Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Medical experts and their wild, baseless ideas about memories after near-death

This is easy stuff to unravel and a fun way to teach about human memory.


In science, we make a sharp distinction between an idea and a finding.

There are all kinds of theories about how the brain works. Their value depends on the findings on record and future discoveries. But, perhaps because the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe, fact findings often lend themselves to so many interpretations. So, to take a CNS theory seriously, it makes more sense to listen to people who have a lot of information about the brain. Anyone can generate Theories.

I did a lot of therapy. I cried (tears, not just making sad sounds) for not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands of hours. With that, a lot of ancient memories return, cleaned up and fresh as if from three minutes ago. And then I hear what ‘specialists’ say about why people feel and dream, how people think, what babies notice, etc., and they just sound so silly. They don’t even remember what happened to them before they were five.

Memory Recall

To recall memories is associative, but the content of the memory is always literal. If you even feared ‘Now we’re all doomed,’ that’s what you may remember. You can’t then remember, ‘Now we’re all lost.’

I once heard a neurology professor repeat what a patient of his described. He was a window cleaner who had fallen from a height on his head. He got a chronic headache. It was as if a narrow band moved down over his head, and then, halfway, he saw a bright light. I told the physician this is a literal repeat of what he must’ve experienced at birth. The professor dismissed that immediately. ‘Babies don’t build memories yet.’ A theory. Just like many pediatricians believe that babies cannot focus or see sharply. These men clearly never held a healthy, happy baby in their life.

Many people who were ‘clinically dead’ or ‘near death’ but survived have described going through a dark, narrow tunnel and seeing a bright light and often their loved ones who passed on but who now looked young again. Was this a peek into Heaven? Anything is possible, but in science, we prefer facts over philosophy, logic over mysticism, and simplicity over far-out stuff. This too is a literal recall of what they must have seen when they were born. A tunnel, the birth canal; a bright light, the light in the operation theater or hospital room; the happy faces of their young, new parents. Those don’t need to be dead to see them, but people recovering from near death are often older, and so, their parents likely would have passed on, but they can be alive and kicking and be remembered younger.

And if you remember a bright light, of course, brain areas that deal with light will work extra. The dying brain doesn’t ‘generate’ light; it recalls it.

Easy to Refute

What counts in science more than proof are ways you can refute a theory.

My explanation is simple and easy to refute. It only takes one person who managed to cry away all shock experienced at birth but at a new trauma, still revives these images. Or one person who remembers going through a dark tunnel but was born per C-section. Or one person who sees a bright light but was birthed in half-shade. Or one person close to death, seeing loved ones who surely were not at their birth. Yet, a point against the last refutation, possibly, one could see someone who died when one was very young, like a sibling, if that trauma got glued unto their hurts at birth.

I apologize to romantics who better like the idea of having visited Heaven.


Why We Dream What We Dream

Decades ago, Harvey Jackins already explained how we sleep and dream.

To sleep, we minimize new sensory input. Silence or some noise that has no new information (ticking clock, soothing music), darkness, soft sheets.

We begin processing with the deepest sleep, during which we review things that hardly upset us. We slowly progress to things scarier. To deal with that we need more contact with reality, so we sleep less deeply. At the end of a sleep cycle, we will review the most frightening things for us, and we may need to wake up to manage. We call that a nightmare. But we dream all night. You can train yourself to remember dreams.

They typically will be the ones that you woke up with. Even when you remember only a little, you can retrieve much more. Just recount what you remember. When you’re done, tell it again. You’ll see you’re adding more details. When you don’t want to talk about it again, you can stop when no more details surface. Unfortunately, that is rare to happen. Emotional release (crying, trembling, laughing, yawning, etc.) happens automatically. Dreams you talked about enough (while not being drugged) will not return. Tell this to trauma survivors and people suffering from PTSD.

Harvey also held that the most painful emotion is boredom. Boredom happens when we get too much or too little new information. So, I say we feel refreshed after a good sleep because we did not get bored. Our brain keeps telling us stories even while we’re unconscious. That must also be why our brain connects flashes of what we went through into stories. A pile of random loose memories would be boring. So, the ‘glue’ between the bits is made-up fake facts; the bits are literal recordings.

Dreaming differs from brainstorming in that during the latter, you try to generate the craziest ideas to defeat timidity and narrow-mindedness.

The brain chats all the time. Some people notice, and often they go to therapy to try to diminish their sensitivity. But most people notice scarcely that the brain generates feelings all the time. Those emotions should give us clues about what we need to do in therapy next. To the feelings, words are glued. And to them tears, yawns, laughs, blushes, shivers, you name it, which, when released, are signs of deep healing of painful memories.

What We See When It’s Pitch Dark but We Are Awake

I don’t know any grownup who talks about what they see when all is dark. Babies probably still pay attention to it, but we seem to ignore what we see when the light goes out. I mean, after our retina stops sending after-glow contrast signals to what it registered before you turned off all lights.

You don’t need any meditation or special trick to see what only you can see in darkness. Pay attention, and you’ll notice your brain ‘sees’ all kinds of things. They can lead you to early painful memories. Or they are just biology’s screensavers. I find them different every time. Sometimes they are complex sets of crossing lines, sometimes dots, or patches. It can be monochromatic, changing color slowly or not, or multi-colored. What’s constant is that there is steady change throughout. Also, here, the brain keeps us from boredom. (The retina and eye ‘nerve’ are part of the brain.)

You know these pictures come from the brain because moving your eyeballs or head does not influence them. They are not to be confused with visual recalls of static snapshots that are not abstract.

New discoveries should not just find answers but also pose new questions. Did I see colored cubes as in Mondrian’s later paintings because I had them in stock, or did Mondrian paint them because he had the same visions? Are our pitch-dark condition’s visions extremely private, or are they picked from a huge set of common possibilities most human brains can generate?

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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