Historical Near-Death Experiences (Updated)Mar 28
“Ascent to Empyrean” by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch
HISTORICAL NDE CASES
Horizon Research Foundation
Looking back in the literature, there have… been many historical accounts of near death experiences in different cultures and throughout historical time. For example they are described in Plato’s Republic. Here, an ordinary soldier, Er, suffers a near fatal injury on the battlefield, is revived on the funeral parlour and describes a journey from darkness to light accompanied by guides, a moment of judgement, feelings of peace and joy, and visions of extraordinary beauty and happiness.
Hieronymus Bosch the Dutch painter who died in 1516 depicted a passage down a tunnel towards a bright light in a painting entitled “ascent to empyrean”.
Another case is that of Admiral Beaufort, an admiral with the Royal Navy who had narrowly escaped drowning in Portsmouth harbour in 1795. He had gone on to describe his experience:
“Though the senses were deadened, not so the mind; its activity seemed to be invigorated in a ratio which defies all description, for thought rose above thought in rapid succession. The event just occurred the awkwardness producing it, the bustle it must have occasioned…the effect on my most affectionate father, the moment in which it would be disclosed to the family, and a thousand other circumstances minutely associated with home, were the first reflections. Then they took a wider range, our last cruise a former voyage and shipwreck, my school and boyish pursuits and adventures. Thus travelling backwards, every past incident of my life seemed to glance across my recollection in retrograde succession; not however in mere outline, as here stated, but the picture filled up with every minute and collateral feature. In short, the whole period of my existence seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic review, and each of it seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of right or wrong, or by some reflection on its cause or consequences; indeed many trifling events which had been forgotten then crowded into my imagination, and with the character of recent familiarity.”
The first systemic series of accounts from people who had experienced a close encounter with death were reported by a 19th century Swiss geologist and mountaineer, Albert Heim. Heim had survived a near-fatal mountaineering accident himself and then went on to collect 30 first hand accounts from other survivors of near-fatal mountaineering accidents, and found that they had similar experiences. His work was published in 1892. His own experience is typical of those recalled by other people in his series:
“No grief was felt nor was there any paralysing fright. There was no anxiety, no trace of despair or pain, but rather calm seriousness, profound acceptance and a dominant mental quickness. The relationship of events and their probable outcomes were viewed with objective clarity, no confusion entered at all. Time became greatly expanded.”
He found that in many cases there then followed a sudden review of the individual’s entire past, and finally the person falling often heard ‘beautiful music’ and fell in what they visualised as ‘a superbly blue heaven containing roseate cloudlets’. It was reported that consciousness was painlessly extinguished, usually at the moment of impact, which was at the most heard but never painfully felt.
BLACK ELK SPEAKS: VISIONS OF THE OTHER WORLD
By Black Elk
“As I danced, with Good Thunder and Kicking Bear holding my arms between them, I had the queer feeling that I knew and I seemed to be lifted clear off the ground. I did not have a vision all that first day. That night I thought about the other world and that the Wanekia himself was with my people there and maybe the holy tree of my vision was really blooming yonder right then, and that it was there my vision had already come true. From the center of the earth I had been shown all good and beautiful things in a great circle of peace, and maybe this land of my vision was where all my people were going, and there they would live and prosper where no Wasichus were or could ever be.
“Before we started dancing next day, Kicking Bear offered a prayer, saying: ‘Father, Great Spirit, behold these people! They shall go forth today to see their relatives, and yonder they shall be happy, day after day, and their happiness will not end.’
“Then we began dancing, and most of the people wailed and cried as they danced, holding hands in a circle; but some of them laughed with happiness. Now and then some one would fall down like dead, and others would go staggering around and panting before they would fall. While they were lying there like dead they were having visions, and we kept on dancing and singing, and many were crying for the old way of living and that the old religion might be with them again.
“After awhile I began to feel very queer. First, my legs seemed to be full of ants. I was dancing with my eyes closed, as the others did. Suddenly it seemed that I was swinging off the ground and not touching it any longer. The queer feeling came up from my legs and was in my heart now. It seemed I would glide forward like a swing, and then glide back again in longer and longer swoops. There was no fear with this, just a growing happiness.
“I must have fallen down, but I felt as though I had fallen off a swing when it was going forward, and I was floating head first through the air. My arms were stretched out, and all I saw at first was a single eagle feather right in front of me. Then the feather was a spotted eagle dancing on ahead of me with his wings fluttering, and he was making the shrill whistle that is his. My body did not move at all, but I looked ahead and floated fast toward where I looked.
“There was a ridge right in front of me, and I thought I was going to run into it, but I went right over it. On the other side of the ridge I could see a beautiful land where many, many people were camping in a great circle. I could see that they were happy and had plenty. Everywhere there were drying racks full of meat. The air was clear and beautiful with a living light that was everywhere. All around the circle, feeding on the green, green grass, were fat and happy horses; and animals of all kinds were scattered all over the green hills, and singing hunters were returning with their meat.
“I floated over the tepees and began to come down feet first at the center of the hoop where I could see a beautiful tree all green and full of flowers. When I touched the ground, two men were coming toward me, and they wore holy shirts made and painted in a certain way. They came to me and said: ‘It is not yet time to see your father, who is happy. You have work to do. We will give you something that you shall carry back to your people, and with it they shall come to see their loved ones.’
“I knew it was the way their holy shirts were made that they wanted me to take back. They told me to return at once, and then I was out in the air again, floating fast as before. When I came right over the dancing place, the people were still dancing, but it seemed they were not making any sound. I had hoped to see the withered tree in bloom, but it was dead.
“Then I fell back into my body, and as I did this I heard voices all around and above me, and I was sitting on the ground. Many were crowding around, asking me what vision I had seen. I told them just what I had seen, and what I brought back was the memory of the holy shirts the two men wore…”
• IANDS: Key Facts About Near-Death Experiences – History and Prevalence
• Wikipedia on the History of Near-Death Experiences
• NDEs Have Been Reported Since Ancient Times
• Plato’s Republic: The Myth of Er
• Wikipedia on “The Myth of Er”
• Black Elk Speaks: Visions of the Other World
• Wikipedia on Black Elk
• Albert Heim: “Notes on Deaths from Falls”
• All About Emanuel Swedenborg
• Emanuel Swedenborg’s Near-Death Experiences
• Channeled Material Describes Life Review Process Years, Possibly Decades, Before Moody