#181 My amazing guest today is Dr Bruce Greyson. Bruce is a retired psychiatrist who has spent years researching near death experiences and gathering personal accounts from 1000 people, all culminating in his most recent book, After. During our conversation, Bruce and I discuss near death experiences (NDE) in depth and talk about what it entails, whether it relates to religion or not, how common it actually is, and how people can, or cannot, adjust to “normal life” afterwards.
If you’ve ever been interested in knowing more about what happens after we die, or if you have ever experienced an NDE yourself, this is the episode for you.
“Now I’m quite comfortable with the idea that we’re not going to have all the answers, that the unknown is not necessarily our enemy. They’re just things that we can’t formulate the right questions for.”
If you enjoyed this podcast, you may also like: Shine On: The Remarkable Near Death Experience | David Ditchfield
About Bruce: Dr. Bruce Greyson is the Chester Carlson Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He was previously on the medical faculty at the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut, where he was Clinical Chief of Psychiatry. Dr. Greyson has consulted with the National Institutes of Health and addressed symposia on consciousness at the United Nations and at the Dalai Lama’s compound in Dharamsala, India.
Dr. Greyson’s interest in near-death experiences began just a few months after graduating from medical school, when he treated an unconscious patient in the emergency room who stunned him the next morning with an account of leaving her body. That event challenged his beliefs about the mind and the brain, and ultimately led him on a journey to study near-death experiences scientifically, leading to more than a hundred publications in medical journals.
He co-founded the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS), an organization to support and promote research into these experiences, and for 27 years edited the Journal of Near-Death Studies, the only scholarly journal dedicated to near-death research. Through his research, he has discovered common and universal themes in near-death experiences that go beyond neurophysiological or cultural interpretations, as well as patterns of consistent aftereffects on individuals’ attitudes, beliefs, values, and personalities.
Key points with time stamp:
- Near-Death Experiences & The Research Behind Them (00:00)
- A retired psychiatrist with a Near Death Experience (00:13)
- Public reception of an NDE (01:29)
- What makes an NDE worth studying? (03:00)
- Is an NDE a rare occurrence? (07:46)
- What holds us back from studying or discussing an NDE? (08:24)
- Was Bruce embarrassed of talking about his experience, as a doctor? (09:26)
- What qualifies as an NDE? (10:37)
- After an NDE (11:43)
- How can you safely experience a spiritual state like that of an NDE? (16:00)
- For the sceptic: Can spiritual experiences be measured? (18:04)
- Difference between Western an Eastern approaches to the world (19:54)
- The most unusual near-death experiences (22:27)
- The interplay between consciousness and religion (27:38)
- The experiences of Dr Eben Alexander (30:56)
- Staying open to conversations about NDE (33:01)
- How does being open to the unknown affect one’s life? (34:39)
- Unpleasant NDE: What we don’t hear about (35:51)
- Bruce’s personal experience with the unknown (37:55)
- After: Reception and hopes for the book (38:44)
- Bouncing back from low points (40:08)
- Science as a source of spirituality (42:08)
- You are not abnormal, the situation is (43:39)
Mentioned in this episode:
- Paul Aurand
- Dharamsala, India
- Dr Eben Alexander
- Anita Moorjani
- Albert Einstein
- Joseph Campbell
- Dalai Lama
- Desmond Tutu
- Carl Sagan
- After: A Doctor Explores What Near Death Experiences Reveal About Life and Beyond, 2021. Bruce’s latest book.
All right. Beautiful. Bruce, welcome to the podcast.
Thank you guy. I’m delighted to be here with you today.
I just want to mention give Paul on a shout, asked a few weeks ago, and I’ve chatted to him off off air afterwards and and said, you know, Paul, you obviously know a lot of people, as anyone you said, should suggest to come on the show. And he instantly said you, Bruce. So, which was wonderful. And you’ve been on my radar anyway, because I know your book came out in March, after. And it’s always these topics is fascinate me. So I’m excited to see where this conversation leads us today. So welcome. Anyway, welcome back you. I asked everyone on the show, start now. And if we were at an intimate dinner party right now, and you were sitting next to a complete stranger, and they got talking to you and asked you what you did for a living at the moment, what would you say?
I would say that I’m a retired psychiatrist.
Beautiful. Did this the the? Do you ever bring forward the near death? The NDE and the research around that? Or does it normally depend on the person sitting next depends
on the person. That’s not something I lead with? There’s still too many people who look at you strangely, if you talk about that right away, so I get to know them first.
Yeah, fair enough. And that all not strangely, because I gotta be honest, Bruce, I was. I was really nervous if you’d like about coming out with Yes, speaking about anything. beyond the physical and spirituality. And especially in my old company in industry, I was kind of known for something very different. And when making the transition, I was like, holy shit, what are people gonna think of me? But I realized, I don’t know. It was almost like people I cared really cared and people that didn’t didn’t say anything. I don’t know, what’s it been like for your experience? When, like, especially bringing a book out? I mean, you’ve brought a book out, it’s not like you’re hiding in the closet talking about this stuff.
No, but I actually know, I’ve seen a tremendous change. In the half century that I’ve been doing this work. We first started talking about near death experiences back in the early 1980s. No one knew we were talking about. And most people sort of raised their eyebrows and shook their heads. And now everyone knows about them. Everyone’s heard about them. And most people have a friend who’s had a near death experience if they haven’t dealt with themselves. And I’ve particularly noticed a difference in health professionals. That, you know, 4050 years ago, no one heard about these things. And now, everyone hears about them from their patients. And they recognized as something that commonly happens to all patients, and it profoundly affects their lives. Yeah,
it is fascinating. I was only looking at my YouTube channel a couple of days ago, because I’ve had now 150 odd conversations, kind of exploring the science of spirituality and these topics. And any one that’s had near death experiences, there’s been about four or five conversations I’ve had on there. And they all had so many views. It’s not funny, like there’s seems to be a real a real hunger around it, which is wonderful. There is great hunger for this information. What led you to look at it in the first place? I mean, 50 years of looking at this is is remarkable. Yeah. What do you think about it?
Well, I started out as a mainstream scientists, my father was a scientist. And he kind of taught me that that’s the way you learn about the world through empirical observation, collecting data. But he also told me that if you study things that we already know, pretty much, you can just move the decimal point a little bit, but you don’t really make any breakthroughs. You made the great breakthroughs in science by studying things we can’t understand at all. So I went through, you know, college and medical school with that materialistic mindset that the physical world is all we have, and that when you die, you die. That’s the end of it. And then when I started my psychiatric training, one of the first patients I was asked to see in the emergency room was a woman who had come in with an overdose. And I was asked to go down and evaluate her and I couldn’t because she was totally unconscious. I couldn’t arouse no matter what I did. But her roommate was waiting for me down the hall in another room. So I went down the room to talk to that patient, the roommate, and got information about the patient. What was going on in her life and what she might have taken. Now, this was a very hot evening in late summer in Virginia in the United States, and it was very swelteringly hot back in the 70s. There’s no air conditioning. And before I had just gotten the page to go down to the emergency room. is eating dinner in a hospital cafeteria. And when the pager went off of my belt, it scared the dickens out of me and I dropped my fork and spilled some spaghetti sauce on my tie. I couldn’t wipe it off. So I just put on a white lab coat to cover it up. But when I was talking to the group, the roommate down the hall, it was so hot in that room, I unbutton the code, so I wouldn’t sweat so much, thereby exposing the stain for about 20 minutes. So I finished with the roommate, say goodbye to her and realized I better close on my lab coat again. So I did went back to talk to the patient and she was still unconscious. So I arranged for her to be admitted to the intensive care unit overnight. And I came to see her the next morning. And she was barely able to open her eyes and she was still very grouchy, drowsy. So I started to introduce myself when she stopped me and said, I know who you are, I remember you from last night. With that kind of caught me up short. So I said to her something like, I’m surprised. I thought you were unconscious when I saw you last night. And then she opened her eyes and looked at me and said, not in my room, I saw you talking to my roommate down the hall. That just made no sense to me at all. The only way that could have happened is she had left her body and follow me down the hall. And as far as I could tell, I was my body How can you leave it? she sensed my confusion start to tell me about the conversation I had with the roommate. What I asked what she answered, we were sitting. And finally she mentioned the stain on my tie. It just blew me away. I could I didn’t couldn’t make any sense that at all. I was totally confused. But I couldn’t deal with my confusion. I was there to deal with hers. So I tried to stuff my feelings away and just start with her issues and get her settled. And in the next few days, I tried to understand what was going on here. I just couldn’t imagine what what had happened. I thought maybe the nurses were playing a trick on me. They had somehow colluded with this patient to make up the story. And, you know, I bet I couldn’t imagine how it happened. But I just pushed it on my mind. I didn’t dare to lay my colleagues about this. They were thought I was crazy for sure. So I just sort of tried to forget about it for several years. And then about five years later, one of my colleagues at the University of Virginia Raymond Moody published a book called life after life, in which he gave us the name near death experiences, and describe what they were like. And I realized for the first time that this story in my patient told me was not one crazy patient story. It’s part of a huge phenomenon. I still couldn’t understand it. But as a scientist, I thought I need to go after this. I need to try to understand what’s going on here. So I started collecting more cases, and trying to make sense out of it. And here I am 50 years later, still trying to make sense out of it.
Wow. How many? How many reports you know, are we talking about here? You know, is it like the odd one or two that just trickled in? Or are we talking a lot of people?
We’re talking about millions are a million? Yeah, yeah. roughly one out of every five people in the general population. I’m sorry, one out of every 20 people in the general population that’s just 5% has had a near death experience. That means someone in your family, someone in your workplace, someone in your school room has had a near death experience?
Why do you think then, especially with your academic background, as well, that if it’s that common, which it’s mind blowing? Yes. And and the more I’ve been looking into this more, I go, Wait, why aren’t we looking at this? Why aren’t we looking at this? What is the sticking point? Do you see?
Well, people are still embarrassed to talk about it in public for the most part. And, you know, I’ve asked people about this about why it’s so hard to talk about it. And sometimes they say quite rightly, that they’re afraid they will be ridiculed or labeled as crazy or just not not taken seriously. And sometimes I say it was just too personal and sacred and experience. And if I shared it, that would take something away from it. So they tend not to talk about it. Until healthcare worker like myself, goes in and demonstrates that we are taking it seriously and want to help them deal with it.
Mm hmm. Were you embarrassed to talk about it with is Was it a point in your life, especially with your background? I’ve had a few doctors come on the show and quite often. It’s been towards the end of their career before they’ve gone. You know what? It was a yes for you as well.
Yes, it was it was in fact, I basically lost one job because I wouldn’t stop talking about this. But I was able to publish articles in mainstream medical journals about new ethics. appearances by being being very cautious about what I would say. And I would talk a lot about the after effects, how it affects people’s lives and so forth and what was going on physiologically. But I couldn’t put into those medical journals, anything about spirituality, or mind being separate from brain or, you know, God forbid, spirit or soul or anything like that. It’s not until I retired that I decided, I want to really say something now. So I wrote this book after to describe to the general public, what these things are all about, and what we can learn from them. guarded.
And what, what qualifies, then a near death experience, because you get people coming to you. Oh, no, that’s, that’s normally that’s experienced that was just a bump on the head or something. Yeah. You know, how do you fit it into a category? Yeah,
well, these are experiences that many people have when they come close to death, or sometimes when they’re pronounced dead. And they have unusual experiences that are hard to explain like a sense of leaving the physical body having a sense of overwhelming peace and well being. Sometimes leaving this physical realm behind and going to another realm or dimension, that doesn’t seem to have space or time encountering other entities that they may interpret as being deities God, or deceased loved ones, reviewing their entire lives. And sometimes then coming to a point of no return be almost they can’t keep going and still returned to life, and then they might make a decision to come back. Or sometimes they’re told to come back against their will.
Go ahead. What fascinates me about this, is that there’s, like, as I was talking to you about OFF AIR earlier about an experience I had that that, for me became no doubt that there’s got to be more to life than then this this physical aspect. That’s just my belief. Right. And and it, it has fundamentally changed something within me that will never go back now. I Is that what you are finding? Because I believe you, there’s over 1000 cases, you’ve you’ve researched, and individually for this book, right? Is that one of the main things that come from this, because I don’t want to throw too many questions at you right now, let me just start there first.
Right, that that’s almost universal among people who have near death experiences, they say, life isn’t they’d never go back to the way they were before. They realized that they are now part of something much greater than themselves. They realized that we’re all interconnected. And that we have responsibilities to one another, as well as to the universe to the natural world. And they can’t go back to living their lives, as they always did. In some cases, if you were leading a very spiritual life beforehand, that may be completely compatible with where you’re, you’re, you’re living life after the end D, but many people are not. Now I know many people who were in, you know cutthroat businesses, who were, you know, cheating, and so forth. And after their near death experience, it made no sense to them to get ahead at someone else’s expense. And they couldn’t continue in that that business, they had to either get out of the business or change the way they did their businesses. So they were much more compassionate towards their competitors and towards their employers, and so forth. It’s even harder for people who have violent professions, for example, police officers or military officers. I’ve known some of those one fellow I knew who was a marine. I know that when he went high school, he was a high school bully. And his goal is always to be in the Marines and be a macho guy. And he went to Vietnam. And he was leading Splatoon into battle and he was shot in the chest. And he was air evac to a hospital in the Philippines, we had an operation to give a strap and a lot of his lungs. And in the operation, he had a near death experience. And when he came back, the idea of shooting someone was just incomprehensible to him. He was rehabbed and then sent back into the jungle and found he couldn’t do it anymore. He couldn’t shoot his gun. So he ended up leaving the Marines and coming back to the United States and ended up training to become a medical technician. And I’ve heard that type of story again and again from police officers and other military officers who had to give up that that profession and go to some help and freshers Lee, you know, health care or clergy or teaching or social work, something like that.
Yeah, makes sense, doesn’t it? I often wonder it In what history tells us about connection because it may my my opinion is now that as Western society especially, we’ve almost severed the connection to any practices that support something greater than ourselves. You know, we’re very much involved in consumerism, and this, this hunger for more. And yet, when you start to look at this work you actually want for less because you realize you, you have everything right here right now
is That’s right. That’s right. It’s very common for people to say that they don’t care as much about things of this world, not only material possessions, but power, prestige, fame, achievement, those don’t matter anymore to them. They’re more concerned with relationships with caring with being altruistic. And they live their lives that way.
Yeah. Well, so for the listener, and I’m sure you must have been asked this question or somewhere around there. But let’s say you’re listening to this, you just commute into work, you’re listening to a great podcast. And and you think, and you’re pondering on this right now, right? You’re like, wow, this, like, really this, you know, and it’s like, What do I have to nearly die to actually then go and have this experience? And I’ve you found other in your research, different ways of practices to, to at least feel that without having to go through the horrific things that people have had to do to have those experiences? Yeah,
that’s a great question guy. Because I think spiritual traditions throughout the centuries have developed techniques to try to have this spiritual experience. Most of them involve some sort of Sape, sensory deprivation, deprivation going out into the desert, starvation, hunger, and so forth. Spinning around drumming, meditation, meditative techniques, and psychedelic drugs, various cultures have used psychedelic drugs to try to shift this other state. What we found in some research here is that college students who are taught a class in near death experiences tend to have some of the same after effects in their lives. They become much more altruistic, much more caring towards other people. Now, we don’t know how long that lasts. We know with near death experiences at last for decades, we’ve done follow up with these students for about two years. And it’s persistent, at least that long. But that suggests that just learning about these experiences can help make people make changes in their lives.
Wow. Well, that even reinforces then surely this, we should be at least educating people around this more to create more harmony?
within Western society.
And that’s, in fact, why I wrote my book.
There you go. There you go. So for the skeptic, what have you, are there any correlations like? It? It’s like, I’ve had a few scientists on here as well about measurements. And is there a what, what, where are we at in terms of measuring the unmeasurable basically?
Yeah, that’s that’s a good question. You know, I started off as a skeptic. And I like to think I still am a skeptic, not in the sense that I don’t believe anything. That’s not skepticism, but I reserve judgment till I know all the information. So when I first started this, this, this research, I was coming from a materialistic mindset. So I assumed there had to be some physiological explanation for this. So we looked at things like how much oxygen is getting to the brain, what kind of drugs are given to people in this near death state, and one after another, these hypothesis be collected data to test them, and ended up disproving them, for example, people who have a near death event, like a cardiac arrest, and report or near death experience, actually have better oxygen flow to the brain that people who don’t have near death experiences. And likewise, people who are given a lot of drugs, as they’re approaching death, tend to have fewer near death experiences than people who aren’t given as many drugs. So I mean, that doesn’t say that. The drugs stop you from having the experience. Maybe it stops you from remembering them later on. But they’re certainly not causing the experience. Yeah, yeah. There have been there been many hypotheses involving different parts of the brain, different erratic electrical activity in the brain. And those that we’ve been able to test by collecting data have all been disproven.
Yeah. Okay. And where do you think this is going?
I think it’s part of a larger movement to bring back spirituality into Western society. You know, it’s always been a part of Eastern society. And it’s been interesting I had to, I went to a conference in Dharamsala in in India, the Dalai Lama’s compound, which was a conference between Western scientists and Buddhist monks, about their approach to to the world. And the Dalai Lama made the point that both Buddhism and Western science are empirical endeavors, we both search for data as the basis for how we understand the world. But he said the difference is that Western scientists try to understand the world so we can control it. Whereas Buddha’s tried to understand the world so they can live in harmony with it. And that really struck me that, you know, wow, why are we Why are we doing this science? Is this we can manipulate and change the universe? Or is it so we can live better lives in this universe?
That’s that’s powerful point. And right now, you really have to wonder which one we’re heading towards? Yes. You know,
well, I think events like GM climate change, are starting to make us question our, our materialistic compulsion to do more and get more and buy more and throw away more.
And even think, with the pandemic that’s still going on, like we’re all in another lockdown here in Australia right now. And the, the amount of fear, and anger and hate that has been hurled around at each other, if somebody’s got an opposing opinion to someone else, and the division that’s going on? And I often ponder on Wow, if we had more of these practices and more of these conversations, and we were just removing the fear from our own mortality, because at the end of the day, we all have only a certain amount of time on this planet. Like, we’re getting away from that, you know, and we started having deeper conversations and deeper support, how we’d be responding right now to everything that’s going on in the world. Yeah, it just blows my mind.
Yeah, the pandemic has certainly focused people’s attention more on on death and dying. And that’s made people much more anxious than they were before.
Yeah, yeah, naturally, so naturally, so, you know, with all the I always love stories and hearing different different things that aspects are commodity and that out of the over the 1000 people you’ve researched, and and then other been any ones where you’ve just come off? Like, Oh, my God, really?
Well. There are there are hundreds of them like that. I’ll give you two examples. And the ones that struck me most as a scientist are the things that have verifiable features. For example, if someone says, Yes, I left my body and I saw what was going on in the operating room, that could be imagination. But sometimes they see and hear things that they couldn’t have anticipated. And an example was a guy who was a 55 year old driver. And he was on his rounds one day and had a crushing chest pain. So he made it to the the hospital. And he was evaluated and found to have four blood vessels to his heart that were clot and you needed emergency surgery around his heart. And he told me that in the middle of the operation, he left his body and looked down on the operating table. And he saw his surgeon flapping his elbows like he was trying to fly. Now, at this point, when he told me this, I’ve been a doctor for about 30 years, I’d never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. You don’t see doctors on television doing this type of thing. So I assumed he was hallucinating. But he insisted it was true. So a few days after the operation, I, with His permission, met with the surgeon, and SM about this. And the surgeon was kind of embarrassed and said, Who told you about that? And I say Well, yeah, I’ll get the patient told me about it. And he said, Well, it’s true. And I developed this habit of letting my my assistant start the procedure, while I get my sterile gown and gloves on, and let it go into the operating room and watch them for a while to make sure they’re doing it right. I don’t want to risk touching anything with my hands that isn’t sterile. So I placed my palms flat against my chest, so I won’t touch anything. And I point things out to them with my elbows. So I don’t touch my finger with my fingers. And he demonstrated just the way the patient did. I’ve never seen in doctor do that. And he in fact said he’d never seen anyone do it either. So how does the patient know about this? You know, I don’t know. I’ll give you a more unusual story. This is a fellow who he was 25 years old, a technical writer. And he saw a deceased person in his near death experience. Now that’s not unusual. About 30 to 40% of people in any death experience, see a deceased loved one. And that’s easily dismissed by debunkers by saying, Well, that was, you know, expectation, wishful thinking you wanted to see someone so you imagined them. But this fellow was admitted to the hospital with bad pneumonia. He had respiratory arrest where he couldn’t get his breath breath. And his primary nurse I worked with him every day was a 21 year old, attractive woman who was kind of flirting with him, he thought. And one day she told him she was going to take long weekend off, and there’d be other nurses substituting so he wished her well and she went off. And while she was gone over the weekend, he had another respiratory arrest where he had to be resuscitated. And during that arrest, he had a near death experience. And he found himself in a beautiful pastoral scene. And there to his surprise, this nurse comes walking towards him. He does a double take and says, Anita, what are you doing here? And she said, owl, you can stay here with me, you need to go back. You need to go back to your body. And I want you to find my parents and tell them that I’m sorry, I wrecked the red MGB. And then she turned and walked away. He then woke up back in his body in the hospital bed, with complete memory of this experience. And the first time a nurse walked into his room, he started to tell her about it excitedly. She got very upset and ran out of the room. Or turned out this, this nurses is the primary nurse had taken the weekend off to celebrate her 21st birthday. And our parents that surprised her with a gift of a red MGB. This was in South Africa back in the 1970s, where these were rare. She got so excited, she jumped in the car and took off for a drive, lost control of smashed into a telephone pole and died instantly. Just a few hours before he had his near death experience. There’s no way he could have expected her to die, or wanted to see her in his inexperience. And certainly no way he could have known how she had died. And yet he did. So how do you explain this in terms of brain physiology, or to the oxygen, something like that he he knew what happened to her, which implies that something about her survived her death and was able to communicate with him. But certainly makes you think about a spirit or a soul or something like that.
Absolutely. With your, like, he’s mentioned nearly 50 years of research in this now what of what conclusions and you said, You’re still skeptical as well, which is wonderful. And I think skepticism is the best place to come from. And being curious, what conclusions Have you come to so far? of What is consciousness? What Where are? Where are we?
Yeah, well, let me let me preface that by saying that most near death experiences will start by saying, there aren’t any words to describe what happened to me. I just can’t put into words. And then we researchers say great, tell me about it. Yeah. Yeah, we know we’re making it a bit distorted by by putting into words and they, they cope with that by using whatever metaphors they have available to them, which are usually religious or cultural. So I don’t take literally as truth what they tell me. You know, I take it as sort of figurative. So they all talk about being in a blissful environment, and that I can believe, but when they talk about seeing this warm, loving being of light that they call God. I don’t know how to interpret that. I believe that they encountered something. But was it what we call God? Many of them say, Well, it wasn’t the god I was taught about in church, it was much bigger than that. And in fact, I’ve talked to people who are raised in Hindu and Buddhist cultures who don’t give it that label. They talk about a warm, loving being, where they make living a different label, but they certainly wouldn’t call it God. And this doesn’t apply just to just to the being of light. Many people describe going through a long, dark enclosed area to get from this physical world to this other realm. And in Western societies, they used to call it a tunnel. But people in cultures that don’t have a lot of tunnels wouldn’t use that word, they would say I fell into a well or went into a cave. I talked to one person who was a truck driver. And he described going through a tailpipe. And that was how he described this long, darkened closed. So whatever metaphors you have available are the ones your use. So I can’t take literally what they say by understand it as figure of the expression. So I do believe after all, research that that part of us that thinks and feels and perceives and lays down memories is not just our brains, because there are times when the brain is offline, or sometimes totally flatlined. And yet, our consciousness seems to be more vivid and more detailed than ever. So clearly, sometimes, the mind seems to be able to function without the brain. And there seems to be some evidence that it survives after the body dies, as well as in the cases of people who see deceased loved ones who seem to be persisting. So I expect it to be something after death. But I have no idea what it is. I’m sure as most new Death Experiences tell me it’s something that is beyond what I can imagine here in this brain. My brain can’t process with the experience in the end. So I prepare to be surprised. Yeah.
Did that happen to Dr. Eben Alexander? Yes, part of his brain turned off? Like Yes,
yes, he was in a deep coma for six days. And we have CAT scans from his hospital stay. That show basically is inside of a skull was like mush, it was filled with pus. And there was no structure was brain left at all. Unfortunately, they didn’t. They didn’t measure his brainwaves during that time. Because they thought he was he was a dead man. He had a rare bacterial infection that is less than 1% survival rate. They said, there’s no point in doing it easy. He’s dead. He’ll never recover from this. And you know, as you know, he’s perfectly fine. Now he’s giving lectures that are better than mine. And he’s talks very eloquently about his near death experience and what he learned from that.
Yeah, I had him on the show about two years ago, I think talking to him about it. I just recall what you said then, with the brain going offline, but yeah, with the button. Yeah, yeah. Amazing. All this media, please
go about this evidence, because there were popular magazine articles saying that he really wasn’t near death, that he was just given drugs to put him into a coma because he was having seizures and so forth. And I wasn’t as a skeptic, I didn’t take that at face value. But I also didn’t take his report at face value. So with His permission, I got the hospital records from the hospital where he was treated more than 600 pages worth. And I made three copies, and I rated one, and I gave two copies to other physicians. And we each independently examined the entire record, and came up to conclusions about what really happened to him. And all three of us independently found that he was as close to death as you can be, that still survive, and that he was in a deep coma. At the time he had his near death experience. He reported seeing things around his hospital bed so we can know when exactly when they happen. And we know that the medical record shows he was in a deep coma at that time.
There you go. Yeah, it’s fascinating. I even remember speaking to Anita moorjani, who has been on the show, and that she’s got all the records from the, from the doctors as well. Let’s just say in this, she’s, like, breaths away from being dead. Basically, this same scenario, they didn’t expect her to survive. Yeah. Wow. It the thing that I’m trying to articulate, the thing that worries me is that we can be so dismissive and not and just keep pushing this to one side. And is that just a trait within Western medicine? It’s, it’s my way that or the highway kind of thing. Like there’s so many good qualities about it as well. It’s not like I want to, I want to sledge it or put it down. It’s been incredible for me over my years. But yes, yes. I just wish there was more open to possibility where we could be having conversations on both sides to come up with what’s best to serve us moving forward.
Well, the good news is that we are going in that direction. You know, I’ve talked to to medical students and trainees, they’re much more open to this than the more senior positions are, okay? Because they’ve grown up with with this kind of mindset. And even the older physicians, as they see more and more of their patients talking about these experiences, they’re more interested in learning more about them. Whether they think they are hallucinations are not, they recognize that they are profound after effects on the patient’s lives, and therefore they need to know about them.
So it’s a generational thing. Yes, it is. Yeah, this is the next generation even though you had Obama on an interview speaking about the next generation was coming through will be a very different ruler in power now, you know, like her car. What I am fascinated as well, is how is this chain affected you all From researching this work, because you talk about anyone that looks at this,
yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I started out, I was incredibly arrogant. And I thought we were going to have all the answers and everything was solvable. Well, science and and now I’m quite comfortable with the idea that we’re not going to have all the answers, that the unknown is not necessarily our enemy. They’re just things that we can’t formulate the right questions for. And we may have all the answers when we die, we may not but tell that that’s fine. I am fairly convinced that the universe is a friendly place, as most near death experiences, say and as Albert Einstein said, and I’m comfortable with not knowing all the answers. Yeah.
Okay, good. I’ve there been
reports of bad d&d, which is like, I don’t want to I don’t want to go through that again. Oh, my God, you know, there are some reports of unpleasant experiences. We don’t know how many there are. Most people who have looked into this have found between one and 5% of near death experiences are unpleasant. But it’s hard to have any confidence in that because it’s so hard for people to talk about the unpleasant experiences. So there may be a lot more that we’re not hearing about. You know, people have them up and say, well, there was something wrong with me if I had this bad experience. Everyone’s having a good one, what’s wrong with me? And they’re just, they’re painful to relive. So they don’t want to remember them. So they try to forget about them.
Yeah. I find that fascinating, because I did a plant based journey I wasco, many years ago, by eight years ago. And to be honest, I was terrified, but I wanted to confront my own fears and, and explore this. But there were elements in it that were really dark and heavy, and extremely painful. But as I surrendered into the more on reflection, when I when I come out of it, the other side, they were actually all teachings, they were all part of something much bigger than I could comprehend with my mind at the time. Yeah, and I look fondly when I think about these things, that everything has a much bigger wisdom behind it. If you like the brain, sometimes we can comprehend.
Right, Joseph Campbell wrote about the hero’s journey where you have to go through all sorts of travails before you finally get enlightened. What we do know is that it’s not true that nasty people have bad near death experiences and good people have pleasant experiences. Yeah, there’s no correlation there, which shouldn’t surprise us because we have accounts from Christian saints, who had horrible dark night of the soul experiences. St. Teresa of Avalon and Syngenta, lacrosse so forth.
Yeah. Have you have you had any experiences yourself? Or it will purely just come in from an interest research and getting this message out there? Or do you desire to if that’s the other question, or you just,
I don’t particularly desire to? I kind of like having my my rational scientific approach to things. And I’m pretty convinced that after I die, I will have more more awareness than I have now. So I’m in a rush to get there. But I have been opened up a lot more to the unknown and to unusual experiences. I think. I’m not sure I have more now. But I certainly recognize them more now. I tend not to do deny them when they happen to me now. Yeah,
yeah. Beautiful. Your book after it’s been a couple of months, if I’m not mistaken. How has it been received? pretty well.
It’s gotten some good reviews, I guess people who don’t like it, don’t talk to me about it. So I don’t hear about the negative reviews. But it’s it’s it’s been selling at a pretty fairly steady clip since it was published. And I’ve been very pleased with the reaction so far.
Yeah, beautiful. And when putting this book out to the world, what is what is your hope for it? Or you’re one for it? What is the intention behind it? What a reader will will get from it
just spread information about new death experiences, as partly as a thank you to all the 1000s of near death experiences who talked to me this is sort of a validation for them. That this is a real experience that really is an important part of their lives. But it’s also to spread the word to other people who haven’t had the experiences yet that these experiences point toward basically the golden rule that you should do unto others of you as you would have them do unto you. And most near death experiences say this is a law of the universe is not just a guide that we’re supposed to follow. But when you hurt other people, you hurt yourself. There’s nobody to avoid that. It’s like law. Gravity, you can’t you can’t escape it. And then we’re all interconnected so that, you know, helping someone else is helping yourself as well.
Yeah, absolutely. And so within the book there, there are different stories and different people’s experiences and so broken down. Yeah. What did I have the stories in the book? Yeah. Wow. Fantastic. As I look forward to reading it, I look forward to getting into it. Bruce, I asked him, before we wrap things up, I asked some set of questions in the show. And it’s more just to get to know you a little bit as well. And, and for other people out there. And one, one question I tend to ask is, what has there been a low point in your life that is later become a blessing? Wow.
Well, there are certain middle, and low points I mentioned before losing a job. And actually I was I was at a research university, teaching psychiatry, and they said, when you come up for tenure, you’re not going to get it because you’re studying near death experiences. And you can’t measure those, you can’t put them in a test tube and, you know, do tests on it. So it’s not gonna count for anything, you need to do some, some serious research and stop this stuff. So I had the option then of doing that of turning my back on near death experiences, and just focusing on mainstream medical research. And I could have done that and kept my job and I liked the job. I love teaching. I love doing patient care. But it felt intellectually dishonest to me to do that. So I decided I was I wanted to leave that university and find another university that had a more open attitude towards this. And that meant at that time, uprooting my wife and my two young children, and moving to another part of the country. And that was a very difficult decision. We talked about it a long time, my wife and I, before they finally decided that was the right thing to do. And that was a very difficult time, a very challenging time. Ended up being good for all of us.
Amazing. Yeah. These are the things we don’t see, isn’t it? You know? Yes. Yeah. hindsight, a wonderful thing. Thank you for sharing. If you could have an intimate dinner. Yes. And your guests could be from anywhere in the world from any timeframe. Who do you think you do want to have a conversation with? Why?
Wow. Well, yeah, having having met the Dalai Lama once, I like it, I could not get enough with him. And I would gladly spend numerous dinner parties with him. I think Desmond Tutu is another character I’d like to spend a lot of time with people who have both a strong sense of spirituality that’s inherent in their in their sense of who they are, but also have an appreciation for science. I think some of our great scientists are as well, I think Albert Einstein was certain like that. I think Carl Sagan was like that. And he talked about science being a great source of spirituality. So I think there’s no, there’s no contradiction between science and spirituality. I think they’re complementary ways of looking at the world. Man, you know, you can’t get a good picture of the world without looking at both. It’s both a scientific world and also a spiritual world. And if you ignore either one, you’re not getting the total picture. Yeah,
yeah. Yeah, totally. Last question. With everything we’ve covered today. Is there anything you’d love to leave the listeners to ponder on?
Well, I’d like to emphasize that these are common experiences. And furthermore, they are normal experiences. They happen to normal people, in abnormal circumstances. They had nothing to do with mental illness. And as a psychiatrist, I’ve studied this extensively and tried to tease it out and there’s no connection. They strongly suggest that mind and brain are not the same things. That there are times when the mind seems to function without the brain. And therefore the mind may function after the brain ceases to exist after we die. And finally, that near death experiences suggests that we are all in this together, we’re all interconnected. And that treating other people the way you want to be treated makes life much more meaningful and fulfilling.
Therefore, beautiful It’s definitely a message worth spreading the your book after I’m both pretty much anywhere where it would be the best place we can point people to.
It is I have a website, www Bruce Grayson calm that’s Grayson with an E. gr. E y su is valid In Australia, but not here in the US. And there are links on that website to various places to buy both the American and the British version of it. Yeah.
antastic print. Is there an audible?
Yes, it is. Yes. It’s on Audible. It’s available through Amazon. All all sources.
Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. If anyone listening, they can pause and the links will be in the show notes below anyway, if they want to grab a copy, and Bruce, just look, thank you so much for coming on today. And just sharing your wisdom and sharing your knowledge and putting a book together like this and getting it out there to the world. And it’s just been a wonderful conversation and just let you know, it’s, it’s deeply appreciated. So thank you. Thank you guys and a pleasure talking with you. This Awesome, thanks.