NDE - Dr. Ian Stevenson

Near Death Experience Research by Dr. Ian Stevenson - Psychiatrist

Table of Contents


Ian Stevenson is widely recognized for his groundbreaking investigations into children who claim to recall past lives. However, his contributions extend beyond this realm, encompassing the pioneering study of near-death experiences (NDEs). NDEs refer to transcendent or mystical encounters reported by individuals who have come close to death, experienced apparent clinical death, or faced severe illness or accidents but ultimately recover or are resuscitated.

While the term "near-death experience" was coined by Raymond Moody in 1975, Stevenson's involvement predates this. In an article published 16 years prior, in 1959, Stevenson recounted the story of a clergyman who, under general anesthesia, detailed events that transpired while ostensibly fully unconscious. This included observations of the surgeon leaving the operating room to fetch another instrument and insights into conversations among the operating room staff.

Stevenson's early work acknowledged that proximity to death could enhance an individual's apparent extrasensory perception. He shared an account of an elderly woman surrounded by her family on her deathbed, highlighting instances where individuals, nearing death, displayed heightened extrasensory abilities. Stevenson's role in fostering the field of near-death studies is a testament to his multidimensional contributions in exploring the mysteries surrounding human consciousness and experiences on the brink of mortality.

Conclusion of research

Throughout his career, Ian Stevenson maintained an open-minded scientific attitude characterized by true skepticism, in contrast to the debunkers who merely pose as skeptics. In an early review of the field, Stevenson emphasized the importance of avoiding extreme positions, stating, "It is not helpful to declare that all near-death experiences provide evidence of our survival after death; but neither is it helpful to categorize them all as merely 'toxic psychoses.'" He expressed a dogmatic stance on one aspect of the controversy: the acknowledgment that there is still much to learn from the study of near-death experiences (Stevenson, 1980: 272).

Over the course of an additional fifteen years of research, Stevenson's views evolved, as revealed in an interview with Robert Kastenbaum, the editor of Omega. While Stevenson maintained his skeptical attitude, his conclusion shifted. He expressed the belief that near-death experiences defy a single interpretation, given their varied circumstances and content. However, he also posited that a small number of these experiences contribute to the evidence supporting mind/brain dualism. 

By this, he meant that the mind and brain, although interactive during life, are not identical, and minds may endure beyond the death of the physical bodies they are associated with (Kastenbaum, 1994: 180). Stevenson's nuanced perspective reflects his commitment to genuine scientific inquiry and a willingness to adapt his views based on evolving evidence.