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Raymond Moody and Near Death Experiences

Near Death Experiences Series, Article 2 (Reviewed by the Editorial Board)

Public awareness
The opening of Clint Eastwood’s Movie “Hereafter” shows a gripping scene of a woman dying during a Tsunami that hits a coastal town in Thailand. Although shocking to watch at first, as the woman is carried away by the gigantic wave and drowns despite fighting for her last breath, the movie also shows the woman having visions of people swirling in a comforting light, indicating a positive transformative experience as she actually dies. As the Tsunami subsides and her body is pulled from the water and debris, sometime later the woman begins breathing and comes back to life. The positive nature of the experience is reaffirmed throughout the movie by showing how her life is enhanced and positively transformed by it.
The fact of attempting to describe what happens when and after we die in a major studio movie just shows how these experiences have become part of mainstream culture and thought. But has this always been the case? Have people always been aware of these experiences?
 
The advent of resuscitation science
The increase in awareness occurring near death or during the first stages of death, can be traced back to the 1960s and the advent of resuscitation science. Following the acceptance and implementation of resuscitation techniques in clinical practice, there have obviously been more and more people brought back from death. But it wasn't really until the 1970s that interest by the scientific community and the general population in these experiences peaked, with the publication, by Raymond Moody, an American psychiatrist with a background in philosophy, of the best-selling book "Life after life". This was the first comprehensive study of the human experience during the dying process. Raymond Moody collected the accounts given by 150 survivors of near death encounters which he obtained while a medical student.
 
Coining of the terms
That is also when this term ( NDEs ) was coined for the first time and entered the realm of science for all the experiences were usually described from a time when the individual had been unconscious. Moody termed anyone of these experiences “a near death experience” or NDE since they all referred to a clinical situation where that would normally have led to the death of the individual without medical intervention”
 
Description of the main features of an NDE

Albeit patients’ recounts differed, Raymond Moody remarkably found that survivors all described similar unusual experiences with recurring features. These included:

 

i) feeling peace;
 
ii) having a life review where they experienced what they had done or said;
 
iii) seeing a tunnel;
 
iv) seeing a bright light;
 
v) seeing deceased relatives;
 
vi) having a perception of separation from the body (out of body experience)
 
vii) entering a heavenly domain

 

Many also talked about a point which they could not cross or else they could not return back to life. Oftentimes, they said they had been reluctant to return to life because what they had experienced was incredibly beautiful and no words could convey it.

 

Another important feature of these experiences was the deep positive and lasting impact they had in people, rendering them more altruistic, less afraid of death. People’s beliefs, values and attitudes were positively transformed and they felt a new sense of purpose and appreciation for life.
 
Current understanding of NDEs
Many of Raymond Moody’s findings in his initial study have been confirmed over the following decades, and now days NDEs are understood as often profoundly transforming experiences, who are also vivid and realistic, occurring to people who have been close to death or who have suffered from a cardiac arrest and have thus gone beyond the threshold of death.
 

If you want to know more, visit the near death experiences section of our web site (2)
 
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