Various phenomena are reported in all religions: a feeling of floating above ones body; or a feeling of profound peace; a vision of engulfing light. Are these near-death experiences real?
These extraordinary phenomena occur usually when a person is on the verge of death or after has been pronounced clinically dead and was then revived. Hence the term ‘near-death’ experience.
Some researchers regard these experiences as hallucinations
But spiritual people regard them as divine experiences that prove they have a soul which is distinct from their body and also prove that heaven is real and there is a God. For them, it is literally a trip to heaven and back.
Such trips to heaven and back have been related by people since millennia. They are not a phenomena of modern times alone. Neither are they phenomena of spiritual people alone. Even atheists have experienced near-death phenomena. The difference is in their interpretation of what they experienced. The atheist usually wakes up explaining away his experience as a hallucination of his brain under stress. The faithful wake up saying they saw Jesus or Buddha or Krishna. Without any doubt, they went to heaven and back.
The interpretation of all these people appears to be related to their convictions before their near-death experience.
Very famous people such as Dr. Carl Jung have also experienced near-death phenomena. Jung was a clinical psychiatrist from Switzerland with a Western background. During his near-death experience he felt he was floating 1000 miles above our planet’s surface and looking upon the beautiful blue globe. He also saw floating in space a beautiful rock temple filled with candles similar to the Hindu temples he had seen in India. He experienced profound joy until he was dragged back into his body by his doctor.
Are these near-death experiences of people from all religious, cultural, and academic backgrounds objective?
Are they truly trips to (or towards) heaven and back? Or are they hallucinations created by their brains under stress?
A Gallup study reveals about 8 million Americans have had a near-death experience. Of course this number would be larger if others came forward but didn’t due to fear of social ridicule.
Because of the vast number of near-death experiences being reported, the subject has been taken up as a legitimate field of inquiry in disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, and hospital medicine.
There are common elements to near-death experiences worldwide. These include a feeling of separation from one’s body, the sound of music, sweet fragrances, bright lights, the presence of deceased relatives and loved ones, and a vision of the deity – the source of the universe.
Associated with these are non-universal elements. For instance a Christian would often report seeing Jesus but would never report seeing Krishna. Similarly a Hindu would often report seeing Krishna but would never report seeing Christ.
The universal elements in the near-death experience argue for its objective reality. They genuinely went to heaven and back. The exclusive elements, however, argue for a culturally-based hallucination based on data stored in their brains.
There’s another problem
Despite the large number of people reporting near-death experiences, very few people are able to give information about the environment that surrounded their dead body as they floated above it, looking down below.
Though thousands of such incidents abound on the Internet and some people have written books about their experiences going to heaven and back, nobody has yet given detailed descriptions of their surroundings that prove beyond any doubt they were floating outside of their body and viewing events from a high vantage point.
The problem is not that these patients are fibbing or fraudulent. The problem is that floating-above-body experiences associated with near-death phenomena or going to heaven and back are not fully within the control of the dying individual.
Floating above the body is like acquiring a new sense. It is not as easy as one may assume.
It has been found, for instance, that some people who have been blind from birth are unable to function well when they gain their sight due to advances in modern medicine. The visuals they experience are intensely strange to them and they are unable to process and comprehend what they are seeing. Many choose to go back to their eyeshades and rely on their original methods of living.
The point is this: a fully functioning but untrained brain will struggle to comprehend the information it receives from a fully functioning new eye. Imagine, then, how difficult it would be for a soul to comprehend information from its surroundings without the use of its body’s five senses.
The soul is a spiritual entity
After the death of the body, which it leaves, the soul has a purely spiritual experience – usually that of heaven or God, or both. But it is not fully in control of itself. It is being carried. Very much like a newborn child the most it does is wave its arms and legs. It cannot, unlike an adult, stride freely in any direction. That is a skill it has yet to learn. To heaven and back is not a journey they navigate on their own. They are carried.
Similarly, remote viewing, remote listening etc. are very rare skills and are usually accomplished only by sages. Such sages are few and live as recluses or monks. Most are not interested in being guinea pigs for scientific experiments.
This means the probability of finding unexpected valid information from a near-death patient is next to zero.
To find unexpected information one needs to go to the sages. There, you will be stunned.
Writer for the prestigious THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN journal.
Fields: general relativity, cosmology, stellar evolution, naked singularities, black holes.