Near Death Experiences
By Peter Roennfeldt
“It's not that I'm afraid to die I just don't want to be there when it happens," observed Woody Allen.
“For although death is a constant and shadowy backdrop to our lives, it is something that most of us cannot talk about or accept with any sense of normality or calm rationality.... Death is clearly an integral part of life, yet while we talk about our plans for life, when it comes to death we are strangely silent.'” writes Bruce EIder in his book “And When I Die Will I Be Dead?”
Yet there has been a growing fascination with the mysteries of (NDE) or after-life experiences. Various people claim that they have "returned" from experiences of great trauma or clinical death, giving remarkable stories from the “other side”.
There’s even an International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS).
Lorraine Briggs, the convener of the Victorian chapter of Austral-IANDS, says that during a long and traumatic labour, "I was moving along a tunnel I came out into this place. I carry the vision with me, it is so detailed…A landscape with intense green grass, rolling landscape. Nothing rocky, sharp or cruel. A gentle serenity.
"I sensed figures on three sides. I had a great sense of being welcomed by them, that I belonged. I met my father who died 14 years before; we had a long conversation, even though his lips didn't
Researchers of NDEs can't agree on the cause of NDEs. The experiences are usually characterised by five or six stages including a sense of peace, the impression of being outside one's body, the sensation of floating through a tunnel toward a bright light, an encounter with a "being of light," experiencing a world of beauty and, perhaps, meeting loved ones who have already died. Not all near-death experiences are positive. Some report horrific, threatening experiences.
Dr Harvey Irwin of the
Dr Peter Fenwick finds these explanations inadequate. As a neuropsychiatrist based at
Moody and Kubler-Ross
Whenever NDEs are discussed, two names are raised: Dr Raymond Moody and Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Moody published his book Life After Life in 1975 after collecting, over a period of 10 years, 150 first-hand accounts of NDEs.
Swiss-bom American doctor Kubler-Ross took up
a position as assistant
professor of psychiatry at Billings Hospital qd the
university campus in
In 1969 Kubler-Boss published her highly recommended classic On Death and Dying. It describes the stages through which terminally ill patients will go. Neither in this book, nor in her book Questions and Answers on Death and Dying, does she say anything about NDEs.
Controversy grew around Kubler-Ross's "death seminars," but this was not what led to her leaving the university. Bruce Elder in And When J Die, Will I Be Dead? tells the story:
"As she was walking down a hallway in the
As a result of this occultish experience, the good work of Kubler-Ross has been discredited—and, in the foreword to Moody's Life After Life, she allies herself with his conclusions.
An NDE Is Not Death
As Bruce Elder notes, "It is important to realise that a near-death experience is not death itself."
Karl Kruszelnicki, the science journalist well known for his work on the
ABC's Quantum program, tells of a woman who died at in
Kruszelnicki writes, "And from when she had had her first passing out to when she woke up, she remembered nothing, absolutely nothing."
If NDEs are transitions from this life to another, why don't all who clinically die recount these experiences? And why is it that NDEs have been more common in the latter part of the twentieth century? And why is it that people who are not near death report identical experiences to NDEs?
Characteristics of NDEs
The person in an NDE is in what Moody calls a "spiritual body." He says that although it has form and shape, it is invisible to physical people. It can move through objects, it can even be walked through. It can see and hear—but cannot be seen or heard. & A common feature of reported NDEs is the appearance of a very bright light, described as a being. Also, at some point, other "spiritual beings" come to assist the dying person.
The messages, as reported by Moody, need careful examination. These include: death is not the end, but rather a transition into another life; there is no reward/punishment/judgment to face, "but rather cooperative development towards the ultimate end of self-realisation"; and there is no heaven or hell. K Interestingly, what is experienced is seen as truth—the test of reality. The experience has significant impact with the majority of cases making people more religious and compassionate. Yet those who have reported NDEs report a higher divorce rate and incidence of alcoholism.
Religion and Death
Kubler-Ross makes this perceptive comment in her Questions and Answers on Death and Dying:
"Truly religious people with a deep abiding relationship with God have found it much easier to face death with equanimity. We do not often see them because they aren't troubled, so they don't need our help."
Raymond Moody writes, "In our society the Bible is the most widely read and discussed book dealing with matters relating to the nature of the spiritual aspect of man and to life after death."
Then he makes this inaccurate statement, "On the whole, however, the Bible has relatively little to say about the events that transpire upon death, or about the precise nature of the after world."
Moody mentions four Bible statements: Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Acts 26:13-26 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-52—one of which, as Moody admits, has nothing to do with death. Not one of these Bible statements relates to NDEs in any sense, and yet Moody is prepared to write: "So again the writing of Swedenbory [a mystic who lived from 1688 to 1772] as before in the Bible, the works of Plato, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead, we find striking parallels to the events of contemporary near-death experiences."
It is simply wrong to suggest there is any parallel between what the Bible says about death and Moody’s interpretation of NDEs.
Four biblical statements that relate to death (John 11:1-44; Ecclesiastes 9c5.6; 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians -18) make it clear that Moody cannot use the Bible to support his theories. In the light of the Bible, it would seem reasonable to understand NDEs as a recoil of early childhood experiences or biochemical and physiological responses to stress.
Also, Fenwick's suggestion that they could be "mystical experiences' remind us of the warnings of Jesus Christ and the biblical writers concerning the activities of evil occult powers in the last days of the existence of earth.