Evolving news on the science, writing and thinking about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Death and taxes

As the well-worn phrase states, neither can be avoided. I think this video has been mentioned in various posts before, but I wanted it to be highlighted as I think it is really important.

Firstly it is a video of Sam Parnia, the principle investigator of the AWARE II study, the central theme of this blog. Secondly it is a really neat summary of our current understanding of what years of research on NDEs tell us. Thirdly, it shows us that for the most part, we shouldn’t be afraid of death. But, there are caveats.

The first caveat is one that Dr Parnia himself alludes to, and that is suicide. It seems fairly consistant that people who kill themselves and come back often report different outcomes to those who die of natural or non-self-induced causes. This is hard, as suicide is often the result of unbearable anguish, and so I have sympathy for these people. However, that is what the reports say, and in our modern era in which physician assisted dying is either becoming legalized or being debated by democracies, this important information from NDEs should be included in these discussions.

The second caveat is one that Dr Parnia doesn’t mention, and that is the fact that only about 10% of people report NDEs. There are two potential explanations for this. The first is that the person had the experience, but for some reason is unable to remember it. The second is that the person didn’t have any experience at all. One reason could be that they didn’t have a soul. This is obviously extremely controversial, and even insulting to the 90% who don’t have NDEs, but it is nonetheless one possible explanation. I personally hope it is the former.


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20 thoughts on “Death and taxes

  1. I think it’s the former, maybe some brain damage doesn’t let to recall the NDE, because i think everybody have consciousness after all, right?


    • I doubt that 90% get brain damage. Then there is the interesting fact that children are much more likely to recall their NDE. Difficult to know exactly what to make of it.


      • Marc on said:

        This reminds me those reports of people calling about past lives, when happens specially with children


  2. Eduardo Fulco on said:

    Regarding that 80-90% do not report ECMs does not mean to me that 80-90% have no soul. In fact I read of a case of someone who had a NDE after a cardiac arrest, was reviving and told his doctor an ECM. Soon it had another stop, it was revived and it did not report any ECM. The fact that ECM is not reported can not be interpreted as an unequivocal sign that there is no soul.
    On the other hand, the study of the NDEs show that NDEs have been registered in various circumstances, and not only after cardiac arrest. Even in circumstances where there was no physiological or psychological risk. ECMs were triggered in fainting, in comas, after car accidents, drowning, while relaxing, etc. This shows that there are different neurobiological mechanisms (known or unknown) by which the soul is “liberated”.

    My opinion is that in prospective studies of cardiac arrest or all have ECMs, and they do not remember it due to sedative drugs or injury or brain damage – as Parnonia conjectured. Or that in 80-90% who do not report having had ECMs their soul has not yet been “released.” Or, it can also be a combination of both.


    • I think that combination of explanations is the most plausible (and least discomforting), however, it is also a “possible” explanation that their souls no longer exist. The rationale for this is that children would also be equally affected by the factors you mention, and yet according to Melvin Morse, more than 75% of children have NDEs after rescusitation. One possible explanation is that the soul can die as we grow older and stop feeding it. This would be consistant with warnings from religious teachers.

      I agree that you do not need to be near death for the soul to be liberated. I had an experience in a dream which had some elements of NDE when I was a teenager. It was the single most powerful and memorable experience of my life.


  3. I hope this no soul thing is a joke, you guys can’t be that childish. Either we all have souls or we all don’t, there’s no in between.

    I think the best explanation is that most people aren’t meant to have an NDE. As is well known, NDErs have higher divorce rate, huge impact on their daily lives, etc. If I was God, I wouldn’t give you something that’ll change your life so much without a good reason.


    • Chad. That’s an interesting idea, but by the same rationale as you use for dismissing the “no soul” explanation, if we aren’t supposed to have NDEs then that should apply universally.

      The “no soul” theory, is obviously highly controversial, but it could, at least theoretically, explain the difference. I’m not for a second saying that it does, rather that it is one of a number of possible explanations. Another is that there is a part of our brain that is “spiritually” active until adolescence, then switches off or becomes less active in adulthood.

      The “no soul” theory is most strongly refuted by the fact that there are a number of people who have been resuscitated more than once, and had an NDE on only one occassion (as Ricardo points out). This most strongly supports the most likely explanation, that of memory (or lack of)…just like we don’t always remember our dreams.

      Another interesting difference between childhood and adult NDEs is the lack of a life review before adolescence.


  4. Eduardo Fulco on said:

    Which of the religious traditions speak of “soulless”, Ben ?? Another possibility is what some traditions say, I do not know if esoteric, or mediumnic (spiritism) is true. They speak of immediately after death, in transit, of a “restful sleep” … in some cases … .


    • What’s religion got to do with it? From a purely rational perspective, it is a possible explanation, that is all I’m saying. I’m not saying I believe that is the explanation, just that it is possible.


  5. What we are talking about here when we use the word “soul” is really that which makes us into conscious thinking and perceiving entities, our minds, our psyche (As the Greeks referred to it) our “self” or “soul.”

    Everyone has a mind or consciousness, so it follows that everyone has a soul. Materialists accept they have a mind, therefore they (ought to) accept they have a self which in turn means they have a “soul” but naturally they prefer to side step this logical conclusion.

    The question is and always was, can the mind continue to exist when the brain (which is credited with producing it) stops functioning ? Or, can the mind, the psyche, the self, leave the physical structure in which it resides and continue to exist ? Materialists say no but that is not based on the available evidence which strongly indicates that it can. Without going into that particular discussion, the other question of why do only 10 % of people who have a cardiac arrest, have an NDE ?

    The answer is not yet known but its possibly because (according to the experts) cardiac arrest is such a severe insult to the brain, it somehow blocks the memory (assisted by the drugs given etc) in the same way that a severe blow to the head or alcohol consumption blocks memory. As to the 10 % figure, that is misleading and the very lowest estimate in the literature. Van Lommel found 18% had NDE’s, Sabom 40 %. Fred Schoonmaker found it to be even higher than that but sadly he never published his findings.

    I don’t personally think we need to worry about why everyone doesn’t report an NDE. It happens to people of all creeds and colours, believers and atheists alike so it seems far fetched to me that it won’t happen to everybody. Just my opinion.

    DENVER, CO–Fred Schoonmaker, Chief of Cardiovascular Services at St. Lukes Hospital, has been quietly studying the psychological and emotional concomitants of near-death episodes since 1961. He has researched in excess of 2,300 cases of persons who have survived acute life-threatening situations during this time and has discovered that better than [5]0% reported peak experiences identical to those described by Raymond Moody, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and others.

    John Audette and Raymond Moody traveled to Denver recently to learn more about the research taking place there. Schoonmaker revealed that he had over 1,400 documented cases of near-death experiences. He noted candidly that all of his data were supportive of earlier findings delineated in Life After Death and elsewhere. Nearly all of Schoonmaker’s cases were hospital based. Most [or a]ll of the incidents took place at St. Lukes and usually involved patients that were being cared for in the Division of Cardiovascular Services.

    Schoonmaker explained that the vast majority of the cases were examined in a concurrent fashion – that is to say that the patients were mostly interviewed shortly after the crisis situation. His mode of approach was very informal: he simply asked the patient to describe his or her feelings about what had just occurred. He was always careful to maintain a congenial and non-judgemental disposition when talking with near-death survivors and became increasingly proficient at establishing a good rapport with them. Of the 40% who initially reported no memory of what took place during the event he found that another 18% were willing to finally discuss their experience but only after repeated invitations and reassurances.

    Although Schoonmaker did not adhere to a scientific protocol in the collection of his data, he made it a point to gather as much information about each case as was possible. Additionally, he commented that his cases cover a very wide spectrum of the overall population from a socio-demographic standpoint. He believes that his sample may be considered representative despite the fact that it was selected in a non-random fashion. Moreover, Schoonmaker mentioned that his cases also span a variety of medical conditions and that the near-death episodes studied involved a host of different causes.

    One of the truly unique aspects of Schoonmaker’s work, in addition to its impressive magnitude, is the matter of the physiological data which has been obtained in many of these instances. As a result of the complex procedures conducted at St. Lukes (heart transplants, etc.) detailed physiological data is routinely recorded. This has provided Schoonmaker with the opportunity to test the plausibllity of many of the various theories which have been advanced in an effort to explain and account for near-death experiences. One example of this would be the cerebral anoxia theory which maintains that near-death experiences are the result of lack of oxygen to the brain. Schoonmaker stated that oxygen level in the blood was measured in his sample and that experiences were reported by persons who had a sufficient supply to sustain average brain functioning.

    Schoonmaker has also disclosed that there are at least 55 cases where flat eeg’s were observed which denoted lack of electrical activity in the brain and usually indicates that irreversible death has occurred. In temporal terms, these cases lacked brain activity (as measured by the electroencephalogram) in blocks of time ranging from 30 minutes to three hours. Thirty of these cases involved 12 lead eeg’s which had been placed by neurologists. In Schoonmaker’s professional judgement, these persons were medically dead, yet they regained consciousness sometimes inexplicably and reported having experienced a highly pleasant altered state of consciousness.

    Having conscientiously explored the possibility of alternative explanations regarding these experiences, Schoonmaker has come to believe that they suggest some kind of continuance of human conciousness beyond the point of physical death. This position is entirely predicated on the basis of the empirical observations which he has made over the past 18 years.
    Schoonmaker has not done much to publicize his work and has deliberately avoided calling attention to it. He offered several reasons for this, but his main reservation concerned the potential sensationalism which might have occurred. He also felt for a very long time that his data was incomplete – that many more
    questions were in need of answers.

    At long last, however, Schoonmaker stated that he is in the process of writing a book along with a Georgia theologian by the name of Loren Young. Dr. Young has assisted Schoonmaker with the research over the past several years. The anticipated publication date has not been determined, but there are hopes that it will be available within the next year.
    Schoonmaker became interested in near-death research as a cardiology resident at Duke University after learning of an experience which had been reported by a physician friend in the late 1950’s. He has developed a particular interest in persons whose experiences come as a result of nearly freezing to death.
    Without a doubt, this research is a major contribution to the field, surpassing in quantity and scope the work of all others in this area.


    • Eduardo Fulco on said:

      Tim you say that nobody reported a peak experience in that study of the 1400 NDEs ??


      • Hi, Eduardo. Dr Schoonmaker died in 2005 (I think) and never published his findings. He was in a unique position to study this phenomenon as he performed complicated heart surgery which sometimes required all the patients vital signs to be stopped… and yet the patients still reported NDE when they awoke.

        His findings were consistent with previous studies but Schoonmaker estimated the percentage of his patients reporting NDE as greater than 50%.


      • Eduardo Fulco on said:

        Tahk you very much, Tim!!!


      • “Tim you say that nobody reported a peak experience in that study of the 1400 NDEs ??”

        No, just the opposite, Eduardo, 50 % reported an experience.


  6. Eduardo Fulco on said:

    Tim, please, you can clarify what it means (5) 0% where you say: He has investigated more than 2,300 cases of people who have survived acute life-threatening situations during this time and found that better than [5] 0 % Reported peak experiences identical to those described by Raymond Moody, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and others.


  7. Eduardo Fulco on said:

    Tim supongo que debe haber querido decir mas del 50%


  8. Pingback: A Skeptic’s Hoax Near-Death Experience and Fraud Is Exposed – Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife

  9. Thank you for sharing thiss

    Liked by 1 person

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