on 24 March 2013
Speaking as a `lay-person', this book is to me, in any event, beyond praise - ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT.
I have had TWO NDE's, the first being when I was FOUR years old and now, at the age of 69, I still remember it as if it happened yesterday; because of this incident I have always had what might be called ` a different take on life' compared with most others and what Dr. van Lommel says about this is absolutely correct.
He has taken the trouble to actually try to find out about what actually happens when a patient is supposedly `dead' and this, to me, marks him out as highly unusual, going against the grain of most other closed minded so-called scientists. He has taken what people say after their experiences seriously, refused to ridicule them, believed them and tried to find explanations.
The use of quantum physics in explaining many of his points, is, to me, spot on. My personal belief is that consciousness is all around us not actually in us and our brains act as a receiver for it, filtering out perhaps most of what is there as, in our present state here and now in this world, we are not able to cope with what really IS.
In any event, I have read many books about the subject and Dr. van Lommel's is most assuredly the best and the one that seems to me to be the one that is nearest the mark as far as trying to explain consciousness and what happens when the physical body is no longer `alive'.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
on 25 January 2011
Please set aside any review(s) that belittle this book and make it out to be mere science fiction quackery. The holding on to long standing scientific theories is not what science defines itself as being. Defending scientific stances and tossing contradictions to these stances aside as being mere anomolies is nothing more than blatant ignorance and/or professional laziness. This book can be a revolutionary break through for all of humanity but, because science and religion have proved themselves to be very defensive of their long-standing positions, it will probably go unnoticed in both circles during our lifetimes. Hopefully many decades from now the theoreticians will look back on this writing and bemoan the fact that previous generations were so close-minded to the obvious truths about consciousness and ultimate reality. We have an ongoing history of many incidences of not seeing the forest because of the trees (i.e. Galileo and Einstein).
The author, as myself, has spent timely parts of the past two decades NOT looking for the a fairy tale ending to our physical lives but, instead, have searched for an ultimate truth to our existence. While this concept may, indeed, go against the prevailing paradigms of the scientific community, it is one that not only draws from countless experiments and theoretical insights that have taken place, but draws heavily on our natural, common sense. If the Occam's Razor principal is correct, and it is yet to be proven false, the simplest reasoning for our existence and the process of consciousness is the inclusive theories that are put forth by this text. I heartily say "Bravo!" to the author for both the work that this text entailed but also for the razor sharp conclusions that he has reached. No, these theories may not ever be proven due to our living in a three dimensional world that relies on our limiting three dimensional measuring tools. But the multi-dimensional world of string theory does exist and the nonlocal consciousness can, and probably is, an intricate part of this phenomenon.
Having had an NDE myself, I, as the other examples in this book, fully realize that the medical and scientific 'proofs' to these occurrences are either false or inadequate. An NDE is a REAL experience, an event that escapes descriptions because of our linguistic limitations and that, most importantly, life, as we have come to know it, is not the materialistic reality of the universe(s). We cannot, and should not, ignore the basics that quantum mechanics has brought to our attention over the past decades. Matter is brought into existence only through conscious observation and nonlocal consciousness (aka wave patterns) that uses the brain as a conduit for physical actions and emotional responses. This is the clearest picture of reality that has been presented to date. Nor should we ignore personal experiences simply because they cannot be fully measured under complete scientific standards. Thought, emotions, relationships and experiences cannot be fully weighed on a laboratory scale nor fully measured by a metric tool, but yet they are as real as the scientist himself.
I, personally, want to thank the author for not only going against his reductionistic peers and risking his reputation in the process, but also in his stance against the dogmatic religionists who also fail to adjust their paradigms when presented with challenging counter-examples to their tenets. As the author states from an interviewed patient; "Dead is not dead.". I would like to add to this simplistic and revealing thought that "Life is not life in the way we presently view it either." Keep your mind and your thoughts open to the possibilities of life and use today's popular opinions as stepping stones to further knowledge and not as anchors to our present and limited thoughts.
Consciousness Beyond Life: The science of the near-death experience by Pim van Lommel, M.D., HarperCollins, 2010, 466 ff.
More evidence of cosmic spirit from a cardiologist
By Howard Jones
Dr van Lommel is a Dutch scientist and physician who worked as a cardiologist in Holland from 1977 to 2003. In 2001, he published in the medical journal `The Lancet' a ground-breaking study on `Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest'. This book is the English translation of a book originally published in Dutch in 2007 on the same subject.
There are now several books on the market (for example, those by Sabom, Fenwick, Fox) dealing with NDEs and the closely related OBEs. Most of these present anecdotal accounts of visions from patients who undergo some medical trauma (often heart attacks or cardiac surgery). The stories are verifiable in that they agree with the known facts surrounding the event. Most of these books interpret NDEs as indicating connection with some extra-corporeal spiritual state. In some cases, this cosmic energy is regarded as divine. What can be stated with certainty is that NDEs and OBEs indicate an ability of the human mind to undergo experiences that are not explainable by traditional science.
There are also books on NDEs by materialist scientists who dismiss any spiritual interpretation of these events and attempt to explain them purely in terms of human physiology (for example, Michael Marsh). Those authors, like Marsh, who attribute such events to a momentary hallucination in patients as they revive are clearly factually mistaken.
Van Lommel's book is a convincing account of the study of over one hundred patients during more than twenty years practice who suffered cardiac arrest and were judged to be clinically dead (sometimes for five minutes or more) but who were resuscitated. This study therefore reaches the same conclusion as Michael Sabom, Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, or Mark Fox. As van Lommel says here, these experiences `cannot be attributed to imagination, psychosis or oxygen deprivation.'
NDEs may not prove the existence of God or the afterlife, but they certainly show that there is a dimension of the natural world that requires more than just materialist scientism to explain it. This book should give hope and encouragement to anyone who fears death as the end of their existence. It shows that the individual does survive in a spiritual state even when the physical signs of life are extinguished.
The book concludes with several pages of Notes, a 23-page Bibliography and a detailed Index.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, U.K.; and The World as Spirit published by Fairhill Publishing, Whitland, West Wales, 2011.
Religion, Spirituality and the Near-Death Experience by Mark Fox
The Articulate Dead: They Brought the Spirit World Alive by Michael Tymn
Recollections of Death by Michael Sabom
on 6 July 2010
It is difficult to understand how mainstream science can continue to ignore or reject the implications of the near-death experience (NDE) in light of the evidence and arguments made by Dr. Pim van Lommel in this most comprehensive book. Dr. van Lommel seemingly touches all bases in exploring the various phenomena related to the NDE.
Having grown up in an academic environment, van Lommel, a world-renowned cardiologist practicing in The Netherlands, writes that he was of the reductionist and materialistic mindset before he began studying the NDE and the nature of consciousness. He has closely examined all the arguments made by the scientific fundamentalists and now has a more positive outlook. "That death is the end used to be my own belief," he writes. "But after many years of critical research into the stories of the NDErs, and after a careful exploration of current knowledge about brain function, consciousness, and some basic principles of quantum physics, my views have undergone a complete transformation. As a doctor and researcher, I found the most significant finding to be the conclusion of one NdEr: `Dead turned out to be not dead.' I now see the continuity of our consciousness after the death of our physical body as a very real possibility."
About the time I started reading this book, reports were appearing at various internet sites stating that there is now evidence that the NDE is nothing more than a brief spell of abnormal brain activity resulting from oxygen deficiency. This theory has been going around for years, but seems to get resurrected every few years as if it is new science. Van Lommel dismisses the theory, pointing out that the NDE is "accompanied by an enhanced and lucid consciousness with memories and because it can also be experienced under circumstances such as an imminent traffic accident or a depression, neither of which involves oxygen deficiency."
Van Lommel also addresses the skeptic's theory about the tunnel effect reported by many NDErs being caused by the disruption of oxygen supply to the eye, which gradually darkens one's range of vision. He points out that such a theory cannot explain the reports by NDErs that say that they meet deceased relatives in the tunnel. He tells why carbon dioxide overload, various chemicals, and other physiological theories do not account for the NDE. "When new ideas do not fit the generally accepted (materialist) paradigm, many scientists perceive them as a threat," van Lommel writes. "It is hardly surprising therefore that when empirical studies reveal new phenomena or facts that are inconsistent with the prevailing scientific paradigm, they are usually denied, suppressed, or even ridiculed."
A chapter of the book is devoted to quantum theory, which includes non-locality, or the idea that the mind operates outside of time and space and that what we in the physical plane interpret as reality is not reality at all. As van Lommel sees it, many aspects of the NDE correspond with or are analogous to some of the basic principles from quantum theory. "The findings of NDE research suggest the possibility that (nonlocal) consciousness is present at all time and will therefore last forever," van Lommel offers. "The content of a near-death experience suggests a continuity of consciousness that can be experienced independently of the body."
Something I have found particularly troubling over the years is the possibility that organs are being harvested before bodies are actually "dead," even though the person might be pronounced "clinically dead." Van Lommel devotes several interesting pages to the debate on this subject, pointing out that when brain death has been diagnosed, 96 percent of the body is still alive. While not in principle opposed to organ transplants, van Lommel suggests that more consideration should be given to the nonphysical aspects of organ donation, including the fear of death.
Over the past 35 years, NDE researchers like Drs. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, Raymond Moody, Kenneth Ring, Michael Sabom, Bruce Greyson, Melvin Morse, Barbara Rommer and others have built a very solid wheel, one that supports the survival hypothesis. Close-minded skeptics keep trying to make the wheel collapse by bending the spokes. Fortunately, we have newer researchers like Drs. van Lommel and Jeffrey Long ("Evidence of the Afterlife") coming along to demonstrate that the spokes are solid and the wheel secure.
on 5 July 2011
In Consciousness Beyond Life, Dr Pim van Lommel explains that he was impressed by the number of his patients who, after a cardiac arrest, reported having lived an ineffable experience, which was strikingly similar in most cases: the awareness of being dead; a profound feeling of peace and well-being; the sense of being placed outside time and space; the perception of one's body from an outside position; the sense of travelling through a `tunnel' towards an exceptionally brilliant and friendly light; the perception of an unconditional love; and a very detailed review of their whole lives. Some patients were even able to give a precise account of the conversations that took place, as they were still unconscious, between members of the medical team in the intensive care unit, or between relatives in the waiting room of the hospital. Interestingly, after such an experience, most patients' personalities underwent a radical change: they lost any fear of death, began to have a heightened sense of purpose in their lives, and became more compassionate and caring with others.
Van Lommel explains that he was specially intrigued by this phenomenon because, according to dominant medical concepts, it is absolutely impossible to experience any kind of consciousness when the circulation and breathing have ceased, the brain does not work any more, and the patient is clinically dead. In his book, he examines in detail the various physiological and psychological theories about the origin of NDE that have been proposed. Some think, for instance, that the experience is caused by physiological changes in the brain such as brain cells dying as a result of cerebral anoxia, or caused by release of endorphins. Others claim that NDE could be the result of a sort of hallucination caused by some drugs. Van Lommel discards these theories as they are unable to fully explain all the features that characterize this phenomenon. In his view, we must acknowledge that we are dealing here with something that seriously challenges the current (too narrow and mechanistic) view that sees consciousness as a mere product of brain function. His hypothesis is that, in reality, things are the other way round: the brain does not produce consciousness but rather facilitates it; the brain operates as an "interface" or "relay station" of our consciousness. He compares metaphorically the brain to a television's receiver picking up information from an electromagnetic field.
According to van Lommel, "whereas our waking consciousness has a biological basis because our body functions as an interface, there is no biological basis for our endless and nonlocal consciousness, which has its roots in nonlocal space. Waking consciousness is experienced via the body, but endless consciousness does not reside in our brain" (p. 318).
Van Lommel's hypothesis puts into question the dominant understanding of the brain-consciousness relationship. If he is right in his analysis, we should begin to consider ourselves as something more than merely physical bodies, because the very core of our personhood has a non-material nature. Obviously, this conclusion has tremendous existential implications that go far beyond the limits of a merely academic debate.
(Excerpts from: Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 2011, 14(3):346).
on 7 January 2012
I'm a GP and this book was recommended to me by a patient. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, I learnt a lot, and I would suggest it as interesting reading for any doctor.
I am not religious and this book has not changed my view on that, but I have changed my view on the importance of the NDE as a patient experience and the value of ongoing research into the explanation, interpretation and the meaning of NDEs.
There is no question that the NDE is a common and very relevant experience, especially in a medical setting, no matter what the explanation. I had not heard an adequate explanation, and it may be that Pim Van Lommel has come up with one. My problem is that I just can't understand his explanation. The nub of the question really is what is consciousness - a very interesting question. The possible theories seem very plausible, but too academic or complex for me to thoroughly understand enough to be able to say I believe him or not. I understand enough to be able to say I think he's onto something and previous other explanations have not been.
I didn't like the way he kept referring to the tendency for scientists to stick to what they know and have closed minds. Big surprise! Scientists are prejudiced and narrow minded like the rest of us. The book would have felt somehow cleaner if he'd just said 'here's my idea, make of it what you will'.
I didn't like the way he used the argument from personal disbelief - always a big turn off. Just because you can't understand something doesn't mean it can't be possible. For example 'How can a single human cell with a diameter of less than one-thousandth of a centimeter contain so many instructions in its DNA that it would take a thousand six-hundred-page books to record them all?'
I also felt uneasy with the statement 'The more we learn about our body, the more we realize what an immensely intelligent system it is...' which I felt was beginning to border on a plug for intelligent design. The whole DNA chapter seemed a bit rocky to me.
I especially liked the sections relating to medicine and ethics, and there is much to learn here, if only because you will see patients who have had a NDE which will have an impact on their care. I was surprised at his attitude to assisted dying. He goes out of his way to say he does not judge doctors, families or patients who make use of assisted dying in the Netherlands but I got the impression that the subtext is that he disapproves. My interpretation would be that the idea of enduring non-local consciousness means that death is not the end and assisted dying would become a less harrowing experience. He repeats the idea that with adequate expertise and treatment, symptoms can be palliated, but one thing I have learnt over the years is that even with the most intensive expert input, terminal illness and death are still often associated with painful distressing symptoms. I don't know why he seems to attach so much value to the natural point of death. Why should death be any better timed if it is brought about by drawn out multi-organ failure than by an assisted method. I don't know. I'm just surprised that he still maintained that view. Having said all that and having read this book I and I suspect the majority of doctors, would have great emotional and moral difficulty actually having any personal involvement with assisted dying.
As I get older I try to be less dogmatic - things are less black and white these days. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy... How apt
This book makes me wonder about all-sorts, and that can only be a good thing
on 25 November 2012
I have read many books on NDEs, including the excellent The Handbook of Near-death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation. Consciousness Beyond Life is the best I have read to date. This is not only because of the rigorous scientific discussion it presents, with a full explanation of the prospective NDE study published in the Lancet in 2001, but also because it dares to explore a bigger and better scientific paradigm than the tired old materialist reductionist views we constantly hear in the media.
The description of the Pam Reynolds NDE story (in 1991) is the clearest I have read; van Lommel brings all the salient details of her brain operation together and demonstrates that Pam Reynold's experience could only have happened during the time when there was no circulation in her brain. (A precise record of the operation by Dr Spetzler and team was kept with the timings of each procedure, and Pam's NDE description is mapped to that.)
By taking seriously the reports of NDEs experienced by his patients and by people such as Pam Reynolds, van Lommel found he was compelled to look for new answers to the "problem" of consciousness in other areas of science. NDEs pose serious questions for health practitioners and challenge all of us to question the notion that consciousness is generated by the brain. This book provides a fascinating journey through centuries of scientific and cultural literature with a life-affirming hypothesis at its core: our consciousness cannot die, no matter what becomes of our bodies.
I was surprised by the sheer scope of the research presented - cardiology, physiology, neuroscience, genetics, medical ethics, philosophy, quantum mechanics, string theory - and all very clearly explained for the lay reader. Such care has been taken throughout to ground the concepts as they are developed and to summarise the arguments, with numbered references and a helpful glossary and bibliography. I'm especially grateful for the references to and quotations from many writers I have yet to discover, such as Frederik van Eeden, Henri Stapp, Dag Hammarskjoeld, and Marie de Hennezel. This is science writing for the public at its best.
on 31 August 2011
Now this is a book on the subject of NDE's that you will enjoy! Well written and substantiated by through research effort, very interesting reading. I particularly enjoyed some of the interpretations put forward by the author on the reasons behind non-local consciousness, using principles of quantum mechanics. Sure there are plenty of hypotheses put forward in here, and the author himself claims most of them may never been proved.. However, overall an entertaining and (almost always) informative reading! Highly recommended.
on 4 August 2014
This book is exceptional in many ways in the way it addresses many issues on NDEs and consciousness by taking a clear-cut approach and logical assessment based from two sides of the fence.
It is almost a piece of the whole puzzle in its own right this work, and the way it is written gives the reader the ability to pragmatically to step back and see the bigger picture and make their own minds up, but at the same time giving his own and other specialist views.
It is a shame that it only briefly covers the collective mind in a few areas as I would have liked to have read his views on this. As someone who has experienced an extreme cosmic consciousness experience (NDE) several years ago with retained knowledge, the views and ideas he expresses are fully accurate.
Equally his view that quantum spin information transfer and correlation in the brain (pg 256) is now provable (as in article in New Scientist this month), with spin being separated from the particle.
I wish I had read this book sooner, but then we often don’t get to see things when we would like.
on 14 October 2012
One cannot argue with the qualifications of the author of this book. On the front line of life and death in clinical practice, who else could present so impartial and yet so convincing a study of the evidence of some form of psychological survival of the personality after death? I found the case studies here to be absolutely convincing. Having, at the time of reading, also lost a beloved relative to death, I found the conclusions of this study to be comforting and deeply inspiring.