THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE IS MORE THAN THE TERM SUGGESTS

Thursday, March 17, 2016

It has been estimated that in the last fifty years, some 25 million people have had a near-death experience (NDE). You may have heard of the term, coined in 1975 by Dr. Raymond Moody in his NDE classic Life After Life. I have a lot of admiration for Dr. Moody and the research he and other NDE experts have done since then, but the term is not all encompassing. I’d heard of it but not really paid it much attention because I never considered it to be relevant to me. Had I realised its relevance it would have helped me in integrating my spiritual experiences sooner.

It is a myth that near-death experiences only happen to people who are injured, ill, dying or who have died and come back to life again, to speak of it. Yes, there is a higher incidence of reported cases of people who have been close to death, for example, cardiac arrest patients. This is because researchers and the media place an emphasis on near death cases. Studying the phenomenon in hospitals can be monitored more easily. And sharing a death story is more dramatic than someone who is sitting at home, on the couch in quietude, spontaneously entering a heavenly state.

To help people understand if they or a loved one have had such an experience I always like to ask: have you ever encountered an extraordinary light or had a spiritual experience that has never faded from memory. As crazy as it might sound to someone who hasn’t had the experience, have you met God? Have you been out-of-body? Have you communicated with someone who is dead and they with you? Have you met an angel or a religious figure? Have you ever had a life review? Did your experience change you in some way? Did it happen to you when you were not dying?

If you have answered yes to any of these, then you’re not alone. You’re not bonkers. Lots of people have had similar experiences. And there is support at hand. There are people who want to hear about your experience and help you deal with it. This is the phenomenon I am referring to and it is broad-ranging. It’s ordinarily termed the near-death experience, but there are lots of other terms used to describe it too, or parts of it, which can be quite confusing. If you would like to view these other terms associated with the NDE phenomenon, click here.

The NDE phenomenon has been experienced by people from all kinds of backgrounds, throughout the ages, and in many different circumstances; those suffering a physical and psychological crisis, and those who are not. Being near-death is a strong trigger for the phenomenon but there are many other triggers too, like depression, meditation, prayer, sleeping, walking, talking, driving and other ordinary activities.

Nancy Clark had a powerful NDE (which she terms a near-death-like experience) while delivering a eulogy. She describes her remarkable experience in her book Hear His VoiceIn her book Divine Moments: Ordinary People Having Spiritually Transformative Experiences she recounts the same kind of transformative experience had by ordinary people who didn’t come close to death. Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., a pioneering NDE researcher and an author had this to say, in reviewing Divine Moments:

[T]he evidence suggests that there are many more such people – surely millions of them – who have had essentially the same kind of spiritual revelation in any number of ways, none of them associated with any near-death crisis, that the near-death experience affords.

Because of the inherent drama associated with near-death experiences, however, and the fact they have been studied by doctors and other professionals and featured so often on television, they have received a great deal of attention over the past 35 years or so, ever since Raymond Moody published his ground-breaking book on the subject, Life After Life. And because Moody labeled these episodes “near-death experiences”, those who had them could easily be identified by this term.

But the persons who have had the same kind of experience without its being triggered by the onset of death, because they have never had a similar label applied to them and are therefore much more difficult to identify, have largely been overlooked.

I’ve had numerous spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) over some twenty years. They’ve been really intense experiences. For years, I was in the wilderness with them, forging my own path. Then, I happened upon an NDE book at my local library. I was in my thirties, some eighteen years on from my first STE. Opening the book, I read a list of features typically associated with NDEs and surprisingly, I had experienced all of these, but one. It was a great relief knowing other people had similar experiences.

The outstanding NDE feature I hadn’t experienced was that I’d never been close to death and I’d never had the sense of being dead. For a couple of years, I felt confused by this and struggled to understand why NDE books only mentioned the experience happening to people who’d been near-death. Eventually, I realised experiencers like me were simply being overlooked by the authors, and you simply didn’t have to be close to death to experience it. Since then, I have published my book Where The Light Lives, to address this imbalance in NDE literature and to give a broader representation of the phenomenon.

The preeminent NDE research and support non-profit organisation, the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) has reported that one-quarter of NDE accounts submitted to its database is by experiencers who have not been close to death when experiencing the near-death phenomenon. It defines an NDE as follows:

A near-death experience, or NDE, is a profound psychological event that may occur to a person close to death or who is not near death but in a situation of physical or emotional crisis. Being in a life-threatening situation does not, by itself, constitute a near-death experience. It is the pattern of perceptions, creating a recognizable overall event, that has been called “near-death experience”.

-Excerpt from the International Association for Near-Death Studies website

 

World-renowned cardiologist, Dr. Pim van Lommel; his groundbreaking study of near-death experiences was published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, defines an NDE as follows:

In the past these experiences were often known under different names, such as visions or mystical, religious, or enlightenment experiences. In antiquity they were referred to as journeys to the underworld. The term near-death experience is confusing because the experiences are reported not just by people on the brink of death but also by those who are not in any physical or psychological danger.

-Excerpt from NDE expert, Dr. Pim van Lommel’s book Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (pg. 8)

My term for describing the phenomenon would be the Awakening Consciousness Experience (ACE). It happens to people from all walks of life who are near-death and not near-death – but it’s the same phenomenon. Beyond being a phenomenon, its a natural process of spiritual awakening and one that will happen to everyone at some point in life, either in this life or another and certainly in death.

Spirit-my-way-STE-NDE-angel-spirit-5

To assist experiencers with the integration process, including children, teenagers and their parents, who may not yet even realise that there are terms and support networks available to them, researchers need to speak more broadly within the community about the NDE phenomenon; that it is not just something that happens to people who are on the brink of death, and that it happens in different circumstances.

The bias that currently exists, whereby hospital NDEs are generally the only kinds of NDEs that are featured in journals, books, conferences and the media, in any meaningful way, impedes the integration process of people who have had NDEs/STEs in circumstances other than dying. It impedes the sharing of these experiences and the wisdom gained from them that could be given to all of us to grow from. 

What NDEs are really about is a shift of consciousness, not just individually, for the experiencer but also for their family, communities and on a global scale. When collecting data on these experiences, the greater emphasis should be on what these experiences are here to teach us, about who we really are and what we are capable of.

Speculating excessively about what causes the experience to happen detracts from the gifts they present us with. We can all benefit from NDEs, NDLEs, STEs, or whatever name you’d like to give to a natural process of awakening consciousness. We don’t ponder endlessly why a flower opens its petals in spring though it really is quite a miraculous event. We accept that it does so naturally. It’s simply nature’s time; part of its natural make-up.

Powerful transformative experiences suggest a promising future for humankind. It is important, however, that the jewels of wisdom on offer from all kinds of experiencers are collected and shared, so we can all learn how to arrive there, and for experiencers to be helped in adjusting to their expanded worldview, so they can become the spiritual teachers, healers, carers, creators and innovators that our world needs. 

I would love to hear from people who have spontaneously experienced the near-death phenomenon without being close to death. You may refer to it as something else. I would like to know what term suits you best. How do you sum up your consciousness experience(s)? Is there any wisdom you would like to share with us?

Linda Cull is the author of the book Where The Light Lives, visionary artist, and founder of Wilara Press®. Her blog Spirit my way® covers spirituality, inspired creativity and transformative experiences at lindacull.com. Learn more here

Comments

  • kathleen barreca says March 17, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    This is from an interview done by Dr. Chris Bache (with me).

    It happened in January of 1996. It was cold, just like it is now, there was frost on the ground that night. A friend of mine called in the afternoon and wanted to know if we could take a ride down to Mountaineer. Papa Jimmy was like my surrogate grandfather, since both of my grandfathers had crossed over. He said, ” Kath, ride down to Mountaineer with me”. With nothing else to do on this cold day i said okay. A little later, another friend, Papa Jimmy and I took a ride to Mountaineer.

    C~ there were three of you?

    Yes, there were three of us. If you know anything about Route 11 in the winter, its terrible, because of tge absence of lighting. Heading towards East Liverpool, the roads were slick and lighting was minimal, but all in all it was not such a bad trip down. A little windy and snowy as we got closer, but we made it there safely. Paoa Jimmy played his horses; I played the machines to pass the time. Siddenly a snow storm blew in.

    C~ What is Mountaineer?

    It is a racetrack in West Virginia, just across the Ohio border. They have live horse racing, simulcast racing and slot machines. Food and drink are also available. After playing the horses and the slots for awhile, I wandered over to the bar and realized it had begun to snow, a heavy, can not see a thing kind of storm. It was so bad neither the announcers or the patrons could see the horses on the track, Snow was coming down so fast and hard the announcer could not call the race. We hung around for a about a half an hour. Enough time for the races to end and the parking lot start to clear out. Eventually we headed for home. I was in the back seat, Papa Jimmy driving and Pat in the front seat. I must have fallen asleep, because someone or something woke me up, and i bolted upright looking around to see what was happening. I looked out the window and saw that traffic was down to one lane because of the amount of snowfall. We were not going very fast. i never said anything. just looking around.

    C~ Were there cars in front of you?

    No, there was no traffic at all, absolutely none. It was probably 12:30 or 1:00, it coyld have even been a little later than that. I heard something behind me, like the whir of a big rig. I turned and looked over my shoulder and I could start to make out the front cab of of a semi coming up behind us. I could tell because of how the lights were on the road. They were higher up than they would be for a car or SUV. I thought to myself, this guy is really driving fast for this weather, and he was in the lane that was impassable for a car. I did not really pay much attention until the lights got brighter on the truck, and the truck was getting closer. Turning around and looking I thought to myself there is no way he can see us for all the snow he was throwing plus the snowfall itself.

    C~ How close was he to you?

    Probably about 10o yards away from us, when the realization hit me that he did not know there was a car (us) in the right hand lane. I said something to Papa Jimmy. I said, “this guy is coming into our lane, and he cant see us”. He said, ” No, Kath, he will realize we are here”. No, I said, he does not know.He was moving so fast, and throwing so much snow, it was impossible for him to see us. I put my hand on each of their shoulders, I remember saying we were about to die, say prayers. I had closed my eyes when the intensity and brilliance of this light literally forced my eyes open. It was a light, it was so pure white and had this brilliance, the most brilliant light I had ever seen in all of my life . It encompassed the sky, and it enveloped the car, so surreal, so quiet, so ineffable, as if we were sitting, cushioned, cradled in this light.

    C~ It wasnt just the trucks or cars and their headlights?

    No, it wasnt the headlights of the truck, because this was a different kind of light. It was brilliant. If you have ever been skiing and its a crystal clear blue skied day and the snow is pure white, the sun reglecting from it, it was that brilliance, where it almost hurt your eyes to gaze upon it. It was the sky and the sky was the car. I turned around just in time to see him coming from the left hand side of the road directly to us. At this point neither the truck nor the car looked visible. The cab of the semi pulled directly into the car on the passenger side where i was sitting. It entered and then straightened and drove right through the car. I was speechless, as were we all. We all say it but no one said a word.

    C~ The other 2 people with you saw it; they saw it happen, they saw the truck go thru the car ?

    They did not see the truck enter like I did. Jimmy was driving and Pat was facing forward watching the road. I literally watched as the truck entered right where i was and went straight through me and into the the front seat and passenger side of the car. They did see it pass through as it came through the front of the car and onto the road. I remember, I am.not sure how long it was before anyone said anything. I do remember saying, “Did you see what i saw”, they both nodded their heads and said yes. Time was moving so slow, like it had stopped and we were suspended in this surreal moment in time. It was like I was in a different world. To this day it is very difficult for me to talk about or explain the experience because of the ineffability of it.
    Several minutes, I think it was several minutes. Papa Jimmy pulled over to the side of the road and turned around and looked at me. “I am an old man, I am at peace with dying. But i believe we were saved because of you, Kath. And only you”.

    We never spoke about it again. The first time I told anybody was when I had you (Dr. Bache) for one of my Religious Studies class, and I approached you after class was over, and asked if we could talk.

    This Exceptional Human Experience, being touched by the Hand of God has changed my life completely. A total 360 degree turn, and i have never looked back!!!!

  • Linda Cull says August 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing your spiritual experience with us here at Spirit my way!

  • Eduardo fulco says March 19, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Hello!
    I’m from Argentina, Spanish-speaking country. I had a near-death experience that I think was spontaneous circa 1997. 3 years ago, I have sent to dr. José Miguel Gaona Cartolano, a researcher at the Ecms., Who is author of the books “Across the Tunel” and “The Limit”.
    If desired, and for the sole purpose of working, I can send you the story of it to an email that you indicate me.
    Cordially

    Eduardo Fulco

  • Linda Cull says March 21, 2016 at 12:21 am

    Hi Eduardo. It’s nice to hear from you! I am very interested to hear about your near-death experience. You can email me at linda@lindacull.com.