Van Lommel's thesis is set forth in detail in the following excerpts from "About the Continuity of Our Consciousness", Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2004; 550: 115-132
… Near-death experiences (NDE) occur with increasing frequency because of improved survival rates resulting from modern techniques of resuscitation. The content of NDE and the effects on patients seem similar worldwide, across all cultures and times. NDE can be defined as the reported memory of the whole of impressions during a special state of consciousness, including a number of special elements such as out-of-body experience, pleasant feelings, seeing a tunnel, a light, deceased relatives, or a life review.
… in 1988 we started a prospective study of 344 consecutive survivors of cardiac arrest in ten Dutch hospitals with the aim of investigating the frequency, the cause and the content of an NDE. … Results: 62 patients (18%) reported some recollection of the time of clinical death. …Several theories have been proposed to explain NDE. ... With a purely physiological explanation such as cerebral anoxia, most patients who had been clinically dead should report an NDE. All 344 patients had been unconscious because of anoxia of the brain resulting from their cardiac arrest. Why should only 18% of the survivors of cardiac arrest report an NDE?
…So we have to conclude that NDE in our study, as well as in the American and the British study, was experienced during a transient functional loss of all functions of the cortex and of the brainstem. How could a clear consciousness outside one's body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death, with a flat EEG? Such a brain would be roughly analogous to a computer with its power source unplugged and its circuits detached. It couldn't hallucinate; it couldn't do anything at all. As stated before, up to the present it has generally been assumed that consciousness and memories are localized inside the brain, that the brain produces them. According to this unproven concept, consciousness and memories ought to vanish with physical death, and necessary also during clinical death or brain death. However, during an NDE patients experience the continuity of their consciousness with the possibility of perception outside and above one's lifeless body. Consciousness can be experienced in another dimension without our conventional body-linked concept of time and space, where all past, present and future events exist and can be observed simultaneously and instantaneously (non-locality). In the other dimension, one can be connected with the personal memories and fields of consciousness of oneself as well as others, including deceased relatives (universal interconnectedness). And the conscious return into one's body can be experienced, together with the feeling of bodily limitation, and also sometimes the awareness of the loss of universal wisdom and love they had experienced during their NDE.
…We have to conclude that localized artificial stimulation with real photons (electrical or magnetic energy) disturbs and inhibits the constantly changing electromagnetic fields of our neuronal networks, thereby influencing and inhibiting the normal functions of our brain. Could consciousness and memories be the product or the result of these constantly changing fields of photons? Could these photons be the elementary carriers of consciousness?
Some researchers try to create artificial intelligence by computer technology, hoping to simulate programs evoking consciousness. But Roger Penrose, a quantum physicist, argues that "Algorithmic computations cannot simulate mathematical reasoning. The brain, as a closed system capable of internal and consistent computations, is insufficient to elicit human consciousness." Penrose offers a quantum mechanical hypothesis to explain the relation between consciousness and the brain. And Simon Berkovitch, a professor in Computer Science of the George Washington University, has calculated that the brain has an absolutely inadequate capacity to produce and store all the informational processes of all our memories with associative thoughts. We would need 1024 operations per second, which is absolutely impossible for our neurons. Herms Romijn, a Dutch neurobiologist, comes to the same conclusion. One should conclude that the brain has not enough computing capacity to store all the memories with associative thoughts from one's life, has not enough retrieval abilities, and seems not to be able to elicit consciousness.
With our current medical and scientific concepts it seems impossible to explain all aspects of the subjective experiences as reported by patients with an NDE during their period of cardiac arrest, during a transient loss of all functions of the brain. But science, I believe, is the search for explaining new mysteries rather than the cataloguing of old facts and concepts. So it is a scientific challenge to discuss new hypotheses that could explain the reported interconnectedness with the consciousness of other persons and of deceased relatives, to explain the possibility to experience instantaneously and simultaneously (non-locality) a review and a preview of someone's life in a dimensionwithout our conventional body-linked concept of time and space, where all past, present and future events exist, and the possibility to have clear consciousness with memories from early childhood, with self-identity, with cognition, and with emotion, and the possibility of perception out and above one's lifeless body.
We should conclude, like many others, that quantum mechanical processes could have something critical to do with how consciousness and memories relate with the brain and the body during normal daily activities as well as during brain death or clinical death.
I would like now to discuss some aspects of quantum physics, because this seems necessary to understand my concept of the continuity of consciousness. Quantum physics has completely overturned the existing view of our material, manifest world, the so-called real-space. It tells us that particles can propagate like waves, and so can be described by a quantum mechanical wave function. It can be proven that light in some experiments behaves like particles (photons), and in other experiments it behaves like waves, and both experiments are true. So waves and particles are complementary aspects of light (Bohr). The experiment of Aspect, based on Bell's theorem, has established non-locality in quantum mechanics (non-local interconnectedness). Non-locality happens because all events are interrelated and influence each other.
Phase-space is an invisible, non-local, higher-dimensional space consisting of fields ofprobability, where every past and future event is available as a possibility.Within this phase-space no matter is present, everything belongs to uncertainty, and neither measurements nor observations are possible by physicists. The act of observation instantly changes a probability into an actuality by collapse of the wave function. Roger Penrose calls this resolution of multiple possibilities into one definitive state "objective reduction". So it seems that no observation is possible without fundamentally changing the observed subject; only subjectivity remains.
The phase-speed in this invisible and non-measurable phase-space varies from the speed of light to infinity, while the speed of particles in our manifest physical real-space varies from zero to the speed of light. At the speed of light, the speed of a particle and the speed of the wave are identical. But the slower the particle, the faster the wave-speed, and when the particle stops, the wave-speed is infinite. The phase-space generates events that can be located in our space-time continuum, the manifest world, or real-space. Everything visible emanates form the invisible.
According to Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, microtubules in neurons may process information generated by self-organizing patterns, giving rise to coherent states, and these states could be the explanation of the possibility of experiencing consciousness. Herms Romijn argues that the continuously changing electromagnetic fields of the neuronal networks, which can be considered as a biological quantum coherence phenomenon, possibly could be the elementary "carriers" of consciousness.
Quantum physics cannot explain the essence of consciousness or the secret of life, but in my concept it is helpful for understanding the transition between the fields of consciousness in the phase-space (to be compared with the probability fields as we know from quantum mechanics) and the body-linked waking consciousness in the real-space, because these are the two complementary aspects of consciousness. Our whole and undivided consciousness with declarative memories finds its origin in, and is stored in this phase-space, and the cortex only serves as a relay station for parts of our consciousness and parts of our memories to be received into our waking consciousness. In this concept consciousness is not physically rooted. This could be compared with the internet, which does not originate from the computer itself, but is only received by it.
Life createsthe transition from phase-space into our manifest real-space; according to our hypothesis life creates the possibility to receive the fields of consciousness (waves) into the waking consciousness which belongs to our physical body (particles). During life, our consciousness has an aspect of waves as well asofparticles, and there is a permanent interaction between these two aspects of consciousness. This concept is a complementary theory, like both the wave and particle aspects of light, and not a dualistic theory. Subjective (conscious) experiences and the corresponding objective physical properties are two fundamentally different manifestations of one and the same underlying deeper reality; they cannot be reduced to each other. The particle aspect, the physical aspect of consciousness in the material world, originates from the wave aspect of our consciousness from the phase-space by collapse of the wave function into particles ("objective reduction"), and can be measured by means of EEG, MEG, MRI, and PET scan. And different neuronal networks function as interface for different aspects of our consciousness, as can be demonstrated by changing images during these registrations of EEG, MRI or PET scan. The wave aspect of our indestructible consciousness in phase-space, with non-local interconnectedness, is inherently not measurable by physical means. When we die, our consciousness will no longer have an aspect of particles, but only an eternal aspect of waves.
With this new concept about consciousness and the mind-brain relation all reported elements of an NDE during cardiac arrest could be explained. This concept is also compatible with the non-local interconnectedness with fields of consciousness of other persons in phase-space. Following an NDE most people, often to their own amazement and confusion, experience an enhanced intuitive sensibility, like clairvoyance and clairaudience, or prognostic dreams, in which they "dream" about future events. In people with an NDE the functional receiving capacity seems to be permanently enhanced. When you compare this with a TV set, you receive not only Channel 1, the transmission of your personal consciousness, but simultaneously Channels 2, 3 and 4 with aspects of consciousness of others. This remote, non-local communication seems to have been demonstrated scientifically by positioning subject pairs in two separate Faraday chambers, which effectively rules out any electromagnetic transfer mechanism. A visual pattern-reversal stimulus is used to elicit visual evoked responses in the EEG registration of the stimulated subject, and this was instantaneously received by the non-stimulated subject resulting in an analogous neural event with a similar brain wave morphology, or transferred potentials, as revealed on the EEG.
How should we understand the interaction between our consciousness and ourfunctioning brain in our continuously changing body? As stated before, during our life the composition of our body changes continuously, as during each second 500,000 cells are being replaced in our body. What could be the basis of the continuity of our changing body? Cells and molecules are just the building blocks. In assessing all the theories mentioned above, it seems reasonable to consider the person-specific DNA in our cells as the place of resonance, or the interface across which a constant informational exchange takes place between our personal material body and the phase-space, where all fields of our personal consciousness are available as fields of possibility.
DNA is a molecule, composed of nucleotides, with a double helix structure. In humans it is organized into 23 pairs of chromosomes, defines 30,000 genes, and contains about 3 billion base pairs. About 95% of human DNA has a still unknown function, for which reason it is called "junk DNA," non-protein-coding DNA, or introns, and the 5% protein-coding called exons. The more complex a species is, the more introns it has. Simon Berkovich assumes that this "junk DNA" could have an identifying purpose, comparable to a kind of "barcode" functionality. According to his hypothesis DNA itself does not contain the hereditary material, but is capable of receiving hereditary information and memories from the past, as well as the morphogenetic information, which contains the way the body will be built with all its different cell systems with specialized functions. Person-specific DNA is in this model the receiver as well as the transmitter of our permanently evolving personal consciousness.
According to Erwin Schrödinger, a quantum physicist, DNA is an a-statistic molecule, and a-statistic processes are quantum mechanical processes which originate from phase-space. In his theory DNA should function as a quantum antenna with non-local communication, and also Stuart Hameroff considers DNA as a chain of quantum bits (qubits) with helical twist, and according to him DNA could function in a way analogous to superconductive quantum interference devices. In his quantum computer model the 3 billion base pairs should function as qubits with quantum superposition of simultaneously zero and one.
Following a heart transplant, the donor heart contains DNA material foreign to the recipient. In a few recent books it has been reported that sometimes the recipient experiences thoughts and feelings that are totally strange and new, and later it becomes obvious that they fit with the character and consciousness of the deceased donor. The DNA in the donor heart seems to give rise to fields of consciousness that are received by the organ recipient. Unfortunately, until now scientific research on this has not been possible due to the reluctance of the transplant centers.
In trying to understand this concept of quantum mechanical mutual interaction between the invisible phase-space and our visible, material body, it seems appropriate to compare it with modern worldwide communication. There is a continuous exchange of objective information by means of electromagnetic fields for radio, TV, mobile telephone, or laptop computer. We are unaware of the vast amounts of electromagnetic fields that constantly, day and night, exist around us and through us, as well as through structures like walls and buildings. We only become aware of these electromagnetic informational fields at the moment we use our mobile telephone or by switching on our radio, TV or laptop. What we receive is not inside the instrument, nor in the components, but thanks to the receiver, the information from the electromagnetic fields becomes observable to our senses and hence perception occurs in our consciousness. The voice we hear over our telephone is not inside the telephone. The concert we hear over our radio is transmitted to our radio. The images and music we hear and see on TV are transmitted to our TV set. The internet is not located inside our laptop. We can receive what is transmitted with the speed of light from a distance of some hundreds or thousands of miles. And if we switch off the TV set, the reception disappears, but the transmission continues. The information transmitted remains present within the electromagnetic fields. The connection has been interrupted, but it has not vanished and can still be received elsewhere by using another TV set ("non-locality").
Could our brain be compared to the TV set, which receives electromagnetic waves and transforms them into image and sound, as well as to the TV camera, which transforms image and sound into electromagnetic waves? This electromagnetic radiation holds the essence of all information, but is only perceivable by our senses through suitable instruments like camera and TV set.
The informational fields of our consciousness and of our memories, both evolving during our lifetime by our experiences and by the informational input from our sense organs, are present around us,and become available to our waking consciousness only through our functioning brain (and other cells of our body) in the shape of electromagnetic fields. As soon as the function of the brain has been lost, as in clinical death or brain death, memories and consciousness do still exist, but the receptivity is lost, the connection is interrupted.
According to our concept, grounded on the reported aspects of consciousness experienced during cardiac arrest, we can conclude that our consciousness could be based on fields of information, consisting of waves, and that it originates in the phase-space. During cardiac arrest, the functioning of the brain and of other cells in our body stops because of anoxia. The electromagnetic fields of our neurons and other cells disappear, and the possibility of resonance, the interface between consciousness and physical body, is interrupted.
Such understanding fundamentally changes one's opinion about death, because of the almost unavoidable conclusion that at the time of physical death consciousness will continue to be experienced in another dimension, in an invisible and immaterial world, the phase-space, in which all past, present and future is enclosed. Research on NDE cannot give us the irrefutable scientific proof of this conclusion, because people with an NDE did not quite die, but they all were very, very close to death, without a functioning brain.Complete paper.