Categories
Articles Science

The Survivalist Interpretation of Recent Studies into the NDE

The following article is by Titus Rivas reprinted by permission from: The Journal of Religion and Psychical Research, 26, 1, 27-31. January 2003. Photo: Courtesy of the Psi-Encyclopedia.

ABSTRACT:  There is serious evidence for veridical perceptions during the stage of flat electroencephalogram (EEG) in so-called near-death experiences (NDEs). This paper addresses common counter-hypotheses for a survivalist interpretation of these experiences. The only possible alternative which would account for veridical NDEs is the false memory through retrocognition-hypothesis. It is shown why this alternative is less parsimonious than a straightforward survivalist interpretation of NDEs.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Near-Death Experiences and Materialist Theories of the Mind
  3. Bibliography
  4. Acknowledgements
  5. Reprint Request Information

1. Introduction

The near-death experience recently gained an increased scientific respectability by the publication of an article in The Lancet authored by Dr. Pim van Lommel of the Rijnstaate Hospital at Arnhem (the Netherlands) and his collaborators (Lommel, et al. 2001). Their prospective work with cardiac patients who were successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest, resembles similar research by Dr. Sam Parnia at the University of Southampton and his colleagues (Parnia et al., 1998).

Both Van Lommel and Parnia have concluded that NDEs are real and that they cannot be explained by physiological or psychological causes (alone). Moreover, they have both accepted the implication that consciousness is not destroyed when our brain activity ceases, but that there is a continuity beyond brain coma and therefore probably after brain death as well. Consciousness does not ultimately depend on brain activity for its very existence, which makes it downright irrational to take for granted the idea that it would be obliterated after the brain ceases to exist as a physical system.

Materialists (I mean the non-reductive ones who accept the reality of consciousness during physical life) generally see consciousness as an epiphenomenon or correlate of brain activity. For the question of survival, it is therefore sufficient to show that there is no ultimate existential dependence of the mind on such brain processing. The theory of ultimate mental dependence on cerebral functioning is refuted by the survival of consciousness after the cessation of (cortical) brain processes, regardless of whether that cessation is temporary or final.

2. Near-Death Experiences and Materialist Theories of the Mind

If it can be shown that consciousness is present even though the brain processes which following materialist theories are supposedly known to be responsible for it have ceased, those materialist theories can safely be considered as inadequate. Now, apriori there can be several responses to the challenge that is posed to materialism and epiphenomenalism by the recent NDE-findings:

a. Methodological scepticism:  This is the usual response by skeptics whenever they are confronted by results that go against their (unquestionably closed-minded) world view. However, as the scientific reputation of the researchers involved in the recent studies certainly seems impeccable, and as their work has been accepted as worthy of publication in prestigious journals such as The Lancet, it may be safely assumed that the standard skeptic objection is simply baseless in this case. Research into NDEs cannot be dismissed anymore as being pseudo-scientific.

b. Flaws in the specific interpretation of the results:  Some critics, such as C.C. French think that the findings of these studies should not be interpreted in a survivalist manner. It certainly seems to be the case that some individual patients are fully conscious during a flat EEG, but they really are not. The memories of the NDE they claim to have had are simply false memories (French, 2001). This can be further elaborated in two ways:

(1)  Patients who claim they have had an NDE simply suffer from some kind of self-deception. They never experienced anything like it, but they just believe they did. At a subconscious level, they have constructed a fantasy accompanied by images and feelings, and they project this fantasy into their memory as if it concerned a real experience of the (imaginary) event while it occurred.

(2)  Claimants of NDEs did indeed have a real experience before they came to, but not during their flat EEG. It happened during the seconds or minutes before they lost consciousness or during the last few moments before they fully awoke from their coma, and it was temporally distorted in their memory as if it really took place during the flat EEG.

Against both these criticisms researchers stress that patients are reported to have had veridical impressions of events that took place inside but also outside the room that contained their physical bodies and during the stage in which their brains showed a flat EEG. Therefore, any hypothesis that claims that these people simply deceive themselves must account for these experiences. It is very convenient for skeptics that such experiences, which seem clearly related to extrasensory perception (ESP) as studied by parapsychologists, are still quite controversial for many scientists, so that they are obviously tempted to dismiss them out of hand. However, the evidence for such veridical experiences (or memories of experiences) is growing and its quality is also increasing (Ring, 1998; Rivas, 2000; Abdalla, 2002). So unless we wish to remain hard line skeptics at any cost, it seems wise to take them very seriously.

What are the implications of real veridical experiences related to events that happened during a flat EEG? In psychical research we know two categories of ESP that relate to a time factor. First, there is precognition which in this context would boil down to an experience of an event which took place during the stage of flat EEG before that experience took place. In this case it would mean that a patient does not precognitively experience an event which – according to the false-memory theory – (unlike, say, the case of a Dunne-effect type of dream) he will eventually experience through ESP while it is taking place, because the theory holds that there would be no awareness of any events whatsoever during the stage of flat EEG. More importantly, the precognitive experiences should occur before the patient loses consciousness or at least before he enters the stage of flat EEG, whereas he should lose all memory of having had such a precognitive vision after he has come to.

Therefore, I personally cannot take this very far-fetched possibility seriously and I think we should be confident in dismissing the precognitive variant of the false memory theory.

The other time-related form of ESP is called retrocognition, i.e. knowledge acquired through ESP of past events. The retrocognitive variant of the false memory hypothesis interprets memories of veridical experiences during the stage of flat EEG as follows. Patients with an NDE subconsciously use ESP to get knowledge of past events which happened during their coma, and project that knowledge into their false memories during the last moments before they regain consciousness. The theory needs to hold that all patients with veridical experiences during their flat EEG were somehow motivated to create a fantasy and include in that fantasy false memories of real events through the aid of retrocognition. This means that during the moments between their flat EEG and their awakening from it, some patients are subconsciously motivated to use retrocognition to deceive themselves about their lack of consciousness during their flat EEG.

Retrocognition is a very strange hypothesis for NDEs, because it implies that a patient would not use ESP to perceive events that happen between the stage of flat EEG and complete awakening, but would instead focus on events that have already taken place. It cannot explain cases of NDEs in which there is paranormal perception of events that took place during flat EEG but also of events which occurred during the awakening process itself and in which such a perception is experienced by the patient as part of a coherent and continuous stream of consciousness.

An even more fatal weakness of this theory is that it uses a very unmaterialistic concept – retrocognition – to uphold a materialistic theory. Even if it were true, it simply could not be defended by a (reductive or non-reductive) materialist, at least not in the mainstream sense of this term. By its very nature, the retrocognitive false memory theory needs to be part of a broader radical dualistic theory about the mind-brain relation. It might be defended by the so called “animistic” school of thought within the parapsychological tradition, which promotes the explanation of possible evidence for survival after death in terms of ESP (or psychokinesis). However, it is very ironic that even a hard line animist like Hans Bender (1983, page 148) concluded that the ESP needed to explain veridical experiences during NDEs is in itself suggestive of survival after death.

In any case, if veridical memories of events during flat EEG are taken seriously, we must leave the realm of (conventional) materialist theorizing about mind-brain relations. After that, we have to ask ourselves which theory is simpler or more parsimonious: a dualist theory which holds that the memories of events during flat EEG are false memories, constructed via retrocognition, or a dualist theory which holds that such memories simply are real memories based on real experiences. As dualists, we can no longer consider the real memory theory as less parsimonious just because it would imply survival, because – as even animistic champion Hans Bender acknowledges- at least some form of survival is implied by any serious radical dualist (and therefore also any animistic) theory. Therefore, I conclude that the false memory-theory is simply more complicated (i.e. less parsimonious) than necessary. In order to avoid the conclusion that consciousness survives death, it needs to postulate a mechanism which is only plausible within a parapsychological theory which ultimately implies at least some form of postmortem survival of the mind. So it really is a theory which is more complicated than a straightforward survivalist theory. It implies both survival and a strange, unknown kind of retrospective falsification of memory through retrocognition.

Therefore, in my opinion, we should only adopt the “false memory through retrocognition”-theory after it has been empirically shown that memories of NDEs must generally be false. It’s the animists (or moderate survivalists) who have to show the (radical) survivalists wrong in this case, certainly not the other way round. It’s just a question of parsimony. The radical survivalist theory is the most parsimonious exhaustive interpretation of NDEs and it can be falsified by evidence for a more complex theory such as the “false memory through retrocognition”-theory.

c. Adaptation of mainstream materialistic neuropsychological theory concerning the present-day registrability of neural activity needed for consciousness

The last materialist response (defended for example by Karl Jansen, a psychiatrist known for his attempts of artificially producing experiences which resemble NDEs) to the recent evidence for NDEs is that the memories are indeed real memories, but that a hypothetical residual and as yet non-measurable level of brain activity can still account for them (Abdalla, 2002). Of course, the veridical memories of events that took place in or outside the patient’s room during his flat EEG, are usually ignored by this theory. If they are not, they should be seen as mental activities which can be “embodied” in unusually low-leveled brain activity.

The problem with this theory is that there is (by definition) absolutely no evidence for it. Theorists seem to be quite content with pointing at unsuitable analogies such as certain types of sleep EEG, but no acceptable close empirical parallels have been presented so far. For instance, during most vivid dreams there is rapid eye movement (REM). As Pim van Lommel points out, if we accept NDEs as real experiences during flat EEG, we also have to accept that patients experience normal, full-blown and even heightened conscious mental activity in them. If critics want to explain this away by a still unknown type of residual neural activity, they have to present parallels which involve normal (lucid) or heightened conscious mental activity and which can at the same time be satisfactorily explained by known residual neural activity. Otherwise, we must conclude that the theory is based on nothing more than unfounded speculation! It is not forbidden to look for immunizations of a cherished, well-founded theory against apparently falsifying results, but such immunizations should of course be plausible and based on acceptable data. As far as I know, there is no serious evidence for the residual cerebral activity-theory as a counter theory for survival. That is precisely the reason that Pim van Lommel (personal communication) simply rejects it as having no scientific basis.

3. Bibliography

Abdalla, M. (2002). Cardioloog Pim van Lommel haalt bijna-dood ervaringen uit het donker. Paravisie, 17, 13-27.

Bender, H. (1983). Zukunftsvisionen, Kriegsprophezeiungen, Sterbeerlebnisse. Munich: R. Piper Verlag. French, C.C. (2001). Dying to know the truth: visions of a dying brain, or false memories? The Lancet, 358, 9298, 2010.

Lommel, P. van, Wees, R. van, Meyers, V., & Elfferich, I. (2001). Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands. The Lancet, 358, 9298, 2039-2044. Parnia, S., Waller, D.G., Yeates, R., & Fenwick, P. (2001). A qualitative and quantitative study of the incidence, features and aetiology of near death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors. Resuscitation, 48, 149-156.

Ring, K. (1998). Lessons From The Light: What We Can Learn From the Near-Death Experience. New York: Insight Books. Rivas, T. (2000). Herinneringen aan een periode tussen twee levens. Prana, 120, 33-38.

4. Acknowledgements

I’m grateful to Dr. Pim van Lommel, Anny Stevens-Dirven and Pieter van Wezel, MA, and Dr. Donald R. Morse for their useful comments.

5. Reprint request information

Send reprint requests to:

Titus Rivas, “Athanasia”, Darrenhof 9, 6533 RT, Nijmegen, The Netherlands titusrivas@hotmail.com

Categories
Articles Science

Grief and Loss from the NDE Perspective

I was asked by a national non-profit grief organization to write an article about grief from the perspective of the near-death experience. The following is the article I submitted to them. In this article, I answer questions concerning the afterlife which are focused primarily for people who are grieving over the loss of a loved one and are seeking answers. I pray that if you fit this description, you will be helped by this article. I pray that this article will also help you learn how to maintain communications with your loved one on the Other Side.

Table of Contents

  1. What do you know about grief and loss?
  2. What evidence is there that consciousness survives death?
  3. What are some examples of the more interesting NDEs that you have come across?
  4. What about reincarnation?
  5. What is it like to die?
  6. What do NDE experiencers say about God?
  7. What do NDE experiencers say about heaven?
  8. What do NDE experiencers say about religion?
  9. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through my dreams?
  10. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through prayer?
  11. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through meditation?
  12. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through an out-of-body experience?
  13. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through after-death communications?
  14. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through a psychic?
  15. How can I better cope with grief and loss?
  16. Links to evidence of life after death

1. What do you know about grief and loss?

I experienced loss and grief for the first time over two years ago when my mother died in a tragic car accident. I thought my knowledge of NDEs would spare me of the profound grief people often go through when losing a very close loved one. But when my mother died, I discovered my knowledge of life after death did not prevent me from experiencing the profound grief I thought wouldn’t happen. One of the biggest lessons I learned was this: No matter how wonderful you believe the afterlife is, losing a loved one is a profoundly devastating experience. And no matter how wonderful it is to know your loved one is in a paradise beyond imagination, losing them is no less a profoundly devastating experience. In my book entitled “Nothing Better Than Death,” I make the case of death to be the most wonderful experience in the world. There is no doubt in my mind about it. But while I was in the middle of writing my book, my mother died and – until that point – I believed I knew as much as a person could about death without actually dying. But I was sadly mistaken. When my mother died, the reality losing her was a tremendous shock. I quickly discovered an aspect to death I knew nothing about – death from the point of view of the surviving loved ones.

After I went through a phase of denial, I eventually became so depressed I had to be hospitalized off and on for a few years. While in a psych ward with severe depression, there is really nowhere else to go but up. It took a long while for me to function normally again; but the experience ultimately put me on permanent disability. Losing a very close loved one is a lesson probably most people must learn. There IS nothing better than death; but only for the one who has died. For surviving family and friends; there is often nothing worse than losing a loved one. A loved one’s death is a homecoming and a time for great rejoicing; but only for themselves. For the surviving family and friends, losing a loved feels more like oblivion, psychic disconnection, profound heartbreak, and often suicide. Experiencing this dichotomy of the wonderfulness and horrifying nature of death was the biggest shock of my life aside from losing my mother. Before my mother died, I viewed death only as a friend which only uninformed people fear. I knew how some NDErs quickly realize the inappropriateness of expressing joy at the loss of a loved one while everyone around them is in mourning. I believed my “superior” understanding death and the NDE would protect me from the loss in the same manner. But my mother was only 63-years-old when she died and somehow I believed she would be around for many decades. So my mother’s sudden and horrifying death meant never being with her again – at least in this world – and for possibly another 50 years when I reach my 90’s. In other words, an entire lifetime for some. It was the toughest lesson I have ever had to learn in my life and it took me by complete surprise.

For a long time after her death, I could only focus on my loss and not her gain. I understand now this is perfectly natural. The experience of losing my mother made me realize how wrong I was in believing it to be selfish to grieve over losing a loved one. In fact, during my period of grief, it was often my mother who was comforting me from the Other Side. On several occasions, I felt her presence around me suddenly and unexpectedly. One such occasion was so profound that I have documented the experience on my website as an “after-death communication” because of the signs and wonders that went along with it that happened to my entire family. In the end, my experience of losing my mother became more than a time of profound grief. It was also an educational process in many ways. In the most profound way, it removed all residue of doubt I had of the existence of life after death. I like to call it my “near-life experience” because it resembled a near-death experience in many ways but on this side of life.

2. What evidence is there that consciousness survives death?

Where do I begin? There is a mountain of circumstantial evidence which I believe is good enough for most people. Circumstantial evidence is often enough for courts of law to determine truth. The best evidence, of course, is scientific evidence. And there is a growing amount of scientific evidence which supports the afterlife hypothesis. But this evidence does not meet the very high standard that satisfies the scientific method that would make it proof that the afterlife hypothesis is true. There is, however, a much scientific evidence supporting survival of consciousness which science has not been able to explain away.

Science cannot explain how so many near-death experiencers observe verifiable events happening far away from their clinically dead body. Experiencers will tell you that they were outside of their physical body when they observed the events. This is an unacceptable explanation for materialists who reject any notion of paranormal things including a spirit realm. For the scientist using the somewhat limited scientific method, this represents a real challenge. Quantum physics, on the other hand, supports a multi-dimensional reality and a transcendental consciousness. In fact, this new physics is beginning to support many important concepts found in near-death experiences (NDEs) such as the existence of non-material dimensions without our time-space relationship, the supernatural qualities of light, universal interconnectedness, and the non-locality of consciousness. I personally believe that the dimension we travel to after death is the quantum realm. Scientists smash atomic particles together to study it. Astrophysicists peer into galaxies and across vast oceans of time and space to study it. Death appears to be another way to study this magical dimension.

People born blind see for the first time in their lives when they have an NDE. Dr. Ken Ring is the pioneer on this subject. Also, some people have reported having an NDE while on the operating table and brain dead. We know they were brain dead because their brain waves were monitored and recorded a flatline. Yet, when the patient revives they describe observing the whole thing while out of their body. Then they describe going into the light and meeting deceased loved ones. This is a major problem for science right now because brain doctors know that unconscious and dead brains do not produce images or visions. And even if we assume that such a brain can produce images or visions, it would not be able to remember them when they become conscious. This is the dilemma which science so far has not been able to explain. But there are studies going on right now, particularly in the UK and Europe, which are trying to get to the bottom of this. They are also trying to obtain more verifiable evidence which people having a near-death experience can bring back.

3. What are some examples of the more interesting NDEs that you have come across?

The NDEs in which people bring back verifiable evidence is most fascinating to me. Also, the NDEs of those who are born blind and those who are verifiability brain dead as I have already mentioned. I enjoy reading the NDEs of small children because they generally have little or no biases and generally have no motive to lie. Their NDEs are identical to adult NDEs with the exception that children describe their NDEs in, you might say, the purest form. Some people are shown visions of the future, but which is not fixed – that is – they are shown a future based upon current probabilities. Some well-known experiencers, such as Dannion Brinkley, were shown important world events which later came true. For example, Brinkley was shown the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Chernobyl disaster, and Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. He was shown this several decades before it happened and he has evidence to prove that he knew about these events before they occurred.

Other NDEs that interest me a lot are the ones where the experiencer has been dead for days. I don’t come across too many of these, but I have them on my website. One well-known case is that of Reverend George Rodonaia who had an NDE while trying to leave Communist Russia. He was run over by the KGB and killed and was placed in the morgue. He has all the documents showing how he was declared dead for three days. During this time, Rodonaia has one of the most beautiful NDEs I have ever read about. He revives on the autopsy table when the pathologist began to cut into him.

Other NDEs I find interesting are the ones where two or more people are killed together at the same time and share the same NDE. My favorite case of this phenomenon comes from the distinguished Mormon NDE research Arvin Gibson. He documented the testimony of a whole group of Mormon firefighters who succumbed to the flames only to return with an NDE. They all saw each other outside of their bodies after the fire they were fighting overtook them. The remarkable thing is that they were promised by God that if they returned to their bodies, their bodies wouldn’t be burned. When they all revived, not only did their bodies not burn, but neither did their tools. However, the mountainside that they were trying to protect was completely burned.

I also like reading NDEs where the experiencer brings back a scientific discovery or obtains supernatural powers. Many of the scientific discoveries are in the realm of physics which I briefly touched on. Some experiencers return from having an NDE with psychic powers. For example, Dr. Yvonne Kason had an NDE after the plane she was riding in crashed into a lake. Sometime afterward, she received a vision that her friend had encephalitis. The strange thing about it was that her friend was not even ill. But Dr. Kason insisted that her friend be tested anyway. The test turned out to be positive. Other near-death experiencers who obtained psychic powers from an NDE have worked with police detectives to solve various crimes. One famous near-death experiencer, Joseph McMoneagle, worked for the CIA during the Cold War as a “remote viewer.”

Finally, other NDEs I find very interesting are NDEs which occurred a long time ago. NDEs can be found in every major religious text such as (1) the Bible, (2) the Torah, (3) the Koran, (4) the Tibetan Book of the Dead, (5) the Bhagavad-Gita, (6) the Kabbalah, and even in (7) Plato’s Republic. Other NDEs I enjoy reading are NDEs from the Middle Ages because they are described using different words and symbols than are commonly used today.

4. What about reincarnation?

Some people are surprised when I tell them that there already is scientific evidence that reincarnation is a reality. The only problem is that science and religion in the West does not accept it so it is generally ignored. There have been astounding studies done over the last four decades, particular by Dr. Ian Stevenson, which documents not only past life memories in small children, but corroborating physical characteristics which they were born with. The truth is out there. People just need to understand it.

The reason the West rejects reincarnation, for the most part, is because they don’t really understand it and therefore have misconceptions about it. NDE research supports the reality of reincarnation because some experiencers were shown their past lives during a life review. Some experiencers have even observed people being prepared for reincarnation to another life on Earth. Some were even asked by Jesus if they would like to reincarnate.

As a Christian, there was a time when I too did not accept reincarnation. But, as I studied more and more NDE testimony, I not only became convinced of its reality, I began to understanding it. For me, the idea of having to return to Earth after I die used to really repulse me. I assumed that people reincarnated immediately after death and, therefore, not reunite with loved ones again. As I read more about NDEs, I discovered that experiencers describe life after death as a timeless realm. This means we can literally spend an eternity of eternities in heaven with loved ones if we desire before we make such a decision to go back to Earth.

My understanding of the “mechanics” of reincarnation also helped me understand my Christian faith to a degree that I never thought possible. The concept of resurrection has always troubled me. The idea of an angel appearing in the sky someday in the future and – blowing a horn to call everyone in their graves to come out – never appealed to me. Strangely enough, my NDE research led me to examine the history and doctrines of early Christianity and other religions to find out that resurrection is basically a historical misunderstanding of reincarnation. There is an abundant amount of Biblical evidence alone which shows that Jesus taught reincarnation. But he mostly taught people about a spiritual resurrection that takes place during a person’s life which is the true resurrection and it’s called “regeneration” or becoming “born again”. It is a spiritual rebirth. It is also the way we escape from the cycle of reincarnation.

It was these concepts of spiritual resurrection and physical resurrection (reincarnation) which centuries later, the Church misunderstood and caused them to declare reincarnation a heresy. But then in 1945, early Christian texts were discovered in Egypt and the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 which affirmed that reincarnation was believed and taught in Israel by early Christians and Jews during the times of Christ. But in 1943, Dr. George Ritchie had an NDE which was so profound that it inspired Dr. Raymond Moody to begin his ground-breaking research into NDEs. So, it appears the Other Side is helping humanity to understand what life and death is. According to NDE research, death is just a body problem.

5. What is it like to die?

No two NDEs are exactly identical, although many are very similar. After studying a large number of experiences a pattern becomes evident. This pattern can be found in children’s NDEs as well.

Often the death experience begins with the feeling of leaving the body and is hovering overhead. Sometimes a “silver cord” is seen connected to the body which acts as an umbilical cord. Sometimes the person may later be able to describe who was where and what happened, sometimes in detail. They may spend an extended period of time around their earthly environment and discover that they can walk through walls, hear the thoughts and feel the feelings of the living, or fly through the air.

The person may then find themselves moving through a dark space or tunnel and having a sense of timelessness. Sometimes they may suddenly see the Earth from outer space. They may actually travel into outer space and experience galaxies light-years away.

Some people may see or actually experience a temporary realm which could be called a hellish realm. They may see souls who are in a miserable condition and in situations which may resemble a nightmare such as souls engaged in hand-to-hand combat, sexual orgies and rape, gloomy dungeons, a foggy realm of bewildered souls, and the earthbound realm where some souls are not aware they have died or they are obsessed with some earthly desire for which they try in vain to satisfy. The souls in these realms do not remain there forever because higher spirit beings can also be seen there helping them. It is my personal opinion that the number of people who experience these hellish realms for an extended period of time after death is comparable to the number of people in our prison system today. That is, it represents only a small fraction of society.

Continuing on, at some point, the person usually experiences intensely powerful emotions such as perfect bliss and overwhelming love. Sometimes beautiful heavenly music is heard.

The person may encounter a wonderful and beautiful light. It is usually described as golden, or white, and as being very loving. People identify this light with God. The person may feel as though they are being “magnetically” drawn to it.

Other entities may appear and greet the person. They may be deceased loved ones recognized from life or they may be people whom they cannot identify but feel as though they know them. A kind of heavenly homecoming may occur where the person is reunited with deceased loved ones. Sometime sacred beings appear such as a “Being of Light”, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Buddha, archangels, angels, etc. Sometimes beings appear whom they identify to be “guides“. The person may be reunited with a deceased pet. Orbs may be seen representing the souls of individuals. Sometimes symbols from one’s own religion or other religious traditions appear.

At some point, the person realizes they now possess supernatural abilities such as mental telepathy, instantaneous travel, the ability to create things with their mind, the ability to change form such as into an orb of light, and the ability to see in 360 degree vision.

The person may then experience a life review which is when they see and re-experience major and trivial events of one’s life, sometimes from the perspective of the other people involved. The person may be asked a question like “How have you loved others in your life?” or “What have you done with your life?” or some question having to do with love which initiates the life review. Although the life review involves an incredible amount of knowledge and experiences, the life review itself is usually described as happening instantaneously. Sometimes the person is taken back into time to experience historical events. Sometimes the person is taken into the future. The life review often ends by coming to some conclusion about the adequacy of that person’s life and what changes are needed in it.

People report having a sense of understanding everything, of being omniscient, and of knowing how the universe and everything works. They may receive important information which they believe they had known before but had forgotten – sometimes about their own identity. Some people bring back knowledge of having past lives. They may receive previously unknown information about their life such as being adopted or some hidden parentage or deceased siblings they didn’t know about. Some people bring back important scientific information and discoveries. Some people bring back knowledge about the future – either personal or global – and sometimes apocalyptic. Some people bring back information concerning religion, philosophy, history, or astrology.

In some cases, the person may be taken to otherworldly environments. They may observe or enter a beautiful “city of light” or a heavenly library or a “temple of knowledge” or a heavenly receiving station. They may visit beautiful heavenly gardens, valleys, or other scenery. The person may then reach a boundary such as a river, a fence, or some kind of barrier that may not be crossed if one is to return to life.

The person may then receive a telepathic message, “It is not yet your time” or “Your mission is not completed” or “You are not ready to die” or some variant of this. The decision to return may be voluntary or involuntary. If voluntary, it is usually associated with unfinished responsibilities.

The experience ends when the person returns to their body. This may be an instantaneous event or the person may observe their physical body before they must “jump” into it.

When the person has revived, they may notice dramatic personal changes such as an increase in spirituality and psychic abilities. They may have difficulty adjusting to these new changes. They may become depressed because they had to leave heaven. The entire near-death experience changes lives forever.

6. What do NDE experiencers say about God?

When you read enough NDE testimony you get an overwhelming feeling and understanding that there is only one thing that is of utmost importance. It is love – particularly unconditional love. If you read enough of these NDEs, you will discover that love is the most important thing there is. And the love they are talking about is practically nonexistent on Earth. The love that near-death experiencers are talking about is unconditional love – unlimited love – all-powerful love – all-encompassing love – a universal love. This love is the divine entity which all the religious people on Earth worship as “God”.

The indescribable light which people see after death is what people call “God”. This light of love is God. God’s presence is so obvious in heaven that it cannot be denied. Air is to the physical world as God is to the spirit world. God cannot really be described with words and experiencers are often flustered when trying to do so. The words used to describe God is love, life, light, time and space, the pattern for all life, the energy of all matter, the heart of all that matters, the very essence of all being, the source behind every sun, the source of all light and love, the core of all things, the single point of infinite light and absolute love, and the very life force of the universe. In other words, God is everywhere and everything is a part of God because nothing exists that is not a part of God.

People who have an NDE are bringing into the world a light of love which has never before been understood on such a vast scale. Experiencers tell us that love is God. The light seen in so many NDEs is this love that is God. God is the light that loves. And loving others and everything is all that really matters in life. Everything else, our achievements and material wealth, is totally irrelevant by comparison. Whether people realize it or not, love is what we are really seeking and what we need to sustain us. This love is too immense and profound to be fully understood in a single lifetime. But it can be fully understood after we die when we enter into the light.

All paths in life eventually lead back to God: universal love and one-ness. As spirit beings, our core is perfect love – the so-called “spark of divinity”. When we recognize this divine love within us, we realize that everyone is connected together. We are all of the same spirit and separation is only an illusion.

Experiencers tell us that life is about people, not pursuits. It is about loving people, not things. Religious dogma means nothing on the other side. True religion is to love others as we love ourselves. But we must love ourselves. It is what’s inside us that counts. It is love and not religious dogma which creates spiritual growth. What is important is what comes from the heart, not what one professes with the lips. Love in action is what lasts. The more we live in love, the closer we are to God. The way to heaven is through the practice of love. Love is the law of the universe and love actually holds the universe together. Our afterlife situation and condition is determined by the level of love we have developed in our life. This is often attained through hardships which challenge us and help us grow and stay compassionate. Before we can really feel joy, we must know sorrow. This world is the “School of Hard Knocks” which helps develop within us the tough, unconditional love that people call “God.” We are told by experiencers that life is a cycle of improvements and the goal is perfection in love.

Once we leave this world, we will step into the spirituality we have cultivated within ourselves. We will then view reality from an inward perspective instead of an outward one. Heaven and hell are not locations so much as they are spiritual states of being. We grow to heaven. We don’t go to heaven. We grow to heaven through love within and in practice. The central factor determining our level of spiritual growth, and the level of heaven we attain after death, is the degree to which we have lived for the sake of others out of love. Our ability to love governs our progress in the spirit and it determines the degree of light we possess.

They say life on Earth is but a preparation for our life in heaven. We come to Earth from heaven for the purpose of obtaining spiritual development and to bring heaven to Earth. Free will is a divine gift from God to humanity and nobody forces anyone to heaven. Since God is love, the more love we create within us and give to others, the closer we are to God. It is a life of love that leads to heaven. Love is God’s paradise for humanity and we can create this paradise from heaven on Earth and within us if we learn to love one another.

We are told that the chief reason for returning to this world is for instruction which leads to the advancement of our souls in spiritual maturity. We are all given all the opportunities it takes, as many lifetimes as it takes, to achieve this goal. Then, like the prodigal son, we will return to our true home never again to leave it. Once we have learned the lessons necessary in this world, we do not need to return.

7. What do experiencers say about heaven?

Heaven is a matter of “good vibrations” which is based on the various levels of spiritual love which exists. Physicists tell us that there may be ten, eleven, or even more dimensions to reality which exists within the same space as our universe. The reason we cannot see these dimensions is the same reason we cannot see radio or television waves because they exist beyond the frequency on the light spectrum that we can see. Love can be compared to heat which has vibrations that are finer than colder temperatures. The greater the love – the finer the vibration – and the closer we are to heaven. Heavier vibrations represent coldness and the heavier the vibrations the nearer we are to what people call “hell.” Negative vibes cannot be expressed in heaven so as we enter into heaven, these negative vibes are removed by God. People who prefer to hold on to negative vibes are allowed to dwell where these vibrations can be expressed.

When we manifest unconditional love, our soul vibration is so high that the only place we can fit into is heaven. People don’t go to heaven because of good deeds, but because their soul vibration of love fits in and belongs there. After death, people gravitate into groups according to the rate of their soul’s vibration. The old cliché “Birds of a feather flock together” is really true. It is the same principle as putting a coin into the slot of a coin counter. The coin just naturally fits to its proper location. So it is with the soul. After death, our soul naturally fits in the level of love and heaven we have within us. In fact, while we are alive on Earth, our soul actually dwells in the spiritual dimension we will discover after death. This is why Jesus said, “The Kingdom of heaven is within.” The beauty of heaven is beyond words and it reflects the spiritual nature of those who dwell there.

Although our goal is to remain forever in heaven, our greatest goal right now is to bring heaven to Earth. If we don’t help those in the lower realms to develop a higher level of spirituality, we cannot truly enjoy heaven. This is because our family and friends might be inhabiting these lower levels. It is as one experiencer so eloquently put it, “We are going to link up, hold hands, and walk out of hell together.” For this reason, we leave paradise, not just for the sake of our own spiritual development, but for those we love. By doing this, we are also doing it for God’s sake. We are assured by God that when we leave paradise for another incarnation at a lower spiritual level, we will be brought home safely again. Ultimately, everyone will merge with God at the highest level as it was in the beginning. Paradise lost will then truly become paradise found again.

8. What do experiencers say about religion?

People who have a near-death experience often return less religious and more spiritual. One minister who had a near-death experience said that it made everything in his life appear insignificant by comparison – his ministry, his religion, even his own family. He added that it didn’t diminish these aspects to his life; it just revealed his experience to be far greater.

Doctrine, creed and race mean nothing on the Other Side. Theology is not important to God. No matter what we believe, we were all children joined under one God. The only rule is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Heaven is not about religion. We do not attain heaven through religion or by pledging allegiance to a God. It is love that creates heaven. Religions are only cultural institutions. Those religions which claim to be superior over other religions or exclude people for various reasons go against God’s law to love others as we love ourselves. Although religion is not considered important to God, all religions are necessary because there are people who need what these religions teach. It is for this reason that all religions are precious in the sight of God. But if you insist upon searching for an old man on a throne after you die, you will do this for a long time until you get the idea that you are chasing a fantasy-to-be-abandoned.

9. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through my dreams?

When my mother died two years ago, she appeared in a dream of mine and in an almost identical dream of my sister’s that very same night. These kinds of dreams are often reported to be “not like an ordinary dream.” Indeed, my own contact with my mother happened when she interrupted my normal dream and suddenly it became a lucid dream where I was able to talk to her. It was lucid, in that, I became aware that I was dreaming but I did not see my mother as part of a dream. I knew that she was actually there and what I was experiencing with my mother was no dream. An ordinary dream is generally fragmented, jumbled, filled with symbolism, and incomplete in various ways. Ordinary dreams typically have a quality of unreality about them and such dreams are often forgotten. But a “visitation dream” feels like an actual face-to-face visit with a deceased loved one. They are much more lucid, vivid, colorful, orderly, and memorable than ordinary dreams.

Visitation dreams are probably more common than people realize but they are often dismissed or not talked about out of fear of having their sanity questioned. Dreams are the best way to connect with our loved ones on the Other Side. There are various kinds of dreams depending upon the physical, mental, or spiritual needs we have at the time. Our dreams are our access to the Other Side. During our dreams, we receive input from the spirit world and from our spirit. It has been said that there is not a question we can ask which cannot be answered from the depths of our being while we are dreaming.

During our dreams we can also experience telepathy, see into the future, travel out of our body, remember past lives, meet our spirit guides, meet angels, meet Jesus, and even hear the voice of God. Some people have reported near-death experiences while they are dreaming.

Our subconscious minds are in contact with other subconscious minds – both living and “dead”. Through our subconscious mind, dreams can connect us with living people on Earth or with those on the Other Side. We might be visited in our dreams by deceased family and friends for many reasons. Sometimes they seek to give us assurance about their well-being on the Other Side. Sometimes loved ones on the Other Side want to show us what the Other Side is like to take away our fear and grief. They may come to bring us information which may be very helpful. For example, there are reports of deceased relatives appearing in dreams and giving instructions about where to find a will or a lost object. Sometimes they appear in our dreams for just a visit. As it was in Biblical days, angels can even appear and speak to us in our dreams today. Sometimes our loved ones on the Other Side appear in our dreams to say things like, “I am fine and happy. Your grief is holding me back and making me sad. You can help me greatly by trying to overcome your sorrow.”

There are things you can do to help you in contacting loved ones in your dreams. First of all, pray to God before you sleep for guidance and to help contact with your loved one. Make a suggestion to yourself every night as you fall asleep, “I will remember my dreams.” Record your dreams as soon as possible after you wake up. If you awaken in the middle of the night, write down the main events or symbols in your dream. The entire dream will usually be recalled in the morning. Practice trying to remember more and more of your dreams. You will find that just the realization of how important your dreams really are will go a long way to helping you remember your dreams.

10. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through prayer?

There is a little known, but very important, fact about the Other Side which shows up from time to time in near-death experiences. It is the fact that we can communicate with loved ones on the Other Side through prayer. Sometimes it is the prayers of loved ones that experiencers hear on the Other Side which causes them to return. I have heard it said numerous times that the most important thing the Other Side desires from us is our prayers. There is evidence that prayers for a loved one on the Other Side can literally free them from a hellish spiritual condition. Our prayers actually help those on the Other Side. Prayer is especially critical for someone who committed suicide and is now seeking forgiveness and reassurance from the living. When we pray for someone on the Other Side, they are suddenly filled with the light of God and know they are being thought of and helped by our prayer.

Think of prayer as a spiritual “telephone” which we can connect to our loved ones on the Other Side. Think of God as the “Switchboard Operator” because that is exactly one of the roles that God plays – to bring us together and remind us of our one-ness with all things. When you pray to God, ask God to connect you to your loved one. Then start talking to your loved one in your prayers and they will hear you. It is our outpouring of love to them that reassures them that you don’t think of them as just “thin air” which the living seem to do frequently. So when God connects you to your loved one in prayer, pour your light of love on them and you will be doing a wonderful thing for them. What most people often don’t know realize is that they want to know that we believe they are still around – which they are. We just can’t see them. Our prayers for them are like a light that suddenly shines on them that fills them with your love. It means a lot to our loved ones on the Other Side to continue to communicate with them through prayer. They would like to hear from us just as badly as we do – except they know for sure we are fine, whereas, it is the living who lives in the land of death and doubt. The problem is that some people believe that praying for the dead is somehow “evil”. Although the Catholic Church has traditionally sanctioned praying for the dead, Protestants do not. And a large number of people don’t even believe in the afterlife or that their loved ones have survived death. Imagine the disappointment you might feel if you died and discover that none of your loved ones believe you exist anymore. Or suppose you discover that they believe you are in hell for some reason and in torment. By directing our prayers to our loved ones on the Other Side, we give them reassurance that our relationship remains intact even though physically it is not.

When my mother died, I discovered how therapeutic it was to send her my thoughts and feelings through prayer. I suppose one does not even need to believe that praying to them actually works to receive benefits by praying to them. After her death, I poured my heart out to her in my prayers. I know that I am connecting with my mother every time I direct my prayers to her. And you might be pleasantly surprised when your prayers are answered.

11. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through meditation?

Prayer is speaking to the Other Side. Meditation is listening to the Other Side. It takes perseverance to be able to harness one’s thoughts, sit still and control the body, to attune our minds properly for contact to be made. There are several time-honored methods for meditation that a person could use. When first learning to meditate, a point may be reached where you become fascinated by the many faces appearing in your mind’s eye. You may see numerous pairs of eyes staring at you, hear your name called, or feel as thought we are in the midst of a crowd. This is not yet true mediation and so you must continue on. The voices and the faces may belong to unfamiliar souls on the Other Side who are attracted to the spiritual light pouring from you while in this pre-meditative state. The experience has been described to be similar to the feeling of looking through a keyhole only to see another eye looking back at you. By learning to control your thoughts, a higher state can be achieved which is true meditation can take place and we can connect with loved ones on the Other Side. Personally, I must confess that I am a poor mediator. The results of meditation are best when it is done frequently and regularly.

There is an easier method which people can try to attempt to contact the Other Side. This method was developed by none other than Dr. Raymond Moody, the world’s foremost expert on near-death experiences. Moody’s method is based on the ancient Greek oracle technique to receive visions. Moody has reported a lot of success with this method by those willing to try it. Moody’s method involves gazing into a large mirror, a technique that the great seer Nostradamus used to see into the future. Moody has described having an extended vision and conversation with his deceased grandmother using this method. This method for mirror gazing is itself very easy. Here is the method:

Dr. Raymond Moody’s Method for Contacting the Other Side

  1. Eliminate caffeine and dairy products the day before to get into a more peaceful state of mind. Eat simply such as only fruit and vegetables.
  2. Wear only loose, comfortable clothing. Remove your wristwatch and all jewelry.
  3. Go to the quietest and most comfortable part of your house where you can relax in privacy. Unplug clocks and phones in that room so that you won’t be disturbed. Place a large mirror in front of your chair and arrange it so that you can gaze into it without having to hold your eyes at an uncomfortable angle.
  4. For about 15 minutes, create a mood by soothing yourself with beautiful art or listening to soft music. Art and music alone is enough to induce altered states in many people.
  5. Have photographs and personal items of your loved one around you. Focus your thoughts on them to imprint your loved one firmly in your mind. A family album filled with great memories can do the trick. Home videos do the same thing. Some people hold articles of clothing associated with the person. Other items might include your loved one’s fishing pole, hobby tools, tobacco pipe, eyeglasses, old letters, etc. Anything associated with your loved one is an effective way of bringing up memories and feelings.
  6. The twilight hour is a time that seems to better inspire altered states in many people. Dim the lights to a comfortable level. Having a dim light behind you while you are sitting in front of the mirror usually works the best.
  7. Sit in a comfortable chair that will support the back of your head, even if you’re deeply relaxed. A comfortable posture is very important. The goal is to ease into an altered state of awareness.
  8. Relax and gaze into the clear depth of the mirror without trying to see anything. Some compare this to looking off into the distance. If you are properly relaxed, your arms will feel very heavy and the tips of your fingers might tingle as though they are slightly charged with electricity. According to Moody, this tingling feeling almost always signals the beginning of the hypnagogic state (i.e., the preferred altered consciousness).
  9. The mirror may appear cloudy. Some people describe it as resembling a cloudy sky on a cloudy day. Others report that the mirror becomes darker. Whatever is the case, this change in the clarity of the mirror signals that visions are about to appear.
  10. Try not to control the experience with your thoughts or say anything when the visions appear. At this point, it is best to first experience things passively. Just let the experience and the visions flow. Attempting to control any visions with your thoughts after they appear will usually cause them to fade away. Moody said he is not sure why this happens, but he guesses that conscious thought brings a person out of the hypnagogic state of mind when these visions are able to appear.
  11. Once you become more adept at mirror gazing, it can be very helpful to have specific questions in your mind before entering the trance state. Then when the visions occur, you can pose your questions.

According to Moody, the visions usually last less than a minute, especially for those unable to stay relaxed. Some of Dr. Moody’s subjects have been able to experience visions for as long as ten minutes on their first attempt. The more proficient a person becomes at mirror gazing, the longer these visions will appear in the mirror.

Sometimes you may not see anything, yet hear your departed person talk or feel their touch. Some people experience all the sensations of being reunited with their loved one without actually seeing anything. Some people, such as Nostradamus, describe a sensation of actually entering into the mirror and having the visions come out with you. Whatever the type of experience you have, it will be obvious when the visions begin and when they are over.

Moody recommends that people record the experience immediately after the session as you would a dream. Write it down in as much detail as possible. Practice makes perfect. If the visions do not occur during a session, there may be factors involved. The most common reason for failing to see anything is trying too hard. Moody states that people sometimes report experiencing visions once they give up trying. Distractions are another common reason that visions fail to occur. These may include outside noise and/or physical discomfort. Perhaps the room is too hot or too cold. Distractions also take place in the form of diet. Some people just cannot have visionary experiences after eating a heavy meal. A light meal is recommended because it elevates your blood sugar and keeps you from focusing on hunger. Moody also emphasizes that exercise is an important component of relaxation. He states that most people are much more relaxed after exercise – even gentle exercise. Lack of exercise can make it difficult for you to relax and let your mind wander while mirror gazing. Some people who meditate are aware of having such visions while they meditate and consider them an interesting by-product.

12. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through an out-of-body experience?

Scientific studies suggests that out-of-body experiences (OBEs) occur during the dream phase of sleep. There are also time-honored methods to train your body to have an OBE. During an OBE, it is possible to meet with deceased family and friends in the same way that it is possible during dreams. I profile on my website the near-death experience of Dr. Dianne Morrissey who, after her near-death experience, would have spontaneous OBEs. She is now an expert in the field and teaches students how to have them at colleges around the country. In her book “You Can See The Light” she shares a very easy method that anyone can use to have OBEs – including one where the so-called “Being of Light” can be seen. Dr. Melvin Morse, the famed near-death researcher, has this to say about this method: “I tried it, and it worked for me!” Here are the steps:

Dr. Dianne Morrissey’s Method for Contacting the Other Side

  1. Begin to record in a journal every dream you have. Soon, you’ll begin to see themes and patterns, such as “flying dreams” or “lucid” dreams. These are signals that you may be out of your body.
  2. During the day, imagine yourself actually having an out-of-body experience while dreaming later that night. Choose the place or person you want to visit, and then visualize the desired image vividly in your mind.
  3. Before going to sleep or meditating, tell yourself that you will have an out-of-body experience.
  4. Just before actually falling asleep or meditating, see again in your mind’s eye who or where you have chosen to visit while out of body. This might be a specific geographic location, a room in your home, or someone you love.
  5. While lying in bed, suggest to yourself that you will see your hand and/or foot while you are dreaming. Also remind yourself to notice the camera you have placed nearby when you return to your bed during your out-of-body experience.
  6. Tell yourself that your physical body will fall asleep, but that your mind will stay awake. This will allow you to observe any dream that begins. Or, you might remind yourself to awaken your conscious mind during your dream, even while your body remains physically asleep.
  7. Once you are aware that you are actually out of your body, keep your destination in the forefront of your mind and immediately go to it. Dr. Morrissey knows from her own experiences, as well as from those of thousands of others, that you can leave your body, reach your destination, and then return safely again and again. In the process, your fear of death will be replaced by a deep appreciation of the wonderful opportunities awaiting every day you spend on Earth. The following are some keys that will help you recognize when you are having an out-of-body experience during sleep.
  8. Watch for the “hypnogogic jolt” as you begin to fall asleep. This is the sudden jerk of your body just as you are falling asleep. Note especially when you think you moved, but later find that you did not. On these occasions, you have been out-of-body.
  9. Be aware, before you go to bed, that you might feel as if you’re vibrating from head to foot. If vibrations begin, relax and just allow them to occur, knowing that you are moving into an out-of-body experience.
  10. Watch for the paralysis stage that occurs spontaneously during sleep. At this point, you will already be partly out of your body. If, at that time, you think strongly about someone you love, you’ll fly to wherever that person is and see him or her. You will also know that you are asleep and conscious within your dream.
  11. Begin to notice occasions on which you find yourself awakening twice. In other words, the first time you think you are awake, you will be awake within your dream. Right after that, you will be physically awakened. You might need a moment to realize that you were not out of bed after all, but still asleep, even though the experience seemed so real!
  12. When you can, use lucid dreaming to direct your dreams and bring yourself to a chosen person, situation, or destination. Guiding your dreams is not only possible, but a time-tested, scientific reality. This important technique can help you create a memorable out-of-body experience – and possibly bring you into the presence of loved ones on the other side, angelic beings, and even the Light itself.
  13. You can recognize a lucid dream by talking aloud to yourself to see your hand or foot or camera during a dream. When this occurs, you’ll be aware that you’re dreaming, and you can then guide your dream. Place a camera where you’ll see it when you enter your bedroom, and tell yourself before you go to bed that, while dreaming, you will pick up the camera when you pass it, and “take a picture of your dream.” Using the device of the camera has two purposes. First, you might find that when you pick up the camera, your hand goes right through it. The oddity of seeing your hand go through a solid object can trigger your awareness that you’re out of your body. Second the camera can help you remember your dream when you awaken in the morning because you “took a picture” of it while you were asleep.
  14. You can expect that once you are having an out-of-body experience during sleep, you’ll be able to meet a radiant angelic being or see the Light. This experience will truly change your life. When it occurs, you will know without doubt that you and the Light are eternally connected. Your angel will pour Light into you and envelop you in love.

There are also methods to induce a near-death experience and I have a list of them on my website.

13. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through after-death communications?

Always watch for after-death communications after a loved one dies. It is not unusual anyway for people to receive a “sign from heaven” that there loved one continues to exist and are fine. It may not occur right away either. Some people have them years after their loved one’s death. A large number of people have reportedly received such a sign after a loved ones death. I have already mentioned dream visitations. You may also experience a sudden and powerful sense of their presence in a room. You may suddenly and unexpectedly hear their voice. You may suddenly feel their touch or smell their fragrance. Usually these things occur during a very special event which may provide a highly meaningful coincidence that affirms to you that contact has been made. There is even a name for this kind of meaningful coincidence. It is called “synchronicity”. Sometimes, synchronistic events such as these are so subtle that they either go unnoticed or are dismissed as mere coincidence. Some people report having seen their loved one after their death in the form of an apparition or vision. This kind of contact resembles the kind of after-death communication that Jesus’ disciples experienced after his death. To learn more about after-death communications, I highly recommend the book “Hello From Heaven” by Bill and Judy Guggenheim which documents tons of examples of these. Had I not read this book before my mother’s death, I may not have recognized the large number of synchronistic events that occurred to my family after my mother’s death. The book is also an excellent gift to give someone who has just lost a loved one. It is for this reason that I constantly promote this book. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

14. How can I contact my loved one on the Other Side through a psychic?

There are very special individuals who have been blessed with an extraordinary gift which has been proven genuine to the minds of millions of open-minded people. Some of them have been tested in the media. Some of them have been involved in scientific studied that prove they are extremely accurate. But because of their tremendous psychic abilities in contacting those on the other side, these highly gifted mediums are in great demand. It may not be easy to get on their list for a reading, but persistent and patient individuals will be greatly rewarded.

Because the psychic profession is filled with fraud and abuse (which profession is not?) I recommend only the psychics who have been tested such as John Edward and George Anderson. The information on how you can contact them is provided below.

George Anderson is widely considered the world’s greatest living medium, and remains the world’s most sought after practitioner among those who wish to communicate with lost loved ones. He has garnered a worldwide reputation for excellence with his mediumistic ability. You can contact him through: Anderson’s Support Programs, P.O. Box 733, Deer Park, New York 11729, website: www.georgeanderson.com

John Edward is known worldwide through his television show called “Crossing Over”. You can contact him through his website at: www.johnedward.net

15. How can I better cope with grief and loss?

When my mother died, I became very depressed and eventually had to be hospitalized. But because I and my family have a history of depression, I knew what was happening to me when I became depressed. Unfortunately, many people go untreated and may not know there is help. If you have these symptoms:

Extreme sadness, crying spells, insomnia, bizarre thoughts, a desire to remain in bed all the time, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of isolation.

These are signs that you are clinically depressed. The best advice to give anyone experiencing these things is to tell your doctor and get a prescription of anti-depressants. It may be a matter of life or death. You can read about my own transition through grief and loss at this web page.

There are the many good Internet resources dealing with grief and loss. Here are the best links I know of:

Internet Links on Grief and Loss

  1. GriefNet.org – Persons Dealing with Grief, Death, and Loss
  2. Growth House – Guide to Dying, Grief, Bereavement, and End-of-Life
  3. Grief Expert Dr. David Kessler’s Site on Grief and Dying
  4. Association for Death Education and Counseling
  5. Open To Hope – Support for Dealing with Grief, Loss, Bereavement
  6. Beyond Indigo’s Bereavement Support Groups
  7. BeliefNet’s Grief and Loss Resources
  8. The Light Beyond – Bereavement Forums
  9. Centering Corporation – Your Grief Resource Center
  10. HelpGuide’s Support for Coping with Grief and Loss
  11. Bereaved Parents of the USA
  12. National Organization for Parents of Murdered Children (POMC)
  13. National Alliance for Grieving Children
  14. Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
  15. SAVE: Suicide Prevention Information and Depression Awareness
  16. National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)

16. Links to Evidence of Life After Death

  1. International Association of Near-Death Studies
  2. Scientific Evidence for Survival of Consciousness After Death
  3. The NDE and Science Research Conclusions
  4. The Scientific Evidence for Reincarnation
  5. Six Studies of Out-Of-Body Experiences – by Dr. Charles Tart
  6. Near-Death Experiences Research Foundation
  7. Out-of-Body Experiences Research Foundation
  8. After-Death Experiences Research Foundation
  9. Evidence for the Afterlife – Spiritual Development
  10. The International Survivalist Society – Survival articles
  11. Scientific Evidence Based Mediumship, Life After Death and ADCs
  12. Scientific Proof of Survival After Death – By Michael Roll
  13. A Lawyer Presents the Case for the Afterlife – Victor Zammit
  14. Famous Cardiac Surgeon’s Stories of Near Death Experiences in Surgery
  15. The Case for Life After Death – by Professor Peter Kreeft
  16. The Roots of Consciousness – by Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD
  17. Scientific Proof of the Existence of God – an interview with Amit Goswami by Craig Hamilton
  18. Compatibility of Contemporary Physical Theory with Personal Survival (Physicist Henry Stapp)
  19. Human Immortality – by William James
  20. Science and the Near-Death Experience – by Chris Carter
  21. Science and the Afterlife Experience – by Chris Carter
  22. Parapsychology and the Skeptics – by Chris Carter
Categories
Articles Science

A Critique of Susan Blackmore’s Dying Brain Hypothesis

Greg Stone (www.visitunderthetree.com) began his college studies in physics, but ended up graduating with a degree in psychology (University of Colorado). He also studied at Chicago Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago. He believes his personal love for both science and spiritual matters mirrors a trend in society toward a greater understanding of the connectedness of the two disciplines. Greg Stone’s book is entitled “Under the Tree” which is a novel set in the world of the near-death experience. He has also written a new essay on Buddhism and reincarnation called “The Buddhist Paradox.” Read all his other fascinating essays on his website.

Table of Contents

  1. Background on Susan Blackmore
  2. Prologue to Critique
  3. Introduction
  4. The Preface
  5. Chapter One: Coming Close To Death
  6. Chapter Two: The Stages of Dying
  7. Chapter Three: Visions From the Dying Brain
  8. Chapter Four: The Light at the End of the Tunnel
  9. Chapter Five: Peace, Joy and Bliss
  10. Chapter Six: But I saw the Color of Her Dress
  11. Chapter Seven: Realer Than Real
  12. Chapter Eight: In or Out of the Body?
  13. Closing Note
  14. Susan Blackmore’s Response, March 2001
  15. Greg Stone’s Response

1. Background on Susan Blackmore

Before you read Greg Stone’s excellent critique of skeptic Susan Blackmore‘s theory of the NDE, you may want to first read a brief description of Susan Blackmore’s hypothesis. She is the author of several books including: The Meme Machine (2000), Conversations on Consciousness (2007), Consciousness: An Introduction (2011), Zen and the Art of Consciousness (2011), Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction (2018), and Seeing Myself: What Out-of-body Experiences Tell Us About Life, Death and the Mind (2019). Blackmore has more information at her website at www.susanblackmore.uk.

2. Prologue to Critique

Discussions about the near-death experience and the idea that consciousness separates from the body are frequently challenged by skeptics who ask: “Didn’t you know Susan Blackmore proved, scientifically, that NDE’s are hallucinations caused by brain activity?”

When I first heard such claims, I rushed out and purchased Dying to Live, Blackmore’s work on the near-death experience. After reading the book, however, I was left wondering what it was skeptics had read. Dying to Live not only failed to provide scientific support for a “brain only” hypothesis, it contained only conjecture and speculation.

In a moment of passion, I fired off a critique of Dying to Live, which was subsequently posted on a number of sites. Over the following years, readers wrote to thank me for having posted the critical analysis of the work.

Ms. Blackmore responded as well and confirmed my observation that the work was primarily that of conjecture and speculation. So much for the skeptic’s argument that the issue of NDEs has been settled once and for all, scientifically.

The following is an edited version of the critique. (The content remains the same, the prose was in dire need of repair, as the critique originated as an unedited e-mail exchange.)

It is my hope that addressing the contents of Dying to Live lessens the flurry of posts and e-mails that arrive saying, “Didn’t you know, Blackmore…” For those who have not read Dying to Live, I highly recommend the book, even though I disagree with the conjectures presented therein; the book nonetheless presents a worthwhile discussion of NDEs. In order to understand the subject, one must become familiar with all the different views that surround the subject.

3. Introduction

In dialogue with skeptics, I often encounter the claim that Susan Blackmore, in Dying to Live, provides scientific proof the near-death experience results from a “dying brain.” Skeptics argue her work disproves the existence of spirit and the afterlife. A close reading of Dying to Live, however, shows otherwise. The following is a critique of the first eight chapters.

4. The Preface

Though skeptics claim Susan Blackmore is an unbiased researcher, in the preface to her book, she makes her prejudices known as she assumes the viewpoint of the biased skeptic. She writes:

“It is no wonder that we like to deny death. Whole religions are based on that denial. Turn to religion and you may be assured of eternal life. ….” And, “Of course, this comforting thought conflicts with science. Science tells us that death is the end and, as so often, finds itself opposing religion.” – Susan Blackmore, Dying To Live

This is a misrepresentation of both religion and science. Consider the comment, “whole religions are based upon a denial of death.” Religion’s primary concern lies with the spirit and its relationship to the universe. Some prefer the term “spiritual” to describe religious views, focusing on the core issue – the existence of spirit. Almost all religions hold the belief man is, in essence, a spirit or soul that lives beyond body death. This is not a denial of death, but rather a focus on the life of the spirit. No one I know denies the existence of death – the body dies. The life of the spirit is another matter. By assuming spirit does not exist, Blackmore cynically reduces the subject of religion to a denial of death. If the spirit exists, however, and transcends body death (one of the two hypotheses considered in Dying to Live), then Blackmore, not religion, is in denial.

Thus, starting with page one, it’s clear she does not intend to explore the subject of NDEs (and survival of the spirit) with an unbiased scientific approach. Her prejudice, not the research, will dictate the conclusions.

We see further evidence of bias in her statement that belief in life after death conflicts with science, as though “science” were a monolithic authority that decrees “what is,” rather than being a method of inquiry.

She offers the unsupported and blatantly false statement that “science tells us” death is the end. Though she may personally believe death is the end, “science” makes no such pronouncement. Later in the book, researchers with scientific credentials who take the opposite position – that spirit survives body death – are mentioned, which puts the lie to her earlier statements that science tells us death is the end. Though it may be appropriate to state the personal belief that spirit does not survive body death, presuming to speak for “science” diminishes the book’s credibility from the outset.

Dying to Live turns out to be, first and foremost, a personal opinion in support of the skeptical viewpoint, not a statement of scientific evidence or proof.

Later in the preface, another illogical statement points up her agenda:

“The problem with evolution is, and has always been, that it leaves little room either for a grand purpose to life or for an individual soul.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Though the body is an evolving bio-organism, the spirit is not; when it comes to questions of spirit or soul, evolution is irrelevant. She uses a biological argument to dismiss a non-biological premise, revealing her intention to dismiss evidence a priori and substitute biases that arise from the field of evolutionary psychology – the “man-is-an-animal” school of thought.

Skeptics who claim the author of Dying to Live is non-biased are proven wrong; skeptics who claim she provides scientific proof are shown, by her own words, to be in error.

5. Chapter One: Coming Close To Death

Two competing hypotheses are advanced in Dying to Live: The Afterlife Hypothesis and The Dying Brain Hypothesis. The Afterlife Hypothesis states spirit survives body death. The NDE is the result of spirit separating from the body. The Dying Brain Hypothesis states the NDE is an artifact of brain chemistry. According to the dying brain hypothesis, there is no spirit which survives body death.

The book sets out to examine arguments for these two conflicting hypotheses – then fails to do so. Blackmore never presents the actual Afterlife Hypothesis; she presents a version intended to be refuted – a straw man argument. So much for skeptics’ claims of unbiased research.

In the list of four arguments for the Afterlife Hypothesis, the most important argument is omitted (later in the book it is addressed in passing). This primary and most basic tenet of the Afterlife Hypothesis – that spirit (and consciousness) separate from the body – deserves primary attention, but Blackmore instead addresses tangential arguments.

Failing to formulate a clear and concise statement of what must be demonstrated to support each hypothesis, she fails to test clear assumptions and ends up concluding neither has proof, after which she expresses her feeling the Dying Brain Hypothesis must be right. Skeptics make the mistake of claiming scientific proof when Blackmore offers only opinion.

In the first chapter, in quotes provided by NDErs, specific references are made to being “outside his/her body.” NDEs, we learn, sometimes include the observation of actual proceedings, such as operations, viewed from unusual vantage points. This important point evidence, the very essence of the Afterlife Hypothesis, is ignored at this early stage in the text.

Particularly annoying to this reader is a brief passage regarding Tibetan Buddhism:

“The difference between these teachings and the folk-tales we have been considering — and it is a very big difference — is that in Buddhism these experiences are not meant to be taken literally…”

She could not be more wrong. Tibetan Buddhism endorses the Afterlife Hypothesis. Readers with only passing familiarity with Tibetan Buddhism are aware they search for reincarnated leaders and reinstate them to their position in the monastery. Buddhists take life beyond death quite literally. Blackmore misappropriates Buddhist concepts and fails to understand Buddhist practice disproves her Dying Brain Hypothesis!

Convincing stories of the tradition of NDEs in Buddhist and Native American circles are compared to modern day NDEs:

Zaleski sums up the similarities and differences she found between modern and medieval accounts of people who died and were revived again. In both, the first step is a kind of dualistic parting of body and soul, with the separated spirit looking down on its former dwelling place…”

Dying to Live arrives at the essence of the Afterlife Hypothesis, the separation of spirit and body, then ignores its significance. This dismissal of the key issue casts doubt on the integrity of the work, integrity which is placed further in doubt by the following:

“Western philosophers and scientists have long argued cogently and powerfully against this dualist view and the few who still defend it…. are in a tiny minority amongst academics.”

The opinion of a select few academicians, who are not experts on the subject, can hardly be called scientific evidence. In an earlier passage, she notes that well over half the public, some seventy percent surveyed, believe in life after death, then dismisses “popularity” as a scientific criterion. Now she turns around and uses “popularity” among academics as grounds for her argument. She offers personal opinion:

“The dualist temptation is so great. Just as we do not like to imagine that we will one day die, so we do not like to think of ourselves as just an ever-changing and perishable body…”

People also do not like to think of themselves as an immaterial being; they do not like to think of themselves as anything but a body. The argument cuts both ways. We are presented with amateur psychology in lieu of scientific proof. Her opinion does not determine whether spirit departs the body, it only serves to explain her personal psychology.

Later in the chapter, once again, she misses the crux of the issue:

“Some have argued that there is a kind of core experience that is common to all people and to all cultures but which is overlaid with cultural differences. …. It is tempting to think that if we could somehow delve beneath the surface of the accounts people give we would find the invariant, true NDE underneath. But this is a vain hope.”

But there is an invariant core to the Afterlife Hypothesis: the separation of spirit from body. This is obvious. It is the very hypothesis under consideration.

What spirit perceives while it is separate is a different question. This should be obvious, but apparently is not. Most of Dying to Live is spent disputing differences in perceptual or experiential content, rather than inspecting the core hypothesis.

To illustrate the point, consider the following thought experiment. Ask people in various lands to take a Sunday afternoon stroll and report their experience. There will be similarities, for example, the report of the mobility of the body through the environment accompanied by the senses taking in the environment. We would not be surprised, however, to find a walk through Manhattan produces very different content from that produced by a stroll through the bush country of Kenya. Likewise, when one investigates NDEs, one needs to distinguish core factors or invariants (such as separation from body) from the varied content of perception. When this critical difference is overlooked in Dying to Live, the validity of the work is undermined.

6. Chapter Two: The Stages of Dying

Drugs are entered into the equation and Blackmore reveals her personal experiences with NDE-like phenomena under the effects of controlled substances. She notes some differences in NDE’s when they occur as a result of drug use, then uses this to “disprove” the invariance hypothesis (the hypothesis that these experiences should have commonality):

“My own interpretation is that the invariance hypothesis is not supported. The NDE varies according to the conditions that set it off and the person having it.”

As previously mentioned, she errors in looking at content differences, while ignoring invariance in the basics. In our thought experiment, it was demonstrated that reports which varied due to differences between scenery in Kenya and Manhattan did not mean one subject did not take a walk. Likewise, if the stroller in Manhattan ingests drugs and then turns in a report that varies in content, this does not mean the subject did not stroll through the environment as requested, only that his perceptions varied due to his drugged condition.

In misapplying the invariance hypothesis, Blackmore fails to take into account:

(1)  Varying conditions of spirits when they separate (to varying degrees) from the body and,

(2)  The varied perceptual and cognitive content that occurs, depending upon the circumstances of separation.

It is folly to reduce a complex human and spiritual experience into machine-like simplicity. When it comes to the study of humans, such reductionism results in absurd conclusions.

This error underlies the theoretical turn she takes which colors the remainder of the book:

“Do you have to be near death to have an NDE? One motivation for asking this question is the ‘just like hallucinations’ argument. According to this view, NDE’s, drug-induced hallucinations, out-of-body experiences occurring under normal conditions and other kinds of hallucinations are all related.”

In other words, the NDE is not an isolated phenomena. The common link between NDE and these other experiences is the release of the spirit, to a greater or lesser extent, from the body. This is the relation that should be investigated.

The real question should not be, “Do you have to be near death to have an NDE?” but rather do you have to be near death for the spirit to separate from the body? Evidence tells us the answer is no.

The spirit can and does leave the body in any number of situations, including those that occur without drugs or trauma. This is exactly what one would expect to find if the Afterlife Hypothesis is true. If one postulates spirit surviving body death, one also postulates spirit being different and separate from the body it inhabits. The Afterlife Hypothesis predicts the spirit should be capable of separating from the body under conditions other than impending death. The evidence Blackmore cites thus directly supports the Afterlife Hypothesis.

Instead of recognizing a common link that supports the Afterlife Hypothesis, she opines:

“This might lend support to theories trying to explain the features of the NDE in medical, psychological, or physiological terms and go against theories involving a spirit or soul or heavenly realm.”

Failing to see the obvious common element between the different situations, she offers an unwarranted and unsupported assumption. How she arrives at her conjecture is not clear, as she doesn’t make the case for her argument. She fails to support her reasoning. She assumes, incorrectly, that NDE phenomena must be purely medical, psychological, or physiological with no spiritual component.

Throughout the book, one finds this pattern repeated. Evidence that clearly supports the Afterlife Hypothesis is presented, then, without explanation, the opposite conclusion is advanced.

The sentences that follow lend further support to the Afterlife Hypothesis:

“There is lots of evidence for NDE-type experiences in people who are not close to dying. The experience of leaving the body has a long history and surveys show that something like 10-20 per cent of people have this experience at some time during their life.”

“The experience of leaving the body has a long history” clearly supports the Afterlife Hypothesis. She considers drugs to present “medical phenomena,” but does she not consider how drugs affect the spirit’s connection to the body. How do powerful hallucinogens and anesthetics affect a spirit’s ability to remain connected to the body? Do toxic effects of such drugs bring the body close to death? As she presents these phenomena, she fails to take the Afterlife Hypothesis into account. Her bias prevents her from asking common sense questions.”

She goes on to discuss the effects of drugs, including her own experience:

“Under conditions of extreme tiredness and smoking hashish I had an NDE-type experience complete with the tunnel and light, out-of-body travels, expansion and contraction of size, timelessness, a mystical experience and the decision to return…”

It becomes critical for our understanding to consider how drugs affect the interface between spirit, mind, and body. How drugs affect the condition of the spirit when it separates and when it returns? Drugs are a major source of confusion within NDE research.

Near the end of the chapter, research is cited that suggests the spirit separates from the body in other than death situations, which supports the Afterlife hypothesis. Blackmore writes:

“The argument used by others reporting on this research goes like this: if the brain is responsible for thinking, then when it is dying one would expect thinking to become disordered or less clear. The evidence that it becomes clearer therefore implies that the brain is not responsible; that the soul or spirit is experiencing the clarity and may go on doing so after death.”

Again, we find a consistency between the Afterlife Hypothesis and the evidence reported. Blackmore, however, stands before the evidence and engages in denial:

“This is one possible interpretation of the evidence, but it is not the only one. It is not obvious that the dying brain must produce either more or less clear perceptions and thoughts. An alternative is that as the brain dies, less thoughts are possible and so the few that remain seem clearer and simpler by comparison.”

That a dying brain showing little or no activity should function in this clear-thinking manner is absurd, and totally unsupported by research. The author of Dying to Live reviews the literature, inadvertently presents a well-supported case for the Afterlife Hypothesis, then advances unsubstantiated conjecture. Bias and prejudice undermine scholarship.

The chapter ends with an unwarranted conclusion, unsupported by anything that has preceded:

“Our next step is now clear, if not easy; to try to understand what happens in the dying brain.”

The evidence points to a spiritual being that separates from the body. Understanding the details of how this happens is our logical next step.

Blackmore instead claims the agenda is to understand the dying brain, an assertion motivated by bias, not evidence. Prejudices erode and damage the quality of Dying to Live.

7. Chapter Three: Visions From the Dying Brain

The chapter opens with Blackmore presenting a claim that a person under the effects of nitrous oxide was able to view from outside his body. Her non-sequitur conclusion reads:

“I think this illustrates the reluctance we have to accept that our experience, especially profound and personally meaningful experience, comes from our brain’s activity and nothing else.”

In other words, when someone reports an out-of-body experience, he thereby demonstrates a reluctance to admit it was his brain at work. With no discussion of facts that would contradict the purported event, with no discussion of the possible variables at work, without a shred of contrary data, she concludes the person made up the account because saying he was out of his body “made a better story.” Non-sequitur conclusions diminish her case. She states evidence for A, concludes B.

Later in the chapter, she states:

“Are these profound experiences a direct correlate of changes in the brain’s activity and nothing more, or are they experiences of a separate mind, soul, astral body, or spirit? … The general assumption of today’s science says one thing yet people…say another — especially people who have had NDE’s. Scientists for the most part assume some form of materialism; that mental phenomena depend upon, or are an aspect of, brain events.”

Skeptics must be squirming. What could she be thinking? She argues based upon what scientists assume. This is exactly the approach skeptics criticize. She favors scientists’ assumptions over firsthand accounts. If skeptics were honest in their appraisal of Dying to Live, they would state “Susan Blackmore assumes…” and that would be the end of the debate. Instead, they misrepresent the work as scientific proof.

“As we have seen, the very occurrence of NDEs is not proof either way,” she writes. With a wave of her pen she dismisses evidence she previously presented, evidence supporting the Afterlife Hypothesis, and asks us to accept non-sequitur conjecture. We should be wary of such biased thinking. The fact is the NDE – with its out-of-body component – goes a long way toward proving the spirit exists separate from the body. Later, she writes:

“If the Afterlife Hypothesis can answer them best then I shall accept that and work with that as well as I can. If the dying brain hypothesis does better than I shall work with that.”

As we have already seen, however, she has no intention of considering the Afterlife Hypothesis. Even in Dying to Live, the Afterlife Hypothesis is a best fit with the evidence, however, when evidence points to the Afterlife Hypothesis, it is blatantly ignored.

Next, the reader is asked to consider the ever popular “cerebral anoxia” argument: the loss-of-oxygen-to-the-brain scenario. She presents four reasons researchers argue anoxia cannot be responsible for the NDE. It is only necessary for us to consider the first:

(1) NDEs can occur in people who obviously do not have anoxia.

Her response reads:

“This is certainly true but is not a sound argument at all. As we have seen, there is clearly no one cause of the NDE. …. The fact that NDEs can occur without anoxia is no argument against it sometimes being responsible for them.”

As she agrees anoxia does not provide “the” explanation for the NDE, that it is one among many possible factors, the obvious question to ask is, “What do ALL the factors have in common?”

One finds:

(a)  Trauma to the body can interrupt the connection between the spirit and the body – drugs, lack of oxygen, injury, even the anticipation of great bodily harm or death. These are all factors which serve to disconnect or separate the functioning of spirit and body. That which requires research and explanation is how spirit interfaces with the body and what causes an interruption or severance of this connection.

And one finds:

(b)  Experiences not involving drugs or trauma but rather a decision on the part of the spirit to separate from the body, either as a demonstration of natural ability, or as a result of acquired skill. For example, Tibetan Buddhism or other training.

Thus, we have “accidental” separation and “intentional” separation. The key factor is separation.

Blackmore recounts the story of a volunteer in high G force experiments, who, while outside his body, “went home and saw his mother and brother.” Again and again, we have examples that cry out for explanation in terms of the Afterlife Hypothesis, but Blackmore fails to even consider the Afterlife Hypothesis. She states evidence, then dodges with:

“The invariance hypothesis is not sustainable. The NDE is not always the same and we need to try to understand its different elements in different ways.”

She fails to consider the basis of the Afterlife Hypothesis, that the spirit separates from body. She instead uses variety of content as an excuse to ignore the profound, consistent core of the NDE and related experiences – separation of spirit from body.

She fails to ask, what is the nature of spirit? What are the spirit’s perceptual and cognitive abilities when separate? Without an inquiry into such matters, it is not possible to consider the Afterlife Hypothesis. Her bias toward philosophical materialism prevents consideration of the alternative hypothesis.

Without considering the Afterlife Hypothesis, she asks how anoxia affects the brain, even though anoxia itself is not the common element. She argues anoxia is not a common invariant factor of the NDE, then proceeds in her attempt to explain the NDE on the basis of anoxia. The real question is, “What condition does anoxia cause that is the same as conditions caused by other precipitating factors?” In other words, “What do they have in common?”

Without asking these questions, we end up with a one-sided and incomplete analysis based entirely upon bias toward a brain explanation. The Afterlife Hypothesis is merely trotted out as a straw figure to be knocked down.

8. Chapter Four: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

In this chapter, the author discusses drug-induced hallucinations, but fails to explore the question of what exactly is a hallucination, what does one view in a hallucination? The assumption is made that the nature of hallucination is known, when this is not the case. The study of consciousness, still in a primitive state, does not answer this question. She works on the premise that a hallucination is a visual or auditory perception that does not coincide with “objective” reality, but fails to establish what it is one views in a hallucination. It’s obvious that something, some from of mental imagery, is perceived. What is it?

As a result of bias, she does not ask how spirit, detached from a body, as in the Afterlife Hypothesis, might perceive mental pictures or imagery. How do such perception correlate with “objective” reality? In other words, she fails to consider a model of mind that would accompany the Afterlife Hypothesis and confines her speculation to brain theory. An unbiased researcher must investigate the phenomena within the paradigms of each hypothesis.

Writing about the NDErs passing through a tunnel of mental energy, she states:

“There are many serious problems with such a theory. If the other worlds are a part of this world then they cannot really account for the afterlife.”

This conclusion proves false when we consider the NDE reports. They see not only ethereal energy patterns, they view the “objective” world – the world of operating rooms and other more mundane settings. Reports tell us “this” world is intermingled with the world of mental energy. This same phenomenon is common in everyday experience – people are perfectly capable of managing the world of imagination, the world of mental images, while going about their business in the “real” world. Mixing subjective and objective reality is a common experience. Why this should not be so after death is not made clear by Blackmore. In fact, the question is not even considered. She continues:

“Something should be seen leaving the body and going into the tunnel. The tunnel itself would be present in physical space and we should be able to measure it or in some way detect its presence.”

That’s why those skilled at observing the subtle energy that surrounds the spirit are able to perceive such events. Reports from NDErs claim an ability to perceive other disembodied spirits while out of body. Mediums skilled at communicating with disembodied spirits perceive this energy as well. Research shows death bed patients often perceive disembodied spirits. Will we ever possess detectors sensitive enough to measure the mental energy patterns that make up our subjective world? Of course. The history of science is filled with examples of technological breakthroughs that have allowed researchers to detect that which was formerly invisible. There’s good reason to suspect this scenario be repeated in this field. Blackmore comments:

“Still we should not reject such theories out of hand just because they seem senseless. It is better to apply some criteria to them and see how they fare. Is this theory specific? No, not at all. The tunnels described are all different in precise form and this theory can say nothing about what forms they should or should not take.”

She again focuses on content, not underlying phenomena. The structure of specific tunnels is not in question; as has been stated, they are mental constructs, mental energy patterns. As such they take many malleable forms. Such mental energy is not confined to a brain, but rather is patterned energy that makes up the mind, which is not the brain. If one considers the Afterlife Hypothesis and the NDE reports, one must consider mind to be patterned energy that can be viewed by spirit. This patterned energy exists separate from, but superimposed upon, the body.

When the spirit separates from the body, as in the Afterlife Hypothesis, it remains “cloaked” in its mind. Individual spirits exist within energy masses when they leave the body. The content of this mind will vary from individual to individual, which explains why we have varying content, but invariant mechanics.

The collection of energy patterns we shall call the mind can best be imagined by comparing it to the quantum pilot wave concept, in which a less substantial, information-bearing, quantum wave pattern is entangled with a denser, macroscopic structure. (An analogy would be a radio signal directing the motions of a large super tanker.) The patterned energy of the mind entangles with the body and the brain. The degree to which the spirit disentangles mind from body monitors the degree to which spirit can be out of body.

The invariant element that precipitates the NDE or OBE is the disentanglement of the mind and spirit from the body. The disentanglement of subtle energy from coarse energy. In the Afterlife Hypothesis, one would find the spirit moving out of body, surrounded by its mind, which also detaches (to a greater or lesser degree) from the body/brain.

The spirit’s attention, when out of body, shifts from the concerns of the body to the subtle energy of the mind. It views old energy patterns and/or creates new ones, either by itself or in concert with other disembodied spirits. One has variance of content, invariance of the mechanics. In our mundane, every day lives, we are familiar with the mental realm that cloaks the spirit. This is the subjective world, the world of the mind, the world of consciousness. The degree to which the spirit, outside the body, focuses on dense physical as opposed to less dense mental energy patterns, varies. This accounts for the varied nature of NDE accounts which include both perceptions of physical setting and patterned mental energy.

If one intends to compare the Afterlife Hypothesis to the Dying Brain Hypothesis, one must take this model of the mind into account. One must understand the spirit in its disembodied condition. Without such understanding, one never compares the two hypotheses, which leads to a failure to determine which model best explains the phenomena.

Blackmore, unable to conceptualize the assumptions of the Afterlife Hypothesis, gives it no consideration at all. Contrary to skeptics’ claims, she fails to weigh the evidence in light of the two opposing hypotheses.

When we obtain mountains of reports from experiencers attesting to out of body states it is incumbent upon us to explore the reports as they are given. Before one decides they’re purely imaginary and lack substance, one must attempt to understand the ways in which the reports might be accurate – as presented. One must at least attempt to come to grips with the details and not summarily dismiss the phenomena as brain-induced hallucination.

If one is to consider the Afterlife Hypothesis as more than a straw man argument to be discarded, one must look at how the detached spirit interfaces with the body. One must take the basic premise of the Afterlife Hypothesis, the separation of spirit from body, and ask, how might this work?

When one goes the extra step and considers the model in detail, a more coherent theory emerges which explains the phenomena without the necessity of dismissing NDE reports. The model fits the data.

The facts do not fit Blackmore’s Dying Brain Hypothesis, thus she must assume the NDErs are mistaken. She must discard evidence and substitute conjecture. She must avoid the actual research.

Perhaps she fails to explore the Afterlife Hypothesis due to a lack of knowledge and insight or perhaps bias prevents her from considering both hypotheses equally. In either case, the primary failing is the lack of a valid inquiry into the Afterlife Hypothesis. Failing to correctly state the premises of the Afterlife Hypothesis, let alone compare research data with the assumptions, undermines the work.

9. Chapter Five: Peace, Joy and Bliss

In this chapter, the author’s actual agenda becomes clear. It is not an agenda that includes researching and comparing the two stated hypotheses. She takes off the mask, and admits:

“I have been developing a theory of the NDE that tries to explain it completely in terms of processes in the dying brain.”

The attempt to reduce the near-death experience to brain physiology rests upon a semantic dodge:

“The first is a direct challenge to any physiological or naturalistic theory of the NDE. It is simply this: that some NDErs claim they could accurately see events from outside their bodies. In other words, they claim paranormal powers. And paranormal powers, by definition, cannot be explained in terms of ‘normal’ theories.”

Her dismissal of evidence that stands in opposition to her theory makes no sense, for a number of reasons:

(1)  She dismisses the very claims she purports to study.

(2)  She dismisses the Afterlife Hypothesis as “paranormal.” Though our task was to evaluate how evidence fit the Afterlife Hypothesis, she now dismisses the hypothesis entirely by simply labeling it “paranormal.”

The proper approach would be to pursue the research as originally proposed and compare the hypotheses in light of the data. One finds claims of out-of-body perception directly support the Afterlife Hypothesis, which states the spirit survives body death in a conscious state. Claims of out-of-body perception directly support this hypothesis as they demonstrate the existence of a spirit which can detach from the body. The actual reports from those who experience the phenomena support the Afterlife Hypothesis and contradict the Dying Brain Hypothesis. This is the type of analysis one conducts if one is doing science.

Scientific procedure dictates that if you find data that support one hypothesis over another, even if you are not sure exactly how the underlying phenomena work, you are duty bound to further investigate the hypothesis the data supports. Following the argument a step further:

“The second objection often comes from people who have had NDEs or other kinds of mystical experiences. You are wrong, they say, this feeling of bliss is nothing like a chemically induced high. It is a spiritual joy; an experience of the soul; a transcendence of ordinary pleasure and pain. Drug induced joy is a sham; not the real thing at all.”

This objection, voiced by those who have had the experience, those closest to the subject of our research, conforms to the Afterlife Hypothesis. They claim the experience is not body/brain/drug based, but rather an experience of separation from ordinary body sensations.

If one takes the Afterlife Hypothesis seriously, one would predict a change in feeling/perception when the spirit disentangles or disengages from the coarser energy of the body. A picture of what might be expected can be extrapolated from the Afterlife Hypothesis. Such a projection closely matches the NDE reports. Susan Blackmore dismisses the data and instead inserts her “contention:

“… It is my contention that this “real thing” — NDEs, mystical experiences and indeed everything encountered on the spiritual path — are products of a brain and the universe of which it is a part. For there is nothing else.”

Those interested in knowledge gained via pursuit of the scientific method are left adrift. Not only does Blackmore blatantly toss out primary research data and substitute her own prejudices, she makes the outrageous statement:

“For there is nothing else.”

This begs the question, how does she know “there is nothing else?”

10. Chapter Six: But I saw the Color of Her Dress

This chapter begins with perhaps the most accurate statements found in the text:

“Some very strong claims are made. The implication is always the same; that people during NDEs have actually seen the events occurring from a location outside their bodies. ‘They’ have left their bodies and that is why they can accurately see what is going on. If these claims are valid then the theory I am developing is wrong….”

Strong claims have been made. The data exits. The experience exists. Those reporting concur: they view from outside their bodies. This should not be a surprise given the Afterlife Hypothesis predicts exactly this result. When making a decision on which hypothesis is supported by the research, without doubt, the Afterlife Hypothesis wins out.

Blackmore is correct: the Dying Brain Hypothesis is wrong. But here is how she responds to reports that clearly contradict her hypothesis:

“I want to be quite clear. It is my contention that there is no soul, spirit, astral body or anything at all that leaves the body during NDEs and survives after death. These, like the very idea of a persisting self, are all illusions….”

In the face of data that clearly contradicts her theory, Blackmore simply contends the Afterlife Hypothesis is false.

How does she explain reports of out-of-body perceptions that contradict her theory?:

“The answers include prior knowledge, fantasy and lucky guesses and the remaining senses of hearing and touch.”

Aware of the tenuous nature of her argument, she must reassure us:

“This may sound destructive and doubting – an exercise in debunking. But my intention is not to debunk so much as to assess the alternatives.”

If one follows the arguments in the book, however, it’s clear the sole purpose is to debunk. There is no intention of assessing alternatives. When research clearly supports the Afterlife Hypothesis, the data is ignored or dismissed as “lucky guesses and fantasy.” She contends there is no spirit, thus no reason to consider the Afterlife Hypothesis. Research data is replaced with personal bias and opinion.

Assessing the merit of her dismissal of NDE reports, we find claims the NDErs are not really seeing from a vantage point outside the body, claims that NDErs construct a visual image as a result of hearing and touch. This conjecture does not correlate with the reports of those who have the experience. They recall the actual event of viewing from specific locations. In other words, it is not merely the content they view, but also the actual experience of viewing. One can perform a simple demonstration to illustrate the difference. Sit down, close your eyes, and visualize the room – based upon what you hear and feel. Now open your eyes and view the room. You can distinguish the two events. In the latter, you experience the actual process of viewing.

The conjecture that prior knowledge accounts for reports in which subjects view events, settings, or personnel does not hold up, for often it is the first time the setting and events are viewed. In such cases, no prior experience exists upon which to draw. Prior knowledge fails to account for awareness of viewing in the moment. Blackmore’s claim is comparable to saying a person only imagined he woke up this morning because he had prior knowledge of what it was like to wake up. There is a discernible experiential difference between reconstructing memories and actually viewing in the present. Sit down, close your eyes, and recall a memory of being in the room. Open your eyes and perceive the room. Notice the difference between the recall of the memory and experiencing “in the moment.” Blackmore ignores reports that claim the experience was not one of reconstructing memories, but rather one of being aware in the present.

The “fantasy” explanation does not merit a response when it comes to reports wherein the scene viewed matched actual physical events. She risks falling into the dubious trap of becoming the “authority” on someone else’s experience when she puts forth such conjecture. Assigning the label of fantasy arbitrarily removes the research from the realm of science and places it squarely in the realm of personal opinion. As long as she is the authority who determines what is real and what is fantasy, we arrive not at scientific conclusions but rather at her personal view of the world.

Blackmore’s final attempt to dismiss the evidence by attributing it to “lucky guesses” is an insult to readers. This covers all the bases – yes, you perceived correctly, but it was a “lucky guess.” This is an arbitrary method of eliminating research that contradicts one’s pet theory.

It’s apparent Blackmore does not respect the reports of people who have actually had an NDE. She does not need their reports. (After all, their reports are fantasy or lucky guesses.) When actual research disproves her theory, she tosses the research aside and substitutes conjecture. If this analysis seems overly harsh, consider her closing remarks in this chapter:

“Why are so many books full of accounts of people seeing at a distance while out of their bodies? I think there is a simple answer to this. When things seem real we expect them to correspond to an external shared reality. The NDE, like many other altered states of consciousness, is an exception to this rule. In the NDE things seem real when in fact they are constructed by the imagination. No wonder people are led astray.”

She offers no proof that NDE perceptions are imagination, she only offers conjecture, prejudice, and bias. She dismisses the simplest conclusion – that people making the reports are truthful and accurate. This allows her to circumvent the obvious: the reports support the Afterlife Hypothesis and contradict the Dying Brain Hypothesis. She states:

“Finally, many people have a strong desire to believe in a life after death and, even more so, in a self that persists through life. Evidence that what they saw was correct may seem to back up the idea that they, themselves, do have a separate existence and might survive.”

That’s right. The evidence supports the Afterlife Hypothesis. And yet she dismisses the evidence, implying that simply because people have such a desire they must be exaggerating, falsifying, and fantasizing. This is the same as saying because alcoholics crave liquor there really isn’t any liquor – they’re making it up. Desire leads to fantasy. Any objects of our desire therefore must be fantasy.

If, as the data suggests, spirit exists separate from the body and survives body death, it is Blackmore’s desire to deny the existence of spirit that leads to exaggeration, falsification, and fantasy. The Dying Brain theory is the result of her passionate desire to debunk the Afterlife Hypothesis.

11. Chapter Seven: Realer Than Real

In this chapter, Blackmore agrees the NDE is a real experience, but disputes the reality of the content:

“I don’t think any of them makes any sense or can do the job of explaining the NDE. This is a wide and sweeping dismissal but I believe it is justified, not least because all these theories start from confused assumptions about the difference between reality and imagination.”

The confusion rests in a failure to understand the difference between reality and imagination. A failure to understand objective and subjective. But the confusion is Blackmore’s. She fails to understand the “reality” of the subjective – energy patterns that make up the mind (not the brain), which encompass the spirit and account for much of the content of the NDE. She fails to understand that in the typical NDE one views both the mental energy patterns and the “objective” world.

The reader can perform a simple demonstration to illustrate the fact. Look at the room: objective reality. Now imagine a lion covered with pink dots stretched out on the floor. Superimpose the subjective, imaginary lion over the objective room. People manage to shift focus back and forth and superimpose thoughts over the objective world all the time. When the spirit departs the body, this combination of subjective and objective comes into play.

She comments on the nature of the world the NDErs encounters when they depart from the body:

“The act of dying, according to Ring’s new theory, involves a gradual shift of consciousness from the ordinary world of appearances to a holographic reality of pure frequencies.”

Ring refers to the energy patterns or pictures I reference above. He notes the increased focus on subtle energy patterns when the spirit is outside the body. Blackmore adds:

“The second error is to suggest that consciousness can function in this other reality without the brain.”

There’s no “error,” the Afterlife Hypothesis states the spirit exists independent of the body. The Afterlife Hypothesis does not tie consciousness into the brain. Ring’s statement is consistent with both the Afterlife Hypothesis and the evidence.

Blackmore fails to consider the Afterlife Hypothesis on its own terms. Instead, she applies the assumptions of the Dying Brain Hypothesis. She fails to consider the Afterlife Hypothesis and its assumption that spirit consciously separates from the body/brain. Ring’s argument and the body of evidence support just such an assumption. Blackmore falls back on prejudice: “the brain did it.” She recognizes the aborted nature of her inquiry:

“My dismissal of the holographic theories might still seem cavalier, especially since they seem to provide an insight into mystical experience generally.”

Her dismissal not only seems cavalier, it is. She fails to consider the evidence and hypotheses under consideration.

She takes up concepts presented in Talbot’s Holographic Universe, including David Bohm’s implicate order and Pribram’s speculation on the holographic mind model. (Both Bohm and Pribram work on the assumption the brain is the source of consciousness, so neither should be considered spokespersons for the Afterlife Hypothesis.) Bohm describes a classical universe resting on top of a more basic quantum reality. He describes this underlying reality as “idea like” but fails to consider that mind and spirit exist separate from the body. Thus, he fails to take the step that would make his theory relevant to the question at hand. His theories become useful only when they are applied to the concept of mind separate from the brain. When one considers mind to be energy patterns which encompass the spirit, the application of quantum theory and implicate order begins to make sense.

Roger Penrose, another physicist presenting theoretical work on consciousness, also fails because he does not consider consciousness separate from the brain. See Penrose’s Shadows of the Mind.

In the section, “Paranormal Phenomena (Not) Explained,” Blackmore claims:

“Theories of alternate realities and the like appear to explain the paranormal by positing an underlying interconnected reality from which everything else arises. But it is appearance only. They cannot adequately explain telepathy, clairvoyance, seeing at a distance during an OBE or psychokinesis…”

The phenomena above can all be explained when one understands: the mind; the dynamics between mind and spirit; communication between spirits; and the impingement of mind upon the body. A detailed explanation emerges when all these factors are taken into account.

Blackmore disputes the existence of explanations by critiquing only Bohm’s work. Bohm, however, did not attempt to answer such questions with his theory and never applied his implicate/explicate model to the concept of a spirit. Blackmore appears to respond to Talbot’s accounts and conjectures, which are admittedly sketchy and incomplete. In order to compare the Afterlife Hypothesis and the Dying Brain Hypothesis, one must start with the research. All phenomena reported can be explained quite easily by a comprehensive model of spirit out of body. I’m no doubt too critical of Blackmore in this regard as she does not have the tools to construct such a model. There would be nothing wrong, in my opinion, with her simply admitting she does not understand the Afterlife Hypothesis and holds a bias in favor of the Dying Brain Hypothesis. She comments:

“If we think of the eye as a camera then we are inclined to think that it sends a picture up into the brain. What in the brain looks at this picture? Well, another sort of ‘inner eye,’ I suppose. And how does this inner eye see? …. This is known as the homunculus problem because it implies a little person, or homunculus, sitting in the brain looking at the pictures.”

This description calls for exactly what we find in NDE and OBE phenomena, a spirit that exists independent of the body which answers the question of who is looking. (Of course, one needs to arrive at an accurate description of the observer, rather than using the metaphor of a little person sitting in the brain.) It is just this spirit that the Afterlife Hypothesis posits and which the NDE evidence supports. All that’s missing is research into the exact nature of this spirit. The only reason this does not happen is the idea is dismissed off hand.

In place of genuine research, Blackmore suggests cognitive science has the answer: the brain as computer, the person as robot. She doesn’t support this contention, and anyone even tangentially familiar with the subject realizes such models have failed dramatically to account for real life. She goes on:

“There is no need for that homonculus … Right from the start of the process of perception, the sensory information is transformed, processed, and stored as connection strengths between neurons…”

This explanation does not hold up. The old “stored in the neurons” theory has been found wanting. Anyone interested in the problems encountered with such models should read Roger Penrose’s Shadows of the Mind, which addresses the failure of computational models to account for the nature of consciousness. Blackmore’s simplistic, reductionist model fails to account for natural everyday consciousness, let alone the NDE reports of perception from outside the body.

She then presents the “mental models” concept from cognitive science. The idea is, basically, that thought and perceptions are little programs, subroutines stored in the brain. She proclaims:

“‘I am no more and no less then a mental model.” and “My brain builds ‘me’.”

She takes the analogy further:

“My answer is that consciousness is just the subjective aspect of all this modeling. It is how it feels to be a mental model. Of course, ‘I’ am only one of the models. ‘I’ am not a special being inside the head directing attention to one thing or another. Rather ‘I’ am just one of many models built by this system…”

She goes on to say ‘me’ is basically an illusion.

The computing model she presents, however, does not account for many aspects of consciousness – non-computational thought, free will, qualia, etc. – and most importantly it does not fit the NDE or OBE phenomena, which contradict and disprove her model. (That may be the real reason she needs to “debug” the phenomena – when one factors in the NDE and OBE, her computational theories are no longer appropriate.)

Her “mental model” theory becomes tenuous, mysterious:

“And is there a real world out there? Well, if we adopt this view we can never know. We assume there is in the way we talk about brains and what they do. But it is only an assumption – a useful working model. It is just another of those ubiquitous mental models. Indeed everything we experience, including ourselves, is a mental model.”

She continues:

“If there is no underlying reality then the NDE, like every other experience, is a matter of the mental models being constructed by the brain at the time.”

Her mental models which deny any possibility of knowing “reality,” ends up being the ultimate subjectivism, with no bridge to the objective world possible.

Skeptics may be surprised to discover she holds this viewpoint which directly contradicts their debate platform. A primary tenet of their arguments, that the world “out there” is real and everything “in here” is unreal, falls apart if they support her theory. Their argument, that believers in the paranormal are solipsistic, must be discarded if they embrace Blackmore, for her model concludes we can never know if there is a real world out there.

This “we can never know” theory simply fails to cross the threshold into an understanding of the subjective and the objective, and the relationship between them. A full discussion of such details lies outside the scope of this critique. A brief summary of Idealism, however, includes the concept that our subjective experience is real and from this primary realm flows the objective world. In other words, the objective flows from the subjective. Condensed thought (subjective) becomes the world of matter (objective). Thus, there’s not only a perceptual link between the subjective and the objective, but a causal link as well. Ultimately one must gain an understanding of Idealism and the link between subjective and objective if one is to truly understand the Afterlife Hypothesis.

For now, I will merely suggest we can know both the subjective and the objective. We’re not stranded forever inside our craniums in the bleak, robotic world Blackmore proposes. In the Afterlife Hypothesis, consciousness is not an emergent property of a brain. Thus, that which consciousness “models” and perceives and creates is not a product of the brain.

In Blackmore’s model, we can never know whether what we perceive out there is real as we are only models in the brain, limited by our emergence from the brain. In the Afterlife Hypothesis, we can know what is real as our perceptions and knowledge are not limited by the brain / body. We can know “out there.”

If one analyzes Blackmore’s theory, one finds it is, at its core, idealistic. If one removes the brain as the source of her mental models and replaces it with the spirit, one arrives at Idealism consistent with the Afterlife Hypothesis. She considers the physical brain creates mental models and consciousness as emergent properties, whereas the Afterlife Hypothesis assumes the spirit creates the mental models, in which case the physical emerges from consciousness, not the other way around.

Dying to Live turns mystical thought inside out:

“Once you see that all ‘you’ are is a collection of mental models, you see the illusion.”

The attentive reader will ask – who is the “you” that sees the “you” mental model? In traditional mysticism, it is the immaterial you, the spirit, that sees its “identities” as mental models (Idealism). Blackmore alters this traditional mystical view. Her statement should read: Once the mental model sees ‘you’ as a mental model, the mental model sees the illusion. Mental models trapped forever in feedback loops with no real “you” there. She turns mysticism upside down and postulates the physical as the only reality, a reality we can never know. This is not what we find, however, when we investigate real living persons. This is not what we find with NDEs and OBEs. We find the traditional mystical model – with an immaterial being, a spirit that is “you” – to be accurate.

Her misuse of “illusion” tips the reader off to her misunderstanding of the Buddhist concept which considers the physical to be thought, thus an illusion. The is the ultimate version of Idealism. In such a system, the brain is itself an illusion in the sense that all physical is illusion. Her model ignores the Buddhist concepts of reincarnation and afterlife, in which the “you” is obviously not a mental model, but rather the “you” of the Afterlife Hypothesis.

She borrows the language, but not the meaning, of Buddhist concepts, when she equates illusion with her cognitive science mental models. She borrows “illusion” from Buddhism, but fails to explain Buddhist concepts of life after death and the survival of the spirit. Those beliefs support the Afterlife Hypothesis and contradict the Dying Brain Hypothesis.

Perhaps the western practice of mixing drugs and mysticism causes some of the confusion. She mentions an encounter with Baba Ram Dass:

“Once a successful psychologist, Richard Alpert, he had many experiences with drugs and studied with gurus in the East before becoming a teacher himself. When I met him I was confused.”

She was confused. So was he: He commented to her that things just got more confusing, but such may be nothing more than a common side effect of LSD. Drugs bring confusion not enlightenment. Blackmore states her experience with NDE/OBE phenomena occurred as a result of drug use, so we may guess that in order to understand the NDE and related phenomena, it may be necessary to clear up the confusion introduced by drugs.

12. Chapter Eight: In or Out of the Body?

The most important question is taken up in this chapter titled “In or Out of the Body?”

The experience of being outside the body is the single most important aspect of the NDE; and defines OBE. Why is it so important? The experience of being out of the body directly confirms the Afterlife Hypothesis which states the spirit transcends death. If the spirit is different from the body, one would expect the spirit to be able to separate even in non-death situations, and that is exactly what the out of body experience confirms.

The chapter begins with a report of someone claiming to have been outside, looking down on the body. The person making the report continues to be conscious, to think, and to perceive physical events. And reports slamming back into the body. The report includes the person confirming details of what he had seen while out of body.

Then Blackmore provides additional examples, which we know are a few among many, many reports with the common elements of viewing the body from outside, seeing events transpire, and being jolted back into the body. Blackmore notes:

“The people who have OBEs are just as likely to be male or female, educated or uneducated, religious or not religious.”

(Which disproves her earlier contention that the experience arises out of people’s religious denial of death.)

She notes drugs are often associated with OBEs and states:

“I have had OBEs myself with this drug (ketamine), though not as vivid as naturally occurring ones.”

As noted before, her experience with the subject matter is drug-related. She goes on:“OBEs occurring in daily life tend to happen when the person is resting, about to fall asleep, or meditating, but they can also happen in the midst of ordinary activity.”

(This will be seen to be important when it comes to her conjecture that all such experiences are the result of trauma-based imagination.)

She quotes researcher Kenneth Ring regarding the separation:

“….I believe that what happens when an individual is near the point of apparent death is a real, and not just a subjective, separation of something… from the physical body. It is this ‘something’ that then perceives the immediate physical environment and then goes on to experience events…”

Ring’s analysis supports the Afterlife Hypothesis. The something, the spirit, leaves the body. His analysis conforms to the reports. His analysis matches the research data. The difference between Kenneth Ring (and others who study the phenomena intensively) and Blackmore is the degree to which their conclusions conform to the research data.

Blackmore, in my opinion, ignores the research and takes a tortuous route into pure speculation of a most tenuous nature. She speculates the only ‘I’ is a mental model, and the reason we apparently get out of the body is tied in with why we think we are in it, namely:

“Part of the answer is that building a model from eye-level view is the most efficient way of making use of the information coming in from our predominant sense.” And, “It can only be a guess, but I imagine that dogs are more inclined to feel they are inside their noses than we are.”

Time to stop for a chuckle, then on with her suggestion that these models (who we really are) dissolve under various conditions such as drugs. Blackmore writes:

“I shall never forget my own ketamine experience, the extraordinary sensation of watching the floating parts of the body that seemed to have nothing to do with ‘me’ coming in and out of vision as ‘I’ seemed to drift about away from them.”

She says “I shall never forget” but, according to her hypothesis, the “I” should have been dissolved. Incapacitate the model maker, and the model should disappear. Yet there is this stable sense of “I.” The “I” that “shall never forget.” She is unable to live her own theory.

She says she watched parts of her body which seemed to have nothing to do with “me.” She experienced being separate from the body. If she was just a model, created by the body, this would be a very, very unlikely event. Her sense of “I” or “me” should have dissolved. It should not be viewing the body as though the two were separate. That is not something of which a mental model is capable.

She seemed to drift away from the body which a model would not do. A model would remain located in the position in which it was always created. How would a body create a model outside and distant from the body’s perceptual organs? Remember her earlier contention that the model was created as a result of viewing from eye level. When we are out of body, we are nowhere near the eyes. She suggests other models just “take over.” Any other model, she claims. Then why not models of the “I” burrowing through intestines? Or models of the “I” running down a nose hair? The body has all kinds of inner data by which to make these models. But instead we consistently find the “I” outside the body, where the body has no perceptual tools with which to model.

A few wild leaps of imagination follow:

“… one possibility is to get back to normal by using whatever information is available to build a body image and a world. If the sensory input is cut off or confused this information will have to come from memory and imagination. Memory can supply all the information about your body, what it looks like, how it feels and so on. It can also supply a good picture of the world.”

She states the body image and the world disappear and must be reconstructed. The mental model “I” – an illusory product of the brain – somehow remains in charge and reconstructs from imagination.

The research does not support this imagination conjecture. Reports include physical settings and events that are not contained in memory. Those reporting distinguish between the experience of recalling memories or imagining and the experience of perceiving in the present. As pointed out, most people are fairly well aware of the differences between recalling, imagining, and perceiving in the present. We know when we stop to recall a past event, we know when we stop to daydream, and we know when we are in the present perceiving moment to moment. Most of those reporting NDE know the difference and state they are perceiving from outside their body very vividly. Not memory. Not imagination. Firsthand, in-the-present observation.

(The one time in “normal” life when we often confuse the present with memory and imagination is when we are drugged, which is when Blackmore experienced NDE. One might suggest her theory derives from the confusion arising from the drugged state.)

Blackmore attempts to explain away the common out of body experience of looking down on the body with a most unusual assertion:

“… there is one crucial thing we know about memory images. The are often built in a bird’s eyes view. …. Remember the last time you were walking along the seashore. Do you see the beach as though from where your eyes would be? Or are you looking from above?”

How does one acquire such bird’s eye views in the first place? If it is a memory that contains an elevated viewpoint, one must ask, where does the perceptual content come from originally? When did one “fly” in order to have such a memory?

In the particular example given – that of a seashore – one always approaches from a higher vantage point. The land always descends to the water’s edge. Thus, one can remember the “wide shot” one viewed as one approached. Is this what she means by bird’s eye view memory? (She provide other examples.) In the seashore example, the “wide shot” one witnessed with one’s eyes gives you such a view. The person merely recalls an eye-level view from higher ground.

When one recalls going to the market, however, does one recall the roof of the market? Not usually. My hunch is that Blackmore faces an almost intractable problem with the bird’s eye view reported by NDErs. Her theory falls apart on this point; the seashore example is a “cheat.”

If one eliminates examples with higher vantage points built into the geography, one is still left with some valid cases of bird’s eye view memories. Where might they come from? It turns out the OBE is more frequent than one might expect and therein we find the answer to what observes from such a viewpoint in the first place. The spirit frequently perceives from a wider / higher vantage point than the vantage possible using the body’s senses. We achieve out of body states more frequently than is acknowledged. This is consistent with the Afterlife Hypothesis which states the spirit and the body are not the same and thus are able to be separate to varying degrees at any time.

Blackmore’s model does not address the question of how one perceives from a bird’s eye vantage point. Her hypothesis fails to account for perceptions from a bird’s eye view. She fails to ask the critical question – who or what perceives from that vantage point?

She goes on to say:

“The normal model of reality breaks down and the system tries to get back to normal by building a new model from memory and imagination. If this model is in a bird’s-eye view, then an OBE takes place.”

This is her cornerstone argument for explaining away evidence that supports the Afterlife Hypothesis and disproves the Dying Brain Hypothesis. In her argument, however, she fails to:

(1) Account for the OBE when the person is not in a situation in which “reality breaks down.” She fails to account for OBE without drugs, or injury, or near death.

(2) Account for “perceiving in the moment” reports of the NDErs. She fails to account for their vivid perceptions which differ from recall or imagination.

(3) Account for the NDErs perception of physical events never before encountered, physical events and details which do not exist in memory.

(4) Answer the question of who perceived the bird’s-eye view in the first place in order to “remember it.” NDErs are not shown bird’s-eye view films of their operations prior to the experience. The question remains who or what perceives from that vantage point?

(5) Explain unique events the NDErs viewed which were corroborated by others in the physical environment.

Blackmore turns away from actual research data, from the reports, and from logic in constructing her “model.” She makes false claims for her model:

“It [her model] easily accounts for the way the world looks and the fact that apparently correct details are often mixed with ones that are obviously false. The system has put together the best information it has…”

In other words, she tosses out significant correct perceptions solely on the basis that some errors were present. This is analogous to the clicked story of accident witnesses whose reports vary. Our “normal” perceptions are rarely, if ever, one-hundred-percent accurate. Blackmore tells us nothing new and employs false standards. On that basis, all our perception is invalid. What is important, however, is that there are correct perceptions. She fails to account for such correct perception of details from an out of body vantage point that’s impossible to achieve with bodily senses.

She goes on to try to explain away “you” the viewer:

“In the OBE you actually feel that ‘you’ are at the imagined point. This makes sense because it is this imagined world that you control. You can no longer control the actual body because you no longer have a good body image. Instead, you have either a new body image, outside the physical, created by memory, or you are just a moving position, moving as imagination takes you. In either case, ‘you’ will seem to be at that location because that is what can be controlled by what you (the system) are thinking about.”

This convoluted explanation fails to conform to the data. It is worth considering in detail as it forms the crux of her argument that skeptics accept as “scientific proof”:

“In the OBE you actually feel that ‘you’ are at the imagined point.”

It should be noted that in NDE and OBE reports the “you” that views from “outside the body” positions is experienced as the same “you” that perceives in normal day to day living. In other words, they experience actually being there. This differs from imagining such a view. The reader can verify the difference by perceiving the room, moment to moment, then closing his eyes, and viewing the “memory.” There is a qualitative difference.

“This makes sense because it is this imagined world that you control.”

Reports include viewing objective physical settings and events. This contradicts the claim of an imagined world that one “controls.” Most people are aware of the difference between an imaginary world they can move about, as in a daydream, and the objective world which does not respond to their “control.” The imagination scenario fails to explain the consistency of NDE reports of viewing outside the body. Imagination would be more random.

“You can no longer control the actual body because you no longer have a good body image.”

According to Blackmore, the “you” never controls the actual body. The “you” is merely a model the body’s brain constructs. It controls nothing. It is merely a “model” that floats behind the eyes as a result of perceptual input processing. Thus, when the body’s brain and senses are incapacitated or traumatized (in some NDE cases there is no brain activity), the creator of this highly complex and consistent model is inoperative, which means there should be no “you” to control (or even view) anything.

“Instead, you have either a new body image, outside the physical, created by memory …”

Why would one have “memories” of something one never experienced? If “you” are only a brain-created model then “you” can only model body perceptions. The “you” model has no way to create a memory from an outside viewpoint. The outside viewpoint reported is not a series of snapshots of prior memories. It contains moment by moment, in the present, continuity of perception.

If the brain is creating new models under stress, why would it not create that which it knows best – the inside of the body. Why does the brain not randomly generate wild trips through the intestines? Why do NDErs consistently report being outside the body instead?

“… or you are just a moving position, moving as imagination takes you. In either case, ‘you’ will seem to be at that location because that is what can be controlled by what you (the system) are thinking about.”

Again, the perceptions of NDErs contradict this explanation. They do not always view imaginary scenes. They often view objective physical settings. And, as above, that which creates the model is supposedly out of operation. Blackmore continues:

“Why should people be surprised at seeing themselves as others see them? This is often given as evidence that the OBE cannot be imagination. However, this does not follow. You may have gathered lots of information about yourself…”

Again, she fails to investigate the actual reports and substitutes conjecture. When NDErs report they view the body “like others would,” they do not mean they catch imaginary glimpses compiled from memory. They do not mean they recall seeing glimpses of themselves in the mirror, or old photos. They view the body in its entirety from outside, in the moment. The experience is very different from recalling glimpses in a mirror and old photos.

Thus, her conjecture does not fit the data. Not only is it not scientific proof, it is conjecture that does not conform to the facts at hand.

(Without going into a long dissertation on the matter, it should be pointed out her model falls apart when one takes into account OBE phenomena when there are no drugs, no injuries, no near death. The mechanisms Blackmore proposes obviously fail to account for such reports.) Moving on from the basic argument to Blackmore’s attempt at supporting her contention:

“… it was suggested that people with vivid imagery would be more likely to have OBEs. This was found not to be the case, suggesting that OBEs are not imagination. However, since then it has been found that OBE experiencers have superior spatial abilities; …. they are better at detecting the viewpoint from which a three-dimensional object is seen and are better able to switch viewpoints in their imagination.”

Thus, OBEs are not imagination, as I’ve stated. The second finding is interesting – they “are better able to switch viewpoints.” This finding is consistent with a spirit who can move and assume varied viewpoints without regard to the body. The Afterlife Hypothesis predicts this outcome.

In an amazing intellectual sleight-of-hand, Blackmore goes on to claim a bird’s-eye viewpoint is a prediction that supports her Dying Brain Hypothesis:

“Another prediction concerns the habitual use of bird’s-eye viewpoints. This theory predicts that people who habitually imagine things or dream in a bird’s-eye view should be more likely to have OBEs (whether deliberate or spontaneous). Both Irwin and I have found this correlation for dreaming but not for waking imagery.”

Blackmore takes a key experience that supports the Afterlife Hypothesis, turns around and states she is able to predict this experience, and then argues this supports the opposing Dying Brain Hypothesis. She cleverly takes a factor that disproves the Dying Brain Hypothesis and claims her ability to predict that factor supports the Dying Brain Hypothesis. (Though the factor itself does not support the Dying Brain Hypothesis, she claims her ability to predict this factor supports the hypothesis.)

As we saw earlier, bird’s-eye viewpoints do not support the Dying Brain Hypothesis, and she has not shown they do. To the contrary, the bird’s-eye view directly supports the Afterlife Hypothesis which postulates the spirit leaving the body which puts the spirit in a position to have a bird’s-eye viewpoint. In her argument, she shows no way for the bird’s-eye view to take place, no way for that perceptual viewpoint to be achieved. She states the bird’s eye view is the work of imagination and memory, but does not state how that view comes into being in the first place so it can be imagined or remembered.

The ability to predict a factor that supports the Afterlife Hypothesis does not support the Dying Brain Hypothesis.

Her research fails to correlate OBE with imagination, yet she states the OBE is imagination. Her research correlates the OBE with out of body dream states that further support the Afterlife Hypothesis which predicts separation from the body when there is lessened attention on the body, such as in sleep and dreaming.

Blackmore fails in the extreme to explain away the cornerstone evidence for the Afterlife Hypothesis – the out of body experience. She instead twists the very essence of the experience, the bird’s-eye viewpoint, the viewpoint of a spirit separate from the body, into a claim for the Dying Brain Hypothesis.

13. Closing Note

The remainder of Dying to Live only furthers the basic errors seen in the earlier chapters. These include a failure to consider the assumptions of the Afterlife Hypothesis, a failure to conform to the data on hand, and the presentation of conjecture regarding brain theories that don’t fit the NDE reports. A continued critique would be redundant, so I will spare the reader a lengthy trip over established ground.

Skeptics claim Blackmore provides scientific proof that NDEs are merely brain phenomena, proof spirit does not exist. This is simply false. Dying to Live presents conjecture, assumptions, speculation, but no proof. Furthermore, her conjecture does not match the evidence she presents.

The skeptics’ second claim, that she has explored both hypotheses as an unbiased researcher is also false. The major shortcoming of Dying to Live is a failure to explore or present the Afterlife Hypothesis. It is propped up on false legs in order to be knocked down.

Every time the evidence and the reports clearly support the Afterlife Hypothesis, she makes a non-sequitur leap to the Dying Brain Hypothesis. Should we blame her for not understanding the Afterlife Hypothesis? No. This is not her area of expertise.

What is perhaps most needed in the field of NDE studies is a clear statement of the Afterlife Hypothesis so authors, like Blackmore, will be forced to address the actual hypothesis, not straw man versions.

The following are e-mails exchanged with regard to the above critique.

14. Susan Blackmore’s Response, March 2001

I have not claimed that any of my work proves the Dying Brain Hypothesis. In fact no amount of research ever could. The most I could hope to do, and in fact what I tried to do in Dying to Live, is to show that we can account for all the major features of the NDE without recourse to such ideas as a spirit, a soul, or life after death.

My account was far from complete, but even if I had provided an extremely detailed and convincing explanation of every feature – from the tunnel and lights to the life review – it would always be open to someone to say … “Right, I agree that tunnels and lights, and OBEs and life reviews can be explained by what happens in the brain, but after the brain has finally stopped something else carries on”. In other words no amount of evidence can prove the Dying Brain Hypothesis. The best it can do is provide a plausible explanation of the events leading up to the death of the brain and body. As for what happens next – each of us will eventually get our own one chance to find out.

Am I as horribly biased as ZipZap (Greg Stone) suggests?

If having experiences, doing research and forming opinions based on them means being biased then, yes, I am. My obsession with NDEs and OBEs really began back in 1970 (before the term NDE was even invented) when I had a most extraordinary and wonderful experience. At the time I called it astral projection because that was the only name I had for it. Later I realized that I had experienced the tunnel, the wonderful light, an OBE that lasted several hours, a difficult decision to return and, finally, a mystical experience which is very difficult to describe in ordinary words. A few days after the experience I wrote my own account of it. For anyone who is interested it is now available at Charles Tart’s article archives.

After that experience I was probably very biased. I was convinced that my soul had left my body, that I had visited worlds beyond this one, and that death could not be the end. This is why I decided to give up a sensible career in psychology, and devote myself to parapsychology instead – to the disgust of my academic teachers and the horror of my parents.

The story of what I found is familiar (I wrote about it in In Search of the Light: The Adventures of a Parapsychologist, Prometheus, 1996). I found that many of my assumptions were wrong; ESP was not round every corner, scientists were not trying to suppress evidence for it – there just wasn’t any evidence that stood up to scrutiny. I had to change my mind. Interestingly, having changed my mind in such a dramatic way once, I have little fear of having to do so again. This is why I say that if any convincing evidence for the paranormal, or for life after death, comes along I will change my mind again. So far it has not.

Alongside all this I began to realize that chasing after the paranormal was an understandable, but inappropriate reaction to what I had seen. This was a deep, profound and life-changing experience. Saying that something left the body, or that it proved the existence of another world, was trivializing it. Gradually I explored, and found other ways of touching that experience again.

I have practiced Zen now for nearly twenty years. At the heart of this practice are the ideas of letting go, of non-attachment, and of no-self. The idea is not that there is no self at all, but that the self is not what we commonly think it is. ‘I’ am not a persisting entity separate from the world, but a flowing, ephemeral, ungraspable part of that world. As anyone who has had a mystical experience knows, everything is one. I think those lessons, and many more, were thrust upon me in that original experience. They gave me not only an academic desire to understand strange experiences but the motivation and insight to pursue a spiritual life.

As happens with many NDErs, my experiences and my research have taken away the fear of death, not because I am convinced that ‘I’ will carry on after this body dies, but because I know there is no one to die, and never was. If others, like ZipZap, disagree that is their prerogative. All any of us can do is seek the truth to the best of our ability, and – even if that truth turns out to be quite different from what we hoped or expected – to accept it when we find it.

I am glad that ZipZap so warmly recommends my book to anyone interested in NDEs. I hope it will speak for itself and provide interested readers with a way of understanding the NDE that does justice to the experience without requiring belief in spirits, souls, or an after life. Whether the theories in it are right only time and more research will tell.

15. Greg Stone’s Response

Though I was disappointed that Susan Blackmore did not respond to the substance of my critique, I was extremely pleased that she did clarify some very important issues. The most important being that she does not claim her work proves the Dying Brain Hypothesis. Many CSICOP members DO make such a claim on her behalf and now, with her definitive statement on the record, that will no longer be an issue.

The other side of the coin in this regard is that she has not proven the nonexistence of the spirit. This, too, is often claimed by CSICOP members and other skeptics to be the case and, I presume, will no longer be an issue. (In my critique, I go a step further and discuss how her work doesn’t even present a plausible argument for the nonexistence of the spirit, but rather takes evidence those points quite clearly to the existence of spirit and dismisses it summarily. No point to rehash the details here.)

In her response to my critique, she mentions “having experiences, doing research, and forming opinions.” I’m all for people having experiences and forming opinions on the subject. My objection, stated in my critique, was that her opinions were being elevated to the level of scientific proof by those, such as CSICOP members, who claim to represent the “scientific” viewpoint. As she is a member and fellow of CSICOP, I would hope she would now make an effort to clarify the exact status of the work to the membership.

Personally, I find it ironic that she posted the account of her drug induced out of body experience on a site that promises a “safe place” for professionals to post their unusual experiences while she’s an active member of a group that’s primarily responsible for making it unsafe to discuss and research such phenomena. Perhaps she may wish to reconsider her membership in CSICOP? She asks if I perceive her as being biased (I do), while she notes the bias and social pressure that exists within her profession and immediate circle. Maybe the personal bias is merely a function of the institutional and social biases with which she’s surrounded.

The account of her OBE was invaluable in shedding light on her personal point of view. While I do not think it appropriate to discuss her personal experience in a public forum (but am willing to do so in private), the nature of the events that led to her current position (a la Dying to Live) are quite common. An extensive drug history, a drug-induced OBE, fear of being able to re enter the body, and the lack of spiritual knowledge with which to understand the experience all commonly lead to an “explaining away” of the primary phenomena. Dying to Live, in my opinion, is merely an extension of this need to “explain away” a rather profound, but nonetheless frightening and disorienting experience.

Rather than take this personal viewpoint as the last word of science on the matter, I think it is important to take NDEs on their own merit and allow science to move ahead in understanding exactly what we find, as it is, no matter where that takes us — “even if that truth turns out to be quite different from what we hoped or expected,” as Blackmore states. The evidence points very clearly in the direction of a consciousness that can exist outside the body and which survives body death. This is upsetting to many. And yet we must overcome our emotional queasiness and push forward.

A last note that echoes all that goes before — she mentions her tenure in Zen Buddhism and the pursuit of a spiritual life. In an ironic way, this echoes the conflict and paradox between the experiences she recounts and her professional views. One must ask how can one have a spiritual life without spirit? One may possess humanity and other qualities, but certainly not spirituality without spirit. One cannot study Buddhism without also studying the spirit and its existence apart from the body. Buddha’s teachings directly addressed the concept of non-attachment to the body and the physical; and addressed the transcendence of birth and death, transcendence beyond obsessive reincarnation. Buddha’s teachings addressed exactly that which we find in the NDE, the OBE, and the past-life recall. The reduction of Buddhism, no matter which “school,” to physical monism would not make Buddha smile. The concept of non-attachment is the exact opposite of physical monism, which she presents as Zen Buddhism. Physical or materialistic monism is total attachment, total identification with the physical. The exact opposite of Buddhism. Perhaps this best captures the bias I detect in her work — an attempt to deny everything spiritual, including her own experiences and urges toward spirituality, in an effort to reduce everything to the material.

And yes, I’m happy to recommend Dying to Live as all viewpoints must be considered in depth and none discarded out of hand. In retrospect, I wish she had included the full text of her experience in the book. Perhaps in the next edition?

Categories
Articles Science

Are NDEs of the Brain or Mind or Both?

The following is an interesting email discussion I, Kevin Williams, had with an anesthesiologist named Gerald Woerlee who is the author of the book Mortal Minds: A Biology of the Soul and the Dying Experience which is profiled on his website. Woerlee’s book is a scientific explanation for how human physiology has generated paranormal ideas and senses such as the notion of a “soul” and life after death. His reasoning is along the same line as other materialists who dispel parapsychological explanations behind the near-death experience phenomenon. You can read the preface and first chapter of his book online at his website. Titus Rivas has written an outstanding review of Woerlee’s book.

Of course I disagree with his conclusion of a purely materialist view, but because I am not a doctor, it is important to read whatever physiological evidence you can from those who are – even those who take the non-supernatural viewpoint which is the prevailing viewpoint in science today. The true skeptic is not a “believer” but a person who keeps an open mind to all reasonable viewpoints until they are proven false. And because neither the survivalist nor the materialist viewpoint has been proven to be undeniably true or false, despite the recently scientific studies, it is important to keep an open mind and examine all the evidence. I believe Gerald Woerlee’s book provides an excellent case and valuable insight into the brain’s physiology and how it relates to consciousness and paranormal phenomena. And it is this reason I recommend his book for which I first learned of when he emailed me and we had an interesting email discussion about the Dutch NDE study by Pim van Lommel in 2001 and Lommel’s conclusion that it is evidence of a transcendental consciousness. The following is that discussion.

From: “Gerald Woerlee” mortalminds@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Williams,

Nice, thorough, and even exhaustive. A good website on the subject of NDEs. Yet, as an anesthesiologist fascinated by human physiology, I do find that commonsense is sadly missing in some of the so-called “medical explanations” of NDEs.

For example, the occurrence of conscious experiences in 18% of the resuscitated patients in the otherwise excellent research of Pim van Lommel is readily predicted with a simple flow model of the effects of heart massage. Furthermore, the experience of Pam Reynolds as described by Dr. Michael Sabom is also explained by physiological facts, as well as the practical realities of anesthesiological practice. These physiological explanations of the NDEs described by Van Lommel, as well as that of the experience of Pam Reynolds can be found on my website: www.mortalminds.org.

The fact that I can explain these things with physiological explanations does not mean I consider NDEs as mere trivial byproducts of body function under certain conditions. Quite the contrary – I consider them to be amazing experiences giving profound insights into the deepest reaches of the mind of the individuals who undergo them, as well as giving insights into the effects of socio-cultural influences on the individual. Indeed, for many people they are a source of great strength and comfort.

But I do think that more reference to the physiological alternatives to purely spiritual explanations would provide visitors to your website with a more balanced view of the fascinating phenomenon of the NDE. Perhaps reference to my website would help.

Should you wish to discuss this matter further, I am always available for discussion at the address: mortalminds@hotmail.com.

Yours, G. M. Woerlee

From: “Kevin Williams”

Gerald,

Thanks for your email and your input. I checked out your website and found it to certainly be worth promoting on my website. So, if you don’t mind, I would like to put a link in my next newsletter to your website. I am constantly trying to find new websites concerning the NDE – especially from researchers such as yourself.

So far, I have made it a point to stay away from the mechanics of death and the mechanics of other non-ordinary states of consciousness for several reasons. First, I am not a doctor, so I can only profile the opinions of those who are doctors and their opinions concerning this mysterious thing called consciousness. Second, whatever causes NDEs to occur is not relevant to whether they are real afterlife experiences or not. Thirdly, recent studies have ruled out brain anomalies as triggers of NDEs.

So I try to keep my website focused mostly on the experience itself. And although anecdotal testimony is practically useless unless it is veridical, there are aspects to the NDE which are of great interest to quantum physicists and consciousness researchers toward understanding the new paradigm that is developing concerning the nature of the universe and how it relates to consciousness.

Give me some time to look over your website and I may have some questions for you. One thing I would be interested in reading your comment about is this quote by Peter Fenwick which I find fascinating:

“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 … The brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences [NDEs] … 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 [NDEs], 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.” (Peter Fenwick)

Thanks a bunch for your correspondence.

Peace and Light,
Kevin Williams

From: “Gerald Woerlee” mortalminds@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Williams,

Thank you for your rapid reaction.

Just as you, I also regard the NDE as a real experience undergone by people in any number of situations. However, as a physician fascinated by human body function, I do try and find if these experiences can be generated by the functioning of the body. And my book is a physiological study of just this.

You gave me a citation of Peter Fenwick to which you asked for my reaction, and thoughts. This citation of Dr. Fenwick puzzles and amazes me. Dr. Fenwick is a neurologist and as such should be familiar with the phenomenon of “coma vigil“, a horrible neurological syndrome whereby a person is fully awake and aware, but because they are paralyzed, they appear unconscious. Unlike Dr. Fenwick, my work as an anesthesiologist means my thoughts are very clear – an unconscious person is just that – unconscious – no thoughts, no experiences, no memories – nothing. So a person who reports undergoing an NDE is reporting a remembered conscious experience. And they undergo this experience at a time they appear unconscious, even though they are conscious.

This phenomenon of people who appear unconscious or even dead, yet are fully conscious, seems to be a difficult concept for many people. Yet it is the daily reality for anesthesiologists such as me. During general anesthesia, powerful painkilling drugs are administered to eliminate pain, and curare-like muscle paralyzing drugs are also administered which means people cannot breathe, move, or speak. If the anesthesiologist does not administer drugs to keep such a person asleep, then a person rendered immobile, pain free and totally paralyzed will appear unconscious, even though they are fully awake and able to hear, see, and observe everything in their surroundings.

The same is also true of people undergoing resuscitation from cardiac arrest. About 20% of cardiac arrest patients undergo very efficient resuscitation, and are fully or partially conscious, even though they have no heartbeat, are paralyzed by residual effects of brain oxygen starvation, and appear rather dead. Yet they are able to hear, sense, and visualize what occurs in their vicinity.

These are situations undergone by NDE-ers, and these situations explain why seemingly dead or apparently unconscious people can actually undergo conscious experiences such as NDEs. And these are my thoughts on this citation of Dr. Fenwick.

Kind regards,
Gerry Woerlee

From: “Kevin Williams”

Gerry,

Thanks for your reply. I should have mentioned the context for that quote by Peter Fenwick. He is talking about unconscious patients who are clinically dead including those who meet the criteria for brain death where they are in “standstill” and “flatlined” with absolutely no sign of life. The famous case in point is that of Pam Reynolds whom you are probably already aware. 

There is also a large amount of veridical perception evidence found in NDEs which suggests a transcendental consciousness.

The bottom line is that this and other NDE cases show that there certainly is a biological component involved; but that at some point, when the biological component has ceased to function, consciousness appears to transcend the body. NDE research is only one scientific source where a transcendental consciousness is a theory.

Here is the way I see it. I believe that all these theories about the brain concerning the NDE, while interesting and important, are only attempts to, using an analogy, try to prove that the “music” coming from the “radio” is coming from the radio – which we all know is true. But the evidence also shows that the “music” coming from the “radio” does not originate in the “radio” and that, in fact, from quantum physics and consciousness studies, the “music” is coming from the “airwaves” and not just the “radio”. This suggests the brain acts more like a “receiver” and to say that the “music” is simply a product of the “radio” is just not true given the body of evidence from various scientific research. I have two pages [1] [2] which gives a large amount of this evidence.

So, until I read the medical evidence which explains how a dead or dying brain causes a person to see veridical events from great distances from their dead or clinically dead body, physiology does not interest me very much. There is too much disinformation from magician-skeptics and pseudo-skeptics who are only interested in dismissing the transcendental evidence to support their “religion” of scientism.

So you see where I am coming from. I would be interested to hear from you on this matter. You may be feeling the same way as I do about these things. Thanks.

Peace and Light,
Kevin Williams

From: “Gerald Woerlee” mortalminds@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Williams,

I have worked through the various pages of your website as suggested. Indeed, when looked at superficially, there does seem to be an enormous amount of veridical information coming from NDEs that does not immediately seem capable of any other than a “paranormal,” “quantum mechanical,” there are “things we do not know about,” type of explanation.

Even so, when confronted with such a mass of information, I revert to die-hard reductionism otherwise it is impossible get a general overview. You cite the case of Pam Reynolds, as well as the outstanding research of Pim van Lommel. My comments on these can be short.

As an anesthesiologist, I consider the case of Pam Reynolds to be one readily explained by the physiology of people under anesthesia. I have dealt with this case in my website. Her OOBE is also explained by physiology, and her “veridical” information explained by alternative explanations. Her “NDE” is also capable of other explanations. All this does not mean I belittle her personally wonderful experience, merely that I explain it differently.

The research of Pim van Lommel is top-notch, but his conclusions are very dubious. I recently attended a lecture given by him in the town of Wassenaar near to The Hague and found him to be a very serious man who has conducted excellent research, as well as a man who really believes in his conclusions. The results of his research were outstanding, but predictable, as were the types of NDE he described. The veridical content of some of these NDEs is also explicable with purely physical phenomena.

I could continue – but I find physiological and physical explanations are possible for each NDE report. Even so, you do raise a fascinating problem, one that has puzzled and intrigued people for countless millennia – is the brain the generator of the radio signal or only the receiver?

I have devoted many chapters in my book “Mortal Minds” to an exhaustive step by step analysis of the evidence for either of these two viewpoints. The weight of the evidence for physiology was such that I could only conclude that the brain is the generator of the radio signal – there is no solid evidence to the contrary.

Hope that this helps answering your question.

Yours, Gerry Woerlee

From: “Kevin Williams”

Gerry,

Thanks for your reply. I agree that veridical evidence from autoscopy does not always meet the higher standard of the strict scientific controls that the scientific method requires. And there is now the theory of “Super-Psi” which explains how a dying brain might observe veridical events at great distances away from it. But despite the relatively small amount of quality scientific and veridical evidence supporting the survival of consciousness after brain death (including the scientific proof of the existence of “God”), there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence that does support it.

But my point is that (1) reductionism does not disprove survival, and (2) understanding how the brain causes NDEs to occur is not relevant to whether consciousness survives bodily death. Using the analogy, we may someday perfectly understand how the “radio” plays the “music.” The question is does the “music” continue to exist without the “radio”? The answer is: Studies say “Yes.” And so does the circumstantial evidence. Here are some interesting links you may want to look at:

Woman Reads 5-digit Number While Out of Her Body

Evidence from Out-of-Body Experiences

— Quantum Physics Supports Survival [1] [2] [3]

Evidence for Extra-Dimensional Universe

U.S. Government Acknowledges Remote Viewing

The Scientific Evidence for Reincarnation

Prayer Works as a Cure

Particles Communicate with Each Other Over Long Distances Suggesting a Transcendental Reality

The “Dying Brain Theory” of Skeptics has Severe Problems

These facts and others must be included in the equation and no amount of reductionism can explain this entire body of evidence away as of yet. So, the ball remains in the materialist’s and the reductionist’s court.

Peace and Light,

Kevin Williams

Ian Lawton (www.ianlawton.com) of Supersoul Spirituality sent me an interesting critique of Woerlee’s theory by a psychiatrist:

As a psychiatrist, I read with interest Gerald Woerlee’s critique of Pam Reynolds’ NDE documented by Michael Sabom, and found some inconsistencies with it.

Woerlee contends that anesthesia can be incomplete and a patient may still be conscious during surgery, and therefore, the patient will be able to perceive what’s going on. He gives an example of where a patient might be inadequately anesthetized and be awake, yet appear to be unconscious and unable to move due to muscle-paralyzing drugs. He mentioned that such a patient would not feel pain due to pain-killer drugs. From this, he infers that NDEs occur while a patient is still conscious and that the effects of various drugs can cause an abnormal interpretation of bodily sensations to account for the OBE. From this, it follows that one cannot experience an NDE while unconscious.

I find this interesting, because if NDEs are due to patients being conscious from inadequate anesthesia, then it appears that a significant number of patients undergoing surgery are conscious and not fully anesthetized. This, as Woerlee stated, “is an event that all anesthesiologists try to prevent.” It seems to me that they aren’t doing a very good job if that premise is true. Now, if patients are awake during major surgery and don’t feel pain due to pain-killer drugs, then I might ask, why bother with general anesthesia? But then, if such patients are given good doses of pain medications, from my experience with patients receiving these medications, they are likely to be groggy and not in a state of clear consciousness. This is not consistent with the state of clear consciousness reported in many NDEs.

Furthermore, Woerlee cites an example of a woman who was administered general anesthesia for a varicose vein operation, and was evidently awake during her operation, but remembered absolutely nothing of her period of awareness after awakening. This is in contrast to those who vividly recall their NDE during an operation, afterward.

In the case of Pam Reynolds, he states that she must have had her NDE just before going into hypothermic cardiac arrest or just after restoration of normal body temperature, but not during when her brain was flatline. If that’s the case, then we would have expected Reynolds’ NDE to be cut off when she went flatline, but according to her account it was continuous all the way through.

Woerlee states that the VEP monitor and EEG machine are not 100% reliable, implying that they could have been wrong during Reynolds’ surgery and thus, she may not have been fully unconscious, even though they indicated no brain activity. That in the face of no heartbeat and her brain being drained of blood. If so, then she was conscious without a functioning brain, which would refute Woerlee’s position!

Also, if Reynolds had an abnormal interpretation of bodily sensations due to anesthetics, that does not explain her accurately perceiving what went on in the operating room. We would also expect an abnormal interpretation of her sensations of the surroundings.

Woerlee claims that even though Reynolds had ear plugs, she would still be able to hear. But such sounds would be muffled and less clear. During her NDE she could see and hear more clearly as she pulled away from her body. I might add that her eyes were taped shut. Actual separation from her body would provide a better explanation.

In view of this, I find Woerlee’s point of view to be flawed and that the afterlife hypothesis provides a better explanation. Of course, physiological changes are involved, but as I see it, they are the manifestations rather than the origin of the NDE, sort of like the electrical activity of a radio’s components representing the manifestations of an outside radio broadcast.