" 'Since the phenomenon, I have had a sense of belonging, as if I were related to every rock, tree, flower, mountain, cloud, animal and person. I am truly concerned about them and I feel a great love for everyone and everything in the universe, In other words, I am in attunement with my world, which is the whole world.' (Testimony of a near-death experience survivor, p. 357) Whether resuscitated in the emergency room, struck by lightening or rescued at sea, people snatched from the jaws of death have long reported uncanny or otherworldly phenomena. Survivors of these mystical and occasionally traumatic voyages repeat the same familiar stories; testimonies of tunnels and flowers and light, of hellish or heavenly visions. Where do people go during these encounters? What do they see? Why are their remarkable stories so often correlative? Are they persuasive evidence of life after physical death? Religion, Spirituality and the Near-Death Experience is a dramatic and sustained response to decades of research into near-death experiences (NDEs) - the first to credibly bridge the gap between the competing factions of science and spirituality.
Drawing on the latest scientific and psychological research within a framework of theological argument, it asks what NDEs can and cannot tell us about God, the afterlife and the meaning of human existence. Is the NDE a genuine glimpse of the afterlife or simply a chemically induced hallucination? Can it offer realistic hopes of immortality? What should we make of the fantastical claims of some near-death returnees, such as the congenitally blind who report having found themselves able to see? Can science adequately refute theological interpretations of NDEs in the absence of convincing medical explanations, and are religion and science necessarily in conflict? Drawing on the unpublished testimonies of almost 100 NDE survivors gathered over 30 years, and including a full overview of new theories and controversies, this scrupulously researched book is the only complete and up-to-date introduction to a subject that defies conventional understanding.
Neither a religious argument touting NDEs as hard evidence for God nor a scientific rebuke washing them away, it balances investigation of these much-reported yet baffling phenomena and brings fresh urgency to the study of our hopes for a life beyond.
Dr Mark Fox is a member of Lampeter University's Religious Experience Research Centre committee, and an active member researcher into religious and paranormal experience. He currently lectures in philosophy and religious studies at Joseph Chamberlain College in Birmingham.