question many people ask is this: "Why doesn't
everyone experience the same thing during their
NDE?" Because everyone does not experience
the same thing, they reason, this means they are
not real afterlife experiences. Such conclusions
are based on the false premise that there are no
similarities among them. As an example, it is almost
universally true these experiences involve the
perception of being outside of the
physical body. In fact,
this aspect of the NDE is strong circumstantial
evidence for survival after bodily death.
page is reprinted from my book,
Nothing Better Than Death,
lays out the argument as to why the nature of the
NDE itself is strong evidence for the validity of
it being an afterlife experience.
1. The Differences
of NDEs Defined
I classify NDEs according to
the general category as: positive or negative. It
is my opinion, that people who are primarily motivated
by positive influences (such as love, joy, and peace)
generally have positive NDEs. People who are primarily
motivated by negative influences (such as hatred,
anger, and fear) generally have negative NDEs. There
are a many exceptions to this, but I am confident
that such a categorization is sufficient.
NDEs have similar aspects. A typical example involves
an out-of-body (OBE) experience followed by traveling
through a tunnel toward a very bright light. At
the end of the tunnel, deceased loved ones or "Beings
of Light" often appear. Sometimes, one particular "Being
of Light" is identified either as God, Jesus
or other religious figures, an angel, or even their
own "Higher Self." This being induces
them into a life review in which their entire life
can be instantaneously observed. Afterwards, the
experiencer reaches a boundary of some kind which
they cannot cross. Here, they may be given a choice
of returning to physical existence or progressing
into the afterlife. They are often told, "It
is not yet your time to die" or, "Your
mission is not yet completed."
experiences also have features that are similar.
These kinds of experiences often involve people
finding themselves in some hellish condition, sometimes
corresponding to an object of interest such as a
physical addiction, a sexual obsession, a person
still living, or some negative influence. Negative
experiences are often rescued by a higher spiritual
Being of Light, sometimes by a loved one or sometimes
by a religious figure. Once rescued, they are shown
their entire life in review. They are then given
the same choice as those who have positive experiences:
to either stay or return. Many negative experiences
often end up transforming into positive ones, which
strongly suggests these negative states of consciousness
are temporary and not permanent.
the experiencer is an atheist or a religious person,
American or Chinese, a child or an adult, gay or
straight, their experiences are more similar than
they are different. Despite all the differences
between them, it is the similar aspects that are
noteworthy. These similar aspects are of great interest
to researchers because they demonstrate a pattern
which is repeated over and over again by different
people in different cultures during different periods
be noted that it is not the reality of these experiences
that is questioned by skeptics. It is the reality
of them being an afterlife experience that is questioned.
Using the scientific method, these experiences can
be proven to be valid. In the laboratory, NDEs can
be induced using right temporal lobe brain stimulation,
the application of hallucinogenic drugs, or extreme
gravitational forces. These laboratory experiments
prove the NDE to be valid. Whether it is a valid
afterlife experience is another matter altogether.
Nevertheless, the similarities between them suggest
a reality based in scientific experimentation.
The similarities among NDEs are too great to
be ignored. My own research has revealed the following
statistics representing the similarities among 50
experienced overwhelming love
experienced mental telepathy
experienced a life review
experienced a tremendous ecstasy
were given unlimited knowledge
experienced different afterlife levels
were told it was not their time to die
were shown some aspect of the future
went through a tunnel
met Jesus Christ
received and remembered forgotten knowledge
described it as a "homecoming"
were told of their past lives
experienced some form of hell
saw a "City of light"
saw a "Temple of Knowledge"
saw spirits dwelling among living people
resulted from a suicide attempt
saw the Devil
As indicated above, 46% of
them were told in various ways it was "not
their time to die." Because such a large number
of them were given this message, it suggests that
it has an objectivity based in reality. It is equivalent
to 46% of NDErs report being told "life is
but a dream" during their experiences. The
cryptic nature of the message combined with being
heard by so many experiencers gives its strong credibility
as to being an objective experience.
Many differences can be found
in NDE reports. For example, this website profiles
a person traveling throughout the universe in their
NDE. Another person toured a "temple of knowledge."
Another was shown the future by thirteen light beings.
Another was given a guided tour of the afterlife
by her deceased dog. Another was shown the Earth
from the perspective of being in outer space. Another
experiencer traveled back in time to witness the
crucifixion of Christ. Another was told her suicide
would result in her reincarnation. Another met her
future, and yet unborn, son. One man was molested
in hell and then rescued by Christ. One woman experienced
the ecstasy of God until she could take it no more.
One man experienced a "God of wrath" then
a "God of love." One woman identified
the Being of Light as the basic pattern behind the
atom and all things in the universe. One man saw
the Being of Light changing into various personalities
such as Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, and then
mandala of human souls. Another saw the Being
of Light as her Higher Self. The differences go
on and on. However, despite these differences, all
of these experiences are generally the same in that
they contain many common aspects.
concept explained to one person during a NDE is
how the afterlife appears to people in the way they
need it to appear after death. This explains why
the Being of Light appears as Christ to some people
and as an angel or Higher Self to another. It also
explains why people experience different things
during their NDEs. People experience different things
because people have different needs. These needs
are met at the time of death.
In my opinion,
these differences suggest that someone who expects
to flutter about with winged cherubs playing harps
and singing hallelujah after death is allowed to
do precisely that until they realize that this is
certainly not a real heaven. Others might expect
to spend all their time in eternity in prayer and
glorification - until it is clearly demonstrated
to them that this is a fantasy-to-be-abandoned.
Even those who are convinced by their religious
leaders that they will be tormented in hell-fire
are given a hellish experience for the purpose of
education. This suggests the initial phase of the
death experience is transitory and merely a preparatory
phase where people are allowed to face their illusions
in order to teach them important lessons about themselves.
of this concept of "getting what you need"
is the fact that everyone does not need the same
things. This concept assumes that a person's NDE
happens in a way they can understand and learn from.
It is the idea whereby a person may experience,
as an example, judgment from God during their life
review only to later learn in the experience they
were the one, not God, doing the judging. The life
review has been described as the most enlightening
experience of a person's entire life and the single
most educational experience. This concept suggests
those who experience a life review do so because
they needed to experience it.
of the reasons why these experiences are different
can be explained by the great mystic
Meister Eckhart. In the NDE movie,
Jacob's Ladder, Meister Eckhart is quoted as
"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 them all away,
but they're not punishing you, they're freeing
your soul. If you're frightened of dying
and you're holding on, you'll see devils
tearing your life away. If you've made your
peace, then the devils are really angels
freeing you from the Earth."
To ask whether this is
literally true or not misses the whole point. It
illustrates an important fact about people's perceptions
and how several witnesses can observe the same thing
but come up with different testimonies. One real
example illustrating this point involves the tunnel
aspect of the NDE. Most NDErs describe traveling
through the tunnel as a very beautiful and pleasant
experience. However, some experiencers have described
this same tunnel experience to be horribly frightening.
This demonstrates the fact that one man's heaven
is another man's hell. It also demonstrates the
quality of the NDE depends on the NDErs themselves.
In other words, beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.
What a person experiences can be attributed
to many factors: the NDEr's psychology, personal
experiences, background and culture. Even the very
archetypal pattern of the NDE itself is a factor
determining what one experiences in a NDE. These
factors may have a different amount of influence
from one person to another. For this reason, it
may be virtually impossible to determine beforehand
how a person will react to a NDE and what they experience.
Everyone is unique and everyone experiences
the world in a way that is unique to anyone else
in the universe. In the same way, people react to
their NDEs in different ways corresponding to their
own inner makeup. For example, while the vast majority
of NDErs return with a firm belief in some universal
force, such as God, they often define this force
in a way dependent upon their own psychology, personal
experiences, cultural and religious biases.
a researcher with
points out, "One of the near-death experience
truths is that each person integrates their near-death
experience into their own pre-existing belief system."
This important truth must be kept in the back of
reading these different accounts.
One religious tenet states, "As a man thinks
in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7)
This tenet is an eloquent way
of stating this same thing. The world of the NDE
has been described as the realm of pure mind where
all things are possible. It is possible that if
a person desires a mansion after death, they will
get it. Or, if a person desires food after death,
they will get it. Within some NDEs, there is evidence
to suggest those who expect nothing after death
will probably not be disappointed. That is, until
something changes their mind into believing that
life is everlasting and continuous. Because people
are what they think, people must be careful about
what they think because it is quite possible they
will get it in the afterlife.
the variations in human understanding, there is
certain to be a lot of variations in human experiences.
Beauty may not be the only reality existing in the
eye of the beholder. Current quantum physics support
the notion that ALL reality is in the eye of the
beholder. The NDE is no exception in that people
create their own reality.
In ordinary life,
we create our own reality from the actions we take
and the thoughts we think inwardly. The NDE appears
to be no different. Einstein's theory of relativity
suggests that all things are subjective and relative.
In the realm of quantum physics, it is possible
for absurdities to exist. This is because reality
is dependent upon the observer's "frame of
reference" or unique perspective. This corresponds
with the concept of reality being in the eye of
the beholder. For this reason, I believe the quantum
realm is identical to the realm defined by the NDE,
that is, of the mind.
physics suggests one cannot truly define reality
because when they do, they start setting up limitations
to it – limitations that can be broken. From
this concept, one can conclude that beliefs limit
an open mind. The physicist
Fred Alan Wolfe has stated the laws of the universe
may simply be the laws of our own minds. Perhaps
when we try to define reality, we may not really
be getting closer to its actual definition. Perhaps
all we really define is our own perception of reality.
Keeping an open mind about all things being possible
might be as close as one can get to this concept
without setting up limitations. Like the mysterious
particle of light in quantum physics, when one tries
to define it, one changes it. Maybe it is merely
our perception of the light that is changing, rather
than the light itself.
A case in point can
be found in
Pastor Howard Pittman's NDE. He was first taken
before a "God of wrath" who condemned
and judged him as being unworthy. Rejected, he left
the presence of God, but decided at the last minute
to return to ask God a question. This time he finds
a "God of love" filled with sympathy for
I suspect the reason Howard Pittman
saw a "God of wrath" immediately after
his death was due to this simple reason: For thirty-five
years, Howard Pittman preached a "God of wrath"
as a minister. During his NDE, a "God of wrath"
is what he expected and what he perceived. It is
how he interpreted his vision of God. Others have
initially felt being judged by God or a group of
light beings. Usually they realize that they were
the one doing the judging. In Howard Pittman's NDE,
I suspect he was judging himself as well and it
translated into the perception of being judged by
God. This "perception is reality" concept
demonstrates what quantum physicists have been preaching
for years. In my opinion, if this concept is true
for the physical universe, it is a small step to
imagine it being true for the spiritual universe
NDErs often say everyone is on a
path toward spiritual progression of some kind.
Some have expressed the idea that all paths lead
back to God. Perhaps negative experiences happen
in order to bring about spiritual progress in people.
one of the people I profile on this web page, said
we are constantly "meeting ourselves"
whether in the physical world or the spirit world.
Our thoughts and actions are constantly returning
to us. One religious tenet puts it: "A man
reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7)
Our lives are primarily the result of our own
past actions and thoughts. NDEs generally show that
people are not forced to heaven, hell, or anywhere.
Our destiny is totally up to us. However, we are
given these choices by a Higher Power. It may be
debatable whether this constitutes a violation of
our free will or constitutes a helping hand to get
us on the right path. It may be both. Perhaps we
are predestined to choose our destinies. Perhaps
to act against the will of God is the same as acting
against our own selves. The case may be made that
nobody goes against their own will. Even if they
could, it is just not a very smart thing to do.
In many experiences, Christ appears; but he
does not appear in all of them. Again, one might
jump to the conclusion that if NDEs are real afterlife
experiences, Christ would appear in all of them.
However, there is evidence to suggest the reason
Christ appears in many NDEs in western civilization
is due to the dominance of Christianity in the west.
In Buddhist countries, people meet Buddha. In Hindu
countries, the god of death may appear. Jews may
meet the Messiah. This suggests that at death, people
carry all their perspectives and religious biases
with them. It also suggests the NDE is often described
in context of one's own religious perspective.
Everyone is unique when it comes to religious,
psychological, educational, cultural and personal
background. Nevertheless, the NDE reveals a person's
afterlife experience does not depend exclusively
on their religious beliefs or lack of them.
often encounter a God in NDEs, for example. A person's
afterlife experience may depend mostly upon his
or her inward spiritual nature rather than any other
Just as there are many possible spiritual
experiences of various degrees of intensity within
a person, the NDE also reveals the existence of
many different afterlife experiences. These afterlife
experiences can be extremely different from one
another. One can see many of these experiences of
heaven and hell being played out right here in this
physical world. Some people "rot in prison"
while others have a feast in lavish mansions. Some
people are suffering in mental institutions while
others are on a Rocky Mountain high. Some people
are suffering addicts on skid row while others are
in the ecstasy of sexual intercourse. Such spiritual
experiences more than likely exist in an even more
abundant manner in the world of the afterlife.
Because one's afterlife reality is dependent
upon his or her inward spiritual condition, personal
background and perspective, this explains the existence
of so many different spiritual experiences of NDEs.
This also explains how some people are "rotting
in prison" on the outside but experiencing
the very presence of God on the inside. It also
explains how some people are experiencing a living
hell while living in luxury and surrounded by worldly
comforts and pleasures.
Some people erroneously
believe one must have a certain religious affiliation,
or believe in God, to have a pleasant afterlife
experience. However, even in this physical world,
one does not have to be religious to experience
love and happiness. In the same vein, to have a
pleasant afterlife experience, one does not have
to be religious. NDErs state it is not the religion
one professes with their lips that matters. It is
the spiritual condition of their inner nature that
matters. People who are primarily motivated by fear,
anger, hatred, and evil, will generally find themselves
together with like-minded people after their death.
A case in point is the NDE of
Ritchie. Ritchie saw an afterlife place where
people were locked into trying to satisfy some physical
desire but were unable to do so, thereby creating
their own "society of the damned." It
should also be pointed out that as it is in the
physical world, these hellish conditions are temporary.
People who are primarily motivated by love, peace,
or happiness, will find themselves together with
like-minded people after death. The old saying holds
true: "Birds of a feather flock together."
This probably explains why families and friends
tend to stick together in NDEs as well.
The bottom line is the NDE
can be said to be a very private and personal experience –
as private as a person's clothes, hair color, language,
size, etc. While these differences in humans do
exist, and their NDEs reflect this, it can still
be said the underlying reality is that when comparing
NDEs, it is like comparing apples and oranges. While
they are different from each other, are still basically
the same. NDEs are NDEs despite their differences.
Although there are many differences in NDEs,
there is one concept appearing in an overwhelming
number of them that make it practically universal.
The concept is that what matters most in life is
how much love you give and receive. Many experiencers
say this is really the determining factor between
having a positive experience or a negative one.
In conclusion, the differences in NDEs suggest
to me they are a real afterlife experience. These
differences are important because they show the
afterlife to be dynamic rather than static. The
same can also be said about life in general. The
NDE appears to be just as dynamic, if not more dynamic,
than our physical experience. If all NDEs were exactly
identical, it would make the dying brain theory
more appealing. It would mean the NDE is only an
experience that comes from a "hard-wired"
component in our brains. But because they are different,
this suggests they are not "hard-wired"
experiences, but rather a dynamic afterlife experience.
In general, what you get out of life is what you
put into it. The same is probably true of the afterlife.