Huge differences in NDE’s

#1
I am almost 2/3 thru the recent book release by IANDS, the foundations of near death research which covers a lot of articles from the journal of near death studies and I am kind of embarrassed. I pride myself on being very well versed on ndes and have read so many books, articles, blogs and watched so many videos and listened to so many podcasts and even attended local IANDS meetups only to realize that in years of feeling on top of this stuff, I’ve missed really taking account of NDES in other cultures and just how different they are . I was so caught up in some of dr Jeff Long’s research that I completely neglected other cultures ndes outside of North America and other than the general knowledge that other cultures often experience specific “experiences” or imagery that’s different than traditional “Western” NDE’s, I was not aware to just how much an extent they r different . No reports of tunnels, bright lights, life reviews, lack of pleasant feelings, etc. one thing that I always “hung my hat on” was the fact that I believed ndes across cultures and time, pretty much, generally speaking at least, were very similar . And I know all the typical interpretations that maybe we interpret things from our culture or maybe things r symbolic or many other possibilities but I’m just speaking to my disheartening realization that one of the few things I “held onto” as convincing proof.. was NDE’s. Now I feel I’ve lost that.
 
#2
Thank you very much indeed for this post. The lack of "life reviews" is a particularly significant piece of data. It confirms to me that life reviews "work" for Westerners, for whom it is comforting to be told that 'we are in this life in order to learn' (which makes no sense, for lots of reasons).
 
#3
If they are going to compare studies of western and non-western NDEs they have to make sure the studies are using the same research protocols. What I have seen is that they don't do that.

Part of the difference in results is how the people doing the study define an NDE. You have to look at how non-western studies identify an NDE. In some cases they consider hallucinations and dreams as NDEs when those are usually considered different phenomena by western researchers.

Bill, if you can provide a link to the studies you are referring to, I might have more to say on the subject.
 
Last edited:
#4
If they are going to compare studies of western and non-western NDEs they have to make sure the studies are using the same research protocols. What I have seen is that they don't do that.

Part of the difference in results is how the people doing the study define an NDE. You have to look at how non-western studies identify an NDE. In some cases they consider hallucinations and dreams as NDEs when those are usually considered different phenomena by western researchers.

Bill, if you can provide a link to the studies you are referring to, I might have more to say on the subject.
Hi Jim,

The studies I am referring to r listed in that new IANDS book and it is from various “journal of near death study” articles and studies .
 
#5
Thank you very much indeed for this post. The lack of "life reviews" is a particularly significant piece of data. It confirms to me that life reviews "work" for Westerners, for whom it is comforting to be told that 'we are in this life in order to learn' (which makes no sense, for lots of reasons).
Yes, I heard about this recently and it was very surprising. I assumed that it was part of the structure of the whole thing, no a cultural artifact. It's a little depressing, so I hope it's not true :D.
 
#6
Yes, I heard about this recently and it was very surprising. I assumed that it was part of the structure of the whole thing, no a cultural artifact. It's a little depressing, so I hope it's not true :D.
You know, it's not that I enjoy bursting people's bubbles. I most definitely don't. I know that a lot of people consider NDE some kind of unquestionable "Revelation" of the Ultimate Truth.
In 'real life" I know people who believe the most unlikely things, and I NEVER question their beliefs, I just let them be, hoping that they find all the consolation and encouragement they can from them.

But this is Skeptiko, a place where we are supposed to put aside our hopes and wishes and look at the data in a rational, dispassionate way (as much as we can).

Believe me, I sympathize. I for one would find it very depressing (not just "a little depressing") IF (note the if) there really was a single "mastermind behind it all", ie an agency that is omnipotent, all-knowing and almighty, and could have designed any material whatsoever, but it chose to make this deeply flawed one. A God who, as someone has just written in a post, is both good and evil. I don't rule out that possibility, but, like you, I hope it's not true :)
 
#7
I am almost 2/3 thru the recent book release by IANDS, the foundations of near death research which covers a lot of articles from the journal of near death studies and I am kind of embarrassed. I pride myself on being very well versed on ndes and have read so many books, articles, blogs and watched so many videos and listened to so many podcasts and even attended local IANDS meetups only to realize that in years of feeling on top of this stuff, I’ve missed really taking account of NDES in other cultures and just how different they are . I was so caught up in some of dr Jeff Long’s research that I completely neglected other cultures ndes outside of North America and other than the general knowledge that other cultures often experience specific “experiences” or imagery that’s different than traditional “Western” NDE’s, I was not aware to just how much an extent they r different . No reports of tunnels, bright lights, life reviews, lack of pleasant feelings, etc. one thing that I always “hung my hat on” was the fact that I believed ndes across cultures and time, pretty much, generally speaking at least, were very similar . And I know all the typical interpretations that maybe we interpret things from our culture or maybe things r symbolic or many other possibilities but I’m just speaking to my disheartening realization that one of the few things I “held onto” as convincing proof.. was NDE’s. Now I feel I’ve lost that.
Bill, I can well understand that is upsetting. I suppose I'd like to know:

1) What these people typically did experience in their NDE's.

2) Did some of the NDE's contain the same observation of the body and resuscitation drama?

3) How religious the people were.

This may be special pleasing for our culture, but my gut feeling is that we may get a better picture from Western NDE's because many people don't carry much in the way of religious expectations, or fear of telling a story that might be thought blasphemous. Ideally it might be best to exclude all NDE's by religious people.

Clearly we know that NDE's can be very varied - think of Eban Alexander's experience - particularly if you imagine chopping off all but the first few minutes of his NDE.

David
 
#8
Believe me, I sympathize. I for one would find it very depressing (not just "a little depressing") IF (note the if) there really was a single "mastermind behind it all", ie an agency that is omnipotent, all-knowing and almighty, and could have designed any material whatsoever, but it chose to make this deeply flawed one. A God who, as someone has just written in a post, is both good and evil. I don't rule out that possibility, but, like you, I hope it's not true :)
Yeah I'm no great shakes but I'm sure i could come up with a less sadistic system of soul education if I had God's resources. If he exists, yeah, sadly, he's getting off on suffering.
 
#9
Yeah I'm no great shakes but I'm sure i could come up with a less sadistic system of soul education if I had God's resources. If he exists, yeah, sadly, he's getting off on suffering.
Meurs as usual, can state the essence of the critical path issue. It is not the existence nor even commonplace nature of suffering which perplexes me - rather it is the gleeful wallow in, promotion, primacy and celebration of, suffering - which is most discouraging.
 
#10
I am almost 2/3 thru the recent book release by IANDS, the foundations of near death research which covers a lot of articles from the journal of near death studies and I am kind of embarrassed. I pride myself on being very well versed on ndes and have read so many books, articles, blogs and watched so many videos and listened to so many podcasts and even attended local IANDS meetups only to realize that in years of feeling on top of this stuff, I’ve missed really taking account of NDES in other cultures and just how different they are . I was so caught up in some of dr Jeff Long’s research that I completely neglected other cultures ndes outside of North America and other than the general knowledge that other cultures often experience specific “experiences” or imagery that’s different than traditional “Western” NDE’s, I was not aware to just how much an extent they r different . No reports of tunnels, bright lights, life reviews, lack of pleasant feelings, etc. one thing that I always “hung my hat on” was the fact that I believed ndes across cultures and time, pretty much, generally speaking at least, were very similar . And I know all the typical interpretations that maybe we interpret things from our culture or maybe things r symbolic or many other possibilities but I’m just speaking to my disheartening realization that one of the few things I “held onto” as convincing proof.. was NDE’s. Now I feel I’ve lost that.
Don’t feel lost. The best evidence for NDEs is not their particular subjective content. Let my explain myself by pasting an old post of mine which I feel is Pertinent here.

There have been studies, Penny Sartori's is the one I'm most familiar with, where they asked people who have been resucitated, "after you were dead, describe to us your resucitation." Those claiming to have an NDE described their resucitation generally very well. Those that did not, generally said something like the following, "What do you mean, I was dead." They told them to "try anyways." They did did absolutely terrible. They couldn't explain anything with any accuracy whatsoever. That's the first point I want to raise. The second point I want to make, is directly relative to your first post. Namely, how do we know that NDE's aren't dreams.

How can we know that NDE's are not hallucinations? Several reasons. I want to outline a handful, but there are more than the ones which I will be listing.

1) Shared Death Experiences

These are experienced by people who are completely healthy who just so happen to be near somebody who is dying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1BuI-DugnU&t=8s

2) The Blind seeing for the first time during NDE's, and the deaf hearing for the first time. There are several reports and testimonies of this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azIh8gsXVRg&t=84s

3) Veridical NDE's

People floating outside their bodies (often to other rooms) to report conversations and events which later check out as accurate. There are a great deal of these on record

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gGqpxa32og

4) These events are life altering. People change permanently. They report a non-existence of time. Those are two (there are many more) rather bizarrely common reportedly themes of NDE's. This doesnt fit the notion that they are Hallucinations, which are disorganized and bizarre and rarely make sense, and generally have no typical after effects. In contrast, NDE's are reported as being more real and clear than everyday real life, and that they make every day existence seem like a mere dream. This is nothing like a hallucination or dream.

5) People very frequently encounter dead people during their NDE's. Notice, they're not meeting living people. Strange coincidence if its a dream that all the people they run into just so happen to be dead isn't it? And why are people hallucinating something which is like what we would think the afterlife would be? Why arent people hallucinating their 57 Chevy? Why are there profound and intelligent moral lessons which are learned? Why this undescribable state of love expressed during these experiences? Sounds a lot like what we would expect an afterlife to be based upon the religious writings of the wise man, sages, holy men, and shaman of the past.

6) There are a lot of reports of people given information about the future, which eventually came true

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EydWO5vqT80

7) Miraculous healings which people were told would occur during their NDE's, and actually occur

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPmtfW3BIGs

Also consider the evidence which comes from the Reincarnation studies which were done and are still being done at the university level. Here’s a nice little video summing up some of the remarkably convincing research.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jZOKljH6pBk


Also consider Dr Julie Beischels ongoing triple blind research into mediums. I think you would love her book. Super convincing. Consider all the reports worldwide all throughout history in every culture regarding out of body experiences which people experience while NOT dying. Research out of body explorers and writers like Cyrus Kirkpatrick, William Buhlman, Greg Doyle, Graham Nichols etc. Expand away from just NDE research.

Consider that quantum physics and the placebo effect show that our thoughts affect matter in our current reality. Then consider that when people don’t different realms out of body, they report that the environments are more malleable to thought than they are. That is to say, the environments become more thought responsive. That said, we should expect cultural differences in NDEs. Don’t get caught up in trying to understand what they all mean.

I’m gonna write an essay using some of the info above. A comprehensive idea of what the best evidence is, to me, along with brief links to examples of what I mean by each point. But this is just a start. It needs to be cleaned up logically and grammatically. It also needs more info from other areas.
 
#11
looks like a few of those videos aren’t available anymore unfortunately. I’ll have to try and find some new examples of first person reporting. It’s a shame, those were good videos. But watch the first one regarding the Shared death experience. It blows every skeptical explanation out of the water. Why this topic is never discussed is beyond me. But Raymond Moody has written a good book on it.
 
Last edited:
#12
Thank you everyone who has posted replies so far . And all the resources and links.

There is no doubt that some of the reports regarding the non western NDE’s are questionable in the sense that there was really no “research protocol” and they are anecdotal, narrative accounts from other culture or even time periods with no clear indication of biological death , in most of those cases . A lot of reports of being “dead” anywhere from minutes to days and then “coming back.” And the relatively small sample sizes ; it’s not a great idea to generalize some of this .. but that being said , I guess it just struck me becuz I’ve made the false assumption that there were certain “universals” regarding ndes and I’m not sure that’s the case anymore .

Lots more reports of “hellish type experiences”, which feel “realer than real”, and many commonly held assumptions such as a tunnel, bright light, meeting deceased relatives , positive emotions , life review, etc , are strangely absent .

And some interesting experiences in the supposed NDE themselves, with some people reporting seeing wizards , some people looking down at their bodies below , and instead of seeing their own body, they see a pig (I’ll have to look it back up but there was cultural significance to this as a pig represented something involving sin and death, but I can’t recall right now the specifics ).. some just didn’t make sense .

And I am aware of the argument that maybe “spirit” will “show up” in a way that is unique to us or that makes us feel comfortable or is most recognizable .. that’s a possibility I suppose , but to me, the more logical answer seems to be some very high cultural influences in these experiences , which has caused me to question NDE’s entirely as a more “objective phenomenon” leading towards “ultimate truth” , and more , a complexly structured, culturally created or influenced artifact .

I just wish these things were discussed and talked about , and presented, in all the other material I’ve read.. parnia , sartori, dr long, moody, ring, Greyson, etc and many more . Just never really heard of this stuff in the years and years I’ve been following it or reading about it .
 
#13
I tend to think of NDEs as remarkable experiences of extended consciousness, not necessarily as an indicator of any precise afterlife state. Though I do think that they provide strong evidence of survival of consciousness after death.
 
#14
There is no doubt that some of the reports regarding the non western NDE’s are questionable in the sense that there was really no “research protocol” and they are anecdotal, narrative accounts from other culture or even time periods with no clear indication of biological death , in most of those cases . A lot of reports of being “dead” anywhere from minutes to days and then “coming back.” And the relatively small sample sizes ; it’s not a great idea to generalize some of this .. but that being said , I guess it just struck me becuz I’ve made the false assumption that there were certain “universals” regarding ndes and I’m not sure that’s the case anymore .
hi bill... Thanks for starting and stoking this thread... great stuff... inquiry to perpetuate doubt stuff :)

I think jim makes a good point about research protocols. of course, given that we may be in this lesser reality while trying to figure out the larger reality it may be incredibly naive to talk about research protocols... but nonetheless. we have to do what we can :)

in this regard, the work that's done in critical care units and/or where people have suffered cardiac arrest seems compelling. I wouldn't want to limit my investigation to those cases, but it does provide a certain baseline regarding assumptions we might make about neural activity.

I also think the recent conversation with david sunfellow regarding hellish ndes is relevant. I'm struck by the fact that these experiences seem to be interpreted in vastly different ways... even if we control for culture, religion, medical conditions (e.g. cardiac arrest). so the problems get exponentially worse as we start looking outside of our culture particularly when we have less control over the circumstances surrounding the accounts. I'm not saying that I'm sitting on a dozen peer-reviewed papers that support this idea only that this seems to be where the data is leading me.

but all this is not meant to bury the lede... or in this case bury your excellent post :) maybe it's time to check back in with

What makes near-death experiences similar across cultures ... - Skeptiko

Jan 27, 2015 - Interview with religious scholar Dr. Gregory Shushan on the parallels between near-death experience accounts across cultures. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with author and religious studies scholar Dr. Gregory Shushan. During the interview Dr. Shushan offers his ...


or some other nde researcher focused on a cross-cultural analysis. anyone have any thoughts or suggestions on this?
 
#15
It seems to me the problem of evil would be one of, if not the, last things we might come to understand. Its not something I can brush aside myself (I struggle with it regularly), but I feel that I understand so little as to make any judgement of "God" or any other metaphysical school of thought to be woefully lacking in perspective (i.e., just my own, oh so limited, viewpoint).

Hypermagda, I hope you don't mind but I'm going to quote part of your commentary in this thread:

"I for one would find it very depressing (not just "a little depressing") IF (note the if) there really was a single "mastermind behind it all", ie an agency that is omnipotent, all-knowing and almighty, and could have designed any material whatsoever, but it chose to make this deeply flawed one. "

How can we truly know that this reality is "deeply flawed" when we know so little about it? Don't we have to reserve any thoughtful judgement until (if?) we come to be truly informed? I guess its probably a matter of each of our viewpoints. I certainly do not fault anyone for struggling with this issue.
 
#16
And I know all the typical interpretations that maybe we interpret things from our culture or maybe things r symbolic or many other possibilities but I’m just speaking to my disheartening realization that one of the few things I “held onto” as convincing proof.. was NDE’s.
The thing is, even if you assume that different cultures have different NDE's, does that lead you to a plausible conventional understanding of this phenomenon? I mean conventionally if someone has a cardiac arrest, the brain, which is supposed to generate the mind, is winding down, and yet supposedly it generates this elaborate illusion for no particular reason. It can't have evolved this trick in the conventional sense (as I have seen glibly suggested) because how can something like that evolve by survival of the fittest!!!!! In the wild any creature in circumstances that might result in an NDE is as good as dead regardless.

Your view of what an NDE is might have shifted a bit, but I still can't see how it sits back inside the conventional picture, even before you consider those NDE's that have explicitly paranormal components.

David
 
#17
The thing is, even if you assume that different cultures have different NDE's, does that lead you to a plausible conventional understanding of this phenomenon? I mean conventionally if someone has a cardiac arrest, the brain, which is supposed to generate the mind, is winding down, and yet supposedly it generates this elaborate illusion for no particular reason. It can't have evolved this trick in the conventional sense (as I have seen glibly suggested) because how can something like that evolve by survival of the fittest!!!!! In the wild any creature in circumstances that might result in an NDE is as good as dead regardless.

Your view of what an NDE is might have shifted a bit, but I still can't see how it sits back inside the conventional picture, even before you consider those NDE's that have explicitly paranormal components.

David
Exactly. There is one common thread out of all the NDEs around the world. This common thread is that all of these people are alive when they are dead.
 
#18
I just wish these things were discussed and talked about , and presented, in all the other material I’ve read.. parnia , sartori, dr long, moody, ring, Greyson, etc and many more . Just never really heard of this stuff in the years and years I’ve been following it or reading about it .
I feel that as time goes on and I seem to be gathering knowledge about (particularly) NDEs and more besides, the less I feel like expressing a definite opinion on any of it. And even then, that would only my interpretation of it, it’s by no means ‘the truth’. To get at least some way to explaining what I feel is that it’s probably like trying to write about or to describe colour to a colourblind person. The only thing that truly ‘works’ is experiencing it themselves. One may get some of the way there by telling ‘second hand’ stories, but at best it will only be a fraction of what a consciousness experiencing it might deliver.

One possibility I take from this is that somehow this is why we have to experience life in all it’s full glory, and I include head chopping and child molestation and any other deviant evil deeds in the mix. Anything is possible! In a way that is why I think that to really know the potential of the internet, (or life), we cannot begin to censor it at all! I know that we are a long way from allowing this to happen, but this is my intuitive thought - if there is such a thing?

As for the different interpretations and omissions from different cultures, I’m really not that surprised. I would think to put more weight on those NDEs nearest your own culture, but read them all, anything that you really ‘get’ will be valid. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned from Alex’s and my own journey have been that human beings are an incredibly complicated (yet somehow at the same time predictable?) lot. That bias is very often more important than fact. ‘You can’t handle the truth’ as said by Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup just might be much closer to one level of truth than we know.

One amazing fact is that in spite of all this amazing stuff, I still occasionally feel bored! What that about!!! :eek:


“Whatever we say no to makes us miserable - it’s as simple as that.”
Rupert Spira (around 13:30)
 
Last edited:
Top