The mystery of why people ‘brought back from the dead’ report powerful spiritual experiences may have a biological explanation, according to experts.
Researchers who studied brainwaves of dying patients, found there was a surge of electrical activity in their brains just moments before their lives ended.
The doctors from George Washington University medical centre in Washington believe this surge may be the cause of near-death experiences, where patients see themselves walking towards a bright light or floating outside their bodies.
Is it not beautiful that the article reports that those who have had near-death experiences are happier, more optimistic and less afraid of death? Our God is truly great. Science and theology need not be in conflict, but rather should embrace each other. These physical bodies of ours are just water, chemicals, electricity and a few solid elements like carbon. To understand them, we need science.
Well now, this may be interesting. Faith and science are fully compatible. The natural sciences are there to discover the wonder of God’s creation.
Of course, we can only speculate, but that surge of electrical energy may make sense. I was reading something the Pope said about the resurrection of the body, that it would be something now unkown to us, a reordering and restructuring of our atoms. If matter is energy, I’m not surprised there is a sudden surge of energy at death, and that would certainly indicate something is happening as the body dies.
While the assertion of the scientists is not proven, it should not be surprising. While the human soul is yet embodied, the matter must be adequate to the form and even reception or presentation of forms in a non-material mode (like phantasms, etc.) necessitates some material adequacy. Why else would it be the case that a full-fledged homo sapiens could lack an aspect of recall or even manifest a blind spot in reasoning? Because inasmuch as the human essence is composite, the full possession of the form alone is not adequate to manifest the power in the composite.
To put it another way… if the near death experience were wholly in the province of the separated soul, and that soul returned to a body that had not been glorified, then how would the person be able to remember the experience? The memory would have to be available to the composite, and therefore would require some impression in the matter.
Why does the brain ‘bother’ to generate a long, light-filled white tunnel, meetings with dead relatives, out-of-body ability to see from the ceiling what isn’t visible from the operating table or bed ?
From a scientific point of view, none of this is necessary, so how does science explain the brain’s need to do this ? In actual fact, no one knows, nor can they ever know for sure.
I’ve heard of people that after they where reccuitated said things like, I was looking down at myself from the ceiling etc. I could see Dr X was pressing down on my chest etc. Now the first question is this an illusion? There is a scientific study going on right now, that is looking at over 30 medical centers around the world, with some of the leading experts on resuscitation, neuroscience, emergency medicine, to try and find out what has really happened when someone has died. It’s called the Aware study and they’re recruiting over 1500 patients who’ve clinically died and been brought back to life again, and the study is very broad and they look at various aspects of resuscitation but the part that is relevant here is the claims that people have been conscious when they’ve in fact died. So what they do, they place some kind of image that is only visible from the ceiling, so the theory being that if in the operating room if you have 500 people who amazingly come back and tell amazing stories, if it’s just a trick of the mind then none of them should be able to see the pictures, so if no one sees the pictures they can conclude that it must be some kind of illusion.
You say the way I described this, people have died, there is a flat line state in the brain, there is no brain activity, people claim, and I don’t say they’re right or wrong, now the people claim they can see their doctors, and they describe incredible details, it’s possible it’s an illusion but they need to test it more and that’s why studies such as the Aware’ are important.
I was thinking about this last night and I remembered how Jesus pointed out in St. Faustina’s diary (or it may have been her observation) that grace is given in the last moments before death to give the soul the opportunity to repent and be saved and even when it seems to outsiders that all is lost, it may not be so because the person may have had a last chance from God. I’ve also heard that in our last moments, there is sort of a battle between Heaven and Hell for one’s soul.
Maybe it’s this experience, or battle, that is causing the spark in brain activity? This final conversion would have to take place before death to be saved, so the person would still be using their own mind, in their own body to make that final choice. So there would have to be some kind of brain activity. It would make sense to me that such a monumental moment of our life would coincide with significant brain activity.
My first wife of 20 years “died” in an intensive care ward from cardiac arrest caued by cardiac tamponade secondary to breast cancer. I was called to come to the hospital at 2:00 a.m. When I arrived two nurses greeted me, one held my hand the other had her hand on my back. As we got near where my wife was we learned she was alive. The nurses left me. My wife told me afterward that she had seen the medics working on her body as though looking down from the ceiling, the then next thing she knew she was “back in her body.” For me, the most significant thing she told me later was that she was not afraid to die. This is something others who have had near-death experiences have said in one way or another. I have no scholarly explanation and seek none. I accept without qualification what my wife told me.
My grandfather worked in an electrical plant in the fifties. He was electricuted one day and his heart stopped. He could see the men gathering around his body calling for help, then a blue flash of light, and he was atop a high mountain overlooking a valley with a beautiful light at its center. The light was more beautiful than anything he had ever seen and he wanted to go to it. In a flash he was there. Below the light he saw wonderful flowers, and he knew somehow that they represented his wife and children, and all his friends and relative. They were the guarden he had cultivated throughout his life. Then he saw another flash of blue light and he knew he had to return. With this realization came a profound regret and sense of loss as he returned into his pain filled body.
I was told this story as a child by my mother after her own mother had died. Later on when I was studying Saint Augustine, I read the words “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee Lord.” (Confessions) and I knew that My Grandfather had seen the one thing that satisfies that hunger within our hearts. The pearl of great price. That one greatest thing for which one could and should give up the whole world and live a lifetime of pain and suffering to behold.
An interesting book on the subject is the Spiritual Brain. Beauregard spends a lot of time showing how philosophical materialism is pervasive in current neuroscience. My only criticism of the book is that it could have been a lot shorter. He also sympathises with the ID movement, which, although unrelated to his arguments, tends to undermine what he is saying.
The Psalmist wrote…“We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” It is no surprise that when our bodies begin to fail us in death a chemical/hormonal change occurs in the body that effects the brain in some way…a “chemical dump” of sort to prepare our minds for death…OR make the experience of death more ‘comfortable.’
NDE’s are a natural physical occurance genereated by our bodies…it’s the way we were made.
My own father had one of those experiences. From ever-increasing heights he was able to see what was on streets all around the hospital; streets he had never been on in his life. He was, at a point in the experience, (I won’t go into the details) told he needed to go back, though he didn’t want to in the moment. Then he went back.
Sometime after his recovery, he drove back to the hospital (It was in a town different from his own.) and drove around it for several blocks, which confirmed everything he saw during his experience. This store here, selling shoes; that store there selling clothing, red and blue awning on that store, house with garden here, and so on.
Of course, one who does not wish to accept any of this can say all kinds of things; that his first view was really his second but he didn’t remember the first; that his brain erroneously registered the “first” (post-event) view as “second” in a sort of strange “continuous flow deja vu” experience; that he had been brought to the neighborhood as a child by his parents but didn’t remember that; that he lied to himself or others. On and on.
It may be of little interest that he did remember the doctors, nurses, etc, and what they said as they were working on him after they “lost” him. That’s easier to explain naturally than the passage through the floors and the view of the city.
But in my view, being skeptical of his experience asks an awful lot of skepticism. You really have to hold onto skepticism tightly and make it dance a little.