Susan Blackmore beautifully demonstrates how the scientific method can be applied to the mystically charged subject of Near Death Experience (NDE). Her analysis of existing data and review of current theories is meticulously thorough, but engaging and insightful. Most researchers in this field, when faced with its more difficult mysteries, simply chalk it all up as ghostly round trips to heaven, or ask us to swallow whole universes of improbabilities in parallel planes of existence. Instead, Ms. Blackmore seeks the answers using a wide range of related studies and established theories in human physiology and psychology. This is how scientific research ought to be done -- by the book -- with exhaustive examination of the information, consistent application of scientific principles, and without slanting the conclusions toward one's own cosmic agenda. The rewards for such due diligence are verifiable theories explaining many aspects of the NDE. These are thoughtfully presented, carefully supported, and far more plausible than most competing theories. Blackmore's enlightening examinations of the human mind reveal its remarkable mechanisms for supporting our survival, our sanity, and our self-delusion. It's science without seance; research without a religion; facts without fabrications. A masterpiece in the art of clear, critical, and rational thought.
I thought this book was already important in itself because it discusses perhaps the most important subject - death and the afterlife, thru a skeptical examination of NDEs. Indeed, Blackmore discusses the various characteristics of NDEs with studies on hand and exemplary scholarship. Just on that alone it would be well worth its price.
But this book is truly groundbreaking where Susan Blackmore discusses her idea of the self as a mental construct, in the last chapters. Basically, she discusses how the NDE experience exists as a consequence of the breakdown of the sense of self, and the brain tries desperately to reconstitute a comprehensible model of reality. From this, she concludes that the very idea of a priviledged sense of self is nothing but a construct of the brain.
There are just too many things to recommend in this book to not sound fawning over it - as trite as this probably sounds, I think "Dying to Live" is nothing short of revolutionary.