After Death Experiences. “Yes, there is life after death. I have been in a deep coma for a week, in which I traveled to another dimension of the universe, a dimension that never before I could have dreamed existed”. So begins the testimony of Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon at Harvard University who had a first-person after death experience when spending seven days in a coma.
In his book Proof of Heaven, this doctor states that consciousness persists after death, even outside the body and brain. His testimony is part of a phenomenon that has as main drivers scientists whose books are becoming bestsellers and filling the charts worldwide. With them we start to witness a number of ways of dealing with death, the idea of reincarnation and facing after death experiences in a much lighter way.
After Death Experiences: What happens after we die?
It has been an ancient and eternal mystery of departure: Is there anything beyond life? After all, who would not you like to know the fate of the soul when it leaves the body?
And why do we see nowadays such an excitement towards death? The psychiatrist José Miguel Gaona has an explanation: “It is true that man has always sought transcendence. It is a universal desire from the earliest stages of history. With the advances of modern medicine and the prevention of all sorts of diseases, we encounter a constant search for longer life. What happens now is that the medical techniques have blurred the boundaries of death. A person may be, medically speaking, dead, with no heartbeat and a flat EEG and yet, come back to life“. This is usually when after death experiences occur.
Indeed, the great enigma is how the brain faces the moment of dying. Clinically, death is a process, not just one irreversible moment. This lapse of time is the closest we know to death itself, and therefore arouses much interest. 20% of people who survive a cardiac arrest describe a near-death experience (NDE). For neuroscience this is a very interesting field of research.
25 Million Resurrected
Juan Jose Lopez Martinez, author of books like The Eternal Present of the Soul, has collected during 25 years of occupation in the emergency department of Santa María del Rosell Hospital in Cartagena, hundreds of testimonials from people on their deathbed or during experiences after death. “Interestingly, everyone who has been through it tells you exactly the same,” he says.
Sam Parnia, also a doctor, has worked in emergency rooms in more than 20 hospitals around Europe and the United States, which has allowed him to investigate what happens to consciousness immediately after death. The results are found in his book Erasing Death.
And we could continue to count up to 25 million cases of people who, according to the Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel, have undergone an after death experience in the last 50 years, as he makes clear in his book Consciousness After Life.
Among them, Dr. Mary C. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon who had an accident while kayaking was declared clinically dead. In his book To Heaven and Back, she describes her brief visit to paradise and the wisdom that came with the experience after death.
The word of these physicians and researchers who published their experiences and theories, even at risk of mining their prestige, has served the cause of this strong current around death research. “So far we heard the opinions of scientists and physicians without having really studied the experiences of those who had personally lived these after death experiences, sometimes ridiculing them or using theories too reductive,” says José Miguel Gaona, who, like his colleagues, has embodied in his book Across The Tunnel his personal view on the threshold of life.
And if only to express skepticism, the most skeptical scientists also fuel this phenomenon. Dutch Neurobiology Professor Dick Swaab, for example, attributes tunnel vision experiences to lack of blood supply to the eyeball. Scientific papers worldwide are devoting very generous spaces to this matter. The very detailed revelation Eben Alexander about the existence of heaven is one that has caused major reactions in important newspapers around the world and thousands of comments on social networks. Newsweek used his after death experience in one of their covers.
Death Cafes: A place to share experiences
What’s the use in all this noise? “The attempt of understanding leads somehow to comprehend the process of death and knowing how to live without the anxiety that one day we will die.” So says the journalist Isabel Roba, promoter and coordinator of a gathering on death held in The Livrería Madrid cafeteria on the first Monday of each month. It is tangible proof that the excitement over death and transcendence has permeated Spain. Death Cafes emerged in London in 2011, and today exist in many countries around the world, with an agenda of over 900 events.
These evenings call for people of all ages and with only two requirements: respect and confidentiality of what is said there. What is told in them? “They are not therapeutic,” says Roba. “No one comes to seek comfort for the loss of a loved one. The tone is philosophical, cultural and sociological. There is talk, for example, about the meaning of life and the need to see the end of life as a kinder and less shocking event. Or the epitaph that will be inscribed in your tombstone.”
The pioneer of the Death Cafes, who has already registered the brand in London, is Jon Underwood, inspired by the open discussions over death performed by the Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. He says his next ambition is to someday have a permanent space, something like a Chair of Death.
And of course, now that anyone can have their own opinion in a subject that seemed exclusive to medical professionals, interest in after death experiences begins to appear in the digital communities. “Technology”, explains Lopez Martinez, “is allowing information around these concerns and uncertainties to be shared more quickly and massively, although they are the same as always.”
Researching the Afterlife
Even bereavement is displayed around Facebook nowadays. One of the most influential groups around the subject is the “Tunnel Project”, where nearly 10,000 people, of which approximately 10% have experienced after death experiences, share comments on such issues.
“In this sort of groups,” says the psychiatrist, “We observe the therapeutic power of people who have experienced a near-death experience and had never communicated it to anyone comfortably. The contact between them helps establish a space in which they can tell their experiences freely without fear of being seen as crazy or weirdos.”
An Interesting Mortician
The Californian mortician Caitlin Doughty founded the Order of the Good Death, which has thousands of followers on YouTube. From her private sitting room of death, this young and sexy mortician answers all kind of questions; through the new Hall of Death, which helps people overcome phobias. 29-year-old Caitlin has become the leader of the acceptance of death, a new movement calling for commitment to the afterlife.
If, as José Miguel Gaona says, we are programmed to fear emptiness, it is logical that human beings try to find a way to transcend. Some of the latest tricks of science to indefinitely postpone death include: cloning, genetic modification and other technological devices to repair the ravages of age and to keep the brain alive, copying and storing its information.
Physicist Stephen Hawking became one of the most famous atheists after stating that God was not needed for the universe to be created. A fervent supporter of this possibility, Hawking supports the scientifical battle against death and keeps searching for eternity. A future that is on the minds of many contemporary scientists.
For the Western world, death is the strongest competitor of success and beauty; and however, we must win the war. This is the purpose of Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and the fifth richest person in the world. A man who has been able to acquire a small island in Hawaii and almost everything it contains, including its cemetery, just despises one thing: not being able to buy eternity. But he can try. So far, he has agreed to pay 30 million euros annually to fight, if not against death, at least against diseases and disorders that shorten life. This explains how, according to the consulting firm Global Industry Analyst, the immortality business handles around 60 billion euros every year.
This business cannot be disregarded by the ubiquitous Google, who has embarked through the company Calico, in the search for a drug capable of prolonging life with biotechnology and digital tools.
José Miguel Gaona closely follows another of the most ambitious projects in this regard, 2045, financed by Russian billionaire Dymitry Itzkov: “A number of robots and avatars will allow us to achieve freedom from consciousness and house it in quantum systems”. If all goes as planned, in 2045 we will see a holographic avatar of man capable of keeping all the contents of the human mind.
Real Examples of After Death Experiences
At this point, there should be very few people in the world who have lived near or after death experiences and have not made it public. It is indeed a hot topic in the publishing and film world since, after all, appeals to the great concern of the human being, which is what will happen once it leaves this world. Knowing that there is something beyond death, though not necessarily a paradise, is a suitable comfort in post-religious times.
Another popular place where those who have lived after death experiences can share their stories is Reddit, surely one of the most populous forum networks, and for that reason, an environment suitable to investigate such experiences. Just over a month ago, a user in the network who had died twice explained what he felt, a story that quickly jumped to the media worldwide. r00tdude, such was the lucky revived, compared his experience with a nap. No lights at the end of the tunnel or angelic singing: his was more like taking a nap after a binge.
Curiously, as explains an article in The Independent, almost all these testimonies fall into one of three broad categories: those who, as with r00tdude, did not feel anything special during their walk in the other neighborhood; those who, in cardiac arrest, saw or felt an otherworldly connection with some sort of entity; and finally, those who were aware of everything going on around them.
We could consider another fourth group: the one formed by pranksters, trolls and other characters from the network dedicated to confusion, sometimes being quite funny, I must say. Below we highlight some of the most revealing comments posted on the after death experiences forum:
The man whose memory was not working
“I fainted in a workshop in February 2015 and had no pulse or heart rate during the following five minutes,” explains funkshovel. “My last memory is one hour before the incident, and the next, two days later, when I came out of a medically induced coma. I came to be aware half a day before my brain started to record new memories, so I repeated the same three questions for hours. In the end my wife and friends began to make up answers because they hated to see the fear on my face each time they told me what had happened. I think anterograde amnesia is the way the brain tells you “You do not need to know what happened during this time”.
No nothing equals nothing
“I fainted during a class presentation. All breathing and blood circulation stopped. I felt like I was falling into an infinite hole while my colleagues asked for help. I lived, and I still have no memory of space and time before or after my death, “says rgm0127.
Death induced by drugs?
“Heroin overdose, the doctors told me that my heart had stopped. I saw nothing, as if I were asleep without dreaming,” explains the user zombiechesty. Others also contribute with their bit, as with The Wiebat: “The same thing happened to me with an overdose of heroin and Xanax. I remember suddenly waking up in the ambulance when I was revived and could hear doctors yelling at me when they said I had returned from death. It was exactly as you describe: dreamless sleep. The thought was terrifying; I hope there is more to life once our time on this earth is over, but having experienced such nothingness is really terrifying. I’m not religious in any way, but the concept of living a life so empty makes me want to believe in something else”.
The fourth dimension
One of the longest testimonies is contributed by SEGAspergers: “I fell from the third dimension into… another dimension? It is difficult to explain. I could see that the people around me were scared. I could look at everything from all angles and perspectives. I saw the same experience from an infinite number of points of views with small differences, people looked a little different. All got together as a fractal in motion.” During this process, he began remembering random and forgotten episodes of his life.
It’s hard not to remember Christopher Nolan’s movie Interstellar while reading the description of this after death experience: “There were entities. Among the images of fractals I could see multicolored bands where realities came together, I focused on them and there were also black areas with no realities, border areas, I guess. There the entities discovered me, when I focused on their spaces. They seemed very interested in my presence there.” In the end, he decided to return to life finding his way back to the reality from which he had departed.
The mother who came to rescue
The user Usagii_YO explains how it felt to spend five minutes clinically dead when she was 8, after drowning in the pool at the YMCA. “Realizing the gravity of the situation made me stay where I was, while my body was taken to the hospital and probably the morgue. As I realized I was dead, an intense feeling of a maternal presence warmly began to materialize. I had no idea who that was, it simply insisted that I calmed down because there was nothing to worry about. It made me count down from five. With number one I got up in the ambulance.”
Read also: Do Christians Believe In Reincarnation?
The heart that stopped
This is the story of a young man who fainted after receiving two injections, and his heart stopped for a moment: “Everything melted into white. The tunnel was really neat. There was no family, no friends, no messages, only white. Only that peace, calm, completeness. I had never felt in my life so pleasantly calm, relaxed and refreshed.” Another shot, this time from epinephrine, made him come back to life with one of the worst hangovers that a human being can experience.
The man who lived a Frank Capra movie
Some of these stories, as with SarenVea, sound straight out of a Hollywood movie: “There was a fog around me, and I saw my best friend (with whom at that time had a fight and had stopped talking) out of herself. She said that I could not leave, that I should keep fighting, and that if I promised not to give up, I would return to Earth.” So did she, and the next day, she received an email from her best friend.