The scientific method requires all phenomena to be reproducible, provide veridical details (i.e., details which cannot be explained away, which are found to be true), and undergo rigorous tests to rule out all the known alternative explanations, for a theory to be proven as scientific fact. Using the scientific method, near-death experiences have been proven to be a real scientific phenomenon because they are reproducible. Near-death experiences were first shown to be reproducible during studies involving the subjection of fighter pilots to extreme gravitational forces in a giant centrifuge. But the question is not, “Are near-death experiences real?” Even skeptics now concede that it is a real phenomenon. The question to ask is, “Are near-death experiences a phenomenon of a person’s consciousness being outside of their body?” And if this can be proven true, then the next question is, “Can consciousness survive bodily death?” This last question likely cannot be proven true to the satisfaction of the skeptics using near-death research alone. This is because no matter how you define “death,” the only kind of definition that satisfies the skeptics is “irreversible” death. Just the very nature of the phrase “near-death” suggests that it is not true death – where nobody comes back. However, good scientific evidence for survival can be found in other realms of research such as psychic studies, quantum physics, consciousness studies, and remote viewing – not to mention the mountain of circumstantial evidence.
1. Veridical Perception in Near-Death Experiences
At this point in near-death studies, researchers are particularly interested in studying those NDEs that may provide an answer to the question of whether the mind can function outside the physical body. This is the first step in determining whether consciousness can survive bodily death. One way is to discover this is to examine those NDEs which are “veridical” (verifiable). Veridical NDEs occur when the experiencer acquires verifiable information which they could not have obtained by any normal means. Often, near-death experiencers report witnessing events that happen at some distant location away from their body, such as another room of the hospital. If the events witnessed by the experiencer at the distant location can be verified to have occurred, then veridical perception would be said to have taken place. It would provide very compelling evidence that NDEs are experiences outside of the physical body. Visit the NDE and Out-Of-Body research conclusions to read a large collection of veridical NDEs.
Besides his ground-breaking book, Life After Life (1975), Raymond Moody is the author of the excellent NDE books, Reflections (1985), The Light Beyond (1989), Reunions (1994), Coming Back (1995), The Last Laugh (1999), Life After Loss (2002), Paranormal (2013), and Making Sense of Nonsense (2020). In Life After Life, Moody documents a number of veridical near-death experiences which will be described here. This veridical evidence suggests the possibility that consciousness can exist away from the body. In light of such veridical evidence, other NDE theories fall by the wayside because they cannot account for these veridical details. And although the available veridical NDE evidence does not constitute scientific proof of consciousness surviving bodily death, it does qualify as very powerful circumstantial and anecdotal evidence, the kind of evidence that is upheld every day in courts of law all around the country.
Whether or not there will ever be scientific evidence for the survival of consciousness may depend upon science itself and how such phenomenon as NDEs can be quantified. Using the strict demands of science, we can only conclude as Dr. Raymond Moody does when he had this to say:
“I don’t have any idea whether there’s life after death or not. I’ve been a follower of science all of my life, but I also have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and it really seems to me that the question of life after death is not yet ripe for scientific inquiry because it’s not formulatable in a way that fits into the scientific method. I also think it’s the most important question. If you think of the big questions of existence, this is the biggie.”
The following are some examples of veridical NDEs documented by Moody:
Example 1: An elderly woman had been blind since childhood. But, during her NDE, the woman had regained her sight and she was able to accurately describe the instruments and techniques used during the resuscitation her body. After the woman was revived, she reported the details to her doctor. She was able to tell her doctor who came in and out, what they said, what they wore, what they did, all of which was true. Her doctor then referred the woman to Moody who he knew was doing research at the time on NDEs.
Example 2: In another instance a woman with a heart condition was dying at the same time that her sister was in a diabetic coma in another part of the same hospital. The subject reported having a conversation with her sister as both of them hovered near the ceiling watching the medical team work on her body below. When the woman awoke, she told the doctor that her sister had died while her own resuscitation was taking place. The doctor denied it, but when she insisted, he had a nurse check on it. The sister had, in fact, died during the time in question.
Example 3: A dying girl left her body and into another room in the hospital where she found her older sister crying and saying:
“Oh, Kathy, please don’t die, please don’t die.”
The older sister was quite baffled when, later, Kathy told her exactly where she had been and what she had been saying during this time.
“After it was all over, the doctor told me that I had a really bad time, and I said, “Yeah, I know.”
He said, “Well, how do you know?”And I said, “I can tell you everything that happened.”
He didn’t believe me, so I told him the whole story, from the time I stopped breathing until the time I was kind of coming around. He was really shocked to know that I knew everything that had happened. He didn’t know quite what to say, but he came in several times to ask me different things about it.
When I woke up after the accident, my father was there, and I didn’t even want to know what sort of shape I was in, or how I was, or how the doctors thought I would be. All I wanted to talk about was the experience I had been through. I told my father who had dragged my body out of the building, and even what color clothes that person had on, and how they got me out, and even about all the conversation that had been going on in the area.
And my father said, “Well, yes, these things were true.”
Yet, my body was physically out this whole time, and there was no way I could have seen or heard these things without being outside of my body.
2. Dr. Moody’s Exceptional NDE Testimony
In his book, Life After Life, Moody documents what he calls “a rather exceptional account” which embodies many of the elements of the NDE that he describes and has an interesting veridical near-death experience. I think you will agree that it is rather exceptional:
Jack’s NDE: “At the time this happened I suffered, as I still do, a very severe case of bronchial asthma and emphysema. One day, I got into a coughing fit and apparently ruptured a disk in the lower part of my spine. For a couple of months, I consulted a number of doctors for the agonizing pain, and finally one of them referred me to a neurosurgeon, Dr. Wyatt. He saw me and told me that I needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately, so I went on in and they put me in traction right away.
“Dr. Wyatt knew that I had bad respiratory diseases so he called in a lung specialist, who said that the anesthesiologist, Dr. Coleman, should be consulted if I was going to be put to sleep. So the lung specialist worked on me for almost three weeks until he finally got me to a place where Dr. Coleman would put me under. He finally consented on a Monday, although he was very much worried about it. They scheduled the operation for the next Friday. Monday night, I went to sleep and had a restful sleep until sometime early Tuesday morning, when I woke up in severe pain. I turned over and tried to get in a more comfortable position, but just at that moment a light appeared in the corner of the room, just below the ceiling. It was just a ball of light, almost like a globe, and it was not very large, I would say no more than twelve to fifteen inches in diameter, and as this light appeared, a feeling came over me. I can’t say that it was an eerie feeling, because it was not. It was a feeling of complete peace and utter relaxation. I could see a hand reach down for me from the light, and the light said:
“Come with me. I want to show you something.”
“So immediately, without any hesitation whatsoever, I reached up with my hand and grabbed onto the hand I saw. As I did, I had the feeling of being drawn up and of leaving my body, and I looked back and saw it lying there on the bed while I was going up towards the ceiling of the room.
“Now, at this time, as soon as I left my body, I took on the same form as the light. I got the feeling, and I’ll have to use my own words for it, because I’ve never heard anyone talk about anything like this, that this form was definitely a spirit. It wasn’t a body, just a wisp of smoke or a vapor. It looked almost like the clouds of cigarette smoke you can see when they are illuminated as they drift around a lamp. The form I took had colors, though. There was orange, yellow, and a color that was very indistinct to me – I took it to be an indigo, a bluish color.
“This spiritual form didn’t have a shape like a body. It was more or less circular, but it had what I would call a hand. I know this because when the light reached down for me, I reached up for it with my hand. Yet, the arm and hand of my body just stayed put, because I could see them lying on the bed, down by the side of my body, as I rose up to the light. But when I wasn’t using this spiritual hand, the spirit went back to the circular pattern.
“So, I was drawn up to the same position the light was in, and we started moving through the ceiling and the wall of the hospital room, into the corridor, and through the corridor, down through the floors it seemed, on down to a lower floor in the hospital. We had no difficulty in passing through doors or walls. They would just fade away from us as we would approach them.
“During this period it seemed that we were traveling. I knew we were moving, yet there was no sensation of speed. And in a moment, almost instantaneously, really, I realized that we had reached the recovery room of the hospital. Now, I hadn’t even known where the recovery room was at this hospital, but we got there, and again, we were in the corner of the room near the ceiling, up above everything else. I saw the doctors and nurses walking around in their green suits and saw the beds that were placed around in there. This being then told me – he showed me:
“That’s where you’re going to be. When they bring you off the operating table they’re going to put you in that bed, but you will never awaken from that position. You’ll know nothing after you go to the operating room until I come back to get you sometime after this.”
“Now, I won’t say this was in words. It wasn’t like an audible voice, because if it had been I would have expected the others in the room to have heard the voice, and they didn’t. It was more of an impression that came to me. But it was in such a vivid form that there was no way for me to say I didn’t hear it or I didn’t feel it. It was definite to me.
“And what I was seeing – well, it was so much easier to recognize things while I was in this spiritual form. I was now wondering, like, “Now, what is that that he is trying to show me?” I knew immediately what it was, what he had in mind. There was no doubt. It was that bed – it was the bed on the right just as you come in from the corridor – is where I’m going to be and he’s brought me here for a purpose. And then he told me why. It came to me that the reason for this was that he didn’t want any fear when the time came that my spirit passed from my body, but that he wanted me to know what the sensation would be on passing that point. He wanted to assure me so that I wouldn’t be afraid, because he was telling me that he wouldn’t be there immediately, that I would go through other things first, but that he would be overshadowing everything that happened and would be there for me at the end.
“Now, immediately, when I had joined him to take the trip to the recovery room and had become a spirit myself, in a way we had been fused into one. We were two separate ones, too, of course. Yet, he had full control of everything that was going on as far as I was concerned. And even if we were traveling through the walls and ceilings and so forth, well, it just seemed that we were in such close communion that nothing whatsoever could have bothered me. Again, it was just a peacefulness, calmness, and a serenity that have never been found anywhere else.
“So, after he told me this, he took me back to my hospital room, and as I got back I saw my body again, still lying in the same position as when we left, and instantaneously I was back in my body. I would guess that I had been out of my body for five or ten minutes, but passage of time had nothing to do with this experience. In fact, I don’t remember if I had ever even thought of it as being any particular time.
“Now, this whole thing had just astounded me, took me completely by surprise. It was so vivid and real – more so than ordinary experience. And the next morning, I was not in the least afraid. When I shaved, I noticed that my hand didn’t shake like it had been doing for six or eight weeks before then. I knew that I would be dying, and there was no regret, no fear. There was no thought, “What can I do to keep this from happening?” I was ready.
“Now, on Thursday afternoon, the day before the operation the next morning, I was in my hospital room, and I was worried. My wife and I have a boy, an adopted nephew, and we were then having some trouble with him. So I decided to write a letter to my wife and one to my nephew, putting some of my worries into words, and to hide the letters where they wouldn’t be found until after the operation. After I had written about two pages on the letter to my wife, it was just as if the floodgates had opened. All at once, I broke out in tears, sobbing. I felt a presence, and at first I thought maybe that I had cried so loud that I had disturbed one of the nurses, and that they had come in to see what was the matter with me. But I hadn’t heard the door open. And again I felt this presence, but I didn’t see any light this time, and thoughts or words came to me, just as before, and he said:
“Jack, why are you crying? I thought you would be pleased to be with me.”I thought, “Yes, I am. I want to go very much.”
And the voice said, “Then why are you crying?”
I said, “We’ve had trouble with our nephew, you know, and I’m afraid my wife won’t know how to raise him. I’m trying to put into words how I feel, and what I want her to try to do for him. I’m concerned, too, because I feel that maybe my presence could have settled him down some.”
Then the thoughts came to me, from this presence, “Since you are not asking for someone else, and thinking of others, not Jack, I will grant what you want. You will live until you see your nephew become a man.”
“And just like that, it was gone. I stopped crying, and I destroyed the letter so my wife wouldn’t accidentally find it.
“That evening, Dr. Coleman came in and told me that he was expecting a lot of trouble with putting me to sleep, and for me not to be surprised to wake up and find a lot of wires and tubes and machines all around me. I didn’t tell him what I had experienced, so I just nodded and said I would cooperate.
“The next morning the operation took a long time but went fine, and as I was regaining my consciousness, Dr. Coleman was there with me, and I told him:
“I know exactly where I am.”
He asked, “What bed are you in?”
I said, “I’m in that first bed on the right just as you come in from the hall.”
“He just kind of laughed, and of course, he thought that I was just taking from the anesthetic.
“I wanted to tell him what had happened, but just in a moment Dr. Wyatt came in and said:
“He’s awake now. What do you want to do?”
And Dr. Coleman said, “There’s not a thing I can do. I’ve never been so amazed in my life. Here I am with all this equipment set up and he doesn’t need a thing.”
Dr. Wyatt said, “Miracles still happen, you know.”
“So, when I could get up in the bed and see around the room, I saw that I was in that same bed that the light had shown me several days before.
“Now, all this was three years ago, but it is still just as vivid as it was then. It was the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to me, and it has made a big difference. But I don’t talk about it. I have only told my wife, my brother, my minister, and now you. I don’t know how to say it, but this is so hard to explain. I’m not trying to make a big explosion in your life, and I’m not trying to brag. It’s just that after this, I don’t have any doubts anymore. I know there is life after death.”
3. Further Evidence for Veridical Perception During Near-Death Experiences
Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., (www.kenring.org) is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut, and Madelaine Lawrence, R.N., Ph.D., is Director of Nursing Research at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. This article was published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies, Volume 11, Number 4, Summer 1993.
We briefly survey research designed to validate alleged out-of-body perceptions during near-death experiences. Most accounts of this kind that have surfaced since Michael Sabom’s work are unsubstantiated self-reports or, as in claims of visual perception of blind persons, completely undocumented or fictional, but there have been some reports that were corroborated by witnesses. We briefly present and discuss three new cases of this kind.
“What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed, and what if in your dream you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower, and what if when you awoke you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Despite repeated expressions for the need to verify out-of-body perceptions during near-death experiences (NDEs) (for example, Blackmore, 1984, 1985; Cook, 1984; Holden, 1988, 1989; Holden and Joesten, 1990; Kincaid, 1985; and Krishnan, 1985), the last decade has produced virtually nothing of substance on this vital issue. Michael Sabom’s pioneering work (Sabom, 1981, 1982) is now recognized as essentially the only evidence from systematic research in the field of near-death studies that suggests NDErs can sometimes report visual perceptions that are physically impossible and not otherwise explicable by conventional means. To be sure, Sabom’s data remain controversial, but the point is that they are still the only extensive body of evidence that bears on the question of veridical perception during near-death states.
Subsequent investigators, such as Janice Miner Holden and Leroy Joesten (1990), have attempted to follow Sabom’s lead, but their work has been inconclusive, a casualty of various bureaucratic and methodological complications. What has emerged instead in the aftermath of Sabom’s research is largely a miscellany of unsubstantiated self-reports as tantalizing as they are unverifiable. These reports dot the landscape of near-death studies like so many promising trails (for example, Grey, 1985, pp. 37-38; Moody and Perry, 1988, pp. 134-135; and Ring, 1984, pp. 42-44), but efforts to pursue their tracks to definite conclusions almost always prove disappointing. This is particularly true for precisely those cases that hold out the greatest hope for confounding the challenge of skeptics, namely those where blind persons are alleged to have seen accurately during their NDEs.
For example, more than a decade ago, one of us (K.R.) learned of three such elusive cases from Fred Schoonmaker, one of the first physicians to conduct an extensive investigation of NDEs. In a telephone conversation Schoonmaker mentioned that he had come across three blind persons who had furnished him with evidence of veridical visual perceptions while out-of-body, including one woman he said had been congenitally blind. On hearing the details of this last story, I (K.R.) became very excited and urged him to publish an article on these extraordinary NDEs. Regrettably, he never did.
Another example of a blind person purportedly having detailed visual perception during an NDE was described by Raymond Moody and Paul Perry (1988, pp. 134-135). Intrigued to learn more about this case, not long ago I (K.R.) asked Moody to share with me some further particulars about its evidentiality. Unfortunately, he could only tell me that he had learned of this story as a result of another physician’s playing a tape about it following one of Moody’s lectures. He didn’t remember the physician’s name and therefore could do no more than relate the brief account his book attested to (R. A. Moody, Jr., personal communication, February, 1991).
Perhaps the most disappointing outcome of this kind of search was in response to the astonishing case of a woman named Sarah, with which still another physician, Larry Dossey, began a recent book (Dossey, 1989). According to Dossey, Sarah had had a cardiac arrest during gall bladder surgery, but had been successfully resuscitated. Upon recovery she had “amazed the.., surgery team” by reporting
“a clear, detailed memory of … the OR layout; the scribbles on the surgery schedule board in the hall outside; the color of the sheets covering the operating table; the hairstyle of the head scrub nurse, and even the trivial fact that her anesthesiologist that day was wearing unmatched socks. All this she knew even though she had been fully anesthetized and unconscious during the surgery and the cardiac arrest. But what made Sarah’s vision even more momentous was the fact that, since birth, she had been blind.” (Dossey, 1989, p. 18)
This sounds like the ideal case of its kind; and that, in a sense, is exactly what it is, in a different sense. Kindly responding to an inquiry for more information about this case, Dossey confessed to me (K.R.) that he had “constructed” it on the basis of a composite description of the out-of-body testimony of NDErs such as that found in Sabom’s and Moody’s books. With this example we seem to have come full circle, to where the mere lore of NDE veridicality subtly shades into a dangerous self-confirming proposition-and to another dead end.
That skeptical conclusion is the impression left by this cursory review of the cases that have come to light since Sabom’s trailblazing efforts. However, there have been some subsequent reports that seem to represent evidence that Dossey’s fiction may in the end prove indeed to be substantiated NDE fact: the testimony of NDErs that has been supported by independent corroboration of witnesses.
Perhaps the most famous case of this kind is that of Maria, originally reported by her critical care social worker, Kimberly Clark (1984). Maria was a migrant worker who, while visiting friends in Seattle, had a severe heart attack. She was rushed to Harborview Hospital and placed in the coronary care unit. A few days later she had a cardiac arrest and an unusual out-of-body experience. At one point in this experience, she found herself outside the hospital and spotted a single tennis shoe sitting on the ledge of the north side of the third floor of the building. Maria not only was able to indicate the whereabouts of this oddly situated object, but was able to provide precise details concerning its appearance, such as that its little toe was worn and one of its laces was stuck underneath its heel.
Upon hearing Maria’s story, Clark, with some considerable degree of skepticism and metaphysical misgiving, went to the location described to see whether any such shoe could be found. Indeed it was, just where and precisely as Maria had described it, except that from the window through which Clark was able to see it, the details of its appearance that Maria had specified could not be discerned. Clark concluded:
The only way she could have had such a perspective was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe. I retrieved the shoe and brought it back to Maria; it was very concrete evidence for me. (Clark, 1984, p. 243)
Not everyone, of course, would concur with Clark’s interpretation, but assuming the authenticity of the account, which we have no reason to doubt, the facts of the case seem incontestable. Maria’s inexplicable detection of that inexplicable shoe is a strange and strangely beguiling sighting of the sort that has the power to arrest a skeptic’s argument in mid-sentence, if only by virtue of its indisputable improbability. And yet it is only one case and, however discomfitting to some it might temporarily be, it can perhaps be conveniently filed away as merely a puzzling anomaly, in the hope that some prosaic explanation might someday be found.
Such a response is understandable and seems rational. However, there are more cases like Maria’s, and we have found some. Since our search for conclusive cases of blind NDErs had thus far proven unavailing, we directed our efforts to tracking down instances of the “Maria’s shoe” variety, where improbable objects in unlikely locations were described by NDErs and where at least one witness could either confirm or disprove the allegation. So far we have found the following three such cases, two of which, oddly enough, involve shoes!
c. Case One
In 1985, Kathy Milne was working as a nurse at Hartford Hospital. Milne had already been interested in NDEs, and one day found herself talking to a woman who had been resuscitated and who had had an NDE. Following a telephone interview with me (K.R.) on August 24, 1992, she described the following account in a letter:
She told me how she floated up over her body, viewed the resuscitation effort for a short time and then felt herself being pulled up through several floors of the hospital. She then found herself above the roof and realized she was looking at the skyline of Hartford. She marvelled at how interesting this view was and out of the corner of her eye she saw a red object. It turned out to be a shoe … [S]he thought about the shoe…, and suddenly, she felt “sucked up” a blackened hole. The rest of her NDE was fairly typical, as I remember. I was relating this to a [skeptical] resident who in a mocking manner left. Apparently, he got a janitor to get him onto the roof. When I saw him later that day, he had a red shoe and became a believer, too. (K. Milne, personal communication, October 19, 1992)
One further comment about this second white crow, again in the form of a single, improbably situated shoe sighted in an external location Of a hospital: After my (K.R.) initial interview with Milne, I made a point of inquiring whether she had ever heard of the case of Maria’s shoe. Not only was she unfamiliar with it, but she was utterly amazed to hear of another story so similar to the one she had just recounted for me. It remains an unanswered question how these isolated shoes arrive at their unlikely perches for later viewing by astonished NDErs and their baffled investigators.
d. Case Two
In the summer of 1982, Joyce Harmon, a surgical intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at Hartford Hospital, returned to work after a vacation. On that vacation she had purchased a new pair of plaid shoelaces, which she happened to be wearing on her first day back at the hospital. That day, she was involved in resuscitating a patient, a woman she didn’t know, giving her medicine. The resuscitation was successful, and the next day, Harmon chanced to see the patient, whereupon they had a conversation, the gist of which (not necessarily a verbatim account) is as follows (J. Harmon, personal communication, August 28, 1992):
The patient, upon seeing Harmon, volunteered, “Oh, you’re the one with the plaid shoelaces!”
“What?” Harmon replied, astonished. She says she distinctly remembers feeling the hair on her neck rise.
“I saw them,” the woman continued. “I was watching what was happening yesterday when I died. I was up above.”
e. Case Three
In the late 1970s, Sue Saunders was working at Hartford Hospital as a respiratory therapist. One day, she was helping to resuscitate a 60ish man in the emergency room, whose electrocardiogram had gone flat. Medics were shocking him repeatedly with no results. Saunders was trying to give him oxygen. In the middle of the resuscitation, someone else took over for her and she left.
A couple of days later, she encountered this patient in the ICU. He spontaneously commented, “You looked so much better in your yellow top.”
She, like Harmon, was so shocked at this remark that she got goose-bumps, for she had been wearing a yellow smock the previous day.
“Yeah,” the man continued, “I saw you. You had something over your face and you were pushing air into me. And I saw your yellow smock.”
Saunders confirmed that she had had something over her face – a mask – and that she had worn the yellow smock while trying to give him oxygen, while he was unconscious and without a heartbeat (S. Saunders, personal communication, August 28, 1992).
The three cases we have presented briefly attest to three important observations:
(1) Patients who claim to have out-of-body experiences while near death sometimes describe unusual objects that they could not have known about by normal means;
(2) These objects can later be shown to have existed in the form and location indicated by the patients’ testimony; and
(3) Hearing this testimony has a strong emotional and cognitive effect on the caregivers involved, either strengthening their pre-existing belief in the authenticity of NDEs or occasioning a kind of on-the-spot conversion.
We are not suggesting, of course, that the cases we have described here constitute proof of the authenticity of NDEs or even that they necessarily demonstrate that patients have been literally out of their bodies when they report what they do. We only submit that such cases add to the mounting evidence that veridical and conventionally inexplicable visual perceptions do occur during NDEs, and the fact of their existence needs to be reckoned with by near-death researchers and skeptics alike.
We hope that our small collection of cases will motivate other investigators to search for and document their own, so that this body of data will increase to the point where it becomes generally accepted, whatever its explanation may ultimately be. Until such time as more studies like those undertaken by Sabom and Holden are actually conducted by near-death researchers, or a genuine case of corroborated visual perception by a blind NDEr is reported, perhaps instances of the kind we have offered here will constitute the strongest argument that cases like Dossey’s Sarah are by no means as fictional as skeptics might think.
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