Latest research on near-death experience supports survival hypothesis
Posted on 12 July 2010, 13:12
Over the past 35 years, near-death experience (NDE) researchers like Drs. Raymond Moody, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Kenneth Ring, Michael Sabom, Bruce Greyson, Melvin Morse, Barbara Rommer, Sam Parnia and others have built a very solid wheel, one that supports the idea that we have a spirit body as well as a physical body and that consciousness remains with the spirit body after physical death. Close-minded skeptics keep trying to make the wheel collapse by bending the spokes and throwing obstacles in the path of the rolling wheel.
Every now and then, as happened a month or two ago, the theory that the NDE is nothing more than abnormal brain activity resulting from oxygen deficiency gets resurrected and makes its way around the Internet and the print media as if it is news rather than something that goes back 25 or more years. The pseudoskeptics’ blogs make it out to be some sort of victory in their war on superstition and ignorance, and they seemingly take great pride in their ‘intellectualism.’
Fortunately, new researchers come on the scene to debunk the pseudoskeptics and keep the wheel rolling. In his recently released book, Consciousness Beyond Life, Dr. Pim van Lommel (pictured above), a world-renowned cardiologist practicing in The Netherlands, dismisses the oxygen-deprivation theory based on the fact that it is ‘accompanied by an enhanced and lucid consciousness with memories and because it can also be experienced under circumstances such as an imminent traffic accident or a depression, neither of which involves oxygen deficiency.’
Van Lommel also dismisses the theory that the tunnel effect experienced by many NDErs also results from a disruption of oxygen to the eye or the cerebral cortex. He points out that oxygen deficiency in these areas cannot explain meeting deceased relatives in the tunnel, as has often been reported, or hearing beautiful music. He explains why carbon dioxide overload, various chemicals, and other physiological theories do not account for the NDE. ‘When new ideas do not fit the generally accepted (materialist) paradigm, many scientists perceive them as a threat,’ van Lommel writes. ‘It is hardly surprising therefore that when empirical studies reveal new phenomena or facts that are inconsistent with the prevailing scientific paradigm, they are usually denied, suppressed, or even ridiculed.’
Having grown up in an academic environment, van Lommel was of a materialist/reductionist mindset before he began studying the NDE and the nature of consciousness. He has closely examined all the arguments made by the scientific fundamentalists and now has a more positive outlook. ‘That death is the end used to be my own belief,’ he states with conviction. ‘But after many years of critical research into the stories of the NDErs, and after a careful exploration of current knowledge about brain function, consciousness, and some basic principles of quantum physics, my views have undergone a complete transformation. As a doctor and researcher, I found the most significant finding to be the conclusion of one NDEr: ‘Dead turned out to be not dead.’ I now see the continuity of our consciousness after the death of our physical body as a very real possibility.’
In another 2010 book, Evidence of the Afterlife, Dr. Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncologist in Houma, Louisiana, comes to the same conclusions as van Lommel. ‘Near-death experiencers almost never have confused memories that are typical of the experience of hypoxia,’ he writes, (hypoxia being reduced oxygen levels in the blood and tissues). ‘The fact that highly lucid and organized near-death experiences occur at a time of severe hypoxia is further evidence of the extraordinary and inexplicable state of consciousness that typically occurs during NDEs.’
Many researchers, fearing professional sanctions and obloquy from their peers, beat around the bush when it comes to the life after death implications of the NDE, but, like van Lommel, Long does not cower in this respect. ‘By scientifically studying the more than 1,300 cases shared with [the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation],’ he writes, ‘I believe that the nine lines of evidence presented in this book all converge on one central point: There is life after death.’
One of the more convincing aspects of the NDE for Long is the ability of some blind people to ‘see’ during the NDE. ‘…blind people who have near-death experiences may immediately have full and clear vision,’ he offers. ‘This is further evidence that vision in NDEs, including near-death experiences in those who are not blind, is unlike ordinary, physical vision.’
Long reports many interesting NDEs, including one by a man named Roger who was in a head-on auto accident and immediately left his body. He told of seeing events from above. ‘I went into a dark place with nothing around me, but I wasn’t scared. It was really peaceful there. I then began to see my whole life unfolding before me like a film projected on a screen, from babyhood to adult life. It was so real! I was looking at myself, but better than a 3-D movie as I was also capable to sensing the feelings of the persons I had interacted with through the years. I could feel the good and bad emotions I made them go through…’
Skeptics seem to have a theory for every aspect of the NDE, including the life review which so many others have reported. The skeptical take on the life review is that it is a psychological defense mechanism permitting a retreat into pleasant memories. But Long points out that many memories are not pleasant and that such unpleasant memories would not be expected in a psychological escape.
But how can a person see every moment of his life flash before him in an instant? As van Lommel sees it, many aspects of the NDE correspond with or are analogous to some of the basic principles from quantum theory, which is non-local, i.e., timeless and placeless interconnectedness. ‘The findings of NDE research suggest the possibility that (nonlocal) consciousness is present at all time and will therefore last forever,’ van Lommel explains. ‘The content of a near-death experience suggests a continuity of consciousness that can be experienced independently of the body.’
One of the more veridical and interesting NDEs reported by van Lommel involved a 44-year-old man brought into the hospital while in a deep coma. When a nurse started to intubate the patient, she discovered he had dentures. She removed the upper dentures and put them on a nearby cart. The patient remained comatose throughout the procedure and for a week after.
After regaining consciousness, he was returned to the coronary unit and as soon as he spotted the nurse, he asked about his dentures. ‘…you took my dentures out of my mouth and put them on that cart,’ he told her. ‘It had all these bottles on it, and there was a sliding drawer underneath, and you put my teeth there.’ The patient said that he watched from above as the doctors and nurses worked on him and that he unsuccessfully tried to let them all know that he was still alive, and that they should not stop. Possibly, he was not ‘unsuccessful,’ since they did continue to work on him and he did survive.
Interestingly, Long reports that it takes as long as seven years or more for a person to fully integrate the NDE into his or her life. This is consistent with the biological rule that we turn over every cell in the body every seven years. It is also consistent with the ‘seven-year itch’ idea, which holds that there is an inclination to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage. That idea has been broadened to suggest that there is an urge to move on from any situation after seven years, whether it is a hobby or some other passion.
Something I have found particularly troubling over the years is the possibility that organs are being harvested before bodies are actually ‘dead,’ even though the person might be pronounced ‘clinically dead.’ Van Lommel devotes several interesting pages to the debate on this subject, pointing out that when brain death has been diagnosed, 96 percent of the body is still alive. While not in principle opposed to organ transplants, van Lommel suggests that more consideration should be given to the nonphysical aspects of organ donation, including the fear of death. As I interpret his comments, he is saying that perhaps that in many organ failure situations we should let nature take its course and not concern ourselves so much with surviving in this world.
Long quotes Sir John Eccles, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist who studied consciousness: ‘I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity. This belief must be classed as superstition…We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.’
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Thank you for the comment. Feel free to reprint.
Michael Tymn, Tue 16 Nov, 05:27
Hi Mike- I was wondering if I can reprint your piece on The Sequel to Hereafter for the library
Paul Biscop, Tue 16 Nov, 03:50
and interested members of Two Worlds Spiritualist Centre here in Nanaimo? And yes, if I get to Hawaii I’d love to have lunch with you. However, being less affluent after retirement, I might have to row the entire way there! Thanks. PB
Interesting. I guess I’m not a true believer but am leaving the door open to possibilities I may nt now understand. [chuckles] That’s why I’m an agnostic?
As for my father (you commented at Oye Times), I guess I’ll just have to see for myself… someday, when my turn comes.
Thanks for the link to your site. Some interesting writing.
WIlliam Belle, Tue 12 Oct, 02:31
According to the rules of strict evidence, the “man with the dentures” near death experience is not really veridical. The actual source for this story is a very short account lacking any real deatails in the 20012 Lancet article by Pim van Lommel. There is also a very good transcript of and extensive interview with the male nurse TG. But this excellent transcript is inacessible to most English language readers, because it was published during 2008 in Dutch in a small circulation journal called “Terugkeer”.
Gerry, Sun 19 Sep, 15:36
The lack of any English translation means that English, and other international students of NDEs cannot assess the evidence for the veridical nature of this fascinating experience. Interested readers can find a summary of the relevant points of this transcript with references to the page numbers of the published transcript on which the facts occur by clicking on this link to a site with the facts of the man with the dentures experience.
The Summer copy of the “Journal of Near Death Studies” also contains an extensive pro- and con- discussion of the veridical nature of this case.
Should be interesting to the readers of this site.
Excellent summary, Mike. The NDE evidence looks pretty good to me, even if it will never convince everyone.
One small correction: the nurse in the dentures case was male, not female.
Keep up the great work!
Michael Prescott, Sun 19 Sep, 05:36
Tnx for your offer, anyway your old articles can be found on Waiback machine.
Claudio, Wed 18 Aug, 02:23
Much Love,Light & Serenity.
I have read and reviewed the book (click for review). It is a curious book written at two levels, with conclusions I must admit, I do not find justfied in the text.
G.M. Woerlee, Tue 17 Aug, 17:36
By way of explanation, I’m so tired of people I know reacting to my interest in the before- and- afterlife with “you shouldn’t care”. Thank you for caring about this subject, and putting out these little “aha!” tidbits.
Lloyd, Mon 19 Jul, 16:57
Lloyd, Mon 19 Jul, 16:45
Michael Tymn, Thu 15 Jul, 01:26
I’ve been rereading, after many years, the first edition of Drs. Osis and Haraldsson’s At the Hour of Death. They investigated deathbed visions in a survey of doctors and nurses in the United States and India. The study holds up remarkably well after all these years (it was first published in 1977). They scientifically looked into alternative explanations and found them false or improbable.
Yet the average psychologist has never even heard of their work or similar studies since. It’s almost like they’re saying, “I don’t want to know.” They’re afraid that their whole world picture will break down and they’ll have to start rebuilding it from scratch. That would be a good idea.
Rick Darby, Wed 14 Jul, 21:53
Claudio, Wed 14 Jul, 20:57
Great article! As an MD I can add that lack of oxygen and hypercapnia, are the two faces of the same coin!
Where can I found the old ones published on Gaia?
Thanks for that Michael. I didn’t know of the van Lommel book. The only ones I have read are by Michael Sabon regarding heart patients (as I was about to go into coronary bypass surgery that was very relevant!) and Mark Fox who did some research on NDEs for a degree at Lampeter University, Wales, and subsequently published his findings as a book through the Alister Hardy Society.
howard Jones, Tue 13 Jul, 15:07
I said something in my book, The Thoughtful Guide to God, about how they are dismissed by the sceptics as purely physiological/psychological phenomena but the wealth of empirical evidence clearly indicates for anyone not blinded by scientism that there is more to these and other psychic phenomena than classical Newtonian science can explain. As I said in The Thoughtful Guide, quantum physics provides a plausible explanatory hypothesis that ought to satisfy both scientists and religious adherents. I don’t know how much empirical evidence the sceptics will need to be convinced. I guess it’s like scripture. People know it’s rationally nonsensical, but they still want to believe their fairy stories and fantasies. If they would accept scripture as myth or allegory, everybody should be happy. There’s a good book published in a new edition recently by Robert Hinde: Why Gods Persist (Routledge) about why people persist in believing in nonsensical scripture as if it represents some kind of truth - scientific or historical.
All good wishes
Excellent support of ‘life after death’which I proved in 1946/54 through meeting, in good red light, 1500 solid etoplasmic materialisations in our Home Circle with my mother Minnie Harrison our remarkable medium.
Tom Harrison, Tue 13 Jul, 08:55
All the spirit people were accepted by relatives or close friends who came as guest sitters. More details and special photos in my book ‘Life after Death - Physical Proof’ available through Amazon.com
Thanks for such a splendid book Mike. Regards Tom
Interesting piece Michael. Stephen E. Braude in his book “Immortal Remains” has several pages devoted to transplant cases. The 4 cases he cites are the most interesting ones I have read about. It’s difficult to pick the best one but one I like concerns a 7-month-old boy who received a heart transplant from another child. After the transplant the recipient exhibited specific behaviors of the donor. Braude reports that the recipient’s mother reported that “When we went to church together, Carter (the recipient) had never met Jerry’s (the donor) father. We came late and Jerry’s dad was sitting with a group of people in the middle of the congregation. Carter let go of my hand and ran right to that man. He climbed on his lap, hugged him and said “Daddy”. We were flabbergasted. How could he have known him? Why did he call him Dad? He never did things like that. He would never let go of my hand in church and never run to a stranger. When I asked him why he did it, he said he didn’t. He said Jerry did and he went with him.” The other 3 cases are equally interesting. - Amos
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 13 Jul, 06:35
Please inform me of all further news and comments
R. Dean Ludden, Tue 13 Jul, 05:04
on this subject. Thank you.
MIke, how do you do it? Van Lommel’s book is not even published in England - at least my pre-order copy has yet to arrive - and yet here you are summarising its findings already. Amazing!
I’ve spoken with Pim van Lommel on his research, and the impression I gained, last year at least, is that he was not willing to endorse the notion of an afterlife, while at the same time he was willing to acknowledge consciousness existing outside the body. So when my book arrives, I’ll be more than a little interested to see whether he now endorses the afterlife without reservation, rather than simply seeing it as ‘a possibility’..
Keith P, England., Tue 13 Jul, 00:50
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