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Reincarnation Research

Dr. Kenneth Ring’s NDE Reincarnation Research

Amber Wells is a former student at the University of Connecticut and wrote a research paper based on her study of the near-death experience for her senior honors thesis under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Ring. Her paper was published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1 (PDF) in the fall of 1993. In her study, 70 percent of the group of near-death experiencers demonstrated belief in reincarnation. In contrast, a Gallup Poll found that only 23 percent of the general population endorse this belief. Previous research has indicated that, following a near-death experience, the group tended to exhibit a significant shift in their beliefs on a wide range of subjects including a general tendency toward an increased openness to the idea of reincarnation. Ms. Wells’ study was designed to examine the factors underlying this belief shift. The following are some excerpts from her study reprinted by permission.

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Reincarnation Beliefs Among NDErs
  3. Interview Data: NDErs’ Belief in Reincarnation
  4. The Nature of Reincarnation
  5. Factors Underlying the Shift Toward Belief in Reincarnation
  6. Discussion
  7. References

1. Abstract

Several researchers have found that near-death experiences (NDEs) tend to increase belief in reincarnation. This study was designed to examine the factors underlying this belief shift. I used a questionnaire to compare the tendency toward belief in reincarnation among NDErs, individuals merely interested in NDEs, and a non-experiencer, non-interest control group. In addition, I interviewed 14 NDErs to gain insight into the factors influencing NDErs’ beliefs. NDErs’ reincarnation belief shift appeared to be due to (a) direct knowledge of reincarnation gained by some NDErs in the NDE itself; (b) knowledge of reincarnation gained through a general psychic awakening following the NDE; or (c) exploration of alternative perceptions of reality following the NDE.

2. Reincarnation Beliefs Among NDErs

Previous research has indicated that following a near-death experience (NDE), experiencers tend to exhibit a significant shift in their beliefs on a wide range of subjects, including an increased acceptance of others, a significantly greater belief in life after death, and a decreased emphasis on material success. These belief changes have also included a general tendency toward an in creased openness to the idea of reincarnation (Gallup and Proctor, 1982; Ring, 1980, 1984, 1992; Sutherland, 1992). It is this belief shift that was the focus of the present study. The question of what precipitates the shift toward belief in reincarnation has not yet been systematically addressed in the literature. In this study, I attempted to answer this question and, additionally, to determine if a consistent picture of the purpose and process of reincarnation would emerge from the accounts of near-death experiencers. Previous researchers such as Kenneth Ring have suggested that near-death experiencers’ increased openness toward the idea of reincarnation may be less a factor of the NDE itself than a result of life changes following the experience:

“Of course, there is no reason why an NDEr’s openness toward reincarnation must stem directly from his NDE. In fact, I am quite convinced that in many cases it is more likely to be a response to an NDEr’s reading and other life experiences following an NDE.” (Ring, 1984, p. 160)

Ring’s study also suggested that belief in or openness to reincarnation among NDErs was often accompanied by a more general endorsement of Eastern religions. This has also been noted in the work of Cherie Sutherland (1992). Other researchers (Twemlow, Gabbard, and Jones, 1982) found a similar shift in religious beliefs among individuals having not near-death experiences but out-of-body experiences. Thus it is possible that the NDE is simply one of many catalysts for an increased openness to reincarnation. In fact, it has been suggested that simply an interest in near-death phenomena can serve as a catalyst for many of the value changes expressed by NDErs, including an increased openness to the idea of reincarnation (K. Ring, personal communication, 1991).

If it is true that the NDE influences individuals’ reincarnation beliefs simply by causing them to consider new religions or spiritual ideas, then one would expect that individuals who exhibited an interest in the NDE would also be prompted to undergo a similar belief shift. If, on the other hand, it is something inherent in the NDE itself that leads individuals to consider the possibility of reincarnation, then one would expect that individuals who were merely interested in such phenomena but who had not experienced it themselves would have reincarnation beliefs that differed significantly from those of near-death experiencers and would instead be similar to those of individuals who have no such interest in NDEs.

In this study, questionnaires were used to determine the reincarnation beliefs of a group of NDErs, a group of subjects who were interested in near-death experiences but had not had an NDE, and also a group of subjects who were chosen to represent the general non-experiencer, non-interest population. Interviews of NDErs were also conducted to gain a deeper insight into the origins and structure of their beliefs concerning reincarnation.

3. Interview Data: NDErs’ Belief in Reincarnation

A review of my interview data revealed that 13 of the 14 NDErs either believed in reincarnation or were at least open to the idea. Seven of the NDErs I interviewed did not believe in reincarnation before their experience, but did believe in it afterwards. Four individuals did not believe in reincarnation before their NDE or afterwards. However, although these respondents did not definitely believe in reincarnation, they were at least open to the possibility. Two individuals had considered reincarnation prior to their NDE, but the experience led them to change the way they looked at it; one subject now believed in reincarnation on more of a collective level rather than as an individual process, and the other came to think about reincarnation more seriously and consider it more in depth following his experience. One subject did not believe in reincarnation before her NDE, and the experience had no effect on her views.

No strong common pattern of beliefs about the process or purpose of reincarnation surfaced in my interviews. However, a few commonalities were seen in some of the respondents’ answers. No one claimed to have gained any direct understanding of the nature or process of reincarnation during his or her NDE. Three of the 14 respondents, however, claimed a “sense” or “perception” during their experience of having lived before. Only one respondent claimed to have had a past lives review, in which she re-experienced events from a past life, during an NDE.

4. The Nature of Reincarnation

In response to the question about the general process of reincarnation, four respondents mentioned one consciousness separating into individual souls to be embodied in matter. One respondent took this idea further, to state that reincarnation takes place more on a collective rather than an individual level. In other words, she felt that a collective energy recycles itself through matter and that our sense of individuality is a product of our present incarnation only. One respondent believed that a higher power created a finite number of individual souls, some of which then are placed in human embodiments in order to learn lessons.

A strong minority of respondents, six of 14, saw individual choice as the initiating force behind the reincarnation process. Three other individuals mentioned karmic patterns or ties to other souls as influencing the reincarnation process.

Eight of 14 subjects mentioned learning or enlightenment as the main purpose underlying reincarnation. One respondent said:

“The spirit needs to embody itself in matter to experience it and learn. There are karmic patterns to learn lessons and to work spirit in matter.”

Another commented, “Life itself is a series of learnings. The lessons are universal, the two most important being truth and forgiveness.”

Ten of 14 interviewees believed it is possible to remember past lives, while two remained unsure and one saw claims of past life remembrances as most likely the result of fantasy.

Eleven of 14 subjects believed in the concept of karma or at least were open to it. Five of the 11, however, qualified their affirmation with further explanation of their beliefs:

“Yes, but not in that sense. We progress at our own rate to reach the light. If you do things that take you away from the light, then you are perpetuating your time here.”

“[I] don’t believe in karma as some people do – that it is pre-destiny. We have karma but we can change it.”

“Karma is misunderstood; it’s not just negative. Everything is karma, even thoughts.”

“Consequences carry over to some degree, but the emphasis is not so much on the physical act, but more on what is going on inside.”

“Definitely, but there are no rights or wrongs – it just is. We all have light and dark and we need to balance them out.”

When asked what goes on during the period between incarnations, seven subjects mentioned learning as the main activity of the soul. Four mentioned resting, rejuvenation, and/or connecting with God, and one subject indicated that individuals are involved in setting up the circumstances of their next life during this time. When asked if one’s personal awareness and sense of personal identity remained intact in the afterlife realm and for how long, two subjects answered affirmatively, one believing that the personality would continue forever and the other unsure as to how long this sense of “self’ would remain.

The majority of respondents, however, eight out of 14, gave more qualified endorsements of this proposition. Here are three examples of their responses:

“Not intact. The inner quality is there, the inner self remains, but the external aspect that may have seemed very strong is dissolved.”

“Individuality wasn’t the same there. I was the same as everybody and everybody was me.”

“Your spirit is always you. You are not the personality that you are on earth. In the other realm you are everything, light is everything.”

Finally, eight of the 14 respondents said that they felt the cycle of reincarnation would eventually come to an end. They indicated that at this point there would be existence as pure spiritual being and/or a merging with God. One respondent said:

“Then you exist as pure spiritual form, as a pure spiritual being.”

Another responded, “You become an integral part of God. When everyone reaches that point it is nirvana.”

Two of 14 subjects indicated that the cycle of reincarnation would probably come to an end for earthly embodiments, but that one would continue to incarnate into other realms or dimensions.

5. Factors Underlying the Shift Toward Belief in Reincarnation

A more definite pattern emerged in the subjects’ responses to the question about which factors led to the change in their reincarnation beliefs. Three causes for changes in beliefs in a direction favorable to reincarnation were mentioned.

One cause for this belief shift, for which I found only limited evidence in this study, is direct knowledge imparted during the NDE itself. Three of my 14 interview subjects claimed to have a “sense” that they had lived before during their NDE. For two of my subjects this factor would qualify as the main event influencing their reincarnation beliefs. One subject, however, had several NDEs and also exhibited a significant psychic awakening, involving direct information concerning reincarnation, following her experiences. She claimed to have had a past-lives review during one NDE, but did not indicate which one. Therefore, I do not know which came first: the direct reincarnation knowledge through her psychic awakening, or the past-lives review. Thus, I do not know for certain which was the influencing factor in her belief shift. However, because her post-NDE experiences were so many, so extensive, and obviously so influential in her beliefs, it is more likely these experiences, rather than her NDE past-lives review, that shaped her beliefs, and she is consequently categorized as such.

The second cause for the reincarnation shift was found in events taking place after the NDErs’ experience that seemed to be part of a general psychic awakening. This general psychic awakening has been documented by other researchers as well (Greyson, 1983; Ring, 1985). Ring presented this idea as his “spiritual catalyst” hypothesis, which implies that NDEs tend to lead to psychic development. For five of the 14 subjects in this study it was this psychic awakening following their NDE, rather than the experience itself, that provided them with direct knowledge of reincarnation. One subject explained:

“Before any of these events, I call mine kind of a two-part event, because I had the NDE in 1979, and then another car accident in 1985 that brought about what I call a kundalini awakening, which is similar to an NDE without the death part of the physical body. So, what happened to me is, before either of these experiences happened I didn’t believe in reincarnation at all … After these experiences what one of the things that happened to me was I started getting memories of my own past lives. A lot of times just spontaneously something would trigger it and I’d get this memory, and I see visions, and then I started getting them of other people’s lives.”

Two other experiencers noted similar phenomena:

“This didn’t come about from the experience but afterwards, since then. [I’ve received] messages, my brother-in-law [deceased] had a message … that his soul would be reincarnated into my sister’s son.”

“I had ongoing experiences after the near-death experience. In that after process I experienced souls. On one occasion it’s like I followed a soul, went through a process with a soul, in how they were reborn, how it came about that they were reborn.”

Finally, as the third source of the reincarnation belief shift, the NDE opened the individual up to greater possibilities in his or her perception of reality. It made them more willing to explore a wider range of spiritual possibilities, including reincarnation. This exploration was manifest in the form of reading, discussions with others, and personal reflection. Six of my 14 subjects fell into this category. One respondent said of her NDE:

“It opened up a dimension that I never really knew existed.”

Another commented: “It [his NDE] didn’t help me conclude anything, it just threw the doors of possibility wide open.”

Still another said: “I didn’t even know what reincarnation was before I had an NDE. It was afterwards that I was led to find out what it was. Some of the things I’m telling you [about reincarnation] came out in other conversations and some in the reading that I’ve done, and some just thoughts I’ve had. And it made total sense to me.”

And finally one woman I interviewed said: “[I] hadn’t given it [reincarnation] much thought before that [her NDE]. I was brought up in a fairly conventional religion – Catholicism. I was not a particularly practicing Catholic at the time, but more or less hadn’t explored much Eastern philosophy. After the experience, I did. I read a great deal of different philosophies, not just Eastern, but all of them, and found that it [reincarnation] was plausible.”

6. Discussion

In this study, 70 percent of the sample of NDErs demonstrated belief in reincarnation. In contrast, a Gallup Poll (Gallup and Proctor, 1982) found that only 23 percent of the general population endorse this belief, while 30 percent of my control group help views favorable to reincarnation. These data confirm the findings of earlier studies with respect to NDErs’ reincarnation beliefs. While I found that the near-death experiencer group exhibited a significantly greater tendency toward belief in reincarnation than my general public sample, I also found that my NDE interest group exhibited beliefs that did not differ significantly from those of the NDErs. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that there is nothing inherent in the near-death experience itself that causes the shift in experiencers’ beliefs about reincarnation.

Additionally, my data failed to reveal any consistent pattern among NDErs’ beliefs about the purpose or process of reincarnation. There were, as I already noted, many similarities, but no one “truth” emerged. Furthermore, the beliefs expressed by the NDErs in my study are not unique; they tended to follow the standard view of reincarnation as expressed in much of the New Age literature. By way of example, the following excerpts taken from Irving S. Cooper’s book, Reincarnation.: A Hope of the World (1979), are representative of this view and are quite similar to many of the statements made by my NDE sample:

“The chief purpose of reincarnation is education. To this end we are born again and again on earth, not because of any external pressure, but because we, as souls, desire to grow.” (p. 14)

“It is a universal process, and prevails not only in the human kingdom but throughout the whole of nature. Whenever we find a living form, the consciousness of that form is also evolving, using temporarily for that purpose the physical form in order that it may gain physical experience.” (p. 19)

“In each incarnation we have a different physical body, a different name, and may have different souls acting as parents, but these changes do not in the slightest imperil our individuality.” (p. 24)

“Reincarnation is not an endless process, and when we have learned the lessons taught in the World-School we return no more to physical incarnation unless we come back of our own accord to act as Teachers of humanity or as Helpers in the glorious plan of evolution.” (p. 47)

With respect to the question of what in fact underlies the reincarnation belief shift, I can offer three possibilities suggested by my data, but which would require further research to verify. First, in some cases, it does seem to be the NDE itself that influences one’s reincarnation views. Although I did not find extensive evidence for this in my study, it has been documented by other researchers (Morse and Perry, 1992; Ring, 1985). In those cases, individuals claimed to have received direct knowledge of reincarnation during the NDE itself. An example of this type of knowledge can be seen in a letter written to Ring by John Robinson:

“It is a matter of personal knowledge from what the Being with whom I spoke during my NDE told me about my older son, that he had had 14 incarnations in female physical bodies previous to the life he has just had.”

Ring has also heard testimony of this kind of direct knowledge in some of his interviews. One NDEr, whose account is recorded in Ring’s audiotape archives, commented:

“My whole life went before me of things I have done and haven’t done, but not just of this one lifetime, but of all the lifetimes. I know for a fact there is reincarnation. This is an absolute. I was shown all those lives and how I had overcome some of the things I had done in other lives. There was still some things to be corrected.”

Another NDEr whose testimony is included in Ring’s audiotape archives gave this account:

“I had a lot of questions, and I wanted to know what they [light beings she encountered in her NDE] were doing – why are you just kind of milling around here? And someone stepped forward … it wasn’t just one … I got information from a number of them … that they were all waiting for reincarnation.”

Additionally, in a case documented by Melvin Morse, a girl who had her NDE when she nearly drowned at the age of 7 reported seeing during her experience two adults waiting to be reborn (Morse, 1983).

Second, some NDErs may gain direct knowledge of reincarnation through other psychic or mystical experiences following their NDE. In this way, the NDE becomes a catalyst for openness to reincarnation through its ability to propel the experiencer into a general psychic awakening.

Finally, for other NDErs their experience serves mainly to spark their interest in various “New Age” phenomena that leads to often extensive outside reading and research. It makes sense that when one becomes open to the idea of life after death, the idea of life after life becomes much more plausible.

The fact that my NDE interest group exhibited reincarnation belief scores so similar to those of my NDE sample can be explained by two hypotheses. First, it is possible that some of my NDE interest subjects may have gained direct knowledge of reincarnation through other psychic or mystical experiences even though they have not had an NDE. Second, my NDE interest group may be very similar to those in my NDE sample who were prompted to explore “New Age” material following their experience. Both groups became interested in the near-death phenomenon, one group through direct experience and the other through unspecified means, and thus were led to explore the concept of reincarnation. My study is limited by the fact that I have no data on the factors influencing the beliefs of the subjects in the NDE interest group.

Future research would be well directed towards determining what it is about an interest in near-death experiences that promotes an openness to reincarnation, or if in fact both the interest in NDEs and openness to reincarnation are the result of some other factor or occurrence. Using a larger, more randomly assigned subject pool would also help to strengthen the findings.

7. References

Atwater, P. M. H. (1988). Coming back to life: The after-effects of the near-death experience New York, NY: Dodd, Mead.

Cooper, I. S. (1979). Reincarnation: A hope of the world. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House.

Flynn, C. P. (1986). After the beyond: Human transformation and the near-death experience Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Gallup, G., Jr., and Proctor, W. (1982). Adventures in immortality: A look beyond the threshold of death. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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

Greyson, B. (1983). Increase in psychic phenomena following near-death experiences (PDF). Theta, 11, 26-29.

Morse, M. L. (1983). A near-death experience in a 7-year-old child. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 137, 959-961.

Morse, M. L., and Perry, P. (1992). Transformed by the light: The powerful effect of near-death experiences on people’s lives. New York, NY: Villard.

Ring, K. (1980). Life at death: A scientific investigation of the near-death experience New York: NY: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan.

Ring, K. (1985). Heading toward omega: In search of the meaning of the near-death experience New York: NY: Morrow.

Ring, K. (1992). The Omega Project- Near-death experiences, UFO encounters, and mind at large New York, NY: Morrow.

Sutherland, Cherie. (1992). Transformed by the light. Life after near-death experiences. New York, NY: Bantam.

Twemlow, S. W., Gabbard, G. 0., and Jones, F. C. (1982). The out-of-body experience: A phenomenological typology based on questionnaire response (PDF). American Journal of Psychiatry, 139, 450-455.

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Reincarnation Research

Dr. Ian Stevenson’s Reincarnation Research

Dr. Ian Stevenson (1918-2007) was a psychiatrist who worked for the University of Virginia School of Medicine for 50 years. He was Chair of the Department of Psychiatry from 1957 to 1967, the Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001, and a Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death. He was also the founder and Director of the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies investigating parapsychological phenomena such as (1) reincarnation, (2) near-death experiences, (3) out-of-body experiences, and (4) altered states of consciousness and psi. He became internationally recognized for his research into reincarnation by discovering evidence suggesting that memories and physical injuries can be transferred from one lifetime to another. He traveled extensively over a period of 40 years, investigating 3,000 cases of children around the world who recalled having past lives. His meticulous research presented evidence that such children had unusual abilities, illnesses, phobias and philias which could not be explained by the environment or heredity.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Dr. Ian Stevenson’s Research
  2. The Five Common Characteristics in Most of Dr. Stevenson’s Study
  3. Birthmarks and Birth Defects Corresponding to Wounds on Deceased Persons
  4. Correspondences Between Wounds and Birthmarks
  5. Cases with Two or More Birthmarks
  6. Examples of Other Correspondences of Detail between Wounds and Birthmarks
  7. Three Examples of Birth Defects
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Articles on Reincarnation by Researchers of the Division of Perceptual Studies

1. Introduction to Dr. Ian Stevenson’s Research

Dr. Stevenson’s reincarnation research began in 1960 when he learned of a case in Sri Lanka where a child reported remembering a past life. He thoroughly questioned the child and the child’s parents, including the people whom the child recalled were his parents from his past life. This led to Dr. Stevenson’s conviction that reincarnation was possibly a reality. That same year, Dr. Stevenson published two articles in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research about this child who remembered having a past life. The more such cases he discovered, the greater became his ambition to scientifically quantify the possibility of reincarnation – one of the world’s greatest mysteries – which had been virtually ignored by science in the past.

In 1982, Dr. Stevenson co-founded the Society for Scientific Exploration. He authored around 300 papers and 14 books on the subject of reincarnation. His 1966 book, “Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation,” became a classic in the annals of reincarnation research. In 2003, Dr. Stevenson published his second book on reincarnation, “European Cases of the Reincarnation Type“. In 1997 he published his major classic: the 2,268-page, two-volume book, “Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects,” which focused mostly on deformities and other anomalies children are born with which cannot be traced back to inheritance, prenatal or perinatal (created during birth) occurrences. This monumental classic contains hundreds of pictures presenting the evidence he discovered. It documents 200 cases of children having memories and birthmarks which corresponded with the lives and wounds of deceased people whom these children recalled as having lived in a past-life. In 1997, Dr. Stevenson published a condensed version of this book for the general public entitled, “Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect.” Dr. Stevenson’s research into reincarnation also became the subject of two important works, “Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives” authored by Tom Shroder (a Washington Post journalist) and “Life Before Life: Children’s Memories of Previous Lives” authored by Dr. Jim B. Tucker (www.jimbtucker.com) a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia. Many people, including skeptics and scholars, agree that the cases presented by Dr. Stevenson offer the best evidence yet for reincarnation.

During his original research into various cases involving children’s memories of past lives, Dr. Stevenson did note with interest the fact that these children frequently bore lasting birthmarks which supposedly related to their murder or the death they suffered in a previous life. Stevenson’s research into birthmarks and congenital defects has such particular importance for the demonstration of reincarnation, since it furnishes objective and graphic proof of reincarnation, superior to the – often fragmentary – memories and reports of the children and adults questioned, which even if verified afterwards cannot be assigned the same value in scientific terms.

In many cases presented by Dr. Stevenson there are also medical documents available as further proof, which are usually compiled after the death of the person. Dr. Stevenson adds that in the cases he researched and “solved” in which birthmarks and deformities were present, he didn’t suppose there was any other apposite explanation than that of reincarnation. Only 30% to 60% of these deformities can be put down to birth defects which related to genetic factors, virus infections or chemical causes (like those found in children damaged by the drug Thalidomide or alcohol). Apart from these demonstrable causes, the medical profession has no other explanation for the other 40% to 70% of cases than that of mere chance. Stevenson has now succeeded in giving us an explanation of why a person is born with these deformities and why they appear precisely in that part of their body and not in another.

2. The Five Common Characteristics in Most of Dr. Stevenson’s Study

Most of the cases, where birthmarks and congenital deformities are present for which no medical explanations exist, have one to five characteristics in common.

  1. In the most unusual scenario, it is possible that someone who believed in reincarnation expressed a wish to be reborn to a couple or one partner of a couple. This is usually because they are convinced that they would be well cared for by those particular people. Such preliminary requests are often expressed by the Tlingit Indians of Alaska and by the Tibetans.
  2. More frequent than this are the occurrences of prophetic dreams. Someone who has died appears to a pregnant or not as yet pregnant woman and tells her that he or she will be reborn to her. Sometimes relatives or friends have dreams like this and will then relate the dream to the mother to be. Dr. Stevenson found these prophetic dreams to be particularly prolific in Burma and among the Indians in Alaska.
  3. In these cultures the body of a newborn child is checked for recognizable marks to establish whether the deceased person they had once known has been reborn to them. This searching for marks of identification is very common among cultures that believe in reincarnation, and especially among the Tlingit Indians and the Igbos of Nigeria. Various tribes of West Africa make marks on the body of the recently deceased in order to be able to identify the person when he or she is reborn.
  4. The most frequently occurring event or common denominator relating to rebirth is probably that of a child remembering a past life. Children usually begin to talk about their memories between the ages of two and four. Such infantile memories gradually dwindle when the child is between four and seven years old. There are of course always some exceptions, such as a child continuing to remember its previous life but not speaking about it for various reasons.

    Most of the children talk about their previous identity with great intensity and feeling. Often they cannot decide for themselves which world is real and which one is not. They often experience a kind of double existence where at times one life is more prominent, and at times the other life takes over. This is why they usually speak of their past life in the present tense saying things like, “I have a husband and two children who live in Jaipur.” Almost all of them are able to tell us about the events leading up to their death.

    Such children tend to consider their previous parents to be their real parents rather than their present ones, and usually express a wish to return to them. When the previous family has been found and details about the person in that past life have come to light, then the origin of the fifth common denominator – the conspicuous or unusual behavior of the child – is becoming obvious.
  5. For instance, if the child is born in India to a very low-class family and was a member of a higher caste in its previous life, it may feel uncomfortable in its new family. The child may ask to be served or waited on hand and foot and may refuse to wear cheap clothes. Stevenson gives us several examples of these unusual behavior patterns.

In 35% of cases he investigated, children who died an unnatural death developed phobias. For example, if they had drowned in a past life then they frequently developed a phobia about going out of their depth in water. If they had been shot, they were often afraid of guns and sometimes loud bangs in general. If they died in a road accident they would sometimes develop a phobia of traveling in cars, buses or lorries.

Another frequently observed unusual form of behavior, which Dr. Stevenson called philias, concerns children who express the wish to eat different kinds of food or to wear clothes that were different from those of their culture. If a child had developed an alcohol, tobacco or drug addiction as an adult in a previous incarnation he may express a need for these substances and develop cravings at an early age.

Many of these children with past-life memories show abilities or talents that they had in their previous lives. Often children who were members of the opposite sex in their previous life show difficulty in adjusting to the new sex. These problems relating to the “sex change” can lead to homosexuality later on in their lives. Former girls who were reborn as boys may wish to dress as girls or prefer to play with girls rather than boys.

Until now all these human oddities have been a mystery to conventional psychiatrists – after all, the parents could not be blamed for their children’s behavior in these cases. At long last research into reincarnation is shedding some light on the subject. In the past, doctors blamed such peculiarities on a lack or a surplus of certain hormones, but now they will have to do some rethinking.

The following paper by Dr. Stevenson was presented at the Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration held at Princeton University. June 11-13, 1992. The title of the paper is “Birthmarks and Birth Defects Corresponding to Wounds on Deceased Persons” (PDF) and provides perhaps the most compelling scientific evidence suggestive of reincarnation. Dr. Stevenson’s paper presents evidence that physical characteristics, such as birthmarks and deformities, may be carried over from a past life to a present life.

3. Birthmarks and Birth Defects Corresponding to Wounds on Deceased Persons

SOURCE: Dr. Ian Stevenson, Department of Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virginia, School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908

ABSTRACT: Almost nothing is known about why pigmented birthmarks (moles or nevi) occur in particular locations of the skin. The causes of most birth defects are also unknown. About 35% of children who claim to remember previous lives have birthmarks and/or birth defects that they (or adult informants) attribute to wounds on a person whose life the child remembers. The cases of 210 such children have been investigated. The birthmarks were usually areas of hairless, puckered skin; some were areas of little or no pigmentation (hypopigmented macules); others were areas of increased pigmentation (hyperpigmented nevi). The birth defects were nearly always of rare types. In cases in which a deceased person was identified the details of whose life unmistakably matched the child’s statements, a close correspondence was nearly always found between the birthmarks and/or birth defects on the child and the wounds on the deceased person. In 43 of 49 cases in which a medical document (usually a postmortem report) was obtained, it confirmed the correspondence between wounds and birthmarks (or birth defects). There is little evidence that parents and other informants imposed a false identity on the child in order to explain the child’s birthmark or birth defect. Some paranormal process seems required to account for at least some of the details of these cases, including the birthmarks and birth defects.

INTRODUCTION: Although counts of moles (hyperpigmented nevi) have shown that the average adult has between 15 and 18 of them (Pack and Davis, 1956), little is known about their cause — except for those associated with the genetic disease neurofibromatosis — and even less is known about why birthmarks occur in one location of the body instead of in another. In a few instances a genetic factor has been plausibly suggested for the location of nevi (Cockayne, 1933; Denaro, 1944; Maruri, 1961); but the cause of the location of most birthmarks remains unknown. The causes of many, perhaps most, birth defects remain similarly unknown. In large series of birth defects in which investigators have searched for the known causes, such as chemical teratogens (like thalidomide), viral infections, and genetic factors, between 43% (Nelson and Holmes, 1989) and 65-70% (Wilson, 1973) of cases have finally been assigned to the category of “unknown causes.”

Among 895 cases of children who claimed to remember a previous life (or were thought by adults to have had a previous life), birthmarks and/or birth defects attributed to the previous life were reported in 309 (35%) of the subjects. The birthmark or birth defect of the child was said to correspond to a wound (usually fatal) or other mark on the deceased person whose life the child said it remembered. This paper reports an inquiry into the validity of such claims. With my associates I have now carried the investigation of 210 such cases to a stage where I can report their details in a forthcoming book (Stevenson, forthcoming). This article summarizes our findings.

Children who claim to remember previous lives have been found in every part of the world where they have been looked for (Stevenson, 1983; 1987), but they are found most easily in the countries of South Asia. Typically, such a child begins to speak about a previous life almost as soon as it can speak, usually between the ages of two and three; and typically it stops doing so between the ages of five and seven (Cook, Pasricha, Samararatne, Win Maung, and Stevenson, 1983). Although some of the children make only vague statements, others give details of names and events that permit identifying a person whose life and death corresponds to the child’s statements. In some instances the person identified is already known to the child’s family, but in many cases this is not so. In addition to making verifiable statements about a deceased person, many of the children show behavior (such as a phobia) that is unusual in their family but found to correspond to behavior shown by the deceased person concerned or conjecturable for him (Stevenson, 1987; 1990).

Although some of the birthmarks occurring on these children are “ordinary” hyperpigmented nevi (moles) of which every adult has some (Pack and Davis, 1956), most are not. Instead, they are more likely to be puckered and scarlike, sometimes depressed a little below the surrounding skin, areas of hairlessness, areas of markedly diminished pigmentation (hypopigmented macules), or port-wine stains (nevipammri). When a relevant birthmark is a hyperpigmented nevus, it is nearly always larger in area than the “ordinary” hyperpigmented nevus. Similarly, the birth defects in these cases are of unusual types and rarely correspond to any of the “recognizable patterns of human malformation” (Smith, 1982).

Figure 1. Hypopigmented macule on chest of an Indian youth who, as a child, said he remembered the life of a man, Maha Ram, who was killed with a shotgun fired at close range.
Figure 2. The circles show the principal shotgun wounds on Maha Ram, for comparison with Figure 1. [This drawing is from the autopsy report of the deceased.]

METHODS: My investigations of these cases included interviews, often repeated, with the subject and with several or many other informants for both families. With rare exceptions, only firsthand informants were interviewed. All pertinent written records that existed, particularly death certificates and postmortem reports, were sought and examined. In the cases in which the informants said that the two families had no previous acquaintance, I made every effort to exclude all possibility that some information might nevertheless have passed normally to the child, perhaps through a half-forgotten mutual acquaintance of the two families. I have published elsewhere full details about methods (Stevenson, 1975; 1987).

I did not accept any indicated mark as a birthmark unless a firsthand witness assured me that it had been noticed immediately after the child’s birth or, at most, within a few weeks. I enquired about the occurrence of similar birth marks in other members of the family; in nearly every instance this was denied, but in seven cases a genetic factor could not be excluded.

Birth defects of the kind in question here would be noticed immediately after the child’s birth. Inquiries in these cases excluded (again with rare exceptions) the known causes of birth defects, such as close biological relationship of the parents (consanguinity), viral infections in the subject’s mother during her pregnancy, and chemical causes of birth defects like alcohol.

4. Correspondences Between Wounds and Birthmarks

RESULTS: A correspondence between birthmark and wound was judged satisfactory if the birthmark and wound were both within an area of 10 square centimeters at the same anatomical location; in fact, many of the birthmarks and wounds were much closer to the same location than this. A medical document, usually a postmortem report, was obtained in 49 cases. The correspondence between wound and birthmark was judged satisfactory or better by the mentioned criterion in 43 (88%) of these cases and not satisfactory in 6 cases. Several different explanations seem to be required to account for the discrepant cases, and I discuss these elsewhere (Stevenson. forthcoming). Figure 1 shows a birthmark (an urea of hypopigmentation) on an Indian child who said he remembered the life of a man who had been killed with a shotgun fired at close range. Figure 2 shows the location of the wounds recorded by the pathologist. (The circles were drawn by an Indian physician who studied the postmortem report with me.)

The high proportion (88%) of concordance between wounds and birthmarks in the cases for which we obtained postmortem reports (or other confirming documents) increases confidence in the accuracy of informants’ memories concerning the wounds on the deceased person in those more numerous cases for which we could obtain no medical document. Not all errors of informants memories would have resulted in attributing a correspondence between birth marks and wounds that did nor exist; in four cases (possibly five) reliance on an informant’s memory would have resulted in missing a correspondence to which a medical document attested.

5. Cases with Two or More Birthmarks

Figure 3. Large verrucous epidermal nevus on head of a Thai man who as a child said he remembered the life of his paternal uncle, who was killed with a blow on the head from a heavy knife.
Figure 4. Congenital malformation of nail on right great toe of the Thai subject shown in Figure 3. This malformation corresponded to a chronic ulcer of the right great toe from which the subject’s uncle had suffered.
Figure 5. Small, round puckered birthmark on a Thai boy that corresponded to the bullet wound of entry in a man whose life he said he remembered and who had been shot with a rifle from behind.
Figure 6. Larger, irregularly shaped birthmark on the frontal area of the head of the Thai boy shown in Figure 5. This birthmark corresponded to the bullet wound of exit on the Thai man whose life the boy said he remembered.

The argument of chance as accounting for the correspondence between birthmarks and wounds becomes much reduced when the child has two or more birthmarks each corresponding to a wound on the deceased person whose life he claims to remember. Figure 3 shows a major abnormality of the skin (verrucous epidermal nevus) on the back of the head of a Thai man who, as a child, recalled the life of his uncle, who had been struck on the head with a heavy knife and killed almost instantly. The subject also had a deformed toenail of the right great toe (Figure 4). This corresponded to a chronic infection of the same toe from which the subject’s uncle had suffered for some years before he died.

The series includes 18 cases in which two birthmarks on a subject corresponded to gunshot wounds of entry and exit. In 14 of these one birthmark was larger than the other, and in 9 of these 14 the evidence clearly showed that the smaller birthmark (usually round) corresponded to the wound of entry and the larger one (usually irregular in shape) corresponded to the wound of exit. These observations accord with the fact that bullet wounds of exit are nearly always larger than wounds of entry (Fatteh, 1976; Gordon and Shapiro, 1982). Figure 5 shows a small round birthmark on the back of the head of a Thai boy, and Figure 6 shows a larger, irregularly shaped birthmark at the front of his head. The boy said that he remembered the life of a man who was shot in the head from behind. (The mode of death was verified, but no medical document was obtainable.) In addition to the 9 cases I have investigated myself, Mills reported another case having the feature of a small round birthmark (corresponding to the wound of entry) and a larger birthmark corresponding to the wound of exit (both verified by a postmortem report) (Mills, 1989).

I have calculated the odds against chance of two birthmarks correctly corresponding to two wounds. The surface area of the skin of the average adult male is 1.6 meters (Spalteholz, 1943). If we were to imagine this area square and spread on a fiat surface, its dimensions would be approximately 127 centimeters by 127 centimeters. Into this area would fit approximately 160 squares of the size 10 centimeters square that I mentioned above. The probability that a single birthmark on a person would correspond in location to a wound within the area of any of the 160 smaller squares is only 1/160. However, the probability of correspondences between two birthmarks and two wounds would be (1/160)2 i.e. 1 in 25,600. (This calculation assumes that birthmarks are uniformly distributed over all regions of the skin. This is incorrect [Pack, Lenson, and Gerber, 1952], but I believe the variation can be ignored for the present purpose.)

6. Examples of Other Correspondences of Detail between Wounds and Birthmarks

A Thai woman had three separate linear hypopigmented scarlike birthmarks near the midline of her back; as a child she had remembered the life of a woman who was killed when struck three times in the back with an ax. (Informants verified this mode of death, but no medical record was obtainable.) A woman of Burma was born with two perfectly round birthmarks in her left chest; they slightly overlapped, and one was about half the size of the other. As a child she said that she remembered the life of a woman who was accidentally shot and killed with a shotgun. A responsible informant said the shotgun cartridge had contained shot of two different sizes. (No medical record was obtainable in this case.)

Another Burmese child said that she remembered the life of her deceased aunt, who had died during surgery for congenital heart disease. This child had a long, vertical linear hypopigmented birthmark close to the midline of her lower chest and upper abdomen; this birthmark corresponded to the surgical incision for the repair of the aunt’s heart. (I obtained a medical record in this case.) In contrast, a child of Turkey had a horizontal linear birthmark across the right upper quadrant of his abdomen. It resembled the scar of a surgeon’s transverse abdominal incision. The child said that he remembered the life of his paternal grandfather, who had become jaundiced and was operated on before he died. He may have had a cancer of the head of the pancreas, but I could not learn a precise medical diagnosis.

Two Burmese subjects remembered as children the lives of persons who had died after being bitten by venomous snakes, and the birthmarks of each corresponded to therapeutic incisions made at the sites of the snakebites on the persons whose lives they remembered. Another Burmese subject also said as a child that she remembered the life of a child who had been bitten on the foot by a snake and died. In this case, however, the child’s uncle had applied a burning cheroot to the site of the bite — a folk remedy for snakebite in parts of Burma; and the subject’s birthmark was round and located at the site on the foot where the bitten child’s uncle had applied the cheroot.

7. Three Examples of Birth Defects

Figure 8.  Severely malformed ear (microtia) in a Turkish boy who said that he remembered the life of a man who was fatally wounded on the right side of the head by a shotgun discharged at close range.
Figure 9. Almost absent fingers (brachydactyly) on one hand in a boy of India who said he remembered the life of a boy of another village who had put his hand into the blades of a fodder chopping machine and had its fingers amputated.
Figure 10. Small, round puckered birthmark on a Thai boy that corresponded to the bullet wound of entry in a man whose life he said he remembered and who had been shot with a rifle from behind.

Figure 8. shows the right side of the head of a Turkish boy with a diminished and malformed ear (unilateral microtia). He also had underdevelopment of the right side of his face (hemifacial microsomia). He said that he remembered the life of a man who had been shot (with a shotgun) at point-blank range. The wounded man was taken to a hospital where he died 6 days later — of injuries to the brain caused by shot that had penetrated the right side of the skull. (I obtained a copy of the hospital record.)

Figure 9. shows fingers almost absent congenitally on one hand (unilateral brachydactyly) in a child of India who said he remembered the life of another child who had put his right hand into the blades of a fodder-chopping machine and lost his fingers. Most cases of brachydactyly involve only a shortening of the middle phalanges. In the present case there were no phalangeal bones, and the fingers were represented by mere stubs. Unilateral brachydactyly is exceedingly rare, and I have not found a published report of a case, although a colleague (plastic surgeon) has shown me a photograph of one case that came under his care.

Figure 10. shows congenital absence of the lower right leg (unilateral hemimelia) in a Burmese girl. She said that she remembered the life of a girl who was run over by a train. Eyewitnesses said that the train severed the girl’s right leg first, before running over the trunk. Lower hemimelia is an extremely rare condition, and Frantz and O’Rahilly (1961) found it in only 12 (4.0%) of 300 cases of all congenital skeletal deficiencies that they examined.

8. Discussion

Because most (but not all) of these cases develop among persons who believe in reincarnation, we should expect that the informants for the cases would interpret them as examples according with their belief; and they usually do. It is necessary, however, for scientists to think of alternative explanations.

The most obvious explanation of these cases attributes the birthmark or birth defect on the child to chance, and the reports of the child’s statements and unusual behavior then become a parental fiction intended to account for the birthmark (or birth defect) in terms of the culturally accepted belief in reincarnation. There are, however, important objections to this explanation. First, the parents (and other adults concerned in a case) have no need to invent and narrate details of a previous life in order to explain their child’s lesion. Believing in reincarnation, as most of them do, they are nearly always content to attribute the lesion to some event of a previous life without searching for a particular life with matching details. Second, the lives of the deceased persons figuring in the cases were of uneven quality both as to social status and commendable conduct. A few of them provided models of heroism or some other enviable quality; but many of them lived in poverty or were otherwise unexemplary. Few parents would impose an identification with such persons on their children. Third, although in most cases the two families concerned were acquainted (or even related), I am confident that in at least 13 cases (among 210 carefully examined with regard to this matter) the two families concerned had never even heard about each other before the case developed. The subject’s family in these cases can have had no information with which to build up an imaginary previous life which, it later turned out, closely matched a real one. In another 12 cases the child’s parents had heard about the death of the person concerned, but had no knowledge of the wounds on that person. Limitations of space for this article oblige me to ask readers to accept my appraisal of these 25 cases for this matter; but in my forthcoming work I give a list of the cases from which readers can find the detailed reports of the cases and from reading them judge this important question for themselves. Fourth, I think I have shown that chance is an improbable interpretation for the correspondences in location between two or more birthmarks on the subject of a case and wounds on a deceased person.

Persons who reject the explanation of chance combined with a secondarily confected history may consider other interpretations that include paranormal processes, but fall short of proposing a life after death. One of these supposes that the birthmark or birth defect occurs by chance and the subject then by telepathy learns about a deceased person who had a similar lesion and develops an identification with that person. The children subjects of these cases, however, never show paranormal powers of the magnitude required to explain the apparent memories in contexts outside of their seeming memories.

Another explanation, which would leave less to chance in the production of the child’s lesion, attributes it to a maternal impression on the part of the child’s mother. According to this idea, a pregnant woman, having a knowledge of the deceased person’s wounds, might influence a gestating embryo and fetus so that its form corresponded to the wounds on the deceased person. The idea of maternal impressions, popular in preceding centuries and up to the first decades of this one, has fallen into disrepute. Until my own recent article (Stevenson, 1992) there had been no review of series of cases since 1890 (Dabney, 1890); and cases are rarely published now (Williams and Pembroke, 1988). Nevertheless, some of the published cases — old and new — show a remarkable correspondence between an unusual stimulus in the mind of a pregnant woman and an unusual birthmark or birth defect in her later-born child. Also, in an analysis of 113 published cases I found that the stimulus occurred to the mother in the first trimester in 80 cases (Stevenson, 1992). The first trimester is well known to be the one of greatest sensitivity of the embryo/fetus to recognized teratogens, such as thalidomide (Nowack, 1965) and rubella (Hill, Doll, Galloway, and Hughes, 1958). Applied to the present cases, however, the theory of maternal impression has obstacles as great as the normal explanation appears to have. First, in the 25 cases mentioned above, the subject’s mother, although she may have heard of the death of the concerned deceased person, had no knowledge of that person’s wounds. Second, this interpretation supposes that the mother not only modified the body of her unborn child with her thoughts, but after the child’s birth influenced it to make statements and show behavior that it otherwise would not have done. No motive for such conduct can be discerned in most of the mothers (or fathers) of these subjects.

It is not my purpose to impose any interpretation of these cases on the readers of this article. Nor would I expect any reader to reach even a preliminary conclusion from the short summaries of cases that the brevity of this report entails. Instead, I hope that I have stimulated readers to examine the detailed reports of many cases that I am now in the process of publishing (Stevenson, forthcoming). “Originality and truth are found only in the details” (Stendhal, 1926).

9. Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Drs. Antonia Mills and Emily W. Cook for critical comments on drafts of this paper. Thanks are also due to the Bernstein Brothers Parapsychology and Health Foundation for the support of my research.

Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: Ian Stevenson, M.D., Division of Perceptual Studies, Box 152, Health Sciences Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908

10. References

Cockayne, E, A. (1933). Inherited abnormalities of the skin. London: Oxford University Press.

Cook, E. W., Pasricha, S, Samararatne, G, Win Maung, & Stevenson, I. (1983). Review and analysis of “unsolved” cases of the reincarnation type: II. Comparison of features of solved and unsolved cases, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 77, 1 15-135.

Dabney, W. C. (1890). Maternal impressions. In J. M. Keating (Ed.), Cyclopaedia of the diseases of children, Vol. 1 , (pp. 191-216). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.

Denaro, S. J. ( 1944). The inheritance of nevi. Journal of Heredity, 35, 2 1 5- 1 8.

Fatteh, A. (1976). Medicolegal investigation of gunshot wounds. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.

Frantz, C. H., & O’Rahilly, R.(1961). Congenital skeletal limb deficiencies. Journal of Bone and Joins Surgery: 43-A, 1202-24.

Gordon, I., & Shapiro, H. A. (1982). Forensic medicine: A guide to principles. (2nd ed.) London: Churchill Livingstone.

Hill, A, B,, Doll, R,, Galloway, T. M., & Hughes, J.P.W. (1958). Virus diseases in pregnancy and congenital defects. (PDF). British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, 12, 1-7.

Maruri, C. A. (1961). La herencia en dermarologia. PDF icon. (2nd ed.) Santander: Aldus, S.A. Artes Graficas.

Mills, A. (1989). A replication study: Three cases of children in northern India who are said to remember a previous life. (PDF). Journal of Scientific Exploration, 3, 133-184.

Nelson, K., & Holmes, L. B. (1989). Malformations due to presumed spontaneous mutations in newborn infants. New England Journal of Medicine, 320, 19-23.

Nowack, E, (1965). Die sensible Phase bei der Thalidomid-Embryopathie. Humangenetik, I, 516-36.

Pack, G. T., & Davis, J. (1956). Moles. New York Stare Journal of Medicine, 56, 3498-3506.

Pack, G. T., Lenson, N. & Gerber, D. M. (1952). Regional distribution of moles and melanomas. (PDF). AMA Archives of Surgery. 65, 862-70.

Smith, D. W. (1982). Recognizable patterns of human malformation. (3rd ed.) Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.

Spalteholz. W (1943). Hand atlas of human anatomy. Translated by L. E Barker. 7th English ed. Philadelphia: J,B. Lippincott.

Stendhal (1926). Lucien Leuwen. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honor6 Champion, 4, 169.

Stevenson, I. (1975). Cases of the reincarnation type. I. Ten cases in India. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Stevenson, I. (1983). American children who claim to remember previous lives. (PDF). Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 17 1, 742-748.

Stevenson, I. (1987). Children who remember previous lives. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Stevenson, I. ( 1990). Phobias in children who claim to remember previous lives. (PDF). Journal of Scientific Exploration, 4, 243-254.

Stevenson, I. (1992). A new look at maternal impressions: An analysis of 50 published cases and reports of two recent examples. (PDF). Journal of Scientific Exploration, 6, 353-373.

Stevenson, I. Birthmarks and birth defects: A contribution to their etiology. Amazon.com

Williams, H. C., & Pembroke, A. C. (1988). Naevus of Jamaica. Lancer, 11, 915.

Wilson, J. G. (1973). Environment and birth defects. New York: Academic Press.

11. Articles on Reincarnation by Researchers of the Division of Perceptual Studies

All articles below are in PDF format. To download, right-click on the link and select “Save As”. Related articles can be downloaded at the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia.

The Evidence for Survival from Claimed Memories of Former Incarnations (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 54:51-71 and 95-117, 1960). Dr. Stevenson’s early essay about cases suggestive of reincarnation and several interpretations of them.

Some Questions Related to Cases of the Reincarnation Type (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 68:395-416, 1974). A discussion of some frequently asked questions about reincarnation.

A Preliminary Report of a New Case of Responsive Xenoglossy: The Case of Gretchen (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 70:65-77, 1976). A report of a case in which the subject, under hypnosis, spoke and conversed in German, a language that she seems not to have learned normally.

The Explanatory Value of the Idea of Reincarnation (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 164:305-326, 1977). A consideration of the ways in which the concept of reincarnation might supplement those of heredity and environment in explaining some poorly understood aspects of human behavior and development.

The Southeast Asian Interpretation of Gender Dysphoria: An Illustrative Case Report (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 165:201-208, 1977). Suggesting that gender identity confusion may derive from influences of a previous life as a member of the opposite sex, Dr. Stevenson reports the case of a girl who claims to remember a previous life as a man.

A Preliminary Report on an Unusual Case of the Reincarnation Type with Xenoglossy (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of the American Society of Psychical Research 74: 331-348, 1980). A report of a case of a woman who periodically assumes a second personality, speaking only a language she does not know in her normal state. She has also given verified details about another life she claims to have lived.

American Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 171:742-748, 1983). Report of an analysis of 79 cases of American children who claim to remember a previous life.

A Review and Analysis of “Unsolved” Cases of the Reincarnation Type: I. Introduction and Illustrative Case Reports (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Emily Williams Cook et al. (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 77:45-62, 1983). Brief reports of 7 cases of the reincarnation type in which no deceased person corresponding to the child subject’s statements has been found.

A Review and Analysis of “Unsolved” Cases of the Reincarnation Type: II. Comparison of Features of Solved and Unsolved Cases (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Emily Williams Cook et al. (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 77:115-135, 1983). Report of an analysis and comparison of 856 solved and unsolved reincarnation cases with regard to 9 important features.

The Belief in Reincarnation Among the Igbo of Nigeria (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Asian and African Studies XX:13-30, 1985.) A summary of the belief in reincarnation among the Igbo with a description of the repeater children, called ogbanjes by the Igbo people.

Characteristics of Cases of the Reincarnation Type Among the Igbo of Nigeria (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Asian and African Studies XXI:204-216, 1986). A description of the principle features found in 57 cases of the reincarnation type occurring among the Igbo people. Several tables compare the incidence of the main features of the cases in nine or ten different cultures.

Indian Cases of the Reincarnation Type Two Generations Apart (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Satwant Pasricha. (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 54(809):239-246, 1987). Cases of the reincarnation type from the early years of this century show features closely resembling those of cases whose subjects were born after 1965.

Deception and Self-Deception in Cases of the Reincarnation Type: Seven Illustrative Cases in Asia (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Satwant Pasricha and Godwin Samararatne. (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 82:1-31, 1988). Detailed reports of 7 cases of the reincarnation type in Asia that seemed to be authentic at first but, on investigation, proved to be best interpreted as instances of deception or self-deception.

Two Correlates of Violent Death in Cases of the Reincarnation Type (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. N. K. Chadha. (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 55(811):71-79, 1988). In the cases of children remembering previous lives that ended violently the interval between death of the deceased person whose life is remembered and the subject’s birth is shorter, on average, than in cases having a natural death in the previous life. Also, children remembering violent deaths tend to speak about the previous life at an earlier age than do children who remember lives that ended naturally.

Three New Cases of the Reincarnation Type in Sri Lanka with Written Records Made before Verification (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 176:741, 1988). Short summaries of three recent cases of the valuable type in which the child’s statements were recorded in writing before they were verified.

Three New Cases of the Reincarnation Type in Sri Lanka with Written Records Made before Verification (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Godwin Samararatne. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 2:217-238, 1988). A longer version of 15a, including more detail about the 3 cases reported.

Phobias in Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 4:243-254, 1990). A discussion of the phobias that occur among many children who seem to remember a previous life, and some possible explanations for these phobias.

Birthmarks and Birth Defects Corresponding to Wounds on Deceased Persons (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 7:403-410, 1993). A short summary of research on the cases of children who claim to remember previous lives and who have birthmarks or birth defects that correspond to wounds in the claimed previous life.

Does the Socio-Psychological Hypothesis Explain Cases of the Reincarnation Type? (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Sybo Schouten. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorder. 186:504-506, 1998). Cases of the reincarnation type (in India and Sri Lanka) in which a written record of the subject’s statements was made only after the families concerned had met did not have more statements and more correct ones than cases in which a written record was made before the statements were verified.

Do Cases of the Reincarnation Type Show Similar Features Over Many Years? A Study of Turkish Cases a Generation Apart (PDF). by Dr. Jürgen Keil and Dr. Ian Stevenson. ( Journal of Scientific Exploration 13(2):189-198, 1999). In Turkey the features of 45 cases studied by one investigator were compared with the features of 45 other cases studied nearly a generation later by another investigator. Overall, the two groups of cases showed closely similar features. The cases appear to be a natural phenomenon occurring over many years.

The Phenomenon of Claimed Memories of Previous Lives: Possible Interpretations and Importance (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Medical Hypotheses 54(4):652-659, 2000). The hypothesis of previous lives can contribute to the further understanding of several conditions, disorders, or abnormalities (such as phobias observed in early infancy, gender identity disorder, and behavioral and physical differences in one-egg [monozygotic] twins) that are not adequately explained by genetic and/or environmental influences.

The Stability of Assessments of Paranormal Connections in Reincarnation-Type Cases (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jürgen Keil. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 14 (3): 365-382, 2000). Fifteen cases of children who claimed to remember a previous life were investigated twice and independently with an average interval of 22 years between the investigations. The reports were evaluated for evidence of a paranormal process. With the lapse of time informants lost some details; but with one possible exception there was no evidence of increased claims of paranormality in the later investigations.

An Unusual Birthmark Case Thought to be Linked to a Person Who Had Previously Died (PDF). by Dr. Jürgen Keil and Dr. Jim B. Tucker. (Psychological Reports 87:1067-1074, 2000). A report of a case of a Burmese subject who was born with birthmarks and birth defects that were thought to be linked to the death of his mother’s first husband in a parachute accident.

A Scale to Measure the Strength of Children’s Claims of Previous Lives: Methodology and Initial Findings (PDF) by Dr. Jim B. Tucker. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 14(4):571-581, 2000). 799 cases of children who claim to remember a previous life were analyzed using a scale that measured the strength of the claims. The analysis showed that in the stronger cases, the children tended to start talking about the previous life at an earlier age; they demonstrated more emotion in recalling the past life; and they showed greater facial resemblance to the deceased individual that they were said to have been.

Unusual Play in Young Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson ( Journal of Scientific Exploration 14(4):557-570, 2000). Children who, when they learn to speak express memories of previous lives, frequently engage in play that is unusual and has no model or other obvious stimulus in their family. The play seems to repeat the vocation or an avocation of the person whose life the child seems to remember. Sometimes the play reenacts the cause of death, such as drowning, of that person.

Ropelike Birthmarks on Children Who Claim to Remember Past Lives (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson (Psychological Reports 89:142-144, 2001). Description of birthmarks having the pattern of strands of a rope in a second known case includes some verification of the correspondence between the birthmarks and injuries from ropes on an identified deceased person.

Can Cultural Beliefs Cause a Gender Identity Disorder? (PDF). by Dr. Jim B. Tucker and Dr. Jürgen Keil. (Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality 13(2):21-30, 2001). Report of a child in Thailand who was born with a birthmark that matched a mark made on the body of his deceased grandmother. As he got older, he claimed to be his grandmother reborn, and he demonstrated cross-gender behavior.

The Similarity of Features of Reincarnation Type Cases over Many Years: A Third Study (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson. ( Journal of Scientific Exploration 17(2):283-289, 2003). The principal features of two series of cases suggestive of reincarnation in Lebanon were compared. The series were investigated about a generation apart by two different investigators. In three important features the two series were closely similar; in other features they were not similar, probably because of differences in the thoroughness of investigation in the two series.

Cases of the Reincarnation Type with Memories from the Intermission Between Lives (PDF). by Poonam Sharma and Dr. Jim B. Tucker. (Journal of Near-Death Studies 23(2):101-118, 2005). A minority of children who claim to remember previous lives also claim to remember events between lives. This analysis of statements from 35 Burmese subjects reveals patterns in the memories that they described. A comparison of these reports to reports of near-death experiences indicates significant areas of overlap.

Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives: Cases with Written Records Made before the Previous Personality Was Identified (PDF). by Dr. Jürgen Keil and Dr. Jim B. Tucker. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 19(1): pp. 91-101, 2005). A case is presented in which a written record, made before the deceased individual was identified, documented that the numerous statements made by a Turkish boy about a previous life were accurate for the life of a man who lived 500 miles away and died 50 years before the boy was born. Other similar cases are reviewed.

Children of Myanmar Who Behave like Japanese Soldiers: A Possible Third Element in Personality (PDF). by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jürgen Keil. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 19(2): pp. 171-183, 2005). Among 750 children of Myanmar who claimed to remember a previous life 24 spoke about having been Japanese soldiers killed, presumably during World War II. None gave verifiable information, but they all showed unusual behavior, such as insensitivity to pain, dislike of hot weather and, distaste for spicy food, which are typical of Japanese soldiers, but not of Burmese persons. Genetic factors cannot explain these cases; neither can encouragement of such behavior by the children’s parents. Reincarnation is suggested as a third component of human personality illustrated by these cases.

Some Bodily Malformations Attributed to Previous Lives (PDF). by Dr. Satwant K. Pasricha, Dr. Jürgen Keil, Dr. Jim B. Tucker, and Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 19(3):359-383, 2005). This two part article examines cases in which children were born with abnormalities that were attributed to wounds from a previous life. Part I presents three cases in which evidence indicated a close correspondence between a child’s birthmark and a wound on a particular deceased person. Part II describes four cases of birth defects that were attributed to previous lives and looks at the evidence supporting that attribution. Photographs of the malformations are included.

Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives: Past, Present, and Future Research (PDF). by Dr. Jim B. Tucker. (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 21(3): pp. 543-552, 2007). The research with Cases of the Reincarnation Type is reviewed, beginning with Ian Stevenson’s initial paper on the phenomenon in 1961. Current projects and planned future projects are also discussed.

Ian Stevenson and cases of the reincarnation type (PDF). by Dr. Jim B. Tucker (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22 (1); 36-43, 2008). Ian Stevenson began studying children who claim to remember previous lives — an endeavor that will surely be remembered as the primary focus of his life’s work — almost by accident. Enjoying a successful mainstream career with some 60 publications in the medical and psychiatric literature to his credit, he had become chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Virginia in 1957.

Children’s reports of past-life memories: A review (PDF). by Dr. Jim B. Tucker, (EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 4(4):244-248, 2008). Researchers have studied young children’s reports of past-life memories for the last 45 years. The children usually describe a recent, ordinary life, and many of them have given enough details so that one particular deceased individual has been identified to match the children’s statements. These cases occur worldwide, and although they are easiest to find in cultures with a belief in reincarnation, many cases have been found in the West as well. This review explores the facets of this phenomenon and presents several recent American cases.

Review by Dr. Jim B. Tucker of “Can the Mind Survive beyond Death? In Pursuit of Scientific Evidence” (PDF). by Satwant K. Pasricha. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 24:133-137, 2010). This two-volume set is divided into 22 chapters, each consisting of a previously published article, with Pasricha being sole author or lead author of 17 of them. (Full disclosure: I am one of four authors of one paper.) Though most deal with what are called cases of the reincarnation type, related areas such as near-death experiences (NDEs) are addressed as well.

Response to “How To Improve the Study and Documentation of Cases of the Reincarnation Type? A Reappraisal of the Case of Kemal Atasoy” (PDF). written by Vitor Moura Visoni. The response is by Dr. Jürgen Keil and Dr. Jim B. Tucker. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 24:295-296, 2010). The Essay by Vitor Moura Visoni in JSE, 24(1), Spring 2010, pp. 101–108, makes a number of criticisms of our Research Article “Children Who Claim To Remember Previous Lives: Cases with Written Records Made before the Previous Personality Was Identified,” JSE, 19(1), Spring 2005, pp. 91–101, which we will address by section.

Experimental Birthmarks: New Cases of an Asian Practice (PDF). by Dr. Jim B. Tucker and Dr. Jürgen Keil. (Journal of Scientific Exploration 27:263-276, 2013). Experimental birthmarks involve a practice in several countries in Asia in which the body of a dying or recently deceased person is marked with a substance, most often soot, in the belief that when the individual is reborn, the baby will bear a birthmark corresponding to the mark. This is usually done with the expectation that the rebirth will occur in the same family as the deceased individual. A field study was undertaken in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) to examine such cases. Eighteen cases were found in which a baby was born with a birthmark that corresponded to a marking made on the body of a deceased person; in six of these, the child also made statements that the family believed were related to the life of the deceased individual. Possible etiologies for these cases are explored..

A Case of the Possession Type in India with Evidence of Paranormal Knowledge (PDF). by Ian Stevenson et al. (Journal of Scientific Exploration. Vol. 3, No. I, pp. 81-101, 1989). A young married woman, Sumitra, in a village of northern India, apparently died and then revived. After a period of confusion she stated that she was a person named Shiva who had been murdered in another village. She gave enough details to permit verification of her statements, which corresponded to facts in the life of another young married woman called Shiva. Extensive interviews with 53 informants satisfied the investigators that the families concerned had been, as they claimed, completely unknown to each other before the case developed and that Sumitra had had no normal knowledge of the people and events in Shiva’s life. The authors conclude that the subject demonstrated knowledge of another person’s life obtained paranormally.

Psychological Evaluation of American Children Who Report Memories of Previous Lives (PDF). by Jim Tucker et al. (Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 583–594, 2014). Some young children claim to have memories of a previous life, and they often show behaviors that appear related to the memories. This pilot study examined the psychological functioning of such children in the United States. Fifteen participants, ages 3–6 years, underwent testing with the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (fourth edition) and the Children’s Apperception Test. The children’s composite intelligence scores on the Stanford-Binet were greater than one standard deviation above the mean, with relative strengths in verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning.

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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.

18. References

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Categories
Atheism and NDEs Philosophy

An Analysis of the Near-Death Experiences of Atheists

Atheists have deathbed experiences and near-death experiences just like everyone else does. The philosophy of Positivism, founded by the famous atheist named A. J. Ayer, is the philosophy that anything not verifiable by the senses is nonsense. Because NDEs mark the end of the senses, Positivists believe the survival of the senses after death is nonsense. But this philosophy has been challenged by its founder A. J. Ayer himself. Later in life, Ayer had an NDE where he saw a red light. Ayer’s NDE made him a changed man:

“My recent experiences, have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death … will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be” (Ayer, 1988 a,b).

Table of Contents

  1. The NDE and Conversion of the Famous Atheist A. J. Ayer
  2. Famous Atheist, Anthony Flew, Converts to Deism with the Help of Christian NDE Researcher Dr. Gary Habermas
  3. NDE Researchers Analyze the NDEs of Atheists
  4. An Analysis of Atheist NDEs Profiled on This Website

1. The NDE and Conversion of the Famous Atheist A. J. Ayer

Reprinted from: Can There Be Life After Life? Ask the Atheist! by Gerry Lougrhan, Letter From London, March 18, 2001.

When the famous English novelist, Somerset Maugham, was expiring in France, aged 91, he summoned the world-class atheist, A. J. Ayer, like a priest to his deathbed, to reassure him that there was no afterlife. Professor Ayer duly delivered the words of consolation Maugham longed to hear.

But when Ayer himself was dying two decades later, he wasn’t so sure. Having choked on a piece of smoked salmon that stopped his heart for at least four minutes, the famed philosopher saw, and heard things he had spent a lifetime denying.

On his return from he knew not where, Ayer wrote a chagrined but enigmatic account of what has become known in Britain and beyond as a near-death experience (NDE). Read about A. J. Ayer’s NDE in his article entitled, “A. J. Ayer – What I Saw When I was Dead.

Millions of people say they have had an NDE, as it is now commonly known, while many more are thought to have had the experience but are too embarrassed to talk about it. A 1991 Gallup poll in the United States indicated 13 million Americans claimed experience of life beyond the grave; in Britain, a Mori poll showed seven people out of ten believed NDEs happened and constituted evidence of an afterlife.

An intriguing aspect of the claims is their similarity: a tunnel, a rushing sound, a brilliant light, a feeling of ecstasy and being told it is not yet time to die. Also frequent are: the out-of-body experience in which a person appears to observe his body from above – often watching medics trying frantically to revive his corpse; an instantaneous review of a person’s whole life; and sometimes seeing dead friends and family. One woman said she met a brother she did not know she had. Her father told her later: “You did have a brother. I am the only one alive who knew about him.”

Of the many testaments on record, that of Jack Foreman, a US naval technician, combines most of the common elements. Foreman was “cooked” by a radar leak and had major surgery for a large hole in his diaphragm. Several days later, he appeared to die. “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.

The majority of recorded claims link NDEs to feelings of joy and comfort. A statistician calculated that 69 per cent of the thousands of cases he investigated reported a feeling of overwhelming love. When he broke his subjects down by belief (Christian, Religious but non-Christian, Non-religious, New Age, etc.) he found 100 per cent of people calling themselves atheists had experienced “tremendous ecstasy”. Sixty-three per cent reported the life review experience.

Stories such as these are denounced as laughable by skeptics, who argue that some people copy what others have said or project their own childish ideas of heaven: a robed Jesus, joy, flowers, cottages, even reunions with deceased pets. The existence of an American society, Hello From Heaven, is seen as proof of the battiness of these gullible dreamers.

Scientific rebuttal usually refers to residual electrical activity in the brain cortex. Medics mostly argue that the feeling of peace could be caused by the release of endorphins in response to extreme stress or cardiac arrest and anesthesia of the brain state; neural noise and retino-cortical mapping could explain the rushing sound, the tunnel and the darkness and light.

Ayer’s account of his own NDE, for a man of such formidable intellect, was surprisingly similar to most of the others on record, though more elegantly observed. He wrote of “a red light for governing the universe” and some barrier he crossed, “like the River Styx.” The experience, he said, “weakened my conviction that death would be the end of me, though I continue to hope it will be.”

For Ayer to admit doubt about his life-long conviction “no God, no afterlife” shook the academic establishment in Britain. As a student, he had debated with some of the greatest minds in the country, including the Jesuit Fr. Martin d’Arcy who described Ayer as “the most dangerous man in Oxford University.” Not bad at age 21!

Following the classic route of Eton, Oxford and the (Welsh) Guards, Ayer became that rare thing, a popularly-known philosopher, mostly through his appearances on the BBC radio program, “The Brains Trust.”

Serious research on NDEs has been going on since the mid-1970s. What put the subject back on the front pages was a new revelation concerning the Ayer experience. Many of his friends felt his published account reflected an academic’s urge to embellish and tease the classical reference to the River Styx, for example. What’s more, the doctor who attended Ayer suspected the smoked-salmon story was meant to impress his friends. He found no salmon in his patient’s throat, but if you want a truly high-class way of dying, you couldn’t do better than choking on this expensive delicacy!

None of his circle, however, denied Ayer’s claim to have had an extraordinary experience while his heart was stopped. And a year later, his wife said, “Freddie has been so much nicer since he died.” What his friends questioned was whether his NDE account was the entire truth.

Now the surgeon who attended him has broken a long silence. He told an author who wrote a play about the affair: “Ayer told me he saw the Supreme Being.” There was no further elucidation. The physician said simply that when Ayer recovered, “he told me he saw the Supreme Being.”

His friends were astounded. Ayer had admitted there was a god! Was this another joke? If not, why did he withhold it from his story? Was it that he could not face the possibility that he had built a glittering career on a false premise?

In the post-Christian age that is Britain today, few people are ready to admit to belief in the supernatural, at least not if Jesus or God are involved, though stone circles and pyramid power seem quite acceptable. However, a London magazine last week carried a strange claim from one of those least likely to fall victim to delusion, a veteran journalist.

Robert Blair Kaiser is an author and a former correspondent for Time magazine. Reviewing a book about miracles he wrote: “In 1994, behind the wheel of my Mercedes, I lurched out of my driveway and was awakened from my dreamy preoccupation by the sight of a speeding car bearing down on me, not five feet away on my left. I knew I was a dead man. “All of a sudden, that car was on my right. The driver weaved a bit, braked for a moment and then drove off, shaking his head in disbelief, as I was. For it was clear to me, there was no way he could have missed crashing into me, no way he could have steered aside. His car had flashed through my car, his steel and glass and rubber passing through my steel and glass and rubber like a ray of light through a pane of alabaster.” Kaiser ends his anecdote with a reflection: “This miracle moment was a turning point in my life, for I took it as a sign that God wasn’t finished with me yet and that I had some new business to attend to.”

Mr. Kaiser may well be right. But has he reflected that maybe it was the other guy God wanted to keep alive?

2. Famous Atheist, Anthony Flew, Converts to Deism with the Help of Christian NDE Researcher Dr. Gary Habermas

Antony Flew (1923-2010) was a British philosopher belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, he was notable for his works on the philosophy of religion. Flew did not have a near-death experience but he was friends with Christian NDE researcher Dr. Gary Habermas who was a big influence on Flew’s conversion.

Flew was a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticized the idea of life after death, the free will defense to the problem of evil and the meaningfulness of the concept of God. In 2003 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto. However, in 2004 he stated an allegiance to deism more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God stating that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believes in the existence of God.

He later wrote the book entitled There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, with contributions from Roy Abraham Varghese. This book (and Flew’s conversion itself) has been the subject of controversy, following an article in The New York Times Magazine alleging that Flew had mentally declined, and that Varghese was the primary author. The matter remains contentious, with some commentators including PZ Myers and Richard Carrier supporting the allegations, and others, including Flew himself, opposing them.

Flew taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading, and at York University in Toronto. He was also known for the development of the no true Scotsman fallacy, and his debate on retrocausality with Michael Dummett.

3. NDE Researchers Analyze the NDEs of Atheists

The late Dr. Barbara Rommer had this to say about atheist NDEs:

“It appears that disavowing the reality or possibility of the existence of a Higher Power may contribute to the why of a Less-Than-Positive (LTP) Experience: 19.4 percent of my LTP study group labeled themselves as atheist or agnostic prior to their experience.”

Dr. Kenneth Ring concludes that religious belief is not required:

Religious orientation was not a factor affecting either the likelihood or the depth of the near-death experience. An atheist was as likely to have one as was a devoutly religious person. Regardless of their prior attitudes – whether skeptical or deeply religious – and regardless of the many variations in religious beliefs and degrees of skepticism from tolerant disbelief to outspoken atheism – most of these people were convinced that they had been in the presence of some supreme and loving power and had a glimpse of a life yet to come. Almost all who experienced an NDE found their lives transformed and a change in their attitudes and values, and in their inclination to love and to help others.”

Some atheists do not need to have an NDE to have their life changed. Dr. Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist at Yale, was transformed by hearing about children’s NDE reports, such as that of an 8-year-old with cancer envisioning a school bus driven by Jesus, a 7-year-old leukemia patient hearing a chorus of angels before passing away. Dr. Komp states the following about her conversion:

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

P.M.H. Atwater concluded the following about atheists NDEs:

“No matter what the nature of the experience, it alters some lives. Alcoholics find themselves unable to imbibe. Hardened criminals opt for a life of helping others. Atheists embrace the existence of a deity, while dogmatic members of a particular religion report feeling welcome in any church or temple or mosque.”

Dr. Raymond Moody concluded that the identity of the Being of Light is based on the experiencer’s religious background:

“Of all the possible near-death elements, the light exerted the greatest influence on the individual. Patients interpreted the light as a being – a being that radiated love and warmth. Christians recognized the light as Christ. Atheists identified the spirit only as a guide.” (The Light Beyond, p.22)

Dr. Susan Blackmore concludes that a belief in an afterlife is not necessary:

“NDEs happen to people who don’t appear to have any need to believe in an afterlife: they are as common among atheists as they are among the devout.”

In the IANDS FAQ pamphlet the question is asked: Are the people who have NDEs very religious? The IANDS answer is:

“People who report NDEs are no better or worse and no more or less religious than in any other cross-section of the population. They come from many religious backgrounds and from the ranks of agnostics and even atheists. The experience seems more closely related to a person’s life afterwards than to what it was before.”

My own NDE research shows that atheists who return from an NDE may not believe in a God after it, but they do return recognizing a higher power in the universe and behind everything.

Ruth Montgomery gave some examples of the death experience of an atheist who cares little about others:

“Let us take as an example a person who is so sure that there is no God and no hereafter that he treats others badly while on Earth and he feels no moral obligation to lend a helping hand or to be a decent citizen. When he makes the transition he is angry and tempestuous as he finds himself in a situation of his own making, surrounded by other greedy souls who, because they are in like situation, welcome him gleefully to the hell that they have created for themselves. He is shocked. These are not the type of people he wants to associate with. They are fiendish and ill-mannered, whereas he has been a stiff-necked, educated, and polished man, although he never gave thought to anyone but himself. He tries to break out of the fiendish group, but they surround him. He calls for help, but no one with a better nature can enter the group to save him. He has dug his own grave, so to speak, and is allowed to lie in it for a while. He is utterly miserable, for he now begins to see the folly of his ways but does not know how to avert his fate. He is left there until his own remorse for sinful ways begins to penetrate his being and he acknowledges to himself that he wasted a lifetime, a rare privilege, by thinking only of himself. After he reaches full repentance he is then able to free himself of the unrepentant creatures around him, and for a long time thereafter he searches his own soul to review the past mistakes. This is sometimes a long, drawn-out process because he will have to make his way alone. Only he is able to assess his wrongs and seek forgiveness, although there are many here willing to lend a hand whenever he reaches out to them for it.” (Ruth Montgomery)

Concerning the above example of an atheist’s unpleasant NDE, it must be qualified by stating that not all atheists have unpleasant NDEs.

The description of this atheist’s death experience sounds uncannily similar to Howard Storm’s NDE whom I profile on this website. Howard Storm was an atheist who was rescued from hell by Jesus. While in hell, Storm was subjected to extreme torment and torture by hideously dark souls. The following passage describes his conversion from atheism while in hell:

“Exactly what happened was …and I’m not going to try and explain this. From inside of me I felt a voice, my voice, say: ‘Pray to God.’ My mind responded to that: ‘I don’t pray. I don’t know how to pray.’ This is a guy lying on the ground in the darkness surrounded by what appeared to be dozens if not hundreds and hundreds of vicious creatures who had just torn him up. The situation seemed utterly hopeless, and I seemed beyond any possible help whether I believed in God or not. The voice again told me to pray to God. It was a dilemma since I didn’t know how. The voice told me a third time to pray to God. I started saying things like: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …God bless America ..’ and anything else that seemed to have a religious connotation. And these people went into a frenzy, as if I had thrown boiling oil all over them. They began yelling and screaming at me, telling me to quit, that there was no God, and no one could hear me. While they screamed and yelled obscenities, they also began backing away from me as if I were poison. As they were retreating, they became more rabid, cursing and screaming that what I was saying was worthless and that I was a coward. I screamed back at them: ‘Our Father who art in heaven,’ and similar ideas. This continued for some time until, suddenly, I was aware that they had left. It was dark, and I was alone yelling things that sounded churchy. It was pleasing to me that these churchy sayings had such an effect on those awful beings.”

[Webmaster note: Howard Storm’s acknowledgement of a Higher Power led to his rescue from hell suggesting that calling out to God is one method of leaving hell.]

Ruth Montgomery gives another example of an atheistic death experience except that this atheist was a murderer as well.

“What of a murderer who deliberately kills another for his personal gain or satisfaction? This is not a pretty story. Full of hatred or vengeance, he expects to find nothing when he passes through the door called death, and for a long time that is usually what he finds – nothing. He is in a state like unto death for a goodly while, until at last something arouses him, and he wakens to find out that the hell he had every reason to expect is indeed awaiting him. It is not goblins and devils that he sees, but visions of his own face distorted by hatred, greed, malice, and other defeating emotions. He cringes from the sight, realizing that he sees himself thus, that he himself was possessed of a devil, and that except for his baser nature he would have been able unaided to cast him forth. He is appalled as he realizes that he wasted a lifetime of opportunity. Not for him is enrollment in the Temple of Wisdom or the higher school of learning. This soul will stay in torment for a long, long time, until he believes himself to be totally lost. When he eventually reaches this pit of despair, he may at last cry out to God to rescue him and that wail of despair is heard by God. Other souls are sent to ease his suffering, and if his will is truly uplifted toward spiritual development, he will slowly, slowly, slowly begin to work himself upward until he has learned the penalties for taking another’s life which was given by God. When he is sufficiently strong to do so, he will accost the person whose life he took, and their reaction is such as to ring bells in paradise; for, as likely as not, the other soul has conquered self to such an extent that he has already forgiven the suffering soul who cut short his span of physical life. This forgiveness uplifts the murderer to such an extent that he is gradually able to take his place in the society of other souls and finally to learn some of the lessons of salvation. Remember that a soul on this side, just as on your side, is never without help from God and the good souls whom God created in his own image. Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it will be opened unto you. That is the law of the universe. Ask, receive; knock, open the door of your mind and let the rays of universal love flow in.” (Ruth Montgomery)

The late Betty Bethards was a near-death experiencer and paranormal researcher who concluded the following about atheists:

“If you don’t believe in God or an afterlife, you will probably be kept in a sleep state for the first two to three day period. You will wake up in a beautiful meadow or some other calm and peaceful place where you can reconcile the transition from the death state to the continuous life. You are given teachings in the hope that you do not refuse to believe that you are dead.”

[Webmaster note: Betty Bethards’ analysis agrees with Ruth Montgomery’s research who described an atheists being kept in a sleep state for a short period because of their disbelief of an afterlife.]

One particular atheist once emailed me and argued that life outside the physical universe is unlikely. He stated:

“The picture looks bleak so far for our survival. If the spiritual universe is completely outside of the material universe, then it has no true bearing on the physical universe, and if this is the case, then there might as well be no god. God’s existence is only useful if it somehow interacts with us, in the physical universe; after all, all of our thoughts are determined by molecular motion in the brain. Prayer is initiated in the brain. A response, if it’s valid, must obviously move matter through space-time. Therefore, we have this thorny problem: If we believe that there is a spiritual universe, how does it interact with the physical universe, of which we are a part?”

The Webmaster’s response to the above remark is this:

“First of all, you will have to give me some definitions. What is your definition of God? What do you mean by spiritual universe? I will assume you are using the traditional definitions. If you define God as an old man with a long beard somewhere, then I agree with you that there is no God. But if you define God the same way many experiencers do – that everything is God – then you can come close to understanding what they know. In other words, denying the existence of a Higher Power is denying the existence of everything because all things came from God at the Big Bang. In addition to this, it must be stated that the term God has so many different meanings by so many different people, that it is virtually meaningless. Perhaps the only meaning of God is what a person gives it. After all, we create our own reality and what may be true for one person, may not be true for another. There is evidence that, to some degree, we get what we expect after death. If using the term ‘spiritual universe’ means you are referring to another reality called ‘heaven‘ which exists separately from physical reality, then I would agree with you that such a reality probably does not exist. Experiencers have some good ideas about this. From a great number of near-death accounts, one can basically conclude that the afterlife realm is the realm of the mind and imagination. Today there is some very compelling circumstantial evidence that the mind survives physical death. I personally believe life after death means living in pure thought form. Thoughts are a part of reality as well – especially if consciousness survives bodily death as the circumstantial evidence suggests.

This same atheist argued that the existence of a God is unlikely. His reasoning is the following:

“By looking at human behavior as objectively as I can, from an anthropological perspective, all paths lead me to support the hypothesis that God is the combination of projection and transference of a given culture’s (and individual’s) ideals and ideal relationships onto an unseen (yet psychically, very real) entity. Borrowing from analytic psychology, what I believe happens is the creation (or greater potentiation) of a complex, charged emotional contents with attendant thoughts and images, continually reinforced through normal operant techniques through institutions such as churches and their various rituals. My latest thinking on the topic of God is that it’s hard to look at the DNA sequence for a particular trait (speaking as a software engineer), and not say: ‘You know, that looks a lot like machine code! And that, in turn, presupposes a programmer, a Creator!’ At the same time, this is far removed from the idea of a personal, loving, Christian God who cares about us individually and will somehow rescue us from extermination at death. Don’t get me wrong: I very much hope that there is a loving God, but in light of what I know of neuroscience, it seems unlikely. It seems much more likely that we are the miraculous products of natural selection. I also believe that religion is very much man-made, and that if God does exist, he appears to be utterly and absolutely silent, having nothing to do with humankind, other than in man’s dreams, hopes, and fantasies (though these are products of man’s minds). I don’t say any of this to be disrespectful, and I’m painfully aware of how emotional an issue religion is, but I say it in the spirit of honest exploration.

My response to this is that NDEs support much, if not all, of what you are saying. Man created religion and the idea of god(s). The idea of a Master DNA programmer God does seem much more impersonal than the idea of a Christian God. In fact, both of these ideas are probably the product of human imagination. This, of course, is not to say that imagination is not real, unless one believes that thoughts are not a part of reality. The only realistic answer to the question, “What is God?” is that God is a higher, creative power representing whatever you want it to mean. It can mean virtually anything, such as:

  1. Many Christians believe God is a divine heavenly Father.
  2. Hindus believe God (Brahman) to be the divinity manifesting everywhere with no exceptions.
  3. Orthodox Jews generally believe God to be their national deity.
  4. Cave men may have believed God to be the sun.
  5. To indigenous cults, God may be represented by a stone statue.

Certainly, people throughout history have believed things which seem utterly ridiculous to our enlightened minds. As stated previously, the idea of God has so many different meanings to so many different people that it is practically useless to talk about the idea of a God unless a consensus is reached on it’s definition.

Experiencers have much to say about their experience with God. Many times I have read NDE reports where experiencers say that God is a reality that words alone cannot adequately describe. Most of the time, we hear descriptive words such as Love, Life, Light, All, Source, Force, One, Mind, Consciousness, Vibration, Spirit, Being, etc… But, according to many experiencers, even these descriptions are woefully inadequate.

One experiencer described God as: “The light that loves.”

Another experiencer, Chuck Griswold, stated in the NDE documentary entitled Shadows: “Life is love is God. If you add anymore to this definition then you are not making it any better.”

When experiencers say that life itself is God, they are stating that everything is God, or that everything is a part of God, or that all is God. With this definition, we may as well state that reality itself is God. For this reason, we should probably just assign the term “God” to the children’s toy box and simply say that there is no “God” per se. There is only “reality”.

4. An Analysis of Fifty NDEs Profiled on this Website

The following is my, Kevin Williams the webmaster of this website, analysis of 50 NDEs from this website. More information about my research methods can be found at the bottom of this article.

Kevin Williams’ Analysis of the NDEs of Atheists

(1) Concerning the NDE aspect of feeling overwhelming love, more experiencers in the category of atheist (75%) reported experiencing overwhelming love than any other category of experiencer.

This highest percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencers, may be more overwhelmed by the love of a God they didn’t believe existed. This highest percentage may also be a reflection of how most atheists get what they don’t expect – an experience with God – and get what they need (divine love).

(2) Concerning the NDE aspect of experiencing mental telepathy, the percentage of all atheists (65%) reported experiencing mental telepathy.

This is not the highest percentage nor the lowest percentage of people in a particular category who experienced mental telepathy. This is interesting because it may be assumed that the atheist category of experiencers should be the least category of people open to the paranormal idea of mental telepathy.

However, it was the non-Christian category that experienced the lowest percentage of experiencers (50%) experiencing mental telepathy. The highest percentage was in the new age category which may be a reflection of how mental telepathy is considered more of a new age concept than any other category of experiencer.

(3) Concerning the NDE aspect of having a life review, more atheists (100%) reported having a life review than any other category of experiencer.

This high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, need a life review to understand their life from God’s perspective. Atheists generally reject the concept of an afterlife. A life review would certainly teach them how the belief in an afterlife has its advantages. Because atheists do not believe that their actions have divine consequences, this high percentage of atheist experiencers having a life review may be a reflection of how all atheists get what they don’t expect – judgment of their life – and get what they need – a perspective of their life from God’s perspective.

(4) Concerning the NDE aspect of seeing God, the percentage of all atheists (75%) who saw a divine being.

Although this percentage isn’t the highest percentage of all the categories of experiencers who saw God, it may be a reflection of how a majority of atheists get what they don’t expect – an experience of God – and get what they need – knowledge of God. This also demonstrates how people don’t have to be religious to see God after death.

(5) Concerning the NDE aspect of feeling tremendous ecstasy, the percentage of atheists (50%) who experienced tremendous ecstasy.

The atheist category is not the category with the highest percentage of experiencers having tremendous ecstasy. Another point of interest is within the atheist category itself. Because the percentage of atheists experiencing tremendous ecstasy is equal to those atheists who didn’t, this statistic is basically irrelevant other than it destroys the idea that atheists don’t have positive NDEs.

(6) Concerning the NDE aspect of receiving unlimited knowledge, more atheists (63%) reported receiving unlimited knowledge than any other category of experiencer.

Since atheists generally emphasize knowledge over religious faith, this high percentage may be a reflection of how a majority of atheists get what they desire – knowledge – and get what they need – knowledge of God.

(7) Concerning the NDE aspect of traveling through different afterlife realms, fewer atheists (25%) reported traveling through a number of different afterlife realms than any other category of experiencer.

This low percentage may be a reflection of how their NDEs are limited in scope because of their disbelief in life after death. This low percentage may also be a reflection of how a majority of atheists may be getting what they expect – a restricted understanding of the afterlife.

(8) Concerning the NDE aspect of being told they are not ready to die, fewer atheists (13%) reported being told they were not ready to die than any other category of experiencer.

This low percentage may be a reflection of how they, more than any other category of experiencer, already knew they were not ready to die (as was the case with Howard Storm) and didn’t need to be told so. This low percentage may also be a reflection of how the vast majority of atheists don’t get what they don’t need – information that they are not ready to die.

(9) Concerning the NDE aspect of meeting Jesus, the percentage of atheists (50%) who reported meeting Jesus.

The atheist category is not the category with the highest percentage of experiencers who met Jesus. Another point of interest is within the atheist category itself. Because the percentage of atheists who reported meeting Jesus is equal to those atheists who don’t, this may be a reflection of how a person’s lack of religious belief has no relevance when it comes to meeting Jesus. It also means you don’t have to be a Christian to meet Jesus during an NDE.

On the other hand, the relatively large number of atheists who do meet Jesus may be a reflection of how some atheists get what the don’t expect – an afterlife and experience of Jesus and get what they need – an experience with a great spiritual leader and/or get what they don’t desire – knowledge that they were wrong about the afterlife or Jesus. It may also be a reflection of the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in the West were the vast majority of these experiencers come from.

(10) Concerning the NDE aspect of receiving forgotten knowledge, fewer atheists (0%) reported receiving forgotten knowledge than any other category of experiencer.

This low percentage of atheists may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, don’t believe in a pre-birth existence. For them, it is possible that forgotten knowledge of life before birth is not realized because they may not be receptive to the idea. However, the category with the highest percentage of experiencers receiving forgotten knowledge are those in the category of being non-religious.

The other categories of experiencers (Christians, non-Christian religious people, and so-called “new agers“) have a percentage that is somewhere in between.

One interesting thing about this is that Christians generally don’t believe in life before birth either, yet a percentage of them received forgotten knowledge of a life before birth. This may be because Christians are more open to the idea of an afterlife than atheists are. This low percentage of atheists receiving forgotten knowledge may be a reflection of how they don’t get what they don’t expect – knowledge of life before birth and perhaps not getting what they desire – knowledge in general.

(11) Concerning the NDE aspect of experiencing fear, more atheists (50%) reported experiencing fear than any other category of experiencer.

This high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, are surprised, if not terrified, in knowing they were wrong about the existence of life after death. Their denial of the existence of a Higher Power may also cause them to have a terrifying experience while in the presence of a Higher Power. It may be that their prior disgust of religious people, such as was the case with Daniel Rosenblit and Howard Storm, caused them to be horrified of their ignorance.

This high percentage may be a reflection of how some atheists get what they don’t expect – learning they were wrong about the existence of an afterlife. It may also be a reflection of how such atheists get what they deserve – fearing what they don’t know concerning the afterlife.

(12) Concerning the NDE aspect of having a homecoming with family and friends, fewer atheists (0%) reported having a homecoming, or something similar to it, than any other category of experiencer.

This low percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, don’t believe in life after death, including seeing family and friends after death. This low percentage may be a reflection of how atheists get what they expect – no homecoming.

(13) Concerning the NDE aspect of being told of past lives, fewer atheists (13%) reported receiving knowledge of past lives.

This low percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencers, reject the possibility of reincarnation. This low percentage may also be a reflection of how a majority of atheists get what they expect – not receiving knowledge of past lives. Another interesting fact is that Christians today generally don’t believe in reincarnation, yet a percentage of them receive knowledge affirming the reality of reincarnation.

(14) Concerning the NDE aspect of being in or seeing hell, the percentage of atheists (50%) who reported experiencing or seeing hell.

Because the percentage of atheists who reported experiencing hell is equal to those atheists who don’t, this may be a reflection of how a person’s lack of religious belief has no relevance when it comes to experiencing hell or not experiencing hell. This relatively high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists may feel they are unworthy of heaven, as was the case with Howard Storm, once they realize they were wrong about God and the afterlife.

Since it can be assumed that people in hell need to be there because of a hellish spiritual condition, this relatively high percentage of atheists finding themselves in hell can also be assumed that they are there because of a hellish spiritual condition as well. This relatively large percentage of atheists in hell may be a reflection of how they get what they need – a purgatory of their hellish spiritual condition – and/or get what they expect – self-punishment for not believing in spiritual matters.

(15) Concerning the NDE aspect of seeing a heavenly City of light or some variation of this, more atheists (25%) reported seeing a City of light, or something similar to it, than any other category of experiencer.

This relatively high percentage may be a reflection of how atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, get what they need – a vision of a higher realm of spiritual existence.

This City of light is often described by experiencers as being similar to the New Jerusalem, a heavenly city described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. According to Revelation, this city comes down from heaven to the Earth sometime in the future. Because the Book of Revelation is highly symbolic, it can be assumed that this city coming down to Earth is also symbolic. Nevertheless, because more atheists report seeing this holy city, this may be a reflection of how such atheists get what they don’t expect – knowledge that the Bible contains spiritual truth – and perhaps they get what they need – receive knowledge that the Earth will one day be like heaven.

(16) Concerning the NDE aspect of seeing a Temple of Knowledge, more atheists (25%) reported seeing a Temple or Library of knowledge or a Hall of Records than any other category of experiencer.

This high percentage may be a reflection of how some atheists, more than any other category of experiencer, emphasize knowledge over religious faith. It may also be a reflection of how they get what they desire – knowledge in general and get what they need – spiritual knowledge – and get what they don’t expect – knowledge of life after death.

(17) Concerning the NDE aspect of witnessing spirits among the living, fewer atheists (0%) reported seeing spirits among the living than any other category of experiencer.

This fact that no atheists saw spirits among the living may be a reflection of how they, more than any other category of experiencer, reject the idea of ghosts, demons, or earthbound discarnates.

It is interesting to note that more Christians (25%) reported seeing such spirits than any other category of experiencer. This may be a reflection of how Christians believe in demons more than the other categories of experiencer. The fact that no atheists witnessed such spirits may be a reflection of how they get what they expect – don’t receive knowledge of demons and ghosts.

(18) Concerning NDEs that occur due to a suicide attempt, fewer atheists (0%) reported having an NDE resulting from a suicide attempt than any other category of experiencer.

The fact that none of these atheists made a suicide attempt may be a reflection of how they, more than any other category of experiencer, reject the concept of an afterlife and are more connected to physical life than the other categories of experiencers who may be more heavenly minded and therefore have a lesser connection to physical life. This may also show that atheists would probably be less likely to commit suicide than those who believe in a life after death. On the other hand, those who believe in life after death may have an even stronger reason not to commit suicide – the fear of having to go to hell because of it.

(19) Concerning seeing the Devil during an NDE, no category of experiencers (0%) saw the Devil.

This is significant because atheists get what they expect – no Devil. The category of religious experiencers who believe in the existence of the Devil (0%) and get what they desire – no Devil – and perhaps don’t get what they expect – don’t receive an affirmation of the existence of the Devil.

In summation, the following conclusions can be drawn from my brief study:

a. Compared to the other categories of experiencers, more people in the atheists category experienced [1] fear, [2] life review, [3] overwhelming love, [4] unlimited knowledge, [5] a Temple of Knowledge and [6] a City of light, than in any other category of experiencer.

b. These 6 NDE elements are part of the total of 21 elements found in many NDEs.

c. Of these 6 NDE elements, two of them (feeling overwhelming love and experiencing a life review) are in the top 3 most common elements of the 21 total elements researched.

d. Compared to the other categories of experiencers, fewer people in the atheist category [1] attempted suicide, [2] saw spirits among the living, [3] received a homecoming, [4] received forgotten knowledge, [5] received past life knowledge, and were [6] told they are not ready to die, than in any other category of experiencer.

e. Of these 6 NDE elements, two of them (saw spirits among the living and attempted suicide) are in the bottom 3 most common elements of the 21 total elements researched.

f. These conclusions show more atheists experienced 2 of the 3 most common elements; and more atheists experienced 2 of the 3 least common elements. This shows more atheists experienced both extremes – the top 3 common NDE elements and the bottom 3 common NDE elements. Could these statistics be a reflection of how extreme atheism is? It is anyone’s guess.

Categories
Psychology Triggers of NDEs

The Trigger of Mental Dysfunction: Inducing OBEs and Creative Genius

Mental dysfunction may trigger religious revelations, visions, out-of-body experiences (OBEs), near-death-like experiences, and even contribute to creative genius. In this article, you will discover that the nature of mental illness is not what the popular media portrays, and not what Hollywood typically dramatizes. Instead, you will learn, for example, that a medical doctor experienced an extensive OBE which was triggered by a manic-depressive episode that was so real for her that she was reluctant to take medication that would lose it. You will also learn how the nature of schizophrenia is related to the OBE phenomenon. The differences between psychic capabilities and psychosis will also be examined; and a theoretical basis for creative genius will be proposed.

Table of Contents

  1. Schizophrenia and Out-of-Body Experiences
  2. The Brilliant Madness of Bipolar Disorder
  3. A Near-Death-Like Experience Triggered by Psychosis
  4. The Dreaming God of the Bible
  5. A Psychoanalysis of the Hebrew Prophets
    a. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Hosea
    b. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Isaiah
    c. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Jeremiah
    d. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Ezekiel
    e. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Enoch
    f. A Brief Analysis of Other Biblical Prophets
  6. The Difference Between Psychic Intuition and Psychosis
  7. Edgar Cayce’s Psychic Revelations About Schizophrenia
  8. Jack Hiller on the Origin of Selected Works of Genius
    a. The General Health and Productivity of Geniuses
    b. An Explanation for Exceptional Achievement by Geniuses From Frozen Time Theory
    c. The Nature of Transcendental Knowledge and Its Availability for Creativity
    d. Select Discoveries by Genius May Reflect Abnormal Bouts of Mental Functioning

1. Schizophrenia and Out-of-Body Experiences

The term schizophrenia literally means “split mind” but it has nothing to do with so-called “split personalities” or “multiple personality disorder” (which is now known as dissociative identity disorder.) Schizophrenia is a genetic brain disease with common symptoms being delusions that include paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and disorganized thinking and speech accompanied by significant social dysfunction manifesting as psychosis. Schizophrenia has been described as a waking, perpetual nightmare by those afflicted by it. Approximately 1% of the world’s population is currently afflicted with schizophrenia. Social withdrawal, sloppiness of dress and hygiene, and loss of motivation and judgment are all common in schizophrenia (Carson, 2000). In one uncommon subtype (catatonic schizophrenia), the person may be largely mute, remain motionless in bizarre postures, or exhibit purposeless agitation, all signs of catatonia. About 30% to 50% of people with schizophrenia do not accept their condition or its treatment. People with schizophrenia often find facial emotion perception to be difficult. People with a family history of schizophrenia who suffer a transient psychosis have a 20-40% chance of being diagnosed one year later. The first-line psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia is antipsychotic medication, such as risperidone, which can reduce some of the symptoms of psychosis in about 7-14 days.

There is also scientific evidence of a relationship between schizophrenia and out-of-body experiences according to a study performed by Dr. Sohee Park, a neuroscientist from Vanderbilt University who works on schizophrenia. The test subject, known only as RM, had his first OBE at the age of 16. By the time he was 55, he has had more OBEs than he can remember. They usually happen just before falling asleep – for 10 minutes – then he views himself floating above his body and looking down on himself (called “autoscopy“.) If the same thing happens while he is awake, his sense of displacement is stronger and his real body feels like a marionette while his out-of-body self feels like a puppeteer. Then his OBE soon changes into religious delusions in which he communicates with angels and demons; and psychotic episodes follow. After four or five days of this, RM is then hospitalized.

2. The Brilliant Madness of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (or manic-depression) has been called a “brilliant madness” because of the expansive ideas psychosis can create. In days of old, people recognized how mental illness can even be a gift. Socrates once declared, “Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided the madness is given us by divine gift.” Plato referred to insanity as: “a divine gift and the source of the chief blessings granted to men.” Native American Indians believed that their voice hearers (shamans) revealed messages that had great spiritual significance.

The archetype of the “mad scientist” can be traced to Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), the Serbian American scientific inventor-genius and NDEr best known his astounding contributions to modern science and over 700 patents. Tesla is responsible for the invention of the electric motor, alternating electrical current, the radio, x-ray technology, remote control, robotics, the laser, florescent light bulbs, wireless communications, limitless free energy, and the magnifying transformer which became the basis for television transmission. Yet he also suffered from mental illnesses – specifically obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) and bipolar disorder. He also suffered from numerous psychological phobias and philias such as columbiphilia (an unusual love of pigeons), kakiphobia (the fear of dirt), scotophilia (the love of the dark), pathophobia (the fear of germs), spherophobia (the fear of round objects), triphilia (an obsession with the number 3), and an uncontrollable visual and auditory visions that often tormented him which could be described as bipolar hallucinations. He also believed he was in contact with extraterrestrials on the planet Mars (which I believe were spirit beings within the “Mars” planetary afterlife realm described by Edgar Cayce and Emanuel Swedenborg among others.)

Tesla experienced an NDE as a child which makes one wonder if his “brilliant madness” was the result of his NDE. As a teenager, he was swimming in the river near his hometown in Croatia. To impress his friends he dove and swam underwater to a diving dock some distance away from the shore, intending to swim under it and emerge where his friends couldn’t see him. He swam until he was sure he was clear of the dock and came to the surface. He banged his head on a beam under the dock. He swam farther and came up again, and hit his head once more. Now out of breath, he had an out-of-body experience which gave him a view of the entire floating dock and realized that he could come up to a point between the slats and breathe that way. Luckily for him, the strategy worked. It still took him many attempts before he reached open water.

Telsa would also exhibit grandiose thoughts which intelligent mentally ill people can have. John Nash, a lifetime schizophrenic, received the Nobel Laureate in Economics and his life was portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Mind. Other famous mentally ill people are: Leo Tolstoy and Earnest Hemingway (both NDErs), Ludwig van Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, John Keats, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Virginia Woolf, to name just a few.

The nature of schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis are still under debate and a significant issue is the relationship between psychosis and the mystical, or religious, experience.

3. A Near-Death-Like Experience Triggered by Psychosis

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is the distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the John Hopkins School of Medicine and co-author of the standard medical text taught there. Dr. Jamison is one of the foremost authorities on manic depressive illness. She is also a manic depressive herself. In her highly acclaimed book entitled An Unquiet Mind, Dr. Jamison describes a psychotic episode she had which transported her consciousness out of her body and into the solar system. Her near-death experience is similar to the out-of-body experience of Susan Blackmore‘s when she was under the influence of a psychedelic. Jamison’s consciousness traveled to Jupiter while she was enjoying the manic phase of her mental illness. The following is an excerpt from her excellent book and the account of her journey:

“People go mad in idiosyncratic ways. Perhaps it was not surprising that, as a meteorologist’s daughter, I found myself, in that glorious illusion of high summer days, gliding, flying, now and again lurching through cloud banks and ethers, past stars, and across fields of ice crystals. Even now, I can see in my mind’s rather peculiar eye an extraordinary shattering and shifting of light; inconstant but ravishing colors laid out across miles of circling rings; and the almost imperceptible, somehow surprisingly pallid, moons of this Catherine wheel of a planet. I remember singing ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ as I swept past those of Saturn, and thinking myself terribly funny. I saw and experienced that which had been only in dreams, or fitful fragments of aspiration.

“Was it real? Well, of course not, not in any meaningful sense of the word real. But did it stay with me? Absolutely. Long after my psychosis cleared, and the medications took hold, it became part of what one remembers forever, surrounded by an almost Proustian melancholy. Long since that extended voyage of my mind and soul, Saturn and its icy rings took on a elegiac beauty, and I don’t see Saturn’s image now without feeling an acute sadness at its being so far away from me, so unobtainable in so many ways. The intensity, glory, and absolute assuredness of my mind’s flight made it very difficult for me to believe, once I was better, that the illness was one I should willingly give up. Even though I was a clinician and a scientist, and even though I could read the research literature and see the inevitable, bleak consequences of not taking lithium, I for many years after my initial diagnosis was reluctant to take take my medications as prescribed. Why did it take having to go though more episodes of mania, followed by long suicidal depressions, before I would take lithium in a medically sensible way?”

Dr. Jamison says she still misses Saturn and the tremendous highs that go with manic depression; but the lithium (a simple salt/electrolyte) keeps her level and able to function as a normal person. One might say that this simple mineral found in the earth keeps manic depressives well grounded there.

Such experiences with the planets of our solar system is not unique to Redfield. In the 1970s, Ingo Swann (1933-2013), one of the most gifted OBE travellers ever to work under laboratory conditions in the U.S., carried through with a number of OBE journeys to various planets in our solar system while under laboratory conditions. Swann is considered “the father of remote viewing” and participated in the CIA’s secret psychic program called the Stagate Project. Swann was involved in a study by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), the second largest “think tank” in the world, to see if his remote viewing powers could extend to the planet Saturn. On the evening April 27, 1973, SRI researchers recorded Swann’s remote viewing session of the planet Jupiter and Jupiter’s moons, prior to the Voyager probe’s visit there in 1979. The results of this study were published in the book entitled Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities. Swann asked for 30 minutes of silence while it took Swann about three and a half minutes to remotely view Jupiter. In the session he gave accurate reports on the physical features of Jupiter, such as its surface, atmosphere and weather. Swann’s statement of Jupiter having planetary rings, like Saturn, was controversial at the time. The 1979 Voyager probe later confirmed the existence of the rings. In a later setting, he visited the planet Mercury (and later Jupiter, under the same circumstances). Much to the gaping amazement of NASA scientists, all of his observations were later proved to be correct by probes sent to these planets (see Dr. Janet Lee Mitchell‘s “A Psychic Probe of the Planet Mercury,” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 6, No. 4 (June 1975): pp. 17-21; and Mitchell, 1981.)

4. The Dreaming God of the Bible

Psychosis and religious visions have often been associated with each other since the earliest recorded history. Mental illness has traditionally been related to demon possession and prophetic ability as attributed to various personalities in the Bible. Saints such as Joan of Arc (1415 -1431) and Francis of Assisi (1182 -1226) heard multiple voices in their heads and the Church originally attacked them as being demon possessed. Of course, not all prophets were mentally disturbed people, many just practiced a kind of clairvoyance but remained balanced people, some even with a healthy critical intellect. So there is a very important note to make here: we must assume that people suffering from schizophrenia who are having religious hallucinations of God, may in fact be having real visions of a real God. The Talmud suggests that the prophet Hosea (8th century BCE) in the Bible was besieged with delusions of being Moses, even though the Talmud also claims that he was also the greatest prophet of his generation (Pesachim 87a). Skeptics often claim NDEs to be merely hallucinations because of their subjective nature. But this begs the question of what exactly is the difference between subjective and objective consciousness given the fact that scientists are not exactly certain what consciousness is. Or for that matter, what is the difference between a hallucination, a dream, a religious experience or any phenomena involving consciousness. Skeptics must first define what consciousness is before labeling any experience involving consciousness as being a hallucination; and this is something science has so far been unable to do.

5. A Psychopathalogical Analysis of the Hebrew Prophets

Not all mental health practitioners consider the symptoms of schizophrenia to be mental illness. Some consider it a “moral verdict” concerning certain forms of unacceptable or unintelligible behavior (Sorbin, T.B. and Monuso, J.C., , Schizophrenia: Medical Diagnosis or Moral Verdict, Pergamon, N.Y., 1980, quoted in Coleman 353.) This kind of behavior may indeed be culturally-bound (T. Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness, in Schiff, T., ed. Mental Illness and Social Process, Harper Row, N.Y., 1967, and Laing R.D., The Divided Self, Twentieth Publications, London, 1960.) William Blake, the great English poet, artist and religious thinker has been labeled schizophrenic (Coleman, J.C., Butcher, J.N., and Carson, R.C., Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life, Scott, Foresman and Co., Glenview, Ill.,1984, pg. 379.)

With this in mind, it is possible to evaluate the mental health of various personalities in the Bible. Of course, to do this, one must assume the Biblical accounts of these personalities are accurate and can be accepted at face value. The psychologist Dr. Herman H. Somers (1921-2003) was a former Jesuit priest for forty years until he became a religious skeptic after discovering psychopathological elements in the utterances of some Biblical prophets. In June 1990, he published a voluminous book dealing with the Old Testament prophets called, When God Slept, Man Wrote the Bible translated from Dutch to English. Basically, it is the Bible explained by a psychologist. Here are some of the book’s most striking points:

a. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Hosea

What is important for us is to understand is whether Hosea‘s vision can be seen as a legitimate vision of God; or at best can it be called a “cultural aberration” or at its worst the writings of a schizophrenic? Many schizophrenics assume they have lost their former selves and have taken on a new identity … some believe that they are now someone else and attempt to assume the name and characteristics of the other person (Buss, A., Psychopathology, John Wiley, N.Y., 1966, pgs. 188-191). Hosea seems to have developed his own message of God telling him to marry a prostitute in Hosea 3 and it appears Hosea’s grasp of reality had disintegrated, as occurs to schizophrenics. In the latter part of his book (Hosea 4-14) Hosea describes a form of idolatry which was in fact not prevalent in Assyrian influenced Israel. Political problems abounded, both internally and externally motivated, but the temple cults were relatively clean of idolatry. Thus there appears a confusion between reality as Hosea seems to mix metaphors and reality. Jeremiah, a century later, also describes a political suicidal situation, and he does use the metaphor of idolatry to describe it. However Ezekiel, who lived at the same time described idolatry as a sin of the past as if it were present – see below. While Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are all burdened with impossible missions and hence suffer immeasurably from their task, Amos and Jeremiah reactions are within the normal range.

b. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Isaiah

For a more tragic example, we turn to Isaiah, the “man of sorrow.” He had a schizophreniform accident, a vision with schizophrenic contents, which deeply influenced his further thought, but did not form a chronic condition of schizophrenia. In this vision, he has sensory hallucinations, catastrophic revelations, and a strong delusion of being chosen by God to serve a mission. This will condition his self-image and his “prophetic” style of logorrhea, emotional exaggeration, and making predictions. Taking into account that some of Isaiah’s successful “predictions” are in fact later interpolations, we find that the remaining authentic predictions are little more than expressions of the prophet’s own vengefulness and wishful thinking. Liberation theologians get a kick out of Isaiah’s tirades against the mighty and the successful (who will be wiped away when the Lord cometh), thinking that he was a kind of social revolutionary; in fact, he was just another typical unhappy man who developed both an intense vengefulness against the successful and a, delusion of being special in a supernatural way. Unhappy and vengeful people are keen observers and critics of others’ faults. And who will believe that Isaiah’s walking barefoot and naked for three years (Isaiah 20:2-4) is not abnormal behavior but a deliberate sign of warning?

c. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah, the prophet of doom par excellence, is a clear case of paranoia querulans. Israel has fallen and will be punished. The king of Babylon who subdues Israel is merely God’s punishing arm; which will not save him, the idolater, from equally being punished in the end. Jeremiah is against everyone, including rivaling godmen and prophets, and God’s revenge will be total. His immense hatred for everyone who disagrees and his hammering on always the same allegations and promises of doom, and a secondary delusion of being persecuted, are typical signs of querulous paranoia. As Dr. Somers writes:

“The book Jeremiah teaches us nothing about God, it illustrates how a sick mind pictures God in terms of his own delusion.”

Jeremiah shows a characteristic trait of the paranoia patient: a deadly hatred against everyone who disagrees with him, a totally disproportionate reaction to the “other opinion” inspired by hurt narcissism. The inflated ego is invested with divine dignity and power. Whoever speaks up against God, must die. In a sense, this is a diagnosis of not only Jeremiah, but of prophethood itself.

d. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Ezekiel

Ezekiel, who lived in the Babylonian exile, reiterated the condemnation of unfaithful Jerusalem by his contemporary Jeremiah. But he is of a different psychological type: he is not aggressive towards his audience, rather he is indifferent. The evil has been done, the catastrophe is sure to follow, whether people listen or not. Ezekiel is an unmistakable case of schizophrenia. In the 22 years (592–570 BCE) covered by the book Ezekiel, we see a typical development of this condition: he gets hallucinatory visions, develops an increasingly bizarre behavior, isolates himself. In moments of calm, he relates his visions to others and gives detailed descriptions. Not every schizophrenia patient makes it to the status of prophethood. Ezekiel was not an extreme case, and he was a literate man who could somehow make his visions relevant through religion, which made them interesting for the Bible editors. It was also his initial deep religiosity that made him vulnerable to emotional collapse when Jerusalem fell, its temple usurped by Baal priests, and the people (at least, the elite) forced into exile in Babel. Unlike many fellow Hebrews, he could not adapt to this Pagan city full of opportunity, and his emotional collapse developed into a permanent mental affliction.

Webmaster note: Ezekiel heard a voice commanding him to lie on the right side of his body for 390 days then switch to his left side for 40 more days. A voice also told him to eat food cooked with human excrement.

e. Dr. Somers’ Diagnosis: The Prophet Enoch

The last Old Testament prophet we must mention in this brief survey, is Enoch. His book (mid-second century BC) is classed as apocryphal, but it is an integral part of the prophetic tradition. Enoch was a staunch Pharisee and leader of the Essene sect. Probably he was the sect’s “teacher of righteousness,” mentioned in the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls unearthed at Qumran. It is he who first applied the notion of the “Son of Man” (developed by Daniel as pertaining to the Israelite nation as a whole) to himself, which personalized notion Jesus in turn was to interpret as applying to himself. There can be no doubt that Jesus borrowed from Enoch: the New Testament contains 64 almost literal quotes from Enoch, plus other types of references.

Webmaster note: According to Edgar Cayce, Enoch was a previous incarnation of Jesus Christ.]

The Book of Enoch contains the writings of someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia (with all the typical features of schizophrenia as Karl Jaspers described them). And it is these Enochian visions which constitute an essential component of the belief system of Jesus and his disciples. Once more, it should not surprise us that someone with such an affliction could be the recognized leader of a sect. Among other factors, people with a distorted consciousness are often capable of feats of asceticism which require tremendous will-power in ordinary mortals. And the common people of those days would naturally associate the abnormal with the supernatural, especially if it came clothed in the language of religion. But remarkably, in the case of Enoch, at least the guardians of the official religious tradition were suspicious of the divine character of Enoch’s book, mostly because of its very open self-centeredness. The typical thing with all people suffering from delusions, is that these delusions are very self-centered and allot special importance to the sufferer. But in the case of Enoch, it was conspicuous even to not very discriminating people that Enoch was glorifying more himself than Yahweh. Enoch claims that he had been given a divine job by God Himself, to reprimand the angels who, sometime before the Flood, had fallen in love with human females and begotten, on them the giants (remark the element of jealousy). Then, he is taken on a trip through heaven: “And I, Enoch, I alone have seen the vision, the end of everything, and no man will see the way I have seen” (Enoch 19:3). In heaven, he sees someone called the “Head of Days,” who comes to him and says: “You, you are the Son of Man, who was born for righteousness and righteousness remains with you and the righteousness of the Head of Days will not abandon you” (Enoch 71:17). In a vision of a terrible Day of Judgment, he refers to himself as the Chosen One.

f. A Brief Analysis of Other Biblical Prophets

Other prophets, such as John in the Book of Revelation, saw horrible monsters and devils which are remarkably similar to the dreams of the prophet Daniel. It is interesting that one particular near-death experiencer, Edgar Cayce, discovered that the Book of Revelation in the Bible is the record of a dream(s) by John the Revelator. This becomes apparent when the same archetypal images in Revelation can be found in dream of Daniel the prophet in the Bible. We also know from various sources that dreams, near-death experiences, and visions of the psychedelic, psychotic, and psychic are phenomena of an altered level of consciousness.

6. The Difference Between Psychic Intuition and Psychosis

At this point, one might ask, “What is the difference between being psychic and psychotic?” My own (i.e., the Webmaster’s) psychiatrist once gave me the answer which is paraphrased:

People who hear voices and see things that aren’t there can be classified into two groups. The first group are people who cannot cope with such phenomena. They are referred to as “mentally ill.” The second group can cope with them and they are referred to as “psychics.”

Historically, society in general has regarded people who talk to God as being holy. But if God talks to you, you’re considered insane.

Psychic intuition (or just “intuition“) is defined as “the ability to sense or know immediately without reasoning.” Carl Jung defined intuition as “perception via the unconscious”: using sense-perception only as a starting point, to bring forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious. Some scientists, such as Dr. Yehuda Elkana and Dr. Gerald Holton, have contended that intuition is associated with innovation in scientific discovery. In the late 70s, Dr. Nancy Andreasen of the University of Iowa began investigating if there was a possible link between intuition and creativity. Her own intuition led her to begin investigating schizophrenic people. Schizophrenia ran in Albert Einstein‘s family and a considerable number of experts today believe Einstein had Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism) and displayed schizophrenic tendencies. Speculation also exists that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity could have only come from a schizophrenic mind capable of viewing things from the outside. Dr. Andresen’s study found very high percentage of the writers in her investigation had bipolar disorder. With modern technical advances in neuroimaging, Dr. Andreasen discovered evidence of activity in the “association cortices” of the frontal lobes which plays a role is making connections between one part of the brain and another. Creative people such as writers and artists often describe their creative process as an unconscious phenomenon with ideas and insights seem to come out of nowhere.

Researchers such as Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman are investigating the notion of “latent inhibition” (LI) which can be thought of as a fine line between novel productive thinking and pathological delusional thinking. LI is the brain’s ability to filter out information at the unconscious level thereby making available rational thoughts. In other words, LI is when the brain is biased in such a way that it ignores stimuli that has already happened in the past. For example, if somebody honks a horn every day outside of your home, it becomes less noticeable after a while, unless you really pay attention to it. People afflicted with schizophrenia have a very difficult time with LI. In such cases, the brain is overwhelmed by too many neurons competing for the attention of other neurons while the brain is bombarded with too much sensory and emotional input. LI also occurs with people who have bipolar disorder and are psychotic.

Latent inhibition appears to also connected to intuition. Decreased LI may make a person more likely to see connections that other people may not see. Psychologists such as the late Dr. Colin Martindale and the late Dr. Hans Eysenck have made the case for the important role that disinhibition plays for creative thought. A study conducted by Dr. Shelley Carson discovered that among a sample of Harvard students with a high IQ and decreased LI tended to have increased creative achievement. This suggests that a reduced LI, in combination with adequate levels of the brain’s ability to sort out the cosmic input bombarding it, can lead to the very highest levels of creative achievement which also involves intuition.

Those of above average intelligence are thought to be capable of processing LI effectively, enabling their creativity and increasing their awareness of their surroundings. Those with less than average intelligence, on the other hand, are less able to cope, and as a result are more likely to suffer from mental illness and sensory overload. It is hypothesized that a low level of latent inhibition can cause either psychosis or a high level of creative achievement or both, which is usually dependent on the individual’s intelligence. When they cannot develop the creative ideas, they become frustrated and/or depressive.

7. Edgar Cayce’s Psychic Revelations About Schizophrenia

Joseph Campbell once said that the schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight. Edgar Cayce came to the same conclusion in his readings (e.g., 281-24). Cayce himself was a Christian mystic who certainly swam in deep waters. In a self-induced trance, Cayce’s unconscious mind and out-of-body condition would allow him to access seemingly unlimited amount of knowledge. Much of the knowledge he accessed were medical diagnosis and recommended treatments for those he gave readings for – including schizophrenia.

From a materialistic standpoint, physical reality is paramount. The psychological methods used to determine a person’s mental health are heavily weighted toward the materialistic view of reality. To be “out of touch” with material reality is, by psychiatric definition, to be psychotic. The Cayce readings on schizophrenia acknowledges that people experiencing psychosis, while out of touch with material reality, are closer to the “universal” or divine consciousness than most sane individuals. To explain the mystical aspects of schizophrenia, Cayce often used terminology from the Perennial Philosophy of other cultures such as kundalini, yoga, karma and possession. The therapies recommended by Cayce for schizophrenia were not only directed toward the regeneration of the nervous system, but also to help schizophrenic people to be more focused in material reality. Much of Cayce’s remedies for schizophrenia emphasizes simple, physical activities to help those afflicted to be more incarnate in their bodies and to participate in the physical world.

Cayce gave many psychic readings for persons suffering from schizophrenia; but he never used the term “schizophrenia.” In his day, the accepted medical term for schizophrenia was “dementia praecox.” Dementia refers to biological brain degeneration which results in cognitive deficiencies and psychosis. Praecox refers to the early onset of the illness which is usually in the late teens or early twenties. Cayce provided explicit descriptions of the brain deterioration in persons suffering from schizophrenia and recommended treatments for regenerating the nervous system. By doing so, Cayce acknowledged there exists mental and spiritual aspects to schizophrenia. Two books describing Edgar Cayce’s perspective on schizophrenia have been published. The Treatment of Schizophrenia: A Holistic Approach is a scholarly work written in APA (American Psychological Association) style. Case Studies in Schizophrenia is a less technical work describing individuals who sought Cayce’s help in cases of schizophrenia. Both books were written by David McMillin, MA.

8. Jack Hiller on the Origin of Selected Works of Genius

a. The General Health and Productivity of Geniuses

Jack H. Hiller, Ph.D., J.D., is the author of the book, Near-Death Experience of Space, Time, and Consciousness: How the World Was Created and Functions (2019), Volume 10, Issue 7, and the author of a series of papers in the Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research (2019). The following is Dr. Hiller’s research on the origin of selected works of genius:

It had become common folklore early on in the development of general IQ testing that the children scoring at the extremely high levels were sickly. To test this common belief and to learn how such children would fair in life, a professor at Stanford University, Lewis Terman, began a major long term study of children, with a sample size of 1,444 scoring at the genius level on the Stanford Binet IQ Test. That study started in 1921 and continues to this day. Early on in this study, it was found that:

Based on data collected in 1921-22, Terman concluded that gifted children suffered no more health problems than normal for their age, save a little more myopia than average. He also found that the children were usually social, were well-adjusted, did better in school, and were even taller than average. A follow-up performed in 1923–1924 found that the children had maintained their high IQs and were still above average overall as a group.”

However, much later on, Terman found that this group was not characterized by a high proportion going on to be more productive of great intellectual achievements:

“Well over half of men and women in Terman’s study finished college, compared to 8% of the general population at the time. Some of Terman’s subjects reached great prominence in their fields. Among them were head writer of “I Love Lucy” (the television program) Jess Oppenheimer, American Psychological Association president and educational psychologist Lee Cronbach, Ancel Keys, and Robert Sears himself. Over fifty men became college and university faculty members. However, the majority of study participants’ lives were more mundane. By the 4th volume of Genetic Studies of Genius, Terman had noted that as adults, his subjects pursued common occupations “as humble as those of policeman, seaman, typist and filing clerk” and concluded: ‘At any rate, we have seen that intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated.'”

Thus, it appears that simply having good health and a bright mind are not fully adequate to account for brilliant intellectual achievements. In fact, certain well known high achievers who had a genius mentality also experienced mental disorders, such as Nobel Laureate in mathematics, John Nash, the brilliant logico-mathematician Kurt Godel, and the revolutionary inventor Nikola Tesla. In Hiller’s study of the nature of knowledge keyed to the reports of people who have had the near-death experience, one of the reasons for their productivity may have been discovered, as explained below.

b. An Explanation for Exceptional Achievement by Geniuses From Frozen Time Theory

The mind or consciousness does not limit its potential function to what the brain does when it is completely detached from it (e.g., during an NDE) or partially detached (during dreams and deep meditation) thereby enabling it to function independent of the brain/body. Normally, the mind is attached to the brain and is thus normally restricted by brain limitations.

c. The Nature of Transcendental Knowledge and Its Availability for Creativity

When the human mind is weakly or temporarily disassociated from its normal brain attachment, then the consciousness of its spirit form has available to it the eternal knowledge which may be termed “Transcendental” to distinguish it from the Mundane sorts of knowledge created by living in the material domain (the 3rd Domain), as explained by Near-Death Experience of Space, Time, and Consciousness, Chapter 10. A theory of knowledge: the Transcendental and Mundane. The universal field of consciousness (UFC), as discussed in Chapter 2 of this text, has all of its existing knowledge made available to the individual consciousness (mind) when it is detached from its material body. Some refer to all human knowledge as existing in a mystical non-material field termed the “akashic records“. For biology, Rupert Sheldrake refers to a “morphic field” for knowledge that animals may tap into without their normal sense-perception mechanism. Frozen Time Theory (presented in Chapter 1 of the text) did not attempt to distinguish among the possible categories of information of transcendental knowledge contained in the universal field of consciousness (UFC), which is most likely God’s own mind, and thus too extensive to be neatly carved up into categories from what is known by science.

d. Select Discoveries by Genius May Reflect Abnormal Bouts of Mental Functioning

Select achievements by geniuses may thus reflect their having tapped into the universal mind (i.e., the transcendental knowledge in the UFC). Geniuses, such as Kurt Godel, Nikola Tesla, and John Nash, may have tapped into the transcendental knowledge contained in the UFC when their minds separated from their normal functioning locked to the brain.

Note too, that during dreaming (or deep meditation), the mind may separate from its attachment to brain to tap into transcendental knowledge. For example, Albert Einstein attributed his breakthrough in formulating Special Relativity to a dream (the one about watching cows getting shocked on a fence whose observed shock times depended on where an observer stood); but it is also important to note that his realization for what the dream meant depended on his mental preparation about the issue involved. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726), one of the most influential scientists of all time, suffered from mental illness. In 1693, Newton experienced a “nervous breakdown.” According to autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen, both Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton have shown many signs of Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that does not cause learning difficulties. Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907) attributed his formation of the Periodic Table to realizing its patterning in a dream. Nobel laureate James Watson (b. 1928), co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, reported stumbling upon the double helix image for the DNA chain through his dream of a spiral staircase. Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) was one of India’s greatest mathematical geniuses. He made substantial contributions to analytical theory of numbers and worked on elliptical functions, continued fractions, and infinite series. He worked for five years producing startling results and proved over 3,000 theorems in his lifetime. According to Ramanujan, inspiration and insight for his work many times came to him in his dreams. Niels Bohr (1885-1962) won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922 for his discovery of the structure of the atom. He recalled that the electrons revolving around the nucleus, like the solar system, came to him in a dream. Upon testing his “dream” hypothesis, he was able to discover that the atomic structure was, in fact, similar to it. The scientist Friedrich Kekulé (1829-1896) discovered the seemingly impossible chemical structure of benzene (C6H6) when he had a dream of a group of snakes swallowing their tails. French philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes (1596-1650), claimed that the dreams that he had in 1619, revealed to him the basis of the scientific method. The German born physiologist, Otto Loewi (1873-1961), won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1936 for his work on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses which came to him in a dream. Paul McCartney is one of the most famous and successful singer/songwriters of all time. According to the Guinness Book of Records, his Beatles song “Yesterday” (1965) has the most cover versions of any song ever written and, according to record label BMI, was performed over seven million times in the 20th century. The tune for “Yesterday” came to Paul McCartney in a dream. The scientist who is credited with working out that insulin is effective in treating diabetes, Frederick Banting (1891-1941) received the Nobel Prize in Medicine at just 32 years old. He dreamt about a diabetic dog and a surgical procedure that included tying up the pancreas. This led to a breakthrough relating to the disproportionate balance between sugar and insulin. Which led to another dream indicating how insulin could be used to treat diabetes. Millions of lives have been saved or revolutionized by this discovery.

Thus, it may be no random accident that some of our geniuses have exhibited mental dysfunction during their lives, because such dysfunction may actually have contributed to their exceptional achievements.

Categories
Psychology Triggers of NDEs

The Trigger of Extreme Gravity: Dr. James Winnery’s NDE Research

The scientific method requires a phenomenon to be able to be reproducible under laboratory conditions for it to be declared a “real” phenomenon. In the early days, near-death experiences were thought by some to be just “phantom” visions and nothing more than imagination. But then Dr. James E. Whinnery, a chemistry professor with West Texas A&M, became involved with research involving fighter pilots being subjected to extreme gravitational forces in a giant centrifuge to simulate the extreme conditions that can occur during aerial combat maneuvering. Strangely enough, it turns out that under extreme g-forces, fighter pilots lose consciousness (known as “G-LOC“) and have a near-death experience. Whinnery wrote a technical report for the National Institute for Discovery Science about the phenomenon and in doing so proved the near-death experience to be a real phenomenon. Dr. Whinnery published his study, Psychophysiologic Correlates of Unconsciousness and Near-Death Experiences (PDF), in the Journal of Near-Death Studies. The following is a summary of his technical report of how NDEs are triggered by severe gravitational forces.

NDE Research By Dr. James Winnery

Scientific research has tried to unlock the secrets of death and what happens to consciousness after death. Our scientific understanding of the mind/brain chemistry involved in the processes of death remains relatively limited. In spite of the findings reported from these studies, little emphasis has been placed on the loss of consciousness. The results of the loss and recovery of consciousness experiments in healthy humans may provide insight into the normal processes in the brain that occurs in association with NDEs.

This report focuses on the mind/brain events associated with acceleration gravitationally-induced loss of consciousness, also known as G-LOC, in completely healthy individuals. Acceleration of gravitational stress is a unique aspect of flying fighter aircraft during aerial combat maneuvering. Modern fighter aircraft can attain high levels of gravitational forces that puts most humans at risk for G-LOC.

The gravitational-stress reduces blood flow to the head and causes pooling of blood in the abdomen and extremities which result in G-LOC. A solution for the G-LOC problem requires a thorough understanding of the alterations of consciousness. Although preventing further losses of aircrew and aircraft is the goal of fighter aviation medicine, the results from experiments involving G-LOC in completely healthy humans should be of interest to a broad range of scientific disciplines.

The results to be discussed represent data collected from over fifteen years of acceleration research and more than 700 episodes of G-LOC that occurred in fighter aircraft and during gravitational centrifuge exposure. The research subjects averaged in age of 32 years. All of them were healthy after having successfully completed a military physical examination. The G-LOC episodes from the centrifuge were all recorded on videotape for analysis.

When gravitational stress is applied well above tolerance, there is a short time period during which normal brain function persists, despite loss of adequate blood flow. At the end of this period, consciousness is lost, and the gravitational stress is reduced back to normal conditions. The length of the unconsciousness averaged 12 seconds with a -5 to +5 standard deviation and a range of 2 to 38 seconds. The estimated average length of time blood flow to the central nervous system was altered during the loss and recovery of consciousness was approximately 15 to 20 seconds.

Convulsive activity was observed in 70% of the G-LOC episodes. The convulsive activity began on the average 7.7 seconds after the onset of unconsciousness and lasted 3.9 seconds. The convulsions would cease with the return of consciousness. Upon recovery of consciousness, there is a period of relative incapacitation that lasts on the average about 12 seconds, in which there exists confusion/disorientation.

It is possible to classify the G-LOC episodes. The G-LOC experience includes specific visual symptoms (tunnel vision through blackout), convulsive activity, memory alterations, dreamlets, and other psychological symptoms. The major, overall G-LOC experience characteristics that have commonality with NDEs are shown below.

G-LOC Characteristics in Common With NDEs

  1. Tunnel vision / Bright light
  2. Floating
  3. Automatic movement
  4. Autoscopy
  5. Out-of-body experience
  6. Not wanting to be disturbed
  7. Paralysis
  8. Vivid dreamlets / Beautiful places
    a. Euphoria
    b. Dissociation
  9. Pleasurable
  10. Psychologic state alteration
  11. Friends/Family inclusion
  12. Prior memories/Thoughts inclusion
  13. Very memorable (when remembered)
  14. Confabulation
  15. Strong urge to understand

The G-LOC syndrome, however, suggests that loss of consciousness may be considered to be an evolutionarily developed protective mechanism that is evoked in a stepwise sequence in the face of excessive gravitational stress, well before any pathologic alterations of the nervous system occurs. Specific states of consciousness, subconsciousness, and unconsciousness are induced during loss and recovery of consciousness. One additional state of consciousness, a state that corresponds to a critically low range of blood flow, is where death occurs. The magnitude and duration of the gravity induced reduction of activity in the cephalic nervous system determines just how near to the state of death the individual comes.

Conclusion

Altered brain states, whether resulting from G-LOC or the NDE, can produce vivid experiences to those who have them. Some differences between G-LOC and the NDE would be expected, if for no other reasons than the circumstances that cause them and the magnitude of the insults to the nervous system, which are different. The G-LOC syndrome symptoms are the normal responses of completely healthy individuals to relatively minimal periods of cephalic nervous system ischemia. If there are unique characteristics associated with the NDE, then their isolation would appear to be facilitated by focusing on what the real differences are in the individuals, their physical states, the environmental situation, the type of insult, and the symptomology between G-LOC and the NDE.

The mind/brain events of the NDE may be at least partially open to experimental investigation in healthy humans and not solely upon clinical happenstance. The need to understand the states of consciousness, subconsciousness, and unconsciousness, along with the mechanisms that cause the transition between these states is shared by those investigating NDEs and G-LOC.

Loss-of-consciousness episodes of all types appear to have an explainable physiologic basis. They are, therefore, open for scientific investigation. At least the loss of consciousness aspect of the NDE, therefore, has a potentially explainable and experimentally explorable basis. It would be odd if the symptoms associated with loss and recovery of consciousness were not part of the NDE. The fact that many of the NDE symptoms are very similar to those resulting from loss and recovery of consciousness suggests that individuals who report their NDEs have provided accurate symptom descriptions. This includes those symptoms beyond the scope of G-LOC experimentation, which are unique to the NDE.

Categories
Research Conclusions Science

Science and the Near-Death Experience

The Spiritual Development Blog describes the situation best. Ultimately, all materialistic explanations for NDEs must fail because they cannot explain the paranormal components of the phenomena, such as shared near-death experiences where multiple people share a near-death experience, and veridical near-death experiences where the experiencer remembers verifiable information that could not have been perceived with his normal senses even if he were conscious. The Spiritual Development Blog has discussed these types of cases and provided examples on their website and elsewhere on their blog. Even claims that veridical perceptions are due to ESP do not contradict the conclusion that near-death experiences represent out-of-the-body consciousness and evidence for the afterlife because ESP is not produced by the brain and ESP during near-death experiences is best explained as out-of-the-body consciousness. However it is interesting to see how weak the materialists hypotheses are on their own ground. It shows that these materialistic hypotheses are proposed by people who are incredibly ignorant of near-death experiences. It says something sad about the current state of the scientific profession that scientists would make such reckless proposals without investigating the subject they are discussing.

Table of Contents

  1. Scientific theories explaining NDEs
  2. Near-death studies research conclusions
  3. Events which can trigger an OBE or NDE
  4. Scientific discoveries are coming from another dimension
  5. Television-like technology exists in the afterlife
  6. Computer-like technology exists in the afterlife

1. Scientific theories explaining NDEs

a. Dying brain theory

PRO: Because NDEs have many common core elements, this shows they are not spiritual voyages outside of the body, but are a function of the dying brain. All brains die in the same way and this is why all NDEs have essential core elements which are the same. They are the result of neurotransmitters in the brain shutting down which creates lovely illusions. (Susan Blackmore)

CON: Because NDEs have many common core elements, this suggests they are real spiritual voyages outside of the body. Also, if the dying brain creates NDE illusions, what is the purpose for doing it? If our brains are only a high-tech computer-like lump of tissue which produces our mind and personality, why does it bother to create illusions at the time of death? If everything, including the mind and personality, are about to disintegrate, why would the brain produce a last wonderful Grand Finale vision? Even if NDE elements can be reduced to only a series of brain reactions, this does not negate the idea of NDEs being more than a brain phenomenon. Read this article on the errors of the pseudoskeptics of NDEs. Read a critique of the dying brain theory.

b. Lack of oxygen theory

PRO: Neurologist Ernst Rodin offers cerebral anoxia as a possible cause of NDEs of the dying brain. Such anoxia produces a confusing dream-like state of delusions and hallucinations. (Susan Blackmore)

CON: According to cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom, the NDE involves a clear awareness and a more mystical content, and NDEs have also occurred in people without anoxia. Pim van Lommel led a groundbreaking study concerning NDEs during cardiac arrest. In our study all patients had a cardiac arrest, they were clinically dead, unconsciousness that was caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain, and the EEG has become flat. In patients cardiac arrest (ventricular fibrillation) is sometimes induced for testing internal defibrillators. In these patients the EEG becomes usually flat within 10-15 seconds from the onset of syncope due to the (reversible) total loss of function of the brain. According to the physiologic theory, all patients in our study should have had NDE, but only 18% reported NDE.

c. Right temporal lobe theory

PRO: Neurologist Dr. Michael Persinger argues that instability and activity in the brain’s right temporal lobe is responsible for religious experiences of deep meaningfulness, early memories, and out-of-body experiences (see Persinger’s God Helmet video.)

CON: Dr. Melvin Morse agrees with the right temporal lobe showing NDE-like activity, but he sees it as the mediating bridge for a spiritual experience, and not reductionistically as nothing but brain activity (Morse, 1992). Also, the characteristic emotions resulting from temporal lobe stimulation are fear, sadness, and loneliness, not the calm and love of an NDE. While scientists may be discovering a mechanism associated with NDEs, this does not mean NDEs are strictly produced by this mechanism. A mechanical function associated with NDEs does not negate the idea of NDEs being more than a mechanical function.

d. Cortical disinhibition theory

PRO: Susan Blackmore interprets the tunnel and the light as an optical illusion created by the effects of anoxia and drugs, creating cortical disinhibition, with the effect of random light spots radiating from the center of a dark internal visual field.

CON: Dr. Michael Sabom tested and rejected this brain-only argument. While brain neurology is obviously a part of NDEs, he says, it is not a sufficient explanation because of the verified or veridical aspects found in some NDEs. This aspect is suggestive of the possibility of consciousness existing outside of the body.

e. Hallucination theory

PRO: The psychiatrist Dr. Ronald Siegel interprets NDEs and similar imaginative visions of the afterlife as hallucinations, similar to the effects of psychedelic drugs or anesthesia.

CON: Psychologist John Gibbs states, “NDE accounts from varied times and cultures were found to be more orderly, logical, defined and predictable than comparable accounts from drug or illness-induced hallucination. Impressive data from Tart, Moody and Carl Becker also argue for the objective elements of an NDE, including returning with knowledge later verified and third-party observations of odd deathbed phenomena (such as luminosity or apparitions). Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist, notes drug induced hallucinations taking place while the subject is conscious. During an NDE the subject is unconscious. While in the state of unconsciousness, the brain cannot create images. Even if they did, the subject would not be able to remember them. NDEs involve clear, lucid memories. Also, drug induced hallucinations distort reality while NDEs have been described as “hyper-reality.”

f. Depersonalization theory

PRO: Dr. Russell Noyes theorizes a defense of the nervous system stalling off mental disorganization during the death crisis by presenting an altered passage of time, vivid and accelerated thoughts, a sense of detachment, unreality, automatic movements, and revival of memories.

CON: Dr. Michael Sabom argues depersonalization fails to account for all the elements of NDEs. Some NDE elements do not fit into the depersonalization mode, such as the strong spiritual and mystical feelings, and the increased alertness and awareness. Also, the vast majority of experiencers reject the idea of their NDE being the result of depersonalization. To reduce what was a profound and transforming experience to nothing more than a set of neurotransmitters going on the blink is a bit like seeing Michelangelo’s statue of David as nothing more than several tons of marble.

g. Memory of birth theory

PRO: Otto Rank proposed birth trauma being behind all neuroses, for all anxiety-producing experiences of separation reactivate the separation from the mother at birth (Brown, 52-53). This theory has been modified to explain the NDE. The cosmologist Carl Sagan proposed the tunnel and light are a reliving of the infant’s descent down the birth canal (Sagan, 353-68).

CON: Carl Becker asserted that infants descending the birth canal have their eyes closed and brains too undeveloped to allow memories of birth (Becker, 1982). Similarly, Susan Blackmore proved that people born by caesarian section have the tunnel experience and OBEs in equal proportion to those born naturally (Blackmore, 1983). Birth is also often an unpleasant experience for babies. In contrast, NDEs are often described as extremely pleasurable.

h. Endorphins theory

PRO: The brain’s naturally produced narcotics, such as the endorphins, have been offered by endocrinologist Daniel Carr to explain why, at the very moment when the body’s death would be expected to bring incredible pain and terror, the NDE surprises us with pleasure, calm, and peace.

CON: Dr. Melvin Morse responds that patients receiving prescribed narcotics similar to the endorphins experienced no NDEs (Morse, 1989).

i. Denial of death theory

PRO: The NDE is seen by some Freudians as a denial of death, a hallucinatory wish fulfillment defending the ego from its impending annihilation.

CON: A large number of people who have NDEs are initially not even aware they have died. In these cases, death is neither considered nor denied (e.g., Dr. George Ritchie, Howard Storm).

j. Fear of death theory

PRO: Severe anxiety and stress at the time of death creates a dissociative state.

CON: Pim van Lommel led a groundbreaking study concerning NDEs during cardiac arrest. Only a very small percentage of patients said they had been afraid the last seconds preceding the cardiac arrest. Also, the medication given to them made no difference.

k. Darwin’s theory of evolution

PRO: This theory holds that NDE reports are a deliberate ploy of humans to help the human race to adapt better to the inevitable end of their lives. This is based on the survival of the fittest which means that every species has the primary urge to struggle to increase its hold on the planet and guarantee the survival of its descendants.

CON: This theory does not explain why NDEs are erratic, or why we shunted down an evolutionary sidetrack for years by making NDEs something that people are reluctant to talk about.

l. Too much carbon dioxide theory

PRO: Near-death experiences are tricks of the mind triggered by an overload of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. During cardiac arrest and resuscitation, blood gases such as CO2 rise or fall because of the lack of circulation and breathing. Patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon-dioxide levels were significantly higher than in those who did not. (Zalika Klemenc-Ketis of the University of Maribor in Slovenia)

CON: According to neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London, “The one difficulty in arguing that CO2 is the cause is that in cardiac arrests, everybody has high CO2 but only 10 percent have NDEs. What’s more, in heart attack patients, there is no coherent cerebral activity which could support consciousness, let alone an experience with the clarity of an NDE.”

m. Rapid eye movement (REM) intrusion theory

PRO: Dr. Kevin Nelson of the University of Kentucky suggests near-death experiences are akin to dreaming and they use the same rapid eye movement (REM) mechanism associated with sleep. In other words, near-death experiences are a part of the dream mechanism and the person having the experience is in a REM state.

CON: Dr. Jeffrey Long from the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF.org) disagrees with Nelson on a number of points. First of all, he states that Nelson’s comparison group – the non-NDErs – is not typical and many were medical professionals and colleagues of Nelson. Secondly, Nelson’s research questionnaire was poorly designed. Thirdly, Nelson failed to recognize dramatic differences between NDE and REM intrusion. Hallucinations stemming from REM intrusion – just before waking or while falling asleep – are often “bizarre and unrealistic” such as seeing objects appear through cracks in a wall or movement in a painting on the wall. By contrast, memories from an NDE are lucid and rooted in the real world. NDErs almost uniformly don’t say, “Oh, that must have been a dream.” About 75 percent say they were more alert, more conscious than normal. There’s also a consistency of elements in NDEs which hallucinations don’t have. Fourthly, 98 percent of NDErs encounter deceased relatives, as opposed to dreams where it’s common to encounter living people. NDErs also encounter deceased relatives whom they didn’t know at the time were dead. Fifthly, the totality of evidence shows there’s something going on that’s outside the medical evidence. NDEers almost always say that it wasn’t a hallucination or dream; it was some different realm, some different aspect of their existence. And finally, REM intrusion – whether sleep paralysis or hallucinations – tends to be frightening or deeply unsettling. By contrast, most people who go through an NDE say the experience is almost supernaturally calm and peaceful, even joyful. Not only anecdotes, but real evidence does support this. In a 2001 study in the medical journal The Lancet, of 62 cardiac attest patients who reported an NDE, more than half said the main emotions they experienced were “positive.” Long says these distinctive, positive emotions are powerful evidence that an NDE is not just REM intrusion in disguise.

n. Sharp increase of brain activity after heart stops theory

PRO: Dr Jimo Borjigin of the University of Michigan suggests that the dying brain does not shut down as might be expected, but instead, becomes much more active during the dying process than even the waking state. He bases his findings on a study involving rats where it was discovered that in the 30-second period after the rodent’s hearts stopped beating, there was a sharp increase in high-frequency brainwaves.

CON: In a paper entitled, “Seeing Dead People Not Known to Have Died: Peak in Darien Experiences,” Dr. Bruce Greyson from the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia argues that in his collection of 665 NDEs, 138 (21%) included a purported meeting with a deceased person. People on their deathbeds see, and often express surprise at meeting, a recently deceased person, of whose death neither they nor anyone around them had any knowledge. This excludes the possibility that the vision was a hallucination related to the experiencer’s expectations. Such NDEs are termed “Peak in Darien” cases, after a book by that name published in 1882 by Frances Power Cobbe. The title is taken from a John Keats poem describing the shock of the Spaniards, who, after scaling a peak in Darien (in what is now Panama), expect to see a continent, but are confronted instead with another ocean.

Bruce Greyson reports in his paper, published in the academic journal ‘Anthropology and Humanism’, many examples, including that of Physician K. M. Dale who related the case of 9-year-old Eddie Cuomo, whose fever finally broke after nearly 36 hours of anxious vigil on the part of his parents and hospital personnel. As soon as he opened his eyes, at 3:00 in the morning, Eddie related that he had been to heaven, where he saw his deceased Grandpa Cuomo, Auntie Rosa, and Uncle Lorenzo. Then Eddie added that he also saw his 19-year-old sister Teresa, who told him he had to go back. His father became agitated, because he had spoken with Teresa, who was attending college in Vermont, just two nights ago. Later that morning, Eddie’s parents learned that Teresa had been killed in an automobile accident just after midnight, and that college officials had tried unsuccessfully to reach the Cuomos at their home.

Bruce Greyson relates many other examples, including cases in which the deceased person seen was someone whom the experiencer had never known. For example, Greyson reports cardiologist Maurice Rawlings describing the case of a 48-year-old man who had a cardiac arrest. In an NDE he perceived a gorge full of beautiful colors, where he met both his stepmother and his biological mother, who had died when he was 15 months old. His father had remarried soon after his biological mother’s death, and this person had never even seen a photo of her. A few weeks after this episode, his aunt, having heard about this vision, brought a picture of his mother with a number of other people. The man picked his mother out of the group, to the astonishment of his father.

o. Consciousness survives bodily death theory

PRO: There exists strong circumstantial evidence of consciousness surviving bodily death. While this evidence does not constitute conclusive scientific proof, the evidence for survival can be found in science, philosophy, history, metaphysics, religion, and anecdotal testimony. Quantum physics makes some scientific theories of the NDE outmoded while supporting elements of NDEs. Scientific studies support the possible validity of NDEs elements such as being out of the body, the retention of mental images during brain death, veridical experiences of autoscopic events, the ability to accurately foresee the future, receiving information that leads to new scientific discoveries, people born blind being able to see, groups of people sharing a single experience, unbiased children having similar experiences as adults, causing experiencers to be drastically changed and convinced of survival after death, the evidence supporting the objectivity of NDEs, and the affirmation of ancient religious concepts found around the world. Some of the skeptical arguments against the survival theory are often not valid and the burden of proof against survival has shifted to the skeptics. The following is a list of the evidence supporting NDEs as the survival of consciousness – some of which are documented in The Near-Death Experience: A Reader by Dr. Lee Worth Bailey and Jenny Yates:

  1. Quantum physics makes some materialistic theories of the NDE outmoded: New developments in quantum physics shows that we cannot know phenomena apart from the observer. Arlice Davenport challenges the hallucination theory of NDEs as outmoded because the field theories of physics now suggest new paradigm options available to explain NDEs. Mark Woodhouse argues that the traditional materialism/dualism battle over NDEs may be solved by Einstein. Since matter is now seen as a form of energy, an energy body alternative to the material body could explain the NDE. This is supported by Melvin Morse who describes how NDEs are able to realign the charges in the electromagnetic field of the human body so that somehow the brain’s wiring is renewed. He reports on patients who have NDEs and who recover from such diseases as pneumonia, cardiac arrest, and cancer (1992, 153-54). Perhaps the brain is like a kind of receiver such as a television, radio, or cell phone. What is received (i.e., signals, music, voice) is not produced by the receiver, but exists separately as electromagnetic waves that are processed by the receiver to make them visible or audible to the senses.
  2. Quantum physics support elements found in NDEs: Similarities can be found between elements of NDEs and in quantum field concepts of nonlocality, universal interconnectedness, a non-material dimension without our time-space relationship, and in the concept of subjectivity. All events are related and influence each other instantaneously and in reciprocity, and only subjectivity remains.
  3. Scientific studies support the out-of-body aspect of NDEs: Pim van Lommel led a study concerning the NDEs of research subjects who had cardiac arrest. The findings of the study suggests that research subjects can experience consciousness, with self-identity, cognitive function and memories, including the possibility of perception outside their body, during a flat EEG. Those research subjects who had NDEs report that their NDE was a bonafide preview of the afterlife.
  4. Memories and images are produced and retained by standstill patients: See Dr. Michael Sabom‘s groundbreaking Atlanta study.
  5. People see and hear verifiable events far from their bodies during an NDE: See (a) Dr. Charles Tart’s research subject, (b) Pam Reynolds, (c) Dr. George Rodonaia, (d) Dr. George Ritchie, and (e) various NDE experiencers.
  6. Strange aspects to NDEs cannot be explained by brain chemistry alone: If NDEs are merely hallucinations, why do the vast majority of experiencers report being told an identical and unusual message? This unusual message is that they must return because their time for death hasn’t come, or some variation of this. Assuming that NDEs are merely hallucinations, it is odd that people are having mass hallucinations of receiving similar unusual messages.
  7. People born blind are able to see during an NDE: See Vicki Umipeg’s NDE account.
  8. Groups of people can share the same NDE at the same time: NDE research Arvin Gibson documented the account of a group of firefighters who succumbed to a forest fire. During their NDEs they saw each other outside of their bodies and had a most interesting experience. See the Group NDE web page involving May Eulitt and Jake.
  9. People are able to successfully foresee future events during an NDE: Some of these events were the Second World War, Desert Storm, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. See the NDE and the Future web page.
  10. People are declared dead and left for dead for several days during an NDE: A Russian scientist was declared dead and put in the morgue for three days during which he had an NDE. See Dr. George Rodonaia’s NDE account. Also, visit Emanuel Tuwagirairmana’s NDE account.
  11. Unbiased children have NDEs that are similar to adult NDEs: See P.M.H. Atwater’s research on childhood NDEs.
  12. Scientific discoveries have been made from the direct result of NDEs: See the list of scientific discoveries above.
  13. NDEs can be viewed to be archetypal initiatory journeys: Dr. Ken Ring stated that NDEs can be viewed psychologically as archetypal initiatory journeys involving a death of one’s old ego and a rebirth of a new self. An adequate interpretation must incorporate the spiritual realm of kundalini experiences, the imaginal realm, and the mind at large. As Ring envisions in an essay in this book, this paradigm can deconstruct our traditional Western worldview. It may lead to a dramatic next step in the evolution of a more ecological and more compassionate consciousness.
  14. People are dramatically changed as a result from having an NDE: The philosophy of Positivism, founded by A. J. Ayer, is the philosophy that anything not verifiable by the senses is nonsense. And since NDEs mark the end of the senses, the survival of the senses after death is nonsense. But this philosophy is challenged by its founder A. J. Ayer himself. Later in life, Ayer had an NDE where he saw a red light. His NDE made him a changed man: “My recent experiences, have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death … will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be.” (Ayer, 1988 a, b).
  15. People are absolutely convinced they were out of their body during an NDE: See the Evidence of NDEs web page.
  16. NDEs can be considered an objective experience: The philosopher Carl Becker examined four ways in which NDEs may be considered objective:
    1. Paranormal knowledge that is later verified.
    2. The similarity of deathbed events in different cultures.
    3. Differences between religious expectations and visionary experiences.
    4. Third-party observations of visionary figures, indicating that they were not merely subjective hallucinations (Becker, 1984).
  17. Other paranormal phenomena supports NDEs to be experiences of the survival of consciousness including: (a) Deathbed visions, (b) Quantum physics, (c) Dream research, (d) Out-of-body research, (e) After-death communications research, (f ) Reincarnation research, (g) Hypnosis, (h) Synchronicity, (i ) Remote viewing, and (j ) Consciousness research.
  18. NDEs have been happening for thousands of years and are not a modern phenomenon: See the NDE accounts associated with (a) Plato, (b) the Apostle Paul, and (c) the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
  19. Skeptical arguments against the survival theory of NDEs are often not valid: Sociologist Dr. Allen Kellehear states that some scientific theories are often presented as the most logical, factual, objective, credible, and progressive possibilities, as opposed to the allegedly subjective, superstitious, abnormal, or dysfunctional views of mystics. The rhetorical opinions of some NDE theories are presented as if they were scientific (Kellehear, 1996, 120). Many skeptical arguments against the survival theory are actually arguments from pseudo-skeptics who often think they have no burden of proof. Such arguments often based on scientism with assumptions that survival is impossible even though survival has not been ruled out. Faulty conclusions are often made such as, “Because NDEs have a brain-chemical connection then survival is impossible.” Pseudo-skeptical arguments are sometimes made that do not consider the entire body of circumstantial evidence supporting the possibility of survival or do not consider the possibility of new paradigms. Such pseudo-skeptical claims are often made without any scientific evidence.
  20. Memories of near-death experiences are more real than reality: Researchers at the Coma Science Group, directed by Steven Laureys, and the University of Liege’s Cognitive Psychology Research, headed by Professor Serge Bredart and Hedwige Dehon, have demonstrated that the physiological mechanisms triggered during NDE lead to a more vivid perception not only of imagined events in the history of an individual but also of real events which have taken place in their lives! These surprising results – obtained using an original method which now requires further investigation – are published in PLOS ONE. The researchers looked into the memories of NDE with the hypothesis that if the memories of NDE were pure products of the imagination, their phenomenological characteristics (e.g., sensorial, self referential, emotional, etc. details) should be closer to those of imagined memories. Conversely, if the NDE are experienced in a way similar to that of reality, their characteristics would be closer to the memories of real events. Their results were surprising. From the perspective being studied, not only were the NDEs not similar to the memories of imagined events, but the phenomenological characteristics inherent to the memories of real events (e.g. memories of sensorial details) are even more numerous in the memories of NDE than in the memories of real events.
  21. The burden of proof has shifted to skeptics of the survival theory of NDEs: All neurological theories that conclude NDEs to be only a brain-thing, must show how the core elements of the NDE occur subjectively because of specific neurological events triggered by the approach of death. These core elements include: the out-of-body state, paranormal knowledge, the tunnel, the golden light, the voice or presence, the appearance of deceased relatives, and beautiful vistas. Perhaps the final word should go to Nancy Evans Bush, a NDEr with the International Association for Near-Death Studies, who said: “There is no human experience of any description that can’t simply be reduced to a biological process, but that in no way offsets the meaning those experiences have for us-whether it’s falling in love, or grieving, or having a baby.”
  22. A significant amount of support suggestive of consciousness surviving bodily death exists: Although this has not been proven conclusively using the scientific method, the open-minded skeptic must include this significant amount of evidence as well as taken into consideration the testimonies of millions of people who have had both objective and subjective NDEs and OBEs constituting very strong circumstantial evidence. Here are some Wikipedia articles dealing with this subject as well: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16].

CON: The survival of consciousness after death has never been proven conclusively using the scientific method.

2. Near-death studies research conclusions

Read current articles of NDE research supporting the survival of consciousness from the body.

Dr. Raymond Moody: Common NDE aspects:

a. Strange sounds
b. Peace and and painlessness
c. Out-of-body experience
d. Tunnel
e. Traveling rapidly
f. Seeing light beings
g. Life review
h. Reluctance to return

Dr. Kenneth Ring: Research findings:

a. Moody’s findings are affirmed.
b. They happen to people of all races, genders, ages, education, marital status, and social class.
c. Religious orientation is not a factor.
d. People are convinced of the reality of their experience.
e. Drugs do not appear to be a factor.
f. NDEs are not hallucinations.
g. NDEs often involve unparalleled feelings.
h. People lose their fear of death and appreciate life more.
i. People’s lives are transformed.

P.M.H. Atwater: The content of the NDE involves an otherworldly awareness that can be brief and consist of only one or two elements, or can be more involved, even lengthy, and consist of multiple elements. Common elements include:

a. Greatly enhanced thoughts.
b. A darkness or light that is perceived as alive, intelligent and powerful.
c. A sensation of movement and/or presence.
d. A sudden sudden overwhelming flood of emotion.
e. An encounter with an identified deceased person or animal, or an encounter with an apparently nonphysical entity.
f. A life review.

Dr. Melvin Morse: The brain’s connection to a higher power can be validated by indisputable scientific facts such as:

a. Memories can exist outside of the brain.
b. Scientific evidence supporting reincarnation.
c. Anecdotal evidence that people exist after death in some form of energy.
d. People often exhibit supernatural powers.
e. Right temporal lobe activity verifies the reality of them.
f. The mind/brain can be induced to have them.
g. Brain research is able to support the reality of an unseen power.

Dr. Jeffrey and Jody Long: of 302 near-death experiences:

a. 29% saw the Being of Light as a familiar being.

Of the percentage who saw familiar beings:
25.9% saw blood relatives.
22.9% saw religious figures.
25.8% saw the Being of Light as an unfamiliar being.

b. Of the 166 people who saw beings:
53% saw familiar beings.
47% saw unfamiliar beings.

Dr. Jeffrey Long, in his book, “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences,” documented a study he conducted – the largest scientific study of NDEs ever – based on his research of over 1,300 NDEs shared with NDERF.org. Using his treasure trove of data, Dr. Long explains how NDEs cannot be explained by brain chemistry alone, how medical evidence fails to explain them away and why there is only one plausible explanation – that people have survived death and traveled to another dimension. Dr. Long makes his case using nine lines of evidence and they are:

a. Crystal-Clear Consciousness: The level of conscious alertness during NDEs is usually greater than that experienced in everyday life – even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. This high level of consciousness while physically unconscious is medically unexplained. Additionally, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and around the world, which refutes the possibility that NDEs have any relation to dreams or hallucinations.

b. Realistic Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs): OBEs are one of the most common elements of NDEs. Events witnessed and heard by NDErs while in an out-of-body state are almost always realistic. When the NDEr or others later seek to verify what was witnessed or heard during the NDE, their OBE observations are almost always confirmed as completely accurate. Even if the OBE observations include events occurring far away from the physical body, and far from any possible sensory awareness of the NDEr, the OBE observations are still almost always confirmed as completely accurate. This fact alone rules out the possibility that NDEs are related to any known brain functioning or sensory awareness. This also refutes the possibility that NDEs are unrealistic fragments of memory from the brain.

c. Heightened Senses: Heightened senses have been reported by most who have NDEs. Supernormal vision has occurred even in those with significantly impaired vision. This is medically unexplainable.

d. Consciousness During Anesthesia: Many NDEs occur while the NDEr is under general anesthesia – at a time when any conscious experience should be impossible. While some skeptics claim these NDEs may be the result of too little anesthesia, this ignores the fact that some NDEs result from anesthesia overdose. Additionally, descriptions of a NDEs differ greatly from those people who experience “anesthetic awareness.” The content of NDEs occurring under general anesthesia is essentially indistinguishable from NDEs that do not occur under general anesthesia. This is more strong evidence that NDEs occur independent from the functioning of the material brain.

e. Perfect Playback: Life reviews in NDEs include real events which previously occurred in the lives of the NDEr – even if the events were forgotten or happened before they were old enough to remember.

f. Family Reunions: During an NDE, the experiencer may encounter people who are virtually always deceased and are usually relatives of the NDEr. Sometimes they include relatives who died before the NDEr was even born. If NDEs are merely the product of memory fragments, they would almost certainly include far more living people, including those with whom they had more recently interacted.

g. Children’s Experiences: The NDEs of children, including very young children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or NDEs, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults. This refutes the possibility that the content of NDEs is produced by preexisting beliefs or cultural conditioning.

h. Worldwide Consistency: NDEs appear remarkably consistent around the world, and across many different religions and cultures. NDEs from non-Western countries are incredibly similar to those occurring in people in Western countries.

i. Aftereffects: It is common for people to experience major life changes after having NDEs. These aftereffects are often powerful, lasting, life-enhancing, and the changes generally follow a consistent pattern. NDErs themselves are practically universal in their belief that their experience of the afterlife was real.

Dr. Michael Sabom: The Atlanta study concluded:

a. NDEs provide evidence of veridical perception (i.e., verified out-of-body vision).
b. What people see and hear while they are dead has a factual basis.
c. Near-death experiencers accurately recall events that are happening around them when their brain isn’t functioning.

Pim van Lommel: The Dutch study on NDEs involved:

a. The replication of the veridical perception phenomenon reported by Dr. Michael Sabom.
b. Lommel described a patient who was able to describe verifiable events from a vantage point far away from his body.

Dr. Barbara Rommer: Less-than-positive NDEs can be classified into four types:

a. NDEs that are misinterpreted positive NDEs.
b. NDEs involving a void which is very unpleasant.
c. NDEs that involve visions of hell.
d. NDEs that involve frightening life reviews.

Dr. Karl Jansen: Ketamine research findings:

a. NDEs and the drug ketamine produce identical visions.
b. They both induce real visions of a real god.
c. Ketamine affects parts of the brain such as the right temporal lobe, the hippocampus and associated structures in the brain.
d. NDEs are an important phenomenon that can safely be reproduced by ketamine.

Dr. Peter Fenwick: On the difference between hallucinations and NDEs, Fenwick states in Tom Harpur’s documentary Life After Death that drug-induced hallucinations are not the same as NDEs:

“The difficulty with those theories is that when you create these wonderful states by taking drugs, you’re conscious. 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 … [During an NDE] the brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences … An unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working. The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these [NDE] experiences, 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. Ian Stevenson: Stevenson’s ground-breaking reincarnation research concluded that birthmarks and congenital deformities have one to five characteristics in common:

a. The person expresses a wish to be reborn through a particular woman.
b. A woman has an after-death visitation by an apparition who tells her that he/she are to be reborn through her.
c. In some cultures where reincarnation is a dominant belief, newborn children are checked for recognizable birthmarks to determine their past-life identity.
d. A child, usually between 2 and 4 years, talks about having memories of a past life.
e. A child feels uncomfortable with its current family.

Kevin Williams, B.Sc.: These are statistics of common elements found in 50 NDEs profiled on this website:

69% Experienced overwhelming love
65% Experienced mental telepathy
62% Had a life review
56% Meet a Being of light
56% Felt tremendous ecstasy
46% Learned unlimited knowledge
46% Visited numerous afterlife realms
46% Was told they were not ready to die
44% Was shown visions of the future
42% Traveled through a tunnel
37% Met Jesus Christ
31% Received forgotten knowledge
27% Experienced fear
21% Had a homecoming with deceased loved ones
21% Was shown their past lives
19% Saw or experienced hell
17% Saw a heavenly city of light
13% Visited a heavenly temple of knowledge
10% Saw earthbound souls
6% Their NDE was the result of an attempted suicide
0% Saw a devil

3. Events which can trigger an OBE or NDE

Brain SeizuresFalling from Heights
Brain StimulationHypnosis
DreamsOrgasm
Extreme GravityPsychomanteum
Extreme MeditationMental Dysfunction
Extreme Stress

4. Scientific discoveries are coming from another dimension

a. “Many of our important inventions were first created in the spiritual universe by spirit prodigies. Then individuals on earth receive the inspiration to create these inventions here.” (Betty Eadie)

b. “Spirituality and science are one and the same.” (Lynnclaire Dennis)

c. “Science and technology are gifts from God bestowed through inspiration. People on earth have literally been led to these discoveries, many of which later became perverted by humanity to use for its own destruction.” (Howard Storm)

d. “The mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb is one of the holiest archetypes created by human beings. It, more than any religion or philosophy on earth, brought humanity together all of a sudden, to a new level of consciousness. The power behind the atom is the power of God – the Force that holds all things together.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)

e. Visit the Skeptic’s Corner for specific discoveries learned from near-death experiences.

5. Television-like technology exists in the afterlife

a. “Then I was instantly zapped to a domed room with square screens up and down the walls, on the ceiling – hundreds of television screens. On each screen was a home movie of one event in my life.” (Jeanie Dicus)

b. “In a sacred room, we see our lives flash before us on a “scanning machine.” This device is a domed screen where our lives are placed out in three-dimensional holographic form.” (Sylvia Browne)

c. “It was a lot like looking at a hologram, but full color 3D with sound and scent.” (Hal)

d. “He is told it resembles a movie theater which allows souls to see themselves in the future, playing different roles in various settings.” (Dr. Michael Newton)

e. “In response they used a machine to show her a scene from earlier in her life.” (Betty Andreasson)

f. “With that I saw frames appear like screens on a television set.” (Lou Famoso)

g. “The box opened to reveal what appeared to be a tiny television picture of a world event that was yet to happen.” (Dannion Brinkley)

h. “He told me what I had to do in life and had me go to the other side of the room and look down into something like a television set so I could see my future.” (Clara)

i. “Next we went to a place she called the lookout. It appeared to be only an overhang on a high cliff, but the view was intensely magnified. I could look into the world I had left behind as though peering into a monitor, if I chose to do so. No one spent a lot of time here, Maggi said, but some occasionally stopped by to check on what was going on in the earthly realm.” (Jan Price)

6. Computer-like technology exists in the afterlife

a. Albert Einstein was observed operating a Heavenly Computer:

“Next we materialized in a computer room … Some of [the people there] I knew by name, others by reputation; and all had time for me, to teach me if ever I need help understanding. One of them was Albert Einstein, whom I had always admired greatly but distantly, and this great man took time away from his duties to encourage me. He asked me if I would care to operate the computer, which was very complex and beautiful and designed to guide the path of destinies. I was flattered, but felt incompetent and unsure of myself in the presence of such greatness. I told him I would like to try, but I was afraid of making a mistake. He laughed greatly, and reassured me, saying that error was not possible in this place. Encouraged, I seemed instinctively to know how to operate this unusual machine, and waved my hand in a pattern over the large keyboard, rather like playing a piano without touching the keys. I knew instantly the task had been performed perfectly, and it had somehow been of great benefit to someone. I was suffused with the joy of a job well done. I would gladly spend eternity here at this rewarding work if only for the tremendous feeling of well-being I had experienced as a result. Through open doors I glimpsed enormous rooms filled with complex equipment. In several of the rooms hooded figures bent over intricate charts and diagrams, or sat at the controls of elaborate consoles flickering with lights … Years later, when I picked up the December 1952 issue of Life magazine and saw some of the instruments in the second U.S. atomic submarine engine, I had the strange feeling of deja vu until I recalled seeing the very same instrument in one of these labs.” (Dr. George Ritchie)

b. Betty Eadie saw a large machine, similar to a computer, but much more elaborate and powerful. Betty realized that all important things on earth are first created in spirit. (Betty Eadie)

Categories
Evidence Science

People Having NDEs are Convinced They Are Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychiatrist, Dr. Stanislav Grof, stated:

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

Categories
Evidence Science

People Have Near-Death Experiences While Brain Dead

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

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

Table of Contents

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

1. Pam Reynolds’ Surgery and Near-Death Experience

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

Pam Reynolds’ NDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. About the State of Pam Reynolds’ Brain Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a. Against Keith Augustine’s Naturalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the Best Evidence of NDEs as Actual Afterlife Experiences

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

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

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

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

Categories
Evidence Science

Common Elements are Found in Near-Death Experiences

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

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

Table of Contents

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

1. Common Aspects Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

III. Typical to the experience:

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

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

2. Kevin Williams’ NDE Analysis of Common Aspects

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

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

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

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

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

3. An Analysis of 21 Common Aspects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NDE and Afterlife Statistics (50 NDEs)

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

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

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