Why is consciousness excluded from science

Not all of this can be explained neurophysiologically

Near-death experiences or near-death experiences are not a recent discovery. Literary evidence of this phenomenon can be found in the oldest sources. Due to the work of the death researcher E. Kübler-Ross and the doctor R. Moody and others, the phenomenon of the near-death experience came increasingly into the focus of the public in the 1970s, but also into the focus of academic research. Prof. Walter van Laack describes the results that science has come to over the past 40 years.

Near death experiences (NDE) are a phenomenon of so-called "extraordinary experiences of consciousness". They occur when there is a risk of death (near death), for example in life-threatening crises or under resuscitation conditions. NDE and other NDE-like experience patterns can be found in around 5% of the population. Depending on the study, between 18% and 40% report having experienced an NDE during their resuscitation.

Near-death experiences are characterized by universally identical basic patterns. Often and from a scientific point of view, out-of-body experiences on site or in the vicinity of what is happening (OBE) as well as a series of spiritual experiences and "aftershocks" that characterize the rest of life are initially essential.

After the tunnel comes the light

Tunnel phenomena are often cited, followed by very bright, but pleasant experiences of light. Tunnel and light phenomena in particular can be interpreted physiologically. It is assumed that death as a result of cardiac arrest leads to a reduced oxygen supply to the brain and that the neurons responsible for the sense of sight then give indiscriminate impulses. This could give the impression of a bright light. Since there are more neurons for the center of the field of view than at its edges, the impression of a tunnel would also arise. Even when the body is actually suffering, people can develop feelings of happiness or even euphoria. However, they all differ greatly in their quality from those of those affected (NDE people), especially when it comes to "entering the light", as it is called by some over and over again. The focus here is on the feeling of deep peace and unconditional love (76%, NDERF).

In the course of a complex near-death experience, some are greeted by other people and often accompanied for the rest of their NDE. In some cases, mystical and religious people are described, but mostly they are relatives, friends or acquaintances who have already passed away. Even though the encounter with unknown people who shine in the bright light is also one of the universal patterns of NDE, very individual interpretations come to the fore when interpreting them. These are most likely due to upbringing and education as well as religious and cultural backgrounds.

Traumatic return

Some NDE people experience their own life panorama, at least in the most important phases. It is interesting that they regularly state that they are not just a passive viewer. Rather, they are the active center of what is happening and, above all, experience everything from the point of view of others - especially intensely when they were damaged by the actions of NDE people during their lifetime.

In the so-called terminal phase, very different perceptions are described, which are predominantly individually shaped. Some see blooming landscapes, others butterflies and birds, blue skies or vast lakes, but still others also see cities and buildings or babbling waterfalls and much more. m. The terminal phase is followed by the "return to the body", which many NDE people find very traumatic, as they now often do not want to go back to their previous life.

Almost all NDE people are deeply emotionally moved by their experience later in life (aftershocks). Here, too, NDE differ significantly from dreams, which are always individually shaped, never have a "common thread" and are usually quickly forgotten without further effects. They also differ from hallucinations caused by endogenous or exogenous sub-
punching can be induced. Since the return is more traumatic for many NDE people, subsequent changes in behavior are often even characterized by autoaggression: Some then try to find their way back into this situation. Therefore there are also cases of later suicides.

No more fear of death

For the vast majority of NDE people, their experience is something extremely exhilarating, from which they will draw positively for the rest of their lives and which they will regularly remember down to the smallest detail until the end of their lives. An important and extremely positive aspect is that almost all NDE people lose their fear of their own later death through their experience.

Out-of-body experiences (OBE, out-of-body experiences) are a very important characteristic of near-death experiences, especially from a scientific point of view. In 2002, the Swiss Olaf Blanke published an individual case study in the journal "Nature" in which he reported on OBE through electrical stimulation in the context of epilepsy. To date, this case is the only precedent to which all of NDE's critics refer again and again. It reported of a patient who saw herself blurred from above, and only part of her torso and legs. She also spoke of visual distortions. In fact, according to all previous studies, including the figures from the NDERF study carried out in the USA and collected worldwide (2004–2008, n = 617), approx. 95% of those affected state that their experience was absolutely real. Only about 5% are unsure, but not a single one was sure that they had not had a real experience.

While disorientation is in the foreground almost without exception when there is a lack of oxygen (hypoxia), hypercapnia and also when taking drugs or administering narcotic medication, 80% of NDE people state that thinking and orientation were much clearer than usual during their NDE. NDE-typical emotions such as love, peace and the feeling of being loved are never triggered after drug use or medication.

Consciousness and brain

A quarter of those who experience an OBE have perceptions that lie completely outside their current experience horizon and can sometimes be verified later. That is why OBE are so interesting from a scientific point of view. This suggests that our consciousness does not necessarily have to be tied to its brain. To dismiss the OBE entirely as a product of the brain may be appropriate in some cases, but in very many cases it is certainly not and it is obviously not real.

Even more recent studies, such as those carried out repeatedly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which show that the brain is easily deceived by illusions and that one can so quickly fall into the illusion of experiencing something real, even though it is actually not so, are so far not expedient. At best, they deliver the same results as can be done, for example, in flight simulators and similar devices at fairs and which by no means expose the possibility of a really experienced reality as a mere illusion or even hallucination. Hallucinations require that the cerebrum is still working. In hallucinations, the brain is always electrically active, often overactive. However, numerous cases meanwhile also show that NDEs are made even with flat brain waves. Although it cannot be ruled out 100% that they may occur in the transition phases between consciousness and unconsciousness or unconsciousness and consciousness. From many years of experience with many thousands of patients, all of whom the author operated under general anesthesia, it must also be stated that in no single case was a patient clearly oriented during such a transition phase, let alone about an NDE or NDE-like experience reported. Even randomized and prospective externally given stimuli, such as music over headphones, have not been remembered even once so far.

One last riot of the brain?

More recently, EEG measurements on animals and a study on 7 deceased people found that their brain activity suddenly became clear for about 20 seconds after the onset of cardiac arrest and the zero line in the EEG, and at the highest level of coherence widely distributed across the brain before it finally drops to zero. Some critics interpret this phenomenon as a kind of final rebellion of the brain, which could explain NDE. However, the authors themselves only come to the conclusion that this short peak can at best be a trigger factor for NDE.

On the contrary: if you also based on experiences that suggest NDE to us, positively assumes that there could be a mind that is independent of the brain and possibly surviving one's own death, then in the event of death there should be a "nudge" to get away from the "lifelong liaison with his Brain "ultimate solution. Then it would even be demanded that a kind of "signal cascade" be initiated when death occurs, which allows exactly that. This would provide a reliable explanation why NDE-like phenomena can sometimes occur even in everyday stressful situations that are not similarly threatening, albeit mostly in a qualitatively and quantitatively weakened form.

NDE are extraordinary phenomena of consciousness

With these attempts at interpretation, one can hardly get rid of the feeling that an attempt is being made once more to attempt purely materialistic explanations for the NDE phenomenon, because what should not be cannot be: However, it is still considered certain that there is a zero line In the EEG, the cerebrum is no longer able to achieve maximum performance with clear orientation and clear thinking, as would be absolutely necessary with a purely physiological evaluation of the known NDE content. The assumption that activities in the hippocampus are still possible does not change this. Even if this evolutionarily oldest part of the cerebrum and part of the "limbic system" has very important functions in the transfer of perceptions of whatever kind into our memory according to our previous knowledge, it still seems presumptuous to assume that memory contents are consciously recapitulated here, together anew connected and weighted and then even independently set the impetus for later, sustainably life-changing personal developments and behaviors. Rather, the hippocampus, which already exists in the crocodile, is a complex "device in the brain's equipment pool" that is absolutely necessary for special purposes, but also acts unconsciously. Without a sufficiently functioning and thus electrically active cerebral cortex, a still active hippocampus remains as little consciously perceiving and "thinking" as the crocodile. If, however, clear awareness and orientation are very important components of NDE, but a cerebrum that is at least still functioning adequately for this purpose no longer emits a beep, then - and I legitimately believe - other options for interpreting the phenomenon of near-death experience must also be considered .

According to all that one can say with certainty today with a really subtle differentiating investigation of NDE and also taking into account all known experiments and studies, NDE are extraordinary phenomena of consciousness that so far cannot actually be explained neurophysiologically.

Some test results and experiments suggest that individual elements of NDE have neurophysiological causes, since they can be detected as such in other situations. However, it is not certain whether this also explains the similar phenomenon during an NDE. What is certain is that this cannot explain the entire complexity of NDE. The many sustainable, qualitative elements of NDE, such as deep emotions, spirituality, "aftershocks", are not at all accessible to a neurophysiological explanation.


Blanke O, Ortigue S, Landis T, Seeck M., "Stimulating illusory own-body perceptions", Nature 419: 269-270 (2002)
Borjigin, J. et al., "Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain", PNAS 10 (2013), doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1316024110
Chawla, L. et al., "Surges of Electroencephalogram Activity at the Time of Death: A Case Series," J. Palliative Med. 12 (12) (2009), doi: 10.1089 / jpm.2009.0159
Ewald, G., "Near Death Experiences - Indications of Life After Death", Topos Plus (2008)
Ewald, G., "Does the soul fly away at the speed of light? Background of near-death experiences", in: W. van Laack, "Interface death - departure to new life" (2010)
Ewald, G., "On the trail of near-death experiences - Is there an immortal soul?", Butzon & Bercker (2011)
Kroeger, D., F. Amzica, "Novel activity patterns in the anesthesia-induced comatose brain: beyond the isoelectric line", PLOS ONE, 09 (2013),
doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0075257
Laack, W. van, "Whoever dies is not dead", ISBN 978-3-936624-12-0, BoD (2011), e-book ISBN 978-3-936624-21-2 (2013), and others title
Laack, W. van, "What happens on the threshold of death? Near-death experiences cannot be explained purely physiologically", MMW-Fortschr.Med., Heft 5 (2009) 9
Laack, W. van, "Dangers of Today's Neurological Conclusions for Ethical Responsibility", in "Ethics and Morals in State, Economy and Society", pp. 98-114, Rotary (2014), ISBN 978-3-944011-21-9
Laack, W. van, "Do increased brain activity explain near-death experiences before death?", Essay for the German Near Death Experience Network (N.NTE), N.NTE-Report 3, 11-2013
Laack, W. van, "Is death the end?" Interview in "Dying - how does it feel ?, via medici 05-2013 (38), Thieme specialist magazine for young doctors
Lommel, P. van, "Endless Consciousness - New Medical Facts on the Near Death Experience", Patmos (2009)
Lommel, P. van, "Endless Consciousness - A New Concept, Based on Research Results on Near Death Experiences", in: W. van Laack, "Interface Death - Departure to New Life" (2010)


52134 Herzogenrath near Aachen