Definition of an NDE
A near-death experience (NDE) is a profound psychological event that may occur to a person close to death or, if not near death, in a situation of physical or emotional crisis. Because it includes transcendental and mystical elements, an NDE is a powerful event of consciousness; it is not mental illness.
Whether happening “truly near death” or under benign circumstances, the near-death experience contains powerful images and emotions, usually of peace and love though sometimes terror, despair, guilt. An NDE may include an out-of-body experience and vivid perceptions of movement, light, darkness; encounters with deceased loved ones, unfamiliar entities and/or spiritual presences; sometimes a life review, a landscape, a sense of overpowering knowledge and purpose. The aftereffects of an NDE or related experience are enduring, often powerful, and may be life-altering.
The NDE belongs to a larger family of experiences that go beyond the usual limits of space and time and can transform a person's life and beliefs. They may be called spiritually transformative, conversion, mystical, religious, or transpersonal experiences.
Features in the NDE
More than 15 common characteristics of an NDE have been reported by near-death experiencers. An NDE may include only one or two of these elements, and, in a few cases, all of them. These include: a sense of being outside one’s physical body, sometimes perceiving it from an outside position; a sense of movement through darkness or a tunnel; intense emotions; heightened perceptions; experiencing a great light or darkness; perceiving a spiritual realm, which may include vividly memorable landscapes; encounters with deceased loved ones, spiritual beings and/or religious figures; knowledge of the nature of the universe; a life review; a sense of oneness and interconnectedness; a border of no return; a sense of having knowledge of the future; messages regarding life’s purpose. (From IANDS)
Phenomenology of NDE
The phenomenology of an NDE usually includes physiological, psychological, and alleged transcendental aspects. Researchers have identified the common elements that define near-death experiences. Among the general features of the experience we may find: subjective impressions of being outside the physical body, visions of deceased relatives and religious figures, and transcendence of ego and spatiotemporal boundaries. The most intense NDEs are reported to have an awareness of things occurring in a different place or time, and some of these observations are said to have been evidential. The experience may also follow a distinct progression, as illustrated below.
The traits of a classical NDE are as follows:
Kenneth Ring (1980) subdivided the NDE on a 5 stage continuum. He stated, that 60% experienced stage 1 (feelings of peace and contentment), but only 10% experienced stage 5 ("entering the light.").
Clinical circumstances associated with Near-death experiences include: cardiac arrest in myocardial infarction (clinical death), shock in postpartum loss of blood or in perioperative complications, septic or anaphylactic shock, electrocution, coma resulting from traumatic brain damage, intracerebral haemorrhage or cerebral infarction, attempted suicide, near-drowning or asphyxia, apnoea, and serious depression. (From Wikipedia)