Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Truth about the Near Death Experience

Connections highlights interesting and delightful folks I'm meeting along The Sage Age journey.

Near-death experiences and life after death seem to be popular topics this week. It was the subject of a local metaphysical group meeting I attended last evening. When I returned home, I found an email from a physicist asking about whether life after death was testable. Today, several of my Twitter peeps (friends) are tweeting about an article that appeared on NPR concerning a near-death episode during an operation.

A couple of months ago my dear friend, Rev. Juliet Nightingale, crossed over. She was a multiple NDEr and devoted her life to educating and counseling folks about NDEs and the aftereffects of them. It’s worth keeping in mind that Juliet spoke openly about NDEs well before it was considered a hip topic. In fact, there was a deep culture of prejudice and fear concerning it. Juliet, and others like her, helped change that, even at great cost to their personal safety at times. That’s just how deeply the prejudices ran then.

There is an official organization that researches the near-death experience. It’s the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS). Juliet belonged to this organization, but always contested that their focus was too heavily shifted toward researching the bodily effects of the dieing process, specifically what happens in the brain, and that not enough support was being offered to experiencers. That attitude is based on the philosophy called Material Realism, where matter is accepted as primary and consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain. Juliet subscribed to the same philosophy that several quantum physicists are coming to, which is that consciousness is primary.

Juliet also knew firsthand the bewilderment and overwhelming feelings that many experiencers go through immediately after an NDE. That’s because many NDErs are subjected to a reality that does not jive with their belief system. She also lived with the common aftereffects of suddenly being intolerant to heat, loud noises, and practically all pharmaceuticals.

A leading authority on the near-death experience is Dr. P.M.H. Atwater. She is an experiencer, but more importantly, she is a top-notch investigator and researcher. She has interviewed well over 3,000 NDErs and has written multiple books on the subject. She has helped build a bridge between the science researchers and the experiencers. She has also dedicated herself to education and counseling. I highly recommend starting with her book The Big Book of Near Death Experiences, which illuminates many factors of the experience including the difference between the experiences of children and adult NDErs and documenting facts like the Hollywood depiction of light at the end of the tunnel being a minority experience.

After reading this one book, you may find the NPR article as sensational and misleading as I did. It does not further our education on NDEs. It simply stirs up the controversy by depicting a minority experience that is refuted by doctors and an anesthesiologist, all of whom are not well versed in the subject.

If we truly intend to move forward in another direction together, we must remove ourselves from participating in this dualistic pendulum swing of “we say – they say” that only stirs controversy, and begin to educate ourselves on the truth, as much as we can know what that is for ourselves.

Following are links that I hope you find helpful in your research.

Dr. P.M.H. Atwater’s main site where you can find links to her books:

Dr. Atwater’s blog:

Juliet Nightingale’s main site (that is still being tended for now by her daughter):

The NPR article: