After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond
AUTHOR: Bruce Greyson, M.D.
This book is the newest addition to my (short) list of true FAVOURITES. It’s the fascinating story of a forty-five year journey of medical research into the phenomenon of near-death experiences.
Written by the researcher, Dr. Bruce Greyson … an esteemed psychiatrist and consummate scientist … it describes his research journey and what it’s revealed about the relationship between the mind and the brain, consciousness, and the continuity of life beyond death.
This book is written for the layperson, so although it’s describing scientific research and its results, it is easy and interesting to follow and includes several amazing accounts of near-death experiences.
First, what is a near-death experience?
In its simplest definition, a near-death experience (NDE) is one in which a person “dies” … cardiac arrest, near drownings, surgery mishaps, attempted suicides, etc. … and comes back to life having experienced an intensely vivid voyage or other-worldly encounter, even though the state of their brain function at the time would suggest this to be medically impossible.
Seriously?? Yes, this happens … to untold numbers of people, across the world and throughout history. And there’s significant consistency across these experiences, regardless of the age, gender, ethnicity, or nationality of the experiencer.
NDE reports include a set of commonly reported features … for example, the sensation of leaving the body, being free and without pain, and feeling overwhelmed with peace and unconditional love.
But that’s not all! Super interesting is that among these commonly reported features are also experiences of meeting up with deceased loved ones … and going through a comprehensive life review!
There are others and all are described in the book. But perhaps the most important feature reported is that NDEs are often life-transforming … not only providing insights into what might come next, but also into what makes this life meaningful and fulfilling.
Who is the author, Bruce Greyson, M.D.?
Dr. Bruce Greyson is the quintessential scientist, steeped in credibility. He’s a highly respected psychiatrist in the U.S. who has received national awards for his medical research. In fact, he was elected a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
He has served in senior roles on the full-time medical school faculty at three universities … Michigan, Connecticut, and Virginia. He’s published more than one hundred articles in peer-reviewed journals, received research grants from public and private mainstream organizations, consulted to the National Institutes of Health, and even addressed the United Nations.
In other words, he knows what he’s doing ….
How did he find his way into THIS arena??
Greyson started his journey of discovery into near-death experiences after a coma patient he was treating awoke and immediately starting sharing information with him … information about Greyson, including a private conversation the doctor had had the night before … in a room down the hall … while the patient was still comatose.
As a young medical intern at the time, it freaked Greyson out, but as much as he tried to push it away over the next few years, he couldn’t let it go. So, his scientific upbringing kicked into gear and he started to investigate. That was forty-five years ago.
The research into NDEs was just starting to emerge into public awareness by then, the mid-70’s, and was being pursued by numerous scientists across the globe. So, Greyson wasn’t the first to tackle this. However, he’s become a legend in the field.
You see, early on, he realized there was no way to confirm that every researcher involved was actually studying the same thing … that’s a problem if you’re trying to be true to science.
So, he set about to fix this, and in 1983, developed the “NDE Scale,” used to define which experiences actually qualify as NDEs. It’s gone through rigorous testing and validation, and has stood the test of time. Now commonly referred to as the “Greyson Scale,” it continues to be viewed as the worldwide gold standard for defining NDEs.
So, how many of these near-death experiences are there?
There are thousands of accounts of near-death experiences that have been written about, going back centuries. In “After,” Greyson says the research suggests that about 5% of the population … from all corners of the world … have experienced an NDE.
Five percent … that’s almost four hundred million people!
Myriad accounts have been published globally, but in the last decade, some mind-blowing experiences have been shared by very credible sources … medical doctors or cases that were documented and extensively examined by the medical profession.
I’ve already posted the “biggies” from this group … the ones that have become well known because the accounts are so astonishing:
- “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, MD (a neurosurgeon who slips into a 7-day coma during which a rare illness shuts down a key part of the brain … the part that conjures up or registers ANY sort of experience, thought or emotion. Expected to die, he instead re-emerges to describe the vivid, life-altering journey he experienced during that time.)
- “To Heaven and Back” by Mary C. Neal, MD (an orthopedic surgeon who drowns in a kayaking accident in which she’s trapped under water for 30 minutes … then returns to life to tell her tale.)
- “Dying To Be Me” by Anita Moorjani (who experiences spontaneous and complete remission from cancer … AFTER her organs were already shutting down … a case documented and studied by medical professionals.)
- “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD (a brain scientist who loses her entire left brain during a stroke … and goes on to have a full recovery. Although not technically presented as an NDE, it shares vivid similarities.)
A sneak peek at Dr. Bruce Greyson and his book
If you want a video preview of Greyson and this book, I can recommend a very worthwhile interview Greyson had earlier this year with Eben Alexander, one of the authors listed above. It’s available online … see my post, United in Hope and Healing webinars, for where and how to access it.
In fact, I was so impressed with the Greyson interview that I amended my original post about Eben Alexander’s webinar series to specifically make mention of it.
So, how does Greyson tackle this book?
Greyson takes us through how he found himself headed down this journey. He shares what he discovered in his research of over 1,000 present-day cases, supported by written accounts centuries old, to tackle some of the most pressing questions we have … for example:
- Are these experiences actually “real” or, as many speculate, are they a result of hallucinations, mental illness, brain chemicals, medications, fantasies, dreams, PTSD (you know, because “I almost died…”), or whatever?
- Is our conscious awareness actually produced by the brain, as we’ve been taught, or does it come from somewhere else … outside of us?
- Does our consciousness continue on after we die?
He describes his purpose in writing this book is to move the discussion forward about dying and what may come next, and to help change the dialogue from being one that pits science against spirituality, to one that shows them to be compatible.
He says his goal is not to convince the reader of any one point of view, but to get people thinking … and to re-evaluate how and what we think about life and death.
Greyson does an excellent job of using analogies to communicate key concepts and wisely leaves out the details of his research methodology and statistics. However, for those who want to delve into this level of detail, he includes notes to where this all can be found, including how to access his complete list of peer-reviewed journal articles.
7 Key Lessons from the research
He closes the book by summarizing the seven key lessons that he’s learned from his research, expounding on each:
- NDEs are common experiences that can happen to anyone.
- NDEs are normal experiences that happen to people in exceptional circumstances.
- NDEs usually lead to a number of profound and long-lasting aftereffects.
- NDEs reduce fear of death.
- NDEs lead experiencers to live more fully in the present moment, rather than dwell in the past or dream of the future.
- NDEs raise questions about the relationship between minds and brains.
- NDEs raise questions about the continuation of consciousness after death.
These last two questions are ones that he characterizes as being beyond today’s scientific methods to answer, so as a mainstream scientist, he’s careful in what conclusions he draws. Instead, he puts forward what he believes are the “best explanations” for the evidence, given what we know now.
Which leaves the door open for the reader to draw their own conclusions.
But, perhaps the most important lesson of all …
A key result from his research that I found particularly fascinating … and hopeful … is that in order to experience some of the profound life-changing effects of NDEs, you don’t have to actually die! (Always a bonus … )
These effects can actually be experienced simply by learning about NDEs.
So, interested in losing your fear of death and bringing more peace into your life? Apparently, reading this book is a great place to start!
And where can I learn more?
If you decide you want to dive deeper to more fully reap the benefits of learning about NDEs, here are a few more ideas ….
The list of published books in this arena is huge. Beyond the books I’ve mentioned above, you can check out a list of recommendations from the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia, where Greyson was a faculty member and director for 19 years.
Also check out the organization that Greyson co-founded in 1981 … the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS). It’s a nonprofit organization that “promotes research, education, and support around near-death experiences and related experiences.”
I frequently come across references to IANDS in various sources of information I’m pursuing … books, webinars, interviews. It’s a highly regarded organization that seems to be considered the ultimate authority on near-death experiences.
Oh, and one more recent source of information … heard about the Netflix docuseries released last year, “Surviving Death“? Fascinating stuff! Check it out … near-death experiences are the subject of the first episode.
Whatever you choose to pursue, happy learning … and happier life!