Remote viewing, therapeutic touch, psychic healing, alien abductions and near-death experiences appear to be rare occurrences that are strictly seen in sci-fi television programs like The X-Fles or in fictional stories.
However, this is not the case, it has been recorded that these events have unquestionably occurred amongst several individuals throughout history. Of all the existing paranormal events, the most baffling amidst Western society is that of near-death experiences, which has undoubtedly amplified the popularity of parapsychology.
An American Study conducted in 1982, concluded that fifteen percent of individuals who had been in near death situations had reported a near-death experience. Therefore, it is easy to see why there has been an outstanding amount of dedicated research, all having one common goal; to prove whether or not near-death experiences truly exist.
This topic of near-death experiences leaves some individuals skeptical and asking some common questions:
– What are Near-death experiences?
– Are they an indication of the divine?
– Are they simply hallucinations?
– Do they provide us with evidence of life after death?
– Are they caused by an increase of chemicals or a lack of oxygen in the brain?
– What is a near-death experience?
A near-death experience is an assortment of personal events that occur moments before death. It involves a various set of sensations and encounters like feelings of calmness, out of body experiences, extreme fear, and presence of light (deity), tunnel sight, life review, complete serenity and spiritual entities. These are common traits associated with near-death experiences, however some individual’s do not experience all these events and others may have experienced other events not previously stated.
In general, most near death experience’s occur when an individual is pronounced clinically dead yet they are not biologically dead, in very rare cases the individual may not have been dead at all. Raymond Moody, otherwise known as “the father of near-death experiences” developed the common traits and sensations found in near-death experiences.
When first introduced to this theme, Moody was skeptical of the current findings but he soon changed his mind and is now a believer of near-death experiences. In fact, he has studied and documented thousands of near-death experiences in several books and published articles.
According to Moody (1977), there are two primary phases in near death experiences; in the first phase the individual’s soul exits the body, at this point they are able to see themselves from above, this phase can be known as the disassociated phase.
In the second phase the individual’s soul travels through a psychic tunnel into another dimension which at some point the soul is told that it’s not it’s time to die and returns to the body.
Why are there skeptics?
Without a doubt it is evident as to why some people do not believe in near-death experiences, it may even be correct to conclude that these experiences seem to be hallucinations. According to psychologist Ronald Siegel who discredits Moody’s general phases of near death experiences, claims that these near-death experiences are nothing more than hallucinations.
Coupled with a team of researchers Siegel attempted to reproduce the effects of near death experiences by inducing the patients with LSD, his findings concluded that afterwards each subject explained the same general phases founded by Moody in near death experiences.
In fact, other scientists have concluded while in the stages of dying, the brain produces endorphins which are released into the central nervous system and they create a pain-free state, also known as a “runner’s high”, which may explain why some individuals experience complete serenity while dying.
Other skeptics have attempted to explain the formation of near death experiences through research on neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. It is said that ketamine can produce near death experiences; however in our brains there are neurotransmitters receptors which can produce the same effects as ketamine.
According to Jansen (1990), there are substances in the brain which bind to the same receptor site as ketamine and cause conditions which trigger a glutamate overload and may also trigger an overload of neuroprotective agents which bind to NMDA receptors to protect cells, leading to an altered state of consciousness like that produced by ketamine.
In spite of the efforts made to falsify near death experiences, parapsychologists have argued against these points and state that drug induced hallucinations alter reality whereas near death experiences produce “hyper-realities”.
These findings leave many of us searching for scientific evidence which establishes the truth behind near death experiences. Pursuing this further, some scientists have studied near death experiences in relation with epileptic trauma in the temporal lobe of the brain.
In fact, certain traits of near death experiences such as memory flash backs and out of body experiences have been replicated by sending electrical signals to the temporal lobes. According to Britton & Bootzin (2004), being in a near-death experience causes certain stress factors which stimulates the temporal lobe causing the individual to experience memory flash backs and out of body sensations.
Nevertheless, the believers have rejected the findings of Britton & Bootzin because of the aversive feelings that these individuals experience, feelings such as fear and loneliness are not present in near death experiences however they are present in the stimulation of the temporal lobe.
Another interesting theory proposed is that near-death experiences are either the cause of a lack of oxygen or an excess of carbon dioxide in the brain prior to dying. The technical term used to describe this phenomenon is cerebral anoxia or hypoxia which at first causes an increase of feelings of comfort and a sense of superiority and ends with a delusional state where the individual might see images of God or “the lights of heaven”.
However cardiologist Micheal Sabom was able to distinguish the differences between real near death experiences and oxygen deprived brains and concluded that the effects seen in oxygen starved brains are much more chaotic and may even mirror psychotic hallucinations (Sabom 1982).
On the other hand, some have used psychological theories such as the depersonalization theory the epiphenomenalism theory and the reductionism theory, in an attempt to explain the causes of near death experiences.
The depersonalization theory states that when people are faced with death they attempt to replace the bad feelings with surreal fantasies by dissociating themselves from reality. The reductionism theory states that complex things can always be reduced into simpler terms.
Finally, the epiphenomenalism theory postulates that mental states are complex processes and they cannot create physical effects. Contrary to the psychological theories, parapsychologists believe that depersonalization cannot completely define the events which occur in near death experiences, nor can the reductionism or epiphenomenalism theories.
Are there any theories that can concretely explain the phenomenon’s that surround near death experiences?
By Katie Delwo