Near Death Experiences, Part 3
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 2 Peter 3:8
Reports of near-death experiences (NDEs) are the narratives told by those who have experienced clinical death, witnessed an afterlife, and returned to earthly life to tell about it. They are as varied as the people reporting them, although there are similarities among many of the stories. Many read like an account of an ultra-vivid dream or a psychedelic trip (I am reminded of author Ram Das saying that God came to the United States in the form of LSD). Typically, there is a guide accompanying them through the afterlife, answering questions and providing other information, often about life on earth. As with any description of an intense event, everyone expresses frustration that there simply are not words to adequately describe their experience. Here are some of the common elements, not to all NDE accounts, but to many of them.
Out of body experience. Many NDEs begin with an experience of being transported outside of one’s earthly body and looking down upon it. A common report is of watching medical personnel working on a body and realizing, somewhat dispassionately, that the body being worked on is theirs. In this state there is no fear and no pain. It is more a state of wonder and interest, as in, “How can it be that I am up here, but my body is down there?” These out-of-body experiences are the beginning of the common realization that we are more than our earthly bodies, and our life is more than what we experience on the earth.
Brilliant light and colors. Many people see a brilliant light, often described as white. The light is not painfully bright, but warm, welcoming, and joyful. They may feel pulled by it, as through a vortex, or they may feel embraced by or bathed in it. Again, there is no fear of the light because it is perceived as pure love. Many reports describe the light as God or Christ. Others recall vivid and unearthly colors in the afterlife, indescribable in their beauty. Often, this light seems to have carried them some distance away from their body, sometimes a very great distance.
Space and time warp. Many NDE reports are quite extensive and detailed in what was seen, in the conversations they had, and in the beings they met and communed with, even for those who were only clinically dead for a very short time, perhaps a few minutes. Some people were carried to the edges of the universe in an instant. Others could see the earth in its entirety, yet also make out every detail about its surface. Clearly, our experience of time and space on earth is not the same as the experience beyond. I am reminded of Peter’s writing, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years.” One person described the entire experience as happening all at once, as opposed to occurring chronologically.
Unconditional love and acceptance. Regardless of the other details of their afterlife experience, most people reported a feeling of complete and unconditional love and acceptance. There was also an inherent respect for everyone and everything, both in the afterlife and on earth (as perceived from the afterlife). It was love of a character completely different from anything they experienced on earth. It was a personal love directed specifically at their unique being, often described as the love of a parent for a beloved child. Wherever they were transported to, many had the distinct feeling that they had returned to their true home. Many experienced themselves sitting on the lap of God, others being lovingly escorted by Jesus.
Life review. Another common NDE is a life review. Sometimes these are experienced as seeing one’s entire life in one image or a single instant. Other times it is more chronological. Some describe it as similar to watching a home movie or looking through a photo album. Others describe it more as a reliving of every event of life in that they feel what they were feeling with each moment, but they see the events with more clarity. Sometimes there is a discussion with God or Jesus or a spiritual guide about the events, although it is never described as guilt-producing in nature but as a matter-of-fact type of learning experience. Many people reported not only reliving what they were feeling, but also knowing what others felt, too. In other words, how their actions made others feel was revealed in this experience.
I will continue exploring reports of the afterlife next week.
This is the 23rd in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.
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