We need to say it. We need to come right out and speak the words, upfront, publicly. The vast majority of near-death experiencers. Millions upon millions of people. Worldwide. Say: The Near-Death Experience is a spiritual experience.
Forget what psychics claim, or mediums, or “master” teachers. Near-death experiencers are everyday people, educated and uneducated, professionals and laborers, truck drivers, moms, teens and tweens, babies, every race, every country…people…all of us, human beings, who, at the point of death or nearly so, glimpse life on the other side of death, a life realer than real.
For them, mystery becomes reality.
Anyone at any age can have a near-death experience. That means babies birthing through their mother’s vagina, that means babies before birth — still in the womb. That means, quite literally, any individual, any age, can suddenly find themselves in dimensions greater than what we call life and be forever changed by that experience.
The near-death phenomenon is an intense awareness, sense or experience of otherworldliness, whether pleasant or unpleasant, that happens to people who are at the edge of death. It is of such magnitude that most experiencers are deeply affected — many to the point of making significant changes in their lives afterward.
More than an otherworldly journey, travelogue or light show, the phenomenon consists of two parts: the experience and the aftereffects.
The experience can cover a wide range of elements. Those most commonly reported are finding one’s self apart from the physical body (vivid details, most of them later verified); a greeter of some kind (usually loved ones pre-deceased, including pets — sometimes angels, light beings, religious figures); engulfed by a light that knows all about you and can converse with you (described by adult experiencers as brighter than 10,000 suns); a life review (sometimes a dispassionate and objective “viewing,” other times more radical, like a reliving of the life, feeling the pain one caused others. There can be other elements, such as tunnels and heavenly cities, but these are not commonly reported (contrary to media hype).
The aftereffects are both physical and psychological:
- Physically — involving changes to brain structure and function, changes to the nervous and digestive systems, and skin sensitivity. Electrical, sound, light, and pharmaceutical sensitivities become commonplace afterward, as if the individual’s electromagnetic field altered.
- Psychologically — loss of the fear of death, gain healing and intuitive abilities, become more compassionate, loving, dedicated to social justice and the spiritual, yet challenged by former relationship and communication styles. There can be depression because of the inability to resume “life as always.”
It is the pattern of these aftereffects that validates the experience, not the other way around. Truly, then, the phenomenon of near-death consists of both the experience and the aftereffects. Very few researchers address the entire phenomenon in their work, certainly not skeptics, who seem to prefer “piecemeal” attacks based on what they believe causes “the light show” without regard to the range of experiencer ages, the vividness over time of what was experienced, and the depth and power of the pattern of aftereffects.
What you feel
Warning: you can’t refer to the near-death phenomenon without being prepared to confront whatever you feel or believe about social contracts and commitments, life and death, heaven and hell, body and soul, God/Allah/Deity (the concept of a Creator God).
By confront, I mean facing information and facts that may challenge as well as surprise you…like being met on the “other”side by aborted babies, missing twins, relatives you may have never known you had, family secrets…perhaps even an expansive view of life’s continuity, histories beyond anything taught or ever known. Even hearing a special voice or having a quick in-and-out-of-body experience can be enough to trigger lasting changes in the individual’s life. The key is intensity. The more intense the experience (no matter how short or long), the greater the flood of aftereffects.
The average near-death experiencer is without vital signs (no heartbeat, no breath, no brainwaves) for about five to 20 minutes. That’s average. Some are without vital signs for over an hour, even longer. A few revive in the morgue, much to the shock of morgue personnel.
A signature figure of the phenomenon: experiencers return with little or no brain damage — rather, brain enhancement. They come back smarter than they were before, especially true with children — the younger the more pronounced the jump in intelligence tends to be.
Experiencers say yes to the soul. Yes, we all have one. Our greater self.
Experiencers say yes to God. Yes, there is one — bigger and larger and more powerful than the God of Holy Writ. Terminology may change afterward, such as referring to God as Creator, Core, Source, Father-Mother-God, Light, Presence, The All, One, The Force, Universal Essence, or simply Love — yet always with that sense, that absolute knowing that a God/Allah/Deity (whichever preferred name) is absolutely, positively real.
The very essence
That Light, the Presence you come to know, is felt as the very essence, the heart and soul, the all-consuming consummation of ecstatic ecstasy. Indeed, it is a million suns of compressed Love dissolving everything unto Itself, annihilating thought and cell, vaporizing humanness and history, into the one great brilliance of all that is and all that ever was and all that ever will be. Belief in God dissolves afterward, because “belief” implies doubt. There is no more doubt. This knowing becomes a quiet passion, a driving force — always present, always available.
God as nameless “Presence” is seen to exist beyond what words can tell and any concept of gender, a conscious intelligence and creative principle so great that it envelops and permeates all levels, all things, all possibilities, all potential, all aspects of creation, all belief systems.
The near-death phenomenon validates all the world’s great religions…except for one thing: The God one finds on the other side of death is the God of all.
You hear this in movies today, like Heaven is for Real, the story of 4-year-old Colton Burpo, who walked with Jesus and talked to angels when he nearly died during surgery. You read about this in current bestsellers, such as Proof of Heaven, by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, who contracted a rare form of meningitis, which “ate” away his brain cortex until a miracle happened; To Heaven and Back, by Mary Neal, an orthopedic surgeon who drowned, yet was saved by a series of events that cannot be explained.
You can hardly turn on a television set today without accessing some channel featuring gripping stories of near-death experiencers, stories that are not just about life-after-death, but of the magnitude and the reality of God, who loves, forgives, encourages. And of revelations that the life we lead is not what we think it is, that there is a greater reason and purpose behind all things, that it is up to us to awaken…to our job as co-creators with the Creator. We make this world a better place. There’s no magic God-wand that does it for us.
It is time
I speak as I do in this article because it is time for me to. My work has always been based on the larger story: this side, the “other” side, the sum of the many.
I began researching near-death states in 1978. That makes me one of the early pioneers in this field. I knew nothing about Raymond Moody or his book Life After Life at the time. I met Elisabeth Kübler Ross at O’Hare Airport that fall. Her plane was late for Europe. After introducing myself, the two of us sat on a bench and visited like a couple of school girls. I told her about my three near-death experiences the year before, three in three months, and all that I had gone through afterward. She was so understanding, naming me a near-death survivor (she never used the term “experiencer”), then telling me about the phenomenon itself.
Being validated by Elisabeth was wonderful, yet, for me, what she had said created more questions than gave answers. I began my research shortly thereafter, doing what I was told to do during my third near-death experience by a special voice. I called it The Voice Like None Other.
The Voice said to me: “Test revelation. You are to do the research. One book for each death.” I was shown what that meant and what was to be in each book. Book one was not named (although I always felt it was Coming Back To Life, my first major book about what I was finding in my work). Book two was Future Memory (Hampton Roads) — designed in the format of a labyrinth and meant to be read as one would walk a site labyrinth, and for the same reason, to bring the reader up to the next highest octave of consciousness possible at that time. The third? Well, that was to be a special manual, a book I just started writing in 2014.
The idea of mission — that we each have a job to do, a mission to perform, perhaps several, maybe one after another — shines forth from the phenomenon, along with the importance that we each have our place in the overall scheme of things, no matter how long or short our lifespan may be.
Although my mission was plainly revealed, not all are. Most experiencers lament that no such revelation was ever made to them. Adults say that. Kids are more upfront about the issue of mission: “Follow your heart, trust, and you will be led to what you need to do, maybe to a whole bunch of things, one after another. Love guides.”
My newest book, Dying to Know You: Proof of God in the Near-Death Experience, is very small, but power-packed. That’s because after all these decades of work, I decided to open up and say what experiencers say. That means the book gets right to the heart of issues, and puts things in print most experiencers say in private. Although based on my findings, clearly this book gives voice to the many — all those experiencers who will never write a book or stand on a stage — but still have a lot to say. This is their book, their voice.
The real “thunder” from the near-death phenomenon comes from this, the sum of the many, the greater collective. To this truth, I dedicate my remaining years.