There is one common element in all near-death experiences: they transform the people who have had them.
The International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) has carried out an analysis of long-range investigations of NDEs done by themselves and others, and reports on their website that 80% of NDErs claimed that their lives were forever changed by what happened to them.
80% means around 13 million transformed adults in America alone, not counting transformed children, plus multiplied millions more around the globe. And the changes, as they see it, are overwhelmingly for the better, in particular if the challenges described in the previous chapter are overcome successfully.
Positive Changes According to the NDErs
Most NDErs report their NDE to be life-changing for the better. ‘It’s like one life ended and a new one began,’ is a typical statement. Raymond Moody 1 quotes a response he came across:
Since I died, all of a sudden, right after my experience, I started wondering whether I had been doing the things I had done because they were good, or because they were good for me…
I try to do things that have more meaning, and that make my mind and soul feel better. And I try not to be biased, and not to judge people. I want to do things because they are good [of themselves], not because they are good for me.
And it seems that the understanding I have of things now is so much better. I feel like this is because of what happened to me, because of the places I went and the things I saw in this experience.
The cardiologist Maurice Rawlings 2 also quotes a patient:
I always thought about social status and wealth symbols as the most important things in life, until life was suddenly taken from me. Now I know that none of these are important. Only the love you show others will endure or be remembered. The material things won’t count.
Here are some further short descriptions by returnees themselves, describing how the NDE has impacted them.
Christi-Ann 3: ‘I was given a second chance, and now I see the glass as half full and not as half empty.’
Teresa 3: ‘This experience has changed my life tremendously. It’s changed my perspective of people and how I look at them. I’m far more tolerant of things in my life now.’
Lisa 3 found herself to be less intense about things. Today she ‘stops and smells the roses’.
Julie 3 said that before her NDE: ‘I just didn’t know who I would be if I wasn’t working.’ After her NDE, she has found life to be more than her career, and has come to embrace it much more widely.
Crystal McVea 4: ‘I also stopped being so attached to my possessions. I’d always been very sentimental about objects that meant something to me, but after I died I no longer cared much about material things.’
In similar vein, even though only 16 years old, Mike 3 who died at school, said he had set his heart on material things such as a brand new ‘cool’ car that would ‘wow’ the other kids. But following his NDE, people rather than things became much more important to him.
Linda, 3 who was wealthy: ‘Life is so precious, and I changed my attitude. While in that MRI tunnel with my [dead] son, I did not have diamonds, I did not have my cars, nor my houses, but what I did have was the love of my family: my daughter outside the door, my son Michael praying on his knees in the hallway, my son Scotty cradling me in his arms – that’s what we leave with, love’s the only thing we take with us.’
Scripture confirms Linda’s conclusion that love accompanies us into the next phase of existence, while of course material things are left behind.
Scripture supports this lack of materialism found in returnees. ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven’ (Matthew 6:19, 20).
A few of the major positive changes resulting from NDEs are listed below, and though each change contains a quote from just one returnee, it reflects hundreds of similar statements on the same point.
No Further Fear Of Death.
‘But when it comes to my time,’ says Julie 13, ‘I am so ready. There is a beyond – that beyond is a very peaceful place, something we can all look forward to.’
An Inner Peace.
Jim 2, who saved his brother from a collapsed warehouse, observes regarding his brother: ‘He has found peace. I know that. He definitely found peace, and it still resonates in him now. Before this (his NDE) it was “work, work, work – get the money, get the money”, but money is nothing unless you have peace.’ His brother still runs his construction company successfully, but an inner peace characterises all he does.
Some are very positive about their new insights. Lillian Oaktree 5 is one.
‘I just sat there with a renewed inner calm,’ she recalls. ‘I’d never felt so good in my entire life. It was like I’d been given a new insight into life – and death. Up to then I’d worried about everything from paying bills to upsetting people. I was one of life’s natural worriers. I’d always been like that, even as a kid. I blame my mother for telling me her worries. And the older I got, the more I worried. I had this tense feeling hanging over me, like a black cloud. I found it impossible to relax, which I’m sure contributed to me developing asthma. But it had lifted; it truly was a life-changing experience. My personality altered overnight. It’s like someone had sucked all the tension out of me. At last I felt at peace.’
She concludes her description on a positive note of forgiveness that would not have happened had she not met her parents again in Paradise.
The biggest transformation has been deep within me. I’ve forgiven my mum for heaping her worries on me, and my father for leaving me. And I now know there’s no need to fear anything in life – including death. Our souls really do live on.
Absolute Belief In Life After Death.
Darlene 3 puts it this way: ‘There is no death. There is only the ending of this lifetime. I will not die, neither will you. We do not die.’ Almost all NDErs agree.
An associated benefit is that afterlife experiences can comfort returnees during a time of trauma. Here is NDEr Jeanette Atkinson’s 5 response on losing a child.
My daughter Rachael died of malignant melanoma 19 months ago when she was 17.
Losing a child is the worst possible thing that could ever happen to a parent, but I suppose that in some way, the experience I have had myself affords me some comfort. If the journey Rachael went on was even half as wonderful as mine, I know she would have been a very happy girl, and at total peace.
Returnees often make effective grief counsellors.
A Sense Of Purpose.
This incorporates things that returnees feel they should accomplish on Earth before they return to Paradise. For example, Lucas 3 is an advocate against drinking and driving, following the shocking accident that almost took his life permanently. Returnees are prominent in a wide variety of community work. They are also attracted to the ‘helping professions’, such as teaching, nursing, social work and a variety of medical fields.
There is emphasis on the importance of the spirit and soul over trivial issues such as good looks or bodily wellbeing. Moody 1 quotes one returnee: ‘The body had been my main interest, and what was going on in my mind, well, it was just going on, and that’s all. But after this happened, my mind was the main point of attraction and the body was second – it was only something to encase my mind.’
A Desire To Tell Others About Their Experiences.
In modern times this has become more socially acceptable, but even now scepticism, disinterest or hurtful comments can discourage the NDEr. ‘They think I’m lying! Or they think I’m crazy!’ decided Crystal McVea 9 when silence and disinterest met her first attempt to tell her story at a meeting. ‘My face turned beetroot red, and I sat there feeling utterly embarrassed and mortified. I wanted to jump up and say, “You’re all missing the point. Don’t you know why we’re here?” I felt myself withdrawing deeper and deeper into my shell.’
She soon stopped telling anyone. ‘I didn’t know if I could handle another eye roll or another look of indifference. Inside, I yearned to talk about God, but doing it in public made me feel like an idiot. So I shut down and didn’t tell anyone for several long months. The greatest thing that ever happened to me got packed away in mothballs.’
However, she has since gained confidence, has written a book, and speaks publicly about her experiences. So do many other returnees.
A surprising number return believing that ‘the End Times are starting’ and that they have a responsibility to tell others this fact.
A Fresh Emphasis On Loving Others.
Kat 3: ‘We need to tell those people we love how much we love them.’
Seeing Themselves As Eternal Spiritual Beings.
Dean Braxton 3 expresses this: ‘You leave your body and your body dies, but your spirit never dies. The real you never dies.’
This emphasis on finding themselves to be primarily spiritual beings has long-term ramifications for most returnees. The majority want to develop spiritual aspects of their lives and a variety of paths may be attempted. We should look at these more deeply because their outcomes are often not clear-cut. As we saw in the previous chapter, some appear to prove positive, but others result in confusion for the returnee.
Classifying Long Term Religious Changes
1. New Spirituality – Formal Religion.
Some returnees, but by no means the majority, convert to Christianity (mostly) or some other form of organised, formal religion. This is for the Western world; there are too few examples to make any general statements about the non-Western world.
Howard Storm 6 is typical of many who return. He believes the core of what he learnt was the importance of love and peaceful unity among people, whom he says are ‘all loved by God’. His emphasis is on ‘unity’ of spirit rather than an imposed authoritarian ‘uniformity’, and an interconnectedness of humanity that is commonly remarked upon by returnees. He constantly emphasises the importance of caring for others while seeking spiritual truths and is absolutely against religious conflict. Howard converted from atheism to Christianity and became a minister in a structured Christian denomination until he retired after an influential ministry.
J Isamu Yamamoto 7 quotes the example of an active homosexual, Dan, who died during his treatment for an STD. ‘He met a brilliant light – but he knew that the source of the light was Jesus Christ. He heard a voice from the light that said, “It is not time to come into My Father’s Kingdom. You have not lived as I intended. Go back and glorify me.”’ Jesus did not reject Dan but gave him a redirection for his return, the young man having already battled an STD and lost. Jesus’ advice was loving but also practical. Dan converted to being a follower of this Christ he had met – left his former lifestyle – and joined a strong and supportive Christian community.
Yamamoto had been sceptical on hearing Dan’s account and checked it out carefully. He found that, ‘To this day, he glorifies God for giving him a new chance to live his life in accordance with biblical teaching.’ In a follow-up article, he discovered Dan to be still an ardent follower of Jesus.
2. New Spirituality – Informal Religion.
Returnees seek answers in many directions and may adopt a variety of practices en route. To what extent is their new spirituality successful?
For many, these global changes in spiritual theory and practice result in a greater level of personal satisfaction and achievement in their lives. For others, their return is marked by failure, confusion, dissatisfaction, depression and disastrous relationships.
On reviewing hundreds of examples, I believe their success or failure depends primarily on the degree that divine love has become incorporated into their lives. Not a fluffy, self-interested version of love, which can lead to consequences ranging from dissatisfying to disastrous, but a strong love centred in others as shown to them by God the Father or Jesus during their NDEs. Those whose NDEs did not develop to a point of interaction with God can learn from those whose did – as might we all.
Love is the Goal
Whether their spiritual searching proves successful or not, regardless of cultural or religious background almost all NDErs return with an enhanced understanding that love is vital to living a meaningful life on Earth.
Their greatest challenge becomes to practise on Earth the principles of the divine love they came across in the afterlife. Moody 1 quotes a typical NDEr: ‘He felt that the question that the Being was asking him was whether he was able to love others… He now feels that it is his commission while on Earth to try to learn to be able to do so.’
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