Dr. Bruce Greyson: Science & Postmortem Survival (Updated)
Science and Postmortem Survival
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Dr. Bruce Greyson: Science & Postmortem Survival (Updated)Feb 05
Dr. Bruce Greyson
From the “Cosmology and Consciousness Conference – Mind and Matter” in India (2011)
Science and Postmortem Survival
Talk by Dr. Bruce Greyson
Society for Scientific Exploration
May 12, 2010
The belief that some part of human beings may survive bodily death has been around for millennia, yet it has been regarded as a scientific hypothesis only for the past century. Although some scholars still argue that belief in survival belongs to the magisterium of religion and is not amenable to scientific exploration, postmortem survival can be, and has been, operationalized in terms of empirically testable hypotheses. More than 40 years ago, a research division was founded at the University of Virginia for the scientific exploration of the survival question. Now designated the Division of Perceptual Studies within the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, this division continues to pursue three parallel lines of empirical evidence bearing on the question of what, if anything, survives bodily death.
The first line of investigation explores the question of whether persons living today provide evidence of having lived previously, that is, of having reincarnated. This evidence may include verifiable cognitive memories from a previous life; unexpected personality traits, likes, and dislikes attributed to the previous life; unlearned skills attributed to the previous life; birthmarks and birth defects attributed to the previous life; and objective biometric similarities to the facial geometry of the previous life.
The second line of investigation explores the question of whether persons now deceased still manifest consciousness in some form. This evidence may include spontaneous or induced interactive apparitions of the deceased, communication with the deceased through mediums, instrumental transcommunication or contact through physical (usually electromagnetic) devices, and the communication of keys to decipher messages encrypted by the deceased prior to death.
The third line of investigation explores the question of whether the mind can function independent of the brain, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for postmortem survival. This evidence may include unexplained recovery of lost mental functions as the brain dies, near-death experiencers with enhanced mental activity while the brain is demonstrably impaired, and out-of-body experiences with accurate perception from an extracorporeal perspective (sometimes accompanied by objective detection of a disembodied entity).
The convergent evidence from these three lines of investigation provides empirical support for the scientific hypothesis of postmortem survival.
Bruce Greyson, M.D., is the Chester F. Carlson Professor of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences and Director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. He was a founder and Past President of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, and for the past 26 years has edited the Journal of Near-Death Studies. Dr. Greyson graduated from Cornell University with a major in psychology, received his medical degree from the State University of New York Upstate Medical College, and completed his psychiatric residency at the University of Virginia. He held faculty appointments in psychiatry at the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut, where he was Clinical Chief of Psychiatry, before returning to the University of Virginia, in 1995. His research for the past three decades has focused on near-death experiences and has resulted in more than 70 presentations to national scientific conferences, including an international symposium at the United Nations last year, more than 100 publications in academic medical and psychological journals, three edited books, and several research grants and awards. He has been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the International Association for Near-Death Studies and the Parapsychology Association, and is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
NOTE: The audio drops out for a couple minutes in the first video, but improves thereafter.
Dean Radin Interviews Dr. Bruce Greyson
Dr. Bruce Greyson (left), Dean Radin (right)
09:00 – 10:25
Bruce Greyson: “If you try to bring about a near-death experience, it’s not likely that you will actually have one. If you look at the content, the process of a near-death experience, one of the critical factors often seems to be letting go, giving up control, or having control arrested from you. Sometimes people will report approaching death and trying very hard to stay alive, trying very hard to stay in control, and fighting very hard against loosing control. And at some point they get exhausted and give in and just let go. And when they let go they are able to have this experience. And we find that those people who are able to let go are the ones who have the more elaborate experiences and have the more profound aftereffects. So if you are trying to bring about a near-death experience – and people have tried this with drugs, with various other means – you are not actually letting go, you’re not giving up control, you’re trying to maintain control. And I think that works against actually having the experience.”
34:56 – 36:16
Call in Question: “I would like to know how the study of this subject has changed you over time personally; how has this affected you personally…”
Bruce Greyson: “Most people who have near-death experiences talk about the profound changes in their attitudes, values, and beliefs afterwards. Most profoundly, they are no longer afraid of dying, but they also become more open in many other ways. I think some of that has rubbed off on me. You can’t listen to these stories year after year and not be affected… I don’t think I have the aftereffects of a near-death experience, but I think I am much less afraid of dying than I was before I started all this work. I’m much more open to other possibilities. There is a sense of meaning and purpose in the world that near-death experiencers seem to have that they didn’t have before and I think I’ve gotten some of that; the sense that things do really happen for a purpose; that there is something that we all have in common that I wasn’t aware of before I did all this work.”
36:48 – 38:10
Bruce Greyson: “I did a study once looking at people who had made suicide attempts and either did or didn’t have near-death experiences. I would interview them right after the suicide attempt and then every month thereafter. And there were some people who right after the suicide attempt told me that nothing had happened. And then a month or two later, they would say, you know, now that I’ve gotten to know you a bit, I think I can tell you that I did actually leave my body. And maybe four or five months later they would say, well now that I know you’re not going to make fun of me for this, I’ll tell you what really happened. They’ll tell me about seeing a deceased loved one. And then a year later they’ll say, Now that I know that you’re not going to treat me like I’m crazy, let me tell you what really happened. And they’ll tell you about meeting Jesus. And they keep telling you more and more as they start to trust you more and more. And there are some near-death experiencers that I’ve known for 30 years who I’m sure have not yet told me the more personal parts that they just can’t share. Some things are just too personal and… it would profane the experience by sharing it with somebody else.”
Dean Radin: “That’s interesting because it does suggest then that the percentage of people who report near-death experiences may be a vast underestimate.”
Bruce Greyson: “That’s right. I think that’s true.”
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