Journal of Near-Death Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 75–81 | Cite as

Avoiding the columbus confusion: An Ockhamish view of near-death research

  • John Wren-Lewis
Guest Editorial


The positive aftereffects of near-death experiences (NDEs) are sometimes regarded as due to the possibility that they may be “visions of the beyond.” But that notion could be a serious misconception, similar to what I call the “Columbus Confusion.” Five hundred years ago, Christopher Columbus's belief that he had found a new route to India prevented him from realizing that he had discovered a new continent. Likewise, contemporary belief that NDEs are glimpses of an afterlife may prevent us from realizing their more profound nature. Belief in an afterlife has not historically brought humanity a high quality of life, but NDEs seem reliably to do so, and may offer important clues about why the expanded vitality, the “eternity-consciousness,” of the mystics is commonly blocked. Those clues are obscured by popular emphasis on that minority of NDEs that resemble otherworld journeys.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Wren-Lewis
    • 1
  1. 1.Honorary Associate of Religious Studies at the University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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