Near Death Experiences
(July 6, 2022) Near death experiences involve the activity of still living brain cells after their electrical activity has been shut down due to a lack of oxygen. This means their Sodium, Potassium, and Chloride ion pumps have been shut down. They will continue to live and function otherwise for another 3 minutes (if at body temperature) before the memory forming calcium ion pumps start to degrade causing calcium ions to build up in the cell. The neurons will then start dying between 5 and 10 minutes.
Consequently, the brain is not really dead and is still able to form new memories for the first 3 minutes. So Near Death Experiences do not really tell us anything about existence after death but it might give us some clues into the psychic activity of the spiritual network with all of the brain's physical awareness disabled. Except that the brain cooling of modern emergency room practice greatly slows down the brain's chemical activity essentially eliminating that potential knowledge as well. (image from http://www.aed.com/blog/new-cardiac-arrest-treatment-could-prevent-brain-damage/)
The light itself is due to the general sensory hyper-sensitivity stress response which also releases feel-good pain killing chemicals, slows down the sense of time, and can give people the sense of other-worldliness as in "this can't be happening."
The Five Phases of Near Death Experiences Occurring during Cardiac Arrest
(July 6, 2022) The five phases of near death experience were first defined by Kenneth Ring in 1980. They are based upon after-the-event interviews at undefined times after cardiac arrest events. (reported in Lommel 2010, page 12):
Affective Phase (occurs 60% of the time) - One has positive emotions, feelings of absolute peace, calm, surrender, and bliss, with the end of pain.
Leaving the Body (occurs 37% of the time) - Some people no longer experience their body while others hover unseen overhead seeing their own body and the people surrounding it and hearing what is being said.
Place of Darkness (occurs 23% of the time) - People arrive in a dark, usually peaceful environment.
Tunnel of Light (occurs 16% of the time) - Some stay here while others are pulled through a tunnel of non-blinding, exceptionally bright light which radiates unconditional love and acceptance.
Celestial Landscape (occurs 10% of the time) - People enter another place of unbelievable beauty where people hear beautiful music and occasionally meet deceased people and family members. This is where a life review can happen. People describe how hard it is to leave this place but they do so usually citing family responsibilities.
- Affective Phase - 56%
- Awareness of being dead - 50%
- Positive emotions - 56%
- Out-of-body experience - 24%
- Place of Darkness (not categorized but prerequisite for tunnel) - not a category here
- Moving through a tunnel - 31%
- Celestial Landscape - 29%
- Communicating with “the light” - 23%
- Meeting deceased friends and relatives - 32%
- Life review - 13%
- Presence of border blocking access to heaven - 8%
The main difference between the hospital cardiac arrest group and the more general near death experience group (above) was the cardiac arrest group reported twice as many instances of the tunnel and nearly three times as many instances of the celestial landscape.
The religion of the patients made no difference in the reported phases of the near death experiences although the patients interpreted them differently.
Other parameters which made no difference were their medication, time of cardiac arrest, and level of education. Only the small number of patients who had a previous near death experience (4%) were more likely to have another one.
While most of the near death experience effects can be explained biochemically as a lack of oxygen combined with the body's stress response (fig. 1) two significant effects are not so obvious. These are the psychic experience of the patient leaving the body and observing what happens in the room and the life review which is often combined with meeting other deceased people.
ReferencesLommel, Pim von (2010) Consciousness Beyond Life, The Science of the Near-Death Experience. HarperCollins
While Out of body experiences can also be induced by other phenomena including dreaming no one considers those real in the sense of flying through physical space.
The AWARE Near Death Experience Study
(July 6, 2022) The AWARE study (Parnia, and all 2014) is the latest and most organized scientific study on Near Death Experiences yet done yet it failed to find anything, perhaps because of new cardiac arrest brain cooling techniques.
In this study researchers interviewed surviving cardiac arrest patients as soon as they could be interviewed. Additionally, in order to test whether out of body experiences really occurred or if instead patients were seeing things through the senses of others, they placed unique images high up in some emergency rooms where they could not be seen except from above.
No near death experiences involving out of body sensations occurred. The reason for this is that modern hospital technology makes out of body experiences very rare. This new technology involves cooling the body while treating cardiac arrest patients. During this study only 1 out of body experience occurred out of 2060 cardiac arrests. The light at the end of a tunnel occurred only twice. Because the light at the end of the tunnel is clearly stress related this suggests that the out of body effect is also stress related.
These cardiac arrest patients were brought into a group of 15 U.K and Australian hospitals between July 2008 and December 2012. Of these only 6.7% (140 people) survived well enough to answer questions within a few weeks of the cardiac arrest. Of those 140 people 85 had no memory of anything leaving only 55 with some sort of of memory of their time in the hospital. Of these only 9 had some sort of near death experience but only 2 of of those 9 (22%) had the light at the end of a tunnel effect with one also having an out of body experience with his recall of events verified by the medical staff .
Those seven people which reported non-classic Near Death Experience had the following feelings and perceptions, only some of which were also a part of the classic near death experience. Most of these phenomena are not stress related like the classic phases but are more like dreams:
“I was terrified. I was told I was going to die and the quickest way was to say the last short word I could remember”
“Being dragged through deep water with a big ring and I hate swimming—it was horrid”.
“I felt scared”
Animals and Plants (dream)
“All plants, no flowers”
“Saw lions and tigers”
Bright Light (stress response, typical near death)
“The sun was shining”
“Recalled seeing a golden flash of light”
Family (typical near death experience)
“Family talking 10 or so. Not being able to talk to them”
“My family (son, daughter, son-in-law and wife) came”
Being persecuted or experiencing violence
“Being dragged through deep water”
“This whole event seemed full of violence and I am not a violent man, it was out of character”.
“I had to go through a ceremony and … the ceremony was to get burned. There were 4 men with me, whichever lied would die…. I saw men in coffins being buried upright.
Deja vu experiences (typical near death experience)
“…experienced a sense of De-ja vu and felt like knew what people were going to do before they did it after the arrest. This lasted about 3 days ”
ReferencesParnia, Sam: and all (2014) AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study. Resuscitation volume 85, Issue 12, December 2014, Pages 1799–1805
The book describes the case of a patient, a famous apothecary (pharmacist) in Paris, who temporarily fell unconscious and then reported that he saw a light so pure and bright that he thought he must have been in heaven. (from LiveScience ). These reports of bright lights were probably fairly common in the past when death from old age was medically unsupported.
Non-Statistical Evidence for some sort of Psychic Activity during Near Death Experiences
(July 6, 2022) The psychic phenomena are:
Awareness of what is going on while supposedly unconscious. This is often associated with an out of body experience
Becoming more empathic and spiritual
Communicating or attempting to communicate with family or deceased people
Awareness of events while unconscious and having them confirmed by staff is well described in Lommel (2010). He repeated an eyewitness report written by a nurse involved in a resuscitation involving some missing dentures. This event was confirmed by others as well:
During the night shift the ambulance crew brings in a forty-four year old cyanotic (purplish-blue skin coloration), comatose man. About an hour earlier he had been found in a public park by passers-by, who had initiated heart massage. After admission to the coronary care unit, he receives artificial respiration with a balloon and a mask as well as heart massage and defibrillation. When I went to change the respiration method, when I went to intubate the patient, the patient turned out to have denture in his mouth. Before intubating him, I remove the upper set of dentures and put it on the crash cart.
Meanwhile we continue extensive resuscitation. After approximately ninety minutes, the patient has sufficient heart rhythm and blood pressure, but he’s still ventilated and intubated, and he remained comatose. In this state he is transferred to the intensive care unit for further respiration.
After more than a week in coma the patient returns to the coronary care unit, and I see him when I distribute the medication. As soon as he sees me he says, “Oh yes, but you, you know where my dentures are.” I’m flabbergasted. Then he tells me, “Yes, you were there when they brought me into the hospital, and you took the dentures out of my mouth and put them on that cart; it had all these bottles on it, and there was a sliding drawer underneath, and you put my teeth there.” I was all the more amazed because I remembered this happening when the man was in a deep coma and undergoing resuscitation.
After further questioning, it turned out that the patient had seen himself lying in bed and that he had watched from above how nursing staff and doctors had been busy resuscitating him. He was also able to give an accurate and detailed description of the small room where he had been resuscitated and of the appearance of those present. While watching this scene, he had been terrified that we were going to stop resuscitating and that he die. And it’s true that we had been extremely negative about the patient’s prognosis due to his very poor condition when admitted. The patient tells me that he had been making desperate but unsuccessful attempts at letting us know that he was still alive and that we should continue resuscitating. He’s deeply impressed by his experience and says he is no longer afraid of death. (Lommel 2010, page 20)
Over time near death patients became more psychic and spiritual. After two years, 35 out of the original 62 near-death experience patients were still alive and willing to be interviewed, after eight years 23 patients were available. These reported some significant life changes compared to those which did not have a near-death experience. After two years, the near-death experience patients were more loving, empathic, and accepting of others (42% versus 16%).
At the eight year mark the percentages were about 72% versus about 48%. Some near death patients had become more spiritual two years after the event with 15% reporting an increase in interest with the non-near-death people reporting a decline of 8%. This contrast is even greater after 8 years with the near-death people having a 42% increase versus a 41% decline for the non-near-death people. The near death patients were also more connective in the material realm with their interest in ordinary things being 78% versus 41% at two years and 84% versus 50% at eight years.I couldn’t talk about it, or I would have been committed to an insane institution. (Lommel 2010, page 61)When I felt a bit better again, I was so unbelievably paranormal, it was creepy. Before this incident I’d had now and then premonitions, but this was different. From my bed in the town of Utrecht, I could see who was in the room next door, and I know what food the priest had ordered. It’s easing off now, but I still understand people better, and yes, sometimes I can literally read and intuit people’s minds. (Lommel 2010, page 61)