Why Materialist Science Cannot Explain Near-Death Experiences
In March 1987 Dawn Gillott was admitted to Northampton General Hospital, in the U.K., seriously ill with pneumonia. After being placed in intensive care, the physicians decided to perform a tracheotomy because she could not breathe.
Peter Fenwick and Elizabeth Fenwick quoted her in their book The Truth in the Light: “The next thing I was above myself near the ceiling looking down. One of the nurses was saying in what seemed a frantic voice, ‘Breathe, Dawn, breathe.’ A doctor was pressing my chest, drips were being disconnected, everyone was rushing round.
“I couldn’t understand the panic, I wasn’t in pain. Then they pushed my body out of the room to the theater. I followed my body out of the ITU and then left on what I can only describe as a journey of a lifetime.
“I went down what seemed like a cylindrical tunnel with a bright warm inviting light at the end. I seemed to be traveling at quite a speed, but I was happy, no pain, just peace.
“At the end was a beautiful open field, a wonderful summery smell of flowers. There was a bench seat on the right where my Grandfather sat (he had been dead seven years). I sat next to him. He asked me how I was and the family. I said I was happy and content and all my family were fine.
“He said he was worried about my son; my son needed his mother, he was too young to be left. I told Grampi I didn’t want to go back, I wanted to stay with him. But Grampi insisted I go back for my children’s sake. I then asked him if he would come for me when my time came. He started to answer, ‘Yes, I will be back in four’—then my whole body seemed to jump. I looked round and saw that I was back in the ITU.
“I honestly believe in what happened, that there is life after death. After my experience I am not afraid of death as I was before my illness.”
The near-death experience described above is not rare. Hundreds of similar cases involving people reporting that while seriously ill or injured they left their bodies, observed the surrounding scene, entered a tunnel, emerged in another world where they met deceased friends or relatives before returning to their bodies have been carefully documented in several different countries. The case above is not even a particularly impressive one.
At first glance, such cases seem to indicate that under life-threatening circumstances the conscious part of us is capable of detaching from our physical bodies, and may travel to another world. The overwhelming majority of those who have had such experiences are utterly convinced of the existence of an afterlife.
However, there are those who disagree, and who argue that such experiences simply cannot be what they at first seem to be.
Mind and Body
I began research into my recent book Science and the Near-Death Experience by examining the question of whether or not consciousness depends on the brain. Various materialist theories to that effect were examined, and I found that all the arguments for the dependence of the mental on the physical, such as the effects of age, disease, brain damage, and drugs on the mind, are all based on an unstated assumption.
The implicit assumption made in all the materialist arguments was that the relationship between brain activity and consciousness was always one of cause to effect, and never that of effect to cause. But this assumption is not known to be true, and it is not the only conceivable one consistent with the observed facts mentioned above.
Just as consistent with the observed facts is the idea that the brain’s function is that of an intermediary between mind and body, or in other words, that the brain’s function is that of a two-way receiver-transmitter, sometimes from body to mind, and sometimes from mind to body.
Next … the transmission hypothesis can explain everything …