I just spent the most extraordinary 4 days at the Art of Dying conference, run by the New York Open Center. One of the hot topics was the new scientific understanding of consciousness. Pim Van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist explained that consciousness is no longer believed to reside in the brain, or even the human body. ‘Endless consciousness is rooted in a non local realm. Our brain functions solely as a transmitter-receiver.’ In other words, consciousness is a bit like the world wide web, an invisible intelligence that zings around in the ether. But with our inbuilt transmitters-receivers (or brains) we can glimpse tiny slivers of this enormous consciousness (but typically we mistake what we are perceiving for the whole thing). Harvard professor and neurosurgeon Eban Alexander added: ‘When we die the veil comes down and we are reunited with that far greater consciousness that we are all part of.’ In other words death is not an end, it is just a transitional state to an infinitely expanded consciousness.
This new view of consciousness comes from scientists studying Near Death Experiences (NDEs) in which people come back from the dead with incredibly detailed stories about traveling to ‘heaven’ and meeting their departed loved ones or spirit guides. Dr Alexander, who wrote Proof of Heaven about his own Near Death Experience, says: ‘NDEs are not dreams, drug effects or delusions. They are glimpses into the reality we are all part of.’ Most people who’ve had NDEs are profoundly transformed by them, as if their brief connection to this higher consciousness infused them with a new understanding of life. Van Lommel reports that most NDE patients: ‘Emerge with a new insight into life, a new appreciation for compassion, love and acceptance, enhanced intuitive sensitivity and a greater interest in spirituality, no fear of death and a belief in the after life.’
On earth the closest thing we have to the NDE feeling of being at one with universal consciousness is ‘sexual ecstasy’ says Alexander. When he returned from his own out of body trip, his family told him he was different – nicer, more present and with a light shining out of him. If someone could work out how to hook him up to the energy grid, we could probably power all of Lower Manhattan off him.
Because we are all connected through this larger consciousness, we have the power to remotely affect and connect with one another. This explains phenomena like telepathy, remote healing and the power of praying for someone else’s good. It also explains how we are able to communicate with our loved ones after they have ‘gone’, because consciousness doesn’t end, it expands after death. ‘Understanding this much richer vein of consciousness will result in one of the biggest paradigm shifts in human history,’ said British neurologist Peter Fenwick.
The journey to creating the paradigm shift begins with sharing our stories according to Dr Pim Van Lommel. He asked that we all share our stories of communicating with loves ones after they have ‘gone’ and Near Death Experiences (he estimates that nearly 9 million people in America and 20 million people in Europe have had NDEs). Van Lommel concluded that once we are all aware of this truth, it will end our fear of death and transform end of life care. And more importantly perhaps, it will change how we all live.