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Written interview with Rudolf Smit and Titus Rivas
Vortex: Hello, dear Psience Quest members. Today I’m proud to present you our new interview. This time, we have two interviewees at once, and both are well-known to our community; in fact, they are its active members. One of them, some time ago, has already given an interview here – the very first one, to be precise. So, please welcome Rudolf “Smithy” Smit and Titus Rivas.
The main – but not the only – topic of our trialogue would be veridical psychic phenomena manifesting in the connection with NDEs, which were studied by Titus and Rudolf for a long time. The results of these studies are summarised in the book authored by them – “The Self Does Not Die”. As far as I know, this is a first full-length research book published by the IANDS organisation, that before limited its publishing activities to periodicals, such as Journal of Near-Death Studies and the Vital Signs magazine, and short reports and videos.
There are several different forms of veridical near-death phenomena. There are instances of veridical ESP by the person who was near-death in the moments such instances of ESP occurred. There are shared death experiences (SDEs), when the dying person experienced a telepathic connection with someone still alive and well, with this “someone” having the same telepathic experience and thus able to confirm the reality of the connection – or when the living person has experienced an apparition of the NDEr, with the time and place of such manifestation being harmonious with an OBE experienced by this dying person. There are cases of apparent after-death communications, providing veridical information, by the dying people with the people who are already dead. There are cases of anomalously fast and effective recovery from serious diseases after NDE. All of these phenomena we will discuss today.
But we will not limit ourselves to them. We will also examine the impact of such phenomena on experiencers themselves, as well on their social contacts and relations to the other people. We will reflect on the influence such phenomena, if widely accepted, may have on our culture. We will explain why the skeptics’ attempts to explain them away have so far failed utterly, and will talk a bit about skeptics themselves. And we will explore the philosophical and spiritual implications of such phenomena for our selfhood and personhood – can they serve as an additional arguments that our selves are real and not illusive?
But, before we start our trialogue, we must recall that there should be four of us, not three, here. The fourth participant should be Anny Dirven, who co-authored the aforementioned book with Titus and Rudolf. Unfortunately, she deceased some time ago.
So, Rudolf, Titus – can you both tell us something about Anny? Who was she? What can you tell us about her? What were your relations to her? What contribution did she make to the book?
Rudolf Smit:  What can I say about Anny? I have met her in person only once or twice, but I remember her as a warm and quite keen personality. She has done a lot of excellent work, especially in collaboration with Titus. She deserved every right to be a co-author of our book The Self Does Not Die.
Titus Rivas: Anny Dirven was one of my best friends from 2001 until her passing in 2016. We met through a written course about parapsychology and psychical research of which I'm the author. She became very active for Athanasia Foundation, a foundation for research into survival, reincarnation and personal evolution, and related subjects. Together we used to go to paranormal fancy fairs, trying to collect personal paranormal experiences from visitors, and we carried out numerous serious investigations into promising cases. We also co-authored many articles and  published several other books, apart from The Self Does Not Die.
As I just said, Anny Dirven was much more than a devoted collaborator and colleague for me. She was a close personal friend, despite the age difference and differences in cultural background. In general she was very loving, patient and compassionate toward anyone she met, including animals. She was paranormally gifted and convinced me of the reality of her healing and clairvoyant powers because I experienced rather spectacular examples of both in her presence. She's dearly missed, although there have been several occasions on which she seems to have sought contact with me after her death.
Evaluating the Extraordinary Evidence
Vortex: Thank you, people. Well, now to the book itself.
Veridical observations made by NDErs and people who were always an important part of the evidence base for the immaterialistic interpretation of the NDEs. Unfortunately, the public discussion of them was largely limited to a few high-profile cases, such as the ones that I may call “the Big Trio” – the Pam Reynolds’, the “Maria’s Shoe” and the “Man with the Dentures” cases. Other cases were not as widely known as these three were, and thus not discussed actively enough to be noted by the larger audience. Yet, the situation has changed with the publication of “The Self Does Not Die” – first in Dutch, then in English. It, in its current English edition, has assembled more than a hundred – 104, to be precise – cases of NDEs that contained verifiable, and successfully verified, components.
So, what kind and amount of work you should have performed to compile such an exhaustive collection and analysis of veridical NDE cases? I suppose it included both scholarly inquiry – the thorough examination of the relevant literature – and social investigations, such as interviews and exchanges with the experiencers and witnesses, followed by the reflection on the information gathered by both previous methods.
Titus, as far I know, you were the one who actively sought for the data on these cases, contacted their participants to acquire their testimonies and analysed the information that had been gathered. So, can you tell us more about the process of research that lead to the writing of the book? What had to be done to prepare this large summary of veridical NDEs?
Titus Rivas: Well, this is not entirely correct. All three of us were actively involved in the investigation of important cases and collecting data about them. Rudolf played a major role in the evaluation of famous cases such as the Man with the dentures and Pam Reynolds, and in this he was helped by Stephen Woodhead from the UK. Together with Anny, I did take care of most of the literature study concerning lesser known cases, and this was quite a task, though even in this respect we were helped by a volunteer for Athanasia Foundation, Inge Manussen, and by Jan Holden's earlier collection. We also received a lot of support from other members of Network Near-Death Experiences (formerly known as Merkawah), IANDS' Dutch sister organization. For the English version of the originally Dutch book (Wat een stervend brein niet kan), we were actively helped by the American team in our search for new cases, notably by Robert and Suzanne Mays, Jan Holden and our devoted translator Wanda Boeke.
It has to be mentioned, by the way, how honored we were when we were asked by the Mays couple and Janice Holden, who is the Editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies, to prepare an English translation for publication by IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies). Robert and Suzanne Mays also added an excellent foreword, and included in Chapter 11 a large section about the mistreatment of Eben Alexander in Esquire Magazine.
Rudolf also was very actively involved in the study of the new cases described by Laurin Bellg. His role was equally important in many debates with the so-called skeptics or debunkers, as described by him in Chapter 11. In these, he was again assisted by Stephen Woodhead. My own role also includes the theoretical interpretation (and its philosophical foundation) of our findings, and for the English version I was helped in presenting my ideas to a general educated public as clearly as possible, by Jan Holden and Robert Mays.
Although the original idea for the book was Anny's and mine, the end result was just as much Rudolf's. And in the process we were helped by very dedicated Dutch and US teams and invaluable correspondents like Stephen Woodhead (aka “Tim” on this forum) from the UK.
Vortex: A hard work indeed. Now let’s look at the specific categories of these cases. The first ones are the instances of veridical ESP by the NDErs, either in the immediate vicinity of their bodily senses – which, I need to remind, were hardly functioning because of their critically impaired somatic state and the circumstances of resuscitation – or entirely beyond the reach of their bodily sensory capabilities. Such events are valuable for the immaterialistic interpretation of the NDEs since they provide not just the evidence for the psychic perception as such, but crucial “time anchors” that allow us to identify the time of the perception as the time of the clinical death and resuscitation – and thus add weight to the hypothesis of actual disembodiment of experiencer’s consciousness and of post-mortem survival.
Yet the notable – probably the most notable – theoretical conflict of parapsychological research community, the post-mortem survival – living agent psi (LAP) debate, provides some challenges to the survivalist interpretation. In the cases of veridical NDEs, there are some attempts to explain these instances of successful ESP during the period of clinical death as the LAP manifestations. People who support such anti-survival (yet still pro-psi) explanations claim that ESP happens before or after the apparent time of its occurrence – this is, not during the clinical death itself – and acquire the verifiable information about the events during the clinical death via precognition or retrocognition. Let’s call this rejection of survival-supporting “time anchor” interpretation “the temporal shift hypothesis”.
Titus, what can you say about these attempts to reject the survivalist explanation of the veridical NDEs by shifting in time the moment of information acquisition? And can you provide us with some examples from the book?
Titus Rivas:  First of all, ironically, there is the temporal, functional argument against both LAP-explanations. Regarding retrocognition, there are cases in which the patient regained consciousness so quickly after the cardiac arrest that the  investigators involved concluded that the NDEs must have actually happened during clinical death and not after that, even if they did not include any veridical perception. We see this for this in our case 3.3, derived from Penny Sartori's book The Near-Death Experience of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study. A woman (Sartori's “'Patient 4”) had ventricular fibrillation that caused cardiac arrest during which she experienced an NDE. Once this patient had been resuscitated, she immediately regained consciousness and did not receive any calmatives or sedatives. She was certain that her NDE had occurred between the moment at which her husband had sat at her bed and the moment she came to again. Sartori concluded that, considering the patient regained consciousness immediately after resuscitation, this means that the experiences she had must have occurred during her cardiac arrest.
Regarding precognition, it could in principle occur only in NDEs during which the patient was already unconscious for a long enough period of time to have been capable of having an NDE during that phase. Therefore, such precognition cannot be applied to cases during which the patient was normally conscious before the cardiac arrest, which is typical for cases involving cardiac arrest, as decribed in Chapter 3 of the book.
Now, critics might claim that after NDErs have lost consciousness, undergoing a precognitive or retrocognitive vision of specific events does not nearly take as much time as those events themselves. There could simply be a subjective temporal accerelation within the veridical of the perception of events during the vision, just like a person may experience a long dream while in physical time the brain activity during the dream only lasts for a few minutes. I don't think they have a point, because along with the visions, there should at least be enough time to subconsciously realize that one is dying (in the case of precognition) or was dying (in the case of retrocognition) and, for that realization they would still need sufficient brain activity for this realization, as there is no reason to suppose that it could be accelerated as well.
Such exotic, far-fetched and very counter-intuitive hypotheses are only interesting if we had a solid, independent reason to suppose that survival of consciousness during cardiac arrest is impossible by definition. Within the philosophical framework of dualism there is no such reason – on the contrary, the very existence of consciousness and of ESP themselves point to an ultimate independence of the brain, and therefore support the possibility of the mind's survival after death. Precognition and retrocognition are not a priori hypotheses that are equally or even more plausible than survival, they are ad hoc attempts to avoid facing the reality of sutvival. I mean, in cases of NDEs, in which the events perceived really took place during cardiac arrest and before any CPR was undertaken, such as the cases of the Man with the Dentures, and of the patients of Tom Aufderheide, Richard Mansfield, Lloyd W. Rudy and Maurice Rawlings (all included in Chapter 3), it is much more straightforward to assume that the perception occurred in real time, rather than before or after cardiac arrest (through pre- or retrocognition respectively). In The Self Does Not Die, we say about this. “As far as this point goes, a clear parallel can be drawn with the explanation for indications of paranormal perceptions in general. Materialistic skeptics will always prefer extremely complex normal explanations to, say, true telepathy and clairvoyance because in their worldview there simply is not any room for actual extrasensory perception. These complex, far-fetched, standard explanations are important only if we first share the skeptics’ conviction that it is all but certain that extrasensory perception does not exist. If it does exist, then there is no reason to take these far-fetched, complex, standard explanations seriously, either. […] In fact, scholars who take paranormal phenomena seriously due to the lack of plausible materialistic explanations for the evidence, but who do not accept that there are indications for survival after death, should explain this, too, either by clarifying why an explanation of relevant concrete evidence that does not assume survival, is plausible or by clarifying why the very existence of (particular manifestations of) survival itself should practically be precluded.”
Now, even if we do take such farfetched hypotheses seriously, there are still psy­chological reasons – based on motivational psychology – to reject them. LAP-supporters often seem to ignore such psychological considerations and instead focus only the technical question if living agent psi could in principle account for the veridical perception as such, which really is not the point. We are not talking about mere possibility here, but about plausibility! Scholars like Michael Sudduth like to point out that the LAP without survival-hypothesis and the survival-hypo­thesis are (so far) equally plausible or implausible, but this is only because they tend to ignore both the ontological and the empirical knowledge we already pos­sess –  as wel as argumentation from serious opponents, but that won't concern us here.
From a rational perspective, any theory favored as the best fitting and most plausible one, needs to make sense within a well-founded ontological framework, and also be compatible with what is known about basic psychological principles. In cases, in which Living agent psi may indeed play a role –  for instance in the context of mental mediumship in which relatives or friends of someone who died are getting a reading about their deceased loved ones –  we may invariably assume that there is a strong motive, only at a subconscious level or also at a conscious level, which supposedly activates a LAP-process. Without the plausibility of such a motive, for example: a desire to reconnect with dead loved one, psychologically speaking, it does not make sense to postulate that LAP could explain any type of case. As we state in our book, “We have no reason to believe that people, unconsciously, simply go after something without some kind of a comprehensible psychological motive.[…] From a more general perspective, alternative, non-survivalist parapsychological hypotheses such as retrocognition or precognition (instead of consciousness occurring during cardiac arrest itself) need to be taken seriously only if there is a mechanism or psychological motive that could explain why the presumed retrocognition or precognition occurs. A possible hypothetical motive could be that the patient wants to (unconsciously) reassure himself or herself that he or she was still mentally there during clinical death. But a motive such as that is conceivable only if the NDEr is convinced, prior to clinical death, that a cardiac arrest might take place. However, this conviction is not an option for people who completely unexpectedly, without preparation, experience an acute cardiac arrest; likewise for children who are not aware of the gravity of their condition. And it also cannot play a role for infants and toddlers who, prior to their NDEs, do not even have a clear picture of what it means to physically die, as in [...] the Mark Botts case.
Vortex: Now to the second category of veridical NDEs – SDEs, which involve some kind of psychic connection between the NDEr and some other person. These shared experiences are interesting, since here we see a distant experiential convergence between at least two persons, one dying and one feeling well. Or, in some other cases, other persons can have apparition experiences that are in concurrence with the dying ones’ OBEs.
In such cases, arguments to precognition (or retrocognition) sound much weaker, since the theorist using them bears the burden of explaining the simultaneous and harmonious nature of the experiences of the different people. And, in some not-NDE-related controlled experimental conditions, in experiments of repeatable psychophysical correlations between the brains of mutually distant and separated people, such arguments become entirely inadequate: the brain activities of the subjects are too evidently similar, too precisely concurrent and too persistently recurrent to appeal to time-shifts of any kind. So, this is not a way for a successful explanation of NDE-related veridical telepathy.
Yet here I must mention the second very common counterargument employed by the LAP proponents – an assumption that NDEr’s brain was not as inactive as we might think. They tell that, on the current level of neuroscientific knowledge, we cannot claim with certitude that the brain is totally inactive during clinical death conditions: our best measurements are only useful for the detection of its surface activity, while they are not enough to penetrate the deeper parts of the brain, so we have no reliable knowledge whether these deeper parts are active or inactive. In my opinion, such explanations are lacking in plausibility. It is commonly recognised that the higher mental activities are connected with surface, neo-cortex parts of the brain; it is unlikely that the very same functions would be doubled by the deeper neural structures. And, during cardiac arrest, blood flow to the brain ceases, and it is even more unlikely that sufficient activity would happen anywhere within it.
So, Titus, who were these persons, dying and living, who experienced the telepathic connection and how were their experiences in agreement with each other (some examples would be useful). And how would you respond to the “not so dead brain” argument I described above?
Titus Rivas: One example concerns the patient of a cardiologist from South Dakota, a case investigated by Raymond Moody. The cardiologist’s automobile struck another car as he was on his way to the hospital. He was very upset by the accident and worried that the people involved would demand a lot in damages. Still preoccupied by these concerns, he hurried to the emergency room to resuscitate someone in cardiac arrest. The following day, the patient whom he had saved told the cardiologist that during the resuscitation, he had left his body and had watched the doctor during his work. He told him exactly how the medical instruments had looked and in which order they had been used.  But what really convinced the cardiologist was the following statement: “Doctor, I could tell that you were worried about that accident. But there isn’t any reason to be worried about things like that. You give your time to other people. Nobody is going to hurt you.”
Another example, is the case of Tom Aufderheide's patient. The patient kept having cardiac arrests in the midst of frenzied attempts to resuscitate him. After long hours in which he tried to  rescue his patient, Aufderheide had become so hungry that when the patient’s lunch arrived, knowing the patient was in no condition to eat it, he decided to eat it himself. The patient later correctly reported  that during his NDE, Aufderheide had thought, “How could you do this to me?” By “you,” the novice Aufderheide had meant the more seasoned physicians who had thrown him unassisted into this demanding emergency. Aufderheide told me by e-mail that he had not shared this thought with anyone until the patient brought it up. Moreover, the thought had occurred to him before the patient’s resuscitation had even begun.
A third example concerns a 10-year-old Australian boy named Jed Archdeacon who experienced an NDE during a near fatal asthma attack. That same morning, Jed’s mother was overcome by a strong feeling of love for him, and she also felt particularly drawn to a family photo, especially to his likeness in it. Still completely overwhelmed by these unusually intense feelings for Jed, she went out to work in the garden. Soon she had another strange feeling. She felt drawn to some alyssum flowers. They had planted the alyssum at Jed’s request, because it bore his favorite flower, and Diana also liked it. Jed had selected the alyssum together with his mother and had helped plant it. She picked some of the tiny flowers from the bed, smelled them, and thought of her son. Again she was overcome by a remarkable, inexplicable feeling of peace. She said, “I’m unable to explain why. I was just suddenly thinking of Jed all the time. But I knew whatever it was, was something good.” During his NDE, Jed had almost reached a spiritual realm, but he stopped and was dragged back in the opposite direction, toward his body. As he was lying in the hospital bed, Jed told his mother, “The funny thing was—I don’t get it —I saw you in the garden smelling the flowers.” Diana added, “Found out later that about the time I was smelling the flowers was about the time he was near to death, and he claims that he saw me in the garden smelling the flowers. And I really was there at that time.”
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Vortex: The next category of the veridical NDEs are the ones that involve the data apparently obtained during the encounters with discarnate human spirits during the NDE. Mentioning it, I must also mention the third standard objection raised by the LAP proponents – the one that the apparent discarnates with whom experiencers contact are the products of their own unconscious, devoid of the selfhood of their own, that are unwittingly used by the experiencers to facilitate their own psychic capabilities. Usually such objections arise in the non-NDE-related survival-suggestive cases such as mediumship and reincarnation, but they are applicable to the NDE-related after-death communications as well.
As far as I know, Titus, you have your own counterarguments to such objections, based on a psychological implausibility of such attribution of complex discarnate-related manifestations to living persons’ unconscious drives. Can you tell us more about these counterarguments, as well as provide examples of after-death communication during NDEs?
Titus Rivas: Let me start by giving a few examples. First, there are cases in which the apparent communication involves a discarnate entity who was, thus far, com­pletely unknown to the NDEr. A first example in this category concerns is the case of -3½-year-old “Andrew”, as discussed by Sam Parnia in What Happens When We Die. The boy had had to undergo open-heart surgery and 2 weeks later started asking questions about “when he could go back to the beautiful sunny place with all the flowers and animals.” Andrew had also seen a “floating lady” during the NDE. A year later, in a television show about a heart operation on a child, Andrew recognized the bypass machine that he claimed had also been used in his own operation. He said he had observed this machine when he was floating up with “that lady.” A short while later, his mother let him see an old photo of her own mother at the age she herself was at the time. Andrew said, “That’s her, that’s that lady.”
Another example consists of the case of Viola Horton, studied by Raymond Moody and others. Horton had to undergo gall bladder surgery. A few days after the fairly routine operation, while still recuperating in the hospital, she suddenly had a cardiac arrest, followed by an OBE. She ended up in the hospital corridor, where she saw a number of her friends and family members standing around.
Horton then went through a tunnel at the end of which was a colorful meadow, and she was aware of being guided by beings of light as she moved through the experience. One being came forward as a baby, claiming that he was Viola’s brother, when as far as she knew she only had two sisters. He told Horton to remember how he looked, wearing a tiny cap and dress, socks and booties, and to provide this description to her father, who would recognize the infant immediately. After she regained consciousness, she discussed these incidents with her family and found out that they were all true. Her father acknowledged that his first child had been a boy and that the baby had died a couple of days after birth. This boy was never talked about among the family.
Secondly, there are cases, in which the discarnate personality was known to the patient, but his or her death was not. For example, the well-known Swiss psychiatrist and thanatologist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, wrote about a little boy who had been in a coma following a car accident that had also involved his mother and his brother, Peter. The boy came out of his coma briefly and told Dr. Kübler-Ross, “Yes, everything is all right now. Mommy and Peter are already waiting for me.” He smiled contentedly and then slipped back into a coma from which he never recovered.
Kübler-Ross already knew that the boy’s mother had died at the scene of the accident, but as far as she knew, his brother Peter had survived. Peter had been brought to another hospital with serious burns because the car had caught fire before rescuers had been able to extricate him. Kübler-Ross decided she would contact the other hospital to check out Peter’s condition. However, as she was about to place the call, she received a call from the other hospital to notify her that Peter had died a few minutes before.
Another relevant case is that of a German woman, Renate A. At the time of her NDE, Renate had a serious alcohol problem and this had seriously deteriorated her physical condition. She fell into a coma, and was admitted to a hospital. The attending physician reassured her husband Bernd and sent him back home. There, in his wife’s handbag, he found a note from a doctor, to the effect of, “Mrs. A.’s illness is life threatening. Liver cirrhosis. There is acute danger caused by bleeding of esophageal varices (veins).”
The day after Christmas, Bernd received a call and learned that his wife had been transferred to the university clinic in Homburg. He went there as quickly as he could, but on arrival discovered that his wife was not in her room. Renate turned out to be in the recreation room where she could smoke a cigarette. The night before, when the doctors had already given her up for dead, she had had an NDE. She had seen her late father and her aunt Cilla, among others. Both had made sure that she returned to her body because her time had not yet come. What was so exceptional about this case was that both Bernd and Renate knew that Renate’s father had died, but they thought that her aunt Cilla was still alive and well.
Some time later, Bernd visited his mother-in-law. She asked him if she could accompany him to the hospital and whether Renate was recovered enough to hear sad news. Renate’s mother had received a letter that very day stating that her sister Cilla had died and that she had been laid to rest three days before the letter had been written. Counting back the days, this meant that Cilla had died shortly before Renate’s NDE.
Then, regarding the super-psi or lap-alternative explanation, we need to address both types of cases. In the first category of cases in which the deceased personally is completely unknown to the NDEr, he or she cannot have had any plausible motive to activate LAP. Thus, from a psychological perspective it is clear that it must be the deceased entity who is motivated to contact the NDEr rather than the other way round.
When we're dealing with cases in which the discarnate entity was familiar to the NDEr, while the latter was unaware of that person's death, we may safely assume too that the NDEr was not actively seeking information about him or her. So, in such cases as well, we must assume that the motivation for the paranormal contact lies with the deceased personality, rather than with the living. 
Vortex: And, to end our survey of the empirical cases of veridical NDE phenomena, let’s examine anomalous healing cases. What examples can you provide, Titus?
Titus Rivas: One example is described in Lessons from the Light by Kenneth Ring The case derived from Professor Emeritus Howard Mickel of the religion department of Wichita State University in Kansas, who investigated it thoroughly. In the 1970s, a leukemia patient named Ralph Duncan was dying. He had obviously been told that he only had a short time to live and had already prepared himself for his death. During his hospital admission, he had an NDE, during which he met a being of light. Duncan took this being for Jesus, even though the being did not look like traditional pictures of him. The being of light had eyes that were “shooting fire.” Duncan and the being had telepathic contact with each other in the form of three brief sentences: “That’s enough. It’s dead. It’s gone.” After he regained consciousness, these words were still echoing in his ears. He did not quite understand what was meant by “That’s enough.” But he associated “It’s dead” with the disappearance of his leukemia. The last time Ring had news of the man, in 1989, he was still doing well.
A second case stems from Penny Sartori’s book The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients. One of her patients had been involved in a traffic accident. He suffered serious injury to his chest, a torn liver, and a broken right shoulder. Because the patient was hospitalized in critical condition, the orthopedic surgeon had to postpone surgery on the right shoulder until the patient was discharged from the intensive care unit. By that time, however, the surgeon was amazed to discover that the broken bone had already healed. This development was remarkable  because the injury had involved a complex fracture. The surgeon could not explain the healing, so he supposed that it was normal for patients with head injuries to heal quickly. Sartori pointed out, however, that this explanation was not relevant because the patient’s injuries had not included head injury.
The third case I'd like to mention is that of Anita Moorjani, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer of the lymph glands. After 4 years of being cared for at home, she fell into a coma and was admitted to the intensive care ward of the local hospital. The attending oncologist told her husband, Danny, that her organs were shutting down and she would die soon—probably within 36 hours. He said, “Your wife’s heart might still be beating, but she’s not really in there. It’s too late to save her.” Moorjani’s cancer had spread everywhere. Her hands, feet, and face were swollen, and she had open lesions on her skin. The medical team started a three-week cycle of chemotherapy intravenously while giving her nourishment through a nasogastric tube and oxygen through another tube. Moorjani later reported that during her coma, she had had a radical NDE. During this NDE, she was told that she could choose to stay in her physical life and be healed of her cancer. If she chose life, her organs would function normally again, but if she chose death, everything would happen as the doctors had foretold.
Under these circumstances, Moorjani chose life and then regained consciousness. The doctors told her that they had tremendous news for her. Her organs had recovered. They could not believe it. At this point, the oncologists insisted the chemotherapy—which she accepted despite her avowal that she did not need it—be continued. Her recovery was rapid. By mid-February, the outward signs of her cancer had disappeared, and she was eating normally. Moorjani had completed no more than her first cycle of only three chemotherapy drugs (instead of the originally planned seven drugs). Biopsies of lymph nodes in her neck and three ultrasound exams revealed no evidence of cancer. Nevertheless, oncologists insisted Moorjani undergo a second cycle of chemotherapy. Moorjani was finally allowed to go home after this cycle. She agreed to receive another six cycles of chemotherapy, but even the doctors were forced to cut the treatment short by two cycles because, despite numerous scans and tests, they could find no cancer. Some doctors tried to explain it by asserting that she had responded well to chemotherapy. However, each biopsy and scan since Moorjani had come out of coma had shown that she was no longer suffering from cancer.
In addition, although doctors had predicted early on that she would need plastic surgery on her numerous, extensive skin lesions using skin grafts, the lesions simply healed by themselves in the first few weeks after she came out of her coma. This case is particularlyimportant because U.S. oncologist Peter Ko became very curious about Moorjani and decided to meet her. He copied all the relevant paperwork from her medical file and studied it closely. On the basis of available medical information, he concluded that Moorjani should simply have died. He sent his findings to cancer institutes all over the world, and they all responded that they had never encountered a case like Moorjani’s before. Dr. Ko appeared with Moorjani in the media and also assisted with a radio interview about the case. In addition, well-known NDE investigator and fellow oncologist Jeffrey Long had a long phone conversation with Ko about the case. Another NDE investigator, Jerald Foster, met Ko personally to discuss the case. Ko concluded, “Based on my own experience and opinions of several colleagues, I am unable to attribute her dramatic recovery to her chemotherapy.”
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Dealing with Debunkers and Detractors

Vortex: Thank you, Titus… Rudolf, now I want to speak to you about NDE skeptics, their views and their behavior. To be precise and clear - by “skeptics” here I mean the ones who rejects both survival and LAP, preferring mainstreamism and hardcore materialism.

So, Rudolf, what can you tell us about the common skeptics’ arguments against veridical NDEs and NDEs during temporary brain inactivity? What counterarguments you employ in your replies to them?

Rudolf Smit: Goodness! This cannot be elaborated about with just a few words. But first let me make a distinction here: there are “good skeptics” and “(pseudo-) skeptics”. I believe that the majority of the participants on this forum belong to the first category, i.e. people who are willing to critically consider, but with a truly open mind, the evidence presented on this forum. In our book I conclude my chapter 11 with the following:

The Essentials of Sound Skepticism

Once, a friend made two statements that we think can be regarded as the essentials of sound skepticism:

1.  Criticism is the lifeblood of science,  meaning that criticism is welcome if only because it is often the only way to get to whatever truth is out there.

2.  Science is a tough business, meaning that one should do one’s best to overcome the inevitable hurdles and potholes on the path to the truth, including vehement resistance from certain parties and sources when newly revealed facts require a new view of reality. This principle also means that one has to be both critical and skeptical of one’s own ideas and findings—and even tougher on them than on the work of others.

Seemingly the very opposite of this sound skepticism is an attitude we have seen among certain self-appointed skeptics. It goes something like this: “I have made up my mind; don’t confuse me with the facts—especially new ones.”

To adhere to the essentials of sound skepticism makes it morally compulsory to go wherever the evidence leads, irrespective of ideology, prejudices, beliefs, or objections to how things seem to be turning out. If the evidence is clear and the implications of that evidence are sound, then the conscientious scientist has to accept it, period.

We have singled out pseudo-skeptics for going to extremes in proposing explanations even more incredible than the phenomena they are meant to explain away in order to demonstrate that we have made an honest effort to adhere to the essentials of sound skepticism as we have considered the remarkable phenomena entailed in the cases we have presented.

So far this lengthy quote from our book.

You will understand that we had to deal with the second category, i.e. people whom we consider pseudo-skeptics, although they perceive themselves as the true skeptics, or better still: as “guardians of the truth”, and not at all willing to take a hard look at themselves – which is what true skeptics do: Am I right in my assumptions, have I thoroughly examined the evidence, are there other explanations than the ones I cherish? Besides, a true skeptic goes where the evidence leads him, no matter the outcome.

The above is an idealistic assumption. As Pim van Limmel recently wrote (in the latest, i.e. 23d edition of his book Eindeloos Bewustzijn (in English: Consciousness Beyond Life): [alluding to the fact that he ignores skeptics] “skeptics are in principle always right, they are not prepared to participate in an open scientific dialogue. They live on the basis of their preconceptions and dogma’s. With them it is as Albert Einstein once said: “a preconception is harder to split than an atom”.

I could not agree more. Discussions with pseudo-skeptics are truly frustrating because no matter how hard the presented evidence, they will stubbornly deny it. Why? Because, according to them, it cannot be therefore it is not. Downright the stupidest argument I ever heard. Imagine, what would have happened when great scientists from the past had heeded that “argument”?

[As an aside: you have no idea what flak Pim van Lommel had to endure from Dutch skeptics in 2007 after his book had come out. This flak was downright extremely arrogant and malicious, comparable to what happened to Eben Alexander after his coming out. Pim had to overcome sleepless nights because of that terribly uncivilized treatment.]

Now, you ask: what can you tell us about the common skeptics’ arguments against veridical NDEs and NDEs during temporary brain inactivity? What counter arguments do you employ in your replies to them?

The common skeptic’s arguments agains NDE’s and veridical NDE’s in particular are too many to discuss them all. They usually boil down to several “nothing buts” such as:

·       Nothing but…
the final convulsions of a dying brain

·       Nothing but…
a phenomenon caused by lack of oxygen in the brain

·       Nothing but…
a prank by narcissistic people who desperately hanker for attention

·       Nothing but…
an elaborate hallucination, hence an illusion.

Apart from being extremely condescending and blatantly arrogant as regards NDE’rs, all of these statements can be refuted easily. For example, the lack of oxygen one has been refuted so often and with such good reason that one could assume that skeptics would be silent on that one. Forget it! This “argument” is still presented as a valid one, over and over. No matter that it is overruled by the telling testimonies of verified, veridical NDE’s.

One would think that every reasonable person, as (pseudo-)skeptics always loudly claim they are, would accept evidence that is hardly deniable. Again, not so! They bring up a multitude of arguments that not only are based on the perpetual “it cannot be therefore it is not” but also on those that border on sheer paranoia. As for the latter, they always question the witnesses:

·       it has been proven that witnesses are not reliable;

·       it is has been proven that witnesses concoct their testimonies so as to make themselves bigger than they are;

·       it has been proven that witnesses embellish their testimonies, hence can never be reliable.

And so on and so forth. Never mind that such verified testimonies often come from thoughtful people who have a reputation to lose, such as doctors who had treated such NDE-patients (for example the neurosurgeons Robert Spetzler and Karl Greene who operated on Pam Reynolds. And let us not forget Intensive Care physician Laurin Bellg, whose verified veridical reports from her practice in her Intensive Care Unit are very telling indeed).

As for counter arguments, I will elaborate on one in the next section – a strong refutation I might say, but the pseudos won’t budge. Like Pim van Lommel says: they are always right [in their denials], no matter how strong the proposed evidence is. This reminds me of people who still believe that the moon landings (late sixties and early seventies of the last century) never took place, or people who still believe that the earth is flat… The behavior of pseudo-skeptics is no different. Thus dealing with pseudos can be enormously frustrating at times.

Vortex: Rudolf, if I remember correctly, in the past you were actively visiting skeptics’ societies and conferences, and tried to discuss your views with them personally. Later you gave up, since you understood that skeptics are not really interested in evidence – they just seek for a way to dismiss it. Can you tell us more about your encounters with skeptics?

Rudolf: Oh sure! Actually, I have been a skeptic all my life – and still am in the sense that, as I said before, I go where the evidence leads me, no matter whether the outcome of the search is in line with my beliefs or not. My adagium is: first investigate, only then form your opinons. But never ever turn these opinions into dogmas. So, already at an early age and after having read a multitude of good books on the subject, I came to the conclusion that the paranormal was not always hogwash as so many skeptics had claimed (and still do). The same with NDE’s.
At first I was skeptical, but when I began reading about NDE’s in general and about veridical NDE’s in particular, it dawned upon me that it was wrong to continue believing that this phenomenon was “nothing but” an elaborate hallucination.

However, when I became member of the Dutch Skepsis group I discovered to my surprise and chagrin that the great majority of these people were pretty dogmatic in their approach to the paranormal. They simply denied the evidence which to my mind was compelling enough – for them it was and always is: there is not a shred of evidence for the paranormal…. What I also found very disturbing was their arrogance, their condescension towards what they saw as gullible hence stupid believers…. Never mind that some of those “stupid believers” were learned people. One notorious skeptic in the Netherland often refers to these “believers” as “onbenullen” (plural for “onbenul” – its English equivalents: nincompoop, idiot, fool). He also says that “NDE’rs have a screw loose in their heads” thus meaning that they have gone bonkers.

So what I saw in these people was a high level of arrogance, and attitudes such as “we know it all” as well as “I am holier than thou”. Besides, very undemocratic: dissenting ideas were and are not accepted. That is not what I consider sound skepticism, so eventually I walked out on them. The majority of organized skeptics is not about true science, but about ideologically colored denialism. The ideology that there is only one true “ism” in science, i.e. monistic materialism (or, for that matter, naturalism, reductionism, whatever…). I reject that “ism” completely.

Vortex: I would like to hear, especially, about your (and Titus’) arch-critic, Dr. Gerard “Gerry” Woerlee. Can you describe us your most notable clashes with him? How would you generally characterise Gerry and his positions? Did you ever meet him in person, face-to-face, or were you only debating him from a distance, in printed word, via Internet and literature?

Rudolf Smit: (sigh…) you would not believe it: I have put the entire “dialogue” with Woerlee into one file… and BIG it is – 107,000 words spread over 172 A4 pages. But I have to be honest. It not only contains his and my contributions but also many from other people, such as Stephen Woodhead who by the way is a contributor to this Forum.

Anyway, Woerlee is extremely hard to deal with. Of course, he is a prominent anesthesiologist and as such teaching that art at a Dutch university. So, he knows his bit, and we respect that. But what we do not respect is his continuous hammering on his expertise, and his unwillingness to look beyond it. Why this unwillingness? Yes, it is due to his unfailing certainty that veridical experiences cannot be, thus they ain’t there, period! Clear evidence of the opposite he dismisses out of hand, reasoning that somehow bad observations or even fraud are involved. Let me give an example in that regard.

In our book there is case 3.33 which was supplied by intensive care physician Ms Laurin Bellg. Therein she conveys the story of a very sick patient who had to be resuscitated, due to cardiac arrest. In summary, during his sojourn his “astral self” literally went through the ceiling and “he” came into a room which looked like a hospital ward, but somehow seemed lifeless. There were bodies on beds linked to all sorts of instruments, and there were computers. However, those bodies were not human bodies but lifeless medical dolls.

When he came to, he conveyed all of this to his intensive care physician Dr Bellg and also the attending nurse. For them this was a most astonishing observation, because what the man had described was the training area for nurses, which was situated exactly above the intensive care unit! Note that this is an exceptionally verified veridical NDE. What else could it be? Not for Woerlee. His reaction: a wonder story without any scientific basis. In addition, (a) how does one know that the patient had not been in the hospital before and could have visited that specific area? And (b) the patient had been in the intensive care unit for five days before his removal from the ventilator, and during that period attending nurses could have spoken about that training area amongst themselves, hence the patient could inadvertently have been informed by them… Ah yes, and pigs can fly, can’t they?!

I asked Ms Bellg about those two points raised by Woerlee. Well, as for point (a) the patient had been living in another town 50 miles away and this was his very first time of visiting this particular hospital. And even if he had been there before, he could never have been in that training area for nurses, because it was strictly off limits for non-medical people. Even Ms Bellg could visit that area only with specific permission. As for his second contention (b), out of the question that during their work in the ICU nurses would at length and in detail discuss their training in that particular room. They have better things to do, wouldn’t they. And besides, according to Ms Bellg the patient had also told all sorts of (later verified) details that even the nurses were not aware of.

How did Woerlee react? Deafening silence – that is what skeptics always do: rather remain silent than admitting to have been wrong.

But the biggest clash was about the Pam Reynolds case. We, i.e. Titus and I and with the help of Stephen Woodhead have studied this case extensively. It was very important that Titus had managed to contact Pam Reynolds herself (long before she died in 2010) and we also managed to contact the neurosurgeons Drs. Robert Spetzler and his then assistant Karl Greene. Well, Woerlee alleged ardently that Pam MUST have had experienced “anesthesia awareness” during the operation, and therefore could have heard everything that had been said during the operation, thus building herself a clear picture of the operating room and the medical staff populating it. This was all vehemently denied by Spetzler and Greene, because it was certain that she was under deep anesthesia, which was borne out by EEG Burst Suppression as shown on the EEG-monitor. In such cases it is absolutely certain that the patient is completely unconsciouss.

Woerlee ignored all of this. Mind you, he was never ever there when the operation took place, yet he was so arrogant to dismiss out of hand the statements of those two highly qualified neurosurgeons who had done the actual work.... This is truly inexcusable unscientific behavior, I have no other words for it.

Vortex: And one last question specifically for you, Rudolf. Knowing how aggressive and impolite many skeptics oftentimes are, how do you deal with them and their arguments emotionally? One can become understandably frustrated if dealing with the constant barrage of negative emotion directed at him or her…

Rudolf Smit: I must admit that at times the silly behavior of those pseudo-skeptics made me furious. Their behavior is akin to what we call the “Turkish waiter syndrome”. Which goes like this: a tourist visits a restaurant on the west coast of Turkey. The sea is covered with a thick mist. But the mist slowly dissipates and he sees how in the distance an island emerges. He then asks the waiter “what island is that?” The waiter’s response: “there is no island…” Why is he saying that? That island in question is a Greek one. As it happens, Greeks and Turks used to be mortal enemies, and thus the waiter simply did not want to acknowledge the existence of that Greek island only a few miles away from the Turkey’s coast… Of course such behavior is downright stupid, and I am afraid many skeptics suffer from a similar cognitive imbalance, to put it mildly .

However, perhaps due to my age (I am in the second half of my seventies) these pseudos and their silliness do not affect me so much any longer. They will learn their lesson… As Elizabeth Kübler-Ross once said: “don’t bother – they [the skeptics] will eventually find out themselves.”

But sometimes I do have to speak up, particularly so when skeptics shout blatant untruths from their rooftops.

(continued below...)
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Persistent Philosophical Problems
Vortex: Thanks, Rudolf. Now I have some questions for Titus, again – now concerning the philosophical implications of his research.
Titus, you are a personalist – that is, you maintain that selfhood and personhood are real and not illusive. I agree with you here.
According to many transpersonal experiencers, they have been in the “No-Self” state, where they felt total ecstatic dissolution in the world and complete unity with it. Such transpersonal experiences are used by many to claim that selfhood is just a persistent illusion. Yet, such claim faces profound problems:
·       There are transpersonal experiences of “True Self”, where people experienced no-less-ecstatic liberation of their selfhood from the world, the sense of lucid, independent, eternal agency; how are their experiences less valid?
·       Any seemingly “No-Self” states, even the deepest ones, tend to be transient, with selfhood and personhood reemerging after their end; so where were they during them, and how did they reemerge? And how did they rise up in the first place?
·       Even in the apparently “No-Self” states there is a possibility to perform some “selfish” act – to try to understand or to control something – and thus break and cease “the oneness with the world”. If there were “no self” in a transpersonal state, who – or what – was able to act “selfishly”? Who – or what – had to refrain from “selfish” acts to maintain the “no self” state?
So, I stand on the position that our selfhood is real and permanent; “no self” states are only an appearance – even if profoundly powerful and transformative appearance – of its absence, not its genuine annihilation. Especially knowing the direct experience of being-your-self can be equally powerful and transformative.
And you, Titus – what arguments do you have in defense of personalism? And how do disembodied experiences of the NDErs that you have studied support the position that self, not just some self-less pure consciousness, survive after bodily death?
Titus Rivas: My main argument is philosophical and quite simple really. If we accept that there really are subjective or, with a more technical word, “phenomenal” experiences, we must also accept that there is a subject or experient  who is undergoing them. Following this reasoning, there can be no consciousness, no subjective experiences, without a conscious subject. Consciousness is not an impersonal category, but it is always linked to someone. Any near-death experience someone recalls, must therefore be remembered by the very same subject who had that experience. As we write in Chapter 10, any NDE is a personal experience, i.e. an experienced undergone by the same everyday person  that recalls it afterwards. Any experience that would involve the absence of a self (in the sense of subject or experient) must be an illusion in that without such a self there could never have been experiences of any kind!
Now, there might be some confusion involved in this debate, because the term “self” may have very different meanings, notably: subject or experient, as we just saw, but also: self-concept, self-awareness, or ego. There may be something going on with the way someone experiences or conceptualizes him- or herself as a subject, but this should not be confused with a subject ceasing to be a subject, which is an incoherent notion as I have just tried to show.
Vortex: Another claim that is quite often made in regards of transpersonal experience is that it is completely ineffable and intrinsically irrational, outside of semiotics and language and thus outside of rational description and analysis.
I’m doubtful about such claims, since the ordinary “material world” world which we experience in our “normal”, non-altered state of consciousness is quite “ineffable” for a newborn child who have neither semiotic resources for the comprehension of the world nor intellectual skills of their usage. Yet later this world become quite effable and rationally comprehensible to us. And when we leave it and enter immaterial states of existence, we are very much like the newborns again, experiencing the realities of total novelty and thus unable to comprehend them immediately. Yet such inability to analyse instantly does not mean the inability to analyse perpetually; the more we will explore realities beyond “material” the more we will be able to formulate intellectual knowledge of them, not just experiential one.
Titus, and what are your defenses of the rational approach to spiritual experience? Were the people who had undergone the veridical NDEs that you studied able to maintain their ability to think and comprehend?
Titus Rivas: Of course they were, because otherwise no coherent information could ever been recalled by them, and the contrary is true. Alexander Bathyanny carried out a study that indicates that many NDErs claim to have experienced better cognitive functioning during cardiac arrest than during their normal physical life.
More in general, I think that it is quite sterile from a scholarly point of view to just assume that some things are unknowable in principle. I don't doubt for a minute that the afterlife can only be known partially by us mortals on Earth, but this realistic assumption is very different from an absolute agnosticism. Let's just see how far we can go! Some aspects may be so different form earthly life that they hardly can be expressed in common human concepts, but others are so recognizable, such as the perception of events in the physical world, and meeting dead loved ones, that it is baseless to claim that we can't know them either.
Also, what is quite dangerous about this attitude is that can be used for religious movements that stress the importance of dogmatic doctrines about the supposedly totally ineffable character of the other side. We don't want to return to the ultimately irrational, suffocating dogmatism of (much of) the Middle Ages and we want to use reason to reach at least some valuable insights without depending on purported higher, infallible revelations et cetera.
Vortex: Now more philosophical question for you, Titus – now about differences in our philosophical outlook, rather than similarities.
In the realm of ontology, you are an interactive dualist. So, I want to ask: what about monistic idealism? For example, the interaction problem – the question how mind and matter can effectively interact if they are fundamentally ontologically different – seems to be as intractable and in the same time unavoidable for dualism as the hard problem of consciousness and explanatory gap are for materialism.
Another problem which is apparently equally inevitable both for materialism and dualism may be described as a problem of parsimony. It may be formulated as such: why should one postulate the presence of the whole “material universe” outside the mind – the universe which existence is perpetually outside empirical verification, since any empirical observation is itself a sensory-sensual experience within the mind, not the (hypothetical) “material universe” itself – and can only be accessed as a (debatable) intellectual inference?
Idealism is probably the only ontological position, which, while definitely far from being unproblematic (well, no position in the area of the philosophy of mind is unproblematic!), at least do not have to deal with the difficulties of such magnitude and persistence.
Titus, how do you deal with the problems of dualism which I outlined above, and why do you prefer it to idealism?
Titus Rivas: I do hold that monistic idealism is a tenable ontology, as long as it is not formulated in noetic monistic terms and thus recognizes the irreducible plurality of subjects or experients. The main reason I don't support ontological idealism, is a strong intuition that what we experience as a physical world also exists outside our consciousness. This intuition may be wrong, of course, but I would only let go of it, if someone proved logically that matter cannot really exist outside our minds, i.e. that the existence of matter as a substantial entity is a contradiction in terms. I don't like the popular ease with which spiritual thinkers often dismiss dualism and thereby matter, because it is not reconcilable with my own intuition.
Regarding theoretical parsimony: this is mainly an important principle if it does not clash with our deepest intuitions. If we want to judge an ontological theory only by its parsimony, we should conclude that only solipsism would do, meaning that I am the only experient in the universe, and that all others are dreamlike figments of my own imagination. In principle, this could be true, and it would certainly be more parsimonious than to assume that there are others endowed with consciousness just like me. However, this solipsism can't be reconciled with the basic intuition that others are just as real as myself.
The intuition that there is an irreducible material world is not as strong as the intuition that there are real others (not in my case anyway), but it is still too strong to sacrifice it to parsimony.
Concerning the problem of effective interaction between the ontologically different mind and brain or matter at large, this problem only exists if we assume a priori that real interaction cannot exist. Because what critics are really asking is a reduction of apparent interaction between two ontologically different entities, mind and matter, to causation within one and the same ontological domain. However, if dualistic interaction is real – and its reality depends of course on the irreducible existence of both kinds of entities – it can't, by definition, be reduced to anything else. Interaction would have to be an irreducible characteristic of a system of reality (or “world”) that orders entities in mutual causal relationships by specific natural laws. (Maybe such a system can only be imagined if we accept that some supernatural being, say a theistic or deistic god created it, but this is a different topic.)
By the way, although our minds are all in the same ontological category, each stream of consciousness belongs to just one specific substantial self or experient. This means that the interaction between minds (or telepathy) cannot be seen as just a special case of intrapsychical causation within one and the same mind. Somehow there must be basic irreducible natural laws of mind-to-mind or telepathic interaction that can't be reduced to the laws of psychology or physics. This will also hold if we assume that idealism is true. Unless of course we reject the existence of more than one self in reality, which I do not (See:
(continued below...)
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Controversial Cultural Consequences
Vortex: Thanks, Titus. Now I have a few more questions for both you and Rudolf.
What I intend to ask you about is the further social life of the people who had undergone an NDE, especially a veridical one. In the book, it is mentioned that former NDErs sometimes develop paranormal abilities. Why such increase of the potential is good personally, it may only deepen the problems with the social acceptance that the people who encounters the paranormal.
Rudolf, Titus – you had many contacts with, sometimes relations with, people who have to deal with the paranormal, either as researchers, or as experiencers, or both. So, I want you two to tell: how are such people accepted by society? How do ordinary people around react to their research interests and worldview positions, or to their extraordinary experiences and abilities (especially in the Netherlands, where you both live and work)? How do academicians react?
Rudolf Smit: from academics mostly indifference or straightforward rejection. Sometimes even hostile responses. As for non-academics, i.e. so-called ordinary people, more women seem interested than men. For the rest I concur with Titus’s findings.
Titus Rivas: People who have NDEs or other extraordinary or paranormal experiences are still being frowned upon by Western society. Not only that, they often feel that their experiences and the particular ways they are trying to interpret them are being rejected by scientists and medical doctors. This may give them feelings of loneliness, confusion and even depression .
Skeptical or rather pseudo-skeptical debunkers have always tried to refute any non-materialistic or physicalist explanation of extraordinary experiences. They have a strong tendency to distort the evidence, ridicule their opponents, and ignore anything that does not accord with their world view. Unfortunately, many experiencers are not prepared for aggressive skeptical campaigns and may even get insecure about their own views. I think the physicalist approach is irrational, very destructive, and totally uncalled for, given the evidence.
Vortex: Here is the last question for you, Rudolf and Titus.
People who deal with the afterlife-related areas of research and existence, such as NDEs, cannot but wonder what cultural impact would the acceptance of the post-mortem survival of consciousness – especially self-consciousness – would have. Many of them are afraid that the consequences of the mass acknowledgement of the immaterial continuation of personality would be not positive at all. Some are afraid that such knowledge will lead people to passivity and inactivity (why bother oneself with the life efforts when one will leave it for some other reality quite soon anyway?), or even to the wave of the suicides by the people who are dissatisfied with their current physical life and would rather like to try something beyond it. Others think that the results of this knowledge may also lead to the sharp increase of the homicides (it may be much easier to kill people if one knows that the death of their bodies will not completely and irreversibly eradicate them from existence, but rather send them to some other, immaterial dimension – even if involuntary so), as well as ruthlessness and recklessness in general.
Rudolf, Titus, do you think that such fears are justified or not? What do you think the consequences of the massive acceptance of the existence of the immaterial consciousness and its survival after bodily death would be?
Rudolf Smit: Indeed, such fears may be justified to some extent. I can even remember a science fiction story in the nineteen-sixties. In that story it was assumed that mankind had fully accepted the afterlife. One had even found ways to directly communicate with that realm. Guess what: in that society there was a special professional group… the assassins. You could hire them in case you wanted to step out of life. I cannot remember how the story developed, but it was not good…
Anyway, it seems that there is some truth in the contention often expressed by NDE’rs (and others) that we are here with a task and to learn. Then it seems not so outlandish to me that knowledge of a previous life better be excluded in order to start with a clean slate. And indeed, a knowledge that in the end one goes back to the better place and thus be liberated from suffering, may lead to passivity and, as you say, inactivity.
So perhaps that may be the main – innate – objection that many people have against the idea of an afterlife.
For the rest I agree with Titus that the knowledge inspired by the NDE often transforms people in a most positive way, thus leading them to be excellent citizens of their society.
Titus Rivas: Such fears may be realistic in exceptional cases, but not for mankind as a whole. Especially if the evidence for survival and related topics is combined with a positive world view and philosophy of earthly life. Experiences such as NDEs and pre-existence memories strongly suggest that life makes a lot more sense and is much more meaningful than some would think, starting from physicalism. We are here for a purpose, and values like compassion and self-compassion should be central to our existence. This would generally lead to a huge progress in psychological health and a higher quality in personal relationships, and help to create a much kinder, more hopeful and constructive society. Kelly Walsh and Penny Sartori published an important book about these issues, The Transformative Power of Near-Death Experiences (, and before them, a similar work was written by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser-Valarino, Lessons from the Light ( For me, these really show that we have a lot to gain from corrected insights about the afterlife and very little to fear.
Vortex: Thank you for replies, people – and for whole interview you gave. It was a wonderful trialogue.
Now, dear Psience Quest members, it is up to you to question and debate what we three have written here…
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An excellent and informative trialogue; thanks very much to all three of you for your efforts.
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Thank you, Laird!

And now we are waiting for all sorts of questions and comments...

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(02-10-2018, 01:47 PM)Smithy Wrote: And now we are waiting for all sorts of questions and comments...

In that case, let me kick things off with a few of my own!

To Vortex: You continue to do this forum such a great service by arranging and conducting interviews such as these, and by bringing such a wealth of knowledge of the issues that you are able to construct interview questions that whilst covering all bases are at the same time more than superficial. What background do you have in the subject matter of this interview in particular that allows you to achieve this?

To Smithy: Titus has been queried regarding his perspective on the mind-body question, and has explained that even though he thinks idealism is tenable, he nevertheless identifies as an interactionist dualist. What is your own perspective, and why (and how firmly) do you hold it? How relevant, generally, do you think that your perspective on the mind-body question is to your research in NDEs?

To Titus: It continues to delight me just how much I agree with your views and with the arguments that you make for them. Take, for example, your response to Vortex's question about selfhood (truncated for the sake of brevity):

(02-09-2018, 05:11 PM)Vortex quoting Titus Wrote: If we accept that there really are subjective or, with a more technical word, “phenomenal” experiences, we must also accept that there is a subject or experient  who is undergoing them. Following this reasoning, there can be no consciousness, no subjective experiences, without a conscious subject.

Correspondents of mine have in the past argued that certain mystical, "nondual" experiences that they have had during which their self "dissolved" prove that, ultimately, the self is just an illusion. The obvious rejoinder to me is: the very fact that you continued to experience something (which, indeed, you recollect!), even if that experience was "nondual", proves that you nevertheless retained your self, because experience is predicated upon an experiencer.

How do you deal with it when people deny the obvious in ways such as this - especially in philosophical matters, but also, potentially (if you care to comment), in areas such as NDE research? Do you think that it is worth trying to untangle a perhaps semantic confusion, or to continue to present your argument in ways that they might better understand, or to simply "walk away" or "agree to disagree"?
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(02-09-2018, 05:14 PM)Vortex Wrote:
Rudolf Smit: from academics mostly indifference or straightforward rejection. Sometimes even hostile responses. As for non-academics, i.e. so-called ordinary people, more women seem interested than men. For the rest I concur with Titus’s findings.
Titus Rivas: People who have NDEs or other extraordinary or paranormal experiences are still being frowned upon by Western society. Not only that, they often feel that their experiences and the particular ways they are trying to interpret them are being rejected by scientists and medical doctors. This may give them feelings of loneliness, confusion and even depression .
Skeptical or rather pseudo-skeptical debunkers have always tried to refute any non-materialistic or physicalist explanation of extraordinary experiences. They have a strong tendency to distort the evidence, ridicule their opponents, and ignore anything that does not accord with their world view. Unfortunately, many experiencers are not prepared for aggressive skeptical campaigns and may even get insecure about their own views. I think the physicalist approach is irrational, very destructive, and totally uncalled for, given the evidence.

I'm interested to know if and when researchers such as yourselves feel a little skeptical, at least about some cases rather than others. I imagine that, after intensive study of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of cases, you must begin to get a feel for the sincere and also for the, shall we say, embellished?

For myself, a couple of the most convincing were Pam Reynolds and Anita Moorjani while one that gives me an uneasy gut feel is Eben Alexander. It is difficult to pin down why - perhaps it is my natural suspicion of commercial promotion and there seemed to be a lot of that in Alexander's case. I also have a problem with books touting religious confirmation - usually with publishers insisting on the word Heaven in the title. My understanding suggests that NDEs are mostly religiously neutral, certainly not confirmations of any particular religious teaching.
"I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” ― C.G. Jung
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(02-10-2018, 06:52 PM)Kamarling Wrote: Anita Moorjani

I just read about her NDE, and it was an excellent example, to say the least, especially the part about her tumours healing. Smile
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
~ Carl Jung

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