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Fascinating... though I have to wonder, the presence of witches being punished here really raises some questions about the nature of an afterlife that's affected by cultural ideas: Assuming that those witches were in fact the spirits of deceased people and not apparitions conjured by Don's beliefs, were they actually being punished? Wouldn't God step in, so to speak, and make it so that they aren't punished for what is implied to be a really long time? Could they, at any time, decide to repent and thus escape? And for that matter, is there a distinction between witches who try to gain power over others, vs. witches who try to help others? There seems to be a separation with that cooking pit, but it is puzzling.

Stories like these really make me wonder if there are separate areas of an afterlife where various beliefs exist/persist. If so, then there's the uncomfortable thought of believers suffering in the various hells and underworlds of the world's mythologies. Also makes me wonder how long these realms may last, or if there comes a time where God would decide that enough is enough and intervene to try and wake people up, so to speak.

NDE's like these do present a more interesting picture of an afterlife, both more fascinating, but also more disturbing as well.

Skeptics use cultural differences to argue that NDEs are purely cultural phenomena, but this is a rather shallow argument, since it is possible to see, by examining more closely, that there is a consistent, core reality being expressed again and again. However, it's true that this core reality is interpreted according to cultural expectations.

Sometimes, the cultural overlay can dissolve over the course of the experience. I'm sure I've read of an NDE where initially the being appeared as Jesus, but over the course of the experience it clarified into the more generic being of light. If anyone has pointers to such an NDE then I would appreciate it, as I tend to argue along these lines to skeptics.

Great find, Michael.

Yep, this is just another bit of evidence that points to the validity of my theory that "reality" is largely dependent on whatever social consensus we have bought into - "reality" to include what we experience in this world and the next.

IMO the "being of light" and its message, as experienced by western NDErs is based on a Christian world view that is pervasive and sublime in our culture (even if you think you're not a Christian) and then self reinforces as books like Moody's become more popular in mainstream culture. Perhaps all we can do is live a myth and, thus, it is wise to choose a happy myth; unless we seek the hard road of transcending all illusions as per true Buddhist practice - but what's the hurry? Why not savor the flavors?

A couple of points;
1. Witches in South Western Native American culture are bad people. They harm others for profit or spite. This is contrary to people who are "good medicine" and that use their spiritual energies to help and heal. There is a clear distinction.
2. The yucca soap is more than just soap. It is often blessed by a power medicine man and is used ceremonially to cleanse away negative spiritual dross; sort of like a baptism is Christianity. At least I know for a fact this is the case among the Apache. I suspect it is the same for the Hopi.

Cheers!

Very interesting--thanks for this.

BTW, if you haven't seen it already, Michael, do check out the 2010 Brazilian film "Astral City"--perhaps the most nuanced treatment of the life-after-death subject I've seen (with an interesting backstory as well, in terms of how the film's story came to be).

This seems to be a sure case of DMT hallucination working off cultural memories. The dying brain was releasing the drug as it tried to cope with it's demise. In the process, it used cultural images from it's memories to further along the hallucination to ease the pain into the transition of death. Our brain evolved along the same lines and that's why the central core of the these hallucinations are similar and but dviate depending on the cultural memories it has gathered. Now if all NDE's were the exact same then they would have some credence but this just shows that they are not real. Sorry.

Fascinating!

"Now if all NDE's were the exact same then they would have some credence but this just shows that they are not real."

No, because if so, the deniers of the NDEs as glimpse of afterlife would say that all NDEs are similar because we all have the similar brains. The fact that NDEs may depend on the culture of the NDErs can be interpreted as the first stages of the afterlife are reflections of our subconscious.

The fact is that NDEs are similar and dissimilar about the culture can be interpreted both against and in favor of NDEs are glimpses of the afterlife, but the overall picture is that it is more plausible that NDEs are glimpses of the afterlife, because hyper-lucid experiences, extrasensory and veridical experiences and examples of Peak in Darien.

I want know what think the NDE researchers about this article, because I think that the proponents of hallucinations are precisely those that go against Ockham's razor:

https://www.academia.edu/10060970/Occams_Chainsaw_Neuroscientific_Nails_in_the_coffin_of_dualist_notions_of_the_Near-death_experience_NDE_

http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/dualist-nails-in-the-coffin.1815/

Luis,
What do you think about NDE reports by people who have no religious background or beliefs, some are core atheistic people: yet they experienced NDE encounting or feeeling the presence of a "supreme entity" or any name they use. BTW what is the definition of a "dying brain"? this is not a precise notion: what is the biological state or features of a dying brain?
Can you cite some studies which demonstrate that "dying brain" is producing DMT? What about situations where people not clinically dead, or with no "dying brain", experienced NDE (extreme stress, situations when people think they are going to die during accidents, fainting, meditation, etc..). Any explanation for NDE have to take into account the diversity of the situations when NDEs occur, and not only the case of "dying brain". Moreover, a mere hallucination has no common feature with a core NDE. You have to read carefully the numerous NDE reports and studies before stating that it is only due to DMT production. It is not because DMT (or other psychedelic molecules) can produce some NDE-like experiences that all NDE are due to DMT effects.

Luis,
I am interested in any studies or other evidence that supports your theory. It seems to me that if your theory is correct, high levels of DMT should be found in dead brains. Perhaps this would be an avenue of study. Are you aware of any such reports?

There does seem to be more going on than just hallucinations in that NDEers report being outside of their bodies and seeing activities around their dying body as they move on to other realms. They commonly 'hallucinate' seeing people who are dead rather than those who are alive. It seems to me that if one is trying to cope with dying that hallucinating people fresh in one's life would make more sense than conjuring up someone who had been dead for many years and who one may not have ever met. What comfort would that provide?

There are reports of people blind from birth who report seeing during their NDE. How would they have any images in their brain to hallucinate?- AOD

The DMT Hallucination argument is very convincing. I am still on the fence with regards to this matter.

Juan,
Regarding the paper you linked, I see that these two Ph.D. psychologists/neuroscientists have coined a new word --- ' paranormalists' ---as a seemingly pejorative label under which they place other scientists who investigate paranormal activity, especially people who investigate near-death experiences and posit that they may be evidence of an afterlife. I wonder what are the credentials of a paranormalist? Who are these people? The ones they reference seem like upstanding credentialed scientists to me, at least as much of a scientist as Braithwaite or Dewe---maybe more so.

Much of this dissertation is beyond me, or I should say that I don't want to spend the time it would take for me to understand just what they are trying to point out. Perhaps it will gain a Ph.D. for Ms. Dewe. I don't think that there is any science, per se, in this paper as it is based on second-hand information which may or may not be fabricated. If Braithwaite and Dewey believe that consciousness is an artifact or an epiphenomenon of a living brain why don't they just provide their own science to prove it or at least to suggest it! Why spend so much of the paper providing subtle attacks on other scientists with whom they don't agree and driving "nails in their coffins". (This is just silly in a 'scientific' paper or a Ph.D. thesis.)

The thesis makes reference to a lot of papers by others, papers which may or may not have any validity. How is one to know without reading them all and considering the possibility of what they purport to say is some new discovery. This is just obfuscating the topic by referencing the work of others about which we know little or nothing. Cloaking a dissertation in academic jargon and verbiage is not a good way to convince the scientific community of anything. If one has information to share just say it forthrightly, otherwise one is wasting paper and the reader's time. Whenever I see an overwhelming list of references I am not impressed, especially if the author's previous publications are also included in the listing as is the case in this paper. A few good references are more helpful to me than padding a dissertation with a compendium of references, many of which the author(s) probably never read and I certainly will not read.

Braithwaite and Dewe's paper seems somewhat redundant to me especially when they discuss ad nauseum that the lack of cortical activity does not really mean that there is no electrical activity hidden somewhere in some other part of the brain. I guess that is the point of the paper, that there is still activity in the brain when an EEG records that the brain has flatlined and since we don't know at which point in time the NDE occurred it could very well have happened when there was still activity in the deeper parts of the brain or when to brain was turning off or turning on. Maybe so!

All in all, papers like Braithwaite's and Dewe's are irritating to me as they don't make a meaningful contribution to anything remotely related to science and waste my time. - AOD

Louis said,

||Now if all NDE's were the exact same then they would have some credence but this just shows that they are not real. Sorry.||

This is a damned if you do, damned if you don't type thing. 100% consistent NDEs would be seen as proof of biological origin: "The same thing happens to everyone every time! It's clearly just a brain process." But if they are inconsistent, then that's just proof that they are not representing a singular spiritual experience.

Although I have heard of NDErs seeing living people (nothing wrong with that per se), I have yet to hear of a case in which they perceived living people as deceased (is there bound to be a few cases out there? Sure.).

Plus, there is no reason for NDErs to hallucinate according to a particular narrative. If I were a dying brain, would I choose to see myself as dead and transitioning to a different world? That would be a *very* neat trick of evolution, considering that there *is* no other world, according to skeptics. So we have the whole human race evolving so as to have consistent NDEs based on a non-entity. Rather, wouldn't the path of least resistance be for the brain to imagine that it is still alive and have a pleasant dream?

I don't find such arguments as Luis's credible in the least.

I have heard of two cases where people had NDEs and saw people that to them, were still alive. One was a young boy that saw his sister who was in college, and she told him that it wasn't his time to die and sent him back, and the family later found out she'd died in a car accident earlier in the day. The other involved a mother and daughter, but I can't recall the details.

I have read the paper by Braithwaite and Dewey. Quite interesting! In particular the part about "syncope" and the fact that indeed there may be still some electrical activity in the deeper parts of the brain, when cortical electricity is down. To my mind however very insuffucient to generate such wonderful "realer than real" NDE's.

For the rest it shows his extreme one-sidedness. No mention whatsoever about most telling veridical experiences which make clear that NDE's are not by definition hallucinations. No mention of "seeing" dead relatives, let alone dead people of whom one could not in any way have known that they were dead. In other words, cherry picking.
I have seen more papers of this Jason Braithwaite. A hopelessly arrogant materialist.

Matt,
The path of least resistance would be to just turn off the consciousness switch. Unplug the machine! There is no evolutionary need for a pleasant dream.

To me, it's never been clear how a potential for NDEs would be passed on genetically. For a trait to be retained in the gene pool, it must have some survival value. What survival value is there in having an NDE? It may make the experience of nearly dying less unpleasant, but it does not increase one's odds of surviving the ordeal. It has no biological utility.

Even if it did offer some kind of small biological advantage, it is doubtful that enough people would have survived cardiac arrest in prehistoric times to allow for widespread dissemination of the trait.

Beyond which, how can neural hardwiring explain phenomena that take place when there is hardly any neural activity - when the brain is largely out of commission?

And how does any of this explain the veridical perceptions that are sometimes part of the NDE?

Luis wrote:

"This seems to be a sure case of DMT hallucination working off cultural memories."

This strikes me more as being a hypothesis.

Regarding anything as a "sure case" in science is very risky. Science deals in probabilities, not certainties.

Yes Michael---and who is it that deems it necessary to soothe the way of consciousness into oblivion? Who or what initiates an NDE---and why? Who makes that decision? Reportedly many NDE-ers simply find themselves popped out of their bodies. They don't make a decision to run away into a pleasant or distracting dream to escape a threatening situation. Again, it just happens. In some cases, the person reportedly does not at first understand that he is dead, he simply perceives himself to be located in a different place. There may be a sense of continuity with 'where I was' and 'where I am' and the idea of death may not have entered his mind.

Commonly, prior to the NDE there may be no anguish or distress on the consciousness of the NDE-er although the body may be experiencing stress of some kind at the time, perhaps not recognized by the consciousness.

I don't understand why or how the brain, being an electrical/chemical lump of atoms would confabulate this fairy tale of its own accord. AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle,

||The path of least resistance would be to just turn off the consciousness switch. Unplug the machine! There is no evolutionary need for a pleasant dream.||

True, but assuming the brain is still functional enough to do something, I would expect it just to imagine being safe. NDEs eventually tell someone that he or she is dead, which would run counter to the "processing the route to oblivion" explanation given by materialists. I.e., it's presumably easier for a brain (especially one that is dying) just to imagine a normal, safe, familiar scene than to confabulate a very elaborate NDE storyline.

Michael wrote,

||To me, it's never been clear how a potential for NDEs would be passed on genetically. For a trait to be retained in the gene pool, it must have some survival value. What survival value is there in having an NDE? It may make the experience of nearly dying less unpleasant, but it does not increase one's odds of surviving the ordeal. It has no biological utility.||

Yes, it prima facie ridiculous. It might make sense if we had an NDE any time we were in *danger*, such when we have a high fever or a very frightening experience. That is, if there were a mechanism of the brain that regularly engaged to make us feel better.

Even if we assume that NDEs evolved as a survival mechanism, skeptics would still have to explain why their content is 1) so elaborate and 2) so consistent around the world 3) harmonious with non-dogmatic spiritual beliefs (i.e., NDEs are *basically* harmonious with Christian belief but fundamentalists are picky. I don't think a Roman pagan or Hindu would have much problem with their content).

You're all missing the massive underlying assumption here: so what if ndes are a 'DMT hallucination'?

We don't know what a 'hallucination' is to begin with. Just by putting a label to something doesn't mean we've explained what it is, just as with placebo effects and hypnosis.
As for DMT, even if DMT is involved, how does this confirm that the experience is not real?

Some of the cutting edge research on DMT is suggesting that DMT, released by the pineal gland, may in fact mediate our *entire* reality, not just 'altered states'.

If this is confirmed, then the whole notion of dismissing ndes and other mystical experiences as DMT 'hallucinations' is void. If this is confirmed, then all of our conscious experience mediated through the brain is a 'DMT trip'. Without it, we wouldn't be able to express conscious experience into the physical world at all.

Recent research has uncovered DMT present within the brains of live rats. This is a first, and the role of DMT in conscious experience may have been vastly underrated until now.

Matt,

The brain---the brain--- is going to imagine itself as being safe? The brain has a sense of self? It can volitionally decide a pleasant scenario---or any scenario? Or, does it feel sorry for its epiphenomenon, i.e. me and want me to feel comforted? Atoms in the form of neurotransmitters have an understanding of what is pleasant for the brain(?) or unpleasant for me? If so, then why doesn't it take away all of my very unpleasant aches and pains?

If this is the materialist's view of NDEs, then their explanations are getting sillier and sillier don't you think? - AOD

I don't have any studies per se. It just makes. We know that brain produces DMT and we know that memories are stored in the brain and we know that the brain is under stress when it is dying. It seems logical to put them all together and deduce that it is the cause of the NDE's.

I also noticed that no one here in the comments section has come up with a scientific refuation of the Braithwaite's paper. It's mostly "I don't like those conclusions, therefore he doesn't know anything."

I thnk the survival advantage may lie in the fact that religion has helped us survive through the ages as a species. It has persisted in many cultures over a long time. It gives us hope for an afterlife. It has become so ingrained in us. Even if if someone is an atheist, chances are he knows about god and his stories and those stories are stored as memories. The brain then draws on those memories to help ease the person's fear of death. NDE's, like religion, gives us hope for an afterlife but it isn't real.

"It might make sense if we had an NDE any time we were in *danger*, such when we have a high fever or a very frightening experience. "

Not a good idea. When we are in real danger we need to act quickly with heightened awareness, greater strength, enhanced speed of thought, etc. In fact, this is what biology does for us with the release of adrenaline. If we were having an NDE when we should be fighting off a tiger, then we would die and not reproduce.

Good points as to why it is silly that a dying brain would produce an elaborate NDE. Why not just go to sleep?

Finally, DMT does not produce anything like an NDE, despite tortured attempts by people like Strassman to map the DMT high onto the NDE landscape. psychedelics are fundamentally different from NDEs in the type and quality of the consciousness alteration and "visions" they produce - at least that is my conclusion after having used psychedelics rather extensively and having read countless NDE reports.

Michael, I've wondered the same thing. In biology it's called "genetic fitness", it has to enhance the individuals ability to get their genes into the next generation. The same is true of death bed visions. How would death bed visions increase the individuals ability to pass on their DNA? Evolution doesn't care anything about making death more pleasant or nice or comfortable. It doesn't care about comforting your relatives that might be around when you die. All it cares about is DNA and getting it into the next generation.

https://apps.tn.gov/eli-app/view-public.html?id=287643

Luis, your DMT hypothesis has many severe problems, many of which have been pointed out here in various posts. It would be interesting to hear your specific answers to them, but there has been essentially nothing other than a reiteration of your belief. OK, you will believe what you want to believe.

Speaking of NDES...

http://www.dailygrail.com/Skepticism/2015/2/Conner-Habib-True-Skepticism-NDEs

"psychedelics are fundamentally different from NDEs in the type and quality of the consciousness alteration and "visions" they produce - at least that is my conclusion after having used psychedelics rather extensively and having read countless NDE reports."

No one, everything in that statement applies to me, too. Except for one hugely important detail: the word "fundamentally."

Based on my own experiences in altered states (yours must be very different), I would say virtually the opposite. As I see it, the details are different, but the fundamentals are exactly the same. In particular, the sense of timelessness, the incredibly expanded aesthetic capacity, and the awareness of being one with all of creation.

Not to mention the most important fundamental of all: both NDEs and psychedelic journeys (of a certain kind) leave the indelible impression that reality is rooted in love.

That's a biggie.


Sorry No One, but although i agree with much that you say, you are vastly underplaying the profound effects of dmt and ayahuasca on some people, many of which count the experience as the most significant of their lives.

Not all, but some. Just because a chemical alters your perception doesn't mean the experience is not real.


In paragraph three of my last comment, where I refer to key similarities, I should have included the understanding that death is an illusion. That in itself is an important link between the two kinds of experiences.

But many people report NDEs that are rather un-nerving - traveling through a dark tunnel, crossing over a dark river, so I can't see how they'd be soothing to a dying brain. My own NDE was a dimly lit place outside - not a flowery field or something that in nature that would appeal to me. Then there are the outright hellish NDEs. How can they be soothing?

Luis,

Can you point me to one scientific study that shows that significant amounts of DMT are produced in the human brain? I don’t think “we” know this yet but it is difficult to follow all of the studies, so if you have one, please share it.

I also think that it is still up for debate that memories are stored in the brain. Where is the definitive proof of this? And another thing, how do “we” know that the dying brain is under stress. I have seen my father die quite peacefully, in a coma, seemingly not under stress of any kind. The euphemism of ‘passing away’ was very appropriate for him.

'Seeming logical’ has nothing to do with science or proof, Luis, “we” need more than one’s opinion of what is logical even though that opinion may be yours.


I don’t recall that anyone said that Braithwaite “doesn’t know anything.” In his position I would like to think that he knows a lot. Actually there is little or nothing in his paper to refute. I can only say, “OK, I agree! There may still be some activity somewhere in a flatlined brain.” --- and then--- so---?


I don’t know what you mean when you say that religion has given us a survival advantage; that it has helped us to survive. Yes, it may give some of us hope for an afterlife or may not according to the religion but how does that help us to survive. If it does help us to survive as you say, then religion is a good thing---right?


If you read a lot of NDEs Luis I think you will see that the preponderance of them really are not religious in theme, although religious symbolism may show up in some NDEs and appropriately so. I think it is a mistake to bring ‘religion’ and ‘god’ or ‘God’ into a discussion about NDEs and whether they are real or not. Just keep it simple; approach NDEs scientifically. That is the only way ‘we’ will find out if they portend another reality. - AOD

Bruce, "Except for one hugely important detail: the word "fundamentally." "

What I meant is that, despite Hollywood's insistence otherwise, on psychedelics one does not have true full blown "hallucinations"; such as perceiving oneself interacting in complete coherent lasting scenes populated by beings, dead loved ones and that sort of thing. In fact, one does not have out of body experiences like those described by NDErs either. Having had OBEs, in an absolutely sober state, that do resemble what NDErs describe, I can say that, for me, the psychedelics don't produce anything like that; nor have they done so for anyone I personally know that has used them.

When I tried DMT I found it to produce a wild chaotic state of blown mind so bizarre and intense as to be of no value at all.

The other three of the big four, LSD, psilocybin and mescaline will certainly cause a shift of consciousness to the cosmic - a profound shift if ingested in large enough dose and good set/setting - and one's mind will certainly travel and one will perceive often beautiful patterns and even scenes and associated intense feelings *in the mind's eye*, but that is very different from being convinced that one has actually traveled out of body to concrete realms inhabited by the being of light and deceased souls.

On psychedelics one may perceive a connection to a deceased person's love across time and space and get to feel it in its many facets and truths, but one does not come to believe that one has left the body and actually visited "heaven". On a psychedelic, the understanding that I am still sitting in my living room is always close at hand.

Perhaps it is possible to ingest a dosage so great that one could forget and become so completely and utterly immersed in the new awareness that one would believe one was really there and perceive convincing, total, lasting scenes with interactive entities. Perhaps. But then you'd have to prove that the brain could self=produce that extraordinary amount of the drug necessary for that effect. I think that is impossible.

I've noticed that many skeptics are very eager to jump to conclusions in matters like this. The smallest sliver of a suggestion of evidence that supports their position is enough for them to declare, "Case closed!"

Perhaps they find it hard to tolerate uncertainty or ambiguity. The ability to entertain two contradictory ideas at the same time, while leaving the tension between them unresolved, is said to be vital to creative thinking. Some people are better at it than others. Perhaps there are some who just can't do it, and who feel impelled to resolve cognitive dissonance immediately, by leaping to the nearest available "certainty," no matter how uncertain it may actually be.

I get the impression that even the possibility of a paranormal explanation is emotionally painful to some skeptics, in a way that goes beyond ideology or ego. It is as if the possibility of losing their hold on certainty is psychologically intolerable to them.

Of course, we still need to take skeptical critiques seriously. But it may be useful to consider the possible underlying emotional motivations behind some of those criticisms.

"I also noticed that no one here in the comments section has come up with a scientific refuation of the Braithwaite's paper."

You are wrong:

http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/dualist-nails-in-the-coffin.1815/

Read my review by the name Haruhi.

Michael, what you wrote was so true, and:

||I've noticed that many skeptics are very eager to jump to conclusions in matters like this. The smallest sliver of a suggestion of evidence that supports their position is enough for them to declare, "Case closed!"

Perhaps they find it hard to tolerate uncertainty or ambiguity. The ability to entertain two contradictory ideas at the same time, while leaving the tension between them unresolved, is said to be vital to creative thinking.||

I try to do this myself: Either there's an Afterlife OR there is going be a *very* interesting explanation about how NDEs and related phenomenon work that will almost certainly alter the understanding of how a 100% material and godless Universe operates.

I don't see skeptics/materialists coming to this conclusion, which I perceive to be inevitable. Rather, they seem to say, "It's DMT! Cool, forget all that stuff. Nothing to see here folks. Totally explained."

Yeah, *no*. Skeptics, guys, that's not how a curious mind works. There should be a wee bit of shame that one's group (the skeptics) that wish to perceive themselves as warriors for the truth exert so little effort to get to the bottom of the truth.

AOD wrote,

||If this is the materialist's view of NDEs, then their explanations are getting sillier and sillier don't you think?||

I think maximal silliness has been achieved by them. :)

Their understanding of what constitutes an explanation is quite lacking. If we can all agree that there is a thing called a brain and a thing called an NDE (which at least we seem to do!), and if we can further agree that the brain has to be relating to the activity of the NDE in some way, even if it's merely shutting down (I think we agree on this as well!), then it follows that *something* would be going on in that brain as measured by electrical activity, neurotransmitters, etc.

Thus, pointing out some consistent biological features of an NDE does not constitute a full explanation, pace the skeptics. It is like trying to explain consciousness by pointing out that, "It's a bunch of neurons firing, man!"

Luis wrote,

||I don't have any studies per se. It just makes. We know that brain produces DMT and we know that memories are stored in the brain and we know that the brain is under stress when it is dying. It seems logical to put them all together and deduce that it is the cause of the NDE's.||

Skeptics need to go back to Aristotle a bit. Saying that DMT is "the cause" is like saying marble is the cause of the Venus de Milo. Yes, it's part of the story. But in reality, in order to explain NDEs, we need to explain consciousness. Flipping that around, even if one is a materialist, NDEs provide a *huge* clue into how consciousness works, but I don't see the curiosity present to integrate that into the big picture.

||I also noticed that no one here in the comments section has come up with a scientific refuation of the Braithwaite's paper. It's mostly "I don't like those conclusions, therefore he doesn't know anything."||

This might be a projection of how skeptics think. :) We may not agree with the conclusions, but we (who take NDEs seriously) don't dismiss actual scientific data out of hand. Data... phenomena... we feel the duty of connecting *all* the dots, even if skeptics do not.

||I thnk the survival advantage may lie in the fact that religion has helped us survive through the ages as a species. It has persisted in many cultures over a long time. It gives us hope for an afterlife. It has become so ingrained in us.||

I agree with Michael. Are you going to stick with these talking points? Because media skeptics like Dawkins routinely say that religion is a bad thing, and they encourage us to throw it off, which might be difficult if it is "ingrained" and helps us "survive through the ages." (Personally, I don't like dogmatic religion, but humankind clearly had and has spiritual traditions that were more flexible than the fundamentalist religions.)

||Even if if someone is an atheist, chances are he knows about god and his stories and those stories are stored as memories. The brain then draws on those memories to help ease the person's fear of death. NDE's, like religion, gives us hope for an afterlife but it isn't real.||

It's not clear that someone who is unconscious (as is the case in the vast majority of NDEs) is experiencing fear at all. And why are they drawing upon a particular set of memories and not others? When we dream, we can dream about a vast variety of things. Why would NDEs take a different "route" than dreaming? Why would NDErs accurately categorize the dead and the living in their experiences? Why would a brain under stress (as you say) be able to form a coherent experience for later retrieval?

"On a psychedelic, the understanding that I am still sitting in my living room is always close at hand."

While that may be true for you, I think it's a mistake to generalize. With both psychedelic journeys and NDE's, there seems to be a great deal of variation as to how thoroughly one has well and truly left behind the physical.

For one thing, NDErs sometimes describe having a sort of dual-awareness of both their physical selves (though perhaps from the *out*side), and the heavenly realm.

And looking at psychedelics, DMT users, in particular, often describe losing ALL touch with their physical surroundings, and even their identities.

I know I myself have clear memories of gradually coming out of some of my deepest (psychedelically-induced) states, and having to re-discover physical reality all over again. There was often a clear sense of returning from a state of consciousness in which the physical world was simply NOT a part of my reality.

Actually, it was sometimes more a case of "re-creating" the physical. Because that's how I felt -- as though I were re-assembling, or re-gathering, physical reality around me. Very hard to describe!

On other occasions, though, and more in line with what you're suggesting, I do seem to remember experiencing both realities simultaneously.

That may be the more common experience, but I suspect that it's not. My sense is that I've just *forgotten* many of the other, more out-of-touch, experiences. Because I often had the sense of emerging from a trance, while knowing that I had just been way out of touch with physical reality, and, sadly, had also forgotten almost all of what I just experienced.

@Michael

I think that's a very interesting observation. The same criticism is often aimed at proponents (often fairly) by 'sceptics'. Living with the ambiguity and uncertainty is definitely something I identify with in the course of my own reading and experience of the matter.

Luis,
Just one more thing and then I am done.

You say that, "Now if all NDE's were the exact same then they would have some credence but this just shows that they are not real."

Applying that thought to a physical existence, I wonder if humans could remember being born into physical life, they would report the same experience? My guess is that they would not. There would be similar stories but many would be quite different. Just think of emerging from a womb in a hospital versus in a grass hut or in an arctic igloo, in a jungle or in a mountain chalet. Caesarian sections would be a whole 'nuther thing! All of these birthing reports would be different although there might be some basic similarities. It would not mean that since the experiences were not "exact same" that physical life was not real? Of course it wouldn't, neither does it mean that a variety of NDEs is evidence that they are not real. - AOD

The fundamentalist mindset is the second of four stages of psychological development. It's just above chaos and criminality and is characterised by a need for certainty and a rigidly myopic view of reality. Therefore of course the people in this category - which is an exceedingly common psychological grouping - cannot tolerate ambiguity. The reason for this is that, subconsciously, they fear slipping back into that earlier, chaotic, stage of development.

For an introduction and basic outline of this process read M. Scott Peck and Robin Skynner.

1. DMT is not (yet) known to be produced in large amounts in the brain when one is dying. That's speculation so far. In fact, the greatest site of DMT is the lung, not the brain.

2. NDEs often involve veridical perception that can't be accounted for by the "normal" 5 senses. So if DMT is causing the NDE, then it would mean that DMT enables a genuine psychic experience. I'm totally open to this. In fact, Rick Strassman himself has suggested something very close to this. But if this is the case, then one could still argue for survival on the basis of DMT. If NDErs are correct in their (psychic) observations of earthly events (as is sometimes the case), then why wouldn't they likewise be correct in their observations of afterlife-realms? The two kinds of observations often occur alongside each other in a single, *seamless* experience with no gaps in awareness between the two kinds of observations. So i.e. Billy has an NDE, observes events taking place in the operating room or perhaps in the next room (details that are later verified and couldn't have been known through normal perception), and then the subject reports having gone from the OR to another realm of existence where departed spirits reside. If DMT allows the subject to accurately observe events in the hospital, then we could say that DMT likewise allows the subject to *actually* observe some kind of afterlife realm.

3. Related to #2, there is *some* growing (though not yet definitive) evidence that NDErs can accurately observe events taking place at a time when their brains are either negligibly functional or not functioning AT ALL. It your brain isn't functioning -- or even if it's just *negligibly* functioning -- all of the DMT in the world won't make a difference.

4.a) This is anecdotal and people who don't know me may not find this compelling, but I know somebody who had an NDE and who also loves taking DMT. According to him, the experiences are qualitatively different. 4.b) see http://www.dailygrail.com/Shamanism/2013/8/Does-DMT-Explain-the-Near-Death-Experience

Near death experiencers say stuff that is congruent with the quantum world and the holographic universe theory. This can't be an accident. Books, chapters, and essays have been written about it. There is no way that near death experiencers could accidentally be describing a strange holographic film heaven that sounds exactly like what Michael Talbot wrote about in his book The Holographic Universe.

Pat, recent research has discovered DMT in the brains of live rats. It may be the case, and I agree this is speculative at the moment, that DMT may mediate *all* of our conscious perception, not just 'altered' states. If this is true then stating that DMT 'explains' NDEs is a meaningless statement.

Douglas, please note that I never denied that DMT is found in the brain; instead, I said that we don't (yet) have evidence that the brain produces an uber trip quantity of DMT when it's near death. I also highlighted some other difficulties.

But I accept that DMT occurs in the brain

DMT, Psyllocybin, mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, peyote, etc. probably just work by turning off the centers of the brain that limit or channel consciousness (or however it works). Like turning off a radio, so the signal stays "out there" instead of being limited by the brain. Therefore our consciousness is able to download more of the total information that makes up the Universe.

Right now we are playing with limited information. After the death of the physical body we have access to "all information." For those who are brave enough to experiment with drugs (I'm not) they are able to catch little glimpses of the quantum-holographic no space-time illusion that our Universe really is. For those periods when the "limiter" part of the brain is turned off, they see our Universe as it really is.

I'm afraid to take drugs because I'm afraid I might get stuck out there forever and never come back down. It might be equivalent to terminating one's physical life or suicide. Stuck in some kind of strange transcendent state for the rest of your life.

Michael,

Interesting. I have a collection of at least 15 pre-Moody NDEs, but didn't have this one. Thanks.

One of the more interesting NDEs is that of British Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774 to 1857), most remembered today for devising the Beaufort Wind Scales. His NDE, about 1795, is set forth in the 1863 book, "From Matter to Spirit," authored by Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan, reproductions of which are available.

Hi Art,

Professor Nut (I know!) here in the UK has done research in the past couple of years showing exactly that: mushrooms *deactivate* regions of the brain; in fact he actually refers to Huxley's 'reducing valve' metaphor in his paper.

Interesting comments but I just can't see any afterlife existing so the cause of NDE's has to be natural in origin. Either by DMT or electrical activity. If there is no higher power or the supernatural, which we have no evidence for, how can there be an afterlife? Where did it come from? Was it created at the moment of the big bang or is it part of the multiverse? How do we enter it? Did man evolve a spirit or soul and how did we do it? How does the soul interact with the brain? We have lots of evidence to suggest that we are just brains but none that shows a spirit interacting with it. It's much more reasonable to conclude that the all this evolved in our minds over millions of years due and the brain uses these images in time of need. The supernatural, gods, ghosts and the afterlife were created by us to alieviate the pain and fear of death and it has become so ingrained that the brain has tricked itself into manifesting it at our time of death.

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