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... my body. It felt like a wet sock, and the pain was awful (IANDS). We remember the incredible speed and sense of acceleration as one approaches the light that glows with an overwhelming brilliance and yet does not hurt ones eyes... one feels in the presence of light pure love, total acceptance, forgiving of sins, and a sense of homecoming; that communication with the light is instantaneous and nonverbal and the light imparts knowledge of a universal nature as well as enables one to see or understand his entire life so that it is clear what truly matters in life... one may be aware of transcendental music, paradisiacal environments, and cities of light as one progresses further into the experience...
finally once having encountered the light, one yearns to be with it forever (Geis 99). It may also be with the being of light that the person has their life review. These cases are rare, but in the case of receiving previously unknown information, may be powerful. It may reveal to a person that they are adopted or maybe they have a sibling they never knew (IANDS). Although near-death experiences share many common traits, they are described differently from culture to culture. The fact that near-death experiences vary from culture to culture may lead one to assume that near-death experiences are merely based on cultural beliefs, but what about a young child who is innocent of cultural differences (Near-Death Experience)?
Despite the statements against it, the fact still remains that near-death experiences do vary from culture to culture, a fact that should be discussed. There are two reasons why near-death experiences are so intriguing. The first is that there are so many of them, and the second is that they occur worldwide (Fenwick 30). But as one begins to study these cases around the world, one soon realizes that they vary from culture to culture. The first logical assumption would be that near-death experiences are affected by culture, but as shown before, that theory does not explain all near-death experiences. However, it is still important to know the differences to develop a better understanding.
It is in India that one finds many differences from the western near-death experience. In India, there is less peace and joy in the near-death experience and the out-of-body experience and tunnel experience are rare. They are usually taken by messengers where they might see figures of Hindu Mythology, and they are usually pushed back to their lives. Stigmata is a common result of these near-death experiences in India, such as a man developing wounds on his knees after having his legs cut off at the knee in his near-death experience. Near-death experiences in America are usually more religious which is what one would expect based on cultural differences, and the evangelical ways of America. Although there can be some differences in near-death experiences, they all share one common fact: the person is drastically changed afterwards.
It has been shown in almost all cases that a person changes after having gone through a near-death experience. The two greatest changes are the person no longer fears death and he or she has a greater concern for others. One experiment was done with fifty-three individuals who had a near-death experience and twenty- seven individuals who were on the brink of death but did not have a near-death experience proved that near-death experiences change individuals. The experiment concluded that a person may have many drastic life changes after a near-death experience: more concern for others, no more fear of death, stronger belief in afterlife, no longer have a want for material possessions, have a higher self-worth, have an appreciation for natural phenomena, clearer picture of himself or herself, thoughts of suicide go down, a great search for knowledge, and a greater appreciation for nature (Groth-Marnat 112). There are many theories that help explain all of the spiritual aspects of the near-death experience; however, not one can explain all of the aspects. One very common theory is that the near-death experience is merely a chemical reaction to death; that the brain releases a very large amount of endorphins, nervous stimulants, throughout the body in reaction to the dying body causing a hallucination.
Another theory is that the near-death experience is a hallucination that is drug-induced. Not natural drugs like endorphins, but rather medicines administered by the hospital or someone else trying to help the dying person. Yet another theory may be that the near-death experience is simply a hallucination caused by the lack of oxygen in the brain at the time of death. There is also a theory about the out-of-body experience. It could be the brains way of relaxing the person. The splitting off of the threatened individuals consciousness as a calm, detached observer, separate from the hopelessly imperiled victim, protects the individual from the painful and disorganizing experience of physical trauma (Greyson 167).
A much more scientific explanation deals with the involvement of the temporal lobes. As defined by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3 rd Edition, the temporal lobes are, The lower lateral lobe of either cerebral hemisphere, located in front of the occipital lobe and containing the sensory center of hearing in the brain. There are many evidences that contribute to the theory that the temporal lobes play a key role in the near-death experience. Many things were discovered about the temporal lobes and the brain in general when Wilder Penfield conducted the first brain mapping experiments in the late nineteen thirties and early nineteen forties (Fenwick 33). Experiments have shown that stimulation of the temporal lobes has caused hallucinations of leaving the body and feelings of peace and tranquility. Stimulation of the temporal lobes has also caused people to have flashes of memory and hallucinations of people.
Another strong piece of evidence is the fact that the right temporal lobe mainly pertains to emotion, and the near-death experience is most commonly the most emotional experience a person goes through. People are unable to describe the emotion felt during a near-death experience. The temporal lobes may also attribute to the feelings of extreme reality. NDEs always seem to carry the feeling of absolute reality; often they are felt to be more real even than everyday life (33). Other characteristics of near-death experiences point to the right hemisphere of the brain.
The right hemisphere deals with spatial functions rather than verbal functions, and people who have gone through near-death experiences are unable to fully put the near-death experience together with definite boundaries. Another piece of evidence pointing to the right hemisphere is that a person has much time disorientation regarding his or her near-death experience. The right hemisphere also deals with time orientation, and a person may believe his or her near-death experience lasted for a long time when it was actually only a few minutes. Another possible explanation is that the near-death experience is simply a mystical experience. The nineteenth-century Canadian psychiatrist Richard Back (1837 - 1902) was one of the first Western scientists to try to define the characteristics of the mystical experience.
The nine features he listed were: feelings of unity, feelings of objectivity and reality; transcendence of space and time; a sense of sacredness; deeply felt positive mood; paradoxicalitythe experience is felt to be true even though it violates Aristotelian logic; ineffability; transience; positive change in attitude or behavior (Fenwick 33). There is still one very intriguing fact still left that has not been discussed. That fact is, almost all near-death experiences occur while the brain is unconscious. So what does that mean?
What it means is that an unconscious brain cannot put together the complex images or just the complexity in general of a near-death experience. Is there really an afterlife? Unfortunately, this question can never be answered within the realm of science, so one can only hope for the indescribable, beautiful place of tranquility questioned for so long. Bibliography: Becker, Carl B. Paranormal Experience and Survival of Death.
Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1993. Blackmore, Susan. Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1993. Duncan, Lois and William Roll, Ph. D.
Psychic Connections: A Journey into the Mysterious World of Psi. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. , 1995. Edit, Betty J. Embraced by the Light. New York: Bantam Books, 1994. Fenwick, Peter.
Living to Tell the Tale. The UNESCO Courier Mar. 1998: 29 - 33. Geis, Robert J. Personal Existence after Death: Reductionist Circularities and the Evidence. Penn, Illinois: Sherwood Sugden & Company, Publishers, 1995. Greyson, Bruce, M.
D. , and Charles P. Flynn, Ph. D. The Near-Death Experience: Problems, Prospects, Perspectives. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas?
Publisher, 1984. Groth-Marnat, Gary, and Roger Summers. Altered Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors Following Near-Death Experiences. The Journal of Humanistic Psychology 38 (1998): 110 - 125. Have, Deborah A. How My Death Changed My Life.
Medical Economics 13 Apr. 1998: 170 - 177. Hayes, Evelyn R. , et al. Near Death: Back From Beyond. Rn Dec. 1998: 54 - 59. IANDS International Association of Near Death Studies. Mar 2000. [ web Levine, Dan.
The Far Side. The Village Voice 16 Jun. 1998: 139. Near-Death Experience. Man, Myth & Magic. 1995. Powell, Cheryl. Near Death: A Nurse Reflects.
Rn Apr. 1999: 43 - 44. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation. All rights reserved. Zaleski, Carol.
Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
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