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There are many phenomena present in today’s world concerning both life and death. An extraordinary incorporation of these prominent values is a Near Death Experience (NDE). Near Death Experiences empower and affect the psyche of many, changing their lives forever and altering their perception of death. Many questions arise from this particular topic simply because you have to experience it to fully understand its meaning. Questions such as, What is it, What happens, and how do they occur are familiar to experts in this field or to the people who have first hand experience.
Although the meaning of a Near Death Experience is different to the individual, it is described to be a personal encounter with death, later being brought back to life. The man responsible for triggering the later studies of this perplexing subject is Dr. Raymond Moody. During the year of 1975, he published a book, Life After Life, explaining his newfound concept of a Near Death Experience. He heard about a specific case study that extremely intrigued him. “As a student, Raymond Moody heard about the experience of a psychiatrist who had ‘died’ from double pneumonia only recovering after his doctor had pronounced him dead to his family.'; This remarkable case stunned Raymond Moody, and after publishing his book, this case intrigued society. This particular psychiatrist went on to write about his Near Death Experience, but Dr. Moody was the first to research this unknown topic.
Although Dr. Moody set a precedence in studying this subject, the event that triggered his studies was not the first Near Death Experience to be documented. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, also a psychiatrist, worked with survivors from the Nazi concentration camps. Because of her patients, she had become completely convinced that something unexpected happens close to death. Her book, Death and Dying, much more general than Dr. Moody’s work, contains the first real exploration of a NDE by a doctor.
Obviously, Near Death Experiences occur near an individual’s time of death. The cause of an individual’s time of death can come from virtually anything, but, usually results from some sort of accident. “Accidents come out of the blue. They can happen to anyone and there’s no time to prepare for them.'; Because accidents may occur at any time, so may a Near Death Experience. Thus meaning that, only knowledge of the subject matter can reduce fear and gain preparation.
Each individual may experience different emotions, visions, and encounters, but generally, the first few stages of Near Death Experiences are common throughout each case.
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After this stage, there are numerous incidences that may begin to occur. The most common one includes the ability to see one’s self being assisted to and aided. Visions of past relatives or close friends that have already passed away may appear in front of you. Finally, the appearance of the infamous bright light at the end of a dark tunnel enters. During this entire time, feelings of, “inexpressible beauty, peace and transcendence, lead to a loss of fear of death greatly increasing sense of life’s purpose, and a more loving and open attitude,'; embraces the individual. It is remarkable to see the effect that the ‘tunnel’ has on so many individuals. What is more unexplainable is the feeling of complete wholeness one has while outside of his physical body. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross explains that, “the ‘dead’ one will realize that he is whole again.'; What is meant by this statement is that, once pronounced dead, one’s spiritual body is able to do everything his physical body can not do. For example, if one was blind, he could now see.
During every Near Death Experience, strong emotions and visions are seen and felt by each individual. The ‘tunnel’ is the most highly regarded vision associated with this phenomena. Long, dark and energy filled, this tunnel is able to change one’s life, fulfilling them in a spiritual sense. “The bed, the light by the door, the entire room seemed to dim, and immediately I was gently drawn up and into a great, whirling black mass.'; As Betty Eadie states, she was engulfed in a tunnel of darkness.
Normally, if you were surrounded by complete darkness, it would be most natural for fear to enter your body. But Betty Eadie, along with others who have encountered Near Death Experiences, did not experience fear, but instead, a sense of calmness and well-being. “But the peace and tranquillity also increased and I felt that I could have stayed in this wonderful state forever, and knew that if I wanted to, I could.'; What Eadie is trying to illustrate is that during her experience, this mysterious dark tunnel seemed to be the most peaceful and wonderful place she had ever visited. Staying in the tunnel, and following the light, would have ultimately resulted in her death. But luckily, for the people that love her, she returned back to her physical body. Although the tunnel becomes apparent during a Near Death Experience, the appearance of a tunnel is not the only vision individuals see.
Another extremely common vision is the review of one’s life. During this time, an individual is able to view his past actions. At this point in a Near Death Experience, individuals are able to see their own virtuous actions in addition to their mistakes. The ability to witness one’s own life enables the individual to amend the negative aspects evident in his life. “Suddenly, he feels himself sucked back into his own body, where he becomes a changed person. The type-A behavior that made him an edgy, angry workaholic is now gone.'; Dr. Moody’s attempt to describe one man’s changed behavior is clearly depicted within that statement.
Even though the sound of a Near Death Experience seems frightening and unimaginable, those who have experienced one seem to agree that although it is different, it is not at all dispiriting. The separation from one’s physical body, the ability to see one’s self in a state of unconsciousness, and the capability viewing your life’s conduct are all common signs that a Near Death Experience is occurring. After enduring the peacefulness of the dark ‘tunnel’, returning back to your physical state is the next step.
After returning from a Near Death Experience, the lives of the affected change dramatically, usually resulting in an improvement concerning their lifestyle. Near Death Experiences truly empower the lives of those who experience one. As one man wrote, “‘But the truth is, my NDE is the most important event in my life. It changed me more than any other single thing. It shaped me. It changed my personality.’'; He (not named) went on and described several ways that his Near Death Experience improved his life. He now believes that he is more spiritual, loving, caring, sensitive, and especially, less afraid of death.
Many others undergo dramatic changes in their lives such as, career alterations, religious conversions, different amounts of energy present in their body, the disappearance of phobias, and a change in their personalities. One woman describes her personality’s transformation, resulted from a NDE as an uplifting milestone, not only in regards to herself, but also with respect to her family. “‘I don’t care about material possessions so much. If the kids break something I’m not pleased, but I don’t go off the deep end. My family have all noticed the improvement in me.’';
Angie Fenimore underwent a Near Death Experience that was quite out of the norm. As a young child she had been continuously abused. Throughout her later years, after becoming both a mother and a wife, she was still tormented by the images of her abuse when she was a young child. Feeling alone and desperate, she attempted to take her own life, hoping to enter the light and end her suffering. She did not succeed in her suicide attempt due to a frightening Near Death Experience.
Angie’s Near Death Experience brought her to the worst imaginable depths of the earth. She believes that because of her twisted childhood life, her NDE showed her what true hell was like. Terrifying visions of all her nightmares were evident and real. Miraculously she survived, and used this appalling situation to completely change her life around. After retrieving counseling for the hurtful events that took place in her life, Angie was able to love herself again. “I’ve seen tremendous changes within myself as a result of opening my spirit to God’s light. I deal with challenges with new hope and confidence. I know now that I can choose my destiny rather than allow events of the past to direct my life.'; Although this NDE is not described to be as pleasant and peaceful as most others, its outcome altered her life for the better, similar to almost every case.
A surprising fact concerning most Near Death Experience cases is that those who have experienced one, have no absolute regrets that it actually happened. Because of their newfound feelings of complete wholeness, individuals are grateful that a NDE happened to them. Becoming a better person, loving yourself more, having a more positive outlook on life, and attaining less fear of the unknown, including death are among the many reasons why people who have had a Near Death Experience are profoundly appreciative.
Despite the fact that Near Death Experiences seem to be horrifying and incomprehensible, knowledge of how it occurs, what to expect, and how it may change a life for the better, helps individuals to understand the beauty in which a Near Death Experience brings. Education concerning this subject will eventually lessen the fear of death. As many have stated, venturing close to death is a beautiful and peaceful thing, and it is not meant to be feared. Although a Near Death Experience is an unproved phenomenon, it should not go disregarded, for the power that one Near Death Experience contains is enough to transform an individual’s life for an eternity.
Eadie, Betty and Curtis Taylor. Embraced by the Light. Placerville: Gold Leaf Press, 1992.
Fenimore, Angie. Beyond the Darkness. New York: Bantan Books, 1996.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Life After Death. California: Celestial Arts, 1991.
Morse, Melvin and Paul Perry. Closer to the Light. New York: Villard Books, 1990.
Ritchie, Jean. Death’s Door. New York: Dell Publishing, 1994.