Close to-death experiences, if actual, have profound implications for our understanding of reminiscence, consciousness, and the brain-mind downside.
A near-death expertise (NDE) is a profound, subjective expertise reported by 10% to twenty% of people that come near loss of life, as in a suicide try, or due to critical damage in army fight, or in an accident akin to a automobile collision, drowning, or falling from a peak, or throughout a life-threatening medical situation, akin to cardiac arrest, main surgical procedure, or issues of childbirth. Though there are some particular person variations, the core NDE is remarkably constant and unbiased of distinguishing traits akin to tradition, non secular perception, or age. Widespread options embody out-of-body-experience with a way of detachment or dissociation from the physique, enhanced consciousness, feeling of oneness and interconnectedness with the universe, encounters with deceased relations or associates, a flash evaluate of 1’s life, and overwhelmingly optimistic and intense emotions starting from unbelievable peace and tranquility to pleasure and ecstasy. Nonetheless, about 8% of NDEs are disagreeable involving scary sounds and encounters, and a smaller share nonetheless are neither nice nor disagreeable experiences, extra like a featureless void1,2.
Regardless of having been extensively studied by many scholarly investigators, no single neurophysiological or psychological rationalization has been capable of account for all options of NDEs. It has been proven that NDEs: (i) usually are not desires; they happen below deep anesthesia, identified to suppress dream exercise; (ii) nor are they hallucinations, for they continue to be vivid for many years and sometimes result in profound and everlasting transformations in character, attitudes, beliefs and values; (iii) nor are they attributable to irregular states of the mind, akin to some mind malfunctions, nor by the discharge of chemical compounds to assist address the stress of loss of life, nor by the consequences of assorted physiological components that come into play when loss of life is imminent, akin to oxygen deficiency or elevated ranges of carbon dioxide; (iv) nor are they defined as a psychological protection mechanism in response to trauma. However, NDEs stay primarily anecdotal recounts that can’t be objectively verified. Though most scientists are of the opinion that NDEs ought to be explainable inside the framework of present-day science, many famend scientists consider that NDEs are past standard scientific rationalization. The religious or transcendental rationalization of NDEs is that they’re very actual and supply proof of a nonmaterial thoughts or soul departing upon loss of life from the bodily physique to an afterlife that additionally exists. Those that expertise NDEs describe them as “extra actual than actual”.
If actual, NDEs increase some intriguing and thought-provoking questions on reminiscence, consciousness, and the mind-brain downside. First, NDEs seemingly contain the next state of consciousness, as evidenced by: (i) experiencing colours and sounds that aren’t perceived within the regular state of residing; (ii) extraordinary visible acuity and visual field; within the phrases of a near-death experiencer: “…I watched the mowing of the garden from straight above, anyplace from a number of hundred to a few thousand ft, as if I had been a digicam…I may have counted the mosquitoes…;” (iii) the life evaluate is performed in minute element and at an extremely excessive pace; and (iv) excessive readability of thought and a way of all-knowledge and oneness with the universe. And all this while the bodily mind is clinically lifeless or at the very least severely impaired. How can that be?
Second, within the out-of-body expertise, NDE experiencers view their bodily our bodies from above, with out feeling any attachment to them. On this out-of-body state they will nonetheless see, hear, and really feel whereas unconscious, with their eyes taped shut and their ears plugged. How can that be?
Third, relations and associates encountered throughout an NDE have their very own reminiscences, emotions and ideas, regardless of having been lifeless for very long time and their our bodies decomposed; but their consciousness and reminiscence are preserved. How can that be?
It’s seen that the implications of NDEs, if actual, is that reminiscence and consciousness have an existence of their very own, outdoors the bodily physique. Our consciousness is on the essence of our human existence. As acutely aware beings we’re conscious of the world round us and of ourselves on this world as people having our personal subjective worldview primarily based on our personal opinions, attitudes, and previous experiences. Now we have our personal concepts, beliefs, ideas, wishes and hopes as we plan for the long run. Now we have volition to make selections and free will to decide on between alternate options primarily based on our motivation and drive, worth system, circumstances, previous experiences, and judgement. Consciousness influences our emotions: no two individuals expertise bodily ache in the identical method, nor understand smells and colours in the identical method. It’s this acutely aware self that gives the unity of being and continuity in time that defines every human being as a singular particular person.
Consciousness is a part of our psychological attributes, or thoughts. The relation between physique and thoughts, or the mind-problem, has engaged philosophers and scientists for a very long time. At one excessive are the materialists who contemplate the thoughts to be merely the product of the bodily processes of the mind, very similar to digestion being the product of the bodily exercise of the abdomen. On the different excessive are the dualists – represented by some philosophers and a minority of scientists – who, starting with Descartes within the 17th century CE have claimed that the thoughts and mind are two separate entities. NDEs seemingly assist dualism, though they don’t elucidate the precise nature of the thoughts as a separate entity and its relation to the bodily mind.
It’s attention-grabbing on this regard that an English researcher, Rupert Sheldrake, postulated within the early Nineteen Eighties the idea of what he calls morphic fields, as an extension and improvement of the thought of morphogenetic fields first proposed within the Twenties by embryologists as a speculation to elucidate some nonetheless unexplained points of morphogenesis, that’s, the event of kind and construction throughout embryonic progress. Sheldrake makes an attempt to elucidate many phenomena related to residing organisms, together with instinctive animal habits, when it comes to morphic fields and their interactions3. Based on Sheldrake, reminiscence just isn’t within the mind in any respect, however within the morphic area, whose affect just isn’t diminished by distance or time from the previous to the current.
It’s noteworthy that the Quran distinguishes between three entities: the bodily physique, the self (Arabic, nafs), and the spirit (Arabic, ruḥ). The body-self-spirit has been in comparison with a automobile. The fabric elements of the automobile are analogous to the bodily physique. The ignited gas (or the cost within the batteries within the case of an electrical automobile) that “brings the automobile to life” and makes it transfer is analogous to the spirit. To be helpful, the automobile have to be acted on in a purposeful method – moved ahead or backward, turned proper or left, accelerated or decelerated, or pushed to some vacation spot. The driving company, which can be a human driver or some type of autonomous or distant management, is analogous to the acutely aware self. Thus, the spirit is the essence of life, whereas the self is the essence of acutely aware being.
Nassir Sabah is a neuroscientist/biophysicist and Professor of Electrical and Laptop Engineering on the American College of Beirut, Lebanon. He has over 100 technical publications, primarily in neurophysiology, biophysics, and biomedical instrumentation and has authored 4 books on electrical circuits, electronics, and neuroscience. This text is tailored from his most up-to-date guide Spirituality Rekindled: The Quest for Serenity and Self-Success, London and Washington, O-Books, John Hunt Publishing, 2023. He might be reached at his web site https://nassirsabah.com.
- Greyson, B. (2021) After: A Physician Explores What Close to-Demise Experiences Reveal About Life and Past, New York, St. Martin’s Necessities.
- Allison, D. C. (2022) Encountering Thriller: Spiritual Expertise in a Secular Age, Grand Rapids MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Firm.
- Sheldrake, R. (2012) The Presence of the Previous: Morphic Resonance & The Reminiscence of Nature, revised and expanded version, Rochester VT, Park Avenue Press.