The mental ascertainment of a reality
Through the experiences of human life the Ego can become aware not only of its own existence, but also of the existence of an organism to which it feels more or less bound, of that of a world that surrounds it and with which it can interact through its own organism, and that of many other organisms more or less similar to its own, with whom it can communicate and to each of whom it can attribute another conscious Ego. This set of conscious perceptions, also considered and interpreted on the basis of the programs received by the cultural system in which it was raised, forms what is identified by the Ego as a reality, that is, something that exists in itself, and which exerts a remarkable power also on the mental states that involve it. Obviously, sooner or later the moment arrives when the conscious Ego becomes aware of the problem of the correlation between the existence of this reality and the functioning of its own mind: regardless of the more or less satisfactory answer that the human psyche can offer us, it is clear that the mind itself constitutes a form of reality. It is precisely on the basis of this mental reality, of its correspondences with some aspects of the reality of the physical world, and of the possibility of being transferred from mind to mind, that all our knowledge is established.
The conscious and objective reality of the physical world, as we know it, is therefore based on the existence of our human organism and on its belonging to the natural evolution system that has developed and is still developing on planet Earth. The focus of attention and interest of this evolutionary system is constituted, in our age, by the human brain and the complexity of its organization and its operational capabilities. However, the tendency towards a knowledge that can account for all aspects of reality, including those that still remain enigmatic and uncertain, has led some scientists and popularizers to an exasperated and unjustified monism, which considers the brain as the producer not only of every mental activity, but of the conscious Ego itself, while at the same time claiming to consider it as a physical organ, that is, an apparatus, a device, complex yes, but which can be investigated and studied by a subject whose nature is never adequately explained. If this subject is another brain, or more precisely a system of brains that communicate and collaborate with each other, it is not clear what reliability can be attributed to a form of knowledge in which the subject and the object of the investigation coincide. If, on the other hand, the investigating subject is a team of minds, each intentionally guided by a conscious Ego, then the dualism that we wanted to rule out returns, unless we want to consider the brain as an anomalous system compared to any other physical system, capable of integrating in its functioning both the physical and mental aspects: in this case the dualism is in a certain sense mitigated, but the problem of the autonomous nature of the conscious Ego, as the recipient and manager of the most important mental functions elaborated through the brain activity, remains.
Knowledge is possible only if there is a conscious subject who asks questions, studies, elaborates, and is able to communicate and transmit to other conscious subjects what it has elaborated: this subject is the conscious Ego. The mental functioning of the conscious Ego and its involvement in the human psychic dynamics that lead it to ask questions and to elaborate all forms of possible answers – be they right or wrong – is a very ancient phenomenon, at least in terms of human history. By living, the conscious Ego has always experienced a mental reality, subjective even before than objective, which – in the various aspects in which it occurred – constituted for it a predominant fact, in front of which the resources it could dispose of (intelligence, will, capacity for ideation and action) often showed their limits. The fact that this enormous amount of individual and choral mental experiences needs a network of interconnected organic devices (the brains) to manifest itself in the reality of this world, is undoubtedly important, but it is not sufficient to explain the complexity of the phenomenon of human life. The most interesting aspect of this phenomenon is constituted by the connection between the mental activity, which the conscious Ego tries to intentionally control, and the heavy functioning of the organism, with its needs of natural origin that interfere with mental activity. In fact, what we live in as human organisms is an autonomous physical reality characterized by different levels of informatics complexity, and not an exclusively mental dimension: the conscious Ego, ensnared in the intricacies of the physical world, often becomes a prisoner of it, until it completely identifies itself with the events of the organism to which it is linked, forgetting its connection with the mental dimension from which it originated and to which it should feel the need to return.
The condition of the conscious Ego that must mentally experience the reality of a natural world in which it is obliged to live through an organism, translates into the psychic need to modify this world, trying to make it more suitable for its own needs. If the human Ego were in tune with the natural environment of this world, it would not feel this need, and would live the natural events of life – for better or for worse – exactly as animals do: instead the mental nature of the Ego drives humans to collaborate to create culture, increasingly moving the organism away from the natural environment and protecting it in artificially created structures that make it easier to carry out mental activities. The psychic needs tuned by human mental activity, especially in our today's advanced societies characterized by unprecedented technological and organizational complexity (at least on this planet), mean that human organisms are increasingly managed by the cultural system, and not by the natural environment in which they originated. However, the one in which the conscious Ego lives the mental experience of human life still remains a physical world, characterized by a natural evolutionary process with its own laws with which the Ego must still deal, given that the functioning of the organism to which it is connected depends on these natural laws, which the Ego tries by every means to investigate, to know and to master. From this process, therefore, originates the psychic conflict between the natural needs of the organism and the mental needs of the conscious Ego, a conflict that by most humans is passively and automatically experienced and interpreted, given that their conscious Egos completely identify with the different and contrasting psychic dynamics in which they are involved in one or another period of their lives.
The memory issue
Normally important life events are remembered, and memories can exert a considerable psychic impact even after a long time, thus making a fundamental contribution to the formation of the human personality and to the conscious Ego's experience. The anomalies in the functioning of memory that can occur, especially in old age, due to the deterioration of the brain, are also well known. The fact that the conscious Ego is linked more or less intensely to the personal history of its own organism, and to the psychic events deriving from it, is considered fundamental for the formation of the human personality in practically every culture. It is also taken for granted that, as a rule, the first memories of life of which the Ego can be conscious date back to a period not earlier than 20÷24 months after birth. Today, research in the field of cognitive neuroscience strives to understand how the brain stores not only life events, but also the psychic experiences that result from them. However, there are rare but well documented cases of children who remember in detail events, people and places related to the memory of an adult person, usually deceased shortly before they were born. Since these memories have been verified and their accuracy has almost always been established, the question arises as to how they may have been acquired by a brain whose personal experience they did not belong to. Another interesting question concerning memory is that relating to false memories, that is, to events and moods that are perceived as belonging to the real past of the person who remembers them, but which are not confirmed – indeed, they are often denied – from investigations carried out on a sufficiently objective and reliable basis.
A memory cannot be considered as such if it is not well fixed in our memory: for example, NDEs are remembered as important events, and often with considerable accuracy, even after decades have passed since they occurred. Those who had a complete blackout of consciousness during an anesthesia or a state of coma may sometimes suspect or imagine that they had during that period a mental experience the memory of which has then been lost – a bit like when we think we had a dream that we cannot remember – but the fact that that experience has not been fixed in the memory makes it practically irrelevant. Similarly, some people placed in a state of hypnotic regression recall memories relating to their early childhood or even previous lives, which however can be considered as false memories or imaginary elaborations, if they are not validated by objective evidence. Therefore, we can also imagine that something concerning the initial circumstances of our life, the resources we have and our destiny as human beings, did indeed occur before we were born, but in the absence of reliable memories relating to such events we can only attribute them to our mind's imaginative faculties. Quite different is the case of those children who, from the age of two or three, have intense, detailed and well-established memories of events related to the life of another person with whom they identify, likewise very vivid, permanent and emotionally engaging are the memories of many NDEs. Evidently mental experiences can present significant and profound differences from one individual to another, and it is doubtful that the methods of investigation by which we currently approach the functioning of a standardized model of the brain can shed light on the causes of these differences.
There is no doubt that the brain functioning plays a fundamental role in determining memory experiences (be they true or untrue), as demonstrated – among other things – by the experiments of stimulation of particular areas of the cortex conducted by the famous Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891-1976): however, the brain cannot be considered an organ with a standardized functioning, like the other organs of our organism, since it perceives, records and processes the events relating to individual life in an autonomous way. The more we study the more advanced functions attributed to the human brain, the more it is necessary to bear in mind that we are studying a person's particular brain, the physical characteristics of which can only account for a small part of the mental experiences in which the conscious Ego associated with that brain is involved. The experiments conducted on the brain functioning produce a series of data that can be regarded as facts, but the interpretation of these facts is still a mental process on the part of the insiders (the neuroscientists who evaluate the results of these experiments). A strictly monistic vision (that is, aimed at tracing back mental activity and the very existence of the conscious Ego exclusively to the physical functioning of the brain) must necessarily attribute these interpretations to the functioning of the brain of neuroscientists, depriving them of any possibility of verification, and therefore of validity as objective knowledge. In fact, some brains would be more capable and more gifted than others at establishing the criteria of truth relating to the functioning of standard brains. Now, it is certainly possible – indeed, in my opinion, it is certain – that there are human minds much more gifted than the average in the research and processing of knowledge, but I doubt that this ability can be traced back to particular physical characteristics found in the brain organ: cognitive activity always implies a conscious mental commitment in terms of intelligence, will and dedication, resources for which the brain is a necessary instrument, but not sufficient in itself.
Mind and brain
Anyway, the extraordinary resources of the brain are not such as to be able to offer us sufficient guarantees on its ability to understand the functioning of the mind: on the contrary – as we have already seen with regard to memory – the mind plasticity can determine psychic experiences that conscious perception considers as real events, but which cannot be objectively validated as such. With the limits constituted by today's available technologies, neuroscientists study the physical functioning of the brain organ, but in order to have information on the correlations between mental and physical events they must in any case turn to a conscious subject able to communicate what she/he perceives: this communication is made possible by the fact that it is possible to intervene on the brain, with partially open skull, even without anesthesia, but obviously only when there is some valid reason to operate. When Penfield, in the course of his neurosurgeries, touched some points of a patient's cerebral cortex with an electrode, it was the latter who verbally described the subjectively perceived mental events. Precisely this subjectivity of the psychic experiences makes the functioning of the brain standardizable only within certain limits, which concern above all the differences between the organic functions – which we share with other animal species – and the creative, cognitive and planning functions that represent the most evolved aspects of a specifically human mental activity. Any honest neuroscientist will admit that the mystery of the mind (as Penfield himself called it in his last book of 1975) is still far from being solved, and that the current knowledge about the functioning of the brain covers only a small fraction of the organic, sensorial and perceptive activities carried out by the different interconnected structures that compose it.
As I have repeatedly pointed out, the mental activity that constitutes the direct experience of the conscious Ego does not bring with it any useful and reliable information on the organic functioning of the various parts that make up the brain (as well as on any other organ of the human body). All the knowledge available to humans today has been laboriously acquired, so to speak, through a mental activity of observation, deduction, intuition and invention of suitable tools for the acquisition of new data, an activity to which only some humans have devoted and still devote themselves. Yet the human brain has existed, in its present form, for at least a few thousand years! In all this time, not only the technological resources have changed, but also – and above all – the cultural programs on the basis of which the acquired data are transmitted and interpreted, and new cognitive elements are elaborated. To some components of the brain system can therefore be attributed the function of operational acquisition of cultural programs, and also the capacity for a creative elaboration of new possible interpretations, especially through the interaction with other brains: these resources, however, do not go beyond the capabilities of a particularly elaborate device capable of performing certain functions, partly similar and partly very different from the increasingly powerful computers made by human technology in recent decades.
Once these capabilities of the human brain have been recognized, there are a couple of questions to which we would like to find a satisfactory answer: 1) Technological computers were made by human intelligence and its operational and organizational resources, but who (or what) made those components of the human brain that differentiate us so sharply from other animals (to some of which we are similar in many other respects)? 2) Technological computers work according to the needs of an external operator, who is able both to interact with them to transmit the necessary commands, and to interpret the data processed and represented by the peripherals: in the case of the human brain, who is this operator? Answering this last question, we can undoubtedly identify the operator in the conscious Ego, who intentionally and actively intervenes in the process, driven by the psychic stimuli that involve it. The modalities of this involvement are complex, because they can be determined both by needs of natural origin – related to the wants and well-being of the organism – and by culturally elaborated and transmitted programs, but they still need the convinced commitment of the conscious Ego. For example, a scientist who wants to do research on the functioning of the brain may do so because he believes he may find a paid job role (which therefore allows him to live) in that field, and because the cultural programs acquired push him to commit to increasing human knowledge about the brain, so that his conscious Ego feels interested and attracted by the possibilities that are offered to it, and engages its will in order to get certain results. On the other hand, in a completely different culture, a yogi of past could decide to spend years and years in meditation, limiting any activity of his organism to the bare minimum, and concentrating the volitional resources at his disposal exclusively on the control of his mental activity.
Thus the same conscious Ego is guided, in the course of life, by something that directs and stimulates it in one or the other direction, something that not infrequently overlaps both the natural needs of its organism and cultural programs received. The Ego may also find itself having to face the difficulties caused by the psychic conflicts deriving from instances of a different nature which, for better or for worse, can dominate it, inducing it to make sometimes extreme choices, and in some cases even cruel and wicked actions. This condition has been attributed – by many cultures in the past and also by some current cultures – to the possession of the mind of a human organism and the domination over the ego by inorganic entities considered as wicked and harmful, to which other positive and benevolent entities can be opposed. Whether or not we agree on these cultural interpretations, we are still far from having solved the problems deriving from the good-evil bipolarity of the human psyche. In any case, in the dynamics relating to the functioning of the human mind, it is always possible to find some individual cases that can be opposed to the naive and dogmatic monistic interpretation that wants to bring every mental state back exclusively to the cerebral activity through which the psyche manifests itself and exerts its effects. The human brain plays a precise role in transferring the effects of mental activity into the physical world, through the control of its organism, and must therefore be considered as a vehicle and a tuner of the mind, which all the more is able to involve the conscious Ego the more it is active. But, as NDEs show, the conscious Ego can experience mental effects that are completely different from the human ones, and above all referring to a dimension distinct from the physical one: towards the latter the Ego feels as disconnected and separated, sometimes through a phase of real detachment from its human organism.
We can hypothesize, at this point, that the conscious Ego has an autonomous energy system that comes into operation when the brain activity is definitively compromised, tuning psychic experiences belonging to another dimension. It may happen that this autonomous system becomes temporarily operative even when the brain is still able to function, inducing in the conscious Ego those psychic experiences that are described in the NDEs and then bringing it back to the normal organic dimension, with the vivid memory of what it has experienced. In any case, it does not seem that the will of the conscious Ego activates the system that allows its transfer to another dimension: the Ego can only testify to what it has happened to experience, regardless of its intentions. Just as when we are born in this world we begin to experience the psychic reality in which we are involved, whether we like it or not, with the instruments and the resources at our disposal, enduring and undergoing the destiny that has been reserved for us, in the same way NDEs show that it is possible for the conscious Ego to access a completely different reality that is – in most cases – much more satisfying and in accordance with our deepest needs, in a way that is completely independent of the Ego's ability to control. To give a very trivial example, it is as if the conscious Ego were a passenger embarked on a ship, who, at a certain point of the journey, because the ship is in danger of sinking, is transferred to a lifeboat, equipped with its own engine that automatically starts, and brings her/him to safety in the welcoming harbor of a mysterious and happy island, sheltered from any storm.
The functioning of that complex organ that we generically call brain, and the interaction of the human organism with very different environmental variables and with other brains, determine the gamut of attunements of the human psyche that every conscious Ego must necessarily experience in the course of its own life: as we have repeatedly pointed out, these attunements can be very different from one person to another, and above all they can bring with them a load of suffering that the Ego is forced to endure even before having the resources to disengage itself from the human psyche. On the other hand, other psychic experiences are emotionally lived by the Ego as interesting, pleasant and fascinating, also on the basis of those cultural programs which – instead of presenting life for what it is, that is, a difficult and demanding experience – tend to show a sweetened and hedonistic picture of the possibilities offered by the same life, omitting information on the tragedies and sufferings that still today afflict the majority of mankind. Human life therefore consists of a cycle of mental experiences in which the conscious Ego finds itself entangled, often in an illusory way, experiencing both its own weaknesses and its own resources in relation to the psychic experiences it has to face because of its own destiny. The disconcerting and contradictory character of this picture, made up of a few lights and many shadows, is contrasted by the psychic experiences of a completely different nature, and no longer linked to organic life, reported by many people who have had an NDE or a similar experience: in that dimension the Ego is often welcomed into a luminous environment – also perceived as the presence of a divine personality – which saturates it with positive emotions of a higher order, which are expressed (in an inadequate way, according to those who report their experiences) through terms such as infinite and unconditional love, eternal bliss, total sympathy, homecoming, and the like.
The conscious Ego and the Spirit dimension
Having reached the final phase of the natural cycle of human life, the conscious Ego can re-examine all the events of its life that it retains in its memory, and reconsider its choices and behavior in one or the other occasion, thus evaluating the transformations it went through and the different ways in which it reacted to the psychic experiences in which it was involved. If it asked itself questions about the meaning of human life, it can realize that if it has found answers to some of them, many others still remain unsolved puzzles, and since the time it has left to live in this world is reduced every day, and the mental faculties at its disposal are declining more or less rapidly, it realizes that many aspects of life remain beyond its ability to understand. If, confronting itself with the psychic dynamics that have involved it in the course of its life, it has managed to reach and maintain a state of balanced detachment, considering the personal destiny of its organism as one among billions of possible human conditions, transitory and relatively significant, it will also feel freed from that submission to psychic instances which imposes a lot of importance on one's experiences, especially in the first half of life. By no longer identifying itself with the psychic dynamics experienced, the Ego becomes more and more aware of its own authentic essence which, in the temporal confrontation with those attunements of the psyche which have characterized the human path that destiny has reserved for it, has come to recognize itself and to support its own aspiration to a different condition of existence, more in keeping with what the conscious Ego feels it is and wishes, beyond the vicissitudes and constraints of this life.
It should not be forgotten that – as we have already observed on other occasions – the bipolar dynamics that characterize the human psyche and are emotionally perceived by the Ego as good and evil, conditioning its desires, choices and actions to a greater extent the more the Ego identifies with its own psychic instances, show different aspects, not infrequently irreconcilable with regard to a plurality of subjects. The first aspect, the basic one, is given by the sensory and emotional states that the Ego experiences as pleasure and pain, and by the desires that involve the Ego causing it to act in a way to avoid pain and search for pleasure. A second aspect, more elaborate than the previous one, is constituted by the cultural programs transmitted to the Ego in order to condition the functioning of its brain and its organism within a more or less complex social system, in the dynamics of which it must take part, in one way or another. But another aspect of human psychic dynamics openly puts single individuals or social groups in competition with each other, making so that everyone can feel their own good as independent, or in any case prevalent, with respect to the evil that their decisions and the ensuing actions may cause to someone else. On the contrary, the psychic manifestations relating to domination and victory often determine emotional states of exciting euphoria for the Ego, which are almost strengthened, rather than being inhibited, by the observation of the state of prostration, helplessness and suffering in which those who succumb and are dominated find themselves. Sooner or later the conscious Ego realizes that the resources at its disposal are not such as to be able to eliminate the intrinsic bipolarity of the human psyche, in which it is involved and with which it must continue to confront.
Competition is often justified – always due to the psyche's suggestion – by the fact that everybody are willing to try their hand at confrontation, and therefore it makes no sense to want to behave differently, as another person, another organization or another nation would immediately be ready to take advantage of our weakness: which is true, given that this is how the human psyche works, resulting in a gamma of effects ranging from rivalries between football team supporters to ethnic conflicts in which entire populations are exterminated. To the natural laws on which the needs of our organism are based, with all the consequent risks, are thus added the criticalities and cruelties deriving from the functioning of the human psyche, normally accepted and often encouraged by the cultural programs we receive. It is not casual, therefore, that the conscious Ego feels dissatisfied with many of the experiences deriving from its involvement in the dynamics of the psyche, especially if its sensitivity leads it to perceive the price that must be paid by someone else for the relative benefits that it gets by the psyche, in terms of success, power and enjoyment. One of the most interesting and disconcerting aspects of many NDEs is that – once restored to organic life as a result of the commitment of medical or paramedical staff – the experimenter's Ego feels resentment, and sometimes a true rancor, towards his rescuers, who removed it from a dimension of ineffable bliss in which it felt perfectly at ease, totally loved, understood, and in complete harmony with every aspect of that form of existence. How one can try to explain all this on the basis of the organic functioning of the brain alone, remains incomprehensible to me: in a certain number of cases NDErs have then tried with determination to put an end to their life, in order to go back as soon as possible to that psychic dimension so different from the human one.
In order to be able in some way to label these events in terms useful for communication purposes, I call Spirit dimension that range of particularly positive psychic attunements that the conscious Ego experiences in the course of many NDEs, being involved and attracted to the point of not to like or to refuse the coming back to the dimension of organic life. I consider the reports relating to these experiences as a matter of fact, although referring to a subjective reality the perception of which, as a reality, is obviously of a mental order (as is indeed any other perception of reality, as I have pointed out at the beginning of this topic). As for the truthfulness and value of each individual report, everyone is in a position to elaborate and express their own personal evaluation, nor can it be otherwise with regard to intrinsically subjective psychic experiences. What is objectively verifiable is the great number of reports relating to NDEs and similar experiences that we can now have above all thanks to the internet: see, for instance, the documentation on the IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies) website. Not all experiences of access to the Spirit dimension occur in critical conditions for the organism, but in most cases either the organism is severely damaged and has end-of-life symptoms, or it is in a situation in which the jeopardy of losing its life is concrete (for example, a fall from a height or a drowning). Moreover, not all NDEs refer to the transit into the Spirit dimension, so defined on the basis of all those positive elements that make it attractive and fascinating for the conscious Ego, to the point of making undesirable and hard to bear any prospect of returning to the dimension of organic life: some of these experiences, the so-called distressing NDEs, tune in negative, hostile, gruesome and painful psychic dynamics which the Ego has to endure, being very happy when it is able to get rid of them. In some cases, an experience that begins as distressing then changes for better, allowing access to the Spirit dimension.
In the light of the established facts, it can be stated that a not small number of humans have had a significant experience of accessing the Spirit dimension, and that almost always such experience has had a profound influence on the orientation of the conscious Ego, when the latter has resumed living through its own organism. It should also be noted that many of these experiences occurred spontaneously, that is, without the conscious Ego having planned them or having any expectations about them: in fact, in many cases the experiences resulted from sudden, accidental and unexpected traumatic events, such as car accidents or heart attacks. On the other hand, if it is true that a wide documentation on NDEs is available today, and the many published books have given cultural resonance to these phenomena, so it is likely that some people can hope and expect to be able to access the Spirit dimension in case of traumatic events, many testimonies of the past came from people who knew absolutely nothing about the existence and spread of NDEs, and were often reluctant to communicate what had happened to them, for fear of being considered visionary or bizarre. However, these people almost always carry with them the awareness of having a task to carry out in their life, and in some cases even the mission of having to publicly communicate a message that has been entrusted to them. The changes in orientation resulting from NDEs often translate into a more spiritual life, much less conditioned by the cultural programs and typically human concerns to which these people were subject before their experience, and in some cases this new spiritual orientation also involves a religious vocation. If they are mothers with still young children, the task to be carried out in life is almost always to look after their children, helping them grow up with love.
The vehicle of consciousness
Although we are certainly not in a position to solve the mystery of consciousness, at this point we can have a clearer picture of the elements involved in that complex adventure that is human life. The beginning of the life of a new organism leads to the formation of a subject – the conscious Ego – who, despite being the main protagonist of human life, knows nothing about its own essence and destiny, but is involved in the psychic dynamics that it experiences through the consciousness with which it is endowed, to the point of identifying itself with them. These psychic dynamics are very variable not only from one individual to another, but also in the different periods of the life of the same person, and depend on the organism's resources, the environmental circumstances, the socially transmitted cultural programs, and an autonomous element which manifests itself influencing mental activity to a greater or lesser extent. Taken together, the psychic dynamics experienced by the conscious Egos of humans constitute the human psyche, a complex phenomenon consisting of an energy that manifests itself in a bipolar form, of which each Ego experiences but a small fraction in the course of its life. The way in which the conscious Ego experiences the psyche is exclusively mental, but the tools that determine these mental experiences are part of the physical world, and in particular of the organic world, in which we live. The same need to acquire information and elaborate knowledge on the functioning of our organism, and in particular on that of the nervous system and the brain, has a mental origin, and involves the conscious Ego of those who are engaged in this activity.
Even the research on the functioning of the various cerebral circuits that determine the psychic experiences involving the Ego, or control the organic functions in an unconscious way, is stimulated by mental activity coordinated by the conscious Ego. All observations lead to the conclusion that, as a rule, the various components of the brain play a fundamental role in determining the dynamics of the human psyche that the conscious Ego experiences, and that the very fact of being conscious and self-conscious is conditioned by the brain functioning. Nevertheless, these forms of knowledge are not sufficient to give the conscious Ego a control neither over the functioning of the brain nor over that of the mind, precisely because the brain cannot be standardized, and the ways in which the functioning of the cerebral circuits determine the psychic experiences and self-awareness of the Ego are not known, not to mention the cognitive and creative resources of the human mind. Although it cannot be demonstrated, it is much more reasonable to hypothesize that the brain functions as a tuning instrument of the mind – aimed at transmitting information about the reality of the physical world and receiving inputs that allow it to modify that reality through the operational control of the organism – rather than considering it as a creative device of consciousness and mental activity. If for the mental connection with the reality of this physical dimension it is essential to be equipped with an organism and a brain, it is not demonstrable that the Ego cannot have alternative vehicles through which consciousness enables it to experience psychic attunements other than human ones.
Many NDEs have some very specific characteristics, which – in the absence of any reliable knowledge on the functioning of the brain circuits that can possibly be activated (or deactivated) in the critical conditions in which such experiences are perceived by the conscious Ego – can be mentally interpreted on the basis of a reasoning subjectively convincing and objectively shareable. First of all, it can be observed that normally NDEs begin with a complete separation of the conscious Ego from the sensory system that connects it to its own organism: the Ego, while maintaining its consciousness, often intensified and particularly lucid, no longer experiences any of those sensations of severe pain and functional difficulty that until recently bound it to the nervous system of an organism that is now perceived as an alien body. In some cases it seems that the conscious Ego, separated from its organism, is able to observe – almost always from above – what is happening around that organism, what is done or said by the people around it – who are intervening on the critical conditions in which the organism happens to be – and some details of the environment in which the scene takes place. Sometimes the conscious Ego moves to observe environments close to the one in which its organism is located, and tries to interact unsuccessfully with the people it sees. It is possible to debate, case by case, the correspondence of what observed by the Ego with the objective reality of what actually happened in the physical environment, both by questioning this correspondence, and by making hypotheses – as has been done by some – on the efficiency of the organism's sensory and cerebral tools that would have allowed – despite its critical conditions – to acquire information on what was happening in objective reality: in any case, these are subjective mental interpretations and opinions, given that – as I have already observed – we do not yet have reliable and validated knowledge about the functioning of the brain in such critical circumstances.
At a later stage, which is present in many NDEs, the conscious Ego moves into a completely different dimension from the reality of this world: this transfer is often experienced as an upward journey (away from the Earth) at high speed, sometimes inside a kind of tunnel which, at the end, opens into a boundless space. Before making any interpretative evaluation regarding these aspects of the experience, it is advisable to read a few hundred testimonies, in order to get a fairly precise idea of the typically subjective elements and those which are common to many experiences. My mental interpretation – similar to that of other people – is that, in the critical conditions in which the organism finds itself, an alternative instrument to the brain comes into operation, which enables consciousness to tune psychic experiences related to another dimension, while maintaining the Ego's self-awareness. An alternative interpretation, but still of mental origin, is the one of those who believe that these experiences are in any case determined by the brain functioning, despite their complexity and the fact that – even if they occur in critical conditions for the organism – they are so anomalous compared to all the other psychic experiences due to brain activity. It seems to me that the fact that NDEs occur only in some cases, and not in all situations in which the organism is in a crisis that causes a loss of consciousness, can be better explained with the hypothesis that this alternative vehicle of consciousness can be activated or not: to resume the previous example, it is as if – being the ship that transports the passenger in troubled waters and at risk of shipwreck – someone or something decides whether or not the time has come to transfer the passenger on the rescue helicopter the ship is equipped with, starting its engine.
On the other hand, even the attribution of NDEs to the brain functioning does not change the mental meaning of these experiences, the only one that can actually affect and involve the conscious Ego. In fact, it is noted that no reductive interpretation advanced by some researchers is able to produce the effect of inducing the experimenter to reconsider or question the reality of what she/he has mentally perceived, a reality that – although subjective – also permanently influences the perception of the objective reality in which the conscious Ego returns to live once reconnected with its organism. We have, once again, the confirmation of the existence of alternative psychic dimensions, with respect to those normally experienced in the course of human life, which the conscious Ego can in certain circumstances access through a suitable tuning instrument, whether it is associated or not with the functioning of various brain circuits. Some of these psychic dimensions resonate with something that the conscious Ego feels to be inherent in its deepest and most authentic essence, an essence often altered, transformed and hidden by the typically human psychic dynamics with which the conscious Ego has to identify itself – by its destiny and the needs determined by organic life – in the course of its life. This is why, as confirmed by the testimonies of many NDEs and other similar experiences, when the conscious Ego is able to experience the dimension of the Spirit it feels truly welcomed into an environment it belongs to, it feels that it has finally returned home, like many experimenters express themselves, and it feels no desire to return to organic life. If the brain is able to tune in such experiences, it means that it is much more than an organ developed by the evolutionary process solely for the purposes and needs of organic life.