Near Death Experiences (NDE)
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The Near Death Experience (NDE) has been known about for centuries, but it has only been in the last few decades that there has been serious research conducted into them by neurologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists, and such individuals take the scientific approach, and apply it to a spiritual experience such as the NDE, essentially arguing that the experience can be explained in scientific terms as a result of chemical reactions occurring in the dying brain as it is starved of oxygen. As with some scientific research though, there are cases of NDE’s that don’t fit the scientific model of reasoning, and there are medical practitioners who argue against the starvation of oxygen to the brain as being the root cause of a NDE. Clinical death, where the heart stops beating for example, is not the same as biological death, where the brain functions cease completely. While a patient lies in a hospital bed after a cardiac arrest, they are not necessarily dead, and many individuals who have endured a cardiac arrest, have reported having a NDE. The neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, recently experienced a NDE after falling into a life threatening coma in which neurological function appeared to have ceased, and on eventually recovering, wrote his book, Proof of Heaven which has received much attention. In being a neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander was a skeptic, and had little, if any, belief in life after death until he had the NDE, and in having one, it completely changed his belief system in relation to what happens when one dies, and he is now convinced of an afterlife.
The Scientific Stance
Those involved in researching how the brain functions are convinced that the NDE can be explained in scientific terms, essentially arguing that the NDE occurs as a result of oxygen starvation and chemical reactions taking place within the brain as the brain approaches death. It doesn’t necessarily follow however, that chemical reactions cause the NDE. It could be that the NDE causes the chemical reactions. A common theme reported by those who have had a NDE is that they found themselves out of body, and were looking down at their body before experiencing a tunnel of light. In most cases, the individual experiencing the NDE is told it is not yet their time, and are then told they must return to physical life. The neurological approach is that consciousness is a part of brain function, implying that consciousness is produced by the brain, and therefore, is produced by matter, or at the fundamental level, by atomic structure. Quantum physicists, however, have now determined that matter is illusory in that at the quantum level, matter is only energy, and not really matter at all. There is an issue here really, and it is whether consciousness comes before matter, and is responsible for creating matter, or whether matter comes before consciousness, and is thus responsible for creating consciousness. Certain questions can also be asked: What animates matter? Is spirit conscious of itself? Can consciousness exist apart from the body, as suggested by those who have experienced a NDE? When you hold a cup in your hand, you know it’s not animate. It doesn’t wink at you, giggle or laugh, and it certainly doesn’t talk to you, yet it has an atomic structure, just as the human body does, so what animates the human body? Somehow, it is logical to think it’s not the atomic structure, thus not matter. Therefore, is it spirit, and if so, is consciousness a function of spirit, meaning that spirit is aware of itself as spirit, and also as a human being having a physical experience?
The Spiritual Approach
For the spiritual individual, there is no question in their mind suggesting there is no life after death, for they are convinced there is. Religions teach there is life after death, so unless such religions have it completely wrong, the argument goes there is life after death, even though no-one has returned from death to tell us so. The Spiritualist, Arthur Findlay, attended many seances conducted by the direct-voice medium, John Campbell Sloan during the early to middle part of the twentieth century, and Findlay wrote about them in his book Where Two Worlds Meet. Findlay was one individual of many who became convinced by what he saw and heard, that spirit/consciousness survived the death of the physical body, and so this lends credence to the concept that consciousness is not dependent on the body, but the body is dependent on consciousness, and that on death, spirit/consciousness leaves the physical plane once spirit determines the body can no longer serve it. In this sense then, it is being argued that consciousness is integral to all dimensions, of which the third is but one of them. It is just as relevant to ask where we came from before we were born, as to ask where we go to on death? The scientific reasoning seems to suggest that prior to birth, there is no sense of self, therefore, no meaning, then there is birth, and life is an experience with much meaning, and then life is followed by death, where one returns to the state of no meaning, or nothing.
This can be expressed as no-meaning/meaning/no-meaning. This also implies that the universe and world we perceive with our five physical senses is the only world there is; the conclusion to be drawn is that there are no higher dimensions, and that 3D is the only dimension where life can be experienced, and once life in 3D ends, that’s it, there is nothing else; nothing more. Is it logical to suggest that there is some kind of system that can produce meaning form a prior state of no-meaning? How would such a system do this? If the system is always in a state of no-meaning, how, through physical birth, can the system suddenly give meaning to itself? Why would the system, if it could do this, then decide that on death of the body, it would return to a state of no-meaning? What would be the point; the purpose of doing so? It is more likely that the system is one of spirit/incarnation/spirit, where spirit has a human experience, and on death, returns to the spiritual realm from whence it came. If this is the case, then those who have experienced a NDE have been witness to this state, and have returned from it to tell others about it.
As the reader, if you are interested in delving into NDE’s further, the following documentary is a good starting point. It features Dr. Eben Alexander, and presents the viewpoints of neurologist Dr. Nelson, along with the views of other medical practitioners, and by doing so, is an unbiased presentation on the matter of NDE’s.
- Life After Life (Near Death Experiences) [Youtube video]
- 5TH Dimension Near Death Experience Documentary [Youtube video]