Near Death Experiences

near-death experiences. Specifically, it will discuss the reality of near-death experiences and whether they exist or not. Near-death experience (NDE) stories have become almost commonplace in our modern culture. Many studies into this phenomenon have occurred, and many of them explain near-death experiences as the body's reaction to tremendous stress. There is much debate about whether they actually exist. However, to the people who have experienced them, they do exist, and are extremely real and emotional. Near-death experiences may exist only in the ailing person's mind, but the details, the colors, and the images are real to them, and indicate that they do exist, at least to the people who have experience them and lived to tell their stories.

Near-death experiences are not new phenomena; people have been having visions of a better place on the "other side" for centuries. The expression "go toward the light" comes from the descriptions of many of these experiences. Survivors report following a bright white light to a better world, where they are surrounding by peace, love, and security. As one near-death expert, Susan J. Blackmore notes, "Facing illness and the possibility of death is not so difficult if you know it is likely to involve feeling warm, safe and loved, but can we conclude anything more than that from the near-death experience?" (Blackmore, 1993, p. 2). Indeed, there is much more to conclude from these experiences. Some believe they are simply the mind's way of coping with death, while others believe they are certainly a glimpse into what is in store for those who die and go to heaven.

The first real written study of near-death experiences occurred in 1926 by Englishman Sir William Barrett. He compiled many experiences he and his wife (both doctors) had seen with patients during their last moments of life. Two researchers note, "Barrett found that in their visions the dying see dead persons who have come to take them away to a heavenly abode. He also found that such visions often occur when the mind of the patient is clear and rational, and that they sometimes portray what the dying do not expect" (Osis & Haraldsson, 1997, p. 18). For example, one woman saw a sister she did not know had died. These studies were not of people who survived however, and did not include the person's own accounts of what they saw. Research has continued, but it is extremely difficult to verify and to carry out, since the visions are so spontaneous.

One of the most interesting and difficult to explain versions of the near-death experience comes from blind persons who have had the experience and "see" during it. Two researchers sought out blind persons who had NDEs and interviewed them. One of these people was Vicki, a woman who has been blind since birth and had two NDEs. In them, she "saw" herself on the operating table, the city, and friends and relatives from her past. The researchers notes, "Vicki, though blind from birth, has had the same kind of classic NDE as do sighted persons. Furthermore, during it, she seems to be able to see both things of this world and the otherworldly domain, just as most NDErs report (Ring & Valarino, 1998, p. 77). It is difficult to refute the reports of the blind being able to "see" during these experiences, and that makes a very compelling argument for the reality of these experiences.

There is another compelling argument for the validity of these experiences. They remain fairly consistent around the world, regardless of faith, knowledge of other experiences, or situation. The fact is, near-death experiences are similar around the world, and have been reported since ancient times. For many, this is irrefutable evidence that near-death experiences are very real and very important (Blackmore, 1993, p. 8-16). Often, the vision includes loved ones who have died before, bright lights, a feeling of contentment, leaving the physical body, and even hearing conversations while unconscious that can be verified after the person wakes up. There are many commonalities throughout experiences,…