Near-Death Experiences and the Doctors

Ever since the awareness of near-death experiences burst upon the popular consciousness with the publication of Raymond Moody’s 1975 bestseller Life After Life, there has been a steady stream of books, articles, and movies on the subject. These have come from people in all professions and all walks of life.

More recently, several medical doctors have weighed in on the subject.

Doctors are in an interesting position. On the one hand, since near-death experiences commonly take place during medical emergencies, doctors are often present when people have them. On the other hand, because of their extensive scientific training doctors are often skeptical that near-death experiences are anything other than the desperate hallucinations of a dying, oxygen-deprived brain.

But when the doctors themselves have a near-death experience, they come out with a very different perspective.

Dr. Mary Neal

Here is a talk by Dr. Mary Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, about her near-death experience, which took place in 1999 during a white-water kayaking accident:

To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, M.D.

Before she nearly died by drowning, Dr. Neal more-or-less believed in God and heaven . . . but she really didn’t have time to pay them much heed. That all changed due to her other-world experience while she was trapped underwater, not breathing, for a quarter of an hour.

Here is the book she wrote about her near-death experience and how it radically changed her perspective on life:

To Heaven and Back
A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again
A True Story

Erasing Death, by Sam Parnia, M.D.

Though Dr. Sam Parnia has not himself had a near-death experience, he is becoming known as one of the few scientists interested in studying death itself, including near-death experiences, from a scientific perspective. In 2007 he published the book, What Happens When We Die? A Groundbreaking Study into the Nature of Life and Death.

This year he has published a follow-up book. Its most startling assertion: death is nowhere near as cut-and-dried, nor as final, as we have generally believed up to now. Here is a recent interview with Dr. Parnia in which he summarizes some of his findings:

And here is the first part of a talk given by Dr. Parnia about near-death experiences:

Dr. Parnia’s new book is:

Erasing Death
The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death

Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, M.D.

Neurosurgion Eben Alexander did not believe in any afterlife . . . until he experienced it for himself. A rare and deadly form of meningitis shut down his brain and put him in a coma for a week. The doctors were giving up on him and considering ending his treatment when he suddenly opened his eyes, much to everyone’s astonishment.

After making a near-miraculous full recovery he set about telling his amazing story, which was published last year. He tells his powerful and touching story in this interview:

And here is the book he published about it:

Proof of Heaven:
A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife

Is there really “proof” of heaven? Of course, the skeptics will say no. Yet for those whose minds are open and willing to hear the testimony of these highly rational, intelligent, and scientifically trained physicians, there is enough evidence to come to a more positive conclusion about the afterlife.

Dr. Lee Woofenden

Okay, I’m not a doctor, medical or otherwise . . . and I haven’t had a near-death experience either. But since this is my blog, here’s a book I wrote and published about near-death experiences, the afterlife, and our process of spiritual rebirth right here on earth:

Death and Rebirth
From Near-Death Experiences to Eternal Life

For more on what happens after we die, and after we move beyond the brief introduction to heaven experienced by people who have close brushes with death, I invite you to read my previous article: What Happens To Us When We Die?

See also: Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?


Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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100 comments on “Near-Death Experiences and the Doctors
  1. I have never had a near death experience, but a close friend shared her NDE with me in 1969, before NDEs were first written about. When I heard about others having these NDEs many years later, the uncanny similarity of these stories to my friend’s story changed my life. I knew my friend did not receive any input from anyone else. Through these stories, I absolutely knew, beyond any doubt, that there is more to life than the physical particles and physical forces that make up our universe.

    Even if Dr. Parnia’s research project does not confirm his hypothesis (I think it will), I know his thesis is correct. The ultimate conclusion I draw for all this is that consciousness does not depend on the body — it continues after the death of the body. Our individual consciousness is eternal.

    This is a very nice article, Lee. Nice work!

    Chuck Gebhardt, MD

    • Lee says:

      Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I vividly remember the excitement among my fellow Swedenborg readers back in 1975 when Life After Life came out. Suddenly we no longer felt like a lone voice proclaiming in the wilderness that the afterlife is very real, and that it is very different from what the churches had been teaching. I attended one of Dr. Moody’s early talks at our former Boston congregation, which was packed to the gills. The atmosphere in the crowd was electric!


    • Fiona says:

      I had a heart attack a few years ago & was declared dead for 2 & a half minutes. I went to heaven & it was amazing I didn’t want to come back! I saw my dog & cat that had died 1 year earlier, I no longer had a physical disability/I could walk & my body was normal! & I saw my best friends brother who had killed himself when he was 17 – the pastor of our church told us he would rot in hell because he had killed himself, when I told my mom she said: no! He will be in heaven because God never misjudged! I wanted to believe mom but wasn’t sure who to believe. I was SO glad to know he was ok! After we had briefly chatted I got told “it wasn’t my time yet” & came back to earth. It has changed my life so much!

      • Lee says:

        Hi Fiona,

        Thanks for stopping by and telling your story. I am very glad that your brief experience in the spiritual world cleared up so many wrong teachings and the fears that go with them.

        It’s simply not true that committing suicide causes people to go to hell. God looks beyond the action to the reasons behind the action. Those who kill themselves out of depression, desperation, or due to mental illness are not evil people at heart. They are simply hurting very badly, and have taken a desperate action to make the pain go away. Though they may still have some hard experiences to go through on the other side as they sort out the struggles that led them to commit suicide, they can find their place in heaven just like anyone else.

        Thanks again for telling your story here. Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

        • Fiona says:

          He killed himself because he’d asked a girl 2 marry him & she said no (he has abusive family/wanted 2 get away)he was very worried I’d hate him up there, I said what’s wrong?! He said God told me you & me were supposed to be together! I said oh wow/stunned. I’m so glad he told me but at same time very hard knowing & that we can’t be together yet…I can’t stop thinking about it I being stupid?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Fiona,

          I don’t think you’re being stupid. But I also don’t think you necessarily have to take it as Gospel truth that you and he are meant to be together, and that you will be together in the afterlife. That depends just as much on how you feel about him as it does on how he feels about you. Even people living in the spiritual world can have mistaken ideas, and can believe that God told them something when it really came from their own mind or from other spirits influencing them.

          If it gives you hope that he’s waiting for you on the other side, that’s fine and good. But if it starts to feel like you are bound by his words, and that you must avoid forming any relationship with someone you might be attracted to here on earth, then that’s not so good. You may have many years left on this earth. Living those years alone in hopes of a relationship in the afterlife can be a two-edged sword.

          In short, I would encourage you not to bind yourself strictly by something he said to you during your NDE, but to listen to your own thoughts and feelings about him and about other potential relationships.

  2. Dawn says:

    Thanks for the links!! I have never had a NDE but I want to learn EVERYTHING about them!

  3. Chris Beach says:

    I heard a talk on this subject recently and found it fascinating! In the talk the speaker mentioned one of the newest books out on the subject which was compiled by two or more doctors who had had the experiences themselves. They were keen to mention that when the soul left the body and looked down upon the rest of the individuals in the room, they could identify items being lost by physicians and nurses such as pens rolling under a table etc. Do you know the name of the book? Thank you very much!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I don’t know which particular book that would be. Was it any of the ones mentioned in this article? Who was the speaker of the talk you heard? The experiences you mention from the talk are very common. The thing about pens rolling under the table is just the sort of vivid little detail that makes it unlikely that the experiencers are making this up.

      • Chris Beach says:

        I agree about the vivid little detail. The person giving the talk was Fr. Spitzer of Gonzaga University. He is a world renowned speaker,and theologian.

        Sent from my iPhone

  4. Ben Williams says:

    Great article, with interesting and relevant links. My father had a Near death experience, and so too did a girl I once knew. The consistency of themes is very strong evidence supporting the reality of this experience.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

      I’ve listened to a number of people tell the stories of their near-death experiences. Really, the simplest explanation is that there actually is another, spiritual plane of existence to which our conscious mind goes after death.

      Only a resistance to the idea of a spiritual realm causes people to attempt to come up with other explanations. But none of the alternate explanations I’ve encountered so far does a reasonable job of accounting for the phenomenon of NDEs as reported by thousands, if not millions of people.

  5. Griffin says:

    What I’m wondering is why a person in a coma would have an NDE, seeing as they haven’t died. Is there a reason for this?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Griffin,

      We humans have two sets of senses: our physical senses and our spiritual senses. Usually as long as we are living on this earth we are consciously aware only of what comes to us via our physical senses, which are experiences of things and events in this material world. However, when our physical senses are shut off, sometimes we become consciously aware of what’s coming to us via our spiritual senses. That’s what happens during an NDE. And it can just as well happen during a coma when the coma involves being shut off from sensory input from our physical senses. Dreams are also an example of experiencing things with our spiritual senses, though dreams are more like being in a spiritual movie theater than like walking out in the streets of the spiritual world.

      • Griffin says:

        If dreams are glimpses of the spiritual realm, then are the people in them independent spirits, or just a reflection of or component of our own consciousness?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Griffin,

          Great question!

          First, just to be crystal clear at the risk of being repetitive, what we experience in dreams is not the same as what we experience when we are visiting or living in the spiritual world. As I said, dreams are more like going to a spiritual movie theater. They are dramas created for us rather than actual experiences of the waking spiritual world. And the genres presented in the spiritual movie theater of our dreams can be anything from very realistic human dramas that feel an awful lot like our actual waking life to strange surrealist and abstract pastiches that confuse the heck out of us.

          But to actually answer your question:

          In the spiritual world, which includes the world of our conscious and subconscious mind, there is no meaningful distinction between “independent spirits” and components of our own consciousness. Spirits are not, in fact, independent of one another or of the world of our consciousness. The two are so intertwined that it is not possible to separate one from the other. If our contact and (usually unconscious) communication with the spirits around us were to be cut off, we would have no consciousness at all. Our mind would go blank. That’s because our consciousness exists in the spiritual realm, and our thoughts and feelings flow from there—which means that they flow from and through the angels and spirits who live in the spiritual world.

          This does not mean we have no character of our own. We are the ones who invite various angels and spirits to be with us by the choices, thoughts, feelings, and actions that we make, accept into ourselves, and do as a regular or permanent part of our life and character. Our various experiences in life, not all of which we have chosen, also have a big effect upon what angels and spirits are with us. The angels and spirits who are with us correspond to the various thoughts and feelings, both good and bad, that inhabit our own mind and spirit—especially the ones that we think of as being “our own” and “our self.”

          What we experience in dreams, then, is both the presence of actual angels and spirits (depending upon the type of dream) and components of our own consciousness. The human (or inhuman) figures we see in dreams may not themselves be particular individual angels or spirits. But they are reflections of the presence and character of the angels or spirits who are with us, as well as reflecting the various and varied contents of our own psyche.

        • Griffin says:

          Okay, thanks for clarifying!

  6. Foster says:

    How do you know what these people are experiencing aren’t just vivid dreams?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      How do you know people’s vivid dreams aren’t just personalized experiences of the spiritual world? 🙂

      But to answer your question, NDEers themselves report that the experience is very different from a dream or a hallucination. They commonly report their experience there as feeling far more real even than our waking reality here on earth, and not at all vague and dreamlike.

      Also, the amount of congruity in what all different NDEers experience across religions and cultures makes it unlikely that these are just vivid dreams. There is a general pattern to the experiences, and though there are many variations on that pattern, and people from different religions and different cultures experience some elements of that pattern differently, the overall picture is clear and in amazing agreement cross-culturally. This strongly suggests that they are experiencing a common reality—most likely, the spiritual world—rather than having individual dreams.

      Carl Sagan has suggested that the commonality is due to the NDE replicating the experience of physical birth: the dark tunnel, the bright light, godlike beings (the nurses and doctors) on the other side, and so on. And though it’s an intriguing idea, it doesn’t account for all of the elements that are common to NDEs. For example, there is no life review in the process of physical birth, and there is no border or boundary from which newborns return to the womb, as there commonly is for NDEers who return to their physical body.

      Beyond that, though, as I point out in “Death and Rebirth, Chapter 1: The Experience of Dying,” the parallel with physical birth is not at all coincidental. Our physical death is, in fact, our birth into the spiritual world.

      But back to your question, I’ve talked to a number of people who have had near-death experiences. They will tell you that for those who have actually experienced it, the idea that this is all just a dream is completely unrealistic and not at all believable.

  7. Claude says:

    Two days before my mother died, I asked her to contact us after her death to let us know that she is OK. Two days after her death, I saw a lighted solar system on the ceiling that then disappeared in the wall. For about 1.5 years after that, I woke up 7 times in that 1.5 years to see a white lighted sphere above my head. Once, the sphere was red. After that 1.5 years, I never saw any of this again and for the first 45 years of my life, I had no such visions. I would sincerely like to know your take on this. It was as if she was looking over me but then stopped once she got to heaven, a possibility. Thank you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Claude,

      These things are quite possible. We have two sets of senses, our physical senses and our spiritual senses. Usually our spiritual senses remain closed until after we die. But sometimes we experience things with them while we’re still living in our physical body here on earth. That is likely how your repeated experience of seeing a solar system happened. I can’t say what it’s significance is, but if you have the sense that it is connected to your mother, there’s no particular reason to doubt that.

  8. Donovan says:

    What are the similarities between what Swedenborg experienced and people today who have NDE’s? And why do people scoff at them and say they are just dreams or it’s the brain shutting down? I find it hard to believe that it’s just a dream when thousands of people from different years and places talk about a light, tunnel etc.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Donovan,

      For a fairly detailed comparison of Swedenborg’s descriptions of the afterlife and that of NDEers, see my book Death and Rebirth. The link is to the first installment when I published it serially here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. You can also buy a Kindle version here. (I’m currently working on getting it back into print in paperback.) The book covers a lot more ground than comparing Swedenborg to NDEs, but it does do that in the course of conveying its overall message.

      Though not everything NDEers say is exactly the same as what Swedenborg said over 200 years ago, the similarities are major, and striking. For example, NDEers report being human just as they were here on earth, not some wispy ethereal being. They report seeing friends and relatives who had died before them. They report a world that has land and sky, trees and rivers, plants and animals, towns and cities, just as here on earth, only far more beautiful and resplendent. They report experiencing the spiritual world as far more vivid and real than the material world, and as having a sense about it of being alive. They report angelic beings who are loving, wise, highly intelligent, and compassionate. Some of them even report feeling the warmth of the sun there as love and the light of the sun there as truth. These are all things that Swedenborg said about the spiritual world way back in 1758, when he published his most popular book, Heaven and Hell.

      As for many people scoffing an NDEs and attributing it to a dying, oxygen-deprived brain, we live in a materialistic age. For people who have rejected the existence of God and spirit, there has to be an alternative explanation to people actually experiencing God and spirit. So they come up with all sorts of physiological notions of how NDEs happen, none of which really make much sense when you examine them closely. But they have to come up with these explanations because otherwise NDEs would threaten their materialistic worldview.

      The most sensible explanation, and the only one that really fits all of the available experiential evidence, is that people who have NDEs actually are experiencing a spiritual realm that is distinct from this material realm. Occam’s razor should, by itself, rule out all other explanations. It’s the simplest explanation for what so many thousands, even millions, of people have experienced. And those who have experienced it will tell you that the idea that this is some sort of dream or hallucination is preposterous. The realm they experience is not wispy, dreamlike, or hallucinatory, but far more real, solid, and detailed than anything we experience here on earth.

      But . . . skeptics gonna skept, skept, skept, skept, skept, skept. 😉

      For a related article, see:
      Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

      • Donovan says:

        Amazing response. Now what about when people see some things and others don’t? Some see relatives, some see pets, some see a figure that could be a representative of God, other countries some see things that are related to what they believe in etc..? One that seems to be common tho is after the OBE,they go to the sky and then shoot into space before seeing a light or tunnel.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Donovan,

          Unlike the material world, the spiritual world is highly adaptive and responsive to the character, mindset, thoughts, and feelings of the people who go there, and of the people who live there. When we’re in the spiritual world, everything we see around us reflects what’s inside of us.

          This means that different people will see different things when they briefly visit the spiritual world. It all depends upon who they are, and where their head, heart, and life are when they have their experience of the spiritual world.

      • Donovan says:

        And you are correct, people who’ve had NDE’s say there’s no way it wasn’t real. I read about one guy who can tell you to this day exactly what happened and it was 44 years ago.

      • Donovan says:

        Another thing to wanted to get your opinion on was groups who teach soul sleeping, I thought it sounded pretty ridiculous. The idea that we just go into the grave until the end of time, then Jesus raises everyone from the dead but there are a lot of scriptures that teach there is a spirit. And those who teach should sleeping, mainly narrow down a few passages in the bible and run with it.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Donovan,

          The sad reality is that millions of Christians are just as materialistic and physical-minded as their non-Christian brothers and sisters. Even if they do believe that humans have a spirit, they think of it as a wispy, insubstantial thing, and of the physical body and the physical world as the only things that are real. So unless they believed in a physical resurrection, they would likely not believe in any afterlife at all. This physical-mindedness is why so many Christians don’t pay attention to the places where the Bible clearly teaches an immediate resurrection into the spiritual world, but pay great attention to those few passages in the Bible that make it sound like we won’t be raised from the dead until a future last judgment, and that our spirit will rejoin our physical body at that time. It’s a nutty idea, considering that most people’s bodies by that time will have long since crumbled to dust, and will even have been incorporated into the bodies of other people through the cycle of nature. But that doesn’t stop such people from believing such things.

      • Donovan says:

        Btw, the Taylor Swift touch to one of your previous responses was great 😃.

  9. Donovan says:

    Haha good point!

  10. Donovan says:

    About 10-20% of people reported to have had cardiac arrest experienced a spiritual incident. Now that doesn’t account for the other forms of death like car accidents etc…what do you make of it being 10-20% of cardiac arrest victims?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Donovan,

      Yes, clearly not everyone who almost dies has a spiritual experience. But 10-20% of just one way of almost dying is a whole lot of people!

      • Donovan says:

        Very true. Why do you think the others didn’t? Does that make it less significant?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Donovan,

          That would just be speculation. Maybe some don’t need it. Maybe some aren’t open to it. Maybe some just don’t get close enough to actually dying for their soul to leave their body. There are many factors. Only God knows why most people don’t, but some do have near-death experiences.

      • Donovan says:

        And that was just the few hundred that Dr Jeff Long studied. I’ve heard other reports of out of 23 million, 8 million had a spiritual experience. So that brings it up to much higher at about 35%. 8 million is A LOT of people!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Donovan,

          Yes, it’s in the millions of people who have had near-death experiences. But it’s all just an oxygen-deprived brain lol.

      • Donovan says:

        Lol yep

  11. K says:

    NDEs are often contradictory, vary by culture, and sometimes promote false beliefs like reincarnation. Is it possible that NDEs are merely vivid dreams or visions that precede the real afterlife, which are subject to the interpretation of the experiencer?

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      I wouldn’t call NDEs a dream or vision. It is a real experience. However, it is not the same as ongoing life in the spiritual world—just as when people visit another country here on earth as a tourist, it is not the same as living in that country.

      Though tourists do have real experiences of the countries they visit, they can easily come away with misconceptions, based on their own preconceived ideas, about the lives of locals. In the very same way, people who have NDEs can easily come away with misconceptions about the spiritual world based on preconceived ideas such as reincarnation. This is even more true of the spiritual world than of a foreign country here on earth because in the spiritual world our surroundings and our associations with other people are a direct reflection of our own life and character.

      So yes, the experience of NDEers in the spiritual world is subject to their own interpretation and character. That’s why different NDEers come away with different ideas about God, eternal life, and so on. This, however, is not because it was a dream or vision, but because that’s how the spiritual world works.

      For another angle on this see my article, “Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?” and scroll down to Part 2: “Swedenborg’s experience in the spiritual world was unique in known history.”

    • K says:

      Keith Augustine makes the case for NDEs being hallucinatory at which is why I thought it’s possible they could be just a prelude to the real afterlife.

      In any case, once a person actually dies, would they experience waking up from death as Swedenborg describes in Heaven and Hell once the material world — and material thinking — is left behind?

      I take it that at some point between death and entering Heaven, people bound for heaven have misconceptions like reincarnation cleared up.

      • Lee says:

        Hi K,

        Thanks for the link. That’s a very long article! I’ll respond to your two questions now, and give some responses to the linked article in a separate comment.

        Swedenborg describes the experience of dying in Secrets of Heaven #168–189 and 314–319 and again in heavily edited form in Heaven and Hell #448–450. However, as I say in “Death and Rebirth, Chapter 1: The Experience of Dying,” Swedenborg approached this experience from a much more analytical and spiritually experienced perspective than your ordinary person. I therefore doubt that most people experience it in exactly the same way Swedenborg did, sensing membranes rolled off their face and so on. While the overall progression after death does, I think, follow Swedenborg’s description, the specific experience of dying seems to vary with different people.

        Yes, people bound for heaven do have misconceptions such as reincarnation cleared up. This happens especially in the third stage after death, covered in Heaven and Hell #512–520, and covered also in “Death and Rebirth, Chapter 4: Our Third Stage After Death.” People bound for hell, on the other hand, are unwilling to be taught, and continue to cling to their misconceptions and fallacies.

      • Lee says:

        Hi K,

        About the article you linked that seeks to establish that NDEs are hallucinatory:

        First, for materialists, materialism is their religion, the physical universe is their god, and science is their Holy Bible. They believe fervently in all three. This means that science is seen as the source of all knowledge, and scientific evidence is seen as the only way to establish anything as truth. For materialists, scientific evidence serves the same function as the Bible serves for fundamentalist Christians. For fundamentalist Christians, something is worthy of belief only if it is stated in the Bible. For materialists, something is worthy of belief only if there is scientific evidence for it.

        Another way of saying this is that materialists require experience gained by way of the physical senses in order to accept the truth of anything.

        There is no particularly rational reason to accept only evidence derived from the physical senses. This is a belief on the part of materialists. And that belief determines what they accept as true and what they reject as false.

        This belief of theirs means that if there is no scientific evidence, meaning evidence gained by way of the physical senses, for an afterlife, they will reject the existence of an afterlife. And the upshot of this is that materialists will never believe in an afterlife—at least, not in a non-physical afterlife. That’s because there is not, and in my view never will be, any scientific evidence for the spiritual world. (See: “Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?”)

        You see, our physical senses are adapted to perceiving physical phenomena. And natural science is the study of physical phenomenon. Both of these are the wrong tools to study or learn about non-physical phenomena. For spiritual phenomena, our spiritual senses, and revelation, are the primary means of study and learning.

        While I appreciate the motives of those near-death researchers who are attempting to conduct scientific experiments to demonstrate the reality of a soul separate from the body, and therefore of an afterlife in a distinct, spiritual realm, I believe all of these experiments will be doomed to failure. Once again, science isn’t the right tool to study spiritual phenomena.

        Also, I believe that God has designed the universe in such a way that no one will be forced to believe in God and spirit. If there were scientific evidence of God and spirit, this would destroy human freedom in spiritual things by compelling materialists to accept God and spirit. This is something God will not allow to happen. For one thing, if it did happen, materialists would still find ways to reject the existence of God and spirit, resulting in their hardening themselves against God and spirit even more than before.

        This may seem counter-intuitive. Materialists are always demanding evidence for God and spirit. But the reality is that if they were presented with such evidence, at first they would accept it because they wouldn’t feel they had any choice. But soon they would begin devising ways to get around it, and in time they would reject it altogether. The human mind is very good at doing this for things it doesn’t want to believe. And then, on the principle of “fool me once, shame on you; fool my twice, shame on me,” they would instantly and vehemently reject any further evidence of the reality of God and spirit.

        This is another reason why God does not allow scientific proof of spiritual reality: it would actually have the opposite effect that materialists think it would, causing them to become even more deeply and adamantly opposed to the existence of God and spirit. As it is, over time some of them do soften in their views as they grow older and wiser and encounter experiences in life that their materialism hasn’t prepared them to deal with. It’s better to let them think they have airtight reasons not to believe in God and spirit until such time as they are ready to come up for spiritual air. And if they never do, then in the end it will be how they have lived their life that really matters when they arrive in the afterlife. Those who have been good, honest, and honorable people will come to accept the reality of God and spirit, and will be embarrassed by their former materialism and lack of belief in higher things.

        Analyzing the scientific evidence, or lack thereof, for spiritual things seems very important to people with a materialistic mindset. To me, it’s mostly a yawn. I don’t give two hoots whether there’s scientific evidence for spiritual reality because I don’t reject everything that isn’t learned by way of the physical senses. Science is a great tool for studying the physical universe. It is the wrong tool for studying the spiritual universe.

        Much of the linked article is concerned with showing how all of the various NDE and OBE phenomena can be explained by physiological means. This involves a common fallacy of confusing correlation with causation. Just because there are physiological analogs and accompaniments to mental experiences, that doesn’t mean the physiology is causing the psychology. It could just as well be the psychology causing the physiology. Or they could be moving along parallel to one another.

        Materialist think, when they’ve discovered some function of the brain that correlates with a particular mental experience, “Aha! We’ve found the cause of that mental experience!” But the idea that the brain activity causes the mental experience is not something that can be proven. All we know is that the two are correlated with one another. The idea that it is the brain activity that is causing the mental experience is a belief. From a dualist perspective, it is generally more plausible that the mental experience is causing electrochemical processes in the brain that correspond to the mental activity, and not the reverse.

        The article embodies yet another fallacy, which is that spiritual phenomena happen in space and time. It offers various arguments about how the spirit can’t be separated from the body because the physical senses are still feeding information to the spirit, and so on. But this presupposes some sort of physical separation in space and time from the physical body. And that’s not how spiritual things work.

        Our mind is perfectly capable of being “separated” from our body even in ordinary states of consciousness. We mentally travel to Germany or France or Africa, all the while our body is still sitting in a chair in our house in our home country. The separation is a mental one, not a physical one. In the very same way, the spirit (which actually is the mind) is not physically separated from the body when a person has an NDE or an OBE. Rather, it is mentally separated from the body, even while still being connected with the body. The person is not actually dead. And in that state, the spirit is still quite capable of perceiving things that come to it by way of the physical senses.

        From a dualist or spiritual perspective, another fallacy behind the article is that hallucinations are a product of the brain, and of brain activity, and are “unreal,” such that if we can show that NDEs and OBEs are “mere hallucinations,” we have debunked them as valid experiences of a distinct spiritual reality. However, the reality, from a spiritual perspective is that hallucinations, just like all other mental experience, are essentially spiritual in nature even if, once again, they are correlated with certain biochemical activity in the brain and body. Hallucinations, however, are not like ordinary waking spiritual consciousness, but are equivalent to being in a spiritual movie theater in which a surrealist movie is being shown. Even if NDEs and OBEs were “hallucinations,” all that’s saying, from a spiritual perspective, is that they are simply another variety of spiritual experience.

        Further, the entire spiritual world is “subjective” in a way that the physical world is not. In the spiritual world, especially after our first, rather earth-like stage there (see “Death and Rebirth, Chapter 2: Our First Stage After Death”), everything we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch around us reflects the thoughts and feelings within us. There is no such thing as “objectively” seeing something in the spiritual world. The objective and the subjective merge into one there. So of course different people see and experience the spiritual world differently, as a reflection of their own particular beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. To a materialist, this looks irrational and subjective, and therefore unworthy of belief. But that is because they neither accept spiritual reality nor understand its nature, which is not the same as the nature of physical reality.

        This is also why all of the experiments attempting to get people to see and report specific physical objects and patterns while they’re having an OBE will ultimately fail to produce any conclusive evidence for a consciousness separate from the physical body. You see, if OBEs are cases of the spirit separating from the body, then everything people see in that state is seen with their spiritual eyes, not with their physical eyes. And our spiritual eyes obey spiritual laws, not physical laws. This means that it will be very common for people to see and perceive things according to their inner mental imagery and reality rather than according to physical laws of perception of external objects.

        Even the physical laws of perception are far more fluid than people think. The linked article itself mentions people reporting wrong details about crime scenes, such as a criminal wearing red when the criminal was actually wearing blue. If even our experience of physical events seen with our physical eyes are not as reliable as we think, what about experiences of events seen with our spiritual eyes?

        To the materialist writing this article, all of this looks like sound and solid evidence that none of these spiritual experiences are real, but they are only hallucinations of an oxygen-deprived brain. However, when the testimony of eyewitnesses to a crime conflict, do we conclude that therefore no crime actually took place? It would be silly to draw that conclusion. It is just as silly to conclude that because people may have embroidered or changed their memories of their NDE or OBE over time, they didn’t actually have any experience of spiritual reality at all.

        I could go on—and I haven’t even gotten halfway through the article yet. However, this may be enough to show you why I don’t find these articles by materialists analyzing NDEs and OBEs to be convincing. They are analyzing everything from the perspective of a mind that considers physical reality to be all-important, and the only real thing that exists, and that not only rejects spiritual reality, but is profoundly ignorant of how spiritual reality works, and even of the simple fact that spiritual reality works in a different way than physical reality.

        Physical reality obeys physical laws. Spiritual reality obeys spiritual laws. Materialist expect all spiritual phenomena to operate by the laws of the physical universe. That makes no sense. It’s like expecting baseball players to play baseball according to the rules of football. No rational person would expect that. However, since materialists reject the reality of God and spirit, they have no interest in learning divine and spiritual laws, and just laugh them off when they hear about them. It would be like believing that football doesn’t exist. If someone started to explain the rules of football to such a person, he or she would laugh and say, “You’re just making that all up. There’s no such game as football!”

        • K says:

          Thanks for the informative reply.

          So I take it the transition to life after death could work like this:

          possible NDE (not everyone has NDEs near death) –> waking up from death as Swedenborg describes (with the covering removed off the left eye, etc) –> first state after death and on as Swedenborg describes?

          And while you believe NDEs aren’t hallucinatory, do you think they be like symbolic visions, kind of like what John experienced in Revelations?

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          You’re welcome.

          Of course, I haven’t died, nor have I had a near-death experience, so I can’t speak from personal experience. However, I don’t necessarily take everything in Swedenborg’s description of the process of death as a literal description of everyone’s experience of death. I think its various elements are likely experienced differently for different people. For example, the dark tunnel and entering into the light experience that many NDEers report may be their version of Swedenborg’s account of not having sight at first, but then having his eyes opened. Once again, Swedenborg had a very peaceful and analytical mind, and he was experiencing the process of death in a “controlled environment,” so to speak. He also says that he retained his thinking ability so that he could remember and report the experience. People who have traumatic deaths, as is common among NDEers, may experience things quite differently. Also, Swedenborg had already spent several years getting acclimated to the spiritual world when he had his experience of dying. Most people will be completely unprepared for the experience of death, and won’t be observing it with their thinking, analytical mind as Swedenborg did.

          In short, no, I don’t think people have something like an NDE and then experience what Swedenborg did. I think different people have different experiences of death depending upon their character and on the specific circumstances of their death. Some who die peacefully in their sleep may have an experience very similar to Swedenborg’s. Others who die as a result of trauma such as an auto accident or a cardiac arrest among frantic doctors and nurses in the hospital may experience it quite differently.

          I am aware that Swedenborg presents his description as “how people experience death.” But even his two accounts of his own death experience, first in Arcana Coelestia and later in Heaven and Hell, have significant variations in how he describes it. And in general, there are many things Swedenborg says that Swedenborgians commonly read as universal statements, but that I think are better read as generalizations.

          I do think that once people go through their initial experience of death, whatever it may be, they then usually go on to experience the first, second, and for those heading to heaven, third stages after death before moving on to their final home in either heaven or hell. But even here, Swedenborg states that some people skip these stages altogether and go directly to their place in heaven or hell immediately after death. Once again, I think it is good not to get too literal and absolute about Swedenborg’s descriptions of the experience of death and the process that follows.

          Though there are many common elements of NDEs, such as the dark tunnel, entering the light, seeing friends and relatives, arriving at a border, and so on, not all NDEs have all of these elements, and there is great variety among different NDEs. Swedenborg experienced the death process only once, and only under particular circumstances. Even he may have experienced it differently under different circumstances. So I think it’s good to keep an open mind about exactly how any particular person will experience death and its aftermath. I believe that God and the angels tailor it to each particular person based on their character, experience, and needs.

          On your second question, the line between hallucinations, visions, and experiences of the spiritual world is not as cut-and-dried as people commonly think. All of them are spiritual experiences of one sort or another. Some are distorted, disturbing, and even evil. Others are clear, uplifting, and good.

          The spiritual world encompasses both heaven and hell, not to mention the world of spirits in between. Similarly, spiritual experiences of various kinds can be dominated by heaven, by hell, or by the world of spirits in their character and feel. Some of them, as I said, are like being in a spiritual movie theater, which can show various genres of “movies,” from comedy and romance to horror and post-apocalyptic dystopia. Other spiritual experiences are like walking in the streets and countryside of the spiritual world and experiencing what is there.

          John’s vision in Revelation was, I believe, in the nature of a spiritual movie shown to John to communicate various symbols and prophecies of spiritual events.

          Many hallucinations express the fears or hopes of the people who have them. Even drug-induced hallucinations are still spiritual experiences, despite the fact that they are often fleeting, confused, and garbled. NDEs, while sometimes also dim and occasionally even disturbing, are generally clearer and more coherent, but don’t necessarily involve an experience of the spiritual world as it is ordinarily experienced by the angels and spirits who live there. Many of them, I think, are more like spiritual movies.

          All of these experiences, positive and negative, dim and clear, draw on the contents of the minds and hearts of those who experience them. The spiritual world itself does this as part of its basic “operating system.” In the spiritual world, everything around us is a reflection of what is within us. So the idea that because dreams, visions, and hallucinations draw upon a person’s experience and the contents of his or her mind and imagination means that these are merely products of the human brain, and not experiences of a distinct spiritual realm, shows a lack of knowledge of how the spiritual realm works. The spiritual world is a reflection of our experience and the contents of our mind. Dreams, hallucinations, and visions happen according to the laws of spiritual reality, which is the world of the human mind and heart. And even full waking consciousness in the spiritual world presents us with a reflection all around us of the thoughts, feelings, desires, and aspirations that are within us.

        • K says:

          So if I read you right, at death people are in a state of transition between life and afterlife where “movies” (NDEs) may occur, but after that, one is fully awake in the spiritual world, which would mean perception could see the spiritual world for what it really is, as in more or less how people in full waking consciousness see this life?

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Of course, “movies” is a metaphor. The experiences NDEers have are real, and they do reflect actual events and the mind and heart of the person going through the experience. The friends and relatives that NDEers often meet are generally those actual people. But no, an NDE is not the same as ordinary waking consciousness in the spiritual world. That doesn’t come until after the transition of death has been completed, and the deceased person settles into a new life in the spiritual world. NDEers aren’t in the spiritual world long enough for that to happen, so their reports are not of ordinary life in the spiritual world, but of experiences in the the transitional period from this world to the next. A few very long and detailed NDEs do come close to the experience of ordinary life in the spiritual world, but such NDEs are rare, and even those NDEers haven’t spent long enough time in the spiritual world to get a solid grasp of the overall picture of the afterlife.

          This is one of the main differences between the experiences of NDEers and that of Swedenborg. Swedenborg spent nearly three decades with regular access to full waking consciousness in the spiritual world. This gave him plenty of time to get acclimated and learn what ongoing life in the spiritual world is like. That is a major reason why, though I don’t necessarily take Swedenborg’s description of the dying process as a description of how everyone experiences the spiritual world, I do take his description of the spiritual world, its regions, and what life is like in heaven, hell, and the world of spirits to be far more reliable than the snippets we get from NDEers. NDEers collectively give us much more information about the process of dying than Swedenborg could give us with his single prearranged experience of it. But Swedenborg gives us far more experience about ongoing life in the spiritual world than do NDEers, who never make it beyond the threshold of the afterlife.

        • K says:

          Thanks again for the reply.

          I admit I find NDEs to be kind of disturbing.

          It’s like a group of American tourists who go to Tokyo, and then describe what it’s like upon returning. One reports that Tokyo is a dark forest filled with floating orbs. Another says it’s like a sea of organic forms of quicksilver. And yet another says there’s towers of crystals everywhere in golden light. Upon hearing the reports, one may question if any of them really even went there at all.

          I don’t think I’d like it if the afterlife after the transition were as inconsistent as NDEs — even between two angels in the same community.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          NDEs in general don’t have the clarity that Swedenborg offers in his writings. I attribute this to the short and fleeting nature of NDEs, and to the lack of experience, context, and objectivity on the part of those experiencing them.

          Think of several prehistoric cave-dwellers being suddenly transported to modern Tokyo, then back to their own time and environment, and attempting to describe the experience to their fellow cave-dwellers. In their attempts to put into the language of their own cultural experience things that go beyond anything they have ever experienced, they might give just such strange and conflicting descriptions as you mention. The experience was real; they simply don’t have any adequate categories of experience or language with which to comprehend and describe it.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          To respond to another part of your comment:

          Angels living in the same community of heaven experience a common environment because they are in a community of heart and mind with one another. Different communities have different environments there just as different communities here on earth have different environments—some in the tropics, some in the desert, some urban, some rural, and so on. But the angels in one community don’t see it as completely different from the way the other angels of that community see it. One angel couple isn’t living in the tropics while their next-door neighbors are living in the arctic.

          There is consistency in the environment of heaven because the ruling love of the angels who live there never changes to eternity. Further, the angels who live together in one community do so because they share common ruling loves. So although there is some change and variation that takes place along with the passage of events just as there is here on earth, the basic nature of the community and its environment does not change, and is seen in common by all of the angels in that community.

          Further, in the spiritual world people who travel to particular regions and communities do so by putting themselves into the mindset of that region and community. So although, once again, visitors may occasion some variations in the community and environment just as they do here on earth, they don’t bring about any fundamental change to the places they visit.

          Don’t worry about things in heaven being ever-changing, fleeting, and insubstantial. The basic nature of the angels living there, which is determined by their ruling love, ensures that there is an ongoing stability to the scenery of the various parts of heaven.

          In the world of spirits things do change more over time because there are always new and different people entering it as the previous residents leave for their eternal homes in either heaven or hell. And the evil spirits in hell commonly alternate between living in a fantasy world and recognizing the reality of their situation, resulting in illusions of grandeur alternating with wallowing in filth and slime.

          But in heaven, life is stable and dependable over time, even if there are variations along the way, because the character of the angels is stable and dependable. Also, angels see things in the light of heaven, which is truth. This keeps them aware of the true nature of things, and gives them clear vision.

        • K says:

          Thanks again for the insights.

          I guess a good summary of what you said is that objectively, the transition between this world and the next may resemble what Swedenborg experienced. But subjectively, the experience of waking up from death can be quite dreamlike, differing from person to person. After the transition is complete, the spirit is fully awake in the new world.

          Is it also true that we sleep for 3 days after death before being awakened?

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          That would be one way to put it. I do think the experience of death varies for different people. And if people don’t experience a rolling of a covering off their eye starting from the left, then did it “objectively” happen? I think the main point is that at some point in the process people’s spiritual eyes are opened, regardless of exactly how it happens.

          The idea that we are awakened from death on the third day seems to be a tradition based on the resurrection of Jesus, which is said in the Bible to have taken place on the third day (counting both the day of death and the day of resurrection, so actually two days later). In a few places Swedenborg does mention in passing that people are resuscitated on the third day, but this seems to be a reference to when they become fully awake and aware in the spiritual world, having passed through the entire transition from this world to the next. In his chapter in Heaven and Hell on our revival from death and entry into the spiritual world (starting at #445), he says that resuscitation takes place as soon as the breathing and heartbeat stop, meaning immediately upon death. And NDEers certainly do report an immediate awakening in the spiritual world, not a delay of two or three days.

      • K says:

        So once the transition from the physical to the spiritual is complete at death — which could go like Swedenborg experienced it but not nessecarily — the world of spirits and beyond becomes more real and “solid” than the physical, at least aside from the fantasies of evil spirits?

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Yes, that’s about the size of it.

          The transition state is somewhat dreamlike and surreal even in Swedenborg’s recounting of it. At first he couldn’t see anything, and heavenly angels communicated almost directly with his mind. Then he was given sight in an unusual and metaphorical way. He then describes a process of various angels coming and going, or more accurately, the person leaving one set of angels and being welcomed by another set of angels or good spirits, and so on. None of this takes place in a state of ordinary living of the sort we experience here on earth.

          To use a prosaic earthly example, it’s like the process of moving from one house to another. There is a period of transition that interrupts our regular daily routines until we get ourselves set up in our new home and resume those routines there. Similarly, once people have gone through their transitional phase after death they settle back into their regular routines in the world of spirits, and things get normal again. As Swedenborg puts it:

          When spirits leave the company of angels, they are welcomed by the good spirits who are accompanying them and who also do all they can for them. However, if they had led the kind of life in the world that makes it impossible for them to be in the company of good people, then they want to get away from these as well. This happens as long and as many times as necessary, until they find the company of people their earthly life has fitted them for. Here they find their life; and remarkable as it may sound, they then lead the same kind of life they had led in the world. (Heaven and Hell #450)

          Swedenborg goes on to say that our initial stage of transition from this world to the next does not last more than a few days. This suggests that most NDEers never make it beyond this transitional, somewhat dream-like phase. They simply aren’t in the spiritual world long enough.

          Those continuing on in the spiritual world go on to live in the world of spirits for a longer or shorter period. There they make the transition from living the way they did in the world, and showing the same face they did to the world, to living in a way that is fully expressive of their true inner nature, and showing a face to others that fully expresses that true inner nature. All of this, though, takes place in a state of “ordinary life,” meaning we continue to go about our days and our daily activities during this time. And that continues on into our permanent life in heaven or hell, with the differences I already mentioned.

        • K says:

          You mention “a state of ‘ordinary life,’ meaning we continue to go about our days and our daily activities.”

          However, the afterlife is nowhere near as mundane and limited as Earth is, at least past the first state after death?

          I remember reading that Swedenborg once met a newly arrived spirit who was shocked to find he was floating in the air a little — when he believed he was still in the world.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Yes, life in the spiritual world does go far beyond life in this world. However, that’s not a matter of life there being utterly different than life here on earth, but rather a matter of life here on earth being lifted up to a whole new level. In the spiritual world we have bodies with all of their usual body parts, brains that think, feet that walk, and hands that do things. But our capabilities are much more developed and refined than they are here.

          Here on earth we can indeed fly, but it takes some complicated equipment to make that happen. In the spiritual world, it is possible to fly without all of that technology. It’s not as though flying is something that just doesn’t happen here on earth; but doing so in the spiritual world is nowhere near as difficult as it is here.

          By “a state of ordinary life” I mean that we don’t live some weird, surreal existence in the spiritual world, but we go about our day doing the things we enjoy doing, having relationships with people we love and care about, playing games, reading books, and doing all of the other things we do here on earth. Only there, everything is raised to a higher level because we are living in the spiritual world rather than in the material world.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Oh, and the very fact that things were so similar in the spiritual world that the newly arrived spirit thought he was still in the world until he noticed that he was walking on air also shows what I mean by “a state of ordinary life.”

  12. Erin says:

    What do you make of Eben Alexander saying that he was told “there is nothing you can do wrong”?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Erin,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. I mentioned Dr. Alexander’s experience and book, not because I agree with everything he says, but because it is an especially compelling case of a scientist and a skeptic coming around to belief in an afterlife through his own personal experience of it. There certainly are things that people can do that are wrong. Yes, it’s possible to learn from them, and that’s good, but the actions themselves are still wrong and evil because they do real and sometimes lasting damage to others and to oneself.

      • Erin says:

        I agree that it seems a bit ridiculous to say you can not do wrong. I’m not sure why he doesn’t question that himself. I guess what I find disturbing about it is that he claims to have been told this & is pretty emphatic about it. In my mind that brings in to question all of his testimony.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Erin,

          Just because someone is wrong about something, that doesn’t mean that all of what they experience is invalid. Rather, it means that we humans are fallible and mistake-prone when it comes to interpreting and expressing our experience. Even things we “heard from heaven” can be mistaken, because they are heard through the filter of our already existing mind. What the angels say to us may not be what we hear.

          This sort of thing happens all the time in our relationships with one another here on earth. We think that someone said X to us, but what they really said was Y. However, we heard X because that’s what we were expecting to hear, and therefore that’s how we interpreted what they said, even though that’s not what they meant at all.

          The human mind is a complex thing. Even in reporting physical experiences, such as a crime scene, we often “remember” things that didn’t actually happen, or that happened differently than we remember them. Why would it be any different for our experiences of the spiritual world?

          This is why the particular details of what people report is often not all that critical, even if the overall experience of the spiritual world was a genuine one. When two or three witnesses to a crime report it differently, we don’t conclude that there was no crime. Rather, we look for the overall patterns, and build up a more coherent picture from the entire body of physical evidence and witness testimony.

  13. Foster caldaroni says:

    Maybe this Eben Alexander was communicating with a demon, trying to convince him he can be as evil as he wants and in the end it wont matter?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      If it was a demon, that demon failed miserably. Alexander has completely failed to “be as evil as he wants.” 😉

      More likely, Alexander was told that, for example, “None of the evil you have done will be held against you if you turn away from it and do what is good instead” (see Ezekiel 18:21-22), but he heard it as, “Nothing you have done is evil. It’s all good.”

    • Lee says:

      Hi Foster,

      I should add that unlike demons, who focus on the evil in us, draw it out of us, and then condemn us for it, angels focus on the good in us and draw it out, while de-emphasizing and excusing the evil in us.

      It is likely that Dr. Alexander felt this atmosphere of love and acceptance despite his awareness of his own wrongs and evils, and came away feeling that nothing he had done was damning. This is how angels want us to feel, not because they condone our evil actions, but because they want to weaken the hold of evil on us and turn us toward what is good instead.

      So to give a non-flippant answer, I don’t think Dr. Alexander was communicating with demons, who would have focused on how evil Dr. Alexander is, but rather with angels, who would focus on the good in him, and excuse the evil in him.

      For some fascinating passages related to this, see Secrets of Heaven #741, 761, 1088:2.

  14. AJ749 says:

    Hi lee, sorry if this catches you at a bad time, i was just wondering what you thoughts and what you think sweedenborg would say about NDEs where the person says they saw a personal future event that they then say came true??

    Because as far as ive seen its only ever been said to have come true by the actual person but not a researcher.

    • Lee says:

      Hi AJ749,

      It’s a good question. Though NDEers often report having received accurate predictions of future events, it’s hard to pin down whether any of those predictions actually did foretell the future. This is for the same reason that predictions in the Bible are so notoriously hard to pin down, and why skeptics have a field day with them. Predictions in the Bible, in near-death experiences, and in other spiritual experiences, while they may have material-world analogs, really aren’t about material things, but about spiritual things. The residents of the spiritual world aren’t concerned with physical reality, but with spiritual reality. They are not concerned with wars and rumors of wars, but with the changes in the human mind and heart that accompany wars and rumors of wars. Though spiritual messages often come in the garb of material people, objects, and events, those material-world subjects are metaphors for deeper issues of the life and journey of the human spirit, individually and collectively.

      In short, any “predictions of the future” in NDEs are not really about physical events, but about coming changes in the spiritual state of particular individuals and of human society generally. That’s why they often don’t come to pass literally and physically. That wasn’t what they were really about in the first place.

      And that’s why materialists will continue to “debunk” NDE experiences, and believe that they are mere hallucinations. Materialists are . . . materialists. They focus on physical things. And that’s simply not what NDEs are about.

      • AJ749 says:

        Hi lee thanks for the reply , ive been looking at alot of Kenneth ring and what he said about apparent future apparitions and as well as skeptics saying its all false. it was interesting to see the more Ring looked in to the subject the more he viewed it metaphorically or symbolically, its also interesting that once you have grips on what sweedenborg says about all this it ties together both views of NDEs and skeptics in the sense of the future events as in they do happen but spiritually not physically so in a way both parties are right

        • Lee says:

          Hi AJ749,

          Yep, that just about sums it up. Anyone who looks deeply into these things would have a hard time sustaining a literal, physical view of the subject matter of near-death experiences.

      • AJ749 says:

        Hi lee this may sound like another stupid question but is the reason why people are shown things such as earthquakes, nuclear distasters and so on because of the time we live in e.g as the physical world evolves so does the spiritual which is why people see nuclear distasters and terrorism ? because for people in the book of revelation they were different events to what some have been shown more recently .

        • Lee says:

          Hi AJ749,

          That is actually a very good question. Much more so than you may realize.

          Yes, the spiritual world does evolve along with the physical world. That’s not because of anything physical, though, but because the spiritual world consists of people who have lived in the physical world. As the human society here on earth grows, changes, and progresses, so does the human society of the spiritual world because its population comes from the population of this earth—and of any other planets in the material universe that may be populated by intelligent life.

          Meanwhile, when spiritual realities are translated into material-world analogs via the human mind, they are expressed in the current “memes” if you will, of human society here on earth.

          In Bible times, there were floods, earthquakes, famines, wealth and poverty, wars, invasions, captivities, slavery, and so on. These were some of the memes of those cultures, drawn out of their individual and cultural experiences. And these therefore became the metaphors in which the Bible story was expressed. Their spiritual significance relates to the significance of those events in the lives of the peoples and cultures that experienced them.

          Today we have many of the same memes, but we also have new ones, such as nuclear holocaust and post-apocalyptic wastelands; computers, robots, and artificial intelligence; extraterrestrials, UFOs, and alien abductions; big corporations and big government; sports heroes, platinum recording artists, and TV celebrities; and so on. These themes now provide major metaphors for the human condition in our culture. If the Bible were written today, it would be filled with these metaphors instead of being filled with shepherds, fishermen, and Roman soldiers. Instead of swords there would be Uzis. Instead of robes there would be three piece suits. Instead of the Jewish High Priest and the Sanhedrin there would be the Pope, the megachurches, and the televangelists.

          In other words, God speaks to us not only in our language, but in the “language” of our cultural experience. For more on this, please see:
          How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads

  15. AJ749 says:

    Massive thank you for that answer it has mightily helped me !!

  16. Donovan says:

    From the research I’ve been doing lately, it seems like there’s hundreds of years of reports of the afterlife being similar to what our world is here, not in the clouds floating around. As someone put said, it’s like changing the channel on the TV and with all of the reports and documentation, it’s as if thousands of people went to Fiji and came back to tell their story. All different experiences but centered around the same place.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Donovan,

      Yes. That is the very example I used in Part 2 of the article, “Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?” What if we blindfolded twelve Americans, airlifted them to different parts of Australia, let them walk around there for an hour, blindfolded them again, and airlifted them back out? Would their descriptions of Australia all be the same? And yet, they all went to the same continent and country.

      • Donovan says:

        Oh yea I remember reading you did say that. Very good example. Cant really deny something that is as consistent as that over the centuries, but remember “skeptics gonna skept… skept…skept”

  17. Lindsay says:

    My daddy just recently died on August 8th and I’m only 24 years old and he lived a life full of loneliness and depression and a bunch of mental illnesses which I inherited. However, go through the same sadness and struggles that my dad did and he was the most important person in the world to me. I felt like our souls were one. Identical. And I told him I still needed him and to be strong for me but his addictions got the best of him. But my daddy was the most God fearing man I ever met and he was the most beautiful person I ever met in my life. His intentions were so pure and he loved me more than anything in the world. He just had a very hard life and couldn’t cope with it. My dad read the Bible every day and I have piles of music he wrote and scriptures and just random positive and hopeful things he would write down. I guess it helped him. He stayed so positive and hopeful even though he was dying inside. I’m glad my dad is finally at peace but he left me here and I don’t feel him around anymore. I feel so lost and alone and my anxiety and depression and bipolar and adhd issues are getting so much worse. I can’t stop thinking about him or crying for more than 10 minutes at a time. I can’t eat sleep or even leave my bedroom the past three days. And ever since he died I’ve been seeing things and hearing things. Voices. High vibrations and buzzing sounds. My body aches. And I feel like I’m losing grip of reality. I can’t accept the fact that my daddy left me. He was my world. His emotions made mine. I felt whatever he felt. I loved him so much. I can’t live my life not knowing. Not knowing if my dad is okay. If he was in pain when he died. What was going through his mind when he died. Was he scared? How can I know when he’s around me or how can I make him come visit me and let me know he’s okay? Does he even still remember his past life? Does he remember me? I need some positive vibrations please. I’m so sad and broken. I just want to see my daddy again and hug him and tell him I love him

    • Lee says:

      Hi Lindsay,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s struggles and his death, and about your hurt and loneliness. Life can be hard and painful. I can’t take away your pain, but I hope I can give you some comfort about your father, where he is, what he’s experiencing, and whether he is still with you.

      We know both from thousands of near-death experiences and from the testimony of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) that although people do, of course, often feel pain here on earth in the process of dying, as soon as their spirit leaves their body, the pain goes away. They are immediately in the presence of loving angels who surround them with peacefulness and warmth. Whatever pain your father might have been feeling up to his death, that pain was over as soon as he died.

      After the initial transition into the spiritual world, you father will return to a life similar to the one he had here on earth. However, there will be a difference. He has now left his physical body behind, and is living in his spiritual body instead. This means that any part of his mental illness and his struggles with addiction that were based on issues in his physical body and brain, such as chemical imbalances and brain malfunctions, will now be gone. He won’t have to struggle with them anymore. Of course, there will still be the mental and emotional part of his struggles. He is still the same person. But he will have the help of the angels to overcome his inner struggles—and angels are very skilled “therapists.”

      The most important thing is that in the spiritual world, regardless of any struggles in this life, whatever is in our heart is what determines our eternal home. People who are good and caring and loving despite struggles with mental illness, addiction, depression, and so on will, before long, leave all those struggles behind, and live the good life that is in their heart. From your description of your father’s inner goodness of character, I can assure you that he is now on the path to heaven, even if he still may have a few struggles left on the way before he can completely leave behind the darkness of his earthly life.

      Finally, in the spiritual world, we are close to or distant from people according to our closeness to them in love and affection. This applies to our closeness to the spirit of people still living on earth as well. Though you may not necessarily feel him there, your father is still close to you in spirit because the two of you love each other and are close to each other in spirit. If you do feel his presence at times, that is not an illusion or a hallucination. He really is there. And when you think of him with love, he can feel your love for him.

      And yes, he still has all his memories of his life on earth, and especially of his times with you.

      For more on what you father is now experiencing, please see:
      What Happens To Us When We Die?

      About your own situation, of course you are going to feel much pain and grief in the aftermath of your father’s death. That is something we just have to make our way through when someone we love dies. Even if we know they are still themselves on the other side, it is hard when they are no longer physically present with us.

      However, though you miss him terribly, please consider what your father would want for you. He would not want you to pine away for him and remain in a permanent depression due to his death. He loves you, and he wants you to have a good life. He is still with you. It gives him pain when he sees you in pain, and it will make him happy if he sees you gaining some peace and happiness in this life.

      I would therefore encourage you to reach out and get whatever help you need to stabilize your own mental and emotional state so that you will be able to move forward with your life. Your father is not gone. He’s just not visible to your physical eyes. And he wants you to be happy and do good things with your life. You’re still young. You have many years ahead of you. You will, of course, have to go through the grief of this physical separation from your father. But as you begin to recover from the initial shock, please do take the steps you need to take in order to give your father the joy and satisfaction of knowing that his beloved child is moving toward a good life here on earth. Then, when your life here on earth is over and it is your time to rejoin him, you will have many good stories to tell him, to his great joy.

      Please see also:
      What Does it Mean When My Parents Die? Will I See Them Again?

      If you have any more questions as you read these articles and turn things over in your heart, please don’t hesitate to ask. Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  18. Aruthra says:


    Is Astral Projection real? How could it help me, and how can I do it?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Aruthra,

      Yes, astral projection is possible. However, I don’t recommend trying to do it. There are too many dangers and deceptions when we dabble with spiritual powers that are beyond our knowledge and experience. If God gives you such an experience without your looking for it, then take it as a blessing. If not, then it is better to stick to “projecting” yourself in this world through love and service to your fellow human beings.

  19. Hi Lee,
    This is a really great article! I think when you have a near-death vision or near-death experience, you know it’s real, so when doctors and scientists have these experiences themselves, they finally see that what their patients were saying is true!

    Eben Alexander endured a lot of criticism for sharing his story, but I’m so glad he did. Once scientists start accepting the possibility of a spiritual world, more people will probably open their minds to it. Of course, it’s even better to have faith in God and trust that He has the best plan for our lives and the universe.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Autumn,

      People who speak openly of God and spirit from belief and experience are commonly ridiculed by materialists and skeptics. But they speak out anyway. Here is how Swedenborg put it:

      I realize many will claim that no one can talk to spirits and angels as long as bodily life continues, or that I am hallucinating, or that I have circulated such stories in order to play on people’s credulity, and so on. But none of this worries me; I have seen, I have heard, I have felt. (Secrets of Heaven #68)

      • Hi Lee,

        Yes, that’s right, I saw that quote. It really gave me encouragement to trust in my own spiritual experiences. Swedenborg was absolutely right; when you have these experiences, and see and feel them, you know it’s true. And you know God is true, too, because you feel the wonderful power of His presence.

  20. Bojian Han says:

    Thanks so much for all those articles. It feels really difficult to follow the first Great Commandment to love and worship when there is not a correct understanding of God.

  21. Ray says:

    Some people had has horrific neart death experiences about being torn apart by other demons (formerly humans). They also claimed to be atheist.

    • Ray says:

      So, to my surprise, this man is Howard Storm, who also believes in the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg. That was mind blown to me, but according to Mr. Storm, the level of sin he had committed was worthy of the brutality and violence that he had experienced. Have you ever heard of this man?

    • Ray says:

      So, upon further research, this man is named Howard Storm and he believes in the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg. According to him, what he had done was worthy of the level of violence and brutality he was subjected to.

      Have you ever heard of this man

      • Lee says:

        Hi Ray,

        Yes, I watched a few interviews with Howard Storm some years ago. He seemed to have his head on straight.

        Saying that what he had done was worthy of the level of violence and brutality he was subjected to is one way of looking at it, and it’s not necessarily wrong. However, I would say rather that what he had done had put him into a hellish state, and that state of mind was expressed in his near-death experience. I don’t think he would disagree with this, either.

        Beyond that, under God’s providence and care for us, NDEs are meant to move us forward in our spiritual life. For some people who are in a state of opposition to God, this necessarily involves going through hard and even hellish experiences to shock them out of their evil state and knock them off their downward path. Not that God does this to people. God allows evil spirits to do this to people if God sees that it’s necessary in order to break through the hard shell of people who are in negative states, and reach their heart.

        This seems to be what happened with Howard Storm. Once again, I don’t think he would disagree with this, but it’s been a long time since I watched any of his interviews and videos. If there is a particular video or article that you’re wondering about, please post a link, and I’ll take a look.

  22. K says:

    I’ve studied NDEs and they can contradict eachother, like whether or not there’s reincarnation. They’re heavily influenced by beliefs – the typical NDE in India or Thailand is very different from a typical Western one.

    I think I said this before, but I gather (and hope) the NDE is a temporary experience around the time of death, and the afterlife beyond it is just as consistent – if not moreso – than the physical (even if evil spirits can perceive things differently).

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      Yes, when people become conscious in the spiritual world, they still have their same character and beliefs that they did before. If they believed in reincarnation, or leaned in that direction, they will continue to believe that in the spiritual world, and will interpret the things they see there to support it. There will also be spirits surrounding them that have a similar character and similar beliefs, who will support their beliefs. Even angels will work within people’s existing mistaken beliefs to move them forward on their path.

      And yes, NDEs are not a full, settled experience of the spiritual world. These are transitional experiences, and they involve a lot of symbolic experiences and visions that do not reflect everyday life in the world of spirits, heaven, and hell. So although NDEs can give us a great deal of useful information about the experience of dying, and even about the nature of the spiritual world, they are not an organized and accurate presentation of the nature of the spiritual world. For that, as always, the best source is Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell, which was written and published after Swedenborg had already had over a decade of experience in the spiritual world.

      • K says:

        Thanks for the reply awhile ago.

        What of so-called “hellish” NDEs, or NDE views like of the quote below, supposedly described by a number of different people?

        “It is they (grey aliens) who await in the light when a human being dies. The human being is then recycled into another body and the process begins all over again… Hence the Light and Tunnel at death Trap. Scanning someone they wish to recycle as they near death, the aliens discover who the person was close to has died. They project the person(s) image in the white light tunnel and the image waves you in deeper. If you CHOOSE to follow you can be trapped and sent to another incarnation of their choice… these entities view Earth as a big farm.”

        – Val Valerian

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          This does not sound like a genuine NDE. It is completely at odds even with reported hellish NDEs. It sounds like someone who has a weird religious agenda imposing that agenda on a phenomenon—NDEs—that in reality doesn’t fit or support that agenda at all.

        • K says:

          That’s good.

          What concerns me is that multiple people are making the same claims though, with OBE or NDE experiences.

          I figure that if different people can piece together an eleborate yet false narrative of Revelation happening literally using current events, people can piece together an elaborate or narrative of evil forces using suffering as sustenance.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Evil forces do use suffering as sustenance. Both evil people and evil spirits thrive on the pain of others, and especially upon inflicting pain upon others.

          However, evil forces do not control our passage into the other life. God does. The idea that evil spirits, whether in the guise of “gray aliens” or in any other guise, take control of our spirits when we pass over is entirely contrary to the reality that the Lord protects us from evil spirits during that passage.

          I would suggest that hellish NDEs are really negative spiritual experiences rather than a passage into the spiritual world. Keep in mind that although we may not know who is passing over permanently to the other world and who is returning, God knows, and arranges the experience accordingly.

          This is also why, although NDEs provide valuable confirmation of what Swedenborg wrote about the spiritual world, they do not rise to the level of Swedenborg’s writings when it comes to offering a coherent picture of the afterlife. Even the deepest and lengthiest of NDEs is still shallow compared to Swedenborg’s decades of experience in the spiritual world. And no NDEer has the preparation or guidance by the Lord that Swedenborg benefited from in his travels in the spiritual world.

          Another way of saying this is that NDEs are spiritual experiences, not revelations.

        • Ray says:

          Hi Lee. What is a spiritual experience? That term stood out to me cause it sounds like it is different than being in the actual spirit world. The idea is these people actually get to Heaven and Hell and spend a few minutes there.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ray,

          Think of it as being in a spiritual movie theater. You’re taking in a spiritual show, not walking around on the streets of the spiritual world. And it’s a full-sensory, full-immersion show.

        • Ray says:

          Okay. So, it’s just visions, and I assume God is the one that puts these visions into the people suffering from NDE’s.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Ray,

          In the spiritual world it’s not quite so cut-and-dried as that. The line between visions and actual experiences is somewhat fuzzy. Mainly, I’m suggesting that NDEs may or may not reflect what everyday life is like in the spiritual world. They could be experiences of the spiritual world that are meant more for their metaphorical and personal meaning than for showing what the spiritual world is like. However, since the entire spiritual world is based on correspondences, which is a stronger term for metaphors, once again, the line between vision and experience is not as clear-cut in the spiritual world as it is in the physical world.

          tl;dr: What NDEers experience may not be what it is like to actually live in the spiritual world day-by-day after death.

      • K says:

        Also I figure if people can be told false prophecies of the future, or about reincarnation in OBE or NDE experiences, they can be told about soul-harvesting aliens too.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          There is no shortage of falsity and false narratives in the world. That is why we must use our experience and our thinking mind, not to mention Scripture, in sorting out the true from the false.

          Soul-harvesting aliens are metaphors of evil spirits that prey on people’s souls. But they can prey only on the souls of people who turn their backs on God and refuse God’s protection. They do also attack the souls of good people who are in the throes of spiritual temptation. But these good people are not helpless against the evil spirits who are assailing them. They can turn to God for strength and salvation—and God is far more powerful than all the evil spirits in hell put together.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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