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Overview

 


The purpose of this website is to provide a platform of open­mindedness, to fascillitate appropriate associations between NDErs, their families and friends, their health professionals and the Australian society at large.

This page deals with the experiences of some historically well­known individuals, mystical and religious experiences, quantum physics and links to further reading.

In the past NDEs were reported as visions, mystical and religious experiences. NDEs should no longer be regarded as exceptional. In 2005, Perera et al (1) conducted a telephone survey of a representative sample of the Australian population, as part of the Roy Morgan Catibus Survey (2) , and concluded that 8% of the population had experienced an NDE.

Initially, NDErs may be excited to share their experiences; often, this sharing is with a nurse or other trusted member of the health care team. Unfortunately, research indicates that when these initial disclosures are met with responses that are

discounting (“That’s nonsense! You couldn’t have seen Grandpa; he’s been dead for years.”), are

devaluing (“That’s nothing but your mind playing tricks on you while you were unconscious.”), or


imply pathology (“Stop telling me such stories. That’s crazy.”),

then the experiencer is likely to remain confused, isolated, and mute about what, typically, is the most profound experience of their life (Greyson, 1997). This outcome is harmful, because the NDE’s apparent potential to advance the NDEr’s psychospiritual development has been thwarted. (3)

Many NDErs experience an inability to share their NDE. It leads to:

  • feelings of isolation;
  • a fear of being ridiculed or rejected;
  • problems with integration of the new personality with family and friends;
  • an inability to put into words the meaning and consequences of a NDE;
  • difficulties in adhering to old role­patterns;
  • difficulties accepting the limitations and impairments in human associations;
  • and sometimes absurd expectations from family and friends because of info presented in popular magazines and TV­programs.

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Near Death Experiencers

 


Near Death Experiencers are a subgroup of people who come close to physical death or may have recovered after being declared dead and as a group display common features in their conscious experience of this event and a consequent transformative process.

Following a Near Death Experience (NDE) people have altered beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.

A Near Death Experience is not associated with a mental disorder.


It is estimated that on average 8 years of a transformative process are needed for an individual after a NDE to be mentally healthy.

Although most NDEs are pleasant, a small percentage are distressing, that is, dominated by feelings such as fear, isolation, or torment.

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Ramana Maharshi


One possible aspect in the life of someone after a NDE is that the NDE is everything and life on earth is dull and boring.

"It was about six weeks before I left Madura for good that the great change in my life took place. It was quite sudden. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle's house. I seldom had any sickness, and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it, and I did not try to account for it or to find out wether there was any reason for the fear. I just felt "I am going to die" and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or my elders or friends; I felt that I had to solve the problem myself, there and then.

The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: "Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies." And I at once dramatised the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as through rigor mortis had set in and immitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word "I" nor any other word could be uttered. 'Well then,' I said to myself, 'this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burn and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? Is the body I? It is silent and inert, but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of I within me, apart from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.' All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truths which I perceived directly almost without thought process. I was something real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with the body was centered on that I. From that moment onwards, the I or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished once and for all.

 


The ego was lost in the flood of Self­awareness. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the I continued like the fundamental sruti [that which is heard] note which underlies and blends with all other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centered on "I". Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.

The consequences of this new awareness were soon noticed in my life. In the first place, I lost what little interest I had in my outer relationship with friends and relatives and went through my studies mechanically. I would hold an open book in front of me to satisfy my relatives that I was reading, when in reality my attention was far away from any such superficial matter. In my dealings with people I became meek and submissive. Formerly if I was given more work than other boys I might complain, and if any boy annoyed me I would retaliate. None of them would dare make fun of me or take liberties with me. Now all that was changed. Whatever work was given, whatever teasing or annoyance there was, I would put up with it quietly. The former ego that resented and retaliated had disappeared. I stopped going out with friends to play games and preferred solitude. I would often sit alone, especially in a posture suitable for meditation, and become absorbed in the Self, the Spirit, the force or current which constituted me. I would continue in this despite the jeers of my elder brother who would sarcastically call me "sage" or "yogi" and advise me to retire into the jungle like the ancient Rishis."

Ramana Maharshi (4)

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Mystics

 


One aspect of the transformative process that occurs in people who have undergone a NDE is an increase in religious sentiments and a concurrent decreased interest in organised religion.

There are many examples of mystical and religious experiences. The Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Elijah, Jesus and Mohammed are well­known religious identities for their teachings born from being in a conscious contact with God or Reality.

The Zoroastrian belief system was the religion of Ancient Persia before the advent of Islam 1400 years ago. It is known as the mother religion in the area. The familiar concepts of hell, Heaven, resurrection, the coming of the Messiah, individual and the last judgment were for the first time incorporated into this belief system. They still exist in Judo­Christian and Islamic traditions.

The following quotes of fellow man may have strong personal meaning to a NDEr.

"0 nobly­born, when thy body and mind were separating, thou must have experienced a glimpse Of the Pure Truth, subtle, sparkling, bright dazzling, glorious, and radiantly awesome, in appearance like a mirage moving across a landscape in spring­time in one continuous stream of vibrations. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed. That is the radiance of thine own true nature. Recognize it."

The Tibetan Book of the Dead (5)

"Knowledge, if it does not determine action, is dead to us."

Plotinus ( 204­270) (6)


" This is my only and permanent complaint, that vulgar people, empty of the Spirit of God, want to judge solely by their human thinking what they listen to or read in the Bible, which has been pronounced and written by the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit."

Meister Eckhart (1260­1328) (7)

"I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion"

"Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many."

Baruch de Spinosa (1632­1677) (8)

"Because of its tremendous solemnity death is the light in which great passions, both good and bad, become transparent, no longer limited by outward appearences."

"There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming."

Søren Kierkegard (1813­1855) (9)

 

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Quantum Physics


One can sort through a lot of information, testimonials, teachings, guidance and stories, but what seems to attract NDErs the most is the energy called light or unconditional love which they experienced during the NDE. What is its origin? How does one access it again?

The spiritual plane is described as a unified field, an awareness of oneness, a dominion over all things, an ocean of love, the other side and so on. Inevitably, both NDErs and those who have an interest in the NDE, for no or all reasons, will come across references to Quantum Physics as they are looking into religion and spirituality, as they make their own enquiries into reality. The science of physics has indeed always studied the fundamentals of our universe and has traditionally been linked to workable visions of our world.

Since its inception, the many results of quantum mechanics have provoked strong philosophical debate and many interpretations. The Copenhagen interpretation , due largely to the Danish theoretical physicist Niels Bohr , is the interpretation of quantum mechanics most widely accepted amongst physicists. According to it, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics predictions cannot be explained in terms of some other deterministic theory, and does not simply reflect our limited knowledge. Quantum mechanics provides probabilistic results because the physical universe is itself probabilistic rather than deterministic. Albert Einstein disliked this loss of determinism in measurement and said: "God does not play dice."

Most simply put, in quantum theory we can be "dead and alive", "not dead and not alive", but we cannot be dead or alive. Good luck trying to get your head around that, but that is what it says.

In our fundamental human thought system, the one and only fundamental archetype is that of God. It goes without saying that belief is very powerful and that the idea of God is personal and individual. Or in other words, related to the context of one's own experiences.

As one has an idea of God that is rejectable, so it is. As one has an idea of God that is acceptable, so it is also. The first and foremost realisation is that the idea of God or a single Creator cannot be removed from one's thought system.

If one rejects the idea, one lives with the consequence that a personal contact and use of the creative extension of such a Source is not an option. It doesn't mean that one cannot access mystical experiences, yet that this mystical experience cannot be integrated into a personal, useful modality for one's life on planet earth.

Now, when one does find acceptance of the idea of a single creative Source, one has an option to be in communication with this Source, or communion, all the time and everywhere one goes.

David Bohm developed a theory of quantum physics which considers the unbroken whole of matter and consciousness. Bohm (1995) suggests:
. . . quantum theory is, at present, the most basic way available in physics for understanding the fundamental and universal laws relating to matter and its movement. As such, it must clearly be given serious consideration in any attempt to develop an overall world viewing . . . in this theory there is no consistent notion at all of what the reality may be that underlies the universal constitution and structure of matter. Thus, as we try to use the prevailing worldview based on the notion of particles, we discover that the particles (such as electrons) can also manifest as waves, that they can move discontinuously, that there are no laws at all that apply in detail to the actual movements of individual particles and that only statistical predictions can be made about large aggregates of such particles. If on the other hand we apply the worldview in which the universe is regarded as a continuous field, we find that this field must also be discontinuous, as well as particle­like, and that it is undermined in its actual behaviour as is required in the particle view of relation as a whole.


Bohm also suggests that physics should not only be concerned with the formulation of mathematical calculations to ‘predict and control the behaviour of large statistical aggregates of particles’, but that it should also be interested in providing some thinking about the nature of reality, even if it is ‘fragmentary and muddled’. As a practical example of the application of quantum physics to human thinking, Bohm suggests that the proper order of operation of the mind requires an overall grasp of what is generally known, not only in formal logical, mathematical terms, but also intuitively, for example, in images, feelings and poetic usage of language.(10)

The text of A Course in Miracles (11) states this very idea: each and every moment is free from the last, time is not sequential. It literally states that the world of space and time is an attack on Reality and that in the moment of its conception it is cancelled out! In other words, in each and every moment we are born again and die again, we are dead and alive in the same instant, we are "not dead" and "not alive" simultanously, but we are never dead or alive. Again, good luck trying to get your head around that, but that is what it says.

A simplistic scenario can be used to illustrate phylosophy derived from quantum mechanics: A voodoo master who resides in Tahiti is asked to cause pain to a person who lives in Cairns, Q. The voodoo master has a doll with hairs of the person in Cairns attached to it and sticks a needle in its back. Simultaneously, the person in Cairns feels a stabbing pain in his back. What does this mean?

Simply put, if there is no lack in time between the needle hitting the doll and the person in Cairns experiencing pain, then there is no distance between the doll in Tahiti and the person's body in Cairns. Think about it. In our thinking, time is needed to travel from A to B, from Tahiti to Cairns. If no time passes, there is no distance between A and B, and thus A and B are not apart. Our little scenario then points out to us that the apparent distance between the Tahiti doll and the Cairns person is an illusion, a deception in truth. If that is true for the doll and this person, it must be true for all objects in space. What it reveals is that space and time are a deception, an illusion on that level of communication! What it reveals is that the limits imposed on material bodies through their spacial separation are not there for the mind. Quantum mechanics reveals that matter at the level of its fundamental building blocks is neither limited by apparent spacial separation and communication is instantaneous.

Now, it becomes apparent why quantum mechanics can trigger a passion for religious and philosophical explorations. Saint Paul said that good deeds will avail you nothing. Well indeed, if time is illusion and Heaven is real, good deeds won't get you out of time, because they are part of time. When Jesus speaks to thieves, prostitutes and murderers, people disrespected by society, and states that they can be in Heaven, meaning out of time, with Him today is He pointing out the same truth? Is Heaven reached by a shift in awareness, where the mind remembers what is true (God is not limited by spatial separation) and what is illusion (subjective consciousness of space and time based on the fundamental concept of being a confined material body in space)? Does a balance of good deeds and sins, have something to do with that shift taking place?

May the one who has the real answers stand up! Still, in the NDE, the limits of spatial separation can be experienced as no longer existent. If that experience is complemented by feeling an energy of unconditional love it should not be hard to see that these two factors may cause a state in which one feels at one with the universe. In the text of A Course in Miracles (11) it states that "In this world Heaven is a choice, because here we believe there are alternatives to choose between. We think that all things have an opposite, and what we want we choose. If Heaven exists there must be hell as well, for contradiction is the way we make what we perceive and what we think is real. Creation knows no opposite. But here is opposition part of being "real." " (The Guarantee of Heaven Chapter 13, IV of ACIM) and "Heaven is not a place nor a condition. It is merely an awareness of perfect oneness, and the knowledge that there is nothing else; nothing outside this oneness, and nothing else within."

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Further Reading

 


While there are many questions about NDEs, one thing is certain ­ they do exist. Thousands of people have actually perceived similar sensations while close to death. The debate is over whether or not they actually experienced what they perceived.

Dr Raymond Moody
P.M.H Atwater, L.H.D
Dr Penny Sartori, Ph.D.
Dr Melvin Morse, MD
Pim van Lommel, cardiologist
NDERF
Dr. Susan Blackmore

Raymond Moody is an authority on the 'near­death experience'­a phrase he coined in the late seventies. Dr. Moody's research into the phenomenon of near­death experience had its start in the 1960's. Author of eleven books including Life After Life ­which has sold over 13 million copies world wide­and Reunions, as well as numerous articles in academic and professional literature, Dr. Moody continues to capture enormous public interest and generate controversy with his ground­breaking work on the near­death experience and what happens when we die. Dr. Moody received the World Humanitarian Award in Denmark in 1988. He was also honored with a bronze medal in the Human Relations category at the New York Film Festival for the movie version of Life After Life.

www.lifeafterlife.com

P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D. is one of the original researchers in the field of near­death studies, having begun her work in 1978. Today, her contribution to the field is considered one of the best. She has written nine books on her findings: "Coming Back to Life," "Beyond the Light," "Future Memory," "Children of the New Millennium," The Complete Idiot's Guide to Near­ Death Experiences," "The New Children and Near­Death Experiences," "We Live Forever," "Beyond the Indigo Children," and "The Big Book of Near­Death Experiences."  According to Atwater, this last book covers the entire field, 360 degrees, with the latest material in it.  It is written for busy people on the go, so it is enjoyable as well as informative.  This book is especially important for nurses and other health­care professionals. Some of her findings have now been clinically verified (the Dutch Study published in "Lancet" medical journal 12­15­01, and the Bon enfant Study done in Medical Centers in Florida, published in the "Journal of Near­Death Studies," among others). She has recently been presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Transpersonal Hypnotists, and the Outstanding Service Award and achievement tribute from the International Association For Near­Death Studies.

www.pmhatwater.com

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The Near­Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study published by The Edwin Mellen Press

Penny Sartori, who works at Singleton and Morriston Hospitals in Swansea, has 15 accounts, mainly from heart attack patients, of near­death experiences.

They include out­of­body occurrences, reports of a tunnel leading to a bright light and meeting dead loved ones.

Ms Sartori decided to launch her formal study in 1998 after working closely with critically­ill patients throughout the 1990s and discovering there was very little reference data available for nurses and other healthcare workers.

She spent five years compiling the study, three years writing it up and two years preparing it for publication. The book is called Near Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients, a Five Year Clinical Study .

She found that people who went through out­of­body experiences floated above themselves and were able to accurately recount what had happened in the room even though they were unconscious and their eyes were closed.

"People also reported traveling down a tunnel towards a bright light," she said.

"Some reported meeting a figure who told them their time had not yet come, and others said they met dead relatives and communicated with them by telepathy."

In another case a patient reported encountering a dead relative who gave a message to pass on to another member of the family who was still alive.

Ms Sartori said the information had stunned the receiver because it had been a secret and it was impossible the patient had prior knowledge of it.

Near­death experiences were typically often explained away as the effect of endorphins, abnormal blood gases or low oxygen levels, she said.

However, the study measured these and took them into account when researching the patients' reports.

"All the current skeptical arguments against near­death experiences were not supported by the research," she said.

In one case a critically­ill patient, who also had cerebral palsy, awoke from a near­death experience able to use his right arm normally, even though it had been bent and contracted since birth.

"It shouldn't have been possible without an operation to release his tendons, but he could open his arm freely," said Ms Sartori.

Some patients reported floating back into their bodies after nearly dying, and for others it was a sudden snap back.

"Some patients reported having their entire lives flash by them in an instant," she said.

While she found 15 patients reporting near­death experiences, Ms Sartori believes it could be more common but that some patients' ability to recall the event fails shortly after they pass the critical episode and regain consciousness, like a dreamer forgets a dream.

She now intends to continue her research into the phenomenon and is developing a private theory, not included in her book, about what could be happening to these patients.

"I don't think it's quite as simple as life after death," she said.

"It's what consciousness is and how we define it. We are entering an exciting time researching consciousness.

"Current science says it is a by­product of the brain. But it may be that consciousness is around us and the brain might be a mediator, an antenna, instead of controlling consciousness.

"It is a fascinating subject and I'm looking forward to continuing my research," she added.

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My (Dr Melvin Morse) original research, and subsequent studies by others, have documented that the near death experience is real. This understanding, that death is in fact a dynamic spiritual event in which the dying are frequently fully conscious, has profound implications for the living.

Nothing less than a new scientific paradigm is at hand, one that will transform human culture as surely as the birth of written language. I want to be an active part in the birth of this new paradigm.

Areas I am interested in include:

1. Using spiritual experiences in facilitating healthy grieving and healing.

2. Understanding the importance of the near death experience in transforming our approach to death and dying.

3. Continuing to document and develop an understanding of the neurobiology of the spiritual and near death experience. Consider, for example, the development of written language. The human brain evolved tens of thousands of years before humans developed writing; yet we have specific brain structures associated with written language! The more we document the science of spiritual brain function, the better we will understand its purpose in our ordinary lives.

4. Work with other professionals and especially students and graduate students to continue to develop a body of research that will eventually reach critical mass and catalyze the new paradigm that is coming.

5. Understand how intuition, the art of split second decision making, is related to the near death experience and spiritual experiences in general. My current research with police officers, FBI agents, and executives of major corporations indicates that intuition may well be a type of mediumistic experience.

6. Learning how to differentiate true spiritual insight from anxiety­provoked reactions to stress and fear and how to rely on our intuition in our ordinary lives.

www.melvinmorse.com

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In 2001, Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel published a famous study of near death experiences ( NDE 's) in medical journal The Lancet . Sixty­two of the 344 patients in the Netherlands who had suffered a cardiac arrest in hospital turned out to have had an NDE. They could not find any physiological, medical, psychological or pharmacological explanation why some people experienced an NDE. Van Lommel's article was a worldwide hit and controversial for some scientist.

In van Lommel's opinion, the current materialistic view of the relationship between the brain and consciousness held by most physicians, philosophers and psychologists is too restricted for a proper understanding of this phenomenon. There are good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not always coincide with the functioning of our brain: consciousness can also be experienced separately from the body.

Pim van Lommel (1943) worked as a cardiologist in the Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem in the Netherlands from 1977 to 2003. Since 2003 he has lectured all over the world on NDE and the relationship between consciousness and brain function. For further reading please access the following link www.pimvanlommel.nl .

Endless Consciousness is scheduled to be published in 2010 by Harper Collins USA .


NDERF is devoted to the study of NDE and support of those experiencing NDE and related experiences.  NDERF has nothing for sale and does not solicit donations.

The NDERF web site is one of the highest ranked web site among the major search engines for the term "near death experience", and the web site has over 60,000 hits (page views) monthly.  NDERF has 11 original NDE research papers posted.  A recent major project of NDERF is to translate NDEs and NDE related material into foreign languages.  Currently NDEs and NDE related material is available in 22 different foreign languages on NDERF.  Readers from over 70 different foreign countries access the NDERF web site monthly.

Dr. Jeff is a physician practicing the specialty of radiation oncology (use of radiation to treat cancer) in Tacoma, Washington. Dr. Jeff serves on the Board of Directors of IANDS (International Association for Near­Death Studies), and is actively involved in NDE research.   Dr. Jeff developed this web site.

Jody Long is an attorney and has worked in the areas of family, health care, business, and intellectual property law .  Jody has several decades of experience researching paranormal and related phenomena.  She was on the board of directors for Seattle Friends of IANDS group, a member of IANDS and supports  IANDS (International Association for Near­Death Studies)... the oldest organization devoted to NDE experiencer support & research.  Jody is the webmaster.

The website www.nderf.org lists many stories.

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Susan Blackmore has written various articles on NDEs. Blackmore,S.J. 1991 Near­Death Experiences: In or out of the body? Skeptical Inquirer 16 34­45 is one of these articles and more can be found on her website www.susanblackmore.co.uk. Furthermore, she wrote a book called Dying to Live and the following piece is published on the Answers.com website:

People who come close to death and survive often report remarkable experiences. Feelings of peace, happiness, and even joy are common, which seems paradoxical in the circumstances. Many survivors report having rushed down a dark tunnel towards a bright light ­ although the tunnel itself can look like anything from tiny stars or spirals of light, to the inside of a sewer pipe or an underground cave. In one study, about a third of near­death survivors reported out of body experiences, in which they seemed to leave their body and were able to watch what was happening from a distance, as though as an impartial observer. Less often they recalled leaving the scene of (near) death and traveling elsewhere. Finally, some people report wonderful heavenly scenes, peopled with angels, spiritual beings, or deceased friends and relatives. Less commonly they arrive at some kind of barrier and have to decide to return, or not. A small proportion report a 'life review' in which scenes from their life flash before their inner eyes, often all at once, or with no sense of passing time. This life review is sometimes remembered as an ordeal, with religious figures making judgments in a great book, but it can be purely personal, leading to calm acceptance and a re­evaluation of one's life and deeds.

After a near­death experience many people report that their whole attitude to life is changed. They are less concerned with material things and more interested in helping others. Research confirms these changes but it is not clear whether they are a consequence of the experience itself or just of having been so close to death.

Not all near­death experiences are blissful, and recent research has discovered an increasing number of hellish experiences ­ although just how many is hard to estimate, since people may be less likely to report them, and more anxious to forget. In many religions suicide is treated as a sin, so believers might expect those who attempt suicide to be especially likely to have hellish experiences. In fact they mostly report blissful or peaceful feelings, and the effect, far from encouraging another suicide attempt, seems to be a renewed enthusiasm for life.

The term 'near­death experience' became popular only after Raymond Moody's best­selling collection of accounts in 1975. However, similar reports had previously been collected from people who subsequently did die (i.e. deathbed experiences). In fact, reports of such experiences are widespread in many ages and cultures, and in literature, art, and film. Plato describes one in the Republic , Tibetan Buddhist literature includes the 'returned from the dead' writings, and there are myths from as far apart as ancient Greece, nineteenth­century native Americans, and Lithuanian folklore. In contemporary research, similar reports have been collected from Iceland, Britain, America, and India. In these accounts the basic features tend to be similar (including tunnels, lights, out­of­body excursions, and visions) but the details vary. For example, religious figures are often seen, but usually of the person's own religion. No Hindu is known to have seen Jesus, nor any Christian to have seen Hindu gods.

A few skeptics attribute the experiences either to wishful thinking or to taking drugs. This seems most unlikely, given the cross­cultural findings, and research showing that most drugs tend to reduce the clarity and complexity of near­death experiences. The important question is therefore why these experiences occur in a similar form all across the world.

The main contenders are either that near­death experiences are a glimpse of life after death, or that they are the effect of changes in an almost dying brain. The after­death hypothesis cannot be proven. If there is life after death, these experiences may tell us what it is like, but since none of the people concerned actually died we can never be sure. The closest we come to evidence is the claim that, during the experience, some people were able to see events at a distance that they could not possibly have known about or guessed. These claims are few, and none is substantiated by independent witnesses or physical evidence, although the best examples are probably those in which patients were able to describe complex medical procedures that occurred while they were comatose or even clinically dead.

There are several theories to explain how coming close to death can give rise to near­death experiences. Lack of oxygen is often implicated, although many near­death experiences occur when people are not deprived of oxygen, as in falls from mountains, during suicide attempts by jumping from heights, or after accidents. In such situations, however, the production and actions of various hormones and neurotransmitters may be affected. There are theories based on stimulation of receptors in nerve cell membranes called NMDA receptors, on the effects of the neurotransmitter serotonin , and on the level of endorphins (the brain's own morphine­like chemicals). Endorphins are known to produce positive emotions and reduction of pain, and may be responsible for the blissful feelings in the midst of pain and fear. Disruption of the brain's neurotransmitters can produce random or excessive firing of neurons and this, depending on where it occurs, may produce the other experiences. For example, electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe of the cerebral hemispheres can produce life reviews and sensations of floating or flying, while random firing in the parts of the visual cortex (which also occurs with drugs such as LSD) causes the perception of lights, tunnels, and spirals.

These physiological explanations can account for much of near­death experiences, and may in time provide a complete account. Even so, they can never disprove the possibility of life after death. Some people may still prefer to believe that the experience is a glimpse of the next world rather than the product of the dying brain.

­ Susan Blackmore

Bibliography

  • Bailey, L. W. and Yates, J. (ed.) (1996). The near­death experience: a reader . Routledge, New York and London.
  • Blackmore, S. J. (1993). Dying to live: science and the near death experience . Prometheus, Buffalo, NY.
  • Moody, R. A. (1975). Life after life . Mockingbird, Atlanta, GA

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References


(1) Prevalence of NDEs in Australia, Journal of Near Death Studies, Volume 24 Issue 2 (Dec 2005), pp. 109­ 116, Perera et al.

Mahendra Perera, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., M.D., MRCPsych, FRANZCP, is Consultant Psychiatrist at the Albert Road Clinic in Melbourne, Australia. Gayan Padmasekara is a medical student at Monash University in Clayton, Australia. John Belanti, B.S.W., is a mental health social worker at Broadmeadows Adult Mental Health in Broadmeadows, Australia.

Abstract: In the literature surveyed we found only two articles that dealt with the prevalence of near death experiences (NDEs) in a general population. The first study, from the United States, reported NDEs in 15 percent of the population. In a more strictly controlled study from Germany, the rate was 4 percent. The present study was performed to ascertain the prevalence of NDEs in Australia. We developed a questionnaire and administered it by telephone interview. We determined that 8 percent of the population reported an NDE. There was a 36 percent prevalence of people who had faced a situation of imminent death, almost one­fourth of whom reported an NDE.

(2) Roy Morgan Research, Australia's best known and longest established market research and public opinion polling company, was founded in 1941 by Roy Morgan.  Since then, Roy Morgan Research has grown and prospered.  While originally specialising in public opinion, corporate image and media measurement, the company has expanded to cover all aspects of market research information gathering whether by personal interviews, the telephone, self­administered or the Internet.

http://www.roymorgan.com.au

(3) Letter to Health Care Provider, The International Association for Near Death Studies, Inc., http://www.iands.org/downloads/mdletter.pdf

The International Association for Near­Death Studies, Inc. (IANDS) is the only professional organization in the world devoted exclusively to the study of near­death and related experiences. IANDS publishes a peer­reviewed journal and a member newsletter, and sponsors conferences for NDE experiencers, scholars, and the public. Date of incorporation: 1982. Founders: John Audette; Bruce Greyson, MD; Ken Ring, PhD; Michael Sabom, MD.

(4) Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 ­ April 14, 1950), born Venkataraman Iyer , was an Indian sage. At the age of 16 he attained enlightenment through a remarkable experience, as if undergoing death of the physical body while remaining in full consciousness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramana_Maharshi
http://bhagavan­ramana.org/
http://www.arunachala­ramana.org/

(5) The Tibetan Book of the Dead , whose actual title is " The Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State " or "Bardo Thodol", is traditionally believed to be the work of the legendary Padma Sambhava in the 8th century A.D. The book acts as a guide for the dead during the state that intervenes death and the next rebirth. He is considered to be one of the first persons to bring Buddhism to Tibet. The Bardo Thodol is a guide that is read aloud to the dead while they are in the state between death and reincarnation in order for them to recognize the nature of their mind and attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

http://www.near­death.com/experiences/buddhism01.html

(6) Plotinus and Neoplatonism

Neoplatonism , one of the most influential philosophical and religious schools and an important rival of Christianity, was founded in the 3rd century ad by Ammonius Saccus and his more famous disciple Plotinus . Plotinus based his ideas on the mystical and poetic writings of Plato, the Pythagoreans, and Philo. The main function of philosophy, for him, is to prepare individuals for the experience of ecstasy, in which they become one with God. God, or the One, is beyond rational understanding and is the source of all reality. Human beings belong to two worlds, that of the senses and that of pure intelligence. Inasmuch as matter is the cause of all evil, the object of life should be to escape the material world of the senses, and hence people should abandon all earthly interests for those of intellectual meditation; by purification and by the exercise of thought people can gradually lift themselves to an intuition of the nous, and ultimately to a complete and ecstatic union with the One­that is, God. Plotinus claimed to have experienced this divine ecstasy on several occasions during his life. Neoplatonism exerted a strong influence on medieval thought.

http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761574677_4/Philosophy.html


(7) Meister Eckhart, is the most common formula used to refer to Eckhart von Hochheim a German theologian , philosopher and mystic. He was brought up on charges later in life before the local Franciscan­led Inquisition . Tried as a heretic by Pope John XXII , his "Defence" is famous for his reasoned arguments to all challenged articles of his writing and his refutation of heretical intent. He purportedly died before his verdict was received, although no record of his death or burial site has ever been discovered.

In Jacob's Ladder (film) , Louis ­­ the main character's friend and an island of calm within a hellish nightmare ­­ quotes Eckart: "You know what he [Eckart] said? The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn 'em all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. ... If you're frightened of dying and holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth" (Rubin 1990, p. 82).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meister_Eckhart

(8) Baruch or Benedict de Spinoza ( November 24 , 1632 ­ February 21 , 1677 ) was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th­century philosophy , laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism . By virtue of his magnum opus , the posthumous Ethics , in which he opposed Descartes ' mind­body dualism, Spinoza is considered to be one of Western philosophy's most important philosophers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza

(9) Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 ­ 11 November 1855) was a prolific 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian . Kierkegaard strongly criticized both the Hegelianism of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church . Much of his work deals with religious themes such as faith in God, the institution of the Christian Church , Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard

(10) Crisp & Taylor, 2009, Potter & Perry's Fundamentals of Nursing, 3rd edition, Elsevier Australia, Ch 35, Complementary therapies in nursing practice p. 803

(11) A Course in Miracles (also referred to as ACIM or the Course ) written by Dr. Helen Schucman and Dr. William Thetford describes a purely non­dualistic approach to spirituality. It is neither new age, Christian, or religious, contrary to misinterpretations. Schucman dictated the book based on an inner voice, which she described as coming from a divine source, specifically Jesus Christ . The book uses traditional Judeo­Christian terminology, but is not aligned to the doctrines of any religions or denominations. J. Gordon Melton notes that it has been most popular among those who have been disillusioned by organized Christianity. Since it first became available for sale in 1976, over 1.5 million copies have been sold worldwide in sixteen different languages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Course_in_Miracles

The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught.
It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance.
The opposite of love is fear, but what is all­encompassing can have no opposite.

http://courseinmiracles.com/

 

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