For many years, possibly even centuries, some people who unexpectedly survived a life-threatening event have recounted amazing experiences. Between the time they appeared to die and when they revived, they often encountered places and beings unlike those of everyday life. What should we make of such near death experiences?
Reports from the Operating Room:
Occasionally, the reports of near death experiences contain detailed descriptions of what was happening to the experiencer’s body, from a perspective outside the body. The person offering this report may not have had any way of knowing what was happening, yet they may have accurate details. How can we interpret these accounts?
Near Death Experiences Transforming Lives:
One of the hallmarks of a near death experience is that afterwards the individual reports no more fear of death. Consequently, they frequently re-evaluate their lives. Not uncommonly, they will change their approach to their livelihood or their relationships to reflect new values. Often, surviving a near death experience helps a person live the rest of their life more fully.
Studying Near Death Experiences:
Scientists have long been skeptical about these accounts. Because they can’t be reliably (or ethically) reproduced, you can’t study them in experiments. But that doesn’t mean you can’t study them at all. Our guest devoted decades to the scientific study of reports of near death experiences. In addition to collecting these first-hand reports, he used medical records and the observations of family members and close friends to evaluate them. One thing he discovered is that people don’t forget details of their near death experiences. The memories are clear and compelling for decades. Perhaps this helps explain how the transformations they seem to trigger are also very long lasting.
This Week’s Guest:
Dr. Bruce Greyson is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the UVA School of Medicine. He served on the medical school faculty at the Universities of Michigan, Connecticut, and Virginia. His award-winning research led him to become a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is the author of
After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond, the culmination of nearly half a century of Dr. Greyson’s scientific research.
Listen to the Podcast:
The podcast of this program contains much more extraordinary information than the broadcast could. It will be available Monday, April 18, 2022, after broadcast of the archive on April 16. (The show was originally broadcast on March 6, 2021). You won’t want to miss it. You can also stream it from this site; podcasts can be downloaded for free.