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What is a Near-Death Experience?

What is a Near-Death Experience? is the first of a new series of entry-level mind, body, spirit guides. Author Penny Sartori explores the fascinating phenomenon of near-death experiences (NDEs), revealing not only how they can change our perspective on death, but also how they can empower us to live more meaningful, fulfilled lives.

Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) are a fascinating phenomenon to study. It’s incredible to think that 25 years ago I’d never heard of them but now I’ve got a PhD in this subject! NDEs are not new, they’ve actually been reported in the historical literature but they were not called NDEs. For example, when I was a student doing my PhD at the University of Wales, Lampeter, I remember great excitement when an article had been uncovered from the church archives. It had been written in the fifteenth century and it clearly described the account of what is now known as an NDE.

The experience is composed of a series of components which were first described by Dr Raymond Moody in 1975 when he published his book, Life After Life. A Near-Death Experience may begin with the person hearing a bystander saying that they’ve died or had a cardiac arrest then they may leave their body and look down on the emergency situation from above. This is called an out of body experience (OBE). Interestingly, many people have reported feeling totally calm and at peace, some have even been joyful despite the panic that they are viewing from above.

Some people report traveling or floating down a long dark tunnel towards a bright light and despite the intensity of the light, it does not hurt their eyes. Once in the light they may find themselves in beautiful gardens with vividly coloured scenery. They may meet their deceased relatives or friends here and they look radiant and much happier than when they saw them last. They often meet a ‘Being of Light’ or sense a presence or meet a religious figure which is usually associated with the person’s culture. Any communication between the relatives or ‘Being of Light’ is done by telepathy; there is instantaneous thought transfer. It is common for the relatives to send the person back to life and tell them it is not their time. In fact, in my hospital research some of the patients reported that their deceased relatives were quite angry at them being there and they shook their fingers and told them to go back.

An aspect of the NDE that I find fascinating is the life review component because the person feels that they literally relive the whole of their life in great detail. They can relive the good things that they did and also the bad things that they did. One man reported to me that watching his life review was very difficult and he wanted to look away from it because he was so ashamed of his behaviour but the ‘Being of Light’ stood right next to him and ‘enveloped him with love’ which gave him the strength to endure the rest of his life review. He said it felt as if he’d swapped places with the people he had hurt in his life and felt their anger, pain and frustration. Interestingly, some people also saw the ripple effect of their acts of kindness shown to others. Something as simple as smiling at someone they had walked past had long reaching positive effects that they never realised at the time.

Not every NDE has all of the above components; some experiences may only have one or two of the components and they don’t necessarily occur in the same order. Some may report the OBE as the first component, some may report the OBE at the end of or half way through the experience and some people simply don’t have an OBE. The OBE can also be the only component that some people report.

One aspect of NDEs that receives very little attention is that not all people have a pleasant experience. Of the minimal research that has been done into this aspect, it appears that approximately 14% of all NDEs are unpleasant to varying different degrees. The distressing NDEs have been categorised in the following way:

  • the usual NDE that has been interpreted in an unpleasant way
  • the void experience where the person feels that they are in a dark, black, meaningless, eternal void, they may even hear voices mocking them saying that their life was just a joke
  • the final category is the hellish experience. Some people feel that they are looking into hell or being dragged down to hell by demons.

At a later stage another category was suggested by another researcher and this is when people are distressed by their life review. I believe it is essential that more research is undertaken into these distressing experiences so that these people can be appropriately supported following the experience.

There is so much to say about this captivating phenomenon. There are also many fascinating after effects and people’s lives can be greatly transformed in many ways after the experience. I’ll talk about the life changes in a later article. Look out for the next article in the series because it will discuss the scientific perspective on the NDE.Penny Sartori

Dr Penny Sartori PhD, RGN is an expert in NDEs, having been an intensive care nurse for 17 years and having undertaken the UK’s first long-term prospective study on them, for which she was awarded a PhD. She is the author of best-seller The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences (2014), which was serialised in The Daily Mail, and she lectures both nationally and internationally. She currently teaches at Swansea University.

What Is Near Death - low res single-1

Penny Sartori
What is a Near-Death Experience?
£7.99, available from Watkins Publishing

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