Book Review: After

reviewed by Damon Orion

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After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond
By Bruce Greyson, MD

PSYCHIATRIST BRUCE GREYSON reminds us that the best scientists don’t dismiss data just because it conflicts with their preexisting biases. “It didn’t seem scientific to shy away from some things just because they were hard to explain,” he writes. “Respecting things that are difficult to measure, rather than dismissing them as unreal, is not rejecting science. It’s embracing science.”

After chronicles Greyson’s use of the scientific method in an attempt to answer what is quite possibly the biggest of all The Big Questions: What happens to consciousness after physical death? The book begins with an account of a baffling event in an emergency room that pointed the author toward the possibility that the mind may not be exclusively dependent on the brain. This incident eventually led Greyson to become the world’s leading medical expert on near-death experiences (NDEs) and co-founder of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS).

This book distills the experiences of more than a thousand people claiming to have had NDEs—most of them blissful, but some hellish. Quoting directly from several of these accounts, Greyson describes some of the most common features of NDEs, including life reviews and a sense of timelessness.

Along with exploring phenomena like out-of-body perceptions during NDEs, the author tackles such questions as whether NDEs are actual experiences or hallucinations, what science can and cannot tell us about the connection between the mind and the brain, and what sorts of long-term changes NDEs create in the lives of those who undergo them. The process of collecting this data has been transformative for Greyson himself. “The cumulative effect of listening to [accounts of near-death] experiences ... has helped me come to terms with the unknown and feel comfortable with the unexplained,” he notes.

Read our Book Talk on After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond by Dr. Bruce Greyson

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