Posted: Sat May 13, 2006 9:33 am Post subject: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)
Near Death Experiences are encountered by people who at the verge of dying physically either through an illness or an accident are resuscitated. During the period of unconsciousness they apparently are removed from their bodies and experience the hereafter. Many of such cases have been documentated. The following is the case that was given in an article that appeared in the Sunday Star Toronto.
Near-death experience gave 'glimpse of eternity'
By Tom Harpur
On Saturday morning, May 26, 1990, a Yorkshire man and his wife caught the car ferry from Folkestone to Boulogne and, on disembarking, headed southeast. Roy Nash, 58, had just taken early retirement from his job as operations manager for Marks & Spencer. He and his wife were off on a holiday in the south of France.
At approximately 1:30 p.m., with no warning, their car ran head-on into a motorcycle with two French youths on it. The details of what caused the crash are still unclear. No charges were ever laid. Tragically, both of the young people and Nash’s wife, Patricia, 51, were killed instantly. Roy Nash, unconscious, broken and bleeding, had to be cut from the wreckage. He was rushed to a hospital with no expectation he would recover. His children were contacted and told of the accident and that there was little hope their father would survive the day.
For the next 24 hours, as doctors worked non-stop to save his life, Nash never once regained consciousness. Then, on the Sunday afternoon, he became aware of someone calling him. He opened his eyes to find himself in hospital with a young French nurse saying, “Monsieur, monsieur, your relatives are here." Patricia's brother and his wife, who had been travelling with them in their own car, were standing by his bed watching anxiously.
Nash looked up at them and, much to their surprise, before either could say a word, he whispered: "Patricia's dead."
They were greatly relieved both that he had come to and also that they now would be spared the ordeal of breaking the news to him about his wife. But, they were truly perplexed as well. "How did you know that?" they asked gently. He replied simply that he'd tell them more, later.
What had happened was that during his unconsciousness Nash had experienced what is now known as a near-death experience or NDE. I have written extensively about NDEs in Life and Death — indeed it was because of reading it and finding to his relief that he was not alone in his experience that Nash wrote and told me his story. I want you to hear it because, in spite of the hundreds I have now heard of directly or in research, this is one of the clearest and most arresting.
First of all, Nash has no memory whatever of the accident itself. But, he does remember with brilliant clarity that at some point his "mind, soul or very being" parted from his human form and began "an absolutely fantastic journey." He says: r'At no point did I look back, but I always sensed that I was travelling away from my body. There was no communication as we know it; I was aware that for me to understand what was put to me during this experience there must have been a kind of telepathy or instant knowledge."
Nash says he felt he was travelling at great speed and "by and through galaxies and other universes" where some stars were being smashed while others were being created. He became aware that all around was an invisible, controlling force of awesome power and majesty. He was conscious of entering into a kind of dialogue with this "force or God."
A life-long agnostic and a self-admitted mocker of the religious beliefs of others, Nash found himself agonizingly being brought to a recognition of the reality of some vast, personal Mystery pervading the universe and demanding an answer from him. "I came to understand that this God or power had always been and would always be, that it controlled everything and yet at the same time that we are all its concern, we belonged to it and each other."
As the journey sped on, Nash became aware of the now-familiar "pure white light" ahead of him and thepain in his mind suddenly left. He was filled with a sense of being in the presence of a love, peace and tranquility beyond words to express. "The brilliant light appeared like a pair of cupped hands and from the fingertips flowed a blue-white energy that engulfed me."
Then, he slowly realized he was looking at the "new form" of his beloved wife, Patricia. "I seemed to reach out and try to meld with her. I entered into a terrific battle to join her. I tried, oh how I tried! But, eventually, I knew it was not to be even though she was willing me to be with her. I gave up the struggle, but just before I left and started my journey back she communicated to ma that she was at total peace. She
gave me her eternal love and told me that not too far ahead we'd be together again. The controlling power or God seemed to confirm this and I started back at an even greater speed than before. Suddenly I felt I had arrived back hi my body again."
What is significant is that Nash had previously believed in "nothing." He describes himself as a "hard" personality, driving for success at the expense of others. Today, he is not a sudden convert to this or that religion but his whole belief system and outlook have changed. He now realizes he was once cruel to colleagues and staff under him, that he cared little for justice or compassion. "I've now returned to the human race as a fully caring person," he says.
Nash doesn't know why he was privileged "to have a small glimpse of eternity and the love and peace of the new life," but he believes he has unfinished business to complete. "I now look for the goodness in people and not their weakness."
For me, it's this ethical transformation in NDErs that reveals we are not dealing here with what some try to dismiss as hallucination. There's a pro-founder reality at work. Tom Harpur is a Toronto author and broadcaster. His book Life and Death has just been published in paperback by McClelland and Stewart.
The article was published in the Sunday Star, Toronto, 22/03/92
In his best-selling book "90 Minutes in Heaven," Don Piper says he died, visited the afterlife, and lived to tell the tale. Read his first-hand account of the most profound 90 minutes of his life.
What I Saw in Heaven A truck crashed into my car and I died for 90 minutes. When the doctors revived me, I knew I had visited heaven.
By Don Piper
When I died, I didn't flow through a long, dark tunnel. I had no sense of fading away or coming back. I never felt my body being transported into the light. I heard no voices calling to me or anything else. A light enveloped me, with a brilliance beyond earthly comprehension.
In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven.
Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate. I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn't matter. As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn't see Jesus, but I did see people I had known. As they surged toward me, I knew instantly that all of them had died during my lifetime. Their presence seemed absolutely natural.
Who I Saw in Heaven
They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God. Although no one said so, intuitively I knew they were my celestial welcoming committee. It was as if they had all gathered just outside heaven's gate, waiting for me.
The first person I recognized was Joe Kulbeth, my grandfather. He looked exactly as I remembered him, with his shock of white hair and what I called a big banana nose. He stopped momentarily and stood in front of me. A grin covered his face.
I have no idea why my grandfather was the first person I saw. He wasn't one of the great spiritual guides of my life, although he certainly influenced me positively in that way.
After being hugged by my grandfather, I don't remember who was second or third. The crowd surrounded me. Some hugged me and a few kissed my cheek, while others pumped my hand. Never had I felt more loved.
I wasn't conscious of anything I'd left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions. It was as if God had removed anything negative from my consciousness, and I could only rejoice at being together with these wonderful people.
They looked exactly as I once knew them—although they were more radiant and joyful than they'd ever been on earth.
My great-grandmother, Hattie Mann, was Native American. As a child I saw her only after she had developed osteoporosis. Her head and shoulders were bent forward, giving her a humped appearance. The other thing that stands out in my memory is that she had false teeth—which she didn't wear often. Yet when she smiled at me in heaven, her teeth sparkled. I knew they were her own, and when she smiled, it was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.
Then I noticed something else—she wasn't slumped over. She stood strong and upright, and the wrinkles had been erased from her face. I have no idea what age she was. As I stared at her beaming face, I sensed that age has no meaning in heaven.
All of the people I encountered were the same age they had been the last time I had seen them—except that all the ravages of living on earth had vanished.
Even now, years later, I can sometimes close my eyes and see those perfect countenances. Just being with them was a holy moment and remains a treasured hope.
I'd Never Felt So Loved...
When I first stood in heaven, they were still in front of me and came rushing toward me. They embraced me, and no matter which direction I looked, I saw someone I had loved and who had loved me. They surrounded me, moving around so that everyone had a chance to welcome me into heaven.
I felt loved—more loved than ever before in my life. They didn't say they loved me. I don't remember what words they spoke. When they gazed at me, I knew what the Bible means by perfect love. It emanated from every person who surrounded me.
I stared at them, and as I did I felt as if I absorbed their love for me. At some point, I looked around and the sight overwhelmed me. Coming out from the gate—a short distance ahead—was a brilliance that was brighter than the light that surrounded us, utterly luminous. In trying to describe the scene, words are totally inadequate, because human words can't express the feeling of awe and wonder at what I beheld.
The best I can describe it is that we began to move toward that light. No one said it was time to do so, and yet we all started forward at the same time. As I stared ahead, everything seemed to grow taller—like a gentle hill that kept going upward and never stopped. I had expected to see some darkness behind the gate, but as far ahead as I could see, there was absolutely nothing but intense, radiant light.
By contrast, the powerful light I had encountered when I met my friends and loved ones paled into darkness as the radiance and iridescence in front of me increased. It was as if each step I took intensified the glowing luminosity. I didn't know how it could get more dazzling, but it did.
I wasn't blinded, but I was amazed that the luster and intensity continually increased. Strange as it seems, as brilliant as everything was, each time I stepped forward, the splendor increased. The farther I walked, the brighter the light. The light engulfed me, and I had the sense that I was being ushered into the presence of God. Although our earthly eyes must gradually adjust to light or darkness, my heavenly eyes saw with absolute ease. In heaven, each of our senses is immeasurably heightened to take it all in. And what a sensory celebration!
A holy awe came over me as I stepped forward. I had no idea what lay ahead, but I sensed that with each step I took, it would grow more wondrous.
After Paradise, Finding Purpose To discover what we're destined to do in this world, we must first cross a bridge.
By Don Piper
After my accident, as I lay in my hospital bed, I struggled through the darkness. I was in physical pain, I had permanent disabilities, and I knew I would never be the same man I was when I started driving across the Livingston Bridge. I was angry and felt sorry for myself. All I could think about was what I lost: I was no longer the man my wife, Eva, married. There were things I would never be physically able to do with my kids. And even though I had spent ninety minutes in heaven, this felt like another loss. Why would God give me a peak of paradise only to bring me back here a suffering, broken man?
It took a while before I discovered my new normal and even longer to find the purpose in my pain. I’m still amazed at the impact my story has on people, and although I still long for that perfection that is heaven, I know I’m doing exactly what God intends for me to do.
As I travel the world sharing my message of hope, I meet many people who have crossed a bridge and emerge on the other side with a greater sense of purpose. But you don’t have to look further than the Bible for some stunning example. Immediately I think of Paul, the great apostle and writer of the Bible. Before he became a Christian he was a religious man and a devout follower of the Law of Moses. One day, on his way to capture, imprison, and kill Christians, he fell down on the road, totally blind. This was a bridge for him, and his life would never be the same. He could have refused to turn to the Lord but he listened, prayed, was healed, and became a leading force in proclaiming God's love to the world.
As powerful as that was—and I don’t want to minimize this event—the second bridge became even more powerful. This was the bridge that gave Paul his life’s purpose.
People may not notice this second major turning point in Paul’s life. It's veiled but it's there. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul writes at length about his suffering (2 Corinthians 11:16–33). He makes such statements as: "I have… been exposed to death again and again (2 Corinthians 11:23 NIV) He write of being “caught up in the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2 NIV) and “was caught up to Paradise" (verse 4).
After that, he says, "I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know…" (12:2b).
No one truly knows what he meant by the third heaven. He says little about the experience except that "he was caught up to Paradise" and "he heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell" (12:4).
Because of my ninety minutes in heaven, I believe Paul had an experience of heaven. Did he die as I did? Did he have a near-death experience? Was it a Vision of such Power that he temporarily all sense of reality in his life?
None of us know, but he had an absolutely glorious experience. When he wrote to the Philippians he wrote of his great struggle: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….Yet what shall choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:21-24 NIV).
After that experience, Paul also wrote about a thorn in the flesh. Most scholars believe it was some kind of physical limitation. Whatever it was, he was different after his journey to the third heaven. Inwardly he was stronger than he had ever been; outwardly he had diminished.
I don’t want to compare myself with Paul, but I believe he experienced as much or more than I did. He tasted enough of the heavenly glory that he wanted to stay. Every day he wanted to return—just as I still do. But each day, he also realized that God wasn’t ready for him to leave this earth, so he stayed for the sake of the people he could help. That was what he was here to do.
We can see another example of this transition in the apostle Peter. Jesus called him and his companions to leave their fishing nets and follow Him. Peter followed Jesus and this can certainly be seen as a bridge in his life. But the bridge where I think Peter found his life's purpose recorded in Luke 5. Apparently Peter and his friends continued to fish. One day, Jesus came along and saw their boats were empty. He told Simon Peter to go out deeper, let down the nets, and they would catch many fish. "Master,' Simon replied, 'we worked hard all last night and didn't catch a thing. But if you say so, I'll let the nets down again" (verse 5). They did and caught enough for two boats to overflow.
Here's where Peter's bridge comes in: "When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, 'Oh, Lord, please leave me—I'm too much of a sinner to be around you.' For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him" (verses 8-9). Peter didn't think he was worthy and fell down, not knowing what to do with himself. "Jesus replied to Simon, 'Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people'" (verse l0b). At that moment, Peter knows what his purpose in life is.
A third example can be found in the life of Jesus, Himself. Jesus crossed a bridge immediately after His baptism. “A voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17 NIV). That’s a powerful experience, but the next verse reads, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (4:1 NIV). If Jesus ever had a new normal experience, that’s where it began. Until that moment, he was son of Joseph, a carpenter in Nazareth. After that day, He was Jesus, the Messiah. His life changed forever between His baptism and the forty days of temptation. He entered the desert in obedience and emerged as the herald of God’s good news.
Of course, there is also the most significant of bridges that Jesus crossed. He went from being the Great Teacher and the Healer to become the Savior. His death on the cross was the last bridge for him to cross. His entire life had led to that great moment when He gave His life as a substitute for others.
The issue we have to face—and the one that may be the most difficult— is that we have crossed over the bridge, and we're on the other side. Now we have to ask ourselves: What is the focus of our lives? Where are we going? We know where we've been. In some ways we liked it and we may have found it enjoyable, even wonderful. But we can never go back. We're at the great threshold of life and we know the only way to go is to move ahead.
Where is our focus now? We know where we don't want to be: languishing in self-pity and alienated from ourselves. But where do we want to be? Where do we go?
Given the constraints of what we now have to work with, which may include physical disabilities and certainly the pain of loss, confusion, and anger over what we went through, we still have to make a choice: What is our new focus? If we're wise, we move from a temporal perspective to an eternal perspective. Peter did in that powerful moment of realization that he was a great sinner. Paul came back from the third heaven and he couldn't be the same. Even Jesus, the perfect man, had to face the fact that He had a destiny that He had to fulfill.
January 13, 2009
In Defense of Death
By DAVID BROOKS
William D. Eddy was an Episcopal minister in Tarrytown, N.Y., and an admirer of the writer and theologian Richard John Neuhaus. When Rev. Eddy grew gravely ill about 20 years ago, I asked Neuhaus to write him a letter of comfort.
I was shocked when I read it a few weeks later. As I recall, Neuhaus’s message was this: There are comforting things you and I have learned to say in circumstances such as these, but we don’t need those things between ourselves.
Neuhaus then went on to talk frankly and extensively about death. Those two men were in a separate fraternity and could talk directly about things the rest avoided.
Neuhaus was no stranger to death. As a young minister, he worked in the death ward at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, a giant room with 50 to 100 dying people in it, where he would accompany two or three to their deaths each day. One sufferer noticed an expression on Neuhaus’s face and said, “Oh, oh, don’t be afraid,” and then sagged back and expired.
Much later, Neuhaus endured his own near-death experience. An undiagnosed tumor led to a ruptured intestine and a series of operations. He recovered slowly, first in intensive care, and then in a regular hospital room, where something strange happened.
“I was sitting up staring intently into the darkness, although in fact I knew my body was lying flat,” he later wrote in an essay called “Born Toward Dying” in his magazine, First Things. “What I was staring at was a color like blue and purple, and vaguely in the form of hanging drapery. By the drapery were two ‘presences.’ I saw them and yet did not see them, and I cannot explain that ... .
“And then the presences — one or both of them, I do not know — spoke. This I heard clearly. Not in an ordinary way, for I cannot remember anything about the voice. But the message was beyond mistaking: ‘Everything is ready now.’ ”
That was the end of Neuhaus’s vision, but not his experience. “I pinched myself hard, and ran through the multiplication tables, and recalled the birth dates of my seven brothers and sisters, and my wits were vibrantly about me. The whole thing had lasted three or four minutes, maybe less. I resolved at that moment that I would never, never let anything dissuade me from the reality of what had happened. Knowing myself, I expected I would later be inclined to doubt it. It was an experience as real, as powerfully confirmed by the senses, as anything I have ever known.”
Most scientists today would say that Neuhaus’s vision was the product of him confusing an inner voice for an outer voice. He was suffering the sort of mental illusion that sometimes befalls epileptics before a seizure.
Neuhaus took it the other way. While most people might use the science of life to demystify death, Neuhaus used death to mystify life.
When he wrote about his experience later, his great theme was the way death has a backward influence back onto life: “We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already under way.”
Neuhaus spent the next days, months and years impressed by the overwhelming fact of death. This made him, he writes, a bit blubbery. “After some time, I could shuffle the few blocks to the church and say Mass. At the altar, I cried a lot and hoped the people didn’t notice. To think that I’m really here after all, I thought, at the altar, at the axis mundi, the center of life. And of death.”
It also made him almost indifferent about when his life would end. People would tell him to fight for life and he would enjoy their attention, but the matter wasn’t really in his hands, and everything was ready anyway.
He quoted John Donne who also was changed by a near-death experience: “Though I may have seniors, others may be elder than I, yet I have proceeded apace in a good university, and gone a great way in a little time, by the furtherance of a vehement fever.”
Cancer returned, and Neuhaus died last week. In his final column for First Things, he wrote again about his mortality.
“Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much I hope to do in the interim.”
This awareness of death, and of the intermingling of life and death, gave Neuhaus’s writing an extra dimension — like a metaphysician who has been writing about nature within earth’s atmosphere and suddenly discovers space.
Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:24 am Post subject: Nasser Babu
My mother who is 82 years old and has a very good memory told me this story that she has witnessed in her youth when she was about 10 years old.
It is about the Near Death Experience of Nasser Babu, the author of Marifat na Fool - flowers of gnosis [Edited by Bandali Haji I think]
It was around 1936 when Nasser Babu died for the first time [funny statement isn't it?]
at that time there was no Ismaili mortuary in Dar es Salam and gusal was given at home, the body enrobed in white drap was place in the center of the sitting room and people were reciting ginans and salwats when the body started moving. Some people, afraid, started vacating the room shouting "bouth, bouth", "ghost" ghost".
Some stayed and helped Nasser Babu to come out of his tight drapes and told him that it was a miracle that he came out in time from death otherwise they were going to bury him soon!
Nasser Babu said he was indeed dead but negotiated with Mowlana Sultan Muhammad Shah to come back and he was allowed to do so under condition that his remaining life would be dedicated to teaching people on religion and life after death.
Nasser Babu said Sultan Muhamad Shah gave him exactly 10 years of life and sent him back to this material world.
He started conducting classes that my mother attended. She says it was very interesting because he was talking a lot about life hereafter and she and all her friends were trying to always be present during his lectures.
Now here is the interesting thing:
Few days before the 10 years expired, Mowlana Sultan Muhammad Shah came to East Africa for his Diamond Jubilee that my mother also attended. During the ceremony, he noticed Nasser Babu in a wheel-chair. He asked that Nasser Babu be brought at the podium. He said something also in the ears of Nasser Babu before leaving.
A couple of days later, exactly 10 years to the minutes after his coming back to life, Nasser Babu died.
Joined: 22 Dec 2008 Posts: 30 Location: Karachi, Pakistan
Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 7:03 pm Post subject: Attention Karim Mehar Ali
Dear Sir, <BR><BR>can you kindly send me your personal email address to my email adress at email@example.com.<BR><BR>Sir i actually need to discuss few things related to Ismailism which i cant discuss in an open forum like it.<BR><BR>Your kind responce will be highly appreciated.<BR><BR>YAM
THERE ARE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE TODAY-EIGHT MILLION IN the United States alone - who claim to know what death is like. They have "died" in the sense that they have suffered a cardiac arrest or have been otherwise declared clinically dead and then have regained consciousness. Others, under the influence of various anesthetics, in the throes of giving birth, at moments of extreme crisis and danger, or simply in a "natural" out-of-body event, report curiously similar perceptions of a transitional state of being between this world and another. All have come back from this experience remarkably changed and with an amazing story to tell.
For many people, ever since Dr. Raymond Moody described this phenomenon in his trend-setting, pivotal book Life After Life, published in 1975, the near-death experience (NDE) is the final proof they have been waiting for that life goes on beyond the grave.1 The skeptics and serious critics disagree. So much more has been written on this subject in the period since that first book by Moody, and so much invaluable research has been done by doctors and scientists, among others, that we must now attempt to come to terms with the possibilities and problems raised. What light does the NDE throw upon the belief in life after death? The fact that the experience does occur on an extraordinarily vast scale in all cultures and climes is not in doubt. Researchers who are officers of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS), of which I am a member, report that as many as 35 to 40 per cent of all those who have almost died can recall a near-death experience.2
Moody must be given credit for having given a name to the phenomenon and for having brought it dramatically to the forefront of public consciousness, but he certainly did not invent the NDE. Plato wrote about it, and current research shows that it has appeared in various forms since the dawn of literature.3 But does the NDE really constitute evidence that there is some kind of afterlife, a state of blissful existence beyond "the valley of the shadow of death?" It is to this question that we now must turn.
Since all of the basic data about the NDE phenomenon is of necessity highly personal and anecdotal - flowing as it does from firsthand accounts of the experiences of ordinary people -it is essential to make this chapter as personal as possible. Let me begin, then, by saying that, while the statistical evidence for the prevalence of the NDE is quite arresting and should not be underplayed (some NDE researchers have used a figure as high as 60 per cent of all those who experience clinical "death"), it is by no means true that everyone who comes close to death, has a narrow escape, endures cardiac arrest, or is declared clinically dead and then survives has some kind of mystical revelation of a life beyond. I haven't. But, I have, however, had several uncomfortably close brushes with death.
In the summer of 1949, I was teaching school on a Cree reserve in the remotest corner of northwestern Ontario, about a thousand miles from Toronto. I was struck down with a violent fever and dysentery and had to be flown out on an emergency basis in a single-engine float-plane to Sioux Lookout, a tiny frontier town. For about two weeks I hovered in and out of consciousness while the two doctors at the rudimentary hospital debated over whether to perform surgery on my seriously ulcerated intestines. In all, I was in hospital for six weeks and finally emerged a pale, skinny vestige of my former self. I was told I had had a severe case of amoebic dysentery and that neither nurses nor doctors had expected I would leave the place alive. All I remember of the crisis part of the illness was that, while I might have been able to utter a few, brief mental prayers at moments of lucidity, my chief awareness was of not having the strength to care whether I lived or not. I just wanted to be left alone. There were no mystical overtones whatever, although, naturally, once it was all over I felt extremely grateful to be alive and on the road to recovery.
During my research, I found many people who have had a cardiac arrest while in intensive care or during surgery, or who have had close encounters with death such as I have described, who yet have had nothing dramatic to report. My own father-in-law is a case in point. He recently suffered a severe heart attack while undergoing kidney surgery. A few weeks later, he had to have open-heart surgery to remove the scarring caused by the attack and was in a coronary intensive care unit for several days. While he had some mild hallucinations as a result of the medications, there was nothing he could identify as truly mystical, nothing approaching an NDE.
Leading figures in NDE research admit they don't know why some have the experience and others do not. In an interview, Dr. Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist at the University of Connecticut's Medical Center and one of the best-known researchers in this field, told me he considers it quite possible that all those who "die" and come back have an NDE, but that for unknown reasons some of them repress it. Greyson said, "It could be either that they didn't actually come close enough to really dying or that some other factor, say the medication, interfered in some way. In situations like this people are under extreme stress, so it's hard to calculate all the variables."
Intrigued, I followed this up by interviewing three anaesthetists, including Dr. Richard Cooper, assistant professor in the Department of Anaesthesia at the University of Toronto Medical School. They told me that there are usually three components in any general anaesthetic: analgesics to prevent pain, muscle relaxants to prevent bodily movement during the surgery or other procedure, and amnesics to ensure the experience is forgotten. As Cooper explained, the amnesics are to erase or prevent the formation of memories of the operation. "People don't want to be aware of what has gone on," he said. Those rare few who do manage some recall generally are plagued by a sense that "something has gone wrong." They can even have recurring nightmares in which they sense danger or risk of death but are unable to move to avoid it. The amount of amnesic given (usually one of the benzodiazepines) varies with each patient, and the effects vary as well, depending on other drugs being administered at the same time. Some surgery, the doctors said, is done without the use of amnesics if it is thought they might interfere with, for example, the heartbeat of cardiac patients. However, given the wide use of memory suppressants in most serious operations, I find it noteworthy, not that many who experience clinical death during surgery don't have an NDE, but that so many appear to remember so clearly that they did.
In his first book on near-death experiences, Life After Life, Moody analysed the "otherworld journeys" of those who have been to the brink of death and have reported "miraculous" glimpses of a world beyond. They found a plane of existence glowing with love and understanding, a place of bliss and light that can apparently be reached only "by an exciting trip through a tunnel or passageway." In his later book, The Light Beyond, he summarizes the characteristics of these "near-death visions" in this way: "NDErs experience some or all of the following events - a sense of being dead, peace and painlessness even during a 'painful' experience, bodily separation, entering a dark region or tunnel, rising rapidly into the heavens, meeting deceased friends and relatives who are bathed in light, encountering a Supreme Being, reviewing one's life, and feeling reluctance to return to the world of the living."4
By chance, a few days after I had read Life After Life, back in 1975,1 noticed a story in The Toronto Star about a man who had been critically wounded in the abdomen by a shotgun blast at close range. He was a night watchman at a Canadian Tire store outlet in the west end of Mississauga, Ontario, and had surprised two thieves in the act. What caught my eye was the statement in the story that this security guard had "died" twice during the many hours of surgery required to save him. I kept the clipping for three months and then tracked him down by phone. He was by then well on the road to a near-miraculous recovery and was willing to give me an interview. I told him nothing in advance of my area of interest. I spent several hours with him and discovered that, although he was reluctant to talk about it at first, he had had an experience that he described as "a kind of religious conversion." It turned out that during the moments or minutes when his vital signs had totally flattened out on the monitor and the doctors were certain they had lost him, he had in fact had an NDE.
It was my first direct encounter with anything of the sort, and it gave me a strange feeling to hear him describe roughly the same phenomenon outlined in Life After Life. Incidentally, at that time he had not read the book and had been afraid to speak to anyone else about his experience for fear of being thought strange. Not every detail matched the complete profile of an NDE just given above, but there were enough of the major traits - the tunnel, the sense of shining light, and the reluctance to "go back"-to make me realize he was talking about essentially the same thing. I wrote the story and it gained a considerable response from readers and other media.
I was not the first Toronto Star journalist, however, to have reported such a case. In May 1971, well before Moody set off the NDE floodtide with Life After Life, a colleague of mine at the newspaper, Sidney Katz, wrote the strange story of Leslie Sharpe. Sharpe, who at that time headed a successful Toronto-based printing firm, had never concerned himself with the ultimate mystery of life after death. But, as Katz told it, ". . . late one spring afternoon a year ago, Sharpe, sixty-eight, had an experience that changed all that. He died." Katz, basing his account on an article by Sharpe that had just been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, told how the man had gone to the Toronto General Hospital complaining of sharp pains in his chest and left arm.5 Once in bed, his symptoms vanished and blood pressure, heart sounds, everything seemed completely normal. Later that same day, however, at two minutes to four in the afternoon, he looked at his watch. A few seconds afterwards, he gave a very deep sigh and his head flopped over to the right.
He reported: "I remember wondering why my head flopped over because I hadn't moved it. I figured I must be going to sleep. That was my last conscious thought." Immediately, Sharpe was looking down at his own body from the waist up. "Almost at once, I saw myself leave my body, coming out through my head and shoulders. The body was somewhat transparent, although not exactly in vapor form. Watching, I thought, 'So this is what happens when you die.'" Next, the businessman found himself sitting on a small object, tilted at a forty-five-degree angle, and travelling through a blue-grey sky at great speed. He had the feeling he didn't know where he was or where he was going but that this was "one journey I must take alone." He felt safe and that everything was "being taken care of." Then he began to feel a "delightful" floating sensation as he was bathed in a bright yellow light.
He wrote: "I have a scar on my right leg, the result of an old injury. Although at the time I was not conscious of having any lower limbs, I felt the scar being torn away and I thought, 'They have always said your body is made whole out here. I wonder if my scars are gone?'" Continuing to float, he tried unsuccessfully to locate his legs. The sensation of tranquillity and joy engulfed him so fully that he could only describe it afterwards as "something beyond words to tell." Just then, a series of hard blows to his left side brought him back to consciousness. His heart had been restarted by means of shocks from an electric paddle. Looking up, he could see the doctors and nurses. He heard someone say that he'd taken "a bad turn." In the article he wrote in the medical journal and in his interview with Katz, Sharpe said he then told the medical team not to resuscitate him if he suffered another relapse. He wanted the experience to "go on and on. If that was eternity, I wanted to stay there. I was annoyed at being brought back to earth."
Some facts given in Katz's article are important. Sharpe was not a member of any religious group and had not been to church for many years. In his own mind, he had "long ago reached the conclusion that death was the final end and that beyond that there was nothing." He had, according to the hospital staff, received only Demerol and was not on any hallucinogenic chemical. (Demerol, a strong narcotic, normally produces extreme drowsiness and some confusion of mind as it numbs pain. In rare cases it can contribute to hallucinatory experiences of a confused nature, quite unlike what Sharpe describes.) Having "returned from death," he had lost any fear of it he previously had. "I've had the rare privilege of seeing behind a closed door that's never opened. I'm no longer afraid to go." Finally, Sharpe wrote his story for the Canadian Medical Association's Journal at the urging of his physicians, Drs. Robert L. MacMillan and Kenneth W. G. Brown of the Toronto General's coronary care unit. It bore the very conservative title "Cardiac Arrest Remembered."
Those familiar with the writings of Dr. Carl Jung will be aware that the great psychoanalyst, at first a colleague and then a critic of Sigmund Freud, had a very similar experience to that of Sharpe, one which he later said ranked among the most meaningful of his eventful life. During a brief clinical "death" after a heart attack, he said, "It seemed to me I was high up in space. Far below I saw the globe of earth bathed in a glorious blue light. Ahead of me I saw a shining temple and was drawn towards it. As I approached, a strange thing happened. I had the certainty I was about to enter an illuminated room and meet there all those people to whom I was beloved in reality. There I would understand at last the meaning of my life." Jung then realized he was being pulled back into his physical body. It happened at the same moment his doctor injected him with a strong heart stimulant.6
Of the roughly two hundred readers who responded to the request in my column to describe briefly any experience they had had which for them constituted evidence of an afterlife, about forty responded with a story of NDE. What was significant, in my view, is the fact that no two of them were exactly the same and none was a replica of the full, classical NDE which is regularly discussed in the media. That, plus the way in which most respondents stressed that this was the first time they had ever told anyone outside their own immediate family circle about the experience, gives considerable credibility, I believe, to the conviction that what they describe did actually happen.
- R. H. D., of Burlington, Ontario, wrote: "Prior to quadruple by-pass surgery in 1979,1 experienced cardiac arrest while in the intensive care unit at Joseph Brant Hospital. The arrest occurred during sleep but I was brought 'back to life,' as it were, by a very alert and able nursing staff. I have retained a very vivid recollection of the few minutes that I was 'dead.' Whether it was a dream or a temporary entrance into eternity I will obviously never know. However, just prior to administration of electric shock by the staff, I travelled through a long and misty-white tunnel, the end of which I never reached and the surroundings of which were immensely peaceful. I can remember no other details but it was an experience which I can never forget. It was not just a matter of imagination."
- B. C. is the mother of three children. In 1960, when her children were very young, she was in hospital for major surgery. "Following the surgery, I experienced 'death.' There was no tunnel, but I did sense I was floating in another realm. There were two ancients there who merely nodded when my mind said, 'I can't come now. My children still need me.' I floated away from these beings and awoke in my hospital bed with people thumping and rubbing my extremities." She goes on to say that "this is not a story I share with many people."
- P. W. L. is a physicist with one of the largest public utilities in Canada. He had an NDE in 1965, a decade before Life After Life appeared. P. W. L. only realized that other people had had a similar experience when he happened upon the condensation of Moody's book in Reader's Digest in 1976. He never spoke of it to others until 1989, when he took an introductory course on the New Testament at the Toronto School of Theology.
Early on a Saturday in January 1965, he was involved in a serious car accident on the Gardiner Expressway, the major arterial roadway running along the Toronto waterfront. The police closed the Gardiner immediately afterward and the story was carried in the final edition of The Toronto Star the same day. His memory of the actual crash was "wiped out," he says. He was not wearing a seatbelt and only learned later that he had been battered between the two doors and the steering wheel and then thrown clear. He does remember lying waiting for the ambulance and giving his girlfriend's phone number to some bystanders. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital where, in emergency surgery, his ruptured liver was sutured and repairs done to a series of tears in his lower intestine.
While unconscious on the operating table, P. W. L. had "an amazing experience." He became aware of a bright, round, yellow light overhead. "Then, I was up there beside the yellow light, watching the operation from the vicinity of the ceiling. I could see myself in the yellow illumination, in sharp focus on the operating table below. There was medical equipment above my body but it didn't impede my view in any way. I had the feeling that I was in the arms of God. An overwhelming sense of unconditional love and concern and support completely saturated me, in direct mind'to-mind contact, and it persisted for an indefinite duration. There was no dialogue involved. And then I woke up in the recovery room. My immediate reaction was, "So that is what God is like!" Having graduated from university not all that long before in physics, he says he was a "nominal Christian" with considerable scepticism prior to his NDE. He is aware that what happened to him is not firm proof of anything, but it changed his religious outlook completely. "Before, I could only hope, but now I know what God is like and that God loves each of us, whether we deserve it or not."
One immediate result of the NDE, he says, is that he proposed to Jean, his girlfriend, while he was still in hospital, and they were married nine months later. I met with this man not long ago at the close of a lecture I had just given. We discussed his NDE briefly and I must say that I have seldom met anyone whom I would judge to be less given to hallucinations or flights of fancy than this particular scientist.
- J. A. C. served in a field artillery regiment in Italy during World War II, taking part in the seige and capture of Cassino. He wrote to say that in 1972 he had a "massive coronary" and was unconscious for three days in intensive care. "There were times when I knew that my family were around me and I was sorry to be leaving them. But, I was also able to see a warm, rosy, welcoming light and knew that there were friends waiting to greet me. I wanted to go and resented being called back. Each time that I roused enough to know that I was still alive I was sorry that I hadn't made it to the light. Then I realized that it was not yet time for me to go."
- Several women wrote about NDEs or out-of-body experiences they had had during the process of giving birth. Two of these were instances where the baby was either born dead or died during the delivery. P. R., for example, relates that on August 1, 1947, she had the following "unforgettable experience." She was in the delivery room of the local hospital. "Something had gone wrong with the way the baby was being born. Suddenly, I remember, I found myself walking up a path in a beautiful garden. The scent of the flowers was overpowering. I was walking towards a figure dressed in white, surrounded by a bright light. This person was holding a baby in his left arm and holding his right hand out to me. I heard someone calling me from what seemed a long distance away and suddenly I was out of the garden and back in the delivery room. One of the nurses, who happened to be a friend of mine, told me that the baby had died. I have not been able to talk about this very much but have told members of my prayer group."
- One of the replies I received came from the Reverend Ken Martin, pastor of Siloam United Church in London, Ontario. Martin wrote to me on August 22, 1989, to say he had recently had a remarkable out-of-body experience during a "silent heart attack." It was the first of two attacks, and Martin, who is forty-eight, had been feeling tired and overworked. He told me he had made notes in his diary the same night he had his NDE and offered to share them. I spoke with him on the phone, discovered that the NDE had had a profound effect upon him, and invited him to send me his account. Here it is, verbatim:
"I was sleeping earlier tonight with my wife, Beverley, when suddenly I awoke. There was an incredible pain in my chest and I was suddenly aware of being lifted up from the bed into the air. I took a fleeting, backward glance at the bed and saw Beverley sleeping, and then I was transported right out of the room into the sky. The sky was very dark in the background and yet there were swirls of very bright lights. I found myself caught up in one of these swirls. It was like being at the small end of a long funnel that was opening wider and wider. I was rushing through the funnel in a fast-moving swirl of light.
"It was incredibly bright. It was also warm and I felt very much at peace and extremely contented. It was as if there was a great strength lifting me and pulling me forward. I experienced the feeling that I was going home. There was no pain, no depression, and no worries about finishing my thesis, earning a living, or whether or not I would be able to return to work. It was as if these things were gone forever. I had a very definite feeling that I was coming home from someplace I had left a long time ago. Then I saw an extremely bright light ahead of me. All was so peaceful, warm, and well. I was rushing faster and faster into this ever-widening swirl of blazing light. It was as if someone was summoning me to come home but I heard no voice. The overwhelming feeling was one of incredible peace.
"Then, abruptly, I was yanked back and found myself in my bed again. I felt deeply disappointed and cried out: 'Oh no, not this again!' I guess that was a terrible thing to think and voice. Although there had been a few seconds as I first had felt myself being lifted into the dark sky when I felt disappointment at leaving my family, that feeling had quickly left me, overwhelmed by the sense of peace. Now I was back in bed with all the pain and depression and worry. I wept because I had come back. I now have a deep feeling that 'home' is somewhere else and would like to go back. When will I resume my journey? It was incredible!"
Martin has now lost forty pounds - he had been up to 195 - is swimming regularly on his doctor's orders, and is back at work in a busy parish. In his accompanying letter to me, he says he now knows firsthand that "there is nothing to be afraid of after death." He is also convinced that there is so much more to life than what we have known on earth. "Yet, I am also convinced that we Christians are in for a big surprise and that we have certainly made our God far too small." He added that, apart from his wife, he has told nobody else about his experience. He has not, at the time of my writing this, shared this experience with his congregation. "Why not?" he queries. "Likely because I'm afraid of being called eccentric, crazy, or worse."
It is impossible to do more than skim the surface of my mail on this and related subjects, never mind describing in any adequate way all of what is now available on near-death experiences. Letters have come from the educated and the uneducated, from the religious and the non-religious, from believers in life after death and from those who previously were total sceptics. Many of those who wrote to me were not at death's door when their "glimpse of eternity" or their sense of being able to "look down on my body" from some other vantage point occurred. Nearly all of them spoke of the "light," of feelings of a peace beyond understanding, and of seeing loved ones or supernatural beings-God, Christ, Krishna, angels, or others-aware that they were using symbolic language to express what had happened to them. Most say their attitude to both life and death were changed in the process. One man wrote to say that he now feels as though he is living "with one foot in each of two different worlds." While there is generally some regret at not having passed on to the other side, there is, paradoxically, a greater commitment to this life, a desire to learn more, to love more. While those who have the experience do not necessarily become suddenly more religious, they invariably become more spiritual, more concerned with the depth dimension of living. All fear of death and dying, they say, is gone.7
"Hellish" Near-Death Experiences
It is tempting, given the overwhelmingly positive nature of the NDE portrayed in the bulk of both popular and scientific literature, to assume that, whatever is signified by this phenomenon, its main thrust is extremely good news about dying and death. However, there is another side to the story, one that has not yet been fully studied and assimilated by NDE researchers. That some people who come close to the gates of death experience a reality which is anything but reassuring was first fully discussed by Dr. Maurice Rawlings in his 1978 book, Beyond Death's Door.8 Rawlings, an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian, argued from his medical experience that some people who have an NDE feel themselves to be in hell. Beyond Death's Door is not a particularly good book in my opinion, as Rawlings only manages to adduce a very tiny number of such stories, and one has the feeling throughout that he had already decided on his conclu' sions before he began his research. But Rawlings at least has raised the issue that possibly all is not light and bliss during the near-death experience.
When George Gallup, Jr. published his 1982 book, Adventures in Immortality: A Look Beyond the Threshold of Death, he too referred to respondents who said they had had a "hellish" experience while close to death. For the most recent and the most insightful look at this aspect of the NDE, though, one must look at Margot Grey's Return From Death: An Exploration of the Near-Death Experience.9 Grey, a "humanistic psychologist," based her research on interviews with thirty-eight people claiming near-death experiences and many more patients she later worked with in her practice. Grey herself had an NDE when she had a close brush with death while travelling in India. She reports she too had an encounter with light accompanied by a "feeling of being very close to the source of light and love, which seemed to be one." Grey, who has no religious ties, states quite categorically that her studies have brought her to the conclusion that "conscious awareness survives physical death."10
Her chapter on negative experiences breaks some new ground. She bases her remarks here on five of her own cases and nine negative cases from the general literature, together with information gleaned from interviews with cardiologists who have been on the lookout for NDE reports from their patients. Like Rawlings, these doctors stressed that negative NDEs are only made known very shortly after the episodes happen. In other words, such experiences tend to be quickly repressed. Grey found that those who experience this type of NDE feel a sense of guilt or shame at hellish experiences and would rather not admit to them. She also concludes that they may indeed have had some terrible deed in their background that they felt accounted for their sense of being in or going to hell. In his review of her book, Karlis Osis says that in this finding Grey "has put her finger on the right spot. We might need to rethink our methods. Maybe we have relied too much on the self-reports of the patients and have failed to ascertain observations made through the cooler eyes of doctors and nurses who were around when the patients started to talk about the NDEs that were still fresh in their memories."11
Grey was able to come up with some quite significant similarities between the pattern of positive NDEs and that of the negative ones. In the negative NDE, instead of peace and a sense of well-being, there is a feeling of fear and panic. The sense of being out of the body is similar in both types. Instead of entering a tunnel, however, in the negative NDE one enters a black void. There is no light, but rather the sense of an evil force, and one enters what can only be described as a "hell-like" environment. In the negative cases, there are after-effects, too. "Like those respondents who had positive experiences, the people in this category returned from their encounters with an increased conviction that life continues after death. They also felt a strong urge radically to modify their former way of life."12
In all, about one-eighth of Grey's interviewees reported experiences that were hell-like. None of this, of course, means that such imagery has to be taken in a literal fashion or that there is such a "place" or state as a literal hell. But, it is clearly an area of research that needs much more careful examination. As Osis remarks, "If this pattern is replicated and sound, it would require nothing less than considering the positive and negative NDEs as one integrated whole - a sweeping reorganization of our views."
Problems with the Near-Death Experience
According to the International Association for Near-Death Studies, "An NDE may occur when a person is considered clinically dead, or even to one not close to death but who is under some biological and/or psychological stress. Somehow, the experience appears to be a biologically-based trigger for a spiritual event." For me, the most exhaustive and fascinating attempt to understand just what is going on in this "event" is a book by Carol Zaleski, Otherworld Journeys: Accounts ofNear-Death Experience in Medieval and Modem Times. Ms. Zaleski, who wrote this work initially as her doctoral thesis in religious studies at Harvard, gives us a sparkling overview of the NDE and sets it in a more universal perspective by analysing examples from sources as diverse as the epic of Gilgamesh, Plato, St. Paul, and Dante's Divine Comedy. Her main focus, however, as the title says, is a comparison of medieval otherworld journeys with those described in the NDE literature of today. In addition, she reviews the modern scientific debate between the advocates of the NDE as a real glimpse of eternity and the hard-nosed sceptics who pour cascades of cold water over such "imaginative flights of fancy."
Zaleski finds amazing parallels between the experiences of medieval saints, mystics, and ordinary folk, and those relayed on talk shows or in the books of the NDE researchers of today. But she finds some remarkable differences too: "Gone are the bad deaths, harsh judgement scenes, purgatorial torments, and infernal terrors of medieval visions; by comparison, the modern other world is a congenial place, a democracy, a school for continuing education, and a garden of unearthly delights."13 In other words, there is something very western about the terms in which the modern otherworld traveller conceptualizes his or her vision.
This brings us to one of the first observations I want to make about the NDE. The experience, though obviously universal in the sense that we can find examples of it at every period and in every culture, is nevertheless culture-specific. That is, it is expressed in forms of thought and language peculiar to its historical context. While those who have had the experience may all, or nearly all, "see" beings of light, these will be described variously as Jesus, Buddha, or Krishna depending on who is doing the "seeing" and where. Zaleski points out, for example, that Dante's heaven is much more hierarchical than any heaven in modern NDE experience. But the social order of Dante's time was itself a hierarchical one: "For medieval audiences, the ranking of the blessed in a series of concentric but ascending heavens . .. derived its plausibility - or rather its imaginative power - from the fact that it reflected and affirmed the social order and provided an emblem for the structure of human intelligence." What this cultural component indicates is that, whatever is happening in the NDE, there is certainly a subjective element provided by the individual concerned. If they are indeed viewing a reality of some kind, it is a reality shaped by their own background, conditioning, and life situation. This, of course, does not automatically mean that the NDE itself can be dismissed as "totally subjective." Being human, it is impossible for us to apprehend any reality in this world or the next without bringing to it whatever we ourselves are, and shaping it accordingly. It is possible intellectually to conceive of a totally objective reality in the abstract, but in practice there is no such thing as the "unobserved observer." Even in science, allowance has to be made for the contribution we make in describing "the real world."
A second problem faced by Zaleski and admitted in varying degrees by even the most enthusiastic of the NDE proponents is that of defining death itself. No matter how moving some of the descriptions of journeying into this other realm may be, we have to keep reminding ourselves that the operative word in "near-death experience" is "near." All of these visionaries were near death; they were not actually dead, because, by definition, to be dead is to be at that point from which any kind of physical return is ruled out, Zaleski quotes from an article in the British medical journal, The Lancet: "Death is just beyond the point from which anyone can return to tell us anything." As she goes on to say, the "popular appeal of return-from-death stories rests partly on the assumption that temporary absence of vital signs is equivalent to death."14
The difficulty here is that it is now very hard, even for ethicists and medical experts, to agree on what constitutes death. What's more, as medical technology and skills advance and ever more amazing rescues of the dying are possible, even tentative definitions have to be constantly reexamined and updated. It should be remembered too, in this connection, that even NDE researchers themselves do not want to restrict the NDE too closely to death because they have documented so many cases where the same experience was encountered not near death but during meditation, in the face of extreme danger, while on a drug, or during childbirth. Even allowing for all of this, however, I agree with Moody that while those who experience NDEs are not really dead in the full sense of the word, they have come very much closer to this ultimate experience than the rest of us. Or, as Zaleski puts it, "Whether NDEs occur in the grip of death or only in the face of death, they may still constitute a revelatory encounter with death." These experiences are certainly not proof of a life after death, or of the other realities and entities reported. But, it is argued, they could supply at the minimum some evidence upon which a belief in life after death could reasonably take its stand.
The critics, as one would expect, have come up with a wide variety of natural explanations to account for what the proponents of the NDE claim is a vision of another world or plane of reality. Certainly, as both Zaleski and Moody admit-along with a host of other responsible researchers in this field - it is essential to look hard at the question of whether any sufficient, natural causes exist to explain the phenomenon before leaping to any transcendental conclusions. In The Light Beyond, Moody devotes his final chapter, "Explanations," to a detailed refutation of a range of natural possibilities. Zaleski, too, in an even more thorough manner, considers the critical literature and explanations ranging from the effects of stress on the body to drugs or sensory deprivation. Her chapter is called "Explanations and Counter explanations." There is no need here to repeat everything that has been said pro and con. Instead, I propose to look at the most obvious alternative, the hallucination theory.
Since a large majority of those who have experienced near-death were on various medications at the time of their brush with death, and since altered states of consciousness can be produced by such physiological factors as an acute lack of oxygen (hypoxia or anoxia), or a sudden rush of endorphins, enkephalins, or other as yet unknown chemicals secreted by the brain when stress, pain, or fear occur, many scientists have argued that what we are dealing with here is some form of hallucination. As Zaleski says, as far as the debunkers are concerned, these "endogenous opiates are a neurochemical equivalent for and an answer to grace."15
I believe this theory deserves further consideration. There can be no doubt that the human mind is capable of quite extraordinary thoughts and visions under the right stimuli. Visionary experiences can be produced by extended fasting, by extremes of physical exhaustion, or by hallucinogenic substances. As I have already made clear, I am not personally subject to mystical visions or visitations of any kind. However, I do know what it is like to hallucinate on a chemical substance.
Let me explain. In the summer of 1962 I took a year's leave of absence from my parish in Scarborough, Ontario, to return to Oxford, England, for some postgraduate studies in Patristics, the writings of the early Fathers of the Church. In February 1963, Dr. Frank Lake, a British psychiatrist from Nottingham, came to the university for a series of lectures. Lake was one of the earliest pioneers in the use of lysergic acid, (LSD), in the treatment of the mentally ill. He had been a missionary doctor in India for a number of years, and had spent almost all of his time as a psychiatrist dealing with people heavily involved in organized religion. At his invitation, following one of his lectures, I joined a small group of other clergy who volunteered to assist in a research project. Lake had become discouraged by the difficulty and length of time required for traditional analysis and counselling and was experimenting with LSD as a psychiatric "shortcut." (I would remind the reader that this was well before LSD appeared in North America and became part of the drug scene in any way. At this point, none of us had even heard of it before.) I hitchhiked up to Nottingham one weekend that spring and joined Lake and the others at his centre, a place called Lingwood. An Anglican priest came, and along with four other priests, one of whom had been a distinguished Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain, I received Holy Communion and then was administered some LSD. Each of us had been assigned to a room of his own, and the doctor dropped by frequently to monitor what was going on.
Though it happened over twenty-five years ago, the experience remains perfectly vivid in all its details. I had known nothing like it before, and have never since. At first, it was like seeing technicolor movies run at a very high speed inside my head. The speeded-up images were mainly of various family members, often doing extremely funny things. A tremendous sense of exaltation flooded me and it seemed nothing would ever be impossible - writing a world best-selling novel, rivalling the greatest artists who had ever painted, or composing music as great as Mozart's or Beethoven's. There were sensations of glorious light, and then visions of great beauty, both of the human form and of natural landscapes.
Suddenly, the mood changed, and with a growing sense of dread I approached a tunnel, which was as arid and dry as dust. The sensation of drawing a fingernail over a slate blackboard is the closest I can get to describe the feeling on my skin as I was forced through. From that point on, the "trip" became much worse. Spider-like monsters threatened my very being. Even with my eyes open it seemed as though the room was filled with horrific presences with sinister intent. Quite frankly, it was terrifying until I felt myself growing increasingly angry and wanting to fight back. I imagined myself wielding a short, sharp sword and plunging it into the belly of the enemy creatures, much like Frodo did with Shelob in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. This was followed by a renewed sense of exaltation and awareness of a beauty I had never dreamed existed.
All of this went on for at least two hours, and even much later, when I was able to leave the centre and go for a walk in a nearby park, the "flashbacks" continued. One moment I was in the park watching the children playing and some adults busy with a cricket game, the next I was back in my own inner world with its exaggerated fears and glories. I remember looking across the park at some slumlike houses in the distance. Caught in the rays of the westering sun, they seemed to stand out with a glory that utterly transformed them.
I'm not sure what help any of us were to Dr. Lake in his research. The memory of the experience stands out much more sharply for me today than his conclusions with all of us afterwards. Though I gained no personal insights that could not have been acquired by other means, there was certainly a revelation of a kind. What was instructive was the glimpse into the incredible capacity of the brain to invent, to recall suppressed material, and to put it together in totally unexpected and original ways. There was, however - and this is in marked and important contrast with the NDE - no specifically religious content that I can remember, no visions of God or of Christ, no feeling of being in another realm of existence. Yet, while I would never care to repeat it, nor would I ever recommend it to anyone else, the experience was spiritual in that it further convinced me of dimensions of beauty only hinted at in ordinary life.
It is tempting to infer from this personal account that perhaps the sceptics are right after all. In the NDE some kind of hallucination - possibly nature's way of softening the moment of death - is taking place. Moody himself counters this argument with substantial evidence that a large number of recorded NDEs have taken place when there was a completely flat EEC. '6 "The sheer number of these cases tells me that in some people NDEs have happened when they were technically dead. Had these been hallucinations, they would have shown up on the EEC." The difficulty with this solution, however, is that at the current level of technology an EEG does not give a precise reading in every instance. As Moody himself concedes, "brain activity can be going on at such a deep level that surface
electrodes don't pick it up." What impresses me much more is the remarkable fact that while NDEs vary widely in their tone and content, as we have seen, there is nevertheless a common core of experience running through them all regardless of time or place. It strains credulity in my view to suppose that hundreds of thousands of experiences, all of them hallucinatory, would still manage unanimously to convey such a profound sense of otherworldliness and of having somehow transcended death. I find this all the more cogent when the results of such experiences are almost uniformly positive - loss of the fear of death, commitment to greater love and understanding, and commitment to a greater spiritual, though not necessarily religious, awareness and lifestyle. One other significant point should be made. As Zaleski makes clear, "for every pathological condition presumed [by the critics] to cause near-death visions, one can find subjects who were demonstrably free of its influence; therefore no single psychological or physiological syndrome can account for near-death experience."17
There is one final objection I want to look at before summarizing our findings. It deserves attention both because of the prestige and popularity of its chief proponent and because, at first sight, it has about it an aura of great plausibility. I'm referring to the views of astronomer and keen debunker of all paranormal phenomena, Carl Sagan. In the concluding chapter of his book Broca's Brain, titled "The Amniotic Universe," Sagan uses the symbolism which has gathered around the universal experience of birth to explain away the cluster of experiences reported by those who have had an NDE.
In his view, not only the NDE but almost every major religious concept, from death and rebirth to the primal Eden and the Fall, derives from our unconscious memories of the womb, the birth passage, the emergence into light, and being swaddled and nursed. Religion, from his extremely polemical point of view, is nothing but the vague recollection of profound experiences at a time when we are utterly helpless and inarticulate.
As noted, there is an immediate appearance of verisimilitude about this. Yet, to coin a phrase, the more you scratch the surface of it the more surface there is to scratch. Without attempting to deal with Sagan's theory as it affects the whole of religion, let me simply set out the problems I have with it vis a vis the topic in hand, the NDE.
First, birth, unlike the classical NDE, is an experience of moving from a place of safety, warmth, and total intimacy out into the exposed and separated world of individual existence. However dependent and close to the mother, the baby begins to experience the pain of existence right from the start. With the first breath often comes a cry. Any accounts of birth experiences I have encountered in the relevant literature all stress the element of trauma and pain that attends the moments of our leaving what Sagan calls "the amniotic universe." This is not what the NDE is about.
Second, so far from being "blurred perceptions" or "vague premonitions," as Sagan describes our perinatal memories, reports of the NDE describe a great sense of clarity surrounding both perceptions and the recall of them later. In fact, as we have seen, many liken normal, waking perception to "dreaming" compared with the reality and vividness of what they have gone through.
Third, Sagan deliberately ignores or plays down the extraordinary transformational power of the NDE. Nothing he says, in my view, comes close to explaining why it is that the majority of people who've had a near-death experience find themselves so profoundly moved and changed by the events of their NDE. Something numinous or totally "other" seems to have happened to them.
Sagan, a media-wise, militant sceptic, may be a scientist but he can hardly be viewed as completely objective in his claims at this point. He is a leading member of the American Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. It was founded in 1976 by Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and others to combat media promotion of anything purporting to be mysterious or unexplained - from the Bermuda Triangle to Von Daniken's alien astronauts. There is nothing wrong with any of that except that, in their enthusiasm to expose "pseudo-science," Sagan and company sometimes get carried away and sweep with too wide a broom. They end up at times espousing not science but scientism, the view that only the empirical, scientific method can yield true knowledge. There are few things less scientific than that!
Obviously, if death is indeed a kind of new "birth" into an entirely different dimension of reality and being, it would not be surprising if attempts to describe it were to parallel those attendant on our emergence into the light of this world as infants. But the differences, at least to this investigator, seem to be much greater than the similarities.
After his NDE, Carl Jung wrote: "What happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imaginations and our feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it."18 This view is almost universally held by both those who experience NDEs and the positive NDE researchers. But, of course, we are here still in the arena of faith and not of scientific proof. In her review of Moody's The Light Beyond in the IANDS Journal of Near-Death Studies, Judith Miller, Ph.D., chides Moody for not stating his faith in more positive terms and for not challenging traditional scientific paradigms." Moody, the acknowledged "leader on the cutting edge of this field," begins the book by saying: "We are no closer to answering the basic question of the afterlife now than we were thousands of years ago when it was first pondered by ancient man." In other words, since the evidence provided by NDEs can't be replicated on demand in a scientific laboratory, none of the amazing stories is firm proof of life after death. What the matter comes down to in the end is the authority or weight we give to mystical glimpses or visions of realities other than the empirical world we live in.
Zaleski argues that, like the arguments for the existence of God, the realities attested to by people who have had an NDE belong to a totally different sphere where the question is not so much, Can they be proven to be true? as, Do NDEs give insights which can be verified in one's own experience? She concludes: "We may find no difficulty in respecting the testimony of those whose lives have been transformed by a near-death vision, but we can verify their discoveries only if, in some sense, we experience them for ourselves."
I find the whole expanding exploration and research in this field to be one of the most exciting developments of our time. In my own thinking and research I find myself increasingly (though cautiously) positive about the validity of the NDE as a witness to invisible realities beyond. What carries most weight with me, as I have already suggested, is the consistency and clarity of the stories themselves, together with the undeniable evidence of dramatically changed lives. I know from my own pastoral experience the truth of what researcher Dr. Bruce Grey-son has said. Psychiatry or therapeutic counselling often takes years to bring about only slight changes in people's outlook and behaviour, but "the NDE regularly brings about a total transformation almost overnight."
Chapter 2: The Near-Death Experience
1. Raymond Moody, Life After Life (Georgia: Mockingbird Books, 1975).
2. Philadelphia Enquirer, December 1988, and the IANDS Newsletter, passim. (See bibliography for IANDS address.)
3. Carol Zaleski, Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times, (New "York: Oxford University Press, 1987.)
4. Raymond Moody, The Light Beyond (New "York: Bantam Books, 1988), p. 2.
5. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 104 (May 1971), p. 889-90.
6. Anielajaffe, ed., Memories, Dreams, Reflections (New York, 1965).
7. For further documentation of the NDE and related experiences, I recommend Dr. Michael Sabom, Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation (New York: Harper &. Row, 1982) also Dr. Kenneth Ring, Life at Death, A Scientific Investigation of the Near-Death Experience, and Heading Towards Omega, In Search of the Meaning of the NDE. (See bibliography for details.)
8. Maurice Rawlings, Beyond Death's Door (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978).
9. Margot Grey, Return From Death: An Exploration of the Near-Death Experience (London: Arkana, 1985).
10. Ibid. p. 41.
11. Karlis Osis, review of Return From Death, by Margot Grey, Journal of Near-Death Studies, 1, no. 3, (Spring 1989), pp. 183ff.
12. Grey, Return From Death, p. 72.
13. Carol Zaleski, Otherworld Journeys, p. 7.
14. Ibid. p. 161.
15. Ibid. p. 167.
16. Moody, The Light Beyond, pp. 181ff.
17. Zaleski, Other-world Journeys, p. 175.
18. Carl Jung, quoted by Moody, The Light Beyond, p. 198.
19. Judith Miller, review of The Light Beyond, by Raymond Moody, IANDS Journal of Near-Death Studies, Spring 1989, pp. 191ff.
It is of particular significance because it is an experience of a person from our tradition and it was reflective of that. She experienced and encountered figures (prophets and Imams) from our tradition which I thought was quite striking...
3 August, 2010 12:25PM AEST
Near death experiences A collection of stories told by guests close to their own death, or the death of someone close to them.
People who have hovered at the edge of death tend to tell different stories of their experience.
There are some people who share familiar stories of floating outside their bodies, and up into a long tunnel, sometimes there's a feeling of ecstatic release and peacefulness, others say they see long deceased loved ones at the end of the tunnel beckoning them.
But then there are people like Kerry Packer who dropped dead on a polo field, and was eventually resucitated. His memorable quote was, 'I've been to the other side and there's nothing there mate'.
In this selection of stories:
Lincoln Hall thinks he actually did die on the roof of the world, and now thinks that the line between life and death isn't as black and white as you'd think.
Alison recalls floating in the trees above her damaged body after suffering a brutal assault, and deciding to return to fight for life.
Jack Marx tells of a family encounter with a figure that might have represented death in person, as a kind of premonition of disaster.
Canadian writer Wayson Choy suffered a major combined asthma and heart attack, and spent many days in intensive care hovering between life and death.
There's Helen Garner's story of her vigil beside her father as he peacefully slipped away.
Cartoonist Bill Leak's near death experience was not about long tunnels with lights and welcoming loved ones at the end. There was no music. It was actually kind of humdrum.
And palliative care specialist Dr Frank Brennan tells the story of Michael, close to death, and his two sons.
You can either listen to each Conversations interview by clicking on the audio or you can download each interview as an mp3 by right clicking on the blue heading under the audio.
As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.
The brain is an astonishingly sophisticated but extremely delicate mechanism. Reduce the amount of oxygen it receives by the smallest amount and it will react. It was no big surprise that people who had undergone severe trauma would return from their experiences with strange stories. But that didn’t mean they had journeyed anywhere real.
Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.
In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
I know how pronouncements like mine sound to skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the scientist I am.
Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia, a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.
When I entered the emergency room that morning, my chances of survival in anything beyond a vegetative state were already low. They soon sank to near nonexistent. For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline.
Then, on the morning of my seventh day in the hospital, as my doctors weighed whether to discontinue treatment, my eyes popped open.
Photos: Patients Draw Life-After-Death Experiences
‘You have nothing to fear.’ ‘There is nothing you can do wrong.’ The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief. (Photo illustration by Newsweek; Source: Buena Vista Images-Getty Images)
There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.
But that dimension—in rough outline, the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states—is there. It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey.
I’m not the first person to have discovered evidence that consciousness exists beyond the body. Brief, wonderful glimpses of this realm are as old as human history. But as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled to this dimension (a) while their cortex was completely shut down, and (b) while their body was under minute medical observation, as mine was for the full seven days of my coma.
All the chief arguments against near-death experiences suggest that these experiences are the results of minimal, transient, or partial malfunctioning of the cortex. My near-death experience, however, took place not while my cortex was malfunctioning, but while it was simply off. This is clear from the severity and duration of my meningitis, and from the global cortical involvement documented by CT scans and neurological examinations. According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.
It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but—more importantly—the things that happened during that time. Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky.
Reliving History: The search for the meaning of the afterlife is as old as humanity itself. Over the years Newsweek has run numerous covers about religion, God, and that search. As Dr. Alexander says, it’s unlikely we’ll know the answer in our lifetimes, but that doesn’t mean we won’t keep asking.
Higher than the clouds—immeasurably higher—flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long, streamerlike lines behind them.
Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms.
A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it. Again, thinking about it later, it occurred to me that the joy of these creatures, as they soared along, was such that they had to make this noise—that if the joy didn’t come out of them this way then they would simply not otherwise be able to contain it. The sound was palpable and almost material, like a rain that you can feel on your skin but doesn’t get you wet.
Seeing and hearing were not separate in this place where I now was. I could hear the visual beauty of the silvery bodies of those scintillating beings above, and I could see the surging, joyful perfection of what they sang. It seemed that you could not look at or listen to anything in this world without becoming a part of it—without joining with it in some mysterious way. Again, from my present perspective, I would suggest that you couldn’t look at anything in that world at all, for the word “at” itself implies a separation that did not exist there. Everything was distinct, yet everything was also a part of everything else, like the rich and intermingled designs on a Persian carpet ... or a butterfly’s wing.
It gets stranger still. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. She was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail. She had high cheekbones and deep-blue eyes. Golden brown tresses framed her lovely face. When first I saw her, we were riding along together on an intricately patterned surface, which after a moment I recognized as the wing of a butterfly. In fact, millions of butterflies were all around us—vast fluttering waves of them, dipping down into the woods and coming back up around us again. It was a river of life and color, moving through the air. The woman’s outfit was simple, like a peasant’s, but its colors—powder blue, indigo, and pastel orange-peach—had the same overwhelming, super-vivid aliveness that everything else had. She looked at me with a look that, if you saw it for five seconds, would make your whole life up to that point worth living, no matter what had happened in it so far. It was not a romantic look. It was not a look of friendship. It was a look that was somehow beyond all these, beyond all the different compartments of love we have down here on earth. It was something higher, holding all those other kinds of love within itself while at the same time being much bigger than all of them.
Without using any words, she spoke to me. The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true. I knew so in the same way that I knew that the world around us was real—was not some fantasy, passing and insubstantial.
The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this:
“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”
“You have nothing to fear.”
“There is nothing you can do wrong.”
The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief. It was like being handed the rules to a game I’d been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it.
“We will show you many things here,” the woman said, again, without actually using these words but by driving their conceptual essence directly into me. “But eventually, you will go back.”
To this, I had only one question.
Photos: Patients Draw Life-After-Death Experiences
The universe as I experienced it in my coma is ... the same one that both Einstein and Jesus were speaking of in their (very) different ways. (Ed Morris / Getty Images)
A warm wind blew through, like the kind that spring up on the most perfect summer days, tossing the leaves of the trees and flowing past like heavenly water. A divine breeze. It changed everything, shifting the world around me into an even higher octave, a higher vibration.
Although I still had little language function, at least as we think of it on earth, I began wordlessly putting questions to this wind, and to the divine being that I sensed at work behind or within it.
Where is this place?
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Each time I silently put one of these questions out, the answer came instantly in an explosion of light, color, love, and beauty that blew through me like a crashing wave. What was important about these blasts was that they didn’t simply silence my questions by overwhelming them. They answered them, but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly. But it wasn’t thought like we experience on earth. It wasn’t vague, immaterial, or abstract. These thoughts were solid and immediate—hotter than fire and wetter than water—and as I received them I was able to instantly and effortlessly understand concepts that would have taken me years to fully grasp in my earthly life.
I continued moving forward and found myself entering an immense void, completely dark, infinite in size, yet also infinitely comforting. Pitch-black as it was, it was also brimming over with light: a light that seemed to come from a brilliant orb that I now sensed near me. The orb was a kind of “interpreter” between me and this vast presence surrounding me. It was as if I were being born into a larger world, and the universe itself was like a giant cosmic womb, and the orb (which I sensed was somehow connected with, or even identical to, the woman on the butterfly wing) was guiding me through it.
Later, when I was back, I found a quotation by the 17th-century Christian poet Henry Vaughan that came close to describing this magical place, this vast, inky-black core that was the home of the Divine itself.
“There is, some say, in God a deep but dazzling darkness ...”
That was it exactly: an inky darkness that was also full to brimming with light.
I know full well how extraordinary, how frankly unbelievable, all this sounds. Had someone—even a doctor—told me a story like this in the old days, I would have been quite certain that they were under the spell of some delusion. But what happened to me was, far from being delusional, as real or more real than any event in my life. That includes my wedding day and the birth of my two sons.
What happened to me demands explanation.
Modern physics tells us that the universe is a unity—that it is undivided. Though we seem to live in a world of separation and difference, physics tells us that beneath the surface, every object and event in the universe is completely woven up with every other object and event. There is no true separation.
Before my experience these ideas were abstractions. Today they are realities. Not only is the universe defined by unity, it is also—I now know—defined by love. The universe as I experienced it in my coma is—I have come to see with both shock and joy—the same one that both Einstein and Jesus were speaking of in their (very) different ways.
I’ve spent decades as a neurosurgeon at some of the most prestigious medical institutions in our country. I know that many of my peers hold—as I myself did—to the theory that the brain, and in particular the cortex, generates consciousness and that we live in a universe devoid of any kind of emotion, much less the unconditional love that I now know God and the universe have toward us. But that belief, that theory, now lies broken at our feet. What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more, than our physical brains as clear as I can, both to my fellow scientists and to people at large.
I don’t expect this to be an easy task, for the reasons I described above. When the castle of an old scientific theory begins to show fault lines, no one wants to pay attention at first. The old castle simply took too much work to build in the first place, and if it falls, an entirely new one will have to be constructed in its place.
I learned this firsthand after I was well enough to get back out into the world and talk to others—people, that is, other than my long-suffering wife, Holley, and our two sons—about what had happened to me. The looks of polite disbelief, especially among my medical friends, soon made me realize what a task I would have getting people to understand the enormity of what I had seen and experienced that week while my brain was down.
One of the few places I didn’t have trouble getting my story across was a place I’d seen fairly little of before my experience: church. The first time I entered a church after my coma, I saw everything with fresh eyes. The colors of the stained-glass windows recalled the luminous beauty of the landscapes I’d seen in the world above. The deep bass notes of the organ reminded me of how thoughts and emotions in that world are like waves that move through you. And, most important, a painting of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples evoked the message that lay at the very heart of my journey: that we are loved and accepted unconditionally by a God even more grand and unfathomably glorious than the one I’d learned of as a child in Sunday school.
Today many believe that the living spiritual truths of religion have lost their power, and that science, not faith, is the road to truth. Before my experience I strongly suspected that this was the case myself.
But I now understand that such a view is far too simple. The plain fact is that the materialist picture of the body and brain as the producers, rather than the vehicles, of human consciousness is doomed. In its place a new view of mind and body will emerge, and in fact is emerging already. This view is scientific and spiritual in equal measure and will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all: truth.
Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D. To be published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Copyright (c) 2012 by Eben Alexander III, M.D.
This new picture of reality will take a long time to put together. It won’t be finished in my time, or even, I suspect, my sons’ either. In fact, reality is too vast, too complex, and too irreducibly mysterious for a full picture of it ever to be absolutely complete. But in essence, it will show the universe as evolving, multi-dimensional, and known
This is just my personal opinion.
There is a Farman of Imam SMS saying that in Ibadat you can be Fanaa in God daily for 5 minutes.
We Ismailis can transcend the whole universe.
There no need of NDE with accident,pain and hospital expences and to get
skecthy memories based on the status of the person's soul at that period.
We can experience FDE(full death experience) in a true Enlighted manner.
There are many farmans Of SMS that we can visit Biji duniya.(asal
mubarak me wasal)being very much alive in this life.
Missionary/Bhagat Kara Ruda was one of them.
Soul has eyes n memory and carries baggage of faith with it.
I have had personal experience when I read Koran at a young age in English.
This is just my personal opinion.
There is a Farman of Imam SMS saying that in Ibadat you can be Fanaa in God daily for 5 minutes.
We Ismailis can transcend the whole universe.
There no need of NDE with accident,pain and hospital expences and to get
skecthy memories based on the status of the person's soul at that period.
We can experience FDE(full death experience) in a true Enlighted manner.
There are many farmans Of SMS that we can visit Biji duniya.(asal
mubarak me wasal)being very much alive in this life.
Missionary/Bhagat Kara Ruda was one of them.
Soul has eyes n memory and carries baggage of faith with it.
I have had personal experience when I read Koran at a young age in English.
Absolutely, it is not necessary to go through the NDEs in order to experience the afterlife. We can have it through Ibadat and life based on faith.
However not everyone is convinced about the experience of afterlife and therefore NDEs provide an added 'scientific' proof to those who are not agreeable to the precepts of faith.
NDE stories largely reflect the cultural background and personal beliefs of the people reporting them. They do not prove anything, since they can easily be explained as hallucinations or delusions. (This does not mean that they *are* delusions, only that this is one of the possible explanations.)
Posted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:30 pm Post subject: Near Death Experiences...Anita Moorjani
Dying To Be Me is a book by author Anita Moorjani.
She details her near death experience, after having slipped into a coma due to a very advanced stage of cancer. She also describes how after having this experience, her stage 4, Hodgkins Lymphoma, eventually left her body and her body healed itself. She speaks of this experience and the miraculous recovery she made.
Joined: 07 May 2008 Posts: 2059 Location: TEXAS. U.S.A.
Posted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 5:57 am Post subject:
Thanks for the referring book, I will read it if available in library, BTW there are many books written on this subjects and I read almost all available books in my local library that proves that death is not that bad what we all believes and there is a life after the death.
The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study is the first launched by the Human Consciousness Project, a multidisciplinary collaboration of international scientists and physicians who have joined forces to study the relationship between mind and brain during clinical death, and is led by Dr. Sam Parnia, a world-renowned expert on the study of the human mind and consciousness during clinical death, together with Dr Peter Fenwick and Professors Stephen Holgate and Robert Peveler of the University of Southampton. The team will be working in collaboration with more than 25 major medical centers throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States.
Although the study of death has traditionally been considered a subject for theology or philosophy, recent advances in medicine have finally enabled a scientific approach to understanding the ultimate mystery facing humankind. “Contrary to popular perception,” Dr. Parnia explains, “death is not a specific moment. It is actually a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working, and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.”
“During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present. Subsequently, there is a period of time, ranging from a few seconds to an hour or longer, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process. What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process.”
A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20 per cent of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories, and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.
“The remarkable point about these experiences,” according to Dr. Parnia, “is that while studies of the brain during cardiac arrest have consistently shown that there is no measurable brain activity, these subjects have reported detailed perceptions that indicate the contrary—namely, a high level of consciousness in the absence of detectable brain activity. If we can objectively verify these claims, the results would bear profound implications not only for the scientific community, but for the way in which we understand and relate to life and death as a society.”
During the AWARE study, physicians will use the latest technologies to study the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will also be testing the validity of out of body experiences and claims of being able to see and hear during cardiac arrest through the use of randomly generated hidden images that are not visible unless viewed from specific vantage points above.
The study is being funded by the UK Resuscitation Council, the Horizon Research Foundation, and the Nour Foundation in the United States.
Is it possible to die and be revived back to life? Even though the idea may seem contradictory at first, this is precisely what has been happening more and more due to the progress of resuscitation science. It is the birth of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and intensive care medicine, which dates back to the sixties, that has enabled people who had reached death (by cardiorespiratory criteria) to be resuscitated back to life and subsequently maintained alive through life-support measures (1). Hence, over the past 50 years many people have been brought back after they had died, and some have had very intense life changing experiences.
What is a near death experience?
Since the earliest times, in many cultures, there have been accounts of unusual experiences reported by those who have come close to death or in a situation of physical or emotional crisis giving rise to a pattern of perceptions, creating a recognizable overall event, that has been called an NDE. Though being in a life-threatening situation or having a cardiac arrest does not, by itself, constitute such an experience, since the term is used to describe specific cognitive (2) experiences and sensations such as including detachment from the body, total serenity, security…
It is thus no surprise that during the last twenty or thirty years, media outlets have been replete with articles on these accounts and that they have become the source of many debates and controversies all over the world. For the mystery of death has always fascinated mankind and rarely if ever, are people indifferent to such a topic.
Raymond Moody and near death experiences
Yet, it wasn't really until the 1970s that this subject entered the realms of science and the term NDE was used for the first time. This occurred after Raymond Moody, an American psychiatrist with a background in philosophy, published his best selling book "Life after life", in which he had collected the accounts given by 150 survivors of near death encounters which he obtained while a medical student (3).
Obviously controversies abound regarding the causes of an NDE. Some believe near death experiences can offer glimpses of the afterlife and will feel it is an opportunity to learn more about the mysteries of human existence. Others instead have a more skeptical approach and think an NDE is just an illusion which can be explained in scientific terms (for example brought about by an excess of carbon dioxide etc…). Their curiosity usually arises from wanting to find out the latest on the brain’s tricks or it may just be plain scientific curiosity.
Moving beyond controversy, perhaps, the most striking aspect of these experiences is not so much the features briefly summarized above, but rather the transformation those who have lived through it first hand, usually undergo. In a way similar to mystical, spiritual or religious experiences a near death experience often leaves a person with a positive life effect making him or her more altruistic, more pious, feeling greater empathy and responsibility toward others, less materialistic and less afraid of death, with an increased faith and interest in the meaning of life (4, 5, 6, 7). This effect seems to predominantly reflect the impact of the NDE itself rather than the experience of having come physically close to death. (6, 7) Surely, these long lasting and deep changes in attitudes and behaviors are a reality that can be socially observed unlike the more personal (subjective) experiences we have referred to above.
The Horizon Research Foundation’s website
Now, given the NDE phenomenon’s positive impact on people’s lives, it has been the object of scientific investigation and undoubtedly calls for further research. This is why current and past studies will be described in the articles present in this web site’s near death experiences section (, along with articles on NDEs’ frequency, causes, and other describing the influence of personality, the influence of religion and culture …
Dead for 48 minutes, Catholic Priest claims God is female
A Catholic priest from Massachussetts was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart has revealed a shocking revelation that will change everything you once believed.
The 71-year-old cleric Father John Micheal O’neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure.
Father John Micheal O’neal was rushed to the hospital on January 29 after a major heart attack, but was declared clinically dead soon after his arrival.
With the aid of a high-tech machine called LUCAS 2, that kept the blood flowing to his brain, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital managed to unblock vital arteries and return his heart to a normal rhythm.
The doctors were afraid he would have suffered some brain damage from the incident, but he woke up less than 48 minutes later and seems to have perfectly recovered.
The elderly man claims that he has clear and vivid memories of what happened to him while he was dead. He describes a strange out-of-body experience, experiencing an intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance, as well as being surrounded by an overwhelming light.
He claims that at that point in his experience, he went to heaven and encountered God, which he describes as a feminine, mother-like “Being of Light”.
“Her presence was both overwhelming and comforting” states the Catholic priest. “She had a soft and soothing voice and her presence was as reassuring as a mother’s embrace. The fact that God is a Holy Mother instead of a Holy Father doesn’t disturb me, she is everything I hoped she would be and even more!
The declarations of the cleric caused quite a stir in the catholic clergy of the archdiocese over the last few days, causing the Archbishop to summon a press conference to try and calm the rumors.
Despite the disapproval of his superiors, Father O’neal says that he will continue dedicating his life to God and spread the word of the “Holy Mother”.
“I wish to continue preaching” says the elderly cleric. “I would like to share my new knowledge of the Mother, the Son and the Holy Ghost with all catholics and even all Christians. God is great and almighty despite being a woman…”
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has not confirmed however, if they will allow Father O’neal to resume his preaching in his former parish in South Boston.
Defying death is all in a day's work for our favorite stars of the big screen. But at the end of the day, they're still mortal like the rest of us. Keep clicking to take a look back at 20 stars who survived near-death experiences, starting with Tracy Morgan. The "30 Rock" alum almost died in June 2014 when a Walmart truck crashed into a limousine in which he was riding. The comedian was placed in critical condition immediately following the six-car accident, which claimed the life of his friend James McNair. He also sustained injuries to his brain and required months of outpatient rehabilitation to learn to walk again.
A new study suggests that your life really could flash before your eyes, when close to death. Scientists, from Hadassah University in Jerusalem, analysed near death experience accounts and identified a phenomenon known as a 'life review experience' (LRE).
The team asked 200 people about their experience with LRE, and analysed seven responses in greater detail. Their research revealed reports of people seeing life events flash before them - although not necessarily in chronological order.
They suggest that LRE might happen because the parts of the brain that deals with storing memories are the last to 'shut down' when a body is close to death, because these areas aren't immediately affected by oxygen and blood loss.
What does LRE feel like?
According to The Telegraph, one of the study's participants recounted a distinct lack of time and order: "There is not a linear progression, there is lack of time limits... It was like being there for centuries. I was not in time/space so this question also feels impossible to answer… A moment, and a thousand years... both and neither. It all happened at once, or some experiences within my near death experience were going on at the same time as others, though my human mind separates them into different events."
One participant revealed that he saw things about his father's childhood, while another explained that they could go to each person in the room and feel the pain they had throughout their life. Each person who took part in the study said that their experience of LRE had meant they left with a new perspective on their life and people in it.
The authors explain that: "Re-experiencing one's own life events, so-called LRE, is a phenomenon with well-defined characteristics, and its subcomponents may be also evident in healthy people."
They added: "This suggests that a representation of life events as a continuum exists in the cognitive system, and maybe further expressed in extreme conditions of psychological and physiological stress."
The study was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.
Porch Light People: Individuals who are fully themselves. They are not influenced by “shoulds” from the culture or other people. They instead live from their inner light.
My first Porch Light Profile is about New York Times best selling author Anita Moorjani. I chose her because her book, Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, is one of the most compelling memoirs I’ve ever read. The book details the author’s spontaneous healing of stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma after a near-death experience (NDE). As she lay comatose, her organs shutting down, she “crossed over” to an indescribable realm of love and clarity. In Heaven, she was reunited with loved ones who had passed away. From them she learned she had the choice to return to Earth. They told her if she went back, her cancer would rapidly heal. All she had to do was to live her life fearlessly. What that meant was to love herself unconditionally and be who she was moment by moment.
Reading about Anita’s spontaneous remission from cancer was awe inspiring. Even more fascinating to me was what she learned in her visit to the other side and how it played out when she came back to Earth. Before her NDE, Anita didn’t live by her inner light. In fact, she was very much disconnected from that source. Raised in Hong Kong by Indian parents, she learned to deny her true self at an early age to fit in. She had been people pleasing for so long that the first thought that came to her when she was diagnosed with cancer was, “Good, now I have a reason to take care of myself.”
In my phone conversation with Anita, she assured me that if we all listened to our inner voice and did what felt right, our lives would unfold better than we could ever imagine. In her case, sharing her NDE on an internet forum lead to her getting a publishing contract. After her book’s release, Dying to Be Me, quickly hit the New York Times bestseller list. Its has since been translated into 45 languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. English film director and producer Ridley Scott’s company has optioned the rights to make Dying to Be Me into a full-length feature film.
Anita believes that we are all born connected to an inner guidance system but it gets conditioned out of us. We are taught from a young age to get our validation externally rather than internally. We give our power to people and cultural belief systems that dictate how we should live our lives. If we are constantly trying to be what other people want us to be, we end up not living our own life. Anita’s experience in the heavenly realm set her free from all of that. When she came back, she knew that all she had to do was to be herself and follow her joy. I wondered if living life that way means you never have problems. Anita said that you do, but the problems you attract from following your heart are like a check and balance system to put you back on course. When you resolve them, they take you to the next level of your deepest self.
When I asked Anita if we all had a calling she said, “Yes. We all come here with a destiny, but many of us lose our way.” She believes that not being true to ourselves is a kind of spiritual crisis, and that can lead to conditions like depression, addiction or even cancer, like she had. Our only purpose in life is to be who we are. When we do that, our highest potential unfolds before us. According to Anita, charting your course limits God. Getting out of the way allows life to draw in gifts and solutions that we never dreamed existed.
“We teach best what we most need to learn.” - Richard Bach
There’s good reason for my attraction to Anita’s story. I’ve struggled for years trying to promote my gifts to the world. All my chasing and pursuing has only taken me so far. Reading Dying to Be Me gave me pause to consider that perhaps I’ve been living life backwards. In writing my Porch Light Profiles, I’m trading in industry goals and marketing plans to instead come from my own center. For me, this series is important work. It’s my heart’s longing to know itself. As time goes on, I hope to confirm what Anita learned on the other side. If Porch Light Profiles really are a product of my inner light, then the stories I share will attract readers who need to hear their message. Inspired, they will turn inward and begin to listen.
In horrifying news, researchers have discovered the mind still works after death.
It’s when the heart stops, that you’re pronounced officially dead.
The heart stops pumping blood. The lungs stop receiving blood. The brain no longer works. The pupils no longer dilate. When the heart stops beating, for all medical and scientific purposes, it is the end of life.
But not the end of consciousness, researchers are suggesting.
“We’re trying to understand the exact features that people experience when they go through death,” Dr Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City told The Independent.
“Because we understand that this is going to reflect the universal experience we’re all going to have when we die.”
Parnia and a team of researchers are looking at the experiences of people who've suffered heart attacks, been declared clinically dead, but later revived.
Many of those studied say they could hear, and had awareness of, the conversations happening around them after their heart had stopped beating.
They understood when they were pronounced 'dead' and their recollection of the events after that moment were verified by the nurses or the doctors or the family members also in the room at the time.
The researchers in New York are also calling upon an older study - conducted in 2013 at the University of Michigan - that looked at the brains of rats who were given induced heart attacks.
This research found the cardiac arrest lead to a "hyper-alerted state" in the brain in the moments - or "brief period" - after clinical death, The Independent reports.
The thought is terrifying, and lends a completely different meaning to "going peacefully".
We can only hope that, in their quest for a "universal" truth about death, the researchers might stumble upon something reassuring, something we all want to hear.
This is what a near-death experience really feels like, according to science
1. New research
No one knows for sure what happens after death, but researchers have been working to solve the question of what humans experience when they’re dying.
What do the majority of people see when they’re about to die? What do they feel?
Charlotte Martial, PhD, neuropsychologist at the University of Liège and University Hospital of Liège, Belgium, and her team analyzed the written accounts of near-death experiences from 154 people, publishing the results in Frontiers of Neuroscience. It’s the first rigorous study of this phenomena, Dr. Martial told ScienceDaily.
As it turns out, there are four major events common to these close calls.
Sharing the last days and moments of someone you love can be confronting and scary, but also fulfilling and healing.
Experts in end-of-life care share their advice on how to support loved ones on their final journey.
Empirically investigating brushes with the afterlife
What’s more, as medical technology continues to improve, it’s bringing people back from ever closer to the brink of death. A small, lucky handful of people have made full or nearly full recoveries after spending hours with no breath or pulse, buried in snow or submerged in very cold water. Surgeons sometimes create these conditions intentionally, chilling patients’ bodies or stopping their hearts in order to perform complex, dangerous operations; recently they have begun trying out such techniques on severely injured trauma victims, keeping them between life and death until their wounds can be repaired.
All of this makes NDEs perhaps the only spiritual experience that we have a chance of investigating in a truly thorough, scientific way. It makes them a vehicle for exploring the ancient human belief that we are more than meat. And it makes them a lens through which to peer at the workings of consciousness—one of the great mysteries of human existence, even for the most resolute materialist.
Which is how I found myself last summer in Newport Beach, California, at the annual conference of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (iands), which has been a formal organization since 1981. I wanted to know: What makes a person start believing that he has truly seen the other side? Why does one person’s other side look so similar to so many other people’s? And is there a way for science to get at what’s really going on?
WHY MEDICAL SCIENTISTS TAKE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES SERIOUSLY NOW
Today, we know much more about what happens to people when they die—and what we are learning does not support materialism
01:55 | Definition of a near-death experience
Walter Bradley (right): A near-death experience is a term that describes what today has become quite common in emergency rooms across the country as well as in highway accidents and so forth in which a person has a complete loss of heartbeat and brainwaves… And if they are resuscitated, what can they tell us about that intervening period where they were so-called clinically dead and yet, in many cases, they have remarkable experiences during that interval of time? So it’s called a near-death experience in that it wasn’t permanent.
But at least in the time period that we are interested in, they were clinically dead in the sense that their physical body was medically dead. But it didn’t mean that they ceased to exist. So I think that some of the most interesting empirical data that’s been accumulating over the past thirty to forty years about this mind-body question has come through these so-called near-death experiences, which provide what I think of as remarkable evidence for what happens after we die—as told to us by people who actually did die and were subsequently resuscitated—and come back with these amazing stories.
"Note: In the past, near-death experiences, including insights gained while clinically dead, could be dismissed as wishful or fearful thinking. But today the evidence, wherever it points, is taken seriously. For one thing, no one has succeeded in explaining these experiences away. Last fall, a psychologist admitted as much in a major psychology publication:
“NDEs have never been satisfactorily explained in neurobiological terms. Various theories have been suggested, such as hallucinations caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, undetected brain activity during the period when the brain appears not to be functioning, the release of endorphins, a psychological ‘depersonalisation’ in response to intense stress, and so on. All of these theories have been found to be problematic.”
STEVE TAYLOR, “NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES AND DMT” AT PSYCHOLOGY TODAY (OCTOBER 12, 2018)
In past few decades there has been scientific studies on NDE and OBE. In my opinion these experiments are related to dreams, imaginations, hallucinations, and subconscious mind. After real physical and clinical death, when angel of death takes soul out of body there is no way the soul will enter body again.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum