Saturday, April 21, 2007

What We Can Learn from NDE

I am doing something different this month in my column. I am featuring several offerings from Rev. Richard A. Dinges of the Virginia Beach, Virginia “Friends of IANDS” group. IANDS, remember, is the International Association For Near-Death Studies, and they are headquartered in Connecticut, with support groups scattered through the U.S. and the world. I know you will find this material of interest, and of value. --PMH

The first blog was from Rev. Dinges is an open-letter on “Starting a Local IANDS Group.” This second blog is from Rev. Dinges is an article entitled “Near-Death Experience and What We Can Learn From It.”


By Rev. Dick Dinges

Near-Death Experience is an occasion when someone’s physical body dies, but the person revives or is revived. Such an occasion is called clinical death in the medical field. This differs from biological death, from which theoretically the body cannot be revived. There are reports of persons returning to life hours after being pronounced dead. (There are also reports of persons experiencing many of the elements of an NDE but without being physically traumatized. In the literature, this is called a near-death-like experience.)

Thousands of persons have reported continuing consciousness during the time when the physical body was dead, or when they were outside of their physical body. Many of them reported that they continued to be present at the scene of the accident or operation, and that they observed minute details of the scene. After being revived, they told the medical personnel what they observed – to the astonishment of the medical personnel.

The most striking occasion was when Pam Reynolds underwent brain surgery. She needed to have all the blood drained from her body for the operation. Her brain wave was flat. Yet she reported to the doctors what they did during the operation. She even described the tool that they used to cut open her skull. You can learn more about Pam Reynolds by going to and scrolling down.

Polls indicate that millions of persons worldwide have had near-death experiences. Of the thousands that have been reported, there are some two-dozen features that are frequently described. Some persons may have only one feature, while others have had many. On the other hand, some persons do not remember anything from their experience. The common features include:
  • Consciousness from a perspective outside of the physical body
  • A cessation of physical pain
  • Heightened awareness of details of physical surroundings
  • Inability to communicate with persons still in their physical bodies
  • Seeing through walls
  • Passing through solid objects, including persons rushing to the scene
  • Knowing what persons on the scene are thinking and feeling
  • Communicating mind-to-mind with any spiritual beings present
  • Floating to the ceiling or beyond, or rising in the air if outside
  • Entering a tunnel. Some persons describe this as being sucked into the tunnel.
  • Seeing a Light at the end of the tunnel and traveling very fast toward it.
  • Emerging into the Light and feeling unfathomable love, unspeakable joy, and indescribable peace. Most say that it was a feeling of being home.
  • Seeing departed loved ones, who seem to be gathered for the arrival. The scene may be of a beautiful field with flowers that seem to be conscious, including colors that are alive. Cities of Light and Universities of Learning have been described.
  • Seeing oneself as a being of light. Some NDErs looked at themselves while out of body. They still looked like themselves, but generally they were transparent and were glowing.
  • A life-review. Persons see everything they ever did, not only as personal memory, but also from the perspective of everyone they affected. This often happens in the presence of a Being of Light, who does not judge, but only observes and conveys unconditional love. It’s also common for a person to be shown that their actions affected many others indirectly through the ripple effect.
  • Finding out one’s purpose in life. Some NDErs are told what to do when they return. Several persons were to write books. One famous NDE researcher and author, P. M. H. Atwater, was told to write three books. She has written about ten books so far. One of them, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Near-Death Experience, 2000, is the most comprehensive presentation in print of the many facets of NDE.
  • Joanie Thurston, author of Possible Fatal, 2004, was told to return and make NDE common knowledge. One woman I interviewed from Ohio, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that Jesus told her the purpose of her life, but added that Jesus said she would not remember it completely. He explained that if she did, then she might try to hurry up and get it done right away. If that happened, then it wouldn’t turn out right; it had to happen over time.
  • Nancy Clark, author of Hear His Voice, was shown that everyone has a purpose, and that the puzzle of our existence moves forward toward completion as each person in the human family does what is needed.
  • Having a sense of All-Knowledge. Some persons have had an expansive NDE, in which they were shown the Universe. Mellen-Thomas Benedict was one of these. He asked to remember what he learned, and it was granted. Now he teaches as his main point that the earth – even the solar system – is a living system. He calls it Gaia Theory.
  • Interconnectedness. Some NDErs see the earth from a perspective of space. They observe energy patterns, and observe that everything is interconnected and interwoven. They refer to this as the web. They understand that whatever we do affects everything else.
  • Planetary Visions. A few NDErs have been shown the future of the earth. Ken Ring brought this forth in his book, Heading Toward Omega. According to these reports, the future of the earth is secure, but life as we know it in our culture will change drastically. Also they say that the time is short before this happens.
  • Freedom. NDErs say that they could go anywhere or experience anything by just thinking of it. The desired result was instantaneous.
  • Many persons are given a choice about returning to live in the physical body they left behind. Some choose to return in order to see children or grandchildren mature. Others choose to return to complete a mission for the Being of Light.
  • They do this out of love. Some persons are told that they must return. Often they object and insist that they are not going to go back. Nevertheless, many are sent back.
  • A tight fit. Some NDErs have described returning to the physical body as a squeeze. They felt like they were being crammed into a small space.

The After-effects

Think of a near-death experience as being immersed in Spirit. It’s comparable to being immersed in water. Only those who have been immersed will know. Also, NDErs bring back some of their “wetness,” including electro-magnetic interference, mind-to-mind communication, and energy for healing.

NDErs affect nearby electrical appliances and electronic equipment. Some cannot wear wristwatches because the watches will stop working. The same watches will work if worn by others. If the NDEr works with computers, the computers will often fail. It’s as if the electrical systems of the NDErs were re-wired and charged with higher power.

The ability to sense the thoughts and feelings of others compares to the mind-to-mind communication that takes place in the spiritual realms.

Some NDErs return with healing energy. Tiffany Snow was told by Jesus that her purpose would be to “heal my people.” You can view her website at Incidentally, after seeing her life-review, Tiffany determined to return and “make a better movie.”

Another comparison is when a needle is rubbed against a magnet. It picks up and retains some of the magnetism. The residual effects of being immersed wear off for many NDErs over time.

Homesickness. For many, there is grief of loss of being in that beautiful place that felt like home, and there is longing to go back. Many NDErs are angry with the medical personnel who revived their bodies. Those who experienced an NDE as the result of a suicide attempt are less inclined to try again because they know better. They say that they learned that life is to be fully experienced, and problems not resolved here will only continue. Suicide will only complicate the resolution. Additionally, P. M. H. Atwater notes that having an NDE doesn’t solve one’s problems on earth. She writes that some NDErs, whose lives were filled with tragedy and pain, do attempt suicide to get back to that beautiful place where they felt that they belonged.

Loss of fear of death. NDErs may fear any pain that would be connected with dying, but they never fear death again.

NDErs generally believe that the purpose of life is for learning and loving. In the life-review, actions that felt the best were simple acts of kindness done to others. These could be further described as actions of unconditional love, unrelated to one’s profession or income.

The pain of recovery from physical injuries may be experienced for years. Life is not easy for many NDErs.

Feelings of isolation. NDErs may feel uncertain and alone. They may not know that such experiences are common. Sometimes they try to tell others, but are told that they imagined it, or that they are crazy. Many persons have been committed to mental institutions because they told their near-death experience. Many have been given medications used to treat the mentally ill. Some have been fired from jobs. They have been rejected and condemned at churches.
Clarity of memory of the experience. NDErs retain clear memory of the thoughts and feelings they experienced during their NDE. When they remember their experience, it’s almost as if they are transported back into it, including feelings of being out-of-body. This is unlike dreams, which fade over time.

Spiritual search. Some NDErs begin searching almost immediately after their NDE for their purpose in life, and they allow the values of the NDE to change them. Complete integration takes about seven years. Other NDErs set aside their experience and do not deal with it. They may ignore it for a lifetime.

Transformation. Those that choose to give attention to their experience place less value on material wealth, and emphasize spirituality. Many change vocations to become one of a variety of helping professionals, including social workers, teachers, and clergy. The Rev. Howard Storm, a UCC minister, was an atheist and a university Professor of Art prior to his NDE. He wrote his story in his book, My Descent into Hell and the Love That Brought Me Back. Such transformation is the trademark of a true NDE. Dreams and hallucinations do not have similar results.

Inability to fully describe what they experienced. NDErs say that there are simply no human words to describe what they experienced beyond the physical, including beautiful music, the intensity of the feelings of love, joy, and peace, and the beauty of the surroundings.

NDErs have said that the spiritual realm felt more real than this physical realm. Some have said it was like waking up from a dream. A dream seems real until we wake up, and then we know that we have been dreaming.

Increased appreciation for beauty in nature and respect for everything that lives.

NDErs generally find satisfaction in the simplicity of life. They like to live simply and they appreciate each day.

Inner authority. NDErs no longer need anyone to tell them about God and spirituality. They find their authority within themselves.

Theological Concepts

Reports of near-death experiences confirm many concepts from the Bible, including, and possibly in addition to:

God is Light (I John 1:5). NDErs say that God appeared to them as a trillion suns. Some NDErs don’t see the Light, but experience a peaceful darkness.

God is Love (I John 4:16). Modify this to God is Unconditional Love. Bill Taylor, an NDEr, puts the two words together so that God is the Love-Light. He also says, “Love is the fabric of the Universe.”

We are parts of God. Andy Petro of Williamsburg, VA became One with the Light. He became the Light, yet he retained his identity as Andy.

We are loved.

We are never alone. Spiritual beings attend to us all the time.

Life continues beyond the physical. This includes both consciousness and identity.

Christ is the Lord, the advance Pioneer of our faith (Hebrews 11:2), and our Elder Brother (Romans 8:29; John 20:17).

The crucifixion was a saving event for humankind. The most significant NDE I ever read was reported in the newsletter of the Seattle, Washington IANDS Group (International Association for Near-Death Studies). Rebecca Morris, a drug-user, died of an overdose. She found herself in a place of darkness. She called for help. Jesus came. She asked him why he never came to help her before. He answered, “You never asked.” He showed her the scene of the crucifixion. Then he showed her a chart that had vertical red lines down the middle. He said that the chart indicated human history from the beginning to the end, and that the red lines indicated the crucifixion. Referring to the red lines, He said, “That happened so that humankind could get from the beginning to the end.” (After her NDE, Rebecca Morris became a social worker.)

Life on earth is valuable, but temporary. We read in the Bible that we are pilgrims here (I Peter 2:11).

Unconditional Love is the highest ideal for human behavior.

We will give account for all that we have done.

God does not judge. We judge ourselves. Ultimately there may be a Judgment, but the life-review seems to function as a learning experience for later opportunities to act differently (and to feel better about the impact we have made).

There are extremes within the spiritual realms that could be described as heaven and hell. My conclusion is that we create our future setting by the thoughts and feelings we generate.


Near-death experience is a transformational experience with effects similar to religious conversion and out-of-body experience. The Apostle Paul likely had an OBE. He described it in II Corinthians 12. Strikingly, he wrote that he could not fully express what he experienced because there are no earthly words. What NDErs are able to express opens windows into the spiritual realm, and enables us who still “see through a glass darkly” to know what lies beyond the physical.

Persons of different religions and of no religion have near-death experiences that include the standard features mentioned above. There seems to be a common spirituality that underlies the religions of the world. I cannot recall an NDE that included a test of beliefs.


The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Near-Death Experiences, by P. M. H. Atwater, 2000. I expect that this will become the most-trusted resources for near-death studies. Copies are $10 at meetings of Virginia Beach Friends of IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies). See below.

Virginia Beach Friends of IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies). Meetings are on the first Saturday of the month from 10 – noon at various locations. Refer to, e-mail Cheryl Birch at, or e-mail me at if you wish to receive notices of monthly meetings. The VBIANDS NDE Discussion and Support Group meets at my home on the second Tuesday of every month. is an Internet radio site that will be presenting “Toward the Light,” a weekly program on NDE, hosted by the Rev. Juliet Nightingale. It’s aired every Monday evening from 11 – midnight EST. Click on mono Player to get uninterrupted reception. . is the website for the International Association for Near-Death Studies. It’s good, but conservative. is the website of Kevin Williams, who explores every nuance of meaning of NDE and presents a wealth of information. Upon request he will also send by e-mail a monthly NDE newsletter. is the website of Jody Long, JD, and her husband, Jeffrey P. Long, M. D. They present many accounts worth studying.

Starting an IANDS Group

I am doing something different this month in my column. I am featuring several offerings from Rev. Richard A. Dinges of the Virginia Beach, Virginia “Friends of IANDS” group. IANDS, remember, is the International Association For Near-Death Studies, and they are headquartered in Connecticut, with support groups scattered through the U.S. and the world. I know you will find this material of interest, and of value. --PMH

This first blog is from Rev. Dinges is an open-letter on “Starting a Local IANDS Group.” The second blog is from Rev. Dinges is an article entitled “Near-Death Experience and What We Can Learn From It.”

Hello to All,

I am interested to help those who would like to start a new IANDS group in their city, town, or institution of higher learning. The greatest help I can give is to connect you with National IANDS resources. A Start-up Pak is available by USPS. You can request it by going straight to The long route is to start with, click on Resources, click on Local Groups, click on starting a new group.

The Pak includes many helpful items that can be accepted as suggestions for what might work for you. The most important item is a booklet entitled, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Starting a Friends of IANDS."

I would be glad to exchange e-mails with anyone interested in starting a group. Of course, we don't wish to duplicate efforts. There may already be a group in your area. The best way to find out is to go to the IANDS web site and check. Go to, click on Support and then Local Groups.

I have enjoyed my time working with Cheryl Birch and the Board of Virginia Beach IANDS over the last 18 months. I have gotten to hear all the speakers, plus I've been able to tape them on both audio and video. These programs are available to you upon request. We have a lending library. All I ask is that you cover the cost of postage both ways. Currently Media Mail is $1.59 for a videotape one way. If you are looking for programs and would like to borrow a tape, let me know and I will give you a complete list of what is available. A local program might include the showing of a tape, and then discussion.

Another way I can help is to forward to you announcements of other local IANDS groups. This might give you ideas about how other groups are functioning. If you would like to receive such announcements, just let me know.

Finally, I would like to add a word about the importance of what we are doing. Consider that most of the world functions within the narrow limits of various religions. The world is divided by belief and practice. What I have learned from my study of NDE is that we are all one in God, and that God doesn't favor one religion over another. Instead, according to life review reports, how we feel about how we have treated others is most important. In short, in the life review, persons see and feel the impact of all that they have done to others. God doesn't judge us on this, but God let's us evaluate our own performance so that we can choose to relate to others in a better way.

Imagine a world in which persons would respect differences in religion, and honor people who follow different religions. Imagine a world in which persons would understand that we are all related in God regardless of the religion we practice. Imagine a world in which persons would treat one another with the kindness and helpfulness that will result in a feeling of having related well upon viewing one's life review.

A study of near-death experience was a bridge for me to move from accepting the Bible alone as the authority for my religion to a broader base of spirituality that sees us all related to one another in God. I would like to share my spiritual journey with others. That's why I'm working with IANDS. I would also like to take this opportunity to share with you the content of the program I share with a group of my clergy peers. I'll attach it to this message. Contact me if you would like to start a group.