A Concept Based on Scientific Research
on Near-Death Experiences
During Cardiac Arrest
Pim van Lommel
‘It is worth dying to find out what life is.’— T.S. Eliot
Scientific studies on NDE challenge our current concepts about consciousness and its relation with brain function.
It has been strongly suggested that during NDE enhanced consciousness with persistent and unaltered Self-identity was experienced independently of brain function. Without a body we may still have conscious experiences. Recently someone with an NDE wrote me: ‘I can live without my body, but apparently my body can not live without me.’
For this reason we indeed should seriously consider the possibility that death, like birth, can only be a transition to another state of consciousness, and that during life the body functions as an interface or place of resonance. This view of a non-local consciousness also allows us to understand a wide variety of special states of consciousness, such as mystical and religious experiences, deathbed visions (end-of-life experiences), shared death experiences, peri-mortem and post-mortem experiences (after death communication, or non-local interconnectedness with the consciousness of deceased relatives), heightened intuitive feelings and prognostic dreams (non-local information exchange), remote viewing (non-local perception), and perhaps even the effect of consciousness onmatter like in neuroplasticity (non-local perturbation) (van Lommel, 2010).
The findings and conclusions of recent NDE research may result in a fundamental change of one’s opinion about death. The almost unavoidable conclusion arising out of these studies is that at the time of physical death consciousness, with persistent Self-identity, will continue to be experienced in another dimension, in which all past, present, and future is enclosed.
As someone with an NDE wrote to me: ‘Death is only the end of our physical aspects.’
But we should acknowledge that research on NDE cannot give us the irrefutable scientific proof of this conclusion, because people with an NDE did not quite die, but they all were very close to death, and without a functioning brain. As I have explained before, The conclusion seems compelling that endless or non-local consciousness has and always will exist independently from the body.
Apparently, an NDE is both an existential crisis and an intense lesson in life. People change after an NDE as it gives them a conscious experience of a non-local dimension in which time and distance play no
role, in which past and future can be glimpsed, where they feel complete and healed and where they experience unlimited knowledge and unconditional love. These life changes mainly spring from the insight that love and compassion for oneself, for others, and for nature are major prerequisites for life.
Following an NDE most people realize that everything and everyone is connected, that every thought has an effect on both oneself and the other, and that our consciousness continues beyond physical death.
Regarding what we can learn from people who are willing to share their NDE with others, I would like to
quote Dag Hammerskjöld: ‘Our ideas about death define how we live our life’ (Hammerskjöld, 1964). Because as long as we believe that death is the end of everything we are, we will give our energy towards the temporary and material aspects of our life. We should recognize that our view of the world is wrong, because we do not realize that the world, as we see it, only derives its (subjective) reality from our consciousness.
Because it is only our consciousness that is determining how we see this world. If we are in love, the world around us is beautiful, when we are depressed our world is like hell, and when we are frightened (made terrified by politicians and by the press) our world will be full of terror. ‘The mind in its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell’, wrote John Milton as early as 1667 in his poem ‘Paradise Lost’ (Milton, 1674).
The results and conclusions of scientific studies on NDE provide an opportunity to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, our fellow man, and nature, but only if we are willing and able to ask open questions and abandon preconceptions. Studies into NDE may help the scientific community to reconsider some assumptions about life and death, and about consciousness and its relation with brain function.
It often takes an NDE to get people to think about the possibility of experiencing consciousness independently of the body and to realize that presumably consciousness always has been and always will be, that everything and everybody is connected, that all of our thoughts will exist forever, and that death as such does not exist.
If it were really true that the essence of our endless or non-local consciousness predates our birth and will survive the death of our physical body in a non-local dimension, there would be no beginning nor end to our consciousness.
There would be a continuity of consciousness beyond time and space. These conclusions of NDE research are important for many aspects in healthcare, because this view of consciousness as a non-local phenomenon might well induce a huge change in the scientific paradigm in western medicine. It could have practical implications in actual medical and ethical problems such as the care for comatose or dying patients, euthanasia, abortion, and the removal of organs for transplantation from somebody in the dying process with a beating heart in a warm body but with a diagnosis of brain death.