Supposedly, 13 million Americans (or around five percent of our population) had undergone a near-death experience (NDE) by 1992, with around 200,000 people reporting such a phenomenon annually. “Coming back from the dead,” as it were, is a popular topic in media and has intrigued scientists for quite some time. Even extending beyond science, the thought of “something other” than what we perceive in this dimension is fascinating. It calls into question the concept of an “afterlife,” or at least makes us take a look at the fundamental laws of physics a little bit closer. No matter how you spin it, these NDEs are imbibed with spiritual or religious undertones. Many survivors of these experiences talk about what they saw and how these visions (for lack of a better word) changed their perceptions of life. (Related: Life after death is real, concludes scientific study of 2,000 patients.)
Quite interestingly, a paper entitled, “The Mystical Impact of Near-Death Experiences,” which recorded the encounters of residents in both the United States and India, found no direct relationship between religiousness and deathbed visions; “although they did find that an individual’s belief system influenced the interpretation of the experience,” the paper concluded.
Reading through a thread on Reddit may provide a unique insight on what happens when we “die” (or are pronounced clinically dead). These reports range from peaceful to the more horrific. User juninkun writes that he actually visited Hell and the experience left him believing in the afterlife. He recalls, “about twenty years ago, I purposefully OD’d on a lot of meds [sic]. I’m not sure if I died during my sleep or what, but I remember being in hell. The devil was a giant fire ant walking on lava…which is strange because I was never really afraid of ants except for a time when I was like 5 years ago and fell in a fire ant bed and was in the ER for shock. I’ve only shared that memory with three or four people in my life. I think it would scare most people to think I know I am going to hell because I know there is an afterlife. [sic]”
Scary though this vision was, several other Reddit users downplayed his conclusion of an afterlife. User mom0nga attempted to soothe frantic people by telling juninkun, “I don’t know what, if any, religious beliefs you subscribe to, but maybe that dream/experience was merely a warning to avoid hell, or maybe it was just a dream. Either way, I wouldn’t assume that you’re going to hell just because of that vision.”
Other reports are less hair-raising. For the most part, survivors talk about seeing nothing but feeling incredibly peaceful. Some are given a choice to stay or go back, as with user JimmiDog. “I realized I was being given a choice between staying in that place forever or going back to my parents. I wanted to stay in this beautiful peaceful place but I chose to go back,” he wrote.
A similarity among all these stories, however, remains that all of them report believing in an afterlife after their NDE. This complete change in thinking (for some) prompted drastic changes in lifestyle and personal habits. This is not so surprising, says author of the previously mentioned paper. “NDErs describe themselves as more religious than they were before…[and while] NDErs did not report any change in their religiosity as a result of their close encounter with death…there is a heightened inward religious feeling…which does not seem to require a conventional religious format for it to be manifested.’”
According to Raymond Moody, the psychiatrist who coined the term in the 1970s, there are 15 elements that are usually present in a typical NDE: hearing oneself pronounced dead, ineffability, hearing unusual noises, a feeling of peace, seeing a dark tunnel, meeting spiritual beings, encountering a bright light, being out of the body, a panoramic life review, cities of lights, a realm of knowing everything, seeing bewildered spirits, witnessing a “border” between dimensions, a supernatural rescue, and coming back into the body.
The two stages of dead
Almost all NDEs occur when a person is pronounced “clinically dead.” This is the first step in the process known as death. Clinical death lasts for around four to six minutes and starts when the person stops breathing and the heart stops pumping blood. Organs such as the kidneys are still alive during this stage.
Biological death is the second stage and begins when the body begins to degenerate. The brain begins to shut down as it runs out of oxygen.
Read more stories like this on MindBodyScience.news.