The term “Near-Death Experience”, (NDE), was first coined in 1975 by American psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Moody, M.D., to describe a phenomenon he documented in his ground-breaking book, Life After Life. However, NDEs have been described in many cultures for centuries.
Definition of a Near-Death Experience
1. An out-of-body and/or white light, mystical experience;
2. Occurring when a person is close to death, clinically dead, or facing imminent death or severe trauma.
Note: You must have BOTH to be a NDE. A close call or brush with death without any out-of-body or mystical experience is not a “Near-Death Experience” as defined by Dr. Moody and other NDE researchers today.
Features of Near-Death Experiences
- Ineffability. NDEs are a powerful experience of consciousness with a strong feeling aspect. They have dimensions and emotional feelings that are beyond words, and cannot be adequately verbally conveyed, expressed, or described to others.
- Auditory awareness. Some NDE Experiencers have clear and accurate recall of what others were saying around their clinically dead or unconscious body.
- Strong feelings of peace: pain disappears. Starting early in most NDEs, Experiencers report a strong feeling of peace, comfort, and tranquility; fear either dissolves or is completely absent. Similarly, any physical pain they may have been experiencing disappears. They feel pain-free and completely calm.
- Unusual inner sounds. Some NDE Experiencers report an internal sense of “hearing” unusual inner sounds during the NDE, such as an inner buzzing, ringing, roaring, or whistling; or sounds likened to the blowing of wind, the roar of a waterfall, distant wind chimes, “celestial music”, or “music of the spheres”.
- Floating out of the body: An out-of-body experience. The Experiencer’s point of perception, (or the spirit body), rises out of their physical body, allowing the Experiencer to accurately observe his or her physical body and the surroundings. The Experiencer usually perceives themselves as above their physical body, although they sometimes find themselves beside their dead or unconscious body. The spirit body/point of perception may also travel to other locations, often to observe loved ones.
- Dark space or tunnel. Some NDE Experiencers have a sensation of moving upwards away from their physical body through a dark expanse of space, or through a long tunnel with a bright light at the far end.
- Meeting spirits: Mystical Visions – Many NDE Experiencers report seeing “beings of light” during their NDE. These beings are perceived as loving spirits who are usually seen as youthful and/or shining white figures. They are often luminous spirits of departed loved ones, relatives, or friends, or they may be visions of saints, an angel, or a spiritual Master, such as Jesus. Sometimes the beings are perceived as glowing orbs of light. Communication may occur through telepathy or thought-transference, and is usually loving and welcoming, and may delivering a strong life-message or a spiritual concept. Some NDE Experiencers report having detailed telepathic conversations with the beings of light encountered.
- White Light Experience: A Mystical Experience. Many NDE Experiencers report finding themselves move into a realm of indescribable white light, that emanates a powerful aura of intense love and unconditional acceptance. This mystical aura of love may be overwhelming, and may inspire awe, devotion, and/or a willingness to repent for one’s past errors, and to surrender to the Divine. The white light realm is sometimes perceived as an immense, intelligent, loving force – the presence of a “formless being of light”. The white light experience may be interpreted by the Experiencer as glimpsing God, being in “heaven”, or glimpsing the formless spirit of Jesus, a formless angel, or the formless spirit of another religious figure. Mystical revelations and/or an illumination may occur while in the white light experience, with new knowledge, life messages, or spiritual teachings being revealed, or even prophecy of future events being shown.
- Life review. Some NDE Experiences report having a review or rapid re-experiencing of all their life events, or a review and re-living of some peak emotional life events, including events that may have been forgotten or repressed. Sometimes during their life-review Experiencers can sense the thoughts and feelings of the persons they interacted with in the past. This can provide a powerful opportunity to learn life-lessons from past actions. Experiencers can have profound psychological changes resulting from their life review, such as a markedly increased desire to be more loving, forgiving, and of service to others.
- Life barrier. NDE Experiencers sometimes perceive a barrier or border that the spirit body cannot cross if they want to return to their physical body. Others are given a choice, to choose whether to remain on the “other side”, or to return to their physical body. Yet other Experiencers are telepathically told at a certain point in their NDE that they must now return to their physical body.
- Abrupt return to the body. NDE Experiencers report that their return to the physical body is very sudden. They may have a sensation of very rapidly traveling back down through the tunnel; or of being suddenly pulled down and sucked back into the physical body, often through the top of the head. Some suddenly have the sensation of abruptly waking up in their previously dead or unconscious physical body, sometimes with a jolt.
- Conviction of the reality of the experience: with clear memory. Most NDE Experiencers have an intense certainty that the experience was real and not a fantasy or a dream—even in the face of disbelief or ridicule. Experiencers usually have an extraordinarily clear memory of the experience, which may remain exceptionally clear for many years or even to the end of their life, as if permanently etched in their memory somehow. NOTE: Recent research has shown that there are some NDE Experiencers that do not immediately recall their NDE. They may spontaneously remember the NDE at a later time, or some may retrieve the NDE memory assisted through hypnosis. Once the NDE is recalled, the Experiencer usually feels a strong positive sensation, as if a gap in their life-memory has now been healed or filled.
- Transformational impact. NDE Experiencers find themselves changed afterwards, in one or more ways:
- Psychologically—the person may mature rapidly, abandon self-destructive habits, adopt a more positive and compassionate outlook, appreciate life more, feel enriched, gain new insights about life or lifestyle, embrace their personal healing and recovery work, or rapidly or even spontaneously resolve psychological issues.
- Spiritually—he or she may gain new insights into the nature of the universe; become convinced of the reality of a Higher Power; learn important lessons about love, the basic unity of the world’s religions, or other spiritual matters; become more interested in being of service to others; or become stronger, more courageous, and more willing to speak out about social injustices and the truth as they see it.
- Psychically—he or she often notices the development of intuition or new psychic abilities or a marked increase in these abilities.
- New views of death: The loss of fear of death. NDE Experiencers who have had the white-light/mystical type of Near-Death Experience, invariably lose their fear or death, and become certain that the spirit or soul lives on after death of the physical body. Those with out-of-body type NDEs may also experience this shift in views on death, but usually to a lesser extent.
- Independent corroboration. Events observed on the physical plane during the out-of-body experience are corroborated by other people or evidence. This is also called “veridical perceptions”.
Most Near-Death Experiences have around 7 or 8 of these 15 features. These 15 diagnostic features of NDEs were first defined by Dr. Raymond Moody in 1975, and are listed here as expanded upon by Dr. Yvonne Kason
Frequency of Near-Death Experiences
12% of Cardiac Arrest Patients: 1 in 8. This frequency of NDEs was reported by Dutch cardiologist, Dr. Pim van Lommel, in a carefully documented research study of 344 cardiac patients who had a medically documented cardiac arrest and were later resuscitated. His study was published in the Lancet, in 2001, and in his book Consciousness Beyond Life (2010).
Types of Near-Death Experiences
- Mystical / White Light
- Distressing- 3 types:
- Fighting the NDE pull to the Light
- Low astral NDE with encounters of dark or tormenting entities
- Nightmare-like distortions
Note: Some NDErs are distressed after a positive out-of-boy or mystical/white light NDE, because they are angry that they were sent back to their bodies! They wish they could have stayed in the peace and love experienced on the “other side”.
Childhood NDEs have less NDE features
Children don’t know their NDE is “paranormal”.
Many people don’t realize they had a childhood NDE until many years later.
Many persons don’t recognize until much later in their adult life, that their childhood out-of-body or white-light experience during a close call, sickness, or accident was in fact a Near-Death Experience.
[References: Moody, Raymond Life After Life, 1975; and, Kason, Yvonne. Touched by the Light. 2019.]
Suggested Further Reading on Near-Death Experiences
Alexander, Eben. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeons Journey into the Afterlife. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster, 2012.
Atwater, PMH. I Died Three Times in 1977 – The Complete Story [Kindle Edition], Albany, NY: Cinema of the Mind/Starving Artists Workshop, 2010.
Brinkley, Dannion, and Paul Perry. Saved by the Light: The true story of a man who died twice and the profound revelations he received. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1994.
Burpo, Todd and Lynn Vincent. Heaven is for Real. Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Eadie, Betty and Curtis Taylor. Embraced by the Light. Placerville, CA: Gold Leaf Press, 1992.
Kason, Yvonne. Touched by the Light: Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2019.
Moody, Raymond A., Jr. Life after Life: The Investigation of a PhenomenonSurvival of Bodily Death. New York: Bantam, 1975.
Moorjani, Anita. Dying to be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing. Hay House USA, 2012.
Neal, Mary C. To Heaven and Back: A Doctors Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and life Again. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2011.
Ring, Kenneth. Heading Toward Omega: In Search of the Meaning of Near Death Experiences. New York: William Morrow, 1984.
Ring, Kenneth, and Evelyn Valarino. Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience. Moment Point, 2003.
Storm, Howard, My Descent into Death. Harmony, Penguin Random House, 2005.
Van Lommel, Pim. Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of Near-Death Experience. New York: Harper One, 2010.