Tags: After Death | Clinical Death | Darwin Awards

Study: Is There Life After Death?

By Friday, 17 October 2014 02:17 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The inevitability of death unites all of us, regardless of wealth, religion, class or race.

About two million human beings die each week worldwide, and the fearful prospect of it has spawned an industry of books, studies, movie documentaries, college classes and websites on how to die, how to deal with the death of loved ones, famous last words, strange or notable deaths, and the infamous Darwin Awards that recognize individuals who have [supposedly] contributed to human evolution by, “removing themselves from the gene pool” via some preposterous act leading to their death or sterilization.

Until now, nearly all scientists were convinced that the human brain shuts down 20 to 30 seconds after the heart stops, remaining in an inert, dead state and staying that way until the heart can be resuscitated and oxygenated blood again starts circulating.

Now, however, the results of a study by scientists at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom not only call that idea into question, but they also manage to faintly support the idea of personal life continuing for at least a short time during a physical state they call “biologically synonymous with death.”

The study, published in the appropriately-named journal, "Resuscitation", indicates that some form of conscious awareness can exist for at least several minutes after death, whereupon the human subject must be revived, lest the person take the description of his or her experience to the grave, and thus beyond retrievability .

Commencing in 2008, the researchers examined 2,060 people who experienced cardiac arrest at various hospitals in America, Britain and Austria. About 40 percent of the 330 survivors of clinical death — and clinically undetectable consciousness — could remember things such as a place where there were “all plants, no flowers,” or “lions and tigers.”

Some people felt fear or feelings of persecution. As one person recalled, “I was terrified. I was told I was going to die and the quickest way was to say the last short word I could remember.” Another person later said, “I had to go through a ceremony and . . . the ceremony was to get burned. There were four men with me, whichever lied would die . . . I saw men in coffins being buried upright.” Yet another remembered “being dragged through deep water with a big ring and I hate swimming — it was horrid.”

Some of the cardiac arrest victims experienced the image of the sun shining or a golden flash of light. Ironically, only about nine percent of patients had the classic near-death experience — NDE — wherein the person feels he or she is traveling through a tunnel toward a very bright light.

A very small number, 2 percent, even had an apparent out-of-body experience — OBE. One person “was on the ceiling looking down,” seeing a nurse that the person had not met beforehand but did see after the event. The person recollected seeing his body and “everything at once,” observing his blood pressure being taken while the doctor placed something down his throat and a nurse pumped his chest. Amazingly, the events that he observed — and which occurred — during a three-minute period of no heartbeat were later validated.

Perhaps biology, biochemistry and the mathematical equations we use to describe physical reality can no better elucidate the Mystery of Death any more than Einstein’s theory of general relativity can describe what happens at the infinitely dense singularity of a black hole.

As for that other great pillar of modern physics, quantum mechanics, it purports to be a complete theory, but suffers from the so-called Measurement Problem: It takes for granted that a conscious observer exists — otherwise the cat in the “Schrodinger’s cat” thought experiment would remain simultaneously in a superposition of both alive and dead states in its unopened box — but does not, and indeed cannot, explain what that conscious observer happens to be, exactly — or at all.

Perhaps we need a new third pillar of physics, a “Physics of the Mind” capable of fathoming and eventually explaining what were previously deemed matters of faith and spirituality, all of which stem from a greater mystery, the mystery of consciousness — which we know simply as raw awareness.

In any case, the Mystery of Death is now a mystery that tantalizes us with the possibility of transcendence — not just of personal existence, fraught with pain and strife as it is — but transcendence of our commonly-perceived and accepted material reality.

As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “To sleep, Perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come.”

Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential Computer Telephony Encyclopedia (2000), he was the chief technical editor of Harry Newton's Computer Telephony magazine (later retitled Communications Convergence after its acquisition by Miller Freeman/CMP Media) from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis — Click Here Now.


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Perhaps biology, biochemistry and the mathematical equations we use to describe physical reality can no better elucidate the Mystery of Death any more than Einstein’s theory of general relativity can describe what happens at the infinitely dense singularity of a black hole.
After Death, Clinical Death, Darwin Awards
Friday, 17 October 2014 02:17 PM
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