Most religions agree that after we die, we are going to face some kind of reckoning or judgement. However, so much of our lives are spent dealing with trivial day-to-day distractions that we often forget this. For most people, a truly amazing phenomenon reasserts their priorities.
It is a phenomenon that takes them beyond the shroud of life, to the very edges of the next dimension where they leave their mortal bodies and are shown the error of their ways. It is a phenomenon characterised by a dark tunnel, a shining light at the end, and extreme feelings of serendipity or fear. These are Near Death Experiences.
Near death experiences are reported by people who have been, at some stage, physically and medically dead – that is to say, they show no vital signs of life. It is typically experienced by heart attack sufferers, overdosed drug users, and people who have attempted suicide. Some estimates suggest that over ten million people in the United States have had personal experiences of near death experiences, so it is hardly a select phenomenon.
Although no two near death experiences are the same, they do share some common qualities. Many people describe that they feel as if they have risen out of their body. Frequently they look down upon the medical teams trying to bring them back to life. Indeed, many people who have had near death experiences can even state exactly what happened, who said what, and which instruments were used to resuscitate them. Other experiences involve the person hovering above members of their family at the time of death.
Occasionally seeing their close relations is enough to force them to return to their mortal frames. But if they continue their near death experience, it is often reported that a feeling of sublime peace and joy sweeps over them. They find themselves in a dark tunnel with a beautiful white or golden light at the end of it. Sometimes they hear the voices of deceased loved ones, or even God, telling them to return to Earth. Some near death experiences involve an overview of the person’s life, showing where things have gone wrong or need completing, and sometimes the person feels as though they have gained knowledge about the meaning of life. Whether by voluntary or involuntary means, they return to their bodies.
Not all near death experiences are so enjoyable, for there are some people who suffer horrific fear during their near death experience and see monsters or devils. What is largely universal is the effect of the experience on the person; they often instigate massive, life-changing decisions as a result. People review what is important in their life, and find new happiness from simple things. Many do voluntary work, or become teachers or lecturers. Those who do not chose to show their commitment to serving people publicly frequently reveal a new approach to life, and often become more pleasant, sympathetic and understanding.
In 2001, The Lancet medical journal published a report of a 13-year study into near death experiences that occurred in Dutch hospitals. The investigation was conducted by cardiologist Pim van Lommel, and was unique in that it questioned 344 patients immediately after they had been resuscitated. It was established that the patients’ brains had no flow of blood, and so would have ceased to operate, yet 18% of those questioned had some memory of events during the time they were technically dead.
The researchers also found that 12% had a deep experience – that is, an out-of-body, bright light, or meeting of dead relatives type of phenomenon. The most impressive part was that the details of their experiences stayed precisely exact, even when they were re-interviewed two and eight years later. It was also seen that those who had near death experiences re-prioritised, and became noticeably more appreciative of life, when compared to non- near death experience flatliners.
Near death experience sufferers also had a radically declined fear of death. Some in the medical profession consider the accounts to be products of fantasy, false memory or confused consciousness. This view does a disservice to the huge numbers of people who genuinely feel they have had these moments; their reported near death experiences are just a sample – it has to be pointed out that many who had near death experiences in the past failed to come forward for fear of ridicule.
Do these experiences mean there truly is an after-life? There’s no scientific proof, although many near death experience sufferers will slip into death without fear when the time comes again. For them, it is not a step into the unknown.