The other week I went to a lecture about near death experiences and life after death, conducted by Dr Raymond Moody, who has been researching the subject and interviewing hundreds of people who have had near death experiences since the 60’s.
Intrigued, curious, and a little skeptical, I went along and found myself fascinated with everything Moody was saying — not that I was lapping it all up without questioning the validity of it — more so because I’d never really given the moments before death much thought before.
Many people dismiss near death experiences as something ‘chemical’ happening in the brain before a person dies. This might be true, but it doesn’t mean that there is no possibility of some sort of a life after death or that these experiences are somehow pointless.
Many people who have had a near death experience and then returned back to life, describe what happened to them as transformational and they return back to their daily lives with the intuitive knowledge that life on this planet is a lesson in how well you can love.
So what actually happens during a near death experience?
According to Moody many people find themselves in a tunnel and can see a bright white light at the end of the tunnel that they’re moving towards. Once at the other side, many people say they were reconnected with loved ones who had previously died and they feel surrounded by an intense feeling of unconditional love.
This is then followed by the ‘life preview’ where all of a person’s life flashes up in a panoramic view around them — in no particular order. The life review, however, is an objective look on a person’s life told from the perspective of other people who have been in that person’s life.
Many people describe the experience as extremely positive but I did wonder at the time, if this is what Christians mean when they describe heaven and hell. The light, the feelings of love and being reconnected with loved ones from the past sound a bit like a description of heaven. But what if you’ve had a life full of hate and you’ve hurt a lot of people, is the opposite true?
What is a shared death experience?
The concept of a shared death experience was totally new to me and again, hearing of people who had had such a thing fascinated me — whether it’s coincidence, or not, I don’t think they should be dismissed entirely.
According to Moody, a shared death experience is when someone going through the near death experience, shares the experience with somebody who is sitting close by them. Moody didn’t go into a whole lot of detail here, but I guess I found it hard to get my head around the fact that someone — perhaps a close relative of the person having the near death experience — could possibly have the experience too at the same time? Does this suggest that consciousness can live outside of the human body and that we all share it, e.g., the collective consciousness? Or are shared death experiences just bizarre coincidences?
What happens to the brain during a near death experience?
This BBC article, Near death experiences are electrical surge in dying brain can sum up what’s really happening to our brains before we die, better than I can. However, Moody and the article both discuss the idea of a heightened consciousness — in that just before a person dies there is actually more activity going on in the brain than when the person was alive.
In some respects, this heightened state of consciousness sounds a bit like what happens to the brain during meditation or a lucid dream. It would be interesting to see if similar things are going on in the brain.
Interestingly, many people who regularly meditate, have a firm belief that there is something that lives on in all of us after our bodies die and certainly people who have had near death experiences believe that there is a life after death. But, what exactly do we mean when we say life after death?
Is there some sort of an energy that lives on after we die that is only really useful when inside a body of some sort? Is it all a load of rubbish and just the brain’s way of helping us cope with the unknown? If shared near death experiences exist, is it possible to have a shared lucid dreaming experience? If so, does this mean that we all share one consciousness?
What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a near death or a shared death experience and if so how did it change your life?
Photography: Mike Hudson