The real reason scientists refuse to believe near-death experiences… and how it’s linked to the pro-life movement |251|

Interview with journalist and author examines resistance to evidence suggesting consciousness survives death.


Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Patricia Pearson,  author of, Opening Heaven’s Door, Investigating Stories of Life, Death and What Comes After. During the interview Pearson discusses the willful ignorance of the science media:

Alex Tsakiris: … the reason there is so much research of near-death experiences on cardiac arrest wards is  because we can control the medical conditions of the patients, but it doesn’t mean  that’s the only time people experience [NDEs].opening-heavens-door

Patricia Pearson: Yeah. When I was researching my book, I was fascinated by how much sway Susan Blackmore managed to have arguing her “dying brain hypothesis”, when it is just so obvious that many people were not having physiologically dying brains… So it’s like a brand, it’s got brand recognition. And yet, it’s so easy to challenge.

Alex Tsakiris: Yes it is. I guess that leads into the cultural aspect of this, and the willful ignorance that so many have around this topic. How do we sort that out?

Patricia Pearson: I think that there’s a number of different factors involved. Certainly based on my experience promoting this book over the last few weeks, I think Americans have their own particular cultural issue here, which is not the same in Canada or in England, and that has to do with kind of needing to fend off the Evangelicals. So the kind of rigidity around engaging in anything spiritual because it might feed ground to Evangelical cause. It’s almost like it reminds me a little bit of the abortion debate in the ’90s. It’s like you can’t admit that there might be some ambivalence about having one, because you’ll feed ground of the pro-life Movement.


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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Patricia Pearson to Skeptiko as a Toronto-based, mainstream media kind of journalist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times, and many other publications like that. But Tricia is not the person you would have expected to write Opening Heaven’s Door, Investigating Stories of Life, Death and What Comes After, but she did. That’s what she’s here to talk about today. Patricia, welcome to Skeptiko. Thanks so much for joining me.

Patricia Pearson: Thanks for having me on.

Alex Tsakiris: You have a great story that really kind of propelled you into this. Tell folks about that.

Patricia Pearson: Well, what happened was in March of 2008, my father, who was 80 years old, died very unexpectedly in the middle of the night. There was nothing wrong with him, so it was essentially dying in his sleep. And my sister happened to be awake in her bedroom in Montreal that night, and she was sort of just lying there quietly in the shadows, and then all of a sudden she had a very, very vivid sense of a presence materializing in her bedroom, and then she felt hands sort of gently cupping the back of her head. And then she felt a kind of indescribable sort of surge of energy. It was nothing she had ever experienced. She was completely fascinated. And then she was diffused, somehow, with emotions of deep contentment, elation, joy, that went on for two hours, after which she got out of bed. She was so struck by this extraordinary kind of subjective experience that she told my nephew about it, and talked to her boyfriend in Vermont about it, and then got the phone call that said that my father had died. So there was this incredible collision of two completely unprecedented events within our family on that morning.

Right from there, I wanted to start understanding what was going on. Nine weeks later, my sister died herself, and we had an opportunity as a family to sort of witness a very subtle shift in consciousness, a progression toward joy, seeming to see things we couldn’t see, but with this great pleasure. It was very subtle and fascinating and heartbreaking and beautiful, and it challenged all of my assumptions about what we know about this world. And that’s what led me eventually to the book.

Alex Tsakiris: So it sent you on a journey. So just to recap, your father dies; your sister has an experience simultaneously of this presence that so, so many people have reported when someone close to them dies. You had to be wondering as a family, and I can’t help but feel that as a sister, as a daughter, you’re wondering why my sister? Why not me? But then nine weeks later, your sister passes, and the story is kind of completed, to a certain extent. I mean, wow, that’s just traumatic. You can’t script stuff like that.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah, and you wouldn’t want to.

Alex Tsakiris: Yes, you wouldn’t want to, right.

Patricia Pearson: The thing is, I think a lot of your listeners would relate to this. These kinds of events are controversial until they happen to you, and then they’re not controversial anymore.

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Patricia Pearson: They are mysterious, but there’s no controversy in the happening.

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Patricia Pearson: It’s so obviously a felt experience that’s completely different than anything else, that is veritably demands some kind of explanation.

Alex Tsakiris: So, you’re a journalist, quite an accomplished journalist, but you decide to tackle this taboo topic because it’s just smacked you right in the face. You can’t really get away from it. How do you go about tackling something like this? How did you approach it?

Patricia Pearson: Well, that’s an interesting question, because my biggest problem initially was that I don’t have any background in neuroscience. Usually when I’m writing or in my previous books, I’ve had enough mastery of a subject that I can comfortably kind of reject some opinions, mold other opinions, whatever. In this case, I couldn’t go up against an atheist neuroscience and know whether what he or she was presenting was prejudicial or whether it was fact-based. So it took me a while to kind of find the dispassionate sources; the people that didn’t really have skin in the game one-way or the other to really help me understand where these prejudices were creeping in. And then it became a combination of doing that, in effect trying to nullify some of the kind of sneaky materialism that’s in there, and then casting a wide net for people who have had these experiences and looking at them phenomenologically, because the prevalence was shocking to me. I had no idea that this many people were having these experiences. It was like this subterranean culture.

Alex Tsakiris: Throw out some of the stats that you have in your book, because they are rather stunning. Some people have heard them; some people haven’t. Percentage-wise.

Patricia Pearson: Well, for instance, with the sense presence experience –

Alex Tsakiris: Sense presence. Explain that for us, exactly what you mean by that.

Patricia Pearson: All right. Studies across the globe show that between 43 and 55% of the grief population have a sense presence experience of the person that they’ve lost. And within that category, about 5% of that is a visual. So it’s a vision of somebody standing at the end of your bed the night they die, or literally walking across the street in front of you or something. About 5%. Then there’s about 25% where it’s auditory. So you hear someone’s voice.

And then the rest of it is a partial or sensed impression. So in my sister’s case, the tactile sense of hands on the back of her head. In other cases, people talk about somebody entering into their car while they’re driving, and they can actually feel the passenger seat settle as the person is sitting there, and then they know when the person has left; like there is a definitive time frame for that. Or they feel them get into their bed, and they feel the bed moving down. So it’s vivid. It’s not like an imaginary sense of something. It’s not a fleeting sense of something. It’s a very specific, vivid, attention-calling experience in these different varieties of forms. So that’s between 43 and 55% of the entire bereaved population.

Alex Tsakiris: And a figure that we have to know is almost certainly underreported, too. Right? Because of the cultural bias.

Patricia Pearson: Oh, absolutely.

Alex Tsakiris: So stunning, stunning. Right there, let’s stop right there, and in this journey that you’re on, you’re digging through this, the question has to pop up. The question I always talk about here is how can this be? I mean, the first question, as you say, is what the hell is going on. But the next question really quickly is, wait a minute, how can this be? I mean, I kind of knew this, right? I kind of knew that this is engrained in every movie I’ve ever seen, and culturally, I’ve heard it in every story that somebody dies, and you have a feeling that they’re there. But now I look at the research, and by me, I really mean you, you’re looking at the research and you’re seeing these kind of figures coming back. As a journalist, don’t you have to say, how can this be? How did I not know about this? And how can I talk to these other esteemed academicians, neuroscientists, other people, and they’re just completely, willfully ignorant of just the first round of probing that you do? I mean, how did you grapple with that?

Patricia Pearson: Well, the first thing that I did, because I wanted to get away from the kind of consigning explanatory frame that would immediately pop up on these things. With the bereaved population, then immediately you get the explanation that was originated by Freud, which was that these are wishful psychoses. So they are grief hallucinations willfully conjured by lonely, grieving people. And that just gets accepted because it falls into a materialist frame, but it has absolutely no basis in any kind of research. There is absolutely no research on grief hallucinations that suggest human beings can willfully conjure the image or voice of someone they’ve lost. Why, if that were even the case, would we not have people who had been dumped? When I was dumped by my first boyfriend, I was madly in love with him, I was lonelier then than I’ve ever been since my father and sister died. I never hallucinated him.

So what you do is you crack that open by going across the different experiences. All of a sudden we find, oh, wait, here is a sensed presence experience that is occurring in extreme athletes and adventurers, people who are going up Mt. Everest; people who are in the Antarctic regions and are stranded; people who are solo voyaging across the sea, reporting sensed presence experiences. So those guys were being given explanations like oxygen depravation, sensory depravation and so on. Spanning across the categories, that’s how I sort of was able to begin to get my head around what the core experience was as opposed to what the scientific explanations were.

Alex Tsakiris: Aren’t there also some good counterexamples of this sensed presence, especially associated with the dying, where for instance people had no knowledge that someone had died, and then later are able to confirm that it happened at exactly that time? Or even people who get contacted who don’t have a direct connection to the deceased, but are somehow brought in as kind of a third party? There are plenty of these kinds of accounts that are well corroborated and well documented in the data as well, right?

Patricia Pearson: Yes. Some of them are called peak invariant experiences, where the dying person will say, oh, look, there’s Fred. Why am I seeing Fred? Unbeknownst to them, Fred had died the previous week or something. You will find those kinds of experiences come up when there is like a collective family car accident, for instance. So you’re got four to five family members who are all rushed to hospitals, not knowing each other’s condition, and then one of them who is dying might see one who has already died, those kinds of things. What is so interesting about this is the element of surprise for the person who is having the experience.

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Patricia Pearson: They’re genuinely bewildered by it.

Alex Tsakiris: So, Patricia, this sensed presence is one of the things that you explore in your book, but you also cover other aspects of these extraordinary experiences surrounding death and dying. What are some of the other ones that you get into in “Opening Heaven’s Door”?

Patricia Pearson: One of my questions with my sister, when she got to a place beyond words, was why was she so radiant? What was making her so happy? Because she knew she was dying, and she would make very terse references to it, like you guys are falling apart faster than I am, or something. And yet, she was incredibly happy. What I did was I wound up interviewing a number of people who had near-death experiences, but not where they were physically flatlined or anything, but actually just, where they had been in a position where they might die. One woman was a physician who was in a plane crash, so as soon as she realized that this little twin-prop plane was going to go down, she kind of let out this cry from her soul, oh my God, I’m going to die. Then she had this experience of a voice very commandingly saying to her, be still. And she was suffused with the same sort of sense of tranquility and peace that my sister had mentioned. And then she wound up essentially having a mystical experience, so as she was crashing, she was going up into a light that was also love, that was wisdom, that was sentient, that was immersive, into which she merged and felt that she had been lost for centuries and found her way home. At the same time, she was clear about where she was, oriented to the fact that she was crashing on the ice, extracting herself from the plane, swimming in the lake.

So those kinds of experiences, which also turn out to be quite common, again sort of get you away from the scientific frame, because it has nothing to do with whether somebody is or is not flatlined, and that whole debate around the NDE. Rather, it has to do with are there situations of distress in which we somehow manage to transcend – our consciousness begins to transcend our bodies, expands out of it in some fashion, and into this kind of grounded being. And what does that tell us about how potentially not that frightening the actual dying experience it? It looks like people kind of start to bliss out, and that’s very reassuring, actually.

Alex Tsakiris: I know it’s a little bit of an aside from your book, but I think the point you just touched on is so interesting, because it always – I find it actually kind of humorous when people who are not up-to-date on near death experience, I want to say Skeptics, but I don’t mean Skeptic skeptics, I mean just like medical people and mainstream science people that are dismissive of the near death experience. The point you just raised is always so interesting to me. It’s like, hey, they reason there is so much work in near death experience on cardiac arrest words is only because we can better control the set of medical conditions of the patient, but it doesn’t mean that that’s the only medical condition that people have when they experience these kinds of things. As you just mentioned, there’s plenty of people that are in a plane crash or jumping off a bridge, have no medical trauma, and yet experience this. Which interestingly, when you talk to some of these materialist, status-quo scientists, they somehow want to turn that into evidence against the near death experience, when really it just further deepens the medical mystery. How we can have these completely different preconditions that result in the same phenomena that we observe.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah. When I was researching my book, I was fascinated by how much sway Susan Blackmore managed to have arguing her dying brain hypothesis, when it is just so obvious so many people were not having physiologically dying brains. And yet she was able to make this kind of like a – I don’t know in your experience, but for me it’s the most common one that’s raised to me even by, say, editors. I was interested in writing about the philosophy of the unsayable, the ineffable, that element of these experiences where it is literally non-translatable into our vocabulary. And I couldn’t persuade my editor at an American paper, because he was why are you using the example of someone who has had an NDE? That’s just the dying brain hypothesis. So it’s like a brand, it’s got brand recognition. And yet, it’s so easy to challenge.

Alex Tsakiris: Yes, yes, it is. I guess that leads into a topic we were kind of chatting about a little bit before we started the interview, and that is the cultural aspect of this, and the willful ignorance that so many have around this topic. How do we sort that out? You’re right in the middle of it again, because you come from this mainstream media background, and you encounter it every day. What do you make of that? Why is our culture so oriented to be really hostile, at least dismissive, if not hostile, to this evidence? This just good, solid evidence?

Patricia Pearson: I think that there’s a number of different factors involved. Certainly based on my experience promoting this book over the last few weeks, I think Americans have their own particular cultural issue here, which is not the same in Canada or in England, and that has to do with kind of needing to fend off the Evangelicals. So the kind of rigidity around engaging in anything spiritual because it might feed ground to Evangelical cause. It’s almost like it reminds me a little bit of the abortion debate in the ’90s. It’s like you can’t admit that there might be some ambivalence about having one, because you’ll feed ground of the Pro Life Movement. So that’s a factor in the States that I find. It’s not so much the case here in Toronto or in London. And, of course, it complicates things enormously in terms of having the discourse. But then what is definitely common across sort of Western culture is what I would say is the prestige and primacy of psychiatric and computational models that have been engrained. So if you don’t affiliate yourself with those models, then you have less status. You can be accused of being irrational, as if it is inherently a sin to be irrational. That the rational mind – do you know what I mean?

Alex Tsakiris: Absolutely. I love the word prestige. I think that’s a perfect word. This is about status, I think, a lot of times and not being – as much as we talk about science and about the hard science, the work and the data, it’s about being in the club. It’s back to middle school, high school, am I in the club or out of the club? Do I have the prestige? Am I in the in-group, not in the in-group, and the number of people who are really willing to go it alone is rare, is very few.

Patricia Pearson: Very few, and yet at the same time, right beneath the surface of that, there is this tension, because of the sheer number of people who are secretly having these experiences.

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Patricia Pearson: The other thing that was interesting for me about this book tour is that how quickly the skepticism collapses if the person that you’re talking to knows what you’re talking about from an experiential point of view. So they almost put up this kind of gestural screen.

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Patricia Pearson: You’re a journalist, why are you dealing with woo-woo? And then within five minutes, they’re like, and then what happened?

Alex Tsakiris: Right, right.

Patricia Pearson: So that’s interesting to me, too. That’s kind of something I wasn’t anticipating, although it makes sense in terms of the data.

Alex Tsakiris: You know, and that’s one question I guess I had, and I don’t know if it’s a question, but it’s just kind of a viewpoint that I wanted to throw out there. How much can we really rely on science to pull us out of this? You do a nice job in the book in going through the neuroscience literature. You try and tie these experiences back to established neuroscience that we know about, but at some point what kept going through the back of my mind is, you know, you can’t get there from here. It takes a fundamentally paradigm shift, and that shift is even bigger than we could even imagine, because it gets us into this point that maybe we’re really not that smart in this whole consciousness scale. Maybe we’re way down here with the dogs. We’re not even up to the chimpanzee level. Maybe we don’t really see what’s going on, and maybe all this hubris we have is not founded.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah.

Alex Tsakiris: So to lean back against this body of scientific knowledge, bunk. I mean, maybe what we have here is a launching off point to say, you know what, everything we thought we know basically needs to be thrown in the rubbish until we can kind of sort through it again, but as a starting point just assume that it’s not worth very much.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I actually also think that it wouldn’t hurt to return to some of the wisdom traditions that we’ve managed to evolve over many thousands of years. I mean, what the Buddhists have to say about the interior of the mind is based on a form of science. It’s based on a form of really patient, systemic, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years’ worth of exploration.

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Patricia Pearson: And similarly some of the Christian mystics. It’s like, okay, we pushed it as far as we can with science, and I think science has contributed, certainly, to some elements of understanding this. I think the work that Dean Radner has done has been really interesting. But then, like you say, you put it aside and say, okay, now let’s go to the other source of human knowledge and look at it again. And when you go back to various forms of religious writing and scripture from the vantage point, for instance, of what we know about near death experience as a phenomenological thing and you see where these references to light start to burble up in these texts, it gives you a new respect for them, in a way. So it’s almost like doing a double take. And then where do we go forward from there? That remains sort of the mystery. I think one place that I would certainly like to see forward movement is on systematizing some of the language around this stuff, so that we have a better common grasp of what we’re talking about. Do you know what I mean?

Alex Tsakiris: Sure.

Patricia Pearson: A crisis apparition is also a telepathic impression is also a grief hallucination is also, etc. So these experiences are very difficult to formalize at the moment.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, that’s particularly the case with near death experience. I mean, there’s a term that just leads us in, you might say, the wrong direction at every part of it.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah.

Alex Tsakiris: Near? What is near? How near is near? What do we really mean? Death? What do we really mean? Death, what is that all about? Experience? It certainly is an experience. We can kind of leave that one in there.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah.

Alex Tsakiris: Back to the point that you were just talking about, those well in science, one thing I picked out of your excellent TEDx presentation that you did in Phoenix, and people can check that out on YouTube, we’ll try to get a link up to that as well, but you were talking about how different cultures treat death, and you pointed to the Japanese culture and how they have this reverence to those who have passed and make a meal and do all that kind of stuff that we’ve seen in the movies and stuff like that. But the quote that you have from some research that was done on the grieving process among Japanese widows I thought was interesting on a couple of levels. I mean, on the just kind of straightforward levels, it was widows who hold to the traditional beliefs about the passing and what that means in a continuation of consciousness suffer less grief than those who don’t, the secular kind of modern people.

Patricia Pearson: True.

Alex Tsakiris: So there’s kind of a couple of ways of taking that. One is just to take the data, but the two is to say, wait a minute. Why is there this imbedded assumption that the widows who are holding on to the “traditional beliefs” are engaging in some kind of fantasy crazy belief system, but the secular moderns are not? It’s like we’re saying, once you turn it around, you go, oh, gee, I didn’t realize it, but my whole worldview model is really flawed. So all of that research needs to be reexamined, because they kind of asked the wrong question going in.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah.

Alex Tsakiris: You could ask the question, how did these secular people lose their way when it was so obvious all along, that this was what was going on?

Patricia Pearson: Yes. Yeah, exactly. And it’s interesting how that turn came, to some extent, had to do ironically with the church, because in Catholicism, when you had sense presences sort of wandering about all over Medieval Europe, and the church began to decide that this was a quandary, because it didn’t work with Christian doctrine, so they had to reconceptualize ancestors as purgatorial spirits that needed to be prayed for, because they were stranded between heaven and hell. And then when Europeans began to doubt the church itself and the doctrines of the church, they kind of threw the baby out with the bath water. Everything the church has any comment on, we don’t believe anymore. And that’s to some extent how this happened where it didn’t happen in other cultures. So the Jains in India, for instance, still have a very robust and thriving acceptance of their ancestral spirits, and like you said, the Japanese do, the Indonesians as well, and a couple of other cultures. To some strange degree, the Mexicans. So we took a wrong turn at some point about this, and then we kind of developed amnesia about the fact that we took that wrong turn. And then Freud stepped into the picture, and all hell broke loose.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah. And you know, that’s not to say that these other cultures didn’t much it up, too. Because when you do step into their world, you do run into a lot of kind of contradictory, BS’y kind of stuff, too, which I think is interesting and it speaks to our human nature and our desire to kind of form ritual and form patterns, even when they don’t exist. And back to the science thing, hey, we’d love to take the scientific model and extricate it from this big pile of manure we have that is the current scientific paradigm, but it’s kind of hard to do that, but we’d love to, because there are some tools that we need to use to look at things cross-culturally.

Patricia Pearson: Yes.

Alex Tsakiris: To really dissect them, to understand what’s going on. Because some of these other cultures have some pretty strange beliefs, too.

Patricia Pearson: Yeah, no, I know. So how do you extract the core, the essential experience? One of my favorite journals is the Journal of Transcultural Psychiatry. And that really is the academic approach there is to – when you’re looking a schizophrenia, if you look at it across cultures, you know, where you can find the fundamental disease process as opposed to the incredibly varied culturally interplays. The same thing with spirituality. It was a way to sort of patiently kind of – and the near death experience literature is interesting in that way in terms of looking at other cultures. Like there was a recent study done in China in 2010 at a hospital there where they had three cardiac arrest patients with NDE’s that they interviewed, and the imagery within those NDE’s was so specific to the Chinese sort of cultural archetype. You’d never see it in Ohio, you know? It’s very interesting.

Alex Tsakiris: I have to say, even that, sometimes, I feel like starts taking us down the wrong path a little bit, in that what assumptions are we making about what this afterlife experience should be, and I think part of those assumptions have to do with this idea of our position in the universe, or our position in this consciousness field, if you will. In a sense, I keep getting back more and more as I get into this is that we’re just not that big of a deal. So the grander thing can project anything we need. So, you know, if you need to see China, that’s cool. But we’re just teaching dogs algebra, here, you know?

Patricia Pearson: Yes.

Alex Tsakiris: It doesn’t really work. And the dogs are all getting together, as one of my friends in the Skeptiko forum posts, and I loved, it’s like a bunch of dogs getting together and saying, you know, what do you think that “atta boy” thing really means? What do you think it means? Well, I think when they say atta boy, they mean this. And the other one goes, well, I think they mean this. I mean, sometimes I wonder if that’s what we’re doing. Oh, no, the near death experience, cross culturally means this and that. No, it just means that it’s a lot, lot bigger than we ever imagined, and we’ve just got to be super humble about our little role in it and our ability to figure it out. 

Patricia Pearson: Yeah. 

Alex Tsakiris: And we have to kind of go with that humility. 

Patricia Pearson: I was talking about a woman in her 80s who had had a near death experience in 1952, and at one point I said, so, based on your experience, do you think that souls are reincarnated? And she said – and this just completely humbled me and blew me away. She said, yeah, but they’re not just reincarnated to our world. They’re reincarnated to other dimensions and other planets. 

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, right. 

Patricia Pearson: You know? 

Alex Tsakiris: Wrap your mind around that one, right. 

Patricia Pearson: Well, of course, why wouldn’t that be? 

Alex Tsakiris: Right. And simultaneously reincarnated, now wrap your mind around that, that you’re this linear – we know this linear idea just doesn’t hold even with our science. So now, just wrap your head around that. You can’t. I mean, we just really can’t. 

Patricia Pearson: Yeah, so basically all we can do is send the sacredness of human experience and leave it a mystery. 

Alex Tsakiris: Yes, wonderfully said. Patricia, tell us what else is going on with “Opening Heaven’s Door”? What are your plans for the book? You’re out there talking to folks. How is that going? What else is happening? Is there going to be a major motion picture movie? Who’s going to be starring in it? 

Patricia Pearson: I hope not. Well, it’s coming out in Germany and in Italy. The Italians are interesting, because they’ve kind of – they are pissed off at the church, but they secretly are deeply still interested in their saints. 

Alex Tsakiris: Yes. 

Patricia Pearson: And in that whole – so they actually had to have a bidding war over this book. 

Alex Tsakiris: Wow. 

Patricia Pearson: The other place that it resonates, where I’ve never seen, is in Louisiana. So again, there is some sort of overlay with that kind of Gothic Catholic delight in spirits. And coming out in Germany. And it’s actually become a best seller in England. 

Alex Tsakiris: Fantastic! That’s so great to hear! 

Patricia Pearson: Yeah, that was kind of unexpected. And, you know, so I’m just sort of wandering about telling people what I think I might know. I was doing an interview in Vancouver on the street on the phone with a guy, and he asked me, so, based on your research, what do you think heaven is, and just then, an ice cream truck came by going, dedoododedo. It was like, okay, there you go. It’s an ice truck, that’s heaven. What I would say that I find fascinating, and I’ve noticed this with Eben Alexander and to some degree also with Raymond Moody as I write about in my book, is that people very quickly turn you into a sage that you’re not. And you almost are invited to become a creature, almost. It’s interesting. There’s a real hunger, and that’s what, when I watch Eben Alexander, he reminds me of that. It’s kind of a new sort of grass roots creature. So you have to be really careful and really circumspect. 

Alex Tsakiris: Yes, you do. Yes, you do. Well, that’s wonderful. It’s been absolutely wonderful talking to you, Patricia Pearson, author of “Opening Heaven’s Door, Investigating Stories of Life, Death and What Comes After.” I hope you come back. Come back in a year or so and tell us what you’re figuring out. 

Patricia Pearson: Oh, I would love to. Thanks so much for having me on, and thanks for your show, it’s great. And of course, I quote you in my book, so I researched you, too.

photo by Chuck Patch