Knocking on Heaven’s Door:  The Near Death Experience

April 16, 1992




            We are a people that celebrate birth and mourn death. But should we really mourn for those that die? Do people die or are they just reborn into another place. Is there life after death, death as we know it?

            A majority of Americans (71%) believe that there is life after death. The question posed in this report is whether or not people have the ability to encounter the afterlife before their death?

is estimated that one in five adults within the United States has undergone a Near Death Experience (NDE). What is a near death experience? As generally defined, this phenomenon exists when an individual can recount a separation of consciousness from the physical body while in a state of clinical death.

            Only about a decade ago, did the world begin to hear about a curious but intriguing phenomenon called near death experiences. A psychiatrist named Raymond Moody published a book in 1975 called, Life after Life documenting the case studies of NDE patient, giving birth to the immensely popular belief of life after death. This annotative report will look at different articles supporting as well as discounting the near death experiences. This report will cite examples of case studies of actual people that have experienced NDEs. This report will look at the views of psychologist, psychiatrist, and health care professionals on the near death experience, and finally this report will tell you just what is experienced in an NUE.

            My stand on this subject is straight and to the point, I am a Catholic and believe in life after death. I believe that we do not really die but are taken to another place. I believe that Cod does give those that are near death the opportunity to view what it is like in the other world. I hope to prove this in the following report and show that these experiences are a gateway to another life, a brief encounter with God, a taste of what is to come.



Ring, Kenneth(1986). Near death experiences: Implications for human evolution and planetary transformation. ReVision, 8(2), 75-85

            This article talks about the founder of the near death experience movement, Raylmond Moody, whose book entitled, Life after Life captured the attention of millions of people and opened the eyes of people to this phenomenon of near death experiences. The article goes on to say that over forty percent of all those that experience clinical “death’, also experience NDE’s. The author goes on to say that those who experience NDEs show a generalized awakening of higher human potential as well as a radical spiritual transformation. The author is quick to point out that although they have experienced a deep inward change in their spiritual awareness, it has not made them more outwardly religious in their behavior. Mr. Ring goes on to say that he believes that it is possible and plausible to regard the near death experience as playing a critical role in personal development. I cannot help but wonder if he is saying that those who experience NDEs are more fulfilled as people than those of us that have not experienced it. He hypothesizes that maybe the high rate of NDEs collectively represents an evolutionary thrust toward a higher consciousness.

            The article goes on to say that we live in hope as well as fear that this phenomenon known as near death experiences holds out a powerful message of hope to humanity that even, and perhaps especially in its darkest moments, the Light comes to show us the way onward. It is up to us whether we have the courage and the wisdom to follow where it beckons.

            Mr. Ring has some very interesting points that he makes throughout his article. I must say that I never thought of NDEs as a growth process for humans, but after he stated this it did make sense. I remember Dr. Jakbovits saying that we are constantly undergoing change physically as well as mentally. I also agree with his statement that those experiencing NDEs have had immense personal development. After having such a profound experience, I do not see how it could not affect you. This experience hardly appears to be a passing fad, but one that continues to powerfully hold our attention.



Klinkenborg, Verlyn (1992). At the Edge of Eternity. Life, March, 65-73.

            This article list case studies of people who have experienced the r and interview them. It lists what they experience and how it has affected their lives. -

It seems that all those that have experienced NDE’s have very similar as well as very vivid memories of the occurrence. The near death experience starts with the spiritual being released from the physical body. They are out of pain and are able to see their physical body. They then are transported to a tunnel, with a light that is very bright at the end. They feel nothing but love and warmth in the tunnel. There is no fear, as they walk towards the light. Stories tend to vary as to what they see but at the same instance they are told they must go back and it is not there time to die. Even though they do not want to go back, they are thrust back into their physical bodies.

            In one account, this woman is clinically dead, she sees her body on the table in the emergency room and them she is in a tunnel. She reports that she feels the most incredible, warm, golden light. She says that she was in the light, part of the light. She goes on to say that their is a presence in the light, a wisdom and the wisdom knew her and loved her. She says that she felt wind brushing up against her ears, but she had no ears, she was there but her body was not. Everything she had done and felt was there for her to see, she was then shown that she had to go back and in the same fragment of a second she was back in her body. I found it interesting that all those experiencing the NDE phenomenon had accounts that were almost identical, yet the world of science has not fully accepted this as real.



Cabbard, Glen and Twemlow, Stuart (1981). Explanatory Hypotheses for Near Death Experiences. ReVision, 4(2), 66—71.

            This article tries to disprove the phenomenon of NDE by listing several hypotheses on the shared experiences of those hat that are documented as clinically dead. They claim that the reason those that have NDEs share common experiences is because this is what we are taught by our community. They claim that all out of body experiences have one thing in common— a characteristic array of defenses designed to ward off anxiety originating from the threatened disintegration of the ego, from the breakdown of the body image, and from the fear of death. The authors go on to say that the only reason why NDE is such a huge phenomenon is because it comforts us from our dilemma regarding the meaning of life and the finality of death. I found this article to be very hard to swallow. I found there to many holes in there logic. To be considered clinically dead your brain dead also. They do not explain how those experiencing NDE did it if they were brain dead. Also NDE is not a new thing. It has been reported as far back as the time of the Egyptians. People who claim they had no religion and experienced NDE are not explained in the authors hypotheses either. In class, we were told that only in math are there finite answers. Just because you cannot physically see something or prove its existence doesn’t mean it is not there.



Walker, Barbara (1989). Health Care Professionals and the Near Death Experience. Death Studies, 13, 63—71.

            This article discusses the need for health care providers to be more understanding to those individuals that experience NDE. It is estimated that one five adults within the United States has undergone a near death experience. As generally defined, this phenomenon exists when an individual can recount a separation of consciousness from the physical body while in a state of clinical death. The author says that although most health care providers will individually acknowledge concern over the mental health of the NDE patient, these needs are seldom allowed a place within the health care system.

            The author states that the health care provider must be helpful as well as non-judgmental in assessing the accounts of the NDE survivor.

            The article goes on to cite examples of health care professionals that were not open to NDE. A boy tried to commit suicide because he wanted to return to the place he was yet no psychiatrist would believe him- A woman went into a depression for ten years because her psychiatrist told her to keep quiet about the NDE or people would think you are crazy. The examples go on and on- The author states that it is imperative the health care professionals help NDE survivors “normalize” as well as talk about it instead of dwelling on it and keeping it to yourself.

            I was shocked that health care professionals would act this way. With all the published reports and articles written on the subject, you would think they would be a little more open minded.



Groth-Marnat, Gary and Schumalcer, Jack (1989). The Near Death Experience: A Review and Critique. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 29(1), 109—133

            This article summarizes the I’JDE. The authors write that history and research on NDE are reviewed and evaluated fewer than five categories: Frequency, measurement, patterns, aftereffects, and explanations. It is written in this article that NDEs have been interesting scientist since the early nineteenth century. The

article goes on to say that all those who have had NDEs had very similar patterns Raymond Moody, the psychiatrist responsible for the fascination of NDE says those experiencing the phenomenon had a sequential pattern, but rarely would a person experience all of the following:

1—calm, peace, serenity

2—noises (buzzing, clicking, music, whistling)

3—an out of body experience in which they would see their body and sometimes observe details of such events as efforts at


4-going down a tunnel

5-meeting spirit-like person (deceased relatives, friends)

6—encountering a being of light often not identified but sometimes referred to as Christ, an angel, or God

7—review of one’s life

8—experience of a border region that could not be crossed

9-reluctance to return to one’s body

            They go on to say that the NDE has a powerful affect on one’s life. Affects such as an increased belief in the afterlife; greater self acceptance; increased concern for others, and less interest in material possessions.

            The authors go on to say that what the study of NDEs has produced is a clear knowledge of the patterns of the experience, its effects on survivors, implications for persons counseling the dying, and the change in popular views on the process of dying.



Rodabough, Tillman(1985). Near Death Experiences: An examination of the supporting data and alternative explanations. Death studies, 9, 95-113

            Mr. Rodabough believes that the phenomenon known as NDE is nothing but the brain trying to compensate the fear of death. He says that they are nothing but hallucinations brought on by different factors. Drugs, toxic metabolic products, and autointoxication can trigger these so called NDEs. The reason why the NDEs are so similar is that our perceptions of what occurs at the point of death are shaped in part by the response of others. In other words NDEs happen only because we have read about it and heard about it and are told this is how it should be.

           The author states that the need to examine research of NDE results with a critical eye to avoid accepting conclusions, no matter how desirable, is critical.



Wren-Lewis, John (1988). The darkness of God: A personal report on consciousness transformation through an encounter with death. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 28 (2), 105—122

            This article talks about the author’s radical and lasting change of consciousness resulting from an experience of nearly dying by poisoning. He talks about his NDE in detail. It follows the pattern that Moody laid out. the author remembered seeing his body on the operating table and then being thrust into a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end of it. All his relatives and friends that had passed away were there to greet him. He goes on to say that he felt such peace there. He is told that it is not his time and is thrust from the light back into his body. The author’s attitudes on religion and life in general are radically changed after his NDE. This article is unique in that it is written by someone that has experienced an NDE firsthand and puts his experience into a very vivid article on the process.

Sutherland, Cherie (1989). Changes in Religious beliefs, attitudes, and practices following NDE: An Australian study. Journal 9(1), 21—31

            This article interviewed fifteen men and thirty—five women who were between the ages of seven and seventy-six at the time of their NDE. The number of years since there experience ranged from two to fifty—two. The people interviewed were no more religious or spiritually inclined than the rest of the Australian population before the NDE. Following the MDE, there was a significant shift towards spirituality. Over seventy—five percent of the subjects said that they gad a fear of death before the NDE, whereas no subject had a fear of death after the NDE. What I found interesting was the change in attitude towards suicide, with subjects being opposed to suicide after NDEs. I would think that if they liked where they were so much why wouldn’t they attempt suicide? The most significant changes resulting from the NDE were reported to be spiritual growth, a loving attitude, knowledge of God, and inner peace.



Serdahely, William (1989). Pediatric Near Death Experiences. Journal-of-Near--Death--Studies, 9(1), 33—39

            This article reviews four cases (2 boys and 2 girls, aged four through seventeen) of pediatric NDEs. The children were interviewed and the findings revealed that the children’s’ interpretation was much more simple and pure. There was a feeling of tremendous peace and a release from pain. No life review was reported thus suggesting that this be a function of chronological age. The article also talks about Mr. Melvin Ross, author of the book, Closer to the Light a best-seller about children who have had NDE’s. He says that children are filled with wonder, without a lot of interpretation. He says that we get at the essence of the NDE through them.



Irwin, Harvey (1987). Images of Heaven. Parapsychology Review, 18(1), 1-4

            This article discusses the popular beliefs about the concept of heaven of sixty—six females, and twenty—eight males enrolled in an introductory psychology class at the University of New England, Australia. There were several popular stereotypes of heaven--the pastoral scene, cosmic state, biblical characterization, and earthly biosocial schemes. The answers given by these students are important in explaining the uniformity of descriptions of NDEs. The author goes on to say that two different theories on the concurrence on NDEs are that the experience has been a separation of the physical body and the consciousness with the consciousness going to some other place:  and that these NDEs have been more of a relative “hallucination” that has been triggered by some common cultural heritage.

            The author tries to get across that our perception of heaven is transformed into reality when a person experiences NDEs. I think that in other words the author is saying that everyone’s heaven is a little different, but because of the fact that we are taught basically the same thing about heaven, the NDEs all are rather similar.



Royce, David (1985). The Near Death Experience: A Clergy’s attitudes and knowledge. Journal of Pastoral Care, 39 (1), 31-42

            This article talks about a questionnaire that was completed by 174 predominantly male pastoral counselors assessing their attitudes and knowledge of the NDE. The article goes on to investigate the hypotheses that pastoral counselors that were knowledgeable about NDEs would comfort those that had experienced NDEs and if those that experienced NDE became stronger in their faith. It was found that NDE patients had increase in faith and a decrease in fear of death. The article goes on to say that given the frequency of NDEs and their profound effects, pastoral counselors should learn as much as possible about the topic in order to help interpret the event to those actually experiencing it.



Bush, Nancy (1983). The NDEs in children. Anabiosis, 4(2), 177- 193

            This article reviewed 17 accounts of NDEs by children between the ages of 13 months and 14 years. It was found that NDEs occurring during childhood are substantially similar in content to those experienced by adults. Accounts frequently noted a light or a dark tunnel, a sense of well being, out of body experiences and an absence of fear. This article disproves with other articles that contend that NDEs are culturally conditioned response to a life crisis or a reflection of education, religious training, social teachings, or family traditions. Children of this study were too young to be taught this. It just goes to prove that NDEs are not some response to a life threatening crisis but rather a real visit to the other.

            The Near Death Experience, is it a gateway to heaven or just a figment of the scared unconscious mind compensating for death.  I think that this term paper has proved that NDEs are real and not just figments of our imagination.

            It is said that science dismisses things when it does not have the tools for investigation. This is a case in point. Because science cannot measure proof of the NDEs, they try to explain it by saying that it is not real, or it is the mind playing tricks on you, or that it could be the drugs given to you to try and revive you. They even have said that it is society and what they have taught you about death and heaven that triggers the “hallucinations” we call NDEs. This is why I devoted two articles on children that had experienced NDE. These articles disproved scientists and skeptics that claim that NDEs are culturally conditioned responses to a life crisis or a reflection of education, religious training, social teaching, or family traditions. Children of these studies were too young to have these teaching ingrained in their thoughts. Science should not disprove what it cannot prove.

            Near Death Experience, and our reactions to them, shouldn’t focus on the existence of an afterlife or the separation of mind and body, this is already known to be true. Rather it should focus on our perception of death and our cultures perception of it. Death should not be looked upon as the end, it should not be looked upon as frightening. As I presented case study after case study of people that experienced NDEs, death should be looked at as a journey to a better place. As Moody says we do not die, we are reborn, instead of life after death, it should be life after life. Death then comes to be a passage rather than a termination.

            Throughout this paper, all those that experienced NDEs had their faith strengthened, there priorities straightened, and their lives bettered. Are NDEs an evolutionary thrust toward a higher consciousness? I think so. We are always changing, adapting, and striving to be perfect to be one with our Maker. Through this process, it brings us slightly closer to Him. We are on the edge of eternity, and as scientist study the meaning of NDEs and as we get a better understanding of what it means, perhaps we may step closer to an understanding of life.




King, Kenneth (1986). Near death experiences: Implications for human evolution and planetary transformation. ReVision, 8 (2)

Klinkenborg, Verlyn (1992). At the Edge of Eternity. Life, March, 65-73.

Gabbard, Glen and Twemlow, Stuart (1981). Explanatory Hypotheses for Near Death Experiences. ReVision, 4(2), 68—71.

Walker, Barbara (1989). Health Care Professionals and the Near Death Experience. Death Studies, 13, 63—71.

Groth-Marnat, Gary and Schumaker, Jack (1989). The Near Death Experience: A Review and Critique. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 29(1), 109-133.

Rodabough, Tiliman (1985). Near Death Experiences: An Examination of the Supporting Data and Alternative Explanations. Death Studies, 9, 95-113.

Sutherland, Cherie (1989). Changes in Religious Beliefs, Attitudes, and Practices following NDE: An Australian Study. Journal-of Near-Death-Studies, 9(1), 21-31.

Serdahely, William. (1989). Pediatric NDEs. Journal-of-Near-Death-Studies, 9 (1), 33-39.

Irwin, Harvey (1987). Images of Heaven. Parapsychology Review, 18(1), 1-4.

Royce, David (1985). The Near Death Experience: A Clergy’s Attitude and Knowledge. Journal of Pastoral Care, 39(1), 31-42.

Bush, Nancy (1983). The NDEs in Children. Anabiosis, 4(2), 177- 193.