Near-Death Experiences

Near Death Experience Research Foundation

  • “One of the near-death experience truths is that each person integrates their near-death experience into their own pre-existing belief system.” — Jody Long. ‘The largest NDE website in the world with over 4000 Experiences in over 23 Languages.’

Near Death Experiences in Thailand

  • “That an NDE of a person torn between two cultures should exhibit features of both suggests that it is not culture that determines NDE phenomenology, but rather that people’s NDEs reveal what their expectations are concerning what death will be like, even when these expectations are held subconsciously, or are influenced by more than one culture. Atwater (1994) has found that NDEs which manifest visions of the classical western hell are much more likely to occur in the Southeast part of the U.S., the so-called ‘Bible belt’, where the literal veracity of the Bible is often taken for granted. Christianity teaches that the only options are those of heaven and hell. For a person guided by this belief, we suggest, the choice of which they will enter happens according to the expectations created by their own feelings regarding their behaviors during their lives. Thai NDEs, with their frequent visions of hell, seem to confirm this interpretation.”

Near Death, Explained

  • Mario Beauregard: “Although the details differ, NDEs are characterized by a number of core features. Perhaps the most vivid is the OBE: the sense of having left one’s body and of watching events going on around one’s body or, occasionally, at some distant physical location. During OBEs, near-death experiencers (NDErs) are often astonished to discover that they have retained consciousness, perception, lucid thinking, memory, emotions, and their sense of personal identity. If anything, these processes are heightened: Thinking is vivid; hearing is sharp; and vision can extend to 360 degrees. NDErs claim that without physical bodies, they are able to penetrate through walls and doors and project themselves wherever they want. They frequently report the ability to read people’s thoughts.

  • “The effects of NDEs on the experience are intense, overwhelming, and real. A number of studies conducted in United States, Western European countries, and Australia have shown that most NDErs are profoundly and positively transformed by the experience. One woman says, ‘I was completely altered after the accident. I was another person, according to those who lived near me. I was happy, laughing, appreciated little things, joked, smiled a lot, became friends with everyone … so completely different than I was before!’

  • “However different their personalities before the NDE, experiencers tend to share a similar psychological profile after the NDE. Indeed, their beliefs, values, behaviors, and worldviews seem quite comparable afterward. Importantly, these psychological and behavioral changes are not the kind of changes one would expect if this experience were a hallucination. And, as noted NDE researcher Pim van Lommel and his colleagues have demonstrated, these changes become more apparent with the passage of time.

  • “…NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.”

Near Death Experiences Are Actually True Life Experiences

  • Bruce Davis, Ph.D.: “If the near death experiences being shared by many are really to believed, they are actually true life experiences, because what they are describing is our true life in eternity. The vast love and acceptance they are finding upon leaving the confines of body and personality describe a life experience of coming home, coming to the true life which this earthly experience is only a small part of.

  • “The many experiences of finding a realm of non-judgment, intense light, tenderness, colors so bright they dance and sing of innocence and joy are perhaps not near death experiences at all but true life experiences. Maybe these experiences are a new dawn for all of us of our true potential! What people are describing is our true awareness when we are free of the constraints of normal physical and mental life. To find this perfect home after physical death says that somewhere this love must already be a part of us. These seemingly other worldly experiences must be part of our world or they would not be described time and time again as if ‘coming home.’ This heavenly world of acceptance, expansive love must be within all of us. And maybe we do not have to wait to die to get there!”

Drithelm Cuningham of Northumbria’s Vision

  • Bede the Venerable: “He that led me had a shining countenance and a bright garment, and we went on silently, as I thought, towards the north-east. Walking on, we came to a vale of great breadth and depth, but of infinite length; on the left it appeared full of dreadful flames, the other side was no less horrid for violent hail and cold snow flying in all directions; both places were full of men’s souls, which seemed by turns to be tossed from one side to the other, as it were by a violent storm; for when the wretches could no longer endure the excess of heat, they leaped into the middle of the cutting cold; and finding no rest there, they leaped back again into the middle of the unquenchable flames. Now whereas an innumerable multitude of deformed spirits were thus alternately tormented far and near, as far as could be seen, without any intermission, I began to think that this perhaps might be hell, of whose intolerable flames I had often heard talk. My guide, who went before me, answered to my thought, saying, ‘Do not believe so, for this is not the hell you imagine.'”

Near-Death Experiences and Hinduism

  • Kevin Williams: “Their small sample shows, Indian and American near-death experiences resemble each other in some respects but differ in others. Subjects of Indian near-death experiences do not report seeing their own physical body during the near-death experience, although American subjects usually do. Subjects of Indian near-death experiences frequently report being taken to the after-death realm by functionaries who then discover that a mistake has been made and send the person back, whereupon he or she revives. In contrast, American subjects, if they say anything at all about why they revived, mention meeting deceased family members who told them to go back, or say they came back because of ties of love and duty with living persons or say they were told it was not their time to die.”

Archetypal Near-Death Experiences

  • “In our dreams, the symbols and images that appear represent archetypes of our higher consciousness. As in dreams, near-death experiences are experiences of our higher consciousness, and therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that similar symbols and images appear in near-death experiences as well. On Karen Keeley’s website, Insights into Consciousness and Personality, she provides a good explanation of how these symbols and archetypes are universal and what they mean….”

Science and the Near-Death Experience

  • “In several respects it is apparent the Indian cases differ from the Western and Chinese ones. In all three studies, Indian accounts seem strongly influenced by Hindu religious beliefs. Yamaraj, the Hindu god of death, is a well-known figure in Indian mythology, as are his messengers, the Yamadoots. So too is Chitragupta, the man with the book, who upon a person’s death is said to consult the fabled Akashic Records, in which are inscribed all the deeds, good and bad, of a person’s lifetime.”

The 12 Elements of NDEs

  • From Evidence of the Afterlife, by Dr. Jeffrey Long:

  • “According to Evidence of the Afterlife, no two near-death experiences are identical. When, however, many near-death experiences are studied, a common pattern of elements emerges, that usually occurs in a consistent order. Here is a list of the 12 main NDE elements that have been identified:

    • “Out-of-body experience (OBE): separation of consciousness from the physical body: 75.4%

    • “Heightened senses: 74.4%

    • “Intense and generally positive emotions or feelings: 76.2%

    • “Passing into or through a tunnel: 33.8%

    • “Encountering a mystical or brilliant light: 64.6%

    • “Encountering other beings, either mystical beings, or deceased relatives or friends: 57.3%

    • “A sense of alteration of time and space: 60.5%

    • “Life review: 22.2%

    • “Encountering unworldly (‘heavenly’) realms: 40.6%

    • “Encountering or learning special knowledge: 56% (31.5% answered that they understood everything ‘about the universe’; 31.3% felt they understood ‘everything about myself and others’.)

    • “Encountering a boundary or barrier: 31%

    • “Return to the body, either voluntary or involuntary: 58.5%”

    Religion and NDEs

    • From Embraced by the Church? Betty Eadie, Near-Death Experiences, and Mormonism

    • “Carol Zaleski (Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experiences in Medieval and Modern Times) recognized that NDE accounts are sacred narratives similar with, but not identical to, other narratives such as visions of heaven and hell, experiences of sudden conversion, sacred dreams, apparitions of heavenly beings. More recent NDE researchers have been less cautious and have admitted that NDEs may occur even when no illness or ‘death’ is involved, and that ‘transcendent experiences’ like NDEs occur in any case of ‘exposure to otherworld dimensions and scenes beyond the individual’s frame of reference.’

    • “But what precisely is the content of NDE narratives? Despite Raymond Moody’s early claims that similar patterns may be found in many, if not all, NDEs, in fact the evidence is growing that the religious (or non-religious) content of these narratives is of many different types. Moody had already admitted that the identification of the ‘Being of Light’ in NDEs varies according to the religious background of the person interviewed. It is more common for Roman Catholics to meet the Virgin Mary and the saints, while non-Christians may meet the Buddha or a non-personal ‘Ocean of Light’. Variations ae still greater in the more detailed NDEs, where the people involved receive actual teachings. These teachings are also invariably colored by the previous religious experience of those who experienced an NDE.”

    Homecoming and the Near-Death Experience

    • Many people experience “homecoming” in their NDEs. This page includes a number of summaries of such homecoming experiences. For instance:

    • “Michelle Dillon’s NDE Homecoming Experience: ‘And then I was Home and I knew it was Home and I wasn’t afraid. I saw lots of people I knew, some of whom I’ve since met, and a lot of whom I knew were “related” but that wasn’t what mattered. What mattered was that I KNEW them and they KNEW me and we hadn’t said a word. Or, well, we had, sort of, only not SAID. But I have never since been involved in such a joyful welcome, being loved, totally loved.’

    Distressing Near-Death Experiences

    • “The way one dies may be a factor in the type of NDE one has. Rommer found that dNDErs who had self-induced their deaths made up 55% of people in her research who reported a Type II Eternal Void experience, 18% who reported a Type III Hellish experience, and most of those who reported a Type IV Negative Judgment experience. Although it may be tempting to conclude that people who attempt suicide are being punished for trying to induce their own deaths, we must avoid this temptation, as the following paragraph will explain.

    • “People who are in a distressed frame of mind at the time of their near-death episode and those who were raised to expect distress during death may be more prone to distressing NDEs. People who attempt suicide are almost always in a distressed frame of mind. Usually they are attempting suicide because they feel themselves to be in unendurable and unending emotional or physical pain. In addition, they are almost certainly aware of the widely held belief that suicide is cowardly and/or the wrong way to escape the pain of life. Although they hope for relief from their pain, they may also consciously or unconsciously fear punishment. In a heightened state of pain, as well as of fear and/or guilt, they are highly distressed and, consequently, may be somewhat more prone to having a dNDE.”

    Medieval Near-Death Experiences

    • Excerpts from article, Dr. Carol Zaleski’s Research of Medieval Near-Death Experiences. These accounts suggest that in medieval times, pretty much everybody thought they were going to hell.

    • Dr. Carol Zaleski is the author of the NDE classic Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experiences in Medieval and Modern Times for which the New York Times had to say, “Zaleski … has had the excellent idea of putting recent near-death narratives in perspective by comparing them with those of an earlier period … An extremely interesting piece of work, and one that offers many shrewd insights.

    • …A hermit … revived from death and testified that he had been to hell, where he saw several powerful men dangling in fire. Just as he too was being dragged into the flames, an angel in a shining garment came to his rescue and sent him back to life with the words (echoed in several medieval visions): “leave, and consider carefully how you will live from now on.”

      After his return to life, the hermit’s fasts and vigils bore witness, Gregory tells us, that he had indeed seen the terrors of hell; this too would become a common formula for the transforming effects of an otherworld journey.

    • A second memorable tale of return from death came to Gregory firsthand, from a prominent businessman named Stephen, who died while on a trip to Constantinople. Stephen confessed to Gregory that he had never believed the stories about hell and punishment but that his brief visit to the infernal court had changed his mind. Fortunately for him, the judge sent him back, saying: “I ordered Stephen the blacksmith to be brought here, not this man.” [original] Webmaster note: This kind of “clerical error” in an NDE also appears also in Hindu NDEs.

      Stephen regained consciousness immediately, and his testimony was confirmed by the death, in that very hour, of a blacksmith of the same name. Although this story clearly belongs to the common stock of tales of death by mistaken identity, Gregory insists that such apparent mix-ups occur “not as an error, but as a warning.” Gregory here shows his genius for adapting such material to his own didactic purpose; without significantly changing the story, he introduces a providential element, thereby transferring it from the realm of folklore to that of religious instruction. His example would be followed closely by later generations of otherworld journey narrators.

    • Several motifs … recur throughout medieval otherworld journey literature: the river of hell, the flowery meadows of paradise, the white-clothed throngs in heaven, the test bridge, and, above all, the externalization of deeds. Gregory [the Great] makes it plain that the vision should be understood symbolically: the real meaning of the house built with bricks of gold is that those who give alms generously are constructing their eternal abodes in heaven; and the houses blackened by foul vapors were prefabricated, he implies, by the unsavory deeds of those destined to dwell in them. It was thanks largely to this widely read account [of the NDE of Stephen the businessman] that the bridge — as the setting for a psychomachia or symbolic confrontation with deeds — became such a prominent feature of the medieval otherworld landscape.

    Notable Near-Death Experiences

    • Links to 43 “transcendental” NDEs. “I’m not asking you to believe anything. I’m simply telling you what I believe. And I have no idea what the next life will be like. Whatever I saw was only from the doorway, so to speak. But it was enough to convince me totally of two things from that moment on: One, that our consciousness does not cease with physical death; that it becomes, in fact, keener and more aware than ever. And secondly, that how we spend our time on earth, the kind of relationships we build, is vastly more important than we can know.” — George Ritchie, M.D.

In Resonance

Excerpts from In Resonance: Interview with Rupert Sheldrake.

  • Roozbeh Gazdar: In his paper, Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance – An Introduction, Sheldrake has explained, “The morphic fields of mental activity are not confined to the insides of our heads. They extend far beyond our brain through intention and attention. We are already familiar with the idea of fields extending beyond the material objects in which they are rooted… Likewise the fields of our minds extend far beyond our brains.”

  • INTERVIEWER RG: Would you see your work as being a “scientific” validation of Indian beliefs such as reincarnation, existence of a universal soul, and so on?

    RUPERT SHELDRAKE: I don’t think my work in itself provides a “scientific” validation of reincarnation. It leads to a theory of collective memory, and leaves open the possibility that sometimes individual memories from one person could be transferred to another in a more specific way. But it raises a new question for the hypothesis for the doctrine of reincarnation. According to my view, memories can be transferred by morphic resonance, but it does not prove that the person who has these memories is the same person as the previous personality whose memories they have access to. Memory transfer does indeed seem to occur, as in the cases studied by Professor Ian Stevenson of children who remember previous lives. But this does not necessarily prove that these cases are ones of reincarnation. They simply show that there has been a transfer of memory.

    My work would not automatically imply a universal soul. The idea of mophic fields would imply that the entire universe has a field, which could perhaps be taken to correspond to the universal soul. But it would not necessarily imply that the field of the universe was conscious. Most aspects of morphic fields are unconscious, since they organise habits. Most of our own habits take place unconsciously and much of our mind is unconscious.

From Cellular Aging to the Physics of Angels

Excerpts from Quest Magazine: From Cellular Aging to the Physics of Angels: A Conversation with Rupert Sheldrake

Interviewed by John David Ebert

  • JE: For Rupert Sheldrake, the “laws” of the universe may not in fact be laws at all, but rather deeply ingrained habits of action which have been built up over the many eons in which the universe has spun itself out. Like the ancient riverbeds on the surface of Mars left behind by the pressures of flowing water over billions of years, so too, the “laws” of the universe may be thought of as runnels engraved in the texture of space-time by endless, unchanging repetition. And the longer particular patterns persist, the greater their tendency to resist change. Sheldrake terms this habitual tendency of nature “morphic resonance,” whereby present forms are shaped through the influence of past forms. Morphic resonance is transmitted by means of “morphogenetic fields,” which are analogous to electromagnetic fields in that they transmit information, but differ in that they do so without using energy, and are therefore not diminished by transmission through time or space.

    Sheldrake illustrates his idea with the analogy of a television set. Though we can alter the images on our screens by adjusting components or distorting them — just as we can alter or distort phenotypical characteristics through genetic engineering — it by no means follows that the images are coming from inside the television set. They are in fact encoded as information coming from electromagnetic frequencies which the skillful arrangement of the transistors and circuits within the television set enables us to pick up and render visible. Likewise, it is not at all necessary for us to assume that the physical characteristics of organisms are contained inside the genes, which may in fact be analogous to transistors tuned in to the proper frequencies for translating invisible information into visible form. Thus, morphogenetic fields are located invisibly in and around organisms, and may account for such hitherto unexplainable phenomena as the regeneration of severed limbs by worms and salamanders, phantom limbs, the holographic properties of memory, telepathy, and the increasing ease with which new skills are learned as greater quantities of a population acquire them.

  • JE: Joseph Campbell once suggested that the idea of morphogenetic fields reminded him of the Hindu concept of maya — the field of space-time that gives birth to the forms of the world…. You see evolutionary history as a tension between the two forces of habit — -or morphic resonance — and creativity, which involves the appearance of new morphic fields. But in the case of mass extinctions you suggested once that the ghosts of dead species would still be haunting the world, that the fields of the dinosaurs would still be potentially present if you could tune into them. Would you mind commenting on how it might be possible for extinct species to reappear?

    RS: Well, I haven’t in mind some kind of Jurassic Park scenario. What I was thinking of was that the fields would remain present, but the conditions for tuning into them are no longer there if the species is extinct, so they’re not expressed. However, it’s a well known fact in evolutionary studies that some of the features of extinct species can reappear again and again. Sometimes this happens in occasional mutations, sometimes it turns up in the fossil record. And when these features of extinct species reappear, they’re usually given the name, “atavism,” which implies a kind of throwback to an ancestral form. Atavisms were well known to Darwin, and he was very interested in them for the same reasons I am, that they seem to imply a kind of memory of what went before.

  • JE: Do you think that morphic fields could account for the existence of ghosts in any way?

    RS: Well, the fields represent a kind of memory. If places have memories, then I suppose it’s possible for ghostly-type phenomena to be built into their fields. This is a very hazy area of speculation and not one I’ve thought through rigorously. And I’ve had no incentive to think it through rigorously because it’s so hard to think of repeatable experiments with ghosts. But ghosts do seem to be a kind of memory thing, and morphic fields have to do with memory, so there may well be a connection.

  • JE: Karl Pribram suggests that memories are spread throughout the brain like waves, or holograms, and you go further in suggesting that memories may not be stored in the brain at all, but rather that the brain acts as a tuning device and picks up memories analogously to the way a television tunes in to certain frequencies. Furthermore, you’ve suggested that if memories aren’t stored in the brain at all, this leaves the door open for the possibility of the existence of the soul. Can you explain how your ideas on the existence of the soul fit into this paradigm?

    RS: Well, we should clarify the terms here. The traditional view in Europe was that all animals and plants have souls — not just people — and that these souls were what organized their bodies and their instincts. In some ways, therefore, the traditional idea of soul is very similar to what I mean by morphic fields. The traditional view of the soul in Aristotle and in St. Thomas Aquinas was not the idea of some immortal spiritual principle. It was that the soul is a part of nature, a part of physics, in the general sense. It’s that which organizes living bodies. In that sense, all morphic fields of plants and animals are like souls.

    However, in the case of human beings, the additional question arises as to whether it’s possible for the soul to persist after bodily death. Now, normally souls are associated with bodies. And the theory I’m putting forward is one that would see the soul normally associated with the body and memories coming about by morphic resonance. If it’s possible for the soul to survive the death of the body, then you could have a persistence of memory and of consciousness. From the point of view of the theory I’m putting forward, there’s nothing in the theory that says the soul has to survive the death of the body, and there’s nothing that says that it can’t. So this is simply an open question. But it’s not one that can be decided a priori.

  • JE: In your book The Presence of the Past, you have an interesting theory of reincarnation. You suggest that people who have memories of past lives may actually be tuning in to the memories of other people in the morphogenetic field, and that they may not actually represent reincarnated people at all. Would you care to comment on that?

    RS: Yes. I’m suggesting that through morphic resonance we can all tune in to a kind of collective memory, memories from many people in the past. It’s theoretically possible that we could tune into the memories of specific people. That might be explained subjectively as a memory of a past life. But this way of thinking about it doesn’t necessarily mean this has to be reincarnation. The fact that you can tune into somebody else’s memories doesn’t prove that you are that person. Again, I would leave the question open.

    But, you see, this provides a middle way of thinking about the evidence for memories of past lives, for example, that collected by Ian Stevenson and others. Usually the debate is polarized between people who say this is all nonsense because reincarnation is impossible — the standard scientific, skeptical view (I should say, the standard skeptical view; it’s not particularly scientific) — and the other people who say this evidence proves what we’ve always believed, namely, the reality of reincarnation. I’m suggesting that it’s possible to accept the evidence and accept the phenomenon, but without jumping to the conclusion that it has to be reincarnation.

  • JE: So your theory that information can be transmitted by these nonmaterial morphic fields makes theoretically plausible a paradigm in which phenomena such as telepathy or ESP can be understood. Can you explain how your paradigm makes sense out of this type of phenomena?

    RS: Well, if people can tune in to what other people have done in the past, then telepathy is a kind of logical extension of that. If you think of somebody tuning in to somebody else’s thought a fraction of a second ago, then it becomes almost instantaneous and approaches the case of telepathy. So telepathy doesn’t seem to be particularly difficult in principle to explain, if there’s a world in which morphic resonance takes place.

    I think that some of the other phenomena of parapsychology are hard to explain from the point of view of morphic fields and morphic resonance. For example, anything to do with precognition or premonition doesn’t fit in to an idea of influences just coming in from the past. So, I don’t think this is going to give a blanket explanation of all parapsychological phenomena, but I think it’s going to make some of it at least, seem normal, rather than paranormal.