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First, I agree with that puckish reader and aftbrnr that if these experiences were just hallucinations then we would have reports of visions flying purple pigs and talking bananas and dracula and sexy babes and god knows what else. More importantly, the fairly consistent reports of deep spiritual insights would be generally absent. In their place would be goofy incoherent nonsense; like what you would expect from a conversation with a flying purple pig.

Observe reports from people who were very ill with high fevers, but not actually dying or dead. Observe reports from morphine addicts.

So, when faced by a more savvy opposition keith is forced to evolve his argument from mere hallucinations to something a little more advanced in a pseudo-intellectual way.

So now we have hallucinations by people who know they are dying and, therefore, somehow (as always per sloppy skeptic speculation never explained by what mechanism) direct their hallucinations to conform to a cultural expectation of what death is like.

Of course, this tactic only attempts to address phenomena like the tunnel of light. It does nothing to address very common - and somewhat veridical - experiences of floating disembodied around the room, or hospital or over the scene of an accident and observing the rather mundane occurences taking place. This sort of experience is common - maybe more so than the tunnel of light - and is found in all cultures and I don't see how "the expectation of what death is like forming the hallucination" theory explains this at all. Often people who have had this type of NDE express how surprised they were. I would think that the element of surprise would be absent if Keith's theory were true. People would report something like, "as the car impacted the lightpost, I found myself hovering above the scene of the wreck. Just as I expected, I was able to see everything going on from my position above and was even able to read the thoughts of the EMT guys, like I knew I would." But you don't hear this. Instead, you get total surprise and amazement at the experience of dismbodied awareness in reports.

Here's a link with some non-western NDEs: https://www.nderf.org/non_western_ndes.htm

These seem pretty darn similar to western NDEs to me.

I have even read of accounts from such culturally different societies as those of the pacific islands that are pretty much the same as those in the link I posted; which are pretty much the same as western NDEs. most of the differences could reasonably be attributed to linguistic incompatibilities

I think that Keith is, as usual, ignoring/distorting the evidence and engaging in his favorite tactic of throwing everything he can against the wall and hoping something sticks.

There are large enough samples of experiences from a number of different cultures that a study of points in common versus expected points in common and not in common can be conducted. I think Long did something like this, but I haven't read anything other than a synopsis and reviews. Maybe someone else here knows.

I should add that the tunnel of light leading to the all loving god figure type experience that skeptics like to attack is, for them, the lowest hanging fruit on the tree of the evidence for survival.

It smacks of feel good pop culture and it smacks of being the product of a money making machine. If Keith wants to whack of this limb and burn it; let him. Every hard hunting dog deserves a meaty bone once in a while.

It's the NDE - or the part of the NDE - than remains within the earthly realm and contains veridcal evidence that defies the skeptic hallucination fall back position.

Nice link, Erich. It's interesting because even several of those NDEs included typical western features such as a life review, traveling through a tunnel, experiencing a bright light, or experiencing beautiful natural landscapes.

Regarding the article, I don't think the fact that what one experiences during an NDE depends heavily on preconceived notions is particularly new or groundbreaking.

As stated earlier, NDEs are remarkably consistent not just in what they do typically contain, but also in what they don't contain as compared to the average dream or heavy psychedelic trip. I've never heard of a psychedelic that could produce as consistent a result as an NDE does. And aren't there cases of people having NDEs who hadn't even realized they had died when the experience started?

Also, the end of the article states:

Consequently, it is possible that NDErs are interpreting their experiences of specific physiological events in terms of their cultural expectations.

This basically sounds like rewording of the dying brain hypothesis to me. The fact that NDE experiencers regularly report complete lucidity in their thoughts and perceptions sort of suggests that this hypothesis is not the case.

Agreed, Sam. Not ground breaking at all. Really, quite ho hum.

Keith could hire some actors, have them peform a scene involving a somewhat complex and nuanced interaction in a public place an film it too so as to memorialize what actually took place. Have the unsuspecting be, say 30 members from each of 10 different cultures. Have the members of each culture report what took place. This would be the sort of material test that Keith loves.

I would wager that there would be significant cultural differences in descriptions of what the actors were depicting. These kinds of studied have been done and that is what the results tend to show.

Culture plays a huge role in how we interpret and understand reality. This is known.

"The difficulty here is that the Guidebook's account is somewhat at odds with the descriptions of the state of New York given by visitors.... [T]he general public would be well aware of [the guidebook's] representation of New York as a city of buildings and wide streets, surrounded by water with many bridges across. In the visitor accounts, on the other hand, New York commonly is reported to comprise a pastoral setting, one with rolling green hills, trees, flowers, perhaps a stream and a blue sky above."

I changed a few words.

Incidentally, today I started reading Jeffrey Long's book about NDEs, "Evidence of the Afterlife," and on page 11 there's a description of an NDE that features a beach:

"It was like the wind carried me so fast, and I saw a bright, bright light very quickly and then a beach, and then I saw my mom and daughter [both deceased] standing on the beach; my daughter was grown up."

NDE’s are only a snapshot of the afterlife but an important one. But they contain a lot of variation but anyone that takes the time to study them finds there are some aspects of an NDE that cross validates very well.

Now as far as religious in nature some are religious as some report back they have seen a religious figure such as Jesus. Now if one inquires they will find that most often they met a Being of light that gave to this person such love they felt it was Jesus.

I met a lady once that had had a profound NDE and claimed to have seen Jesus in her NDE but when I questioned her she had only seen a side view of this entity but it gave out such a bright loving light she of course with her Christian childhood felt it was Jesus. But what I noticed about this person was the love and kindness and peace that she reflected to everyone that came in contact with her. Her NDE had transformed her life.

I have been blogging recently with a person that had an OBE and it was a profound one where she visited several dimensions and felt she met God and received information from God. Now my belief is she met an advanced entity that gave off a bright light and it appears to have given her very profound knowledge about life and its meaning and purpose.

Susan Blackmore claims to have had an NDE and her writings are not in the same ballpark as this person’s. Even NDE’s show great variation as of course there is great variation in our levels of consciousness from one soul to another. Consciousness evolves so it makes sense that different levels of consciousness exist and this means different levels of NDE’s exist. Variation of Phenomena is not restricted to just this earth environment.

Erich: More importantly, the fairly consistent reports of deep spiritual insights would be generally absent. In their place would be goofy incoherent nonsense

Maybe; maybe not. But obsessing about "deep spiritual insights" is one of the symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy, and we don't typically reify epileptic hallucinations when they have this feature. (Mark Fox discusses the symptom "hypergraphia"--writing obsessively about "deep spiritual insights"--and how his sample of NDErs, some pre-Moody, appear to exhibit it.)

Moreover, this is a rather subjective observation; one man's "deep spiritual insight" is another man's ubiquitous commonplace ("all you need is love"). One typical complaint about mediums' descriptions of "the next world" is that they tend to be rather Pollyannish, in contrast to the "grittiness" of this world. It is an open question whether NDErs offer anything new in this regard.

Erich: Observe reports from people who were very ill with high fevers, but not actually dying or dead. Observe reports from morphine addicts.

But if they had no expectation of imminent death, there is no reason to think that their hallucinations would conform to fantasies of dying; whereas if they did have such an expectation, their hallucinations might very well so conform.

Erich: So, when faced by a more savvy opposition keith is forced to evolve his argument from mere hallucinations to something a little more advanced in a pseudo-intellectual way.

That was unnecessary. There is no earlier argument of mine that needed "evolving," and had there been, modifying one's hypotheses when new data warrants modification is how science is usually done.

In any case, I don't believe that anyone who has viewed NDEs as hallucinations has ever suggested that they were typical hallucinations. Obviously, if they are hallucinations, they are a very specific kind of hallucination. Even going back to the early days of near-death studies, researchers like Russell Noyes and Roy Kletti were suggesting that NDE imagery is based on expectations of imminent death. So I don't see much "evolution" of explanation here. Of course, it you've never bothered to look into explanations other than "something leaves the body," other explanations might be new to you; but that doesn't make them new in the literature.

Erich: So now we have hallucinations by people who know they are dying and, therefore, somehow (as always per sloppy skeptic speculation never explained by what mechanism) direct their hallucinations to conform to a cultural expectation of what death is like.

I understand that you think this "pseudointellectual" (whatever that means) when I suggest it. But is it "pseudointellectual" when Harvey J. Irwin takes it seriously enough to test it? And if not in the latter case, then why in the former case? Mere anti-skeptic prejudice? And if not prejudice, then what? Why the discrepancy, depending on who is considering the possibility?

Erich: Of course, this tactic only attempts to address phenomena like the tunnel of light.

When Parapsychology Association President Harvey J. Irwin tests it, is it a "tactic" or a "hypothesis"?

Erich: It does nothing to address very common - and somewhat veridical - experiences of floating disembodied around the room, or hospital or over the scene of an accident and observing the rather mundane occurences taking place.

Out-of-body experiences were well-known long before NDEs were. What is new about out-of-body NDEs? There are the same claims of veridical perception now, the same kinds of anecdotal corroboration now, and the same failure to demonstrate veridical paranormal perception under controlled conditions now. What else is new? (Perhaps that will change with AWARE; we'll see.)

Erich: This sort of experience is common - maybe more so than the tunnel of light - and is found in all cultures and I don't see how "the expectation of what death is like forming the hallucination" theory explains this at all.

In van Lommel et al. (the most reliable indicator of incidence since the study was prospective and had more NDErs than other prospective studies), 31% of NDErs had a tunnel experience ("Moving through a tunnel") and 24% had an OBE.

Yes, out-of-body experiences are cross-cultural. But as components of NDEs, they are not cross-cultural, though they are occasionally present. It's an interesting question why OBEs rarely if ever feature in NDEs from India or Thailand, or why they are absent in 76% of van Lommel et. al's NDErs.

It is surprising that OBEs are not more prominent in NDEs given that, to quote Carol Zaleski, "There simply is no other way for the imagination to dramatize the experience of death: the soul quits the body and yet continues to have a form." At the same time, though, how does the hypothesis that "something leaves the body" explain the failure of most NDErs to notice leaving the body?

Erich: Often people who have had this type of NDE express how surprised they were. I would think that the element of surprise would be absent if Keith's theory were true.

Have you ever been surprised to dream about something you were not consciously thinking about? I have. That doesn't mean that my dream world existed outside of my imagination.

Erich: Instead, you get total surprise and amazement at the experience of dismbodied awareness in reports.

I think that's pretty much guaranteed to be true for all but OBE adepts who practice at "astral projection," regardless of the true nature of OBEs.

When you read a case like Glen Gabbard and Stuart Twemlow's NDEr who only had an NDE because he dropped a dummy grenade that he thought was live, it's hard to believe that the perception of immiment death has nothing to do with why NDErs have NDEs.

Erich: These seem pretty darn similar to western NDEs to me.

We need non-Western NDE accounts least likely to be contaminated by knowledge of Western culture. So, for example, NDEs from India recounted in Hindi are a better sample than those recounted in English, because Indians who can speak English probably have a pretty decent knowledge of the West. (See Allan's Kellehear criticism of Susan Blackmore's Indian NDE tunnel experiences on exactly this point.)

Erich: I have even read of accounts from such culturally different societies as those of the pacific islands that are pretty much the same as those in the link I posted; which are pretty much the same as western NDEs.

Perhaps; but this is not true of "mininally contaminated" NDEs. Reading the near-death literature on such (citations abound in my essay if you want to check them), Kellehear's modest conclusions about the extent of consistency across cultures is right on the mark.

Erich: most of the differences could reasonably be attributed to linguistic incompatibilities.

That's a bald assertion. Do you have any evidence that using a different translator would make the description so much less starkly variable? That seems doubtful. The differences don't just concern the words used, but even the general outlines of the accounts. Changes in language aren't going to make the Yamatoots of Thai NDEs appear in Western ones, and merely being able to see the environment around you isn't going to mesh as "an experience of light" either.

Erich: I think that Keith is, as usual, ignoring/distorting the evidence...

Accusations are easy. Feel free to actually supply decent evidence, the sort which would be acceptable to near-death researchers themselves. My conclusions are straightforward findings from their data--that's why I so clearly cited it (even showed it in a chart) all over the place in my essay. So your characterization of "throwing everything he can against the wall and hoping something sticks" is way off the mark. But it is not unexpected, since I will always be "the enemy." Does it "stick" when Allan Kellehear is the one saying it? Why or why not?

Erich: There are large enough samples of experiences from a number of different cultures that a study of points in common versus expected points in common and not in common can be conducted. I think Long did something like this, but I haven't read anything other than a synopsis and reviews. Maybe someone else here knows.

Jeffrey Long's data comes from English-speaking people who sought out his website. It's not minimally culturally contaminated in the way that an account from an anthropologist interviewing an African bushman with no electricity, Internet access, or understanding of English would be. Surely you see that the difference is enormous? Long's conclusions about NDEs across cultures are not at all representative of extant minimally contaminated NDE accounts, which is why they are at such variance with Allan Kellehear's conclusions about such.

Erich: I should add that the tunnel of light leading to the all loving god figure type experience that skeptics like to attack is, for them, the lowest hanging fruit on the tree of the evidence for survival.

Where do you see special emphasis on that? Not from me.

Erich: It smacks of feel good pop culture and it smacks of being the product of a money making machine. If Keith wants to whack of this limb and burn it; let him. Every hard hunting dog deserves a meaty bone once in a while.

Again, something I've said nothing about, and thus a straw man.

Erich: It's the NDE - or the part of the NDE - than remains within the earthly realm and contains veridcal evidence that defies the skeptic hallucination fall back position.

Yes, provided that the quality of the evidence in such cases is outstanding. The issue is the quality of the evidence for such, not whether hallucinations can explain the accounts taken at face value. Skeptics cannot explain the reported physics-defying manuevers of UFOs taken at face value, either; but the issue is whether the reported manuevers actually happened as reported. Do we have outstanding evidence that they did? That's the most crucial question for these sorts of issues.

Sam: This basically sounds like rewording of the dying brain hypothesis to me.

I worried about that final line causing confusion when it was reprinted here up to that point. I think that the expectation of dying is more important than a dying brain, since some NDEs occur when there is no "dying brain" at all (when one merely thinks that one is dying, or when under mere general anesthesia). That said, obviously the brain state of someone undergoing an NDE can't be one's brain state during normal waking consciousness, else we would just have normal waking consciousness. So there is an underlying physiological condition that is abnormal in some way during NDEs. The "abnormal brain hypothesis" would be a better term than "dying brain hypothesis" since one need not be dying to have an NDE.

I was thinking of "specific physiological events" in a broader sense. When I used that phrase in my reconstruction of the Pam Reynolds case earlier in that paper, I meant simply the generalized things happening to her body during her procedure, like the lowering of her body temperature. (There I was concerned with "some independently verifiable means to correlate specific elements of her NDE to specific physiological events" in the operating room in order to establish when specific elements of her NDE occurred--the only correlation possible being when her OBE began, since she overheard a conversation about groin artery bypass then, which we know occurred at a particular time, and thereby can know when her OBE began.)

In this case I had brain physiology specifically in mind, not overall bodily physiology. Irwin, for example, notes that OBEs can be caused by extremely low nervous system arousal (e.g., meditation) or extremely high arousal (e.g., a near-death crisis). Either change in arousal is a specific neurophysiological event, but one's state of arousal still concerns a rather generalized condition. Obviously something neurophysiological is causing an altered state of consciousness, else the experience wouldn't be happening. In that sense I think there are specific neurophysiological events going on. And there is probably some temporal lobe activity contributing to the experience, given that it is plausibly implicated elsewhere. But I don't know if I'd want to get more specific than that, since doing so becomes the realm of pure speculation, speculation that may well be wrong.

I would not insist, for example, that endorphins or endogenous opioids that affect the NMDA-receptor must initiate NDEs, causing feelings of peace as a side effect (a la Daniel B. Carr or Karl Jansen), because were that true, "uncontaminated" non-Western NDErs should report feelings of peace, and they don't.

A neurophysiologist might conjecture that multisensory disintegration caused by a conflict between visual and vestibular sensations may yield an OBE (a la Olaf Blanke), which may evolve into a tunnel-and-light experience because of disinhibition in the visual cortex (a la Susan Blackmore), which may become a life review because endorphins or other opioids destabilize the temporal lobe and limbic system areas responsible for consolidating memories, and so on.

However, that sort of conjecture aims to provide a neurophysiological, rather than sociological, source of NDE motifs. In other words, were something like that the case, the sociological account I offer would be false--or at least incomplete.

A sociological account does not deny that NDEs occur under specific neurophysiological conditions, though; so do dreams. The issue here is not what accounts for the NDE's occurrence, but what accounts for its specific phenomenological features--the NDE motifs of tunnels and lights and so on. If we had evidence that these motifs truly were cross-cultural, then perhaps speculating about mechanism-motif correlations during NDEs would be warranted; but as it turns out, there is more diversity than consistency in NDE motifs across cultures from the least contaminated sources.

Thus I think that speculating about specific neurophysiological mechanisms for specific NDE elements is both premature and unnecessary; we don't posit neurophysiological mechanisms specifically for dreams of sailing, for example, or dreams of running away from aliens. We take dream motifs to be derived primarily from cultural sources and individual imagination. I think NDE motifs are best accounted for in a similar way, and only because that is where the extant cross-cultural data itself points.

Of course, it is nevertheless possible that the sources of NDE elements are "mixed"--that some NDE elements are primarily due to specific neurophysiological mechanisms, whereas others are sociological motifs. The only NDE elements that might warrant positing a specific brain mechanism, IMO, would be the OBE and maybe the life review, for OBEs (and to a much lesser extent memory flashbacks) have been known to occur outside of near-death contexts under a variety of conditions, including complete relaxation or meditation. All of the other NDE elements seem to be unique to the expectation of dying. And in the cases where similar elements occur in non-near-death contexts, the elements may only be superficially similar, so that the cause of epileptic memory flashbacks is not the same as the cause of near-death life reviews (say). Bruce Greyson made this point in response to my Part 3 contribution, and I don't disagree; the data aren't strong enough to know whether the similarities are superficial or related.

My own suspicion is that the near-death OBE is primarily the result of psychological processes, namely dissociation from a threat by generating an alternate mental model that allows one to "escape" the harm about to be inflicted on one's body. There is plenty of evidence for this hypothesis, particularly so-called "fear-death experiences" where there is no physiological threat of death but the false perception that death is imminent. Dissociation due to a perceived threat of imminent death can account for the euphoria, detached indifference to what's happening to the body "down there" (as "I" am safe "up here"), vivid imagery, lucid thinking, time slowing down, and memory flashbacks.

An experience of light could plausibly have a common physiological cause, since cardiac arrest NDEs affecting the brain state more profoundly are more likely to have tunnel and light elements. In one particular NDE account from The Truth in the Light, a woman reported floating up to a green field that had a large tree "with a brilliant white light on top" (p. 29). The fact that this light it not a personality, as it often is, but is ubiquitous in this field, makes me wonder if there is something neurophysiological going on there. On the other hand, if some specific neurophysiological mechanism were responsible, we would expect an experience of light to feature cross-culturally, but it doesn't clearly feature in our extant, minimally contaminated non-Western NDE accounts. So the absence of a clear light motif outside of the West is reason to think it sociological.

The remaining NDE elements seem to me to be clearly culturally conditioned responses to an expectation of dying. One would expect to "run into" primarily deceased relatives or semi-divine beings in "the next world." One might expect his or her "book of life" to be reviewed. Some sort of transition or border between life and death is prevalent, and expected afterlife imagery--like crossing the River Styx. And one is obviously going to encounter some kind of "environment" in virtually all widely held conceptions of the afterlife.

Keith,

I am not going to comment too much more because I am busy and because I am sensitive to the possibility of taking over a comments thread. I am more interested in what others have to say and look forward to their input.

I do want to mention this: Keith, "So there is an underlying physiological condition that is abnormal in some way during NDEs. The "abnormal brain hypothesis" would be a better term than "dying brain hypothesis" since one need not be dying to have an NDE."

So, sometimes, Keith, you are proposing a physical brain structure or electro/chemical abnormality occurring as the result of impending death, as the cause of NDEs.

How does this account for those cross cultural differences? If physiological processes cause hallucinations that are NDEs, then we would expect the hallucinations to be the same across the globe, right? Or are you saying that the brains of Hindus structurally different than those of westerners such that westerners see tunnels and Hindus do not?

If you say that the brains are the same across the globe and that the differences are due to cultural filters working interpretations of the same physiological processes, then I would say you are now sounding like a "believer". You are now willing to state that objective reality is experienced in subjective ways. And once you arrive at that point, you cannot logically state that it is not possible that differences in NDEs are due to cultural filters being applied to real visits to a real and objectively existing spirit world. Your line of argument that Michael addressed in his post, collapses.

I am going to reiterate that reports of NDEs are just that, reports. Eye witnesses emphasize different aspects of the same witnessed event in reports. This is a well known scientifically proven phenomenon. Then, to further complicate the matter, reports coming out of other cultures have to go through the process of language interpretation. On top of that you have the interpreter possibly emphasizing and filtering according to his/her own predjucices. Finally, you to question how the sampling from other cultures is done.


Keith

Do you plan on following up the Pam Reynolds case now that we know the earplugs worked at the beginning of the surgery.

I am curious to know now.

a.) why didn't she hear the clicking, but she heard the conversations around her?

b.) How could she hear the conversation period with such a constant clicking in her ears?

I think that issue is very difficult for your theories to explain, however a separation hypothesis can easily explain it.

She didn't hear the clicking cause she was no longer in her body. The clicking did not block her hearing of conversations cause she was no longer in her body.

Now that I'm sufficiently caffineated I see things more clearly......

Sam noted, "Also, the end of the article states:

Consequently, it is possible that NDErs are interpreting their experiences of specific physiological events in terms of their cultural expectations."

This statement really contains the bottom line.

After all is said and done, the argument comes down to everyone agreeing that something tangible and real is being interpreted to some extent by the experiencer via cultural filters; either a pyschological/biological process or a visit to a spirit realm.

Keith says pyschological/biological process. Others, like myself say a visit to a spirit realm. Deciding which it is causes us to fall back to all of our old presentations of eveidence.

I don't see how Keith's essay adds anything new to the debate.

Thanks for the response Keith. I'm honestly not interested in belonging to either side of the survival issue, but this type of debate is good for allowing me to hone in to my own thoughts and figure out where I actually stand.

Because there are cases where people who are only in perceived danger experience have NDE-like experiences, I agree that there must be a neurophysiological correlate to the NDE experience. There is, after all, a correlate to every other possible brain-state one can experience. If I had to take a guess I would agree that the temporal lobe is probably involved and perhaps the chemical DMT. Even if this is the case I still don't think we can rule out the NDE as a purely subjective hallucination. The reality we are experiencing at any given moment is determined entirely by the chemical cocktail that makes up the brain, whether it be everyday consensus reality, the reality brought on by smoking enough DMT, or the NDE experience, and I don't necessarily think any particular brain-state is more valid than any other. It's very hard if not impossible to establish the objective from the subjective.

Also I'm not sure how convincing I find the article, despite the survey. Erich's link alone featured a number of foreign NDEs that exhibited the classic western features. Also what about the NDEs of children too young to have been influenced by cultural expectations that still feature typical elements? And as I said earlier, I could be mistaken, but I feel like I've heard of cases where a person hadn't even realized that they had died when the NDE initially began. Of course this type of account-based evidence is always arguable, but if there's a good account of even one of these cases occurring, it would start to poke holes in the article's hypothesis.

Well, how does an unconscious, flat lined person, like Pam Reynolds and numerous other operating room cases have a psychological reaction? How does they know they are dying?

Erich: So, sometimes, Keith, you are proposing a physical brain structure or electro/chemical abnormality occurring as the result of impending death, as the cause of NDEs.

An NDE is an altered state of consciousness. Obviously, if one is in an altered state of consciousness, one's brain state is not that of normal waking consciousness. If fear initiates that altered state of consciousness as in a "fear-death experience," something is happening in the brain to cause that change in consciousness; perhaps something like a fight-or-flight response.

This seems to me straightforwardly true, no matter what interpretation of NDEs you have, whether you think that NDEs are hallucinations or that something separates from the body.

Erich: How does this account for those cross cultural differences?

The same way that it accounts for cross-cultural differences in dreams. REM dreams are a different brain state than normal waking consciousness. Nevertheless, the dreams of an African bushman may well be quite different than the dreams of a Western businessman, given their different circumstances in life. I thought I made this clear when referring to dreaming in my earlier comment, but evidently not.

Erich: If physiological processes cause hallucinations that are NDEs, then we would expect the hallucinations to be the same across the globe, right?

No. Physiological processes causes hallucinations called REM dreams, and those hallucinations are quite variable across the globe, and almost certainly culturally influenced. A Westerner who watches Close Encounters of the Third Kind may well dream about little grey aliens while a bushman who has never seen a television probably never would. Nothing controversial there, I would think.

Erich: Or are you saying that the brains of Hindus structurally different than those of westerners such that westerners see tunnels and Hindus do not?

You seem to have missed my point entirely. If "minimally contaminated" (by Western influences) Indian NDErs don't report tunnels, whereas Westerners do, than Western tunnel experiences are probably culturally conditioned motifs, just as Indian Yamatoots that don't feature in Western NDEs are culturally conditioned motifs.

Erich: If you say that the brains are the same across the globe and that the differences are due to cultural filters working interpretations of the same physiological processes, then I would say you are now sounding like a "believer".

I'm not suggesting that all NDErs see the same being of light, but sometimes Westerners call it Jesus and sometimes Indians call it Yama. That glosses over the actual reports and is not faithful to their content. I'm suggesting that Westerners actually see a being that looks and functions as Jesus is said to look and function in Western tradition, whereas Indians actually see a being that that looks and functions as Yama is said to look and function in Hindu tradition.

In other words, the content of their NDEs is not the same but merely interpreted differently. The content itself is different. Simply reading the minimally contaminated non-Western cases makes this clear. There is no debate here; that's what the data itself shows.

Erich: You are now willing to state that objective reality is experienced in subjective ways.

I'm not sure what that means. Objective reality is always experienced in subjective ways by a given subject, all of the time. Sometimes the subject's subjective experience corresponds to objective reality, as can be verified when others experience the same thing, and sometimes it is purely internally generated in a given subject's head, as with schizophrenic hallucinations. Nothing new here.

Erich: And once you arrive at that point, you cannot logically state that it is not possible that differences in NDEs are due to cultural filters being applied to real visits to a real and objectively existing spirit world.

"...differences in NDEs are due to cultural filters being applied to real visits..." What does that mean in practice?

When an Indian NDEr describes a meeting a person "sitting on a high chair with a white beard and wearing yellow clothes," as the Hindu god of death Yama is traditionally portrayed, and a Christian Westerner reports meeting a person "dressed in a long white robe, his hair to his shoulders, ginger-auburn, ... [with] a short beard," as Jesus is traditionally portrayed, how could those possibly be two different descriptions of the same person? If you take that disingenuous move, you might as well say that two different NDErs seeing visions of their different aunts are really seeing the same person. On the face of it, they are seeing different things--just like the Hindu NDEr versus the Western one. End of story.

Mere "cultural interpretation" cannot explain the following two descriptions as two different descriptions of the same place:

1. "[T]he clerks had a heap of books in front of them.... Yamraj was there sitting on a high chair with a white beard and wearing yellow clothes. He asked me, "What do you want?" I told him that I wanted to stay there. He asked me to extend my hand. I don't remember whether he gave me something or not. Then I was pushed down [and revived]" (Pasricha and Stevenson 1986, p. 167).

2. "[T]he tunnel was made of polished metal, jointed and held together with something like rivets.... I felt it should have been more ethereal somehow ... My feet felt like lead but as I walked back to life the light threw my shadow on to the floor of the tunnel as I walked away from it" (Fenwick and Fenwick 1997, p. 55).

As an aside, the latter is another reason to doubt Blackmore's supposition that tunnel experiences are caused by disinhibition in the visual cortex; it seems more likely that different NDEs have different features for the same reason that different dreams have different features. It's not as if anyone's claiming that disinhibition in the visual cortex is causing dreams of sailing; and I don't think it necessary to posit a physiological mechanism for the specific tunnel element of NDEs, either. That's why I suggested that the commonalities are primarily derived from cultural conditioning, not any specific neurophysiological mechanism. Landlocked people might not be expected to dream of sailing, whereas coastal people might be expected to dream of such.

Erich: Your line of argument that Michael addressed in his post, collapses.

I disagree, since Irwin was positing sociological/cultural motifs, not neurophysiological ones. In order to think otherwise, you'd need to ignore everything that Michael reprinted up to the last sentence, and only misinterpret the last sentence. Physiological explanations are nowhere mentioned until that point.

I will explain it again, since evidently I was not clear enough in my first comment. "[I]t is possible that NDErs are interpreting their experiences of specific physiological events in terms of their cultural expectations" in the same way that dreamers are interpreting their experiences of specific physiological events in terms of their expectations." Does that not make it clear?

Obviously, the brain is under a specific physiological condition during dreaming (REM sleep), or during hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations at the onset of sleep or waking up. Nevertheless, the content of the dream is largely based on cultural and personal expectation. That's what I'm suggesting for NDEs. That the content of the NDE is largely based on cultural conditioing, while the condition that makes the NDE possible is what causes the NDE instead of normal waking conscious. I don't know how I can be any clearer than that.

Erich: Eye witnesses emphasize different aspects of the same witnessed event in reports.

This is a rather tepid attempt to explain the differences between reports #1 and #2 above. Obviously the Hindu NDEr and the Western NDEr I quoted are seeing two different persons, not the same persons "interpreted" or "described" differently. Obvious, a Hindu NDEr who reports bureaucratic "clerks ... [with] a heap of books in front of them" sitting in an office is not describing the same place as a Western NDEr who finds himself in a garden. And so on. Such attempts to gloss over the cross-cultural differences demonstrably don't hold water. No "language interpretation," "interpreter filtering," or "sampling" will change the fact that these different NDErs (in #1 and #2 above) are obviously seeing different persons.

Erich: After all is said and done, the argument comes down to everyone agreeing that something tangible and real is being interpreted to some extent by the experiencer via cultural filters

I don't agree with this in the sense of "interpreted" that you are using here. What everyone should agree on is that NDE diversity across cultures is real, not merely apparent. We're not talking about different descriptions of the same seen thing; we're talking about seeing different things and therefore describing them differently, because they aren't the same to begin with. That is faithful to the minimally contaminated non-Western accounts on offer. Mere ambiguous description or translation is not a viable explanation, because the descriptions of what is seen are quite unambiguous.

Sam: Erich's link alone featured a number of foreign NDEs that exhibited the classic western features.

I assure you that the minimally contaminated, most reliable extant sources of non-Western NDE accounts do not exhibit the features of the prototypical Western NDE. Check my chart in the original paper. All of the relevant sources are listed in the chart. I didn't make up those studies. I simply surveyed them, all of the relevant ones. The findings are clear if you take the time to review them. Similar surveys, with similar findings, can be found in "Phenomenology of Near-Death Experiences: A Cross-Cultural Perspective" (March 2008) and "Cross-Cultural Perspectives on the Near-Death Experience" (1994). I didn't know about either at the time of publishing (the former was published after I was, of course).

Sam: Also what about the NDEs of children too young to have been influenced by cultural expectations that still feature typical elements?

See the last paragraph of the "Cultural Differences" section, right before the "Random Memories" section, in the online version of my paper. See also case #3 at the very beginning of that section for a particular instance of a clear cultural influence on a childhood NDE.

Sam: I feel like I've heard of cases where a person hadn't even realized that they had died when the NDE initially began

That's possible, of course, but I think that the evidence that this happens is not very strong, if it is reported at all (and it would have to be reported pretty rarely, since NDEs have always been associated with proximity to death, whether real or imagined proximity). In the Handbook of Near-Death Experiences, Greyson, Kelly, and Kelly write: "NDEs are generally understood to be the unusual, often vivid and realistic, and sometimes profoundly life-changing experiences occurring to people who have been physiologically close to death, as in cardiac arrest or other life-threatening conditions, or psychologically close to death, as in accidents or illnesses in which they feared they would die." (p. 213)

Erich: Well, how does an unconscious, flat lined person, like Pam Reynolds and numerous other operating room cases have a psychological reaction?

Do you even bother to read what I've already written on this case before asking me about it?

Pam Reynolds was unconscious but nowhere near flatlined when she had an OBE. She had an OBE about two hours before doctors even began to cool her blood. So either dissociation due to fear or simply being anesthetized caused her NDE; no other candidate cause exists for why her experience began. And we have no reason to believe that it extended into the time when she flatlined, though of course it might have.

Erich: How does they know they are dying.

That's simple: Pam Reynolds was told that she'd be brought to the brink of death before she went under. So she knew it was coming, but not "when" once she was "out."

Kris: Do you plan on following up the Pam Reynolds case now that we know the earplugs worked at the beginning of the surgery.

Though this has nothing to do with the opening post and I fear it will lead to digressing even further from it, I'll answer your question.

If it has been documented, rather than merely inferred, that Pam Reynolds indeed had clicking sounds in her ears that would've drowned out any intraoperative conversations, then normal hearing cannot account for her knowledge of an intraoperative conversation.

I have yet to see such documentation, however. Jan Holden, for example, cites a paper by Robert Spetlzer in June 1988 in which AEP clicking occurs throughout a standstill procedure. However, that paper does not address Pam Reynolds' NDE itself, for her NDE took place in August 1991, more than 3 years after the cited paper finally went to print after being refereed for at least several months even before publication. We still need confirmation that the conditions described in that paper apply to Pam Reynolds' case specifically. It is reasonable to infer that they would, but that's still not quite the same as knowing that those conditions were reproduced in that case. Just because an anesthesiologist writes a paper describing his prior use of a certain amount of an anesthetic doesn't mean that he will thereafter never deviate from that amount, or never use some other anesthetic, in future cases.

This question could be resolved definitively if we had access to Pam Reynolds' records themselves. Evidently Michael Sabom has access to them, because Tart claims to have reviewed them in The End of Materialism to determine that she was heavily anesthetized at the time. So why not just cite these records themselves, instead of inferring from some other source?

Note that I'm not saying that Holden is wrong; it may very well be the case that the clicking was occurring without interruption at around 8:45 AM, the time of Pam's OBE. What I'm saying is that if that is a fact, then it should be documented to the fullest extent, since the crucial claim that her hearing was impossible at that time rests almost entirely on the accuracy of that single point. It's not the sort of thing that one can afford to make a mistake about.

For the sake of argument, if Holden is right, then Pam's hearing of an intraoperative conversation cannot have been through Pam hearing it at the time through normal means. This does not rule out the possibility that Pam could've learned that information through normal means in other ways, for example by some hospital staff having told her about it after the fact at any time during the three-year gap between her NDE and her interview with Sabom. That's a rather implausible explanation, IMO, but it is not impossible. And as Holden herself concedes, because such possible normal explanations aren't entirely ruled out, it would not be scientific to conclude that veridical paranormal perception occurs in NDE until controlled studies (like AWARE) demonstrate that it does.

Nevertheless, if Holden is right about the timing in Pam's case, I can't think of any plausible normal explanation for Pam's knowledge of her overheard conversation. But that still falls short of scientifically knowledge that veridical paranormal perception occurs in NDEs (a point that Holden herself explicitly makes), because my (or your) inability to explain that case (or any other) might be because it is genuinely inexplicable, or it might simply reflect my (or your) lack of imagination in discovering the explanation. I could never explain the radiation burns of the Cash-Landrum incident, for example, or why radar returns "corroborated" eyewitness testimony of black triangles capable of "impossible" aerial maneuvers in Belgium in the 1980s (where fighter jets were even scrambled to pursue the mysterious "objects"!)--but I recently learned that those radar returns occasionally placed the Belgian UFOs below ground level--a physical impossibility--verifying the wisdom of not embracing the extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis in order to explain them. Some other fact, similar to those "impossible radar returns," might come to light in the future putting the Pam Reynolds case in doubt. For example, Julio Siqueira recently entertained the possibility that Pam's AEP clicking was uninterrupted and present but infrasonic--below the range of human hearing--which if true would've (almost) totally demolished the argument that Pam could not have heard an intraoperative conversation at the relevant time.

For these reasons I'm personally waiting out the results of the AWARE study to answer this question definitively. Since the results of that study will be available in either a few months or a few years, it's best to take a wait and see approach, IMO. If there are positive results to be had, we'll know one way or the other soon enough.

Keith,

We have numerous reasons to think that Pam Reyolds experience continued when she was flatlined

1.] She was able to hear and see and describe in detail what the saw looked like.
2.] She described all of the people who were operating on here while flatlined.
3.] All three clinical tests found that her EEG was silent and that her brain stem was completely absent.

There is the typical skeptical argument that their is some deeper brain activity that the EEG can't pick up. This argument is however refuted by Dr. John Greenfield a EEG expert in his field.

He states

“It’s very unlikely that a hypoperfused brain [someone with no blood flow to the brain], with no evidence of electrical activity could generate NDEs. Human studies as well as animal studies have typically shown very little brain perfusion [blood flow] or glucose utilization when the EEG is flat. There are deep brain areas involved in generating memories that might still operate at some very reduced level during cardiac arrest, but of course any subcortically generated activity can’t be brought to consciousness without at least one functioning cerebral hemisphere. So even if there were some way that NDEs were generated during the hypoxic state [while the brain is shut off from oxygen], you would not experience them until reperfusion [blood flow] allowed you to dream them or wake up and talk about them”, Greenfield stated.

The above statement came from the Skeptiko Podcast so credit goes to it.

Leo, do you even bother to read what I've said about this case before commenting?

The saw Pam described was not being used when she was flatlined. Even if she perceived it by astral eyes, she perceived it about 2 hours before her blood was even being cooled--and well before flatline.

I don't recall her describing any of the people working on her--certainly not in Light and Death, and in any case the people she mentioned working on her (whom she did not describe) were doing so over 2 hours before Pam flatlined.

"All three clinical tests found that her EEG was silent and that her brain stem was completely absent"--over 2 hours after her OBE began, over 2 hours after she described the saw and anything else. And we have no reason to think her NDE lasted more than 2 hours, though it conceivably could have.

I wonder what the Keith Augustines of this world believe it is that they are doing. I appreciate the clarity and organization of thought. I understand the position that they are, quite aggressively, defending, because I too occupied that position--a long time ago. Now I do not reside in the same place, but I wouldn’t care to contradict any specific assertions based on that position for fear of bringing down upon myself a torrent of syllogisms. Or a blizzard of facts regarding brain functioning, of which I know as much already as I want to know. It tires me so much to just imagine what might happen to me that I can hardly get out of my rocking chair.

But what I wonder about is the effect of what these Augustines are doing. I realize that this has nothing to do with the truth value of any propositions put forward, but what about the effect of ideas in human terms? I am an old man, writing the last chapters of my book. One of the few features of old age that brighten the landscape is the hope of once more meeting with loved ones from the past. Some say that this is a belief founded in wishful thinking, but I can assure you, based upon experience, it is surrounded much more by fearful thinking, apprehensions that life after death is an illusion.

Mr. Augustine seems to be counseling me to abandon all hope. If I accept his counsel he will usher me into a world of nihilism. Now this may not be true of himself. He might be constitutionally immune to such nihilism. But it would be true of me. I have to agree with the philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno, who wrote, “If consciousness is, as some inhuman thinker has said, nothing more than a flash of light between two eternities of darkness, then there is nothing more execrable than existence.” This is, unfortunately for me, the way I see it.

So what are the Keith Augustines about? The world they invite me into gives me the creeps. And I think maybe there should be founded a Raskolnikov Society. Raskolnikov, as you probably know, was a character in Dostoevsky”s novel, Crime and Punishment, who planned the murder of a pawnbroker based on the idea that he was superior to the common run of people and was more rational. When he actually carried out his plan events led to his killing of the sister of the pawnbroker, an event that did not fit at all with his plan.

Individuals nominated for membership in the Raskolnikov Society would have to believe in their superior rationality and not care a whit for the unintended results of their actions.


Keith

I think by now it has been documented that earplugs were operating the entire time .

Here is why. As you said Sabom has Reynold's medical records. Unless the man is dishonest his question about Reynolds not hearing the clicking makes no sense, unless the records state the earplugs were activated.

Consider this comment by Spetzler, Reynolds surgeon.

" At that stage in the operation nobody can observe, hear, in that state. And I find it inconceivable that your normal senses, such as hearing, let alone the fact she heard clicking modules in each ear, that was any way to hear through normal auditory pathways.

I don't have an explanation for it. I don't know how it's possible for it to happen, considering the physiological state she was in. At the same time, I have seen so many things I can't explain, that I don't want to be so arrogant as to be able to say there's no way it can happen."

It seems if the earplugs had yet to be turned on Dr Spetzler just would have said that. If not why not.

Unless you wish to enter the realm of conspiracy I think your statement hear sums it up:

"For the sake of argument, if Holden is right, then Pam's hearing of an intraoperative conversation cannot have been through Pam hearing it at the time through normal means. This does not rule out the possibility that Pam could've learned that information through normal means in other ways, for example by some hospital staff having told her about it after the fact at any time during the three-year gap between her NDE and her interview with Sabom. That's a rather implausible explanation, IMO, but it is not impossible. And as Holden herself concedes, because such possible normal explanations aren't entirely ruled out, it would not be scientific to conclude that veridical paranormal perception occurs in NDE until controlled studies (like AWARE) demonstrate that it does."

You concede that regular hearing was impossible and that only leaves the possibility, in your own words " implausible" that somehow she gained it from the hospital staff.

This tends to be the overall problem with your arguments. While not logically impossible, they are so seemingly unlikely that other explanations should be used.

In many ways you remind me of an Evangelical I knew at my old college. He was completely and utterly sold on the Bible, much like you are convinced of your own brand of naturalism. Whenever you would discuss Bible difficulties with him he would accept any explanation that removed the error, no matter how far fetched. The reason for this was it was so evident to him that the Bible was correct that the unlikely explanation seemed far more reasonable then the error. Your arguments will only convince someone deeply committed to your view. For any fence sitter I would say they would find the separation theory to be easier to accept.

Last comments

Siqueira's infrasonic argument was based upon a flawed reading of the medical report. That was corrected by Dr Greyson. Needless to say if that argument worked it would have been discovered a long time ago.

Here is Siqueira's retraction of that argument

"No, you have confused two potentials that Spetzler described on page 869 of his 1988 article. The BAEP is the auditory (sound) evoked potential that was delivered by loud clicks in Pam Reynolds's ears, and they were delivered at a rate of 11-33/sec -- that is, 11-33 Hz. It was not that auditory stimulation (BAEP), but rather the SSEP (somatosensory evoked potential, a touch stimulation) that was Spetzler wrote delivered to the median nerve on the wrist at a rate of 4-8 Hz."

I am curious if the AWARE study does produce vertical evidence why won't you just dismiss it by comparisons to UFO events and saying just because we cannot explain something does not mean we should use paranormal explanations?

Keith, you use the word "obviously" quite a bit in your responses.

I don't agree that anything you say by way of your theories is obvious.

Just one example (in reference to the Pam Reynolds case), "So either dissociation due to fear or simply being anesthetized caused her NDE; "

This is an extraordinary claim. You have no scientific proof at all that either fear or anesthesia can create the type of experience reported by Pam Reynolds. This is mere speculation on your part. Yet, there you are confidently asserting that they do as if fact.

"An NDE is an altered state of consciousness. Obviously, if one is in an altered state of consciousness, one's brain state is not that of normal waking consciousness."

Prove that all altered states of consciousness are associated with changes in the physical brain.

And there's what follows, "If fear initiates that altered state of consciousness as in a "fear-death experience...."

I guess you are implying that NDEs are fear generated. Prove it.

Here's counter to your extraordinary assertion. You have obviously never been in combat. It is the most frightening and death proximate experience you could ever imagine. If your theory was correct then front line troops would lose their combat effectiveness because they would all be having NDEs instead of engaging the enemy. Sometimes troops do break down out of fear, but they are not having NDEs. Rather they have classic psycholoical reactions like paralysis, infantile regression, nervous breakdown in which they sob and shake, etc. Why are they not having Pam Reynolds type experiences as bullets crack past them and high explosive shells detonate around them?

"If "minimally contaminated" (by Western influences) Indian NDErs don't report tunnels, whereas Westerners do, than Western tunnel experiences are probably culturally conditioned motifs"

I don't think that we have a large enough representative sample or peer reviewed survey techniques and interview techniques to draw any conclusions about similarities or differences re; non-western experiences. Sampling and analysis are of concern to me. For someone who claims to be an adherant of the scientific materialist method you don't seem very interested. I can find examples of non-western NDEs that contain much similarity to western NDEs. You can find some that, ostensibly, do not.

"I assure you that the minimally contaminated, most reliable extant sources of non-Western NDE accounts do not exhibit the features of the prototypical Western NDE."

Pardon me if I am not willing to change my outlook based on your assurence. I'd like to know about each of the cases in detail and I would like to know the background of the study as well as the methodologies involved.

"Check my chart in the original paper." I did. It is vague and general and limited in scope and based on your subjective and, agruably, biased assessment.

"Do you even bother to read what I've already written on this case before asking me about it?

Pam Reynolds was unconscious but nowhere near flatlined when she had an OBE"

It is you that is having reading comprehesion challenges. Note the use of the word "like" in my statement. I will let someone else speak to the accuracey of what you say about timing in the Pam Reynolds case. I believe that your assertion concerning it has been called into question previously. There are plenty of other NDEs occurring in hospitals where the patient who had the NDE was flatlined.

it appears that with the pam reynolds case there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

pun intended.

belief and non belief at two sides of the same coin.

for the person with a belief in NDE's little if any evidence is needed.

for the person that has a non belief in NDE'S no amount of evidence changes their nonbelief.

"One of the few features of old age that brighten the landscape is the hope of once more meeting with loved ones from the past. Some say that this is a belief founded in wishful thinking, but I can assure you, based upon experience, it is surrounded much more by fearful thinking, apprehensions that life after death is an illusion." - W Vogt
--------------------------------------------

I can really relate to this. My mom died of stomach and intestinal cancer when I was 15 1/2 years old. I just turned 57 years old. My parents were divorced when I was in the first grade and I was a real momma's boy. I cried for three days when she died. It was the worst experience of my life. I have a baby sister that was 10 years old when mom died; and she feels the same way I do. We both think about her every single day.

For me the idea that I will never see my mother again or ever be reunited with her is intolerable. It is only in the last 10 years since studying near death experiences, death bed visions, and the holographic universe theory and quantum physics that has given me hope that perhaps life has meaning after all we are more than just our physical bodies. Perhaps "there is a reason" after all?

I have painful arthritis in my hips and back and I'm not the man I used to be. I'm thinking and hoping that the pains I suffer now are imprinting on my soul the bits of information, like pixels on a TV screen, it will use to reproduce a new body in heaven, I believe is a place where thoughts are things and consciousness creates reality.

Anyway W Vogt, I really liked your post. It was very well thought out and expressed a lot of ideas that are similar to things I've thought myself.

Although I regret the change of subject, I'll play along with the predictable derail from the opening post.

Kris: As you said Sabom has Reynold's medical records. Unless the man is dishonest his question about Reynolds not hearing the clicking makes no sense, unless the records state the earplugs were activated.

The argument that Pam Reynolds could not hear an intraoperative conversation because the clicking in her ears was too loud was one that Michael Sabom never made--not in Light and Death in 1998, and not in his subsequent commentary on my Part 1 in 2007. That struck me as a bit odd, given that Sabom did originally argue that she couldn't have heard normally--because of the "molding" of the speakers blocking out external sounds. And Sabom knew that the AEP clicking in her ears was around 100 dB, because he mentions that fact (albeit only once) in Light and Death. So why didn't he argue, more persuasively, not merely that the molding made her hearing impossible, but that the clicking did? I don't know why; but perhaps because he was himself unsure about the timing of the clicking when he wrote the relevant two chapters of Light and Death. And if the medical records made it clear that she couldn't hear because of louder clicking in 1998, did Sabom simply miss the connection? Or was he unable to verify any connection, because Pam's records themselves didn't contain any information about when the AEPs were on?

Charles Tart, in his commentary on my Part 1, is the first person to suggest that the volume of clicks made her hearing impossible. In my reply, I asked whether the clicking was present at the time of Pam's veridical auditory observations, and whether it was sufficiently continuous as to provide no gaps when normal hearing might be possible. These are questions that I had no reason to believe Tart had the answers to; he did not, to my knowledge, then have access to Pam's medical records, as Sabom did. (Though Sabom shared them with Tart, I only know this because Tart mentioned it in The End of Materialism in 2009, saying that he can vouch for her being heavily anesthetized at the time of her auditory observations. Tart does not go on to say that the same records indicate that hearing was impossible, though he repeats the same argument he made in his original commentary, almost verbatim, and without answering or even acknowledging the questions I asked in my reply to his commentary.)

Kris: It seems if the earplugs had yet to be turned on Dr Spetzler just would have said that.

I wouldn't think so at the time of Spetzler's comments because the issue of when the earplugs were on was apparently never raised before my reply to Tart in 2007. We have no reason to think Spetzler would have been worried about what was on when until the issues was raised. Unlike Sabom, Spetzler was not investigating NDEs; he merely attended a patient who had one. So he probably did not look into this question as deeply as Sabom did, and Sabom himself apparently never thought of the "clicking was too loud" argument because he did not make it himself, or thought of it but couldn't establish the timing because the records that he had didn't indicate it. (This is only speculation on my part, of course.)

Kris: You concede that regular hearing was impossible and that only leaves the possibility, in your own words " implausible" that somehow she gained it from the hospital staff.

Yes, I concede that if the clicking was too loud, uninterrupted, and present at 8:45, Pam Reynolds couldn't then hear normally. You don't even need my concession about this, since if that's the case, it would still be the case whether I conceded it or not.

I also concede that if that is the case, then other normal explanations are possible, but not plausible. And yet you still choose to characterize me as "accept[ing] any explanation that removed the [discordant finding], no matter how far fetched." Seriously, what more do I need to concede to show that I don't accept any explanation, no matter how far fetched?

When I originally reconstructed the case, I didn't think that my account of Pam Reynolds' NDE was far fetched at all. Aside from this issue of uninterrupted, high-volume, and appropriately timed clicking, all the pieces of data seemed to fit together to suggest a normal explanation. And the issue of clicking at the right time, uninterrupted, was not one that I was aware of, since Sabom himself never argued that the loudness of the clicking would make Pam's hearing impossible. Tart's argument to come was simply not on my radar; it never arose before Tart made it in 2007, so far as I know.

Kris: Siqueira's infrasonic argument was based upon a flawed reading of the medical report.

Perhaps you didn't notice, but I didn't suggest otherwise. I quite clearly said: For example, Julio Siqueira recently entertained the possibility that Pam's AEP clicking was uninterrupted and present but infrasonic--below the range of human hearing--which if true would've (almost) totally demolished the argument that Pam could not have heard an intraoperative conversation at the relevant time."

I was not suggesting that Julio's suspicion was correct, but that had it been, it would have been an alternative normal explanation that had never even occurred to me, one that I would've missed. Had it been true, my inability to explain how Pam could've heard normally would have been no indication that she could not have heard normally. That was the point I was driving at: ignorance of an explanation isn't itself an explanation.

Kris: I am curious if the AWARE study does produce vertical evidence why won't you just dismiss it by comparisons to UFO events and saying just because we cannot explain something does not mean we should use paranormal explanations?

I'm really hoping that AWARE is properly controlled; this is a real concern since 4 out of 5 of the previous target identification experiments had targets that were too irresistible for the staff and patients not to inspect, thereby gaining normal knowledge of the targets. And as we all know with Charles Tart's "Miss Z," an uncontrolled test makes the test worthless as evidence that would settle the issue.

Presuming that AWARE is properly controlled, the evidence will speak for itself. Comparisons to UFO testimony won't work, because the evidence would be better than standard anecdotal evidence--it would be direct, straightforward experimental verification. Any positive result would need to be replicated, but since AWARE is multicenter to begin with, with different NDErs at different hospitals at different times, replication might be build into the study already so long as there is more than one positive result.

So replicable positive results from AWARE might be comparable to an imaginable UFO case, but only the sort of case where an extraterrestrial spacecraft was retrieved--which would end all debate about whether extraterrestrial spacecraft were visiting Earth.

Erich: You have no scientific proof at all that either fear or anesthesia can create the type of experience reported by Pam Reynolds. This is mere speculation on your part.

If that's true, Erich, then feel free to tell me what else could've caused her NDE. Heart failure? Nope, that didn't come until hours later. Induction of hypothermia? No, same thing. What is your alternative candidate for a cause?

If you can't come up with an alternative cause, than that confirms my point: either being anesthetized or a fear reaction caused Pam to have an OBE. If I am wrong, then what else could've caused it? There is no potential alternative cause.

And there is plenty of evidence that NDEs occur due to fear or due to
anesthesia, so that's just blatantly false. (Long has a section on NDEs under mere general anesthesia, and Irreducible Mind makes much of such NDEs since consciousness during anesthesia is supposedly impossible.)

Erich: I guess you are implying that NDEs are fear generated. Prove it.

I don't have to. Five other studies have already shown that fear sometimes caused NDEs. I mentioned a case from one of them already, the case with the dummy grenade. The literature is there whether you are aware of it or not, and if you actually read the relevant part of "Hallucinatory Near-Death Experiences," you'd see these studies discussed there.

As for your combat analogy, fear doesn't always initiate an NDE, just as combat doesn't always cause PTSD. But sometimes it does, demonstrably.

Erich: I don't think that we have a large enough representative sample or peer reviewed survey techniques and interview techniques to draw any conclusions about similarities or differences re; non-western experiences.

I concede that the cross-cultural data might be incomplete, which is why I don't completely rule out neurophysiological explanations for specific NDE elements. My point was simply that the data that we do have suggest a sociological source. You would know this if you actually read what I wrote, where I conclude that more research is needed to decide between these two competing hypotheses, but that the extant data favors a sociological source.

Erich: Sampling and analysis are of concern to me. For someone who claims to be an adherant of the scientific materialist method you don't seem very interested.

Not investigating for yourself whether NDEs can be caused by a fear response, or reviewing the near-death literature directly on cross-cultural studies, suggests to me that you aren't very interested in getting to the bottom of such questions--especially when I've already summarized and cited sources for the relevant issues all conveniently in just a single essay that you check, if only you would bother to check it. Hell, I even link the sources when they are available online so that you can check them directly!

Erich: Pardon me if I am not willing to change my outlook based on your assurence.

Well then do your homework! I've already done it for you, and you won't even check that! All you have to do is check my sources. In addition to linking when available, I quote them a lot so that you don't have to take my word for it.

Erich: "Check my chart in the original paper." I did. It is vague and general and limited in scope and based on your subjective and, agruably, biased assessment.

Saying so doesn't make it so. It's vague? I list every one of the 8 standard elements of the prototypical NDE, even giving room for ambiguity as to whether one should call a tunnel a "tunnel" or just a "darkness," so that either one would count as a instance of that motif, and still the motifs are generally absent in reliable non-Western case studies. Limited in scope? It is only limited by the studies done, and the exclusion of unreliable sources (i.e., single case studies or second-hand reports, which pretty much conform to the chart in any case, as I noted in the text itself). Biased assessment? There is no room for it. Either an NDEr reported a certain element or not. If it is ambiguous, I said what was ambiguous about it. Just because you don't like the data doesn't change it.

Erich: There are plenty of other NDEs occurring in hospitals where the patient who had the NDE was flatlined.

None are mentioned in The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences because those cases exist only in your imagination. If you had a case, you could just name a single NDEr who had a flatline NDE. There are NDErs who flatlined, like Reynolds, but also like Reynolds, they may have had their NDEs before or after flatline (in her case, it began well before flatline).

Erich: It is you that is having reading comprehesion challenges. Note the use of the word "like" in my statement.

Nice try, but this doesn't wash. Your statement has one interpretation: How does someone flatlined and unconscious, like Pam Reynolds and others, have a psychological reaction? That's what you asked. And it is clearly stating that Pam had a flatlined experience, and asking how someone flatlined like her could react to anything.

And the answer is that Pam could react because she was not flatlined when she had her OBE. This is not arguable. Those are simply the facts of the case, and it's not my job to continually educate you as to what they are, whether it concerns when Pam's NDE began, whether fear can induce NDEs, or whether minimally contaminated non-Western NDEs are more dissimilar than similar to prototypical Western NDEs. If you're going to argue about the interpretation of facts, at least learn what the facts are first. Sheesh!

Keith, you are misunderstanding and being a bit obtuse, IMO.

When I said flatlined I was referring as much to cardiac arrest as I was to brain activity There are a large number of documented NDEs occurring to people who were in cardiac arrest (flatlined heart) and, therefore, at the point of death. If you read these cases the NDEr often did not necessarily know - hence did not fear - that cardiac arrest was immanent. They just knew they didn't feel well. Not feeling well is hardly a trigger for a full-blown NDE born of fear of death.

You cannot definitively say that anesthesia causes NDEs just because some people under anesthesia have NDEs. The practice - really an art - of anesthesiology sometimes involves deliberately bringing a patient very close to the point of death and I happen to know, as a fact, having spent years working in healthcare as a hospital administrator and later in the insurance business that anesthesiologists do occasionally administer to the point where they accidentally cross over that point. Patients of routine surgery sometimes die (never to return) because of a dosage of anesthesia. It is entirely possible that people having an NDE while under anesthesia for non-life threatening procedures actually did die. And believe me, the odds of a physician documenting that occurrence are not good. If the patient is revived then the overdose is very likely to go uninvestigated. It is when the patient dies that we have an investigation and subsequently learn that there was an overdose. This is a fact of medical practice and is why I recommend that no one have surgery unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

My putting forth the intense stress and terror and death salient environment of combat was not an "analogy". It was a genuine challenge to your very novel and unproven concept that fear causes NDEs. Fear clearly does not cause NDEs because if it did we'd have hundreds of thousands of accounts of NDEs from combat troops. We don't. If the results predicted by your theory cannot be replicated under those circumstances then I'd say it fails the most basic of hypothesis tests.

Just because NDE type experiences sometimes happen when there is no actual bodily injury and the person is in a dangerous situation does not mean that "fear" was the cause. You are leaping to a conclusion.

Furthermore, NDEs happen when fear is absent; https://profezie3m.altervista.org/archivio/TheLancet_NDE.htm

You seem to be suggesting that just because you cannot conceive of an alternative explanation, that there isn’t one. That, my friend, is the sloppy pseudo-science I was speaking to ealier.

“Mr. Augustine seems to be counseling me to abandon all hope.”

Hope is good, faith is good, and trust is good. But attain hope faith and trust in the perfection of the universe not in others beliefs. Hope faith and trust in beliefs can often be blind faith, blind hope, and blind trust. This is what concerns the atheists, this blind trust that has caused many to feel hoodwinked by religious beliefs that are often religious dogma so they have become nonbelievers in spite of the evidence.

The perfection of the universe is all around us but we see it not. Why is that? We judge by appearances and appearances are temporal and transient phenomena. The enlightened Hindus and Buddhists and even Jesus warned us against judging by appearances.

Keith has doubts or he would not spend the time and effort to debate these NDE’S on a continual basis. Doubt is good for believers, nonbelievers, and seekers. In this life or another it will reveal to us these perfections that exist in universal consciousness.

A religious belief in a God made in the image of man or a belief in materialism both have their home in the same place: our ignorance, but then without our ignorance, which has an underlying reality of our innocence; we do not exist as a perceived separate entities to debate such things as NDE’s.

William wrote:

"Now as far as religious in nature some are religious as some report back they have seen a religious figure such as Jesus. Now if one inquires they will find that most often they met a Being of light that gave to this person such love they felt it was Jesus."

I'd go on a limb and say that I believe every figure met during an NDE and perceived as God or a holy figure are merely entities that are very advanced, and "seem" this way to an inexperienced mind. Yet, are in reality, "normal folk". Imagine if somebody from the 7th century met an astronaut from the 21st century? They'd think the spaceman was a god.

And that's what's so fascinatingly inaccurate about the NDE in the wider context of things. It's somebody's first moments of experiencing the afterlife and their radical interpretations of their surroundings. If you want to learn about the conditions of the next world, study mediumship--not the NDE stories.

Keith wrote (a lot of stuff):

If the NDE were the only source of evidence of "the other side" then the entire topic would be subject to much greater scrutiny. Combine the NDE with countless other areas of evidence... simply countless... and the "big picture" starts to form... and it's a very powerful view.

Although the NDE is still one of the stronger areas of evidence. It's so hard to debunk the NDE--it's like wrestling a 500 lb gorilla. For every attempt to dismiss one aspect of the NDE, another one pops up in its place. For instance: why do people generally see deceased loved ones, and not living people, during their hallucinations?

How about when people see deceased loves one whom they did not know had died, until they see them during the NDE?

MP wrote: I know I'm opening a can of worms here, but ...

One reason why some people may not always be willing to take Zerdini's eyewitness accounts at face value has to do with his involvement in a test of the physical medium Colin Fry, many years ago.

There is no 'can of worms' as far as I am concerned.

It is important to get the facts right, Michael.

There was never "a test of the physical medium Colin Fry, many years ago."

A seance was held for members of the Noah's Ark Society simply to allow members to experience a demonstration of physical mediumship.

There had been considerable pressure from members for a demonstration as up to that point there had only been reports from his home circle which was limited to six sitters and the occasinal invited guest.

With hindsight (a wonderful gift!) Colin should have never given a seance as he was still in the early days of his development.

I should also add that the lights were boxed in so that no-one could switch them on accidentally or otherwise. I sat by the lights and was as surprised as everyone else when they came on first dimly then gradually brighter as they were controlled by a dimmer switch.

I was not present as an 'investigator' but in my capacity, at that time, as Publicity Officer for the NAS.

As for Tony Youens he is well known as a sceptic and his article revealed nothing that hadn't already been published in "Psychic News" long before.

In fact I remember him advertising on his website for copies of the "Psychic News" when all he had to do was ring them and ask for a copy!

What I have stated, over and over again, is because of my experience of the anomalies in physical mediumship and other experiences with Colin, that have never been mentioned, there was no conscious cheating by Colin Fry. I stand by that.

Further it has nothing to do with eye witness testimony as there was nothing to see. My interest was in encouraging Colin Fry to provide evidence of survival rather than physical phenomena which, sadly, was what NAS members seemed to want.

He subsequently developed to the point where he stopped the phenomenal aspect and developed the independent Direct Voice which was able to produce a good level of survival evidence.

My research also discovered that a similar incident had happened during the mediumship development of the Rev. Stainton Moses when it was claimed that an evil or mischievous entity had intruded on a seance. It was not unknown which is why I refer to the anomalies and difficulties in physical mediumship.

Further, as far as 'eye witness' testimony is concerned the only testimony I have SEEN and mentioned on here is with the Welsh materialization medium, Alec Harris in Johannesburg.

Harris had an extremely rare gift and I count myself very fortunate to have experienced it.

Erich wrote,

"And believe me, the odds of a physician documenting that occurrence are not good. If the patient is revived then the overdose is very likely to go uninvestigated. It is when the patient dies that we have an investigation and subsequently learn that there was an overdose. This is a fact of medical practice and is why I recommend that no one have surgery unless it is absolutely unavoidable."

Thanks for the reminder about this. I couldn't agree more. General anesthesia is very dangerous. It stuns me how some doctors and dentists push it for routine stuff. I've known many people who have undergone extreme anesthesia for simple dental procedures, billed $800+ for the privilege of nearly kicking the bucket.

I've yet to require surgery in my life, but I figure it's one of those unavoidable things. Unfortunately, perhaps I'm grim, but when the time comes I'll be sure to have my things in check: last will and testament for instance.

Although, on the subject of personal mortality, I've noticed an interesting side-effect of extensively studying the afterlife for the last 8 or 9 years: my "fear" of death is completely overshadowed by excitement-of-death. I have high respect for life, but as far as the natural crossing-over goes, I cannot think of anything nearly as intriguing, adventurous, or exciting. It's quite strange being the only person I know who feels this way.

I think most everyone is plagued by fear-of-death. Like this boogeyman hiding in our thoughts, painting everything with blackness. And when that boogeyman is gone, the difference is night and day. I figured I'd share this, because I wonder if anyone else feels this way (MPs comments here are literally the only place I find other afterlife-researchers I can relate to, such as William, Keith, Zetetic, etc.)

Apologies - my comment was intened for "The desert and the sea" thread. I have now posted it in the right place.

Cyrus, I don't have a fear of death. It isn't because I've read about survival research. It's because I'm an NDEr. So maybe it isn't quite the same as what you feel. I feel like someday I get to go home again.

You are right about NDEs being those initial experiences in a strange place that the experiencer might not really have a handle on yet. I went through something similar when I came back from my NDE and woke up in the hospital.

Looking back on my experiences in the hospital, I can understand and explain them now that I've developed a context for them. But at the time they seemed very unreal. I couldn't function the way I was used to functioning before the accident. And I wasn't in the realer than real NDE place anymore. If that had been my only experience of "living", I wouldn't have been able to explain it very well to someone else. Now that I've been back here a while, this place makes a lot more sense.

I have a friend at Church named Todd that had a near death experience when he was 8 years old. He was hit by a car. He told me he spent the first half of his life trying to get back to where he was. He wondered why he had been sent back. He said what he remembers most vividly is the Light and the Love he felt. He is in his 40's now, married to a full blooded American Indian, and has two beautiful sons. I told Todd perhaps they are the reason he was sent back? So they could be born? They really are two handsome boys.

Cyrus: I think most everyone is plagued by fear-of-death. Like this boogeyman hiding in our thoughts, painting everything with blackness. And when that boogeyman is gone, the difference is night and day. I figured I'd share this, because I wonder if anyone else feels this way (MPs comments here are literally the only place I find other afterlife-researchers I can relate to, such as William, Keith, Zetetic, etc.)

As Peter Pan said : "To die will be an awfully big adventure"

Over the years I've met lots of people who are literally terrified of dying yet as
Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

There is no death as such only the continuity of life.

Personally I look forward to my transition probably because it's on the horizon and getting closer every year!

We are all in the same queue Zerdini, we just don't know where.

Erich: Keith, you are misunderstanding and being a bit obtuse, IMO.

Right back at ya slick ;)

Erich: When I said flatlined I was referring as much to cardiac arrest as I was to brain activity

Whenever anyone talks about Pam Reynolds being "flatlined," they have in mind the fact that her brain activity stopped, since it did; and given that it did, the fact that her heart was stopped seems rather insignificant by comparison.

I'll nevertheless play along, since this distinction doesn't make any difference to my point. If you had in mind Pam's cardiac flatline, that still does not account for why she had her NDE, because her OBE began over two hours before her cardiac activity wavered in any way.

Erich: There are a large number of documented NDEs occurring to people who were in cardiac arrest (flatlined heart) and, therefore, at the point of death.

And we know that these people had their NDEs when their brains were failing, rather than before or after, how? It amazes me how many people just assume that NDEs occur when the brain is at the point of near total failure, while at the same time making a big deal of the fact that Pam Reynolds' NDE is the NDE that is the most closely monitored one on record.

Why does this amaze me? Because the most closely monitored NDE on record supports the point that there is no reason to believe that NDEs occur when the brain is at the point of near total failure! How does it support this? Because Pam's brain was nowhere even close to failing when her NDE began. So Pam's NDE started during "uneventful general anesthesia." Her blood pressure did not become dangerously low, or anything like that, prior to hypothermia. She was as far from death, by any definition of death, as an anesthetized patient can be.

Erich: If you read these cases the NDEr often did not necessarily know - hence did not fear - that cardiac arrest was immanent.

This is a rather shaky conclusion, IMO. It strikes me as analogous to saying that if a doctor gave a pregnant woman an epidural, so that she could not feel abdominal pain, she would therefore have no bodily indications that something was wrong if that doctor yanked out her kidneys. That would obviously affect her body in ways she could detect--so too for someone whose heart is about to fail, or is otherwise in the process of dying (even if that process is ultimately arrested and reversed).

Erich: They just knew they didn't feel well.

Again, I find it hard to believe that being in the process of dying doesn't feel different than merely being sick. Dying people might well notice that they are about to lose consciousness, for example, because their blood pressure is dropping dangerously.

Erich: You cannot definitively say that anesthesia causes NDEs just because some people under anesthesia have NDEs.

In arguing against this possibility, you are not arguing against me. You are arguing against near-death researchers. This is such a basic point that I have no interest in arguing it with you. Take it up with the authors of Irreducible Mind that you just cannot believe that NDEs occur during general anesthesia, despite their evidence that they do. Your insistence on this point strikes me as analogous to someone who just cannot bring himself to believe that hellish NDEs are reported--the reports are there whether you can accept them or not.

Erich: It is entirely possible that people having an NDE while under anesthesia for non-life threatening procedures actually did die.

Something that medical monitoring would have indicated at the time were it true. Not the sort of thing a doctor would publish about as "uneventful elective surgery" since he wouldn't have to publish about it at all in your scenario.

In any case, near-death researchers themselves do not deny that NDEs have occurred in situations where there never was any medical threat of dying. Your refusal to look at their data is your problem, not mine. So take it up with them; there's no point in arguing about what's already been settled.

Erich: My putting forth the intense stress and terror and death salient environment of combat was not an "analogy". It was a genuine challenge to your very novel and unproven concept that fear causes NDEs.

Again, take it up (through a medium!) with Ian Stevenson, the researcher who coined the term "fear-death experience." I didn't like that term myself, since fear-only NDEs are no different from other NDEs in terms of their features; they only differ in their apparent causes. The fact that you won't even look at such cases is your issue, not mine. I told you that there were five studies, and even linked to a record of one of them. I told you that they were discussed in my essay. Your "rebuttal" should not be to me, but to those five studies. If you have a problem with what has been reported in the literature itself, that's your problem, not mine. Just because the reports don't fit your preconceived ideas about what an NDE must be doesn't mean that the reports don't exist.

Erich: Fear clearly does not cause NDEs because if it did we'd have hundreds of thousands of accounts of NDEs from combat troops.

Fear sometimes, not always, causes NDEs, as I noted in my earlier reply. You may not like that fact, but a fact it is. If you dispute it, again, take it up with the authors of the relevant studies.

Erich: NDE type experiences sometimes happen when there is no actual bodily injury and the person is in a dangerous situation does not mean that "fear" was the cause. You are leaping to a conclusion.

It never ends with you, does it? Are you aware of Albert Heim's mountain climbing fall survivors, who walked away with minimal injury but had NDEs at the time of their falls because they thought that death was imminent as they were falling?

Again, you should really take this up with near-death researchers. It's not my job to dissuade you of your pre-data preconceptions. Do your own homework.

Erich: Furthermore, NDEs happen when fear is absent

NDEs happen when experients believe that death is imminent (whether it really is or is only thought to be), which is rarely not accompanied by fear.

Erich: You seem to be suggesting that just because you cannot conceive of an alternative explanation, that there isn’t one. That, my friend, is the sloppy pseudo-science I was speaking to ealier.

Wrong. When it comes to Pam Reynolds' hearing of an intraoperative conservation, one could easily conjecture any number of implausible causes for her knowledge, for example that hospital staff or records revealed this to her before Michael Sabom interviewed her. That's just one example. One might alternatively posit that a friend or family member serendipitously asked questions about the case, and picked up information that way. I don't think any of the alternatives that I've entertained here are plausible; my point is simply that they are conceivable. (Another, the one that I found plausible in my initial reconstruction, is that Pam heard the information herself firsthand, through her ears, during her surgery.)

On the other hand, since Pam's NDE began during uneventful general anesthesia, there is no even potential medical cause for why it began when it began. Conclusion: It was not medically caused. The other possible known causes of NDEs are anesthesia itself, or fear. There are no other potential candidate causes. Otherwise you would have mentioned one by now.

The only pseudoscience here comes from those who refuse to even look at, let alone refute, multiple studies of "fear-death experiences." Learn the evidence that the literature offers before you reject it.

william: “Mr. Augustine seems to be counseling me to abandon all hope.”

I didn't address this earlier because I was too bogged down in factual issues to have any time to spare for this one, but now that there's a break in the comments, I'll address it while I still have the time.

I'm not the kind of person who goes door-to-door trying to get people to abandon their belief in the afterlife. My attitude towards those who can't handle the prospect of one's own annihilation at death is like my attitude toward people who can't handle the fact that human beings repeatedly inflict genocide on other groups of people for the most trivial of reasons (like accidents of ethnicity). If you can't handle considering such things, turn your mind to something else. I offer my thoughts on life after death passively to those who seek determining whether it is true or not; if you don't want to think about them, no one is putting a gun to your head. You don't have to read my arguments; you can watch a movie instead, or do any number of other things.

But the fact that some people can't handle thinking about the atrocities of the Holocaust or the Congo is no reason for filmmakers not to make films like Schindler's List, or for the penultimate episode of Band of Brothers not to show the bare truth of Allied forces' encounters with abandoned concentration camps. The fact that life is gritty is not a reason to look away. Some of us want to know what life entails, the good parts and the bad, without rose-colored glasses, in order to mentally prepare ourselves for the reality of life. If there is no afterlife, I for one would want to know that fact, rather than bury my head in the sand because that prospect is just too much to bear.

william: Hope faith and trust in beliefs can often be blind faith, blind hope, and blind trust. This is what concerns the atheists, this blind trust that has caused many to feel hoodwinked by religious beliefs that are often religious dogma so they have become nonbelievers in spite of the evidence.

I've often heard the argument that afterlife-disbelievers only become such because they were disillusioned by a cynical university education (a la Neal Grossman), or because they were raised in such suffocatingly religious households that they had to throw out the baby of "spirituality" with the bathwater of institutional, authoritarian religion.

In my case neither is true. I never believed in an afterlife or a spiritual realm, even as a child, for one simple reason: I've never encountered anything remotely like such things. So when I heard of such things as souls, and knew that biology or psychology textbooks didn't so much as use that word, they seemed like mere abstractions to me, ideas that could be true but for which we had no clear evidence. They were abstract possibilities, not facts. Their reality was not convincing to me in the way that the reality of trees was. So I didn't put much stock in them. That is the genesis of my skepticism; I never believed in the first place. And my skepticism could be quelled by either unambiguous personal encounter, or by moving souls into the same category as genes through clear scientific evidence. Until then, we're all still just debating a mere possibility, not talking about the traits of an actuality.

One final comment about MP's statement on Zerdini's witness to a potentially fraudulent medium. Why would "being caught with your hand in the cookie jar" cast doubt on all physical mediumship for you, or on the physical mediumship of Flint, when mental mediums who have been caught cheating you were happy to suppose had to resort to trickery to satisfy their audience when their real powers were waning? If cheating can be brushed aside for mental mediums, why not also for physical ones?

"If cheating can be brushed aside for mental mediums, why not also for physical ones?"

I don't think I've said that mental mediums who were caught cheating should be given a pass.

The mental mediums I cite most often are Leonora Piper, Gladys Osborne Leonard, Eileen Garrett, and Geraldine Cummins. As far as I know, none was ever caught cheating or credibly accused of cheating.

Mental mediums who *were* caught cheating have much less credibility to me. Arthur Ford, whose private papers posthumously revealed that he had researched his clients, is an example. I think it's possible Ford had some legitimate abilities in his earlier days and lost them as he grew older and became an alcoholic. It's also possible that he was a fake from the start. Either way, I wouldn't point to him as an example of honest mediumship.

Perhaps you're thinking of Eusapia Palladino, who was a physical (not mental) medium. In her case, I do think she had genuine powers even though she cheated often. The reason I would make an exception for her is that she freely admitted to cheating, sometimes even warning the investigators when she was about to cheat; and when stringent precautions against fraud were taken, she produced phenomena much better than anything she produced by cheating. I consider the precautions taken in the 1905 Naples sittings to be unimpeachable, and excellent results were obtained night after night in front of highly trained investigators who had a track record of exposing more than 100 fake physical mediums. Howard Thurston, the most prominent stage magician of his day, also sat with Palladino and said afterward that her phenomena could not be duplicated by any trickery known to him; he offered a $1000 prize to anyone who could debunk her. No one took him up on it.

I don't intend to cast doubt on all physical mediums. Even Colin Fry may have some legitimate abilities. I read a news article some time ago in which a skeptical reporter was blown away by Fry's accuracy in an impromptu reading. Of course this was an example of mental mediumship on his part.

My point in bringing up the Noah's Ark Society incident is only that eyewitness testimony, like all other evidence, has to be assessed critically.

MP, I sent a .WAV file attachment you might be curious to hear to the yahoo mail published at your other website. FYI. I've never emailed you before; it might be filtered out as junk mail.

It's not junk.

"In my case neither is true. I never believed in an afterlife or a spiritual realm, even as a child, for one simple reason: I've never encountered anything remotely like such things."

WOW!!! So you made your mind up about how the world works based on your very limited experience as a child, and you haven't had any reason to change your mind since?

That might explain a number of things about you, including what seems to be a tendency toward evangelism.

MP wrote: My point in bringing up the Noah's Ark Society incident is only that eyewitness testimony, like all other evidence, has to be assessed critically.

I agree that eye witness evidence has to be assessed critically. I also said it is important to get the facts right.

Further, as far as 'eye witness' testimony is concerned the only testimony I have SEEN and mentioned on here is with the Welsh materialization medium, Alec Harris in Johannesburg.

There have been numerous reports of Harris's mediumship including magicians who testified to the remarkable evidence which was always SEEN.

That is true eye witness testimony.

With Flint, Fry etc there was nothing to be SEEN because most physical phenomena and Direct Voice seances are held in the dark.

It is evidence of survival which is important not trumpets whizzing around in the dark.

Keith,

Yes I do know that Pam Reyold's experience happen 2 hours before she was flatlined. Lokking at the timeline it looks like her experience did continue through even though she was flatlined. Pam Reyolds also was able to decribe the surgical tool which she never seen before.

Let's say for the sake of your argument that her experience didn't continue when she was flatlined?. That would still be rather remarkable especially knowing she reported the saw etc after she was flatlined. The aware project if positive results i highly doubt it would sway you Keith or any other naturalist.

I honestly can't see positive results or negative results coming out. Inconclusive results where the patient may have gotten a glimmer of the sign but isn't sure what it said. I know one thing if i had an out of body experience i wouldn't be worried about a hidden sign but on my physical body and seeing what the doctors are doing to try to bring me back. With that said I think the aware is a waste of time and doomed for failure.

Keith Augustine,
No one believes your convoluted nonsense.

There have been numerous reports of Harris's mediumship including magicians who testified to the remarkable evidence which was always SEEN

Where are these reports published? Which are the names of the magicians?

Keith, I don't care that Ian Stevenson coined the term "fear-NDE". You, nor he (if he was still alive), can prove that fear causes NDEs. Nor can you prove your bob and weave position that maybe it's not fear, but just the expectation of death. Overwhelmingly, neither intense death salient fear, nor the expectation of death results in an NDE. Your claim that sometimes they do is pure speculation.

Getting back to the original topic concerning cross-cultural differences in NDEs, you have only offered more unsubstantiated and unprovable theory. Could've been this...could've been that. If you want to show superior thinking to the survivalists then you will have to present a comprehensive hypothesis that is testable and repeatable. You are all over the place at this point.

The NDE experience remains a mystery. I say it points to survival. My theory is comprehensive, at least.

I also say that there needs to be larger samples, collected scientifically, from non-western sources. What we have is not sufficient to draw conclusions.

I suspect that an objective assessment of a large sample with appropriate considerations for linguistic and cultural interpretations will yield important points in common between wester and non-western NDEs.

what does everyone think of this story?

https://medicalfutility.blogspot.com/2008/05/hospital-took-velma-thomas-off-life.html

This woman was dead for 17 hours before coming back to life and there's no mention of an NDE occuring

“Mr. Augustine seems to be counseling me to abandon all hope.”

I, rather than William, am the original source of the statement quoted by Mr. Augustine. The statement seems to have been taken out of context.
I am quite sure that my present position on the type of topics discussed on this blog is so far removed from that of Mr. Augustine that there would be no point in an interchange of ideas. No common language, no translator. But I am prompted to say that I do not believe that this distance between perspectives is due to psychological machismo. He apparently believes that it is a matter of a kind of fortitude, of being able to bear the “grittiness” of this world that makes the difference. That, and secondly, a sincere desire to discover the truth about the world.
Let me state that I lived believing in the “prospect of one’s annihilation at death” for a longer period, I would suppose, than Mr. Augustine has been on the planet. I need no lectures on this score. Nor has the prospect ever really left me, so I think it would be inaccurate to say that I look at the world through “rose-colored glasses.” And although I have no way to prove it, I believe I have an interest equally as keen as that of Mr. Augustine to know the truth about this world. As far as we know, we have one shot at it, so we must do the best we can. It was in pursuing this goal, or at least thinking that I was pursuing it, that I have been able to change some of my fundamental beliefs over the course of time.
The point of my original post was that I do not think that it is acceptable to callously disregard the effects of the expressions of one’s ideas on others. I realize that this is a difficult problem. But the solution is not “let them watch a movie.”
I simply cannot grasp the apparent equation of belief in an afterlife with Holocaust denial.

dmduncan: If you didn't believe in little grey aliens as a child, and never encountered any since, you'd probably not believe in those later in life either, provided that you didn't see a retrieved alien body on display at the Smithsonian, or on CNN, or what have you. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

So yes, my views about what exists are informed by my experience of things that exist. I also believe in things that I haven't experienced first-hand (like Tahitian beaches), but which would be easy to verify first-hand if I didn't mind bankrupting myself to do so, and could be videotaped or displayed live.

I'm not sure how you square my "tendency toward evangelism" with presenting information passively only for those who are looking for it. I'm not putting fliers on people's cars.

Leo: Pam's description of the bone saw, whether accurate or not, and whether imagined or astrally perceived, is irrelevant to whether her NDE ran its course before brain shutdown, or even after induced cardiac arrest. Since we know it began well before either of those things, there is no reason why anyone need think that it continued on through brain shut down, or even past induced cardiac arrest. Pam's NDE would've happened even if hypothermic cardiac arrest had been postponed mid-anesthesia.

anti-pseudo-skeptic: Are the detailed, carefully explained and cited rationales for the conclusions of individual chapters in The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences convoluted nonsense, too? What about Jeffrey Long's book--is that convoluted nonsense?

Which do you object more to: the position that I take, or the fact that I read? Is making you think about different issues, instead of allowing you to just spout off the first idea that pops in your head as if that is holy writ, what is convoluted? Shame on me for complicating the matter by asking you to check your ideas against any data or literature.

Erich: There's nothing "bob and weave" about positing fear and the expectation of death, since the posit is that one is accompanied by the other. They aren't two different causes, but parts of the same cause. Expectation of death -> fear -> dissociation -> NDE.

Fear-death experiences are "pure speculation"? Not quite. They have been documented by multiple independent near-death researchers. Your refusal to look at their documentation doesn't change that fact.

Since you seem to look down upon it so thoroughly, I'm curious as to what part of a transcendental model of NDEs is not "unsubstantiated and unprovable theory"?

Incidentally, since when has it been out of bounds to posit a hypothesis that can be put to the test? That NDE motifs derive from social conditioning is such a hypothesis, which is why Irwin a. posited it and b. tested it. If no hypotheses are ever posited, there will be nothing to test.

But then this is not your real objection, is it? Your real objection seems to be that the social conditioning hypothesis contradicts your presumption that NDE motifs derive from visions of an afterlife. In other words, it's not the hypothesis itself that bothers you, nor whether it is testable or not; what bothers you is that it posits something contrary to your presumptions about what an NDE is. You can dismiss it right from the start, without ever considering its own merits (pro or con), for that reason alone.

Of course the NDE remains a mystery. So does dark matter and dark energy. Mystery alone is no indicator that one must posit something other than standard naturalistic explanations for a given phenomenon.

My theory of NDEs is comprehensive, too. Every NDE, whether the result of a perceived (but not actual) threat of life-threatening harm, or the result of an impending medical crisis, can be explained by:

Expectation of death -> fear -> dissociation -> NDE.

You don't have to agree with that, but it is well supported by the literature. Even those who are reluctant to support the role of expectation in NDEs don't resist it entirely. Their objection is not that fearful expectation cannot bring NDEs about, but that once brought about, expectation alone cannot account for content of some NDEs, for that content is not consciously expected. (That latter point is also true of internally generated visions in dreams, though, so it hardly requires one to posit an external reality for NDE visions.)

I agree that larger, and more diverse, non-Western samples are needed to draw definitive conclusions. We can nevertheless draw tentative conclusions from the extant samples. I'm quite explicit about both points, repeatedly, in both my online essay and the print version of it. Why draw tentative conclusions? To give researchers something for future studies to test and confirm, or else test and find unrepresentative of larger samples.

It remains to be seen whether larger samples "will yield important points in common between Western and non-Western NDEs." But I'm sure that if you give enough latitude to "linguistic and cultural interpretation" to prevent the cross-cultural data from ever changing your commitment to substantial cross-cultural consistency, you could use the same kind of "linguistic and cultural interpretation" to conclude that one NDEr's vision of his deceased brother, and another NDEr's vision of her deceased great aunt, are really just different descriptions/interpretations of the same deceased person, expressed through different personal/cultural filters!

W Vogt: "[T]he effects of the expressions of one's ideas on others" is a separate issue from whether those ideas correspond to reality, as you note. I'm not clear on exactly what it is that you're asking of me, but perhaps a different scenario might illustrate my perspective. Suppose two brothers go off to fight in Vietnam, and only one of them returns. Should no one ever point out how much was lost and how little was gained by that engagement (say, on a widely viewed History Channel program), given that in doing so a Vietnam vet might come across our strategic analysis and gain the unpleasant thought that his deceased brother "died in vain"?

^ words

Keith,

I'm quite pleased to say that I believe NDEs are related to the afterlife based on the trust of countless thousands of anecdotal experiences.

I don't care about science in this regard. Science serves a purpose. When science tries to study alternate dimensions, it's going to come up with huge problems. I'd prefer to evaluate my evidence on a court-of-law approach.

The afterlife belief system feels completely natural. It connects with everything I've researched on this topic. It also clears up confusion about all level of existential problems.

Gone are the nightmares that come with humanism: that existence cannot exist--that in itself is a paradox. How long would non-existence exist before existence exists again? There would be no awareness of the interim, therefore death (or non existence) would be instantaneous existential rebirth. This simple philosophical pondering already proves life after death without a shred of evidence of NDEs, or what have you.

But that's a poor man's way of thinking. You have to take the evidence you see, what you personally experience and research, and draw satisfied conclusions, and hold some faith to them as you enjoy life.

For me, to dismiss every psychic experience, every NDE, every encounter a friend or loved one has had with a deceased individual, every encounter with the beyond, as mass delusion is a cynics way of viewing life. It's not something I would ever do because I still have blood flowing in my veins. I still trust my fellow human beings, and I am not drenched in negativity or self-pity, or angst, all of which I believe are pre-requisites to a dark and pessimistic worldview.

Your comments relating to the afterlife and Holocaust denial was very interesting to me. This is a topic that stirrs up deep emotions in you. Hate is not the opposite of love, apathy is the opposite of love. You certainly have no apathy in this subject. You are very passionate about it. Perhaps you are deeply afraid that the afterlife can be real, because you've been hurt in the past and you don't want to live up to expectations of something you truly desire, only to be dissapointed in the end.

Nonetheless, you have the rhetoric of a politician. You lack the respectful way of dialogue that comes with civility. I don't know if your writing on the internet reflects how you really debate things, but I hope not. It's not that you don't present good arguments, it's that you get all worked up over it. You defend your position like a wizard casting lightning bolts from a mountain-top. And maybe the same can be said for survivalists that debate you, too. But really, it's not a way of debating that is condusive to learning.

You are accomplishing nothing in this manner. You are just inciting people, and perhaps getting some cheap thrills by convincing yourself that you have the power to crush people's spiritual worldviews through your "skeptic" rationale.

I really hope you wisen up a bit.

"Every NDE, whether the result of a perceived (but not actual) threat of life-threatening harm, or the result of an impending medical crisis, can be explained by: Expectation of death -> fear -> dissociation -> NDE." - Keith Augustine
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Except for the part about the connection between NDEs, quantum physics, and the holographic universe theory. There is a connection between NDE's and quantum physics and the holographic universe that has never been adequately explained away to me. Near death experiencers routinely describe their experiences in terms that can only be called "holographic" and they also say things that seem to parallel things I've read about quantum physics. I find that very evidential.

There is no way that a housewife from Kansas or an uneducated truck driver from South Georgia would know or understand anything about quantum physics or the holographic nature of the universe.

People who have NDE's routinely talk about overwhelming feelings of oneness and connectedness, feeling like they are everywhere in the universe at once, time and space not existing, buildings that are "made out of knowledge", 360 degree vision, seeing colors they've never seen before, hearing sounds that they haven't heard in this physical universe, and during the life review seeing their whole lives flash by in an instant (bolus of information), and how the other side will feel even more real to us than this side does, and feeling the feelings and hearing the thoughts of the people they interacted with. I find these things to be very evidential because it parallels things I've read about in popular physics books.

There is a ton of scientific evidence from physics and near death experiences that our so called physical universe is some kind of strange holographic projection. The implications of this are enormous.

This explains why it is that so many near death experiencers say that the other side will feel even more real to us than this side does, and how it could be "realer than real" or "more consciousness than normal." Near death experiencers also say that it will feel even more real to us than this side does. The quote below explains why or how this is possible.

"Or, to put it another way, a holographic universe is blurry," says Hogan. This is good news for anyone trying to probe the smallest unit of space-time. ...
www.crystalinks.com/holographic.html

Our Universe may be a giant hologram (1 page)

https://www.inquisitr.com/15460/scientists-claim-our-world-may-be-a-giant-hologram/

The Universe as a hologram (about 5 or 6 pages):

https://www.crystalinks.com/holographic.html

Emmanuel Swedenborg (1 page):
https://www.soultravel.se/2004/040907-swedenborg/index.shtml

And lastly here is an interesting story written by a medical doctor called Riding the Dragon that is fascinating and has a very holographic flavor to it.

https://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00070&ss=1

After you have read the online essay about the holographic universe read Mark Horton's NDE the parallels are obvious:

https://www.mindspring.com/~scottr/nde/markh.html

Near Death Experiences: A Holographic Explanation, Dr. Oswald Harding.

https://www.amazon.com/Near-Death-Experience-Holographic-Explanation/dp/9768202092/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255530488&sr=1-1

Leo MacDonald:

"I know one thing if i had an out of body experience i wouldn't be worried about a hidden sign but on my physical body and seeing what the doctors are doing to try to bring me back. With that said I think the aware is a waste of time and doomed for failure."


I suggest that a sign more visible to the hovering patient's view be employed, one that is not hidden from the operating room personnel. For instance, a colored towel of a certain shape (square, triangle, or circle, say) with a large two-digit number on it that is draped over the feet of the patient. The patient would hopefully remember all three items. (Another identifying item might be the presence or absence of large tassels around the edges, and/or of a jagged edge.)

This would not be airtight against skeptical objection, but it would have the virtue of providing a test that would prevent us believers dismissing a negative result by claiming that the NDE-ers’ spirits would not care to notice the tops of lighting fixtures, but would be focused on their bodies.

OTOH, if there were dozens of cases of towel-identification, it would stretch credulity that they were all instances of coincidences and collusion, as skeptics would like to claim. It would damage their credibility if they were to stubbornly cling to such an unlikelihood as totally invalidating the result.

It would be a shame to let the opportunity of the AWARE experiment be partly wasted by not capturing all the data it can and thereby narrow down the number of debatable points.

PS: This towel would be in addition to the current out-of-sight sign.

PPS: If it would be possible to project a holograph or some other image from above in such a way that it would be visible only from the ceiling, that would be an ideal solution – but I bet it would have been thought of if it were feasible.

Kieth,
The convoluted nonsense is your incessant propoganda. Your liking for 'spltting the hairs on a flees back' approach to Reynolds surgery.
She couldn't possibly have heard the conversation with her physical ears because she was in the deepest anaesthetic state possible. Spetzler has said this more than once and he was there, believe it or not.
Forget about the nodules in her ears, this depth of anaesthesia is catastrophic as regards consciousness and it's a good job it is, too, as she was about to have her head sawn open.
Arguing about the details of what Reynolds saw on the electric toothbrush-midas rex saw(the groove on the end) is like arguing that a report of an escaped elephant can't be taken seriously because the witness didn't mention the animal's unusual scrotum.

Why don't you do a little experiment of your own. Drink a six pack and half a bottle of vodka and when you've fallen asleep, get one of your internet infidel pals to dangle something (a selection of root vegetables would be good) over your head. See if you can correctly describe anything when you wake up....and if you do, don't get pissed off when your observations are ruled incorrect(null and void-nil-pois-diddly squat) because you didn't spot the bit of bullshit on the potato.

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