NDE [Near Death Experiences]

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Someone performed a study on people who had died for a while, and 20% of them had similar near death experiences associated with "moving toward the light", talking to dead relatives, etc. The other 80% encountered no such experiences. What do you think? I'm kindof partial to "You get what you expect." If you expect nothing to happen, nothing happens. If you expect to see 71 virgins lined up, "Look...here they come!"

Near Death Experience study

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), December 15, 2001


It was interesting to note that the folks who had the NDE had a harder time recuperating than the folks who hadn't. Disappointment, perhaps? Years later, however, the folks who had the NDE had less fear of dying and felt more inclined to be kind to others, etc.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), December 15, 2001.


You scared me for a moment. I thought you had gone to get your Christmas tree and something had gone wrong.

Oh the guilt I felt after reading the title of your post. What relief when I read the subject matter. I am too drained to follow the link right now but I will later and give you my 1 cents worth (deflation you know).

-- Jack Booted Thug (governmentconspiracy@NWO.com), December 15, 2001.

Heh. Thanks for the concern, JBT. We're gonna do the "Lizzie Borden" thing on Monday. I'm gonna let #2 handle most of it. The love of her life dumped her, her company went bankrupt, school is out for the semester, and her straight A average is being compromised by a poor grade in Abnormal Psychology. [I don't know why she didn't pay more attention to her parents. Abnormal psychology should have been a breeze.]

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), December 15, 2001.

The French call an orgasm le petit mort, "the little death". Does this mean an orgasm is an NDE? Vive the NDE!

-- (lars@indy.net), December 15, 2001.

I'm having an NDE right now!

-- (nemesis@awol.com), December 17, 2001.

I read somewhere that the "moving toward the light" or "seeing a bright light" thing is a symptom of oxygen deprivation.

-- Buddy (buddydc@go.com), December 17, 2001.

Nemesis, you can type with one hand? ; )

-- Pammy (pamela_sue57@hotmail.com), December 17, 2001.

No, Lorelei is under my desk.

-- (Nemesis@awol.com), December 17, 2001.

Anita, you said, "You get what you expect" - well maybe. But there are plenty of stories of NDE'ers who it was the last thing they expected to happen, being neither religious nor spiritual prior. NDEs of people of Eastern religions do show imagery from those religions. But that just tells us what we already know - that our mind is a filter. Whether the filtered stuff is real or wholly dependent on connection to a living body is still up for debate.

an editorial in the same issue of The Lancet suggests that many patients who report NDEs may have false memories....

You could have a false memory of *anything.*

And NDEs could be false (so the Christian might argue) because no-one encounters hell in them. blah, blah.

So I suggest we drop that line of speculation as going nowhere. We should take NDEs at face value. "You DID have this experience. Now what shall we make of it?" That's the hard part, of course.

The hypoxia may not be a very good explanation for NDE experiences.. This excerpt of an article by a Christian institute provides a fair summary of the medical explanations (who'da thunk it?). As Christians they have their own motives for wanting to be skeptical of NDE's, and they get into that elsewhere in the article (and I didn't quote that part). Of course the article is only as good as its references. It's from 1994 so probably more has been done since that time.

* * *


The medical and scientific communities, by and large, discount the claims that near-death experiences indicate that there is life after death. Although their explanations of NDEs are quite diverse, most are skeptical of the out-of-body experiences and visions that have been associated with NDEs. Nevertheless, few would dispute that a dramatic psychological effect has occurred with those people who have reported a near-death experience. Thus, they have tried in various ways to make sense of this fascinating phenomenon.

*_Lysergic Acid (LSD)._* Many medical professionals believe NDEs are hallucinations caused by one of many psychoactive drugs. Because of its popularity in the sixties and the nature of its effects on the mind, lysergic acid is one drug that is often advanced in the cases of those who may have had prior experience with LSD. Their main argument for linking LSD with NDEs is that people frequently feel they have had both a religious and an out-of-body experience -- two elements commonly associated with NDEs -- while under the influence of LSD.

NDE advocates, however, see two weaknesses in this explanation. First and foremost, the visual hallucinations from an LSD experience are not consistent from one person to another. In fact, images and emotions are usually distorted and individually bizarre. NDEs, on the other hand, are quite vivid and distinct and -- most importantly -- are remarkably parallel to one another. In addition, NDE advocates distinguish between the perceptions of people having these two experiences. While most people on LSD know their sense of reality is being distorted, people during an NDE perceive their experience as intensely real.

*_Narcotics and Recreational Drugs._* Some skeptics of NDEs suggest other drugs as the sources for this psychological phenomenon, particularly such narcotics as morphine and heroin, since both can cause strange hallucinations. Although both drugs can induce heavenly and blissful experiences, NDE advocates reject them because of their side effects. While morphine and heroin users have described nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, inability to concentrate, and even decreased vision, these side effects are not present with NDEs.

Such recreational drugs as marijuana, cocaine, PCP, amphetamines, and barbiturates have also been linked to NDEs. NDE advocates, however, point out that people often experience varying levels of paranoia after taking high doses of these drugs while people who have had near-death experiences have demonstrated no signs of this psychological problem. Another disparity between the two is the presence of severe depression in many who take recreational drugs and its absence in those who have had NDEs.

*_Anesthetic Agents._* Some medical professionals attribute the NDE phenomenon to anesthetic agents that are given to victims or patients. Halothane, surital, nitrous oxide, and Nembutal are the most commonly used and mentioned. This claim is based on reports by nondying patients who are able to recall bits of conversations or other details concerning their treatment while under anesthesia. The problem with this explanation, however, is that these anesthetic agents are not known to trigger hallucinations.

The anesthetic agent Ketamine deserves further discussion because a couple of its extreme psychological effects on some people are noted to be similar to NDEs. First, this agent frequently causes people to imagine that they have had an out-of-body experience (OBE). Second, Ketamine tends to produce a sensation in many that they have seen their doubles, or a mirror image of themselves. NDE advocates, however, argue that the OBE associated with Ketamine is normally of a frightful nature and not pleasurable, as is the case (they maintain) with NDEs. In fact, since Ketamine has had such severe adverse effects on patients, it has been withdrawn from further use.

*_Autoscopic Hallucinations._* The psychological event of seeing one's double is known as autoscopy. It is usually associated with brain tumors, strokes, and migraine headaches, and it occurs when a person superimposes his or her double on reality. Since this double appears as a mirror image of the person, and since many people have described seeing themselves during a near-death experience, some skeptics of NDEs say this element of an NDE is nothing more than an autoscopic hallucination.

Advocates of NDEs, however, claim a clear distinction between these two experiences. On the one hand, they say autoscopic hallucinations involve people projecting their doubles outside of themselves. On the other hand, people view their bodies _from_ outside of themselves during near-death experiences. The difference can be illustrated in this way: a man is lying on his bed and sees his double hovering above himself -- he is having an autoscopic hallucination; a woman who has been critically ill sees herself lying on her bed from above -- she is having a near-death experience. The man is still in his body while the woman, NDE advocates say, is not.

*_The Endorphin Model._* When a person suffers great pain or extreme stress, the brain sometimes releases natural chemicals to relieve the pain or stress. These substances are known as endorphins, and they affect people in the same way morphine or heroin does. Some critics of NDEs argue that the sudden stress and/or pain of dying produces a large amount of these endorphins, which then create a pleasurable and mystical high that some people interpret as a near-death experience.

A problem with this theory is that there is no medical proof that the brain creates a greater quantity of endorphins because of the stress of dying. Even Dr. Daniel Carr of Massachusetts General Hospital, who proposed this theory, qualified it by saying that endorphins are just a possible explanation for NDEs.[3] In other words, there is no evidence for the theory, only one assumption leading to other assumptions. Thus, while the endorphin model is plausible, further research is needed.

*_Transient Depersonalization._* Dr. Russell Noyes of the University of Iowa offers a psychological explanation of NDEs that is similar to the endorphin theory. In this case, instead of natural chemicals reacting to the stress of dying, a psychological mechanism is triggered in response to this stress to create a sense of separation from the prospect of physical annihilation. The illusion of a transcendental state is experienced in which a person feels detached from his or her body. In addition, time, emotions, and thoughts seem surreal.

This intriguing theory can easily be adapted to fit the NDE model because most of the elements of an NDE do appear surreal to other people. There is one NDE factor, however, that this theory (along with several other models) cannot explain -- why are the NDE elements consistent among so many people with such diverse backgrounds? Detachment from time, feelings, and thoughts would seem to argue against this theory. Moreover, although depersonalization does occur in many life-threatening cases, depersonalization has yet to be documented scientifically in any cases concerning NDEs.

*_Hypoxia._* Hypoxia is an abnormal physical condition in which a deficiency of oxygen reaches the tissues of the body. In the case of NDEs, some critics attribute the hallucinations involved in NDEs to hypoxia. They say that since the brain is deprived of oxygen, a person who is near death experiences pleasurable feelings and a natural high in which NDE episodes are imagined.

According to NDE advocates, however, there is a problem with this explanation. In medical studies that have examined two groups of patients who were thought to be dead but recovered, it was found that those who reported a near-death experience did not have any less oxygen in their blood gases than those who did not have an NDE.[4]

*_Memories of Birth._* Dr. Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer at Cornell University, offers one of the most fascinating explanations for NDEs. He suggests that the NDE is a psychological replay of the experience of birth. Sagan and others who profess this theory hold that the birth canal, the operating room, and the doctor during birth are remembered as a tunnel, a lighted environment, and a being in white during a near-death experience.[5] Their strongest argument is that everyone has experienced birth, which explains the common elements in NDEs.

NDE advocates nevertheless challenge this theory on a number of points. First, they contend that a baby has neither the mental capacity nor the visual ability at birth to retain such details of his or her birth experience. Second, if any memory is recalled of the birth experience, it would be traumatic and not pleasant. Third, the baby's face is normally pressed against the walls of the birth canal, which conflicts with the rapid travel through the tunnel toward a light in an NDE. As interesting as this theory is, it has too many serious weaknesses to be commended.

"I think," says NDE researcher Kenneth Ring, "that we don't yet have a satisfactory explanation for the near-death experience."[6] In fact, Ring and his associates have been extremely critical of all the explanations that have been offered outside of the New Age interpretation. Although each theory fails to illuminate decisively the NDE phenomenon, some (e.g., the endorphin and transient depersonalization models) deserve further exploration under scientific conditions. The bottom line, however, is that science still has a long way to go before it can explain this phenomenon adequately (if it ever can). Thus, we must concur with Melvin Morse that from a medical perspective, "the near-death experience remains a mystery."[7]

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.
 1 Verlyn Klinkenborg, "At the Edge of Eternity," _Life,_ March
   1992, 65.
 2 _Ibid.,_ 73.
 3 Melvin Morse, _Closer to the Light: Learning from the Near-Death
   Experiences of Children_ (New York: IVY Books, 1990), 224.
 4 _Ibid.,_ 224-25.
 5 John White, "Beyond the Body: An Interview with Kenneth Ring,"
   _Science of Mind,_ November 1982, 12.
 6 _Ibid.,_ 13.
 7 Morse, 226.
 8 Michael Sabom, _Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation_
   (New York: Harper & Row, 1982).
 9 This writer interviewed Dr. Hillstrom on 27 April 1992.
10 Carol Zaleski, _Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death
   Experiences in Medieval and Modern Times_ (New York: Oxford
   University, 1988).
11 Maurice Rawlings, _Beyond Death's Door_ (New York: Bantam,
12 P. M. H. Atwater, _Coming Back to Life: The Aftereffects of the
   Near-Death Experience_ (New York: Ballantine, 1988).
13 Dr. Hillstrom is currently writing a book for InterVarsity Press
   that is slated to be published next year. In this book she
   critiques some of the proofs that New Agers use to support their
   positions on altered states of consciousness, paranormal powers,
   meditation, and, of course, near-death experiences. She has
   taught courses on this issue for several years at Wheaton
   College. At this time her book has yet to be titled.
14 Raymond A. Moody, Jr., _Life After Life_ (Harrisburg, PA:
   Stackpole Books, 1976), 80.
And what do *I* think? I dunno. "If you expect nothing to happen, nothing happens." That, I DON'T believe. That's a kind of relativistic version of reality that I reject. ("Reality is what you think it is and nothing more")

As for those who say (religiously based) we MUST believe in an afterlife, otherwise there is no moral accountability in this life, isn't that the morality of a 7 year old? If there isn't an afterlife, that does not change my behavior in this life, for most consequences are here and now.

As I see it, if there is an afterlife, there will be one whether *I* believe in it or not. What I did and how I thought is what will be important, if anything, not what I believed in. I tend to think that time and space are not fundamental anyway, so an afterlife could just as easily be a before-life or some other aspect of ourselves that is totally beyond our comprehension right now. And that is small consolation to my ego. The ego is what wants to survive this life. Mine is thoroughly attached to time and space and wants to take them with me!

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), December 17, 2001.

Argh. Less is more isn't it. Sorry about that!

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), December 17, 2001.

That was interesting stuff, Debbie. I wonder what Shirley McClaine would say about all this.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), December 18, 2001.

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