People are Dramatically
Changed by Near-Death Experiences
L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.)
is a near-death
experiencer and one of the original researchers
in the field of near-death studies. Sign up for her
Atwater's Q & A Blog and her
NDE News Blog.
She is the author of many more wonderful
The Forever Angels (2019),
The Animal Lights Series of Children's Books (2019),
A Manual for Developing Humans (2017),
The Big Book of NDEs (2014),
Dying to Know You (2014),
Future Memory (2013),
Children of the Fifth World (2012),
NDEs, The Rest of the Story (2011),
I Died Three Times in 1977 (2011),
Beyond the Indigo Children (2005),
We Live Forever (2004),
The New Children and NDEs (2003),
Children of the New Millennium (1999), and
following article was written by P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D.,
reprinted by permission, concerning the dramatic
aftereffects of a near-death experience. This
article is also available on her
Table of Contents
1. Introduction to NDE Aftereffects
No matter what the
nature of the experience, it alters some lives.
Alcoholics find themselves unable to imbibe.
Hardened criminals opt for a life of helping
others. Atheists embrace the existence of a
deity, while dogmatic members of a particular
religion report "feeling welcome in any
church or temple or mosque."
Nancy Evans Bush,
president emeritus of the
for Near-Death Studies,
says the experience is revelatory. "Most
near-death survivors say they don't think
there is a God," she says. "They know."
In 1975, when
Life After Life, a book that coined
the term "near-death experience" (NDE)
to describe this hard-to-define phenomenon.
Moody interviewed 150 near-death patients who
reported vivid experiences (flashing back to
childhood, coming face to face with Christ).
He found that those who had undergone NDEs became
more altruistic, less materialistic, and more
have been instrumental in gathering evidence
indicating that religious backgrounds do not
affect who is most likely to have an NDE. They
have mapped out the conversion-like effects
of NDEs that can sometimes lead to hardship.
can see the good in all people," Greyson
says of people who have experienced the phenomenon. "They
act fairly naive, and they often allow themselves
to be opened up to con men who abuse their trust."
have gathered reports of high divorce rates
and problems in the workplace following NDEs.
values you get from an NDE are not the ones you
need to function in everyday life," says
Greyson. Having stared eternity in the face,
he observes, those who return often lose their
taste for ego-boosting achievement.
Not even the diehard
skeptics doubt the powerful personal effects
of NDEs. "This is a profound emotional
are convinced that they've seen heaven."
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2. Another Look at the Aftereffects of the NDE
Only twenty-one percent
of those near-death survivors I interviewed
denied the existence of aftereffects. Of
these, most either reported having had a brief
encounter; or, regardless of what type of episode
they had, it seemed to have little or no
impact on them. The rest reported significant,
life-changing differences afterward (nineteen
percent claimed radical turn-arounds, almost
as if they had become another person).
Before and after photographs can differ.
Any notion that, as
a compensatory gift, some people are privileged
to survive death, see heaven, and return
dedicated to selfless service for all humankind,
is commonly referred to in the research field
as "The Myth of Amazing Grace."
That's because there are both positive and
negative aspects to the aftereffects ... passing
through death's door seems merely to be "Step
One." Integrating the experience is
the real adventure - making what was learned
real and workable in everyday life. No "set
of instructions" covers how to do
this. Lengthy bouts with depression can occur.
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3. Psychological Aftereffects
I have observed that
it seems to take a minimum of seven years for
most NDErs to integrate the aftereffects.
Although these cannot be faked, an individual
can delay the onset of them or deny their existence.
Seven major elements comprise the universal
- NDErs perceive themselves as equally and fully
loving of each and all, openly generous,
excited about the potential and wonder of each
person they see. Confused family members tend
to regard this sudden switch in behavior as
oddly threatening, as if their loved one had
become aloof, un-responsive, even uncaring
Lack of Boundaries
- Familiar codes of conduct can lose relevance
or disappear altogether as unlimited avenues
of interest and inquiry take priority. This
new frame of reference can infuse NDErs with such
an accepting nature that they can and do display
childlike naivety. With the fading of previous norms
and standards, basic cautions and discernments
can also fade.
- Most NDErs begin to "flow" with
natural shift of time, rejecting locks and schedules
as they exhibit a heightened awareness of the
present moment and the importance of "now." They
are easily distracted and can appear "spacey"
until they readjust to the demands of daily
The Psychic -
Extrasensory perception and various types of
psychic phenomena become normal and ordinary
in the lives of NDErs. A person's religious
beliefs do not prevent this expansion of faculties
or enlargements of perceptual range. This can
frighten the unprepared and be misconstrued
as "the devil's work" when
it is actually more akin to "gifts of the
- Hard-driving achievers and materialists can
transform into easy-going philosophers; but,
by the same token, those once more relaxed or
uncommitted can become energetic "movers
and shakers," determined to make a
difference in the world. Switches seem to depend
more on what is "needed" to round
out the individual's growth than on any
The Soul as Self
- Most come to recognize themselves as an immortal
soul currently resident within material
form so lessons can be learned while sojourning
in the Earth realm. They know they are not their body;
it is a "jacket" they wear. The majority
develop an interest in reincarnation, some accept
it as valid.
Modes of Communications
- What was once foreign becomes familiar, what
was once familiar becomes foreign. Rationale
of any kind tends to lose its logic as NDErs
begin to think more abstractly and in grandiose
terms. New ways of using language, even whole
new vocabularies, emerge.
households, relatives are so impressed by what
they witness with their loved one that they too
change, making the NDE a "shared"
event. In other families, though, the response is
so negative that alienation, separation, or
divorce results. The situation with children,
who undergo the same aftereffects as adults,
can be doubly challenging, since they lack the
ability to speak up for themselves, negotiate,
or seek alternatives.
Basing the degree
of an individual's transformation solely
on before and after contrasts can distort or mask
deeper issues that may eventually undermine
the best of intentions - for researchers as
well as NDErs.
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4. Physiological Aftereffects
Not just the psyche is
affected by the near-death phenomenon. A person's
body and the very way life is lived undergo
changes too. Mundane chores can take on surrealistic
Briefly, here are the more
typical physiological aftereffects: substantially
altered energy levels, hypersensitive to
light and sound, unusual sensitivity to chemicals
(especially pharmaceuticals), stress easier
to handle, lower blood pressure, increased intelligence,
clustered thinking (as opposed to sequential),
charismatic, quicker assimilation, increased
allergies of various kinds, reduction in red meat
consumption, "merge" easily (absorption),
latent talents surface, a hunger for knowledge, synchronicity
commonplace, multiple sensing (synesthesia),
body clocks can reverse, more orgasmic, "inner
child" issues surface, become electrical
sensitives (where a person's energy field
affects electricity and electronic devices
- many can no longer wear watches, microphones "fight"
Seventy-three percent of
my research base reported incidents of electrical
sensitivity. To explore this further, I
sent out a questionnaire that netted me some
surprises - about subjective light:
of those who answered my questionnaire
claimed to have had a scenario where
at least half of the episode was
filled with bright, all-consuming light.
said they merged into and joined as
one with this light (or Being of Light).
of these people became unusually sensitive
to physical light afterward.
The correlation between
length of exposure to "etheric" light
and the vivid spread of physiological changes
afterward is more involved than at first glance.
That's because respondents with shorter exposure
rates (1 to 25% of their experience) had the
same capacity for the full range of physical aftereffects,
while some with over 50% exposure rates declared
few if any such changes.
to me that it is the intensity of the light
- not length of exposure - that seems to determine the
prevalence of many of the aftereffects. And
this implies that the etheric or subjective
light reported by so many near-death survivors
may indeed be as real and powerful as it seems
- and subject to measurement studies and
5. Brain Shift
Considering the experience,
the average near-death survivor returns more
intelligent and loving than before. He
or she is usually able to detach from previous
norms, abstract freely, envision broader perspectives
for a more compassionate and positive life,
access latent talents, and display (in some
cases) a flowering of genius. In other words,
exhibit all the elements of a brain shift
Thanks to PET (positron emission tomography),
science has been able to establish that original thinking
utilizes a different section of the brain than
mundane thinking. To quote
Marcus Raichle, a researcher at Washington
University: "You can essentially rearrange
the brain in fifteen minutes." Since the
average near-death survivor was "dead,"
that is to say without pulse and breath, for
ten to fifteen minutes, some for hours ("walking
up" in the morgue), it is fair to say that
such an experience could and does have
a dramatic effect on the individual and his
or her brain.
Considering the aftereffects,
the near-death phenomenon seems to stimulate
the brain hemisphere that was not previously
dominant. There is also an observable movement
in the brain, structurally, toward data
clustering and creative invention - as if the
NDEr were developing a more synergistic type
of neutral network - thus advancing the
potential of whole brained behavior (less dependent
on any single type of hemispheric dominance,
greater flexibility and utilization of the brain
Interestingly, this same type
of thing, this particular pattern of aftereffects
both psychological and physiological, also
appears to happen to people who undergo a religious
conversion, spiritual transformation, shamanic
kundalini breakthrough, some incidences
of head trauma or being hit by lightning,
as well as the near-death phenomenon. And I
believe for the same reason ... a brain
Reportings of impactual experiences
of this nature are on the rise, globally, underscoring
the supposition that we may be readjusting
as a species - literally at the very moment
in history when the demand for more intelligent,
loving people who are creative problem solvers,
But a brain shift may
not be the only goal with these NDErs.
Look again at near-death imagery.
It is well-known that electrical stimulation
of the right temporal lobe (above the right
ear) and specifically in the
 produces visions of
God, hearing beautiful music, seeing dead friends
and relatives, even panoramic life reviews.
Yet, every near-death incident I know of that
had elements in it unknowable to the NDEr
that could be checked, was checked, and every
one of those details was verified. Those
who deny this are people who refuse to acknowledge
Example: In one of
my cases, a four-year-old boy drowned in his
parents' backyard swimming pool. Emergency
crews were called. After fifteen minutes the
boy revived (Typical of most near-death incidents,
there was no brain damage.). Immediately, he
spoke of meeting his little brother on The Other Side,
a little brother of about two years of age yet
able to converse. As the youngster was an only
child, his parents rightfully assumed he
was hallucinating - until the story that spilled
out, specific details about Mommy's "mistake"
at thirteen and her subsequent abortion, was
confirmed by the chalk-white, shocked mother.
No friends or family knew about the abortion,
and the mother had long since forgotten it.
But here was her "only" child quoting
what the aborted child told him. The schism
that developed between the parents over
this affair led to a divorce.
It is arrogant
to dismiss cases like this. Certainly, there
is ample evidence to suggest that much of the imagery
in near-death scenarios is "accommodation"
(i.e., the appearance and age of the aborted
son in the previous episode). Similarly,
in every case I have investigated, if the NDEr
asked what appeared to be God or a light
being or an angel if that was what that heavenly
host really looked like, the image would
immediately dissolve into a burst of radiant
light. The individual would then be told that shapes
familiar to him or her were used to quell fear
and anxiety, that the reality of light worlds
was beyond human comprehension.
Yet, again and again, details absolutely impossible
for the individual to know are seen and later
verified - like descriptions of the accident
or hospital room, family secrets, various observations
and insights - none of which are accommodations
from the temporal lobe yet most of them found
interspersed throughout an archetypal storyline
as old as history records.
there is more to the human spirit than can be
proven scientifically, and there is more to
living than our sensory faculties define.
What we are left with, at least until we
can initiate the next phase of research, a project
of cross-cultural, interdisciplinarian measurement
, is this extraordinary truth:
near-death episodes reveal more about life
than they do death, and what they reveal is
an aliveness and a power above and beyond anything
we can presently fathom.
If viewed objectively,
there is a reoccurring theme running throughout
the phenomenon's research, and that
is ... we may be programmed by our very birth
to constantly and continuously grow in consciousness
and in spirit. What we think are endings may
be nothing more than just another beginning.
 I develop
the concept of brain shift further in my book
Future Memory, hardcover Birch Lane Press,
New York City, 1995. And, in the self-published
Brain Shift: Using the Near-Death Experience
as a Theoretical Model to Explore the Transformation
of Consciousness. This self-published book
is available only from me - details on
how to order elsewhere in this website.
 Among presentations of
this material is the book Closer to the Light:
Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of
Melvin Morse, M.D. and Paul Perry. New York,
NY; Villard Books, 1990.
International Association For Near-Death Studies
(IANDS) has taken it upon itself to establish
just such a research project, and it is
now soliciting funds from whomever wants to
contribute. Send monies, American dollars
please, to IANDS, P. O. Box 502, East Windsor
Hill, CT 06028-0502; (860) 528-5144. It
is now time to move past superstars and media
sound-bytes to do the clinical, cross-cultural
and interdisciplinarian research needed in the
my near-death experience was nearly thirty
four years ago, there is virtually not a
day that goes by that I am not aware of
making decisions based on that experience."
- Geraldine Berkheimer, near-death experiencer
and the Afterlife