Shared Death Experiences (SDE)
Onlookers at the bedside of the dying often have profound spiritual
experiences. The onlookers interpret their experiences as an empathic
co-living of the passing away of a person who actually died. In terms of
their core elements, shared-death experiences are indistinguishable from
classic near-death experiences.
Therefore, shared-death experiences seem to call into question
materialist neurophysiological explanations of near-death experiences. For
the onlookers are not ill or injured, yet they report the identical
phenomena reported by survivors of cardiac arrest or severe
life-threatening illness. This analysis discusses shared-death
experiences in terms of their (1) phenomenology (i.e., common
characteristics) and (2) implications for rational study of the question
of life after death.
The author Raymond Moody has studied shared-death experiences
beginning in 1973, but more intensively since about 1980. At present, he
has interviewed hundreds of people who had extraordinary experiences or
alterations of consciousness—while attending the death of even someone
else. The following elements characterize reports of shared death
1. Seeing the dying person's spirit leave the body
Bystanders say they see a roundish entity, often described as a
golden-grayish mist, rise from the upper part of the body. In some cases
the bystanders describe this as a transparent replica of the person who
2. Accompanying the dying person part-way toward a light
Bystanders say they seemed to leave their own body and rise above it
at the time when someone else died. Usually, they report seeing the
"spirit" of the person who died. At some point, the bystanders return to
their own body and the person who died seems to enter the light.
3. Experiencing a change in geometry of the room
Bystanders say that when someone else died it seemed that they
entered into another realm that did not operate by the rules of
three-dimensional geometry. For example, they may say they found
themselves out of their bodies and viewing the room from an impossible
angle. Sometimes, it seems that the cubical hospital room seems to take
on the configuration of a funnel. However, they say that this alternate
geometry is impossible to describe in the words of ordinary language.
4. Hearing beautiful music
Bystanders sometimes report that as someone in the room died they
heard beautiful music. Again, the music is said to be so beautiful that
they find that no words are adequate to describe it.
5. Seeing a brilliant light
Bystanders say that an unearthly light of love and comfort filled the
room as someone died. This was not an ordinary physical light they say,
but a supernatural light of peace and comfort.
6. Perceiving spirits entering the room
Bystanders say they see apparitions, apparently of the dying person's
deceased loved ones, enter the room around the point of death.
7. Empathically co-living the life review of a dying person
Bystanders view images or scenes of the life of the person who is
passing away. Sometimes, this takes the form of a holographic panorama
that surrounds the bed of the dying.
Implications of Shared-Death Experiences for Afterlife Research
The reported elements of shared death experiences are
indistinguishable elements of classic near-death experiences. That is,
the components of the narratives of the two types of experience are the
same. Furthermore, narratives are all we have to go on in assessing the
meaning of such experiences. Hence, there is no clear basis for saying
that near-death experiences and shared-death experiences are distinct
phenomena. That implies that neurophysiological explanations of
near-death experiences are not adequate. Bystanders at the death of
someone else are not ill or injured, yet they report the same
Moody, Raymond A. Jr., MD, PhD and Perry, Paul (2010). Glimpses
of Eternity. Guideposts.
The book recaps several hundred reports of shared-death experiences
collected during thirty years of investigation on the subject.
Prominent Researchers of NDEs and Consciousness
Dr. Raymond A. Moody
Read about Raymond A Moody
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