Thursday, October 04, 2007

Summarizing the Near-Death Experience


I am trying out something new this time with my column, and that is sharing with you an interchange I had with the publishers of Epoca Magazine, Brazil. They are planning on running an article about me and my newest, The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences: The Ultimate Guide to What Happens When We Die (Hampton Roads), in a forthcoming issue. They sent me a list of questions, which I endeavored to answer to the best of my ability. As you might suspect, there is no way in a single e-mail message to address the fullness of any given subject. All I did, all anyone can do, is summarize. Keep that in mind as you read the answers I submitted to each of their questions. Blessings, PMH

1. Why did I decide to write about near-death experiences? I made no such decision. During my third near-death experience, after the segment where the innerworkings of creation and consciousness were revealed to me, a voice spoke. This was not like an angel voice or a guide or guardian. It was a voice that so filled the universe that it was as if all of creation were but the outer expression of it’s magnificence. I called it The Voice Like None Other, and it was my sense that this Voice was of God. The Voice said: “Test revelation. You are to do the research. One book for each death.” It showed me what that meant, named books two and three but not book one, and then told me what was to be in each book. How long this task might take or what might be involved in doing it was not mentioned. I returned to life infused with this mission. It was why I was alive. It was why I returned from death. It was what I had to do. I began my research in November of 1978, and have worked on this project non-stop since then. My research base now numbers nearly 4,000 adults and children. I had never heard of Raymond Moody nor his best selling book. I simply began doing what was for me to do, using police investigative techniques as my protocol. My background is that of a cop’s kid being raised in a police station. My dad started teaching me police investigative techniques at the age of nine, and he was very strict. That means I have been very disciplined in doing what I have done, working on the average of a six-day week, 10 hours per day, sometimes longer. Let me be very clear here – I do not just write about near- death experiences (and please be careful to put the hyphen between “near” and “death,” otherwise you are referring to another condition altogether). I am a researcher of near-death states - the experience, the aftereffects, and the implications. I do not stray from that position or my goal.

2. Why is it important to write about this subject? Near-death experiences are unlike other transformative states in the sense that they occur to anyone of any age, and usually under conditions of surgery, accident, illness, or some form of violence. That means medical or emergency staff is present, or family, or other people – who can give third-party testimony to what occurred. This is critically important because during the cessation of vital signs and flattened brain-wave activity, there is still clear and coherent consciousness that is unobstructed, active, and unlimited in what it can cover and comprehend. This fact alone challenges all that we know about the brain and about the human body – while at the same time affirming what mystics have been saying for thousands of years: that we are more than our bodies, that we continue to live in some form after death, and that there is far more to life than we could possibly imagine. Today, the near-death experience is the number one choice of scientists in the world to study consciousness itself: what it is and where it might reside.

3. What is the main idea of your book, its proposal? “The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences” is written for busy people on the goal who want information in short chunks without having to read the whole book to understand what they are reading. It is filled with side-bars, cartoons, drawings, and charts, not to mention riveting stories about people near-to death or who have actually died then were revived or resuscitated. These stories and drawings from both adults and children show scenes of an afterlife, out-of-body experiences, spirit beings of various kinds. These stories challenge us in how we feel about heaven and hell, and what we believe about our lives and how we might best live them. The book’s job is to bring the entire field of near-death studies up-to-date circa 2007 with what is now known to be true or not true. It does not contain just my work, but covers the work of others including that of skeptics. With four prospective clinical studies done in three countries, and countless papers now published in peer- reviewed journals, the field of study has come of age. Questions of oxygen deprivation, drugged hallucinations, and so forth have been discounted. Although some questions remain about embellishments and deep-brain structures, other objections to the reality of near-death states and their significance have been put to rest. That makes The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences seminal in its power to set things straight and cover the entire field, along with the various myths which have sprung around it, as never before. It also makes the subject of spirituality and the underlying reason for life itself a top priority.

4. Do I believe this kind of experience has a scientific explanation? There is no denying the scientific links one can make to various aspects of the near-death experience. I am now engaged in completing my theoretical model which will show specifically what I have noticed and what I think that means. However, no science, no theory, no experiment, no argument of any kind – none of this – can explain nor map the entire phenomenon, what causes it, or why. We in the research community can only show links, involvements, but we cannot verify cause. And no scientific researcher, none of them, has ever considered or worked with the entire phenomenon in any meaningful way, nor with numbers of experiencers that could supply a reasonable and viable research base. Remember, it is the aftereffects that verify the experience. And there is a pattern to the aftereffects, which are both physiological and psychological. You cannot talk about, argue, prove or disprove anything about the experience without also including the pattern of aftereffects, the effect that has on the experiencer, the long- term impact, plus what all of this implies about life as well as death.

5 In my opinion, how can near-death experiences be explained? They cannot be fully explained, not even spiritually, let alone scientifically. We are all different and the reason things happen to us are because of differing factors and conditions. What I can say as a researcher is that I have noticed that these types of experiences usually happen to people who somehow most “need” them – either because of factors in their life or because of what is not in their life, like a reverence for the spiritual or even a willingness to recognize the higher callings possible with a connection to Divinity and things sacred, beautiful, and worthy. With the little ones, it’s sometimes as if they had their experience for the benefit of their parents or their care-givers – yet – as they age, they too can be affected and in a deep manner by what happened to them as a baby or as a young child. Experiencers say “It’s all about love. God is, death isn’t.” If we take them at their word and truly recognize how they are changed afterward, we must then face ourselves and ask who we have helped in our lives and what we have done to make our world a better place because we were here. Near-death experiences seem to be about being honest with ourselves and making a place in our lives for all that love means.


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