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
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:
lack of oxygen
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.
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.