What are Near Death Experiences (NDEs) about?

Near Death Experiences (NDE) are intriguing. Much literature and films talk of people who have experienced near death and testify to having made a passage into the “other world”. What are NDEs about? What to make of them with regard Catholic faith? Are they death as such?

The accounts of such experiences are very similar.  To start with, one speaks of going through an out-of-body experience, of actually being under the impression of coming out one’s body. Then one gets aspired through a tunnel from the bottom of which glimmers a dazzling light. Moreover, many attest of an encounter with spiritual beings and especially with “a being of light” from whom oozes infinite love.

What to make of them with regard Catholic faith?

Primarily these “super natural” experiences seem, on one hand, congruent with Christian anthropology which believes that a human being is not merely a body but also a soul. Thus being both spiritual and immortal.

Besides, NDEs have been reported as positive, whilst others, as negative. Regarding the former, the person encounters an individual that is said to be love; moreover, the person attests of being in a state of peace and wholeness that resemble that of a soul in heaven. On the opposite, descriptions of negative NDEs description are horrid and despairing. Relators speak of an appalling sense of solitude, and of a sensation of contempt and despair, somewhat very similar to the reality of hell.

Additionally, people who have experienced a near-death-experience speak of sensing the presence of relatives and attest of the persistence of beyond death relationships and beings, in contrast with reincarnation. This is also what the Christian faith asserts.

Lastly, these phenomena deeply alter the existence of the people who experienced them. Life does not remain the same as one came close to dying, as one had a foretaste of supra-natural love, or on the contrary, experienced abyssal despair. Hence, if they allow for self-giving and a more fruitful way of living, NDEs are a luminous limestone on the way to eternal life.  

Are they death as such?

However, if such experiences are close to that of death, they are not death as such.

The out-of-body experience endured by consciousness does not match up the factual partition of the soul from the body taking place when death occurs, a process which, in contrast, is always irretrievable.

Therefore, NDEs cannot constitute definite evidence of eternal life or of the after-life. Moreover, our faith is not grounded on tracks but on an event: that of the Resurrection of Christ.

Rev. Fr. Paul Denizot, Rector, CE Magazine n°299.

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