What is the Near Death Experience

A near-death experience (NDE) is an experience reported by a person who nearly died, or who experienced clinical death and then revived. Some people argue it can be explained by hallucinations produced by the brain as it loses adequate blood supply and nutrients , while others state that such an explanation cannot account for all the evidence.


Interest in the NDE was originally spurred by the research of such pioneers as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, George Ritchie, and Raymond Moody Jr. Moody's book Life after Life, which was released in 1975, brought a great deal of attention to the topic of NDEs. This was soon followed by the establishment of the International Association for Near-death Studies (IANDS) founded in 1978 in order to meet the needs of early researchers and experiencers within this field of research. Today the association includes researchers, health care professionals, NDE-experiencers and people close to experiencers, as well as other interested people. One of its main goals is to promote responsible and multi-disciplinary investigation of near-death and similar experiences.

Later researchers, such as Bruce Greyson, Kenneth Ring and Michael Sabom, introduced the study of Near-death experiences to the academic setting. The medical community has been somewhat reluctant to address the phenomenon of NDE's and grant money for research has been scarce. However, although the research was not always welcomed by the general academic community, both Greyson and Ring made significant contributions in order to increase the respectability of Near-death research. Major contributions to the field include the construction of a Weighted Core Experience Index. in order to measure the depth of the Near-death experience, and the construction of the Near-death experience scale in order to differentiate between subjects that are more or less likely to have experienced a classical NDE. The NDE-scale also aims to differentiate between what the field claims are "true" NDE and syndromes or stress responses that are not related to a NDE. Greyson's NDE-scale was later found to fit the Rasch rating scale model.

Among the scientific and academic journals that have published, or are regularly publishing new research on the subject of NDE's we find: Journal of Near-Death Studies, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, British Journal of Psychology, American Journal of Disease of Children, Resuscitation, The Lancet, Death Studies, and the Journal of Advanced Nursing.


The phenomenology of an NDE usually includes physiological, psychological and transcendental aspects. Typically the experience follows a distinct progression:

  • A sense of being dead.
  • An out-of-body experience. A sensation of floating above one's body and seeing the surrounding area.
  • Pleasant feelings, calmness. A sense of overwhelming love and peace.
  • A very unpleasant sound/noise is the first sensory impression to be noticed (R. Moody: Life after Life)
  • A sensation of moving upwards through a tunnel or narrow passageway.
  • Meeting deceased relatives or spiritual figures.
  • Encountering a being of light, or a light (possibly a religious or divine figure).
  • Being given a life review.
  • Reaching a border or boundary.
  • A feeling of being returned to the body, often accompanied by a reluctance.
  • Some people have also experienced extremely distressing NDEs.