Dr Eben Alexander III, A Neuroscientist / Neurosurgeon, Describes his own NDE

9 Nov

I have just listened to a very important interview online with neurosurgeon Dr Eben Alexander III. It is so refreshing for someone of Dr Alexander’s experience, qualifications and credentials to speak publicly about his ver own transcendent NDE.

He describes in detail the events leading up to his NDE and his memory of when he regained consciousness after a week in a coma. He recalled a very elaborate NDE, after he contracted a rare strain of meningitis. What is fascinating is how he tried to make sense of this heightened state of consciousness when it should not have been possible with such a physiologically impaired brain. Thus he had no option other than to reconsider his prior views on consciousness.

As a result the NDE has completely changed his view on consciousness and he states how he has learned experientially more than he had ever learned about consciousness prior to his NDE despite being a neuroscientist. It is interesting how he now recognises his experience as real and as a result it has changed the way in which he interacts with his patients.

 Check out his website at  www.LifeBeyonddeath.net, he can also be followed on Twitter.

 He is currently writing a book about his experience and I look forward to reading it.

The interview is lengthy (approx an hour) but I would urge those interested in consciousness and NDEs to listen to it all as he makes some excellent points. Thanks to Tim for alerting me to this.

I’d be interested to hear what people think of this interview.

To listen to this interview click onto the link below then scroll down to the >encore< …..


51 Responses to “Dr Eben Alexander III, A Neuroscientist / Neurosurgeon, Describes his own NDE”

  1. Tony November 11, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    Its quite interesting to hear these experiences from a neurosurgeon. To me what it points out above all else is how real the experience was to him – so much so that he can abandon his previous notions of what happens to a non-functional brain, and accept something so far out there as life after death.

    Penny, what is your thought about the possibility that someone who survives a very critical condition such as Dr. Alexander experienced may, in order to deal with the trauma of facing life’s end, accept what may be an hallucinatory experience as fact? As something to hold on to? I am not saying that is my belief, however its a question worth asking. Given how close you are with the research in the area and because you’ve spoken face to face with someone who is revealing his/her experience (maybe for the first time), its a question I could not pass up. 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 11, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      Hi Tony – good question!

      I think it is highly unusual for an experienced neurosurgeon to even share an experience like this with others and then to do so publicly is testimony to how powerful such an experience is. I have spoken to a few doctors who have confided in me their experience but they were very cautious and would never let me use their name or tell anyone else. The NDE had a huge impact on them and totally changed their worldview too. There is a great fear amongst peers that they will be considered carazy or unscientific so many people just won’t tell anyone about their experience.

      The fact that Dr Alexander went on to describe a NDE in the detail as he did and then to comment on how he had learned far more about consciousness through his actual experience than he had previously learned is quite a statement. That is a very brave thing to do because he has risked being ridiculed by his colleagues and peers and he has also stated that what we know about consciousness is very small.

      To Dr Alexander the experience was far more than an hallucination. In fact he mentioned in the interview that if a patient of his had reported that to him he would have explained that they had been unconscious and that they had received very powerful drugs which could have created such an experience.

      I have nursed thousands of unconscious patients who were close to death and when they regain consciousness they are usually very disorientated and sometimes confused. They wake up in a daze and usually have no idea where they are or what happened to them. In fact the first hour or so of looking after a patient who has regained consciousness involves reorientating them and explainin gto them where they are. Most have no recollection of any of the events of the time that they were unconscious. That asks another question – do more people have a NDE but they just can’t recall it?

      In my experience of researching NDEs in ITU, the two patients who reported a deep NDE (which had many components) were adamant that their experience was real. When later asked if it could have been a trick of the mind or an hallucination they were both adamant that it was ‘realer than real’ – again this was a phrase used by Dr Alexander.

      Many patients in my study reported hallucinations which seemed very real to them at the time but none of them described them as ‘realer than real’. What I also found was that on the few patients I managed to follow-up at a later date, they all could rationalise that they had been hallucinating when they reflected on the experience. The hallucinations had also started to fade in their mind whereas with the NDErs the NDE remained vividly etched in their mind and they remained adamant that the experience was ‘realer than real’.

      From listening to the interview with Dr Alexander it seems that he too tried to make sense of this overwhelming experience from a logical, scientific point of view – he wrote his experience down and tried to make sense of it from what he had been taught about consciousness. The fact that he has publicly spoken of his experience shows how convinced he is that there is far more to NDEs and therefore consciousness than we currently understand.

      • tim November 11, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

        I was going to say something but I don’t need to because that’s a perfect reply. Thanks for posting it.

      • Howard H. Berman November 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

        Penny, I am a PhD neuropharmacologist with emphasis in Functional Brain Imaging trained at Cornell in the reductionist processes that a scientist usually is. I point to the work of Sir John Eccles, Noble Laureate, who described the correlation between mental processes and neural activity. In other words, when you do anything or think anything or move your arm for instance, what happens in the brain prior to that. Yes, there is activity in the premotor cortex and motor cortex which initiates the movement. But what happens prior to that; Electrical activity cannot be spontaneous; the question is what gives rise to this in the first place. John Eccles described mental phenomenon preceding electrical activity in the brain; he became a dualist at the end and realized that activity in the brain arising out of nothing was not possible; the tenets of cause and effect require a genesis of activity and that likely serves as the bridge between our free will and action. He further described elements which today are mentioned in the literature as quantum mechanics that serve to link this non tangible and tangible aspects of neural activity. I personally believe that mental phenomenon cannot be specifically centered in the constraints of time/space in the physical brain and there is something else which links this together. This corresponds with memory as well. Consider the cloud computing phenomenon where you can store large amounts ofs of data remote from your computer and have it recalled by your computer. This is likely very similar to some form of field where by memory is sstored and can be recalled in the brain. Regardless, this is a fascinating area and has led me to not believe in a purely reductionist hypothesis. Something is going on and for skeptics to outright deny is wrong.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

        Hi Howard, welcome to the blog and thank you for your very valid and important comment. Yes, the work of Sir John Eccles is very pertinent to this whole debate and it’s really quite amazing how little attention had been given to it.

        From my research and my studies I agree with what you say. I like your analogy to the cloud computing phenomenon. Something is clearly going on that cannot be understood from a reductionist perspective. I think the more research that is carried out in the field of near death studies and quantum mechanics is demonstrating that the reductionist perspectives are incomplete and need revising and expanding in order to understand consciousness. It has been a long time coming but at last more and more people are coming to the conclusion that consciousness cannot be reduced to mere neurophysiological processes. One thing that seems quite apparent is that the neurophysiological processes are confused with causations rather than being seen as correlations. Would you agree with this – I have a feeling this would be something you are familiar with due to your work?

      • Howard H. Berman November 24, 2011 at 5:19 am #

        Penny, how can something arise out of nothing. Meaning how can an electrical signal in the brain arise from nothing? If someone touches your hand, the ensuing electrical activity that orginate from the nocicepters in your skin travel up dorsal column medial lemniscus to subthalamic regions to your cortical regions and your brain processes these signals in the form of electrical activity. Thus, there is cause and effect for these neural signals. However, lets discuss signals originating in the brain through thought or intention; such as something as simple as reaching my hand out to touch someone or as complex as playing a violin. The intent to do it in the first place; where did that come from and how could the brain originate this intent given that electrical activity would have had to be spontaneously produced which gave rise to your intention. Not to be philosophical, but there must be something that bridges the intent with the functional activity in the brain. This is the hard question. This is probably what underlies free will and the non material and non tangible essence of intent. Could this be the ‘soul’ mediating activity in the brain through complex quantum processes? The brain is critical to our functioning in this world; however, I believe it is not the only mechanism. Remember one other thing; how is it possible that people who are clinically dead and yet return are able to experience vivid near death experiences with sight, sound, and emotion? How is this possible and more importantly how can these patients return and recall the memory of that event? The brain was purportedly in crisis or shut down and had little or no blood flow; how could memory of such an event survive? The ONLY way possible is for this external field to somehow ‘hold’ the memory in packets of information, much like a cellular signal that could be reprocessed from cell tower to cell tower and converted into understandable language on your phone. Something external is occurring from the brain which allows an intermediation of non physical process and physical process and packets of information or memory or the essence of whom we are or our free will with intention are able to somehow jump from this external field to the functional aspects of the brain.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 24, 2011 at 11:40 am #

        Hi Howard, you make excellent points which I totally agree with. It would be much more logical that memory is stored externally to the brain. I hope the other followers of the blog have read your comments.

  2. Tony November 11, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Thanks so much Penny, yes that is a perfect response. Excuse me if I play devils advocate on the topic as I may from time to time. I find it an immensely profound topic that requires we explore all angles, and its great that someone such as yourself and Dr. Alexander have really considered different points of view on the topic. Seems like you both are coming to similar conclusions and that cannot be ignored so easily. 🙂

    What I find so interesting is the border or being told to return that so many NDEr’s describe. If it were all an hallucination, then such a thing would be driven by the brain. I cannot see how the individual can be made aware that the NDE is coming to an end and thus generate the dialog, or see some kind of obstacle blocking him from continuing. It seems like some kind of awareness is occuring that can not be coming from the NDEr himself/herself.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 11, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

      Hi Tony, I think it’s good to play devil’s advocate. These really are fascinating experiences and it’s crucial that they are considered from all aspects.

      You make a very interesting point about the termination of the NDE. It does seem as if there is some other kind of awareness that we don’t yet understand.

  3. Tony November 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Hi Penny, I was curious about the experiences that both Dr. Alexander describes as well as one of the patients who had an NDE in your study. The patient in your study had a vision of a man who he believed resembled jesus. The patient described what he was wearing. He was adamant about the reality of this experience however to see a spirit with human features and to be dressed with slacks and a shirt makes me wonder how this could be. Other experiencers describe visions of Jesus, or Mohammed, or other religious figures. Skeptics point to these visions to debunk NDEs, and I can understand that point of view. What is everyone heres take on this?

    Perhaps a similar thing such as REM intrusion could be occurring, but not the intrusion of physical reality into the dream. More like the intrusion of spiritual reality into the state at which an NDEr is in at death. This gives the mind the freedom to make sense of what he/she is seeing which includes adding details that are not there. Just a thought.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

      Hi Tony, the man in my study saw two ‘people’. The first was someone who he thought may have been Jesus – but it’s not what he’d expected Jesus to look like as he had ‘long scruffy uncombed hair’. He also saw his dead father who was wearing the type of clothing that he used to wear when alive i.e. trousers and a shirt.

      When a NDE is occurring the person is accessing an altered state of consciousness. It would seem plausible to suggest that while in this state they are ‘tuning into’ the ‘collective unconscious’ as described by Carl Jung in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. NDErs are experiencing something and they interpret what they are experiencing through their cultural filter. So for example, a person from India may encounter Chitragupta – ‘the man with the book’ and someone from England may encounter Jesus.

      Your point about a spiritual reality is interesting – Have you ever considered the possibility that the spiritual reality is being the primary experience but the brain and the way in which we develop in some way takes us away from that reality and we ‘forget it’. Then as death approaches we return to that state because the control of the brain (filter action) becomes dysfunctional? This is pure suggestion at the moment but based on what I have learned from the patients and what I have studied this seems like a more fitting explanation that should be explored further.

      With regards to REM intrusion there were two articles published in the medical journal Neurology in April 2006 and March 2007 by Nelson, Mattingly and Schmitt which suggested a relationship betwen NDEs and REM intrusion. However, there was a 36 page response refuting this written by Dr Jeffrey Long and Professor Janice Holden in the Journal of Near-Death Studies in Spring 2007. It is too extensive a debate to get into in this reply but it is a very interesting response which I have briefly added to in my forthcoming book.

  4. Max_B November 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    In my view, it’s more important to concentrate on the underlying feelings that the imagery evokes, (or visa versa, the imagery evoked by the feelings) for this part of the NDE.

    In my own experience, there are sometimes common symbols to dream imagery. I know a number of people (including myself) where the appearance of ‘water’ in dreams often signifies strong emotions, so I’m OK with the idea that we might use similar common cultural symbols in NDE imagery, which is often very dreamlike.

    Unfortunately it’s often quite hard to interpret our own dreams, never mind anybody else’s. That problem becomes far far worse when we attempt to interpret the significance of NDE imagery in other cultures. For instance the three Indian NDE examples in Fenwick’s book “The Truth in the Light” are quite different from typical western NDE’s. Most importantly, I can find no sense of ‘love’ flowing through these narratives.

    That, and my own STE, suggest to me that NDE imagery is rather more to do with ourselves, but as is so common with dreams it may also work on other levels, and could still provide information which is genuinely new?

    However, I’m definitely tending towards the view that the feelings evoked during these NDE’s might somehow be the result of a comparison between us as the ‘individual’ with our ‘cultural group’ (not just over space, but also over time), and might give us a clue as to what ‘individually’ we are missing, what we hunger for, what we need to learn. It might give us clues about what our ‘cultural group’ needs to learn as well, by comparing our NDE’s with those from other cultures. It might be why these experiences often have such an impact on the individual.

    • Max_B November 15, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      I thought I would just add a further explanation to my previous post above…

      Imagine a simple black and white pattern as representing each individual in your ‘cultural group’. The pattern for each ‘individual’ in the group is very similar – because they are all from your cultural group – but the patterns are not identical. If we overlay, and average the patterns of all of the individuals within the group, we get an overall average group pattern.

      Imagine now if you will, a period of altered consciousness, (or unconsciousness) where our own brain becomes so quiet and receptive, that it more readily receives information from your cultural group, indeed the average pattern of your cultural group. This group average pattern is received by your brain in its quiet state. Much of the groups average pattern matches (overlaps) your own individual pattern, however there are areas within the group pattern which do not match your own individual pattern. The group average pattern touches you in these areas of your own pattern that are empty, or unused, activating these areas.

      When we return to our conscious state, the memory of that interaction stays with us, and is all the more profound depending on how dormant our brain was at the time of the experience, how strong the group broadcast was, and how different our ‘individual’ pattern was in comparison with our ‘cultural group’.

      The experience leaves an imprint on us. Perhaps once experienced, the knowledge of these new pattern areas has a profound impact on the individual , and perhaps the absence of stimulus within these areas leads the individual to seek out these patterns when they return to consciousness, often causing a change their behaviour.

      Anyway… it’s just a thought.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

        Wow, it took me while to think about that – that’s an intense concept but it’s really quite plausible (after thinking about it for about half an hour!). You’ve made me think a lot now. Your thoughts on this are very deep and I can see are guided by your own experience which is really important. To me, the biggest downfall of our current science is to disregard subjectivity and experience. It is clear that we also need to embrace and pay attention to experience if we are to further our understanding of consciousness.

        These are really interesting insights you have, keep them coming!

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

      Hi Max, you again make some interesting points. One thing I think is that although your experience was an altered state of consciousness, you were not close to death at the time and therefore I think it is slightly different from a NDE. Dream-like imagery is different from that of NDEs. Most of the people I have spoken to consider their NDE to be ‘realer than real’ and they were in a heightened state of consciousness. The NDErs I have spoken to who have previously had very vivid dream imagery are emphatic that the two experiences were very different.

      It does seem that NDEs and similar altered states of consciousness are a very important part of how we understand ourselves at our deepest core. I like your suggestion that the feelings evoked may be the result of a comparison between individual and individual which then gives us a clue as to what we are missing – also that it’s what our cultural group needs to learn too.

      • Max_B November 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

        Yes Penny, I accept the typical Dream ‘Experience’ is of a much weaker intensity than the Near Death ‘Experience’, but I tend to think the actual imagery for both experiences is created/interpreted in much the same way.

        As I tentatively suggested above, the reason for the different intensity of experience might be due to the differential between broadcast-strength vs brain receptivity, mediated by the novelness of the information.

        At the extreme edge of a complex network of influencing factors, we could have a completely dormant brain (during an NDE) which may perhaps be very susceptible to the effects I outlined earlier (even with a low broadcast strength).

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

        Yes, I see what you mean. I like your suggestion about the difference in intensity of broadcast strength v brain receptivity, that makes great sense to me. The thing that all types of altered states of consciouness have in common is reduced sensory input. It seems that the brain in someway blocks all incoming sensory input in varying degrees of intensity depending on the circumstances – near death would be the most extreme of circumstances which would result in a more intense experience. This would fit nicely with your interpretation suggestion.

  5. Tony November 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Thanks Penny for your response. The cultural filter would explain their interpretation of what they see. If this cultural filter applies, do you think the experiencer is interpreting what they see as say jesus or Mohammed, or in their minds-eye they are generating an image of Jesus or Mohammed to best explain the spiritual encounter? I’m not sure if I am explaining this correctly, however in the first case, they see X and interpret Y. In the second case, they see Y in an effort to interpret X. I’ve heard of theories that compare NDE’s to the dream state and suggest that dreams are indicative of a mind seperate from the brain. Since dreams are really an expression of one’s experience and emotions, and dreams are full of symbolism to express these, the latter theory to me makes more sense. But of course, all this is speculation. But its still quite interesting to think about it.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

      Ah, very good question Tony. I’m not sure what the answer is to that to be honest. The thing that just sprung to mind was one of those optical illusions such as the black and white images – look at it one way and you see the image of a young lady wearing a hat then look at it another way and see an old lady with a scarf over her head. Maybe during a NDE there are some sort of archetypal images but the person generates the image according to their psychological and cultural make-up. So maybe the image is there first but they are generating an image which makes sense to them. I’m not sure, it’s a bit like the chicken and the egg question.

      What I find particularly interesting though are cases where people ‘see’ images of deceased people who they did not know to be deceased at the time. A very interesting case that fascinated me was described by past president of IANDS, Nancy Bush who reported seeing an image of a disk clicking back and forth. She had a frightening NDE and had no idea what the disk was or what it meant or what it symbolised. Then a few years later she encountered the disk again and realised what she had ‘seen’ was the Yin Yang symbol. She was adamant that she had never seen it nor had prior knowledge of this before her NDE and didn’t have a clue what it was.

      You may have already read some of Stanislav Grof’s work on altered states of consciousness – he’s done some fascinating work since the 1960’s. He has developed a technique to induce altered states of consciousness and some of the imagery his subjects reported are very similar to NDE imagery. There are also some very interesting views in the books edited by David Lorimer (of The Scientific and Medical Network) called The Spirit of Science: From Experiment to Experience and also Thinking Beyond The Brain.

  6. Tony November 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Yes, the realer than real description that the patient in your study, as well as other NDEr’s describe is amongst the most fascinating component of the NDE to me. In no way, as you said, could one compare the clarity of an NDE to that of a dream. However, in an effort to see how such visual manifestations occur in the minds-eye, I have to ask if similar mechanisms that can be found in dreams. After all, dreams are also a mystery. However unlike dreams, perhaps in some way the common elements of the NDE (starting from the light and the tunnel) begin this interaction with the spiritual world.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

      Although I’m not sure of the answer to this, it would certainly seem plausible to me that similar physiological mechanisms could be involved in dreams.

      Dreams are usually associated with our subconscious – very often when I dream it’s about things that are or have been on my mind but I didn’t pay that much attention to in the ordinary waking state. Other times they can be completely random and bizarre! The NDE is a set pattern and are generally very structured in their content whereas dreams can change rapidly to other scenarios. Also, most of the time I am unable to recall my dreams a few hours after waking whereas with the NDE it remains etched on the person’s mind for the rest of their life.

    • jerry decaire March 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

      It may be there are correlates in the brain that serve as intermediary conduits from non-local consciousness to our outward expression of consciousness, dreams, and even motor activities. But those correlates can also be causal if appropriately stimulated since they have the capacity to receive and process imagery from the outside. That means that mechanisms may be in place within the correlates that can also generate imagery on their own but in this case they would be false images. This makes sense because we know that stimulation of various regions of the brain can illicit visual impressions, sense of touch, hearing, etc. but they would be false sensations as they are only derived from the correlates and not the true causal elements outside the brain. So, if a stimulation of my temporal region can elicit a visual hallucination that leads me to believe I am seeing something that isn’t really there, should we assume that in all cases seeing is illegitimate? That’s a rhetorical question and the obvious answer is, “Of course not!” So in summation, since the brain may well be a correlate between non-local consciousness and what we perceive, should we be surprised if we sometimes confuse correlation with causation? Should we be surprised if we get a mix of both real and unreal imagery in the transition between this world and the next? This may account for what seems to be contradictory experiences in the NDE. Some experiences are totally unreal but carry considerable power as they originate from regions of the brain serving as correlates between this world and the next. Other experiences are completely real while others are muddled compositions of the real and unreal. In other words, it’s the in-between aspects of the brain which can cause dreams that might interfere with the real NDE while in transition. I’m betting that when the death is final we’re left with only the real deal with no correlates getting in the way to muddle the experience. Just a hypothesis.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

        Hi Jerry, you make some very interesting comments. You’ve obviously done a lot of deep thinking on this subject. The more I think about this subject the more possibilities seem to exist. It really is a fascinating subject to study.

        I concluded in my first book that the only time we will get the definitive answer about death is when we experience it in it’s entirety at our ouwn death.

      • jerry decaire March 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

        At that juncture Penny, we had better be right on all of this or else the outcome will be pretty gloomy-or nothing at all. But I am betting on this and for many reasons. For example, when Mary Jo Rapini was asked if her NDE was merely a brain trip, she then asked, “Who then programmed that in?” And that’s a bigger question than it appears on the surface. If life really has no meaning and we are mere products of the blind watchmaker, then how and why should such intricate mechanisms be in place? How could something as useless as an NDE, from an evolutionary standpoint, ever come about? Why should the cells that make up my brain give a rip as to how I feel when I cross over? In other words, how does the life review help in my physical survival or even the survival of my community and why should the supposed uncaring universe serve as my personal nursemaid to ensure my comfort in my departure? And even if it’s only me and my mind ensuring that comfort, that doesn’t change the fact that those mechanisms that allow my fantasies to come true were already in place to accommodate my wishes at some post-date upon the moment of my death. You see, it’s all too incredible for me to believe all of this as a brute fact (as Paul Davies would say). And back to the life review, that only makes sense if you can learn something from it to carry those lessons to another time and another place. It is the summation of our experiences here for the benefit of the larger consciousness. We are LEARNING. And from everything I’ve read, the big lesson is LOVE. We are tossed into this world of challenges and sacrifice because there is no other way to learn how to love. In a universe whereupon all needs and desires are met there can be no sacrifices-no opportunities to express our caring. This world tests our spiritual mettle and is working to conform us into the image of this most perfect and loving God. Or at least, that’s how I see it.
        I’ll end this post with a short quip I wrote in my book as a response to the materialists who often belittle us and our faith that we, as conscious beings are at the center and reason for the universe. They think it arrogant of us to feel and believe that way and give the size of things as reasons for why we should feel insignificant. I thought you might like this. And it’s so good to speak to you Penny. I read up on your work as well in this field regarding the veridical aspects of the NDE. Here’s my address to the skeptics:
        “The day I feel insignificant is when a star can wake up in the morning, smell the coffee, and exclaim with a sense of satisfaction, “I feel good!” And for all of its size and power, that is something it will never do” –Jerry DeCaire 3/29/2012

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

        Thanks for your valid comments Jerry. Many NDErs have been convinced that the Universe is one of great love and this is experienced during their NDE. I think the this aspect as well as many other aspects of NDEs have great evolutionary potential. The sense of interconnectivity that many NDErs are left with usually prompts them to be more considerate of others but also of the whole planet. There is a new awareness of the planet from a different perspective and short term personal gain all of a sudden reduces and even disappears in many people who have had a NDE. Can you imagine if everyone in the world had the same understanding of love and compassion for others and the planet? Imagine if everyone put the welfare of the planet and others before their own short term gain? We’d live in a very different world.

  7. Fernando November 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Hi Penny. Do you have new reports of patients who had brushes with death, and report those experiences? because on youtube the cases are all the same people (like Dannion brinkley, and others, and I dont believe in people like Dannion..I think that there are people who really have these experiences and others who wants to make money.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 24, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      Hi Fernando, yes I have many cases of patients who have had brushes with death and report NDEs. I have spoken to many patients who I have looked after and hundreds of people have emailed me and described their NDEs to me. The majority of people who have had NDEs are very reluctant to talk about them publicly.

      The cases on youtube are of the few people who will talk about their experience publicly. There are also many cases that are not on youtube. I don’t know of anyone who has made lots of money from NDEs.

      • tim November 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

        Hi, Penny,

        I too prefer your sources. They’re not specifically seeking publicity whereas Danion Brinkley has. It doesn’t mean he’s a fake but the amount of appearances he’s made on TV (HUNDREDS) makes me a bit cautious in accepting what he has to tell.

    • jerry decaire March 29, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

      Hi Fernando.

      I think you may have seen that youtube clip that supposedly debunked Dannion concerning his NDE. As far as i know, nobody presented with any entrance and exit hospital papers to prove that he was exaggerating the duration of the event. And if I’m not mistaken, only attendants gave us their take on it but not Dannion’s main physician. And even if it were proven he was laying the butter on a little thick, that does nothing to discredit the many authentic NDE’s. And if he did exaggerate, I could imagine that the reasons for doing so may be because he waqs so utterly convinced the experience was real, that he wanted others to know how fantastic it was and felt a little extra “butter ” would help. Not that that makes it right but even a transformed human is still only human.

  8. Marco November 26, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    Hello Dr Penny

    English is not my native language (which is Dutch) so hopefully I did not misread/listen the interview and some got lost in translation. At a certain point Mr Alexendar says

    “Those things do not explain the kind of clarity, the rich interactivity, the layer upon layer of understanding and of lessons taught by deceased loved ones and spiritual beings. Of course, they’re all deceased loved ones. I’ve kind of wondered where it is that these people are coming from. They say, “The brain was very sick but it was very selective and made sure it only remembered deceased loved ones.” They’re just not hearing something.”

    This flabbergasted me quit a bit. Is he not accidently saying here that he was taught by lost loved ones? Bit strange because he stresses out in the rest of the story the he had no recollection of anything from his real live. So how did he manage to recognise these people?

    Also he tells about not believing the un materialistic explanation at first. So he startet of trough trying to find an classical explanation. Has anyone seen this work? For I am very curious to see about the amount of effort he put in there. He is certainly pluging that work less then his book.

    Kind Regards

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 26, 2011 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Marco, in answer to your question I am doing this from my memory of the interview I listened to a few weeks ago. I think that what Dr Alexander was trying to convey was that during his NDE he encountered deceased loved ones and spiritual beings and that this encounter, while in this altered state of consciousness, taught him a great deal.

      How did he manage to recognise these people is the million dollar question – how can anyone recognise others and have such in depth, clear and lucid experience when their brain is not functioning? This is something that we currently don’t fully understand because our science tells us that the brain should not be able to have this kind of experience if it is not fully functional. People who have NDEs are demonstrating that a very clear and lucid experience is possible in some cases where people survive a close brush with death.

      Being as Dr Alexander was trained within the current scientific beliefs and is a neurosurgeon he tried to understand his experience from that scientific perspective but found that he couldn’t explain his experience from this materialist point of view. He has not done any previous work on NDEs, he is just an experiencer but the fact that he is a neurosurgeon and recognises that his experience was far greater than our current science understands is very significant. Many people of Dr Alexander’s professional standing would not talk about an experience like this publicly due to fear of rejection from peers etc. I think this is a very exciting time because we are making new and very interesting discoveries about consciousness and brain function.

      • tim November 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

        Hi, Penny,
        It is just a piece of pure ‘luck’ ( for the purpose of investigating the NDE anyway) that Alexander had such a rare and deadly form of bacterial meningitus which shut down his brain. Who better to witness for themselves that there is something else going on.

        I think the dead relative he was talking about is revealed in his book. I know who it was, but I don’t want to spoil it for you if you don’t know already.

      • tim November 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

        BTW, Penny,

        The two posts from Howard Berman were very interesting. I wonder how common his view is in that field ? Not very, I would hazzard a guess. Great stuff.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 27, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

        Hi Tim, yes Howard’s commnets are very interesting. In fact I am going to add them to a post that I’ll put out over the next few days.

  9. Fernando November 27, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Hi Tim! What dead relatives saw Eben Alexander? he communicated with those relatives?

    • tim November 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

      Hi, Fernando,

      Yes, he did communicate with his (dead) sister. I won’t tell you any more because I don’t want to spoil it for you 🙂

  10. Fernando November 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Thanks Tim 🙂

    • Javcob Roth December 31, 2011 at 1:27 am #

      Hi you,

      First i have to admit that i am no native english speaker and i have to beg your pardon for my many mistakes in writing.
      During my lifespan i have encountered and was part of both sides of both factions. I grew up in a very religious family and was told that there is a god and something behind the wheel.
      Later i got a good scientific education in computer engeneering and biology. This experience in biocomputing and the logic i was tought, let me to a point there i was not able to see any reason to believe there is something beyond death. You are familiar with most processes in the nerve ganglions , the definition of conciossness, it’s borders and the strange tricks our mind plays us under extreme conditions.
      The mane base my trust in this theory was based on the facts that:

      a)people with brain injuries or disfunctions are not able to express themself and interact with the enviroment.
      b)The malfunction of the “storage option” under certain conditions. If the origin is not located within the mind why do we loose memories.
      c)Only a small percentage of people do report NDE while they are dead and some of these reports can be falsified (neighbours died during NDE, etc)

      There are many more minor reasons.
      What brought me back to my trust in the out of body theory were reports from my stephfather who had a brilliant OBE during a heart surgery. He was told that he was dead for 2 minutes after he told the personal that he had an experience. He describes it as more real than real and conciousness beyond normal human abilties. Colors not existing in the normal world, 360 ° .
      And the most present reason is quanton physics with it manifestation in the string theory and most important the newton machincs of energy has an origin and won’t cease to exist; most of what Howard already told.

      For my current personal believes i like the “Avatar” model. We feel like we are the person who is acting but in reality we are somewhere else and remote controling a car.

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

        Hi Javcob, thank you for your comment and for writing in English. You make some very interesting points.

  11. jerry decaire March 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    I want to thank Howard Berman for his comments. And yes Penny, I have read his points and have also read Eccle’s points on these matters as well. Interestingly, Eccles believed the reductionist materialist to be the “mystic.” The reductionist believes in cause and effect but to discover the cause of the initial impulse responsible for intention begs an infinite regression of causes except the brain isn’t infinite. It has only so many neurons and even less macro-divisionary aspects, ie: Corpus collossum, parietal lobe, etc. What this means is that the buck stops somewhere but then demands an explanation of the firing of the first neuron. But that cannot be just another neuron as we have hypothetically exhausted all of those. And even if the phenomenon arises from a conspiratorial intention born from many regions at the same time, what then caused that? Another conspiracy? Just one neuron? It boggles the imagination. But these points suggest that consciousness is indeed primary and is itself non-contingent. The same cannot be said of the brain but materialists insist it is so hence the accusation of Eclles that they are ultimately the mystics who are unable to give an account for this phenomenon but then resort to their worldview as a sort of religious faith. They would never admit it though as we all know. I hear from reductionists and materialists all the time that Eccles’ points have been debunked but then never give an account. I have yet to see the solution to this problem. Frankly, I’m betting on non-local consciousness and intermediary quantum processes and even a “soul.”
    I am writing and illustrating a book on these points and this aspect will be one of the better arguments for the validity of mind not equaling brain. It’s just nice to see real scientists like Howard confirming this point. I can’t tell you how many people have accused me of not understanding the science simply because I was on board the theory that NDE’s are more than hallucinations. I studied a little science and though I’m hardly in Howard’s class I’m smart enough to know that that first firing neuron needs an explanation that reductionism has failed to supply an answer for that. In fact, even with their promissory note, I suspect there will never be a reductionist explanation for that. How do you get around something like that without having to go outside the present paradigm for an explanation? Any theories are welcome but something tells me we’re all stumped.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Hi Jerry, thank you for your very important comment. I think we are making big discoveries about consciousness and I think the current paradigm has no option but to explore other possibilities. We are living in very exciting times. Your forthcoming book sounds interesting. Let me know when it is published.

      • jerry decaire March 28, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

        Thank you Penny. I’ll definitely let you know when it hits the book stands And thank you for your own work in this field-it’s much needed
        Jerry DeCaire

  12. Max_B March 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    I was browsing through NDERF.ORG this weekend and noticed a recent NDE which I found interesting. It’s only the last couple of paragraphs of the NDE that interested me, from where Larry bumps into his surgeon Dr X. again at a wine and cheese event.


    • Dr Penny Sartori March 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

      Thanks for the link Max, I found this case really interesting for two reasons 1) he had hallucinations consistent with the kinds of things other ICU patients have reported and 2) like you mention – the conversation with the surgeon sometime after the NDE. Fascinating, again this touches on how powerful our minds are.

      • Max_B April 2, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

        Are you aware of any patient NDE’s where the doctors, or nursing staff around the patient, also report having ‘strong’ feelings around the same time, perhaps a strong ‘certainty’ – as in Larry P’s NDE.

      • Dr Penny Sartori April 4, 2012 at 8:50 am #

        Hi Max, I can’t recall any NDEs cases off hand but that’s not to say there are none out there.

        Larry’s NDE was very interesting. It made me think back to when I first started working as a nurse in intensive care. Whenever I participated in a resuscitation, especially when doing CPR, I used to say out loud and in my mind things like ‘Come on, come back to us’. I wonder if that had any effect on the outcome or if the patients who survived were in some way aware of my intention to revive them? Guess I won’t know the answer to that.

  13. Ed L September 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    Hi I was reading on people who have taken DMT and experiments by Rick Strassman MD. Some have claimed they have visited out of this world being of light and sound simliar to the NDE. Perhaps there should be an experiment on NDEr’s to try DMT and report there experiences and see the difference in experience. Has any one did this study?

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 30, 2012 at 11:02 am #

      Hi thanks for your comment. Yes, Rick Strassman’s work on DMT is very interesting. Some people did report experiences which followed the themes of some NDEs. The difference is that the setting and context are totally different. The experimental subjects took the DMT with some idea that they may experience something and it was a voluntary experience for them whereas the NDE usually occurs very unexpectedly in a life threatening situation.

      I really like your suggestion that people who have had NDEs try DMT in an approved and controlled experimental setting to see if it correlates with their NDE. To my knowledge, I don’t think this had yet been undertaken. If anyone else knows of research that has been undertaken please let me know. This is a very interesting research project for the future.

  14. Khrisztofer Sutton October 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Howard H. Berman, you asked, “How can something arise out of nothing?”

    I have no higher educational training; I have no wall plastered with licenses, degrees, and accomplishments; I have none of the public acceptance that you (and other accredited personages who have commented herewith) do, but I see you thinking in two dimensions rather than three or four or even more. How do I know? I’ve been there — not in a near-death experience, not in a drug-induced hallucination, but during several out of body experiences, some of which I join my brothers in calling them ‘Spirit Quests’.

    Now, as to your question. I don’t know when the idea of ‘nothing’ came into being, but there is evidence of the idea of zero in Sumaria from about 3000 BC. Then a symbol came into being, which was two slashes between other numbers (i.e., ‘2//12’ meaning ‘2012’) in Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets in 3 BC. In 4 AD, the Mayans devised a symbol for zero. India did the same in the 5th Century, and Cambodia was close behind in the 7th Century. China and the Islamic countries created something from nothing in the 8th Century, and Western Europe devised it in the 12th Century, Sadly, the Roman numerals have never had a letter for ‘zero’ added to its figures.

    My simplistic example of how something arises out of nothing does, indeed, explain how that premise comes about.

    I’m seventy-two years old, but I had an aunt who was an Anesthesiologist (yes, a Doctor of Anesthesia), and I was explaining to her about the “Spiritual” existence of the (Yogic) Chakras along the spine. She was amazed at the physical correspondence of Ganglia along the spine to what I was saying about the Chakras.

    So, as I can see. something CAN arise out of nothing.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, you add a very interesting perspective. I like your comment about two dimensional thinking rahter than three or four dimensional thinking.


  1. New interview with Neurosurgeon Dr.Eben Alexander - Parapsychology and alternative medicine forums of mind-energy.net - November 11, 2011

    […] i like his take on NDE's. By the way, Dr.Penny Satori wrote about this interview on her blog: Dr Eben Alexander III, A Neuroscientist / Neurosurgeon, Describes his own NDE Dr Penny Sartori […]

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