Near Death Experiences and the Afterlife
Join Magis on a journey to explore and unpack the supporting evidence for the transphysical and an afterlife, 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
- 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 series, 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.
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
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.”
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.