First, I would like to thank Rick and his team for allowing me to join the C Influence blog. I hope to provide a “parasociological” and parapsychological light to the discussions.
I concur completely that NDEs (Near Death Experiences) are not a useful source of information about a possible “life after death”. There are numerous reasons for it, but the ones that are the most striking to me are epistemological in nature. The information gained by those who go through a NDE is no different than information gained through other “paranormal“ ways like remote viewing, lucid dreaming, so-called previous incarnation “remembering” and other forms of clairvoyance and mystical experiences.
In all the above cases the key question that we should always ask is, at the most basic level, what are we getting? We are getting information, and more precisely: qualitative descriptions. In some of those descriptions, including some NDE cases, we get information that could not have been obtained through normal means. Hence, these events have at time a parapsychological nature. This is an important finding, but that does not confirm in any ways that a ”soul” is about to depart.
Like Rick Phillips discusses in his post, and as Kant has clearly showed, we need our phenomenological filters to make sense of reality, as we cannot access reality directly (what Kant calls the Noumenon). The information gathered while people are in NDE can only be meaningful if the experiencer still has his/her filters, acquired through socialization (e.g. language, culture, ethics, etc.). Unless one assumes that the “after death” soul state is not different than “before death” (and this would go against pretty much every single mystical tradition found on Earth), then the NDE experience is very much a “living” experience. It is socially and culturally situated; it is not trans-human.
The parapsychological nature of some NDE experiences can point our thinking about it in a different direction. Researches in parapsychology on precognition and retro-psychokinesis have shown that the variable time is much more problematic than it appears. Experiments on remote-viewing has shown that finding the “right” time for what is seen (is it present, past or future) can be quite problematic. The vision of medical doctors around one while being in NDE is far from being a straight-forward one. Did it occur “during” the actual event, or was it retro-cognition (a known phenomenon) occurring at the time when one “comes back”? There are absolutely no ways to know which of the two is at play in such cases, but we have some serious empirical data about retro-cognition (particularly research about psychic detectives used by police forces when they have no other lead available). In light of such knowledge, albeit a limited one, there are still better explanations about NDEs than the one about “departing souls.”