Ecstatic Seizures and NDEs

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Seeing God in the Third Millennium

Besides an interesting NDE I hadn't read about before (from a neuroscientist, no less), this article compares rare but documented cases of euphoria during epilepsy with other experiences. I've run across this before - from Keith Augustine, who even quotes the same line by Dostoevsky. IIRC, Augustine went further, citing instances where epileptic fits produces visual hallucinations, including of dead loved ones.

I've been re-reading exchanges by Augustine and his critics over the past few days (long story short, death's been on the brain lately); not surprisingly, the strongest rebuttals come from researchers in the field, not journalists/bloggers/message board posters on the sidelines. But I haven't (yet) found or recalled any addressing of that particular point. I would be surprised if there isn't one, if for no other reason than that Peter Fenwick is known for his work with epilepsy. If anyone has such a resource, I'd appreciate it being passed along.

EDIT: PDFs to No. 4 of Volume 25 and Nos. 2 and 3 of Volume 26 of the Journal of Near-Death Studies would be appreciated; I have a copy of Volume 26 No. 1.
(This post was last modified: 2019-01-19, 01:03 AM by Will.)
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It used to be that issues of the JNDS that were more than 10 years old (I think it may even have been 5*) were 8$ rather than 16$, but now it looks like you have to go further back than 10 years to get the 8$ price tag (the separation point is Fall 2006). Maybe IANDS haven't updated those pages. If 8$ is affordable and worth it to you, it may be worth writing them and asking them if those issues are really 16 rather than 8.

*EDIT: I feel 90% sure that until a few years ago, it was 5, not 10. I know because I have a few issues missing from 2009 and 2010 and was waiting for the 5-year mark to be reached (and having the money and intention to buy them - I've been postponing it but now I see they're still 16$ as of right now, officially.)
(This post was last modified: 2019-01-19, 07:32 PM by Ninshub.)
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  • Will
(2019-01-19, 12:41 AM)Will Wrote: Seeing God in the Third Millennium

Besides an interesting NDE I hadn't read about before (from a neuroscientist, no less), this article compares rare but documented cases of euphoria during epilepsy with other experiences. I've run across this before - from Keith Augustine, who even quotes the same line by Dostoevsky. IIRC, Augustine went further, citing instances where epileptic fits produces visual hallucinations, including of dead loved ones.

I've been re-reading exchanges by Augustine and his critics over the past few days (long story short, death's been on the brain lately); not surprisingly, the strongest rebuttals come from researchers in the field, not journalists/bloggers/message board posters on the sidelines. But I haven't (yet) found or recalled any addressing of that particular point. I would be surprised if there isn't one, if for no other reason than that Peter Fenwick is known for his work with epilepsy. If anyone has such a resource, I'd appreciate it being passed along.

EDIT: PDFs to No. 4 of Volume 25 and Nos. 2 and 3 of Volume 26 of the Journal of Near-Death Studies would be appreciated; I have a copy of Volume 26 No. 1.

I'm always curious as to why anyone would pay much attention to Keith Augustine's arguments but I guess if you want to go back to the beginning of NDE research and start again, fair enough. Ernst Rodin (now deceased) was an expert in this area (epilepsy) and in the paper below he sets out his thoughts on the matter.  

https://www.newdualism.org/nde-papers/Ro...55-259.pdf

"The essence of the manuscript under discussion is that the authors are impressed with the similarity between NDE reports and temporal lobe seizure symptomatology. There are, however, several points the epileptologist needs to address lest the non specialist reader accept the model as closely resembling the truth of the situation. The hallmarks and nuclear components of NDEs are a sensation of peace or even bliss, the knowledge of having died, and, as a result, being no longer limited by the physical body. In spite of having seen hundreds of patients with temporal lobe seizures during three decades of professional life, I have never come across that symptomatology as part of a seizure."

The cutting edge research into NDE's has moved on into cardiac arrest where there is no brain function after 10-20 seconds. That's about it, really.
(This post was last modified: 2019-01-19, 06:07 PM by tim.)
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Thank you for the link; it was very helpful.

Re. Augustine - based on past conversations I've read here, you aren't likely to be sympathetic to this, but: on survival, as with all of parapsychology, I am an agnostic, and a good agnostic (or at least one occasionally seized by episodes of intense obsession bordering on the unhealthy for certain topics) will give any opinion its due. I find Augustine every bit as ideologically rigid as someone like Kevin Williams, and considerably more rigid and dogmatic than several of the more prominent NDE researchers. I find several flaws in his critiques, from seriously mis-reading certain NDE reports to dismissing inconvenient evidence for his argument on flimsy pretexts.

However, these flaws, and his general tone, do not make all of his critiques invalid. Unlike many who produce skeptical commentary on parapsychology, he has at least gone through the literature - certainly in greater detail than I have (if not always carefully; see above complaint) - and his writing is detailed. If there are states of consciousness with clear physiological explanations comparable to NDEs, that should be noted and considered, even if the comparison is ultimately tenuous. (For that matter, variation in NDEs reflecting cultural expectations; and NDEs which contain living persons, celebrities, fictional characters, or false prophecies may be rare, but they are a problem for jumping to a survivalist interpretation.)
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(2019-01-20, 12:49 AM)Will Wrote: Thank you for the link; it was very helpful.

Re. Augustine - based on past conversations I've read here, you aren't likely to be sympathetic to this, but: on survival, as with all of parapsychology, I am an agnostic, and a good agnostic (or at least one occasionally seized by episodes of intense obsession bordering on the unhealthy for certain topics) will give any opinion its due. I find Augustine every bit as ideologically rigid as someone like Kevin Williams, and considerably more rigid and dogmatic than several of the more prominent NDE researchers. I find several flaws in his critiques, from seriously mis-reading certain NDE reports to dismissing inconvenient evidence for his argument on flimsy pretexts.

However, these flaws, and his general tone, do not make all of his critiques invalid. Unlike many who produce skeptical commentary on parapsychology, he has at least gone through the literature - certainly in greater detail than I have (if not always carefully; see above complaint) - and his writing is detailed. If there are states of consciousness with clear physiological explanations comparable to NDEs, that should be noted and considered, even if the comparison is ultimately tenuous. (For that matter, variation in NDEs reflecting cultural expectations; and NDEs which contain living persons, celebrities, fictional characters, or false prophecies may be rare, but they are a problem for jumping to a survivalist interpretation.)

No worries, Will, thank you for that well written reply. Perfectly fine to be agnostic about the cause of near death experiences.
I'm very familiar with Keith's arguments, focussing on minor inconsistencies in the main and tending to ignore the much more important uncomfortable data (for neuroscience) such as conscious mental activity occurring without brain function.

I'll just give you a little snippet of Keith's behaviour. I've posted this before but you may not have seen it. In the book "The Self does not die", (Rivas and Smit) the facts about the Pam Reynolds case, direct from the surgeons who conducted the operation, are presented. I assisted with sorting through that case and Pam was under burst suppression (consciousness not possible) when she heard the conversation about her arteries being too small for cannulation etc etc. Fact.  

I emailed Keith and told him. His reply was that he doesn't just accept what doctors say (Spetzler and Greene who conducted the operation) and that was it. He does however accept what militant atheist debunker Gerry Woerlee says about the case, that she had anaesthesia awareness. How's that for sound scepticism ? Wink 
Gerry Woerlee  (it must be said) is a very accomplished physician, but his materialist dogma is so important to him that he refuses to accept facts about various cases (he simply denies them) and that is not being a good sceptic as is the case with Augustine.

Furthermore, it doesn't matter about the few anomalies that occur, such as somebody seeing Elvis in the light or meeting a living relative etc...they are diversions from the main event. The important question is... can consciousness be separate from the brain ? That question will be answered once and for all.
(This post was last modified: 2019-01-20, 02:14 PM by tim.)
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(2019-01-20, 02:06 PM)tim Wrote: No worries, Will, thank you for that well written reply. Perfectly fine to be agnostic about the cause of near death experiences.
I'm very familiar with Keith's arguments, focussing on minor inconsistencies in the main and tending to ignore the much more important uncomfortable data (for neuroscience) such as conscious mental activity occurring without brain function.

I'll just give you a little snippet of Keith's behaviour. I've posted this before but you may not have seen it. In the book "The Self does not die", (Rivas and Smit) the facts about the Pam Reynolds case, direct from the surgeons who conducted the operation, are presented. I assisted with sorting through that case and Pam was under burst suppression (consciousness not possible) when she heard the conversation about her arteries being too small for cannulation etc etc. Fact.  

I emailed Keith and told him. His reply was that he doesn't just accept what doctors say (Spetzler and Greene who conducted the operation) and that was it. He does however accept what militant atheist debunker Gerry Woerlee says about the case, that she had anaesthesia awareness. How's that for sound scepticism ? Wink 
Gerry Woerlee  (it must be said) is a very accomplished physician, but his materialist dogma is so important to him that he refuses to accept facts about various cases (he simply denies them) and that is not being a good sceptic as is the case with Augustine.

Furthermore, it doesn't matter about the few anomalies that occur, such as somebody seeing Elvis in the light or meeting a living relative etc...they are diversions from the main event. The important question is... can consciousness be separate from the brain ? That question will be answered once and for all.

I did see that exchange. And I remember that Augustine and Woerlee have speculated on all the things Reynolds might have been told about her operation prior to it. I find it frustrating that they, and other skeptics - and Sabom and other NDE researchers - have not, to my knowledge, just asked the surgery team some simple questions: "was Pam told prior to surgery how her head would be shaved? Was she shown or described anything about the saw used? When she first regained consciousness, were the hair shaving pattern and/or saw immediately present and observable? Did you and/or her attending nurses believe that Pam had experienced anesthesia awareness, and did you act accordingly under that assumption?"

If these questions are addressed in that book, that would be good to know. And it would be good if future NDE researchers - and skeptics - actively sought answers to such points as soon as possible, instead of not "accepting what doctors say."

But I'm afraid it does matter that anomalies are present, if only as a problem for a given model of NDEs that must be resolved. A survivalist and a physicalist could both explain the presence of Elvis through similar logic: because meeting Elvis was presumably important to that woman's life, it makes sense that he was present in her NDE, either because the encounter was significant enough that he was an appropriate person to lead her to the afterlife, or because he was a figure she would expect to see in that situation and imagined him being present. (A third option is that, under any interpretation of NDEs, if you or I could see what she saw, we would conclude that the figure wasn't Elvis at all, but was taken as such by the woman. But I'm taking these reports at face value here.)

Off the top of my head, most encounters with living persons in NDEs come either from observations of the surroundings, visions of living persons at a distance, or as incentives to "return." Again, survivalists and physicalists could both explain this one; either the NDEr is observing these living people in an incorporeal state and/or recalls them vividly as reasons not to pass on, or the NDEr generates images of living persons because they are familiar, and provide incentive to fight back death. Either way, there's some logic that can be discerned. (One of Augustine's more annoying mis-readings was of an NDE where a dead person waited at the end of the tunnel, and a living person waited at the other end - that is to say, where the NDEr was coming from - but Augustine objected to a living person being the one beckoning someone toward the light.)

The encounter with Einstein is more of a problem for me. Again, taking it at face value, that account reads as a rather cilched, even cartoony depiction of scientists in the afterlife, not unlike what you'd see on The Simpsons. There isn't any obvious reason why that man should have seen Einstein or any famous person in a glimpse of the afterlife, but there is reason to think a person with only a passing knowledge of science in operation would imagine such a scene when picturing smart people in the afterlife continuing to work. Similar concerns remain for those few NDEs with fictional characters and false prophecies.

But, as you say, the real question is whether consciousness can be independent of the brain, and on that score, I remain an agnostic, by turns swayed and baffled by various arguments on both sides.
(2019-01-21, 12:04 AM)Will Wrote: I did see that exchange. And I remember that Augustine and Woerlee have speculated on all the things Reynolds might have been told about her operation prior to it. I find it frustrating that they, and other skeptics - and Sabom and other NDE researchers - have not, to my knowledge, just asked the surgery team some simple questions: "was Pam told prior to surgery how her head would be shaved? Was she shown or described anything about the saw used? When she first regained consciousness, were the hair shaving pattern and/or saw immediately present and observable? Did you and/or her attending nurses believe that Pam had experienced anesthesia awareness, and did you act accordingly under that assumption?"

If these questions are addressed in that book, that would be good to know. And it would be good if future NDE researchers - and skeptics - actively sought answers to such points as soon as possible, instead of not "accepting what doctors say."

But I'm afraid it does matter that anomalies are present, if only as a problem for a given model of NDEs that must be resolved. A survivalist and a physicalist could both explain the presence of Elvis through similar logic: because meeting Elvis was presumably important to that woman's life, it makes sense that he was present in her NDE, either because the encounter was significant enough that he was an appropriate person to lead her to the afterlife, or because he was a figure she would expect to see in that situation and imagined him being present. (A third option is that, under any interpretation of NDEs, if you or I could see what she saw, we would conclude that the figure wasn't Elvis at all, but was taken as such by the woman. But I'm taking these reports at face value here.)

Off the top of my head, most encounters with living persons in NDEs come either from observations of the surroundings, visions of living persons at a distance, or as incentives to "return." Again, survivalists and physicalists could both explain this one; either the NDEr is observing these living people in an incorporeal state and/or recalls them vividly as reasons not to pass on, or the NDEr generates images of living persons because they are familiar, and provide incentive to fight back death. Either way, there's some logic that can be discerned. (One of Augustine's more annoying mis-readings was of an NDE where a dead person waited at the end of the tunnel, and a living person waited at the other end - that is to say, where the NDEr was coming from - but Augustine objected to a living person being the one beckoning someone toward the light.)

The encounter with Einstein is more of a problem for me. Again, taking it at face value, that account reads as a rather cilched, even cartoony depiction of scientists in the afterlife, not unlike what you'd see on The Simpsons. There isn't any obvious reason why that man should have seen Einstein or any famous person in a glimpse of the afterlife, but there is reason to think a person with only a passing knowledge of science in operation would imagine such a scene when picturing smart people in the afterlife continuing to work. Similar concerns remain for those few NDEs with fictional characters and false prophecies.

But, as you say, the real question is whether consciousness can be independent of the brain, and on that score, I remain an agnostic, by turns swayed and baffled by various arguments on both sides.

Will, this just shows how effective misinformation and propaganda become on the net. All the (true) facts about this case  support the view of proponents but the debunkers have clearly got to you.

No, she was not told how her hair was going to be shaved; she expected them to take all of it off but they didn't. No, she was not shown the bone saw before the operation, nor was she given a guided tour...that would be ridiculous (she said)…"I would have chickened out."

She did not experience anaesthesia awareness. It's apparently impossible with an operation like this because of the massive amounts of barbiturates (they) she was given to prevent such a calamitous situation. She was not under general anaesthesia as Woerlee keeps asserting, she was under burst suppression (when the saw was being used on her) a condition where consciousness is not possible. Spetzler has told us this, so has Karl Greene, it's detailed meticulously and comprehensively in Rivas and Smit's book.    

To set this all out for you against what the debunkers would have you believe would take too long and to be honest, I just can't be bothered anymore. Woerlee used to find this amusing BTW (we had hundreds of email exchanges)...he knew very well that mud sticks. What a shame it is when dishonesty trumps the truth.
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(2019-01-21, 03:34 PM)Max_B Wrote: I spoke to a researcher in the field of epilepsy, following Borgijin’s iEEG study of cardiac arrest in rodents. He seemed to feel the spreading coherence that Borgijin had measured at 15 seconds into CA, was rather like the spreading depressions he studied in Epileptic subjects, who had OBE, euphoric NDE-like experiences. His main reason for resisting Borjigins results and conclusions was really against the idea of dualism.

Although I don’t see any reason to invoke dualism, we just don’t know how sensitive the brains networks might be to external fields in an energy starved state. Borjigins is the first (and probably the last) detailed iEGG study of the brain state during cardiac arrest. But she didn’t shield the rodents from magnetic fields. Indeed she terminated my email conversation because she thought it was a rediculous suggestion that doing so could have made any difference to her results. But more recently we have found in behavioural studies, that rodents do display robust behavioural changes when they are completely shielded from light, and both electrical and magnetic fields (hypo-magnetic) inside mu-metal chambers.

Borjigins iEEG measurements strongly resembled the measurements researchers obtained in studies of wakeful primates and humans which were undertaking a visual task. I firmly believe Borjigin may have stumbled across the very evidence that would be needed to show that brain networks in an energy starved state, may be exquisitely sensitive to compatible external fields within which they are embedded. Temporarily allowing them to become entrained by compatible external fields.

I'm afraid you lost me a little. Was the researcher rejecting Borjigins' results because he felt they implied dualism, or because he felt they refuted it?
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