Can Near Death Experiences Contribute to the Debate on Consciousness?

Part of the Mindfulness in Behavioral Health book series (MIBH)


The near death experiences (NDEs) is an altered state of consciousness, which has stereotyped content and emotional experience. Some features of the experience are trans-cultural and suggest either a similar brain mechanism or access to a transcendent reality. Individual features of the experience point more persuasively to transcendence than to simple limited brain mechanisms. Moreover there are, so far, no reductionist explanations which can account satisfactorily for some of the features of the NDE; the apparent “sightedness” in the blind during an NDE, the apparent acquisition after an NDE of psychic and spiritual gifts, together with accounts of healing occurring during an NDE, and the accounts of veridical experience during the resuscitation after a cardiac arrest. Although nonlocal mind would explain many of the NDE features, nonlocality is not yet accepted by mainstream neuroscience so there is a clear explanatory gap between reductionist materialistic explanations and those theories based on a wider understanding of mind suggested by the subjective experience of the NDEr. Only wider theories of mind would be likely candidates to bridge this gap.


Cardiac Arrest Body Experience Blind People Veridical Perception Fear Death 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adolphs, R. (2008). Fear, faces, and the human amygdala. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 18(2), 166–172.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atwater, P. (1988). Coming back to life: The after-effects of the near-death experience. New York, Valentine: Citadel.Google Scholar
  3. Berger, R. J., Olley, P., & Oswald, I. (1962). The EEG, eye movement and dreams of the blind. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 14, 183–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bibliography of Scientific Remote Viewing Research PapersGoogle Scholar
  5. Chalmers, D. J. (1995). Facing up to the problem of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2, 200–219.Google Scholar
  6. Chalmers, D. J. (2010). The singularity of philosophical analysis. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17(9–10), 7–65.Google Scholar
  7. Compiled by Vernon Neppe, MD, PhD and Stephan A. SchwartzGoogle Scholar
  8. Corrazza, O. (2008). Near death experiences, exploring the mind-body connection (pp. 102–117). Oxon, UK: Routledge. Chapter 5.Google Scholar
  9. Coxhead, N. (1985). The relevance of bliss: A contemporary exploration of mystical experience (p. 35). London: Wildwood House.Google Scholar
  10. Dehaene, S., & Naccache, L. (2001). Towards a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness: Basic evidence and a workspace framework. Cognition, 79, 1–37.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fenwick, P., & Fenwick, E. (1995). The truth in the light: An investigation of over 300 near death experiences. London: Hodder Headline.Google Scholar
  12. Fox, M. (2003). Religion, spirituality and the near death experience. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Greyson, B., & Stevenson, I. (1980). The phenomenology of near-death experiences. American Journal of Psychiatry. 137, 1193–1196Google Scholar
  14. Greyson, B. (1983a). The near death experience scale: Construction, reliability, and validity. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 171, 369–375.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Greyson, G. (1983b). Increase in psychic phenomen following near death experiences. Theta, 11, 26–29.Google Scholar
  16. Greyson, B. (2000). Near death experiences. In E. Cardena, S. Lynn, & S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of anomalous experience: Examining the scientific evidence (pp. 315–352). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Greyson, B. (2003a). Near-death experiences in a psychiatric outpatient clinic population. Psychiatric Services, 54(12), 1649–1651.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greyson, B. (2003b). Incidence and correlates of near-death experiences in a cardiac care unit. General Hospital Psychiatry, 25, 269–276.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Greyson, B., & James, D. (2009). The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences. Praeger Publishers. Oxford. England.Google Scholar
  20. Greyson, B., Kelly, E. W., & Kelly, E. F. (2009). Explanatory Models for the NDE Experience. In B. Greyson, J. M. Holden, & D. James (Eds.), The handbook of near death experiences: Thirty years of investigation. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC. Chapter 10.Google Scholar
  21. Hardy, Sir Alastair 1979 The Spiritual Nature of Man. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hay, D. (1990). Religious experience today: Studying the facts. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  23. Holden, J. (2009). In J. Holden, B. Greyson, & D. James (Eds.), The handbook of near-death experiences (p. 185). Oxford, UK: Praeger Publishers. Chapter 9.Google Scholar
  24. Holden, J., Long, J., & MacLurg, J. (2009). In J. Holden, B. Greyson, & D. James (Eds.), The handbook of near-death experiences. Oxford, UK: Praeger Publishers. Chapter 6.Google Scholar
  25. Howard, R. S., Holmes, P. A., & Koutroumanidis, M. A. (2011). Hypoxic-ischaemic brain injury. Practical Neurology, 11(1), 4–18.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kellehear, A. (2009). Census of non-Western near death experiences to 2005: observations and critical reflections. In B. Greyson, J. M. Holden, & D. James (Eds.), The handbook of near death experiences: Thirty years of investigation (p. 135). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC. Chapter 7.Google Scholar
  27. Koenig, M. A., Kaplan, P. W., & Thakor, N. V. (2006). Clinical neurophysiologic monitoring and brain injury from cardiac arrest. Neurologic Clinics, 24(1), 89–106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lockley, M. G. (2010). The evolutionary dynamics of consciousness: An integration of Estern and Western holistic paradigms. Journal of Consciousness Studies., 17(9–10), 66–116.Google Scholar
  29. Molyneux, B. (2010). Why the neural correlates of consciousness cannot be found. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17(9–10), 168–188.Google Scholar
  30. Moody, R. (1973). Life after life. Atlanta, Georgia: Mockingbird.Google Scholar
  31. Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat?.: Philosophical Review.Google Scholar
  32. Neppe, V., & Schwartz, S. A. Bibliography of Scientific Remote Viewing Research PapersGoogle Scholar
  33. Noyes, R. (1972). The experience of dying. Psychiatry, 35, 174–184.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Noyes, R., Fenwick, P., Holden, J., & Christian, S. (2009). After-effects of pleasurable western adult near-death experiences. In B. Greyson, J. M. Holden, & D. James (Eds.), The handbook of near death experiences: Thirty years of investigation (p. 51). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC. Chapter 3.Google Scholar
  35. Noyes, R., & Slymen, D. (1979). The subjective response to life- threatening danger. Omega, 9, 313–321.Google Scholar
  36. O’Regan, B., & Hirschberg, C. (1993). Spontaneous remission: An annotated bibliography. Institute of Noetic Science.Google Scholar
  37. Page, V., & Gough, K. (2010). Management of delirium in the intensive care unit. British Journal of Hospital Medicine (Lond), 71(7), 372–376.Google Scholar
  38. Parnia, S. (2007). Do reports of consciousness during cardiac arrest hold the key to discovering the nature of consciousness? Medical Hypotheses, 69(4), 933–937.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Parnia, S., Waller, D. G., Yeates, R., & Fenwick, P. (2001). AA qualitative and quantitative study of the incidence, features and aetiology of near death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors. Resuscitation, 48, 149–156.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ring, K. (1980). Life at death: A scientific investigation of the near death experience. New York: Coward, McCann, and Georghegan.Google Scholar
  41. Ring, K. (1984). Heading towards omega: In search of the meaning of the near death experience. New York: William Morrow.Google Scholar
  42. Ring, K., & Cooper, S. (1999). Mindsight: Near death and out of body experiences in the blind (William James Center for Consciousness Studies). Palo Alto, CA: Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.Google Scholar
  43. Sabom, M. (1998). Light and Death: One doctor’s fascinating account of near-death experiences. Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanGoogle Scholar
  44. Sartori, P. (2008). Near death experiences of hospitalised intensive care patients: A five year ­clinical study (p. 238). Lampeter: Edwin Mellon Press.Google Scholar
  45. Schwaninger, J., Eisenberg, P., Schechtman, K., & Weiss, A. (2002). A prospective analysis of near death experiences in cardiac arrest patients. Journal of Near Death Studies, 20(4), 215–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sutherland, C. (1989). Psychic phenomena following near death experiences: An Australian study. Journal of Near-Death Studies., 8, 93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tiberi, E. (1993). Extra-somatic emotions. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 11, 149–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Van Lommel, P., van Wees, R., Myers, V., & Elfferich, I. (2001). Near death experiences in survivors of cardiac arrest: A prospective study in the Netherlands. Lancet, 358, 2039–2045.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Velmans, M., & Schneider, S. (2006). The Blackwell companion to consciousness.: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kings CollegeLondon Institute of PsychiatryLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of NeuroscienceSouthampton UniversityHampshireUK

Personalised recommendations