NMDA receptor plays an important role in learning, and in the formation and retrieval of memories. The PCP receptor is referred to as a ‘gated channel’. Whether the gate is open or closed depends on the degree of excitation – specifically, the position of a magnesium ion in the channel. In simple terms, ketamine blocks this channel and closes the gate to incoming data (Monaghan, Bridges and Cotman, 1989; Morris et al., 1986; Collingridge, 1987; McNaughton and Morris, 1987; Cotman, Monaghan and Ganong, 1988).

m. Drug-induced hallucinations?

Administered drugs may explain some cases of NDE’s, but in most no drugs were given with effects of this nature (Sabom, 1982).

n. Conclusions

NDE’s can be safely induced by ketamine, and the glutamate theory of the NDE can thus be investigated by experiment. Discoveries in neuroscience suggest a common origin for ketamine experiences and the NDE in events occuring at glutamatergic synapses, mediated by NMDA receptors via their PCP channel component. This hypothesis links most of the neurobiological and psychological theories (hypoxia, a peptide flood, temporal lobe electrical abnormalities, regression in the service of the ego, reactivation of birth memories, sensory deprivation etc.) rather than being an alternative to them. Most of the tenets of the hypothesis are strongly supported by experimental evidence which implicates glutamate and NMDA receptors in the processes which precipitate NDE’s. The postulate that anti-excitotoxic agents can flood the brain remains to be clearly established.

Spiritualists have sometimes seen scientific explanations of NDE’s as dull and reductionist. However, the exploration of the mind-brain interface is one of the most exciting adventures which humans have ever undertaken. The real reductionism lies in attempts to draw a mystical shroud over the NDE, and to belittle the substantial evidence in favour of an scientific explanation.

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Hallucinations Science

Joseph Kerrick’s LSD Near-Death Experience

The following is Joseph Kerrick’s NDE testimony sent to Kevin Williams by email.

In 1970, I was a 24-year-old with serious psycho-emotional problems. The most glaring element was a totally alienated lack of connection with other human beings and fear of all social interaction. My family lived just 25 miles away, but I hadn’t gone to see them in a year and a half. For awhile I had been a true believer in Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism“, which preached atheistic individualism and the “virtue of selfishness”. I eventually gave it up as overly simplistic, but my worldview was still completely materialistic.

I moved into an apartment building in the bohemian section of town, and was befriended by a hippie couple who lived upstairs. For a week or so we smoked pot and talked, but even though I liked them, I was completely at odds with their worldview and what seemed to me their incomprehensible beliefs. Their names were Jim and Jane.

There came a night when Jim scored some acid, and I had my first trip. For awhile it was very freaky and unpleasant, as the walls and furniture undulated and time slowed down. From things I had read and heard about LSD, I knew that you were supposed to go through something called “ego-loss“. I kept thinking: “What am I supposed to lose? Have I lost it yet?” In reality I was clinging to my ego for dear life, desperately struggling to maintain control in the flux of the strange changes and intense confusion.

The main activity in my isolated existence had been reading, and now I opened a book in an attempt to find some familiar ground. It took forever just to read a couple of sentences, and the words didn’t do what they always used to.

It took me a long time to figure out that they were still doing anything at all, and when I grasped what it was, I was stupefied at how absurd and primitive it was. I could hardly believe that such a crude form of communication had been my biggest source of knowledge. The awful truth, as I now thought, was that books were completely useless. I could no longer believe anything that I ever thought I knew. It was all a mirage, and I was lost in it.

Jim came and sat down with a big thick book. I asked what he was going to do with such a worthless object. Ah, but this was a special book – you’ll see, he said. He rattled some coins and tossed them several times, drew a hexagram, then looked up the indicated reading in the book, which of course was the I Ching. He read the passages aloud; it just seemed like a lot of mumbo-jumbo. But then something happened — all of a sudden I caught a sliver of meaning in the words. Not only did it make sense, it made my heart leap.

I listened hard, and it happened again. I felt that Jim was trying to get something across to me, across an immense gulf, something of deep and dire importance.

It flashed clear for another instant, and I saw that to really open it up I’d have to decisively ungrasp everything I had, or thought I was, or believed was real. THIS is what the “ego” was, and the prospect of its loss was terrifying. The ego was ME, and losing it meant that I would have to die.

This was the primal equation I perceived; I freaked out and yelled “No!”, disrupting the reading for a moment. But then I saw that there was nowhere else to go, nothing else to be done. I had to do it, even if it cost me everything – even if I died.

A passage in the reading seemed to exactly describe this humbling acceptance I had just gone through. It was the first time in my life that I had experienced synchronicity, and it seemed like a divine event, a miracle. And suddenly everything became perfectly clear.

The room was flooded with light from overhead. Now I understood that Jim had been attempting to demonstrate an entirely new form of communication, one that penetrated and transcended the boundaries of ordinary speech and interaction as I had always experienced them, and opened a new dimension of psychic communion.

When the reading was finished I felt wonderful. I sat cross-legged in perfect contentment, waiting placidly for whatever might happen next. I didn’t have long to wait. Strange little tendrils of force began to ripple up along my body, gently guiding my attention upwards, to where they seemed to come together in a peak directly above the top of my head. The pulse of the vibrations intensified, enclosing me like a net. Then I was gone, and there was only the force field and the pinpoint of white light overhead where it all converged. There was a sense of ecstatic immensity and union. It was the most intense pleasure I had ever known.

The trance seemed to last for a long time, though externally only a few moments had passed. When I came out of it, I felt that Jim and Jane were my dear friends, that in reality we were one. We all related in a joyful kind of way, though with some of the silly slips and trip-ups that the acid state is prone to. After awhile I sat down and peaked out all over again into the white light. It was incredible.

I felt completely redeemed from the alienated horror that my life had been. I acted out a need I felt to confess all my guilty secrets to Jim and Jane. In doing this, it felt like everything I had ever been ashamed of was now purified, purged, and dissolved. Truly I was born again, without even the need for Jesus.

I looked out my window into the night, and it seemed that I could see into the vast body of all the world. I understood now that all those billions of human beings out there were somehow all one organism – one thing, one being, one person. I saw how human life had originated on Earth. In the beginning there was only the one great sapient creature, perhaps come to this planet from the stars and got marooned. And then the entity sharded itself up into splinters, which were all the individual people who had ever lived and were now alive.

Somehow we had all forgotten that we were the one original being, and lived out our lonely lives in the illusion of separateness. Now that I had awakened to our true condition, I could see that the aim of human life was for all of us to come together again, to merge back into the original being and become the One we truly are beneath the surface. I understood that the way to do this was love. Love was simply the name of the natural force which like gravity tended to pull everything back together. As human beings, the way we experienced this force was love. As fragmented creatures, our job was to love each other and become one again.

I passionately embraced this amazing new world I had transitioned into. It was so natural, so right, so completely real – as contrasted with the state of agonized exile that I had lived in all my life. At last there had come the deliverance I’d always longed for.

Time, when I thought of it, was still going by very slowly, but now it was a pleasure, not a drag. In fact, I now knew that I was immortal, knew it with the same self-evident certainty as my face in a mirror. I was the one original being, and I would be here forever, so time was meaningless. When I realized this, I took off my watch and threw it to the floor. “Won’t be needing THAT any more,” I said.

Jane snatched it up from the hard kitchen tiles. “Oh no!” she said, “I hope it’s not broken.” It wasn’t, and she and Jim both assured me that I WOULD need it again. I innocently asked why, indicating how everything had changed.

“But,” said Jim, “when the drug wears off, you’re going to come down.”

I said, “Drug?” I had forgotten what had caused the change.

“LSD,” Jim reminded me.

Then I remembered, and went through a great spasm of realization that it was evidently this drug, LSD, that had taken me out of the fake, hateful shadowland that everyone lived in, and delivered me to this sacred place of true beneficence, this exceedingly real world. So LSD was the key! I concluded that it must be a holy instrument implanted in the realm of humanity by the One Being to ensure that His shards would return to unity.

I wrote the above many years after the fact of the event. The style and wording is intended to convey the euphoria and naiveté of the experience. The disclaimer is that the drugs in question are dangerous. Even marijuana is no longer mild in its more popular varieties, namely sinsemilla and its cousins which can induce pathological feelings of paranoia in the unwary user.

As for LSD, well, the concept of the acid test should not be taken lightly. Anyone with a significant pathology can have it exacerbated, even fatally, by taking acid. Sometimes you don’t even know you have a pathology until you take the acid; this is why this substance has the deserved reputation of triggering mental illness in people, sometimes permanently. It has also been used to cure mental illness, but this often hinges on having a qualified guide or therapist present.

In the trip described above, Jim acted as my guide. He was not a completely competent one, and many freaky incidents happened which I did not relate. So it is that sometimes the outcome of a trip can depend on a factor which can be taken as good fortune, synchronicity, or divine intervention.

On synchronicity, the day before the trip, I copied into my diary a passage from a book I was reading by Henry James. It describes his reaction to the outbreak of the First World War: “My overwhelmed sense of such prodigious realities has simply left me nothing to say – the rupture with all the blest old proportion of things has been so complete and utter…

An Anonymous Heroin and LSD Near-Death Experience

I can relate to your experience. I had a similar one after having an overdose on heroin and LSD and a series of other drugs I don’t even remember taking. I was out for all but three minutes, but my experience seemed to last an eternity.

The only way I can explain it — it was like going on a hell ride. It was kind of like my life being fast forwarded from beginning to end; but, I felt myself age, die, and be reborn again over and over again. The rebirth felt great; but, I felt my self go sour as I aged and I saw I was missing something in my life.

Then I saw a light and everything stopped. It was as if the light communicated to me everything I had done wrong and it showed me what love is. It showed me that God is love. By spreading love, you make God stronger. By making God stronger, he can, in return, help you. He told me your love has to be unconditional. That is the only rule he really has. And it is one thing all religions have in common.

He also told me that the drugs I was doing was like a false love. I was doing it so I wouldn’t have to interact with people. I could inject my own love into my veins and be happy. But that is not good enough. I don’t know. It was an odd experience.

Categories
Hallucinations Science

Albert Hints’ Ecstasy Near-Death Experience

The following is Albert Hints’ NDE testimony sent to Kevin Williams by email.

About two months ago, I had what I can now categorically state was an NDE.

That night, I had done two pills. I do hallucinate on ecstasy. To give you a background, I had never hallucinated on it until I did more than one pill in a night about six months ago. Since then, I’ve done two 3.5 pills in the space of four to six hours on around five separate occasions. This produces a good level of hallucination which I love. Typically, it’s the “mood” of the vista you have that seems to take on a whole new dimension with the purple / blue / yellow lights of a club transforming into a kind of mellow “haunted house” kind of vista, typically with leaves covering walls – walls which sometimes appear from nowhere. Sometimes people walking around without heads on. “Peoples’ faces melting and general “magic eye” type dual or triple interpretations of individual objects or entire scenes. But I would never do acid as I’m aware of the danger in my enjoyment of hallucination and therefore elect not to dabble in a stronger hallucinogen for fear of liking it too much.

It was about 5 a.m. I have done two, or two and a half pills. I often get tired around that time and was sitting on the podium. I leaned forward with my hands dangling by my calves and my head slumped down by my waist. I close my eyes for about four minutes.

Then, out of nowhere, I see a tiny pin prick of very bright white light in the middle of my field of (closed) vision. Slowly, over five seconds, the light gets bigger in its circular, tunnel like nature. It is tremendously pleasant and literally “attractive” – even SEDUCTIVE.

So I am going down the tunnel and the light is now huge after about five seconds. Then, just about a second before it would have encompassed my whole field of vision, there is a bright flash and two things happen.

Firstly, I physically felt that my cornea has been stimulated in the same way as if someone shone a very bright light suddenly into my eyes following a period of darkness.

Secondly, and most impressively, an electric-like force (That is the only way I can describe it), seemed to instantaneously “possess” my entire body. I felt my shoulders hunch inwards involuntarily and my mind completely and instantaneously was “clicked” into a hypnotic-like (I have never been hypnotized, but this is how I would imagine it to feel) state of complete tranquility and peace – like your mind has had all of the gunk extracted from it. Like the cornea sensation, the mind (and of course the body), physically felt influenced by something.

Now for the disappointment. That’s all that happened I’m afraid.

It is very difficult for me to be certain about the length of time I was in that state. If I were to guess, I would say thirty seconds max.

I came out of the state gradually and fully consciously before the “electricity” seemed to slowly ooze back out of my body. I opened my eyes back to the reality of a dance floor, in a slight haze.

The more I think about it though, I wonder if actually I did see “the realm” I have since read about on the web. But whether the memory has been (potentially – deliberately) erased from my human life memory, I also believe there’s a strong likelihood that there was some kind of knowledge gift to me during the end of tunnel flash.

I’m an inventor. In the weeks following my experience, I came up with phenomenal numbers of what I believe to be very valuable ideas. I also experienced two separate million-to-one synchronicities, a phenomena I have since learned about. In addition to the synchronicity that in the WEEK following my experience, I was reading a book I did not know at point of purchase to contain information on NDEs, which over ten pages convinced me I had experienced one by its description.

My aunt had passed only several weeks before. I wondered whether the NDE was some kind of gift she was permitted to offer to alert me – a spiritual non-believer if ever there was one – to the afterlife realm.

In a word, I would say I instantly perceived the experience as the most important of my lifetime. I instantly knew I had witnessed some kind of spiritual phenomenon. I just knew. I now do not only NOT fear death, but I even believe if I ever have knowledge that I am about to die, I will be at peace in my own mind with no fear – well, LESS fear! There are bound to be overwhelmingly sentimental emotions at that time.

Yes, I was on drugs. But last week I submitted the story to the NDERF website. They haven’t posted the story. In my writing to them, I included similar arguments to the ones you present in “How to have an NDE.”

Not that I have knowledge of brain chemistry.

Mainly, I base this on the fact that I, remote of any stimuli about other peoples experiences by the tunnel of light interpretation, experienced what many other NDErs have experienced.

The other thing here that is a personal belief is that I personally do not believe there is any such thing as synthetic. The word is purely a human abstraction. I don’t believe you can divide nature in any way. People will refer to spider webs as nature, but then describe a human home made of bricks as outside of nature. I believe this is incorrect. The nuclear bomb is nature too because it happens to be a by-product of nature-occurring human potential for abstract thought. You can’t factor out “synthetic” creations in the criteria of the assessment of validity of “reality” of a drug-induced experience for example. For the human mind is obviously nature and the human mind’s creations are therefore surely also nature. The spider’s web is the same as the human’s home. So we should not see one as “nature” and one as not.

Sophistication of concept is inversely related to materiality as well. Therefore, when looking at the universe as a whole, we should forget the separation of abstract thoughts from physical creations and instead put them all in the same bucket. The relevance being that if for a moment we do this, we see information – piece one in the bucket with information – piece two and NOT information – piece one, a physical entity – and information piece two, an abstract entity. So if we were observing the world from a distance with no capacity to understand the difference between an abstract and a physical property, and no capacity to see the difference between a synthetic and “naturally occurring” phenomenon, and we had only the capacity to view each piece of information unprejudiced about its superficial origin, then we would not make the comment that drug use creates “false” NDEs.

I just think accessing the realm is all about reaching a deep state of subconsciousness which happens to be easier, (a) on drugs, or (b) most commonly when dying!!!

I’ll e-mail you the stuff about how I’m trying to access the realm in a few days. I also have one question. I wonder if you know the answer to why is it that ecstasy enables me to very lucidly see images for several seconds with my eyes closed. I scan the image by moving my eyes physically as well. I have reached epic proportions with this to the extent that I can now READ DOCUMENTS with my eyes closed – documents I have never seen before. Usually they appear ancient.

I also believe that I am seeing images in real time sometimes, though admittedly this is only a hunch, but a strong one.

The problem is that as you try to relax your mind and close everything off, the images appear, it seems, almost when you are not trying to make them appear. Typically what happens is as follows:

You see the image for one half to four seconds and it is ALWAYS unrelated to any conscious thoughts you have (i.e., totally random image)

Frequently, the image metamorphisizes into a chain of images – a tiger turns into a country landscape which turns into a cloud which turns into a garden etc.

The main PROBLEM is that typically the image spontaneously appears while your eyes are closed. It is so beautifully lucid that you get excited. While excited, you consciously are telling yourself to try to remember what you are seeing. This suggestion to yourself typically interferes with prolonging the image(s). The second problem is that as the image appears, typically your eye tries to focus on one part of the image which is almost impossible to suppress that tendency. Again, this is conducive to difficulty in prolonging the experience, especially if I can see text is present in the image. I will try to read it as this is potential proof of telepathy. I have managed to read words that appear, but usually no more than one sentence before the image disappears.

Can you explain this? Presumably all that is happening is that you are effectively caught in the unusual territory as seeing as lucidly (or more so) as in a dream while retaining normal consciousness and thus having capacity to remember. It is brilliant though. I am 70% sure there is some kind of telepathy going on as names have appeared to me. I have the feeling these are potential murder victims. I know that’s bizarre and quite probably false.

I hope you find this interesting email. I know it’s not a very big NDE experience but definitely was one. I thought you might like to know ecstasy produced this for me. I came across your page by typing into a search engine “near-death experience drugs” and your page was the first to answer this question. I was pleased that after reading it, it seems to lend extra-legitimacy to my certainty that I saw the beginning of the realm.

Webmaster Kevin Williams’ Response

l have never done ecstasy, but I know it can create out-of-body experiences and even near-death experiences just as LSD can. Your description of seeing an image out of the corner of your eye and it changes when you look at it sounds like a principle I learned about quantum physics.

A photon of light is both a particle AND a wave. Before you look at it, it is a wave. But the moment you look at it, it collapses into a particle. This means that you can measure the velocity of a particle, but at the same time, it is impossible for you to know what its position is. When you measure the position of the particle, it is impossible to know what its velocity is.

It is as Neils Bohr once stated in reply to Einstein’s statement that God doesn’t play dice, “Not only does God play dice, He hides them from you when He throws them.”

Quantum theory suggests that things do not exist as you know them until it they are observed and that reality is really in the eye of the beholder.

Principles such as this are a part of the magical universe that is quantum reality. It suggests that the laws of the universe are really the laws of our own mind.

Ecstasy, as well as acid and ketamine, probably triggers your mind to expand into this quantum reality. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect this is the case. Certainly, your description of looking at images and they change when you do, sounds like principles of quantum mechanics.

This is the only answer I can think of. If you want to understand a simple, “Complete Idiots Guide to Quantum Mechanics,” I suggest you read a certain book by Fred Alan Wolf entitled Taking the Quantum Leap: The New Physics for Nonscientists. This is the best way to understand quantum mechanics without having to understand the extremely complicated mathematics involved with it. Understanding quantum theory may give you more insight into your ecstasy experience. Even if it doesn’t, this kind of physics is close to understanding all the dimensions of reality, which so far, ten dimensions of quantum reality are known. Personally, I believe these dimensions are the various realms that make up the afterlife. The Gnostics experienced near-death experiences that involved ten heavenly realms. When you take psychedelic drugs, perhaps you are influenced by these dimensions in ways that not taking them can.

Categories
Hallucinations Science

Hallucinations and Near-Death Experiences

Hallucinations and Near-Death Experiences Index

  1. Why Near-Death Experiences Are Not Hallucinations
  2. Timothy Leary, LSD and Near-Death Experiences
  3. Karl Jansen, Ketamine and Near-Death Experiences
  4. Larry Hagman’s LSD Triggered Near-Death Experience
  5. Joseph Kerrick’s LSD Near-Death Experience
  6. Albert Hint’s Ecstasy Near-Death Experience
  7. MaryJane Escobar’s Drug Triggered NDE
  8. Naina’s LSD Near-Death Experience

Disclaimer: This website does not advocate the use of LSD, ketamine, or any illegal drug in any way. We would like to expressly warn anyone thinking about trying any drug such as these that they may risk psychological harm if abused.