For more than twenty years cardiologist Pim van Lommel studied near-death experiences (NDEs) in patients who survived a cardiac arrest. In 2001, he and his fellow researchers published a study on Near Death Experiences in the renowned medical journal The Lancet. In 2007, van Lommel wrote the Dutch bestseller Endless Consciousness. It is now in its 19th print-run, having sold more than 140,000 copies.
Foreword by Pim van Lommel MD
Throughout the course of his life, Brazilian consciousness researcher, Waldo Vieira MD, has amassed one of the largest existing libraries on the out-of-body experience (OBE) and is considered one of the most prolific “lucid projectors” alive, reportedly producing intentional OBEs on an almost daily basis. Far from being a guru-type personality, Vieira states that producing lucid OBEs is a natural human ability that everyone can develop. He also insists that you doubt and question everything he says; that you have your own experiences of the OBE and other altered states of consciousness instead to verify his claims. Vieira has written a number of books including the acclaimed diary of personal experiences Projections of the Consciousness and a 1,000-page tome entitled Projectiology which attracted the attention of a number of science-oriented individuals who were dissatisfied with both materialistic and religious approaches to understanding consciousness.
The current views on the relationship between the brain and consciousness held by most physicians, philosophers and psychologists are too narrow to explain the near-death experience (NDE) which is similar in nature to the OBE and considered by Vieira as a specific type of OBE. Both the OBE and NDE reveal that our consciousness (i.e. our ability to be aware) does not always coincide with brain functions; that we can in fact experience our consciousness independently of the physical body.
It is my pleasure therefore to introduce this book by Sandie Gustus, OBE scholar, instructor and practitioner, who has been volunteering and teaching at the London office of the International Academy of Consciousness (an organization associated with Vieira’s work) since 2003. This is the first book to present the fundamental principles of his work to a general, non-academic audience . . . a significant contribution as despite being one of the world’s leading authorities on the OBE, Vieira remains unknown to many who are interested in alternative research into consciousness.
Although a fellow physician who similarly questioned conventional theories about consciousness, Vieira’s path has been quite different to mine. I was a resident in 1969, working on a cardiac ward, when a heart-attack patient told me that while unconscious he had seen the most beautiful world, with extraordinary music and light. What I still can’t forget is the way he described the experience and how deeply impressed he was by what had happened. At the time I wasn’t at all interested in consciousness. But I then read Return From Tomorrow, a book by George Ritchie, who as a medical student had had a near death experience. After reading this book I started to ask those of my patients who had survived a cardiac arrest if they had any memory of the period of unconsciousness. And to my enormous surprise, within two years, I had collected 12 personal accounts of an enhanced consciousness during the period of clinical death in 50 survivors of cardiac arrest. Because of this finding I decided to initiate, along with some colleagues, a systematic and prospective trial into this phenomenon of the so-called near-death experience. The results, published in The Lancet in 2001, demonstrated that common hypotheses that dismiss the NDE as a real event, such as lack of oxygen to the brain and fear of death, had no correlation to the occurrence of an NDE. Since 2003, I have dedicated myself to researching the NDE phenomenon further, because it challenges our current concepts about the relationship between consciousness and the function of our brain.
As for Vieira, he began experiencing out-of-body experiences at the age of nine. He grew up in Minas Gerais, Brazil and was heavily influenced by a kind of religion known as Spiritism that took the philosophy and psychical study of Frenchmen Allan Kardec and attempted to merge it with Christianity. Vieira eventually left Spiritism to develop a more scientific approach that was not linked to any particular culture or faith but was instead based on a combination of scientific principles and direct, personal experience. This, of course, flew in the face of conventional scientific rules and expectations! How replicable are these experiences? How can we reach objective conclusions using subjective experience? Vieira suggests that the corroboration of different individual’s accounts of remote physical occurrences, and even shared OBEs, indicate an objective dimension to the OBE and its potential as a tool for the reliable exploration of consciousness beyond the physical body, for scientists and lay people alike.
Sandie Gustus provides a fascinating, detailed and highly readable overview of the bases of this scientific and spiritual paradigm conceived by Vieira; now further developed by a number of scholars worldwide who combine personal exploration of nonphysical realms with more conventional third-person, objective research to reach rational, personally verifiable conclusions about the nature of consciousness and the human condition beyond the physical body.
Bearing in mind that there are plausible hypotheses for the OBE that do not necessarily require extraordinary models, as I explain in Consciousness Beyond Life, I cannot help but be intrigued by Vieira’s experiences and theories. Perhaps, Vieira is right but you and I won’t have cause to abandon the more conventional, physical explanations unless we have our own, repeated out-of-body experiences; a consistent theme of this book and one which is supported by numerous techniques for controlling one’s energy, developing one’s psychic abilities, and producing OBEs and other phenomena at will . . . techniques that Gustus insists can produce results for anyone who has the determination to succeed. One thing rings true, however. While Vieira and I present different approaches to the study of consciousness, it is not so unlikely that the two will be equally important to answer the stubborn questions of consciousness, the brain and beyond.
If, like me, you have not had a lucid out-of-body experience, I invite you to enjoy this compelling book that credibly argues the case for life beyond the physical body with an open mind.
—Pim van Lommel MD Author, Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience