Healing and Paranormal Gifts:  Survey Results Between Near-Death Experiencers and Non-Near-Death Experiencers,  
by Jody A. Long, J.D.
 

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ABSTRACT:  A survey on different aspects of healing was e-mailed to 315 near-death experiencers (NDErs) who met the definition of "a lucid experience associated with perceived consciousness apart from the body occurring at the time of actual or threatened imminent death."  In short, these are people who have died and come back to life.  They come back with a collection of memories that occurred during the time of death. The survey was also e-mailed to 467 people who did not meet the above definition of near-death experience (NDE).  Those people who did not respond or whose e-mail was not current were subsequently mailed a copy of the survey via the U.S. Postal Service.  The non-NDErs came from a pool of people who had experienced one or more paranormal events and who shared this experience with either the www.nderf.org (NDERF) or www.oberf.org (OBERF) websites.  Analysis results are based on the total of 124 NDErs and 75 non-NDErs who responded.  The healing questions pertained to the meaning of healing, whether the participant had experienced any emotional or healing gifts and whether the timing of these gifts was before or after their NDE or other paranormal experience.  They were also asked if they had healed anyone, and if so to explain or give examples.  Past studies are reviewed.  Present tension between medicine and alternative healing is explored.  The main finding of this study is that healing and evidentiality of alternative healing depends on how a person views "healing."  Most of the time the way a person views healing is part of a larger belief system rather than a compartmentalized body of knowledge about the physical body.   

KEY WORDS:  near-death experience; healing; paranormal gifts, hands-on-healing; emotional healing

Healing and Paranormal Gifts:  Survey Results Between Near-Death Experiencers and Non-Near-Death Experiencers
by Jody

Reprint requests may be sent to Jody A. Long, J.D. at


People who are near-death experiencers (NDErs) are people who have died or experienced an imminent life-threatening event and subsequently come back to life.  They return with a collection of memories that occurred during the time of death.  Some of these memories are associated with an awareness of how to use certain gifts that may or may not have been present prior to the experience.  One of the more interesting things that some NDErs report after a near-death experience, is that they come back with healing gifts.  It is also highly intriguing that one of the most significant correlations between what is observed and expected is between “universal order and purpose” and “paranormal gifts” (Long, 2002).[1]  When my research colleague, Dr. Jeff Long, and I conceived of studying healing gifts as a presentation for the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS) 2003 annual conference, the presentation seemed quick and easy.  To our surprise, the project took on a life of its own and grew exponentially from there.  What resulted were answers to a newly conceived survey form in which 124 NDErs responded and 75 non-NDErs responded.  The pool of non-NDErs came from two of our websites: 1) those who submitted to www.nderf.org (NDERF) who did not have a NDE according to our definition of NDE and; 2) those who shared with the www.oberf.org (OBERF) website experiences that were not a NDE or after death communication, mainly consisting of out of body experiences, near-death like experiences, spiritually transformative events, and other spiritual spectrum experiences. 

Relatively few studies have been done on this topic.  A search of prior literature shows a 1983 study by Richard Kohr, who compared psi, dreams, and mystical states.  One element of the psi category consisted of healing.  Here, a group of 84 NDErs, who subjectively labeled themselves as NDErs, showed that the near-death experiencers were significantly different from group of “non-experiencers” and a group of “close to death only” experiencers  with a p<0.05.  The NDE group reported more psi-related experiences than the other two groups.  The suggestion for further study was that more data was needed to “trace the manner in which NDEs, spiritual and “growth” practices, attitudes, and peak experiences influence one another.

Kohr noted the earlier study by Bruce Greyson in which Greyson found a significantly greater incidence of reported psi and psi-related experiences after the NDE than before (Greyson, 1983, p. 171).  Greyson gave three alternative explanations for psi susceptibility following a NDE.  These explanations were: 1) the NDE may have enhanced the individual’s awareness of the psi abilities already possessed; 2) there may be some recall bias or exaggerated delusions based on after-the-fact recollection, or; 3) there may be “some underlying third factor that may have given rise to the NDE and was also responsible for the subsequent increase in psi experiences” (p. 172).  In summary, these alternative explanations can be summed up as existing abilities prior to the NDE, abilities caused by the NDE, dysfunctional memory, the same factor causes both, NDE and paranormal gifts, or some combination of all or some of these factors.    

A 1989 Australian study by Cherie Sutherland, involved 40 persons who subjectively labeled themselves as NDErs. (Sutherland, 1989).  This study looked at the incidence of reports of psychic phenomena associated beliefs prior to and after the NDE and compared to the general population.  It is unclear where the data for the general population came from or how many subjects were analyzed.  However, the following NDE results are notable and applicable to our study:

Reports of Paranormal Experiences and Beliefs Before and After NDE (p. 99)

General Population
       Before NDE     After NDE

Intuition                   No data                     60%              95%
Healing ability           No data                       8%              70%
Life after death          42-59%                     47%             100%
Fear of death            No data                      78%                0%          

When Sutherland asked each subject what the most significant change for them since the NDE, not one person mentioned an increase in psychic phenomena.  Her main finding was that NDErs are not more psychically gifted prior to the NDE than the general public. 

Bruce Horocek’s 1997 study focused on the healing aspects of the NDE on dying and grieving individuals (Horacek, 1997).  The knowledge of the afterlife and the continuity of life was a great comfort to these people.  Lastly, Kenneth Ring’s 1991 study about the amazing grace of NDEs talks about the spiritually transformative and healing nature of NDEs and NDE-like experiences on formerly anguished and hopeless lives when the experience transforms personal, daily lives as a consequence of integrating the NDE with reality on earth. (Ring, 1991).  The knowledge of what life is like on the other side gives purpose, hope, and meaning to our temporary suffering on earth.

A few examples from the medical world involve placebo effects and environment.  One example is how Beecher at Anzio beach head cared for wounded soldiers.[2]  Not one requested morphine.  His comment was that if in a hospital probably most would request morphine.  Conclusion:  environment can influence how we respond.  Another observation is that human responses to placebo are strange.   Around 30-40% of patients with many medical conditions will respond just as well to a placebo as to medicine, e.g., even gastric ulcers.  Thus when testing a new drug placebos must be included in testing, unless ethical considerations are present.

Findings from the survey data yield important clues to healing, what it means and how it works.  This study spring-boards from Kohr’s research and delves into the manner in which NDEs, spiritual and “growth” practices, attitudes, and peak experiences influence one another.  It supports Sutherland’s Australian study, because participants discuss their views in relation to intuition, healing ability, life after death, and lack of fear of death.  Additionally echoed in sentiments expressed by both, NDE and non-NDE participants, is the great comfort that death is not the end of life and that there is a greater purpose to our existence on earth.  In the ensuing discussion, healing elements are contextualized and expanded to understand how they might fit into a greater, universal purpose.

METHODOLOGY

Questions asked on a survey of healing, specifically designed for the IANDS presentation, pertained to the meaning of healing, physical healing, emotional healing, healing of others, healing abilities prior to and after the experience, and substance sensitivity.  This survey was posted on the website www.nderf.org.  The survey was e-mailed to 315 NDErs who met the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) definition of “A lucid experience associated with perceived consciousness apart from the body occurring at the time of actual or threatened imminent death"  (Long, 2002).  The survey was e-mailed to 359 people who submitted to the NDERF web survey who did not meet the definition of a NDE.  The survey was also e-mailed to a total of 108 people who had contributed to the web survey on www.oberf.org.  Those people who did not respond or whose e-mail addresses were automatically returned were then snail mailed via the U.S. Postal Pervice. 

Out of a total of 315 NDErs, 124 (39.4%) responded to the survey.  Out of 467 non-NDErs, 75 (16.1%) responded to the survey.  It is recognized that there is some selection bias based on those who considered their experience important enough to share with others, those who use the internet, those who are willing to participate in lengthy surveys, and those who experienced healing would be more likely to answer the survey than others.  Additionally, there was a significant portion of those who did not answer the survey for whom we did not have current information to alert them about the survey.  These people were not discovered until e-mail bounced and letters containing the survey were returned as undeliverable.

Raw data were either imported or hand-entered into either a NDE or a non-NDE database.  Both investigators cross-checked the data to ensure that those answering the survey were accurately placed in the proper database. 

Each “yes,” “no,” “no response,” or “uncertain” (Y/N/NR/U) answer to questions was tabulated for both tables and percentages of each response were calculated based on all answers and again for only those who responded.  A chi square analysis was calculated to see if any of the answers between NDErs and non-NDErs were statistically significant with a p<0.05.    

Further, narrative explanations to the Y/N/NR/U answers were analyzed for content.  The answers were then scored and placed into main categories that were mentioned by the NDErs.  Although one answer might be scored in more than one category, there was only one experience answer per each category.  Consequently, it is valid to compare percentages of participants who answer in each category with the total population who gave narratives answers to the question.  However, percentages calculated using a cross-comparison between the categories would not be valid.

Healing abilities were compared before and after the experience.  Participants were asked if they experienced any changes in their healing abilities.  Although there was statistical significance between NDErs and non-NDErs, the results were not really valid when compared for internal consistency and with the narrative explanations.  Figures were adjusted into two categories; whether they had healing abilities and whether this represented a change from abilities prior to the experience.  For instance if someone reported no healing abilities prior to their experience, and reported healing abilities after their experience, then there should be a “yes” answer in the change column rather than a “no response” answer. 

Both, the NDERF and the OBERF websites, were ask the question, “Did you have any psychic, paranormal or other special gifts following the experience you did not have prior to the experience?”  Out of 280 NDErs 259 (92.5%) and out of 330 non-NDErs 198 (60%) answered the Y/N/NR/U part of the question.  Those answering the narrative portion of the question were 200 (63.49%) NDErs and 147 (44.6%) non-NDErs for a total of 347 narrative responses.  Narrative answers were categorized and scored the same way as the narrative explanations for the healing survey discussed above and limited to only those answers that could be considered in the context of healing.

RESULTS

The meaning of healing holds the key to how people answered the survey questions.  Out of 124 NDErs, 112 (90.32%) answered the question.  Out of 75 non-NDErs, 68 (90.67%) answered the question, “What does healing mean to you?”

MEANING

 

 

 

 

 

NDE= 112

%

Non NDE = 68

%

Body

45

40.18

21

30.88

Mind

16

14.29

3

4.41

Emotional

12

10.71

6

8.82

Spirit

26

23.21

10

14.71

Body/Mind/Spirit/emotion = cure/ ease/ accept/ whole/ remove negativity or pain/balance /restoration

33

29.46

25

36.76

Earth

3

2.68

0

0.00

Way of life

8

7.14

2

2.94

Positive attitude/empowerment

8

7.14

5

7.35

Helping others to heal

16

14.29

5

7.35

Energy, fields/channeling

6

5.36

8

11.76

Love, peace, tranquility

5

4.46

6

8.82

paranormal (healing other than normal)

3

2.68

7

10.29

Not surprisingly, most people understand healing to be a function of making the body well.  However, many expressed healing in emotional, mental, and spiritual terms.  Others used holistic healing concepts of balance, acceptance, and removal of negativity.  Another expressed concept of healing is in helping others to heal. 

There is probably no statistical significance between the NDErs and the non-NDErs who report abilities now or changes after their experience.  The chi square p-value for Y/N/U is .0853 and for Y/N/U/NR is .0277 for those reporting healing abilities after the experience.  The question asked was, “Did you personally have any healing ability (your ability to heal others) after your NDE?”  Of note, 56.78% of NDErs and 45.07% of non-NDErs answered “yes.”  It is also surprising that so many people reported a change in their abilities, with NDErs reporting 41.53% and non-NDErs reporting a 38.03% change.  All but 3 of the reported changes were in the direction of healing abilities afterwards.
 

 

NDErs        n=118               

 

 

 

Non-NDErs n=71

 

 

 

 

Now

%

Change

%

Now

%

Change

%

Yes

67

56.78

49

41.53

32

45.07

27

38.03

No

47

39.83

65

55.08

36

50.70

43

60.56

Uncertain

4

3.39

4

3.39

3

4.23

1

1.41

No Response

6

 

6

 

4

 

4

 

Total

124

100

124

100

75

100

75

100

When participants were asked, “Have you used your healing abilities to heal another person?” 97 (78.2%) NDErs and 53 (70.1%) non-NDErs responded.  Of those respondents, 57 (58.8%) NDErs and 28 (52.8%) non-NDErs gave examples or comments.  The comments consisted of the following:

Heal anyone?

NDE = 97

% n=57

Non NDE = 53

% n=28

Prayer

10

17.54

6

11.32

Heal by touch

19

33.33

11

20.75

Heal mental

3

5.26

0

0.00

Heal spiritual

1

1.75

0

0.00

Reiki

7

12.28

2

3.77

Love

2

3.51

1

1.89

First aid

1

1.75

0

0.00

Encouragement/Empathy

18

31.58

12

22.64

No ability/Don't know/ Never tried

2

3.51

4

7.55

Participants were asked, “Have you ever experienced any physical healing that you attribute to your experience?”  What is most intriguing about this question is that it was one of the last questions.  We expected the evidential physical healing to be answered in the question about whether the respondent had ever healed anyone.  Surprisingly, this is the place where the “miracle” stories of healings occurred.  A total of 103 (83.1%) NDErs and 67 (89.3%) non-NDErs responded.  Of the responders, 46 (44.7%) NDErs and 23 (34.3%) non-NDErs gave explanations or examples. 

Physical

NDE

% n=46

Non NDE

% n=23

Physically better, stronger

5

10.87

0

0.00

Did not answer the question

14

30.43

1

4.35

Healing powers

14

30.43

0

0.00

Healing self with prayer

5

10.87

3

13.04

Belief that the experience is the cause of not getting ill or worse 

10

21.74

2

8.70

Do not get sick

1

2.17

1

4.35

Healing through art

1

2.17

0

0.00

Don't know

3

6.52

0

0.00

Participants were asked, “Have you ever experienced any emotional healing that you attribute to your experience?”   A total of 112 NDErs (90.3%) and 70 (93.3%)  non-NDErs responded.  Of the responders, 80 (71.4%) NDErs and 50 (66.7%) non-NDErs gave explanations or examples. 

Emotional

NDE

NDE % n=80

Non NDE

% n=50

Totals

% n=130

Heal childhood abuse

3

3.75

0

0

3

2.31

Peace/more relaxed

20

25.00

12

24

32

24.62

Lack of pain/release

3

3.75

3

6

6

4.62

Love

8

10.00

5

10

13

10.00

Forgiveness

2

2.50

2

4

4

3.08

Living in the now

3

3.75

2

4

5

3.85

Seeing deceased loved ones

2

2.50

1

2

3

2.31

Seeing religious figures

0

0.00

1

2

1

0.77

lose fear of dying/continuity

20

25.00

12

24

32

24.62

Discovering God

10

12.50

1

2

11

8.46

Purpose

9

11.25

6

12

15

11.54

Integration turmoil to peace

8

10.00

4

8

12

9.23

Not alone

2

2.50

1

2

3

2.31

Too soon to answer/still healing

3

3.75

0

0

3

2.31

Emotional transformation

2

2.50

0

0

2

1.54

Emotional turmoil

1

1.25

1

2

2

1.54

Did not directly answer the question

7

8.75

4

8

11

8.46

Not NDE related/don't know

1

1.25

4

8

5

3.85

Participants were asked, “Did you have any psychic, paranormal or other special gifts following the experience you did not have prior to the experience?”  Of the 315 NDErs and 330 non-NDErs, paranormal gifts were reported by 151 (51.36%) of NDErs and 92 (32.51%) of non-NDErs.  Those who had not experienced paranormal gifts are 96 (32.65%) of the NDErs and 132 (46.64%) of the non-NDErs.  Out of the total of 294 NDErs and 283 NDErs who responded to the question, 47 (15.99%) of NDErs and 59 (20.85%) of non-NDErs were uncertain if they had paranormal gifts or not.

The chi square analysis shows a statistical significance that the difference in paranormal gifts between NDErs and non-NDErs is not due to chance alone.  The p-values for paranormal gifts was “Y/N” .000282, “Y/N/U” .2.534E-05, and “Y/N/U/NR” 8.596E-07.  NDErs have a stronger likelihood to report paranormal gifts and are less likely to be uncertain about what they are calling “paranormal gifts.”  Contrarily, non-NDErs who report paranormal events are less likely to attribute any of their abilities to “paranormal gifts.” Furthermore, the non-NDE group was more uncertain about what paranormal gifts might be than the NDErs.

Of those participants who gave a narrative response to paranormal gifts, those who discussed healing or healing-related gifts were categorized.  Participant comments to paranormal gifts and pertaining to healing can be divided into two groups:  1) Those who give emotional support and; 2) those who do physical healing. 

 

Non-NDE n=147

%

NDE n=200

%

Healing

 

 

 

 

     Heal, nonspecific

0.00

0.00

6.00

3.00

     Heal by touch

2.00

1.36

3.00

1.50

     Heal by thought

1.00

0.68

3.00

1.50

     Heal by prayer

1.00

0.68

5.00

2.50

Empathy, feelings, love, emotions, intuition, expanded awareness

28.00

19.05

44.00

22.00

TOTAL

32.00

21.77

61.00

30.50

Participants were asked about substance sensitivities after their experience.  The question read, “After your experience did you become more sensitive to medications?” There were 114 (91.9%) of NDErs responded to the question with 62 (38.2%) of those who gave examples or explained their response.  Likewise, 68 (90.7%) non-NDErs responded to the question with 26 (38.2%) of those who gave examples or explained their response.  The chi square value between NDErs and non-NDErs is probably statistically significant with a p-value of .0533.  Allergies to drugs, even over the counter drugs, are the most commonly reported substance sensitivities.  Interestingly, most of the NDE substance sensitivities were to pain relievers, over-the-counter cold remedies, and to a lesser extent, prescribed medications.

Substance Sensitivity

non NDE

% n=26

NDE

% n=62

 

 

 

 

 

More food allergies

1

3.85

3

4.84

Other allergies

0

0.00

1

1.61

Drug Allergies

6

23.08

15

24.19

Less or no medication

4

15.38

16

25.81

Can't tell/Don't know/don't take/no change

15

57.69

9

14.52

More/different medicine is(are) needed

0

0.00

5

8.06

NDE too young to tell

0

0.00

3

4.84

Other

0

0.00

5

8.06

Dr. Long proposed a mini-study within the healing study to look at researcher bias.  His proposal consisted of a scoring system from 0-5 for the evidentiality of the healing event when participants were asked if they had healed anyone, and if so how.  Letter modifiers from a through d were added that described whether the narratives could be medically explicable. 

When I started to evaluate the information based upon the criteria, I could not ignore the emotional healing aspect contained in narrative responses.  So, I added a modifier and called it “e” for emotional.  As it turned out, “e” was the only modifier that I used.  I did not want to say anything to Dr. Long to bias how he was scoring the answers.  Another difference was that he created a category of “need more information.”  I took them literally and if I could not tell from the answer, it was scored as a 0, “insufficient information to even guess.”   

Out of a total of 85 answers, I found 28 (32.9%) with insufficient information to guess, 8 (9.4%) minimally suggestive of evidentiality, 14 (16.5%) mild suggestion of evidentiality, 20 (23.5%) moderate suggestion of evidentiality, 12 (14.1%) marked suggestion of evidentiality, and 3 (3.5%) as convincingly evidential.  Dr. Long, on the other hand, found 12 (14.1%) where he needed more information, 20 (23.5%) with insufficient information to guess, 7 (8.2%) minimally suggestive of evidentiality, 14 (16.5%) mild suggestion of evidentiality, 6 (7.1%) moderate suggestion of evidentiality, 4 (4.7%) marked suggestion of evidentiality, and 0 (3.5%) as convincingly evidential.  My threshold of evidentiality was much lower than Dr. Long’s.  I created a modifier to fit the emotional healing aspect of the data.  Dr. Long defined the initial parameters of the study and stayed fairly consistent within those parameters.

DISCUSSION

How researchers and survey participants view “healing” and its efficacy depends on how they define “healing.”  Some people narrowly define healing in terms of the physical body, while others use the word “healing” to encompass healing the earth and the universe.  Ultimately, those who have a more holistic view of healing will be much more accepting of alternative medicine; while those with a narrower view of healing will be less accepting of alternative medicine.  Those with a narrower viewpoint will demand miracles to prove the efficacy of alternative medicine.  While those with a more holistic viewpoint, tend not to care about validating the healing experience.  Inherently, the discrepancy between the two viewpoints makes it difficult to physically test alternative healing.  An experimental design that would be considered scientifically valid, many times may not take into account the nature of how healing energy may work.  The crux of a successful healing study is one in which there is open communication between those who heal and those who test.  There are also ethical dilemmas and possible liability for medical establishments who allow testing. 

Much of the confusion, and ergo tension, between the medical field and the alternative medical field may have a lot to do with the way that people perceive healing and health.  And, after reviewing survey results, it is also clear that living in the face of one’s mortality or immortality may well be a large factor in how people perceive health.  The confidence that people place in doctors as opposed to alternative medicine may well be an extension of a core belief system rather than an isolated incident.  For instance, rather than healing being confined to just physical body healing, many people answered that healing consisted of a positive way of life.

It is noteworthy to delve into some of the issues of alternative healing as opposed to conventional medicine.  By looking at these issues one can get an idea of the two opposing belief systems and possible underlying causes.  These are then compared and contrasted with survey answers on what NDErs and non-NDErs think. 

Much of alternative medicine is really part of a 30 billion dollar industry that has no scientific proof of the efficacy of the alternative remedy. (Cowley, 2002, p. 48)  It is small wonder that the medical community, in general, balks at alternative healing in view of the fact that so many people have fatal belief systems.  Although many alternative medicine healers may claim to heal such diseases as cancer, there is no proof that healing was solely due to the intervention of the alternative healer.  Dr. Long is a radiation oncologist and routinely uses radiation to treat cancer.  In his practice, there is one word for those diagnosed with cancer who rely solely on alternative medicine – that word is “dead.”  He refers to this method of treatment as a “fatal belief system.”

On the other hand, those who are more inclined to believe in alternative medicine have a point about medical care.  Many medical professionals try to accommodate patients, “Doctors are as unhappy as patients about the current state of health care, and most are eager to make it more caring and humane” (Cowley, p. 48).  Alternative medicine may be viewed as more approachable because it fills this niche, perceived as lacking in routine medical care.  Regular health care is expensive to those without health insurance.  Moreover, for those with little or no health care coverage and a serious illness, alternative medicine may be considered cheaper than diagnostic medicine. 

Alternative medicine may be part of a mystical belief system that if the mind or spirit is healed, then healing of the body will follow.  Herbs and other remedies take on added properties by being categorized as “natural” healing remedies and may work more as a placebo than to have any real healing properties.  One contributing factor is that liability is too great for those products that might really work.  For instance, the Chinese herb ma huang has ephedrine that can help with breathing difficulties.  However, it was almost obliterated from the over-the-counter market because it supposedly caused kidney damage and heart attacks.  Comfrey root really did work for soothing upper respiratory problems during a cold.  It was promptly removed from the market.  $30 billion dollars of public exploitation raises some serious questions about who really profits from the alternative medicine belief system.

In survey results, it is interesting that the majority of NDErs (40%) attributed healing to physically making the body better.  On the other hand, making the body better was not the only aspect of healing that most NDErs mentioned.  Mental, emotional, and spiritual healing was also a part of healing.  Conversely, the largest category mentioned for non-NDErs (37%) regarding the meaning of healing was the holistic category.  The holistic category consists of concepts dealing with making the body/mind/spirit whole by maintaining balance, accepting limitations, easing pain, and removing negativity.   

Although there are numerous ways to look at the charts above, it is striking how the answers are so similar.  Healing, as defined by survey participants, was consistent whether the question was specifically about healing or if healing was explained as part of paranormal gifts.  Interestingly, the impact of this study is not contained in any one question.  Rather, the answers to all the questions point to the same conclusion.

Participant answers pertaining to healing can be divided into two groups:  1) Those who give emotional support and; 2) those who perform physical healing.  The manner of physical healing usually has to do with hot hands.  They describe it in various ways, such as hands on healing, the laying of hands, or channeling energy.  Frequently, the description of physical healing includes elements of prayer, visualization, and guidance from a higher source.  From the answers, there seems to be a transfer of energy, primarily through the hands.  There are elements that the recipient be receptive to the energy transfer and that the giver of the energy be sensitive enough to direct the energy appropriately.  Many will connect to spirit either by directly praying for divine intervention or by altering their mental state to be more receptive to energy transfer.  Ironically, this connection is that which makes us immortal, yet it is directed at the physical, earthly body. 

Many participants define healing in the context of emotional healing.  The most frequently mentioned category for emotional healing contains the concept of continuity of life and the loss of fear of death.  A high percentage of both NDErs and non-NDErs also define emotional healing as peace and more relaxed about life.  Another large category is that participants use descriptive words such as empathy, feelings, emotions, intuition, expanded awareness, and love.  The expanded awareness of being able to feel other peoples’ feelings helps the person to be able to say the right thing for healing to occur.  My two favorite phrases illustrating this point come from Lora and Sam.  Sam writes, “Sometimes I think I may have the ability to heal people by touching them. I have worked as a counselor to terminally ill children and I think my experience (though I never mention it to them) has helped me by giving me a very sacred view of death.” Lora tells us, “I'd never experienced such INTENSITY of feeling before, and I am now more sensitive to the feelings of others...almost as if I can feel what they are feeling. Since I teach disturbed kids now, it has a very strong purpose.” 

Dr. Long’s definition of healing is, “To restore toward health by reducing or eliminating a physical, emotional or spiritual imperfection” and based on experience with his medical practice.    When asked if reading the narratives changed his mind on his definition, he answered, “no.”  In contrast, my definition of healing was part of the holistic category and based on personal experience.  I am familiar with many techniques of healing, including Reiki.  However, after reading the narratives, my definition of healing has changed.  

I would have to say that my definition of healing has changed to that which moves us closer to God, a reconnection to God as it were.  Essentially, the definition is synonymous with spiritual growth.  Emotional healing spreads love and acceptance of self and others.  Physical healing does not necessarily heal the mind, emotions, or spirit.  Further, just because a person has a physical handicap doesn’t make that handicap an imperfection or necessarily something that needs to be healed.  For example, my asthma may not be considered a handicap if I accept my physical limitations.  Only if I turned my anger inward at the fact I can’t jog would this handicap become something that needed healing – and that would be on an emotional or mental level.  In fact, having asthma may be one of the reasons that I am so empathic towards other people. 

I was touched by the number of people who indicated that they refused to take medicine because if it was their time to go, so what?  Physical healing may preserve the body on earth, but in the light of spirit and the continuity of life, it is the spiritual, mental, and emotional that we take with us when the body dies.  Thinking of healing in the context of immortality or mortality, are two very different approaches towards a subjective definition.   

The most amazing discoveries of this study, in my opinion, surround emotional healing.  Both NDErs and non-NDErs considered healing to be the bringing of peace into their life or becoming a more relaxed individual.  The surprising part is that both groups considered the discovery of the continuity of life and losing the fear of dying as significantly emotionally healing.  Likewise, the discovery of God and understanding a universal purpose for life and suffering on earth gave them emotional healing.  According to George Gallup, Jr. in the book “Surveying the Religious Landscape,” these very issues are the primary reasons that people join groups and churches (Gallup, 1999, pp. 91-92).  The implications, from the answers to emotional healing, are staggering on a socio/religious level and beyond the scope of this paper.  However, we could modify our approach to medical and psychological health and probably heal more people by incorporating the new understandings.

From the survey results there is something happening with what some would call “alternative healing.”  Hands-on-healing, visualization, and prayer exist as a viable means of healing.  Although conventional medicine may rightly assert little or no hard evidence exists, they can’t discount that something is happening.  The only question may be where these “healing gifts” fall within whose definition of healing.

One thing that everyone can agree on is that healing is a subjective matter.  What this survey shows is the amazing diversity in approaches to healing and to the definition of healing.  Answers to questions pertaining to healing will necessarily be how each individual defines the term “healing.”  Healing practices will depend on particular belief systems that are not necessarily confined to just physical healing.  Consequently, despite the subjectivity inherent in the definition of healing, healing has many forms but is only a part of one universal purpose.  Ironically, looking at health through the lens of mortality, that universal purpose is to reconnect us with our own immortality.

 [1] Dr. Jeffrey Long developed an Excel based chi-square calculation engine based on over 2,000 data points.  Calculations are automatically updated when new data are added.  This methodology shows whether the statistical difference in two groups is due to more than chance alone.  Here, the p-value between the expected and observed values was highly significant with p = 8.51E-12.

 [2] I'd like to give a hearty thanks to John Paul Long, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus in Pharmacology, University of Iowa, for his editorial and medical examples on environment and the placebo effect. 

I'd also like to give a hearty thanks to Rev. John Price for his editorial suggestions.

REFERENCES

Cowley, G. (2002) The Science of Alternative Medicine, Newsweek, Dec. 2, 2002, 45-75.

Gallup, G. and Lindsay D. M. (1999) Surveying the Religious Landscape, Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA.

Greyson, B. (1983) Increase in psychic phenomena following near-death experiences. Theta, 11, 26-29.

Horocek, B. J. (1997) Amazing grace: The healing effects of near-death experience: Toward a transpersonal paradigm.  Journal of Near-Death Studies, 16(2), 149-161.

Kohr, R. (1983) Near-Death Experiences, Altered States, and Psi Sensitivity. Anabiosis – The Journal of Near-Death Studies, 3(2), 157-176.

Long, J. A. and Long, J. P. (2002) http:\\www.nderf.org, http:\\www.oberf.org

Ring, K. (1991) Amazing Grace:  The Near-Death Experience as a Compensatory Gift, Journal of Near-Death Studies, 10(1), 11-39.

Sutherland, C. (1989) Psychic Phenomena Following Near-Death Experiences: An Australian Study, Journal of Near-Death Studies, 8(2), 93-102.

 

 

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