Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) fascinate. Most share similar features that suggest the existence of a spirit or consciousness separate from the body that can continue to exist after the body and brain have ceased functioning in ways generally thought to be necessary for “life.” Those who have experienced a NDE also often undergo changes in worldview and personality traits, including a greater sense of compassion, less desire to judge others harshly, a sense of one’s own importance (even divinity), and peace amid life’s chaos that stems from a feeling that no matter what, everything has purpose and all will work out in the end. Some even claim that afterward they are more intuitive and/or have a different energy about them that affects electronic devices, etc. Others claim and exhibit a lack of interest in the mundane world anymore, with many of them failing to ever successfully re-integrate into the purely mortal realm—as it seems to be far less “real” as the other, a mere shadow of true Reality.
But are NDEs truly a glimpse at an afterlife, a real hint about the nature of spirit, human personality, structures of the universe, the existence of God or Divine purpose? Can purely physiological explanations account for the different types of experiences that people report following an NDE? What might NDEs suggest about the role and status of “religion versus deeper “spiritual” modes of experiencing?
In this two-part episode, panelists Jeff Olsen, a person who has had a profound Near-Death Experience, Tom Haws, a long-time student of NDEs, and Lisa Hansen, a psychologist with a strong interest in the subject, join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in an exploration of all of these and many more aspects of or questions raised by Near-Death Experiences and studies of this phenomenon. As they are all also Latter-day Saints, at various points in the discussion the panel notes connections and discusses aspects of Mormonism (and religion in general) that line up with or are challenged by NDEs.
We welcome you to listen and then share your experiences or engage the panel and each other in the comments section below!
International Association For Near-Death Studies (IANDS) website.
Tom Haws’ blogpost about NDEs. His blog also contains other posts and links related to NDEs.
Jeff Olsen’s book, I Knew Their Hearts: The Amazing True Story of a Journey Beyond the Veil to Learn the Silent Language of the Heart, is available through many outlets and formats, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Deseret Book, Kindle, and Nook.