People Are Dramatically Changed By NDEs
Dr. P.M.H. Atwater's
article was written by P.M.H.
Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.), reprinted by permission,
concerning the dramatic aftereffects of a near-death experience.
This article is also available on her
No matter what the nature of the experience, it alters
some lives. Alcoholics find themselves unable to imbibe.
Hardened criminals opt for a life of helping others. Atheists
embrace the existence of a deity, while dogmatic members
of a particular religion report "feeling welcome in any
church or temple or mosque."
Nancy Evans Bush, president
emeritus of the International
Association for Near-Death Studies, says the experience
is revelatory. "Most near-death survivors say they don't
think there is a God," she says. "They know."
In 1975, when
Raymond Moody published
Life After Life,
a book that coined the term "near-death experience" (NDE)
to describe this hard-to-define phenomenon. Moody interviewed
150 near-death patients who reported vivid experiences (flashing
back to childhood, coming face to face with Christ). He
found that those who had undergone NDEs became more altruistic,
less materialistic, and more loving.
and Ian Stevenson have
been instrumental in gathering evidence indicating that
religious backgrounds do not affect who is most likely to
have a NDE. They have mapped out the conversion-like effects
of NDEs that can sometimes lead to hardship.
"They can see the good in all people," Greyson says
of people who have experienced the phenomenon. "They act
fairly naive, and they often allow themselves to be opened
up to con men who abuse their trust."
They have gathered reports of high divorce rates
and problems in the workplace following NDEs.
"The values you get from a NDE are not the ones you
need to function in everyday life," says Greyson. Having
stared eternity in the face, he observes, those who return
often lose their taste for ego-boosting achievement.
Not even the diehard skeptics doubt the powerful
personal effects of NDEs. "This is a profound emotional
Nuland. "People are convinced that they've seen heaven."
at the Aftereffects of the NDE
P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.) P. O. Box 7691 Charlottesville,
VA 22906-7691 1996 P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D.
Only twenty-one percent of those near-death survivors
I interviewed denied the existence of aftereffects. Of these,
most either reported having had a brief encounter; or, regardless
of what type of episode they had, it seemed to have little
or no impact on them. The rest reported significant, life-changing differences
afterward (nineteen percent claimed radical turn-arounds,
almost as if they had become another person). Before and
after photographs can differ.
Any notion that, as a compensatory gift, some people are
privileged to survive death, see heaven, and return dedicated
to selfless service for all humankind, is commonly referred
to in the research field as "The Myth of Amazing Grace."
That's because there are both positive and negative aspects
to the aftereffects ... passing through death's door seems
merely to be "Step One." Integrating the experience is the
real adventure - making what was learned real and workable
in everyday life. No "set of instructions" covers how to
do this. Lengthy bouts with depression can occur.
I have observed that it seems to take a minimum of seven
years for most NDErs to integrate the aftereffects. Although
these cannot be faked, an individual can delay the onset
of them or deny their existence. Seven major elements comprise
the universal pattern:
Unconditional love - NDErs perceive themselves
as equally and fully loving of each and all, openly generous,
excited about the potential and wonder of each person they
see. Confused family members tend to regard this sudden
switch in behavior as oddly threatening, as if their loved
one had become aloof, un-responsive, even uncaring or unloving.
Lack of boundaries - Familiar codes of conduct
can lose relevance or disappear altogether as unlimited avenues
of interest and inquiry take priority. This new frame of
reference can infuse NDErs with such an accepting nature
that they can and do display childlike naivet. With the
fading of previous norms and standards, basic cautions and
discernments can also fade.
Timelessness - Most NDErs begin to "flow"
with natural shift of time, rejecting locks and schedules
as they exhibit a heightened awareness of the present moment
and the importance of "now." They are easily distracted
and can appear "spacey" until they readjust to the demands
of daily routines.
The psychic - Extrasensory perception and
various types of psychic phenomena become normal and ordinary
in the lives of NDErs. A person's religious beliefs do not
prevent this expansion of faculties or enlargements of perceptual
range. This can frighten the unprepared and be misconstrued
as "the devil's work" when it is actually more akin to "gifts
of the spirit."
Reality switches - Hard-driving achievers
and materialists can transform into easy-going philosophers; but,
by the same token, those once more relaxed or uncommitted
can become energetic "movers and shakers," determined to
make a difference in the world. Switches seem to depend
more on what is "needed" to round out the individual's growth
than on any uniform result.
The soul as self - Most come to recognize
themselves as an immortal soul currently resident within material
form so lessons can be learned while sojourning in the Earth
realm. They know they are not their body; it is a "jacket"
they wear. The majority develop an interest in reincarnation,
some accept it as valid.
Modes of communications - What was once foreign
becomes familiar, what was once familiar becomes foreign.
Rationale of any kind tends to lose its logic as NDErs begin
to think more abstractly and in grandiose terms. New ways
of using language, even whole new vocabularies, emerge.
Within some households, relatives are so impressed by what
they witness with their loved one that they too change,
making the NDE a "shared" event. In other families, though,
the response is so negative that alienation, separation,
or divorce results. The situation with children, who undergo
the same aftereffects as adults, can be doubly challenging,
since they lack the ability to speak up for themselves,
negotiate, or seek alternatives.
Basing the degree of an individual's transformation solely
on before and after contrasts can distort or mask deeper
issues that may eventually undermine the best of intentions
- for researchers as well as NDErs.
Not just the psyche is affected by the near-death phenomenon.
A person's body and the very way life is lived undergo changes
too. Mundane chores can take on surrealistic dimensions.
Briefly, here are the more typical physiological aftereffects:
substantially altered energy levels, hypersensitive to light
and sound, unusual sensitivity to chemicals (especially
pharmaceuticals), stress easier to handle, lower blood pressure,
increased intelligence, clustered thinking (as opposed to
sequential), charismatic, quicker assimilation, increased
allergies of various kinds, reduction in red meat consumption,
"merge" easily (absorption), latent talents surface, a hunger
for knowledge, synchronicity commonplace, multiple sensing
(synesthesia), body clocks can reverse, more orgasmic, "inner
child" issues surface, become electrical sensitives (where
a person's energy field affects electricity and electronic
devices - many can no longer wear watches, microphones "fight"
Seventy-three percent of my research base reported incidents
of electrical sensitivity. To explore this further, I sent
out a questionnaire that netted me some surprises - about
85% of those who answered my questionnaire claimed
to have had a scenario where at least half of the episode
was filled with bright, all-consuming light.
52% said they merged into and joined as one with
this light (or Being of Light).
80% of these people became unusually sensitive to
physical light afterward.
The correlation between length of exposure to "etheric"
light and the vivid spread of physiological changes afterward
is more involved than at first glance. That's because respondents
with shorter exposure rates (1 to 25% of their experience)
had the same capacity for the full range of physical aftereffects,
while some with over 50% exposure rates declared few if
any such changes.
This suggests to me that it is the intensity of the light
- not length of exposure - that seems to determine the prevalence
of many of the aftereffects. And this implies that the etheric
or subjective light reported by so many near-death survivors
may indeed be as real and powerful as it seems - and subject
to measurement studies and testing.
Considering the experience, the average near-death survivor
returns more intelligent and loving than before. He or she
is usually able to detach from previous norms, abstract
freely, envision broader perspectives for a more compassionate
and positive life, access latent talents, and display (in
some cases) a flowering of genius. In other words, exhibit
all the elements of a brain shift
Thanks to PET (positron emission tomography), science has
been able to establish that original thinking utilizes a
different section of the brain than mundane thinking. To
Raichle, a researcher at Washington University: "You
can essentially rearrange the brain in fifteen minutes."
Since the average near-death survivor was "dead," that is
to say without pulse and breath, for ten to fifteen minutes,
some for hours ("walking up" in the morgue), it is fair
to say that such an experience could and does have a dramatic
effect on the individual and his or her brain.
Considering the aftereffects, the near-death phenomenon
seems to stimulate the brain hemisphere that was not previously
dominant. There is also an observable movement in the brain,
structurally, toward data clustering and creative invention
- as if the NDEr were developing a more synergistic type
of neutral network - thus advancing the potential of whole
brained behavior (less dependent on any single type of hemispheric
dominance, greater flexibility and utilization of the brain
Interestingly, this same type of thing, this particular
pattern of aftereffects both psychological and physiological,
also appears to happen to people who undergo a religious
conversion, spiritual transformation, shamanic vision quest,
breakthrough, some incidences of head trauma or being hit
by lightning, as well as the near-death phenomenon. And
I believe for the same reason ... a brain shift.
Reportings of impactual experiences of this nature are on
the rise, globally, underscoring the supposition that we
may be readjusting as a species - literally at the very
moment in history when the demand for more intelligent,
loving people who are creative problem solvers, is increasing.
But a brain shift may not be the only goal with these NDErs.
Look again at near-death imagery.
It is well-known that electrical stimulation of the right
temporal lobe (above the right ear) and specifically in
produces visions of God, hearing beautiful music, seeing
dead friends and relatives, even panoramic life reviews.
Yet, every near-death incident I know of that had elements
in it unknowable to the NDEr that could be checked, was
checked, and every one of those details was verified. Those
who deny this are people who refuse to acknowledge previous
Example: In one of my cases, a four-year-old boy drowned
in his parents' backyard swimming pool. Emergency crews
were called. After fifteen minutes the boy revived (Typical
of most near-death incidents, there was no brain damage.).
Immediately, he spoke of meeting his little brother on The
Other Side, a little brother of about two years of age yet
able to converse. As the youngster was an only child, his
parents rightfully assumed he was hallucinating - until
the story that spilled out, specific details about Mommy's
"mistake" at thirteen and her subsequent abortion, was confirmed
by the chalk-white, shocked mother. No friends or family
knew about the abortion, and the mother had long since forgotten it.
But here was her "only" child quoting what the aborted child
told him. The schism that developed between the parents
over this affair led to a divorce.
It is arrogant to dismiss cases like this. Certainly, there
is ample evidence to suggest that much of the imagery in
near-death scenarios is "accommodation" (i.e., the appearance
and age of the aborted son in the previous episode). Similarly,
in every case I have investigated, if the NDEr asked what appeared
to be God or a light being or an angel if that was what
that heavenly host really looked like, the image would immediately
dissolve into a burst of radiant light. The individual would
then be told that shapes familiar to him or her were used
to quell fear and anxiety, that the reality of light worlds
was beyond human comprehension.
Yet, again and again, details absolutely impossible for
the individual to know are seen and later verified - like
descriptions of the accident or hospital room, family secrets,
various observations and insights - none of which are accommodations
from the temporal lobe yet most of them found interspersed throughout
an archetypal storyline as old as history records.
Obviously, there is more to the human spirit than can be
proven scientifically, and there is more to living than
our sensory faculties define.
What we are left with, at least until we can initiate the
next phase of research, a project of cross-cultural, interdisciplinarian
measurement studies , is this extraordinary truth:
near-death episodes reveal more about life than they do
death, and what they reveal is an aliveness and a power
above and beyond anything we can presently fathom.
If viewed objectively, there is a reoccurring theme running
throughout the phenomenon's research, and that is ... we
may be programmed by our very birth to constantly and continuously
grow in consciousness and in spirit. What we think are endings
may be nothing more than just another beginning.
develop the concept of brain shift further in my book
hardcover Birch Lane Press, New York City, 1995. And, in
the self-published book,
Brain Shift: Using the Near-Death Experience as a Theoretical
Model to Explore the Transformation of Consciousness.
This self-published book is available only from me - details
on how to order elsewhere in this website.
Among presentations of this material
is the book Closer to
the Light: Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children,
by Melvin Morse, M.D. and Paul
Perry. New York, NY; Villard Books, 1990.
 The International
Association For Near-Death Studies (IANDS) has taken
it upon itself to establish just such a research project,
and it is now soliciting funds from whomever wants to contribute.
Send monies, American dollars please, to IANDS, P. O. Box
502, East Windsor Hill, CT 06028-0502; (860) 528-5144. It
is now time to move past superstars and media sound-bytes
to do the clinical, cross-cultural and interdisciplinarian
research needed in the field."
near-death experience was nearly thirty
four years ago, there is virtually not a
day that goes by that I am not aware of
making decisions based on that experience."
- Geraldine Berkheimer, near-death experiencer
Copyright 2007 Near-Death Experiences & the