Monday, August 26, 2013

God, Myths, and Our Tired Concepts

The faithful referred to him as “The Light of the World.” He was born of a virgin who was referred to as “Mother of God,” he was part of a Holy Trinity, celibate throughout his life, extolled justice, renounced riches and sensual things, had twelve apostles and viewed life as a struggle between the forces of Good and Evil. He preached that there will be a Judgment Day at which time the dead will be resurrected, the earth will experience a final conflict between the forces of light and darkness and the present order will be destroyed. Thereafter, light will forever reign on earth. He preached that this duality continues in the afterlife in the form of Heaven and Hell. After he completed his earthly mission, he had a Last Supper with his twelve apostles and ascended to Heaven, after which his followers conducted ceremonies that included the drinking of wine and the eating of bread to symbolize his blood and flesh. Baptism was practiced as a ritual of purification. December 25th was celebrated annually as his birth and Sunday was the holy day of the week.

No, it isn’t Christianity, but Mithraism, the last pagan religion of the Roman Empire. It began in Persia in the 6th or 7th century BCE and eventually spread through India to China and throughout the Roman Empire. Relics of the Mithraic religion have been found in Britain, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Armenia and throughout North Africa. It was the favorite religion of the Roman soldiers because it celebrated brotherly love and physical action in the name of justice and truth. It lasted a little over three hundred years and was then overtaken by Christianity, which didn’t hesitate in borrowing a few items along the way.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Consciousness, Near Death Experiences, and Quantum Mechanics

Near Death Experiences

Near death experiences (NDEs) have been extensively documented, both in popular literature and in scientific studies. Though most older studies were retrospective, sometimes interviewing patients years after their experience, several new studies have been conducted prospectively. As reviewed by van Lommel (1), in prospective studies in Holland (2), the US (3), and Britain (4), cardiac arrest patients were interviewed as soon as possible after their resuscitation. Of these, 6-12% (depending on the study) reported an NDE with high enough clarity to be able to describe what they saw. In the Dutch study, for example, 50% of patients with an NDE reported awareness of being dead, 25% had an out-of-body experience, 30% reported moving through a tunnel, 13% had a life review, and 8% experienced a border. Neither the duration of the cardiac arrest, nor the need for intubation, nor induced cardiac arrest in electrophysiological stimulation had any influence on the frequency of NDE. Nor was the frequency of NDE related to the administration of drugs, fear of death before arrest, foreknowledge of NDE, religion or education. The frequency of NDE was higher in patients who were less than 60 years old, who had more than one CPR during their hospital stay, and who had experienced an NDE previously.

All of these patients had electrophysiological evidence of no brain function during the CPR. Many studies in both human and animal models have shown that electrical activity in both the cerebral cortex and the deeper structures of the brain are absent after a very short period of time. The first ischemic changes in the EEG are detected an average of 6.5 seconds, with progression to a flat EEG pattern occurring within 10-20 seconds, after the cardiac arrest (5-8). In all three studies it was concluded that all patients who experienced NDEs had a transient loss of all functions of the cortex and brain stem. Even though these patients were all unconscious with no EEG pattern they experienced clear, logical consciousness (in describing what went on in the room while being resuscitated during their out-of-body experience, the description of the tunnel, light, review of their lives and meeting with dead relatives, even those that some did not know were dead or even that it was their relative - in one case a patient met a man while in another dimension whom he did not know, yet who he found out years later was his dead father).