Near Death Experiences / Out Of Body Experiences: An Indepth Examination of Veridical Evidence & The Rebuttal of Common Skeptical Explainations
Updated: August 10, 2009
Veridical Perception & Veridical Information gained during Near Death Experiences / Out Of Body Experiences, even during a flat EEG where brain and heart activity have ceased, and even in cases of persons born blind:
There are a number of highly interesting documented cases of people having near death experiences / out of body experiences, even during a flat EEG where brain and heart activity have ceased, returning with factual information which they had no prior knowledge of, and numerous cases in which the experiencers returned to life with information unavailable to them at the time of death.
These include being able to accurately tell the doctors what they were doing while they were clinically dead, what clothes they wore, what procedures and instruments they used, and any conversations being said, including accurate blow by blow accounts of their own resuscitation from a bird's eye point of view, the details of which can later be checked and verified to be true.
Often times they also describe what was happening out in the hallway, who was sitting in the waiting room, what was happening on the other side of the building, and conversations being said at these same locations, all while they were clinically dead elsewhere. The events witnessed, heard, and experienced later being verified to be true. Even obscure objects on the roof have been seen and verified.
There are also accounts of experiencers meeting deceased relatives during an NDE that the person did not know was dead, such as a relative or a friend, and finding out that they were in fact deceased after the fact, and learning information from them that they could not have otherwise known.
There are many accounts of children and adult NDErs learning about relatives and siblings who had died before their own birth that they never met or were never told about, etc.
Also, people who are blind, and some people who have been blind since birth, have been able to accurately perceive visual surroundings during their experience. Many people have also been informed of knowledge far beyond their personal capacity. Etc.
The most convincing aspect of these, is that a number of them were recounted, recorded, and documented IMMEDIATELY or VERY SOON after the patient regained consciousness to the doctors, nurses, staff, and family members, not long after the fact.
(I will discuss individual best of the best cases indepth in an upcoming seperate article.)
Interestingly, there have in fact been Successful Experiments in actually testing Veridical NDEs...
* Many doctors, nurses, medical staff, paramedics, and family members have been interviewed by NDE Researchers to obtain cross-referanced verifiable information between the stories of the patients concerning their Veridical NDEs and the cross-referanced experiences of the medical staff involved with them.
* Dr. Michael Sabom did a study on over 57 cardiac patients who had clinically died and were brought back, 32 of whom had experienced Veridical OBEs and had described in great detail their own resusitations during cardiac arrest, and 25 of whom had not experienced an OBE during their cardiac arrest. He had two groups, the experiencers who saw in their OBEs and the non-experiencers who did not, describe their resusitations. To his suprise, 80% of the non-experiencers made serious mistakes. On the other hand, all of the experiencers did not make a single mistake.
Accourding to PMH Atwater in her book "The Complete Idiots Guide To Near-Death Experiences" regarding Dr. Michael Sabom's Research Study...
"Experiencers even correctly detailed readings on medical machines that were not in their line of vision, and described other circumstances they should not otherwise have been able to know."
* Dr. Pim Van Lommel did a more indepth study with 344 cardiac patients independently of Dr. Michael Sabom with similar results.
They made sure that their subjects could be verified as flatlined during the experiences. (This is significant because the brain flat-lines within 4 to 20 seconds of cardiac arrest.)
* Dr. Kenneth Ring did a study on Veridical NDEs of 31 persons who were blind (a number of whom were born blind) and found that they could veridically "see" events while their OBE unfolded the same way sighted people's do.
I'd like to add that Dr. Michael Sabom and Dr. Pim Van Lommel and Dr. Kenneth Ring's Research were published in PEER REVIEWED Science Journals. Most notably The Lancet Medical Journal.
Here is an excellent list of arguments in favor of the phenomenon by IANDS...
* Once a person's brainwaves have ceased, indicating that all mental activity has stopped - perceiving, thinking, and remembering - how do we explain their accurate perception of events going on around their 'deceased' body (both sight and sound), and their accurate reporting of events taking place even at significant distances from their clinically-dead body?
* If we regard experiencers' perceptions of dead relatives as just imaginary "wishful thinking", how can we explain their accurate description of relatives previously unknown to them, yet later verified by living relatives and by civil documents?
* If the spiritual component of the near-death experience could be explained away as just an extension of the person's pre-existing belief system, why have confirmed atheists come back after their NDE convinced there is a God? And why have religious believers returned from their NDE with un-orthodox changes to their prior dogmas?
Many NDE-accounts seem to include elements which, according to several theorists, can only be explained by an out-of-body consciousness.
As Greyson notes: "No one physiological or psychological model by itself explains all the common features of NDE. The paradoxical occurrence of heightened, lucid awareness and logical thought processes during a period of impaired cerebral perfusion raises particular perplexing questions for our current understanding of consciousness and its relation to brain function. A clear sensorium and complex perceptual processes during a period of apparent clinical death challenge the concept that consciousness is localized exclusively in the brain." (Greyson, 2001)
Research on NDEs occurring in the blind have also hinted that consciousness survives bodily death.
NDE's can also lead to long-lasting spiritual effects (as evidenced by the many studies which confirm the experience as having taken place during clinical death)."
OBE Specific Research:
* The Monroe Institute's OBE Experiments.
* Charles Tart's OBE Experiment of having an experienced OBEr accurately read a five-digit number from an unreachable/unseeable location. 100,000 to 1 chance accuracy.
* Robert Morris' OBE Experiments with Keith Harary who reported accurately on sitters, letters, and positions, in a sealed laboratory 20 yards away.
* Clinical testing of OBEs - in which strain gauges were triggered at a distance, apparently by the test subject's roving presence, and in which an animal reacted consistently as if the subject were in the room when he was reportedly having an OBE while asleep in the next room.
* The US Government's 20 year long Program "Stargate" on Remote Viewing which had a number of amazing positive significant veridical results with Remote Viewers, as well as a number of noted misses.
What do the Skeptics on the other hand have to say about NDEs? Let's be fair now.
Skeptic Argument 1: Dying Brain Theory
The Dying Brain Theory states that upon clinical death the brain is slowly straved of oxygen and creates a vivid hallucination that is later remembered as an NDE.
This theory in truth falls very short of the cold hard medical facts of what happens to the brain after cardiac arrest occurs and when clinical death sets in, and is likewise destroyed by the well documented Veridical Aspects of the NDE Phenomenon itself that are never adaquetely dealt with as a whole.
In total refution of the "Dying Brain Theory" the cold hard medical facts are that when a person's heart stops they lose total consciousness within seconds. The loss of consciousness is complete and there are no memories of the event. EEG and brain stem monitors show no brain activity while in this state. There is no gag reflex, no pupil response, no brain activity whatsoever. They are dead. The brain cannot produce images in this state, and even if it could, you couldn't remember them.
Multiple medical doctors including Peter Fenwick a respected neuropsychiatrist, Pim Van Lommel a cardiologist, Sam Parnia, Bruce Greyson, Ian Stevenson, Melvin Morse, Michael Sabom, and numerous others, will tell you the same thing.
"Simultaneous recording of heart rate and brain output show that within 11 seconds of the heart stopping, the brainwaves go flat. Now, if you read the literature on this, some skeptical people claim that in this state there is still brain activity, but, in fact, the data are against this in both animals and humans. The brain is not functioning, and you are not going to get your electrical activity back again until the heart restarts." (Dr. Peter Fenwick)
Further Dr. Peter Fenwick Quotations:
"Let's look at the physiological state of the brain and body at the time of reported NDEs. No detectable cardiac output, no respiratory output - they certainly weren't breathing. Neither did they have any brain stem reflexes - in other words they was no activity whatsoever in the brain."
"The first point is that signs of cardiac arrest are the same as clinical death. There is no detectable cardiac output, no respiratory effort, and brainstem reflexes are absent. If you are in this state and I put a tube down your throat, you will not cough. You will have dilated pupils. Your blood pressure has fallen to zero. You are, in fact, clinically dead. Even if I start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), I cannot get your blood pressure any higher than 30 millimetres of mercury, and this is not going to produce an adequate blood flow to your brain."
"When you are fully unconscious, you show the signs of clinical death which is no respiration, no cardiac output, fully dilated pupils showing that your brain stem is not functioning and that is the clinical criteria of death." (Dr. Peter Fenwick)
Dr. Sam Parnia: "During cardiac arrest brainstem activity is rapidly lost. It should not be able to sustain such lucid processes or allow the formation of lasting memories."
Further Dr. Sam Parnia Quotations:
".....This is termed the delayed hypoperfusion phase and is thought to occur due to a disturbed coupling between brain function, metabolism and blood flow. Clinically, these observations are supported by the loss of brainstem reflexes such as the gag reflex that indicate a loss of brainstem function, which normally activates the cortical areas via the thalamus."
"As seen these experiences appear to be occurring at a time when global cerebral function can at best be described as severely impaired, and at worse non-functional."
"An alternative explanation is that the experiences reported from cardiac arrest, may actually be arising at a time when consciousness is either being lost, or regained, rather than from the actual cardiac arrest period itself. Any cerebral insult leads to a period of both anterograde and retrograde amnesia In fact memory is a very sensitive indicator of brain injury and the length of amnesia before and after unconsciousness is a way of determining the severity of the injury. Therefore, events that occur just prior to or just after the loss of consciousness would not be expected to be recalled. At any rate recovery following a cerebral insult is confusional and cerebral function as measured by EEG has in many cases been shown not to return until many tens of minutes or even a few hours after successful resuscitation." (Dr. Sam Parnia)
Pim Van Lommel's well-known research study published Peer-Reviewed in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, also notes that cerebral activity flatlines within 4 to 20 seconds of cardiac arrest.
Dr. Pim Van Lommel Quotations:
"You can prove that the brain stem is no longer functioning because it regulates our basic reflexes, such as the pupil response and swallowing reflex, which no longer respond. So you can easily stick a tube down someone's throat. The respiratory centre also shuts down. If the individual is not reanimated within five to 10 minutes, their brain cells are irreversibly damaged."
"The fact that in a cardiac arrest loss of cortical function precedes the rapid loss of brainstem activity lends further support to this view."
"From studies of induced cardiac arrest we know that in our Dutch prospective study of patients who survived cardiac arrest (Van Lommel et al., 2001), as well as in the American (Greyson, 2003) and English study (Parnia et al., 2001), not only total lack of electrical activity of the cortex must have been the only possibility, but also the abolition of brain-stem activity."
"However, patients with an NDE can report a clear consciousness. And because of the occasional and verifiable out-of-body experiences, like the one involving the dentures in our study, we know that the NDE must happen during the period of unconsciousness, and not in the first or last seconds of cardiac arrest. So we have to come to the surprising conclusion that during cardiac arrest NDE is experienced during a transient functional loss of all functions of the cortex and of the brainstem."
"What you see when you induce cardiac arrest is that within one second the blood flow to the brain is zero centimeters per second. Within two seconds, it stops totally. After an average of 6.54 seconds, the first ischemic changes show on the EEG, with attenuation of the waves. After 10 to 20 seconds, you have a flat- line EEG, which means the electrical activity of the cortex is gone. The brain stem reflexes- such as the gag reflex and whether the pupils stay dilated - and the medulla oblongata - where the center of breathing is - stops. So that's the functional loss of your total brain. Well, with a heart attack, if it occurs on the coronary care unit, it takes between 60 and 120 seconds before circulation is restored. If it occurs on the general ward, it takes two to five minutes. If it occurs in the street, it usually exceeds five to 10 minutes, and 90 percent of those people will die."
"How could a clear consciousness outside one's body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG? . . . Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience. NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation. In our prospective study of patients that were clinically dead (flat EEG, showing no electrical activity in the cortex and loss of brain stem function evidenced by fixed dilated pupils and absence of the gag reflex) the patients report a clear consciousness, in which cognitive functioning, emotion, sense of identity, or memory from early childhood occurred, as well as perceptions from a position out and above their "dead" body." (Van Lommel, Van Wees, Meyers, Elfferich (2001). Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands. Lancet.)
The Dying Brain Theory also doesn't explain why only 18% of those who are brought back from clinical death experience an NDE, while the remaining 82% do not. Even under the exact same conditions.
"Our most striking finding was that Near-Death Experiences do not have a physical or medical root. After all, 100 per cent of the patients suffered a shortage of oxygen, 100 per cent were given morphine-like medications, 100 per cent were victims of severe stress, so those are plainly not the reasons why 18 per cent had Near-Death Experiences and 82 per cent didn't. If they had been triggered by any one of those things, everyone would have had Near-Death Experiences." (Van Lommel 1995)
The point being, if anyone of those things, dying brain, etc, had been the trigger, they all would have had NDEs who suffered the same degree of lack of oxygen, but because only 18% did, it's obviously not the trigger for the NDE experience.
I'd like to clarify that even though only 18% of those who are brought back from clinical death experience an NDE (all under the same medical conditions), the LONGER one is clinically dead, the higher the chance of being brought back with an NDE. Those who were clinically dead longer than several minutes have a far higher chance of coming back with an NDE than those who were clinically dead for only a minute or two.
Skeptic Argument 2: DMT Chemicals Causing NDEs
DMT does not account for the Veridical Elements of the NDE, nor the amazing structure of many NDEs, accourding to the book DMT: The Spiritual Molecule, it may act as an initial NDE trigger, but cannot make up for the entire experience, Veridical Elements and all, in addition to the pesky little fact that within 4 to 20 seconds of cardiac arrest, the brain waves go flat, and even if they were sufficient (which they are not), the brain cannot produce images in this state, and even if it could, you couldn't remember them.
Skeptic Argument 3: Ketamine
The Skeptic Sources refering to the Drug Ketamine causing NDEs are referancing an old paper by Ketamine Researcher Dr. Karl Jansen, who has since totally changed his stance on Ketamine actually causing the experiences, and is now far more open to the metaphysical component of NDEs. His current hypothesis is that Ketamine and other triggers of NDEs/OBEs simply act as a "door to a space" rather than actually producing that space. He states that his findings now are more in line with other researchers in his field such as John Lilly and Stanislav Grof.
"I am no longer as opposed to spritual explanations of these phenomena as this article would appear to suggest. Over the past two years (it is quite some time since I wrote it) I have moved more towards the views put forward by John Lilly and Stan Grof. Namely, that drugs and psychological disciplines such as meditation and yoga may render certain 'states' more accessible. The complication then becomes in defining just what we mean by 'states' and where they are located, if indeed location is an appropriate term at all. But the apparent emphasis on matter over mind contained within this particular article no longer accurately represents my attitudes. My forthcoming book 'Ketamine' will consider mystical issues from quite a different perspective, and will give a much stronger voice to those who see drugs as just another door to a space, and not as actually producing that space'." (Dr. Karl Jansen)
Melvin Morse M.D. wrote an insightful article titled "The Right Temporal Lobe And Associated Limbic Lobe Structures As The Biological Interface With An Interconnected Universe" that is along these lines of thought.
Skeptic Argument 4: The Navy Airmen Stress Tests
These are studies where they used Navy Airmen in G-Force stress tests that caused the blood in the heads of the individuals to drain, inducing a state of simulated clinical death, in which NDEs were reported. These do not conflict with the NDE Phenomenon, as the persons were essentially put into a state of simulated clinical death when the blood drained from their heads, and they had an NDE.
Again, like Pim Van Lommel's findings, it only occured in 18% of individuals who underwent and came back from this state of simulated clinical death.
Skeptic Argument 5: Susan Blackmore's Critique Of "The Tunnel"
Regarding the Tunnel that people see during their NDEs, Susan Blackmore has theorized that the optic nerve causes a "Tunnel Effect" due to random neuron firings in the back of the eye to explain away the "Tunnel" that people see.
But a woman named Vicki who was born blind had her optic nerve severed in her incubator at birth, and she still visually saw a Tunnel during her NDE and OBE. And it happened awhile into the actual experience.
The fact is, The Tunnel can appear in front of them, to the side of them, up above them, even through a wall, soon after or long after their clinical death set in. And sometimes even not at all.
The Tunnel is truely a moot point concerning the overall NDE experience.
Skeptic Argument 6: The Assertion That People Only See And Experience What They Already Believed
While this may be true in certain cases, this is also completely untrue in a number of other cases. Many Atheists and Agnostics have come back believing in a God for example. Many Christians come back believing in Reincarnation, that Other Religions are Valid Spiritual Paths, and other Unorthodox Hetrodox ideas. There are a number of cases of Hindus meeting Muhammed, Muslims meeting Buddha, Christians meeting a Figure of God other than Mainstream Christianity. (I know one Southern Baptist Christian who saw Shamanic Imagery in his NDE, and became a Shaman. I met another one who met a Demiurge Figure in Addition to a God Figure, which reflects Gnosticism.) A seven year old girl who was raised Christian saw deceased spirits of people waiting to be reborn (reincarnation) that goes against her belief system, etc.
I know an Atheist who had a very profound NDE when she was a child, and she had been raised non-religious, and she had experienced God in a Interconnected Oneness Context, that she was informed "All is One", and she said that she became and identified and connected with everything during her NDE. Very much in line with Eastern Spiritual Thought.
Skeptic Argument 7: Keith Augustine's Anti-NDE Article (The Skeptic's Trump Card)
Sources such as Keith Augustine's article will prey upon the perceived weakness of certain NDEs, out of their full context, while ignoring alternative explainations and far better and far stronger NDE examples, in an attempt to bring all NDEs down. The "weird" NDEs he presents are without context, and his sources are usually Christian Fundamentalist Anti-NDE Books (Not Kidding), and short excerpts from Books of NDE Researchers, taken out of their full context and presented without the full explaination of the NDE Researchers who are presenting them. His alternative explainations of Veridical NDEs ignore pesky facts and additional and alternative information that he convienently ignored to come to his conclusions.
The bulk of his arguments against specific veridical cases, revolve largely around presenting totally unprovable unverifiable highly speculative "coulda-woulda-shouldas" regarding how they "could have seen/heard those things naturally" while ignoring well presented alternative explainations, the full context of the specific cases, and ignoring all of the known facts and circumstances surrounding the matter at hand that conflict with his hastey conclusions. Basically, presenting personal speculation in such as way as to suggest that mere speculation is somehow as damning as actual facts. His arguments often revolve around presenting a totally one-sided view of things, ignoring what the other side has to fully say regarding it, and comes up with his own conclusion without the full data being presented there. There are times where he partially or very briefly and shortly presents what the other side has to say, but certainly not all of it, as much of what he does not present is very damning to his side of the argument.
http://www.survivalafterdeath.org/articles/carter/augustine.htm - Rebuttal to Keith Augustine's attack of "Does Consciousness depend on the Brain?"
http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2006/08/ndes_and_their_.html - Michael Prescott's indepth critique of Keith Augustine's Anti-NDE Article.
http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2007/07/who-will-watch-.html - Who Will Watch The Watchers (Michael Prescott debunks the Skeptic Sources that Keith Augustine used in an attempt to discredit Kimberly Clark's famous case)
I'm planning on making another indepth article on this subject eventually to tackle more indepth skeptical arguments that I didn't have time to tackle in this perticular article, although I feel that the whole of what I did tackle in this perticular article covers all of the main skeptical objections.
http://www.near-death.com/evidence.html - Indepth NDE/OBE Evidence In Favor of Survival of Consciousness (53 Items of Evidence Presented, Full of Links, Sources, and Referances.)
http://www.near-death.com/experiences/articles001.html - A Critique of Susan Blackmore's Dying Brain Hypothesis by Greg Stone
http://www.esalenctr.org/display/confpage.cfm?confid=9&pageid=86&pgtype=1 - Transmission Theory of Consciousness
http://www.esalenctr.org/display/confpage.cfm?confid=9&pageid=95&pgtype=1 - Near Death Experiences as Evidence for Survival of Bodily Death
http://www.melvinmorse.com/e-tlp.htm - The Right Temporal Lobe And Associated Limbic Lobe Structures As The Biological Interface With An Interconnected Universe
http://profezie3m.altervista.org/archivio/TheLancet_NDE.htm - Van Lommel, Van Wees, Meyers, Elfferich (2001). Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands. Lancet.
http://www.cinemind.com/atwater/VLommel.html - "About the Continuity of Our Consciousness" by Pim Von Lommel
http://www.mikepettigrew.com/afterlife/html/dutch_study.html - The Dutch Study
http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/whoswho/vanLommel.htm - A great response by Pim Van Lommel against a Leading Skeptic regarding his research study.
"Autoscopic Evidence: Dr. Charles Tart's Out-of-Body Experience Research":
"Psychophysiological Study of Out-of-the-Body Experiences in a Selected Subject":
Out-Of-Body Experiences (OBE or OOBE), Article by Mario Varvoglis, Ph.D.:
Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) Research:
http://www.biomindsuperpowers.com/Pages/CIA-InitiatedRV.html - CIA-Initiated Remote Viewing At Stanford Research Institute
"In July 1995 the CIA declassified, and approved for release, documents revealing its sponsorship in the 1970s of a program at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, to determine whether such phenomena as remote viewing "might have any utility for intelligence collection". Thus began disclosure to the public of a two-decade-plus involvement of the intelligence community in the investigation of so-called parapsychological or psi phenomena. Presented here by the program's Founder and first Director (1972 - 1985) is the early history of the program, including discussion of some of the first, now declassified, results that drove early interest."
http://www.geocities.com/wwu777us/Debunking_Skeptical_Arguments.htm - Debunking Pseudo-Skeptical Arguments of Paranormal Debunkers
http://www.nderf.com/phpBB2/index.php - NDERF Forum, where lively Debate and Discussion of NDEs/OBEs takes place on a daily basis.