The above lyrics are from a Patty Griffin song about a man that lost his fiancé in a tragic shooting. The song illustrates that one day we will all “fall down forever.” Put another way, our bodies will cease to function, decay and eventually turn to dust. A somewhat depressing thought for those who believe that consciousness comes only from the brain. For those familiar with the science, though, death of the body promises a release of awareness into new journeys.
One of the more profound proofs of consciousness surviving death is the direct experience of people who have died and come back to tell the tale—better known as having a Near Death Experience (NDE). The International Association of Near Death Studies (iands.org) actually publishes a peer reviewed scholarly journal sighting many afterlife experiences of people who died and had verifiable out of body experiences. What do they mean by verifiable? Usually, it connotes describing something witnessed while out-of-body (OB) that would be impossible to know otherwise. Raymond Moody, M.D., recounts in his book, Life after Life, numerous stories of people having NDE’s where they observed activities in their OB state that were later verified by people who were physically present.
There are numerous books on the subject of NDE’s but one of the more interesting comes from Kenneth Ring, Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut, who coauthored a book with Sharon Cooper, called Mindsight. This book is about the near death experiences of blind people. It illustrates that people blind from birth can actually see during their near death experience, thus indicating consciousness transcends the physical limitations of the body.
One of the best documented cases of NDE comes from cardiologist Michael Sabom. He describes in his book Light and Death a NDE that occurred during a brain surgery. The patient, Pam Reynolds, was put into an artificial brain death in order for doctors to perform a complex surgery on her brain. Monitors that were attached to her confirmed that indeed she had no brain activity during the surgery. However, Ms. Reynolds later revealed a detailed NDE after being revived from the surgery. She described objects, sounds and activity in the operating room that occurred during her surgery while she had no measurable brain activity whatsoever. Essentially, she experienced her consciousness outside of her body while her brain was cooled down, drained of blood and completely non-responsive. This is pretty good evidence of an authentic NDE since her brain was turned off and yet she remained aware.
If you would like to explore the NDE topic further there is a good web site called near-death.com (not affiliated) that has a plethora of information. Also, a very good book on this subject comes from Chris Carter and is called Science and the Near-Death Experience.
So, what other scientific evidence besides NDE’s shows that consciousness survives death? How about psychic mediumship?
There is currently a TV show in the United States on The Learning Channel called Long Island Medium. The psychic medium featured on the show inevitably leaves many of the people she does “readings” on amazed at her accuracy. This is not surprising since scientific research shows that mediumship can be real.
Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., from University of Arizona and Julie Beischel, PhD, both led a triple blind study that showed certain psychic or spirit mediums can get accurate information about deceased people. Schwartz also wrote a book with William L. Simon called The Afterlife Experiments. This book recounts experiments done with psychic mediums under controlled laboratory conditions. The book cover describes it like this:
In stringently monitored experiments, leading mediums attempted to contact dead friends and relatives of ‘sitters’ who were masked from view and never spoke, depriving the mediums of any cues. The messages that came through stunned sitters and researchers alike.
What about having a psychic medium experience of your own? In my estimate, the easiest way to do this is to try to detect a fragrance associated with the person who has passed on. Those that have died will sometimes communicate with loved ones by giving scents of a favorite perfume or flower. One technique to rouse the attention of someone you wish to communicate with is to simply ask out loud or in your head for a scent from the person who has passed on. Later, you might find yourself suddenly smelling their perfume or cologne. Of course, this could simply be self-hypnosis or wishful thinking, but you gotta start somewhere.
Okay, how about reincarnation? If it could be proven scientifically then that would also give evidence that consciousness transcends the brain and survives death.
Dr. Ian Stevenson, The former head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia, has spent the last 40 years documenting past life memories of children. Dr. Stevenson takes a very scientific approach to his research and has presented very compelling evidence that reincarnation is real. What he did was relate children’s birthmarks to injuries of people the child claimed they were reincarnated from, or had memories of being in their past life. In one case a Burmese child said that she remembered the life of her dead aunt who had died from heart disease. The child actually had a long vertical pigmented birthmark on her chest and abdomen that corresponded with the surgical incision done on her aunt to try to repair her heart. Dr. Stevenson has written several books recounting hundreds of cases like this one.
Some other books that make a case for reincarnation are, Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives by Tom Schroder. Life before Life: Children’s Memories of Previous Lives by Jim Tucker, or Carol Bowman’s book Return From Heaven: Beloved Relatives Reincarnated Within Your Family. Some of these books are probably more scientific than others, but suffice it to say there is plenty of validated evidence that memories of past lives are real.
There are several other categories of consciousness research that would help to prove that consciousness survives death but there is not enough room in a short newspaper column to include them. I encourage you to visit some of the web sites and books I listed if you desire to learn more.
I will leave you with more of the Patty Griffin song I opened this article with. The lyrics seem to describe the deceased woman’s thoughts as she watches her bereaved lover.
She sees him laying in the bed alone tonight
The only thing a touching him is a crack of light
Pieces of her hair are wrapped around and ’round his fingers
And he reaches for her side, for any sign of her that lingers
And she says you are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight