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A near-death experience – or NDE – is a profound psychological event that may occur to a person close to death or in extreme physical or emotional crisis. An NDE may begin with an out-of-body experience, possibly hovering nearby and watching events around the body. An NDE typically includes a sense of moving, often at great speed and usually through a dark space, into a fantastic landscape and encountering beings that may be perceived as sacred figures, deceased family members or friends, or unknown entities. A pinpoint of indescribable light may grow to surround the person in brilliant radiance. Unlike physical light, it is not merely visual but is sensed as an all-loving presence that many people define as the Supreme Being of their religious faith.
The emotions of an NDE are intense and most commonly include peace, love, and bliss, although a substantial minority are marked by terror, anxiety, or despair. Most people come away from the experience with an unshakable belief that they have learned something of immeasurable importance about the purpose of life. Overall, the experience is ineffable and the effects are often so powerful that they create permanent changes in people’s lives.
This phenomenon is as old as humankind itself, and has been documented – and explained or dismissed – in myriad ways for just as long. In the modern world, dominated by scientific reductionism, NDEs are generally viewed as mere chemical by-products of a dying brain, the after-effects and apparent implications derided as wishful thinking and New Age nonsense. Evidence that NDEs contain a profoundly important message for humanity, however, continues to emerge, and the possibility that they may play a vital part in our evolution is very real indeed. The near-death experience instils knowledge in those who experience it that we are all interconnected, part of a much greater whole, and that what we do to others, we do to ourselves.
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