Consciousness Beyond Life, by the Dutch cardiologist Dr Pim Van Lommel, explores the phenomenon of Near Death Experience, when a person is effectively dead for a short period of time, before recovering again. Afterwards, the person concerned reports that they experienced something dramatic that occurred while they were clinically dead. There are many books on this subject, such as Kenneth Ring’s excellent book Heading Towards Omega, but Dr Van Lommel adds a new twist to the subject. He is a cardiac surgeon. He became interested in the issue and decided to use his skills and situation to study NDEs in clinical detail.

Dr Van Lommel developed a detailed plan. He would monitor all patients who entered his cardiac unit, measuring their vital signs in detail, all the way through to their recovery. Each patient were given thorough ECG (electro-cardiogram or heart activity) and EEG (electro-encephalogram or brain activity) tests during their emergency operations in his unit. Their heart rate was continually monitored along with other vital signs from the moment they arrived until they had recovered. If a patient’s heart did stop for a period of time, and they later recovered from their cardiac event, Van Lommel and his team asked if the patient had undergone a near-death experience. If the patient had had such an experience, and were willing to talk about it, they were then asked about their NDE; what form it had taken, what they had seen, what stages they went through, with as much detail as possible. This was all written down. Six months later, the patients were asked again to recount their experience, to see how well they compared. They were also asked what effect their NDE had had on their lives. The study was a success and resulted in the publication of a paper in the Lancet.

Van Lommel’s study convincingly proves that our minds are not simply a side-effect of our functioning brains. If our brains were a side-effect of our functioning brains, then as soon as our brains lost their supply of oxygen, our minds would cease to exist. This loss of function will occur within approximately three minutes of loss oxygen, and yet Van Lommel’s test subjects had vivid and detailed experiences for much longer than three minutes, while they were clinically dead. Van Lommel’s meticulous recording of their ECG and EEG values during their NDE experience proved this fact. Van Lommel’s patients’ experiences were also highly consistent with each other. This indicates that a Near Death Experience (or to be more factually correct, a Temporary Death Experience) is not a random hallucination but a standard experience for someone temporarily dead.

I have explored this matter, and related matters, extensively, particularly in my book Solving Reality, in which I follow this trail, with fascinating and profound results.

I heartily recommend Consciousness Beyond Life. The first half, describing the study and related NDE stories, is accessible and profound. The second half, where Dr Van Lommel explores possible theories to explain NDE’s, is harder going but also full of interesting ideas.