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The Joy Of Dying
Understanding the Near Death Experience
The study of Near Death Experiences (NDE's) has entered the scientific mainstream. Dr. Jeffrey Long is one of the world's leading researchers on the topic and has many fascinating facts and accounts to share. Learn more about Dr. Long's research at www.nderf.org.
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Adam Jacobs: Hello and welcome to Beyond Belief. Today we're going to be talking about near-death experiences. Are they just the hallucinations of a dying brain or are the evidence that our consciousness can actually survive the death of our bodies? That question and more, coming up next on Beyond Belief.
Hi, Dr. Long, welcome to the show. It's a pleasure to have you here.
Jeffrey Long: I really appreciate the opportunity to be on your show. Thank you.
Adam Jacobs: It's my pleasure. And I just wanted to open up by mentioning that this is obviously a serious topic. I mean, you seem like a very upbeat and fun kind of person, and it's interesting you explore these very serious and heavy topics. And so I'll start off with something a little bit heavy, which is four years ago I lost my father, unfortunately, and I ended up finding your website and reading an enormous amount about near-death experiences.
And I have to say that I found the accounts so compelling and in a certain way very comforting. And I really appreciate the fact that you've made it available for so many people and it's so active and constantly updated and I really recommend that people check it out. But I wanted to ask you, you're a radiation oncologist by profession. So I assume that you have experienced multiple times watching people not make it on the operating table. And I assume also that people have shared their accounts with you firsthand, and I'm wondering if that's what generated your initial interest in this topic and if there's any particular account that you first experienced that registered with you as significant.
Jeffrey Long: Sure. Yeah, Adam, great question. First of all, I'm sorry to hear about your father, but as you surmise, many, many years ago, decades ago, I was going through one of the leading medical journals in the World Journal of the American Medical Association, quite by accident. And the title was the phrase Near Death experience. And I was puzzled. Nothing in my medical training had taught me anything about what that might mean. I mean, you're either dead or you're not. So goodness. How could anyone not be interested in life after death or anything related to that?
So puzzled and intrigued. I read the whole article and was immediately fascinated. Here was a physician, a cardiologist, describing patients who'd had cardiac arrest. Their heart stopped and yet at that time described very accurate observations of ongoing earthly events even while they were comatose and being resuscitated. Everything I knew medically said that's impossible.
So I read some of the references and was intrigued. It was several years later I had a college friend visiting me and over supper, the wife of my college friend shared an absolutely dramatic first-person near-death experience. She was under general anesthesia and coded. Her heart stopped because she had a lot of medical allergies. Her consciousness rose above her body. She saw her frantic resuscitation efforts and described it in a way I knew medically as real.
It's not like Hollywood, crash carts don't magically appear. There's a lot of panic and chaos when it's unexpected like that. She went into a tunnel, had a life review, and had a stunningly detailed near-death experience. And everything I knew medically was that this could not possibly be explained by physical brain function. And so I sort of bookmarked that, but said, I've got to learn more about this.
And then a couple more years after that, intrigued by the limited information I had, I set up a website, the Near Death Experience Research Foundation with the goal to satisfy my curiosity are these experiences for real very quickly. When we received the first few of what would ultimately be 3000, over 3,500 near-death experiences, that answer came vividly from the first source of information from the near-death experiences themselves. Absolutely they are real. And that began a voyage that's now lasted over 20 years, continuing to learn about near-death experiences and share what I've learned with the world.
Adam Jacobs: So when you say it's not medically possible, just for the benefit of the listeners who may not know what that means, why couldn't it be the case that this is just the last dying gasps of the brain firing all of its neurons and some hallucination as the brain is shutting down as opposed to some transcendental experience that the soul of this person is having?
Jeffrey Long: Well, hallucinations are by definition medically unreal, non-real memories or perceptions with near-death experiences. As I mentioned in that example of the very first one I heard their consciousness rose above their body. There's been a large number of studies of those observations of ongoing earthly events while physically they're unconscious or clinically dead with an absent heartbeat. It's been studied in my research and others that what they observe while their physical body is unconscious is overwhelmingly accurate, even down to the fine details.
In fact, if those observations of consciousness leave the area of their physical body, if they're making observations in that what we call out a body experience phenomena, part of the near-death experience, even if these observations of ongoing earthly events are far from their geographically, far from their physical body and way beyond any possible physical sensory awareness, still the observations, what they see in here when they go back to check them out later are almost invariably over 95% accurate in my experience.
And of course, let's not forget, with the very first near-death experience I saw she was under general anesthesia under that blanket of sleep. It should be absolutely impossible, Adam, for there to be any conscious awareness. And then her heart stopped because of an allergic reaction. Well, Adam ten to twenty seconds after your heart stops, the EEG measure of brain electrical activity goes absolutely flat. It should be absolutely impossible to have any conscious experience. And yet both under general anesthesia and having the heart stop, it should be doubly impossible to have any experience or memory at all. And yet by the scores people have reported near-death experiences under exactly those circumstances, just like the first near-death experience I ever heard.
Adam Jacobs: So would you say that this is, I mean you're a scientist and you are presenting this from a scientific perspective, is this scientifically provable or is this more like testimony that you might hear in a court of law? Obviously, there were maybe a handful of witnesses to the crime we're trying to forensically piece together what might've happened, something in the past, but there is no direct knowledge of actually what happened. So how would you respond to that question?
Jeffrey Long: That's a great question. In order for near-death experiences to be scientifically investigated, they have to be, the term is falsifiable. In other words, what is shared in the near-death experience has to prove that it's false, that it's not due to some occurrence of memory of perceptions apart from the physical brain. And you can easily falsify those by, as we described those out-of-body observations. If they were false or unreal at a substantial percentage at the time, then that would falsify those observations. It would falsify near-death experiences in general.
But that's not what's happening. You can falsify them by having people, (and we have an example of that) who were born totally blind and had a highly visual near-death experience. Now, if you had somebody born totally blind for whom vision is unknown and unknowable and they have a near-death experience, well it would be falsifiable if none of these people under such circumstances report vision. And yet that's not, what we're observing. We actually have a series of people either legally blind or severely impaired vision that have crystal clear vision described during their near-death experience, even if it's outside of their whole prior life experience. So these are just a couple examples of how you can falsify near-death experiences. You can look for what occurs during it and say, well, that's false. That's consistent with a loose notator, unreal experience. And we're not finding that at all.
Adam Jacobs: Okay, so when I hear that and read about it and interact with this information, that's my reaction is to feel compelled by it. And it seems very hard to explain at the very least, but if this is the case, why is it not appearing in Science or peer-reviewed journals and why isn't it this month's feature in Nature and shouldn't this be a very big deal? I mean, shouldn't people be wanting to research this more and more? I mean, this seems like it would be one of the most exciting discoveries of all time from a scientific perspective. I don't get the sense that that's happening just yet. Is that fair to say?
Jeffrey Long: Oh, absolutely. And that's a good point. Now, first of all, near-death experience is actually mainstream in the scientific and medical literature. There's been well over 200 publications in peer-reviewed medical and scientific literature including some of the leading medical and scientific journals in the world. So it's there just, (and I agree with you), not nearly there as much as it should be. I think there are several barriers that keep people from investigating near-death experiences in a scholarly scientific manner.
First of all, it's hard to access near-death experiencers. They're not apt to go find a researcher and say, “Hey, I'm ready to share my experience.” So you really need to find large numbers of people who had a near-death experience. And that's a little bit difficult to do. But I think even more importantly than that, anything in the so-called paranormal, even if it's not paranormal at all, like near-death experiences, good gosh, a Gallup survey published in 1981 estimated perhaps as many as 5% of Americans had a near-death experience.
So they're not rare. They happened to people of all walks of life, physicians, scientists, you name it. They're a very broad-based experience. So again, it's puzzling to me too why there isn't more research and interest in something that has such dramatic implications for consciousness, for life after death, and for literally meaning and purpose on earth. What's really important is that we hear over and over near-death experiences. So again, I think it's just that scientific taboo that keeps it from being studied more. And of course, one thing that drives scientific discoveries unfortunately is money. And it's very difficult to close to impossible actually to get a grant or federal funding, if you will, to study something like near-death experiences because of that taboo about its association with the paranormal again, which is really not, these are normal experiences.
Adam Jacobs: So I noticed on your website that you have won an award recently for an essay that you wrote on this topic, and congratulations on that. And I'd like to read a quote that I found there. I truncated it a little bit because a little long, but I think that it's a very good one. It's a compelling, again, account of someone's experience and it opens the door for me at least for a bunch of other questions. So I just want to read it to you for a second if that's okay? This is by a woman Joan who had a spinal anesthetic surgery on her ankle and something apparently went wrong and she died and she describes her experience of death as follows.
She says “I went from being in my body to being in a place of absolute love. I can only describe it like being in a swimming pool, but even my body was filled with this loving. I was one with this place, but also apart from it, it was still me, but I was far more than me. I was one with everything and it was all good. I heard beautiful music, but it wasn't our music. The music itself was part of me, but it was also much more than me. I felt weightless and free, absolutely free. I was enfolded in this loving and it was part of it too. There was not one single part of me of anything else that was not love. Individuals did not exist in the same way as we do here.” And then she says a few other things and she says, “We are interconnected as one. There is no such thing as death. This experience has changed me.”
So I would describe that quote as sort of typical of what I read in your essay, and you probably have a dozen quotes or so in there along the same lines. So would you say that this is a typical experience that somebody has? Do they come out of this saying life is about love, interconnectedness, music, which I particularly found interesting? Is this a typical description or is this somehow different from the average?
Jeffrey Long It's a good question, Adam. It's a typical detailed near-death experience. We have literally, well that's one example, and some would say anecdotal. It's not. We literally have hundreds of near-death experiences that bring up those concepts in a variety of different ways. But all converging down exactly the way you just shared it right there. Adam, you talk about love. Is that common in near-death experiences? Well, in the most recent version of our survey that we have on the website, we ask directly, did you, during your near-death experience, did you encounter any information regarding love? And remarkably close to half of the people checked yes and went on in the narrative response to describe that type of love. Exactly like you just shared, Adam.
Unearthly profound, all-encompassing something that is beyond anything that we've ever experienced in our life, any of us. And yet over and over times, literally hundreds if not over thousands of times in near-death experiences, I've heard that concept of love expressed and the fact that it is so unearthly that it is so all-encompassing beyond anything in their life experience frankly, is one more line of evidence for the reality of near-death experiences.
Same thing with a more difficult concept you brought up of unity, connection, and oneness. When near-death experiences describe that, they're much more likely to use the stronger word unity than the weaker word connection. And again, in the most recent version of our survey, we asked directly during your near-death experience, did you encounter any information or awareness of a mystical connection or unity or oneness? And again, right about 45% of people answered yes, and with the narrative responses, it was exactly like the near-death experience you shared in the afterlife, in the near-death experience, they become aware of a unity, a oneness that we obviously are not aware of in our earthly life.
It's been amazing to me literally over 20 years of researching near-death experience how remarkably consistently that's described. Again here, Adam is one more example of something that is so outside of our normal earthly life experience and yet so overwhelmingly, consistently described in near-death experiences that that's simply one more line of evidence that these near-death experiences are real. They're bringing back consistent observations of something far outside of their earthly life. And so you have to go back to that basic scientific principle. That's what real is consistently observed and love unity, and oneness overwhelmingly, consistently observed in near-death experiences.
Adam Jacobs: I would like to get into some of the theological aspects of this and some of the spiritual ramifications, but I want to just ask one follow on question to what we just discussed in terms of love that psychedelics are making a bit of a comeback. There are serious people who are suggesting that there are ways of using it that are beneficial, and if you go online and you observe someone having an Qyahuasca experience or an LSD experience, they use these terms also and they seem to be coming to the same kind of realization that it's all about love. I experienced love in a real way for the first time.
I see the interconnectedness of the entire universe. Why do you suppose that is? And would you describe this as a fundamental drive of humanity that people in their day-to-day experiences, what are they really looking for? They're looking for things that are perhaps transcendental. So I ask you just to comment on that. And then also is the fact that it happens during psychedelic experience evidence to the other side saying no, the dying person is having a psychedelic kind of experience and whether or not their brain is functioning in the way that we understand, it's not spiritual, it's psychological. That's a lot. I understand, but you can handle it.
Jeffrey Long: That's an important question because you hear a lot about it in this day and age, I think the basic lesson about these ayahuasca or other, the most common drug mentioned is reproducing some aspect of near-death experience is what's called DMT. I think the experiences that are described are a vivid reminder. You need to be very cautious about trusting what you read on the internet. Not surprisingly, DMT or Ayahuasca experiences that have the seeming transcendental, mystical, dramatic positive things are much more likely to get clicks on YouTube or on other areas on the internet where they're found.
I would encourage any viewer of this, if you're curious about, again, the most commonly stated psychotropic, which is brain-acting medication that reproduces part of NDE near-death experience, which is DMT. If you want to find out the truth about that, you hop over on the internet to Erowid E R O W I d.org On that website you can find DMT experiences shared first person by people that actually had these experiences.
These aren't fluffed up, these aren't biased by getting more clicks than others. This is the truth. And if you read any number of DMT experiences or other psychedelic experiences on that website shared by the people that had them with no predisposed idea that they want to get their face or their word or whatever out, all you have to do is read 30 of them. Or heck even read 10 or 20 DMT experiences on erowid.org and then shoot over to my website in ndrf.org and compare that to 30 or heck, even 10 or 20 near-death experiences shared first person again. And you will see vividly that there is no relationship between those experiences. DMTs or psychedelic experiences may on very uncommon to rare occasions reproduce some elements of near-death experience. And I believe that, but I think they are very uncommon to rare. Certainly, if you read any number of first-person DMT experiences, and compare it to near-death experiences, you can vividly see from your set by yourself that they're dramatically different experiences overall.
Adam Jacobs: Okay, okay. And therefore you would say the answer is no. The near-death experiences don't really have anything to do with a hallucination, like we said originally had nothing to do with a psychedelic aspect of the brain that's getting triggered in the last moments.
Jeffrey Long: Absolutely. And furthermore, if you read as I have these psychedelic induced experiences, first person shared experiences, you'll see exactly what I've seen. You don't see any of those types of elements or characteristics of a near-death experience that helps us to understand its reality. You almost never see what we call critical perception in near-death experiences that out-of-body observations, what they see in here of ongoing earthly events being real, that's very uncommon. You almost never have someone who's on a psychotropic medication or drug experience if they're severely visually impaired. You almost never have them having clear vision.
Of course you never have people, other sort of things that we've done with research, with near death experiences to validate the reality. Certainly they're not clinically dead like people that have a near experience. They're not unconscious like people that have near-death experiences and still have lucid experiences. They don't have typically the other characteristics of near-death experiences, a trip to an unearthly realm where they encounter deceased loved ones a life review, they may have that sense of overwhelming love that's fairly common, but I would submit near death experiences, it's far more common and far more unearthly.
Again, there's really no substitute, Adam to just read a large number of both types of experiences and decide for yourself.
Adam Jacobs: Okay, I've never done that. So that's, that's in the plan going forward. But going back to the concept
Jeffrey Long: I hate to break in, but actually, on our website, we have actually issued a challenge to the world because a common belief that DMT experiences reproduce some aspect of near-death experiences. We have posted on our website the DMT challenge. In other words, we encourage people to read a group of DMT experiences and a group of near-death experiences, and if anybody believes that these experiences are the same, please email us back. That's been up for, gosh, I don't know, six, nine months. And so far absolutely zero. People have emailed us and expressed the belief that they think that after reading first-person experiences of both types that they're related.
Adam Jacobs: Okay, I'll check that out. Let's go back to the concept that we mentioned of unity. And I can't help but be struck by the fact that when I read about the hallmarks of the near-death experience, it certainly smacks of a monotheistic vision of what the afterlife is, especially the experience of a God or some type of powerful supernatural force and the love as you mentioned, and many other aspects in terms of a lack of fear, the meeting of previously deceased relatives. There are so many aspects of it. Would you say that it is more geared in your understanding towards a monotheistic worldview or are there people who report to or more gods? Are there people who report seeing specific deities? What can you tell us about that?
Jeffrey Long: Sure, great question. Now, certainly, monotheism for viewers, means one God, and that means as opposed to polytheism, which means multiple gods. Well in near-death experiences, virtually every time people describe a God or an ultimate spiritual being, they're using it in a singular, they seem to encounter one. So near-death experience, evidence does point to there being a monotheistic belief. In other words, one God, that's not hugely surprising because don't forget in near-death experiences typically, especially when they're aware of God or they're in that unearthly, if you will, heavenly realm, they have that sense of unity and oneness.
So given that sense of oneness, it's not surprising that there are described multiple discarnate separate gods just because of oneness, that concept seems to be overriding. Certainly, it's consistent with monotheism in that sense. It's very rare that we have people describe what you will multiple gods. Another important point is that when we have the narrative area where people describe an awareness or encounter of God, by the way, around 45% of people that completed the most recent version of the survey at 834 near-death experiencers, to be specific, that high percentage of people were either aware of or actually encountered God or the way I word the question a supreme being in the narrative box, it follows many, many people will say language to the effect of what I encountered was beyond an earthly term.
God is an earthly term. This is far beyond any earthly term possible. Earthly terms are limiting. God is the best term. And yet what I encountered is far beyond a description by a single word or words in the English language. So be aware that a lot of near-death experiencers describe that this being they encountered is again, God is the best word, and yet it transcends English and literally any language on the planet in terms of how overwhelming majestic this entity was.
Adam Jacobs: There are multiple religions, even monotheistic ones that describe a place of punishments or judgments, whether it's temporary or permanent in some cases. And what I don't find in near-death experience accounts is anything remotely like that. And I'm wondering if you have heard anything along those lines. B, would you say that that is evidence against those concepts even within monotheism, and is there any other way of explaining it where you could preserve both concepts?
Jeffrey Long: Sure. Another great question. A very common question is encountering or being aware of hellish realms, if you will, or that hell is a broad word, but hell-like realms that have frightening unearthly, hellish imagery are rare and near-death experiences. I've studied over 3,500 of them. That's how many have been shared with our website and posted back. And yet when I look carefully with a fairly high bar of evident reality, to be sure we're talking about near-death experiences and not some other thing like I won't go into detail, but intensive care unit delirium is a common confounder for other researchers. So with a very strict bar of confidentiality that this really is a near-death experience and occurred during the near-death experiences, I've only been able to find a little over 20 near-death experiences that described or encountered a hellish realm of that approximately 20 experiences, about half of them simply became aware of a hellish realm.
In other words, they were passing through an unearthly, if you will, heavenly realm. And there was a very discreet, segregated separate area that they were aware of was hell. And they either knew that as they were going by or they were told that by whatever spiritual being was with them. So that's part of it. And I think that observation is significant. It suggests that the hellish realm is segregated apart from divided off from the rest of the heavenly realms.
When people say there's no hell that can exist in heavenly realms, they're literally correct based on those near-death experience observations. Now the other half of the people are actually impacted by and a part of them enter into that hellish realm which are remarkably frightening. So without going into a lot of graphic detail, that's hell. Now my conclusion after reading a lot of these is first of all, a lot of people in the hellish realm have the ability to say, “Please rescue me” and we will call out to God or just ask to be removed.
And the great majority of the time, they're then immediately taken out of that hellish realm. And I think that's significant. My best guess as to how hellish realms exist when as we discussed earlier, love seems to be fundamental in the afterlife and the entire universe is very simple. And that is in the afterlife. There's going to be the rare, mercifully rare spiritual entity that is so unable to let go of their evil, their resentment, their anger, their destructive tendencies toward other spiritual beings that they are.
And in the afterlife, I might add, generally, your belief is you're known for who you are and everything and all you are immediately by all other beings. So you can imagine how rough it would be for somebody to be that malevolent and be immediately known by all the beings in heaven. So my impression is that they literally have the ability to choose to be among other beings by themselves in a separate realm because paradoxically, that's their heaven.
That's where they're the most comfortable. That's where an environment that is most consistent with their beliefs and values. So I believe, and this is also an expression of a very important concept of near-death experiences, that being the supremacy of free will. So I think just as we have free will on earth, and that's described a lot in near-death experiences as part of the wisdom, I think even in the afterlife, you have the free will choice to make one or I would suspect a series of bad decisions and find yourself in that hellish realm. But I also believe that consistent with free will, even these malevolent beings there have the choice to leave that let go of that environment and return to their heavenly hosts. I am not aware of any near-death experience researcher who believes that based on near-death experience wisdom that there's a permanent involuntary hell. And I think that that helps explain how it can be consistent with an overwhelmingly loving God.
Adam Jacobs: Okay. I mean, that sounds all very familiar to me in terms of my understanding of the spiritual dimension, and so there's something validating about hearing it from this perspective and fascinating. Do you think that these accounts given their brevity, and it almost seems like these folks are dipping their toe into this experience enough to have a report to bring back, and in some cases an exchange of information, which seems inexplicable, but two questions, would you say that it's accurate? That didn't really go fully in, there's often what's described as a bridge or some barrier you have to go past in order to really be there. Would you say that these people went up into the mudroom of the hereafter but never fully made it into the mansion, so to speak?
Jeffrey Long: I love that analogy of the mudroom, and that's interesting. Adam, you are understanding I think some deeper wisdom in near-death experiences. What I understand about near-death experiences is that's absolutely correct. I think a loving, co-created experience with near-death experiences, you can't be hearing, seeing, perceiving things that are so outside of any earthly existence that you've had that it would be confusing that you wouldn't understand from, you wouldn't learn from it.
So it has to be, you have to have what the equivalent is of vision there, which, and communication, which by the way, a near-death experience is essentially always telepathic. It's not earthly, but at least there's communication analogous to earth in that sense and that perception. So, and you're right, there's often described a bridge or a chasm, and it's not at all uncommon in near-death experiences. It lies beyond that bridge. Beyond that chasm seems to be an overwhelmingly brighter light.
They tend to feel an even more powerful sense of love emanating there. They tend to have that feeling of, gosh, I'd like to go there. So I think near-death experiences to some extent, allegorical of an even greater reality, which is even greater, more majestic, more awesome, beyond anything that we possibly can imagine from our prior earthly lives and sensors. So I think this is all of this near-death experience in this consistent view of an afterlife is profoundly good news for all of humanity. And yet I think that there's probably even more above and beyond that exceeds even what we can conceptualize and understand based on our earthly background.
Adam Jacobs: Do you have any speculation as to how it is that religions of the world, hundreds if not thousands of years ago, were writing and speaking about these matters without the benefit of resuscitation science, which has really grown as I understand in the last number of decades? How is it, can you speculate on how they knew any of this?
Jeffrey Long: Yeah, looking at the ancient religions in the writing they had, I don't think, I mean, there are some different scholarly views about that, but I just don't see the kind of concepts that we see in the modern study of near-death experiences that love that unity, that God, that afterlife, that there's no judgment, no fear. I just don't see that even in the ancient writing. So I don't think the ancient religious writers were really influenced much, if any, by near-death experiences. I mean, we're talking thousands of years ago when far less people were resuscitated.
And of course, let's not forget, even if you had a near-death experience thousands of years ago, and they almost certainly did, very few people could write, and you're not going to write down something that is radically different from what the prevailing consensus is of thinking at that point in time, thousands of years ago. So that would've probably been considered such an outlier that people would be very reluctant to share it and far less likely to write it down and far less likely for that to be part of the limited writing from thousands of years ago that made it here for review in this day and age. So I think that's probably why, that's my view on it. But certainly, there are other people with different views.
Adam Jacobs: Okay, maybe I'll email you afterward, but I think there's a lot, at least in the Judaic tradition, there's a lot that really covers these ideas. I mean, there's a meditation called the Shema, which is recited twice daily, and it is about the oneness of God and the oneness of existence. And after that declaration, the very next words are “v’ahavta”, which means “you will love.” And from my personal experience, it's interesting because as I read your work, I can almost check boxes of Yes, I've seen this. Yes, I've seen this, and I feel a great sense of validation in it, and I just find it an interesting idea to explore that somehow some of these ideas were captured a long, long time before the science existed.
Jeffrey Long: I'm extremely interested in what you could email me about that. So please do, and I'll look forward to that because that's a big deal. I'm still very interested in other religious beliefs and how they relate to near-death experience. So what you just shared there is very, very important and significant. I look forward to what you can email me.
Adam Jacobs: Okay, good. We'll do that. So I have time for a few more questions, and I personally could have this conversation for quite a long time more, but let's narrow it down for a second. I'm just looking at my questions. Just pick the best ones. What's the biggest challenge to the whole concept of the near-death experience? When someone challenges you, some skeptics get on your site, how would you say, what's the best question that they have?
Jeffrey Long: Yeah, that's good. I've debated and discussed a lot with skeptics over the years, and interestingly, there have been, with regard to near-death experiences, over 20 different skeptical explanations brought up over the years. Now the reason there's so many is that no one or several of these skeptical explanations make sense even to the skeptics themselves. So I feel like when I deal with skeptic arguments of near-death experiences over the last 20 years I've been doing this, it's like hitting a moving target.
We've gone through things, a psychotropic drug called ketamine. We went through magnetic brain stimulation at another point in time. We went through people questioning, are these experiences really happening that was dropped after a while. We've gone through, I mean, just an array. It seems like time by time there's been sort of a different, most commonly held skeptic argument up until DMT or psychotropic drugs, which is the most popular recent one occurring in the last few years.
I think one of the more, if you had to pick a skeptic argument, there was a major skeptic that published the concept that near-death experiences were fragments of memory from entering into unconsciousness or returning from unconsciousness. And that's certainly a reasonable hypothesis. However, it explains nothing that you observe during near-death experiences. These out-of-body observations aren't occurring when they're entering into unconsciousness or recovering. They're occurring boom, while they're observing their body fully unconscious or clinically dead, typically down below them.
So it doesn't seem to be that way with cardiac arrest or heart attack if you will. You're typically amnesic, meaning you don't have any memories for a good one to several hours prior to the cardiac arrest and afterward. So that almost single-handedly refutes that these are fragments of memory that are real, and that doesn't explain anything else. You observe during near-death experiences, the overwhelming consistent flow of those elements.
Tunnel, meeting deceased relatives, a life review, which is by the way, extremely accurate. Even if they review events in their typically early life, and toddler life that they'd forgotten about when they check with their parents, almost invariably what they saw in their life review was absolutely accurate to the finest detail, even if they forgot about it. It doesn't explain the blind, including those blind from birth, having visual, near-death experiences and it sure doesn't explain why near-death experiences are consistent worldwide regardless of the individual's background belief or lack of belief that all the overwhelming consistency that we see. So again, while that's the best, that's another sort of popular scholarly argument. It absolutely doesn't hold water when you look at the totality of evidence for the reality of near-death experience.
Adam Jacobs: That's pretty thorough, pretty convincing to me. But two more questions and then we're unfortunately out of time for today. But what's the most compelling account that you've heard? It could be recent, or could be from a long time ago, but if you just had to outline something that stood out for you, what would it be?
Jeffrey Long: Sure. Good question, Adam. Many years ago I interviewed Vicki. Vicky was born blind from birth to her vision was unknown and unknowable. For someone born totally blind, you literally cannot explain vision in terms of the remaining five senses. I know I tried with Vicki, but it's impossible. So Vicki was involved in a bad car accident when she was in her early twenties. And to respond to the obvious question, no, she was not driving. She was a singer at the bar and unfortunately, an inebriated patron was trying to get her home, didn't make it, and crashed. But the first time Vicki saw her body, she had that out-of-body experience. During her near-death experience, she was above her body. Her initial emotional reaction was not wonder and awe excitement but fear. She was frightened because she'd never had visual perceptions and literally didn't know who was lying on the gurney in the emergency room below her.
And it was only after she correlated her sense of long hair. And interestingly, a ring that her father had given her that she then recognized that was her down below. Vicki went on to have a stunningly detailed near-death experience. She described what many near-death experiencers described among other elements, some of which we've talked about today. But she had described what's called 360-degree vision. She was simultaneously and immediately aware of visual ongoing events in front of her, behind her, up, down, right, and left. So technically it's spherical vision as opposed to the two-dimensional term, 360-degree vision.
And there's absolutely no way that she could have had that type of near-death experience. Stunning visual awareness to her who envisioned is totally unknowable. In fact, when I interviewed her, I said, well, you do know that the rest of us on earth have what's called a pie-shaped visual field because of the location of our eyes and the skull. And she laughed and literally didn't believe it because don't forget, in her entire life, experience, vision was spherical 360 degrees, and she literally couldn't believe literally or understand why vision should be limited to a pie-shaped visual field. So that really, in my relatively early days of research stuck out as saying there's absolutely no way that that could be any other explanation other than a real event, exactly as she described it, a vision in somebody, highly visual experience and somebody of whom vision is unknown and unknowable. So that really struck me vividly.
Adam Jacobs: That's wild and fascinating again. Okay. My last question is many people in the accounts that I've read in your book and on your website describe themselves as having a transformed relationship with death. I'm curious about yourself. I don't believe that you've had a near-death experience yourself.
Jeffrey Long: No, I haven't.
Adam Jacobs: Okay. Has your interaction with all this material at this point transformed your feelings about death, either when contemplating your own or when God forbid something happens in your life? Has it changed you in that sense?
Jeffrey Long: Yeah, it has absolutely changed me dramatically. The evidence is so overwhelming that there's an afterlife, a wonderful afterlife, and it's for all of us, you, me, and every viewer here. So to see the evidence for that so overwhelmingly has absolutely transformed my view of my concern about my personal death. I may fear the dying process, but I absolutely don't fear what lies beyond death because of the overwhelming evidence that there is a real afterlife and near-death experience or say in that afterlife, if you will, that heavenly realm. They over and over describe that as being their real home. I think that's significant. And we actually asked that as a survey question, how their near-death experiences and fear of death have changed as a result of their experience. And not surprisingly, a very dramatic reduction in fear of death, and a very dramatic increased belief in an afterlife.
No surprise, they're drawing from their own personal experience. It's also helped me as a radiation oncology physician to work more courageously with people who are facing the life-threatening event of cancer in their life. I certainly, many of our patients die, but ultimately that's made me more courageous and more loving, more compassionate because I know I haven't failed. Nobody's failed. If they die, they're going to go on living in that afterlife so vividly described in thousands of near-death experiences. They'll be together again with their loved ones. And that is a profound message of hope and reassurance, not only to me but to everybody who's ever been concerned about their own mortality or the mortality of those that they love.
Adam Jacobs: Great answer. And a fascinating conversation as I knew it would be. And I really would like to thank you for your time and for being here today. I'd like to encourage anybody who sees this to check out the books of Dr. Jeffrey Long and his website, which we're going to post and links to it. And I hope that you will continue to do the great work that you're doing. It's having a very positive impact. So thank you so much.
Jeffrey Long: Well, thank you so much. Great questions, great interview. Really appreciate it. Enjoy being here.
Adam Jacobs: Okay. So thank you. And once again, thank you for joining Beyond Belief. Please take a moment to subscribe to our channel and stay abreast of all the exciting stuff that we have going on. It's been a pleasure, and we'll see you next time. Thank you.
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