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Dying to Live Hardcover – September 1, 1993

3.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1975, James Moody's ground-breaking book Life after Life collected the anecdotes of people who had come close to death and described the experience as comforting and transforming. Since then, the parapsychological, medical and scientific investigations of these near-death claims have become a small industry. This comprehensive report, by the author of The Adventures of a Parapsychologist and a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, collates theories about near-death experience, challenges the reality of spiritual claims and surveys historical and cross-cultural attitudes toward death. Blackmore concludes that the neurological "Dying Brain Hypothesis" better explains the evidence than the more paranormal "Afterlife Hypothesis." This work is chiefly of interest to medical professionals; the mysteries of death remain.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-Well documented and well researched, this volume joins the growing number of titles about the near-death experience (NDE). Blakemore's stated purpose is "to explore what psychology, biology and medicine have to say about death and dying." She refers to the ground-breaking work of Raymond Moody, author of Life after Life (Bantam, 1988), and also examines the findings of many others who have studied the NDE. Numerous interviews with people who have almost died add interest to this study. The author's impartial treatment of diverse beliefs on the subject helps readers to see how scientific and spiritual points of view can coexist. There's much to think about here.
Lyn Knapp, Annandale High School, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879758708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879758707
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,395,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By David Shank on March 5, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Finally an explanation of the NDE that makes complete sense, adding the phenomena of the illusion of self makes it all the more relevant and fascinating.

Read this book. It is very well done.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Susan Blackmore gives a materialistic explanation for near-death experiences. While that may sound depressing to many dualists, Blackmore has a way of putting a positive spin on the explanation by linking it to Eastern philosophy.

While this is an older book and there are certainly more recent books that talk about NDE phenomenon, this is still a good book for skeptics of a traditional afterlife.

But philosophically, there are questions to ask about Blackmore's view of no self. While I tend to agree with Blackmore that the self is an illusion, just what experiences the illusory self? The body? A vacuum? The universe? An illusion can't experience itself. And another question... what is consciousness? How is she defining consciousness? As we wonder how the universe can come from "nothing" (even though that's not what the Big Bang Theory claims), how can subjective phenomena arise out of "no subjective phenomena"? Is the "dazzling darkness" or "sense of oneness and timelessness" that Blackmore speaks of the default state of subjective experience in the absence of the illusory self? I would be interested in Blackmore's answers to those questions. Just so you know, in present time, Blackmore calls herself a monist, but NOT a materialist or an idealist. I don't know if this was her view at the time of writing this book. Even though Blackmore hasn't studied NDEs in years, I would love it if she were to jump back into that field and write an updated version of this book.
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Format: Hardcover
The fact that this book has been published at all is bewildering. The author has created a theory that purports to explain the NDE phenomenon through debunking; the difficulty is that she does not provide any evidence at all! The entire book consists of her observations and comments, and this simpy does not suffice. She dismisses the evidence that DOES exist without addressing it.

For example: the most challenging and interesting book on the subject is Michael Sabom's "Recollections at Death". He presents numerous well-documented cases that suggest that the NDE is real - and he also provides a thoughtful, articulate and fair-minded discussion of the possible answers.

Blackmore does not actually deal with any of the evidence, with one exception: she refers to the ONE detailed case where he does not provide the original records. He includes it because of its uniqueness - in ALL other cases, he includes the original medical records. She makes a joke about it and disregards it; she never makes the point that his book is filled with evidence based on origical records and personnel. Any reader who is not familiar with Sabom might think that this one case is typical of the entire book!

Reading this book has made me much more aware and sceptical of authors who claim to be experts. If I was not familiar with the work done on this subject, I would not know how misleading and simply inaccurate Blackmore's book is. Why didn't the publishers check for accuracy? Why was a book about a theory published without evidence?

In addition, Blackmore claims to have had a NDE herself. This is not true. She describes a hallucination following the use of drugs - then goes on to describe the related experience and associates it with the NDEs of people on the verge of death! A disgraceful book.
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Format: Hardcover
Susan Jane Blackmore (born 1951) is an English psychologist. Interestingly, although she earned her Ph.D. in psychology and physiology with a thesis on, "Extrasensory Perception as a Cognitive Process," and herself had an out-of-body experience, she has since become a skeptic, and prominent member of CSICOP. She has written other books such as The Adventures of a Parapsychologist, Beyond The Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences, etc.

She wrote in the Preface to this 1993 book, "There is no heaven toward which evolution progresses. And no ultimate purpose... Yet our minds have evolved to create purposefulness and cling to the idea of a self because that will more efficiently keep alive the body and perpetuate its genes... our evolution makes it very hard for us to accept the idea of ... our own individual pointlessness... The discovery and study of near-death experiences [NDEs] has taught us about the experience of nearly dying... This book is an attempt to explore what psychology, biology and medicine have to say about death and dying."

She rejects Carl Sagan's suggestion [in Broca's Brain] that NDEs recapitulate the experience of birth; she states, "The idea that we return to birth in death has an obvious appeal and a superficial plausibility, I do not believe it has any more than this... the birth canal is nothing like a tunnel with a light at the end... it takes a vast leap of imagination to make the two comparable.
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