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Consciousness and near-death experiences – Pim van Lommel, M.D.

By Editorial Board - Jul 25, 2011 - Category Interviews - Print Print - Version française

What can we learn from near-death experiences (NDEs)?

According to cardiologist Pim van Lommel, M.D., author of Consciousness Beyond Life, the main difficulty is to understand what it means to be the witness of one’s own clinical death – a phenomenon that challenges ordinary logic.

In this two-part video of a discussion with Mel Van Dusen, Dr. van Lommel explains what brought him to believe that, unlike the body or the brain, consciousness is “non local”, and why he thinks this constitutes evidence that consciousness is not the mere product of neural activity but rather has a thoroughly autonomous mode of existence.

Yet NDEs are not only a scientific enigma: their far-reaching ethical and spiritual implications remain to be spelled out.

The prospective study carried out by Dr. van Lommel in the Netherlands, in collaboration with ten different clinics, showed that being exposed to a near-death experience is likely to open up a radically different perspective on life for those concerned. Floating between life and death, one gets a glimpse of a different relationship to time, space and one’s own “self”. Dr. van Lommel explains how the feeling of unity and connection that accompanies such an experience can foster new ethical awareness and transform one’s relationship with others.



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31 comments

  1. k Jul 26, 2011 11:44 am 1

    I am not an expert in grammar, but “non-local” is an adjective. Although consciousness is a noun, it is only the name of a quality or condition. But there must be some “thing”, which is called the Soul.

  2. maxfarsh Jul 28, 2011 5:51 pm 2

    Thank you for posting this fascinating interview. It greatly overlaps with some of the other recent presentations posted on this site, specially the recent lectures by Dr. Elahi.

    Several main points from this interview:
    *Consciousness is not a product of the biological brain and the brain is simply a receiver for consciousness.
    *However general dogma of scientists believes consciousness is based upon a biological phenomenon.
    *The word “perceive” is used rather than “seeing” which shows that the brain and its sensors (the eye) actually filters out information which may possibly be useful? That is the good doctor believes that consciousness is non-local (not bounded by space-time) while the human body and the brain actually filter it down so much that it becomes localized (like we are on this physical earth).
    Now a possible question of mine:
    *As I understoond the previous lecture of Dr. Elahi, it is practice of divine ethics and divine principles that expands this field of view. But here is the pardox for me, If we think of the Earth as a spiritual school, we need to have this space/time filtering and locality in order to expand our field of vision in terms of consciousness (self-knowledge) of our soul. But why go through this process which our field of vision is limited relative to its current capacity without the body?

  3. notodogma Jul 29, 2011 1:15 am 3

    @Maxfarsh,
    In my humble opinion, the good doctor, as you name him, has no clue about what consciousness really is and how it really works (neither do I).
    Throwing around “non locality” and quantum physics mumbo jumbo (the expert in the field being Chopra) doesn’t mean that it has anything to do with consciousness itself or with how it might really work. It might, but it might not at all. And there is no scientific, experimental proof for this, one way or the other.
    I actually find it disappointing that a “serious” scientist should set forth hypothesis as if they were facts. I think it weakens the rest of his arguments.
    More generally, it seems to me that the brain has to be far more than a mere filter or a mere “receiver”. Remember, it’s the most complex and powerful organism we know of, with perhaps 1000 trillion synapses. Far more complex than any interface or computing device man has ever devised (and probably ever will). All this for an interface? There has to be more to it (but that’s only my hunch). In any case, I would take Dr Lommel’s views with a grain of salt.

  4. maxfarsh Jul 29, 2011 6:42 pm 4

    @notodogma

    Thanks for your opinion. There is no doubt that the brain is a very complex and powerful orgranism. But to look at the words “complex” and “powerful” in more details. If it is the quantitative aspect, we can for example state that computer programs can outdo the brain in scientific computation, games of Chess, backgammon, Go, Checkers, etc. Of course this is a very recent phenomenon in human history and these programs were created by humans. However, one thing scientists have not been able to create or possibly even quantify is true creativity. They can make an adapative system (whose settings, parameters, weights etc. adapts based upon the outputs it receives in time/space in order wants to achieve/optimize its goal) but it not an intelligent/creative system that truely shows creativity.

    I do agree with you that currently we cannot prove if conscinousness is a product of the brain or not. As you noted there is no scientific and experimental proof. But these NDE experiences possibly point to the fact that consciousness is not connected to the brain. Of course, the question comes to the fact that are these patients telling the truth. Well, I do not see any reason why they would lie, but to make it more scientific, perhaps a lie detector test can be incorporated as well. Now we know scientifically at least that different areas of the brain lightup on an MRI when a person lies. Indeed, some governments have very strigent lie-detector test requirements for high security clearances. So lets assume for the sake of the argument that these people that experience NDE are correct. It seems that Dr. Lommel (and some groups of scientists) are stating that these NDE experiences (where a person has a panaromic 360-view or a blind person can see) cannot be explained via our current knowledge of biology. I think at least this weaker statement is agreeable. What hypothesis arise from this weaker statement may be seen as “mumbo-jumbo” or it may not be depending on your point of view.

    I conjecture (or firmly believe based on my religious convinction) that our limited consciousness is a projection from a higher dimensional space into the 4-D space-time world we live in. Consciousness is still a physical phenemon (since it obeys the laws of cause and effect which seems to be a funademntal axiom), but it seems to have been (in my opinion) reduced by its projection into this 4-D world. I have no scientific proof, but I go by analogy. In this case, since I can imagine (or even create) what a 1-D (line/range) or 2-D (range-time or range/angle) or 3-D (no time) plane may look like. If I lived in a very tight tunnel which is my height and width, then I go just simply move in range in this tight tunnel which bounds my body except in forward/backeward position. If we can imagine that a person is born in such a tunnel, then they will never know about up/down-left/right but only in 2-D space of forward/backward and time. Now all of the sudden you take them to our 4-D world and they will realize that they had a limited viewpoint. It seems very plausible (again not provable yet) that there should be more dimensions than the 4-D world we are familiar with. Our consciousness to seems to be trapped in our 4-D World (3-D+time). Again none of what I said is provable or unprovable.

    But these areas (which seem controversial in the scientific community) should be actively explored and discussed.

  5. NoToScientificDogma=k :-) Jul 30, 2011 12:26 am 5

    Funny thing, I was just out walking and I was thinking about this post. Among other things I was thinking: “where is notodogma hiding now” :-)

    Anyone not accepting that consciousness is independent of the brain is simply *dogmatic*. In fact, the assumption that the *brain* causes consciousness has never been a reasonable assumption. And this is because, as also mentioned in this interview, if you accept this hypothesis then it follows that there is no *free will*. And by accepting “no free will” you will have millions of contradictions and nothing will make any sense. So all these “scientists” trying to uphold materialism and free will at the same time are contradicting themselves and it is even *logically* more absurd then those assuming materialism and *no free will*. What I mean by that the latter group are less absurd is that they at least have a sound *logical* reasoning, but they just reach a self-evident false conclusion. Actually I am not sure which group (materialism + free will or materialism + no free will) is more absurd… Who cares, because materialism is absurd!
    The only reasonable thing to do is to accept *metaphysics* (read beyond + matter). This is the dictate of common sense.
    The discussion about a connection between quantum physics and consciousness is not for us to determine but for the physicist. But, if I recall correctly, I saw a video at the website Nour Foundation where a physicist (Henry P. Stapp) in a symposium at the UN advocated for this view. The name of the video is: “Mind-Body Connections: How Does Consciousness Shape the Brain?” You can find it at the video section at http://www.nourfoundation.com/ .
    But one thing is certain: the principle of causality is strictly valid. If anyone has an objection to this postulate I think it is good to write it so the discussion starts about this topic, because I think many essential questions are intertwined with this principle.
    Besides Dr. Lommel only said that the evidences from quantum physics support some of his findings. I do not understand notodogma’s negative perception that Dr. Lommel has set forth his hypothesis “as a fact”. It seems that Dr. Lommel is trying to make sense of the evidences that already exist…
    Also, all this that it has to be “proven” that consciousness continued to be after the brain was dead just shows what kind of dogmatic and fanatic people (fanatic in the bad way) we are dealing with.

    @notodogma
    A couple of question for you:
    1) Do you accept that you have free will? That is do you accept that you can determine your destiny to a certain limit by your own conscious choice?
    2) Did this “complex and powerful organism” (the brain) you refer to come be exist accidently? Now really, just stop *imitating* for a second and think about it.

    @Maxfarsh: Does reading page 20 in B. Elahi’s The Path of Perfection answer your question?

    *********************************************
    The thing I like about this post is how it stresses the “assumption” (=dogma in this case) that standard medical theory has regarding this issue.

    Regarding the complement I received from Jake about being a Spiritual Fanatic (with capital “F”): although it is tempting to get flattered and carried away, I must say be honest with myself and admit that I am only a superficial Spiritual fanatic and not a true one. And as I wrote before, by a Spiritual fanatic I mean, among other things, someone who is very serious in Spirituality and the term Spiritual fanatic is my own homemade terminology. Here is a definition of fanatic: a person who is extremely enthusiastic about something (http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/fANATIC). But one can never be “extreme” in Spirituality since one is striving for equilibrium. Does anyone disagree?

  6. notodogma Jul 30, 2011 5:26 pm 6

    @maxfarsh:
    “I conjecture (or firmly believe based on my religious conviction)”.
    Thank you for your honesty. That one should have religious convictions that affect one’s worldview is a natural phenomenon. Being able to distinguish between one’s convictions and one’s knowledge is, in my opinion, critical for any honest debate to take place, and I would venture, for any genuine self-knowledge to occur.
    For all I know, your conjectures may prove right in the end. For me, I may believe this or that, but I, and I think at this point in time, nobody really “knows”. Consciousness remains the ultimate mystery. And I am not impressed or swayed one way or the other by Dr Van Lommel’s work. Notably because, in my opinion, Dr Van Lommel is way too assertive about things he may “believe”, but has no “knowledge” about, namely, how things work, and the philosophical implications of his experiments.
    He should stick to the facts, and not get into a field that is definitely not his (physics), or even, metaphysics. He seems to have the answers to pretty much everything, and this worries me. This is not how true science operates. Start by saying “I don’t know”, and perhaps talk about a few hypothesis, but PLEASE, don’t speak as if it were obvious that consciousness is, for example, mediated through quantum phenomenons, and so on and so forth. Because then, you will start sounding like… a quack. And this is doing a disservice to the credibility of your work.
    @K: Kindly look up the definition of “dogmatism” and re-read your posts.

  7. notodogma Jul 30, 2011 6:17 pm 7

    @maxfarsh: just a quick point on your: “perhaps a lie detector test can be incorporated as well.”
    That wouldn’t help much. As any schizophrenic, lucid dreamer, consumer of hallucinogenic drugs, etc, will tell you, their delusions are more vivid and “true” than ordinary reality and experience.
    Believing that something is objectively real and true doesn’t make it so.
    Funny, this goes back to this belief vs objective truth/knowledge conundrum (and by the way, to answer one of K’s questions, this also applies to free-will. There are many things in this world we are subjectively certain about but objectively wrong. We are naturally deluded about many things. Free-will could very well be one of them, as many experiments show.)

  8. k Jul 31, 2011 1:18 am 8

    @Maxfarsh (comment 4):What do you need to be convinced that consciousness is not produced by the brain?!! If one looks at the evidences these doctors have/are collecting without prejudice then there is no room for not being convinced. These doctors have given solid counterarguments to those who try to maintain that consciousness is produced by the brain with some foolish theory about how these NDE etc are possible.

    There is no room for hesitation for a reasonable person. Besides, as I wrote in my previous comment the materialist assumption has never been reasonable. That is, even before these new NDE scientific talks- and this holds *no matter* how complex the brain is.
    Well the TV is quite complex too. And it is created by humans…So of course the brain is extremely complex when it is God who has created it.
    And if someone has a problem/allergy with the word God, then it is *your* problem; go find a cure for it!

  9. star Jul 31, 2011 10:07 am 9

    What is important in this lecture and all lectures in this forum is to ask ourselves what it teaches us about our spiritual destiny and about our spiritual growth…not whether Dr Pimmel is right or wrong or whether NDEs even exist! Even if one day someone presents definitive proof of the existence of NDE…or even the existence of God, not everyone will believe it! what matters is what it means to me and my life…

    so what does the fact that a subpopulation of human beings report experiencing NDE mean to me? well, for me it reminds me of Ostad Elahi’s teachings which suggest that we are more than a mere body made up of cells and a heartbeat!! that there is more to life than this earth. We are bi-dimensional beings made up of a body and a soul, and this soul is the permanent part of our consciousness. Furthermore, since our bodily life is temporary, we must remember to educate our souls in this world so as to make provisions for the other world (see Dr Bahram Elahi’s lectures on this site). That is what I take from these lectures and the ones offered by Nour Foundation website (www.nourfoundation.com).

  10. k Jul 31, 2011 5:18 pm 10

    In relation to comment 2: It does not matter whether Dr Lommel used the word “perceive” and not “seeing”. The soul has its own faculty of seeing, hearing etc and I think I would be equally correct to call these faculties the eyes of the soul, etc.

    The problem starts when people try want to learn spirituality from Dr Lommel. These doctors are presenting evidence that consciousness continued when, formally, the body (and brain) was clinically dead. There is no need to use his terminology in spiritual discussions. The other interesting thing about this post is that one hears these NDE accounts. Dr Sam Parina actually calls these experiences ACTUAL death experiences, since as mentioned these experiences happen when people are DEAD.

  11. k Jul 31, 2011 8:29 pm 11

    @notodogma:
    the definition is here (http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/dogmatic). The last part, which I think is the core of the definition, namely “…without paying attention to evidence or other opinions” does not describe me well if you are referring to that I am somehow dogmatic; because it is referring to that you hold on to your opinion even though evidence is pointing to another direction.

    I am only accepting the evidences and obviously I am well aware of other peoples opinions regarding these issues but just think they are, to put it mildly, irrational.

    How can one contemplate on that perhaps there is no free will and at the same time try to have rational discourses?! That does not make any sense… One has to take The Principle of the Middle Way as a bedrock fact. Well, it is possible to attack any evidence with some philosophical skepticism (“mumbo jumbo”). In fact one has to rule out philosophical skepticism (as a bedrock fact). Maybe you think I am dogmatic because I rule out the possibility of “no free will” and philosophical skepticism? But as I already made the allusion, it is paradoxical that you try to have “scientific talks” since, for example, by the “hallucination argument” you can attack whatever evidence you want (you can always make this “argument” more extreme).
    In fact, I usually stop the conversation when I hear people trying to make use of relativistic and skeptical (as the”hallucination argument”) arguments.
    Is there any principle that you take for given? Or maybe you are afraid of becoming dogmatic if you accept a (self-evident) principle?

    I still like my post. Maybe you should re-read it again.

  12. maxfarsh Aug 01, 2011 5:04 am 12

    Thanks to friends here for the interesting discussion. I would like to make a friendly advice for users to not put a pun on the username of other writers. Of course these discussions may turn passionate but one of the most important laws of spirituality (“The Golden Rule”) should be followed.

    Going back to my main point: “It seems that Dr. Lommel (and some groups of scientists) are stating that these NDE experiences (where a person has a panoramic 360-view or a blind person can see) cannot be explained via our current knowledge of biology.”.

    I think in reality if we consider the strict definition of science, this statement is agreeable, but I may be wrong. NoToDogma suggests biological reasons; or perhaps takes the approach that many mysteries in nature have not yet been explained and the brain is far more complex than we can imagine. It is hard to argue against this point. Ultimately, even if we assume consciousness is a non-biological phenomenon, there is still scientific basis for consciousness. That is why Dr. Lommel is perhaps hypothesizing quantum-mechanical effects may explain NDE phenomenon. But even quantum-mechanics like all theories of physics has some unexplained holes. I do admire Dr. Lommel for attempting to provide a scientific basis and I hope to read his book oneday. So ultimately, I am not sure that even if we do prove consciousness is separate from the body, it will necessarily convince people of the Ultimate Reality (the Source). But to prove consciousness is separate from the biological body will indeed send shockwaves and perhaps convince more people of the reality of the soul. At least it will point to the fact that consciousness exists after death, one of the main messages of divine religions.

    As a human being, although I cannot prove it, I believe what might convince some people is the unprovable but plausible and close to the heart statement that everything in creation has a purpose (per Ostad Elahi). So if there is no reality or consciousness after death, then life (at least for me) has no purpose. I do not know enough about NDE, but the NDE might or might not point to this reality after death.

    To the other point I made and which I will clarify: “But here is the pardox for me, If we think of the Earth as a spiritual school, we need to have this space/time filtering and locality in order to expand our field of vision in terms of consciousness (self-knowledge) of our soul. But why go through this process when our field of vision is limited relative to its current capacity without the body?”

    K suggests page 20 of the Path of Perfection. I did read that page, but had to think about it. Actually I found my answer more on page 19. The answer for me at least is hinted at indirectly after thinking about the matter with respect to my own technical background. Many good algorithms and daily human task are about “divide and conquer”. It would seem that the soul can reach perfection through divides and conquers, and perhaps being limited to a 4-D intertwined space-time dimension (a limited space) allows it to do so. Key terms that hinted at this for me are “gradually developing virtues” and “acquiring even a single divine virtue” from page 19.

    I also agree with user Star and I believe at least the NDE experience makes me think about the other world. Ultimately, we are all going to die and the NDE experience motivates me to maximize what is beneficial for my ultimate destiny (“the soul”).

  13. k Aug 01, 2011 9:41 am 13

    “No doctrinal system in physical science, or indeed perhaps in any science, will alter its content of its own accord. … Indeed the more intelligible and comprehensive a theoretical system is the more obstinately it will resist all attempts at reconstruction…. And this is because in a synthesis of thought where there is an all-round logical coherence any alternation in one part of the structure is bound to upset other parts also. For instance, the main difficulty about the acceptance of the relativity theory was not merely a question of its objective merits but rather the question of how far it would upset the Newtonian structure of theoretical dynamics.”(Max Planck, Where is Science Going?, page 44)
    Given the above, one should also take into account the nature of the question at hand, which makes people even MORE obstinate.

  14. notodogma Aug 01, 2011 4:25 pm 14

    @maxfarsh,
    I am not taking a personal stand one way or the other. I am taking, it seems to me, a cautious and reasonable stance. The brain IS the most complex organism in the known universe. Anyone who has studied or read about the brain will question how it could be a simple interface, transmitter/receiver. It is way too complex for this. At a minimum, it does its own massive processing, storage and retrieval of information, and of course, control of all body functions, conscious and unconscious.
    That is not what an “interface” or a “receiver” does. So I am trying to steer us away from simplistic assumptions. This should not, and does not rule out the possibility of extra-cerebral consciousness. However, one should remain cautious and stick to the facts. Perhaps Dr Van Lommel is onto something. But he should stick to his observations and certainly not get into deep physics or metaphysics. That might help him sell books, but it certainly will not help his credibility as a scientist. On the contrary, it will discredit his work, and if his work is serious, it is very unfortunate. I am not here to defend this or that ideology or preconception. As my pseudo indicates, I am firmly against dogmatism. I want the Truth, wherever it may lead, even if I don’t like it or if it goes against my own biases. Dogmatists, I’m afraid, will not see the truth. Dogmatism is a way of willfully blinding oneself to whatever might go against one’s conceptions. It is the seed of intellectual dishonesty, of extreme arrogance and often, the seed of violence, be it verbal or physical. Dogmatism is not ultimately how science works, and certainly not how we will reach the truth.

  15. k Aug 01, 2011 6:15 pm 15

    @Maxfarsh: Where have you learned this time-space filtering? I don’t remember reading about this in any spiritual book that I trust. The only thing I see a connection with this time-space filtering is the description of the interworld. You should read page 62 in The Path of Perfection, where it starts with: “In terms of the individual passage of time…”.
    ****************************************************************
    It seems that many have not read the short introduction to this post. Many things are actually explained in that short passage. For example it states “…the main difficulty is to understand what it means to be the witness of one’s own clinical death – a phenomenon that challenges ordinary logic”.
    *****************************************************************
    Well, the first thing one needs to do, if one wants to find the truth, is to have a correct foundation to rest upon. I guess that the most important is accepting the existence of God.
    I think someone even trying to say that free-will is an illusion is not anywhere near wanting to find the truth.
    Dr. Debell, the author of “Decoding the Spiritual Messages….” actually writes something about how the brain needs principles. I can’t find the passage but if I recall correctly he writes that it is better to find a set of principles from one system of thought and not take one principle from one place and another from another place, because that will only lead to a contradiction. Some people are a philosophical skeptic one day and the next day they suddenly want to find the truth… People contradict themselves so much and I think the main problem is that they are unaware of the POWER of principles. Indeed all statements rest upon an assumption. One cannot get anywhere without accepting some principles. It then becomes evident that how important it is to have TRUE principles to rest upon, because logic only conveys the “trueness” of a statement (that is in you start with a false assumption then you do not lose the falseness in your process of reasoning and vice versa). All disagreement are ultimately because people to not agree on the assumption a statement rest upon. And then we have those who do not even pay attention to this basic fact (i.e. the importance of principles) and just turn around themselves, and always contradict themselves.
    It is like they read a statement and they like it so they accept it. And then they hear another statement and they also accept that one. But if you find the assumptions that these two statements rest upon you will realize that they are in direct opposition to each other. So one needs to find a correct set of principles, and hold on to them, and then one can correctly judge all statements made by whomever (you just find what assumption that statement rest upon and compare it your principle(s)).

  16. maxfarsh Aug 01, 2011 8:18 pm 16

    @notodogma
    I totally agree with your last point. My point on the receiver might have been misunderstood and let me just clarify with some more details. About the brain being a “receiver”, and the functions you noted: 1) massive processing, 2) storage, 3) retrieval of information and 4) control body functions. I agree.

    Now with that regards and the list of functions you have noted. Lets examine your cell-phone/i-phone. It is also a very complex system.
    For example, your cell phone also does:
    1) Massive processing- detection/estimation – speech/image/video compression- distinguishing signals from multiple users
    2) Storage (stores phone numbers, addresses, gains, etc.)
    3) Retrieval of information (it can retrieve information from the internet)
    4) Control (it has in its hardware an AGC (automatic gain control since the gain varies due to Specular/Diffuse multipaths and transmitter power), AFC (automatic frequency control which takes cares of the time-varying Doppler effect), AOC (automatic offset control), phase lock loop (for sychronization)

    The other two words “unconscious” and “conscious” are harder to quantify and are more qualitative. But by analogy, we note that the cell-phone is also working while not being used, so we can perhaps say it runs while in the “unconscious state” as well as while it is in the “conscious” state.
    So that Cell-phone also does massive processing, storage, retrieval of information, and controls its gain, frequency, phase etc. It controls some functions in the background (when it is unconscious and not being used).

    Consequently, the word “receiver” here was meant to convey more complexity than what I meant. Note just like we are not the cell-phone I also do not believe (again based on religious convinctions and not proof from our current elementary level of science) that our consciousness arises from the brain.

    I agree with you that dogmatism is not how science works. That is why I currently just stated the weaker statement: “We can perhaps agree that NDE cannot be explained with our current level of science”. However, I must admit that I know alittle about NDE, but from these interviews and the little I have read, the postulate that consciousness exists after the brain is not functioning might be implied (at least in this area Dr. Lommel has the necessary expertise). Divine religions from the beginning have distinguished the soul (the eternal one) (“consciousness”) and the body (which the brain would be part of). Can NDE shed light on this fact? I do not know.

  17. maxfarsh Aug 03, 2011 6:00 pm 17

    @k

    I said the projection of consciousness from higher dimensions into a 4-D time-space from a higher dimension actually filters out information. This is being implied by the NDE videos where the people that experienced NDE talk about higher level of consciousness before they are brought back. Some claim to see “events through time” even in this dimension. Or they see beings of pure lights. So the natural question arises that why not always be in such a state rather than being limited by the earthly body? As I understood by reading the description of the process of perfection, it is IFF equivalent to the expansion of our consciousness. Also what I wrote, might or might not be in any actual books; one can understand the same works whether spiritual or in science at deeper levels or misunderstand them or not grasp it completely or derive a incorrect/correct statement (perhaps not directly in those books) using the book as a basis.

    However, if we assume consciousness and the inter-world are in a higher dimension, then, our current experience of the self in this 4-D time-space dimension is a projection or some sort of limitation/filtering relative to its current capacity (which is released after physical death). The inter-world from what I understand just resides in a higher dimension. Just like we have a higher awareness relative to a being say in a 2-D range-time dimension. So why bring consciousness to a lower dimension (this earth) when these people who experience NDE (if we believe them which I do) talk about the state of “being more free”, “aware”, “more conscious” as soon as they are in the NDE state? To answer this paradox, I surmise (I may be incorrect and it comes from my own understand of reading books as well as philosophizing) that since process of perfection is gradual than it is akin to divide and conquer in many algorithms and tasks that run everyday life. If not, then I would rather be in the NDE state, or post-NDE state and see beings of pure lights and have more consciousness rather than be in this miserable earth.

  18. star Aug 04, 2011 8:49 am 18

    despite arguments with his convictions or presentation of findings, we must remember that Dr Lommel is one of very few scientists/clinicians that actually speculates on the notion of there being something beyond the brain. As a member of the neuroscience community myself, I am surrounded by people who are 100% convinced that the brain is necessary and sufficient for all of our thoughts, emotions, and other mental functions…how this is achieved by a mass of cells may be a mystery…but its a fact…its just that, according to them, we dont understand how it works yet.

    I am reading a book now called “Portraits of the Mind” by Carl Schoonover, and in the Foreword, which was written by Jonah Lehrer, it states: “This is the brain we see with our bare eyes. It’s so brutishly of the body that its not surprising that people assumed for thousands of years that there must be something else, some invisible substrate that explained the metaphysical aspects of the mind…and yet there is nothing else: This is all we are. The power of this beautiful book is to show us that the fleshy brain is more than enough, that it contains the multitudes and the machinery necessary to explain the wonder of our existence…THE SOUL ISN’T DEAD, IT DOES NOT SEEM TO BE NEEDED (my emphasis)…”.

    This is the state of the field. I wanted to make this point to emphasize that NDE and the research conducted by Dr Lommel and Sam Parnia is truly revolutionary.

  19. notodogma Aug 05, 2011 1:02 am 19

    I have no qualms with the research, why should I? Why should anyone? I have qualms with the quantum mumbo-jumbo and New-Age metaphysics. But I’m repeating myself.
    Note that there is nothing wrong, silly, or dishonest with “being convinced that the brain is necessary and sufficient for all of our thoughts, emotions, and other mental functions”. That’s the genuine, honest, non-ideological conclusion of most scientists. That’s the current paradigm.
    Argument-wise, “the soul doesn’t seem to be needed” is no more valid than “the soul seems to be needed”. It’s not because we can’t yet explain consciousness that a “soul” is required. And it’s not because we can explain this or that aspect of the brain that the soul is “not needed”. We’re not there yet. Far from it.
    Let the scientists run their research and experiments, kudos to Sam Parnia (who seems to steer clear from Chopraisms) and others who are doing the hard and courageous work, kudos to others who don’t have the same approach but are seeking the TRUTH nevertheless (hopefully they will work together at some point). Science is probably our best and only tool to get there.
    We’re all doing…. soul-searching.

  20. k Aug 05, 2011 5:23 pm 20

    Regarding the”critique” of “simplistic assumptions”
    A model, per definition, is a simplified version of reality. Each model (we are talking about every conceivable model) tries to shed light on one facet of reality. Therefore a model, by virtue of being a model, has to make assumptions to simplify reality. There would be no need for models if we had to include all aspects of reality in the model- we could just use the outer world! But the outer world is too complicated to understand. A model’s purpose is therefore to provide insight about a particular feature of reality (in our discussion consciousness).
    The problem with simplifying assumptions arises ONLY when the model gives incorrect answers to the question it is trying to answer (in our case that consciousnesses comes from the brain).
    [Extracted from Advanced Macroeconomics by David Romer ,3rd edition, page 14]

    The point is that, the above critique is absolutely baseless and comes from people who has no real understanding of the things they try to criticize – but simply have a huge attitude; calling people dogmatic when they don’t understand the arguments, etc.
    Notodogma’s (and most other people’s) ultimate problem is: “If these evidences about NDE are proofs in the strict sense, how then do we have so many scientists that don’t accept them and change their views ?” This is notodogma’s REAL problem. Dr. Lommel actually explains this and I think the citation from Max Planck is also useful for understanding this.

  21. k Aug 05, 2011 6:25 pm 21

    @maxfarsh@:
    did you read the 2nd passage i referenced to?

  22. notodogma Aug 06, 2011 12:56 am 22

    @Star
    “This is the state of the field. I wanted to make this point to emphasize that NDE and the research conducted by Dr Lommel and Sam Parnia is truly revolutionary.”
    The research is undoubtedly courageous, almost heroic (the interpretation of that research is wholly another story). But what would really be revolutionary is if it bore real, solid fruit. That would simply be the greatest revolution in Human history. Not only a scientific revolution, but an all-encompassing Human revolution. Our identity, our purpose, our representations, our society, our core beliefs, everything…
    I cannot even fathom the repercussions on humanity of having the indisputable proof that there is personal, individual (or not) life after death. It could be quite dangerous in a way. Certainly extremely disruptive. Aside from commonalities, which account should be believed? If there are multiple, which version of the afterlife? And how quickly would we be able to decipher what is genuine and what is not? How fast could science establish objective truths? How would great and contradictory religions and their billions of followers react should anything (and there will necessary be many things) go against their core beliefs and dogmas? The questions are endless.
    The potential implications are really mind boggling. Almost as mind boggling as “knowing” (not “believing”) that their is an afterlife.

  23. bz Aug 07, 2011 9:38 am 23

    @maxfarsh

    “…why go through this process when our field of vision is limited relative to its current capacity without the body?”

    See page 92 of B. Elahi’s Foundations of Natural Spirituality:

    [Transcendent Reason] is the eternal centre of total concrete consciousness….what are we, essentially? We are nothing but consciousness…. The more a being perfects itself, the more its consciousness deepens and expands, that is, in addition to mere superficial self-perception, the consciousness begins to perceive its inner states, and the more it perceives its inner reality, the more its external perception expands…

    Ostad Elahi states : “In human beings, consciousness can reach a level where it perceives the reality of the entire universe with such clarity that nothing remains unknown. It is at the level of total concrete consciousness that human consciousness rejoins divine consciousness.”

    Page 98 also describes “the sixth sense and ordinary clairvoyance” which is a divine gift above the other spiritual senses and can only be awaken by God (and not the process of perfection). It allows one to see God, travel through time and space, read the inner thoughts of others, etc.

    In my own words:

    We are limited to this 4D consciousness because of the limitations inherent in our (human) creation. To my knowledge, our terrestrial soul is an accumulation of perfected animal souls, which were accumulated through perfected plant and mineral souls, respectively. This gradual process of perfection continues throughout our human lives, the only difference being that we have the free will to overcome our animal nature and ultimately earn that higher level of consciousness.

    So this higher level of consciousness exists, but our physical bodies act as a veil to that higher consciousness. Granted, the veil can be lifted in these physical worlds as is the case for prophets, other spiritual figures, those who are attaining perfect, and perhaps to a limited extent, people who may train themselves on out-of-body experiences.

    If that consciousness was simply granted to us, then attaining our goal of perfection would be made much easier and of course less rewarding. It would be an unnecessary intervention in the process of perfection. For example, there would be no need to prove the existence of a soul, since everyone would have the level of consciousness to deduce its existence.

    “So the natural question arises: why not always be in such a state rather than being limited by the earthly body?”

    I believe this question to be synonymous with the age-old question of “why are we here?”. The answer being, to attain perfection. “We” are the result of an imperfect “cellular osmosis” between celestial and terrestrial poles. The terrestrial pole provides the means for the essentially “pure” celestial pole to improve itself. This “purity” does not imply PERFECTION- it implies “rectitude, sincerity, love of honour and glory, as well as naivete, excessiveness, ignorance, an attraction for spiritual pleasures, etc” (Foundations of Natural Spirituality, p.98).

  24. maxfarsh Aug 11, 2011 7:53 pm 24

    @bz
    Thanks for your post. I wanted to add however that the question I asked is not the same as “why we are here”. There is a subtle but very striking difference. To be more clear, the NDE seems to implicate that without the body, we are more conscious although this higher level of consciousness is not yet in our capacity (perfection). Consequently if we think of the measure of our consciousness on Earth as A, the measure of our consciousness when we are dead as B and the measure of consciousness when we reach perfection as C, then A is less than B and B is less than C.

    My question is: why not follow the path of spiritual perfection at level B (without the body which I presume is the inter-world) rather than the 4-D level A (where we currently are)? That is if these NDE statements are accurate (which I have no doubt), and there is a higher level of consciousness when we die (level B), then why not follow the path of spiritual perfection at level B rather than the limited level A? So there must be some good reasons why we can pursue perfection better at level A (with the body) than when the veil is lifted. I surmise (based on my own understanding of other books including Path of Perfection) that at level B, we simply have a lot more information which can actually add to the confusion and slow our progress. Whereas within a limited 4D consciousness, we can tackle one problem (obtaining a virtue that becomes part of our soul) at a time with much more ease. For whatever reason, the process of Perfection is to be gradual and until we are ready to fully understand and interpret the information at level B, then we need to actually limit our sensors (4-D world).

  25. bz Aug 13, 2011 5:33 am 25

    @maxfarsh

    Sorry if I misunderstood your question before. I think I understand this time (feel free to correct).

    First, regarding being overloaded with information in “B” – I don’t know if we can speculate on a soul’s cognitive abilities in the interworld!

    I think, first of all, at least a portion of our process of perfection DOES occur at “B”. Sometimes, souls are allowed to remain in the interworld for a certain “period” to work on themselves before returning to earth or attaining perfection.

    So now, why doesn’t ALL of the process of perfection happen at B? Why must a portion of the path necessarily take place in A? As I take it, by A you mean our limited consciousness and our earthly lives. This is what I initially meant by being synonymous with “why are we here?” (e.g. why are we here on *earth as humans*).

    I will also refer to B.Ehali’s Path of Perfection, pp.20:

    “Just as the biological embryo needs the maternal womb for its growth and development, the psychospiritual organism or self also needs a suitable environment (earthly life) for its growth and perfection. During the soul’s embryonic stage, the psychospiritual organism **acquires from earthly life** the basic elements necessary for its development via the psyche. It is therefore essential to undergo the stage of terrestrial life in order to **lay the foundations** of our spiritual perfection.”

    The way I understand this statement: If your celestial soul is a positive charge and your terrestrial a negative charge, they need to merge to neutrality (balance/perfection) to occur. The terrestrial soul (i.e. the *earthly* body) has what the celestial needs to develop – a society full of people with the “imperious self”, including ourselves – something to fight and struggle against. This imperious self does not exist in the interworld – over there, we are all “pure” celestial souls – what is there to fight against and improve upon?

    I think this brings up a new question though – how is it possible to improve in the interworld? Through spiritual classrooms (theory) and “simulations” or “replays” of our previous lives. Assuming (I’m not sure on this) we can achieve divine virtues in the interworld (e.g. B), then why not have one or two earthly lives to experience that “negative charge”, then devote the rest of our time improving through B since it’s so much easier?

    This is the question for me – why not 1 or 2 lives instead of many more? It may have to do with divine justice (i.e. allowing everyone equal/adequate opportunities to experience various environments/societies/positions of life on earth.) Anyway apologies for the super-long responses!

  26. k Aug 14, 2011 1:14 pm 26

    @bz:
    Very good answer to maxfarsh’s question.
    Regarding your question, referring to what Prof. Elahi wrote in his book Spirituality is a Science (p. 143, in answer to the question “How can we assess the level lucidity and knowledge that is required to stay in the interworld?”), I would say that it depends on how much we work (spiritually) in this world.

    I will just add a couple of things that I think are related to maxfarsh’s question:
    From what I understood, Prof. Elahi differentiates between the field of perception and consciousness.
    In Medicine of the soul, page 51, he writes: “Human beings have been created to attain an infini-dimensinal perception.” And I think study IV of Medicine of the Soul and the last lecture by Prof. Elahi (http://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/the-soul-and-the-conscious-self-bahram-elahi/ (between time: 5:08 -5:20)) are helpful to understand the difference between the field of perception and consciousness.

  27. maxfarsh Aug 17, 2011 7:45 pm 27

    @bz
    Thanks for the response. I think the phrase you alluded to—”This imperious self does not exist in the interworld”—is a good point and answers my question well.
    You also wrote: “through spiritual classrooms (theory) and “simulations” or “replays” of our previous lives…”. This perhaps answers the question why we usually need more than one or two lives. I can tell you from my own humble scientific background that despite all the equations and computer simulations, once you actually deploy/make a system, its behavior can diverge from the ideal. Or for example, a surgeon cannot learn surgery by watching video and doing simulation. You actually need to perform surgery to become competent. So I think perhaps the virtues are assimilated better in this world. Or perhaps we need more than 1 or 2 successive lives to be able to have the necessary preparation for improving in the next world.

    Not totally unrelated, but since we talked about information, sensors, eyes, and its limit, I would like to share the following:
    “”God took away my sight, but opened before me the door to the Kingdom of Heaven; no one can imagine what I have gained from this.” ”
    http://www.saintejanie.com/en/whoissaintjani.htm

    Of course this could be special case, but it shows that sometimes what we consider extra-sensory powers (say having a 360 panoramic view—and more) is not necessarily correlated to spiritual improvement.

    @k
    Thanks for the video link. Prof. Elahi does indeed talk about “faculty of consciousness” in terms of a potential in that segment, whereas the “field of perception” seems to be that potential brought to its fruition. I’ll try to read more carefully and discern the difference between these two terms.

  28. k Mar 29, 2012 8:37 pm 28

    With all respect to Dr Lommel, I think though he tries to take too much credit. First of all he claims that he is the first to have published “a prospective study about the phenomena of NDE” in a scientific journal . But clearly, if one looks at the publication dates, Dr Parnia was the first to publish a prospective study! Dr Parnia’s article was, as it states in the article, “Received 12 July 2000…;accepted 29 August 2000″ and was published February 2001.

    Here is the reference:
    Parnia S., Waller D.G. Yeates R., Fenwick P.B. “A qualitative and quantitative study of the incidence, features and aetiology of near death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors” , *Resuscitation*, Volume 48, Issue 2, February 2001, Pages 149-156 (Elsevier).

    As for Dr. Lommel his article was published December 15, 2001 in *The Lancet* and the title of his article is: “Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands”

    Now we know that Dr. Parnia was the *first* one to publish a scientific article that was prospective! The other thing is that the design of the study in Dr Parnia’s study is *far* more superior than that of Dr Lommel.

    The *only* advantage the study of Dr. Lommel has over that of Dr. Parnia, is that his study was larger and the sample of survivors were 344 (in ten hospitals) whereas in the study by Dr. Parnia, there was only 63 survivors (I think only one hospital was involved in that study).

  29. Jean-Jacques Stern Mar 31, 2012 11:31 am 29

    @k: Indeed, your references show that the Parnia et al. has precedence. But apart from being more extensive, Dr Lommel’s paper has another advantage: it was published in The Lancet, which is a much more prestigious (and less specialized) journal than Resuscitation

  30. k Mar 31, 2012 7:30 pm 30

    @Jean Jacques Stern:
    Well, if what you say is true (which an Internet search seems to confirm), then it is only a “superficial advantage”.
    But if you want to talk about prestigious then the article of Dr Parnia’s is truly more prestigious. You can try to figure out why yourself.

    Dr Lommel had probably difficulty in getting his article published for at least 8 years, which I infer from his “longitudinal section” with the 8-year follow-up (to interview 23 people).

    Anyway we have established that Dr Parnia was the first one to publish a prospective study about NDE.

  31. HSH Apr 26, 2012 9:09 am 31

    Dear All,

    Is there any chance to have transcribed text of this interview? It would be very helpful if accessible

    Thanks / HSH

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