This article belongs to D.E.A.T.H theme.

Having spent over 40 years examining, researching, and teaching in the field of Death & Dying (Thanatology), I prefer to classify the events for which people have such intense interest in a manner which goes beyond the simple focus on just the "Near Death Experience", or NDE. Indeed, concentration on just the NDE detracts from a fuller understanding of the events as a whole.

Before addressing the phenomena it is unfortunately necessary to address the criticisms often directed at this subject, and the hidden fears on the part of those (usually not of any scientific background or even understanding) who choose to ally themselves with the materialist interpretations of what they think science is.

The current focus on attempting a neuroscience means of "debunking" NDE reports is misguided. "Studies" cite the results of stimulation of the right angular gyrus, on the right temporal lobe of the brain, as replicating the NDE scenario, thus rendering it as the activity of the dying brain. What these studies fail to clarify is that the experience reported by the subject is bi-location, not an NDE. The subject is awake and conversing with the clinicians while experiencing what they report. They are neither clinically dead, or even close to it.

Another attempt in this vein is the presentation of the effects of hypoxia (oxygen starvation), again a dying brain syndrome, as equivalent to the NDE. This attempt fails because hypoxia diminishes and narrows focus while the NDE heightens and expands focus.

And, there is the current attempt to document the out of body (OBE) phenomenon during surgery by placing a code word high atop a cabinet or other structure in the O.R. Since it is highly unlikely that an ethical surgical team would pre-advise a patient that they will be brought so near death as to leave their body, and they should look for the magic word, the protocol rests on the foolish presumption that a patient, suddenly finding himself disincarnate while the team digs around in his chest will float around the room to see what might be atop the furnishings. More likely they will be focused on the doings of the surgeon.

Why do people cling so tightly to what they think is a system which offers them only oblivion? Particularly in the past few American decades, replete with corrupt televangelists, church scandals, and Presidential administrations cloaking their savage criminality in "scripture", there has been reason for rational and educated people to fear for the quality of their lives and the practice of their freedoms. Coupled with the pervasive hijacking of the NDE genre of published literature, a compendium of Trojan Horses designed to attract the reader while slipping to him the messages of the Fundamentalists there appears to be a perfect storm of appropriately discredited "religion" and developing neuroscience. Thus, any "spiritually" oriented discussions present what appears to be the risk of retreating back into the hands of politicians who, like G. W. Bush, claim appointment from some god and divine authority for social policy.

Although properly fearful of socio-political abuses, the new materialists frame the argument incompletely. The complete paradigm is:
1. There is a spiritual existence; there is a god.
2. There is no spiritual existence; there is no god.
3. There is a god; there is no spiritual existence.
4. There is no god; there is a spiritual existence.

The new materialists see only propositions 1. and 2. of the paradigm. And, they focus only on the NDE when the complete body of phenomena includes Pre-Death Experience (dismissed as hallucinations as one nears death) , After Death Communication (dismissed as wishful thinking by the bereaved), Sympathetic Death Experience – knowing a distant death has occurred at the exact moment (dismissed as coincidence), and complete Out of Body Experience (dismissed as dreams or hallucinations).

Materialists, invoking "science" about which they seem to know little or nothing, claim that evidence for these phenomena is "circumstantial". Interestingly, they seem not to understand evidence either. In criminal trials, all evidence is circumstantial except: Direct confession supported by information only the perpetrator could know; and, multiple unimpeachable eye witnesses – i.e., the killing of Oswald by Ruby on live national TV. In a rape case, the circumstances may be physical injuries to the "victim" and presence of the defendant's DNA in or on the victim. The prosecution argues that these indicate forcible rape; the defense argues that these indicate consensual rough sex. The jury decides which story best fits the circumstances, not which story arrives at the truth.

Many thousands of cases, collected and documented by the International Association for Near Death Studies, among others, present circumstances in which the DAP experiencer obtained information that could not have been derived from material experience. Indeed, many of these cases include multiple witnesses, often self described as "skeptics – until now".

The thoughtful reader is wise to avoid much of the general literature purporting to be true accounts of DAP, usually of the NDE genre. Much of it is a thinly disguised, and badly written, Trojan Horse of the Fundamentalist agenda, pushing the perverted Heaven and Hell, fire and brimstone moralism through a new and popular venue. And, it is certainly a huge money maker for the Fundamentalist owned publishing houses that care nothing for truth or the human costs of what they purvey.

However, there are rational – and yes, scientific organizations and institutions that are documenting and analyzing world wide DAP accounts. Unfortunately, their publications are not competitive with the slick mass market materials filling bookstores today. This is also unfortunately true of real science. The obvious outcome, therefore, is the false dichotomy of the pseudo or incomplete science versus the fallacious but popular literature.

It cannot be surprising, then, that rational discussions of these matters are best reserved for those people we know to be truly subject literate, not just agenda led.