Thursday, April 17, 2014

Consciousness, Drugs and Dying

Whether any trace of our human essence survives during and after dying process is, for science, uncharted territory. In some documented instances, the essence of consciousness continues on without the biological support of a living body. Severe physical damage throws the body into shock, so it seems logical that the same thing could happen to the conscious mind, triggering a physical reaction that causes it to take refuge elsewhere.

My partner, Deborah had an out-of body experience as a student in college. In her case, she woke up in her own bed, in the middle of the night with a stranger on top of her trying to strangle her. What happens next she describes as a scream so powerful it emanated from her mouth as a filament of light that went straight up to the ceiling of the room. That light contained the essence of her consciousness. From the ceiling of her bedroom, she watched the attack on her physical being with a sense of peace and detachment that would not have been possible had she remained present in her besieged body.

Deborah was not murdered and returned to her body at a point when she was able to communicate with and escape her attacker. In true instances of near-death experience, when the body is badly wounded or killed, some essence is perceived to proceed onward to a dimension most describe as one of boundless peace and connectedness.

Now I tend to believe that religion is not only the opiate of the people but the scourge of humankind. Still, I try keep an open mind especially when it comes to science, biology and physics. I don’t pretend to comprehend of the universe, but since all these people worldwide have had oddly similar experiences, that there might be something to this that science does not yet understand.

In the surgical profession, there have been numerous reports of people who have flat-lined on the operating table yet were able to recall conversations, music and exactly what transpired during the period when they were technically dead.

I have to admit a large part of the reason I remain open to the existence of other dimensions is the fact that I did a lot of hallucinogenic drugs as a young person. While tripping on various psychedelics, I witnessed the universe broken down to a molecular level where mathematical pattern and incredible geometric design prevailed.

In that vein, I just read an article, Five Amazing Things ScientistsHave Discovered About Psychedelics , posted a few days ago on Alternet. This piece notes that besides helping the dying let go of their fear of death, psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin actually suppress certain parts of our brains. It is this more limited capacity that opens up our brains to new information, not the other way around. It’s as though the filter breaks causing incredible hallucinogenic sensations to rush in.

Possibly, this is the state that autistic people and, assuredly cats, inhabit their entire lives.  The filter ruptures, the world rushes in. The mind continues without the body. The universe breaks down into connection and light.

It all sounds remarkably similar to brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s electrifying Ted Talk, “My Stroke of Insight,” in which she recreates her amazing sensory journey, conveying the intensity, beauty and transcendent serenity she experienced when a stroke shut down her brain functions one by one.

No one really knows happens when we die. A dying brain could produce many experiences, but can a dead one? These questions remain unanswered. By the time we are sure, it seems we are no longer able to pass on this information. We know only that the trajectory leading out of this life is one that each of us must follow. Rest assured, if I get there before you, and I can, I will send you a sign!