The experience of the divine Spirit
All NDEs which we have a report of ended with the return of the conscious Ego to the human dimension of organic life: although these experiences are almost always characterized by a sense of eternity – and in any case by a completely different perception of time than the unidirectional linearity to which our human condition binds us – in the temporal interpretation determined by the human psyche they have a beginning and an end, even if they can be permanently fixed in the experiencer's memory, and if the vision of life of its conscious Ego has been changed. From our point of view, conditioned by the attunements of the human psyche, it is as if those experiences represented only the beginning of an adventure in the Spirit dimension, an adventure which, however, is interrupted when the conscious Ego is forced, willy-nilly, to re-enter its own human organism. However, the feeling of eternity and timelessness that pervades above all some of these experiences, the most intense and significant ones, allows the conscious Ego to feel immersed, absorbed, and in some way fused with the divine Spirit that permeates that dimension, to the point that the very individuality of the conscious Ego melts into that infinity, while it perceives this fusion of its spiritual essence in the divine Spirit as its most important and true realization. The return to the often painful condition of organic life is configured in some way as the awakening from a wonderful dream, even if the conscious Ego can retain the certainty that, at the end of this life, it will be able to return – this time in an irreversible way – to the Spirit dimension.
The conscious Ego can therefore experiment and explore different dimensions: that of the ordinary waking state, characterized by the typical dynamics of the human psyche, that of dream states, that of non-ordinary states of consciousness induced by psychedelic substances or by particular meditative and ecstatic techniques, and that of the Spirit, as reported by many NDErs. Given that precisely in the Spirit dimension the Ego perceives and feels as an irrefutable and absolute reality the existence of a divine entity from which it is welcomed and, so to speak, surrounded by a feeling of comprehension and unconditional and limitless love, let us try to better understand – within the limits that our human condition imposes on us – what can be the relationships between this divine Spirit, the conscious Ego, and the dimension of organic life dominated by the human psyche. Already more than two thousand years ago the Hinduism philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, as exposed in some Upanishads, had pushed itself to an absolute monism, considering every aspect of reality, and every dimension experienced as real by the conscious Ego, as a manifestation of one divine Spirit, the Brahman or the Absolute, with which the conscious Ego itself, once freed from its subjection to the dynamics of the human psyche, could identify as an unconditioned Aatman. However, in order to validly support and experience this conception (which in several respects corresponds to what the Ego experiences in the Spirit dimension, according to the most complete NDEs) the dimension of organic life must be weakened, removing energy and, above all, reality from the human psyche – with its contradictions, conflicts and the temporal volubility of the desires and conditionings with which it ensnares the Ego – which is reduced to the state of Maya (often translated, in an imprecise way, as illusion).
Maya is nothing else than the power of the human psyche to involve and convince the Ego, so that it identifies with the psychic dynamics that life reserves for it. Although the Vedanta philosophy provided the possibility for the conscious Ego to act in this life through the path indicated by karma-yoga, that is, in a disinterested way and without a real desire for success in relation to the objectives pursued, the human psyche has shown not to be willing to accept without reacting the weakening attempted by that monistic interpretation and the religious orientations that derived from it, and in the last few centuries it has displayed a considerable vigor in successfully involving a large part of humanity in that process of elaboration of scientific knowledge and technological achievements that have changed the face of the planet and the very quality of life of billions of people. Obviously, if human beings were interested only in the evolution of the conscious Ego with the aim of its transfer into the Spirit dimension, the human psyche could not have counted on such a prompt adhesion of humans to the objectives it pursues, successfully as it seems: even in the same Indian region that was the cradle of the Vedanta spiritual philosophy, the need to improve the poor living conditions of over a billion people is determining the adoption of many of the programs developed by our Western culture. Indeed, it is not enough to invoke the spirit of sacrifice or disinterest in the fruits of one's actions to obtain that intense commitment, and that involvement on the part of the psychic dynamics, which are indispensable for getting the results that the scientific and technological culture of our time has succeeded to reach. Although it could be objected that the happiness and unhappiness of humans change only in form, but in substance they always remain the same, and that the goals that the human psyche proposes (or imposes on us) carry a price that has to be paid by someone of us, we must anyway recognize to the same psyche a remarkable vitality and a strong ability to control our organic life.
We are therefore dealing, as a matter of fact, with a substantial dualism that leads the conscious Ego to experience either one or the other dimension: the temporal dimension of this life, conditioned by organic needs and dominated by the human psyche, bipolar and often conflictual, and the eternal – or at least timeless – Spirit dimension, harmonious and pervaded with love and intense bliss, as it is described to us by many NDErs. Since we are currently in the condition of experiencing human life, it is reasonable and understandable that the conscious Ego hopes that, at the end of this experience, it can access the Spirit dimension, and – at the same time – it is also understandable the need felt by many people to do everything possible to increase the joys and decrease the sufferings of this life. Even if these objectives can be pursued with a certain illusory naivety – given the bipolar character of the human psyche – they still represent the engine of life itself, while waiting for it to be over: as we have seen, the weakening of the human psyche attempted by the Vedanta philosophy – and to a large extent also from some religious orientations – is based on the certainty of the existence of the Spirit dimension and of the possibility of accessing it by the conscious Ego. However, the very fact that the Ego is at least temporarily subjected to the experience of human life must also be explained in the context of a monist vision. In this case, however, the subjective aspect of the psyche prevails, since each of us can make direct reference only to their own experiences and to the interpretations deriving from them, on the basis of the intellectual elaborations determined by their mental activity, which can be more or less convincing, or even worthless, to others. And this, of course, also applies to the elaborations produced by my mind and reported on this site. What I believe must be objectively recognized is that the organic dimension of human life is not the only one that the Ego can consciously experience.
The conscious Ego and its spirit
From the attempt to explain the remarkable differences with which humans interpret their life and deal with it, the variety of resources and talents they have to a greater or lesser extent, and the fact that some people remember events and emotional ties related to a previous life lived from another now defunct organism, the theory of the spirit reincarnations was developed: in essence, a spiritual entity would undergo a series of experiences of organic life – each time forgetting its own true essence and developing a conscious Ego connected to a new organism – in order to evolve by confronting itself with the organism's needs and the dynamics of the human psyche. Beyond the interest that this theory may have as a mental elaboration correlated with human vicissitudes, I do not believe that it is of much use for the conscious Ego, the only entity to which we can refer as an experimenter of the psychic dynamics of this or other dimensions: in the light of what is reported in many NDEs, the conscious Ego maintains its identity in the process of transition to the Spirit dimension, and its spiritual transformation is determined by the fact that it no longer feels bound to an organism and by the experiences in which it is involved in that dimension. In some cases, the conscious Ego feels that its essence expands to the point of understanding every possible form of existence, as an effect of its fusion with the divine Spirit. However, there are no more or less standardized mechanisms by which the conscious Ego awakens as a spirit, remembering its previous lives and adding to those the memories of the life that has just ended. Furthermore, the divine entity that radiates love and benevolence in the Spirit dimension does not manifest itself as a judge who evaluates the actions and intentions of the Ego in the light of the dynamics of the human psyche, promoting or condemning: any negative or positive evaluations on its own behaviors, recalled in the course of the life review (which does not always take place), are made by the Ego itself on the basis of the effects that its actions have had on others, effects of which it now becomes fully aware by experiencing them on itself.
The divine Spirit seems well aware of the fact that the human condition often induces the Ego to act inconsiderately and impulsively, causing suffering to others, also because the Ego itself is vulnerable to suffering as a result of its subjection to the human psyche: in some way, as long as the conscious Ego lives identifying itself with the psychic dynamics that involve it, it is subject both to its own sufferings and to the risk of trying to take personal advantage of the precarious living conditions in which others may find themselves, provoking other sufferings in them. In the Spirit dimension everything becomes clear, precisely because the coercions that the human psyche imposes on the conscious Ego no longer work there. Yet the human condition, with all the negative aspects determined by the psyche's bipolarity, seems to be considered important by the divine Spirit: this is what can be deduced from many NDEs, in which the return to organic life – to which the conscious Ego often strenuously opposes – is determined and almost imposed by the divine Spirit, who solicits and encourages the Ego to complete the task or the mission that has been assigned to it, despite the difficulties it will have to face. After the experience in the Spirit dimension, the conscious Ego often feels that it has received some more resources than those it had before, and in some cases there are also testimonies and confirmations of rapid, complete and unexpected organic healings. NDErs also feel they must discover for themselves what their assigned task in life is, and how they can accomplish it. The impression one gets from the general picture of the testimonies on NDEs is that the spiritual essence of the conscious Ego is an emanation of the divine Spirit, which wants to experience the individual fragmentation of organic life and the dynamics of the human psyche, in the context of a temporal dimension from which it is then destined to free itself. As long as the conscious Ego is involved in the experience of human life, it is unable to understand the motivations that induce the divine Spirit to engage in this game, precisely because the part (that is, our individual mind) cannot comprehend (that is, contain) the Whole.
Many people feel reassured and comforted by the idea that their spirit passes through a cycle of various human lives, thus transferring the feeling of individuality, which the conscious Ego experiences in its current life, to the evolutionary process of this hypothetical spirit which – from life to life – learns more and more, until it is, so to speak, promoted to a higher level. Furthermore, by associating a rudimentary and rough interpretation of the Hindu concept of karma with the idea of the cycle of rebirths, it also satisfies that strange sense of justice, determined by the human psyche, for which the sins of a life (meant as the evil that a human caused to others), if they are not atoned in that same lifetime, will be atoned for through the pains suffered in a later life. In this way every conscious Ego, subject to all kinds of sufferings during its life, can make its peace, since it is rightly atoning for the evil done by another Ego, associated however with the same spirit, in the course of another life, without anyway remembering anything specific about it: all this seems to me somewhat comical. In the light of the NDEs reports, the values and psychic dynamics that we experience as human beings do not apply in the Spirit dimension: the conscious Ego retains its own identity, but experiences a new range of psychic attunements that attract it towards that luminous entity that emanates absolute and unconditional love and benevolence. All human experiences are somehow assimilated into that one divine Spirit with which the conscious Ego yearns to reunite: in the Spirit dimension universal love reigns, and every individual entity feels connected to every other entity, without contrasts, conflicts and divisions of sorts. Therefore, when the conscious Ego manages to reach the Spirit dimension, its task should be accomplished, as it has achieved the goal of human life.
It may be that behind every human adventure that determines the formation, development and evolution of the conscious Ego there is also a spirit guide, meant as an emanation of the divine Spirit, which in some way tries to help the conscious Ego in its path of orientation and liberation from the dynamics of the human psyche. In this respect, the Ego can be more or less sensitive to the influence that this spirit guide tries to exert on it, so that it does not fully identify with the various psychic attunements in which it is involved. However, I do not believe – for the reasons I have previously explained – that it is possible to investigate with our limited resources as human beings the root causes that determine the great diversity of our individual destinies in this life: the most reasonable hope is that – once our human adventure is over – every conscious Ego may be welcomed into the Spirit dimension, provided this is its aspiration. At the same time, while recognizing the intrinsically bipolar character of the human psyche and the inevitable fragmentation of the experiences deriving from the association of each Ego with a single organism, the right value must be given to the commitment to harmonize as much as possible the different human experiences, without however having the – typically human – pretension to bend everything to our own will: the insidious character of the human psyche, in fact, can manifest itself not only in the harm done to others for one's own (illusory) advantage, but also in the ideological presumption of wanting to impose on others what one person or one group believes to be the common good. As far as the conscious Ego is concerned, the deepest meaning of human life and its very purpose remain to reach the Spirit dimension, in which it might also receive all the answers to the questions posed in this life.
About those cases, rather rare but well documented – above all thanks to the assiduous commitment of the psychiatrist Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) and his collaborators, among whom, currently, Jim B. Tucker (b.1960) deserves to be mentioned – on the so-called reincarnation, I would first of all observe that the discontinuities of memory require that a memory of the past must have been recorded somewhere, so that it can be considered reliable when it emerges in our mind (in other words, it is not one of the false memories I mentioned in the paragraph on The memory issue in last March's post). In the cases in question, of course, memories of past life events and people cannot have been recorded directly by the brain of the person who remembers (often from early childhood), for the simple fact that, when those events occurred, that brain neither did exist, nor was it forming. We must therefore deal with memories which, after having been recorded by some device unknown to us (most likely in another dimension), are transmitted – by mistake or for some other reason that escapes us – to a new brain that has formed a few months or a few years after the death of the person whose life those memories belonged to. In fact, in the cases examined and documented, it is a question of precise memories referring to a single life, usually terminated prematurely and in a brutal way: no reference is ever made to a series of previous lives, and above all to the transfer into the Spirit dimension, nor to the acceptance by the spiritual essence of the conscious Ego of a new incarnation in our organic dimension. It seems to me that these alleged cases of reincarnation are more akin to mediumistic phenomena of incorporation, in which memories and the same personality belonging to a human life of the past can manifest themselves more or less temporarily in a living organism. It often happens that, as the conscious Ego consolidates over the years, the personality of the past becomes more and more evanescent, leaving room for the experiences of the new life and the consequent evolution of the new Ego.
If the Ego does not experience the Spirit dimension
In the cases of cardiac arrest, which clinically must be considered as confirmed deaths from which a person can be brought back to life through the resuscitation techniques that have become increasingly effective over the last half century, about 10% of resurrected people remember having had a more or less intense and complete NDE, while the remaining 90% remember nothing. Currently, in those cases where the resuscitation techniques are correctly applied, with constant and protracted commitment by the staff who implement them, the period of cardiac arrest can exceed four hours, without the brain cells being permanently damaged, provided that the body is adequately refrigerated. It has been suggested by some researchers that everyone may have had an NDE during the period of cardiac arrest, but only a minority are able to transfer the memory of that experience to the brain once the organism is back to life. Something like this happens with dreams: we all dream, but some are able to remember their dreams much better than others. This explanation does not seem convincing to me, precisely because of the extraordinary and intensely real nature of the reported NDEs: it would be as if someone did not remember the most important and emotionally involving events of their life. This would mean either that the memory circuits have been damaged, or that some entity – active in the other dimension – had the power to erase any memory of the experience upon re-entry. I think instead that the time factor is not particularly significant for the activation of the process of transfer of the conscious Ego into the Spirit dimension, which in some cases occurs almost instantly, but in other cases it could also occur several hours or days, measured in our time, after the clinical death of the organism took place. On the other hand, the very fact that in all the cases under study people have always been brought back to life, could imply a precognitive suspension of a process that should successfully occur only at the definitive end of human life. Experimenters sometimes report meeting entities who tell them something like, «There has been a mistake: your time is yet to come...».
As for the negative contents of distressing NDEs, it is quite understandable how the process of liberation from the mental dynamics conditioned by the human psyche can in some cases be particularly complex, especially when feelings of guilt prevail – as can happen to people who try to commit suicide – or when the Ego of the experimenters remains entangled in particularly painful and tormented mental representations, without being able to find the way to get rid of them. Not infrequently these experiences turn from negative to positive when the Ego remembers to invoke the help of the divine Spirit – regardless of the name by which it wants to call it or the form in which it pleads for its salvation – or finds the courage to give up an attitude of proud defense of its own autonomy, to entrust itself to what can be defined as the confident expectation of a merciful intervention. It seems anyway that some time is needed – as it is perceived from our human point of view – for this transformation process to take place, and therefore in those cases in which the experience is interrupted due to the re-entry into the organism – with a sense of relief on the part of the conscious Ego, that seems to wake up from a nightmare – only the memory of the distressing phase, which has not been able to evolve, remains. It should be borne in mind that, while the dynamics conditioned by the bipolarity of the human psyche no longer operate in the Spirit dimension, in the transfer phase, which can be more or less complex, the conscious Ego can still be intensely involved in particular psychic attunements which become real to it to the highest degree: in the absence of an adequate preparation, the Ego can find itself in serious difficulty in dealing with a situation in which it can also believe and feel that it is forever imprisoned.
In some NDEs the Ego manages to unblock the distressing condition in which it finds itself and to progress towards the Spirit dimension, just when it realizes that it has remained imprisoned in its own mental schemes, that is, in those tunings determined by the human psyche that it had acquired during its life, considering them appropriate and ending up identifying with them without even realizing it. This is one of the reasons why practicing already in the course of life some techniques of differentiation and detachment of the conscious Ego from the psychic dynamics that involve it can be useful to help the Ego to orient itself in the experiences that await it before the transfer into the Spirit dimension. Although the presumed sense of justice that is suggested to us by the human psyche may lead us to believe that the wicked – that is, those who knowingly cause suffering to others, even for their own gain – deserve to undergo hellish pains in the afterlife, at least for some time, in order to atone for the evil done, distressing NDEs show no evidence to validate such an interpretation. Indeed, once the Spirit dimension is reached, the divine love that reigns there radiates comprehension, compassion and mercy to such a degree that even the conscious Ego of the most wicked human being cannot fail to be deeply affected, while the journey that leads to the Spirit dimension can actually test the conscious Ego, and it largely depends on its attachment to the dynamics of the human psyche with which it has identified during its life: a sincere recognition of its weakness and an invocation for help may be enough to unblock a difficult situation, while concentrating on its human power can keep the Ego imprisoned for a long time in a painful dimension. In this sense we can believe that the divine Spirit leaves the Ego a certain freedom in deciding whether or not it wants to listen to the Spirit's call, even if it remains impossible for us to understand in depth the reasons that can bind the conscious Ego – even after death – to certain attunements that have been imposed on it by the human psyche.
Based on these assessments, the (limited) ability to understand of our human reason are left with two alternatives: 1) the recognition of a substantial dualism between organic life, subject to changes caused by the passing of time and the control exerted by the human psyche, and the Spirit dimension, in which all existences harmonize and merge into a single source of energy through which a universal love radiates; 2) the defense of a consistent monistic vision, for which the only authentic reality is constituted by the divine Spirit, and consequently both the organic life and the human psyche would be nothing but manifestations of Maya, whose unreal and dreamlike character is confirmed precisely by their temporality and by the continuous mutations that distinguish them. However, in the light of the experiences to which the conscious Ego is subject in the period of its formation, its consolidation and its evolution (that is, in its human life), I do not consider a strictly monistic conception satisfactory or defensible: in fact it is obvious that, once the Spirit dimension has been reached, the conscious Ego can remember the human experience lived by it as something that no longer concerns it, a series of distant and even unreal or dreamy events, but this detachment is determined precisely by the fact that it is no longer part of the human dimension. Can we therefore argue that the human dimension does not exist, and that this world does not continue to go on, continually transforming itself for better or for worse on the basis of the one-way arrow of time? I don't think so: evidently even the Maya of the human condition has its own need to exist, and everything that happens here, in terms of good and evil, of happiness and suffering, of progress and decay, is determined by its unreal reality. At this point, therefore, we must face the difficulty of understanding how the divine Spirit that permeates the dimension to which the conscious Ego may access after death can coincide with the bipolar psychic energy that governs the particular individual destinies, very much different from each other, which feature the human condition.
In whatever way we want to consider human life – for example, as an egg in which a conscious Ego is formed and develops, being then able to access the Spirit dimension, or as a class in which the experiences are like teachings that allow the spirit associated with the Ego to improve, or as an exam-trial in which the spirit (developing a new conscious Ego each time) tests its ability to confront itself with the dynamics imposed by the human psyche, or finally as an adventure end in itself (and therefore meaningless) destined to fade as well as it began – it is evident that if we want to lead all human destinies, so different from each other, to a single cause, we must conclude that that single cause is simultaneously operative within and outside of each of us: therefore it is, in a certain sense, manifesting itself in order to experience itself. It is well understandable how in the Spirit dimension the unipolar character of divine love is able to welcome, forgive and redeem every spark of consciousness that has been able to reach that dimension, after having been immersed for a certain time in the bipolar field of the human psyche, more or less attracted to one or the other polarity. It is also understandable how a temporary existence in the human dimension may be necessary for the formation and evolution of the conscious Ego, in function of its transfer into the Spirit dimension. More difficult to understand, at least for me, are the reasons why a spirit that is already in the dimension most congenial to it should consent to experience the human condition again, through the formation of a new conscious Ego and the erasing of all memories of its spiritual existence. The only reason that seems plausible to me, at least in part, is that a spirit, as an emanation of the divine Spirit, could accept to live again as a conscious organism to carry out an exploratory, cognitive or operational mission, within a dimension that however still remains alien to that of the Spirit. But, as I have already said, we must always deal with the limits that our human reason imposes on us.
Experiences with psychedelic drugs
A few years ago I examined, on the page on the Experiences induced by psychotropic substances, the effects of a spiritual nature caused by the intake of psychedelic drugs – in particular psilocybin – comparing them with the NDEs. Since the end of the last century, some researchers have resumed investigations on the mental experiences caused by certain substances (including DMT and ketamine), overcoming many legal, administrative and organizational obstacles. Since in the meantime the literature on NDEs has also grown considerably, it seems to me appropriate to re-examine the differences and possible similarities between these experiences, and to partially correct some of the conclusions I had then reached. A significant research was conducted by Dr. Rick J. Strassman from 1991 to 1995 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, injecting in vein even high doses of DMT to sixty volunteers. The research methods, the testimonies of the experiences and the evaluation of the results are reported in the book DMT - The Spirit Molecule, published by Strassman in 2001. Strassman's particular interest in DMT was determined by the fact that this substance is naturally present in the human organism – as well as in most animal and plant organisms – and therefore can be considered an endogenous psychedelic: in 1972 American biochemist Julius Axelrod (Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1970) identified its presence in the brain tissue, and ever since scientists have been trying to understand how it is produced. It has been hypothesized (also by Strassman) that the epiphysis, the pineal gland of Descartes, can produce it in particular circumstances, especially – in small quantities – in the hours of the night when one dreams more intensely, but this hypothesis has not found to date definitive validations.
DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine) is a tryptamine that has similarities, due to its molecular formula and structure, with the neurotransmitter serotonin, with the hormone melatonin (produced by the epiphysis), and with other psychedelic tryptamines such as psilocybin, psilocin and bufotenine, all derived from the aminoacid tryptophan, characterized by the presence of a benzene ring associated with a pyrrole ring. According to Strassman and other researchers, DMT affects serotonin receptor sites in much the same way as LSD, psilocybin and mescaline. Within the brain some sites, involved in the processes of mood, perception and thought, are particularly rich in serotonin receptors, and consequently are sensitive to DMT. Strassman is particularly intrigued by the fact that, unlike what happens with other psychedelic substances, moderate quantities of DMT are produced by the human organism: in wondering what the reason is, he suggests that DMT can be considered as the spirit molecule, that is, that neurotransmitter that allows the conscious Ego to access spiritual experiences of various kinds. In recommending to those interested in learning more about this topic to read Strassman's book and various articles dedicated to the relationship between psychedelics and paranormal experiences (for example those written by David Luke, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Greenwich), I would like to make some preliminary considerations on the substantial differences between the experiences induced by the use of psychedelics and the NDEs, especially when the latter occur in conditions of cardiac arrest.
First of all, it should be remembered that the intake of a psychedelic substance is almost always an act that the Ego performs intentionally, and from which certain consequences are expected in terms of psychic experimentation, sometimes with exploratory and cognitive purposes, but more often with a recreational aim, which is part of the dynamics with which the human psyche involves and subdues the conscious Ego. In any case, when the drug starts working in the brain, the latter's circuits are active and functioning in a state of alert consciousness, which is transformed into a state of non-ordinary consciousness due to the effect of the neurotransmitters contained in the ingested substance: the process of alteration is well perceived by the Ego, who – beyond the euphoric or distressing effects determined by the psychic attunements it is experiencing – is aware of the fact that its mind is determining a state of non-ordinary reality in which it finds itself immersed. In most NDEs, however, the Ego perceives its state of consciousness as normal, I would say almost indistinguishable from the ordinary waking state, and the anomalous elements of what it experiences – including, for example, the fact of being separated from its own physical organism and to feel no longer any pain – are the object of astonished reflection, and often lead the Ego to come deductively to the conclusion that it is dead. The state of mental clarity and the quality of consciousness during NDEs seem to me, in principle, very different from those experienced under the effect of psychedelic substances: obviously, since these are in any case subjective experiences, it is not correct to come to a generalized interpretation on them. However, I regard as particularly interesting some cases of NDEs that occurred in cardiac arrest following an overdose, in which the state of consciousness experienced by the Ego, lucid and serene, was very different from that – altered, chaotic and destabilizing – caused by the presence in the brain of substances presumably still active in the period in which the experience took place. These substantial differences with the state of consciousness of NDEs are also found in the experiences under the effect of DMT reported in the book by Dr. Strassman, as the author himself does not miss to point out.
Regarding the definition of DMT – or other psychedelic substances with similar effects – as a Spirit Molecule, it is necessary to consider the substantial difference that exists between a mental functioning determined by the connection with a dimension other than the physical one – which can also produce physical effects in an organ as complex as the human brain – and the psychic experiences in which the conscious Ego is involved through empirical alchemies (lacking adequate in-depth knowledge) based on the introduction of certain substances into the brain circuits. It is naive to believe that the complexity of the mental processes in which the conscious Ego is involved during an experience in the Spirit dimension can be traced back to the electrochemical alterations of the brain circuits alone, trying to find – without success – the right cocktail and dosage of the substances needed to reproduce certain experiences. As a matter of fact, any expert psychonaut knows well that the subjective component of the mental state of the conscious Ego plays a fundamental role in determining the outcome of the experience: it is not infrequent that a single NDE determines a radical and permanent change in the orientation in towards the life of the experimenter's Ego, who then feels no need to take psychedelic substances, while those who use these substances for the purpose of an alleged spiritual research are pushed to take them frequently and to experiment with different ones. This is an orientation distorted precisely by the organic dimension in which we live: a true call by the Spirit drives instead the conscious Ego to make its mind as lucid and clear as possible, freeing it from the contamination determined by the functioning of the organism and the psychic dynamics deriving from it. To proceed in reverse, thinking that one can access the Spirit dimension through substantially empirical and sometimes dangerous organic experiments, seems to me illusory, risky and conceptually wrong. None of those who have experienced an intense, complex, and meaningful NDE were consciously willing to have a spiritual experience.
The fact that we may find similarities between some aspects of the experiences induced by psychedelic substances and some aspects of the NDEs is understandable, as in both cases those conditions that bind the mental activity to the functioning of the organism are no longer valid. Furthermore, as I have repeatedly highlighted, not for all NDEs the transfer into the Spirit dimension occurs in a harmonious way and without negative elements, and in some cases the experimenter's Ego is reconnected to its own organism without having had access to that dimension. I would like to emphasize once again that I refer to the Spirit dimension as that condition in which the conscious Ego experiences the presence of an entity from which an absolute and unconditional love, direct towards the Ego, radiates, which welcomes it and from which it feels intensely attracted, to the point of not feeling any other desire or need than that of being able to dwell forever in that dimension, to which it feels it belongs by its very true essence. This intense experience of the reality of the Spirit dimension is reported, in a very precise and coherent way, in about half of the NDEs we have a record of. In some cases, the access to the Spirit dimension is preceded by a series of mental experiences, including the external perception of one's body (OBE), the vision of real or imaginary places and known or unknown people, or the interaction with wicked and tormenting entities: these wanderings in psychic dimensions that the conscious Ego perceives as real are characteristic of the psychedelic experiences, in the course of which the Ego must explore any mental attunement in which it can become involved, often without having the possibility to control and intentionally direct the evolution of such experiences.
Another very interesting book on ketamine-induced psychedelic experiences is Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, written by the English psychiatrist Karl Jansen and published in 2000 by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (www.maps.org). Ketamine is a short-lived anesthetic drug (less than half an hour), the molecule of which has a different structure from that of tryptamines or mescaline, but less complex than LSD. At doses of about a quarter of that required to achieve an anesthetizing effect, it produces psychedelic experiences – sometimes positive, sometimes negative – of which Jansen's book offers an ample documentation. Since some of the psychedelic effects produced by ketamine have similarities to certain aspects of the NDEs (for example, traveling through a tunnel, vision of the light, perception of a divine entity, or identification with God or the cosmos), some researchers have advanced the hypothesis that NDEs may be caused by the presence of ketamine in the brains of the experimenters. However, unlike DMT, ketamine is not produced by the human body, and is not usually used as a surgical anesthetic due to the short duration of its anesthetizing effect, but since its action is very rapid, it is sometimes used as a preliminary anesthetic before administering the main anesthetic. Anyway, with regard to NDEs, it should be remembered that in all cases of resuscitation after a cardiac arrest the patient is not anesthetized, and therefore is not given ketamine, even if it is not excluded that the human organism could produce other substances, with a molecular structure similar to that of ketamine, to longer preserve the integrity of the nervous system in conditions of anoxia.
The 4th chapter of Jansen's book is devoted to the similarities between NDEs and ketamine-induced experiences: the book was written over twenty years ago, and since then the reports and research on the NDEs – largely thanks to the IANDS efforts – allow us to have a more satisfying cognitive framework. Faced with the objection that ketamine experiences can often be unpleasant and sometimes terrifying, Jansen states not only that some NDEs can also be distressing (which is true), but also that those who have had a distressing NDE are then reluctant to talk about it, because they prefer to remove it from memory: this is a supposition for which there is no evidence. The testimonies of the many thousands of cases we have today show us that the NDEs that remain at a distressing level throughout all their duration are less than 10%, while – as far as it is known – the percentage of negative experiences induced by ketamine is much higher. When Jansen then highlights the similarities between some experiences induced by ketamine and the NDEs, he does not take into consideration the perception, by the conscious Ego, of being welcomed and pervaded by an infinite, absolute and unconditional love emanating by a divine entity, which constitutes the nucleus of a lot of NDEs, but of which no trace is found in the experiences colected by the author among those people who have used ketamine. Examining well, as a whole, the thousands of NDE reports that we have today, and in particular those that occurred in critical conditions for the organism, one gets the impression that some researchers, while engaging in an activity of investigation and information of remarkable interest about the effects of psychedelic substances, then get to the hasty conclusion that any spiritual experience must necessarily be produced by a cerebral alchemy: which could also be true, but we know so little about the brain functioning – above all as a tuner of psychic experiences – that the one or the other hypothesis on the cocktail of substances necessary to obtain a certain spiritual experience is of no help to us, from a cognitive point of view, for understanding the meaning of the experience itself.