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Articles Science

Religious Interpretations of Near-Death Experiences

Dr. David San Filippo is a licensed mental health counselor, a certified disability management specialist, and a certified cognitive behavioral specialist who has been working in human services for more than 25 years. His counseling and consulting service specializes in helping adults overcome issues related to personal development, trauma, grief, and vocational rehabilitation. His intellectual properties company deals with human and artificial intelligence by combining the collective knowledge of human intelligence and dynamics with modern computer technology to produce software products designed to enhance people’s personal and work lives. His educational products consist of the workshops and seminars that Dr. San Filippo offers for human growth and development. His website contains a library section which is an outstanding resource for general research in human science in the areas of philosophy, psychology, sociology and theology.

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Near-Death Experiences
  4. The Phenomenology of the Near-Death Experience
  5. Models of Near-Death Experiences
  6. Transpersonal and Reductionist Theories Concerning Near-Death Experiences
  7. Out-of-Body Experiences
  8. Children and Near-Death Experiences
  9. Attitudinal and Personality Changes Following Near-Death Experiences
  10. Religious Beliefs Concerning Death, Afterlife, and Near-Death Experiences
  11. Agnostics and Atheists
  12. Buddhism and Hinduism
  13. Islam
  14. Judaism
  15. Christianity
  16. Mormonism
  17. Conclusion
  18. References

1. Abstract

Interpretations of near-death experiences are influenced by religious and psychosocial teachings about death and afterlife beliefs. Different religious beliefs have resulted in the formation of numerous religious groups who have fostered their own interpretations of death, afterlife, and the immediate transition period between life and afterlife. This essay provides an overview of reductionist theories and for the plausibility of transpersonal theories of near-death experiences. The essay then provides an overview of the human consciousness of what seems to be life after death, religious beliefs concerning death and afterlife, and interpretations of near-death experiences by different religious groups. This essay contends that religious interpretations combined with the contemporary work on near-death experiences and the arguments against reductionism provide grounds for the plausibility of the transpersonal theories concerning near-death experiences.

2. Introduction

A near-death experience is a conscious experience in which the individual experiences a sense of being detached from the physical world during the process of physiological dying. Individuals may experience their own physiological dyings and deaths and at the same time become aware of their disembodied existences in an altered state where they may experience a sense of peace, a separation of consciousness from the body, entering darkness, seeing a light, meeting spiritual entities, having a panoramic life review, and a sense of judging their lives (Moody, 1975; Morse, 1990, Ring, 1980). Near-death experiencers are generally positively affected by their experiences and their confrontation with death seems to give more meaning to the individual’s life (Kalish, 1981). Near-death experiences could be considered “transpersonal” experiences due to their nature of transcending the usual “personal” physical and mental realms of human consciousness. Transpersonal experiences are those incidents that are of the highest or ultimate human potential and beyond the ego or personal self (Lajoie & Shapiro, 1992, p. 90).

In order to evaluate near-death experiences effectively, it is necessary to have an understanding of personal beliefs concerning life after death. According to Kellehear & Irwin (1990), the interpretation of the near-death experience may be related to the social conditioning and beliefs of the experiencer, such as interpreting the experience in relationship to the experiencer’s religious beliefs concerning life after death.

Numerous surveys have documented that the majority of people in the United States believe in life after death (Kalish, 1981; Kellehear & Irwin, 1990; Klenow & Bolin, 1989, Rodabough, 1985). Psychologist Charles Tart (1991), in his article, “Altered States of Consciousness and the Possibility of Survival of Death“, discusses his belief that humans regain some type of consciousness after death. He states:

“The direct experience of existing and experiencing in some form that seems partially or fully independent of the physical body is relatively common in various altered states of consciousness, and this kind of experience constitutes the most direct knowledge of survival an individual may have” (p. 37).

Past-life researcher Brian Weiss (1988) reports there are experiences of what seems to be life after death, as reported by many of his subjects, and that the different experiences and concepts of the subject’s lifetime, involving religion and death, can influence the individual’s understanding of death and afterlife.

Religions involve group practices of similar religious beliefs. An individual’s personal religious beliefs are experienced within the individual’s consciousness and may be related to others through various religious practices. Through social participation individual beliefs may be formed and heightened. Religious beliefs may both provide explanations for unexplained phenomena and communicate the essence of human transpersonal experiences.

Interpretations of near-death experiences can be influenced by religious beliefs in life after death. The effects of religious diversity may not only influence the interpretations of near-death experiences but also may account for some of the differences in the descriptions of encounters with incorporeal entities, the setting of the experience, and in the activities reported during the experience. Religious beliefs can provide references to explain the “difficult to explain” experiences associated with a near-death experience (Foos-Graber, 1989; Kubler-Ross, 1991; Moody, 1975, 1977, 1988; Ring, 1980, 1982). Most reported near-death experiences appear to support many philosophical and religious theories of what is anticipated in life after death such as communion with incorporeal beings and the existence of afterlife polar planes of good and bad, heaven and hell.

It is the intention of this essay to provide a review of the near-death experience phenomenon and the beliefs in life after death of some religious denominations who have reported near-death experiences, as well as their interpretations of these experiences. The essay will conclude that these religious interpretations, combined with contemporary near-death research, and arguments against reductionist interpretations provide grounds for the plausibility of transpersonal theories concerning near-death experiences.

3. Near-Death Experiences

Near-death experiences appear to be a universal phenomena that has been reported for centuries. A near-death encounter is defined as an event in which the individual could very easily die or be killed, or may have already been considered clinically dead, but nonetheless survives, and continue his or her physical life (Moody, 1977, p.124). Reports of near-death experiences date back to the Ice Age. There are cave paintings, in France and Spain, depicting possible after life scenes that are similar to reported scenes related to near-death experiences (Zaleski, 1987). Plato’s Republic presents the story of a near-death experience of a Greek soldier named Er. In this account, the soldier is killed in battle and his body is placed on a funeral pyre. Just before he is to be cremated, he awakens and tells a story of leaving his body and traveling with others to a place where they were all to be judged (Plato, 1928). Historical figures such as Carl Jung, Thomas Edison, and Ernest Hemingway have also reported their own near-death experiences (Jung, 1961; Moody, 1977, Zaleski, 1987). Modern researchers, such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Raymond Moody, Kenneth Ring, and Melvin Morse, have provided modern accounts of near-death experiences. Through their research, they have been able to provide phenomenological evidence regarding these experiences as altered states of consciousness, and qualitatively demonstrated that the great similarities between the different reports of these experiences are not a result of chance or accident.

According to a 1991 Gallup Poll estimate, 13 million Americans, 5% of the population, reported they have had a near-death experience (Greyson, 1992). Research has demonstrated that near-death experiences are no more likely to affect the devoutly religious than the agnostic or atheist. Near-death experiences can be experienced by anyone (Moody, 1975, 1977, 1980, Morse, 1990; Ring, 1980, 1985). According to Talbot (1991), near-death experiences appear to have no relationship to “a person’s age, sex, marital status, race, religion and/or spiritual beliefs, social class, educational level, income, frequency of church attendance, size of home community, or area of residence” (p. 240).

Near-death experiences have been recorded in folklore, religious, and social writings throughout the world. Reports have been recorded from societies such as Native American, Tibet, Japan, Melanesia, Micronesia, Egypt, China, India, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the United States (Greyson, 1992; Mauro, 1992). According to Ring (1980), there does not appear to be any relationship between, on one hand, an individual’s spirituality and religious practices, and on the other hand, the likelihood of experiencing a near-death experience or the depth of the ensuing experience.

4. The Phenomenology of the Near-Death Experience

Near-death experiencer consistently report similar experiences. According to Talbot (1991), “One of the most interesting aspects of the ND phenomenon is the consistency one finds from experience to experience” (p. 240). Although most near-death experiencers may not experience all of the traits associated with near-death experiences or in the same order, experiencers consistently report similar experiences. The following is a constructed description of the content of a near-death experience representing most of the major traits:

At the onset of the near-death experience, the individual may experience a sense of being dead, and surprise at being dead, yet will remain peaceful and have no feelings of pain. Following the peaceful awareness of being dead, the experiencer may have an out-of-body experience, a perception of separating from the physical body and moving away from the deceased body. The individual may experience a sense of moving through a tunnel, during the stage of entering into the darkness. As the individual passes through the tunnel, there may be an awareness of a bright light towards the end of the tunnel. While experiencing the consciousness of the light, ethereal forms recognizable by the experiencer may be seen in the light. In the later part of the near-death experience, the individual may sense he or she is rising rapidly towards the light into what he or she may consider heaven or another plane of consciousness. During this ascension, the experiencer may encounter a Being of Light reported to be either God, another spiritual deity, or an energy form recognized by non-theists. The encounter with the Being of Light engulfs the experiencer with a sense of unconditional love emanating from the Being. During this encounter, the near-death experiencer may become conscious of having a total panoramic review of his or her life and may experience a sense of self-judgment when observing his or her life events in review. The judgment is not by the Being of Light but is a personal judgment by the experiencer. Throughout each of the stages, and particularly in the latter stages of the near-death experience, the individual may be reluctant to return to his or her former life.

Although most near-death reports are positive, in that they are pleasurable experiences, there are some reports of negative or “hellish” type experiences. The reports of negative near-death experiences appear to be rare. Of all the reported near-death experiences, a 1982 Gallup poll estimated that less than 1% are considered to be negative, hellish, and frightening experiences. The negative near-death experiences are reported to contain similar traits as positive experiences but are associated with a sense of extreme fear, panic or anger, a sense of helplessness, and possible visions of demonic creatures (Moody, 1988, p.25, 27; Staff, 1992 p. 1-2; Horacek, 1992, p. 3).

Many individuals who have experienced a near-death experience claim a fuller understanding of their religious or spiritual insights and their impact on their lives (Moody, 1988; Peay, 1991; Ring, 1985). They report feeling closer to God after their near-death experience. Ring (1980) comments:

“The way in which post-incident religiousness reveals itself among core experiencers is primarily in terms of an inward sense of religion: They feel closer to God, are more prayerful, are less concerned with organized religion and formal ritual, and express a sense of religious tolerance and religious universalism. It isn’t clear that their belief in God per se grows stronger, although it is clear their religious feeling does. Following their incident, they are significantly more inclined then non-experiencers to be convinced there is life after death” (p.173).

The effect of this spiritual awakening on the experiencer is a more positive attitude towards life, a lack of fear of dying, and a sense of service towards others (Moody, 1977, 1980, 1988; Ring, 1980, 1985).

5. Models of Near-Death Experiences

The phenomenology of the near-death experience can be described by reporting the various stages of the experience, the characteristics or traits of the experience – which occur during various stages of the experience, by the constellations or related conscious experiences associated with near-death experiences, or by the experiential grouping of stages, traits, or constellations of the experiences. Experiencers may experience some or all of these stages, traits, consciousness, and types. The stages of near-death experiences relate to the experiencer’s sense of progression towards a destination. The traits are associated with a sense of consciousness or knowledge concerning the activities within the near-death experience. Noyes and Slymen (1978-79) and Sabom (1977) further categorize the stages and traits of near-death experiencers into constellations and group types to analyze further the phenomenology of the near-death experience. The statistical analysis of the data presented in the Ring (1980, 1985), Evergreen (Lindley, 1981), and Noyes and Slymen (1978-79) studies, and the research of Sabom (1977) demonstrate the consistency of these models of classification of near-death experiences.

Kenneth Ring (1980) has devised a model of the stages of near-death experiences recognized by near-death experiencers. The stages are:

Stages of the Near-Death Experience

  1. A sense of peace at the time of death.
  2. A sense of separation from the body.
  3. A sense of entering into darkness.
  4. Seeing a bright light.
  5. A sense of entering the light

Raymond Moody (1988), identifies nine distinguishing qualities, characteristics or traits that have been associated with near-death experiences and may be perceived within the stages of the near-death experiences identified by the Ring study. The Moody defined near-death experience traits are:

Distinguishing Qualities and Characteristics of the NDE

  1. A sense of being dead.
  2. A sense of peace and painlessness.
  3. A sense of separation from the physical body.
  4. The sense of passing through a tunnel.
  5. A sense of an encounter with recognizable ethereal entities, such as family, friends, angels or religious personages. These spirits may appear to be enveloped in light.
  6. A sense of rising rapidly into the heavens.
  7. A sense of an encounter with a Being of Light which emanates unconditional love. This being has been described as God or Allah.
  8. An experience of a panoramic, total life review and sense of self-judgment about one’s life while bathed in the unconditional love of the Being of Light.
  9. A sense of reluctance to return to the world of the living.
  10. A sense of a compression or absence of time and sensing no restrictions of space but a freedom to go where the experiencer chooses.

According to a study performed by Noyes and Slymen (1978-79), near-death experiences can be classified further into three consciousness constellations of the type of event: (1) mystical, (2) depersonalized, and (3) hyperalert. The mystical type includes a sense of harmony and unity, color or visions, and a feeling of great understanding. Depersonalization relates to the loss of emotion, detachment from the physical body, and an altered sense of the passage of time. The hyperalert constellation refers to the experiencer’s sense that his or her thoughts are sharply defined, vivid, and accelerated.

Sabom (1977) also has divided near-death experiencers into three experiential group types: (1) autoscopic, (2) transcendental, and (3) mixed experiences. The autoscopic experiencers include the individuals who have experienced the sense of leaving their bodies, having out-of-body experiences. The transcendental group include individuals who have a sense of entering into a “spiritual realm”. In the mixed experiences, the near-death experiencer may experience a mixture of autoscopic and transcendental experiences (Moody, 1988). Regardless of the methodology used to classify near-death experiences, the anecdotal nature of the near-death reports are similar and consistent between experiencers (Moody, 1977, 1988; Morse, 1990; Ring, 1980, 1985).

6. Transpersonal and Reductionist Theories Concerning Near-Death Experiences

Near-death researchers Moody (1975, 1977, 1988), Morse (1990), and Ring (1980, 1985) suggest that near-death experiences are related to a state of consciousness, separate from the physical body, which occurs at the time of death. Near-death researchers have collected hundreds of phenomenological descriptions of individual near-death experiences and have statistically correlated the occurrences of the stages and traits associated with these experience. The consistency of near-death experience reports provide support for the theories that these experiences are not a result of hallucinations or mental dysfunctions. Individuals, regardless, of age, race, religion, or national origin have reported similar experiences during a near-death episode. The chi-square method of statistical analysis has been used by near-death researchers to determine if the similarity of events reported during the near-death experience, by experiencer, are a result of chance or are to be expected elements of the near-death experience (Morse, 1990, Ring, 1980, 1985). The chi-square method is a non-parametric statistical test used to determine the statistical significance of the difference between the frequencies of reported outcomes with the expected frequencies of outcomes. In other words, did the events reported in near-death experiences happen by chance or can the events anticipated (Borg & Gall, 1989). The statistical significance of near-death research provides that the similarity in the reports of near-death experiencer do not happen as a result of chance but are consistent phenomena of the near-death experiencers (Morse, 1990; Ring, 1980, 1985, Rodabough, 1985; Sabom & Kreutziger, 1977).

Some theologians, medical practitioners, and psychologists do not believe near-death experiences are paranormal experiences. According to Moody (1988), some theological, medical, and psychological theorists attempt to explain near-death experiences as physical or mental phenomena that has more to do with brain and neurological-biological dysfunctions associated with the dying process.

Researchers such as Sagan (1979) and Siegel (1981) attempt to debunk the near-death experience by stating it is a result of a chemical reaction within the brain during the dying process. They postulate that as the eyes deteriorate following death they produce the bright light reported to be seen during the near-death experience. The tunnel effect and a sensation of being out-of-body is believed to be caused by the chemical reactions in the body during the death process (Moody, 1988, p.178). According to researcher Ronald Siegel (1981), “The descriptions given by dying persons are virtually identical to descriptions given by persons experiencing hallucinations, drug-induced or otherwise,” (p. 65). Carl Sagan (1979) states that some of the near-death experiences can be associated with “a wiring defect in the human neuroanatomy that under certain conditions always leads to the same illusion of astral projection/out-of-body experience,” (p. 47). According to Moody (1988) and Morse (1990), some researchers attempt to explain near-death experiences as the mind’s defense against the fear of dying, that the mind creates positive images of an afterlife in order to control the fear of dying.

Many near-death researchers regard three consistently repeated reports as providing credibility for the transpersonal theories that near-death experiences are the expression of an altered state of consciousness separate from the physical or mental realm of human existence having a profound impact on the experiencer’s life. These reports thus are crucial to cite in responding to the theorists who attempt to debunk the near-death experience as a transpersonal phenomenon. These three factors reported are:

Reports That Provide Credibility for the Transpersonal Theory of the NDE

  1. Consistent reports of out-of-body experiences of individuals who sense they separate from their physical body during the near-death experience and can observe their body and surroundings from a detached position.
  2. The consistent reports of near-death experiences of children are similar to those experiences reported by adults.
  3. The attitudinal and personality changes of the near-death experiencers following their experience (Moody, 1988; Morse, 1990; Ring, 1980, 1985).

The following discussion of out-of-body experiences, children’s near-death experiences, and the post-experience attitudinal and personality changes of near-death experiencers, suggest reasons why the reductionist or debunking theories are implausible.

7. Out-of-Body Experiences

During an out-of-body experience, experiencers report leaving their physical body and viewing their body and other activity from a detached, uninvolved perspective. Upon recovery from the near-death experience, many experiencers recall details of medical procedures being performed on them that they had no prior knowledge of the technique. Some experiencers report traveling to other locations, other than the place where the body may be lying “dead.” The out-of-body experiencer is then able to report things he or she may have seen during the out-of-body experience, and there is no other logical explanation for the source of this knowledge (Eadie, 1992; Moody, 1988; Morse, 1990; Ring, 1980, 1985; Ritchie, 1978; Zaleski, 1987). An example of this experience is a story told by a very near-sighted woman. During her out-of-body experience, she reports that she was first lying on an operating table with the anesthesia machine behind her head. She then became aware that she had detached from her body and was able to see, without difficulty, the equipment identification numbers on the anesthesia machine. These numbers were out of her normal visual range and behind her body’s head. She then floated up to the top of the room and noted how the top of the light fixtures were dirty. After her recovery from her near-death experience, she returned to the operating room and was able to ascertain that the numbers she had seen on the machine were correct and that the light fixtures were in need of cleaning (Ring, 1985, p. 42-43). This experience supports the belief that near-death experiences involve separation from the physical body and mind.

Studying the out-of-body phenomenon leads to doubt about the beliefs of those who attempt to debunk the theory that near-death experiences are transpersonal experiences transcending the physical and mental realm of human consciousness. The knowledge the experiencer gains during the out-of-body experience, in most cases, could not have been learned by any other method other than by a consciousness detached from the physical body (Moody, 1988; Morse, 1990; Ring, 1980, 1985). The ability of experiencers to report things and events they had no prior knowledge of provides for the plausibility that the out-of-body experience is a transpersonal event and not a psychological response to dying.

8. Children and Near-Death Experiences

Young children have reported having near-death experiences. Their reports are similar to adult near-death experiences even though they may not have had time to be enculturated with the same socio-religious beliefs regarding death as adults, or developed a fear of death through their psychological development. Children report having out-of-body experiences, passing through a tunnel, and encountering spiritual forms during their near-death experiences. Of interest are the reports of children who meet spiritual entities that are later identified as deceased relatives whom the child could not have known prior to his or her near-death experience (Moody, 1975, 1988, Morse, 1990).

The accounts of young children’s near-death experiences suggest the unlikeliness of the debunking theory that near-death experiences are the mind’s psychological defense towards dying. Children who have not had time to learn of their mortality do not usually fear dying. According to Frank (1982) and Anthony (1967) children, until between the age of five and seven, consider death to be reversible and generally do not have a fear of dying. They, therefore, do not have a need to create an afterlife experience, such as is experienced in a near-death experience, in order to overcome a fear of dying (Moody, 1988; Morse, 1990). Furthermore, following near-death experiences, children share similar after-effects of the experience as adult experiencers. They grow to have a sense of purpose and direction in their lives, and as they mature, do not develop a fear of dying (Morse, 1990).

9. Attitudinal and Personality Changes Following Near-Death Experiences

According to Wilson (1987), the real importance of the near-death experience is in the after-effects it has on the life of the experiencer. The usual psychological and spiritual after-effects of a near-death experience consist of changes in personality and values and an attitudinal change towards religion and death. There is a heightened sense of appreciation of life, especially of the world of nature and of other people. The near-death experiencer achieves a sense of understanding of what is important to him or her in life and strives to live in accordance with his or her understanding of what is meaningful. Consistently reported after-effects of near-death experiences are the lack of fear of death, an attitude of unconditional love and service towards others, and the desire to seek knowledge (Kalish, 1981, Moody, 1977, 1988; Peay, 1991; Ring, 1980).

According to Ring (1985), many near-death experiences act as a catalyst to a spiritual awakening for the experiencer:

“What is noteworthy … is the particular form this spiritual development takes in many NDErs – i.e., the real significance of the NDE here may not be simply that it promotes spiritual growth as much as the kind of spiritual growth it promotes” (p. 144).

This awakening appears to move the experiencer toward what Ring (1985) calls a “universalistically spiritual orientation” (p. 145). He defines universalistically spiritual orientation as consisting of:

Definition of Universalistic Spiritual Orientation

  1. A tendency to characterize oneself as spiritual rather than religious, per se.
  2. A feeling of being inwardly close to God.
  3. A de-emphasis of the formal aspects of religious life and worship.
  4. A conviction that there is life after death, regardless of religious belief.
  5. An openness to the doctrine of reincarnation (and a general sympathy towards eastern religions).
  6. A belief in the essential underlying unity of all religions.
  7. A desire for a universal religion embracing all humanity (p. 146).

The long-term positive effects the near-death experience has on the experiencer’s life gives evidence for supporting a plausible argument for the transpersonal nature of the near-death experience. This aspect of the near-death experience has not been addressed by reductionist theories in the literature reviewed. The profundity of the after-effects of a near-death experience on the experiencer’s life have not been able to be achieved through pharmacological or psychological methods. Most of the sensory nature of the near-death experience can be induced through drugs or hallucinations but the positive change in the individual’s personality and attitudes do not appear to be capable of replication (Moody, 1988; Morse, 1990; Ring, 1985). Ring (1980) reports these after-effects appear to remain with the individual for the remainder of his or her mortal life.

In the first part of this essay, I have reviewed some of the contemporary near-death research and some of the arguments against the plausibility of the reductionist theories and for the plausibility to transpersonal theories explaining near-death experiences. In the following part of this essay, religious beliefs concerning death, afterlife, and near-death experiences will be discussed. This discussion will provide commentary regarding the similarities between different religious beliefs and experiences concerning death, as well as between religious interpretations of near-death experiences.

10. Religious Beliefs Concerning Death, Afterlife, and Near-Death Experiences

Polls and studies support the assumption that the majority of people believe death is not the end of one’s existence but rather a transition from one life to another (Gallup & Castelli, 1989; Kellehear & Irwin, 1990; Klenow & Bolin, 1989). Different religions have provided belief structures supporting the religious and social needs of practitioners. Rituals and sacred writings support the various religious interpretations of what death is and what it will be like in the afterlife. However, even with the differences in religious beliefs, there are similarities between many different religious groups regarding afterlife beliefs. One similarity among religious groups is the belief in an afterlife following physical death. Another similarity is the presence of “the two polar images of life after death – the abode of the righteous, heaven or paradise, and the place for the wicked, or hell” (Grof & Grof, 1980, p. 13). These polar images are also recognized by many near-death experiencers.

According to Hick (1980), a belief in the immortality of the spirit has been present in most religions for centuries. The belief in a life after death is one of the oldest concepts of human history (DeSpelder & Strickland, 1983). Proving the immortality of the human soul has been the objective of many philosophers, theologians, and scientists. Freud (1961) stated:

“Our own death is indeed unimaginable, and whenever we make an attempt to imagine it we can perceive that we really survive as spectators.”

Hence the psychoanalytic school could venture on the assertion that, at bottom, no one believes in his own death. Or to put it in another way, in the unconscious everyone is convinced of his or her own immortality (p. 154). Many beliefs in life after death have concerned a non-physical transition into a serene spiritual world with encounters of other deceased people and possible religious figures. There may be a judgment or accounting of one’s life with a final disposition of the individual spirit following the period of judgment or personal assessment.

Near-death experiences and the reports of a consciousness of life after death have been provided by members of Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Christian, and Mormon religions, among others. Agnostics and atheists also have reported near-death experiences even with their predisposed lack of belief in anything greater than personal self and this life. The following are brief commentaries regarding the beliefs concerning death, afterlife, and near-death experiences within these religious and irreligious frameworks.

11. Agnostics and Atheists

Agnostics believe it is impossible to know whether there is a God or life after death. Atheists believe there is no God and no life after death and that death is the cessation of the existence of the individual.

Agnostics and atheists have reported having near-death experiences. These experiences are similar to the reports of individuals who have professed a spiritual belief prior to their near-death experience (Moody, 1977; Rawlings, 1978; Ring, 1985). Agnostics and atheists report achieving an altered state of consciousness in which they have experienced some or all of the traits Moody attributes to a near-death experience. Most agnostics and atheists interpret their near-death experiences as a glimpse of life after death (Rawlings,1978; Ring, 1985). Prior to the near-death experience, they did not believe in life after death. As a result of the experience, most agnostic and atheist experiencers eventually move toward a more spiritually guided life with a new found belief in life after death (Rawlings, 1978; Ring, 1985, p. 151). Maurice Rawlings (1978) reported he did not know of any agnostic or atheist individual from his research who, after experiencing a near-death experience, remained convinced of there being no God, no life after death, or nothing else beyond the material existence.

12. Buddhism and Hinduism

Buddhists believe that upon death, there is rebirth to another life. Death is accepted as inevitable and not feared. The believer’s actions in this life will determine his or her level of rebirth. Karma is the force created by the actions of the individual – the effects of actions. Good karma, which is achieved by compassionate actions in this life, leads to a higher existence in the next life. Nirvana is reached by achieving an understanding of the nature of reality. This must be discovered through the experiences of other dimensions of human consciousness (Klein, 1991, p. 103).

According to Buddhist cosmology, numerous, hierarchically arranged heavens exist along with eight hot and cold hells. The individual spirit exists in one of these realms, based upon the karma created in the previous life, until reborn into another life. This cycle continues until the enlightenment of nirvana is achieved (Klein, 1991).

According to Swami Adiswarananda (1991), in the Hindu religion, death comes as a break in the continued events of life and brings about a change in the form in which the spirit resides. Hindus believe the afterlife is a passage of time in a heaven or hell, dependent upon the karma built up in life. The judgment about one’s life is based upon the karma the individual created in his or her past lives. The rebirth of the spirit into the next life, through the transmigration of the soul, is determined by the developed karma and the individual’s last thoughts in the present life. An individual’s search for eternal happiness and immortality results in the rebirth of the spirit in different bodies until the spirit learns that happiness and immortality are not a result of the fulfillment of desires but are attained when all desires and needs are no longer important (Adiswarananda, 1991; Elb, 1906). According to some Hindus, the various religious faiths are “different paths to reach one and the same goal – union with God as ultimate Reality” (Johnson & McGee, 1991).

There are reports of Chinese Buddhists having near-death experiences (Kellehear, Heaven, Gao, 1990). Becker (1981) suggests that near-death experiences may have been responsible for part of the development of Pure Land Buddhism in China. A Hindu report of a near-death experience relates how the experiencer entered into heaven on the back of a cow (Ferris, 1991).

According to Mauro (1992):

“East Indians [Hindus] sometimes see heaven as a giant bureaucracy, and frequently report being sent back because of clerical errors,” whereas Japanese experiencers report seeing symbolic images, such as “long, dark rivers and beautiful flowers” (p. 57).

During the near-death experience, the Buddhist experiencers have reported seeing the personage of Buddha, and Hindu experiencers report seeing Krishna (Rawlings, 1978; Ring, 1980; Talbot, 1991). The difference in Buddhist and Hindu reports of near-death experiences is predominately associated with the afterlife setting and the personages the experiencer reports encountering.

Buddhist and Hindu near-death experiencers may report different interpretations of the specifics of their experiences; however, the experiences are consistent with other stages, traits, constellations, and group types reported by near-death experiencers in other cultures and religions. Some members of the Buddhist and Hindu religions interpret near-death experiences as providing afterlife visions similar to visions ascribed to some Eastern religious experiences associated with death and afterlife. Becker (1984) comments “that ancient Japanese Buddhist meditative and deathbed visions closely parallel modern American near-death and deathbed visions” (p. 51). The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1973) describes the Bardo, the three stages of the transitionary “disembodied state” following death. In the first stage, the departed have visions of the “Blinding Clear Light of Pure Reality.” In the second stage, the departed encounter a succession of “deities.” In the third stage the departed is judged based upon past deeds by the “Dharma Raja, King and Judge of the Dead” (Grof & Grof, 1980). These stages are similar in content to other reported near-death experiences from other religions and cultures. These similarities include a movement through levels – such as passing through a tunnel, visions of pure light, meeting incorporeal beings, powers of astral projections or out-of-body-experience, and a judgment about one’s life (Becker, 1985).

13. Islam

Death, in the Islamic faith, is the cessation of biological life and the resting of the spirit, in the grave, until the Judgment Day. Some Muslims believe “good souls” see visions of God, and the wicked see the hell awaiting them. From the time of death to the time of judgment, Muslims believe the spirit remains in a state of “dreamless sleep,” with the exception of possible visions of eternity (Galloway, 1991; Johnson & McGee, 1991).

Faith in an afterlife is based upon the belief in the oneness of God and the belief in a day of resurrection and judgment for all regardless of religious belief. At that time, the spirit will be judged based upon its deeds in life, and allowed either to enter into Paradise and be with God, be thrown into the Fire for a period of purgation, or condemned to everlasting punishment in the Fire. Most Muslims believe that non-Muslims can reach Paradise only after a period of purgation (Johnson & McGee, 1991; Smith, J. 1991).

Muslims have reported having near-death experiences (Flynn, 1986; Rawlings, 1978). Muslim near-death experiencers report seeing and meeting recognizable spirits (Flynn, 1986; Rawlings, 1978). This conforms with the Islamic tradition that the souls of the faithful, in paradise, welcome the “incoming souls” and with other reports of visions of people awaiting the newly deceased (Holck, 1980; Moody, 1975, 1977; Morse, 1990; Ring, 1985). In Muslim near-death experiences, the Being of Light is identified as Allah, whereas in other religions the light might be identified as God (Ring, 1985).

Some Muslims interpret the near-death experience as a possible glimpse into life after death due to the similarity of the experience with the religious visions of Muhammad and their expectations of life after death (Ring, 1985; Zaleski, 1987). An Islamic myth describes Muhammad’s “Night Journey” as his experience of passing through the realms of the afterlife where he encounters spirits who have died, has a vision of heaven and hell, and communes with Allah (Couliano, 1991; Grof & Grof, 1980, Zaleski, 1987).

14. Judaism

The Jewish religion generally emphasizes the current life, and not life after death. Although Judaism recognizes that the life of the spirit does not end at the point of bodily death, it is the Jew’s responsibility to focus on a meaningful life and not speculate on life after death. According to Elb (1906), the Jewish Bible states that actions taken in the present life will reward the righteous and chastise the wicked. It does not specifically address the concept of an afterlife. Even though the Jewish Bible does not directly address immortality, traditional Jews believe immortality will bring the resurrection of the body and soul, followed by the judgment of the worth of their lives by God. The Reformed Jew believes resurrection involves only the soul. Jews believe they live and die only once (Ponn, 1991).

Since there is no discussion, in the Jewish Bible, of afterlife, there is no official Jewish religious opinion regarding life after death. However, according to Ponn (1991), many Jews believe human souls will be held accountable before God for what has been accomplished in the current life. After death, many Jews believe they will be reunited with family members in heaven. Their belief in God’s caring nature disavows a sadistic punishment in hell. Entrance into heaven is accomplished by righteous living and repentance. Heaven is considered a place where anxiety and pain is ended (Galloway, 1991; Johnson & McGee, 1991).

There have been a number of reported near-death experiences by members of the Jewish faith. Barbara Harris, a practicing Jew, reports having had several near-death experiences since 1975. Harris and Bascom’s (1990) book, Full Circle: The Near-Death Experience and Beyond, is a narrative of Harris’ near-death experiences. Jewish people who had a near-death experience relate similar observations and experiences as the experiences of other religious-spiritual believers. During the near-death experience, individuals report being in the presence of the Being of Light and judging their own lives (Harris & Bascom, 1990). This experience is similar to the Jewish belief that what is important in life is the attending to the responsibilities of living a meaningful, productive life. Many near-death experiencers report being met by family members. These reports are consistent with the Jewish belief that after death they will be reunited with family members in heaven (Galloway, 1991; Johnson & McGee, 1991; Moody, 1975, 1977, 1980; Ring, 1980, 1985).

15. Christianity

Modern Christians are united in their belief that Jesus is the son of God and that there is an afterlife. Upon death, Christians believe they come before God and are judged. According to Smith (1991), “Following death, human life is fully translated into the supernatural domain” (p. 355). Fundamentalists and conservatives interpret the Holy Bible (1952) literally and believe there is a specific heaven and hell and only Christians are admitted to heaven. All others are condemned to hell. Other Christians interpret Biblical scripture more symbolically, taking into consideration the language and culture of the time when the Bible was written. Heaven and hell are viewed as a “condition,” such as happiness or peace, rather than a specific place. Regardless of whether the afterlife beliefs are interpreted conservatively or liberally, the Christian believes he or she dies only once and, after death, the spirit is judged and then exists in an afterlife for eternity (Galloway, 1991; Johnson & McGee, 1991). “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Near-death experiences appear to be familiar paranormal occurrences to Christians. Bechtel, Chen, Pierce, & Walker (1992) reported that 98% of the clergy they surveyed were familiar with near-death phenomena and that almost half of them have counseled parishioners who had a near-death experience. As with other religious interpretations of the near-death experience, Christians also report encounters with religious beings such as Jesus, Mary, or angels (Flynn, 1986, Moody, 1977, 1988; Morse, 1990, Ring, 1980, 1985). Experiencers report similar out-of-body experiences, meeting recognizable spiritual entities, movement toward a bright light, and a sense of being in the presence of an energy of “unconditional love” while the experiencer judges his or her life (Moody, 1975, Morse, 1990).

Some Christians refute the near-death experience as being a demonic deception. They believe the entire near-death experience is a trick of Satan to pull believers from the teachings of Christianity and lead them into sin (Harpur, 1992). Other Christians interpret the near-death experience as a glimpse of an after death state that may exist prior to the afterlife judgment by God. Near-death experiences and experiences similar to the altered state of the near-death experiences are recorded in the Holy Bible (1952). These experiences are not reported as being evil or sinful. The scripture writers have recorded visions of bright lights, life reviews, the presence of the unconditional love of God, and visions of heaven and hell from Biblical individuals who have been close to death (Morse, 1990; Rawlings, 1978). In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul records a “vision” he had. This vision resembles the content of a near-death experience. It involved Paul being “taken up to heaven for a visit” and “hear[ing] things so astounding that they are beyond man’s power to describe or put in words.” Near-death experiencers consistently report the difficulty of verbalizing what they experience. The effect of this experience, on Paul, was a personal confirmation and assurance of his work (Hunter, 1985; Living Bible, 1971).

According to Flynn (1986), to many experiencers:

“The near-death experience affirms the uniqueness and centrality and indispensability of Christ, but in a universalistic way that does not negate or diminish the value of other religious traditions…[It will] break through sectarian and other barriers and shine a laser beam of Light on the true essence and meaning of Christ for all people” (p. 80).

Ring (1985) supports Flynn’s comments, in his conclusions regarding the universalistically spiritual orientation of experiencers following near-death experiences. He found that following a near-death experience, the Christian experiencer “gravitated towards a religious world view that may incorporate and yet transcend the traditional Christian perspective” (p. 147).

16. Mormonism

Death in the Mormon religion is not considered to be the end of existence of the individual but the beginning of a new existence as the same person. Mormons believe they have always lived and will always live as the same individual, “never as someone else or in another life-form” (Eyre, 1991, p. 139). Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints are saddened by the death of a loved one but are comforted in the belief that upon death the spirit is united with God in a spirit world, continuing to progress in knowledge, and await the coming of other family members, the resurrection of the physical body, and the final judgment. A belief in an afterlife is an essential part of the faith of the members of the Church of the Latter-day Saints.

In Mormonism, only “sons of perdition” – former believers who betray the church – are destined for eternal punishment. All others are assured at least an entry into a lesser Paradise, called the “telestial kingdom,” where one spends eternity apart from God. The most faithful attain the “celestial kingdom,” where they commune directly with God and eventually may themselves become gods and populate new universes with their own spiritual offspring. The Mormon Church is the only church that has a “safety net.” Any spirit that has not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ in life will, before Judgment Day, will be given a chance in Paradise to hear it, and if the spirit accepts the teachings, it will receive equal blessings from God (Staff, 1992, p. 74).

The judgment reported by Mormon near-death experiencers is essentially a self-judgment. This self-judgment is similar to the reported life reviews and self-judgment reported in near-death experiences. Experiencers report seeing a panoramic review of their entire life and then judge their own actions while awash in the “unconditional love” of the Being of Light. After the judgment, the spirit dwells with others most like it (Eyre, 1991). As with many other religious groups, Mormon near-death experiencers consistently report meeting with deceased family members, and being in the presence of a being of light which they call God. However, some Mormon near-death experiencers report two events that appears to be uncommon with non-Mormon experiencers. They report they are requested to do something in the world, when they return to life, by the personage(s) they encounter during their experience. They also report receiving religious and other types of instructions from the “other world” beings (Lundahl, 1982).

According to Lundahl (1982), members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints report a high number of near-death experiences per capita of their religion. The high number of reported near-death experiences is probably due to the social values of the Latter-day Saints which encourages individuals to share their near-death experiences much more openly than most other social groups (p.166). Mormons interpret near-death experiences to be part of their religious beliefs and a glimpse of life after death.

17. Conclusion

In this essay I have discussed the contemporary work on near-death experiences and some of the arguments against the plausibility of reductionist theories and for the plausibility of transpersonal theories of near-death experiences. I have also provided an overview of the human consciousness of life after death, religious beliefs concerning death and afterlife, and interpretations of near-death experiences by different religious groups. I believe the consistency between numerous reports of near-death experiences, regardless of religious beliefs, and the similarity of the near-death experiences to reported religious experiences, provide plausible arguments for the transpersonal theories of this experience.

Throughout history Buddhists and Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Mormons have all reported having near-death experiences. These experiences are similar to some of the visions or journeys into the afterlife described in some of the sacred texts of their religions. The descriptions of the near-death experiences by members of these religious groups are believed, by many, to be a glimpse into life after death, and appear to be consistent with each religious group’s interpretation of the afterlife. However, there are some religious leaders who do not believe the experiencer has been indisputably dead and returned to life when he or she reports having a near-death experience. These leaders interpret these experiences as being pre-death visions of a transitory state prior to the individual’s final death and judgment.

Due to the subjective nature of near-death experiences there can be no conclusive proof that these experiences provide visions of life after death: however, the reports of out-of-body experiences, the near-death experiences of children, and the notable changes in the near-death experiencer’s life following his or her experience support the possibility of the validity of this theory (Moody, 1988; Morse, 1990; Ring, 1985). Because of the transpersonal nature of near-death experiences, it is sometimes reported that it is difficult to describe the experience in words. Near-death experiencers report there are no appropriate words to accurately describe their near-death experiences. They therefore interpret the experience using words, phrases, and metaphors reflecting their religious-cultural backgrounds and experiences.

The near-death experiences of individuals of various beliefs are consistent with many religious beliefs concerning life after death and do not compromise the foundations of their religious traditions. The descriptions of the mystical, depersonalization, and hyperalert constellations of near-death experiences and the autoscopic and transcendental grouping of these experiences appear to closely relate to the levels of heightened sense of consciousness associated with some religious rituals. However, the shift from an organized religious practice to a universalistically spiritual orientation may have an effect on the religious practices of some experiencers. Many choose to practice their new sense of universal spirituality within their earlier religions; however, many near-death experiencers move toward a religion more congruent with their new found knowledge, or choose to practice their spirituality through irreligious rituals and practices.

According to Ring (1985) many near-death experiencers attempt to incorporate their new sense of spirituality into their lives. This removes some of the limits of religious parochialism. To many experiencers it becomes less important to be a member of a specific religious group than to practice a more spiritual life not based upon specific religious doctrine. However, some experiencers chose to remain or become active in an organized religion in order to practice their new spirituality. It is therefore important for there to be an openness by religious groups towards individuals who report near-death experiences and not condemnation of the phenomenon as religious heresy.

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Philosophy Skepticism and NDEs

Skeptical Argument: The Only Real Proof is Out-of-Body Veridical Perception

Skeptical Argument: “Something amazing happens during a near-death experience. There are still profound questions, like, why doesn’t everyone who comes close to death have an NDE? And, is the NDE the brain’s final fantasy? Autoscopy (being out of body, looking down) is the sole trait of the NDE amenable to empirical validation. But even here, we must be careful. I must categorically reject out of hand anything that an experiencer says describing his environment, what people have said, what they were wearing, and so on. This isn’t enough! What I personally insist on is an accounting of what’s happening elsewhere, in a physical place far removed from the physical body of the experiencer. After all, one cannot rule out that sensory pathways are still active in the brain of the experiencer, accounting for their ability to hear and see and smell some things from their immediate physical environment. The only truly compelling proof of being out of body comes from very remote viewing.”

Dr. Kenneth Ring: “These are cogent objections, but there are in the literature on both remote viewing and NDEs many cases of the sort … where people appear to know things at a distance. (That is, demonstrate clairvoyance). I also consider some of these same objections in my book, Lessons From The Light, and Sabom treats them as well in the book of his I previously mentioned. As for why some people have NDEs whereas others don’t, I explored this question in depth in my book, The Omega Project (Quill, 1993).” (Dr. Kenneth Ring)

Dr. Jeffrey Long: “A number of experiencers describe out-of-body experiences (OBEs). These experiences frequently include visualization of their body from a vantage point outside their body. Much less commonly reported are visualizations of earthly events geographically far removed from their body. Michael Sabom, M.D, conducted an excellent study of OBE among experiencers. Dr. Sabom identified a group of thirty-two patients who had a cardiac arrest, experienced an NDE, and visualized their own resuscitation efforts during the OBE stage of their NDE.

“He found a group of twenty-three patients who had a cardiac arrest and did not have an NDE. Both groups were asked to describe their resuscitation. The NDE group was uniformly accurate, including correctly recalling readings on medical machines outside their potential line of vision. Twenty of the twenty-three patients who did not have an NDE were highly inaccurate in describing their resuscitation. This is verifiable and potentially reproducible validation of the OBE component of the NDE. Other researchers should attempt to replicate this important study. Anecdotal accounts continue to surface of experiencers with OBE experiences involving visualization far geographically removed from their body. Formal study of these accounts would be an important future area of research. For more information about an example of a verifiable OBE observation during an NDE, click on the link provided.” (Dr. Jeffery Long)

Dr. Robert Jordan: “The fact that some people who come close to physical death recall NDEs and others don’t could have several explanations that are either physical or nonphysical. Perhaps they are amnesic of the experience. Perhaps the physical process of the brain ceasing to function occurs too quickly or in the wrong sequence for a memory of the experience to be retained.” (Dr. Robert Jordan)

P.M.H. Atwater: “As long as you discount verifiable evidence that could not have been accessed through the regular senses and was indeed obtained remotely, you bias your own demands and outcomes. However, if you want to explore scientific proof of remote viewing, I suggest you contact Joe McMoneagle through his website. Joe just returned from Japan where, live and on television, he successfully demonstrated the validity of scientific remote viewing. Joe, by the way, is an experiencer.” (P.M.H. Atwater)

Kevin Williams, B.SC.: “I know of one event that came very close to providing scientific proof of autoscopy. The only reason it did not qualify as scientific proof is because the proper controls weren’t used at the time it occurred. Dr. Charles Tart was experimenting with a subject who would have spontaneous out-of-body experiences. A remote five-digit number was placed out of view of the subject. She had an out-of-body experience and successfully read the five-digit number. The subject was then able to return to her body and successfully tell Dr. Tart what the number is. This provides strong circumstantial evidence that consciousness can transcend the physical body.

There is also the NDE veridical perception case of Pam Reynolds. In 1991, at the age of 35, Pam 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

Dr. Stanislav Grof, another consciousness researcher, theorizes that consciousness may not even be localized in the brain as so many scientists assume. He theorizes the brain may be merely acting as a reducing valve for which our five senses can process the vast amount of information that bombard our senses and influences our consciousness.

“It may be asking too much of researchers to gather data that proves, beyond any doubt, that consciousness survives death. Science may never develop the tools necessary to quantify many aspects of the NDE. However, there is currently available a mountain of circumstantial evidence suggesting that consciousness does indeed survive death. Nevertheless, here are some articles providing evidence of out-of-body veridical perception evidence.

A. 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 Skeptics Keith Augustine’s and Gerald Woerlee’s Arguments

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

D. Other Articles on Evidence From Veridical OBE Perception in NDEs

  1. NDEs as Evidence for Survival of Bodily Death” – by Bruce Greyson (
  2. A Critique of Susan Blackmore’s Dying Brain Hypothesis” – by Greg Stone (
  3. The Survivalist’s Interpretation of Recent Studies Into NDEs” – by Titus Rivas (
  4. About the Continuity of Our Consciousness” – by Pim Von Lommel (
  5. Dr. Charles Tart’s OBE Research” (Autoscopic Evidence) – by Charles Tart (
  6. Debunking PseudoSkeptical Arguments of Paranormal Debunkers” – by Winston Wu (
Research Conclusions Science

The Silver Cord and the Near-Death Experience

Babies are born into this world with an umbilical cord connecting them to the life-giving source of their mother which is disconnected after birth. People die and enter the spirit world with an “umbilical-like cord” connecting their spirit body to the life-giving source of their physical body which is disconnected after death. Many near-death and out-of-body experiencers have described seeing this “umbilical-like” cord connecting their spirit body to their physical body. Many religious traditions also describe this spirit-body connecting cord which is commonly known as the “silver cord.” Just as the baby’s umbilical cord must be severed for the baby to experience life, the silver cord must be severed for the spirit body to experience spiritual life. It is believed that the near-death experience does not involve the silver cord becoming severed; otherwise, the near-death experience would then become irreversible bodily death.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to the silver cord
  2. The religious significance of the silver cord
  3. Near-death experiences and the silver cord
  4. Locations on the body where the silver cord is connected
  5. Locations on the body where the spirit re-enters in NDEs
  6. The connection between the chakras, the silver cord, and the afterlife realms

1. Introduction to the silver cord

The silver cord has been described as being smooth, very long, very bright, like an elastic cable made of light, about an inch wide, sparkling like a tinsel on a Christmas tree, and attached to one of several possible locations on the physical body. During the dying process, as the spirit body leaves the physical body and moves farther away it, the silver cord becomes thinner as it is stretched to its limit and becomes severed. When this occurs, the spirit body is released from being attached to the physical body. At this point, it becomes impossible for the spirit body to ever return to the physical body. For this reason, we can define “irreversible death” as that point when the silver cord becomes stretched to its limit and severed. This is the so-called “point of no return.” This boundary point may also be accompanied by the appearance of a particular landmark representing a boundary such as a river, a wall, a fence, or a canyon. Once this barrier is crossed, the near-death experience becomes an irreversible death experience.

Many experiencers have felt the pull of the silver cord when it is stretched near its limit. They often describe the experience as being instantly retracted to their physical body – like stretching a rubber band to near its limit and then releasing one end of it.

This silver cord is our spirit body’s “lifeline” to our physical body in the same way that our umbilical cord is our “lifeline” to our mother’s body during the birth process.

During the death process, should the physical body be subjected to a violent death, such as in a severe car accident, the silver cord is severed before the impact preventing the pain that is experienced by the physical body from being felt by the spirit body.

The existence of the silver cord is even mentioned in the Bible:

“Remember him – before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7)

2. The religious significance of the silver cord

From the notes of the Episcopal Daily Lectionaries Online website, comes this translation:

“The golden bowl suspended by the silver cord was a symbol of life; the snapping of the cord and the breaking of the bowl, a symbol of death. The pitcher … the broken pulley: another pair of metaphors for life and its ending.”

From the editorial pages of the Christadelphian Tidings website, comes this translation of the silver cord and golden bowl:

“Verse 6 appears to use two metaphors to speak of death. The first is of a silver chord and a golden bowl most likely the bowl was used as an oil light, suspended by a chord. Dying is compared to the breaking of this chord and the crashing of the bowl down to the ground, whereupon it shatters and its light is extinguished. Second, death is compared to a pitcher used to draw water at a well. Death is like the breaking of this pitcher and the pulley which was used to let it down. No more water can be drawn; death has conquered.

“It is interesting that both of these images, the symbols of water and light, are used elsewhere in the scriptures as metaphors for life. The consequence of this termination of life is the decaying process by which the dust returns to the earth. The spirit, in a reversal of Genesis 2, “returns unto God who gave it.” This is what death is all about: the shattering of all man’s hope, and the cessation of everything that he was and stood for.”

3. Near-death experiences and the silver cord

The following are insights concerning the silver cord from NDErs profiled on this website.

Edgar Cayce’s encounter with the Angel of Death: While preparing to undergo one of his otherworldly journeys, Edgar Cayce had lost consciousness and had a dream. Usually, he would travel through a tunnel toward the light. But in this instance, he met the Angel of Death and learned about the silver cord. The following is his experience described in his own words:

“As I went out, I realized that I had contacted Death, as a personality, as an individual or as a being. Realizing this, I remarked to Death: ‘You are not as ordinarily pictured – with a black mask or hood, or as a skeleton, or like Father Time with the sickle. Instead, you are fair, rose-cheeked, robust – and you have a pair of shears or scissors.'”

“In fact, I had to look twice at the feet or limbs, or even at the body to see it take shape.

The Angel of Death replied: “Yes, Death is not what many seem to think. It’s not the horrible thing which is often pictured. Just a change – just a visit. The shears or scissors are indeed the implements most representative of life and death to man. These indeed unite by dividing – and divide by uniting. The cord does not, as usually thought, extend from the center – but is broken from the head, the forehead – that soft portion we see pulsate in the infant.

“Hence we see old people, unbeknown to themselves, gain strength from youth by kissing there; and youth gains wisdom by such kisses.

“Indeed the vibrations may be raised to such an extent as to rekindle or reconnect the cord, even as the Master did with the son of the widow of Nain. For he did not take him by the hand (which was bound to the body as was the custom of the day), but rather stroked him on the head – and the body took life of Life itself! So, you see, the silver cord may be broken – but the vibration …'” (Edgar Cayce)

“I saw a long silver cord coming out of my spirit body, right through the cheese cloth-like fabric I was wearing. The cord extended down and out in front of me, and as I turned around, I saw that the silver cord draped around and behind me, like an umbilical cord. I followed it through the two hallway walls and into my den, where I saw it attached to the back of the head of my physical body. The cord was about an inch wide and sparkled like Christmas tree tinsel! … As soon as I saw that silver cord was attached to my physical body, my spirit was thrust into a dark tunnel.” (Dr. Dianne Morrissey)

PMH Atwater’s NDE research: In PMH Atwater’s book, Beyond the Light, the near-death account of Alice Morrison-Mays is given. Alice described her return to her physical body from a near-death experience. She remembers entering her physical body through the silver cord:

“Almost instantly I felt reentry into my body through the silver cord at the top of my head. There was something akin to a physical bump. As soon as I entered, I heard someone near me say, ‘Oh, we’ve got her back.’ I was told I had two pieces of placenta as large as grapefruits removed.” (Alice Morrison-Mays)

Susan Blackmore’s OBE: Susan Blackmore, a former parapsychologist with heavy skeptical leanings, is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on OBEs and NDEs. She herself had an OBE while attending Oxford University during the early 1970s. By her own admission she “spent much of the time stoned, experimenting with different drugs.”

During her first year at Oxford she had a OBE after several hours on the Ouija board while stoned on marijuana. The experience also occurred during a period of her life when sleep deprivation was common for her. She describes herself as having been in “a fairly peculiar state of mind” when she had the OBE.

During her OBE, Blackmore went down a tunnel of trees toward a light, floated on the ceiling and observed her body below, saw a silver cord connecting her floating astral body, floated out of the building around Oxford and then over England, and finally across the Atlantic to New York.

After hovering around New York, Blackmore floated back to her room in Oxford where she became very small and entered her body’s toes. Then she grew very big, as big as a planet at first, and then she filled the solar system and finally she became as large as the universe.

Her experience with the silver cord is right out of traditional occult literature on astral projection. (Susan Blackmore)

Dr. Sam Parnia’s NDE research: A patient of Dr. Parnia was 2 years old when he had a seizure and his heart stopped. His parents contacted Dr. Parnia after the boy drew a picture of himself as if out of his body looking down at himself.

“It was drawn like there was a balloon stuck to him. When they asked what the balloon was he said, “When you die you see a bright light and you are connected to a cord.

“He wasn’t even three when had the experience,” Parnia said. (Dr. Sam Parnia)

Sylvan Muldoon’s childhood OBE: Sylvan Muldoon’s first conscious projection occurred when he was 12 years old. He awoke in the middle of the night to find himself conscious, but not knowing where he was, and apparently unable to move, a condition he later called astral catalepsy.

Gradually the sensation of floating took over, and then a rapid up-and-down vibration and a tremendous pressure in the back of his head. Out of this nightmare of sensations the boy’s hearing gradually began to return and then his sight, by which he could see that he was floating in the room above his bed.

Some force took hold of him and pulled him from horizontal to vertical. He saw his double lying quietly asleep on the bed, and between the two of them stretched an elastic-like cable which joined the back of the head of his conscious self, to a spot between the eyes of the body in bed, six feet of so away.

Swaying and pulling against the cord, Muldoon tried to walk to another room to wake someone, but found that he passed right through the door, and through the bodies of other sleepers too, when he tried to shake or clutch them. Frightened, he roamed around the house for what seemed like fifteen minutes, and then slowly the pull of the cord increased and he found himself being pulled back to his body. Everything went in reverse. He tipped back to horizontal, again became cataleptic, felt the same vibrations and then, with a jerk, dropped back into the body. He was awake and alive again. (Sylvan Muldoon)

Caroline Graham’s NDE: “I was suddenly floating above my body, with a strange cord attaching me and my physical body. I had read about that and so I knew it was normal. I started to float around after practice, mostly around my basement. So I went upstairs to see if any one was there, and I found my sister in the kitchen, I touched her face and she looked straight at me.

“I thought for a moment she had seen me. But she walked right through me and turned up the thermostat. That’s when I realized my cord was gone! Not even a whist of it was left. So I thought about reconnecting with my body to go back but nothing happened. I knew for sure I was stuck. Gone. No one would know what happened to me!

“I went back down to the basement to see what I looked like from the outside. There he sat. The most beautiful man I had ever seen. He motioned for me to come toward him and so I did. He told me to float just above my body and he would help me. I laid there and suddenly I felt as if I was being pulled back down into my body. Before I could thank him I woke up … I knew I had met an angel.” (Caroline Graham)

Divine Inspiration’s OBE Research: A boy, woke up and got out of bed during the night. Whilst walking along a hallway he became “aware that something was amiss.” On turning around and looking back toward the way he had come he saw what appeared to be a thin cord of light leading from him back to his bedroom. Naturally concerned, he followed the cord back to his bedroom only to discover that he was still asleep in his bed. He had no recollection of how he returned to his physical body.

The above is a typical example of an out-of-body experience during sleep, which, happens to everyone. The one unusual aspect of this case is that the boy woke up whilst he was astral traveling and became alarmed. (Divine Inspirations’ research)

“The silver cord protects us in many ways. At the time of a violent death, like a severe auto accident, the silver cord is severed before impact so the person will feel no pain. That really brought a lot of comfort to me to know that my son did not feel pain at the time of his death. During the dying process, the cord becomes thinner to where it finally is severed. The soul is released.” (Debbie Doe)

“When I had my first child I had the experience of being out of my body and hovering above it attached to a thick cord.” (Mrs. Walters)

“It was literally so bright that I could not sustain the gaze so I turned away. At that moment I noticed a silver cord, attached around the navel area going down, down, down to a person I saw lying on my bed. It was me! I had a curious non-interest in it.” (Joni Maggie)

4. Locations on the body where the silver cord is connected

During an OBE or NDE, experiencers see their silver cord attached to the following locations on their physical body:

a. Attached to their FOREHEAD:

“The cord does not, as usually thought, extend from the center – but is broken from the head, the forehead – that soft portion we see pulsate in the infant. Hence we see old people, unbeknown to themselves, gain strength from youth by kissing there; and youth gains wisdom by such kisses.” (Edgar Cayce)

“He saw his double lying quietly asleep on the bed, and between the two of them stretched an elastic-like cable which joined the back of the head of his conscious self, to a spot between the eyes of the body in bed, six feet of so away.” (Sylvan Muldoon)

b. Attached to the BACK of their HEAD:

“I followed it [the cord] through the two hallway walls and into my den, where I saw it attached to the back of the head of my physical body.”(Dr. Dianne Morrissey)

c. Attached to the TOP of their HEAD:

“Almost instantly I felt reentry into my body through the silver cord at the top of my head.” (Alice Morrison-Mays)

d. Attached to their CHEST:

Alfred Ballabene’s NDE: “Out of the body, at a distance of about 1m or 1.5m I turned around, face to the physical body. As usual in near-body distance I was without visual perception and in absolute darkness. Feeling a touch on my breast I reached out for it and felt something with smooth surface formed like a cone, diameter at the basis (breast) ca. 15 – 20cm, getting smaller to a diameter of about 5cm at a body-distance of about 30cm. At this diameter (5cm) it transformed to a cord, leading in direction of the physical body. In all other OBE’s of the type of “stepping-out-in-trance” I paid no attention to the silver cord, but at a certain distance (ca. 50m) I felt a pull. Then I was stopped as if tied and fixed at my backside. Instantly I was retracted to the physical body. This happened very often and reduced my expeditions to a short duration, frustrating me.”(Alfred Ballabene)

e. Attached to their ABDOMEN:

“At that moment I noticed a silver cord, attached around the navel area going down, down, down to a person I saw lying on my bed. It was me! I had a curious non-interest in it.” (Joni Maggi)

f. Attached to their BACK:

(More experiences coming soon.)

NOTE: Although this is not a complete list, these are the locations that I have come across in my research.

5. Locations on the body where the spirit re-enters in NDEs

Many near-death and out-of-body experiencers have described leaving and entering their physical bodies at a particular location on their physical body. Not everyone leaves and enters their physical body at the same location. These are the main locations on the physical body that I have across in my research:

a. Experiencers who left and/or re-entering through the TOP of their HEAD

“At that point I felt something leave my body. It was a whoosh. It went up through the top of my head. I could feel it and I could hear it. Just a gentle whoosh. At that point I found myself standing in a kind of gray mist. Then I knew I had died.” (Jayne Smith)

“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)

“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.” (Pam Reynolds)

“I was up all night using drugs. I overdosed and went into convulsions. Just before it hit me, I shot out of the top of my head and lingered only moments while everyone freaked out. Then I was in a dark cobblestone tunnel that seemed wet. I was a sphere illuminating everything around me.” (MaryJane)

b. Experiencers who left and/or re-entering through their CHEST

“I heard a soft buzzing sound in my head and continued to sink until I felt my body become still and lifeless. Then I felt a surge of energy. It was almost as if I felt a pop or release inside me, and my spirit was suddenly drawn out through my chest and pulled upward, as if by a giant magnet. My first impression was that I was free. There was nothing unnatural about the experience.” (Betty Eadie)

Margaret Birkin’s NDE: “One evening, I had an experience of the most incredible feeling. It felt as if every nerve in my body was alive with energy. This was accompanied by the most wonderful feeling of bliss. As the feeling enveloped me, I found myself leaving my body. I found myself in my own chest area looking up at what I knew was my crown chakra. I could see a light ahead of me. All of a sudden I became frightened to move. I actually thought I was dying, and for a few seconds, I fought the sensation. I was describing to Peter what I was going through. I was still physically there in body, but my soul, spirit, whatever you want to call it, was no longer there. I was within my own chest cavity.” (Margaret Birkin)

Michael’s NDE: “And then something exited my chest. Its hard to describe exactly what it was or what it felt like but it was a real presence, a definite feeling. Perhaps terms like “life force” or “energy” come closest to trying to describe what it was, but it seemed to contain my personality as well. Again, its extremely difficult to describe except that it was a real sensation of something immaterial leaving my physical body. This “force”, for lack of a better word, then positioned itself in the corner of the bathroom ceiling (the bathroom was in darkness) and I stared down on my own motionless body, skinny and frail and apparently lifeless.” (Michael)

c. Experiencers who left and/or re-entering through their ABDOMEN

Donna Gotti’s NDE: “The nurse yelled, ‘We’re losing her,’ and at the sound of distress I was propelled upward. The farther up I went, the brighter the Light became. Two cherubs appeared, one on either side of me, and we slowly drifted to the corner of the ceiling. We communicated through mental telepathy, which is faster and more efficient than mere words. They told me they were Escort Angels and had come to take me Home. But before we could go, I had to look at the body I was leaving behind. She was twenty-five years old and in perfect health, except for the loss of blood and spirit. I determined that the situation was not serious enough, and in less than an instant I reentered my physical body through the navel. I was back on earth and suffering from Homesickness.” (Donna Gotti)

Lynn Russell’s OBE: “I was intensely aware of an atom in my mind. I visualized the atom’s nucleus with the electrons spinning around the core as though they had a consciousness and knew exactly what they were to do … Without warning, my vision changed. I was now viewing our solar system with the sun in the center and the planets spinning around … The visions continued to expand until I felt as though I was looking at the micro and macro universe simultaneously … It was so strong it hit me in the center of my gut. ‘Your being is intricately connected with the operation of the universe!’ … I know when it comes to the universe I’m smaller than a speck of dust. So how could my being have anything to do with the operation of the universe? … It is through our connection with this Oneness that we each play a part in the operation of the universe … Next, I felt as though I had an umbilical cord in my stomach, connecting me to the presence. It was then I heard actual words. The words were external to me and seemed to come from my right. The voice said, “This is where you came from and this is where you will return.” (Lynn Russell)

d. Experiencers who left and/or re-entering through their FEET

Susan Blackmore’s OBE: Blackmore described traveling down a tunnel of trees toward a light, floating on the ceiling, and observing her body below, seeing a silver cord connecting her floating astral body, floating out of the building and then over England, and finally floating across the Atlantic to New York. After hovering around New York, Blackmore floated back to her room in Oxford where she became very small and entered her body’s toes. Then she grew very big, as big as a planet at first, and then she filled the solar system and finally she became as large as the universe. This expansion of consciousness which fills the universe can be found in many NDEs including that of Mellen-Thomas Benedict. (Susan Blackmore)

Jack Foreman’s NDE: “I could look down on my whole body,” he later reported. “One medic was applying electric paddles to my chest to shock me back and shouting Breathe, you son of a bitch, breathe.'” They stabbed needles into his lungs to extract fluid and injected adrenaline direct into the heart. Foreman says he saw his entire life pass in seconds: being in the womb, the ceremony of his Christening, an embarrassing incident as a small boy when he soiled his pants. He heard a loud rushing noise and appeared to be speeding through a dark tunnel with a light of unbearable brightness at the end. This light took human form and he received a message, though not in words, “You must go back.” The tunnel experience happened in reverse. Because of its radioactive status, Foreman’s body had been taken to a cleaning room. He had a feeling that he re-entered painfully through his toes and when he spoke, the medics were totally shocked. (Jack Foreman)

“I threw myself on the bed and gave up. Tossing & turning and wishing I were of good health. Suddenly, while still awake-not falling asleep, I was zapped out of my body through my feet! Imagine a vacuum sweeper on the soles of my feet. Looking down I saw my body still laying on the bed! I felt no fear and no emotions other than questioning why I was up here looking down there at my body.” (Debbie Malec)

6. The connection between the chakras, the silver cord, and the afterlife realms

There is a correlation between the following:

a. The location of the spiritual centers within the body

b. The location on the body where people leave and/or return to their body during an NDE or OBE

c. The location on the body where the silver cord is connected

d. The location of a particular afterlife realm

NDE research reveals how the endocrine glands of the human body have corresponding spiritual centers within the body which are astrologically connected to a particular afterlife realm by means of the silver cord. This endocrine gland/silver cord system is our physical, mental and spiritual connection with afterlife realms.

According to Edgar Cayce, Eastern mysticism, and NDE studies, the human body is a receiver of cosmic energy (like a radio) for which we are able to connect with spiritual realms in the afterlife. This “receiver” aspect of the human body is made up of a system of endocrine glands within our body which are points of contact to an associated system of spiritual energy centers (called “chakras” in the East) which are collectively called the “subtle” or “astral body” (or simply the “soul“). The soul body is the “vehicle” by which people have near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, and lucid dreams for example. Near-death experiencers such as Cayce and Mellen-Thomas Benedict have described how our solar system is actually a physical representation of our higher spirit body. This revelation explains how planetary-astrological forces can influence us here on earth.

The soul body is also the energetic form of the physical body. The spiritual centers of the soul body are points of contact where the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the body come together. Each spiritual center associated with an endocrine gland is also a point of contact to a particular invisible afterlife realm represented physically by one of the planets of our solar system (see the chart above). Cayce identified a particular afterlife realm by giving it the same name as its corresponding planets in our solar system. For example, the planet Jupiter is the 5th planet from the sun and is the physical manifestation of an invisible afterlife realm that is 7th in the afterlife hierarchy. The pituitary gland – the “master” gland of the body – is associated with the “third eye” chakra in Eastern religions and is the point of contact connecting our physical body to 7th afterlife realm represented physically by the planet Jupiter.

Each spiritual energy center corresponds to one of the seven notes on a musical scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. Each spiritual center also corresponds to a color on the light spectrum of which there are seven: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (or white). The positive and negative “vibes” a person is outwardly exposed to in life can influence the inward functioning of the endocrine glands and their corresponding spiritual center. The dominant vibration – positive or negative – within a person’s body reflects which spiritual center is dominant within a person’s life. It is the dominant vibration of a person’s life – body and spirit – which determines the level of the corresponding afterlife realm they have attained. Certain yoga meditation techniques (such as chanting mantras) have been used in the East to raise the quality of the spiritual energy vibration to help heal the mind, body and spirit.

Research Conclusions Science

Out-of-Body Experiences and the Near-Death Experience

Imagine you are a patient in a hospital and surgery is being performed on you. You are sound asleep. You were sound asleep long before they wheeled into the operating room. But while you are asleep something very strange happens. During the operation, you are suddenly awakened to find yourself floating near the ceiling! Down below are the doctors working on your body. You see a strange sign hanging from the ceiling which says “Popsicles are in bloom.” You watch the doctor put the electric paddles on your chest. You have a wonderful peaceful feeling which you have never had before. The doctors give your body a shock and you are back in your body sound asleep again. Later, you awaken in your hospital room and tell the doctor about your out-of-body experience and the weird “Popsicles are in bloom” sign. The doctor smiles and tells you, “Your heart stopped during surgery and we had to revive you.” The doctor then explains to you, “You are part of a near-death study and you just had a near-death experience. You are the first patient who has ever read that sign. That sign can only be read by someone reading it from the vantage point of the ceiling. And because you were able to read this sign and tell us about it, you have proven scientifically that the mind can function outside of the brain and body. A great scientific discovery has just occurred. Congratulations! You have proven scientifically that consciousness transcends our physical body and death. Your validated out-of-body perception during your near-death experience (NDE) has won you the Nobel Prize. As you will read below, there are many NDEs which come very close to providing such evidence. Indeed, it is only a matter of time.

Table of Contents

  1. How NDEs will prove the survival of consciousness after death
  2. Examples of out-of-body visual perception
    a. Dr. Dianne Morrissey’s NDE and out-of-body perception
    b. Dr. George Ritchie’s NDE and out-of-body perception
    c. Reinee Pasarow’s NDE and out-of-body perception
  3. Verified out-of-body perception in NDEs
    a. Pam Reynold’s verified out-of-body perception
    b. Dr. Charles Tart’s case of verified out-of-body perception
    c. Rev. George Rodonaia’s NDE and verified out-of-body perception
    d. Dr. Pim van Lommel’s case of verified out-of-body perception
  4. Miscellaneous NDE testimonies on out-of-body perception
  5. The out-of-body phenomenon of consciousness expansion
    a. Near-death experiencers on consciousness expansion
    b. NDE researchers on NDE consciousness expansion

1. How NDEs will prove the survival of consciousness after death

Someday, someone is going to have a near-death experience and observe a scientifically controlled test object, such as a sign like “The popsicles are in bloom” which can only be seen if the observer is actually outside of their body. However , this is only the first step. Researchers must also do the following:

a. Prove that consciousness can transcend the body by perceiving verifiable events while out of the body.

b. The next step is the same as the first step except it occurs while the body is verifiably “dead” (i.e., clinical and brain death).

c. Once the above can be proven, all the skeptics will have to admit that consciousness survives death.

It may surprise some people to know that these kind of studies are going on right at this moment. Indeed, it is only a matter of time when someone tells a doctor they saw “The popsicles are in bloom” sign. For test purposes, however, the sign will probably say something more cryptic to insure the uniqueness of such an event.

2. Examples of out-of-body visual perception

A large number of near-death experiencers have witnessed verifiable events occurring outside of their body. Unfortunately, such evidence does not constitute “scientific proof.” The reason is because scientific proof involves replication of the experience and the existence of strict controls over the events being witnessed. However, the example I gave at the beginning of this page is the kind of test environment which can provide such scientific evidence. Many examples of anecdotal evidence of verifiable perception are provided on this web page.

The following are three of the most interesting out-of-body testimonies from three NDEs which I have on my website. They are from the near-death experiences of Dr. Dianne Morrissey, Dr. George Ritchie, and Reinee Pasarow. They are exceptional because they are NDEs involving an extended out-of-body phase, when the experiencer observed events happening around their body.

a. Dr. Dianne Morrissey’s NDE and out-of-body perception

Dr. Dianne Morrissey is the author of the books You Can See The Light and Anyone Can See the Light. She describes her beautiful NDE in detail in her video entitled Soul Journeys Beyond the Light. It is one of the best videos I have ever seen. When Dianne was twenty-eight years old, she was electrocuted and had a very profound NDE. The following is the out-of-body aspect of her NDE reprinted by permission from her book Anyone Can See the Light:

“I bent over to pick up the plastic tubing. As I began to straighten up, I accidentally bumped the tubing on the edge of the tank. The water suddenly squirted across my face – the pain was so sharp, it felt as if a knife where slitting my cheek! I screamed from the shock and pain, then felt a moment of temporary relief as the water crossed over my molars. My reprieve was short-lived, however, as the electrified water rushed into my mouth.

“As my body bent over in shock, I had the most uncanny knowledge that death was ahead of me. I began to mourn the loss of everything I’d known: the earth, my home, my friends – all that I’d been aware of, all that I loved. Everything I’d believed to be true and lasting was slipping away from me. I was face to face with death, face to face with the unknown.

“My body was thrown backwards and to one side by the current. My body crashed to the floor, thrown with such force that my head went right through the drywall, about a foot above the floor. I never felt the injuries, however, because I was no longer in my body. I was actually watching my electrocution from above! How could I be out of my body and still be alive? I wondered, astonished.

“Suddenly, I was aware that I was inside a vast, seemingly infinite blackness. I wasn’t sure where this blackness was in relationship to the earth, but for some reason I was unafraid. My blackout period was brief, for I now found myself back in my home, but in a new form. I was transparent, yet I still looked like me.

“How elated I felt! Now, out of my body, I had no worries, no cares. Never had I felt like this when I was “alive”. My entire spirit body was transparent, and I was inside a glowing white light that extended about three feet around me. At that moment, an awareness overtook me – I am not my physical body! This realization made me feel so free, so wonderful! My spirit was glowing with a white light that illuminated the entire room.

“Then, I was up near the ceiling again. Everything still looked the same – the furnishings, the walls – but there was a new awareness about the dimension to the scene – it had become transparent. I could see everything more clearly than ever before, and like a scientist, I found myself looking at life through a microscope, discovering minuscule particles of matter normally invisible.

“I was now aware of the absence of physical sensations, yet I was feeling a heightened sense of awareness such as I’d never felt while alive. I knew I was different from the “Dianne” I had been, but I also knew I was “me”. It was similar to looking at your reflection in a mirror; you know you’re not the reflection, but it does appear to be you.

“Now, I saw that everything was shrouded by a mist. Despite a lack of gravity, I could easily control my direction, and when I moved into the living room, I noticed that I had just walked through the glass coffee table. Wow! How did I do that? I marveled.

“Tuffy (her dog) suddenly entered the den and began nipping at my face and pawing at my arm, trying to get my body to wake up. I knew that his relentless attempts to awaken my physical body wouldn’t work, yet I was proud of him for trying, and even hoped his efforts might work. I wondered where his chum, Penny, was, and suddenly I was next to her in the backyard. I opened my mouth to talk to her and felt my tongue moving, but no sounds came out. I could distinctly hear my voice, and then realized it was coming from my mind. I tried several times to get Penny’s attention, yelling, “Penny, can you see me? Penny, can you hear me?” Apparently she didn’t, because there was no response.

“Next, I walked around my backyard. As I looked through the walls of my house toward the front sidewalk, I noticed a man walking down the street. Eagerly, I flew to him, right through the walls, and tried to get his attention. Staring deeply into his eyes, I said forcefully, “Can you help me? I need help.” Then I tried to shake his shoulders, but he still didn’t notice me. Frustrated, I tried to touch his shoulder to get him to look at me, and my hand went through his upper right shoulder blade and out his back. This startled me.

“What am I to do? I wondered, becoming upset when I realized that the man could neither see nor hear me. Instantly, I was back in my yard again, Penny beside me. I noticed that whenever I felt any apprehension, I was instantly moved to a place of greater comfort.

“On the way back to the den, I stopped right in the middle of the wall between rooms. I sensed that I was to look down at something fantastic, and as I gazed downward, I saw a long silver cord coming out of my spirit body, right through the cheesecloth-like fabric I was wearing. The cord extended down and out in front of me, and as I turned around, I saw that the silver cord draped around and behind me, like an umbilical cord. I followed it through the two hallway walls and into my den, where I saw it attached to the back of the head of my physical body. The cord was about an inch wide and sparkled like Christmas tree tinsel.

“As soon as I saw that the silver cord was attached to my physical body, my spirit body was thrust into a dark tunnel. I moved through it with great speed, traveling faster than I could have imagined possible. Although the tunnel was filled with an all consuming darkness, I felt peaceful and unafraid.” (Dr. Dianne Morrissey)

b. Dr. George Ritchie’s NDE and out-of-body perception

In 1943, Dr. George Ritchie died of pneumonia and nine minutes later returned to life to tell about it. The following is the account of the out-of-body aspect of his NDE excerpted from his excellent book Return From Tomorrow. His follow-up book is My Life After Dying:

“The men let go of my arms … I heard a click and a whirr. The whirr went on and on. It was getting louder. The whirr was inside my head and my knees were made of rubber. They were bending and I was falling and all the time the whirr grew louder. I sat up with a start. What time was it? I looked at the bedside table but they’d taken the clock away. In fact, where was any of my stuff?

“I jumped out of bed in alarm, looking for my clothes. My uniform wasn’t on the chair. I turned around, then froze. Someone was lying in that bed. I took a step closer. He was quite a young man, with short brown hair, lying very still. But, the thing was impossible! I myself had just gotten out of that bed! For a moment I wrestled with the mystery of it. It was too strange to think about – and anyway I didn’t have the time.

“I went back past the offices and stepped out into the corridor. A sergeant was coming along it carrying an instrument tray covered with a cloth. Probably he didn’t know anything, but I was so glad to find someone awake that I started toward him.

“‘Excuse me, Sergeant,’ I said. ‘You haven’t seen the ward boy for this unit, have you?’

“He didn’t answer. Didn’t even glance at me. He just kept coming, straight at me, not slowing down.

“‘Look out!’ I yelled, jumping out of his way.

“The next minute he was past me, walking away down the corridor as if he had never seen me, though how we had kept from colliding I didn’t know. And then I saw something that gave me a new idea. Farther down the corridor was one of the heavy metal doors that led to the outside. I hurried toward it. Even if I had missed that train, I’d find some way of getting to Richmond!

“Almost without knowing it I found myself outside, racing swiftly along, traveling faster in fact than I’d ever moved in my life. Looking down I was astonished to see not the ground, but the tops of mesquite bushes beneath me. Already Camp Barkeley seemed to be far behind me as I sped over the dark frozen desert. My mind kept telling me that what I was doing was impossible, and yet … it was happening. I was going to Richmond; somehow I had known that from the moment I burst through that hospital door. Going to Richmond a hundred times faster than any train on earth could take me.

“Almost immediately I noticed myself slowing down. Just below me now, where two streets came together, I caught a flickering blue glow. It came from a neon sign over the door of a red-roofed one-story building with a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer sign propped in the front window. Cafe, the jittering letters over the door read, and from the windows light streamed onto the pavement. Staring down at it, I realized I had stopped moving altogether. Finding myself somehow suspended fifty feet in the air was an even stranger feeling than the whirlwind flight had been. But I had no time to puzzle over it, for down the sidewalk toward the all-night cafe a man came briskly walking. At least, I thought, I could find out from him what town this was and in what direction I was heading. Even as the idea occurred to me – as though thought and motion had become the same thing – I found myself down on the sidewalk, hurrying along at the stranger’s side. He was a civilian, maybe forty or forty-five, wearing a topcoat but no hat. He was obviously thinking hard about something because he never glanced my way as I fell into step beside him.

“‘Can you tell me please,’ I said, ‘What city this is?’

“He kept right on walking.

“‘Please sir!’ I said, speaking louder, ‘I’m a stranger here and I’d appreciate it if …’

“We reached the cafe and he turned, reaching for the door handle. Was the fellow deaf? I put out my left hand to tap his shoulder. There was nothing there.

“I stood there in front of the door, gaping after him as he opened it and disappeared inside. It had been like touching thin air. Like no one had been there at all. And yet I had distinctly seen him, even to the beginnings of a black stubble on his chin where he needed a shave.

“I backed away from the mystery of the substance-less man and leaned up against the guy wire of a telephone pole to think things through. My body went through that guy wire as though it too had not been there.

“There on the sidewalk of that unknown city, I did some incredulous thinking. The strangest, most difficult thinking I had ever done. The man in the cafe, this telephone pole … suppose they were perfectly normal. Suppose I was the one who was – changed, somehow. What if in some impossible, unimaginable way, I lost my … hardness. My ability to grasp things, to make contact with the world. Even to be seen! The fellow just now. It was obvious he never saw or heard me.

“And suddenly I remembered the young man I had seen in the bed in that little hospital room. What if that had been … me? Or anyhow, the material, concrete part of myself that in some unexplainable way I’d gotten separated from. What if the form which I had left lying in the hospital room in Texas was my own?

“And if it were, how could I get back to it again? Why had I ever rushed off so unthinkingly?

“I was moving again, speeding away from the city. Below me was the broad river. I appeared to be going back, back in the direction I had come from, and it seemed to me I was flashing across space even faster than before. Hills, lakes, farms slipped away beneath me as I sped in an unswerving straight line over the dark nighttime land. I was standing in front of the base hospital.

“And so began one of the strangest searches that can ever have taken place: the search for myself. From one ward to another of that enormous complex I rushed, pausing in each small room, stooping over the occupant of the bed, hurrying on.

“I backed toward the doorway. The man in that bed was dead! I felt the same reluctance I had the previous time at being in a room with a dead person. But … if that was my ring, then – then it was me, the separated part of me, lying under that sheet. Did that mean that I was …

“It was the first time in this entire experience that the word death occurred to me in connection with what was happening.

“But I wasn’t dead! How could I be dead and still be awake? Thinking. Experiencing. Death was different. Death was … I didn’t know. Blanking out. Nothingness. I was me, wide awake, only without a physical body to function in.

“Frantically I clawed at the sheet, trying to draw it back, trying to uncover the figure on the bed. All my efforts did not even stir a breeze in the silent little room.

“Suddenly I was aware that it was brighter, a lot brighter, than it had been. I stared in astonishment as the brightness increased, coming from nowhere, seeming to shine everywhere at once. All the light bulbs in the ward couldn’t give off that much light. All the bulbs in the world couldn’t! It was impossibly bright. It was like a million welders’ lamps all blazing at once.

“‘I’m glad I don’t have physical eyes at this moment,’ I thought. ‘This light would destroy the retina in a tenth of a second.’

“‘No, I corrected myself, not the light. He. He would be too bright to look at.’

“For now I saw that it was not light but a man who had entered the room, or rather, a man made out of light, though this seemed no more possible to my mind than the incredible intensity of the brightness that made up his form.” (Dr. George Ritchie)

c. Reinee Pasarow’s NDE and out-of-body perception

Reinee Pasarow was as a teenager when she had an NDE after she became unconscious following an allergic food reaction. While outside of her body, she could sense every sound, every action and even every thought of the persons people around her. She observed two firemen’s frantic efforts to revive her. All the events she witnessed while out of her body – the conversations, the actions of the persons involved, the hospital scene – happened exactly as she remembered them. Furthermore, aspects of her OBE have been reported by other people who have had OBEs which is remarkable because this type of information was something she did not know about at the time and would read about later.

“Then, just like that (clapping her hands), I became a ball of light or energy in the midst of this crowd that was circling a body. I became massively aware, unlike any awareness I had had during physical existence. I was not really aware of myself. I was aware of everyone around me. I was aware of my mother and my neighbors, and my friends and the firemen and what they were thinking and what they were feeling and what they were hoping and what they were praying. This was such a pummeling input of emotion and information that I was all at once overwhelmed and confused, and rather disoriented.

“I followed their attention to something on the sidewalk and I looked at a body on the sidewalk. I looked at the curve of the wrist bone and I recognized it. I remember looking at it and thinking, “That looks so much like my wrist bone.” And then I became aware that the thing on the sidewalk, that thing that suddenly became a piece of meat to me, was what I had identified as myself before, but had no connection with it other than that I had been with it for a very long time. But it had nothing to do with me because suddenly, I was more of a person than I had ever been before. I was more conscious than I could ever be. I was free of the limitations of being a physical being.

“I looked at my body and I was repulsed with the grief and the tumult around it and with the very idea that I had ever considered something physical to be my reality, to be a human reality.

“And with that (taps the table) again like this, I was bumped way up, up above some light wires. From that point I could watch everyone beneath me, but I was not as closely associated with them, [but] I was completely feeling everything they were feeling.

“I watched my mother and a boy come out of the house and up the hill which I could not have seen physically. I was very sad for my mother. I was very sad for my friend who kept calling me. And I was very sad for the child who had come out of the house. I was very sad that he would think I was dead. So my concern was for them. I spent my time observing them and calling to them – calling to them that everything was as it should be, that everything was fine, that I was free, that it was wonderful, that I loved them and that they loved me and that the bond, unlike physical bonds, would never be destroyed. I tried to communicate this to them over and over again and I realized that I had no mouth. I had no body. They could not hear what I was saying to them. I would have to leave them in the same hands I had left myself in the process of dying. With that I turned away, just sort of like a ball, just turned away.

“My attention turned away lovingly but knowing that there was nothing I could do. I turned away from them and began to pull up. I became aware (it was as if I were a camera on a space ship or something) of our place, my particular little street and then my particular little town. I kept pulling up and up and up to a point where I could observe the whole earth. This was wonderful!

(After Reinee’s visit to heaven, she returns to where her body is located.)

“With a terribly hard crash, I became aware of the scene I had left earlier – the fire trucks, and now an ambulance. There were men who were picking up my body and loading it into the ambulance. I was in a state of complete grief. I felt that I had become Eve and was cast out of the garden of Eden.

“As I was descending down this tunnel, my heart was already attached to my home beyond. I was begging not to leave. I crashed down into this realm of existence and was suddenly confused by time and space. It was as if I had never existed physically. I was suddenly disoriented. My concern was for my mother, because she was by herself and she was losing a sixteen year old daughter. She knew that this was happening because the ambulance attendant looked at the driver in front and said, “DOA. DOA,” which means of course dead on arrival. The driver turned off the siren and slowed down the ambulance. Before, he had been driving in a very reckless manner.

“We were coming out of the mountains. As we did that, my concern was for the pain of my mother. I simple wanted to comfort her and to wrap my soul around her. To assuage the loss of a daughter, the loss of a child, I found myself simply praying for her.

“I followed the ambulance to the hospital and I watched as my body was unloaded. My mother followed the gurney into the emergency room. I watched as the first doctor went to work on me. I wasn’t particularly interested in the first doctor because the first doctor had, that day, been through motorcycle accidents coming out of the mountains. He had been through a very long day and he was not concerned with someone who had been brought in dead on arrival. He had no connection with me. He didn’t care and had no affection. So I had no interest in watching what he did because my interest was based on affection and love.

“I then left the emergency room and was above my mother and some friends who had followed her into the other room. I again tried to communicate with them. I tried to let them know that, “This is a very joyous occasion. I am dead on arrival. Hopefully all would go well. They are never going to be able to revive me. I was going to be dead now. Death had become life to me. Death was not something to be frightened of, but something to look forward to.”

“What happened then was the first doctor pronounced me dead and was sending my body off to the morgue. My own personal physician, who was a country doctor and a very gruff man, stormed into the emergency room in a tuxedo with his black bag. He looked at the nurse on the phone who was calling the morgue, and looked at the doctor who was washing his hands, and looked at my [covered] body and said, “What the hell happened here? Where is the patient?” They said, “She was dead on arrival.” He said, “The hell she was.” He proceeded to scream at the other nurse who was sort of standing off in the corner, “I want injections of adrenaline. Bring them to me immediately and come over here and assist me.” He began to go to work on my body. He began to beat on the chest and began to shock. I was simply terrified by this turn of events and disgusted that they would treat a body so brutally.

“All of a sudden I sort of became protective towards my body, even though I wanted nothing to do with it. I began to be protective. They could at least be nice about it. But they were beating on my chest and shocking my body, but I was up in the corner of the emergency room accompanied by other essences who were keeping me contained in that emergency room.” (Reinee Pasarow)

Reinee then described how she finally returned to her body as a result of her doctor’s last effort to revive her. The medical professionals she talked to did not know how to deal with her experience.

3. Verified out-of-body perception in NDEs

The “holy grail” of NDE research is finding an undeniable answer to the question of whether consciousness can survive bodily death. But before this can be answered, researchers must first determine whether consciousness can transcend the brain and function outside of it. One way is to discover this is to examine those NDEs which are “veridical” (i.e., verified). 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. NDE research is coming very close to providing such undeniable evidence. What follows are some examples.

a. Pam Reynolds’s verified out-of-body perception

In Dr. Michael Sabom’s book, Light and Death, he includes the NDE account of a woman named Pam Reynolds who underwent a rare operation to remove a giant basilar artery aneurysm in her brain that seriously threatened her life. The surgical procedure used to remove the aneurysm is known as “hypothermic cardiac arrest” or “standstill.” Pam’s body temperature was lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing were stopped, her brain waves were flattened, and all the blood was drained from her head. For all practical purposes, she was put to death. After removing the aneurysm, she was restored to life. But, during the time that Pam was in standstill, she experienced a profound NDE. Her remarkably detailed veridical out-of-body observations of her surgery were later verified to be very accurate. Pam’s case is considered to be one of the strongest cases of veridical perception evidence in NDE research because of her ability to describe the unique surgical instruments and procedures used and her ability to describe in detail these events while she was clinically and brain dead. The following is the out-of-body aspect of her NDE in her own words:

“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.”

(Pam meets her deceased relatives and then must return to her body.)

“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.” (Pam Reynolds)

b. Dr. Charles Tart’s case of verified out-of-body perception

Dr. Charles T. Tart, and, is a transpersonal psychologist and parapsychologist known for his psychological work on the nature of consciousness (particularly altered states of consciousness), as one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology, and for his research in scientific parapsychology. He served as an instructor in psychiatry in the School of Medicine of the University of Virginia, and as a consultant on government funded parapsychological research at the Stanford Research Institute. Dr. Tart, the author of The End of Materialism, is known for his experimental work in autoscopic out-of-body and near-death experiences. He is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Tart published an article in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research which documents the OBE of a young woman who was one of his research subjects. What makes this particular OBE remarkable is that she was able to leave her physical body and read a 5-digit number from a significant distance and correctly give it to him upon return. This is one of best examples of a veridical OBE occurring under laboratory conditions. Read the article here.

c. Reverend George Rodonaia’s NDE and 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 George 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. 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 a bone during delivery. He spoke to the baby, ‘Don’t cry. Nobody understands you.’ The baby was so astonished by his presence that the baby 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.

d. Dr. Pim van Lommel’s case of verified out-of-body perception

In January of 2001, near-death experiences and near-death research earned greater scientific respect and credibility when the findings of a particular NDE study (PDF) were published. The distinguished British medical journal The Lancet published an article by Dr. Pim van Lommel of the Rijnstate Hospital in the Netherlands on the first large-scale study of NDEs which he conducted.

His study began in 1988 and lasted 13 years. It included 344 survivors of cardiac arrest from 10 Dutch hospitals. Of these 344 survivors, 18 percent experienced an NDE. And because Lommel and his staff conducted follow-up interviews with these patients over many years, they were able to rule out such factors as anoxia, seizures, medication, etc. Lommel’s findings confirmed prior research findings conducted by other near-death researchers. It confirmed that NDEs are real and they cannot be explained by physiological or psychological causes alone. Lommel also accepted the implication that consciousness survives death and that consciousness is not completely dependent upon the brain.

Lommel noted that only 10 seconds after the heart stops beating, the electroencephalogram goes dead. At this point, there is no activity in the brain cortex and the brain cannot manufacture visions. Within 10 minutes, brain stem activity ceases and irreparable brain damage can occur. However, Lommel notes that some patients still reported being conscious at this point. One particular example cited by Lommel is a man who came into the hospital already blue from a lack of oxygen. The hospital staff spent 90 minutes trying to resuscitate him, using artificial respiration, heart massage and defibrillation, before they could move him to intensive care where he was remained in a coma for a week with brain damage. But when the patient regained consciousness, he was able to describe events that occurred around him while he was brain damaged and out of his body. This veridical evidence comes from a coronary-care-unit nurse who reported the veridical out-of-body experience of the comatose patient:

“During a night shift an ambulance brings in a 44-year-old cyanotic, comatose man into the coronary care unit. He had been found about an hour before in a meadow by passers-by. After admission, he receives artificial respiration without intubation, while heart massage and defibrillation are also applied. When we wanted to intubate the patient, he turns out to have dentures in his mouth. I remove these upper dentures and put them onto the crash car. Meanwhile, we continue extensive CPR. After about an hour and a half the patient has sufficient heart rhythm and blood pressure, but he is still ventilated and intubated, and he is still comatose. He is transferred to the intensive care unit to continue the necessary artificial respiration. Only after more than a week do I meet again with the patient, who is by now back on the cardiac ward. I distribute his medication. The moment he sees me he says:

“Oh, that nurse knows where my dentures are.”

“I am very surprised. Then he elucidates:

“Yes, you were there when I was brought into hospital and you took my dentures out of my mouth and put them onto that car, it had all these bottles on it and there was this sliding drawer underneath and there you put my teeth.”

“I was especially amazed because I remembered this happening while the man was in deep coma and in the process of CPR. When I asked further, it appeared the man had seen himself lying in bed, that he had perceived from above how nurses and doctors had been busy with CPR. He was also able to describe correctly and in detail the small room in which he had been resuscitated as well as the appearance of those present like myself. At the time that he observed the situation he had been very much afraid that we would stop CPR and that he would die. And it is true that we had been very negative about the patient’s prognosis due to his very poor medical condition when admitted. The patient tells me that he desperately and unsuccessfully tried to make it clear to us that he was still alive and that we should continue CPR. He is deeply impressed by his experience and says he is no longer afraid of death. Four weeks later he left hospital as a healthy man.” (Dr. Pim Van Lommel)

4. Miscellaneous NDE testimonies on out-of-body perception

Jane Seymour: The famous movie actress who starred in the television series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” describes the following out-of-body experience during her NDE:

“I literally left my body. I had this feeling that I could see myself on the bed, with people grouped around me. I remember them all trying to resuscitate me. I was above them, in the corner of the room looking down. I saw people putting needles in me, trying to hold me down, doing things.” (Jane Seymour)

Vicki Umipeg: In Dr. Kenneth Ring‘s book, Mindsight, he documents his research concerning NDEs in people born blind. One of his subjects, Vicki Umipeg, told Dr. Ring that she found herself floating above her body in the emergency room of a hospital following an automobile accident and saw for the first time in her life. She was aware of being up near the ceiling watching a male doctor and a female nurse working on her body, which she viewed from her elevated position. Vicki has a clear recollection of how she came to the realization that this was her own body below her:

“I knew it was me … I 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.” In addition, she was able to note certain further identifying features indicating that the body she was observing was certainly her own: “I think I was wearing the plain gold band on my right ring finger and my father’s wedding ring next to it. But my wedding ring I definitely saw … That was the one I noticed the most because it’s most unusual. It has orange blossoms on the corners of it.” (Vicki Umipeg)

Brad Steiger: The author of the NDE book One with the Light experienced the following event during his NDE:

On an August day in 1947, 11-year-old Brad Steiger nearly died of multiple skull fractures after being caught in the metallic blades of a piece of machinery on his family’s Iowa farm. He felt his “essential self” drift away from his body. He watched his sister run for help and realized he was simultaneously in his father’s arms being carried from the field, and above himself, observing. (Brad Steiger)

Dannion Brinkley: In his book, Saved by the Light, Dannion Brinkley describes the following:

“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.” (Dannion Brinkley)

Kimberly Clark-Sharp: In a paper published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies concerning veridical NDE evidence, Dr. Kenneth Ring included perhaps the most famous case of veridical observation in NDE research at that time. Kimberly Clark-Sharp first documented the NDE of a woman named Maria in her book, After The Light.

“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 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 area 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).

Dr. Kenneth Ring: A study on veridical perception in NDEs was conducted by Dr. Kenneth Ring and Madelaine Lawrence. It included the 1985 account of Kathy Milne who 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 an NDE. Following a telephone interview with Kenneth Ring 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 marveled 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 account 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 than day, he had a red shoe and he became a believer, too”” (K. Milne, personal communication, October 19,1992).

After Dr. Ring’s initial interview with Milne, he made a point of inquiring whether she had ever heard of the case of Maria’s shoe [as described in the introduction above]. 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 to Dr. Ring. It remains an unanswered question as to how these isolated shoes arrived at their unlikely perches for later viewing by astonished NDErs and their baffled investigators.

Dr. Joyce Harmon: In the summer of 1982, Dr. 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, by 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:

“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.'” (J. Harmon, personal communication, August 28, 1992)

P.M.H. Atwater: The following is one of P.M.H. Atwater‘s case studies from her book Beyond the Light which is not only veridical, it is highly suggestive of the survival of consciousness after death. Atwater has stated that this testimonial has been verified by relatives of the experiencer involved. Here is the excerpt:

“I spoke of Margaret Fields Kean who nearly died in 1978 after being hospitalized for about three weeks with severe phlebitis. A blood clot had passed to her heart and lungs and she became deathly ill. Then she was given injections for nausea that, due to the blood thinners she had previously received, caused internal hemorrhaging. Pandemonium reigned as she slipped away. While absent from her body, she witnessed the scene below her, then heard and saw people in the waiting room down the hall – right through the walls – as well as nurses at their station. She also knew their thoughts. Margaret went on to have a transcendent near-death experience in which she instantly knew and understood many things; her future, and that she would become a healer. This completely contradicted her vision of herself at that moment in her life, for she was content being a super-mom farm wife who rode horses, taught Bible classes, led 4-H and Girl Scout groups, gardened, canned, and baked bread. A healer? Ridiculous! Yet, when Margaret revived, she immediately began to heal other patients in the room around her by ‘reaching out’ to them. Then, she ‘projected’ into the isolation room of a white boy charred black by severe burns. She ‘sat’ next to him on the bed, introduced herself, and proceeded to counsel him about his purpose in life. She told him it was okay if he chose to die as God was loving and he had nothing to fear. Months later, while continuing her recovery and still in great pain, Margaret was attending a horse show when a couple, hearing the loudspeaker announce her daughter’s name as a winner, sought her out. They were parents of the severely burned boy. Before he died, he had told them about meeting Margaret and relayed all the wonderful truths she had told him about God and about life. The parents were thrilled to have finally located her so they could say thanks for what she had done for their son. The dying boy had identified her by name – even though the two had never physically seen each other or verbally spoken in any manner, nor had any nurse known that the two had ever communicated, nor had it been possible that Margaret ever could have known if the isolation room was even occupied much less who might be there.” (P.M.H. Atwater)

Dr. Kenneth Ring: Dr. Ring reported in a scholarly paper one of the most interesting case of verified out-of-body perception. In the late 1970s, Sue Saunders was working at Hartford Hospital as a respiratory therapist and had the following experience resuscitating a patient:

“One day she was helping to resuscitate a 60-ish 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..”” (S. Saunders, personal communication, August 28, 1992)

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. 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. According to Dr. Ring, this case attests to these three important observations:

a. 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.

b. These objects can later be shown to have existed in the form and location indicated by the patients’ testimony.

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

Source: Ring, Kenneth, Ph.D. & Lawrence, Madeline, R.N., Ph.D. “Further evidence for veridical perception during near-death experiences” (PDF), Journal of Near-Death Studies, 1993 11 (4)223-229.

Robert Pastorelli: “I was in excruciating pain. Then, in the next second, there was no pain. Suddenly I realized I was out of my body. I was floating above myself, looking down at my unconscious body lying in the hospital emergency room with my eyes closed. I could see tubes down my nose and throat. I knew I was dying and I thought, ‘Well, this must be death.’ I even saw a priest giving me the last rites. But it was the most peaceful feeling in the world. Then I saw my father starting to faint out of grief. Two nurses grabbed him and sat him down in a chair across the room. When I looked down and saw my father’s pain it had an effect on me. I firmly believe that at that moment I made a decision to live, not die. The next thing I knew I was waking up back in my body. Later, in the recovery room, when I was fully conscious, I told my father what had happened, his fainting and all. He was astounded.” (Robert Pastorelli)

In P.M.H. Atwater’s book, Children of the New Millennium, an interesting case of verified out-of-body perception is documented about a woman named Lynn whose observations during her near-death experience were later proven to be true, including the black and Asian doctors on the operating team.

“The next thing I knew I was floating around the ceiling looking down on my body. My chest was open wide and I could see my internal organs. I remember thinking how odd it was that my organs were a beautiful pearl gray, not at all like the bright red chucks in the horror flicks I loved to watch. I also noticed there was a black doctor and an Oriental one on the operating team. The reason this stuck in my mind is that I was brought up in a very white middle-class neighborhood, and I had seen black schoolteachers but never a black doctor. I’d met the operating team the day before, but they were all white. Suddenly, I had to move on, so I floated into the waiting room, where my parents were. My father had his head buried in my mother’s lap. He was kneeling at her feet, his arms wrapped around her waist, and he was sobbing. My mother was stroking his head, whispering to him. This scene shocked me, as my father was not prone to showing emotions. Once I realize they would be fine, I felt myself pulled into a horizontal tunnel.” (Lynn)

David Goines: “I remember the fear of impact (getting hit), however, I have no recollection of the impact or having my body become totally integrated with the bicycle, nor hurtling over sixty feet through the air and landing in the canal. 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. Everyone was very busy. I knew by their activity that I was in serious trouble. There was much discussion about how to extract me from the tangled wreckage of my bike and/or whether they would need to leave me in it until I was stabilized enough to try. I could see and hear everything. It was gruesome. It was frightening. They finally decided they had me stable enough to get rid of the bike and they called for a welding specialist to bring a torch to help cut me out of the bike. Thank God my body seemed to be unconscious. All of this would have been quite enough for my young mind to endure – until one nurse, whom I knew, said to another, ‘Well – it certainly makes you wonder if it is worth saving this mess.’ She nearly scared me to death! At that moment, it was more than I could stand above and watch. I wanted to run away from this scene. I needed to escape. Quickly, I turned, took one step through the wall so to speak and found myself in total darkness.” (David Goines)

David Oakford: “I called out to my friends and nobody came. I tried to unplug the stereo but that did not work either. Every time I tried to touch the cord to unplug it I could not grasp it. It just kept on playing “LA Woman” and the sound rattled my very being. I ran all over the house calling for my friends, yelling repeatedly that the music was too loud but I was not heard. I pleaded for the music to be turned down. I tried to go outside but I could not feel the doorknob. I could see the daylight outside but could not go outside. I ended up hiding in the bathroom in an unsuccessful attempt to escape the noise. I looked in the mirror and could not see myself. That frightened me greatly. I went back into the family room and saw my body sitting in the chair. It looked like I was sleeping. I wondered how I could be looking at myself. I got a bit scared then because I could see me from outside of me, from all different angles except from the inside angle I was used to seeing myself. I was alone. I was confused and very scared. I tried to get back into my body but could not. I could not touch the ground either. I was floating. I rose up into a spot above my body and kind of just hung there. I could no longer move. I called out for help and nobody came. I tried to go out the door but like the stereo I could not touch the doorknob.” (David Oakford)

Kimberly Clark-Sharp: “I was going back. I knew it. I was already on the way. I was on a trajectory headed straight for my body. That’s when I saw my body for the first time, and when I realized I was no longer a part of it. Until this moment, I’d only seen myself straight on, as we usually do, in mirrors and photographs. Now I was jolted by the strange sight of me in profile from four feet away. I looked at my body, the body I knew so well, and was surprised by my detachment. I felt the same sort of gratitude toward my body that I had for my old winter coat when I put it away in the spring. It had served me well, but I no longer needed it. I had absolutely no attachment to it. Whatever constituted the self I knew as me was no longer there. My essence, my consciousness, my memories, my personality were outside, not in, that prison of flesh.” (Kimberly Clark-Sharp)

Dr. Liz Dale’s research subject: “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. 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. But I felt no pain at all; I felt completely whole and free, and I thought, ‘This is who I really am.’ I saw my physical body, all crumpled and bloody and lifeless; and this enormous wave of compassion washed over me and I wanted to tell all of the bystanders that everything was going to be OK and not to be sad or alarmed. Then suddenly I felt myself being pulled, literally at the speed of light, farther from the physical earth, and I saw all of the people on the planet simultaneously in that one moment. I saw people in China and Sweden and Uruguay; I saw people sleeping and dreaming; I saw people preparing food in their homes and in restaurants; people traveling in all manner of transportation, to and from work and school and appointments; I saw children playing together, and bankers and teachers and factory workers at their jobs. I saw mothers giving birth to children, which was especially beautiful and moving to me.” (Dr. Liz Dale)

Howard Storm: “For a time there was a sense of being unconscious or asleep. I’m not sure how long it lasted, but I felt really strange, and I opened my eyes. To my surprise I was standing up next to the bed, and I was looking at my body laying in the bed. My first reaction was, ‘This is crazy! I can’t be standing here looking down at myself. That’s not possible.’ This wasn’t what I expected, this wasn’t right. Why was I still alive? I wanted oblivion. Yet I was looking at a thing that was my body, and it just didn’t have that much meaning to me. Now knowing what was happening, I became upset. I started yelling and screaming at my wife, and she just sat there like a stone. She didn’t look at me, she didn’t move and I kept screaming profanities to get her to pay attention. Being confused, upset, and angry, I tried to get the attention of my room-mate, with the same result. He didn’t react. I wanted this to be a dream, and I kept saying to myself, ‘This has got to be a dream.’ But I knew that it wasn’t a dream. I became aware that strangely I felt more alert, more aware, more alive than I had ever felt in my entire life. All my senses were extremely acute. Everything felt tingly and alive. The floor was cool and my bare feet felt moist and clammy. This had to be real.” (Howard Storm)

P.M.H. Atwater: “The pain ebbed by as I rose steadily upward, again stopping at the light fixture, only this time in the living room. I looked down, recognizing the body on the floor as mine. There was no confusion this time. My situation was clearly defined. Good God, I’m dead! Time and space ended for me after gazing for what seemed endless minutes at my body. It made no movement. There was no breathing. No response. When I was satisfied that it was dead, there came a joyous euphoria, like a prisoner being released from a long jail sentence. I danced and danced around the light bulb, singing like a child. It was finally over. I was free.” (P.M.H. Atwater)

Grace Bubulka: “I was then looking down from above the left foot area of my bed. The distance from my bed was as though I was against the ceiling corner. I could see the backs of the staff to the left of my bed and the faces of my doctors and the Filipino nurse. I was exasperated with them and with my futile attempt to connect with them. I had no strong feelings about my body lying on the bed. It was almost unfamiliar to me.” (Grace Bubulka)

Laurelynn Martin: “I awakened and found myself floating above my body, off to the right side, looking down, watching the attempts of the medical team trying to revive the lifeless form below. I viewed the scene with detachment. The surgical team was frantic. The color red was everywhere, splattered on their gowns, splattered on the floor, and a bright pool of a flowing red substance, in the now wide open abdominal cavity. At that moment, I didn’t make the connection that the body being worked on was my own! It didn’t matter anyway. I was in a state of floating freedom, experiencing no pain and having a great time. I wanted to shout to the distressed people below, “Hey, I’m okay. It’s fantastic up here,” but they were so intent on their work, I didn’t want to interrupt their efforts. I had traveled to another realm of total and absolute peace. With no physical body my movement was unencumbered. Thought was the avenue for travel. I floated up through blackness where there was no fear, no pain, no misunderstandings, but instead a sense of well-being. I was enveloped by total bliss in an atmosphere of unconditional love and acceptance.” (Laurelynn Martin)

Josiane Antonette: “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 … Now I’m on the hospital room ceiling gazing down! Everything appears so small: I see my bed; my body looks small and colorless; the people around the bed are tiny. Overwhelming grief and sorrow fill the room, and yet I feel completely disconnected from the scene below me. I hover nearer and look at the strange form lying on the bed. I feel compassion beyond words. I understand everything, but I have no feeling of attachment to anyone. I look at each person standing at the bedside and feel tremendous love. I want to say to them, ‘I’m all right. You don’t have to worry. I’m all right. Look at me! I’m fine!'” (Josiane Antonette)

Rev. Kenneth Hagin: “My heart stopped beating. This numbness spread to my feet, my ankles, my knees, my hips, my stomach, my heart and I leaped out of my body. I did not lose consciousness; I leaped out of my body like a diver would leap off a diving board into a swimming pool. I knew I was outside my body. I could see my family in the room, but I couldn’t contact them. I began to descend down, down, into a pit, like you’d go down into a well, cavern or cave … Then, like a suction from above, I floated up, head first, through the darkness. Before I got to the top, I could see the light. I’ve been down in a well: it was like you were way down in a well and could see the light up above. I came up on the porch of my grandpa’s house. Then I went through the wall not through the door, and not through the window through the wall, and seemed to leap inside my body like a man would slip his foot inside his boot in the morning time. Before I leaped inside my body, I could see my grandmother sitting on the edge of the bed holding me in her arms. When I got inside my body, I could communicate with her. ‘I felt myself slipping,’ I said, ‘Granny, I’m going again. You’ve been a second mother to me when Momma was ill.’ My heart stopped for a second time. I leaped out of my body and began to descend: down, down, down … And then I was pulled up, head first. I could see the lights of the earth above me before I came up out of the pit. The only difference this time was that I came up at the foot of the bed. For a second time I stood there. I could see my body lying there on the bed. I could see Grandma as she sat there holding me in her arms.” [Here Hagin says goodbye to his family] “I left a word for each one of them, and my heart stopped the third time. I could feel the circulation as it cut off. Suddenly my toes went numb. Faster than you can snap your fingers, my toes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, stomach and heart went dead and I leaped out of my body and began to descend …”” [Hagin then enters his body again and recovers from his illness.] (Rev. Kenneth Hagin)

Ricky Randolph: “I felt myself leaving my body. I was floating a few feet in the air above the river. I looked on my body with mixed feelings. I was bleeding from my mouth, nose, ears, and saw a trickle of blood underneath me on the boulder. As I was reflecting on the state of my body, I felt a pulling and began to rise very fast. I was traveling at a high rate of speed upwards through the atmosphere.” (Ricky Randolph)

Rexella Van Impe: The wife of television evangelist Dr. Jack Van Impe, Rexella, was injured in a car accident in Brussels in 1982. She discovered herself outside of her body watching her husband crying as he held her in his arms. The experience was told in their video, “Heaven: An Out-of-Body Adventure?” [This videotape, produced in 1992, is available through JVI Ministries, POB 7004, Troy, MI, USA 48007.]

Chris Taylor: “On September 1993, I was at Papworth Hospital having my aortic valve replaced. I left my body and watched the surgeon operating on me. He was a bit of a maverick and had a red and white check head cover. He was listening to Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat out of hell’ and invisible drumming to it. He splashed some blood on one of the nurses. She got angry. I asked him about this and he confirmed it by stating that I could not have seen this due to the screen around my face. On November 2001, I rushed back to Papworth with a dissecting aorta which is usually fatal. My son had seen me have the attack and my profound pain. He was scared and had tears streaming down his face. He made me promise that I would not die. I promised him. I underwent 10 hours of emergency surgery at the end of which my heart failed to spontaneously restart. The surgeon manually manipulated my heart for 26 minutes. At some stage in the procedure I left my body with a whooshing sound. I then was floating toward a bright light. All around me was a gray cloud-type thick fog. It had texture. The closer I approached the light I became aware of a fundamental sense of purity. I could feel my pain falling away. I became aware of PURE LOVE, peace, tranquility. I could hear voices that were welcoming me without speaking specific words; but, I understood that this was natural and normal. I also knew that I was leaving the two people I love the most – my wife and son. I was then aware of my son to my left sitting on a chair and sobbing into his hands. My wife walked up to him to comfort him. He said he was scared and my wife assured him I was strong and would live. He calmly said, ‘I’m not scared of Dad dying. I know he will not die. He promised me and DAD ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES. I then painfully zipped back into my body. Imagine being cold and wet, longing for a warm shower. Imagine taking off those cold wet clothes and getting into the shower. Now imagine getting back into the clothes. Got the message? When I came to, 28 hours later, my wife was told I was in a coma and brain dead. I was so angry for days. I was angry I had lived. That may sound weird but that is, in brief, my story. Two things: This experience has left me feeling over powered spiritually. Secondly, I am a Police Inspector and not prone to flights of fancy.” (Chris Taylor)

Nadia McCaffrey: “I was out of my body. I floated there for awhile, and looked down at lifeless body on the gurney. However, the real me had become a comfortable glowing shape. For a while, I watched on as the nurses and doctors worked quickly to revive me. Then, I lost interest and my attention turned towards a long dark tunnel.” (Nadia McCaffrey)

Beverly Brodsky: “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)

Jan Price: “I remember being surprised as I observed the full heart arrest taking place. I suppose we never really think of ourselves as dying, but obviously I had died because I wasn’t in my body anymore.” (Jan Price)

Norman Paulsen: “There is my body lying at the foot of the telephone pole, covered with blankets. Without sensation, I enter it again. My eyes open to see concerned faces looking down upon me.” (Norman Paulsen)

Valvita Jones: “Feeling so peaceful and free, I started moving upward. I realized my body was below me, and I vaguely remember observing efforts by the medical team to revive it. My main interest was that I was above the room. I was not even in the room but in the first sky. I say first sky in the heavens, because it seemed as though there were three heavens that I passed through.” (Valvita Jones)

Laura: “After this infinite moment had passed, there began a battle for my life between the angels in heaven and the doctors on earth. Every time the doctors pounded on my chest, my spirit was sucked into my body for a split second, only to be pulled back again by the angels. They held me by my feet, struggling to keep me from coming back. Finally, the doctors pounded one last time. I heard an angel say, “They’re stronger than we are,” and I was sucked back into my body, sat up, screamed, and passed out.” (Laura)

Caroline Sharp: “It is now almost 34 years ago, but with amazing clarity, I can remember the emotions I went through as I hovered above my body. It was a total euphoric happiness. Feeling totally unconcerned and faintly amused, I watched the two nurses and doctor working to resuscitate my lifeless body. I could relate with extreme clarity the actions they took in this procedure.” (Caroline Sharp)

Mrs. Walters: “When I had my first child I had the experience of being out of my body and hovering above it attached to a thick cord. I could see myself on the bed and the doctor who was in a panic. I could also see the nurse and the instruments on a trolley in the corner of the room. The only way I could have seen the instrument was from the angle I was in. I would not have been able to see them from the bed. I remember thinking it was wonderful to be free of that cumbersome body and not really caring what happened to it.” (Mrs. Walters)

Randy Gehling: “I didn’t really know what had hit me. I just seemed to go flying through the air. And then a really funny thing happened. A part of me – I guess my soul – just kept flying, and I saw my body smash into the ground. I knew it had to hurt to land that hard, so I was happy that I was where I was – wherever that was. When I got a little higher, I saw that it had been Kurt’s car that had hit me. I always told him that he drove too fast in the neighborhood.” (Randy Gehling)

Jeanie Dicus: “I was floating above my body. I saw green shower caps. The people in the room all wore those stupid caps. There were five or six caps and they were panicky. Their fear was so thick I could feel it. I kept thinking, “Hey, I’m okay, don’t worry,” but they didn’t get my message. This was a little frustrating. I found myself in the right-hand corner of the room. I lifted my arm and stretched. I had been immobile for so long. It felt like I had taken off a body girdle, and it was so delicious to get out of that cramped body.” (Jeanie Dicus)

Peter Sellers: “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. (Peter Sellers)

Elaine Durham: “When I got to the hospital, it was not as if I was on the gurney look up, but I was moving, not necessarily walking, but I was at eye level along the right side of the gurney. And there was my body on it, but I did not have any relationship at all to that body.” (Elaine Durham)

An accountant: “The next thing I remember was looking down on my body in the intensive care unit. I don’t know how I got in there, but they were working on me. There was this young doctor in a white coat and two nurses and a black fellow in a white uniform and he was doing most of the work on me. This black fellow was shoving down on my chest and someone else was breathing for me and they were yelling to get this and that!’ I learned later that this black fellow was a male nurse on the ward. I had never seen him before. I even remember the black bow tie he was wearing. Next thing I remember was going through this dark passage.” (An accountant)

Helen: “I remember clearly floating up above myself, and looking down on my body. It was connected to numerous machines. I could see the drip and the oxygen mask. I could see the doctors working to restart my heart with electronic pads. I could see that my parents were there. It felt very peaceful, much better than where I had been before. I was bathed in warmth and light, and the calm was almost tangible. I felt it was up to me to decide where I wanted to be, up there or back in my body, but the peace was so overwhelming that I knew I wanted to stay.” (Helen)

Berkley Carter Mills: A massive load of compressed cardboard Carter Mills 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, Carter attempted to reenter his body. Crawling downward in swim-like strokes, he had almost reached his goal when a gentle but firm hand tugged his right arm. When he looked up, there were two angels replete with robes, wings, bare feet, and streaming hair – no color but opaque white – and no particular gender. (Berkley Carter Mills)

John Star: “Suddenly the world was calm and clear. I could see the shoreline, still in the distance and noticed the sun shining overhead. It seemed brighter than usual. When I looked down I got the surprise of my life. There was my body, still swimming toward shore, moving as straight and smooth as a motor boat. I watched for a while, indifferent to the plight of my body. I was far more concerned with trying to figure out where I was.” (John Star)

Michael: “And then something exited my chest. Its hard to describe exactly what it was or what it felt like but it was a real presence, a definite feeling. Perhaps terms like “life force” or “energy” come closest to trying to describe what it was, but it seemed to contain my personality as well. Again, its extremely difficult to describe except that it was a real sensation of something immaterial leaving my physical body. This “force”, for lack of a better word, then positioned itself in the corner of the bathroom ceiling (the bathroom was in darkness) and I stared down on my own motionless body, skinny and frail and apparently lifeless. This force which seemed to contain something of me certainly an awareness that “I” was no longer in my body, then moved at an amazing speed through somewhere black, like space in its vastness.” (Michael)

Ida Acosta: “I was drifting in and out of my body, from darkness into light, simultaneously. There were sounds demanding that I leave my wonderful bliss to come back to life. Doctors calling my name. I looked upon it all with a strange indifference. And I could see myself. I could hear a machine beeping. People were slapping me, shaking me, tossing me around, sticking things into me, and I just didn’t care. I was in bliss and I really just wanted to die, because at that moment I realized there was no death. It was exactly like drifting into the best sleep ever.” (Ida Acosta)

Rose A.: “On this one day I found that part of me had separated from my physical body and had risen above my body to the ceiling. From above, I saw myself lying face down on the carpeting. Everything was so clear mentally and there was no pain; I sensed that the physical body was that which felt pain, that which would also hamper one’s clarity of thinking. This other part of me, a spiritual me or a soul me, was so much more at peace being outside of the physical me. I knew that if my mother had entered the bedroom at that point, she would not have gotten a response from my physical body, but I would want her to know that everything was all right with me.” (Rose A.)

Karen Floyd: “At this time, I had floated out of my body. I was floating just below the ceiling of the car looking down at myself on the seat of the car. I remember thinking how strange it was that I was up here when my body was still on the car seat! I could see my friend driving and looking back and talking to me. I also noticed that I didn’t feel bad anymore.” (Karen Floyd)

Sharon: “Sometime during the night I ‘woke up’ to find myself against the ceiling. I was literally floating and I could see myself from the chest up. I remember feeling no discomfort, such as heat or cold, just a nice peaceful feeling. While I was wondering why I was able to float against the ceiling, I looked down and saw myself sleeping on my back. This was strange enough, but the strangest part was how I thought of myself on the bed. I thought of myself in the third-person. I remember distinctly thinking, ‘She is running out of air’ and ‘There is no oxygen in this room.’ I did not think this in a state of panic, more like a peaceful concern for the body. The next thing I knew, I was hurling toward my body.” (Sharon)

Jerriann Massey: “Three times she fought her way through the murky water and surfaced to suck air, she said. “The third time back under, I was out of my body. It was like when you are wearing pants way too tight and you take them off. Now, you can relax and breathe. That’s what it felt like.” (Jerriann Massey)

Alise: “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. I felt like a traitor as they were working very hard on my body but I did not want it any more. I did not want to go back. So I left very quickly and what was foremost in my mind was that I knew exactly where to go. There was no tunnel or light or anything, I just knew where to go and went. Like going ‘home’. Getting ‘out’ of my body was like going through a magnetic field. Each magnet was attracted to the other and then to another and another until the first was attracted to the last and then I was free. I knew I had just gone through the elements of the earth that made up my physical body. This registered in my brain as pain but it wasn’t pain exactly but the process of going through the elements and overcoming gravity.” (Alise)

Martha St. Claire: As she began to drown, Martha remembers entering into a kind of dream-like state she feels was the beginning of her near-death experience. She states, “All of a sudden, I was out of my body watching myself being pulled along and thinking, ‘This is really incredible. This is really quite amazing.'” (Martha St. Claire)

Mr. Thermal: “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. I watched one guy jump from the wagon he was on, to the ground. On his way over to me, it seemed like it took him 10 minutes to land. Everyone was moving so slow. I was speaking out loud. I could hear myself, but it seemed the others couldn’t. I saw them gathering around me trying to wake me up, but I was awake. I was above them. I tried to look at my hands but couldn’t see them. I knew they were there. I could feel them move. And I could feel my feet too, but again, my body was on the ground right beneath me.” (Mr. Thermal)

Elizabeth: “His smile was wide and bright, as he took hold of my left arm, and we began to drift downward. It was comforting and safe to be with him, as we passed by stars in the night sky, drifting through clouds. I eventually could see my town and the top of my house. We drifted through the roof, entering my bedroom. At the ceiling, I noticed my daughter, still sleeping soundly. But then I noticed something else; I noticed another body next to hers. When we reach the floor, I realized it was my own. I was completely confused. He gently lifted me, placing me back into my body. I immediately jumped out of bed reaching for him. But by now, his light was escaping through the window, until finally completely gone. I sat on the edge of my bed, still engulfed with such joy. I took hold of my head, saying over and over again in my mind, I will not forget, I will not forget.” (Elizabeth)

John Powell: “He then brought me again to this earth. When I saw my body lying on the bed I did not want to enter it again for I felt so happy out of it that I could not bear the thought of entering it again, but he said, ‘Enter,’ and I had to obey.” (John Powell)

Sherry Gideon: “The last thing that happened was when I watched my spirit descend back into my body. I could suddenly see myself lying on my bed. I could feel a light coming through the window that was so powerful beyond words. As I watched my spirit return to this body on the bed. I could hear the last words spoken to me: “You must help the world to understand that they must give of themselves freely without expecting and love is all there is!” (Sherry Gideon)

Bruce Budden: “I could see my body lying on the lawn and a few cars and people around the scene … The next thing I recall is almost like energizing over top of my physical body. I moved closer and was hovering a foot or so over my body. I then slowly turned over and then started sinking down into my body. The electrical energy of my spirit started flowing back into my physical body. As I was doing this, this almost sense of transformation, the feeling of being in the pure spirit form started changing to the feelings of the earthly realm. There was a great sense of heaviness, I felt the physical emotions starting to return, along with the emotions of the human animal. The next thing I recall is opening my eyes and seeing the lights of the cars around me and I looked around to find the light I was just in front of but I couldn’t find it. Then it hit me, damn, I’m back. At that point I passed out.” (Bruce Budden)

Vicki Moyer: “During my experience, I was standing in a beautiful garden and saw Jesus. He was sitting on a stone bench. We both were dressed in biblical gown and wore sandals. Jesus let me see through a dimension to where my body being operated on in surgery. I could see it. I remember how I felt. I felt like my body was only a shell and that it was not the true me. I felt like this was me, my soul. I remember him letting me hear my friends and love ones pray for me.” (Vicki Moyer)

Dr. Habermas and Moreland’s research: Dr. Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland documented two cases of veridical perception in their book, Immortality, The Other Side of Death. The first case was a young girl named Katie who nearly drowned in a pool. After being resuscitated in the emergency room, a CAT scan showed she had massive brain swelling. She was attached to an artificial lung to keep her breathing and given a ten percent chance of survival. Three days later, she completely recovered and told a remarkable story. Though she had been profoundly comatose, with her eyes closed throughout her entire treatment, she gave exact details regarding the physical features of her doctors, the hospital rooms in which she had been treated, and the medical procedures her doctors employed to save her. Amazingly, she was also able to describe, in minute detail, what her family was doing at home, awaiting news of her status, while she lie in the hospital! Then, Katie said she met Jesus and the heavenly Father. Their second case involves a five-year-old boy named Rick who suffered from meningitis. As Rick was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, he decided to stay behind. He later reported seeing his father crying in the car while he drove the family to the hospital. Rick then rushed to the hospital arriving before the ambulance. He saw hospital orderlies move a young girl out of the room he would be occupying. Rick’s memories were corroborated by his family, and were particularly amazing due to the fact that he was comatose before he was taken in the ambulance and for several days afterward. (Habermas and Moreland)

Guenter Wagner: “Suddenly it dawned on me that I was out of my body. It must have happened the moment this oozing stopped. I saw a body lying on the floor, which could only belong to me. I was shivering and I quickly wanted to return to my body and its warmth when I heard someone say, ‘Stop! Before going back, see what it is like outside!’ However, I did not pay any attention to the voice. Although I could not see any physical body but my own, this voice was quite near. Then I heard it again, this time it was begging me very earnestly, ‘Please, do not go back, I beseech you. Why do you not want to discover your new faculties first? You may still go back if you do not like them.’ I hesitated. After all, this voice was right. Why shouldn’t I give it a try? On that the voice said quickly, ‘Test your mind! If you do you will discover that you can think in a way you have never experienced before.’ The voice was right again. I could think very lucidly indeed, and I was able to understand very quickly with a directness that did not leave a trace of doubt. Then I heard the voice again, ‘If you are willing to stay outside of your body, you will make a wonderful journey and you will see many interesting things. However, you must decide quickly! So hurry up!’ Eventually I began to consider the whole situation. It was really up to me whether I wanted to return to my body and live the life on earth with all its limitations and with all its joy or to stay outside in this condition of clear thinking. The voice again urged me to hurry up and to tell him whether I had made up my mind. I gave in. I decided to stay outside and I instantly realized that my body had to die, meaning total destruction by decay. I thought to myself, “How sad for my mother!’ As for me, I did not feel any regrets, because my body was now only a wrapper to me, a burden of which I freed myself the moment I had decided to stay outside. Presently I realized that I was able to move freely about in a way I had never experienced before. I was floating right through the walls of our house (I saw my mother in front of the kitchen stove cooking a meal) and up into the sky. In the distance, I saw a great shining ball, which was the sun. I felt irresistibly attracted to it by its brightness and I wanted to go right into it. No sooner had I thought this when I hit something that catapulted me far out into blackness. I tried once more, but it all happened again. I quickly learned that there had to be an invisible barrier that I could only approach but not overcome. Then the Being of Light was gone. One of the other beings brought me back to earth. I do not know how. I only heard, while being tucked back into my body, a snapping sound like the sound that can be heard when you put the lid on top of a mess tin securing it with the catch.” (Guenter Wagner)

5. The out-of-body phenomenon of consciousness expansion

Many NDE testimonies involve the experiencer describing how their consciousness expanded until it fills the entire universe – even beyond. This phenomenon has been described as literally becoming the universe by near-death experiencers. This concept of a universal and transcendental consciousness agrees with the metaphysical notion of how the universe exerts an influence upon us astrologically. I have found several NDEs on my website that provide evidence of veridical consciousness expansion. What is interesting is how this phenomenon supports a current theory of consciousness held by a prominent consciousness researcher which will be explained after presenting these excerpts from NDE testimony of how consciousness expands after death and allows for veridical observation outside of the body to take place.

a. Near-death experiencers on consciousness expansion

Mellen-Thomas Benedict: “Suddenly I seemed to be rocketing away from the planet on this stream of life. I saw the earth fly away. The solar system, in all its splendor, whizzed by and disappeared. At faster than light speed, I flew through the center of the galaxy, absorbing more knowledge as I went. I learned that this galaxy, and all of the Universe, is bursting with many different varieties of LIFE. I saw many worlds. The good news is that we are not alone in this Universe! As I rode this stream of consciousness through the center of the galaxy, the stream was expanding in awesome fractal waves of energy. The super clusters of galaxies with all their ancient wisdom flew by. At first I thought I was going somewhere; actually traveling. But then I realized that, as the stream was expanding, my own consciousness was also expanding to take in everything in the Universe!” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)

Virginia Rivers: “The stars seemed to fly past me so rapidly that they formed a tunnel around me. I began to sense awareness, knowledge. The farther forward I was propelled the more knowledge I received. My mind felt like a sponge, growing and expanding in size with each addition. The knowledge came in single words and in whole idea blocks. I just seemed to be able to understand everything as it was being soaked up or absorbed. I could feel my mind expanding and absorbing and each new piece of information somehow seemed to belong. It was as if I had known already but forgotten or mislaid it, as if it were waiting here for me to pick it up on my way by.” (Virginia Rivers)

“And in your life review you’ll be the universe and experience yourself in what you call your lifetime and how it affects the universe.” (Thomas Sawyer)

“I was involved in this tremendous pouring forth of gratitude and joy and as that was going inside me, this white light began to infiltrate my consciousness. It came into me. It seemed I went out into it. I expanded into it as it came into my field of consciousness.” (Jayne Smith)

“My presence fills the room. And now I feel my presence in every room in the hospital. Even the tiniest space in the hospital is filled with this presence that is me. I sense myself beyond the hospital, above the city, even encompassing earth. I am melting into the universe. I am everywhere at once.” (Josiane Antonette)

“Stage by stage we expand into the planetary spheres, like light that has been contained within a darkened glass, when finally uncovered and released goes out into the boundless universe. The moral disposition we carry over with us allows or prevents us from moving on in a conscious manner. Seeing how we expand toward the stars and planets after death, it’s no wonder we look at the night sky in awe with feelings of reverence and maybe even memories.” (Rudolf Steiner)

“I felt caught up in all of this to the very depths of my being. I felt myself expanding and expanding until I thought, “I’m going to burst!” The moment I thought, “I’m going to burst!”, I suddenly found myself alone, back where this being had met me, and he had gone.” (Margaret Tweddell)

b. NDE researchers on NDE consciousness expansion

Dr. Stanislav Grof’s research: “I had my training as a psychiatrist, a physician and then as a Freudian analyst. When I became interested in non-ordinary states and started serving powerful mystical experiences, also having some myself, my first idea was that it (consciousness) has to be hard-wired in the brain. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how something like that is possible. Today, I came to the conclusion that [consciousness] is not coming from the brain. In that sense, it supports what Aldous Huxley believed after he had some powerful psychedelic experiences and was trying to link them to the brain. He came to the conclusion that maybe the brain acts as a kind of reducing valve that actually protects us from too much cosmic input.

“So, I don’t see, for example, that experiences of archetypal realms, heavens, paradises, experiences of archetypal beings, such as deities, demons from different cultures, that people typically have in these states that they can be somehow explained as something that comes from the brain. I don’t think you can locate the source of consciousness. I am quite sure it is not in the brain not inside of the skull. It actually, according to my experience, would lie beyond time and space, so it is not localizable. You actually come to the source of consciousness when you dissolve any categories that imply separation, individuality, time, space and so on. You just experience it as a presence. People who have these experiences can either perceive that source or they can actually become the source, completely dissolved and experience that source. But such categories as time and space, localization coordinates, are not relevant for that experience. You actually have a sense that the concepts of time and space come from that place. They are generated by that place; but, the cosmic source itself, the cosmic consciousness cannot be located certainly not in the material world.” (Dr. Stanislav Grof, from the NDE video, Life After Death, YouTube video, Episode 8, Wellspring Media)

Dr. Peter Fenwick’s NDE research: Fenwick is a neuropsychiatrist and the leading authority in Britain on NDEs who has described how the NDEs are unique to any other state of consciousness. In the documentary, “Into the Unknown: Strange But True,” Dr. Fenwick explains:

“In the NDE, you are unconscious. One of the things we know about brain function in unconsciousness, is that you cannot create images and if you do, you cannot remember them … The brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences [NDEs] … 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 [NDEs], 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.” (Dr. Peter Fenwick)

Dr. Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic research: “You must be ready to accept the possibility that there is a limitless range of awareness for which we now have no words; that awareness can expand beyond the range of your ego, your self, your familiar identity, beyond everything you have learned, beyond your notions of space and time, beyond the differences which usually separate people from each other and from the world around them.” (Dr. Timothy Leary)

Dr. Susan Blackmore: After hovering around New York, Susan Blackmore floated back to her room in Oxford where she became very small and entered her body’s toes. Then she grew very big, as big as a planet at first, and then she filled the solar system and finally she became as large as the universe. Susan Blackmore believes that consciousness and NDEs are only secretions of the brain – much like a hallucination. If she is correct, then NDEs are nothing more than a mass hallucinations. The problem with this idea is that unconscious brains do not hallucinate. And even if unconscious brains could hallucinate, they would not be able to retain unconscious memories. (Dr. Susan Blackmore)

Experts Science

Dr. Susan Blackmore’s Near-Death Experience Research

One of the most dedicated skeptical researchers of near-death experiences (NDEs) is Susan Blackmore, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of the West of England, a parapsychologist, and Zen Buddhist. She is the author of several books including: Dying to Live (1993), In Search of the Light (1996), The Meme Machine (2000), and her latest Consciousness: An Introduction (2011). Her theories concerning NDEs are very impressive and well worth understanding. She is a formidable skeptic, not only of the “afterlife theory” of the NDE, but on many other paranormal phenomena. A critique of her book, Dying to Live, can be found on this website. Susan is also one of the few researchers who actually had an out-of-body experience herself.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Blackmore’s Out-of-Body Experience
  2. Out-of-the-Body, Explained Away, But It Was So Real
  3. Contributor’s Comments on the Experience
  4. The Context
  5. My Reaction at the Time
  6. The Effect of the Drug
  7. My Reaction at the Time
  8. The Effect on My Life
  9. Meditation
  10. Blackmore Recants Her Prior Conclusions

1. Introduction to Blackmore’s Out-of-Body Experience

During her first year at Oxford, Susan Blackmore had an out-of-body experience after several hours on the Ouija board while stoned on hashish. The experience also occurred during a period of her life when sleep deprivation was common for her. She describes herself as having been in “a fairly peculiar state of mind” when she had the OBE. She described traveling down a tunnel of trees toward a light, floating on the ceiling, and observing her body below, seeing a silver cord connecting her floating astral body, floating out of the building and then over England, and finally floating across the Atlantic to New York. After hovering around New York, Blackmore floated back to her room in Oxford where she became very small and entered her body’s toes. Then she grew very big, as big as a planet at first, and then she filled the solar system and finally she became as large as the universe. This expansion of consciousness which fills the universe can be found in many NDEs including that of Mellen-Thomas Benedict.

The following is the detailed account of Susan’s out-of-body journey as submitted to The Archives of Scientists’ Transcendent Experiences (TASTE) website project.

2. Out-of-the-Body, Explained Away, But It Was So Real

Reprinted from: TASTE
Sunday November 8th, 1970: Causes

I had been taking part in a seance, or rather a Ouija board group, and as a consequence was very tired. Three of us, Kevin, Vicki and myself, decided that we’d go up to her room two floors up and smoke some hash. This we did and at first it just seemed like normal. However after a few minutes, I began to get even more cut off from the others than usual and to experience very strange sensations. These I thought were still just part of the drug experience. The music appeared in some sense most akin to sight, but although having colours it was not a normal sight at all. I had my eyes closed. I moved from the chair I was sitting on to the floor and sat there cross-legged for the rest of the time.

(1) I began to move through tunnels in my mind, very brightly coloured and getting more and more real. There began to be places, which appeared very, very clearly. In more detail than if I had seen them real. This kind of thing went on for about half an hour – 12:00 to 12:30 – and then the transition came.

(2) I was thinking how high I was, in the sense that on looking down my feet seemed a very long way away. This I had experienced before but this time it was much more vivid. Also the feeling of there being a white wall behind me and through the centre of me was much more pronounced than usual. As I kept looking down, with my eyes shut most of the time but occasionally opening, I suddenly realized that I really was high up and looking down on my own body. I think had it not been for the drug, I would have been worried at this, however it didn’t worry me at all and I continued to look at myself with interest but still just enjoying the sensations.

I think at this point I was at about ceiling level and gently drifting about. My eyes were shut and remained shut for most of the time. If I had opened them the conflict would have been too great. I seem to remember that I did open them at times, but that nothing I saw made any sense, so I shut them again. I wanted to tell the others about what I was doing, but I was a little embarrassed about what they would think of me interrupting their conversation, which I could hear if I listened. So I kept silent, or more or less so. I kept looking around me and making slight exclamations and looking terribly excited. I could see only the room and then the outside and the roofs, but I preferred to stay inside the room.

(3) At this point Vicki went out to make some coffee and Kevin said to me “Where are you?” I still didn’t think it at all odd that I could be in one place and yet still in control of the body below and able to speak through it. It was almost like watching a cinema screen and relating the picture to someone who couldn’t see it. I told him where I was and from that time I kept on talking, almost continuously, for the next three hours. The fact that I was talking to Kevin and that I was not alone gave me much more confidence and I was able to go on from there and see more. At all times I was fully aware of what my body was doing, I was somehow quite able to conceive of being in the two places at once, or rather to be in one place but to still have the knowledge and perception of the body in another.

(4) Soon after I had begun talking I saw the cord. I looked down from where I was and saw, apparently coming from where my tummy should be, a cord. It was not really any colour, but closest to a slightly shiny grayish-white and it was bendy and slowly moving. I had great fun with it because I decided to try and move it. I reached out my hand but found two things. Firstly, if I wanted a hand I could have one, or as many as I liked. Secondly, it wasn’t necessary to have a hand, I could move the cord at will, and had great fun doing it too. I was quite consciously talking all this time but very fast, as I wanted to say so much and tell them every thing I was doing.

I looked harder at the cord and the body and saw that the cord entered my physical body at the neck and there appeared to be no head on the body. I seem to remember that it didn’t look very much like a normal body but then I wasn’t really interested in it so I didn’t look very carefully. I was more conscious of what I was actually like. At this time I was still more or less the shape of my body, or hadn’t yet discovered that I could be anything else. I was made of the same kind of whitish moving stuff that the cord was made of, but a little more dense than the cord and, at this stage, more solid and constant in shape.

(5) I then found that I was moving, not really conscious of whether I was in control or not. I moved up and out and saw below me all the roofs of Oxford. I think I knew even then that they weren’t the roofs that I should have seen were I really there, it seems now that they were merely a symbolic representation of how roofs in general should look, but to me they represented the roofs of St. Hilda’s. On looking down, I could, if I wanted, look through the roof and intervening floors to the room from which I had started, but as I gained confidence I became less reluctant to let go of that sight and move away.

(6) I became aware that I was moving away fairly fast but it wasn’t really clear where I was going, nor did I have any conscious control over it. I didn’t even take much notice of where I was going until I was suddenly aware that I was somewhere in the vicinity of the Mediterranean. I am not sure how I knew this but it seemed quite obvious at the time. I saw below me an island and I thought that it would be good to go and have a look at it. As a consequence of this thought, I found myself closing in on it. All this time I was aware of the music that my body could hear, and again it didn’t at all seem odd to me that I could listen to it, nor did it seem at all difficult to concentrate on so much at once. This could have been a result of the drug as it does seem to make it possible to see and hear so much more at one time than is usual.

As I approached the island I could see its shape, which was almost star shaped with very sharp points, but the shape seemed to be changing all the time and pulsating with the music. I became even more excited and tried to tell the others what I was seeing as I got closer and closer. It was at this point that I discovered what was to be of such importance later on – that I could change shape at will. So far I had been aware that I could produce hands at will, but now I was able to lose my bodily shape altogether and become any shape I wanted. I stretched out over the island and watched it changing shape. Then from being a flat thin shape, I thought my way down in among the trees. For the first time I got a little scared as I thought the cord might get tangled up and broken in the trees: however I soon found that it could pass among or through the trees with no difficulty whatever and that I wouldn’t have to worry about it at all. I was then again a little scared because it was all dark and, as I then described it, treacley, under the trees. Feelings of pleasure and displeasure were very exaggerated and the feeling of being in that thick darkness was intense. However as soon as I discovered that I could move up again at will, I lost the fear and was enjoying going into and out of trees. Another impression I had of the island was that it had one hundred trees. I was really excited by the funny idea of there being exactly that number and kept on talking about it.

(7) I made my first conscious decision to go somewhere else and left the island, but was still unable either to control where I was going or to even bother to try to go somewhere specific. Soon, I saw that I was traveling over Europe. Again I don’t really know how I could tell where it was, but I think in this case the outline from a long way up was very like a map. I thought I went over Italy, Switzerland and then France. There I saw all the people working very, very hard. I was too far up really to see them at all, but I had a very distinct impression of lots of people working and I felt terribly sorry for them. I kept saying “Don’t they realize they don’t have to work?” but at the same time realizing myself that I would have to too, and that I was only being permitted to see that it was possible to live and move by thought alone.

(8) I moved over the sea and immediately wanted to go down to it. I gradually got closer to the sea and to the land too. I tried to get right down to the water and had the rather pleasant experience of being flat again and floating above the water being lifted and buffeted by the waves. In this uncomfortable way I came into a beach and after some difficulty landed on to the sand and looked around. Again I got a little scared because I was down below very high cliffs and I couldn’t see how to get out. Of course as soon as I tried I found that I didn’t have to climb the rocky cliffs but could just be at the top, with apparently no motion, that is with instantaneous movement, there being no time required for it. I continuously kept trying to explain to Kevin and Vicki how I could do it and saying things like “I’m going to go up that cliff, oh, but I don’t have to get up it, I can just be there”, “I’m going to walk over there, oh, but I don’t even have to walk, I can go as fast as I like!” etc. There seemed to be two kinds of movement possible. If I wanted to move to somewhere quite close and of which I had a good mental image, I could be there instantaneously, or in short hops. For longer distances, especially those which I was not directing, I moved very high up but apparently normally, and the speed was more or less beyond my control.

(9) I was still very close to the ground and all the grass and plants were terribly clear, but I decided that I’d try and get back to Oxford. Whether this decision was prompted by fear, interest or a desire to get back into my body, I don’t know. However I was soon back over Oxford and managed to get into the vicinity of the room. My body’s eyes opened and Kevin said “Hello” and I replied “Hello.” “So you’re really here.” “Yes, I’m really here. Hello Vicki” and then “Goodbye.” I had found during this brief return to my body that although I could easily see with my own eyes, what I did see didn’t really make much sense. I had been able to get to a good position in which the two visual fields corresponded for only short periods of time and it required a lot of effort.

(10) So, having ascertained that my body was still accessible, I again left, and this time consciously decided that I’d like to go to somewhere that I had in fact been to with my body, to see if it looked the same. I chose New York for some reason, and very quickly found myself there. All my movements were becoming more deliberate and much faster, even the unintentional movements were now much faster than at the start. It was sunny in New York and I moved, as a large, almost ellipsoid shape over the buildings until I came to the top of 5th Avenue. The thought of what was below me made me shoot down to street level, becoming much smaller. After a short second looking at the cars and people, which I couldn’t see as clearly as I’d have expected, I got really scared. This was the first time I had been really afraid and it was some struggle before I was able to think my way up the buildings and emerge in space again. Between the tall buildings I could move quite easily up and down. If I looked down I would move up and vice-versa. Thus movement at will was a combination of thinking myself hard into the right place and also looking in the right direction. This was really only so for vertical movements. For horizontal movements, as far as I can remember, I had to look in the same direction I wanted to go in.

(11) After New York I had no clear idea of where I wanted to go and I found myself heading, ever faster, for South America. There I amused myself in the childish pastime of using the coastline as a giant slide. The curly bit at the southern tip of the continent was the end of it and from there I shot round the bend and off up into the Atlantic. This was tremendously exciting and I was laughing all the time and telling them all about it. I wanted to do it again and went back and did. Then I headed up towards England again, and got back to Oxford and the room my body was in.

(12) This time I could not get into the body at all, at least not in the usual sense, as I had almost done before. I was only able to hang over it and this time what I could see from this position was very much clearer. I think possibly the confidence I now had allowed me to see this strange scene without either becoming afraid, or not being able to comprehend it and so dropping back in. I could see Vicki and Kevin very clearly, and after looking at the room for some time I got around to looking at myself . What I saw was rather odd. The body was now very clear but not much like me really. It was brownish in colour, but I think I thought it was quite normal at the time. I could very distinctly see the cord, which was now very much thicker, and more solid, but not proportionately to the way it had been before. With interest I looked at my body and, with no apparent effort, this led to my going closer and closer to it. This was, however, a very different feeling to that of coming back into the body. This time I still was very detached from it even though I was so close, in distance, to it. I looked carefully at the jagged edges around the neck, from where the head had apparently been removed and seemed to be like a fly landing gently on the edge. From there it was no big step to move inside and soon I found myself in the curious position of being right inside my own body. It was all varying shades of brown, a little greenish in some places and shaded almost like a drawing. I slowly wandered around inside looking at the outside of the body, it appeared to have no contents whatever, to be just a hollow shell. I went down one of the legs, balanced on the knee joint and then, as if under the influence of gravity, whizzed down the leg into the foot, like going down a slide. I began to be terribly excited and made a lot of noise all this time. The most exciting thing of all was being inside the foot. There I could look into any one of the openings made by the toes and see light streaming in through the window-like toenails. From one foot I scrambled up the leg and slid all the way down to the middle and up the other leg and down to the foot, all in one swoop.

(13) I think it was at this time that I made so much noise that Vicki very loudly had to tell me to be quiet. Her urgent voice made the visual image of an elephant appear low down and to the left of my visual field. It disturbed me somewhat and I had a short struggle with myself. I don’t remember what I said or felt in detail, but soon I found myself again above my body a little above ceiling level I think, and talking to Vicki. I told her to “Take that body away.” I said “I know you don’t like that body, why don’t you send it away, take it down to its own room, I can’t move it, you take it away.” It was always that body and not “my body” or “me”. I could almost see the dislike going across from Vicki’s body to mine as a sort of visible repelling force. Needless to say she did not move it and I lost the will to stay there and try to persuade her to move it.

(14) I simply found myself getting bigger. This was rather a pleasant feeling and I actively helped it along at some stages, As I got bigger I obviously had to incorporate many things in to the area of my body (not physical body!) and the first things to go were Kevin and Vicki. They became a part of my body, still separate entities but within the space occupied by “me.” Then the whole of the room and the buildings and, as I got still bigger, I began to sink into the Earth. The part of me that was still above the Earth felt quite as before but below I felt slightly cold and a strange sensation that I suppose felt like being in the same place as Earth, that is being between closely packed particles but still a coherent entity.

I became larger than the whole Earth quite quickly and had the wonderful experience of being able to look at the Earth from being all round it. That is, I could see all sides of it at once in spite of its being spherical. This is obviously a little difficult to explain but it was just a question of my whole consciousness being around the Earth and so able to see all parts of it with that consciousness. I didn’t stop there, I got bigger and bigger and incorporated the moon. This was yet another strange experience, having the Earth at my centre was not too hard to understand, but having an object in a position inside me that was not symmetrical was a little harder to comprehend, at least I don’t suppose it was then, but it is harder to form a picture of now. From there I expanded through the planets of the whole solar system, I wasn’t particularly aware of where or which one they were. Then came our whole galaxy and, as I was moving and expanding faster and faster, I had soon enveloped many other galaxies. I cannot remember at all how many there were, or even what order of number, but there were very many. With distance out their density decreased and towards the outside of the universe, as I presumed it to be, there were very few with large distances between them and so I went on expanding.

Finally I reached what I took to be the limit of the universe, however silly that sounds now! It is rather hard to explain this edge. It was as if I was traveling at the speed of light and could travel no faster and so was static in the sense of not accelerating. But in spite of moving at that speed, I was getting no bigger, nor moving. It seemed that nothing could possibly get outside of where I was. If I reached out one of the “arms” that I had been able to create at will, it simply did not appear. It felt there all right, but just could not be outside of that boundary. The whole feeling of the situation was as if it were a sphere in four dimensions, time having somehow totally changed in concept. It seemed to me to be a very sensible picture of the state of the universe and I wasn’t at all worried about the implications of a universe expanding at the speed of light and yet not getting any bigger.

(15) Kevin had become a little worried by this time and was talking to me and asked me if I could see anything beyond this end. I tried to see if I could. Obviously there could be nothing actually outside that boundary in spatial terms but I found I could look into a whole new field of reference. I would like to call it another dimension, but it was more like a whole new set of dimensions, possibly being reached, as it were, by going along in one new dimension. What I can describe now is not really a picture in three dimensions, but that is the only way in which I can describe it. It was like two white and very shining cliffs above me with an opening between them which seemed to lead up to a kind of sky, but not the sort of sky that goes on forever, just sky. It was a real struggle to get up those cliffs, like fighting against something intangible, almost like swimming against a current, always achieving a little and then slipping back and only just hanging on. I got a very, very brief glimpse out of the top. What I “saw” was again indescribable in three dimensional terms, but was like either hundreds of eyes, or one huge eye, staring at me from every direction at once. Not that it seemed to take any notice of me, it was just a static seeing thing all around. Then I slipped back, Kevin was talking to me all this time, trying to make me come back again and he began to succeed. I genuinely wanted to come back and began trying.

(16) I had every confidence that I would in fact be able to come back to my body easily if I so desired, and indeed for a while it was quite easy, I had soon got back into normal orders of size and from there into the room, but there the struggle began. I tried very hard to get down into my body but couldn’t get any nearer to it than about five or six feet above it. The cord was there again. I don’t know what had happened to it before, but I presume that as my body was within me I had no need for any other form of attachment. Now, however, the cord was even in the way. Kevin tried to tell me to coil it up so that I could get nearer but I scorned this idea. I had to struggle to get some sense of time back. I had a sense of a progression of events, but not of time being a necessary part of continuous movement and consequently I found I could not move properly. I had to think my way down in very slow stages, thinking myself at each step into a new position with the cord just a little shorter each time and myself a little closer to the body. After some time I finally achieved the first stage, I was no longer joined by a cord and separate, but was more or less with my body. However all I had achieved was some sort of overlap with the body, I was not outside of it, but was still moving about, totally unstable and just maintaining contact by always overlapping at some point.

(17) I am not at all sure of the separate times taken by each stage, but this last part, of trying to get back, took about 3/4 hour until I could finally control my physical body again. I still had the desire to get back, I think I realized the necessity of it, although I am not really sure if I had any better reason for coming back, it certainly was lonely outside and possibly I wanted to come back to people again. I kept on trying and Kevin kept on encouraging me to come back in.

As I got nearer I was able to open my eyes and briefly saw what corresponded to what I was actually looking at, but that didn’t last because, of course, I followed my thoughts, and as I looked at the ceiling I shot off up to the ceiling again and as I looked down at the floor I found myself sinking into the floor. As the two images ceased to make sense together it was always the physical one which was forgone and only my real self saw. I was still trying very hard, and at times came close to being inside my body, but even though I was getting there sometimes I always went away again, quickly, and it was getting no better. Kevin took my hands and this did some good, until gradually I became a little more stable. It all took so long though that at last I began to give up. I had got terribly tired with all the effort and almost felt that I just wanted to float away again, but with Kevin talking to me and keeping my attention I managed to keep the desire to come back and went on struggling. I got to the state where I was fairly well inside and although I was moving about a lot still, I could more or less see with my eyes alone. I did still move a little towards where I looked but could control my position well enough to keep seeing with my eyes.

(18) For the first time since I began, one of the hardest things to do was to understand that I was only in one place. I told myself out loud, to try to realize that I was only in that one place and that Kevin and Vicki were separate. That if I wanted to move anywhere I would have to make some effort and take the body with me. To look at the corners was a great problem because I could not yet understand the three dimensions and a corner presented more problems to my mind than even trying to force myself to stay within a ceiling and a floor had done. However, it was accomplished, and I finally felt almost at ease with the three-dimensional world and the earthly concept of time.

(19) It was then that I could look at my own body with my own eyes. What I saw was a little different from usual. I could still see the substance of which I had been made before. It was more or less in the right place but did not fit my body at all well. On the other hand the same part of Kevin was exactly the same shape as his body and extended beyond it for about three inches all around. He tried to persuade me to let go of his hand and I tried. With our hands about an inch apart I could see the two etheric bodies joined and the greyish-white substance was flowing very rapidly between the two hands. I could still see it joined when they were about three or even four inches apart but I didn’t dare let go completely even then. When I did finally let go I felt fairly safe but still very afraid that I would move on again. As I moved away from Kevin and then back towards him I realized that I could feel, but not see another body. This was about 18 inches to 2 feet away from him and around Vicki it was about one foot away. I felt all around it with my hands, it seemed to me to feel very solid and it was a very strange sensation to put my hand through it, as I knew I could. Finally I practiced walking about, and although I found it scaring at first, I soon gained confidence and was rapidly back to some kind of normality. Kevin thought it might be dangerous for me to sleep and so he kept me awake for a few more hours. At about 7 a.m. I did sleep a little, but found that I couldn’t get into proper sleep at all.

(20) I had thought that I was back to normal by this time, but in fact it took another two days to do it. During that time I was able to walk around quite all right and to appear reasonably normal to most people, even to go to tutorials, but at any time I found myself drifting up out of myself and I had little power of concentration, and was therefore unable to do any work. I could also go inside Kevin’s body more or less at will. At first it was hollow as my own had been but as time went on it got more solid. First the heart appeared, then all internal organs and finally stringy muscles and I was no longer able to do it.

On Tuesday afternoon I found myself back to normal, quite able to sleep properly and to think normally.

3. Contributor’s Comments on the Experience

This experience changed my life and I have never forgotten it. Reading my own account again, for the first time in many years, was strange. Somehow the words fail to convey how completely real it all seemed at the time. The description of the star-shaped island with one hundred trees sounds fanciful and hallucinatory. Of course I believe it was a hallucination, but the whole long experience had a quality of unforgettable hyper-reality. The visions and places were stable, clear, and vivid, and I could inspect them at leisure or move around them at will. Unlike most drug-induced hallucinations these were not unstable and fleeting; unlike dream images they did not dissolve rapidly into something else. They seemed as real and solid as any perceived world.

Looking back there are a number of things I would like to comment on.

4. The Context

In October 1970 I went up to Oxford to read Physiology and Psychology. I joined many societies and, among them, the Oxford University Society for Psychical Research. As it turned out this society had only one surviving member, Kevin, who contacted me and asked me to run it with him – which I did for the next three years – possibly more because I liked him than because of any deep prior interest in the subject. In that first term we had frequent meetings, with lectures by psychics, training in reading Tarot cards, and long late-night ouija-board sessions – often in my college bedroom. It was after one of these, about a month later, that the experience happened. I wrote the account a few days afterwards while the memory was still fresh and clear.

Several people have asked whether I already knew about astral projection, and in particular about silver cords. The answer is that I did. By then I was becoming seriously interested in psychic phenomena and had begun some reading. I had heard of astral projection and of some Theosophical ideas, although I did not read most of the classics of astral projection until many years later (I keep a record of all the books I read). So it is possible that I saw the cord because I knew that it was expected. In a survey many years later I found that only a few percent of OBErs see such a cord. It is not known whether these people already knew about silver cords before their experience. When I came to write Beyond the Body in 1980-1981 I learned much more about the subject. I now believe that most features of the OBE are explicable in terms of changes in the model of self and perceptual viewpoint, but the silver cord remains unexplained.

5. My Reaction at the Time

As I recall, the experience was quite out of the ordinary. However, memory, especially over thirty years, can be unreliable. People have asked me whether I may have exaggerated the memory to fit with my later theories, or elaborated it over time to make it seem more impressive. From the account written afterwards I know that the details are reasonably accurate, but what about my own reaction and the emotional impact at the time?

From this point of view my diary is interesting. I have kept a diary every day since 1964 and have just now (December 2000) reread the 1970 diary for the first time for many years (probably since 1985 when I was writing The Adventures of a Parapsychologist and reread all my diaries). Most day’s entries mention the lectures I went to, whom I had lunch with, rehearsals, society meetings and worrying about work. November 8th begins “I have the most amazing thing to tell. Really the most fantastic thing that ever happened in my life. I went astral traveling. I was thousands of miles away – not in my body at all.” I described the intense seance during which “we had some very dubious contacts and got a little scared!”, how Kevin, Vicki and I then went up to Vicki’s room, and how helpful Kevin was. I commented that I wanted to write it all down properly as soon as I felt able (which indeed I did). There is no doubt that the experience affected me deeply at the time.

6. The Effect of the Drug

Many, many people have asked me whether the whole experience was a drug-induced hallucination. Some have dismissed it as “not a real OBE” because I was smoking cannabis at the time. I have two reactions to this, one academic and one personal.

Academically I can see no reason for dividing OBEs into ‘real’ and ‘drug-induced’. Many studies show overlap between naturally occurring and drug-induced experiences – whether mystical experiences, religious experiences, or OBEs and NDEs. There may be differences, but there is no clean dividing line. Also, if one were to reject all experiences during which people had taken drugs we would have to reject all the shamanic practices and ritual inductions of OBEs which are so important in the cultures that use them.

Personally I can say this. My diary says “We 3, Kevin, Vicki and I went up to her room to smoke. I don’t think I really got high at all. I started off seeing all these hallucinations. They thought maybe I was tripping I think and after I don’t know how long I realised and Kevin realised that I was Astral traveling. The white shining cord was there and I went all over the world, and out of the world.” (terrible punctuation is in the original)

This could be interpreted in many ways, but it is interesting that I said I did not get high – in other words this was not an ordinary cannabis-smoking experience. As far as I recall the starting point was like vivid hallucinations but then Kevin asked me “Where are you Sue?” and everything changed – becoming absolutely clear and vivid and stable, and not like any drug-induced experience I had ever had.

Finally, I have had much experience with various drugs. I must have smoked cannabis several thousand times in my life. I have never had such an experience before or since. I suspect that the drug helped me to relax and maybe prevented me from panicking and ending the experience. Beyond that I suspect it had little relevance – but of course we shall never know.

7. My Reaction at the Time

At the time I assumed that my astral body had left my physical body. I felt wonderfully blessed to have had the experience, and interpreted it as evidence that the mind, or soul, or astral body can leave the physical and travel in some other world. It also seemed to me to be evidence for the possibility of life after death. However, even at the time I had some sceptical doubts. I remember thinking that the star-shaped island with a hundred trees was more like an idea of an island than like a real island. This led me to develop various theories about the nature of the astral world (it was thought-created, consisted of ‘thought forms’ and so on) but not to go so far as to doubt the existence of the astral world altogether.

The next day I tried to check up on things I had seen and immediately discovered that some were wrong. For example, I had ‘seen’ old metal gutters on the roofs of the college when in the morning I realised that they were modern white plastic ones. I had seemed to travel through rooms above Vicki’s room which were not in fact there, and had seen chimneys which did not exist. This led me to all sorts of sceptical questioning, but more to elaborate my astral theories than to abandon them. For many years I continued to think of my experience as an astral excursion.

8. The Effect on my Life

I do not believe I would ever have become a parapsychologist had I not had this experience. Yes, I was interested in the paranormal before it happened, but parapsychology did not become an abiding passion until this night. Afterwards I knew that there were other non-ordinary states of consciousness – other ways of being – that seemed somehow more real, more right, more direct than ordinary life. This had two effects on me. One I wanted to repeat the experience, and two I wanted to understand it.

As far as understanding is concerned I assumed, initially, that I had to understand the nature of the astral world and astral travel. I knew that my lecturers at Oxford would not countenance such ideas and that science in general rejected them utterly. I assumed that only parapsychology could help and therefore conceived an overwhelming desire to become a parapsychologist and to prove them all wrong. The story of how I set about to do this, and how I ultimately changed my mind, is told in my autobiography In Search of the Light. In 1980 I was invited, by the Society for Psychical Research, to write a book about OBEs (Beyond the Body, Heineman 1982). I learned much more about the subject and developed my own naturalistic, rather than paranormal, theories about the OBE.

For many years after that I carried out further research, including surveys and experiments, on OBEs. By then the term ‘near-death experience’ had appeared in the literature and I worked on NDEs too, talking to many people who had experienced them. I became convinced that nothing leaves the body – realistic, important and life-changing as these experiences can be.

As far as repeating the experience is concerned, I worked very hard for many years to induce it again and never succeeded. Over the years I tried all of the main methods of OBE induction. Some did not work at all for me, such as the Christos Technique, while others gave me some success. Using Monroe’s method of inducing vibrations I was able to have brief OBEs but they were nothing like the experience reported here. Many years later I practised (and indeed still do) staying aware while falling asleep. This can lead to one remaining aware while entering the paralysis of REM sleep – a form of sleep paralysis. In this state it is possible to imagine moving or floating and thus have an OBE. Again my OBEs induced this way were very brief.

I have also taken many drugs. Once or twice I have had brief OBEs when taking LSD, but not with other hallucinogens, amphetamine derivatives (such as ecstasy) or ever again with cannabis. The most effective drug, which I have only had once, was ketamine. Ketamine is an anaesthetic, not often used for adults because of the unpleasant hallucinations it can cause, but sometimes used for particular reasons with children and animals. It is also used as a street drug but then is usually taken orally. I was lucky enough to have a large dose of absolutely pure ketamine, injected under very positive and supportive conditions, with a companion who was especially keen to find out whether it could induce an OBE, as has often been claimed.

Ketamine paralyses the muscles while leaving consciousness more or less intact. I had just the right dose to ensure that I was completely paralysed but still aware. This is not very pleasant. When I was sufficiently paralysed, so that I could not even move my eyes, I seemed to float off with no sense of where my body was. My companion held up various numbers of fingers out of my line of sight and asked me to say how many I saw. I did fairly well at this task but he did not record the results or ensure that I had absolutely no way of seeing them. I then decided to try to visit my home in England and seemed to travel there and saw people cooking in my kitchen. I recorded what I saw, but when I asked them later I learned that they had not been cooking there at the time. In any case the experience was nothing like the spontaneous OBE described here. In particular it did not have that amazing quality of realness and clarity.

9. Meditation

Many years later I began to realise that it was the clarity of awareness that I wished to find again, not the out-of-body experience itself. I began learning meditation in about 1975, but only intermittently. In 1982 I went on my first Zen retreat, and in 1986 I began to practice mindfulness (being in the present moment in daily life) and took up regular daily meditation which I have continued to this day. I have described some of this in In Search of the Light and in various articles. Through this practice I have found that the confusion of ordinary awareness can be dropped, or let go, and clarity is simply there. It is not something to be sought or obtained. I no longer try to have more OBEs.

10. Susan Blackmore Recants Her Prior Conclusions

Susan Blackmore confessed that her prior conclusions about the probability of psi and metaphysical consciousness existing being close to none, were not as conclusive as she thought and that she was NOT justified in ruling out psi after all. Therefore, she has taken an honest “don’t know” stance and left the issue at that.

Articles Science

A Theory Accounting for the Occurrence of All NDEs

A number of theories have been offered to account for the occurrence of near-death experiences (NDEs). The large majority of them suffer from a common problem which is a narrow focus on a single physiological condition. A second problem is that there are good arguments against each of them. For example, a widely quoted theory is that NDEs result from an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain. However, Sherwin Nuland (1994), a surgeon, pointed out that: “When the brain has been starved of oxygen for longer than the critical two to four minutes, its injury becomes irreversible.” (p. 40)

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Theory That Accounts For the Occurrence of All NDEs
  3. The Spirit Mind “Takes Charge”
  4. Support For the Free Will of the Spirit Theory
  5. Questions For Skeptics
  6. References

1. Introduction

There have been many NDEs during which the brain was starved of oxygen for a much longer time than the critical two to four minutes without the near-death experiencers (NDErs) suffering any noticeable brain damage. Another serious short-coming of that theory is that it fails to account for the many NDEs that have occurred when the brain was not being starved of oxygen.

Concerning theories that NDEs are produced by hallucinogenic drugs, Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist, was quoted as saying:

“The difficulty with those theories is that when you create these wonderful states by taking drugs, you’re conscious. In the near-death experience, you are unconscious. One of the things we know about brain function in unconsciousness is that you cannot create images and if you do, you cannot remember them … 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.” (6)

One could advance the theory that whenever any one of the many physiological conditions that have been associated with NDEs is present, the body sends signals to the brain that are perceived in the brain as the body being in great danger, and an NDE occurs. While such a theory includes a wide variety of conditions that are often associated with NDEs, it does not account for NDEs that occur under circumstances in which the body is obviously not in any danger. P.M.H. Atwater (1994), in quoting the results of a survey by the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS), reported that 37 percent of 229 responders to an IANDS questionnaire had their NDEs:

“… in a setting unrelated to anything that could be construed as life threatening.” (p. 90)

The current afterlife theory is based mainly on the belief that NDEs are real. Those who accept that theory are much less concerned about the causes of NDEs than they are about what happens during the NDE and how the lives of many NDErs are transformed in the years following their NDE. A major problem with the afterlife theory is difficulty in providing hard evidence to support it. Critics of the afterlife theory say supporters provide little evidence to support it other than thousands of anecdotal reports of NDEs, which are often referred to as “pseudoscientific” evidence.

Probably the most unusual of all people who have ever had one or more NDEs was Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), a celebrated psychic during most of his adulthood, and who was said to have had about 14,000 NDEs through self-hypnosis. (3) A plausible theory should account for Cayce’s multitude of NDEs, which evidently occurred on demand. A few people have reported having multiple spontaneous NDEs, or perhaps more appropriately, out-of-body experiences (OBEs), seemingly without an underlying cause, and they believed at an early age that everybody had such experiences. Jerry Gross reported that he had multiple spontaneous NDEs as a child and learned to confide only in his grandmother, who also had multiple spontaneous NDEs. (8) Charles Tart was asked by an unidentified young woman to be studied in his sleep lab in order to learn more about her frequent spontaneous NDEs. (13) I’m not aware of a current theory that includes an explanation of the causes of multiple NDEs that occur while the experiencer is undergoing self-hypnosis and frequent spontaneous NDEs, or OBEs, that seemingly occur without a cause.

2. The Theory That Accounts For the Occurrence of All NDEs

A plausible NDE theory should not only include an explanation of what leads to an NDE in some people, it should also include an explanation of why the majority of people do not have an NDE when they are in the same circumstances as those who do have an NDE. An example of such a theory, which is an afterlife theory, is what I call the “Free Will of The Spirit” theory. It is based on the ideas that each of us has a spirit form (soul) with a spirit mind that had free will prior to entering our physical body, it has free will during its stay in our physical body, and it has free will after it departs the body during an NDE, and at some point near death.

In a critique of Susan Blackmore’s “dying brain” theory, i.e., NDEs result from dying brain cells, the unidentified critic stated that:

“What requires an explanation is HOW the spirit interfaces with the body and WHAT causes an interruption or severance of this connection.” (14)

With respect to what causes a severance of the connection between the physical body and the spirit, the free will of the spirit theory leads to the obvious conclusion that the severance is caused by the spirit – it has free will and it can depart the physical body whenever it deems it advisable to do so, for a wide variety of reason, or simply because it chooses to do so.

It is important to note that spirits’ free will does not enable them to choose early in the NDE the type of NDE (heavenly, hellish, combination hellish/heavenly, or neither heavenly nor hellish) that they will have. Certainly, if spirits had such a choice, very few, or none, would choose to have a hellish NDE. Neither can spirits choose such things as whether or not they will go through a tunnel toward a bright light, meet certain beings, have a life review, hear beautiful music, see sparkling cities, and visit beautiful meadows during the NDE. How, or by whom, aspects of the NDE such as these are determined is another missing piece of the NDE puzzle.

With respect to how the spirit interfaces with the body, the physical brain and the spirit mind evidently interface in such a way that whatever the physical brain experiences, learns, and feels, the spirit mind also does those things because once the spirit separates from the physical body, NDErs report that the spirit mind functions much as the physical brain functioned prior to the NDE. The reports of NDErs indicate the spirit mind possesses the same knowledge the physical brain possesses (but it sometimes gains much new knowledge during the NDE), the same personality – including a sense of humor, feelings of anger, fear, and love, an inclination to argue, and a desire for adventure. Tom Sawyer stated that during his NDE, he had all of his five senses, which were heightened, and all of his personality characteristics. (12) Other NDErs have concurred on these points.

3. The Spirit Mind “Takes Charge”

Most people believe that spirits never go OBE while the body is living and then depart exactly at the right moment prior to actual death. While the majority of spirits evidently do that, the reports of thousands of NDErs indicate that isn’t the case with many others. As indicated above, some spirits choose to go OBE only once prior to actual death–resulting in only one NDE. A few others choose to go OBE a few times before death – resulting in an equal number of NDEs. Very few choose to depart dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times prior to actual death — as did Jerry Gross‘, the unidentified student’s, and Edgar Cayce’s, all of whom were mentioned above.

A spirit may choose to depart the body for various reasons and under a wide variety of circumstances, such as, when the physical brain is experiencing extreme fear, when the spirit mind senses the physical body is in a life-threatening situation from an impending accident, or immediately after the accident and severe injuries have occurred to the physical body, when drugs such as ketamine and LSD are being used, whenever the brain is being starved of oxygen under any circumstance (such as loss of blood, smoke inhalation, and near drowning), when the brain is undergoing electrical stimulation, preceding seizures, during moments of sexual and religious ecstasy, when it is being coaxed in some way (as it might be during self-hypnosis and meditation), or for other reasons.

As their OBE is getting underway, many NDErs reported they were very surprised upon realizing they were OBE and the body below them was their own. Some also reported they were very surprised when they realized the severe pain they had been feeling prior to the NDE was gone and had been replaced with a feeling of well-being, peace, and contentment. Some reported they couldn’t understand why they were unable to communicate with medical personnel who were working frantically on their body to save their life. Many reported they were also surprised when they realized their concept of time no longer existed. Surprises such as these are good indications the spirit mind had assumed control, or had superseded the consciousness of the physical brain, prior to or at the beginning of the NDE.

Probably the most convincing evidence that the spirit mind has superseded the physical brain can be found in the unexpected movements of NDErs during the early part of their NDE. Many NDErs have reported movements such as these:

“Suddenly, and without warning, I found myself floating above the light fixture near the ceiling.”

“I found myself out in the waiting room and my parents were there.”

“Then I found myself outside the building.”

“I felt myself moving toward a small white light in the distance and I somehow knew that was my destination.”

If we don’t accept realistic reports of unexpected movements such as these as evidence there is a spirit mind, and it has superseded the conscious mind (but the conscious mind is a willing partner), then we find ourselves in the position of needing to explain how the large majority of NDErs are in almost total agreement in relating such movements and thoughts during the early stages of their NDE.

Although the physical brain and the spirit mind interface in such a way that they almost work as one, the memory of the physical brain occasionally comes to the forefront. For example, many NDErs reported that upon first seeing a light being they identified as God, the light emanating from Him was brighter than one can imagine, or describe, and they had concern that such a bright light would severely damage their eyes. They either soon realized that, in their spirit form, they didn’t have physical eyes, or they quickly found that the extremely bright light did not cause “eye” problems. Thoughts such as these are indications that the memory of the physical brain is present during the NDE.

Soon after reaching heaven, many NDErs think:

“I’m home! I know I’ve been here before. This is where I belong, and I never want to leave!”

The spirit mind is surely the only type of consciousness that can make such claims.

4. Support For the Free Will of the Spirit Theory

Edgar Cayce, through one or more of his thousands of NDEs, learned that:

“Souls were given the power of free will so that they would not remain simply a part of the individuality of God.” (3)

Some NDErs offered support for Cayce’s belief in telling about their sojourn to heaven. While there they learned that spirits they met in heaven had free will, and one way the spirits exercised their free will was by choosing the parents of the child whose embryo, or fetus, they would enter. (Williams, p. 112) The NDErs also found out they had free will while engaging in instantaneous telepathic communication with beings they met in heaven. Some reported they were given the choice of staying in heaven or returning to their physical body. David Oakford was strongly encouraged to return to his body but he wanted to stay in heaven. He was finally allowed to choose, and he said it:

“… was really the hardest decision I would ever have to make … Without the free will to return, I would not be here doing what I am doing.” (11)

There are many other NDE reports that indicate the spirits of NDErs had free will and they exercised it. Most of those reports involved heavenly NDEs. Cecil, age 10, said:

“I had the feeling that if I went with them (three beings) there would be no coming back ….”

He exercised his free will and chose not to accompany them. Another being then asked him:

“Why do you hesitate?”

Cecil replied, “Well, there’s some things I want to know first.” (4)

David Goines, at age 13, reported:

“… [the light being’s] hands stretched out to me and a voice said, ‘Will you come unto me?’ I said, ‘No, I still have many things I must do.'” (7)

Jeanie Dicus reported:

“He (Jesus) kind of grinned, I guess I was amusing him, and he answered, ‘You want to be reincarnated?’ ‘Hey, give me a break,’ I yelled (only I made no sound). ‘I just died. Don’t I get a chance to rest?’ [Jesus said], ‘Take it easy, hold on, it’s alright. You can change your mind at any time.'” (5)

Rene Turner was told that her time to die had come, but she was so concerned about who would care for her seven-month-old child that she resisted the beings who gave her that news. She expressed her strong desire to return to her body, but the beings persisted. She reported that:

“Finally, my hysteria (caused by her dilemma) was calmed by a higher spirit who seemed to envelop me in love. My guides were instructed to allow me to return.” (Williams, p. 43)

Reports such as these reflect the spirits of NDErs did have free will in that they had many opportunities to make choices. They not only felt free in making choices, when they met with resistance, they sometimes argued to get their way, and sometimes they got it.

Melvin Morse (1990) stated that he:

“… reexamined a generation of scientific research into higher brain function and … found that the soul (spirit) hypothesis explains many “unexplained” events. It explains out-of-body experiences, the sensation of leaving the body and accurately describing details outside of the body’s field of view. Events … (that) are virtually impossible to explain if we do not believe in a consciousness separate from our bodies that could be called a soul.” (p. 258)

For those who accept “pseudoscientific” evidence, such as the above, the free will of the spirit theory enables us to answer questions such as these:

(1) Why do some people have one or more NDEs and others have none?

(2) Why do some things “trigger” an NDE in some people and not in others?

(3) Why do a few people have many spontaneous NDEs?

(4) Why do NDEs occur under such a wide variety of conditions?

(5) How can NDErs claim to have traveled to nearby and far away places and telepathically communicated with other beings in some of those places?

(6) How can NDErs gain information during an NDE (that later turns out to be true) that they could not have gained any other way?

(7) Why do some NDErs, upon reaching heaven, feel they have been there before and have come back home?

5. Questions For Skeptics

It is easy for those who reject thousands of anecdotal reports, such as those above, to assert that NDEs aren’t real and then feel their belief relieves them of the responsibility of having to consider pertinent questions related to NDEs. However, the descriptions of NDEs, by both adults and children, are now so numerous, so consistent in so many respects, and so compelling that they can no longer be casually dismissed. Those who embrace a physiological, or other non-afterlife theory, need to explain how their favorite theory helps to answer questions such as these:

(1) How can NDErs form much more vivid images during an NDE when the physical brain is believed to be unconscious than are formed during consciousness?

(2) During the early stages of an NDE, most NDErs see their physical body in the exact position and circumstances in which it actually is during their NDE: lying in a bed, under water, in a wrecked vehicle, being loaded into and transported in an ambulance, undergoing surgery, etc.? What is the explanation for that?

(3) Why do many NDErs report that, upon reaching what they believe to be heaven, they have the feeling they have been there before and have come back home?

(4) One would expect many adults and children NDErs to be either in great awe or fear upon meeting beings that they are certain are God and Jesus (or other major religious figures). Very few adults and children have reported that to be the case. Instead of being in awe or fear, the large majority of NDErs reported they felt overwhelming love in the presence of those beings. Furthermore, an examination of their NDE reports showed their telepathic communications with those awesome beings to be very normal or ordinary. How can these things be explained?

(5) Why is it that a large majority of NDEs, including those of atheists and other non-believers, involve common afterlife beings, places, and events, such as God, Jesus, deceased relatives, heaven, hell, and reincarnation?

(6) Decades after having an NDE, many NDErs remember it as clearly as if it “happened yesterday.” How can that be explained?

Those who believe the growing mountain of “pseudoscientific” evidence is not convincing, and believe NDEs are not real, are also asked to provide an answer to this question:

What kind of consciousness has a motive and the ability to create in the spirit mind extremely vivid but phony images that are so realistic that the human brain later perceives the phony images to be so real that major life-changes are made by NDErs because of those images?

Surely, neither the physical brain nor the spirit mind has anything to gain from creating such realistic, very vivid and long-lasting phony images. Neither does the devil – if there is such a being.

6. References

(1) Atwater, P.M.H. (1994), Beyond the Light, New York, Avon

(2) Benedict, Mellen-Thomas

(3) Cayce, Edgar

(4) Cecil’s NDE

(5) Dicus, Jeanie

(6) Fenwick, Peter

(7) Goines, David

(8) Gross, Jerry

(9) Morse, Melvin (1990). Closer to the Light, Boston, G.K. Hall.

(10) Nuland, Sherwin (1994) How We Die, New York, Knopf.

(11) Oakford, David

(12) Sawyer, Tom

(13) Tart, Charles

(14) Unidentified Critic

(15) Williams, Kevin (2002), Nothing Better Than Death, Xlibris.

Articles Science

It’s Time for Volunteer “Flatliner” Near-Death Experiments!

QUESTION:  Is there any research that has been done where a human becomes clinically dead and is then brought back to life?

KEVIN WILLIAMS:  I will assume you are referring to so-called “Flatliner” experiments of the kind seen in the excellent movie “Flatliners” with Kiefer Sutherland. By the way, Kiefer’s father (Donald Sutherland) had an actual NDE which I describe in my Hollywood NDE page. “Flatliner” experiments are not going on as far as I know, but there are medical procedures and studies which come very close. Here is a list:

(1)  Doctors routinely do “electrophysiological heart stress tests” which involves the insertion of a catheter into a patient’s heart to deliberately induce ventricular arrhythmias. I saw a documentary by Tom Harpur called “Life After Death” where this procedure was taped. The woman went into a heart arrhythmia and lost consciousness. If I remember correctly, the woman was interviewed and had an out-of-body experience. But such heart patients are probably not volunteering for the procedure although they may have an option not to have it done.

(2)  Doctors do a rare surgical procedure for removing basilar artery aneurysms in the brain called “hypothermic cardiac arrest” where a flatline condition is induced. In cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom’s book entitled “Light and Death,” he included a detailed medical analysis of a woman named Pam Reynolds who underwent this procedure and had an amazing near-death experience. This operation required the following:

a. Pam’s body temperature be lowered to 60 degrees
b. Her heartbeat and breathing stopped
c. Her brain waves flattened
d. The blood drained from her head

For all practical purposes, the doctors put her to death. After removing the aneurysm, she was successfully resuscitated. During the time that she was in “standstill,” she experienced an NDE and remarkably detailed veridical out-of-body observations during her surgery which were later verified to be very accurate. This case is considered to be one of the strongest cases of evidence of veridical perception in NDE research because of her ability to describe the unique surgical instruments and procedures used and her ability to describe in detail these events while she was in clinical and brain death.

(3)  Test pilots are routinely subjected to extreme gravitational forces in a giant centrifuge to simulate the extreme conditions that can occur during aerial combat maneuvering. Under extreme g-forces, fighter pilots lose consciousness and have a near-death experience. Dr. James E. Whinnery is the researcher who wrote a technical report for the National Institute for Discovery Science about this phenomenon and in doing so proved the NDE to be a real phenomenon.

(4)  An initiation ritual performed by Native American Indians during the 1800’s to induce an NDE is performed today by people who are into “body suspension.” According to the Suspensions and Tensions website, the Indian ritual, called “O-Kee-Pa” involved the young male initiate to be: “suspended by either set of piercings from the roof of a lodge. In extreme pain, followed by trance, the young men were hung up for about twenty minutes to seek communion with The Great White Spirit. Legend has it that initiates traveled out of their bodies in this state and were guided through unseen worlds by their Ka-See-Ka who knew the way. The O-Kee-Pa journey was like a canoe trip on a tricky river: the initiate submitted and just rode in the canoe while the Ka-See-Ka steered it to appropriate vistas and to avoid rocks. Through the years, neighboring tribes, especially the Arikara and Minnetaree, were exposed to the Mandan ritual and developed their own piercing rites, often more severe …”

It appears that the Native Americans understood the value of having young men experience an NDE. And there are organizations of people today who actually perform this ritual. See Fakir’s Body Play website. Personally, I think that if there was a safe method to induce NDEs in people, our society would benefit greatly by giving everyone over the age of 18 an option of undergoing an induced NDE. Think of the possibilities. Perhaps such a thing will be done in the future. Perhaps that would be a great way to speed up the evolutionary development of the human race.

Accurate movie reenactments of the O-Kee-Pa ritual can be seen in the Richard Harris films A Man Called Horse and Return of the Man Called Horse. A documentary film of a real modern day O-Kee-Pa style suspension can be seen in the film Dances Sacred and Profane shot in Wyoming with Jim Ward and Fakir as initiates. When this film was released on videotape it was called Bizarre Rituals.

I read a news article a few months ago where someone was advocating an alternative to the death penalty for convicted murderers (For the sake of this article I will refer to them as “convicts”.) Instead of executing them, they could instead be given the option to be subjected to a safe “flatliner procedure” where an NDE would be induced. While the convict was in flatline, they might be told, “It’s not your time to die” or “You have not completed your mission in life and must return” (as practically all NDErs are told) then the convict would have to be set free and closely monitored. A result such as this would suggest the “convict may be innocent after all. If the convict could not be revived from flatline, it would indicate it was indeed time for the convict to die which may suggest him/her may have been guilty. In a vulgar way of putting it, this alternative to the death penalty is similar to the soldier’s platitude of: “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

But this alternative would benefit not only the convict, but science and society in general. The benefits to the convict is experiencing the aftereffects of having an NDE some of which are: having an encounter with a “higher consciousness” or “God” and that it implies, being imbued with a greater love for all humanity, transforming from a religious person to a more spiritual one, learning how death is not the blessed “end of everything” and that we are indeed held accountable for all our actions and thoughts, etc.

The benefits to science would be enormous. Before the murderer would be induced into flatline, a secret message(s) could be installed in the area where the flatline condition would be induced. This message would be placed where it could only be read by a person who is floating out of their body and observing themselves near the ceiling as many NDEs involve. While the convict is in flatline and if they are able to read this secret message and reveal to those performing the procedure what this secret message is, this result is nothing short of proving that consciousness can exist separate from the body. It would be highly suggestive of a reality where life continues after death in some afterlife state. And if these same results occurred by subjecting many such convicts, then materialistic scientists would have to admit to a reality where consciousness can separate from the body under strict laboratory conditions repeatedly satisfying the scientific method. As a matter of fact, such experiments are currently underway involving patients in an emergency environment having spontaneous cardiac arrest and not convicted criminals.

Society would greatly benefit from this alternative as well. It would be the ultimate type of criminal rehabilitation giving such “condemned” convicts the type of reform society has largely been unsuccessful in achieving. However, I am sure this alternative to the death penalty will not be permitted in society any time soon because of the ethical issues it raises and how it “flies in the face” of efforts currently underway to abolish the death penalty altogether.

But I hope medical science will be brave enough someday to allow volunteers to safely undergo such flatline experiments to induce NDEs for the sake of scientific study. Perhaps in the future, bringing people back from death will be a far more safer and effective procedure as it is done today. Nevertheless, I envision a future where volunteers would be permitted to undergo such flatline experiments for the sake of science. Such volunteers would be the equivalent to the American Gemini astronauts who first went into space. If and when that day comes, and scientists begin looking for volunteers, I will try to be the first one on the list to volunteer. The final frontier is not space; it is death and the possibility of an afterlife journey beyond it. Beam me back up Scotty!

Links to Experiments Involving Out-of-Body Experiences

  1. Dr. Charles Tart’s successful verification of out-of-body perception in a test subject:
  2. Experiences of the drug ketamine inducing out-of-body experiences:
  3. Dr. Timothy Leary’s LSD research inducing out-of-body experiences:
  4. Contemporary O-Kee-Pa suspension (body modification):
  5. Wikipedia article on contemporary body suspension:
Experiences Out-of-Body

Sylvan Muldoon’s Astral Projection Research

Astral projection is closely related to the out-of-body experience (OBE), near-death experience (NDE), lucid dreaming, and even remote viewing. The difference between them is that astral projection is a consciously induced OBE. Such OBEs provide an excellent argument when it comes to evidence for the survival of consciousness. Some astral projections and OBEs are termed “veridical” (verified) where the experiencer accurately describes events and conversations from an observation point-of-view removed from normal observation — sometimes far removed. Such veridical OBEs cannot be explained in conventional physiological terms (e.g., as a relatively infrequent neurological phenomenon) or in conventional psychological terms (e.g., as a dissociative hallucination). They also cannot be explained in terms of ordinary ESP or mental telepathy. For these reasons the most plausible remaining explanation, and according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution, could arguably to be that mental activity can occur “non-local” to one’s body. This means that such non-local mental states are distinct from bodily states; and, according to the survival hypothesis, one’s characteristic mental activity can continue in the absence of corresponding bodily activity, even after bodily death.

Table of Contents

  1. Scientific Evidence Supporting the Reality of Astral Projection and OBEs
  2. Evidence from Lucid Dreams Supporting the Reality of an Astral World
  3. Sylvan Muldoon’s Astral Explorations Are Similar to NDEs
  4. Sylvan Muldoon’s Method of Conscious Astral Projection
  5. Observations by Sylvan Muldoon While Consciously Astral Projecting
  6. Contemporary Studies of Out-of-Body Experiences
  7. The Various Types of Induction Methods for Astral Projection
    a. Astral Projection Induced by Mental Stimulus
    b. Astral Projection Induced by Mechanical Stimulus
    c. Astral Projection Induced by Chemical Stimulus
  8. A Brief History of Astral Travel

1. Scientific Evidence Supporting the Reality of Astral Projection and OBEs

Concepts found in interpretations of quantum mechanics and the philosophy of mind supports the phenomena of astral projection and OBEs. The rigorous mathematical support for parallel universes and the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics also supports the multidimensional phenomena of astral projection and OBEs. String theory, and its corresponding M-theory and Holographic Principle, is an attempt to create a “Theory of Everything” – a theory unifying all the physical forces in nature – states that there are 11 dimensions of which 7 of these dimensions are “curled up” into an extremely tiny ball which curled up just after the Big Bang. The concept of parallel universes suggests it is possible for the so-called “astral plane” – which is currently undetectable to modern scientific tools – to exist in these mathematically supported other dimensions.

According to string theory, everything (including atomic particles) are made up of strings which are vibrational in nature. Those who have experienced astral projection, OBEs and NDEs, have described how they feel enormous vibrations and “popping” or “clicking” sounds when detaching themselves from their physical body. It is this increased level of vibrations which allows experiencers to access these higher dimensions. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity mathematically describes how time slows down as a person is traveling closer and closer to the speed of light. At the speed of light, time actually stops altogether. The realms of the OBE and NDE have been described as dimensions of the mind, in the same way the dream world has been described. In these realms, travel has been described as instantaneous – that is – the moment an experiencer thinks of a location, they are instantly there. These realms have been described as timeless realms where time no longer exists as we know it in the physical world such as found in OBEs and NDEs. A few seconds in these dimensions can feel like an eternity because there is no measure of time there. Read a more detailed description of how science supports astral projections, OBEs, and NDEs at the Scientific Evidence of the Afterlife Page.

2. Evidence from Lucid Dreams Supporting the Reality of an Astral World

The realm of lucid or vivid dreams is a realm of objective experience where social contacts have been made between conscious personalities in the form of veridical dreams. Two of the best examples of veridical dreams, that I am aware of, is the veridical dream case of Sylvia Claire and a case described in a study by Japanese researcher Watanabe Tsuneo in a March 2003 paper entitled, “Lucid Dreaming: Its Experimental Proof and Psychological Conditions” in the Journal of International Society of Life Information Science (Japan) 21 (1): 159–162. In Tsuneo’s study, four selected test subjects were able to signal while they were lucid dreaming of particular dream actions having observable concomitants which were performed in accordance with a pre-sleep agreement. The conclusion emerging from such cases is that a dream world (or astral world) which is invisible to the five senses of the physical body, does in fact exist.

NDEs are identical to accidental astral projections when the NDE is spontaneous and accidently triggered. Accidental astral projections have been described in veridical dreams as well. A classic example of a dream projection was reported to the Society of Psychical Research. In 1863, Mr. Wilmot of Bridgeport, Connecticut described a veridical dream involving his wife:

“I sailed from Liverpool for New York, on the steamer City of Limerick … On the evening of the second day out … a severe storm began which lasted for nine days … Upon the night of the eighth day … for the first time I enjoyed refreshing sleep. Toward morning I dreamed that I saw my wife, whom I had left in the U.S., come to the door of the stateroom, clad in her night dress. At the door she seemed to discover that I was not the only occupant in the room, hesitated a little, then advanced to my side, stooped down and kissed me, and quietly withdrew.

“Upon waking I was surprised to see my fellow passenger … leaning upon his elbow and looking fixedly at me. He said at length:

“‘You’re a pretty fellow to have a lady come and visit you this way.’

“I pressed him for an explanation, and he related what he had seen while wide awake, lying on his berth. It exactly corresponded with my dream.

“The day after landing I went to Watertown, Connecticut, where my children and my wife were … visiting her parents. Almost her first question when we were back alone was:

“‘Did you receive a visit from me a week ago Tuesday?’

“‘It would be impossible,’ I said. ‘Tell me what makes you think so.’

“My wife then told me that on account of the severity of the weather … she had been extremely anxious about me. On the night mentioned above she had lain awake a long time thinking about me, and about four o’clock in the morning it seemed to her that she went out to seek me … She came at length … to my stateroom.

“She said, ‘Tell me, do they ever have staterooms like the one I saw, where the upper berth extends further back than the under one? A man was in the upper berth looking right at me, and for a moment I was afraid to go in, but soon I went up to the side of your berth, bent down and kissed you, and embraced you, and then went away.’

“The description given by my wife of the steamship was correct in all particulars, though she had never seen it.”

Astral projection is so often associated with dreaming that many experiencers insist the astral body normally separates from the physical during sleep.

3. Sylvan Muldoon’s Astral Explorations Are Similar to NDEs

Some of the most interesting accounts of astral projection come from Sylvan J. Muldoon (1903-1969) in his classic books Projection of the Astral Body (1929), The Case for Astral Projection (1936) and The Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951). These books contain records of many years of experimenting with astral projection which bears the stamp of authenticity. In the world of astral projection, Muldoon was one of the early pioneers in the field. As an astral projection researcher, Muldoon’s discoveries all started with personal experience. When he was 12 years old, Muldoon attended a spiritualist’s gathering with his mother in Iowa. During one of the nights there, he woke up and found himself looking down on his physical body. He found that a cord connected him with his physical body and thought he may be dead. He traveled around the house trying to wake some members of his family, but had no success. Finally, he was pulled back into his physical body. This was his first astral projection out of hundreds he would later experience.

Dr. Hereward Carrington, the researcher of Muldoon, wrote an introduction to the first book. Muldoon’s accounts of astral travel describes in detail his ability to leave his physical body at will and to retain full consciousness in a subtler “astral” body. He testifies to becoming aware of events and things while in this subtle body of which he had previously no knowledge, and later to be able to verify the facts. These are called “veridical astral projections.” In some instances he describes how his subtle body can pass through solid physical objects. This phenomenon agrees with NDE testimony (see Dr. Dianne Morrissey’s NDE). Muldoon also gives details about the mechanism of projection which enables others who seek to experiment in astral projection to attempt the same thing.

Sylvan Muldoon has reported having hundreds of such conscious astral projections. He has gathered and published more reports of such projections by other people than has any other investigator. His reports about the astral world are particularly interesting because they are similar in description to NDEs. As an example, Muldoon once wrote:

“There are no words to express the feeling of ‘prodigiousness’ which overwhelms the projector when he becomes perfectly conscious in the purgatory of the dead – sees earthbound phantoms, rides upon the air, sustains himself by thought, passes through material beings and objects (which offer no more resistance than the air itself) and listens to the chatter of those [still physically embodied persons] who suspect not his presence … And yet, for all the marvelous things upon the astral plane, it does feel good to get back into the physical body again and ‘touch!’ If one could only ‘feel’ things in purgatory! That is the ‘hell’ of it, speaking seriously! It is a wonder to me that some of the case-hardened earthbound phantoms, under a super stress of habit or desire to make ‘touchable’ contacts, do not go insane. There is but one cure for his condition, and that is to turn away from the earthly – to ‘will’ to break the stress of habit and desire to make contact with the earthly …”

Muldoon’s comments on earthbound spirits are similar to descriptions of earthbound spirits in NDEs such as the one by Dr. George Ritchie. Muldoon’s description of the strong desire to “touch” things in the astral world, corresponds with statements made by Dr. Dianne Morrissey during her NDE where she returns to life because of a profound desire to “touch” things once again.

Muldoon continues:

“Everything in the astral plane seems to be governed by thought – by the mind of the projector … As one is in his mind he becomes in reality when he is in the astral body … Most of the time, even before you can complete a thought, you have already attained what you are thinking about … It seems that the mind creates its own environment – yet the environment is real! This condition could not possibly last indefinitely; it is a sort of purgatory wherein one must learn to think correctly.”

Muldoon and Dr. Carrington in their book, Projection of the Astral Body wrote that the astral plane can be reached by dreaming:

“When you are dreaming you are not really in the same world as when you are conscious – in the physical – although the two worlds merge into one another. While dreaming, you really are in the astral plane, and usually your astral body is in the zone of quietude.”

4. Sylvan Muldoon’s Method of Conscious Astral Projection

Many techniques for conscious astral projection involve regaining consciousness within the dream state. However, it is suggested that a person should not engage in conscious astral projection if you often experience great discord within yourself.

One technique is offered by Sylvan Muldoon is described in his book, Projection of the Astral Body:

(a) Develop yourself so that you are enabled to hold consciousness up to the very moment of “rising to sleep.” The best way to do this is to hold some member of the physical body in such a position that it will not be at rest, but will be inclined to fall as you enter sleep.

(b) Construct a dream which will have the action of self predominant. The dream must be of the aviation type, in which you move upward and outward, corresponding to the action of the astral body while projecting. It must be a dream of something which you enjoy doing.

(c) Hold the dream clearly in mind; visualize it as you are rising to sleep; project yourself right into it and go on dreaming.

(d) Through the use of properly applied suggestion, prior to the dream, you will be able to remember yourself in your dream and bring your dream body (i.e., your astral body) to full waking consciousness. This technique may require months of gentle persistence.

5. Observations by Sylvan Muldoon While Consciously Astral Projecting

Muldoon’s book, Projection of the Astral Body, offers a wealth of information based on the hundreds of astral projections he had over a period of many years. In one projection experience, Muldoon found himself in a strange house watching a young lady who happened to be sewing at the time. Six weeks later, by coincidence, he recognized the woman on the streets of the small Wisconsin town where he lived. Upon his approaching her, she was startled to discover that he was able to accurately describe the inside of her home. She eventually became a very close friend of his and participated with him in a number of projection experiments.

By observing his own condition in the astral world, Muldoon was able to develop some interesting hypotheses. For example, he made a number of measurements of the “silver cord” which connects the astral body to the physical body, stating how it varied in thickness from about 1 1/2 inches to about the size of a sewing thread according to the proximity of the astral body to the physical. At a distance of from 8 to 15 feet, the cord reached its minimum width. It was only at this distance that Muldoon was able to exercise complete control over his astral body. He also noticed that his heartbeat and breath seemed to travel from the astral body through the cord to the physical body.

Muldoon also noted that physical disabilities seemed to provide an incentive for projection. Muldoon himself was very frail and sickly during the years when his projections were most pronounced. He hypothesized that the unconscious will – motivated by habits and desires – would otherwise resulted in sleep walking, would led to astral projection for him because of the frailty of his body. For example, if he was thirsty at night, he might discover his astral body travelling to the water pump.

In one instance, it occurred to Muldoon that his heart was beating unusually slow. He visited his doctor who told him his pulse was only 42 beats per minute and gave him a cardiac stimulant to correct the condition. For the next two months while Muldoon took this stimulant, he was unable to induce a projection although he normally averaged at least one astral projection per week. But once he stopped taking the medicine, he was again able to perform astral projections. He also noticed that whenever he experienced intense emotions while astral projecting, it would cause his heart to beat faster. Later in life, as Muldoon’s health improved, his ability to astral project diminished and practically disappeared. Nevertheless, he certainly made the most significant contribution in research involving astral travel his time. Since then, several other people have contributed to astral projection research.

Some researchers have argued that Muldoon’s frailty and sickliness was the result of his numerous astral projections. This is supported by research into the life of Edgar Cayce and his astral projections. Cayce gained national prominence in 1943 after the publication of a high-profile article in the magazine Coronet titled “Miracle Man of Virginia Beach” (see America’s Alternative Religions by Timothy Miller, 1995) In the middle of World War II, Cayce said he could not refuse people who felt they needed his help, and he increased the frequency of his readings to eight per day to try to help those on his ever-growing pile of requests. Cayce’s “Source” informed him that performing so many astral projections would take a toll on his health as it was emotionally draining and often fatigued him. His Source would scold him for attempting too much and that he should limit his workload to just two readings a day or else they would kill him. In the spring of 1944, Edgar began to weaken. While his Source advised him rest, Cayce felt compelled to continue to assist those who called him. Finally, exhaustion overcame him and, like his first reading he had made for himself in 1901, was issued last in September 1944. Cayce’s Source urged him to suspend their activities. When his wife asked Cayce’s Source for how long, the answer was, “Until he recovers or dies.” Cayce almost immediately suffered a stroke and became partially paralyzed. By the end of the year, his friends feared the worst. Edgar was told he would “heal” after the new year, but his family and friends realized his Source was actually announcing his death, which occurred on January 3, 1945.

6. Contemporary Studies of Out-of-Body Experiences

Cases of OBEs were collected by the Italian OBE researcher Dr. Ernesto Bozzano and by Dr. Robert Crookall in the UK. Crookall approached the subject of OBEs from a spiritualistic position, and collected his cases predominantly from spiritualist newspapers. The first extensive scientific study of OBEs was made by Celia Green in 1968. She collected first-hand accounts from a total of 400 subjects to provide a taxonomy of the different types of OBE. In 1981, the Brazilian physician Dr. Waldo Vieira proposed a new field in parapsychology called projectiology in which researchers would study the subjective dynamics of the OBE directly through systematic self-experimentation rather than through verbal testimonies. He also founded The Center of Continued Consciousness which was later renamed to the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC) to promote discussions about the subject.

In 1999, at the 1st International Forum of Consciousness Research in Barcelona, International Academy of Consciousness research practitioners Wagner Alegretti and Nanci Trivellato presented preliminary findings [105] of an online survey about OBEs answered by internet users interested in the subject. Of the first 1,185 respondents, 1,007 (85%) reported having had an OBE. 37% claimed to have had between two and ten OBEs. 5.5% claimed more than 100 such experiences. 45% of those who reported an OBE said they successfully induced at least one OBE by using a specific technique. 62% of participants claiming to have had an OBE also reported having enjoyed nonphysical flight; 40% reported experiencing the phenomenon of self-bilocation (i.e., or “autoscopy” – seeing one’s own physical body whilst outside of the body); and 38% claimed having experienced passing through physical objects such as walls. The most commonly reported sensations experienced in connection with the OBE were falling, floating, repercussions (e.g. myoclonus – the jerking of limbs, jerking awake), sinking, numbness, intracranial sounds, tingling, clairvoyance, oscillation and serenity.

Another reported common sensation related to OBEs is temporary or projective catalepsy, a more common feature of sleep paralysis. The Waterloo Unusual Sleep Experiences Questionnaire revealed a correlation between sleep paralysis and OBEs. The sleep paralysis and OBE correlation was also corroborated by the OBE and Arousal study published in the scholarly journal Neurology by Dr. Kevin Nelson et al (2007). Dr. Nelson is a Professor from the University of Kentucky whose study revealed that people who have OBEs are more likely to suffer from sleep paralysis. Dr. Nelson’s study also revealed a correlation between people who have had an NDE and their above normal experience with REM intrusion. However, in the humble opinion of the webmaster, Kevin Williams, Dr. Nelson is merely “putting the cart before the horse.” People who are more apt to remember their dreams (which REM intrusion does) may also be more apt to remember an NDE. Near-death studies have shown that some people have NDEs but don’t remember them, as was discovered by the late Dr. Maurice Rawlings in his book, To Hell and Back (PDF) Also, Dr. Nelson’s conclusions have been challenged by NDE experts such as Dr. Jeffrey Long and Jan Holden (PDF).

William Buhlman (, an astral projector and author on the subject, has conducted an informative online survey as well. Based on 16,185 responses, for example, he discovered that the most commonly reported phenomena associated with OBEs include: 98% experienced a jolt or jerk awake; 85% experienced sounds such as buzzing, humming or roaring; and 56% experienced vibrations or high energy sensations, to name just a few of the phenomena.

OBE-like experiences have been induced by stimulation of the brain – the posterior part of the right superior temporal gyrus in a patient (download this scholarly paper entitled Visualizing Out-of-Body Experience in the Brain (PDF). The term OBE-like experiences is used to refer to experiences described in such experiments because they either lacked some of the clarity or details of normal OBEs, or were described by subjects who had never experienced an OBE before. Such subjects were therefore not qualified to make claims about the authenticity of the experimentally-induced OBE.

Research by Dr. Olaf Blanke in Switzerland found that it is possible to reliably elicit OBE-like experiences by stimulating regions of the brain called the right temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) which is a region where the temporal lobe and parietal lobe of the brain come together. Blanke has explored the neural basis of OBE-like experiences by showing how they are reliably associated with lesions in the right TPJ region (download the scholarly article by Dr. Blanke entitled Out-Of-Body Experience and Autoscopy of Neurological Origin (PDF). But no such experiences were found by stimulating any other area of the brain suggesting the mental imagery of TPJ stimulation is of one’s own body (download Linking OBE and Self Processing to Mental Own-Body Imagery at the Temporoparietal Junction by Dr. Blanke (PDF). Olaf Blanke’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience has become a well-known laboratory for OBE research.

Dr. Michael Persinger has performed research similar to Olaf Blanke using magnetic stimulation (using the so-called “God Helmet“) applied to the right temporal lobe of the brain and has discovered a telepathic link to OBEs in his laboratory (see also this article.) This area of the brain is known to be involved in visuo-spatial functions, multi-sensory integration and the construction of the sense of the body in space. Persinger found evidence for objective neural differences between periods of remote viewing in two individuals believed to have psychic abilities. Persinger undertook his research on Sean Harribance and Ingo Swann, a renowned remote viewer who has taken part in numerous studies (see this article “The Neuropsychiatry of Paranormal Experiences”). Examination of Harribance revealed enhanced EEG activity within his right parieto-occipital region which is consistent with evidence of early brain trauma in these regions. In a second study, Ingo Swann was asked to draw images of pictures hidden in envelopes in another room. Individuals with no knowledge of the nature of the study rated Swann’s comments and drawings as identical to the remotely viewed stimulus at better than chance levels. Additionally, on trials in which Swann was correct, the duration of electrical activity over the right occipital lobe was longer. An MRI examination found anomalous white brain matter signals focused in the perieto-occipital interface of the right hemisphere that were not expected for his age or history.

The first clinical study of OBEs in the near-death experiences of cardiac arrest patients was by Dr. Pim van Lommel a cardiologist from the Netherlands, and his team (see Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, The Lancet, 2001). Of 344 patients who were successfully resuscitated after suffering cardiac arrest, approximately 18% experienced classic NDEs which included out-of-body experiences. The patients remembered details of their conditions during their cardiac arrest despite being clinically dead with flatlined brain stem activity (see the case of Pam Reynolds). Van Lommel concluded his findings by supporting the theory that consciousness continues despite lack of neuronal activity in the brain. Van Lommel conjectured that continuity of consciousness may be achievable if the brain acted as a receiver for the information generated by memories and consciousness, which existed independently of the brain, just as radio, television and internet information existed independently of the instruments that received it.

In the autumn of 2008, 25 hospitals in the UK and US began participating in a 3-year study called The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) Study which is coordinated by Dr. Sam Parnia and Southampton University. Following up on from the research of Dr. Pim van Lommel in the Netherlands, the study aims to examine the OBEs of 1,500 cardiac arrest patients who had an NDE to determine whether people without a heartbeat or brain activity can have documentable OBEs.

The Monroe Institute has the oldest and most established facility specializing in OBE induction. It is called The Nancy Penn Center. The International Academy of Consciousness (IAC) in southern Portugal features the Projectarium, a spherical structure dedicated exclusively for practice and research on OBEs.

7. The Various Types of Induction Methods for Astral Projection

Astral projection assumes the existence of one or more non-physical realms of existence and an associated astral body beyond the physical. Evidence of an objective reality of an astral realm for projecting is sometimes suggested when people, such as patients during surgery, have an NDE and describe having OBEs in which they see or hear events or objects outside their sensory range – called “veridical NDEs” or “veridical OBEs.” One case which is often cited is the veridical NDE of Pam Reynolds who reported experiencing an OBE during brain surgery and described a surgical instrument she had not seen previously, as well as conversation that occurred while she was under anesthesia and in a state of brain death.

The term “out-of-body experience” was introduced in 1943 by George N. M. Tyrrell in his book Apparitions, and was adopted by researchers such as Celia Green and Robert Monroe as an alternative to spiritualistic terms such as “astral projection,” “soul travel,” or “spirit walking.” Researcher Waldo Vieira described the phenomenon as a projection of consciousness. Astral projection can be induced by: (a) OBE techniques, (b) sensory deprivation, (c) near-death experiences, (d) dissociative and psychedelic drugs, (e) dehydration, (f) extreme stress, (g) dreams, (h) sleep paralysis, (i) electrical stimulation of the brain, and (j) forms of meditation among others.

Mainstream science, which knows little about the phenomenon, currently considers all OBEs to be merely hallucinations despite the growing evidence of (a) veridical astral projections, (b) veridical OBEs, (c) veridical NDEs, (d) veridical deathbed visions, (e) veridical dreams, (f) veridical after-death communications, and (g) veridical apparitions of the dead, all of which suggests a “subtle body(the astral body) exists which can detach itself from the physical body and visit distant locations. Consciously controlled and pre-meditated astral projection methods have been well documented as this article has mentioned.

a. Astral Projection Induced by Mental Stimulus

I. Method 1: Falling Asleep Physically Without Losing Wakefulness

The “Mind Awake, Body Asleep” state is widely suggested as a cause of astral projection. Thomas Edison used such techniques to tackle problems while working on his inventions. He would rest a silver dollar on his head while sitting with a metal bucket in a chair. As he drifted off, the coin would noisily fall into the bucket, restoring some of his alertness. Salvador Dalí was said to use a method similar to Sylvan Muldoon’s method to gain odd visions which inspired his paintings. Deliberately teetering between awake and asleep states is known to cause spontaneous trance episodes such as those by Edgar Cayce. By moving deeper and deeper into relaxation, one eventually encounters a “slipping” feeling if the mind is still alert. This slipping is reported to feel like leaving the physical body.

II. Method 2: Waking Up Mentally But Not Physically

This related technique is typically achieved through the practice of lucid dreaming. Once inside a lucid dream, the dreamer either shifts the subject matter of the dream in an OBE direction or banishes the dream imagery completely, in doing so gaining access to the underlying state of sleep paralysis ideal for visualization of separation from the body.

III. Method 3: Deep Trance, Meditation and Visualization

The types of visualizations vary. Some common imageries used include climbing a rope to “pull out” of one’s body, floating out of one’s body, getting shot out of a cannon, and other similar approaches. This technique is considered hard to use for people who cannot properly relax. One example of such a technique is the popular Golden Dawn “Body of Light” Technique.

b. Astral Projection Induced by Mechanical Stimulus

I. Method 4: Brainwave Synchronization Via Audio/Visual Stimulation

Binaural beats can be used to induce specific brainwave frequencies, notably those predominant in various mind awake/body asleep states. Binaural induction of a “body asleep” 4 Hertz brainwave frequency was observed as effective by The Monroe Institute, and some authors – such as William Buhlman and Robert Bruce – consider binaural beats to be significantly supportive of astral projection initiation when used in conjunction with other techniques. Simultaneous introduction of “mind awake” beta frequencies (detectable in the brains of normal, relaxed awakened individuals) was also observed as helpful. Another popular technology uses sinusoidal wave pulses to achieve similar results, and the drumming accompanying native American religious ceremonies is also believed to have heightened receptivity to “other worlds” through brainwave entrainment mechanisms.[34]

II. Method 5: Magnetic Stimulation of the Brain, as with “the God helmet” developed by Michael Persinger

III. Method 6: Direct Stimulation of the brain’s vestibular cortex

IV. Method 7: Electrical Stimulation of the Brain: particularly the temporoparietal junction as researched by Dr. Olaf Blanke‘s study.

V. Method 8: Sensory Deprivation

The sensory deprivation method attempts to encourage intense disorientation by the removal of space and time references. Flotation tanks or pink noise played through headphones are often employed for this purpose.

VI. Method 9: Sensory Overload: the opposite of sensory deprivation

The subject can for instance be rocked for a long time in a specially designed cradle, or submitted to light forms of torture, to cause the brain to shut itself off from all sensory input. Both conditions tend to cause confusion and this disorientation often permits the subject to experience vivid, ethereal out-of-body experiences.

c. Astral Projection Induced by Chemical Stimulus

I. Method 10: Astral Projection Induced by Hallucinogenic Drugs

There are several types of drugs which can initiate astral projections, primarily the dissociative hallucinogens such as ketamine, dextromethorphan (DM or DXM), and phencyclidine (PCP). It has also been reported under the influence of tryptamine psychedelics including dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from Ayahuasca. The plant Salvia divinorum has been known to produce symptoms in which the user is said to be able to leave his or her body and travel to many places at once. Many users also claim that they feel as if their “soul” falls out of their body.

II. Method 11: Astral Projection Induced by Side Effects of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine has also been known to initiate astral projections, not in itself but through lack of sleep. It has been reported that it felt like the person was talking above and behind them and, being under the influence of the drug, had no idea what was happening.

III. Method 12: Astral Projection Induced by Galantamine

Galantamine is a nootropic that can increase the odds of success when using along with OBE or lucid dream induction techniques.

8. A Brief History of Astral Travel

The idea of astral travel is rooted in worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians were perhaps one of the first cultures to record beliefs about astral projection. Hieroglyphics in tombs display prayers which were to be said over the body of the deceased to guide the spirit on its way. They believed that the soul (or “ba“) was housed in a spirit body (the “ka“) which is an exact replica of the physical body. At death, these etheric bodies gave way to the “sahu” (the true spirit body) which would house the “ba” forever. Egyptians believed the “ka” could leave the body during life. They drew graphics of people sleeping with their “kas” floating above them which is very similar to the modern day descriptions of NDEs.

Tibetan Buddhists believe in the “bardo” body which can leave the physical body, not only at death; but while still alive and able to pass through physical matter. The bardo body can be directed wherever by will. Tibetan Buddhism and their “Tibetan Book of the Dead” (Bardo Thodol), is a description of the bardo realms the bardo body travels through upon death.

Ancient Greeks believed in a “double body,” which housed the soul. Plato believed the soul was freed upon death but could also leave the body during life. and when it did it perceived the physical world as dimly lit.

The Hebrew and Christian Bibles contains references to astral projection:

The Book of Ecclesiastes states:

“Remember him – before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7)

Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians is more generally agreed to refer to the astral planes:

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)

According to classical, medieval and renaissance Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism, and later Rosicrucian and Theosophist thought, the astral body is an intermediate body of light linking the soul to the physical body while the astral plane is an intermediate world of light between heaven and Earth, composed of invisible astral realms which are physically represented by the planets. These astral realms are believed to be populated by angels and spirits. These concepts agree with the cosmology revealed by Edgar Cayce.

Astral bodies, and their associated planes of existence, form an essential part of the esoteric beliefs which deal with astral phenomena. For example, in the Neoplatonism of Plotinus, the body of an individual is a microcosm or self-similar fractal of the universe as a whole. Often these astral bodies and their planes of existence are depicted as a series of concentric circles or nested spheres, with a separate body traversing each realm. The idea of the astral world figured prominently in the work of the 19th century French occultist Eliphas Levi. Afterward, it was adopted and developed further by Theosophy, and used afterwards by other esoteric movements.

Emanuel Swedenborg was one of the first practitioners to write extensively about astral projection.

French philosopher and novelist Honoré de Balzac‘s fictional work “Louis Lambert” suggests he may have had some astral experiences.

There are many 20th century publications on astral projection, including those of Robert Monroe, Oliver Fox, Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington (as previously mentioned), and Yram.

Carl G. Jung, an NDE experiencer, saw the astral journey as a paradigm of “modern man’s search for a soul”, and pictured a collective unconscious memory, driven by archetypal forces and knowable in the symbolic language of dreams and visions. Jung saw this archetypal world as, like the astral plane, an “objective psyche”, extending in the world at large, bridging mind and matter. Jung worked with physicist Wolfgang Pauli in an attempt to correlate quantum mechanics with the astral world.

In his book “Autobiography of a Yogi,” the Indian yogi guru Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952) — himself a NDEr — provides details about the astral planes. Yogananda reveals that nearly all individuals enter the astral planes after death. There they work out the deeds of past karma through astral incarnations, or (if their karma requires) they return to Earthly incarnations for further refinement. Once an individual has attained the meditative state of “Nirvana” in an earthy or astral incarnation, the soul may progress upward to the illumined astral world of Hiranyaloka. After this transitionary stage, the soul may then move upward to the more subtle causal spheres where many incarnations allow them to further refine until final unification.

Astral projection author Robert Bruce describes the astral world as having seven astral planes separated by immensely colored “buffer zones”. These astral planes contain endlessly repeating grid coordinates system grids that are tiled with a single signature pattern which is different for each plane. Higher planes have bright, colorful patterns, whereas lower planes appear far duller. Every detail of these patterns acts as a consistent portal to a different afterlife dimension inside the astral plane, which itself comprises many separate dimensions.

Other notable astral projectionists include William Buhlman, Robert Peterson, Bruce Moen and the former NASA Aeronautical Engineer Albert Taylor have written extensively about their theories and experiences in astral projection.

Dr. Raymond Moody, M.D., although not an astral projectionist, is thought of as “the father of the near-death experience” and has written a very popular book, Life After Life, on the subject of out-of-body travels associated with the dying.

Modern biologists, such as Rupert Sheldrake, influenced by Jungian ideas and by vitalism, have theorized the existence of organizing fields of life called “morphic fields” consisting of memories and drives.

Experiences Out-of-Body

Robert Monroe’s Out-of-Body Experience Research

Robert A. Monroe (1915-1995), was a radio broadcasting executive who became known for his research into altered consciousness and founding The Monroe Institute. His 1971 book, Journeys Out of the Body, is credited with popularizing the term “out-of-body experiences” (OBE). His other books are Far Journeys and Ultimate Journey are equally outstanding. Monroe achieved worldwide recognition as an explorer of human consciousness and the pioneer of out-of-body experiences. His research, beginning in the 1950s, produced evidence that specific sound patterns have identifiable, beneficial effects on our capabilities. For example, certain combinations of frequencies appeared to enhance alertness; others to induce sleep; and still others to evoke expanded states of consciousness. Assisted by specialists in psychology, medicine, biochemistry, psychiatry, electrical engineering, physics, and education, Robert Monroe developed HEMI-SYNC, a patented audio technology using binaural beats that facilitates enhanced performance. He is also notable as one of the founders of the Jefferson Cable Corporation, the first cable company to cover central Virginia.

Monroe had a large number of extensive out-of-body experiences into the astral realm — an out-of-body state unbound by time or death. His testimony of OBE journeys have comforted millions of people who have had such paranormal experiences yet not fully understanding the phenomenon. His OBE journeys began spontaneously and without his will when Monroe would find himself leaving his physical body and traveling via a second body (the astral body) to locations far removed from any physical or spiritual reality he could comprehend. In the ensuing years, Monroe and his group of researchers began working on methods of inducing and controlling OBEs and other forms of consciousness in their laboratory. As an expert in radio technology and in creating patterns of effective sound, Monroe applied his expertise for their OBE research. Monroe as his group of researchers efforts began to produce significant results, and attracted International interest among people from all walks of life. The following is a brief description of his technique:

Robert Monroe’s Technique for Triggering Out-of-Body Experiences

  1. First lie down in a darkened room in a relaxing position.
  2. Loosen your clothing and remove all jewelry.
  3. Enter into a very relaxing state and consciously tell yourself that you will remember everything that happens at this time.
  4. Begin breathing through your half-open mouth.
  5. Concentrate on an object.
  6. When other images start to enter your mind, passively watch them.
  7. Try to clear your mind and observe your field of vision through your closed eyes.
  8. Do nothing more for a while.
  9. Simply look through your closed eyelids at the blackness in front of you.
  10. After a while, you may notice light patterns.
  11. When these cease, a state of such relaxation will happen that you lose all awareness of the body.
  12. You are almost in the state where your only source of stimulation will be your own thoughts.
  13. It is this relaxed and refreshed condition where out-of-body journeys are triggered.
  14. To leave your body, think of yourself getting lighter and of how nice it would be to float upwards.
  15. With sufficient practice Monroe claims that a wide variety of experiences.

The following explanation is courtesy of

There are a wide variety of psychic and spiritual states that can result from leaving the body consciously. The traveler can find him or herself in either formed states (those containing objects) or amorphous states (without a clearly defined shape) when leaving the body in this way.

One type of conscious transition occurs when the traveler simply disconnects the inner spiritual self from the physical body, and moves out and away from the physical body consciously. This disconnection happens frequently in near-death experiences when a person near-death moves a short distance from the physical body and observes it.

This method of slipping out of the body has little excitement associated with it except for any fear aroused in the individual who does not understand what is happening. Robert Monroe described his experience as follows:

“In 1958, without any apparent cause, I began to float out of my physical body. It was not voluntary; I was not attempting any mental feats. It was not during sleep, so I couldn’t dismiss it as simply a dream. I had full, conscious awareness of what was happening, which of course only made it worse. I assumed it was some sort of hallucination caused by something dangerous – a brain tumor, or impending mental illness. Or imminent death.

“It occurred usually when I would lie down or relax for rest or preparatory to sleep – not every time but several times weekly. I would float up a few feet above my body before I became aware of what was happening. Terrified, I would struggle through the air and back into my physical body. Try as I might, I could not prevent it from recurring.” (Monroe, 2-3)

The out-of-body traveler can also move directly into a visualized space that is very much like a dream environment while maintaining continuous awareness of his or her transition into this space. Although the experience involves being in a light sleep, some people have had a very similar experience while awake when the image perceived turns into a three-dimensional space via spiritual travel.

Sometimes the OBE traveler’s transition to formed environments involves dynamic movement and the traveler will enter the environment flying above fields and cities, taking in vast panoramas.

In many cases, the body image of the traveler is more or less identical to the physical body but this is not always the case. A common experience is for the traveler to become a point of consciousness or a unit of awareness with no sense of a body taking up space. Here travelers identify themselves as a pure observer – more like a disembodied set of ears and pair of eyes. Sight and hearing are the two senses that usually dominate during such spiritual travel.

Moving consciously into amorphous states is more difficult to describe. These states are usually areas of intense experience where the dominant reality is that of light, sound, vibration, motion or emotion.

Going from a waking state or semi-waking state into an amorphous state is usually the most dramatic kind of spiritual travel experience. In one type of amorphous transition, the traveler suddenly senses a powerful vibration or sound and is caught up in that energy. This is sometimes accompanied by a feeling of being drawn or propelled by this vibration at tremendous speed through a dark space. This experience seems very similar to the descriptions of the tunnel associated with near-death experiences. Numerous people who came very close to death (no heartbeat or respiration) have near-death experiences where they have described different types of sounds or vibrations which propelled them at seemingly great speed through a dark tunnel or corridor.

Sometimes, there is a feeling of being catapulted out of the body. In these cases, the vibrations usually start at a low pitch and continue gaining in frequency and power until they become almost explosive in their intensity.

In other cases, there is the feeling of the inner sounds or vibrations but not the experience of movement and acceleration. Often, such static experiences involve hearing spiritual music or sounds, and can be quite ecstatic.

The above mentioned inner sounds, along with inner lights, can sometimes act as a means of transition between the waking state and some formed inner world.

This transition involving inner light starts from a waking state, moves initially to an amorphous state of energy and movement, then to a formed state of stability. This stable state is usually a quasi-physical environment.

Sounds occurring during the conscious transitions out of the body are usually very powerful and may result in the obliteration of the body perspective. Monroe discovered that the nerves which inform the person of their body’s weight, size and position in space, seems to largely quit functioning when this sound occurs.

Some of the sounds occurring are of a spiritual or mystical nature rather than transitional sounds carrying the traveler to a different location. These higher spiritual sounds are of a heavenly nature and are ecstatic beyond description. They are aspects of the final destination of spiritual travel rather than a phenomenon involving travel to some other location.

Some sounds a person may encounter include the sounds similar to a speeding train, a loud buzzing, a flute, or sounds of nature like the roar of a waterfall. These sounds or vibrations are of such intensity that they seem to pass right through the body, overpowering the other senses. These are examples of the transition to ego-loss during spiritual travel where the person literally merges with the sound.

This illustrates conscious transitions out of the body which may occur spontaneously. They may occur due to an accident or injury, or as a result of deliberate actions and intentions. The main lesson to be learned here is that there is no loss of consciousness during the transition between the waking state and the spiritual travel; and consciousness survives even after bodily death.