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Death-Related Experiences
Record Type: Review   ID: 49

On the Other Side of Life: Exploring the Phenomenon of the Near-Death Experience

Valarino, Evelyn Elsaesse

 A new approach to NDEs is presented by Ms. Valarino, who is the Law Librarian at the University of Geneva. As part of her personal search for meaning, she became interested in NDEs and read the literature thoroughly. Many questions remained unanswered in her mind, and she determined to ask them of several experts in various fields. She says her purpose was "to provide an in-depth analysis of the near-death experience (NDE), in the light of the social and natural sciences" (p. 17). In chapter 1 she provides an overview of the history and basic findings of NDE research. Using excerpts from experiencer accounts, the next chapter consists of an analysis of the NDE and its successive stages. She starts with a list of 31 components of NDEs, of which 7 are aftereffects. Oddly, the latter does not include alterations of identity, lifeway, and worldview nor personal transformation. Each of these components is then illustrated by liberal quotation from the NDE literature. In two successive chapters, a physician describes his NDE followed by the transcript of an interview with Valarino, and the other with a drug addict for 20 years who stopped following an NDE associated with an overdose. Each of the remaining 6 chapters is a dialogue with an individual scholar, the first being NDE researcher/psychologist Kenneth Ring. It is about three times longer than the others, and is a very interesting and informative chapter. The next dialogue is with French biologist Louis-Marie Vincent who proposes that death is a series of stages even as the beginning of life is "a series of successive stages in which a possibility becomes a reality, or a potential is actualized" (p. 163). He suggests that "our true selves are...‘invisible forms,’ to which consciousness and information—but not matter—are joined" (p. 186). He also proposes that the term "field" should be used for "subtle body." Next she dialogues with Régis Dutheil, M.D., a French physicist and biophysicist who developed a hypothesis based on "superluminal consciousness." He proposes there are two universes, the one we live in, which is the subliminal universe and one in which particles exceed the speed of light: the superliminal one. He says "the NDE would...be the human...passage from the subliminal to the superliminal world" (p. 203). The implications of the superliminal world are discussed in the remainder of the chapter, including "unexplained phenomena viewed from the perspective of the superluminal model" (p. 223). The next dialogue is with Paul Chauchard, a French neurophysiologist. He struggles with his professional knowledge that a live physical brain is required to process and communicate, and he wonders if any NDEer ever died even clinically. At the same time, he believes there is a spiritual world. He is unable to separate soul from body but honors the need of philosophers who can provide another level of explanation. They discuss consciousness, altered states, memory, and death. There follows a dialogue with Catholic Monsignor Jean Vernette, Delegate of the French Episcopate for questions on sects and new religious phenomena and Advisor to the Vatican. In response to her questions, he appears to play the role of devil’s advocate, but on behalf of Catholic Christianity, taking a conservative stance even on the meaning and message of NDEs. The last dialogue is with Michel Lefeuvre, professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of Dakar. He discusses epistemological aspects of NDEs and whether they provide the sense of inseparability that is denied by much of our ordinary experience. He suggests that in NDEs our individuality is transformed and ceases to be constrained by the brain. "It is the near-death experience that offers us a perspective on decorporation" (p. 312). Both bibliography and index are extensive.
Publisher Information:New York: Plenum, 1997. xiii + 353p. Bibl:319-340; Chapnotes: 313-318; Ind: 341-353
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