Out of body experience

*Lisa* - posted on 06/15/2010 ( 13 moms have responded )

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2 friends of mine have claimed to have had 'out of body' experiences. Both of them in cases where they have been resuscitated. One drowned when she was 4 and said she was suddenly up in the air looking down on her lifeless body floating in the pool and could even see her mother talking to a friend, not having noticed she was drowned. The other one was having her tonsils taken out and suddenly was looking down on the operation theatre at herself. When she awoke she asked the doctors what had happened and they had said that they had nearly lost her. She claims that there was a bright light and she saw her deceased family members. Her mum told her 'it's not your time' and then she woke up.

There are many stories similar to this as I'm sure you've heard. How do you explain this? What do you think?

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Katherine - posted on 06/16/2010

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What makes people an individual then? Different personality? Science is not exact, there just isn't an explanation for everything.

Stephany - posted on 06/16/2010

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I'm not sure how to explain any of it, but I do believe in it. When I was 9 I had a very large cancerous tumor removed from my body. It had fully encompassed one of my kidneys, so that was lsot as well. The surgery lasted 15 hours. The night after the surgery my mom had been told that it was touch and go- I might not make it through the night. I had a tube down my nose that was draining my stomach. I clearly remember, in the middle fo the night, looking down at myself in the hospital bed, my mom crying next to the bed, and watching myself pull the tube from my nose. the nurses came in and suddenly I was back in the moment, screaming and gasping for air. It ends up that the tube had become dislodged and I was aspirating to death. They said the only thing that saved my life (whihc they couldn't even explain because I was still heavily sedated) was that I pulled the tube from my nose. I was able to identify what the tube looked like, where it was, the machine it hooked into, what my mom was saying as she cried, what was behind my bed (even though I was so heavily bandaged and sedated that I couldn't move my body enough to look behind me), etc. It was crazy, and I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't been there. Even so, that's what happened and I have absolutely no explanation for it.

Charlie - posted on 06/15/2010

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Dying Brain Theory

This theory is one that has been popularized by Dr, Susan Blackmore in her book Dying To Live. One of the greatest strengths of the afterlife theory and the argument that NDEs are real is also one of its greatest weaknesses. The fact that all those who had NDEs follow the same path toward the light, going through similar stages on the way, makes a powerful case for the whole thing being a profound spiritual journey to an afterlife where everyone, from all ages and cultures, is welcome. But that same case, the "sameness" evidence, is also a fundamental part of the argument that NDEs are not real experiences, not spiritual voyages, but a function of the dying brain. All brains, regardless of where in the world they come from, die in the same way, say the skeptics. And that is why all NDEs have essential core elements which are the same. It is not because the dying person is traveling toward a beautiful afterlife, but because the neurotransmitters in the brain are shutting down and creating the same lovely illusions for all who are near-death.

But why? Why should the dying brain do this, if it is just a highly sophisticated lump of tissue? That question is one of the most fundamental questions in the whole of human thinking. It boils down to asking, are we individuals with "personalities" and "souls" and "minds" that are exclusive to us? Or are we simply bodies controlled by very clever computers, or brains, each of which works a little differently from the rest, thus making each of us unique, just as an Apple computer is different from an IBM, although there are far more similarities between them than there are differences?

Scientists and researchers are divided. There are some who want to reduce NDEs to nothing more than a series of brain reactions. Others, who accept the realness and validity of NDEs, are nonetheless quite happy to see it put into a scientific context. In other words, they are not frightened of researching the experience rigorously, of finding out everything that we possibly can about it, perhaps even being able to explain aspects of it. But they can happily let that scientific aspect sit alongside the deeply personal, life-enhancing evidence of those who have actually been there.

There are very few people around, even among the skeptics, who would deny that people have NDEs, and that they are deeply affected by them because so many obviously sane and well-balanced people have now come forward and talked about what happened to them. What they do dispute is what causes a NDE and what it means. There are two main strands of research: one takes the psychological approach, which looks for reasons for human beings to behave the way they do, and to think and possibly to hallucinate the way they do. The other is the straightforward physiological approach, which is searching for that part of the brain which malfunctions and causes a NDE. Increasingly, as in all brain research, not just that connected with NDEs, the two approaches overlap.

The ruthless, depersonalized argument - that a NDE is just the result of the brain beginning to die - is not acceptable to the vast majority of people who had a NDE. To reduce what was a profound and transforming experience to nothing more than a set of neurotransmitters going on the blink is a bit like seeing Michelangelo's statue of David as nothing more than several tons of marble.

If there is no afterlife, and NDEs are just the last throw of a fevered and dying brain, why does it bother? If everything, including the soul and personality, is going to dust and ashes, why does the brain lay on this last wonderful floor show for people near-death, or facing actual death, who relax into peacefulness and describe their wonderful visions?

If NDEs are just a hallucination, why do a great many people report being told, "Your mission has not been completed," or, "The time for your death is not yet," during their NDE? If NDEs are just hallucinations, how can so many people be told the same thing in their hallucinations? Isn't it odd that so many people are being told the same thing? Are they all hallucinating identical responses? For many people, it is easier to believe that NDEs are a real afterlife experience and not mass hallucination.

In my NDE Discussion archive I have an excellent rebuttal of Blackmore's case.


Charles Darwin's Theory

One theory is that it is a deliberate ploy of the human race to help those behind adapt better to the inevitable ending of their lives. Darwin's simple theory of the survival of the fittest holds that every species is struggling to increase its hold on this planet and guarantee the survival of its descendants. That is our greatest primary urge. Other animals help their peers to survive: the dying elephant, for example, trails away into the bush so that he does not slow down the herd. Are the dying just "helping the herd" by putting out propaganda that death does not contain a sting? But this theory does not explain why NDEs are erratic, or why we shunted down an evolutionary sidetrack for years by making them something that people were reluctant to talk about. After all, in Darwinian terms, humans are the complete masters of the Earth.


Hallucination Theory

Some scientists from the camp that believes that NDEs are one day going to be explained by brain functions have suggested that the dying secrete endorphins, hormones which act on the central nervous system to suppress pain and which are known to create the "runner's high", which happens when long-distance runners go through a pain barrier and find themselves running with ease and without tiredness, and with a feeling of elation. But endorphins are not hallucinogens and cannot re-create a state similar to NDEs, so although they may be involved in the process as a painkiller, they are not responsible for the whole experience.

Research on neurotransmitter receptors is highly complex and, in terms of our understanding of the functioning of the brain, in its infancy. It is known that a powerful anesthetic called ketamine can produce many of the features of a NDE, particularly the out-of-body element, and one theory is that a ketamine-like substance may be released by the body at the time of a NDE, and may attach itself to certain neurotransmitter receptors and be responsible for producing the whole NDE by blocking those receptors.

A psychology professor named Dr. Ronald Siegel from UCLA rejects the spiritual and mystical importance of NDEs. He claims to have reproduced NDEs in his laboratory by giving LSD to volunteers, but, other researchers say that although drug-induced hallucinations may have some resemblance to NDEs, they are not the same. For one thing, drug induced hallucinations often evoke fearful and paranoid experiences which are not generally found in NDEs. Drug induced hallucinations distort reality while NDEs have been described as "hyper-reality."


Temporal Lobe Theory

Some features of the NDE are known to occur in a type of epilepsy associated with damage to the temporal lobe of the brain, and researchers have found that by electrically stimulating this lobe they can mimic some elements of NDEs, such as leaving oneself behind, and the sense of life memories flashing past, although this is actually a common feature of NDEs. They believe that the stress of being near-death, or thinking that you are near-death, may in some way cause the stimulation of this lobe. There is some evidence to support this theory in the lower numbers of NDEs reported by people who suffer strokes which affect this part of the brain, or have tumors in this area. But there is also a case against: the characteristic emotions that result from temporal lobe stimulation are fear, sadness, and loneliness, not the calm and love of a NDE. Also, scientists may be simply discovering the mechanism connected with the mind/body separation thought by some to occur at death. Because a chemical mechanism is present in the brain, this does not mea NDEs are strictly chemical reactions. Science may only be describing the aspect of dying that deals with the brain.


Lack of Oxygen Theory

Other possible explanations are a lack of oxygen in the brain, or too much carbon dioxide. But these would not explain why some patients are able to give full and cogent reports of things that went on around them during their NDE. Cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom has reported one patient who, while having a NDE, watched his doctor perform a blood test that revealed both high oxygen and low carbon dioxide. Comparisons between NDEs and hallucinations produced by an oxygen-starved brain show that the latter are chaotic and much more similar to psychotic hallucinations. Confusion, disorientation, and fear are the typical characteristics, compared with the tranquility, calm, and sense of order of a NDE. There are some features in common: a sense of well-being and power, and themes of death and dying. But people who have experienced both at different times say that there is an unmistakable difference.

Hallucinations, whether deliberately drug-induced, the result of medication, or caused by oxygen deprivation, almost always take place while the subject is awake and conscious, whereas NDEs happen during unconsciousness, sometimes when the subject is so close to death that no record of brain activity is recorded on an electroencephalograph, the machine that monitors brain waves. Also, the medical conditions that take subjects to the brink of death, and to having a NDE, do not necessarily include oxygen-deprivation, or any medication. This is particularly true of accident victims. NDEs appear to occur at the moment when the threat of death occurs, not necessarily at the time, maybe hours later, when death is close enough to be starving the brain of oxygen.

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Depersonalization Theory

The first modern attempt to explain NDEs in psychological terms was made in 1930 by a psychologist who argued that people faced with an unpleasant reality of death and illness attempt to replace it with pleasurable fantasies to protect themselves. They "depersonalize," removing themselves from themselves - the floating away from their own bodies that experiencers report having. It is a theory that is still sometimes put forward, but it can be countered by the fact that some typical features of a NDE just do not fit into the depersonalization mode, such as the strong spiritual and mystical feelings, and the increased alertness and awareness.



Memory Of Birth Theory

Another popular theory is that NDEs have nothing to do with death at all, but are memories of birth. A baby being born leaves the womb to travel down a tunnel towards a light, and what waits for it in the light is usually a great deal of love and warmth. What happens at the point of death is only a stored memory of what happened when life began. Yet again there are a lot of points that don't match: a baby being born does not exactly float at high speed down a tunnel, but is buffeted along with difficulty by its mother's contractions. And how does this model explain the meeting with friends and relatives who have died? The "Being of Light" is supposed to be the midwife or the doctor who rules the delivery room - but many babies are born without a midwife or doctor present, or perhaps with many people present. On a purely practical level, a baby's nervous system is not sufficiently developed to allow it to assimilate and store memories of the birth process.

Those who argue this theory say that the feelings of peace and bliss are a memory of the peace of the womb when all physical needs were met by the mother and there were no stresses and strains. Why should this be any more likely than the feelings of peace and bliss are relief from the pain of illness and injury at the point of death? However, being born is often not a pleasant experience for babies which leaves them crying as if in agony. In contrast, NDEs are more often described as the most pleasurable experience a person can have. The birth process is not pleasant.



Afterlife Theory

Dr. Melvin Morse, who did all the ground-breaking research with young children, states unequivocally, "There is no explanation for the light."

Dr. Kenneth Ring, perhaps the most respected of all near-death researchers, and the one who did most to put the subject on the academic map, says:

"Any adequate neurological explanation would have to be capable of showing how the entire complex of phenomena associated with the core experience [that is, the out-of-body state, paranormal knowledge, the tunnel, the golden light, the voice or presence, the appearance of deceased relatives, beautiful vistas, and so forth] would be expected to occur in subjectively authentic fashion as a consequence of specific neurological events triggered by the approach of death ... I am tempted to argue that the burden of proof has now shifted to those who wish to explain NDEs in this way."

Those sentences are a couple of complicated sentences, but what Ken Ring is saying is that there are so many consistent features of NDEs that it is going to be very difficult to find a good explanation for them in terms of the physical working of the brain. And, he believes, that the evidence is so strong for them that sympathetic researchers should no longer feel that the burden is on to them to prove that they happen, but rather, for the skeptics to prove that they don't.

Perhaps the final word should go to Nancy Evans Bush, an experiencer with the International Association for Near-Death Studies, who said:

"There is no human experience of any description that can't simply be reduced to a biological process, but that in no way offsets the meaning those experiences have for us - whether it's falling in love, or grieving, or having a baby." Or coming close to death and having a transcendental experience.

There exists a mountain of circumstantial evidence that consciousness survives bodily death. This is the kind of evidence that would stand up in a court of law. Some people believe that science needs better tools to quantify what consciousness is. Perhaps when we discover what consciousness is we will be on the road to providing absolute scientific evidence that there is life after death.

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LaCi - posted on 06/16/2010

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Lack of oxygen leads to hallucinations. Lots of things do, actually, organ failure, mineral imbalances, etc

Your brain is still functioning when your heart stops, it begins to die from lack of oxygen after a few minutes, but it is a process and it is still functioning.

Jenny - posted on 06/15/2010

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What Loureen said. The brain controls everything and is capable of making you feel anything. Absolutely anything.

Katherine - posted on 06/15/2010

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It's really interesting that there are all of these theories. The thing is, I believe everyone does have a soul and that when you die it's not "the end". How can we all be so different? Have emotions? Thoughts? Be complex thinkers? There are unexplainable things human beings can do and it has nothing to do with our body or brain.

I love how Loureen put every theory out there. Clever.

Katherine - posted on 06/15/2010

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Well that blog is from 2008......there should be results by now...

Sarah - posted on 06/15/2010

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there is a new study being conducteed about this. they are putting pictures on the shelves above beds facing up in the cardiac ICU. Then they interview NDE people and ask them if the saw anything on the shelf, and if so, what.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/762160...
I am interested in the results of this one! Could be a reason to rethink religion!

Sherri - posted on 06/15/2010

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I do believe that your family members come to greet you when it is your time. However, when there hearts stop it is there souls leaving there bodies. This is what I believe.

Amy - posted on 06/15/2010

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my dad had complete organ failure a few years ago and his heart had stopped (it took 15mins to resusitate) he woke up and said he had a dream that he was standing at the top of a big slide watching his body go down it, he also said that Dr man ( cant remember his name but my dad said his name) had forgotten something, my dad has never met this doctor b4, he had only just started his shift 5mins into my dad being resusitated and then later on the doctor went into my dads room and my mum was there and said 'sorry mr locke i've forgotten your test results' .

Jackie - posted on 06/15/2010

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I personally have not done any research on the subject so I don't claim to know anything as fact; however, my theory is the brain is a very powerfull thing. The bright light may just be what happens when your brian is shutting down. Maybe it's what happens when it's being deprived of blood and oxygen. Maybe if you're unconscience before you die, the idea of looking down on your self can kinda be conceived as outer body but maybe you're in a dream-like state. Maybe - your body is dying but your brain is still working and it knows that you're body is dying so you end up in an enhanced dream-like state of being. Again, IDK just a thought.

Lyndsay - posted on 06/15/2010

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I guess it depends on your beliefs. From the many accounts I've heard, from people all over the world, the bright white light seems to be pretty consistent with near-death OBEs regardless of the victim's actual religion. I'm sure some people will say this is the path to the pearly gates, or something... but I'm not religious, so I will take a more practical view and suggest that maybe this would be the final departure of the spirit from the body. It is possible to have an outer body experience without nearly dying, people who are into meditation and things like that can do it at will. (I myself have done so.) So the bright light, I guess, is the final threshold... like once you cross over that, theres no turning back to your body. Where your spirit goes from there, I don't know.

Another interesting piece of research states that the body loses 21 grams at the moment of death. The study I'm referring to was done in the early 1900s and there has been a lot of criticism... but it kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it? Where is that 21 grams going? Is that your soul? Hmmm...

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