Consciousness, heaven and a surprised scientist

As regular readers may remember, the truth about the real nature of our consciousness has been a subject of great interest to me and one that I have come back to time and time again in my posts.

The great question has always been, is human consciousness just a biological bi- product of our physical human brain, or is it something else? Is it something that comes in from somewhere else and then continues after physical death? Is it one system or two?

Or does it end when we die? Is death the end of us or is there an afterlife, somewhere we go after death?

There has actually been debate about this for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Even after science as we know it thought they had disproved the idea, there were those that believed that there was a continuation after death. This was not just those of religious bent, but some alternative thinkers who had experience of, or believed in, the phenomena that seemed to indicate a continuation in some form after death. These include out of body and near death experiences, as well as the quite well documented memories of  past lives that some people can recall.

Near death experiences

I find that near death experiences are most interesting, as they sometimes happen to people that have no interest or belief in the fact that there may be a life after physical death. People report things like leaving their physical bodies, floating up, seeing bright lights, a tunnel, departed loved ones, feelings of peace etc. This often changes their outlook on life.

The view of science

Science has always maintained that these are just phenomena caused by hallucinations or the brain playing tricks as it starts to shut down. The thinking,  of course, has been also that the people concerned  were not actually dead. This has changed slightly recently with the advent of more sophisticated monitoring equipment. People can seem to have been actually brain dead when these visions occur. Indeed some hospitals even have gone so far as to put things on the tops of cupboards which cannot be seen unless the patient had actually left their bodies and were drifting up. Although this has happened, and indeed serious studies are on going, most scientists feel that it is absurd and not to be taken seriously at all.

The experience of a  surprised neuroscientist

There was a very interesting article on this very subject in The Sunday Times this week.           ( 14.10.12). It concerns the experiences of a former professor orf neuro surgery and total sceptic, Eben Alexander.

When contracting a rare form of meningitis he  fall into a 7 day coma. His neocortex, which controls conscious thought, was regularly scanned and  showed no activity what ever. Yet he felt that he had gone on a 7 day odyssey. He reported visions of other dimensions, colours, higher angelic beings etc. He felt that he had been given a glimpse of Heaven. This was totally against his previous convictions.  For a scientist, it was very confusing.

His conclusions

One of his conclusions  was “that science’s standard view that consciousness and the brain are inextricably linked should be questioned”

In other words, it may be two systems after all.

His experience also showed him that there may be other dimensions unseen and not scientifically detectable after all. Perhaps even the conventional heaven.

Aspects of reality

1-This emphasizes that consciousness and our physical body /brain are two systems as not one.

2-We are surrounded by unseen dimensions.



5 Responses to “Consciousness, heaven and a surprised scientist”

  1. Nick Allen says:

    Hi Marian, my worry is that when someone doesn’t understand something (like Dr Alexander in this case) they often seem to turn to the supernatural for an explanation.
    I don’t undrstand how TV’s work,but I don’t assume its by magic!!

    I think if somethink is inexplicable, we should strive to explain it, not assume it’s a paranormal phenomenon.


  2. Marian says:

    Yes the poachers turned gamekeepers revealations are always a bit suspect!
    However- there are some interesting concepts here.
    Firstly..the brain sees what it expects to see. He saw a Christian heaven sceanario because thats what his subconcious has implanted in it.
    Secondly- they do not know exactly how our brain works, the vision could have been stored elsewhere as a backup incase of malfunction of the neo cortex. There is some experimental evidence, I understand, that memory is infact stored in every part of the brain or even in every cell.
    Thirdly- There is serious scientific research going on concerning the conciousness leaving the body after death. Look at the research done at Southampton Hospital cardiology dept. Sam Parnia in particular. There is a growing awareness that something does go on. What the exact nature of the phenonena is , is of course another matter.

  3. Neil Raymond says:

    Hi Marian, my father Richard recommended your site. Your post here is on a subject that’s long fascinated me. I questioned the possibility of life after death in my dissertation and there were a number of difficulties in showing it could be possible. I particularly struggled with what it is the makes us who we are. If we can’t do that first about our living selves, it seems illogical to talk in terms of productive mental activity after we die.
    Being as our sense of self seems entirely dependant on a healthy brain, you have to assume that if there is anything after the brain dies then we must have a soul. But how do you show that as a possibility?
    The only way I could see it would be to to postulate that there is dualism of consciousness. When we are healthy, our consciousness (soul) links normally with our brain (I did quote a neurologist here who postulated a form of interactionism – he even speculated a specific part of the brain where he thought the interaction may occur although I can’t remember his name of hand). When our brain is damaged, whilst we may seem insensible, perhaps it’s just that our connection with the non corporeal part of our consciousness is blocked.
    So how does a corporeal and a non corporeal consciousness exist? Well, being as on a sub atomic level, energy takes both physical and non physical characteristics, perhaps our minds evolved with different qualities.
    So what evidence is there that there is a soul? Well, there I talked about the out of body experiences you mention in your blog. Would like to have had some of your examples to put into my dissertation actually.
    So, even if we can ultimately trace ourselves to our souls, assuming that they have evolved as a by product of the complexification of atoms which have these strange non material but still energetic properties, and even if we can assume that this soul interacts with a healthy brain – even if we can assume all that, we still then have to show that this soul can continue some kind of purposeful activity without the brain. And now I struggle cos it seems the physical and non physical attributes have evolved together. Again though the example in your blog maybe hints that there is some possibility that the soul can function without the body.
    So is it possible? Yes it’s possible. Is it likely? Not so much. But at least it is a possibility. Hope that all makes sense. It was a while ago I did all that.

    • Marian says:

      Hi Neil nice to make contact with you. When I started reseaching the book I started with a clear mind making no assumptions. I first looked at who and what we, as huiman beings actually were. The surprising conclusion was that we are at base nothing more than energy beings living in an energy matrix. (could even be holograms- some scientists are actually looking at that model). The next question was then how do we know we are real. Straight back to descartes!!!! WE only know we are real because we think and are aware. The next question was, from where does this thinking brain come from? Is the mind just a function of the physical brain?
      My burning interest has always been in the nature of consciousness. In looking at all the empirical and scientific( there is a surprising amount) evidence for near death and out of body experiences,and past life stuff, I came back to the concept of the soul, but not necessarily the religious one.
      Where does this soul come from? The religious view distorts our understanding as the pure message has been overlaid by centuries of cultural and societal imput. Sometimes cynically used.
      The real mystery is in the real big picture. I looked heavily into science, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. In the high science camp there is more disagreement and uncertainty than you would imagine.
      Conclusions? We cannot know as limited beings but I will be soon researching for my next book. I suggest you also look at my post about Max plank, the intelligent universe.
      The interesting thing has been looking at the science first, then the philosophy. The two are not as far apart as people presume.
      I do suggest that you read the book, as I have put it all in a logical framework.

      • Neil Raymond says:

        It’s sounds like we have some common ground there. And I also think of the soul in non religious terms as I agree it clouds philosophy ( I still find it hard to believe Descartes got so far only to suddenly decide that he couldn’t be deceived cos god was by nature good and non deceiving). And I think of consciousness in terms of energy although I still lean towards interactionism.
        I would definatley like to read the book and I will check out the other article you recommend.

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