Editor’s Note: Almost ten years ago, the Spy sat down with David LaMotte for what turned out to be a fascinating conversation about Near-Death Experiences and spirituality. Fast forward to 2019, and we asked David to reflect on the dozens of the stories he has heard from those who had experienced near death. This is the Spy interview with David from October, 2009.
Spy: David, could you remind us of what instigated your interest in near death experience?
My father was an Episcopal minister who got interested in near death experiences, or NDEs as they are referred to, recounted by people who died and came back to life. I joined him almost 20 years ago at a conference in Hawaii put on by the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS), primarily to see Hawaii, but I became hooked on the subject after reading the book Heading Toward Omega by Kenneth Ring on the flight out and attending a few lectures by researchers.
I remember my father saying that hearing of these experiences had brought the Gospels alive for him; that they help explain what is behind Christianity, and perhaps all religions. They opened his mind far beyond “religion,” while at the same time giving incredible importance to understanding that there really is so much more to life and the afterlife than we generally think about.
And what was it that fascinated you the most?
For me, NDE stories give a glimpse into reality that is far more expansive than we are taught in school or church. Science could never support faith and religious traditions until quantum physics in the last century opened it up to new realizations that now begin to bridge the gap between the two pursuits, while at the same time shattering many prior religious and scientific beliefs.
I feel NDE’s, what they tell us, offer phenomenal potential to break down the religious, racial and national barriers that separate mankind. They present a potential paradigm shift that can dramatically change the way we not only view each other but the way we see ourselves and every aspect of life.
What do you find is the most interesting in these NDE accounts?
Despite the variations of many of the particulars, NDE accounts are amazingly consistent, regardless of religious belief or any belief in a god or afterlife.
They vary in “depth” from simple out-of-body experiences or OBE’s, such as looking down on oneself in an accident or during surgery, to the classic trips up tunnels toward a light of incredible loving magnetism, to detailed life reviews, gaining universal knowledge, discussions with deceased loved ones, being told it is not “your time,” and seeing potential future life events.
What is so consistent are descriptions of being in a different dimension where time and space are not like here; amazement at seeing how all of us and everything is so connected though here on earth we feel separated, feelings of love far beyond anything ever experienced here, telepathic communication answering any questions that come to mind instantly, non-interruption of thought or consciousness (“my thoughts continued as if still in my body”), ability to travel by thought and to understand others’ thoughts — those still living and those not.
And the aftereffects of these experiences for NDE’rs are also noticeably consistent — a change, often dramatic, in priorities and interests, a sense of great purpose to every life, elimination of any fear of death, compassion for others and all creation, and in many cases unexplainable healings, psychic abilities and new knowledge/abilities.
NDE’rs will tell you it was the most real experience of their lives, that this life is more like a dream, and that they can remember the details of the experience as if it was yesterday, even decades later. Initially, they are frequently frustrated to be back here, to have left a place of incredible love, a place that felt like home, and to be confined to a physical body, often in a lot of pain. Eventually they seem to appreciate being here, with a deep sense of purpose for their time here and a love of life in general.
From your studies, what part of the NDE fascinates or intrigues you most?
There are many, but I must say the life reviews are the most telling for me. In these life reviews, they describe being able to watch and experience, again, any moment in their life, usually with a supportive entity by their side. They describe re-experiencing significant choices they made, though they may not have seemed significant at all at the time, and best of all they experience their choices from the perspective of those the choices impacted. Incredibly, they even see and experience the ripple effect of their choices out into time, and to others affected by those affected.
I remember one NDE’r telling me he watched and experienced himself teasing a girl in second grade. He felt it from her perspective, how humiliating it was, how she disliked school because of being picked on, and then he felt it from her parents’ perspective, how painful it was for them. And, finally, he described to me how it even impacted this girl with her lack of self-confidence in her teenage years.
Another described how he felt every punch and the embarrassment from the perspective of a man he had beaten up, and he understood, unbeknownst to him at the time, how this man had just lost his wife, was drunk, and why he mouthed off to him at that moment, prompting the fight.
What they describe is no judgement from a god or others, but an inescapable judgement of self as we experience our choices from new perspectives. Many describe it as the most painful thing they have ever been through, even when they are shown the positive ripple effects of many choices they made. But the almost universal take-away they describe is that the life review is an incredible learning experience and they believe this may be what we are here for, to learn about love from countless perspectives in a dimension of imperfect love.
In your own experience, do they share a big takeaway or a certain belief after their near-death experiences?
Although the extent of their takeaways may vary based upon the depth of the NDE, they almost universally say our consciousness or the essence of who we are survives physical death, that we voluntarily experience life in this dimension to learn about love, that we do this many times in many different roles (yes, reincarnation), that life for everyone has great purpose, though it may be hard for us to comprehend while here. Many report being asked, “So how did you do with your objectives for this life, how well did you love and accept love?” And, thus, many say, this life, this dimension is clearly a school of sorts, an opportunity to learn the infinite dimensions of love.
So what are your takeaways, having studied this phenomenon for many years?
I’d have to say they parallel what these NDE’rs themselves feel or conclude. I’ve read hundreds of cases and talked with dozens of experiencers, and to me we would be burying our heads in the sand not to pay attention to what they are recounting and concluding. I think there is so much we don’t understand. I am convinced, as NDE’rs consistently say, that we are loved beyond what we can comprehend, that consciousness survives physical death, that we are afforded free will in this dimension of imperfect love to make endless choices in order to learn countless aspects of love, that, regardless of what we believe, we can’t fail at life, we are not judged, we learn from our choices and help others learn about love from our choices, be they kind or hurtful.
As my father communicated a few weeks after he died, “If anyone tells you this is how ‘it’ all works, don’t believe them. It is more grand than you can ever imagine!”
David LaMotte lives outside Chestertown, MD and is president of LaMotte Company, a 100-year old manufacturer of water testing products. He leads a group who monthly meet to discuss NDE’s and related phenomenon.