The field of near-death experience (NDE) research – like many other ‘fringe sciences’ – has its fair share of opportunists, people who care more about making some money than getting to the bottom of the mystery. There are a few scientists, however, who command respect – from not just people interested in the topic, but also their scientific peers – such as resuscitation expert Dr Sam Parnia, and Dr Bruce Greyson, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia.
When it comes to the NDE, Bruce Greyson is an authority – he has been actively researching near-death experiences in an academic setting for the best part of four decades, is a founder and past-president of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS), and for over 25 years was the editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies.
I was lucky enough to interview Dr Greyson as part of the research for my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, and his responses to my questions showed both the passion he has for his area of research, but also his careful skepticism. For example, when I asked him why, as a scientist, he got involved in such a ‘heretical’ area of research, he replied that “once I understood that near-death experiences are fairly common events (reported by 10-20% of people who come close to death) and that they have profound and long-lasting effects on experiencers’ attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior, it became for me a valid area for scientific investigation.”
And on further questioning about whether his passion for the topic meant he was a believer:
When it comes to whether he thinks the NDE is a glimpse into some sort of an afterlife however, Greyson is more circumspect. “We have a lot of data leading us toward or away from various hypotheses, but we are very far from understanding all the factors that contribute to people having NDEs”, he confesses. But Greyson’s carefulness in not jumping to conclusions applies equally to prosaic answers put forward by skeptics as solutions to the mystery of the NDE: he notes that none of these explanations have been supported by any research evidence thus far – and most of them are in fact contradicted by the evidence currently available. The NDE remains a scientific mystery.
After: A Skeptical Scientist’s Journey to Understand Life, Death, and Beyond reveals the evidence from 45 years of research and interviews with more than 1,000 people, suggesting that consciousness is not produced by the brain and may continue after death.
Susanna Wadeson, head of non-fiction, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights for Transworld from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein while US rights were sold to George Witte at St Martin’s Press by Doug Abrams at Idea Architects, both in major deals at auction, for publication early in 2021. Translation rights are under offer in multiple territories by Camilla Ferrier at the Marsh Agency.
Greyson said: “Most people struggle with questions about the meaning of life and death and what may happen after we die. Now, for the first time, science is bringing some clarity to these questions and what they mean for how we live. I’m thrilled to have Transworld working with me to bring this message to a wider audience.”
Wadeson said: “Dr Greyson’s work is unique, and his proposal is compelling, fascinating and provocative. This book will appeal to all those searching for more about near death-experience, to popular science readers, and to those interested in more philosophical questions about consciousness. And what is particularly appealing about the material is the journey we take with Dr Greyson the scientist as we read. This is very exciting.”
The only bad news is that it’s not due for release until 2021! Really looking forward to this one, and so very glad to see a fantastic researcher being signed up by a major publisher.