One of the costs of being conscious is that, once in a while, we are forced to contemplate the fact that we are mortal. Ironically, a close brush with the grim reaper leaves many people more convinced than ever that our minds are not tethered to our bodies, and therefore can survive physical death. What can these near-death experiences tell us about how well we understand our own consciousness?
To explore this topic, we first talked to anesthesiologist Gerald Woerlee, author of Mortal Minds: The Biology of NDEs to get a sense of what makes NDEs so compelling to people looking for evidence of an afterlife. Then, we sought the expertise of Susan Blackmore, psychologist and author, whose book Consciousness: An Introduction breaks down the complex theories of consciousness into digestible chunks. Dodging the sandtraps of dualism along the way, we speculate on implications of NDEs for meta-consciousness while keeping the mind strictly within the confines of the body.