Evidence of a metamorphosis



Limits of ordinary memory

In referring to the sense of identity that characterizes our existence in this life, we had to recognize how it is far from simple to precisely define what we are, because of the remarkable changes that take place over time. If for other people the perception of our identity is linked to our physical body and its behavior (with all the changes that follow), for our Ego our identity is linked to the continuity of the psyche's experiences recorded by our consciousness, which with their flowing determine our personal history. However, we have realized that while we may have a fairly precise perception of the mental events that involve our consciousness in the present moment, what happened to us in the past may in part be recalled as a more or less blurred memory, and in part is completely forgotten. In certain circumstances, however, some mental tunings can be activated that bring to life, with particular clarity and richness of detail, many events of our past life, some of which were no longer present in our memory. 

A case of anamnesis (review of one's own life)

Examining the reports about the NDEs, we have seen how in some cases a review of one's life is experienced through a series of complete and detailed scenes. A particularly significant example of such a review, given the time in which it occurred (1795), was offered by the English admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857) – known for having devised the wind-force scale that bears his name – who told, in a letter sent to his friend Dr. Wollaston, that at the age of twenty he had been about to drown in the port of Portsmouth after falling into the sea due to an accident: although he was already an expert sailor, he could not swim, and after struggling without coordination in the water, he began to go under the surface, until he was brought back to life, after a couple of minutes, by some companions rushed to his aid. In his letter, Beaufort noted how one would expect a drowning person to be too busy to struggle in an attempt to save himself, or too involved in feelings of hope or desperation for his life, to be able to observe and remember what is going through his consciousness. «I was soon exhausted by my struggles, – he wrote in his letter to Wollaston – and, before any relief reached me, I had sunk below the surface – all hope had fled, all exertion ceased, and I felt that I was drowning. My mind had then undergone the sudden revolution which appeared to you so remarkable, and all the circumstances of which are now as vividly fresh in my memory as if they had occurred but yesterday».

«From the moment that all exertion had ceased – which I imagine was the immediate consequence of complete suffocation – a calm feeling of the most perfect tranquillity succeeded the most tumultuous sensation. It might be called apathy, certainly not resignation; for drowning no longer appeared an evil: I no longer thought of being rescued, nor was I in any bodily pain. On the contrary, my sensations were now of rather a pleasurable cast, partaking of that dull but contented sort of feeling which precedes the sleep produced by fatigue. Though the senses were thus deadened, not so the mind; its activity seemed to be invigorated in a ratio which defies all description; for thought rose after thought with a rapidity of succession that is not only indescribable, but probably inconceivable, by anyone who has not been himself in a similar situation. The course of these thoughts I can even now in a great measure retrace: the event that had just taken place, the awkwardness which produced it – the bustle it must have occasioned, for I had observed two persons jump from the chains – the effect it would have on a most affectionate father, the manner in which he would disclose it to the rest of the family, and a thousand other circumstances minutely associated with home, were the first series of reflections that occurred».    

Then Beaufort reviewed his whole life: «...our last cruise – a former voyage and shipwreck – my school, the progress I had made there, the time I had misspent, and even all my boyish pursuits and adventures. Thus, travelling backwards, every incident of my past life seemed to me to glance across my recollection in retrograde procession; not, however, in mere outline as here stated, but the picture filled up, with every minute and collateral feature; in short, the whole period of my existence seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic review, and each act of it seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of right or wrong, or by some reflection on its cause or consequences – indeed, many trifling events, which had been long forgotten, then crowded into my imagination, and with the character of recent familiarity».   

The recording of events

This case, like others similar to it, is significant because it shows that the events of our lives are recorded somewhere, even if we do not normally have access to these records. We can also assume that the recording happens through our brain, but not necessarily in our brain: in this last case we would be able to relive the episodes of our personal history with relative ease. It should also be noted that Admiral Beaufort did not refer to the events that passed before him as memories, but as vivid and probably even animated visions, according to his description: while in fact the memory is an essentially mental fact, which in order to be even partially visualized requires a certain amount of imaginative skill, a vision falls within the field of perception, both visual and auditory, even when its hallucinatory character is recognized. The imaginative visualization of a memory is presented to our mind as more or less nuanced, mobile, inconstant and uncertain, while a hallucinatory vision presents all the requirements of reality: it is stable, coherent, and can be examined carefully in every detail.

The change in the psyche's tunings

There is another particularly interesting aspect that Beaufort's experience shares with other NDEs: the continuity of individual consciousness is associated with a sudden change in the psyche's tuning registered by consciousness. In fact, Beaufort did not perceive a change of his identity, or even a split with respect to his physical body, which simply ceased feeling pain. But the mental events focused by his consciousness had completely different characteristics from those previously recorded: instead of the trouble and pain resulting from the impossibility of breathing and the efforts made to stay afloat, a state of inner calm took over, with a stream of thoughts on the consequences that the event of his death would have on his family members. Furthermore, over a period of time that can be estimated in one or two minutes, according to the ordinary meter, the panoramic vision of all his life reappeared before his eyes with the evidence and the richness of details that we have highlighted. It is as if the perception of the proximity and inevitability of the bodily death had quickly activated a completely different operative program, as a result of which his consciousness was able to register anomalous mental tunings with respect to the perception of the fundamental elements on which is based our ordinary human experience, like the flow of time and the movement in space.   

This change of program is completely independent of the Ego's will and control ability: in experiences like the one lived by Beaufort, it is something that simply happens, without being neither foreseen, nor desired or feared. At the time when Beaufort risked drowning (in 1795) there was not a rich literature on NDEs, nor was it often spoken of paranormal phenomena: life was hard and almost all energies were absorbed by the struggle for survival. Information and human communications had as exclusive vehicles words spoken or written, in letters, in newspapers or in books. Twenty-year-old Beaufort had begun his life as a sailor at the age of thirteen and, although he was a smart and intelligent young man, his culture was limited to the practical needs of life and his job. Concepts such as psyche and unconscious were still completely outside the most advanced cultural horizon of his time, and yet he experienced a substantial metamorphosis and managed to leave a written record of his remarkable experience. 

Another testimony

Another interesting example of the metamorphosis of the mental tunings recorded by consciousness in critical conditions close to death – which took place many years before systematic searches were conducted on NDEs – was published in the November 1889 issue of the St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal, and was quoted by Myers in an article titled On indications of continued terrene knowledge on the part of phantasms of the dead in vol. VIII (page 180 and following) of the Proceedings of the SPR. Author of the testimony was A. S. Wiltse, an American doctor from Skiddy (Kansas), who, suffering from typhoid fever, in August 1889 had been admitted in terminal stage to the Kismet hospital (Tennessee). Sometime after (in 1890) Richard Hodgson led an investigation into this case and obtained the testimony of some people who had attended the patient (family and friends of Dr. Wiltse), including the report of the hospital's attending physician, Dr. S. H. Raynes, who said: «I was the attending physician present when Dr. A. S. Wiltse lay apparently dead in August, 1889. I observed his symptoms closely, and if there are any symptoms marking a patient as in articulo mortis that were not presented in his case, I'm ignorant of them. I supposed at one time that he was actually dead as fully as I ever supposed anyone dead. I thrust a needle deep into the flesh at different points, and got no sign of sensibility. there was no pulse and no perceptible heart-sound. The breath was, so far as observable, absolutely suspended».

Even if Dr. Wiltse was not permanently dead (since he then recovered and survived), however he was certainly in a comatose state, with very weak and practically imperceptible pulsations and a body temperature well below normal: despite this he experienced a continuous series of vivid mental impressions, which he himself told, and then transcribed, immediately after he regained consciousness. Here is his testimony: I asked (the doctor) if I was perfectly in possession of my mind, so that what I might say should be worthy of being relied upon. Being answered in the decided affirmative, I bade adieu to family and friends, giving such advice and consolation to each and all as I deemed best, conversed upon the proofs pro and con. of immortality, and called upon each and all to take testimony for themselves by watching the action of my mind, in the bodily state in which they saw me, and finally, as my pupils fell open, and vision began to fail, and my voice to weaken, feeling a sense of drowsiness come over me, with a strong effort, I straightened my stiffened legs, got my arms over the breast, and clasped the fast stiffening fingers, and soon sank into utter unconsciousness

I passed about four hours in all without pulse or perceptible heart-beat, as I am informed by Dr. S. H. Raynes, who was the only physician present. During a portion of this time several of the bystanders thought I was dead, and such a report being carried outside, the village church bell was tolled. Dr. Raynes informs me, however, that by bringing his eyes close to my face, he could perceive an occasional short gasp, so very light as to be barely perceptible, and that he was upon the point, several times, of saying, "He is dead," when a gasp would occur in time to check him. He thrust a needle deep into the flesh at different points from the feet to the hips, but got no response. Although I was pulseless about four hours, this state of apparent death lasted only about half an hour. I lost, I believe, all power of thought or knowledge of existence in absolute unconsciousness. Of course, I need not guess at the time so lost, as in such a state a minute or a thousand years would appear the same. I came again into a state of conscious existence and discovered that I was still in the body, but the body and I had no longer any interests in common. I looked in astonishment and joy for the first time upon myself – the me, the real Ego, while the not me closed it upon all sides like a sepulchre of clay.   

Out of the body

With all the interest of a physician, I beheld the wonders of my bodily anatomy, intimately interwoven with which, even tissue for tissue, was I, the living soul of that dead body. I learned that the epidermis was the outside boundary of the ultimate tissues, so to speak, of the soul. I realised my condition and reasoned calmly thus. I have died, as men term death, and yet I am as much a man as ever. I am about to get out of the body. I watched the interesting process of the separation of soul and body. By some power, apparently not my own, the Ego was rocked to and fro, laterally, as a cradle is rocked, by which process its connection with the tissues of the body was broken up. After a little time the lateral motion ceased, and along the soles of the feet beginning at the toes, passing rapidly to the heels, I felt and heard, as it seemed, the snapping of innumerable small cords. When this was accomplished I began slowly to retreat from the feet, toward the head, as a rubber cord shortens. I remember reaching the hips and saying to myself, "Now, there is no life below the hips." I can recall no memory of passing through the abdomen and chest, but recollect distinctly when my whole self was collected into the head, when I reflected thus: I am all in the head now, and I shall soon be free. I passed around the brain as if I were hollow, compressing it and its membranes, slightly, on all sides, toward the centre and peeped out between the sutures of the skull, emerging like the flattened edges of a bag of membranes. I recollect distinctly how I appeared to myself something like a jelly fish as regards colour and form.      

As I emerged, I saw two ladies sitting at my head. I measured the distances between the head of my cot and the knees of the lady opposite the head and concluded there was room for me to stand, but felt considerable embarrassment as I reflected that I was about to emerge naked before her, but comforted myself with the thought that in all probability she could not see me with her bodily eyes, as I was a spirit. As I emerged from the head I floated up and down and laterally like a soap-bubble attached to the bowl of a pipe until I at last broke loose from the body and fell lightly to the floor, where I slowly rose and expanded into the full stature of a man. I seemed to be translucent, of a bluish cast and perfectly naked. With a painful sense of embarrassment I fled toward the partially opened door to escape the eyes of the two ladies whom I was facing as well as others whom I knew were about me, but upon reaching the door I found myself clothed, and satisfied upon that point I turned and faced the company. As I turned, my left elbow came in contact with the arm of one of two gentlemen, who were standing in the door. To my surprise, his arm passed through mine without apparent resistance, the severed parts closing again without pain, as air reunites. I looked quickly up at his face to see if he had noticed the contact, but he gave me no sign, – only stood and gazed toward the couch I had just left. I directed my gaze in the direction of his, and saw  my own dead body. It was lying just as I had taken so much pains to place it, partially upon the right side, the feet close together and the hands clasped across the breast. I was surprised at the paleness of the face. I had not looked in a glass for some days and had imagined that I was not as pale as most very sick people are. I congratulated myself upon the decency with which I had composed the body and thought my friends would have little trouble on that score.              

I saw a number of persons sitting and standing about the body, and particularly noticed two women apparently kneeling by my left side, and I knew that they were weeping. I have since learned that they were my wife and my sister, but I had no conception of individuality. Wife, sister, or friend were as one to me. I did not remember any conditions of relationship; at least I did not think of any. I could distinguish sex, but nothing further. I now attempted to gain the attention of the people with the object of comforting them as well as assuring them of their own immortality. I bowed to them playfully and saluted with my right hand. I passed about among them also, but found that they gave me no heed. Then the situation struck me as humorous and I laughed outright. They certainly must have heard that, I thought, but it seemed otherwise, for not one lifted their eyes from my body. It did not once occur to me to speak and I concluded the matter by saying to myself: "They see only with the eyes of the body. They cannot see spirits. They are watching what they think is I, but they are mistaken. That is not I. This is I and I am as much alive as ever”

A walk in the air

I turned and passed out at the open door, inclining my head and watching where I set my feet as I stepped down on to the porch. I crossed the porch, descended the steps, walked down the path and into the street. There I stopped and looked about me. I never saw that street more distinctly than I saw it then. I took note of the redness of the soil and of the washes the rain had made. I took a rather pathetic look about me, like one who is about to leave his home for a long time. Then I discovered that I had become larger than I was in earth life and congratulated myself thereupon. I was somewhat smaller in the body than I just liked to be, but in the next life, I thought, I am to be as I desired. My clothes, I noticed, had accommodated themselves to my increased stature, and I fell to wondering where they came from and how they got on to me so quickly and without my knowledge. I examined the fabric and judged it to be of some kind of Scotch material, a good suit, I thought, but not handsome; still, neat and good enough. The coat fits loosely too, and that is well for summer. "How well I feel," I thought. "Only a few minutes ago I was horribly sick and distressed. Then came that change, called death, which I have so much dreaded. It is past now, and here am I still a man, alive and thinking, yes, thinking as clearly as ever, and how well I feel, I shall never be sick again. I have no more to die". And in sheer exuberance of spirits I danced a figure, and fell again to looking at my form and clothes.   

Suddenly I discovered that I was looking at the straight seam down the back of my coat. How is this, I thought, how do I see my back? and I looked again, to reassure myself, down the back of the coat, or down the back of my legs to the very heels. I put my hand to my face and felt for my eyes. They are where they should be, I thought. Am I like an owl that I can turn my head half way round? I tried the experiment and failed. No! Then it must be that having been out of the body, but a few moments, I have yet the power to use the eyes of my body, and I turned about and looked back in at the open door, where I could see the head of my body in a line with me. I discovered then a small cord, like a spider's web, running from my shoulders back to my body and attaching to it at the base of the neck in front. I was satisfied with the conclusion that by means of that cord, I was using the eyes of my body, and turning, walked down the street. I had walked but a few steps when I again lost my consciousness, and when I again awoke found myself in the air, where I was upheld by a pair of hands, which I could feel pressing lightly against my sides. The owner of the hands, if they had one, was behind me, and was shoving me through the air at a swift but a pleasant rate of speed. By the time I fairly realised the situation I was pitched away and floated easily down a few  feet, alighting gently upon the beginning of a narrow, but well built roadway, inclined upward at an angle of something less than 45deg.   

The uphill road

I looked up and could see sky and clouds above me at the usual height. I looked down and saw the tops of green trees and thought: It is as far down to the tree tops as it is high to the clouds. As I walked up the road, I seemed to face nearly north. I looked over the right side of the road and under it could see the forest, but discovered naught to support the roadway, yet I felt no fear of its falling. I examined the material of which it was built. It was built of milky quartz and fine sand. I picked up one of the gravels and looked at it particularly. I distinctly remember that it had a dark speck in the centre. I brought it close to the eye and so discovered that it was a small hole apparently caused by chemical action of some metal. There had been a recent rain, and the coolness was refreshing to me. I noticed that, although the grade was steep, I felt no fatigue in walking, but my feet seemed light, and my step buoyant as the step of childhood, and as I walked I again reverted to my late condition of illness and rejoiced in my perfect health and strength.   

Then a sense of great loneliness came over me and I greatly desired company, so I reasoned thus: Someone dies every minute. If I wait twenty minutes the chances are great that someone in the mountains will die, and thus I shall have company. I waited, and while so doing surveyed the scenery about me. To the east was a long line of mountains, and the forest underneath me extended to the mountains, up their sides and out on to the mountain top. Underneath me lay a forest-clad valley, through which ran a beautiful river full of shoals, which caused the water to ripple in white sprays. I thought the river looked much like the Emerald River, and the mountains, I thought, as strongly resembled Waldron's Ridge. On the left of the road was a high bluff of black stone, and it reminded me of Lookout Mountain, where the railroad passes between it and the Tennessee River. Thus memory, judgment, and imagination, the three great faculties of the mind, were intact and active

Doubts, fear and relief

I waited for company, what I judged to be twenty minutes; but no one came. Then I reasoned thus: It is probable that when a man dies he has his individual road to travel and must travel it alone. As no two men are exactly alike, so, most likely, no two travel the same road into the other world. I reflected that as eternal existence was now assured, I had no need to hurry, and so walked very leisurely along, now stopping and looking at the scenery, or looking back over the road if, perchance, someone might come along, and occasionally turning and walking backward, and thus watching the road behind me for company I so strongly desired. I thought certainly some one from the other world would be out to meet me, though strangely enough, I thought of no person whom above others I desired to see. Angels or fiends, one, I said, will come out to meet me – I wonder which it will be? I reflected that I had not believed all the Church tenets, but had written and taught verbally a new and, I believed, a better faith. But, I reasoned, I knew nothing, and where there is room for doubt there is room for mistake. I may, therefore, be on my way to a terrible doom. And here occurred a thing hard to describe. At different points about me I was aware of the expressed thought, "Fear not, you are safe!" I heard no voice, I saw no person, yet I was perfectly aware that at different points, at varying distances from me, someone was thinking that thought for my benefit, but how I was made aware of it was so great a mystery that it staggered my faith in its reality. A great fear and doubt came over me and I was beginning to be very miserable, when a face so full of ineffable love and tenderness appeared to me for an instant as set me to rights upon that score.   

The blocked road and the cloud

Suddenly I saw at some distance ahead of me three prodigious rocks blocking the road, at which sight I stopped, wondering why so fair a road should be thus blockaded, and while I considered what I was to do, a great and dark cloud, which I compared to a cubic acre in size, stood over my head. Quickly it became filled with living, moving bolts of fire, which darted hither and thither through the cloud. They were not extinguished by contact with the cloud, for I could see them in the cloud as one sees fish in deep water. The cloud became concave on the under surface like a great tent and began slowly to revolve upon its perpendicular axis. When it had turned three times, I was aware of a presence, which I could not see, but which I knew was entering into the cloud from the southern side. The presence did not seem, to my mind, as a form, because it filled the cloud like some vast inteiligence. He is not as I, I reasoned: I fill a little space with my form, and when I move the space is left void, but he may fill immensity at his will, even as he fills this cloud. Then from the right side and from the left of the cloud a tongue of black vapour shot forth and rested lightly upon either side of my head, and as they touched me thoughts not my own entered into my brain. "These, I said, are his thoughts and not mine; they might be in Greek or Hebrew for all power I have over them. But how kindly am I addressed in my mother tongue that so I may understand all his will".     

Yet, although the language was English, it was so eminently above my power to reproduce that my rendition of it is as far short of the original as any translation of a dead language is weaker than the original; for instance, the expression, «This is the road to the eternal world,» did not contain over four words, neither did any sentence in the whole harangue, and every sentence, had it been written, must have closed with a period, so complete was the sense. The following is as near as I can render it: «This is the road to the eternal world. Yonder rocks are the boundary between the two worlds and the two lives. Once you pass them, you can no more return into the body. If your work was to write the things that have been taught you, waiting for mere chance to publish them, if your work was to talk to private individuals in the privacy of friendship – if this was all, it is done, and you may pass beyond the rocks. If, however, upon consideration you conclude that it shall be to publish as well as to write what you are taught, if it shall be to call together the multitudes and teach them, it is not done and you can return into the body.» The thoughts ceased and the cloud passed away, moving slowly toward the mountain in the east. I turned and watched it for some time when, suddenly, and without having felt myself moved, I stood close to and in front of the three rocks. I was seized with a strong curiosity then to look into the next world.

The gates to the other world

There were four entrances, one very dark, at the left between the wall of black rock and the left hand one of the three rocks, a low archway, between the left hand and the middle rock, and a similar one between that and the right hand rock, and a very narrow pathway running around the right hand rock at the edge of the roadway. I did not examine the opening at the left – I know not why, unless it was because it appeared dark, but I knelt at each of the low arch ways and looked through. The atmosphere was green and everything seemed cool and quiet and beautiful. Beyond the rocks, the roadway, the valley, and the mountain range curved gently to the left, thus shutting off the view at a short distance. If I were only around there, I thought, I should soon see angels or devils or both, and as I thought this, I saw the forms of both as I had often pictured them in my mind. I looked at them closely and discovered that they were not realities, but the mere shadowy forms in my thoughts, and that any form might be brought up in the same way. What a wonderful world, I exclaimed mentally, where thought is so intensified as to take visible form. How happy shall I be in such a realm of thought as that! 

I listened at the archways for any sound of voice or of music, but could hear nothing. Solid substances, I thought, are better media of sound than air, I will use the rocks as media, and I rose and placed my left ear to first one rock and then the other throughout, but could hear nothing. Then suddenly I was tempted to cross the boundary line. I hesitated and reasoned thus: "I have died once and if I go back, soon or late, I must die again. If I stay someone else will do my work, and so the end will be as well and as surely accomplished and shall I die again? I will not, but now that I am so near I will cross the line and stay." So determining I moved cautiously along the rocks. There was danger of falling over the side of the road, for the pathway around was but narrow. I thought not of the archways, I placed my back against the rock and walked sideways. I reached the exact centre of the rock, which I knew by a carved knob in the rock marking the exact boundary. Here, like Caesar at the Rubicon, I halted and parleyed with conscience. It seemed like taking a good deal of responsibility, but I determined to do it, and advanced the left foot across the line. As I did so, a small, densely black cloud appeared in front of me and advanced toward my face. I knew that I was to be stopped. I felt the power to move or to think leaving me. My hands fell powerless at my side, my shoulders and head dropped forward, the cloud touched my face and I knew no more.   

The return

Without previous thought and without apparent effort on my part, my eyes opened. I looked at my hands and then at the little white cot upon which I was lying, and realising that I was in the body, in astonishment and disappointment, I exclaimed: "What in the world has happened to me? Must I die again?" I was extremely weak, but strong enough to relate the above experience despite all injunctions to quiet. Soon afterward I was seized with vomiting, severe and uncontrollable. About this time Doctor J. H. Sewel, of Rockwood, Tenn., called upon a friendly visit, not knowing I was sick. I was hiccoughing terribly and in consultation he said, "Nothing short of a miracle, I fear, can save him”.

Dr. Wiltse's report continues with the chronicle of the following two months, during which he slowly recovered from his illness. In addition to the answers given to the various questions sent to him by Richard Hodgson, who carried out an accurate investigation into this case, Dr. Wilson presented the sworn testimony of three other people present in the room where he was ill the day when he had his NDE. The testimonies, written in 1890, less than a year after the event, were then signed and sworn before a notary in March 1892. Moreover, Hodgson obtained the testimony of Dr. Wiltse's sister, Sara, and the one – previously mentioned – of the doctor who had assisted the sick man in the terminal phase of the illness, Dr. Raynes. All the testimonies were in agreement with Wiltse's statements about his alleged near-death state and the report of his experience immediately after he woke up.   

The interest of the case

I mentioned this case not because it is particularly interesting or revealing in the context of the NDEs, but because it shows with particular effectiveness how, in proximity of the crisis of death, consciousness can register a significant change in mental tuning, the importance of which can not be denied or diminished. In fact, if we consider the normal mental activity of a seriously ill person, we observe that the tunings normally recorded by consciousness – even in the lucid phases – revolve around the pain suffered by the body, the affections of near or distant loved ones who are about to be left, the uncertainty related to what will be experienced during the passing or after, the memories of the most important events of one's life: all aspects that the dying people may face more or less quietly, depending on their personal character, showing the level of fortitude they have got.

Dr. Wiltse too was in this condition when – until just before experiencing a new mental tuning – he reasoned with his family and friends about the possibility of survival (in which he believed) and the entities he would meet in the other world, which he imagined in very traditional terms (angels, demons, blessed souls, and the like). The new tuning registered by his consciousness did not delete his sense of personal identity, since his Ego continued to feel the connection with his previous condition, but made him perceive first of all his body as something alien, without interest, with which he no longer had anything in common. His new Ego, though not feeling neither pain nor suffering, was nevertheless still contained in the physical body, of which he observed with amazement and attention the complex structure of the tissues and organs. The physical body no longer appeared to him as the instrument to which it was inextricably bonded, since it enabled him to live, but rather like a sarcophagus, from which it was necessary to go out. The process of leaving the body was by Wiltse observed carefully and described in detail, as an activity not unlike other activities of our life that involve the use of the body. So his consciousness allowed him to record the events that occurred, with their continuity and a temporal sequence, in a coherent and precise way: it was not a matter of fantasies, since for Wiltse what happened was not imaginary. In our physical dimension anyone, seeing the conditions in which Wiltse's body was, could have presumed either a tired and suffering state of consciousness, or a condition of unconsciousness, whereas Wiltse's consciousness, no longer subjected to the body's condition, was free to experience a completely new and unexpected dimension.    

The questions for which we must seek an answer

The vaguely dreamlike feature (similar to a lucid dream with a good intrinsic coherence) of the events consciously experienced by Wiltse in the course of his adventure, did not prevent him from observing and memorizing many details, and the intensity with which the whole experience remained impressed in his mind is well evidenced by his need to tell his friends the whole story, as soon as he returned to his normal mental tunings, despite his state of health was still seriously in danger. In particular, it should be emphasized the enthusiasm with which Wiltse repeatedly noted his condition of well-being and physical fitness, as we would be inclined to say, as opposed to the state of serious prostration, debilitation and suffering experienced until just before, because of his terminal illness. We must therefore recognize that the metamorphosis of the mental tunings experienced by his consciousness and recorded by his memory is an incontestable fact, and consequently we can not help but ask ourselves some questions, which are of fundamental importance for the understanding of human life:  

  • Mental tunings, such as those experienced by Wiltse (or occurring in the course of NDEs), which are freed from the conditions in which the human body (and in particular the nervous system) is, are also determined by the brain activity?  
  • If the answer to the previous question was affirmative, which areas of the brain and which neural networks could determine such experiences, and why the functioning of such circuits would only activate in critical conditions, escaping our capacity for voluntary control? 
  • Again in the case in which the answer to the first question was affirmative, the cerebral circuits that determine that kind of mental tunings would be present and operative in all human beings with a normal cerebral organ, or only in some of them, endowed with a brain which has particular features?
  • If it is not possible to give an affirmative answer to the first question, wouldn't it be possible to hypothesize the presence of a system of consciousness associated with our Ego, but detached from our brain, which would be activated when our body instrument went into a terminal crisis?       


Pam Reynolds
Anonymous French
Howard Storm
George Ritchie
Jayne Smith
Yuri Rodonaia
Ned Dougherty
Reinee Pasarow
Arthur Yensen
Lynnclaire Dennis
Thomas Benedict
Stefan Jankovich
Christian Andréason
Josiane Antonette
Juliet Nightingale
Jeanie Dicus
Linda Stewart
Laurelynn Martin
Olaf Sunden
Distressing NDEs
Medical evidence
A  metamorphosis
Final considerations