54 of 66 people found the following review helpful
What Dreams May Come...
, August 23, 2010
This review is from: Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (Hardcover)
This is definitely one of the better books yet written about "consciousness beyond life." However, the startlingly small percentage of NDEs gathered by Pim van Lommel,M.D. and his study group is surprising - and not in a good way - the good way being if practically every person who is declared officially dead had experienced even some of the elements of the classic NDE.
I found the discussion arguing for the brain's being more of a receiver of consciousness than a transmitter more valuable than the scarce accounts of NDE experiences offered in this book. Most books on this subject relate the classic tale of a NDE patient floating from her body and seeing a sneaker high up on an outside ledge of the hospital where she was being operated on and at some point declared "dead" - and in this book we are told a story of a "dead" man seeing where the nurse put his dentures. Both stories are the epitome of attempting to prove the NDE and OBE (out of body experience) - yet both stories are old tales without any substantially documented attempt to prove their reality. The hidden code - placed high up towards the ceiling in many operating rooms throughout the world - has yet to be seen by anyone, despite accounts of the tunnel, the light, the life review and the meeting with people who have already crossed over being recounted once revived. But was it just a dream of the "dying" or "dead" person or simply a chemical being released by the brain? The NDE has yet to be proven as an actual experience - and not just the sign of a creative imagination.
Having said that, the author's strongest case for the brain being a receiver and not merely a transmitter is in his discussion of neuroplasticity wherein thoughts can actually change a brain. If thoughts can actually change a brain's structure, then the thoughts must be coming from somewhere outside the brain. And this is where the author posits a nonlocal realm of consciousness. The nonlocal realm is, according to the author, where pure consciousness exists and where our ability to be conscious likewise derives from. When a person is dead, near-dead or even just meditating, they may experience this "cosmic consciousness." But to posit that we - our individual personality survives bodily death is not proven in this book: and I realize that that is not the author's intention. His intention is to show that consciousness can continue independent from the brain - and this he succeeds in doing, in my opinion. But for how long? How long does the individual consciousness continue - and that is, afterall, the hidden hope that that is what happens. At least for most of us: the wrongs of this world are righted in the next, the ugliness in this world is made beautiful in the next. The hidden hope is that Death is the ultimate vacation from which we never need return to the mundane matters of the physically hampered world. But just as nails and hair grow for a time despite bodily death, perhaps the soul, whose origins are conceivably in the nonlocal realm, merely returns to Jung's "collective unconscious" or von Lommel's "nonlocal" realm and after a bit is subsumed by all consciousness itself.
I was recently at the shore on vacation. I stood by the shoreline and saw footprints of the people who had been there. Let us say that we are like those footprints, we carbon-made entities. And let us think of the ocean and its incoming waves as the nonlocal realm of cosmic consciousness. Once the waves wash over the sand a few times, the footprint is washed away. This may be what happens at death: the NDE experiencer sees the wave, is in the wave for a time...until the wave washes away all trace of their individual footprint. Maybe that is why only some people experience the NDE: because they were on the "beach", closest to the wave, whilst others are further inland. To say that the entire universe may be built on consciousness or built by it is not the same thing to say that we survive bodily death for eternity, beyond space and time. No, perhaps we just become part of the whole and - like the footprint in the sand - eventually lose our individual consciousness to the greater consciousness that may be behind everything in creation.
So, the scientific arguments for a conscious life beyond bodily death - while not particularly new - were the most interesting chapters in the book. Are they a bit complex? Yes - and should be read slowly. Do they make sense? Yes, in a universe where quantumly "anything goes." Are some people prone to experience something of the nonlocal cosmic consciousness? Most likely. Does this mean that we live forever as individual identies? No. We may just return to the mystery that made us and never ever know why.
The book is well worth the reading of it. It is, to me, the best study of the NDE phenomena I've yet read. But when will the sneaker on a ledge story - or now the old man's dentures story be replaced with something much more conclusive. If I ever am having an NDE and I am in a hospital operating room, I hope I will be able to leave my physical body and see what the hidden on high code is. Then there would be much more strong proof that a person is more than their body, a mind more than its brain.
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