Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose

Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose

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by P.M.H. Atwater

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Real-life stories of out-of-body experiences, encountering a special light, greeters from the afterlife, life reviews, tunnels, and 360-degree vision--are all part of this intriguing look at near-death experiences (NDEs) by one of the world's noted authorities, P.M.H. Atwater. Atwater shares her amazing findings, based on her sessions with more than 4,000 adults


Real-life stories of out-of-body experiences, encountering a special light, greeters from the afterlife, life reviews, tunnels, and 360-degree vision--are all part of this intriguing look at near-death experiences (NDEs) by one of the world's noted authorities, P.M.H. Atwater. Atwater shares her amazing findings, based on her sessions with more than 4,000 adults and children, and over 40 years of research; a breathtaking culmination to a successful and controversial career.

Atwater examines every aspect of the near-death phenomenon: from first-hand accounts of survivors experiencing flash forwards, waking up in morgues, and developing psychic abilities, to stunning cases of groups experiencing NDEs together. Atwater offers statistics from her findings to show the distinctive common patterns that people experience, as well as the common aftereffects and how it changed their lives.

She also explores the physiological and spiritual changes that result from near-death experiences and looks at the connections between the NDE experience and what is often called "enlightenment." Near Death Experiences provides a glimpse of not only what lies beyond the veil of our temporal existence, but points to what--or who--we really are and what we are meant to be.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Having undergone her own profound transformations in consciousness resulting from three successive Near-Death Experiences in 1977, P.M.H. Atwater set about on her distinguished career of careful, detective-like fieldwork and research into the mysteries of NDEs. Near-Death Experiences: the Rest of the Story is her crowning achievement. In it Atwater places the varied phenomena of NDEs into a broader setting of the natural 'ongoing process of transformative adaptation within the human family as a species'. This is P.M.H. Atwater at her very best, resetting the bar for all future NDE research. She is magnificent in her painstaking role as detective, observer, interrogator, advisor, empathizer, compiler & categorizer of data, and creative formulator of plausible hypotheses in the face of 43 years of research findings...This is Atwater's 10th book, and is an absolute must for anyone interested in how NDEs relate to the transformation of consciousness, spiritual awakening, and our true potential & that of the world. It is destined to become a classic in Near-Death Studies and Consciousness Research, and has my highest recommendation." --Scott A. Olsen, Ph.D., author of The Golden Section: Nature's Greatest Secret

"The significance of near-death experiences can hardly be exaggerated, because they point toward answers to The Great Questions -- our origin, life's meaning, and our destiny. There is no more courageous explorer of this domain than P. M. H. Atwater, who has been at the forefront of near-death research for more than three decades. The fear of death has caused immense suffering throughout human history; the information in this book is an antidote for this distress. Atwater's fine book conveys more than information; it delivers healing as well." --Larry Dossey, M.D., author of Healing Words, Reinventing Medicine, and The Power of Premonitions

"In Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story, P.M.H. Atwater significantly pushes the acceptable boundaries of the scientific, spiritual and moral implications of the near-death experience, in modern times. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the unacknowledged ramifications of the fact there is no such thing as death!" --Dannion and Kathryn Brinkley, International best sellers of Saved by the Light, Secrets of the Light

"This review of over 3,000 NDE cases belongs on the bookshelf of everyone interested in the survival of consciousness. The inescapable conclusion of her intensive study is in keeping with my conclusion that 'always there is life.'" --John L. Turner, M.D., author of Medicine, Miracles, and Manifestations

"Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story is written by one of the foremost near-death experience researchers, P.M.H Atwater. This book is a treasure trove of over 30 years of her research. The book is well written and remarkably easy to read given its comprehensiveness. In a world rife with uncertainty and struggles, P.M.H.'s Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story provides priceless insights, soothing reassurance, and life-changing inspiration." --Jeffrey Long, M.D., author of the best selling book, Evidence of the Afterlife

"In her latest work, P.M.H. Atwater continues to explore the great mysteries surrounding life and death. Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story is intriguing, thought-provoking and a 'good read.' Atwater's compassion and dedication to her subject matter shine through in her writing. Her findings, based on intensive research, not only enlighten but inspire much hope for the future." --Jean Terra, Professional editor, former Idaho Gubernatorial/Statehouse Staff Member

"PMH Atwater has been a prolific writer about Near Death Experiences and related topics. This book, in my estimation, may be her best to date. It is scholarly -- yet also very personal and daring. The reader will especially enjoy the interesting footnotes and annotations. But, most importantly, this book embodies the deep reflections of a seasoned and compassionate researcher." --Jeffrey Mishlove, Ph.D., Dean of programs in Transformational Psychology University of Philosophical Research

"This is a much-needed book about the transformation of human consciousness. After three near-death experiences of her own followed by 33 years of researching the subject, including working with nearly 4000 NDE adults and children and writing nine books on the subject, PMH Atwater has become the leading and most prolific authority on the near-death experience." --Jon Klimo, Ph.D., co-author of Suicide: What Really Happens in the Afterlife

"PMH Atwater has been researching Near-Death Experiences since 1978, and in the process studying nearly 4,000 cases. Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of The Story is a summation of what she has learned and discerned over those years of+ study. The book is written in an easy accessible style, and is well-grounded in the science of the field. It covers much more than near-death, and is a compendium of wisdom about the nature of consciousness that is well worth your time." --Stephan A. Schwartz, Senior Samueli Fellow for Brain, Mind, and Healing, Samueli Institute, author of Opening to the Infinite

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NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES the rest of the story


By P.M.H. Atwater

Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57174-651-1



"Research is the highest form of adoration."

—Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

People forget that the vast majority of near-death experiences emerge from situations of violence or trauma. A typical experiencer contends with body damage (sometimes severe) and the immediacy of recognizing that "here" (where they are now) is not the same as "there" (where they once were). No matter how ecstatic or terrifying the experience may be, what comes next is usually confusing, maybe angry, as most of us didn't want to come back. We wanted to stay where we were.

The phenomenon captures public attention as none other. It is soulstirring in the way it reminds even the most staid that home, our true home, is not a joke. It exists, and it is real.

"Off-limit" signs disappear when you engage in research. Starkly different versions of reality emerge ... about abortion, suicide, life after death, flow states, brain development, the dead coming back, otherworldly realms, spiritual lights, good and evil, drugs, energy fields, the soul, Deity, biological imperatives, animals, ghosts, religious/mystical traditions, psychic ability, children, evolutionary change, and much more. What was once sacred and taboo vanishes.

No skeptic, medical or otherwise, has ever investigated the entire phenomenon—the near-death experience and its aftereffects—to any appreciable degree or with a research base large enough for informed comment. A number of near-death researchers have "rushed to judgment," without recognizing that it is the aftereffects, both physiological and psychological, that validate the phenomenon—not the other way around. You cannot study one without the other.

As for me, I have spent most of thirty-three years working full-time in the field of near-death studies, not as an academician or scientist but as a cop's kid raised in a police station and taught as a youngster to never believe everything a person tells you—to ask questions, search further, watch, listen, and challenge your own findings. Whatever appears as truth seldom is. Actually, I was a spunky kid who was getting into trouble long before Dad ever became my dad (he adopted me when I was in the third grade, after he married my mom).

I have every intention of saying things throughout the pages of this book that I have never allowed myself to say before. Now that some of my observations have been verified in clinical studies, and my work has passed "the test of time," I feel a certain ease I have never felt before. That ease, however, could simply be a sign of age—I have passed the seventy-three mark.

Having admitted that much, let me warn you that this book digs deep and covers a lot of territory. It is definitely not for the fainthearted or for those who just want to be entertained. I've geared it for courageous, curious folk who demand more from their questions than pat answers. I begin piecemeal with lots of "headers," each section building upon the last, like "maps and models" spread out for viewing. The fact is that the near-death experience reveals more about life than it does death, and what it reveals is stunning! So, let's get started.


Let's clarify the subject. Yes, I have my preferences on what to offer here, but so does every other researcher in the field of near-death studies. Virtually no two definitions are alike, which drives medical types crazy. So, for the sake of consistency, I offer this definition, originally developed by the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS):

The near-death experience is an intense awareness, sense, or experience of otherworldiness, whether pleasant or unpleasant, that happens to people who are at the edge of death. It is of such magnitude that most experiencers are deeply affected, many to the point of making significant changes in their lives because of what happened to them. Aftereffects often last lifelong and can intensify over time.


Who among us can be certain if all near-death experiencers were fully dead? Many revived or were resuscitated after clinical death; some were close to death; others, in a split second of utter fear, were convinced they were going to die but didn't (called a "fear" death). Because of this abstraction, what is meant by the "final verdict" and how a physician or emergency worker makes such a determination are called into question. Over time, though, death criteria has radically changed. Back in "merry old England," for instance, when locals ran out of places to bury people, they dug up coffins, took bones to a bone-house, and reused the grave. Once these coffins were opened, one out of twenty-five was found with scratch marks on the inside, proof that people had been buried alive. From then on a string was tied to the wrist of the corpse with the other end secured to a bell above ground. Someone would sit out in the graveyard each night to listen for bell sounds and hopefully, save a life. The slang phrases "graveyard shift," "saved by the bell," and "dead ringer" all trace back to this practice.

We've come a long way since that time in history in developing criteria more dependable than "bell ringing" to be certain the dead are truly dead. But a surprise finding in 2007 abruptly challenged what we thought we had learned.

We've known for some time that five minutes without oxygen is fatal to brain cells. Yet dying itself takes longer to occur because cell death isn't an event, it's a process. An exception is with humans who are exposed to extreme cold or who drown in icy water. It is possible for them to benefit from hypothermia, a survival response that automatically lowers body temperature enough to slow cell death, sometimes for up to thirty minutes or more.

The 2007 discovery? Brain cells can actually live for hours after vital signs cease. Patients die not because of lack of oxygen, but because oxygen was resumed too fast during what were thought to be lifesaving procedures (a reversal of the scratched-coffin terror). Standard emergency room protocols, as it has turned out, are exactly backwards. A revolution in resuscitation techniques is now under way.


There is little argument among researchers that, on average, most near-death experiencers, adults and children, go without vital signs (pulse, breath, brain waves) for between five and twenty minutes. Amazing as this may seem, considering how quickly brain damage can occur after cessation of vital signs, even more amazing is that usually there is little or no brain damage afterward; rather, there is brain enhancement. You heard me right: Individuals return to life smarter than before. Sometimes this enhancement can be quite dramatic, especially with young kids. In my own work, I discovered so many who had revived in a morgue—maybe an hour, maybe six hours after having "died"—that I no longer came to regard this as unusual. I admit a bias here. Being a three-time experiencer myself, it would take a lot to impress me as concerns "the dead come back," yet impressed I was when I met a man who had revived while being cut open during autopsy after a full three days of being a corpse in a freezer vault.

I doubt that the new resuscitation techniques from the 2007 discovery about brain cells will affect near-death research, as the bulk of cases take place outside hospital environments and the immediacy of emergency treatment. Still, the finding is very important. It proves that what appears to be brain death is not synonymous with cell death. Maybe we ought to entice angels to serve as "cell ringers" with this one (no pun intended).


Data has been downscaled in the last several years to reflect a more conservative approach to statistics (since the majority of surveys done were not scientific). At this writing, countries worldwide that engage in near-death research report that between 4 to 5 percent of their general population has had a near-death experience (this includes the United States). Global estimates jump to between 12 to 21 percent when focused on those receiving critical care when the phenomenon occurs. What we're talking about here are huge numbers—hundreds of millions of people—of every age, size, ethnicity, social status, belief, and intelligence level imaginable.

Unfortunately, none of the statisticians have ever used a separate category to track child experiencers, so we have no overall data on them. The closest to a clinical estimate for the young comes from Melvin Morse, M.D., in his book, Closer to the Light. Morse estimates that 70 percent of children have had a near-death experience. Although his figures show that children are much more prone to the experience than adults during a health crisis, further study is still needed. Why some people undergo the experience and others do not is not understood.


Raymond Moody's original work identified fifteen elements of the neardeath experience.

He noted how these formed what appeared to be a scenario (content pattern). Moody's list:

• Ineffability, beyond the limits of any language to describe

• Hearing yourself pronounced dead

• Feelings of peace and quiet

• Hearing unusual noises

• Seeing a dark tunnel

• Finding yourself outside your body

• Meeting "spiritual beings"

• A very bright light experienced as a "being of light"

• A panoramic life review

• Sensing a border or limit to where you can go

• Coming back into your body

• Frustrating attempts to tell others about what happened to you

• Subtle "broadening and deepening" of your life afterward

• Elimination of the fear of death

• Corroboration of events witnessed while out of your body

Two years later, after hundreds more interviews, Moody added four more elements to his list of common components to what experiencers claim to have encountered:

• A realm where all knowledge exists

• Cities of light

• A realm of bewildered spirits

• Supernatural rescues


I had never heard of Raymond Moody or his book until Kenneth Ring told me about them and the field of study that had ensued, three years after I had begun my work. Also unknown to me was that other people were doing the same thing I was. My only introduction to even the term "near-death experience" was through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who I met at O'Hare Airport near Chicago in 1978.12 Her plane to Europe was late, so the two of us huddled like school girls on a bench for over an hour. I told her about my own three near-death episodes, and she told me about the phenomenon. She never said a thing about Moody.

Elisabeth called me a "near-death survivor" and validated what had happened to me. I will be forever in her debt for that. Yet what she said gave rise to more questions than answers in my mind. A couple months later, after moving from my home state of Idaho to Washington, D.C., a group of experiencers gathered 'round after a talk I had given and the next thing I knew I was studying them, listening deeply, with a determination for objectivity which I strive for to this day.

Naturally I came to look at the near-death phenomenon, both the experience and its aftereffects, in a different manner than the cohorts I had yet to meet. And therein lies the conflict that later became "a very big deal."



"If one regards oneself as a skeptic, it is a good plan to have occasional doubts about one's skepticism."

—Sigmund Freud

As of this writing, my sessions with experiencers of near-death states (at times simple interviews) number nearly four thousand adults and children. This figure does not include the sessions I had with significant others: parents, spouses, children of experiencers, relatives, health-care providers, neighbors, coworkers, friends. I lost count of this segment of my research base long ago, although an estimate in the range of around five hundred people would be reasonable. The bulk of my findings were obtained between the years of 1978 to 2004, after which the search for meaning took precedence (although some fieldwork continued). The majority of these additional cases were from child experiencers who are now adults. These people sought me out after the publication of Children of the New Millennium, and later The New Children and Near-Death Experiences.


Knowing that personal bias could jeopardize anything I did, I put my own experiences on a "back shelf" in my mind and played dumb a lot. What I mean is that I asked as many open-ended and unstructured questions as possible, trying not to reveal either my identity or intent. If I did say who I was, experiencers would counter with, "Well, you know how it is."

I'd stand my ground if this occurred: "Maybe yes, maybe no, but tell me anyway. Give me details and don't leave a thing out." Mostly, though, I used simple phrases like "oh really" or "tell me more" or that wonderful all-purpose lead of "and ...?"

I found that voice intonation and inflection, along with easy, nonthreatening body language, netted more information than "arranged" questions. All I had to do was "leave the door open," and the experiencer would willingly "walk through," as if utterly relieved. There's nothing like a nonjudgmental, sincerely interested listener. I did alter my style somewhat with children, though, and in this manner: no parents allowed, same eye-level contact at all times (with little ones that meant I was on my belly), changed body postures to elicit response, replacing note-taking with a gentle sincerity and steady focus, encouraging feelings as well as memories, opening myself to sense the "wave" of consciousness they "ride" so I could see through their eyes. I had sessions with parents, too, as I wanted to explore what they noticed and any opinions they had. This was important, as children can and sometimes do slant their stories to fit the emotional expectations of their parents.

I have used a total of three questionnaires for the purpose of crosschecking previous observations. I developed the first in 1981. It compared random selections from my work with an equal number from the archives of IANDS. No difference in experiencers' answers—all love and forgiveness, as if everything in their life was now perfect—even though I knew folks in my batch were undergoing serious challenges.

None of them, not in the archives of IANDS nor with people I had personally met, recognized the overall impact of their experience or how they had changed because of it. This exercise was proof-positive to me that depending solely on such answers (no matter how cleverly worded a questionnaire might be) is wrong and will distort research findings. Questionnaires can augment, but they can never be a substitute for fieldwork.

My second questionnaire was done in 1994 to test the range of the electrical sensitivity that experiencers reported as part of their aftereffects. The third, in 1999, was designed to further investigate what happened to child experiencers once they reached adulthood. I designed it to "push buttons," and indeed it did, to the extent that some refused to cooperate, saying the information was too personal. One man apologized the following year, after he had overcome his anger long enough to fill it out, and discovered in doing so how he had been hiding things he had not wanted to admit. "What a revelation," he exclaimed. "Answering this thing changed me almost as much as my near-death experience."


All of my findings have been cross-checked at least four times with different people in different parts of the country and with those of other cultures, at differing times. It was as if I was "driven" to explore everything from 360 degrees. The statistics that follow are based on actual sessions:

3,000 adult experiencers

• 80 percent White (from U.S., Canada, England, Belgium, France, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine—no further breakdowns)

• 20 percent Black (15% African American; 5% Kenya, Haiti, Canada)

277 child experiencers

• 60 percent White (from U.S., Canada, France, England, Ukraine—no further breakdowns)

• 23 percent Latino—U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Colombia

• 12 percent Black—U.S., Canada

• 5 percent Asian—Malaysia, China

NOTE: I rejected an additional 15 percent because the session with the child was compromised by adult interference (adult explaining/interpreting for the child). I found that fascination with "out-of-the-mouths-of-babes" reports can mislead more readily than enlighten.

Percentages of how I connected with these people:

• 60 percent through synchronicity—seven were blind since birth, not certain about two others

• 30 percent through talks I gave and advertisements and announcements I placed in magazines, newspapers, and newsletters

• 10 percent from questionnaire participants who had agreed to take part in my research


Excerpted from NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES the rest of the story by P.M.H. Atwater. Copyright © 2011 P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D.. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

P.M.H. Atwater is an international authority on near-death states as well as a near-death experiencer who "died" three times. She is the author of 20 books and lives in Charlottesville, Va. Visit her at:

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Near-Death Experiences, The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have injoyed this book a lot.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading the sample which went to page 47 or so, I purchased the book. I did not get any more pages, even tho there are many chapters listed. It shows I purchased the book, but I do not have it. I don't know what my options are to fix it. Nancy Rasor
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do not have all the answers either. ; )