The Book 4th Edition
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Near Death Experiences (NDEs)
seems little doubt that NDEs occur in all cultures and have
occurred at all times through recorded history... the NDE
happens to young and old, to people from all walks of life,
to those whose life has a spiritual dimension and to those
who profess no faith at all... there are many examples of
people who have a NDE at a time when they did not even know
that such a phenomenon existed.”
Dr Peter Fenwick
Near Death Experience (NDE) is a powerful argument for the
existence of the afterlife which because of recent advances
in medical science is becoming widely reported. As medical
resuscitation techniques are being improved more and more
people are being brought back from the border of clinical
death. A number of them recount an intense profoundly meaningful
experience in which they seem to be alive and functioning
outside their body. For many, a Near Death Experience is
an extremely powerful emotional and spiritual experience.
evidence for the NDE is consistent, overwhelming and experienced
by the many. It is also consistent with evidence for other
psychic phenomena—OBEs, with the information obtained
from mental and physical mediums, and with apparitions.
more informed closed-minded skeptics now acknowledge that
there is no dispute at all about the existence of the NDE.
The dispute is about what it means.
say that in a crisis situation, where death is almost inevitable
or is perceived to be inevitable, the duplicate physical
body, the astral or etheric body, sometimes leaves the physical
body and experiences the first stages of the afterlife.
When death does not occur, the duplicate body resumes its
place in the physical body. Studies have shown that NDEs
occurred following illness, surgery, childbirth, accident,
heart attack and attempted suicide.
say that there is no such thing as a duplicate body and
whatever one experiences has to do with the problems of
the physical body itself?it's all in the mind.
pioneer in this area was Dr Raymond Moody Jr., who began
his work as a skeptic. His first book Life After Life in
1975 is considered the classic work which opened this area
to modern research was followed by two others in 1983 and
1975 there have been many studies in many countries—so
much so that there are now several international associations
and journals for the investigation of near-death studies.
Cherie Sutherland's excellent Australian book (1992) contains
a selected bibliography of over 150 scholarly research reports.
found a striking similarity in accounts of 150 people who
had these experiences—so much so that he was able
to identify fifteen different elements which recur again
and again in these reports. He constructed a typical experience
which contains all of these elements:
man is dying and, as he reaches the point of greatest
physical distress, he hears himself pronounced dead by
his doctor. He begins to hear an uncomfortable noise,
a loud ringing or buzzing, and at the same time feels
himself moving very rapidly through a long dark tunnel.
After this he finds himself outside of his own physical
body, but still in the immediate physical environment,
and he sees his own body from a distance, as though he
is a spectator. He watches the resuscitation attempt from
this unusual vantage point and is in a state of emotional
a while he collects himself and becomes more accustomed
to his odd condition. He notices that he still has a 'body',
but one of a very different nature and with very different
powers from the physical body he has left behind. Soon
other things begin to happen. Others come to meet and
help him. He glimpses the spirits of relatives and friends
who have already died, and a loving, warm spirit of a
kind he has never encountered before—a being of
light—appears before him. This being asks him a
question, nonverbal, to make him evaluate his life and
helps him along by showing him a panoramic instantaneous
playback of the major events of his life. At some point
he finds himself approaching some sort of barrier or border,
apparently representing the limit between earthly life
and the next life. Yet, he finds that he must go back
to the earth, that the time for his death has not yet
come. At this point he resists, for by now he is taken
up with his experiences in the afterlife and does not
want to return. He is overwhelmed by intense feelings
of joy, love, and peace. Despite his attitude, though,
he somehow reunites with his physical body and lives.
he tries to tell others, but he has trouble doing so.
In the first place, he can find no human words adequate
to describe these unearthly experiences. He also finds
that others scoff, so he stops telling other people. Still
the experience affects his life profoundly, especially
his view about death and its relationship to life (Moody
Ring, who produced a scientific study of Near-Death Experiences
in 1980, confirmed Dr Moody's findings but found that people
went through the experience in stages and a large number
of people experienced only the first ones.
studies by Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson (1977), Michael
Sabom and Sarah Kreutziger (1976), Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
(1983), Craig Lundahl (1981) and Bruce Greyson and Ian Stevenson
(1980) all described a similar set of experiences.
Sabom, a Georgia cardiologist, interviewed 100 hospital
patients who had narrowly escaped death. Of these 61 per
cent reported experiencing classical NDE of the type closely
corresponding to those published in 1975 by Moody.
of the patients who have been revived have been able to
describe in great technical detail exactly what went on
in the operating room during the time they were supposedly
unconscious or dead. Dr Sabom investigated the hypothesis
that these patients were merely using their creative imagination,
or knowledge that they had subconsciously picked up through
earlier exposure to emergency care.
a group of seasoned cardiac patients who had not undergone
Near-Death Experiences and asked them to imagine watching
a medical team reviving a heart attack victim and to describe
in as much detail as possible the steps being taken. To
his surprise 80% of them misdescribed the procedures. On
the other hand none of the group which claimed to have witnessed
their resuscitation while out of their bodies made an error
about the procedure (Sabom 1980: 120-121).
are now literally millions of people from all over the world
who have undergone a Near-Death Experience. In 1983 a major
American survey by George Gallup Junior reported that eight
million Americans, approximately five per cent of the adult
population had experienced one (Gallup 1982). A 1989 Australian
survey by Allan Kellehear and Patrick Heaven found that
ten percent of 179 people claimed to have experienced at
least five typical elements of a NDE.
in widely differing geographic locations have produced remarkably
similar findings: Margot Grey's study of NDEs in England
(Grey 1985); Paola Giovetti's study in Italy (Giovetti 1982);
Dorothy Counts' study in Melanesia (Counts 1983); Satwant
Pasricha and Ian Stevenson's (1986) study in India. More
studies are coming out from different countries on a regular
basis, and historical examples show that the experience
has been remarkably consistent over time (see Plato's example
of Er's NDE in The Republic).
while these experiences have been happening throughout human
history, in western culture it is only in the last twenty
years that people have felt free to talk about them and
the effect that they have had on their lives.
back with unexplained information
are many accounts of people having Near Death Experiences
returning with factual information which they had no prior
knowledge of. These include being able to identify ancestors
from pictures, learning about siblings who had died before
their own birth, learning about family secrets etc. Others
were able to document information they had learned about
future events (see for example Eadie 1992, Brinkley 1994
and Atwater 2000: 204).
According to the International Association for Near Death
Studies, around eighty percent of the people who experience
near-death states claim that their lives are changed forever.
They experience specific psychological and physiological
differences on a massive scale which may cause major adjustment
difficulties for, on average, seven years but especially
during the first three years. This is true with child experiencers,
as well as with teenagers and adults.
These after-effects are shared by people, including children,
who had intense experiences in a particularly vivid dream,
while meditating or who have narrowly escaped death.
Sutherland, an Australian researcher, interviewed 50 NDE
survivors in depth and found that the effects on the lives
of survivors had been remarkably consistent and quite different
from the effects of drug or chemical induced hallucinations.
She identified many effects which have been substantiated
by other studies e.g. Ring (1980 and 1984) Atwater (1988).
a universal belief in life after death
• a high proportion (80%) now believed in re-incarnation
• a total absence of fear of death
• a large shift from organized religion to personal
• a statistically significant increase in psychic
• a more positive view of self and of others
• an increased desire for solitude
• an increased sense of purpose
• a lack of interest in material success coupled with
a marked increase in interest in spiritual development
• fifty per cent experienced major difficulties in
close relationships as a result of their changed priorities
• an increase in health consciousness
• most drank less alcohol
• almost all gave up smoking
• most gave up prescription drugs
• most watched less television
• most read fewer newspapers
• an increased interest in alternative healing
• an increased interest in learning and self-development
• seventy five per cent experienced a major career
change in which they moved towards areas of helping others.
become more psychic
American study by Dr Melvin Morse found that NDE survivors
have three times the number of verifiable psychic experiences
as the general population, were frequently unable to wear
watches and often had electrical conduction problems such
as shorting out lap top computers and erasing credit cards
(Morse 1992). He also found that adults who had near-death
experiences gave more money to charity than control subjects,
were more likely to do volunteer work in the community,
worked more in helping professions, did not suffer from
drug abuse and ate more fresh fruit and vegetables than
control populations (Morse 1992).
the near death experience cannot be taken simply at face
value without examining the following alternative explanations.
they making it up? As stated above, those who studied
the NDE—scientists, doctors, psychologists, other
investigators and skeptics—all now claim with absolute
certainty that the NDE does exist.
open-minded cardiologist investigators assumed the NDE did
not exist but subsequently changed their mind. Michael Sabom,
the cardiologist mentioned above, admitted that before he
started to investigate he felt sure that NDEs must be 'conscious
fabrications' either on the part of those reporting them
or those writing about them. However, once he began to investigate
he was absolutely staggered by the genuineness of the phenomena.
who was initially skeptical was Maurice Rawlings who states
in his book Beyond Death's Door (1978) that he had always
believed in death as total extinction until one day a forty
eight year old postman dropped 'dead' in his office. As
he began to resuscitate him the patient began screaming:
'I'm in Hell! Keep me out of hell!'. At first Rawlings says
he told him: 'Keep your hell to yourself—I'm busy
trying to save your life’ but gradually he became
convinced by the sheer terror of the man he was working
on. So absolutely traumatic and convincing was the experience
that Dr Rawlings went on to write books about it. If you
accept the word of a highly credible and highly qualified
cardiologist, his whole life changed after this experience.
or hell-like near death experiences are quite common and
have been the subject of in depth research by Bruce Greyson,
Nancy Evans Bush, MA.
Pharmacological (KETAMINE) Explanation? Some suggest
that NDE's are caused by drugs administered to the patient
at the time of his crisis. Drugs such as ketamine and morphine
have been suggested. Moody investigated this hypothesis
and rejected it (Moody 1975: 160-161). This was because
many of the patients who experienced NDEs had not been given
drugs, that drug-induced visions were markedly different
from each other and from genuine NDEs in content and intensity
and had no profound long-term effects.
investigators including R.K. Siegel reported that some of
those who have taken hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD have
experiences similar to NDEs. But we are also informed that
there are distinct differences between the effect of LSD
and the NDE. This has been effectively dealt with by Moody
Deprivation? It is sometimes argued that the NDE
is caused by oxygen starvation and is a normal response
of a 'dying brain'. However many people have experienced
Near-Death Experience before there was any physiological
stress and in some case when there was no physical injury
at all (Moody 1975: 163). Sabom, consistent with Dr Fenwick,
noted that in genuine cases of oxygen deprivation there
is a 'progressive muddling and confusion of cognitive abilities'
which is in direct contrast to the clarity and expansion
of consciousness reported by those having a NDE (Sabom 1980:176).
have been various attempts to claim that NDEs are basically
'wish fulfillment'—that you see what you have been
culturally conditioned to expect. However Ring (1984) Sabom
(1982) and Grosso (1981) have all found that there is no
link, no correlation between religious beliefs and experience
of a NDE.
psychologists like Uri Lowental (1981) have argued, without
giving any evidence, that NDEs are 'a reliving of the birth
experience'. Their hypotheses are generally considered unhelpful
Kletti and Noyes (1981) have claimed that NDEs represent
'depersonalization and pleasurable fantasies which represent
a form of psychic protection against the threat of destruction'.
However this explanation has also been refuted by Gabbard
and Twemlow (1981) who point out that while depersonalization
usually occurs in persons between 15 and 30 it is virtually
unheard of in people over 40.
have proposed that NDEs are forms of 'autoscopic hallucination'—a
rare psychiatric disorder. However both Sabom (1982) and
Gabbard and Twemlow (1981) found this implausible on the
basis of a number of significant differences.
Explanations? Moody considered parallels between
the past life review of NDE patients and the flashbacks
experienced by people with neurological abnormalities. He
concluded that both were essentially different in that whereas
the flashbacks were random and of trivial events not remembered
after the attack, in the life review typical of a NDE the
events were in chronological order and were of highlights
of the life. They were all seen at once and constituted
a 'unifying vision' which gave the person insight into his
life's purpose (Moody 1975: 166).
dying brain? Dr Peter Fenwick is a Fellow of the
Royal College of Psychiatrists and a neuropsychiatrist with
an international reputation—a specialist in the mind/brain
interface and the problem of consciousness. He is Britain's
leading clinical authority on the NDE and is President of
the International Association for the Near-Death Studies.
his wife Elizabeth, also a Cambridge-trained professional
scientist, Dr Peter Fenwick made a thorough investigation
of the argument by skeptics and materialist psychologists
that a near death experience is caused by the physiological
effects of the dying brain (Fenwick 1996).
argument by psychologists against the NDE has to be seen
in the light of their very limited knowledge of the functioning
of the brain. Psychologists do not have the necessary depth
of academic and practical professional training of neuropsychiatrists
like Dr Peter Fenwick to professionally assess the physiology
of the NDE. The professional training of psychologists includes
only a very basic training in physiology. A look at five
standard textbooks on university Psychology shows that study
of brain functioning constitutes less than 5% of the overall
learning on psychology. Psychologists in training do not
practice surgery, let alone the highly specialized field
of human brain surgery.
someone in the position of Dr Fenwick would have all the
technical knowledge to accurately assess whether or not
the NDE can be explained by what is happening in the dying
brain. Dr Fenwick states that these psychologists write
absolute rubbish when they venture into areas of knowledge
outside their technical expertise, knowledge they don't
have, don't understand and which is outside their everyday
scathing with the skeptics:
just don't have the knowledge...So much rubbish is talked
about Near-Death Experiences by people who don't have to
deal with these things on a daily basis. So I'm absolutely
sure that such experiences are not caused by oxygen shortages,
endorphins or anything of that kind. And certainly none
of these things would account for the transcendental quality
of many of these experiences, the fact that people feel
an infinite sense of loss when they leave them behind (Fenwick
consultant neuro-psychiatrist he constantly works with people
who are confused, disoriented and brain-damaged and as Dr
Fenwick points out:
is quite clear is that any disorientation of brain function
leads to a disorientation of perception and reduced memory.
You can't normally get highly-structured and clearly remembered
experiences from a highly damaged or disoriented brain (Fenwick
refutes the endorphin argument:
that stuff about endorphins, we're boosting the effect they
have all the time because thousands of people are given
morphine every day. That certainly produces calmness, but
it doesn't produce structured experiences (Fenwick 1995:
skeptics are asked to answer the following questions:
If the NDE is the effect of a dying brain it should happen
to everyone who is dying. Why is it that not all of those
who are near death whose brain is 'dying' experience a NDE?
If the NDE is wish fulfillment, why is it that not every
NDE experience is a positive one? Why is it that some experience
a neutral and/or a horrific negative NDE as documented by
Phyllis Atwater (1994).
If the NDE is caused by the release of endorphins, what
objective evidence exists to show that the release of endorphins
necessarily elicits a life review in an orderly way?
What objective evidence exists to show that the release
of endorphins leads to the breakdown of a sense of time
and its relationship to 'self'?
Why is it that nearly all those who have a NDE undergo a
permanent transformation which is consistent with spiritual
refinement, a more refined way of living?
Why is it that most experiencers relate their newly found
intrinsic motivation to the powerful experience they had
out of the body?
What objective proof is presented to show that understanding
of the role of the limbic system and temporal lobe can account
for the experiences of familiarity, insight and deja vu
and the statistically significant increase in psychic experiences
that follow NDEs?
How do the skeptics explain the incredible consistencies
between NDEs and OBEs?
The critical Pam Reynolds case
leading skeptics used to say that the near death experience
was the result of the activity of the dying brain or the
recovering brain; that no one can have a NDE while ‘dead’
– no one.
Dr Michael Sabom, cardiologist, reports on a well documented
case of a person have a prolonged NDE with veridical out
of body perception while clinically dead for an hour.
Reynolds underwent a rare operation to remove a life threatening
giant aneurysm (an abnormal widening or ballooning of a
portion of an artery, related to weakness in the wall of
the blood vessel) in her brain. The only way that the doctors
could operate was to connect her to a machine to process
her blood, lower her body temperature to 60 degrees, and
stop her heartbeat and brain activity.
the hour that Pam was in standstill, she experienced remarkably
detailed veridical out-of-body observations during her surgery
were later verified to be very accurate.
to Dr Sabom “This case is considered to be one of
the strongest cases of veridical evidence in NDE research
because of Pam’s ability to describe in detail the
unique surgical instruments used while she was dead, what
the nurses said to the doctors while operating other and
procedures used. Pam Reynolds’ had this spectacular
ability to describe in detail these events while she was
clinically and brain dead.”
Fenwick, co-writer of the book The Truth in the Light—An
investigation of Over 300 Near-Death Experiences (1996)
actually began her research thinking that all could be explained
in scientific terms. But, after investigating, she concluded:
you may be able to find scientific reasons for bits of
the Near-Death Experience, I can't find any explanation
which covers the whole thing. You have to account for
it as a package and skeptics... simply don't do that.
None of the purely physical explanations will do. They
(Skeptics) vastly underestimate the extent to which Near-Death
Experiences are not just a set of random things happening,
but a highly organized and detailed affair (Fenwick 1995:
views were supported by a study of Near-Death Experiences
in Holland by cardiologist Dr William van Lommel and his
team who studied 345 cases who would have died without resuscitation.
Ten per cent recalled a substantial Near-Death Experience
and a further eight percent had a less pronounced one.
patients were compared to a control group who were identical
in terms of seriousness of their illness but who had not
had a Near-Death Experience. According To Dr Van Lommel
most striking finding was that Near-Death Experiences do
not have a physical of medical root. After all, 100 per
cent of the patients suffered a shortage of oxygen, 100
per cent were given morphine-like medications, 100 per cent
were victims of severe stress, so those are plainly not
the reasons why 18 per cent had Near-Death Experiences and
82 per cent didn't. If they had been triggered by any one
of those things, everyone would have had Near-Death Experiences
(Van Lommel 1995).
Yvonne Kason, a Canadian psychiatrist, has found in her
clinical practice people who are not close to dying reporting
near death-like experiences; these included people who thought
they were about to die and people who were meditating (Kason
comprehensive detailed information on NDE see Kevin Williams’
highly recommended site http://www.near-death.com
more details and for assistance in coping with the after-effects
of a near-death state contact the International Association
for Near Death Studies. http://www.iands.org/aftereffects.html
help in Understanding and Coping with a Frightening Near-Death
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