For decades now, we have heard and read about individuals who have had what we call “near-death” or “out-of-body” experiences. In other words, they have theoretically died. This has generally been associated with a tragedy or crisis such as a heart attack, a motor accident, events unfolding badly in the operating theatre, and work-related accidents.
Typically, what these individuals report is that they floated up above their bodies and they looked down on the scene below. If it happens to be a motor vehicle accident, they look down on the carnage and wreckage, the paramedics working feverishly on their body, red and blue lights flashing, perhaps individuals nearby crying or hysterical, perhaps a fire engine in attendance as well as certainly the police. If it happens to be an operating theatre, they often report floating to the ceiling of the theatre itself above the bright lights and look down at the doctors and nurses again working feverishly on their body lying on the operating table where there is a sense of urgency, haste and intensity.
Often these individuals report being drawn toward a white light or passing through a tunnel of light, but who, for various reasons decide not to proceed into the light or down the tunnel, and instead, return back into their bodies. Sometimes, these people feel that they cannot leave their loved ones behind especially if there are children or they feel that their work is not yet completed. Irrespective, they return back into their bodies.
Well, science now seems to be catching up with the pile of anecdotal evidence that has been well documented over decades.
In a newspaper report just out of London (4th November 2012), the following was reported:
“A near-death experience occurs when quantum substances that form the soul leave the nervous system and enter the universe at large, according to a theory proposed by two eminent scientists. According to this idea, consciousness is a program for a quantum computer in the brain that can persist in the universe even after death, explaining the perceptions of those who have near-death experiences. Dr Stuart Hameroff, professor emeritus at the Department of Anaesthesiology and Psychology, and the director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, have advanced the quasi-religious theory” (The Sunday Mail, 4.11.12, Page 27).
Needless to say, those who have had such near-death experiences probably don’t need an academic to provide a framework or theory for what happened to them because their experiences were real. Very real.
In many cases, this kind of near-death experience is life changing to such an extent that the individual’s life is transformed where they set new priorities and goals that are much more altruistic and purpose-driven than self-centered and materialistic. Their lives turn around.
It was about 10 years ago now that I vividly recall a new client coming into my office hobbling on two walking sticks. He was a male in his early 50s. He sat down and began to recite his story. He had largely been a manual worker including a forklift driver and he said that on this particular day, he was walking alongside a factory wall against which were piled high scores of wooden pallets. For reasons that are not clear, the pile high of pallets fell on him and he was crashed underneath. He said that his workmates frantically tried to pull off all the palates and release him and an ambulance rushed him to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He said that he recalled apparently “dying” several times as the ambulance weaved its way through traffic up North Terrace towards the hospital. He said he recalled looking down on the ambulance as he floated above it and he saw it on the wrong side of the road charging along North Terrace. He said it was weaving in and out of the traffic and often on the wrong side of the road. Once he arrived at the hospital, he said he was placed into an emergency bay where the staff continued to work on him and he said several times he again apparently “died” because he said he floated to the ceiling of the emergency ward and he said he could see into all the other cubicles where patients were receiving emergency help. He stated though, that in one particular cubicle, there was a little boy who was in grave distress. My client of course, lived and went back to the hospital to receive outpatient medical care for well over a 12 month period. He said that on one of his visits he found it necessary to go back into the emergency ward and locate the key nurse who attended to him on that occasion. He asked her what had happened to the little boy that he had seen in the third cubicle down from where he was located. She was utterly surprised he said. “How did you know that?” she enquired. He simply told her that he had floated to the ceiling and he could see the little boy being worked on. She was not quite sure how to respond, but she did assure him that little boy recovered.
I’ve also had other clients who have reported similar, but different experiences.
There is a sense though, that none of this comes as a surprise to those of us who have spiritual beliefs and in this case, being a Christian means that there is a belief of a heavenly afterlife. This life is not just about bricks and mortar, dollars and cents.
As a psychologist, my experiences tell me that we are much more than mind and body and indeed, we have a soul. In the same way that it is important to exercise own mind and definitely to exercise our bodies, it is imperative that we exercise our souls. For some of us that means prayer and meditation, for others it might mean other things.
Yes, science may now have a theory for what happens beyond this life, but various religious groups will tell you that this has been a truism since life began.
The real issue therefore, is if there is something beyond the white light or the bright tunnel, are we prepared for it and are we exercising our spiritual muscles because as far as I’m aware, except for a rare few who have near-death experiences, we don’t get a second chance at this current life.