Near-Death Studies


near death by Scott Brundage

Near-death studies is a school of psychology and psychiatry that studies the phenomenology and after-effects of a Near-death experience (NDE). The NDEs are reported by people who have come close to dying in a medical or non-medical setting.

Some researchers try to study the postulated role of physiological, psychological and transcendental factors associated with the NDE. These factors come together to form an overall pattern when numerous NDE reports are considered together. It is this pattern that is one of the main objects of interest for Near-Death studies.

Among the general characteristics of an NDE we find: subjective impressions of being outside the physical body; visions of deceased relatives and religious figures; transcendence of ego and physical boundaries. Nine traits are common to the Near-death experience: 1) a sense of being dead, 2) a feeling of peace and painlessness, 3) an out-of-body experience, 4) a tunnel experience (the sense of moving up or through a narrow passageway), 5) encountering ‘People of Light,’ 6) encountering a ‘Being of Light,’ a ‘force,’ or a similar figure, 7) being given a ‘life review,’ 8) a reluctance to return to life. 9) The experience may also involve after-effects, such as: personality transformation, loss of the fear of death, greater spiritualism, and greater ecological sensitivity.

NDE-researchers have also found that the NDE may not be a uniquely western experience. The core experience seems to be similar across cultures, but the details of the experience (figures, beings, scenery), and the interpretation of the experience, varies a lot from culture to culture, and from individual to individual.

Raymond Moody’s book ‘Life After Life,’ which was released in 1975, brought a lot of attention to the topic of NDEs, and was soon followed by the establishment of the International Association for Near-death Studies, IANDS, in 1981. IANDS encourages scientific research and education on the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual nature and ramifications of near-death experiences. Among its publications we find the peer-reviewed Journal of Near-Death Studies, and the quarterly newsletter Vital Signs. The organization also maintains an archive of near-death case histories for research and study.

Later researchers, such as Bruce Greyson, Kenneth Ring, and Melvin Morse, introduced the study of Near-Death experiences to the academic setting. The medical community has been somewhat reluctant to address the phenomenon of NDEs, and grant money for research has been scarce. However, both Greyson and Ring developed tools that can be used in a clinical setting. Important contributions to the field include the construction of a Weighted Core Experience Index in order to measure the depth of the Near-Death experience, and the construction of the Near-death experience scale in order to differentiate between subjects that are more or less likely to have experienced an NDE.

Near-death experiences can have a major impact on the people who have them, and they may produce a variety of after-effects. Many of these effects are associated with changes in personality and outlook on life. There is a consistent set of value and belief changes associated with people who have had a Near-death experience such as a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, a heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, a feeling of being more intuitive.

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