Dr Eben Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven soon to be released

11 Oct

This week has seen a surge of interest in the NDE of neurosurgeon, Dr Eben Alexander. His book Proof of Heaven will be released in the USA on 23rd October and in the UK on 1st November. The book is an in-depth description of his NDE.

Thank you to the followers of the blog who alerted me to this.

In April of this year I was very excited when I met Dr Alexander when we both spoke at the Bioethics Forum at Madison, Wisconsin, USA. I was present while he described his NDE and what was fascinating about his NDE is that it is the deepest and most profound NDE that I have come across. He described it in such great detail but also with great emotion. Like many NDErs, his conviction that his NDE was ‘realer than real’ was most apparent by his enthusiasm for sharing what he experienced in such a public way.

I have worked with many physicians and surgeons during my 21 year nursing career and a few have confided in me about their own NDEs. However, their NDEs have not been as profound as Dr Alexander’s and they will not share this experience with anyone else for fear of being rejected by their peers. Indeed, very often I found them trying to explain their experience away in terms that they had been taught during their medical training but couldn’t quite explain it.

So for Dr Alexander who is a respected neurosurgeon with intricate knowledge of neurophysiology it is a very brave and important decision to talk about his NDE so publicly. Not only has he very publicly shared his experience but his NDE has motivated him to completely review his understanding of consciousness. Consequently he has also changed the way he responds to patients who report NDEs. No longer does he try to explain them away as reactions to drugs or low levels of oxygen or to fever.

This is a very significant NDE. In particular the part where he describes the angel on his shoulder is most intriguing as after his recovery he recognised her face – I won’t give any more details away and spoil the read!

It appears that Dr Alexander’s testimony is a great support to the notion that the current scientific theory that consciousness is a by-product of the brain is too limited and that a new understanding of consciousness must be sought.

I very much look forward to reading Dr Alexander’s book.

To read the articles in the media see the links below:-

NEWSWEEK COVER STORY: DR. EBEN ALEXANDER’S NDE

 http://nhne-pulse.org/newsweek-cover-story-dr-eben-alexanders-nde/

 The October 15th edition of Newsweek is running a cover story on Dr.

Eben Alexander’s near-death experience. According to Newsweek’s Facebook

Page:

 “When leading neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander found himself in a coma, he experienced things he never thought possible — exclusively excerpted from his upcoming book Proof of Heaven, he shares his journey to the afterlife in this week’s issue of Newsweek.”

 To download a copy of this issue on your iPad, go here:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/newsweek-for-ipad/id370903329?mt=8

 

HEAVEN IS REAL: A DOCTOR’S EXPERIENCE WITH THE AFTERLIFE By Dr. Eben Alexander The Daily Beast October 8, 2012

 http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/07/proof-of-heaven-a-doctor-s-experience-with-the-afterlife.html

 

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275 Responses to “Dr Eben Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven soon to be released”

  1. Julie Baxter October 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Already ordered my copy of his book and can’t wait for it to arrive. 8)

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      Hi Julie, yes I can’t wait to read it.

      • Pamela October 27, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

        I’ve known Eben since our skydiving days when we were on a college team– he’s always been an amazing person, so this is no surprise. And when I told him that I’d written a book about an archangel that fell in love with Jane Austen (Jane Austen and the Archangel http://tinyurl.com/7c2nsm3 ) he said that since it’s all about love, there’s loads of room for romance!

  2. Robert October 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    I’m excited about it too (and have preordered my copy). It’s not every day that a committed materialist has a profound NDE, becomes convinced of the reality of the soul and God, and decides to put his reputation publicly on the line to champion his new perspective. I hope this book will have a wide influence and wil help shift the tide.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

      Yes, this is going to be huge for the subject of NDEs. I’m sure more people will take these very important experiences far more seriously. It is so rare for someone of Dr Alexander’s standing and reputation to speak so publicly. I really applaud him.

    • dina October 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      Robert , I don´t know if you remember me from David´s site.

      I also preordered the book

      love

      Dina

  3. JRay October 11, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Hi Penny! Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to read it. Your efforts are appreciated, kudos to you Penny! To those of us who are attracted to hearing/feeling/experiencing remnants of Home, this is like a beacon. May the info provide us all with the knowledge & strength to further our commitment to make this a better world for all.
    Peace, Love & Light,
    Judy

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi Judy, thank you for your comment. Yes, this really is a very significant case and I think big positive changes are ahead. This is all so very exciting.

      • dina October 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

        Penny, you are lucky to have met two high level medical doctors,
        materialists, who after experiences , had to accept that there
        is more to life than the physical body and the brain.
        It doesn´t mean that medical science will become less important,
        treatments are still essential, but being myself in the medical
        media, it is a great joy that doctors like Van Loommel and Alexander
        who know their profession with the highest accountability, accept
        that definitely we are eternal consciousnesses or souls and that
        God has a lot to do with it.

        As usual I love your presence, Penny, because I know the kind of
        person you are.

        Love and hugs,

        Dina

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

        Hi Dina, Thanks for your comment. Yes, you are right our medical science remains just as important but I think it will have an added dimension that will be complimented by a greater understanding of consciousness. I think it would be wonderful if we could incorporate the very important spiritual aspects of life into our current science and patient care within the medical system. I am hopeful that we will see very positive changes which will result from a synthesis of both scientific and spiritual aspects.

      • JRay October 11, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

        I recently watched the show “I survived…beyond and back” and Dr Alexander’s NDE was fascinating. I look forward to hearing his entire experience beyond what was televised.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 12, 2012 at 7:10 am #

        Yes, I think there will be a lot more detail in the book. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  4. Michael Duggan October 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Hi Penny,

    My limited understanding of the after-effects of an NDE is the experient is left with an unshakeable conviction in survival, but that seems at variance with your history of colleagues trying to rationalise away their experiences. Why the disparity?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      Hi Michael, you ask a good question. Yes, usually the NDEs leave the person with a certainty of continuation of consciousness. However, there are some cases where the NDE hasn’t been so deep i.e. has not had many of the components described by Dr Raymond Moody and this tends to leave the person with less certainty. Indeed, I’ve spoken to a few people who clearly had a NDE but dismissed it themselves as some sort of hallucination.

      In the cases of the doctors who confided their experiences in me, they were obviously at odds with what they had experienced and what they had been taught during their medical training. I don’t think their NDEs were quite as profound as Dr Alexander’s NDE and it’s almost as if they had to rationalise this experience as being due to physiological impairment in case they were deemed crazy by others.

      • Tony October 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

        If you follow some of the comments on websites regarding his experience there are people who are already questioning his ability to scientifically analyze his experience objectively. So as you say people may find it smart not to speak out and accept these experiences in public. I hope that this book will be a game changer and there will be some really good science included.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 12, 2012 at 7:09 am #

        Hi Tony, yes this is already causing quite a stir. I think Dr Alexander’s case highlights his certainty about what happened, he is absolutely convinced of the reality of what he experienced. This is a very brave thing for anyone to do in such a public way so when a Harvard educated neurosurgeon speaks so publicly about his own NDE then I think it will create much debate.

  5. Revd Rod Walton October 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Hi Dr Sartori, I am a Priest and run a Bereavement Rescue Ministry in the New Forest using NDEs as a healing tool for those suffering from bereavement, and have had really good results. I am very excited to see all the publicity being given to Dr Alexander’s book. This is so very important as it will educate people about NDEs and their potential. http://bereavementrescue.org.uk/

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 12, 2012 at 7:15 am #

      Hi Reverend Watson, thank you for your comment. I am very interested to hear of your work. I think NDEs have such potential for helping and healing in many ways especially in bereavement. I agree that Dr Alexander’s book will be very important in educating people about NDEs.

      I will look at your website and contact you in the next few days as your important work really does interest me. Thanks for contacting me.

      • brian October 13, 2012 at 1:14 am #

        Penny read the article by neuroscientist Harris ripping apart Eben’s claim. There is no evidence he was clinically dead!
        Just because Eben was convinced this was real does not mean it was. This will set back the NDE field as mostly fluff this story.

        People need to be more discerning- just because he is a brain surgeon does not mean his experience was real. He must priovide objective evidence- there is no evidence that he was even clinically dead.
        I ordered the book hoping for great evidence but Harris put a huge hole in Eben’s claims.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2012 at 10:08 am #

        Hi Brian, thanks for your comment.

        First of all you don’t have to be clinically dead to have a NDE.

        I agree, everyone should question everything that they read. It is important to consider NDEs from a balanced perspective. I have posted this blog so that people are aware of NDEs. What anyone makes of NDEs and any comments I make is entirely their own choice. I would encourage everyone to do their own research and draw their own conclusions. All I can do is report what I have learned from studying NDEs for the past 18 years and from the study that I undertook with my patients in intensive care.

        In Dr Alexander’s case he was very close to death while in intensive care. In fact, in a discussion with Dr Alexander’s family, his doctors discussed stopping the antibiotics as it seemed unlikely that he would survive. From my 17 years experience of working as a nurse in intensive care this is something that would be discussed if it seemed futile to continue with them. This in itself highlights the severity of Dr Alexander’s condition.

        The fact that Dr Alexander’s brain was severely dysfunctional yet he recalled a highly structured, lucid and heightened state of awareness during this time does not sit well with science’s current beliefs that consciousness is a mere by-product of the brain.

        Sam Harris has compared these experiences to DMT and I agree there are some similarities between NDEs and DMT experiences however, there are also differences. If you read Dr Rick Strassman’s book DMT: The Spirit Molecule he has documented the subjective reports from his group of experimenters – you can compare these to NDEs. DMT is produced endogenously so there may very well be some involvement of this during perception of a NDE. However, the current science believes that the brain physiology creates consciousness (and indeed NDEs) whereas it seems a much more plausible explanation that rather than creating the consciousness the brain mediates it. For Dr Alexander’s brain to create lucid consciousness would require a fully functioning brain but his clearly wasn’t (along with the brains of hundreds of thousands of other people who have reported a NDE). So how could a dysfunctional brain produce such a heightened state of consciousness? Dr Alexander, being a Harvard educated neurosurgeon has obviously questioned this premise. Coupled with having his own NDE he realises that his experience does not fit with what he had been taught in medical school (see the videolink to the Bioethics Forum).

        Steven Novella (see the link provided by Rob below) has also suggested that this NDE was created as Dr Alexander was regaining consciousness and that it is a construct of his brain. I have nursed thousands of people as they are regaining consciousness and the patients are usually delirious for many hours even days. The majority of these patients cannot recall anything or only have a vague recollection of events as they were regaining consciousness. In my hospital research I documented cases of patients who had clearly been hallucinating and these experiences were very different to the NDEs that I documented. Things that the patients reported were mostly attributable to the background noise, staff conversation and staff conversation that was going on as they were regaining consciousness. There was a distinct difference between the experiences reported by patients as they were regaining consciousness and those who reported a NDE.

        We still don’t have the answers to all of this. There is far more research that needs to be undertaken in order to have a greater understanding of consciousness. Dr Alexander has chosen to speak publicly about his NDE knowing that it will evoke a response from his peers. Yet, what he experienced was so powerful that he has risked his reputation in order to make positive changes towards our understanding of consciousness. It is important to have an open mind and investigate this further as opposed to accusing Dr Alexander of being a bad scientist.

      • Max_B October 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

        I think Harris’s criticism is entirely valid, I have doubts about the book… simply because of the choice of title.

        I’m sure Eben’s experience was real for him. But I always ignore the dream-like imagery, which is only relevant to me insofar as the broad-brush feelings it evokes (or visa versa, the feelings evoke the imagery). Which ever way round it is, it’s the feelings that appear to be important, not the imagery.

        Eben seems like he may have experienced exactly what he needed to feel, considering his early childhood experience.

        One of the problems I have about the whole raft of NDE’s / STE type experiences is when the detail of the experience becomes the focus, instead of asking “How is this like my life?”. Sometimes people cling to the hope that something better is coming ‘after’, and in the process avoid the present. These experiences – in my view – are all about the present, about what we need to know ‘now’, and relate quite clearly to how are lives are at this moment. They may also be about the future, but not at the exclusion of their relevance to the present.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

        Hi again Max, yes I’m guessing that the title was more a clever marketing strategy from the publisher as opposed to Dr Alexander’s first choice of titles. Its certainly worked as it has created a huge amount of publicity before the book is even released.

        I think the imagery is interpreted according to each individual’s background and culture. I agree that the feelings are what are important and I really do agree with your point about these experiences being about what we need to know now in the present. In fact that is the major point in my forthcoming book. NDEs definitely occur and are very real for the people who experience them, so instead of trying to explain how and why they happen or explain them away as aberrations of a dying brain, we should be looking at what they can teach us in the here and now.

        I have a publisher for my book and I will post a comment about it in the near future.

      • Olaf October 28, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

        You say, we don’t have all the answers. Of course, this is by definition impossible. 🙂
        But a huge step towards getting a better look at the big picture for me was reading the book “My Big TOE” (TOE=Theory of Everything) written by the nuclear physicist Thomas Campbell. It’s one of those rare books (like Eben Alexander’s), where someone with a scientific mind is describing interesting phenomena or talking about the dimensions beyond our physical world without the usual esoteric dead weight.

        I guess it’s no coincidence that they are / were both connected with the Monroe Institute in their own way.

        You will have a better idea of how and why things like the experience of Eben Alexander happen and the role the brain plays connection our consciousness with our physical reality.

        Learning something about Quantum Physics also gives you an interesting perspective on the whole issue, but you don’t need any knowledge to read My Big TOE. It’s (despite being a tome and written by a nuclear physicist) fortunately written for laymans and in a humorous and entertaining style.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

        Hi Olaf, thanks for your comment. I have a copy of Thomas Campbell’s My Big TOE and found it to be very interesting. It is a tome! I read the first part and was halfway through the second when I got distracted by soem other work I was doing at the time and I never got around to finishing it. Now that you’ve reminded me of it I will go back to it.

      • Olaf November 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

        Well, then you haven’t made it to the best part yet. 🙂

        The book alone was already an eye opener, but I also found the website including the discussion forum to be very helpful in deepening the understanding. I needed actually the forum to _really_ understand the statement “don’t confuse the model with the reality”. Otherwise MBT would have appeared a little to mechanistic for me. But with that in mind I got to understand the principles at work and still had room left to fill in the details with the more heartwarming stories like for example Eben Alexander’s.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

        Oh that’s interesting. I will go back to the book (I have a mountain of books to get through piled up on the desk in front of me!) and start reading it again. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Robert October 12, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Just saw this from debunker Steven Novella:
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/proof-of-heaven/

    Apparently, Alexander has suddenly become a bad scientist. I wonder if Novella has checked out his curriculum vitae (http://www.lifebeyonddeath.net/curriculum-vitae-0) or his list of publications (http://www.lifebeyonddeath.net/publications-0).

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      Hi Robert, thanks for these links. This has sparked a huge debate amonst Dr Alexander’s peers who, instead of hearing what he is saying and considering it with an open mind, seem intent on defiling his character.

      Novella makes some good points but in light of prospective NDE research conducted in hospitals his explanation is inadequate.

  7. tim October 12, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I’ve had a look at quite a few of the message/comments boards/sections and the amount of preconceived uniformed opinion, complete ignorance of the subject, blatant bigotry is a wonder to behold. Dr Alexander has been portrayed as a deluded fantasist, a money grubbing opportunist, a bad/biased scientist, a closet fudamentalist religious nut…my goodness it’s depressing.
    The internet seems to be over run with vindictive closed minded materialists and atheists.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Tim, yes this has sparked a huge debate. It is raising the awareness of NDEs. Lets hope more people undertake their own research into NDEs with an open mind.

      • Eric October 14, 2012 at 6:54 am #

        I’m rather disappointed with the lack of research being done, I’ve only seen one link to Dr. Alexander’s Bioethics Forum interview and no mention of his article in AANS Neurosurgeon. People have been saying he’s jumping to conclusions or simply stating “DMT” without realizing he’s considered things like that, with other neuroscientists, for a while. I think people are taking too much from the Newsweek article (which could have explained more) and not looking at other accounts.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 14, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

        Hi Eric, the Newsweek article has really brought attention to NDEs. I hope that as a result more research will be conducted, indeed I hope that there will be funding available for such research. To date there has been very little funding provided for NDE research and all the work that has been undertaken has been mainly undertaken by a small group of people in their own time and mainly at their own expense.

    • Lee October 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

      Hi Tim,

      This is all about the quality of the evidence. People should not attack Dr. Eben as a person but only focus on evidence that he puts forward.
      I am waiting to read his book before commenting much. However, Sam Harris (an atheist) deconstructs what was featured in Newsweek:
      http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven

      Perhaps of interest:
      http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/4323-sam-harris-lambasts-eben-alexander.html

      http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2012/10/sam-harris-critique-of-eben-alexander.html

      Hopefully Alexander responds to people like Harris.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

        Hi Lee, thanks for your comment and the links.

  8. Max_B October 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    I’ll have to wait and see what the reviews are like first… I vaguely recall that he was adopted, or have I got that wrong?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      Hi Max, yes Eben was adopted which leads to another interesting part of his NDE (I won’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil the read for others). He mentions it in his talk at the Bioethics Forum.

      • Max_B October 13, 2012 at 10:50 am #

        Thanks penny, I did a search on google but was puzzled I couldn’t find anything… that’s because I hadn’t ‘read’ it, I had only ‘heard’ it… duh!

        From the bit’s I’ve pieced together from the internet about Eben’s experience. The core message he’s taken from it (“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”, “You have nothing to fear.”,
        “There is nothing you can do wrong”.
        ) looks strongly related to the last bit of this talk regarding his adoption. It seems to me that he finally ‘felt’ exactly the ‘feelings’ he was missing, exactly the message he needed to learn, considering the incredible impact the knowledge that you were given away must cause to a child.

        But those messages were received with a ‘bit’ of information that should not have been in his possession, and I think it gives a clue as to where the information may have come from.

        On another point which may or may not be related to this part of Eben’s experience. I’m continually caught by those ‘hollow face illusions’, as an analogy about how the brain does it’s thing. It strikes me that the brain appears to be just as happy to construct from ‘absence’, as it is from ‘presence’.

        That suggests to me that when – for example – a cultural group ‘field’ we are used to suddenly disappears ( someone dies ), the sudden ‘absence’ of the ‘field’ might be seen by the brain almost as clearly as a ‘presence’.

        It’s currently a useful way I have of explaining some of the experiences related in Erlendur Haraldsson’s book “The departed amongst the living”.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

        Hi Max, what you say about the ‘hollow face illusions’ is really interesting. Mmm…I’d never thought about the brain constructing as much from absence as from presence. You always give me a lot to think about. I still haven’t got around to reading Haraldsson’s book, thanks for reminding me about it.

  9. brian October 13, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    Google “sam harris lambasts eben alexander”-Eben needs to reply to this neuroscientist otherwise this is not science but just someone pushing his religious beliefs.
    Only thing that matters ia evidence and based on what Harris writes, Eben has none to support his claims, regardless of how greatly he believes that his experience was real.

    Would like to read your thoughts after you read the Harris critique. Thanks.

  10. Lee October 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Hi Penny, could it be that in all cases of NDEs the brain is simply functioning enough to allow it to dream/hallucinate, even in cases where people are pronounced clinically dead for a time? I do not know much about the brain so perhaps you can answer this question.
    Thanks,
    Lee

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

      Hi Lee, you ask a really good question and one we simply cannot answer as yet. Brain activity is measured using an EEG, this monitors the electrical activity on the surface of the brain but doesn’t give an indication of the activity of the deep structures within the brain. To record an EEG when a patient is undergoing cardiac arrest (clinical death) is virtually impossible as it takes time to place the electrodes around the head. Even if cardiac arrest occurred when a patient was already having an EEG, there would be so much artifact created by the wires moving that the EEG would not be readable.

      With regards to dreams and hallucinations it is important to remember that there are differences between these and NDEs. Dreams are often forgotten (although some may be recalled) and hallucinations can also be vivid but usually the person can rationalise that they were hallucinating. Whereas NDEs are etched in the persons mind usually for the rest of their life and they can recall it as if it happened seconds ago. NDEs are also life changing and many people totally change the way in which they live their life. In Dr Alexander’s case, his NDE was so profound and so beyond anything he has ever experienced before that it has prompted him to completely revise his worldview and indeed question all that he was taught in medical school. This is not to say that what he was taught in medical school is invalid but that it is limited with regards to our understanding of consciousness.

      The brain is involved in perceiving NDEs and recalling the experience but rather than creating consciousness it just mediates it. The brains of people who have NDEs were severely dysfunctional at the time of the experience. So how is it that these people can recall such a heightened state of awareness? It should not be possible if the brain creates consciousness.

  11. Lee October 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    Thanks Penny.

    Do you know of NDE cases where people came back to explain how they experienced nonsensical visions like purple unicorns, clowns, etc? I ask because if they did, this would show that one can hallucinate/dream on any subject matter (not just about viewing the body from above, seeing a light, feeling love, etc).

    Also, from what I read, people having deathbed visions just prior to death see dead relatives/friends but I have not heard of accounts where they see living people. Strange, if it is true that deathbed visions are only of those already deceased, as this really makes you question why dying people would have such a common experience ( if these people were simply having hallucinations, then some deathbed visions should be of the living, others of purple unicorns and such nonsense, but this does not appear to be the case, unless I am mistaken).

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2012 at 10:59 am #

      Hi Lee, the NDE follows a specific pattern but each experience is unique. I have never come across a NDE where the person reported such things as purple unicorns or clowns. The closest thing I have come across Patient 11 in my study who reported that during his NDE he was in another realm that had trees which were almost like coloured gossamer and it was glittery. He described it being similar to things portrayed by children’s toys called ‘My Littel Pony’. During his NDE he met his deceased granddaughter and she used to play with ‘My Little Pony’ a lot so it seems that the way he interpreted his experience was heavily influenced by his dead granddaughter. Incidentally he had a conversation with his granddaughter in which he was told some information that he was not aware of. When he regained consciousness he communicated this information to his family and they were astonished that he should know this. His wife confirmed this to me. So this man gained information in ways other than through the senses during a time that he was deeply unconscious. How do we explain that?

      With regards to the deathbed visions, yes, the dying person sees people who have already died. Interestingly in some cases, as with Patient 19 in my study, they can see people who they did not know to be dead at the time of their experience. Patient 19 was very close to death and while working a night shift myself and my colleagues watched him suddenly become very animated and he was gesturing and talking to someone we could not see. He looked very happy and had a big smile on his face. The following morning he told his family that his sister had visited him during the night. The patient’s sister had actually died the week before but he did not know this as the family had not told him because they did not want to upset him or set back his recovery. He died a few days later.

      • Lee October 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

        Thanks Penny. Incredible if all this was/is just mere coincidence and that there is nothing more to it…

        BTW do you have a book out about your cased? I would buy as interested in reading.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

        Its a fascinating area to study and has raised far more questions for me than it has answered. I’ve published my research in my book ‘The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patient: A Five Year Clinical Study’ 2008 The Edwin Mellen Press. At the moment it is in hardback and costs a ridiculous amount of money (£85 / 120 dollars) as its an academic mongraph. However, in the future the book may be out in softback at a greatly reduced price but you’d have to check this with the publisher Edwin Mellen Press.

        I’ve written a second book which has many great examples of all kinds of experiences near-death (it is much more affordable too!) and I have just got a publisher for this. I’ll post more information on this over the next few weeks.

      • Jake October 19, 2012 at 4:14 am #

        this is truly incredible penny. I was not aware of all this.

  12. Lee October 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    Thanks for the note about the books Penny. Please let us know when the second book goes on sale and if possible, please see if you can sell paperback copies via Amazon as well as Nook (ebooks)-this way one can pay and download from the Barnes and Noble site if they have a Nook, as I do. Of course Amazon has Kindle ebooks.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

      Hi Lee, I will post a comment on the blog when I know more about when the book will be out. It will definitely be available from Amazon and it will be in both ebook and paperback format.

  13. Stuart October 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Do you hope the book will be out pre or post Christmas?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      Hi Stuart, the book will be out after Christmas. I’ll post a comment on the book when I know more about when it will be released.

  14. Tony October 16, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    The question about whether these events occurred at the time when regaining consciousness has come up again and again. If you listen (or read the transcript) of Eben’s experience on http://www.skeptiko.com, Eben describes the point when coming into consciousness. This was to address the question of timing that the host put forth. It reminds me of some of what was discussed on your other blog posts regarding hallucinations and NDE’s when I asked if we can see a transition between NDE and hallucination. There seems to be a clear distinction between the hallucination which seems to occur when awakening out of unconsciousness and the NDE experience itself. He says “So I was having a very rapid return of cortical function, but I was still kind of in and out of reality. In fact, in my book I go into great detail describing what I call the “nightmare,” which was kind of a paranoid, crazy thing where I was halfway in and out of reality. My younger son, Bond, he can describe it to you. It was kind of a very frightening thing because I would seem to be with it and then I’d be saying things that were just out of my mind.” I am curious what your thoughts are on this?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      Hi Tony, thanks for your comment. When patients in ICU are regaining consciousness they are often very confused, delirious and irrational – especially if they have been sedated (in a drug induced coma) for a few days or more. Often they become aggressive to the nurses and doctors, sometimes they try to rip out all of the various tubes and intravenous lines and they can be like this for hours, days and in some cases weeks. They are flipping in and out of consciousness and in my experience I always found it easier to sit with the patient and reiterate that they were in hospital and were safe and that I was their nurse. They had to be constantly reoriented to time, place and person because it was apparent that they had short term memory loss as they were alternating between ordinary consciousness and unconsiousness. I also found that touch – simply holding their hands in many cases helped to ground them as I was reorienting them. In some instances I sounded like a stuck record but that was the only thing that helped them.

      There is also something called ICU psychosis which can occur for various different reasons such as sedation and sleep deprivation. Patients are clearly displaying abnormal behaviour often of a paranoid nature and they can become very aggressive. In my experience of working in ICU I found that on follow-up some patients may have some vivid memories of bizarre, irrational hallucinations but many of them do not recall anything about when they were in that state and the very few who do have memories of that time are usually highly embarrassed by their behaviour.

      Dr Alexander had a NDE but also recalled what he described as the nightmare where he was in and out of reality. It seems to me that he could later distinguish between the NDE and the nightmare when he had regained full consciousness. You’d have to clarify this with him, I can only speak from what I have briefly read, I’m sure it will be described more in depth in his book.

      Incidentally, Patient 10 in my study experienced both hallucinations due to morphine and also had a very deep NDE but these were experienced at different times. He had been having very small amounts of morphine for pain relief the week prior to his NDE. He was very clear that these were very different experiences. When he was hallucinating on morphine he knew that it was not a real experience, the room was spinning, he felt great but he knew it was the effects of the morphine. Whereas his NDE was completely different and he remains adamant to this day (12 years after his NDE) that it is ‘realer than real’ and he can still recall his NDE as if it occurred a few seconds ago whereas the morphine experience has faded. He also described events that occurred while he was deeply unconscious with great accuracy.

    • Lee October 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Hi Penny, I contacted a few brain surgeons and neuroscientists re the claims made by Dr. Alexander. Here are their replies:
      1) Prof of neuroscience: Still skeptical. There are many unsubstantiated claims here – I’d need to see the data that the cortex was really offline.
      2)Neurologist: He clearly had perceptual images, but what they represent is his subjective impression.
      3) Brain surgeon: his cortex was not working when he had his vision. So he filled in the gaps using micro tubules and pi electron cloud of DHA

      Perhaps of interest.

      • Lee October 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

        Forgot to add that a second brain surgeon that I contacted to ask whether one can dream if the cortex is completely shut off stated: “Don’t know, but suppose not… ”

        I wonder if there is consensus in the brain science community as to which part of the brain dreams originate from

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

        Mm..I’m sure there are many people out there who can answer that question about the origination of dreams.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

        Thanks for these Lee, it still doesn’t explain how something to incredibly vivid and life changing can be experienced (and later recalled as if it occurred seconds ago) at a time when the brain severely dysfunctional.

      • Lee October 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

        http://ask.metafilter.com/11616/Do-comatose-patients-dream
        http://www.science20.com/news_articles/altered_states_or_coma_you_still_dream_says_study-81693

        Are we sure that patients can’t dream while in coma (severly dysfunctional brain)? If they can, then it does not appear that there is much to Dr. Alexander’s story.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

        Yes, it is possible to dream while in a coma (especially if it is a drug induced coma and sedation is very light).

        As I’ve said before, dreams are very different from NDEs. Dreams are not etched into the memory in the way that a NDE is, dreams are rarely life changing in the way that NDEs are. The NDE can be so life changing that there is a high divorce rate in NDErs after the experience as their spouse no longer recognises them as the person they were prior to the NDE – I’ve not heard of this reported by people who have vivid dreams. The NDE is a heightened state of consiousness and information has been gained during this state of consciousness that could not have been gained through the senses (as with Patient 11 in my study).

        At this point we simply do not have the answers as to how NDEs can be fully explained but it points to our understanding of consciousness. The current scientific premise that consciousness is created by the brain is very limited and needs to be revised and expanded.

      • Lee October 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        Dr. Alexander has replied to the critique from Sam Harris: http://www.skeptiko.com/sam-harris-wont-debate-eben-alexander-on-near-death-experience-science/

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

        Thanks for this Lee, I’ll check it out.

  15. Kinseher Richard October 16, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    Dear @Lee/purple unicorn:
    Purple unicorns need not to be a hallucination! It could be that here pictures are recalled, early child experiences, which might come from children books or from fairy tales TV-films.

    Objects and the colour of objects are stored in different areas of the memory. Prof. Vanessa Simmering could show in experiments, that children up to an age of four years can make mistakes when they store an object and its colour in the memory. When this experience is recalled, then an object with ´wrong´ colour is remembered: e.g. green horses or red grass. This mean, the ´wrong´ colours need not to be a result of hallucination.

    It is not possible to survive brain-death. Death is not reversible for us humans.. So, when NDEs are reported after brain death, the diagnosis brain-death must have been wrong. And – when a NDE was experienced, this person must have been in a state of conscious awareness during this experience and when it was stored in the memory. Never mind how the state was before and after this experience.

    Most of the NDEs have the same STRUCTURE, the key-elements, which were already reported by Dr Moody in ´Life after Life´. This uniform structure is a hint, that they are not a result of delirious or hallucinatory states. And it is a challenge for NDE-research to analyse and explain these structures with a natural explanation, if possible.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Richard, thank you for your comment it is very helpful. It has given me more to think about as you make a very good point about Professor Vanessa Simmering’s work.

    • Lee October 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      Thanks Richard. I was wondering whether nonsensical images such a purple unicorns are seen during NDEs and death bed visions? If nonesensical images are not seen, this would add weight to NDEs and death bed visions being something other than mere hallucinations. Mind you Dr. Alexander’s vision could also be qualified as being nonsensical (flying on the wing of a butterlfly etc)…

      • Lee October 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

        Does anyone on this forum know 1) what part of the brain dreams/visions originate and 2) can one have dreams/visions if the cortex is completely off.
        Perhaps the brain science community has no definitive answers to the above?

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

        I haven’t come across any cases of purple unicorns during death bed visions. Each NDE is unique and reflects the individual’s interpretation of the experience. Whereas in Dr Alexander’s case he described flying on the wing of a butterfly, someone else may have interpreted thier NDE differently for example it may have been perceived as floating on a boat.

        Carl Jung wrote much about archetypes and the collective unconscious. It makes sense to me that people are interpreting archetypes when they report their NDE, during their NDE they accessed the collective unconscious and interpreted it according to their cultural and social back ground.

  16. Kinseher Richard October 17, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    to: Lee
    we can have no conscious experiences (and no dreams/visions) when the cortex is completely off. All experiments (e.g. with fMRT) show that at a recall the same areas in the brain are active – which were active when we had learned/made an experience. This means: recalled experiences are RE-experiences – we activate the same areas as with the original experiences. > (and here you can see a problem: when it is not possible to activate these parts of the brain, no re-experience is possible > this means: it is not possible to store our human experiences with digital computer equipment – as a brain copy to have digital ´eternal live´)
    With an EEG, brain activity in the cortex can be recognized only with a deepness of 3-4 mm, deeper layers are not accessible. This means: it is difficult or impossible to measure reliably whether a cortex is completely off or not.
    NDES, dreams/visions/hallucinations are different: NDEs have a structure (Moodys key elements) whereas in dreams/visions/hallucinations we can not recognize such a structure.
    It is presumed that the production of and the reaction on acetylcholin might start dreams – whereas the production of serotonin/noradrenaline might end dreaming.

    To exclude sensual stimuli from perception might stimulate dreams/vision because the focus of attention is directed at a smaller amount of remaining stimuli: e.g. when we dream at night it is dark, eyes are closed and usually we don´t move; e.g. when you go to a fortuneteller for ´crystal gazing´- there are less stimuli: a dark room with a candle: the flickering flame might stimulate visions in an oszillating brain activity.
    With the ´body swap illusion´-experiments (to produce OBEs) you have the same situation: sensual stimuli from outside are reduced by the use of 3D-goggles

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 17, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      Thank you for your comment

    • Lee October 17, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      Hi Richard, you seem to know a lot about this area of study. Can I ask what your background is? Thanks.

      • Kinseher Richard October 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

        Hi Lee. I have developed an explanation model by which all NDE phenomenons can be completely explained (at least I think so). See with Google [“Immortality project” Pfeiffer] my comments (Anonymus) on Pfeiffer s blog for more free information.
        For a good explanation model it is necessary to understand also other phenomenons or at least their correspondence with/difference to NDEs – this is the reason why I collected information to similar topics (body swap illusion, lucid dreaming, dreaming, memory storage/recall, development of senses, …)

        And – I have to remark it here. I appreciate it very much, that Ms. Dr. Sartori does not delete ideas which might explain NDEs!!! Other NDE-´researchers´ will delete ideas immediately which might explain as normal activity of the brain/memory > Her behaviour is also an advantage for you, to have the chance to read different opinions to a certain topic.

      • lee October 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

        Hi Richard, thanks for the info.
        Do you believe in survival of consciousness after death?

  17. Kinseher Richard October 17, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    to Penny:
    Dr Daniel Erlacher published ´Anleitung zum Klarträumen, ISBN9783842330740´ a book to the topic ´lucid dreaming´. (in German, comparable literature should be available in English).
    There he gives instructions how we can learn lucid dreaming (LD). During LD it is possible to fly over landscapes, to float, to hover, to twist pirouettes, to move through walls and closed doors, to ´touch´ objects > we are free to choose speed, place and what we want to do during LD => similar experiences are reported from OBEs.
    And here you can have a possible explanation of Dr. Alexanders flight on the wing of a butterly > this experience could be the result of LD

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 17, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      Thanks for this information, it is most helpful. I’ll look up Dr Daniel Erlacher’s book

  18. Tony October 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    In the following on Skeptiko, Eben is quoted as saying (regarding the comments from Sam Harris): “Again, he needs to read the book. In fact, I know that my experience happened within coma because of certain anchors to earth time in memory.” That sounds like perhaps a veridical OBE component.

    http://www.skeptiko.com/sam-harris-wont-debate-eben-alexander-on-near-death-experience-science/

    BTW Penny, I love your interview on the show! 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      Hi Tony, I’m not sure. I don’t recall Dr Alexander mentioning that at the Bioethics Forum in April. I think it may be related to certain things that occurred before losing consciousness and just as he was regaining consciousness but this would have to be clarified with Eben. There was one very interesting aspect about the angel / figure that he encountered during his NDE but I won’t spoil it as I’m sure its in the book.

      Ooh thanks for your comment on the skeptico interview – I’d almost forgotten about that, it was quite a long time ago.

      • Stuart October 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

        http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-10/fyi-what-causes-near-death-experiences

        Just a general respone to what Dr Eben wrote. I could be wrong biut it appears that Dr Parnia is looking for a root cause that from my reading appears to be of a physical nature. Any thoughts?

        Thanks

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

        Hi Stuart, I think what Dr Parnia is doing is looking specifically at cases where clinical death was certain. Although NDEs occur in many circumstances as death approaches (as I found when doing my research) it is very difficult to pin point exactly when the NDE occurred. At which point a NDE occurred during unconsciousness is difficult to ascertain because intensive care patients may remain unconscious for some days after the event in which they came close to death.

        When there is definite clinical death and absence of heartbeat and no blood circulation then this can give a more precise time as to when the NDE occurred, especially (as with some patients in a coronary care unit) if the patient regains consciousness quite quickly after they were resuscitated. So if someone who claimed to be out of their body and reported veridical events that occurred while they were in cardiac arrest then it raises the question of how such a heightened state of consciousness is possible if the brain has no blood and oxygen flowing to it.

  19. Kinseher Richard October 19, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    at Lee: survival of consciousness after death?
    We have terms for objects and ideas which allow us, to communicate, e.g. when I say ´I have eaten an apple´ – everybody who is familiar with the term ´apple´, can understand what I mean.
    The term ´consciousness´ is a fixed term for a biological brain activity in a state of awareness where it is possible to perceive thoughts and sensual experiences: In this meaning of the term, consciousness after biological death and/or outside the brain is not possible.
    (Don´t forget: while sleeping, we have for a certain time no consciousness – but we are still alive)

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Yes, I agree consciousness after biological death should not be possible. However, we still cannot yet explain how at times of clinical death (when the brain is severely dysfunctional) some people report a heightened state of consciousness and may even report viewing events from an out of body perspective and gain information that they were previously not aware of.

      I wouldn’t say that we have no consciousness while sleeping but rather that we have no conscious recall of any subjective experience that may have occurred while we were asleep.

      Therefore it would make sense to explore other ways of understanding consciousness rather than ridgidly sticking to the premise that consciousness is a by-product of the brain.

      • Stuart October 19, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

        As in leaving the window open for consciousness existing independent of the brain, with the brain not the producer of consciousness, but a mediator of the consciousness? Am I correct in your opinion there Penny?

        Thanks

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

        Yes, it seems far more plausible that the brain mediates rather than produces consciousness.

      • Tony October 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

        I agree Penny, and lets remember that there are people who can do quite well with very little brain at all: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12301-man-with-tiny-brain-shocks-doctors.html In addition, I’ve read of some rather radical hemispherectomies performed on patients with intractable epilepsy. There postoperative IQ scores were comparable to preop. And these were major hemispherectomies with in some cases half the brain removed.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

        Yes, thats a really good point Tony. Thanks for the link.

      • Lee October 19, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

        Penny, NDEs are just one line of “evidence.” There are many more out there, that, when taken together, could suggest the possibility of survival after death whereby our personality/consciousness (whatever you want to call it) persists. I am not saying I am a firm believer in our surviving death, but from the limited research I have done on this subject, I am open minded enough to consider the possibility of “something” surviving death.

        I think NDEs are a very important area of study, as this may be one important line of evidence. If someone like Penny, with all her years of scientific research, believes that there could be something to NDEs which cannot be explained simply via the materialist view, then it is worth looking into further.

        This is a little off topic, but I believe that If we do not survive death, I do not see a point to life, other than to pass on genes, which in itself is rather meaningless (for what purpose is it important to pass on our genes? who cares if the world survives in a universe with gazillions of stars and planets; our little planet is meaningless in the greater scheme of things-it is only our egos which give importance to this planet, because this is where we live-if the world came to an end tomorrow, the rest of the universe would continue to go about its business as if nothing happened).

        The question of survival of consciousness should be the most important one that mankind considers, as the answer could help answer so many other important questions.

        Sorry if I digress.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

        Yes, you make very good points Lee. I think the question of the survival of consciousness is a very important. To me the current belief that the brain creates consiousness is now too limited. It has worked well up until this point but now that more research is being undertaken into NDEs as well as other similar experiences, it is apparent that this view needs to be revised and updated.

        However, as I concluded in my first book page 333:
        …the most important point to remember is that what occurs after the initial phases, as described by the NDEr, is beyond our comprehension and will remain a mystery until we all, one day, experience it in its entirety, at our own death.

      • Kinseher Richard October 20, 2012 at 6:07 am #

        Dear Penny, a person is not dead in a state of clinical death:
        The term ´clinical death´ exactly does mean, that a person is still alive (*) – but would/might die without resuscitation.
        (e.g. when the heart-beats had stopped – there is enough oxygen in the blood. Therefore resuscitation is started with heart pressure massage (the chest is pressed down 3-5 cm, 100x per minute) to keep the blood-circulation active and to deliver blood with oxygen from the body to the brain. Later additional mouth-to mouth respiration is necessary to add new oxygen into the lungs/blood)

        *) A person who is alive, can have consciousness/awareness and perceive sensual experiences.
        When the brain is severely disfunctional or even damaged, this might create brain damage and lead to coma, when parts of the brain are destroyed.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

        I agree, at the time of cardiac arrest have the potential of being resuscitated or dying for a short period of time so cannot be classified as actually dead. However, this is referred to as clinical death as there is absence of heart beat and no circulation of blood to the brain.

        Survival of cardiac arrest is more likely if resuscitation is commenced immediately. So if someone underwent an out of hospital cardiac arrest their chance of survival is greatly reduced. Whereas in intensive care most patients are immediately resuscitated and are usually already ventilated so their chances of survival are markedly increased.

        However, during cardiac arrest brain function is severely impaired. As I have discussed in my first book on page 262 – 264 verification of brain activity during cardiac arrest is problematic due to insufficient time to record an EEG. There are circumstances where EEGs have been recorded during induced cardiac arrest for defibrillator threshold testing (See the work of Aminoff, Scheinman, Griffing and Herre 1988, de Vries, Bakker, Visser, Diephuis and van Huffelen 1998). When in cardiac arrest induced by ventricular fibrillation (VF) there is complete cessation of cerebral blood flow resulting in acute pancerebral anoxia. It has also been shown that middle cerebral artery blood flow (which is a reliable trend to monitor cerebral blood flow) decreases to 0cm/sec immediately after induction of VF. Studies in both humans and animals have shown that cerebral function is severely impaired during cardiac arrest (see the work of Aminoff et al 1988, Clute and Levy 1990, de Vries at al 1998).

        EEG monitoring has shown that the catastrophic reduction of blood flow (ischaemia) results in decreased cerebral electrical activity. Cessation of blood flow for longer than 10 minutes leads to irreversible brain death. EEG recovery underestimates the metabolic recovery of the brain and cerebral oxygen uptake may be depressed for a considerable time after restoration of circulation.

        Previous studies have shown no electrical activity for an average of 15 seconds during cardiac arrest. In cardiac arrest longer than 37 seconds the EEG will not immediately return to normal even when after the restoration of circulation.

        So how is it that some people who have had a cardiac arrest can recall a heightened state of consciousness if there is no, or greatly reduced, electrical activity and cessation of blood flow? How can these people who have a NDE be so precise and clear about what they experienced while their brain function was so severely impaired? I have nursed hundreds of patients who have been successfully resuscitated from cardiac arrest and they are very drowsy, vague and shocked for some hours even days after the event. Most have no recollection of anything at all happening during the time they were unconscious. Yet there are a few who report a highly structured sequence of events of a NDE, some have even gained information while in this state that wasn’t available to them through the senses. This is what interests me so much. How can this be possible if the brain is not functioning as it should be?

    • Lee October 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

      Thanks Richard, so do you believe our “spirit,” or whatever you call it survives? I ask because it seems that various lines of evidence point to the possibility of survival of “consciousness”- e.g. research by world renowned scientists 100 yrs back on mediums, as well as other lines of evidence could lead one to believe that we survive in some manner after death (incarnates, according to mediums, for example, provide evidence of surviving death by communicating in a conscious manner, where personality is said to survive death).

      My mom and her brother saw an apparition together when they were about 10 and 13 (this was about 10 yrs after WWII in war torn Eastern Europe)-they thought it looked like the Virgin Mary but regardless, they saw an apparition (floating across the kitchen wall for about 5 seconds) which was as clear as if one were looking at a painting from a few feet away (they were home alone and there we no pictures of the Virgin Mary in the home, there were no external light sources from outside which could have projected such an image, etc). How could one explain such phenomena (from mediums, sightings of apparitions, etc). if not via survival of “consciousness,” after death or whatever you want to call it?

  20. tim October 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Penny said >This is what interests me so much. How can this be possible if the brain is not functioning as it should be?<

    Great post Penny, indeed, how can it.

  21. Kinseher Richard October 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Dear Penny: Please read in my book, page 27 – where I ´calculated´ the duration of a NDE – 1,2 sec. The man was alive and could observe the attac > Here you can see a problem, even when the brain function is impaired. When the person is clear only for 1 sec during this impareness, this can be enough time for a NDE

    Dear Lee: NDEs are the results of brain activities which will be experienced in a state of conscious awareness – therefore they do not give any information on a next world, supernatural experiences or the existence of god(s). (And this is, what good theologians will tell you, too – biological death is not reversible for us humans, therefore a person who can tell of a NDE was never dead nor in a next world.)
    When it is reported, to have met deceased persons like real during a NDE – this can be explained: Our experiences are made, stored in the memory and recalled in PRESENT TENSE. Therefore, when we remember experiences with a person, it seem to be vivid and real.

    And NDEs show, that conscousness/the self/the I has only the duration of a short moment – this insight is not new. For Buddism therefore consciousness/ I /the self are only illusions who will be permanently reconstructed. When you are interested in this topic, you should read the book ´Lama Anagarika Govinda: Foundation of Tibetan Mysticism ISBN 0-87728-064-9) There you can read a lot about mysticism but also about consciousness and what Buddisms think about the end of our life. The book is very difficult to read – but you have the possibility of a free read with amazon (search inside). Maybe you have to read some articles several times until you understand the text.

    To the apparition of your mother and her brother: it is not possible to say anything without knowing the circumstances. Was it a reflection from outside, were they tired and alone, … there are a lot of possibilities
    e.g. you will surely know the game ´cloud gazing´: In summer white clouds are observed by children to see there clouds in the shape of animals. At the beginning, you can see almost no animals, but the longer you watch, the more animals can be recognized. Here you can see how our brain is working – it will activate the memories of animals (pattern) and therefore when we see a similar pattern, then we ´recognize´ an animal. This is an oszillating process which might have been experienced by you mother and her brother: Do not forget – none of us does know the appearance of Virgin Mary! So – we would not recognize her, even when we would see her! We know only paintings and sculptures of our culture – and therefore the apparition might have come out of the memory.

    And here a nice story
    Several year ago there were a lot of apparitions of a Virgin Mary who cried tears of blood. From one apparition (Italy) a sample of the blood was tested (chromosomes) and it was found to be the blood of a man. The church announced, that it might be possible with a DNA-anylsis to find out the person for an accusation of fraud – since that time, the Virgin Mary is crying tears of oil.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

      Hi Richard, thanks for your interesting comments. I like your ‘nice story’ at the end of your comment.

      The brain was not impaired in the example that you gave on page 27 of your book (which I have here in front of me) from which you estimated the duration of the NDE. In the example that you used of the man under attack during World War II he only perceived himself to be close to death he was not actually close to death (although that was highly likely). He was not hit by the bullet nor did he lose consciousness, nor did he have a cardiac arrest.

      The most interesting cases to me are those that occur during cardiac arrest. Some people have reported being out of their body and viewing their resuscitation from above at a time many seconds, and even minutes, after they initially lost consciouness and after the resuscitation has begun. During this time there would be severe cerebral impairment as I explained in my previous comment (along with the references to support what I am saying). Further to the OBE component, many go on to describe many other components of the NDE such as a whole panoramic life review, meeting deceased relatives and often communicating with them. What they describe is highly structured and described with great clarity of thought and this memory remains etched in their mind for the rest of their life. How can such awareness be possible if consciousness is created by the brain? In these cases, cerebral function is so severely impaired that it cannot produce consciousness. So it seems more plausible to suggest that in order to explain NDEs we need to revise and expand our understanding of consciousness.

    • Lee October 22, 2012 at 12:18 am #

      Richard, They were home alone.
      There was no reflection in terms of the apparition as there were no sources of light in the kitchen coming in from outside (the one small window was boarded over so people in the street could not see in). Inside the very small home there were no images (photos/paintings) of women with veils on with hands clasped together in prayer, so no source of light in the living room could have reflected/projected such an image, which moved across the entire length of the kitchen wall.

      Your attempts at rational explanations make no sense given that both could not have seen this image and described it identically, in detail, if they were simply tired (how would being tired result in them seeing the same woman?); if they were glimpsing at some fuzzy image that streaked across the wall, etc.-the apparition was as distinct as if one were standing 2 feet from the Mona Lisa; it wasn’t some fuzzy image (like a cloud) where different people could see whatever they wanted to see. People are not as simple minded as you may assume them to be.

      Quite the trick or coincidence if this apparition came from both of their memories at the very same instant and they both ended up describing its physical appearance precisely in the same manner (perhaps they were lying you may ask? Not for 60 yrs as nothing to gain from this-they told only a few people after all these years). If it was not the Virgin Mary (and I have no idea whether it was; my mom and uncle only say it looked like what they had seen in pictures in the homes of others -btw neither my mom nor her brother became religious as a result of this sighting), it was still an apparition of a woman, with a veil on, hands clasped together as if in prayer, floating high up across the kitchen wall a few feet away from them; disappearing as it reached the end of the wall.

      Both my mom and brother at 70 and 73 recall this apparition as if it occurred yesterday-this is how memorable it was. My mom described the dimensions of the room, locations of doors, light sources, etc, to me when I was questioning her about it to try to rule out rational explanations.

      As for NDEs, like myself, you have no idea whether the person is glimpsing into the other side of death as you are only basing your assumptions on your own theories of how the mind works. You have no evidence to support your assertions; if your very simplistic explanation for NDEs is indeed true, then numerous top-notch scientists, MDs, nurses, etc, must be some of the most simple minded and gullible people on the planet, wasting years of their lives on mere nonsense.

  22. Kinseher Richard October 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    Dear Penny: The old man in my example was alive and in no dangerous health situation. The only trigger for his NDE was the thought that he would die.
    This example show, that NDEs with healthy people are possible – and here is my critisism against NDE-research: NDEs are up to now only seen as an effect of dying, as hallucination but not/never as the result of normal brain activity in a state of conscious awareness.
    A similar experience can be found in Moodys book (chapter ´The rieview´: the truck driver who had an accident with NDE)
    Serious researchers have to analyse all possibilities to explain a phenomenon – and this possibility (normal brain acivity) was never a real topic of NDE-research. And this is the reason why I make the accusation of bungle against NDE-research.
    We can not understand/explain consciousness nor NDEs when we suppress ideas which might help to understand it.

    Dear Lee: I have had no doubt about the apparition reported by you mother and her brother. And – as I said, for a serious answer it wold be necessary to know more details. I wrote only some possibilities – but I gave no answer/explanation. Therefore it is not necessary to be angry about me.

    My explanation model for NDEs was never a topic in NDE-research. But good researchers have to discuss all(!) possiblilities to explain an unknown phenomenon.
    Even when my explanation is true (as I expect) – I would never say nor think that NDE-researchers up to now are simple minded or would have spent their time on nonsense!
    Research has to analyse all possibilites – even the wrong ideas.
    And – NDE-researcher have collected up to now a lot of material, this material can be used also in future for an analysis which is based on new ideas for interpretation.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      Hi Richard, yes I am well aware that experiences similar to NDEs are possible when there is no danger to the health of the person – I have hundreds of these cases on record in my files as well as NDEs. These have been called Fear Death Experiencs by Dr Pim Van Lommel. They are also similar to spiritually transforming experiences which occur when there is no threat of danger. However, you cannot rule out the facts from my last comment. There are examples that occurred during cardiac arrest, which were reported as being viewed from an out of body perspective after resuscitation had begun and at a time when cerebral function was severely impaired. These highly lucid, structured experiences should not have been possible if consciousness is produced by the brain.

      In reply to your statement: “Serious researchers have to analyse all possibilities to explain a phenomenon – and this possibility (normal brain acivity) was never a real topic of NDE-research. And this is the reason why I make the accusation of bungle against NDE-research.”
      You seem to have no awareness of the work of d’Aquili and Newberg, Dr Mario Beauregard, Dr Peter Fenwick and all of the other people in the field of NDEs.

      In reply to your further comment: “We can not understand/explain consciousness nor NDEs when we suppress ideas which might help to understand it.” I do not know of any NDE researcher who has suppressed any ideas that may help them to understand consciousness.

  23. robertcircleofa October 23, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I know the AWARE study has sometimes cropped up on this blog. For those interested in the kind of evidence it is attempting to gather, here’s an NDE that will break your heart, or give you hope, or both! I just ran across it at the nderf.org site:

    Christopher M NDE. 10/16/12 . …the closet was a cabinet (a wardrobe) by the window. It stood away from the wall and was maybe six feet tall. With two doors in the font and a drawer in the bottom. As she was helping me into my shorts I remembered that someone had left an L. E. D. sign on top. I could tell it shocked her when I told her about it. She ask. “What did it say?” I explained it was not turned on so it was dark. Then she helped me back into bed and said she would be right back. She returned with a doctor that questioned me about the sign. The sign was twenty four inches long by four inches wide. It had a dark color (black or gray) plastic face with red L.E.D’s. It was not turned on so it had no message. The doctor stood on a chair and lifted the sign up so I could see it. Then explained that it had been left in the room to help with a study for Out Of Body Experiences.
    NDE due to auto accident.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

      Thanks for this Robert,
      This is really interesting. Was Christopher one of the patients in the AWARE study? Did he mention who the doctor was who stood on the chair?. If this is part of the AWARE study then there will certainly be some very interesting findings when all of the data is collated. Lets hope this case has been thoroughly investigated and will be written up and published.

      • robertcircleofa October 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

        I just heard back from Jeffrey Long on this. He said:

        “Christopher M’s NDE was 16 years ago in the United States, so it was not part of the AWARE study. I am in communication with him to try to track down any of the health care team that attended him after his injury. So far I have figured out which hospital he was at. I’ll post updates on Christopher M’s NDE as I get more information. This was 16 years ago and he had a head injury, so I need confirmation of his account from his health care team.”

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

        Thanks for this extra information and for looking into this Robert. I’m pretty sure that Madelaine Lawrence was doing this kind of research around about 16 years ago, maybe it’s linked to her work. I look forward to any updates.

      • robertcircleofa October 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

        I’ll definitely keep you posted. The link to the full NDE, by the way, is now working: http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Experiences/christopher_m_nde.htm

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

        Thanks for that. I just read the whole experience that he posted. I was really interested when he mentioned about trying to pull his catheter out and how one of the healthcare workers had warned him not to. It was so good to read that he had mentioned how confused people are when they come out of a coma and how they need sympathy and understanding rather than instructions. This is such an important point.

  24. Kinseher Richard October 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Dear Penny – your/Pim van Lommels arguments are a joke:
    When an NDE can be explained as experience at a state of conscious awareness, then it is suddenly a fear-death experience. And only such experiences which can´t be explained are ´real´ NDEs.
    This is no scientific argument, this is pure nonsense. Because every NDE which can be explained as normal – is then no longer an NDE: it´s then a Fear-Death Experience.
    The logic behind this nonsense is – NDEs have to be an phenomen which can´t be explained.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

      Hi Richard,
      Actually Richard you misunderstand my point. First of all it is Dr Van Lommel who refers to these as fear death experiences and not me. I am not saying that Fear Death Experiences are any less valid than NDEs (and I don’t think Dr Van Lommel is either) but they are experienced in a slightly different context in that it is the threat of danger that is present in the fear death experience whereas it is actual physiological dysfunction in the NDE in cases of cardiac arrest.

      In both experiences there is a heightened state of consciousness, time distortion, meeting of deceased relatives, tunnel and light etc. Again in both circumstances information that is not available to the senses can be gained.

      Again I will repeat myself and say that the thing that interests me is that during a cardiac arrest and after the resuscitation process has begun, some people report a heightened state of consciousness and have also reported viewing the emergency situation from an out of body perspective. The events that have been viewed occurred after they had lost consciousness at a time when cerebral function was severely impaired. So, if the brain creates consciousness how can this be possible?

      To me it would make more sense to explore other ways of understanding consciousness rather than try to explain away experiences that have such a profound effect on the people who experience them that it motivates them to change their life. NDEs are a highly complex phenomenon and I have been studying them for 17 years (to PhD level) and I wouldn’t dare to profess that I have all the answers nor would I say I could explain them fully. There is still a great deal more that we need to learn about NDEs and consciousness itself.

  25. Lee October 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Penny , being from the UK, perhaps you have heard of this soldier?
    http://bfbs.com/news/iraq/para-becomes-pastor-after-near-death-experience-50662.html
    Also life altering experience -how many of those simply hallucinating make such life changes after an NDE?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      Hi Lee,
      Thanks for the link – I’d never heard of this soldier before but his experience is very interesting. It really highlights how life changing these experiences are. It is very unusual to hear a young soldier who, by his own admission, liked to go out and get drunk and not treat his wife as he should have to suddenly change his life style, start talking about God, leave the army and go to Bible college to study God.

      It reminds me of the case of Howard Storm who was an atheist university professor. After his NDE he too went on to study theology and trained to become a minister.

      None of the patients in my study who were hallucinating made any such life changes. However, some patients I have nursed who didn’t have a NDE have made big life changes following their critical illness so confrontation with one’s own mortality can instigate life changes. However, the life changes in NDErs appear to be to a greater degree.

  26. Max_B October 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    You only need to look at the excellent experimental research of Albrecht-Buehler over many years to see inexplicable cell behaviour that strongly indicates sensory and processing capability of cells, and apparently electromagnetic cell to cell communication. This is a nice short document to read:

    http://www.energetic-medicine.net/research/Cancellsseeeachother.pdf

    Once again, microtubules (Centriole’s in this case) seem to be implicated in sensory and processing tasks. Perhaps the significance that cells may communicate and order themselves using fields might be lost on most people?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

      Hi Max, thanks for that link. I hadn’t heard of the research of Albrecht-Buehler so I will look that up. I like the idea of electromagnetic cell to cell communication. This would fit in nicely with the electromagnetic changes that occur in some people who have a NDE. I must read this work.

      • Max_B October 24, 2012 at 8:57 am #

        I hadn’t considered this angle. Buehler’s experiments point to communication between cells at around the ‘near-infrared’ portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, although this may not be the only way they can communicate.

        The important point for me is that Buehler’s work implies that these cells appear to be pretty damn intelligent, yet according to current science they don’t have a recognisable brain and are dumb.

        Most importantly the cells appear to communicate and cooperate using ‘fields’. If they use fields over any distance – no matter how tiny – then this holds out the possibility that fields may be used generally for inter-communication amongst all eukaryote’s over as yet unknown distances.

        That opens the door to potential explanations for many subjective human experiences.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

        Yes, this is really intersting work, I’ll spend the next couple of weeks looking into it in more depth. It also ties in a bit with Dr Bruce Lipton’s work and what he discusses in his book ‘The Biology of Belief’. The communication via fields also ties in with Dr Rupert Sheldrake’s work. Thanks for pointing this out Max.

      • Lee October 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

        When I first came across the book Biology of Belief, I thought WOW-then I looked closely at those endorsing the book-mostly just chiropracters and the highly regarded scientist Levar Burton (yes, he has no bacgkround in anything other than acting)-one should take everything Lipton says with a grain of salt as few in the scientific community takes what he says seriously.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

        Hi Lee, you make a good point. I don’t want to invalidate your point because it is an important one but there were also other endorsees such as Joseph Chilton Pearce PhD, Karl Pribram MD, PhD, amongst others. Very often the publishers can influence who endorses a book to ensure it gets the maximum amount of sales.

        Until new theories are proven I agree that things should be scrutinised and questioned. Just go back a couple of decades or so, very few people took what Dr Raymond Moody said very seriously either. Whenever anything opposes current beliefs, it takes a long time before it is taken seriously and very often the first reaction to it is to reject it as nonsense by proponents of the current belief system. Thomas Kuhn puts this really well in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

        From a personal perspective when I’ve reflected on patients I’ve nursed and indeed members of my own family who have been sick, Lipton’s suggestion that our beliefs influence our biology does seem quite plausible. There is more and more research into energy medicine which also suggests how our minds can influence our health. When science developed it exluded mind but there is more research to show that treating the person as a whole rather than just a body is more conducive to good health and that was certainly apparent to me in my 21 years of nursing.

        So I guess I’m still keeping an open mind about all of this.

      • Max_B October 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

        Thanks Penny, I’ve ordered Lipton’s book on the strength of your comments.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

        I found the book to be an interesting read as Lipton discusses how our cells react to our thoughts. However, Lee has posted some valid comments too.

  27. Lee October 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    meant to write “chirporactors” and not “chiropracters”.

  28. Tony October 24, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    It has been shown that cells including neurons do communicate via bio photons. It explains how the brain is able to process at speeds that could not be explained simply through chemical/electrical signals. As for how I don’t know but microtubles and quantum processes have been suggested. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20221457/

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

      Thanks for the link Tony. This is all really exciting and must be taken into account when trying to understand consciousness.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      Thanks for posting this Lee, a very interesting comment written in response to Lipton. I must mention that towards the end the author did equate the mind as being the brain. I’m not sure I agree with that.

      • Lee October 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

        Yes, I read how he thought the brain= mind, but it may be his other points re Lipton’s theory are valid (assuming he is wrong on brain=mind). I certainly am no judge as to who is right or wrong re Lipton’s theory, just pointing out some of my simplistic observations as to who the majority of the people were in his book, endorsing his theory (I take chiropractors with a grain of salt as far too many claim they can do more than they actually can, so opening Litpon’s book to find that most on the first few pages were names of chiropractors (and actor Levar Burton) really put me off).

        There are plenty of people with cancer and other serious illnesses who have very positive attitudes and believe that they will recover, only to end up dying from the illness, so not sure how much our beliefs influence our bodies.Also, Lipton’s theory opens the door to blaming patients for being ill. or having them blame themselves (hey, just think positive and all will be well- sounds like some nonsense right out of the movie “What the Bleep”).

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

        Hi Lee, I appreciate your points especially the ones made in the last paragraph of your comment. I think although it can be interpreted in the way you have put it, it is also a bit more complex than that which I don’t want to get into because it is beyond the scope of this blog. But you have made very valid points.

    • Max_B October 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

      On controversial subjects I generally try to read the original papers or books, and make my own mind up.

      • Ray October 28, 2012 at 2:44 am #

        Tony brought up a very important point concerning electromagnetic effects in the brain across very small distances. At certain distance thresholds reactions/effects transition from our classical reality to a quantum reality. It is my belief (and having had a personal NDE about 26 years ago) that our consciousness could have connections or even roots in the quantum world. Neuron and synaptic electric activity could occur on a scale small enough to be affected by, or to effect, quantum interactions. Quantum theory hypothesizes the possible existence of a quantum “foam”, or a quantum substrate, that underlies our classical reality. In the research on consciousness and the possibility of a continuance after death, quantum effects as a possible conduit, or carrier, for continuance needs to be considered as a possible component of the process – if research ever reaches that point. I feel it is all a great puzzle and the pieces are there to find if you look hard enough. This is tremendously interesting and I think some doors are starting to crack open – if ever so slightly. I’m just a layman and this is my 2 cents worth. Thanks for all of your efforts – pro and con – it is greatly appreciated.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

        Thanks for this Ray. Quantum physics is certainly offering some very interesting contributions for our understanding of consciousness.

  29. Lee October 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Hi Penny, do you have a twitter account? If not, perhaps an idea of interest for you to communicate with those interested in NDEs…

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      Hi Lee,

      Sorry for my delayed response. I’ve been away and didn’t have internet access and now I see lots of comments on the blog to respond to.

      I haven’t got a Twitter account yet but I am thinking of setting one up. I’m a bit of a technophobe so haven’t got around to it as yet but it is something that I will do in the future.

  30. Lee October 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Penny, not sure if you know of this online radio show from the US (it is all about the afterlife-Raymond Moody and other big names in the field have appeared on it): http://www.foreverfamilyfoundation.org/radio2012.htm
    I would encourage you to consider being interviewed by the hosts of the show, if you had interest. No doubt they would be very interested to have you on the show.

    The radio show is hosted by the Forever Family Foundation: http://www.foreverfamilyfoundation.org/index2.html

    contact email:4everfam@optonline.net
    radio@foreverfamilyfoundation.org

    phone 631-425-7707

    fax 631-425-7713

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 11:56 am #

      Hi Lee,

      Thanks for this information. I will look into it over hte next few days.

  31. bobby October 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    The Brain dosent produce consciousness in the same way fire produces smoke, but brain and consciousness interact with each other much like a TV Program and a TV Set

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      Hi Bobby, thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree that it seems more plausible to consider consciousness in this way.

  32. Lee October 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Dr. Alexander has mentioned your blog posts via this tweet:

    Eben Alexander MD ‏@ReconciliationL

    Long-time Near Death Experience researcher Dr. Penny Sartori has an excellent discussion of points raised in… http://fb.me/20e7JWytX

  33. Paul Cockerill October 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Penny, if consciousness can leave the mind, why has no one seen the signs used in Dr Sam Parnias Aware Study. This is the stumbling block for me. When people do see things its all very anecdotal. I’m 60/40 in favour of the nde being a real experience but have yet to see definative proof.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

      Hi Paul, you ask a very good question. There are many expectations of the AWARE study with regards to viewing the hidden targets. I’m not sure how much data has been collected or the quality of the data so can’t comment specifically on the AWARE study. However, when I undertook my own study which also had hidden targets I realised that there were many factors to take into consideration with regards to patients viewing the hidden targets. This has been discussed in a previous post I made on the blog about veridicality during OBE. I am also currently writing a paper for publication which addresses your question and discusses the varying quality of OBEs.

      A very brief summary is that OBEs are very rare and those that are of veridical quality are even rarer. Therefore before any firm conclusions can be drawn a large number of veridical quality OBEs are required. I estimate that this will take a long time and data to be accumulated from multiple sites.

      • Paul Cockerill November 5, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

        Thank you for your reply Penny. Are you on Facebook by any chance. I belong to a group called “Human Consciousness Project” We are named after The Aware Study project. Dr Eben Alexander and Dr Melvin Morse are members also. I invite you to join our group, we would all love your imput. We all love your work (and some of us think you are totally hot :D) Enter “Human Consciousness Project” into Facebook search and you should find us.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

        HI Paul, thanks for your comment – I’m flattered! I’m not on Facebook but it is another thing that I am thinking of doing. Your group sounds very interesting and it would be great to join, thanks for the invite.

  34. rudyink October 31, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    I read Dr. A’s book over the weekend. It is wonderful! It has helped me to understand, and reconcile with, my own NDE when I was a child. Here’s my recounting:
    http://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/woods-walking-10/

    I have been blogging for the last four years under a series titled “Woods Walking,” where I explore my own experiences and explore the intersections of science and spirituality, something that has fascinated me since my undergrad studies in philosophy in the mid-1970s. Enjoy!

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. I’ll check out your experience and take a look at your blog.

      I’m guessing there are going to be many different reactions to Dr Alexander’s book so it is interesting to read that it helped you to understand and reconcile with your own NDE that occurred in childhood. I’m looking forward to reading about your experience.

      • rudyink November 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

        My NDE didn’t have nearly the depth of Dr. Alexander’s, but then my unconciousness was much shorter as well. On the other hand, a later mystical experience yielded the same overwhelming sense of unconditional love that Dr. A talked about “in the Core.” I wrote about this experience in my post WW#9: http://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/woods-walking-9/ I’m excited with the prospect of the meeting of minds between science and spirituality.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

        Thanks for your comments Rudy, I’ve just read your NDE and your later mystical experience. Both are very interesting to me. Of particular interest to me was when in your childhood NDE you recalled seeing the earth as if viewed from a perspective of outer space. As this occurred in 1959 and you were only 3 years old (if my memory serves me correctly!) it is unlikely that you could have made this up or your brain constructed such an image of something you were not aware of – very interesting. Thank you for sharing this.

        Yes, I too am excited by the prospect of the meeting of minds between science and spirituality.

      • rudyink November 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

        Dr. Sartori: My “innocent” age, and the view of Earth, to me, are quite compelling evidence for the “out-of” aspect of OBEs. Interestingly, I didn’t recognize the “person” that turned me back, and there was indeed a distinct “turning,” from facing away to facing toward Earth. Those aspects are clear and distinct memories. Over time, I’ve come to think of human awareness as a receptor of an extreme end of the electromagnetic spectrum, sort of “carbon-based” radio sets. And with different religions, we have different brands — and bands, but all work, as radios do, in the same unified medium. From Thomistic metaphysics, this idea would mirror the concept of multiplicity from unity — many from One. Regardless, it is a joy to be alive — to “be”!

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 7, 2012 at 10:37 am #

        Hi Rudy, you’ve got fascinating insight through your personal experience and your studies. Yes, your ‘innocent’ age and view of the Earth from an out of body perspective is a very compelling aspect. I like your idea of awareness being a receptor of the electro magnetic spectrum and your analogy of the radio having different bands but all working in the same unified medium.

      • rudyink November 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

        In terms of the contemplative connection with a higher, complete “awareness,” the challenge is to throw off the learned dogma and ceremony, even the traditional, learned prayer in favor of a pure, quiet listening. As I wrote in WW#9, and as Eben Alexander recorded, there we find a personal connection to Unconditional Love. It is real, it is overwhelming and delightful! I don’t consider myself an academic, rather a “particpant” and listener. I’m also a pilot, and in a sense, Woods Walking is sort of my “pilot report,” about “how she handles in the skies!” But it is me, not a machine… My latest post at Woods Walking is about Philosophy of Knowledge, even Philosophy of Science and exploring the limits of our shared bubble of knowledge. Here’s a link to WW#15: http://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/woods-walking-15-2/

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

        Thanks for your insights Rudy

      • rudyink November 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

        Another NDE video account from Dr. Mary Neal, author of “To Heaven and Back.” The consistent mark of those who’ve known such an experience is that of a joyous, enduring love. You can see it in her smile!
        http://video.foxnews.com/v/1625297867001/

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

        Thanks for this Rudy, I’ll check it out.

      • rudyink November 12, 2012 at 3:22 am #

        Here’s an interview with Dr. Eben Alexander on his remarkable NDE.
        http://video.foxnews.com/v/1954941232001/

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        Thanks for this Rudy

      • rudyink November 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

        Reading the comments on this thread that are skeptical of the veracity or reality of NDEs, I have to say that for those of us that have known the direct experience of an NDE, its reality goes unquestioned, regardless of its scientific review. (See my blog post WW#10 above for my own experience.)
        This controversy really involves a point of relativity; the experiential perspective of the NDEr vs. the need to use scientific methods to validate the experience. It’s analogous to quantifying the depth of one’s love for another; we simply don’t have the tools or methodology today to validate the near-death experience to a sufficient scientific degree.
        A similar challenge lies in front of today’s quantum mechanics. While “M-Theory” points to seven dimensions beyond the four that we know and quantify (our three physical dimensions plus time), theoretical Model-Dependent Realism can only begin to scratch the surface of five of these dimensions. Further, each theoretical analysis of these five dimensions seems to be valid within its own milieu, but the mathematics fail to unify any of the five, much less the whole.
        Regardless, theory points to “something” along that path of inquiry. We stand on the shore of theoretical waters that must be crossed. Thankfully, human intuition provides a lamp to this long path.
        Humanity’s aggregate theoretical knowledge, our aggregate scientific scope, is an ever-expanding bubble of awareness, much like our expanding universe. As we’ve found over and over again, there is an extant, a priori reality that awaits our technical or theoretical access and uncovering. (See my post WW#15, “The Boundaries of Being.”) The realm of the NDE is in this (currently) inaccessible area. Yet, experience is pointing us to its proper analysis.
        In his revealing book, Eben Alexander describes the human brain as a filter that blocks our ready access to this state of hyper-awareness — or “realm.” This state of awareness is accessible via NDE or other altered states of consciousness, such as an ecstatic mystical condition, which latter state has thousands of years of recorded literature, interestingly, across all societies and religions.
        The irony of this pursuit is that the tools for this analysis lay within us, not on a lab table.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

        Thanks for your interesting and important insights Rudy. I think things are beginning to change for the better. Until recently the spiritual aspects of being human have been largely neglected and ignored. However, this seems to be changing especially with the advent of psychoneuroimmunology and epi genetics. Science is now verifying through research how important the role of emotion is to our health. All these aspects are embracing the wholeness of human beings and therefore acknowledging that human beings are far more than just a body.

        We live in exciting times. Our science has served us well and ensured our evolution to this point and great advances in technnology etc. With the added dimension of embracing human experience and spiritual aspects of life along with our science I think it gives a very exciting and positive future.

    • rudyink November 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

      Eben Alexander’s Heaven? An infrared photo via the Milky Way Scientist on Facebook:

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        Thanks for this too Rudy – what a beautiful image

  35. Max_B November 1, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    I bought it and read it, against my better judgement. The title of the book was not as deliberately provocative as you thought Penny, it’s a pretty accurate title considering it’s content. Eben takes the imagery of his experience far too seriously in my view, after reading Chapter 15, I almost gave up on finishing his book! Phew, what a load of… err… speculation, and ‘Om’, bloomin hell!

    This has all got rolled up into the typical smooth figher pilot and racing car driver personality of a surgeon, it really has, dear me… although at least he’s willing to admit that some of his statements might ‘appear’ a little grandiose… Eben they ‘are’ grandiose!

    However, I’m pleased that in his conclusion, he finally realises that the main message he took from his experience – “That he is loved”, was the one he most needed to hear, because of his early childhood experiences.

    Encouragingly, this is the same conclusion I reached about my own childhood STE (which I emailed privately to you some time ago Penny), that the message I took from it is exactly the message I needed/need to know – not that I discovered this until about 25 years later.

    Because we generally don’t get to know anything about the background childhood of the NDE’r, the significance of their message is often lost on us the listeners. In Eben’s case, it’s helpful that he’s been very frank about both his childhood, and the period before his experience when he felt that his life was simply unravelling. I think he’s reached the right conclusion, even if he’s got completely side tracked by the imagery.

    Eben is again very honest, by admitting he was beginning to doubt the impact of his experience some months later. That is until he received the photo of Betsy, and made a connection. Who knows whether the similarity is real or not – remembering faces is after all known to be very difficult – but Eben thinks the similarity exists, and interestingly no one can challenge that. So it’s been just the thing he needed to continue believing in the important message “That he is loved”.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks for your comments Max. You’ve got a good point about generally not knowing much about the background childhood of NDErs and that the significance of their message is lost on us as listeners.

      I haven’t had chance to read the book yet but its on my ‘to do’ list.

  36. Max_B November 4, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    Reading a fairly recent paper by Frohlich McCormick (2010) “Endogenous Electric Fields May Guide Neocortical Network Activity”, which confirms yet again the importance of field interactions within the brain.

    Quote: “In the study, Yale University neurobiologists David McCormick and Flavio Fröhlich surrounded a still-living slice of ferret brain tissue with an electric field that mimicked the field an intact ferret brain produces during slow-wave sleep. The applied field amplified and synchronized the existing neural activity in the brain slice. These results indicate that the electric field generated by the brain facilitates the same neural firing that created the field in the first place”

    “Ole Paulsen, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study says “We knew that weak electric fields could impact brain activity, but what no one had really tested before was whether electric fields produced by the brain itself could influence its own activity.””

    Link to PDF of the paper:

    http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0896627310004630/1-s2.0-S0896627310004630-main.pdf?_tid=62ec1128-2659-11e2-bf81-00000aacb362&acdnat=1352017792_d735b9dc68f73ba29b1151b88fe9de5c

    The authors conclude that “…neocortical neuronal networks may not only be defined by their anatomical interconnectivity and the status of the synaptic activity that binds them together (Haider and McCormick, 2009) but also by the spatially and temporally complex Electro Magnetic Fields in which they are embedded…

    One of the things that really interests me about this work, is the potential solution Electro Magnetic Fields (EFs) offer for the ‘Binding Problem’ associated in particular with visual perception, and the practical difficulties in creating a single unified perception from the different segregated areas of our brains which process different aspects of perception, without the use of fields.

    Once again, it indicates to me that it may be other EFs which are temporarily interacting with the patient, as an explanation of the verifiable OBE component.

    Two things in particular stand out to me about this…

    Firstly, in the sequence of events of a typical NDE, the verifiable OBE component generally seems to come first, if it occurs at all. That sequence seems to be appropriate for a brain which is shutting down, and in the process losing it’s own Electro Magnetic field.

    Secondly, the verifiable OBE component of the NDE generally seems to occur in fairly close proximity to the patient, which is presumably what would be expected if other EFs are to interact with the patients brain.

    Anyway, fasinating work…

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Wow, thanks for this Max. I found what you wrote to be absolutely fascinating. This is definitely something I will be looking into in greater depth. It fits in with the changes in some NDEr’s electromagnetic field after their NDE. You’ve made some really valid points that I will explore in greater detail.

  37. Tony November 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Max, in this do you believe that in the OBE, the experiencer is picking up the electromagnetic fields of others in the vicinity? I considered something like this before, however, we would need to explain how some of these experiences occur when no other human is around, such as when drowning in a lake. I believe it might be rather easy to find such cases. Secondly, in the case of the ferret above, the brain was living. In many NDE’s during cardiac arrest, brain functioning is severely compromised.

    • Max_B November 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      …We would need to explain how some of these experiences occur when no other human is around…

      I’m really only interested in verifiable OBE’s.

      I don’t understand the argument you are trying to make in your second point?

  38. Warren Burrows November 8, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    Dr. Sartori,
    I am in the middle of reading Dr. Alexander’s book. I am a physician and am in the group that believes that all consciousness is a function of the brain. However, I am eager to determine whether there is consciousness outside of the brain, life after death, etc. My question: did Dr. Alexander have an EEG while he was in a coma? Just because he was in a coma does not necessarily prove that his neo-cortex was “severely damaged”. I would think that an EEG would be required to determine whether he had little or no brain function. I would think that he would have to be brain dead before one could say that the consciousness his experienced was truly outside his brain. I do not think there are any cases where a patient has been determined to be brain dead by EEG and has recovered to normalcy. I suspect that while Dr. Alexander was in a coma that his brain was very much alive. Please correct me if I am wrong. I would like to believe.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      Hi Dr Burrows, thank you for your comment. In answer to your question I’m not sure that Dr Alexander had an EEG (I haven’t read his book yet). In my experience of working as a nurse in ICU, it is unusual to do an EEG unless there is a specific neurological concern or if a patient hasn’t regained consciousness after a few weeks or prolonged period of time.

      However, Dr Alexander was featured on the documentary series Through The Wormhole and showed the CT scans of his brain. He described his brain as being full of puss. From the descriptions I have heard of Dr Alexander’s medical condition while in ICU I agree that his brain would have been severely dysfunctional (but not brain dead).

      I’ve nursed thousands of people who have recovered from such critical illnesses and the majority of them couldn’t recall anything about the time that they were unconscious. Some patients I’ve nursed have recalled bizarre hallucinations which on investigation were attributable to the time when their sedation had been discontinued and they could hear what was going on in the background etc. Then there are a few patients who report NDEs that have occurred during unconsciousness.

      The thing that interests me and that I can’t explain is how Dr Alexander was able to recall a highly structured and very lucid heightened state of awareness during a time when his brain function was severely impaired. If the brain creates consciousness then it shouldn’t be able to create such highly structured experiences while it is impaired. Hence, to me it makes more sense to explore the possibility that the brain mediates the consciousness as opposed to produces it.

      The experience has such an impact on the person that their values and life can change drastically as a result. I think the fact that Dr Alexander has risked his professional reputation by speaking so publicly about his NDE is testimony to how powerful the experience was for him. I have spoken to a few physicians and surgeons who have also had NDEs but they were very hesitant to talk about their NDE and certainly would never talk about it in public for fear of being ridiculed by their peers.

      NDEs are a highly complex phenomenon that continue to fascinate me. The more I think about NDEs, the more questions they raise for me too so it’s great to share people’s views on the blog.

      • Warren Burrows November 9, 2012 at 1:02 am #

        Hi Dr. Santori,
        Still for me, the information presented in the book and by the documentary (which I have not seen) do not convince me. That he had a CT scan and that it was “full of pus” does not necessarily prove that his physical brain was not working or was severely impaired. I do believe that for us unbelievers he would have had to have an EEG to at least demonstrate that there was minimal electrical activity in the neo-cortex. I confess I do not know much about the neurophysiology of coma. Perhaps the higher functions of the brain (such as hearing, talking, seeing, being awake, etc. are not working but the more primitive (and deeper) parts of the brain are still working and are the source of the experience of NDE’s. I guess I am still a doubting Thomas.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

        Hi Dr Burrows, from the details that I know of Dr Alexander’s case and from my ICU experience it suggests that Dr Alexander was very close to death. The fact that the doctors had discussed with Dr Alexander’s family stopping his antibiotics suggests that recovery from his critical illness was unlikely. Although he was not brain dead, he was still in a coma and cognitive function would have been impaired yet he recalled a very detailed, highly structured heightened state of consciousness. If Dr Alexander’s was a one off or a stand alone case then it would be easier to try attribute his experience to some sort of neurophysiology. There are a growing number of such NDEs and the current belief that consciousness is created by the brain doesn’t fully explain how something so lucid and how information can be gained during these states. I think this is a very exciting time as our understanding of consciousness seems to be changing.

        I agree that more primitive parts of the brain may be involved in the experience. However, I don’t think these deeper parts of the brain create the experience but instead are correlations for perceiving the experience. One interesting aspect of Dr Alexander’s case was that he later recognised the face of the angel that he perceived in his NDE to be that of his deceased biological sister who he had never before met or seen. (Dr Alexander was adopted and it was some time after his NDE that he first was shown the picture of his sister).

        Another case which may be of interest to you (and one that has also been the subject of much debate) is that of Pamela Reynolds that was reported by Dr Michael Sabom in his book Light and Death. She recalled a NDE during a time when she was undergoing cardiac standstill during surgery to clip a brain aneurysm.

  39. Tony November 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Max, if we limit ourselves to only verifiable OBE’s, then your point could be valid. However, OBE’s do occur in situations where no one else is around. And even without the third person verification, they do read as quite believable to me. This is definitely a good place to start in terms of research however. Additionally, the veridical OBE’s typically do come from a vantage point that is pretty high up – towards the ceiling. Sometimes above the boundaries in the room. One example can be found in Penny’s case (patient 10 I believe). This would mean that the observations made could not be “picked” up from the viewpoint of others in the room (since the perspective is from far above). For what you say to work, perhaps a mind model together with your theory could explain it. From reading so many of these accounts, it doesn’t ring true to me, but heck, its possible.

  40. bobby November 9, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    so penny do you think NDE and OBE Experiences are real? or are they a by product of the brain or alittle bit of both? im asking because you seem agnostic when it comes to this.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Bobby, well I think NDEs and OBEs certainly happen and are very real for those who experience them. I’m not yet sure exactly how they can be explained. I think there is some involvement of the brain in how they are perceived but I don’t think the brain creates the experience. Certain areas of the brain may have some functioning in some NDEs but these may be correlations as opposed to creating conscious experience.

      For me the fact that I was actually present while Patient 10 in my study had his OBE and NDE and that what he reported was so accurate when I know at the time he was so deeply unconscious really did make me sit up and think. It’s one thing to read about NDEs and study them but having the patient report my actions and the actions of the doctor and physiotherapist in such accurate detail really did challenge the current understanding of consciousness for me. I am so grateful to be part of such a unique experience.

  41. Kinseher Richard November 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    to Warren Burrows

    CTs or EEGs are used only for a short time to control the activity of a brain. But the NDEs need not to be experienced during this short period – therefore usually they do not give informations about the brain activity parallel to a NDE.
    A NDE can be performed in one or several seconds when the person awake and is already in a state of conscious awareness – therefore there is no mystery in Dr. Alexanders NDE.

    Dr.A.E. reported of a flight on a butterfly in a landscape with pink clouds. When do we have pink clouds? – in the morning at sunrise and in the evening at sunset. But in the morning the flowers are wet and closed – therefore there is now food for butterflys and they don´t fly. So we can recorgnize here a situation of the late afternoon, experiences of a person in a flock of butterflies – at a time where clouds are already pink. This might be an experience which is recalled from the memory

  42. Max_B November 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    “…the veridical OBE’s typically do come from a vantage point that is pretty high up – towards the ceiling. Sometimes above the boundaries in the room. One example can be found in Penny’s case (patient 10 I believe). This would mean that the observations made could not be “picked” up from the viewpoint of others in the room (since the perspective is from far above)…”

    Tony…

    Frohlich & McCormick (2010) “Endogenous Electric Fields May Guide Neocortical Network Activity” paper seems very clear to me… neocortical neuronal networks are also defined by the EM Fields in which they are embedded… and so far at least, research indicates that these networks are only affected by ‘weak‘ fields.

    So that’s… affected by weak fields within which they are embedded… potentially ‘any’ weak field? The mind boggles… Read that paper, it is stunning… these are microfine slices of ferret neocortex, which are charged with calcium, then brought up to body temperature in oxygenated synthetic CSF. They are then exposed to weak cortex EM fields recorded from living ferrets.

    Nice video demonstrating a similar proceedure (ALERT – NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH!!!) http://www.jove.com/video/2330/preparation-acute-hippocampal-slices-from-rats-transgenic-mice-for

    So a dysfunctional slice of cortex is exposed to an external EM field recorded from living ferrets, and the neuronal activity in the cortex slice begins to amplify and syncronise all by itself, fasinating…

    To me it seems very similar to what happens on the operating table… human brain going into dormancy, is exposed to external fields from other living human brains.

    Patient 10 is interesting… presumably none of the fields from third parties interacting with the patients brain were observing the ceiling at the time, this might be an explanation as to why this area of the patients experience was filled alternative imagery.

    The floating/ ceiling experience which is commonly experienced during the OBE componet of the NDE is very much what I would expect to happen to, when we’ve lost all our own sensory data, and only have some alternative visual imagery for the brain to make sense of.

    It’s actually what has been demonstrated to happen in research using VR Goggles to provide an alternative visual perspective… http://130.237.111.254/ehrsson/pdfs/Ehrsson-Science-2007-with-SOM.pdf

    Fields and waves are interesting… waves whether mechanical or electromagnetic transfer energy… multiple waves can both amplify each other, and/or cancel each other out… there are some fairly recent experiments to show that visual cortex EM field shape is somehow related to the imagery being looked at.

    Other things which make sense to me about these experiences, is what appears to be an inverse correlation between the strength of the subjects experience vs their brain’s dormancy – this looks good from a ‘field’ perspective.

    Occasional access to information the subject was not aware of at the time perhaps points to the source?

  43. Tony November 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Penny we have discussed patient 10 often on this page but is such an astonishing case that I thought perhaps it would be worthwhile to include it here. I hope this is ok.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      Hi Tony, I don’t think I’m allowed to put the link due to copyright from the journal. I’ve omitted the link for now but will check to see if it is possible to display it.

  44. tim November 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    OBE’s are a geuine separation of mind and brain. There is just too much veridical evidence supporting it. If it was not so then there would not be so many reports of the phenomenom from cardiologists and susequent studies would have turned up nothing.

  45. Lee November 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Hi,
    I would like to comment on Dr. Burrow’s posts.

    http://www.neardeath.woerlee.org/near-death-experiences-in-survivors-of-cardiac-arrest.php

    Dr. Pim van Lommel (cardiologist) has studied NDEs from his area of expertise. Those in cardiac arrest, at some point, are found to exhibit EEG readings which are flat lined, yet some patients go on to describe very vivid NDEs. How is this possible given that the patients 1) were in cardiac arrest and 2) their EEGs showed zero brain activity?

    Perhaps Dr. Burrows can take a stab at answering the above.

    Thanks,
    Lee

    • WARREN BURROWS, MD November 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      Hi Lee,
      I have read the article by Dr.Pim van Lommel in the Lancet (The Lancet,
      Vol. 358 No. 9298 pp 2039-2045 ) and I don’t see any reference to doing EEG’s on patients with cardiac arrest. Also, it would be technically difficult to perform an EEG on someone who was having cardiac resussitation. I must admit that I do not know much about the the neurophysiology of coma or the E EG findings of coma. I know there are different reading of the EEG depending on the depth of the coma. I guess my hang-up is that if there is any tracing on the EEG then there must be brain activity to some degree. If that is true, than one cannot say that Dr, Alexander’s experience was totally extra cranial. Of course, it does not seem that EEG was not done on Dr. ALexander.

      One other point I am stuck on is that Dr. Alexander had meningitis, not encephalitis. In other words his infection was in the meninges of the brain not the brain substance itself. Again I am not a neurologist, rather a surgeon. The meninges of the brain is the lining around the brain. Therefore I suspect the infection was around the brain, not in the substance of the brain itself. The CT scan showed pus around the brain

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        Dr Van Lommel has written more extensively on EEGs in his book Consciousness Beyond Death.

        According to Dr Alexander in his book, Proof of Heaven, his neocortex was not functioning so he couldn’t have had any conscious experience.

        However, the interesting thing for me is why only very few people who come close to death or have a cardiac arrest report a NDE? If consciousness is created by the brain then I would expect NDEs to be far more frequently reported. The most commonly reported experiences of critically ill and unconscious / cardiac arrest patients I have nursed are either 1) is no memory of the time they were unconscious 2) a gradual return from a delirious / confusional state 3) bizarre and random hallucinations that are usually attributable to background noise and tactile stimulation as they are regaining consciousness after their sedation has been discontinued. Yet patients who have a NDE report a heightened state of consciousness which has such clarity and lucidity and in some cases, where the OBE was reported, accurately report events that actually occurred while they were unconscious. Patient 10 in my research had a Glasgow Come Score of 3 / 16 yet when he regained full consciousness very accurately reported events that had occurred during the time when he was deeply unresponsive. I know what he reported was so accurate because I was actually the nurse looking after him at the time.

  46. Lee November 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Regardless of whether Dr. Alexander did or did not have an EEG reading (which showed zero brain activity), how does one explain those cases where EEGs show zero brain activity and yet patients came back with vivid NDEs? Perhaps we can discount Dr. Alexander’s claims based on not knowing about his EEG reading (I am guessing he was not hooked up to an EEG), but how do we discount those cases where we have EEG readings?
    Would skeptics just argue that the EEG is not a precise enough instrument, so even if it shows a flat line for some NDE cases, perhaps there are areas of the brain which are active, that the instrument simply cannot measure? Case closed?

  47. Lee November 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    I should have added that this article, which I posted, tries to deconstruct Van Lommel’s conclusions:
    http://www.neardeath.woerlee.org/near-death-experiences-in-survivors-of-cardiac-arrest.php

    If what the author of the above article says is correct, then cardiologist Van Lommel should not be operating on anyone as he does not seem to understand the basics of his chosen medical profession.

    Note that the author is a well known skeptic in this area:
    http://www.woerlee.org/

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Hi Lee, thanks for the comments. Dr Van Lommel is indeed a highly respected cardiologist. It just highlights that despite some logical and sceptical arguments there is still no explanation for the NDE within the current scientific belief.

      • Tony November 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

        We still need to contend with the timing issue. Even in the Reynolds case it could not be pinned down. At one point there was the cool study that might help pin it down but I don’t know if that’s even happening. Penny mentioned that in an earlier blog it was on hold.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

        Yes, I agree the timing issue is very difficult. I found it was really difficult to ascertain exactly when some of the NDEs occurred in my research (especially if there was no OBE component). This was especially difficult in patients who had been sedated for a few days as it could have occurred at any point of unconsciousness.

        The COOL study would certainly help with the timing issue but to my knowledge it is still on hold.

  48. rudyink November 12, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    Here’s a review of “Proof of Heaven.” Admitedly, it’s from a positive New Age perspective. Nonetheless, it raises some fascinating points of discussion.
    http://www.naturalnews.com/037917_Proof_of_Heaven_afterlife_Creator.html

  49. Robert November 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    You may be interested in this very disappointing commentary on NDEs from Sam Harris: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/science-on-the-brink-of-death. And also in this response from Bernard Kastrup: http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2012/11/sam-harris-prejudiced-or-ignorant.html

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

      Thanks for these, very interesting. Bernardo has a great response. It is great to get such a debate going.

  50. Max_B November 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Penny, I briefly investigated different Rites-of-Manhood, and pre-christian forms of Baptism a couple of years ago in relation to them being possible attempts to deliberately create a fear-death experience, OBE’s or NDE… didn’t get very far with the pre-christian baptism subject… I seem to recall that Jung may have speculated about this in one of his books following his ‘timeslip’ type experience (although I may have got muddled up).

    Have you done any research on Rites-of-Manhood, and particularly pre-christian forms of Baptism with regards to NDE’s?

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

      Hi Max, I got very interested in this when I was doing my PhD but got a bit distracted by these similar types of experiences so had to go back to my original focus of NDEs. I don’t know much about pre-Christian Baptism but it has been suggested that Baptisms were performed in order to induce these NDE type experiences. I can’t recall where I read that.

      I also looked into Shamanistic rites of manhood and there are certain rituals involved that would be conducive to inducing a NDE type experience. (From memory of a few years ago) I think I recall Siberian shamans being suspended from a pole in freezing snowy conditions for days on end with only occasional food and water, other shamanistic cultures involved rituals of isolation and sensory deprivation.

      • Paul Cockerill November 16, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

        Are there any volunteers here who would try the Siberian shaman thing being suspended in freezing snowy conditions for days on end, Tony? 🙂

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

        I doubt there would be many volunteers, I know I won’t be volunteering for it!

  51. Jake November 18, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    Penny- you are probably tired of AWARE comments, but have you heard anything recently on it? Last I heard, we would be getting results this year. That seems less and less likely with each passing day.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      Hi Jake, I haven’t heard any more about the AWARE study. It would be best to contact Dr Parnia through the Horizon Research Foundation website.

      I am eagerly awaiting some results.

  52. rudyink November 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    Dr. Alexander responds to his critics in today’s article in “The Daily Beast.” And no, it’s not a medical journal; that would have taken three years…

    Scientifically, the most important quote form his article is this one: “But if we must decide which produces which, modern physics is pushing us in precisely the opposite direction, suggesting that it is consciousness that is primary and matter secondary.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/11/18/the-science-of-heaven.html

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

      Thanks for the link Rudy, a very interesting reply from Dr Alexander. I think it makes far more sense to consider consciousness as primary and matter as secondary.

      • rudyink November 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

        As I suggest in my Woods Walking blog, the human mind is a “cosmic radio” of sorts. From neural networks to a spiritual network — unimited bandwidth and no surcharge! 😉

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

        That would certainly make more sense than the brain creating consciousness. There are so many possibilities to explore which is what makes this such an interesting and exciting time to be alive.

      • Warren Burrows November 22, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

        Dr.Sartori,
        If you have not read Dr.Grof’s writing, I highly recommend it. He approaches the “external” consciousness in a whole different way and is highly compelling; perhaps not enough to convince us unbelievers, but still compelling.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 24, 2012 at 11:05 am #

        Hi Warren, Yes I love Dr Grof’s work, it is absolutely fascintating. I had the great privilege of meeting him and his wife, Christina, in person in April of this year at The Bioethics Forum. I recently read his book The Ultimate Journey: Consciousness and The Mystery of Death I would recommend that book, it has some great insights.

  53. rudyink November 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Someting to consider, even ponder, over this Thanksgiving weekend:
    “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

    ~Albert Einstein~

    I will add that since my undergrad studies in philosophy, I’ve been fascinated with the intersection of science and spirituality. This quote from Albert Einstein puts us at those crossroads on one word — “wholeness,” or unity. While science grasps for unified field theory — their holy grail — spiritualists know unity intuitively. And in ecstatic moments directly. Humanity, as an organism, knows constant birthing. From seed to womb to life, then… Quantum theory is illuminating a fascinating multi-dimensional path ahead. But personally, while on that path, don’t allow the lab coat to become a straight jacket! What can be known already is. Our knowing something does not create it.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

      Wonderful quote Rudy, I love what Albert Einstein says above. I love your insights too.

      Many NDErs that I have spoken to have described how they have experienced the wholeness and interconnectivity that Einstein speaks of. It’s interesting how indigenous peoples from all over the world have always embraced this concept and that our interconnectivity is at the heart of their culture – they have such great wisdom and we have much to learn from the indigenous cultures.

      • rudyink November 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

        Indeed — This Einstein quote, in the terms of Dr. Grof, is an early expression of the hylotropic versus the holotropic…

  54. rudyink November 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s remarkable TED talk about her NDE. This is part 1 of 2.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      Thanks for this Rudy, I agree – Dr Jill Bolte Taylor is really remarkable.

      • Tony November 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

        I think anyone who knows of NDE’s will say yeah, she had an NDE. However, she doesn’t describe her experience as an NDE. I read her book and to her, its basically a brain based phenomena. She straddles the spiritual but she just doesn’t get that far in describing it as a mind distinct of the brain sort of thing. Its quite a frustrating read, to be honest.

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

        Mmm…yes you make a good point. At first it doesn’t seem as if Dr Jill Bolte-Taylor had a NDE yet there are some very definite components of the NDE. Maybe it is because she is a doctor and was interpreting her experience in neurophysiological terms as it was occurring. What I really liked about the talk that I watched was how she very articulately explains each of the phases of her experience with the insight of the neurophysiology that was also occurring. Maybe someone else who had the same experience but wasn’t a doctor would describe the experience differently. However, we must also remember that that Jill Bolte-Taylor was describing her experience of having a stroke.

        None the less I think her talks are so inspiring and she conveys her fascinating experience in such a great and interesting way.

      • rudyink December 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

        What is most inspiring to me is the common message that both she and Eben Alexander bring back from distinct, but similar events; a messages of connectedness and communion that is so lacking in our daily “hylotropic” (Grof) existence. “These are the ‘we’ in me.” — Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor Wonderful!

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

        Yes, that is such a great message. It’s almost as if our brains have to stop functioning for us to realise this very important message that we are all interconnected and we are all one. Ultimately what we do to others, we do to ourselves. Let’s not wait for our brains to stop functioning, let’s realise this wonderful and powerful message and live by it!

      • rudyink December 2, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

        That which is common to Eben and Jill is significant disruption of cerebral function. And Penny, following your comment, “It’s almost as if our brains have to stop functioning,” I reference the guidance of mystics across all religions and all traditions, that quiet mind is necessary for contemplation. Quiet, not disrupted.

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 3, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

        Yes, absolutely the cerebral function was disrupted in both cases.

        With regards to your comment about the mystics. It appears that in our normal waking consciousness our brains are constantly processing so many thoughts that contemplation is virtually impossible. Hence contemplation is more conducive in quiet environments and meditative conditions.

  55. Joe December 3, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    I was reading a Q&A with Dr. William Lane Craig, and he said the following:

    ” So the question about the veridicality of NDEs depends upon the warrant they enjoy and what defeaters we have for them. Maybe they are not as powerfully warranted as our most obvious moral beliefs. One of the reasons I do take such experiences seriously is precisely because of the powerful warrant claimed for them by those who have undergone them. Eben Alexander has remarked that his NDE was far more real than his experience of the world around us. But, as I said in the passage you quoted, we have a powerful defeater of the veridicality of these experiences: they are self-contradictory. So some of these experiences have to be non-veridical. Notice that in the sermon you cite I am speaking about others’ experiences, not one’s own. For the person himself, it may be rational to believe that what he has experienced is veridical. But not having had an NDE, I’m uncertain about whom to believe.”

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/warrant-for-the-moral-arguments-second-premiss

    What are your thoughts on this statement?

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

      Hi Joe, thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree veridical OBEs are very real to the person who experiences one but it is very difficult for others to discern. One thing our current science requires is objective evidence which is very difficult to provide in most cases. Unfortunately, a person’s experience does not count as objective evidence. However, when other people are present when an OBE occurred and these people can corroborate the details of what was reported by the person experiencing the OBE then this strengthens the case. Having been present during the OBE of Patient 10 in my study I know that what he reported was correct but he was deeply unconscious at the time – this just doesn’t sit well with current beliefs about consciousness.

      I think its early days and far more research has to be conducted but it is very exciting that so many people are so interested in these experiences and there is such debate about them.

    • Robert December 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      I have a lot of respect for Craig, but I can’t help but keep in mind that he is a very conservative Christian. As a result, his opinion about NDEs is going to be colored by theological considerations. If you notice, the questioner quotes Craig saying
      “One person’s experience is just as real as the next person’s, so how do you judge whose experience of heaven is really authentic?”

      This, in my mind, shows at least part of where he is coming from. His concern, I am sure, is with the views of heaven revealed in NDEs, most of which are disturbingly in tension with conservative Christianity.

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

        Hi Robert, thanks for this. Very interesting.

  56. Lee December 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Here is a post from another blog by an Italian MD, who does afterlife research. I agree 100% with his comments as Dr. Alexander’s story lacks much in the way of verifiable facts. I do not think there is much to be see gained from analyzing Alexander’s claims:

    Claudio Pisani (from Italy), Tue 4 Dec, 23:28

    As an MD i don’t agree at all with Eben’s story. He’s piling up a lot of skeptical comments that are not helping our “cause” for the benefit of the Afterlife! If I was him, I would have told of my story, without biases, telling what I’d have seen during (or after?) my coma. His story lacks of the fundamental (and impossible to explain)singular topic of many NDErs’ account:
    VERIFIED FACTS!!! And you well know that skeptics avoid from finding explantions to OBE’s verified accounts!
    My 2€cent worth
    Claudio

    Claudio Pisani (from Italy), Tue 4 Dec, 23:25

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 7, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      Thanks for this Lee, very interesting. I still think that it is great that Dr Alexander has spoken publicly about his NDE. It is raising awareness of NDEs and hopefully other people who have had a NDE will realise that they are not alone in experiencing a NDE. Sometimes it can take years to understand and integrate a NDE into one’s life so with greater awareness hopefully other people can be more supportive of those coming to terms with their experience.

      • rudyink December 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

        In the question of authenticity, Dr. Alexander is being authentic to his “lived” experience. It would be in-authentic of him to withhold the depth of that experience. Similarly for Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor and Dr. Mary Neal and their OBE/NDE experiences.

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

        Good point, thanks for that Rudy.

  57. rudyink December 28, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Here’s a wonderful short video of Dean Radin discussing the emerging intersection of science and spirituality. What tools do we need to access the extreme electro-magnetic spectrum where spirituality resides? Can we develop them, or *are* we “them”?

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      Hi Rudy, thanks for this link. I just clicked on but it says the video does not exist. I’m not sure if the clip has been removed or if the problem is my end. I’d be very interested to see the clip.

    • rudyink January 1, 2013 at 3:33 am #

      Sorry, this longer on was not the one I intended.

  58. Vortex January 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Hello, Dr. Satori. I’m writing to you from Skeptiko forum (Mind-Energy). Recently, one of the forum members raised the question about the new research in the field of near-death studies, beyond AWARE project. He thinks that most of new papers were the analysis of previous NDE research, not the new research.

    Could you tell something about the status of current NDE research – are there any new studies in progress? Or, are some studies planned in the near future? I would be grateful to see your responce.

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      Hi, thank you for your enquiry. I’m not sure of exactly what research is going on at the moment that is beyond the AWARE project. I have been contacted by a few American medical students and also by a Mexican doctor over the past year and they were all interested in undertaking their own independent research . I suggested that they contact Dr Parnia and as far as I am aware at least one of the medical students is undertaking some research as part of the AWARE project in New York. So I’m sure the AWARE study will encompass a wide range of very interesting studies conducted by various different people which will be very exciting to hear more about when the results are published.

      There is also the research that has been funded by The Templeton Foundation $5 million grant (I have written a short blog post on this previously)but I’m not sure exactly in which way this research will be conducted.

      Dr Mario Beauregard is also involved in further research but I’m not sure of the details so it may be best to contact him for further information.

      I’m also interested in pursuing further NDE research and am currently contemplating new ways of researching this in a unique way but I’m still in the planning stages at present.

      I hope this helps.

  59. Vortex January 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Thank you for response – this is an interesting information!

  60. Kimberly Gasper January 17, 2013 at 4:46 am #

    Hello,
    I saw the Morgan Freeman video with the Dr talking about being a speck on a butterfly wing and felt compelled to write. I had a near death experience of sorts while I was going through cancer treatment at age 33…now 50. My experience dealt with luna moths like on the lunesta commerical. If you do a google search on “Kimberly G near death experience”…it is the first search that pops up. I have looked for years on anyone else who might have had a similar experience because I felt I was given the experience for a reason. Anyway…I don’t really care who believes me…what is important is I know it happened!!!!

    Kimberly

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 17, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Hi Kimberly, thank you for your comment and thank you for sharing your NDE. I just read your full account on the NDERF site and found it really fascinating. I’ve never come across an experience like yours that was associated with luna moths. Very interesting. I’ll keep your experience in mind as I may have some questions for you in the future – thanks so much for posting your comment.

  61. Kimberly Gasper January 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    Your welcome,
    I found a very interesting book called “Guardians Of The Separate Reality”, by Sergio Parada…there is a big moth on the cover. It was very profound read for me..found it this last spring for 9.95. I will look for Dr Alexanders book today!!

    Kimberly

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 19, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      Thanks for the book recommendation, I will look it up.

  62. william w brown February 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    I just finished Dr. Alexandewr’s book. I believe these NDE’s are genuine in the main– always someone who just needs a little attention. I am concerned that Dr. Alexander does not seem to feel this a “religious” experience. Never mentions Jesus Christ or other religious teachers. How does he square his experience with, say, Young ‘s book “The Shack” or ” Heaven is for real”? Bill William W. Brown

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 7, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      Hi Bill, thanks for your comment. Not all people who have a NDE feel that it is religious in nature. It can affect people in different ways. They are such unique experiences to each individual. Some people may become very religious after their NDE and some even train to become ministers or priests etc, whereas others may feel more spiritual and don’t feel the need to conform to a religion.

      I’m not sure how Dr Alexander would square his experience with the books called The Shack or Heaven is for Real.

    • rudyink February 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      Bill, Here’s a great clip of Fr. Thomas Keating addressing the point of faith vs. religion. He has hosted the Snowmass Inter-Religious Confrence for many years, convening spiritual — mystical — leaders of many different faiths. As Keating says, they are in agreement that ‘faith’ precedes ‘religion,’ that religion is a regionalised, mythical expression of a ‘belief’ in God, or whatever each may call the higher power. Meanwhile, Dr. Alexander certainly experienced the Christian sense of the Trinity while in the ‘Core.’ There was OM, Dr. A, and the glowing orb that was the spirit that communicated, or linked Dr. A and OM. That’s a remarkable snese of ‘Being.’ The other aspect of NDE is that the experience always relates the the NDEr’s point of view, i.e., God related to us where we are. IN that sense then, God is beyond religion — from ‘belief’ to ‘being’ and personal participation. It’s all quite remarkable! http://youtu.be/04gdsFt_zDY

      • rudyink February 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

        Sorry about the typos, my borwser won’t let me see the entire message as I type… “That’s a remarkable senes of ‘Being.’ The other aspect of NDE is that the experience always relates to the NDEr’s point of view, i.e., God relates to us where we are, regardless our religion or even status of faith.”

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

        Hi Rudy, thanks for the clip. I just watched it and found it very stimulating. It was great to see Fr Keating in dialogue with Ken Wilber as I love his work so for these two wonderful minds to be together in one clip was great.

        Yes, I like your comparison of this in relation to NDEs and Dr Alexander’s NDE.

      • rudyink February 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

        The social, global implications of what Keating describes in transcending the “false self” are truly inspiring. Such wisdom is not new, however.

        “I love you my brother whoever you are whether you worship in your Church, kneel in your Temple, or pray in your Mosque. You and I are all children of one faith, for the diverse paths of religion are fingers of the loving hand of one Supreme Being, a hand extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, eager to receive all.”
        ~Kahlil Gibran

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

        Hi Rudy, yes I totally agree. It’s this sense of separation that is conditioned into our way of thinking that causes so much trouble in the world. If we all understand (and what most NDErs actually experience first hand) that we are interconnected then we realise that anything we do to others we ultimately do to ourselves. Coincidentally, this week I did a public lecture and that was the main focus of the lecture so it was very timely to get this comment.

        A lovely quote from Kahlil Gibran too, thank you so much.

      • rudyink February 9, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

        Hi Penny, Perhaps we had some “Telephone Telepathy” in play for your lecture content. 😉 As I’ve written in my blogs linked above in these comments, the well-recognized Big Bang is the ultimate ecumenism, both from a religious and a physical point of view. As we can follow a river to its source, so we can follow causality in our “substantial lineage” to the absolute self-sufficient, non-continget source of all being.

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

        Hi Rudy, yes maybe we did have some ‘Telephone Telepathy’. I also spoke about Einstein’s ‘spooky action at a distance’ so maybe that had some influence too. Yes, what a great way of putting it – I’d never thought of it all in the context of the Big Bang.

      • rudyink February 11, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

        Other accessible signs that we all “participate” in consciousness. As I’ve suggested before, we are like cosmic radios and what ‘plays’ depends on our personal filters and perceptions. It is fascinating that mystical teachers direct us to drop our veils, our filters, and tune into what “is.”

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 12, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

        Yes, this is a really interesting and plausible concept. It makes far more sense to me than the idea that consciousness is created by the brain. How we have lost touch with ancient traditions and spiritual practices that encourage us to tune into what ‘is’.

  63. Bob Jamieson February 24, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Dr. Sartori:

    I assume you are providing a kind of blog for thinking about Eben’s experience and that you communicate directly with him when you can.

    Please tell him that he has a fellow traveller in Canada. I am a senior scientist in systems ecology, about as far across the spectrum of science as one can be, from Eben’s work in neurobiology. And I have had a very similar set of experiences to those Eben experienced, luckily without having to come close to death to do so.

    So I spend alot of time, like he, in trying to sort out these experiences relative to my scientific understanding of the world. It is a great challenge. I congratulate him for taking this discussion into the public forum.

    If you are continuing with this discussion, I will share some of my thinking on this. I see you have been keepin this debate going for a very long time!

    regards,

    Bob Jamieson

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      Hi Bob, yes I will be meeting up with Eben at a conference in Marseille in March so I will pass on your good wishes.

      Yes, the debate continues and it sparked a lot of interest when I first mentioned Eben’s experience. It would be great to hear about your experiences too if you would like to share them with the blog. As you said your experiences did not occur close to death, would you say they were spontaneous spiritual experiences or did they occur during meditation or spiritual practice of some kind? I am also interested in these types of experiences and I am on the committee of The Alister Hardy Society for the Study of Spiritual Experience which has a big interest in all of these kinds of experiences so it would be great to hear more of what you have experienced.

  64. Bob P. March 4, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    Dr. Sartori (and other commenters):

    Thank you for such a thorough, rich and rigorous discussion! I think it’s the most content-rich set of blog comments I’ve ever read, and it’s very thought-provoking. (so refreshing!)

    I’ve read Dr. Alexander’s book and listened to several of his interviews. So much of what he says about his NDE rings true for me. When I add in the information on his medical condition at the time, I’m inclined to believe him. Here’s the *one* place where I’m still struggling, and I hope you will share your thoughts on the following question:

    The problem I’m having deals with memory. On the one hand, if our memories are stored in our actual, physical brains, when our consciousness departs upon death, we leave those memories behind. Based on this, Dr. Alexander’s comments about losing his earthly “identity” during his NDE really resonated with me. On the other hand, he “remembers” and brings back this wonderful, detailed account of what happened during his experience. So, how were those memories conveyed and stored? (Penny, after reading this entire thread, I suppose this question could apply to some of your other great comments about how some NDEs are retained so vividly by those who have experienced them.)

    I’m just having trouble with the way the process of memory seems to work differently in one “direction” than it does in the other. And I don’t understand how experiences that happen outside the physical realm could be transmitted back to our bodies and stored there. Does that make sense?

    I hope you can shed some light on this, and that it will help me come to terms with this one stubborn question. Thanks again!

    Bob

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Hi Bob, thank you for your lovely comment. I’m really enjoying all of the blog conversations as they make me think so much.

      Thats a great question about memory. Brain surgeon Dr Wilder Penfield did some research where he electrically stimulated the brains of his patients who remained awake and conscious (the brain does not feel pain) and discovered that when he stimulated certain areas then the patients reported reliving memories of things that had occurred in their life. These memories were random and Penfield could never find a specific location for the memories and (if my memory serves me right) he said that it was unlikely memory was stored in the brain (I’m not 100% certain of that – I have so much data flying around in my head!).

      There have been suggestions that memory is stored holographically and that when we recall memories, we are tapping into the memory field ‘out there’. I think Dr Melvin Morse has alluded to this and Michael Talbot has written about it in his really interesting book The Holographic Universe.

      Questions like yours are all really important and they need further investigation. When research is conducted in an open minded way as is beginning to happen then I think we are going to learn far more about the nature of consciousness.

      • Bob Jamieson March 4, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

        There is an alternative model to the hologram concept that I have never seen discussed. Much of design in nature is based on fractals, i.e. simple formulas that allow replication of design elements. So the design behind a flower is a relatively simple formula that directs the growth of the flower bud to full flower. If our memories are stored in fractal form, then we would have a basic concept of mother at the core of our memory system, with details about all the mothers we have known in higher levels with that conceptual network. Parts of what Eben and others have experienced seem to be based on very base conceptual models of self, god, mother, father. If as he lost the operational elements of his brain down to the very base level and the remaining operational parts of his brain core were trying to provide an assessment of the context that still remained for his “self” to understand, that might be expressed in the kind of common “meeting god, meeting a generic perfect mother figure, etc. that so often occur for people in near death experiences.

        An untested idea, I believe, but one that makes sense for me.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

        Hi Bob, that is a really interesting idea. What you have said makes sense to me and it would certainly be worth exploring. I’ll keep this in mind. I don’t know a great deal about fractals so I’ll have to look into them in greater depth. I think the more we question our ideas of consciousness the more new ideas like this will be explored. All very exciting.

  65. James Vaght May 17, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    I bought his book (Proof of Heaven) yesterday and finished reading it this afternoon. What I don’t understand is how does he (and others who have NDE’s) KNOW that his experience wasn’t simply, for want of a better word, a figment of his imagination. How does he KNOW that his brain in that condition could not generate the experience he had?

    • James Vaught May 17, 2013 at 4:26 am #

      My last name is Vaught!! I hit the post button before I was ready.

    • Dr Penny Sartori May 19, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      Hi James, thanks for your question – it is a valid one. To people who have a NDE they report the experience as being realer than real and many people have told me that unless I’d had an experience myself then I could not possibly understand it. However, this doesn’t answer the question you asked. The problem with all subjective experience is that it is very difficult to verify.

      One thing about Dr Alexander’s NDE that particularly interested me was when he recognised the face of the butterfly that was with him during his NDE. Dr Alexander was adopted at birth and many years later tried to find his birth mother and realised that his parents had got married and had other children. After his NDE Dr Alexander had contacted his family and asked to meet them. When he eventually met with his family he was told that one of his sisters had died. He’d never seen her before but when he was shown her photograph he realised that it was her face that was the face of the butterfly.

      In the research that I undertook Patient 11 reported having a conversation with a dead relative who gave him a message for one of his living relatives. When he recovered he told the living relative the message and she was astounded that he could know that information as she had gone to great lengths to keep it a secret from him. So this patient gained information in ways other than through the senses during a time when he was deeply unconscious. Even if Patient 11’s brain was working optimally (which it wasn’t) we can’t explain how his brain could have generated knowledge that he was previously unaware of.

      These experiences raise so many questions that I think we will be debating them for many years to come.

      • Andre May 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

        I talked a lot to my stephfather who experienced an OBE while in cardiac arrest and after he read eban alexanders book he expressed deep understanding of what he wrote.

        The central points of the reposts i heared are:

        – The tiny voice in your head dies. it is created by the brain. The counciousness is the silent observer in the background which “grows” after the shutdown.

        – They are stripped from all body relation they greated during their life like language, habbits, values etc.

        – all sensory they do describe are not based on wits. All Information gained is non verbal.

        I do not have the amount of records most of you have who work in medical facilities. Can you comment for me on how common these observations are ?

        I still try to draw a line between what is stored and created in our brain and what is not 🙂 A stupid task maybe but just interesting for me to care about.

      • Dr Penny Sartori May 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

        Hi Andre, thanks for this it is realy helpful. In fact both this comment and one just made by John remind me of a clip I watched on Youtube yesterday. I will post a link to the clip in a future post.

        What your step father reported is very common. Most NDErs that I have spoken to have described all of the points you have mentioned.

  66. Stuart July 8, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    Hi Penny,

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jul/3/doctor-who-penned-best-seller-proof-heaven-under-f/

    Came across this in the media about Dr Eben Alexander. It does I think show some credibilty issue that Dr Alexander may have and I do think it will cause damage not alone to his own case, but more so by association discredit research carried out by others. Maybe a case of one bad apple perhaps?

    Thanks

    Stuart

    • Stuart July 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

      In addition, Claudio Pisani, as previously mentioned in the comments section, thought that it might deride the NDE research process too.

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 10, 2013 at 10:34 am #

        I think it is important to remember that this is an individual case.

    • Dr Penny Sartori July 10, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      Hi Stuart, it is very difficult to comment on this as I don’t know the full facts and haven’t spoken to Eben about it. There may have been some artistic licence for the purpose of making the book a little more dramatic (I’m referring here to the bit where he apparently screamed while he was intubated) but the NDE itself may well be as written in the book. I can’t really comment any more.

      • rudyink July 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

        There are people who are millitantly atheist, no matter what their motivations: doubt, fear, envy, professional or familial alliances and their associated “group beliefs.” I originally saw Mr. Dittrich’s story on David Sunfellow’s blog, “NHNE Near-Death Experience Network.” There’s a comment after that post that says Mr. Dittrich’s grandfather is a prominent neurosurgeon. Could it be that Mr. Dittrich’s grandfather is a sceptic of NDE’s, or perhaps has a personal ax to grind with Dr. Alexander? In duality, personal motivations can be cunning and seditious. Those of us who have experienced NDEs don’t doubt Dr. Alexander’s experience. Medicaly, that he recovered with full faculties is a miracle. Finally, folks who have met Dr. Alexander describe a depth and brightness about him that is a common trait of “awakened” individuals, whether via NDE, OBE or meditation and mystical encounter. A final question for Mr. Dittrich; has he contemplated his very contingency in being? What is his source of sustenance, where or what is his self-sufficient source of being? If it is his community of colleageus, that is not enough; it is just a compartmentalized, Platonic cave of belief.

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

        HI Rudy, thanks for your comment.

      • Stuart July 10, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

        Personally I just found Dr Alexanders account lacks the rigor of others NDEs and research carried out by others such as Van Lommel, Parnia and yourself Penny amongst others. If all medical records were not supplied it discredits his story. I just found that there was too many bells and whistles with the story. Anyhow maybe just one bad apple and all that.

        Apologies for my negativity as I generally positive towards these accounts but this one struck me down. Suppose I just think that NDEs give a possible insight into that of a greater external reality, but I think it is also important to take each story and research with skepticism in order to obtain the actual truth.

        Regards

        Stuart

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 15, 2013 at 10:09 am #

        Hi Stuart, this case is a subjective report of an individual. It wasn’t part of any research study.

      • rudyink July 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

        Is there any reason to doubt the term and severity of Dr. Alexander’s menegitis? In his book, he is very specific regarding the clinical facts of his case. Did Mr. Dittrich commit as much rigor to that side of the fact base of this case as he did to previous legal cases? If not, his case is weakened. Questioning Dr. Alexander’s supposed motives does not negate the extensive body of research work surrounding NDEs, beginning with Dr. Moody’s, through Penny’s important work. If we are sceptical of our human potential, we will never know it. In the long term, if the Catholic Church had prevailed over Copernicus and Galileo, many would still hold fast to a geocentric cosmology. Another case that supports the reality of our transcendent human potential is that of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. This is a remarkable story by a highly respected research scientist. http://youtu.be/UyyjU8fzEYU

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

        Hi Rudy, these comments are really helpful, thank you for posting them.

      • rudyink July 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

        As one that experienced an NDE, I feel the need to address doubts of NDErs’ veracity. (My case linked in WW#10 in comments above.) It’s as though Christopher Columbus brought riches back to Europe from the New World and sceptics doubt their authenticity. It’s interesting that Dark Matter was first theorized by by Jan Oort in 1932, but even today it has not been directly observed, yet it’s effects are a compelling argument for its existence. The body of work on NDE research is equally compelling!

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

        Hi Rudy, thanks for this.

    • Bob Jamieson July 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      I am getting 4 copies of this comment

      bj

      • Stuart July 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        Hi Penny, I understand that Dr Alexnaders experience was not part of any research but I do thing that every case (be it subjective experiences or research studies) should always be viewed by a critical skeptical approach in order to gather the best information possible. I think this should apply to all things in life not just NDE items.

        Thanks

        Stuart

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

        Hi Stuart, yes I absolutely agree with you. It is just very difficult for me to comment as 1) I know Eben and have not spoken to him about this and 2) I don’t know the full details.

      • Stuart July 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

        I just find NDES to be such an amazing, extraordinary phenomena that at times I have to question if such thing are possible or real as they appear to seem impossible and unreal, yet it seems they really are actually real. They leave me with a gulp in the stomach went I see the individual cases and the similarities between them and the amazing research being done into NDES and I feel a need to just sit back, take a deep breath and take stock of everything in life; from the smallest to the biggest questions there is.

        My two cent anyhow

        Stuart

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

        Yes, I too find NDEs really fascinating. Even having studied them for the past 20 years, there is still much more research to be done.

  67. Mike July 30, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    Hi Penny, Just stumbled onto this site and find it fantastic. Keep up the good work.

    Mike

  68. rudyink August 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    A wonderful quote regarding the inadequacies of investigating the spiritual realm via empirical practices.

    “Out of our own depths arise the forms; but out of regions where man is still terrible in wisdom, beauty, and bliss. This Atlantis of the interior realities is as strange to us as a foreign continent. Its secrets must be learned. And the way of learning is not that of the laboratory and lecture hall, but of controlled introspection.” ~ Joseph Campbell, “The Art of Reading Myths”

  69. rudyink August 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    The Monroe Institute story on Dr. Greyson’s new hospital-based NDE study.

    http://www.monroeinstitute.org/thehub/university-of-virginia-to-launch-new-hospital-based-nde-study-in-january

    • Dr Penny Sartori August 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Hi Rudy, thanks for this link. I am so pleased to see that Professor Bruce Greyson is undertaking further hospital based research. This is very exciting and I look forward to the results when it has been completed.

  70. Brad Klopman August 21, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Hi Dr. Sartori,

    My wife Cynthia (www.cynthiamorgan.us) is a hypnotherapist posting the story of one of her clients, Tess, on her blog.

    Having recently read Proof of Heaven I’m astounded by the similarities of what her client is experiencing and what Eben did. She still has her sense of self with her but her consciousness is clearly going somewhere else in hypnosis.

    Here is the most recent blog post: http://cynthiamorganblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/tess-chronicles-messages-from-one.html

    An expert:
    “What I see is hard to describe. I see the earth below, but the view is like a map of lights above a dark blue world. The lights below are in fast motion, crisscrossing over each other.

    I am only now aware that above us are only to be described as shooting stars of light and air that arch above our heads from the world below (traveling really fast) and then shoot behind us. There are lots and lots of them all the time, all traveling at great speed. It is something spectacular to behold.

    I don’t know where they are going to, but then I am made aware that they are other spirits (souls/people) leaving earth. They are spirits returning Home.”

    This sounds similar to what Eben describes at the beginning of chapter 9.

    And her client also mentions joining and becoming one with those she holds, and having answers to her questions come instantly through a sense of knowing.

    I just thought you’d be interested in my wife’s work!
    Thanks!

    • Dr Penny Sartori August 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      Hi Brad, thanks for your comment and drawing attention to your wife’s work. This looks really fascinating. I am very interested in hypnosis myself and I’ve read quite a bit about it and I agree there are many similarities in some cases of hypnotherapy to NDEs.

      The mind is such a fascinating phenomenon to me and it was so interesting to see the similarities revealed through your wife’s work. I’m sure the followers of the blog will also be interested in your wife’s work.

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