A near-death experience (often found abbreviated as NDE) is a personal narrative event characterized by visions catalyzed by the experience of approaching death or a sense that one is dying.

The NDE is often described in terms of spiritual awakening or mystical experience.

How common are NDEs?

Although most people who have come close to death say they remember nothing, a third or more may later report that "something happened."

Denominators of the NDE:

NDEs tend to be unique to each individual, although there are common factors which appear in different iterations:

  • Hovering: feeling that the "self" has left the body and is hovering overhead. The experiencer may later be able to describe in detail the location and actions of individuals in the room during the time when they are technically dead.

  • A dark space or tunnel.

  • Intensely powerful emotions: from bliss to terror.

  • Light: Golden, white, magnetic, and/or loving are common descriptors. Less commonly perceived as a reflection of the fires of hell.

  • Message: "It is not yet your time," or variants thereof.

  • Encountering others: deceased loved ones, sacred beings or religious figures, unidentified entities, "beings of light", operant religious symbols.

  • Life review: re-viewing both major and trivial events of one's life, followed by the development of conclusions about the past and the future.

  • Sense of understanding: Feeling that all is clear, knowing how the universe works.

  • Boundary: a barrier of some sort is encountered which the experiencer knows they may not cross if they wish to return to life.

  • In some cases, entering a city or library.

  • Decision to return may be voluntary or involuntary.

Variation: The Terrifying NDE

NDE researchers are unsure how many near-death experiences are frightening. Experiencers whose NDE involved beneficent white light and spiritual enlightenment, etc., are more inclined to share than their counterparts, who may have experienced something more along the lines of abject terror, misery, and self-loathing.

The frightening NDE may encompass some of the following traits:

  • Features similar to the "numinous" NDE, but experienced at a rate of speed which terrifies the hapless experiencer
  • Demonic rather than angelic overtones. Some experiencers perceive themselves in an ugly or threatening landscape, full of people who seem to be in terrible distress.

The Aftermath of the NDE

In the aftermath of an NDE, the experiencer senses himself or herself to be different, spiritually and physically. Those close to them often report a drastic change in the experiencer's behavior.

Reported physiological changes include:

For more information on near-death experiences, contact IANDS (The International Association for Near-Death Studies).