Common Elements Are Found in Near-Death Experiences

By Kevin Williams

The following is an article written by P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.) which is available on her website and is reprinted here by permission. Following P.M.H. Atwater's article is my own analysis of the statistics which I have gathered from my own research which shows the common elements among fifty near-death experiences profiled on this website.

 

The following is P.M.H. Atwater's analysis of the common aspects among NDEs.

1. Common Aspects Analysis

What I submitted for review is the following, taken from over twenty years of study and with a research base in excess of 3,200 NDErs:

I.

Context of experience: either A or B must be met:

 
A.

Symptoms or signs suggesting serious medical illness or injury, or physiological crisis/accident of some kind; or,

B.

NDEr's expectation or sense of imminent death.

II.

Content of experience: an intense awareness, sense, or experience of "otherworldiness" - whether pleasant or unpleasant, strange or ecstatic. Episode can be brief and consist of only one or two elements, or can be more involved, even lengthy, and consist of multiple elements. Elements commonly experienced are:

 
A.

Visualizing or experiencing being apart from the physical body, perhaps with the ability to change locations.

B.

Greatly enhanced cognition (thoughts very clear, rapid, and hyper-lucid).

C.

A darkness or light that is perceived as alive and intelligent and powerful.

D.

Sensation of movement and/or a sense of presence (hyperalert faculties).

E.

Sudden overwhelming floods of emotion or feelings.

F.

Encounter with an identified deceased person or animal, or an encounter with an apparently nonphysical entity.

G.

Life review (like a movie or in segments, or a reliving).

H.

Information can be imparted, perhaps dialogue.

III.

Typical to the experience:

 
A.

Near-death states can occur to anyone at any age, including newborns and infants, and remain vivid and coherent lifelong (unless societal or family pressure weakens memory clusters - repression more common with child NDErs than with teenagers or adults).

B.

Children's episodes are usually brief and encompass few elements. The closer the child is to puberty, the greater the possibility of longer, more complicated scenarios.

C.

The pattern of psychological and physiological aftereffects seems more dependent on the intensity of the experience, than on any particular imagery or length of exposure to darkness or light.

D.

Attitudes and feelings significant others display after the NDEr revives directly influence how readily he or she can integrate the experience. Episode content is secondary to that initial climate of interest or disinterest.

I would also hasten to add that no matter how long the individual is without vital signs, especially pulse or breath, there is little or no brain damage afterward - rather - brain and faculty enhancement. It is not unusual for NDErs to revive in the morgue hours later (Average time without vital signs in my research base - between five to twenty minutes.). It is possible to have a NDE and not be near death. What causes near-death-like experiences is presently unknown.

2. Kevin Williams' NDE Analysis of Common Aspects

My research into NDE reports have been limited to those NDEs I read in published material and those sent to me by email. Because the experiences sent to me by email have not been verified, my analysis cannot be considered to be scientific. Combining all the published and email experiences, this gave me a total of fifty experiences to analyze. 

For my research into finding how prevalent certain common aspects there are in these experiences, I identified twenty-one characteristics found in many NDE accounts to analyze. I classified the fifty NDEs into five distinct categories. They are:

1.

NDEs having a Christian orientation.

2.

NDEs of religious people other than Christians.

3.

NDEs having co-called "new age" aspects to them (i.e., those experiences using such terms as "Higher Self", "karma", "avatar", etc.)Higher Self", "karma", "reincarnation", avatar", etc.).

4

NDEs of people who considered themselves avowed atheists before their experience.

5.

NDEs of people who have not identified themselves with any particular religion.

These categories reflect the religious backgrounds of the NDErs before their NDE occurred. I categorized (4) as being separate from (5) because I wanted to distinguish those who held an atheistic belief system from those who held no belief system.

Someone may ask: "Why categorize NDE accounts according to religious background?" The answer is to see how a person's belief system may influence their interpretation of their NDE, if at all. I believe it also helps in quantifying correlations between a person's prior belief system and the nature of the person's NDE account.
a. Analysis of 21 Common Aspects

Below are the twenty-one common aspects I examined and the percentage of the total NDErs in each of the five categories that experienced each common aspect. All aspects have been ranked according their frequency of occurrence. The following is a summary of the percentages for each of the twenty-one common aspects.

Overwhelming love - The highest percentage of experiences that reported overwhelming love was in those categorized as Christians (75%) and atheists (75%). The lowest percentage of experiences reporting overwhelming love are those in the new age (60%) category. Overwhelming love was experienced in (69%) of all NDEs. This common aspect is the most frequently occurring common aspect of the twenty-one aspects; and therefore, the highest percentage. The range for this aspect in all categories is in the 60 to 70 percentile. In contrast, the lowest occurring aspect is the (0%) of experiences involving the "Devil" or "Satan."  Visit the NDEs and Spirituality for more information.

Mental telepathy - The highest percentage of experiences where mental telepathy occurred were those in the new age (80%) category. The lowest percentage of experiences were those in the non-Christian (50%) category. Perhaps this lower percentage can be attributed to the fact that mental telepathy is considered more of a new age concept than a traditional religious concept. Mental telepathy was the number two frequently occurring aspect. Visit the NDEs and Telepathy for more information.

Life review - The highest percentage of experiences during which a life review occurred were reported by those in the atheist (100%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the new age (40%) and non-religious (40%) categories. Is there a correlation between atheism and experiencing a life review? Perhaps this statistic suggests that atheists need a life review more than any other type of NDEr. In general, atheists reject the concept of an afterlife altogether. A life review would certainly show them just how wrong they were. Who knows? This may be an example of how a person often "gets what they need" during a NDE. Visit the NDEs and Life Review for more information.

God - The category with the highest percentage of NDErs who reported seeing a divine being were those in the new age (80%) category. The category with the lowest percentage is the non-religious (27%) category. The lower percentage suggests that fewer non-religious NDErs see a divine being. This may be an example of non-religious NDErs "getting what they expect." A divine being was seen by (75%) of those in the atheist category. This high percentage may reflect the possibility that these atheists, in general, are "getting what they need." The same percentage of Christian and non-Christian NDErs (63%) saw a divine being. This suggests that a NDEr doesn't have to be a Christian to see God. Visit the NDEs and God for more information.

Tremendous ecstasy - The highest category experiencing tremendous ecstasy were those in the new age (100%) group. The lowest percentage occurred in the non-Christian (38%) category. Non-religious NDErs (60%) involved tremendous ecstasy. Christian and atheist categories were in the same (50%) percentile. Visit the NDEs and Intense Emotions for more information.

Unlimited knowledge - The category with the highest percentage reporting unlimited knowledge were those in the atheist (63%) category. The category with the lowest were those in the non-religious (33%) category. The fact that more atheists received unlimited knowledge is very interesting. In general, many atheists emphasize knowledge, skepticism and science over faith. The common aspect of experiencing unlimited knowledge may be higher in atheists because they may be "getting what the desire." Visit the NDEs and Unlimited Knowledge for more information.

Afterlife levels - The category with the highest percentage of NDErs traveling through various afterlife levels or realms were those in the new age (80%) category. The category with the lowest percentage are those in the atheist (25%) category. This statistic is interesting because NDErs in the new age category are generally more open to the concept of various afterlife realms, dimensions or levels, and out-of-body travel. Atheists who may be expecting absolutely nothing after death, may be "getting what they expect", in reference to a NDE that is somehow limited in scope. Visit the NDEs and Afterlife Reams for more information.

Told not ready - The category with the highest percentage that reported being told they were not ready or some variation of this were those in the non-religious (67%) category. The lowest percentage were reported by those in the atheist (13%) category. It could probably be assumed that every NDEr returning from death is not ready to die. Otherwise, they would not have returned. What is interesting is that those in the non-religious category had the highest occurrence of being told they were not ready. This may be suggesting that those in the non-religious category "need" to be told they are not ready. Perhaps non-religious people, in general, need something that religious people AND atheists are already "getting what they expect." Visit the NDEs and Told Not Ready for more information.

Seeing the future - The category with the highest percentage who were shown the future were those in the new age (60%) category. The category with the lowest percentage were those in the non-Christian (25%) category. This statistic is interesting because it could generally be deduced that those in the new age category tend to be more open to divination, psychic prediction, fortune telling, and occult prophecies, compared to those in the other categories. Generally, Christians believe such things to be "of the devil." The suggestion that those in the new age category are more apt to see into the future during a NDE, may be another example of "getting what you expect." Visit the NDEs and the Future for more information.

Tunnel - The category with the highest percentage who reported traveling through a tunnel were those in the new age (80%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the non-religious (33%) category. All other categories were in the 30 to 40 percentile range. This particular aspect appears to be greatly skewed in favor of the new age category. The reason for this is anyone's guess. Perhaps there is just no correlation. Visit the NDEs and Tunnel for more information.

Jesus - The category with the highest percentage of NDErs who report seeing Jesus were those in the Christian (81%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the non-religious (0%) category. The atheist category was (50%). The non-Christian category was (13%). The idea that more people in the Christian category see Jesus, may be an example of "getting what you expect." The most interesting statistic is that none of the non-religious NDErs saw Jesus. The reason may be because they are "getting what they expect." The reason for a relatively large percentage of atheists seeing Jesus could be that they are "getting what they need." One the other hand, it may be a reflection of the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in the West where the vast majority of these experiences come from in my NDE analysis. Visit the NDEs and Jesus for more information.

Forgotten knowledge - The category with the highest percentage receiving forgotten knowledge were those in the non-religious (47%) category. The lowest were those in the atheist (0%) category. The atheist percentage may be an example of "not getting what one does not expect." The non-religious category could be "getting what they need." Visit the NDEs and Pre-Birth for more information.

Fear - The category with the highest percentage experiencing fear were those in the atheist (50%) category. The lowest percentage were in the non-Christian (0%) and new age (0%) categories. The Christian category (44%) experienced fear. The non-religious (20%) experienced fear. Atheists are generally surprised, if not terrified, in "getting what they don't expect." The relatively high percentage in the Christian category experiencing fear may be attributed to the "God of wrath" factor. Those in the non-Christian and new age category had no fear which may be because they are "getting what they expect." Visit the NDEs and the Void for more information.

Homecoming - The category with the highest percentage receiving a homecoming were those in the Christian (31%) category. The lowest were those in the atheist (0%) category. Atheists may be "getting what they expect." Visit the NDEs and Homecoming for more information.

Told of past lives - The category with the highest percentage reporting past lives were those in the non-Christian (38%) category. The lowest percentage were in the atheist (13%) category. NDErs in the non-Christian category may be more open to the concept of past lives. This statistic may suggest that non-Christians are "getting what they expect" concerning this aspect. The low percentage of atheist NDErs reporting past lives may also be "getting what they expect" (i.e., no knowledge of past lives). Those in the Christian (19%) category received knowledge of past lives. This is interesting because Christianity is a religion that generally does not believe in reincarnation. What is even more interesting is that the Christian, non-religious and new age percentages were roughly the same. This puts the high non-Christian percentage in an even better perspective. Visit the NDEs and Reincarnation for more information.

Hell - The category with the highest percentage seeing hell were those in the Christian (38%) category. The lowest percentage were those in the non-religious (0%) category. The high percentage of Christians going to hell is likely because of their firm belief in it and they are "getting what they expect" in this category.  Non-religious people would be least likely to believe in hell and the statistic above may be reflecting this. They may be "getting what they expect" as well. Categories in the atheists (25%), new age (20%), and non-Christian (13%) experienced hell. The non-religious category may be "getting what they expect" because they probably did not expect seeing a hell. Perhaps one particular conclusion can be drawn from this. Assuming that atheism is a "religion," which I believe it is for some, it may be best to hold no fixed or rigid religious beliefs, as non-religious people generally do. Also, atheists NDErs sometimes erroneous believe, during their NDE, that they are unworthy of heaven. This was the case with Rev. Howard Storm during his NDE. This may be an example of a NDEr "getting what they expect." Visit the NDEs and Earthbound Realm for more information.

City of light - The category with the highest percentage who reported seeing a "city of light" were those in the Christian (25%) and the atheist (25%) categories. The lowest percentage were in the non-Christian (0%) category. The "city of light" is often described as being similar to the "New Jerusalem," a heavenly city described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. According to Revelation, this city comes down from heaven to the Earth sometime in the future. Non-Christians may not be aware of this Christian revelation and would therefore not experience it. This may be another example of people "getting what they expect." Visit the NDEs and City of Light for more information.

Temple of knowledge - The category with the highest percentage reporting an experience with a Temple or Library of knowledge are those in the atheist (25%) category. No one in the non-Christian (0%) category experienced a Temple or Library. Because atheists, in general, tend to emphasize knowledge over faith, it should not be surprising that atheists are "getting what they expect." Visit the NDEs and Temple of Knowledge for more information.

Spirits amongst the living - The category with the highest percentage who witnessed "ghosts" or "earthbound discarnates" or so-called "demons" on Earth trying to influence the living, are the Christian (25%) category. The lowest percentages were in the non-Christian (0%), new age (0%), and atheist (0%) categories. More Christian NDErs (25%) saw spirits among the living on Earth. One possible explanation for this might be the strong belief amongst Christians in demons. This may be an example of "getting what you expect." Those in the atheists, non-religious and new age categories may be less likely to believe in so-called "demons." Visit the NDEs and the Earthbound Realm for more information.

Suicide - The category with the highest percentage reporting a NDE resulting from a suicide attempt is the Christian (13%) category. The lowest percentage are those in the non-Christian (0%), new age (0%), and the atheist (0%) categories. One possible explanation for this statistic is that those in the atheist, new age, and non-Christian may be more apt to have a stronger "earthly" connection than Christians who generally emphasize a "heavenly" connection. This may be an example of "getting what you need." Those in the non-religious (7%) category reported the lowest percentage of suicide attempts. Those in the non-religious category, who may identify more with life rather than death, may be less likely to kill themselves. Visit the NDEs and Suicide for more information.

Devil - The only universal common aspect among all categories in my research is that no one (0%) reported seeing a "Devil" or "Devil-like" being. I believe this statistic suggests the concept of the Devil is merely a religious myth. If a Devil really did exist, it would be logical that NDErs would report seeing the Devil - especially in the hell realms. But, no NDEr in my research has reported seeing a Devil. Some Christians claim the "Being of Light" to be the Devil. However, because the "Being of Light" exudes overwhelming love, light and concern, it is very unlikely that a Devil could do this. Visit the NDEs and Satan for more information.

It should be pointed out that these statistics are not exactly scientific due to the fact that each occurrence of each aspect within each category was not gathered by personally interviewing the NDErs. This means it is possible for a characteristic to occur in a NDE, but is not expressed in the account.

 

The percentages displayed below are the combined percentages for all the categories. They show how common each aspect as a percentage of fifty NDEs profiled on this website.

  NDE and Afterlife Statistics (50 NDEs)  
  Overwhelming love 69%
  Mental telepathy 65%
  Life review 62%
  God 56%
  Tremendous ecstasy 56%
  Unlimited knowledge 46%
  Afterlife levels 46%
  Told not ready 46%
  Shown the future 44%
  Tunnel 42%
  Jesus 37%
  Forgotten knowledge 31%
  Fear 27%
  Homecoming 21%
  Told of past lives 21%
  Hell 19%
  City of light 17%
  Temple of Knowledge 13%
  Spirits among the living 10%
  Suicide 6%
  Devil 0%

These statistics show that many of these aspects are very common to NDE reports. Concerning these common elements found in NDE reports, Dr. Jeffrey Long states:

"NDEs are quite varied, but the consistency of the NDE elements (OBE experience, tunnel, light, meeting other beings, etc.) is striking. There is no plausible biological explanation of NDEs. There is no other human experience so dramatic, shared by so many people, and so relatively consistent in its elements. The preceding suggests faith in the validity of NDE accounts is the most reasonable conclusion from the evidence." - Dr. Jeffrey Long

"For those who seek to understand it, death is a highly creative force. The highest spiritual values of life can originate from the thought and study of death." - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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