Do Any Near-Death Experiences Provide Evidence for
the Survival of Human Personality after Death?
Relevant Features and Illustrative Case Reports
EMILY WILLIAMS COOK, BRUCE GREYSON, AND IAN STEVENSON Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 377-406, 1998
The article discusses the characteristics of NDEs that are most likely to provide evidence of survival of consciousness. It concludes that certain features of NDEs when occuring together in the same experience provide strong evidence of survival. These features are:
- Vivid imagry and sensations at a time of decreased physiological functioning.
- Out of body experience.
- Perception of verifiable information that would not be obtainable through the normal senses.
Individually these characteristics might be explainable by other means but together they argue strongly for survival. Several NDE cases are described. The paper spells out the type of evidence that would argue for survival, but they do not conclude that currently available evidence is sufficient to prove survival. This is because of a lack of cases investigated with sufficient rigor.
From the article:
One of the main reasons that near-death experiences have generated so much interest in recent years among the general public is because they seem to provide evidence that consciousness survives the death of the physical body.
We describe three features of NDEs - enhanced mentation, the experience of seeing the physical body from a different position in space, and paranormal perceptions - that we believe might provide convergent evidence supporting the survival hypothesis. We then describe 7 published cases and 7 cases from our own collection that contain all three features. These cases are all -with one possible exception - some what deficient with regard to their recording and investigation, but they exemplify the type of case that should be identified earlier and investigated more thoroughly than these have been, and that may then help us decide the extent to which NDEs can contribute to the evidence for survival of consciousness after death.
In sum, the NDE features that seem to us to have the most potential for contributing to the evidence suggesting survival after death fall into three broad categories. First, there are those features suggesting enhanced mentation at a time of diminished physiological functioning, including a rapid, detailed, and often extremely vivid revival of memories (Stevenson & Cook, 1995), complex and vivid imagery and sensations, and lucid cognitive functioning. Second, there is the experience of viewing one's physical body and the immediate environment as if from a spatial location different from that of the physical body. Finally, there are those cases in which the person has gained previously unknown but potentially verifiable information, usually either by viewing distant events or by meeting deceased persons. The first group of features suggests that mental clarity is not entirely dependent on physiological functioning; the second suggests that consciousness can function apart from, if not independently of, the physical body; and the third group suggests that NDEs are not entirely subjective in origin. Separately, none of these features provides compelling evidence for the survival of consciousness after death, since they all might be explained by other normal or paranormal mechanisms. Taken together, however, and particularly when all three types of features occur together in individual cases, the hypothesis of survival begins to seem more worthy of consideration.
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