Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An NDE Just "No" Story

The weird angle was due to being turned to avoid pressure on a bedsore.
What is it that makes near-death "experiencers" reluctant to return to life? Is it really the peace of Heaven, or does it have something to do the state of the patient's hobbled brain?

As reported in Susan Blackmore's classic book, "Dying to Live," in a study of sixteen Indian NDErs conducted by Satwant Pasricha and Ian Stevenson, Indian NDEs more often involve cases of mistaken identity than the supposedly typical scenario of deceased family members or angels leading people willingly away. And they're more likely to fight or bargain their way out of the situation instead of deciding that they're still needed or they have unfinished business on earth. Oh, that's right, my kids still need me. Or, I never did go bungee jumping off the Grand Canyon. Okay, I'll go back, after all.

But in one case in the study, a man argued not about why he should return to life, but why he should remain. A pair of men had lead Chhajju Bania away, sitting him next to Yamraj, the Indian king of the dead. But a clerk looking in his book and says, "We don't need Chhajju Bania (trader). We had asked for Chhajju Umhar (potter)." [Don't you just hate when that happens?]. "Push him back and bring the other man. He has some life remaining." Chhajju Bania likes it there, apparently, and he asks to stay and do some work, but he's refused and pushed back into his body. Typical bureaucracy, leaving you to live your life just because of some stupid rules. Oh wait.

Not surprisingly, this has to do the particulars of Hindu mythology. No Jesus, no angels. I find it interesting, however, that he exhibited a reluctance to return. That's one commonality with Western spiritual NDEs, as well as my earthbound one. I have a speculation that's admittedly not based on any real evidence, which means it doesn't even rise to the level of a scientific hypothesis. Perhaps reluctance to return is the brain's way of explaining why it can't quite breech to veil of full consciousness. It's much the way my mind excused why I was letting the nurse's assistants turn me in bed. I could flip myself over if I wanted to, but it's so much easier to let them do it for me. In other words, it was just laziness. In my mind, they must've been turning me over to keep me from getting stiff, the reason I had always turned before. I didn't know it was to prevent bed sores.

In fact, even after my awakening, it was months before I was strong enough to turn myself. The human mind instinctively makes up stories to make sense of the inexplicable. Is the reluctance to return simply a Just So story, as well?

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.