Friday, April 25, 2014

Near-death Experiences and Afterlife Phenomena

Recently I have learned of some beliefs about near-death experiences and afterlife phenomena which I disagree with. In this post, I provide information to support my own beliefs on these issues.


ESP or veridical perceptions that occur during an NDE are best explained by out-of-the-body consciousness.

During a near-death experience, sometimes people with no brain activity perceive something happening around them or they may perceive something they could not perceive with their normal senses even if they were conscious such as a vision of the operating room looking down from the ceiling, or a vision of a distant location. When the events in these perceptions can be verified as true, they are called veridical perceptions. These veridical perceptions are best explained by out-of-the-body consciousness. Some people may call these perceptions ESP, but they are still best explained as out-of-the-body consciousness.

Many NDEs occur during cardiac arrest. Residual brain activity is not sufficient to explain memories or conscious experiences that occur during cardiac arrest. And cardiac arrest causes amnesia and confusion shortly before and after the event.

Some people may suggest an abnormal brain state during the onset or recovery from cardiac arrest may produce clairvoyant visions of events that occur during cardiac arrest. If this is true, the clairvoyance must still be due to out-of-the-body consciousness. The same argument by which NDE researchers conclude that the lucid conscious experience of the NDE cannot be explained by it occuring before or after cardiac arrest can be used to conclude that clairvoyance occurring at the onset or recovery from cardiac arrest must be due to out-of-the-body consciousness. That argument is that the brain activity that occurs at the onset to, or recovery from, cardiac arrest is not capable of supporting lucid consciousness or memories. Any lucid conscious memories, such as those characteristic of NDEs, that occur anytime from the onset to cardiac arrest through the recovery from cardiac arrest, whether psychic or mundane, must be due to out-of-the-body consciousness.

In other words, if anyone is going to suggest that an abnormal brain state induced by cardiac arrest is responsible for producing ESP, that ESP must be due to consciousness existing out-of-the-body because the abnormal brain states that occur at the onset, duration, and ending of cardiac arrest are not capable of producing memories or supporting the lucid consciousness that is experienced during an NDE. At other times than the onset, duration, or ending of cardiac arrest, the brain is functioning normally and there is no abnormal brain state that might be attributed to the production of ESP. If ESP can produce conscious experiences that do not require the brain, then ESP must be due to out-of-the-body consciousness. In fact, in a subsequent section it will be shown that the best explanation for all forms of ESP is that ESP is not produced by the brain but is a capability of non-physical consciousness. In consideration of this and of all the evidence (below) that the mind can exist separate from the brain, the best explanation for veridical perceptions during NDEs is the spirit leaving the body and retaining memory of the event.

No physiological explanation can fully explain NDEs. Nothing that produces an abnormal brain state that can produce ESP, such as natural brain chemicals, or states of relaxation can produce experiences like NDEs. So it is not credible that veridical perceptions in NDEs could be caused by abnormal brain states that are known to cause ESP.

In most abnormal states the experiencer knows he is hallucinating or experiencing clairvoyance, but NDErs consistently say their experience is real. Those states in which hallucinations are mistaken for reality do not share significant characteristics with NDEs. Those states in which ESP is mistaken for out-of-body experiences involve hypnosis, self-hypnosis, or some type of induction technique. However NDEs are not induced, they are spontaneous, and they are not caused by anything remotely like hypnotic induction such as religious expectations, or cultural expectations.

Joe McMoneagle is a highly regarded parapsychologist, a remote viewer, and a near-death experiencer, and his statements on the subject indicate he believes that NDEs show that the afterlife is real. NDEs demonstrate, he says, "..that consciousness continues, and you don't really cease to exist as an individual..."

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ESP is not produced by the brain.

There is ample proof that ESP is real. However it is not possible for ESP to be caused by the brain because none of the laws of physics, including quantum entanglement, can explain how the brain might produce ESP. And in the case of telepathy, the unique structures in one brain will be meaningless to another brain. The existence of ESP is consistent with and mutually reinforcing to many other lines of reasoning that lead to the conclusions that consciousness is not produced by the brain and that consciousness can exist separate from the body.

No physical mechanism in the brain has been demonstrated to cause ESP. ESP has been shown not to be limited by time and distance. ESP can reach into the past and future and is just as strong over short distances as it is for long distances. None of the known laws of physics can explain this. It has been hypothesized that quantum entanglement could explain ESP, because when two particles are entangled, determining a property of one particle will also determine a property of the other instantly, independent of distance between the two particles. However, quantum entanglement can not be the mechanism by which ESP occurs because for entanglement to occur, there has to be some mechanism by which entanglement is established. In lab experiments on entanglement, the entangled particles are created deliberately at the same time in the same location and then separated to demonstrate entanglement effects. While entanglement can occur in biological systems, as is seen in photosynthesis, in a biological system like photosynthesis, a mechanism for establishing entanglement is easy to explain because it occurs in a very small region at a specific time. However in the case of ESP, there is no mechanism by which entanglement between objects at separate locations could be established to produce forms of ESP such as telepathy and clairvoyance. Microtubules in brain cells have been proposed, by Stuart Hammeroff, as a mechanism for producing consciousness. It has also been proposed that quantum entanglement in that system could explain ESP, but again there is no way entanglement could be established between separate individuals.

Furthermore, even if there were some way to entangle a physical structure in one brain with, for example in the case of telepathy, a structure in another brain, there would be no correspondence between the meaning of those two structures to the consciousness of the individuals. The patterns in one person's brain will not make sense to any another person's brain. The pattens of neurons in the brain develop differently in each person according to their genetics and environment, and those patterns change over time due to neuroplasticity. The meaning of a physical structure or pattern in the brain of one person will be unintelligible to another person. Entangling two structures in different brains would not be able to convey any meaning to either person. Therefore, telepathy cannot be produced by the brain by means of quantum entanglement or any other physical means. The very existence of telepathy, therefore, is evidence that ESP is not produced by the brain, and also that consciousness is not produced by the brain i.e. that conscious is non-physical.

There are also several other independent lines of reasoning that lead to the conclusion that consciousness is non-physical and not-produced by the brain. One of these lines of reasoning, for example, is based on the fact that that consciousness is a subjective phenomena that cannot be measured objectively and therefore cannot be produced by physical processes since all physical processes are, in principle, measurable. The only way to know what is in the mind of another person is through ESP, such as telepathy, or telempathy, both of which are themselves subjective and unmeasurable by any objective physical means. Since consciousness is subjective and non-physical and cannot be measured by any physical process, ESP which can perceive aspects of another consciousness, must also be non-physical, and cannot be the result of any physical process in the brain.

People who believe that ESP is produced by the brain believe that some quantum effect must cause ESP because ESP is independent of time and distance. But there is a much better explanation for ESP that also explains why ESP is independent of time and distance. That explanation is the filter model of the brain. According to the filter model, consciousness is not physical and the brain does not produce consciousness but only filters it. The filter model explains all the facts that are explained by the production model such as the correlation between mental states and brain states, and the loss of functions due to brain injury. But the filter model also explains ESP and why it is not dependent on time and distance. According to the filter model, ESP is the means by which non-physical consciousness naturally interacts with its environment and because consciousness is non-physical it is not subject to the laws of physics or limited by physical parameters such as time and distance. The filter model also explains acquired savant syndrome where brain injury causes new talents to be uncovered and why brain injury sometimes result in development of ESP. These two effects are caused by brain injury that is like a hole in the filter that allows new aspects of consciousness to pass through it. The filter model explains loss of function injuries, such as amnesia, as being like a clog in the filter. The filter model also explains the unfiltered consciousness experienced by NDErs that includes veridical perceptions, 360 degree vision and colors not seen while in the body.

Philosopher Chris Carter believes consciousness is not produced by the brain and that the brain transmits consciousness. Parapsychologists who do not believe in survival have to explain afterlife phenomena as the result of ESP produced in the brain of a living person. Chris Carter's work demonstrates that those theories are pseudo-science.

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None of the materialist explanations can explain any of the many anomalous characterisitcs of NDEs such as how people are conscious when their brain is not functioning.

All of the materialist attempts to explain NDEs fail to explain any of the many anomalous characteristics of NDEs. NDEs cannot be explained by a lack of oxygen, a dying brain, hallucinations, religious expectations, cultural expectations, hearing about medical procedures after the fact, brain dysfunction, retinal dysfunction causing an image of a tunnel, brain chemicals such as ketamine, endogenous opioids, neurotransmitter imbalances, or hallucinogens including DMT, REM intrusions, epilepsy or seizures, psychopathology, unique personality traits, residual brain activity during unconsciousness, the experience occurring before or after brain activity stopped, evolutionary adaptation, depersonalization, memory of birth, medication, defense against dying, or partial anesthesia.

Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who experienced an NDE and he believes NDEs are are genuine afterlife experiences and that because of the way the brain is wired NDEs cannot be produced by the brain. He said, "...consciousness outside of the brain is a fact. It’s an established fact."

NDErs report their experiences seem more real than real, and memories of near-death experiences are more detailed than normal memories. This is the complete opposite of what you would expect from the fact of severely reduced or zero brain function during the NDE. NDEs due to cardiac arrest cannot be explained by residual brain activity during cardiac arrest or by having occurred before or after cardiac arrest. This demonstrates that NDEs involve a state of consciousness that is independent of the brain.

"The most important objection to the adequacy of all ... reductionistic hypotheses is that mental clarity, vivid sensory imagery, a clear memory of the experience, and a conviction that the experience seemed more real than ordinary consciousness are the norm for NDEs. They occur even in conditions of drastically altered cerebral physiology under which the production theory would deem consciousness impossible.

- Bruce Greyson

A listener to a radio interview with NDE researcher Dr. Sam Parnia paraphrased his statements, "We now routinely overcome death, and the people he’s studying are 'like astronauts – we send them out to explore this other dimension' – they are going to the other side, and they’re able to tell us what they’ve experienced on the other side of death"

  • Interview of NDE Researcher Dr. Pim van Lommel
  • Interview with NDE researcher Dr. Melvin Morse.

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    There are multiple independent forms of evidence which show that mind does not require matter for its existence.

    Evidence for the Afterlife.

    Neither ESP nor Super-psi can explain the evidence for the afterlife.

    • The evidence for the afterlife cannot be explained as super-psi.
      • Guy Lyon Playfair, William Roll, and Ian Stevenson all thought some poltergeist phenomenon were caused by spirits. They knew about unconscious PK but thougth survival was a better explanation when the phenomenon did not depend on the presence of a single individual.
      • Drop-in communicators demonstrate spirits have initiative and problem solving ability.
      • Cross-correspondences demonstrate spirits have initiative and are able to plan complex projects.
      • Others (see above link).
    • The Mediumship of Mrs. Piper
      • Certain characteristics of spirit communication vary with the spirit independently of the medium or the sitter. This is evidence that mediumship is due to communication with spirits and not a form of unconscious ESP. Some of these characteristics were: the speed at which the spirit learned to communicate, the spirit's skill at communicating once they learned to communicate, ability to communicate names. Many more of these characteristics are explained at the link.
    • Philosopher Chris Carter's work demonstrates that super-psi is pseudo-science. In an interview on he says:
      In my work I present the evidence that provides a prima facie case for survival; demonstrate that alternative explanations, to the extent that they are testable, have been proven false; and then argue that to the extent these alternative explanations are not testable (such as elaborate fraud scenarios, or super-ESP) they are pseudo-scientific excuses for refusing to accept an otherwise straightforward inference from the evidence.
    • Mediums live with afterlife phenomena every day. They know all the fine details that do not get published in books and parapsychological studies. Many also experience other forms of ESP and they can tell the difference between spirit communication and ESP. Mediums say they perceive and communicate with spirits. They are the foremost experts in spirit communication and there are no better qualified experts on ESP and survival.

    The Cosmological Argument for a transcendent designer of the universe or multiverse shows that the universe or multiverse was designed by a mind that existed before there was any matter or even space itself. Our universe is so finely tuned to support life that it seems to have been designed. This was accepted by astronomers and cosmologists and caused them to invent multiverse theories. However in those theories the multiverse would have to be fine tuned so it doesn't really solve the problem. The conclusion is that a mind capable of design existed before any matter existed. This argument is so convincing to astronomers it converted many materialists to believers including astronomer Fred Hoyle. Albert Einstein also believed the universe was designed, as did Charles Darwin.

    Materialism Cannot Explain Consciousness

    Max Planck (Nobel Prize for Physics)

    Erwin Schrödinger (Nobel Prize for Physics)

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    There is ample evidence that memory can be stored outside the brain.

    The facts of this have been covered above. Veridical perceptions that occur during NDEs, the evidence that NDErs are conscious when their brain is not functioning, all the evidence that mind does not require matter for its existence, and all the evidence for the afterlife all demonstrate that memory can be stored outside brain.

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    Consciousness, mind, or spirit is required for matter to exist.

    Those who believe that mind requires a brain to exist, such as parapsychologists who mistakenly believe that ESP is produced by the brain are confounded by the results of quantum mechanics that show consciousness is required for matter to exist. You can't have any matter or any brain without consciousness first. In order to avoid this problem they may postulate an undeveloped awareness existed to bring matter into being. However if the facts are understood correctly, that, as shown above, that mind does not require matter for its existence, then there is no reason to postulate anything as unparsimonious as undeveloped awareness. In fact the founders of quantum mechanics , Max Planck (Nobel Prize for Physics) and Erwin Schrödinger (Nobel Prize for Physics), did not believe in undeveloped awareness, they understood that consciousness, mind, spirit was what caused matter to come into being.

    Another reason that undeveloped awareness is an unnecessary complication is that the cosmological argument demonstrates that the universe was designed by a mind. So there already exists a mind that could cause the matter of the universe to come into existence.

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    Scientists are fallible. Alternative sources of truth exist.

    Scientists are fallible.

    Science is not a licensed profession. And scientist are not the only people who have the ability to discern truth. In fact, perceptual bias is a chronic problem that may cause Dr. Scientist to misjudge things that Joe Sixpack can assess objectively.

    I have long suspected that within the parapsychological community there is some prejudice against afterlife phenomena. Parapsycholoigst Dr. Carlos Alvarado confirmed my suspicion in an interview published at The interview does not seem to be on the internet currently, but the link was:

    Dr. Alvarado said:

    For many workers in the field, survival research is not a main interest. To some extent this is academics as usual. People specialize in some areas and develop interests due to personality traits, life experiences, training, and employment opportunities, and parapsychology is no exception. Then there are concerns such as getting tenure and the belief that the area has many methodological difficulties. However, I believe that in some cases there is more than this. In some circles it is more “respectable” to conduct ESP experiments than working with survival-related phenomena such as apparitions or mediumship. I still remember how the director of a parapsychology unit within an university, wanting to keep a conservative image, discouraged students from pursuing topics such as apparitions for dissertation research.

    Because of this prejudice, one may be justifiably suspicious of the views of those parapsychologists who may deny the genuineness of afterlife phenomena and claim they may be caused by ESP.

    Some people may try to excuse this prejudice as being due to ignorance. However ignorance is not an excuse for prejudice, it is a cause of prejudice. And I am less concerned with the feelings of parapsychologists and other pseudo-skeptics than I am concerned for the well being of experiencers that may be harmed by this prejudice. No persecuted minority ever won the rights and respect they deserve without fighting for them. And in our society, experiencers of afterlife phenomena are a persecuted minority. And this is one reason I am writing this post. To explain the seriousness of misinformation about afterlife phenomena, and the harm caused by claims that afterlife phenomena are due to ESP.

    It is unfortunate that in addition to the pseudo-skeptics who refuse to recognize the validity of any paranormal phenomena and who are preventing some sectors of society from accepting the evidence for the afterlife, there are also some parapsychologists who are muddying the waters with claims that ESP is the cause of afterlife phenomena. These parapsychologists ought to know from their own experience when someone from outside their field who is dreadfully ignorant about ESP publishes some pseudo-skeptical nonsense, how it creates unnecessary distractions for them because they have to constantly refute the same old canards. Yet the same parapsychologists are creating confusion and spreading misinformation and causing distractions for genuine afterlife researchers, such as those studying NDEs, and they are hindering the progress of the spread of the truth of the afterlife throughout society. Whether some parapsychologists do this intentionally to create greater appreciation for the capabilities of ESP and magnify the importance of their chosen field of study at the price of discrediting survival research, or because they are blinded by perceptual bias, it is harmful to individuals and society as will explained in a subsequent section.

    Alternative sources of truth exist.

    When deciding the best explanation for a phenomenon, the beliefs of experiencers must be considered. They are there on the spot. There is no one more qualified to asses their experiences than they are. NDErs consistently say their experiences are real and that is a strong argument in favor of the reality of their experiences. As shown above, none of the known causes of hallucinations or ESP can explain NDEs.

    The opinions of non-scientist experts should also be given due weight. The expertise of mediums is shown above in the links to different forms of mediumship. Mediums live with afterlife phenomena every day. They know all the fine details that do not get published in books and parapsychological studies. Many mediums also experience other forms of ESP and they can tell the difference between spirit communication and ESP. Mediums say they perceive and communicate with spirits. They are the foremost experts in spirit communication and there are no better qualified experts on ESP and survival of consciousness.

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    Experiencers may be harmed by misinformation about afterlife phenomena especially if it comes from medical personnel.

    Misinformation about afterlife phenomena is harmful to experiencers like NDErs, people who experience spirit contact, and those suffering from grief. Misinformation published in medical journals can be particularly harmful. An NDEr who wakes up and starts to tell about her experience and is told, "it wasn't real it was just clairvoyance" will be harmed by that misinformation. Research shows that if the first person a near-death experiencer tells about her experience does not accept it as real, then it affects how she copes with it. She may keep it inside and not share it with other people. Feeling the need to keep secret something as awesome and life changing as a visit to heaven and meeting God can be painful. Sharing her experience with others is healthy for her and it also helps other people to learn about the afterlife.

    Mediums, like George Anderson, who during childhood are taken for psychiatric evaluation because they see spirits, are harmed if they are told their veridical perceptions are just ESP.

    It is very important for medical personnel to understand these experiences are real.

    I've seen many times the good mediumship can do. Even some parapsychologists acknowledge it may be therapeutic for those suffering from grief. I have been there at many Spiritualist church services where a grieving mother is given relief from the unimaginable distress caused by the loss of her child, when a medium brings through a communication from her child that shows her the child has not really died but is with Grandma in another realm.

    I've been involved in helping people experiencing spirit contact, children and adults, understand and cope with their experiences. I know the harm and confusion that misinformation about life after death causes. It is psychologically damaging for a person who is having these experiences, who may be ostracized at school, or who may have family members who thinks she is either crazy or satanic to be told her experiences are not real. When a person is having contact with spirits and she is getting veridical information and she exhibits no dysfunctions associated with mental illness, she needs accurate information about afterlife phenomena. Parapsychologists who should know better but won't admit the reality of spirits are part of the problem not part of the solution.

    Lastly, what could be more important to humanity than to know the universe was created and designed by an intelligence and that each human consciousness survives death?

  • The Harm Caused by Pseudoskepticism

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