Publication Date

Fall 1996

Document Type

Article

Disciplines

Biblical Studies | Comparative Methodologies and Theories | Ethics in Religion | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | History of Religions of Western Origin | Other Religion | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion

Comments

Published in Christian Scholar's Review, 26 no 1 Fall 1996, p 78-85.

Abstract

It is probably an understatement to say that the phenomena of near-death experiences (NDEs) is riding a massive wave of popularity and has been for much of the last twenty years. Best-selling books, firsthand articles, television documentaries and movies regularly describe the fascination we have with stories "from the other side." The typically-reported sensations are now common parlance: floating above one's dying body, travelling down a dark tunnel, sensing the presence of departed loved ones or spiritual beings, and experiencing a Being of light.

From a more critical perspective, one problem with this popularity is that friends and foes alike generally concentrate on the more sensational aspects of these reports with little or no interest in the more evidential claims that are being made. Thus, allies often bask in the mere descriptions of these extraordinary reports while antagonists think that they have debunked these wonders by responding, in kind, to the same popular sensations. On both side serious attention is seldom given to accounts that claim corroborative evidence in favor of the NDEs.

One recent book is a welcome exception to this trend. Susan Blackmore's Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences is a serious attempt to investigate the best arguments both for and against these phenomena. A Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of the West of England, Blackmore is the author of numerous publications on this subject and one of the recognized experts in the field. Her background and the amount of her research lend credibility to her treatment.

This review article will examine Blackmore's arguments. In particular, she recognizes the importance of the evidential cases and thinks that they are potentially the most important ones. As we are in agreement on the centrality of this aspect, I will concentrate chiefly on some of these instances.