by Ken R. Vincent, Ed.D., author of VISIONS OF GOD FROM THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE
THE HANDBOOK OF NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES: THIRTY YEARS OF INVESTIGATION (2009) Holden, J. M., Greyson, B., & James, D.
This book commemorates research into near-death experience (NDE) that has transpired since the publication of Raymond Moody's classic book LIFE AFTER LIFE in 1975. Its content is based on material presented at the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) Conference at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, in 2006.
The editors, who form a near-death studies' "dream team" are: Bruce Greyson, M. D., professor of psychiatry and Director of the University of Virginia Medical School's Division of Perceptual Studies (the premiere center for scientific research into life after death); Jan Holden, Ed.D., Professor of Counseling at the University of North Texas and Interim Chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education and an expert in all research done on NDEs since 1877; Debbie James, R. N., Senior Instructor of Nursing at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Nursing Education Department who has orchestrated almost all of the IANDS conferences ever held.
Normally an edited book that is based on a conference is simply a collection of the papers presented. However, this handbook of NDEs is a much more cohesive and coherent product due to the extensive editing and consolidation of the presented topics. The editors have successfully presented the exhaustive data in a logical and smooth, readable style.
The first chapter covers scientific NDE research for the past 150 years. The second chapter is a presentation of pleasurable adult NDEs, followed by a chapter on after-effects of pleasurable NDEs.
In my opinion, Chapter 4 on distressing NDEs is one of the most important in the book. Its author, Nancy Evans Bush, is the world's foremost expert on the "dark side" of NDEs, and she has data! In her analysis of 21 studies (N = 1,828), 9 of the studies had no distressing NDEs, but the other 12 had a 23% rate of distressing NDEs. One of her blockbuster findings is that - not just "evil" people - but anyone can face a "time of trial." In this sense, the distressing NDE mimics the ordeals mentioned in the afterlife and mystical experiences of the world's religions.
Chapter 5 deals with NDEs of Western children and teenagers. This is followed by Chapter 6 on Western NDE characteristics.
In Chapter 7 on non-Western NDEs, Allan Kellehear argues that the "tunnel" sensation and "life review" are not universal, although encountering deceased and/or supernatural beings is. The main problem with this material is that (with the exception of the Chinese and Indian data that do include a "life review"), the numbers for hunter-gatherer societies are miniscule and, in some instances, whole cultures are represented by a single case study.
Chapter 8 on world religions and the NDE is a treasure with its author, Farnaz Masumian, comparing the NDE with seven of the world's religions. Masumian quotes chapter and verse from the Holy Books of these religions to show their similarity and, occasionally, minor differences regarding afterlife and the NDE.
Chapter 9 covers veridical perception and NDEs. Jan Holden reviews the modern literature on apparently non-physical veridical perception (AVP). Holden notes that attempts to place targets in hospitals for NDErs to see during their out-of-body experiences have, to date, been unsuccessful; however, the shear volume of AVP anecdotes described by a number of authors over the last 150 years suggests that the AVP is real (p. 197).
Chapter 10 deals with explanatory models of NDEs and is written by Bruce Greyson, Emily Williams Kelly, and Edward Kelly. They offer a mountain of data to counter the claims of skeptics. They also point out that, in many cases, the skeptics have only "explanations." In virtually all cases, the authors counter with data.
The final chapter deals with practical applications of research on NDEs and is written with medical personnel, mental health personnel, and chaplains in mind.
This book is a "must-read" for anyone who is interested in the facts about research into NDEs.