Although the science on life after death is inconclusive, thousands claim to have experienced some form of an afterlife. Most commonly, hospital patients who suffered a “near-death experience” (NDE) report visions of light and voices at the end of a tunnel. Others have more bizarrely claimed to have stood before the Pearly Gates.
The question of whether life continues after death has been at the forefront of research carried out a the University of Virginia Medical Center in the US.
In March 2017, the University hosted a lecture dedicated to the last 50 years of research on the afterlife.
Professor Bruce Greyson who took part in the lecture discussed some of the more bizarre NDEs he has come across through his research.
According to the psychiatrist, many patients on the verge of dying experience the slowing down of time, see their lives flash before their eyes and have a sudden sense of clarity.
Life after death: Many people undergo bizarre ‘near-death experiences’ or NDEs
Life after death: NDE patients have stood on the verge of death
He said: “The changes in feeling include a sense of peace and well-being, feelings of joy, a sense of oneness or cosmic unity, an encounter with what seems to be a loving, warm being of light.
“The apparently paranormal features include extraordinary sensory vividness.
“People report seeing colours they have never seen on Earth, hearing sounds they have never hear before, having what seem to be a frank extrasensory perception of things going on elsewhere, visions of the future and a sense of leaving the physical body.”
Professor Greyson also said many NDEs induce a sense of “otherworldly features”.
These otherworldly features include feeling transported to another unearthly or mystical realm.
This category also includes seeing deceased spirits and religious figures as well as reaching a “point beyond which you can’t come back”.
Professor Greyson said: “Now most NDEs, in fact, have a combination of all four of these elements o varying degrees.”
People report seeing colours they have never seen on Earth
The researcher interviewed patients about their NDEs in the 1980s and followed up with them 40 years later to determine whether time influenced their memories of the events.
Surprisingly, his study found memories of the NDEs were still reliable nearly 40 years later, meaning the stories did not change over time.
The psychiatrist did, however, notice experiences of an afterlife were influenced by cultural norms.
He said: “For example, near-death experiences of third world countries do not talk about entering a tunnel the way Americans do. They would talk about entering a cave or a well.
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“One truck driver I interviewed, talked about entering a tailpipe. So you have to use whatever cultural metaphors at your disposal to describe the phenomenon.
“So our NDErs are just reporting what they expect to happen when they come close to death.”
Some experts believe death is a “pre-programmed” and unavoidable part of being alive.
Neurobiologist Dr Paweł Boguszewski from the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology argued there is a biological end for life written into our genes.
He said: “Our civilisations is a process that is supposed to protect us from death. I am thinking about a certain kind of law.
“However, the age of 120 is the contractual boundary of our life. It is biologically written into our species.
We cannot say death is just an accidental suspension of the biological process known as life.
“Truthfully, it is the programmed end of it.”
According to the NHS, there is a strong possibility people who stand on the verge of dying hold onto consciousness.
If blood still runs through the brain, it is plausible people will still see lights and hear voices they later confuse with an afterlife experience.
NDEs do not constitute full-on patient deaths, therefore the NHS argued patients could not have “technically” experienced the afterlife.
The NHS said: “The existence of an ‘afterlife’ remains a matter of belief, not scientific proof.”
Sam Parmia of the New York University Langone Medical Center has proposed afterlife experiences can be explained by removing the consciousness from the brain.
Dr Parmia said: “It’s certainly possible that maybe there’s another layer of reality that we haven’t yet discovered that’s essentially beyond what we know of the brain, and which determines our reality.
“So, I believe it is possible for consciousness to be an as of yet undiscovered scientific entity that may not necessarily be produced by synaptic activity in the brain.”
Dr Parmia has also proposed people are aware of their own deaths, claiming a study of 140 patients who suffered cardiac arrest showed “awareness of conversations” and seeing “visual things that were going on”.
Incredible accounts of the afterlife:
Many people who claim to have briefly died and returned to the land of the living, share their experiences with the Near Death Experience Research Foundation or NDERF.
One man who said a major heart attack left him on the verge of death, has claimed to have met “his maker”.
Another woman reported how she saw “an eternity of nothingness” before coming back to life.
One man even claimed to have “proof of God” himself after briefly venturing over to the other side.
In another bizarre story, a woman claimed to have found evidence of the afterlife, her future and of reincarnation.