Veridical Paranormal Perception During OBEs?

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Many NDErs appear to be reaching, after the fact, for some sort of explanation for why they returned to life, when none is apparent in the NDE itself. Some of the NDErs in the Fenwicks' sample openly wondered why they were 'sent back,' for they found no reason to continue living; after their NDEs they continued working menial jobs, for instance.

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Fox has uncovered further evidence that temporal lobe activity may bring about NDEs. He notes that when he examined complete NDE accounts from the RERC archives, rather than the incomplete extracts published by major near-death researchers, he found signs of temporal lobe epilepsy in a significant number of NDErs. In particular, he found signs of , a compulsion to write extensively about spiritual realities. In one case from the RERC archives, for example, a man reported an OBE, a tunnel experience, encounters with deceased relatives, and a life review, followed by 11 pages of speculative hypergraphic testimony about the meaning of life, the purpose of existence, the soul, and the beginning of the universe (Fox 161). Fox concludes that:

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[] A survey conducted by Richard Carrier indicates that most materialists believe that materialism falsified—and even go so far as to offer examples of possible falsifying evidence—but that, as a matter of fact, no unambiguous evidence falsifying materialism has ever been produced. Thus Tart's implication that materialists don't recognize that materialism "should be treated like any scientific theory" distorts the reality of the situation. In fact, most materialists do recognize this, but fail to be convinced that the inconclusive parapsychological evidence Tart relies on has actually falsified it. To suggest otherwise it to attack a caricature of contemporary materialists for polemical purposes. See Richard Carrier's "." Carrier's discussion is specifically about naturalism, but naturalism can be seen as roughly equivalent to materialism for our purposes (strictly speaking, materialism is a specific kind of naturalism, but the evidence that would falsify naturalism would also falsify materialism). Carrier's survey of what naturalists (and the materialists among them) believe is discussed at length in the section "A Brief Ethnography of Contemporary Naturalism."

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For instance, if NDEs are transitions to another world initiated by something leaving the body, then NDEs ought to begin with OBEs. But a substantial portion of prototypical Western NDEs do not include OBEs at all, and non-Western near-death OBE accounts are sporadic. Are NDErs who do not report OBEs simply amnesic about leaving the body, even though NDErs commonly report recalling their NDEs more sharply than any other events in their lives? Why do out-of-body NDEs in the West typically transition quickly from seeing the physical body and its immediate surroundings to another NDE element, while NDErs from Guam evidently "project" thousands of miles away to see relatives living in America? These sorts of questions are awkward for those taking a survivalist interpretation of NDEs.

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Even within highly consistent prototypical Western NDEs, there is wide variation in the form that NDErs' "astral bodies" take: sometimes they are mirror images of the normal physical body, other times they are balls of light or amorphous clouds, and sometimes NDErs do not even perceive having a "secondary body" at all (Irwin, "Introduction" 225; Moody 37). But if NDErs' secondary bodies were real rather than imaginary, we would expect their described characteristics to be about as uniform as those of different human beings' normal physical bodies. And though most NDErs describe their out-of-body vision as comparable to normal 180° color vision, some report surprising idiosyncratic traits like 360° "spherical vision" (Ring and Cooper, "Blind" 139) or at-will x-ray vision (Lawrence 125). Though such differences might be explained in terms of extremely variable astral genes or other fanciful constructs, such peculiarities are certainly awkward for a survivalist interpretation of NDEs.

What Are Out-of-Body Experiences?

Thus there are two ways in which NDE diversity undermines a survivalist interpretation of NDEs. First, arguments a survivalist interpretation are often premised on purported uniformity across times and cultures. Insofar as the rule seems to be substantial , however, one foundation for a taking a survivalist interpretation of NDEs is eliminated. Second, NDE diversity provides positive grounds for thinking that a survivalist interpretation is likely to be . Encounters with different transcendental environments might explain starkly different landscape visions, but would not explain different to those "otherworlds."