Near-death experiences (NDEs) have been reported for much of
human history. There is evidence in early Greek and Roman
literature, in medieval Western religious literature, ancient
literature of Buddhism, and the oral history and folklore of
aboriginal societies in Australia, North and South America, and
Oceania. The parapsychological literature has discussed NDEs since
the nineteenth century, however the popular discussion of these
experiences only dates from the early 1970s with the publication of
Raymond Moody's best-selling
Life After Life (1975). Moody coined
the term near-death experience but later regretted its over
identification with physical death and changed the term for these
experiences to paranormal deaths.
In Life After Life Moody discussed fifty individual cases of people
who, when unconscious and apparently near death and then
resuscitated, reported conscious social and psychological
experiences. Some people reported sensations of traveling in a dark
tunnel. Others reported meetings with bright beings of light or
deceased relatives and friends.
Since this early book of casual observations from an author who had
been an academic philosopher retrained as a medical practitioner
first appeared, other more research-based books have been published.
Among these are the behavioral and clinical studies of the
psychologist Kenneth Ring (Life At Death 1980), the cardiologist
Michael Sabom (Recollections of Death 1982), and the psychotherapist
Margot Grey (Return from Death 1985). These were soon followed by
other studies from parapsychology, religious studies, sociology,
philosophy medicine, and particularly psychiatry.