What is a Near-Death Experience?
Near-death experiences are intensely vivid and often life-transforming experiences, often occurring under extreme physiological conditions such as life-threatening trauma, cardiac arrest, or deep anesthesia in which no awareness of sensory experience of any kind should be possible, according to our current understanding of brain function.
Near-death experiences, or NDEs, consist of a common pattern of events, often including such features as:
- thinking more clearly and more rapidly than usual
- a sense of overwhelming peace, well-being, and absolute, unconditional love
- feeling comfortable and free of pain
- a sensation of leaving the body, sometimes being able to see the body while floating above it
- a sensation of being drawn into a tunnel or darkness
- a brilliant light, often perceived as a being of light
- a life review, or return of memories from the past
- a sense of having access to knowledge not available by normal means
- encounters with deceased loved ones, or with other beings who may be identified as religious figures
While these are the features most commonly reported, many NDEs vary from this pattern, and some may be experienced as frightening or distressing rather than peaceful.
Near-death experiences often lead to a a common pattern of aftereffect, including:
- marked decrease in, or complete loss of, fear of death
- more loving attitudes toward oneself and toward other people
- acceptance of, and compassion for, others
- increased sense of meaning and purpose in life
- decreased interest in material possessions, in personal recognition, and in competition
Links to Dr. Greyson’s research division at the University of Virginia:
Links to published resources:
Dr. Greyson’s published articles on NDEs
The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation, edited by Janice Miner Holder, Bruce Greyson, & Debbie James, is an authoritative anthology in which experts from around the world share the history, current state of NDE research, controversies in the field, and directions for the future.
The Journal of Near-Death Studies, published by the International Association for Near-Death Studies, is the only journal that is dedicated to cutting-edge information about NDEs and related experiences.
Links to organizations:
- International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS), a worldwide organization founded in 1981 dedicated to the exploration of NDEs and their implications. It provides information and education to the public, sponsors local support groups around the world, hosts an annual conference, and publishes a scholarly journal and an organizational newsletter.
- IANDS-sponsored support groups
- IANDS-sponsored sharing groups online
- Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF)
- The American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transcendent Experiences (ACISTE) was established in 2009 to support people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs who have spiritually transformative experiences (STEs).
- Spiritual Awakenings International was founded in 2020 as a network of individuals and groups interested in collaborating to raise awareness, network, and share personal experience relating to diverse types of spiritually transformative experiences (STEs), in order to raise global spiritual awareness.
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