Sunday, February 11, 2024

Widespread Reports Of Near-Death And Out-Of-Body Experiences

Regardless of whether or not these things [near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences] veridically occur, people around the world have been reporting them throughout recorded history and regarding them as being in a separate category to everyday occurrences. This pattern of consistent ascription is an important indicator of the cross-cultural stability of such experiences….

People often also change their beliefs following their own NDE [near-death experience]. Notably, that includes atheists who neither believed in an afterlife nor expected to have an NDE….

In whatever culture it occurs, the OBE [out-of-body experience] is by definition always and unambiguously considered a dualistic state in which consciousness is separated from the body….

Not only are explicit descriptions of OBEs found in Eastern and Western narratives throughout history, but mind-body dualism, often exemplified by descriptions of OBEs, is a common element of nearly every branch of Egyptian, Ancient Near Eastern, Zoroastrian, Graeco-Roman, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and numerous other theologies (see, for example, Badham 1997, Bremmer 1983, Couliano 1991, Metzinger 2005, Pilch 2011, Zaleski 1987). Dean Shiels (1978: 699) found that of the 67 small-scale indigenous societies he reviewed, 95 percent believed in OBEs, and they were consistently described in remarkably similar ways. He concluded that the most likely explanation for this wide cross-cultural occurrence of OBE belief was that it "results from a common experience of this happening" (Shiels 1978: 699). McClenon's fieldwork (1994, 2002: 106-31) provides a mass of cross-cultural evidence that demonstrates that NDEs and OBEs often lead directly to beliefs in an afterlife and in mind-body dualism.

From a neuroscientific perspective, Thomas Metzinger (2005: 57) also theorizes that dualistic beliefs cross-culturally originate in OBEs. He stresses that OBEs "can be undergone by every human being and seem to possess a culturally invariant cluster of functional and phenomenal core properties." They "almost invariably lead the experiencing subject to conclude that conscious experience can, as a matter of fact, take place independently of the brain and the body." Metzinger (2005: 78 n. 8) cites other studies that support his hypothesis, including one (Osis 1979) in which 73% of survey respondents claimed that their beliefs had changed as a result of their OBEs, and another (Gabbard and Twemlow 1984) in which 66% claimed that their OBEs caused them to adopt a belief in life after death.

(Gregory Shushan, The Next World [United States: White Crow Books, 2022], approximate Kindle location 3474)

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