Researcher Daniel Bourke looks into the mystery of why near-death experiencers often report that their communication with the deceased was via ‘telepathy’.
The near-death experience remains one of the great mysteries of the modern era. And within that mystery lies another – why do so many NDE accounts feature communication via ‘telepathy’ between NDErs and the deceased people they meet during the experience? It’s a question that has long fascinated me, and I was excited to see that a young researcher by the name of Daniel Bourke has addressed this aspect of the NDE at length. Daniel has been kind enough to allow me to reproduce his essay here – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
On Non-Verbal Communications During the Near-Death Experience: Documenting the Fact and Establishing its Importance
by Daniel Bourke (2013)
Since nature’s works be good and death doth serveth natures work, whys should we fear to die?
There are a great many features to the classical near-death experience (NDE). Many critics have seen this as somehow detrimental to the reality of the experience. That such variety in reports is in some way supportive of its unreality. Such critics are both completely unfamiliar with the breadth of the literature and indeed of the fallacy of such thinking in and of itself. In just the same way that any given individual would explain his unique experience of the “waking world”, the NDE is home to a variety of features, and yet is strikingly consistent and familiar no matter who is relaying the message or indeed where and when that message is relayed. Fundamentally, there is a set of experiences which can be had within the confines of the near-death experience and while all of these will not be experienced all of the time; some will reliably be experienced every time. But even this is a vast oversimplification as the similarities between near-death accounts are far more consistent and specific than any two relevantly separated accounts of Earthly life. Many authors have attempted to account for these similarities using various models but it is enough here for us to know this is the case.
One of these features and the topic of this particular paper is the fascinating persistence of telepathy as a means of communication in the land of the dead. By telepathy we mean some form of thought or idea transfer which is specifically cited by a great many of those who return as the primary means of communication. Although those familiar with the term may consider telepathy to be in some way a more” indirect” or “etheric” form of communication, we will soon see that it has been described by those who have ventured beyond the veil of death as far more instantaneous, efficient and less prone to misinterpretation than the spoken word could ever hope to achieve. We will then briefly ponder the implications of such consistencies in reports. The main idea here is documentation of the fact itself, the results of which may be considered however the reader sees fit. It is however hoped to be established beyond doubt that during the time of the near-death experience, non-verbal communication is completely ubiquitous as the primary means of communication.
It is important to remember, that insofar as we are here concerned, the word “telepathy” is being used as a descriptor for an experienced phenomenon. It is perhaps the only word in our language, or at least one of just a few, which can aptly describe the type of non-verbal communication which is experienced by those near death and should be treated as such. In other words, the use of the word should be viewed in this context.
Perhaps most important to be noted is how easily an analysis of this kind may not have come to pass. How easily it could have come to be the case that during reports of near-death experiences, people simply spoke as they had on Earth, and had not reported an altogether different method of communication than they are used to. And yet it is not so.
On The Primacy of Non Verbal Communication in the Land of the Dead
Many authors have noted the primacy of thought as a means of communication in the world beyond our own. When we look across the literature it becomes extremely clear that non-verbal communication is the rule rather than the exception. Speaking to this, Dr. Raymond Moody created an often cited but certainly still relevant “composite” or archetypical near-death experience based on the cases he collected. This is a model near-death experience which captures the general attributes of the “core” near-death experience, Moody shows us that he himself considers the telepathic aspect of the experience as being recurring enough to warrant a place in his model NDE; he writes that, “…Soon other things begin to happen. Others come to meet and help him. He glimpses the spirits of relatives and friends who have already died, and a loving, warm spirit of a kind he never encountered before-a being of light-appears before him. His being asks him a question, nonverbally…”. 1
Let us now hear from some more of these authors and their related thoughts in order to set the stage for our accounts with words from those who have so tirelessly sifted through so many accounts, interviewed many hundreds of subjects, indeed thousands between them and have more authority than most to make such general statements.
From the work of Ian Wilson in Life after Death The Evidence, he tells us that, “When we look across the range of NDE as reported right across the world we find exactly the same exchanges of thought as the common currency of communication between the living and the dead”.2
Cardiologist Pim van Lommel writes in his seminal book Consciousness Beyond Life that, “Many people report direct communication with this being(of light), as if it reads their mind and responds to the mind”.3
The man credited with the modern popular revival of interest in these topics Dr Raymond Moody again picked up on this fact early on when he wrote that “hearing” in the spiritual state can apparently be called so only by analogy, and most say that they do not really hear physical voices or sounds. Rather, they seem to pick up the thoughts of persons around them.4
Dr. Michael Sabom writes that, “approximately half of the NDErs engaged in nonverbal communication with deceased friends or relatives or a spiritual entity”.5
Dr. Victor Zammit writes, “In the afterlife communicating is done by telepathy. Communicating from and to the earth plane with those in the afterlife can be (and is being) done by telepathy.”6
In a research paper, Dr. Peter Fenwick indirectly communicates his conviction that telepathy is a major part of the near-death experience when he compares the experience to the ‘deathbed vision’ (DBV) experience, a related phenomenon, by stating that, “The similarity of deathbed visions to NDEs is striking. The peace, love and light are common to both, as is the experience of a journey and an entry into a world dominated by beauty and colour. The experiencing of religious figures and dead relatives together with the method of communication, a sort of mental telepathy, are also similar”.7
Dr. Carol Zaleski tells us having relayed a near-death experience that, “The line between outer and inner voices is especially difficult to trace in accounts which indicate that communication in the other world is telepathic”.8
Dr. Kenneth ring writes, “…And while in this realm, the NDE’er will receive instantaneously and telepathically the answers to all of his questions… “.9
While German mystic, scientist and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg writes matter-of-factly in his work Heaven and Hell that, “In heaven people actually speak directly from their thought, so that we have there a kind of thoughtful speech or audible thought”.10
In his book, The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche writes of those individuals whom have seen beyond the veil that, “They communicate telepathically with the presence, and find themselves in a timeless and usually blissful dimension in which all ordinary concepts like time and space are meaningless”.11
Speaking in reference to the near-death experience, Rousseau writes that, “Likewise, informational types of psychic ability such as clairvoyance and telepathy appear to be powerful native powers of the soul”.12
From a study carried out by Kevin Williams he finds that, “The highest percentage of experiences where mental telepathy occurred (were) those in the new age (80%) category. The lowest percentages of experiences were those in the non-Christian (50%) category. Perhaps this lower percentage can be attributed to the fact that mental telepathy is considered more of a new age concept than a traditional religious concept. Mental telepathy was the number two frequently occurring aspect”.13
In his paper “A Review of Near-Death Experiences” Michael Schroter-Kunhardt tells us 6 common elements of the near-death experience. He states, “Encounter with deceased relatives, religious figures or beings of light with whom the dying person communicates telepathically; these figures often initiate the dying person’s return”.14
One of the most well known near-death experience researchers, P. M. H. Atwater whom has compiled and studied thousands of accounts and is hence in a better position than most to comment, observes that ” Many individuals claim they are met in the light by angelic beings or loved ones previously dead, and conversation ensues. This dialogue, which seems more telepathic than verbal, can involve questions about life and its meaning or perhaps revelations about personal issues”.15
Finally we hear from Dr. Jeffrey Long that, “It is this type of communication, [telepathic] by the way, that takes place during almost all near-death experiences in which communication is described”.16
From the above observations it is clear that some of the most prominent researchers in the field of near-death studies have made it a point to note the peculiar persistence of telepathy as the primary “currency of communication”. This is particularly important for those who are perhaps unhappy with the volume of accounts presented here, though they do number highly.
On Accounts of Telepathy and the Value of Statistics in Near-Death Studies
The NDE literature is not only growing every day, it is in fact larger than initially assumed. Upon closer examinations of many historical tales, myths and motif’s, it has become increasingly apparent that the NDE is not some modern phenomena but has been a part of the human lexicon since time immemorial. And why wouldn’t it be? With the advancements of medical technologies more and more people are coming back with tales to tell of the world they say is beyond our own.
In the same sense, telepathy or non-verbal communication is not some freak feature of the modern NDE, but rather has been one of the most persistent and core features of the phenomenon the world over. Indeed, with increased familiarity with the near-death literature, it becomes more surprising when it is not specifically referred to. Below we will document a number of these instances as reported by the individuals themselves which is broadly representative of the wider canon of accounts.
But first, and of interest to note here is that in many instances, the word telepathy is not used itself, but the speaker is clearly referring to a modality of communication which is in line with common uses of the term. This is important. We may even consider that a great many of those who have come close to death and made communication simply did not make note of their own communications as having been telepathic in nature even though they may well have been and surely were according to the thesis of this paper. There are a variety of potential reasons for this. Being overwhelmed by the experience, communication coming so naturally that it may not even be thought of retrospectively as in some way unusual etc. The point being, authors should, in a way they have not thus far necessarily practiced, always consider such variables when arriving at graphs, numbers and statistics which purport to show the occurrence of non-verbal communications and indeed, any one or more features of the near-death experience.
This reality, and a cautionary warning to those statisticians is brought out in a case report from the quarterly journal of near-death studies in which a man undergoing surgery for organ failure in one instance speaks specifically of his telepathic communication with his father when he states, “When I went to look at my father, it was drawing with his eyes as well, as if I could see them both [at] the same time. And I had no pain at all. There was talking between me and my father; not words but communicating other ways – don’t ask me what, but we were actually talking. I was talking to my father … not through words through my mouth, but through my mind.” He has clearly indicated a form of non-verbal communication. However the same man, when asked a question directly had a slightly different and yet important reply as will shall see.
Penny: Do you recall hearing anything while in this state?
Reply: Only the words that my father spoke, and the gentleman saying, ‘He isn’t ready yet’.17
The importance of this is that if a statistician attempting to quantify the incidence of telepathy during the near-death experience had read only the direct response the man gave his nurse, he might come away convinced that the man, as he did indeed state, merely heard the “words that [his] father spoke”. There is no indication as to the non verbal nature of the dialogue and yet we know this to be so from the man’s own detailed account. He may think nothing of it.
We are not trying to say that there is no value in statistical data of course, rather that this is an extremely pertinent point which should be considered by anyone attempting to draw conclusions from statistics related to the incidence of any and all near death phenomena.
We will of course be limited in the number of accounts presented for the sake of both readability and succinctness, it is again for this reason that we have opened the piece with the previous expert statements on the occurrence of non verbal communication so that the reader will be in no doubt as the frequency with which this phenomenon occurs and the broader experiential reality which these relatively smaller number of accounts is representative of.
A total of fifty cases where telepathy has been explicitly reported, or indeed less obviously reported, have been examined for the sake of this particular piece and are presented accordingly below.
These accounts will be presented with only rudimentary commentary, the hope being that their content will speak for themselves. It should go without saying that these are excerpts from fuller accounts which the reader can find if he follows the references provided in the notes section.
We will begin using an account collected by Dr. Raymond Moody in which his subject writes that, “While I was dead, in this void, I talked to people-and yet, I really couldn’t say that I talked to any bodily people. Yet, I had the feeling that there were people around me, and I could feel their presence, and could feel them moving, though I could never see anyone. Every now and then, I would talk with one of them. But I couldn’t see them. And whenever I wondered what was going on, I would always get a thought back from one of them”.18
In a case collected by Dr. Pim Van Lommel we read from one of his informants having been plunged into the world beyond our own having almost drowned in his youth.”But some of my ancestors were on the other side, and they caught my attention because they were communicating through a kind of telepathy”.19
Howard Storm, in one of the more fully featured and well known cases speaks of a being he was interacting with that,” For the first time he spoke to my mind in a male voice and told me that if I was uncomfortable we didn’t have to go closer”.20
In yet another well known case, the speaker observes of the beings he communicated with that, “They answered them (my questions), but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly”.21
We are told by Tannis Prouten, as relayed by respected NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater, after a severe anxiety attacking which nearly took her life that, “The LIGHT was an infinite, loving, accepting BEING without form. IT had personality. IT communicated with me telepathically”.22
Coming again to one of Moody’s experients, we hear that, “While I was dead, in this void, I talked to people-and yet, I really couldn’t say that I talked to any bodily people. Yet, I had the feeling that there were people around me, and I could feel their presence, and could feel them moving, though I could never see anyone. Every now and then, I would talk with one of them. but I couldn’t see them. And whenever I wondered what was going on, I would always get a thought back from one of them”.23
Chris Carter reports on the case of Al Sullivan who was rushed to surgery room after one of his coronary arteries became blocked where he reported that, “She smiled [my mother] at me and appeared to be shaping words with her mouth and these [were] not audible to me. Through thought transfer we were soon able to communicate”.24
From another case of a woman whom had postpartum preeclampsia after the birthing of her youngest son the day before, we read that, “…We communicated with the use of our thoughts and mind.”…”The conversations I had with others did not take place with sound, but rather with telepathy”.25
In the case of a woman whom attempted suicide, “It was at this moment that his family appeared in front of him, in a glow of light with an incredible sense of love. They had happy smiles on their faces, and simply made him aware of their presence, not communicating in any verbal way but in the form of thought transference”.26
As reported by one Jack Ward, “I must add here that this ‘communication’ I sense with this ‘presence’ during death is not in the sense of material auditory speech, but rather different, almost as if it is from mind to mind, or telepathic, if you prefer”.27
The story of Louis Tucker as described in his own memoirs titled Clerical Errors in 1943, the event itself having happened in 1903, took place long before the near-death experience and its many recurring themes had been subjected to the rigour of modern times, having suffered from severe food poisoning and being pronounced dead, he tells us that, “Soon I discovered that we were not talking, but thinking. I knew dozens of things that we did not mention because he knew them. He thought a question, I an answer, without speaking; the process was practically instantaneous”.28
Next up we read about the case of Dr. Bell C.F Chung who tells us, having been involved in a near fatal glider crash of communication in the world beyond our own that, “In contrast, the soul does not require sensory cell to connect to the universe at all. Instead, it works in a way similar to telepathy… At the same time, I no longer relied on sound, technically the vibration of air molecules, to communicate there. Instead, communication worked through an ultra-sensory channel. It’s a pure and direct communication through thoughts, functioning through a telepathic mechanism”.29
Having badly hurt himself after slipping on a bottle of cooking oil, Paul Carr lets us know that, “There were other entities out there. I can sense them, but I never saw them. I never saw squat. I didn’t see anything. I just sensed all this. And when I say ‘speak,’ I am sure it was more of a telepathic thing than it was moving the mouth”.30
Reported by the Anglo-Saxon monk Bede on the medieval death experience of one Drythelm where we read that, “I began to think that this might be hell, of whose intolerable torments I had often heard tell. But my guide who went before me answered my thoughts…”.31
Following an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Sandra Rogers described in Lessons from the light her experience of communication in the beyond as such, “Communication in the spiritual world is telepathic. Your thoughts are answered as rapidly as your mind can send and receive them. When you die, everything you have said, thought, or done will be known by all. There are no secrets in the afterlife. Spirits with evil thoughts avoid the light because they are too ashamed to have their life revealed. Spirits with like thoughts are drawn to each other in the afterlife”.32
Another man told Kenneth Ring of his own near-death experience: “I was asked—but there were no words: it was a straight mental instantaneous communication — ‘What had I done to benefit or advance the human race?'”.33
Following a serious taxi accident, Marta stated, “In front of me was a being, male, aged, with beautiful hands which looked like wings and moved harmoniously. I did not remember having seen him before, yet I seemed to know him from all my previous lives. I felt it was my guardian angel, who was there to guide me. I wanted to embrace him but something indefinable prevented me from approaching. Although his mouth did not move, he spoke to my interior mind telling me many things”.34
Relayed in Kevin William’s Nothing Better Than Death, in the form of an excerpt from Soul Bared, David Oakford tells us of his own NDE having had a serious overdose in which he experienced many of the core NDE features as they have been typically described and goes on to say, “When we spoke to each other we did so telepathically. The expression on his face was a happy one all the time”.35
The late Thomas Sawyer who is a relatively well known near-death experient having made appearances on the likes of Oprah Winfrey and shows such as Unsolved Mysteries spoke of his communication with the archetypical being of light and spoke straightforwardly about the means of this interaction when he said that, “There were such feelings of warmth and love coming from the light that it made me feel good. Now it was right before me and instantly began communicating with me. Instantaneously it emanated to me, thought-pattern to thought-pattern. And to describe it I coined the phrase: superluminal telepathic communication: a telepathic thought-pattern to thought-pattern rapport that functioned as fast as or conceivable faster than the speed of light”.36
“When I ‘regained consciousness’, I found myself in an ambiance that was neither bright nor dark. It was like what you see through your eyelids when you close your eyes in sunlight. I was not aware of having a body. I felt the presence of a being that I could not see. He communicated with me telepathically”.37
After Birth related complications, we hear from another experient that she was, “… passing through a bright light. When I stopped I felt exceptional love and joy that is indescribable. I heard a male voice asking if I was ready to move on. I did not see anyone. When I answered I thought it was strange that we were talking without me moving my mouth. It was as if it were telepathic”.38
Speaking to Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick who have documented a great number of cases in their works including The Truth in the Light were told by one Audrey Organ having come close to death during a surgical operation that she communicated with her father unlike how she would have on earth when she said, “Here I was in a glorious tunnel of light with my Dad, who had died some years ago…We were enormously happy, conversing but without the usual verbal speech, all via the mind”.39
From the quarterly journal of near-death studies we read again the reported of a Caucasian man who underwent emergency surgery having undergone organ failure “When I went to look at my father, it was drawing with his eyes as well, as if I could see them both [at] the same time. And I had no pain at all. There was talking between me and my father; not words but communicating other ways – don’t ask me what, but we were actually talking. I was talking to my father … not through words through my mouth, but through my mind”.40
In the case of a US serviceman who was gravely injured in Vietnam he wrote of his communications while out of the body near death that, “We communicated without talking with our voices”.41
In the case of the blind woman and one of the more well known cases, Vicki Umipeg said in relation to her communication with those dead people she met in the Beyond that her communications with them were, “not in the way that I am talking to you now, but by thought”.42
Speaking to Dr Cherie Sutherland of meeting her father during her own near-death experience, we hear that, “And then Dad spoke to me, although there was no speaking-his mind spoke to me”.43
Described to Kenneth Ring by a young man whom attempted suicide was that fact that, in relation to communication in the realm that he found himself, “It was mostly thoughts, you know? It was mostly thoughts. It wasn’t like somebody-you know like you and I are communicating with words. It was mostly thoughts…”.44
Reported by Kevin Williams, but also available in the documentary Shadows, Anne Horne, brought close to death by her husband by strangulation had this to say ,”I looked forward and saw a lighted tunnel and at the entrance were many people. They saw me coming and alerted the person in charge. This person came floating up to me. He reached me in an instant. I immediately knew him as “Uncle.” I remember thinking, “I don’t have an uncle who looks like him.” He was dressed in khaki pants, a white shirt and a tan sweater vest. He carried a clipboard. I thought, “How odd.” He had floated just a bit in front of my path blocking me from going further. Then he telepathically said, “It is not your time.” In the same manner I told him, “I am going home!” (It was sort of like saying, “What are you “talking about?”)”.45
In this case, we document we relay the experience of a woman whom experienced an NDE during childbirth, as documented by Kersti Wistrand who having undergone a very beautiful near-death experience said, “But all the time I knew that I had to go back. I got much energy, and power from the light. It helped me. I was telepathically told to return”.46
In this next case we quote directly from Wistram’s work again. “One woman with prolonged delivery experienced a being in the light, and also a life panorama, where she saw her whole life. The being told her telepathically that her son was to sleep during five months, but would wake up in the sixth. `Remember that he is not ill. He will be well!´”.47
Reported in his book If Morning Never Comes, VandenBush reported of his near-death experience while engaging in combat during the Vietnam war, that he had”…full knowledge of the universe,” and had telepathic communication with his grandfather and a spirit being…”.48
The next example is another in which the word telepathy or another such terms is not explicitly used, but that from reading other accounts, it is clearly the case. We read that, “I put my dog on the ground, and step forward to embrace my stepfather, when a very strong voice is heard in my consciousness. Not yet, it says. I scream out, why? Then this inner voice says, what have you learned, and whom have you helped? I am dumb-founded. The voice seems to be from without as well as within. Everything stops for a moment. I have to think of what was asked of me. I cannot answer what I have learned, but I can answer whom I have helped”.49
From Jeannine who suffered from hypertension and fainting spells we hear, “I was OK, observing the cement paving-stones on the terrace, which seemed wonderful to me, as did the sea and the sand. Suddenly I was projected towards a being of light who was not visible (no tunnel). He asked me (without a voice, by a kind of telepathy) if I accepted my death”.50
In the case of a woman whom came close to death from severe kidney infection, “The pain was gone. One stood out among the others and stayed close to me. I realized these were my Angels and knew right away my physical condition was grave. We talked telepathically, no words were needed. I heard the words in my mind”.51
After a plane crash one person wrote of her time beyond that: “Everything said was all telepathic as if energy thoughts coming across. Communication was fast. I didn’t have to wait or think about it. I just knew. Their laughter and excitement felt so contagious. I just wanted to go over there. It was so drawing. (For example, when you’re sitting in a restaurant and the table near you is having such a good time laughing hysterically, you want to find out what’s so funny and laugh too.) I was ready to go over and find out what was so funny. They immediately stopped me and said, “No! We’ll come to you.” In the next immediate second, they were there on my side. They just came in me, all three. They melded into me and I realized how great communication is without words. Mouthing words is so slow. That is the last thing that happened”.52
During a procedure for what is thought to have been food poisoning our next experient reports that, “Then a voice spoke over my left shoulder, a voice so beautiful, full of love and so deep that I will never forget that sound. He said, “Your time is not now. You must go back to your children. They need you.” I said, “I do not want to go back” several times over, and the voice said, “Your newborn baby needs a mother and your other two children need you.” No words were spoken as it all happened telepathically”.53
In another severe case of food poisoning we read that, “I also remember begging to stay alive for my son and the look on my father’s face once he arrived at the hospital. He tries not to show too much emotion. He couldn’t hold back fear. I remember saying to our great creator; I have more work to do so please let me stay. There seemed to be an agreement with my statement. Our communication was different. It is not the same type of communication we have here. I was not talking. We could just send messages and understand each other (more telepathic in nature)”.54
In yet another case, “The Being of Light, sensing my anguish, asked me: “Would you like to stay or would you like to go back?” I immediately replied (with thought as our communication was by thought). “I must go back; I have not accomplished my mission”. In that moment, I sensed I was going backward into a tunnel and I found myself back in my body”.55
During an NDE resulting from complications from a ruptured ovarian cyst we read, “I was told “telepathically” as my ears heard nothing, that I could stay and “All is well”. I had no memories of my life or earthly associations at that moment, and all I wanted was to stay forever in the presence of His light and love”.56
During an NDE due to blood loss at childhood one woman described that fact that, “Before I came to the light (I never entered the light!) What I presumed to be an “angel” appeared at my side. By this time the terrible noise in my ears had stopped! “He” had no wings but had shoulder length light brown hair and a plain white gown. I had never seen this being before in my life. I recall now seeing him at my side from waist up only. I do not recall if he “glowed”. As I picture him in my mind now, he didn’t. We communicated by telepathy only – not in words”.57
After a suicide attempt we read, “That’s when I heard this voice. It came from behind me and just over my head. It was gentle, rich, and familiar, yet to this day I don’t know who he is. When he “spoke” he communicated not just (telepathic) words but also emotions and knowledge. His words, really, meant nothing, but they were powerful”.58
Having drowned at a young age and experienced an NDE which is laden with classical features, we are told that, “One example when I approached the boundary. No explanation was necessary for me to understand, at the age of 10, that once I cross the boundary, I could never come back – period. I was more than thrilled to cross. I intended to cross but my ancestors over another boundary side caught my attention. They were talking in telepathy which caught my attention. I was born profoundly DEAF and had all hearing family members, which all of them knew sign language! I could read or communicate with about 20 ancestors of mine and others through telepathic methods. It overwhelmed me. I could not believe how many people I could telepathize with simultaneously”.59
From a case collected by P. M. H. Atwater, “”The figure in the light told me through what I now know to be mental telepathy that I must go back, that it was not time for me to come here. I wanted to stay because I felt so full of joy and so peaceful. The voice repeated that it wasn’t my time; I had a purpose to fulfil and I could come back after I completed it”.60
The case of a woman whom was severely electrocuted in her youth writes that, “On my left was the figure of my recently deceased grandmother, wearing a flowered house dress, just like I remembered her on Earth. She spoke telepathically to me, saying, ‘It is not your time. You have mission. You must go back.’ Then directly in front of me was a huge cloud of light. A kind, loving voice spoke telepathically to me from this cloud. The voice was indistinguishable as male or female, and said, ‘The choice is yours. You must decide.'”.61
Next is another example of what can be fairly construed as communication of the non-verbal kind but without use of words which we would typically associate with this such as telepathy. “”I put my dog on the ground, and step forward to embrace my stepfather, when a very strong voice is heard in my consciousness. Not yet, it says. I scream out, why? Then this inner voice says, what have you learned, and whom have you helped? I am dumb-founded. The voice seems to be from without as well as within”.62
From a very detailed and fascinating account which we hear from Jayne Smith, within which she explains her mode of communication while in the Beyond, “I must tell you that when we talked, we did not move our mouths. I can remember that I only had to have the impulse that contained the things that I wanted to say and he would immediately be able to get that and answer me. Even though he was not moving his mouth when he talked with me, I could hear the sound of his voice in my inner ear. I know what he sounded like. It was a mental transmission, yet I could hear what he sounded like. For a long, long time, I could remember the sound of his voice”.63
From the near-death experience of Dannion Brinkley we read of his communications that, “There were no actual words spoken, but this thought was communicated to me through some form of telepathy. To this day, I am not sure of the exact meaning of this cryptic phrase. That is what was said, however”.64
From Kimberly-Clark Shark’s near-death account, “The Light gave me knowledge, though I heard no words. We did not communicate in English or in any other language. This was discourse clearer and easier than the clumsy medium of language. It was something like understanding math or music – nonverbal knowledge, but knowledge no less profound”.65
In one other account, “Then it was like I was taken to one side (not led or anything, not told or moved – it just happened). I was still there in this place but at one side with this “soul of my Father” and it was not like he or for that matter “they” spoke to me but there were still words (that does not make sense I know) but it was like telepathy or something – the words were “Deanna, it is not your time yet, you must go back”.66
And finally, case of a woman involved in a serious car incident that, “…Great Grandfather was standing there holding my little brothers hand. They were very happy to see me, but I wasn’t happy to see them. That’s when I realized that I was dead. I became very upset. He could read my thoughts and his thoughts entered my thoughts. We communicated back and forth telepathically. As soon as I had a thought, he had a answer for me”.67
The Implications and the sceptics
Although it is not the primary concern here we must wonder what is to be made of all this? As the near-death experience is disregarded by the majority of scientists as the hallucinations of a dying and incoherent mind, it is noteworthy that there are any consistencies between accounts at all, let alone one as specific as the means of communication not at all practiced in daily life. Indeed, it should be carefully noted that accounts of this sort are fully inexplicable in light of those theories which attempt to relegate the near-death experience phenomenon solely to the workings of the brain, specifically theories which rely on the idea that the near-death experience is some convoluted fantasy, dream etc, based only on expectation, hallucination or some sort of evolutionary comfort mechanism for the dying brain. For what expectation could there be, assuming that all of the content of NDE is informed by daily experience, memory etc, that a form of communication which is not practiced in the physical realm we know, would be the dominant form of communication in the realm of the near-death experience? Even dreams, which are far more incoherent, sporadic in content and oftentimes non-sensical are predominantly filled with experienced and recalled vocalisations of the same type used in the waking world. This is a considerable intrigue and not something which can be so easily explained away. The individual should have no expectation to communicate this way and finds themselves communication in this way whether or not they have come to terms with their situation, that of being near death. It is these such oddities which must be studied in greater detail as the field moves forward. There are many similar points in this regard such as the persistent inability of those whom find themselves outside of their dying bodies unable to make contact with the living people in the area, but these will be dealt with in great detail in a forthcoming piece.
A Brief Word on other States in which Telepathy is reported
The near-death experience is not the only state of being in which telepathic communications have been reported. Other such non-ordinary states as the out-of-body state (to clarify, the OBE or Out-of-Body Experience is a typical feature of the NDE itself, hence we speak here of those OBE events which occur when one is not specifically near death, spontaneous or otherwise) those altered states brought on by the ingestion of certain psychoactive substances and ostensible contact with the dead through means of mediumship etc are also replete with accounts of telepathy. It is therefore important to note that these previous accounts have been chosen carefully so as not to be conflated with any of these other types of accounts.
The fact that non verbal communications have been reported in for example, experiences in which psychoactive substances have been ingested, is indicative of a broader set of similarities specifically between the near-death state and other particular altered states. Not a huge amount of detailed comparative work let alone any which has attempted to draw conclusions from this data have thus far been published. This will be the subject of another forthcoming essay.
If the fact of non-verbal of non-verbal communication near death has only previously been sporadically established or considered an interesting but not necessarily defining feature of the NDE, it is hoped that this piece will firmly establish its intriguing role as one of the more fascinating and persistent aspects. The experiencers themselves are often surprised at the type of communication with which they find themselves making contact with the denizens of the beyond, and yet it is indeed, fascinatingly ubiquitious.
Moody, Life after Life, p. 19.
Wilson, Life after Death – The Evidence, p. 120., 121.
Van Lommel, Consciousness beyond Life, p. 34.
Moody op.cit., p. 46.
Sabom referenced in Van Lommel op.cit., p14
Zammit, A Lawyer Presents the Case for the Afterlife, p. 231.
Fenwick, “Dying: A spiritual experience as shown by Near Death Experiences and Deathbed Visions” p. 3.
Zaleski, Otherworld Journeys, p. 136.
Ring, ReVision, Vol. 11, No. 3, Winter 1989
Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell, p. 90.
Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying, p. 325.
Rousseau, “Near Death Experiences and the Mind-Body Relationship: A Systems-Theoretical Perspective”, Journal of Near Death Studies, 29/3/2011, p. 427.