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Teachings from Near Death Experiences

(Interpretations of an Amateur Scientist)


By: John Winders
Note to my readers:
You can access and download this essay and my other essays through the Amateur
Scientist Essays website under Direct Downloads at the following URL:

https://sites.google.com/site/amateurscientistessays/

You are free to download and share all of my essays without any restrictions, although it
would be very nice to credit my work when quoting directly from them.
(The illustration on the cover is the watercolor “The Angel with the Book” by painter/engineer
John Martin. It was inspired by the Book of Revelation, but I think it's also a pretty good depiction
of a near death experience.)

According to the prevailing reductionist paradigm, human consciousness is defined as brain wave
activity. Electrical discharges from neurons in the brain are manifested as thoughts and feelings.
The near death experience (NDE) is therefore nothing more than a predeath hallucination in a dying
brain that are triggered by neurons that are deprived of oxygen. Scientists think they have even
identified specific locations in the brain that are associated with this particular predeath
hallucination. Such an explanation may sound plausible to a closed-minded or intellectually lazy
person; however, it just won't stand up to closer examination, as I will argue below.
People have related the near death experiences throughout history. Scientists generally dismiss
these accounts as unproven and unsubstantiated, relegating them to the occult or paranormal. When
non-scientists or even qualified scientists try to study NDEs in a consistent and methodical manner,
their attempts are simply brushed off as “pseudo-science.” The main difficulty in validating NDE to
the scientific community is that those experiences are usually spontaneous, unpredictable, and are
therefore not amenable to controlled experiments. I think insisting on controlled experiments in
order to prove a point is an unfair standard of proof. When Albert Einstein published the general
theory of relativity in 1915, the only way that theory could be tested was through astronomical
observations. The precession of Mercury's perihelion and the bending of starlight around the limb
of the Sun during a solar eclipse were judged to be sufficient evidence to accept general relativity as
fact; there simply were no other credible theories that could explain those observations. Even
though this didn't rise to the level of a controlled experiment, the data were repeatable and good
enough to validate his theory.
A similar situation exists in the area of jurisprudence. In the American legal system, criminal cases
must be based on a legal standard known as “beyond a reasonable doubt” for proving guilt. This
level of proof is equivalent to controlled, repeatable experiments used in the scientific method. But
a lower standard, known as “preponderance of evidence,” applies in civil cases. Hearsay evidence
is usually not allowed in court, so of course we should discount all NDE cases based on anecdotal
or evidence that can't be substantiated. However, I believe there are enough well-documented cases
to satisfy the burden of proof for NDE based on preponderance of evidence. In fact, any fair
examination of the data will show the evidence is overwhelming.
NDEs occur either when a person is approaching death or is clinically dead. Many of the reported
incidents are spontaneous, involving violent accidents, drownings, or similar circumstances that
lack corroboration from reliable, independent witnesses. However, quite a few NDEs occur during
surgery in operating rooms when the subjects are placed under general anesthesia and are being
closely monitored. These cases are particularly interesting to me because they practically rise to the
level of controlled experiments in accord with the scientific method, particularly because there are
trained medical professionals on hand who can independently verify details reported by the NDE
subjects. This kind of professional verification transforms mere subjective experiences into
objective data that can be analyzed scientifically.
First of all, it is widely accepted that there are many different states of consciousness that are
qualitatively dissimilar. Normal waking consciousness is qualitatively different than sleep, both
dreaming and non-dreaming. There are meditative states of consciousness and various states of
“unconsciousness,” including coma. Mental illnesses and the effects of hallucinogenic drugs define
other mental states. Autism represents an entire spectrum of mental states.
The brain under general anesthesia stands out as a particular mental state that is qualitatively
different than the rest. Science still doesn't have a complete understanding of how anesthetics really

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work, but their effects are well known. An anesthetized person does not respond to any external
stimuli, including a surgeon's knife cutting through flesh, and after recovery, the person doesn't
remember anything that occurred while the person was “under.” There are no sensations, no
dreams, no hallucinations – just nothing. Consciousness is completely suspended while the patient
is anesthetized; nevertheless, using EEG data, researchers from the University of Virginia have
identified specific brain wave patterns that are associated with anesthetized brains as it loses
consciousness. Interestingly, it seems that neurons are still firing without consciousness.
Now sometimes NDEs occur during surgery while the patient is under general anesthesia. The
patient feels nothing, thinks nothing, and dreams nothing until the surgery “goes sideways.” If the
patient goes into cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating, blood pressure plummets, and there is no
oxygen flow to the brain. At that point, the patient's brain may “flat line,”where there is no
detectable brain wave activity at all. According to the current scientific theory that brain waves
accompany consciousness, there would be no possibility of consciousness at that point – the patient
is clinically dead. It is precisely at that stage, however, when the patient may experience a NDE.
The subject is suddenly very aware and lucid, and can experience sight, sound, smell, and touch.
The colors seen are so vivid that the subject cannot describe them in terms of ordinary colors.
Thoughts race through the mind with extreme rapidity, the person's perception and understanding
are magnified tremendously. In some cases, the entire life of the subject is displayed almost
instantaneously; all of the lessons from the subject's life are immediately understood and indelibly
recorded in memory. If these kinds of thoughts really do occur while the brain has “flat lined” and
the patient is clinically dead, this certainly blows a hole in the position that consciousness is nothing
more than a collection of neurons firing off electrical impulses.
These types of incidents are actually not all that rare, and when a NDE occurs during surgery, it's
about as close to a controlled scientific experiment that can be performed legally. During all major
surgery, patients are monitored carefully; almost always with an EKG device and sometimes with
an EEG device as well.1 Furthermore, trained professional medical personnel are always present to
document everything going on during the operation. If the NDE is an hallucination, then why do
patients remember the NDE – but nothing else about the surgery – after they recover from general
anesthesia? How could a person correctly observe details of events taking place in the operating
room in a NDE through the ordinary senses even while they are under general anesthesia? If the
NDE is just an hallucination, how is it that events that were reported by the patient as taking place
in the operating room during the NDE are also corroborated by the professional medical staff who
were present at the time? Surely the preponderance of evidence gathered from NDEs that occur
during surgery is enough to prove there is something very wrong with the current scientific
definitions of consciousness and death.
One well-documented case of NDE involved the singer/songwriter Pam Reynolds. She underwent
complicated brain surgery that required her to be placed into a state of suspended animation with all
of the blood drained from her brain. While Pam was in that suspended state – without anesthesia –
she was clinically dead. But during that time, she suddenly became conscious of her surroundings
from a vantage point outside her body, and she could both see and hear everything that was
happening in the operating room even though her eyes were taped shut and her ears plugged. There
were about 20 medical professionals present during her NDE, and some of them later corroborated
details of what Pam had experienced. This was one of the strongest cases of NDE ever reported.
But when neuroscientists were asked to comment on the case, most of them flatly rejected the
evidence out of hand, stating that this event simply could not have happened. It really saddens me
when scientists and engineers refuse to even look at evidence just because it conflicts with their
long-held beliefs. After all, science is supposed to be all about gathering and examining all

1 When patients are hooked up to EEG devices, it's called intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring.

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evidence – especially evidence that may contradict or disprove a prevailing scientific theory.2
So what lessons could be gleaned from an objective scientific examination of available NDE data?
Well, I still accept that consciousness is associated with the brain. Injuries, disease, and lesions in
the brain clearly cause loss of consciousness or altered states of consciousness, so there's a definite
connection between the two. However, the NDE teaches us that consciousness may dissociate from
the brain at the time of death. People who have had the full-blown NDE describe leaving and
reentering the body, viewing the body rather objectively while they were out of it, as if it were an
external inanimate object, like a suit of clothes, instead of an integral part of themselves. (Autistic
people also sometimes describe their brains and bodies as external objects that are not fully under
the control of the consciousness.) Also, after people leave their bodies during a NDE, they often
have a sensation of being more “at home” while they are detached from their bodies.
The data show that the NDE is fairly consistent across a wide cultural spectrum. Most NDE
subjects recall meeting a divine being who nurtures and instructs them throughout the experience.
The specific persona of that divine being may vary depending on culture. For instance, most people
(even atheists) who live in Western societies where Christianity is the prevalent religion usually
report meeting Jesus. Hindus meet Krishna, Buddhists meet Buddha, Muslims meet Muhammad,
etc. However, regardless of the person's cultural background, the overall quality of the experience
is almost always said to be very positive and enlightening – not scary or unpleasant at all. Having a
positive near death experience doesn't seem to depend on having particular religious beliefs prior to
the NDE, being righteous, or even being a “nice” person. It's almost as if a joyful afterlife is a kind
of birthright that every human is entitled to.3
Every NDE subject (that we know of) eventually returns his or her body, although many subjects
said they would have preferred to stay “at home” outside the body. They say the predominant
reason for returning to the body is to complete some important task. (By inference, these people
would have been allowed to remain “at home” permanently if there were no more tasks they needed
to complete.) This evidence leads me to believe that the sole purpose of being in the physical world
is so the consciousness can learn and develop; apparently, the required learning and development
are impossible unless the consciousness is attached to a nervous system that can interact with the
physical world. Those who believe in reincarnation stress that learning is the primary purpose for
being alive, with the physical universe serving as a kind of school or training ground. NDE subjects
also report that this is one of the main lessons they learned from their NDEs.
Although almost every NDE subject seems to experience a joyful, uplifting experience, there seems
to be at least one exception: People who attempt suicide almost always report a hellish experience
during their NDEs, so apparently suicide is an especially abhorrent act in the grand scheme of
things. This fits in with the belief that life is for learning and we're all in some kind of finishing
school. You don't get passed to the next grade by cutting classes; instead, you spend time in
detention, where things are unpleasant.
But what good would it do to put people who commit suicide in a hellish afterlife for eternity in
order to “teach them a lesson,” instead of offering them an opportunity to apply that lesson later on?
And what purpose would it serve to “go to school” in a body only once, then have those lessons cut
short by death at a young age? If there is any purpose at all to being attached to physical bodies that
eventually grow old and die, then it seems almost self-evident that we must experience life in a
series of bodies in order to properly complete that process.4
2 NDE deniers make an absurd claim that Pam Reynolds was in fact still very much alive. She was simply in a very
peculiar altered state of consciousness that allowed her to receive and process stimuli through her ordinary senses,
even with all the blood drained out of her brain.
3 This is very bad news for religious fundamentalists who think that paradise is reserved exclusively for people like
them.
4 Of course I could be wrong; life may have no purpose at all. Nevertheless, like the metaphor of a relay race where

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I find it interesting that the “school of life” motif is replicated in our educational system, with
grades K through 12, followed by college, graduate school, and post doctoral studies. Students are
given lots idle time during summer recess where they break away from their studies and are allowed
to loll around, reflect, and do nothing in particular. I'm inclined to think that we unconsciously
designed this system of education as a reflection of the type of “schooling” we go through in one
physical body followed by the next. (Many people have had recurring dreams where we are
enrolled in some sort of school, are trying to get to some class in a building we can't locate, and are
very late. Then it dawns on us that we're supposed be taking a final exam that day, but we have
never attended a single lecture all year, and have absolutely no chance of passing that course.5 This
recurring dream is undoubtedly our higher subconscious mind warning us that we've been spending
too much time avoiding pain and seeking pleasure instead of going to class and learning important
lessons, and that the time for learning is running out fast.)
I mentioned earlier that barring suicide, the NDE is positive and enlightening regardless of one's
prior beliefs or religious affiliations. Almost everyone who goes through the NDE comes out of it
as a better person. People who had faith in God prior to their NDE generally come out of it with an
even deeper and more mature faith. Those who didn't believe in God prior to their NDE generally
come out if it with increased spirituality, with a feeling of oneness with the universe. Almost
everyone who has had a NDE report they no longer fear death, their lives have more purpose and
meaning, and stress the importance of loving and caring for others. From a purely scientific
perspective, the fact that a consciousness actually can dissociate itself from a physical nervous
system brings about all sorts of possibilities about reality and the true nature of the physical
universe.
If consciousness can exist independently without being attached to a physical body, then what does
this indicate about physical reality? Maybe everything we consider as “real” is actually a
manifestation of something that is non-physical but is even more real. Through the study of
quantum physics, some scientists have embraced the “It from Bit” conjecture, which holds that the
fundamental building block of the universe is pure information. Because we live in the digital age,
we assume that software requires preexisting hardware to run on. It's a bit disconcerting to think
about disembodied software existing without hardware, or to imagine that software could even
create its own hardware out of nothing. But as strange as that sounds, the NDE may be teaching us
that the “It from Bit” conjecture is really true; that the “hardware” – our brains, our bodies, and the
entire physical universe – may be secondary manifestations of information, and that our conscious
selves are the only permanent things about ourselves that truly exist.6
In summary …
The current scientific paradigm of material reductionism has problems accommodating a theory of
the conscious mind, so it defines away the problem by claiming that consciousness equals neuron
activity. That claim does not hold up to preponderance of evidence that proves an alternate state of
consciousness, called a near death experience, can and does occur even after trauma to the brain
ceases all neuron activity. Furthermore, NDE subjects report that their minds are far more lucid in
that state than when they are awake or dreaming. Many NDE subjects get a clear impression that
life is meant for learning and that being present in physical bodies is necessary for that to happen.7

the baton represents our conscious self and the runners are our physical bodies. Runners drop out of the race, but
the baton is passed from one runner to the next until the race is finished.
5 Back in college, I knew people whose actual college careers were like this dream.
6 This attitude comes dangerously close to solipsism, so we need to be careful about carrying that idea too far.
7 Some NDE subjects describe their afterlife experiences as being somewhat chaotic and almost too vivid. This
implies that the main purpose of the physical brain could actually be to limit or filter out information flowing into
the conscious mind in order to facilitate learning. Just as you wouldn't try to teach calculus to a kindergarten
student, you wouldn't want to overload consciousness with unfiltered reality until it is ready to receive it.

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Appendix A – The Curious Case of Dr. Alexander
Eban Alexander is a trained neurosurgeon, who had completely bought into the material reductionist
paradigm that the brain equals consciousness … until he had a NDE brought about by a bacterial
meningitis infection that put him into a coma for about a week at the age of 55. The bacteria in
question were E. Coli, which normally live happily in our large intestines, making vitamin K2 and
helping to ward off harmful bacteria. But when E. Coli get loose in the spinal column and in the
brain, they wreak havoc and usually either kill their hosts or put them into a permanent vegetative
state. The fact that Dr. Alexander survived this ordeal and recovered completely is remarkable
enough, but his NDE experience was very atypical as well.
Alexander wrote a book entitled Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey Into the Afterlife,
which triggered a firestorm of criticism and rebuke from scientists, who apparently felt betrayed by
a member of their community. One critic called his book “alarmingly unscientific,” although I have
to wonder if this person actually read it. Alexander chose a rather unfortunate title for his book in
my opinion; it conjures up images of Jesus, angels, meeting dead relatives, etc. – things typically
found in cheesy books about the afterlife written by religious propagandists like Todd Burpo, a
Christian fundamentalist pastor whose book Heaven is for Real was made into a movie. But
reading Alexander's book gave me a reaction completely opposite from what was implied by the
title. Alexander was a just another casual Episcopalian, who attended church services mainly on
Christmas and Easter. He has no personal stake in any particular religion, or religion in general for
that matter. He refrains from referring to the cosmic Spirit as “God” and uses the gender-neutral
name “Om” instead. But Alexander isn't just a burned-out hippie promoting crystal-based New Age
pseudoscience. When describing his condition, he uses the precise scientific terminology he
learned in medical school, although he admits difficulty in describing the NDE experience itself
through the use of human language that is based on normal linear consciousness.
As a neurosurgeon, he is very familiar with the conventional “nuts and bolts” theory of the brain.
But having experienced NDE first-hand, he now says that the brain acts as a kind of filter to limit
and modulate consciousness. I stated the same thing earlier in this essay; but thinking about this
further, it seems that the brain is also some sort of super-efficient correlation engine that takes
noise-like stimuli and correlates them into meaningful patterns. Take stereograms for example.
These were very popular in the 1990s, on display in shopping malls everywhere, although I don't
see them much anymore. They're 2-dimensional images consisting of what appear to be random
dots or periodic waveforms. If you stare at a stereogram by “looking through” it long enough, 3-
dimensional dolphins, butterflies, geometric shapes, etc., will “pop out” of the flat image. It seems
the left eye and the right eye send signals that are spatially offset to the visual cortex, which
integrates and correlates those signals into 3-dimensional images, doing what the brain does best.
What we refer to as “intelligence” is basically the ability to correlate and do pattern recognition.
Most IQ tests are actually implicitly testing this ability through questions involving word
associations, identifying geometric similarities, logic and mathematics. Although I'm not a
neurologist or a psychiatrist, it seems that the condition known as autism might be caused by an
impairment of the brain's ability to correlate information. People with autism often report being
overwhelmed by a world that seems to bombard them with random noise they can't process. This
may be due to an overall impairment of their ability to correlate information; however, some
autistics are extremely gifted in specific areas in which that ability is augmented. At the opposite
end of the scale, people suffering from schizophrenia always seem to have their correlation engines
running on high-octane fuel. They have an enhanced ability to “connect all the dots,” sometimes
interpreting newspaper headlines as coded messages directed specifically at them, or concocting
elaborate secret conspiracy theories. People label that as paranoia, but there's truth to the saying,
“There's a fine line separating genius from madness.” John Nash is a prime example.

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But let's go back to Dr. Alexander. His NDE was atypical on a couple of counts. First, the duration
of his experience was unusually long. His neocortex (the part of the brain that involves memory,
logic, personality, identity, and other “higher” brain functions) was completely shut down for about
a week. Second, he had total amnesia about who or what he was throughout the NDE. Most NDE
subjects remember their identities throughout their experiences and report a sense of separation
from those whom they “left behind.” Alexander went into his NDE as a “clean slate,” like a
newborn baby coming into this world, with no recollection of a previous existence, including his
own identity. Because he had an NDE over such an extended period of time, he was able to
repeatedly navigate back and forth between what he calls the “Earthworm's-Eye View,” a primitive
mental state where his consciousness barely functioned at all, and a place he calls “the Core” where
he encountered the cosmic Spirit “Om” while being in a state of super awareness. But I'm not going
to describe his NDE in detail because you can read all about that in his book.
Thankfully, Dr. Alexander emerged from the coma, which he describes as similar to being born all
over again, and slowly regained his mental faculties. Needless to say, this experience changed his
views about consciousness entirely. Before, as a neurosurgeon, he subscribed to the belief that
consciousness and self-awareness are simply illusions generated by neurons firing in the brain.
Change the patterns of neurons firing, and you change consciousness. Theoretically, you could
change someone's entire identity by altering those patterns. Dr. Alexander now believes that
consciousness resides outside the brain, and the brain's function is to slow down or limit thought.
There is some experimental evidence that supports this view. The Libet Experiment8 showed that
exercising the will to perform an action is registered in the brain waves before the subjects are even
aware of exercising their will. The time delay is significant – about ½ second. This changes the
model of consciousness from the current conventional wisdom:
Awareness → Thoughts, exercising will
To this: Thoughts, exercising will → Awareness
Finally, an article in “Science Daily” reports on research by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose that
showed quantum vibrations taking place in the microtubules inside neuron cells. Microtubules are
ultra-fine structures that certainly are at the right scale for quantum processes to take place. So
instead of information correlation, computation, or whatever else is happening in the brain taking
place between neurons at the synapses, the actual processing could be taking place at the quantum
level inside the neurons. I'm not in a position to judge Hameroff's and Penrose's thesis, and
naturally, they have their share of critics and detractors in the scientific community who claim the
brain is “too warm, wet, and noisy” to carry out any sort of process involving quantum wave
functions. “Science Daily” says the Hameroff-Penrose research raises the following questions:
“Did consciousness evolve from complex computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or
has consciousness, in some sense been here all along, as spiritual approaches maintain?” 9
I think there are important lessons about consciousness and the brain we could learn from near
death experiences if scientists would just examine the evidence objectively. But as interesting as
Dr. Alexander's case is, I don't think it will help that cause. Unlike many NDEs that provide
objective data that could be cross checked scientifically, his NDE was entirely subjective. And
since it can be argued that he lost his sense of identity purely because his neocortex shut down, his
case could provide convincing proof that sense of self (consciousness) really resides inside the brain
and nowhere else. But the argument of a missing neocortex then raises another question: If
consciousness resides in the neocortex, then how could Dr. Alexander have experienced super
awareness – super consciousness – while in a coma with the neocortex completely shut down?

8 This was actually a series of experiments performed by Benjamin Libet and validated by other researchers.
9 Uh oh. There's that offensive word “spiritual” again.

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Appendix B – Moments of Awareness and Psi Phenomena
According to conventional wisdom, consciousness consists of electrical wave patterns in the brain.
All thoughts, emotions, including self-awareness, are products of coordinated “firing” of neurons
that produce these patterns. In other words, what we call consciousness takes place in the synapses
between the neurons on a scale that is appropriate for the classical laws of electromagnetism to
prevail. Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers maintain that it will soon be within our grasp to
duplicate the level of complexity in the brain (based on the synapses model) using silicon-based
electronics to replicate neural networks, making it possible to duplicate (or replace) human
intelligence with machines. All it would take would be to connect a network of 100 billion or so
logic gates (switches) on silicon chips and voilà, we would have an artificial human brain like HAL
from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
But according to the Hameroff-Penrose model of quantum consciousness, mentioned in Appendix A
of this essay, consciousness takes place at a much more subtle level than the synapses. In their
model, the actual thought process does not involve the synapses at all, but rather computations
using quantum bits (qubits) taking place within the cytoplasm of the neurons in structures known as
microtubules. The existence of microtubules is a known fact, although there is some debate about
what their exact functions are and how they carry out these functions. Microtubules are on a scale
small enough where quantum mechanics would dominate whatever physics is taking place.10 If
Hameroff-Penrose are correct, the AI folks will have to scale up the complexity of their machines
by many orders of magnitude to even come close to the computing power of the human brain. I'm
not going into their work in any detail – it's quite extensive and very deep – although I would
strongly encourage the reader to investigate it further at the following web site:
http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/penrose-hameroff/quantumcomputation.html
The long and short of it is this: Quantum computations involving superimposed qubits occur inside
the microtubules, which somehow shield the qubits from the warm, wet and noisy environment.
The qubits themselves might involve electron spin states, although Hameroff and Penrose aren't
sure. Vibrational frequencies within the microtubules are over a very wide range of frequencies all
the way up to the gigahertz level. When a “solution” is optimized, the quantum wave functions
collapse and the microtubule takes on a definite state, which translates into a macroscopic electrical
signal that causes the neuron to fire. Coordinated firings among neurons produce the brain-wave
patterns that are familiar to neuroscience having distinctive frequencies: delta (0.1 – 3 Hz), theta (4
– 7 Hz), alpha (5 – 15 Hz), and all the way up to gamma (32 – 100 Hz).
Penrose isn't quite willing to abandon reductionism, which says that consciousness is equal to brain
waves, and Hameroff-Penrose define coordinated neuron firings as “moments of consciousness.” I
would amend that slightly; since consciousness really takes place at the quantum microtubule level,
neuron firings are really “moments of awareness,” when quantum consciousness finally emerges
and manifests itself at the macro level of classical physics. The neuron could be a sort of link
between the hidden quantum world and the objective reality of the macroscopic universe.
According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, which is discussed in some of my
other essays, all physical reality consists of a linear superposition of quantum wave functions with
no boundary between observer and observed, or between the microscopic and macroscopic. I
personally do not subscribe to that extreme view, but I'll concede there is a level of truth to it. Let
me explain what I mean by this.

10 Similar cellular structures, found in plant cells, appear to mediate the process of photosynthesis, converting energy
from photons into food through a super-efficient process that seems to rely on a quantum-mechanical superposition
effect that is not well understood.

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As an electrical engineer, I used a technique called Fourier analysis. Fourier analysis are similar to
quantum wave functions in that both have roots in a mathematical concept known as Hilbert space.
According to Fourier analysis, any electrical signal can be represented as a linear superposition of
an infinite number of sinusoidal waves, which are “basis vectors” in a Hilbert space. As a simple
example, consider a switch connected between a 1-volt battery and a loudspeaker. Suppose I close
the switch at t = – ½ second, sending electrical current to the loudspeaker and open it again at
t = + ½ second, interrupting the current. The electrical pulse pushes the speaker cone outward and
then releases it, producing an acoustic pulse lasting 1 second. According to Fourier analysis, this 1-
second pulse is equivalent to an infinite number of superimposed cosine waves of various
amplitudes with frequencies from zero to infinity. Although the actual pulse in the time domain has
a finite duration, the Fourier transformation implies that the cosine waves that comprise the pulse
have durations that extend to infinity in both the positive and negative time directions. In other
words, according Fourier analysis, those cosine waves have been around since the big bang and
they'll be still be around for billions of years in the future.
Now are these cosine waves real? Well, yes. If I take a large collection tuning forks all tuned to
different frequencies and place them in front of the loudspeaker, every tuning fork will vibrate at its
resonant frequency when it is hit by the 1-second acoustic pulse. The vibrational intensities
correspond to the amplitudes of the cosine waves given by the Fourier transform. Therefore, the
pulse really is equivalent to the sum of those cosine waves; however, the tuning forks certainly don't
resonate before the switch closes, as implied by Fourier mathematics. So clearly Fourier analysis is
valid in a restricted sense, but not in the abstract sense of cosine waves having infinite durations.
Quantum wave functions are also basis vectors in an abstract Hilbert space, and any object can be
transformed into a collection of superposed wave functions – at least mathematically. But are they
real? Considered as probability amplitudes of photons and electrons, these wave functions certainly
are real, as shown by many experiments. But I'm not sure they really apply to macroscopic objects
like Schrödinger's cat. Although you might be able to mathematically transform a cat, or the whole
universe for that matter, into a set of superimposed wave functions, I don't see how “cat waves”
would physically affect anything on the classical scale, unless …
If neuron microtubules form a gateway to the world of quantum waves (qubits), then could so-
called psi phenomena simply be a matter of quantum consciousness producing observable effects by
using the brain as a conduit? For example, let's assume for a moment that people really do have
premonitions about airplane crashes, and it could be scientifically verified with high degree of
certainty that there is a positive correlation between people avoiding certain flights and those flights
that do crash. Most scientists would simply discount that evidence out of hand because they simply
cannot identify any physical mechanism that could send information about a crash in the future into
the present and produce negative feelings, either conscious or subconscious.
But what if there were a large hidden crack in the tail section of a plane, or suppose the pilot were
sleep-deprived, suicidal or high on drugs? Could that kind of information (encoded somehow in
quantum wave functions) seep into the microtubules of the passengers' neurons, altering the qubit
computations inside them, and trigger feelings in “moments of awareness” that “something just isn't
right about that plane?” Even a passenger who doesn't have any conscious feelings about the plane
might just “forget” to set his alarm clock and miss his flight because his neurons made a deliberate
choice not to get on the plane.
I don't know how or if any of the so-called psi phenomena directly relate to NDEs, although NDEs
are similar in some ways to “out-of-body experiences” that could tie in with quantum receptors in
the brain. At any rate, I think there is a lot more we need to learn about the brain and consciousness
before we can write any of this off. That's why I'm really excited by the work by Hameroff and
Penrose, although I don't necessarily agree with Penrose's reductionist interpretation of their results.

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Appendix C – Cogito Ergo Sum and the Turing Test
René Descartes formulated the famous statement, “I think, therefore I am” in 1637. He recognized
that limitations in our sensory apparatus often cause us to misread reality. As an example based on
modern physics, a granite table seems heavy and solid to the touch although granite is mostly empty
space. The apparent heaviness comes almost exclusively from the mass contained in tiny nuclei at
the centers of empty atoms that comprise granite. The apparent solidity results from two laws: 1)
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which forces electrons to maintain their distances from atomic
nuclei, and 2) Pauli's exclusion principle, which forbids electrons in the granite from occupying the
same quantum states as electrons in our hands . Without those laws, our hands could penetrate
granite as easily as they penetrate fog. So is the table really an object that is heavy and hard, or is it
just a set of physical laws, framed mathematically, that make it appear that way?
Descartes realized that thoughts entering consciousness while awake were no more “real” than
thoughts that enter consciousness while asleep and dreaming. Then he made the following
observation: “But immediately upon this I observed that, while I thus wished to think that all was
false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed
that this truth, I think, therefore I am” and Descartes concluded that this truth was the first principle
of philosophy he was searching for.
Modern neuroscience has its own version of cogito ergo sum, namely that thinking is nothing more
than a complex electrochemical process in the brain, so the “I” who Descartes said must exist is just
the sum total of these electrochemical processes; therefore, subjective consciousness and the sense
of personhood are mere illusions. Okay, I can go along with the idea that thoughts coincide with
electrochemical responses in the brain; after all, we can measure brain wave activity and see regions
of the brain “light up” when certain thoughts and emotions occur. In fact, thinking might really just
amount to those electrochemical responses. But who or what is observing them? Can thoughts
observe themselves? I don't think so, because of the obvious subject-object problem.
The Turing test is a thought experiment11 where a human being communicates with a machine,
posing questions to the machine and eliciting responses from it. If the human cannot tell whether
the responses are coming from another human or a machine, the machine is said to have passed the
Turing test. The possibility that computer hardware could actually “pass” the test is what fuels
current AI research.12 But here's my question: Is any “person” actually doing this test, or are both
participants machines? You see, material reductionism attempts to objectify consciousness by
reducing it to a set of electrochemical processes and brain wave patterns. That may work for
evaluating the person sitting next to you; i.e., you objectify him or her and conclude that he or she
passed the Turing test and is therefore either human or a cyborg with AI and a very sophisticated
operating system.13 But how can you objectify yourself? Even if I am solipsist who thinks all of
reality reduces to me as a brain in a jar, exactly who perceives what goes on in that brain?
Identifying your brain chatter as your own self is the root of what Hindus refer to as māyā, meaning
illusion or magic. Imagine sitting all alone in a dark movie theater and being completely absorbed
in the film being shown on the screen. The movie screen represents the brain. Obviously, you don't
identify the images on the screen as being you – that would be māyā. Since consciousness cannot
directly observe or objectify itself, it needs a brain for self-awareness. Sure, many of the thoughts,
feelings, and emotions we experience might arise as automatic electrochemical responses as
neurologists say, but there still needs to be someone alone in the movie theater to perceive them,
and my guess is that this someone can also put images up on the screen.

11 Here we go again with more thoughts.


12 This will never succeed in producing anything close to human intelligence in my opinion.
13 I doubt if the OS is Windows, however.

9
Appendix D – The Effects of Belief and Non-Belief on Psi Experiments
Experiments were performed to determine if people could actually sense when they are being stared
at. To remove as much subjectivity as possible from the experiment, the subjects were observed
remotely through closed-circuit television (CCTV), and the electrical conductivity of their skin was
used to record the sense of unease experienced by being stared at. This eliminated any direct
physical contact between the starer and the subject (the staree). Skin conductivity has been shown
to be a very sensitive indicator of stress, which doesn't depend on a subject's conscious awareness.
Marilyn Schlitz was the President and CEO of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (INS) and is a true
believer in occurrences of psi phenomena. Richard Wiseman is a professor at the University of
Hertfordshire (U of H) in the UK and is a skeptic concerning all things paranormal. Schlitz and
Wiseman performed essentially the same remote viewing experiments utilizing CCTV and skin
conductivity, but the two teams got very different results. The INS experiments used Schlitz as the
starer and produced statistically significant positive results, whereas the U of H experiments used
Wiseman as the starer and produced nothing out of the ordinary. Believers in psi phenomena say
Wiseman's own negative bias automatically inhibited any response to his stares, so his experimental
results proved nothing. Scientists say that's hogwash – experimental results aren't affected by a
person's attitude toward the experiment. Needless to say, the INS isn't held the same level of esteem
as Harvard Medical School, and it would be pretty hard for institutions such as INS to get any peer-
reviewed (i.e. skeptic-reviewed) papers published in established scientific journals. So I wouldn't
be surprised at all by the absence of articles supporting the existence of paranormal phenomena
published in Science.
So here's my suggestion: Let Wiseman collaborate with Schlitz, and use her as the starer. He could
then publish any positive or negative results in Science with Schlitz as a coauthor, the full stature
and reputation of U of H standing behind the paper. I think that's eminently fair to both believers
and skeptics alike. In fact, from now on all psi research should be carried out with both the
believers and skeptics participating on the same research teams together.
I also have some innovative ideas for doing further remote-staring research. First, it would be very
interesting to see if subjects can sense (via changes in skin conductivity) whether someone will
stare at them in the future from a taped TV recording. This involves three kinds of experiments.
The first experiment would randomly turn the TV camera on and off in the present. The future
starer would then be shown recorded clips of the subject. Would there be any correlation of skin
conductivity with the TV camera turned on, indicating the subject senses being watched in the
future? The second experiment would randomly turn the TV monitor on and off in the future while
the starer is staring at it. Would there be any correlation of skin conductivity with the monitor being
turned on in the future, indicating the subject senses which portions of the tape will be stared at?
Finally, have the starer consciously turn the monitor on and off and later check for correlations
between those “on” times and previously-recorded skin conductivity.
My guess is that the first two future staring experiments might show some statistically significant
correlations, indicating that psi phenomena can transcend both space and time (subject to certain
restrictions). These experiments would be brain-to-brain versions of delayed-choice experiments
using particle-to-particle quantum entanglement, in which weird correlations that seemingly
transcend space and time. However, I strongly doubt the third experiment would reveal any
statistical correlations at all, and for a very good reason: If subjects could be aware of deliberate
decisions to stare at videos of them in the future, this would set up the possibility of sending
messages from the future to the present (or from the present to the past).14 This would be a serious
violation of causality that I'm convinced would disrupt any messages we try to send back in time.

14 The possibilities for manipulating lotteries and the securities markets would be staggering.

10
Appendix E – A Possible Scientific Basis for “Paranormal” Phenomena
At first blush, it seems that paranormal phenomena share very little in common. On further
reflection, however, it seems NDEs, transmigration of “souls,” remote viewing, and all the rest are
cases of the mind receiving information outside the normal channels of the five senses.15 Let us
accept for the moment that the fundamental reality of the universe consists of quantum information,
which is manifested in our consciousness as physical objects located in space and time. It so
happens that we perceive three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, and we can
therefore build a 4-dimensional mathematical model of reality. However, visualizing four
dimensions simultaneously is impossible, so for now, let's imagine we're living as 2-dimensional
creatures in a place called Flatland.16
The figure below illustrates how the universe is seen by a Flatlander. An observer sits at the center

of a flat surface extending as far as the eye can see. The location of any object external to the
observer is defined by two coordinates: The “r” coordinate, defining the distance from the observer
to the object, and the “φ” coordinate, defining an angular separation between the object and a
reference line extending in some arbitrary direction away from the observer. However, time is
missing from this picture. Assuming Flatland is governed by the laws of relativity similar to that of
our world, a different picture of reality emerges, as shown below.

In the above illustration, the observer sits at the apex of a 3-dimensional cone, called a light cone.

15 According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, some neurologists list anywhere between nine and twenty-one human senses.
16 I borrowed the name from the satirical novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbott.

11
The apex represents the Here and Now for that observer. Everything the observer “sees” by looking
out into “2-dimensional space” lies along the visual surface of the light cone. The location of any
object lying on this surface can be defined by two coordinates: r' and φ. The r' coordinate is the
“distance” between the observer and the object; however, r' has both spatial and temporal properties
so that it is only possible to “see” objects in the past.
Being 2-dimensional creatures, Flatlanders can't grasp the concept of a third dimension or visualize
a 3-dimensional light cone, so they perceive reality as a flat space depicted in the first diagram.
Although their visual universe consists of the surface of the light cone, everything inside the light
cone represents what is called a “causal patch.” The observer's causal patch contains everything
that can – at least in principle – be observed. This is the principle of relativity carried to the
extreme limit: There are no absolutes and only things that are observable – things within the causal
patch – truly exist. Each Flatlander lives in the center of a separate reality; although causal patches
may intersect and overlap each other, no two are the same.
Returning to our world, everything we “see” in “3-dimensional space” lies along a 3-dimensional
visual surface surrounding a 4-dimensional hyper light cone that increases in all directions
backward in time proportional to the speed of light.17 Being 3-dimensional creatures, we define
locations of objects in “3-dimensional space” using three coordinates: r', φ, and θ. But as in
Flatland, the “distance” r' has both spatial and temporal properties; the farther away an object is
from the observer, the further back in time it is. The other two coordinates are simply altitude and
azimuth angles between the object and some arbitrary line pointing away from the observer.
Everything we can visually observe is within a very thin 3-dimensional surface surrounding a much
greater 4-dimensional causal patch. Now here's the interesting part: According to quantum
mechanics, information (in the form of qubits) can never be erased.18 If I throw a copy of the
Encyclopædia Britannica into a bonfire, none of the information contained in it will be destroyed –
it's only “rearranged” somewhat in the form of heat, smoke, and ashes. Therefore, everything that
has happened in our causal patch must – by the laws of quantum mechanics – exist as indestructible
information in the form of qubits. But where is that information stored? The answer must be in the
Here and Now. It does no good to say, “Well okay, that information exists somewhere else, but not
here.” That statement is tantamount to saying information was destroyed, because there is no Now
anywhere else but Here. If it doesn't exist Here, it can't exist Now. I think this is the true meaning
behind the so-called holographic universe: everything in our causal patch is encoded as
indestructible information right Here and right Now. Here and Now are that information.
So how does all of this resolve a collection of seemingly very different paranormal phenomena?
Let's take the case of NDEs first. Recall that the Hameroff-Penrose model of consciousness
involves some form of interaction between the quantum world of microtubules and the classical
world of synapses and electro-chemical brain activity. All information within the causal patch is
somehow encoded in the form of indestructible qubits that persist in the Here and Now. When a
person's brain stops working – i.e., death has occurred – no information is getting through to the
awareness. However, events surrounding the dead person – along with everything else that has
happened in the causal patch – is encoded in the Here and Now. Upon being resuscitated, a person
may occasionally “remember” witnessing those events, but what may have really happened is that
the person being resuscitated would consider freshly-encoded information surrounding his or her
death as being extremely relevant and important. The subconscious would recover that information
at the microtubule level from indestructible qubits and project them into the person's awareness as

17 Actually, there is a major problem with this model. Whereas the size of the hyper cone grows larger as r' increases,
according to the Standard Cosmological Model (SCM), the observable universe started out 13.8 billion years ago as
a grapefruit-sized object. My conclusion is that this conflict simply means that the universe must be curved instead
of flat.
18 This is the Second Law of Thermodynamics stated in a different way.

12
“memories” of having witnessed those events. (Don't forget that being “conscious” is different
from being “aware,” although the two are often conflated.) The success of this data recovery is
quite unpredictable and hit or miss – not everyone who dies and is resuscitated will experience
NDE. This makes NDEs very difficult to study scientifically, and lacking a physical basis to
explain them, reports of NDEs are usually dismissed out-of-hand by scientists. The point I'm trying
to make is that NDEs aren't through normal communication channels involving physical senses, so
science is looking in the wrong places. There could be a very real physical basis to this
phenomenon – on the quantum mechanical level – that science is simply overlooking.
One final note about NDEs. A very common feature of the NDE is the so-called “life review,”
when the deceased person is invited to witness every thought, word and deed experienced during his
or her entire life, along with other people's impressions of those experiences. These recollections
are often reported as being instantaneous, not time-sequential like in a movie. This anecdotal
evidence implies that information within the causal patch is encoded in some kind of holographic
format where everything is condensed into the Here and Now and can be instantaneously retrieved.
Of course, science dismisses the “life review” as merely an hallucination within a dying brain, but
the clarity and completeness of the information people reported seeing are remarkable.
What about reincarnation and transmigration of souls? Dr. Ian Stevenson devoted his entire career
studying this phenomenon; I've read his work and I'm convinced he was no crack-pot. Stevenson
examined thousands of cases involving children who seemed to have vivid and detailed
recollections of past lives, and his strict methodology ruled out all cases where there was even a
remote possibility that the child had received information about past lives through “normal” sensory
channels. Many cultures accept recollections of past lives as fact; the most obvious explanation is
the soul is reborn or transmigrates from one physical body to another, carrying along the memories
of each incarnation. Of course, this would require a complete description of what a “soul” actually
is. My take on this is slightly different: Information of events and circumstances surrounding every
human life that occurred within a causal patch19 is indelibly encoded in the Here and Now, in
accordance with fundamental quantum mechanical laws. For some unexplained reason, a child's
subconscious might consider certain information as very important and relevant and will proceed to
decode those qubits at the level of microtubules inside the child's neurons and project them as an
awareness, or “memory” of a past life. The life was certainly in the past – the laws of causality
prohibit seeing the future – but it's not the child's past life, but someone else's instead.
Traditions about reincarnation assert that souls frequently transmigrate within family units, and I
don't find it at all surprising that a child's subconscious would be drawn to information about the
past lives of close relatives. But what about some bizarre cases where a soul is apparently “reborn”
into two separate bodies, or where a person's soul transmigrates while the person is still alive?
None of this makes any sense if we consider a soul as “belonging” to a specific individual, but it
makes perfect sense if we consider reincarnation as simply a case of information being indelibly
encoded about one individual and decoded by one or more other individuals. It's interesting to note
that when a child recollects a past life, the memories seem to fade as the child grows older, higher
brain functions develop, and he or she becomes less intuitive and more rational.
A disproportionate number of cases studied by Dr. Stevenson involved recollections of very
unhappy lives or traumatic and violent deaths. It is not surprising the subject's subconscious would
be drawn to such information. Given the panoply of past lives to choose from, those lives having
extremely unpleasant or grotesque features would tend stand out from the rest, just as lurid and
violent movie trailers would tend to capture someone's attention more than ones involving dull,
tranquil scenes.

19 Obviously these lives must be in the past in order to preserve causality. In this universe, there's no “looking ahead.”

13
Appendix F – It's All in the Mind
English is a very powerful language, but there are times when the meanings of English words get
mixed up, so it's very important to apply the correct labels to things. Intelligence, consciousness,
awareness, and mind are terms that are similar, but there are subtle differences that need to be
clearly defined. This is especially challenging because those things are entirely non-physical.
The Turing test is designed to determine if a machine's intelligent behavior is indistinguishable from
that of a human. I think machines have already gone way beyond passing that test in many areas.
For example, I doubt if you could tell whether you were playing chess against IBM's Big Blue or
Garry Kasparov, if the only things you saw were the board and the chess pieces. So within the
framework of the game of chess, IBM's Big Blue passes the Turing test with flying colors. Similar
examples are Apple's Siri and driverless Google cars.20 So “intelligence” is apparently pretty easy
to fake. But what about “consciousness”? Is there a test for that?
Here's where we get into a bit of difficulty with definitions. What exactly do we mean by terms
such as “consciousness” or “awareness” or “mind?” I prepared a Venn diagram, below, showing
what I believe are the relationships between those three things.

In Appendices L, M, and N of my essay Order, Chaos and the End of Reductionism, I described
what I believe are two complementary and codependent states of reality: Causal Space (CS) and
Non-Causal Space (NCS). I refer the reader to the other essay for a complete picture of that
concept, but briefly CS is our ordinary time plus 3-dimensional space and NCS is roughly
equivalent to quantum space. CS and NCS are linked together mathematically and they mirror each
other. Mathematics is a product of Mind; therefore, Mind is the bridge that connects CS with NCS.
Mathematical objects like cosines, logarithms, and integrals are not physical, after all, but exist
solely as mental constructs. But these things aren't an invention of the human mind. Cosines,
logarithms, etc. still exist even if humans or other physical beings aren't around to contemplate
them. So Mind would be the overarching non-physical medium that links two complementary and
codependent facets of reality together with mathematics.
Quantum wave functions are also non-physical. According to QM the wave function “collapses”
when an “observation” occurs. This has bothered physicists for a long time. They wonder where
does the old wave function went after it collapsed. That's kind of like asking where the old cos(θ)
went after its argument θ was changed from 30° to 45°. NCS is similar to the QM wave function in
that regard. The NCS vector fields respond to changes in physical CS states, but it would be wrong
20 I used to be against the idea of driverless cars from a safety standpoint. Although accidents are inevitable, Google's
engineers claim that accident rates with driverless cars will actually be lower than with human drivers. I believe
them, based on what I've seen human drivers doing on the roads lately.

14
to think of NCS as “evolving in time” on its own like a QM wave function, because there is no time
there; a frequency dimension replaces time in NCS.
Mind is a boundless field and Consciousness is a sub-region of Mind that is associated with specific
entities in CS and NCS. We ordinarily associate consciousness with living beings with nervous
systems, brains, and intelligence, but in general Consciousness can apply to any identifiable entity, and
it comes with free will. Suppose we set up an experiment to measure the direction of spin of an
electron. This requires large, clunky magnets and electron detectors – at least it's large with respect
to the electron. Those things reside in CS, whereas the lone electron, disconnected from space and
time, resides in NCS and is spread out over frequency-space.21 As soon as the electron interacts with
the magnets and detectors, it merges with the larger system and becomes a “particle” in CS.
Immediately prior to that, the electron has a decision to make: “Do I spin up or spin down?” By
making that decision, the electron is actually exercising a very primitive form of free will. We don't
normally think of an electron as having a mind, consciousness, or free will, but it actually does.
Nothing in NCS causes it to point up or down, so it must be deciding this of its own volition. An
observer in CS sees the outcome of the spin measurement as stochastic or completely random.
Consciousness is more or less equivalent to what people associate with a soul or Karl Jung's psyche.
Jung divided the human psyche into various conscious, subconscious and unconscious parts, with
the ego as the focus of it all. The psychic elements of Jung's model would be included in my
definition of Consciousness of a particular human being. Humans can exercise free will because
electrons can too, and both exercise it through their respective Consciousness. Without free will, we
would be living in a cold, mindless, clockwork universe envisioned by Pierre-Simon Laplace.
Some neuroscientists insist that consciousness is produced by the brain, or it might even be the
brain. I think the “consciousness” they refer to is what I define in my model as Awareness, the
innermost region of my Venn diagram of Mind. Awareness is very much a product of a brain. Within
the limitless, non-physical field of Mind, each individual entity from an electron to a human beings,
possesses Consciousness and free will. Awareness emerges from the formation of complex thinking
organs like a brain. Awareness has attributes such as knowledge and intelligence, mirroring the logic
and intelligence of Mind, with a set of behaviors that are the trademark of a particular brain. Using
a computer metaphor, if the brain is the hardware, Consciousness is the operating system, Awareness is
software that runs on the operating system, and Mind is the underlying mathematics and logic that
make it all possible. So does an electron also have Awareness? Well, I suppose it could be aware of
being an electron, for what that's worth, although it's obvious that human Awareness is far richer than
Awareness of an electron, a fish, or even a chimpanzee.
So the follow-up question is: Can Consciousness and Awareness survive death? I'm inclined to say
that Consciousness might persist when the brain is absent, but I'm doubtful that Awareness can. When
clinical death occurs, Awareness is certainly interrupted, similar to going under anesthesia or falling
into a deep sleep. It's kind of like hitting the “pause” button on a DVD player. Resuscitating a
person who is clinically dead is like hitting the “play” button. The show continues unless the DVD
is too badly damaged.
In the case of Pam Reynolds, some questions remain. Did her Consciousness keep recording the
goings on in the operating room while both her brain and her Awareness were shut down, storing
those memories somewhere within Consciousness? Or did her Consciousness have to wait for her brain
to recover in order to reconstruct those events by accessing the relevant qubits in NCS, processing
those qubits into classical information bits of CS history that was then presented to Pam's Awareness
as a memory?

21 Or according to orthodox quantum mechanics, it's an evolving wave function. In my opinion, this is where QM
goes wrong: It tries to force-fit ordinary space and time into a domain where ordinary space and time don't exist.

15
Appendix G – The Boundless Ocean of Cosmic Mind

We are spray above the Wave of Eternal Becoming rising from a boundless Ocean of Cosmic Mind. The
Wave is the sum total of everything there is and ever was, receding at the speed of light away from the
Beginning toward an unknown Future, when spray reunites with Ocean and ceases becoming.
I developed a cosmological model near the end of my essay Order, Chaos and the End of
Reductionism, which posited a curved temporal surface of the Now moment, centered at the
Beginning and expanding at the speed of light. Everything that exists or has existed in the past is
encoded as information on the surface of the Now.
I am convinced that information forms the ground level of reality. In a very real sense, matter and
energy are comprised of information. From the special theory of relativity we know that matter and
energy are equivalent; accordingly, energy has mass and it bends space and time just like matter.
Likewise, energy and information are equivalent, as Szilárd Leó discovered in 1929, but his
discovery went largely unnoticed (and ignored) until Shoichi Toyabe of Chuo University and his
colleagues performed a laboratory experiment in 2010 that proved that this is indeed the case. This
suggests that the conservation law of {mass + energy} for an isolated system22 should be revised as
the conservation law of {mass + energy + information} instead.
Space and time exist solely for separating events by preventing transfers of information at speeds
faster than the speed of light. Thus, information is the very the basis for physical reality – matter,
energy, space and time. According to the definition of information developed by Claude Shannon,
information depends on probability, which measures a level of uncertainty. It is self-evident that
only sentient beings can possess uncertainty; it only exists as a state of mind. Therefore, physical
reality must rest on a bedrock of the mind. Since there is but a single Reality, this suggests
everything is connected through a universal Cosmic Mind, which must preexist matter, energy, space
and time. Individual minds are just like spray droplets returning to the boundless Ocean.
22 Strictly speaking, I believe the conservation law is only approximately true for small, isolated systems over short
time intervals, but the law certainly must be violated for the universe as a whole due to cosmic expansion.

16
Appendix H – Some Personal Accounts of Psi Phenomena

I’m going to share two experiences I’ve had involving two different kinds of psi phenomena. I am
not a psychic or a seer of any sort and I have no special powers. These two experiences occurred in
my youth and happened completely spontaneously. My recollections have become a bit fuzzy over
the intervening years, and I am well aware of how people unintentionally embellish their memories
even when they are trying very hard to be truthful. So you may take these accounts with a grain of
salt if you wish.
The first incident could be categorized as an out-of-body experience. It occurred in my high school
homeroom when I was in the 10th grade. The students in the room were waiting for the teacher to
arrive, so there was the usual horseplay and chatter. I always felt sleep-deprived in the morning like
most 15-year-olds and that morning was no exception, so I put my head down on my desk and
closed my eyes to “catch a few zees” before the school day began. As I was just about to drift off to
sleep – with my eyes completely shut – I had an experience of “seeing” everything in the room and
some distance beyond it displayed as a 360° panorama all around me. I could hear everything that
was going on nearby, which wasn’t at all unusual, but while I was “seeing” everything at once with
my eyes closed, everything I “saw” matched what I heard. Now a skeptic would say that my brain
was simply filling in my mind with visual images based on what I was hearing, but the next thing
that happened was quite strange. I “saw” my homeroom teacher, a woman in her late 20s or early
30s, walking down the hall wearing an unusual Scottish-style outfit – a plaid pinafore, plaid knee
socks, and a kind of sash over her shoulder with a brass brooch pinned to it. I was certain I’d never
seen her wear that outfit before and it kind of startled me, so I raised my head and opened my eyes.
A moment or two later, my teacher walked through the door wearing the exact outfit I “saw” her
wearing in the hall. That experience was entirely subjective on my part without any independent
corroboration, so you can take it for what it’s worth.
The second incident was a déjà vu experience when I was 19 or 20 years old while sitting by a
window in a diner with a friend. During previous déjà vu experiences, I had always felt frustrated
by not being able to predict what would happen next even though I was certain I was experiencing
events from the past, but this time was different because now I could make predictions. The diner
was at the bottom of a hill, so cars ascending on the opposite side of the hill were completely hidden
from view. Suddenly in the midst of this déjà vu experience I could “remember” the makes, models
and colors of the cars that would soon come over the top of the hill, and I pointed in their direction
and started identifying them out loud before they appeared. When I had correctly predicted the
makes, models, and colors of several cars in a row, my friend turned to me with a look of
bemusement. “How are you doing this?” he asked, and I said I didn’t know. I couldn’t really tell
how long that déjà vu experience lasted because my sense of time seemed to be all askew, but I’d
guess it didn’t last more than a minute. This was a case where my friend supplied independent
corroboration, so I have to conclude that my brain wasn’t just playing some cruel joke on me.
There are different prevailing theories concerning the déjà vu experience. My theory is that déjà vu
is similar to other psi phenomena, when the brain’s filtering mechanism is weakened to the point
where the mind decodes information about past and present directly from the Now moment instead
of relying on inputs from the usual sense organs. People who experience psi phenomena, including
out-of-body and NDEs, report a strange sensation of stepping out of time (the NDE life review is
often reported as occurring instantaneously). I believe that while the brain is decoding the Now
moment directly in lieu of (or in addition to) receiving sensory signals, the normal sense of order
from the past to the present is disrupted because there is no past in the Now. I thought I was
“remembering” cars coming over the hill from the past, but in reality I was sensing cars ascending
the hill and projecting what I would soon see in the future as having occurred in the past.

17
Appendix I – Cosmic Mind as the Cosmic Screen

In my essay Order, Chaos and the End of Reductionism, I derived a “theory of everything” based on
the premise that time, space, energy, and matter are really just alternative forms of information
(entropy), which is a metric of uncertainty.23 In the real world, information requires some form of
material substrate that can be acted upon. Take for example common USB flash drive sticks, which
come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are extremely handy for storing data. Here I want to make
an important distinction between the terms information versus data: Information pertains to the
total number of possible ways the flash drive can be configured, whereas data are a particular
configuration. For example, a 32GB flash drive has 274,877,906,944 bits of information, meaning
it can be arranged in any of 2274,877,906,944 unique states.24 Writing 274,877,906,944 bits of data
into the drive establishes just one of those states, and there can be only be one state at any time.

One may ask what kind of “substrate” is there for the information comprising the physical universe,
and what are its attributes? My answer is the substrate is Mind, which has no attributes, and is in
fact physically unmanifested. Logically, if Mind does not have any physical attributes, it cannot
consist of energy or matter because every physical attribute is derived from information which
operates on the substrate of Mind itself. By the same logic, Mind cannot be constrained temporally
or spatially because time and space are also derived from information on the substrate. Being self-
sufficient, Mind is detached from the physical state of the universe; therefore, it does not interact
physical universe by altering its data. In other words, to be an effective substrate for physical
information, Mind must remain completely unmanifested within the physical universe.

This immediately raises the following question: “If Mind is physically unmanifested (it cannot be
seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted, nor can it be detected by any physical instrument), and if it
not constrained by time and space, then how can Mind be said to ‘exist’ at all?”25 It’s a legitimate
question, and I think it can best be answered using the metaphor of a movie screen. A movie screen
should be indiscernible while a movie is projected onto it. There should be no holes, tears, or stains
on the screen so it is capable of reflecting, or expressing, any configuration of data points that could
be arranged on a particular movie frame. In that unblemished state, the screen represents complete
uncertainty with a virtual infinity of information. The screen itself doesn’t have any particular
configuration or bias that would affect the images being projected onto it, and by the same token,
the screen is not affected or changed in any way by those images. So although someone might
make an argument that an unmanifested screen does not “exist” in the same way the movie exists, it
is also quite obvious it would be impossible to reveal the movie without the screen! In other words,
it is best to manifest the movie by keeping the screen itself unmanifested. Furthermore, although
the screen and the movie’s reflection are separate things and have completely dissimilar natures,
they are still in intimate contact with each other. I think this is a perfect metaphor for understanding
the relationship between Mind and the material universe.
Carrying this metaphor to another level, the movie screen can become manifest or visible to the
audience when the movie projector is turned off and theater is illuminated. This serves as a parable
of meditation techniques, which aim to experience Mind by turning off the “movie projector”
(external thoughts) and experiencing the “blank screen” illuminated by its own light.
23 This idea was further developed in another of my essays, The Universe on a Tee Shirt.
24 It would take a very long time to guess the true configuration, meaning there’s a lot of uncertainty. Information
increases linearly as the number of bits increases, while the number of states increases exponentially.
25 The same point has been used to argue against the existence of the Deity. This is why theists usually wind up
giving their favorite deities all kinds of attributes that all too often reflect human imperfections. The closest any
religion has come to a Deity that fits my description of Mind is the Hindu concept of Brahman, which has been
alternatively described as both “nothing” (no attributes) and “everything” (the sum of all possible attributes).

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