RE: [asa] Question on recent OBE study, NDE

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Fri Aug 24 2007 - 14:41:56 EDT

I think this original article and a number of assumptions about it miss the
point in quite a few ways, as concerning reported near-death experiences.
1. This was a clear case of technological intervention, with cameras playing
games with the volunteer's visual perception. Such antics, as goggles and
scratching the person's back, are not being done on a dead body lying on the
operating table. One would have to engage in some clever gyrations of logic
to interpret anything like this in the experience of a dead individual.
However, suppose some research shows that chemical changes that occur in a
death process can do something like this in various portions of the brain?
Does this explain NDE experiences?
2. This experiment shows that, with clever camera angles, the volunteers can
see their own body out in front rather than where it truly is, being filmed
from behind by a camera. This falls 100% short of many NDE experiences,
where for instance people see themselves going through dark tunnels, or as
in the case of my grandfather, seeing an old relative or friend (I forget
which) in glory, feeling like he wanted to stay with her in that state of
glory, but being told by her that he had to go back, because it wasn't his
time yet. The gap between a camera angle of one's self and this sort of
mental (or spiritual) experience is tremendous. It's ludicrous, IMO, if one
thinks this research actually explains the origin of NDE's.
3. In this experiment, the body physically had goggles on it, showing the
person a visual image. The image showed the person's body somewhere remote
from the actual location of the physical body. The person could "see" his
own body being stroked somewhere in front of him. This is the opposite of
what I've read in many NDE's, where the individual literally seems to be
lifted out of his body and looks down to see the dead form lying on the
operating table. In this case, the perception angle is turned around --
it's not the physical individual seeing his body projected somewhere else,
it's actually that "unreal self" (so to speak) seeing the physical body at a
In other words, if the conscious part of the individual is what is actually
doing the projected "seeing" of his own body, then the NDE analog to this
experiment would be that the resuscitated individual would report seeing his
body hovering in the air over the operating table. In reality, it's often
the other way around. I would argue from a traditional dualist view, that
the conscious part of us, the part which is really "me" in the perception of
reality, is the spirit, and thus it makes sense that a spirit separating
from a body would see the dead body on the table, not the other way around.
4. The suggestion that activity in the thalamus after death can stimulate
certain mental images may prove to have some merit, yet (I believe) still
falls far short of explaining many NDE's, as discussed above. It is also
interesting that the article suggests a correlation with the neurological
experiences due to drug or alcohol use.
Yet, there is a deeper question behind all this. In any case, whether
stimulated by cameras or chemical processes in the brain, or by a true
spiritual experience of the human spirit departing from a body (as people
feel about NDE's), there is a deeper question to be answered. What is the
human soul that is experiencing these things? There must be some rational,
conscious part of us which is distinct from the simply biological. At least
I believe a Christian view would have to conclude this. I'm struggling to
express the idea here, but I'll take a stab at it.
  a. Take the case of drugs - chemical effects on the brain might be able to
cause hallucinations in the mind of a living individual. In this case there
is a rational soul (individual consciousness) which can experience these
mental pictures.
  b. Now take an individual at death. Maybe chemical changes in the brain
at death could cause some rational soul to experience certain mental images,
which are remembered when the person is brought back to a clinical "living"
condition, and described by that person as an NDE. What would have happened
if this individual weren't brought back to life? We would never know about
the sensations experienced, because the person didn't live to tell about it.
  c. What happened to the individual consciousness at the point of death?
If the individual stands on the knife edge between life and death, and
doesn't return, what happened to that conscious part of him that made the
difference between life and death? Or what was that conscious part of him
to begin with? Is life and consciousness simply the result of neurons and
brain wave activity, which having ceased makes us dead? As you suggested,
even neuron or brain activity doesn't necessarily cease at clinical "death".
  d. I know there has been discussion recently about the concept of dualism
(spirit/body dichotomy) versus an alternative view of the human soul. Can a
Christian view maintain a rejection of traditional dualism? If so, what is
left but a materialist reductionism of saying the human soul can be reduced
to merely the activity of physical neurons in the brain, giving us our
consciousness? If we don't presuppose a non-physical, spiritual spirit/soul
as the essence of who we are, apart from our physical bodies, aren't we left
with simply matter, and thus materialism?
  e. If there is truly a spiritual soul to an individual, how can science
ever claim to answer the ultimate questions dealing with that spirit, since
spirit would necessarily fall outside the bounds of testable, empirical
science? Or, for those who may reject a dualist view, what experiment could
science construct which would disprove the existence of a non-physical
Jon Tandy

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of
Sent: Friday, August 24, 2007 12:35 PM
To:; Christine Smith
Subject: Re: [asa] Question on recent OBE study, NDE


 Since experiences very similar to NDE can be replicated by stimulation of
depth electrodes, in the thalamus as I recall, my opinion is the NDE are due
to ongoing thalamic activity after most cortical activity has stopped, after
cardiac arrest.

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Received on Fri Aug 24 14:42:33 2007

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