Life After Death – Part 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2004
This four-part series examines some of the differences in belief regarding the doctrine of Justification, especially as it relates to the Catholic church. Key terms defined are. “Forensic” vs. “Legal Fiction.

Life After Death—Part 1
The Importance of Death in Modern Society

Death is one of the few universal experiences of human existence. It is the most predictable event in our lives, one that is to be expected with absolute certainty. Yet, the nature of death is immersed in deep mystery. —Stanislav Grof, M.D. and Joan Halifax, The Human Encounter with Death[1]

Vast numbers of books now exist on dying—books for the terminally ill and their family and friends, for researchers and death educators, for psychotherapists and gerontologists, for physi­cians, nurses and hospice workers. One would think death were a new topic.

There are also instruction manuals on what to expect and/or what to do at or after death, such as the Tibetan, Egyptian, American, and other Books of the Dead. There are even various New Age devices to help induce “near-death experiences” or “out-of-body experiences” as a “preparation” for death. And there are self-help manuals on how to kill yourself.

At numerous universities the social sciences (psychology, for example) frequently incorporate the field of thanatology—the study of death. Some writers have even divided the subject into two major branches—“applied” and “theoretical” thanatology.[2]

The theoretical branch principally involves the study of the “evidence” for survival after death—which includes not only NDEs, but mediumism, reincarnation research, out-of-body episodes, poltergeists and apparition re­search, and many other occult topics.</ref>

Today, a new interest in death has emerged that promises to expand well into the twenty-first century. Perhaps more than any other subject, the “near-death experience” (NDE) has helped resurrect this interest in death. But what is an NDE? It is an alleged experience of the afterlife that takes place while a person is clinically dead.

It appears that, along with everything else, death has come out of the closet. In the March 1992 Life magazine it was noted that “the increasingly open discussion of these [NDE] visions has begun to change the climate of dying in America.”[3]

The Near-Death Experience: Popularizing an Occultic View of Death

What is a near-death experience?

The typical near-death experience (NDE) has been described by leading death researcher Dr. Raymond Moody. His several books, including the eight-million bestseller Life After Life, opened a new era of “scientific” study of the near-death experience. With the near-death or clinical death phenomenon some people who are brought back from “death” have reported being alive the entire time they were “dead.” This phenomenon occurs among people with a wide diversity of religious belief and no religious belief at all—from atheists to Zen Buddhists.[4]

When co-author John Weldon wrote his first book on the subject in 1976, there was almost no literature available. Today there are scores of books and research papers. Unfortunately, almost all of them reveal that the NDE is frequently an occult experience.

The composite or classic NDE[5] involves the perception of being “out of the body”—and look­ing down at one’s body while resuscitation attempts are being administered. Soon afterward the person finds he or she is in another location where the spirit world is encountered. There the person engages in non-verbal or verbal communication with various spirits, usually of dead friends and relatives or a “being of light.” This entity is often very warm and loving and involves the “dead” person in an evaluation of his or her life by showing an instantaneous playback of the major events. At some point, the person finds himself approaching a barrier or border which he is not allowed to cross. He is told he must go back to earth, for his time to die has not yet ar­rived. However, the participant’s experience in this other state of existence is frequently so peaceful, joyful, and loving that he desperately does not want to return. Nevertheless, he finds himself back in his body anyway. And when he awakens in this world he finds that he had been pronounced dead, but was fortunately (?) revived.[6]

Skeptics and materialists are doubtful about all this and have put forth a variety of theories that they think explain the phenomenon. Some of the major explanations are that NDEs are

  1. hallucinations induced by pain or medication;
  2. leftover memories from the experience of birth;
  3. the brain’s reaction to altered levels of carbon dioxide;
  4. psychological wish fulfillment (the hope of a heaven);
  5. experiences related to Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious and/or archetypes;
  6. experiences induced by drugs—LSD, heroin, marijuana, etc., or various anesthetic agents;
  7. temporal lobe seizures, and
  8. sensory deprivation.

The problem with these theories is that none of them adequately explain the facts of the NDE. For example, they cannot explain how people who were brain dead at the time are later able to describe in vivid detail the attempts of medical personnel to resuscitate them. It would seem that the most logical explanation is that these people were somehow outside their bodies actually observing the procedure.

Let us give an example. In one study, 25 medically informed patients were asked to make educated guesses about what happens when a doctor attempts to resuscitate a clinically dead patient. Almost all persons in the control group (23 of 25) made “major mistakes” in providing descriptions of the resuscitation procedure. On the other hand, “none of the near-death patients made mistakes in describing what went on in their own resuscitations.”[7] Studies like this present evidence that these people were actually outside their bodies looking down upon their “death” just as they claimed.

How frequent are these experiences? What are their implications?

It should be emphasized that not every dying person has an experience of this type. Most have none at all, and of those who do, not all are glorious. Although most Americans seem unaware of the fact, many people—perhaps up to half—report hellish experiences. Further, Christian and non-Christian NDEs appear to be of a qualitatively different nature; for instance, the occult elements are typically lacking in the Christian NDE.[8]

However, polls indicate that some ten million Americans have had a near-death experience, and the influence of these experiences upon the public’s perception of death has been dra­matic. The NDE has played a major role in promoting the view that death may not be so bad after all. Further, millions of NDEs have helped to under gird an occult view of death (and even life) as something that is highly positive. For example, contacting the alleged dead or other spirits is so frequent in the NDE that the disciplines most likely to benefit from such episodes are mediumism, channeling and other forms of spiritism. Thus, if we examine near-death re­search as a whole, it essentially confirms the mediumistic view of the afterlife.

In fact, as more scientists have become interested in the NDE, the possibility has emerged for a “scientific” necromancy to develop under the guise of death research. Because NDEs often involve contact with the dead, these experiences can be used to promote a “legitimate scientific” basis to study mediumism and other forms of spiritism. After all, some may reason, if dying people experience contact with the dead, how can scientific objectivity be retained if we refuse to study living contact with the dead—for example, through mediumism and other forms of the occult?

Nevertheless, Gallup and other polls consistently reveal that over 70 percent of Americans believe in life after death, and have since 1944 when surveys began: 70 to 80 percent continue to believe in heaven and 50 to 60 percent in hell.[9]

But with the occult revival in our culture, necromancy has also been increasingly accepted. Almost half of a Los Angeles sample (44 percent) “claimed encounters with others known to be dead.”[10] A nationwide poll conducted in 1986 by sociologist Andrew Greeley of the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center, based on a sample of almost 1,500 people, found nearly identical results—42 percent believed they had been in contact with the dead.[11]1 Perhaps this explains why channeling alone is now a $100 million a year business.[12]

One reason these NDEs are so powerful in our culture is that they seem to deny the biblical teaching of an eternal hell, which many people fear. Rather, these experiences teach people that they will live forever in a heavenly environment and that there are no consequences to death at all. This is what most people want to believe.

Thus, the way the NDE is currently being popularized in American life the biblical concept of hell could be erased from our culture. Millions of people who once weren’t so sure are now convinced that death is a wonderful experience and that there is no hell.[13] Even many ministers have been so influenced by the near-death experience as to reject the biblical view and adopt an occult one. All of this is a reflection of our cultural swing toward the New Age view of death, which is fundamentally spiritistic in nature.

Is the NDE a genuine experience with death or merely a mystical experience with profound consequences?

What many people do not understand is that with an NDE we are not dealing with true death. And, we are certainly not dealing in the realm of scientific confirmation of life after death, despite some proponents’ claims. Rather, we are encountering personal, mystical/occult experiences that occur in some near-death states. But these same experiences also occur in many occult religions and practices and in various altered states of consciousness wholly unrelated to death per se.

For example, in large measure the NDE is merely one form of the occult out-of-body experi­ence (OBE). Both have fundamentally the same impact on the person—removal of the fear of death and dramatic psychological aftereffects.[14]

But both the NDE and OBE have many other similarities including cross-cultural occurrence, spiritistic contacts, worldview changes and development of psychic powers.[15]

One of the leading modern NDE researchers is University of Connecticut psychologist Dr. Kenneth Ring. In Heading Toward Omega, he reveals two crucial implications of the NDE: (1) its removal of the fear of death; and (2) its radical transformation of the living.

For almost everyone Ring and other researchers have encountered, the NDE has been one of utterly indescribable joy, love, beauty, peace, and harmony. According to Ring,

The great unanimity of these reports means that there is a consensus among near-death experiencers concerning what it is like to die…. The experience of death is exceedingly pleasant. Indeed, the word “pleasant” is far too mild; the word “ecstatic” would be chosen by many survivors of this experience. No words are truly adequate to describe the sense of ultimate perfection that appears to characterize the entry into death.[16]

He cites the description given by the famed psychotherapist Carl Jung who described the feelings he had after his own NDE: “What happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imaginations and our feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it….”[17] Thus Ring concludes:

No one who has experienced, even vicariously, what NDErs have can ever again regard death with anything other than a sense of infinite gratitude for its existence. This, I submit, is what follows from a careful perusal of near-death experiences, but what follows from a study of aftereffects is different—and just as profound. It is nothing less than a new view of life.[18]

In essence, the NDE itself is analogous to the planting of a spiritual “seed” within a person which then appears to grow into its genetically predetermined tree—replete with fruit. As Ring comments, “The key to the meaning of NDEs lies in the study of their aftereffects….”[19]

This is why, Ring says, almost all early researchers necessarily missed the true meaning of the NDE—enough time had not elapsed to examine its real fruit. We agree. By examining the “fruit” of the NDE, we may ascertain its true meaning. In the next several questions we will do this.


  1. Stanislav Grof and Joan Halifax, The Human Encounter with Death (New York: Dutton, 1977), p. 1.
  2. In applied thanatology one is taught how to die “correctly” according to various Eastern/occult traditions—typically utilizing the Books of the Dead. These books are often incorporated with the latest findings in parapsychology and similar research into the Near-Death Experience (NDE).
  3. Verlyn Klinkenborg, “At the Edge of Eternity,” Life magazine (March 1992), p. 66.
  4. E.g., Raymond Moody, Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon—Survival of Bodily Death (Atlanta: Mockingbird, 1976), p. 98.
  5. The reader should understand that approximately 65 percent of those who have been clinically dead report no experience at all. Further, those who have experienced a near-death episode report experiences along a con­tinuum [Moody, Life After Life, p. 24.]. Only infrequent or rare experiences include the “composite” or “full” NDE containing almost all the characteristics noted to date in NDEs. The “normal” and most frequent NDE contains some or many but not all the characteristics of the “composite” experience. The “deep” NDE is also not a com­posite experience. But in its large number of characteristics and/or its profundity (including the subsequent impact upon the person), it is distinguished as a more powerful NDE than average and in some respects is as powerful as the full-blown occult NDE. We should remember that not every NDE is by definition occult. Nevertheless, the more pagan a culture becomes, the more it opens itself to occult forces.In our opinion, the spiritual background of those having deep NDEs could prove significant. Examining their family histories to four generations in terms of psychic/occult involvement—or even a distinctly anti-Christian orientation—may help reveal the origin of these experiences. Deeper NDEs are occult experiences, and occult experiences frequent persons for specific reasons based on specific spiritual conditions [e.g., Kurt Koch, Chris­tian Counseling and Occultism (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1972), pp. 37-192.].

    Nevertheless, if even 10 percent of the ten million people who have had the “average” NDE have had a deep NDE, we are dealing with over one million persons who have had the fully transformative NDE experience. Furthermore, as our technology improves and resuscitation attempts continue, there will be millions more, so none can deny the importance of this phenomenon. The fact that this experience itself (unsought and unex­pected) may finally produce occult transformation in the lives of several million persons is substantiated by the occult revival now coursing through society.

  6. Raymond Moody, The Light Beyond: New Explorations by the Author of Life After Life (New York: Bantam, 1989), pp. 7-20.
  7. Melvin Morse, M. D., Closer to the Light: Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children (New York: Villard Books, 1990), p. 105; cf. Mark Woodhouse, “Five Arguments Regarding the Objectivity of NDE’s,” Anabiosis, Vol. 3, No. 1.
  8. Based on personal conversations and the initial research of those studying Christian NDEs such as Dr. Nina Helene; cf. John Weldon and Zola Levitt, Is There Life After Death? (Dallas: Zola Levitt Ministries, 1990), Chapter 8.
  9. “Religion in America: 50 Years: 1935-1985,” The Gallup Report, No. 236 (May 1985), p. 53; U.S. News and World Report (March 25, 1991), p. 57. Although over half believed in hell, only 3 to 4 percent thought their chances were good of going there.
  10. The Gallup Report, p. 53; see also Death Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, p. 95 and Psychology Today (January 1981), p. 65.
  11. Andrew Greeley, “Mysticism Goes Mainstream,” American Health (January/February 1987), passim.
  12. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Cult Watch: What You Need to Know About Spiritual Deception (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1991), p. 167.
  13. U. S. News and World Report (March 25, 1991), p. 57.
  14. Robert Monroe, Journeys Out of the Body, passim; the published studies by Dr. Robert Crookall, e.g., The Study and Practice of Astral Projection (Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1960); Herbert Greenhouse, The Astral Journey (New York: Avon, 1976).
  15. Compare Kenneth Ring’s Heading Toward Omega: In Search of the Meaning of the Near-Death Experience (New York: William Morrow, 1985) and the books of Robert Monroe, et al., cited above.
  16. Ring, Heading, p. 19.
  17. , The Light Beyond, p. 198.
  18. Ring, Heading, p. 31.
  19. Ibid., p. 27.


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