NDEs, OBEs and LIFE EVERLASTING
A Contemplation of Mind, Brain, Body, Spirit, heaven and earth
By: J. Marlando
I have had a NDE (Near death experience) and an OBE (Out of body experience) so I am extremely curious about what that exactly means. Science tells me that both experiences are merely hallucination and part of the mystery of my brain’s working mechanics. But let us not forget that scientists and doctors are trained and indoctrinated to see living things from a mechanical, reductionist view which basically means, to them, we living things are nothing more than gene machines, the totality of our physical parts.
Actually not every doctor and scientist in the world scoffs at such phenomena as OBEs, lucid dreaming, mental telepathy or anything else that extends our physical abilities, only most of them do! Indeed, to them, anything that suggests the mystical which many new physicists do like Fred Alan wolf, Paul Davies, David Bohm, Amit Goswami along with many others are called Voodoo Scientists. Indeed, as a brief aside some years ago when I was writing for a magazine I interviewed one of the world’s most renowned cancer specialists. Anyway, after the interview we sat together over a cup of coffee chatting. During the chat I asked him a question that gave him a smile about disease. He told me that he would only answer the question if I swore never to quote him. I promised and he gave me a mystical answer. He said if his colleagues and associates knew he thought such things they would lose respect for him and his work would be in jeopardy. I have kept that conversation to myself for a very long time now. The point for mentioning it here is just to assure the reader that there really are scientific thinking people who absolutely see beyond the dead-world view that they have been taught to believe is the only view.
An early question invariably evolves anytime a discussion leaning toward metaphysics arises that asks, is there ever lasting life or are we simply doomed to a being and nothingness existence; here today, gone tomorrow? Before we attempt to answer that question we need to ask, what is reality…really?
Most people answer this question by pointing to the world outside themselves and saying, there what you see before you is real, the stuff you can see, taste, smell, touch and hear. But the truth of this is that no one “sees” the world the same as anyone else. And anyway, it is not our eyes that “sees” stuff, it is our brains; our brain is what constructs our realities. To help us understand this better, *Darryl Reanney tells us, “When you read the words on this page, what is happening is that a particular pattern of electromagnetic (light) waves is exciting the retina of your eyes, and the brain is translating that pattern into meaningful images on the basis of past experiences.” This only means as a child you learned how to recognize symbols that you can turn into letters and words.
A question then is do we all live in the same world and the answer is no. There is not another person in the world that sees the roses outside your window in the same way that you do. Most conclusively the world we see does NOT exist independently as something out there shared by everyone else; when you leave this world, your world leaves with you.
But wait, readers may be saying that if I point to the tree outside my window and a person next to me follows where I am pointing, he or she will see the same tree I’m seeing. The other person will recognize the same form you are seeing because trees were part of his earliest world-view experiences and the brain remembers how to turn those learned symbols into things like trees, telephone poles, hoes, hoses and snakes. The tree that you experience will not only be a construct of your experiences but you will also project values onto it which are unique as well. For an easy example, if you are happy, we’ll say, you will project the tree as being filled with life and beauty. If the person beside you is depressed for some reason he or she will see the tree as lifeless and gloomy—both realities are equally real to the observer. In this way, it is true; when we change our mind we change our world.
But there is a greater mystery to all this than is generally thought: *When Captain Cook found his way off the coast of a Hawaiian Island he was forced to anchor his ship a ways from shore and take a longboat, with some of his men because of the shallow water just off the island’s beach.
When he reached land the natives were most impressed and curious where these strange men had arrived from and how they got across the waters. Captain Cook walked the inquisitive natives to the beach and pointed into the distance at his ship. He explained that he had traveled on the big ship in order to get to the island. The natives looked to where the Captain was pointing and were soon enough squinting because they saw nothing. There was no ship in their view…in their reality; all they saw was the ocean as always expanding to the far horizon.
Because they had never seen a ship that big, they simply did not believe in its existence and therefore their brains could not computerize the big ship’s image; to them it didn’t exist and so…it didn’t…for them!
**This very same thing happened when Charles Darwin was sailing around the world on a large sailing ship by the name of the Beagle. While he was on the Galapagos Islands, he was shocked to discover that the natives could not see the big ship anchored out to sea near the island. They could clearly see the small rowing boats that the men had used to ferry themselves from the ship to the island but none of them could see the big ship until they were rowed out to where it was anchored and could almost touch it. Only then was it given form by the native’s brains and therefore included in their reality.
One conclusion is, regardless of what the empiricists say there is no (real) objective reality.
*Wolf, Fred Alan* The Eagle’s Quest*Touchstone
**Hayward Jeremy W.* Letters to Vanessa *Shambhala
OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCES
Scientists have always rejected the idea that OBEs are possible because the very thought conjures ideas that the “I” of us is something detached from the physical self. Indeed most scientists believe that the mind is an epiphenomenon (component or activity) of the physical brain. This is a major reason why so many doctors and other scientists, scholars and intellectuals cannot accept the idea of life after life—when the brain dies, they say, the mind goes with it.
Science it seems now believes that there is such an experience as an OBE but, as you can guess, to the scientist it is a function of the physical brain as well. The reason that this is because it has been discovered that the drug Ketamine can generate out of body experiences, but as I understand it, it is a mirrored image as opposed to the “I” of the self truly being separated from the body/brain.
In a real OBE (as happens when a near death experience occurs) the self is not mirrored but rather the psyche is attached from its container which operates rationally outside the realm of the physical brain or body; it is an individual but invisible entity that thinks, sees, feels and so forth without the majesty of a working, physical brain.
I have two friends, a college PhD and a doctor who both agree that I am both naïve and they name me, “a naïve wood nymph type believing in magic rather in the objective.” The deny flatly that an OBE is nothing other than an illusion projected by the workings of the brain and, like so many others, go on to explain why the very idea of separating the self from the body is absurd bordering on the stupid. However, like so many others like them, they have never had the experience themselves—while they are condemning the subjective and claiming themselves to being objective, they are instead offering conjecture, opinion and concept in the guise of knowing what is and what isn’t when it comes to human experience. I mention this only because it points out the unfounded bias of so many in science, medicine and education who are so stuck in the quagmire of Newton’s clock-work world.
The truth is that these days there has been so many OBEs especially that accompanies NDEs that it is irrational not to believe that the “I” or “soul” of us detaches from the body and ends up in another dimension of being but virtually in the same reality. Nevertheless, there are those like *Ronald Siegel of UCLA even joshes about NDEs saying that people who have them always see relatives and loved ones fully clothed “just how they remember them” implying a mere projection of the brain/mind. At bottom line he offers that NDEs and so OBEs are mere experiences of wishful thinking and nothing more. But this takes us back to how we create reality.
A THEORY OF THE AFTER DEATH EXPERIENCE
The brain like a computer is robotic in the sense that it is subject to its software—indeed the computer’s original hardware has minimum instructions in order to be able to function and keep “the machine” in working order. This can also be said about the brain. The brain is programed to keep our body’s functioning but is, at least on a conscious level, a blank slate until it is given information which it processes and puts into memory. However, it isn’t correct to think of the brain as a sophisticated computer (at least not compared to the computers we have now). *Our brains are equipped with around 100 billion cells with 100 trillion synaptic connections or, in other words, more “bits” than any computer now existing has. In any case, it meets the spinal cord which is a grand thoroughfare for signals keeping us breathing, the heart beating and other automations like sleeping and waking. On the other hand, it cannot grasp symbols such as “2” or “B” without being told what they mean. An example that I frequently use is that if we call the rose bush a thorn bush that is how our brains will perceive it.
This seems like a signal of opposition to what most scientists attest to, that the brain acts upon the mind. I believe it must be the other way around since we create and change the meaning of things simply by our moods and attitudes—if we tell our brains that we like something that “thing or person” becomes positive, the same happens in reverse—if we don’t like something that thing or person becomes negative to us. The brain simply responds to what it is told by creating the positive or negative chemicals distributed into the body. For example, that devastating feeling of a broken heart is a manifestation of the brain’s handiwork. Unlike a computer our brains can actually remap themselves based on what they are told. This is why the placebo is so effective: The doctor, an authority figure, tells us that the little white (sugar) pill is going to make us feel better and our brains believe him sending the good news to the illness or pain. Sometimes there is actually a cure and sometimes the relief is only temporarily but it nearly always works to one extent or another.
In addition to all this, recall also that our realities are actually created inside our heads. Not because we are separated from them but because mind and matter are in wholeness together; **they are simply two aspects of one reality. In this may well be the great secret of why the universe remains in its constant dance of life, death and rebirth but we will leave this subject to ponder by ourselves.
Now then, with the above in mind, let’s return to the topic of NDEs. In the doing we’ll return to Ronald Siegel (mentioned earlier) who seems to be representative of all the skeptics. He says, “You know, we’ve had descriptions of golf courses and even condominiums in the afterlife…what we’re looking at is the projection of your own internal images onto the outside. It’s your projector, your mind, which is generating those images.
But wait…remember the natives on the islands who could not see the big ships because they didn’t belong to their realities; to the symbols gathered in their brains? In this way all of reality is projection and reflection and so why would this change during an NDE? After all, when we are outside our bodies we don’t suddenly become spiritually or psychologically different. We are simply the same “out of our shells.” ***Perhaps like the natives we have to organize new symbols through new experiences to perceive what is usually called “heaven” no less than the natives had to construct an image of the big ships that they had never seen or heard of before?
*Hooper, Judith and Teresi, Dick *The Three Pound Universe*G.P. Putman’s Sons
**Hayward, Jeremy W. Hayward * Letter to Vanessa * Shambhala
***When I had my NDE I fully retained my personality with the only difference being that I was absolutely free from my attachment to worldly things.
DREAMING and REALITY
It is nearly impossible to talk about the aspects of reality without including the reality or non-reality of dreams and so dreaming. The oldest culture on the face of the earth is the Australian Aborigines who call the timeless time that totemic Spiritual Beings formed the earth Dream Time; many of them simply call Creation time, “The Dreaming.”
From stories and rituals passed down through thousands of years the Aborigines believe that every individual exists forever; that each of us lived before birth and each of us will continue after life. To the indigenous people of Australia only mothers can bring spirit children into the world and that the spirit of that child enters the fetus during the fifth month of pregnancy.
In many ways the Aborigines conceive life as dreaming and their dreamtime consists of many ancient and secret rituals and rites. When I was in Australia some years ago I was fortunate enough to meet an Aborigine but he was a city dweller and either did not want to talk about the primitive or knew little about it. Like Native Americans many do not know any more about their history than the rest of us. (I have always regretted not going out into the bush to experience their cultural life but while I had the opportunity I didn’t have the time). In any case, what I find most intriguing is that the Aborigines see this world and the invisible world not as two distinct places but intertwined.
The point here then is that there seems to be an extremely thin line between this world and the other; between the physical and the spiritual and, if you will, between “dreamtime and our time.” There are in fact some schools of Buddhism that teach that perceived reality is unreal while others teach only that the unreal-ness is in our perceptions that we are separated from the elements we’re made of. And yet another view is that all the visions we see during our lives are likened to dreams. The quantum reality is not too far from this view, however, since many of the new physicists support the idea that mind and matter like particle and wave are complimentary aspects of the same reality. My concept is that this carries over onto the aspect of life and death—as opposed to being in opposition or separate experiences as generally supposed, I suggest that they too are in the same “loop” of existence, that the NDE is a mere taste or, if you will, a mere moment between the two states of being. In this view death becomes a metaphor for change!
Most people think of death as one way or another—either that it is the finale of life and consciousness or that it is some incomprehensible journey into a heavenly realm that is absolutely unique to our knowledge and experiences. It does not dawn of them that perhaps life and death, heaven and earth are all aspects of the same reality or, as the Aborigines would say, Dreamtime. The Aborigines, as said earlier, are the oldest culture on our planet and they do not separate the realms of time and timelessness because they comprehend them as two aspects of the whole or same reality. Most modern thinkers reject this view because they see the world as being fragmented in an “I” and “it” reality wherein the “I” of us is here and everything else is over there. Most world religions believe that heaven is a place somewhere in the distances outside space and time. I find this a real irony when especially Christians support this view since Jesus said:
If those who draw you say to you,
Lo, the kingdom is in heaven,
Then the birds of heaven will precede you.
If they say to you,
It is in the sea.
Then the fish will precede you
But the kingdom is within you and outside
The suggestion in all of this is that we are NOT living in a limbo state stranded between life, death and eternity but rather we ARE living in a phase of eternity right now.
With this in mind our thinking turns to our ordinary dreams—why do we have them, do we go anyplace when we do and what are they for since all animals birds also do it.
No one really knows why we dream—some experts say it is to give us psychological equilibrium and, as I understand it, Freud said it permitted us to release the thoughts that we forbade ourselves to express during our waking days like murdering the driver who swerves ahead of us without signaling, like having our way with some pretty or handsome stranger, like taking a baseball bat to the clerk that’s too busy talking to her friend than to wait on us, perhaps all those old aggressive Reptilian responses that belong to the very base of our heritage? But then again as Judith Hooper and Dick Teresi point out, how repressed can a week-old infant be?
There is another side to all this speculation however: Patents with serious neurosis and suffering anxiety attacks have been cured through dream interpretation so we have to acknowledge that dreams can have something to do with our deepest unconscious motivations and how we interpret our own lives. But is every dream connected to our deepest realities or are some dreams just random mindscapes that stir our emotions? In either case, it seems obvious that our dreaming is more important than just the crackling of a bunch of excited neurons letting off some primeval steam.
What is most intriguing about dreams is that some people have what are called lucid dreams. Most basically a lucid dream is when the dreamer becomes conscious “inside” the dream that he or she is dreaming. Once that alertness is realized, the dreamer then can control, reshape or create his or her own dream(s).
**Returning to Judith Hooper and Dick Teresi for a moment we are told the story of Beverly Kedzierki who is a volunteer in a sleep lab. She says, “To test whether I am lucid I’ll float up into the air. If I can fly I know it’s a dream…In the beginning I was flapping my arms as a little bird would do. When I woke up, I thought: Well, if I can fly, it shouldn’t take any effort; it’s all a dream anyway. So in my next dream I tried gliding through the air like Superman. It worked fine, but I was still avoiding rooftops and telephone poles.
“Later, I thought, why do I have to do this? I should be able to fly right through rooftops. Now when I’m flying in a dream, I can fly right through things—as long as I believe that I can do it. When I don’t believe it, I crash into rooftops and fall down.”
Experts say that only around 1 out of 10 people truly have lucid dreams but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t have them…only that we don’t. The story of lucid dreams get even more intriguing than the one we just heard, the physicist *Jeremy W. Hayward tells us: “There are cases where two people have been able to enter each other’s dream worlds. There are cases where two people have been able, with training, to enter the same world. Night after night they would meet at a prearranged dream place and have adventures together, which they would confirm when they awoke. One couple eventually abandoned the experiment when the dream they were visiting together each night started to seem more real than their waking world and they became terrified that they would not want to come back…Now which is the real world?” The physicist asks.
Speaking of physics, ***perhaps you know Schrodinger’s cat supposition: Schrodinger creates a box—in him imagination—the box contains a living cat and “a flask of cyanide and a hammer poised above the glass. A small source of radioactivity is arranged so that if, after a certain period of time, an alpha particle is emitted, this is detected by a Geiger counter and triggers the fall of the hammer, which breaks the flask and kills the cat.
The idea, as Paul Davies explains, is that inside the box there are “two possibilities. In one case the atom decays, the hammer falls, and the cat is dead. In the other case, which has equal possibility, none of this happens and the cat remains alive. The quantum wave must incorporate all possibilities, so the correct quantum description of the total contents of the box must consist of two overlapping and interfering waveforms. One corresponding to a live cat, the other to a dead cat. In this ghostly hybrid state, the cat cannot be regarded as definitely either dead or alive. But in some strange way both. Does this mean that we can perform the experiment and create a live-dead cat? No! If the experimenter opens the box, the cat will be found to be either dead or alive/ It is as if nature suspends judgment on the fate of the poor creature until somebody peeks.”
Paul Davies and John Gribbin says that this evolves, “…very deep issues about the nature of reality and the relationship between the observer and the physical world.”
Any reader interested in the above topic can find stacks of book and material on Schrodinger’s cat paradox but for our interests here, the major point to be made is that in quantum-mechanic’s many worlds interpretation, the cat is both alive and dead, even before the box is open. But the “alive” and “dead” cats are in different branches of the universe, both of which are equally real, but which cannot interact with each other.
We need not go further into this complicated theory as the major point we are attempting to make is that as it seems as demonstrated by the lucid dreamers that this earth-world that we are living in, is only one world out of perhaps infinite other worlds all equally as real to the inhabitants. Perhaps some worlds are none physical, perhaps some are more or less dimensional than our own—perhaps our universe is new compared to countless other universes, we cannot answer any of these questions except to say that the statement that tells us that nothing that lives can die seems to be much more valid than those existential being and nothing viewers of dead-world mechanics and reductionists.
*Hayward, Jeremy W. * Letters to Vanessa * Shambhala
**Hooper, Judith and Dick Teresi * The Three Pound Universe * G. P. Putman’s Sons
***Davies, Paul and Gribbin, John * The Matter Myth * Touchstone
Life, death, mind, brain, body spirit, heaven and earth are subjects we all contemplate from time to time—because we have conscious awareness we are interested in the aspects of life and eternity. Nearly every signal from the most ancient people to the most updated quantum physicists believes in a kind of eternal dance of birth, death and rebirth. Those who subscribe to Buddhism most generally call this process reincarnation while others call the process being reborn in some heavenly or spiritual realm. The more scientific minded may refer to the eternal dance as being conducted between infinity of universes, each being unknown to the other.
There are exceptions but nearly everyone believes in a God. The Native Americans in the Great Spirit—all indigenous people have this in one way or another in common; many people give God many different names and descriptions with some calling God, “Mind,” or “Consciousness” even “Love.” We will not speculate here as we believe, to each his own! But one thing we will add after contemplating the topics of this narrative. That is, it seems to be true: the great metaphor for everlasting life that God has gifted us with is the butterfly leaving its chrysalis.