Lessons From the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience

by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser Valarino
Insight Books, New York, 1998, 340 pp., hardcover, $29.95.

Reviewed by Douglas Chapman

This is a New Age book by any definition, but it does contain some elements of interest to forteans--including alleged details of how blind people--through a sort of "transcendental awareness" or "mindsight," experience Near-Death Experiences, and how many persons experience the life-review as every memory all-at-once but also ascertained from outside as a sort of trajectory. Ring writes: "Most stories depend upon a continuum of time--past, present, future--but the NDE is more like an encounter with a holographic domain in which all information is compacted into an omnipresent unity."

Those who have NDEs often come back from the subjective experience feeling more spiritual than they did before they (nearly) departed. Their need to communicate the ineffable provides Ring with the raw material for this book. They have many new tendencies--including to enjoy life more fully but not fear death. Ring writes of their common experience of unconditional "LOVE" and how their higher consciousness is supposedly stimulated.

Even a skeptic could understand how such a change/shock to a worldview could cause a person to view the world in a new way--with newfound appreciation and a sense of possibility. Whatever talents that people possess--wild or otherwise--could well be better deployed after such a "disturbance."

The cases Ring presents are of people identified by a first name only, and he extensively quotes from their own accounts. The evidence for the phenomena remains mostly anecdotal, except for cases of NDE experiencers who see things in reality that they supposedly could not have-- including misplaced shoes. Ring writes: "Certainly, in the world of NDE research, it remains an unanswered question how these isolated shoes arrive at their unlikely perchesfor later viewing by astonished NDErs--and their baffled investigators! In anyevent....unusual shoes continue to figure in these veridical studies."

One wonders about one possible if disappointingly ordinary explanation: shoes are easy things to throw--and one could question whether NDErs are always as astonished as they seem to be.

Ring, who wrote the words of the book but was assisted in its creation by Valarino in countless ways, thinks there is much to be learned from the experience, and has written this book so that readers do have to almost die to partake of the knowledge he values.

Whether or not one agrees with Ring's otherworld-view, the book is revealing about still mysterious aspects of the human mind.

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