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Customer Review

54 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 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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Showing 1-10 of 36 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 29, 2010 2:05:07 PM PDT
Zucar says:
I find this review somewhat sad in that the author has an unfounded fear of their individual consciousness fading out over time. This is not a view shared by those who experience oneness and are not limited to the survival fears of the ego. Without having this experience the 'knowing' that comes with it is out of reach. There is nothing to fear, your localized experience of creation will only become more defined as the experience of unity here and beyond also grows.

We are individual consciousness as well as universal consciousness. But until one fully experiences the latter the former will remain dancing in th dark. Meditation is a helpful tool for those interested experiencing greater clarity.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 29, 2010 7:35:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 29, 2010 7:38:32 PM PDT
Zucar - You need not feel sorrow that I have an "unfounded fear of (my consciousness) fading out over time." I never, in the body of my review, expressed one iota of fear or trembling at this potentiality. I was merely hypothesizing because the author seems to want to conclude that the individual soul is "immortal"....when in fact it may not be.

What - in my review - gave you the vibes that I had an "unfounded fear of individual consciousness fading out over time"? What you misread in my review and saw as "unfounded fear" comes much more from yourself than it does from me. So please do not find it "sad" as there was no "sadness" in my alternative idea of what may happen upon bodily death.

Truth be told, I can not be afraid of death as I was not afraid of being born. Read my review a bit more carefully and you will see, hopefully, that there is no fear attendant between the lines whatsoever.

Thanks for your comments, though, even though they missed the mark of my intent.

Richard

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2010 8:02:35 AM PDT
srb2001 says:
I liked your review very much, Richard.

Look forward to Sam Parnia's AWARE project to get a decent statistical baseline on veridical NDEs:

http://www.nourfoundation.com/events/Beyond-the-Mind-Body-Problem/The-Human-Consciousness-Project/the-AWARE-study.html

"Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated!" I don't like the prospect that my "consciousness/soul" will be absorbed by the "cosmic oneness", that is, oblivion, after death. I'll stick with a loving God who will grant me a personal eternal life, thank you very much.

Any NDEers out there, feel free to set me straight if you have knowledge to the contrary.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2010 10:42:29 PM PDT
Thank you for writing and enjoying my review. Also appreciate the url for the AWARE project. Best always, in this life and the next! Richard

Posted on Sep 25, 2010 4:38:33 PM PDT
"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. "

Of course thoughts change the brain. What else are memories but changes to the connections between the neurons, and the growth of new neurons? What else are skills (such as playing the piano) acquired through exercise than changes to the brain? The brain is not a computer with fixed hardware - it's permanently changing to adapt itself to the changing circumstances.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2010 10:05:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2010 10:12:07 PM PDT
Thanks for writing, Stefaan, but the neuroplasticity as detailed in the book is much more complicated and indicative of an OUTSIDE force at work on the brain itself, much more than you imply in your more-or-less materialistic statements. An iguana can regrow its tail should it be pulled off or dropped off while the lizard is escaping a predator so as to distract the chasing threat. But do the instructions on how to grow a new tail come from within the iguana - or from without, from a holographic force field as yet unproven by science but gaining steam with each passing day? And as you describe it, memories and skills can still be attributed to the internal, purely materialistic model of how our brains work. But you would have to read the sections of this book discussing neuroplasticity in full to see that what is being posited here is much more immense and profound. In short, it points to the conclusion that Consciousness is not simply relegated to the internal workings of the brain, but a force that works upon the brain with its ultimate existence elsewhere and in a locale or dimension other than the material brain itself. Thanks for writing. Best, Richard

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2010 1:23:29 PM PDT
Thanks Richard, you reply helps me with my decision whether to purchase the book.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2010 2:27:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 26, 2010 2:28:23 PM PDT
I am glad I could be of assistance, Stefaan. There is another new book - which I have but haven't read yet - by Chris Carter entitled SCIENCE AND THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE. From the reviews on the book's back and inside covers it looks promising. Best, Richard

Posted on Sep 27, 2010 10:05:03 AM PDT
Sadly, the reviewer, Mr. Masloski, didn't read the chapters as carefully as he admonishes us to do. Dr. van Lommel provides examples that answer the questions and objections posited above. For example, during a near death experience, one subject was given information from a sibling who had died shortly after birth, and in the "next realm", had subsequently matured to an age of approximately ten years following her death. Before the subject's near death experience, the existence of this dead sibling had been unknown to the her, since her parents had waited to discuss the death with her and her brother until they were older. This passage alone would counter Mr. Masloski's suggestion that ongoing existence is probably a fleeting phenomenon, if anything. Anyone needing to dismiss what is described in Pim van Lommel's book has his own private need to do so. Dr. van Lommel takes great pains to document his research in as close to the scientific method as working with such diverse subjects and conditions could allow. I believe what he wrote because I experienced something similar, and its effect on my entire life has been profound.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2010 11:42:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 27, 2010 11:51:43 AM PDT
Carolyn - The case you relate in your above comments is anecdotal. And in case you weren't aware of it, people lie or invent or put themselves in places they never were. You wouldn't believe how many people I have met who say they were at Ground Zero on 9/11 or war vets or even UFO abductees (the list goes on) only to find that they invented these stories for their own bizarre reasons. So the "one subject"s alleged experience does not "counter" my speculation - and that is all that it is - "that ongoing existence is probably a fleeting phenomenon." Your statement that "Anyone needing to dismiss what is described in Pim van Lommel's book has his own private need to do so" is completely bizarre and weird. Just because someone doesn't swallow the entire contents of a book and proposes other possibilities, that means they have a "private need"? Did Pim von Lommel have a "private need" to voice and publish his theories? Is anyone who does not agree with you immediately wrong? That's scarey. It really is. Don't you feel a person can express an opinion without there being a "private need" to do so? I read the chapters extremely carefully - and you perhaps read them too gullibly. And you also did not read my own review carefully at all! I never state as a flat-out fact that individual consciousness or soul does NOT continue to exist forever, I merely look at the NDE from a different perspective. A pity you can't accept a broader vision and believe everything you read.
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