Life After Death

Life After Death : the question of life after death has puzzled mankind since the dawn of time.  However the Lancet, one of Britain's leading medical journals has published a study which shows that a large number of people believe they have already experienced their souls leaving their bodies while they were supposed to have been clinically dead after a heart attack in intensive care.

Some of the feelings that were reported included:
- feelings of calm
- feelings of contentment
- feelings of floating above the body
- seeing the doctors working on the body

Dr. Pim van Lommel, the cardiologist who led Dutch research team into the field known as Near Death Experiences or NDE's, is quoted as saying that "NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the relationship between mind and brain".  He believes that his study shows consciousness is not purely some function of the brain.  "No other explanation makes sense of people being fully conscious, thinking and experiencing emotion while their hearts are completely stopped."

Of course there are always those who take a sceptical view and offer up a variety of explanations for NDE's.  These include:

- drugs
- lack of oxygen
- epilepsy
- electrical stimulation of the brain

However as Dr. van Lommel explains, none of the above explanations tend to touch or change peoples lives to the extent of an NDE.  Indeed the explanation cannot be purely physical, because every person recovering form a heart attack would report the phenomenon, whereas most do not.

For some doctors such as Dr. Peter Fenwick, a consultant neuropsychiatrist at London University, the near death experience really does point to a consciousness that can survive with out the support system of the body.  He says:  "In a coronary, the brain goes down within 16 seconds and it stays offline until you recover slowly.  Now either these accounts arise because brain and consciousness become split or because they are a retrospective construction of the experience of unconsciousness.  I would probably go for a splitting."

Mainstream, orthodox scientists still tend to favour the idea that when the brain shuts down as in a heart attack the brain, body and consciousness are still inextricably linked.  They believe that a near death experience is a type of dream where the brain is simply trying to make sense of the random neural firings that occur during the dying process.  It is almost like the brain telling its owner one final bedtime story.

Dr. Sue Blackmore, a psychologist and writer has made a special study of near death experiences, but remains unconvinced that it proves the existence of a soul.  She suspects that the experience is more likely to be caused by hallucinations through a lack of oxygen or the effects of pain relieving hormones.  She is quoted as saying: "This research is very good work, which is needed to understand the near death experience, but it proves absolutely nothing about the soul.  All claims about this being evidence for consciousness existing without a brain are unfounded baseless rubbish."

In defence of the existence of consciousness without a brain, Dr. Fenwick suggests that the evidence can be found from dying people, those who encounter a nearing death experience.  He explains this phenomenon as follows: "In the last 24 hours before death, patients see visions of people who have died.  These are terribly common.  When I lecture on these subjects about half to 75% of those who have attended a deathbed have seen them.  But when you go round to hospices, people are discouraged from talking about them.  It looks as though the whole death process is more than a simple termination.  But that makes no sense from the point of view of science."

It does not really matter upon which side of the argument is adopted the whole idea about life after death is undoubtedly remains a fascinating one.  One certain fact is that it appears unlikely that the argument will be quickly resolved.

See also afterlife, astral projection, near death experiences.

Source:  Information, quotations and inspiration for this topic taken from an article by Andrew Brown called  - Is there Life After Death - which appeared in the Daily Express - Wednesday 19 December 2001.

Useful Links
Afterlife Knowledge  
College of Psychic Studies
International Association for Near Death Studies
Life After Life - Raymond A. Moody PhD. M.D. 
Near Death Experiences & The Afterlife  

Recommended Reading
Astral Projection FAQ Section 
Richard Craze - A Beginners Guide to Astral Projection by Hodder & Stoughton 1999 - ISBN: 0340 737557


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