Non-Local Consciousness Article Published in Journal of Consciousness Studies

26 Feb

Dr Pim Van Lommel’s article ‘Non-local Consciousness’ has just been published in the latest issue of The Journal of Consciousness Studies.

Drawing predominantly on NDE research, he argues that there is now mounting evidence from prospective NDE studies that show that they can’t be explained by the current belief that consciousness is produced by the brain.

 He also considers neuroplasticity and how the placebo effect, mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy clearly demonstrate how the mind can actually change the brain. An important point he makes is:

 …it would be incorrect to claim that consciousness can only be a product of brain function: how could a product, or even an ‘illusion’, be able to change our brain?

 It is a most interesting article that I believe most researchers in the field of near-death studies and consciousness research would agree with. I’m sure the article will evoke fierce debate.

  The full reference is: Van Lommel, P. (2013) Non-local Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 20, No. 1-2, pp. 7 – 48.

150 Responses to “Non-Local Consciousness Article Published in Journal of Consciousness Studies”

  1. Max_B February 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Yes it’s a long and interesting paper, I noted some things briefly where I disagree (apologies, its a bit disjointed)…

    I’m OK with ‘information’ being available (both spacial, and temporal) in the form of fields/waves, but I can’t accept the idea that the brain merely facilitates and does not produce consciousness, it’s illogical, and too extreme. Both fields and matter are required to explain consciousness, you cannot try and divorce one from the other. I think Lommel is wrong.

    Other things I noted…

    Re OBE’s, Lommel says “…missing a hidden target during an OBE must be the result of lack intention and attention…

    I think that is very weak, the more likely explanation is that patients don’t see the hidden target, because it’s hidden from third parties.

    We know that neuronal networks are affected by the very EM fields they create when firing – creating a feedback loop. These fields have been artificially recorded and played back to a dysfunctional slice of cortex, and the neurons within that piece of cortex have slowly synchronised and amplified themselves.

    This is the best example that I have seen of any potential process that might offer a solution to explain what is happening during an NDE. The patients brain may have become dysfunctional, but under certain circumstances, an external EM field can synchronise it.

    However, I’m not saying it’s only EM field based, because I have difficulty with some of the large spacial distances between connected persons, as well as the more perplexing temporal differences.

    We know that synchronicity and amplification seen in neuronal networks is somehow important for consciousness, as well as laying down and recall of memories.

    Re: Memories are not stored in the brain… Memories have been repeatedly recalled, by stimulating tiny areas of the neo-cortex with a small current, so memories are probably stored in the brain, how they are stored is another matter entirely.

    Re: Lewin 1980, this gets dragged up all the time, but it’s just a provocative article. The case was never written up and published, there is very good reason to suppose that the poor scans we had at the time were unclear, and drew incorrect conclusions, and they guy concerned ‘was’ definitely different!

    ‘Time’ is a real problematic part of consciousness/reality, until we understand it better, we are going to remain in the dark.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

      Just a brief reply.
      I agree with Dr Van Lommel regarding the brain not producing consciousness but facilitating it. It’s like the TV set analogy, the TV doesn’t produce the TV show it merely facilitates it by tuning into the frequency.

      Memories stored in brain: Yes, Wiler Penfield stimulated areas of the brain and was able to induce memories but it doesn’t mean that they are stored in the brain. It has been suggested that memory is stored holographically.

      I think these are all relevant points and should all be taken into consideration for future research regarding the understanding of consciousness. This is the early stages of forming a new world view, very exciting.

    • Max_B February 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      From my own perspective, which it seems is a bit at odds with yours, I was rather more interested in another paper in the same issue of the ‘Journal of Consciousness Studies’ by McFadden:

      Johnjoe McFadden, “The CEMI Field Theory Closing the Loop” Journal of Consciousness Studies Volume 20, Numbers 1-2, 2013

      “…However, despite the fact that neuron firing in V1 and V2 did
      not correlate with perception, low frequency (alpha range, particularly
      9–30 Hz) modulation of local field potentials in these same
      regions did correlate with perception! It seems that though the neuron
      firing rate in the primary visual cortex does not see the stimulus, the
      synchronicity of neuron firing, which generates the local field potentials,
      does indeed see the target…”

      It also brings us up to date with recent research at Christof Koch’s laboratory at Caltech (Anastassiou et al., 2011)

      “…Endogenous brain activity can causally affect neural function through field effects under physiological conditions…” and that the resulting synchronization “…may have a substantial effect on neural information processing and plasticity…”

      I don’t agree with all of McFaddens theory by any means, never-the-less, I think it’s the best thing I’ve read in a long time, and it fits so well with my own ideas.

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

        Hi Max, I knew this post would create a lot of debate. Thanks for alerting me to the other article, I’ll put it on my ‘to read’ list. What you have mentioned sounds very interesting.

    • Tony March 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      Regarding the below:

      Re OBE’s, Lommel says “…missing a hidden target during an OBE must be the result of lack intention and attention…”

      I think this makes complete sense and its also the conclusion that Parnia has come to as well. In the book he describes possible changes to the approach to help remedy this problem. Remember OBE’s are rare and the population required to study these experiences via signs up above are just not there. In aware, after 4000 cardiac arrests, 2 OBE’s were reported.

      And you said the following: “I think that is very weak, the more likely explanation is that patients don’t see the hidden target, because it’s hidden from third parties.”

      I’m quite sure that OBE’s occur when no one else is around to witness the events (other than the experiencer himself/herself). Additionally, if others are around one would expect the visuals (which are reported to be quite clear and detailed) to be from the visual perspective of the people around at the time (more likely to be at their eye level). Yet these veridical accounts are frequently up above in the corner of the room.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

        Hi Tony, thanks for this. As it is addressed to Max, I’ll let Max reply.

      • Max_B March 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

        Hi Tony,

        Firstly, I don’t know how Lommel can make so certain an assertion in his paper. That’s my point. He uses the word ‘…must…’, when its obvious he cannot make so certain a claim. In reality, ‘…maybe…’ is about as certain is he can possibly be.

        Secondly, viewing the hidden target is an absolutely key point. A foundation of Lommel’s ideas. Yet no one has seen a hidden target. It makes the strength of Lommels assertion all the more odd in my view.

        Indeed, verifiable OBE’rs appear to have no control over what they see, from what vantage point, their location, or any control over their movement.

        I’m really only interested in the verifiable experiences, in particular where the patient is being monitored and can be shown to have gone into cardiac arrest.

        I’ve dug up loads of stuff during my exploration of this subject which is detailed elsewhere on Pennys blog. Some of the highlights for me…

        Henrik Ehrsson work (amongst others), appears to support the typical OBE, through shifting of self-location in space, and the difficulty the brain appears to have in perceiving the ‘self’ to be located at two different places at the same time.

        Albrecht-Buehler’s research over many years showing inexplicable cell behavior that strongly indicates sensory and processing capability of cells, and apparently cell to cell communication in the ‘near-infrared’ portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

        Frohlich McCormick’s (2010) stunning paper which demonstrates that neocortical neuronal networks may not only be defined by their anatomical interconnectivity and the status of the synaptic activity that binds them together, but also by the spatially and temporally complex Electro Magnetic Fields in which they are embedded.

        Other important studies showing the modulation of local field potentials in the V1 and V2 visual areas of the brain correlate with perception. As well as the difficulty in explaining our normal visual experience of reality, without the use of ‘binding fields’.

        Sheldrakes early ideas on Morphic Fields, and his work on telepathy, in particular his papers on the dog Jaytee, and the parrot Nikisi.

        Finally, I’m strongly influenced by my own verified OBE.

      • Max_B March 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

        I missed off Microtubules… yikes…

        Stuart Hammeroff’s theories on Microtubules, and Anirban Bandyopadhyay recent work on artificial Microtubules, really important work

    • dr john browne September 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

      theres nothing ‘illogical’ about the truth. sounds like you have a world view that doesnt allow for different experiences. try to stay focused on what is the truth, not what makes sense to your world view. thats what real science does.
      “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.”
      Albert Einstein

      • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 10:09 am #

        HI Dr Browne, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure which comment you are referring to (I’ve made so many comments). I don’t really have a rigid world view as it changes with experience and further knowledge. I think my world view has changed drastically from the time before I undertook my research to what it is at the moment because my research and experience of working as a nurse and dealing directly with NDEs has informed me differently. I acknowledge that I certainly don’t have all of the answers and I am always open to exploring further possibilities. It is most important to keep an open mind.

    • dr john browne September 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      hi max_b, i read more of your writings. you are very bright. i agree with you that until those having an NDE/OOBE can see the test target, scientific verification should be withheld. the rest is speculation.

  2. Kinseher Richard February 27, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    It would be a good idea, that NDE-researchers should read the book of Dr. Moody ´Life after Life´ very thorough:
    in chapter ´The Review´ the NDE of a truck-driver is reported – who was healthy when he had his NDE.
    in chapter ´The being of Light´ it is reported, that parallel to an NDE it is possible to perceive the surrounding, even in details.
    in chapter ´The experience of dying´ Moody wrote, that NDEs begin, when a person “hears himself pronounced dead by his doctor”

    A person who is able to perceive and process acoustic and optical impressions is in a state of conscious awareness = is alive. Thus we can presume that the brain will work NORMAL and NDEs are the result of normal brain activity of a person who is still alive.

    NDEs can be explained completely as the result of normal brain activity (memory recall), I published this alredy in my book: Kinseher Richard, ´Near-Death Experiences completley explained´ – therefore the idea of a ´non-local consciousness´ is wrong.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Hi Kinseher, I’m sure all of the NDE researchers have read Dr Moody’s book Life After Life, I certainly have. The book is a very thorough overview of NDEs which has provided a solid platform for the NDE research that has since been conducted.

      Yes, I agree that one of the components mentioned by Dr Moody is hearing the doctor or nurse or bystander saying that the person is dead. However, not all NDErs report this and as Dr Moody himself mentions not all components occur in every NDE.

      Research has shown that the EEG of a patient who has a cardiac arrest is flat and the areas of the brain associated with waking conscious activity are not functioning. Yet these people are reporting a heightened state of awareness which they describe as ‘realer than real’. How can this possibly occur in a brain that is severely dysfunctional? It should not be possible if consciousness is produced by the brain. The fact that hospital prospective research has studied people who have undergone cardiac arrest and reported a heightened state of awareness during the time they were unconscious and found no explanation is making it apparent that new ways of understanding consciousness must be considered.

      There is a lot of information that also supports this. The book Irreducible Mind edited by Edward and Emily Kelly is very informative.

      • MitiL February 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

        Hi again, Penny! And thanks for the article too 🙂

        As I know you are not a neuroscientist but maybe you know:

        – Do the inner, more “primitive” areas of the brain also “switch off” soon after cardiac arrest? Does the whole brain clinically die?

        – Does the brain get totally sensory deprived with a cardiac arrest? I mean, do all ordinary physiological channels of receiving information “switch off” immediately after the cardiac arrest?

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

        Hi MitiL, you ask a very important question. I’m glad you pointed out I am not a neuroscientist so I am speaking about this from what I have studied but to my knowledge we really don’t know what happens in the deeper primitive areas of the brain during cardiac arrest. EEGs only measure the surface brain waves so it may well be possible that there is some brain function at a very deep level which is not detectable by EEG. Maybe a neuroscientist would have more information on this.

        In theory, if the brain has flatlined then the brain should also be sensory deprived because in order for things to be processed the brain should be functional and brain waves on the EEG should show some activity in order for the senses to function. To me the sensory deprivation aspect is very important as it seems to me that this is the state necessary for the altered state of consciousness to be perceived. If you think about how many thoughts we have rushing through our minds all the time then if consciousness is a pre-existing non-physical state then we are not able to experience it in our every day consciousness because we have so many other things going on. Yet, when these other thoughts etc stop during sensory deprivation then we are suddenly in touch with this altered state of consciousness. This kind of view makes more sense to me at the moment but my views change as I learn more.

        I’ve got quite a lot of comments about the article – I had a feeling it would spark a big debate.

      • Max_B February 27, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

        “Yet these people are reporting a heightened state of awareness which they describe as ‘realer than real’. How can this possibly occur in a brain that is severely dysfunctional? It should not be possible if consciousness is produced by the brain..”

        The best known correlate of consciousness we have is neuronal synchronicity.

        We now know that our brains own fields are involved in synchronising our neuronal networks, modifying membrane potentials by creation of feedback loops.

        It seems entirely plausible to me, that occasionally, a viable, but suddenly powered-down, dysfunctional brain may occasionally be re-synchronised by external fields from other living organisms.

        This still allows consciousness to be produced by the brain, but does not preclude that it may also be externally modulated by a thick soup of complex synchronising fields from other living organisms that surround us.

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

        Ooh, that’s an interesting concept. But how is the consciousness produced?

      • Max_B February 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

        I clearly don’t know how we produce consciousness… Lol… So I don’t really understand your question…

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

        Just thinking out loud really… There doesn’t seem to be a mechanism to produce consciousness. There are no neurophysiological explanations for the production of consciousness so doesn’t it make more sense to consider that there is a pre-existing non physical state of consciousness that is experienced to verying degrees depending on the level of activity in the brain? At times of no brain activity (as in NDEs during cardiac arrest) it is experienced as a state of pure consciousness which is why it is such a heightened state of awareness.

      • Max_B February 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

        Personally speaking I don’t think it makes more sense, no.

        I think we can achieve the same effect by suggesting that all organisms produce fields. I think the collapse of our own fields (flat line EEG) during the heightened state of awareness you mentioned is a clue that synchronised fields (and the lack of our own during the experience) have something to do with the NDE.

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

        Mmm…maybe, I’ll think about this a bit more.

    • Max_B February 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      Hi Richard,

      I don’t have much problem with much of what you say, but I’m afraid I don’t think your ideas explain satisfactorily the occasional verifiable OBE component of the NDE which contains information the patient should not have been aware of.

      Neither do I think your ideas satisfactorily explain the long term effects on those who have these experiences.

  3. Kinseher Richard February 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    NDEs can be found with people who where healthy (normal) and also with people near a cardiac arrest.
    An explanation model has to explain all NDEs with the same explanation model. To exclude the NDEs of persons who were normal and to focus only on NDEs near cardiac arrest is a improper scientific behaviour. Science has to explain exactly whether/why those NDEs are identical or different. Without this – to presume that the second group might have a non-local consciousness is a nonsense – as long there is no proof for this.

    EEGs can only detect impulses on the surface of the brain (3-4 mm deepness) and only on some places (dependent on the number of electrodes) – therefore a flat EEG can give no good information whether the brain was really disfunctional. A person who comes back to consciousness can have a NDE while consciousness is regained – this is a functional state.

    When a ´hightened state of awareness´ is reported by some people: the explanation for this can be found with the phenomenon ´un-/inattentional blindness´ (> Wikipedia).

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      Hi Kinseher, I absolutely agree that NDEs occur in circumstances other than cardiac arrest and that all NDEs should be studied. To have an overall understanding of consciousness it is most important that NDEs that occur not in a cardiac arrest situation should also be considered and studied.

      The problem with studying NDEs not in the context of cardiac arrest makes studying them much harder as there are far more variables to take into consideration – as I found when doing my research. When a person has a cardiac arrest their brain is dysfunctional for only a very short period of time (in most cases) so it is much easier to check which drugs were administered at this time and what their blood results were at that time (if an arterial blood gas had been extracted at that particular time). In cases when the person is close to death but their heart does not stop beating, it becomes much harder to pinpoint the occurence of the NDE as they may be unconcsious for several hours or in drug induced comas for days / weeks. Hence, it is far more complex when studying these cases as many things have to be taken into consideration and ruled out before any conclusions can be drawn.

      Dr Parnia in particular is very keen to improve resuscitation techniques so his particular focus is on NDEs in cardiac arrest. Dr Van Lommel was a cardiologist so his particular focus is also NDEs in cardiac arrest.

      The EEG readings are used to diagnose brain death and brain dysfunction and flat EEGs are indicative of severe brain dysfunction. However, we don’t know enough about the brain to understand what is occuring in the deep brain structures at this point.

      To say that the NDEs occur when consciousness is regained is argued against by Dr Peter Fenwick one of the UK’s leading neurophysiologists. Also this suggestion that NDEs occur as consciousness is regained does not fit in with my experience of caring for patients as they have regained consciousness. Most people are very disorientated and confused when they regain consciousness. I have nursed thousands of patients as they are regaining consciousness and they are simply ‘spaced out’ or appear ‘dazed’ for quite some time. It is nothing like the precise and clear consciousness that is reported by NDErs. This suggestions can not explain how Patient 10 accurately described events from an out of body perspective while his Glasgow Coma Score was 3/15 – signifying the lowest level of consciousness. By the time he was regaining consciousness the doctor who examined him had returned to his office yet the patient correctly identified which doctor had examined him despite the fact that he had not seen him but other doctors prior to losing consciousness.

      With regards to the ‘heightened sense of awareness’ it has nothing to do with inattentional blindness. During the NDE the senses are far more acute – sometimes it can be just one or two of the senses, sometimes all of them. The NDErs describe a hyper awareness of sound, smell, sight, it is something that is far beyond human experience hence very difficult for them to describe. NDErs can report hearing conversations that took place outside of their range of hearing and see things that were not in their line of vision and these experiences can continue to an extent after they have recovered from their NDE. For example, NDEr Kenneth Ebert who wrote the book Theatre of Clouds said that after his experience he was able to hear a conversation his colleague was having at the other side of the large supermarket where they both worked.

      The NDE is a highly complex phenomenon and there is still much to learn about it.

    • Max_B February 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      EEG’s measure neuronal network synchronicity. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the EEG flat line seen seconds after cardiac arrest seems only capable of demonstrating a lack of normal synchronicity (correlated with consciousness) in the neo-cortex, not that neurons in the neo-cortex are not firing, or are incapable of firing. They may not be firing, or they may be firing randomly (which would prevent the formation/amplification of a wave), either way a crude EEG is going to be incapable of picking up any signal.

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

        EEGs don’t measure the deep strucutres of the brain so there may be some firing to a degree, I’m not sure. However, these may just be correlates and not causations.

      • Max_B February 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

        Yeah, but what I’m saying is that EEG’s have absolutely no
        possibility of measuring individual neurons firing because they are so insensitive, hence they can’t pick up disorganised firing.

        The only reason we pick anything up with an EEG is because of the
        layered structure of the cortex, which allows the possibility of synchronisation (unlike the deeper structures) and therefore allows
        amplification of the EM wave, as each layer fires in synchrony with the peak amplitude of the wave which is passing it. This causes the wave to be amplified with each successive layer, becoming sufficiently strong to allow us to pick it up as it exits the skull using our crude EEG?

        If the neurons in the cortex were firing, but firing in a random and disorganised manner, no waves could develop which we could measure, thus a flat-lined EEG cannot prove the cortex is ‘off-line’ as I understand it. A flat lined EEG could merely imply a lack of synchrony in the cortex, rather than a lack of activity?

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

        Ooh, I’m not sure about that to be honest, best check with a neurologist. And then what about the case of Pam Reynolds?

      • Max_B February 28, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

        I dunno… Pam Reynolds case looks no different from any of the other OBE’s as far as I’m aware Penny, and the OBE portion is where I’m sticking. What comes next in the typical NDE is just too strange to try and deduce without more data.

        I hope that by collecting more data on the OBE portion of the NDE, we might be able to show that either you are right (there is something that has ‘left’ the body, and is floating around above the patient), or I’m right, and the fields of third parties have ‘entered’, and are interacting with, the patients dysfunctional brain.

        Finding out which one is right, might point to a way to understand the rest of the NDE.

        I can’t really entertain 3rd option (Kinseher’s view), which dismisses the OBE portion as an illusion/hallucination, and implies the patients brain is not dysfunctional.

        There are just too many experiences out there which suggest that the OBE is not ‘always’ a figment of our imagination (that includes my own OBE).

        Further more, people generally experience profound changes following their NDE, and this too also needs to be explained by whichever OBE theory you prefer.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

        I think we still have a lot more research to do and more data to gather before we can make any definite conclusions. It’s great debating this as it’s generating new perspectives all the time and giving me lots of new ideas. I’ve always focussed predominantly on my research findings and haven’t written much about possible explanations (although I do have my own theories but I’ve kept them quite low key).

        I agree that the OBE is not just a figment of the imagination. Some cases are less veridical than others but there are some very good cases which simply can’t be explained away.

        I’m not sure that we’ll ever get all of the answers.

      • Max_B March 1, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

        Likewise Penny… I don’t think I’ve thanked you directly for the time you take to reply to contributors to this blog, let me do so now.

        It’s really, really valuable for me to be able to discuss this subject with somebody who has such a breadth of knowledge of the subject. Someone who is also so incredibly open minded, who does not get defensive when questioned about their opinions and ideas, and who comes across through their replies as such a genuinely nice person.

        As you become more well known (when your book is published etc.) I expect you won’t be able to devote quite as much time to your blog. In the meantime however, I feel genuinely privileged for the open access you have afforded me, and for your willingness to engage with contributors.

        Thank you 🙂

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

        Thank you Max, I really enjoy the blog conversations I have. They make me think a lot! I find I’m constantly questioning my views which is good because the more I learn, the more my views change too. And its always refreshing to be reminded that there is still so much more for me to learn and that I don’t have all of the answers. It’s great to talk to people who share my interests as it can get quite lonely researching this subject.

        I’ve got a feeling I may get a bit busier but I still hope to reply as much as I can to the blog. Thank you too and everyone else for your input on the blog.

      • dr john browne September 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

        as a physician i was always taught that a flat eeg = non functional brain. however, recent research shows even a brain with a flat eeg, deeper structures such as the hippocampus may continue to operate and send infomation for some time. if this is true, that may argue against NDEs as OOBEs. thats another reason why patients of NDEs/OOBEs must be able to see a test target for science to objectively verify the experience as an OOBE. the truth is all that matters.

      • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 10:18 am #

        Yes, there is a very interesting paper on deep brain structure activity (see the comment from Richard Kinseher). Indeed, these deeper brain structures could very well be the correlates of perceiving this experience of this altered state of consciousness when the filter action of the brain becomes dysfunctional. In this way, the altered state of consciousness is perceived without a functioning cortex which processes and filters everything that is usually in our conscious experience.

  4. Steve Snead February 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    I find it odd that some folks like to say “Well, see when you are drunk or hit on the head it proves that the brain produces consciousness.” because an unhealthy brain can’t give clear input. But, when the brain is flat lined and people still have recall they say “Well, you see it’s still connected because the brain either (A) : Remembered it after the fact and fooled you into thinking it was actually happening. Or (B) : Came back online even though it was damaged and gave you clear input. Also, while I am far from a “brain surgeon” 🙂 I don’t believe we are far enough along to say that consciousness “requires” matter. Of course we could do what some reputable scientist do and pull it out of our butt. (see dark matter.) 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. You make a very good point. I agree we don’t know enough about consciousness yet.

  5. Kinseher Richard February 27, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Another point, why Lommel´s idea of a non-local consciousness is extremely dubious – is the perception: When a person who is dead, could perceive the surrounding like real and vivid, then except a non-local consciousness, additional every sense has to exist also as an extrasensory sense, to allow extrasensory perception.
    Because – when parallel to the NDE it is possible to perceive the surroundings, we need always a sensual or extrasensory perception to collect stimuli. Then these stimuli have to be translated into information > which has to be processed into knowledge > which will come into conscious perception.

    In short: the idea of van Lommel – that we have a non-local consciousness, would mean also, that we do not have a real sense/senses at all, because they have to exist in an extrasensory form.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

      Hi Kineseher, thats Dr Van Lommel’s the point really – how is it possible for people to experience a real and vivid experience when their brain is not functioning? How is it that senses can perceive when the brain is dysfunctional? When we try to explain this from the perspective of consciousness being created by the brain then it simply can’t be explained, hence we have to explore other possibilities of explaining consciousness.

      To me it makes more sense to consider the possibility of a pre-existing non-physical existence which is constant and always around us and that this consciousness is only accessed during certain states, the most profound state of accessing it is during the NDE. To me it makes far more sense to research this possibility further. It’s not a new concept and was suggested many years ago by people like Henri Bergson, Aldous Huxley and William James its just something that has never been developed because the premise that consciousness is created by the brain has always prevailed. Now that our science is making new discoveries it is important to develop a new understanding of consciousness.

  6. Michael Duggan February 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Rather disappointed in Parnia’s much hyped book Erasing Death. There is only two accounts of OBE’s, and one of them was reported a month after it occurred! This goes against Parnia’s interviews that a number of veridical OBE’s had been reported. It leaves me rather disillusioned in the AWARE study.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      Hi Michael, thanks for your comment. I haven’t read the book yet but I am very interested to hear that only two accounts of OBEs were reported. I’m not sure how Dr Parnia was able to make those assertions about the OBEs that he mentioned in his radio interview. I got the impression that he was referring to the AWARE results but maybe he was just referring to the results of other researchers – I know he is aware of my work so maybe he was thinking of that, I’m not sure.

    • MitiL February 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      But were those OBEs veridical?

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

        No from what I gather from the interview there were no veridical OBEs reported but you’d have to check with Dr Parnia to be certain.

      • MitiL February 27, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

        Sorry, when I say ‘veridical’ I don’t mean target hits – I know there were none – but just some unique veridical details, like in your Patient 10 case. Did they really got none of this sort? I cannot believe that Sam Parnia, a model fence-sitter on the NDE research field, could use only the rehash of old NDE cases to arrive at those promising conclusions that show not only in the book description but also in some of his interviews!

        And by the way Penny – how do you think, could he reserve some good cases of NDE/OBE for ‘official’ journal articles, without publishing them in the book?
        In this interview ( ) he says they’ve “had a number of people who’ve had out-of-body experiences [but their out-of-body experiences have occurred in areas where they actually did not have images installed.]”. But IMHO a couple is not a “number”, at least not a serious one.

        P.S. I looked for “The Journal of Consciousness Studies” in Wikipedia – and can say wow! With such Notable Contributors as Blackmore, Churchland, Penrose, Searle and other outspoken monists, the Journal seems to be facing something like a small revolution – a “white crow” one. Or maybe a “Black Swan”. Looks almost incredible!

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

        I’m not sure if any OBEs with veridical aspects were reported, you’d have to check with Dr Parnia but if there had been I’m guessing that he would have mentioned it in the interview. Veridical details in OBEs are very rare as I’ve mentioned in the blog so it all depends on how much data has been collected and analysed. What he was saying in the interview was that there were OBEs where patients reported being at the foot of the bed and not at the head of the bed where the hidden targets were. I’m not sure exactly how many OBEs like this he was talking about.

        Yes, it may well be possible that some cases have been withheld from the book so that they can be published in journal articles. I agree a couple is not many cases to draw conclusions from but maybe there are so few cases because it is still fairly early stages in the data collection process. It was seriously hard work keeping track of all the patients in my own research and I spent more time in the hospital than I did at home during the first year of my data collection. If the research assistants for the AWARE study are not employed to work those long hours then following up patients is extremely difficult which may be a reason that only a few cases have been reported so far.

        Yes, the Journal of Consciousness Studies has some very interesting articles.

    • MitiL February 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      And BTW, where dr. Parnia said that “a number of veridical OBE’s had been reported”? Did he really say so?

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

        It was about 35 minutes into the interview on NPR radio that Dr Parnia spoke about the OBEs. Tim has transcribed what he said in a previous comment and the link to the interview is also on a previous comment. I don’t think he said a number of ‘veridical’ OBEs had been reported but I got the impression he was referring to a few cases of OBEs and he found very similar things to what I did from what he said. (See my post on Veridical OBEs).

      • Max_B March 5, 2013 at 9:01 am #

        If I remember correctly, he said that they now had 4000 people who had suffered cardiac arrest. They were getting a 10% survival rate ( 400 survivors ), of those he said 7% (28 people) had recalled an NDE, and only 1% (4 people) had had an OBE.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

        Thanks for this Max, its really helpful. Those figures are a little lower than I expected.

  7. Revd Rod Walton February 27, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    I think Dr Ken Rings research of people born blind, seeing for the first time after being pronounced clinically dead, also needs to be considered in the overall debate on consciousness.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

      Hi Reverend Walton, Thank you for your comment and thanks for reminding me of Kenneth Ring’s work on OBEs in blind people. I agree these should also be considered in the debate.

  8. Hanan February 27, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Penny,

    Have you seen this latest article by Dr. Parnia? I myself feel a little disillusioned by this whole thing seeing as he basically says that an NDE is just a consequence of oxygen returning to the brain (as far as I understand), since brain cells have not died yet.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 27, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

      Hi Hanan, Thank you for the link and alerting me to the article. I’ve just had a quick read of the article. I’m not sure that Dr Parnia is saying that the NDE is just a consequence of the oxygen returning to the brain just that the cells haven’t passed the point of irreversible death. It is really interesting to read that cooling down the body helps reverse the dying process. I liked Dr Parnia’s comment at the end of the article:

      It would also perhaps be wise to concentrate some of our future research efforts on understanding the state of human consciousness after death has started, since the evidence currently suggests that it is not lost immediately after death but continues to exist for at least some time afterward.

      It’s all very exciting to me because we are making new discoveries all the time.

      • Hanan February 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

        What do you think he means by that? I don’t take it to mean any sort of soul, but that the consciousness is still active (due to living cells)…..till you permanently die :-/.

        Regarding NDE, how does one then understand this:

        “…her cells did not sustain permanent damage and were able to return to functionality once oxygen delivery was restored.This is what is commonly known as a Near Death Experience…”

        Sounds like an NDE is just oxygen returning to the brain.

        Also, what do you believe he means by this:

        “As a result of these advances, we can now study what these people experience in that period after their heart stops and before they are brought back to life, which includes seeing a warm light, a beautiful compassionate being, or the sensation of separating from the body and seeing doctors and nurses or family members talking (an out-of-body experience).”

        My understand to ALL of this is that he is simply stating that all these odd things happen because cells haven’t died yet, therefore they are still transmitting information.

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

        I’m not sure, you’d have to ask Dr Parnia to clarify that.

  9. Kinseher Richard February 28, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    Hi Penny
    The question ´How is it that the senses can perceive when the brain is dysfunctional?´ should not be answered with the consideration of a pre-existing non-physical existence, a non-local consciousness.
    The first consideration should be: ´Maybe the diagnosis ´dysfunctional´ was wrong.´

    When we are able to perceive with our senses our surrounding during a NDE, Then the complete order of events is produced with active organs: registration of environment by senses, translation into neuronal signals, processing of these signals, perception as a conscious experience.
    All these separated activities are part of a fixed sequence (rapid succession). To separate ´consciousness´ away from this biological succession, seem to be not very plausible. It is more likely, that the diagnosis ´dysfunctional´ is not accurate enough to describe the brain acivity.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      The diagnosis dysfunctional was not wrong in the cases of my research. There was no doubt that the brains of the patients were not functioning. Some NDEs occurred during cardiac arrest and some during deep unconsciousness where the Glasgow Coma Score measured 3/15 (the lowest it can be). Thats what is so fascinating to me, how could these patients possibly report clear lucid experiences? I was actually present while Patient 10 had his NDE and his Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) was 3/15 and once his condition stabilised he remained unconscious for another 3 hours before being able to communicate with the doctors and nurses. At the time his GCS was 3/15 he was having an OBE and reported accurately what myself, the doctor and physiotherapist were doing yet he was not responding to deep painful stimuli and his eyes were closed.

      When patients recover from a period of unconsciousness like this they are disorientated or confused, dazed and spaced out for hours after yet with Patient 10 it was different. Once he had regained full consciousness he was very clear about what he experienced, there was nothing confusional in what he said and he described the actual events with great accuracy.

      Another thing that could not be explained was the case of Patient 11. While he was unconscious he had a NDE in which he had a conversation with a dead relative. The dead relative gave him a message for a living relative and when the patient regained consciousness he gave the message to the living relative who was astounded that he should know that information as it was something she had gone to great lengths to keep a secret. This was corroborated by the patient’s wife.

      So to say that these experiences are being produced by the brain is not a sufficient answer – the patients were unconscious therefore the brain could not produce consciousness. We have to explore and consider wider explanations if we are to have a greater understanding of consciousness.

      • Revd Rod Walton February 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

        Yes I agree Dr Sartori, the Pam Reynolds case can not be explained away, due to the fact her eyes had been taped closed, so there was no way she could see, and people born blind seeing for the first time, which I previously mentioned. Also people seeing people who they were not aware had passed over prior to their NDE, and the shoe on the hospital roof.
        I believe that when you look at the evidence over all, it points to a mind brain separation.

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

        Yes, I think we have to look at all possibilities around consciousness and not just try to explain NDEs away because they don’t fit in with and can’t be explained by the premise that consciousness is produced by the brain.

      • Max_B February 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

        Yes, but isn’t it interesting that perhaps the best NDE’r from Ken Rings work with the blind, mentioned that she saw in luminosity, light and dark, and NOT in colour.

        We now know that this is actually how we see, in luminosity, and that colour is purely a creation of our brains.

        Had this tit-bit been left out of the paper, we would have been non the wiser, but in my view, it’s a strong clue that the interaction was actually taking place within her brain.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

        Mmm…yes, this is an interesting point.

      • MitiL March 1, 2013 at 11:08 am #

        Oh, I can’t remember you telling about Patient 11, Penny. But it is really intriguing! Was that info from the dead relative so exotic and extraordinary? And did you meet the living relative?

        That report about a woman with a bag half under the bed is also interesting. Where is it from?

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

        It was a really interesting case. It wasn’t any special information as such. The dead relative’s message was for the living relative to stop visiting a certain group of people. When the living relative got the message she was so shocked because she had kept the visits a secret and had deliberately not told the patient she had been visiting these people. This was corroborated by the patient’s wife on two occasions.

        The other case was told to me anecdotally by someone I met at a social event so there was no way of corroborating it. There are so many interesting cases out there but they are almost impossible to verify retrospectively thats why prospective hospital research is so important.

      • Max_B March 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

        I’ve had a bit more of a think about Ken Rings work, and pose you this question Penny…

        If as you appear to suggest…

        1) Conciousness is primary and not produced by the brain.

        2) The OBE (and it’s recall) is hyper real – transending our normal bodily senses.

        3) Memories are not stored in the brain.

        Why would Ken Rings blind NDE’r recall her experience without colour, whilst the ‘sighted’ recall their experiences in realer-than-real colour?

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

        Thats a really good question. I’m going to be thinking about this for a very long time!

      • MitiL March 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

        Thanks very much, Penny, for all good additional info!

        And sorry for offtoping – are there any news of COOL Study in Canada, the prospective part? Is it still on hold? Or maybe there’s some progress too?

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 2, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

        Hi MitiL, I’m not sure about the COOL study. The last I heard was that it was on hold. M

  10. Steve Snead February 28, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    I think one problem we will have until each of us crosses that river is this. I read about deceased relatives giving messages. But, a certain type of person will pull out the “super esp” card or say “Oh, you heard it and then forgot it.” Now, in any other field they would call that sloppy science but in this case it reinforces something that is “logical” to them. I can only say that some folks are so sure that we are a by product of a chemical reaction and they honestly can’t wrap their mind around a more subtle body or a consciousness that is more real than the decomposing matter around it. Yet, the physical organ can somehow “secrete” a chemical that is then “changed” into pure thought by a chemical process that produces hope and despair. Love and hate. A false sense of being. I don’t have the answer and I admit freely that I can’t tell you what makes up consciousness or if there is a “subtle” body (whatever that would mean) But, then again I can’t point you to dark matter either. I can’t even point to the “entity called Natural selection” which seems to be a catch all for everything on earth. To deny it is to be called a “creationist” or a fundi or anti science. I also wonder about this “science” entity. So, far I have not found a single entity that answers to the name of “science.” I stole that one from Sheldrake or another researcher I just can’t remember who to give credit to right now. The think is “science” is a great collection of “different” diciplines that we use to learn about our envoiroment and our health and to create. It isn’t a single entity that pronounces reality. It petrifies the same way religion does when you try to force it into a one size fits all reality type box.

    • Dr Penny Sartori February 28, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

      Yes, you make excellent points Steve. The more we examine the NDE and consciousness the more apparent it becomes just how complex this whole question of consciousness is.

  11. Kinseher Richard March 1, 2013 at 5:50 am #

    Hi Penny
    I refer again and again to NDEs which occur in a state where the brain obviously was ´normal´. e.g. the truck driver´s NDE (in Moody´s Book ´Life after Life´, chapter ´The Review´). (and also in my book page 27)

    There are a lot of NDEs when the experiencers were ´normal´, without any oxygen deficiency and where consciousness was not lost. To ignore these NDEs completely and to focus absolutely only on ´dangerous´ NDEs near clinical death is a mistake. Maybe there is no connection/correlation between clinical death and NDEs!
    The first and most simple explanation should be, that these persons might have had a short moment, where their brain was clear/normal so that they were able to experience a NDE.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      Yes, I totally agree with you on this. There are also cases of empathic death experiences where people at the bedside can ‘participate’ in a partial journey into the light as their loved one is dying. The people at the bedside are not dying, nor have their hearts stopped.

      Within the current scientific belief that consciousness is created by the brain then your suggestion, that these persons may have had a short moment where their brain was clear / normal, would be the only possible explanation. The fact that NDEs do occur in cardiac arrest when the heart has stopped beating must also be considered. How can the brain generate such a powerful, heightened state of awareness which has life changing after effects when the heart had stopped beating and the brain is not receiving a blood supply? How can the person experience the panoramic life review and see the whole of their life played out before them, then have other components of the NDE which can take hours to fully describe yet this was experienced in a matter of seconds. I don’t think it is possible for a brain that is undergoing severe physiological insult to generate such a highly complex experience.

      The fact that NDEs occur during cardiac arrest suggests that we need to explore alternate explanations of what consciousness is. To not consider other possibilities could only impair our further understanding of consciousness. We’ve kind of exhausted all of the arguments with regards to consciousness being created by the brain. Lets consider alternative explanations – it may be that an explanation can be found which explains all aspects as to why NDEs occur in all sorts of situations such as those in cardiac arrest and those who were not close to death.

  12. Kinseher Richard March 1, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    With Google [Brain processing of pain in patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome] an artikle can be found, who describe, that some persons who are in coma can perceive pain.
    this would support the idea, that the diagnosis ´dysfunctional´ is doubtful or not reliable at all.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      There are many kinds of coma so it is difficult to define coma – it depends on the type of come each individual patient is in. In intensive care many coma’s can be drug induced where the patient is kept sedated in a coma until their condition becomes more stable. Some patients remain in a coma after sustaining anoxic brain damage after cardiac arrest or a stroke. Some patients may be in a persistent vegetative state following brain damage. So coma is individualised to each patient. But yes, I agree there have been patients who were able to perceive pain while in a coma.

      The patient I was referring to (Patient 10) was deeply unconscious yet despite me testing him for pain response he did not flinch at all and he reported that while out of his body he had no pain at all. When he was back in his body he was in immediate pain.

      What I mean by dysfunctional is that the brain is not working as it normally would be. During a cardiac arrest it is quite apparent to whoever is present that the person’s brain is not functioning as it normally would be therefore their brain is clearly dysfunctional. No one I have worked with over the years has ever disputed this.

  13. Kinseher Richard March 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi Penny
    We do not need a new explanation for the nature of consciousness: Buddhismus says since more than 2000 year, that consciousness has no duration which is longer than a thought; an illusion which is permanently rebuilt from/with our stored knowledge, when experiences from there come into perception. The continuous sequence of re-activated experiences creates the illusion of a permanent consciousness. (This is similar to a film, where the illusion of movement is created by different single frames who are changed with a certain speed: thus we have the illusion of movement, although there is no real movement)

    Already more then 2000 years ago, philosophy said that consciousness is the result of recalled experiences. And this fit very good to NDEs

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      Ooh, thats a really interesting comment. I’m going to have to think about this in depth. I don’t think consciousness can just be attributed to recalled experiences though.

      It’s been really interesting having this debate, thanks for your comments – you make me think a lot!

  14. tim March 1, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Some great points from everbody, Penny. Personally I think Parnia has made it quite clear that he believes that consciousness continues after the brain has shut down which you demonstrated with patient 10 etc.
    I listened to the coast to coast interview (the latest one) and was astonished at what he said. The study will have to go on until the number and quality of verdical OBE’s is conclusive.
    Even then, many will still not accept it, but that is up to them, it’s a free world.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 2, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

      Hi Tim, yes this has been a really interesting debate. I haven’t heard the other interview yet but I agree that the AWARE study would have to go on longer – I would go as far as to say at least 20 years. It would also be good to get a much larger team to do the data collection and ensure that all cardiac arrest patients are interviewed as soon as possible. I found it can be so easy to lose track of patients once they were discharged from intensive care.

  15. Michael Duggan March 2, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    Parnia, in the NPR interview does actually mention veridical OBE’s. I’ll try and get the transcript, but it’s there. There is also mention of veridical cases in the book, i.e., on page 253.

    Also, Parnia was interviewed on Coast to Coast where he states: ‎”to cut a long story short, I think that we don’t become annihilated, I think certainly we have managed push the boundaries for many hours after death and we have clear evidence that consciousness continues…” so my pessimism earlier might have been misplaced.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      Thanks for this Michael, that is a very interesting comment from Dr Parnia. What I’ve noticed over the past few years is that researchers in this field are now beginning to be a little more daring with what they are saying. This is true for myself too, from my perspective I think I am less afraid of what other people think because there is an increasing amount of information which supports my findings. I think the more knowledge we are acquiring through this research is strengthening the validity of these very important experiences. As I keep saying, it’s really exciting to be involved in this kind of work.

      • tim March 3, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

        Yes, Penny. You have every right to make a judgement on the nature of consciousness during NDE (either way) because you have done the study, put the work in etc. There are a great many hard nosed materialists that will strongly resist these findings but I think the general public is ready and willing to hear what many have suspected for years. Science had made a mistake and it needs to be corrected.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 4, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

        I do get a lot of people who still dismiss NDEs as due to abnormal physiology or hallucinations etc but having researched these in the clinical area it is just gives me a completely different perspective. Its a perspective I can’t ignore and I have to look for alternative explanations of consciousness. To say that NDEs can be explained materialistically just does not fit in with what I experienced through doing the research.

    • MitiL March 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

      Do you mean something like this one, Michael?

      I think in fact Parnia undirectly mentions veridical perception also in that Health News Florida interview which is already discussed and referred here. You probably read it:

      He says there: “So, for instance, we have started out by putting images at the head of the bed, but the patients come back and told us that, you know, I was looking from the foot of the bed, and then goes through and describes all kinds of accurate details.”

      And is the transcript of Coast to Coast interview available anywhere?

    • Alan March 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Michael – That’s a fascinating interview I’ve just listened to on Coast to Coast (27/2/2013) – thanks for the heads up. One highlight is at 1 hour 8.30 minutes, where he says, “the mind, consciousness, the soul, the psyche, whatever you want to call it, may be a separate entity to the brain that can exist independent of the brain, that uses the brain as a modulator” and there’s something stunning after that!

      I’m still reading the wonderful study “The Master and His Emissary” (on the brain) by Dr. Iain McGilchrist and buried within the notes is the same analogy. He appeared in a wonderful TV series on Channel 4 in the UK a while back called “Soul Searching”, where he distinguishes between the “post-modern self” (mentioned by the producer David Malone) that we think we are in society and something much deeper that we suspect we may be. Clips are available on the web – highly recommended.
      Of course, it’s all about pioneering researchers like Dr. Sartori and Dr. Parnia and their team that move this whole subject forward.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

        Hi Alan, thank you for your lovely comment. Dr Iain McGilchrist’s book sounds really interesting. I saw him speak on a really interesting documentary on C4 about the heart (also produced by David Malone). I think things are definitely changing, there are new discoveries being made all the time and these are informing us more and more about consciousness.

  16. Alan March 5, 2013 at 1:51 am #

    Yes, I too saw the program on the heart (Heart vs. Mind) which was also very moving. I wondered whether David Malone and Dr. Iain McGilchrist have been in touch (perhaps) over the years since the Soul Searching program. But it did occur to me, as a result of this feeling to do with the heart and in general, that it’s important to somehow include the whole of the body in the solution of the problem of perception and *knowing*, especially nonlocal perception (say empathic effects that are often reported between people). The mind is so much spoken of in perception in general but it is surely all of the body that is involved, I think, in perception. I have heard the term “embodied cognition” being used a lot but not in resepect of this whole issue you and others are studying. I’d be interested to know if it is.

    And because some of these perceptive capabilities (for instance the *journeying* during an NDE) are quite new, something seems to be missing in terms of how matter itself is generally seen, perhaps beyond the proton, neutron, electron quantum picture – still using known physics but new. Perhaps something to do with the idea of the “thing in itself”, beyond what can be described in present-day abstract equations. This has been spoken of before, of course.
    But certainly Googling “embodied cognition” indicates a growing research field but I wonder if one combined this with NDE studies? Just a thought. 🙂

    (I also noticed an article – 2013 – on Embodied Cognition in Frontiers in Cogniitve Science and then there is the well known article – 2012 – in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience on NDEs by Facco and Agrillo – I just wonder whether one can link them in some way) – I’m not a researcher Dr. Sartori! – but I studied physics at university a while back.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      I really enjoyed the Heart vs Mind documentary. In fact it gave me some great ideas for the module that I teach on Science, Spirituality and Health. It also got me thinking about future research with NDEs so I really like your suggestion about combining ’embodied cognition’ with NDEs studies. This is very interesting to me and now that you have reminded me of this it is something I will explore further in the coming months.

      Thanks for the article reference, I will look it up.

      • Alan March 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

        OK, that’s all very interesting and thanks for your reply! Just received Dr. Parnia’s book today so fascinated to see what’s in there.

  17. hen March 5, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    hey penny i love to hear what you think of the sharing death experience .

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      Hi Hen, I am really fascinated by the shared death experience. A few people have contacted me regarding their experience and it is becoming more frequently reported. One case I have in mind (its written up in full in my forthcoming book) concerned more than one relative, at the bedside of the dying person. Both relatives experienced the same vision and watched their loved one walking along a path towards a light where she was greeted by a man who welcomed her with outstretched arms. It had a profound effect on the relatives and they said they were both smiling after their loved one died and they were concerned that the nurses must have felt they were behaving inappropriately. However, what they experienced during the shared death experience gave them a completely different perspective on the death of their loved one and gave them a sense of comfort.

      So how can we explain these? The relatives at the bedside are not close to death, neither are their brains lacking in oxygen etc. Hopefully, with a different understanding of consciousness we will have more of an idea about these shared death experiences too.

  18. Tony March 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    The book refers to a particularly interesting account which had veridical aspects. It is in regards to the AED machine which suggests applying a shock when the patient is in V-fib. It would then, after a short few minutes, analyize and suggest another electric shock. According to Parnia, the process of delivering two shock treatments and analysis by the machine is about 3-5 minutes. Certainly during this time, the patient was unconscious. However the patient maintained consciousness, saw things during this time (veridical) and “heard” the AED suggest shock treatments. Quite interesting….

    • Tony March 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Curious Penny, based on this do you think that the chest compression’s applied during the interim between AED calls would give the patient enough oxygen to the brain that may allow recall of events at the time? Certainly the visible aspects were impossible to gather at the time, but perhaps hearing was possible??

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

        I’m not sure to be honest. Without being there it is difficult to assess how effective CPR was. When I worked in intensive care most of the patients we were resuscitating had arterial lines connected to transducers which then gave a wave form reading of blood pressure on the screen. During cardiac arrest the wave form changes immediately to a flat line which shows there is no cardiac output therefore no blood being pumped to the brain. When CPR is commenced the arterial blood pressure trace resumed on the screen to a degree – in fact I used to pay attention to this while doing CPR and if the blood pressure was low I would then push harder with the chest compressions which then increased the blood pressure in most cases. I also noted differences in blood pressure reading depending on who was doing the CPR – because CPR is tiring we take turns. I remember watching one male nurse perform CPR and the blood pressure reading on the screen was what it had been prior to cardiac arrest but when the doctor took over the blood pressure was much lower.

        So I guess what I’m trying to say is that effectiveness of chest compressions vary and the chest compressions are not as effective at pumping the blood around the body as the heart is. I doubt very much there would have been enough oxygen getting to the brain at that point for the brain to gather and retain such information. In my study none of the patients who survived cardiac arrest (but did not report a NDE) could recall anything at all about the time that they were unconscious.

      • tim March 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

        Hi Tony,
        I’m not a doctor but I’ve read the book and NO, according to current neuroscience it is NOT possible he heard through normal auditory pathways. The man was in cardiac arrest which is synonomous with death. This is not opinion, it is medical fact, and Parnia’s reason for only studying cardiac arrest and refering to the experiences as ADE’s or actual death experiences so that misunderstandings… and the traditional sceptical tactic of moving the goal posts can be elimimated.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

        Thanks for this Tim, I haven’t got time to time write much as I’m about to leave for the conference. I’ll be back to the blog next week.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      Hi Tony, that sounds really interesting. I must get a copy of the book.

    • Alan March 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      Tony, I’m just looking at that case now in the book especially where it says about the brain stopping functioning immediately when the heart stops and that within 10 seconds all electrical activity stops and “flatlines”. Then a gulf of many minutes after, in this state, yet the person describes specific details of his surroundings.
      Although not exactly analogous, measured decreased activity in the brain in certain drug administration (psilocybin) leads to increased awareness. So going all the way as in cardiac arrest…less (electrical activity) is more (awareness).
      For me, this distinguishes awareness from consciousness and suggests some new science going on. If it’s not the electrons you see…

      Just something that occured to me. Presumably the rest of the body will have electrical activity so this might explain a sense of the position of the awareness being at the “new” head and no body awareness (electrical activity there is blocking this). So a kind of easy perceptual transition between normal consciousness and awareness. So it’s not a perceptual shock for the person – except for the very new clarity involved.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

        Hi Alan, very interesting comment. Sorry I haven’t got time to respond as I’m on my way to the conference soon. I want to put all of the recent comments out before I go. I’ll be back to the blog next week.

  19. timbo194111 March 7, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    I was quite wrong about Parnia. I had assumed he was placing all of his emphasis on the targets and that is not the case.

    His interview on Coast to Coast is fascinating.

    I listened carefully and took a few notes:

    He said re: the AWARE study:

    “We have had some people (in the AWARE group) who had astonishing out of body experiences. In one case for sure it provided very strong evidence of, again, the continuation of consciousness after people die.”

    The last sentence here is slightly paraphrased:into complete sentences – it is highly significant:

    “To cut a long story short, I think that we don’t become annihilated. I think that certainly we’ve managed to push back the boundaries to many hours after death. We have clear evidence that consciousness continues. Therefore it would be difficult to argue that someone’s consciousness is only a product of and only within the brain when we know that it continues when their brain doesn’t function, when they’ve gone through death – and it would also be difficult, when we know that, to argue that then at six hours suddenly it’s going to wither away. I think it does continue…”

    “The evidence is showing us that after a person dies, the psyche or soul is not annihilated, it continues to exist”

    There is also quite a bit about the light and the life review and positive changes.

    Also, an interesting and funny anecdote from another doctor that is also in the book: an experiencer who saw the doctor eat his lunch while he was dead.

    It is very obvious what his views are now. I can see that his extreme caution over the years has been helpful in building his reputation as an honest researcher.

    I was quite wrong. Well – that will teach me to assume!

    Cheers to Parnia, van Lommel, Greyson, Michael Sabom (still the original and larlgey unrecognized pioneer in my opinion) and yourself for your patience, integrity and perseverance..

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 7, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      Hi Timbo, thanks for this. Fascinating stuff, times are changing. Sorry I haven’t got time to reply, I’m off to the conference and will be back to the blog next week.

  20. Hanan March 8, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    This is all really complex isn’t it? From one aspect you hear stories of impressive OBE. From another aspect, you hear things like blind people only seeing in luminosity and not color. So which is it :/

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi Hanan, yes this is a really complex subject as there are so many things to consider. I heard of an interesting case in the Marseille conference and I will post a bit on this as soon as I get time.

  21. Jason March 13, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    Ms . Sartori,

    What was the conference like? I hope you enjoyed yourself

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Hi Jason, I really enjoyed the conference. It was very interesting to hear about the research that has been done in France. I will post more on the conference as soon as I get chance – I’ve had a busy week since my return.

  22. Steve Snead March 15, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    I am enjoying the civil debate and conversation. Especially between Max and Penny. I’m glad I stumbled across this during my facebook rambles. 🙂 Also, full disclosure here. I was raised a Christian and although I can’t “hang’ with the dogma these days. I still very much rely on the deep connection I feel to the Holy Spirit. You might say God,universe, he/she. I don’t mean to be flip I am just trying to say I do have a bias toward “being” as opposed to oblivion. I personally think reincarnation makes as much or as little sense as anything else I’ve heard. 🙂 I still remember when I first started to read about the near death experience. I’m 56 years old so It’s been quite some time. I thought “Wow, the church will love this because it will validate so much of spiritual reality” Boy, would my face have been red if I had only known. 🙂 Then I thought “Wow, the scientist will love this because they can research and follow it to the logical end.” Boy, would my face have been red if I had realized that folks like Randi and Michael Schermer would take over the debate as far as the popular media is concerned when they look at a scientific response.” Anyway, I hope and I believe we are more than brain farts. But, the truth doesn’t have to be propped up and maybe some of this conversation will point toward more conversation along my own journey. Thanks Dr. Sartori for letting me be a small part of this conversation.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      Hi Steve, thanks for your lovely comment. I’m glad you are enjoying the conversation. It is a big help to me to listen to people’s different perspectives – it alerts me to things I perhaps hadn’t given much thought to or things I hadn’t come across before. It also keeps me grounded and very much aware that I don’t have all of the answers!

      It is interesting that there are so many varied reactions to NDEs from different groups of people.

  23. Afterlifer March 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Hi everybody! First of all I hope you’ll forgive my poor English… unluckily I’m not a native speaker.
    I’m really interested in Max_B comments about disfunctional brain “using” other people’s fields to produce some kind of consciousness. To be honest I hope dr Sartori and Pim Van Lommel are right (awareness returning to a non local pre-existing consciousness), but I have to say that replies sent by Max really make sense. Anyway, if we started thinking in that way, I think the even people seeing special signs used by dr Parnia couldn’t give enough evidence. In fact skeptics could say that disfunctional brain, free from its own fields, connected to some information which was left “somewhere there” by the person who created that particular sign. Unluckily almost every evidence of afterlife (for example mediums or children rembering past lives) could be explained as “psi” (Julie Beischel mentioned this problem).
    Anyway I have two questions I’d like to ask Max-B
    Do you think that the last part of NDE (beings of light, relatives and so on) is just an hallucination?
    After the complete death of brain and cells could our consciousness survive using other living beings’ fields?

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 24, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      Hi and welcome to the blog. Yes, I think Max has some really interesting and useful comments which are worthy or more in depth exploration.

      Yes, I agree with you – it is extremely difficult to prove that a patient has actually ‘seen’ the hidden images in OBE veridicality research.

      You ask Max two very interesting questions – I will leave Max reply to them.

    • Max_B March 25, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      Hi Afterlifer, I’m flattered that anyone is interested in my ideas.

      NDE’s appear to me to be extremely complicated phenomenon, I’ve tried to concentrate on thinking about the verifiable OBE portion of the NDE. If the verifiable OBE could be shown to be somehow related to an interaction between the experiencer’s dysfunctional brain, and some other type of external field, it might help to narrow the meaning behind the later portions of the classic western NDE, which are a mystery to me.

      However, I suspect that this later imagery is of less importance, than the feelings which the imagery evokes. There is also a tantalising suggestion that the message which the patient often takes away from their NDE, is somehow related to the difference between their [the patients] experiences/beliefs, and the external groups experience/beliefs.

      Subtract one from the other, and the remainder often looks closely related to the message the patient takes away from their NDE. I’ve written about this elsewhere on Pennys blog…

      I don’t know about ‘our’ consciousness surviving death, but I think it’s reasonable to consider that information is not lost (conservation of information law). A good example of this is Leonard Susskind’s battle with Stephen Hawkings, popularly called “The Black Hole War”, named after Susskind’s book of the same name.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 28, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        Thanks for this really great reply Max, very interesting.

  24. Hanan March 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    You are keeping us in suspense Penny. We want to know about the conference

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

      Hi Hanan, so sorry to keep you all in suspense. I’ve been really busy catching up with things after the conference and then I was away for a few days. I am working on a piece about the conference for the blog and I should have finished it in the next few days. There is so much to try to remember. It really was a great conference.

  25. Popsy March 24, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    Hi Dr. Penny. For the purpose of seeing if there is any brain activity during NDEs and to do target experiments, do you think it would be physically really unhealthy to have doctors cool you down and flatline your heart and brain for several minutes, then bring you back? What if this happened 3 times in a period of a year?

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

      Hi Popsy, I don’t think ethical approval would be granted to do such experiments that were only investigating brain activity during NDE. The data that has been gathered so far is from patients who were already in a cooled down state due to their circumstances. For example, one of the patients that I saw Dr Parnia talk about on TV had an accident where his vehicle crashed into a freezing lake and he was immersed in the freezing water for some time. There are certain surgical procedures where the body is cooled down as in the case of Pam Reynolds who had the cerebral aneurysm operation in a cooled down state.

      As far as I am aware there have been no intentional cooling down of patients just for experimental purposes, if experiments have been conducted when a person was cooled down then this was during a procedure that required cooling for the performance of the surgery. I think it may be too risky at present to do this just for experiments but this kind of work may develop to greater levels in the future.

      • Popsy March 24, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

        Ah well. It would definitely be interesting and could break ground on the issue of whether there is activity during NDEs. One of those combo MEG-MRI machines could be used from the time subjects go under to when they wake up.

        I just thought of something today… If consciousness is the underlying reality, then why do we experience unconsciousness, which is like not existing? Do people experiencing NDEs sometimes go unconscious while in the spirit world?

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 25, 2013 at 8:49 am #

        Yes, it would be very interesting to conduct this sort of research. To do this sort of research is very costly and the funding for NDE research is very low. I’m sure in the future there will be further developments in this kind of research.

        Ooh, that is a really good question. One possibility could be that when people become unconscious they all undergo a NDE but most people do not recall it. However, there is as yet no firm evidence for this. I have spoken to two people who had a NDE but did not recall it until sometime after ( a few months and a few years in these cases) when it was recalled during similar circumstances. When people are experiencing their NDE they already are unconscious but I have not come across anyone who has gone ‘unconscious’ while in that state- they usually remain in a heightened state of consciousness then find themselves back in their body.

  26. Afterlifer March 28, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Hi! In an older post I found another interesting comment left by Max_B. It was about drRing’s studies concerning blind people seeing during NDE. It seems that one of those patients was seeing in brightness and not in colour (as we really see, cause colour – as Max says – is a sort of effect created by our brain).
    Could it be possible that this patient was really out of body and not tuned to somebody’s brain? (If this person was using somebody else’s brain, than the images should have been colourful as for the nurse/docrtor who was “lending” her/his brain)
    Could it be that “realer than real” colour (described by normally seeing people during NDE) is a sort of interpretation of seeing in brightness (as we should see out of brain)? One of the greatest problems in describing NDEs is that people cannot find the right words to describe what was happening

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 28, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Hi Afterlifer, that is a really great point and makes sense to me.

      Dr Jean-Pierre Postel described the OBE of a lady whose eyes were totally damaged therefore completely blind. It wasn’t possible for her to see physiologically yet she described watching the staff attending to her remove her jewellery and put it into the pocket of their tunics. When she asked for her jewellery at a later time no one could find it. She told them to look in the pockets of the tunics of the staff who were attending to her and her jewellry was indeed found there. Dr Postel could not find an explanation for this as her optic nerves had been destroyed. It was very interesting to hear him report on that case – it would be great if he could write it up and publish it in a journal.

  27. Kinseher Richard March 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    Hello Penny
    Under DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057620 you can fnd the paper:´ Characteristics of Near Death Experiences Memories as Compared to Real and Imagined Events Memories´

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Thanks for the link Richard, I’m sure the other followers of the blog will be interested in the paper. I’ll have a read of it over the next few days.

  28. Afterlifer March 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks for your answer! I was still thinking about people “using” fields produced by somebody else’s brain (for example doctors, nurses and so on) during NDE. If it was really happening, I think patients should learn quite a lot of information about the owners of the brains they’re using. Anyway I think it’s more common to discover unknown facts about patient’s own family than about physycian’s private life. Pim Van Lommel – for example – tells the story of a woman who met a young men who finally happened to be her father. How could we explain it?

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 28, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      That is a really good point. Yes, I agree there should be some sort of information picked up about the owner of the brain. You are correct in saying it is more common to discover unknown facts about the patient’s own family. That is what I found in the cases of some of the patients in my study. NDEs are such a complex phenomenon, its great that we can debate about them now and build on our understanding through exploring the various different suggestions people have.

    • Max_B March 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      As far as the verifiable OBE portion of the NDE goes, the idea is that the patient may sometimes become temporarily susceptible to third party/parties theorised visual binding field/s intersecting their dysfunctional brain.

      Hence I don’t think the patient has access to, or is ‘..using..’ the third party/parties brain. The patient is merely intersecting these external fields – not the brain. These syncronised fields have been shown to have some correlation with our visual perception.

      • Dr Penny Sartori March 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

        Thanks for that Max, mmm… yes it does seem plausible. I think factors like this should certainly be taken into account when conducting further research.

    • Max_B July 12, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      JS had what I consider is an important experience on the 15th May 2008. It’s quite unique, because he crashed his plane while flying solo in the Canadian bush, so there was not another person around for miles. He has no memory of events from the moment he hits the trees, until his OBE.

      This is the part that is interesting for me, because he describes his OBE in quite a lot of detail on YouTube. It starts right next to him, and – importantly for me – is all from a first-person perspective, with no floating. There is also some verifiable evidence (blood soaked paper towels) that indicates his experience may not a hallucination?

      In the video, he goes into great detail about the helicopter pilot who first found and rescued him, and the scene when the pilot found him. But talking to JS on YouTube he was able to add more detail…

      “…it was a float pilot that beached his airplane and ran through swamp and bush to get to me… he was waving to the helicopter, not me…”

      “…The story I know is the float pilot radioed the helicopter my coordinates and then landed in the lake I took off from. He then beached his plane and treked through the thick bush to get to me…the helicopter arrived mere moments after he arrived at the scene. Thats how I was told the story…”

      His response, that this was how he was told the story, got me wondering whether he had in fact yet had chance to question the float pilot directly?

      Unfortunately, I got first hand experience of how important these experiences, and the interpretation people put on them can be. As after I asked him “whether he had yet been able to speak with the float pilot who was first on the scene?” He seemed unwilling to provide an answer, and then closed down the conversation in a private message.

      So here’s the YouTube video…

      When you listen to his account of the OBE, just try imaging that the account he gives, and the thoughts he has, are not necessarily all his own. Instead, put yourself in the mind of (perhaps) the float pilot who first found him?

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 15, 2013 at 10:41 am #

        Hi Max, thanks for this. What an interesting case especially as there was no one else around. I was particularly interested in the blood soaked paper towels – how could there have been so many strewn around the area when he was trapped in the seat? The people who found him thought there were other people in the plane as there were so many of these blood soaked towels.

      • Max_B July 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

        Yes it’s a particularly unusual and valuable experience in my view.

        If you note, I discussed it later with him on YouTube, and it was actually a float pilot who first found him, although it was the helicopter pilot who rescued him.

        So there was somebody on the scene before he was freed and rescued. From his comments, I suspect the JC has not actually spoken with the float pilot.

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 19, 2013 at 9:20 am #

        Yes, this is a great case, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  29. Michael Duggan March 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Penny, enough suspense, tell us about the conference. 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      So sorry to keep you all in suspense. I’ve finally got around to writing about the conference and will post it in the next hour. It’s been a hectic few weeks for me but I’m catching up with everything at last.

  30. Chelsea March 30, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Hi Penny, I thought this article might interest you. I believe this is the man who received the Templeton prize money for the immortality project. When i first heard about the project I was so excited to hear that they had chosen a seemingly objective philosopher to head the research, but now after reading this article he just comes across as a debunker. So disappointed. Anyway, glad you made it back from France safely. I hope you had a wonderful time! I can’t wait to read all about what you learned from the conference! Take care. Chelsea-

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      HI Chelsea, thank you so much for the link. I’ll check it out. It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned about this because there was a recorded interview with John Martin Fischer which they showed at the conference. He mentioned in the interview that he would be setting aside approximately 1.25 million dollars of the money for NDE research which is fantastic news.

      The conference was great, I really enjoyed it thank you. I’m about to post a brief summary of it.

  31. Ron Black May 28, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    I was just wondering about your thoughts on multiple personality disorders and how this would impact on the idea of a consciousness which seperates at death.

    • Dr Penny Sartori June 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

      HI Ron, thanks for your comment – what an excellent question. I’ve been thinking of an answer to this for days. I am really fascinated by multiple personality disorder. I recently read about someone who was severely allergic to orange juice in one personality and even came out in hives and then as soon as another of the personalities took over the hives would disappear as that personality was not allergic to the orange juice. Absolutely incredible how powerful our minds are.

      Now, in relation to non local consciousness that separates at death… wow, that is such a difficult question to answer. As there is more than one personality then I guess it is possible that each of the different personalities could have its own individual experience or conscious awareness as death occurred. Or maybe it would be just one experience – the one of the personality that was dominant at the time of death. This is just speculation on my behalf but you have given me a lot to think about. I wonder if anyone else follwing the blog would have any thoughts on this?

      • Ron Black June 3, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

        I have actually spent a great deal of time thinking about this myself, as I have about other related ideas.

        One common rejection of an afterlife is the fact that when an individual becomes unconscious his awareness disappears completely thus proving to a sceptic, at least, that consciousness must therefore arise in the brain. If you believe some of the stories of multiple personality disorders then you will know that you may have one dominant that can remember all the antics of the other personalities but each individual one has no knowledge at all of what the others have done, and taken to the extreme could for instance be about to get on a bus having no idea at all how they got there as the dominant personality makes way for another. This I find very interesting as it appears to show that even though unconscious of what the others are doing, consciousness is actually still there but seperated, if you follow my drift, this would go some way to countering the sceptic argument.

        According to various neuro ideas the sufferer has a kind of amnesiac block to these memories gained from a different personality, could the same type of block apply to those who have seperation from their body but cant remember it. Who knows, but it is certainly interesting, perhaps memory is after all stored outside the brain and is accessible only to the consciousness that experienced the memory, or should I say formed the memory, this
        certainly poses some different ideas as to what constitutes an individual.



      • Dr Penny Sartori June 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

        Hi Ron, thanks for your thoughts on this, they are really helpful. These kinds of things really highlight how little we currently understand about consciousness. I like your suggestion about an amnaesic block and the possibility that this could also be accountable for why not all people recall a NDE / OBE during cardiac arrest. It also seems reasonable that memory is not stored in the brain but accessed through the brain.

  32. Steve Snead June 4, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Really interesting question. I have wondered about that myself. I seem to remember reading about a woman with multiple personality disorder. Now, this may have been the Sybil case but I’m not sure. So, if anybody has a better memory of it please feel free to correct my gaps. Anyway, it seems like I remember the different personalities making a statement to the therapist as they were ready to be joined back to a whole. Seemed like they were each getting ready to “die” on some level. I really can’t remember for sure and I apologize in advance for such a incomplete post. I’ve also wondered about how evolution played into spirituality. At which point did the “soul” evolve or come into the species? I’ve also thought about miscarriages and (please, not to get political or into arguments about such strong feelings here) but what about abortion and when does the soul come into the fetus. This is one of the reasons I had such a hard time growing up in my religious upbringing. I tried to be “good.” 🙂 But, I am forever questioning and I find I’m skeptical of everything including skepticism. 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori June 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      HI Steve, thanks for your comment. Yes, I find multiple personality disorder to be really fascinating.

      I’ve also got an interest in when the consciousness entered a human. There is lots of interesting research into pre-birth consciousness and I got side tracked with that for a long time while undertaking my PhD. Some of the work I read seemed to imply an awareness long before the brain would be mature enough to experience consciousness. All really intriguing and hopefully a lot more work will be undertaken in this area.

  33. john scovell July 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Have thought creating a Face Book site to discuss your research etc

    • Dr Penny Sartori July 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      Hi John, Face Book is something that I have to get around to. I am planning on setting up a page in the future I just haven’t had chance to do it yet. I’ve now got a Twitter account but I haven’t done much with it yet. As soon as I geta Face Book page set up I’ll mention it on the blog.

  34. dr john browne September 19, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    regarding the brain as a modulator of consciousness and not its source, this is not hard to understand. if you believe the natural world is all there is, the brain probably creates consciousness. however, if you believe there is a supernatural world with consciousness apart from the natural world, it makes sense that this supernatural consciousness would be modulated by the brain. more brain injury, more limits on consciousness while ‘in’ the brain. this is exactly what we see in the natural world. when the brain ‘dies’, the consciousness is ‘released’ and free of limitations. this is what we may be seeing in NDEs. if living brain OOBEs are true, consciousness can ‘leave’ the brain temporarily through meditation or other altered mental states. this makes sense. if this is true, consciosness should be greatly enhanced when free of the limiting brain. we should be able to ‘understand’ and ‘think’ much clearer and better without the brain. one way to test this would be to have subjects bring better, ‘new information’ back to us after an OOBE. like art, music, science, math, physics, engineering, medicine, cosmology, quantum gravity, faster than light travel, etc. , or, precognition events, that we could verify in the natural world. this is another potential area of research for the scientists. we have to start getting serious. no more placebo effect or phantom limb pain studies please.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Dr Brown, yes, I agree we woud be able to think much clearer without the brain in its usual active state. Studies on meditation have shown this to be the case and from my personal experience of meditating I certainly think more clearly after meditating.

      Some people who have had an NDE have brought back information that they were previously unaware of. To mention just one case very briefly, I’ll describe an aspect of the recent NDE case of Rajaa Benamour (I have mentioned previously on the blog). I met Rajaa at an NDE conference that I spoke at in Marseille earlier this year. During her NDE (which was very extensive) she acquired a deep knowledge of quantum physics which she had never previously studied. Her NDE then motivated her to study quantum physics at university level. During the conference there was a broadcast of an interview with Rajaa’s university professor. He stated his puzzlement at her level and depth of knowledge of quantum physics – it is not something that can be acquired through attending a booster course or through reading a lot of books about quantum physics but something that is acquired only through many years of the study of quantum physics. He further stated that what Rajaa had written in some of her papers not even he understood but her writings had been subsequently confirmed by recent publications in quantum physics journals by other authors. This is something that her university professor was unable to explain. It seems that Rajaa’s understanding of quantum physics was superior to that of her university professor.

      I agree this is a potential area of research but up until recently these kinds of experiences were not taken seriously and no funding agencies would provide any funding in this area.

  35. dr john browne September 19, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    continuing from above. in fact, if you believe the ‘field’ information theory of current physics, all information already exists in the ‘field’ and folks like galileo, newton, einstein, and actually all of us simply access it through our consciousness everyday. some access more information, some access less. but, the mechanism is the same for everyone. what is consciousness but the perception of information in a given reality/dimension (rule set),
    no information, no consciousness. a lot of information, a lot of consciousness. quantum mechanics teaches us information is non local and independent of space-time. information also appears to function according the laws of thermodynamics,
    so, if this is true, the answers we seek already exist in the ‘field’. higher states of perception and reality (ie, NDEs and OOBEs) and therefore higher consciousness, may give us better access to this information.
    lets get it on.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Yes, it would seem that the answers already exist – we merely need to access them. Many mystics have done so through their spiritual practice. What is problematic is disciplining ourselves to devote a lot of time to the deep practices such as meditation. Our lifestyles in this technological age are full of distraction and information overload and very few people are motivated to undertake such practice.

  36. Peter Daniel November 14, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    I begin everyday by recognising that consciousness is non local. I practise tuning in to what I would call an ocean of ideas or universal genius love consciousness. I discipline myself to listen to it and during my day give full attention to what arises in thought.
    This discipline enables the capacity to differentiate between limited personal concepts and those which are impersonal, infinite and beyond self. There is nothing mystical or even clever intellectual about this. It is not meditation. It is receptivity and the practise of opening thought to what is already there. I find that the pride and intellectual vanity of a belief in a private local mind blocks access to the infinite possibilities of the already established universal non local consciousness, which is so much smarter than we are. Hence humitiy is genius.
    Non of this is theory but provable day to day in living experience and it does not require the extremes of NDE or OBE to provide evidence.
    Here is a typical experience of non local consciousness in daily being. Pre-Google.
    Two students came to my studio seeking information on aboriginal art. I was unable to help. The next morning I had left my house when the thought in consciousness was to go back into the house and find a newspaper. Trained to listen and respond I followed the prompting. I found a newspaper I receive by post near the fireplace still in its wrapper. I opened it to a double page spread on aboriginal art. Fifteen minutes later I walked into the foyer of my school workplace. There were nearly 1000 students in the school and the first student I met was one who originally requested the information.
    This is a normal occurrence for those who practise working with non local consciousness.
    I learnt a lesson many years ago and it is basic – whatever we hold in consciousness will externalise itself. Being responsible for what we think is everything. It is so important to learn that Mind is not human, Mind is Divine and omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.
    I think Einstein spoke of cosmic consciousness. Whatever, it is what it is and it is there, and it is non local. Knowing this is not an academic exercise it is more a revelation.
    At first these experiences of non local infinite consciousness were very scary but then you enjoy it and expect it and utilise it. Consciousness is design and it is the Kingdom of Heaven at hand, so close in fact that we do not see it or notice it.
    I found these pages because I woke up this morning with this thought – consciousness is not local it is non local, so I just googled ‘non local consciousness’. Great fun, thank you. How I love Mind’s play school.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Hi Peter,

      Thank you so much for your very interesting comment. Having read it, and speaking from personal experience, I have to say I agree with you. I’ve had previous similar experiences but I’ve never intentionally disciplined myself like you have. I’ve never begun the day as you do, but I will do so tomorrow and for the coming weeks to see if it makes a difference.

      It’s such a shame that science pays such little attention to actual subjective experience.

      It’s as if our minds just get in the way and when we quieten down the external data and internal thoughts then real insights can be noticed. That is a great example of your students looking for information on Aboriginal art. What a great way to find the blog! Thank you for sharing this.

  37. rob scrivener January 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    My Son had a verified OBE, and being a very skeptical person it left me shocked to the core. He recounted in detail a visit to the hospital in 2006 where he saw me and his mum and a nurse in a darkish room. He also saw a TV screen with white lines on it with a nurse looking at the screen. Then he saw and heard Mummy cry then the room went light.

    He was seeing his 21 week scan and recounted this story at the age of 2

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

      Hi Rob,
      Thank you so much for sharing this experience with the blog. This is another aspect of consciousness that really fascinates me. What you have mentioned is quite similar to cases reported by Dr David Chamberlain in his book The Mind of Your Newborn Baby published back in 1998. I became particularly side tracked by these sorts of experiences while doing my PhD and my interest in them has recently been renewed so I am really intrigued by what you have written. This all adds to the debate about non-local consciousness.

  38. Nick March 6, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Hi,i think this is a very fascinating subject, if science can prove consciousness can survive death, it would be the greatest scientific discovery of all time. I have been very interested in this subject for a number of years, i think there is also good evidence to be found in the work of the late Ian Stephenson and Jim Tucker at the University of Virginia.

    There seems to be scientists who are reluctant to admit publicly that they also think the evidence points towards consciousness can exist outside the brain because it might effect their reputations and careers. Science should be all about evidence and we should go where it leads us even if it does not fit with our current “mainstream model” of how the brain works. Kudos to all the scientists and doctors and other researchers who study this subject with an open mind.

    I am reading a book called “One Mind” by Larrey Dossey, m.d. that explains how all our minds may be connected. Anyone who finds this subject interesting would love that book.

    Thank You Dr Penny Sartori for sharing some of your research with us! And i wish you the best with your continuing research.. very important work indeed.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

      Hi Nick, thank you for your lovely comment. I’ve just read Dr Larry Dossey’s book and found it very interesting too.

      One of the biggest things I found with my hospital research was that some patients reported an NDE and were having clear, lucid thought processes and described a heightened state of awareness while they were unconscious and their brains were severely physiologically compromised. I just can’t explain how this could happen if consciousness is created by the brain. To me it seems more logical to explore other possibilities such as consciousness being primary. To me this is a very exciting idea which can lead to further understanding of our consciousness so I’m not sure why some people are so opposed to this idea.

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