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NASA Briefs on Discovery of Seven Planets Orbiting Red Dwarf

1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist’s concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature on Feb. 23, 2017. Mission: Spitzer Space Telescope Instrument: TRAPPIST Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Yesterday NASA held a news briefing on the discovery of seven new planets orbiting a red dwarf star that’s just a “mere” 40 light years away from us. At least three of the planets are in the habitable zone, meaning that they have the potential for liquid water. Some of you may remember the article that we wrote for the Strange Notions blog in 2015 entitled, Is there Life Elsewhere in the Cosmos. The co-author of that article was University of Pennsylvania astrophysicist Marisa Cristina March. Dr. March does much of  her research at Chile’s Cerro Tololo Observatory, which is about a four hour drive from La Silla Observatory where three planets were first observed orbiting the star in May 2016. Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in conjunction with several ground telescopes not only confirmed the existence of two of these planets but discovered five additional ones.

In the 2015 article we looked at the possibility of life on planets outside of our solar system (i.e. exoplanets). Today’s announcement of multiple exoplanets located relatively close to us is exciting because it means that scientists will be able to potentially determine their atmospheric constituents and also whether any have liquid water on their surfaces.

Keep in mind that all of this is a far cry from discovering life “out there”, but the knowledge that there may be other planets capable of sustaining life is significant to how we view our place in the universe. Furthermore, because we are just at the beginning of this exciting field of exploration, expect to hear much more about exoplanets over the coming years and decades.

Summary of NASA’s announcement:

  • In May 2016 a Chilean based TRAPPIST (Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope) team detects 3 earth sized planets orbiting a red dwarf star.
  • Star is located 40 light years from earth (approx. 25 trillion miles).
  • The planetary system is named TRAPPIST-1.
  • NASA is confirming the presence of 2 of the original planets and 5 additional earth sized planets; three of which are within the habitable zone.
  • The star is not nearly as hot as our sun and the orbits of all seven planets are closer to it than the orbit of Mercury is to our sun.
  • Based on their densities, at least six of the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky.
  • The planets are so close to one another that  a person standing on the surface of one of them could gaze up and potentially see geological features or even clouds of their neighboring worlds.

For additional detail and links to other sources go to this issue of the daily newsletter Always Forward.

Here at Magis we’ll continue to keep you informed of discoveries and breakthroughs in physics, biology, neuroscience, and related fields that impact our understanding of God, creation, and the human person. Have a blessed day!

February 23rd, 2017|Categories: Discoveries and Breakthroughs|0 Comments

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences III.B: Visual Perception of the Blind during Clinical Death

As noted in previous posts (II.C), Ring, Cooper, and Tart (1999), and Van Lommel (2001) did focused studies on the near death experiences of the blind. 80% of these patients (many of whom were blind from birth) were able to see during their near death experience. These accounts show that patients who do not have the physical capacity to see – report visual data accurately about their experiences during clinical death. Some of this data is veridical (highly unusual and therefore difficult to guess).

Given the insurmountable difficulties of explaining this phenomenon physically (hallucinations, narcotics, oxygen deprivation, etc. – see below Section IV), it corroborates the likelihood of transphysical existence after clinical death. Furthermore, it shows the possibility of transphysical causes not only of consciousness, but also of vision, hearing, and memory. No adequate physical explanation has been offered for the visual perception of the blind during clinical death as will be discussed later in Part IV.

February 20th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|1 Comment

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences III: Three Kinds of Verifiable Evidence

As promised in our last post, we will now address the three ways of verifying the transphysical nature of near death experience reports:

  1. Veridical reported data (all major longitudinal studies)
  2. Visual perception of blind (primarily Ring and van Lommel)
  3. Personal information about deceased individuals (primarily Greyson 2010, van Lommel 2010, Moody 1993, Cook et al 1998, and Kelly et al 2000)

As will be seen, each of these kinds of evidence can be verified by independent researchers after the fact, and all of them are exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) to explain by merely physical or physiological theories (such as hallucinations, anoxia, narcotics, etc. — see below section IV). We will examine each kind of evidence, and then assess the combined data.

III.A  Reported Veridical Data

Frequently during near death experiences, the transphysical component leaves the body, but does not go immediately to an other-worldly domain. Instead, it remains in the resuscitation room or in close or remote proximity to the body. As noted above, this transphysical component is self-conscious, and can see, hear, and remember. Its memories can be recalled after patients return to their bodies. Some of these reports have highly unusual or unique characteristics which are not part of ordinary resuscitation or hospital procedures. Many of these reports can be verified by independent researchers after patients return to their bodies. When all of these conditions have been met, and the unusual accounts have been verified to be 100% accurate, they are termed “veridical.” Virtually every peer-reviewed study reports multiple instances of such veridical data. The following cases typify a much larger array of reports, many of which have been assessed by Dr. Janice Holden (see above Section II.E).

In the Pim van Lommel study cited above (Section II.B), one man who had been in a deep coma, later told a nurse that he recognized her and saw where she had placed his dentures during resuscitation efforts, and even described the cart into which she placed them.  They were there, precisely as he described it.

Melvin Morse and Kim Clark report that a woman had knowledge of a shoe on a window ledge outside the hospital (not near the room where the patient was resuscitated, but next to a third-floor office where she was being interviewed). The psychologist who did the interview (Kim Clark) had to crawl along the ledge outside her window to verify the claim. The shoe was indeed there precisely as the patient had described it.  Though the shoe could have been seen from a window, the detail with which the NDE patient described it could not have been detected from that window (a worn little toe, a shoelace beneath the heel, etc.). Clark concluded that:

The only way she [the patient] could have had such a perspective was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe. I retrieved the shoe and brought it back to Maria; it was very concrete evidence for me.

Raymond Moody also reports similar veridical out-of-body experiences,  the most frequent of which are people who leave the operating room (after seeing the resuscitation efforts going on) and visit their relatives and friends in hospital waiting rooms (literally moving through walls). One patient reported seeing her young daughter wearing mismatched plaids (which was highly unusual and only knowable if she had actually been in the waiting room). Another woman overheard her brother-in-law talking to a business associate in the hospital waiting room in a very derogatory manner, and was able to report this back to him later.

Dr. Bruce Greyson (Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the University of Virginia) also reported several instances of accurate veridical data reported by patients after clinical death. He notes:

[veridical reports concern] only descriptions of extremely low antecedent probability that have been cited, such as one woman’s accurate description of the plaid shoelaces on a nurse participating in her resuscitation (Ring and Lawrence, 1993), or one man’s accurate description of his cardiac surgeon during his open-heart surgery ‘‘flapping his arms as if trying to fly’’ (Cook, Greyson, and Stevenson, 1998, p. 399), hardly the type of behavior typically shown in media portrayals of open-heart surgery. Both of these examples, incidentally, were corroborated by independent interviews with the doctors and nurses involved. In a specific test of ability of patients to imagine accurate resuscitation scenarios, Michael Sabom (1981, 1982) found NDErs’ descriptions of their resuscitations to be highly accurate with specific veridical details, whereas those of resuscitated patients who did not report NDEs but were asked to imagine what their resuscitations must have looked like were vague and contained erroneous specifics.

These are but a few examples of veridical data reported by patients in virtually every major study of near death experiences. They corroborate the validity of patients’ claims to have been in an out-of-body state (with sensorial capabilities). The accuracy of veridical data from multiple studies was correlated by Dr. Janice Holden (see Section II.E above) using the strictest criteria. As noted above, she determined that the vast majority of veridical data were reported perfectly accurately – with only 8% having some inaccuracy.

These findings lend considerable probative force to the survival of human consciousness after bodily death, because they cannot be explained by physical causation. They apparently require a capacity to see and hear independently of the physical body, which cannot be explained by a physical model alone (such as hallucination arising out of narcotics, oxygen deprivation, revival of brain cells and neural functions). Dr. Mario Beauregard, Dr. Pim van Lommel, and Dr. Bruce Greyson have shown the vast differences between near death experiences and proposed physical explanations – like hallucinations (see below Section IV). Such hallucinatory activity is qualitatively different from NDEs. Moreover, unlike NDEs, hallucinations are random, sporadic, and highly inaccurate (which will be discussed in Part IV).

Our next post — III.B — will be on the Visual Perception of the Blind during Clinical Death, and the impact that data makes on the hypotheses that there is a transcendent reality.

February 18th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|1 Comment

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences II.E: Dr. Janice Holden’s Assessment of 39 NDE Studies

Dr. Janice Holden made a compendium of 107 cases in thirty-nine studies by thirty-seven authors in 2007, in which veridical (verifiable) experiences were reported. She concluded as follows:

Using the most stringent criterion – that a case would be classified as inaccurate if even one detail was found to not correspond to reality – Holden found that only 8 percent involved some inaccuracy.  In contrast, 37 percent of the cases – almost five times as many – were determined to be accurate by an independent objective source, such as the investigation of researchers reporting the cases.

The other 55% did not involve inaccuracies, but could not be completely independently verified by other sources. Therefore, of the 48 cases (45% of Holden’s sample) qualifying as veridical (an unusual or unique report corroborated by an independent source), 8 cases (17%) had some inaccuracy while 40 cases (83%) were reported completely accurately (using the strictest criteria).

It is difficult to believe that this degree of verifiably accurate reporting which occurred at a time when there was no electrical activity in the cortex can be attributed to a physical or physiological cause. In view of this, as well as the fact that many of the reported incidents reached beyond bodily capabilities of the patient, it is not unreasonable to conclude that these perceptions (as well as the self-consciousness which accompanied them) existed independently of bodily function, and could therefore, persist after bodily death.

To cover all bases, our next post will be a recap on the three kinds of verifiable evidence derived from these previously discussed studies.

February 16th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|0 Comments

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences II.D: Consistency of Data in Moody, Ring, and van Lommel

In our last post we looked at Dr. Kenneth Ring’s studies of the near death experiences of individuals born blind. Now we’ll take a look at the data found in Moody’s, Ring’s, and van Lommel’s studies and see how they all compare.

In 1978, Dr. Raymond Moody wrote his first study of near death experiences entitled Life After Life. It was based on more than 100 case studies, but left several questions unanswered while revealing the need for a more sophisticated longitudinal study. Between 1978 and 1988, he completed that study after interviewing more than 1,000 patients who had had a near-death experience.  He noticed that patients having near-death experiences reported having one or more of the following nine characteristics (seven of which seem to be unique to NDEs):

  1. A sense of being dead
  2. Peace and painlessness
  3. The tunnel experience
  4. People of light
  5. The Being of Light
  6. The life review
  7. Rising rapidly into the heavens
  8. Reluctance to return
  9. Out of body experiences/different time and place.

Moody’s findings closely correlate with Ring’s and van Lommel’s.  Ring divides his study into five stages of near-death experiences, while van Lommel divides his findings into ten features of near-death experiences.  Ring’s stages are as follows:

  1. Peace 60%
  2. Bodily separation 37%
  3. Darkness/tunnel 23%
  4. Light/beings of light 16%
  5. Inner setting/paradise 10%

Notice the correlation with van Lommel’s features:

  • Awareness of being dead: 50% — (not reported by Ring)
  • Positive emotions: 56% — (compared to Ring’s 60% for what he describes as “peace”)
  • Out of body experience: 24% — (compared with 37% in Ring’s study)
  • Moving through a tunnel: 31% — (compared with 23% in Ring’s study)
  • Communication with light: 23% — (compared with 16% in Ring’s study)
  • Observation of colors: 23% — (not reported by Ring)
  • Observation of a celestial landscape: 29% — (compared with 10% in Ring’s study)
  • Meeting with deceased persons: 32% — (not reported by Ring, but reported by Moody)
  • Life review: 13% — (not reported by Ring)
  • Presence of border: 8% — (not reported by Ring)

Evidently, the larger, more longitudinal study of Dutch patients experienced the tunnel, being/beings of light, and celestial landscapes more often than the smaller, less longitudinal, American group; while the American group experienced out-of-body survival more often. The differences in the data may be explained by the fact that most patients only experienced some of the above-mentioned features of near death experiences.

In our next post, we’ll reference Dr. Janice Holden, and her assessment of 39 studies on near-death experiences to further verify our hypotheses made on the topic thus far.

February 13th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|0 Comments

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences II.C: Dr. Kenneth Ring’s Studies of the Blind

Now let’s take a closer look at Dr. Kenneth Ring’s findings regarding his studies on near-death experiences, especially regarding those experienced by individuals born blind.

Ring, Cooper, and Tart (1999), also reported in Ring and Valarino (2006), focused their research on near death experiences of the blind. Ring, Cooper, and Tart studied 31 blind patients (21 of whom had a near death experience and 10 of whom had out-of-body experiences only).  Of these 31, 14 were blind from birth and evidently had no experience of seeing, and 17 had some experience of seeing in the past (though they were blind at the time of their near death experience or out-of-body experience). Ring summarizes his findings as follows:

Among those narrating NDEs, not only did their experiences conform to the classic NDE pattern, but they did not even vary according to the specific sight status of our respondents; that is, whether an NDEr was born blind or had lost his or her sight in later life, or even (as in a few of our cases) had some minimal light perception only, the NDEs described were much the same. Furthermore, 80 percent of our thirty-one blind respondents claimed to be able to see during their NDEs or OBEs, and, like Vicki and Brad, often told us that they could see objects and persons in the physical world, as well as features of otherworldly settings.

Ring, Cooper, and Tart also found that the quality of perception was quite high among the majority of blind patients who reported seeing during their near-death experience:

How well do our respondents find they can see during these episodes? We have, of course, already noted that the visual perceptions of Vicki and Brad were extremely clear and detailed, especially when they found themselves in the otherworldly portion of their near-death journey. While not all of our blind NDErs had clear, articulated visual impressions, nevertheless enough of them did, so that we can conclude that cases like Vicki’s and Brad’s are quite representative in this regard.

What about the 20 percent who reported that they could not remember themselves seeing? There are two explanations:  (1) they did not, in fact see anything during their near-death experience, or (2) even though they seem to have had some kind of perception, they did not recognize it as “seeing.” Ring comments about the latter phenomenon with respect to one of his patients as follows:

As one man, whom we classified as a nonvisualizer, confessed, because ‘I don’t know what you mean by seeing,’ he was at a loss to explain how he had the perceptions he was aware of during his NDE.

This study is particularly important, because there is no physical explanation for the phenomenon described by it. The sight of these patients was completely impaired or almost completely impaired – in their physical bodies. Thus the only explanation for their sight would seem to be the capacity for visual perception in their transphysical state. This requires their continued existence after bodily death.

In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at the consistency of data found in Moody’s, Ring’s, and van Lommel’s studies and how it further supports the arguments for an existing spiritual realm and transphysical human soul.

February 11th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|0 Comments

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences II.B: The van Lommel et al Study

The second of 4 studies we will be reviewing for this particular topic is the van Lommel et al Study.

The Lancet (Britain’s most prestigious medical journal) reported the findings of a longitudinal study of near death experiences carried out by four researchers in Holland. The study surveyed 344 cardiac patients who were successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest in ten Dutch hospitals. It compared demographic, medical, pharmacological, and psychological data between patients who reported near death experiences and patients who did not (controls) after resuscitation. It studied life changes after NDEs, and compared the groups two and eight years later.

This study found that 62 adult patients (18% — roughly one out of every five) resuscitated from cardiac arrest experienced an NDE with some of the characteristics described above. No patients reported distressing or frightening NDEs. The 18% positive response does not necessarily mean that the others did not have an NDE. In fact, Parnia et al. believe that many of those who could not remember having an NDE may have been adversely affected by morphine or other medications administered during the resuscitation procedure.  There may be other mitigating factors such as age or prolonged CPR, and some may have been unwilling to recount it (for fear of being thought to be unbalanced). This percentage enabled the van Lommel researchers to conclude that the experiences associated with NDEs were not likely to have been caused by physiology alone:

With a purely physiological explanation such as cerebral anoxia for the experience, most patients who have been clinically dead should report one.

The researchers concluded from this:

Our most striking finding was that Near-Death Experiences do not have a physical or medical root. After all, 100 percent of the patients suffered a shortage of oxygen, 100 percent were given morphine-like medications, 100 percent were victims of severe stress, so those are plainly not the reasons why 18 per cent had Near-Death Experiences and 82 percent didn’t. If they had been triggered by any one of those things, everyone would have had Near-Death Experiences.

Van Lommel’s rationale does not conclusively rule out a physiological explanation of near death experiences, because there might be other physical factors beyond those mentioned in his study. However when van Lommel’s rationale is combined with the three kinds of verifiable evidence (discussed in Section III below), it virtually rules out the possibility of a purely physiological explanation of near death experiences, indicating the survival of human consciousness after clinical death.

Of the 62 patients reporting an NDE, all of them experienced some of the following ten characteristics, according to the following distribution:

  1. Awareness of being dead (50%)
  2. Positive emotions (56%)
  3. Out of body experience (24%)
  4. Moving through a tunnel (31%)
  5. Communication with light (23%)
  6. Observation of colors (23%)
  7. Observation of a celestial landscape (29%)
  8. Meeting with deceased persons (32%)
  9. Life review (13%)
  10. Presence of border (8%)

This study also reported corroborative veridical out-of-body experiences. These experiences enabled patients to have sensorial knowledge which they were not able to have through their physical bodies. In other words, if these patients had not been in an “out-of-body” state, they would never have been able to experience the data they accurately reported.

The corroborated veridical sensorial knowledge by both sighted and blind patients is very significant because there does not appear to be any physical explanation for these corroborated phenomena, leading to the conclusion that there must be some form of nonphysical conscious existence (including self-consciousness, memory, intelligence, and self-identity). Van Lommel and his team conclude as follows:

How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG? . . . Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience.  NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation.  In our prospective study of patients that were clinically dead (flat EEG, showing no electrical activity in the cortex and loss of brain stem function evidenced by fixed dilated pupils and absence of the gag reflex) the patients report a clear consciousness, in which cognitive functioning, emotion, sense of identity, or memory from early childhood occurred, as well as perceptions from a position out and above their ‘dead’ body.

Notice that van Lommel’s study indicates that blind people see during clinical death. This finding is corroborated in greater detail by Dr. Kenneth Ring and his team, which we will discuss in our next post, “Part II.C Dr. Kenneth Ring’s Studies of the Blind”.

February 9th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|0 Comments

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences II: Four Important Studies

In this post we will look at the first of four studies that shed crucial light on the topic of near-death experiences.

The studies of Dr. Sam Parnia et al. (2014), Dr. Pim van Lommel et al (2001), Dr. Kenneth Ring et al (2006), and Dr. Janice Holden (2007), provide significant verifiable evidence of survival of human consciousness after clinical death. There are many other careful studies that corroborate and extend their findings not explicitly discussed in this article, but are important for readers interested in more extensive research. The following studies are fully cited in the References to this book: Basford 1990, Fenwick & Fenwick 1995, Greyson & Flynn 1984, Roberts & Owen 1988, Sabom 1982, and Zaleski 1987. Dr. Bruce Greyson and Dr. Emily Kelly have made longitudinal studies of near death phenomena (with control groups) at the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies (in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine) which is partially dedicated to the scientific study of near death experiences.

II.A The Parnia-Southampton University Study (2014)

In 2014, scientists under the direction of Dr. Sam Parnia at Southampton University completed the largest study of near death experiences. It was a 4-year study of 2,060 patients who had suffered cardiac arrest in hospitals in the U.S., U.K., and Austria. The researchers found that 9% of the survivors (185 patients) had a near death experience, though many more—an additional 30% (618 patients) had some sense of postmortem consciousness and feelings which did not meet the full description of an NDE (see above, Section l). Some of the patients (who had an NDE) maintained visual awareness for up to three minutes after cardiac arrest – long after the brain shuts down (occurring 20-30 seconds after cardiac arrest).

This study advanced those of van Lommel, Ring, and Holden by taking account of experiential markers showing how long patients maintain awareness after clinical death (after electrical activity in the brain is almost completely absent). For example, a patient reported hearing two “bleeps” from a machine that sounds in 3-minute intervals, revealing that he maintained awareness for more than three minutes after cardiac arrest. This patient was not only aware of sounds in the room, but was also able to accurately report with heightened visual acuity what was going on in the operating room. The events reported were verified by researchers after resuscitation.

In our next post we will discuss the second of the four studies — the van Lommel et al Study — and its significant contributions to the topic of near-death experiences.

February 6th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|0 Comments

Evidence of the Soul and Heaven from Near Death Experiences I: Definitions and Descriptions

Introduction

As the title suggests, this particular post will attempt to breach the topic of supporting evidence for the transphysical derived from scientific studies of near death experiences.

Citing the evidence of near-death experiences must be done with caution, because there are many books written on this subject that are not scientific or based on any clinical, cross-cultural, long term study, but rather on a few anecdotes taken to the extreme. Some of these nonscientific books have rather manipulative agendas, and some are quite cultic in character. These problematic accounts do not mitigate the excellent longitudinal studies that have been carried out by Parnia et al. at Southampton University (2014), van Lommel et al., reported in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, the two studies carried out by Kenneth Ring on near-death experiences, and his later study of near-death experiences of the blind, and Dr. Janice Holden’s analysis of veridical evidence in NDE’s from thirty-nine independent studies.  There are additional careful longitudinal studies cited in this Chapter, as well as many studies reported in the Journal of Near-Death Studies published by the International Association for Near-Death Studies (peer-reviewed).

Before responding to physicalists’ objections, we will want to clarify some terms and circumstances surrounding this remarkable entryway into the realm of survival of bodily death and the existence of transphysical consciousness.

I. Definitions and Descriptions

In 1982, a Gallup survey indicated that approximately 8 million adults in the United States had had a near-death experience (a significantly large population from which to take accurate samples).  The people sampled reported having some of the following eleven characteristics, eight of which appear to be unique to near-death experiences (in italics):

  • out of body experience
  • accurate visual perception (while out of body)
  • accurate auditory perception (while out of body)
  • feelings of peace and painlessness
  • light phenomena (encounter with loving white light)
  • life review
  • being in another world
  • encountering other beings
  • tunnel experience
  • precognition

According to the 2014 Parnia et al.-Southampton University Study, approximately 9% of adults have a near death experience after cardiac arrest (Von Lommel et al 2001 found that 18% had an NDE), and according to the International Association of Near Death Studies (that publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of Near Death Studies), approximately 85% of children have near death experiences.

The Transphysical Component of Near Death Experience

The transphysical component of a person having a near death experience may be described as follows: when a person undergoes clinical death (defined below), a transphysical component of that person leaves the physical body (frequently through a tunnel), emerging outside the physical body, and frequently looking down upon it. This transphysical component is completely intact without the physical body, and it is self-conscious and capable of seeing and hearing (without the biological organs associated with those functions). This transphysical component retains all its memories, and appears to have acute recall and memory functions (without use of the brain). It is aware of itself and its identity and its distinction from others – but it is more than self-consciousness. It has a remnant of its former embodiment – particularly the presence and sense of extendedness. Though it is not physical (constituted by and subject to the laws of physics), it is like an ethereal remnant of the physical body. It is not limited by physical laws (such as gravity), or the restrictions imposed by physical mass (such as walls or roofs). It can be called into a spiritual or heavenly domain in which it can encounter spiritual beings like itself (in human form) as well as wholly transcendent beings greater than itself (such as a loving white light). It can communicate with these beings without the use of voice and sounds. Though it has autonomy and self-identity, it does not have control over most dimensions of the out of body experience; for example, it is moved outside of its body, transported to a transphysical domain, and called back into its body by some higher transphysical power. In order to distinguish it from its former physical manifestation, I will refer to it as “a transphysical component.”

Clinical Death

After a heart attack, drowning, or significant trauma, people frequently undergo severe oxygen deprivation leading to a gradual reduction of electrical activity in the brain, resulting in a “shutdown” of higher cerebral functioning as well as most functions of the lower brain (after 20 to 30 seconds). This phenomenon is marked by a flat EEG (electroencephalogram) indicating an absence of electrical activity in the cerebral cortex (generating higher cerebral functioning) and the absence of gag reflex as well as fixed and dilated pupils, indicating a significant reduction of lower brain functioning. In this state, sensory organs are non-functional, both in themselves, and in the brain’s capacity to process their signals. Furthermore, higher cerebral functions such as thinking, processing memories, and linguistic functions would either be completely absent or reduced to insignificance. Lower brain activity is also minimized, though there may be some sporadic and minimal “sputtering” of pockets of deep cortical neurons in those areas.

Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon and professor at the University of Virginia Medical School, who underwent a severe coma from encephalitis (and was monitored throughout his comatose state), described it as follows:

My synapses—the spaces between the neurons of the brain that support the electrochemical activity that makes the brain function — were not simply compromised during my experience. They were stopped. Only isolated pockets of deep cortical neurons were still sputtering, but no broad networks capable of generating anything like what we call ‘consciousness’. The E. coli bacteria that flooded my brain during my illness made sure of that. My doctors have told me that according to all the brain tests they were doing, there was no way that any of the functions including vision, hearing, emotion, memory, language, or logic could possibly have been intact.

In our next post on Part II of VI, we’ll take a closer look at the Parnia-Southampton University Study (2014) and the significant verifiable evidence it provides of survival of human consciousness after clinical death.

February 4th, 2017|Categories: Our Immortal Soul and Weakened Nature|0 Comments

Indication of the Interior Sense of God: #8 –The Awareness of & Desire for Perfect Home – Part III

We may now return to our original thought about how our desire for perfect home resembles our other four transcendental desires for perfect truth, love, justice-goodness, and beauty. The same familiar argument for God’s presence to us is evident. Let’s review – first, we desire perfect home, and we have the capacity to recognize every imperfection in home that we experience in others and the world. This provokes the question, “How can we recognize every imperfection in home if we do not have some awareness of what perfect home would be like?” Given that we do have such an awareness, we are led to the next question of how we came to it. Once again we see that it cannot come from the world around us, because this is precisely where we don’t feel perfectly at home. It can’t come from our brain because it is constituted by restricted physical structures and processes, and is therefore not perfect. And so, we conclude that it must come from perfect home itself.

Once again we use the same proof from unity and simplicity to show that perfect home itself is one and the same reality as perfect truth itself, perfect love itself, perfect goodness itself, and perfect beauty itself – namely, the same perfect cause – that is, God. At this juncture, we realize what Augustine discovered in his search for perfect home – namely that God is the source of our awareness of perfect home, and that his presence to our consciousness makes us transcendental – beyond the merely physical and imperfect world.

This last indication of God’s presence reveals something more — captured in the life of St. Augustine. God’s presence in our consciousness not only makes us transcendent, but also aware of the dignity and destiny that awaits us through his perfectly loving personal presence. When God makes himself present to us, we begin to yearn to be closer to him. This resembles the invitation of the mysterious transcendent being in Rudolf Otto’s numinous experience. Notice that this personal loving being does not force us to come to or relate to him. He has made us free, and waits for us to freely seek him. When we do not seek him, we feel that something of ultimate importance is missing – and so we feel an emptiness in the pit of our stomachs or a sense of loneliness in the whole of reality. God does not directly cause us to feel this cosmic emptiness and loneliness; His presence in us combined with our failure to seek him produces it. If we continue to ignore this interior calling, it can lead to deeper emptiness and loneliness – as it did for St. Augustine. But if we begin the search – examining the clues God has left in the universe and within our own consciousness – clues as diverse as the fine-tuning of universal constants, near death experiences, and the numinous experience – we will draw closer to perfect home, which will gradually lift the emptiness and loneliness. If like St. Augustine, we seek God in scripture, study, prayer, and the Church, the sense of being at home will increase – until eventually we will be able to say, “For Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

February 2nd, 2017|Categories: Is There a God|1 Comment