Pim van Lommel: The Mystery of Perception During Near Death Experiences

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PIM VAN LOMMEL, MD
Cardiologist/Author

In our prospective study of 344 patients who survived cardiac arrest we had to come to the surprising conclusion that all the reported elements of a Near-Death Experience (NDE) like an out-of-body perception, meeting with deceased relatives or a life review were experienced during a transient functional loss of the cortex and of the brainstem, with a flat line EEG. During their cardiac arrest people can have veridical perceptions from a position outside and above their lifeless body. NDE-ers have the feeling that they have apparently taken off their body like an old coat and to their surprise they appear to have retained their own identity with the possibility of perception, emotions, and a very clear consciousness. This out-of-body experience (OBE) is scientifically important because doctors, nurses, and relatives can verify the reported perceptions, and they can also corroborate the precise moment the NDE with OBE occurred during the period of CPR. This proves that an OBE cannot be a hallucination, because this means experiencing a perception that has no basis in “reality”, like in psychosis, neither it can be a delusion, which is an incorrect assessment of a correct perception, nor an illusion, which means a misleading image. Moreover, one needs a functioning brain for experiencing hallucinations, delusions or illusions. Additionally, even people blind from birth have reported veridical perceptions during NDE and OBE. Based on several NDE-studies it seems inevitable to conclude that veridical perception is possible independently of brain function. In my lecture I will give several examples of veridical perceptions during NDE, and discuss the differences between seeing with the eyes during waking consciousness (who is seeing? what is seeing?) and perceiving during the period of a non-functioning brain (‘apparent unconsciousness during clinical death’).

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