by Daniel Bourke
“To be free from repulsion and attraction or from the wish to take or to avoid – to enter in the mood of complete impartiality – is the most profound of arts”
~ Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as the work is commonly known, is an ancient text which was written for the purpose of helping the dying – and indeed, the dead – navigate the many geographies and challenges of the otherworld which comes after death; the Beyond as it has been called. It is a testament to the great attention paid by at least some of our ancestors to the dying process. Death after all, is a process, and one which is as natural and regulated as any other in the world.
Belief in the existence of an eternal soul is certainly one of the most common and longest held of all mans ideas. In today’s increasingly non-religious, industrialized world, our notions of what births and constitutes a religion are extremely quaint and far removed from the visceral and deeply real psycho-physical experiences which lie at its core. Those ancient men who stood apart from the institutions which would later build themselves around their experiences – and claim to be the sole arbiters of these mysteries – were the subjects of truly affecting and shockingly personal experiences. This was pointed out by transpersonal psychologist Holgar Kalweit when he wrote, “Ideas about the soul and about such states as the OBE (Out of body experience) are therefore not founded on abstract thought; their origin lies in genuine psychic experiences.” Modern religious institutions and their watered down doctrines are, in practice, worlds apart from those genuine psychic experiences which underlie them; moving experiences which caused man to wonder in solitude at the vastness and beauty of the cosmos, and to shudder in humility at his own place in such a thing.
The idea here is simply to analyse the contents of the Book of the Dead and its descriptions of the realm of death, with relatively modern Near Death Experience (NDE) accounts and their induced contact with similar realms, in order to see if we can account for the key features of the former referencing the latter. In other words, can we look at the myriad set of “universal potential elements” reported of the NDE, in its more modern context, and find similar elements as have been reported in the Book of the Dead? Any resulting implications will be left up to the reader to decide for themselves.
The Near Death Experience
A number of authors in the field have repeatedly identified key elements which occur during the greater majority of NDEs, themes which appear again and again; hence, while looking for parallels, we will lend greater credence to the search, by using primarily those NDEs with such previously established consistencies intact. These include, but are not limited to, the Out of Body Experience, apparent contact with deceased relatives, contact with a being of light, a life review and the perception of a “barrier” or “point of no return” on the journey. There are many more commonalities between experiences, and much more to be said in this regard, but that is far beyond the scope of this particular work. A future piece will however deal with these in greater detail and it is enough to know that there are these established commonalities.
A Reflected World
There is not actually a huge amount of data to be drawn from the Book of the Dead, as it is extremely succinct in its painting of the world beyond – and in many ways it is a necessarily repetitive piece which is less a book in the traditional sense than it is an instruction manual. The text itself is predominantly concerned with those who have found themselves on the other side of the veil and are either too overcome with terror or too wrapt in awe to take the steps necessary in order to proceed to the ‘summerland’ beyond; akin to the experience of the inexperienced lucid dreamer who must similarly learn to hold both the fearful and the numinous aspects of his dreamtime at arm’s length, instead practicing a sort of detachment. This means there aren’t a massive amount of separate elements or phenomena in the text which describe the landscape of the Beyond, and we will therefore be able to cover the majority of key features which its authors have said distinguish the Land of the Dead from our own in this comparative analysis.
Throughout the Tibetan text, many different guidelines are given in the hope that the dead will be aware of them, either by making himself aware of the teaching during the course of his earthly life, or by being guided by its words via someone still in the land of the living so as to proceed without troubles. But there is one particular point that is made more than any other. The text’s authors considered it the height of importance to inform its readers that the apparent limbo-like state which connects this life to the next is exquisitely and wholly responsive to the conscious and subconscious mind of the individual. And this was meant in quite a literal sense as the text explains: “Alas! When the Uncertain Experiencing of Reality is dawning upon me here, with every thought of fear or terror or awe for all [apparitional appearances] set aside, may I recognize whatever [visions] appear, as the reflections of mine own consciousness.”
This is a point made again and again throughout the text and it is representative of a broader theme which reveals itself to readers of the literature on the afterlife, and incidentally, many altered states in general: that metaphor and symbolism are some of the key currencies of communication in these otherworldly realms. As the text goes on to say, “O nobly-born, all those are the radiances of thine own intellectual faculties come to shine. They have not come from any other place.” The world beyond this one, according to descriptions, is uniquely susceptible to the thought processes of the individual and in many ways, at least initially, tailors itself to accommodate those environments and worldly appearances that he is used to. Indeed in many instances of modern NDEs, those beings who populate the Beyond explicitly state that they are appearing in a way familiar to the traveller so as to comfort him during this time of great change and transition. One of the more well known modern accounts is in agreement here, that of George Ritchie, who in the midst of an initially terrifying NDE wrote that “…whatever anyone thought, however fleetingly or unwillingly, was instantly apparent to all around him, more completely than words could have expressed it”.
Consider also the case of a Zuni tribesman who, while visiting the world beyond this one, was told by an apparition that, “In order that this journey, which is long, might not seem strange to you, I have brought a couple of fine horses, such as my people used and I see your people use constantly nowadays.”
Philosopher A. J. Ayers reflecting on his own NDE had this to say. “Did you know that I was dead? The first time that I tried to cross the ‘river’ I was frustrated, but my second attempt succeeded. It was most extraordinary. My thoughts became persons.” Although it seems to be that Ayer did not have a wholly conventional NDE, his words reflect the role of thought not just in the post-mortal realm, but in states of mind which can be attained by a variety of other and related means.
Dr. Raymond Moody, in his work Life after Life – widely credited with revitalising interest in the topic of post-mortem survival – writes, “Interestingly, while the above description of the being of light is utterly invariable, the identification of the being varies from individual to individual and seems to be largely a function of the religious background, training, or beliefs of the person involved.” With this particular point made however, it is very important to note that although this is manifestly the case, it is only to a certain extent and within a particular context, and that for the most part, the NDE is unexpectedly surprising to the dying person. It is generally out of step with what his religions or ideas have told him about the otherworld and it is deeply novel to him in many more ways than it is familiar. It is this novelty which sets these realms apart and which becomes even more intriguing when we consider the mysterious extent to which they are experienced consistently both across cultures and across time. It is enough to know that a defining feature of the NDE is the combination of both elements of familiarity, and their conflation with elements of striking unfamiliarity.
Heightened Mental Faculties
One of the more puzzling and persistent elements which has emerged from modern NDE accounts, and is brought out again and again by many authors, is the subjective experience of an enhanced intellect. Clear and lucid thought reported to be far in excess of what was possible before, and not just thought, but sight and hearing are also greatly enhanced. Even the hard of hearing and those with visual problems have reported these enhanced capabilities. And all this, in the majority of cases during a time of clinical death, flat brain waves and in some cases, deep coma. (Note: The definition of death itself is a rather contentious one. However without going into much detail on these definitions, it is enough to say, that in the case of the NDE, the most important thing in the absence of this information is not whether the person is dead as such, but rather how functional are their brain capacities, particularly those which afford or mediate cognition, during the time of the NDE and the recurring themes in the accounts of those either dead or near death, and indeed whether or not some aspect of the mind is mysteriously projected outward at this stage. It is less important whether or not the individuals biological processes have ceased, than it is important as to whether or not some aspect of the individual has left the body at this stage; this way we can leave the squabbling regarding the exact moment of death up to others.)
The Tibetan Book of the Dead makes a similar claim. While speaking about how and why it is advantageous to read the book even once, the authors go on to state matter-of-factly that, “Through having heard it once, even though one do not comprehend it, it will be remembered in the Intermediate State without a word being omitted, for the intellect becometh ninefold more lucid [there].” In a fascinating parallel, Raymond Moody – who has interviewed dozens of people who have had NDEs – writes that, “Over and over, I have been told that once they became accustomed to their new situation, people undergoing this experience began to think more lucidly and rapidly than in physical existence.” To be more specific, a case from the files of Melvin Morse speaks of this phenomenon: “While he watched what was going on below him, he suddenly felt as though there had been a great increase in his intelligence.”
From Jeffrey Long’s deeply extensive NDERF (Near Death Experience Research Foundation) study we find a case among many in which a woman had an NDE just after the birth of her 10th child, and after experiencing many of the classical elements of the NDE, went on to report that, “I felt myself to be very awake and aware the whole time, I was immensely curious and observing, and my awareness was unearthly, much larger than we I am here in life. I could see 360 degrees around myself; I could focus on what I wanted to and it close-up without any problems, even without thinking about it. I could look up, down, forward and behind me all at once.”
The experiences of Robyn from the NDERF study are also in line with this when she speaks of her clarity of awareness during her own NDE. She goes on to say that she had “more consciousness and alertness than normal.”
One of the more noteworthy accounts in its extensive detail is also in agreement on this point. Howard Storm was, for what it’s worth to the reader, something of a militant atheist by his own admission. He stated of his fascinating experience: “Obviously the first thing I thought about was, Is this a hallucination? Yet by every sensation of myself I knew that it wasn’t a dream or a hallucination. It was actually more vividly real than normal consciousness.
In 1795, Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, narrowly escaping death by drowning, reported that “though the senses were…deadened, not so the mind; its activity seemed to be invigorated, in a ratio which defies all description, for thought rose above thought with a rapidity of succession that is not only indescribable, but probably inconceivable by anyone who has not himself been in a similar situation.”
Likewise, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander reporting on his own NDE, expresses surprise at the clarity of his thinking. “The more I learned of my condition, and the more I sought, using the current scientific literature, to explain what had happened, the more I came up spectacularly short. Everything – the uncanny clarity of my vision, the clearness of my thoughts, a pure conceptual flow – suggested higher, not lower, brain functioning.”
In another case, we read that, “The mountains appeared to be about fifteen miles away, yet I could see individual flowers growing on their slopes. I estimated my vision to be about one hundred times better than on earth. To the left was a shimmering lake containing a different kind of water – clear, golden, radiant, and alluring. It seemed to be alive. The whole landscape was carpeted with grass so vivid, clear, and green, that it defies description.”
In yet another case related to Dr Jeffrey Long the NDE experient writes that, “[I was] unconscious physically, but more alert/conscious than I had ever experienced before or since. Like a window had been cleaned that you did not know was dirty until you saw the difference.”
To clarify again, there is no attempt here to objectively prove that such states are conducive to higher awareness, but simply to find in the modern literature, analogous contents to those found within the Tibetan book of the dead, and according to those accounts, many more of which the reader will find within the works referenced here, are in agreement that as Arthur Yansen stated, the grass is quite literally greener on the other side.
Sight and Hearing in Those Lacking Both
One particularly interesting parallel lies in the text’s sole statement to individuals who have had trouble with both sight and hearing in their earthly lives, and how they will find these impairments do not follow them into the Beyond. As the Book of the Dead states. ”Thou mayst have been, when living, blind of the eye, or deaf, or lame, yet on this After-Death Plane thine eyes will see forms, and thine ears will hear sounds, and all other sense-organs of thine will be unimpaired and very keen and complete.”
Dealing with the experience of Bolette from the NDERF study, we find in her detailed account, her telling us that… “I have hearing loss in my life, I did not have that in death, and I could hear much better than ever in my life. I had no trouble with my hearing; the sounds were beautiful and melodic.”
One of the most famous NDE accounts is that of Vicki Umipeg who was born blind after an excess of oxygen in her incubator completely destroyed her optic nerve. The case is again, clearly of the classical variety with its well rounded roster of persistent elements. With the words of the Book of the Dead in mind, we will now look at Vicki’s attempt to communicate her experience beyond the veil of life and death: “I had a hard time relating to it (i.e., seeing). I had a real difficult time relating to it because I’ve never experienced it. And it was something very foreign to me … Let’s see, how can I put it into words? It was like hearing words and not being able to understand them, but knowing that they were words. And before you’d never heard anything. But it was something new, something you’d not been able to previously attach any meaning to.”
In a case documented by Dr. Kenneth Ring in his 1984 book Heading towards Omega, the NDE of a short-sighted woman is relayed as follows..“It was so vivid…they were hooking me up to a machine that was behind my head. And my first thought was, “Jesus I can see! I can’t believe it, I can see!” I could read the numbers on the machine behind my head and I WAS SO THRILLED.”
In the case of Brian, which is also completely in line with the classical cases in that it shares a great many recognizable features which clearly demonstrate it as a genuine NDE, we find that although the man was born deaf, he had no problem speaking and being spoken to, albeit in a manner which he describes as “telepathic” during his time beyond life. “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.”
Respected cardiologist Dr. Pim Van Lommel – who, along with his colleagues carried out an extensive ten year study on NDEs which was published in the renowned medical journal The Lancet (details of which can be found in his book Consciousness Beyond Life) – recorded details of a number of near-death experiences that tie into the assertions made in the Book of the Dead that those with afflictions of both hearing and sight will find themselves unimpaired in the post-mortal realm. As one of his informants recalled, “I saw the most dazzling colours, which was all the more surprising because I’m colour blind. I can distinguish the primary colours, but pastels all look the same to me. But suddenly I could see them, all kinds of different shades. Don’t ask me to name them because I lack the necessary experience for that.”
Dr. Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper have compiled a great many more of these cases for anyone interested in their book Mindsight, and also of interest may be Chapter 7 in Chris Carter’s Science and the Near Death Experience. Anyone who wishes to read a more compacted thesis in this regard should refer their excellent paper “Near-Death and Out of Body Experiences in the Blind: A study of Apparent Eyeless Vision”, which addresses the issues of the NDE in blind individuals with great clarity.
Travel at the Speed of Thought
The text states unequivocally that while one is in the “Bardo-state”, he has the ability to arrive at any destination he desires, merely by directing his mind to that destination. “O nobly-born, thou art actually endowed with the power of miraculous action, which is not, however, the fruit of any samādhi, but a power come to thee naturally; and, therefore, it is of the nature of karmic power. Thou art able in a moment to traverse the four continents round about Mt. Meru. Or thou canst instantaneously arrive in whatever place thou wishest; thou hast the power of reaching there within the time which a man taketh to bend or to stretch forth his hand.”
This has been a staple of the OBE and NDE literature since the beginning. Modern accounts are in full agreement and abound with exactly the same descriptions. Consider the case of an American informant named Lisa who, stumped at what to do next having found herself floating out of her body on the ceiling discovered that (according to her interviewers Barbara Walker, Dr. William Serdahely and Lori Bechtel), “the answer came to her immediately. She realized that all she needed to do was to let her mind tell her soul body where to move, and in doing so her soul would travel to that destination.” Her words mirror closely the description given in the Book of the Dead.
In another case reported by cardiologist Dr Michael Sabom, his informant states that “I could see anywhere I wanted to. I could see out in the parking lot, but I was still in the corridor…It was just like I said, Okay, what’s going on out in the parking lot? And part of my brain would go over and take a look at what’s going on over there.”
Indeed American psychologist Charles Tart, testing the out-of-body experience (OBE) phenomenon – which is an essential element in the archetypal NDE – under lab conditions, discovered and listed the most prominent and persistent elements, one of those being “Suddenly being at a place of which you have just thought” which again, is the same feature of the OBE state given in the Book of the Dead. One of his subjects went on to state that, “Back into the physical [body] was achieved simply, by [the] thought of return.”
Incapacity to Communicate with the Living
The Book of the Dead tells us early on that, “When the consciousness-principle getteth outside [the body, it sayeth to itself], ‘Am I dead, or am I not dead?’ It cannot determine. It seeth its relatives and connexions as it had been used to seeing them before… and, although he can see them and can hear them calling upon him, they cannot hear him calling upon them, so he goeth away displeased.” The kind of frequency with which this is reported in modern and indeed ancient accounts is certainly food for thought. For the interest of the reader, this is particularly interesting in light of the notions that the NDE is somehow an “evolutionary comfort mechanism” for the dying, for what comfort is there in the dying man or woman being unable to communicate with the ones he holds the dearest? But moving on from this point, which will be addressed in greater detail down the line, we can examine a few of those cases which are, as with all the cases presented in this piece, representative of a much greater number of documented cases which can be found in the publications mentioned and many other places besides.
In one account we read, “I saw them resuscitating me. It was really strange. I wasn’t very high; it was almost like I was on a pedestal, but not above them to any great extent, just maybe looking over them. I tried talking to them but nobody could hear me, nobody would listen to me.”
In another, “People were walking up from all directions to get to the wreck. I could see them, and I was in the middle of a very narrow walkway. Anyway, as they came by they wouldn’t seem to notice me. They would just keep walking with their eyes straight ahead”.
Another case still goes on to state “As I turned, my elbow came into contact with the arm of one of two gentlemen who were standing in the door. To my surprise his arm passed right through mine without apparent resistance, the severed parts closing again and again without pain, as air reunites. I looked quickly up at his face to see whether he had noticed the contact but he gave me no sign.”
Sabom reports on the case of a construction worker who was injured, “One time a nurse I could see looked me right in the face just this far away [indicating one foot]. I tried to say something, but she didn’t say nothing…She was like looking at a movie screen that can’t talk back and that doesn’t recognize you’re there.”
While one of Raymond Moody’s informants told him that, “It was really strange. I wasn’t very high; it was almost like I was on a pedestal, but not above them to any great extent, just maybe looking over them. I tried talking to them but nobody could hear me, nobody would listen to me.”
Dr. Cherie Sutherland reports on the case of an Australian who suffered a series of heart attacks as a teenager in school. “I was out of the body, and I thought to myself, I must be dead. So I went up to Miss Smith and told her not to bother, I was dead. She took no notice of me. I made a few more attempts to speak to her and to Miss Breen then gave up…”
Meanwhile, Howard Storm reported, upon leaving his own body that…”I opened my eyes and I was standing looking at my body in the bed, and I was standing right next to the bed. And there was my wife, and I started yelling and screaming at her, like, What’s going on? How can I be standing up, looking at myself? And I felt completely real, and she didn’t respond to me. And I gestured wildly, and I started swearing and screaming, and no response…I figured that she was crazy or something, so I turned around to my room-mate and started yelling at him. And the same thing, he was just like frozen.”
In closing this section, it may be of interest to some to note that I personally am yet to come across a case where this attempted physical contact between the dying and the living has been possible. And yet, the dying person can, in every case, speak with and respond to those beings he perceives as either dead or divine. The potential implications of this will be described in a later piece.
The Life Review and the Mirror of Karma
The idea of a final judgment, of the weighing up of man’s good deeds against his bad as a means of attaining what the Tibetans have called “Buddha-hood” is as old as religion itself. The ‘life review’ is a well documented if not statistically universal element of the NDE. It may not be as widely reported as for instance the out of body experience; however it is reported widely enough to be considered one of the most intriguingly consistent elements across accounts. And each are coupled with some fascinating, specific ancillary features such as the seeming capacity of the viewer to feel the emotions of those involved in the visions, and the literal tracing of the effects of one’s actions through time and their actual effects on other people. The Book of the Dead is fairly short spoken on this matter however what is said is interesting enough to warrant some tentative comparisons.
Here is what the text’s authors spoke of regarding the ‘Mirror of Karma’: “If thou neither prayest nor knowest how to meditate upon the Great Symbol nor upon any tutelary deity, the Good Genius, who was born simultaneously with thee, will come now and count out thy good deeds [with] white pebbles, and the Evil Genius, who was born simultaneously with thee, will come and count out thy evil deeds [with] black pebbles. Thereupon, thou wilt be greatly frightened, awed, and terrified, and wilt tremble; and thou wilt attempt to tell lies, saying, ‘I have not committed any evil deed’. Then the Lord of Death will say, ‘ I will consult the Mirror of Karma’. So saying, he will look in the Mirror, wherein every good and evil act is vividly reflected. Lying will be of no avail.” The Tibetan Mirror of Karma then represents the experience of revisiting one’s earthly life in detail.
The main difference between this and modern accounts (although even that is a stretch as no two modern accounts are exactly the same) is that there is a sense in these words, that the Lord of Death is himself personally judging the individual in her or her lifestyle and choices. Whereas the modern accounts for the most part, but not unanimously, describe that the individual is his own judge and jury. Comments such as ‘I reviewed my life, and I did the judging’ are very common. This is not to speak on or imply that there is or isn’t some universal moral code whereby any actions can be considered virtuous if the individual sees no wrong. It is just to say that the individual seems to be somehow aware of whether or not they have acted, within their capacity to do so, as agreeably as possible particularly in their behaviour and actions toward other human beings. At times this seems to be with reference to an outside value system, at times to their own, but these two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. However the individual rarely feels a sense of condemnation from an outside source. If they feel any condemnation it is generally their own remorse, guilt and regret having watched themself act in a way they may not be proud of. And even in those accounts where perhaps there is a sense of outer condemnation or guilt, it is possible, based on what we have learned so far, that this too is some manner of projection of the individual’s own feelings into the space around him.
Of course, this is just speculation. It is frequently stressed in many modern accounts that indeed, lying will be of no avail. Now, if we consider that the Book of the Dead is unequivocal on the fact that even the religious figures come forth from one’s own mind, we can perhaps see the Lord of Death not as some final arbiter that each individual will meet, but rather a manifestation of the individual’s own capacity to judge themselves.
An NDE experient named Samantha had a particularly detailed experience to share. “At that point, I was totally unconcerned with whether I was alive or not. My focus was on what was being shown to me — a sort of film reel that was directly in front of me but up just a bit. It was like watching an immense, very clear TV. I was watching images of every event that had taken place in my life — my entire life all in pictures. The most interesting part of it was that with each picture — with all the pictures (there were more than I could count) I re-experienced the original feelings that had accompanied each one at the time it had actually happened.”
Our friend Howard Storm during his own NDE, before a life review, had a dialogue with some beings which he perceived. He asked them a question as follows, “Everything I think of, you respond to. Do you know what goes on in my mind?” And they replied, “Yes”. Howard went on to ask. “What if I had a thought that I don’t want you to know about?” To which the beings replied, “We know everything that you think about and we have always known everything that you have thought about.” This is very much reminiscent of the line in reference to the mirror of Karma which states that lying can be of no avail and speaks more broadly on the seemingly transparent nature of thought in the Beyond. Storm then went on to detail his own life review:
My life played out before me, maybe six or eight feet in front of me, from beginning to end…Some things they slowed down on, and zoomed in on, and other things they went right through. They showed me my life in a way that I had never thought of before. All the things that I had worked to achieve, the recognition that I had worked for, in elementary school, in high school, in college, and in my career, they meant nothing in this setting…they didn’t say that something was bad or good, but I could feel it. And I could sense all those things they were indifferent to…what they responded to was how I had interacted with other people.
Again we see the theme of the individual as the judge. It is interesting to note a less obvious parallel with the Book of the Dead here too. The beings Storm interacts with specifically tell him that they can appear to him in a way which might make him more comfortable, and we understand that this place is malleable by thought. With this said, the Tibetan Lord of the Dead is again, likely just a manifestation of this one person’s projection; indeed it may be based on the experience of just one particular person, although this is probably less likely.
From one of Dr. Raymond Moody’s many informants we read that “Then it seemed there was a display all around me, and everything in my life just went by for review, you might say. I was really very, very ashamed of a lot of the things that I experienced because it seemed that I had a different knowledge, that the being of Light was showing me what was wrong, what I did wrong…it showed me not only what I had done but even how what I had done had affected other people.”
In the case of Swedish anaesthetist Dr Goren Grip, we read that he “re-experienced everything that happened in my life and watched it as a spectator with the being. Most of what I saw was about me and my brother, of whom I was very jealous. My attention was focused on our exchanges of emotions, my jealousy, my feelings of triumph when I hit him, his surprise when I hit him for no reason, his anger and resentment, and later his triumph when he got back at me…When I did something loving to him, I experienced my love, my brother’s surprise, as well as his love and happiness. I experienced his feelings as clearly as my own, making this a fantastic lesson on the consequences of my own actions.”
The Tibetan Book of the Dead as it is casually known in the West, according to this analysis shares many correspondences with relatively modern accounts of the world as it has apparently been experienced beyond death. In fact, all of the key points which describe the nature of the world beyond our own are in complete agreement with modern accounts both generally and specifically.
The text speaks only of the transitory state between states, and is not attempting to chart the entire geography of the world beyond. There are many other traditions which claim to speak of the world beyond our own, not the least of which is the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Although the details of these traditions are beyond the bounds of this piece, it is interesting to note, and perhaps something for the reader to follow up on, that the reason the title “Tibetan Book of the Dead” was chosen in the first place was due to the parallels that Dr. Walter Y. Evans-Wentz found between the text and the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
A relatively limited number of accounts have been presented here in the interest of both readability and succinctness. However if anyone is unsure as to whether or not they are representative of the broader canon of NDE accounts, they are invited to read the works of the authors mentioned through the course of this piece and they will be in no doubt. Although there are a select few similarities which are more often spoken about than others, there are many many more which are again both general and specific in detail, and which come from sources as far removed from each other as could be both culturally and across time. In the end, it is the persistent and mysterious universality of the near-death experience which has from the beginning, been its defining feature, its greatest source of fascination and that which calls us again and again to probe ever deeper into the nature of a world which lies beyond our own.