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What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us

Of course, there is much more evidence of the reality of NDES than people conveying details about deceased relatives they never knew about. A 2010 book by Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncologist, which also made the bestseller lists, sums up the evidence so far that NDEs are actual forays into the afterlife.

Among the nine lines of evidence that Long reviews: People who were blind from birth experience clear vision during NDEs and accurately report things they saw, usually in the operating room but sometimes even outside of it. NDEs sometimes occur during general anesthesia “when no form of consciousness should be taking place.” Virtually all people encountered during NDEs are deceased, usually relatives; skeptics who insist NDEs are a dream or hallucination-like event cannot explain why, unlike in dreams or hallucinations, that should be the case. NDEs often change people’s lives permanently, leading to enhanced spirituality or religiosity; in Long’s survey, 95 percent said subsequent to their NDEs that they were “definitely real” and 5 percent “probably real.”

And NDEs show remarkably similar features all over the world, transcending religious and cultural backgrounds. One of those constantly reported features is the encounter with the deity. Strongly religious people usually perceive the deity (and sometimes other mythological beings) in terms of their own religion; but people of little or no religion also have the encounter and speak more generally of a “being of light.”

Most dramatically of all, the phrase “unconditional love” occurs repeatedly in these descriptions. The deity is reported to be what we would call nonjudgmental; entirely accepting; and a source of overwhelming love. Yes, the news is rather good.

To venture into politically incorrect territory: while NDEs do not invalidate people’s religions, they do seem to invalidate harshly sectarian, exclusionary forms of religion. In today’s world, one particular religion keeps producing terrorism and systematic persecution of people of other creeds. The evidence from NDE research is clear: the road to heaven is open to all, and the deity does not exclusively favor any category of people. Perhaps, for the long term — centuries — these discoveries offer hope.


images courtesy shutterstock /  Merydolla

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