Experiences Near Death: Beyond Medicine and Religion

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9780195091946: Experiences Near Death: Beyond Medicine and Religion

A person is seriously ill or involved in an accident and their heart stops beating; for a brief time they are clinically "dead." Once revived, the victim has a remarkable tale to relate: typical narratives include feelings of great peace, out-of-body travel, tunnel sensations, life review, and bright lights. These phenomena, often referred to as "near-death experiences," have spawned an entire pop industry dedicated to plumbing the depths of their mysteries, and they continue to inspire heated debate and raise fascinating questions about the nature of life and death. But most observers assume that there are only two ways to interpret the near-death experience: in the religious terms of life after death, or in the medical terms of the mechanics of the brain.
In Experiences Near Death, however, Allan Kellehear presents a revolutionary new approach to the field of "near-death studies," one that examines these episodes as they relate to the specific cultures from which they arise, helping us to understand what these visions are as a cultural and psychological response and why they occur. Kellehear compares near-death experiences from all over the world--India, China, Guam, America, Australia, and New Zealand--revealing not only the similarities among them, but also the pertinent differences that can tell us much about the way people from different cultures view their world. He recounts, for example, a near-death experience from Guam where people fly through the clouds to make invisible visits to living relatives; he compares experiences from hunter-gatherer societies to urban American ones; and in a fascinating discussion of the bestselling children's story The Velveteen Rabbit, Kellehear examines its remarkable similarities to the Western near-death experience. He concludes that these visions are brought on by a profound experience of crisis, and are similar to visions brought on by other trauma such as bereavement, being lost at sea, or trapped in a mine. People who have lived through these events, Kellehear notes, often see visions which are identical to those encountered during near-death experiences. Indeed, he finds that the near-death experience is a common reaction to a deep sense of separation from others, and he includes it within a much larger group of human experiences. In addition, Kellehear provides an extensive look at community reactions to near-death experiences, and he also offers an indepth examination of much supposedly unbiased academic research into NDE. (In one eye-opening chapter, for instance, he reveals some of the controversial reasons why neuroscience writers try so hard to have their theories accepted by the public).
The near-death experience continues to attract the attention of the popular press, but there have been few serious studies of this often contentious subject. Now, in Experiences Near Death, Kellehear uncovers intriguing evidence that sheds new light on a phenomenon that has fascinated and mystified us all. These experiences force us to reflect on issues of personal significance (like hope and happiness) and show us how the many different perceptions of the near-death experience have become relevant to the anxieties and questions of our times.

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About the Author:


About the Author:
Allan Kellehear was born and educated in Sydney, Australia, where he received a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of New South Wales. Currently Senior Lecturer in Sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, he is the author of numerous books, including Dying of Cancer: The Final Year of Life.

Review:

"Essential reading for all who wish to pursue the study of near-death experiences."--Choice

"Are you ready for a lively, sophisticated, and intellectually stimulating examination of near-death experiences? Kellehear (with some help from The Velveteen Rabbit) raises the level of discourse to a higher level. A wonderful read for all eyes that are connected to an open mind."--Robert Kastenbaum, editor, Omega, Journal of Death and Dying and author of The Psychology of Death and Death, Society and Human Experience

"Allan Kellehear provides a fresh look at near death experiences. His provocative analysis sparks new ideas about a controversial topic that will fuel debate for years to come."--Kathy Charmaz, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Sonoma State University

"Allan Kellehear's sociological study of near-death experiences opens a valuable new line of inquiry."--Ian Stevenson, M.D., Carlson Professor of Psychiatry, University of Virginia

"In this provocative book, Allan Kellehear has furnished us with a much needed perspective in the discourse on near-death experiences--that of the sociologist--and has thereby given us an entirely fresh vision of this phenomenon. Experiences Near Death is an absolute must read for any serious student of the NDE and challenges partisans and skeptics alike with its impassioned and cogent arguments."--Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., author of Life at Death and Heading Toward Omega

"Kellehear helps us see our way not only through the tangled forest of scientific and religious debates, but even to the surrounding continent of human psycho-social needs. Avoiding the 'psychobabble of neuroscience and the rhetoric of the New Age,' he places the NDE on a continuum with other life-shaping status passages....His comparisons to accounts of shipwrecked mariners and trapped coalminers illustrate that life-shaking crises force us to reexamine what is really most important."--Carl Becker, Ph.D., D.Litt., Professor of Human Sciences, Kyoto University (Japan)

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Allan Kellehear
Editore: Oxford University Press, USA (1996)
ISBN 10: 0195091949 ISBN 13: 9780195091946
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