Book Reviews  --  Spiritual Exploration  --  Afterlife, Spirit World, Near Death Experiences (NDE's)

Author: P.M.H. Atwater

Title: The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences

Book Review 24.11.2008

(c) 2008 by Heidrun Beer


P.M.H. Atwater: The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences

The ULTIMATE GUIDE to What Happens When We Die

If I could only take three books with me to a lonely island, this would be one of them!

With 470 pages in a large format, double the size of a pocket book, it is quite a voluminous work, but never boring, not for a moment.

NDE pioneer author Kenneth Ring says about it: "The definitive work on near-death experiences, standing somewhere between being a Bible for the field and an encyclopedia of it." I am using his words because that's exactly what I would have said myself, if asked for a short summary.


From :

P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.) survived three death events that produced three different near-death experiences in 1977. She is one of the original researchers of the near-death phenomenon, having begun her work in 1978. Today, her contribution to the field of near-death studies is considered on par with those of Raymond Moody and Ken Ring.



About 30 years have passed since Raymond Moody published his first collection of reports from people who were brought back from clinical death, and told wondrous stories about the "other side". The experience of moving through a tunnel toward a bright light, meeting dead relatives or a spirit guide etc., has since become a standard component of fiction books and movies, and countless collections of such reports have become bestsellers.

After all, "an estimated 15 million Americans and 4 to 5 percent of the global population has had a near-death experience" (from the back cover). It was just about time for these people to being freed from the "crazy" corner, into which they had been pushed by a materialistic society.

Mrs. Atwater quotes the director of integrative medicine in a medical center in Colorade, who tells us that some 30 years ago a near-death experiencer had to expect:

- Health-care professionals wouldn't listen to patients talk about their episodes

- Patients were told their experience was a hallucination

- They were often given tranquilizers

- They were often psychiatrically labeled for life

- If they insisted on their near-death experience, they might have a psychiatric hospitalization

What a contrast to what a Dr. Peter Fenwick tells us about the more recent years, which have seen a real explosion of best-selling books in the field, plus several movies like "Ghost" or "What Dreams May Come", which made the existence of a parallel spiritual world nicely real to the general public:

- "In England, more than one thousand psychiatrists are now practicing spiritual psychiatry. They have discovered that the spiritual, taking on a personal relationship with God/Deity, heals and uplifts better and faster than many of the procedures they once used."

- To back up his claim, he revealed that in 1995 only three U.S. medical schools had courses on "Spirituality in Medicine." In 1998, there were forty, and by 2001, one hundred medical schools had formal classes on medical spirituality. "There is a new breed of doctors", explains Dr. Fenwick, "who are increasingly open to the role of spirituality in medicine. They are part of a huge impulse globally toward spiritual development."

I should add that this is NOT a church colored spirituality (deity perceived outside of self), but ACTUAL spirituality (deity perceived as one's own inner core, the "divine spark" that animates matter to become a live being and personality.


P.M.H. Atwater with over 15 spiritual books is an important factor in that amazing development. In her current work, she pulls together information from her own previous books as well as many other sources. She goes back in history to the earliest near-death experience (NDE) accounts known in the literature, presents all relevant authors in the fields with short biographies and summaries of their work, and gives some of the most fascinating NDE stories ever told (see examples below), including miracles that absolutely defy any scientific explanation.

What's even more impressive, she also covers ALL ADJACENT AREAS OF RESEARCH. We read about the most cutting edge work in brain biology - science is now studying our physical interface with the spirit world -; we read about kundalini breakthroughs; about how physics is about to meet spirituality ("Is God Light?")

We read about religious viewpoints vs. spiritual viewpoints; quotes and anecdotes of many relevant figures in spirituality; and as most pages have several sidebars, we learn a lot of related old, new and also some far-fetched exotic vocables that are interesting not only in the context of the NDE. They are repeated in alphabetical order in an appendix at the end of the book - another appendix of 12 !! pages, titled "Further Reading", covers additional recommended books!

A great part of the book is spent with the consequences that NDE's have on the experiencers' lives after they returned to their human existence. Typically they have a very strong influence on the experiencers. Their viewpoint changes, sometimes massively, priorities shift. Often their relationships fail because the person who comes back is simply no longer the person he or she has been before, and the partner cannot cope with these personality changes.

It is not really possible to tell much detail from 470 pages, but what sticks in my memory is the fact that so many NDE experiencers have been given a "job" or "mission" on the other side, to educate humankind into a more compassionate, peaceful and loving direction, to write books or launch organizations, and all of them did it. One experiencer is even told that if humankind does not change course, the species will not survive.


This coincides very much with my own feeling of having exactly such a "mission" - the reason why I want to get out of "earthly" money-making and create more time for writing - , and with the warnings about chaotic times coming that I have received from my spiritual team mates on the "other side": In quite unholy terms, they were instructing me to get my a** onto a farm.

I am still looking for a partner or partners to help me carry this load. Right now most of my time is burned up with activities to keep myself and my kids physically alive, and the better I manage to do this, the more disappointed I feel about wasting a whole lifetime of valuable inspirations that I barely have the time to note down on scrap paper or in temporary files. Only a few books are finished, and only two of them published.

If there is anybody, male or female, who is in a similar situation, let's talk about sharing the physical work in order to free up more "mission time"! My attempts to find a new life partner have pretty much failed, as most men in my age range want a woman who will "enjoy the rest of their life" with them, go out in the evenings and travel to exotic places and other idle and shallow things that would eat up even more of my time, and this sounds like HORROR to me, with 10 book projects and 4 screenplays unwritten and "burning" in my mind.

So, I hope for some other kind of synergy to optimize my writing time, and maybe help someone else who has the same problem, ideally someone with a similar "mission awareness". If only 2 or 3 people share living expenses and physical activities, each of them has gained a LOT.

I don't remember ever having had an NDE, and my father couldn't tell me anything about a life threatening situation in my childhood, but I did go through a traumatic time in 1986 where I contacted the energy world which other people experience during their NDE's, and as I share many if not most of their typical characteristics, I kind of count myself among the "experiencers".


Many people after their NDE want to go back to the heavenly environment that they enjoyed so much. Many try to commit suicide because of that, others are depressed and homesick for many years afterwards.

On the other hand, "the near-death experience convinces one that escape by means of suicide is not possible", and "the near-death experience leads to a strong moral conviction that suicide is wrong (ethically wrong)."

"Why, then, if the Other Side is so great, would the majority stay in this life and do so without the need to rush? 'We stay because it makes sense to stay', one experiencer told me. 'If it isn't your time, you will either cheat yourself out of what might have been had you remained, or you will not stay dead no matter what method you use to kill yourself.'"


I am very much of a believer in a physical logic, called "science", and have had much success with the painstaking study of medical principles (the human body's "instruction manual"), which allowed me to nearly completely avoid the typical health problems that people of my age have, and reverse the one that I do have. It was most obstinate - my excess weight from past diet errors -, but I recently found a workable approach - I am now a shrinking lady :-)

There is a programming language for our bodies, called bio-chemistry, and we are on the safe side in health and survival matters if we study it well and speak it fluently, so that we learn the "body lessons" BEFORE they escalate, recognize and handle physical problems with great ease as soon as they show up, and use our Earth incarnation time for essential projects instead of health dramas and family tragedies.

Despite this pragmatic attitude, I am extremely fond of the "mind over matter" principle, and Mrs. Atwater's book gives a few overwhelming miracle stories that made me feel like a little kid under the Christmas tree. This is not the stuff on which we can count, not the predictable kind like "I will lose weight if I burn more calories than I eat" or "sugar feeds cancer", but scientifically unexplainable gifts of grace that made me speechless:

- In 1975, Ricky Bradshaw was nearly cut in half when he became trapped between two cars backing into each other. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, where a group of medical students asked to be allowed to experiment with a fresh corpse. After an hour (WELL beyond the time where a brain can normally recover from the lack of oxygen) they began to see beeps on the heart monitor and called for a physician.

"Two years and twenty-four surgeries later, Ricky's survival made medical history. His case is termed 'unexplained' by the medical community."

"He had a 'humdinger' of an NDE, one that featured an out-of-body-experience, brilliant light, loving voices, and being able to view all of history from beginning to end."

I simply love how divine grace and human travails worked together here to accomplish the apparently impossible! So often we see our best efforts go to waste, but in this case they were rewarded against all odds.

- Mellen-Thomas Benedict became famous with his NDE. In the middle of it, he had the incredible guts to intervene (!!) and asked to be shown things. Among other revelations, he was given "a complete overview of history from the Big Bang to four hundred years into the future. He was then pulled away, past stars and galaxies, past imagery and physical realities, to a multi-angled overview of all worlds and all Creation, and past even that to a second light at the edge of existence where vibrations cease. He saw all wars from their beginnings, race as personality clusters, species operating like cells in a greater whole." [...]

He "saw planetary energy systems in detail and how human thoughts influence these systems in a simultaneous interplay between past, present, and future. He learned that Earth is a great cosmic being." [...]

After his return to the body, the most shocking news came: the cancer that had nearly killed him had completely VANISHED! Since then, he "has been flooded with ideas for inventions and the marketing plans necessary to promote them".

- Douglas M. King nearly died from a mysterious lung infection. "One night, after the lights went out and while he was still close to death, a strange dark 'blob' suddenly manifested in midair. This oval object, consisting of a light source that was 'perfect black', floated over to him and stayed there until he was feeling better, then it disappeared.

After a second biopsy, no trace of Douglas's lung infection or its effects remained. What was a life-or-death crisis had become a miracle. The medical staff was left scratching their heads. Douglas's 'greeter' while he lay on the edge of death turned out to be a mass of dark light that had healed him."

- Kathi Beasley was dying from a brain tumor in April 2004. Its location caused her to slowly lose her eyesight. Just before the scheduled surgery, she had an extremely bad night and the darkness became darker than she had ever known. She flipped on the light but it didn't dispel the darkness any longer.

As she thought that she would die in the next moments, "I noticed something faint and dim circling and swirling above me in the form of a small golden form. I became aware of not one but of many small golden, oblong, disc-like lights swirling above my head. Fear was almost instantly replaced with a mixture of wonder, relief, and curiosity. [...]

Kathi went on to experience a burst of raw brilliant energy as a Light began filling her, almost electrocuting her, with an unbelievable unconditional love [...] 'I was engulfed in a pure whiter than white Light that scrubbed me in a celestial bath of newness. It purified and purged me inwardly from all my previous burden and pain in life. It gave me new eyes for the world without losing much of the wisdom I had gained. It gave me new levels of peace and new ways of thinking.'"


Other phenomena I don't include in the "miracles" category, because they are common to so many NDE stories and can more or less be counted upon: going out of body while the body is "dead", watching the doctors at work and listening to the talks of relatives etc.

- One lady saw a shoe on a windowsill while she was floating outside the hospital building where doctors fought for her life. The shoe was later found in exactly that location and looked exactly as described, down to the tiniest detail. There was no chance that she could have seen that shoe from her position on the operation table.

- One man went home while out of body and saw the mail on the hallway table. He could tell his family about every single mail item they would find at home, and what was written on it.

- A child met his unborn sibling on the "other side" and asked his parents uncomfortable questions about the abortion that had terminated the pregnancy. There was absolutely no natural way the kid could have learned about this old family secret that happened long before he was born.

- Another kid tells about his missing twin, lost during pregnancy, whom he has met in the afterlife. P.M.H. Atwater says that this happened many times with many different experiencers.

- One lady knew of the death of her father whom she had met in the afterlife during her NDE. Nobody believed her, because her father was thought to be alive. He had died just moments earlier, while everybody was at her bedside in the hospital, but it was verified soon enough.

- A man's bird died without any apparent reason only minutes after the man had a heart attack. He met the bird on the "other side", which is how he knew that the bird was dead - nobody had had a chance to tell him.

- And there are countless tales of people who after their return from "death" told their doctors and nurses all about the embarassing mistakes that they made :-)

Such things are so typical that they are counted as a standard component of NDE's and not as miracles.


- "WHERE'S MY BODY? For some experiencers, locating their bodies when it's time to return can be quite challenging - especially if, as happened to George Ritchie, their bodies are in a morgue. Ritchie claims that if it wasn't for his left hand hanging below the morgue sheet with his class ring on one finger, he might have never figured out which body was his!"

- WEB RESOURCES: The biggest is , followed by and .

- "A JOKE: The idea of passing through a tunnel into the light has become the butt of many jokes and cartoons. One of the jokes goes like this: 'ATTENTION, ALL PERSONNEL.Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off until further notice.'"

- "STAY OR GO: In some cases, the experiencer chooses to return; in others, the person is sent back, usually with the admonition that he or she has a job yet to perform or a mission to do. There are a number of reports where the experiencer chose to stay but was sent back anyway."

- "Nancy Evans Bush, MA, a pastoral care counselor and near-death researcher, estimates that 17 percent of near-death states are distressing to experiencers. She cautions that there is no single episode common to all; rather, at least three general types have been identified (inverted, void, hell-like), with a possible fourth (guilt-laden life review)."

- "THE BOOK OF LIFE: About 30 percent of adult experiencers report having seen 'The Book of Life' during their episode. [...] Of those who do encounter such a phenomenon, some say it is an actual book, a large one - perhaps in a library of them - that has a record of each moment of a person's life contained in its pages. Others say 'The Book' is really a hologram or a television-like showing. Most, however, never mention a book or a library filled with them. Rather, they speak of histories recorded upon 'the skeins of time', as if such memories were held at certain frequencies accessible when we are in that energy field."

- "WAKE-UP CALL: Dr. Greyson's list did make a difference in lessening the fear the general public had that near-death states were so wonderful people would even commit suicide to have them. But, with experiencers, it became a wake-up call for them to be more careful about what they said while being interviewed by reporters. Their claims were beginning to sound irresponsible, almost as if they were 'anti-life'."

- "JUST FOR KINGS: Egyptologists believe that the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid was designed around a single sarcophagus, not for the purpose of burial, but as a way to cause near-death experiences. Once an individual was placed in the stone coffin and the lid attached, oxygen levels would quickly deplete. The lid would not be removed until a certain time had lapsed. Tradition has it that if the individual survived, he would be a good leader, possessed of special 'gifts'."

- "NO TO OXYGEN DEPRIVATION: Lack of oxygen to the brain doesn't explain near-death episodes. Oxygen deprivation causes confusion, belligerence, and some frightening hallucinations, which are a far cry from the calm and meaningful clarity present with the near-death phenomenon."

- NEW WORD: 'Mission' is the term given by most near-death experiencers, regardless of their age, for why they returned from death. The majority came back 'knowing' that each and every person at birth was given a specific job to do, a purpose for their life on Earth (i.e.,'mission'). And that, if unfulfilled, a 'reminder' will set them straight. Most considered their near- death state that reminder."

- EVEN MOVIE STARS: Some famous entertainers who have had a near-death experience: Peter Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, Christopher Reeve, Sharon Stone, David Letterman, R. Carlos Nakai, Johnny Cash, Burt Reynolds, Jayne Seymour.

- "NEW WORD: 'Mindsight' is a state of transcendental awareness that enables an individual, sighted or blind, to access a realm of knowledge not available through a normal waking state. This awareness is described as omnidirectional - 360 degrees of spherical vision - the ability to see with whole consciousness rather than depending on physical eyes."

"Dr. Kenneth Ring's studies indicated that blind people who experience a near-death episode often have visual perception - even though they may have been unable to experience this same ability in their dreams."

"...80 percent [of blind people] claiming to have possessed sight during their episode. Since fourteen of these people were blind from birth, it's questionable exactly what they saw. Nonetheless, all of them did experience exceptional states of expanded sensory awareness that seemed to them like what sight might be."

- "REMEMBER: Yesterday's dogma is today's heresy."

- "NO TO ABORTIONS: When I queried near-death experiencers about their thoughts on abortion, I found that three- fourths of them flatly disapproved. They respected a woman's right to choose, but felt that through proper counseling and appropriate alternatives, a woman could find ways to respect and honor God's gift of life - whether the child was kept of given up for adoption."

- "MASSIVE CHANGES ON EVERY LEVEL: The multidimensional kids who related most to the cosmos made it quite clear to me that they were here to help 'for the changes'. When I asked what they meant by that, all said that Earth, its countries and people, would have to deal with 'big changes'. [...] Predictions of Earth changes worldwide, along with a possible pole shift, are mounting every year as global warming becomes more of an issue."

- "SO TRUE: A lighthearted definition badied about at meetings of near-death experiencers is 'Spirituality = Questions that may never be answered; Religion = Answers that may never be questioned.'"

- "THOUGHT POWER: Clinical trials conducted by New York State Health Department scientists show that thought alone can move a computer cursor around a display screen! They attached electrodes to the scalp of volunteers and asked them to concentrate on what they wanted the cursor to do. Thought commands in the form of brain-wave emissions were picked up by an amplifier, which signaled
the computer to respond."

- "THE GOD SPOT: Two reference sources of material regarding what may be the brain's role in spiritual experiences are the article 'Toward a Psychobiology of Transcendence: God in the Brain" by Arnold J. Mandell and the book 'Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs' by Michael A. Persinger, PhD."

- "FUTURE MEMORY: Brain shift experiencers, adult or child, develop a relationship with anything 'future'. Many claim to 'live' the future in advance to such a degree that it becomes like a memory of something already done (future memory episodes). What happens to these experiencers mimics what happens to ordinary kids aged three to five, and with the same impetus - the need to 'rehearse' an event before it occurs."

- "THE HIGHER SELF: Various spiritual traditions link the soul directly with deity, especially as per the fulfillment of our life's purpose. But these same traditions caution that 'promptings' from the soul can be blocked, turned off, or ignored - because we have free will, the choice to cooperate with or reject 'the voice of the soul', that guidance more commonly labeled our 'conscience' or 'higher self'."

- "NEW WORD: A growing number of scientists using the latest technology are researching NEUROTHEOLOGY, the physiological basis of religious and spiritual experience. They are finding that more of the brain is involved in these experiences than previously supposed. Contrary to claims of a 'God spot', they are discovering that the religious or spiritual experience is encoded into our very makeup and brain structure."

- "CONSCIOUSNESS IS INTERCONNECTED: Dean I. Radin, PhD, a participant in the Global Mind Project, wrote 'Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality'. Throughout his many years as a scientist, he has repeatedly observed that the universe is an interconnected whole, and that the fabric of reality is woven together from strange 'holistic' threads that cannot be located in three-dimensional time and space. He further advances the notion that a hierarchy of consciousness exists and that we can access this in nonordinary mind states."

- "CAROLINE SUTHERLAND, PhD - who survived a serious automobile accident and had a near-death experience -, now has the ability to 'see' the underlying causes of illnesses, and recommends 'corrections'. She has worked with more than seventy thousand people since 1995 in both clinical settings and private consultations."



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