Near Death Experiences
Near death experience, or NDE is an unusual, profound, personal experience taking place on the brink of death and recounted by a person after recovery, typically an out-of-body experience or a vision of a tunnel of light. Supposedly, when these experiences are positive, they may encompass a variety of sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light. When they’re considered negative, these experiences may include sensations of anguish distress or peeing your pants.
Of course, we’re going to get super nerdy here so bear with us while Jeff snores in the background. Some explanations for NDEs range from scientific to religious. Oh boy! Neuroscience research suggests that an NDE is a subjective phenomenon resulting from "disturbed bodily multisensory integration" that occurs during life-threatening events, as per Olaf Blanke’s 2009 book, “The Neurology of Consciousness”, while some transcendental and religious beliefs about an afterlife include descriptions similar to NDEs.
The French term “expérience de mort imminente” which isn’t a delicious French dip sandwich, actually means “experience of imminent death” and was proposed by French psychologist and epistemologist Victor Egger as a result of discussions in the 1890s among philosophers and psychologists concerning climbers' stories of the panoramic life review during falls. Yes. falls. In 1892 a series of subjective observations by workers falling from scaffolds, war soldiers who suffered injuries, climbers who had fallen from heights or other individuals who had come close to death (like driving in a car with Moody) was reported by Albert Heim. This was also the first time the phenomenon was described as clinical syndrome. In 1968 Celia Green published an analysis of 400 first-hand accounts of out-of-body experiences in her book, boringly and obviously called “Out-of-the-body Experiences”. This was the first attempt to provide a classification of such experiences, viewed simply as anomalous perceptual experiences, or hallucinations. In 1969, Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy, and their own families. Fuck! These book names are so long! These experiences were also popularized by the work of psychiatrist Raymond Moody, which may or may not be Moody’s drunken uncle, in 1975 coined the term "near-death experience" (NDE) as an umbrella term for the different elements (out of body experiences, the "panoramic life review," the Light, the tunnel, or the border). Also, The term "near-death experience" had already been used by John C. Lilly in 1972.
Ok, let’s talk about some common traits of near death experiences.
Researchers have identified the common traits that define near-death experiences, according to Mauro, James Mauro in his book "Bright lights, big mystery.” Bruce Greyson argues that the general features of the experience include impressions of being outside one's physical body, visions of deceased relatives and religious figures, and transcendence of egotic and spatiotemporal boundaries. At this point, Some if you and especially Jeff are asking “what in the fuck is spatiotemporal boundaries!?!” Well, that shit refers to perception of continuous contours, shape, and global motion from sequential transformations of widely separated surface elements. How such minimal information in SBF can produce whole forms and the nature of the computational processes involved remain mysterious. YA GOT ALL THAT?!
Many common elements have been reported, although the person's interpretation of these events, obviously, often corresponds with the cultural, philosophical, or religious beliefs of the person experiencing it. For example, in the US, where 46% of the population believes in guardian angels, they will often be identified as angels or deceased loved ones (or will be unidentified), while Hindus will often identify them as messengers of the god of death, according to the Bruce Greyson book “The handbook of near-death experiences thirty years of investigation” and Mary J. Kennard‘s book, "A Visit from an Angel". Interestingly, NDEs are no more likely to occur in devout believers than in secular or nonpracticing subjects.
A 2017 study by two researchers at the University of Virginia raised the question of whether the paradox of enhanced cognition occurring alongside compromised brain function during an NDE could be written off as a flight of imagination. The researchers administered a questionnaire to 122 people who reported NDEs. They asked them to compare memories of their experiences with those of both real and imagined events from about the same time. The results suggest that the NDEs were recalled with greater vividness and detail than either real or imagined situations were. In short, the NDEs were remembered as being “realer than real.”
Ok, now! Some Common traits that have been reported by NDErs are as follows:
A sense/awareness of being dead.
A sense of peace, well-being and painlessness.
Positive emotions. A sense of removal from the world.
An out-of-body experience. A perception of one's body from an outside position, sometimes observing medical professionals performing resuscitation efforts.
A "tunnel experience" or entering a darkness. A sense of moving up, or through, a passageway or staircase.
A rapid movement toward and/or sudden immersion in a powerful light (or "Being of Light") which communicates with the person.
An intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance.
Encountering "Beings of Light", "Beings dressed in white", or similar. Also, the possibility of being reunited with deceased loved ones.
Receiving a life review, commonly referred to as "seeing one's life flash before one's eyes".
Approaching a border or a decision by oneself or others to return to one's body, often accompanied by a reluctance to return.
Suddenly finding oneself back inside one's body.
Connection to the cultural beliefs held by the individual, which seem to dictate some of the phenomena experienced in the NDE and particularly the later interpretation thereof.
Let’s now talk about the Stages of a NDE
Kenneth Ring subdivided the NDE on a five-stage continuum. The subdivisions were:
Seeing the light
Entering the light
Charlotte Martial, a neuropsychologist from the University of Liège and University Hospital of Liège who led a team that investigated 154 different NDE cases, concluded that there is not a fixed sequence of events. So, basically, she’s like “fuck that other guy.”
Kenneth Ring also argues that attempted suicides do not lead more often to unpleasant NDEs than unintended near-death situations. But, you know how Charlotte Martial feels about that dude and his shitty opinions.
In one series of NDE's, 22% occurred during general anesthesia.
The underlying neurological sequence of events in a near-death experience is difficult to determine with any precision because of the dizzying variety of ways in which the brain can be damaged. Furthermore, NDEs do not strike when the individual is lying inside a magnetic scanner or has his or her scalp covered by a net of electrodes! Interesting…
Ok so what exactly happened to your brain during an NDE?
It is possible to gain some idea of what happens by examining a cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating (the patient is “coding,” in hospital jargon). The patient has not died, because the heart can be jump-started via cardiopulmo-nary resuscitation.
Modern death requires irreversible loss of brain function. When the brain is starved of blood flow (ischemia) and oxygen (anoxia), the patient faints in a fraction of a minute and his or her electroencephalogram, or EEG, becomes isoelectric—in other words, flat. This implies that large-scale, spatially distributed electrical activity within the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain, has broken down. Like a town that loses power one neighborhood at a time, local regions of the brain go offline one after another. Similar to Jon's brain on a Saturday night after drinking alot or maybe like all of us when we do our high movie review! The mind, whose substrate is whichever neurons remain capable of generating electrical activity, does what it always does: it tells a story shaped by the person’s experience, memory and cultural expectations.
Given these power outages, this experience may produce the rather strange and idiosyncratic stories that make up the corpus of NDE reports. To the person undergoing it, the NDE is as real as anything the mind produces during normal waking. When the entire brain has shut down because of complete power loss, the mind is extinguished, along with consciousness. If and when oxygen and blood flow are restored, the brain boots up, and the narrative flow of experience resumes.
Scientists have videotaped, analyzed and dissected the loss and subsequent recovery of consciousness in highly trained individuals—U.S. test pilots and NASA astronauts in centrifuges during the cold war (recall the scene in the 2018 movie First Man of a stoic Neil Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, being spun in a multiaxis trainer until he passes out). Or like Jon on the Tilt A Whirl. At around five times the force of gravity, the cardiovascular system stops delivering blood to the brain, and the pilot faints. About 10 to 20 seconds after these large g-forces cease, consciousness returns, accompanied by a comparable interval of confusion and disorientation (subjects in these tests are obviously very fit and pride themselves on their self-control).
The range of phenomena these men recount may amount to “NDE lite”—tunnel vision and bright lights; a feeling of awakening from sleep, including partial or complete paralysis; a sense of peaceful floating; out-of-body experiences; sensations of pleasure and even euphoria; and short but intense dreams, often involving conversations with family members, that remain vivid to them many years afterward. These intensely felt experiences, triggered by a specific physical insult, typically do not have any religious character (perhaps because participants knew ahead of time that they would be stressed until they fainted).
By their very nature, NDEs are not readily amenable to well-controlled laboratory experimentation, cus you know, who the fuck would willingly want to be killed just to try and be brought back and see if they have any NDE. This isn't Flatliners people come on. It may be possible, however, to study aspects of them in the humble lab mouse—maybe it, too, can experience a review of lifetime memories or euphoria before death.
Many neurologists have noted similarities between NDEs and the effects of a class of epileptic events known as complex partial seizures. These fits partially impair consciousness and often are localized to specific brain regions in one hemisphere. They can be preceded by an aura, which is a specific experience unique to an individual patient that is predictive of an incipient attack. The seizure may be accompanied by changes in the perceived sizes of objects; unusual tastes, smells or bodily feelings; déjà vu; depersonalization; or ecstatic feelings. Episodes featuring the last items on this list are also clinically known as Dostoyevsky’s seizures, after the late 19th-century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who suffered from severe temporal lobe epilepsy. More than 150 years later neurosurgeons are able to induce such ecstatic feelings by electrically stimulating part of the cortex called the insula in epileptic patients who have electrodes implanted in their brain. This procedure can help locate the origin of the seizures for possible surgical removal. Patients report bliss, enhanced well-being, and heightened self-awareness or perception of the external world. Exciting the gray matter elsewhere can trigger out-of-body experiences or visual hallucinations. This brute link between abnormal activity patterns—whether induced by the spontaneous disease process or controlled by a surgeon’s electrode—and subjective experience provides support for a biological, not spiritual, origin. The same is likely to be true for NDEs. Why the mind should experience the struggle to sustain its operations in the face of loss of blood flow and oxygen as positive and blissful rather than as panic-inducing remains mysterious, especially since life sucks so bad. It is intriguing, though, that the outer limit of the spectrum of human experience encompasses other occasions in which reduced oxygen causes pleasurable feelings of jauntiness, light-headedness and heightened arousal—deepwater diving, high-altitude climbing, flying, the choking or fainting game, and, in Jeff's case, sexual asphyxiation.
NDEs are often associated with changes in personality and outlook on life, according to James Mauro. Ring has identified a consistent set of value and belief changes associated with people who have had a near-death experience. Among these changes, he found a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, less concern for acquiring material wealth, a heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive. However, not all after-effects are beneficial according to the book by RM Orne titled "The meaning of survival: the early aftermath of a near-death experience" and Greyson describes circumstances where changes in attitudes and behavior can lead to psychosocial and psychospiritual problems.
Here are some actual near death experiences taken from the book “Beyond The Light” by P.M.H Atwater
Jazmyne Cidavia-DeRepentigny of Hull Georgia. She died on the operating table during surgery in late 1979.
"I must say that this experience was quite unsettling to say the least. I was floating over my body. I could see and hear everything that was being said and done. I left the room for a short while and then returned to where my body lay. I knew why I died. It was because I couldn't breathe. There was a tube down my throat and the medical staff did not have an oxygen mask on my nose. I had also been given too much anesthetic.
"In my out-of-body state, I'm using my mind to try and make my right arm and hand move - my arms are extended parallel to my physical body. I want my right hand to move, any thing to move. I was trying to pull the tube out of my mouth. I looked down at my face and tears were streaming. One of the nurses blotted the tears from my face but she didn't notice my breathing had stopped, nor did she see me next to her. At this point, I'm trying really hard to make my physical arm move, but it's like my whole body is made of lead."
"I could see my spirit standing before me. My spirit was so beautifully perfect, dressed in a white gown that was loose, free-flowing, and below the knee. From my spirit there emanated a bright, soft-white halo. My spirit was standing six to eight feet from my body. It was so strange, for I could see my spirit and my spirit could see my pathetic body. I had not an ounce of color and I looked all withered and cold and lifeless. My spirit felt warm and so, so celestial. As my spirit slowly moved away, my spirit told my body goodbye, for my spirit saw the light and wanted to go into it. The light was like a circular opening that was warm and bright."
Robin Michelle Halberdier of Texas City, Texas, her near-death episode took place in a hospital when she was between one and two months of age. Born prematurely, and with Hyaline Membrane disease, she was not expected to live
"My first visual memory was looking forward and seeing a brilliant bright light, almost like looking directly at the sun. The strange thing was that I could see my feet in front of me, as if I were floating upward in a vertical position. I do not remember passing through a tunnel or anything like that, just floating in the beautiful light. A tremendous amount of warmth and love came from the light.
"There was a standing figure in the light, shaped like a normal human being, but with no distinct facial features. It had a masculine presence. The light I have described seemed like it emanated from that figure. Light rays shone all around him. I felt very protected and safe and loved.
"The figure in the light told me through what I now know to be mental telepathy that I must go back, that it was not time for me to come here. I wanted to stay because I felt so full of joy and so peaceful. The voice repeated that it wasn't my time; I had a purpose to fulfill and I could come back after I completed it.
"The first time I told my parents about my experience was right after I began to talk. At the time, I believed that what happened to me was something everyone experienced. I told my mom and dad about the big glass case I was in after I was born, and the figure in the light and what he said to me. They took my reference to the glass case to mean the incubator. My father was a medical student at the time, and he had read a book about near-death experiences. From comparing the information in the book with what I told them, they decided that's what I was describing. My mom told me all of this years later when I brought the subject up again.
"I began attending church at the age of five, and I would look at the picture of Jesus in the Bible and tell my mom that's who it was in the light. I still have many physical difficulties with my health because of being premature. But there is a strong need inside me that I should help others with what death is, and talk to terminally ill patients. I was in the other world and I know there is nothing to be afraid of after death."
Bryce Bond, a famous New York City media personality turned parapsychologist, once collapsed after a violent allergic reaction to pine nuts and was rushed to a hospital.
"I hear a bark, and racing toward me is a dog I once had, a black poodle named Pepe. When I see him, I feel an emotional floodgate open. Tears fill my eyes. He jumps into my arms, licking my face. As I hold him, he is real, more real than I had ever experienced him. I can smell him, feel him, hear his breathing, and sense his great joy at being with me again.
"I put my dog on the ground, and step forward to embrace my stepfather, when a very strong voice is heard in my consciousness. Not yet, it says. I scream out, Why? Then this inner voice says, What have you learned, and whom have you helped? I am dumb-founded. The voice seems to be from without as well as within. Everything stops for a moment. I have to think of what was asked of me. I cannot answer what I have learned, but I can answer whom I have helped.
"I feel the presence of my dog around me as I ponder those two questions. Then I hear barking, and other dogs appear, dogs I once had. As I stand there for what seems to be an eternity. I want to embrace and be absorbed and merge. I want to stay. The sensation of not wanting to come back is overwhelming."
"I heard a voice say, 'Welcome back.' I never asked who said that nor did I care. I was told by the doctor that I had been dead for over ten minutes."
Julian A. Milkes, almost hit by a car
"My mother and I were driving out to the lake one afternoon. My dad was to follow later when he finished work. We were having company for dinner, and, as we rode along, my mother spotted some wild flowers at the side of the road. She asked if I wouldn't stop the car and pick them as they would look nice on the dinner table. I pulled over to the right side of the road (it was not a major highway), parked the car, and went down a small incline to get off the road to pick the flowers. While I was picking the flowers, a car came whizzing by and suddenly headed straight for me.
"As I looked up and saw what I presumed would be an inevitable death, I separated from my body and viewed what was happening from another perspective. My whole life flashed in front of me, from that moment backwards to segments of my life. The review was not like a judgment. It was passive, more like an interesting novelty.
"I can't tell you how many times I think of that near-death experience. Even as I sit here and write my story for you, it seems as though it happened only yesterday."
Ernest Hemingway, wounded by shrapnel while fighting on the banks of the river Piave, near Fossalta, Italy.
"Dying is a very simple thing. I've looked at death and really I know."
"A big Austrian trench mortar bomb, of the type that used to be called ash cans, exploded in the darkness. I died then. I felt my soul or something coming right out of my body, like you'd pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by one corner. It flew around and then came back and went in again and I wasn't dead anymore."
"I ate the end of my piece of cheese and took a swallow of wine. Through the other noise I heard a cough, then came the chuh-chuh-chuh-chuh - then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red and on and on in a rushing wind. I tried to breathe but my breath would not come and I felt myself rush bodily out of myself and out and out and out and all the time bodily in the wind. I went out swiftly, all of myself, and I knew I was dead and that it had all been a mistake to think you just died. Then I floated, and instead of going on I felt myself slide back. I breathed and I was back."
John R. Liona of Brooklyn, New York
"Mine was a difficult birth, according to my mother. She said she didn't hear me cry after I was born because I was a 'blue baby.' They did not bring me to her for two days. My face was black and blue, and she said the skin was all cut up on the right side of my face. That's where the forceps slipped. I was given a tracheotomy to help me breathe. I am totally deaf in my right ear. Also, the right side of my face and head is less sensitive than the left. When I get tired, the right side of my face droops a little, like Bell's palsy.
"I am forty years old now. All my life going back to my childhood I can remember having this same recurring dream. It is more vivid than any other dream. It starts and ends the same - I am kneeling down and bent over, frantically trying to untie some kind of knots. They almost seem alive. I am pulling on them and they are thick and slippery. I am very upset. Pulling and snapping. I can't see what they're made of. I remember getting hit in the face while trying to untie or break free of the knots, and waking up crying. Then I would go back to sleep thinking it was only a dream or a nightmare. When the dream would happen again on another night, I would sleep through it longer, as I began to get used to it.
"After I am able to sleep through the knotty part, suddenly my struggling stops. I feel like a puppet with all the strings cut. My body goes limp. All the stress and struggle is drained right out of me. I feel very calm and peaceful, but wonder what caused me to lose interest in the knots. They were important one minute; the next minute I am floating in this big bright light. I know I can't touch the ground because there is light there, too. I look at the light and try to move toward it. I can't, and this upsets me. There is a woman in a long, flowing gown floating away to my left. I call and call to her but the light is so bright sound does not travel through it. I want to talk to the woman. My dream ends there.
"About a year ago, I walk out of my house to go to work. The ground is wet from rain, yet I find this book lying there - dry. No one is around, so I pick it up. The book is called 'CLOSER TO THE LIGHT,' by Melvin Morse, M.D., and Paul Perry. It is on the near-death experiences of children. That night I start reading it and cannot put it down. For the first time in my life, I now understand my dream. Those knots were when I struggled in the womb with the umbilical cord; getting hit in the face is when the doctor grabbed me with the forceps, then I died. After that, I went into the light.
"But, wait a second. You're not supposed to remember being born. We don't just sit around at parties and talk about what we remember of our birth. We only talk about what our parents tell us. I look forward to having my dream again. I'm ready now to experience more of it than before, and without being upset."
Jeanne L. Eppley of Columbus, Ohio
"My experience happened during the birth of my first child. For many years I blamed it on the anesthetic. I had three more children without pain because I believed that if there wasn't any pain, I wouldn't have to have anesthetics that caused experiences like this. Living proof of mind over matter, right?
"What happened was this: Everything was bright yellow. There was a tiny black dot in the center of all the yellow. Somehow I knew that the dot was me. The dot began to divide. First there was two, then four, then eight. After there had been enough division, the dots formed into a pinwheel and began to spin. As the pinwheel spun, the dots began to rejoin in the same manner as they had divided. I knew that when they were all one again, I would be dead, so I began to fight. The next thing I remember is the doctor trying to awaken me and keep me on the delivery table, because I was getting up.
"When my daughter was born, her head was flattened from her forehead to a point in back. They told me that she had lodged against my pelvic bone. But the doctor had already delivered two others that night and was in a hurry to get home. He took her with forceps. I've often wondered if my experience was actually hers, instead."
"I survived and became very strong. Before it happened I was a very weak person who had depended on others all my life. It constantly amazes me that people talk about how much they admire my strength. I developed a lot of character having lived this life and raising four children alone. I can honestly say that I like and respect myself now. I did not when the near-death experience happened. I believe maybe it was sent to show me that I could be strong. I certainly needed that strength in the years that came after."
Gloria Hipple of Blakeslee, Pennsylvania
"My incident took place in August of 1955. I had been taken to Middlesex Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, due to a miscarriage. Placed in a ward because I was a military dependent, the doctor who was to care for me never came. I was placed at a forty-five-degree angle due to bleeding and was left that way for almost eight days. No one heard my pleas. By the eighth day, I could not hear anyone, my eyes could not see, and I was later told that my body temperature registered 87.6 degrees. I should have been dead.
"I recall being pulled down into a spinning vortex. At first, I did not know what was happening. Then I realized my body was being drawn downward, head first. I panicked and fought, trying to grab at the sides of the vortex. All I could think of was my two children. No one would care for them. I pleaded, Please, not now, but I kept moving downward.
"I tried to see something, but all there was to see was this cyclonic void that tapered into a funnel. I kept grabbing at the sides but my fingers had nothing to grasp. Terror set in, true terror. I saw a black spot, darker than the funnel and like a black curtain, falling in front of me. Then there was a white dot, like a bright light at the end of the funnel. But as I grew closer, it was a small white skull. It became larger, grinning at me with bare sockets and gaping mouth, and traveling straight toward me like a baseball. Not only was I terrified, I was really livid, too. I struggled to grab hold of anything to keep me from falling, but the skull loomed larger. 'My kids, my baby is so little. My little boy, he's only two years old. No!' My words rang in my head and ears. With a bellowing yell, I screamed: 'No! damn it, no! Let me go. My babies need me! No! No! No! No!'
"The skull shattered into fragments and I slowed in movement. A white light, the brightest light I have ever known or will ever see again was in place of the skull. It was so bright yet it did not blind me. It was a welcome, calming light. The black spot or curtain was gone. I felt absolute peace of mind and sensed myself floating upward, and I was back. I heard my husband calling me, off in the distance. I opened my eyes but could not see him. Two doctors were at the foot of my bed - both were angry and compassionate at the same time. I was taken to the operating room, given several pints of blood, and was released one week later.
"No one would believe my handshake with the grim reaper. Scoffers almost put me in tears. Everyone laughed at me, including my husband, so I never told my story again - until I wrote to you. It was the most horrendous, yet the most gratifying experience I've ever had in my life."
And another in 1943 during a tonsillectomy
"Ether was the sedation used to put me to sleep. I recall being terrified by the mask and the awful smell. I can still taste it as I think about it. As the sedation took hold, there was the vortex, the dizzy spinning sensation, as I was dragged downward into sleep. I screamed, not knowing what was happening to me."
"My near-death experience has made me quite sensitive to many more things than my mind understands. It also helped me to be less serious about myself. I'm dispensable. I have discovered I do not value 'things' as I once did. I befriend people in a different way. I respect their choices to be the people they want to be. The same for my own family. I will guide, but not demand. As for the "Light" - it was then and remains so, my encounter with the most powerful of all entities. The giver of life on both sides of the curtain. After all, I was given a second chance. I am blessed and cannot ask for more."
Sandra H. Brock of Staunton, Virginia
"I had a stomach stapling in 1980 and, in the process, had to have a deformed spleen removed. I hemorrhaged on the operating table, and the doctor said that at three times he thought he was going to lose me. The first day after surgery I had to have transfusions. During one of the transfusions I started feeling really weird. I felt like if I shut my eyes I would never open them again. I called a nurse. Of course, she said it was all in my head, and left the room. I remember she just walked out the door and I started being pulled through a tunnel. It was a terrible experience because all I could see were people from my past, people who were already dead, who had done or said something to me that had hurt me in one way or another. They were laughing and screaming, until I thought I could not stand it. I begged and begged that I be allowed to go back. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel but I never really got close to it. All of a sudden I was back in my bed, just thankful I had not died."