How common is an NDE

In 1982, an extensive survey conducted by George Gallup (Gallup 1982) found that eight million Americans (5 per cent of the adult population) confirmed that they had had a near-death experience. In 1992, a new Gallup poll revealed that around 13 million Americans claimed to have undergone at least one NDE. Numerous other surveys have been conducted. According to Ring (1980), 43 per cent, and according to Sabom (1982), 48 per cent of adults who found themselves in life-threatening circumstances had an NDE. The score seems to be higher among children (85 per cent) (Morse 1994). Paul Badham has suggested that these results gain stronger values when related to the frequency of spiritual experiences among the population in general. For instance, David Hay, a former Director of the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre has stated that 76 per cent of the population in Britain in 2001 described having 'an awareness of a transcendental reality' (in Badham 2005a: 202). This evidence has been supported by another study carried out at the Department of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London. Olga Pupynin and Simon Brodbeck carried out an original piece of research called 'Religious Experience in London'. They asked passers-by in Trafalgar Square, 'What kind of things have made you feel most sublime?' They collected a wide range of replies ranging from 'being in love', to 'the beauty of nature', to knowing 'God was present'. Then the participants were asked: 'Have you ever had an experience which you could categorize as sacred, religious, spiritual, ecstatic, paranormal, or mystical?' The researchers were amazed to find out that 65 per cent of those interviewed had had an experience, which could be defined 'as religious, spiritual, ecstatic, sacred, paranormal or mystical' (Pupynin and Brodbeck 2001).

While statistics and accounts of NDE proliferate, at present there may be no proven trait that can accurately predict who will have an NDE (Greyson 1993). These seem to happen with similar frequency and content to people of both genders and of all ages, races, levels of education, socio-economic backgrounds, spiritual/religious affiliations (or non-affiliation), sexual orientations, and precipitating circumstances (illness, accident, suicide, medical procedure, etc.) (Osis and Haraldsson 1977; Ring 1980; Gabbard et al. 1981; Pasricha and Stevenson 1986; Roberts and Owen 1988; Blackmore 1996a). As has already been discussed,8 the oldest recorded account of travel in the afterlife can be dated to more than two thousand years ago.

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