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Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences Hardcover – 19 Sep 1993

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 291 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books UK; Reprint edition (19 Sept. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879758708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879758707
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.6 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,085,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Although "believers" in the spiritual interpretation of the NDE will not be convinced by Blackmore's dying-brain theory, this is by far the best book on the subject I've seen. Blackmore is not out to "debunk" the believers, but to show that her theory better explains the data in almost every respect. Her standard for what constitutes a good scientific theory is particularly valid in showing how alternate explanations (even non-spiritual) are not useful, if not outright mistaken.

It's interesting to note that even in his latest book Kenneth Ring still says the "unbelievers'" explanations claim that the NDE is pointless, or not meaningful, or that it belittles experiencers. Anyone who reads Blackmore's intelligent, compassionate book, which is even tinged by eastern philosophy (though from a neurological standpoint), know that Ring is fooling himself.
I call Blackmore's theory a "prototheory" because it is not comprehensive. But she admits outright that the evidence for this or that point would not yet excuse speculation; she doesn't cop out on issues, she simply says that neither she nor the believers can say one way or the other yet without further research. All in all, _Dying to Live_ is more of a foundation for future research and theorizing on the meaning of the NDE, but as such it is invaluable.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has been blown out of the water many times by fresher research. The skeptiko podcast and forum is an excellent, careerism free, resource. Unfortunately, Susan Blackmore is here proving the meme idea to be correct. Live a virus, the meme spreads through the body of discourse and people start repeating the mean.

Dying to Live is mentioned everywhere like this old book is the ultimate revelation. It's sad really.

I was in a dentist waiting room and I happened upon the Focus Magazine. I went to the questions section where Blakemore resides, like a troll with her fingers in many a pie. An innocent asked Blackmore why do dreams feel so read. Blackmore claimed to know the answer and peddled her stupid dying brain model.

In Dying to Live, Susan Blackmore claims that we all dream from a floating vantage point and this explains the dream of the near death experience. This is how low the academy has sunk.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very good book and very good read
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Blackmore goes to some trouble to argue against Kenneth Ring, and makes it clear that she finds Sheldrake's hypothesis untenable. But she offers no competing explanation for MacDougall's experiment.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x93becf54) out of 5 stars 23 reviews
63 of 89 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91c01270) out of 5 stars A Theory Without Any Evidence at All 26 Mar. 2005
By Timothy Riso - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The fact that this book has been published at all is bewildering. The author has created a theory that purports to explain the NDE phenomenon through debunking; the difficulty is that she does not provide any evidence at all! The entire book consists of her observations and comments, and this simpy does not suffice. She dismisses the evidence that DOES exist without addressing it.

For example: the most challenging and interesting book on the subject is Michael Sabom's "Recollections at Death". He presents numerous well-documented cases that suggest that the NDE is real - and he also provides a thoughtful, articulate and fair-minded discussion of the possible answers.

Blackmore does not actually deal with any of the evidence, with one exception: she refers to the ONE detailed case where he does not provide the original records. He includes it because of its uniqueness - in ALL other cases, he includes the original medical records. She makes a joke about it and disregards it; she never makes the point that his book is filled with evidence based on origical records and personnel. Any reader who is not familiar with Sabom might think that this one case is typical of the entire book!

Reading this book has made me much more aware and sceptical of authors who claim to be experts. If I was not familiar with the work done on this subject, I would not know how misleading and simply inaccurate Blackmore's book is. Why didn't the publishers check for accuracy? Why was a book about a theory published without evidence?

In addition, Blackmore claims to have had a NDE herself. This is not true. She describes a hallucination following the use of drugs - then goes on to describe the related experience and associates it with the NDEs of people on the verge of death! A disgraceful book.
By Steven H Propp - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Susan Jane Blackmore (born 1951) is an English psychologist. Interestingly, although she earned her Ph.D. in psychology and physiology with a thesis on, "Extrasensory Perception as a Cognitive Process," and herself had an out-of-body experience, she has since become a skeptic, and prominent member of CSICOP. She has written other books such as The Adventures of a Parapsychologist, Beyond The Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences, etc.

She wrote in the Preface to this 1993 book, "There is no heaven toward which evolution progresses. And no ultimate purpose... Yet our minds have evolved to create purposefulness and cling to the idea of a self because that will more efficiently keep alive the body and perpetuate its genes... our evolution makes it very hard for us to accept the idea of ... our own individual pointlessness... The discovery and study of near-death experiences [NDEs] has taught us about the experience of nearly dying... This book is an attempt to explore what psychology, biology and medicine have to say about death and dying."

She rejects Carl Sagan's suggestion [in Broca's Brain] that NDEs recapitulate the experience of birth; she states, "The idea that we return to birth in death has an obvious appeal and a superficial plausibility, I do not believe it has any more than this... the birth canal is nothing like a tunnel with a light at the end... it takes a vast leap of imagination to make the two comparable." (Pg. 79)

She later adds, "No explanation of the NDE is worthwhile unless it can explain why it feels the way it does." (Pg. 93) She asserts, "It is my contention that there is no soul, spirit, astral body or anything at all that leaves the body during NDEs and survives after death. These... are all illusions and the NDE can be accounted for without recourse to any of them." (Pg. 114) She suggests, "try an experiment on yourself. Shut your eyes now and try to imagine where you are but from above... You may be surprised at how much you can 'see' but this is just a reflection of how information is stored in our memories." (Pg. 117)

She notes, "It is also now common practice to speak about the [dying] patient as though they might be able to hear. Medical personnel in operating theatres are trained not to discuss the patient's illness or possible demise as though they were a lump of inanimate flesh but to realize that they might hear what is going on." (Pg. 121) She contends, "Endorphins are released during stress and one of their effects is to lower the threshold for seizures in the limbic system and temporal lobe. The resulting abnormal activity ... causes the flashbacks and associated feelings of familiarity and meaningfulness." (Pg. 214)

She summarizes, "The joy and peace are consistent because of the natural opiates released under stress. The tunnel, light and noises are consistent because they depend on the structure of the brain's cortex and what happens to it when it is deprived of oxygen or is affected by disinhibition and random activity... The life review is consistent because the endorphins cause random activation and seizures in the temporal lobe and limbic system where memories are organized... And it is this dissolution of self that accounts for the mystical experiences and aftereffects." (Pg. 261)

Whether one accepts any or all of Blackmore's suggested explanations, this is clearly a crucial skeptical work, that demands careful study by anyone interested in NDEs.
HASH(0x91c01780) out of 5 stars Very insightful 30 July 2014
By R. Stevens - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Susan Blackmore gives a materialistic explanation for near-death experiences. While that may sound depressing to many dualists, Blackmore has a way of putting a positive spin on the explanation by linking it to Eastern philosophy.

While this is an older book and there are certainly more recent books that talk about NDE phenomenon, this is still a good book for skeptics of a traditional afterlife.

But philosophically, there are questions to ask about Blackmore's view of no self. While I tend to agree with Blackmore that the self is an illusion, just what experiences the illusory self? The body? A vacuum? The universe? An illusion can't experience itself. And another question... what is consciousness? How is she defining consciousness? As we wonder how the universe can come from "nothing" (even though that's not what the Big Bang Theory claims), how can subjective phenomena arise out of "no subjective phenomena"? Is the "dazzling darkness" or "sense of oneness and timelessness" that Blackmore speaks of the default state of subjective experience in the absence of the illusory self? I would be interested in Blackmore's answers to those questions. Just so you know, in present time, Blackmore calls herself a monist, but NOT a materialist or an idealist. I don't know if this was her view at the time of writing this book. Even though Blackmore hasn't studied NDEs in years, I would love it if she were to jump back into that field and write an updated version of this book.
26 of 39 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91c01768) out of 5 stars Lets see here... handwaving... 31 Oct. 2003
By Alan Wilder - Published on
Format: Hardcover
ITS all wishful thinking says Susan Blackmore, a woman who has waged her career on this claim.
Where is the evidence? Well, you see there is none. Blackmore wages her evidence on pink unicorns she says she is trying to abolish. In a true hand waving fashion, Blackmore dismisses ALL evidence for OBEs that could produce facts that were verifiable. This is coming from the same woman who is studying 'memetics' a non-falsifiable pseudo-science, and claiming it is scientific.
Sure, if you're the ultimate non-believer, you will find hand waving here. But the truth is, you DON'T NEED Blackmore to do handwaving for you, because in truth, if you ARE a sceptic, you are quite probably a smarter sceptic than her, and can come up with better arguments.
41 of 62 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91c01c30) out of 5 stars Dying to Live 1 Jan. 2005
By Zokhar - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book fails on several levels. Mainly, however, because it is not objective. It starts from a particular premise and then endeavours to prove the validity of that premise despite the facts that the author encounters during her journey of 'honest' investigation.

The book must have been written before the now celebrated and quite astonishing case of Pam Reynolds who in Phoenix Arizona underwent 'shut-down' surgery. In this pioneering operative technique all the blood is drained from the patient's brain and it was during one of these shut-down procedures that Pam experienced a NDE. During the operation, Pam could not only recall in some detail what was said and but also describe the equipment that was being used by Dr Speztler, the surgeon in charge, and his team although she was clinically (and verifiably so) brain-dead at the time.

Dr Blackmore apparently is a Zen Practitioner and so it seems incredibly bizarre that she should imagine that 'all' we are and experience can be simply explained away by the somewhat limited model of reality as understood by science today. Surely one should, at the very least, have the modesty to entertain the remote possibility that the mysteries of life, mind and matter may not yet fully be understood by humanity?
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