To the editors:
Cecil Adams's explanation of the Near-Death Experience [March 27] was a fair one, noting all opinions on the subject. I'd just like to add one fact and one question for pondering. The fact is that Emanuel Swedenborg, on whom the Reader just carried a huge article [Janaury 24], wrote all about this phenomenon 200 years ago in his book Heaven and Hell. He talks about the out of body experience, the being of light, meeting friends and relatives, keener senses in this new world, the beauty of the spiritual world--EVERYTHING those who have had the near-death experience speak of and more!
My question to Cecil Adams (actually to Susan Blackmore whom he quotes) is if this NDE phenomenon is biological, then why are people meeting their dead relatives?--quite a peculiar biological reaction, don't you think? Isn't it easier (and even more scientific) to believe in life after death than it is, at this point, to deny it?
Science becomes a religion when it flies in the face of reality. But even Swedenborg admitted that those who have confirmed themselves in the notion that there is no life after death, when they awake in the other world, continue to deny the hereafter. Those stubborn people go on denying it to eternity.
Reverend Grant R. Schnarr Chicago New Church (Swedenborgian)
Cecil Adams replies:
Professor Blackmore doesn't specifically address the issue of meeting dead relatives, but I don't see that it presents any great challenge to the it's-all-in-your-head theory. People occasionally dream about the dead during ordinary sleep, but no one regards that as proof of an afterlife. Why should similar dreams during a near-death experience be viewed any differently? On the other hand, if Grandma tells you next week's winning lottery number, I'd be inclined to take the phenomenon a little more seriously.