Monday, May 18, 2015

Peter Fenwick on "Experiences surrounding near-death and dying"

The problem with current research is that often there is no clear distinction between consciousness, mind and brain. We know that the functions of mind are supported by the brain and constructed by it. There is a widespread acceptance that mind and consciousness are the same. Consciousness is intimately entwined with the brain, and that is why the usual fMRI experiments cannot distinguish consciousness from mind and the proposition that these two functions are the same persists. In order to distinguish mind from consciousness, situations (outliers) in which brain function and the associated mind are absent or degraded and yet consciousness appears to persist must be examined. At present the only circumstances in which the brain is not working, mind is absent and yet consciousness appears to persist, are in approximately 10 – 25% of people who have a cardiac arrest. In these circumstances higher brain function and mind are absent, and yet after recovery the subjects report consciousness experience very similar to the near death experience; these are called Actual Death Experiences (ADE).

A recent PhD thesis by David Rousseau, who has interpreted the nature of the world, assuming the phenomenology of the veridical nature of the out of body experience in the ADE is correct, postulates a five-dimensional consciousness and the presence of ‘psychic stuff’ in the universe. The other outlier is the death process itself. Brain function becomes increasingly compromised as death approaches. About 50% of people who have clear consciousness until nearly the moment of death may have experiences similar to those who have ADEs. This suggests that these experiences may originate in consciousness rather than in a mind which is degrading. Certain end of life experiences (ELEs), such as deathbed visions, transiting to a new reality, aspects of terminal lucidity are similar to the ADE and also raise the question of consciousness beyond the brain. At the moment of death, a number of phenomena, for example deathbed coincidences, mechanical malfunctions and odd animal behaviour suggest a non-local effect and add an additional argument for consciousness beyond the brain. Further, work by David Luke on DMT and psychotropic drugs suggests that the best explanation for transcendent conscious experiences is the filter theory with the brain restricting the input of wider cosmic experiences If that is so, then the ADE, the NDE and the ELE all point towards the universal nature of consciousness.-

Peter Fenwick is Consultant Neuropsychiatrist Emeritus to the Epilepsy Unit at the Maudsley Hospital, which he ran for twenty years. He is presently appointed as Emeritus Senior Lecturer, at the Institute of Psychiatry Kings College and Southampton University, and Emeritus Consultant Clinical Neurophysiologist at Broadmoor Hospital.

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