A Philosopher Tackles Survival
First Sight

New Book on Near-Death Experiences

I don’t like the Daily Mail’s politics, but I must say, it’s the only British paper that writes about psi experiences as if they were normal, and not some kind of freakish embarrassment. I remember once buying a copy on an impulse and finding to my astonishment a double page spread on new remote viewing experiments in a British university - the subject of one of the first articles I ever wrote for this blog.

Now the Mail Online has published an article by Penny Sartori, a nurse who is about to publish a book about NDEs. I met Penny a few years ago when she gave a talk about her work in the intensive care unit of a Swansea hospital, clearly an ideal environment for studying the subject. She came up with the idea that was subsequently adopted by Dr. Sam Parnia, of placing symbols where they could only be seen from the ceiling and asking NDErs if they recalled seeing them. None had, but the study was productive in other respects. (I wrote about it briefly here.)

One case that she describes involved a 60-year old man suffering from sepsis after surgery for cancer. Under Sartori’s care he went into a critical condition, and remained unconscious for more than three hours.

His first sensation, he told me afterwards, was of ‘floating upwards to the top of the room. I looked down and I could see my body on the bed. It was lovely, so peaceful — and no pain at all.’

In the next moment, the hospital ward had disappeared and he’d entered a pink room, in which his father was standing next to a man with ‘long black scruffy hair and nice eyes.’ For a time, Tom talked telepathically with his father.

At some point, he became aware that something was touching him. Once again, he was back on the hospital ward ceiling — looking down at me and the doctor.

I was putting a lollipop-shaped instrument into his mouth to clean it, he recalled later. He could also see a woman beyond the cubicle curtains, who kept twitching them to check on his condition.

Indeed, I can personally verify that everything Tom ‘saw’ while unconscious was 100 per cent accurate — down to the swab I used to moisten his mouth and the names of the consultant and of the physiotherapist lurking behind the curtains.

While all this was going on, Tom heard the man with the scruffy hair say: ‘He’s got to go back.’ This came as a blow: he remembers desperately wanting to stay. Shortly after that, he told me, ‘I was floating backwards and went back into my body on the bed.’

In another case a seriously ill older man recovered from a period of unconsciousness to tell family members that he was being watched over by his mother, grandmother and sister, keeping vigil beside his bed. He was pleased to see them, but puzzled about the presence of his sister, as she was still living. His family had kept the fact of her recent decease from him, fearing it would jeopardise his recovery; he died a week later still without having been told.

A third case echoes the experience of the truck driver Tom Sawyer described in Kenneth Ring’s Heading towards Omega. A woman is given an anaesthetic for a minor operation and finds herself scrolling through her whole life, before apparently seeing a review of the creation of the entire universe. Sometime after she recovers she discovers she has somehow acquired a deep understanding of quantum mechanics.

Much of what the article describes is familiar territory to most of us here, although presumably not to all of the Mail’s readers. Some of the details are less commonly aired, however, for instance the tendency for some NDErs to develop a new sensitivity to electricity or have problems with their wristwatches.

When I started asking the people I was researching if they’d experienced this, I discovered that many had. One was a nurse — a colleague who’d had an NDE — who told me she’d stopped wearing watches after her own experience as they invariably didn’t work.

Those who’d had particularly intense NDEs reported even more problems. One woman told me that she ‘blows’ light bulbs regularly when switching them on — so much so that this has become a standing joke in her family. ‘I’ve also been thrown backwards and right across a room several times when using or touching electrical appliances,’ she said.

Disturbing in a different way were accounts from people who’d developed psychic tendencies after having a near-death experience. One woman told me she could subsequently foresee ‘bad things’ that were going to happen, and even predict when people were going to die. This has so traumatised her that she now rarely goes out — and then only when wearing headphones so that she can play loud music to distract her from her thoughts.

A colleague of mine who had a NDE at nine years old claims to have similar powers. She says that ever since her vision, she’s been able to ‘read other people’s minds’ — which distresses her because she feels it’s morally wrong.

One of the reasons it’s good for the subject to be aired in the mainstream press is that it’s an opportunity to see what the public thinks. There were more than 300 comments when I looked, a pretty broad cross section of views: the angry, the interested, the hopeful; Christians who can’t understand why everyone gets into Heaven, people describing their own NDEs, etc.

I didn’t find that any one point of view stood out above the others, which is refreshing. And I liked the one who simply said: ‘Cool. Hope it is true. Would love to see loved ones who have passed on.’

The book has a foreword by Pim Van Lommel, and is out on February 18. Also check out Penny's website, especially the case studies.


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Good for Penny! She's some researcher.

I too don't like the Daily Mail's politics any more than I like the Guardian's, and I've always regarded both 'major' parties as dangerous extremists. With all that out of the way, yes the Mail deserves praise for its consistently psi-friendly policy. Maybe it is better than its competitors at knowing what people are really interested in?

Penny Sartori gave a fascinating talk at the SPR some years ago and I had a nice chat with her afterwards. I think I know a real expert when I see and hear one, and there's really no substitute for first hand experience, of which she has had plenty, as a basis for a plausible hypothesis.

I don't often recommend books before I've read them, but I think her new one is definitely a must-read.

Believe it or not, The Sunday Telegraph was also very sensible re psi subjects while Robert Matthews was science editor in the mid-late 1990's.

Yes, Matthews did what he could, also in Focus magazine. I gather that when Dominic Lawson took over the Sunday Telegraph in 1995 he was told to forget all that psi rubbish. It all seems to depend on the editor. Paul Dacre (D.Mail) must have a soft spot as his paper has long been supportive. I suspect he may have had a psi experience himself. Prejudice can work both ways, luckily. Or it could be that he is just a smart editor who gives his readers what they want.

Anyway, Penny Sartori seems to have made waves like we haven't seen for some time. Readers comments are still popping in. I hope she sells a million.

Yes Guy, I've been following the subsequent articles. It's rather unusual, but welcome all the same.

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