Monday, May 30, 2022

Reincarmation theories: Fenwick excerpt #15

Dr Fenwick: How might information be preserved between lives in reincarnation?

Psychologist Jeffery Martin has suggested that every human consists of two domains:

Domain 1 consists of our physical attributes, body, genetic profile, and the filters in the brain which are constructed by the experiences of the individual and so are different for everyone but the same in that they limit in some way the expression of the transcendent nature of the individual.

Domain 2 is a transcendent realm, containing consciousness – perhaps more easily thought of and described as awareness. Awareness can be seen as the prime generator in the universe, giving rise in its widest state to love, light, and the experience of bliss (Martin, 2019).

Awareness is understood to be the driving and creative force of the universe, which structures every moment, and has an evolutionary thrust leading to the development of the physical realm (Martin, 2019). The experience of awareness is limited by the restriction of the experiential filters constructed by the brain.

Domain 2 exists in no space, no time and thus is unknowable to the physical realm but can be made manifest and thus available to the physical brain, see chapters 7-8 in (Martin, 2019).

There are now so many of these cases that one has to accept that a memory of what happens in one life can be reproduced in a subsequent life. If such memory does exist then it is supported by people who die and live again following an ADE.

As both brain and body decay after death and a reincarnated body has no close genetic relationship to the previous one, it would not be possible, with our current science, for this to affect the genetics of a child, e.g., birthmarks on a child who is born with the stigmata of a person who has died. A non-physical component to the body must be postulated if information from a dead person is later to affect the genetic profile of the reincarnated person.

This presupposes the carryover of information in some way from one life to the next. One possibility is that at death the memory component of a life goes into an area of the universe which has no space and no time. When the very wide experience is called back from no space, no time, it will be reinterpreted by the filters in the growing child and thus will be similar though not identical to those of the original person.

It is unlikely that the space into which memory goes can be determined by classical physics, or we would already have had hypotheses to explain it. It is thus reasonable to assume that these are quantum mechanical spaces which have no space and no time (Wheeler, 1990).

A Hilbert space must be a candidate, and I would ask physicist Dr Vasileios Basios to take the witness stand and briefly explain what that is:  


Dr Vasileos Basios

Hilbert spaces express the basic tenets of all quantum theories and quantum field theories and transcend the wave-particle duality. They are extensions of the classical concept of vector spaces which themselves generalize, by abstraction, spatio-temporal relations such as distance, direction, and angle. Yet, Hilbert spaces are spaces of functions, relations, operations, and operators beyond space & time. Not only do they describe all quantum phenomena but also express the quantum logic that underlies them, as well as the axioms of modern quantum information & quantum communication theories. Moreover, it recently became clear that they constitute the foundation of treating, from first principles, quantum theory as a purely informational theory (D’Ariano, 2017).

It would be reasonable to argue that ‘awareness’ is a transport operator or ‘projector’, and since it is linked to consciousness it would be able to transfer information back and forth from the space.

Dr Fenwick Resumes:

To understand awareness and the mechanism of perception we must first discuss non-duality. In the ordinary everyday world, people are fixed in subject/object consciousness (dual consciousness or awareness). Information from the outside world is analyzed by the brain and then projected back into the outside world. So we experience the outside world with an internal perceiver. However, in non-duality the structures relating to the perceiver vanish and thus the outside world becomes just one thing with the inside world. There is no perceiver looking out, just experience of the present moment.

Current science is our religion, and it has no explanation for, and therefore no belief in, any of the phenomena described in this article. And like the followers of any religion, most of us find it easier to believe than to observe. But if we do observe, and try to do so objectively and honestly, a new belief system will eventually begin to evolve.

What science can do, despite its limitations, is to look at the personal experiences that have formed the basis of many people’s belief in reincarnation. It can assess the quality of the evidence that they have indeed lived a past life and it can see how far the phenomenon of past-life memories can itself be explained within a scientific framework. If there are phenomena which can’t be explained within a scientific framework then we must decide whether to ignore the many and varied accounts of them we have been given, or to acknowledge that our science is incomplete. 



“To Be And Not To Be. This is The Answer: Consciousness Survives,” essay for the 2021 Bigelow essay contest submitted by Dr Peter Fenwick & Dr Pier-Francesco Moretti, Dr Vasileios Basios, and Martin Redfern. The complete essay with footnotes is available at

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Past life memories: Fenwick excerpt #14

Professor Erlandur Haraldsson, of the University of Iceland, studied the personalities of 30 Sri Lankan children who claimed past-life memories. Although he was only able to verify a few of these cases, his main aim was to try to identify common characteristics in children who had these memories. Did they show a tendency to dissociate – and how did they get along with their parents? If they did not, then the child might have a good reason for feeling he actually belonged to somebody else.

What he did find was that the children who had past-life memories were usually very bright and mature for their age. They had greater verbal skills, better memory and were more serious, less likely to fool around in school. If one assumes that past-life memories are quite common in early childhood, but are quickly forgotten, then perhaps it is only the early talkers who could speak about them before they vanished completely. But he found no evidence that such children were socially isolated, suggestible, had a tendency to dissociate or had relationship problems within the family - in fact that they were no more likely to create this fantasy world than any other children.

These are the most common features of a previous life:

·   They died a violent death, often related to a phobia in their present life. Of 52 reincarnated children who had died by drowning, 42 had a fear of water (Stevenson, 1990)

·   There are birthmarks which correspond to an injury at the time of death in the previous life e.g., bullet wounds, or reproduction of injuries e.g., missing fingers. It has also been suggested that previous lives might be a factor that contributes to the development of human personality.

·   Nightmares related to the previous life are common.

·   The time most frequently seen (mode) between death and rebirth is estimated to be about four and a half years. But the mean is much longer, in the teens.

·    After a few years the child starts discussing their previous life and attempts are then made to verify what they say. In some of these cases correspondence is remarkably high.

·   Most children lose their past-life memories by the age of 6.

·   Ian Stevenson noted that many children appear to be in a partial trance when they talk about their previous lives (Stevenson, 2001).

·   Some people, even as adults, have inexplicable feelings of déjà vu when they find themselves in certain places or situations.

Roger Woolger was one of the first doctors to practice regression therapy. He did this not because he was trying to prove reincarnation, (though he gave the impression he believed in it), but because it worked as a therapy. Belief was incidental to his work as a therapist, which involved using stories that might or might not be true (Woolger, 2010).

Woolger found that one of the quickest ways to get people into past lives was to start from the idea that everyone has within them inner characters, secondary or sub-personalities, which appear in their dream life, and then to try to find one or two places in the world which either attracted or repelled them, and imagine they were living there in another lifetime.

Although he believed that between 10 and 30% of what came up was fantasy, he also believed that he could distinguish between a fantasy reconstruction and a genuine past life memory. Regression therapy seldom provided any evidence of reincarnation. A past life regression that is attempting to prove reincarnation would take quite a different form (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2001). The hypnotist would try to elicit as many details as possible – name, date, places, anything that could be checked, to see how well the past life story hung together, as in the following case:

Neil is a professional hypnotherapist who uses both past life and present life regressions to resolve problems. One day when he was working with a client she regressed to a past life in the 1920s and recounted very specific details of her life, including the name of her favorite aunt – Aunt Aggie. The client’s previous life ended in 1934. She was born in this life in 1946 so it seemed likely that some of her previous relatives were still around.

This lady had never been to England and yet she had given specific details of names and addresses in Burnley, Lancashire. After the session with the client present Neil telephoned directory enquiries and gave them the surname and address that she had relived. “I was given two telephone numbers for that name in that street in Burnley. One was identical to the house number that she said she had lived at. With the client’s permission Neil telephoned that number and asked for Aunt Aggie, to be told by the person who answered the phone that Aunt Aggie had died about five years ago. Neil said that his client was freaked out by this and understandably did not want to continue any further. He added that his client had no relatives in Burnley, in fact she had never heard of the place. (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2001)

Coincidence is really the only rational explanation, and yet the account would involve four coincidences – name, house number, street name and town. Is this really that much easier to believe than the idea that the client had somehow tuned into memories of a past life, whether her own or someone else’s?

Another case which illustrates very well the value that past life therapy can have is that of a young woman, Catherine who, for more than a year had been suffering from recurring nightmares and chronic anxiety attacks. When no traditional therapy seemed to help her, her psychiatrist, Dr. Brian Weiss, turned to hypnosis. This was something he had always been skeptical about, so he was astonished when Catherine began recalling past-life traumas which seemed to hold the key to her problems, and he lost his skepticism completely when she began to channel messages from 'the space between lives', which contained remarkable revelations about his own life (Weiss, 1994). 



“To Be And Not To Be. This is The Answer: Consciousness Survives,” essay for the 2021 Bigelow essay contest submitted by Dr Peter Fenwick & Dr Pier-Francesco Moretti, Dr Vasileios Basios, and Martin Redfern. The complete essay with footnotes is available at

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Reincarnation: Fenwick excerpt #13

Advocate for the Afterlife:

In this session we call on neuropsychiatrist Dr Peter Fenwick to resume the witness stand and provide evidence for reincarnation - those who have died being re-born in a new body.


Every culture has its own theory of survival. Plato believed the soul was immortal. Pythagoras is said to have taught reincarnation and Virgil introduced the idea of reincarnation in his account of the underworld in the Aeneid.

Hindus and Buddhists believe that Karma sets the moral tone for your next life. In Tibetan Buddhism, after the death of a spiritual leader, there is a search for his reincarnated soul.

Let's turn to documented evidence from more recent times. One of the clearest indicators of the survival of individual human consciousness after bodily death would be reincarnation. So what's the evidence?

Ian Stevenson

One of the first serious studies in this area was done by Ian Stevenson who collected over 2000 cases, mainly from India (Stevenson, 2001) but also from Europe (Stevenson, 2001). Jim Tucker collected many in the USA, and showed they occur as commonly in a Western culture as in India (Tucker, 2015).

From the age of only five or six, Alan Pring knew that he wanted to become a pilot. His chance came when he joined the RAF in WW2.

When I began flying in 1943 my instructor was convinced that I had piloted aircraft before. Just knew how to fly and every ‘new’ experience to which I was introduced in the air was already a memory. Similarly, the first time I encountered the smell of aircraft fabric dope I knew that I had experienced it previously, and it gave me the most peculiar sense of pleasure, as if it was associated with very happy memories. My love of flying has never faded but it is directed always in my memory towards biplanes. I feel that I flew with Sopwith Aircraft.” (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2001)

After the war Alan joined RAF Voluntary Reserve and one day six of them decided they would have a mock dogfight. Alan felt he had managed to climb to 9000 feet without being seen, spotted four of the planes at least 1000 feet below him and concentrated on searching for the fifth.

“Suddenly with an ominous sinking in my stomach I looked behind me. There, not five yards from my tail was the whirring propeller of the fifth plane. At that moment I experienced a horrendous feeling of doom....It was no longer a Tiger-Moth behind me but a Fokker triplane. I saw the two flashes of its machine guns and immediately felt terrible blows in my back and momentarily everything went black..... I was quite emotionally upset...not at losing the contest, but the conviction that it had all happened before and that I had been killed through carelessness and over-confidence in a dogfight in the First World War.” (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2001)

Many years after this experience Alan had a near-death experience which had a profound effect on him. It convinced him that it was impossible to die. Given this belief, he says, it would seem plausible, if not logical, that reincarnation is a possibility. (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2001)

Classically these past life memories start to emerge when the child is very young – around the age of two years - and are lost by the time they are six. These children usually also have repeated nightmares which relate to their previous life, often including an unnatural or violent death – murder, suicide, accident or combat. After a few years the child starts discussing their previous life and attempts are then made to verify what they say. In some of these cases correspondence is remarkably high. Often, the time between death and rebirth is only a few years, though in one of the strongest and most interesting cases, that of James Leininger, described below, it was over 50 years. But it included many statements that have been verified as accurately describing the life which is said to be reincarnated (Tucker, 2016).

In 2000, when James was 22 months old, his father took him to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Dallas. James was fascinated by the planes, particularly by the World War II exhibit, and by a video about the Navy's flight exhibition team. Soon after the trip he began repeatedly to say “airplane crash on fire,” and slamming his toy planes nose first into the family's coffee table. James's father travelled a lot, and when James and his mother saw him off at the airport, James would often say, “Daddy, airplane crash on fire.” He also began to have nightmares in which he would scream and eventually also say “Airplane crash on fire! Little man can't get out.”

His parents and Jim Tucker investigated this case and they came upon 12 close correspondences with the life and death of a WII pilot, James Huston, who had been a pilot in the American Airforce, whose plane took off from a boat named Natoma, and was shot down by the Japanese. The plane’s engine was hit, it was set on fire and crashed. Although James Leininger said that he was flying a Corsair, which frequently got flat tires, when he crashed, in fact Huston had been flying a different plane when he died, an FM- 2, but he had flown a Corsair earlier, which frequently got flat tyres in test flights. James also remembered the name of one of Huston’s friends, Jack Larsen, who had been on the aircraft carrier with him, and this too was verified (Tucker, 2015).

James’s recurrent nightmares and what appeared to be post- traumatic compulsive play of plane crashes appear very similar to those that children who have experienced trauma in their current life display, and they are often seen in children who report memories of previous lives.

It is difficult to dismiss this as fantasy, or say that the child James's statements matched Huston's life purely by chance. The specifics present in this case would seem to undermine that possibility, for example, knowing the unusual name Natoma for a ship that was indeed in the place he reported.

James had made all of the documented statements by the time he was four years old, so he could not have read about them. In any case no published materials about James Huston are known to exist. No television programs focusing on Natoma or James Huston appear to have been made either (Tucker, 2015).

Another interesting case is that of Ryan Hammons, born in Oklahoma in 2004. His speech development was delayed so he did not speak in full sentences until he was four, when he started talking about a past lifetime. He remembered being in his mother’s womb, and asked her why she had cried when she discovered he was a boy (which was true, though he could not have known about it). He said that he wanted to go home to Hollywood and visit his “other family,” and gave so many details of this life and family, that his mother began to investigate it herself, and eventually contacted Jim Tucker, who also investigated it. Ryan’s previous life was found to be as Marty Martyn, a Ukrainian Jew and unsuccessful actor (though he did manage to tap dance on Broadway). Ryan gave 55 verified details of his life. Martyn was known to be very fond of Chinese food. The first time Ryan was taken to a Chinese restaurant he picked up his chopsticks and used them quite naturally without having to be shown how. He also liked to tap- dance. He is said to be one of a few such children who seemed to have psychic abilities, able to predict things which were about to happen (Kean, 2018) (Tucker, 2015) (Haraldsson & Matlock, 2017)


“To Be And Not To Be. This is The Answer: Consciousness Survives,” essay for the 2021 Bigelow essay contest submitted by Dr Peter Fenwick & Dr Pier-Francesco Moretti, Dr Vasileios Basios, and Martin Redfern. The complete essay with footnotes is available at

Friday, May 27, 2022

Rational counter-arguments: Fenwick excerpt #12

Cross-examination of Dr. Fenwick by counsel representing skeptics

Q: One of the central beliefs of most religions is in some sort of afterlife. Scripture and belief are not counted as evidence for this trial, but could they count as evidence against survival? Most people naturally fear death and find it hard to imagine their narrative consciousness just ending. Religions have nurtured this fear with ideas of heaven and hell, thus encouraging hopes for an afterlife. So, as rational minds, should we not distrust ideas of an afterlife as products of indoctrinated fear?

Dr. Fenwick: These experiences do not map onto religious belief. They can happen with similar frequency to atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindu etc.

Q. Couldn't A/NDEs simply be like dreams - fantasies generated in the brain?

Dr. F. The similarity of these experiences makes this unlikely.

Q. A/NDEs have been very widely reported in popular books since the 1980s. Couldn't many now be being generated through hopes and expectations of those dying?

Dr. F. Following an early TV program about NDEs in 1989, before the phenomenon had had much publicity. I received over 400 letters about NDEs. They were from an English population who all maintained that at the time of their NDE they had not heard about them.

Q. Can't the tunnel, the light and even the feeling of Love be a result of brain processes starting to fail due to lack of oxygen?

Dr. F. There is no clear evidence that tunnels, light or love are generated by anoxia. For example, in obstructive sleep apnoea oxygen levels fall to below 60% and none of these phenomena occur .

Q. People say they have difficulty putting their ADE into words and a linear sequence. Could this not just be the recovering brain trying to make sense of the confusional blur of unconsciousness and not something actually experienced by those who do not recover?

Dr. F. The experiences of the ADE occur in a very clear sequence and are not a blur as they appear to occur in clear consciousness.

Q. This evidence for NDEs is based on anecdote. Clearly it's not ethical to conduct trials, but is there any quantitative evidence?

Dr. F. This is incorrect. A number of studies have collected multiple cases and analysed these according to a strict proforma for various components of the NDE. So although the data are subjective accounts, the analysis of this data shows objective quantification of the result.

Court Usher: The Court will adjourn.



“To Be And Not To Be. This is The Answer: Consciousness Survives,” essay for the 2021 Bigelow essay contest submitted by Dr Peter Fenwick & Dr Pier-Francesco Moretti, Dr Vasileios Basios, and Martin Redfern. The complete essay with footnotes is available at

Thursday, May 26, 2022

End of life experiences: Fenwick excerpt #11

In summary, The accounts we have of the mental processes of the dying can only give us a partial view, taking us up to the moment of death. The accounts given by those who return from an A/NDE [After Death Experience or Near Death Experience] have a higher definition and paradoxically seems to give a much clearer insight into the mental state of the dying as they start the journey. But despite these differences, the amazing similarity of accounts of the transcendent realm strongly supports the idea that there is one transcendent reality which, although accessed differently, is where the dying go.

It is surely illogical to think of end of life visions and actual death experiences as isolated, entirely unrelated events. It makes more sense to regard them as part of a continuum, or as different views of the same event – the dying process. It is easy to spot the similarities between them. Both give a glimpse of a transcendent realm suffused with love and light, and both seem to eliminate any fear of death. The presence of dead relatives who seem to be there for a purpose is common to both experiences - to take you on your journey, in the case of an end of life experience, or in an ADE, to send you back, with the message that it was not your time to go. The relatives are all healed of any injury like lost limbs and they never age.

There are obvious differences too. First, the feeling of being out of one’s body has not been reported in any of the end of life visions we have been told about, though it probably occurs in about a third of ADEs. Neither has anyone described a tunnel experience as part of an end of life vision. Instead, although the dying person sometimes describes being able to move into and out of another transcendent realm, only a movement towards rather than a real journey seems to be involved, just a feeling of going to and from with great ease. Perhaps it is the mental set of the dying which makes the tunnel experience less likely to occur. The dying often spend some time on the edge of consciousness, and at some level at least may know that death is approaching; they are embedded in a psychological matrix of ongoing, a journey to elsewhere, in which the process of leaving may be prolonged. In the A/NDE the movement into the experience – sometimes through a tunnel – and the return, usually described as a ‘snapping back into the body’ are very precise and abrupt events. There is a clear beginning and a clear end. But the end of life experience is a one way journey only, guided and supported by those you have loved.

How does this help with our understanding of life after death? The evidence we have would suggest that the domain after death has no location in physical space; subjective time is quite different, almost as if there is no time. But the domain is full of light and love. This would fulfill the concept of an entry into no time and no space but the memory of this area is always love and light.


“To Be And Not To Be. This is The Answer: Consciousness Survives,” essay for the 2021 Bigelow essay contest submitted by Dr Peter Fenwick & Dr Pier-Francesco Moretti, Dr Vasileios Basios, and Martin Redfern. The complete essay with footnotes is available at

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

End of life experiences: Fenwick excerpt #10

Further evidence to support the theory that consciousness can in some form continue after death has been found in studying what appears to happen to people as they approach death

Occasionally, someone may have a premonition of their own death some time before it occurs, though this is rare. But about 80-90% of people who are dying see a vision of someone they loved so real that the dying person looks at them as if at a fixed location in the room, may talk to them, try to shake hands, or may clearly feel that the visitor is sitting on the bed. Often the visitor tells the dying they will be back to collect them when it is time for them to go. Without exception these experiences are positive and reassuring for the person who is dying and occur independently of drugs, pathology, or any physiological factors affected by the dying process.

These deathbed visitors seem to come to reassure the dying that all will be well and that dying is only a transition to a continuation of being. In some cases they accompany the dying person into a new, spiritual area, full of love and light, where they may see spiritual figures and other dead relatives. Often the dying seem to travel into and out of this area, and they are given to understand that this is where they will be going when they die. Relatives who overhear the conversation nearly always describe it as rational and lucid. Below Marie Dowdall describes what she saw while with her dying uncle:

“My uncle served in the First World War and experienced the horrors of the Somme. He had led a group of men, returned with only three survivors was badly injured and was awarded the Military Cross. When he was dying of cancer, my mother cared for him at home. One evening we were sitting with him when suddenly he leaned forward and stared across the room. He became very animated and looked very happy as he began to talk to people he could obviously see but we couldn’t, calling them each by name and saying how wonderful it was to see them again. It became apparent that they were some of the men who had served with him at the Somme and died there. There was a look of wonderment on his face and he forgot his pain. I didn’t see him conscious again, and he died a couple of days later.” (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008).

The appearance of these visitors is often used by the palliative care team to comfort the dying and in one hospice in Canada the staff tell them about the possibility of deathbed visitors and encourage them to go with them if they are asked to do so.

Another very common experience reported by the dying is the transition in and out of another reality they describe as composed of light and love, and which they believe is their destination.

“My father was at my grandfather’s bedside, deeply distressed, but my grandfather quietly said to my father, “Don’t worry Leslie, I am all right, I can see and hear the most beautiful things and you must not worry.” And he quietly died, lucid to the end.” (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008).

Deathbed visitors are occasionally seen by relatives or palliative care staff who are with the dying person and more frequently (though still rarely), by children.

Monika Renz

Recent work by Dr. Monika Renz, a palliative care physician working in Switzerland on cohorts of patients dying of cancer, has characterized the final stages of the death process, with a transition into light and love very similar to the ADE (Renz et al., 2018).

1. The cleaning and giving up of attachments.

2. The gradual crumbling of the ego structures of the mind and the dawning of non-dual consciousness where everything becomes a unity.

3. The final stage, death, characterized by experiences of light and love and movement towards a more cosmic sense of mind.

Deathbed coincidences

Some of the best evidence for the continuity of consciousness is the phenomenon of deathbed coincidences, in which a dying person makes a farewell visit to someone emotionally close to them. Often this is during a dream, or when the person suddenly wakes with an overwhelming realization that something is wrong, or that someone was trying to contact them. (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008) found 66% of the visits described to them occurred either in dreams or on a sudden awakening from sleep.

Distance is no bar for these communications, and even being underwater can’t stop them. In October 1987 Terry Woods was serving in the Royal Navy on patrol as a Submariner:

Two days after diving I was asleep in bed and had a very real dream that my grandfather had "died". All of our family were waiting and I was the last one to arrive. When I arrived my grandfather picked up my nephew's bike and said "that's it, I'm off" and pedaled off and disappeared. I woke up the next morning and told my best friend that "I had a really weird dream that my grandad had died".

Whilst on patrol submariners are never told of any bad news, so it was three weeks later that Terry was told about his grandfather’s death at approximately 3.00am on the 18th October 1987, when he was fast asleep 200 feet under the Atlantic ocean (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008).

It is certainly not uncommon for people who are away from their families to have anxiety dreams about them, but Terry says the dream was very real and this, combined with the precise timing, adds weight to the idea that it was more likely to have been communication than coincidence.

The following coincidence was reported by an Australian mother whose son was a sailor. The transition to love and light is similar to the new reality described in the ADE.

I was suddenly awoken from sleep to feel something was wrong, then I saw a vision of my son (not a dream) walking slowly towards me. He was disheveled and dripping wet. As he got closer he slowly transformed and became surrounded by light. He then said “don’t worry mum I am ok” and slowly faded. I knew something had happened to him so I rang England the next morning to find he had been drowned in a sailing accident the night before (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008).

Sometimes coincidence is a reasonable and rational explanation for these events. But in many of these accounts, both the accuracy of the timing and the strength of the emotional response make it much harder to attribute them to ‘just coincidence’. That seems much less reasonable or rational than the alternative explanation – that there is somehow a genuine connection between the people involved and that this contact is driven by the person who is ill or dying.

This suggests that there is a state at death or just after death in which the person has some kind of existence in which their personal consciousness – their ‘mind’ - somehow persists independently of their brain. We can find further corroborative evidence for this in the study of actual death experiences.

Some of the accounts of these deathbed visits are particularly interesting as they show apparent communication between a dying person and someone who is close to them emotionally but geographically far away.

“Our friend Sarah told us how she had been living in Florence for several months when one day, on her way back to her pension from an art class, she had a sudden, overwhelming feeling that something was wrong with her father – who, as far as she knew, was perfectly well and healthy at home in America. The feeling was so powerful that she began to run, feeling that she must ring home immediately and find out if anything was wrong. When she reached the pension a phone message was waiting for her, telling her that her father had died after falling down the cellar steps and broken his neck.” (Peter Fenwick: Personal Communication)

These experiences are usually brief and while some, like Sarah’s, give rise to a sudden strong conviction that someone they love is very ill or has died, other people simply have a feeling of uneasiness for no apparent reason, as in the following account by Kathie Guthrie.

Sadly my brother was killed in a car crash some 20 years ago now. I had been at work intending to work till 5 o'clock. At 4.20pm I was so uneasy and began getting cross with myself I just packed up and went home despite really needing to stay at work for one reason or another. I found out at 2.30 am the next morning that my brother had been killed instantly by a drunk driver at 4.20pm.” (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008)

Kathie would probably not have given a second thought to her feeling of uneasiness had she not discovered the exact moment of her brother’s death. It is ambiguous experiences like this which reinforce the view that they cannot be dismissed as simply coincidences, even when the feelings experienced are inexplicable and out of character, and the timing approximately correct – indeed uncannily accurate in this particular case.

To determine whether an experiences is coincidence or fact we devised a rating scale and used it to rate 100 coincidences reported to us in response to newspaper articles and broadcasts. We found that the experiences were all within half an hour of death but most were at the time of death as recorded by the hospice.

Non-local phenomena around the time of Death

A number of inexplicable occurrences are often reported at or around the time of death, for example clocks stopping, light in the room, shapes seen leaving the body and domestic pets seeming disturbed. These features suggest that dying is a very special event which seems to cross the boundaries of both time and space. 



“To Be And Not To Be. This is The Answer: Consciousness Survives,” essay for the 2021 Bigelow essay contest submitted by Dr Peter Fenwick & Dr Pier-Francesco Moretti, Dr Vasileios Basios, and Martin Redfern. The complete essay with footnotes is available at

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Actual death experiences: Fenwick excerpt #9

Dr. Fenwick resumes the stand:

There can be no evidence clearer than the personal testament of someone who has died. Thanks to the success of medical interventions following cardiac arrest, many people do return from something that would have been classified as dead 50 years ago- a state in which the brain has ceased to function, the heart has stopped and the person is to all intents and purposes actually dead. And some report experiences (ADEs) which suggest the existence of another state of consciousness, unavailable in our normal everyday world.

What happens during a cardiac arrest

The international definition of death is: no respiration, no cardiac output and absent brain stem reflexes. This is the exact clinical state after a cardiac arrest. Simultaneous recording of heart rate and brain electrical activity show that within 11 seconds of the heart stopping, the brainwaves go flat. You are clinically dead.

Consciousness is lost in a matter of seconds when the heart stops and may not be regained until hours to days after it restarts.

Even if cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) begins straight away, blood pressure will not rise high enough to establish an adequate blood flow through the brain. Doine Stub and Graham Nichol found that only 7% of cardiac arrest patients survived and most had some evidence of brain damage; and the mental state during recovery is confusional (Stub & Nichol, 2012).

The flat EEG indicating no brain activity during cardiac arrest and the high incidence of brain damage afterwards both indicate that unconsciousness is total. The brain can’t create images, so it should be impossible to have clearly structured and lucid narrative experiences and because memory is not functioning, if experiences did occur they should not be remembered. The brain does not begin to function again until the heart restarts. So in theory it is impossible for anyone in this state to a) experience or b) remember anything that occurred during it. And if an experience occurred during the gradual return to consciousness it would be confusional, and not the clear, lucid story which is characteristic of actual death experiences.

However, to muddy the waters some studies have found that in patients who are being monitored and have begun the actual death process, there is a sudden recurrence of brain activity, containing faster frequencies which may last up to five minutes (Lang, 1989; Grigg et al., 1987). Materialists have jumped on this as the explanation for the ADE. But this is random cortical activity which does not integrate different areas of the brain, and certainly could not restore consciousness.

Conventional science cannot explain how an ADE could occur at any point during the death process, and there are special difficulties in accepting that it happens when the ADErs say it happens — during unconsciousness. However, about 10% of those who survive a cardiac arrest report an ADE .

It is very difficult to judge the exact timing of an ADE during a cardiac arrest. But two prospective studies were of people who had had cardiac arrests and were resuscitated in coronary care units, where their medical records show exactly what had happened; the patients had the same medication and resuscitation procedures and could be questioned as soon as they were well enough (van Lommel, 2011; Parnia et al., 2001).

Aim of the studies

To discover:

·       How many patients had an ADE;

·       Whether the ADE was similar to the traditional near death experience.

• Exactly when the experiences occurred – was it before or during unconsciousness, during or after recovery?

Of the 63 cardiac arrest survivors interviewed, 89% had no memories and about 10% reported ADEs, which they said had occurred while they were unconscious. These ADEs were, as was expected, very similar to those NDEs already reported in the literature. The authors also found that the ADEs were not due to medication, electrolytes, blood gases, religious belief or any other cultural factors.

Other research groups have found similar results. In a Dutch study of 344 cardiac arrest survivors, 41 (about 12%) reported ADEs (van Lommel, 2011). Their occurrence was not influenced by the duration of unconsciousness or cardiac arrest, or by medication but more ADEs were reported in the group of survivors who died shortly after their experience. In another study a higher rate of 23% was reported (Schwaninger et al., 2002) about 10% were found by Greyson, (2003) , while others (Sartori et al., 2006) report about 25%. What is clear is that actual death experiences do occur in association with cardiac arrest, and their contents are similar to those reported in the NDE literature.

No studies have so far been able to provide definitive scientific proof of when an ADE occurs. Parnia, with Fenwick and others (Parnia et al., 2001) found that the patients themselves felt that the experiences occurred during unconsciousness - important because, as discussed above, we have no idea how clear consciousness can be experienced during a period of clinical death with a flat EEG. This question is absolutely crucial to one of the biggest problems facing neuroscience: is consciousness entirely a product of brain function and is it confined to the brain? ADE research is perhaps the most promising way of filling the ‘consciousness gap’ in neuroscience. From the point of view of science, the ADE cannot occur during unconsciousness, and yet there is tantalizing evidence that that is just when they do occur.

The out-of-body evidence

About a third of ADEs are preceded by an out of body experience in which the experiencer says they leave the body and rise to the ceiling and can see the resuscitation taking place. Anecdotal evidence points to the OBE and therefore the ADE occurring during unconsciousness. Certain subjects even described their own resuscitation procedures accurately, suggesting that their ADE had occurred when the brain was ‘down’ (Sabom, 1982).

Dr. Penny Sartori studied a group of cardiac arrest survivors in a coronary care unit, several of whom said they had left their bodies and witnessed the resuscitation process. She compared their accounts of their resuscitation with those of another group of patients who had had no ADE during their resuscitation but were asked to describe what they thought had happened. It is usually argued that everyone sees so much resuscitation on TV that they know the procedure. Dr. Sartori was able to show convincingly that the patients who claimed to have seen their resuscitation, described it much more accurately than those who could only guess what had happened and who made significant errors (Sartori et al., 2006).

The case of Pamela Reynolds, described in the BBC’s documentary film “The Day I Died”, (Broome, 2002) is worth quoting at length because it seems so clear that even the most ardent debunkers have been unable to produce a satisfactory explanation for it.

Pamela had to undergo surgery to remove a cerebral aneurysm situated deep in the central structures of her brain. The operation was carried out in a specialized neurosurgery center under close medical monitoring during the entire operation. Her brain was cooled and EEG electrodes measured her brain activity. When the anesthesia had reached sufficient depth, the brain was known to be non-functioning. Pamela was clinically dead. Her circulation was taken over by a heart lung machine, the blood was emptied from her brain and the neurosurgeons removed the aneurysm. Then the heart was restarted, and the wound was closed.

After the operation Pamela made several observations about what she had ‘seen’ during it which were acknowledged by the medical team to be correct. The best skeptics have been able to come up with to rebut this was that it was a case of ‘anesthesia awareness’, which does indeed occur under some circumstances, but is impossible in cases such as this when the brain is emptied of blood and clinically dead. Far more significant is the following comment on the case, from the British Medical Journal.

“There is still much scientific work to be done before we can confidently suggest mind-body separation during the NDE. Dr Spritzer, the neurosurgeon who operated on Pam Reynolds, stated that he could not explain her NDE in the physiological state she was in, commenting 'I don’t want to be so arrogant to be able to say that there is no way it can happen'. Let us hope that all those engaged in NDE research can adopt a similar attitude.” (BMJ-editorial, 2003).


“To Be And Not To Be. This is The Answer: Consciousness Survives,” essay for the 2021 Bigelow essay contest submitted by Dr Peter Fenwick & Dr Pier-Francesco Moretti, Dr Vasileios Basios, and Martin Redfern. The complete essay with footnotes is available at

Gödel's reasons for an afterlife

Alexander T. Englert, “We'll meet again,” Aeon , Jan 2, 2024,