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12 comments on “What’s for afters?

  1. Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 9:48 pm


  2. Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Hey, if you ever have a burning desire to know about the finer points of afterlife belief in the earliest Hindu Vedic scriptures just shout!
    No, no-one ever does.
    Some people, I believe, have USEFUL skills! 😀

  3. Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Corking, Jenny. By gum, what an erudite place this blog has become since you graced us with your scholarship. Thank you!

  4. Vale

    Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Top booklist Jenny!

  5. Tuesday 16th October 2012 at 11:52 am

    Ok, for anyone who is interested there follows a ‘starter pack’ on NDEs. I think I have included most of the standard texts. It all started in1975 with Raymond Moody’s ‘Life after Life’ but I have tended to use more recent texts which made greater use of scientific method. There are also a variety of different viewpoints here as to what is actually going on. I’ve included a couple of slightly more ‘off the wall’ things as well.

    Susan Blackmoor: Dying to Live 1993 Grafton. Argues for a purely physiological explanation of NDEs. A very well written and honest book.

    Peter Fenwick: The Truth in the Light 1995 BCA. Fenwick has written extensively on this subject but this is perhaps his definitive work dealing specifically with NDEs He has also written and spoken more recently on DBVs (Death Bed Visions or the experiences of those close to death and sometimes those around them. This is an area even more neglected by science than NDEs but like them is very common. Fenwick argues that these form a normal part of the dying process for many people and their families and that those who work with the dying should be trained to talk to families about them. Again, this is totally unrelated to the question of whether they are ‘true’.

    Mark Fox: Religion, Spirituality and the Near Death Experience 2003 Routledge. This is a slightly different angle which deals less with anecdotes (although the ‘classic’ cases are included) and more with the implications of NDEs. In my opinion this is the definitive text for anyone interested in the subject. It is neutral in its conclusions.

    Sam Parnia: What Happens when we Die? 2005 Hay House. Dr Parnia is a cardic surgeon who has carried out several large scale studies of NDEs in the ICU of Swansea hospital and the last I heard was involved in a 10 year study accross the UK and the Netherlands.

    Gregory Shushan: Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations 2009 Continuum. This one is a bit off the wall, but fascinating. It is a study of 5 ancient cultures, including Egypt and Vedic India looking at account of death and what may (or may not) be NDEs recorded in them. For those who have an interest in such things (like me) its a must read…but it is probably not esential for getting a handle on the main debate. I also mention it ecause I get a mention in the acknowledgements, although sadly under my previous (married) name of Jennifer Smith 🙂

    So, for those with an interest in such things, enjoy! and for those who don’t…sorry for going on!

  6. Monday 15th October 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I’ll put up a list of titles tomorrow 🙂

  7. Monday 15th October 2012 at 12:24 pm

    To look at it from a different perspective, Vale, I am more concerned at the suggestion that the NDEs of ordinary people can be ‘written ff as delusions’. The fact that they cannot is one of the few things that all researchers into the field are agreed upon. Whatever is behind these experiences, there is enough consistency to make it clear that people are not delusional or making it up. The experience is real and well documented. That does not, of course, answer the question of what is causing it; a veridical expeience of what comes after death or a predictable function of a dying brain. Many suggestions have been put forward, most noteably by Prof.Susan Blackmoor, but none of them, as yet, has accounted for all of the available evidence. Whatever they are they are ‘real’ and certainly worthy of scientific investigation.

    Vale, I would also strongly recomment Prof. Peter Fenwick’s book. His strength is not, as you rightly point out, that his experience carries any more weight than anyone else’s, but that he knows so much about how the brain works. His major argument, as I recall, is that it may be possible for a dying brain to generate such experiences, but that it should be impossible for it to store it in the memory. He therefore, from an original position of completely denying the possibility of consciousness existing outside the brain, (I’ve seen the videos!) came to the conclusion that memory exists, at least in part, outside the physical brain.
    I also recommend the book by Dr. Mark Fox with whom I had the pleasure of studying at Lampeter and who has written, in my opinion at least, the most comprehensive book to date on the subject. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’ll drop into the mix the book of a very dear friend of mine, Dr. Gregory Sushan, on Near Death Experiences accross five ancient and isolated civilizations. Sorry that I’m at work at the moment, not by my bookshelves so I have none of the titles immediately to hand but I can easily get hold of them.

    • Kathryn Edwards

      Monday 15th October 2012 at 2:54 pm

      Oh, do!

  8. Monday 15th October 2012 at 10:43 am

    Do read his book, Tony. There are researchers in other cultures who are doing this work, too.

    Zen ref delightful.

  9. Vale

    Monday 15th October 2012 at 10:30 am

    Just watched the Peter Fenwick talk too. Fascinating that he is standing there as a scientist, yet is wholly comfortable with describing aspects of the dying process that have always been regarded as informal and anecdotal experiences – and somehow, as a result, less valid or less to be taken account of. It would be interesting to explore this – particularly to try to understand why these experiences are not universal. Are there particular conditions that make them more likely?

    By the way I felt bad about the ‘one hand clapping’ reference above. It sounded half hearted, when I was trying to be clever and bring in another Zen reference. But you all knew that didn’t you….?

  10. Vale

    Sunday 14th October 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Charmed by the suggestion that when a neuro-scientist gets a knock on the head his unconsciousness is somehow more valid. I’ve always thought insensibility a great leveller. An object lesson though in who gets heard isn’t it? Excellent weekend fare – listen out for the sound of one hand clapping.

  11. Phoebe Hoare

    Sunday 14th October 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Very interesting Charles, thank you! Fenwick is very convincing most of the time. I wonder if humans will ever get to the bottom of life after death? Technology can get us to outer space and make robots perform surgery…can it ever make us look into life beyond death, if there is one?

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