By Bruce Greyson
Greyson is a psychiatrist who has been studying near death experiences (NDEs) for decades. He brings his research and a plethora of stories together in this book as he walks the reader through his process of discovery. The stories are fascinating (especially the ones where someone learns about someone’s death during an NDE only to return to life and find out that person has died). If you are familiar with NDEs, he will plow well-known ground for much of the book. You must remember that Greyson took up his work when scientists didn’t even agree on what the term NDE even meant. How far we’ve come!
The book suffers (for me) because he refused to date any of his material apparently thinking that it would make the cases sound old and trivial, but it makes it difficult to get a sense of the whole timeline. There is also a grating repeat of his insistence of his scientific perspective throughout. I get it! You’re an MD and want to be accepted by peers. (You told me that! Move on.) It’s hard not to draw a sharp contrast to the mettle of an Ian Stevenson and the constant lack of confidence Greyson reveals. Enough of my personal pet peeves though. Does the book hold value? Of course, it does.
Greyson tackles some difficult and little covered areas. Most NDE stories are positive with positive outcomes. But there are people who have negative NDEs. There are also the lesser-known downsides to NDEs. These effects and stories are covered in the chapter aptly named, Hard Landings. Grayson would also like to shift the focus of the NDE discussion away from what happens after we die to how NDEs can help people live better, more fulfilling lives. Research suggests just learning about NDEs can help people make meaningful changes in how they live. All good points.
I think this is the kind of book where the take-away message is really going to depend on who YOU are. Are you questioning the reality of NDEs? Then the linear approach of Greyson’s scientific method will appeal and do much to answer your questions. Are you already convinced of the legitimacy of the NDEs? Then, maybe, the stories and the way people are forever changed by these events will speak to you. For me, it’s always been more about what NDEs say about our understanding of reality that makes the phenomena not only intriguing- but important. Lessons from NDE research supports the idea that consciousness does not spring from the brain, but rather that the brain acts as a receiver that filters information. Science has a lot of work to do to figure out how the mind and the brain function to explain all the intricacies experienced in NDEs. These understandings will have far reaching consequences on the whole way we structure our paradigm.
Some points to ponder:
*5% (approx..) of the population has experienced an NDE. (They are COMMON!) 1in 20 Americans have had one- means you probably know someone who has.
*NDEs happen to all genders, ages, religions, ethnic groups.
*Most experiencers are convinced some part of us continues after death.
*Studies of the brain, reveal that memories of NDEs look like memories of real events (NOT like how the brain remembers fantasies or imagined events).
* NDEs REDUCE the fear of death (overwhelmingly!!) regardless, if the NDE was positive or negative. It also reduces the fear of living allowing more risk taking and enjoyment of life.
*Experiencers who see those who have died when no one knew they had died, may suggest a form of continued consciousness after death. THE BIG QUESTION!!!
*NDEs point out flaws in the current brain-based model of consciousness.
Added Sep 3, 2021
UPDATE: Research published in 2017 on NDEs.
“The AWARE study (AWAreness during REsuscitation) is a multi-hospital clinical study of the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest, including testing the validity of perceptions during the out-of-body part of near-death experiences (NDEs). Dr. Sam Parnia is the principal investigator. The initial results, from the first four years of the study, were published last December in the medical journal Resuscitation (PDF).
Of the 2,060 cardiac arrests during the study, 140 patients survived and could be interviewed for the study. Of these, 101 patients had detailed interviews, which identified 9 patients who had an NDE. Of the 9 NDErs, two had detailed memories with awareness of the physical environment. One NDEr’s experience was verified as accurate;…”
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