Near-Death Experiences Similar To Adults
is a near-death experiencer and one
of the original researchers in the field
of near-death studies. Sign up for her
Q & A Blog
She is the author of many more wonderful
Lights Series of Children's Books
for Developing Humans
The Big Book
of the Fifth World
Rest of the Story
I Died Three
Times in 1977
We Live Forever
The New Children
of the New Millennium
Since my specialty
in near-death research is one-on-one sessions
with experiencers, I can speak little of the
phenomenon's historical significance - except
to point out the fascinating anomaly that an
amazing number of people important to the evolution
of humankind may well have had such an episode
during their childhood. I discuss this at length
Children of the New
Some of the notables I came across in only one
week of perusing library records were Abraham
Lincoln, Mozart, Albert Einstein, Queen Elizabeth
I, Edward de Vere/the 17th Earl of Oxford (who
most likely is the real Shakespeare), Winston
Walter Russell, plus several others. Either
I was possessed of "library luck"
that week or there really is a connection between
near-death states and possible structural, chemical,
and functional shifts that appear to occur in
the brain, elevating the individual in appreciable
ways. My research leads me to believe the latter.
I did encounter near-death
states in people of other cultures, as I met
many who were foreign born or of racial backgrounds
quite different than the typical white Judeo-Christian
Of the 3,000 adult
experiencers in my research base, Caucasian
Americans, European and Arabic people predominate
at 80%, with 20% being of the black race (15%
African Americans, 5% divided between Kenya,
Haiti, and African Canadians). Of the 277 child
experiencers, the mix is: 60% white, 23% Latinos,
12% blacks, and 5% Asian.
There have been excellent
studies done of NDErs in their native countries,
as well as a government study sanctioned in
China; but I want to mention the ongoing work
by Todd Murphy of child experiencers in Thailand.
We'll all be hearing about Todd's findings
soon as the
Journal of Near-Death
will be publishing several of his articles.
Early-on he was kind enough to discuss his ideas
with me, so I am familiar with his study - a
research project that eventually came to confirm
or support many of my own observations.
Having this exposure
to accounts from a broad range of racial and
cultural traditions, enables me to make some "across-the-board"
comments - especially about "greeters,"
who, according to reports, are the first ones
met "at death's door." I think
you will find this of interest. The terms that
follow are those most commonly used by the experiencers
Initial Greeters Met in Near-Death States
Ranked in the order
most frequently encountered:
Light beings or bright ones (kids generally
call them "The People")
Angels, with or without wings (can be
white, black, or of various skin hues)
Deceased loved ones (including relatives
not met or known about before who are
God or God's Presence or God's
Voice (seldom given a gender by adults,
described as an older male by children)
Religious figures (usually conform to
the predominant religion the experiencer
was exposed to, but not always - Jesus
has appeared in near-death scenarios
of Jewish people, for stance; a Muslim
man once told me he was met by Buddha)
Animals (most often beloved pets who
are deceased, yet there are many of
non-pets such as horses, lions, or even
chickens, who come as "guides"
or to deliver a message)
a little further with this, most adult experiencers
describe God as a powerful, almost blinding
sphere of light, that is ecstasy itself. Young
children do not use such terms, saying instead
that God is like a loving father or grandfather.
Over 70% of children's near-death scenarios
involve angels. Not that many adults claim this,
more like 40% (although adults often use terms
like "light beings" or "bright
ones" as if they were describing angels).
Just who is what and whether or not there is
any real difference between these various emissaries
cannot be determined solely by near-death research.
Children sometimes describe an animal
heaven they must visit before they can go to
the heaven where people are. And they tend to
be explicit about skin tones when talking about
any religious figure who visited them. By that
I mean, Jesus is seen as a man with tan skin
(adults are the ones who usually see Jesus as
white); Buddha's skin is more often seen
as somewhat yellowish; Mohammed is described
as having brown skin (yes, there are little
ones who claim they saw Mohammed). Children
seldom deviate in their description of such
coloring regardless of their own skin tone or
cultural exposure; adults do.
is another greeter, though, who is sometimes
encountered - a living person - more commonly
reported by children than by adults. This may
be a favorite teacher, the kid down the block,
friends, or relatives. Does this fact call into
question the validity of near-death imagery?
No, and here's why.
In every case
I have thus far investigated where this occurred,
the living greeter did not remain in the scenario
any longer than it took to alert or relax the
experiencer. Once that happened, the living
greeter disappeared and imagery more common
to near-death states emerged ... as the episode
deepened. It is almost as if the sole purpose
of living greeters is to ensure the continuance
of the episode so that it can become more meaningful.
They don't "stick around" like
other greeters usually do.
of greeters, I also want to address this curious
observation: child experiencers are often met
by a "critical or caring" parental-type
of being, seldom biologically related to them,
but almost always someone the child recognizes
as an authority figure they must respect (religious
or otherwise). This being instructs or lectures
the child on behavior and what must be done
to fulfill the reason for his or her birth.
These instructions or lectures can be quite
stern and involve incidents where the child
is judged on his or her progress toward the
goal. If a tribunal is present, it is not unusual
for the "judges" to be animals rather
This curiosity is rather
typical of near-death cases from kids residing
in Asia (Todd Murphy discovered a number of
them), with indigenous societies and Third World
nations. But I have also found them with youngsters
from well-educated families in Europe and the
United States. Although many "parental"
greeters are gentle and loving, some are rather
fearful and threaten the child with punishment
if he or she does not obey.
One of these
cases in the U.S. involved a nine-day-old infant
who "died" during surgery for a serious
staph infection and abscess. I had intended
to include it in Children of the New Millennium,
but the account was somehow lost during rewrites
and is only mentioned in brief on page 70, and
even there in error. I have since apologized
to Judith Werner, the experiencer involved.
However, thanks to the generosity of
Barbara Rommer, M.D., this account will
at last be published - in the addendum to the
second printing of Barbara's book,
Blessing in Disguise (Llewellyn, 2000).
book, by the way, is an important study of unpleasant
and distressing NDEs. Judith's scenario
involved being surrounded by white-robed figures
devoid of emotion, a huge light which glared
from above, and a heavy voice called "Inner
Stranger" that sounded like a critical
and demanding parental authority. The drawing
she did of this scene looks like the typical
layout of the average medical operating room
complete with nurses and surgeons. Still, if
you put yourself into the mind of one so young,
the white-clad figures easily become evil giants,
the light a torture device, and her subsequent
treatments (also shown in the drawing) akin
to ongoing punishment.
Judith told her parents about the incident and
about Inner Stranger and the threats made ("obey
me or you will die"). They pooh-poohed
her story, and so did everyone else she told
it too. She then repressed the experience until,
when twenty-eight, she had a near-death-like
episode that explained what had happened to
her when nine days old. The closure that resulted
enabled her to understand lingering childhood
fears and angers, and begin the process of turning
her life around in a positive manner.
Any discussion of this case must address
the question: how could an infant only nine
days old remember surgical details, respond
to and retain the words of a threatening male
- throughout her entire life?
Judith speaks well of Inner Stranger, acknowledging
that, although frightening to begin with, his
advice has proved to be invaluable over time.
Black Elk, the famous Lakota Sioux medicine
man, had a similar encounter during his childhood
near-death state in the sense that the wise
ones who came to him were stern "parental-type
Comparing the kind of
accounts we have become accustomed to with those
from other cultures and other timeframes in
history, helps us to enlarge our perspective
of the human mind and of life and death.