The following is excerpted from Why an Afterlife Obviously Exists: A Thought Experiment and Realer Than Real Near-Death Experiences by Jens Amberts. You can purchase the book HERE, or read its review from Psychology Today.
There are four well-established facts about the NDE that, on their own and from a purely scientific perspective, do not mean very much. But considered together and from a philosophical perspective, they form a tremendously compelling argument in favor of the existence of an afterlife. This is what NDE researcher Kenneth Ring had to say about two of these well-established facts about the NDE after having interviewed many near-death experiencers (NDErs) himself:
[A]fter having spoken to many hundreds of NDErs, if not more than a thousand (for I have lost track by now), I have long become aware that from the standpoint of NDErs themselves, there is generally no doubt that the end of physical life is not a dead end. They confidently assert that there is something more. It has been my role and privilege often to speak for the many NDErs who do not write books or give public talks, and in doing so, I have often tried, as accurately as possible, to reflect the views of those NDErs whom I have chosen to represent.
In doing so, I have tried to speak in their voice so that they would be heard, not me. In this respect, the evidence from NDEs is, I believe, highly suggestive that some form of consciousness continues after death; the abundant NDE testimony I have heard and read convinces me, as it does most others, of that. (emphasis in original) -Ken Ring “Response to Augustine’s ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?’”
In other words, NDErs themselves are generally convinced, due to having had an NDE, that death is not the end that physicalism predicts, and very many people have had NDEs. These two facts, of course, prove nothing in and of themselves from a scientific point of view. Furthermore, the skeptic will rightfully point out that there are many other circumstances where very many people agree about something for bad reasons, and where we therefore can still not know whether what they assert is true or not from these two kinds of facts alone.
Therefore, the next question we need to ask ourselves is whether NDErs have a good reason for being certain that death is not the end from having had an NDE. This is where the realer than real attribute of the NDE becomes highly relevant to investigate, and this is what Robert Perry has to say about that:
There is clearly something about NDEs that both convinces people they are real and makes them distinguishable from experiences generally regarded as unreal. … I’ve also heard NDErs say that their experiences were different from psychedelic drug experiences they had had.
Actually, their claim often goes even further. Although in our eyes the question is whether NDEs are as real as this world, many NDErs say that what they experienced was more real than this world. … What is it about NDEs that makes them seem to be more than dreams and hallucinations and to be even more real than the material world of everyday life? … The question strikes me as extremely important. It seems to me that it has the potential to bridge some of that gulf between NDErs and the rest of us. They are overwhelmingly convinced that their experience was real. If we can gain some genuine understanding of why, then perhaps that will help us decide how much we can believe them. (emphasis in original) – Robert Perry, “Why Do Near-death Experiences Seem So Real?”
There is clearly something about the realer than real attribute of the phenomenology of the NDE that convinces NDErs themselves that the NDE is absolutely real in all interpretations of the term. That is, that the NDE was not just experienced as NDErs relay it, but that the NDE actually represented what it seemed to represent, that is, an experience of a higher reality than everyday life, and not a brain-generated hallucination.
Of course, many skeptics of the survivalist interpretation of the NDE will often laughingly dismiss the realer than real attribute of the NDE and say that that proves nothing, as if contradicting a statement without providing any reason for doing so and accompanying such an action with laughter is a valid counterargument to anything. Or they will characterize NDEs as just very vivid dreams or hallucinations that therefore are as irrelevant as any other dream or hallucination, which just goes on to clearly demonstrate that they have neither carefully listened to nor charitably understood what NDErs are actually saying in the slightest.
In the longest chapter of the book I go into great detail in breaking down the realer than real attribute of the NDE and demonstrate why it is the best possible justification of any empirical insight imaginable, and hence demonstrate why NDErs are absolutely epistemically justified in coming to the conclusion that the NDE represented what it seemed to represent.
So maybe the NDE convinces people for a good reason, the skeptic might concede, but how do we know that they are not biased? How do we know that they did not all believe in an afterlife prior to their NDE? Furthermore, how can we trust them? What if they are all lying, and just making it all up? How do we know that they evaluated the NDE and the realer than real attribute thereof skeptically and rationally? How do we know that they are not all crazy? This is where the fact that NDErs as a sample are representative of the population as a whole becomes highly relevant. As Neal Grossman points out:
Research over the years has shown that there are no medical or psychological predictors of NDEs. … What this means is that the sample of the population that reports NDEs is representative of the population as a whole. So if, say, 10% of the population are atheist-materialists, then about 10% of NDErs are, or were, atheist-materialists before their NDEs. (emphasis in original) – Neal Grossman, “Book Review,” Review of The Self Does Not Die:Verified Paranormal Phenomena From Near-Death Experiences,
Since NDErs as a sample are representative of the population as a whole, to disbelieve one hundred percent of NDErs is to disbelieve one hundred percent of the population. And to think that all NDErs are biased towards a survivalist interpretation, or that they are either untrustworthy, gullible, irrational, or delusional is to think that one hundred percent of the population also has at least one of those flaws. And how rational, reasonable, and realistic is that?
This is the core of the argument that will be presented in this book in much more detail, and it will be demonstrated how all of these facts considered together make it beyond astronomically likely and hence empirically certain that an afterlife exists.
You can read more or purchase Why an Afterlife Obviously Exists: A Thought Experiment and Realer Than Real Near-Death Experiences on Amazon.
Jens Amberts is trained in philosophy at Linkping University, and his primary research interests are near-death experiences and the intersection between philosophy and spirituality. He lives in Linkping, Sweden.
To read some of Dr. Raymond Moody’s philosophical thoughts on our understanding of the afterlife, try an excerpt from Making Sense of Nonsense.