Editor’s Note | Alexis Brooks, Higher Journeys
It was Raymond Moody who in 1975 began to crack the proverbial door of near-death experience open in his landmark book entitled Life After Life. But the momentum didn’t begin nor end with his ground-breaking research into this still elusive area of study.
Many notable researchers, authors and perhaps most importantly experiencers of NDE’s are adding incredible dimension to these mysterious encounters that appear to be even more common both in subject matter as well as in actual experience.
The following article gives a well-rounded overview of the near death experience; it’s history, validity, and criticism. A great treatment, overall.
In my own research into the subject matter, I have found that no measure of academic data will ever supersede empirical evidence gleaned from personal accounts, of which there are many. What is clear is that the experiences vary widely, as well as the aftereffects of this life (and death) altering event.
The Aftereffects of a Near-Death Experience
Stories of Near-Death Experiences have existed for centuries. The subject is well researched yet the question remains: Is the origin of the near-death experience rooted in science or religion? Despite the continuous search for empirical explanations, accounts of near-death experiences and their aftereffects prevail.
Initially, aftereffects of a near-death experience can incite feelings of love while negative reports often express fear. Over time, aftereffects can stimulate psychosocial and psychospiritual deviations. Psychologists, school counselors and professionals in the medical field understand a need for intervention. Professionals can assist people who have near-death experiences by helping them integrate their experience, as well as provide support for family members.
THE QUESTION REMAINS: IS A NEAR- DEATH EXPERIENCE FACT OR FICTION?
Do we need to question our scientific world or spiritual space to understand near-death experiences? Stories from real people and their perceptions may shed some light upon clarifying the subject of near- death experiences.
Over several decades, many clinical cases have been recorded explaining events of people having life-changing experiences of dying, then coming back. This mysterious phenomenon has been named “near- death experience”, or “NDE.” According to the 2006 article Near-Death Experiences and Spirituality by Bruce Greyson, many stories revealed common features such as bright lights, tunnels and feelings of joy.” Furthermore, investigators collected data and found similar features including helping others more often, amplified compassion, spiritual versus religious inclination, and an overall disposition of gratitude and appreciation for life.
HISTORY OF NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
Stories of Near-Death Experiences have been reported by many different cultures throughout several eras. The 2009 article Near-Death Experiences and Psychotherapy by LJ Griffith retells the story of a near-death experience: “Plato recounted a tale of a soldier who seemed to be dead, but came back to life explaining he had visited another world.” Global accounts of near-death experience stories “originate from Israel to South America,” Griffith states.
Raymond Moody is considered the pioneer of near-death studies in the mid-1970’s. The main focus of his studies was to look at the actual experience and aftereffects. In 1975 Moody published Life After Life, which initiated further research and public interest. Moody’s book ignited over 50 research teams who published more than 55 studies involving a wide cultural span. According to the 2001 article A Hawaiian Near-Death Experience by Allen Kellehear, data collected on near-death stories spans the experiences of over 3,000 people practicing a range of religions.
RESEARCH ON NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
Research on near-death experience caught the interest of professionals in a variety of fields. According to Christian Agrillo’s 2011 Near-Death Experience: Out of Body and Out of Brain? research on near-death experiences is considered a valued subject in the field of cognitive neuroscience. The mystery of whether an afterlife exists represents an extremely important topic in philosophy as well. Additionally, Griffith discusses how researchers involved in near-death experiences include physicians, nurses, chaplains and psychologists – and some have written substantially on the subject.
Despite the amount of research on near-death experiences, a roadblock remains regarding what exactly a Near-Death Experience is. Agrillo explains that some investigators have attributed roadblocks to the reality that the process of death and subjective manner in which we die is still a topic of limited knowledge.
DEFINITION OF A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE
Psychological and physiological models postulated in the past have failed to pass empirical investigations thus limiting a clear definition of a Near-Death Experience. Research has involved exhaustive interviews resulting in categorical evidence. According to the 2010 article by KE Bell on How School Counselors Can Assist Student Near-Death Experiences, the results of interviews from several studies indicate patterns that define a near-death experience.
In Greyson’s 1999 article Defining Near-Death eExperiences, Greyson described twelve to fifteen consistent themes and features that were discovered on near-death experiences:
- An awareness of being above your body or dead
- Rise in joy or euphoria
- Entering a space or sometimes tunnel
- Seeing or feeling a very bright white light
- A sense of a being in a peaceful, beautiful or sometimes frightening place
- Encounter with loved ones who have previously passed on
- Angel type beings, guides or religious figures
- Some form of a life review which often involves experiencing deep emotion associated with ones actions
- A choice or perception that one has to come back
What happens after experiencing the near-death experience phenomenon? Often experiences result in positive, sometimes profound aftereffects such as a sense of bliss and euphoria in their lives. Many people find their personality has changed in addition to different beliefs and attitudes toward subjects in religion and death. Furthermore, Griffith explains that physiological transformations such as experiencing heightened sensation to noise or other senses, increased or decreased need for sleep and some level of sensitivity toward electromagnetics were described by people interviewed.
While examining the subject of religion, researchers found profound changes in Near-Death Experiencers. According to Greyson’s 1999 article, interviews found the most often reported alteration in life was that of a spiritual matter. Additionally, reports of a stronger concern or empathy for others, a solid sense of purpose, closeness to God and an aversion to conventional religious practices were recorded. Not surprisingly, as reported in the same article, newfound characteristics parallel the definition of a spiritual transformation which often encompasses an authentic love for others on a large scale.
NEGATIVE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
Occasionally people report emotional turmoil and negative aftereffects. Psychological changes implicated include higher levels of neurotic anxieties depending on the specific interpretation of the event. Agrillo said that “nightmares, depression, isolation and conflicted relationships have occurred as well.” Specifically, researchers placed unpleasant near-death experiences into three categories; frightened or out of control, feeling utterly alone and horrific imagery like dark landscapes, ugly creatures or painfully loud noises.