NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES
The Rest of the Story
By P.M.H. Atwater
The first major work in the field of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) was Raymond Moody’s Life After Life in 1975 and it opened the floodgates to reports, research, speculation and some very sound scientific investigation.
P.M.H. Atwater has been there since the earliest time and this work not only summarises a lifetime of research into NDEs but offers some conclusions gained from such a long period of research.
Chapters one to sixteen offer a superb overview of all the research on NDEs, and includes Atwater’s own research which is quite extensive and based on a large number of interviews. Atwater documents the development of research in the field including the evolving understanding of various types of Near-Death Experience and follows this with real life examples.
Informed and critical, Atwater takes into account cultural forms, religious beliefs and stereotypical images such as the “tunnel” which may affect accounts. She has a solid knowledge of the various researchers in the field and is able to offer an extensive overview of the many approaches and perspectives taken with NDEs.
Her work is significant and refines how we understand Near-Death Experiences. One of the more unusual aspects of her research is with children since they have a different level of awareness and a lack of cultural imprinting which makes their accounts not only more credible but offer more detail. She documented these in such books as Children of the New Millennium and The New Children and Near-Death Experiences.
Some of the stranger aspects of the Near-Death Experience are the “after effects” – time and time again individuals returning from an NDE note quite clear changes in personality, psychological states and emotions. These have been documented as ranging from increased intelligence and psychic abilities through to heightened senses. These changes can take many years to integrate and are quite bewildering for many. Atwater documents the most common phases of this process, and of course this varies depending on the maturity, spiritual background and life experience of the individual.
From chapter sixteen onwards Atwater moves into new and exciting territory. She considers NDEs within the context of the transformation of consciousness rather than as an isolated altered state, connecting it to the wide spectrum of peak experience. She covers the importance of altered states and how they relate to the evolution of our species.
She considers the importance of the trained imagination, or the “Imaginal,” and how it opens higher levels of brain function. Atwater also examines “brain shifts” through the various systems of the brain.
The latter part of the book takes NDE research into a totally new area and puts it in context. Atwater’s discussions are well argued and lead to profound conclusions. When we consider the current state of humanity, her discussions of NDEs and other higher states of consciousness as a means to achieve the next stage of human evolution is challenging and thought provoking.
Atwater does not, however, leave us with just theory. In the last section of her work she offers a template for achieving a deep and lasting openness to higher states of being, and while offered in terms of “Christian Mysticism” it is clearly non-sectarian and can be applied within any spiritual path.
Near Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story is a very important work. It not only offers one of the most extensive summaries of the last thirty-five years of Near Death Experience research, but goes a step further and puts it all into the context of the study of altered states of consciousness or peak experiences.
Atwater looks at the importance of such experiences and how they apply to the future evolution of mankind and offers hints to how we can open our lives to a more meaningful connection to the spiritual world.
– Reviewed by Robert Black in New Dawn 131