MessageToEagle.com - A near-death experience is one of the most enigmatic events in a human life.
Yet in modern Western culture near-death accounts contain surprisingly similar elements.
In the past century, novelists, screenwriters and philosophers have consistently described a peaceful feeling and
a journey toward a bright light, which is often followed by a meeting with deceased family members who tell the
individual to return to earthly life.
Scientific records of the same era have an uncanny resemblance to the literary movement. Through personal experiences,
patient accounts and experiments, medical researchers have been able to corroborate fictional depictions.
By analyzing the seemingly parallel narratives of both realms, Stanford scholar Laura Wittman has discovered the
biological and cultural origins surrounding contemporary cultural assumptions about near-death experiences and the process of dying.
In the course of her research, Wittman, an associate professor of Italian and French, has investigated the portrayals
of near-death scenarios from literature of the 1880s to contemporary films such as Flatliners (1990) and Brainstorm (1983),
and in works of science fiction such as Bernard Werber's Les Thanatonautes [The Deathonauts] (1994) and Connie Willis' Passage (2001.)
"The codification of such an ephemeral experience," Wittman said, set her "on the path of looking at literary accounts
of near-death in the context of evolving scientific research, as well as sociological research on this topic."
Wittman studied more than 60 "near-death medical thrillers" and other popular fictional accounts.
When it comes to near-death tales, neither science nor pop-culture operates in a cultural vacuum. Distinct as they are,
Wittman said, the two areas "mutually influence each other."
"For example," she said, the currently common image of "seeing your whole life" like a "speeded-up film" was not present
in literary or medical accounts from the turn of the 19th century. In older accounts, prior to the advent of cinema,
people "tended rather to see one or two key moments from their lives or the entire life simultaneously, and that was
how they sought some perspective on their own identity in their last moments."
Wittman points to one of the earliest modern accounts describing a near-death experience – Thomas de Quincey's Confessions
of an English Opium-Eater  – as an example of an early near-death experience narrative: "Having in her childhood
fallen into a river … she saw in a moment her whole life … arrayed before her as in a mirror, not successively, but
simultaneously … there was no pain or conflict … in a single instant succeeded a dazzling rush of light …"
Over the decades, near-death narratives found in fiction and film, Wittman said, "help to combat the growing invisibility
of death in our culture, where it has become an essentially private, often terrifyingly lonely affair."
Wittman, chair of undergraduate studies in Italian and graduate studies in French and Italian, first became interested
in the near-death experience after coming across various 19th- and 20th-century works by authors interested in the
Biblical story of Lazarus.
In the Biblical account, Lazarus is a man Jesus raised from the dead who comes back to life without saying a word.
Wittman found that his silence both fascinated and perplexed European fiction writers.
Numerous literary works, including novels and plays by acclaimed authors like D. H. Lawrence, Luigi Pirandello, Graham Greene,
André Malraux and Eugene O'Neill, re-examined the Lazarus tale, and the figure of Lazarus became an emblem of near-
death studies in the 20th century as a result. The story, Wittman said, "expresses uniquely modern anxieties about death
and dying. Foremost is the desire to re-enchant death, turning it into a transformative journey rather than an ominous,
As Wittman dug deeper she noticed that the literary interest in Lazarus' story coincided with a growth in scientific interest
when, in the late 1880s, doctors started to collect testimony of visions and near-death travels from their patients.
About a century later "neuroscientists," as Wittman noted, "began to be interested in the phenomenon [of near-death experience]
as a window into how the brain works."
Wittman points to brain scientist and stroke survivor Jill Bolte Taylor's memoir, My Stroke of Insight, as a contemporary
example of a neuroscientist's personal near-death experience narrative: "[M]y perception of my physical boundaries was
no longer limited to where my skin met air. I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle.… My entire self-concept shifted
as I no longer perceived myself as a single, a solid, an entity with boundaries that separated me from the entities around me.
I understood that at the most elementary level, I am a fluid."
As the field of medicine progressed, medical reports and memoirs of near-death experiences were joined by testimonies
from people who had been brought back from the brink of death by improvements in medical technologies. By the middle of
the 20th century, a cohesive narrative of the near-death experience had emerged both in popular literature and in medical
narratives: the now-familiar vision involving some combination of seeing tunnels and lights, having a "life review"
and experiencing the sensation of being pulled back into one's body.
"This convergence," Wittman said, "really showed me again that the supposed barriers between the humanities and the
sciences are made much more by fear than by lack of interest in the same areas."
In addition to writing a cultural history of near-death experiences, Wittman would like to build bridges between medicine
and the humanities through an undergraduate class on near-death experiences presented through three academic perspectives:
the humanities, medical ethics and cognitive neuroscience.
Wittman hopes that her research and potential course will open the door to more collaboration between the humanities and
medicine, specifically with regard to the care of the terminally ill – resulting in what she says is a natural partnership
between the two fields.
"I think here scientists and humanists are, in fact, interested in the same issues: why we see the world the way we do,
how nature and nurture function together, what this means for our relation to others and the planet, what is life and
if there is a 'soul,'" she said.
Do We Live In A Computer Simulation Created By An Advanced Alien Civilization?
The captivating idea that we might be living in 3 dimensional holographic simulation has been put forward by various scientists.
We will explore this mind-boggling idea further and examine some intriguing questions.
If we suspect that we are programmed beings living inside a simulation is there any way for us to find out if this is true?
Is it possible to change the outcome of this virtual game?
Death Is Just An Illusion:
We Continue To Live In A Parallel Universe
For as long as anyone can remember philosophers, scientists and religious men have pondered what happens after death.
Is there life after death, or do we just vanish into the great unknown?
There is also a possibility there is no such thing as what we usually define as death.
A new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.
Girl Who Can Start Fire With Her Brain Mystifies Scientists
Many think this young girl has supernatural abilities and scientists are puzzled by what she has accomplished so far.
She is now being called a global scientific phenomenon.
According to the family, their 11-year-old daughter has a bizarre ability to set things aflame by just being near them.
Is A New Race Of Super Earthlings Being Born
Or Is This The End Of The Human Race? - Scientists Ask
Scientists have made an unexpected and unsettling discovery - a large number of new and previously unseen mutations have been detected among humans.
There are those who suggest that there will soon be fantastic X-men among humans. These super earthlings do not come out of secret laboratories,
as in famous blockbuster movies, but are born naturally. Other scientists are less optimistic and consider the unforeseen development can to lead to
unknown changes in the human body.
Several "God Spots" Are Responsible For Spirituality
Spirituality plays an important part in many peoples' daily life.
For years scientists have wondered whether there is a particular place in the brain, a so-called "God spot" that is responsible for spirituality.
What mechanism does determine why a person is more spiritual than others?
Our Brains Wired Like The Checkerboard Streets Of New York City!
The brain appears to be wired more like the checkerboard streets of New York City than the curvy lanes of Columbia, Md., suggests a new brain imaging study.
The most detailed images, to date, reveal a pervasive 3D grid structure with no diagonals, say scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Mysterious Brain Of Daniel Tammet - A Scientific Rosetta Stone
Daniel Tammet has one of the most extraordinary brains on Earth!
There are still many things scientists do not know about his condition and mysterious brain.
Daniel Tammet may very well be a scientific Rosetta stone, a key to understanding our mysterious brain...
Entering The Worlds Of Moving Holograms
Moving holograms have long been considered science fiction, but now with new technology emerging you will soon be able to see how holograms
do almost everything, from watching TV, playing chess, walking the dog or even talking to you, giving you advice.
Holographic technology is not as new as many people think. The first holograms were invented by Dennis Gabor in 1947. He was trying to find
a method for improving the resolution of electron microscopes.
Your Sleeping Position Reveals Who You Are
Body language expert Robert Phipps from UK has conducted a new, somewhat unusual experiment. He has investigated peoples' sleeping
position in order to determine their personality...
You Could Be A Clairvoyant - New Study Shows
Have you ever had the feeling you just know what is going to happen?
Many people have experienced so called “pre-feelings” and ability to anticipate the near future.
A new study shows that we could be able to foretell the future...