Recently, I have had the opportunity to talk about, or at least mention, Near Death Experiences to various people I’ve met—often in the context of a recent loved one’s passing. Many people “have faith,” and their religion teaches that there is an afterlife, but I find that having more immediate knowledge lends an advantage. And that immediate knowledge is brought to us by people who have been to the other side and returned, i.e., those who have “died,” typically under some trauma like a heart attack or electrocution, or under great stress where death is thought to be imminent, as in the case when some have fallen from great heights, yet survived.
NDEs sometime last for only a few moments, sometimes for minutes, and, in at least once case, for more than a day. Not that time is recognized like this by the experiencer, for it is consistently reported that “time ceases to exist” or “becomes meaningless” when in that realm. In fact, things are so different in that realm and leave such a powerful impression that the life of the experiencer is often changed, and changed for the better.
200,000 Americans report experiencing NDEs each year, and over 4,000 world-wide accounts have been submitted to the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation. (Read some of these!) When you consider the remarkable similarities of the experience despite widely varying religious and cultural background, that’s quite a few jam packed stadia of people that, nearly to the man, woman, and child, swear the experience was more real and more meaningful by far than the current reality. Quite a few experiencers cry for weeks or even months afterwards, pining for their personal loss of nirvana, upset over having to have come back. On this side of eternity, friends, family, and associates often, with some embarrassment, attribute the experience to hallucinations or delusions brought about by a reaction to anesthesia or the ever spinning imaginations of the hypoxic brain. The lesson is quickly learned to not say too much, lest a Flatlander be accused of believing in third-dimensional beings. Spouses (Spice?) withdraw, ministers dismiss, and neighbors gossip. It’s not the kind of thing people want to admit.
Which I find fantastically strange. I, myself, have experienced similar disapproval when I mention the topic to people (which I only do when the speaking context admits a possibility). It’s bizarre that, given most people maintain at least some remnant of religious belief that we continue on in much improved bodies in a much improved world. If so many people already believe, then why wouldn’t they want to hear the science and empirical data behind it? It’s mostly good news, for Goodness’ sake.
Yet people sport a stubborn streak. We have big brains, and for precisely that reason there’s a lot of momentum in that organ keeping us focused today on what we focused on yesterday, and guaranteeing that the morrow brings us the same prejudices we’ve reinforced today. For all the talk of “thinking outside the box,” laziness wins the day. We believe what we’ve been told, we mumble what we’ve memorized, and we know well enough not to let the mask slip in front of our peers.
But for the experiencer of an NDE, the mask must slip. It must be taken off entirely, for the traveler has seen things he cannot now forget, and he knows things he cannot express. Dr. Raymond Moody’s seminal Life After Life lists common characteristics of NDEs, among them being
- an out-of-body experience often with super-heightened “360 degree” awareness;
- feelings of great peace and well-being, of finally coming home;
- sensing or actually meeting other loving beings variously described as angels, guides, holy figures like Jesus, and even God Himself, in the guise of the wise and bearded old man, from whom is obtained great knowledge and insight;
- a life review presented in a “living filmstrip” of the actual reality of the memory, warts and all. This is experienced from everyone’s point of view simultaneously. All the happiness and pain we’ve caused in others is now ours to experience.
- a return to life with a deeply changed perspective, energized appetite for life, and utter loss of fear of death. Some even return with clairvoyant and psychic gifts that, as often as not, become burdens rather than liberation.
- a profound sadness and sense of isolation having to live in this world while knowing there is a much more real home where we belong
This is not to say there are no bad experiences, for there are plenty involving hell and damnation. Reports of these are of a changed life after having experienced a most dark and deep fear, and then utter gratitude for being "returned to sender" for one more chance.
I have collected my favorite recounts here. There is a science to these experiences that points to a much higher dimensional reality than the one in which we are temporarily imprisoned. Not the science of hypoxia and delusion, for each one of these experiencers will attest that the world he visited is exceedingly more real than this “dream” we now play act. All signs point to an eternal existence whose one and only foundational element is unqualified Love, and made real entirely through belief. In fact, belief is the key determinant of everything, including in the temporal world. “As you believe, so shall you become,” is the law of the land…all the land. We inherit what we have maintained faith in. If that is good, we inherit God (no accident the words are similar); if that is bad, then it was our choice.
So, again, I’m surprised by people’s shyness regarding the topic. The flock instinct demands allegiance to the conventional wisdom. Things that are obviously true are, like the water in which the fish blithely swim, too obvious to perceive. But there is a sea change coming in which the poles will shift and human thought will permanently change…for the better. Keep your eyes and ears open, because you will hear increasingly more about near death experiences. Listen carefully, as they hold a most welcome key to your joy and freedom.
P.S. The beautifully peaceful scene above is original artwork by Andy Peng, a friend's son. It is like a dream I had, rich in soft yet vibrant colors, as if the world were made out of colored cotton. I think it's possible...