People in the afterlife

Evidence for an Afterlife?

The following article is an excerpt (Chapter 2 in its entirety) from the best-selling book Evidence of an Afterlife, by Jeffrey Long M.D. with Paul Perry (HarperOne, 2009), reproduced with kind permission of the author and publisher. You can purchase a copy of the book from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

JOURNEY TOWARD UNDERSTANDING

Build it and they will come.
— W. P. Kinsella, Field of Dreams

The year was 1998, and I was now in Las Vegas practicing the medical specialty of radiation oncology. The nineties was the decade in which the Internet exploded. Everyone was rapidly becoming smitten with this big brain in the sky, and I was no different.

Despite the steep learning curve of building websites with primitive software and slow connections, I had decided in 1997 to build the Radiation Oncology Online Journal (ROOJ.com) as a way of sharing credible information about this medical specialty with the world. It took a tremendous amount of time and effort outside of my clinical practice to assemble this nonprofit website, which I maintain as a way of providing solid information to the public about cancer treatment.

By the time I completed the ROOJ site I was an expert in website computer code. Then the idea hit me: build a website that will collect near-death experience case studies. By doing this I could amass a large number of NDE stories from around the world. Working with a large number of NDEs is important because medical studies involving a large study group produce more reliable results than do those studying a small group of people.

I built on the curiosity and work of those who had gone before me. Over the ten years since I heard Sheila recount her personal story, I had stayed in close contact with research in the field of near-death studies. Hundreds of scholarly articles had been written on near-death experience, including publications in many of the world’s most prestigious medical and scientific journals. I read the works of many major NDE researchers, including those of Dr. Moody; Melvin Morse, MD; Bruce Greyson, MD; Michael Sabom, MD; and Ken Ring, PhD. I also found myself fascinated with some of the individual stories, like that of Betty Eadie (Embraced by the Light). All of these books relied heavily on case studies. These stories of individual NDErs fed the sense of mystery I associated with this subject.

Now I was even more interested in searching for the truth than I had been ten years earlier. The implications of these experiences were so profound that I wanted to research the subject to determine if they were truly real.

The Internet was an ideal way to carry out this research. Through a website, I could reach people around the world who were willing to share their near-death experience with others. They weren’t being paid to write about their experience and had no intention of appearing on television. They would simply tell their stories directly in their own words. I would offer a series of questions aimed at helping NDErs fully express and deeply explore their incredible experience. There would be no interviewer present to possibly guide the answers or encourage embellishment, and no time constraints. Reading their shared stories would be like reading the most intimate of diary pages. By collecting NDEs via the Internet, I could examine the content of a large number of experiences, reliably determining similarities and differences, and find out once and for all if NDEs are real or imagined.

In the past a considerable amount of research had been accomplished but often with only a few NDEs. This wasn’t the fault of the researchers. Case studies of NDEs are not easy to find. Although some research indicates that as much as 5 percent of the U.S. population has had a near-death experience, many people keep them secret or find no reason to entrust their most intimate spiritual experience with their doctor or researchers.

An unfortunate reason NDErs might not share their stories is the attitude of many in medicine toward these experiences. I have heard many heartbreaking stories from NDErs who shared highly accurate observations of their own resuscitations, only to have physicians dismiss their experiences as insignificant. Even though there is no reason NDErs should have any conscious awareness of their resuscitation, their accounts were given short shrift by physicians who should have marveled at their patients’ experiences rather than ridiculed them.

I spent many years serving on the board of directors of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS). During our meetings I heard far too many stories of the problems NDErs encountered when they tried to tell their near-death experiences to the medical staff. One of the classic stories was a patient who told his doctor about his NDE in front of several nurses. When the patient finished telling his story, the doctor looked up from his clipboard and said, “Don’t think too much about it. It was just fantasy.”

When the doctor left the room, the nurses closed in around the crushed patient and said, “It’s not fantasy. We hear about these events all the time from patients. Doctors like him live in fantasy. They never hear these because they don’t listen to their patients.”

This was one way in which taking case studies over the Internet was superior to interviewing people directly. People who have these intimate experiences are sometimes reluctant to be interviewed in person and in a formal way about their NDE. They may feel that the interviewer isn’t sincerely interested in their experience, or they may feel awkward about sharing such an unworldly experience with others.

Responding to an Internet survey, by contrast, offers the NDEr a chance to share these remarkable events as if they are talking to themselves. Rather than being forced to overcome any discomfort they might have with an interviewer, they are comfortably recounting their own story privately, by themselves. They also can take as much time as they want. Many NDErs shared their appreciation with me after they took the survey. They found the survey helped them to accurately and comprehensively convey their experience. This is why I felt (and still do) that an Internet survey is more effective in many ways than a face-to-face interview.

Of course, I had concerns as I put together the NDE website survey. For example, how could I tell for certain if the stories being told were valid? I pondered this question a lot and decided to rely on the tried-and-true scientific method of redundancy. Redundancy in interviewing means asking the same question (or questions that revolve around the same concept) several times in slightly different ways. For instance, in the demographic portion of the questionnaire, there is a box to check if the person had an out-of-body experience. One would expect that if this box was checked, then the answer to the question “Did you experience a separation of your consciousness from your body?” should be “Yes.” If we find inconsistencies in a person’s answers, we can check the narrative to see what the NDEr really experienced. Later, after large numbers of NDEs were shared, I was impressed at how consistent the responses were to the redundant questions.

The NDERF Internet survey reaches NDErs who have never shared their near-death experience with another person and would be unlikely to be reached by any other methodology used to study NDEs. The NDERF survey asks, “Have you shared this experience with others?” To this question, 8.5 percent of NDErs answered “No.”

Importantly, many studies have directly compared the reliability of Internet surveys with the more traditional pencil-and-paper surveys by studying groups of people who took surveys with both methods. The consensus of these studies is that an Internet survey is as reliable as the pencil-and-paper survey method. This further validates the reli­ability of the NDERF survey.

I already knew I needed to listen carefully to the near-death experiencers, so it made sense to ask the NDErs themselves how accurate they thought the NDERF survey was. Near the end of the current website survey, I ask an important question: “Did the questions asked and information you provided so far accurately and comprehensively describe your experience?” Of 613 NDErs responding, the answers were 84.5 percent “Yes,” 8.8 percent “Uncertain,” and only 6.7 percent “No.” This is some of the strongest possible validation of the reliability of the NDERF Internet survey, from the NDErs themselves.

Finally, my background as a physician helps me determine if a life-threatening event actually happened. I use the Karnofsky scale, which is a medical scale widely used to measure closeness to death. Karnofsky scores range from 100 (no physical compromise) to 10 (moribund) to 0 (clinically dead). I can also determine if the medical events described in the NDEs are medically plausible.

In the early days of the website, I was concerned there might be frauds or pranksters claiming to have had a near-death experience. I am glad to say this is very rare. For one thing, there is no incentive — financial or otherwise — to spend a substantial amount of time filling out the lengthy and complex survey form in order to claim a false NDE. Eventually, those trying to submit a falsified NDE discover how difficult it is to respond to a detailed survey if they have never had such an experience. In over ten years, we have uncovered fewer than ten clearly fraudulent accounts submitted on the NDERF survey form and have removed them promptly from the website and database.

I was also concerned that there might be copycat accounts, in which all or part of an NDE would be copied or plagiarized from another source. This has happened, but again very rarely. When it does, readers of the website report the copycat account, and we remove it from the site. The enormous number of visitors to the NDERF website helps assure that none of the posted NDEs are plagiarized.

I had other concerns too. Near-death experiences are complex and might be difficult for some to express in words. This is why many researchers in the past have considered them to be “ineffable,” or incapable of being expressed in words. It is not uncommon to hear an NDEr describe their experience as being, well, indescribable. I was concerned that many people might find it impossible to express what happened.

Are NDEs generally ineffable? I asked myself as I assembled the questionnaire for the NDERF site. Given all these concerns, was I wasting my time?

The website for the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF, www.nderf.org) was launched on the World Wide Web on August 30, 1998. I had many questions about whether the NDERF site would be successful. Was the questionnaire too long? Did NDErs really want to share their experience with the world? Would people trust a site like this?

I had not spent money on publicity for the site. Several months later, by monitoring the Web traffic, I could tell that the site had been visited by relatively few. Our search engine ranking was a pitiful 64. Had I wasted hundreds of hours to accomplish nothing? Would enough experiences ever be shared with NDERF to answer my questions about the reality of NDEs?

Humbled, I continued to work diligently on the site. By now I had told several friends about the site and shared my concerns that few people were actually visiting it, let alone filling out the questionnaire. When I said this, some of my friends would simply smile and utter one of the most popular movie lines in history: “If you build it, they will come.” This is the classic line from the film Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa farmer builds a baseball field on his farm in hopes that several long-dead baseball players will come there to play.

As you can imagine, “build it and they will come” is not the creed of evidence-based medicine. We like to start with a little more science than that. As a result, I still cringe a little whenever I hear this Hollywood aphorism. However, I continued to build the site in hopes that, yes, they would come.

And finally, come they did. By December 1998 I down­loaded the first twenty-two case studies from the website with great anticipation. I was jubilant. With all the effort I had put into the site, I was now going to have information about NDEs from the source — people who had the experiences! As a scientist and a “prove it to me” kind of man, I personally needed precisely this kind of information to be­gin to scientifically study NDEs.

Those first twenty-two case studies didn’t disappoint. As I read them it started to become obvious to me that the NDEs were real. I could see the same pattern of elements that Dr. Moody and other researchers had outlined in their work, including such elements as consciousness occurring apart from the body at the time of a life-threatening event.

Reading these early case studies was exciting beyond my wildest dreams. It became clear to me that by studying a large number of these NDEs in words that came directly from those who had experienced them, I could hope to eventually provide some answers to humankind’s most perplexing question: What happens when we die?

Below are paraphrases of two of the first twenty-two NDE case studies I was honored to receive on the NDERF website:

Experience #16: “I Felt Like a Fly on the Wall”

In 1963 this young man lost control of his car and collided with a brick wall. His injuries were severe enough to fracture his face and sinus cavities and to break his jaw. Badly hurt, he sat on wet grass near the destroyed vehicle and then drifted into unconsciousness. As you read this, note the calmness with which he describes his experience as well as the presence of a very powerful out-of-body experience that seemed to indicate to him that all would be well in his life despite this near-fatal accident. Here’s his story:

I was in a severe automobile accident several years ago. The steering wheel smashed my face. The accident happened in a rainstorm, and I ran off the road and hit a tree.

For a while after the crash I felt nothing, and then the pain started to burn in my face. I got out of the car and lay down, hoping it would make me feel better, but it didn’t. Finally I just blacked out. When I awoke, I couldn’t see anything because my face was covered, but I could tell I was in a hospital from the sounds and the fact that I was on some kind of bed.

I don’t know how long it was, but I had the distinct sensation that I was floating out of my body. I saw my parents, who were there at the bedside, and could feel their emotional pain. It was strange. I should have been in pain but wasn’t. Instead I was standing next to my parents trying to console them as they looked at their darling son, whom they had just been told was going to die. It was horrific, but there was nothing I could do about it. I stood next to my mother and tried to get her attention, but I couldn’t because she didn’t know I was there. I looked at my own body but wasn’t interested in what I was seeing. I actually felt like a fly on the wall.

Something in my mind finally clicked as I realized that they would eventually discover that I was not in pain, whether it was here on earth or not. At that point my empathetic pain went away and I focused on my experience. I remember thinking, “So this is what death is about,” as I rose further out of my body.

A light came into view and became larger and brighter as I drew closer. I knew this was it, the end of my life, and I wasn’t afraid. But as I drew near, a voice shouted at me to stop. And I mean shouted. “No, not yet!” the voice said.

When that happened I felt myself return very hard into my body. I gasped very loudly, but I knew I was going to survive after that. When they say it’s not your time, it’s not your time.

When I first read this man’s account of his near-fatal automobile accident, I was taken by the calmness with which he described the sense of peace and painlessness that came over him in the hospital. I was also intrigued by his description of the light that formed the boundary between life and death, as well as the strong voice that stopped him from crossing into the light.

This man came back from his experience with the ability to “intuit people’s feelings” (his words) as well as understand their emotional logic. Intuiting people’s feelings may be one type of psychic experience. I would encounter many more NDEs describing psychic experiences in the future.

Experience #21: “Wake Up, Diane”

Diane had an unusual problem. When she sat on the couch in the afternoon to watch her favorite soap opera, the young woman found herself falling asleep and having great difficulty waking up. The problem disturbed her so much that she mentioned it to her husband, who could offer no solution. Finally she decided to sit up on the sofa and watch the program rather than lie down. As it turned out, sitting up made the problem worse. Behind her, about five feet from the couch, was a leaking gas pipe that emitted enough natural gas into the room to nearly kill her. Ironically, she would have died had it not been for a visitation by her deceased grandmother during her NDE that brought her back. Here is a paraphrase of her story:

I sat myself down on the couch and started watching my favorite soap opera, and next thing I knew someone was yelling at me to wake up. I kept hearing this voice telling me to “wake up, Diane, you have to wake up.”

When Diane opened her eyes, she was looking at her grandmother who had died when she was only three years old. The grandmother smiled and told Diane to get up and follow her to safety. When she got up to follow, Diane realized she had left her body, which was now below her on the sofa. She felt no fear as she looked down at her body. She also felt no fear at the realization that there were two spirits elevated with her, one on either side of her spiritual body.

While out of her body she felt a sense of enormous peace and love. One of the spirits told her she could either stay in her spiritual body or return to the physical body below. It was a tough decision for Diane, but one that led to her choosing the physical body because she still had things left to do on earth. With the making of that choice, Diane took a deep and painful breath, and then another, until she awoke and realized that she had nearly been asphyxiated by the gas leak.

Needless to say, the gas leak was fixed soon after Diane’s NDE. The experience, however, had a lasting effect on her life. Here is a paraphrase of what Diane wrote:

The experience taught me that everything is known. At the time, I did not feel it was important to ask anything. God has made it so we will know everything when we die.

WORLDWIDE PARTICIPATION

These twenty-two case reports were the first in what would be an explosion of global participation on the NDERF website. In the decade since NDERF began, readers have sent hundreds of e-mails expressing gratitude for how meaningful the stories are to them. I have received e-mails from cancer patients and people with other serious illnesses who take great comfort in coming to the same conclusion as I, that life continues after bodily death.

Ultimately, NDEs in more than twenty languages have been shared with NDERF. Before I knew it, readers from more than 110 countries were devouring more than 300,000 page views per month on the NDERF website.

At first I considered the variety of languages to be a problem. The NDEs that were sent from people in other countries in languages other than English had to be translated into English, and online translation engines didn’t do it very well. I barely had time to analyze the experiences that people had entered in English, let alone find translators.

Then Jody, longtime webmaster of NDERF, came to the rescue. She is an attorney who is just as interested in spiritual matters as in those of jurisprudence. We met shortly before I moved to Tacoma, Washington, in the year 2000. When we first met, I could tell that she had a very strong spiritual side and that she was intrigued by the work I was doing in near-death experiences. She was unfamiliar with NDEs but became more and more fascinated with them as I told her about the case studies that were now streaming in. Even with her discernment as a lawyer, she was taken by the consistency of the experiences.

“This is amazing,” she said one day. “And it’s all for real.”

One of the things she had become interested in was whether NDEs were the same from culture to culture. And if so, could the commonality of the NDEs in different cul­tures create a bridge of world peace? By having access to NDEs written by people in other countries, she realized she could answer her questions firsthand. The quest for knowledge drove Jody to go on a Web search for translators. Over time she found over 250 volunteers willing to translate the multitude of languages spoken in the world. With Jody’s diligent assistance, the NDERF site is by far the largest publicly accessible collection of both English and non-English NDEs in the world.

The near-death experiences on NDERF are edited only to correct spelling and obvious grammar errors, remove information that would identify specific individuals, and take out grossly disparaging remarks about specific institutions. Other than those insignificant changes, the NDEs you read on the site are the highly charged experiences written by the NDErs themselves.

WHAT WE FOUND

By studying thousands of detailed accounts of NDErs, I found the evidence that led to this astounding conclusion: NDEs provide such powerful scientific evidence that it is reasonable to accept the existence of an afterlife.

Yes, you read that correctly. I have studied thousands of near-death experiences. I have carefully considered the evidence NDEs present regarding the existence of an afterlife. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that there is life after physical death.

My research convinces me that near-death experiences are the exit from this life and the entrance to another life. As one NDEr declared, “I saw these vivid colors of what I believe to be crystal, and the overwhelming feeling of knowing there is an afterlife and it is good [makes me have] no fear of death whatsoever!”

This book presents the remarkable results of the largest scientific NDE study ever reported using this methodology. In the NDERF study we examined the content of more than 1,300 NDEs. Previous scientific NDE studies generally examined only a few hundred case studies at most. With great care, we analyzed the twelve elements of the near-death experience. By looking deeply at the accounts of these NDErs, we have found some answers to humankind’s oldest and deepest questions about the afterlife.

In my work as a radiation oncologist, my life is built around science. It couldn’t be any other way. I deliver precision doses of radiation to kill cancerous tumors. There are few other forms of medical science that require such precision. I love what I do and have carried this love of science to other parts of my life. The data and conclusions you read here are based on the scientific principles that I adhere to.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that my scientific conclusions have greatly affected my level of compassion. Sometimes frightened cancer patients familiar with my NDE research will ask me what will happen when they die. If they ask, I confidently present to them the evidence of the afterlife that I have accumulated through a decade of dedicated research. I believe that what I share with these cancer patients helps them to better face their life-threatening illness with increased courage and hope.

By reviewing the findings of the NDERF study, I have derived nine lines of reasoning that — to my mind — prove the existence of life after death. Below are those lines of evidence, each with its own brief commentary. In the remaining chapters of this book, I will examine each of the lines of evidence in depth so you can see why I came to the conclusion I did: It is reasonable to accept the existence of an afterlife.

EVIDENCE OF THE AFTERLIFE

1. It is medically inexplicable to have a highly organized and lucid experience while unconscious or clinically dead.

In our NDERF research, near death is defined as an individual who is physically compromised to the extent that death would be expected unless their physical condition improves. Those who are near death are generally unconscious and may be clinically dead with loss of breathing and heartbeat.

To understand how remarkable it is to have a conscious experience at a time of clinical death, it is helpful to understand that when the heart stops beating, blood immediately stops flowing to the brain. Approximately ten to twenty seconds after blood stops flowing to the brain, brain activity necessary for consciousness stops. Brain activity can be measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain electrical activity. When brain activity stops, the EEG readings go flat, indicating no measurable brain electrical activity.

Medically, I can’t conceive of any meaningful experience that could occur near death. Aren’t people near death generally unconscious? Doesn’t the very term unconscious mean that there is no possibility of an organized conscious experience? Yet despite what should be a blank slate for NDErs, they describe highly lucid, organized, and real experiences. In fact, NDErs say they are usually experiencing a more heightened state of awareness than in everyday earthly life. This is medically inexplicable given that NDEs generally occur during unconsciousness.

2. NDErs may see and hear in the out-of-body (OBE) state, and what they perceive is nearly always real.

An out-of-body experience (OBE) is the first element of the experience for many NDErs. During the OBE, many NDErs describe events that they shouldn’t be able to see, mainly because they are unconscious or because the events are taking place somewhere else, far away from their body. Events often include seeing their own unconscious body as well as frantic resuscitation efforts to revive them. These observations have been verified as realistic in hundreds of reports.

3. NDEs occur during general anesthesia when no form of consciousness should be taking place.

While under general anesthesia, it should be impossible to have a lucid experience, let alone one of greater consciousness than everyday life. The NDERF survey has yielded dozens of NDEs that took place under general anesthesia. Here is one such incident that happened to Debora. At the age of thirteen she went into the hospital for minor surgery, and the anesthetic caused her heart to stop. As her doctor struggled to keep her alive, Debora suddenly found herself out of her body:

My heart stopped from anesthesia during surgery. . . . I floated up to the ceiling and could see my body lying on the table. The doctors were alarmed and saying that they were losing me. I was not scared; I was with a couple of very kind people that I believed at the time were angels. They told me not to worry; they would take care of me. I heard a whooshing sound and was being propelled up through a dark tunnel toward a light. . . . A woman held out her hand to me; she was lovely, and I felt that she loved me and knew who I was. I felt safe in her company. I didn’t know who she was. . . . One day a few years after the surgery my mother showed me a picture of my paternal grandmother, who had died giving birth to my father. It was the lovely woman who held my hand at the other side of the tunnel. I had never seen a picture of her before.

4. NDEs take place among those who are blind, and these NDEs often include visual experiences.

Individuals totally blind from birth are completely unable to perceive the visual world that the rest of us do in everyday life. To those born blind, the ability to see is an abstract concept. They understand the world only from their senses of hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Their dreams do not include vision, although they may include other senses such as sound and touch. Vision cannot be adequately explained to a person blind from birth by drawing analogies to the four remaining senses they possess. Yet when a blind person has an NDE, the experience usually includes vision.

5. A life review during the NDE accurately reflects real events in the NDEr’s life, even if those events have been forgotten.

A life review involves a review of prior events in the NDEr’s life. Fragments of the person’s earthly life may be seen, or the review may be fully panoramic with a comprehensive review of most of the prior life. Here is one such example, from a young woman from India who nearly died from a complication of anesthesia:

My entire consciousness seemed to be in my head. Then I started seeing pictures. I think they were in color. It was as if someone had started a movie of myself and of my entire life, but going backwards from the present moment. The pictures were about my family, my mother, other members, others, and it seemed that the most meaningful, loving, caring relationships were being focused upon. I could sense the real meaning of these relationships. I had a sense of love and gratitude towards the persons appearing in my flashback. This panoramic review of my life was very distinct; every little detail of the incidents, relationships, was there — the relationships in some sort of distilled essence of meaning. The review was measured in the beginning, but then the pictures came in faster and faster, and [it] seemed like the movie reel was running out. . . . It went faster and faster, and then I heard myself, along with the entire universe in my head, screaming in a crescendo, “Allah ho akbar!” (God is great).

6. Virtually all beings encountered during NDEs are deceased at the time of the NDE, and most are deceased relatives.

When NDErs encounter people that they knew from their earthly life, those people are almost always deceased at the time of the NDE. By contrast, in dreams or hallucinations the beings encountered are much more likely to be living. This is another distinguishing feature between NDEs and dreams or hallucinations, further suggesting the reality of NDEs.

Many times the NDErs encounter a being that seems familiar, but his or her identity is unknown. The NDEr may later discover the identity of this familiar but unknown being, for instance by looking at old family photographs.

7. The striking similarity of content in NDEs among very young children and that of adults strongly suggests that the content of NDEs is not due to preexisting beliefs.

Children — even those under the age of six — have virtually the same elements in their near-death experiences as adults do. This is strong evidence in itself that near-death experiences are real, not dreams or fabrications. Why? Because very young children almost certainly have never heard of near-death experiences, as adults often have. They probably don’t know anything about life reviews, tunnel experiences, out-of-body experiences, or any of the other elements of the NDE. They become aware of such things, usually for the first time, when the experience actually happens.

The fact that children have virtually the same elements of near-death experiences that adults do makes this one of the most convincing lines of evidence that NDEs are real events and not due to preexisting beliefs, cultural influences, or prior life experiences.

8. The remarkable consistency of NDEs around the world is evidence that NDEs are real events.

There is a simple analogy I like to use that illustrates this point: If families from the United States, Spain, and Mexico all go to Paris, do they see the same Eiffel Tower? The answer, of course, is yes. The only difference might be in the way the different cultures describe this landmark. The same is true of people from different cultures who have near-death experiences. Our collection of NDEs from cultures worldwide shows striking similarity in content among all of them.

9. NDErs are transformed in many ways by their experience, often for life.

The NDERF study found consistent and long-lasting changes following NDEs. Near-death experiencers have a decreased fear of death, which seems to go hand in hand with an increased belief in the afterlife. In addition, NDErs become more loving and compassionate in their interaction with other people. Our study found that near-death experiencers may seek out helping or healing professions after their brush with death. Also, many NDErs in the study had been changed so much by their experience that they were no longer the same; they had become nicer!

The NDERF study also found that 45.0 percent of those surveyed said they had “psychic, paranormal, or other special gifts” that they did not have prior to the experience. They went on to provide many such experiences in the narrative portion of their survey. One such story of supernatural gifts came from Thomas, who nearly died from a heart rhythm irregularity. What he had to say about his extraordinary gifts was short and to the point:

I felt a need to meditate. Upon doing so I was able to hear voices and see things. (Some might call [them] spirits or unearthly beings.) I have the ability to see auras; I sense other people’s pain and am able to heal with touch. For a while I had brief spurts of telekinesis.

One of the most intriguing — to me — transformations were the unexpected healings that some reported. We have encountered many such cases in the NDERF study, including ones in which people with very serious illnesses, both physical and mental, believe they were healed around the time of their NDEs.

The transformational qualities of the NDE give me reason to believe that whatever a person experiences on the other side, a little bit of it may come back, bringing change here as well.

STRONG AND BOLD PROOF

Any one of these lines of evidence on its own strongly suggests an afterlife. However, I consider the combination of these nine lines of evidence to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of an afterlife. That is certainly a bold statement but one I am compelled to make after years of painstaking research.

An important NDERF survey question asks 613 NDErs what they think of the reality of their experience — how they viewed the reality of their experience shortly after its occurrence and also at the time they completed the survey. In response, 95.8 percent believed at the time of completing the survey that their NDE was definitely real. Not one NDEr said that the experience they had was “definitely not real.”

And then there is the spiritual content of NDEs, namely answers to such age-old questions as: Why are we here on earth? What is important about our earthly existence? Is there an afterlife? Now that I have reviewed thousands of NDE case studies, I can say that the content of NDEs has substantial consistency in these answers. I would emphasize that this consistency tells us that something real is taking place in these NDEs. This remarkable consistency of spiritual messages suggests something extremely important, not only for the person near death, but for all of us.

The true strength of the NDERF study has been the sheer number of case studies we have examined and the consistency of results. From this volume and the consistency of their content and message, I believe we have some answers to humankind’s most perplexing question: What happens when we die?

But that is my belief. The results of our groundbreaking research are presented in the following chapters. You be the judge.

To read more, please click here, or purchase a copy of Evidence of the Afterlife from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Editor
  1. Evidence?
    While I’m fascinated by the topic, and think people often get overly skeptical about it, I can’t say that I think the 9 elements quoted are “evidence for the afterlife”. Sure, “suggestive of something really interesting”, but not evidence that will convince anyone.

    In particular, I don’t believe #2 is correct (there are a number of stories of incorrect ‘perception’ during the OBE). #5 is not evidence at all, it’s just a fascinating facet of the experience (if you want to go down the path of evidence on the life review, I think Robert Crookall’s work offers an interesting alternative). #6 is not surprising if the dying person knows of their state…if you expected to see visions of anyone at this stage, it would be visions of the dead. #7 and #8 are not strong evidence (archetypes of the mind could explain it), but it is strange all the same why these particular themes would be embedded in all of us. And #9 is again an interesting element, but not necessarily proof of anything.

    Still, I’m really enjoying the book (even if I think the ‘evidence’ part is a bit overstated).

    Sorry for the brevity of my comment, too much to do and no time…!

    1. OBE?
      I have been wondering lately about the reality of the out of body experience. Let me first say that I have never had such an experience, despite many attempts to induce one. I wish I could.

      But am I seeing a bit of conflict in some of the reported experiences? For example, everyone who has been “out” seems to confirm the absolute reality of the experience. I spoke with someone who teaches techniques and claims to be able to induce an OBE on a weekly basis. He was in no doubt that his OBE world was as real as the room in which we were talking. Thomas Campbell is a hard-nosed physicist who has made a study of, and written books about OBE’s – he is in no doubt either.

      Yet it seems to be difficult to prove. It seems to be difficult to pop out and look at a number written on a card in another room and come back and report it. There are reports of experiments but I don’t see anything conclusive.

      Perhaps the reality is not our normal waking reality? Perhaps when the NDE patient floats to the ceiling, he/she occupies a virtual copy of that room but one that has been created by the mind. Perhaps that is all there is to any so-called reality? In other words, my mind has created the chair I am sitting on and the PC under my fingertips?

      Would this explain the occasional but troublesome inaccuracies? I’m reminded of Graham Hancock’s ayahuasca experiences. He was absolutely convinced of their reality too, but encountered part-animal/part-human beings not usually thought of as being part of our “normal” reality.

      I wonder if there isn’t a very thin veil between our normal perception and other worlds or dimensions that can be readily accessed in altered states of consciousness. Some might be so intertwined with our waking reality as to be only slightly out of step with it.

      I think we are often tempted – because of the success of the empirical scientific method – to try to explain things in ways that don’t upset the rational scientific paradigm too much. Perhaps we need to be a little more radical and bold in imagining possible explanations.

      Dave.

      1. Ayahuasca
        Spanish journalist & investigator J.J. Benítez once undertook an Ayahuasca ingestion for the TV program Espacio y Tiempo. The whole event was recorded by a camera.

        Juanjo then claimed that he tried several OBE experiments during the trip. He tried for example to find an unknown object (to him) left by a friend of his in Spain, so he says he ‘flew’ from the Amazonian jungle across the ocean to the friend’s home, and found an out-of-place object he deducted was the goal of the experiment.

        So, to him, the experience was not entirely introverted. But of course, we could argue that what really went on was a telepathic communication between him & his friend, so that’s why he was able to guess what the object was…

      2. Reality vs ‘reality’
        [quote=kamarling]But am I seeing a bit of conflict in some of the reported experiences? For example, everyone who has been “out” seems to confirm the absolute reality of the experience…

        …Yet it seems to be difficult to prove. It seems to be difficult to pop out and look at a number written on a card in another room and come back and report it. There are reports of experiments but I don’t see anything conclusive.

        Perhaps the reality is not our normal waking reality? [/quote]

        Hi Dave,

        From my own (non-authoritative) research into people’s experiences, my impression is that the world seen in the OBE is this curious combination of the real and imaginary. So you often hear reports from people observed during OBEs of saying things like ‘yes, I was doing exactly that action at the time, but I was wearing a blue shirt, not a red tank top’. Additionally, in OBEs and remote viewing, reading always seems to present a problem (I remember a remote viewing case in which they were trying without success to read a sign, even though they got the broad details of the RV correct).

  2. yea, evidence 🙂
    Hi Greg… just posted an interview with Dr. Long on http://www.skeptiko.com and would love to dialog with you on this.

    For example… your points:

    2. NDErs may see and hear in the out-of-body (OBE) state, and what they perceive is nearly always real… you say, “I don’t believe #2 is correct (there are a number of stories of incorrect ‘perception’ during the OBE).”

    – I think Long is saying respondents to the survey (i.e. NDErs) resorted their experience was not a dreamlike hallucination… e.g. morphing from one scene to another with unrealistic stuff like we see in dreams.

    5. A life review during the NDE accurately reflects real events in the NDEr’s life, even if those events have been forgotten… you say, “is not evidence at all, it’s just a fascinating facet of the experience.

    — again, I think this is significant in that it distinguishes the experience from dreams of hallucinations. The fact that NDErs only observed events that really took place in their life is therefore significant. And, once you eliminate dreams and hallucantions there ain’t a whole lot left to epxlain the phenomena 🙂

    6. Virtually all beings encountered during NDEs are deceased at the time of the NDE, and most are deceased relatives… you say “is not surprising if the dying person knows of their state…if you expected to see visions of anyone at this stage, it would be visions of the dead.”

    — maybe, but not necessarily.

    7. The striking similarity of content in NDEs among very young children and that of adults strongly suggests that the content of NDEs is not due to preexisting beliefs.

    and

    8. The remarkable consistency of NDEs around the world is evidence that NDEs are real events.

    … you say these, “are not strong evidence (archetypes of the mind could explain it), but it is strange all the same why these particular themes would be embedded in all of us.”

    — I gotta strongly disagree with you on this one… cross-cultural work is one of the strong tool in this kind of research.

    9. NDErs are transformed in many ways by their experience, often for life… you say, “an interesting element, but not necessarily proof of anything.”

    Your last point gets to the heart of it, “proof of anyhting”. Dr. Long does a great job of cutting through the sci-talk and delivering the results of his research, but at the end of the day this is science… there is no “proof”, just evidence that suggests. This evidence completely refutes every known skeptical argument explaining NDEs and leaves us with a compelling case for the afterlife — highly suggestive 🙂

    1. Debating points
      [quote=atsakiris]Hi Greg… just posted an interview with Dr. Long on http://www.skeptiko.com and would love to dialog with you on this. [/quote]

      Hi Alex,

      Yes, thanks for that excellent interview – I posted a note about it here on Feb. 4: http://dailygrail.com/Spirit-World/2010/2/Afterlife-Research-Game-Changer

      [quote]again, I think this is significant in that it distinguishes the experience from dreams of hallucinations. The fact that NDErs only observed events that really took place in their life is therefore significant. And, once you eliminate dreams and hallucantions there ain’t a whole lot left to epxlain the phenomena :)[/quote]

      Well, I reminisce often about times gone by with friends – I’m not dreaming the memories, nor hallucinating them. I’m just remembering them. If I have that capacity during waking hours, then there is no huge mystery if they occur during an NDE – it could just be that certain part of the brain which holds my memories is being stimulated during the NDE, releasing a flood of imagery.

      Having said that, once you put the life review component in context – dying person, sees their life in review, often in terms of an ‘observing to see what you did right and wrong’ experience, then it becomes a whole lot more suggestive to me (though again, not evidence of an afterlife).

      As I mentioned, I think Crookall’s work would have been useful here. In his books he pointed out that ‘discarnates’, ostensibly speaking through mediums, said that when they died they traveled through a tunnel and experienced a life review. Crookall’s anecdotes were noted well before the ‘NDE’ became public knowledge, thus suggesting that not only NDErs, but also people that actually died, recounted the same experiences during the dying process.

      For example, “The scenes of the past life are…often revealed to those who are just passing, at the last moment.” And, “One of the first things noticed is that, without mental effort, everything we have done…comes before us as a present memory.” Also: “I saw my life unfold before me in a procession of images” and “I seemed to be…seeing pictures of my life…”. And another communicator said that the review was like “a film shown backwards”.

      This gets me to thinking though about the origins of the phrase “my life passed before my eyes”. Was this a common expectation even well before NDEs, and if so, where did it come from?

      [quote]6. Virtually all beings encountered during NDEs are deceased at the time of the NDE, and most are deceased relatives… you say “is not surprising if the dying person knows of their state…if you expected to see visions of anyone at this stage, it would be visions of the dead.”

      — maybe, but not necessarily. [/quote]

      True, but neither does seeing deceased people provide evidence of an afterlife. Again though, once you put it in context with everything else, it does become rather suggestive (it’s worth noting how many of the NDE skeptical ‘explanations’ have to isolate one particular element and exclude the others in order to seem likely).

      [quote]– I gotta strongly disagree with you on this one… cross-cultural work is one of the strong tool in this kind of research.[/quote]

      Again, to me it points to something interesting going on. It doesn’t seem an example to me of ‘evidence for the afterlife’ (just as form constants aren’t an example of an astral geometry world). If we accept this as evidence, do we also then accept DMT ‘hyper-dimensions’ peopled by insects and carnival clowns, which are often reported by people during the DMT trip (see Rick Strassman’s “DMT: The Spirit Molecule”)?

      9. NDErs are transformed in many ways by their experience, often for life… you say, “an interesting element, but not necessarily proof of anything.”

      [quote]Dr. Long does a great job of cutting through the sci-talk and delivering the results of his research, but at the end of the day this is science… there is no “proof”, just evidence that suggests. This evidence completely refutes every known skeptical argument explaining NDEs and leaves us with a compelling case for the afterlife — highly suggestive :)[/quote]

      I enjoyed the book, and I’m glad that Jeffrey Long has put in the hard yards to document these recurring elements of the NDE (and respect him greatly for taking the task on on behalf of the rest of us). I do think though that the ‘evidence’ is still only suggestive (as it always has been), and therefore will not convince anyone coming to it with a skeptical stance (and thus NDEs will remain just a ‘general public’ phenomenon, rather than an accepted topic in scientific discourse).

      Thanks for your thoughts, appreciate the dialogue.

      1. now we’re getting somewhere
        now we’re getting somewhere 🙂

        [quote]Greg: Well, I reminisce often about times gone by with friends – I’m not dreaming the memories, nor hallucinating them. I’m just remembering them. If I have that capacity during waking hours, then there is no huge mystery if they occur during an NDE – it could just be that certain part of the brain which holds my memories is being stimulated during the NDE, releasing a flood of imagery.[/quote]

        Hold on… it’s a huge mystery… that kinda stuff is not supposed to happen when your brain is dead.

        [quote]Greg: As I mentioned, I think Crookall’s work would have been useful here… Crookall’s anecdotes were noted well before the ‘NDE’ became public knowledge… This gets me to thinking though about the origins of the phrase “my life passed before my eyes”. [/quote]

        fascinating… I’ll have to read up… and it’s corroborating in a very interesting way.

        [quote]Greg: Again, to me it points to something interesting going on. It doesn’t seem an example to me of ‘evidence for the afterlife’.[/quote]

        Maybe this is the crux of it… I mean, of course it’s evidence… just a matter of how good/convincing.

        Maybe the question is, how well does this evidence stack up with other accepted truths within medicine/science? Something I’m going to dig into by interviewing researchers is unrelated fields.

        Best,
        Alex

        1. Swapping points
          [quote=atsakiris]Hold on… it’s a huge mystery… that kinda stuff is not supposed to happen when your brain is dead.[/quote]

          Sure, but that would be covered by #1, not #5.

          [quote]Maybe this is the crux of it… I mean, of course it’s evidence… just a matter of how good/convincing.[/quote]

          Exactly. And, unfortunately, I don’t think the evidence from the NDERF survey will be a “game-changer” (the stronger pieces of evidence have been put out there already by others). On the other hand, still fascinating material, and it’s embarrassing that orthodox science is not paying more attention to it.

          1. braindead
            [quote]atsakiris wrote:

            Hold on… it’s a huge mystery… that kinda stuff is not supposed to happen when your brain is dead.
            [/quote]
            There is also the small matter of knowing when a brain is dead.

          2. safe bet
            [quote]I don’t think the evidence from the NDERF survey will be a “game-changer”[/quote]

            unfortunately, this is a pretty safe bet 🙂

            Alex

    1. There is a fundamental
      There is a fundamental assumption in operation here that is itself erroneous. The events perceived by the dying are not temporal, so the term “after” as in afterlife is not accurate. Death is part of a continuum. Something that was always there continues on unimpeded by the event of organic death.

  3. Do Christians see Christ, or Krishna?
    I am the most interested with the religious implications of this cross-cultural study of NDEs. If people having a NDE all saw, let’s say, Krishna regardless of their personal belief system this would be quite a revelation. Also, if people only see figures congruent with their beliefs, or the dominant beliefs of the culture they were raised in, this is very important information as well. If the structure of the experiences are consistent (such as OBEs, life reviews, and/or tunnels of light) but the religious figures vary depending on the individual that’s something the religious community needs to discuss.
    Questions:
    Has anyone ever been converted to a religious/spiritual belief system they were unaware of prior to their NDE?

    Has anyone ever been met by a figure from a religion they were unaware of during a NDE?

    1. Interesting question… Dr.
      Interesting question… Dr. Long has reported many cases of atheists being “converted”… and a few where followers of Islam seeing Jesus, but this may be because of cultural/religious taboos against “seeing” Allah.

      The big take-away seems to be that no one religion is in the Gold #1 club of the afterlife.

    2. Subject to belief
      As I understand it from the accounts I have read, a person’s belief structure influences the manner in which they are received and by whom. Christ or an angel is often there to meet a devout Christian but – according to channeled material and between life regressions – they later learn that this was a guide taking on the appearance of a religious icon in order to satisfy a strongly held belief.

      Interestingly, there are accounts of particularly negative and hostile souls who expected and feared the worst being escorted through hell-fire by some scary demon. Again, this is not really hell but it is what they believed so strongly would happen.

      Those with no particular conviction are usually met by recognised loved ones. Atheists are checked into the celestial Hotel Schadenfreude for the rest of eternity 😉

      1. Schadenfreude!
        😉 indeed.

        Though wasn’t it Thomas Aquinas who said ‘That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.’

        Nothing like a nice day in paradise watching people burn!

        Especially those who have coveted your donkey, or your male or female slave.

        I suppose forgiveness goes out of the window in heaven and the footie gets swapped for tapes of infinite torture. I can only imagine that God is right now fighting against the activist groups for those wanting loved ones released.

        I know how i’ll be using my vote when i get.. what do you mean i don’t get one? Oh, so no democracy in the long run after all then. Time to convert then…. 😉

  4. NDE dark void on the way to light
    I have a story about a guy sitting in the casino. He was next to his wife playing a machine when he said to her he wasn’t feeling good.

    Moments later he fell to the floor. The casino staff alerted emergency 911 and medical floor staff with security arrived first and assisted. The guy was gone by all preliminary observations and the 911 responders arrived to perform cardiac resusitation and apply the heart shock machine. They shocked the guy several times and nothing.

    They were ready to pronounce the guy dead when all of a sudden he opened his eyes and looked around and started to scream and tried to get up. He was actually fighting the 911 responders and security personal who were now holding the guy down as he screamed let me out of here.

    That took place for several minutes as the guy was in extreme fear and desperately tried to get up and run. After a couple of minutes of this, he fell back, closed his eyes and really was gone this time.

    The thing here is this, what did he see in the shadow of death that frightened him so much he fought to get up and run as he screamed let me out of here.

    Something is over where the soul slips into. Perhaps the event was to shocking for the departing souls spirit and it returned the soul to life only to have death reach out and pull it back.

    It was his time to go and go he did.

    I had NDE and was frightened the first time. Than I was taken in again and some unseen power rested my fear and I relaxed to observe it. It started with my soul stationed in a total dark void of no sound, no direction, no sense of the 5 senses. I was a sphere of glowing luminance, Than, something revealed to me an over whelming light in the void and I saw uncountable numbers of specks of lights traveling into and out off the source which was a magnificent light of its own. It was calming and the most powerfull thing I had ever seen or felt.

    When the soul is parted from the mortal realm, the mortal realm fades as a fleeting experience. One may look back and see the old reality slip away. How much materialistic awareness is retained when in between life and death.

    1. interesting
      your last sentnce, as a question, you could be the only one to answer. But, with the guy who was so afraid, could be the comming back into the body that scared him. From most NDE’s that I have read, the comming back into this life has been almost a disapointment.
      I, personally, have only ever been right next to 3 people who have died. One was very young, like 10, and then a guy I played indoor cricket with who was 36 and then my father who was 78. All of these went peacefully. No dramatic screaming or fighting for life. One minute they where here, then the next they were not. The eyes tell you. Like animals I have been around so often that have died in my arms. You can see the life drain from the eyes.

    2. This sounds similar to a situation at my work…
      A guy started to not feel well. He suddenly fell out. Stopped breathing…heart stopped. The A.E.D. was applied and shock to heart given. He came back screaming and saying let me up. HE WAS DISORIENTED FROM THE WHOLE ORDEAL AND THE A.E.D. SHOCK HURT LIKE H***. He was then taken to hospital where they determined he had a 90% blockage in the artery by the heart they call a “Widow-Maker”. He did happen to survive…but does not remember anything from the incident least of all the screaming and thrashing about to let him up. The paramedics after arriving on the scene said that this was typical behavior observed of usage with A.E.D. treatment used. It’s is sad that the guy in your story did not make it though.

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