Why Can the Brain Not Be Responsible for Near-Death Experiences?


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Often times, the argument is that the brain is responsible for near-death experiences.  The biological argument is that some kind of chemical changes in the dying brain cause these experiences.  The psychological argument is that a survival mechanism turns on and the psyche is trying to fight the inevitable, providing images.  Although the explanation using the brain may satisfy some people, the explanation is unsuccessful once a person asks what the mind is.Brain

What is the mind?  The story starts with the basic observation that experience is not possible without consciousness.  Without consciousness, there is nothing to be conscious of.  The human mind has to be there in order to even consider its own mental activities.  Consciousness has to be present in order to say, “I am conscious.”

What is this conscious mind?  Human beings build their visual phenomenological experiences based on the electromagnetic spectrum of between 380 to 760 nanometres in wavelength.  Colours about and beyond are unseen.  Auditory phenomenological experiences are based on the frequency range of 20 to 20,000 Hertz.  Sounds above and beyond are unheard.  Of course, some animals are not just capable of seeing colours and hearing sounds that humans cannot, but also smell and taste things people are unable to.   In addition to the observation on sense limitations, it can be also argued that human beings are also limited to the spatial appearance of the world in the three dimensions of length, width and depth and the mysterious time limitation of chronological motion from past to future through present.Colour spectrum

The assessment of reality in terms of wavelengths is not strange until we consider the brain as an object.  The brain is an object of certain wavelengths in the world that is perceived.  But, the question is: perceived by what?  If one imagines a hypothetical, fictional scenario of opening up the skull and looking at one’s own brain in the mirror, what does one see?  One simply sees an object in the mirror that is a compilation of electromagnetic wavelengths one perceives.  But, if all objects, including the brain is just compilations of wavelengths, what is doing the perceiving?  Are compilations of wavelengths just capturing other compilations of wavelengths?  The only possible answer is that consciousness is that something that supports all configurations in this phenomenological experience.  Ultimately, this means that the bare minimum requirement for reality is consciousness itself.   This means that consciousness must be basic; it has to be a basic building block of reality.

What is reality like in a scenario where consciousness is a basic building block?  In this scenario, reality can be imagined as a kaleidoscope.  As the pattern of pictures change, the conscious observer can see new images.  The pattern of pictures change with each state of consciousness.  We can have the pattern of the waking state, sleep state, mystical state, hypnotic state, near-death state.Kaleidoscope 3

In near-death experiences, a person starts switching over to another state, but then switches back to the waking state.  In death, the person permanently switches over to another state.  We live in a reality where we switch into this waking state we call life, or physical reality, and switch out of it when we are done.

In this reality, the brain is just a compilation of wavelengths.  It cannot cause near-death experiences.  Rather, the natural workings of consciousness create the experience.  The result is that consciousness does not cease operation; instead, consciousness just switches over to another pattern to continue its operation in that pattern of the kaleidoscope image.

M. J. Mandoki