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Evidence Science

Some People Were Dead For Several Days

George Rodonaia (died 2004) underwent one of the most extended cases of a near-death experience ever recorded. Pronounced dead immediately after he was hit by a car in 1976, he was left for three days in the morgue. He did not “return to life” until a doctor began to make an incision in his abdomen as part of an autopsy procedure. Prior to his NDE he worked as a neuropathologist. He was also an avowed atheist. Yet after the experience, he devoted himself exclusively to the study of spirituality, taking a second doctorate in the psychology of religion. He then became an ordained priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He served as a pastor at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Baytown, Texas. Reverend Rodonaia is one of the NDE experiencers profiled on this page who was dead for days during his NDE. The following is Dr. Rodonaia’s experience in his own words from Phillip Berman’s book, The Journey Home: What NDEs and Mysticism Teach Us About the Meaning of Life and Living.

Table of Contents

  1. Reverend George Rodonaia’s NDE
  2. George Rodonaia’s Verified OBE Perception
  3. P.M.H. Atwater’s Tribute to George Rodonaia
  4. Other People Who Were Apparently Dead For Days

1. Reverend George Rodonaia’s NDE

Rev. George Rodonaia held an M.D. and a Ph.D. in neuropathology, and a Ph.D. in the psychology of religion. He delivered a keynote address to the United Nations on the “Emerging Global Spirituality.” Before emigrating to the United States from the Soviet Union as a political dissident in 1989, he worked as a research psychiatrist at the University of Moscow. 

“The first thing I remember about my NDE is that I discovered myself in a realm of total darkness. I had no physical pain, I was still somehow aware of my existence as George, and all about me there was darkness, utter and complete darkness – the greatest darkness ever, darker than any dark, blacker than any black. This was what surrounded me and pressed upon me. I was horrified. I wasn’t prepared for this at all. I was shocked to find that I still existed, but I didn’t know where I was. The one thought that kept rolling through my mind was, “How can I be when I’m not?” That is what troubled me.

“Slowly I got a grip on myself and began to think about what had happened, what was going on. But nothing refreshing or relaxing came to me. Why am I in this darkness? What am I to do? Then I remembered Descartes’ famous line: “I think, therefore I am.” And that took a huge burden off me, for it was then I knew for certain I was still alive, although obviously in a very different dimension. Then I thought, If I am, why shouldn’t I be positive? That is what came to me. I am George and I’m in darkness, but I know I am. I am what I am. I must not be negative.

“Then I thought, How can I define what is positive in darkness? Well, positive is light. Then, suddenly, I was in light; bright white, shiny and strong; a very bright light. I was like the flash of a camera, but not flickering – that bright. Constant brightness. At first I found the brilliance of the light painful, I couldn’t look directly at it. But little by little I began to relax. I began to feel warm, comforted, and everything suddenly seemed fine.

“The next thing that happened was that I saw all these molecules flying around, atoms, protons, neutrons, just flying everywhere. On the one hand, it was totally chaotic, yet what brought me such great joy was that this chaos also had its own symmetry. This symmetry was beautiful and unified and whole, and it flooded me with tremendous joy. I saw the universal form of life and nature laid out before my eyes. It was at this point that any concern I had for my body just slipped away, because it was clear to me that I didn’t need it anymore, that it was actually a limitation.

“Everything in this experience merged together, so it is difficult for me to put an exact sequence to events. Time as I had known it came to a halt; past, present, and future were somehow fused together for me in the timeless unity of life.

“At some point I underwent what has been called the life-review process, for I saw my life from beginning to end all at once. I participated in the real life dramas of my life, almost like a holographic image of my life going on before me – no sense of past, present, or future, just now and the reality of my life. It wasn’t as though it started with birth and ran along to my life at the University of Moscow. It all appeared at once. There I was. This was my life. I didn’t experience any sense of guilt or remorse for things I’d done. I didn’t feel one way or another about my failures, faults, or achievements. All I felt was my life for what it is. And I was content with that. I accepted my life for what it is.

“During this time the light just radiated a sense of peace and joy to me. It was very positive. I was so happy to be in the light. And I understood what the light meant. I learned that all the physical rules for human life were nothing when compared to this unitive reality. I also came to see that a black hole is only another part of that infinity which is light.

“I came to see that reality is everywhere. That it is not simply the earthly life but the infinite life. Everything is not only connected together, everything is also one. So I felt a wholeness with the light, a sense that all is right with me and the universe.

“I could be anywhere instantly, really there. I tried to communicate with the people I saw. Some sensed my presence, but no one did anything about it. I felt it necessary to learn about the Bible and philosophy. You want, you receive. Think and it comes to you. So I participated, I went back and lived in the minds of Jesus and his disciples. I heard their conversations, experienced eating, passing wine, smells, tastes – yet I had no body. I was pure consciousness. If I didn’t understand what was happening, an explanation would come. But no teacher spoke. I explored the Roman Empire, Babylon, the times of Noah and Abraham. Any era you can name, I went there.

“So there I was, flooded with all these good things and this wonderful experience, when someone begins to cut into my stomach. Can you imagine? What had happened was that I was taken to the morgue. I was pronounced dead and left there for three days. An investigation into the cause of my death was set up, so they sent someone out to do an autopsy on me. As they began to cut into my stomach, I felt as though some great power took hold of my neck and pushed me down. And it was so powerful that I opened my eyes and had this huge sense of pain. My body was cold and I began to shiver. They immediately stopped the autopsy and took me to the hospital, where I remained for the following nine months, most of which I spent under a respirator.

“Slowly I regained my health. But I would never be the same again, because all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was study wisdom. This new interest led me to attend the University of Georgia, where I took my second Ph.D., in the psychology of religion. Then I became a priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eventually, in 1989, we came to America, and I am now working as an associate pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Nederland, Texas.

“Many people have asked me what I believe in, how my NDE changed my life. All I can say is that I now believe in the God of the universe. Unlike many other people, however, I have never called God the light, because God is beyond our comprehension. God, I believe, is even more than the light, because God is also darkness. God is everything that exists, everything – and that is beyond our ability to comprehend at all. So I don’t believe in the God of the Jews, or the Christians, or the Hindus, or in any one religion’s idea of what God is or is not. It is all the same God, and that God showed me that the universe in which we live is a beautiful and marvelous mystery that is connected together forever and for always.

“Anyone who has had such an experience of God, who has felt such a profound sense of connection with reality, knows that there is only one truly significant work to do in life, and that is love; to love nature, to love people, to love animals, to love creation itself, just because it is. To serve God’s creation with a warm and loving hand of generosity and compassion – that is the only meaningful existence.

“Many people turn to those who have had NDEs because they sense we have the answers. But I know this is not true, at least not entirely. None of us will fully fathom the great truths of life until we finally unite with eternity at death. But occasionally we get glimpses of the answer here on Earth, and that alone is enough for me. I love to ask questions and to seek answers, but I know in the end I must live the questions and the answers. But that is okay, isn’t it? So long as we love, love with all our heart and passion, it doesn’t matter, does it? Perhaps the best way for me to convey what I am trying to say is to share with you something the poet Rilke once wrote in a letter to a friend. I saw this letter, the original handwritten letter, in the library at Dresden University in Germany. (He quotes from memory, as follows:)

“Be patient with all that is unresolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves. Do not seek for the answers that cannot be given. For you wouldn’t be able to live with them. And the point is to live everything, live the questions now, and perhaps without knowing it, you will live along some day into the answers.”

“I place my faith in that. Live the questions, and the universe will open up its eyes to you.”

2. George Rodonaia’s Verified Out-of-Body Perception

The book entitled, The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences, by Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, Rudolf H. Smit, Robert Mays, and Janice Holden, documents P.M.H. Atwater‘s research into Rodonaia’s extraordinary case of veridical out-of-body telepathic perception of an injured infant and George’s wife during his NDE from Atwater’s book Beyond The Light. The following is an excerpt:

“When Rodonaia thought of his body, he saw it lying in the morgue. He remembered everything that had happened. He was also able to ‘see’ the thoughts and emotions of his wife, Nino, and of the people who had been involved in the accident. It was as if they had their thoughts ‘inside of him.’ He then wanted to find out the ‘truth’ of those thoughts and emotions. By expressing a longing for greater knowledge, he was confronted by mental images of existence and thus became acquainted with thousands of years of history.

“When he returned to his body in the morgue, he was drawn to a nearby hospital, where the wife of a friend had just had a baby. The newborn was constantly crying. He examined the baby, a girl. His ‘eyes’ were like X-rays that could look right through the little body. This ability enabled him to draw the conclusion that the baby had broken its hip during delivery. He spoke to her, ‘Don’t cry. Nobody understands you.’ The baby was so astonished by his presence that she immediately stopped crying. According to Rodonaia, children are able to see and hear transmaterial apparitions. The child reacted to him, he believes, because he was ‘a physical reality’ to her.

“After three days, when the autopsy of Rodonaia’s body was just getting under way, he succeeded in opening his eyes. At first, the doctors thought it was a reflex, but Rodonaia appeared to have actually come back from the dead, even though his death and his frigid condition had both been confirmed. He was in poor condition physically, but after three days, the first words he spoke were about the baby that urgently needed help. X-rays of the baby confirmed that he was right.

“At one point, Atwater interviewed Rodonaia’s wife, Nino, who stated that during his NDE, Rodonaia had actually witnessed what she had seen. According to Nino, he had actually had telepathic contact with her. In an email dated July 28, 2015, Atwater wrote Rivas the following about this aspect of the case:

“George told me that as part of his near-death experience, among the many things he could do was to be able to enter the minds of all his friends and find out whether or not they were really friends. During this entry process, he also entered the mind of this wife, Nino. When he did, he both saw and heard his wife picking out his gravesite. As she stood there looking at the gravesite, in her head, she pictured several men she would consider being her next husband. She made a list for herself of their various qualities, pro and con, to decide which one would be the most suitable.

“After George revived and his tongue shrunk back to its normal size so George could talk (this took three days), George greeted his wife. He told her about the gravesite scenario. He described everything she saw there. Then he told her everything she thought about while there, the specific men she was considering to be her next husband and [the] list she was making in her mind about their various pros and cons. He was correct in every detail. This so freaked her out that she refused to have much to do with him for a year. I had no sense that this was telepathic, but real, physically real, as if George’s mind was physically inside his wife’s mind. He saw what she saw. He also saw what she thought.

“When I met Nino and both children, I asked Nino if I could talk to her about that incident at the gravesite and her list of qualities of the men she was considering marrying. She described the incident for me and that all of this was done in the privacy of her own mind. She only thought about the men and their various qualities. The list was her own. When her suddenly, newly alive, formerly dead husband talked about that personal moment at the gravesite, named the men she thought about, and then went on to ‘read’ the list back to her that she made for each man, she was utterly shocked at his accuracy and how he could even do this. This shock was felt as if an affront against her right to privacy, the intimate privacy of her own mind. I asked if it was true that she would have little or nothing to do with him for a year. She said, yes, it was true. She could not sleep in the same room with him. When I asked why, her answer was: ‘I no longer had the privacy of my own mind. This was very hard to take.'” (The Self Does Not Die, p.130-132)

Nino also confirmed what happened at the hospital, the first words he said after his tongue swelling went down, of his friend’s wife having just given birth to a daughter, he told the doctors to get right up to the maternity ward and X-ray that baby’s hip, that it had been broken by the attending nurse who had dropped the baby. George was a doctor himself and he described the hip break in detail. The doctors rushed up to the maternity ward, had the baby X-rayed and found the break exactly as described by George. They then confronted the nurse with what they found and she admitted to dropping the baby. She was immediately fired.

3. P.M.H. Atwater’s Tribute to George Rodonaia

“I knew George well; he was part of my research base and a brief version of his story is in my book Beyond the Light. I say “brief” because what happened to George is beyond the scope of books about the near-death phenomenon and could have easily been a book unto itself. George was a vocal Soviet dissident during the time when such a stance could get you killed. And that is exactly what happened – he was assassinated by the KGB. Because his case was highly political, an autopsy had to be performed. His corpse was stored in a freezer vault for three days until then. He revived on the autopsy table as he was being split open by the doctors, one of which was his own uncle. Of all the cases I have investigated in my 26 years of work in the field, his is the most dramatic, the longest, the most evidential, and the most soul-stirring. Now our beloved George Rodonaia has returned “Home” to stay. During the years afterward, he never failed to share his story and to help others every way he could. My only regret is, he never wrote his own book about his experience. Yet, perhaps he did, on everyone’s heart who ever heard him. Blessings, dear George, you will be missed.” — Dr. P.M.H. Atwater

4. Other People Who Were Apparently Dead For Days

The other NDE testimony is about a Russian man who was frozen solid for 22 days in a state of suspended animation resulting from an attempted murder and burial. The story was printed in the January 1999 online edition of the Russian newspaper Pravda. This remarkable event involved the man being revived after 22 days of being buried under the snow. The article is entitled, “Man Revives 22 Days After Being Killed and Buried” and here it is:

A stockman, named only as Granatkin, from a district food base in one of Russia’s towns, had to have a similar, albeit a more horrible experience in his life. A man named Mechnik attempted to kill the stockman: he hit him on the head, took the body to the forest and buried it under the snow. Lumbermen incidentally uncovered the frozen body and took it to the morgue. A local pathologist refused to do the autopsy – the body was too hard. The next day the pathologist said that the man’s eye pupils did not look like dead. Furthermore, the man’s nails turned pink after the doctor pressed them in his fingers. The man spent 22 days lying under a thick layer of snow, but it appeared that he was still alive. The pathologist diagnosed a deep lethargic sleep, which had been caused with a blow on the head. To everyone’s great astonishment, stockman Granatkin came to his senses and recovered. He was lucky to wear very warm clothes on the day of his murder; the snow saved him from severe frost too.

I found another article on the Internet about the above story but the text is in broken English although it is very readable. Here it is:

Much more complicated in the case of the Grodno district storekeeper product base Granatkin. Someone once tried to kill the Swordsman him struck storekeeper fatal blow to the head by some heavy object, took to the woods and buried in the snow. After 22 days the body turned into a “piece of ice”, accidentally discovered the loggers. The corpse was taken to the morgue, but the local coroner was unable to conduct an autopsy – the body was too hard. Decided to postpone the inquiry until the morning… In the morning, the surgeon noticed that the pupils of the eyes are not like the eyes of a dead person, the nails when you also slightly pink. These were signs that people had lain in the snow for 22 days without moving, without food or water, are still signs of life. However Granatkin was breathing, no palpable pulse. The doctor diagnosed a deep lethargy caused due to hit in the head. And soon the “dead” by doctors… woke up!

Granatkin saved from complete freeze that he was warmly dressed, and was covered with a thick layer of snow.

Categories
Evidence Science

Some People Receive Verified Visions of the Future

Near-death experiencers have received visions of the future, both personal and apocalyptic. Some were told the future is not predetermined because humans have the power to change it by enlightening the awareness of enough people to change current trends. In this respect, an apocalyptic prophecy that doesn’t occur is a prophecy that was successful. An apocalyptic prophecy that occurs is a failure. The reason that God does not intervene to prevent them from happening, is because to do so, would interfere directly with human spiritual and physical development. An example of this principle can be found when environmentalists refuse to interfere with nature so that evolution can continue unabated.

An example of the future being changed can be found in the NDE account of Karen Schaeffer. During her NDE, she was shown the future of her children, as it would happen, if she decided to remain in heaven. She was told that if she returned to life, the future she saw would not happen. Her decision was to return and, therefore, the future she saw did not happen.

Although God does not wish these apocalyptic prophecies to occur, God will allow them to occur for the purpose of instructing humanity. These apocalyptic prophecies are remarkably consistent. In general, they describe visions of global war and/or natural disasters of unimaginable capacity that threaten civilization. Experiencers were revealed the reason these catastrophes happen. It is because humanity is not in tune with nature because of war and environmental transgressions. For more information on prophecies yet to happen, read the NDEs and the Future web page.

1. Important NDE Visions of the Future Which Have Occurred

In 1975, the following prophecies were given to Dannion Brinkley during his NDE.

a. An actor will become president whose initials are R. R. and will project the image of being a cowboy to the rest of the world.

Shortly after his NDE in 1975, Brinkley told Dr. Raymond Moody that perhaps this person was Robert Redford. It turned out to be Ronald Reagan. This demonstrates that experiencers can receive visions of the future, but they may not be able to interpret them.

b. In the area of the Middle East, anger and hatred will reach a boiling point. Religion will play a large role in these problems, as will the economy. Israel will become isolated from the rest of the world. Saudi Arabia will give money to countries, such as North Korea, and make deals and shake hands. (Dannion Brinkley)

The following clip from a newspaper article verifies that Brinkley’s NDE prophecy of the future has occurred.

c. In 1986, a nuclear explosion of a massive cement structure, near a river in Russia, will occur. Hundreds of people will die. This disaster has something to do with the word Wormwood.

The Russian word, Chernobyl, literally means Wormwood, a type of plant. The nuclear explosion Brinkley foresaw was the Chernobyl explosion of the nuclear reactor in Russia.

d. The Soviet Union will collapse because of economic problems. The Russian people will lose faith in communism. Great food shortages will happen. The Russian mafia will gain much power. Soviet-style communism will die. The Being of Light told Brinkley the following:

“Watch the Soviet Union. How the Russian people go, so goes the world. What happens to Russia is the basis for everything that will happen to the economy of the free world.”

The collapse of the Soviet Union occurred in 1989 due to economic problems which created great food shortages of food and a stronger influence of the Russian mafia.

e. In 1990, a great desert war will be fought. Armies will race toward one another and lightning-like explosions will occur.

The U.S. military operation called Desert Storm occurred in 1990 where the U.S. army squashed the Iraqi army for occupying Kuwait.

f. Missiles with chemical warheads will occupy the desert of the Middle East. There will be worldwide fear of the intentions of the Arab nations that have them.

It is common knowledge today that chemical weapons exist in Middle East. One point of great interest is the Being of Light’s warning given to Brinkley:

“If you follow what you have been taught and keep living the same way you have lived the last 30 years, all of this will surely be upon you. If you change, you can avoid the coming war. If you follow this dogma, the world by the year 2004 will not be the same one you now know. But it can still be changed and you can help change it.” – The Being of Light to Dannion Brinkley

g. A biological engineer from the Middle East will find a way to alter DNA and create a biological virus that will be used in the manufacture of computer chips.”

A technological breakthrough occurred in 1998 when two Israeli researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology discovered a process in which strands of DNA are incorporated into a working electronic component.

h. On September 1st, ten days before the New York terrorist attacks, Brinkley announced that the world is on the verge of a:

“spiritual awakening which calls for deep self-examination.”

Brinkley called for a global Day of Truth to occur on September 17, 2001, where people could:

“… take time before this date to personally examine our own lives and priorities as citizens of Earth in this time of transition. This is a wake-up call. For it is only as we are willing to see and to embrace all of our deeply human fragmented realities that the light of grace can shine upon us.”

Something certainly awoke Brinkley to make this announcement and it is reasonable to assume it was the September 11 terrorist attack. Brinkley isn’t the only experiencers who received a vision of this terrorist attack.

Another near-death experiencer, Ned Dougherty, received similar visions of the future during his NDE. One of Ned’s visions was published in his book, Fast Lane to Heaven, six months before September 11th which states:

“A major terrorist attack may befall New York City or Washington, DC, severely impacting the way we live in the United States.”

2. Dannion Brinkley’s Near-Death Experience

In 1975, Dannion Brinkley was talking on the phone during a thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning hit the phone line, sending thousands of volts of electricity into his head and down his body. His heart stopped, and he died, but in the process, he had an NDE. When Brinkley revived in the morgue after twenty-eight minutes of death, he had an incredible story to tell. The following is an except from his book Saved by the Light with Paul Perry.

The next sound I heard was like a freight train coming into my ear at the speed of light. Jolts of electricity coursed through my body, and every cell of my being felt as if it were bathed in battery acid. The nails of my shoes were welded to the nails in the floor so that when I was thrown into the air, my feet were pulled out of them. I saw the ceiling in front of my face, and for a moment I couldn’t imagine what power it was that could cause such searing pain and hold me in its grip, dangling over my own bed. What must have been a split second seemed like an hour.

From immense pain I found myself engulfed by peace and tranquility. It was a feeling I had never known before and have not had since. It was like bathing in a glorious calmness. I had no idea what had happened, but even in this moment of peacefulness I wanted to know where I was.

I began to look around, to roll over in midair. Below me was my own body, thrown across the bed. My shoes were smoking and the telephone was melted in my hand. I could see Sandy run into the room. She stood over the bed and looked at me with a dazed expression, the kind you might find on the parent of a child found floating facedown in a swimming pool.

Tommy showed up in less than ten minutes. He knew something was wrong because he had heard the explosion over the telephone. I watched as Tommy held me and cursed the slowness of the ambulance, which we could hear approaching in the distance. I hovered above the three of them – Sandy, Tommy, and myself – as the medical technicians loaded me onto the stretcher and wheeled me to the ambulance.

From where I hovered, about fifteen feet above everyone, I could see the pouring rain hitting my face and drenching the backs of the ambulance crew. The perspective I had was that of a television camera. Without passion or pain, I watched as the person on the stretcher began to twitch and jump. I looked toward the front of the ambulance to a spot over my dead body. A tunnel was forming, opening like the eye of a hurricane and coming toward me. I actually didn’t move at all; the tunnel came to me.

There was the sound of chimes as the tunnel spiraled toward and then around me. Soon there was nothing to be seen – no crying Sandy, no ambulance attendants trying to jump-start my dead body, no desperate chatter with the hospital over the radio – only a tunnel that engulfed me completely and the intensely beautiful sound of seven chimes ringing in rhythmic succession.

I looked ahead into the darkness. There was a light up there, and I began to move toward it as quickly as possible. I was moving without legs at a high rate of speed. Ahead the light became brighter and brighter until it overtook the darkness and left me standing in a paradise of brilliant light. This was the brightest light I had ever seen, but in spite of that, it didn’t hurt my eyes in the least. Unlike the pain one might feel when walking into sunlight from a dark room, this light was soothing to my eyes.

I looked to my right and could see a silver form appearing like a silhouette through mist. As it approached I began to feel a deep sense of love that encompassed all of the meanings of the word. It was as though I were seeing a lover, mother, and best friend, multiplied a thousand fold. As the Being of Light came closer, these feelings of love intensified until they became almost too pleasurable to withstand.

The Being of Light stood directly in front of me. As I gazed into its essence I could see prisms of color, as though it were composed of thousands of tiny diamonds, each emitting the colors of the rainbow.

I felt comfortable in his presence, a familiarity that made me believe he had felt every feeling I had ever had, from the time I took my first breath to the instant I was sizzled by lightning. Looking at this being I had the feeling that no one could love me better, no one could have more empathy, sympathy, encouragement, and nonjudgmental compassion for me than this being.

The Being of Light engulfed me, and as it did I began to experience my whole life, feeling and seeing everything that had ever happened to me. It was as though a dam had burst and every memory stored in my brain flowed out.

When I finished the life review, I arrived at a point of reflection in which I was able to look back on what I had just witnessed and come to a conclusion. I was ashamed. I realized I had led a very selfish life, rarely reaching out to help anyone. Almost never had I smiled as an act of brotherly love or just handed somebody a dollar because he was down and needed a boost. No, my life had been for me and me alone. I hadn’t given a damn about my fellow humans.

I looked at the Being of Light and felt a deep sense of sorrow and shame. I expected a rebuke, some kind of cosmic shaking of my soul. I had reviewed my life and what I had seen was a truly worthless person. What did I deserve if not a rebuke?

As I gazed at the Being of Light I felt as though he was touching me. From that contact I felt a love and joy that could only be compared to the nonjudgmental compassion that a grandfather has for a grandchild.

“Who you are is the difference that God makes,” said the Being. “And that difference is love.”

There were no actual words spoken, but this thought was communicated to me through some form of telepathy. To this day, I am not sure of the exact meaning of this cryptic phrase. That is what was said, however.

Again I was allowed a period of reflection. How much love had I given people? How much love had I taken from them? From the review I had just had, I could see that for every good event in my life, there were twenty bad ones to weigh against it. If guilt were fat, I would have weighed five hundred pounds.

As the Being of Light moved away, I felt the burden of this guilt being removed. I had felt the pain and anguish of reflection, but from that I had gained the knowledge that I could use to correct my life. I could hear the Being’s message in my head, again as if through telepathy:

“Humans are powerful spiritual beings meant to create good on the Earth. This good isn’t usually accomplished in bold actions, but in singular acts of kindness between people. It’s the little things that count, because they are more spontaneous and show who you truly are.”

I was elated. I now knew the simple secret to improving humanity. The amount of love and good feelings you have at the end of your life is equal to the love and good feelings you put out during your life. It was just that simple.

“My life will be better now that I have the secret,” I said to the Being of Light.

It was then that I realized that I wouldn’t be going back. I had no more life to live. I had been struck by lightning. I was dead.

Like wingless birds, we swept into a city of cathedrals. These cathedrals were made entirely of a crystalline substance that glowed with a light that shone powerfully from within. I was awestruck. This place had a power that seemed to pulsate through the air. I knew that I was in a place of learning. I wasn’t there to witness my life or to see what value it had had, I was there to be instructed.

When we entered the structure, the Being of Light was with me no more. I looked around for him and saw no one. Rows of benches were lined up across the room, and that radiant light made everything glow and feel like love. I sat on one of the benches and looked around the room for my spiritual guide.

In the next moment the space behind the podium was filled with Beings of Light. They faced the benches where I was sitting and radiated a glow that was both kindly and wise.

I sat back on the bench and waited. What happened next was the most amazing part of my spiritual journey.

I was able to count the beings as they stood behind the podium. There were thirteen of them, standing shoulder to shoulder and stretched across the stage. I was aware of other things about them, too, probably through some form of telepathy. Each one of them represented a different emotional and psychological characteristic that all humans have. For example, one of these beings was intense and passionate, while another was artistic and emotional. One was bold and energetic, yet another possessive and loyal. In human terms, it was as though each one represented a different sign of the zodiac. In spiritual terms, these beings went far beyond the signs of the zodiac. They emanated these emotions in such a way that I could feel them.

Now more than ever I knew that this was a place of learning. I would be steeped in knowledge, taught in a way that I had never been taught before. There would be no books and no memorization. In the presence of these Beings of Light, I would become knowledge and know everything that was important to know. I could ask any question and know the answer. It was like being a drop of water bathed in the knowledge of the ocean, or a beam of light knowing what all light knows.

The Beings came at me one at a time. As each one approached, a box the size of a videotape came from its chest and zoomed right at my face.

The first time this happened I flinched, thinking I was going to be hit. But a moment before impact, the box opened to reveal what appeared to be a tiny television picture of a world event that was yet to happen. As I watched, I felt myself drawn right into the picture, where I was able to live the event. This happened twelve times, and twelve times I stood in the midst of many events that would shake the world in the future.

At the time I didn’t know these were future events. All I knew was that I was seeing things of great significance and that they were coming to me as clearly as the nightly news, with one great difference: I was being pulled into the screen.

[Dannion Brinkley is then given prophetic visions, then returns to his body.]

Categories
Evidence Science

Quantum Theory Supports Near-Death Experiences

Scientific knowledge is always in a state of flux. New scientific discoveries come along and overthrow long-held hypotheses. A good example of this is the attempt by humanity to explain the phenomenon of light. Before the dawn of science, humanity relied on religious experience and philosophy to understand light and the cosmos. The Bible declares the universe began when God said, “Let there be light.” Ancient religious texts throughout history have associated light with divine consciousness – a consciousness from which everything, including all other consciousness, originated. The Bible declares, “God is light.” Eminent physicist, David Bohm, viewed all matter as “condensed” or “frozen light.” Physicist Stephen Hawking once stated ,”When you break subatomic particles down to their most elemental level, you are left with nothing but pure light.” Science discovered light was pervasive at the beginning of the universe. Scientists recently discovered the so-called “God Particle” – the particle which bestows mass upon all other particles. This particle is very crucial to physics because it is our final understanding of the structure of all matter. Albert Einstein‘s great equation E=mc2 (where E is for energy, m for mass and c is the speed of light) describes the awesome power and energy holding all atoms together. Surprisingly, the Bible supports Einstein’s equation when it declares: “God is the invisible power holding all things together.” This transcendent view of consciousness is the basis for major world religions. So it shouldn’t be surprising why top quantum physicists were influenced by religion. Erwin Schrodinger, for example, studied Hinduism; Werner Heisenberg looked into Plato’s theory of the ancient Greeks; Niels Bohr was drawn to the Tao; Wolfgang Pauli to the Kabbalah; and Max Plank to Christianity.

Table of Contents

  1. The holistic merger of science and spirituality
  2. Quantum physics and the NDE
  3. Quantum interconnectivity and the NDE
  4. The holographic universe and the NDE
  5. The holonomic brain and the NDE
  6. Quantum consciousness and the NDE
  7. Nonlocal consciousness and the God spot
  8. Quantum superposition and the NDE
  9. The many-worlds theory and the NDE
  10. The many-minds theory and the NDE
  11. The zero-point field and the NDE
  12. Black hole physics and the NDE
  13. Biocentrism and the NDE
  14. Subjective experiences and the NDE
  15. Scientific articles on NDEs and its relationship to physics

1. The holistic merger of science and spirituality

The scientific discovery of the nature of light is the cornerstone of modern physics and natural law. It is also the cornerstone of near-death studies and modern consciousness research. Over the centuries, science has yielded some very unusual, almost “god-like,” properties of light. The recently discovered “God particle” – the elusive particle which gives mass to every other particle – is one of the greatest discoveries in science. Light was pervasive at the time of the Big Bang. Light is the fastest thing in the universe and travels at 671 million miles per hour. It takes an infinite amount of energy to move an object to the speed of light. At the speed of light, the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously. If a person could travel at the speed of light, they would become immortal. There is also the quantum theory of superposition where matter can exist in more than one dimension at the same time – making anomalous phenomena such as NDEs and OBEs possible. Physicists have experimentally demonstrated how two particles can be separated, and no matter by how far apart they are (even a billion miles apart), a change in one particle instantly creates a simultaneous change in the other as if they were connected. This phenomenon called “quantum entanglement” which Einstein called “spooky actions from a distance” and is suggestive of an underlying reality which physicists have not yet been able to explain although there are many theories. Light also has a “dual personality” existing as both a particle and a wave. The reason we can see anything at all is because our mere observation of things converts light waves into light particles thereby making human consciousness the main factor when it comes to reality.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) the Swiss psychologist and near-death experiencer who founded analytical psychology, is best known for his psychological concepts including archetypes, the collective unconscious, dream analysis, and synchronicity. His interest in philosophy and metaphysics led many to view him as a mystic. Following discussions with both Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli (two founding fathers of quantum physics) Jung believed there were parallels between synchronicity and the relativity of time and its connection to consciousness.

Scientists are discovering how objective reality is more of an illusion than a reality. At deeper levels, everything – atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, and people participate in a connected flowing web of information. At the quantum level, the observer becomes a part of the observed and the distinction between observer and object disappears. Space and time are concepts we bring with us to the quantum level but they do not seem to exist there. Time flows both forward and backward symmetrically according to relativity – a concept making time travel a possibility. And because all matter, including our brains and bodies, are mostly composed of empty space because of the structure of atoms held together by atomic energy, a metaphysical case can be made that we are mostly composed of non-physical “spirit.” At the quantum level, location becomes nonlocal and everything can be thought of as being in no particular place at no particular time. What we “see” out there has more to do with our own consciousness and subjective experience than anything “out there”. In light of these findings, we must conclude the notion of objective reality is in error. Physicists are discovering laws of physics are the laws of our own minds.

One of the most compelling theories is called the holographic principle which defines the universe as a single, gigantic hologram where everything is connected to everything else including our minds. The holographic principle is supported by one of the most significant theoretical physicists of the 20th century, David Bohm, who began the holomovement in physics. Neurophysiologist Karl Pribram synchronistically arrived at a holographic model of the mind and brain at the same time as David Bohm developed the holomovement in physics. Surprisingly, these holographic models may be the basis for all mystical experiences including the NDE. These holographic models are part of a new emerging paradigm called “holism” which is the opposite of reductionism. It is the paradigm where all natural systems – physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, etc. – and their properties, should be viewed as a whole and not the sum of its parts. A corresponding theory of quantum consciousness was developed by the joint work of theoretical physicist, Sir Roger Penrose, and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff. Like David Bohm and Karl Pribram before them, Penrose and Hameroff developed their theories synchronistically. Penrose approached the problem of consciousness from the view point of mathematics, while Hameroff approached it from his career in anesthesia which gave him an interest in brain structures. Quantum consciousness is the theory of an underlying consciousness connecting everyone and everything and is based upon quantum fields being interpreted as extending infinitely in space.

Carl Jung referred to this connection between all life as the “collective unconscious” also known as the “collective subconscious.” Jung theorized how synchronicity serves a role similar to dreams, with the purpose of shifting a person’s egocentric conscious thinking to greater wholeness. Jung was transfixed by the idea of life not being a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, which he and Wolfgang Pauli referred to as “one world” – a term referring to the concept of an underlying unified reality of the universe from which everything emerges and returns to. Jung believed this principle of an underlying “world” can express itself through synchronicity and is the basis for quantum mysticism. Quantum theories such as the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and its corresponding many-minds theory supports this new paradigm. These quantum theories also supports the theory of quantum immortality which theoretically makes the immortality of a non-physical “soul” possible. If one views consciousness as a fundamental, non-physical, part of the universe, it becomes possible to conceive of consciousness continuing to exist after the death in a parallel universe. These quantum and holographic paradigms assume anomalous phenomena such as NDEs to certainly be within the realm of possibilities.

2. Quantum physics and the NDE

Just as surprising is how NDE encounters with an otherworldly light correspond with the new paradigm found in the principles of quantum physics. Classical mechanics involving observing, theorizing, and predicting doesn’t work very well when it comes to understanding light, consciousness, and subjective experiences – especially when it concerns the NDE. The old paradigm allowed materialists and skeptics to dismiss NDEs as being caused by brain anomalies – even though the cause of NDEs is not relevant to whether the experience is a real afterlife experience or not. Nevertheless, recent NDE studies have ruled out brain anomalies. Anyway, brain anomalies are side-effects of the near-death experience and not the cause of them. Skeptics must confront their unscientific logical fallacy of claiming NDEs are either hallucinations or are impossible since the brain is the origin of consciousness and a dead brain produces nothing. Even if one assumes NDEs to be merely a chemical reaction in the brain, there is no human experience of any description which cannot simply be reduced to a biological process, but this in no way offsets the meaning these experiences have for those who have them – whether it’s falling in love, or grieving, or having a baby, or coming close to death and having a transcendental experience.

3. Quantum interconnectivity and the NDE

Theoretical quantum physics supports the notion of our universe as being a conscious universe of which all other consciousness is a fractal. Many scientists no longer believe in a randomly generated universe from some sort of primal dust. Nobel prize winning molecular biologist Christian de Duve describes the universe as having a cosmic imperative to develop conscious life. The very structure of molecules composing living creatures dictates the evolution of conscious life. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle agreed how the fundamental laws of the universe governing the creation of planets, suns and galaxies implies conscious life will be the end result of those universal laws. Evolutionary biologist Rupert Sheldrake goes even further, describing how “morphic forms” – patterns of energy which first exist in the universe – results in life. If these compelling theories are true, then it is possible to apply them to other dimensions of reality made up of other elementary subatomic particles. Anomalous phenomena such as NDEs then becomes less like “fantasy” and more like the perceptions of conscious beings in other realties which can be predicted by modern science. NDEs may simply be clinical applications of the experiments physicists have discovered in the lab.

For example, a European astrophysicist by the name of Metod Saniga used NDE research to develop a mathematical model of time which seems to offer solutions to problems vexing scholars since Einstein. In brief, Dr. Saniga takes seriously the testimony of NDErs when they describe experiences in a realm where “time stops” and where some of them “see the past, present, and future all at once.” Dr. Saniga describes this realm as “the Pure Present.” Dr. Saniga used these anomalous experiences to describe a single mathematical model which can account for both the conventional and the extraordinary ways humans experience time.

4. The holographic universe and the NDE

The father of the new paradigm, Albert Einstein, may have had the old paradigm in mind when he said, “All knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.” The old paradigm denies a whole range of valid subjective experiences such as NDEs, OBEs, and mystical experiences. Severe cracks in the old paradigm began to appear when, in 1982, a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of the most important experiments of the 20th century. They discovered subatomic particles were able to remain in contact with one another regardless of the distance separating them – even if the distance is billions of miles. Aspect’s findings seemed to violate the long-held theory of the impossibility of faster-than-light travel. These findings are suggestive of a deeper level of reality where all things in the universe are infinitely interconnected. Aspect’s findings influenced one of the most significant theoretical physicists of the 20th century, David Bohm, to develop a profound mathematical theory where all the apparent separateness in the universe to be an illusion. Bohm’s theory, ultimately known as the Holographic Principle, describes the universe to be a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram.

An example of a hologram appears in the movie “Star Wars” when an illusionary holographic image of Princess Lea was projected by the robot R2D2. The notion of reality as illusionary goes back to ancient indigenous people who believed existence to be a dream or an illusion. Modern developments in science have led theoretical physicists to view reality in a similar manner – a reality composed of a matrix, grids, virtual reality, simulation and holograms.

A holographic universe explains the supersymmetry found in the universe and suggests how, at the quantum level, everything – atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, and people participate in a connected flowing web of information. For example, the electrons in a carbon atom in the human brain are connected to the subatomic particles comprising every other human brains – even with every star in the sky. All of nature can ultimately be viewed as one seamless web. In a holographic universe, time and space become an illusion. The past, present, and future all exist simultaneously suggesting the possibility of science to someday be able to reach into the holographic level of reality and extract scenes from the long-forgotten past – a phenomenon which has already been documented in NDE research from the life review.

Another aspect of a holographic universe is the mathematical proof of every part of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole. If we try to take apart something constructed holographically, we will not get the pieces of which it is made, we will only get smaller wholes. This “whole in every part” nature of a holographic universe may be the basis for mystical experiences such as the NDE. It also agrees with the view of eastern mysticism: all consciousness exists as a part of a single Whole and a single Whole within all consciousness. This holographic paradigm supports mathematical principles found in fractal geometry and the metaphysical concept of non-physical fractal souls existing in a fractal universe. A holographic universe could theoretically be viewed as a Matrix bringing into existence everything else in our universe: all matter and energy – from atoms, to solar systems, to galaxies, etc. Such a Matrix could be viewed as a kind of cosmic storehouse of “All That Is” or the metaphysical concept of an “akashic field.” Such a Matrix of “all information” could also be the basis for the NDE life review. David Bohm believed a holographic level of reality may be a “mere stage” beyond which lies “an infinity of further development.” According to physicist Fred Alan Wolf, NDEs can be explained using a holographic model where death is merely a shifting of a person’s consciousness from one dimension of the hologram to another. Craig Hogan, a physicist at Fermilab, generated even more interest in a holographic universe when he discovered proof of a holographic universe in the data of a gravitational wave detector.

Profound evidence supporting the fractal nature of consciousness within a fractal universe can be seen the image on the right. On March 16, 2006, the journal Nature published a report of the discovery of an unprecedented elongated double helix nebula (see the image on the right) near the center of our Milky Way galaxy using observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. According to Mark Morris, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, said, “Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the cosmic realm. Most nebulae are either spiral galaxies full of stars or formless amorphous conglomerations of dust and gas – space weather. What we see indicates a high degree of order.” Notice how closely the DNA molecule looks like a fractal of this nebula.

Other evidence supporting the fractal nature of consciousness can be seen in the images on the left. Mark Miller, a doctoral student at Brandeis University, researched how particular types of neurons in the brain are connected to one another. By staining thin slices of a mouse’s brain, Miller could then identify the connections visually. The result can be seen in the image on the left labeled “The Brain Cell” (courtesy of Dr. Clifford Pickover) showing three neuron cells on the left (two red and one yellow) and their connections. By comparing The Brain Cell image with The Universe image, we can easily see how these objects have the same structure. This begs the questions, “Do we exist within a gigantic brain?” and “Is the law of physics merely the laws of our own minds?” Learn more about the fractal nature of reality in Dr. Pickover’s outstanding book The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection. His other books, The Math Book and The Medical Book, are equally outstanding. Visit his main website and Twitter site.

The Universe image above was created by an international group of astrophysicists called The Virgo Consortium using a computer simulation to recreate how the universe grew and evolved. The image is a snapshot of the present universe featuring a large cluster of galaxies (bright yellow) surrounded by thousands of stars, galaxies and dark matter. There are several theories of the universe within particle physics called “brane cosmology” where “brane” is a reference to “membrane” in M-Theory. In theoretical physics, a “brane” is a mathematical concept where our four-dimensional universe is restricted to a “brane” inside a higher-dimensional space composed of eleven theoretical dimensions – the three dimensions we can see, plus the dimension of time, plus the seven extra dimensions we can’t see but M-theory theorizes are all around us. Surprisingly, the number of these dimensions agree with the number of “afterlife realms” described by NDEs and the major ancient religions of the world.

The Internet image on the left is a visualization of the Internet showing the various routes through a portion of the Internet. Notice how the structure of a brain cell is the same as the structure of the Internet and the universe. Is this merely a coincidence? Or do these images graphically demonstrate the ancient principle of “as above, so below.” The Internet image was generated by The Opte Project (pronounced op-tee which is Latin word for “optical”) started by Barrett Lyon whose goal was to make an accurate representation of the extent of the Internet using visual graphics. The project was started in October 2003 in an effort to provide a useful network mapping of the Internet for the purposes of helping students learn more about the Internet. This map can also be used to visualize sites of disasters in the world by citing the significant destruction of Internet capabilities after a disaster. It can also be used as a gauge for the growth of the Internet and the areas of growth. But it also shows how the structure of the Internet is developing along the same lines as the structures of the human brain and the universe. The Universe image is featured at the Boston Museum of Science, the Museum of Modern Art and the Louvre.

5. The holonomic brain and the NDE

This “holistic” view of reality (as opposed to reductionist theories) can also be applied to the human brain. The holographic principle was a catalyst towards a theory of quantum consciousness called the “holonomic brain theory” which explains how the brain encodes memories in a holographic manner. This theory originated from neurophysiologist Karl Pribram who synchronistically arrived at a holographic model of the mind at the same time David Bohm was developing a holographic model of the universe. Taken all together, this holographic model is part of a new emerging paradigm called “holism.” Holism is the principle of a whole system being more than just the sum of its parts. The best way to study the behavior of many complex systems is to treat it as a whole.

One of the most amazing things about the human thinking process is how every piece of information seems instantly cross-correlated with every other piece of information within the brain – another feature intrinsic to the hologram. Because every portion of a hologram is infinitely interconnected with every other portion, the human brain is perhaps nature’s supreme example of a cross-correlated, holistic system.

A holistic storage of memory in the brain becomes more understandable in light of Pribram’s holographic model of the brain. Another holistic property of the brain is how it is able to translate the avalanche of frequencies it receives via the senses (light frequencies, sound frequencies, etc.) into the concrete world of our perceptions. Consciousness and perception processes sources of light energy. Encoding and decoding light frequencies is precisely what a hologram does best. Just as a hologram functions as a lens which translates meaningless blurs of frequencies into a coherent image, Pribram theorizes the brain also comprises a lens (e.g., the eye) and uses holographic principles to mathematically convert frequencies received by the senses into the inner world of our perceptions. An impressive body of evidence suggests the brain uses holographic principles to perform its operations. Pribram’s theory, in fact, has gained increasing support among neurophysiologists.

6. Quantum consciousness and the NDE

A corresponding theory of quantum consciousness known as Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) was developed by the joint work of theoretical physicist, was developed by the joint work of theoretical physicist, Sir Roger Penrose, and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff. Like David Bohm and Karl Pribram before them, Penrose and Hameroff developed their theories synchronistically. Penrose approached the problem of consciousness from the view point of mathematics, while Hameroff approached it from his career in anesthesia which gave him an interest in brain structures.

Mainstream theories assume consciousness emerged from the brain, so they focus particularly on complex computation at synapses allowing communication between neurons. Orch-OR assumes classical physics cannot fully explain consciousness. In the June 1994 issue of Discover Magazine, an article ran called “Quantum Consciousness” about how consciousness and quantum physics are intimately connected. This theory suggests consciousness can be found inside the microtubules of brain cells. At death, the information energy inside these microtubules – what some people refer to as the “soul” – doesn’t disappear; but instead, is retained in the universe. One of the fundamental laws in physics, the first law of thermodynamics, is energy cannot be created nor destroyed – it can only be converted. So if consciousness is indeed a form of energy, then according to the first law of thermodynamics, consciousness cannot be destroyed. Instead, it is converted into something else.

On September 6, 2011, National Geographic published the article, “9/11 and Global Consciousness” about how random number generators at Princeton University’s Global Consciousness Project detected a dramatic spike around the world before the time of the terrorist attack – an indication of global consciousness. The director of the project, Dr. Roger D. Nelson, describes in a YouTube video the details of this event. The media paid relatively little attention to this project until Nelson published his paper, “Coherent Consciousness and Reduced Randomness: Correlations on September 11, 2001.

These findings of a global consciousness are also supported NDE experiencers such as Ned Dougherty. During his NDE, Dougherty received visions of the future and were published six months before the September 11th terrorist attack. Here is what the prophecy stated as published in his book “Fast Lane to Heaven“:

“A major terrorist attack may befall New York City or Washington, DC, severely impacting the way we live in the United States.” (Ned Dougherty)

This prophecy given to Ned Dougherty is just one of the visions of the future he received during his NDE. Other near-death experiencers, such as Dannion Brinkley, were also visions of terrorist attack in New York and Washington. In fact, a great number of NDEs involve visions the future.

The old materialistic paradigm, prevalent mostly in the West, disregards the possibility of out-of-body dimensions; whereas, the new paradigm supports them. For this reason, open-minded scientists have acknowledged the time is now to abandon the old paradigm and focus on the new one. Disregarding the old paradigm became even more reasonable when, in December of 2001, The Lancet (the United Kingdom’s highly respected journal of medicine) published the results of a study by Dr. Pim van Lommel showing 18 percent of clinically dead patients having NDEs. Lommel’s study documented verified events observed by such patients from a perspective removed from their bodies – called “veridical perception” – suggesting the existence of a transcendent consciousness. Such studies beg the question of why the scientific community at large remains mostly silent about these facts. Perhaps this is the reason why.

Science may never be able to answer the question of whether or not consciousness survives bodily death; but current near-death studies, such as The AWARE Study (AWAreness during REsuscitation) is trying to find out. The director of this study, Dr. Sam Parnia M.D., is a critical care physician and director of resuscitation research at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York. Dr. Parnia is recognized as an authority on the scientific study of death, the human mind–brain relationship, and near-death experience. Dr. Parnia is also the author of What Happens When We Die (2006) and Erasing Death: The Science That is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death (2013). In the late 90s, Dr. Parnia and Dr. Peter Fenwick he set up the first study of NDEs in the UK. Since then, they have published several articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals [1] [2] [3] in the field of near-death studies. Since Dr. Parnia has been part of the AWARE study, launched by The Human Consciousness Project, twenty-five participating hospitals across Europe and North America have been examining reports of patients after their clinical death, several of whom are expected to have an out-of-body experience with physical perceptions of their surroundings. A major objective of the AWARE study is to test whether the perceptions reported by these patients can be verified. One method involves a visual target being placed near the ceiling where it can only be seen by someone reading it from above; patients who report OBEs are then asked to describe it. Read about the latest update of this study.

7. Nonlocal consciousness and the God spot

Consciousness and the possibility of its survival after death is perhaps the final frontier of science. Although a large body of knowledge exists about the brain, “The brain has not explained the mind fully” according to renowned brain surgeon Wilder Penfield. Materialistic science has yet to produce a conclusive model of consciousness. This is mainly due to its inability to quantify first-person, subjective experiences. Materialism views only objective, observable experiments verifiable by third parties to be valid. The current scientific method relies only upon repeatable experiments to verify a hypothesis; but its limit is reached when quantifying consciousness. Mainstream materialistic scientists claim consciousness is produced entirely by the brain. This is analogous to claiming television sounds and images are produced entirely by television sets, despite the fact television sounds and images are produced by TV stations transmitting nonlocal radio waves. This analogy describes consciousness based not upon the brain, but the brain based upon consciousness. There are a multitude of anomalous phenomena including NDEs which cannot be explained using the scientific method. These anomalous phenomena provides a theoretical basis for a nonlocal model of consciousness while materialistic scientists are unable to explain how immaterial, conscious, subjective experiences can arises from a material brain.

Medical scientists have discovered areas within the brain collectively known as the “God Spot” which permits communication with cosmic information outside of material bodies. Theoretical physicists call this “quantum nonlocality.” Psychologists call it the “collective unconscious.” Hindus call it “Brahman.” Buddhists call it “Nirvana.” Jews call it “Shekhinah.” Christians call it the “Holy Spirit“; Christ and his disciples are called the “light of the world.” New age adherents call it the “Higher Consciousness.” According to Dr. Melvin Morse, the children he has resuscitated from death simply call it “God.”

8. Quantum superposition and the NDE

Atoms and sub-atomic particles can exist in two or more locations simultaneously as multiple coexisting possibilities known as quantum superposition. The reason why we do not see quantum superpositions on a large scale in everyday life is known as the “measurement problem” which has led to various interpretations of quantum mechanics. Early experiments by quantum pioneer Niels Bohr and others seemed to show how quantum superpositions, when measured by a machine, stayed as multiple possibilities until a conscious human observed the results. Bohr concluded “conscious observation collapses the probability wave function” and unobserved superpositions continue to exist until being observed, at which time they too are collapsed to particular random states. According to Bohr, this “consciousness causes the collapse” of quantum possibilities places consciousness within the realm of science. But materialistic science views consciousness strictly on classical physics rejecting the possibility of quantum nonlocality in consciousness and equates the mind with the brain. Perhaps this is the reason Bohr made his famous statement, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”

However, recent evidence linking biological functions to quantum processes supports the possibility of consciousness having nonlocal quantum functions in the brain. This suggests the nature of conscious experience requires a world view in which consciousness has irreducible components of reality. This interpretation defines superpositions becoming separations in reality with each possibility evolving its own distinct universe – giving a multitude of universes. The difference between this theory and Bohr’s interpretation is how the separations are randomly selected from among the superpositioned possibilities. The superposition of these locations can then viewed as separations in the very fabric of reality. This theory posits such conditions have evolved within the brain – inside brain neurons – where microtubules process quantum superpositions giving us our subjective reality. This quantum process within the brain may be the basis for consciousness transcending and surviving physical death as revealed in NDEs. In such altered states, the quantum process of superpositions may shift consciousness to different dimensions of higher frequencies. When NDEs occur, it is possible the quantum information of which consciousness is made of could shift to an existence outside the brain nonlocally. This supports the idea of the mind not being a material brain.

9. The many-worlds theory and the NDE

An important principle of quantum physics is how human observation cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there’s a range of possible observations to chose from in the form of probability waves each having a different probability and reality. With every thought, observation and action we make, we are constantly choosing just one of these possible probabilities of reality. One mainstream explanation for this is the “many-worlds interpretation” where each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe within a “multiverse.” This theory describes the existence of an infinite number of universes – including our own – which comprises all reality. This theory includes possible universe(s) where death doesn’t exist, for example. The theory includes all possible universes existing at the same time despite what happens in any of them. Many-worlds theorizes our continuous choice of reality from possible probabilities does not collapse the universal wave function of all the other possible probabilities. Many-worlds implies all possible alternative histories and futures are real. Before the many-worlds interpretation, reality had always been viewed as a single unfolding history. Many-worlds, however, views reality as a many-branched tree, wherein every possible quantum outcome is realized. In many-worlds, every possible outcome of every event defines or exists in its own universe.

This many-worlds interpretation supports the NDE phenomenon called “flash-forward” where the experiencer is shown visions of possible futures should the experiencer decide to remain in the light or return to life. This phenomenon has been reported to occur to convince the experiencer to return their life because of an incomplete mission in life. One great example is found in the NDE testimony of Karen Schaeffer:

“I could feel myself becoming lighter each moment. In a fit of fear and panic I began crying. No, I couldn’t be dead. What would happen to my son? … In an embrace of love, they calmed me by showing me that my son, my entire family would be okay after my death. My mother could lean on my grandmother. It would take time, but she would heal. My husband, hurt, sad, and lonely would also heal and eventually find love once again … I was shown my funeral … But wait, my son. I couldn’t leave my son … I was told others would be a mother for me. First grandparents, and then they showed me Jake’s life … I saw a new mom for Jake when he was about 7 or 8 … I couldn’t let go of my human life … Finally, my hysteria was calmed by a higher spirit who seemed to envelop me in love. My guides were instructed to allow me to return.” (Karen Schaeffer)

Dr. Kenneth Ring described two kinds of precognitive visions in the NDE: (1) the personal “flash-forward” and the (2) “prophetic vision.” A third category, defined by NDE researcher Craig Lundahl is the “otherworld personal future revelation” (OPFR). The OPFR resembles the personal flash-forward in how it previews the experiencer’s personal future, but differs from the personal flash-forward in how it is delivered to the experiencer by another personage in the otherworld rather than appearing in the visual imagery of a life review. The OPFR differs from the prophetic vision in having a personal rather than planetary focus. Lundahl cites four historic accounts to illustrate major features of the OPFR: (1) entrance into the otherworld, (2) encounter with (3) others who foretell the experiencer’s future, and (4) later occurrence of the foretold events.

10. The many-minds theory and the NDE

The many-minds interpretation of quantum mechanics is an extension of the many-worlds interpretation by proposing distinctions between worlds should be made at the level of the mind of an individual observer. This is the principle supporting the theory of quantum immortality – an interpretation of quantum mechanics which theoretically makes it possible for a human observer to have a continuous infinity of minds in communicating parallel universes. These observer states may then be assumed to correspond to definite states of awareness (i.e., many minds) as in the classical description of observation. In order to make this theory work, the mind must be a property which can separate from the body as suggested in NDEs and OBEs.

11. The zero-point field and the NDE

In quantum theory, the “zero-point field” is a quantum vacuum state or “void” which generally contains nothing but electromagnetic waves and particles popping into and out of existence. A zero-point field of the universe is supportive of the holographic principle where consciousness and memories are not localized in the brain but are distributed throughout a holographic universe. Brains, acting as receivers, access certain frequencies of quantum information to process. This universal zero-point field describes the world and universe as a dynamic web where everything is connected, where consciousness influences matter and creates reality, and where all things are possible. According to Albert Einstein, “Space and time are modes in which we think, not conditions in which we live.”

Dr. Ervin Laszlo, twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, is an integral theorist and champion of this zero-point field as instrumental when understanding consciousness and the universe. Laszlo is generally recognized as the founder of systems philosophy who emphasizes the importance of establishing a holistic perspective on the world and man through quantum consciousness. Lazlo’s groundbreaking book, “Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything” makes a compelling case for the zero-point field to be the substance of the entire universe. It can theoretically be viewed as the source of all consciousness and matter in the universe. Using the Hindu concept of a “cosmic memory” called the “akashic records,” Laszlo theorizes the zero-point field to be the fundamental energy and information-carrying field of the universe, past and present, including all possible parallel universes. Laszlo describes how such an informational field explains why the universe appears to be fine-tuned as to form conscious life forms. Laszlo’s zero-point akashic field theory solves several problems in quantum physics from nonlocality to quantum entanglement.

Laszlo’s theory agrees with revelations from the Christian mystic Edgar Cayce. When Cayce was asked where he received his psychic information, he answered it was from “the intelligent infinity” as it is “brought into intelligent energy” as a gateway to view the present. Cayce acknowledged this “gateway” to be equivalent to the Hindu concept of the “akashic records” and the Christian concept of the “Book of Life.” Cayce revealed these otherworldly records are stored in a heavenly “Hall of Records” which corresponds to the so-called “Temple of Knowledge” or the “Temple of Wisdom” appearing in many NDE testimonials.

Dr. Laszlo’s theory is supported by important scientific research. For example, biologist Paul Pietsch experimented with salamanders to locate where memories are stored in the brain. He removed their brains, grinded them up, even shuffling their brains around, and then placed them back in their heads. The astonishing result was their memories where unaffected although their brains were demolished. Pietsch’s conclusion was memory was not a local phenomenon, but is linked to something outside their bodies. His findings were published in his book, Shufflebrain: The Quest for the Hologramic Mind.

Neuroanatomist Harold Burr conducted similar experiments with salamanders and discovered a field of light surrounding their unfertilized eggs in the shape of an adult salamander. Burr also noticed fields of light surrounding plant seeds taking the shape of mature plants. Burr’s research supports Pietsch’s findings of physical bodies being connected to a surrounding energy field. Burr’s findings where published in his book, The Fields of Life: Our Links with the Universe. This energy field may account for the salamander parts growing back when they are removed. This energy field may also explain why human amputees sometimes feel “phantom pain” from their amputated body part as described by NDE expert Robert Mays. This energy field also supports the phenomenon of people having undergone organ transplants taking on certain memories from the organ donor. The discovery of an “electromagnetic zero-point field” lends credibility to the possibility of having vast memory storage capabilities outside of the physical body. Phenomena such as these can be best understood if the zero point field can be “tapped” as a storage location for information and energy which can be accessed at any time.

This zero point field has parallels to “the void” and the “Omega Point” described in near-death research and championed by the near-death expert Dr. Kenneth Ring in his book, “Heading Toward Omega: The Search for the Meaning of Near-Death Experiences.” One example is the Omega Point is found in the NDE of Olaf Swenson who experienced a timeless spaceless realm when he nearly died of a botched tonsillectomy at age 14. He states:

“Suddenly I rolled into a ball and smashed into another reality. The forces that brought me through the barrier were terrific. I was on the other side. I realized that the boundary between life and death is a strange creation of our own mind, very real (from the side of the living), and yet insignificant.”

Swenson felt he was floating in a universe with no boundaries.

“I had total comprehension of everything. I stood at the annihilation point, a bright orange light. As I felt my mind transported back to my body, I thought, please let me remember this new theory of relativity.”

The information Swenson gained during his NDE inspired him to develop over 100 patents in molecular chemistry. (Dr. Kenneth Ring)

12. Black hole physics and the NDE

In the 1970s, Stephen Hawking put forward a theory of black holes which appeared to violate a major principle of physics – the law of the conservation of information – because it implied quantum information can permanently disappear within a black hole with the exception of “Hawking radiation.” Hawking’s inconsistent theory led to what was called the “Black Hole Information Paradox.” Physicist Leonard Susskind (pictured on the left) later solved this paradox with his development of M-theory using the holographic principle to show how information entering the edge of a black hole is not lost, but can entirely be contained on the surface of the horizon in a holographic manner. Susskind’s theory solved the paradox because the nature of a hologram’s two-dimensional information structure can be “painted” on the edge of the black hole thereby giving a three-dimensional black hole where quantum information is not lost. Susskind’s solution to the information paradox led to wide-spread acceptance of the holographic principle.

David Bohm was convinced all matter in the universe, including our physical body, is composed of light in a condensed “frozen” state. NDE experiencers have often described their spirit bodies as “bodies of light.” During an NDE the experiencer transitions from the material world which operates at speeds less than the speed of light to a dimension which operates at faster-than-light speed. The NDE experiencer may first observe the earth or the universe from space before this transition. In transitioning from the material to the spiritual dimension, the experiencer may first enter a “NDE tunnel” much in the same way a “body of light” might experience what astrophysicists call a “black hole.” As previously mentioned, Leonard Susskind’s theory of black holes allows for light particles to travel through a black hole without being destroyed. At faster-than-light speed, a “body of light” could enter into a time and spaceless dimension where this body of light can move forward and backward through space-time. This NDE tunnel, like a black hole, appears to be a “portal” to another dimension of reality.

In the late 1980’s, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne described how objects known as wormholes can exist in space which theoretically allows for time travel. Such wormholes could essentially be two connecting black holes whose mouths make up a tear in the fabric of space-time. NDE experiencers have observed such a tunnel described as “two huge tornadoes appear in the form of an immense hourglass” (P.M.H. Atwater, Beyond the Light.) The upper tornado spins clockwise and outward, while the lower tornado spins counter-clockwise and inward which is an excellent description of a wormhole. The Science Channel documentary “Through The Wormhole” has an excellent segment on NDEs. Rev. George Rodonaia‘s also has an excellent description of this NDE/Black Hole:

“I was so happy to be in the light. And I understood what the light meant. I learned that all the physical rules for human life were nothing when compared to this unitive reality. I also came to see that a black hole is only another part of that infinity which is light. I came to see that reality is everywhere. That it is not simply the earthly life but the infinite life. Everything is not only connected together, everything is also one. So I felt a wholeness with the light, a sense that all is right with me and the universe.” (Rev. George Rodonaia)

13. Biocentrism and the NDE

Dr. Robert Lanza is considered one of the leading scientists in the world. He is a medical researcher at the forefront of developments in cloning, organ transplantation, and stem-cell transplantation. His mentors described him as a “genius” and the “Bill Gates of Science.” As a young preteen, Lanza caught the attention of Harvard Medical School researchers when he successfully altered the genetics of chickens as a class project. Eventually, he was discovered and mentored by such scientific giants as psychologist B.F. Skinner, immunologist Jonas Salk, and heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard. A Fulbright Scholar, Lanza was part of the team cloning the world’s first human embryo for the purpose of generating stem cells. Dr. Lanza’s work has been crucial to our understanding stem cell biology. A year after receiving his medical degree Lanza published a book on heart transplantation. In 2009, he published a book entitled, “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe.” Reviews of his work include Nobel laureate E. Donnall Thomas who stated “Any short statement does not do justice to such a scholarly work. The work is a scholarly consideration of science and philosophy bringing biology into the central role in unifying the whole.”

Biocentrism‘s main tenet is biology being the most important science in understanding life and the universe. Other sciences require a more deeper understanding of biology – specifically life and consciousness – to make their theories of everything complete. The areas of biological research playing a central role in understanding life and consciousness must include neuroscience, brain anatomy, NDE and OBE consciousness studies, and even artificial intelligence – all of which will eventually force materialistic scientists to seriously confront the issues biocentricism raises. Robert Lanza also uses his theory of Biocentrism to explain the possibility of consciousness surviving death by such articles as: (1)What Is It Like After You Die?,” (2)Is Death the End? Experiments Suggest You Create Time,” (3)Does Death Exist?: Life Is Forever, Says Theory,” and (4)What Happens When You Die? Evidence Suggests Time Simply Reboots.”

Biocentrism also explains a major scientific paradox of how the laws of physics fits so precisely allowing for conscious life to exist. There are over 200 precise parameters in physics describing the universe which suggests the universe is fine-tuned for an environment which life and consciousness requires. There are four explanations for this paradox: (1) it is an astonishingly improbable coincidence, (2) God created it – an explanation which science cannot quantify even if it is true, (3) the “Anthropic Principle” which assumes a fine-tuned universe exists because this is just the way it is, and (4) Biocentrism’s theory of a biologically aware universe created by biologically aware life. Physician Deepak Chopra agrees with biocentrism being “consistent with the most ancient wisdom traditions of the world which says that consciousness conceives, governs, and becomes a physical world. It is the ground of our Being in which both subjective and objective reality come into existence.”

14. Subjective experiences and the NDE

Physicalism is a theory which posits only physical things exist. Materialism is a related theory which posits only matter and energy exist; and everything is composed of these materials; and all phenomena are the result of physical interactions. In other words, reality is limited to states of energy and matter. Applied to consciousness, it holds that all aspects of subjective experience is explainable purely by objective states within a physical brain. But the problem with materialism, as applied to the consciousness, is it does not distinguish between mind and brain. This explanation problem of materialism suggests there exists a metaphysical, non-physical component to subjective experiences philosophically known as “qualia“.

The person who has arguably done more to support the subjective nature of consciousness is Dr. David Chalmers, the distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness in Australia, who specializes in the area of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. Chalmers has authored an amazing number of resources on topics related to consciousness and philosophy. He is the author of a directory of online philosophy papers, and co-directed the development of a wealth of online philosophy articles called PhilPapers. Chalmers is also the blogmaster of Fragments of Consciousness and the author of the book, “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.”

Chalmers defined this explanatory problem of materialism as the “hard problem of consciousness.” Chalmers illustrated this problem using the thought experiment of a “brain in a vat” (see the graphic on the left). If a person’s brain is suspended in a vat of life-sustaining liquid and its neurons connected to a supercomputer providing it with electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives, the computer could then simulate reality and the person with the “disembodied” brain could continue to have perfectly normal conscious experiences without being related to objects or events in the real world. In this case, because the experience of being in a vat and the experience of being in a skull would be identical, it would impossible to tell from the brain’s perspective of whether it is in a skull or a vat. Yet when the brain is in a skull and running on a beach, most of the brain’s beliefs may be true. But when the brain is in a vat, the brain’s beliefs are completely false. Therefore, because the brain cannot make such a distinction, there cannot be solid ground for the brain to believe anything it believes.

This Brain-in-a-Vat Argument is similar to the “Dream Argument” which suggests the brain’s ability to create simulated realities during REM sleep means there is a statistical likelihood of our own reality being simulated. Lucid dreams also supports this. There is also a long philosophical and scientific history to the underlying thesis of reality being an illusion which is centered on the assumption we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it created by our own minds. A serious academic debate within the field of transhumanism centers around a related argument called the “Simulation Argument” which proposes reality to be a simulation and our current paradigm of reality to be an illusion. Physicists have even developed a scientific experiment to determine if our universe is a computer simulation. Also, as previously mentioned, several interpretations of quantum mechanics, such as the Holographic Principle, suggests our perception of reality to be holographically an illusion.

Near-death studies supports these arguments and goes even further. The life review process is often described by NDE experiencers in terms of viewing “television-like” screen(s) where they review every second of their life instantaneously – including the perceptions of everyone on earth they ever came into contact with throughout their life. Another aspect of NDEs supporting simulism is the out-of-body component to the NDE. Experiencers have described out-of-body conditions where they view their physical body from above in a different “body” – a phenomenon known as autoscopy. Sometimes these perceptions are verified later by third-parties – a phenomenon known as veridical perception. Veridical dreams have also been reported. See [1] [2] [3]. Veridical NDEs are reports of veridical perception during the out-of-body component of the NDE which are later confirmed to be accurate. See [4] [5] [6] [7]. Often, these perceptions are very detailed and specific. Some reports of veridical out-of-body perception involve detailed observation of events too distant for the physical body to perceive. See [8] [9] [10]. Also, while some NDE experiencers are having their out-of-body component, they may become aware of an even “higher” version of themselves (see Dr. Dianne Morrissey’s NDE for a good example). This also explains why some NDE experiencers have reported seeing “higher versions” of living people on earth. See Carl Jung’s NDE for the ultimate example where he sees the “avatar” of his friend during his NDE. While such evidence may not persuade the skeptics, the millions of individuals who have experienced an NDE are absolutely convinced of consciousness surviving bodily death.

Near-death studies contain multiple reports of veridical perception of events which were outside the range of the NDE experiencer’s sensory perception and, therefore, of brain mediation (See Sabom, 1998; Ring, 2006; Sharp, 2003; Ring & Cooper, 2008; and van Lommel, van Wees, Meyers, & Elfferich, 2001). In some cases, such perceptions occur while the NDE experiencer is experiencing the brain inactivity following within 10 seconds of cessation of heartbeat (van Lommel et al, 2001). Over 100 such cases are published on www.iands.org, www.nderf.org, www.oberf.org and www.near-death.com. More discussion of veridical perception is presented in a response to the article entitled, “Does the Arousal System Contribute to Near-Death Experience?: A Response” (PDF). in the Journal of Near-Death Studies. Taken altogether, the evidence strongly suggests the possibility of NDE and OBE perception occurring without the help of the physical senses or the brain. Therefore, for skeptics to refer to NDEs and OBEs in general as “illusions” or “delusions” is jumping the gun. Mainstream materialistic scientists have yet to fully quantify the mind; while near-death researchers provide veridical evidence reported in NDEs and OBEs as examples suggesting the mind can function independent of the physical brain. According to veridical NDE experts Jan Holden and Jeffrey Long:

“Even if future research convincingly demonstrated that electrical stimulation of a particular area of the brain consistently induced typical OBEs, this finding would not explain veridical perception associated with OBEs.” (Jan Holden and Jeffrey Long)

One particular NDE experiencer, a neurosurgeon by the name of Eben Alexander III, MD, FACS, (also www.eternea.org) has a profound understanding of the physiological aspects to the NDE he experienced. Dr. Alexander currently practices with a private neurosurgical group in Lynchburg, Va., and travels extensively, making presentations about revelations from his coma experience elucidating the nature of consciousness. According to Dr. Alexander:

“… the reductive materialist (physicalist) model, on which conventional science is based, is fundamentally flawed. At its core, it intentionally ignores what I believe is the fundament of all existence – the nature of consciousness … From their [Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr and Erwin Schrodinger] experiments one could infer that consciousness has a definite role in creating reality. And those experimental results have only become more bizarre in recent years. (Witness the “quantum eraser experiment” performed in 2000.) I believe that the core of that mystery is that consciousness itself is deeply rooted in quantum processes.

“Even the physicists and scientists who proselytize the materialistic model have been forced to the edge of the precipice. They must now admit to knowing just a little bit about 4% of the material universe they know exists, but must confess to being totally “in the dark” about the other 96 percent. And that doesn’t even begin to address the even grander component that is home to the “consciousness” that I believe to be the basis of it all.

“That we can know things beyond the ken of the “normal” channels is incontrovertible. An excellent resource for any scientist who still seeks proof of that reality is the rigorous 800-page analysis and review of all manner of extended consciousness, “Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century.” This magnum opus from the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia catalogues a wide variety of empirical phenomena that appear difficult or impossible to accommodate within the standard physicalist way of looking at things. Phenomena covered include, in particular, NDEs occurring under conditions such as deep general anesthesia and cardiac arrest that – like my coma – should prevent occurrence of any experience whatsoever, let alone the profound sorts of experiences that frequently do occur. Also noteworthy, the American Institute of Physics sponsored meetings in 2006 and 2011 covering the physical science of such extraordinary channels of knowledge.” (Dr. Eben Alexander III)

Such quantum eraser experiments mentioned by Dr. Alexander reveal an astonishing fact about how consciousness is the supreme factor in quantum physics. These experiments reveal how an experimenter is able to successfully chose and predict the random outcome of an event even after the outcome has already taken place. They prove how the outcome of such experiments – whether a photon of light is a wave or a particle – can be predicted after the fact by the experimenter making a random mental choice of the experiment’s outcome. In other words, the experimenter’s after the fact choice of the outcome actually determines the experiment’s outcome. These astonishing findings dramatically suggest the possibility of our choices made today may determine the outcome of the past.

For these reasons and more, consciousness cannot be explained entirely as objective events experienced the brain. Consciousness must also be explained in terms of the subjective events experienced in the brain. This leads to such questions as, “Why is there a personal, subjective component to experience?” and “Why aren’t we all philosophical zombies?” This “brain in a vat” argument shows how subjective experience cannot be reduced to the functional properties of physical processes in the brain. A complete definition of consciousness must include a component describing subjective, conscious experiences which have not been explained in materialistic terms. This brain in a vat argument is a contemporary version of the argument given in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

The dream argument also applies to the subjective nature of NDEs and OBEs championed by Dr. Vernon Neppe, Director of the Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute. In his paper, “Reality Begins with Consciousness: A Paradigm Shift that Works,” Neppe uses a hypothesis on the neurophysiological implications of parapsychology of:

“… a timeless, spaceless universe in which all things or events exist but in a more dormant sense, where drugs such as LSD may free the cerebral cortex from the ‘modulating effect of the brain stem reticular activating system,’ allowing the cortex to run free.'” (Dr. Vernon Neppe)

Neppe described the possibility where, under such circumstances, an individual exposed to a purely mental universe, independent of matter, containing all mental events, may experience overlap or be entangled with the physical universe. This is supported by similarities existing between elements of NDEs and the quantum field concept of subjectivity. They suggest all events are related and influence each other instantaneously and in reciprocity, and only subjectivity remains..

These arguments of subjectivity support the holistic paradigm of the illusionary “separation” between the subjective observer’s experience and the objective object being observed. Because the old materialistic paradigm is unable to explain conscious experiences, it leads many scientists to simply ignore it altogether as being a problem. This ignorance is demonstrated by pseudoskeptics (such as “old paradigm cops“) of anomalous conscious experiences and by materialistic critics of subjective experiences including NDEs and OBEs. Materialism cannot explain how consciousness arises from “goo” or how atoms in the brain comprises consciousness. The new holistic paradigm views reality to be in the eye and mind of the observer/beholder. Philosopher Thomas Nagel also makes a compelling case against materialism, in principle, developing an objective explanation of consciousness.

15. Scientific articles on NDEs and its relationship to quantum physics

Beck, TE & Colli, J.G. (2003). A Quantum Biomechanical Basis for Near-Death Life Reviews. Journal of Near-Death Studies.

Belaustegui, GD. (2010). Phenomenology of the Transcendence of Space-time Coordinates: Evidence from Death Announcements. Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche.

Brian, RA. (2003). What can Elementary Particles Tell Us About the World in Which We Live? NeuroQuantology..

Brumblay, RJ. (2003). Hyperdimensional Perspectives in Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences. Journal of Near-Death Studies.

Facco, E.& Agrillo, C. Near-Death Experiences Between Science and Prejudice. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Fracasso, C., Friedman, H. (2012). Electromagnetic Aftereffects of NDEs: A Preliminary Report on a Series of Studies Currently Under Way. Journal of Transpersonal Research.

Greene, FG. (2003). At the Edge of Eternity’s Shadows: Scaling the Fractal Continuum from Lower into Higher Space. Journal of Near-Death Studies.

Greyson, B. (2011). Cosmological Implications of Near-Death Experiences. Journal of Cosmology.

Hameroff, S., Chopra, D. (2012). The “Quantum Soul”: A Scientific Hypothesis. Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship.

Jourdan, JP. (2011). Near-Death Experiences and the 5th Dimensional Spatio-Temporal Perspective. Journal of Cosmology.

Laws, E Perry. (2010). Near Death Experiences: A New Algorithmic Approach to Verifying Consciousness Outside the Brain. NeuroQuantology.

Lundahl, CR & Gibson, AS. (2000). Near-Death Studies and Modern Physics. Journal of Near-Death Studies.

Mays, RG & Mays, SB. (2011). A Theory of Mind and Brain that Solves the “Hard Problem” of Consciousness. The Center for Consciousness Studies.

Mukherjee, K. (2012). Three Cases of NDE. Is it Physiology, Physics or Philosophy? Annals of Neurosciences.

Pilotti, j. (2011). Consciousness and Physics: Towards a Scientific Proof that Consciousness is in Space-Time Beyond The Brain. Journal of Transpersonal Research.

Pratt, D. (2007). Consciousness, Causality, and Quantum Physics. NeuroQuantology.

Ratner, J (2012). Radiant Minds: Scientists Explore the Dimensions of Consciousness. NeuroQuantology.

Ray, K. & Roy, MK. (2010). A Theoretical Basis for Surges of Electroencephalogram Activity and Vivid Mental Sensation During Near-Death Experience. International Journal of Engineering Science and Technology.

van Lommel, P. (2006). NDE, Consciousness, and the Brain: A New Concept About the Continuity of Our Consciousness Based on Recent Scientific Research on NDE in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest. World Futures.

van Lommel, P. (2013). Non-Local Consciousness: A Concept Based on Scientific Research on NDEs During Cardiac Arrest. Journal of Consciousness Studies.

Venselaar, M. (2012). The Physics of Near-Death Experiences: A Five-Phase Theory. Noetic Now Journal.

Categories
Evidence Science

People See Verified Events While Out-Of-Body

The scientific method requires all phenomena to be reproducible, provide veridical details (i.e., details which cannot be explained away, which are found to be true), and undergo rigorous tests to rule out all the known alternative explanations, for a theory to be proven as scientific fact. Using the scientific method, near-death experiences have been proven to be a real scientific phenomenon because they are reproducible. Near-death experiences were first shown to be reproducible during studies involving the subjection of fighter pilots to extreme gravitational forces in a giant centrifuge. But the question is not, “Are near-death experiences real?” Even skeptics now concede that it is a real phenomenon. The question to ask is, “Are near-death experiences a phenomenon of a person’s consciousness being outside of their body?” And if this can be proven true, then the next question is, “Can consciousness survive bodily death?” This last question likely cannot be proven true to the satisfaction of the skeptics using near-death research alone. This is because no matter how you define “death,” the only kind of definition that satisfies the skeptics is “irreversible” death. Just the very nature of the phrase “near-death” suggests that it is not true death – where nobody comes back. However, good scientific evidence for survival can be found in other realms of research such as psychic studies, quantum physics, consciousness studies, and remote viewing – not to mention the mountain of circumstantial evidence.

Table of Contents

  1. Veridical Perception in Near-Death Experiences
  2. Dr. Moody’s Exceptional NDE Testimony
  3. Further Evidence for Veridical Perception During NDEs
    a. Abstract
    b. Introduction
    c. Case One
    d. Case Two
    e. Case Three
    f. Discussion
  4. References

1. Veridical Perception in Near-Death Experiences

At this point in near-death studies, researchers are particularly interested in studying those NDEs that may provide an answer to the question of whether the mind can function outside the physical body. This is the first step in determining whether consciousness can survive bodily death. One way is to discover this is to examine those NDEs which are “veridical” (verifiable). Veridical NDEs occur when the experiencer acquires verifiable information which they could not have obtained by any normal means. Often, near-death experiencers report witnessing events that happen at some distant location away from their body, such as another room of the hospital. If the events witnessed by the experiencer at the distant location can be verified to have occurred, then veridical perception would be said to have taken place. It would provide very compelling evidence that NDEs are experiences outside of the physical body. Visit the NDE and Out-Of-Body research conclusions to read a large collection of veridical NDEs.

Besides his ground-breaking book, Life After Life (1975), Raymond Moody is the author of the excellent NDE books, Reflections (1985), The Light Beyond (1989), Reunions (1994), Coming Back (1995), The Last Laugh (1999), Life After Loss (2002), Paranormal (2013), and Making Sense of Nonsense (2020). In Life After Life, Moody documents a number of veridical near-death experiences which will be described here. This veridical evidence suggests the possibility that consciousness can exist away from the body. In light of such veridical evidence, other NDE theories fall by the wayside because they cannot account for these veridical details. And although the available veridical NDE evidence does not constitute scientific proof of consciousness surviving bodily death, it does qualify as very powerful circumstantial and anecdotal evidence, the kind of evidence that is upheld every day in courts of law all around the country.

Whether or not there will ever be scientific evidence for the survival of consciousness may depend upon science itself and how such phenomenon as NDEs can be quantified. Using the strict demands of science, we can only conclude as Dr. Raymond Moody does when he had this to say:

“I don’t have any idea whether there’s life after death or not. I’ve been a follower of science all of my life, but I also have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and it really seems to me that the question of life after death is not yet ripe for scientific inquiry because it’s not formulatable in a way that fits into the scientific method. I also think it’s the most important question. If you think of the big questions of existence, this is the biggie.”

The following are some examples of veridical NDEs documented by Moody:

Example 1:  An elderly woman had been blind since childhood. But, during her NDE, the woman had regained her sight and she was able to accurately describe the instruments and techniques used during the resuscitation her body. After the woman was revived, she reported the details to her doctor. She was able to tell her doctor who came in and out, what they said, what they wore, what they did, all of which was true. Her doctor then referred the woman to Moody who he knew was doing research at the time on NDEs.

Example 2:  In another instance a woman with a heart condition was dying at the same time that her sister was in a diabetic coma in another part of the same hospital. The subject reported having a conversation with her sister as both of them hovered near the ceiling watching the medical team work on her body below. When the woman awoke, she told the doctor that her sister had died while her own resuscitation was taking place. The doctor denied it, but when she insisted, he had a nurse check on it. The sister had, in fact, died during the time in question.

Example 3:  A dying girl left her body and into another room in the hospital where she found her older sister crying and saying:

“Oh, Kathy, please don’t die, please don’t die.”

The older sister was quite baffled when, later, Kathy told her exactly where she had been and what she had been saying during this time.

“After it was all over, the doctor told me that I had a really bad time, and I said, “Yeah, I know.”

He said, “Well, how do you know?”And I said, “I can tell you everything that happened.”

He didn’t believe me, so I told him the whole story, from the time I stopped breathing until the time I was kind of coming around. He was really shocked to know that I knew everything that had happened. He didn’t know quite what to say, but he came in several times to ask me different things about it.

When I woke up after the accident, my father was there, and I didn’t even want to know what sort of shape I was in, or how I was, or how the doctors thought I would be. All I wanted to talk about was the experience I had been through. I told my father who had dragged my body out of the building, and even what color clothes that person had on, and how they got me out, and even about all the conversation that had been going on in the area.

And my father said, “Well, yes, these things were true.”

Yet, my body was physically out this whole time, and there was no way I could have seen or heard these things without being outside of my body.

2. Dr. Moody’s Exceptional NDE Testimony

In his book, Life After Life, Moody documents what he calls “a rather exceptional account” which embodies many of the elements of the NDE that he describes and has an interesting veridical near-death experience. I think you will agree that it is rather exceptional:

Jack’s NDE: “At the time this happened I suffered, as I still do, a very severe case of bronchial asthma and emphysema. One day, I got into a coughing fit and apparently ruptured a disk in the lower part of my spine. For a couple of months, I consulted a number of doctors for the agonizing pain, and finally one of them referred me to a neurosurgeon, Dr. Wyatt. He saw me and told me that I needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately, so I went on in and they put me in traction right away.

“Dr. Wyatt knew that I had bad respiratory diseases so he called in a lung specialist, who said that the anesthesiologist, Dr. Coleman, should be consulted if I was going to be put to sleep. So the lung specialist worked on me for almost three weeks until he finally got me to a place where Dr. Coleman would put me under. He finally consented on a Monday, although he was very much worried about it. They scheduled the operation for the next Friday. Monday night, I went to sleep and had a restful sleep until sometime early Tuesday morning, when I woke up in severe pain. I turned over and tried to get in a more comfortable position, but just at that moment a light appeared in the corner of the room, just below the ceiling. It was just a ball of light, almost like a globe, and it was not very large, I would say no more than twelve to fifteen inches in diameter, and as this light appeared, a feeling came over me. I can’t say that it was an eerie feeling, because it was not. It was a feeling of complete peace and utter relaxation. I could see a hand reach down for me from the light, and the light said:

“Come with me. I want to show you something.”

“So immediately, without any hesitation whatsoever, I reached up with my hand and grabbed onto the hand I saw. As I did, I had the feeling of being drawn up and of leaving my body, and I looked back and saw it lying there on the bed while I was going up towards the ceiling of the room.

“Now, at this time, as soon as I left my body, I took on the same form as the light. I got the feeling, and I’ll have to use my own words for it, because I’ve never heard anyone talk about anything like this, that this form was definitely a spirit. It wasn’t a body, just a wisp of smoke or a vapor. It looked almost like the clouds of cigarette smoke you can see when they are illuminated as they drift around a lamp. The form I took had colors, though. There was orange, yellow, and a color that was very indistinct to me – I took it to be an indigo, a bluish color.

“This spiritual form didn’t have a shape like a body. It was more or less circular, but it had what I would call a hand. I know this because when the light reached down for me, I reached up for it with my hand. Yet, the arm and hand of my body just stayed put, because I could see them lying on the bed, down by the side of my body, as I rose up to the light. But when I wasn’t using this spiritual hand, the spirit went back to the circular pattern.

“So, I was drawn up to the same position the light was in, and we started moving through the ceiling and the wall of the hospital room, into the corridor, and through the corridor, down through the floors it seemed, on down to a lower floor in the hospital. We had no difficulty in passing through doors or walls. They would just fade away from us as we would approach them.

“During this period it seemed that we were traveling. I knew we were moving, yet there was no sensation of speed. And in a moment, almost instantaneously, really, I realized that we had reached the recovery room of the hospital. Now, I hadn’t even known where the recovery room was at this hospital, but we got there, and again, we were in the corner of the room near the ceiling, up above everything else. I saw the doctors and nurses walking around in their green suits and saw the beds that were placed around in there. This being then told me – he showed me:

“That’s where you’re going to be. When they bring you off the operating table they’re going to put you in that bed, but you will never awaken from that position. You’ll know nothing after you go to the operating room until I come back to get you sometime after this.”

“Now, I won’t say this was in words. It wasn’t like an audible voice, because if it had been I would have expected the others in the room to have heard the voice, and they didn’t. It was more of an impression that came to me. But it was in such a vivid form that there was no way for me to say I didn’t hear it or I didn’t feel it. It was definite to me.

“And what I was seeing – well, it was so much easier to recognize things while I was in this spiritual form. I was now wondering, like, “Now, what is that that he is trying to show me?” I knew immediately what it was, what he had in mind. There was no doubt. It was that bed – it was the bed on the right just as you come in from the corridor – is where I’m going to be and he’s brought me here for a purpose. And then he told me why. It came to me that the reason for this was that he didn’t want any fear when the time came that my spirit passed from my body, but that he wanted me to know what the sensation would be on passing that point. He wanted to assure me so that I wouldn’t be afraid, because he was telling me that he wouldn’t be there immediately, that I would go through other things first, but that he would be overshadowing everything that happened and would be there for me at the end.

“Now, immediately, when I had joined him to take the trip to the recovery room and had become a spirit myself, in a way we had been fused into one. We were two separate ones, too, of course. Yet, he had full control of everything that was going on as far as I was concerned. And even if we were traveling through the walls and ceilings and so forth, well, it just seemed that we were in such close communion that nothing whatsoever could have bothered me. Again, it was just a peacefulness, calmness, and a serenity that have never been found anywhere else.

“So, after he told me this, he took me back to my hospital room, and as I got back I saw my body again, still lying in the same position as when we left, and instantaneously I was back in my body. I would guess that I had been out of my body for five or ten minutes, but passage of time had nothing to do with this experience. In fact, I don’t remember if I had ever even thought of it as being any particular time.

“Now, this whole thing had just astounded me, took me completely by surprise. It was so vivid and real – more so than ordinary experience. And the next morning, I was not in the least afraid. When I shaved, I noticed that my hand didn’t shake like it had been doing for six or eight weeks before then. I knew that I would be dying, and there was no regret, no fear. There was no thought, “What can I do to keep this from happening?” I was ready.

“Now, on Thursday afternoon, the day before the operation the next morning, I was in my hospital room, and I was worried. My wife and I have a boy, an adopted nephew, and we were then having some trouble with him. So I decided to write a letter to my wife and one to my nephew, putting some of my worries into words, and to hide the letters where they wouldn’t be found until after the operation. After I had written about two pages on the letter to my wife, it was just as if the floodgates had opened. All at once, I broke out in tears, sobbing. I felt a presence, and at first I thought maybe that I had cried so loud that I had disturbed one of the nurses, and that they had come in to see what was the matter with me. But I hadn’t heard the door open. And again I felt this presence, but I didn’t see any light this time, and thoughts or words came to me, just as before, and he said:

“Jack, why are you crying? I thought you would be pleased to be with me.”I thought, “Yes, I am. I want to go very much.”

And the voice said, “Then why are you crying?”

I said, “We’ve had trouble with our nephew, you know, and I’m afraid my wife won’t know how to raise him. I’m trying to put into words how I feel, and what I want her to try to do for him. I’m concerned, too, because I feel that maybe my presence could have settled him down some.”

Then the thoughts came to me, from this presence, “Since you are not asking for someone else, and thinking of others, not Jack, I will grant what you want. You will live until you see your nephew become a man.”

“And just like that, it was gone. I stopped crying, and I destroyed the letter so my wife wouldn’t accidentally find it.

“That evening, Dr. Coleman came in and told me that he was expecting a lot of trouble with putting me to sleep, and for me not to be surprised to wake up and find a lot of wires and tubes and machines all around me. I didn’t tell him what I had experienced, so I just nodded and said I would cooperate.

“The next morning the operation took a long time but went fine, and as I was regaining my consciousness, Dr. Coleman was there with me, and I told him:

“I know exactly where I am.”

He asked, “What bed are you in?”

I said, “I’m in that first bed on the right just as you come in from the hall.”

“He just kind of laughed, and of course, he thought that I was just taking from the anesthetic.

“I wanted to tell him what had happened, but just in a moment Dr. Wyatt came in and said:

“He’s awake now. What do you want to do?”

And Dr. Coleman said, “There’s not a thing I can do. I’ve never been so amazed in my life. Here I am with all this equipment set up and he doesn’t need a thing.”

Dr. Wyatt said, “Miracles still happen, you know.”

“So, when I could get up in the bed and see around the room, I saw that I was in that same bed that the light had shown me several days before.

“Now, all this was three years ago, but it is still just as vivid as it was then. It was the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to me, and it has made a big difference. But I don’t talk about it. I have only told my wife, my brother, my minister, and now you. I don’t know how to say it, but this is so hard to explain. I’m not trying to make a big explosion in your life, and I’m not trying to brag. It’s just that after this, I don’t have any doubts anymore. I know there is life after death.”

3. Further Evidence for Veridical Perception During Near-Death Experiences

Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., (www.kenring.org) is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut, and Madelaine Lawrence, R.N., Ph.D., is Director of Nursing Research at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. This article was published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies, Volume 11, Number 4, Summer 1993.

a. Abstract

We briefly survey research designed to validate alleged out-of-body perceptions during near-death experiences. Most accounts of this kind that have surfaced since Michael Sabom’s work are unsubstantiated self-reports or, as in claims of visual perception of blind persons, completely undocumented or fictional, but there have been some reports that were corroborated by witnesses. We briefly present and discuss three new cases of this kind.

“What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed, and what if in your dream you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower, and what if when you awoke you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

b. Introduction

Despite repeated expressions for the need to verify out-of-body perceptions during near-death experiences (NDEs) (for example, Blackmore, 1984, 1985; Cook, 1984; Holden, 1988, 1989; Holden and Joesten, 1990; Kincaid, 1985; and Krishnan, 1985), the last decade has produced virtually nothing of substance on this vital issue. Michael Sabom’s pioneering work (Sabom, 1981, 1982) is now recognized as essentially the only evidence from systematic research in the field of near-death studies that suggests NDErs can sometimes report visual perceptions that are physically impossible and not otherwise explicable by conventional means. To be sure, Sabom’s data remain controversial, but the point is that they are still the only extensive body of evidence that bears on the question of veridical perception during near-death states.

Subsequent investigators, such as Janice Miner Holden and Leroy Joesten (1990), have attempted to follow Sabom’s lead, but their work has been inconclusive, a casualty of various bureaucratic and methodological complications. What has emerged instead in the aftermath of Sabom’s research is largely a miscellany of unsubstantiated self-reports as tantalizing as they are unverifiable. These reports dot the landscape of near-death studies like so many promising trails (for example, Grey, 1985, pp. 37-38; Moody and Perry, 1988, pp. 134-135; and Ring, 1984, pp. 42-44), but efforts to pursue their tracks to definite conclusions almost always prove disappointing. This is particularly true for precisely those cases that hold out the greatest hope for confounding the challenge of skeptics, namely those where blind persons are alleged to have seen accurately during their NDEs.

For example, more than a decade ago, one of us (K.R.) learned of three such elusive cases from Fred Schoonmaker, one of the first physicians to conduct an extensive investigation of NDEs. In a telephone conversation Schoonmaker mentioned that he had come across three blind persons who had furnished him with evidence of veridical visual perceptions while out-of-body, including one woman he said had been congenitally blind. On hearing the details of this last story, I (K.R.) became very excited and urged him to publish an article on these extraordinary NDEs. Regrettably, he never did.

Another example of a blind person purportedly having detailed visual perception during an NDE was described by Raymond Moody and Paul Perry (1988, pp. 134-135). Intrigued to learn more about this case, not long ago I (K.R.) asked Moody to share with me some further particulars about its evidentiality. Unfortunately, he could only tell me that he had learned of this story as a result of another physician’s playing a tape about it following one of Moody’s lectures. He didn’t remember the physician’s name and therefore could do no more than relate the brief account his book attested to (R. A. Moody, Jr., personal communication, February, 1991).

Perhaps the most disappointing outcome of this kind of search was in response to the astonishing case of a woman named Sarah, with which still another physician, Larry Dossey, began a recent book (Dossey, 1989). According to Dossey, Sarah had had a cardiac arrest during gall bladder surgery, but had been successfully resuscitated. Upon recovery she had “amazed the.., surgery team” by reporting

“a clear, detailed memory of … the OR layout; the scribbles on the surgery schedule board in the hall outside; the color of the sheets covering the operating table; the hairstyle of the head scrub nurse, and even the trivial fact that her anesthesiologist that day was wearing unmatched socks. All this she knew even though she had been fully anesthetized and unconscious during the surgery and the cardiac arrest. But what made Sarah’s vision even more momentous was the fact that, since birth, she had been blind.” (Dossey, 1989, p. 18)

This sounds like the ideal case of its kind; and that, in a sense, is exactly what it is, in a different sense. Kindly responding to an inquiry for more information about this case, Dossey confessed to me (K.R.) that he had “constructed” it on the basis of a composite description of the out-of-body testimony of NDErs such as that found in Sabom’s and Moody’s books. With this example we seem to have come full circle, to where the mere lore of NDE veridicality subtly shades into a dangerous self-confirming proposition-and to another dead end.

That skeptical conclusion is the impression left by this cursory review of the cases that have come to light since Sabom’s trailblazing efforts. However, there have been some subsequent reports that seem to represent evidence that Dossey’s fiction may in the end prove indeed to be substantiated NDE fact: the testimony of NDErs that has been supported by independent corroboration of witnesses.

Perhaps the most famous case of this kind is that of Maria, originally reported by her critical care social worker, Kimberly Clark (1984). Maria was a migrant worker who, while visiting friends in Seattle, had a severe heart attack. She was rushed to Harborview Hospital and placed in the coronary care unit. A few days later she had a cardiac arrest and an unusual out-of-body experience. At one point in this experience, she found herself outside the hospital and spotted a single tennis shoe sitting on the ledge of the north side of the third floor of the building. Maria not only was able to indicate the whereabouts of this oddly situated object, but was able to provide precise details concerning its appearance, such as that its little toe was worn and one of its laces was stuck underneath its heel.

Upon hearing Maria’s story, Clark, with some considerable degree of skepticism and metaphysical misgiving, went to the location described to see whether any such shoe could be found. Indeed it was, just where and precisely as Maria had described it, except that from the window through which Clark was able to see it, the details of its appearance that Maria had specified could not be discerned. Clark concluded:

The only way she could have had such a perspective was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe. I retrieved the shoe and brought it back to Maria; it was very concrete evidence for me. (Clark, 1984, p. 243)

Not everyone, of course, would concur with Clark’s interpretation, but assuming the authenticity of the account, which we have no reason to doubt, the facts of the case seem incontestable. Maria’s inexplicable detection of that inexplicable shoe is a strange and strangely beguiling sighting of the sort that has the power to arrest a skeptic’s argument in mid-sentence, if only by virtue of its indisputable improbability. And yet it is only one case and, however discomfitting to some it might temporarily be, it can perhaps be conveniently filed away as merely a puzzling anomaly, in the hope that some prosaic explanation might someday be found.

Such a response is understandable and seems rational. However, there are more cases like Maria’s, and we have found some. Since our search for conclusive cases of blind NDErs had thus far proven unavailing, we directed our efforts to tracking down instances of the “Maria’s shoe” variety, where improbable objects in unlikely locations were described by NDErs and where at least one witness could either confirm or disprove the allegation. So far we have found the following three such cases, two of which, oddly enough, involve shoes!

c. Case One

In 1985, Kathy Milne was working as a nurse at Hartford Hospital. Milne had already been interested in NDEs, and one day found herself talking to a woman who had been resuscitated and who had had an NDE. Following a telephone interview with me (K.R.) on August 24, 1992, she described the following account in a letter:

She told me how she floated up over her body, viewed the resuscitation effort for a short time and then felt herself being pulled up through several floors of the hospital. She then found herself above the roof and realized she was looking at the skyline of Hartford. She marvelled at how interesting this view was and out of the corner of her eye she saw a red object. It turned out to be a shoe … [S]he thought about the shoe…, and suddenly, she felt “sucked up” a blackened hole. The rest of her NDE was fairly typical, as I remember. I was relating this to a [skeptical] resident who in a mocking manner left. Apparently, he got a janitor to get him onto the roof. When I saw him later that day, he had a red shoe and became a believer, too. (K. Milne, personal communication, October 19, 1992)

One further comment about this second white crow, again in the form of a single, improbably situated shoe sighted in an external location Of a hospital: After my (K.R.) initial interview with Milne, I made a point of inquiring whether she had ever heard of the case of Maria’s shoe. Not only was she unfamiliar with it, but she was utterly amazed to hear of another story so similar to the one she had just recounted for me. It remains an unanswered question how these isolated shoes arrive at their unlikely perches for later viewing by astonished NDErs and their baffled investigators.

d. Case Two

In the summer of 1982, Joyce Harmon, a surgical intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at Hartford Hospital, returned to work after a vacation. On that vacation she had purchased a new pair of plaid shoelaces, which she happened to be wearing on her first day back at the hospital. That day, she was involved in resuscitating a patient, a woman she didn’t know, giving her medicine. The resuscitation was successful, and the next day, Harmon chanced to see the patient, whereupon they had a conversation, the gist of which (not necessarily a verbatim account) is as follows (J. Harmon, personal communication, August 28, 1992):

The patient, upon seeing Harmon, volunteered, “Oh, you’re the one with the plaid shoelaces!”

“What?” Harmon replied, astonished. She says she distinctly remembers feeling the hair on her neck rise.

“I saw them,” the woman continued. “I was watching what was happening yesterday when I died. I was up above.”

e. Case Three

In the late 1970s, Sue Saunders was working at Hartford Hospital as a respiratory therapist. One day, she was helping to resuscitate a 60ish man in the emergency room, whose electrocardiogram had gone flat. Medics were shocking him repeatedly with no results. Saunders was trying to give him oxygen. In the middle of the resuscitation, someone else took over for her and she left.

A couple of days later, she encountered this patient in the ICU. He spontaneously commented, “You looked so much better in your yellow top.”

She, like Harmon, was so shocked at this remark that she got goose-bumps, for she had been wearing a yellow smock the previous day.

“Yeah,” the man continued, “I saw you. You had something over your face and you were pushing air into me. And I saw your yellow smock.”

Saunders confirmed that she had had something over her face – a mask – and that she had worn the yellow smock while trying to give him oxygen, while he was unconscious and without a heartbeat (S. Saunders, personal communication, August 28, 1992).

f. Discussion

The three cases we have presented briefly attest to three important observations:

(1) Patients who claim to have out-of-body experiences while near death sometimes describe unusual objects that they could not have known about by normal means;

(2) These objects can later be shown to have existed in the form and location indicated by the patients’ testimony; and

(3) Hearing this testimony has a strong emotional and cognitive effect on the caregivers involved, either strengthening their pre-existing belief in the authenticity of NDEs or occasioning a kind of on-the-spot conversion.

We are not suggesting, of course, that the cases we have described here constitute proof of the authenticity of NDEs or even that they necessarily demonstrate that patients have been literally out of their bodies when they report what they do. We only submit that such cases add to the mounting evidence that veridical and conventionally inexplicable visual perceptions do occur during NDEs, and the fact of their existence needs to be reckoned with by near-death researchers and skeptics alike.

We hope that our small collection of cases will motivate other investigators to search for and document their own, so that this body of data will increase to the point where it becomes generally accepted, whatever its explanation may ultimately be. Until such time as more studies like those undertaken by Sabom and Holden are actually conducted by near-death researchers, or a genuine case of corroborated visual perception by a blind NDEr is reported, perhaps instances of the kind we have offered here will constitute the strongest argument that cases like Dossey’s Sarah are by no means as fictional as skeptics might think.

4. References

Blackmore, S. J. (1984). Are out-of-body experiences evidence for survival? Reply to Cook [Letter]. Anabiosis: The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 4, 169-171.

Blackmore, S. J. (1985). Are out-of-body experiences evidence for survival? Reply to Krishnan [Letter]. Anabiosis: The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 5(1), 79-82.

Clark, K. (1984). Clinical interventions with near-death experiencers. In B. Greyson and C. P. Flynn (Eds.), The near-death experience: Problems, prospects, perspectives (pp. 242-255). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Cook, E. W. (1984). Are out-of-body experiences evidence for survival? [Letter]. Anabiosis: The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 4, 167-169.

Dossey, L. (1989). Recovering the soul: A scientific and spiritual search. New York, NY: Bantam.

Grey, M. (1985). Return from death: An exploration of the near-death experience. London, England: Arkana.

Holden, J. M. (1988). Visual perception during the naturalistic near-death out-of-body experience. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 7, 107-120.

Holden, J. M. (1989). Unexpected findings in a study of visual perception during the naturalistic near-death out-of-body experiences. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 7, 155-163.

Holden, J. M., and Joesten, L. (1990). Near-death veridicality research in the hospital setting: Problems and promise. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 9, 45-54.

Kincaid, W. M. (1985). Sabom’s study should be repeated [Letter]. Anabiosis: The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 5(2), 84-87.

Krishnan, V. (1985). Are out-of-body experiences evidence for survival? [Letter]. Anabiosis: The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 5(1), 76-79.

Moody, R. A., Jr. (1975). Life After Life, pages 101-107, New York, NY: Bantam.

Moody, R. A., Jr., and Perry, P. (1988). The light beyond. New York, NY: Bantam.

Ring, K., and Lawrence, M. (1993). Further evidence for veridical perception during near-death experiences. The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 11,(4), pages 223-229.

Ring, K. (1984). Heading toward omega: In search of the meaning of the near-death experience. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Sabom, M. B. (1981). The near-death experience: Myth or reality? A methodological approach. Anabiosis: The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 1, 44-56.

Sabom, M. B. (1982). Recollections of death: A medical investigation. New York, NY: Harper and Row

Categories
Evidence Science

People Having NDEs are Convinced They Are Real

For the multitude of near-death experiencers who know they have left their bodies and received a glimpse of an afterlife, there is no amount of clinical explanation that will ever convince them otherwise. The following are testimonials from experiencers themselves about their conviction that their near-death experience was an out-of-body journey of life after death.

“As the two beings approached us, I could also feel the love flowing from them toward us. The complete joy they showed at seeing the Christ was unmistakable. Seeing these beings and feeling the joy, peace and happiness which swelled up from them made me feel that here was the place of all places, the top realm of all realms. The beings who inhabited it were full of love. This, I was and am convinced, is heaven.” (Dr. George Ritchie)

“At 4:13 p.m., I was transported from the physical realm, the realm of the body, to a spiritual realm. I knew I was in another world – a world that is as real as this world is to anyone reading this.” (Dr. Gerard Landry)

“Well, I felt myself leave my body. I just floated out of my physical form and I saw them cart my body away to the hospital. I went with it … I wasn’t frightened or anything like that because I was fine; and it was my body that was in trouble.” (Peter Sellers)

“I had my first near-death experience when I was a child, perhaps at the age of two or three. This would be about 1953. It involved me drowning. My memories of it were of seeing my body below me.” (Brian Krebs)

“I felt as if I were coming loose from my body! While I believed that my body was me, I knew instinctively that if I separated from it, I’d be dead! My soul and body started separating again and continued to separate until I felt a short, sharp pain in my heart, which felt as if something had been torn loose. Then slowly and softly I rose out through the top of my head.” (Arthur Yensen)

“I was aware that I, me, was on a journey and had left my body.” (Harry Hone)

“I watched my spirit leave my body and release itself from this world of flesh. I could see myself traveling through a tunnel of light that was a freedom it is hard to describe in physical terms.” (Sherry Gideon)

“At the birth of my first child after 30 hours labor, complications occurred and the baby could not be born normally and at the height of the pain I left my body. I saw my body on the bed and tried to communicate to those tending to it but finally gave up and left out the roof of the hospital.” (Alise)

“My next memory was quite a scene in the hospital emergency room. It was the most unique experience of my earthly life. Unique, because I was observing my own body in the emergency room and all the activity going on, except that I was not in my body. I was above it all – looking down. I was feeling no pain.” (David Goines)

“A massive load of compressed cardboard Carter was loading slipped out of control, slamming him against a steel pole. He remembers a sharp pain, collapsing, being in a black void, then finding himself floating in a prone position twelve feet above his crumpled body. He saw and heard people running around, yelling for an ambulance and saying, “Don’t touch him, give him air.” His body went from white to blue; there was no breath. The sight filled him with awe. “I’m here, my body is there. How did this happen?” Not understanding how he could suddenly be airborne, Berkley Carter Mills attempted to reenter his body. (Berkley Carter Mills)

“The decision to leave this world hung suspended in an extended moment of absolute quiet. Passionless, I watched my spirit leave my body as a feeling of “otherness” engulfed me. I felt a strange detachment from my physical body and the life I had created. I was no longer connected to a pitiful, suffering mass of flesh.” (Linda Stewart)

“Immediately after the impact from falling forward onto the metal grating, I felt myself floating up, out of my body, and hovering above my body and all the people who were watching it, and who seemed paralyzed by shock and horror at what had happened. I think they pretty much assumed that I was dead.” (Dr. Liz Dale’s research)

“I remember looking down and seeing my body three-dimensionally for the first time. And it was such a shock, because we never see ourselves except in a one-dimensional mirror reflection, or a photograph.” (Dr. Liz Dale’s research)

“I was in a barn along with about 8 or 9 other people. It was starting to storm so we had a little tobacco we wanted to finish unloading. Before we got into the cars we had there, [the lightening bolt] came through a board in the side of the barn and got me. I felt myself falling but it didn’t hurt. Then I noticed I was above myself looking down at me. My body was actually smoking.” (Mr. Thermal)

“On the eighth day of this misery, I seemed to just float right up out of my body. So, I’m looking down at my body lying in the bed still as a corpse, and I said, “Oh, I’ve died!!” I was basically unnerved by this. But in the next second, I thought to myself, “Hey, if I’m dead, who is thinking these thoughts??” (Skip Church)

“Suddenly I was out of my body, hovering by the ceiling.” (Karen Brannon)

“Am I outside myself observing? I see my body and its pain. I look at my feet; they are pale and lifeless. My legs cannot move. My face is white and drawn.” (Josiane Antonette)

“I found myself floating on the ceiling over the bed looking down at my unconscious body. I barely had time to realize the glorious strangeness of the situation – that I was me but not in my body – when I was joined by a radiant being bathed in a shimmering white glow.” (Beverly Brodsky)

“I see myself as a tiny dot out of my physical body, which lies inert before me. I find myself oppressed by darkness and there is a feeling of terrific loneliness. Suddenly, I am conscious of a white beam of light, knowing that I must follow it or be lost.” (Edgar Cayce)

It is not just experiencers who believe that NDEs are veridical events that occur outside of the body, doctors who observe them do as well.

Dr. Michael Sabom, an Atlanta cardiologist, was one who eventually became convinced that experiencers are actual separating from their bodies. After talking to patients, who claimed they had an NDE, Sabom said:

“I came to the conclusion that these were occurring and they were rather frequent, but people usually didn’t talk about them unless they were approached in an open, understanding manner.” (Dr. Michael Sabom)

Dr. Karl Jansen, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the world’s leading expert on ketamine, has studied ketamine at every level. Jansen not only felt that near-death experiences and ketamine induced visions were the same, but became convinced that BOTH induced real visions of a real god.

In 1977, Dr. Kenneth Ring was a brilliant young professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut who read Dr. Raymond Moody‘s book, Life After Life, and was inspired by it. However, he felt that a more scientifically structured study would strengthen Moody’s findings. He sought out 102 near-death survivors for his research. He concluded:

“Regardless of their prior attitudes – whether skeptical or deeply religious – and regardless of the many variations in religious beliefs and degrees of skepticism from tolerant disbelief to outspoken atheism – most of these people were convinced that they had been in the presence of some supreme and loving power and had a glimpse of a life yet to come.” (Dr. Kenneth Ring)

Despite the strides in explaining NDEs through clinical investigation, some researchers believe that the physiological approach is insufficient. Dr. Bruce Greyson agrees:

“These are just armchair speculations. Finding a chemical change in the brain does not necessarily prove that it causes NDEs.” (Dr. Bruce Greyson)

For Greyson and others who view NDEs as mystical experiences, the skeptics in the lab are only solving a small part of the puzzle.

Jody Long is a researcher with NDERF.org who had this to say about the out-of-body phase of NDEs:

“Vivid NDE examples, also noted in the landmark NDE Dutch study by Pim van Lommel, contain memories during physical death of events categorized as ‘veridical perception‘. Experiencers were accurately reporting events they witnessed while in the out-of-body state during the time they coded. They couldn’t possibly know what the doctors, staff, or relatives were saying in the same or another room. Nonetheless, NDErs were privy to conversations and events.” (Jody Long)

Dr. Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist at Yale, was transformed by witnessing children’s NDEs, such as that of an 8-year-old with cancer envisioning a school bus driven by Jesus, a 7-year-old leukemia patient hearing a chorus of angels before passing away.

“I was an atheist, and it changed my view of spiritual matters,” recalls Komp. “Call it a conversion. I came away convinced that these are real spiritual experiences.” (Dr. Diane Komp)

Dr. Timothy Leary, the deceased psychologist and 60’s guru who experimented with LSD, once described ketamine as “experiments in voluntary death.”

Psychiatrist, Dr. Stanislav Grof, stated:

“If you have a full-blown experience of ketamine, you can never believe there is death or that death can possibly influence who you are.” Ketamine allows some patients to reason that “the strange, unexpected intensity and unfamiliar dimension of their experience means they must have died.” (Dr. Stanislav Grof)

Categories
Evidence Science

People Have Near-Death Experiences While Brain Dead

Dr. Michael Sabom is a cardiologist whose book entitled Light and Death includes a detailed medical and scientific analysis of an amazing near-death experience (NDE) of a woman named Pam Reynolds (1956–2010). In 1991, at the age of 35, Reynolds underwent a rare operation to remove a giant basilar artery aneurysm in her brain that threatened her life. The size and location of the aneurysm, however, precluded its safe removal using the standard neuro-surgical techniques. She was referred to a neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert F. Spetzler, of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, who had pioneered a daring surgical procedure known as deep hypothermic cardiac arrest. It allowed Pam’s aneurysm to be excised with a reasonable chance of success. This operation, nicknamed “standstill” by the doctors who perform it, required that Pam’s body temperature be lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing stopped, her brain waves flattened, and the blood drained from her head. In everyday terms, she was put to death. After removing the aneurysm, she was restored to life.

During the time that Pam was in standstill, she experienced an NDE. Her remarkably detailed veridical (i.e., verified) out-of-body observations during her surgery were later verified to be true. Her case is considered to be one of the strongest cases of veridical evidence in NDE research because of her ability to describe the unique surgical instruments, the surgical procedures used on her, and her ability to describe in detail these events while she was clinically brain dead. Pam Reynolds Lowery ultimately died from heart failure, on Saturday May 22, 2010, at the age 53.

Table of Contents

  1. Pam Reynolds’ Surgery and Near-Death Experience
  2. About the State of Pam Reynolds’ Brain Death
  3. The Pam Reynolds’ Debate in the Journal of Near-Death Studies
  4. More Links to Articles Related to the Veridical Perception Debate
  5. The Case Against Keith Augustine’s “Internet Infidels”
    a. Against Keith Augustine’s Naturalism
    b. Against Keith Augustine’s “Myth of an Afterlife”

1. Pam Reynolds’ Surgery and Near-Death Experience

When all of Pam’s vital signs were stopped, the doctor turned on a surgical saw and began to cut through Pam’s skull. While this was going on, Pam reported that she felt herself “pop” outside her body and hover above the operating table. Then she watched the doctors working on her lifeless body for awhile. From her out-of-body position, she observed the doctor sawing into her skull with what looked to her like an electric toothbrush. Pam heard and reported later what the nurses in the operating room had said and exactly what was happening during the operation. At this time, every monitor attached to Pam’s body registered “no life” whatsoever. At some point, Pam’s consciousness floated out of the operating room and traveled down a tunnel which had a light at the end of it where her deceased relatives and friends were waiting including her long-dead grandmother. Pam’s NDE ended when her deceased uncle led her back to her body for her to reentered it. Pam compared the feeling of reentering her dead body to “plunging into a pool of ice.” The following is Pam Reynolds’ account of her NDE in her own words.

Pam Reynolds’ NDE

The next thing I recall was the sound: It was a Natural “D.” As I listened to the sound, I felt it was pulling me out of the top of my head. The further out of my body I got, the more clear the tone became. I had the impression it was like a road, a frequency that you go on … I remember seeing several things in the operating room when I was looking down. It was the most aware that I think that I have ever been in my entire life …I was metaphorically sitting on [the doctor’s] shoulder. It was not like normal vision. It was brighter and more focused and clearer than normal vision … There was so much in the operating room that I didn’t recognize, and so many people.

I thought the way they had my head shaved was very peculiar. I expected them to take all of the hair, but they did not…

The saw-thing that I hated the sound of looked like an electric toothbrush and it had a dent in it, a groove at the top where the saw appeared to go into the handle, but it didn’t … And the saw had interchangeable blades, too, but these blades were in what looked like a socket wrench case … I heard the saw crank up. I didn’t see them use it on my head, but I think I heard it being used on something. It was humming at a relatively high pitch and then all of a sudden it went Brrrrrrrrr! like that.

Someone said something about my veins and arteries being very small. I believe it was a female voice and that it was Dr. Murray, but I’m not sure. She was the cardiologist. I remember thinking that I should have told her about that … I remember the heart-lung machine. I didn’t like the respirator … I remember a lot of tools and instruments that I did not readily recognize.

There was a sensation like being pulled, but not against your will. I was going on my own accord because I wanted to go. I have different metaphors to try to explain this. It was like the Wizard of Oz – being taken up in a tornado vortex, only you’re not spinning around like you’ve got vertigo. You’re very focused and you have a place to go. The feeling was like going up in an elevator real fast. And there was a sensation, but it wasn’t a bodily, physical sensation. It was like a tunnel but it wasn’t a tunnel.

At some point very early in the tunnel vortex I became aware of my grandmother calling me. But I didn’t hear her call me with my ears … It was a clearer hearing than with my ears. I trust that sense more than I trust my own ears.

The feeling was that she wanted me to come to her, so I continued with no fear down the shaft. It’s a dark shaft that I went through, and at the very end there was this very little tiny pinpoint of light that kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

The light was incredibly bright, like sitting in the middle of a light bulb. It was so bright that I put my hands in front of my face fully expecting to see them and I could not. But I knew they were there. Not from a sense of touch. Again, it’s terribly hard to explain, but I knew they were there …

I noticed that as I began to discern different figures in the light – and they were all covered with light, they were light, and had light permeating all around them – they began to form shapes I could recognize and understand. I could see that one of them was my grandmother. I don’t know if it was reality or a projection, but I would know my grandmother, the sound of her, anytime, anywhere.

Everyone I saw, looking back on it, fit perfectly into my understanding of what that person looked like at their best during their lives.

I recognized a lot of people. My uncle Gene was there. So was my great-great-Aunt Maggie, who was really a cousin. On Papa’s side of the family, my grandfather was there … They were specifically taking care of me, looking after me.

They would not permit me to go further … It was communicated to me – that’s the best way I know how to say it, because they didn’t speak like I’m speaking – that if I went all the way into the light something would happen to me physically. They would be unable to put this me back into the body me, like I had gone too far and they couldn’t reconnect. So they wouldn’t let me go anywhere or do anything.

I wanted to go into the light, but I also wanted to come back. I had children to be reared. It was like watching a movie on fast-forward on your VCR: You get the general idea, but the individual freeze-frames are not slow enough to get detail.

Then they [deceased relatives] were feeding me. They were not doing this through my mouth, like with food, but they were nourishing me with something. The only way I know how to put it is something sparkly. Sparkles is the image that I get. I definitely recall the sensation of being nurtured and being fed and being made strong. I know it sounds funny, because obviously it wasn’t a physical thing, but inside the experience I felt physically strong, ready for whatever.

My grandmother didn’t take me back through the tunnel, or even send me back or ask me to go. She just looked up at me. I expected to go with her, but it was communicated to me that she just didn’t think she would do that. My uncle said he would do it. He’s the one who took me back through the end of the tunnel. Everything was fine. I did want to go.

But then I got to the end of it and saw the thing, my body. I didn’t want to get into it … It looked terrible, like a train wreck. It looked like what it was: dead. I believe it was covered. It scared me and I didn’t want to look at it.

It was communicated to me that it was like jumping into a swimming pool. No problem, just jump right into the swimming pool. I didn’t want to, but I guess I was late or something because he [the uncle] pushed me. I felt a definite repelling and at the same time a pulling from the body. The body was pulling and the tunnel was pushing … It was like diving into a pool of ice water … It hurt!

When I came back, they were playing Hotel California and the line was “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” I mentioned [later] to Dr. Brown that that was incredibly insensitive and he told me that I needed to sleep more. [laughter] When I regained consciousness, I was still on the respirator.

2. About the State of Pam Reynolds’ Brain Death

For practical purposes outside the world of academic debate, three clinical tests commonly determine brain death. First, a standard electroencephalogram, or EEG, measures brain-wave activity. A “flat” EEG denotes non-function of the cerebral cortex – the outer shell of the cerebrum. Second, auditory evoked potentials, similar to those [clicks] elicited by the ear speakers in Pam’s surgery, measure brain-stem viability. Absence of these potentials indicates non-function of the brain stem. And third, documentation of no blood flow to the brain is a marker for a generalized absence of brain function.

But during “standstill”, Pam’s brain was found “dead” by all three clinical tests – her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain. Interestingly, while in this state, she encountered the “deepest” NDE of all Atlanta Study participants.

Some scientists theorize that NDEs are produced by brain chemistry. But, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist and the leading authority in Britain concerning NDEs, believes that these theories fall far short of the facts. In the documentary, “Into the Unknown: Strange But True,” Dr. Fenwick describes the state of the brain during an NDE:

“The brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences … an unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working. The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these experiences [an NDE], you come out with clear, lucid memories … This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact.”

3. The Pam Reynolds’ Debate in the Journal of Near-Death Studies

Keith Augustine is a philosopher and executive editor of an organization and website promoting atheism called “Internet Infidels” — now renamed “The Secular Web” (www.infidels.org). Beginning in the summer of 2007, Augustine submitted three skeptical papers related to the Pam Reynolds’s case to the scholarly, peer-reviewed journal on NDEs called the Journal of Near-Death Studies. Normally, only papers by physicians, scientists, medical professionals and academics are accepted; but, according to the Editor of the Journal, Bruce Greyson, M.D., Augustine’s papers were accepted because of the large collection of skeptical arguments presented and the opportunity it would give to have them peer-reviewed.

Following Augustine’s papers and the peer-reviewed commentaries on them, another skeptic’s papers are presented related to the Pam Reynolds’ case which were accepted to the Journal and peer-reviewed. Gerald Woerlee (www.neardth.com) is a Dutch anesthesiologist and author of several books including the anti-religious book “The Unholy Legacy of Abraham” where he presents his skeptical theory about phenomena such as NDEs as being religious fantasies of the brain.

Altogether, these skeptical papers and critical commentaries give the NDE enthusiast with a library of information providing all sides of the issue concerning the materialist / agnostic / survivalist debate on NDEs.

Links to Papers from the Journal of Near-Death Studies on the Veridical Perception NDE Debate

A. Keith Augustine. “Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?” JNDS Vol. 25, No. 4 (Summer 2007) [PDF]
1. Bruce Greyson. “Comments on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘” (pp. 237-244). [PDF]
2. Kimberly Sharp. “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?” (pp. 245-250). [PDF]
3. Charles Tart. “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘” (pp. 251-256). [PDF]
4. Michael Sabom. “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?’” (pp. 257-260). [PDF]
a. Keith Augustine. “‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?’ DEFENDED” (pp. 261-283). [PDF]

B. Keith Augustine. “NDEs with Hallucinatory Features” JNDS Vol. 26, No. 1 (Fall 2007) [PDF]
1. Janice Holden. “A Response to ‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features‘” (pp. 33-42). [PDF]
2. Peter Fenwick. “Commentary on ‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features‘” (pp. 43-49). [PDF]
3. William Serdahely. “Commentary on ‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features” (pp. 51-53). [PDF]
4. Bruce Greyson. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 67-70). [PDF]
5. Kenneth Ring. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 70-76). [PDF]
6. Raymond Moody. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 77-83). [PDF]
7. Steven Cooper. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 83). [PDF]
8. Barbara Whitfield. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 84-85). [PDF]
a. Keith Augustine. “‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features’ DEFENDED” (pp. 55-65). [PDF]

C. Keith Augustine. “Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates Undermining a Survivalist Interpretation of NDEs” JNDS Vol. 26, No. 2 (Winter 2007) [PDF]
1. Bruce Greyson. “Commentary on ‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates…” (pp. 127-145). [PDF]
2. Allan Kellehear. “Comments on ‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates…” (pp. 147-153). [PDF]
3. Mark Fox. “Comment on Keith Augustine’s Article” (pp. 155-157). [PDF]
4. Harvey Irwin. “Commentary on Keith Augustine’s Paper” (pp. 159-161). [PDF]
a. Keith Augustine. “‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates… DEFENDED” (pp. 163-175). [PDF]

D. Journal of Near-Death Studies. Vol. 26, No. 3 (Spring 2008)
1. P.M.H. Atwater. “Embellishment of NDEs [Letter]” (pp. 219-223). [PDF]
2. Michael Sabom. “Study of Perception in Autoscopic NDEs [Letter]” (pp. 223-227). [PDF]
3. Neal Grossman. “Four Errors Commonly Made by Professional Debunkers [Letter]” (pp. 227-235). [PDF]
4. Keith Augustine. “Augustine Responds [Letter]” (pp. 235-243). [PDF]

E. Journal of Near-Death Studies. Vol. 26, No. 4 (Summer 2008)
1. Rudolf Smit. “Further Commentary on Pam Reynolds’ NDE [Letter]” (pp. 308-311). [PDF]

F. Gerald Woerlee. “Could Pam Reynolds Hear? A New Investigation into the Possibility of Hearing During this Famous NDE” JNDS, Vol. 30, No 1, (Fall 2011) [PDF]
1. Stuart Hameroff. “Response to ‘Could Pam Reynolds Hear?‘” (pp. 26-28). [PDF]
2. Chris Carter. “Response to ‘Could Pam Reynolds Hear?‘” (pp. 29-53). [PDF]
a. Gerald Woerlee. “Rejoinder to Responses to ‘Could Pam Reynolds Hear?‘” (pp. 54-61). [PDF]
I. Reply to Woerlee’s Rejoinder on the Pam Reynolds Case (2012) – by Chris Carter [PDF]
II. Interview with Titus Rivas about NDEs, survival of consciousness, the Pam Reynolds case etc. (2013). – by Jime Sayaka [PDF]

G. Journal for Near-Death Studies, Volume 30, Number 3, Spring 2012
1. Rudolf Smit. “Failed Test of the Possibility that Pam Reynolds Heard Normally During her NDE” [Letter} (pp. 188-192). [PDF]

H. Pim van Lommel et al. “NDE in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands” (Dutch Study) The Lancet Vol. 358 (Dec. 2001) (pp. 2039-2045) [PDF]
1. Rudolf Smit. “Corroboration of the Dentures Anecdote Involving Veridical Perception in a NDE” JNDS Vol. 27, No. 1 (Fall 2008) (pp. 48-61) [PDF]
a. Gerald Woerlee. “Response to ‘Corroboration of the Dentures Anecdote Involving Veridical Perception in a NDE‘” JNDS Vol. 28, No. 4 (Summer 2010) (pp. 181-191) [PDF]
I. Rudolf Smit et al. “Rejoinder to ‘Corroboration of the Dentures Anecdote Involving Veridical Perception in a NDE‘” JNDS Vol. 28, No. 4 (Summer 2010) (193-205) [PDF]

4. More Links to Articles Related to the Veridical Perception Debate

Below are some Internet links related to the topic of the Pam Reynolds’ NDE debate and paranormal out-of-body veridical perception evidence for the survival of consciousness after death.

A. More Journal of Near-Death Studies Articles on Evidence From Veridical OBE Perception in NDEs
1. Kenneth Ring et al. “Further Evidence for Veridical Perception During NDEs” JNDS Vol. 11, No. 4 (1993) [PDF]
2. Titus Rivas et al. “A NDE with Veridical Perception Described by a Famous Heart Surgeon and Confirmed by his Assistant Surgeon” JNDS Vol. 31, No. 3 (2013) [PDF]
3. Penny Sartori et al. “A Prospectively Studied NDE with Corroborated OBE Perceptions and Unexplained Healing” JNDS Vol. 25, No. 2 (2006) [PDF]
4. Janice Holden. “Visual Perception During Naturalistic Near-Death OBEs” JNDS Vol. 7, No. 2 (1988) [PDF]
5. Janice Holden et al. “Near-Death Veridicality Research in the Hospital Setting: Problems and Promise” JNDS Vol. 9, No. 1 (1990) [PDF]
6. Michael Potts. “The Evidential Value of NDEs for Belief in Life After Death” JNDS Vol. 20, No. 4 (2002) [PDF]
7. Janice Holden et al. “Out-of-Body Experiences: All in the Brain?” JNDS Vol. 25, No. 2 (2006) [PDF]
8. Robert & Suzanne Mays. “The Phenomenology of the Self-Conscious Mind” JNDS Vol. 27, No. 1 (2008) [PDF]

B. Other Journal Articles on Evidence From Veridical OBE Perception in NDEs
1. David Rousseau. “The Implications of NDEs for Research into the Survival of Consciousness” JSE Vol. 26, No. 1 (pp. 43-80) (2012) [PDF]
2. Bruce Greyson. “Seeing Dead People Not Known to Have Died: ‘Peak in Darien’ Experiences” Anthropology and Humanism Vol. 25, No. 2 (2010) (pp. 159-171) [PDF]
3. Pim van Lommel. “NDE, Consciousness, and the Brain” World Futures Vol. 62 (2006) [PDF]
4. Michael Nahm et al. “Terminal Lucidity: A Review and a Case Collection” Arch. Gerontol. Geriarr. (2011) [PDF]
5. Enrico Facco et al. “NDEs Between Science and Prejudice” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Vol. 6, No. 6 (2012) (pp. 1-7) [PDF]

C. Articles Refuting Keith Augustine’s and Gerald Woerlee’s Arguments
1. “Veridical OBE Perception in Near-Death Experiences” – by Kevin Williams (Near-Death.com)
2. “Rebutting Keith Augustine’s Objections to the Near-Death Experience” – by Leo MacDonald (ParanormalandLifeAfterDeath.blogspot.com)
3. “NDEs / OBEs: An In-depth Examination of Veridical Evidence” – by Eteponge (Eteponge.blogspot.com)
4. “NDEs: Brain Physiology or Transcendental Consciousness? Or Both?” – by Kevin Williams (Near-Death.com)
5. “NDEs and Their Enemies” – by Michael Prescott (MichaelPrescott.typepad.com)
6. “Who Will Watch the Watchers” – by Michael Prescott (MichaelPrescott.typepad.com)

D. Other Articles on Evidence From Veridical OBE Perception in NDEs
1. “NDEs as Evidence for Survival of Bodily Death” – by Bruce Greyson (SurvivalAfterDeath.info)
2. “A Critique of Susan Blackmore’s Dying Brain Hypothesis” – by Greg Stone (Near-Death.com)
3. “The Survivalist’s Interpretation of Recent Studies Into NDEs” – by Titus Rivas (Near-Death.com)
4. “About the Continuity of Our Consciousness” – by Pim Von Lommel (IANDS.org)
5. “Medical Evidence for NDEs: A Reply to Shermer” – by Pim van Lommel (Skepticalinvestigations.org)
6. “Dr. Charles Tart’s OBE Research” (Autoscopic Evidence) – by Charles Tart (Near-Death.com)
7. “Debunking PseudoSkeptical Arguments of Paranormal Debunkers” – by Winston Wu (DebunkingSkeptics.com)

5. The Case Against Keith Augustine’s “Internet Infidels”

a. Against Keith Augustine’s Naturalism

Religious faith implies the possibility of doubt. Knowledge implies certainty due to scientific methods. This is why knowledge will always be greater than faith; and why scientific support for the existence of God is always stronger than faith in dogma. Kurt Godel, the foremost mathematical logician of the 20th century, offered a theorem and a proof that atheism is not logical. If you visit Keith Augustine’s website, Infidels.org, on the home page you will find the following statement:

Naturalism is ‘the hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it.’ Thus, ‘naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities’ – including God.” – Quote from Keith Augustine’s website

However, Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem shows that no consistent formal system can prove its own consistency. See this Wikipedia article for the mathematical logic. In plain language, it proves that all closed systems depend upon something outside the system. So according to Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, the quote on the Infidels website cannot be correct. If the natural world is a closed, logical system, then it has an outside cause. Thus, according to Godel’s theorem, atheism violates the laws of reason and logic. Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem definitively proves that current scientific models can never fill its own gaps. We have no choice but to look outside of current scientific models for answers concerning illogical statements such as, “A God does not exist in the natural world.”.

The incompleteness of the universe’s own consistency regarding its existence isn’t proof that the God of any particular religion exists; but it is proof that in order to construct a rational, scientific model of the universe, a new scientific model that includes an outside, all-powerful Cause is not just 100% logical – it’s necessary. Kurt Godel also developed an Ontological Proof of God’s existence which has been proven by German computer scientists in 2013. However, Godel’s theorems and proof cannot be applied to prove the existence of Santa Claus, nor to prove the existence of a Flying Spaghetti Monster flatulating the universe into existence.

Dr. Juleon Schins, professor of Chemical Engineering at Delft University of Technology, declared that Godel’s theorem and Alan Turing’s thesis:

“…firmly establish the existence of something that is unlimited and absolute, fully rational and independent of human mind. What would be more convincing pointer to God?” — Dr. Juleon Schins

Dr. Antoine Suarez, of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies Center for Quantum Philosophy, in turn states that, because of Godel’s theorems, we are “scientifically” led to the conclusion that it is reasonable to reckon with God.

Then there is the logical argument from the Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis whose former belief in an unjust universe led him away from atheism to theism:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1952)

So Lewis concluded that if the universe is meaningless, we would never have discovered it to be meaningless. And because the burden of proof lies with those who illogically claim the world is meaningless, and not upon those who disprove the claim by giving it meaning, shows the claim of a meaningless universe is false. The same is true of a “Godless” universe.

Near-death experiences also support the existence of God. On Wikipedia, other logical arguments for the existence of God can be found.

b. Against Keith Augustine’s “Myth of an Afterlife”

Keith Augustine, along with the late Michael Martin, is the co-author of the 675-page book, “The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death,” published by Rowman & Littlefield (2015). It also comes in a Kindle eBook Edition. From the Amazon.com description: the authors collected a series of contributions providing a “casebook” of the chief arguments against an afterlife. The authors brought together a variety of fields of research to make their case, including (1) philosophy of mind, (2) philosophy of religion, (3) moral philosophy, (4) personal identity, (5) psychical research, (6) anomalistic psychology, and (7) cognitive neuroscience. Divided into four separate sections, the book opens with a broad overview of the issues, as contributors consider the strongest evidence of whether or not we survive death — in particular the biological basis of all mental states and their grounding in brain activity that ceases to function at death. Next, contributors consider a host of conceptual and empirical difficulties that confront the various ways of “surviving” death — from bodiless minds to bodily resurrection to any form of posthumous survival. Then essayists turn to internal inconsistencies between traditional theological conceptions of an afterlife — heaven, hell, karmic rebirth — and widely held ethical principles central to the belief systems supporting those notions. In the final section, authors offer critical evaluations of the main types of evidence for an afterlife.

There are a couple of great critical book reviews on “The Myth of an Afterlife”: (1) by Robert McLuhan, “The Myth of an Afterlife” from The Society for Psychical Research; and, (2) by Julio C. S. Barros, “Requiem to a Stillborn 21st-Century Atheist-Materialist Grimoir” from the Amazon Reviews.

In my opinion, one of the most devastating failures of Keith Augustine’s book is that it doesn’t address the latest evidence from quantum mechanics (QM) as it relates to the survival of quantum consciousness. In fact, Augustine seems to favor mostly the opinion of philosophers than scholars of the “hard sciences.” QM does not rule out the possibility of an “afterlife” universe or “afterlife” dimension (a multiverse, a multidimensional universe) or the survival of brain function after death (quantum immortality). Through quantum decoherence and quantum superposition, the idea of parallel universes offers the possibility for the existence of a communicating parallel universe acting as a person’s afterlife universe when death occurs. As derived from the Many-WORLDS interpretation of QM, and its extending concept of Many-MINDS interpretation of QM, it is theoretically possible for a living person to exist in superposition in a parallel universe (including their mental states and electrical discharges occurring throughout their brain and nervous system). Many-Worlds views reality as a many-branched tree where every possible quantum outcome is realized including the possibility of branches to universes that doesn’t lead to a living person’s death. Theoretically, this makes it possible for a living person to continue living in a parallel universe when the person dies in this current universe. In fact, Augustine’s book doesn’t even mention the Many Worlds interpretation of QM although one of the authors of Augustine’s book is David Papineau, a prominent supporter of Many Worlds.

More support for the possibility of survival after death comes from the current string theory interpretation of the holographic principle of quantum physics. This principle defines our universe as existing as a hologram where all the quantum information perceived in three dimensions is stored. First proposed by the eminent physicist David Bohm (author of Bohmian mechanics and co-author of the holonomic brain theory along with Karl Pribram), a holographic universe can theoretically encode every quantized moment of our existence and experiences from the universe.

Rather than a constant flow of experience, mental states can be broken up in intervals or time-quanta of 0.042 seconds, each of which make up one moment of neural substrate. Each state consists of a certain amount of quantum information which can theoretically be stored on a hard drive for example; and there is much progress ongoing in this technology. This holographic model of reality allows for phenomena considered “paranormal” such as near-death experiences, other phenomena involving life after death, and mental telepathy for example. The universe as a single hologram also solves the mystery of quantum entanglement which Albert Einstein called “spooky actions from a distance.”

Also, the materialist model of conventional science is based on the old paradigm of Newtonian classical mechanics and is fundamentally flawed. Conventional materialist concepts of reality have been falsified such as: (1) locality, (2) causality, (3) continuity, (4) determinism, and (5) certainty in the last century by the modern science of quantum electrodynamics. At the core of materialism, the fundamental component of existence — the nature of consciousness — is intentionally ignored even though the pioneers of quantum mechanics demonstrated and believed consciousness has a definite role in creating reality. Mainstream materialist theories of consciousness use classical mechanics in assuming consciousness emerged and is produced from “goo”. So they focus particularly on complex computation at synapses in the brain allowing communication between neurons.

But because quantum vibrations have been discovered in microtubules in the brain, a theory known as Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR), developed by the eminent physicist Sir Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, M.D., allows for a person’s quantum mind to exist in the multiverse, has garnered significant support. At death, the quantum information processed inside these microtubules doesn’t disappear. Instead, it is retained in the fine structure of the universe and on the edge of the event horizon of the singularity from which our universe projected; thereby allowing the information to be retrieved after death.

There is also much evidence suggesting NDEs are actual afterlife experiences. Here is a list of some of the best evidence:

Some of the Best Evidence of NDEs as Actual Afterlife Experiences

  1. People have NDEs while they are brain dead. (This article)
  2. Out-of-body perception during NDEs has been verified by independent sources.
  3. People born blind can see for the first time in their lives during an NDE.
  4. NDEs cannot be explained by brain chemistry alone.
  5. Some people were dead for several days then revived.
  6. NDEs have produced visions of the future which later became true.
  7. People having NDEs have brought back scientific discoveries, some are scientific breakthroughs.
  8. The so-called “dying brain” theory of NDEs has major flaws and has been falsified.
  9. The vast majority of people having NDEs are convinced they saw an afterlife.
  10. People can experience other people’s NDEs.
  11. NDEs have been proven to be different from hallucinations.
  12. NDEs change people in ways that hallucinations and dreams cannot.
  13. Studies show that people’s memories of their NDEs are more real than normal memories.

Read the rest of the 40+ other evidence supporting NDEs and the afterlife on this web page.

In conclusion, there is a new scientific paradigm emerging in quantum physics and medical technology which is yielding new discoveries concerning consciousness and the possibility of its survival after death. Skeptics and materialists rely mostly on the old paradigm, Newtonian physics to explain consciousness and the old explanation is becoming obsolete. New medical technology is bringing people back from death and providing research to validate out-of-body perception in NDErs.

Will science ever prove conclusively that consciousness survives death? Unless research laboratories become open to the idea of voluntary “flatline” experiments on a large scale to study veridical perception and long-term survival after clinical or brain death, I don’t see it. Until then, I consider myself to be first in line to be on the list of volunteers.

Categories
Evidence Science

People Can Experience Someone Else’s Near-Death Experience

A phenomenon closely related to deathbed Visions and NDEs is shared-death experiences (SDEs) as coined by Dr. Raymond Moody. In these experiences, bystanders who are close to a dying person experience many of the same elements of the NDE with the dying person, including leaving their bodies, meeting beings of light, and seeing the life review of the dying person. These bystanders are themselves healthy and not dying yet seem to share these experiences. This phenomenon casts doubt upon the materialistic theory that NDEs are caused by hallucinations of a dying brain. In his book, Glimpses of Eternity: An Investigation Into Shared Death Experiences, Dr. Moody shares many eyewitness accounts of those who have shared the experiences of the dying. His book draws upon his lifetime’s research as well as recent findings. These kind of NDEs attain a higher validity when they occur with a significant physical distance between the dying and the individuals sharing the NDE. At no time are there any indications the experiencers are themselves in any discernible medical distress. Typically, the experience accompanies an individual who is dying through sudden, spontaneous, and unexpected means; and includes the sense of rendering assistance to an otherwise confused individual. P.M.H. Atwater has this to say about SDEs:

“There are cases in which several experiencers seem to share in each other’s episode; that is to say they have the same or similar elements, scenario type, or basic storyline. Usually these are encountered when two or three people are involved in the same accident at the same time or are in the same general section of the hospital at the same time. Sometimes these states are experienced singly (one individual is not aware of the other during the episode, but later learns that both apparently had the same scenario). Sometimes the people involved are aware of each other, and are able to confirm the extent of that awareness after they are able to compare their separate stories.” (P.M.H. Atwater)

Table of Contents

  1. The Shared Death Experience of Johnny and His Wife
  2. A Dying Mother and Her Daughter’s Shared Death Experience
  3. Dr. Melvin Morse’s Case of Shared Death Experience
  4. Sussanna Uballe’s Shared Death Experience
  5. An Anonymous Shared Death Experience
  6. Dr. Joan Borysenko and Her Son’s Shared Death Experience of Her Dying Mother
  7. Links to Shared Death Experience Articles, Videos and Books

1. The Shared Death Experience of Johnny and His Wife

In one example of a shared death experience, Dr. Moody reports about a woman who experienced a vivid shared life review with her dying husband named Johnny and included events she was completely unaware unaware of:

“I was beside him the whole time in the hospital and was holding onto him when he died. When he did, he went right through my body. It felt like an electric sensation, like when you get your finger in the electrical socket, only much more gentle.

“Anyway, when that happened our whole life sprang up around us and just kind of swallowed up the hospital room and everything in it in an instant. There was light all around: a bright, white light that I immediately knew – and Johnny knew – was Christ.

“Everything we ever did was there in that light. Plus I saw things about Johnny… I saw him doing things before we were married. You might think that some of it might be embarrassing or personal, and it was. But there was no need for privacy, as strange as that might seem. These were things that Johnny did before we were married. Still, I saw him with girls when he was very young. Later I searched for them in his high school yearbook and was able to find them, just based on what I saw during the life review during his death.

“In the middle of this life review, I saw myself there holding onto his dead body, which didn’t make me feel bad because he was also completely alive, right beside me, viewing our life together.

“By the way, the life review was like a ‘wraparound.’ [Webmaster Note: This refers to 360 degree vision often experienced in NDEs] I don’t know how else to describe it. It was a wraparound scene of everything Johnny and I experienced together or apart. There is no way I could even put it into words other than to say that all of this was in a flash, right there at the bedside where my husband died.

“Then, right in the middle of this review, the child that we lost to a miscarriage when I was still a teenager stepped forth and embraced us. She was not a figure of a person exactly as you would see a human being, but more the outline or sweet, loving presence of a little girl. The upshot of her being there any issues we ever had regarding her loss were made whole and resolved. I was reminded of the verse from the Bible about ‘the peace that passeth all understanding.’ That’s how I felt when she was there.

“One of the funny things about this wraparound view of our life was that we had gone to Atlanta in the seventh grade, to the state capital, where there was a diorama. So at one point we were watching this wraparound and watching ourselves in another wraparound – a diorama – where we stood side-by-side as kids. I burst out laughing and Johnny laughed too, right there beside me.

“Another thing that was strange about this wraparound was that in certain parts of it were panels or dividers that kept us from seeing all of it. I don’t have the words to this, but the screens or panels kept particular parts of both of our lives invisible. I don’t know what was behind them but I do know that these were thoughts from Christ, who said that someday we would be able to see behind those panels too.”

2. A Dying Mother and Her Daughter’s Shared Death Experience

In another example, Dr. Moody documented the account of a woman in her seventies who described a shared death experience while tending to her dying mother.

As her mother died the light in the room suddenly became much brighter and she felt a rocking motion through her whole body. [Webmaster Note: Such rocking motions are an indication of an out-of-body experience.] She then found herself seeing the room from a different angle, from above and to the left side of the bed instead of from the right side.

“This rocking forward motion was very comfortable, and not at all like a shudder and especially not like when a car you are riding in lurches to the side and you get nauseous. I did not feel uncomfortable but in fact the opposite; I felt far more comfortable and peaceful than I ever felt in my life.

“I don’t know whether I was out of my body or not because all the other things that were going on held my attention. I was just glued to scenes from my mother’s life that were flashing throughout the room or around the bed. I cannot even tell whether the room was there any more or if it was, there was a whole section of it I hadn’t noticed before. I would compare it to the surprise you would have if you had lived in the same house for many years, but one day you opened up at it and found a big secret compartment you didn’t know about. This thing seemed so strange and yet perfectly natural at the same time.

“The scenes that were flashing around in midair contained things that had happened to my mother, some of which I remembered and others that I didn’t. I could see her looking at the scenes too, and she sure recognized all of them, as I could tell by her expression as she watched. This all happened at once so there is no way of telling it that matches the situation.

“The scenes of my mother’s life reminded me of old-fashioned flashbulbs going off. When they did, I saw scenes of her life like in one of the 3-D movies of the 1950s.

“By the time the flashes of her life were going on, she was out of her body. I saw my father, who passed seven years before, standing there where the head of the bed would have been. By this point the bed was kind of irrelevant and my father was coaching my mother out of the body. I looked right into his face and a recognition of love passed between us, but he went right back to focusing on my mother. He looked like a young man, although he was 79 when he died. There was a glow about or all through him – very vibrant. He was full of life.

“One of his favorite expressions was ‘Look alive!’ and he sure did look alive when he was coaching my mother out of her body. A part of her that was transparent just stood right up, going through her body, and she and my father glided off into the light and disappeared.

“The room sort of rocked again, or my body did, but this time backward in the opposite direction and then everything went back to normal.

“I felt great tenderness from my mother and father. This entire event overflowed with love and kindness. Since that day I wonder: ‘Is the world we live in just a figment of our imagination?'”

3. Dr. Melvin Morse’s Case of Shared Death Experience

The following experience is described by Dr. Melvin Morse in his excellent book entitled Parting Visions. Morse described this experience as “one of the most beautiful experiences of its kind that he has ever read.”:

“Karl Skala was one of Germany’s most noted poets. During World War II, he had an NDE. He and his best friend were huddled together in a foxhole during an artillery bombardment. The shells hit closer and closer until one finally hit close to Skala’s friend and killed him. Karl felt his friend slump forward into his arms and go limp with death. Then a strange thing happened to Skala. He states that he felt himself being drawn up with his friend, above their bodies and then above the battlefield. Skala could look down and see himself holding his friend. Then he looked up and saw a bright light and felt himself going toward it with his friend. Then he stopped and returned to his body. He was uninjured except for a hearing loss that resulted from the artillery blast.” (Dr. Melvin Morse, Parting Visions, page 45-46)

4. Sussanna Uballe’s Shared Death Experience

In the Summer, 1996, edition of the Journal of Possible Paradigms, Issue 4, an unusual shared NDE is described by a woman named Sussanna Uballe. Here she describes what happened:

“The experience of co-experiencing death is, I feel, much like an NDE. I did not have a near death experience, but did travel part way up the tunnel with my husband as he left this dimension.

“On Memorial day (observed), May 27, 1979, I was five months pregnant with my son, Christopher. My husband and I rode bicycles and ran errands around town, and it was a very hot day for Minneapolis. I lay down after dinner and was so exhausted that I could barely move. As my husband went to the corner store about 8:00 to buy something for his lunch the next day, I fell into a very deep sleep.

“I dreamt that I was walking with my husband, Herb, up a dark and shady forest path. It was a heavily wooded path, which was enclosed by a thick canopy of trees overhead. The path was slightly inclined, and at the crest of a hill I saw the sky, somewhat like the light at the end of a tunnel. Herb and I had been in deep conversation, about what I could not tell, but I suppose we were reminiscing about our relationship. I felt our very closeness and felt totally in love.

“He began to tell me about what it was like to die; at first filled with rage, pain, and frustration, and upset that the clerk didn’t seem to understand his pleas to call an ambulance, that he had been stabbed in the heart and needed help. He said that after a short while, which felt interminable while he was experiencing it, he left his body and floated above it and saw the body below him, and felt detached from it, like it was just a body. He was filled with peace and love. And he felt no pain.

“After telling me this, he then said that he had to go. His feet started to move very fast, and he began to leave me behind on the path. I told him that I could do that too, and put some effort into “powering up” my feet to make them go super fast. I actually started to rev up and move along the path quickly, and felt as if I was traveling up a tunnel of forest toward the sunlight at the top of the hill. As I began to keep pace with him he said “NO!” in a very powerful voice, and I woke up in my bed, feeling hurt at being told no.

“I looked for him, to tell him about my dream. He wasn’t there, and his side of the bed showed that he had not slept in the bed that night. It was dawn. I began to get irritated, thinking that he must have gone off with some friends, and feeling upset at how irresponsible he was behaving. I went to where we kept our bicycles, to see if his was there, and it wasn’t. I was so angry that I broke the bicycle lock and chain off of my bicycle with my bare hands, (he had taken both keys with him), and set off down the street toward the corner store. His bicycle was near the store, and a patrolman was standing next to it. I asked him where my husband was, and why his bicycle was sitting there. He asked my name and address, and refused to tell me anything more. He suggested that I go back home, and that someone would explain everything to me later. In about fifteen minutes a police officer and a clergyman came by and told me that Herb had been killed the night before.

“The dream braced me for this news, and although I was in shock, I felt assured constantly that he was not in his body, and a comforting presence was with me throughout the next few days of viewing the body, the funeral and other unpleasant business.

“Two days after the funeral, I was preparing for bed and contemplating suicide to join Herb, so that we could be together on the other side or in our next phase of incarnation or whatever. I consciously thought a question, “Should I kill myself to join Herb, or stay here.”

“I then went to bed. I was just falling asleep when I felt a presence by my right side, and looked to see Herb, naked and glowing with a soft, beautiful white light. He looked beautiful and I felt filled with love and happiness to see him. He spoke mentally to me, and said, “This is our son,” indicating my womb, “Take good care of him.” I had no question then about my purpose, and have tried to do the best possible job taking care of my son ever since. It did not at all seem strange that he used the word “son”, and, of course, although these were the days before ultrasound, I did give birth to a boy.” (Sussanna Uballe)

5. An Anonymous Shared Death Experience

The following the shared death experience of a person who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Here is my story of an NDE I had on Thanksgiving evening at my apartment. At that time (around 1991 and 1992), I had a friend who was diagnosed as terminally ill from AIDS complications. Six months before, the doctor told him he had three months to live. So, basically he was on borrowed time. In the early 90s, there was no medication for advanced HIV or AIDS. Once you got sick, you basically died.

“I was not planning on preparing a huge Thanksgiving dinner that evening. But, for some reason, I woke up and called all the people in my address book. I left messages on their phone machines and said that anyone who had no place to go for Thanksgiving could come to my apartment.

“I began cooking shortly after that. I cooked all day and fed people as they strolled in. Then, around 11 p.m. that night, Phillip showed up. He was the guy who was terminally ill. He told me he had nowhere to go that evening and was thankful I had called him.

“All the guests for the day had gone, so Phillip and I began to eat together. I had not eaten all day because of the several people that came over and my entertaining them. So, I was quite hungry and tired.

“At this point, Phillip explained how six months ago, he had three months to live. He decided he would try to make it to Thanksgiving and then finally let go.

“So there we were and we were laughing and joking about how he would die after eating dinner. He’d already lived three months longer than he was supposed to and he was quite accepting of the whole situation. He was no longer afraid. He told me that his liver was so weak, at that point, that really he wouldn’t be able to eat all the rich salty and sugary foods on the table. If he did, he probably would actually die. But, that would be OK. At least he made it to Thanksgiving and would die happy knowing he had a place to go and a friend who cared for him. So he decided he would eat the dinner – everything – and if he died, then it was God’s will.

“Well, he began eating and the food made both of us really high from the tryptophan in the turkey. Especially because both of us did not eat all day long and we were making all these jokes about dying. Then he actually started to fade away in front of me. He turned pure white grayish and slumped over. I thought, ‘Oh my God! He really is dying.’

“Then I saw this incredible white spinning light appear on his left shoulder as he was falling over toward me in his chair. I thought, “My God! I can see his soul leaving his body! Maybe it was an angel who had come for him!”

“In any event, the light was so beautiful and lovely, that I stood up without thinking and thought, ‘Take me! I’ll go and he can stay!’ I so desperately wanted to go into that light and be with it. Suddenly, I was having an NDE with Phillip in a space that I can only describe as heaven. It was simply a pure whiteness of light just like in the movies. No visuals at all. Just white light everywhere.

“Then, I was back in my body. Phillip sat straight up and was back in his body. He was muttering that he guessed he just couldn’t die.

“Then next day, when I awoke, I felt two powerful presences. It was like four pairs of hands on my shoulders: two on each side holding me in my body. I felt two very powerful angels or spirits behind me just resting their ‘hands’ on my back and shoulders and grounding me back into this reality. I cried, even sobbed, that I had come back here. I was actually depressed for some time. I was thinking how wonderful death was and how awful it was to come back.

“Phillip lived many years after this, I might add. Then we lost touch, so I can’t say if he is still around or not.”

6. Dr. Joan Borysenko and Her Son’s Shared Death Experience of Her Dying Mother

The following account comes from Dr. Joan Borysenko, a psychologist and author, who had an interesting experience with her son when her mother lay dying. She and her son had a shared death experience with Dr. Borysenko’s dying mother. Their experience was profiled in Eliot Jay Rosen’s documentary entitled, Conscious Dying: Preparing Now For A Healing Passage. The following is the experience in Dr. Borysenko’s own words:

“It was about three in the morning at the time of her passing and we said ‘goodbye’ to each other for the last time at about midnight and then she’d gone to sleep. And my son, Justin, who was about twenty at that time, and I, were sitting with her. We were on opposite sides of her bed. I was having a quiet time. I was just praying, meditating, and my eyes were closed. All of a sudden, I had a very vivid vision. I opened my eyes after this vision and the whole room seemed to be made out of light. I know that might be hard to understand, but it was like everything was made of particles of light: my mother and the bed and the ceiling. Everything was so beautiful. I looked across the bed and I saw my son Justin. And Justin was weeping. Tears were just streaming down his face and he had this wonderful, soft look, this look of awe on his face.

“And he said to me, ‘Mom, the room is filled with light. Can you see it?’

“And, boy, I said, ‘Yeah, I see it. I see the light.’

“And he said, ‘It’s Grandma. Grandma is holding open the door to eternity for us, so that we can catch a glimpse.’

“And then he went on, he looked at me with so much love and he said, ‘You know, Grandma was a very great soul. She came to this world and she took a role. She took a part much smaller than the wisdom in her soul, so that you can have something to push against; you can have something to resist and become fully who you are.'” (Dr. Joan Borysenko)

7. Links to Shared Death Experience Articles, Videos and Books

The Official Site of Dr. Raymond Moody – www.lifeafterlife.com

Dr. Raymond Moody’s Glimpses of Eternity Website – www.glimpsesofeternity.com

The Shared Crossing Project – www.sharedcrossing.com

Shared Death Experiences (SDEs): Definition, Phenomenology, Implications and Videos – www.eternea.org

Shared Death Experiences: An Analysis of the Characteristics and Implications (Video by Dr. Moody) – www.btci.org

Dr. Raymond Moody on Shared Death Experiences (15 min. Video excerpt from IANDS 2011 Conference) – www.youtube.com

Dr. Raymond Moody Interview with Paul Perry on Shared Death Experiences (Video) – www.youtube.com

The Art of Dying (book by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick) – www.amazon.com

Glimpses of Eternity: An Investigation Into Shared Death Experiences (book by Dr. Raymond Moody) – www.amazon.com

Beyond Goodbye: An Extraordinary True Story of a Shared Death Experience (book by Annie Cap) – www.amazon.com

Categories
Evidence Science

People Born Blind Can See During a Near-Death Experience

Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., (www.kenring.org) is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Connecticut, where Sharon Cooper, M.A., was Research Assistant at the time of this study. This study was funded in part by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, to which the authors express their deep thanks for its support. They also acknowledge their deep thanks to Lucienne Levy for her invaluable help in connection with this research.

The authors are also indebted to the following organizations for their collaboration in this study: the American Council of the Blind; the American Foundation for the Blind; Blindskills, Incorporated; the Massachusetts Association for the Blind; the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind; the National Braille Press; the National Federation for the Blind; the National Federation for the Blind in Connecticut; Newsreel Incorporated; the Theosophical Book Association for the Blind; and the Ziegler Magazine for the Blind. Reprint requests should be addressed to Dr. Ring at 19A Stadium Way, Kentfield, CA 94904. This paper was originally published as “Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind: A Study of Apparent Eyeless Vision” in the Journal of Near-Death Studies, 16(2) Winter 1997, and is reprinted her by permission.

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Method
    A. Procedure
  4. Subjects
    A. Experiential Status
    B. Sight Status
  5. Results
    A. NDEs in the Blind
    B. Vicki Umipeg
    C. Brad Barrows
  6. Visual Aspects of NDEs and OBEs in the Blind
  7. Corroborative Evidence for OBE and NDE Visions
    A. Frank
    B. Nancy
  8. Discussion
    A. An Overview of Our Findings
    B. Some Possible Explanations for Apparent Sight in the Blind
    C. The Dream Hypothesis
    D. Retrospective Reconstruction
    E. Blindsight
    F. Skin-Based Vision
    G. An Assessment of the Evidence for Alternative Explanations
    H. Apparent Vision in the Blind: Is It Really Seeing?
    I. Eyeless Vision and Transcendental Awareness
    J. Theories of Transcendental Awareness
  9. Conclusion
  10. References

1. Abstract

This article reports the results of an investigation into near-death and out-of-body experiences in 31 blind respondents. The study sought to address three main questions:

(1) Whether blind individuals have near-death experiences (NDEs) and, if so, whether they are the same as or different from those of sighted persons;

(2) Whether blind persons ever claim to see during NDEs and out-of-body experiences (OBEs); and

(3) If such claims are made, whether they can ever be corroborated by reference to in dependent evidence.

Our findings revealed that blind persons, including those blind from birth, do report classic NDEs of the kind common to sighted persons; that the great preponderance of blind persons claim to see during NDEs and OBEs; and that occasionally claims of visually-based knowledge that could not have been obtained by normal means can be independently corroborated. We present and evaluate various explanations of these findings before arriving at an interpretation based on the concept of transcendental awareness.

2. Introduction

This life’s dim windows of the soul
Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not thro’, the eye.
William Blake, “The Everlasting Gospel” (circa 1818)

The question of whether blind individuals can actually see during out-of-body experiences (OBEs) while close to death has long in trigued researchers in the field of near-death studies. In part, the idea that this seemingly impossible event could really occur has been fueled by occasional anecdotal reports by prominent researchers (e.g., Kubler-Ross, 1983; Moody and Perry, 1988) that they have come across such cases in the course of their investigations. Lesser known physicians interested in near-death experiences (NDEs), such as Fred Schoonmaker of Denver’s St. Luke’s Hospital, have also mentioned that they have heard such claims from their blind patients (Schoonmaker, personal communication, 1981). Similarly, another physician, Larry Dossey, opened his book Recovering the Soul (1989) with the dramatic case of a woman named Sarah, blind from birth, who had detailed visual perception during surgery when her heart had stopped.

As a result of these accounts in the literature, other researchers and writers who have taken an interest in NDEs have used such cases to make a powerful argument on behalf of the authenticity of near-death phenomena (Anderson, 1980; Habermas and Moreland, 1992; Iverson, 1992; Wilson, 1987; Woodward, 1976). Representative of this view is a passage in a recent book by a leading figure in transpersonal psychology, the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof:

There are … reported cases where individuals who were blind be cause of a medically confirmed organic damage to their optical system could at the time of clinical death see the environment. … Occurrences of this kind, unlike most of the other aspects of near-death phenomena, can be subjected to objective verification. They thus represent the most convincing proof that what happens in near-death experiences is more than the hallucinatory phantasmagoria of physiologically impaired brains. (1994, p. 31)

Yet there is reason, we think, not to leap too quickly to the conclusion that the evidence supporting visual perception in the blind is as solid as Grof’s statement would imply. In fact, when one begins to look into the basis for these claims, they appear to dissolve into the mists of hearsay, unsubstantiated anecdote and other dead ends – and even, in one case, outright fabrication. For example, Kubler-Ross and Schoonmaker have never documented the cases they have mentioned or published any details concerning them. Similarly, when one of us (K. R.) pressed Raymond Moody for further particulars about the blind person he described in one of his books, he could only remember that he had heard that account on an audio cassette provided to him by an elderly physician, but he no longer had the tape and could not recall the physician’s name (R. Moody, personal communication, 1992). And the compelling case of Sarah, so vividly portrayed by Dossey, turned out, as he confessed in a letter to K. R., to be a complete fiction, though Dossey justified it on the grounds that such cases seemed to be implied by the literature on NDEs (L. Dossey, personal communication, 1990). Indeed, Susan Blackmore (1993) has recently reviewed all this evidence and concluded that none of it holds up to scrutiny. In short, according to her, there is no convincing evidence of visual perception in the blind during NDEs, much less documented support for veridical perception (Blackmore, 1993).

Nevertheless, while there may be reason to concur with Blackmore’s assessment, there was at least one study that did attempt to inquire whether any evidence for this proposition could be gathered by systematically interviewing a sample of blind respondents. In that investigation, Harvey Irwin (1987) had field workers survey a sample of 21 blind persons in Australia. The focus of Irwin’s project was to see whether any such persons had had an OBE and, if so, to get an account of it. Among his 21 respondents, three persons did indeed report having had an OBE. Unfortunately, as Irwin ruefully had to admit, all of these persons had either some residual or peripheral vision, so they did not in the end constitute anything like a stringent cohort in terms of which to evaluate the hypothesis that the blind can see. Irwin’s own conclusion at the time was that neither his own survey nor the work of anyone else had demonstrated that persons blind from birth even have OBEs, and therefore no evidence existed that such individuals could see under such circumstances. “It now remains,” he wrote, “for further surveys to locate an OBE in a congenitally totally blind person” (Irwin, 1987, p. 57).

This is precisely what we have attempted to do in this study. In what follows we describe the results of a research project in which an effort was made to locate and interview blind persons, including those blind from birth, who believed they had undergone either an NDE or an OBE not related to any near-death incident. The principal underlying aim of this study, however, will already be apparent: we were concerned to determine whether in fact any reliable evidence could be educed from such a sample that the blind really do see under such conditions.

The significance of such findings, should they be established, has largely been implicit in our discussion thus far, but obviously the validation of such claims, or alternatively, the confirmation of all these rumors over the years, would have far-reaching and possibly baleful consequences for a conventional materialist view of science. By the same reasoning, empirical support for sight in the blind would be consistent with various “New Paradigm” visions of science that are rooted in nonlocal, nondual or holonomic perspectives in which consciousness is the primary reality. Furthermore, such findings would raise profound questions, from any scientific perspective, about mind/body relationships, the role of the brain in vision, and indeed the very mechanisms of sight.

Even within the more limited confines of parapsychological thought, such data would have a critical bearing on hypotheses having to do with the nature of OBEs and NDEs themselves. For example, V. Krishnan (1983) has argued that the perceptions reported during OBEs may have a physical basis. As a test of this hypothesis, Krishnan has proposed that the OBEs of congenitally blind persons should be distinct from those with sight. Irwin, in his discussion of this issue, framed the implications neatly:

Specifically, because people who surgically regain their sight take some time to learn visual identification of objects, the initial OBEs in the congenitally blind should exhibit the same property if the experience depends upon the visual pathways of the nervous system. The content of a congenitally blind subject’s OBE therefore may speak to Krishnan’s notion of the physical basis of out-of-body visual impressions. (Irwin, 1987, p. 54)

Our data will thus provide a crucial test of Krishnan’s hypothesis, as well as speak to the long-standing controversy in parapsychology over whether the OBE represents some kind of true extrasomatic state or only a retrospective reconstruction based on sensory cues and imaginal processes. In any case, the possible epistemological and metaphysical implications of our findings potentially touch on deep conundrums and perennial concerns in the history of both normal and anti-establishment science.

Insofar as the specific and limited objectives of this study are concerned, however, there were three that formed the basis of this inquiry. Each can be phrased as a question. First, because we were chiefly interested in NDEs in this research, there is a necessary preliminary question we need to answer to which no previous systematic investigation has even been addressed: do blind persons in fact have NDEs and, if they do, are they the same as or different from those of sighted persons? Second, do blind persons, if they do report either NDEs or OBEs, claim to have visual perceptions during these experiences? And, finally, if such claims are made, is it ever possible to corroborate them through independent evidence or the testimony of other witnesses? In other words, can one establish that these claims are something other than mere fantasies or hallucinations?

These were the issues, then, this study was designed to probe.

3. Method

A. Procedure

In order to recruit qualified participants for this study, that is, blind persons who believed they had had either an NDE or an OBE, we first made contact with 11 national, regional, and state organizations for the blind, to solicit their help in locating potential respondents among their membership. Toward this end, we provided a notice to these organizations about our research that was then included in their respective publications, most of which were distributed in Braille or in the form of an audio cassette, providing our phone number and address and inviting interested individuals who believed they qualified to take part in this study to call or write us. A similar announcement was also published in Vital Signs, the newsletter of the International Association for Near-Death Studies. Finally, we alerted a few of our colleagues in the field of near-death studies about our project and asked them to refer any potentially eligible candidates to us.

After an individual made contact with us, we conducted a screening interview over the telephone to make sure that he or she had the appropriate qualifications for our study. Specifically, we determined the sight status of the person and made sure that he or she had undergone either an NDE or one or more OBEs, not necessarily associated with a near-death crisis. Once the person’s eligibility for the study was established, we either then continued with the formal interview or scheduled a second call for that purpose. In a few cases, one or more follow-up calls were necessary to clarify some aspects of the respondent’s account. In the interview, we took a detailed sight history from the individual and then conducted an in-depth probe about his or her relevant experiences. This portion of the interview was modeled on the format originally devised by Kenneth Ring (1980), but was tailored to the specific interests of this study and the special characteristics of our respondents. In the course of this interview, particular attention was given to obtaining information about events or perceptions that in principle could be corroborated by external witnesses or medical records. Where those witnesses could be specifically identified or relevant records secured, we made efforts to gain access to them and, when possible, to interview the witnesses about their own recollections of the events or perceptions
described by the respondent.

All conversations were tape recorded with the permission of the respondent, and transcripts based on these conversations were later prepared, to permit detailed analysis of our findings. Finally, each participant who expressed an interest to receive information about the findings of this study was sent a summary at its conclusion.

4. Subjects

Of the 46 persons who were screened for this study, 31 qualified for inclusion and were interviewed. All but three of this final sample had heard about our study through the notices we had distributed. The exceptions were two persons referred to us by professional colleagues and one individual who came fortuitously to the attention of one of us as a result of meeting her husband while traveling to a professional conference.

Demographically, our sample consisted of 20 females and 11 males whose ages ranged from 22 to 70 years. They were all Caucasian, overwhelmingly Christian with respect to their original religious tradition, but varied greatly regarding their educational attainment and occupation.

A. Experiential Status

Sixteen of our respondents had survived an NDE, while an additional five persons had undergone both an NDE and one or more OBEs on other occasions not associated with their near-death incident. Thus, the total number of near-death experiencers (NDErs) in this sample was 21. The remaining 10 were per sons who had one or more OBEs only.

Of our NDErs, 13 had their experience in connection with an illness or a surgical procedure; six as a result of an accident, usually involving an automobile; two were mugged; one was nearly killed by being raped; one almost perished in combat; and one survived a suicide attempt. (The totals here are 24 experiences since three persons had two separate NDEs each and were therefore counted twice in these tabulations.)

Most of the OBEs reported occurred during states of bodily quiescence or relaxation, though some were occasioned by traumas, such as falls or rapes. The great majority of these episodes were not deliberately induced, though a few persons in our sample did try on occasion to bring them about through an act of will.

B. Sight Status

Not quite half of our total sample, 14, was comprised of persons blind from birth. A few of our respondents classified as blind from birth either had some limited light perception as children or have retained some as adults, but a distinct majority of persons in this category were without even any light perception at the time of their NDE or OBE. An additional 11 persons fell into the category of adventitiously blind, which means they lost their sight sometime after 5 years of age. The remaining six persons in our study were individuals who were severely visually impaired, most of them having at best only minimal non-delineated vision.

With respect to our two main experiential categories, NDEs and OBEs, the breakdown on sight status is as follows: among the 21 NDErs, 10 were blind from birth, nine adventitiously blind, and two severely visually impaired; among the remaining 10 out-of-body experiencers (OBErs), four were blind from birth, two adventitiously blind, and four severely visually impaired.

Of the 14 respondents blind from birth, two were congenitally blind and one had both his eyes removed by the time he was 41/2 years old. The remaining 11 were born prematurely between 1946 and 1958 and all were placed in incubators where they received excessive concentrations of oxygen resulting in blindness. These individuals developed retrolental fibroplasia (RLF), now commonly referred to as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Of our 11 adventitiously blind respondents, seven lost their vision between the ages of 16 and 41 as a result of illness or accident. In some cases, it was their near-death event itself that caused their blindness. The other four lost their vision between the ages of 13 and 52 due to slow degenerative eye diseases including retinitis pigmentosa (RP), glaucoma, and aging.

Three of our six visually impaired respondents developed RLF; two had RP, both of whom had limited peripheral vison (14 and 20 degree field, respectively); and one was born with cataracts and developed glaucoma as a teenager. All six have been legally blind from birth and only three of these individuals have been able to read any print at all.

5. Results

A. NDEs in the Blind

To examine the nature of NDEs in the blind, we must of course restrict ourselves to the 21 respondents in our sample, 12 women and nine men, who reported NDEs. Our findings with respect to this issue are unequivocal: blind persons, even those blind from birth, recount experiences that clearly conform to the familiar prototype of the beatific NDE first popularized in Moody’s book, Life After Life (1975). Their narratives, in fact, tend to be indistinguishable from those of sighted persons with respect to the elements that serve to define the classic NDE pattern, such as the feelings of great peace and well-being that attend the experience, the sense of separation from the physical body, the experience of traveling through a tunnel or dark space, the encounter with the light, the life review, and so forth.

Before we turn to a statistical summary of our findings, however, it will be helpful to present a couple of illustrative cases in order to provide a sense of the actual narrative texture of these experiences. In doing so, we will unavoidably discover some unmistakable evidence pertaining to our second, but primary, question, having to do with whether the blind see during their NDEs. Nevertheless, we must defer a detailed consideration of this issue for the time being since our purpose here is chiefly to report what some of our respondents told us they remembered when they found themselves hovering between life and death. Because of space limitations, we will be able to present only one case in depth, but we will follow it up with a synopsis of a second comparable instance. Cases that we recount below with complete names are used with the respondent’s permission; if only a first name is given to identify a case for purposes of reference, it is a pseudonym.

B. Vicki Umipeg

Vicki Umipeg is a married 43-year-old woman who has had two near-death experiences. The first, when she was 12 years old, occurred as a result of appendicitis and peritonitis. Her second NDE took place almost exactly a decade later, when she was seriously injured in an automobile accident.

Vicki was born very prematurely, having been in the womb only 22 weeks at delivery, and weighed just three pounds at birth. Afterward, her weight dropped precariously to one pound, 14 ounces. As was common for premature babies in the 1950s, she was placed in an airlock incubator through which oxygen was administered. Unfortunately, because of a failure to regulate the concentration of oxygen properly, Vicki was given too much and, along with about 50,000 other premature babies born in the United States about the same time, suffered such optic nerve damage as to leave her completely blind. As she made clear in an initial interview with another researcher, Greg Wilson, who kindly provided his tapes and transcripts to us, she has never had any visual experience whatever, nor does she even understand the nature of light:

INTERVIEWER:  Could you see anything?

VICKI:  Nothing, never. No light, no shadows, no nothing, ever.

INTERVIEWER:  So the optic nerve was destroyed to both eyes?

VICKI:  Yes, and so I’ve never been able to understand even the concept of light.

Interestingly, the overall form of Vicki’s two experiences, which were separated by a period of 10 years, was extremely similar, almost as though they were replays of one another, albeit with some variations owing to the particularities of Vicki’s life circumstances on each occasion. To minimize redundancy, we will present a fairly full exposition here only of Vicki’s second NDE, since according to her own testimony, it was the more detailed and vivid of the two.

In early 1973, Vicki, then 22, was working as an occasional singer in a nightclub in Seattle. One night, at closing time, she was unable to call for a taxi to drive her home and circumstances forced her to take the only other option: a ride with a couple of inebriated patrons. Not surprisingly, a serious accident ensued during which Vicki was thrown out of their van. Her injuries were extensive and life-threatening, and included a skull fracture and concussion, and damage to her neck, back, and one leg. In fact, it took her a full year after being released from the hospital before she could stand upright with out the risk of fainting.

Vicki clearly remembers the frightening prelude to the crash itself, but she has only a hazy recall of finding herself alternately out of her body and then back inside of it at the accident scene. Her only definite recollection of anything external to herself while out-of-body is a very brief glimpse of the crumpled vehicle. Although this aspect of her experience was confusing, she does claim that while in her out-of-body state she was aware of being in a nonphysical body that had a distinct form and that was, as she put it, “like it was made of light.”

She has no memory of the her trip to Harborview Hospital in the ambulance, but after she arrived at the emergency room, she came again to awareness when she found herself up on the ceiling watching a male doctor and a woman – she is not sure whether the woman was another physician or a nurse – working on her body. She could overhear their conversation, too, which had to do with their fear that because of possible damage to Vicki’s eardrum, she could become deaf as well as blind. Vicki tried desperately to communicate to them that she was fine, but naturally drew no response. She was also aware of seeing her body below her, which she recognized by certain identifying features, such as a distinctive wedding ring she was wearing.

According to her testimony, Vicki first had a very fleeting image of herself lying on the metal table and she was sure, she said, that “it was me,” although it took her a moment to register that fact with certainty. As she later told us:

I knew it was me. … was pretty thin then. I was quite tall and thin at that point. And I recognized at first that it was a body, but I didn’t even know that it was mine initially. Then I perceived that I was up on the ceiling, and I thought, “Well, that’s kind of weird. What am I doing up here?” I thought, “Well, this must be me. Am I dead?… ” I just briefly saw this body, and … I knew that it was mine because I wasn’t in mine. Then I was just away from it. It was that quick.

Almost immediately after that, as she recalls, she found herself going up through the ceilings of the hospital until she was above the roof of the building itself, during which time she had a brief panoramic view of her surroundings. She felt very exhilarated during this ascension and enjoyed tremendously the freedom of movement she was experiencing. She also began to hear sublimely beautiful and exquisitely harmonious music akin to the sound of wind chimes.

With scarcely a noticeable transition, she then discovered she had been sucked head-first into a tube and felt that she was being pulled up into it. The enclosure itself was dark, Vicki said, yet she was aware that she was moving toward light. As she reached the opening of the tube, the music that she had heard earlier seemed to be transformed into hymns, similar to those she heard during her previous NDE, and she then “rolled out” to find herself lying on grass.

She was surrounded by trees and flowers and a vast number of people. She was in a place of tremendous light, and the light, Vicki said, was something you could feel as well as see. What the light conveyed was love. Even the people she saw were bright and reflected the light of this love. “Everybody there was made of light. And I was made of light. There was love everywhere. It was like love came from the grass, love came from the birds, love came from the trees.”

Vicki then became aware of five specific persons she knew in life who were welcoming her to this place. Debby and Diane were Vicki’s blind schoolmates, who had died years before, at ages 11 and 6, respectively. In life, they had both been profoundly retarded as well as blind, but here they appeared bright and beautiful, healthy and vitally alive, and no longer children, but, as Vicki phrased it, “in their prime.” In addition, Vicki reports seeing two of her childhood care takers, a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Zilk, both of whom had also previously died. Finally, there was Vicki’s grandmother, who had essentially raised Vicki and who had died just two years before this incident. Her grandmother, who was further back than the others, was reaching out to hug Vicki. In these encounters, no actual words were exchanged, Vicki says, but only feelings of love and welcome.

In the midst of this rapture, Vicki was suddenly overcome with a sense of total knowledge

I had a feeling like I knew everything … and like everything made sense. I just knew that this was where … this place was where I would find the answers to all the questions about life, and about the planets, and about God, and about everything. … It’s like the place was the knowing.

And then she was indeed flooded with information of a religious nature as well as scientific and mathematical knowledge. She came to understand languages she didn’t know. All this overwhelmed and astonished her:

I don’t know beans about math and science. … all of a sudden understood intuitively almost things about calculus, and about the way planets were made. And I don’t know anything about that. … I felt there was nothing I didn’t know.

As these revelations were unfolding, Vicki noticed that now next to her was a figure whose radiance was far greater than the illumination of any of the persons she had so far encountered. Immediately, she recognized this being to be Jesus, for she had seen him once before, during her previous NDE. He greeted her tenderly, while she conveyed her excitement to him about her newfound omniscience and her joy at being there and with him again.

Telepathically, he communicated to her: “Isn’t it wonderful? Everything is beautiful here, and it fits together. And you’ll find that. But you can’t stay here now. It’s not your time to be here yet and you have to go back.”

Vicki reacted, understandably enough, with extreme disappointment and protested vehemently, “No, I want to stay with you.” But the being reassured her that she would come back, but for now, she had to “go back and learn and teach more about loving and forgiving.”

Still resistant, however, Vicki then learned that she also needed to go back to have her children. With that, Vicki, who was then childless but who “desperately wanted” to have children -a nd who has since given birth to three – became almost eager to return and finally consented.

However, before Vicki could leave, the being said to her, in these exact words, “But first, watch this.”

And what Vicki then saw was “everything from my birth” in a complete panoramic review of her life, and as she watched, the being gently commented to help her understand the significance of her actions and their repercussions.

The last thing Vicki remembers, once the life review had been completed, are the words, “You have to leave now.” She then experienced “a sickening thud” like a roller-coaster going backwards, and found herself back in her body, feeling heavy and full of pain.

C. Brad Barrows

A second case is that of Brad Barrows, a 33-year-old man living in Connecticut, who had a near-death experience in the winter of 1968 when he was only 8 years old. At the time, he was a student at the Boston Center for Blind Children, and had contracted a severe case of pneumonia and eventually had severe breathing difficulties. Afterward, he was told by nurses that his heart had stopped, apparently for at least four minutes, and that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) had been necessary to bring him back.

Brad remembers that when he couldn’t breathe any longer, he felt himself lifting up from the bed and floating through the room toward the ceiling. He saw his apparently lifeless body on the bed. He also saw his blind roommate get up from his bed and leave the room to get help. (His roommate later confirmed this.) Brad then found himself rapidly going upward through the ceilings of the building until he was above the roof. At this point, he found that he could see clearly.

He estimates that it was between 6:30 and 7:00 in the morning when this happened. He noticed that the sky was cloudy and dark. There had been a snowstorm the day before, and Brad could see snow everywhere except for the streets, which had been plowed, though they were still slushy. He was able to give us a very detailed description of the way the snow looked. Brad could also see the snow banks that the plows had created. He saw a street car go by. Finally, he recognized a playground used by the children of his school and a particular hill he used to climb nearby.

When asked if he “knew” or “saw” these things, he said: “I clearly visualized them. I could suddenly notice them and see them. … I remember … being able to see quite clearly.”

After this segment of this experience, which happened very fast, was over, he found himself in a tunnel and emerged from it to find himself in an immense field illuminated by a tremendous, all-encompassing light. Everything was perfect.

Brad could clearly see in this domain, too, though he commented that he was puzzled by the sensation of sight. He found himself walking on a path surrounded by tall grass, and also reported seeing tall trees with immense leaves. No shadows were visible, however.

While in this field, Brad became aware of beautiful music, like nothing he had ever heard on earth. Walking toward the sound, he came to and climbed a hill, eventually encountering a glittering stone structure so brilliant that he thought it might be burning hot. But it wasn’t, and he entered it. The music continued here as well and, to Brad, seemed to be praising God. In this structure, Brad encountered a man whom he didn’t recognize but from whom emanated an overwhelming love. The man, without a word, gently nudged Brad backward, initiating a reversal of his experience, ending with his finding himself in bed gasping for air, attended by two nurses. Brad, like Vicki, has been blind from birth.

These two cases, which took place a continent apart and before the advent of modern near-death studies, show an obvious structural similarity and clearly exemplify the familiar Moody-type pattern of NDEs. To be sure, not all of the NDEs described by our blind respondents are as rich in their narrative line as those of Vicki and Brad, but there is no question that the great preponderance of these experiences conform to the classic form of the NDE.

To examine this point from a statistical perspective and help to provide something of an overview of our findings here, we can list a number of the common features of NDEs and state how often they are mentioned in the interviews of our 21 respondents in the NDEr category. Feelings of peace, well-being, or being loved were reported in 20 interviews; a sense of separation from the physical body, or an actual out-of-body experience (OBE), in 14; seeing one’s own physical body, in 10; going through a tunnel or dark space, in eight; meeting others, such as spirits, angels, or religious personages, in 12; seeing a radiant light, in eight; hearing noise or music, in seven; a life review, in four; encountering a border or limit, in six; and a choice or being told to return to life, in 10.

In general, although the numbers in the various sight categories (that is, blind from birth, adventitiously blind, and severely visually impaired) were too small to permit statistical tests, inspection reveals no obvious differences among sight subgroups with respect to the frequency of NDE elements. Thus, whether one is blind from birth, loses one’s sight in later life, or suffers from severe visual impair ment, the type of NDE reported appears to be much the same and is not structurally different from those described by sighted persons.

With these facts established, we can now turn our attention to our principal interest in this study, namely, whether and to what extent blind persons claim to be able to see during their NDEs and OBEs.

6. Visual Aspects of NDEs and OBEs in the Blind

We have already had evidence from the summaries of Vicki’s and Brad’s narratives that there appear to be clear visual representations, both of things of this world and of an otherworldly nature, during the NDEs of blind persons. The question we face here, how ever, is how common such testimony is among our respondents as a whole.

First, let us look at how many of our respondents report being able to see during their NDEs or OBEs. Of our 21 NDErs, 15 claimed to have had some kind of sight, three were not sure whether they saw or not, and the remaining three did not appear to see at all. All but one of those who either denied or were unsure about being able to see came from those who were blind from birth, which means that only half of the NDErs in that category stated unequivocally that they had distinct visual impressions during their experience. Nevertheless, it is not clear by any means whether those respondents blind from birth who claimed not to have seen were in fact unable to, or simply failed to recognize what seeing was. For instance, one man whom we classified as a nonvisualizer told us that he could not explain how he had the perceptions he did because “I don’t know what you mean by ‘seeing.'” He was not the only such person to admit such perplexity, so that even among those cases we felt obliged to classify as not involving sight, the possibility is not entirely foreclosed. As a whole, however, our data here are quite consistent in indicating that the preponderance of our blind NDErs do indeed report vision during their near-death encounters, while only a minority are unsure about the matter or, in some cases, have no clear sense of sight.

Evidence of vision is even stronger among the OBErs in our sample. Nine of our 10 OBErs claimed sight, and if we include the five persons who had both an NDE and one or more OBEs on other occasions, the figures are 13 out of 15. In this connection, one of the NDErs whom we classified as a nonvisualizer during her NDE did report vision during her OBEs.

Overall, the number of persons who indicated they had some kind of vision, either during an NDE or OBE, was 25, which was 80 per cent of our entire sample. Even for those blind from birth, 9 of 14, or 64 percent, likewise reported sight.

Given that some kind of vision is the rule for the blind, we can go on to ask, just what do they see?

In general, they report the same kinds of visual impressions as sighted persons do in describing NDEs and OBEs. For example, 10 of our 21 NDErs said they had some kind of vision of their physical body, and seven of our 10 OBErs said likewise. Occasionally, there are other this-worldly perceptions as well, such as seeing a medical team at work on one’s body or various features of the room or surroundings where one’s physical body was. Otherworldly perceptions abound, too, and for NDErs, as we have already seen, they seem to take the form characteristic for transcendental NDEs of sighted persons: radiant light, otherworldly landscapes, angels or religious figures, deceased relatives, and so forth. Somewhat similar otherworldly perceptions are sometimes found for OBErs as well, though these, when they occur, are usually limited to seeing light, beautiful colors, and meeting others. None of our OBErs recounted a life review.

How well do our respondents find they can see during these episodes? We have already noted that the visual perceptions of Vicki and Brad appeared extremely clear and detailed, especially when they found themselves in the otherworldly portions of their near-death journeys. While not all of our blind NDErs had clear, articulated visual impressions, nevertheless enough of them did so that we can conclude that the NDE cases like Vicki’s and Brad’s are fairly typical in this regard. For instance, one of our interviewees whose sight perished completely as a result of a stroke at age 22, and was near-sighted before that, told us in connection with seeing her body, her doctor, and the operating room during her NDE: “I know I could see and I was supposed to be blind. … And I know I could see everything. … It was very clear when I was out. I could see details and everything.”

Another man, who lost his vision in a car accident at the age of 19, had a comforting vision of his deceased grandmother across a valley during his NDE. In commenting on his clarity, he said: “Of course I had no sight because I had total destruction of my eyes in the accident, but [my vision] was very clear and distinct. … I had perfect vision in that experience.”

Still another man, this one blind from birth, found himself in an enormous library during the transcendental phase of his NDE and saw “thousands and millions and billions of books, as far as you could see.” Asked if he saw them visually he said, “Oh, yes!” Did he see them clearly? “No problem.” Was he surprised at being able to see thus? “Not in the least. I said, ‘Hey, you can’t see,’ and I said, ‘Well, of course I can see. Look at those books. That’s ample proof that I can see.'”

Typically, vision is reported as clear, even acutely so, by our respondents in the otherworldly domain, where seeing is often described as “perfectly natural” or “the way it’s supposed to be.” However, sometimes the initial onset of visual perception of the physical world is disorienting and even disturbing to the blind. This was true for Vicki, for example, who said:

I had a hard time relating to it [i.e., seeing]. I had a real difficult time relating to it because I’ve never experienced it. And it was something very foreign to me. … Let’s see, how can I put it into words? It was like hearing words and not being able to understand them, but knowing that they were words. And before you’d never heard anything. But it was something new, something you’d not been able to previously attach any meaning to

Later, in commenting on the shock of these initial visual impressions, she even used the word “frightening” to characterize them. She also told us that she was never able to discriminate colors as such, but only “different shades of brightness,” about which impressions she could only wonder afterward whether they represented what sighted people meant by color.

However, after this brief and confusing period of adjustment, the experiencer’s perception quickly seems to become self-organizing and coherent; then it is as if the individual has been seeing his or her whole life. As Brad commented on the naturalness of his own perception in the otherworldly domain:

It was like it was always there. … It was so natural it was almost as if I should have always been able to see like that. … I could never understand why I never could do that back in my own body, yet it was so unbelievably natural. … I thought to myself I should be able to carry this right back with me. It’s just something I’ve always had. … I was very comfortable with it.

To conclude this section, we would like to bring all of these visual threads together in one specific illustrative case of still another of our blind respondents, a woman we’ll call Marsha. Marsha is a 40 year-old married woman living in Connecticut who had an NDE on January 16, 1986, when she was 32, as a result of complications in her pregnancy.

Like Vicki, Marsha was a premature baby, having been born after only a six month pregnancy, and, as a result, had developed a condition of retinopathy of prematurity. Unlike Vicki, however, she has always had some limited vision. In this respect, Marsha told us: “I have some vision in my left eye, not a whole lot. I don’t have any reading vision-I can’t read print at all, but I can see, like, people and stuff, but they look. … blurry.” We classified Marsha in the severely visually impaired category, as her actual vision was extremely poor and she uses a guide dog.

Marsha’s case is mainly of interest here in showing how the visual perception of a severely visually impaired individual during an NDE is not only enhanced, but can become virtually perfect. In her interview with us, she made it plain that her heightened acuity pertained both to her out-of-body perception as well as to that which she experienced in the otherworldly portion of her experience. As to the former, Marsha told us that when she was coming back, she was aware of seeing her body:

INTERVIEWER:  Could you describe it? Could you see it in detail?

MARSHA:  Yeah, it just looked like me. I was, like, asleep.

INTERVIEWER:  And how was your vision, if I could put it that way, when you were looking down on yourself?

MARSHA:  It was fine…. It was normal.

INTERVIEWER:  When you say normal, you mean clear?

MARSHA:  Yeah, everything. There was no problem with it.

Concerning the quality of her otherworldly perception, she commented:

INTERVIEWER:  Were you able to see better than you could in the physical world?

MARSHA:  Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER:  What was your visual perception like in this room [in the otherworldly portion of her NDE]?

MARSHA:  Everything, I could see everything. … All the people, all the way back. Everything.

INTERVIEWER:  In what way? Could you be a little more specific?

MARSHA:  It was perfect. It would not be like that here. There was no problem. It was, like, you know – everything, you could see everything. It was not like your eyes. I don’t know what normal vision would feel like. It was not like your eyes see. It couldn’t be my eyes because my eyes were back over here. I could see gold in the room. Gold on the walls. There [were] white birds and angels and all these people.

INTERVIEWER:  When you saw birds and the people and the room, were you seeing it in detail or just like you see now?

MARSHA:  No, no. It was detail. It was white light. Everything was white light in there. And there was gold on the walls.

Later on, in elaborating on her perception of colors during this part of her experience, Marsha was similarly definite about what she was aware of:

INTERVIEWER:  And could you see it [color] clearly in the experience?

MARSHA:  Yes. Everything was the way it was supposed to be.

Finally, when the interviewer probed to get Marsha’s further thoughts on her visual experience during her NDE, this exchange occurred:

INTERVIEWER:  If you had to say how much sight you actually had at the time of your experience, is there a way for you to describe it?

MARSHA:  It was, like, perfect. I don’t see how it could not be perfect. I can’t say I could see like I see now. … I could see everything [then].

INTERVIEWER:  Do you have any thoughts on the fact that you had vision during this experience?

MARSHA:  Well, see, it was vision, but I don’t think it was my eyes. I don’t know how it works because my eyes were back here, and since they are not right and I could see everything right, there had to be more special vision somehow.

Although Marsha still has some residual physical vision, it is clear that her comments echo both those of Vicki and Brad concerning the quality of her visual perception, especially in the otherworldly realm. There, she saw perfectly and in detail that was astonishing to her and for which she had no explanation. And like Vicki and Brad, who had also noted the naturalness of their otherworldly vision, Marsha used a phrase we have encountered before, namely, “everything was the way it was supposed to be.” Likewise, her visual impression of her physical body seemed clear and distinct, in contrast to her everyday vision. Overall, her testimony was as striking as it was consistent and showed that severely visually impaired persons, too, may find that coming close to death appears to restore their sight to nor mal, and perhaps even superior, acuity.

In summary, as a whole our interviews with both NDErs and OBErs offered abundant testimony that reports of visual perception among the blind are common, that their impressions concern both things of this world and otherworldly domains, and that they are often clear and detailed, even in narratives furnished by those who have been blind from birth.

7. Corroborative Evidence for OBE and NDE Visions

Obviously, in order to demonstrate that the perceptions described by our blind experiencers are something other than mere fantasies or even complex hallucinations, it will be necessary to provide some kind of confirming evidence for them, preferably from other independent witnesses or from reliable documentation. But just here, not surprisingly, is where it proves difficult to gather the type of indispensable corroboration that would help to cinch the argument that what they report seeing is indeed authentic. In many cases, such as those of Vicki and Brad, the reported NDEs or OBEs took place so long ago that it is no longer possible to know precisely who the witnesses were or where to locate them. In other instances, potential informants have died or were not accessible to us for interviews. As a result, much of the testimony of our respondents is dependent on their own truthfulness and the reliability of their memories. As a rule, we did not have cause to question the sincerity of our respondents, but sincerity is not evidence and one’s own word is hardly the last word when it comes to evaluating the validity of these accounts.

Nevertheless, in at least some instances, we are able to offer some evidence, and in one case some very strong evidence, that these claims are in fact rooted in a direct and accurate, if baffling, perception of the situation. In this section, we will present two of our cases in which we could document some measure of evidentiality for the visual perceptions of the blind.

A. Frank

Our first example is one of apparently veridical perception during an OBE in which a respondent claimed to have seen himself. What makes this case of special interest, however, is that he also saw something he couldn’t have known about by normal means. Furthermore, he told us that a friend of his was in a position to confirm his testimony. Frank is 66 years old, but lost his sight completely in 1982. He cannot see anything now, including light or shadows. He has had several OBEs, however, since becoming totally blind. What follows is his recall of one of them.

Around 1992, a friend of Frank’s was going to be driving him to the wake of a mutual friend. As Frank remembered the incident:

And so I said to her that morning, I said: “Gee, I haven’t got a good tie to wear. Why don’t you pick me up one?” She said, “Yeah, I’ll pick you up one when I get down to Mel’s [a clothing store].” So she picked it up and dropped it off and said, “I can’t stay. I’ve got to get home and get ready to pick you up to go to the wake.” So I got dressed and put the tie on. She didn’t tell me the color of the tie or anything else. I was laying down on the couch and I could see myself coming out of my body. And I could see my tie. The tie that was on. And it had a circle on it – it was a red – and it had a gray circle, two gray circles on it. And I remember that.

The interviewer then probes for further details and clarification:

INTERVIEWER:  Now just for the chronology of it, you were lying down with this tie on, you saw yourself going out of the body, and then you saw the tie?

FRANK:  I saw the tie ’cause I told her the color.

INTERVIEWER:  You told your friend who was driving you?

FRANK:  Yeah, when she came back to pick me up. … And when she came down to pick me up, I said to her, “Are the circles gray in this tie?” And she says, “Yes.”

INTERVIEWER:  Was she surprised that you knew?

FRANK:  Yes. She said, “How did you know?” She said, “Did anyone come here?” I said, “No, nobody came here.” You know, you can’t tell ’em [laughs], ’cause they just don’t accept, they don’t believe in it.

INTERVIEWER:  And do you remember what the tie looked like even now?

FRANK:  Yeah. It’s a rose-colored tie with circles on it and dots in the middle of the circle. Whitish/grayish circle around there. And it’s a beautiful tie, ’cause every place I go they remark on it. So she said to me, “Who told you?” And I said, “Nobody.” I said, “I just guessed.” I didn’t want to tell because, like I said before … you can’t say things to certain people.

Naturally, after hearing this story, we were eager to see if we could track down the woman involved in this incident. That proved difficult, since Frank had lost contact with her, but eventually he was able to locate her and, without telling her exactly why we were interested to talk with her, put us in touch with her. One of us (S.C.) did conduct an open-ended interview with this woman shortly afterward and summarized it as follows in her notes:

I independently called his friend who said she did purchase a tie for Frank that day and did pick him up for the wake. However, she didn’t have a clear recollection of the sequence of events that day to confirm the accuracy of Frank’s story and didn’t remember the exact design and colors of the tie. She added that Frank is a down-to-earth guy who in her experience does not embellish stories. And even though she couldn’t independently corroborate his account, she tended to think he was probably accurate in recounting the details.

So here, although we lack the crucial confirming facts we need from the witness involved, we nevertheless have a highly suggestive instance that this man’s recall of his experience is essentially accurate. However, the obvious weaknesses in and ultimate inconclusiveness of this case were overcome in our second example, in which a direct and independent corroboration of the respondent’s own testimony was obtained.

B. Nancy

The next respondent was a 41-year-old woman we will call Nancy who underwent a biopsy in 1991 in connection with a possible cancerous chest tumor. During the procedure, the surgeon inadvertently cut her superior vena cava, then compounded his error by sewing it closed, causing a variety of medical catastrophes including blindness, a condition that was discovered only shortly after surgery when Nancy was examined in the recovery room. She remembers waking up at that time and screaming, “I’m blind, I’m blind!”

Shortly afterward, she was rushed on a gurney down the corridor in order to have an angiogram. However, the attendants, in their haste, slammed her gurney into a closed elevator door, at which point the woman had an out-of-body experience.

Nancy told us she floated above the gurney and could see her body below. However, she also said she could see down the hall where two men, the father of her son and her current lover, were both standing, looking shocked. She remembers being puzzled by the fact that they simply stood there agape and made no movement to approach her. Her memory of the scene stopped at that point.

In trying to corroborate her claims, we interviewed the two men. The father of her son could not recall the precise details of that particular incident, though his general account corroborated Nancy’s, but her lover, Leon, did recall it and independently confirmed all the essential facts of this event. Here is an excerpt from our interview with him, which bears on this crucial episode.

LEON:  I was in the hallway by the surgery and she was coming out and I could tell it was her. They were kind of rushing her out.

INTERVIEWER:  Rushing her out of where?

LEON:  Of the surgery suite where she had been in the recovery area, I think. And I saw these people coming out. I saw people wheeling a gurney. I saw about four or five people with her, and I looked and I said, “God, it looks like Nancy,” but her face and her upper torso were really swollen about twice the size it should have been. At that point I looked and I said, “Nancy, Nancy,” and they just – she didn’t know, I mean. She was out of it. And they told me they were taking her down for an angiogram.

INTERVIEWER:  Who told you that?

LEON:  I believe a nurse did. I’m not quite sure. I think I was still in a state of shock. I mean, it had been a long day for me. You’re expecting an hour procedure and here it is, approximately 10 hours later and you don’t have very many answers. I believe a nurse did. I know I asked. And I think Dick [the father of Nancy’s child] was there at the same time. I think he and I were talking in the hallway.

INTERVIEWER:  Do you know how far you were from Nancy?

LEON:  When I first saw her she was probably, maybe about 100 feet and then she went right by us. I was probably no more than 3 to 5 feet away from her. And I believe Dick was right next to me as well.

INTERVIEWER:  And do you know how they took her out? She was on the gurney?

LEON:  She was on the gurney. There were IVs. … I’m not sure – I think she had some sort of a breathing apparatus. I’m not sure if it was an Ambu bag or what it was.

INTERVIEWER:  And then where did they take her?

LEON:  They took her downstairs to do an angiogram.

INTERVIEWER:  How?

LEON:  They took her down in the gurney in the service elevator. They didn’t take her in a regular elevator. They took her around the corner to the service elevator.

INTERVIEWER:  And did you see that whole process?

LEON:  Yes, I did.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you see her go into the elevator?

LEON:  Yes, I did because I walked around to watch her enter the elevator.

INTERVIEWER:  Was there any disturbance that you remember in getting her into the elevator?

LEON:  I think there was a real sense of urgency on the staff. I’ve worked in hospital emergency rooms as well and I can really relate to that. I think somebody was, like, trying to get into the elevator at the same time and there was some sort of a “Oh, I can’t get in, let’s move this over a little bit,” kind of adjusting before they could get her into the elevator. But it was very swift.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you have a good look at her face?

LEON:  Yeah, it really kind of shocked me. She was just really swollen. She was totally unrecognizable. I mean, I knew it was her but – you know, I was a medic in Vietnam and it was just like seeing a body after a day after they get bloated. It was the same kind of look.

Leon’s account accorded with Nancy’s in virtually every significant respect, despite the fact that he was very worried about her condition, and could scarcely recognize her because of her edema when he did see her. Yet, despite his evident state of shock at the time, his interview appeared to corroborate her story, as much as any external witness could be expected to. It should be noted that this witness has been separated from our participant for several years and they had not even communicated for at least a year before we interviewed him. Furthermore, even if Nancy had not been totally blind at the time, the respirator on her face during this accident would have partially occluded her visual field and certainly would have prevented the kind of lateral vision necessary for her to view these men down the hall. But the fact is, according to indications in her medical records and other evidence we have garnered, she appeared already to have been completely blind when this event occurred.

After a detailed investigation of this case and a review of all pertinent documentation, we have concluded that in all probability there was no possibility for Nancy to see what she did with her physical eyes which, in any event, were almost surely sightless at that time. Yet the evidence suggests that she did see, and, as the corroborative testimony we have quoted shows, she apparently saw truly.

The question, of course, is how she was able to do that, and not only how Nancy saw, but how any of the blind persons in our study saw what they certainly could not possibly have seen physically. Our findings in this section only establish a putative case that these visions are factually accurate, and not just some kind of fabrication, reconstruction, lucky guess, or fantasy; but they leave unexplained the paradox of our discovery that the rumors some of us have been hearing all these years, that the blind can actually see during their NDEs, appear to be true. Whether and how this can be so is the mystery we must next be prepared to probe.

8. Discussion

A. An Overview of Our Findings

Before tackling the perplexing and difficult questions we have just posed, it will be helpful to summarize our principal findings. To do so, we will return to the three issues this study was designed to address. The first of these was whether blind persons do report NDEs and, if they do, whether those NDEs are the same or different from those of sighted persons. Our findings here were unequivocal in the affirmative. There is no question that NDEs in the blind do occur and, furthermore, that they take the same general form and are comprised of the very same elements that define the NDEs of sighted individuals. Moreover, this generalization appears to hold across all three categories of blindness that were represented in this study: those blind from birth, those adventitiously blind, and those severely visually impaired.

The second issue, and the one that was the driving force of this study, was whether the blind claim to have visual impressions during their NDEs or OBEs. On this point, too, our data were conclusive. Overall, 80 percent of our respondents reported these claims, most of them in the language of unhesitating declaration, even when they had been surprised, or even stunned, by the unexpected discovery that they could in fact see. Like sighted experiencers, our blind respondents described to us both perceptions of this world and other worldly scenes, often in fulsome, fine-grained detail, and sometimes with a sense of extremely sharp, even subjectively perfect, acuity.

The last issue hinged on the second, and that had to do with at tempting to corroborate these claims of sight in an effort to show that they represented something other than fantasies or hallucinations. This was the weakest part of our study since, for a variety of methodological reasons, it was often not possible to locate relevant witnesses or gain access to potentially helpful documentation. Nevertheless, we did offer two illustrative and highly suggestive cases that seemed to indicate these claims are indeed authentic and not explicable by conventional means.

B. Some Possible Explanations for Apparent Sight in the Blind

With this summary of our findings we are now ready to explore the questions of central interest to us. The simplest way to frame the issue might be to ask: “How is it that the blind can see during these experiences?” But, however natural it might be to put the question in this form, doing so implies that we have already concluded that we can reasonably infer from our data that the blind do in fact see. That is certainly possible, perhaps even plausible, but not all readers would be prepared to concede the point. Indeed, we have already implied that from an epistemological point of view, it might be better to rephrase our basic question as: “If it can legitimately be said that the blind in some sense do see, in precisely what sense would that be?” Putting the question in this way, then, leaves open the issue of the nature of apparent sight in the blind. However, even before we can properly address this question, there is plainly still another one that must exert a prior claim on our attention, and that is: “Might there be some non-retinal-based mechanisms that could in principle account for the results of this study and thus demonstrate that vision in the blind is indeed only apparent and not actual?”

Thus, by a series of interrogative declensions, we find ourselves facing first the possibility of various alternative explanations that would avoid having to posit some kind of eyeless vision to subsume our findings. Before resorting to possible unconventional theories such as those rooted in New Paradigm science or even esoteric thought to interpret our findings, we must first make sure that no already recognized natural or prosaic mechanism cannot provide a superior or more parsimonious explanation.

C. The Dream Hypothesis

One fairly obvious possibility that has often been advanced in connection with the NDEs and OBEs of sighted persons is that this experience is some kind of a dream, perhaps a lucid or exceptionally vivid dream, which has such realistic properties that it is easily misinterpreted and thus given an ontological status it does not deserve. To evaluate this hypothesis, we first need to inquire into what is known about normal oneiric processes in the blind. Fortunately, there has been a great deal of research devoted to the dreams of the blind, some of it going back more than a hundred years. As a result of these investigations, certain generalizations about the presence of visual imagery in dreams appear to stand up quite well. Among these “empirical cornerstones” (Kirtley, 1975) are that (1) there are no visual images in the dreams of the congenitally blind; (2) individuals blinded before the age of 5 also tend not to have visual imagery; (3) those who become sightless between the age of 5 to 7 may or may not retain visual imagery; and (4) most persons who lose their sight after age 7 do retain visual imagery, although its clarity tends to fade with time. In addition, various researchers have found that audition tends to be the primary sense involved in dreams of the blind, with tactile and kinesthetic elements next (Kirtley, 1975).

In our interviews, we routinely asked our respondents about the nature of their dreams, and what we found in our sample accords with the generalizations just described. In addition, however, and particularly pertinent to the hypothesis under consideration, our respondents usually went on to say that not only were their NDEs unlike their usual dreams, but in the case of those blind from birth, they stood out as radically different precisely because they contained visual imagery, whereas their dreams had always lacked this element. Vicki, one of our NDErs blind from birth, provides a good case in point:

INTERVIEWER:  How would you compare your dreams to your NDEs?

VICKI:  No similarity, no similarity at all.

INTERVIEWER:  Do you have any kind of visual perception in your dreams?

VICKI:  Nothing. No color, no sight of any sort, no shadows, no light, no nothing.

INTERVIEWER:  What kinds of perceptions are you aware of in your typical dreams?

VICKI:  Taste – I have a lot of eating dreams [laughs]. And I have dreams when I’m playing the piano and singing, which I do for a living, anyway. I have dreams in which I touch things. … I taste things, touch things, hear things, and smell things – that’s it.

INTERVIEWER:  And no visual perceptions?

VICKI:  No.

INTERVIEWER:  So that what you experienced during your NDE was quite different from your dreams?

VICKI:  Yeah, because there’s no visual impression at all in any dream that I have.

These remarks, along with similar asseverations from other participants in our study, make it abundantly clear that from our respondents’ point of view, the NDE, especially its visual aspect, has nothing in common with their usual dreams. It is instead something in a class by itself and not to be conflated with dreams. Since there is no support whatever from our interviews for the dream hypothesis of NDEs, we may confidently reject it as a potential explanation for our findings.

D. Retrospective Reconstruction

Another possibility, at least for the kind of visual perceptions respondents report during the out-of-body phase of NDEs, is that individuals are not really seeing at that time, but talking afterward as if they did. Instead, according to this hypothesis, they have actually reconstructed a plausible account after the fact of what might be expected to have happened while they were close to death, although they may sincerely but erroneously believe that they witnessed it at the time. From a combination of prior expectations, familiarity with hospital routines, overheard conversations or other sensory cues at the time, information gleaned afterward, or even simply by lucky guesses, it might be possible for an NDEr to construct imaginatively a pictorial representation of events during an NDE. Thus, this hypothesis would contend that what appears to be vision is in reality a product of the mind’s inventiveness.

The chief proponent of this hypothesis is Susan Blackmore (1993), who used it chiefly to discount some of the pioneering work by Michael Sabom (1982), in his study of apparently veridical, though seemingly impossible, visual perception in a sample of NDErs. In discussing, for example, how a patient could unconsciously use auditory information available during an operation, Blackmore indicated how naturally such a false representation could be generated:

It does not take much information from such sounds for a person to piece together a very convincing and realistic visual impression of what is going on. This will provide the best model they have and seem perfectly real. They may have no idea that the model was constructed primarily from things that they have heard. … It is very hard to assess just how much information any patient would have available. We can only remember the general point that people who appear unconscious may still be aware of some of the things going on around them and they can easily build these up into a good visual picture of what was happening (1993, pp. 124-125).

Blackmore’s reasoning is logical and her hypothesis has a certain plausibility, but we have not been able to find any significant support for it among our interviewees. In fact only one of our 31 respondents even alluded to it, and at that merely as one theoretical possibility among several. Furthermore, a review of our transcripts affords no basis for arguing that retrospective reconstruction was likely to have played a role in most or even some of our cases. This same conclusion was reached by Sabom and independently by Scott Rogo (1989), in an evaluation of the former’s work in regard to the possible relevance of this hypothesis.

And there are additional reasons for finding it inadequate here. For one, when one considers that it is an after-the-fact hypothesis that virtually cannot be disproved, the almost complete lack of direct evidence from our study in its behalf is particularly telling. Second, this hypothesis clearly founders when it comes to accounting for instances where unusual objects, ones that could not easily have been predicted or otherwise anticipated, such as the design and color of Frank’s tie, are described by the blind. Third, it is completely impotent when it comes to accounting for the otherworldly segments of NDEs, which is especially clear in visual form for many of our respondents.

On the basis of these considerations, we find scant evidence in favor of this hypothesis, and a number of cogent reasons not only to reject it, but to be tempted to regard it almost as a kind of all-purpose refuge for the skeptically-minded, rather like the “super-ESP” hypothesis in parapsychology, which, in principle, is always capable of explaining away in a pseudoscientific fashion findings that threaten to disturb prevailing ideas of the possible.

E. Blindsight

In the early 1970s, Lawrence Weiskrantz began to study a curious phenomenon he was later to call “blindsight” (Weiskrantz, 1986), in which patients suffering from extensive cortical blindness appeared to be able to “see.” In his experiments, for example, Weiskrantz was able to show that in the absence of any visual sensation, patients, if asked to reach for a nearby object about whose exact location they were ignorant, tended to move in the right direction. Furthermore, when asked to grasp objects the nature of which was not disclosed to them beforehand, their hands tended spontaneously to assume the appropriate form necessary to hold the object. Weiskrantz’s work has since been replicated by others (Humphrey, 1993) and the phenomenon has even been found in monkeys after extirpation of the visual cortex.

Is it possible, then, that what our respondents report is actually a form of blindsight?

Further scrutiny of the results of research into blindsight shows very quickly that although it seems to be a legitimate form of perception, it can by no means account for our findings. First of all, patients manifesting the effect typically cannot verbally describe the object they are alleged to see, unlike our respondents who, as we have noted, were usually certain about what they saw and could describe it often without hesitation. In fact, a cortically blind patient, even when his or her object identification exceeds chance levels, believes that it is largely the result of pure guesswork. Such uncertainties were not characteristic of our respondents. Second, even when performance is better than chance would allow, even the best of these patients still make many errors (Humphrey, 1993). While we cannot of course provide an overall figure of accuracy of object identification in our study, it is not obvious from our findings that errors were made in regard to reports of visual perception in those portions of the environmental visual field where attention was focused. Finally, and perhaps most crucially of all, blindsight patients, unlike our respondents, do not claim that they can “see” in any sense. As Humphrey wrote: “Certainly the patient says he does not have visual sensation. … Rather he says, ‘I don’t know anything at all but if you tell me I’m getting it right I have to take your word for it'” (1993, p. 90). This kind of statement is simply not found in the testimony of our respondents who, on the contrary, are often convinced that they have somehow seen what they report.

Thus, the blindsight phenomenon, however fascinating it may be in its own right, cannot explain our findings. Indeed, the term itself seems to be a bit of an unintentional misnomer, since in such patients there does not seem to be any conscious sense of visual perception at all.

F. Skin-Based Vision

The idea that we may have a kind of eyeless visual back-up system based on dermal sensitivity is an old one, although at first blush the notion may seem preposterous. Yet the retina itself is just a specialized piece of skin, which through evolution has come to be the “vision specialist” for the body. Therefore, it is certainly conceivable that in our skin itself there might be a residual basis for visual detection, which has simply atrophied and become nonfunctional through disuse, like a vestigial organ.

In fact, when one begins to explore the empirical basis for this hypothesis, one finds considerable evidence for it. The earliest work along these lines seems to have been done three-quarters of a century ago by Jules Romains. In 1920, he published a now nearly forgotten book called La Vision Extra-Retinienne et la Sens Paroptique, which described his experiments in skin-based perception and became available in 1924 in an American translation under the title of Eyeless Sight: A Study of Extra-Retinal Vision and the Paroptic Sense. Romains’ general purpose was to determine if individuals could “see” without the use of their eyes. To investigate this possibility, he first blindfolded his subjects in such a way as to ensure that no light could penetrate their eyes. He then ran them through a series of experiments to assess their visual capabilities under these conditions. In some, he would present them with a newspaper and ask them to read the headlines. In others, he would ask his subjects to “read” a set of numbers. In still others, as in modern blindsight experiments, he would invite them to describe an object he placed in front of or behind them, or ask his subjects to identify the colors of objects or to distinguish the colors of papers under glass.

In general, and quite astonishingly, Romains reported that his subjects performed remarkably well, far exceeding what would have been possible by chance. Furthermore, these experiments were witnessed by many observers, some of them quite eminent, and therefore do not depend solely on his own word. Romains found, however, that several conditions affected the probability of correct identification. First, even though the subjects were blindfolded, light had to be present in the room for them to be able to “see.” Second, his subjects could not perceive the object or “read” the number or letters on a paper when an opaque screen or door was placed between them and the object. Finally, the greater the area of the skin actually exposed, the more accurate subjects tended to be in their descriptions.

Romains developed some elaborate theories to explain his findings, but however intriguing his discoveries were, for several distinct reasons they do not seem to have much bearing on what we found in our study. To begin with, in Romains’ experiments, shielding the object from view prevented it from being “seen.” Yet, in our study, even the presence of walls or ceilings proved to be no impediment to our respondents’ apparent vision, as cases such as Vicki’s and Brad’s, among others, attest. In addition, whereas Romains found that the degree of skin exposure was directly related to accuracy of perception, there was no evidence of that in our study, and in fact some evidence that would contravene it. Remember, for instance, that in some of our cases the respondent’s body was covered with bedsheets or was clothed at the time of an NDE or OBE, yet vision seemed to occur without difficulty. Most telling of all, however, is that Romains’ subjects generally took a long time to achieve whatever degree of visual accuracy they did demonstrate. Indeed throughout his book, Romains frequently commented that the kind of eyeless vision he obtained from his subjects was piecemeal, gradual, with the elements of perception coming together slowly, as a result of laborious effort, at least at the beginning. Eyeless vision, he wrote, is successive, a matter of trial-and-error, and tends at first to discern only objects near at hand. In our study, visual perception seemed to be immediate, unlearned, and was not restricted to objects close to the individual. Therefore we conclude, as we did with the later experiments in blindsight, that Romains’ findings, even if valid, have no relevance for ours and must depend on entirely different mechanisms.

Incidentally, the insight underlying Romains’ work, that there may be non-retinal mechanisms that afford a kind of vision, has been followed up by a succession of modern researchers (Bach-y-Rita, 1972; Duplessis, 1975; Grinberg-Zylberbaum, 1983), but their findings, although generally consistent with Romains’, fail to explain ours. In general, this more modern research parallels Romains’ observation that it takes a considerable amount of time and training for subjects to show even a modest proficiency of object recognition. That fact alone disqualifies the hypothesis of skin-based vision as a possible explanatory vehicle for our results.

The rejection of this hypothesis also implies that similar views, such as V. Krishnan’s (1983), which contend that the vision reported in NDEs and OBEs may be a function of some kind of obscure physical mechanism are without support. For instance, Krishnan’s position requires that congenitally blind persons, on seeing for the first time, have inchoate perception, as do those whose sight is restored through an operation (Gregory, 1966; Sacks, 1993; Valvo, 1970; von Senden, 1960). But, clearly, that is not the case. The brief surprise or disorientation a blind NDEr may experience when confronted with visual impressions before adjusting to them does not begin to compare with the hours of training that a newly sighted individual needs to undergo in order to transform visual information into meaningful patterns. Relatively speaking, then, sight is virtually immediate in our blind NDErs, and although there may be some confusion over the fact of sight and uncertainty about color, object perception seems stable from the outset. Moreover, when never-before-seeing NDErs find themselves in the transcendental portions of their experience, some of them remark that seeing was perfectly natural in that state; it was if they could always see. Any mechanism that could explain that baffling fact is, to us, truly obscure. In any event, the hypothesis that it might be rooted in some kind of skin-based vision, as Krishnan has also suggested, is without a shred of evidence.

G. An Assessment of the Evidence for Alternative Explanations

Our search for a non-retinal-based mechanism that could in principle account for the results of this study and thus demonstrate that vision in the blind is indeed only apparent and not actual has considered theories and data relating to dreams, retrospective reconstruction, blindsight, and skin-based vision, and has come up empty. Of course, it would be absurd to claim that we have exhausted the list of naturalistic or conventional possibilities or eliminated all conceivable artifacts, but we believe we have ruled out some of the most obvious candidates for explanatory honors. At the very least, we have perhaps managed to cast some doubt on the tenability of this type of explanation for our findings, and consequently increased the like lihood that however they might be accounted for, we would do best to seek elsewhere for our answers.

In any case, having addressed this basic issue, we can now revert to the question we posed earlier about whether or in what sense it can be said that the blind do see. Clearly, before any explanation for vision in the blind can be accepted, it must first be established that their reports reflect the operation of something that can legitimately be called “true sight.” That assumption has of course been implicit throughout this article and may perhaps appear to some to be self-evident by now. But it is not, and our next task is to demonstrate just why it is not.

H. Apparent Vision in the Blind: Is It Really Seeing?

We as researchers can never have access to the NDE or OBE in itself. Rather, every such experience is coded in a certain way as it occurs and afterward, and comes to us only later as a report in a linguistic form. Therefore, by the time we interview our respondents, the original experience has already been processed through several distinct filters and necessarily undergone a series of virtually unconscious transformations until it reaches us as a distinct and coherent narrative. Therefore, it will prove helpful to discern how this narrative comes to be shaped, and how the experience may be coded in the first place. Doing so will in turn shed light on the pivotal question of this section, namely: is what we discovered in our blind respondents truly a form of seeing? That is, is it in any sense something that might be conceived of as analogous to physical sight?

To answer these questions, we reviewed our transcripts as sedulously as possible for insights into the formative processes that ultimately gave rise to the verbal report of the NDE or OBE. And what we discovered in a finer reading of these documents were a brace of factors that together sounded a tocsin against an overly literal interpretation of these reports as indicative of “seeing” as such. For one thing, our scrutiny of these transcripts frequently revealed a multifaceted synesthetic aspect to the experiencer’s perception that seemed to transcend simple sight. A number of our interviewees, for example, were hesitant to assert that what they were able to describe was incontestably visual, either because they were blind from birth and did not know what vision was like or because they knew they could not possibly be seeing with their physical eyes. The following comments were typical of this vein:

It wasn’t visual. It’s really hard to describe because it wasn’t visual. It was almost like a tactile thing, except that there was no way I could have touched from up there. But it really wasn’t visual because I just don’t have vision any more. … It [was] sort of a tactile memory or something. It’s not really like vision is. Vision is more clear, but it’s also more tied down.

I think what it was that was happening here was a bunch of synesthesia, where all these perceptions were being blended into some image in my mind, you know, the visual, the tactile, all the input that I had. I can’t literally say I really saw anything, but yet I was aware of what was going on, and perceiving all that in my.mind. … But I don’t remember detail. That’s why I say I’m loath to describe it as a visual.

What I’m saying is I was more aware. I don’t know if it’s through sight that I was aware. … I’m not sure. All I know is … somehow I was aware of information or things that were going on that I wouldn’t normally be able to pick up through seeing. … That’s why I’m being very careful how I’m wording it, ’cause I’m not sure where it came from. I would say to you I have a feeling it didn’t come from seeing, and yet I’m not sure.

Even Brad, whose initial testimony seemed so clear on this point, in a subsequent interview eventually qualified and clarified his earlier remarks about his memory of seeing snow on the streets outside his school:

I was quite aware of all the things that were physically mentioned in there [i.e., his earlier description]. However, whether it was seen visually through the eyes, I could not say. … I mean, you have to remember, being born blind, I had no idea whether those images were visual. … It was something like a tactual sense, like I could literally feel with the fingers of my mind. But I did not remember actually touching the snow. … The only thing I can really state about those images was that they came to me in an awareness and that I was aware of those images in a way I did not really understand. I could not really say that they were visual per se because I had never known anything like that before. But I could say that all my senses seemed to be very active and very much aware. I was aware.

Brad, too, seemed to be telling us now that he could not be certain his representation of the snow was in any definitive sense “visual” as such, especially since he had no real understanding of what a visual image was. Instead, as with others in our study, a complex multisensory awareness seems to have been involved, and, in a remarkable similarity with one of the respondents quoted above, Brad made an almost identical statement to hers about the tactile quality of his impression, again suggesting that this modality may be a key feature in the coding of these experiences by the blind, as it certainly is in their daily life.

Vicki as well, in recent exchanges with us, eventually clarified her previous statements concerning whether her experiences could be properly thought of as examples of pure seeing. In our interview with her on May 27, 1994, she allowed, “It was scary at first. … I had trouble relating things to one another, what I was seeing and perceiving versus what I had touched and known the way I had known things all my life.” And in a telephone conversation the following year, on July 18, 1995, when one of us (K. R.) asked her whether in her opinion it was a matter of seeing or knowing in her experience, she unhesitatingly replied, “It’s both, Ken, it’s both seeing and knowing.”

As this kind of testimony builds, it seems more and more difficult to claim that the blind simply see what they report. Rather, it is beginning to appear it is more a matter of their knowing, through a still poorly understood mode of generalized awareness based on a variety of sensory impressions, especially tactile ones, what is happening around them. The question that immediately confronts us now, however, is as unavoidable as it is crucial: Why is it that these reports, when casually perused, nevertheless often seem to imply that the blind do see in a way akin to physical sight?

As we have already observed, however these experiences may have been coded originally, by the time we encounter them they have long come to be expressed in a particular linguistic form. And that form is a language of vision, since our ordinary language is rooted in the experiences of sighted persons and is therefore biased in favor of visual imagery. Because the blind are members of the same linguistic community as sighted persons, we can certainly expect that they will tend, and indeed will be virtually compelled, to phrase their experiences in a language of vision, regardless of its appropriateness to the qualities of their own personal experience.

And there is another clue from our transcripts that mitigates against an overly literal interpretation of our data on apparent vision in the blind. Examination of language usage by our respondents reveals that they tend to use vision verbs far more casually and loosely than do sighted persons, a finding that other researchers who have studied language in the blind (Cook, 1970; Rathna, 1962) have confirmed. Vicki, for example, said that she loves to “watch” television and uses phrases, such as “look at this,” that clearly cannot be taken literally. Although this observation does not necessarily invalidate the testimony in our reports, it does send up another amber flag of caution when it comes to the interpretation of the narratives of our blind respondents.

In summary, what we have learned from our respondents is that although their experiences may sometimes be expressed in a language of vision, a close reading of their transcripts suggests some thing closer to a multifaceted synesthetic perception that seems to involve much more than an analog of physical sight. This is not to say that as part of this awareness there cannot be some sort of pictorial imagery as well; it is only to assert that this must not be taken in any simplistic way as constituting vision as we normally under stand it.

I. Eyeless Vision and Transcendental Awareness

Even if we cannot assert that the blind see in these experiences in any straightforward way, we still have to reckon with the fact that they nevertheless have access to a kind of expanded supersensory awareness that may in itself not be explicable by normal means. Furthermore, notwithstanding the cases of indistinct and nebulous “sight” we have just reviewed, we must not overlook the ineluctable and very unequivocal claims on the part of most of our respondents that they did seem to possess a type of vision that was very keen, detailed, and even “crystal clear” at times. Even if these reports may not be analogous to retinal vision as such, they clearly represent something that must be directly addressed. Thus, it remains for us to grapple with the question of what these reports represent, if not vision.

To pursue this line of inquiry, the first point we must note is that the blind simply represent a kind of limit case in research dealing with alleged perceptions while in a near-death or out-of-body state. If blind persons report what they cannot possibly see, since they have no physically-mediated sight, or what they cannot know by other nor mal means, as seems to be so in at least some instances in our study, then we have clearly identified a phenomenon that threatens to cast a dark shadow on the house of conventional science. But it is equally plain that whenever we can show that such perceptions are physically impossible, whether with blind persons or not, the same kind of shadow appears, as indeed it already has, many times, in other research dealing with NDEs and OBEs. So to begin to focus more clearly on precisely what it is we need to explain here, let us look for a moment at a few illustrative cases one step removed from those we have considered in this report where “impossible perceptions” of great acuity are described by the poorly sighted.

One type of case that has long intrigued us is when such individuals are seemingly able to report such fine and improbably noticed features as, for example, “dust on the light fixtures” in an operating room when, from the location of their physical body at the time as well as their eyesight, such perceptions would manifestly be impossible. Here, then, are a couple of such instances from our previous research.

One of them came from a woman interviewed in the early 1980s who was 48 years old at the time (Ring, 1984). She had had her NDE in connection with a surgical procedure in 1974. What was especially noteworthy about her account at the outset, however, was her mention of her unusually garbed anesthesiologist. As she explained, he was a physician who often worked with children. And because he had found that his young patients often were confused by a team of similarly clad green-garmented doctors, he had taken to wearing a yellow surgical hat with magenta butterflies on it so he, at least, could easily be recognized. All this will, of course, be highly relevant to this woman’s account of her experience which will now be described in her own words. She had gone into shock when she heard her physician exclaim, “This woman’s dying!” At that point:

Bang, I left! The next thing I was aware of was floating on the ceiling. And seeing down there, with his hat on his head, I knew who he was because of the hat on his head [i.e., the anesthesiologist with the magenta butterfly cap].. . it was so vivid. I’m very near-sighted, too, by the way, which was another one of the startling things that happened to me when I left my body. I see at fifteen feet what most people see at four hundred. … They were hooking me up to a machine that was behind my head. And my very first thought was, “Jesus, I can see! I can’t believe it, I can see!” I could read the numbers on the machine behind my head and I was just so thrilled. And I thought, “They gave me back my glasses. . .” (Ring, 1984, p. 42)

She went on to describe further details of her operation, including how her body looked, the shaving of her belly, and various medical procedures that her surgical team were performing upon her, and then found herself looking at another object from a position high above her physical body:

From where I was looking, I could look down on this enormous fluorescent light. … and it was so dirty on top of the light. [Could you see the top of the light fixture?] Yes, and it was filthy. And I remember thinking, “Got to tell the nurses about that.” (Ring, 1984, p. 43)

One of the striking features of this case is this woman’s observation that she was able to see so clearly during her NDE despite the fact that, as she averred, she was very nearsighted. In this respect, too, this woman’s testimony is far from unique in our records. Another very similar story was told, for example, in a letter from an audiologist who likewise reported seeing dust on the light fixtures of the operating room where his NDE took place. This incident occurred in a Japanese hospital during the Korean war. In addition, this same man, who became interested in NDEs as a result of his own experience, also learned of another case, involving a nurse at the same hospital, which had a remarkable correspondence to his. On this point, as he wrote in his letter:

The odd thing about both of our experiences is that we are both extremely myopic, i.e., thick glasses and blind as bats 6″ from our noses. And yet we were both able to describe accurately events, dials, details, expressions in our OBEs, without our glasses.

Such highly acute visual perceptions on the part of the poorly sighted are hardly limited to those who are apparently hovering above their bodies during NDEs. Other nonordinary states of consciousness, such as meditation, can also sometimes evoke them. Here is a particularly compelling example from a book by an optometrist whose uncorrected eyesight was 20/200:

[At this time] I was meditating every day. … During one of these deep meditative states, I had a very profound and startling experience. Although my eyes were closed, I could suddenly see everything – the whole room and myself in it – and I couldn’t tell where I saw seeing from! I wasn’t seeing from my eyes or from any single point of view. I seemed to be seeing everything from everywhere. There seemed to be eyes in every cell of my body and in every particle surrounding me. I could simultaneously see from straight on, from above, from below, from behind, and so on. … There seemed to be no observer separate from what was seen. There was simply awareness. (Liberman, 1995, p. 47)

Here we have an important clue about the nature of this kind of “seeing.” It may not be limited to the kind of concentrated focus we sometimes encounter in cases of NDEs, where one’s perceptual attention sometimes seems restricted to the physical body. Instead, as this account shows, one’s awareness can be omnidirectional. In fact, this type of perception is sometimes reported by those having NDEs or OBEs, and it is precisely this feature that suggests that “awareness” is a more appropriate term for this experience than is “seeing,” as the writer just quoted also implied. In this new context, then, consider this account from an NDEr whose experience occurred as a result of pneumonia during her second pregnancy. During this crisis, the woman was rushed to the hospital by her husband and, upon arrival, lost consciousness. Still, she was able to hear the nurses talking about her, saying that she was “dead meat.” Nevertheless, she herself was elsewhere at the time. As she related her experience:

I was hovering over a stretcher in one of the emergency rooms at the hospital. I glanced down at the stretcher, knew the body wrapped in blankets was mine, and really didn’t care. The room was much more interesting than my body. And what a neat perspective. I could see everything. And I do mean everything! I could see the top of the light on the ceiling, and the underside of the stretcher. I could see the tiles on the ceiling and the tiles on the floor, simultaneously. Three hundred sixty degree spherical vision. And not just spherical. Detailed! I could see every single hair and the follicle out of which it grew on the head of the nurse standing beside the stretcher. At the time I knew exactly how many hairs there were to look at. But I shifted focus. She was wearing glittery white nylons. Every single shimmer and sheen stood out in glowing detail, and once again I knew exactly how many sparkles there were.

In this narrative, we notice again not only this astonishing feature of omnidirectional awareness, but also a type of knowledge that stretches our concept of ordinary “vision” beyond the breaking point.

Clearly, this is not simple “vision” at all as we are wont to understand it, but almost a kind of seeming omniscience that completely transcends what mere seeing could ever afford. Indeed, what we appear to have here is a distinctive state of consciousness, which we would like to call transcendental awareness. In this type of awareness, it is not of course that the eyes see anything; it is rather that the mind itself sees, but more in the sense of “understanding” or “taking in” than of visual perception as such. Or alternatively, we might say that it is not the eye that sees, but the “I.”

Celia Green, in an important survey of OBEs (Green, 1968), found evidence for much the same concept as we are calling transcendental awareness among her respondents, too. To cite one brief relevant instance, she quoted one of her subjects as saying, “having no eyes, I ‘saw’ with whole consciousness” (Green, 1968, p. 70). Indeed, her survey is full of cases showing many of the features we have found in our study of the blind, including instances of keenly detailed perceptions, which some of her subjects, like ours, characterized as “crystal clear,” saying things like, “I could see the room in great detail, even the specks of dust” (Green, 1968, p. 72). Green also reported examples of apparent sight through physical obstacles and multisensory or synesthetic experiences. Therefore, what students of OBEs tend to call extrasomatic vision seems to be identical to what we have labeled here transcendental awareness.

Still another domain of research that appears to involve this type of awareness is that of pre- and perinatal psychology. In some investigations of early childhood memories, for example, there are reports by adults of events they appeared to have witnessed prior to birth (Chamberlain, 1977; Cheek, 1986). In a popular book David Chamberlain (1988) wrote on apparent birth-related memories, he recounted a story that came from a 3 1/2-year-old boy named Jason. Riding home one night, Jason spontaneously said that he remembered being born. He told his mother that he had heard her crying and was doing everything he could to get out. He said that it was “tight,” he felt “wet,” and he felt something around his neck and throat. In addition, something hurt his head and he remembered his face had been “scratched up.” Jason’s mother said she had “never talked to him about the birth, never,” but the facts were correct. The umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck, he had been monitored by an electrode in his scalp, and he had been pulled out by forceps. The photograph taken by the hospital showed scratches on his face (Chamberlain, 1988).

Another girl, not quite 4, in speaking of her own birth, knew a “family secret” that had never been divulged to her. In this case, a friend of the mother and later an occasional babysitter named Cathy had been present at the birth, assisting the midwife. After the birth, the midwife had been busy and the mother had by then been helped into a bath, leaving Cathy temporarily alone with the baby. As the baby began to whimper, Cathy reflexively let the baby suck from her own breast. By the time the mother had returned, the baby was already asleep, and Cathy, feeling somewhat guilty about being the first person to nurse the child, elected to say nothing to the mother about it.

Nearly four years later, Cathy was babysitting this same child, and, just out of curiosity, happened to ask the child if she remembered being born. As Chamberlain related what Cathy later told him,

She answered, “Yes!,” and proceeded to give an accurate account of who was present and their roles during labor and delivery. She described the dim light of the womb and the pressures felt during birth. Then the child leaned up close and whispered in a confidential tone, “You held me and gave me titty when I cried and Mommy wasn’t there.” At that, she hopped up and went off to play. Says Cathy, “Nobody can tell me babies don’t remember their birth!” (Chamberlain, 1988, pp. 103-104)

Hearing such suggestive anecdotes as these, Chamberlain felt obliged to see whether he could confirm such reports through systematic research into the question. For this purpose, he eventually studied a paired set of 10 mothers and children and independently hypnotized them, asking them for details about the birth from their separate perspectives. Only mothers who could assure Chamberlain that they never shared details about the birth with their child were eligible for the study. For the purposes of evaluation, Chamberlain assumed that the report given by the mother would be at least an approximately accurate description of the circumstances of the birth against which the child’s testimony could then be measured.

When comparing these independent accounts, Chamberlain found that in general the respective stories of mother and child agreed impressively, corresponding on specific points of detail in an almost uncanny fashion:

Mother and child reports were coherent with each other, contained many facts that were consistent and connected, and were appropriately similar in setting, characters, and sequences. The independent narratives dovetailed at many points like one story told from two points of view. … Generally, reports validated each other in many details like time of day, locale, persons present, instruments used (suction, forceps, incubator) and type of delivery (feet or head first). Sequences of receiving bottled water, formula, or breast milk, appearance and disappearance of fathers, and moving in and out of different rooms were often consistent. … Considering all the facts, objectively gathered birth memories appear to be genuine recollections of experience. (Chamberlain, 1988, pp. 106 and 120)

In all the areas we have mentioned-studies of NDEs, OBEs, meditation, and pre- and perinatal psychology – a single unified concept such as transcendental awareness can provide the basis for a parsimonious explanation for the entire and seemingly diverse array of “impossible perceptions” that research into these phenomena has disclosed. Furthermore this term seems more faithful to the nature of these experiences than one that emphasizes only the visual component.

Returning now to its specific application to our research, the reason we prefer to invoke the concept of transcendental awareness hinges on our previous discussion about the ubiquity of the language of vision. In effect, we argue that the blind, like other persons reporting OBEs and NDEs, have entered into a state of transcendental awareness, which confers access to a realm of knowledge not available in one’s normal waking state, but then are forced, again just like others, to translate their experiences into visual metaphors. Thus, the supersensory kind of knowing that the experience provides becomes seeing when it undergoes the necessity of linguistic transformation. That is why NDErs and OBErs, including some of our blind respondents, speak as if they have seen, even though, we conclude, it is an almost unavoidable distortion required by common language us age.

Thus, in answer to our earlier question as to what these individuals experience, if not seeing, we submit that it is transcendental awareness, a distinctive state of consciousness and mode of knowing in its own right, which is operative in blind and sighted persons alike during their experiences and which now stands in need of explanation. But at least we have, we believe, finally identified the phenomenon itself that seems to underlie and make possible the claims that the blind can “see” during their NDEs and OBEs, and why it is that their apparent “vision” can sometimes be so extraordinarily detailed and fine as to be, in their mind, “perfect.” Since transcendental awareness by definition must transcend the limitations of the senses, it is possible, at least at times, for one to have access to a state of consciousness in which, with “the doors of perception cleansed,” things present themselves in true Blakean fashion, “as they are, infinite.”

J. Theories of Transcendental Awareness

When confronted with the evidence for transcendental awareness we have presented in this paper, both from our own study and from the research of others, it is obvious that the generally accepted theories of human perception and cognition that derive from mainstream science will not, without some extraordinary extrapolations, be able to account for such findings. If, however, we turn instead to some recent theoretical developments in New Paradigm Science we can quickly discern the shape of the explanation we need to seek.

In recent years, a number of thinkers, influenced by developments in modern physics, have elaborated a variety of theories of consciousness which, despite their somewhat different basic postulates, all either predict or imply that blind persons should be able to have something like visual perception during NDEs and OBEs. In addition, all of these theories explicitly address the phenomenon of the NDE in general and also posit the existence of a state of consciousness that corresponds to what we have called here transcendental awareness. Among such formulations are Kenneth Arnette’s “Theory of Essence” (Arnette, 1992, 1995a, 1995b), Larry’s Dossey’s “Nonlocality Theory of Consciousness” (Dossey, 1989), Amit Goswami’s “Quantum Theory of Consciousness” (Goswami, 1993, 1994), Michael Talbot’s “Holographic Theory of Consciousness” (Talbot, 1991), and Jenny Wade’s “Holonomic Theory of Consciousness” (Wade, 1996).

As indicated, the ground philosophic assumptions of these theories vary. For instance, Arnette’s position is one of explicit dualistic in teractionism, Goswami’s, a monistic idealism that nevertheless is able to incorporate some of the insights of dualistic theories without having to resort to dualism per se, while Wade’s approach represents an uncompromising nondualism. Nevertheless, these theorists all agree about certain properties of consciousness itself, and on this basis they can serve as a kind of collective expression of the point of view we believe best articulates our own theoretical convictions. Let us examine next, then, this list of the common postulates of these theories having to do with the nature of consciousness.

The first postulate on the nature of consciousness that these diverse theories share is that consciousness itself is primary and is the ground of all being. Goswami’s statements are indicative of this position and sum it up succinctly:

All events are phenomena in consciousness. Beyond what we see as immanent reality, there is a transcendent reality; ultimately all reality is comprised of consciousness. The division of reality into transcendental and immanent is an epiphenomenon of experience. (Goswami, 1994, p. 1)

The second common postulate is that consciousness is nonlocal. What this assertion implies is that the mind, rather than being located in the individual and bounded by time (that is, birth and death) is fixed neither in time nor in space. In fact, in this view, it is not really appropriate, except as a shorthand convenience, to speak of the mind; instead there is, as our first proposition implies, only Mind. This insight, though derivative from a nonlocality position, may be stated as a separate assumption, namely, the third common postulate: that consciousness is unitive. That is, there is only one consciousness, which we call Mind, and the notion of individual minds is at bottom nothing more than a useful fiction that Dossey pointedly called “the illusion of a separate self and the sensation of an ego that possesses a separate mind” (Dossey, 1989, p. 98).

The fourth common postulate is that consciousness may and indeed must sometimes function independently of the brain. This is a key assumption, especially for understanding how the blind may become aware of something that seems like visual perception. Dossey again stated the matter concisely:

If the mind is nonlocal, it must in some sense be independent of the strictly local brain and body. … And if the mind is nonlocal, unconfined to brains and bodies and thus not entirely dependent on the physical organism, the possibility of survival of bodily death is opened. (Dossey, 1989, p. 7)

Of course, as Dossey elsewhere pointed out and as all of the other theorists under consideration would agree, although Mind is neither confined to the brain nor a product of it, it may of course work through the brain to give us our representation of the phenomenal world. According to Goswami, our ordinary perception of time and space comes about as a result of a quantum-mechanical process whereby consciousness self-referentially “collapses” what are called “possibility waves” so as to give rise to actuality: “In the process of collapse, one undivided consciousness sees itself as apparently divided into dualities such as life and environment, subject and object” (A. Goswami, personal communication, 1995).

Thus, what we have here is an adumbration of a process that begins with Mind fully independent of brain becoming self-referential, that is, becoming identified with consciousness itself, and then converting this noumenal consciousness into a dualistic modality that generates the familiar phenomenal world. What we have called transcendental awareness is at least the beginning of the reversal of that process by which, even though the traces of an everyday dualism remain, the individual is enabled, however temporarily, to experience the world from a perspective independent of brain functioning and the operation of the senses. Each of these theories formally entails such a state of awareness, and specifically in blind persons, during NDEs or OBEs; we direct the interested reader to the citations we have provided in order to confirm our assertion that these New Paradigm theories are perfectly capable of elegantly subsuming our find ings as derivations from their stated premises.

9. Conclusion

In the introduction to this paper, we alluded to an account of an NDE of a blind woman who afterward reported that she could see during her experience. At first blush, because this case was recounted by a well-known physician, we were probably inclined to take it at face value, perhaps also influenced by our desire to believe in the miraculous. Almost immediately, however, we learned that the story that had so beguiled us into entertaining such an appealing possibility was fictitious. But by the end of our inquiry, we came to understand that in this tale there resided still another paradox besides the one it seemed initially to represent: namely, that this was a story that was simultaneously true and false. Or perhaps we might better say it was a fictitious story that turned out to be true after all, just as the author all along had felt it just had to be. In this sense, at least, perhaps this author has received a measure of justification after the fact for his convictions, even if we cannot embrace, in this one instance, his penchant for prematurely converting belief into apparent fact.

Nevertheless, as we have seen, there is still another level of subtlety in this story, because although in a sense it is true, it is not entirely true. The story of Sarah implied that she really could see during her NDE, in the way that a sighted person might. We have shown this is an unwarranted inference. What seemed like an analog to physical sight really was not when examined closely. It is a different type of awareness altogether, which we have called transcendental awareness, that functions independently of the brain but that must necessarily be filtered through it and through the medium of language as well. Thus, by the time these episodes come to our attention, they tend to speak in the language of vision, but the actual experiences themselves seem to be something rather different altogether and are not easily captured in any language of ordinary discourse. Indeed, our work has shown the need to exercise critical discernment before taking these reports at face value. To be sure, they make good stories, in books or in tabloid headlines, as the case may be, but they are not always necessarily what they seem. They are more remarkable still.

What the blind experience is more astonishing than the claim that they have seen. Instead, they, like sighted persons who have had similar episodes, have transcended brain-based consciousness altogether and, because of that, their experiences beggar all description or convenient labels. For these we need a new language altogether, as we need new theories from a new kind of science even to begin to comprehend them. Toward this end, the study of paradoxical and utterly anomalous experiences plays a vital role in furnishing the theorists of today the data they need to fashion the science of the 21st century. And that science of consciousness, like the new millennium itself, is surely already on the horizon.

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Rogo, D. S. (1989). The return from silence: A study of near-death experiences. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press.

Romains, J. (1924). Eyeless sight: A study of extra-retinal vision and the paroptic sense. New York, NY: Putnam.

Sabom, M. B. (1982). Recollections of death: A medical investigation. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Sacks, O. (1993, May 10). A neurologist’s notebook: To see and not see. The New Yorker, pp. 59-73.

Talbot, M. (1991). The holographic universe. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Valvo, A. (1971). Sight restoration after long term blindness. New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind.

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Woodward, K. L. (1976, August). There is life after death. McCalls, pp. 134-139.

Categories
Evidence Science

Near-Death Experiences Have Been Known Throughout History

 

Some of the following information about Plato and his NDE testimony about the soldier named Er are excerpts from Lee W. Bailey and Jenny Yates wonderful book, The Near-Death Experience: A Reader.

PlatoReports of near-death experiences (NDEs) are not a new phenomenon. Many NDEs have been reported for over the last two thousand years. Ancient religious texts such as the New Testament of the Bible (367 AD), the Quran (632 AD), and the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1386 AD), for example, describe experiences of life after death which remarkably resemble modern NDEs. The oldest surviving explicit report of an NDE in Western literature comes from the famed Greek philosopher, Plato, who described an event, the “Myth of Er,” in the tenth book of his legendary book entitled Republic written in 380 BC. The Myth of Er is a legend that concluded Plato’s Republic which includes an account of the cosmos and the afterlife that greatly influenced religious, philosophical, and scientific thought for many centuries. The story begins as a man named Er, son of Armenios of Pamphylia, who died in battle. When the bodies of those who died in the battle are collected, ten days after his death, Er’s body remained undecomposed. Two days later he revives on his funeral pyre and tells others of his journey in the afterlife, including an account of reincarnation and the celestial spheres of the astral plane. The tale includes the idea that moral people are rewarded and immoral people punished after death. Although called the “Myth” of Er, the word “myth” means “word, speech, account”, rather than the modern meaning. The word is used at the end when Socrates explains that because Er did not drink the waters of Lethe, the account (mythos in Greek) was preserved for us.

This story is not just a random anecdote for Plato. He integrated at least three elements of the NDE into his philosophy: the departure of the soul from the cave of shadows to see the light of truth, the flight of the soul to a vision of pure celestial being and its subsequent recollection of the vision of light, which is the very purpose of philosophy.

In Plato’s Republic, he concludes his discussion of immortal soul and ultimate justice with the story of Er. Traditional Greek culture had no strong faith in ultimate justice, as monotheistic faiths do. Ancestral spirits lingered in the dark, miserable underworld, Hades, regardless of their behavior in this life, with no reward or punishment, as Odysseus learned in his Odyssey. But Plato, perhaps importing some Orphic, Egyptian or Zoroastrian themes, drew on the idea of an otherworldly reward or punishment to motivate virtuous behavior in this life. The first point of Er’s story is to report on this cosmic justice; it is:

“..the tale of a warrior bold, Er, the son of Armenious, by race a Pamphylian. He once upon a time was slain in battle, and when the corpses were taken up on the tenth day already decayed, he was found intact, and having been brought home, at the moment of his funeral, on the twelfth day as he lay upon the pyre, revived, and after coming to life related what, he said, he had seen in the world beyond. He said that when his soul went forth from his body he journeyed with a great company and that they came to a mysterious region where there were two openings side by side in the Earth, and above and over against them in the heaven two others, and that judges were sitting between these, and that after every judgment they bade the righteous journey to the right and upward through the heaven with tokens attached to them in front of the judgment passed upon them, and the unjust to take the road to the left and downward, they too wearing behind signs of all that had befallen them, and that when he himself drew near they told him that he must be the messenger to humanity to tell them of that other world, and they charged him to give ear and to observe everything in the place.” (Rep. X,614 b,c,d)

From the other tunnels came souls preparing for reincarnation on Earth. From above came souls happily reporting “delights and visions of a beauty beyond words.” From below came souls lamenting and wailing over a thousand years of dreadful sufferings, where people were repaid manifold for any earthly suffering they had caused. Journeying on, the newcomers saw:

“..extended from above throughout the heaven and the Earth, a straight light like a pillar, most nearly resembling the rainbow, but brighter and purer … and they saw there at the middle of the light the extremities of its fastenings stretched from heaven, for this light was the girdle of the heavens like the undergirders of triremes, holding together in like manner the entire revolving vault.” (Rep. X, 616 b,c)

With many other souls as his companions, Er had come across an awe-inspiring place with four openings – two into and out of the sky and two into and out of the ground. Judges sat between these openings and ordered the souls which path to follow: the good were guided into the path into the sky, the immoral were directed below. But when Er approached the judges, he was told to remain, listening and observing in order to report his experience to humankind.

Meanwhile from the other opening in the sky, clean souls floated down, recounting beautiful sights and wondrous feelings. Those returning from underground appeared dirty, haggard, and tired, crying in despair when recounting their awful experiences, as each was required to pay a tenfold penalty for all the wicked deeds committed when alive. There were some, however, who could not be released from underground. Murderers, tyrants and other non-political criminals were doomed to remain by the exit of the underground, unable to escape.

Spindle of NecessityAfter seven days in the meadow, the souls and Er were required to travel farther. After four days they reached a place where they could see a shaft of rainbow light brighter than any they had seen before. After another day’s travel they reached it. This was the Spindle of Necessity. Several women, including Lady Necessity, her daughters, and the Sirens were present. The souls – except for Er – were then organized into rows and were each given a lottery token.

Then, in the order in which their lottery tokens were chosen, each soul was required to come forward to choose his or her next life. Er recalled the first one to choose a new life: a man who had not known the terrors of the underground but had been rewarded in the sky, hastily chose a powerful dictatorship. Upon further inspection he realized that, among other atrocities, he was destined to eat his own children. Er observed that this was often the case of those who had been through the path in the sky, whereas those who had been punished often chose a better life. Many preferred a life different from their previous experience. Animals chose human lives while humans often chose the apparently easier lives of animals.

After this, each soul was assigned a guardian spirit to help him or her through their life. They passed under the throne of Lady Necessity, then traveled to the Plane of Oblivion, where the River of Forgetfulness (River Lethe) flowed. Each soul was required to drink some of the water, in varying quantities; again, Er only watched. As they drank, each soul forgot everything. As they lay down at night to sleep each soul was lifted up into the night in various directions for rebirth, completing their journey. Er remembered nothing of the journey back to his body. He opened his eyes to find himself lying on the funeral pyre early in the morning, able to recall his journey through the afterlife.

Myth of Er cosmic axisThe cosmic axis is a rainbow light holding together the eight spheres revolving around the Earth, each guided by its Fate, a daughter of Necessity. One of these Fates casts before the crowd to be reincarnated a number of earthly destinies from which they may choose to be, for example, a tyrant, an animal, an artist, or, as Odysseus carefully chose, an ordinary citizen who minds his own business. Then, just before returning to Earth as a shooting star, each soul is required to drink from the River of Forgetfulness, so that all these cosmic events will fade from memory. Only Er was not allowed to drink and forget.

Thus Plato’s cosmology is framed in the story of an NDE, although it obviously has been elaborated beyond an individual account into a collective cosmology. This amazing vision of the universal light, immortal soul, reward and punishment, reincarnation and even tunnels, is echoed 2500 years later in our contemporary NDE reports.

SpindleThe “Spindle of Necessity” which the cosmos is represented by the Spindle is attended by Sirens and the three daughters of the Goddess Necessity known collectively as The Fates, whose duty is to keep the rims of the spindle revolving. The Fates, Sirens, and Spindle are used in The Republic, partly to help explain how known celestial bodies revolved around the Earth according to Plato’s cosmology. The “Spindle of Necessity,” according to Plato, is “shaped … like the ones we know” – the standard Greek spindle, consisting of a hook, shaft, and spiral. The hook was fixed near the top of the shaft on its long side. On the other end resided the spiral. The hook was used to spin the shaft, which in turn spun the spiral on the other end. Placed on the spiral of his celestial spindle were eight “orbits”, whereof each created a perfect circle. Each “orbit” is given different descriptions by Plato. Based on Plato’s descriptions within the passage, the orbits can be identified as those of the classical planets, corresponding to the Aristotelian planetary spheres: Orbit 1 represents the Stars. Orbit 2 represents Saturn. Orbit 3 represents Jupiter. Orbit 4 represents Mars. Orbit 5 represents Mercury. Orbit 6 represents Venus. Orbit 7 represents the Sun. Orbit 8 represents the Moon. The descriptions of the rims accurately fit the relative distance and revolution speed of the respective bodies as would appear to an observer from Earth (aside from the Moon, which revolves around the Earth slightly more slowly than the sun).

Plato's allegory of the cavePlato’s allegory of the cave in the Republic similarly reflects the centrality of the cosmic light of wisdom. Chained inside a cave, looking at a wall dancing with shadowy figures, residents take there figments to be reality:

“Such prisoners would deem reality to be nothing else than the shadows of the artificial objects.”

But then one prisoner is freed and, climbing out of the cave with dazzled eyes, discovers the blazing sun and the true world that it floods with light.

“When one was freed from his fetters and compelled to stand up suddenly and turn his head around and walk and to lift up his eyes to the light, and in doing all this felt pain and, because of the dazzle and glitter of the light, was unable to discern the objects whose shadows he formerly saw, what do you suppose would be his answer if someone told him that what he had seen before was all a cheat and an illusion, but that now, being nearer to reality and turned toward more real things, he saw more truly?” (Rep. VII,515 c,d)

Plato uses the image to convey the soul’s philosophical awakening to the realm of archetypal forms. Several parallels with NDE reports stand out. The shock of the discovery through the light, reversing all previous convictions, echoes loudly the experiencers’ radical shift in consciousness. When the wanderer returns to the cave and attempts to awaken his mates to the true light, he provokes laughter and even death threats:

“And if it were possible to lay hands on and to kill the man who tried to release them and lead them up, would they not kill him?” (Rep. VII, 517a)

This reference to Socrates’ death reflects the pain of misunderstanding and rejection felt by survivors of an NDE, and the subsequent difficulty adjusting to the ordinary world of shadows. The returning bearer of visionary discoveries is despised for upsetting the cave’s established order.

The flight of the immortal soul toward an incredible vision of pure celestial being, Plato describes in the Phaedrus. Drawn out by love and beauty, the soul is carried as on a chariot pulled by two eager steeds, upward to join a magnificent circular parade of souls (the Milky Way), each following the Greek god it most favors (Ares for warriors, Zeus for wise leaders, Hera for royalty, etc.) All parade around the cosmic cycle, straining for a view of pure being in the center. Those who see more of it are reincarnated with more memory of the universal forms of pure truth, justice, beauty, temperance and love:

“..every human soul has, by reason of her nature, had contemplation of true being; else would she never have entered into this human creature … Some, when they had the vision, had it but for a moment … Few indeed are left that can still remember much.” (Phaedrus, 249e-250a)

Like an initiation into a mystery religion, our eternal souls are enlightened by:

“…the spectacles on which we gaze in the moment of final revelation; pure was the light that shone around us, and pure were we.” (Phadrus, 250c)

The purpose of philosophy for Plato is to remember that primal vision of pure, powerful Light. The very purpose of life is to remember that journey between lives, that pilgrimage between death and birth, to uncover that transcendent vision of Light revealed in NDE reports.

In the dialogue Plato introduces the story by explaining to his questioner, Glaucon, that the soul must be immortal, and cannot be destroyed. Plato tells Glaucon the Myth of Er to explain that the choices we make and the character we develop will have consequences after death. In Book II of the Republic, Socrates points out that even the gods can be tricked by a clever charlatan who appears just while unjust in his psyche, in that they would welcome the pious but false “man of the people” and would reject and punish the truly just but falsely accused man. Thus in the Myth of Er, when all men choose another life, the true characters of the falsely-pious and those whose are indecent in some way are revealed when they choose the lives of tyrants. Those who lived happy but average lives in their previous life are most likely to choose the same for their future life, not necessarily because they are wise, but out of habit. Those who were treated with infinite injustice, despairing of the possibility of a good human life, choose the souls of animals for their future incarnation. It is through the careful cultivation of attention to the types of lives that emerge from a combination of experience, character, and fate — through the practice of philosophy, in other words — that people knowingly make good choices when confronted with the possibility of a new life. No matter how life treats one or how successful or famous or powerful one becomes, one way or the other, or even, as in the Myth, how many temporary heavenly rewards or hellish punishments one experiences, these virtues will always work to one’s advantage.

Categories
Evidence Science

Common Elements are Found in Near-Death Experiences

This article was written by P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.) (pmhatwater.hypermart.net and www.amazon.com) a near-death experiencer and one of the original researchers in the field of near-death studies. Sign up for her free online newsletter. Visit Atwater’s Q & A Blog and her NDE News Blog. She is the author of many more wonderful books including: The Forever Angels (2019), The Animal Lights Series of Children’s Books (2019), A Manual for Developing Humans (2017), The Big Book of NDEs (2014), Dying to Know You (2014), Future Memory (2013), Children of the Fifth World (2012), NDEs, The Rest of the Story (2011), I Died Three Times in 1977 (2011), Beyond the Indigo Children (2005), We Live Forever (2004), The New Children and NDEs (2003), Children of the New Millennium (1999), Coming Back To Life (1988), Beyond The Light (1994), and Goddess Runes (1996).

Atwater’s article is followed by webmaster Kevin Williams‘ own analysis of the statistics gathered from his own research which shows the common elements among fifty near-death experiences profiled on this website. The following is P.M.H. Atwater’s analysis of the common aspects among NDEs.

Table of Contents

  1. Common Aspects Analysis
  2. Kevin Williams’ NDE Analysis of Common Aspects
  3. An Analysis of 21 Common Aspects

1. Common Aspects Analysis

What I submitted for review is the following, taken from over twenty years of study and with a research base in excess of 3,200 NDErs:

I. Context of experience: either A or B must be met:

a. Symptoms or signs suggesting serious medical illness or injury, or physiological crisis/accident of some kind; or,
b. NDEr’s expectation or sense of imminent death.

II. Content of experience: an intense awareness, sense, or experience of “otherworldiness” – whether pleasant or unpleasant, strange or ecstatic. Episode can be brief and consist of only one or two elements, or can be more involved, even lengthy, and consist of multiple elements. Elements commonly experienced are:

a. Visualizing or experiencing being apart from the physical body, perhaps with the ability to change locations.
b. Greatly enhanced cognition (thoughts very clear, rapid, and hyper-lucid).
c. A darkness or light that is perceived as alive and intelligent and powerful.
d. Sensation of movement and/or a sense of presence (hyperalert faculties).
e. Sudden overwhelming floods of emotion or feelings.
f. Encounter with an identified deceased person or animal, or an encounter with an apparently nonphysical entity.
g. Life review (like a movie or in segments, or a reliving).
h. Information can be imparted, perhaps dialogue.

III. Typical to the experience:

a. Near-death states can occur to anyone at any age, including newborns and infants, and remain vivid and coherent lifelong (unless societal or family pressure weakens memory clusters – repression more common with child NDErs than with teenagers or adults).
b. Children’s episodes are usually brief and encompass few elements. The closer the child is to puberty, the greater the possibility of longer, more complicated scenarios.
c. The pattern of psychological and physiological aftereffects seems more dependent on the intensity of the experience, than on any particular imagery or length of exposure to darkness or light.
d. Attitudes and feelings significant others display after the NDEr revives directly influence how readily he or she can integrate the experience. Episode content is secondary to that initial climate of interest or disinterest.

I would also hasten to add that no matter how long the individual is without vital signs, especially pulse or breath, there is little or no brain damage afterward – rather – brain and faculty enhancement. It is not unusual for NDErs to revive in the morgue hours later (Average time without vital signs in my research base – between five to twenty minutes.). It is possible to have an NDE and not be near death. What causes near-death-like experiences is presently unknown.

2. Kevin Williams’ NDE Analysis of Common Aspects

My research into NDE reports have been limited to those NDEs I read in published material and those sent to me by email. Because the experiences sent to me by email have not been verified, my analysis cannot be considered to be scientific. Combining all the published and email experiences, this gave me a total of fifty experiences to analyze.

For my research into finding how prevalent certain common aspects there are in these experiences, I identified twenty-one characteristics found in many NDE accounts to analyze. I classified the fifty NDEs into five distinct categories. They are:

  1. NDEs having a Christian orientation.
  2. NDEs of religious people other than Christians.
  3. NDEs having co-called “New Age” aspects to them (i.e., those experiences using such terms as “Higher Self“, “karma“, “avatar“, etc.).
  4. NDEs of people who considered themselves avowed atheists before their experience.
  5. NDEs of people who have not identified themselves with any particular religion.

These categories reflect the religious backgrounds of the NDErs before their NDE occurred. I categorized (4) as being separate from (5) because I wanted to distinguish those who held an atheistic belief system from those who held no belief system.

Someone may ask: “Why categorize NDE accounts according to religious background?” The answer is to see how a person’s belief system may influence their interpretation of their NDE, if at all. I believe it also helps in quantifying correlations between a person’s prior belief system and the nature of the person’s NDE account.

3. An Analysis of 21 Common Aspects

Below are the twenty-one common aspects I examined and the percentage of the total NDErs in each of the five categories that experienced each common aspect. All aspects have been ranked according their frequency of occurrence. The following is a summary of the percentages for each of the twenty-one common aspects.

Overwhelming love: The highest percentage of experiences that reported overwhelming love was in those categorized as Christians (75%) and atheists (75%). The lowest percentage of experiences reporting overwhelming love are those in the new age (60%) category. Overwhelming love was experienced in (69%) of all NDEs. This common aspect is the most frequently occurring common aspect of the twenty-one aspects; and therefore, the highest percentage. The range for this aspect in all categories is in the 60 to 70 percentile. In contrast, the lowest occurring aspect is the (0%) of experiences involving the “Devil” or “Satan.” Visit NDEs and Spirituality for more information.

Mental telepathy: The highest percentage of experiences where mental telepathy occurred were those in the new age (80%) category. The lowest percentage of experiences were those in the non-Christian (50%) category. Perhaps this lower percentage can be attributed to the fact that mental telepathy is considered more of a new age concept than a traditional religious concept. Mental telepathy was the number two frequently occurring aspect. Visit NDEs and Telepathy for more information.

Life review: The highest percentage of experiences during which a life review occurred were reported by those in the atheist (100%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the new age (40%) and non-religious (40%) categories. Is there a correlation between atheism and experiencing a life review? Perhaps this statistic suggests that atheists need a life review more than any other type of NDEr. In general, atheists reject the concept of an afterlife altogether. A life review would certainly show them just how wrong they were. Who knows? This may be an example of how a person often “gets what they need” during an NDE. Visit NDEs and the Life Review for more information.

God: The category with the highest percentage of NDErs who reported seeing a divine being were those in the new age (80%) category. The category with the lowest percentage is the non-religious (27%) category. The lower percentage suggests that fewer non-religious NDErs see a divine being. This may be an example of non-religious NDErs “getting what they expect.” A divine being was seen by (75%) of those in the atheist category. This high percentage may reflect the possibility that these atheists, in general, are “getting what they need.” The same percentage of Christian and non-Christian NDErs (63%) saw a divine being. This suggests that a NDEr doesn’t have to be a Christian to see God. Visit NDEs and God for more information.

Tremendous ecstasy: The highest category experiencing tremendous ecstasy were those in the new age (100%) group. The lowest percentage occurred in the non-Christian (38%) category. Non-religious NDErs (60%) involved tremendous ecstasy. Christian and atheist categories were in the same (50%) percentile. Visit NDEs and Intense Emotions for more information.

Unlimited knowledge: The category with the highest percentage reporting unlimited knowledge were those in the atheist (63%) category. The category with the lowest were those in the non-religious (33%) category. The fact that more atheists received unlimited knowledge is very interesting. In general, many atheists emphasize knowledge, skepticism and science over faith. The common aspect of experiencing unlimited knowledge may be higher in atheists because they may be “getting what the desire.” Visit the NDEs and Unlimited Knowledge for more information.

Afterlife realms: The category with the highest percentage of NDErs traveling through various afterlife levels or realms were those in the new age (80%) category. The category with the lowest percentage are those in the atheist (25%) category. This statistic is interesting because NDErs in the new age category are generally more open to the concept of various afterlife realms, dimensions or levels, and out-of-body travel. Atheists who may be expecting absolutely nothing after death, may be “getting what they expect”, in reference to an NDE that is somehow limited in scope. Visit NDEs and Afterlife Reams for more information.

Told not ready: The category with the highest percentage that reported being told they were not ready or some variation of this were those in the non-religious (67%) category. The lowest percentage were reported by those in the atheist (13%) category. It could probably be assumed that every NDEr returning from death is not ready to die. Otherwise, they would not have returned. What is interesting is that those in the non-religious category had the highest occurrence of being told they were not ready. This may be suggesting that those in the non-religious category “need” to be told they are not ready. Perhaps non-religious people, in general, need something that religious people AND atheists are already “getting what they expect.” Visit NDEs and Told Not Ready for more information.

Seeing the future: The category with the highest percentage who were shown the future were those in the new age (60%) category. The category with the lowest percentage were those in the non-Christian (25%) category. This statistic is interesting because it could generally be deduced that those in the new age category tend to be more open to divination, psychic prediction, fortune telling, and occult prophecies, compared to those in the other categories. Generally, Christians believe such things to be “of the devil.” The suggestion that those in the new age category are more apt to see into the future during an NDE, may be another example of “getting what you expect.” Visit NDEs and the Future for more information.

Tunnel: The category with the highest percentage who reported traveling through a tunnel were those in the new age (80%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the non-religious (33%) category. All other categories were in the 30 to 40 percentile range. This particular aspect appears to be greatly skewed in favor of the new age category. The reason for this is anyone’s guess. Perhaps there is just no correlation. Visit NDEs and the Tunnel for more information.

Meeting Jesus: The category with the highest percentage of NDErs who report seeing Jesus were those in the Christian (81%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the non-religious (0%) category. The atheist category was (50%). The non-Christian category was (13%). The idea that more people in the Christian category see Jesus, may be an example of “getting what you expect.” The most interesting statistic is that none of the non-religious NDErs saw Jesus. The reason may be because they are “getting what they expect.” The reason for a relatively large percentage of atheists seeing Jesus could be that they are “getting what they need.” One the other hand, it may be a reflection of the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in the West where the vast majority of these experiences come from in my NDE analysis. Visit NDEs and Jesus for more information.

Forgotten knowledge: The category with the highest percentage receiving forgotten knowledge were those in the non-religious (47%) category. The lowest were those in the atheist (0%) category. The atheist percentage may be an example of “not getting what one does not expect.” The non-religious category could be “getting what they need.” Visit NDEs and Forgotten Knowledge articles for more information.

Experiencing fear: The category with the highest percentage experiencing fear were those in the atheist (50%) category. The lowest percentage were in the non-Christian (0%) and new age (0%) categories. The Christian category (44%) experienced fear. The non-religious (20%) experienced fear. Atheists are generally surprised, if not terrified, in “getting what they don’t expect.” The relatively high percentage in the Christian category experiencing fear may be attributed to the “God of wrath” factor. Those in the non-Christian and new age category had no fear which may be because they are “getting what they expect.” Visit NDEs and the Void for more information.

Homecoming: The category with the highest percentage receiving a homecoming were those in the Christian (31%) category. The lowest were those in the atheist (0%) category. Atheists may be “getting what they expect.” Visit NDEs and Homecoming for more information.

Learned of past lives: The category with the highest percentage reporting past lives were those in the non-Christian (38%) category. The lowest percentage were in the atheist (13%) category. NDErs in the non-Christian category may be more open to the concept of past lives. This statistic may suggest that non-Christians are “getting what they expect” concerning this aspect. The low percentage of atheist NDErs reporting past lives may also be “getting what they expect” (i.e., no knowledge of past lives). Those in the Christian (19%) category received knowledge of past lives. This is interesting because Christianity is a religion that generally does not believe in reincarnation. What is even more interesting is that the Christian, non-religious and new age percentages were roughly the same. This puts the high non-Christian percentage in an even better perspective. Visit NDEs and Reincarnation for more information.

Hell: The category with the highest percentage seeing hell were those in the Christian (38%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the non-religious (0%) category. The high percentage of Christians going to hell is likely because of their firm belief in it and they are “getting what they expect” in this category. Non-religious people would be least likely to believe in hell and the statistic above may be reflecting this. They may be “getting what they expect” as well. Categories in the atheists (25%), new age (20%), and non-Christian (13%) experienced hell. The non-religious category may be “getting what they expect” because they probably did not expect seeing a hell. Perhaps one particular conclusion can be drawn from this. Assuming that atheism is a “religion,” which I believe it is for some, it may be best to hold no fixed or rigid religious beliefs, as non-religious people generally do. Also, atheists NDErs sometimes erroneous believe, during their NDE, that they are unworthy of heaven. This was the case with Howard Storm during his NDE. This may be an example of a NDEr “getting what they expect.” Visit NDEs and Hell for more information.

City of Light: The category with the highest percentage who reported seeing a “city of light” were those in the Christian (25%) and the atheist (25%) categories. The lowest percentage were in the non-Christian (0%) category. The “city of light” is often described as being similar to the “New Jerusalem,” a heavenly city described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. According to Revelation, this city comes down from heaven to the Earth sometime in the future. Non-Christians may not be aware of this Christian revelation and would therefore not experience it. This may be another example of people “getting what they expect.” Visit NDEs and City of Light for more information.

Temple of knowledge: The category with the highest percentage reporting an experience with a Temple or Library of knowledge are those in the atheist (25%) category. No one in the non-Christian (0%) category experienced a Temple or Library. Because atheists, in general, tend to emphasize knowledge over faith, it should not be surprising that atheists are “getting what they expect.” Visit NDEs and Temple of Knowledge for more information.

Seeing spirits among the living: The category with the highest percentage who witnessed “ghosts” or “earthbound discarnates” or so-called “demons” on Earth trying to influence the living, are the Christian (25%) category. The lowest percentages were in the non-Christian (0%), new age (0%), and atheist (0%) categories. More Christian NDErs (25%) saw spirits among the living on Earth. One possible explanation for this might be the strong belief among Christians in demons. This may be an example of “getting what you expect.” Those in the atheists, non-religious and new age categories may be less likely to believe in so-called “demons.” Visit NDEs and Hell for more information.

Suicide: The category with the highest percentage reporting an NDE resulting from a suicide attempt is the Christian (13%) category. The lowest percentage are those in the non-Christian (0%), new age (0%), and the atheist (0%) categories. One possible explanation for this statistic is that those in the atheist, new age, and non-Christian may be more apt to have a stronger “earthly” connection than Christians who generally emphasize a “heavenly” connection. This may be an example of “getting what you need.” Those in the non-religious (7%) category reported the lowest percentage of suicide attempts. Those in the non-religious category, who may identify more with life rather than death, may be less likely to kill themselves. Visit NDEs and Suicide for more information.

Devil: The only universal common aspect among all categories in my research is that no one (0%) reported seeing a “Devil” or “Devil-like” being. I believe this statistic suggests the concept of the Devil is merely a religious myth. If a Devil really did exist, it would be logical that NDErs would report seeing the Devil – especially in the hell realms. But, no NDEr in my research has reported seeing a Devil. Some Christians claim the “Being of Light” to be the Devil. However, because the “Being of Light” exudes overwhelming love, light and concern, it is very unlikely that a Devil could do this. Visit NDEs and Satan for more information.

It should be pointed out that these statistics are not exactly scientific due to the fact that each occurrence of each aspect within each category was not gathered by personally interviewing the NDErs. This means it is possible for a characteristic to occur in an NDE, but is not expressed in the account.

The percentages displayed below are the combined percentages for all the categories. They show how common each aspect as a percentage of fifty NDEs profiled on this website.

NDE and Afterlife Statistics (50 NDEs)

Overwhelming love: 69%
Mental telepathy: 65%
Life review: 62%
God: 56%
Tremendous ecstasy: 56%
Unlimited knowledge: 46%
Afterlife realms: 46%
Told not ready: 46%
Shown the future: 44%
Tunnel: 42%
Jesus: 37%
Forgotten knowledge: 31%
Fear: 27%
Homecoming: 21%
Told of past lives: 21%
Hell: 19%
City of light: 17%
Temple of Knowledge: 13%
Spirits among the living: 10%
Suicide: 6%
Devil: 0%

These statistics show that many of these aspects are very common to NDE reports. Concerning these common elements found in NDE reports, Dr. Jeffrey Long states:

“NDEs are quite varied, but the consistency of the NDE elements (OBE experience, tunnel, light, meeting other beings, etc.) is striking. There is no plausible biological explanation of NDEs. There is no other human experience so dramatic, shared by so many people, and so relatively consistent in its elements. The preceding suggests faith in the validity of NDE accounts is the most reasonable conclusion from the evidence.” – Dr. Jeffrey Long