For those that enjoyed my essay on near-death experiences throughout history (expanded upon in my book Stop Worrying, There Probably is an Afterlife), the talk below, “Near-Death Experience and the Origin of Afterlife Beliefs”, delivered by Gregory Shushan at the 2016 IANDS conference, will likely be of interest.
Whatever their source (biological, psychological, and/or metaphysical), NDEs are unquestionably part of human experience. While they share similar themes wherever they occur, no two descriptions are exactly alike. As with any experience, NDEs are filtered through our layers of culture, language, and individuality. The interpretation of the phenomenon as indicative of survival after bodily death, however, appears to be universal. Accounts from around the world and throughout history show that NDEs regularly impact beliefs about the afterlife, despite cross-cultural differences. This presentation addresses their role in the formation of afterlife beliefs; the relationship between NDEs and cultural expectations; and the varying modes of interpretation and assimilation of these experiences in different societies. The argument that NDEs are a driving force behind religious beliefs aligns well with the conference’s focus on the transformative aspects of NDEs, and how they are integrated into people’s lives.