Emerging Perspectives: Student Chapters

A Glimpse at the Reality Existing After Ours Through Near-Death Experiences

Mackenzie Shelton

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are gateways for the soul—a profound, transformative experience that has taken place for some who have kissed death and returned. It is estimated that NDEs affect 1 in 10 people (The European Academy of Neurology, 2019). At best, these experiences are dismissed as wild dreams or hallucinations, but we struggle to make sense of what they are. One way some scientists have been trying to explain the reality of near-death experiences is in the connection between psychedelics and psychology. Dr. Rick Strassman (2001), a psychologist who has done extensive research on the topic, is one among many hypothesizing that NDEs are a result of the hallucinogenic chemical dimethyltryptamine, or DMT for short. He suspects that DMT is produced in the pineal gland of the brain, which is an area of the brain we still know little about. Because of the pineal gland’s connection to light (what we do know is that it produces melatonin, a hormone that regulates both the reproductive system and the circadian rhythm), it has been spiritually associated with many ideas of a higher conscious and enlightenment such as the third-eye, crown chakra, and the seat of the soul. Strassman infers that DMT is produced in times of birth, near-death, death, and intense pain.

Psychology and science don’t always agree. The largest issue with near-death experiences in the scientific realm is that these experiences are not experiments that can be conducted, tested, or repeated. They are subjective, random, and unique to the individual. However, it would be presumptuous to expect science to have the answer to all things at one time: throughout history, science has evolved to answer and challenge preconceptions. We now have a scientific understanding of natural events like gravity, the orbit of the universe, the timeline of the earth, and the human impacts causing climate change at a scale beyond past expectations. But just because these concepts were not scientifically known at one point does not make them untrue. Thus, the case for the existence of near-death experiences is compelling…


Find the rest of this chapter in Emerging Perspectives on Religion and Environmental Values in America HERE.


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Religion and Environmental Values in America Copyright © 2019 by Mackenzie Shelton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.