Today I want to talk about NDEs, or near death experiences. Basically, this is where the spirit leaves the body and travels to another realm, only to return if it is not time for the person to move on. It can happen anytime, but is most common following a serious accident, or when someone nearly drowns, or is having a heart attack.
While every NDE is different and unique to the person experiencing it, there does seem to be a familiar pattern running through them, enough to dismiss total subjectivity.
Some have attempted to give a rational explanation for NDEs, such as lack of oxygen to the brain, or hallucination brought on by stress. However, when put under scrutiny these do not hold up.
Cerebral anoxia is the condition where there is no blood going to the brain, and as oxygen is carried in the blood, it’s true that in such cases the brain lacks oxygen. However, many people have had an NDE when anoxia was absent, that is, the brain was not being deprived of oxygen. So this is obviously not a credible explanation.
As for hallucinations, the majority of people having an NDE are unconscious, in a coma, or clinically dead. In these circumstances there is no activity at all in the frontal lobes (the part of our brain that creates images, thereby making it impossible for them to hallucinate). Further, when someone is hallucinating they are in their own private world and would certainly not be able to give a full, accurate account of what is happening around them, i.e. describe what is happening in the operating theatre. Yet many NDErs have done precisely that. A fact that has been verified by doctors, nurses and medical staff present, who could hardly be accused of lying. Therefore, this explanation, too, must be rejected.
Others have tried to dismiss NDErs as crazy, or attention seekers. This is a great injustice and has caused a lot of harm, as many are then reluctant to come forward and tell their story. Thankfully, that attitude is changing.
NDEs first came to prominence in 1975 with the publication of Raymond Moody’s seminal work, Life After Life, but the experience had been reported much earlier. Since then there have been further studies of NDEs by Kenneth Ring (1980), Michael Sabom (1982), and Bruce Greyson (1983), all who, to varying degrees, confirmed, and added to Moody’s findings.
But, in my opinion, one of the best studies of the subject is by Pim Van Lommel, called Consciousness Beyond Life. Van Lommel, a cardiologist, and a former sceptic himself until the first-hand experiences he encountered with his own patients caused him to change his mind.
In his book he tells the story of Pamela Reynolds who had an NDE during a very complex brain surgery.
Throughout the procedure Pamela’s eyes were taped shut and she was completely covered apart from the small area in the skull they were working on. There was no blood flowing to her brain, doctors can confirm there was no activity in both the brain stem and cerebral cortex.
However, during the operation Pamela found herself ‘popping’ out of her body, and was able to view the entire procedure as if from the surgeon’s shoulder, as well as hear what was going on. She recalls seeing the saw they used to drill into her head which she thought looked like a toothbrush. This was at a time when her brain was clinically “dead” so by any rational explanation she should not have been able to know any of this.
She then saw a light and felt herself being pulled, almost physically, towards it. As she got close to the light she could make out indistinct figures, which gradually took on form. They looked like they were covered in light, like it shone through them, even that they were the light. When she asked if the light was God she was told no, the light is what happens when God breathes. She felt she was standing in the breath of God.
Pamela said later that she believes death is an illusion, ‘a really nasty lie.'
Here at the USS we agree. I’ve always said awakening is something that must happen when we’re in the body, not ‘after we die’, which has been the traditional, and literalist Christian view.
Pamela Reynolds also tells her story in the BBC documentary ‘The Day I Died’.
An interesting footnote. If you’re into synchronicities (which I am!) dig this. When Pamela was brought out of the anaesthetic the hospital radio was playing ‘Hotel California’, by the Eagles, at the exact line “you can check out any time you want but you can never leave”.
I like it!
Have you ever had an NDE? If so I would love to hear your story. I promise to reply to everyone who writes, and of course your story will not be made public unless you specifically request it.
Pim Van Lommel Consciousness Beyond Life: the Science of the Near-Death Experience (2010).
Another great source is Eben Alexander’s very moving personal account of his own NDE, in Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (2012).
Both are available on amazon or in any good book store.
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