Near Death Yet? Have An Experience? Want To Share?

Near death experiences give people some odd bits of experience and science has yet to pin it down as to what is going on. That part is no surprise. In the track of my mechanical atheism and decidedly dedicated desire to divine the direct dope on near death dreams I decided to devote this ditty to declaring delineated decisions derived from my dunce cap stand.


Near Death Experiences or NDE have increased since we became more successful at resuscitating people. How Stuff Works  has a piece on NDE and there are lots of posts on the internets to help you get confused over what is going on with these things. I will approach this from the atheist and anti-theist, monist, materialist, nihilist point of view. Oh, I know, nothing special but I’ve got to give the old college try.

Yes, there are those that think it is a religious experience and I’ll tell you that this idea invalidates their religious experiences as something other than natural phenomena.

Your body is a machine. Sure, it’s organic, but it is a system of interrelated systems working together to support the brain that is you.

I urge you to read “My Stroke Of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor. She describes what happened when she had a major brain haemorrhage that shut down half of her brain. No, it’s not an NDE though it could have been. She is a neuroscientist and took some good notes on what was happening to her. There is a TED talk to make it a short trip.

She talks about how parts of her brain shut down and what experiences she had from that.

In an NDE the body begins to shut down. Lack of oxygen being circulated means that malfunction begins. It will begin in the extremities first. Your body will strive to keep your brain functional for as long as possible. Your brain has the capacity to function for a certain amount of time before shutting down. While those last moments tick along your brain will lose contact with sensory inputs, and various parts of your brain. This will create an unreal world where nothing ‘feels’ right, and things seem to be odd. In this state your brain will continue to process data as fast as it can with whatever sensory data it can find.

You will lose sense of time, sense of position, and sense of synchronized data. That is to say that the sensory data from one source will not match up to other sensory data. It will be out of synch and give us a distorted picture of the world that we believe we are seeing.

As your brain starts shutting down, memories will be what is available for the simulation in your head. Vision will go and only memories will provide visual data. Everyone familiar with ‘stream of consciousness’ thinking will know that given a chance, most people will scream through random thoughts at any given point of the day. We mostly suppress them to ensure that thoughts synchronize to external sensory data.

Jill Bolte Taylor describes what happens when we lose these brain synchronizations.

In cardiac arrest, we go straight to this shutting down state. It is our experiences and memories and simulator rules that define what our brain will be doing to try to make sense of what is happening. Because of this, there is no way to predict what your NDE might be like. What is known is that these general conditions and symptoms express themselves as dream like experiences in the memory of those who experience an NDE.

There is no magic, no spirits, nothing special… it’s what happens when you unplug your brain. Awesome and frightening in one step. It is what you will experience after that last breath.

Are you looking forward to it?

  1. Yep! But I bet you will not convince anyone who has had such an experience and believes they saw the gates of Heaven opening.

    • No, sadly you probably can’t.

  2. On this question of NDE, I have a question that for some I think is naive. How would a person know what it feels like to die? In a way one is either aware or unaware that is dead or alive.
    What do you think?

    • Great question. I think the answer is, they don’t know, rather are told “You were dead for X-minutes,” and they simply fill in the rest.

      • So can we say they were dead? Unless we are going to say there are several resurrections that have been going on in our hospitals?

        • Well, its all in how they define the word death. Until very recently the anesthetist didn’t really know if you were alive or dead. Now they use brain activity monitors to know much more accurately when you are unconscious and when your brain is shutting down.

        • Ahh, I see what you mean. They’re being labelled “clinically dead,” but a whiff of neurological activity is persisting, so they’re really not dead dead.

          • Yep. That is it.

          • Technically, I think that you can be dead dead in all but the last wink of recovery ability. In the way that a car is not broken when it is turned off, there is a short-ish time when the body can be off, yet not irrevocably damaged.

    • That’s kind of my point. As your brain shuts down you stop feeling like you normally do, then the lights go out.

  3. Not looking forward to it, but am at ease with knowing i’m not going to like it when it visits.

    Great post, MAL. We need more well-versed articles on this subject.

    • I was thinking about it, one last hurah as the lights go out. It should be interesting.

      • Providing you’re not climbing the walls 😉

  4. I found it a bit of a relief, how our amazing brains give us one last gift of sensory experience before we vanish from the world forever. Not looking forward to death per se, but it’s actually beautiful and comforting in one sense.

    • Ha, I think so too. Thanks for commenting

      • My pleasure lol.

  5. I remember that TED Talk, that was an interesting one! A former band-mate of mine talked of how he had been clinically dead on at least 2 occasions. Maybe even 3. He’s still not religious.

    • Did he get a good ride when he was clinically dead?

      Thanks for commenting.

      • I can’t remember how he ended up that way, but I am of the impression it may have been a result of alcohol poisoning. He may not have been able to recall anything from the experiences – he never really mentioned anything beyond having been clinically dead.

        • Ahh I can empathize with that. When I was young and stupid I once drank a 5th of Wild Turkey bourbon. They tell me I turned green but in the morning I was fine aside from a bit disoriented. I don’t remember a thing.

    • Me
    • April 4th, 2014

    I had a NDE when I was five years old. Decades have passed and I recall the incident, with perfect clarity, as if it happened yesterday. I was suffering from appendicitis for 3 days. I think my parents thought it was just the flu. My parents finally rushed me to the hospital but my appendix had burst and my heart stopped on the operating table. I didn’t see bright lights or any heavenly beings. What did happen was this… it was like I was suspended, floating up at the ceiling looking down. I could see the operating room, it was very bright. I could see myself on the table. I could see the little table with the instruments and a silver kidney shaped bowl that contained what I now know must have been my appendix. I could see the doctors and nurses trying to revive me. I could hear them talking but it was like hearing someone talk when you are under water, muffled sounding. All of a sudden I was sucked down into my body. I suppose that is when they got my heart going again. There is just too much detail for it to have been a dream. I was 5, it was the 70’s – there were no television shows back then where I would have seen someone being operated or even known what an operating room looked like. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  6. The way that I described does account for these feelings/experience. You can hear a plate crash on the floor in a crowded restaurant and instantly know where it happened in your mind just by having walked through the restaurant once. The sound itself, it’s location, and your subconscious memories will fill in all the details… by the time you turn to look your conscious mind is simply verifying the details you have in the simulation of the world in your mind.

    The sensation of floating comes naturally as your brain loses position sense data – feeling no gravity you will float. This does not require damage to lots of nerves, simply malfunction of one part of the brain. You float because this is the view you know of floor plans, its the part that contains all the information of the room visually.

    Describe the scene in vivid detail, enough that someone could draw it and lets see if that fits what was standard at the time of your NDE for that hospital… I think you’ll be surprised to learn that your memory does not match standard processes of the day. Rather it will match what you knew of them from your limited life experience. In the 70s there were several popular television shows which showed operating theaters or similar.

    Being sucked back into your body would be accounted for by the return of body position sense data. That is to say that suddenly your sense of body and location were returned to you – floating is no longer available.

    Television shows during the 70s which were popular that showed operating theaters: Mash, Quincy MD, several hospital shows and so on.

    • Me
    • April 4th, 2014

    True but I was 5, my television was limited to Sesame Street and a few cartoons; I was in bed by 7PM so I didn’t get to see those shows. I could describe the incident perfectly enough for someone to draw it. Have to agree to disagree on this one I think.

    • I’d love to hear that description…

  7. Apparently her book is wonderful. My best friend read it. I liked this TED talk too. I watched it just after I had interviewed my Mom who is hemiplegic having had a stroke at 21. Neurology is fascinating. Good post.

    • Thank you for commenting and your kind words. I found her TED talk completely inspirational.

      • You’re welcome. My mother is kinda like that too, because she survived a severe stroke and had my brother and I although she only had use of her right side and limped severely. Human beings are amazing creatures.

        • Yes, we are amazing creatures. I’m surprised quite often at our ability to invent, create, and solve problems that I didn’t even know were problems… 😉

  8. Thanks for putting me in your links…

  1. April 6th, 2014

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