“And Death, which alike levels all, alike impresses all with a last revelation, which only an author from the dead could adequately tell.”27
Near-death experiences (NDEs) are not a new phenomenon. People throughout the ages have experienced them, but documented occurrences have increased dramatically since we have become much better at resuscitating the clinically dead. Based on Gallup polling done in the Eighties and a German study in 1999, approximately 4.2 percent of the population will report having an NDE28. Modern, popular awareness of NDEs began onlyrecently with the 1975 publication of Life after Life by Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D.
27Herman Melville, Moby Dick Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1851. 530.
28 Van Lommel, Pim. Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience. New York: HarperOne, 2011. 9.
We can find many references to NDEs in both the near and distant past. It is easy to find references to the idea that consciousness can live on past the death of the body. For example, the Roman poet Ovid wrote in Metamorphoses:
“Then, death, so call’d, is but old matter dress’d In some new figure, and a vary’d vest:
Thus all things are but alter’d, nothing dies;
And here, and there the’ unbody’d spirit flies” (CBL 83).
In ancient India, it was said,
“Coming and going is all pure delusion; the soul never comes nor goes. Where is the place to which it shall go when all space is in the soul? When shall be the time for the entering and departing when all time is in the soul?” (CBL 83).
NDE as Benign Virus
Extensive research has shown that near-death experiences have classic, universal elements and that near-death experiencers are usually profoundly and positively transformed as a result. Research also shows that parallel positive effects can occur in people just by reading about NDEs. As Dr. Kenneth Ring (professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut) put it:
“In general, then the overall pattern of our data here gives us a strong suggestion that merely acquiring knowledge about NDEs can act like a ‘benign virus’; that is, by exposing yourself to NDE-related information, you can ‘catch it,’ because the NDE appears to be contagious” (LL 203).
Although much of the following experiencer testimony will be spiritual in nature, I want to assure you that I have no religious agenda. The NDE material resonates with me because of my parallel OBEs (out-of-body experiences) and not because of any religious orientation.
One consistent research finding is that experiencers become more spiritual but significantly less identified with formal, institutional religion after their NDEs. Eight years after their NDEs, the church attendance of experiencers decreased by 42%, but a control group of people, who had cardiac arrest but no NDE, increased their church attendance by 25%. (CBL 68)
A woman in her forties who was raised in the South describes the change in her religious orientation:
“I was brought up in the Bible Belt, and when I was a child, I was very religious… I mean, I was taught certain things and I believed them as a child and adhered to them… just out of rote. But after this [her NDE], it made me less religious formally but probably more religious inwardly… I don’t think I was in a church one time since [my NDE], but I think I’m spiritually stronger than I ever was before” (HTO 154).
Another woman, a Baptist living in Texas, found that after her NDE, “she could no longer relate to what she describes as ‘traditional Christian dogma’” (LL 45).
A Simulated NDE
Before we delve into the ways people are transformed by NDEs, I would like to put this in context by offering a brief simulation of a classic NDE. NDEs usually involve a well-defined series of classic stages, though as Raymond Moody points out in Life after Life, no two experiences are identical. What follows will be a hypothetical composite version of an NDE containing all the classic elements and closely based on actual accounts. I am going to present it in the second person singular to help readers to visualize the experience:
After suffering a life-threatening injury or other sort of medical emergency, you find that suddenly all physical pain is gone, and you are feeling a deep sense of peace and well-being. There is a whistling, almost wind-like sound. You feel delightfully weightless, and below, you see an injured body that looks just like you. You realize that you are seeing your former body in a lifeless state. The realization is not upsetting because you also realize that you are very much alive and aware. Around your former body, there are frantic medical personnel, and you wonder what all the fuss and anxiety is about since you are perfectly fine. You can hear every spoken word and sense people’s thoughts and feelings. Your vision is panoramic and spherical, and you see everything with dazzling clarity. You can count the dust particles on the top of the surgical lights and see every tiny crack in the floor.
You lose interest in this scene and find yourself rising above it, ascending above the roof of the hospital, where you notice an old sneaker lying on a window ledge.
You are delighted to find that you can fly and just by thinking of a place, you can journey there. Above the Earth, you find you are drawn toward a dark space, and as you approach, it seems to form into a spiraling tunnel. You find yourself being drawn rapidly through the tunnel at a speed that feels like it must be faster than the speed of light. Ahead of you is the most brilliant light, brighter than the sun, and yet it doesn’t hurt your eyes. It baths you in warmth, love, and complete acceptance. You hear glorious music, and it feels like a homecoming. You are coming back to where you were always from.
An androgynous entity steps out of the light, and you feel a deep sense of familiarity with this being, that you have always known each other, and you feel completely seen, recognized, understood, and loved.
The being communicates with you telepathically and asks if you would like to review your life. You assent and begin to observe your entire life play out chronologically. You see every detail and so much more than you could see when the events played out. You are aware of the thoughts and feelings of everyone present, and sometimes it is quite difficult when you observe how every little action you have taken has had significant effects on others. The being of light comforts you during the review, and assures you that no one is judging your deeds but that it is of great value to witness them and learn from them. As you experience your life unfolding, you see how so much of what you thought was important at the time was a sham and a sideshow. You find that many small moments of compassion, a kind gesture to a stranger, for example, were of far greater significance. You become aware of a depth of meaning in even the smallest moments and become aware of the reasons for everything. There was a great purpose in your life you had never recognized before.
After the review, you find yourself in a beautiful field of wild flowers with a guide. Some of the flowers have colors you’ve never seen before and are lit from within. There is a stream running through the field, and you are told that you have a choice: if you go across the stream, you will be able to stay in this beautiful world that feels like home but will also miss out on many years you could have had in your former life. You don’t want to leave this place of peace and love, but you also feel a deep responsibility to those you left behind. You indicate your choice to return and find yourself hurtling back through the tunnel and into your wounded body and its painful sensations. Despite the confinement of the body, you feel a deepened sense of purpose in life, a deeper appreciation of the meaningfulness of life, and a will to fulfill your mission.
The Pamela Reynolds Case:
Since the above is a simulated case, let’s take a detailed look at a particularly well-evidenced actual case. Pamela Reynolds, aged thirty-five, a working mother of three, received a grim diagnosis following a CAT scan in 1991. She had a giant aneurysm in a cerebral artery close to her brain stem. It was only a matter of time before the aneurysm burst with an immediately fatal outcome. There was no conventional way to operate on an aneurysm so deep in the brain. Pamela’s one slight chance for survival was a high-risk surgery that could only be performed at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, two thousand miles from her hometown of Atlanta.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler was the pioneer of a high-risk and daring surgical procedure known as “hypothermic cardiac arrest,” or less formally as “standstill.” Pamela’s body temperature would be lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing would be arrested, and all blood would be drained from her head. She would be flatlined, in a state that would be consistent with all clinical definitions of death. As Doctor Spetzler explained to the BBC, “What we want to do is we want to bring that brain to a halt. We don’t just want the brain to be asleep. We want the metabolism of the brain to stop. Every measurable output that the body puts out disappears completely, so you have no neuronal activity whatsoever.”
As cardiologist Michael Sabom, M.D. put it: “During ‘standstill,’ Pam’s brain was found ‘dead’ by all three clinical tests — her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain.”
What is also exceptional about this case is that Pamela, who was being worked on by a number of medical teams, was heavily instrumented and under continual state-of-the-art monitoring, including EEGs of both her cerebral cortex and brain stem. No brain activity was measured even though her brain stem was being tested via “evoked potentials” in the form of 100-decibel clicks emitted continuously by small molded speakers inserted in her ears.
Despite the lack of brain activity, Pamela had a detailed NDE. Here are some excerpts from her testimony to the BBC and another account recorded by Dr. Sabom:
“I remember seeing several things in the operating room when I was looking down. It was the most aware that I think that I have ever been in my entire life… I was metaphorically sitting on Dr. Spetzler’s shoulder. It was not like normal vision . . . There was so much in the operating roomI didn’t recognize and so many people.
“I thought the way they had my head shaved was very peculiar. I expected them to take all of the hair, but they did not. […] I heard the term “saw,” but what I saw looked more like a drill than a saw.
“The saw thing that I hated the sound of looked like an electric toothbrush, and it had a dent in it, a groove at the top where the saw appeared to go into the handle, but it didn’t… And the saw had interchangeable blades, too, but these blades were in what looked like a socket wrench case… I heard the saw crank up… It was humming at a relatively high pitch, and then all of a sudden it went Brrrrrrrrr! like that.”
Pamela provides a highly accurate layman’s description of the pneumatically-powered Midas Rex whirlwind bone saw, which was spinning at 73,000 rpm and did indeed look more like an electric toothbrush or dentist’s drill than a conventional saw. The box of drill bits looked exactly like a socket wrench case. Yet her eyes had been lubricated and were taped shut, and she had been under general anesthesia for 90 minutes before the procedure.
“Someone said something about my veins and arteries being very small . . . I distinctly remember a female voice saying: ‘We have a problem. Her arteries are too small.’ And then a male voice: ‘Try the other side.’ It seemed to come from further down on the table. I do remember wondering what are they doing there [laughs] because this is brain surgery!”
While the bone saw was opening Pamela’s head, a female cardiac surgeon had located the femoral artery and vein in the right side of Pamela’s groin. These blood vessels turned out to be too small because a large flow of blood would be needed to feed the cardiopulmonary bypass machine. Pamela’s left femoral artery and vein were prepped to be used instead.
As the surgery progressed, Pamela was brought into cardiac arrest, and her core body temperature was 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 Celsius). The 100-decibel clicks from the ear speakers elicited no response, and both EEGs were completely flat. At that point came one of the most radical medical procedures ever performed. The cardiopulmonary bypass machine was shut off, the head of the operating table was tilted up, and the blood was drained from Pamela’s brain and body like the oil from a car.
At some point during this time, Pamela’s NDE intensified. As Pamela narrates,
“I felt a presence. I sort of turned around to look at it. And that’s when I saw the very tiny pinpoint of light. And the light started to pull me, but not against my will. I was going of my own accord because I wanted to go. And there was a physical sensation to the point . . . rather like going over a hill real fast. It was like the Wizard of Oz — being taken up in a tornado vortex, only you’re not spinning around. The feeling was like going up in an elevator real fast. It was like a tunnel, but it wasn’t a tunnel. And I went toward the light. The closer I got to the light, I began to discern different figures, different people, and I distinctly heard my grandmother calling me. She has a very distinct voice. But I didn’t hear her call me with my ears… It was a clearer hearing than with my ears… I trust that sense more than I trust my ears… The feeling was that she wanted me to come to her, so I continued with no fear down the shaft. It’s a dark shaft that I went through, and at the very end, there was this very little tiny pinpoint of light that kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
“The light was incredibly bright, like sitting in the middle of a lightbulb. I noticed that as I began to discern different figures in the light — and they were all covered with light, they were light, and had light permeating all around them — and they began to form shapes I could recognize and understand. And I saw many, many people I knew and many, many I didn’t know, but I knew that I was somehow connected to them. And it felt… great! Everyone I saw, looking back on it, fit perfectly into my understanding of what that person looked like at their best during their lives.
“I recognized a lot of people. And one of them was my grandmother. And I saw my uncle Gene, who passed away when he was only thirty-nine years old. He taught me a lot; he taught me to play my first guitar. So was my great-great aunt Maggie. On Papa’s side of the family, my grandfather was there… They were specifically taking care of me, looking after me.
“They would not permit me to go further . . . It was communicated to me — that’s the best way I know how to say it, because they didn’t speak like I’m speaking — that if I went all the way into the light something would happen to me physically. They would be unable to put this me back into the body me, like I had gone too far and they couldn’t reconnect. So they wouldn’t let me go anywhere or do anything.
“I wanted to go into the light, but I also wanted to come back. I had children to be reared…
“Then they [the deceased relatives] were feeding me. They were not doing this through my mouth, like with food, but they were nourishing me with something — the only way I know how to put it is something sparkly. Sparkles is the image that I get. I definitely recall the sensation of being nurtured and being fed and being made strong.
“I asked if God was the light, and the answer was: ‘No, God is not the light, the light is what happens when God breathes.’ And I distinctly remember thinking: I’m standing in the breath of God…
“At some point in time, I was reminded that it was time to go back. Of course, I had made my decision to go back before I ever laid down on that table. But, you know, the more I was there, the better I liked it [laughs]. My grandmother didn’t take me back through the tunnel or even send me back or ask me to go. She just looked up at me. I expected to go with her, but it was communicated to me that she just didn’t think she would do that. My uncle said that he would do it. He’s the one who took me back through the end of the tunnel. Everything was fine. I did want to go.
“But then when I got to the end of it and saw the thing, my body, I didn’t want to get into it . . . It looked terrible, like a train wreck . . . It looked pretty much like what it was: void of life. I believe it was covered. It scared me, and I didn’t want to look at it. And I knew it would hurt, so I didn’t want to get in. But he kept reasoning with me. He says: ‘Like diving into a swimming pool, just jump in.’ No. ‘What about the children?’ You know what, the children will be fine [laughs]. And he goes: ‘Honey, you got to go.’… I didn’t want to, but I guess I was late or something because he pushed me… he gave me a little help there. It’s taken a long time, but I think I’m ready to forgive him for that [laughs]… I felt a definite repelling and at the same time a pulling from the body. The body was pulling, and the tunnel was pushing… I felt it chill me inside. I returned to my body. It was like diving into a pool of ice water… It hurt!”
The coldness that Pamela experienced was probably her perception of her chilled body, which was in a state of deep hypothermia. Pamela continues:
“When I came back, and I was still under general anesthesia in the operating theater, they were playing ‘Hotel California,’ and the line was ‘You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.’ I mentioned [later] to Dr. Brown that that was incredibly insensitive, and he told me that I needed to sleep more [laughter]. When I regained consciousness, I was still on the respirator.”
Pamela concludes: “I think death is an illusion. I think death is a really nasty bad lie.”
Neurosurgeon Spetzler observes about Pam’s NDE:
“I don’t think that the observations that she made were based on what she experienced as she went into the operating theater. They were just not available to her. For example, the drill and so on, those things are all covered up. They aren’t visible, they were inside their packages. You really don’t begin to open up until the patient is completely asleep so that you maintain a sterile environment… At that stage in the operation, nobody can observe, hear in that state. And… I find it inconceivable that the normal senses, such as hearing, let alone the fact that she had clicking devices in each ear, that there was any way for her to hear those through normal auditory pathways.”29
Life Lessons from the Living Dead
The lessons that people derive from their NDEs have a high consistency. They reflect how values change or are deepened after encountering the Singularity Archetype. The multilayered connections between NDE and the Singularity Archetype, however, will become much more–
29 All accounts of Pamela’s NDE are taken from the following three sources: Pim Van Lommel’s Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience; Dr. Michael Sabom’s Light and Death: One Doctor’s Fascinating Account of Near Death Experiences; The BBC Documentary, The Day I Died.
-apparent later. Dr. Ring enumerates the value shifts and realizations that occur to experiencers as follows:
- There is nothing whatever to fear about death.
- Dying is peaceful and beautiful.
- Life does not begin with birth nor end with death.
- Life is precious — live it to the fullest.
- The body and its senses are tremendous gifts — appreciate them.
- What matters most in life is love.
- Living a life oriented toward materialistic acquisition is missing the point.
- Cooperation rather than competition makes for a better world.
- Being a success in life is not all it is cracked up to be.
- Seeking knowledge is important — you take that with you. (LL 19)
It is common to find that all ten of these points will come up in the testimony of an experiencer regardless of what culture or religious orientation (if any) they come from. For example, a young man named Neev summarizes what he learned from his NDE:
“My outlook on life was no longer bleak and dismal. I felt like I now had a purpose, which was to help people and share my positive perspective. My dependence on time seemed to stop. I no longer felt pressured by the clock — there was always time to do something else or more. I tried to fit in as much as possible into every day. I experienced everything for what it was — not for what it could do or give to me. I was no longer interested in what “society” had to say about how I lived my life. I was no longer interested in what people thought or how they felt about me, or if I looked good or not. I learned that I am much more than my body” (LL 24).
The above is just an excerpt from Neev’s extensive account of his experience. Summarizing the major points of Neev’s outlook, Dr. Ring provides a list with many parallels to the universal list quoted above:
- There is a reason for everything that happens.
- Find your own purpose in life.
- Do not be a slave to time.
- Appreciate things for what they are — not for what they can give you.
- Do not allow yourself to be dominated by the thoughts and expectations of others.
- Do not be concerned with what others think of you, either.
- Remember, you are not your body.
- Fear not — even pain and certainly not death.
- Be open to life, and live it to its fullest.
- Money and material things are not particularly important in the scheme of things.
- Helping others is what counts in life.
- Do not trouble yourself with competition — just enjoy the show. (LL 26)
NDE as Encounter with the Singularity Archetype
Most NDEs seem to create metamorphosis in the experiencer in ways that are consistent with an encounter with the Singularity Archetype. As we’ll discuss in depth later, parapsychological elements of the experience often catalyze long-term manifestations of paranormal abilities in the experiencer. An “end of time” and rupture-of-plane singularity is experienced, transforming all core values. The baseline ego is shattered and transformed by the experience.
The NDE usually causes profound, lasting spiritual and psychological evolution for the experiencer. According to a prospective study reported in the prestigious medical journal Lancet, these effects only intensify over time. (CBL 66-68) A control group that experienced cardiac arrest but no NDE had dramatically different outcomes and did not, as a group, exhibit this metamorphosis. The research on NDEs, and especially on the long-term changes they produce, gives us the best-documented evidence of what effects an encounter with the Singularity Archetype has on the human psyche. Before we analyze these effects, I would like to present some first-hand testimony from the experiencers on what they learned from their encounters and how they were transformed by them.
One reason for alternating analysis with some of the raw material is that it provides, in document form, an encounter with the Singularity Archetype for the reader. Reading may seem abstract compared to some of the more overwhelming ways some people have encountered the Singularity Archetype. We should not, however, underestimate the power of such second and third-hand encounters. Since archetypes live inside of us, we are not merely importing information from the outside. Words may create inner resonance and evoke recognition and awareness lying just below the surface of our personalities.
Scientific Studies of NDE Metamorphosis
The testimonies of experiencers imply how they have been changed by crossing the event horizon, but these changes have also been studied with scientific methodology. However, most studies of near-death experiencers have been retrospective.
Dr. van Lommel’s study deserves some preeminence because he and his colleagues did the first large-scale study to use prospective methodology. His study group was comprised of all individuals in ten Dutch hospitals who experienced cardiac arrest between 1988-1992. This group was divided into those who survived cardiac arrest but had no NDE (the control group) and those who had NDEs. A longitudinal study was conducted with follow-up interviews at two and eight years after cardiac arrest. What follows will be a brief tour of some of the study results and other studies that van Lommel summarizes and analyzes. Those interested in the details of how the study was conducted and all the findings should read Dr. van Lommel’s book, Consciousness Beyond Life, or at least the findings published in Lancet. We will also be looking at studies by Dr. Ring and some of his general analyses.
Homo gestalt and the NDE
Many of the findings are consistent with what we would expect from an encounter with the Singularity Archetype: isolated, egoistic consciousness gives way to a Homo gestalt-like sense of unity and connectedness to others. Dr. van Lommel summarizes:
“The new found insight […] pertains to insight into connectedness: everything and everybody is connected. Because of this sense of connectedness, some people describe the NDE as an experience of unity” (CBL 46).
The sense of unity with others is more than a philosophical notion. It is a profound I-Thou empathy that lessens the boundary of subject/object and will often have parapsychological aspects. Neev, the young male experiencer, comments:
“These instincts also allow me to empathize with almost anyone. I feel that when I talk to people, I can physically and emotionally feel what they are going through at that time. It is as if I become them for an instant. […] The gift of insight allows me to help many people with their problems, but sometimes [it] gets to the point where there are so many that I lose myself in other people” (LL 25).
This greater sense of unity with others is combined with a more robust form of individuality. Dr. van Lommel points out that “people become less dependent on the approval of others” (CBL 52). Deep spiritual changes occur, and “people’s religious sentiment increases after an NDE while their interest in organized religion declines sharply” (CBL 56). “By contrast, cardiac survivors without an NDE display a marked decline in interest in spirituality” (CBL 58).
Paradoxically, at the same time that their sense of unity with others becomes exponentially greater, there is also a great strengthening of individuality and what Jung called “individuation.” The NDE, consistent with an encounter with the Singularity Archetype, explodes the conditioned, false personality and allows the experiencer to return to his or her essence.
Barbara, a middle-class mother of three from the Midwest, was the sort of woman who “before her NDE lived to please others” (HTO 104). Her experience triggered a process of individuation. As Barbara describes it:
“That experience made me whole, and that experience wiped away all the scars that I collected, and that experience gave me all the tools to struggle through these seven years and get to the feeling now that I’m always here. You know, it took me a long time to recapture that person because everybody around me, I felt, was restricting me from becoming that person because of who they were. So the experience itself gave me the spirituality that I need and the tools that I needed to be who I am now.” (HTO 108).
Dr. Ring’s study found that while experiencers “may feel a greater sense of self-worth following their experience, that change is not typically accompanied by an increase in self-inflation. Indeed, in my experience, NDErs do not tend to regard themselves as anyone special.” As evidence, Dr. Ring points out that experiencers responding to his questionnaire showed a decline in the valuation of making a good impression, desiring to become well-known, and concern about what others think of them.
Self vs. False Ego
In Jungian terms, we could say that their connection to the Self has been strengthened while the domination of false ego concerns has been dramatically lessened. This is exactly what we should expect from a successful encounter with the Singularity Archetype. As we’ll discuss in depth later, a central meaning of apocalypse is the encounter of the false ego with the Self. This is the central premise of leading Jungian analyst Edward Edinger’s study of the Book of Revelation, Archetype of the Apocalypse.
I want to make a clear distinction between “ego” and “false ego.” Although the ego is villainized in some New Age and Eastern circles, it is actually a crucial psychic function. What gets destroyed by many NDEs and other transcendent experiences is not the ego, but certain aspects of the false ego, which is sometimes referred to as the “false self” or “conditioned self.” Dr. Ring describes this transformation:
“I have talked about this authentic or true self as something that is the Light’s function to disclose to the individual. How does it do that? The answer is, often by first showing the NDEr his or her false or socially conditioned self. In some cases, the mechanism by which this is effected is the life review . . .
“In other instances, however, the NDEr is given a direct perception into the nature of the false self and is thereby allowed intuitively to understand that the person one has identified with and habitually thought of as one’s essential self was nothing more than a fiction” (LL 51).
Peggy describes this exact realization and transformative separation from the false self:
“[At one point] my consciousness must have pulled away from my body because I suddenly observed it from a short distance as it sobbed. I was completely unemotional as I observed my body. As I watched, I saw some shiny, clear object lift away from my body. It was obvious to me it was my ego. The moment my ego started lifting, my consciousness went back into my body and I felt distress, thinking, ‘It’s my ego, it’s my ego!’ not wanting it to leave me. I felt like I had to have it or I wouldn’t be alive. It pulled away from me anyway, and in it I saw all the things that I had done wrong in my life. I was stunned because I thought all that was part of me and simply couldn’t be separated from me. I can’t tell you how happy I was when it dawned on me that ‘that was never me.’ That identity was never the real me.
“I began to realize I was okay without it and was, in fact, better off. It was sort of like taking a dusty, old, clogged-up, used filter off an air-conditioner vent and letting the air go through unhindered. Only, in this case, it was pure, undiluted love going through me. I decide to relax and let the light pour all this magnificent energy into me. […] If there is such a thing as ‘restoring a soul,’ then that’s exactly what happened to me” (LL 52).
You can see from Peggy’s testimony why the ego fears confrontation with the Singularity Archetype and views it as apocalypse. For the false self, the Singularity is experienced as a catastrophic shock leading to extinction. However, from the larger vantage of the Self, the same shock is the catalyst preceding rebirth, a transcendent evolutionary event.
The NDE clears out the false self and provides room for the development of an authentic self that is more compassionate and concerned about the collective welfare. Dr. Ring describes the transformation: “Egocentric agendas diminish, and concern for the good of the collective increases. 80% of experiencers report an increase in concern for the planetary welfare (OP 181). As one experiencer put it, being of service to others is ‘more real than this world’” (LL 125).
NDE as Living Archetype
Studies by Dr. Ring and Dr. van Lommel indicate that the power of NDEs seems to increase for experiencers as the years pass. In the following conclusion from Dr. Ring, we hear a description that exactly matches what we should expect from an encounter with an archetype that continues to live inside of an experiencer:
“Thus we see that it appears not merely that core experiencers have an overpowering experience of the energy of the light but also that the light projects its energy into them and fills them with its love. It’s for this reason that the core experience — and NDEs in general — can never remain, as I have already said, simply ‘a beautiful memory.’ It is an experience that continues to pulsate within and, when the circumstances are right, to shine without afterward.” (HTO 89).
NDE and Intimations of a Transcendent Evolutionary Event
In the closest connection to the Singularity Archetype, Dr. Ring finds that experiencers agree that “these experiences reflect a purposive intelligence and that they are part of an accelerating evolutionary current that is propelling the human race toward higher consciousness and heightened spirituality” (OP 190).
The future evolutionary aspects of the Singularity Archetype, like Logos Beheld visual/telepathic communication, are not just notions that occur to experiencers. In many cases, they encounter them as actualities. NDEs often involve paranormal vision and telepathic/visual communication.
NDE and Parapsychological Metamorphosis
After their NDEs, experiencers often undergo a parapsychological metamorphosis with an array of reported effects. Dr. Ring summarizes the transformation:
“Although a number of recent investigations have confirmed this, it has been known for some time that having an NDE seems to accelerate the development of a whole range of psychic sensitivities. It has been found, for example, that following an NDE, there is a marked increase in reports of the incidence of such paranormal phenomena as telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. In addition, NDErs claim to have more instances of spontaneous OBEs and unusual perceptions, such as seeing energy fields (or “auras”) around the bodies of others” (LL 128).
Dr. van Lommel adds, “Without really wanting to, many NDErs feel inundated with information from or via another dimension” (CBL 60).
The parapsychological changes are often threatening to the experiencer’s pre-NDE sense of self-identity: “All of a sudden these people have a very acute sense of the emotions of others. Heightened intuition can cause major problems. Clairvoyance, enhanced sensitivity, and precognition can feel extremely threatening” (CBL 60).
In general, “NDErs often experience enhanced intuitive sensitivity, such as clairvoyance, clairsentience, clairaudience, or prognostic dreams about events that have yet to take place, as we have seen. The NDE seems to permanently enhance their reception capacity” (CBL 319). Dr. van Lommel substantiates his findings with the following table:
|Experience||Before NDE||After NDE||General Population|
|Clairvoyance||38 %||71 %||38 %|
|Telepathy||42 %||86 %||58 %|
|Precognition||49 %||86 %||NA|
|Déjà vu||73 %||85 %||NA|
|Enhanced Intuition||54 %||92 %||NA|
|Dream Awareness||44 %||79 %||42 %|
|OBE||8 %||49 %||14 %|
|Spirits||22 %||65 %||27 %|
|Healing ability||8 %||65 %||NA|
|Perception of auras||13 %||47 %||5 %|
|Psychic phenomena||55 %||98 %||39 % (Sweden)|
Paranormal Vision, Especially Autoscopic
One of the most universal elements of NDEs is paranormal vision. Experiencers typically report that their senses, especially vision, develop a dazzling acuity once they leave their bodies. Panoramic, 360-degree, and even spherical vision are often reported. Even more remarkable, as we will examine later, experiencers who have been blind since birth will report highly visual experiences.
Craig, one of Dr. Ring’s students who is in his late twenties, describes the intensification of sensory acuity he experienced during an NDE that occurred when he was eighteen. The NDE involved a rafting accident in which he nearly drowned. Craig’s visual acuity included infinite depth of field, an optical impossibility with conventional vision:
“I was shocked to find that I was floating upwards into the open air above the river. I remember vividly the scene of the water level passing before my eyes. Suddenly I could see and hear as never before. The sound of the waterfall was so crisp and clear that it just can not be explained by words. Earlier that year, my right ear had been injured when somebody threw an M-80 into a bar where I was listening to a band, and it exploded right next to my head. But now I could hear perfectly clearly, better than I ever had before. My sight was even more beautiful. Sights that were close in distance were as clear as those far away, and this was at the same moment, which astounded me. There was no blurriness in my vision whatsoever. I felt as if I had been limited by my physical senses all these years, and that I had been looking at a distorted picture of reality” (LL 15-16).
An audiologist who is extremely myopic, wears thick glasses, and describes himself as blind as a bat six inches from his nose, describes an NDE that happened to him in a Japanese hospital during the Korean War:
“I sensed something turning sour in my system and literally yelled in my mind, ‘Hey guys, you’re losing me!’ [Then] I just floated upward to the top of the canvas tent and looked down at the scene. (Here is where I emphasize the word look [he says].) In finite detail, I saw the dust on the supposedly clean and sterile OR lights, someone just outside smoking a cigarette, the near-panic of the medical staff, and the expression of the big, black Air Force corpsman who was called to come in to forklift me in his arms to get me on my back. He had a clearly discernible scar on the top of his closely cropped head, in the form of a small cross. He was the only one not wearing a face mask, having been summoned on the spur of the moment” (LL 61).
A Canadian anthropologist, in a letter to Dr. Ring, describes the extraordinary vision she experienced:
“I was hovering over a stretcher in one of the emergency rooms at the hospital. I glanced down at the stretcher, knew the body wrapped in blankets was mine, and really didn’t care. The room was much more interesting than my body. And what a neat perspective. I could see everything. And I do mean everything! I could see the top of the light on the ceiling, and the underside of the stretcher. I could see the tiles on the ceiling and the tiles on the floor, simultaneously: three hundred degree spherical vision. And not just spherical. Detailed! I could see every single hair and the follicle out of which it grew on the head of the nurse standing beside the stretcher. At the time, I knew exactly how many hairs there were to look at. But I shifted focus. She was wearing glittery white nylons. Every single shimmer and sheen stood out in glowing detail, and once again, I knew exactly how many sparkles there were” (LL 62-63).
Perceiving Unknown Colors
Another classic element of NDEs is the perception of uncannily intense or previously unknown colors. Typically these perceptions occur when the experiencer has crossed through the tunnel and gotten to the other side. For example, Howard Storm, an atheistic art professor prior to his NDE, observes:
“We traversed an enormous distance, although very little time seemed to elapse. Then, off in the distance, I saw a vast area of illumination that looked like a galaxy. In the center, there was an enormously bright concentration. Outside the center, countless millions of spheres of light were flying about, entering and leaving what was a great Beingness at the center.
“The radiance emanating from the luminous spheres contained exquisite colors of a range and intensity that far exceeded anything I as an artist had ever experienced. It was similar to looking at the opalescence one experiences looking into a white pearl or the brilliance of a diamond” (LL 292).
Joseph, a forty-six-year-old author, publisher, and businessman: “At first I became aware of beautiful colors which were all the colors of the rainbow. They were magnified in crystalized light and beamed with a brilliance in every direction. It was as if all this light was coming at me through a prism made by a most beautiful and purified diamond, and yet at the same time it was as if I were the center” (HTO 64).
Stella, a forty-one-year-old woman whose NDE was caused my massive hemorrhaging following surgery:
“The flowers and the flower buds by that street — the intensity, the vibrant colors, like pebbles that have been polished in a running stream, but they were all like precious stones, rubies and diamonds and sapphires” (HTO 73).
Mindsight to the Blind
Even more remarkable are highly visual NDEs that happen to people who have been blind since birth. The pioneering work in this field has been done by Drs. Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper, and is available in their book, Mindsight — Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind. One of the most interesting cases in Mindsight is Vicki Umipeg, a forty-three-year-old woman who lives in the state of Washington.
“Vicki was born very premature at twenty-two weeks and the optic nerves to both of her eyes were destroyed while she was still in the incubator. Until her NDE, she never had any sort of visual experience. When asked by an interviewer if she could see anything she replied: ‘Nothing, never. No light, no shadows, no nothing, ever… I’ve never been able to understand even the concept of light’” (14).
Vicki’s classic NDE involved many visual elements. She had the typical autoscopic experience of seeing her own body from the POV of the ceiling. Initially, she didn’t recognize herself because she had never seen her body before. She felt herself ascend above the roof of the hospital and got a panoramic view of her surroundings. She emerged from a tunnel to find herself lying on grass in a place filled with light. Dr. Ring describes her account:
“She was surrounded by trees and flowers and a vast number of people. She was in a place of tremendous light, and the light, Vicki said, was something you could feel as well as see. Even the people she saw were bright” (16).
In Vicki’s own words:
“Everybody there was made of light. And I was made of light. What the light conveyed was love. There was love everywhere. It was like love came from the grass, love came from the birds, love came from the trees” (26).
Vicki, who had two NDEs, both of them involving vision, tells us that, “Those two experiences were the only time I could ever relate to seeing and to what light was, because I experienced it” (26).
Vicki describes what it was like to see for the first time:
“I was shocked. I was totally in awe. I mean, I can’t even describe it because I thought, ‘So that’s what it’s like!’ But then I thought, ‘Well, it’s even better […] than what I could have imagined” (26).
The experience was so novel that it was disorienting and hard to cope with:
“I had a hard time relating to it [i.e., seeing]. I had a real difficult time relating to it because I’ve never experienced it. And it was something very foreign to me… Let’s see how can I put it into words? It was like hearing words and not being able to understand them, but knowing that they were words. And before you’d never heard anything. But it was something new, something you’d not been able to previously attach any meaning to.” (27).
Not only do some blind people report visual NDEs, they also report many of the same visual anomalies reported by sighted experiencers. As we’ve heard before, novel and unusually brilliant colors, often in the form of flowers, are classic aspects of descriptions of the other side. Joyce, a woman blind since birth, describes the flowers she encountered this way: “The only thing that I can remember about the flowers is that they were, like, larger than normal, softer than normal. I don’t know how I know this, but more brilliant — the colors [more] magnified than they would be on Earth” (LL 52-53).
Another interesting case is that of a woman Dr. Ring refers to as “Debbie,” who lost her sight at birth but still has some light perception, allowing her to distinguish light from dark without any detail, color, or distance vision. For example, she might be able to perceive if a person were standing right in front of her but could not tell visually if it was a person. She also describes the unusual colors encountered in her NDE:
“I saw, like in stereo, colors that were indescribable, colors that we don’t have words for” (MS 53).
Debbie was also able to see some of her relatives whom she had never been able to see before. The descriptions were later confirmed. In an interesting exchange with an interviewer, Debbie describes what it was like to see for the first time:
Interviewer: Was this the first time that you recall having sight?
Interviewer: Did that surprise you?
Debbie: Yeah, I didn’t want to be back in this little body because I wouldn’t be able to see in it.
Interviewer: Was there a period you needed to adjust visually, or was it immediate that you knew what was going on?
Debbie: It was immediate. I knew it was, I was my soul. I knew. (MS 54)
Drs. Ring and Cooper summarize their findings:
“Overall, 80% of our respondents reported these claims, most of them in the language of unhesitating declaration, even when they may have been surprised, or even stunned, by the unexpected discovery that they could in fact see. Like sighted experiencers, our blind respondents described to us both perceptions of this world as well as other-worldly scenes, often in fulsome, fine-grained detail, and sometimes with a sense of extremely sharp, even subjectively perfect, acuity.”
However, Drs. Ring and Cooper are careful to point out that we cannot assume that what the blind perceive in these experiences is analogous to retinal vision. It is clearly some form of perception, and many experiencers report verifiable visual details, but it is not necessarily identical to the visual perception of the sighted.
That NDEs can bring mindsight to the blind is a powerful example of the enhanced visual perception that so often comes with crossing the evolutionary event horizon associated with the Singularity Archetype.
NDEs and Logos Beheld Telepathic Communication
As I’ve mentioned before, some NDEs individually actualize the collective evolutionary potential forecast by the Singularity Archetype. One of the most striking actualizations is logos-beheld telepathic communication and consciousness. The guiding entity or entities that experiencers encounter is almost universally described as communicating telepathically. As Dr. van Lommel puts it:
“People always report direct communication with this being, as if it reads their mind and responds through the mind” (CBL 33-34).
This type of communication, which is especially striking during the life review, often dissolves egoism and the boundary between subject and object. Many experiencers report how superior this form of communication seems compared to ordinary verbal communication.
Tom, a thirty-three-year-old man whose chest was crushed when a truck he was working on fell off its supports:
“Then the light immediately communicates to you . . . This communication is what you might call telepathic. It’s absolutely instant, absolutely clear. It wouldn’t even matter if a different language was being spoken . . . whatever you thought and attempted to speak, it would be instant and absolutely clear. There would never be a doubtful statement made.” (HTO 58).
Janis, a forty-one-year-old woman who nearly died in an automobile accident and was comatose for a long time:
“When I communicated […] with the light, there wasn’t a transfer of words. I mean, no words were spoken. It’s like thinking a thought and having them know it and answer it immediately. I mean, it’s transference of thoughts. It was instantaneous” (HTO 60).
Dr. Ring describes the testimony of a five-year-old experiencer named Mark, who related his experience before the publication of Raymond Moody’s Life After Life, before the term “near-death experience” had even been coined:
“‘You know I died . . . It was really, really dark, daddy, and then it was really, really bright. And I ran and ran, and it didn’t hurt anymore . . . Oh, daddy, I was running up there [pointing upward].’ And he said he didn’t hurt anymore, and the man talked to him. And his dad said, ‘What kind of words did he say?’ And Mark said, ‘He didn’t talk like this [pointing to his mouth], he talked like this [pointing to his head]’”
Logos-Beheld Life Review
The life review is often described as a visually beheld revelation comparable to movies. A young man who nearly drowned in a boating accident narrates his experience of the life review:
“It was amazing. I could see in the back of my head an array, just an innumerable array of thoughts, memories, things I had dreamt, just in general thoughts and recollections of the past, just raced in front of me, in less than thirty seconds. All these things about my mother and grandmother and my brothers and these dreams I’ve had. I felt like this frame, millions of frames, just flashed through. It was thoughts and images of people. And a lot of thoughts just raced [snaps his fingers several times] in split seconds. I had my eyes closed underwater, but I could still see those images…’” (LL 145).
A man who miraculously survived a skydiving accident in which his parachute failed to open at 3,500 feet makes some parallel observations:
“It’s like a picture runs in front of your eyes, like from the time you can remember up to the time, you know, what was happening [that is, the present moment] . . . It seems like pictures of your life just flow in front of your eyes, the things you used to do when you were small and stuff: stupid things . . . It was like a picture, it was like a movie camera running across your eyes. In a matter of a second or two. Just boom, boom [snaps his fingers]. It was clear as day, clear as day. It was very fast and you could see everything” (LL 146).
The life reviews, however, are not merely cinematic but typically involve logos-beheld revelations of deeper meanings. Vision will typically include perspectives of both participant and observer, and the vision is not merely optical but comes with telepathic/empathic overlays of what people are feeling and thinking. For example, Dr. Ring discusses a woman who “said she beheld her life in an array of ‘tiny points of light and patterns of light’” (LL 152). He also points out that highly visual life reviews are not passive but interactive:
“But you should not think that this process is purely mechanical, with the images flashing by at an unvarying rate of incredible speed. On the contrary, what NDErs say is that they can, as a matter of will, slow down these images and even dilate them so as to reach a deeper understanding of their significance. […] One woman — one who had reviewed her life in an array of bubbles—told me: ‘Whenever I wanted to, I could sort of zoom in on different huge events in my life . . . ’” (LL 152-153).
The life review will often involve a dissolution of the ego’s sharp division of subject and object. Neev describes it this way:
“Like, if you were going to have a life review, and we were going to have a play of it, I would be in the play, but I’d also be watching the play from the audience. And I would feel all the emotions, pain and suffering of all the characters around me in the play. And I’d feel it as an actor in the play, and I’d experience it as the viewer of the play. So I’d have both perspectives.” (LL 155).
A woman experiencer in Raymond Moody’s The Light Beyond: “When I was there in that review there was no covering up. I was the very people that I hurt, and I was the very people I helped to feel good…” (LL 159).
Subject/Object Breakdown and Homo gestalt
The breakdown in subject/object, the dissolved boundaries, and telepathic communication can lead to a Homo-gestalt realization, a realization that our individual identities are integrated parts of a larger whole. Mellen-Thomas Benedict describes what the light showed him during his NDE:
“And at that time, the Light revealed itself to me on a level that I had never been to before. I can’t say it’s words; it was a telepathic understanding more than anything else, very vivid. I could feel it. I could feel this light. And the Light just reacted and revealed itself on another level, and the message was ‘Yes, [for] most people, depending on where you are coming from, it could be Jesus, it could be Buddha, it could be Krishna, whatever.’
“But I said, ‘But what is it really?’ And the Light then changed into — the only thing I can tell you [is that] it turned into a matrix, a mandala of human souls, and what I saw was that what we call our higher self in each of us is a matrix. It’s also a conduit to the source; each one of us comes directly, as a direct experience [from] the source. And it became very clear to me that all the higher selves are connected as one being, all humans are connected as one being, we are actually the same being, different aspects of the same being. And I saw this mandala of human souls. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen . . . ” (LL 287-288).
The boundary-dissolving effects of the NDE seem to expand consciousness on multiple levels. Egocentrism dissolves into a profound Homo-gestalt awareness of being part of a species and a living matrix. Another great boundary dissolution involves time, and the linear time boundaries of ordinary consciousness that wall off past and future. It seems that with the disassociation from the physical body, an organism that is so embedded in linear time, the experiencer is also able to disassociate from linear time. We have already discussed the life review that unlocks the past in infinite detail. Somewhat less common, but still a widely reported feature of NDEs, is the “personal flash forward” — a kind of memory of the future.
The Personal Flash Forward
An example of a personal flash forward that Dr. Ring documents involves a British man who had an NDE in 1941 when he was ten years old. While he was recovering from the appendicitis surgery that caused the NDE, “memories” of future events arose in his mind. In each case, when he reached the age associated with the memories, he found that he was living out the exact memories. For example, a future memory told him flatly, “You will be married at age twenty-eight.” This occurred, even though on his twenty-eighth birthday, he had not yet met his future wife. He also had a memory of a very specific scene wherein he is married, and two children are playing on the floor. There was a strange detail in this scene: “And I was also aware that behind the wall . . . there was something very strange that I did not understand at all.” The memory is not merely a picture of the event but a living occurrence. In the experiencer’s own words:
“I had a vivid memory of sitting in a chair, from which I could see two children playing on the floor in front of me. And I knew that I was married, although in this vision there was no indication of who it was that I was married to. Now, a married person knows what it’s like to be single, because he or she was once single, and he or she knows what it’s like to be married because he or she is married. But it is not possible for a single person to know what it feels like to be married; in particular, it is not possible for a ten-year-old boy to know what it feels like to be married! It is this strange, impossible feeling that I remember so clearly and why this incident remained in my mind. I had a ‘memory’ of something that was not to happen for almost twenty-five years hence! But it was not seeing the future in the conventional sense; it was experiencing the future. In this incident the future was now . . .
“This ‘memory’ suddenly became present one day in 1968, when I was sitting in the chair, reading a book, and happened to glance over at the children. […] I realized that this was the ‘memory’ from 1941! After that, I began to realize that there was something to these strange recollections. And the strange object behind the wall was a forced-air heater. These heating units were not — and to the best of my knowledge, are still not — used in England. This was why I could not grasp what it was; it was not in my sphere of knowledge in 1941” (HTO 187).
Transcending Linear Time
Many encounters with the Singularity Archetype involve a transcendence of linear time that allows one to perceive a future event horizon — death, eschaton — as though it is happening now. For example, one near-death experiencer had a life review that included both a past and a future portion. The past events were presented to her in black and white. When she came to future events, the life “review” switched to color. (HTO 187) As in the dreamtime and some other transcendent events, linear time is suspended. In ordinary waking life, we are closely bound up with our corporeal bodies, which are closely bound to linear time. Your body tells you that you are between breakfast and lunch and have only so many hours left until sleep will be necessary. When a newspaper article introduces a person, it usually puts a linear time marker right after their name: “Johnny Jones, 22, said — ” When we encounter the Singularity Archetype, individually or collectively, we cross an event horizon where linear time is transcended.
Formed and Unformed Futures and Free Will
From my present (and very tentative) model of time, the future contains both formed and unformed elements. A formed element, for example, is death as an inevitable event horizon for the individual. However, the time and manner of the death may not be fully formed. It is the unformed aspects of the future that allow for free will. In some cases, for example, the dietary choices a person makes, the risks he chooses to take, etc., may determine the timing and manner of his death. In other cases, however, the timing of death does not seem to have anything to do with personal choices — for example, the death of a child living in 79 AD Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted.
In my current model, free will operates on the unformed elements to generate a particular timeline. Visions of the future, therefore, may be visions of possible timelines, and free will and other wild-card variables determine the timeline actually traveled. Dr. Ring’s view seems to be similar:
“Since quantum physics is rooted in a purely probabilistic conception of the universe, where nothing can be fixed or known with certainty, precognitive perceptions are held to be previews of possible futures” (HTO 208).
Dr. Ring quotes physicist Danah Zohar from her book, Through the Time Barrier: “It does not imply that the future is already fixed, but rather suggests that there are a range of possible futures and that in some way we may be able to perceive these possibilities.” (HTO 209).
This is a key aspect of the Singularity Archetype — death and eschaton may be inevitable, but visions of the singularity may be metaphorical or visions of possible futures. In some cases, possible futures become actual futures. In many other cases, they do not. For example, in the early Eighties, there were many UFO abduction and near-death experiencers who had visions of the world ending in the late Eighties. (HTO 187-209) In many of these cases, the cause of the vision is probably more psychological than the result of a temporal anomaly. As I’ll discuss in greater depth later in the section on apocalypticism, the human psyche frequently blurs inner and outer. Someone encountering the imminence of their individual death may project that recognition outward and envision an end-of-the-world scenario.
The Many Worlds Interpretation
From the temporal range of possibilities, an alternative to the possible-futures model is the “many-worlds interpretation,” first introduced by physicist Hugh Everett in 1957. There are many variations of this interpretation, but essentially it would suggest that possible futures are actually alternative futures and that all alternative futures happen. Although the many-worlds interpretation was originally conceived as accounting for events on the scale of quantum mechanics, its implication for macro events is also accepted by many physicists. However, It is beyond this book’s scope to try to sort through the many different models of possible and alternative futures.
Experiencers do sometimes report being shown possible or alternative personal futures, and this is usually in the context of their having a choice about which timeline they are going to live out.
NDEs as Evolutionary Catalyst
Finally, Dr. Ring overlaps NDE and the Singularity Archetype in both Heading Toward Omega and The Omega Project by wondering if near-death experiencers might be “the prototype of a new, more advanced strain of the human species striving to come into manifestation? No longer Homo sapiens perhaps. […] Could NDErs be, then, an evolutionary bridge to the next step in our destiny as a species, a ‘missing link’ in our midst?” (HTO 255).
According to Dr Ring, “NDEs are a kind of experiential catalyst for human evolution, that potentially, at least, these experiences that we know have occurred to many millions of persons across the globe are serving the purpose of jump-stepping the human race to a higher level of spiritual awareness and pscyhophysical functioning” (OP 11-12).
From my perspective, NDEs are individual encounters with the Singularity Archetype. Their increased prevalence, and their exponentially increased awareness of them in the collective, may act as a catalyst for the species-wide movement toward the evolutionary event horizon. NDEs are certainly not a new phenomenon, though advances in resuscitation technology are increasing their frequency. What is fairly new is the level of research and fascination with the phenomenon. One aspect of this fascination we will discuss in the next section is an intensifying will in the human species to rebel from conventional corporeality. I call that intensifying drive “the will toward the Glorified Body.” It is a key aspect of the Singularity Archetype.
Extensive research has shown that near-death experiences have classic, universal elements and that near-death experiencers are usually profoundly and positively transformed as a result. Research also shows that parallel positive effects can occur in people just by reading about NDEs. As Dr. Kenneth Ring (professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut) put it:
“In general, the overall pattern of our data here gives us a strong suggestion that merely acquiring knowledge about NDEs can act like a ‘benign virus’; that is, by exposing yourself to NDE-related information, you can ‘catch it,’ because the NDE appears to be contagious” (LL 203).
At the end of this document, I will provide my sources, a brief list of the books, and videos I recommend for “catching it.” This document centers around the first-person testimony of experiencers and leaves out many key findings that can be found in the sources I list at the end. There will also be a much more thorough discussion of NDEs in my upcoming book on the Singularity Archetype.
Then, death, so call’d, is but old matter dress’d
In some new figure, and a vary’d vest:
Thus all things are but alter’d, nothing dies;
And here, and there the’ unbody’d spirit flies.
Roman poet Ovid in Metamorphoses (CBL, 83)
“What you have perishes; what you are survives beyond time and space.” Death Notice (CBL, 318)
My future epitaph: “On_____Jonathan Zap won his long struggle with corporeality by dying.”
(LL) Ring, PhD, Kenneth 1998, 2006. Lessons from the Light—What We Can Learn from the Near Death Experience. Needham: Moment Point Press.
(CBL) Van Lommel, M.D., Pim 2010. Consciousness Beyond Life—The Science of Near Death Experience. New York: Harper One.
(HTO) Ring, PhD, Kenneth 1984, 1985. Heading Toward Omega—In Search of the Meaning of the Near-Death Experience. New York: Quill William Morrow
(OP) Ring, PhD, Kenneth 1992. The Omega Project—Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind at Large. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Sabom, Michael, M.D. Light and Death—One Doctor’s Fascinating Account of Near-Death Experiences. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House (Source for the Pamela Reynolds case, pp. 37-51)
Videos: One of my sources for the Pamela Reynolds case is also the best documentary I’ve seen on NDEs: The Day I Died produced by the BBC. If you have time for nothing else, you should at least watch this hour-long documentary, currently available for free on YouTube.
Another great resource is Leslie Keane’s book Surviving Death and the Netflix series based on it.
Some primacy must be given to Raymond Moody, Ph. D., M.D. since he is the great pioneer who broke the whole field open. Dr. Moody has Ph.D.s in philosophy and psychology as well as an M.D.. Dr. Moody is an extremely careful thinker and his training in philosophy keeps him from making unwarranted assumptions. His approach to experiencers, however is anecdotal and he does not use the rigorous scientific research methodologies employed by the other two authors I recommend.
Kenneth Ring, Ph. D, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut, is the greatest visionary pioneer working in the field as far as I can tell. He combines careful research methodology with penetrating insight and is a very articulate writer.
Pim Van Lommel, M.D. is a Dutch cardiologist who has produced the most authoritative, comprehensive and scientifically rigorous book on the topic. His research methodology sets a gold standard for the field and his findings were published in the renowned medical journal, The Lancet. Van Lommel also integrates the latest findings in neuroscience and quantum mechanics in his study of what NDE findings mean about the nature of consciousness. If you are going to read only one book on the subject, and especially if you come from a scientific and/ or skeptical background, Consciousness Beyond Life is your best choice.
About a week before his death at age 18 on Christmas day, 2011, Ben Breedlove made a two-part six-minute video about some near-death experiences he had. Here are the links to his final Youtube video: Ben Breedlove Part I Part II
Supplement added 2023:
The following example of NDE evidence is far from the most impressive but is chosen because of the arch-conservatism of its source — National Geographic — an organization known for its attempts to debunk paranormal claims. What follows are some transcribed excerpts from the National Geographic documentary, The Moment of Death.
Al Sullivan, a man who has survived a multiple-bypass operation relates,
“In the operating room here comes Dr. Takata whom I had never laid eyes on before. He introduced himself,
“‘Hi Mr. Sullivan, good afternoon, I am Doctor Takata.’ and he told me what he was going to do: ‘We are going to take veins from the legs and take arteries also from the chest wall and probably do four or five bypasses for you.’ And I’m listening, listening, and all of a sudden, I don’t have to listen to him telling me I can see what he is doing because I found I wasn’t there to listen anymore. I just left my body and watched. I can see, but I’m up looking down at them. It used to be me, but it wasn’t me because the real me is up here watching. That’s when they started putting stuff over my eyes and all kinds of drapes and blankets all around me, and I still, I could see Dr. Takata and his people, and this is another thing, I could see through the operating table and me and I could see what kind of boots he had on. At one point, he stepped back, the surgeon stepped back, and it looked like he was flapping his arms, and I thought: What in the world is he doing that for?” Al continues,
“He was orchestrating: Do this, do this, and do that, and it did seem very foreign to me what he was doing.”
Al demonstrates Dr. Takata’s strange movements, his hands to the sides of his chest, elbows bent, twisting around, and pointing with his elbows as he gives commands.
Dr. Anthony F. Lasala, MD, a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital, explains:
“Dr. Takata, when he’s not operating, and trying not to contaminate his hands, will put his hands close to his chest and point with his elbow.”
Dr. Lasala: “Al Sullivan would not know of this peculiar behavior of Dr. Takata. I did not tell him that.”
Dr. Takata: ” I cannot explain how he saw these things under the complete sleep of anesthesia.”
Dr. Lasala: “Even if he was conscious, it would be impossible for Al to see Dr. Takata’s stance or arm movement because Al was behind a drape that blocks the vision of the patient, and his eyes were taped shut.”