Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a world renowned expert on death and dying, received 18 hononary doctorates during her life. She broke the taboo about discussing death in the medical field, and helped in drawing the attention of the medical field towards caring for the dying, and in conducting research in this area. Many doctors have continued the work she started, and there are many international societies that specialize in investigating issues concerning dying. One of these societies is the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS ORG). Dr. Kubler-Ross had an eventful life. She was born in Switzerland as the eldest of triplets. After World War II, she immediately went to Poland to assist medical personnel in helping survivors and people who were facing death. She witnessed many deaths and people who had near-death experiences, and as a result, resolved to seek formal medical education. She later married an American, and gave up her medical practice to move to New York, where her first job was in a mental hospital. She felt lonely in an unfamiliar environment, and hence was able to empathize with the loneliness felt by the mental patients. She related well with the patients, and treated them with sincerity. Patients who had not spoken for a long time started to talk. Two years later, nearly all the patients were discharged from the hospital. From this experience, she realized that warmth of true caring was the best medicine. Subsequently, she worked in a hospital in Chicago, continuing her work in counseling mental patients.
One day, four students from a seminary wanted to learn from dying patients, and requested Dr. Kubler-Ross to arrange a meeting. That was how she started her research on death and dying, and her research with these four students evolved into a formal seminar series. Later, up to fifty health professionals sat in to listen to their interviews with dying patients. These cumulative experiences led to her first bestseller “On Death and Dying”, which discusses the death and dying process. She personally sat with one thousand people facing their deaths, and collected 20,000 cases of near-death experiences from all over the world. What she can affirm is that there is no death because consciousness does not die. She uses the image of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon as a metaphor for the dying process: the butterfly is the consciousness and the cocoon is the body. She is also certain that nobody dies alone, including astronauts who die in outer space or those who die in the deserts. The consciousness of those we love or who love us will be there to receive us at the moment of death. These could be dead relatives, or spiritual beings like Jesus, Saint Mary, Amitabha Buddha, or guardian angels. Dr. Kubler-Ross made these conclusions from her interactions with many seriously ill or wounded people she had accompanied.
Once, she was with a seriously wounded child whose entire family was involved in a fatal car accident. The mother had already died, and the brother was in another hospital. Before he died, the child became very calm and peaceful. Dr. Kubler-Ross was very familiar with the dying process, and asked the child how he was feeling. He replied: “Everything is fine. Mom and Peter (the brother) are already here waiting.” He did not know that his mother had died, and even Dr. Kubler-Ross did not know that his brother had died 10 minutes ago. In many near-death experiences, many people see dead relatives. Young children might see a grandfather they did not know, and after they have been resuscitated to life, they would recognize the person from a photo. Children may also see siblings who have not been born yet.
One young girl said that she saw her younger brother. At that time, she was the youngest in the family, and her mother was unable to conceive any more. Surprisingly, a few years later, her mother did give birth to a younger brother.
Dr. Kubler-Ross discovered that the dying process comprises three stages. The first stage is when the consciousness leaves the body. At this time, no brain waves can be detected, and ECG shows a flat line. The second stage then begins, where only the mind exists. Blind people can recover their sight, handicaps see that they are whole, the deaf can hear, and the mute can speak. Some patients who had multiple sclerosis told her after their near-death experiences: “I could dance again”. Dr. Kubler-Ross once focused on blind people (those who had been blind for over 10 years) as her research participants, and found that when they experienced their consciousness leaving their bodies, they could clearly see the clothes or necktie colours of people around them.
This second stage does not have time or space, and one can use one’s mind to go immediately to any place. A soldier may have died in Asia, but his consciousness could get to New York immediately by thinking about his mother. Some people had experiences where they first saw a loved one living far away suddenly appear in front of them, and then later received a phone call or telegraph that the loved one had passed away.
The third stage relates to a review of one’s life. This review transcends time and space. The life review may take only a few seconds or minutes on Earth, but the person re-experiences every word, action or thought he has made during his life, and also experiences its impact on others. During this review, one feels the interconnectedness between consciousness. Some people may discover that their priority in life has been wrong—for example, pursuing materialistic needs and being over-competitive. Instead, they may feel that the most important thing in life is to leave more love on earth.
Following Dr. Kubler-Ross’ work, others have conducted research relating to dying and life review, and obtained results collaborating her findings. One striking study was done by cardiologist, Dr. Pim Van Lommel. He interviewed 344 patients from 10 hospitals in Holland who had been saved after suffering heart attacks. Of these, 18% had near-death experiences. Amongst these patients who had near-death experiences, 50% knew they were dead or had positive emotional responses; 30% felt that they were passing through a tunnel and saw visions of heaven or their dead relatives; 25% had out-of-body experiences with their consciousnesses separated from their bodies, were able to communicate with “light”, or saw color lights; 8% experienced the boundary between life and death; and 13% experienced a review of their entire lives. Those who approached actual deaths had deeper and more vivid experiences. One of Dr. Lommel’s cases was a person who saw his dead grandmother and another unfamiliar male who was looking at him with loving eyes. Ten years later, just before his mother died, she told him that he was born out of wedlock. His father was a Jew, and died after he was deported out of Germany during World War II. When he saw his father’s photograph, he realized that the unfamiliar male who had been looking at him during his near-death experience was indeed his father.
After Dr. Lommel completed this research, he deeply believed that the consciousness does not die. He put aside his medical work, and persevered in collecting evidence related to this research. The website of the International Association of Near-Death Studies (www.iands.org) contains his articles. Another source of evidence about the continuity of consciousness after death comes from after-death communication from the dead. Dr. Kubler-Ross shared this personal experience of which prompted Bill Guggenheim to pursue this line of research. Many years ago, Dr. Kubler-Ross met with difficulties in her research on dying and death, and had made up her mind not to organize any more of these seminars. That day, after a seminar, she accompanied a pastor collaborating in the research and walked towards the elevator. She was about to broach the issue of her impending resignation, when she saw a familiar lady standing nearby waiting to talk to her. She could not recall this lady’s name, and neither could the pastor. However, after the pastor entered the elevator, this lady walked over and said: “Dr. Kubler-Ross, the reason I returned is that I have something important to discuss with you. Can we go to your office to chat for a few minutes?” As Dr. Kubler-Ross walked toward her office, she asked herself if she was having a hallucination because she recalled that this lady was a patient who had died ten months ago. She deliberately tried to touch this lady to feel whether her skin was warm or cold. This lady was a little translucent although it was not possible to see through her body. After they entered the office, this lady, Mrs. Schwartz, said: “I came back for two reasons. The first reason is to thank you and Pastor Gaines for your help. The second reason is to request that you do not stop this line of work. Now is not the time to stop. In the future, when there are others who can take over this work, you can stop. We will help you.” Dr. Kubler-Ross’ scientific mind prompted her to deliberately ask Mrs. Schwartz to write a note to Pastor Gaines. After Dr. Kubler-Ross had nodded her head in agreement to continue her work, Mrs. Schwartz disappeared. Bill Guggenheim was inspired by this story, and together with his wife, spent seven years to collect 3000 cases of communication from the dead. He intends to collect such cases from other cultures.
People who had near-death experiences generally go through major changes in their outlook towards life. Dr. Kenneth Ring summarizes these changes:
- Treasure everything in life, including ordinary experiences.
- Total acceptance of oneself, and eliminating prior lack of self-worth.
- Truly caring for others.
- Respecting all life and nature.
- No longer pursue a materialistic lifestyle, and knowing that is illusory.
- No longer interested in competitiveness, and emphasizing more on caring for others.
- Continually working on one’s spiritual development.
- Like learning.
- Have a clear mission in life.
- No longer afraid of death.
- Convinced that there is life after death.
- Convinced that there is a transcendental force in the universe—some call it “God” while others call it “Light”.
These people generally become more sensitive (e.g., toward electrical impulses), while others acquire supernatural powers. Others completely change their professions, and dedicate their lives towards activities that benefit society. They know that the purpose of life is to share a little more love with others, and that the energy of the consciousness continues to live and does not die. According to Dr. Kubler-Ross, when people are no longer afraid of death, the world will not have wars. Also, people will change how they live when they realize that their consciousness does not die and that, at death, they will have to face the reality of what they have done.
As a result of the cases above, we are also inspired to collect cases from the Chinese culture where there has been direct communication from loved ones or friends who had died, as well as near-death experiences. Readers are invited to send such cases to the Lapis Lazuli Light offices in their home country. Please leave your contact information so that we can conduct further investigations. Your identity will be kept confidential.
- On Life After Death, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Celestial Arts, 1991
- Lessons from the Light: What we can Learn from the Near-Death Experience, by Kenneth Ring, Moment Point Press, 1998
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Near-Death Experiences, by P.M. H. Atwater with David H. Morgan, Alpha Book, 2000