The following article is by Jody A. Long, J.D., from the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF), webmaster of : www.nderf.org; www.adcrf.org; www.oberf.org; P.O. Box 23367, Tacoma, WA, 98093, (253) 568-7777 home; (253) 831-3008 cell; or (253) 572-1330 work, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprint requests may be sent to Jody A. Long, J.D. at the above address.
ABSTRACT: This is part one of an ongoing study on Soulmates. Those who experience a near death experience frequently talk about the importance of relationships. This study an introductory article on Soulmates that gives background information on consciousness. Discussed is the big picture of how consciousness studies, NDEs, and relationships are related to the Soulmate study.
KEYWORDS: near-death experience; soulmates; soul mates; consciousness, relatives, soul, religious figures, soul cluster group
For purposes of this study, Soulmates is defined as “a loving relationship involving positive co-creation and manifesting spiritual growth” (Long, 2002). The focal points of this definition are that love is manifested through the relationship and that each person is able to grow in consciousness as a consequence of the relationship. The definition used for determining a near-death experience (NDE) is:
“A lucid experience associated with perceived consciousness apart from the body occurring at the time of actual or threatened imminent death.”
All people who have an NDE, experience a separation of consciousness from their body, whether they are aware of the actual separation or not. Experiencers also experience a fairly consistent set of circumstances and emotions that they report after resuscitation. Since the study of NDE is so connected to consciousness, a foundational understanding of consciousness is vital to the study of NDE. The study of consciousness is integrally connected to the way we process information on Earth. Moreover, information processing is the golden key to unlocking some of the mysteries as to what our purpose on Earth may be, what our true human nature is and what we might be capable of achieving with these new understandings.
As a bit of background, at the IANDS annual conference in 2000, Dr. Jeff Long and I gave a presentation on our research findings regarding Soulmates. I recently started to write up the presentation. One of the main questions I wanted to find out is if, by including the new data, the results of the study would still hold. It turned out that we had over two times the data as when we started. Every question analyzed had such a wealth of information contained in each sub-category that it was impossible to just write-up the Soulmate presentation. Therefore, I have chosen to write a series of papers based upon the new data and then write a culmination paper on soulmate understandings incorporating the findings of the separate papers.
For the study, NDEs were collected via a web form questionnaire on the website www.nderf.org and the resulting answers were analyzed (Long, 2002). From these patterns certain principles were derived that led to the unifying theory of spirit defined as the development of the soul in the process of returning to our natural spiritual state.
Soulmates is a necessary component of soul development. Experiencers identified the most important principals as:
- That everything and everyone is connected;
- Recognition that the other side is home;
- Unconditional love;
- Support from both sides of the veil for our soul development;
- Lessons on reconnection; and
- That Soulmates is one aspect of individuals feeling connected to a supreme creative being.
These principals were derived from the most commonly reported elements concerning relationships. Questions reviewed were those asking about encounters with beings (familiar and unfamiliar), comments about relationships, emotions, feelings, interconnectedness, and universal purpose or order.
Therefore, the series of papers will analyze answers to the questions of what beings were seen on the other side, what experiencers perceive as our purpose on Earth, what changes they made after returning to Earth, and explore the emotional content of the NDEs. Concepts derived from these papers will, in turn, be used to sum up the NDE perspective on Soulmates as reflected against the backdrop of consciousness studies because how we process information is key to integrating NDEs with our Earthly reality.
One aspect of consciousness is how we process information. Most people think that our memories are stored in the brain, much like a hard drive in a computer with 100% available recall. Many cannot understand that if a person claims to have consciousness apart from the body and the brain is flat lined, how can a person recall their NDE? This is a good point, but easily understood when one understands the nature of memories, the way we process information, and the way we recall that information.
There have been several recent studies on consciousness. One current theory is that consciousness is where the memories are stored, not in the brain as previously thought (Berkovich, 2001). Berkovich is in the forefront of scientists who is exploring the theory that as an information storage unit, the brain cannot possibly hold all the information that is required to function in our society. Consequently, scientist are considering the alternative that the brain is more of an accessing unit much like a radio receiver. The actual storage place is somewhere else, and NDEs would strongly suggest that place is the consciousness that survives the body.
Recent findings have shown that we typically store information as a core memory attached to an emotion and then file it in a concept area in the brain (Ornstein, 1991). When we retrieve our memories, we are programmed to “fill in the gaps.” Therefore brain memories rarely are 100% totally accurate. Even Freud noticed that memories are stored by attaching emotion to them (p. 89). Emotions organize how we store and access information in the brain.
Recalled memory will be reconstructed using the brain preference for order and stability. The memory will have a certain order to it and will generally be re-told in a way that subjectively makes sense to the individual. Analogous to a computer hard drive, we retrieve the memory chunk of information, by accessing a particular emotional “directory” in a certain part of the brain. Then the memory chunk is connected to one or several information chunks and the brain makes up the most logical story to connect the separate information chunks. This means that the information is integrated into an existing subjective framework of reality.
That being said, the experiencers typically report life reviews that contain every thought, deed, and how we made others feel. Vivid NDE examples, also noted in the landmark NDE Dutch study by van Lommel, contain memories during physical death of events categorized as veridical perception (van Lommel, 2001, p. 2043). Experiencers were accurately reporting events they witnessed while in the out of body state during the time they coded. They couldn’t possibly know what the doctors, staff, or relatives were saying in the same or another room. Nonetheless, experiencers were privy to actual conversations and events. Dr. Ken Ring‘s study showed that blind people can see during their NDE (Ring, 1999). There are reports from child experiencers that can recall NDEs like they happened yesterday. The youngest NDE reported to NDERF was at age 18 months old. The woman stated, “These experiences have stayed crystal clear and as fresh as when they occurred.”
These reported events cannot be explained by conventional “brain” theories, such as brain chemistry, anoxia, random firings of a dying brain, false memories, or wishful thinking. The model that best fits the data would suggest that the stream of consciousness that leaves the body does act like a computer hard drive with 100% memory recall. This is unlike the way the brain processes routine information. When consciousness returns to the body, it takes years to have those intense memories of the NDE to funnel through to the brain and to be integrated with the current Earthly reality framework (van Lommel, p. 2043).
My hypothesis is that NDE is such an intense experience that it may create access to consciousness memories and therefore imprints in the brain in a manner similar to what is known as a “flashbulb moment” (Ornstein, p. 88). Flashbulb moments are times when the brain takes a picture of a particular instance; usually occurring in times of heightened sensory and emotional input or life-threatening moments. These memories are then ingrained in the brain and the person can recall the event like it happened yesterday. This type of memory is much different than the way we store and recall routine information. I would suggest that duality exists between brain and consciousness (mind) because both serve two very different but necessarily integrated functions.
The NDE is almost always reported in terms of a highly emotional experience. Perhaps via the mechanism of emotion, consciousness (and the memories contained therein) is more readily accessed by the brain. Most of the time, the NDE recollection is so far outside of mainstream reality experience, that it may well take years for a person to process the NDE memory and integrate it into their existing reality framework in a manner that it can be communicated to self and others.
With consciousness and the way we process information as the backdrop, we can look at the way experiencers process information, reintegrate it into their lives, and springboard the process into a spiritually transformative event. As mentioned above, experiencers typically will report their experience in terms of emotion and relationships. For many, this integration will change their focus from an Earthly, material world to that of spiritual and relationships. Therefore, this information processing may well be a major component of consciousness that survives the body. Further study is necessary to understand what types of information are retained and what part of the experience motivates the experiencers to change which behaviors on Earth. Some of the new soulmate research will yield clues that answer some of these questions.
Berkovich, S. (2001) www.nderf.org
Berkovich, S (2001) www.arxiv.org
Berkovich, S (2001) www.seas.gwu.edu
Berkovich, S (2001) www.seas.gwu.edu
Ornstein, R. (1991) The Evolution of Consciousness, The Origins of the Way We Think, Simon & Schuster, New York NY.
Ring, K. and Cooper S. (1999) Mindsight: Near-Death and Out–of-Body Experiences In the Blind, William James Center for Consciousness Studies.
van Lommel, P. et al. (2001) Near-Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, The Lancet, 358, 2039-2042.