The systematic study of NDEs began in the 1970s. Psychiatrists Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Dr. Raymond Moody, Jr., and Dr. George Ritchie brought near-death experiences to public attention. Other studies by Dr. Michael Sabom and Dr. Sarah Kreutziger (1976), Dr. Karlis Osis and Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson (1977), Dr. Kenneth Ring (1980 and 1984), Dr. Michael Sabom MD (1980), Dr. Bruce Greyson MD (1980, 1989), P. M. H. Atwater (1988) and Dr. Melvin Morse (1990) extended the early findings.
Dr. Kenneth 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.
Evidence that Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) are real.
1. NDE survivors have clear and structured memories of what happened to them Patients who did not have a NDE during similar treatment were confused or could not remember anything. Dr. Jeffrey Long writes: When you talk to the patients who have actually survived CPR (resuscitation treatment for heart attack) one thing that is very, very obvious is that the substantial majority of them are confused or amnesiac when they’re recovered. If you read even a few near-death experiences, you immediately realize essentially none of them talk about episodes of confusion when they just don’t understand what’s going on. You really don’t see that at all. In fact, our research found that 76 per cent of people having a near-death experience said their level of consciousness and alertness during the NDE was actually greater than their earthly, everyday life (Long and Perry, 2010).
2. Whereas hallucinations are all different, near-death experiences are very similar in different cultures and throughout history. Near-death experiences have been reported in all cultures, and from as far back as 1760 BC (Zaleski, 1987). Whereas no two hallucinations are alike, NDEs all follow the same general pattern and have the same after-effects.
3. People see and hear things while they are unconscious that would be impossible for normal sensing A huge percentage of near-death experiencers are able to describe exactly what happened to them while they were unconscious.
They know who was present, what people were talking about even at a distance. Researchers call these ‘veridical experiences’. Many of the patients who have been revived have been able to describe in great technical detail exactly what went on in the operating room.
Dr. Michael Sabom found that 80 per cent of his patients who had a heart attack without having a NDE could not describe how they were revived. But not one person in the group which witnessed what happened while out of their bodies made a mistake in describing the procedure (Sabom, 1980).
Dr. Lloyd Rudy was astounded when a patient described the postit-notes which were left on the monitor of the doctor’s computer in the operating room. These were put up every time someone left a message for Dr. Rudy. But there had been no messages and no post-it notes before the patient’s operation had started. There was no way the patient could have seen the computer from where he was (Rudy, 2011).
Dr. Pim van Lommel tells the case of a patient who, although unconscious at the time, later claimed he saw where a nurse put his dentures. A week later, the patient recognized the nurse and asked for his dentures back (van Lommel et al., 2001).
4. People come back from a NDE with accurate facts they did not know before There are many accounts of people having near-death experiences and returning with facts they did not know before. Emily Kelly reported a case in which a man became excited when he first saw photographs of his wife’s dead father. He claimed that he had seen the man in his NDE before he had even met his wife (Greyson, 1998).
During his NDE, Dr. Eben Alexander met a beautiful girl he did not know. He had been adopted at a young age and it was only after his NDE that he received a photo of a biological sister he never knew he had. She had died as a young adult and he recognized her as the girl he had met in the afterlife (Alexander, 2012).
Dutch cardiologist Dr. Pim van Lommel says a five-year-old girl told him that she had been with a brother she did not know she had. The boy died before she was born (Greyson, 2010). Vi Horton claims that she met a boy in the afterlife who told her that he was her baby brother. Her father later confirmed that he was the only living person who knew that she had a brother who died (Extra Dimensions TV show, episode 5 aired 1987).
Russian George Rodonaia found himself out of his body while unconscious as a result of an accident. He went to the hospital next door where a friend’s wife had just given birth to a daughter. The baby was crying and he was able to see that her hip was broken.
He mentally communicated with her and she told him that her hip had been broken shortly after her birth when a nurse had dropped the child. Several days later, when he recovered enough to speak, his first words warned the doctors about the child with the broken hip. The doctors took X-rays of the child and all the facts were confirmed (Atwater, 2007: 165).
5. People report meeting with relatives they did not know were dead. In all cases they are correct Maggie Callanan and Patrica Kelley in their book Final Gifts tell of an elderly Chinese woman who had a NDE in which she saw her sister.
The sister had died but her family had not told her (Callanan and Kelley, 1997).
Dr. Kübler-Ross talked of a girl who was injured in a car accident.
No one had told her that her mother and brother had died in the same accident. When the girl was having her NDE, she saw them in the afterlife. Even Dr. Kübler-Ross didn’t know that the brother had died only ten minutes before the girl had her NDE (Kübler- Ross, 1997). Ian Stevenson published a similar case. A man’s cousin in England had died without anyone in the United States knowing about it. During this man’s NDE, he saw his cousin. It was some time before he received a telegram announcing his cousin’s death (Stevenson, 1959).
P. M. H. Atwater reports a case of a woman who talked with her father during her NDE. Neither she nor anyone in her family was aware that the father had died only five minutes before the woman had her car/truck accident (Atwater, 2007: 164).
6. Some people come back with knowledge of the future In some cases people are shown their family in two possible futures: one where the person stays in the afterlife and one where they return to their life (Atwater, 2007). Some see the children that they are going to have (Eadie, 1992).
Others have visions about world events but do say that they are told that they are only possible futures. Dannion Brinkley wrote in advance about: the defeat of the USA in the Vietnam War; the election of an American president with the initials R. R. (Ronald Reagan); turmoil in the Middle East; the 1986 Chernobyl disaster; the Desert Storm war against Iraq in 1990 (Brinkley and Perry, 1994).
7. Some people come back with advanced knowledge consistent with quantum physics Almost all survivors say that they entered a dimension where there was no time and many were able to go back and forward through time. Olaf Swenson says it was because of the knowledge he gained during his NDE that he later went on to develop over 100 patents in sub-atomic chemistry (Morse, undated). Mellen-Thomas Benedict brought back from his NDE a great deal of scientific information.
He says this knowledge was the basis of the six US patents he holds (Benedict, 1996).
8. Some people are cured of fatal illnesses during a NDE or have miraculous recoveries from serious injuries Mellen-Thomas Benedict was in the last stages of dying from terminal cancer in 1982. He died and for an hour and a half his body was monitored showing no vital signs. Miraculously, he returned to his body after having a full NDE. Three months later there was no sign of the cancer in his body (Benedict, 1996).
Anita Moorjani was dying from cancer. When she returned from her NDE she had a total recovery of her health (Moorjani, 2012).
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross tells a dramatic story of a man whose whole family were killed in a terrible accident. He became an alcoholic and drug abuser until he was hit by a car and in a NDE saw his whole family well and happy in the afterlife. She writes: He finally re-entered his physical body, tore off the straps that were tied around him and literally walked out of the emergency room. He never had delirium tremens or any after-effects from the heavy abuse of drugs and alcohol (Kübler-Ross, 1991).
9. The blind can see during a NDE In their book Mindsight, Dr. Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper report on in-depth interviews with 31 people who were fully or partially blind and had a near-death experience where they could see.
One of their subjects was Vicki Noratuk who had been blind from birth. She could not even see black. During her NDE, she found she could see for the fi rst time; she recognized her wedding ring and her hair. She also saw people made out of light – but she had never seen light before (Ring and Cooper, 1999).
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross also interviewed blind patients who were able to see perfectly while ‘dead’ and out-of-body (Kübler-Ross, 2005).
10. Some people have a group near-death experience A group of fire fighters claimed that when they were overcome with smoke they all went out of their bodies. They communicated with each other and could all see the lifeless bodies below them.
All survived and they agreed with each other afterwards that the experience actually happened (Gibson, 1999).
11. Some people have near-death-like experiences when there is nothing physically wrong with them Researchers have found that deep meditation, deathbed visions, relaxation, psychic vision, astral projection, trance, mirror-gazing and eye movements can trigger elements of the NDE (see Kevin Williams’ website: www.near-death.com).
12. Some people have a near-death experience when they are completely brain dead Hallucinations can only occur when people have a functioning brain which shows an active EEG reading. But vivid near-death experiences have taken place during periods when brains have showed no electrical activity. At these times people should have no memory but the vivid NDEs are remembered by people years later.
Pam Reynolds needed a risky operation to correct a weak point in the wall of a blood vessel in her brain. For over an hour she was clinically dead. Her temperature was lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and brain activity were stopped and her blood was circulated through a machine. There was no way that she could see anything as her eyes were taped shut. She could not hear anything as her ears were covered with plastic caps and sounds measuring 90 decibels were continually fed into them.
Yet after her heart was restarted and her body heated up, she reported that she had been able to see, hear, and feel what was going on. She said that it was like sitting on the shoulder of the doctor.
She described details of her surgery which were later verifi ed. She was able to remember this long and complex near-death experience from a time when she had had no brain activity (Sabom, 1998).
George Rodonaia’s body was stored in the freezer in a hospital morgue for three days. He was revived when his body was being split open for an autopsy. But while he was ‘dead’ he had seen his wife outside the hospital selecting his gravesite and considering marrying again (Atwater, 2007: 166).
Eben Alexander is an academic neurosurgeon who had a near-death experience. He was unconscious from severe meningitis which wipes out all except the most basic human brain functions.
He says that for over a week he was virtually brain dead, yet had a complex NDE that could not have been created by his brain activity (Alexander, 2012).
13. Many people experience a ‘life review’ during which they see their lives from the perspective of other people Dr. Kenneth Ring and other researchers show that a key feature of the life review is that people do not see their lives from their own point of view. It is not like replaying a video recording. Instead they see them from the perspective of everyone else they interacted with. They access the feelings and memories of the other people involved. These are things that they would have no normal way of knowing (Ring and Valarino, 1998).
14. The after-effects of a NDE are unique and long lasting The most common psychological effects (experienced by 80–90 per cent of adult survivors) are very recognizable. Cherie Sutherland, an Australian researcher, interviewed 50 NDE survivors in depth. She found that the effects on the lives of survivors had been remarkably consistent and quite different from the effects of drug or chemically induced hallucinations.
In Transformed by the Light (1992), she identifed many effects which have been substantiated by other studies, e.g., Ring (1980 and 1984) and Atwater (1988). These included:
• a universal belief in life after death
• a high proportion (80 per cent) now believed in re-incarnation
• a total absence of fear of death
• a large shift from organized religion to personal spiritual practice
• a statistically significant increase in psychic sensitivity
• 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.
P. M. H. Atwater adds another interesting fact. She claims that most researchers have found that at least 75–78 per cent of adult experiencers divorced within seven to ten years of their experience (Atwater, 2007: 89).
An independent American study by Dr. Melvin Morse found that NDE survivors have three times the number of verifiable psychic experiences as the general population. They are often unable to wear a watch. Many have problems using electrical appliances such as computers. Often their credit cards do not work. (Morse and Perry, 1992).
Alternative explanations don’t account for the whole package There have been many attempts to explain away the near-death experience. Some claim they are caused by oxygen deprivation. Others claim it is a natural effect of the dying brain or some accident of brain chemistry. Most of these theories are based on observations of a small number of cases. They may produce elements of the near-death experience but not the whole experience. And, most important, they do not have the same impact or after-effects.
Dr. Elizabeth Fenwick, co-writer of the book The Truth in the Light: An Investigation of Over 300 Near-Death Experiences, actually began her research thinking that all could be explained in scientific terms. But, after investigating, she concluded: While 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: 47).
Dr. Pim van Lommel agrees: Our most striking finding was that Near-Death Experiences do not have a physical or 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).
How can I share the benefits of Near-Death Experiences? Learning about NDEs has helped many people to overcome the fear of death and share many of the positive changes experienced by people who have had one. We highly recommend Lessons From the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience, a wonderful book by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser-Valarino (1998). Kenneth Ring found that his college students who read the book and listened to talks by near-death experiencers became much less fearful of death. Many people have reported to us that they gained enormously from reading popular books about near-death experiences and from watching video accounts by NDE survivors (there are many on YouTube). Some found it helpful to join their local branch of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) and attend meetings to hear NDE stories first-hand.
One word of warning is that some NDE experiencers tend to interpret their experience of ‘a being of light’ in terms of their existing religious training. Mellen-Thomas Benedict experienced the light changing into different figures like Jesus,
Buddha and Krishna and was told that “the light” is really a “Higher Self matrix” (an aspect of God) which you experience according to your beliefs (Benedict, 1996).
The greatest illusion is that man has limitations. —ROBERT A. MONROE OUT-OF-BODY INVESTIGATOR
Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are also called astral projections, astral travel or bi-location. They were recorded in ancient times in Greece, Rome, India, China and Tibet. Anthropologist Erika Bourguignon conducted a cross-cultural survey from 488 societies around the world in the early 1970s. She found that 89 per cent of cultures experienced them and had names for the part of us that separates from the physical body. The most common names for this in
Western culture are the ‘spirit body’, ‘astral body’ or ‘etheric body’ (Bourguignon, 1972: 418).
Indigenous cultures in Australia, Peru, other parts of South America – as well as American Indians – all report people travelling out of the body and seeing things that are later confirmed. Early missionaries to Africa and America were surprised at how native tribes could have a detailed knowledge of everything that was happening within a radius of hundreds of miles. (Inglis, 1977).
“Near-Death Experiences (NDEs)” is an extract from A Lawyer Presents the Evidence For the Afterlife. Published by White Crow Books.