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"ANOTHER LOOK..." is an ongoing column I write for Vital Signs Newsletter, a quarterly publication of the International Association For Near-Death Studies. Each segment will appear here from now on, as well as in the Newsletter. This new feature gives me a format with which to explore varied issues about near-death states. Should you wish to make a comment or want to suggest future topics, please feel free to contact me. I may be able to use your suggestions directly. Thank you. P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.)


ANOTHER LOOK...

"THE EXPERIENCE/THE EXPERIENCER"

Column #12

P.M.H.Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.) P. O. Box 7691 Charlottesville, VA 22906-7691

© 2000 P.M.H.Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.)

	Since my specialty in near-death research is one-on-one sessions with
experiencers, I can speak little of the phenomenon's historical
significance - except to point out the fascinating anomaly that an amazing
number of people important to the evolution of humankind may well have had
such an episode during their childhood. I discuss this at length in both
FUTURE MEMORY and CHILDREN OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM. Some of the notables I
came across in only one week of perusing library records were Abraham
Lincoln, Mozart, Albert Einstein, Queen Elizabeth I, Edward de Vere/the
17th Earl of Oxford (who most likely is the real Shakespeare), Winston
Churchill, Black Elk, Walter Russell, plus several others. Either I was
possessed of "library luck" that week or there really is a connection
between near-death states and possible structural, chemical, and
functional shifts that appear to occur in the brain, elevating the
individual in appreciable ways. My research leads me to believe the
latter.

	I did encounter near-death states in people of other cultures, as I met
many who were foreign born or of racial backgrounds quite different than
the typical white Judeo-Christian mindset. Of the 3,000 adult experiencers
in my research base (actually the number is higher ATWATER, Column 12,
but I quit counting at 3,000), Caucasian Americans, European and Ara-bic
people predominate at 80%, with 20% being of the black race (15% African
Americans, 5% divided between Kenya, Haiti, and African Canadians). Of
the 277 child experiencers, the mix is: 60% white, 23% Latinos, 12%
blacks, and 5% Asian. 

	There have been excellent studies done of near-death experiencers in
their native countries, as well as a government study sanctioned in China;
but I want to mention the ongoing work by Todd Murphy of child experiencers
in Thailand. We'll all be hearing about Todd's findings soon as the Journal
of Near-Death Studies will be publishing several of his articles. Early-on
he was kind enough to discuss his ideas with me, so I am familiar with his
study - a research project that eventually came to confirm or support many
of my own observations.

	Having this exposure to accounts from a broad range of racial and
cultural traditions, enables me to make some "across-the-board" comments
- especially about "greeters," who, according to reports, are the first
ones met "at death's door." I think you will find this of interest. The
terms that follow are those most commonly used by the experiencers
themselves. INITIAL GREETERS MET IN NEAR-DEATH STATES - ranked in the
order most frequently encountered: 

 1. Light beings or bright ones (kids
    generally call them "The People")

 2. Angels, with or without wings (can be white, black, or of
	various skin hues)

 3. Deceased loved ones (including relatives not met or known
	about before who are later verified)

 4. God or God's Presence or God's Voice (seldom given a gender
	by adults, described as an older male by children)
 
 5. Religious figures (usually conform to the predominant reli-
	gion the experiencer was exposed to, but not always - Jesus
	has appeared in near-death scenarios of Jewish people, for
	stance; a Muslim man once told me he was met by Buddha)

 6. Animals (most often beloved pets who are deceased, yet there are many
    of non-pets such as horses, lions, or even chickens, who come as
    "guides" or to deliver a message) To go a little further with this, most
    adult experiencers describe God as a powerful, almost blinding sphere of
    light, that is ecstasy itself. Young children do not use such terms, saying
    instead that God is like a loving father or grandfather.

	Over 70% of children's near-death scenarios involve angels. Not that many
adults claim this, more like 40% (although adults often use terms like
"light beings" or "bright ones" as if they were describing angels). Just
who is what and whether or not there is any real difference between
these various emissaries cannot be determined solely by near-death
research. 

	Children sometimes describe an animal heaven they must visit be- fore
they can go to the heaven where people are. And they tend to be explicit
about skin tones when talking about any religious figure who visited them.
By that I mean, Jesus is seen as a man with tan skin (adults are the ones 
who usually see Jesus as white); Buddha's skin is more often seen as somewhat 
yellowish; Mohammed is described as having brown skin (yes, there are little 
ones who claim they saw Mohammed). Children seldom deviate in their description 
of such coloring regardless of their own skin tone or cultural exposure; adults do. 

	There is another greeter, though, who is sometimes encountered - a living
person - more commonly reported by children than by adults. This may be a
favorite teacher, the kid down the block, friends, or relatives. Does this
fact call into question the validity of near-death imagery? No, and here's
why.

	In every case I have thus far investigated where this occurred, the
living greeter did not remain in the scenario any longer than it took to
alert or relax the experiencer. Once that happened, the living greeter
disappeared and imagery more common to near-death states emerged. . . as
the episode deepened. It is almost as if the sole purpose of living
greeters is to ensure the continuance of the episode so that it can become
more meaningful. They don't "stick around" like other greeters usually do.

	While speaking of greeters, I also want to address this curious
observation: child experiencers are often met by a "critical or caring"
parental-type of being, seldom biologically related to them, but almost
always someone the child recognizes as an authority figure they must
respect (religious or otherwise). This being instructs or lectures the
child on behavior and what must be done to fulfill the reason for his or
her birth. These instructions or lectures can be quite stern and involve incidents 
where the child is judged on his or her progress toward the goal. If a tribunal 
is present, it is not unusual for the "judges" to be animals rather than people. 

	This curiosity is rather typical of near-death cases from kids residing
in Asia (Todd Murphy discovered a number of them), with indigenous
societies and Third World nations. But I have also found them with
youngsters from well-educated families in Europe and the United States.
Although many "parental" greeters are gentle and loving, some are rather
fearful and threaten the child with punishment if he or she does not obey. 

	One of these cases in the U.S. involved a nine-day-old infant who "died"
during surgery for a serious staph infection and abscess. I had intended
to include it in CHILDREN OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM, but the account was
somehow lost during rewrites and is only mentioned in brief on page 70,
and even there in error (at "age nine" should read "nine days of age"). I
have since apologized to Judith Werner, the experiencer involved. However,
thanks to the generosity of Barbara Rommer, M.D., this account will at last
be published - in the addendum to the second printing of Barbara's book,
BLESSING IN DISGUISE (Llewellyn, 2000). Her book, by the way, is an
important study of unpleasant and distressing near-death experiences.
Judith's scenario involved being surrounded by white-robed figures
devoid of emotion, a huge light which glared from above, and a heavy voice
called "Inner Stranger" that sounded like a critical and demanding parental
authority. The drawing she did of this scene looks like the typical layout of 
the average medical operating room complete with nurses and surgeons. 
Still, if you put yourself into the mind of one so young, the white-clad 
figures easily become evil giants, the light a torture device, and her 
subsequent treatments (also shown in the drawing) akin to ongoing punishment. 

	Once verbal, Judith told her parents about the incident and about Inner
Stranger and the threats made ("obey me or you will die"). They
pooh-poohed her story, and so did everyone else she told it too. She then
repressed the experience until, when twenty-eight, she had a
near-death-like episode that explained what had happened to her when nine
days old. The closure that resulted enabled her to understand lingering
childhood fears and angers, and begin the process of turning her life
around in a positive manner.

	Any discussion of this case must address the question: how could an
infant only nine days old remember surgical details, respond to and retain
the words of a threatening male - throughout her entire life? 

	Today, Judith speaks well of Inner Stranger, acknowledging that, although
frightening to begin with, his advice has proved to be invaluable over
time. Black Elk, the famous Lakota Sioux medicine man, had a similar
encounter during his childhood near-death state in the sense that the wise
ones who came to him were stern "parental-type elders." 

	Comparing the kind of accounts we have become accustomed to with those
from other cultures and other timeframes in history, helps us to enlarge
our perspective of the human mind and of life and death. 
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