Why Do Some People Forget?
What about people that are brought back and have no memories of an afterlife?
There are many theories about this ranging from the kinds of medications people receive in the course of treatment that might affect memory, or the parts of the brain that are damaged that might make retrieval of the experience difficult.
It might be as well that some people do not have an NDE and this is a phenomena evident in only a portion of the population.
Lisa Smartt has begun research in neurocognitive pathways and profiles that might predict who will have or remember NDES, but I am less inclined to investigate things in this way.
I consider how another dimension might interface with our own and am more interested in the notion of event boundaries and discontinuous realities. That is, there is a layering of dimensions or experiences, like an Escher painting, in which mutltiple dimensions can co-exist and certain shifts allow for our entering and exiting different realms.
Negative NDEs and Hell
Most of the people who talk about their NDEs describe a peaceful experience and having felt an overwhelming sense of love, something that a Christian might call “heaven; " others, however, have described an intensely scary and unpleasant experience. What has been your experience with descriptions of the bad experiences? Do you have any thoughts on why these happen? How often do they happen compared to the pleasant ones?
A small percentage of people have shared unpleasant near-death experiences with me.
Nancy Evans Bush, who has researched distressing NDEs, indicates that as many as 20% of NDEs are distressing. I would put the estimate around 5% from my research, but this figure is likely low as there is a problem with underreporting. Who wants to report having been to “hell” during an NDE? People may be afraid that this might reflect poorly on them.
NDEs can have multiple phases, and it appears that sometimes in the early phases, some people may have some unpleasant experiences and then as the experience deepens, the more positive transcendental aspects of the NDE come into play. It is as if there is a layer of experience between the physical and the metaphysical that can be disorienting and somewhat distressing, but then shifts to make way for the more spiritually uplifting elements of an NDE.
Each person is different in how he/she experiences the spectrum of phemomena associated with near-death. While there are clear patterns, each person is, of course, unique in how those patterns manifest.
From my interviews and accounts, there really are very few reports of hell, and researcher Evans Bush confirms this as well. She explains, "Most people assume that all frightening near-death experiences will be hellish in the conventional sense; yet this was the least common type in the study..."
There are accounts of uncomfortable and baffling experiences. Those who have treated others badly, report experiencing the pain they have caused others during the life review, and this in itself can be “hellish" but does not necessarily mean that the whole experience will be distressing.
However, from what I have heard, there is no clear relationship between the morality of people and their deeds and the quality of their NDEs. That is, someone who has done many bad things can have a positive and redemptive NDE while someone who has been exemplary throughout life, might have a more distressing one.
The Buddha in Hell and Dancing Past the Dark: Distressing Near-Death Experiences by Nancy Evans Bush are excellent books about this topic.
Have listened to quite a few NDE experiences but have not heard about “hell.” What happens to very evil people?
I do not know. I can’t say that I ever interviewed anyone who was terribly evil, so cannot report on this. In terms of hellish experiences, they are quite rare compared to the more positive ones, and they are more variegated, so it is harder to get a coherent overall picture. The above video with Melvin may offer some more insight for you.
I find shared-death experiences to be very interesting -- how bystanders report seeing a portal: As my mother was dying, my wife, sister and I noticed the room changed configurations, the light seemed bright and it seemed I was in another world. Suddenly, I was not in a three-dimensional space, as if in a dynamic whirlpool as though there was motion with no sense of motion. And my mother said "I love you" twice and I heard these words clearly and strongly, as if telepathically after she died.
Is there a golden or great light or mist that leaves a corpse or does a translucent replica of the human body get up and out of the corpse and depart through the portal. Are the golden or grey light / mist different from the translucent humanoid spiritual body?
Usually people say that it is roundish, but I also hear from doctors that they have seen a human form of the apparitions. It seems people see a portal that leads from our space-time universe and into higher dimensions or another universe. Perhaps the science of the future will be able to uncover more about this.
William Peters of Shared Crossings in Santa Barbara has done extensive research into shared-death experiences and is currently writing a book about his work. I look forward to hearing what his research will tell us about shared death experiences, And of course, my book Glimpses of Eternity, co-authored with Paul Perry, will give you an overview if you have not already read it. There are also many good books about occurrences at the bedside of the dying by John Lerma, Melvin Morse, Lisa Smartt, Osis and Haraldsson, David Kessler and others.
NDEs & Suicide
Are the NDEs of people who have attempted suicide the same in quality as those of people who have nearly died, say, from a car accident or heart attack?
The experiences are essentially the same; however, people with suicidal NDEs, say they will never again attempt suicide. It is not that they feel it is a terrible sin for which they will be punished, but through the life review, they see the pain of those who would be left behind.
I have heard from many that committing suicide is like coming out of a movie before it is over—this was the feeling many had. They share a sense of regret and resolve not to try it again.
Socioeconomics of NDEs
I am puzzled that whenever anybody talks about near-death experiences, they only consider the “intelligent” individuals assuming that they are cognizant of their surroundings. A very large part of the earth population has no education and lives in poverty and very primitive surroundings. How does the afterlife affect these people, and do they suddenly become more intelligent when they die so that they experience the same feelings that those that have been studied? Also with respect to reincarnation, have these people purposely selected this type of life where starvation and poverty is the norm.
I can’t say that I ever talked with someone in a place like the Sudan, but I have done presentations with people who are not well-educated or wealthy. They say the same things about their near-death experiences, no matter educational level or socioeconomic level. Those with more money and education get books published more easily, but it does not mean that the experience is limited to them. Men in prisons, soldiers at the front line, people behind cash registers, those in less “developed” societies have all shared with me that they have had NDEs.
In terms of reincarnation and poverty: I can easily imagine that if I knew I had many lives, I would definitely choose one with different kinds of suffering to learn about it—as I mentoned in my video above. I would imagine that as human souls, the wide range of socioeconomic conditions is part of the human drama that we all seek to experience to grow and develop our ability to love and learn; however, this does not justify the poverty, starvation or lack of opportunities that exists for so many people in our country and on our planet. It seems to me that part of the lessons of our lives is to each do what we can to work for the justice and equality of all.
I would like to know if suicide or murdering as well as other heinous crimes, can be a part of a soul contract? I have been told suicide is never entered into a soul contract and is a part of free will. Can you please give me your answer on that?
I try to confine my statements to things I have experienced and/or are observable, so I am so sorry I cannot answer you more fully.
However, it does appear suicide involves an act of free will and many NDEs can shift whether or not people actually succeed in taking their life. Those who have had NDEs after a suicide attempt appear to be given free will about whether or not they wish to return after reflecting upon the impact of their actions.
Clearly, for some, it appears there is a predetermined time of death while for others, the NDE represents a chance to consider life and to make a choice. I have not, however, done more detailed research about this to speak more confidently about why some seem to experience a choice while others are directed to return to their bodies and their lives on earth.
I have passed this question onto our guest columnists for February, Mark Pitstick and Rob Schwartz, who have experience with past-life regression and the notion of soul contracts. It will be interesting to see what they have to say.
Thank you for your questions, everyone!
More answers next month as we focus on some scientific and philosophical questions about NDEs.