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Dr. Pim van Lommel, M.D.: Continuity of Consciousness



With our current medical and scientific concepts it seems impossible to explain all aspects of the subjective experiences as reported by patients with an NDE during their period of cardiac arrest, during a transient loss of all functions of the brain. But science, I believe, is the search for explaining new mysteries rather than the cataloguing of old facts and concepts. So it is a scientific challenge to discuss new hypotheses that could explain the reported interconnectedness with the consciousness of other persons and of deceased relatives, to explain the possibility to experience instantaneously and simultaneously (non-locality) a review and a preview of someone’s life in a dimensionwithout our conventional body-linked concept of time and space, where all past, present and future events exist, and the possibility to have clear consciousness with memories from early childhood, with self-identity, with cognition, and with emotion, and the possibility of perception out and above one’s lifeless body.

We should conclude, like many others, that quantum mechanical processes could have something critical to do with how consciousness and memories relate with the brain and the body during normal daily activities as well as during brain death or clinical death.

I would like now to discuss some aspects of quantum physics, because this seems necessary to understand my concept of the continuity of consciousness. Quantum physics has completely overturned the existing view of our material, manifest world, the so-called real-space. It tells us that particles can propagate like waves, and so can be described by a quantum mechanical wave function. It can be proven that light in some experiments behaves like particles (photons), and in other experiments it behaves like waves, and both experiments are true. So waves and particles are complementary aspects of light (Bohr).38 The experiment of Aspect, based on Bell’s theorem, has established non-locality in quantum mechanics (non-local interconnectedness).39 Non-locality happens because all events are interrelated and influence each other.

Phase-space is an invisible, non-local, higher-dimensional space consisting of fields ofprobability, where every past and future event is available as a possibility.Within this phase-space no matter is present, everything belongs to uncertainty, and neither measurements nor observations are possible by physicists.40 The act of observation instantly changes a probability into an actuality by collapse of the wave function. Roger Penrose calls this resolution of multiple possibilities into one definitive state “objective reduction”.35 So it seems that no observation is possible without fundamentally changing the observed subject; only subjectivity remains.

The phase-speed in this invisible and non-measurable phase-space varies from the speed of light to infinity, while the speed of particles in our manifest physical real-space varies from zero to the speed of light. At the speed of light, the speed of a particle and the speed of the wave are identical. But the slower the particle, the faster the wave-speed, and when the particle stops, the wave-speed is infinite. The phase-space generates events that can be located in our space-time continuum, the manifest world, or real-space. Everything visible emanates form the invisible.

According to Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, microtubules in neurons may process information generated by self-organizing patterns, giving rise to coherent states, and these states could be the explanation of the possibility of experiencing consciousness.42 Herms Romijn argues that the continuously changing electromagnetic fields of the neuronal networks, which can be considered as a biological quantum coherence phenomenon, possibly could be the elementary “carriers” of consciousness.31

Quantum physics cannot explain the essence of consciousness or the secret of life, but in my concept it is helpful for understanding the transition between the fields of consciousness in the phase-space (to be compared with the probability fields as we know from quantum mechanics) and the body-linked waking consciousness in the real-space, because these are the two complementary aspects of consciousness.41 Our whole and undivided consciousness with declarative memories finds its origin in, and is stored in this phase-space, and the cortex only serves as a relay station for parts of our consciousness and parts of our memories to be received into our waking consciousness. In this concept consciousness is not physically rooted. This could be compared with the internet, which does not originate from the computer itself, but is only received by it.

Life createsthe transition from phase-space into our manifest real-space; according to our hypothesis life creates the possibility to receive the fields of consciousness (waves) into the waking consciousness which belongs to our physical body (particles). During life, our consciousness has an aspect of waves as well asofparticles, and there is a permanent interaction between these two aspects of consciousness. This concept is a complementary theory, like both the wave and particle aspects of light, and not a dualistic theory. Subjective (conscious) experiences and the corresponding objective physical properties are two fundamentally different manifestations of one and the same underlying deeper reality; they cannot be reduced to each other.30 The particle aspect, the physical aspect of consciousness in the material world, originates from the wave aspect of our consciousness from the phase-space by collapse of the wave function into particles (“objective reduction”), and can be measured by means of EEG, MEG, MRI, and PET scan. And different neuronal networks function as interface for different aspects of our consciousness, as can be demonstrated by changing images during these registrations of EEG, MRI or PET scan. The wave aspect of our indestructible consciousness in phase-space, with non-local interconnectedness, is inherently not measurable by physical means. When we die, our consciousness will no longer have an aspect of particles, but only an eternal aspect of waves.

With this new concept about consciousness and the mind-brain relation all reported elements of an NDE during cardiac arrest could be explained. This concept is also compatible with the non-local interconnectedness with fields of consciousness of other persons in phase-space. Following an NDE most people, often to their own amazement and confusion, experience an enhanced intuitive sensibility, like clairvoyance and clairaudience, or prognostic dreams, in which they “dream” about future events. In people with an NDE the functional receiving capacity seems to be permanently enhanced. When you compare this with a TV set, you receive not only Channel 1, the transmission of your personal consciousness, but simultaneously Channels 2, 3 and 4 with aspects of consciousness of others. This remote, non-local communication seems to have been demonstrated scientifically by positioning subject pairs in two separate Faraday chambers, which effectively rules out any electromagnetic transfer mechanism. A visual pattern-reversal stimulus is used to elicit visual evoked responses in the EEG registration of the stimulated subject, and this was instantaneously received by the non-stimulated subject resulting in an analogous neural event with a similar brain wave morphology, or transferred potentials, as revealed on the EEG.43,44


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