“Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences” came out in January 2010 and presents stories and of people who have passed away and lived to tell about it. It is a unique book in the field of near-death experiences (NDE) as the experiences were collected by Jeff and Jody Long from a hundred item questionnaire on their website NDERF.org that was designed to flush out untruthful accounts while isolating specific elements of these experiences for comparison.
Long does an incredible job at showing how the evidence points to the conclusion that there is life after death and that it is unlikely that these experiences are an artefact of a dying brain. Mario Beauregard, Ph.D., Neuroscientist at the University of Montreal and co-author of The Spiritual Brain says,
“This important book about near-death experiences provides compelling evidence that mind and consciousness cannot be reduced to brain activity.”
We here at SharedDeathStudy.org wanted to extend Long’s work by investigating the Shared Death Experiences that people have along with the NDEers and the dying. By comparing SDEs and NDEs using a similar question set, we are aiming to discover whether or not these experiences are due to the dying brain. If healthy witnesses share the same experiences as the dying and NDEers, then this phenomena can’t be explained as coming from a dying brain. Dr. Raymond Moody, the man Time Magazine calls “the father of near-death studies”, says that “It is the study of these experiences [SDEs or shared death experiences] that may finally prove life after death.”
In Long’s book, he presents the following points as evidence that NDEs are real:
Long’s 9 Lines of Evidence that NDEs are Real
- “Lucid Death” – Many people have vivid and conscious experiences after clinical death. Many NDEs studied by researchers are from cardiac arrest patients. Studies show that the EEG flatlines between 10 to 20 seconds following a cardiac arrest (DeVries et. al., 1998). That means that brain activity necessary for consciousness to take place, has ceased. Since NDEs are the opposite of reducing or absent consciousness (they involve very organized, lucid experiences). Consciousness when there shouldn’t be is taken as proof that we must survive bodily death and thus there is an afterlife.
- “Out of Body” – Many people report leaving their bodies after clinical death, view events that are often beyond normal sensory range, and these events are corroborated by others; this is taken as further proof of an afterlife.
- “Blind Site” – People who have been blind since birth, report detailed, visual experiences after they clinically die (and come back to be blind again). Studies have shown that dreams of people born blind do not include vision, and that they don’t understand visual concepts. Since it is medically inexplicable that people that were born blind, would have a visual NDE, when they have no ability to conceive of vision, this is taken as evidence that we survive bodily death.
- “Impossibly Conscious” – Many NDEs have happened to people under anaesthesia which renders the patient totally unconscious. Considering, that in these cases, the patient is not only unconscious, but has also died, and has a concscious experience, then it points to the idea that consciousness of some form can reside outside of the body after death.
- “Perfect Playback” – Life reviews are very common to NDEs and often include a 3d type of movie that includes every detail of the person’s life including the emotional reaction by others towards you during your encounters with them. These events have been criticized as being caused by electrical brain stimulation or seizures. Long argues that the best evidence to support these affirmations does consistently reproduce any elements of NDE. Long claims that these events provide evidence of an afterlife due to the accuracy and transformative nature. It would appear that the sceptical arguments don’t disprove the notion of a true life review in the afterlife. It would also appear these Life Reviews themselves, in and of themselves, are not yet evidence of an afterlife. It would take corroboration of some sort, to provide actual proof.
- “Family Reunion” – Many near-death experiences involve people meeting deceased relatives, friends and loved ones, some of whom they had never met. Long cites one study, Kelly (2001), that showed that 95% of these encounters were with deceased relatives, while only 5% were alive friends and acquaintances. Long’s NDERF study had similar findings. The Kelly study also found that older subjects did not meet more deceased relatives than younger subjects; one would expect that older people, having witnessed more deaths, would likely meet more deceased people. Of the beings that were living, more were relatives than friends. When people dream or have hallucinations, studies show the beings they encounter are usually the living. If there could be corroboration of information gleaned about a person, definitely not known to an NDEr, then that would provide solid proof to this line of evidence.
- “From the Mouths of Babes” – Skeptics argue that NDEs are a made-up phenomena by people who have been conditioned through pop culture to know what NDEs are and to expect them when they have an NDE. Long says the sceptics are wrong in this because according to his NDERF study, the NDEs of very young children’s NDEs (in Long’s study, very young was defined as under 5 with an average age of 3.6) have all of the same elements as NDEs for older subjects. He argues that if cultural transmission was influencing the outcome of these stories, then very young children who are generally not exposed to NDEs, should report different near-death experiences but they don’t.
- “Worldwide Consistency” – The NDERF study is the largest cross cultural and multilingual study ever conducted with over 2500 cases. No matter where the accounts come from, or what language, all aspects of NDEs are similar to one-another, including Western and Non-Western countries. Long argues that different cultures and religions should result in different spiritual experiences if NDEs were a culturally based phenomena.
- “Changed Lives” – NDErs often report that they are changed by their experience in a number of ways and experience “aftereffects” including: More self-confidence, more spiritual, reduced interest in material gain, more empathetic, new understanding of the universe and the purpose of life, remarkable healing experiences following the trauma that induced the NDE, and new psychic powers. Of particular interest in support of this line of evidence: a couple of studies are cited that point to unexplained healing and increased psychic abilities. It would seem likely, that these two areas are the best aftereffects to study in that they could potentially be measured against norms for healing, and against corroboration for psychic abilities. In terms of healing powers and psychic ability changes before and after the NDE, this would be a much more difficult to study. How well did they heal before the NDE? How good were their psychic powers before the NDE compared with after? Accounts of increased psychic abilities were reported by 45% of NDERF study participants.
This book and the work of Jeff and Jody Long on the NDERF project have really helped to advance the field of NDE studies. According to Moody, “Dr. Jeff Long and journalist Paul Perry have done a phenomenal job in clarifying current events in the study of near-death experiences. Dr. Long’s work is leading us closer to a rational solution of the afterlife mystery.” Other interesting points about the book or found in the book:
- NDERF Comprised of 2,500 Cases – 600 were used for the book out of 1,300 available (Long used a methodology to filter out dishonest reports).
- 10% of Cases Were “Hellish” – Long left them out of his sample. Unlike “Postitive” NDEs, Long did not find any commonalities in the stories except one; everybody escaped either by calling out to God or Jesus for help, or by being brought back to life by doctors.
- 10% Who Die Have NDEs – Of people who who die and come back, 10% have NDEs (10%-20% are heart attack victims according to Long)
NDE accounts found in Long’s and other books and articles, report experiences that have interesting implications for quantum physics. Experiencers report being able to see in all directions at once, time doesn’t exist (stopped), and they can travel instantaneously from place to place, regardless of the distance.
It is our aim, here at SharedDeathStudy.org, to collect similar data to Long’s, to be able to analyze, in an apples to apples way, Shared Death Experiences with those of NDEers and the deathbed visions of those that died. Through this type of analysis, we can pursue new and similar lines of evidence, as Long has investigated in “Evidence of the Afterlife”.