Anesthesia & the Soul

The association of anesthesia with the human soul may seem strange. Nonetheless, experiences reported during general anesthesia since its discovery by William Morton during 1846, have long aroused speculations about the relationship of general anesthesia and a possible human soul. These speculations were summarized by the anesthesiologist, Dr. Antonio Aldrete, in an article published during 1999.

If the spirit truly remembers and the soul is immortal in the metaphysical sense, then the state of anesthesia may be defined as an approximation toward the threshold of the body’s mortality. Wyld noted in 1895, “The startling and significant fact is this: that while the body is as if dead under anaesthetics, the imagination becomes active and at times exalted.” But how far anesthesia affects it, where the spirit goes, and what the soul does during anesthesia, no one really knows. There are some vague manifestations as indicated by dreams, hallucinations, awareness, and transcendental experiences as described to us by some of our patients. If indeed consciousness is the most evident of all visible facts, it may just visit our body, but unlike it, remain existing for an indefinite period of time. (Aldrete 1999)

Who has not wondered whether we each have a soul, or “something” that survives the deaths of our bodies? Each generation of humans has pondered this same question for many millennia. And as long as humans have pondered this same question, philosophers, theologians and prophets have expounded their thoughts on the reality of a human soul. Even so, despite all advances in science and knowledge, the possible reality of a human soul remains no more than a belief … “Anesthesia & the Soul” is a book revealing how anesthesia is a tool with which it is possible to finally investigate the reality of a possible human soul by doing as the writer, Marcel Proust, once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

“Anesthesia & the Soul” is just such a voyage of discovery, using “new eyes” to distil the fundamental, and commonly believed properties of the immortal human soul from millennia of religious and secular belief. Insights from well-known observations from anesthesia, as well as from the world about us finally reveals the truth behind this ages old belief, and the hope it embodies. “Anesthesia & the Soul” is free to download as an ebook in “PDF” format, easily readable on modern smartphones, and very readable on tablets or other larger screen computers with a PDF-reader.

Readers using smartphones will see a standard menu with three stripes on the top right corner of their screens. This is the menu for some short relevant articles and a forum for discussions. However, such menu’s are not always evident to all smartphone users, so I include the menu to other pages on this site for clarity.


Aldrete JA, Wright AF, (1999), Anesthesia and the Soul, Bulletin of Anesthesia History, vol 17, no. 4, pages 6-7.

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