On the Continuity of our Consciousness
‘To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal.’ William James
According to our current medical concepts, it is not possible to experience consciousness during a cardiac arrest, when circulation and breathing have ceased. But during the period of unconsciousness due to a life-threatening crisis like cardiac arrest involving a transient loss of all functions of the cortex and of the brainstem, patients may report the paradoxical occurrence of enhanced consciousness experienced in a dimension without our conventional concept of time and space, with cognitive functions, with emotions, with self-identity, with memories from early childhood and sometimes with (non-sensory) perception out and above their lifeless body.
Scientific study of the NDE pushes us to the limits of our medical and neurophysiological ideas about the range of human consciousness and mind-brain relation, because we have to admit that it is not possible to reduce consciousness to neural processes as conceived by contemporary neuroscience: the current materialistic view of the relationship between the brain and consciousness held by most physicians, philosophers and psychologists is too restricted for a proper understanding of this phenomenon. I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that it is most likely that the brain has a facilitating and not a producing function in terms of our experience of consciousness.