I have been able to isolate eight kinds of personal changes that take place in a person undergoing an NDE (Three are covered in this excerpt –Ed.). These changes were present in all the NDEers I have talked to. It is the combination of these factors that makes up the luminous serenity present in so many NDEers.
No Fear of Dying
After the event, NDEers no longer fear death. This means different things to different people. For some, the primary fear is of the terrible pain that they imagine accompanies dying. Others worry about who will take care of their loved ones in their absence. Permanent cessation of consciousness is what frightens still others.
People who are controlling and authoritarian fear the loss of control over themselves and others that they think death will bring. Fear of hell’s fire and damnation frightens many, while some are simply afraid of the unknown.
When NDEers say they have lost their fear of death, they most often mean that they no longer fear the obliteration of consciousness or self. That isn’t to say that they want to die anytime soon. What they say is that the experience makes life richer and fuller than ever before. The ones I know want more than ever to continue living. In fact, many feel they are living for the first time.
As one person put it:
For the first fifty-six years of my life, I lived in constant fear of death. My focus was on avoiding death, which I regarded as a terrible thing. After my experience, I realized that by living my entire life in fear of death, I was blocking my appreciation of life.
Fear of hellish punishment for earthly deeds is no longer a problem for many. When they see the review of their life, NDEers realize that the being of light loves and cares for them. They realize that he is not judgmental, but rather he wants them to develop into better people. This helps them eliminate fear and focus instead on becoming loving people.
You have to understand that the being of light isn’t telling them that they have to change. My summation, after hearing hundreds of these cases, is that the people change willingly because they are in the presence of the standard of goodness, which makes them want to change their behavior radically.
One NDEer I spoke to had been a minister of the fire and brimstone variety. It wasn’t infrequent, he said, for him to tell his congregation that if they didn’t believe the Bible in a certain way, they would be condemned to burn eternally.
When he went through his NDE, he said the being of light told him not to speak to his congregation like this anymore. But it was done in a nondemanding way. The being just implied that what he was doing was making the lives of his congregation miserable. When this preacher returned to the pulpit, he did so with a message of love, not fear.
Also, loss of control no longer scares people who were compulsive previous to their NDE. With many, the need for control stems from fear. But many people have told me that after their NDEs, they feel they can no longer live their life from fear. This is due in part because these people now believe in an afterlife. But it is also the result of this glimpse of happiness they have received. How can they stay fearful and unhappy after seeing ultimate bliss?
Although fear of death is diminished, the will to live isn’t. Most of the NDEers that I have met are mentally healthier than before their experience. Despite their confidence about an afterlife, none are in a particular hurry to “cash in” their current existence. As one NDEer told me:
This doesn’t make you want to go out and get run over by a truck to get back over there. I still have a strong instinct to survive. This experience I had makes me see that the will to survive is an instinct.
Soon after my cardiac arrests, I took a fall off the front steps of my home. As I went down I felt myself grasping desperately for something to catch on to. Even then I was thinking, “This is odd. You know where you are going if you die, how wonderful it will be.” But still I felt that grasp of fear catching in my throat. The survival instinct. It doesn’t go away when you have one of these experiences.
Sensing the Importance of Love
“Have you learned to love?” is a question faced in the course of the episode by almost all NDEers. Upon their return, almost all of them say that love is the most important thing in life. Many say it is why we are here. Most find it the hallmark of happiness and fulfillment, with other values paling beside it.
As you might guess, this revelation radically changes the value structure of most NDEers. Where they may have been bigoted, they now see each individual as a loved person. Where material wealth was the pinnacle of achievement, brotherly love now reigns. As one NDEer told me:
You know, this experience has a hold on your everyday life, from then on. Walking down the street is a different experience entirely, believe you me. I used to walk down the street in my own little world, with my mind on a dozen different little problems. Now I walk down the street and I feel I am in an ocean of humanity. Each person I see, I want to get to know, and I am certain that if I really knew them I would love them.
A man who works in the office with me asked why I always had a smile on my face. He didn’t know about my experience, so I told him that because I almost died I was happy to be alive and let it pass. Someday, he’ll find out for himself.
A Sense of Connection with All Things
NDEers return with a sense that everything in the universe is connected. This is a difficult concept for them to define, but most have a newfound respect for nature and the world around them.
An eloquent description of this feeling was given to me by a hard-driving, no-nonsense businessman who had an NDE during a cardiac arrest when he was sixty-two:
The first thing I saw when I awoke in the hospital was a flower, and I cried. Believe it or not, I had never really seen a flower until I came back from death. One big thing I learned when I died was that we are all part of one big, living universe. If we think we can hurt another person or another living thing without hurting ourselves, we are sadly mistaken. I look at a forest or a flower or a bird now, and say, “That is me, part of me.” We are connected with all things and if we send love along those connections, then we are happy.
‘The Light Beyond’ is based on more than a thousand case studies of adults and children who clinically reached the point of death and survived, as well as amazing new research. It shows the many striking similarities shared by all near-death experiences, and uncovers secrets and opens the doors to a powerful message of love from the frontier between life and death. Learn more here.
Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D. is the bestselling author of eleven books which have sold over 20 million copies. His seminal work, Life After Life, has completely changed the way we view death and dying and has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.
Paul Perry is the co-author of four New York Times bestsellers, including Saved by the Light (which was made into a popular movie) and Evidence of the Afterlife. He has co-authored five books with Dr. Raymond Moody.