The following article is by Jody A. Long, J.D., from the Near Death Experience Research Foundation, webmaster of : www.nderf.org; www.adcrf.org; www.oberf.org; P.O. Box 23367, Tacoma, WA, 98093
(253) 568-7777 home; (253) 831-3008 cell; or (253) 572-1330 work
Reprint requests may be sent to Jody A. Long, J.D. at the above address
ABSTRACT: It is a common element, unique to the NDEs experience, to report seeing deceased beings. Frequently, those seen on the other side are religious beings or deceased relatives. This study analyzes the beings that were seen on the other side. The datum is broken down into the categories of familiar beings and unfamiliar beings. Of the 302 people who responded to the survey, 29% (88) saw familiar beings and 25.8% (78) saw unfamiliar beings. Of the 166 people who saw beings, 53% saw familiar beings, while 47% saw unfamiliar beings. The highest percentage of familiar beings seen were blood relatives (25.9%), followed by religious figures (22.9%). Implications are discussed against the backdrop of consciousness and the Soulmate myth of popular culture.
Studies done in the late 70’s and early 80’s provide much of the foundation for today’s understandings of the near death experience (NDE). One of the distinguishing factors unique to NDEs is the reports of beings, deceased relatives, and the implications resulting from these contacts.
Michael B. Sabom took great care to document his studies in his book, Recollections of Death, published in 1982 (Sabom, 1982). He showed that what NDErs saw and heard while they were dead, had a factual basis. These people could accurately recall events happening around them. The Dutch NDE study in 2001, headed by Pim van Lommel, replicated the phenomena and described a patient’s veridical perception out-of-body experience (van Lommel, 2001). Although there are scientists, such as Russell Noyes, who initially set out to prove that imminent death produced hallucinations of the mystical category with “intense visual imagery” representing “a more complete withdrawal from extreme circumstances (Noyes, 1984),” this cannot explain why experiencers can see, hear and accurately recall happenings in the same or other rooms.
Just as this out of body component is considered a core and real component unique to NDEs, so is the component of meeting beings during the experience. As noted by Charles Flynn, an early NDE researcher, he quoted the words of sociologist William I. Thomas, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Flynn, 1984, p. 279). The sentiments were echoed by Ken Ring by saying, “Such experiences … tend to exert a powerful effect on a person’s motivations, values, and conduct … However one chooses to interpret near-death phenomena, they are unquestionably real in their effects” (p. 279).
Ken Ring noted in his study, that the presence of beings could be sensed and sometimes communicated with at the stage after a person leaves their body. (Ring, 1984) This may or may not be part of the tunnel phase. Further, twenty percent of the persons who had experienced a presence at this stage in their NDE, reported drastic changes in their lives based upon the contact with the deceased individual. He also noted that one-tenth of the experiencers went to the final stage he termed as “entering the light.” Beings are more commonly seen during this stage. He commented on several persons who reported seeing deceased relatives (p. 34).
According to the Greyson NDE Scale, the transcendental component has the highest correlation with the other three components. (Greyson, 1984). This transcendental component is defined by Ken Ring, as a transpersonal experience. (Ring, 1984, p. 36). The NDE is a transpersonal state of consciousness in “which an individual transcends the usual ego boundaries as well as the dimensions of time and space” (p. 36). Therefore, based on Greyson’s scale, beings play a crucial part in the transcendental nature of the NDE.
Interestingly, on Greyson’s preliminary questionnaire, 26% saw beings. On the final NDE scale, the question reads “Did you see deceased spirits or religious figures?” and correlated the question as part of the transcendent component unique to the near death experience (Greyson, p. 53). Van Lommel noted that of 62 patients reporting an NDE, 32% met with deceased persons. (van Lommel, 2001).
Since beings represent a unique and transcendental part of the near death experience, this paper will explore what beings people encounter when they go to the other side. This paper represents the second part of a six part study to find out about Soulmates. The first study discussed the background of the Soulmate study as viewed through the lens of consciousness studies. This second paper will focus on relationships between the experiencer, the living, and those on the other side. I will also add to the knowledge of what categories of deceased beings or religious figures are most commonly reported.
This study is a retrospective review of data received from an Internet survey on the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) website www.nderf.org (Long, 2002). Out of a total of 626 experiences submitted to the website, 302 of these experiences met the research definition of NDE as defined as, “A lucid experience associated with perceived consciousness apart from the body occurring at the time of actual or threatened imminent death” (Long). It was then determined which of the 302 NDEs answered “Yes” to the question, “Did you meet or see any other beings?” and “If yes or uncertain, describe. Where were they? Did you know them? What was communicated?” Earth beings seen during the veridical perception phase of the NDE were excluded.
Out of the 302 NDEs, 212 (70.1%) reported encountering beings. The beings were divided into familiar and unfamiliar categories based upon whether they described beings or not. Out of the 212 who reported encountering beings, only 166 (78%) described the beings they encountered. Each account was counted only once. Beings counted were those beings that were seen, sensed, and part of the universal consciousness.
In the familiar category, there were divisions for religious beings, blood relatives, relatives, and other. In the unfamiliar category, divisions were for male, female, genderless, and others. Although many people reported seeing more than one being during their experience, the count is one NDE and one being. For example, while Jesus may have been seen in the same experience as Grandma was seen, Jesus also appeared in 21 other different experiences. Grandma was tabulated once and Jesus was tabulated once for this one experience.
Analysis was also performed on the two categories:
- All beings; and
- Only familiar beings.
Each group was then compared in terms of age of the experiencer at the time of the NDE and whether they saw multiple, one or two beings. Multiple NDEs and those that an age was not given could not be used.
Of the 302 people who responded to the survey, 29% (88) saw familiar beings and 25.8% (78) saw unfamiliar beings. Of the 166 people who saw beings, 53% saw familiar beings, while 47% saw unfamiliar beings. For those experiences who saw multiple beings, they may have been counted in several categories of familiar and unfamiliar beings. However, for each being that was seen, there was only one experience counted. For instance, in one account, a person may have seen Jesus and non-specific angels. Jesus would have been tabulated once under familiar religious figures, and there would be a tabulation mark for unfamiliar religious figures. Out of 166 experiencers who saw beings, this one experience would count only once as seeing Jesus. Also, of 166 experiencers who saw beings, this one experience would count only once as seeing non-specific angels. Therefore, it is valid to say that a total of 38 experiencers saw Jesus or a total of 9 experiencers saw angels. However, it would be incorrect to cross-compare those experiences seeing multiple beings by using all of the tabulated experiences below such as n=226. The break down of familiar and unfamiliar beings is as follows:
[Diagram of Familiar and Unfamiliar Beings]
A t-test was done for whether there was any correlation to seeing beings, whether or not the beings were familiar, blood relatives, or religious figures. There is no correlation between age and what beings are seen where p value accepted as significant is p<0.01. However, there is a trend towards seeing familiar beings and blood relatives if p<0.05. Below are the results:
T-test p value
Saw beings 0.873
Familiar beings 0.037
Religious beings 0.687
Blood Relatives 0.050
Using the same criteria as the t-test except breaking the data into age groups, the chi square table shows no correlation between age and what beings are seen, if any. The age groups used were children (0-17), ages 18-40, and age 41 and over. There was a trend (.099) towards the older an experiencer was at the time of their NDE, the higher chance they would encounter a familiar being.
I also tried smaller categories to see if it would make a difference. I used the ages 0-12, 13-17, 18-25, 26-40, 41-55, and 56 and over. There was a trend (.062) towards older people to see blood relatives. Although the correlation between expected and observed for seeing familiar beings was .094, there was no trend. Some age groups and others were down, with no clear pattern.
Lastly, the data were divided into how many beings were seen during the experience. It looks like the ratio of beings per experience is about the same regardless of whether or not the beings are familiar, and that it is slightly more common to see one being instead of many beings. Below are the results:
[Per Experience Table goes here]
There is no correlation between age and the likelihood of seeing one or more beings. The ratios between the categories of “all beings” and “familiar beings” remains fairly constant: with a slightly greater chance of encountering only one being during the experience.
Compared to Greyson and van Lommel, 49% of experiencers responding to the web survey said they saw beings. Some of the increased number could be explained by what was scored as a being. Prior subjects may well have focused on literally what they could see. Our study was more inclusive in that it included beings whose presence could be sensed and those beings that may not have been human, such as angels. In the van Lommel study, it is unclear if the answers included religious figures.
Out of the initial 212 who reported seeing beings, 78.3% (166) described the beings they saw or sensed. Although there is no significant correlation as to whether individuals see familiar or unfamiliar beings, or whether the beings are blood relatives or not, there is a trend towards seeing familiar beings and for seeing blood relatives.
The highest percentage of familiar beings seen were blood relatives (25.9%), followed by religious figures (22.9%). In looking at whether the angels (or the opposite) were counted among familiar beings, they were counted as familiar if they were named or called “guardian angel.” If non-specific, they were counted as unfamiliar. Also of interest is the categories of “familiar unknowns” (. 1%) and the “at one with all” (.02%). There is a weak trend that the older an experiencer is at the time of the NDE, the more likely they will see blood relatives. Religious figures are seen and recognized by all ages.
In reports of unfamiliar beings, it seems more likely that gender is not important, or at least not as important as other characteristics. People report them as just “beings” or a “presence.”
It makes sense that more people would see their grandparents on the other side because grandparents would be more likely to pass to the other side than parents, siblings, or children. However, it is curious that grandfathers would more likely appear with grandmothers than to appear solely by themselves. This is a bit odd in light of the fact that only two people saw significant others on the other side. Although it can be said that seeing significant others on the other side would be less likely due to relative similarity in the age of the experiencer and the significant other, it seems odd that more significant others were not seen on the other side. This would make one wonder about the popular conception of Soulmates.
Data gathered from the www.adcrf.org website about after -death communications (ADC) also shows a curious link between blood relatives and communication between loved ones. Analyzed were 238 contributions to the ADC website form exploring the relationship between the deceased and the person reporting the ADC. Surprisingly, 46 (19%) of the contacts occurred within 24 hours or less. Moreover, 35 (76%) of the 46 contacts occurred between blood relatives. Only 5 (14%) occurred between significant others.
In 2001, a study of 120 NDEs using NDERF data collected from the www.nderf.org website, a surprising find was that more parents came back for children, grandparents for grandchildren, or children came back for parents, than any other reason when given a choice to return to Earth or not.
The connection between blood relatives and consciousness is intriguing. It is my hypothesis that traditional views of relationship roles are very different than the myths of popular culture. A possible pattern that fits the data is that we may be seeing a spectrum of relationships across the board of consciousness.
Religious figures could be on one end of the spectrum and represent the larger cosmic group we belong to. This is further supported by NDE reports of becoming part of the greater cosmic consciousness. The fact that experiencers mention familiar unnamed beings is significant as it could suggest some kind of predestination or soul recognition of another group member.
Relatives could represent a microcosm of our own, unique soul group that we travel through time with. There clearly are some connections between blood relatives that would suggest purpose, or at least preconceived knowledge of the existing bond that affects our relationship on Earth. Many times, the expressed desire is to teach, comfort or protect the person on this side. The most exciting concept of relatives has to do with the relationship between the DNA of relatives and the observed soul bond. These soul cluster groups appear to be what we would really envision when we think of a Soulmate; someone with whom we spend eternity.
There are many reasons why we consider significant others as Soulmates according to our cultural myths. From this study, it does not appear that significant others are as likely to be with us in the hereafter as it does for blood relatives. However, I would stress that this does not mean that significant others cannot be with us on the other side. Grandparents appearing in pairs would suggest that significant others can remain together.
In future papers, I will discuss the role of the significant other and hope to explore how they might fit into our development of consciousness.
Flynn, C. (1984). The Near-Death Experience: Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, B. Greyson and C. Flynn (Eds), The Near-Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, (pp. 267-279). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Greyson, B. (1984). The Near-Death Experience Scale, B. Greyson and C. Flynn (Eds), The Near-Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, (pp. 45-59). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Noyes, R. and Slyman, D. (1984) The Subjective Response to Life-Threatening Danger, B. Greyson and C. Flynn (Eds), The Near-Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, (pp. 26). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Ring, K. (1984) Further Studies of the Near-Death Experience, B. Greyson and C. Flynn (Eds), The Near-Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, (p. 30-36). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Sabom, M. (1982) Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation. New York: Harper & Row.
van Lommel, P. et al. (2001) Near Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, The Lancet, 358, 2039-2042.
I would like to give a hearty thanks to John Paul Long, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus in Pharmacology, University of Iowa, for his editorial and research comments.