Near-Death Experiences happen to almost 800 people a day in the US alone, and surveys suggest that its a common phenomenon that has been experienced by up to 15% of the population. A “Near-Death Experience”, or short “NDE”, is defined as a profound psychological and spiritual experience that is generally known to occur during intense situations such as clinical death or trauma.
In history, we find descriptions of experiences similar to NDEs all the way back to Shamanic journeys in pre-historic times and in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh dating back to about 2.700 BC. Later in 360 BC in Plato’s The Republic we find a very clear description of an NDE in the story of the soldier Er.
Even though the scientific revolution of the 19th Century did see some references to the NDE, it was not untill 1975 when Dr. Raymond Moody coined the term in his book Life After Life that interest in the topic sparked an explosion into mainstream media and thought.
Moody originally made the term to describe experiences by people who had been clinically dead, but since then the term has taken on a much broader meaning after finding that similar and identical experiences happen under very different circumstances such as: illness, intense fear, giving birth, deep prayer, meditation, vision quest, drug induced states, etc.
While each experience contain personal and subjective elements, the NDE can be characterized by certain universal core features that define the NDE with or without being close to death. Some of the most common features are:
– an Out-of-Body Experience
– a sense of being in another realm or dimension
– rapid movement towards what is described as “the Light”
– an intense emotional experience of profound: love, joy, peace and unity
– a positive or negative life-review of one’s actions revealing the emotional impact on others
– an experience of total and complete knowledge of all the secrets of the universe
– a point of return to the body
The Near-Death Experience is not a hallucination
Near-death experiences (NDEs) do have subjective and mystical charatistics that make many critics conclude that the experience is a hallucination. This conclusion would also support a pre-concieved belief that there is no life after death. But near-death research has found plenty of evidence of so-called veridical percpetion, where things observed or heard during NDE states have been objectively verified after the experience. The scientific evidence of veridical perception means that at least part of the experience is by definition not a hallucination.
NDEs happen to between 4 – 15% of people and almost 800 times a day in the US alone
Surveys from the US, Australia and Germany estimate that between 4 and 15% of the population have had a near death experience. In 1982 a Gallup poll estimated that 8 million Americans have had a near-death experience and a more resent study, a US News & World Report in March of 1997, found that 15 million have had the experience. Also a Gallup and Proctor survey from 1981 estimated that 15% of Americans may have had a near-death experience. Based on these numbers, the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation estimates that 774 people have a near-death experience each day in the US.
NDEs happen to 18% of survivors of cardiac arrest
In 2001, the first prospective scientific study of near-death experiences was published in the international medical journal The Lancet. Set up in 14 hospitals over a 10-year period the study lead by Dr. Peter Fenwick found that 18% of people who were clinically dead after suffering cardiac arrest and then successfully resuscitated had a near-death experience.
NDEs seem to occur during clinical death
The International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) found that of more than 800 near-death experiences, 25% reported that the experience occurred during clinical death. In his prospective study, Dr. Fenwick found that 10% of the people in his research said that they had their NDE during “unconsciousness.” Another researcher, Penny Satori found that people were able remember the onset of their resuscitation process at a time when they were clearly clinically dead.
NDEs happen under very different circumstances
While the NDE was termed with a focus on clinical death and this is what has made the experience known, similar and even identical experiences happen under very different circumstances such as: illness, intense fear, giving birth, deep prayer, meditation, vision quest, drug induced states, etc. In order not to confuse the previlant understanding of the NDE, some people prefer to categorize those NDEs that are not triggered by being close to physical death as “Near Death Like Experiences” or “NDLEs”.