The Guardian has a piece on near-death experiences (as they have been known since the 70’s), which profiles a psychiatrist named Bruce Greyson and his research into the phenomenon. Like surgeon Dr. Sam Parnia, who has also studied this area thoroughly, Greyson has come up with no verifiable or satisfying scientific ways of explaining the extraordinary things people go through when they are on the precipice of death.
One of the things I’ve found most interesting about those who have undergone these experiences is their transformative nature. This one single experience has a dramatic effect on how people live the rest of their lives. I’ve read about people coming back so changed that they get divorced because they are so different from the person that married their spouse.
Greyson sometimes asks people to describe their partners before and after an event, “and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, this isn’t the person I married; this is someone different.’” He adds, “They see a purpose in life they didn’t see before. I don’t know of anything else that powerful.”
Greyson says that he is recognizing now that there is more to us than our physical selves. He says that the mind may be distinct from the brain. Call it the psyche, or the soul, there is an acknowledgement of consciousness outside our material presence.
“I grew up without any kind of a spiritual background,” he continues. “And I’m still not sure I understand what spiritual means. I am convinced now, after doing this for 40, 50 years, that there is more to life than just our physical bodies. I recognise that there is a non-physical part of us. Is that spiritual? I’m not sure. Spirituality usually involves a search for something greater than yourself, for meaning and purpose in the universe. Well, I certainly have that.”
Greyson has a book on the subject out now called After.