Studying near-death experiences. A scientific approach
By now a huge amount of information and testimonies of people who survived clinical death has been accumulated. Unfortunately, not many people know that the condition of near-death experiences has been long and rather deeply studied by specialists of different fields: medics, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicists. Portals have been created to study this phenomenon and to exchange experience. Some of the largest, for example:
IANDS – International Association for Near-Death Studies, founded in 1978, The Journal of Near-Death Studies, NDERF – Near-Death Experience Research Foundation, founded by Dr. Jeffrey Long in 1998.
One of the first scientists to pay close attention to the rather well-known but socially undiscussed phenomenon of near-death experiences was Dr. Raymond Moody, a professor in philosophy and psychology and also a doctor of medicine. Dr. Moody has personally interviewed hundreds of people with near-death experiences. These stories became the basis for his books and scientific research. He helped to create such terms as "life after death," "near-death experience" (NDE).
Over time, other scientists began to join the study of the near-death experience phenomenon: American cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom, Dr. Margot Gray, Dr. Kenneth Ring, Dr. Ian Stevenson and many others. Many doctors were completely skeptical (such as neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, USA), but they joined the study in order to explain what was happening with the physiological processes in the brain. But a serious approach to studying the issue, and for some doctors, even personal experience, convince them otherwise.
Up to a certain point, experts involved in the study of near-death experiences claimed: «This phenomenon is inexplicable from the point of view of modern science».
Our role is to clear the phenomenon of near-death experiences from mysticism and religion and show that it is quite scientifically explainable.
It's all about key concepts: who a person is and what consciousness is.
What is the near-death experience?
About 17% of people on the verge of death report a near-death experience (NDE) Most often, these are clinical death or coma states, after which the human managed to survive, including thanks to expertly performed resuscitation.
The amazing thing about NDEs is that it is theoretically impossible.
At this time, the person's heart stops, the blood pressure drops dramatically, and blood stops flowing through the blood vessels and into the brain. After 10-20 seconds, the electroencephalogram (EEG) shows a completely flat line. In other words, no activity is detected in the brain. No thoughts, images, emotions are recorded in his brain.
A person is unconscious (lack of consciousness is one of the prerequisites for declaring clinical death).
And at the same time, paradoxically, upon returning to a normal viable state, the person recounts that he or she was in a very clear consciousness, observed resuscitation from outside the body, and felt no pain or fear. The person recounts in detail the actions and words of people who were not only in the room in question, but sometimes in other rooms as well.
Near-death experiences are told by adults and children, by priests and doctors, by scientists and ministers, by people of different religions and atheists.
Such different people describe near-death experiences in a very identical way, and, at the same time, out of thousands and thousands of stories, no two are exactly alike.
Foundation for near-death experiences research.
How did it all begin?
Oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long talks about what prompted him to begin his own study of near-death experiences. He once had to read an article in a medical journal about the NDEs phenomenon. Then, years later, while having lunch with a friend and his wife, he heard the woman's account of how she had experienced clinical death during surgery due to a severe allergic reaction. Jeffrey was stunned by two amazing facts. The woman, who had never heard anything about the NDEs phenomenon, described her experience almost exactly as recited in the medical journal. There was a sense of sincerity in her story and the great significance that this experience had for her.
Shocked by the phenomenon, Dr. Long decided to learn as much as he could about it, and then began to study it himself.
The first thing to do was to collect stories from all over the world and study them carefully.
Dr. Long created the NDERF website with his own resources to gather information and share the experiences of specialists. Today it is a huge international portal translated into more than 23 languages.
Scale for identifying and detailing the NDEs
In a joint effort between American and French specialists, a scale of a number of questions was developed. The purpose of this scale was to allow people to describe their experiences as accurately as possible, as well as to identify NDEs from non-NDEs (other similar cases). In addition, there was the fear that someone might jokingly invent and describe something that did not exist, or engage in imitation. But fortunately, there were very few such cases. Such fake evidence was detected with a scale and immediately eliminated.
Unusual facts about near-death experiences
Thorough analysis of NDEs allowed us to identify (highlite) the patterns that accompany each experience. In some testimonies these regularities are found in full volume, in others one or two are missed. Each of the following facts testifies to the reality of NDEs, and even more so their totality.
Expressed lucidity of consciousness
Near-death experiences occur while a person is unconscious: either in a state of clinical death or in a coma. According to the medical point of view, as well as conventional logic, unconscious people cannot testify to very clear and conscious experiences, especially logically structured ones. Most people, on the contrary, report unusual lucidity of consciousness, a heightened level of awareness and clarity, compared to what they are used to.
NDEs often occur in patients during cardiac arrest. As mentioned above, after cardiac arrest and blood flow movement, the electroencephalogram (EEG) flattens out after 10-20 seconds. We do not observe any electrical activity in the brain. And at the same time, coming back, patients tell about clear visions and emotional experiences.
Many near-death experiences are characterized by the experience of leaving the body. The person feels and sees himself/herself separating from the body, he/she observes what is happening from outside, often from above. And later he absolutely accurately describes his resuscitation in all details.
Dr. Michael Sabom was the first to conduct a study determining the accuracy of out-of-body observations. The study involved two groups of patients who had suffered cardiac arrest. One group experienced NDEs, including an out-of-body experience, the other group did not. All patients were given the task of describing their resuscitation as accurately as possible. Dr. Sabom found that the study subjects who had an out-of-body experience during NDE described the doctors' work much more accurately than the control group.
Other large studies have been conducted to determine the accuracy of out-of-body observations during clinical death and have yielded similar results.
The unusual accuracy of events described by an unconscious person cannot be explained by any brain function. First, the EEG at the time showed a complete absence of brain activity, second, many NDEs survivors described events that took place far from their physical bodies, for example, in another room or even on the other side of town, and third, often the events that took place were unexpected to the patients themselves, so they could not be the result of their illusory memories.
NDEs with vision in the blind
There is evidence of near-death experiences of blind people. Dr. Kenneth Ring has conducted the largest NDEs study of blind and near-blind people who have described their out-of-body experiences. Those who were blind from birth described how they had seen and had enjoyed their sight for the first time. The practically blind were able to see clearly and distinctly.
In the NDERF portal, 1,122 people responded to the question, "Did your vision differ from your normal vision during the NDE? (Clarity, brightness, colors, ability to see very far or wide, etc.). – 64% of interviewees responded positively. The breadth of descriptions of unusual vision was broader than the options presented in the question. For example: "I could see everything around me at 360 degrees" or "The vision adjusted to very far or close, like a microscope, at my desire."
These cases of unusual vision in the blind and super-normal vision, in NDE survivors, cannot be explained by our modern understanding of brain function.
Near-death experience under general anesthesia
A person under general medical anesthesia has no ability to perceive reality. In other words, the person is disconnected from consciousness with a complete shutdown of all senses. In such a state it is impossible to perceive anything, let alone have a clear organized memory. Studies using electroencephalograms and functional brain imaging of patients under general anesthesia provide strong evidence for the fact that the brain under anesthesia cannot reproduce clear organized memories.
Of the thousands of NDEs on the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) portal, there are quite a few that have happened to patients during general anesthesia. Most often this happens during cardiac arrest.
A detailed study was conducted between two groups of NDEs: people who had NDE during general anesthesia and under other circumstances. All cases were compared on a scale of 33 detailed questions, as well as using statistical methods. The result showed a difference on only 1 item – presence of anesthesia.
When asked to rate the level of lucidity of consciousness compared to normal, 83% of patients responded that they felt «...more aware and alert than usual».
Another such study was conducted under the direction of Dr. Bruce Greyson of the University of Virginia. Here is a quote from his notes:
«Of the 578 NDEs we studied, 127 occurred during general anesthesia (22%). They contain phenomena such as out-of-body experiences associated with observing medical personnel working on their bodies, supernaturally bright lights, encounters with the dead, thoughts, the work of memory and feelings were clearer and brighter than usual».
The near-death experience during cardiac arrest under general anesthesia is real and cannot be explained medically.
Near-death experiences often include such an element as a review of the past, when a person sees scenes from his past life, observing them as if from a distance. Interestingly, people who have had such experiences tell us that in those moments they knew what others were thinking and feeling. This new and unusual ability was very surprising to the person under study.
None of the NDE cases studied that contained a "review of the past" had any unrealistic content. On the contrary, people described seeing "very long-forgotten scenes of their lives. If one considers NDE as a hallucination, or "hypoxia-induced brain weirdness," or subconscious work, one would expect unstructured and in some places unrealistic visions. The clarity of memories, their logical sequence in chronology, the unusual perception of emotions and thoughts of other people in those moments of life – all this testifies to the opposite.
Near-death experiences among children
The study of small children' near-death experiences is very important, since in childhood there are no religious and cultural beliefs, children are unlikely to have ever heard or read about NDE.
Dr. Long studied 2 groups of children: up to 5 years of age and 6 years and older. A comparative analysis of the NDE was carried out on the basis of 33 detailed questions and using the Chi-square statistics method. The study found no significant differences between near-death experiences under 5 years of age, 6 years and above, and adults.
These findings are supported by the work of Dr. Cherie Sutherland, who has analyzed cases of NDE in children in the medical literature over the past 30 years. She claims that she was surprised that neither age, nor a small vocabulary, nor even a lack of language skills affect the complexity and intensity of the NDE experience. Later, having learned to speak, such children talk about their experiences, which are very close to similar experiences in adults.
The results indicate that NDEs are not a consequence of religious or cultural beliefs, or expectations from previous testimonies of other people's experiences.
Since the Near Death Experience Research Foundation has partially translated into more than 23 languages, it has drawn on a large body of evidence from around the world, belonging to different (including non-European) cultural and religious traditions. Dr. Jeffrey Long has collected over 500 testimonies from completely different parts of the world. They have been translated into English and carefully checked for accuracy. Taking into account the hypothesis about the imagination of a brain under critical conditions of hypoxia, one would expect a serious influence of traditional religious beliefs on the content of NDE. But in this case, comparative analysis showed striking similarities. Dozens of countries, hundreds of testimonies, Islam, Christianity, atheism, Hinduism – an impressive identity of the content of experiences!
The findings are consistent with the concept that the near-death experience occurs independently of the physical function of the brain.
Influence of NDE on the subsequent person's life
Near-death experiences have a global impact on every personality. Another important phenomenon is the fact that over time the memories of the experience do not fade, do not become more insignificant, as is the case, for example, with visions in other altered states of consciousness (sleep or hallucinations). They are just as bright, emotional and have a deep meaning for a person years later. They remain in the memory forever.
Significant internal changes take place in a person. First of all, there comes an awareness of the real value of life, the value of each life moment “here and now”. A person ceases to be burdened by the past and overly concerned about the future, he begins to live in the present.
There is an acceptance of oneself and other people.
Such qualities as love for people, humanity, the desire to be useful to society, altruism are awakened and activated. The spiritual begins to acquire the value of much more material. Man himself characterizes himself as more spiritual, but not necessarily religious. Rather, on the contrary, external religious rituals and traditions are losing their former importance. The understanding of the unity of Truth and God comes, known to religious scholars as the transcendental unity of religions. On the contrary ( rather the opposite), external religious rituals and traditions are losing their former importance. The understanding of the unity of Truth and God, known to religion scholars as the transcendent unity of religions, is coming.
The data obtained by scientists in research puts science, like all of humanity, in front of new facts that cannot be ignored. Neurophysiologists, neurosurgeons, psychologists, psychotherapists, physicists and other scientists have not once said that human consciousness is outside the body, it is a field structure, connected to the brain in the same way as radio waves with a radio receiver. Consciousness is not a brain and functions freely without the latter.
Man is neither body nor consciousness, although he mistakenly associates himself with them.
Numerous evidence of out-of-body experience make it clear that a person is not a body. The body is just the physical shell of something more.
Moreover, there is already an understanding that a person is not conscious.
The best proof of the latter is a simple experiment that anyone can do on their own. Sit down, calm down and not think about anything and not imagine anything for 5 minutes.
This experiment clearly shows that a person does not control his consciousness.
The same conclusion was reached by neurophysiologists who conducted experiments involving volunteers. The first such experiment, the Libet experiment, was carried out in 1983. Later, in 2008, it was repeated by a group of physiologists on more modern equipment with similar results. The experiment showed that first a signal is recorded in the brain, and only then, with a delay of hundreds of milliseconds, the person realizes his action.
Consciousness guides a person, gives orders, provokes action, creates emotions. By habitually associating himself with the body and thoughts, a person is in a kind of illusion.
According to the latest understandings of quantum physics, man is an observer who creates "reality" by the power of his attention. Therefore, the Knowledge of who a person is is so important. Human is a Personality, a spiritual component that observes and makes a choice.
It is the Personality who can observe what the consciousness shows, agree or disagree with its suggestions.
“The Personality is who every person perceives himself to be during his lifetime, the one who makes the choice between the Spiritual and the Animal natures, who analyses, draws conclusions, and accumulates personal baggage of sensory and emotional dominants. If a person develops spiritually during his life to such an extent that his Personality merges with the Soul, then a qualitatively new, mature Being is formed; it is different from the human being and it leaves for the spiritual world. This is, in fact, what is called the “liberation of the Soul from the captivity of the material world”, “passing into Nirvana”, “attainment of holiness”, and so on. Otherwise, if in the course of human life such a merging does not happen, then after the death of the physical body and the destruction of the energy structure, this intelligent Personality, together with the Soul, goes to a rebirth (reincarnation), turning into (let’s call it thus for convenience in order to understand the gist) a subpersonality. When the physical body dies, the human being continues its existence. In the state of transition, it has a spherical form with spiral structures. The Soul, together with its information capsules, is enclosed in this formation. The information capsules are subpersonalities from previous incarnations, including the Personality from the recent life.”
From the "AllatRa" book by A. Novykh
It is important to understand that a near-death experience is not yet a death experience. During the near-death experience, there is an easy astral exit. Man – Personality – leaves the body in conjunction with consciousness. Freedom from the body really gives a feeling of lightness. Therefore, one should not make hasty conclusions about a wonderful fate after death for everyone, without exception. It is no coincidence that all world religions warn about responsibility for life.
Knowledge of who a person is gives an awareness of real freedom of choice. And spiritual work on oneself leads the Personality to spiritual freedom.
Yulia, participant of ALLATRA IPM
- "AllatRa" book by A. Novykh.
- "Life after death" video on ALLATRA TV.
- “Jeffrey Long. Near-death experience. Evidence for their reality ".
- Near-Death Experiences Research Foundation.
- V. V. Kozlov / Bulletin of the Irkutsk State University (journal) / "Near-death experience and personality transformation" (article).
- R. Moody "Life After Life".