Near-Death Experience

Critique of Dying to Live by Greg Stone


The idea that consciousness can separate from the body, supported by the near death experience, are frequently challenged by skeptics who argue that Susan Blackmore proved scientifically, in Dying to Live, that NDE’s are hallucinations caused by brain activity.

Dying to Live, however, fails to provide scientific support for a “brain only” hypothesis. The work is primarily conjecture and speculation.

In response, I wrote the following critique of Dying to Live.

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NDE Resources

There are a number of sites devoted to the subject of the Near Death Experience, and numerous books written on the subject.

NDE Literature

For a good introduction to the near death experience see The Near Death Experience: A Reader, edited by Lee W. Bailey and Jenny Yates. Articles by leading researchers in the field—Moody, Eadie, Brinkley, Ring, Morse, Greyson, Atwater, Tart—are included in this collection.

Kenneth Ring’s research into the after-affects of a NDE show that the NDE is most often a spiritual awakening. It is the beginning of a challenging soul journey demanding serious self-reflection and change. He found that the NDE itself does not automatically provide easy answers to one’s life problems. It simply jump-starts a spiritual quest.”

Dannion Brinkley writes about his NDE in Saved by the Light.

I must be dead, I thought. I could feel nothing because I was not in my body. I was a spectator of my final moments on earth, as dispassionate about watching my own death as I might be if I were watching actors reenact it on television.

I am dead! I thought. I was not in my body and can honestly say that I didn’t want to be. If I had any thought at all, it was simply that who I was had nothing to do with that body they had just covered with a sheet.”

A controversial title is Susan Blackmore’s Dying to Live. Dr. Blackmore arrives at the conclusion that the near death experience does not support the existence of a spirit and an afterlife. See my critique of Dying to Live.

One of the most powerful texts is the Tibetan Book of the Dead (translation and forward by W.Y. Evans-Wentz recommended). It describes the Bardos, post-mortem states. I recommend reading in reverse order as the “lower” (and thus more recognizable) states are presented last.

If, however, the disciple has learned, as the Bardo Thodol directs, to identify himself with the Eternal, the Dharma, the Imperishable Light of Buddhahood within, then the fears of death are dissipated like a cloud before the rising sun. Then he knows whatever he may see, hear, or feel, in the hour of his departure from this life, is but a reflection of his own conscious and subconscious mental content; and no mind-created illusion can then have power over him if he knows its origin and is able to recognize it.”

The Afterlife Experiments by Gary E. Schartz, PhD., an account of experiments conducted with mediums, is worth consideration as it taps into the reality beyond death and is consistent with many NDE accounts.

However, there is an alternative model, as current as today’s visionary science yet as old as recorded history…. This model says that mind is first. Consciousness exists independently of the brain. It does not depend upon the brain for its survival. Mind is first; the brain is second. The brain is not the creator of mind, it is a powerful tool of the mind. The brain is an antenna/receiver for the mind, like a sophisticated television or cell phone.”