Pascal Michael

Bards of the Bardos: Qualitative Analysis Results from a Survey of Experiencers of both Near-death and Psychedelic Experiences.

The near-death experience (NDE) is a profound conscious state paradoxically when proximal to death. The model with the most powerful explanatory value for the phenomenon is the psychedelic experience. Timmermann et al (2018) determined DMT to share the same generic features to the NDE, but Michael et al (in review) elucidate that the experiential content is in fact radically different to that expressed by near-death experiences. Other psychedelics have also been evidenced as reminiscent of the NDE in only some dimensions, especially ketamine (Martial et al, 2019), but also encompassing psilocybin (Michael, 2021), ayahuasca (Liester, 2013) or iboga (Strubelt & Maas, 2008). Very few studies, however, have dedicatedly compared NDEs and psychedelic states in persons who have experienced both, which may assist in resolving the two.

Michael et al (in review a, b) made detailed comparisons with 5-MeO-DMT, and also changa (to be described in the presentation), and Jansen (2001) reported 2 case studies with ketamine. The present paper, in a multi-centre collaboration with Timmermann and Martial, reports on a novel multinational survey conducted with 21 individuals who have undergone both experience-types. The NDEs reported ranged from 29-67 and averaging 47/80 in depth. Whereas, the psychedelic reports are of a wider range from 2-62 and averaged slightly lower at 41/80, where compounds encompassed LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, iboga, ketamine, 2CI and cannabis. 6 subjects endorsed that they believed they were dying during the psychedelic experience. Analyses are too early to reveal substances with greater fidelity to the NDE, but comprehensive quantitative and thematic analyses on the experiential narratives are near completion.

Currently, they suggest similarity between emotional experiences – “similar feelings of the preciousness of life and privilege of being alive in a human body”; mixed reports as per intensity – “NDE felt more natural… [But] Iboga took me somewhere new…not the architecture of my beliefs, ego or personality”; and finally, that transformation may be more compelling after NDEs – “ [It] healed years of self-harm and suicidality…I decided to…re-commit to my life of deeper service in this world”. As such, this mixed-methods comparison of intra-subjective NDEs and psychedelic experiences may illuminate the undergirding mechanisms of the NDE, but also the therapeutic application of psychedelics in light of the life-changing near-death state.

Pascal received a BSc Hons (University of Aberdeen) in Neuroscience, where he identified the neurotrophic capacity of the Omega-3 fatty-acid EPA, and an MSc (University College London) in Clinical Mental Health Sciences, exploring the post-acute effects on wellbeing of DMT.

He completed a PhD at the University of Greenwich with Dr. David Luke, using nuanced qualitative analyses to compare the DMT experience, based on the first conceived field study of DMT use, with the near-death experience (NDE). He is presently a lecturer in Psychology there, teaching and researching on psychedelics, survival, neuroscience and psychopathology. His doctoral thesis allowed him to delve into the paradoxical puzzle of why the human person seems to not only report experience at all, but profound mystical-type experiences at the precipice of death.

Pascal has presented at conferences such as Breaking Conventions, has been invited to give talks such as with the Psychedelic Society UK, and his articles have appeared in journals such as Frontiers. He is a coordinator for the ALEF Trust’s certificate in Psychedelics, Altered States and Transpersonal Psychology, and is the 2020 recipient of the Parapsychology Association’s Schmeidler Outstanding Student Award.

When he’s not researching academically, he relishes spending time writing blog articles or poetry pieces, about the synaptic junction (like in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam) lying at the nexus between the naturalistic and supernatural. He is also an amateur actor and drum player.