While many “experts” continue to suggest that malfunctioning brains produce near-death experiences, the evidence is now overwhelming that this is not the case. Be sure to check out this related resource page: How To Deal With Skeptics & Atheists.
“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
— Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976), Nobel Prize in Physics 1932
Decoding Death: The Science and Significance of Near Death Experiences
By Ashley Walters
May 12, 2017 (originally aired December 7, 2016)
Guests in this episode:
Judy Bachrach is a journalist for Vanity Fair and the author of Glimpsing Heaven: The Stories and Science of Life After Death, published by National Geographic, 2014.
Gregory Shushan is a comparative religions scholar at the University of Wales and the author of Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations: Universalism, Constructivism and Near-Death Experiences published by Continuum, 2011.
Bruce Greyson is a professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is editor of The Handbook of Near Death Experiences: 30 Years of Investigation, published by Praeger, 2009.
Sam Parnia is a critical care doctor and cardiac arrest researcher in Long Island, New York. He’s also a specialist in resuscitation science. His book Erasing Death: The Science That is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life & Death is published by HarperCollins, 2014.
Jan Holden is a near death researcher at the University of North Texas and the editor of The Handbook of Near Death Experiences: 30 Years of Investigation published by Praeger, 2009.
Pim van Lommel is a cardiologist and near death researcher in the Netherlands. His book Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience is published by HarperCollins, 2014.
Patricia Pearson is a writer based in Toronto and the author of Opening Heaven’s Door: What the Dying May Be Trying To Tell Us About Where They’re Going, published Penguin Random House Canada, 2014.
Gerald Woerlee is an anaesthesiologist in the Netherlands and the author of Mortal Minds: The Biology of Near Death Experiences published by Prometheus Books, 2005.
The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences
By Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, Rudolf H. Smit, Robert G. Mays, Janice Miner Holden
Are near-death experiences (NDEs) just elaborate hallucinations produced by a dying brain? Or the exuberant fantasies of attention-seeking narcissists? As the accounts in this book abundantly demonstrate: Neither!
This book contains over 100 reliable, often firsthand accounts of perceptions during NDEs that were later verified as accurate by independent sources. These near-death experiencers were everyday people from all over the world — many of whom were clinically dead, unable to see or hear, and yet able to perceive new vistas of a world beyond the senses and even beyond death.
The Self Does Not Die is a trailblazing effort to present the most confirmed cases of consciousness beyond death ever compiled. In these cases, the authors have gone back to the original sources, the people involved in each case, whenever possible, rather than relying on secondhand sources. In so doing, they have assembled a unique collection of empirical data that any scholar worthy of the name must take into account.
By carefully studying and describing many convincing and corroborated cases, during cardiac arrest and other cases, the authors conclude that there are good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not always coincide with the functioning of our brain: Enhanced consciousness can sometimes be experienced separately from the body.
This book is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about this fascinating subject with its implications about the very nature of human consciousness and its survival of physical death. It has the potential to radically change the currently still widely accepted materialist paradigm in science.
Four-Year International Study Indicates Consciousness Survives Brain Shutdown
Survival of consciousness after brain shutdown has now been proven by a four-year international study of 2,060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals around the world. Read the scholarly peer-reviewed paper published in The Journal Resuscitation. Download a pdf version of the study here.
• This is largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences
• The 2,060 cardiac arrest cases that were studied come from hospitals in the Great Britain, theUnited States, and Australia
• Of the 2,060 cardiac arrest patients studied, 330 survived and 140 (or 40 percent) said they had experienced some kind of awareness during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted
• One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room
• Although many could not recall specific details, some themes emerged: One in five said they had felt an unusual sense of peacefulness; nearly one third said time had slowed down or speeded up; some recalled seeing a bright light, golden flash or the sun shining; others recounted feelings of fear or drowning or being dragged through deep water; 13 per cent said they had felt separated from their bodies and the same number said their sensed had been heightened.
• To test whether or not patients actually left their bodies, each hospital installed between 50 and 100 shelves in areas where cardiac arrest resuscitation was deemed likely to occur. Each shelf contained one image which was only visible from above the shelf. Each image was different and included a combination of nationalistic and religious symbols, people, animals, and major newspaper headlines. Despite the installation of approximately 1,000 shelves across the participating hospitals, only 22% of the cardiac arrest events actually took place in the critical and acute medical wards where the shelves had been installed. Consequently over 78% of cardiac arrest events took place in rooms without a shelf. The report does not indicate if any patients saw these images.
For more information about this important study, go here.
Is Consciousness Produced by the Brain?
Dr. Bruce Greyson, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, speaking at the “Cosmology and Consciousness Conference – Mind and Matter” in India in 2011.
Glimpses of Eternity
By Raymond Moody
Raymond Moody, author of the multimillion copy best-seller, Life After Life, reveals new results from his lifelong investigation of what happens when we die. Raymond Moody revolutionized the way we think about death with his first book, Life After Life, which was stories of people who died and then returned to life. Going through a tunnel, encountering an angelic being or having an out-of-body experience are hallmarks of what Moody termed a ‘near-death experience.’ Since the publication of his multimillion copy best-seller, hundreds of thousands of people have contacted Moody to share their own experiences. The startling pattern that Moody discovered is that at the time of death, loved ones also have inexplicable experiences. Glimpses of Eternity is the first book to talk about the phenomenon of ‘shared death experiences.’ Readers will discover deathbed moments when entire families see the light or the room changes shape. Others tell of seeing a film like review of a loved one’s life and learning things that they could never have known otherwise. The stories are at once a comfort and a mystery, giving us a new understanding of the journey that we will take at the end of our lives.
Excerpted from “Vital Signs”, the newsletter of the International Association for the Near-Death Studies, Inc. (IANDS), Spring 2012 Issue (Volume 31, Number 1)
Question: What’s the single most important thing that sticks with you from the last 30 years of NDE exploration?
Dr. Raymond Moody: “That’s a big one… You know, I think of something recent that I see as very important. I’ve sensed in the last five years or so that the scoffers are on the defensive… They’ve been rattled when I see them in the debates… there’s not this abrasive aggressiveness you used to see. It’s rather more like they feel they don’t know where they are and all their old arguments have run out.
“I think there’s been a turnaround in where the scoffers are now… they are on the defensive. I saw Sanjay Gupta on CNN a few months ago talking about NDEs with a skeptic… the guy was definitely intimidated by the physicians who were standing there saying “Holy Mackerel, what IS this?” And, you know, they were the experts on neurophysiology, so the pseudo-skeptic couldn’t really come back. So, confronted with your question, that’s what immediately comes to mind. I think we’ve seen the turn-around, where the ball is in their court to come up with something.”
Terminal Lucidity & Acquired Savant Syndromes
“To those still seduced by the simplistic notion that ‘the brain creates consciousness’ — those who might recoil when I mention that destruction of my neocortex greatly heightened my awareness — I would remind you of two commonly witnessed clinical phenomena that defy the simplistic brain-creates-mind model:
“1. TERMINAL LUCIDITY (in which demented elderly patients close to death often have astonishing cases of cognition, memory, insight, and reflection as they approach death, often at periods when they are fully aware of departed souls there to escort them to the spiritual realm);
“2. ACQUIRED SAVANT SYNDROMES (in which some form of brain damage — such as that seen in autism, head injury, or stroke — allows for some super-human mental capability such as advanced calculation abilities, intuition, musical abilities, or perfect memory of numbers, names, dates, or visual scenery).
“There is no explanation within our simplistic neuroscientific ideas of the brain to explain such extraordinary and counterintuitive observations.”
The Brain: The Power of Hope
By Scott Haig M.D.
January 29, 2007
David’s head was literally stuffed with lung cancer. I was called in to take care of his hip and pelvic bones broken by the growing metastases. His seeming nonchalance about the pain and the surgery was clearly out of concern for his beautiful, young family — his wife Carol, a nurse, and his three kids, who were there every night. He couldn’t keep up the carefree charade over the next two weeks, though, as his speech slurred, then became incoherent. He stopped speaking, then moving.
I dreaded making rounds on a patient for whom there was no good news, no good plan. When his doctors rescanned his head, there was barely any brain left. The cerebral machine that talked and wondered, winked and sang, the machine that remembered jokes and birthdays and where the big fish hid on hot days, was nearly gone, replaced by lumps of haphazardly growing gray stuff. Gone with that machine seemed David as well. No expression, no response to anything we did to him. As far as I could tell, he was just not there.
It was particularly bad in the room that Friday when I made evening rounds. The family was there, sad, crying faces on all of them. I fussed with the hip a bit. His respirations had become agonal — the gulping kind of breathing movement that immediately precedes death. I knew Carol had seen this and that she knew what it meant. I said something inane and slid out the door fast, looking importantly at the papers in my hand, striving for the nice, empty corridor. But Carol came after me, needing to catch me away from the kids. Her eyes red-rimmed, she asked me where her husband was. I had noticed the cross around her neck. I said I wasn’t sure where he was, but I was pretty sure where he was going. She wanted to believe me, and I think she did.
Saturday morning the sun poured in as I checked the room. The bed was at chest height, made up and empty, with clean, fresh sheets over the vinyl mattress. As I turned to leave, I was blocked by a nurse, an older Irish lady with a doleful look on her face. She had taken care of David last night.
“He woke up, you know, doctor — just after you left — and said goodbye to them all. Like I’m talkin’ to you right here. Like a miracle. He talked to them and patted them and smiled for about five minutes. Then he went out again, and he passed in the hour.” My eyebrows went up.
Two weeks later I saw Carol in the lobby. It was busy and very public. But before her last “God bless you,” I couldn’t help asking, “Uh. Carol, did …?”
She knew my question. With a wide, knowing smile, she nodded and said, “Oh, yes, he sure did.” And I believed her.
But it wasn’t David’s brain that woke him up to say goodbye that Friday. His brain had already been destroyed. Tumor metastases don’t simply occupy space and press on things, leaving a whole brain. The metastases actually replace tissue. Where that gray stuff grows, the brain is just not there.
What woke my patient that Friday was simply his mind, forcing its way through a broken brain, a father’s final act to comfort his family…
Science and the Soul
By Michael Egnor M.D., neurosurgeon and professor of neurological surgery and pediatrics at Stony Brook University
I watched the CAT scan images appear on the screen, one by one. The baby’s head was mostly empty. There were only thin slivers of brain — a bit of brain tissue at the base of the skull, and a thin rim around the edges. The rest was water.
Her parents had feared this. We had seen it on the prenatal ultrasound; the CAT scan, hours after birth, was much more accurate. Katie looked like a normal newborn, but she had little chance at a normal life. She had a fraternal-twin sister in the incubator next to her. But Katie only had a third of the brain that her sister had. I explained all of this to her family, trying to keep alive a flicker of hope for their daughter.
I cared for Katie as she grew up. At every stage of Katie’s life so far, she has excelled. She sat and talked and walked earlier than her sister. She’s made the honor roll. She will soon graduate high school.
I’ve had other patients whose brains fell far short of their minds. Maria had only two-thirds of a brain. She needed a couple of operations to drain fluid, but she thrives. She just finished her master’s degree in English literature, and is a published musician. Jesse was born with a head shaped like a football and half-full of water — doctors told his mother to let him die at birth. She disobeyed. He is a normal happy middle-schooler, loves sports, and wears his hair long.
Some people with deficient brains are profoundly handicapped. But not all are. I’ve treated and cared for scores of kids who grow up with brains that are deficient but minds that thrive. How is this possible?
…the classical understanding of human nature is that we are free beings not subject to determinism. This understanding is the indispensable basis for human liberty and dignity. It is indispensable, too, for simply making sense of the world around us: among other things, for making sense of Katie.
I see her in my office each year. She is thriving: headstrong and bright. Her mother is exasperated, and, after seventeen years, still surprised. So am I.
There is much about the brain and the mind that I don’t understand. But neuroscience tells a consistent story. There is a part of Katie’s mind that is not her brain. She is more than that. She can reason and she can choose. There is a part of her that is immaterial — the part that Sperry couldn’t split, that Penfield couldn’t reach, and that Libet couldn’t find with his electrodes. There is a part of Katie that didn’t show up on those CAT scans when she was born.
Katie, like you and me, has a soul.
Dr. Laurin Bellg, A Critical Care Physician, Describes Several Veridical Experiences
Near Death In The ICU
By Laurin Bellg, MD
A phenomenal collection of medical patient accounts of encounters with the mysterious during severe illness and life-threatening injury from the voice of the physician who took care of them. Both touching and thought-provoking, this book invites you to reconsider what happens when we die, and in doing so, challenges you to ponder that perhaps we are much more than our earth-bound physical bodies.
Near-death experiences are often profoundly meaningful, yet when they are reported, they are frequently met with skepticism and dismissal by medical caregivers and family members. But do we have to fully understand these events to honor the transformative role they often play in the lives of those who experience them?
For nearly twenty years, Dr. Laurin Bellg has been present at the bedside of critically ill and dying patients. As she has worked to create an accepting and supportive relationship with them, her patients have shared with her the mysterious experiences they sometimes have during moments of crisis of apparently seeing beyond our physical world. In telling their engaging, powerful and sometimes humorous stories, Dr. Bellg invites the reader to consider that bearing witness to a patient’s near-death experience is a respectful and meaningful part of medical care, a way for families to support their loved ones, and an important part of the patient’s healing.
Mindsight: Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind
By Kenneth Ring
This book investigates the astonishing claim that blind persons, including those blind from birth, can actually “see” during near-death or out-of-body episodes. The authors present their findings in scrupulous detail, investigating case histories of blind persons who have actually reported visual experiences under these conditions.There is fascinating evidence that the blind do “see” in these moments, but it is not sight as we think of it. Ring and Cooper suggest a kind of “transcendental awareness” they refer to as Mindsight. It involves seeing in detail, sometimes from all angles at once, with everything in focus, and a sense of “knowing” the subject, not just visually, but with multisensory knowledge.Human beings may be more talented than we think, gifted with amazing abilities of perception. This book is an opportunity to assess the evidence for yourself.
Woman, Blind From Birth, Sees During NDE
Vicki Noratuk was born blind. In this Coast-To-Coast interview Vicki describes what it was like to experience sight for the first time. Then she goes on to describe encounters with Jesus, moving through hellish and heavenly realms, and being told she couldn’t stay on the other side because she was to become a mother and teach unconditional love and forgiveness. Jesus, according to Vicki, also told her to tell others about him and her experience: “let them know of this day and tell them that I AM”. To learn more about Vicki Noratuk, go here.
Excerpts from Dr. Penny Sartori’s new book, “The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences”
“Even more extraordinary is what happened to his right hand, which had been frozen since birth into a claw-like position.
“(This had been noted on his hospital admission form, and his sister has since signed a statement confirming it.)
“Yet, in front of me, soon after his near-death experience, Tom opened and flexed that same hand. This should not have been physiologically possible, as the tendons had permanently contracted. What had caused this sudden, seemingly spontaneous healing? Even now, science has no answers.
“But when you study near-death experiences, as I have for the past couple of decades, you grow used to phenomena that defy all rational explanation…”
Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience
By Pim van Lommel
As a cardiologist, Pim van Lommel was struck by the number of his patients who claimed to have near-death experiences as a result of their heart attacks. As a scientist, this was difficult for him to accept: Wouldn’t it be scientifically irresponsible of him to ignore the evidence of these stories? Faced with this dilemma, van Lommel decided to design a research study to investigate the phenomenon under the controlled environment of a cluster of hospitals with a medically trained staff.
For more than twenty years van Lommel systematically studied such near-death experiences in a wide variety of hospital patients who survived a cardiac arrest. In 2001, he and his fellow researchers published his study on near-death experiences in the renowned medical journal The Lancet. The article caused an international sensation as it was the first scientifically rigorous study of this phenomenon. Now available for the first time in English, van Lommel offers an in-depth presentation of his results and theories in this book that has already sold over 125,000 copies in Europe.
Van Lommel provides scientific evidence that the near-death phenomenon is an authentic experience that cannot be attributed to imagination, psychosis, or oxygen deprivation. He further reveals that after such a profound experience, most patients’ personalities undergo a permanent change. In van Lommel’s opinion, the current views on the relationship between the brain and consciousness held by most physicians, philosophers, and psychologists are too narrow for a proper understanding of the phenomenon. In Consciousness Beyond Life, van Lommel shows that our consciousness does not always coincide with brain functions and that, remarkably and significantly, consciousness can even be experienced separate from the body.
Dr. Eben Alexander’s Remarkable NDE
Concerning the near-death experience of Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr. Raymond Moody says “I have never heard one that comes near this. This is the most amazing story that I personally have heard in 50 years now of interest in this.” The October 15, 2012 edition of Newsweek ran a cover story on Dr. Eben Alexander’s near-death experience. Go here to read the Newsweek piece. To find out more about Dr. Alexander and his extraordinary near-death experience, go here. To order a copy of Dr. Alexander’s book, go here. To view our coverage of Dr. Alexander, including the controversial expose’ that Esquire published, go here. To learn about a comprehensive review by independent physicians of Alexander’s medical records that appears in the peer-reviewed Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, go here.
The scientific evidence for life after death.
• Explains why near-death experiences (NDEs) offer evidence of an afterlife and discredits the psychological and physiological explanations for them
• Challenges materialist arguments against consciousness surviving death
• Examines ancient and modern accounts of NDEs from around the world, including China, India, and many from tribal societies such as the Native American and the Maori
Predating all organized religion, the belief in an afterlife is fundamental to the human experience and dates back at least to the Neanderthals. By the mid-19th century, however, spurred by the progress of science, many people began to question the existence of an afterlife, and the doctrine of materialism — which believes that consciousness is a creation of the brain — began to spread. Now, using scientific evidence, Chris Carter challenges materialist arguments against consciousness surviving death and shows how near-death experiences (NDEs) may truly provide a glimpse of an awaiting afterlife. Using evidence from scientific studies, quantum mechanics, and consciousness research, Carter reveals how consciousness does not depend on the brain and may, in fact, survive the death of our bodies. Examining ancient and modern accounts of NDEs from around the world, including China, India, and tribal societies such as the Native American and the Maori, he explains how NDEs provide evidence of consciousness surviving the death of our bodies. He looks at the many psychological and physiological explanations for NDEs raised by skeptics — such as stress, birth memories, or oxygen starvation — and clearly shows why each of them fails to truly explain the NDE. Exploring the similarities between NDEs and visions experienced during actual death and the intersection of physics and consciousness, Carter uncovers the truth about mind, matter, and life after death.
• Science and the Afterlife Experience (book)
• Science and the Near-Death Experience (book)
• Science and Psychic Phenomena (book)
• Why Materialist Science Cannot Explain Near-Death Experiences
• Science & The NDE: Chris Carter On Skeptiko
• Book Review: Science And The Near-Death Experience
• New Book: ‘Brain Wars’ on NDEs
Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death
By Sam Parnia, Josh Young
No one comes face-to-face with death more often than Dr. Sam Parnia, founder of the AWARE Study (AWAreness during REsuscitation), and one of the world’s leading experts on the scientific study of death, the human mind-brain relationship, and near-death experiences.
Based on cutting-edge research in the science of death, Erasing Death is evidence that we are making previously unthinkable technological progress in our battle against death, and still more radical victories await us. With Dr. Parnia at the forefront, we may be on the verge of inadvertently discovering a new universal science of consciousness that reveals the nature of mind and the so-called human soul.
Science and Postmortem Survival
Talk by Dr. Bruce Greyson
Society for Scientific Exploration
May 12, 2010
Bruce Greyson, M.D., is the Chester F. Carlson Professor of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences and Director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. Dr. Greyson graduated from Cornell University with a major in psychology, received his medical degree from the State University of New York Upstate Medical College, and completed his psychiatric residency at the University of Virginia. He has spent the last three decades investigating near-death experiences. In this sweeping talk, Dr. Greyson discusses what science has learned from three different lines of investigation into postmortem survival. For the purposes of this resource page, the video below includes Dr. Greyson commenting on a Cambridge college student who was missing most (if not all) of his cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex, of course, plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. This extraordinary case is referenced between 4:18 and 5:02 in the video below. To watch Dr. Greyson’s complete talk, go here.
Near-Death Experiences of Groups of People
People in heavenA more interesting and rare type of NDE is called the “group near-death experience”. This is a phenomenon where a whole group of people have an NDE at the same time and location. They see each other outside of their bodies and have a shared or similar experience. P.M.H. Atwater gives a definition of a “Group NDE”:
“These are rare, but they do occur. With this kind, a whole group of people simultaneously seems to experience the same or similar episode. What makes these so spectacular and challenging is that all or most of the experiencers see each other actually leave their bodies as it happens, then dialogue with each other and share messages and observations while still experiencing the near-death state. Their separate reports afterward either match or nearly so. Reports like these emerge most often from events of a harrowing nature that involve a lot of people.
“Shared and group experiences imply that no matter how sure we are that near-death states mean this or that, and are the result of whatever, no single idea, theory, or pat answer can explain them. Even clues from the powerful patterning that researchers like myself have identified, fail to explain all aspects of the phenomenon.”
The following are excellent examples of group near-death experiences:
1. A Group of Firefighters Near-Death Experience
2. May Eulitt’s and Her Two Companions Group NDE
3. Steven Ridenhour and His Girlfriend’s Group NDE
4. Four Hospital Patients Group Near-Death Experience
People Who Were Atheists Before An NDE Caused Them To Abandon Materialistic Worldviews
• Howard Storm
• Nancy Rynes
• Tom Sawyer
• Barbara Harris Whitfield
• George Rodonaia
• Arthur Yensen
• Louisa Peck
• Beverly Brodsky
• Ian McCormack
• Roger Ebert
• Yolaine Stout
• Dannion Brinkley
• Julie Aubier
• Ned Dougherty
• Louis Famoso
• Don Brubaker
• Joni Maggi
• Kerry Kirk
• Duane S
Other Links & Resources:
• Miraculous NDE Healings
• How To Deal With Skeptics & Atheists
• Scientific Evidence for Survival of Consciousness After Death (near-death.com)
• People Have Near-Death Experiences While Brain Dead (near-death.com)
• People Can Experience Someone Else’s Near-Death Experience (near-death.com)
• Near-Death Experiences of Groups of People (near-death.com)
• Key Facts about Near-Death Experiences – Correlations and Explanations (IANDS)
• Verified OBE (Out-Of-Body) Experiences
Recent Off-Site Articles:
• Mental Clarity During Near-Death Experiences Suggests Mind Exists Apart From Brain: Study (08/06/16)
• In Near-Death Experiences, Blind People See for First Time (07/30/16)
• Psychedelics Actually Reduce Activity In The Brain (04/18/16)
• Your Brain Might Be A Radio (2014)
• Memory Study: Near-Death Experiences More Vivid Than Real Life (04/05/13)