Near Death Experiences:
How is it possible to be aware of the afterlife realm when we are completely unconscious and very nearly dead?
Dr. Raymond Moody was the first scholar who wrote about Near Death Experiences and the afterlife, which he did in 1976 in his Life after life: the investigation of a phenomenon- survival of bodily death (Harper San Francisco). Thirty-six years later he wrote Paranormal: my life in pursuit of the afterlife (HarperOne, New York, 2012). In his latter book Dr. Moody declared, “What do I think happens when we die? I think we enter into another state of existence or another state of consciousness that is so extraordinarily different from the reality we have here in the physical world… Based on what I have heard from thousands of people, we enter into a realm of joy, light, peace, and love in which we discover that the process of knowledge does not stop when we die. Instead, the process of learning and development goes on for eternity.”
As you know, Near Death Experiences (NDEs) occur to people who had apparently just died. Those who had an NDE and were under hands-on medical care at the time were usually exhibiting no vital signs including brain activity. There are a multitude of NDE cases in which a patient was either in surgery or in the critical care unit of a hospital and whose vital signs were being measured. Despite the lack of any vital signs the patient after regaining consciousness reported being up on the ceiling looking down at the doctors and nurses tending to his apparently dead body and describing with exactitude nearly everything he witnessed or heard from them. The range of NDEs is extensive and it includes Out of Body recollections of patients looking down from the ceiling at the medical staff present beneath them to enormously elaborate descriptions of spiritual phenomena occurring in an entirely different realm of apparent afterlife existence. As Prof. Stafford Betty put it regarding accounts by persons reporting on their NDEs in his book on When did you ever become less by dying? (at page 10): “They came from many different backgrounds yet had remarkably similar experiences: separation from their body, traveling at a rapid speed through something like a dark tunnel, meeting deceased relatives and friends, a life review, beautiful landscapes, and, for the lucky few, merging with that glorious Being of Light.”
Surprisingly enough, NDEs are not an invention of the late 20th century. Although the NDE label is a recent invention, altered state experiences of that kind – which occur when a person is in imminent danger of dying – have been around for millennia. Ptolemy Tompkins in his Modern Book of the Dead informs us that stories about such experiences “come from medieval Europe, not to mention countless primordial shamanic cultures (where the reincarnation element often shows up strongly). So many stories like this exist that an argument could be made that the NDE is in no way an exclusively modern phenomenon, and that the afterlife geographies of all people at all times owe at least some of their details to the experiences of people who have made escapes from death and returned like Er [the Greek warrior Plato wrote about approximately 2400 years ago in his Republic.]
Referring to the scholarship regarding NDEs conducted by Raymond Moody, Kenneth Ring and other researchers who began their work in the 1970s, Tompkins informs us, “the beginnings of a genuinely modern picture of the afterlife – one that is both similar to but also subtly and significantly different from conventional Eastern and Western religious narratives – has been coming more and more into the light…. A genuinely new Narrative, a new story of the soul and its fate that respects and takes cognizance of the maps of the past but also takes into meaningful account the discoveries and the truths of the modern world, has been emerging for more than a century now. It is a genuinely modern geography of the afterlife. It is coherent, it is consistent, and it is also, last but not least, in no way unscientific… Most important of all, this new view of the universe is also overwhelmingly positive. If we open our minds to the possibility that it might just be accurate, it can change our perspective on both the joys and sorrows of the life we know in countless ways, all of them good.”
In a remarkable study conducted by two British scholars, Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, entitled, Truth in the Light: And Investigation of Over 300 Near-Death Experiences, (Berkley Books, New York, 1997) we focus on their conclusion:
“For most people the NDE is one of the most profound they will ever have. It is vividly remembered for years – often for a whole lifetime. And very often the person who has had it reports that he or she returned changed in some way, often, though not always, permanently. Virtually everyone reports that afterwards they have no fear of death, they don’t particularly want to die – it’s as if they value life even more and have a renewed sense of purpose. Their attitudes change. If they already have some religious faith the experience tends to confirm it. Even if they have no particular religious faith, many, probably most, return believing that death is not the end. A small proportion believe that they been given psychic powers, precognition or the gift of healing following their experience…”