On the Locality of Consciousness
Evidence from numerous “death-related anomalous experiences” (DR-AEs), such as near-death experiences, after-death communications, reincarnation cases and mediumship experiences, strongly suggests that consciousness is fundamentally nonphysical. Based on this evidence, a number of researchers, including cardiologist Pim van Lommel and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, hold that consciousness is “nonlocal” in character. In this view, consciousness exists outside the brain and body in a diffuse state beyond space and time. A more extreme view asserts that ancient Hindu teachings still hold true: after many lifetimes, one’s consciousness merges again with the Godhead and ceases to exist as an individual.
We argue that the DR-AE evidence actually suggests the opposite: that a person’s consciousness continues to exist as a localized, individuated nonphysical entity. Furthermore, modern esoteric teachings from both the West (Rudolf Steiner) and the East (Sri Aurobindo) hold that direction of world evolution is for human beings to continue to evolve as higher, individuated spiritual beings and ultimately to transform the physical Earth to a transcendent state. Rather than losing individual identity, human beings will evolve to become “like Gods,” dwelling on a spiritualized Earth.
Kenneth Arnette is a graduate student at the University of Memphis, Department of Philosophy. He holds previous Ph.D. degrees in physical chemistry and in clinical psychology, and has been working in the field of consciousness and anomalous experiences since 1991. He has published three articles and a book chapter on the relationship between consciousness and the near-death experience, and is currently expanding his research into the areas of philosophy and religious studies.
Robert G. Mays, B.Sc., is a retired senior software engineer, and Suzanne B. Mays, A.A., is a Certified Music Practitioner who provides palliative care to hospitalized patients. They have studied near-death phenomena together for more than 35 years. Their research interests include (1) veridical perceptions during NDEs and apparent interactions between the NDE and physical reality; (2) neurological evidence of the nonmaterial mind during ordinary consciousness, especially the neural correlates of the mind’s activity in the brain; and (3) experiments demonstrating interactions of the human bioenergy field with physical processes such as photographic film and paper.