Many patients undergoing clinical death are moved from the physical world to an other-worldly or heavenly domain.
Some of them see themselves crossing a border into a beautiful paradise in which many are greeted by deceased family members or friends, Jesus, or a loving white light.
Some patients may experience two or more of these phenomena. Some patients who are greeted by deceased family members do not recognize them because they died before the patient was born. They often introduce themselves and reveal facts about themselves that the patients’ relatives or friends are subsequently able to verify.
Though this kind of evidence is not veridical (because it can’t be corroborated as occurring during a patient’s clinical death by an independent source), it has probative circumstantial value – particularly because it occurs in so many different cases of near death experiences.
This has been studied by Dr. Jeffery Long and Dr. Pim van Lommel, all of whom show patients’ knowledge of facts about or from deceased family members and friends not formerly known.
Dr. Bruce Greyson has made a detailed study of these cases entitled: “Seeing Dead People Not Known to Have Died: Peak in Darien Experiences.” His colleague at the Division of Perceptual Studies (University of Virginia), Dr. Emily Kelly gives a careful report of their research in an article entitled “Near-Death Experiences with Reports of Meeting Deceased People.”
This article arose out of two previous studies (Cook, Greyson, & Stevenson, 1998; Kelly, Greyson, & Stevenson 2000 ). These researchers found that out of 553 cases of people reporting near death experiences, 13% experienced a deceased relative or friend (a lower statistic than the 37% reported by Fenwick & Fenwick in 1995 ).
Most of these individuals reported seeing deceased relatives (and only 5% reported seeing deceased friends). Most of them were from a previous generation (parents or grandparents). Several individuals reported seeing a religious figure, usually Jesus, and several also reported seeing unrecognized figures along with relatives.
One of the more important findings among these studies was the large number of patients who reported seeing people who were not close or even known. This finding militates against the hallucinatory expectation hypothesis – that dying individuals project an image of deceased loved ones who they would want to see in the afterlife.
Kelly notes in this regard:
Although most people identified were emotionally close relatives, there were nonetheless a substantial number (32%) of people seen who were emotionally neutral or distant or whom the participant had never met.
Many participants commented that seeing these people was unexpected and a ‘surprise.’ The expectation hypothesis seems a bit strained when we try to account for these numerous instances in which the deceased person was not someone the participant would particularly care about seeing…
Furthermore, even among those participants who did see a loved one, the person seen was not always one whom the participant would presumably most expect or want to see.
When this is combined with the disclosure of information not previously known from deceased people (in Greyson 2010, van Lommel 2010, and Moody 1998), it suggests that clinically dead individuals encounter deceased people who are not a projection of wishful expectations.
Though this kind of evidence is not as strong as veridical evidence (III.A), and the visual perception of blind people during clinical death (III.B), it provides another clue to a transphysical ground of consciousness.
For more information on near death experiences, visit our definitive guide here.