Can there ever be a rationally satisfying and scientifically based explanation as to what happens to consciousness at the point of death? Anthony Peake believes that there can be and that the explanation in no way invalidates long held religious beliefs about life after death. The way in which to "Cheat The Ferryman" to term his theory, lies deep within the structures of the brain itself – an area where thought itself touches upon the very building blocks of reality. We welcome Anthony Peake as April 2009 Author of the Month. His article offers an introduction to the central elements of his theory and an opportunity for those interested to discuss the idea and offer their own opinions and experiences.
Anthony Peake lives near Liverpool in England. As well as writing two books he has also written many articles for magazines and journals in the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the UK. He is also regularly in demand as a lecturer and public speaker.
On July 25th 2009 he will be involved in a Platform event at The National Theatre in London. He will be discussing the time theories of J W Dunne.
For details on Anthony's work please check out his website at:
"Each human being is the dwelling place of an infinite power – the root of the universe" –
The woman had settled down to a quiet evening in, curled up with a book. She was engrossed in the story and at first was not sure what she had heard. It then repeated itself. It was a voice that was somehow inside her head and yet not part of her thought processes.
The voice was absolutely insistent. It had arrived from nowhere and was quite clear about its purpose. It told her that she had a medical problem but that she was not to worry because it was there "to help her".
After a few weeks of these strange communications, some of which where precognitive, the woman, known as AB, decided that her only course of action was to go and see her doctor. The local doctor simply could not understand what was happening but assuming that the problem was psychological referred her to Dr Ikechukwu Azuonye of the Mental Health Unit at London's Royal Free Hospital. In the winter of 1984 Dr Azuonye diagnosed a straight-forward case of hallucinatory psychosis. He prescribed a course of the anti-psychotic drug thioridazine and expected that would be the end of it. How wrong he was.
Initially the thioridazine seemed to work. Thinking the voice was simply a peculiar psychological interlude AB and her husband went off on holiday. However whilst out of the country, the voice had found its way through the drug barrier and was more insistent than before. It pleaded with her to return to England as soon as possible saying that she needed urgent medical treatment. Indeed it even told her an address that she should go to for help.
The voice was now becoming quite precise as regards AB's medical problem. It told her that it had two reasons for wanting her to have a scan – firstly that she had a tumour in her brain and, secondly, that her brain stem was badly inflamed. She convinced her husband that they had to go and find the address the voice had told her. Much to her surprise, and concern, the address turned out to be the computerised tomography unit of a large London hospital.
This scared her so much that she went back to see Dr Azuonye. The psychiatrist was, not surprisingly, reluctant at first to do as the voice requested. He knew that the woman had none of the symptoms associated with a brain tumour and for him to force the issue would reflect badly on his professional reputation – particularly if he divulged the source of the diagnosis. Against his better judgement he agreed that he would write to the clinic and see what they said. AB agreed and Dr Azuonye took her home.
A few months later, and after many letters, the clinic agreed to do the scan. Much to the surprise of all concerned, with the clear exception of 'the voice', the scan clearly showed an unusual mass in the brain.
AB was called in to meet with a neurological consultant. The consultant explained that the mass was probably a "meningioma tumour". As he said this, AB heard the voice agree with this diagnosis. However the voice was concerned that there had already been too much delay. It demanded that she be operated on straight away. Not only this but the voice wanted the operation done at Queen's Square Hospital. This was because it knew that that particular hospital specialised in neurological diseases.
This time the hospital authorities agreed, but the operation was to take place at the Royal Free. The voice considered this and decided that it was acceptable. A few days later AB, and, presumably, the voice itself, were under full anaesthetic and being wheeled into an operating theatre.
As AB came too after the operation the first thing she was aware of was the voice. All the insistence had gone. It said "I am pleased to have helped you. Goodbye".
When the surgeon came round to see her she already knew that her life had been saved. He explained to her that he had removed a 6.4cm (2.5 inch) tumour from her brain. He added that he was sure that had it not been removed she would have most certainly died.
Over the years this case continued to fascinate Dr Anzuonye. By 1997 he had moved to Lambeth NHS Trust and had mentioned the AB case many times to his associates. He found that the response was always either extremely positive or extremely negative and with this in mind he decided to submit an article describing the event to the British Medical Journal. He was pleased when he received a positive response and the article appeared the December edition.
Many hypothetical suggestions were made as to what had taken place in 1984 but none have been considered satisfactory. However there is now a possible answer to the question of what was happening to AB and what was the source of 'the voice'.
Who or what was this 'voice' and how did it know what was about to take place? How did it know that AB was dangerously ill? How did it know exactly what the cure could be? And how did it know who would be of the greatest help Could it be that we all have a secret lodger in our brain – a being that has knowledge far greater than that of our own?
The central concept of my recent book The Daemon, a Guide to Your Extraordinary Secret Self is exactly this; that all conscious beings consist of not one but two semi-independent entities – one of which knows what will happen in the future. In this article I wish to present the evidence for such an idea. I will firstly review the philosophical, historical and theological background to such a belief and then I will apply some astonishing evidence from modern neurology and consciousness studies that may show that such a belief may, in fact, be true.
The Evidence from Theology
Although early civilisations such as the ancient Egyptians had a form of duality that implied more than a simple soul-body dichotomy it was the ancient Greeks who refined this into a coherent philosophy. For the Greeks human duality was reflected in two beings; a lower, everyday self called an eidolon and an immortal, transcendental being that they called a daemon.
The word daemon (or daimone as it is sometimes written) has a fascinating history that tells in its letters a good deal of social and cultural history. The ancient Greek word was daimön, meaning deity, or god. As such the Greeks saw the word in a very positive, or at least ambivalent, way. The Romans Latinised the Greek word, turning it into daemon. For the Romans a daemon was an inner or attendant spirit that sometimes gave humble man a touch of genius (hence the term 'the demon of creativity' that is still used by people who never seem to see how curious the statement is).
The word eidolon also has an interesting philological history. Originally this word was used to describe an image or statue of a god. In turn it became associated with copy of something divine. This copy looked like the original but lacked all the qualities. For The Pagan sages this was a perfect description for the part of the human duality that was trapped in the Realm of Darkness; this entity thus became known as the Eidolon. This is the embodied self, the physical body and the personality. Put simply, this is the person. This 'lower self' is mortal and is totally unaware, unless initiated into the mysteries, of its higher self. It is very much part of this world of darkness. It is a slave to emotion and all the other ills that beset the physical being. The Daemon on the other hand, is the immortal self. This Daemon is always with the Eidolon and where possible, tries to assist and guide.
The idea of this daemon-eidolon duality was to fascinate the ancient Greeks and soon a whole philosophy of universal structure was to be built around this relationship. The earliest known writer on the subject was Empedocles. For him the daemon, although semi-imprisoned in the body, is a divine being exiled from its rightful place among the gods. It exists totally independently of its lower self, or eidolon, and has great knowledge and power. However our knowledge of this interesting belief really comes from the writings of Plato and his descriptions of the teachings of his master, the famed Socrates.
Plato tells that throughout his life his great teacher had assistance from a 'guide'. Socrates called this disincarnate voice his 'Divine Sign'. From childhood this voice had communicated to him its opinions on what he was doing, or intended to do. According to Plato this 'voice' forbade Socrates from doing things and regularly gave prognostications on whether good or bad luck would follow a certain action. It is as if Socrates 'Divine Sign' was directly aware of the philosopher's potential future. Indeed Plato was at great pains to point out that many of these predictions were marked by extreme triviality; as if this spirit was tied very closely to the minutiae of Socrates' life. Socrates explained this in the following speech to the jury who were about to condemn him to death:
"I have had a remarkable experience. In the past the prophetic voice to which I have become accustomed has always been my constant companion, opposing me even in quite trivial things if I was going to take the wrong course". 
In this final act of his life Socrates was to find that his 'Divine Sign' did not oppose him. It was as if his lifelong guide and mentor was resigned to the inevitable; Socrates had to die as decreed both by fate and the jury. The hemlock goblet could not be avoided. The voice remained silent.
However the idea that all human beings have two independent elements did not remain silent. The theology proposed by Empedocles and refined by Socrates was to find many followers in the ancient Greek world and was to become a central tenant of the school of philosophy that was to become known as Stoicism.
Epictetus, the major Stoic philosopher, was quite fascinated by this duality. As with Socrates and Empedocles nothing remains of his original writings. However his pupil Arrian wrote down his teachings, recording them in two works; Discourses and the Encheiridian, or Manual. In these works it is clear that he had taken the evidence of Socrates' 'Divine Sign' and the old belief of human duality and created a cogent philosophy. He wrote:
"God has placed at every man's side a guardian, the Daemon of each man, who is charged to watch over him; a Daemon that cannot sleep, nor be deceived. To what greater and more watchful guardian could have been committed to us? So, when you have shut the doors, and made darkness in the house, remember, never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone. But God is there, and your Daemon is there".
Here we see the ongoing idea that this other entity, the daemon, is more than simply another facet of human nature. It is an independent being that watches over its lower self. That it has an ongoing consciousness is stated by the phrase that it 'cannot sleep'. Indeed the implication is that the Daemon perceives even when the Eidolon sleeps.
This belief, however, was not unique to Epictetus or even the Stoics. According to the noted historian of the late classical and early Christian period, Robin Lane-Fox the Romans had an ancient but popular belief that each man had his own attendant 'spirit' that followed him throughout his life. This being, termed his genius, was born with him and as such was honoured, therefore, by each individual, on his birthday. 
For many of the early Christians the idea of such a duality of spirit was a dangerous heresy, particularly as it clearly had Pagan roots. In order to deal with this the early Church Fathers applied simple semantics. They took the word daemon and consistently applied it to designate it to a disincarnate spirit that has been spawned by the devil to tempt man away from the true God. Over time the letter 'a' was dropped and the word mutated into one we all know so well, demon. Job done.
Well not exactly. There was another group of Christians who found a good deal of theological justification for the daemon-eidolon duality. These were the little known, and quite intriguing, Gnostics.
According to the Gnostics the universe was under the influence of two conflicting forces; Light and Darkness. Human beings are in turn a reflection of this duality. Our soul is a spark that comes from the Light. It is therefore part of the positive side. However our bodies are made up of matter. Matter is part of the Darkness. As such there is this ongoing conflict within the human condition. Man is imprisoned in this body of darkness but a part of him retains memories of his divine origin. The part of man rooted in the darkness equates to the Eidolon. This being is made of matter and will cease to be when the body dies. However that part of him that retains the memory is the Daemon.
The central tenant of Gnosticism was that an eidolon had to reach a state of gnosis – literally 'knowledge' – and having done so they could achieve union with the daemon and in doing so move away from this corrupt world of matter. To do this they would need to spend many years being initiated into the secrets of Gnosticism.
However there are times when the Daemon chooses to make itself seen or heard by its Eidolon without initiation. The Eidolon in these circumstances will perceive the Daemon to be some form of guardian angel or spirit guide. Indeed Plato teaches
"We should think of the most authoritative part of the soul as the Guardian Spirit given by God which lifts us to our heavenly home"
The Gnostic sages carried this belief forward in its entirety. Valentinus taught that a person receives gnosis from their Guardian Angel but that in reality that being is simply that person's own higher self. This implies that the angels that communicate between the World of Light and The World of Darkness are in fact not independent beings at all; they are Daemons from this world. We are our own teachers!
This is all very interesting with regard to the history of religion and mysticism but it really has no relevance to 21st century psychology and neurology. Or has it?
The Evidence from Neurology
That human consciousness may be dual rather than unitary may fly in the face of common sense but for those who study the brain such an idea is not only possible but probable. A swift review of brain anatomy cannot but support such a proposition. The most immediate thing that strikes you when you observe a brain for the first time is that it is not, in fact, a brain at all. It is two, virtually identical brains, joined together by a mass known as the corpus callosum. Every structure in one side is mirrored in the other, with one, curious exception, the pineal gland. There are two of everything; two limbic systems, two temporal lobes two amygdalas, the list goes on. The singularity of the pineal gland was noted in ancient times and because of its unique position it has been thought of as the location of the soul.
Neurologists have long been puzzled by this. Why should the brain be structured in this way? Indeed the puzzle has deepened in that it has been shown that certain individuals continue as normal people even when one of the hemispheres is damaged or removed. Indeed in the last fifty years or so surgery has advanced to such an extent that the corpus callosum can be cut and in doing so the two hemispheres cease to have a line of communication. When this is done these patients literally have 'split brains'. They also end up with two independent centres of consciousness. The implication of this is both clear and mind-blowing; we have two independent beings sharing our perceptions.
It is generally the case that one side of the brain is dominant and one is passive. The dominant hemisphere (usually, but not always, the left) is rational, objective and unemotional. The non-dominant (right) is understood to be irrational, subjective and emotional. However this does not on its own imply two foci of consciousness, just simply two aspects of the same consciousness. The two elements are simply seen as aspects of a unitary consciousness with the left hemisphere being generally in control with the occasional eruption of emotion from the right. This is why in recent years there have been so many 'self help' books suggesting techniques by which people can attune to their intuitive right brain. But the reality is far more complex – and fascinating.
Usually the two hemispheres work in tandem with the left generating a constant stream of inner dialogue that gives us our sense of self. Meanwhile the right hemisphere is still actively involved in all cognitive processes, working away in the background. However, and here comes the surprise, the being known as 'I' or 'me' is generally completely unaware of what its silent partner is up to. Indeed for most of the time 'I' is completely unaware of its partner. Problems arise when the two fall out of phase. Suddenly 'I' senses 'us'. However it is much more disturbing than that. The dominant hemisphere perceives its non-dominant twin as an external presence, a being that is not self but other. To the experiencer this 'sensed presence' is not themselves at all but an outside ego-alien being.
Michael Persinger of the Laurentian University in Sudbury, Canada, has spent many years studying this peculiar psychological effect. He even has a term for this perception. He calls it the 'Visitor Experience'. Indeed he has been able to reproduce the sensation under laboratory conditions. Persinger considers that the experience shows a linear progression. At its weakest the subject just feels that they are not alone – that there is something else in the room that he or she cannot see. However at its strongest the subject perceives an objectively existing being of tangible reality, a being that has great emotional significance to him or her. For some this may be perceived as an angel or even a god.
As the intensity increases the manifestation may become even more immanent in the sensual world of the subject. Sensations such as weird buzzing sounds, tingling sensations and, occasionally, a huge energy release from within the body itself.
What is of significance for Persinger is that when measured using an encephalograph the brain activity of the subject is seen to focus in on a particular part of the brain, the temporal lobes. As the activity becomes more intense it spills over into the occipital lobes. When this happens there is a sudden externalisation of the sensation. This involves the 'sensed presence' manifesting itself as a visual being fully external to the subject. A common description is of a cowled figure with just a face and hand visible through the folds.
What is very interesting is that if the lower portion of the temporal lobes become activated at this time then long dormant memories may spontaneously enter the subject's mind. The 'being' will then communicate information that seems intensely personal. This may be interpreted as telepathy or omnipotent knowledge. However there is more. According to Persinger past-life memories can be evoked in a panoramic life re-run similar to those reported during the phenomenon known as the Near-Death Experience.
If this is the case then could it be that the other major element of the NDE experience – the 'Being In White' – is really an external projection of the experiencer's non-dominant consciousness? If so it would certainly explain how this being shows such intimate knowledge of the dying person's past life.
Could it be that this being really is an independent focus of consciousness that has shared the life of its alter-ego? Could the experiments of Persinger shown that the Daemon is a very real aspect of every human being's neurological make-up?
Cheating The Ferryman?
In my first book, Is There Life After Death, The Extraordinary Science of What Happens When You Die I present evidence that that during the last few seconds of life we all split into the two entities I term the Daemon and the Eidolon. Up until this moment both entities have perceived themselves as a unitary being. The Daemon, suddenly discovering its true vocation, is aware that it is responsible for the experience called the past-life review. It begins the review whilst at the same time manifesting itself as an image perceived by its Eidolon as a figure. For some this will be seen as a classical 'Grim Reaper' figure whereas to others the Daemon may be seen as a relative, religious figure or even an animal. Anything that will fit to fill in the Eidolon's preconceptions of who will be there to welcome him or her into the next life. The Daemon then starts the past-life review using the memory stores of the temporal lobes. However to be a reported Near-Death Experience actual death does not take place. The subject lives to tell the tale. Many of these survivors describe how 'my life flashed before my eyes'. This may be because the Daemon, suddenly becoming aware that death will be avoided this time, metaphorically presses the 'fast forward' button and aborts the process.
What happens in a Real-Death Experience is that the Daemon starts the past-life review without the need to fast-forward. The dying Eidolon, in the last few seconds of its life, falls out of time and re-lives again its whole life in a minute by minute three dimensional recreation of a life that is indistinguishable from the real thing. However there is one major difference – this time the Daemon is not only self-aware but remembers what happened last time. In this way the Daemon reproduces exactly the role as described by The Gnostics, the Stoics and the Pagan sages. It becomes a guardian angel looking after the life of its lower self – exactly as described by Socrates.
Could it be that most of us are living our lives in a three dimensional illusion? Well it would help to explain certain ongoing mysteries. Precognition suddenly does not defy scientific knowledge because it is simply a memory. Déjà vu can be seen for what it is – a jump in the playback mechanism or simply a flashback. And what about those weird hunches, synchronicities and intuitions that seems to regularly enter our consciousness? Could they be just messages from our own higher self – our Daemon?
More Information About the Author
Forthcoming Talks & Events (see website for details):
Fri 13th March 2009 – Shadows In The Dark Radio (North Carolina, USA)
Sat 4th April 2009 – Heswall Library, Wirral
Fri 24th July 2009 – The National Theatre, London
Sun 11th October 2009 – Bolton Theosophist Group
- Azuonye, I O A Difficult Case: Diagnosis Made B Hallucinatory Voices British Medical Journal, Vol. 315, page 685-6 (1997). [back to text]
- Guthrie W K C "History of Greek Philosophy" (CUP) Page 318 (1962). [back to text]
- Apology 31d, Phaedrus 242 and Republic 496c. [back to text]
- Epictetus The Teachings of Epictetus" 145. [back to text]
- Lane-Fox R "Pagans And Christians" (Penguin) Page 129 (1986).[back to text]