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. 1
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.
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.