Life and Death Experiences
A near-death experience (NDE) refers to a broad range of personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations ranging from detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, extreme fear, total serenity, security, or warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light, which some people interpret as a deity or spiritual presence. Many cultures and individuals revere NDEs as a paranormal and spiritual glimpse into the afterlife.

Such cases are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead, or otherwise very close to death, hence the entitlement near-death experience. With recent developments in cardiac resuscitation techniques, the number of NDEs reported is continually increasing. Most of the scientific community regards such experiences as hallucinatory, while paranormal specialists and some mainstream scientists claim them to be evidence of an afterlife.

Popular interest in near-death experiences was initially sparked by Raymond Moody, Jr's 1975 book "Life After Life" and the founding of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) in 1978. According to a Gallup poll, approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience. NDEs are among the phenomena studied in the fields of parapsychology, psychology, psychiatry, and hospital medicine.

Spiritual Viewpoints

Some view the NDE the precursor to an afterlife experience, claiming that the NDE cannot be completely explained by physiological or psychological causes, and that consciousness can function independently of brain activity. Many NDE-accounts seem to include elements which, according to several theorists, can only be explained by an out-of-body consciousness. For example, in one account, a woman accurately described a surgical instrument she had not seen previously, as well as a conversation that occurred while she was under general anesthesia. In another account, from a proactive Dutch NDE study , a nurse removed the dentures of an unconscious heart attack victim, and was asked by him after his recovery to return them. It might be difficult to explain in conventional terms how an unconscious patient could later have recognized the nurse.

Dr. Michael Sabom reports a case about a woman who underwent surgery for an aneurysm. The woman reported an out-of-body experience that she claimed continued through a brief period of the absence of any EEG activity. If true, this would seem to challenge the belief by many that consciousness is situated entirely within the brain.

A majority of individuals who experience an NDE see it as a verification of the existence of an afterlife. This includes those with agnostic/atheist inclinations before the experience. Many former atheists, such as the Reverend Howard Storm have adopted a more spiritual viewpoint after their NDEs. Howard Storm's NDE might also be characterized as a distressing near-death experience. The distressing aspects of some NDE's are discussed more closely by Greyson & Bush (1992).

Greyson claims that "No one physiological or psychological model by itself explains all the common features of NDE. The paradoxical occurrence of heightened, lucid awareness and logical thought processes during a period of impaired cerebral perfusion raises particular perplexing questions for our current understanding of consciousness and its relation to brain function. A clear sensorium and complex perceptual processes during a period of apparent clinical death challenge the concept that consciousness is localized exclusively in the brain."

A few people feel that research on NDEs occurring in the blind can be interpreted to support an argument that consciousness survives bodily death. Dr. Kenneth Ring claims in the book "Mindsight: Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind" that up to 80% of his sample studied reported some visual awareness during their NDE or out of body experience.Skeptics however question the accuracy of their visual awareness.
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This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Transformation. The Official Guide to Transformation is Christopher Carrick. Christopher Carrick works with people who are undergoing spiritual transformation. Sometimes this shows up as a life crisis, such as the breakup of a relationship, struggles in their work or dealing with the dying process.

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