Our guest today is Peter Fenwick, an internationally renowned neuropsychiatrist, a world-renowned expert on end of life phenomena, and Britain's leading clinical authority on near-death experiences. In this episode, we talk about what we know about consciousness, why we should be curious about dying, and what we can learn from death to live more fully.
“One of the first things that I recognized was that you could alter people's consciousness.”
Peter became interested in consciousness at a young age, even before the term was well-known. He read a book about hypnosis as a child and that piqued his interest in the human mind.
After completing medical school, Peter started to meditate. At that time, there was not much scientific research on meditation, so he started to raise money for research. In the early ‘70s, he even worked with George Harrison from the Beatles to analyze his brain waves while he was meditating.
“You could have a lot of hypotheses that it was all in the brain or that it was all outside the brain. And both were as true as the others.”
Having qualified in neurophysiology, neurology, and psychiatry, Peter got very interested in altered states of consciousness. He heard of a man, who went through cardiac surgery and had a near-death experience, leaving his body, and seeing himself from the outside. After this, Peter dedicated himself to near-death-experience studies.
He started gathering data from hundreds of experiences, and eventually wrote his book “The Truth in the Light”. Peter couldn’t find absolute evidence on whether near-death-experiences are located in the brain or outside of the brain, but based on his studies, he believes that consciousness lies outside of the brain.
The Dying Process
“It became very clear that you could see a pathway to dying.”
Peter writes about the fascinating process of dying in his book “The Art of Dying”.
According to him, many people have a premonition that they are going to die. He mentions stories about people who felt that they are going to die soon, and they really did.
Peter also did a lot of research in hospices, where he met with another interesting phenomenon, deathbed visitors. They can be spiritual beings or even beloved pets. Deathbed visitors usually take the dying person to a calm and peaceful alternate reality, as if they were being prepared to die.
The dying people can also be involved in a death bed coincidence, by unexpectedly visiting a loved-one and giving them a reassuring message.
Terminal lucidity is also something that happens often. It is when just before death someone suddenly gets better, wakes up from a coma, or maybe even stands up when paralyzed. Sometimes they say goodbye to their loved ones and soon after pass away.
The 3 stages of the dying process:
Pretransition: it is when you're doing all the clearing by getting rid of your attachments.
Transition: when you lose yourself completely and the ego functions are gone.
Post-transition: in the last stage, you become cosmic and one with everything.
According to Peter, all you have to do is to be curious about the death-process, and then you will have an easier way of getting through.
What Is Consciousness
“Our knowledge of brain function gets ever more detailed. But however detailed it has got, consciousness is not yet identified.”
Peter says that there are two major ways, we can think about consciousness based on our most recent studies: the reductionist and the idealist way.
Reductionists believe that consciousness is solely just brain function, while idealists say, that it is probably basic to the universe and the brain only acts as a filter mechanism.
Palma’s Reflection On How To Die Before You Die
Today, we invite you to sit with these questions: Who am I? What am I? Why am I here?
We encourage you to practice with “who am I” as a mantra and to take it into your meditation practice asking yourself “who am I” over and over again.
Your mind will most likely first come up with concepts like I am so and so, I am a male, a female, a lawyer, a mother, and so on, but we encourage you to continue asking the question until you run out of concepts and answers and see what arises...
We also invite you to start your equivalent of the clearing process that Peter spoke about: tell the people you love that you love them and thank them, forgive anyone who you feel harmed you, and practice gratitude for what you have.
If you would like to learn how to befriend your emotions and work with them in a deeper way, then check out Palma’s course on Expert Academy
About Our Guest, Dr Peter Fenwick
Dr. Peter Fenwick is a neuropsychiatrist and neurophysiologist who is known for his studies of epilepsy and end-of-life phenomena.
Dr. Fenwick is a senior lecturer at King's College, London, where he works as a consultant at the Institute of Psychiatry. He is the Consultant Neuropsychologist at both the Maudsley, and John Radcliffe hospitals, and also provides services for Broadmoor Hospital. He works with the Mental Health Group at the University of Southampton and holds a visiting professorship at the Riken Neurosciences Institute in Japan
Dr. Fenwick is the president of the Horizon Research Foundation, an organization that supports research into end-of-life experiences. He is the President of the British branch of the International Association for Near-Death Studies.
Dr. Fenwick has been part of the editorial board for a number of journals, including the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and the Journal of Epilepsy and Behaviour.
He is also interviewed on the newly released Netflix documentary Surviving Death.
A special thanks to Dr. Peter Fenwick for taking the time to share his inspiring story with us.
Resources Mentioned In The Show:
Peter Fenwick - The Art of Dying
Peter Fenwick - The truth in the Light
Continue Your Journey
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