Go toward the light

By Contributor Laura Kipp

Laura Kipp

A near death experience, or NDE, is a rare occurrence but a common source of fascination. Someone who nearly dies commonly experiences: feeling at peace, separating from their body, seeing a bright light, seeing a tunnel, seeing deceased relatives, entering a heavenly domain or having life review.

NDEs and Religion

The phenomenon happens universally to both spiritual and (previously) non-spiritual people.  In the book, “What Happens When We Die,” by Dr. Sam Parnia, it reads, “Although having a religious theme, NDEs didn’t seem to correlate directly with traditional religious views of the afterlife … people often seemed to interpret their NDE based on their own underlying thought processes. So, for example, a Christian who saw a being of light would identify it as Jesus, while someone of a different faith, would describe it as being a religious figure related to their own faith, while someone of a different faith would describe it as being God himself, and others simply called it a ‘luminous being’ …they (however) seemed to be describing the same concept.”

Are They Real?

Commonly people experiencing a NDE will say they had an out-of -body-experience; they will float above themselves and observe emergency medical procedures being done to them, and when they wake up, they can accurately say what happened to them. Parnia, of the Horizon Research Foundation, is conducting an exciting ongoing study that includes placing a hidden target on the ceilings of hospital rooms that patients might later report if they had an out-of-body-experience.

There are scientific arguments on either side, but skeptics point to biological functions that happen during the dying process that could account for some NDEs. When the heart stops beating, C02 levels rise and fall.  On study found that increased C02 was the only common factor amongst patients who experienced NDEs, but not everyone who had increased C02 had a near death experience. Increased C02 has been associated with hallucinations, including bright lights.

Time slowing, being met by deceased family members and feeling love are commonly reported features of NDEs.  In religious environments, I have definitely heard people share stories about coming close to death, or watching a loved one die, and being aware of deceased family members present, including family members the person never met in life. I have also heard of feeling the love of God, more intense than we would imagine.

Does consciousness stop when the brain stops? Is consciousness completely dependent on, or just related to, the brain? Are near death experiences simply hallucinations? I’m not entirely sure I want to find out.  But the symbolism of going toward the light intrigues me. I want to live in the light of God right now.  


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