To tell you the truth, I have a love and hate relationship with near-death experiences. On the one hand, I love that people return totally transformed from the brink of death. On the other hand, I hate that these experiences are misused as just another way to deny death. In this episode, I’ll reveal the truth about near-death experiences and what they really mean.
You probably already know what is normally meant under the term near-death experience, or NDE in short. You might think about the soul leaving the body and looking at it from the ceiling of the operating table. Images such as traveling in a dark tunnel, reaching an all-encompassing white light, and meeting with dead relatives or supernatural beings may come up.
There are many other common themes, but one thing is for sure: that the person having this experience returns at one point, otherwise he or she would just completely die without being able to tell such a story. So, the first interesting thing to note about near-death experiences, is that they don’t come from the dead, they can only ever come from the living.
Although some of these people are indeed clinically dead, but that’s just one definition of death. Irreversible biological death occurs only 4 to 8 minutes after clinical death, and new studies have showed that during this stage, certain senses can still function, even if they cannot be measured by medical instruments. In certain cases, this can explain how people pronounced dead can hear things that they were not supposed to hear.
But before we go down this rabbit hole, let’s consider first why near-death experiences are so important. NDEs matter because they are the closest that we can experientially get to death. You don’t have to believe in life after death for it to happen, because it’s a truly first-hand experience. You can taste death without relying on religious beliefs, metaphysical philosophies or pure fantasies.
The way it changes the lives of experiencers is truly magical. They overcome the fear of death, and they often find a new meaning of life. They often become more spiritual, loving and compassionate towards others as they understand the interconnectedness of life. If I could, I would make all of my students have a near-death experience, and half of my job would be done.
However, an ordinary NDE doesn’t cause spiritual enlightenment in itself. Although experiencers disidentify themselves from the body, they still remain identified with their individual perspectives. You may call it astral body, spirit, soul, personality or ego, it’s all the same thing. Until they see themselves as separate beings living through concrete experiences, the liberation is incomplete.
The author of the famous book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, also mentions a case where he brought up this question to one of his Masters. The Master replied that near-death experiences are still part of the bardo of living, hence they don’t describe the nature of the afterlife. They are still part of the living process, even if they are at the very end.
What’s even more crucial is that the bardo teachings stress the importance of realizing that ultimately, all bardo states are illusory. No matter what you experience, be it ordinary or otherwordly, it’s just an experience after all, and not your true nature. So, until you grasp onto your near-death experience as the ultimate truth, you’ll never discover what’s even beyond that.
I don’t want to disparage the importance of your NDE, because it must have been the most significant experience in your whole life. If you had one, I’m happy for you, you should embrace it and never forget about it. But I have to warn you to be very cautious about coming to immature conclusions.
Like any other experience, NDE is subjective in nature. It may be true for you, but you shouldn’t treat it as true for everybody. Even if you returned from death, what guarantees that the next time you die, you’ll experience something similar? I believe it’s more healthy to treat it as an experience instead of an objective truth, however extraordinary it is.
Now, I’d like to turn to those who didn’t have a near-death experience themselves, but became obsessed with it. I know who you are! You are the one staying up late at night reading one miraculous story after the other. You are the one desperately seeking for the clues of heaven, trying to convince yourself that it’s real. You are the one reassuring people around you, that eventually everything will be all right.
If you recognized yourself from the description above, then you’re commiting the two greatest sins in Immortology: taking something on faith and denying death. I know, it’s hard to resist. These stories sound so compelling, so comforting, so reassuring. And you want to believe so much in life after death, the longing is so strong, the hopes are so high.
But I’m here to take away all your beliefs, hopes and denials. Remember: I’m not saying that there’s no life beyond death, just that through blind faith you will never experience it. Relying on NDE stories looks like a shortcut at first, but proves to be a dead-end eventually.
Instead, you should lower your resistance towards death, stop denying it and stop believing others. I’m not saying they are liars, but what good does it do to you if you listen to them? At most, they are bedtime stories that adults tell each other so they can sleep well. But you don’t need another tranquilizer, you are already asleep. What you need is an alarm clock, a reminder of death, something that awakens you.
With that said, a near-death experience can be a truly powerful stepping stone on your spiritual path. I’ve been researching this area for years, and while it’s not truly possible to recreate a full-blown NDE at will, there are various methods to come close to it. One technique I developed is a guided visualization under hypnosis called the Defeat Death Meditation.
You should listen to it if you want to have a taste of this beautifully strange encounter with your mortality. And if you want to immerse yourself deeper in my exploration into the topic of near-death experiences, please watch the follow-up video titled “There’s no proof of afterlife”.
If you want to know more about death from a spiritual but down to earth perspective, you should read my book: The Power of Death. Click on the link below, and get it now! I’m deadly serious.