Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife

By Leslie Kean

Crown, 416 pages, $36

Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death

From Adrian Owen

Scribner, 304 pages, $34.99

Books about death are fascinating. Death is life real but it is the only mystery of life. We do not know what is going to happen on the opposite side, although we are going to get there. It’s unknowable. You don’t know what heaven’s going to feel like, if you think in heaven. Perhaps it won’t be liked by you. As much as we could collect information learn what it feels like when it is coming and about its fashions — the feeling that instant of consciousness evaporating, itself, is inaccessible.

Or is it? Not based on Leslie Kean’s compulsively readable new book, Surviving Death. Kean states that we know lots. She tells us all about it, drawing from dialogues with mediums patients that have experienced near-death experiences and the ability of some children. The upshot, according to Kean: Departure might not be the end of consciousness.

The book builds until inhabiting another body that, once we conk out, the spirit flees the human body and lurks in another realm. Kean is hoping to prove despite what those joyless would tell you that reincarnation is a thing. And she purports to prove it {}. The stakes are high: Kean writes that a “greater comprehension of the nature of its own potential survival beyond bodily death might have far-reaching, educational effects on humankind.”

And she does a excellent job. There’s a good deal of information in this publication. As you read the story of James Leininger it’s difficult not to feel a chill. He began having nightmares, when he was two years old. Upon awakening, he was with another pilot in a group and had a habit of telling his dad weirdly information. James insisted that, in this life, he was named James.

All these things turned out to be plucked from the life span of a genuine person, who died which James had questions about. It matched up. Assuming that his parents reported everything describing this is hard without a belief in the probability of the survival hypothesis.

However, the most spooky accounts in the book is that a worker who died in 1977, of Maria. During a moment of arrest, she reported that she flew out of her body. And while she had been up there, she saw a tennis shoe sitting on a windowsill of a few of the storeys of the hospital — a shoe which could have been invisible. Maria told a nurse about the shoe, who found it to be as Maria had clarified and went to search for it. How can you explain that?

From the book’s end, the evidence of Kean appears overwhelming. You are going to think what she has to say, should you take her seriously. And she does a excellent job of objective. She quotes writes in prose are commendable and addresses objections.

The issue is that if you understand a little about the area of parapsychology — the study of psychic abilities you will know that Kean is credulous. The book rests on her approval of forces of the mind. She makes the claim that “extraordinary abilities … have been studied under controlled conditions” which “after more than a hundred years of study, although mainstream science might not take this replicated documentation has established that these skills are real.”

Well, not really. The field of parapsychology has produced some interesting research, but it has been riddled with fraud, poor design and controversy. The most experiments have come from Daryl Bem, who has done all kinds like asking them to point out the picture, and showing subjects two drapes, one of which hides a picture. Some of his experiments appear to indicate consequences that are psychic. The problem is they have a tendency to produce and repeatedly don’t replicate.

Therefore, the book loses a little of its magic. She provides a whole lot while Kean provides some evidence for her propositions. And I am really sorry about this, because being an adherent of mainstream science is far less fun.

This is effectively demonstrated by Into the Gray Zone, the model of how pop science between sensational subjects ought to be accomplished. The publication documents neuroscientist Adrian Owen research into a phenomenon that is bizarre: People in states exhibit signs of consciousness.

Owen’s research has a result that is shocking: Many comatose folks are conscious. Not aware — fully. They remember what words were spoken to them and who entered their hospital area. They perform in a memory palace for many years, unencumbered by their bodies.

Owen is a scientist, so as Kean does, he does not exaggerate his findings or put them into a metaphysical net. Because of this, Owen’s book lags, though it details a triumph. He recounts process that is experimental, which makes it clear what certain systems can and can not do. He describes in detail years of work with patients that are vegetative yielded a way of measuring consciousness. Are you asleep?

Owen’s methods are strange and trendy. Everyone who sees playing with tennis shows the exact same brain activity, so that you may ask patients to say yes by imagining tennis to questions. The explanation of Owen got there is, at times dull. And, though he strings his findings together with a story about his life, written in an amiable tone, why it is a book rather than a long article, you begin to wonder.

This is the issue with writing about mathematics: it is caused by months or years of drudgery, failure and false starts Even in the event that you find things in the laboratory. So in case you write about mathematics and each page offers confirmation of some reality that is incredibleyou’re probably lying. But if you write a true story about discovery, it will not be read.

Finally, the book of Kean provides a fascinating glimpse behind the veil of consciousness — and a message: Our souls persist, there is evidence of the afterlife and there’s basically nothing to fear except pain — of death. Owen’s book gives an interesting brush against the constraints of our experience, but does not provide anything. It is a shame that one of those books is credible.

Sasha Chapin is a writer in Toronto whose first book, Perfect Information Game, will be released in 2019.

Also on the Planet and Mail

Ross King on what prompted his Monet biography (The Canadian Press)

Review: Adrian Owen’s Into the Gray Zone explore consciousness and Leslie Kean Death

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