Home > Science Science and the Near-Death Experience

Science and the Near-Death Experience

black and brown spiral stairs

The Spiritual Development Blog describes the situation best. Ultimately, all materialistic explanations for NDEs must fail because they cannot explain the paranormal components of the phenomena, such as shared near-death experiences where multiple people share a near-death experience, and veridical near-death experiences where the experiencer remembers verifiable information that could not have been perceived with his normal senses even if he were conscious. The Spiritual Development Blog has discussed these types of cases and provided examples on their website and elsewhere on their blog.

Howard Storm

Even claims that veridical perceptions are due to ESP do not contradict the conclusion that near-death experiences represent out-of-the-body consciousness and evidence for the afterlife because ESP is not produced by the brain and ESP during near-death experiences is best explained as out-of-the-body consciousness. However it is interesting to see how weak the materialists hypotheses are on their own ground. It shows that these materialistic hypotheses are proposed by people who are incredibly ignorant of near-death experiences. It says something sad about the current state of the scientific profession that scientists would make such reckless proposals without investigating the subject they are discussing.

1. Scientific theories explaining NDEs

a. Dying brain theory

PRO: Because NDEs have many common core elements, this shows they are not spiritual voyages outside of the body, but are a function of the dying brain. All brains die in the same way and this is why all NDEs have essential core elements which are the same. They are the result of neurotransmitters in the brain shutting down which creates lovely illusions. (Susan Blackmore)

CON: Because NDEs have many common core elements, this suggests they are real spiritual voyages outside of the body. Also, if the dying brain creates NDE illusions, what is the purpose for doing it? If our brains are only a high-tech computer-like lump of tissue which produces our mind and personality, why does it bother to create illusions at the time of death? If everything, including the mind and personality, are about to disintegrate, why would the brain produce a last wonderful Grand Finale vision? Even if NDE elements can be reduced to only a series of brain reactions, this does not negate the idea of NDEs being more than a brain phenomenon. Read this article on the errors of the pseudoskeptics of NDEs. Read a critique of the dying brain theory.

b. Lack of oxygen theory

PRO: Neurologist Ernst Rodin offers cerebral anoxia as a possible cause of NDEs of the dying brain. Such anoxia produces a confusing dream-like state of delusions and hallucinations. (Susan Blackmore)

CON: According to cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom, the NDE involves a clear awareness and a more mystical content, and NDEs have also occurred in people without anoxia. Pim van Lommel led a groundbreaking study concerning NDEs during cardiac arrest. In our study all patients had a cardiac arrest, they were clinically dead, unconsciousness that was caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain, and the EEG has become flat. In patients cardiac arrest (ventricular fibrillation) is sometimes induced for testing internal defibrillators. In these patients the EEG becomes usually flat within 10-15 seconds from the onset of syncope due to the (reversible) total loss of function of the brain. According to the physiologic theory, all patients in our study should have had NDE, but only 18% reported NDE.

c. Right temporal lobe theory

PRO: Neurologist Dr. Michael Persinger argues that instability and activity in the brain’s right temporal lobe is responsible for religious experiences of deep meaningfulness, early memories, and out-of-body experiences (see Persinger’s God Helmet video.)

CON: Dr. Melvin Morse agrees with the right temporal lobe showing NDE-like activity, but he sees it as the mediating bridge for a spiritual experience, and not reductionistically as nothing but brain activity (Morse, 1992). Also, the characteristic emotions resulting from temporal lobe stimulation are fear, sadness, and loneliness, not the calm and love of an NDE. While scientists may be discovering a mechanism associated with NDEs, this does not mean NDEs are strictly produced by this mechanism. A mechanical function associated with NDEs does not negate the idea of NDEs being more than a mechanical function.

d. Cortical disinhibition theory

PRO: Susan Blackmore interprets the tunnel and the light as an optical illusion created by the effects of anoxia and drugs, creating cortical disinhibition, with the effect of random light spots radiating from the center of a dark internal visual field.

CON: Dr. Michael Sabom tested and rejected this brain-only argument. While brain neurology is obviously a part of NDEs, he says, it is not a sufficient explanation because of the verified or veridical aspects found in some NDEs. This aspect is suggestive of the possibility of consciousness existing outside of the body.

e. Hallucination theory

PRO: The psychiatrist Dr. Ronald Siegel interprets NDEs and similar imaginative visions of the afterlife as hallucinations, similar to the effects of psychedelic drugs or anesthesia.

CON: Psychologist John Gibbs states, “NDE accounts from varied times and cultures were found to be more orderly, logical, defined and predictable than comparable accounts from drug or illness-induced hallucination. Impressive data from Tart, Moody and Carl Becker also argue for the objective elements of an NDE, including returning with knowledge later verified and third-party observations of odd deathbed phenomena (such as luminosity or apparitions). Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist, notes drug induced hallucinations taking place while the subject is conscious. During an NDE the subject is unconscious. While in the state of unconsciousness, the brain cannot create images. Even if they did, the subject would not be able to remember them. NDEs involve clear, lucid memories. Also, drug induced hallucinations distort reality while NDEs have been described as “hyper-reality.”

f. Depersonalization theory

PRO: Dr. Russell Noyes theorizes a defense of the nervous system stalling off mental disorganization during the death crisis by presenting an altered passage of time, vivid and accelerated thoughts, a sense of detachment, unreality, automatic movements, and revival of memories.

CON: Dr. Michael Sabom argues depersonalization fails to account for all the elements of NDEs. Some NDE elements do not fit into the depersonalization mode, such as the strong spiritual and mystical feelings, and the increased alertness and awareness. Also, the vast majority of experiencers reject the idea of their NDE being the result of depersonalization. To reduce what was a profound and transforming experience to nothing more than a set of neurotransmitters going on the blink is a bit like seeing Michelangelo’s statue of David as nothing more than several tons of marble.

g. Memory of birth theory

PRO: Otto Rank proposed birth trauma being behind all neuroses, for all anxiety-producing experiences of separation reactivate the separation from the mother at birth (Brown, 52-53). This theory has been modified to explain the NDE. The cosmologist Carl Sagan proposed the tunnel and light are a reliving of the infant’s descent down the birth canal (Sagan, 353-68).

CON: Carl Becker asserted that infants descending the birth canal have their eyes closed and brains too undeveloped to allow memories of birth (Becker, 1982). Similarly, Susan Blackmore proved that people born by caesarian section have the tunnel experience and OBEs in equal proportion to those born naturally (Blackmore, 1983). Birth is also often an unpleasant experience for babies. In contrast, NDEs are often described as extremely pleasurable.

h. Endorphins theory

PRO: The brain’s naturally produced narcotics, such as the endorphins, have been offered by endocrinologist Daniel Carr to explain why, at the very moment when the body’s death would be expected to bring incredible pain and terror, the NDE surprises us with pleasure, calm, and peace.

CON: Dr. Melvin Morse responds that patients receiving prescribed narcotics similar to the endorphins experienced no NDEs (Morse, 1989).

i. Denial of death theory

PRO: The NDE is seen by some Freudians as a denial of death, a hallucinatory wish fulfillment defending the ego from its impending annihilation.

CON: A large number of people who have NDEs are initially not even aware they have died. In these cases, death is neither considered nor denied (e.g., Dr. George Ritchie, Howard Storm).

j. Fear of death theory

PRO: Severe anxiety and stress at the time of death creates a dissociative state.

CON: Pim van Lommel led a groundbreaking study concerning NDEs during cardiac arrest. Only a very small percentage of patients said they had been afraid the last seconds preceding the cardiac arrest. Also, the medication given to them made no difference.

k. Darwin’s theory of evolution

PRO: This theory holds that NDE reports are a deliberate ploy of humans to help the human race to adapt better to the inevitable end of their lives. This is based on the survival of the fittest which means that every species has the primary urge to struggle to increase its hold on the planet and guarantee the survival of its descendants.

CON: This theory does not explain why NDEs are erratic, or why we shunted down an evolutionary sidetrack for years by making NDEs something that people are reluctant to talk about.

l. Too much carbon dioxide theory

PRO: Near-death experiences are tricks of the mind triggered by an overload of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. During cardiac arrest and resuscitation, blood gases such as CO2 rise or fall because of the lack of circulation and breathing. Patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon-dioxide levels were significantly higher than in those who did not. (Zalika Klemenc-Ketis of the University of Maribor in Slovenia)

CON: According to neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London, “The one difficulty in arguing that CO2 is the cause is that in cardiac arrests, everybody has high CO2 but only 10 percent have NDEs. What’s more, in heart attack patients, there is no coherent cerebral activity which could support consciousness, let alone an experience with the clarity of an NDE.”

m. Rapid eye movement (REM) intrusion theory

PRO: Dr. Kevin Nelson of the University of Kentucky suggests near-death experiences are akin to dreaming and they use the same rapid eye movement (REM) mechanism associated with sleep. In other words, near-death experiences are a part of the dream mechanism and the person having the experience is in a REM state.

CON: Dr. Jeffrey Long from the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF.org) disagrees with Nelson on a number of points. First of all, he states that Nelson’s comparison group – the non-NDErs – is not typical and many were medical professionals and colleagues of Nelson. Secondly, Nelson’s research questionnaire was poorly designed. Thirdly, Nelson failed to recognize dramatic differences between NDE and REM intrusion. Hallucinations stemming from REM intrusion – just before waking or while falling asleep – are often “bizarre and unrealistic” such as seeing objects appear through cracks in a wall or movement in a painting on the wall. By contrast, memories from an NDE are lucid and rooted in the real world. NDErs almost uniformly don’t say, “Oh, that must have been a dream.” About 75 percent say they were more alert, more conscious than normal. There’s also a consistency of elements in NDEs which hallucinations don’t have. Fourthly, 98 percent of NDErs encounter deceased relatives, as opposed to dreams where it’s common to encounter living people. NDErs also encounter deceased relatives whom they didn’t know at the time were dead. Fifthly, the totality of evidence shows there’s something going on that’s outside the medical evidence. NDEers almost always say that it wasn’t a hallucination or dream; it was some different realm, some different aspect of their existence. And finally, REM intrusion – whether sleep paralysis or hallucinations – tends to be frightening or deeply unsettling. By contrast, most people who go through an NDE say the experience is almost supernaturally calm and peaceful, even joyful. Not only anecdotes, but real evidence does support this. In a 2001 study in the medical journal The Lancet, of 62 cardiac attest patients who reported an NDE, more than half said the main emotions they experienced were “positive.” Long says these distinctive, positive emotions are powerful evidence that an NDE is not just REM intrusion in disguise.

n. Sharp increase of brain activity after heart stops theory

PRO: Dr Jimo Borjigin of the University of Michigan suggests that the dying brain does not shut down as might be expected, but instead, becomes much more active during the dying process than even the waking state. He bases his findings on a study involving rats where it was discovered that in the 30-second period after the rodent’s hearts stopped beating, there was a sharp increase in high-frequency brainwaves.

CON: Even if there is an increase of brain activity after the heart stops, it falls short of explaining certain aspects of the NDE phenomenon. In a paper entitled, “Seeing Dead People Not Known to Have Died: Peak in Darien Experiences,” Dr. Bruce Greyson from the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia argues that in his collection of 665 NDEs, 138 (21%) included a purported meeting with a deceased person. People having NDEs, or who are on their deathbeds, see and often express surprise at meeting, a recently deceased person, of whose death neither they nor anyone around them had any knowledge. This excludes the possibility that the vision was a hallucination related to the experiencer’s expectations. Such NDEs are termed “Peak in Darien” cases, after a book by that name published in 1882 by Frances Power Cobbe. The title is taken from a John Keats poem describing the shock of the Spaniards, who, after scaling a peak in Darien (in what is now Panama), expect to see a continent, but are confronted instead with another ocean.

Bruce Greyson reports in his paper, published in the academic journal ‘Anthropology and Humanism’, many examples, including that of Physician K. M. Dale who related the case of 9-year-old Eddie Cuomo, whose fever finally broke after nearly 36 hours of anxious vigil on the part of his parents and hospital personnel. As soon as he opened his eyes, at 3:00 in the morning, Eddie related that he had been to heaven, where he saw his deceased Grandpa Cuomo, Auntie Rosa, and Uncle Lorenzo. Then Eddie added that he also saw his 19-year-old sister Teresa, who told him he had to go back. His father became agitated, because he had spoken with Teresa, who was attending college in Vermont, just two nights ago. Later that morning, Eddie’s parents learned that Teresa had been killed in an automobile accident just after midnight, and that college officials had tried unsuccessfully to reach the Cuomos at their home.

Bruce Greyson relates many other examples, including cases in which the deceased person seen was someone whom the experiencer had never known. For example, Greyson reports cardiologist Maurice Rawlings describing the case of a 48-year-old man who had a cardiac arrest. In an NDE he perceived a gorge full of beautiful colors, where he met both his stepmother and his biological mother, who had died when he was 15 months old. His father had remarried soon after his biological mother’s death, and this person had never even seen a photo of her. A few weeks after this episode, his aunt, having heard about this vision, brought a picture of his mother with a number of other people. The man picked his mother out of the group, to the astonishment of his father.

o. Consciousness survives bodily death theory

PRO: There exists strong circumstantial evidence of consciousness surviving bodily death. While this evidence does not constitute conclusive scientific proof, the evidence for survival can be found in science, philosophy, history, metaphysics, religion, and anecdotal testimony. Quantum physics makes some scientific theories of the NDE outmoded while supporting elements of NDEs. Scientific studies support the possible validity of NDEs elements such as being out of the body, the retention of mental images during brain death, veridical experiences of autoscopic events, the ability to accurately foresee the future, receiving information that leads to new scientific discoveries, people born blind being able to see, groups of people sharing a single experience, unbiased children having similar experiences as adults, causing experiencers to be drastically changed and convinced of survival after death, the evidence supporting the objectivity of NDEs, and the affirmation of ancient religious concepts found around the world. Some of the skeptical arguments against the survival theory are often not valid and the burden of proof against survival has shifted to the skeptics. The following is a list of the evidence supporting NDEs as the survival of consciousness – some of which are documented in The Near-Death Experience: A Reader by Dr. Lee Worth Bailey and Jenny Yates:

  1. Quantum physics makes some materialistic theories of the NDE outmoded: New developments in quantum physics shows that we cannot know phenomena apart from the observer. Arlice Davenport challenges the hallucination theory of NDEs as outmoded because the field theories of physics now suggest new paradigm options available to explain NDEs. Mark Woodhouse argues that the traditional materialism/dualism battle over NDEs may be solved by Einstein. Since matter is now seen as a form of energy, an energy body alternative to the material body could explain the NDE. This is supported by Melvin Morse who describes how NDEs are able to realign the charges in the electromagnetic field of the human body so that somehow the brain’s wiring is renewed. He reports on patients who have NDEs and who recover from such diseases as pneumonia, cardiac arrest, and cancer (1992, 153-54). Perhaps the brain is like a kind of receiver such as a television, radio, or cell phone. What is received (i.e., signals, music, voice) is not produced by the receiver, but exists separately as electromagnetic waves that are processed by the receiver to make them visible or audible to the senses.
  2. Quantum physics support elements found in NDEs: Similarities can be found between elements of NDEs and in quantum field concepts of nonlocality, universal interconnectedness, a non-material dimension without our time-space relationship, and in the concept of subjectivity. All events are related and influence each other instantaneously and in reciprocity, and only subjectivity remains.
  3. Scientific studies support the out-of-body aspect of NDEs: Pim van Lommel led a study concerning the NDEs of research subjects who had cardiac arrest. The findings of the study suggests that research subjects can experience consciousness, with self-identity, cognitive function and memories, including the possibility of perception outside their body, during a flat EEG. Those research subjects who had NDEs report that their NDE was a bonafide preview of the afterlife.
  4. Memories and images are produced and retained by standstill patients: See Dr. Michael Sabom‘s groundbreaking Atlanta study.
  5. People see and hear verifiable events far from their bodies during an NDE: See (a) Dr. Charles Tart’s research subject, (b) Pam Reynolds, (c) George Rodonaia, (d) Dr. George Ritchie, and (e) various NDE experiencers.
  6. Strange aspects to NDEs cannot be explained by brain chemistry alone: If NDEs are merely hallucinations, why do the vast majority of experiencers report being told an identical and unusual message? This unusual message is that they must return because their time for death hasn’t come, or some variation of this. Assuming that NDEs are merely hallucinations, it is odd that people are having mass hallucinations of receiving similar unusual messages.
  7. People born blind are able to see during an NDE: See Vicki Umipeg’s NDE account.
  8. Groups of people can share the same NDE at the same time: NDE research Arvin Gibson documented the account of a group of firefighters who succumbed to a forest fire. During their NDEs they saw each other outside of their bodies and had a most interesting experience. See the Group NDE web page involving May Eulitt and Jake.
  9. People are able to successfully foresee future events during an NDE: Some of these events were the Second World War, Desert Storm, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. See the NDE and the Future web page.
  10. People are declared dead and left for dead for several days during an NDE: A Russian scientist was declared dead and put in the morgue for three days during which he had an NDE. See George Rodonaia’s NDE account. Also, visit Emanuel Tuwagirairmana’s NDE account.
  11. Unbiased children have NDEs that are similar to adult NDEs: See P.M.H. Atwater’s research on childhood NDEs.
  12. Scientific discoveries have been made from the direct result of NDEs: See the list of scientific discoveries above.
  13. NDEs can be viewed to be archetypal initiatory journeys: Dr. Ken Ring stated that NDEs can be viewed psychologically as archetypal initiatory journeys involving a death of one’s old ego and a rebirth of a new self. An adequate interpretation must incorporate the spiritual realm of kundalini experiences, the imaginal realm, and the mind at large. As Ring envisions in an essay in this book, this paradigm can deconstruct our traditional Western worldview. It may lead to a dramatic next step in the evolution of a more ecological and more compassionate consciousness.
  14. People are dramatically changed as a result from having an NDE: The philosophy of Positivism, founded by A. J. Ayer, is the philosophy that anything not verifiable by the senses is nonsense. And since NDEs mark the end of the senses, the survival of the senses after death is nonsense. But this philosophy is challenged by its founder A. J. Ayer himself. Later in life, Ayer had an NDE where he saw a red light. His NDE made him a changed man: “My recent experiences, have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death … will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be.” (Ayer, 1988 a, b).
  15. People are absolutely convinced they were out of their body during an NDE: See the Evidence of NDEs web page.
  16. NDEs can be considered an objective experience: The philosopher Carl Becker examined four ways in which NDEs may be considered objective:
    1. Paranormal knowledge that is later verified.
    2. The similarity of deathbed events in different cultures.
    3. Differences between religious expectations and visionary experiences.
    4. Third-party observations of visionary figures, indicating that they were not merely subjective hallucinations (Becker, 1984).
  17. Other paranormal phenomena supports NDEs to be experiences of the survival of consciousness including: (a) Deathbed visions, (b) Quantum physics, (c) Dream research, (d) Out-of-body research, (e) After-death communications research, (f ) Reincarnation research, (g) Hypnosis, (h) Synchronicity, (i ) Remote viewing, and (j ) Consciousness research.
  18. NDEs have been happening for thousands of years and are not a modern phenomenon: See the NDE accounts associated with (a) Plato, (b) the Apostle Paul, and (c) the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
  19. Skeptical arguments against the survival theory of NDEs are often not valid: Sociologist Dr. Allen Kellehear states that some scientific theories are often presented as the most logical, factual, objective, credible, and progressive possibilities, as opposed to the allegedly subjective, superstitious, abnormal, or dysfunctional views of mystics. The rhetorical opinions of some NDE theories are presented as if they were scientific (Kellehear, 1996, 120). Many skeptical arguments against the survival theory are actually arguments from pseudo-skeptics who often think they have no burden of proof. Such arguments often based on scientism with assumptions that survival is impossible even though survival has not been ruled out. Faulty conclusions are often made such as, “Because NDEs have a brain-chemical connection then survival is impossible.” Pseudo-skeptical arguments are sometimes made that do not consider the entire body of circumstantial evidence supporting the possibility of survival or do not consider the possibility of new paradigms. Such pseudo-skeptical claims are often made without any scientific evidence.
  20. Memories of near-death experiences are more real than reality: Researchers at the Coma Science Group, directed by Steven Laureys, and the University of Liege’s Cognitive Psychology Research, headed by Professor Serge Bredart and Hedwige Dehon, have demonstrated that the physiological mechanisms triggered during NDE lead to a more vivid perception not only of imagined events in the history of an individual but also of real events which have taken place in their lives! These surprising results – obtained using an original method which now requires further investigation – are published in PLOS ONE. The researchers looked into the memories of NDE with the hypothesis that if the memories of NDE were pure products of the imagination, their phenomenological characteristics (e.g., sensorial, self referential, emotional, etc. details) should be closer to those of imagined memories. Conversely, if the NDE are experienced in a way similar to that of reality, their characteristics would be closer to the memories of real events. Their results were surprising. From the perspective being studied, not only were the NDEs not similar to the memories of imagined events, but the phenomenological characteristics inherent to the memories of real events (e.g. memories of sensorial details) are even more numerous in the memories of NDE than in the memories of real events.
  21. The burden of proof has shifted to skeptics of the survival theory of NDEs: All neurological theories that conclude NDEs to be only a brain-thing, must show how the core elements of the NDE occur subjectively because of specific neurological events triggered by the approach of death. These core elements include: the out-of-body state, paranormal knowledge, the tunnel, the golden light, the voice or presence, the appearance of deceased relatives, and beautiful vistas. Perhaps the final word should go to Nancy Evans Bush, a NDEr with the International Association for Near-Death Studies, who said: “There is no human experience of any description that can’t simply be reduced to a biological process, but that in no way offsets the meaning those experiences have for us-whether it’s falling in love, or grieving, or having a baby.”
  22. A significant amount of support suggestive of consciousness surviving bodily death exists: Although this has not been proven conclusively using the scientific method, the open-minded skeptic must include this significant amount of evidence as well as taken into consideration the testimonies of millions of people who have had both objective and subjective NDEs and OBEs constituting very strong circumstantial evidence. Here are some Wikipedia articles dealing with this subject as well: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16].

CON: The survival of consciousness after death has never been proven conclusively using the scientific method.

2. Near-death studies research conclusions

Read current articles of NDE research supporting the survival of consciousness from the body.

Dr. Raymond Moody: Common NDE aspects

a. Strange sounds
b. Peace and and painlessness
c. Out-of-body experience
d. Tunnel
e. Traveling rapidly
f. Seeing light beings
g. Life review
h. Reluctance to return

Dr. Kenneth Ring: Research findings

a. Moody’s findings are affirmed.
b. They happen to people of all races, genders, ages, education, marital status, and social class.
c. Religious orientation is not a factor.
d. People are convinced of the reality of their experience.
e. Drugs do not appear to be a factor.
f. NDEs are not hallucinations.
g. NDEs often involve unparalleled feelings.
h. People lose their fear of death and appreciate life more.
i. People’s lives are transformed.

P.M.H. Atwater: Research findings

The content of the NDE involves an otherworldly awareness that can be brief and consist of only one or two elements, or can be more involved, even lengthy, and consist of multiple elements. Common elements include:

a. Greatly enhanced thoughts.
b. A darkness or light that is perceived as alive, intelligent and powerful.
c. A sensation of movement and/or presence.
d. A sudden sudden overwhelming flood of emotion.
e. An encounter with an identified deceased person or animal, or an encounter with an apparently nonphysical entity.
f. A life review.

Dr. Melvin Morse: Research findings

The brain’s connection to a higher power can be validated by indisputable scientific facts such as:

a. Memories can exist outside of the brain.
b. Scientific evidence supporting reincarnation.
c. Anecdotal evidence that people exist after death in some form of energy.
d. People often exhibit supernatural powers.
e. Right temporal lobe activity verifies the reality of them.
f. The mind/brain can be induced to have them.
g. Brain research is able to support the reality of an unseen power.

Dr. Jeffrey and Jody Long: Research findings

Of 302 near-death experiences

a. 29% saw the Being of Light as a familiar being.

Of the percentage who saw familiar beings:
25.9% saw blood relatives.
22.9% saw religious figures.
25.8% saw the Being of Light as an unfamiliar being.

b. Of the 166 people who saw beings:
53% saw familiar beings.
47% saw unfamiliar beings.

Dr. Jeffrey Long, in his book, “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences,” documented a study he conducted – the largest scientific study of NDEs ever – based on his research of over 1,300 NDEs shared with NDERF.org. Using his treasure trove of data, Dr. Long explains how NDEs cannot be explained by brain chemistry alone, how medical evidence fails to explain them away and why there is only one plausible explanation – that people have survived death and traveled to another dimension. Dr. Long makes his case using nine lines of evidence and they are:

a. Crystal-Clear Consciousness: The level of conscious alertness during NDEs is usually greater than that experienced in everyday life – even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. This high level of consciousness while physically unconscious is medically unexplained. Additionally, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and around the world, which refutes the possibility that NDEs have any relation to dreams or hallucinations.

b. Realistic Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs): OBEs are one of the most common elements of NDEs. Events witnessed and heard by NDErs while in an out-of-body state are almost always realistic. When the NDEr or others later seek to verify what was witnessed or heard during the NDE, their OBE observations are almost always confirmed as completely accurate. Even if the OBE observations include events occurring far away from the physical body, and far from any possible sensory awareness of the NDEr, the OBE observations are still almost always confirmed as completely accurate. This fact alone rules out the possibility that NDEs are related to any known brain functioning or sensory awareness. This also refutes the possibility that NDEs are unrealistic fragments of memory from the brain.

c. Heightened Senses: Heightened senses have been reported by most who have NDEs. Supernormal vision has occurred even in those with significantly impaired vision. This is medically unexplainable.

d. Consciousness During Anesthesia: Many NDEs occur while the NDEr is under general anesthesia – at a time when any conscious experience should be impossible. While some skeptics claim these NDEs may be the result of too little anesthesia, this ignores the fact that some NDEs result from anesthesia overdose. Additionally, descriptions of a NDEs differ greatly from those people who experience “anesthetic awareness.” The content of NDEs occurring under general anesthesia is essentially indistinguishable from NDEs that do not occur under general anesthesia. This is more strong evidence that NDEs occur independent from the functioning of the material brain.

e. Perfect Playback: Life reviews in NDEs include real events which previously occurred in the lives of the NDEr – even if the events were forgotten or happened before they were old enough to remember.

f. Family Reunions: During an NDE, the experiencer may encounter people who are virtually always deceased and are usually relatives of the NDEr. Sometimes they include relatives who died before the NDEr was even born. If NDEs are merely the product of memory fragments, they would almost certainly include far more living people, including those with whom they had more recently interacted.

g. Children’s Experiences: The NDEs of children, including very young children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or NDEs, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults. This refutes the possibility that the content of NDEs is produced by preexisting beliefs or cultural conditioning.

h. Worldwide Consistency: NDEs appear remarkably consistent around the world, and across many different religions and cultures. NDEs from non-Western countries are incredibly similar to those occurring in people in Western countries.

i. Aftereffects: It is common for people to experience major life changes after having NDEs. These aftereffects are often powerful, lasting, life-enhancing, and the changes generally follow a consistent pattern. NDErs themselves are practically universal in their belief that their experience of the afterlife was real.

Dr. Michael Sabom: The Atlanta study concluded

a. NDEs provide evidence of veridical perception (i.e., verified out-of-body vision).
b. What people see and hear while they are dead has a factual basis.
c. Near-death experiencers accurately recall events that are happening around them when their brain isn’t functioning.

Pim van Lommel: The Dutch study on NDEs involved

a. The replication of the veridical perception phenomenon reported by Dr. Michael Sabom.
b. Lommel described a patient who was able to describe verifiable events from a vantage point far away from his body.

Dr. Barbara Rommer: Less-than-positive NDEs can be classified into four types

a. NDEs that are misinterpreted positive NDEs.
b. NDEs involving a void which is very unpleasant.
c. NDEs that involve visions of hell.
d. NDEs that involve frightening life reviews.

Dr. Karl Jansen: Ketamine research findings

a. NDEs and the drug ketamine produce identical visions.
b. They both induce real visions of a real god.
c. Ketamine affects parts of the brain such as the right temporal lobe, the hippocampus and associated structures in the brain.
d. NDEs are an important phenomenon that can safely be reproduced by ketamine.

Dr. Peter Fenwick: Research findings

On the difference between hallucinations and NDEs, Fenwick states in Tom Harpur’s documentary Life After Death that drug-induced hallucinations are not the same as NDEs:

“The difficulty with those theories is that when you create these wonderful states by taking drugs, you’re conscious. In the NDE, you are unconscious. One of the things we know about brain function in unconsciousness, is that you cannot create images and if you do, you cannot remember them … [During an NDE] the brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences … An unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working. The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these [NDE] experiences, you come out with clear, lucid memories … This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact.” (Dr. Peter Fenwick)

Dr. Ian Stevenson: Research findings

Stevenson’s ground-breaking reincarnation research concluded that birthmarks and congenital deformities have one to five characteristics in common:

a. The person expresses a wish to be reborn through a particular woman.
b. A woman has an after-death visitation by an apparition who tells her that he/she are to be reborn through her.
c. In some cultures where reincarnation is a dominant belief, newborn children are checked for recognizable birthmarks to determine their past-life identity.
d. A child, usually between 2 and 4 years, talks about having memories of a past life.
e. A child feels uncomfortable with its current family.

Kevin Williams, B.Sc.: Research findings

These are statistics of common elements found in 50 NDEs profiled on this website:

69% Experienced overwhelming love
65% Experienced mental telepathy
62% Had a life review
56% Meet a Being of light
56% Felt tremendous ecstasy
46% Learned unlimited knowledge
46% Visited numerous afterlife realms
46% Was told they were not ready to die
44% Was shown visions of the future
42% Traveled through a tunnel
37% Met Jesus Christ
31% Received forgotten knowledge
27% Experienced fear
21% Had a homecoming with deceased loved ones
21% Was shown their past lives
19% Saw or experienced hell
17% Saw a heavenly city of light
13% Visited a heavenly temple of knowledge
10% Saw earthbound souls
6% Their NDE was the result of an attempted suicide
0% Saw a devil

3. Events which can trigger an OBE or NDE

Brain Seizures Falling from Heights
Brain Stimulation Hypnosis
Dreams Orgasm
Extreme Gravity Psychomanteum
Extreme Meditation Mental Dysfunction
Extreme Stress

4. Scientific discoveries are coming from another dimension

a. “Many of our important inventions were first created in the spiritual universe by spirit prodigies. Then individuals on earth receive the inspiration to create these inventions here.” (Betty Eadie)

b. “Spirituality and science are one and the same.” (Lynnclaire Dennis)

c. “Science and technology are gifts from God bestowed through inspiration. People on earth have literally been led to these discoveries, many of which later became perverted by humanity to use for its own destruction.” (Howard Storm)

d. “The mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb is one of the holiest archetypes created by human beings. It, more than any religion or philosophy on earth, brought humanity together all of a sudden, to a new level of consciousness. The power behind the atom is the power of God – the Force that holds all things together.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)

e. Visit the Skeptic’s Corner for specific discoveries learned from near-death experiences.

5. Television-like technology exists in the afterlife

a. “Then I was instantly zapped to a domed room with square screens up and down the walls, on the ceiling – hundreds of television screens. On each screen was a home movie of one event in my life.” (Jeanie Dicus)

b. “In a sacred room, we see our lives flash before us on a “scanning machine.” This device is a domed screen where our lives are placed out in three-dimensional holographic form.” (Sylvia Browne)

c. “It was a lot like looking at a hologram, but full color 3D with sound and scent.” (Hal)

d. “He is told it resembles a movie theater which allows souls to see themselves in the future, playing different roles in various settings.” (Dr. Michael Newton)

e. “In response they used a machine to show her a scene from earlier in her life.” (Betty Andreasson)

f. “With that I saw frames appear like screens on a television set.” (Lou Famoso)

g. “The box opened to reveal what appeared to be a tiny television picture of a world event that was yet to happen.” (Dannion Brinkley)

h. “He told me what I had to do in life and had me go to the other side of the room and look down into something like a television set so I could see my future.” (Clara)

i. “Next we went to a place she called the lookout. It appeared to be only an overhang on a high cliff, but the view was intensely magnified. I could look into the world I had left behind as though peering into a monitor, if I chose to do so. No one spent a lot of time here, Maggi said, but some occasionally stopped by to check on what was going on in the earthly realm.” (Jan Price)

6. Computer-like technology exists in the afterlife

a. Albert Einstein was observed operating a Heavenly Computer:

“Next we materialized in a computer room … Some of [the people there] I knew by name, others by reputation; and all had time for me, to teach me if ever I need help understanding. One of them was Albert Einstein, whom I had always admired greatly but distantly, and this great man took time away from his duties to encourage me. He asked me if I would care to operate the computer, which was very complex and beautiful and designed to guide the path of destinies. I was flattered, but felt incompetent and unsure of myself in the presence of such greatness. I told him I would like to try, but I was afraid of making a mistake. He laughed greatly, and reassured me, saying that error was not possible in this place. Encouraged, I seemed instinctively to know how to operate this unusual machine, and waved my hand in a pattern over the large keyboard, rather like playing a piano without touching the keys. I knew instantly the task had been performed perfectly, and it had somehow been of great benefit to someone. I was suffused with the joy of a job well done. I would gladly spend eternity here at this rewarding work if only for the tremendous feeling of well-being I had experienced as a result. Through open doors I glimpsed enormous rooms filled with complex equipment. In several of the rooms hooded figures bent over intricate charts and diagrams, or sat at the controls of elaborate consoles flickering with lights … Years later, when I picked up the December 1952 issue of Life magazine and saw some of the instruments in the second U.S. atomic submarine engine, I had the strange feeling of deja vu until I recalled seeing the very same instrument in one of these labs.” (Dr. George Ritchie)

b. Betty Eadie saw a large machine, similar to a computer, but much more elaborate and powerful. Betty realized that all important things on earth are first created in spirit. (Betty Eadie)