The stage following the pre-NDE is the consciousness/spirit leaving the body and observing it accurately from another vantage point. This is the OBE stage and can signal the start of a ‘deeper’ NDE when the spirit body leaves Earth for other venues.
A genuine OBE is not a hallucination and will enable the floating spirit to observe the surroundings and activities accurately. This case described by the cardiologist Dr Maurice Rawlings 7 is typical. Rawlings was prominent in his field, serving as physician to President Dwight Eisenhower and also to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His example involved a patient who was interviewed after his OBE:
I remember getting out of my body headfirst and floating over to the corner of the room. My wife was crying and I tried to tell her to look over here at me. No one paid any attention. I moved past the two doctors and looked down at my body. The clothes had been burnt from the fire and my face was a mass of peeling skin. The doctor said, ‘Is the machine charged to four hundred?’ and then he put two metal discs on my chest that were wired to the machine. I saw my body jump.
This experience describes the features of an OBE – where the spirit has separated from the body and accurately observes the body and activities on Earth. However, ‘buyer beware’, because there are reported OBEs and NDEs that are imagined and not real. This is because NDEs have become part of the expectation of many dying people, such that dreams and hallucinations mimicking these can be thrown up by a traumatised or dying brain – often mixed in with more dream-like fantastic imagery – mythical creatures like centaurs, talking animals or plants, hostile nurses, celebrities living or dead, and so on. As one researcher Dr William Serdahely 8 has observed, confusion between NDEs and brain-generated hallucinations may occur. A man who was electrocuted described an encounter with a centaur, but Serdahely suggested that the experience might have been a hallucination misidentified by others as an NDE. This strange content is in any case uncommon, and taken in the context of other experiences, it is most likely to be pre-NDE and hallucinatory. To quote J. Steve Miller 9, regarding NDErs encountering people who were not yet dead, or mythological creatures, or predictions that did not come true:
I did my own study of 100 complete NDEs on Dr Long’s NDERF site. None of these contained any of these elements, indicating to me that they must be extremely rare.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that weird content may readily be thrown up by a traumatised brain. The difficulty is that pre-NDEs are far too often identified in error as NDEs. Not making this distinction leaves reports and statistics regarding NDEs in tatters. Furthermore, the veracity of what is reported is also often doubted because the pre-NDE hallucinations smack of fantasy. Unfortunately, later stages of the NDE sequence can be tarred with the same brush and discredited unfairly.
Bruce Greyson 10 makes a challenging and perceptive observation, “Without exception, every report of a large study of NDEs published in a mainstream medical journal has concluded that these phenomena cannot be explained as hallucinations. Such unanimity among scientific researchers is unusual and should tell us something. Why is it that scientists who have done the most near-death research believe the mind is not exclusively housed in the brain, whereas those who regard NDEs as hallucinations by and large have not conducted any studies of the phenomena at all?”
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