“You can guide your life to a certain extent, and then, if you are lucky, serendipity takes over. It leads you down a path that you would not have considered an option. Once you’ve experienced that path, though, you become comfortable with it and know that it is the path you should have chosen all along,” writes Raymond Moody in his fascinating memoir, Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife.
Moody is the man who coined the term near-death experience – or NDE – with his mega seller Life After Life, published in 1975, when he was still in medical school. It hit every bestseller list in the world and stayed there for more than three years. It was the first book to examine the possibility of life after death in a non-religious sense, and was the first book to examine the stages in a near-death experience. Moody points out that no two NDEs are identical, but that many share these traits:
Ineffability: People have a tough time expressing what happened to them.
Hearing the news: You hear the doctor pronounce that you are dead.
Feelings of Peace and quiet
The Noise: Loud buzzing or a loud ring.
The Dark Tunnel: You feel pulled rapidly into a dark space
Out of the Body: Just want it sounds like. You see yourself from a vantage point outside your body.
Meeting Others: You meet spiritual beings who are there to ease you through the transition or to tell you it isn’t your time to die.
The Being of Light: An encounter with a light that eventually assumes an “unearthly brilliance.” Some describe this being in religious terms, but regardless of what it’s called, this being of light helps you to “proceed along a path of truth and self realization.
The Review: The being of light often leads you to review your life, which is displayed in “panoramic intensity.”
The Border or Limit: This is a point people often reach in an NDE. If you move beyond it, you can’t return.
Coming Back: Exactly what it sounds like.
Most NDErs Moody spoke with also shared three other facets of this experience: They didn’t want to talk about the experience for fear of being labeled crazy. This may not be as true today as it was in the 70s, thanks in large part to researchers like Moody.
The effect of the experience on these individuals was “profound and noticeable.”
All reported that the experience left them with new views of death.
Even after such groundbreaking work, Moody claimed that his research didn’t prove life after death. It proved a commonality of experiences at the moment of death. But his continued explorations led him into a study of past lives, scrying as a means of communicating with spirits (John Dee Memorial Theater of the Mind) and most recently, into the area of shared near-death experiences.
Moody had heard about such experiences over the years but in 1994 experienced it himself at his mother’s deathbed. He was there with his wife, two sisters and their husbands, waiting for the moment of their mother’s death. “As we held hands the room seemed to change shape, and four of the six of us felt as though we were being lifted from the ground. I felt a strong pull like a riptide, only the pull was upward.”
Moody’s sister suddenly pointed at the foot of their mother’s bed and exclaimed their father was there, that he’d come back to get their mother. The light in the room became “soft and fuzzy, like looking into the water of a lighted swimming pool at night.” As Moody later wrote: “It was as if the fabric of the universe had torn and for just a moment we felt the energy of that place called heaven.”
These shared death experiences happen to people who are with a loved one who is dying. “These spiritual experiences can happen to more than one person and are remarkably like near-death experiences.”
Yet, Moody found four differences in shared NDEs that he considers extraordinary and new:
Mystical music. This music often emanates from the surroundings and is heard by others. It can last for a long period of time.
Geometric Changes in the Environment. The room or space shifts and changes shape. Moody admits he doesn’t know what it means, but it “seems as though people who are dying, and sometimes those around them, are led to a different dimension.”
A Shared Mystical Light. This part of a shared NDE is described in many different ways – as a translucent light, a light filled with love, a light that is like being swept up into a cloud.
Mist-ical Experience. Seeing emissions of mist from the dying.
Paranormal is a fascinating page turner that provides glimpses into the man himself – an undiagnosed illness that plunged him into a depression so severe he attempted suicide; his domineering father, his closeness to his mother; the cost of fame. Moody is now 68 years old and could have rested on his laurels decades ago. But the unrelenting curiosity that drives his explorations and his joy of discovery come through so powerfully in this book that I’m sure we’ll be reading more about shared NDEs.
Now listen to Moody talk about his own near-death experience.