NDEs Featured on BBC Radio 4 Beyond Belief 09/09/13

9 Sep

For anyone who is interested there was a 30 minute discussion on NDEs featured on today’s BBC Radio 4 Beyond Belief show. Participants in the discussion were Professor Chris French, The Very Revd Prof Dr Gordon McPhate (who had an NDE when he was a medical student) and Dr Penny Sartori.

Gordon’s experience is particularly interesting to me as it occurred while he was a medical student and reflection of his NDE over time prompted him to train in the ministry.

You can also listen to the programme again on http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/programmes/a-z/by/Beyond%20Belief/current, the episode will also be available for download by podcast after transmission.


P.S. – there may be a delay in my response to any comments for a few weeks but I will respond as soon as possible.


147 Responses to “NDEs Featured on BBC Radio 4 Beyond Belief 09/09/13”

  1. Tony September 10, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    Very good talk Penny. I was deeply disappointed with Chris French’s comments. It’s fair to take a skeptical stance on on Ndes however one needs to acknowledge how incredibly difficult it is to explain the veridical aspect and that it would need to be addressed to fully uncover what might be going on here. To not acknowledge this makes him appear totally irrelevant and completely biased in any conclusion he may make.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

      HI Tony, I think having Gordon McPhate describe his own NDE was very helpful to the whole debate as many people in his position are very hesitant to speak publicly about these kinds of subjective experiences. Its good to have debate like this as it seems to be getting harder to dismiss these experiences with the usual arguments.

  2. mick timpson September 10, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Dear Penny.

    I really enjoyed listening to you yesterday on Radio Four’s Beyond Belief covering NDE.

    My ears pricked up when you described your conclusions about consciousness being the primary reality of which direct experience is somehow filtered by the living brain/mind. I liked that. Outside of my work as an artist and architect I also run a little yoga company called YogaLife. We teach authentic yoga directed to how it can be used in everyday life…have a look at my Word Press sites:



    You may or may not know that your research conclusions are one of the central elements to yoga science. Yogi philosophy tells us that the world we perceive around us, of space and matter hardly exists (ties in neatly with work being done in quantum physics) and is essentially an illusion, sometimes described as a ‘projection’ covering the experience of the primary realty. This illusion is called Maya. The primary reality is undifferentiated consciousness. Sometimes known as the Unified Field or Purusha, which underpins everything. The really interesting thing is that yoga is all about union with that field which is achieved by removing obstacles to its direct experience. In your terms, removing or reducing the impact of our built-in filter. Ironically yoga tells us that it is the mind and its constant chatter and preconception, habits of thought, which is part of that in-built filter. Meditation looks to ‘still’ the mind which then after long practice opens up the filter. Even a partial opening up of that filter brings rewards of calm, creativity, well-being and happiness…. very much as described in detail by your NDE subjects.

    You may already know this link but if not it might be w worth exploring. There is a lot of work going on exploring this element of yoga science and its connections with other fields of experience are very interesting.

    So fascinating work Penny. Keep going. Do you ever give talks/presentations/ workshops etc? If so let me know. I’m sure we can set something up here in Manchester?

    Best wishes


    • Dr Penny Sartori September 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Hi Mick,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I really like what you have mentioned about yoga. I’ve briefly touched on this through the course of my studies and I think this makes much better sense when trying to understand consciousness. You have described it in a really great way and have inspired me to go back and learn more about this again. I agree with your comment about space and matter tying in with quantum physics.

      Yes, I do give talks and presentations and it would be great to set something up in Manchester. In the coming months I’ll be tied up with work commitments but in the New Year I should have more time. Thank you so much for getting in touch.

      • mick timpson September 11, 2013 at 9:36 am #

        Hi Penny.

        Thanks for getting back. Glad you found my thoughts useful. I’ll stay in touch via Word Press and perhaps in the New Year we can do something. Did you mention a new book you were doing or was I dreaming?

        Mick T.

      • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 8:53 am #

        Hi Mick,

        Sorry for my delayed reply, I’ve been away without any internet access. Yes, please keep in touch I’d be happy to arrange a talk in the New Year. My forthcoming book The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences will be published by Watkins Books on 18th February 2014.

  3. tim September 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Just to say before I listen to this…and I really haven’t …I’ll bet Chris French is still going on about dying brain/oxygen deprivation etc and psychological defence mechanisms. Thanks Penny.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Hi Tim, there was some brief mention of things like that. It was an interesting discussion especially as Gordon McPhate spoke about his own experience which is unusual for someone in his position. It was great to be a part of the discussion.

  4. Stuart September 10, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Hi Penny,

    Maybe a radio section could be added as came across this as well.



    • Dr Penny Sartori September 10, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      Hi Stuart, thanks for this link. I will have a listen later. Yes, you have a good idea about setting up a radio section. I’ll look into it next week.

      After this evening, I’ll have limited email access for a week or so and won’t be able to post blog comments. I will update the blog next week.

  5. Max_B September 11, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Enjoyed listening to that broadcast whilst I’m on holiday in Italy, thought you raised some good points balancing Chris’s opinions, and exposing how little we actually know about this subject. Spent Saturday at the SPR conference in Swansea at the start of my holiday, and heard two interesting talks/papers. One by a Japanese team who flew over to present their research on 14 or so Japanese NDE’s as they try to re-kickstart this type of research again in Japan. Also a very interesting theory from an Indian sleep researching Dr who also flew over to present his ideas from his own research following a powerful personal premonition experience of his brothers death, a few days before his experience came true.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Hi Max,

      I really wanted to go to the SPR conference at Swansea University (especially as that’s where I work and I’m also a member of the SPR) but I had been pre-booked to speak at a conference in Lincoln on that weekend. A few of my friends went but I’ve been away and haven’t had chance to catch up with them yet.

      It would be interesting to hear more about the papers you mentioned.

      • Max_B September 30, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

        I didn’t really know anything about Japanese NDE’s, but the 18 NDE’s presented by Mika Iwasaki, and Tatsu Hirukawa appeared to be pretty indistinguishable from western NDE’s… bright light and tunnel etc….(communication was quite difficult with the team, so I can’t be definite). I was expecting the Japanese ‘caves’ I’ve heard mentioned before, rather than the tunnel. They did give each of us a copy of their paper, so hopefully one of your friends has one for you? Otherwise I could scan it as a PDF, and post it somewhere so that others could read too.

        Sushant Meshram – the Indian Dr – had an interesting theory that during sleep we get to see a much larger cycle of time, than our daily conscious one. I don’t know if I exactly agreed with him, but I found it a ‘really’ interesting and thought provoking presentation.

        Some things stuck in my mind as important…

        Precognitive experiences apparently tend to be experienced during sleep… I didn’t know that…

        His idea that… we only become ‘aware’ of information from this larger time cycle, if we become sufficiently aroused enough during REM, so that we approach a similar state of consciousness as wakeful consciousness, and that this is caused by the highly emotional and highly relevant nature of the content.

        I had never considered the reason-for/recall of the experience from this angle before. Normally there is a question mark, hanging over ‘why’ people have had this, or that, experience at that time, out of the blue? His take on it – I suppose – is that we have these unconscious experiences all the time during REM sleep, but we only become aware of them if they are ‘highly’ emotional and relevant. I thought this was a very interesting perspective.

        I already knew that we dream in none rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), as well as REM sleep. But when questioned on this he mentioned that the dream content of NREM sleep – unlike REM sleep – is not strongly ’emotional’, he said NREM sleep tended to just contain things that we had done that day etc.. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ve never heard this nugget of information mentioned before, and I thought it was important.

        Until this talk, I hadn’t really understood just how odd the physiological changes are during REM sleep, particularly the themodynamic changes in the brain during REM which allow it to overheat as thermal regulation is turned off, the increased heart rate, and the vastly reduced oxygen saturation levels (vs CO2) etc. Indeed, I hadn’t really understood that more people with certain heart conditions die during REM sleep, than at any other time, due to these extreme physiological changes. Definitely something for me to think about further in relation to it’s similarities with the NDE…

        It also made me reopen a little research I had done a few years ago on fasting, and it’s reported effects on consciousness, which had led me on to looking at Ketone use in the brain. At that time I didn’t have any ideas about how Ketones might cause an effect, I just new it was a different ‘fuel’ from the glucose the brain prefers, if it can get it.

        Considering my ideas… In the absence of glucose, it’s interesting to speculate whether the switch of some neurons to using the less ‘potent’ Ketone ‘fuel’ might somehow be partially responsible for the more ‘enlightened’ effect some people report. I also wasn’t aware that more recent research indicates that Ketones probably have a considerable Neuro-protective effect for some reason, aiding recovery after Anoxic-brain injury, by reducing later swelling of the brain etc.

        This sounds a bit weird, but it almost seems like we indulge the brains love of richer sugar/starch fuels more than is perhaps good for us. Almost like we run the brain (neurons) at a higher ‘output’ because of our diet, which increases some types of conscious processing, perhaps at the expense of others.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 7, 2013 at 10:00 am #

        HI Max, I’ll be seeing my friends at the end of the month so I’m hoping they will bring the Japaneses paper along with them. I’ve also seen that you’ve posted it on your blog so I will have a look.

        I’m really interested by what you have written about Dr Shushant Meshram’s theory about some precognitive dreams. From my own experience of vivid dreams it makes sense to link gaining information while being sufficiently aroused (through emotion) during REM sleep so that it is a similar state to waking consciousness. It would have been interesting to have Professor Mark Blagrove’s perspective on this – he is a sleep expert who works at Swansea University.

        Your comment about the physiology of REM sleep has also made me curious as I don’t know much about this at all. After reading your comment I want to learn more about this now! Your comments on the ketones are also really interesting too. As ususal, you have made me want to go off and learn more about these aspects. There are a lot of interesting thing for me to think about.

      • Max_B October 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

        I’ve scanned the 4-page Japanese NDE handout as a PDF and uploaded it to my blog in case anybody want’s to download it for reading…

        Click to access nde_18_cases_from_japan.pdf

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

        Hi Max, thanks for this. I’ll have a read of it tomorrow. I just briefly read your other comment which I found fascinating and I want to reply after thinking about it again. I’m really tired now so don’t want to miss any interesting points so I’ll reply tomorrow after I’ve read it again. I’m really intrigued by what you have written.

        I didn’t realise you had a blog, I’m sure the followers of this blog would love it. I’ll check it out.

  6. tim September 11, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Thanks for the reply, Penny. Yep, Chris French is still singing from the same old hymn sheet, bless him, he wouldn’t want ot lose his tenure by actually being honest about the research. Evasiveness, loose with the actual facts etc…..thats understandable though from his background.
    Thanks again Penny

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Hi Tim, sorry for the delayed response, I’ve been away without internet access. I’ve met Chris before when I did a talk in London for the SPR in 2008, I nearly fainted when I saw Chris walk in and I was very nervous. In fairness he was really nice and he was very respectful of the NDE research conducted. I liked his suggestion about conducting experiments with people who can induce OBEs. Having recently spoken to Graham Nicholls who can induce OBEs, he mentions how his vision is different while in an OBE state which may complicate the experiments as induced OBEs may differ from those experienced in near death situations. However, it would be very interesting research to undertake and it would be good to have Chris as part of the team too as I think he’d offer an interesting perspective and have good ideas for the design of the experiments.

  7. I. G. September 11, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Dear Dr. Sartori,
    I have just listened to the interview with you and hope you do not mind me asking a question concerning the cultural differences in the NDEs. From what I have learned, NDEs from India that you referred to in the interview, contain a “paranormal component” as well. Those are often “mistaken identity” cases where a person with a similar name then dies in a village close by. Interesingly, this seems to correlate with NDES from ancient Rome (a researcher called Michael Nahme published an article about those and mentioned the “mistaken identity feature” in the Journal of Near Death Experiences but did not develop a final conclusion). The druzes of Lebanon, in their NDEs, often find themselves about to be reborn to a woman just delivering a child and after they entered their “old” body they find out that this woman has just given birth to a child that died. So, given that those accounts are true in their paranormal aspects (we could conclude those are embellishment but I think that this would not do justice to the experiencers as they have the right to be treated like experiencers from our culture), they do involve knowledge that could not be acquired through normal means. So here is my question: How can we make sense of them? The idea that there is really a messanger taking the wrong person is hard to reconcile with the basic concept of NDEs as are stillbirth babies having died because the sould enters its old body instead of the baby´s…I would be very happy to learn about what you think of those elements of non-Western ideas. And I am sorry that my English is shaky, it is not my mother tongue!

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Hi IG, thank you for your comment you raise very good points. This is a very difficult question to answer. It is really fascinating to me that this information can be gained during an NDE. The variations in the experiences appear to be very much linked to the various cultural beliefs.

      What has made most sense to me so far is Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious. It seems likely that during an NDE the altered state of consciousness that is accessed has certain archetypes present but how those archetypes are interpreted is very strongly influenced by the cultural beleifs and individual background of the person having the experience. However, this doesn’t really answer your question as to how the person having the NDE described entering into a baby’s body which subsequently died when the person re-entered their body. I will have to think about this in greater depth and I think this is a very good aspect to develop for future research.

  8. john scovell September 11, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    If consciousness is the primary reality that would imply we are a manifestation of that reality and perhaps out purpose it to experience to feed back. Therefore does it make sense for us to try and achieve union with that reality when that is not really our purpose?

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Hi John, you raise a very interesting point here. I was reading The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert last week and there was a bit on page 46 that may be of relevance to your point. He mentions that some traditions have a wish to return to a sense of oneness/ unity whereas other traditions have a wish to transcend the self and lose ego boundaries and sense this unity. As our brains give rise to a sense of us being individual selves this in turn leads to a disconnection from that unity.

  9. rabbitdawg September 12, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    What a wonderfully civil discussion! No vitriol, no hyperactive researcher pushing an agenda, and The Very Reverend Prof Dr Gordon McPhate was an added bonus. Everyone spoke their turn, and I didn’t hear a single insult.
    We don’t get much of that here in the U.S., so maybe the civility is a U.K. thing. Yeah, I know you’ve got Richard Dawkins, but we’ve got James Randi’s and Pat Robertson’s running out our ears over here.

    The acknowledgement of distressing experiences was refreshing, as well. Too many folks in the NDE community tend to try to sweep that aspect of the experience under the rug. Thank you for that.

    My only complaint is that the segment was too short. Maybe one day we can have a civil two hour panel discussion about NDE’s, where the researchers are allowed to unpack the sceptic “explanations” one by one. I nominate Penny Sartori and Sam Parnia vs. Chris French and Sam Harris. Maybe add a second discussion between Bernardo Kastrup and P.Z. Meyers for fun. Intellectual dynamite!

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Hi Rabbitdawg, thanks for your comment. It was really great to take part in the discussion and I think Gordon’s perspective was so important to include. Although Chris and myself have different perspectives he is very respectful of the NDE research that has been done and I found his comments helpful for future work I may undertake.

      I agree that the distressing NDEs also need to have coverage and a lot more research needs to be done in this area. Your suggestion for a future panel would be very interesting!

  10. Paul September 13, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I’m surprised at how few comments there are. I suspect it may be a consequence of the BBC choosing to cover this topic in a programming slot dedicated to religious topics.

    I would have been happier if it had been allocated to the BBC’s science coverage where it is at least as relevant, if not more so.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Paul, thank you for your comment. Sorry for my delayed response, I’ve been away and haven’t had internet access to respond to the blog. There are a few more comments to reply to.

  11. Revd Rod Walton September 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    Hi Penny,
    I listened to the programme on Radio Four, and thought I would drop you a line to say thank you for a job well done, excellent presentation of the evidence.
    I noticed that Chris French is quoting Sue Blackmore, even though she has been out of the NDE research for the last 20 years, I wonder whey he was not quoting Dr Parnia or Dr Pim van Lommel ! He also does not appear to be up to speed with the latest on the Dr Alexander affair!
    On a persoal note I recently assisted at a wedding cerimony and was talking to the Brides Mother about NDEs, and she said she was a nurse in Wales and a Lady had been doing some research on her ward some time in the past. I said was her name Dr Penny Sartori?, she looked at me with her mouth wide open, what a small world we live in.
    This is my Bereavement Rescue site http://bereavementrescue.org.uk/


    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      Hi Rod, thank you for your comment. What a lovely anecdote you mention about the brides mother (I’m trying to think who she is), yes, indeed it is a very small world.

      Thank you for the link to your website, it is a great resource and you have some very interesting video links.

  12. Kinseher Richard September 19, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    Dear Penny
    With DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075257 you can find the paper: Human Brain Activity Patterns beyond the Isoelectric Line of Extreme Deep Coma

    Brain activity in the hippocampus was found beyond the EEG-flat-line: To know this might be useful for NDE-research

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 20, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Hi Richard, thanks for this link. I’ve just read the abstract and it looks very interesting, I will read the rest later as this is very helpful to my work.

      • john scovell September 21, 2013 at 1:41 am #

        Have not read the article but I’m assuming implication is that NDEs are result of brain activity. Who knows but either way isn’t it amazing ie brain still operating after clinical death and doesn’t it show how little we really know. Who knows where it will lead. But how does one explain out of body experiences while clinically dead? And also why is experience so lucid

      • Dr Penny Sartori September 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        Hi John, I’ve only read the article briefly. Some people may interpret this brain activity as being the cause of the NDE (from a materialist perspective). However, this could be the neurological correlate of how the NDE is later recalled i.e. it could be this deep brain activity that allows the altered state of consciousness to be experienced when the other areas of the brain are not completely flat lined. The experience could be so lucid because the other areas of the brain are flat lined and so the usual sensory input is blocked.

  13. john scovell September 22, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Someone said ‘does not know the latest in Dr Alexander…’. Nor do I! What is the latest? Thanks

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      HI John, there was a response on the IANDS website written in defence of Dr Eben Alexander.

  14. john scovell September 22, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Ok this new research suggest that certain area of the brain continues to function while brain is flat lined. But was the heart still pumping in these cases and where they on life support which kept the heart beating? Also, I’m really no expert but I have read that many areas of brain have to work to produce mental processes? Also why would it produce these experience? Why not a happy event from someones life or something more grounded in everyday reality?

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Hi John, the research looked at the brains of cats. The cases are all cardiac arrests which means the heart has stopped beating. You are correct, the current understanding of consciousness is that to produce a conscious experience the cortex has to be functional. It may just be that these deep structures of the brain facilitate the expereince in someway. I don’t know the answers but I think that the more research that is done in this area the more our understanding of consciousness will progress. However, I think it is important to be open minded about how this neurophysiological research is interpreted. The default position is to consider NDEs as being created by the brain therefore from a materialist perspective, it is the deep structures that cause the NDE, whereas these deep structures could just be the correlates of perceiving the experience. We have to remain open minded before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

      • Stuart September 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

        I agree Penny,

        I think when it comes to NDEs one either comes from a whole physical source or from a non-physical source for the source of an NDE, whereas I think an NDE may be a jointly created intergrated phenonoma between the physical reality and possible non-physical reality. It nearly seems most arguments in realition to matters like these (NDEs, metaphysics etc) are stuck in 19th century scientific arguement and not taking a more 21st century look at things.

      • Dr Penny Sartori September 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

        Hi Stuart, thanks for the comment. Yes, I think we have a lot more to discover and we need to take the way we investigate consciousness into the 21st century.

      • Afterlifer September 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

        It’s really strange, but the rule seems to be “the less active is your brain, the more aware you are”. Anyway how is it possible that those brains – even if they use sensory inputs picked up from the people in the surroundins (as MaxB explained) – are able to store some kind of memories and get to know veridical details about the past, the present and the future??? I’m getting more and more convinced that Stanislav Grof is right when he states that there’s an outer reality (really existing) and that our brains act as a filter. When the filter gets weaker, we seem to have access to everything in the same time. But the big question is what happens when this weak brain activity disappears? I’m afraid we’re just like a washing machine…somebody takes out the plug and there’s nothing more than oblivion. Could those weak (but so incredibly aware) fields generated by dying brain survive physycal death? Or maybe we could experience eternity in a sort of quantum dilatation delusion in which space and time disappear (the last struggles of our dying brains)? Since the article about rats appeared, survivalists are experiencing really hard times. Our last hope is Stuart Hameroff’s “quantum consciousness” (or maybe some great results from the AWARE study).

      • Dr Penny Sartori September 27, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

        Hi Afterlifer, yes Stanislav Grof’s work is very important and I suggest that NDErs are accessing this outer reality that Grof discusses. That is a very good question – what does happen when this brain activity disappears? At present we don’t know, we can only speculate – we can only know this for sure at our own death.

  15. john scovell September 24, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Penny, isn’t the problem that, for example the Lancet Study, concluded people had NDEs when there was no brain activity and thus it seemed to suggest consciousness came through the brain. Doesn’t this new research, that part of the brain is still working turn that on its head and suggest the opposite? Especially as no one seems to have seen the targets. On the other hand how do we explain people describing what went on while that state etc. Plus there was the example I gave of the yoga teacher who found himself outside his body and my experience of the woman who saw through my eyes?

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      Hi John, you’ve got a very good point here. The parts of the brain that are required for conscious experience do not function during cardiac arrest, the deeper structures of the brain may still be active to a degree but not enough to produce conscious experience (according to our current understanding of consciousness). So how can it be possible to have a heightened state of awareness when the brain is severely physiologically insulted? This is what we don’t understand and at present our current science cannot answer this fully.

      Until recently, NDEs have been dismissed as hallucinations but now that hospital research is being conducted it is slowly being understood that these experiences can no longer be dismissed in such a way. So the best way forward, as far as I can see, is to consider consciousness from a different perspective (that of non-local consciousness or some other perspective) rather than be continuously going over the same argument that consciousness is a mere by-product of the brain. I think we really are living in exciting times and as our technology is advancing so are the ways in which we can research and investigate consciousness.

  16. Max_B September 26, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Penny, I’ve only briefly skimmed over the paper, are you sure you are correct about the cases all being cardiac arrest? I thought the team were researching induced deep coma using higher than normal doses of isoflurane. Quoted from the papers methods for the cats experiment…

    “…During the experiments vital parameters were continuously monitored and maintained within physiological limits: body temperature (37±0.2°C), expired CO2 (3.7±0.2%), respiration rate (20–30 strokes/min) and heart rate (<110 beats/min)…"

    Looks like an interesting paper to me… but I’m not sure it has massive relevance to the NDE in cardiac arrest patients? In my view it’s always been logical that for patients who recover from cardiac arrest, and are able to recall an NDE without brain damage, that their brain could not have been in a totally energy compromised state. (i.e. some neurons were probably still able to fire).

    It’s never seemed logical for people to put any store in an EEG flatline as indicative of ‘no’ brain activity, then trying to use that argument to claim the NDE. We simply can’t get anywhere near the sensitivity and temporal resolution required to measure individual neuron action potentials (which last around 1-2 millionth of a second) with EEG.

    The best we can currently do with EEG is measure the much longer post-synaptic potential period (which follows the action potential) even then, each EEG sensor is I’m told, typically summing the activity of 1/2 – 1 million neuron post-synaptic potentials at any moment.

    As an analogy, I like to think of each EEG sensor, as summing ‘all’ the individual pixels on your computer monitor, into one large averaged single pixel which covers the whole of your monitor, and then wondering why you can’t make out any detail on the screen.

    I remain rather suspicious about similar types of syncronous EEG measurements etc, until researchers totally rule out all known external fields, not just static electrical fields. After all, we know the fully functioning brain is affected by slow weak external magnetic fields etc (mechanism unknown!), just how sensitive to similar fields the brain might be in a dysfunctional state we do not know.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 27, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Hi Max, you are probably correct – I only very briefly skimmed through the paper amongst several others I had on the computer. I returned from a week away to be faced with hundreds of emails and many papers and manuscripts to read. I’m not so good at multi-tasking! I haven’t had chance to go back to the paper yet.

      Having read your comment it seems these weren’t cardiac arrest cases. Your comment is really helpful to something I’ve been thinking about lately in regards to EEG and brain activity. I think these recent papers are highlighting how little we know about brain function in relation to consciousness.

      • Stuart September 27, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

        From what I have read the article that Richard put up was in relation to patients in a coma state as opposed to a NDE state. Perhaps there is too much emphasis placed on EEG. As mentioned elsewhere indivduals whom have a perfectly funtioning brain state can experince NDES. And arguably the most intriging of these is of indivduals having shared death experinces where they are perfectly alive and once can only assume a normaly active brain state and not one on the down.

        Not realated as such but few more talks including from Parnia and Fenwick. Not to sure if they can be accesed online or via podcast yet.


      • Dr Penny Sartori October 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

        Hi Stuart,

        Yes I think it was about coma patients, I still haven’t had time to check it out properly. Thanks for the links to the podcasts.

      • Stuart October 1, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

        Was in contact with the Academy in New York and was advised that both Dr Parnias and Dr Fenwick may touch upon the AWARE study as they are both involved with Horizon Foundation I think. The talks will be done on a conversation basis, so they may or indeed may not go onto and talk about the AWARE study. It simply depends on how the flow of the conversation is going. I’m guessing you must know Dr Fenwick Penny as I think you mentioned he was doing the fore word for your book. The 4 talks are to be put online on the NOUR Foundation website 1-2 weeks after they are done. Unsure if any details of the talks will be up before then unless members of the general public who attend talk about them.


      • Dr Penny Sartori October 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

        Hi Stuart, thanks for this. It will be very interesting to hear the talks. Yes, I know Dr Fenwick well, he was one of the supervisors for my research. (Its Dr Pim van Lommel who has written the foreword for my book.) Keep us posted if you hear when the talks will be available to listen to.

      • Stuart October 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

        HI Penny,

        Just came across this. Are you involved in the AWARE Study Penny or are this and the Human Coniness Project serpertae studies?


      • Dr Penny Sartori October 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

        HI Stuart, I was involved with the AWARE study in the beginning and set it up at the hospital where I worked. Unfortunately I was unable to commit the same time and effort to AWARE that I had for my study so I thought it best that I withdraw, although I believe the hospital is still a part of AWARE.

      • Stuart October 11, 2013 at 11:29 am #

        This looks like an interview that may have been held on the 7th of Oct 2013 (if it the American system of doing dates) with an extented interview aswell. IT appears that it was interviewed by the same man who was a moderator on the NYAS so I persume it was held just before:




      • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

        Thanks for these links Stuart, I’ll check them out.

  17. john scovell September 27, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    I’m no expert but if the cats weren’t actually in cardiac arrest doesn’t that mean that the study does not explain NDEs as some have suggested ? Also someone mentioned that the study on the rats showed evidence for survival as being un likely. I’m assuming that’s a reference to the spike in brain activity but people have reported OBEs long after the spike as stopped. Also I noticed on the net there a detailed rebuttal against it explaining NDEs. Also Penny u said we will find out when we die, but perhaps we won’t ! I remember in a Star Trek film the captain to one character, ‘you were killed’ she replied ‘your so four dimensional’

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      Hi John, I think I got it wrong, the cats were not in cardiac arrest they were just in deep coma. There is so little we understand about consciousness at this point but I think it is great that new studies are being done all the time.

  18. john scovell October 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    My last post might seemed a bit confusing as had number of different points. I tend to have many ideas popping into my head. I liked the Star Trek scene where captaind says ‘I saw you killed’ the Borge Queen replies ‘your so four dimensional’. As well being a funny line I guess its also saying out understand is so limited and we look at the universe through that limited view

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 4, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

      Hi John, your quote from Star Trek made me laugh. I’ve just not had chance to reply this week. Yes, that is a really good point – I think we do look at the universe through a limited view.

  19. Tim October 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Personally I find it very telling that such a study on rat brains would gain such prominence . If you ignore nearly all the aspects of near death experience you might be able to attribute it to a surge of electrical activity if you would also attribute Michael Angelo’s David to a navvie with jack hammer. Why is it that the flimsiest objections to the reality of near death experiences are given such credence as opposed to vast bodies of veridical evidence which has been collected so far? I think I smell a rat somewhere !

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 7, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      Hi Tim, thanks for your comment. Yes, I totally agree with you. The study for some reason had huge media coverage which I think is why it has caused such a stir.

  20. Tim October 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    …….Susan Blackmore dismissed Michael Sabom’s study simply because not all the patients were in the same pathological condition. All the astounding veridical cases waved away in the process. Rats are not even of the same biological species, we don’t know if they even possess consciousness as we know it. The study had no control groups it hasn’t been replicated, the sample was tiny and the effect minuscule. Sorry to go on, Penny but these things really wind me up 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 7, 2013 at 9:48 am #

      Hi Tim, you make a very good point here and again I totally agree with you.

  21. Tim October 7, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    Thanks, Penny. Looking forward to the publication of your new book. Will it be out before Christmas?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 7, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Hi Tim, my new book won’t be out before Christmas. The official date the publishers have given me is 18th February 2014. It will be called The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How understanding NDEs can help us live more fully. It will be published by Watkins Books.

      I’ll put a post on the blog about it in a few weeks time which will have more information.

      • Tim October 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

        That’s great, Penny thanks again.

  22. john scovell October 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Penny, can your book be pre ordered how? Thanks

  23. Lulla27 October 10, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    Hi Penny. Just listened to a fine interview of Sam Parnia. Nde discussion begins at about twenty minutes in. Nothing too terribly new but some thorough and concise explanations as well as confirmation of sharing AWARE results late this fall. Worth a listen.

  24. Lulla27 October 10, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Ooops! I forgot to leave a link for the new Parnia interview. It’s http://www.ttbook.org/book/erasing-death

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

      Thats great, thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

    • Max_B October 13, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      Thanks for that Lulla27.

      I’m so pleased the interviewer raised the ethical questions about organ donation and transplantation, it’s long been on my mind.

      Knowing what I know now about NDE’s, I think I could have problems giving consent for any loved-one’s organs to be removed before cellular death has occurred to their body.

      Even some surgeons have become a little concerned by the unexplained occasional rise in monitored blood pressure as they cut into a patient who they had considered to be brain dead. I’d hate to think a loved one could be having some other type of important conscious experience – like an NDE.

      Anybody else have thoughts about this?

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

        Hi Max, (I’ve not yet had time to check out your blog but its on my list of to do’s)

        Yes, organ transplantation does make me think a lot too. Having worked as a nurse I looked after patients who became donors and also patients who were waiting for a transplant and found both perspectives very emotionally intense.

        One thing that I find very exciting is some of the work that is going on with stem cell research and developing a new heart from a pig’s heart which has had the cells washed out and then human stem cells implanted. Dr Doris Taylor has been working on this for some years, I think it is at the University of Texas. There was a BBC documentary on in the spring time which was very interesting.

      • Max_B October 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

        Lordy… I wouldn’t bother with my blog Penny, I haven’t kept it up to date. I had big plans, but… Although at some point I intend to pull together all my posts here and elsewhere and write a few more up to date posts by condensing my thoughts, which have changed over time.

        I will look up the pig thing, perhaps I can watch it again on bbc iplayer.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

        I’d still be interested to see you blog. I’ve been really busy lately and I have a huge backload of emails to respond to. I’ll get around to it eventually.

        Yes the documentary may still be available on iplayer. It was on BBC 4 and it was called ‘Mend Me: A Horizon Guide to Transplants’ and presented by Dr Michael Mosely. I think it was shown in April time. There are also some clips of Dr Doris Taylor talking about her work on youtube.

    • Paul October 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Looks to me like that Sam Parnia interview is the same one that was released back in July 2013.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 19, 2013 at 11:25 am #

        Hi Paul, yes, I think you are right.

  25. john scovell October 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Penny, I have a book that was published earlier in the year called Death, The Finale Frontier by Julia Assantee. Wondering if u know of it? She is unusual in that she is both an academic, in classical history, and also a medium or a sensitive. The book argues that the evidence for life after death is very strong. She reviews the evidence and also argues that our view of the afterlife is tainted by the culture we have been brought up in. She believes we are here to experience and our individuality expands when we die. One problem I have the book is that she sites a number of examples which have been discredited which I feel weakens the credibility of her argument. Book is still very interesting though.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

      Hi John, thank you so much for letting me know about Julia Assantee’s book. I wasn’t aware of it but it sounds like a very interesting read because of her background of being an academic and medium. I’ve just ordered the book (not sure when I’ll get around to reading it) as she sounds as if she has a very interesting perspective and I’d like to read more about it.

  26. john scovell October 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    I remember once watching a discussion on tv about life after death. One of the speakers said ‘wait and see. Or wait and not see’

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Ah, that is interesting. I guess its all down to our individual perspectives as to how our own transition into death is experienced.

  27. tim October 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    The book cover looks good, Penny. I wonder why they don’t want to catch the Christmas sales. I suppose they must know what they’re doing.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      Hi Tim, thanks – the publishers designed the cover. The reason it comes out in February is to do with the Watkins catalogue being released which is timed quite close to the London bookfair (at least I think thats what the publisher said). It would have been great to get it out before Christmas though.

  28. john scovell October 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Penny, re transplants, couldn’t the same be said of cremation? How do we know that no pain is felt as a body is burned

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      Hi John, thats an interesting question. I’d never thought about that to be honest but NDErs report that when they leave their body there is no pain at all.

  29. john scovell October 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Penny, re transplants, I thought when people described NDEs or OBEs they felt no pain, including people watching themselves who had felt great pain before losing consciousness.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

      Yes, you are quite right, when people leave the body they report that there is no pain at all.

  30. Kinseher Richard October 16, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Max_B: organ donation
    Mental death and cellular death should not be mixed up. With Google you can find on YouTube [Frog Legs Dancing with a little Salt]: Here you can see a strong biological reaction of parts from an animal which is obviously dead. Activities like this could explain, a rise of blood pressure when a cut into the skin is performed – maybe the steel of the knife has galvanized parts of the body: this is not life, this is only a chemical reaction.

    I think, we can donate organs and help others after the diagnosis brain-death.

    • Max_B October 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      We don’t know what consciousness is, or how consciousness is produced, so forgive me if I’m somewhat skeptical that we can measure consciousness, and say when it’s gone from the body.

      Some ‘hellish’ NDE’s appear to me to have some correlation with the external environment of the experiencer at the time they lost consciousness. Sometimes these ‘hellish’ experiences later change into the classic feel-good experience, but I’ve often noticed that this might be correlated to the later presence of confident persons with good intentions to look after, comfort and save me the experiencer (i.e. medical professionals).

      Considering the topic of this blog, and my own research and ideas, I wouldn’t want to risk a final Death Experience surrounded by people who’s intentions are not to look after, comfort and save me…

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 26, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

        Hi Max, you make some really good points. Dr Pim Van Lommel has mentioned this topic in his book Consciousness Beyond Life.

  31. Stuart October 16, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    hi Penny,

    here a video/podcast of three doctors (including Parnia) on resuitation techiques and ndes amongst other things like cpr etc. it interesting and light hearted



    Parnia mentioned that he is hoping to present some of the intial results at a confernce in novemeber for the american heart association. i guessing it may be this confernce as can find no other at the moment:


    also penny came across a short interview you did for bbc radio wales. think it on podcast


    [audio src="https://www.dropbox.com/s/9b9b6tcjxvxte68/Sartori_Radio_Wales.mp3" /]

    aplogies for the spelling but am very tired at the momnet


  32. Max_B October 26, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    My mum rang me last night. She lives in sheltered accommodation in London. Some time ago I had bought her Peter Fenwicks ‘The Art of Drying’. Her copy is apparently missing page 217-218, and she wanted me to read the missing page to her from my copy.

    It turns out that she’s dipped into the book from time to time, but only very recently decided to read it cover to cover. One of the other women who lives in the same accommodation has been quite ill. Over the last week this lady has confided to Mum that, she has begun to see dead relatives, who are talking with her, and she suspects that this means she is going to pass-away soon.

    Mum said that now she had read the book properly, she was able to understand some of the past conversations she had with her closest friend and neighbour (I’ll call her ‘M’), who passed away a couple of years ago. At the time she didn’t understand the significance of their talks.

    M was quite ill, and Mum was going away one day to visit my sister in the Northwest. Before she departed, M mentioned to Mum something along the lines of… “…she had to leave the windows open in her flat, because they were going to come and to take her away soon, it had been arranged…”

    When Mum returned from her visit to my sister, M was still alive, and M said that “…it had been stopped…”. Apparently her two previous deceased husbands (the last one, and a previous ex.) had appeared in her flat, and had engaged in a terrific row, there was apparently a disagreement between them as to whether they should take her or not. One husband wanted to, the other one disagreed. Either way, the outcome was that it was “…stopped…”.

    However, M did eventually pass away a few weeks later.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      HI Max, thank you so much for sharing this with the blog. It is so interesting to hear experiences like this as they really do reinforce what other people have reported.

      Your mum’s conversation with ‘M’ was fascinating – it seems that ‘M’ was in some way communicating with both of her previously deceased husbands. What was particularly interesting is that after the argument between both husbands, the arrangement to take her away had been stopped and that she remained alive for another few weeks. Very interesting.

    • Stuart October 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      thanks max. great to real peoples accounts.

  33. Tony October 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Penny I posted your amazon link on our Facebook group called Human Consciousness Project. We have a lot of members from the uk. I’d like to put a mention as to when it will be available in the US. Would you be able to tell us?

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

      Hi Tony, thank you so much for posting the link on your Facebook group page. It will also be available in the US around about the same date – February 18th 2014. It will also be available in Australia about a month later.

  34. Andre October 29, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Such reports are pretty interesting for me.

    Two former husbands discussing this issue infront off her but they come to no decision Result: stopped and waiting state. It is that type of waiting for the perfect state which i am looking for. The viewer or interpreter creates events based on these observations and stored symbols/pictures.
    (The cat in the box problem – Schrödinger’s cat).

    Einstein sayed once. “I do not accept this because god can not be that chaotic.”

    Photons are chaotic. They do never come to an agreement. Sometimes, they do have both states yes and no at the same time and are contrary to all physic laws .

    At the end i’d like to throw the famous “The Hundredth Monkey” by Ken Keyes in the room.

  35. Andre October 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Some parts about a NDE experience are quite puzzling for me. My main questions are:

    – How and when do both seperated parts exchange the information they aquire.
    – How does the mind transform the experiences made into pictures a mind and other human can understand
    – Does the human remember the original pictures ot only the mind translation.

    If we take it for real that there is a “soul” or “field” or “net” there is no chance that it operates with the rules of our physical world. Our mind and the person remembering these events is limited to the capabilities of our mind.

    It is much like trying to fit a porsche engine into a bike 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      Yes, these parts are puzzling to most people. You ask really good questions. These are million dollar questions that we don’t really know the answer to at the moment. I like your points and they are making me think.

  36. john scovell October 30, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    Hello Penny, u might find this interesting. I know of people who why using LSD had shared hallucinations ie became telepathic. Interesting don’t u think. Opens us all sorts of question as to what is real, how individual are we really? Etc

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      Hi John, that is really interesting. I’ve been fascinated by the psychoactive drug experiences since I read Stanislav Grof’s work many years ago and then read about shamans etc. It seems that there are many ways of accessing a heightened state of consciousness but the way it is interpreted is determined by the setting and context. I recently watched a youtube documentary on Dr Rick Strassman’s work on DMT called DMT: The Spirit Molecule and found it very informative – his book of the same name is great too.

      When you mentioned that you know of people who had shared hallucinations while using LSD it made me think of some empathic death experiences that some people have reported to me. One example in particular was when two people at the bedside of a dying lady actually felt as though they were suddenly on a partial journey into the light with the lady – both living people described the same vision.

    • Max_B November 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

      Hi John, rather shockingly late I think, I’ve become aware of issues to do with conscious visual awareness, and generally whether we perceive the world around us directly (direct perception/naive realism), which is generally the notion we grow up with, or indirectly (indirect perception).

      I’ve talked with quite a few people who tend towards the ‘indirect perception’ view, only to find that when they are challenged, they don’t really engage with with this view at all, they actually still think ‘direct perception’.

      I’m trying to come to terms with ideas of ‘indirect perception’ myself. I now realise that ideas about conscious visual perception are a fundamental to properly understanding OBE/NDE/DBV’s, and more generally consciousness itself. Steve Lehar (an independent USA based researcher) really has challenged some of my own naive assumptions about visual perception. His website which contains some ‘step through’ cartoons and is interesting to look through.

      Steve’s work caused me to stumble across the work of two other British researchers; Celia Green, and Charles McCreery, who have written a number of fascinating books from the 70’s onwards, covering similar issues. Two fascinating books ‘Psychical Phenomena and the Physical World’ by McCreery, and ‘Apparitions’ by Green really do force you to engage with notions of ‘indirect perception’. Old books but still very relevant.

      Some of their other books, ‘Out of Body Experiences’, and ‘Lucid Dreaming’ both by Green are sitting in a pile ready for reading.

      Considering vision from an ‘indirect perception’ point of view, how on earth do we explain the huge number of recorded stories involving shared hallucinations?

      Also what sort of a challenge do these shared experiences cause for science, and it’s assumptions about the independence of separate objective observers?

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

        HI Max,

        Sorry its taken so long to post your comment, I’ve not had much time to devote to the blog lately. I really am intrigued by what you’ve written and feel that this is something that deserves more attention. I’d like to look into this further myself but just don’t have time at the moment. You’re ideas always interest me and I’d really encourage you to pursue this maybe through a university course. You have great critical thinking skills and find great references to support your points plus you have your own experience to draw on which is a very good combination.

        Thanks for the link and the other references, they are very helpful.

        Further exploration of your ideas could really help with a wider understanding of consciousness and perception. I’d really encourage you to develop them further.

      • Alan November 15, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

        Max, I’ve also been influenced by Steve Lehar but after this I read the book “What we can never know” by the philosopher and AI researcher Dr. David Gamez. Review here,


        This book really blew me away because if one subscribes to “materialism”, indirect realism is correct/unavoidable. Everything is an experience in the brain, including your hand in front of you. It’s a virtual hand. “Virtual bees sup at fake flowers beneath a cyber sky.” is one of his killer quotes.
        Another is of a guy in a dream who meets a philosopher who instructs him to touch his real head. He can only touch his dream head of course as his real head is “beyond” the dream sky. Key point: when we wake up only our virtual hand can touch our virtual head. It’s the same problem in that we assign reality to everyday life erroneously. The best we have.
        Then he discusses that if (via materialism) all “our world” is neuron firings, then there cannot be any resemblance between these firings and the world “out there”. How can mere brain electrical activity resemble the actual world? Via materialism it cannot. So we also do not have a theory of resemblance which links my “computer screen experience” in my head, “in front of me”, to THE computer screen. This is also important – I cannot locate the real computer screen as all is an experience for me. Such is materialism and indirect realism, forced upon us by this materialism.

        Of course all is then percepts in the brain and one wonders can one break out from this essentially nihilist view of things? So with veridical NDEs people are still seeing as if with eyes but often with exceptional clarity (I believe this is correct Penny). But the fact the seeing is as if, but clearer, normal vision doesn’t this then falsify the materialist picture of vision? Percepts but no eyes, ears etc.
        So we then come to a fundamental issue. What exactly is a percept? What is really doing the “seeing”, even in the awake state? It’s almost as if each percept is an experience beyond the eyes because surely we have our “NDE body” while we are awake and it is ensouled in us (to be bold with the term ensouled).

        Penny, I remember I commented to you a while back on embodied cognition and I wonder whether something really whole body and much more is involved in producing each percept, simply because of veridical percepts experienced during NDEs. So during normal awareness this still goes on but there’s an overlay of body+mind or something more doing the experiencing? My studies were in physics (degrees) so I wonder as to the actual nature of matter/energy within the body (speculative) to facilitate such effects.
        Of course many parapsychologists would say remote viewing is proven, so again, verified percepts from great distances – confirming these ideas. And maybe gist to the mill for the “antenna model” of the brain/mind thus “falsification” (in the scientific sense) of indirect perception.

        Sorry, overly long! – some thoughts – very much looking forward to your book. Cheers Max.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

        Wow Alan, what interesting comments you’ve made. This is really fascinating and I’m going to have to think about all of this for it to sink in. I have a feeling I’m going to be reading up on this for some time. Thanks for the link and references they are really helpful. This is such a deep subject and reading your comment reiterates to me how we are only just scratching the surface with our understanding of OBEs. To me this is such an exciting time because so many people are thinking about these things with such depth and enquiry and it will inevitably lead to new avenues of investigation and further research where such ideas are explored scientifically.

        With some veridical NDEs some people have reported seeing with exceptional clarity, one example that springs to mind was reported anecdotally (I was not able to verify what she had described) to me by a lady who while out of her body was facing the ceiling and she described the texture and even very minute cracks in the plaster which were only visiible from close up. Whereas some other OBEs I’ve come across haven’t been quite so specific and were not able to describe small details.

        Yes, there could well be an overlay of body and mind as you suggest. I’m going to have to really think about all this in depth. We really are living in exciting times.

      • Max_B November 27, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

        Thanks Alan, I have to say I don’t tend to get too mixed up with the philosophy side of it, as all the names and labels tend to go over my head.

        Changing subject a little… one way I’m presently trying to think through this log jam is to consider a field based feedback loop. Where a low-energy read/processing mechanism, works together with high-energy write/filter mechanism (neuronal firing). These sorts of papers seem to hint at ‘field’ based types of effect…

        1) Centrioles (Microtubules) it appears might just have the sort of low-energy Electromagnetic sensory and processing capability we need for a ‘read’ mechanism.

        2) Neuronal networks are apparently affected by the very Electromagnetic fields they create when firing – creating a feedback loop.

        3) The functional brain is affected by weak magnetic fields (mechanism unknown), how affected the energy compromised brain might be remains unknown.

        4) Borjigin’s EEG study of rats during cardiac arrest measured electrical activity which showed a strong resemblance to human conscious information processing. (Borjigin was only willing to confirm to me that the rats were isolated inside a Faraday type cage during the experiments).

        5) Modulation of local electromagnetic field potentials (LFP) in V1 & V2 visual cortex areas (low frequency alpha range, particularly 9–30 Hz) apparently correlate with visual perception, better than neuron spiking, or higher frequency LFP.

        6) Andrew Thompson in his amazing 1996 paper ‘Silicon evolution‘ exploited the full range of physical dynamics available from the silicon medium using artificial natural selection which captured Electromagnetic field effects on a programmable chip.

        7) Eric Nestler’s remarkable 2011 study of epigenetic inheritance effects in rodents, leaves the door open for a ‘field type mechanism‘.

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 1, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

        Hi Max,

        Thanks for these great links and references, they are really helpful. I was thinking of your comments this week because I was contacted by a professor of vision research who has written some papers on visual perception and has linked it with NDEs. The papers look very interesting and I’m going to make time to read his papers as soon as possible and then I’ll post a brief blog comment about his work and references for his papers as I think they may be helpful to you and other followers of the blog.

    • Max_B November 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Here’s a fun perceptual video, to illustrate why I think ‘indirect perception’ seems much more likely… Open the video to full screen, and keep your eyes on the cross in the center.

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

        Thanks for this Max, it illustrates your point really well.

        Wow, this is really freaky! I’ve watched this several times. I was convinced that the images were distorted so I watched it without looking at the cross too and the faces were normal. Very interesting.

  37. Alan November 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    Just re my comment above if you search for “what we can never know” Gamez you get the review in the magazine Philosophy Now

  38. Wayne November 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    Dr. Sartori,
    I really love the work you do and appreciate all you have done to show how important NDE research really is! I just wanted to share a poem I wrote with you and your readers (it’s not very good!). It’s about the fading of academic atheism:


    • Dr Penny Sartori November 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      Hi Wayne, thank you for your lovely comment. Thanks for sharing your lovely poem with the blog.

  39. Elizabeth DeVries November 24, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Hi Penny,

    I’ve been following your blog for about two months now and thought it was time to write you a comment.

    I’ve had severe anxiety — including debilitating panic attacks — since I was 10 years old (for fourteen years now). It came and went in phases, but it was always over the same thing: death and what happens after it. I (reluctantly) acquired a materialist point of view because I’ve always been one to base my beliefs on science rather than blind faith. This materialist belief was what fueled my fierce anxiety and it was horrible, to say the least. I’ve studied many different religions and belief systems over the years, desperately trying to calm my inner demons by finding anything that could convince me there was something to believe in besides materialism. Nothing helped. None of it. They all seemed like silly fairy tales.

    About a year and a half ago, my anxiety flared up again with a passion. I’m now pregnant with my second child and the hormones made things that much worse. I was desperate and out of hope. That’s when I found your blog.

    And that brings us to the point of my comment. After reading your blog, hungrily feasting on the comments, soaking up everything I could, I was hooked. I began feeling hopeful — something I haven’t felt philosophically since I was a young child. I began reading everything I could about the near-death experience (might I recommend Chris Carter’s books Science and the Near-Death Experience and Science and the Afterlife Experience — both very good and definitely worth a read if you haven’t already) and am currently reading Lommel’s book.

    I’m pleased to say I haven’t had anxiety in almost a month now because I finally feel as though I’ve found a bit of hope.
    I finally have something I can believe in that also satisfies my need for science. Sometimes, I feel downright giddy. I’ve been able to relax and be filled with fascination and wonder rather than pure terror.

    I’m telling you this because I felt it was important to let you know that the work you do means the world to some people (like me). I wanted you to know that you’ve helped me more than I can put into words. I deeply appreciate your work and just wanted you to know how amazing you and all of this is. I’m waiting patiently for your book to come out, because I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    With the utmost admiration and love,

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much for your comment, you have really made my day. Thank you also for sharing what you have been through because I’ve spoken to other people who have also had to deal with anxiety about death and what happens after it so you are not alone. To know that the blog and my work has helped is a huge compliment to me and reassures me that my work has been worth the effort.

      I am so glad that my work and the blog has helped you so much. I feel very blessed to have so many followers as the discussions they have all raised have been really helpful to me and my further understanding. Like you I was very much brought up with materialist beliefs and it was also reinforced in me throughout my nurse training. It was only when I had a very upsetting experience of looking after a dying patient that I began to question things (I describe this in detail in the introduction to my book). When I read about NDES I was blown away and I had this intense thirst for knowledge about them and I was driven to undertake my own research. That thirst for knowledge is still with me twenty years later.

      Thank you for the recommendations of the books, I have read the first Chris Carter book but I haven’t yet got around to reading his latest one – I’ve put it on my wishlist. Now that you have begun exploring the science of NDEs, I think you’ll find it to be an ongoing and inspiring process, I know I certainly still do.

      Thank you once again for your lovely comment, you really have made my day.

      • Elizabeth DeVries November 25, 2013 at 5:38 am #

        Hi Penny,

        I’m truly glad I could make your day, because you’ve done so much more than that for me.

        I’ve heard of NDEs for a while now, but I had heard it was either just leftover brain activity or DMT created within the brain when the brain feels as though it’s dying. When I found your blog, though, I realized the explanation might not be that simple. I had grown to feel like materialism is the only explanation for anything and was pleasantly surprised that it definitely can’t explain everything.

        In regards to Chris Carter’s take on the NDE, I was thrilled to see him discuss neuroscience and quantum physics to back up his claims. Really fascinating stuff. I actually found the third book in the series, the Afterlife Experience, even more intriguing. He talks about reincarnation, apparitions, and mediums as proof of an afterlife, all with veridical information in them. Doesn’t talk about NDEs much, but still a very good read.

        The reason I picked it up in the first place was because I saw that Lommel had reviewed and endorsed it and you had talked so highly of him on your blog, so I figured it was worth a read. I certainly do find the NDE to be a very inspiring topic and will definitely continue to research it further.

        Your work is truly a blessing and you’ve helped me immensely. Thank you so much.

        There is still one thing that bothers me, though… If NDEs lead us to believe in an afterlife, why doesn’t everyone have them? It makes me a little uncomfortable that a large majority of people don’t have a NDE during those dire situations…

      • Dr Penny Sartori November 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

        Hi Elizabeth, it is so good to know that the blog has helped you so thank you for taking the time to let me know.

        I tried to look at all aspects of the NDE and all possible explanations when I was doing my research but I found that what the patients in my study reported just couldn’t always be explained by the materialist explanations but I also realised that they could no longer be explained away. It really helped having the experience of working in ITU and also being present when Patient 10 had his NDE. I know how deeply unconscious he was and how his eyes were closed yet he later described very accurately the actions of the nurse (me), doctor and physiotherapist.

        Yes, that is a good question – why is it that not everyone reports an NDE during a life threatening situation? The answer is that we don’t know at the moment but maybe it is just that not everyone is able to recall the experience after it has happened. The reason I have considered this possibility is that a few years ago a lady emailed me about her experience. She was brutally attacked and left for dead, she was eventually found comatose and very close to death and taken to hospital. When she recovered she did not recall an NDE or anything like it. However, a year later she went into hospital to have her broken nose repaired (it had been broken during the assualt). When she was under anaesthetic she suddenly found herself back in the same scenario of being attacked but this time she did recall an NDE where she left her body and looked down on herself and then travelled toward a bright light (I think there was more to it than that but I can’t recall all of the details now).

        NDEs continue to fascinate me as they throw up so many questions. I think we are living in really exciting times because more people are acknowledging that we have to be more open minded about how we understand NDEs and this may mean breaking away from a purely materialist perspective.

  40. john scovell November 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    I read somewhere that younger u are the more likely u are to remember an NDE. That makes sense cos when I was young kid I would remember my dreams in vivid detail. I can still remember them ie playing with children in the garden including riding on train! Now I hardly remember my dreams even though I assume I dream every night.

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 1, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Hi John,

      It seems very possible that this is true. However, there is one case in my files that I can think of (off the top of my head) where a little boy under the age of 5 spoke of going through a gate and into a park where he played with God after he’d recovered from an episode where he had very nearly died. When his father asked him about this many years later, he was unable to recall the experience.

      I’m thinking that perhaps if the experience had been re-inforced and he had spoken about it often as he was growing up, he may have been more likely to to recall it. I’m not sure, I will keep your point in mind with future cases I come across.

  41. john scovell November 25, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    If there is nothing after death is that something to fear? Ie to fear nothing. Cos of experiences that I have posted here know there is more to life than the material but I’m not a hundred percent certain there is life after death

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Thats a good question. I guess it would imply that life is meaningless as opposed to death being something to fear.

  42. john scovell November 25, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    I looked up the writer Carter that someone mentioned. Seems Very interesting. I order someone of his books

  43. André December 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Cern in geneva prooved the xistance of the higgs bosom for which Peter higgs won the nobel price. The higgs bosom is the proof of the higgs field a quantum field which interacts with all mass related particles.

    This is a hughe step forward as this higgs field generates causality and the inetraction with particles might explain none local impression from senses like a user switching between different cameras and shifting his concentration to certain locations.

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      Hi Andre, this is really interesting and I think work like this will lead to a greater understanding of consciousness in the future. I am hopeful that there will be more exciting research undertaken in all areas like this.

  44. mk December 8, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    I want to share with you an experience about my great great grandmother which I have heard about from my mother (told to her by my grandmother). Apparently my great great grandmother was quite an awful person. She died (or so everyone thought) and her body was laid out on the floor ready to be taken to the cremation ground. But she suddenly stirred and “became alive”. She told everybody that she found herself in a place where creatures awful were clawing, scratching and biting her. She saw a dark figure which pushed her hard on her face and said “it was not her time yet” and she had to go back. The strange part is that she had a broken nose which had not been broken when she had been laid down for cremation. I never gave any credence to this story and always thought it was just nonsense. I thought that since this happened at least a hundred years ago they probably just thought she was dead when she was merely unconscious, and she probably had fallen down and broken her nose and they overlooked it. The rest I put down to a bad dream on her part. For all I know it still is the true explanation. But when I started taking an interest in NDEs (about 6 months ago) I was struck by how similar her experience was to other Indian experiences (I am Indian by the way) in being told that it was not her time and the general harshness of it. Interestingly my own grandmother experienced something paranormal which she actually told many people (me included). An uncle of mine died and as soon as he died my aunt who was with him exclaimed out loud “he’s dead!”. My grandmother, who was an elderly lady was walking towards his room slowly when she heard the cry. It was a bright, sunny hot summer day, with clear skies. She was walking slowly across the courtyard when she says that she was pushed by a dark shadow as it went by her and she fell to the ground. This happened at the exact moment she heard my aunt’s exclamation. Again I did not really ever give any credence to what she said. But I can say that My grandmother was a very kind gentle woman who had excellent eyesight and memory, and would never have made up this story. She recounted this event many times as it had a strong impact on her. Reading your blog and other people’s experiences has given me pause though and wonder how many people are there like me who are told such things and never give it any value or worth, Although these two stories of my relatives still make no sense to me as they are so far removed from the way I and most people experience the world.
    I’d like to add one last word. Even though my grandmother had this unpleasant experience she was never scared of dying, nor was she fearful in any way. She died peacefully of old age and although I was with her when she died I never experienced anything paranormal at the time of her death.

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 10, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      Hi mk, thank you so much for sharing this really fascinating experience with the blog. When I started to read it, my first thought was that it sounded like an Indian NDE and then I read further and realised that you are Indian. This is very interesting to me because as you mentioned your great great grandmother’s nose was not broken when she had been laid down for cremation. This is consistent with other Indian cases I have read where people revive and have marks on their body due to things they experienced while in an altered state of consciousness. I’m not sure how this can be explained. I’m wondering if maybe it is some kind of powerful psychosomatic effect but that wouldn’t really explain a broken nose.

      It is also very interesting to read that despite your great great grandmother going to an awful place which had creatures clawing at her she was never scared of dying nor was she fearful.

      Your grandmother’s experience when your uncle died is also very interesting and sounds like a kind of empathic death experience. I’m sure it must have had a big impact on her for her to recount the event many times.

      I believe these are all very important experiences but previously they have never really been given any credence because they have never really been explored in depth. Now that they are being studied in more depth, it seems that more people are taking them more seriously and we are beginning to have more of an understanding.

      Thank you so much for sharing this. It is through so many people sharing these experiences that we are able to gain a greater understanding.

  45. mk December 15, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Dr Sartori,

    Thanks for your response. I just want to clarify one point. It was my grandmother who was not afraid of dying even though she went through an unpleasant experience of being pushed by a dark shadow at the exact time of my uncle’s death. I have no knowledge of the emotional state of my great great grandmother (I would have been terrified had I been in her position).

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 2, 2014 at 11:12 am #

      Hi mk, thanks for clarifying this. It is interesting to me that your grandmother was not afraid of dying despite the unpleasant experienced of being pushed by a dark shadow.

      • mk January 4, 2014 at 3:27 am #

        No she was not fearful at all. I think it is because Hindus of her generation seemed to have a different attitude towards death. Many seem to feel after they have grandchildren and have grown old they have completed their purpose in life. She was in her 90s and very frail, she had children and grandchildren, but was lonely as they were busy with their own lives. She was tired and ready to go (she always said that God seemed to have forgotten her or misplaced her “files” as she put it which was an odd way of phrasing it).She seemed to actually welcome death. I was with her when she died and she was mostly unconscious for nine days but had a brief very coherent period for an hour or so on the day she died where she blessed everyone she loved, became unaware again and died 7-8 hrs later.

      • Dr Penny Sartori January 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

        Hi mk, thank you for adding this. It is so interesting for me to read more about other cultures and their attitude to death. When your grandmother said that God had misplaced her files that reminded me of some cases of Hindu NDEs that I have read about where the person has been brought before Chitragupta, the man with the book of all of the deeds of the person’s life.
        I was also interested in what you said about the day your grandmother died when she had a brief coherent period for an hour or so where she blessed everyone. I have witnessed many patients behave in a similar way shortly before they die. Its always made me wonder what exactly was going through their mind before that coherent period. Thank you for sharing this.

  46. Vivek narain December 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Hi penny, It can’t be denied that there are things where death is a relief.To be very specific please tell if you have noticed an nde of a person afflicted with,catatonic schizophrenic. Though researchers have not caught on,i have very strong belief that kafka alluded to this ‘catatonic schizophrenia’when he presented the metamorphosis of gregor samsa.

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 2, 2014 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Vivek, I haven’t come across an NDE of a person afflicted with catatonic schizophrenia. However, there are some similarities with some mental illnesses and some types of ‘spiritual awakenings’, it seems that some spiritual experiences can be so overwhelming that they are very difficult to comprehend and integrate into one’s life. I am reading a very interesting book called ‘Spirituality and Psychiatry’ edited by Chris Cook, Andrew Powell and Andrew Sims and I read another good book called ‘Psychosis and Spirituality’ edited by Isabel Clarke. Both books are very informative and advocate a supportive, caring and compassionate approach to such experiences.

      Thanks for drawing my attention to Kafka’s allusion to this in the metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa, I will look it up as I’m sure it will be very helpful.

  47. I. G. January 13, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Dr. Sartori, there currently is a discussion at.the skeptiko forum (title: “10 myths about NDEs“) which partly bases on your study and some unexpected features of the NDEs presented by you. Maybe, if your time allows for it, you would like to join the discussion? There are a lot of speculations circulating, so your opinion would be appreciated a lot!

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      Hi I.G.,

      Thank you for drawing my attention to this forum and giving me the opportunity to respond. Max B has also contacted me with a very good question regarding this debate so I will also address Max’s question in this answer too. Please feel free to post the link on the forum as I don’t have to time to participate in the forum directly.

      First of all I am very appreciative of all of the attention to my work and for all of the comments on the forum. I am also appreciative of the scrutiny and critical evaluation which some of the forum participants have applied to my work.
      I have briefly skimmed through the extensive ongoing debate but haven’t had or got the time to explore each comment in the depth to which I’d like and don’t have the time to respond in depth to each comment so I’ll respond in general and address a few of the points which grabbed my attention.

      My prospective hospital research was commenced over 16 years ago and the data collection lasted for 5 years and was completed over 11 years ago so as you can appreciate this is all a long time ago and since then my career has taken a slightly different path. The research took a year to plan, 5 years to gather the data then a further 3 years to analyse and write up the findings – all this was extra to my full time job as an intensive care nurse and was all undertaken in my own time and with no funding except for my university fees.

      The motivation for undertaking the research was a particular connection I made with a dying patient whom I was looking after in intensive care. This is explained in more depth in my forthcoming book The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences. The purpose was to investigate the dying process in more depth and investigate if NDEs are of relevance to the dying process. There have been many misconceptions that my work was an investigation into some kind of afterlife. I would like to reiterate that this was not the case, I never set out to prove or disprove anything, it was an investigation into the dying process. This has relevance to us all – death is the only thing guaranteed to happen to each one of us and I know that I don’t want to have the same death that the patient I made the connection with went through.

      To date my study has been the most detailed report of such research and therefore is much easier to criticize or find fault because of the detail in which it has been reported. When planning the research I was very much aware of the potential of researcher bias which is why I reported in such depth. I felt it important that readers be as informed as possible so that they could draw their own conclusions and not be influenced by my interpretations of the data.

      When browsing through the forum I noticed that Linda had commented on the case of Patient 16 having components consistent with an NDE but I hadn’t classified this as an NDE. I totally agree – some of the components were like that of an NDE. In fact there were a few other patients who also reported components that were consistent with being an NDE but I did not classify them as NDEs. I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned this in my first book. When I investigated these cases in more depth these components appeared to be related to the time when they were sedated as opposed to near death circumstances and they appeared to be reporting the effects of the sedation and events occurring in the background as the sedation was wearing off. For example a few of the patients (who were in the same bed area but at different times) mentioned a helicopter. I then went to this bed area and just sat there and indeed because of the acoustics of that part of ITU, the sounds of the equipment did resemble the noise of a helicopter. It was impossible to ascertain if the experiences reported were NDEs or the effects of the sedation which is why I erred on the side of caution in case it was perceived that the frequency of NDEs was over inflated. Hopefully further research can build on this and specifically investigate this aspect so it is good that this point has been highlighted.

      In ITU patients have multiple medical problems and not just cardiac arrest, this then introduces other confounding variables that have to be taken into account when analysing the data. Very often patients remain sedated and ventilated for some time after cardiac arrest thus there may be a prolonged period of unconsciousness which is not associated with cardiac arrest. Indeed, it is much easier to study cardiac arrest patients on a coronary care unit as these patients are usually not sedated at the time of the cardiac arrest and recover very quickly once resuscitated and are not further sedated or ventilated like some patients may be in ITU. It is therefore easier to pinpoint any subjective experience to the time of unconsciousness during cardiac arrest. Hence, why the AWARE study is focussed on just cardiac arrest patients.

      Another point I noticed was Linda’s comment about the experience of Patient 11 who described ‘my little pony’ type scenery. His NDE was very much influenced by meeting his deceased granddaughter and this was the sort of imagery he associated with her. I don’t believe that what is perceived during an NDE is literal but more an interpretation of symbolic imagery. It seems to me that during an NDE, experiencers are tapping into what Carl Jung called the archetypal and collective unconscious realms and then interpret their experience according to their own personal and cultural filters. For Patient 11, it appears that he interpreted his perceptions in accordance with his granddaughter’s influence.

      Max B contacted me via email and asked about Patient 10 as there was no mention of what he had initially reported in the transcripts of the interviews. This is a really important point too and this is an oversight on my behalf. When the patient had initially regained consciousness, he immediately reported what he had experienced to the doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who were on the ward round. He pointed to the consultant as being the doctor who examined him and looked in his eye and not the other doctors he had seen prior to losing consciousness. He pointed to the physiotherapist and he described me cleaning his mouth. I returned to Patient 10’s bedside as the ward round were leaving his bed area and they told me what he had reported. I then asked him to report this again while taking notes. It wasn’t possible to undertake an in depth interview at this point. In retrospect I should have included these notes in the thesis too instead of only including the in-depth interviews.

      In my 21 years experience of working as a nurse and having nursed thousands of unconscious patients there was a clear difference between what Patient 10 reported and what other unconscious patients have reported. This is obviously virtually impossible to quantify because it is something that cannot be measured, however, this does not mean that this experience should be ignored. My experience of being present during Patient 10’s NDE and OBE has convinced me that the current belief that consciousness is produced by the brain is seriously flawed. If we are to have a greater understanding of consciousness then I believe it is imperative that we explore other possible explanations for consciousness.

      I also note the price of my book The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalised Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study came up quite a lot. I agree this is ridiculously expensive but many academic monographs are so highly priced because they are not published for sales benefits but for greater readership. I could have easily published an affordable book but this would have meant omitting a great deal of the text especially the transcripts of the interviews therefore leaving the readers less informed. The book can be borrowed from libraries through interlibrary loan so that it should be available to anyone who wants to read it.

      I would also like to point out that the tentative conclusions I have come to have been very much informed by my clinical experience of working as a nurse for 21 years coupled with my doctoral research of NDEs and my prospective research undertaken in the clinical area. What I discovered and learned through my research was totally at odds with much of what I had been taught both during my general education and especially with a lot of my nurse training. I had to discipline myself to open my mind and not be blinkered or discard my findings because they did not comply with my world view to that point in time, while also critically evaluating everything I was learning. I had never been taught about consciousness and these were all new concepts that I had to explore and critically evaluate during my doctoral research.

      Just because my research has completed doesn’t mean I know all the answers and that I have finished learning. This is an ongoing process for me and I know I have to keep an open mind. As I learn more and engage with more and more NDErs and other researchers and indeed comments on this forum my views do change. If they remained static then I would never expand my knowledge and understanding.

      My research commenced over 16 years ago and it is high time that similar research was undertaken. However, there is little incentive to do so as future researchers are faced with the prospect of no funding being available, no study leave being available and sheer hard work so it all depends on how passionately the researcher will feel about the subject. I feel very blessed to have had that experience of looking after the dying patient because it provided a very powerful driving force for me to be determined to conduct the research and find out more so that hopefully his suffering was not for nothing and that future patients don’t have to be faced with the same circumstances that he was subjected to.

      It is now over 16 years since I began my research and as far as I am aware there is only the AWARE study that has been attempted since. Why has such little research been undertaken since then???

      There have been very good points raised by members of this forum and I value all of the comments in relation to my work. This is the best way for future research to develop and I will certainly direct future researchers to these comments as I believe they could really help with the planning of future research. I would also add that no matter how much planning is done; inevitably things will transpire in the reality of the clinical area that couldn’t be planned for.

      The participants of the forum have shown good critical thinking and evaluation of my work. It would be really beneficial to also put these skills into practice either in the clinical area (if able to) or through some form of retrospective NDE research of their own. I would actively encourage participants of this forum to undertake their own research as it is one thing to read about NDEs but quite something different to actively engage with people who report NDEs. Also, undertaking your own study would give added insight into the difficulties of undertaking and sustaining such a study. I would be very happy to help and liaise with anyone who would like to undertake their own research as I believe this is how our understanding of consciousness can be expanded.

      One final comment I’d like to make is with regards to my conclusions regarding my research. I’ve never claimed to have all the answers all I’ve done is disseminate my research findings as thoroughly as possible so that readers can be as informed as possible and future researchers can learn from my oversights and build on this in the future. My conclusions were only tentative as the concluding remark in my thesis shows on page 333: “Equally, the most important point to remember is that what occurs after the initial phases, as described by the NDEr, is beyond our comprehension and will remain a mystery until we all, one day, experience it in its entirety, at our own death.”

      Thank you for taking the time to read this.

      Sartori, P. (2008) The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study. Lewiston, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press.

      • I. G. January 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

        Dear Dr. Sartori, thank you very, very much for this indepth reply this is much appreciated! I hope you do not mind me asking to elaborate on one aspect that was of much interest in the discussion (actually two). It is the fact that people who are still alive and normally conscious appear in NDEs and that OBE perceptiond are often inaccurate. This conclusions was drawn from your book which I do not possess so it is second hand information I possess. I would be very happy if you could give me some information about this if your schedule allows for it, of course! Thank you very, very much!

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 11, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

        Hi IG, sorry for my slow response – I have been so busy over the past few weeks I’ve had no time to attend to the blog. You ask two good questions.

        Yes, in some NDE cases people who are still alive have been perceived by the person during their experience. One case that comes to mind is Patient 15 in my study. She recalled hearing her dead grandmother and also her nephew who was very much alive – they were both singing some kind of death song. She described seeing the shapes of their body – she was blind. NDE cases of perceiving relatives who are still alive have also been reported by children – there are a few cases documented by other researchers. I am not sure why people who are still alive are perceived in some cases but it is predominantly deceased people who are usually perceived during an NDE. In my hospital research 11 patients out of the 15 cases of NDEs reported perceiving dead relatives / friends.

        In my study I came across 8 out of body type experiences. I’ve written about this in more detail on an earlier post on the blog (I think it was about 2 years ago). When I analysed the report of Patient 55 it appeared that this was a mind model constructed from what she could feel, her residual sight and what she could hear going on around her. Another case that springs to mind is Patient 6 and (if I recall correctly without referring to my actual work) in a follow-up interview he reported being out of his body but described seeing himself clothed and no tubes attached to his body – this was incorrect as he was not clothed at any time. Other OBE reports described events which could have also have been perceived from the patient’s position on the bed so weren’t veridical as such.

        It is also important to bear in mind that some of these patients were sedated for some time and this was one of the extraneous factors that has to be taken into account. It cannot be ruled out that the sedation in some way interfered with the recall of the experience. The sedative drugs appeared to contribute greatly to cases of confusion and hallucinations when these were analysed.

        Out of the 8 OBE type cases, there were two which were of veridical quality – Patient 10 and Patient 11. With Patient 11, it was not possible to corroborate what he described. However, with Patient 10 he described perceiving events that occurred during the time when he was deeply unconscious, from an out of body perspective. What he described was accurate and I know this was the case as I was actually present at the time.

        So, as you can see it is really difficult to capture these cases during a hospital study as they occur unpredictably and there may be many confounding variables to take into consideration when analysing them. However, I would like to add that I have nursed thousands of unconscious patients during my nursing career but none of them have reported events, that occurred while they were deeply unconscious with such accuracy, as Patient 10 reported.

        Hopefully, future researchers will build on what I discovered with my research so we can develop a greater understanding of consciousness.

      • tim January 25, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

        Wow ! That’s a truly great post, Penny. May I ask you a question that Linda brought up. Were there targets hidden in every room that contained a patient that reported an OBE. I can’t remember myself but I seem to vaguely recall that any patients that reported OBE apart from 10 and one other…did not rise up high enough or did not become correctly positioned to have a chance of seeing a target.
        Many thanks

      • Dr Penny Sartori February 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

        Hi Tim, sorry for my delayed response. There were targets placed at the bedside of each ITU patient. However, some of the patients had their NDE on the ward prior to admission to ITU where there were no targets.

        Yes, some of the patients did not rise high enough to view the symbols and some floated in opposite directions to where they were situated.

      • Vivek narain January 26, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

        Dr.Sartori, There is a definite reason for skepticism,since a very long time there has been this arcane yet very profuse occult science and technique of astral projection.What is confounding is that despite such a plethora of this a.p literature there never has been any tangible anecdote of such an event other than very vague or egoistic righteous babbling.I presume that there are countless books on this subject but no evidence of any altruistic goal being attained thru the science,i am also presuming that altruism is a precondition followed by very rigid rules to make any such adventure possible.Even assuming that most of humanity is vicious,it becomes more so imperative for the nobler souls to make their strength and godliness apparent.Sadly, in the absence of such evidence the very secondly event of obe gets discredited if not scoffed.One other matter,there is this talk of heart and kidney transplant recepients getting their intiinsic traits overwritten by those of donors,sort of consciousness surviving and dominating in a new embodiment?

  48. Andre January 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    I got an update on current of quantum research.
    Quantum vibrations were found in micro tubuli of neurons.

    This discovery was made by a team of the the led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay.


    • Dr Penny Sartori January 24, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      HI Andre,

      Thank you for posting this link. I will check it out and I’m sure the followers of the blog will also be interested to read this article.

  49. Tony March 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm #


    Hi Penny have you read this about a young women who is able to will herself out of her own body? She did it as. Part of a study. I suspect it is considered an hallucination to the researchers but perhaps there is more to it.

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 10, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      Hi Tony, thanks for this link – I’ve had a brief look at the paper and it is very interesting. I’m sure the followers of the blog will also be interested in this. It is so encouraging to see papers like this being published as it shows that many scientists are now taking these experiences seriously even if they can’t be explained at present.

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