19 Apr. 2013
Arguments of the Afterlife:
Do Near Death Experiences Suggest Proof of Life After Death?
Throughout all recorded history mankind has battled to find answers to each and every one of life’s questions and to some avail found quite a few; still, one question that has yet to be answered pertains to the possibility of life after death. Some argue that the idea of survival of consciousness without a body is extremely impractical and out of the question; however, when relying on only practical evidence alone it is hard to formulate a concrete theory. On the other hand, when we look at things such as cross-cultural studies on near death experiences and their underlying similarities we can utilize them as clues to suggest the possibility of an afterlife. Using both logic and intuition we should be able to gain some insight on the matter. A near death experience (NDE) is a term that was originated by Dr. Raymond A. Moody in his bestseller Life After Life, a book that has revolutionized the way many people see death (Morris, 1; C. Tan 1). According to Moody NDEs are visions of the afterlife that must happen to an individual under the conditions of one of the three following circumstances: being pronounced clinically dead; are close to death due to traumatic injury; or descriptions of visions seen by a dying person and later described by someone who is present (12). These visions are similar to fingerprints in the fact that no two are exactly the same (Moody, 17). However, there are many common characteristics such as: feelings of quiet and peace; strange noises that have been sometimes described as “disturbing” or even “peaceful”; beautiful being(s) of light that are often religious figures, but not always; dark winding tunnels that are usually cylindrical; intense flashbacks that play back the person’s entire life in order to “provoke reflection”; being greeted by family members or friends who have passed on before; and borderlines that could be any sort of border imaginable (Moody, 21-55). Although the term “NDE” is fairly new the experiences that define it are not. Since the beginning of civilization every culture has mentioned some form of an afterlife idea based on various religions and areas in which they are centered around; thus, we can compare anthropological and psychological observations from reliable sources- every civilization (C. Tan, 1). The earliest clues to NDEs can be found in ancient texts such as: The Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead, which both describe the transition of life to death and what they might see; and even Plato acknowledges these experiences in Book X of the Republic which tells a short story of a soldier who was killed in battle along with several other soldiers, they all traveled through a tunnel together to be judged by a light; however, he was sent back by the light to tell everyone what he had experienced. Still another important clue is that NDEs are not limited to any certain religious group, gender or age. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, males, females, adults and children have told their NDE accounts (C. Tan, 2; “Historical Tradition" sec. 2-3; Moody, 86; Williams, sec. 3). Skeptics may argue that the concept of an afterlife is unrealistic and brush these findings to the side by labeling them under hallucinations and psychological factors. Not only does the brain release certain chemicals such as DMT as a physical response to death, but also culture plays a strong roll in what a person might describe to have seen during an NDE (Neimark, sec. 1). For example, both a Christian and a Muslim encounter the same “being of light” during an NDE, while the Christian believes they have encountered Jesus Christ the Muslim believes that they have encountered Allah; simply in accordance to their religious beliefs. It is true that the brain releases DMT during its time of death and certain aspects of NDEs do vary from culture to culture due to psychological factors; nevertheless, this does not disprove the evidence supporting the idea of an afterlife (Williams, sec. 1-2). Meanwhile, when we study cases of NDEs such as Harvard neurosurgeon and former skeptic, Dr. Eben Alexander III; consequently, whose personal encounter with such an experience changed his whole view on this topic ("Heaven Exists, Says US Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander after Waking from Coma", 1-2). In his book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeons Journey into the Afterlife, Alexander descriptively illustrates his personal NDE through a logical and intuitive point of view. He was admitted to the hospital on November 10th 2008 when he was discovered to have bacterial meningitis; moreover tests taken indicated gram-negative meningitis, which has a high mortality rate. Dr. Alexander was reported to fall in to a coma for 6 days and his mortality rate rose up to 97 percent, until the 7th day when he miraculously awoke. According to Scott Wade, M.D. who treated Dr. Alexander, “The fact that he went on to have a full recovery from this illness after being in a coma for nearly a week is truly remarkable.” (Wade, 184). Yet Dr. Alexander’s quick recovery from an almost fatal coma was not the only aspect that should be noted as “truly remarkable” (Wade 184). Not only did he experience some of the more commonly reported events in NDEs, such as: noises, beings of light and even an encounter with a family member who had passed some years before (Alexander, 38-79). But, Alexander also underwent some unconventional events in his NDE, that have never been reported in previous times, including: that during this NDE he had no knowledge of who he was before, what he was or even where he was; the family member that lead him through his afterlife experiences turned out to be his biological sister who he had never seen until after his NDE when a photo of her was sent to him by another biological sibling; and during this coma his neocortex which is the part of the brain that hallucinogens such as DMT affect was shut down (Alexander, 29-171). In fact, Alexander was in such a heave state of coma that there would have been no possible way of the vivid recollections of his NDE, because his cortex was not even functioning (Alexander, 140-186). Similar to having reoccurring characteristics in NDEs, the most universal reported event NDEs is that that everyone who has been “sent back” claims to have been “told” that the reason we are all here to learn how to love. They display a more spiritual lifestyle and usually have a set notion of certain beliefs pertaining to the afterlife, which cannot be budged (Alexander, 72-79; C. Tan 1-2; Neimark 3; Williams sec. 5). As Moody puts it “Still, the experience affects his life profoundly, especially his views about death and its relationship to life.” (C. Tan, 1). A number of these people even assert that “…we are not using the word ‘death’… after you have the experience that I had, you know in your heart that there is no such thing as death.” (Moody, 73). Although we live in a world where scientific backing must play a roll in our research to conclude theories, we must also note that we are not scientifically advanced enough to rule out all that is considered to be an illogical argument. Likewise, until we are completely able to balance logic with intuition we will never be fully capable of finding answers to all of our questions. NDEs cannot be disproved until all holes in the logical argument are filled; moreover, NDEs show more supporting or at least unexplainable evidence than they do contracting evidence that could quite possibly answer some of questions if better researched.
Alexander, Eben. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2012. 29-186. Print. C. Tan, Katrina A. "The Near-Death Experience: A Glimpse of a Positive Life After Death." Pacifica Journal (Fall 2010): 1-3. Gale Cengage Learning. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://ezproxy.nscc.edu:2169/servlet/HWRC/hits?docNum=A241780096&year2=2013&year1=1980&index3=AU&index2=TD&index1=FT&tcit=0_1_0_0_0_0&index=BA&locID=tel_a_nsti&rlt=2&text3=&text2=&origSearch=true&text1=nde+AND+muslims&op2=AND&op1=AND&t=KW&s=11&r=d&o=DateDescend&secondary=false&n=10&day2=10&l=d&day1=01&month2=04&month1=01&searchTerm=2NTA&c=1&bucket=per>. "Heaven Exists, Says US Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander after Waking from Coma." International Business Times 10 Oct. 2012: n. pag. InfoTrac Custom Newspapers. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. <http://ezproxy.nscc.edu:2083/itw/infomark/792/117/6094463w16/purl=rc1_GBFM_0_CJ304944034&dyn=4!xrn_2_0_CJ304944034?sw_aep=tel_a_nsti>. "Historical Tradition." Historical Maps on Death and Dying. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://dyingconsciously.org/death_maps.html>. Moody, Raymond A. Life after Life: And Reflections on Life After Life. Carmel, NY: Guideposts, 1975. 15-86. Print. Morris, Kristine. "Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife." Spirituality and Health Magazine May-June 2012: 1-2. Gale Cengage Learning. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://ezproxy.nscc.edu:2169/servlet/HWRC/hits;jsessionid=547B1785DC1B7394ABA6BBD9716FD258?docNum=A301281911&year2=2013&year1=1980&