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Evolving Consciousness

Essays by Robert Traer presented in a Doing Theology seminar 

2014-2016, Pilgrim Place, Claremont, California 

We Are Loved . . .
Consciousness is Nonlocal, Evolving, and Endless
Loving and Evolving Consciousness: A BIgger History

We are Loved: Near-Death Experiences and Nonlocal Consciousness (Easter 2014)

Not long after my mother died, my father during surgery suffered a cardiac arrest. As the physicians worked on his unconscious body, he “awoke” floating above the operating table ―”seeing” the physicians working frantically to revive him and “hearing” their voices. Then his awareness moved through a dark tunnel toward a bright light, where he saw my mother, smiling and waiting for him. As he came into the light, he felt an overwhelming sense of being loved. But my mother let him know it wasn’t his time yet to stay, and then he floated back through the dark tunnel and into his aching body. For several years my father didn’t tell anyone of this extraordinary experience. Trained as a scientist, he had no way to explain it. His life was altered, however, by what he remembered. My father was not a religious man, but his Near-Death Experience (NDE) left him without any fear of death.

NDEs are too numerous, life-changing, and verifiable to be dismissed as fantasy. Also, NDEs offer evidence for rejecting two basic assumptions of scientific materialism: 1) that the mind is a product of the brain, and  2) that consciousness ends with death. These conclusions are supported by three recent scientific books: Proof of Heaven by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, Consciousness Beyond Life by cardiologist Pim van Lommel, and Mindful Universe by physicist Henry P. Stapp.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife

Dr. Scott Wade, an infectious disease specialist who treated Eben Alexander for bacterial meningitis, reports that he “remained in a coma six days and hope for a quick recovery faded (mortality over 97 percent). Then, on the seventh day, the miraculous happened ― he opened his eyes, became alert, and was quickly weaned from the ventilator.”[1]

Even more remarkable was Alexander’s experience. He writes that his NDE “let me know that I had always been loved, and it also showed me that absolutely everyone else in the universe is loved, too. And it had done so while placing my physical body into a state that, by medical science’s current terms, should have made it impossible for me to have experienced anything.”[2] Prior to this experience Alexander accepted the dominant assumption in medicine that the brain produces consciousness. During his coma, however, he discovered that consciousness transcends the brain.

Why don’t we experience this transcendence in our everyday life? Alexander suggests that: “From a more purpose-focused perspective (and I now believe the universe is nothing if not purposeful), making the right decisions through our free will in the face of the evil and injustice on earth would mean far less if we remembered, while here, the full beauty and brilliance of what awaits us.”[3] How can we realize this genuine spiritual self in our everyday lives? Alexander’s answer is striking: “By manifesting love and compassion. Why? Because love and compassion are far more than the abstractions many of us believe them to be. They are real. They are concrete. And they make up the very fabric of the spiritual real.”[4]

Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience

When Pim van Lommel resuscitated his first cardiac arrest patient, the patient “spoke of a tunnel, colors, a light, a beautiful landscape, and music. He was extremely emotional.” Van Lommel had never heard of anyone having memories from the period of their cardiac arrest. “While studying for my degree,” he writes, “I had learned that such a thing is in fact impossible: being unconscious means being unaware ― and the same applies to people suffering a cardiac arrest or patients in a coma.”[5]

In 1986, after reading a vivid account of a psychiatrist’s experience while “clinically dead,” van Lommel began to ask patients who had been resuscitated if they had any memory of their cardiac arrest. Discovering that many did, he undertook with several colleagues a decade-long study of patients in ten Dutch hospitals. 18% of the patients resuscitated during the study reported a NDE (see the chart on the next page).

Awareness of being dead                         31      (50%)
Positive emotions                                     35      (56%)
Out-of-body experience                            15      (24%)
Moving through a tunnel                           19      (31%)
Communicating with “the light”                 14      (23%)
Perception of colors                                  14      (23%)
Perception of a “celestial landscape”        18      (29%)
Meeting with deceased friends/relatives   20      (32%)
Life review                                                  8       (13%)
Presence of a border                                  5        (8%)[6]

Interviews with these survivors after two years “showed a significant decrease in fear of death among people with an NDE and a significant increase in belief in an afterlife. There were further significant differences between people with and without an NDE with respect to a number of social and religious factors such as showing emotions, accepting others, a more loving attitude to life, and more love and compassion for oneself and others. Other differences pertained to a greater involvement in family, a greater interest in spirituality and the meaning of life, and greater appreciation of ordinary things, coupled with less interest in money, possessions, and social norms (‘keeping up appearances’).”[7]

Interviews with survivors eight years later revealed “the NDE had become an experience that provided a fresh insight into everything that matters in life: compassion, unconditional love, and acceptance of oneself (including acceptance of one’s negative qualities), others, and nature. Fear of death was usually gone.”[8]

Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer

In the seventeenth century Isaac Newton developed what are now known as the laws of classical mechanics. The moral and spiritual implications, Henry Stapp explains, were profound. “The core precept of classical mechanics is this: The causal dynamical evolution of the physically described properties of nature is completely determined by physically described properties alone, with no reference to mental realities. This conception of nature reduces human beings to essentially mindless automatons: mental processes may indeed be happening, but they cannot influence in any way the evolution of the physically described universe!”[9]

This view of physics is reflected in statements by many well-known scientists. Richard Dawkins writes: “We are survival machines ― robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”[10] Michael Ruse and E. O. Wilson assert: “Ethics is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes.”[11]       The notion that current physics requires this conclusion is also perpetuated by philosophers, such as Daniel Dennett, who declares that consciousness is “illusory” because “a brain was always going to do what it was caused to do by current, local, mechanical circumstances.”[12]

These scientists and philosophers, Henry Stapp argues, ignore the twentieth century quantum revolution in physics. “The big conceptual change wrought by the switch from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics was this: both the knowledge of observers, and the process of acquiring knowledge, were rationally incorporated into the causal dynamics!” In other words, mental intentions are now understood by scientists as “able to influence, via the specified quantum dynamical laws themselves, the evolution of the physically described systems being observed. Human beings are no longer reduced by the laws of physics to mechanical robots.”[13] Quantum mechanics allows us to affirm that we are conscious beings who can make a difference.

This change in perspective is crucial for medicine: “the concepts of classical physics that many neurobiologists are committed to using are logically inadequate because, unlike the concepts of quantum physics, they effectively exclude our conscious thoughts.”[14]

Stapp acknowledges that some quantum physicists try “to justify basing neuroscience on classical physics by suggesting that once the neural activity reaches a classically describable level, say at the firing of a neuron (i.e., the triggering of an action potential), one may assume that the quantum jump from ‘potential’ to ‘actual’ has occurred, and hence that one can deal simply with the actualities of neuron firings and ignore their quantum underpinnings.” He asserts, however, that this is not required by quantum theory or explanatory.

“If one assumes that the reduction events in the subject’s brain are tied fundamentally to classicality per se, rather than to increments in the subject’s knowledge, then one loses the essential connection between physical description and subjective experience that quantum theory is designed to provide.” Therefore, Stapp defends “orthodox quantum theory” which “ties these two problems of ‘consciousness’ and ‘collapse’ together in a practically useful way, and provides, simultaneously, a way for the universe to acquire meaning.”[15]

Nonlocal Consciousness

As classical science “cannot account for all aspects of the subjective experiences reported by some cardiac arrest patients with complete loss of all brain function,” van Lommel supports the orthodox quantum theory “that consciousness determines if and how we experience reality.”[16]

Especially important for explaining NDEs is the experimental verification in quantum mechanics that “two isolated, remote particles can have an instantaneous effect on one another because these two remote objects can become entangled. This is known as nonlocality and has given rise to the quantum physics concept of nonlocal space: a multidimensional space, with nothing but possibilities, also known as probability waves, and without certainties, without matter, and without a role for time and distance.” This nonlocal space is not “space” in the sense of 3-dimensional space, which has length, depth, and height. In quantum mathematics, nonlocal space is the empty space or vacuum field within all matter ― ”99.999 percent of which is emptiness” ― and thus a space unlimited by distance or time, where probability waves may have influence.[17]

“Unless a quantum object is observed, it has neither a definitive location in time and space nor any of the fixed properties that classical physics ascribes to objects. Instead, there is a range of possible observations, each with a different possibility. The different possibilities are called probability waves.”[18] This “emptiness” within all matter is a field of probabilities for finding all that may be.

“We do live in a quantum world,” Stapp writes, “in which far-apart aspects are linked in ways quite contrary to the mechanistic conception of nature postulated by classical mechanics.” He describes this as “a nonlocal reality in which our streams of consciousness are naturally and efficaciously imbedded.”[19]

To account for the data of NDEs, van Lommel proposes that “consciousness has a primary presence in the universe, and all matter possesses subjective properties or consciousness. In this view, consciousness is nonlocal and the origin or foundation of everything: all matter, or physical reality, is shaped by nonlocal consciousness. There is no longer any distinction between nonlocal space and consciousness.”[20]

Van Lommel suggests that “endless consciousness with retrievable memories” as described by NDE survivors “has its origins in a nonlocal space in the form of indestructible and not directly observable wave functions. These wave functions, which store all aspects of consciousness in the form of information, are always present in and around the body (nonlocally). The brain and the body merely function as a relay station receiving part of the overall consciousness and part of our memories in our waking consciousness in the form of measurable and constantly changing electromagnetic fields. In this view, these electromagnetic fields of the brain are not the cause but rather the effect or consequence of endless consciousness.”[21]

Endless consciousness includes “nonlocal aspects of interconnectedness, such as memories from earliest childhood up until the crisis that caused the NDE and sometimes even visions of the future. It offers the chance of communication with the thoughts and feelings of people who were involved in past events or with the consciousness of deceased friends and relatives. This experience of consciousness can be coupled with a sense of unconditional love and acceptance while people can also have contact with a form of ultimate and universal knowledge and wisdom.”[22]

In van Lommel’s study more than half the survivors experienced “positive emotions,” but not every NDE had this character. Yet, follow up studies of survivors after two and eight years revealed most survivors felt “unconditional love, and acceptance of oneself” that they attributed to their NDE.

What does this view of consciousness mean for our understanding of the relationship between the mind and the brain? “Aspects of consciousness must resonate in different parts of the brain in order to be experienced as waking consciousness.” Imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission topography (PET) show that various areas of the brain are activated by different states of consciousness. “But while the imaging techniques can establish the neurological correlations, they do so without accounting for the content of the different aspects of consciousness. They merely point out the place of resonance of the different aspects of consciousness.” In other words, neurological imaging does not, and cannot, verify that these activated brain circuits produce our conscious experience or contain it.

“Our waking consciousness,” van Lommel argues, “has a biological basis because our body functions as an interface.” Our body as a whole, as well as our brain, affects the consciousness we experience, limiting it in ways that are important for our physical and mental life. In contrast, “endless or enhanced consciousness” is “rooted in a multidimensional nonlocal space. So enhanced consciousness is not limited to our brain because it is nonlocal, and under normal circumstances our brain only allows us to experience waking consciousness.”

Nonlocal consciousness and waking consciousness are complementary, like the complementarity of light waves and particles. “Conscious subjective experiences and their corresponding objective and visible brain activities, the physical effects of waking consciousness, which can be established with the help of an fMRI or EEG, are two different manifestations of one and the same underlying reality; they cannot be reduced to one another.”[23]

In nonlocal space there is no sense of “space” or “time” ― as these aspects of waking consciousness are not present in endless consciousness. “It is hard to avoid the conclusion,” van Lommel says, that “our endless consciousness predates our birth and our body, and will survive death independently of our body in a nonlocal space where time and distance play no role. There is no beginning, and there will never be an end to our consciousness. In view of this, we should seriously consider the possibility that death, like birth, may be a mere passing from one state of consciousness into another.”[24]

At age 90, my father had a second stroke that left him unable to swallow. Lucid, although his speech was slurred, he said his time had come. He asked that his IV be disconnected and made sure a Do Not Resuscitate order was entered into his medical record. After a day without water or food, he slipped into a coma. My sister and his second wife took turns sitting with him during the day, and I sat with him throughout the night. At the end, as his breathing slowed and deepened, I wondered if he was hovering in the room over his body once more, or was already with my mother ― experiencing the endless love I now believe awaits us all.

Notes

[1] Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, 2012), 183-84.

[2] Ibid., 170.

[3] Ibid., 81.

[4] Ibid., 85.

[5] Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (Harper, 2012), vi.

[6] Ibid., 146.

[7] Ibid., 150-51.

[8] Ibid., 151.

[9] Henry P. Stapp, Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer (Springer, 2011), 154.

[10] At http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1746717-the-selfish-gene.

[11] At http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/nave-html/faithpathh/ruse.html.

[12] In S. Guttenberg, editor, Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Mind (Little, Brown & Company, 1991), 237, quoted in Mindful Universe, 2. Stapp observes: “By effectively restricting himself to the classical approximation, which squeezes the effects of consciousness out of the more accurate consciousness-dependent quantum dynamics, Dennett cuts himself off from any possibility of validly explaining the physical efficacy of our conscious efforts.”

[13] Mindful Universe, 154-55.

[14] Ibid., 3.

[15] Ibid., 83-84.

[16] Consciousness Beyond Life, 205 and 223. Van Lommel refers to “the purely theoretical assumptions of quantum physics” as formulated by “scientists such as von Neumann, Wigner, Josephson, Wheeler, and Stapp.”

[17] Ibid., 209 and 221.

[18] Ibid., 208.

[19] Mindful Universe, 200.

[20] Consciousness Beyond Life, 227-28.

[21] Ibid., 247.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid., 249-50.

[24] Ibid., 307.

Published in Seeking the Face of God: Doing Theology at Pilgrim Place, vol. 9:2013-2014 (Wasteland Press).


Consciousness is Nonlocal, Evolving, and Endless (September 3, 2014)

In a May 2014 paper entitled “We are Loved: Near-Death Experiences and the Physics of Nonlocal Consciousness” I proposed that quantum physics might offer insight into NDEs. I relied primarily on Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of Near-Death Experience by Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel, whose research verifies that: “consciousness, with memories and occasional perception, can be experienced during a period of unconsciousness―that is, during a period when the brain shows no measurable activity and all brain functions, such as body reflexes, brain stem reflexes, and respiration, have ceased. It appears that at such a moment a lucid consciousness can be experienced independently of the brain and body.”[1]

Van Lommel reports that this “endless consciousness” during a NDE includes “nonlocal aspects of interconnectedness, such as memories from earliest childhood up until the crisis that caused the NDE and sometimes even visions of the future. It offers the chance of communication with the thoughts and feelings of people who were involved in past events or with the consciousness of deceased friends and relatives. This experience of consciousness can be coupled with a sense of unconditional love and acceptance while people can also have contact with a form of ultimate and universal knowledge and wisdom.”[2]

NDEs defy the modern medical paradigm. Neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick explains: “The scientific view is that brain processes alone can account for all the phenomena of experience. Whatever happens in the near-death experience―the thoughts, feelings, sensations of movement―all these must result from neuronal activity within the brain. The entire experience is due to changes in brain function. ‘Mind’ is merely a product of the brain; it certainly cannot act at a distance from it, or independently of brain.” Consciousness in the brain is “a delicate global system which enables all the cortical model-building structures, including memory, to be excited and active. If this system goes down we lapse first of all into confusion and then into gradually deepening coma.”[3]

“If someone is unconscious they cannot model-build. If they build an NDE model, they cannot be unconscious.” Also, “memory does not function in unconsciousness.” So, “From the point of view of both memory and model-building, it should be quite impossible to have an NDE when brain function is really very seriously disordered or the brain is seriously damaged.” Yet, Fenwick writes, NDEs are common as well as cross-cultural, and have a universal quality. “One is forced to the conclusion,” he says, “that either science is missing a fundamental link which would explain how organized experiences can arise in a disorganized brain, or that some forms of experience are transpersonal―that is, they depend on a mind which is not inextricably bound up with a brain.”[4]

Van Lommel concurs that “current scientific knowledge cannot account for all aspects of the subjective experiences reported by some cardiac arrest patients with complete loss of all brain function.”[5] To explain NDEs, he turns to quantum physics and endorses “the not yet commonly accepted interpretation that consciousness determines if and how we experience reality.”[6] In this view “consciousness is nonlocal and the origin or foundation of everything: all matter, or physical reality, is shaped by nonlocal consciousness.” If this is the case, van Lommel concludes, “Our endless consciousness predates our birth and our body, and will survive death independently of our body in a nonlocal space where time and distance play no role.”[7]

In this paper I offer scientific and metaphysical arguments for a conception of consciousness that is nonlocal and also evolving, as well as endless.

Nonlocal Consciousness

I don’t know how long it was before the ‘real me’ was floating close to the ceiling, face downward, looking down with great interest at the body lying on the bed. The interest was because the mind in that body was a total blankness, a complete darkness, like a TV screen switched off. ‘Real me’ was ethereal, had no shape, no substance, but had a mind, enjoyed sensation, could see everything in the room in detail, was a power over and above the body that lay inert. The body had no mind, no feeling, no eyes, no life.[8]

Mind apart from brain and body, an out-of-body experience (OBE), illustrates nonlocal consciousness.[9] The adjective “nonlocal” doesn’t make sense, however, unless we grasp its scientific meaning. In classical physics the principle of locality refers to the assumption “that an object is influenced directly only by its immediate surroundings.”[10] Einstein referred to this as “the principle of local action.”[11] The principle of nonlocality supports the conclusion that the mind experienced in the body is caused by neural activity in the body.

According to classical physics, we live in a local universe. All causality involves physical matter and time. The speed of light limits effects across space, so instantaneous influence between separated objects is impossible. Nonetheless, experiments in the twentieth century[12] have verified that the smallest particles (quanta) making up all matter (anything with both mass and volume) partner with each other in what is now described as a nonlocal universe. “Nonlocality occurs due to the phenomenon of entanglement, whereby particles that interact with each other become permanently correlated, or dependent on each other’s states and properties, to the extent that they effectively lose their individuality and in many ways behave as a single entity.”[13]

Because every observation reveals only part of the entangled whole, human interventions in nonlocal reality are accompanied by uncertainty. Measuring for “light as a particle” reveals it to be a particle, but measuring “for light as a wave” reveals it to have the properties of a wave function. This is true for all elementary particles that exchange quanta. The founder of “Copenhagen quantum theory,” Niels Bohr, described these results as complementarity and the “logic of nature.”[14] Physicist Paul Dirac wrote: “in direct contrast to the ideas of classical physical theory, orthodox Copenhagen quantum theory is about ‘our knowledge’. We, and in particular our mental aspects, have entered into the structure of basic physical theory.”[15] Eugene P. Wigner, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, affirmed that “consciousness is the ultimate universal reality.”[16] Mind is the cause.

In a NDE, the consciousness of a person separates from its body and non-functioning brain, but then perceives and moves unconstrained by the space and time limitations that we experience when our consciousness is embodied. Quantum physicist Amit Goswami confirms the astounding fact that: “Nonlocal correlations exist in a domain of interconnectedness that transcends space and time.” Verified by quantum experiments, this fact may help to explain the reality of NDEs. “Mind,” Goswami concludes, “gives meaning to all our experiences.”[17]

Evolving Consciousness

I have never before or since had such a feeling of ‘knowing’ for sure I would know joy. It was totally different from happiness. I felt my heart would burst with the excitement of expectation.[18]

“There is only consciousness,” physicist Thomas Campbell affirms. “Consciousness is The One, while the many, the great diversity of realities and the entities that populate those realities, are specialized subsets of consciousness within their own thought-space or dimension.” This means the reality we experience as our world “is a construct of consciousness. It is not a physical substance or a thing―it is not a physical construct―it is created by imposing a set of constraints upon a subset of the larger reality.”[19]

What we accept as “our local physical reality is actually a nonphysical virtual reality.” What Campbell calls the “the space-time rule-set” for our sense of reality “is only a local rule-set and does not apply to the larger reality.” Even as the computer code of every software program generates a different virtual reality, every dimension or level of nonphysical reality (consciousness) has its own rule-set. “Additionally, each dimension of reality experiences the next higher (less limited) dimension as subjective and mystical.”[20] A NDE involves a transition from embodied consciousness to out-of-body consciousness, the next dimension in reality’s nested hierarchy.

Albert Einstein showed us that mass is energy; experiments in quantum physics “destroyed the widely accepted material foundation of physical reality.” Yet, the majority of scientists reject the inference “that consciousness represents the most fundamental energy in our system.” Clearly, we experience consciousness through our bodies and brains. Yet, NDEs reveal a vivid and compelling dimension of consciousness that is not physical. “We have the souls we do,” Campbell asserts, “because we are primarily nonphysical beings.”[21]

The nonphysical (nonlocal) nature of consciousness enables us to experience dimensions of reality that are not constrained by the rule-set of space-time. Relying on his knowledge of physics and many personal OBEs, Campbell concludes: “We are participants in an evolving consciousness ecosystem.” What we experience as our physical universe “is a small virtual habitat within this larger consciousness system.” Every aspect of reality, including each sentient being is “a limited implementation of consciousness developed to serve a particular evolutionary purpose (occupy an available niche) within the greater consciousness ecosystem.”[22]

“All reality,” Campbell explains, “has solidity of form and function that obeys the causality enforced by its governing rule-set.”[23] In the dimension of consciousness we call a NDE, the rule-set is more like quantum physics than space-time. NDE patterns include out-of-body motion, going through a tunnel toward a bright light, communicating with deceased relatives or friends, a life review, and a feeling of peace and love. Whether or not this is a dimension beyond death, those who have survived a NDE vividly recall a timeless and altered-space reality that usually ends their fear of death and often fosters a more compassionate way of living.

This is evidence of evolving consciousness. In the varied dimensions of our subjective experience, we “reflect the pattern of consciousness evolution because we are the result of that pattern and an integral piece of a larger consciousness system that evolves by iterating recursively[24] upon itself to generate All That Is.”[25] NDEs are subjective, but this inevitable fact does not prevent objective knowledge. “Results can be objectively measured even if the motivations, understanding, and intent (the underlying dynamics) that created those results are entirely subjective. Unique, stable, repeatable, recognizable subjective states often drive specific objective results.” We do this all the time, as we share our personal experiences to verify our understanding of the world. “Reality must be experienced by consciousness.”[26] How else could it be?

What does this mean for each person? “It is the nature of consciousness, the nature of sentient beings, to try to better themselves.” What we do “with the opportunity to evolve our consciousness is entirely up to us. It is our free will, our self-interaction, and our interaction with others that creates the possibility of learning, which in turn creates our potential for growth.” Many scientists and philosophers deny free will, arguing that prior causal events determine every physical effect. Campbell counters: “Free will is a necessary attribute of successfully evolving consciousness.” Consciousness and free will “are simply different aspects of the same thing.”[27]

“Given that consciousness exists,” Campbell explains, “it must be enabled by memory, information processing capability (intelligence), the interactive sharing of data, and free-will choice-making in the service of profitable evolution. Thus, the question of free will reduces to the question of are you conscious, and, if so, is your consciousness part of a complex interactive system of consciousness? If these questions are answered in the affirmative then your consciousness, and the system of which it is a part, must be evolving against some measure of profitability [set of values] because that is a requirement of all self-modifying interactive systems. Such a system cannot evolve toward greater profitability without free will to make the required choices.”[28]

“Without free will, purpose, and the environments in which to exercise both, there can be no evolving individuated consciousness.” That is, “An evolving consciousness system like ours cannot be supported by either a wholly random or a wholly deterministic system because there can be no cumulative profitability in either.” With a delightful metaphor, Campbell concludes: “Free will is simply the result of consciousness energy and evolutionary process slipping into bed together for a joyous moment of creation that has not yet ended.”[29]

The goals of consciousness are greater awareness and love. “The relationship between consciousness and awareness is similar to the relationship between love and caring for others. Consciousness just is, while awareness ranges from very dim to very bright.” Our problem is “the lack of quality in consciousness.” Our goal is insight and compassion. “What matters most,” Campbell says, “is the development of wisdom, understanding, and the capacity to love.” In the absence of fear, love grows within consciousness. Love, of course, doesn’t only involve beds and bodies. Love as consciousness “is an attitude, a value, a way of interacting and being.”[30]

Endless Consciousness

As a consequence of this experience I have become very aware of my own limitations. Also, although I have never been afraid of death, now I believe that death is in fact a beautiful experience and at the end of my life, which I hope has been a useful one, I shall not be afraid to die.[31]

Physicist Richard Conn Henry writes: “One benefit of switching humanity to a correct perception of the world is the resulting joy of discovering the mental nature of the Universe. We have no idea what this mental nature implies, but―the great thing is―it is true. Beyond the acquisition of this perception, physics can no longer help. The Universe is immaterial―mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.”[32]

Physicist Amit Goswami declares: “Mind is completely different from anything material.” For, “mind is the domain of meaning.”[33] Philosopher Christian de Quincey points out that our conversations involve meaning as well as words. “The sound of the words is traveling through space as vibrations, but the meaning itself is something we share in consciousness. Meaning is something we feel. It transcends spatial dimensions.”[34] Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard affirms that: “Consciousness is an irreducible quality.”[35] Neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet proposes that consciousness be accepted as we accept that mass has inertia. We should “regard conscious, subjective experience (awareness) as another fundamental property in nature.”[36]

An article in Science entitled “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?” tells of a young man with an IQ of 126, whose brain scan revealed his cerebral cortex was less than one-eighth of an inch thick as “95 percent of his skull was filled with cerebrospinal fluid.” It seems impossible, Van Lommel says, “to reconcile this exceptional case with our current belief that memories and consciousness are produced and stored in the brain.”[37] Goswami reminds us that “our brain’s much-glorified neocortex cannot make meaning by itself; it is only a symbol-processing center. It is the mind that gives meaning to objects of the physical world, including the brain’s symbols.”[38]

Where then is our memory? Biologist Rupert Sheldrake says it makes more sense, “to think of tuning in to my memories, instead of retrieving them from stores inside my brain by obscure molecular mechanisms. Resonance feels more plausible and fits better with experience. It is also more compatible with the findings of brain research: memory traces are nowhere to be found.”[39] And if “minds are not stored as material traces in brains, but depend on a process of resonance, then memories themselves may not be extinguished at death, although the body through which they are normally retrieved decays.”[40] Campbell explains: “The central nervous system hosts our consciousness as a computer hosts an operating system and applications. It serves as a transducer,[41] a data port and bi-directional translator between the virtual experience of the physical body and the individuated nonphysical consciousness that defines your existence and motivates your intent within the larger reality.”[42]

“If the mind is one with everything,” physicist Dean Radin says, “then it’s not located anywhere.”[43] We find meaning in reading the words of a book or browsing the Internet. But the meaning is not in the ink on the page or in the photons on our computer screen, or in the electrical activity of our brains. “The conscious mind is not inside us,” philosopher Alva Noë asserts. The conscious mind is “a kind of active attunement to the world, an achieved integration. It is the world itself, all around, that fixes the nature of conscious experience.”[44] We don’t simply tune into the world, like a radio, but by tuning our thoughts to the world we alter its evolving harmony.

“The most important attribute of any conscious interaction,” Campbell affirms, “is its intent.” Our thoughts matter. “Because thought-forms have energy (organized content and operational capabilities) they can interact and have effects. The discrete energy packets they exchange have the effect of modifying digital content. Digital energy has the ability to add, delete, modify, or arrange bits.” This means with digital systems “that as long as memory is never purged, no information is ever lost and your individual self is always maintained. Because consciousness is implemented within a digital systemwe aretruly immortal unless the bits that represent us become disorganized beyond repair, irredeemably negative, or are deleted from memory.”[45]

Physicist Edward Fredkin argues that a dimension of reality supporting digital computation “does not have to have time as we know it,” as “there is no need for beginnings and endings.” Digital computation, therefore, “is compatible within worlds where something can come from nothing, where resources are finite, infinite or variable.”[46] As digital information, NDEs have the form of endless consciousness.

Conclusions

Consciousness is the creative source of all that has been, is, and may be. Its story is hummed into our minds and, through our brains and bodies, into our world. We live and move and have our being within a world of local and nonlocal possibilities. Generally we know reality only through what biologist Lynn Margulis calls “the dim consciousness”[47] of our body-brain-world experience. Yet, NDEs promise―beyond body, brain, and the rule-set of this world―that we will enter into the endless consciousness of peace and love. Moreover, if our intent is mindful, we may discern this nonlocal, evolving, and endless consciousness in every free will choice we make.

Notes

[1] Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (HarperCollins, 2010), 161. “Many argue,” he adds at 165, “that the loss of blood flow and a flat EEG do not exclude some activity somewhere in the brain because an EEG primarily registers the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex. In my view this argument misses the point. The issue is not whether there is some immeasurable activity somewhere but whether there is any sign of those specific forms of brain activity that, according to current neuroscience, are considered essential to experiencing consciousness. And there is no sign whatsoever of those specific forms of brain activity in the EEGs of cardiac arrest patients.”

[2] Ibid., 247. For a video on this NDE research see “The Mystery of Perception During NDE” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avyUsPgIuQ0.

[3] Peter Fenwick and Elizabeth Fenwick, The Truth in the Light: An Investigation of Over 300 Near-Death Experiences (Berkley Books, 1995), 197 and 204.

[4] Ibid., 204-205 and 235-236.

[5] Van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life, 205.

[6] Ibid, 223. He refers to “the purely theoretical assumptions of quantum physics” formulated by “scientists such as von Neumann, Wigner, Josephson, Wheeler, and Stapp.” See Henry P. Stapp, Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer, 2nd edition (Springer, 2011).

[7] Ibid., 228 and 307.

[8] Fenwick, The Truth in the Light, 39.

[9] Ibid., 255.

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_locality.

[11] http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_quantum_nonlocality.html.

[12] Experiments verifying nonlocality under different circumstances were conducted in 1972 by John Clauser and Stuart Freedman, in 1982 by Alain Aspect, and in 2000 by Nicholas Gisin and his colleagues.

[13] http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_quantum_nonlocality.html. Italics added.

[14] Robert Nadeau and Menas Kafatos, The Non-Local Universe: The New Physics and Matters of the Mind (Oxford University Press, 1999), 13.

[15] Henry P. Stapp, Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer, 2nd ed, (Springer, 2011), 13. The Copenhagen interpretation of is “the most widely-accepted specific interpretation of quantum mechanics.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_interpretation.

[16] In a paper entitled “The Place of Consciousness in Modern Physics,” quoted in Thomas Campbell, My Big TOE [Theory of Everything]: A Trilogy Unifying Philosophy, Physics, and Metaphysics (Lightning Strikes Books, 2003), 780.

[17] Amit Goswami, Quantum Creativity: Think Quantum, Be Creative (Hay House, 2014), 19 and 55.

[18] Fenwick, The Truth in the Light, 71.

[19] Thomas Campbell, My Big TOE, 250, 255 and 785.

[20] Ibid., 259, 236 and 146.

[21] Ibid., 155, 509, 547-48, 553, and 588.

[22] Ibid., 354, 221 and 567. See 637: “The data upon which this model is based represent my best objective evaluation of my subjective experience.”

[23] Ibid., 299 and 607.

[24] Recursion in mathematics is “the application of a function to its own values to generate an infinite sequence of values.” Iterate, used in computer programming, has the same meaning as reiterate. Http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/recursively and /iterate.

[25] Ibid., 186, 192-93 and 609.

[26] Ibid., 638 and 640.

[27] Ibid., 504, 395, 415 and 417. Emphasis in the original of the word opportunity has been removed.

[28] Ibid., 415 and 419. Consciousness and free will go together like chickens and eggs, Campbell says. They “evolved together.”

[29] Ibid., 527, 422-23.

[30] Ibid., 523, 223 and 299.

[31] Fenwick, The Truth in the Light, 131.

[32] Richard Conn Henry, “The Mental Universe,” Nature 436, no. 29 (July 7, 2005). Department of Physics and Astronomy, The John Hopkins University, http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038/436029a.

[33] Eva Herr, Consciousness: Bridging the Gap between Conventional Science and the New Super Science of Quantum Mechanics (Rainbow Ridge Books, 2012), 67.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Beauregard and O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (HarperCollins, 2008), 27.

[36] Benjamin Libet, Mind Time: The Temporal Factor in Consciousness (Harvard University Press, 2004), 163. Libet adds at 153 that to assume “a deterministic nature of the physically observable world can account for subjective conscious functions and events is a speculative belief, not a scientifically proven proposition.”

[37] Van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life, 197. This condition is known medically as hydranencephaly.

[38] Goswami, Quantum Creativity, 37.

[39] Sheldrake, Science Set Free, 209. Italics added.

[40] Ibid., 339.

[41]“A transducer is an electronic device that converts energy from one form to another.” Examples include microphones, loudspeakers, and thermometers. http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/transducer.

[42] Campbell, My Big TOE, 241.

[43] Herr, Consciousness, 43.

[44] Alva Noë, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness (Hill and Wang, 2009), 141.

[45] Campbell, My Big TOE, 332, 543 and 533-34. Italics added.

[46] Edward Fredkin, “A New Cosmogony,” quoted in Campbell, My Big TOE, 784.

[47] David Darling, Soul Search: A Scientist Explores the Afterlife (Villard Books, 1995), 162.


Loving and Evolving Consciousness: A Bigger History 

Physician Larry Dossey concludes One Mind with a striking affirmation of faith. “I believe that the concept of the unitary, collective One Mind, a level of intelligence of which the individual minds of all sentient creatures are a part, is a vision that is powerful enough to make a difference in how we approach all the challenges we face―not as a mere intellectual concept, but as something we feel in the deepest way possible.”[1] The subtitle of Dossey’s book makes two assertions: “How Our Individual Mind is Part of a Greater Consciousness” and “Why it Matters.” In this essay I support the first assertion and ponder implications of the second.

The NDE/Medical Argument for One Mind

Based on extensive research into verifiable near-death experiences (NDEs), Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel concludes “the current materialistic view of the relationship between the brain and consciousness held by most physicians, philosophers and psychologists is too restricted for a proper understanding of this phenomenon. There are now good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not always coincide with the functioning of our brain: enhanced conscious can sometimes be experienced separate from the body.”[2]

We find evidence for this claim in the story of a seventy-year-old woman who, despite being blind since the age of eighteen, was able to see as she hovered over the doctors and nurses resuscitating her body after a heart attack. Psychiatrist Raymond Moody reports that: “Not only could she describe what the instruments used looked like, but she could even describe their colors. The most amazing thing about this to me was that most of these instruments weren’t even thought of over fifty years ago when she could last see.”[3]

The recollection of another NDE survivor provides additional evidence of consciousness separated from the body. “I don’t know how long it was before the ‘real me’ was floating close to the ceiling, face downward, looking down with great interest at the body lying on the bed. The interest was because the mind in that body was a total blankness, a complete darkness, like a TV screen switched off. ‘Real me’ was ethereal, had no shape, no substance, but had a mind, enjoyed sensation, could see everything in the room in detail, was a power over and above the body that lay inert. The body had no mind, no feeling, no eyes, no life.”[4]

These two out-of-body experiences (OBEs) occurred during cardiac arrest, when according to current scientific knowledge the brain is incapable of both observation and memory. Yet, an OBE is very common in NDEs and many of the perceptions reported during these OBEs have been verified.[5] Objective evidence that our consciousness can exist apart from our human bodies confirms the possibility of One Mind.

NDE journeys also confound current science, but are vivid and life-changing. After saying her “experience of death was wonderful,” Hilda Middleton described moving from above her hospital bed down “a tunnel with a very bright light at the end. Animals, pictures, everything was so beautiful and all the colors were shades of delicate pink, yellow, blue, etc. I was overwhelmed with joy.” Mary Lowther recollects “indefinable shades of pastel-like colors” and “what I can only describe as billions of beautiful shimmering forms, no outlines, and they were all ‘cloaked’ in what looked like a garment of translucent light.” Audrey Organ remembers: “I was in a tunnel or glorious golden light with my dad, who had died some years earlier. We were strolling side by side but with no physical walking. We were enormously happy, conversing but without the usual verbal speech, all via the mind.”[6] NDEs are evidence of a dimension of consciousness that is extraordinary.

Van Lommel reports from his NDE research: “This experience of consciousness can be coupled with a sense of unconditional love and acceptance while people can also have contact with a form of ultimate and universal knowledge and wisdom.”[7] What he calls “endless or enhanced consciousness” is what Dossey first called “nonlocal mind” in his book, Recovering the Soul (1989). The word “nonlocal” refers to a property of quantum reality that contradicts the classical physics’ principle of locality―that limits causality to physical interactions requiring an interval of time. Recent experiments verify nonlocal entanglement at the quantum level.[8]

Both Dossey and van Lommel apply the concept of nonlocality to consciousness. “Minds,” Dossey explains, “are nonlocal with respect to space and time. This means that the separateness of minds is an illusion, because individual minds cannot be put in a box (or brain) and walled off from one another. In some sense, all minds come together to form a single mind.”[9] I suggest that three arguments support this conclusion.

First, as van Lommel reports: “Since the publication of four scientifically designed studies (Greyson 2003; van Lommel et al. 2001; Parnia et al. 2001; Sartori 2006) with a total of 562 survivors of cardiac arrest, with strikingly similar results and conclusions, the phenomenon of the NDE can no longer be scientifically ignored. It is an authentic experience, which cannot be simply reduced to imagination, fear of death, hallucination, psychosis, the use of drugs, or oxygen deficiency, and people appear to be permanently changed by an NDE during cardiac arrest lasting only a few minutes.”[10]

In Consciousness Beyond Life van Lommel explains in great detail why medical science cannot account for NDEs and notes the benefits that cardiac survivors have reported to his research team. After eight years “cardiac arrest survivors without an NDE also showed change,” but “people with an NDE scored significantly higher in the following areas: showing emotions, less interest in the opinion of others; accepting others; compassion for others, involvement in family; less appreciation of money and possessions; increase in the importance of nature and environment; less interest in a higher standard of living; appreciation of ordinary things; sense of social justice; inner meaning of life; decline in church attendance; increase interest in spirituality; less fear of death; less fear of dying; and increase in belief in life after death.”[11]

Second, subjective perceptions during an OBE have been verified objectively. The account of the elderly blind woman who “watched” her resuscitation was confirmed by her physician. Another woman with a cardiac arrest remembered floating through the hospital wall and seeing a white tennis shoe on a window ledge. After being resuscitated, she asked a social worker to verify that the shoe she “saw” was really there, which it was.[12]

Third, as van Lommel argues: “The hypothesis that consciousness and memory are produced and stored exclusively in the brain remains unproved.” A correlation between brain activity and conscious experience does not “explain the origins of either consciousness or the subjective content of consciousness.”[13] In addition, neurological studies suggest that “the brain has insufficient capacity for storing all memories with associated thoughts and feelings or retrieving capacity for stored information.”[14]

Where is memory stored? Biologist Rupert Sheldrake suggests it makes more sense, “to think of tuning in to my memories, instead of retrieving them from stores inside my brain by obscure molecular mechanisms. Resonance feels more plausible and fits better with experience. It is also more compatible with the findings of brain research: memory traces are nowhere to be found.”[15] If memory involves resonance that is not limited to the brain, this might explain how a man could have an IQ of 126, although a brain scan revealed his cerebral cortex was less than one-eighth inch thick―as “95 percent of his skull was filled with cerebrospinal fluid.”[16]

Resonance beyond our brains in a “field” of consciousness may also explain intuition, which involves reaching accurate conclusions without having adequate information. The history of science records striking examples, and some contemporary physicians such as Mona Lisa Schulz are known for their ability to “examine” patients intuitively without meeting them.[17] All this evidence leads neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet to “regard conscious, subjective experience (awareness) as another fundamental property in nature,” even as we accept that mass has inertia.[18] Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard agrees: “Consciousness is an irreducible quality.”[19]

Van Lommel endorses a new scientific paradigm. “Consciousness is not visible, not tangible, not perceptible, not measureable, and not verifiable.” Yet, “without consciousness, there is no perception, no thought, no feeling, no knowledge, and no memory. Consciousness is all-encompassing; reality as we experience it exists only in our consciousness. In fact, it is influenced and ultimately determined by our consciousness.”[20]

An OBE/Physics Argument for One Mind

If the brain isn’t producing consciousness, what is it doing? Physicist Thomas Campbell uses an analogy to explain brain function: “The central nervous system hosts our consciousness as a computer hosts an operating system and applications. It serves as a transducer,[21] a data port and bi-directional translator between the virtual experience of the physical body and the individuated nonphysical consciousness that defines your existence and motivates your intent within the larger reality.”[22]

“There is only consciousness,” Campbell continues. “Consciousness is The One, while the many, the great diversity of realities and the entities that populate those realities, are specialized subsets of consciousness within their own thought-space or dimension.” This means the reality we experience as our world “is a construct of consciousness. It is not a physical substance or a thing.” Instead, “it is created by imposing a set of constraints upon a subset of the larger reality.”[23] We “live and move and have our being” in consciousness.[24]

What Campbell calls “the space-time rule-set” for our sense of reality “is only a local rule-set and does not apply to the larger reality.” Even as the computer code of every software program generates a distinct virtual reality when the program is running, every dimension or level of consciousness has its own rule-set. A “higher (less limited) dimension” of reality is experienced from a lower dimension, Campbell says, “as subjective and mystical.”[25] NDEs involve a transition from our physical world to the next higher dimension of reality.

Albert Einstein explained that mass is energy, and experiments in quantum physics “destroyed the widely accepted material foundation of physical reality.” Nonetheless, the majority of scientists reject the inference “that consciousness represents the most fundamental energy in our system.” This is because, as humans, we experience a limited consciousness through our bodies and brains that creates our sense of physical reality. Yet, OBEs and NDEs reveal a vivid and compelling dimension of consciousness that is not limited by physical reality. A person having an OBE may pass through a wall, see without the body and brain activity required for vision, converse without functioning vocal chords, and move instantly without any effort from one place to another. “We have the souls we do,” Campbell affirms, “because we are primarily nonphysical beings.”[26]

Relying on many personal OBEs as well as his knowledge of physics and computer science, Campbell argues that: “We are participants in an evolving consciousness ecosystem.” What we experience as our physical universe “is a small virtual habitat within this larger consciousness system.” Every aspect of reality, including each sentient being, is “a limited implementation of consciousness developed to serve a particular evolutionary purpose (occupy an available niche) within the greater consciousness ecosystem.”[27]

“In mind-space,” Campbell explains, “thoughts are the result of an active awareness exercising intent or will” and thus are “individuated manifestations of consciousness energy.” Thoughts “interact and have effects. The discrete energy packets they exchange have the effect of modifying digital content.” With our minds we alter our brains and the physical world. Furthermore, “One of the marvelous attributes of digital systems is that as long as memory is never purged, no information is ever lost and your individual self is always maintained. Because consciousness is implemented within a digital system, we may retain our individuality and become merged with the whole simultaneously. We, as individuated consciousness, are truly immortal unless the bits that represent us become disorganized beyond repair, irredeemably negative, or are deleted from memory.”[28]

The subjectivity of consciousness does not preclude objective knowledge. “Results can be objectively measured even if the motivations, understanding, and intent (the underlying dynamics) that created those results are entirely subjective. Unique, stable, repeatable, recognizable subjective states often drive specific objective results.” We do this all the time by sharing our perceptions to clarify our understanding. “Reality must be experienced by consciousness.”[29] How else could it be, as all experience involves subjectivity?

What does this mean for each person? “It is the nature of consciousness, the nature of sentient beings, to try to better themselves.” What we do, however, “with the opportunity to evolve our consciousness is entirely up to us. It is our free will, our self-interaction, and our interaction with others that creates the possibility of learning, which in turn creates our potential for growth.” Many scientists and philosophers argue there is no free will, because prior causal events determine every outcome. In fact, Campbell observes: “Free will is a necessary attribute of successfully evolving consciousness.”[30]

“Given that consciousness exists,” he explains, “it must be enabled by memory, information processing capability (intelligence), the interactive sharing of data, and free-will choice-making” that moves evolution forward. “Thus, the question of free will reduces to the question of are you conscious, and, if so, is your consciousness part of a complex interactive system of consciousness? If these questions are answered in the affirmative then your consciousness, and the system of which it is a part, must be evolving against some measure of profitability[31] [value] because that is a requirement of all self-modifying interactive systems.” A creative system of consciousness cannot evolve “without free will to make the required choices.”[32]

“Without free will, purpose, and the environments in which to exercise both, there can be no evolving individuated consciousness.” An evolving consciousness system, like ours, cannot “be supported by either a wholly random or a wholly deterministic system,” because neither generates an increase in value. With a delightful metaphor, Campbell concludes: “Free will is simply the result of consciousness energy and evolutionary process slipping into bed together for a joyous moment of creation that has not yet ended.”[33]

The goals of consciousness are greater awareness and love. “What matters most,” Campbell affirms, “is the development of wisdom, understanding, and the capacity to love.” In the absence of fear, love grows within consciousness. Love, of course, doesn’t only involve beds and bodies. Love as consciousness “is an attitude, a value, a way of interacting and being.”[34]

Why It Matters

For physicist Richard Conn Henry, quantum theory has not only been verified as describing reality, but is also a source of wonder and delight. “One benefit of switching humanity to a correct perception of the world is the resulting joy of discovering the mental nature of the Universe. We have no idea what this mental nature implies, but―the great thing is―it is true. Beyond the acquisition of this perception, physics can no longer help. The Universe is immaterial―mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.”[35]

Surviving an NDE may also be wondrous and inspiring, as it was for Ella Silver. “I have never before or since had such a feeling of ‘knowing’ for sure I would know joy. It was totally different from happiness. I felt my heart would burst with the excitement of expectation.”[36] Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander confirms that his NDE transformed his thinking and his life. “Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional.”[37]

But, “After ecstasy, the laundry,” Dossey says, quoting a Zen master.[38] So what “laundry” should we now do? Let’s consider three really hard questions: Does religion matter? What about God? Is there an afterlife?

In her book Otherworld Journeys historian of religion Carol Zaleski notes that the judgment experienced in the contemporary “near-death life review differs sharply from its medieval counterpart. In both cases the judgment is, in a sense, self-judgment; but for modern near-death subjects this almost never carries with it a sense of sin or penalty.” Her interpretation of this absence of traditional religious imagery is that modern NDEs “project into the other world a vision of humane psychoanalytic or ‘client-centered’ therapy.”[39]

Do “souls” on the threshold of a higher dimension of consciousness bring with them the “frame of mind” shaped by their embodied experiences? As NDEs often involve recalling one’s life as well as seeing deceased relatives and friends, we shouldn’t expect the psychological and cultural aspects of a person’s life to be left behind with the body. The One, we now realize, is The All. While in a coma for more than a month in 1944, Carl Jung had an NDE: “I had the feeling that everything was being sloughed away; the whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence, fell away or was stripped from me” yet “something remained; it was as if I now carried along with me everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had happened around me.”[40]

Every event and memory in our part of the cosmic story is saved within the history of consciousness. So religion (and much more) matters not only in the physical dimension of reality. Reflecting on his NDE, Alexander writes: “At last, I understood what religion was all about. Or at least was supposed to be about.”[41]

What about God? Zaleski’s historical perspective makes it harder to envision an answer for everyone in every religious tradition. “In ancient China, Lao Tzu, the legendary founder of philosophical Taoism, is said to have left his body inert and lifeless in order to go ‘for a stroll at the origin of things.’” And in the Jewish tradition there are many examples “in the Shifhei ha-Besht (In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov), a collection of Hasidic anecdotes, which begins with the assertion that ‘in earlier days when people revived after lying in a coma close to death, they used to tell about the awesome things they had seen in the upper world.’”[42] We know, however, that Taoists and Jews see The One so differently no assertion about “God” could reflect all they envision.

NDE survivors also vary considerably in their use of language to describe the exalted consciousness of their journey. Some see Jesus, others radiant beings. More experience an intense, warm, bright, loving light. Fewer speak of God, as Alexander does (much to his surprise). “I didn’t just believe in God; I knew God.”[43] Intuition, too, Schulz says, cannot be explained as simply the result of brain activity. “The divine consciousness speaks to our human consciousness,” she asserts, “offering us quick, keen insights into the problems of everyday life and suggesting potential solutions through the language of intuition―the language of the soul.”[44]

For surgeon Bernie Siegel, “the knowledge that God is a loving, intelligent, and conscious energy” has come from dreams, drawings, and near-death experiences. He believes that: “first, there was consciousness and consciousness was with God” and “consciousness was God, because God speaks in dreams and images―the universal language.” To one patient Siegel suggests “visualizing God’s light melting a tumor that appears as a block of ice.” To another: “Let go and let God.” Siegel tells his patients: “By accepting ourselves as God’s creation, seeing beauty and meaning in what we are, just as we are, we accept others as God’s creation too.[45]

Is there an afterlife? Zaleski argues that although the NDE “proves nothing about our own prospects for life beyond the grave,” we should “accept an individual’s report that he experienced something in himself that surpasses death. Given the immense practical significance of this claim, it would be foolish to deny it solely because of scientific opinions. Science can hardly have the last word on a subject about which it has so little to say; and the transforming effects of near-death experience speak for themselves.”[46]

In his NDE Alexander found not an afterlife, but numerous levels of consciousness. “I saw the abundance of life throughout the countless universes, including some whose intelligence was advanced far beyond that of humanity. I saw that there are countless higher dimensions, but that the only way to know these dimensions is to enter and experience them directly. They cannot be known or understood, from lower dimensional space. Cause and effect exist in these higher realms, but outside of our earthly conception of them. The world of time and space in which we move on this terrestrial realm is tightly and intricately meshed within these higher worlds. In other words, these worlds aren’t totally apart from us, because all worlds are part of the same overarching divine Reality. From those higher worlds one could access any time or place in our world.”[47]

Unwilling to accept her mother’s death, physician Donna Jamieson continued CPR for half an hour. But then, “to her amazement, she found herself lifted out of her body and looking down on the CPR scene as though she were on a balcony. Trying to get her bearings, Jamieson looked to her left, and there was her mother, hovering with her.” In the corner of the room, light was streaming in through what looked to Jamieson like a ‘breach in the universe.’ “Within that light were people Jamieson had known for years”―her mother’s friends who had died before her. “Jamieson watched as her mother drifted into the light and into a reunion with her friends. Then the breach closed down in a spiral fashion like a camera lens and the light disappeared.”[48]

Yet, Moody suggests: “God has something in mind for us that is even more remarkable than a life after death, which means the terminology we use in this frame of reference may not be adequate.” What does he believe? “I think we enter into another state of existence or another state of consciousness that is so extraordinarily different from the reality we have here in the physical world that the language we have is not yet adequate to describe this other state of existence or consciousness. Based on what I have heard from thousands of people, we enter into a realm of joy, light, peace, and love in which we discover that the process of knowledge does not stop when we die. Instead, the process of learning and development goes on for eternity.”[49]

“Siegel writes: “I have had a near-death experience and, through this, learned that we are more than our bodies. I have had past-life experiences and had messages from dead patients delivered to me through mediums. I have even heard the voices of the dead speak to me.” Instead of denying the reality of these experiences, he embraced them. “I believe the intelligence that remains when we have a near-death experience, or when we find ourselves hovering above our bodies, is the same force that communicates via our dreams, speaks through symbols to our intuition, and guides our inner knowing.”[50] Siegel is now a well-known healer.

Van Lommel concludes: “the essence of our endless consciousness predates our birth and our body and will survive death independently of our body in a nonlocal space where time and distance play no role. There is no beginning, and there will never be an end to our consciousness. In view of this, we should seriously consider the possibility that death, like birth, may be a mere passing from one state of consciousness into another.”[51]

A Bigger History

This is a much “bigger history” than the “big history” now being taught in our schools.[52] On the Big History cosmic timeline, which imagines 13+ billion years as13 years, humans appear in the last 53 minutes―as the accidental result of random mutations and natural selection.[53] Consciousness is a complex “hierarchy of neural systems in the brain” that presumably “increased gradually over time from that of our chimpanzee ancestors to the full consciousness that seems to have been present in humans 40,000 years ago.”[54] 

Big History is said to be: “a framework for all knowledge. From the Big Bang to the modern day—and to what may lie ahead. Big History considers the great questions about our Universe, our planet, life, and humanity.”[55] In fact, as one of its advocates, David Christian, candidly admits, Big History is a “modern creation myth.”[56] The universe that begins without purpose, Big History says, will end as “a graveyard of dark, cold objects.”[57]

Yet, physicians and physicists now confirm the ancient and enduring intuition that material reality and our perception of its history are manifestations of The One consciousness, which is loving and evolving and endless. “Each and every one of us,” Alexander proclaims, “is deeply known and cared for by a Creator who cherishes us beyond any ability we have to comprehend. That knowledge must no longer remain a secret.”[58]

Notes

[1] Larry Dossey, One Mind: How Our Individual Mind is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why it Matters (Hay House, 2013), 253. The 2014 Napier Banquet at Pilgrim Place honored Nancy Mintie for her creative community service as director of Uncommon Good. In her speech, however, instead of finding hope in her own work or student projects for justice, she presented new scientific evidence for an infinite dimension of shared intelligence. After she cited One Mind as particularly hopeful for her, I bought and read the book and also many of the other books and articles included in its bibliography.

[2] Pim van Lommel, “Pathophysiological Aspects of Near-Death Experiences,” in Mahendra Perera, Karuppiah Jagadheesan and Anthony Peake, editors, Making Sense of Near-Death Experiences (Jessica Kingsley, 2012), 90.

[3] Raymond A. Moody, The Light Beyond (Bantam, 1988), 134-135. Moody’s book Life After Life (1975) was a best-seller and popularized the NDE.

[4] “If we accept the subjective experience of the people who gave these accounts, then we have to accept that what happens to the dying person can in some way affect those around them; that the NDE can sometimes be a shared experience.” Peter Fenwick and Elizabeth Fenwick, The Truth in the Light: An Investigation of Over 300 Near-Death Experiences (Berkley Books, 1995), 39 and 255.

[5] Michael Sabom, a cardiologist, compared the memories of those who had OBEs to the knowledge of patients with considerable hospital experience. “He found that most of the patients in the control group―twenty-three out of the twenty-five people―made mistakes in describing the resuscitation procedures. On the other hand, none of the NDE patients made mistakes in describing what went on in their own resuscitation.” Raymond A. Moody, Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife (HarperOne, 2012), 127-128.

[6] Peter Fenwick and Elizabeth Fenwick, The Truth in the Light, 84-85, 94.

[7] “Many argue that the loss of blood flow and a flat EEG do not exclude some activity somewhere in the brain because an EEG primarily registers the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex. In my view this argument misses the point. The issue is not whether there is some immeasurable activity somewhere but whether there is any sign of those specific forms of brain activity that, according to current neuroscience, are considered essential to experiencing consciousness. And there is no sign whatsoever of those specific forms of brain activity in the EEGs of cardiac arrest patients.” Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (HarperCollins, 2010), 165. For a recent video on this NDE research see “The Mystery of Perception During NDE” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avyUsPgIuQ0.

[8] According to classical physics, the speed of light limits effects across space, so instantaneous influence between separated objects is impossible. Yet, experiments in the twentieth century have verified that the smallest particles (quanta) making up all matter (anything with both mass and volume) partner with each other in what is now described as a nonlocal universe. “Nonlocality occurs due to the phenomenon of entanglement, whereby particles that interact with each other become permanently correlated, or dependent on each other’s states and properties, to the extent that they effectively lose their individuality and in many ways behave as a single entity.” http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_quantum_nonlocality.html. Italics added.

[9] “Nonlocal mind resembles the age-old concept of the soul.” Larry Dossey, One Mind, xxvi and xxiv.

[10] Pim van Lommel, “Pathophysiological Aspects of Near-Death Experiences,” in Making Sense of Near-Death Experiences, 90.

[11] Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life, 161-204, and 67.

[12] “Kimberly Clark, “Clinical Interventions with Near-Death Experiencers,” in Bruce Greyson and Charles P. Flynn, editors, The Near Death Experience: Problems, Prospects, Perspectives (Charles C. Thomas, 1984), 243. 

[13] A cognitive scientist admits: “The scientific study of consciousness is in the embarrassing position of having no scientific theory of consciousness.” Donald Hoffman, “Conscious Realism and the Mind-Body Problem, Mind & Matter (2008), 6(1):87-121. In Larry Dossey, One Mind, xxxvii.

[14] Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life, 186, 190, and 195.

[15] Sheldrake, Science Set Free, 209. A physicist explains that memory “might not be entirely neural,” because “memories are not linked spatially [in the brain] but rather temporally, by vibrating in unison.” It seems that memory involves an information flow “in the form of resonance across different brain structures.” Michio Kaku, The Future of the Mind:  The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind (Doubleday, 2014), 108.

[16] An article in Science entitled “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?” in Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Death, 197.

[17] Mona Lisa Schulz, Awakening Intuition: Using Your Mind-Body Network for Insight and Healing (Harmony Books, 1998), 13-31. “I have learned the intricate relationship between intuition, memories, dreams, and the body through disease and health, through my work as a scientist, through my work as a physician, and finally, through my work as a medical intuitive.” Now “when I do a reading of a person, I first see myself standing in front of the person, checking the individual’s head, eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Then I step inside, into the esophagus, and head south. I go for a ride, traveling through the various organ systems and visually examining their condition.”

[18] To assume “a deterministic nature of the physically observable world can account for subjective conscious functions and events is a speculative belief, not a scientifically proven proposition.” Benjamin Libet, Mind Time: The Temporal Factor in Consciousness (Harvard University, 2004), 153, 163. A scientist with Ph.D.s in physics and astronomy, clearly explains the mistake made in science. “Science starts from the assumption that there is a knowable logic to the universe―which there clearly is. It then strips away all aspects of the world that logic cannot tease apart, calling these subjective. There is nothing wrong with this―science couldn’t progress in any other way. The mistake is to assume that this separation of objective from subjective, which we choose to make, reflects how things really are. It does not. And this misunderstanding is now becoming very clear as scientists go beyond their own remit and try to explain consciousness as a derivative of brain function. Their failure is no surprise. Consciousness is not some side-effect, or epiphenomenon, of the objective world. It is an integral, irreducible part of reality. Consciousness is the subjective aspect of all things―the ever-present ‘mind’ of the universe.” David Darling, Soul Search: A Scientist explores the Afterlife (Willard Books, 1995), 158.

[19] Beauregard and O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (HarperCollins, 2008), 27.

[20] “Without consciousness, there is no living body. Down to every last cell, life appears to be an expression of the will of (unconscious aspects of) consciousness.” Pim van Lommel, Consciousness Beyond Life, 285.

[21]“A transducer is an electronic device that converts energy from one form to another.” Examples include microphones, loudspeakers, and thermometers. http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/transducer.

[22] The brain “hosts our consciousness as a computer hosts an operation system and applications.” Thomas Campbell, My Big TOE [Theory of Everything]: A Trilogy Unifying Philosophy, Physics, and Metaphysics (Lightning Strikes Books, 2003), 241. “

[23] Ibid., 250, 255 and 785. Physicist Amit Goswami declares: “Mind is completely different from anything material.” In Eva Herr, Consciousness, 67. “Matter is not that which produces consciousness, but that which limits it.” David Darling, Soul Search, 159

[24] Paraphrasing Acts 17:28.

[25] “Consequently, your mysticism may be another’s science: It depends on how big a picture you live and work in, and the degree to which constraints limit your perception.” Thomas Campbell, My Big TOE, 259, 236 and 146.

[26] Ibid., 155, 509, 547-48, 553, and 588.

[27] “Our physical brain does not create consciousness, it supports a limited consciousness.” Ibid., 354, 221 and 567. See 637: “The data upon which this model is based represent my best objective evaluation of my subjective experience.”

[28] Thomas Campbell, My Big TOE, 332, 543 and 533-34. Physicist Edward Fredkin argues that a dimension of reality supporting digital computation “does not have to have time as we know it,” as “there is no need for beginnings and endings.” Digital computation, therefore, “is compatible within worlds where something can come from nothing, where resources are finite, infinite or variable.” Edward Fredkin, “A New Cosmogony,” quoted in Campbell, My Big TOE, 784.

[29] Campbell asserts: “the scientific method has little validity outside its realm of intellectual objects.” Ibid., 638-641.

[30] Ibid., 504, 395, 417 and 415. Emphasis of the word opportunity has been removed.

[31] “All things evolve toward greater profitability. Profitability is defined by the degree of immediate success an entity [of consciousness] has in dealing with the evolutionary pressures created by the constraints within their [sic] internal and external environments. This is true if the entity is an individual or a complex system of interrelated dissimilar individual.” Ibid., 197.

[32] Consciousness and free will go together like chickens and eggs, Campbell says. They “evolved together.” Ibid., 415 and 419.

[33] The perfect knowledge needed to support determinism “is not a practical possibility within real, interactive, self-modifying systems that are large and complex.” Meaningless random processes “cannot support the properties and quality of consciousness as we experience it.” Ibid., 527, 422-23.

[34] Ibid., 523, 223 and 299.

[35] Richard Conn Henry, “The Mental Universe,” Nature 436, no. 29 (July 7, 2005). Department of Physics and Astronomy, The John Hopkins University, http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038/436029a.

[36] Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, The Truth in the Light, 71.

[37] Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, 2012), 71.

[38] “It is the ordinary, the plain, and the simple that are emphasized in the great spiritual traditions.” Larry Dossey, One Mind, 206, 208.

[39] Carol Zaleski, Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times (Oxford University Press, 1987), 130.

[40] “This experience gave me a feeling of extreme poverty, but at the same time of great fullness. There was no longer anything I wanted or desired. I existed in an objective form; I was what I had been and lived.” Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, http://www.near-death.com/jung.html.

[41] Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, 148.

[42] Carol Zaleski, Otherworld Journeys, 24 and 22.

[43] Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, 148 and 96.

[44] ”Intuition is a language from our soul, from our gods, just as it was to Pythagoras.” Mona Lisa Schulz, Awakening Intuition, 25.

[45] Bernie S. Siegel, The Art of Healing: Uncovering Your Inner Wisdom and Potential for Self-Healing (New World Library, 2013), 198, 42, 36, 163, and 92.

[46] Carol Zaleski, Otherworld Journeys, 198.

[47] Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, 48-49. Based on his many OBEs, Campbell confirms that: “Consciousness exists in many forms and at many levels.” Thomas Campbell, My Big TOE, 428.

[48] Moody relates a “shared-death experience” at the time of his mother’s death. “I felt a strong pull like a riptide, only the pull was upward. ‘Look,’ said my sister, pointing to a spot at the end of the bed. ‘Dad’s here! He’s come back to get her!’” Raymond A. Moody, Paranormal, 233 and 231.

[49] Ibid., 245. “I know a person in Christ who . . . was caught up to the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body, God knows.” 1 Cor. 12:1-4.

[50] “I believe that creation comes from loving, conscious, intelligent energy, and when we leave our bodies in a near-death experience, we become un-alive again and reenter that state of perfection from which we came.” Bernie Siegel, The Art of healing, 4 and 114.

[51] “When the body dies consciousness can no longer have a particle aspect because all brain function is permanently lost. Endless (nonlocal) consciousness, however, will exist forever as wave functions in nonlocal space.” Pim van Lommel, Life Beyond Death, 307 and 251.

[52] Andrew Ross Sorkin, “So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class,” The New York Times (September 5, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/magazine/so-bill-gates-has-this-idea-for-a-history-class.html.

[53] Http://olliebray.typepad.com/olliebraycom/2011/12/reflections-from-microsoft-pil-global-forum-2-of-5-big-history-pilgf-msftpil-.html.

[54] Cynthia Stokes Brown, Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present (The New Press, 2007). The word “presumably” is included in the full quote.

[55] Https://www.bighistoryproject.com/home. See also Cynthia Stokes Brown, Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present (New Press, 2012).

[56] David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (University of California Press, 2011), 5.

[57] Cynthia Stokes Brown, Big History, 247.

[58] Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, 96.

Published in Gratitude and Hope: Doing Theology at Pilgrim Place, vol. 10:2014-2015 (Wasteland Press).

bob@rtraer.com © Robert Traer 2016