Journey into the Heart of Consciousness

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Coming Soon!
Living in a Mindful Universe

As you may have heard or seen, I’ve written another book that I am looking forward to sharing with you all.

On October 17, 2017, Rodale Books will publish my latest work, Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Heart of Consciousness, which I’ve co-authored with Karen Newell, co-founder of Sacred Acoustics. Those who know us will recognize the valuable nature of her contributions.

Living in a Mindful Universe relates the emerging view of consciousness that is revolutionizing the scientific community, and is, in many ways, the continuation of my journey since writing Proof of Heaven. This journey parallels an unprecedented shift in the western scientific paradigm that, when fully incorporated, will lead to far more meaning and purpose in our lives. Read more

Deepening Our Understanding of Mind

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For some time now, I have toyed with the idea of writing an article for the mainstream press on the fascinating turns that have recently emerged in the mind-body discussion. Such notions included the possibility of writing for Scientific American, a magazine I have always appreciated, but also one that I have come to realize is a bastion of materialist science. Anticipated resistance by the editorial board has given me pause, but I was heartened by the recent appearance of a guest blog posted by someone whom I have come to see as an ally in some of my evolving ideas concerning the nature of consciousness.

Bernardo Kastrup’s Scientific American blog posting of March 29, 2017 is a sign of significant progress along these lines. Entitled “Transcending the Brain: At least some cases of physical damage are associated with enriched consciousness or cognitive skill,” Bernardo’s article opens as a response to Sam Harris’s blog attack on my book Proof of Heaven. Harris had scoffed at my claim that my mental experience had been greatly enhanced despite the extensive neocortical damage incurred through a global case of bacterial meningo-encephalitis. Harris joked about how a “few well-placed hammer blows should render a person of shallow intellect a spiritual genius.”

In my presentations, I offer the examples of terminal lucidity (great clarity seen in the mental worlds of elderly demented patients as they approach death) and acquired savant syndromes (in which brain damage, whether trauma, stroke, autism, etc. unmask superhuman mental capacities) as commonly observed evidence that the brain is not the producer of consciousness, but instead only functions as the receiving filter that allows in limited forms of primordial consciousness. Another example, which I wrote about in a blog posting, “Compelling Studies on Drugs and Consciousness,” on 4/18/16, concerns three recent scientific papers on the shocking findings concerning brain activity under the influence of powerful psychedelic drugs, like psilocybin, dimethyltryptamine, and LSD. Note that I do not recommend the use of these substances outside of any sacred or investigational context.

Completely contrary to what conventional physicalists like Sam Harris would expect, the studies revealed that the most extraordinary mental experiences occur in those who have the greatest inactivation of major junctional regions in the brain! This finding was so astonishing that it prompted Christof Koch, Chief Scientist for the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, to write a column in Scientific American entitled “This is Your Brain on Drugs: To the great surprise of many, psilocybin, a potent psychedelic, reduces brain activity.” His column portrayed the extraordinary nature of the findings, especially because of the dramatic reduction in activity of the most complex junctional regions in the brain, and the fact that no regions of the brain showed any increase in activity – widespread suppression was seen, and its degree correlated with the power of the psychedelic experience itself!

Bernardo has taken these same observations and written a very coherent article concerning the mind-brain relationship, in a way that clearly portrays the existence of mind as something that cannot be explained by brain alone. His article is a breath of fresh air for those who have come to realize the fatal errors of the materialist position (that consciousness arises from the brain). My hardiest congratulations go out to Bernardo for his excellent ongoing work adding some intelligence to the mind-body debate that is now entering a very fruitful phase.

The main reason I have been so occupied the last few months (and have not been posting regular blog entries) is that I have been hard at work over the winter writing my 3rd book. It is the natural extension of the story told in Proof of Heaven, but covers the nine years of growth and understanding with which I have been blessed since awakening from coma in November 2008. My life partner, Karen Newell (co-founder of Sacred Acoustics) is my co-author. Those who know us will realize her hearty contributions have greatly enhanced the quality of this offering, which will be published in North America on October 17, 2017 (foreign editions are still pending). We are most excited about the book, and feel that it will continue the robust awakening for humanity that was foretold in Proof of Heaven in 2012. I will be sharing more of that book and what it promises in blog postings over the next few months. In the interim, we have several workshops planned at which we will discuss and share some of the methods and techniques from the book.

We hope you can join us for one of these workshops, talks and retreats:

August 3-6 in Denver, CO – Explore the Extraordinary IANDS National Conference

August 11-20 in Montreal, Canada – Ancient Wisdom, Science & Spirituality IIIHS International Conference

August 25-27 in Rhinebeck, NY – Riding the Wave of Consciousness: Life in the New Paradigm Omega retreat

September 22-24 in Scotts Valley, CA – Behind the Illusion: Revealing the Soul’s Journey 1440 Multiversity retreat

And for our European friends,

November 11-12 in Madrid, Spain – Mas Allá De La Luz  Symposium on NDEs and Consciousness

These events and more are listed on my Events page as soon as they are made public.

Science Supports the Reality of the Soul

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True open-minded skepticism is our greatest ally in trying to better understand the mind-brain connection as it is revealed through the extraordinary lens of near-death experiences (NDEs).

True skeptics will thus greatly appreciate the rich presentation of NDEs in a new landmark book, The Self Does Not Die, originally published in the Netherlands in 2013 and recently expanded into an English edition. The authors, Titus Rivas, Anna Dirven and Rudolf H. Smit, have gone to great lengths to objectively analyze over 100 cases of veridical perception during NDEs, when the brain (according to the accepted principles of modern neuroscience) was in no condition to support such conscious experiences. The quality of empirical data and the objective assessment and refutation of possible materialist interpretations make this book a refreshing, and very worthwhile, read.

The authors begin with 14 cases of extrasensory perceptions of the patients’ immediate bodily environment. Then they progress through 18 cases of such perceptions beyond the range of the patients’ physical environment. Next they describe 36 cases of such perceptions, including the oft-discussed case of Pam Reynolds, during conditions incompatible with any conscious awareness – many of these well-documented cases occurred during cardiac arrest. Four robust cases of telepathy are examined where either the NDEer had a telepathic experience in relation to someone else, or alternatively, where someone had a telepathic awareness of the NDEer. Here they recount the extraordinary case of George Rodonaia, who was declared clinically dead for three days. After-death communications (ADCs) of NDEers with both strangers (5 cases) and with people familiar to them (6 cases) are then shared. Seven observations of NDEers having out-of-body experiences are then reported, including several in which others at a distance perceived the NDEer being out of body, and vice versa.

The authors include ten fascinating cases of healing in NDEers that are inexplicable by current medical science (so-called “miraculous healing”), including such well-known cases as Anita Moorjani and Mellen-Thomas Benedict. Finally, they cover four cases of paranormal psychic abilities, such as after-death communications (ADCs), extrasensory perception (ESP), psychokinesis (PK) and precognitive dreams after NDEs. They conclude by pointing out the materialist explanations for such phenomena are illogical and inadequate (including extensive discussion of the extreme tactics involved in trying to debunk my book Proof of Heaven).

In short, this book goes a long way towards eliminating once and for all the feeble counterclaims of the materialist position which tries to deny, ignore and generally dismiss some of these truly remarkable NDE accounts.

The Self Does Not Die is an important and timely book that offers significant empirical support to the emerging scientific view that consciousness is fundamental in the universe, and that the soul exists and does not depend on the physical brain for its conscious expression.

As one studies the scientific evidence included in this book and recent works on the mind-brain relationship (eg. Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism, etc.), it becomes clear that to reach a deeper understanding, we must reject the materialist position. These empirical data refute the production model, which states that the brain produces consciousness out of physical matter. Rather, the filter model (i.e., that the brain serves as a receiver of primordial consciousness) is far more reasonable in accounting for all the available evidence. Sooner or later, the sheer frustration with the ongoing inadequacies of materialist pseudo-explanations will nudge the prevailing western paradigm towards the deeper truth, as it is objectively represented in this remarkable book.

Karen Newell and I invite you to attend one of our upcoming multi-sensory evenings or workshops to explore the mind-brain relationship firsthand.

Please see our Events page for full details.

References:

Rivas, Titus, Anna Dirven and Rudolf H. Smit. The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences, Durham, NC: IANDS Publications, 2016.

Kelly, Edward F., Emily Williams Kelly, Adam Crabtree, Alan Gauld, Michael Grosso, and Bruce Greyson. Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Kelly, Edward F, Adam Crabtree, and Paul Marshall (eds). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Spiritual Healing

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Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist James Carpenter has written an interesting article in Aeon addressing the scourge of the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in developed countries. In so doing, he opens the conversation to points I often make to medical audiences about the fundamental role of spiritual healing, and of deeper understanding of spiritual disease, in healing of all types (physical, mental and emotional).

Dr. Carpenter points out, as have others before him, that the successes of psychotherapy over the last few decades have been buried under the current paradigm of defaulting to antipsychotic drugs without addressing the fundamental mental issues. Although these drugs can be very useful in the initial management of acute psychosis (when combined with appropriate psychotherapy), they cause great difficulties when used over longer periods of time without any corresponding psychotherapy.

At the heart of the matter is the conventional tendency to view the hallucinations of psychosis as a lifelong brain disorder that can only be managed through long-term antipsychotic medications that have significant and problematic side effects. Yet there is no evidence that the brain in acute psychosis is different from the normal brain (unlike the situation in chronic psychosis which often has some underlying brain abnormality). He points out that in fact the most dangerous aspect of their use is in trying to wean people off of them after months to years of dependence on such medications.

Given the classical psychotherapeutic approach that Dr. Carpenter and colleagues used decades ago, acute psychosis treated with good psychotherapy led to rapid and stable recovery (without the use of brain chemistry-altering antipsychotic drugs). This is contrary to the current script in managing acute psychosis that labels the brain as abnormal and the psychotic condition as lifelong and in need of ongoing chemical manipulation.

Dr. Cameron observes that the people most afflicted by such acute psychotic illness “have generally been badly hurt, usually early in life, often by people upon whom they were vitally dependent.” Their disorder is fundamentally one of their soul’s primary spiritual journey, manifested through their personal story. Long-term drug treatment may not be necessary, or as effective, if the core causes of a “spiritual emergency” are addressed through therapy. And, an accurate assessment to distinguish between this and the long-term disease states requires our more careful observation of these potential underlying causes.

Dr. Carpenter concludes that the powerful antipsychotic drugs change the brain and makes it profoundly more drug-dependent, which is what makes the use of drugs so dangerous over the longer term. But it is much easier to prescribe and adjust medications in trying to damp down the patient’s undesirable symptoms and behavior, than to actually delve into psychotherapy in an effort to address those early childhood traumas and the psychic repercussions from them that contribute to the symptoms of acute psychosis. Such effective psychotherapy is an endangered species, when one views the current dominant modes of training for psychotherapists, especially in the developed world, with its heavy-handed dependence on antipsychotic medications.

Adopting the broad interconnected view of modern concepts of transpersonal psychology, Dr. Carpenter reiterates Dr. Stan Grof’s belief that “the healing must involve a new integration of deep, inner parts of the person and deep, transpersonal forces beyond the person. It involves new connections between the secret self and others – between the conscious self and the self beyond consciousness nowadays referred to as ‘spiritual’.”

Dr. Carpenter’s views are in alignment with those of the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (ACISTE.org), a collection of certified mental health professionals and spiritual guidance counselors who train to address the psychiatric issues of those who have undergone profound spiritual awakenings.

I believe that this discussion is just the tip of the iceberg, and that, in fact, all of Western medicine will morph into a more powerful and effective system for well-being (not just “healing”) when we come to acknowledge and develop the skills to address the spiritual aspects of all disease and take that much larger view of the patient as a spiritual being in an existence that is fundamentally spiritual. Some traditional healing practices could be integrated or affirmed, including the power of prayer and of energy, healing touch, etc. From my point of view, our greatest work as healers will emerge from this far more comprehensive worldview embracing our spiritual essence.

Those who hunger for more in realizing this far grander view of our spiritual existence and how it opens profound channels of healing can join Karen Newell (co-founder of Sacred Acoustics) and me at one of our upcoming workshops listed on our Events page.

We will cover territory such as harboring a much grander view of ourselves, of our universe, and of our possibilities for healing, that touches on the eternal and the infinite. This personal knowing is available to us all through direct experience by slipping beyond the veil that normally obscures the full view of our existence.

Your Sense of Free Will Defies Conventional Science

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In a provocative article concerning free will (The Atlantic, June 2016), British philosopher Stephen Cave alarms readers with a discussion of the apparent damage that a belief in determinism—the idea that events are predetermined and completely defy any human notion of free will—would cause in our social systems. Fortunately, his commentary is based on erroneous materialist assumptions, rendering his alarming conclusions as unfounded.

Cave opens by pointing out how “the sciences have grown steadily bolder in their claim that all human behavior can be explained through the clockwork laws of cause and effect,” which he claims is an extension of the 150 year-old intellectual revolution that began with Charles Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species. He then proceeds to discuss how the tools of modern neuroscience to investigate the workings of the brain have helped to resolve the nature-vs.-nurture debate, and specifically he illuminates how neural networks are shaped by the forces both of our genes and of our environment.      

He then steps off the cliff that has doomed so many such philosophers (and others, including neuroscientists) by stating that “…there is also agreement in the scientific community that the firing of neurons determines not just some or most but all of our thoughts, hopes, memories, and dreams.” He couldn’t be further from the truth – not only is there no such “agreement,” but in fact many thought leaders are actively rejecting the simplistic physicalist falsehood proposed by Cave.[1]

He could have then saved himself the trouble of pointing out the abhorrent consequences to our society of completely eradicating free will. As revealed by studies in the article, it is the belief in determinism that causes the societal issues. Propagating such a belief (as Cave does) actually contributes to this problem, especially when it flies in the face of the empirical evidence.

The emerging neuroscience of consciousness and related philosophy of mind suggest that consciousness is fundamental in the universe. The physical brain does not produce consciousness, so much as serve as a filter that allows primordial consciousness to trickle into our awareness in a very limited fashion, which is the “here-and-now” that we experience in normal waking reality.

The more research performed on the brain itself, the more elusive is the phenomenon of consciousness. Dr. Wilder Penfield, one of the most renowned neurosurgeons of the 20th century, wrote a fascinating book in 1975 entitled The Mystery of the Mind. In it, based on many decades of electrically stimulating the brain in awake patients and based on all of his scientific work studying consciousness and the brain, he concluded the brain does not create consciousness or free will. Period. But the world was not ready to hear that in 1975. I believe the world is fully ready for that message now, although many adherents to scientific materialism remain willfully stuck in past theories by ignoring the overwhelming body of evidence supporting non-local consciousness (i.e., telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, out-of-body experiences, remote viewing, near-death and shared-death experiences, past life memories in children indicative of reincarnation, etc.).

The notion of a purely “clockwork,” deterministic universe (“objective physical reality”) should have died a natural death as the result of experiments in quantum mechanics began illuminating the fine structure of the material world more than a century ago — yet it still lingers on, with all of the damaging effects wrought by such false materialistic (and decidedly deterministic) thinking. The associated concept of atomism, which posits that all in the universe can be understood as consisting of the smallest possible material constituents that exist separately from one another, encourages a false definition of separation that leads to confusion and distortion when trying to approach the deeper truth.

A more refined quantum view sees all in the universe as interconnected, as one. Quantum physics is the most proven theory in the history of science and strongly implies the holism of the universe (not atomism, or the false division of the universe into separate parts). The fundamental nature of primordial consciousness yields the best approach to understanding reality, to heed the deep lessons of the empirical quantum data. Fortunately, those lessons leave the possibility of true free will as absolutely real.

The consciousness implied by the measurement problem in quantum mechanics is the “observer within,” the most primordial awareness of existence. By cultivating our sense of that observer self, we are able to transcend the simplistic automatic behavior purported by materialist philosophers as evidence of our lack of free will, and instead approach the full-bore capacity for manifestation implied by fundamental primordial consciousness, to truly actualize the world dreamed by our higher self—the ultimate expression of our free will.

Karen Newell, co-founder of Sacred Acoustics, and I offer teaching sessions for groups around the world in accessing this deep observer state, and using it to manifest the world of our dreams — to manifest the free will of our higher soul. We invite you to participate in one of our upcoming Events.

The evidence suggesting consciousness as fundamental in the universe is strengthening —  the notion of free will remains alive and well in human endeavors. The sooner we assimilate this understanding into our modern worldview, the sooner we begin manifesting, through our free will, a world that lives up to the finest of human aspirations, unfettered by the bleak falsehoods of deterministic materialism.

 


[1] Explore Journal, May-June 2016, vol.12, no.3, pp. 162–164 “Declaration for Integrative, Evidence-Based, End-of-Life Care that Incorporates Nonlocal Consciousness,” by Stephan A. Schwartz, Gary E. Schwartz, PhD, and Larry Dossey, MD

 

Compelling Studies on Drugs and Consciousness

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One of the most fundamental, and damaging, falsehoods in modern science is that all that exists is the physical world, and the closely related concept that the physical brain creates consciousness. Modern neuroscience is contributing to the rejection of this misconception through a set of interesting experiments assessing the action of various psychedelic drugs on the brain (specifically those that influence serotinergic receptors).

Scientific investigations that utilize psychedelic drugs offer measurable and functional outcomes that inform our evolving notions of consciousness and our understanding of the full nature of reality. However, let me be clear from the outset of this article that I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. In research studies, the quality and quantity of drug administered can be strictly controlled and monitored, which is not the case in most recreational settings where such psychedelics can be dangerous to one’s health.

For purposes of scientific research, they offer compelling findings which mirror the effects of non-drug induced spiritually transformative experiences such as near-death experiences.

First is a report from Imperial College in London in 2012 in which functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to evaluate various brain regions in subjects under the influence of psilocybin, the active principle in psychedelic mushrooms (the genus Psilocybe consists of over 100 species).1 The most remarkable finding of that study was that the activity of major connection regions of the brain was greatly diminished in those who were having the most profound psychedelic experiences, as opposed to the increase in activity anticipated by physicalist scientists who believe the brain creates consciousness and all of experience.

These results were confirmed by a Brazilian study published in February 2015 assessing brain activity through fMRI, this time in subjects under the influence of ayahuasca (which contains the active psychedelic compound N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, normally present in our brains but in only minuscule amounts).2 Ayahuasca caused a significant decrease in activity throughout the main junctional network in the brain, known as the default-mode network (DMN).

Just this month, the Imperial College group in London refined these observations with another confirmatory study, this one examining the effects of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide-25), the most potent psychedelic, active in doses of 10s to 100s of micrograms.3 In brief, they report decreased integrity of the DMN and decreased alpha and delta power in another main junctional network, the exact opposite of what one would expect if the physical brain were creating the extraordinary conscious experiences.

The reason these studies are so crucial (and confounding to the materialists who believe the physical brain creates conscious experience) is that they powerfully refute the simplistic and false physicalist notion that the brain creates consciousness. The most extraordinary experiences were reported by those subjects who had the greatest inactivation of their brain’s junctional center network activity, as measured through fMRI and MEG. As the brain becomes less active, internal experience actually becomes more active.

This is completely consistent with my own experience in deep coma due to severe bacterial meningitis (as recounted in my 2012 book Proof of Heaven). As my neocortex was destroyed by the invading bacteria, my conscious awareness greatly expanded to levels unprecedented in my normal waking experiences of my entire life. That shocking reality nagged at me especially in the early months after my coma, at a time I was trying to explain the whole experience as a vast hallucinatory trick of the dying brain (defaulting to my pre-coma reductive materialist scientific beliefs, honed by several decades working as a neurosurgeon).

My doctors knew from the medical evidence in my case that my neocortex was far too damaged to be supporting any mode of robust conscious experience, including any elaborate hallucinations, drug effects or dream states. After extensive review with some of the doctors who cared for me, and with several interested colleagues in neurosurgery, it became apparent that that ultra-reality occurred because the experience was real, although it did not occur anywhere in our 4-dimensional space-time of the observable physical universe.

As is often the case with global media completely steeped in the conventional materialistic paradigm, the press reports about the most recent study falsely trumpeted the opposite of the actual findings. Both the Guardian and CNN focused on some of the fMRI images, but completely missed the astonishing conclusions of the actual study, instead misinterpreting them as showing increased brain activity as opposed to the remarkable decreases in activity the paper actually reports.

Although such scientific investigations into psychedelic drugs are crucial in our evolving notions of consciousness and understanding the full nature of reality, I do not recommend the casual use of such substances in a non-sacred, recreational setting. However, very powerful tools exist for those seekers seriously interested in pursuing the deep mystery of consciousness within us all.

Meditation is a time-proven technique for those seeking to understand the universe by going within. For those who do not yet have a reliable means of meditation I suggest the tools of differential sound frequency brain entrainment I have helped to develop with Sacred Acoustics. Co-founder Karen Newell and I travel the world sharing these tools in our presentations – a list of upcoming presentations is listed here.

We are spiritual beings living in a spiritual universe – we can come to know this fact by going within. Given there is but one Truth we all seek, it should come as no surprise that open-minded science that acknowledges all of the relevant empirical observations (including not only psychedelic drug experiences and epiphanies during meditation, but near-death experiences, shared-death experiences, precognition, after-death communication, death bed visions, out of body experiences, remote viewing, past life memories in children indicative of reincarnation, etc.) should help lead us towards that Truth. This will lead to a necessary synthesis of science and spirituality that is crucial to our evolution as a species and to the well-being of all life on our planet.

[1] Carhart-Harris, RL, Erritzoe D, Williams T, et alia. “Neural correlates of the psychedelic state determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin,” Proc. Nat. Acad. Of Sciences 109, no. 6 (Feb 2012): 2138-2143.

[2] Palhano-Fontes F, Andrade KC, Tofoli LF, et alia. “The Psychedelic State Induced by Ayahuasca Modulates the Activity and Connectivity of the Default Mode Network,” PLoS One (2015).

[3] Carhart-Harris, RL, Muthukumaraswamy S, Roseman L, et alia. “Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging.” Proc. Nat. Acad. of Sciences (Mar 2016).

Godspeed, Edgar Mitchell!

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Dr Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14, 1971

Dr Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14, 1971

Forty-five years ago today, Edgar Mitchell, one of the great explorers of our era, was piloting Antares, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) for the Apollo 14 Mission, down to land in the hills of the Fra Mauro highlands on the Moon (February 5-6, 1971). His partner in the LEM was Alan Shepard, who, almost ten years earlier, had become the first American to visit outer space.

Today, this heroic explorer is venturing into an even more “undiscovered country,” as he has left the physical plane. Edgar Mitchell, who will go down in history as one of the truly great explorers of the ages, passed over on February 4, 2016. During the third successful moon landing mission, he had become the sixth man (of twelve total, to date) to walk on the moon.

I was fortunate to stay with Edgar during a trip to Florida July 10, 2012, as we connected our efforts to advance humankind (along with John Audette and Bob Staretz, both very crucial in this collaboration, and long-term friends of Ed’s) through the joining of Edgar’s Quantrek and Eternea (the brainchild of John Audette, which I also helped to found).

I enjoyed hearing about his childhood, growing up on a ranch in New Mexico next to one owned by Robert Goddard, the “father of American rocketry” (a fascinating synchronicity!), and how he, like me, had first soloed an aircraft at the young age of 14. To have such an extraordinary experience at that tender age of discovery weds one’s soul forever to the realms beyond earth.

Although I had followed his original journey in February 1971 as a teen-ager fascinated with space travel, hearing him tell of his grand epiphany, or savikalpa samadhi experience, an “ecstasy of unity,” while returning from his “sacred journey” to the moon, remains a true highlight of my life. Here is how I recall our conversation:

“I was basically unemployed,” he explained over breakfast in his home. “I had piloted Antares down to the Fra Mauro highlands, taken the longest walks ever taken on the moon, through those dusty lunar hills with Alan, then piloted the ascent module back up to rejoin Stu in Kitty Hawk. As we left lunar orbit to head home, my work was done. So I had three days to relax and enjoy the view.

“We were in barbecue mode, with the spacecraft rotating every couple of minutes to avoid any area overheating in the intense sunlight. I could see ten times as many stars as you can ever see from earth, so the view was spectacular. With the rotation, I would see the earth, moon, and sun pass by the window every few minutes. The immensity and serenity of the universe struck me in an entirely new way, out there suspended between the great blue jewel of earth and the dusky moon we were leaving behind. The setting was perfect – I suddenly sensed the profound consciousness of the universe – how it is completely interconnected and aware – an absolutely indescribable awareness. My life was changed forever.”

Thanks to his courage, vision, and keen intellect, the world was changed forever, too. His grand achievements as a scientist and moon-walking astronaut were only Phase 1 of his fascinating life journey. In many ways, it was the second phase of his remarkable life, in which he pursued with tireless enthusiasm a passionate interest in deepening our understanding of consciousness, the nature of reality, and of humanity’s place in it, that I believe history will truly revere.

In my opinion, his greatest quality was his love for others, and for all of humanity. His epiphany led him to courageously pursue the deep study of scientific aspects of consciousness, to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), and to help lead humanity towards metanoia, a far grander awareness of our spiritual nature and of the unity of conscious awareness and the universe. His intuition that science and religion greatly strengthen each other, that their natural synthesis is an inevitable aspect of human history, is one that I share deeply.

He wrote several wonderful books about his trip to the moon and resultant life journey, which I have personally found to be most inspiring. In particular: The Way of the Explorer (1996) is a beautifully written saga of his life building up to and including the Apollo 14 mission, and of the powerful consequences of his epiphany, and Psychic Exploration (1974) is an extraordinary compilation in which Dr Mitchell assembled some of the best scientific minds on earth in addressing the deep mystery of consciousness.

Godspeed, Edgar Mitchell! The world is a far better place for your having lived in it. Prayers and blessings of gratitude for your courageous achievements in this lifetime, to help awaken humanity to the true spirit of our destiny.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to Karlyn, Elizabeth, Kim, Mary Beth, Paul, and the rest of his family.

Eben Alexander III, MD

Charlottesville, Virginia
February 5, 2016

Coma Study – Jan 2015

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Earlier this week (Jan 2015), Dr. Alexander was invited to weigh in on a groundbreaking new study that shows coma patients actually heal faster and more completely when they hear their loved ones voices telling them loving things. The sample size was small, but it’s extremely promising, and the results were strongly in favor of introducing a new protocol for coma patients.

Dr. Alexander himself may have benefited from his family doing this during his illness.  Of course, his family hadn’t read any studies saying they should talk to him and pray for him–they just did it.  As it turns out, that was probably the smartest thing they could have done.

He was unconscious, of course, so he couldn’t hear his family speaking to him during the coma, but as he describes in the interview, he remembers his sisters fighting to bring back his memory when he awoke, dazed and amnesiac.

“My sisters’ role in my healing came after I initially awoke from coma, when my brain was still extremely compromised and I was in and out of awareness of my surroundings in the ICU,” he told me. “I believe that those stories played a major role in my rapid recovery of brain functions.”

You can watch that interview about the new coma study here.  

 

Intelligence Squared-Debate Reflections: The Sound of One Hand Clapping

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The current online voting for Wednesday (May 7, 2014) night’s Intelligence Squared debate shows Dr Moody and myself (Dr Eben Alexander) victorious (currently 68:32, from 50:50 before the debate). I suspect that is related to the listeners’ awareness that an audience of neuroscientists would have agreed with me, against Steven Novella, that no neuroscientist on earth can give the first sentence to explain a possible mechanism by which the physical brain creates consciousness (the Hard Problem of Consciousness – see below). The brain is obviously tightly linked to consciousness – the mistake is in believing, as I did before my coma (and the debate opponents Novella & Carroll still do), that the brain creates consciousness. I now know otherwise.

More modern scientific thinking – that is sweeping the field – is that the brain is a reducing valve, or filter, that reduces consciousness (that is primary in existence) down to a trickle – our very limited human awareness (that is liberated to a much higher level when freed up from the shackles of the physical brain, as happens in near-death experiences, actual death experiences, shared death experiences, through deep meditation, centering prayer, the gift of desperation, etc).

The scientific implications are stunning, and basically provide powerfully for the reality of the afterlife. This is the new science that will become dominant over the next decade.

The online audience is probably more cognizant that I would have been widely supported by the global physics community in pointing out the very deep mystery of the measurement problem in quantum mechanics – the profound mystery within quantum mechanics that the observing mind is critically entangled with what is being observed. Consciousness paints reality.

Unfortunately, the audience then got cheated out of what might have been a more interesting and meaningful exchange. Sean Carroll made a joke agreeing with MIT physicist Scott Aaronson that “since both quantum mechanics and consciousness are confusing, maybe they are the same.” Laughter. So much for useful interchange and scientific discussion.

The physics community has only become more befuddled by recent experimental results suggesting that consciousness is at the very core of all reality.

Those founding fathers of quantum physics would be even more mystified today (witness the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment in 1999). They have not “figured it all out,” as Sean suggested. The physics community at large would agree with me, and probably wonder how any physicist in the modern world could claim to say “now we know better,” than the likes of Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Jeans, Wigner, and others. As if he is so close to the truths that evaded the brilliant early minds that developed the field. Totally wrong! Carroll has written popular books about some of the concepts, though he actually seemed unwilling to discuss any relevant aspects of quantum theory in the debate – not only about the measurement problem, but also about the 1935 EPR (Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen) paradox that highlights the non-local aspect of quantum mechanics (intriguingly related to the non-locality of consciousness mentioned by myself in the debate). Clearly Carroll chose to make a joke and deflect any discussion about the deep mystery of the measurement problem that remains completely unresolved in modern quantum physics.

I have been concerned for a long time that, with the notable exception of British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, most mainstream physicists today seem to be woefully uneducated in the importance of having a much deeper understanding of the nature of consciousness (and the profound depths of the Hard Problem) if they want to truly get closer to an understanding of the nature of reality.

The mind-body discussion has been ongoing for around 2,600 years, and is at the very heart of the issues raised in this debate. Modern neuroscientists, in their increasing knowledge of the workings of the brain, have not been coming closer to an understanding of how the brain creates consciousness. In fact, they have come closer to truly appreciating the unfathomable depths of the Hard Problem of Consciousness, arguably the most profound mystery known to all of human thought.

In essence, the Hard Problem was stated in the debate when I challenged Steven Novella to offer the first sentence in his explanation of how the physical brain creates consciousness. That’s all – just the first sentence. Steven was speechless. It is not his fault – as I pointed out, no neuroscientist on earth can offer the first sentence in explaining what Novella claims is “widely known,” with the implication that they are almost there. This is the most obvious case of a faith-based religion imaginable! It’s interesting how my opponents call for “extraordinary proof” for extraordinary claims, yet there is absolutely no proof for the concept that brain creates consciousness. Not one word to explain what they claim to be widely accepted in science.

This is a crashing thunderbolt that demolishes simplistic scientific materialism. Consciousness exists primarily. The brain acts more as a reducing valve, or filter, reducing consciousness down to the trickle of our human awareness in the material realm.

In coming to grips with the profound nature of lessons from my coma journey, I share the following, to put the consciousness issue in perspective:

The only thing any one of us truly knows to exist is our own consciousness, itself. Remember that modern neuroscience dictates that everything any one of us has ever experienced since before we were born, everything, is nothing more than the assembled patterns of electrochemical flickering of 100 billion neurons in a 3 pound gelatinous mass (our brain) floating in a warm, dark bath – a model of what we assume to be “external reality,” but just a model – not “reality” itself. They assume that the sheer complexity of the brain somehow creates consciousness, yet no one on earth has the faintest idea how to connect the dots. Any theory about the nature of reality must begin with a far more complete description of the nature of “consciousness,” and especially of the relationship between consciousness and any “reality” that exists.

The very daunting nature of this enigma is so profound that many scientists run away, claiming it all to be too deep a mystery to even consider from a scientific viewpoint. However, there is a growing cadre of scientists, like myself, who are charging straight ahead towards a deeper understanding of this profound mystery at the very heart of our existence.

Some neuroscientists and other materialists have recently given up on pure materialism (brain creates consciousness), notably Christoph Koch (a colleague of Sean Carroll’s at Caltech) and Galen Strawson. I noticed Karl Jansen who wrote the Ketamine paper on the “against” list provided for the IntelligenceSquared debate now acknowledging at the beginning of that article the role of spirit, not just brain chemistry, in NDEs.

Dr. Jansen has the following to say about the Ketamine-NMDA journal article (referenced on the “against list” for the IntelligenceSquared debate on May 7):

‘I am no longer as opposed to spiritual explanations of these phenomena as this article would appear to suggest. Over the past two years (it is quite some time since I wrote it) I have moved more towards the views put forward by John Lilly and Stan Grof. Namely, that drugs and psychological disciplines such as meditation and yoga may render certain ‘states’ more accessible. The complication then becomes in defining just what we mean by ‘states’ and where they are located, if indeed location is an appropriate term at all. But the apparent emphasis on matter over mind contained within this particular article no longer accurately represents my attitudes. My forthcoming book ‘Ketamine’ will consider mystical issues from quite a different perspective, and will give a much stronger voice to those who see drugs as just another door to a space, and not as actually producing that space’.

I’d like to close quoting a true skeptical scientist whom I greatly admire:

The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, it has no place in the endeavor of science.
— Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996), Cosmos, 1980

Dr Carl Sagan lamented the rising prominence of ignorance in the predominant cultural thinking of the time. It is interesting how the tables have turned – that pure materialist “scientists” suppress uncomfortable ideas, and are willfully ignorant of the abundant evidence of the afterlife. Sagan would be gratified that many modern scientists, and so many souls enlightened by their own experiences, are fully addressing the deep mysteries of consciousness and quantum mechanics (especially in light of the remarkable experiences related to the afterlife question) and the very nature of all existence. These scientists and spiritual journeyers have become the enlightened ones so confronted by the rampant ignorance of the deniers and debunkers. I am optimistic, however, that reason will prevail, and that the world will come to fully realize the tremendous implications – including the reality of the afterlife.