“You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life.” – Kahlil Gibran
Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel made headlines with an article in The Lancet. in 2001. In a study of 344 Dutch patients surving cardiac arrest, 62 of them reported NDEs when they were clinically dead. Van Lommel’s writings centre around what he calls “Endless Consciousness” :
According to van Lommel, the leading mainstream materialistic vision held by doctors, philosophers and psychologists on the brain-consciousness relation is insufficient to explain this phenomenon. There are good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not coincide with brain activity; it can be experienced separate from the body. [Source]
Two things I find most interesting in NDE research. The first and most obvious is that NDEs can be considered proof of an afterlife. I am not so surprised or fascinated by that evidence though; I have always believed in reincarnation, and have further studied the teachings of my spiritual Master, Sri Chinmoy, on that subject for the last 12 years. I am most fascinated by the fact that those who have had NDEs are very often permanently changed by their experience, and pretty much always for the better.
This phenomenon is not only reported by van Lommel, but by PMH Atwater who notes the following amazing findings (and more), in her article Another Look at the After-Effects of the Near-Death Experience:
- Unconditional love — Experiencers perceive themselves as equally and fully loving of each and all, openly generous, excited about the potential and wonder of each person they see…
- Lack of boundaries — Familiar codes of conduct can lose relevance or disappear altogether as unlimited avenues of interest and inquiry take priority…
- Timelessness — Most experiencers begin to “flow” with natural shift of time, rejecting locks and schedules as they exhibit a heightened awareness of the present moment and the importance of “now.”
- The psychic — Extrasensory perception and various types of psychic phenomena become normal and ordinary in the lives of experiencers…
- Reality switches — Hard-driving achievers and materialists can transform into easy-going philosophers; but, by the same token, those once more relaxed or uncommitted can become energetic “movers and shakers,” determined to make a difference in the world. Switches seem to depend more on what is “needed” to round out the individual’s growth than on any uniform result.
- The soul as self — Most come to recognize themselves as an immortal soul currently resident within material form so lessons can be learned while sojourning in the earthplane. They know they are not their body; it is a “jacket” they wear…
Atwater reports other remarkable patterns in patients following NDEs: substantially altered energy levels, hypersensitive to light and sound, stress easier to handle, lower blood pressure, increased intelligence, clustered thinking (as opposed to sequential), charismatic, quicker assimilation, reduction in red meat consumption, “merge” easily (absorption), latent talents surface, a hunger for knowledge, synchronicity commonplace, multiple sensing (synesthesia).
She notes that such positive life changes do not only depend on a person returning from clinical death (fortunately!); they can arise from a life-threatening or frightening situation for example. They can also be achieved consciously and gradually through spiritual practice:
I would also include those more tranquil in how they’re experienced: from the slow, steady application of spiritual disciplines, mindfulness techniques, meditation, vision quests, or because, in a prayerful state of mind, an individual simply desires to become a better person.