Children Have NDEs Similar To Adults
|Dr. P.M.H. Atwater's
NDE Research of Children
following is an article by P.M.H.
Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.) on the near-death experiences
of children from her
Since my specialty in near-death research is one-on-one
sessions with experiencers, I can speak little of the phenomenon's
historical significance - except to point out the fascinating
anomaly that an amazing number of people important to the
evolution of humankind may well have had such an episode
during their childhood. I discuss this at length in both
Future Memory and
Children of the New Millennium. Some of the notables
I came across in only one week of perusing library records
were Abraham Lincoln, Mozart, Albert Einstein, Queen Elizabeth
I, Edward de Vere/the 17th Earl of Oxford (who most likely
is the real Shakespeare), Winston Churchill,
Black Elk, Walter Russell, plus
several others. Either I was possessed of "library luck"
that week or there really is a connection between near-death
states and possible structural, chemical, and functional
shifts that appear to occur in the brain, elevating the
individual in appreciable ways. My research leads me to
believe the latter.
I did encounter near-death states in people of other cultures,
as I met many who were foreign born or of racial backgrounds
quite different than the typical white Judeo-Christian mindset.
Of the 3,000
adult experiencers in my research base, Caucasian Americans,
European and Ara-bic people predominate at 80%, with 20%
being of the black race (15% African Americans, 5% divided
between Kenya, Haiti, and African Canadians). Of the 277
child experiencers, the mix is: 60% white, 23% Latinos,
12% blacks, and 5% Asian.
There have been excellent studies done of NDErs in their
native countries, as well as a government study sanctioned
in China; but I want to mention the ongoing work by
Todd Murphy of child experiencers in Thailand. We'll
all be hearing about Todd's findings soon as the
Journal of Near-Death Studies will be publishing several
of his articles. Early-on he was kind enough to discuss
his ideas with me, so I am familiar with his study - a research
project that eventually came to confirm or support many
of my own observations.
Having this exposure to accounts from a broad range of racial
and cultural traditions, enables me to make some "across-the-board"
comments - especially about "greeters," who, according to
reports, are the first ones met "at death's door." I think
you will find this of interest. The terms that follow are
those most commonly used by the experiencers themselves.
Greeters Met in Near-Death States
the order most frequently encountered:
Light beings or bright ones (kids generally
call them "The People")
Angels, with or without wings (can be white,
black, or of various skin hues)
Deceased loved ones (including relatives not
met or known about before who are later verified)
God or God's Presence or God's Voice (seldom
given a gender by adults, described as an older
male by children)
Religious figures (usually conform to the predominant
religion the experiencer was exposed to, but
not always - Jesus has appeared in near-death
scenarios of Jewish people, for stance; a Muslim
man once told me he was met by Buddha)
Animals (most often beloved pets who are deceased,
yet there are many of non-pets such as horses,
lions, or even chickens, who come as "guides"
or to deliver a message)
To go a little
further with this, most adult experiencers describe God
as a powerful, almost blinding sphere of light, that is
ecstasy itself. Young children do not use such terms, saying
instead that God is like a loving father or grandfather.
Over 70% of children's near-death scenarios involve angels.
Not that many adults claim this, more like 40% (although
adults often use terms like "light beings" or "bright ones"
as if they were describing angels). Just who is what and
whether or not there is any real difference between these
various emissaries cannot be determined solely by near-death
Children sometimes describe an animal heaven they must visit
before they can go to the heaven where people are. And they
tend to be explicit about skin tones when talking about
any religious figure who visited them. By that I mean, Jesus
is seen as a man with tan skin (adults are the ones who
usually see Jesus as white); Buddha's skin is more often
seen as somewhat yellowish; Mohammed is described as having
brown skin (yes, there are little ones who claim they saw
Mohammed). Children seldom deviate in their description
of such coloring regardless of their own skin tone or cultural
exposure; adults do.
There is another greeter, though, who is sometimes encountered
- a living person - more commonly reported by children than
by adults. This may be a favorite teacher, the kid down
the block, friends, or relatives. Does this fact call into
question the validity of near-death imagery? No, and here's
In every case I have thus far investigated where this occurred,
the living greeter did not remain in the scenario any longer
than it took to alert or relax the experiencer. Once that
happened, the living greeter disappeared and imagery more
common to near-death states emerged ... as the episode deepened.
It is almost as if the sole purpose of living greeters is
to ensure the continuance of the episode so that it can
become more meaningful. They don't "stick around" like other
greeters usually do.
While speaking of greeters, I also want to address this
curious observation: child experiencers are often met by
a "critical or caring" parental-type of being, seldom biologically
related to them, but almost always someone the child recognizes
as an authority figure they must respect (religious or otherwise).
This being instructs or lectures the child on behavior and
what must be done to fulfill the reason for his or her birth.
These instructions or lectures can be quite stern and involve
incidents where the child is judged on his or her progress
toward the goal. If a tribunal is present, it is not unusual
for the "judges" to be animals rather than people.
This curiosity is rather typical of near-death cases from
kids residing in Asia (Todd Murphy discovered a number of
them), with indigenous societies and Third World nations.
But I have also found them with youngsters from well-educated
families in Europe and the United States. Although many
"parental" greeters are gentle and loving, some are rather
fearful and threaten the child with punishment if he or
she does not obey.
One of these cases in the U.S. involved a nine-day-old infant
who "died" during surgery for a serious staph infection
and abscess. I had intended to include it in Children of the New Millennium,
but the account was somehow lost during rewrites and is
only mentioned in brief on page 70, and even there in error.
I have since apologized to Judith Werner, the experiencer
involved. However, thanks to the generosity of
Barbara Rommer, M.D., this
account will at last be published - in the addendum to the
second printing of Barbara's book, Blessing in Disguise
by the way, is an important study of unpleasant and distressing
NDEs. Judith's scenario involved being surrounded by white-robed
figures devoid of emotion, a huge light which glared from
above, and a heavy voice called "Inner Stranger" that sounded
like a critical and demanding parental authority. The drawing
she did of this scene looks like the typical layout of the
average medical operating room complete with nurses and
surgeons. Still, if you put yourself into the mind of one
so young, the white-clad figures easily become evil giants,
the light a torture device, and her subsequent treatments
(also shown in the drawing) akin to ongoing punishment.
Once verbal, Judith told her parents about the incident
and about Inner Stranger and the threats made ("obey me
or you will die"). They pooh-poohed her story, and so did
everyone else she told it too. She then repressed the experience
until, when twenty-eight, she had a near-death-like episode
that explained what had happened to her when nine days old.
The closure that resulted enabled her to understand lingering
childhood fears and angers, and begin the process of turning
her life around in a positive manner.
Any discussion of this case must address the question: how
could an infant only nine days old remember surgical details,
respond to and retain the words of a threatening male -
throughout her entire life?
Today, Judith speaks well of Inner Stranger, acknowledging
that, although frightening to begin with, his advice has
proved to be invaluable over time.
Black Elk, the famous Lakota Sioux medicine man, had
a similar encounter during his childhood near-death state
in the sense that the wise ones who came to him were stern
Comparing the kind of accounts we have become accustomed
to with those from other cultures and other timeframes in
history, helps us to enlarge our perspective of the human
mind and of life and death.
"Men fear death, as children fear
to go in the dark."
- Francis Bacon
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