A Look At Near Death Experiences
February 18, 2009
by Ron Murdock
A field that has been changing constantly is the study of near death experiences in what has been a creation of the media to sensationalize Raymond Moody Jr's first book "Life After Death". Coverage of NDE's can be misleading and can be capable of confusing more people than it helps. Words and language used to describe paranormal experiences, including NDE's, gets in the way of genuine research or even understanding what is being talked about. We need to leave sensationalism behind so a good look can be taken to see what is really at hand.
Albert Von St. Gallen Heim published a collection of near death experiences by mountain climbers who had fallen in the Alps, soldiers wounded in war, workers who had fallen from scaffolds and individuals who had nearly died in accidents or from near drowning. In each of these cases, all reported experiencing "life after death." The oldest known recorded NDE was by Plato towards the end of his book "Republic". Plato told the story of Er, a soldier slain in battle, and then revived ten days later on his funeral pyre. To the amazement of all, Er tells of having left his body and journeyed towards "a straight light like a pillar. It resembled a rainbow but was brighter and purer."
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a landmark book called "On Death and Dying" that broke the established taboo about speaking of death. Listening to the stories of dying patients, she heard accounts of mystical experiences that suggested there was life after death.
After entering medical school in 1972, Raymond Moody Jr. had acquired 150 stories of people who had been pronounced dead, been revived then spoke of an afterlife. Influenced by Moody's books, Kenneth Ring was so moved by the implications of NDEs; he launched the first scientific study of this phenomenon. Five years later, Ring claimed to be able to verify Moody's work in "Life At Death." If true serious inquiry was out to establish the fact that NDE's isn't a dream, hallucination or the product of a person's imagination. It would prove to be a real even that happens to real people, regardless of their age, education or beliefs.
Phyllis Atwater says the situations that people experience and places they go vary enormously. She says some have entered a blue bubble and float around the accident scene they were involved in after they "die". Atwater mentions that others hop on a light ray and tour the Universe and view Earth from afar. Atwater states that occasionally children report they must visit animal heaven before they can go the heaven where people are. Atwater claims most often NDE experiencers enter bright realms that burst with light. Sometimes cities are encountered, other times a person finds themselves in a mountain meadow where they met Jesus and relatives that already passed over. Atwater said some people said they have become like a hen tending chicks in a nest while others claim to have been a vague shape floating on an empty plain or even as a point zooming through a sky full of colored lights. Only a small number claim to have had a terrifying hellish experience.
Atwater feels that during the NDE a presence is felt or a being appears whose "job" seems to be an assistant who helps the person see themselves and their life differently. According to Atwater this can be accomplished though dialogue, past life review or is suddenly "known". Susan Blackmore is convinced that the experiences comes form the persons own mind and rarely do they visit actual places on Earth and be able to provide evidence they were actually there.
Reactions of people to those who come back and tell their tale has changed in recent years. Some of the accounts were ignored or simply tolerated; only a few were believed and supported. As a result, people who had a NDE often refused to talk about them for fear of being thought mad. Although there is more interest and acceptance in NDE's today, some responses are still superficial. Any perceived sensationalism actually hurts the study of NDE's as the subject matter is being degraded not enhanced.
Atwater says a signature feature of a genuine NDE is brain enhancement; the majority comes back smarter than they were prior to the experience. She said they often shift to clustered thinking as opposed to linear with a marked ability to abstract, create and invent. Atwater found almost to a person they exhibit a hunger for knowledge and go on learning binges. Plus she finds most people that have experienced a near death experience eventually achieve an extraordinary state of physical health, possibly as a result of turning to alternative or complimentary healthcare and developing a more positive attitude. Many who claim to have a NDE often become more spiritual afterwards, becoming less interested in money and materialism. Many claim to start "knowing" God as opposed to "believing" in God. Atwater says whether one was an atheist or a member of a religion, they see spirit infusing all things and that a sense of sacredness takes on vitality that is awe inspiring.
usan Blackmore has found there have been individuals who have felt cursed by their NDE or have become so traumatized by it that they have become fearful, angry or paranoid. Blackmore asks how much of the circumstances involved is really a NDE and how much is just coming close to death and having to contemplate ones own mortality.
Atwater found the vast majority comes back to speak of a "Greater Plan" and all of us have a job to do and a purpose for living. Those who had a NDE have stated that if your job is done, you can leave this plane of existence. If not, you just stay and "get busy" doing it. She says some come back knowing exactly what their job is but most do not and express regrets that they don't. Atwater mentions many people come back with awakened spiritual gifts and a renewed mission in life. This includes vivid dreams/visions, healing abilities, enhanced creativity and a desire to serve others. Also Atwater found those informed of their mission in life have become innovators in style of dance, developed healing sounds, inventors of several patents, become computer geniuses, written scientific theories and developed new ways of teaching morality to children.
Blackmore concluded that any adventures of "beings" encountered happens in the persons mind but in no way minimizes the significance of what was learned during a NDE. She finds some groups use the Final Judgment and Hellfire as intimidation to scare people into line or submission. She thinks that if people researched this for themselves, they would not be susceptible to such wicked scare tactics. Blackmore says it makes little sense on why people use fear to justify their belief in a loving God.
Most of those who experienced a NDE reported to Atwater of unconditional love, forgiveness and the non judgmental aspects of near death episodes. When children were involved, Atwater found that a different storyline was involved. They were met by a "being" whose role was that of a 'loving or critical" parent. This "being" either gives orders, judges them for past deeds or prepares them to meet and fulfill their destiny by warning them in advance what to look for and how to behave. Atwater finds an interesting characteristic of NDE's is the past life review. It seemed to be an opportunity for everyone to witness past events in their life and see how their actions affected others and fully learn what exactly happened and do better in the future.
Blackmore claims that the Life Review occurs when uninhibited and random firing occurs in parts of the brain that organizes memories. Memories come flooding back at death but it can also be done in a lab setting by brain stimulation. Michael Persinger has produced many aspects of NDE's by temporal lobe stimulation. Those who have been in his stimulation chamber have testified that it was powerful stuff. To some, the common cause in all NDE's is cortical uninhibition. This happens when the inhibitory cells in the cortex of the brain stops ding its job of dampening down the activity of other cells. The rapid random firing of cells happens all over the brain, and causes the effect of floating, music and the tunnel with the light at the end of it.
Blackmore says if one can examine the claims that certain body processes explain away the phenomenon, they can find it easy to do in principle but difficult to test in practice. Hallucinations, whether caused by centrifugal spinning or oxygen deprivation does not bring about the type of details near death states do. Nor can they begin to match the consistency of the overall pattern found in NDE's.
Atwater finds it moving experiences to talk to someone who has been close to death. She found those who have gone though a NDE have a special relationship with something most people fear, that being death. Synchronicity becomes an everyday occurrence for them, as they seem to tune in and find each other without using words.
The NDE reveals more about life than it does death. What it invites us to do is redefine what we mean by life.