The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life

Near Death Experience #2

May 04, 2023 Stacey Wheeler
The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life
Near Death Experience #2
The Soul Podcast - Tools For A Joyful Life
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Show Notes Transcript

There's a growing body of evidence on near death experience, which shows its more common than once thought. Is this unusual phenomenon evidence of the afterlife, and ultimately the Soul? In this five-part series we look at the evidence and history of NDEs.  



Life After Life, by Dr Raymond A Moody Jr.


“Respecting things that are difficult to measure, rather than dismissing them as unreal, is not rejecting science. It’s embracing science.”   - Dr. Bruce Grayson

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Dr. Bruce Greyson said,

“Respecting things that are difficult to measure, rather than dismissing them as unreal, is not rejecting science. It’s embracing science.”  

Welcome to The Soul Podcast, I’m Stacey Wheeler. 

Bruce Grayson has been researching NDEs for around 40 years. He was the head of University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies and is one of the founders of IANDS -the International Association of Near-Death Studies. Grayson has continued to do the work needed to answer the tough questions about the nature of consciousness. And he’s not alone. As NDEs gain more mainstream awareness, we find multiple universities have done research (or are doing research) in this field of study today. 

Along with University of Virginia, we find research at:

University of Southampton (in the UK)

University of Arizona

University of Louisville

University of Connecticut

University of North Texas

Seattle Pacific University

University of Missouri

University of Birmingham (UK)

…. to name a few.

We’ve come a long way since Dr Raymond Moody’s book Life After Life became a best seller in the 70s. 

In the last episode we looked at the long history of NDEs and saw that people have been talking about this thing for thousands of years. In this segment I’ll look at what exactly an NDE is. We’ll see the most common experiences people report when they have an NDE (there’s around 15 commonalities). 

Backing up a little bit… 

For a long time there were only a handful of places doing research on NDEs. As we can see, the list of schools is growing.

For many years, scientific minds struggled with the idea of studying NDEs. I think the resistance came because the questions involved were too esoteric for many scientists.

Think about it… can scientific study ever give us definitive answers to questions like: 

Do we survive the death of the body? 

Is there life after death?

What is consciousness? and…

Is there a Soul?

Modern science finds it roots in the writings of the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbs. Hobbes believed that all phenomena in the universe can be explained in terms of the motions and interactions of material bodies. This included human bodies and all things in the natural world. To him it was all material. He did not believe in the Soul, or in the mind as separate from the body. He saw human beings as essentially natural machines, with even their thoughts and emotions operating according to physical laws, and chains of cause and effect, action and reaction. 

So, science essentially approaches everything as material. And honestly, this is a simple way to operate. When things can be measured and quantified, we can use that information to create desired outcomes. The creation of different metals, the way your phone works, the flow of electricity... it’s all based on materialism. There’s essentially a recipe for all these things.

But NDEs lean hard into the area of the non-material world. Science approaches study from a material perspective. So, how does a scientific mind begin research from a question like, ‘Do we survive the death of the body?’ 

Naturally – they didn’t. 

Instead, they approached it from the notion of proving NDEs could be explained using a material structure. But they ran into a problem… they weren’t able to explain them with the material model. In trying to explain what NDEs are, many hard-fact scientists were forced to abandon their rigid perspectives. The unexpected and (seemingly) unexplainable findings of their research made many question their belief structure. They had to make a choice; Stick to the materialist model, or become more open to looking at non-material explanations. 

Or, you might say… their research made them start to wonder if there’s more to us than what material science suggests. 

It seems evidence of the Soul, creates difficult to answer questions and very little (if any) answers to those questions. 

Today this field of study is growing rapidly. Not long ago, if you wanted to do research in non-material studies -like NDEs, reincarnation, and psychedelic studies… you would have to launch a research facility of your own, or risk working with people considered to be ‘fringe scientists’ by the science community. Now, people entering college can state a goal of working in one of these fields and know there is a growing field of research waiting for them when they graduate.  We’ve come a long way in a short time!

Full-disclosure, I’m fascinated by these types of studies -and especially in how they may be evidence of the Soul. But it wasn’t always that way. Most of my life I’ve viewed these topics through skeptical eyes (and that’s a kind way to put it). But things shifted when I started looking at these topics without bias. 

Like most with a materialist view, I wanted proof. But then again, not everything in the world offers proof.  But – lacking absolute proof of something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Do we need to see it with our eyes to believe something...? Of Course not. But there are many true things, if we didn’t have proof we might never believe. There is something about us that makes us prefer to have proof before we accept anything. And the more unbelievable, the more we hold out for proof.

Consider something as simple as natural wonders…

In the early 1800s, men exploring the western part of what would become The United States started telling stories of Volcanic rumblings, waterfalls that moved in reverse from the ground and boiling cauldrons. Not many were willing to believe such wild stories. But when they saw the geysers and pools of the Yellowstone Valley, they understood… and they believed. 

So, yes, seeing is a sure path to believing. But -as with this example -you don’t have to see something for it to exist. Doubting tales of the Yellowstone travelers didn’t make Yellowstone Valley any less real. 

But go back to that time. Image you are there when several travelers came back from the Valley with similar stories… describing the same amazing wonders - each from their own perspective. They don’t have the words to describe it in a way you can visualize because there’s nothing to compare these wonders to directly. They struggle to describe this other-worldly place. And you’d have a difficult time imagining it, since you have nothing in your experience to compare it to. But now it has you wondering… Are these people all making this story up? Why would so many people lie about such a thing? What would be the point of making us such a story? 

Over the years more travelers tell the same sorts of stories. You realize each of them traveled there alone, yet still had the same sorts of stories. So, you can see it’s not a conspiracy of a small group to tell a lie. A single amazing story might be hard to believe. A handful of individual stories might make it more intriguing. But now imagine if thousands of people came back from the valley and describe seeing similar unexplainable wonders – amazing yet difficult to explain things? And then imagine if this continued for hundreds or even thousands of years. 

It seems people have been making the journey to the valley of near death since before the time of Plato. All coming back with unexplainable yet similar experiences. Instead of boiling caldrons of water, they tell of a dark tunnel towards a light. Instead of waterfalls shooting from the ground, they tell of seeing their life in full panorama at an amazing speed. Is this a conspiracy of thousands of people over thousands of years to fool the rest of us? 

Do you need to see the valley for yourself to accept that it’s there? 

Evidence… evidence… 

But yes, still we look for proof… knowing it may not be as simple as exploring the western wilderness. 

All this leads us to Dr. Bruce Grayson and Dr Raymond Moody’s research. 

In the mid 70s Moody found more than a dozen commonalities in the experiences of those who had an NDE. Grayson’s later (and continuing) research showed the same. 

Although NDEs vary from one person to another, they often include such features as:

·         feeling very comfortable and free of pain

·         a sensation of leaving the body 

·         being able to see the physical body while floating above it

·         the mind functioning more clearly and more rapidly than usual

·         a sensation of being drawn into a tunnel or darkness

·         a brilliant light, sometimes at the end of the tunnel… It’s usually described as the brightest light they’d ever seen, but they say it does not hurt their eyes.

·         a sense of overwhelming peace, well-being, or absolute, unconditional love

·         a sense of having access to unlimited knowledge

·         a “life review,” or recall of important events in the past. Often, this life review happens in the presence of a kind being, which seems to be made of light. 

·         a preview of future events yet to come

·         encounters with deceased loved ones, or with other beings that may be identified as religious figures

·         People also report that there is no language. The communication is a knowing of what the other beings are saying or thinking… but not in word form… this is something more like telepathic communication. 

·         And time doesn’t seem to exist as it does while in the body. Some have described having many days’ worth of experience on the other side, only to be revived and find they were clinically dead for just a matter of minutes or seconds.

Again, these features are commonly reported. But some NDEs differ from this pattern and include other elements. But these are the most common. 

So, like Yellowstone Valley, those who visit the valley of near-death also come back, struggling to describe the same wonders.  They each struggle to find words to explain something unexplainable. 

People are starting to accept that there’s something going on that we don’t fully understand. And the NDE experience has influenced the culture than you might realize. A few weeks back someone jokingly said something about their “life flashing before their eyes”. It’s interesting to connect un-noticed dots. It’s an old saying. We’ve all heard it. But I had never connected it to NDEs. But isn’t that exactly what they are saying? The research as far back as the 1800s found that when we’re in deep peril or at risk of death we might find we have a life review in very fast motion. Isn’t that a different way of saying the same thing? So, on some level we all seem to accept this aspect of the NDE stories. 

What I find especially interesting is that NDEs have been reported by people of all types of cultures from different countries and across a few thousand years…. long before the internet or other easy ways to share information. So, it’s interesting that so many experiences are so detailed yet similar. To me, that makes the evidence more credible. How could people throughout history and across cultures conspire to share the same sorts of details? Let’s listen to what Dr Moody has to say about this. 

When we look at universal experiences like this, we see either an epic conspiracy or growing evidence of the Soul. 

Grayson’s work is important. We’ll be talking more about him in the coming episodes. He’s been a huge mover in this field of study. He does a masterful job of keeping one foot in the camp of materialism, while being able to research NDEs -some that appears more and more to have its foundation in the non-material world. 

Moving forward, remember the quote from Grayson we started this episode with,

“Respecting things that are difficult to measure, rather than dismissing them as unreal, is not rejecting science. It’s embracing science.”   

Currently science is struggling on several fronts to explain things that cannot be explained with material answers. NDEs are one of these things. And we’ve got a front row seat for this shift in thinking. 

Come back for episode three in this series, where I’ll tell you how an NDE changed a neurosurgeon’s scientific mind. And we’ll look at the profound ways having an NDE can affect a person's journey in the world.