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on February 20, 2011
As someone who has great interest in NDEs and mystical experiences, I was not disappointed by this book. Doctor Nelson gives us a thorough account of neurological correlates of mystical experiences. This may be daunting for some people who have no background in neuroanatomy, but it is not technically overwhelming. Some of his ideas are quite speculative. The good thing about Dr. Nelson's ideas is that they are mostly testable. I agree with him that soon our understanding of the brain will expand and multiple new "paradigms" will come along that fundamentally shift our understanding of what is going on. Ultimately, the relationship between neuronal action potentials with their accompanying chemical fluctuations to conscious experience is incomprehensible. Dr. Nelson doesn't really touch on this mystery of "the hard problem of consciousness", which seems to me to be fundamental to any discussion of consciousness and mystical experience. It's a bugaboo of neuroscience because nothing at all is understood about how neurons can create conscious awareness, and it opens up the possibility that nobody wants to address, that consciousness may be some fundamental template of nature that evolution designed itself around instead of generated through complexity. If spiritual experience is associated with more primitive elements of the brain which are shared with other mammals, the question arises about when this sort of consciousness arose in the evolutionary tree, and of course, for what evolutionary benefit?

People who have NDEs claim to have tremendously expanded levels of awareness and the capability of having multiple thought streams simultaneously, as well as detailed reviews of every moment of their lives recounted and relived not just from their own perspective, but from the perspectives of the people who were affected by their actions. They claim to have downloads of tremendous knowledge "in the light" that come in instantaneous blocks of understanding. It would seem that standard waking consciousness is a toned down level of awareness from what we are actually capable of in these altered states.

One serious problem I had with the book is where it is suggested that Pam Reynolds saw the tools as she was moved into the operating room. Watch the documentary "The day I died" on YouTube. Dr. Spetzler clearly says he doesn't believe she could have seen the tools as she was brought into the room and Pam says she never saw any of these tools at any time before the NDE. I don't know why Dr. Nelson wrote this. He also completely skips the fact that Pam had 100db clickers packed and taped in her ears monitoring her brainstem response, and was still capable of hearing someone say that her femoral artery was too small. Dr. Nelson makes no attempt at explaining or even discussing the many accounts of accurate veridical perception during OBEs, or NDEs of the congenitally blind. Despite the clear relationship between lucid dreams, OBEs and NDEs we have to remember that many people, including the famed dream researcher Stephen Laberge who Dr. Nelson cites actually believe in some psi component to these experiences. These claims are not addressed at all in this book.

The latest phenomenon being explored is called the "Shared Death Experience" where family members of the dying have OBEs, go through tunnels, see the light and share in the life reviews of the dying despite not being near death. Raymond Moody's latest book called "Glimpses of Eternity" showcase many accounts of these experiences. I would love to see these people tested for having a history of REM intrusion. Something tells me that Richard Dawkins is not going to have a shared death experience with anyone. However, if the shared death experience phenomenon is as it is reported by Moody and others, could it also be activated by profound emotional response in a crisis with subsequent NDE-like elements in the living? I am highly skeptical of "dying brain" explanations of NDEs, particularly of the light and the tunnel. This is because we have accounts of people having classic NDEs involving the tunnel and the light who are literally driving calmly down the road in their vehicle, nowhere near death. The REM intrusion hypothesis makes more sense to fit the data. As the entry on NDE says on the howstuffworks website- "For every aspect of an NDE, there is at least one scientific explanation for it. And for every scientific explanation, there seem to be five NDE cases that defy it."

Overall, a good book worth reading.
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on May 13, 2013
Great book. Very clear, thorough and detailed [to my knowledge] about the location of parts of the brain that result in many thoughts and emotions. It described the source points in the brain that produce visions, and descriptions of various aspect of near-death experiences. Clearly the author is very familiar with his subject, and clearly he believes that the location of the experience explains the source of the experience is from the brain itself, and not simply the source of the brains reaction to some outside stimulus; i.e., the stimulus could be like the electrical probe by which Dr. Nelson's found the location of such actions. Dr. Neslon seems to believe that consciousness is somehow material, despite considerable evidence that it is not [ Kaufman, Radin Tiller, Institute for HeartMath, Hameroff,].
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on May 14, 2016
Great book! Helps make sense of a complex and provocative topic. A welcome addition to the ongoing inquiry into NDEs, events in the brain, and the search for causation and context within the varied camps of scientific, psychological, philosophical, and spiritual explorers!
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on February 28, 2015
This is a fairly technical book but I thought very informative. I am not very scientific so it was a struggle for me personally, to fully stay in tune with that part of the book but there are also plenty of layman's explanations to keep my interest. I love reading about this kind of research.
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on January 22, 2013
I approve of any non-Goddy explanation for subjective mental experiences. I have also been reading Paul Zak's "The Moral Molecule" (oxytocin), which is on a similar theme, and reinforces the materialistic and secular explanations for the "God-experience", revelations and so forth.
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on September 18, 2013
This is the second time that I read The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain by Kevin Nelson. As much as I enjoyed it the first time, I believe that I enjoyed it even more the second time. The author utilizes a sceptical approach to near death experiences, offering a strong neurological explanation for the phenomenon. He cites research performed by various experts in the field of neurologist, psychology, and human consciousness, as well as relevant scientific literature. Whether you area student of the human mind or simply curious, you will find this a fascinating read.
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on February 4, 2011
While I expected something more, I'm glad I took the time to press through the more difficult parts. Up front, when author Kevin Nelson approaches the subject he does so with the assumption that our brains developed over years of evolution. Still, he goes into great detail - much of the book actually - about how amazingly our brains work.

One example: "You are not actually "seeing" Mona Lisa when you look at the painting. The light reflecting off the canvas gets only as far as the retina on the back of your eyeball. The retinal image is upside down. The eye and brain convert the image to nerve impulses that are transmitted to the occipital lobe, where they are fabricated into a mental image; turning the Dora Maar of brain activity into the Mona Lisa of experience."

The other significant part of the book is spent discussing Near Death Experiences, comparing them to dreams, and raising the questions about whether NDE's are actually dreams during a super-REM state or whether they are "spiritual experiences", citing lots of studies, some conducted near-by at UVA in Charlottesville.

Nelson makes this statement: "whether we think the brain creates an illusion of God or believe it is a receptacle for something untouchable and absolute, we should be able to agree the brain is the seat of spiritual experience." I was hoping for more "proof" from the book that we are born with a "God-shaped hole" that is part of the make-up of our brain but again much time was spent on NDE's and whether they are "proof" of a spiritual element in our brain. The Bible tells me that "eternity is written on the heart" of every man. That's where the God-shaped hole really is. One very interesting fact through testimony of those who "almost" died is that at that point, the body/mind relaxes and one does not feel pain but becomes calm and at peace. This must be a gift from God for each of us when the time comes to make that journey from this world to the next, His grace upon us as we leave.

Overall, I recommend this book, even if it is just out of curiosity that a neurosurgeon would be seeking evidence for "God" in our brains. Nelson concludes: "Whether to induce the experience of the divine is a decision too important for medicine to make alone. I can see these possibilities and so much more, glimmering ahead, still out of reach but getting closer. We are all of this world, and my experience optimistically compels me to believe that understanding the brain as a spiritual organ strengthens our quest for meaning and complements a mature spirituality. My deepest hope is that this quest will ultimately bring us to a new birth of wisdom."

Wisdom, we knew, comes from God, who gives it to all men who ask Him.
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on June 10, 2011
I find Nelson's research and conclusions to be an important, even necessary, addition to the normal explanations of spiritual experiences. The work is well documented.
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on March 31, 2011
This book answered questions that I have thought about. very good book, Have told many about it. More shaman like.
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on October 18, 2013
Thus far, the book is more clinical than I thought it would be. It may be a book that works well for a student studying the biologý and/or the physiology of the brain.
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