Near-Death Super Creativity

The near-death phenomenon may be something we can reverse engineer as a way to alter collective mentality.


The near-death experience (NDE) may turn out to be the starting-point of a new science of super mind. The NDE itself provides a vivid example of high order creativity. What could be more creative than producing an environment with beings who appear totally real and meaningful, profoundly transforming one with an experience of all-encompassing love and empathy for a soulful humanity?

All the features of the near-death phenomenon — the out of body effects, encounters with deceased relatives, the profound review of one’s life, otherworld landscapes of breathless beauty, the choruses of transcendent music, the ineffable embrace with a being of light and pure love — what mind-blowing creativity! And all of this spewed out of oxygen-deprived, in effect, dead brains. How do we make sense of this paradoxical death-born creativity?

Pulling The Plug On Consciousness

In a near-death case of cardiac arrest, the heart that pumps oxygen to the brain gives out, and the brain becomes oxygen-deprived. Consciousness should go out like an unplugged lamp. In fact, the lamp not only stays on, it becomes exponentially more brilliant. It looks, in fact, as if the brain does not create, but rather transmits and directs consciousness.

When consciousness fails to transmit brain functions, it spatially separates from the body. The more our mundane, habitual modes of consciousness are disrupted, diverted — indeed driven to the cliff’s edge — the greater the likelihood that consciousness will be shunted into alternate realities. The closer we come to “death,” psychologically and/or literally, the greater the likelihood of shifting into altered modes of consciousness. Two cases closely illustrate a near-death experience that results in extraordinary forms of creativity.

The Mystic, Joseph Of Cupertino

The case of the 17th century friar, healer and levitator extraordinaire, Joseph of Cupertino, provides for an interesting discovery. Joseph was a mystic endowed with extraordinary psychic powers, mental and physical. People came from all over Europe to witness his ecstatic levitations and visions, which were documented in detail for his thirty-five year career.

Physician and NDE researcher Bruce Greyson’s empirical model of the near-death experience matches many of the features of Joseph’s life. As an ascetic, Joseph slowly “dies” by fasting, not sleeping, killing all his normal psychological needs and desires, through which he acquires expanded psychic powers and experiences the unifying mystical light, much like an NDE. Could a spontaneous near-death experience reveal to an ordinary person, suddenly, what a mystic like Joseph, or a yogi or shaman, may have to train for many years before, if ever, their moment of enlightenment comes?

Inducing Near-Death Experiences By Design

This is not to equate the NDEr with a seasoned yogi or evolved mystic, but suggests it might be possible for the NDE to become part of an experiment in which individuals are initiated, say, using psychedelics, similar perhaps to the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece. The near-death phenomenon, apart from its potent impact on experiencers, may be something we can reverse engineer as a way to gain access to forms of creativity normally in abeyance.

This might make it possible to induce by experiment transformative near-death phenomena. A sane, safe, and scientific design of this experiment could conceivably ignite large-scale changes of consciousness, perhaps conducive to the well-being of all forms of life on Earth.

In particular, the life-review often reported of NDEs could alter the collective mentality, if we could all glimpse the sweeping review of how we have affected all those around us. In this extraordinary state of expanded perception, we inhabit the minds and feelings of those we interact with, even those we loathe and despise. The books of near-death pioneer researcher, Kenneth Ring, brought the transformative miracle of the ND life-review before the eyes and into the minds of readers worldwide.

Detaching Consciousness Through Ritual

An Indian rite of initiation, designed to elicit and master siddhis or supernormal powers is called Anestehan, “the way to power.” Nada Brahmananda, an esoteric master of musical sound vibrations, also a monk and sannyasi (renunciant), described a retreat he underwent for one hundred and eight days in a small underground room with no food, and just a few drops of milk every day.

The purpose of the ritual is to master the taan or subtle vibrations, and nadakhumbaka, the combination of breath-control and tabla drums performance. Brahmananda trained himself to make complex tabla rhythms for thirty-five minutes on one breath while fixated visually on an icon of Shiva.

He reported he did this with his “death-body”— death, because he stopped breathing for thirty-five minutes. The Swami was tested for this feat in an airtight chamber by a government-sponsored medical team. Every morning at 3am he would perform this death-body rite of music and breath retention and lived to be 97.

Joseph of Cupertino and Nada Brahmananda were pioneering experimenters in detaching their consciousness from the world — a subtle form of dying — and freeing up their consciousness while defying the apparent laws of physical nature. The NDE subverts obvious opposites, turning the grim face of the end into the smile of a new beginning. Nature is either teasing us for perverse reasons or handing us a daring phenomenon to conjure with and explore.

Michael Grosso is a scholar, writer and painter, who enjoys exploring how the supernormal powers of human consciousness can be mobilized during the present climate crisis. He is the author of The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Cupertino and the Mystery of Levitation, and Yoga of Sound: The Life and Teachings of the Celestial Songman, Swami Nada Brahmananda.

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