Thursday 21 September 2023

Death but not as we know it?

Into the Light? 

Just a little commentary concerning 'Near Death Experiences (NDEs).' This is a fascinating and controversial topic for consideration. For those not familiar with the phenomenon, here is an outline: This phenomenon relates to the situation where a patient experiences cardiac death but is consequently resuscitated. The patient upon regaining their senses is able to render a vivid recollection of experiences occurring during the unconscious interval.  At this stage, it is necessary to qualify or redefine/redeem what has been stated in the previous sentences. Thus, the patient is obviously not dead. These cases describe an event where the patient's heart has stopped beating however, generally through medical intervention, the heart is reactivated, and the patient is saved from certain and ultimate brain death. Clinical death is said to occur when the brain dies, this occurs about eight minutes post cardiac arrest and is a consequence of oxygen deprivation. Once this occurs there has been no documented revival, regardless of what you may read in the Bible. NDEs, when they occur, generally have a vivid, profound quality about them and there appears a remarkable degree of consistency in certain aspects of the experience that transcends culture and religious affiliation. Thus, a common feature involves a bright white light, often associated with a tunnel. In addition, those afflicted oft describe the appearance of a significant religious character relevant to their religious background. Thus, a Christian may encounter Jesus, while a Hindu may have a predilection for Shiva. They may also experience the manifestation of deceased loved ones and/or a reiteration of their life in vivid but truncated form. Sometimes, patients describe an out-of-body experience. 

All this is compelling stuff and for some patient's life-changing. Committed atheists have turned to Christianity after an encounter with the living Christ and so on. So, what is actually going on? Are dying patients actually peeking behind the veil separating life and death? Are they actually obtaining a glimpse of the afterlife, or is something else going on?

First off, I must state the obvious. In all these instances we are dealing with a brain deprived of oxygen. And before we start looking for supernatural explanations for this phenomenon, it is well worth seeking a naturalistic explanation, devoid of hocus pocus and wand waving. As in all cases where the solution is not obvious, let us apply the rule of parsimony (Occam's razor), and let us not posit beyond what is necessary. Tis often the case that the simplest solution is the most plausible without a need for a gaudy display and descent into silliness. An abundance, nay a plethora of explanations, is not the rational man's friend. So, having stated the problem, let us delve into this most perplexing conundrum without descending into irrational bollocks.

A Bit of Science (with emphasis on the bit)

It is important to note that personal testament is essentially poor evidence and is certainly non-scientific. Anecdotal reports are not verifiable data and therefore should be dealt with scant regard. A study into the phenomenon of NDEs consisting of 197 cardiac arrest patients found that only 9% of patients had an experience that could be classified as an NDE. Interestingly, Dr. Olaf Blanke of the University Hospital of Geneva (remember him?) was able to reproduce the classical NDE experience in experimental subjects by inserting probes into their cortex. In addition, it has been noted that fighter pilots whilst undergoing training in G force-inducing centrifuges, may on occasion be subject to an NDE- this is due to hypoxia impinging upon the brain under these extreme conditions.   

So, in conclusion, currently, we have no evidence that withstands scientific scrutiny of NDEs somehow providing a preview of the 'afterlife'. Proponents who are convinced that NDEs are a foreboding, furtive glance unto the infinite will continue believing so. However, we have no data, to date, that is supportive of their conclusion. Some folk will believe regardless, because they want to even in the absence of supportive data. From my perspective, I find no evidence to support any form of life's continuance once we are pronounced brain dead. Therefore, take pleasure in our brief sojourn on this bittersweet journey that is 'life'. Enjoy, quaff deep, read well, and make love. Converse with the wise and eschew the fool. All else is but commentary, clutter, and noise. Arse.



  1. With the amount of alcohol that I have consumed over the years, I reckon to have many months of near death experience... I actually do have had a couple of non self inflicted NDEs; I had a narrow escape from Osteomylitis, which was fun. And a fall in a hayshed that ended up with me under a pile of bales. Concussion was the only result, not that I remember much about it, apparently I did some odd things over the following couple of weeks. I don't know how anyone noticed. No flashing lights, except on the ambulance.

    1. Looks like you have had an eventful life- stay safe.

  2. I've heard the hypoxia thing as a suggestion for these reported near death experiences, and there are those who state it as an almost certainty.

    Three years ago I found myself in hospital. Spinal abscess struck out of the blue. Wednesday, twinge in the lower back. Thought I'd put my back out. Friday, I could hardly stand, but managed to crawl to the quack. Thursday I had the operation (I wouldn't recommend a spinal abscess BTW).

    Just before the anesthetic hits, you're on pure oxygen (I did ask while lying there). I heard "switching" (which was the anesthetic proper about to be applied) and then I woke up thinking "where the fuck am I", a few seconds of total disorientation before realisation kicked in.

    The actual operation, I was told later, took around two hours.

    But as far as I was concerned, I might as well have been abducted by aliens, so complete was the loss of time. No dreams, no sense of anything whatsoever.

    I wonder if that's why pure oxygen is given.

    Too little and the brain seems to start getting quite creative. Too much, and it would appear absolute shutdown.

    Interesting that near death experiences can be induced in some people.

    As for "actual" near death experiences, like alien abductees with similar sounding experiences, I wonder if the same psychological factors are in play.

    1. Hi Flax, going essential again.
      First Mark..: yeah, same psychological factors in play. Suspicous enough, that these "experiences" use to be told by people who usally don´t belong to those whom Flaxon recommands as the "wise". Pulp stories about reincarnation from former lifes as shiny knights or egyptian queens lurk around the corner.

      Next anonymous...: when I had an operation few years ago (kidney stone) under full sedation it was pitchblack only too. Bit disapointing. I would have loved to get some kinda visions, dreams, pictures... I concentrated on that before they knocked me out, but shit - nothing happend!

      Anyway - as an experimental solipsist I consider a diametrical different approach. We was/are fooled and mistaken in so many essential things (while sitting in Plato´s fckn shadow cave). Earth is no disc and Universe did not emerge out of nothing by such a redicules thing like a big bang... (just two examples). So, how real is "reality"? When death is like sedation, the whole absurd thing named world is wiped out forever same moment we "go". No earth, no coffee, no merc convertible, no boobs, no empirism, no history, no next generation, no memory, no logic, no meaning - puff, all gone with the last fart. Man, what a waste and how incredible useless. No epistemological concept - they may try as hard as the want to (and they do) - can generate a meaning to any life... with just one exeption: solipsism! So I tried to think/imagine, that the whole (in fact superweird) concept-line of beeing unborn, birth, life, death, being dead is just one more big mistake and should be removed by something convincing. (earth is a globe, the universe is infinte in space and time with no need for any beginning out of nothing...). If with you the whole shit will go away, it seems to me most logical that you should be the creator of it (same way, as you are the creator of the pretty complex worlds you create by dreaming each sleep - boobs, convertible cars, white sharks, whatever. That means, death is nothing else but sleep, you will always wake up again. Congrats chaps! You are immortal. Like some protagonist in a playstation. Game over? - Try again! But please: increase your gaming scills and create better!! Have fun and take could care (this world needs you)

    2. Yep, interesting deep anesthesia generates 'nothingness' and the concept of time is eradicated. I have never been subject to anaesthesia but I did have a seizure one sunny morn whilst sipping a cup of tea. Apparently, my eyes rolled into my head and I gnashed upon my tongue bringing forth a crimson flood. I was out for about 10 minutes to awake to paramedics placing electrodes upon my chest. During those 10 minutes, I was in complete oblivion. I suspect this is the closest experience of death I can experience without savouring the real thing- absolute nowt. I could be wrong, but I'll have to wait and see. As for solipsism, I will say this: As a solipsist myself it is refreshing to meet another fellow solipsist. We should meet sometime to determine which one of us actually exists.

  3. Yeah. Would love to meet you Flax. Unfortunately Wello is not around next corner. But never say never...
    To find out, who is creating the whole rubbish, all you have to mind is the famous sentence of René Descartes: "I`m thinking therefore I am". Read it loud in front of a mirror, watch and listen. Cheers.