Patterns in Near Death Experiences

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Elijah Ascending into Heaven, by W. H. Margetson

Over the last year or so, I’ve been studying near-death experiences in depth. I’ve read or listened to books, watched movies, listened to or watched more than 40 NDEs on video, and discovered a repository of nearly 4,500 NDE stories, originating in over 30 languages. And in years past, I’ve met and spoken in depth with several people who have had these experiences themselves.

I’m totally assured that NDEs are real. There’s overwhelming evidence that they are. I can’t write them off as coincidences and “hallucinations” and be honest with myself.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot and have drawn up some notes on the fascinating patterns that emerged from my study. Here are a few highlights.

  • At the moment of death, they almost instantly discover themselves standing next to their bodies or looking down at their bodies from above, and people and activities around them.
  • They often lose interest in what is happening to their earthly bodies.
  • They almost always report an incredible sense of well-being, a complete absence of pain, and little interest in life in the mortal world.
  • They are often greeted by beings of light, some of whom they know personally, some who are vaguely familiar, some unknown. These beings are often referred to as angels or spirit guides.
  • Some encounter beings of darkness, but once the beings of light appear, the dark entities scatter and disappear.
  • As they describe these encounters with other beings, after returning to their bodies, family members often recognize these beings as a relative, such as a grandparent.
  • Many find themselves in something they call a tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, they often see a light and are drawn to it. (Not everyone who has an NDE enters or sees this tunnel.)
  • Once they arrive at the end of the tunnel, they describe the place as heaven or paradise. The unearthly colors are much more vivid, varied, and vibrant than they have seen before. They see gardens, buildings, and streets much like on earth, but much more orderly, clean, and ornate.
  • When they communicate with these beings, there is no need to talk with their mouths. They can communicate through thoughts.
  • Movement is also as easy as thought. They can travel over great distances just by thinking of where they want to go.
  • They find the experience very difficult to describe in words, especially in terms of the peace, joy, and beauty they experience, but often call it the most real experience of their lives and that life on earth is more of a dream.
  • Almost all describe a feeling of absolute love, unlike anything they have ever imagined. This love remains with them throughout their lives.
  • Many but not all come in contact with a radiant, loving being who they identify as Jesus Christ and have conversations with Him. They describe Him as infinitely kind, caring, supportive, accepting, and positive. He never condemns them, but occasionally gently chastises them—and they know they had it coming. Some are amazed by His sense of humor!
  • A good number experience a detailed, rapid life review, something that they view on a screen of sorts. They see all the good and bad they have done to others. A recurring theme is relationships with others, as if that is the most important thing we can accomplish on earth—loving, respectful relationships.
  • Some are asked if they want to stay while others are told them must return. Most are reluctant to leave the place that most feels like home.
  • When their spirits reenter their bodies, it is often coupled with a jolt and a sudden return of pain.
  • Some report instant, miraculous healings from diseases or illnesses upon returning to their bodies. Some healings take longer, but are much more rapid and successful than doctors anticipate.
  • All report a completely changed view of life with no emphasis on material things and great focus on relationships and loving and serving others. Atheists and agnostics can’t continue in their old paradigms.
  • Many, after a period of silence, feel compelled to share their stories of grace, healing, and redemption.
  • A few take on an inflated view of themselves, reject their traditional faith or interpret their experience through restricted, orthodox views. Most are very honest, authentic, and vulnerable about their NDE, but some distort their experience and use it for personal and financial gain.

To me, the evidence is overwhelming: our bodies may die, but our spirits continue; heaven is real and so is our Creator; death is nothing to fear or be worried about.

P.S. I’m currently listening to a book published in 1395 AD. It was written by Julian of Norwich and is called Revelations of Divine Love, the first book in history written in English by a woman. Julian’s “showings” or visions resemble those who have had NDEs.

P.P.S I wonder what Stephen Hawking thinks about the existence of an afterlife and God now? I hope I can personally ask him someday.