Near Death Experiences (NDE)

From Anthroposophy

A Near-Death Experience (NDE) is a profound personal experience associated with death or impending death, experienced as a significant (spiritual) event by the experiencer.

NDEs are characterized by the following pattern: a person comes close to death (eg in case of accidents of critical illness in hospital), and then actually experiences leaving the physical body and going through a process, after which the person returns to the physical body and continues incarnate life on Earth. Certain elements of the process that is experienced come back often in reports by experiencers, such as: seeing one's life memory tableau, going through a tunnel, seeing a light, etc.

An NDE usually or mostly has a major impact on the individual's personality and outlook on life, in terms of values and beliefs. Kenneth Ring (see sources below) found 'greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, less concern for acquiring material wealth, a heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive'.


  • occurance and studies:
    • many thousands of cases have been reported since the 1970s in all countries worldwide, certain scientific studies review 2500 to 3500 cases
    • Gallup (1982) found that approx. one in twenty people had experienced some kind of NDE-type experience (those 5% would mean 8 million people in the US alone, as Kenneth Ring writes in his book review and his own book Lessons from the Light)
  • stages following Moody:
    • the sequence can vary, and not all experiences include the higher or all stages (eg some people only experience the first two stages)
      • (1) Out of body experience: one sees one's own body from outside; (2) outer-sensible spatial experience; (3) tunnel experience
      • (4) light world; (5) life memory tableau; (6) the 'light being'; (7) the 'light city'
      • (8) return to the body; (9) transformation, cure; (10) new relationships (social, community, moral)
    • notes
      • stages (5) and (6), the encounter with the light being, have a moral impact: have you truly loved, did you truly learn
      • regarding stage (3) see Schema FMC00.024 below; regarding stage (5), see Laying off the etheric body after death
  • contemporary research and literature
  • potential correlations or relationships


Schema FMC00.024 is an illustration by Hieronymus Bosch made around 1505-1515, reminiscent of the tunnel of life as appearing in the reports of people having had Near Death Experiences (NDE).

Lecture coverage and references


The story of Arisdeu in 79 AD.

Arisdeu was a dishonest individual with a bad reputation in his community. He suffered an accident where he fell and hit his head against a rock, resulting in a coma which lasted a couple of days. During this coma, Arisdeu perceived himself outside his body. He found himself with his helper, or spiritual guide, and talked to her. During this experience, Arisdeu also saw another dimension which was inhabited by consciousnesses with little equilibrium and stayed to examine them.

Then, at a certain moment, he felt a force pulling him back inside his body. Arisdeu woke up in the physical plane at the moment in which he was about to be buried. One can imagine the reaction of the community. Nevertheless, since this experience, Arisdeu changed his ethics, values, and behavior, transforming himself into a respected citizen valued in his community.

Kenneth Ring

in Lessons from the Light, brings forth from his thorough research, some exceptional stories from NDE experiences: in Chapter 13: Journeys to the source.

  • Mellen-Thomas Benedict
  • Howard Storm
  • Virginia Rivers
  • Beverly Brodsky


[1] - NDEs and Christ in the etheric

For a perspective on aspect from a 'Christ in the etheric' experience, see:

Christ in the etheric#Note .5B3.5D - Christ experiences during NDEs .28Near Death Experiences.29

Given the NDE is a reality and a fact, with many thousands of witness reports and scientific studies by doctors and clinics, what about the appearance of a human figure in light that is perceived as Christ Jesus? These reports exist, but in today's world dominated by the media and huge amounts of unqualified information, it is hard to judge or separate fact from fiction. The fundamentalistic Christian stream of belief in the US does not help to shed a light of objective factuality on this (...).

This topic is not about judging, but of collecting elements for an assessment in how far the NDE circumstances could facilitate the experience of what Rudolf Steiner described as a Damascus experience of seing Christ in the Etheric.

Related pages

References and further reading

For very extensive further literature lists and reviews, we refer to the specialized studies such as the books of Kenneth Ring and others.

Spiritual scientific

  • Wolfgang Weirauch, Florin Lowndes: 'Nah-Todeserfahrungen. Rückkehr zum Leben' (1995, Flensburger Hefte)



  • George W. Ritchie: 'Return from tomorrow' (1978)

Some additional references:

  • Margot Grey: Return from death
  • Phyllis Atwater: 'Coming back to life'
  • Cherie Sutherland: 'Transformed by the light' and 'Within the light'

A whole number of 'bestsellers' followed, a.o. just the few examples below as an entry to myriads of others:

  • Betty J. Eadie: 'Embraced by the Light' (1992), also with sequel books. About clinical death experience in hospital surgery in 1973.
  • Dannion Brinkley: 'Saved by the Light' (1994), movie in 1995 and sequels: 'At peace in the light' (1995) and 'Secrets of the light' (2008). Example of sceptical analysis of claim by the author.
  • Don Piper: '90 Minutes in Heaven' (2004), bestseller (sold over six million copies) and movie in 2015. About car accident in 1989.


  • Raymond Moody: 'Life after life' (1975)
  • George Gallup: 'Adventures in Immortality: A Look Beyond the Threshold of Death (1982)
  • Kenneth Ring:
    • co-founder of the 'International Association for Near-Death Studies' (IANDS) and founding editor of the 'Journal of Near-Death Studies'
    • 'Life at Death' (1980)
    • 'Heading Toward Omega' (1984)
    • 'Mindsight: Near-death and out-of-body experiences in the blind' (1999)
    • 'Lessons from the Light' (2000)
  • David Lorimer
    • Whole in One: The Near-Death Experience and the Ethic of Interconnectedness (1991, in DE 1993 as 'Die Ethik der Nah-Todeserfahrungen'; republished in 2017 as 'Resonant Mind: Life Review in the Near-Death Experience')
  • Melvin Morse:
    • Transformed by the light
    • Closer to the Light (1991)
    • Parting Visions:: Pre-Death visions and spiritual experiences
    • with Paul Perry: 'Transformed by the light: The powerful effect of Near Death Experiences on people's lives' (1992)
  • Pim Van Lommel:
    • Study in The Lancet about NDEs with patients in the hospital, as reported by a cardiologist (2001)
    • 'Consciousness Beyond Life, The Science of the Near-Death Experience' (in EN, in NL as 'Eindeloos bewustzijn' in 2007)
    • Het geheim van Elysion. 45 jaar studie naar nabij-de-dood-ervaringen. (in NL 2020)
  • Bruce Greyson:
    • Near-death experiences and spirituality (2006)
    • co-editor of 'The handbook of Near-Death Experiences: thirty years of investigation' (2009)
    • 'Implications of near-death experiences for a post materialist psychology' (2010)
    • 'After: A doctor explores what Near-Death Experiences reveal about life and beyond (2021)
Organizations - journals - internet
  • E.W. Kelly: Near death experiences with reports of meeting deceased people (2001 in 'Death studies')
  • T. Murphy: Near death experiences in Thailand (2001, Journal of Near-Death Studies)
  • S. Parisha: Near death experiences in South India: a systematic survey (1995)

Various other unqualified

  • Roy L. Hill
    • Jesus and the Near-Death Experience: Testimonies of the ascended Christ (2017)
    • Psychology and the Near-Death Experience: Searching for God (2015)