Why Near-Death Experiences
Are Not Hallucinations
claim NDEs are only the product of the brain occurring
during life threatening situations. They claim the brain
avoidance response to such situations in the form
of endorphins flooding the brain thereby causing hallucinations.
Skeptics also claim NDEs are a hallucinatory experience
similar to hallucinations brought on when LSD is introduced
into the body. They point to
scientific studies showing
how psychedelic drugs, meditation, and other triggers
can be used to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness,
such as an NDE, and claim this falsifies the Afterlife
Hypothesis. But hallucinogenic drugs cause distortions
of reality, alterations of body image, and disorientation
as to time and place.
The major difference
between hallucinations and NDEs is that NDEs do not
involve such distortions of reality. NDEs have been
described as perceptions of a hyper-reality superimposed
over current reality. NDEs can be induced in many ways
Triggers of the NDE section of this website lists
them and provides examples. But all this proves is there
exists a biological component to NDEs. Near-death researchers
do not deny the existence of a biological component
to NDEs. Near-death studies have discovered the existence
of a metaphysical "umbilical
cord" connecting the physical body with the subtle
body during the out-of-body experience component of
the NDE. This cord corresponds with a boundary or "point
of no return" during NDEs which cannot be crossed without
resulting in irreversible death. Evidence shows that
when this cord is severed, this point of no return has
been crossed and death results.
There is also
an assumption among skeptics that a person's
subjective experience - even consciousness itself
- is not objectively real. They assume only physical
things are real and anything else is not. These include
the experiences of intuition, the taste of wine, or
even seeing the color red. But there are
serious problems in denying the existence of subjective
reality. Here are some comments
by experts in this field:
accounts from varied times and cultures
were found to be more orderly, logical,
defined and predictable than comparable
accounts from drug or illness-induced hallucination.
Impressive data from Tart, Moody and Carl
Becker also argue for the objective elements
of an NDE, including returning with knowledge
later verified and third-party observations
of odd death-bed phenomena (such as luminosity
describes the difference between the NDE and hallucinations:
difficulty with those theories is that when
you create these wonderful states by taking
drugs, you're conscious. In the NDE, you
are unconscious. One of the things we know
about brain function in unconsciousness,
is that you cannot create images and if
you do, you cannot remember them."
Fenwick describes the unconscious
state of the NDE:
brain isn't functioning. It's not there.
It's destroyed. It's abnormal. But, yet,
it can produce these very clear experiences
... an unconscious state is when the brain
ceases to function. For example, if you
faint, you fall to the floor, you don't
know what's happening and the brain isn't
working. The memory systems are particularly
sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won't
remember anything. But, yet, after one of
these experiences (an NDE), you come out
with clear, lucid memories ... This is a
real puzzle for science. I have not yet
seen any good scientific explanation which
can explain that fact."
it appears we may never know exactly what an NDE is
or what produces them, until science can define exactly
what consciousness is. We may have a long way to go
to learn this.
Dr. Kenneth Ring,
the leading figure in NDE studies has this to say:
anesthesia and medication did not seem to
be a factor in inducing these impressions
and exquisite feelings of an NDE. Indeed,
drugs and anesthesia seemed to be more likely
to cause a person to forget memories of
Ring concluded NDEs are not hallucinations because hallucinations
are rambling, unconnected, often unintelligible and
vary widely, whereas NDEs tend to have similar elements
of a clear, connected pattern.
Ketamine is a drug which several
researchers feel creates effects which are similar to
NDEs. However, they have not published controlled studies
to substantiate their point of view.
describes similarities between NDEs and ketamine induced
visions, but ultimately feels ketamine often causes
bizarre, paranoid visions not seen in NDEs.
It is interesting to note
a leading ketamine researcher, not only believes NDEs
and ketamine induced visions are the same, but is convinced
that BOTH induced real visions of a real god. For this
reason, he considers himself a very spiritual person
as a result of his ketamine research.
Dr. Jeffrey Long
concern of NDE skeptics is the concept of
a dual physical and spiritual life presence,
with the spiritual presence surviving bodily
death. The physical presence is easily discernable,
while the spiritual presence is generally
not easily discernable. It is very helpful
to personally have an NDE or NDE-like experience
to address such concerns. For virtually
all NDErs, an NDE cures NDE disbelief. However,
only approximately 4% of the United States
adult population have a personal history
of NDEs. Others find they are opened to
the possibility of a dual physical/spiritual
life presence through other spiritually
transformative life events.
life experiences may include, but are not
limited to, markedly serendipitous events,
other personal paranormal experiences, and
acceptance of other people's accounts of
their spiritually transformative experiences.
I personally believe that if such spiritually
transformative experiences are sincerely
sought, they are likely to be encountered.
NDE research is somewhat unique due to the
subjective nature of the experience. This
subjectivity precludes certain conventional
scientific methods of studying NDEs, such
as replicating NDEs or studying physical
changes associated with the experience.
inability to study NDEs via certain accepted
methods of conventional scientific verification
results in the need for some element of
faith to accept the reality of NDEs. I think
this necessary element of faith is a problem
for many people in accepting the reality
and significance of NDEs. Mitigating against
this concern is the fact that NDEs are relatively
common. Millions of people have had NDEs.
NDEs are quite varied, but the consistency
of the NDE elements (OBE experience, tunnel,
light, meeting other beings, etc.) is striking.
There is no plausible biological explanation
of NDEs. There is no other human experience
so dramatic, shared by so many people, and
so relatively consistent in its elements.
The preceding suggests faith in the validity
of NDE accounts is the most reasonable conclusion
from the evidence."
Dr. Stanislav Grof
had my training as a psychiatrist, a physician
and then as a Freudian analyst. When I became
interested in non-ordinary states and started
serving powerful mystical experiences, also
having some myself, my first idea was that
it (consciousness) has to be hard-wired
in the brain. I spent quite a bit of time
trying to figure out how something like
that is possible.
I came to the conclusion that it is not
coming from the brain. In that sense, it
supports what Aldous Huxley believed after
he had some powerful psychedelic experiences
and was trying to link them to the brain.
He came to the conclusion that maybe the
brain acts as a kind of reducing valve that
actually protects us from too much cosmic
input. So, I don't see, for example, that
experiences of archetypal realms, heavens,
paradises, experiences of archetypal beings,
such as deities, demons from different cultures,
that people typically have in these states
that they can be somehow explained as something
that comes from the brain. I don't think
you can locate the source of consciousness.
I am quite sure it is not in the brain not
inside of the skull. "It actually, according
to my experience, would lie beyond time
and space, so it is not localizable. You
actually come to the source of consciousness
when you dissolve any categories that imply
separation: individuality, time, space and
so on. You just experience it as a presence.
who have these experiences can either perceive
that source or they can actually become
the source, completely dissolved and experience
that source. But such categories as time
and space, localization coordinates, are
not relevant for that experience. You actually
have a sense that the concepts of time and
space come from that place. They are generated
by that place; but, the cosmic source itself,
the cosmic consciousness cannot be located
certainly not in the material world."
So the real questions
are these: What is consciousness? Where is it located?
Can it exist separately from the brain? Is the NDE a
phenomenon for which consciousness transcends the brain?
If so, what about other phenomena such as lucid dreams
and out-of-body experiences? We can all concede that
these states of consciousness all have a chemical basis.
But are they only a brain thing? Is the mind only the
product of the brain? Near-death studies are revealing
the ability of consciousness to transcend the dead brain.
One of the best examples of this is the NDE account
Pam Reynolds who perceived verified events in the
operating room while being brain dead.