NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES : A SCIENTIFIC PUZZLE
“The chaotic movement and screams faded suddenly into the darkness I plunged into. No longer did I feel the urge of getting to my final destination, even though I held life-changing information for my people. The forest atmosphere felt light on my feet; I projected myself above the crowd.There was a corpse with a spear pointing out of its chest. Bright lights interfered with my vision all of a sudden while I was trying to recognize the lying body. In a second of revelation, my heartbeat stopped and goosebumps rose all over my skin. The man was I...”
“... On the other side of the riverbank, sitting on a rock, a dark-colored woman playing Schubert’s ‘Serenade’ on a violin smiles to me. Death felt remarkably welcoming. A feeling of plenitude rose inside me while I walked toward the river. The walk seemed to resonate in space, but the music was balm to my new being. Holy smoke! I would have never imagined that someone could feel so good after life. Was I really gone from the planet earth? I couldn’t be sure of it... So without hesitation, I dove straight into the greenish waters of the glacial river. My body became numb in a matter of seconds, but as in a magical passage between two worlds, blood replenished my veins and I could instantaneously hear my heartbeats resonating underwater, followed by ‘Maximus, press my hand if you are here with us. I repeat. Maximus. Press my hand if you are here...”
In 1975 Dr.Raymond Moody–a philosopher, psychologist and professor born in Georgia, USA – examined the transition from life to death in his book ‘Life after Life’: The accounts of an afterlife by those who revived after having been thought dead. He created the term ‘near death experience’ to qualify such events and gave the matter a scientific importance. More than 40 years later, here I am exploring the fascinating universe of man’s survival after death – a belief shared by many across just about all our contemporary societies. I try to understand this imaginary world of humans once the ‘near death experiences’ are translated into cultural productions such as novels or movies. As such, I look closely at their narration and how it encrypts insights on the fears and preoccupations of the human soul about its own end.
What really excites me in my work is the fact that death after life is investigated nowadays using two approaches: scientific and spiritual. Yet no hypothesis has been drawn by either validating or invalidating such experiences. The result is a certain conflict between “science and belief,” or what I call: a scientific enigma! The lack in the understanding of ‘near death experiences’ opens up the imagination of humans in this respect and the ultimate result is gripping fiction stories!
I am Apolline Lehmann, a PhD student in literature working at the LIS lab of the University of Lorraine.
Text by Fernanda Haffner
Illustration by Emilie Schmidt