So Much More Than a Matter of Life and Death: Scientific Approaches to the Mysteries of Conscious; Self-Awareness and the Survival of the Human Psyche

Ran Niehoff

Tuesday, 9:30 am – 11:00 am

2/13/2018- 2/27/2018

3 weeks: $80 members/$100 non-members

“If our conscious experience totally depends on the brain, then there can’t be an afterlife—when the brain is gone, the mind is gone.  But it’s not that simple.  Even when the brain seems to be virtually disabled, people are still having these experiences.”
Emily Williams Kelly, PhD (Psychologist at the University of Virginia Division of Perceptual  Studies, which treats research of Near Death Experiences [NDE’s] as legitimate science).

Course Introduction:

Our class sessions will begin with a review of current understandings of consciousness (a phenomenon scientists call “the skeleton in the closet of quantum physics”).  Attending to the difference between “brain” and “mind”, we will examine two formative characteristics of our species (Homo Sapiens):  1) Higher Order Consciousness, which enables symbolic thinking; and, 2) our ability to empathize—to experience and express the Theory of Mind.

Using the tools of neuroscience and cognitive psychology we will identify and discuss ongoing scholarly research in the growing field of Parapsychology.  First we will study NDE’s (an experience over 8 million Americans have had according to a Gallup poll). Then, surveying instances of Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) we will touch on Precognition, Clairvoyance, Telepathy, Psychometry, Psychokineses, Placebo Effects, and Psycho-Somatic Medicine.

Finally, we will look over the shoulders of those working in the area of Metaphysical Philosophy to glimpse their view of Out-of-Body experiences, Deathbed visions, Apparitions, and Poltergeist events.  We will listen to their speculations about Spiritualism, Reincarnation, and the sense of Cosmic Consciousness derived from the practice of mystics and meditators.

Throughout we will make reference to the reductionist perspectives of scientific materialists and militant atheists to keep the dialogue honest yet open to wonder.

“Whatever may be our state after death, I can have no fear of having to suffer for the study of nature and the search for truth.”
Alfred Russell Wallis, Naturalist/Biologist (1823 – 1913).  Dr. Wallis independently conceived the theory of evolution through natural selection and in tandem with Charles Darwin presented it to the history of thought.

Suggested video “teaser”:  “What is Life? Is Death Real?”

Instructor Bio:

Academic Background:   BA (Philosophy)—Washington University (St. Louis);   M. DIV and D. MIN—Eden Theological Seminary (Webster Groves, MO).   Sabbatical Studies:  Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies (Israel);  American School of Classical Studies (Athens, Greece);  American Academy of Rome (Italy); Westminster College/Cambridge University (England).

Ran Niehoff was ordained a Minister in the United Church of Christ in 1967.  He served as a Pastor and Teacher in four congregations, the latest being the Sanibel Congregational UCC (1991-2008).  He has provided numerous seminars in both ecclesiastical and community institutions, planned and led study tours abroad, and taught part-time in college and hospital settings. He received Clinical Pastoral Education at Meyer Memorial Hospital in Buffalo, NY and later was held a part-time position as a Counselor to the terminally ill and their families at Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville, NY.  In Massachusetts he served as a Consultant to the New England Funeral Director’s  Association.  He conducted several seminars for the Parish Nurse Association of Lee Memorial Health Systems (now “Lee Health”).  While earning his doctorate he completed a year-long independent study of Spiritual Healing.  Ran has been an instructor in the Winter Academy of BIG ARTS since 2011 and also writes a regular column in the local “Times of the Island” magazine.  He and his wife, Marilyn, have been residents of Sanibel; since 1991. E-mail address: