London Group – Meeting Reports 2001

April 2001

Rupert writes: Regrettably, Geoff Boltwood had to cancel our February 21st meeting at the last minute for personal reasons. He hopes to be able to re-schedule in the near future. However, Peter Fenwick gave a thrilling talk to a large gathering of members on March 21st entitled ‘Does the Near Death Experience (NDE) Prove the Existence of the Soul?’ Peter began by reviewing the historical and recent literature on NDEs, and then discussed with us the results of a 1990 Western study where 500 NDEs were selected, of whom some 400 have now replied, where irrespective of gender, age, religious belief, and cause of NDE (i.e. illness, surgical operation, childbirth, heart attack, accident, suicide etc.), there was a shared experience of specific NDE phenomena. These comprised of the following factors, in the order in which they were experienced:
(1) Peace and calm (2) Out of Body Experience (OBE) (3) Dark Tunnel (4) White or golden Light. Inexpressible Joy and Love (5) A Being of Light (6) Pastoral setting. Flowers, Colours, Birdsong (7) Meeting with Friends and Relatives (8) Life Review, surrounded by Universal Love (9) Barrier/Decision to return (10) Deep personal Transformation.
Peter explored the current theories that attempt to explain the NDE. He exposed the weaknesses of Brain-Mind Identity theory and Dualistic theories, assessed the ‘half-way’ explanations offered by Penroses Quantum Gravity theory and Sheldrakes Morphic Resonance theory, but felt that a theory of Pan-Psychism, or Universal Consciousness, was the closest theory as yet which could encompass a full explanation of NDE phenomena. There is also the interesting variable of Culture – Eastern NDE phenomena seem to differ in part from those experienced in the West.
The NDE continues to fuel the Mind vs. Brain debate. Peter reminded us that the brain is known to cease functioning 10 seconds after the heart has stopped beating. The nagging question is how do people recall NDEs when memory has died? The argument that the NDE is recalled when memory is reactivated is both questionable and unsubstantiated. Peter asserted that the problem lies with our current scientific tools of measurement, which are not so much wrong, but just partial. We need to find an appropriate scientific measure that is sensitive to Consciousness – and possibly another kind of Consciousness to observe its measurement. A new Dutch study, which used a similar methodological approach to Peter`s project, has sampled 300 NDE cases with coronary heart disease, and is soon to be published in the Lancet. This may shed some light on this fascinating aspect of Consciousness. This was a riveting evening which was enjoyed greatly by all, and gave much further food for thought.