Although the popularity of near death experiences has drawn much attention in recent decades, near death experiences have, in fact, existed since ancient times in texts such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bible, and the Koran.
The oldest and most famous Western recorded after life experience is Plato’s The Myth of Er, which concludes Plato’s Republic. Er dies in battle. Ten days later and after Er’s body all the bodies are collected, Er’s body remains undecomposed. Two days later, Er wakes on his funeral-pyre and tells others of his journey into the afterlife.
Er’s journey to the afterlife consists of his being told to observe, so he can go back to his human form and report his experience to humankind. Er’s account consists of watching judges ordering souls to different paths to follow. Good souls were ordered to the sky, and immoral souls were directed below. Er observed clean souls come down speaking of beautiful sights. He also observed immoral souls who returned from under from underground speaking about horrific experiences and looking drawn and despaired. Er also spoke of a lottery for souls required to reincarnate and choose a new life.
It’s hard to tell how much of Plato’s dialogs are fictional. Nonetheless, many NDE researchers refer to The Myth of Er. Plato used written narratives (he wrote many) to make philosophy more accessible to a broader audience.
40 Days in Heaven: The True Testimony of Seneca Sodi’s Visitation to Paradise, the Holy City and the Gory of God’s Throne (1909)
Seneca Sodi actually toured heaven where he witnessed the vast Holy City of Jerusalem and God’s Throne. He saw millions of saints and angels. He also met relatives who had previously passed such as his grandfather, mother, wife, and daughter who died when she was only a few months old but who had grown into adulthood and who had been raised by angels, saints, and family who had passed.
Heaven, according to Sodi, if filled with lasting peace and no sickness or fear. Sodi also discussed theology with Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and Paul as well as many others.
Renowned Psychiatrist Carl G. Jung Wrote in His Autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections About His Near Death Experience in 1944
In one chapter of his autobiography, Jung writes about his near death experience. He states that in 1944 he had a heart attack and experienced visions as he lay close to death. He floated into space in which he said to be about one thousand miles. From his vantage point, he described the Earth’s global shape and some distinguishing elements such as the desert of Arabia and snow-tipped Himalayas. He then sees a stone like a meteorite about the size of a house floating in space along with him that was some kind of temple. At an entrance on the large stone, he saw a Hindu sitting in the lotus position.
Jung wrote of his NDE, “This experience gave me a feeling of extreme poverty, but at the same time of great fullness. There was no longer anything I wanted or desired. I existed in an objective form; I was what I had been and lived. At first the sense of annihilation predominated, or have been stripped of pillaged; but suddenly that became of no consequence. Everything seemed to be past;…There was no longer any regret that something had dropped away or been taken away. On the contrary; I had everything that I was and that was everything.”
Jung said his visions were not of the imagination; they were “utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.”
As with many people who have near death experiences, Jung stated his NDE was life-transforming. He surrendered himself to the “current of [his] thoughts instead of his opinions. Moreover, he experienced a change in his attitude from self-blame towards an attitude of affirmation of unconditional acceptance of himself and of things as they are.
Nine Days in Heaven: The Vision of Marietta Davis (1948)
Marietta Davis fell into a trance for nine days. When she came out of the trance, she described a detailed description of heaven. She stated there is a gate outside of heaven made of jasper and diamonds.
Davis said that heaven is filled of majestic trees with luxuriant varieties of flowers, blossoms, and fountains of dancing waters. The city of heaven was divided into 140 suburbs arranged in “increasing degrees of magnificence and beauty” that contrast bleakly with cities on earth.
Souls also have responsibilities in heaven stated Davis, and infants are raised by spirits to learn knowledge.
Famous Contemporary Life After Death Experiences
Although near death experiences have likely been occurring since people walked the earth, common knowledge and the proliferation of people speaking about them and writing about them didn’t populate the media until the last few decades.
Life After Life by Raymond A. Moody (1975)
In 1975, philosopher, psychologist, physician, and author Raymond A. Moody coined the term “near-death experience’ in his best selling book Life After Life. Moody studied the accounts of about 100 near death experiencers. He felt there was enough similarities in NDEs despite the variety of cultural backgrounds of near death experiencers to subject their anecdotal accounts to scientific study. Moody wrote, “My hope for this book is that it will draw attention to a phenomenon which is at once very widespread and very well-hidden, and, at the same time, help create a more receptive public attitude toward it.”
While no two near death experiences are exactly the same, Moody noted 15 similarities among near death experiences such as the difficulty in describing their experiences, meeting others who had previously passed, seeing a bright light, and feelings of deep tranquility.
Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie (1998)
In 1992 Embraced by the Light: The Most Profound and Complete Near-Death Experience Ever by Betty J. Eadi was published and became a best seller.
Eadie was admitted to the hospital for a hysterectomy. Although the surgery went well, Eadie felt weak during the evening and was propelled out of her body. She thought of her family and floated over to watch her children and husband. Soon she goes down a dark tunnel where she says she meets Jesus and gets a tour of heaven.
Eadie states that wrote about her near death experience and journey into the sprit world to “reach hurting souls and bring comfort to them during hardships, loss of loved ones and to help [readers} establish direction when misdirected through daily living. However, perhaps more important than anything else,” she states, “it’s purpose is to bring to its reader the powerful message of God’s unconditional and eternal love for them.”
Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer to True Healing by Anita Moorjani (2012)
Anita Moorjani relates an inspirational account of her near death experience after fighting cancer for almost four years. As her organs started to fail and her doctors thought she was a short time away from death, she has a near death experience that reveals to her the cause of her disease.
After she awakes, her condition improves so quickly that she is released from the hospital within only a few weeks.
Moorjani shares all she has learned about illnesses, healing, and fear. She also shares about the magnificence of every human being and how we are all connected as One.
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Dr. Eben Alexander (2012)
A compelling read for those who doubt the existence of an afterlife, Dr. Alexander, a highly trained neurosurgeon, did not believe the soul lives on after death. His understanding of the chemistry of the brain meant that it was impossible for life to continue after the body’s death. That was, however, until he had his own near death experience.
Dr. Alexander had a rare brain illness. He lay in a coma for seven days. The prognosis was not good. The part of the brain that controlled his thoughts and emotions (the part that makes people human) had shut down completely. His doctors discussed stopping treatment. Dr. Alexander, however, woke from his coma, and his recovery is considered a miracle.
While Dr. Alexander’s body lay in a coma, he left his body and journeyed on a voyage beyond the earth along with a spiritual being where he states he met the Divine source of the universe. In his book, he describes the experience as a physical reality, not at all like a dream state of awareness. His near death experience also helped reconnect him to his birth family.