Blog powered by Typepad

« Splinter, meet log | Main | The Afterlife Revealed »


One of my favourite spirituals particularly as sung by Paul Robeson:

Excellent observation, Michael!

I believe that most folks would agree that African American culture has a rich spiritual tradition. Of course, most cultures have spiritual traditions, but the African American tradition that I've seen and experienced is just so much more Soulful than say, the average Episcopalian.

Can anyone tell me why there is such a dearth of African American NDE accounts? If you're thinking that written accounts don't always reveal ethnicity, then try to find a single video. Now, I'm specifically referring to African Americans here, as there are plenty of accounts from people brought up on the African Continent and other countries.
It can't be racism, because NDE proponents are the most inclusive folks on the planet.

My personal theory is that when they happen, they're considered "Visions", and are too personal to be shared outside of the family, church or a spiritually friendly environment. And these Visions are too cherished to be offered up to the risk of public ridicule. Any thoughts?

"Can anyone tell me why there is such a dearth of African American NDE accounts? If you're thinking that written accounts don't always reveal ethnicity, then try to find a single video."

Interesting point, RabbitDawg. Here's one, though:

The African-American mother of one of my former students also described an NDE (or something in the vicinity) that happened during a car accident.

Can anyone tell me why there is such a dearth of African American NDE accounts?

A skeptic poster in another forum has been pushing this as evidence that NDEs are deceptions generated by the collective unconscious minds of large racial/social groups and have nothing to do with any putative afterlife existence. In other words, he claims NDEs are entirely generated by our own unconscious minds in response to current culturally/socially determined fears and needs. Assuming different cultures and races have different deep subconscious needs and fears, their outfolding in the form of NDEs and other "spiritual" experiences will then be greatly different or absent. So, he says, the lack of many African American NDEs is just due to psychological/social differences causing that racial group not to generate those particular hallucinations.

He cites the mostly absence of modern-type NDEs in the historical past, and the rise of NDEs as a socio-cultural phenomenon since the 1970s as additional evidence for his theory. To bolster his theory he also points to the lower incidence of NDE-like experiences and their considerable differences to Western NDEs, in other cultures and races.

Of course, this concept is accompanied by denial that the OOBEs associated with some NDEs are anything but illusory, though admitting that some psychically-derived information may come through. A little like the super-psi hypothesis in parapsychology.

I'm used to the Pipe Band version of this. When I was 21, I travelled with a military band that performed Amazing Grace during the finale of each show. On the final performance of the 5 month tour, the lone piper substituted "Going Home". I remember standing there at attention crying like a baby and noticing that the two infantry soldiers on either side of me were also crying. I'll always remember that tune.

Michael, thanks for this post and for bringing to mind one of the loveliest, most soulful melodies ever written. It's Dvorak's most famous tune, and maybe it's no coincidence, when you consider the power of the lyrics that inspired him, which I agree, is as primal a thought as there can be--the desire to go home.

I had the good fortune to hear this symphony performed recently at Disney Hall, and was amazed, like Sandy, at how deeply it affected me.

RabbitDawg said:

"I believe that most folks would agree that African American culture has a rich spiritual tradition. . . . .Can anyone tell me why there is such a dearth of African American NDE accounts?"

I just visited a site where someone has an interesting answer to that question, one that makes a lot of sense: maybe it's BECAUSE of their inherent spirituality. Here's what he says:

"African-Americans have evolved complex spiritural/cultural modes of perception and expression which render NDEs, etc. unnecessary. If you ever go to an African-American "full gospel" or "Holy Ghost" worship service (I've been to many), it will become apparent why this is so.

They evince an emotional, corporate, candid, open, unapologetic, unabashed longing for and connection with the "spiritual world". This is expressed with a spontaneous, nuanced artistry unlike any other. NDEs and such aren't required in a culture whose people live confidentently with one foot in this world, and the other foot in the "other world". They don't need any "convincing"."

I always weep when the inmates of the women's asylum get together and sing this in the classic movie, The Snake Pit. So beautiful and touching.

Speaking of which... here is the video from The Snake Pit:

Ginny, as it happens, I already had The Snake Pit in my Netflix streaming queue. Your comment may motivate me to actually watch it!

You should! It's a classic, even quite apart from this touching scene.

"Ginny, as it happens, I already had The Snake Pit in my Netflix streaming queue. Your comment may motivate me to actually watch it!"

I watched it in March of this year and thought it was only so-so. On the other hand, a movie about a mentally ill woman that really touched me is Nobody's Child, with Marlo Thomas. (She won an Emmy for it.)

Available for streaming from Netflix. :o)

Thanks Bruce, I do remember seeing that video, and I started to mention it but I couldn't remember where I had seen it. I did remember that it was related to an IANDS conference, but I was too tired to look it up at the time I made the post.
Your description of her "NDE (or something in the vicinity)" is accurate. She seems shy and vague, but she has obviously experienced something.
I still can't find any "Went to the Light-communicated with relatives and/or other beings-saw a panoramic life review-was told to come back" type of reports. True, all experiences aren't the same, but the lack of African American versions (I believe) speaks volumes about our culture here in the U.S.

Then there's the rarity of reports by elderly people experiencing an NDE while elderly. There are a few, but most of them are recounts of experiences occurring when they were children or younger adults.
Of course, for me the explanation for this is easy - almost evidence of the veracity of NDE's. An elderly person is more likely to have finished their task/mission in life, so therefore would be less likely to be 'sent back'. Also, they might be weaker than a younger person, and have a lower chance of being revived.

Hi Michael, just wanted to share with you my own (very brief) reply to Woerlee's Amazon critique of Carter's NDE book:

P.S. Sorry about the large gaps between the paragraphs. I can't fix it no matter how many times I edit it!

Hi Michael, I'm very familiar with that wording, as it was recorded several times by the great bass baritone Paul Robeson, a life long hero of mine. This recording was made near the end of his career in 1958:

Are we sure that there's a scarcity of African-American NDEs? Most of the accounts I've read don't specify the person's race.

Found a youtube video with the original words with Spiritualist imagery. Cute little Irish girl singing it.

Going home - Song based on Dvorak's Largo

"Are we sure that there's a scarcity of African-American NDEs? Most of the accounts I've read don't specify the person's race."

I know it's shaky to try to infer ethnicity from a written account, but just check the web for videos.
I have subscribed to a Google/YouTube email list for Near Death Experience video's for over a year now. Anytime one is posted, I get it. I have access to well over a hundred accounts, and trust me Micheal, there are almost no video accounts that feature African Americans out there.
This has been a quiet issue bubbling underneath the surface of the dialog for a while.

Other than the one linked to by Bruce (which is poignantly emotional, but not very specific), I dare you to find one, just one video featuring an African American. In this age of video camera's on every smartphone, and given the impact that a full-scale NDE has on an individuals life, I find it intriguing.

The lack of NDE accounts by African-Americans IS puzzling. What do you all think of the possible explanation I gave in my earlier comment? (The one labelled June 20, 2011 at 05:39 PM).

Also, we had a rather lively discussion about this same topic on a forum I used to participate in, about two years ago. It created a rather lively and insightful discussion, if you can wade past the usual forum-style warps and woofs. Also mentioned briefly in the thread, is the near-absence of African American UFO reports:

There are lots of hymns and traditional songs that portray the afterlife in more or less spiritualistic terms without explicit Christian imagery. I'm thinking of for example "I'll Not Be A Stranger" and "Gloryland", both sung by the Stanley Brothers. But I don't know how old the songs are. By the way, Bob Dylan did an excellent version of "I'll Not Be A Stranger" in 1997 at a concert. Not available on youtube, though.

Link to "I'll Not Be A Stranger":


Bruce, the explanation you described sounds good, but for me, it's missing something. I also think that it has a lot to do with culture and semantics. Here's a copy 'n paste of a post that I made a while back on an NDE forum, after talking it over with an African-American co-worker, who is also my closest friend, whom I will refer to as "D":

Although I have mentioned my interest in NDE's to D in the past, it inevitably gets busy here at work, and by the time things slow down, we forgot what we were talking about, or another issue comes to the forefront of the conversation.

Tonight, I steered the conversation to NDE's, and stayed with it. BTW, "black folks" and "white folks" are the preferred catch-phase between the two of us. "African American" is too formal and "African or European based ethnic group" sounds downright stupid, at least, among friends.

When I mentioned the fact that I was not aware of any NDE reports from black folks, his response to the question "Do black folks have NDE's?" was elegantly simple. "Of course we do, we call them Visions".

If Uncle Joe has a heart attack and is revived, any otherworldly experiences he witnesses are expressed by him as a "Vision". If Mama has a car wreck and sees her body from above, she has had a "Vision". If Grandma starts talking to dead relatives before she passes away, she is having "Visions".

When I mentioned the fact that I couldn't find any reports laid out on the internet, it seemed obvious to him that such experiences are far too personal to flagrantly parade around in public.

When I pointed out that not all NDE's fit the profile of the experiencers religious faith, his spin was that bizarre experiences would be seen symbolically, perhaps as a prophecy. Bright lights would be called "Angels", and a single big bright light "Jesus". He went on to muse that his ancestor's transition from Shamanic style religion, to passionate Christianity was paved by the continuance of these Visions, from one faith to the other.

In his view, "white folks" draw lines of demarcation between NDE's, ADC's, OBE's and other STE's. We're the ones that hyper-analyze something that is seen by others as a natural part of the world order.
That was his spin. It makes sense to me. God, I Love ya D!

Now, no one person can speak for an entire ethic group, and one conversation among friends can't resolve an issue for everybody. But that conversation did provide some real insight for me. We haven't found a need to discuss it much since then.

There is a program on the Biography channel called "Beyond and Back" about near death experiences and they have portrayed at least two "black folk" NDEs.

Beyond and Back

"it seemed obvious to him that such experiences are far too personal to flagrantly parade around in public."

Rabbitdawg, thanks for sharing that great post. Very insightful!

The only part that puzzles me is the above quote. I'm trying to think why blacks would feel less comfortable sharing these things than whites.

Certainly, if you look at the great African-American singers, for example, well, it's hard to detect any reluctance in sharing emotions or spirituality. Obviously, it's just the opposite: they usually make us white folk seem downright inhibited.

So why the holding back with NDEs, which seem like such an obvious opportunity for a similar soulful sharing?

D! Calling D! :o)

All the hymns and gospel songs I know have exactly the same theme, without necessarily having any connection with spiritualism. Christianity is about the after life, so that's what most of the American religious songs are about.

I feel the whole "black people dont have NDE's" is bypassing so many considerations to get there that I have trouble taking it seriously.

Bruce wrote:
"The only part that puzzles me is the above quote. I'm trying to think why blacks would feel less comfortable sharing these things than whites...So why the holding back with NDEs, which seem like such an obvious opportunity for a similar soulful sharing?

I imagine it's for the same reason whites folks are reluctant to share them, only on cultural steroids. When you have something of value that is absolutely priceless, it's easy to be reluctant to share it at the risk of holding it up to dissection and ridicule.
Trying to explain a deep, ineffable spiritual experience is hard enough among friends, but I can see how the thought of throwing it into the internet sewer pipeline is an obvious dead end for some people. I might point out that this probably applies to a lot of white folks, especially the ones that undergo distressing NDE's. There's ton's of stuff that goes unreported.

Which brings us full circle back to Michael's original topic. Doesn't it look like the composer is trying to convey a transcendent, NDE-like experience, but framing it for the general publics consumption?

Scroll down, she breaks the database into ethnicity.

Tech note: It's generally best not to use italics or bold in comments, because if they are not properly turned off, all ensuing text will be affected.

If someone feels compelled to use this type of formatting, please be sure to close the italics or bold by including a slash before the i or b inside the brackets (at the end of the italicized or bolded text).

Like this, but without the spaces: < / i >

"All the hymns and gospel songs I know have exactly the same theme"

Same theme, but do they have the same details? "It's not far, jes' close by, through an open door ... Mother's there 'spectin' me, Father's waitin' too; lots o' folk gather'd there, all the friends I knew ... Mornin' star lights the way, res'less dream all done; shadows gone, break o' day,
real life jes' begun. There's no break, there's no end, jes' a livin' on ..."

These details carry the flavor of NDE reports and mediumistic communications. Compare this to the overtly Christian version linked in the main post: "It's not far, just close by; Jesus is the Door ... Friends are there, waiting now. He is waiting, too. See His smile! See His hand! He will lead me through ... Every tear wiped away, pain and sickness gone; wide awake there with Him! Peace goes on and on!"

I fear that you might be missing the point. No one is saying that African-Americans don't have NDE's or other Spiritually Transformative Experiences. They have tons of them. The issue is how few of them are publicly reported.
Bruce and Art took my bait and found a few. The last time I looked, we had a whopping total of three, but still no "here is the video where they describe the details as best they can from start to finish" records. Well, maybe Art did, but I couldn't pull up the actual episodes. However, I do believe him.

Next challenge: find me one video where an African-American reports seeing a UFO. Good luck!

The short, over simplified answer to the issue (for me) is that it's a cultural thing.

I suspect that good old fashioned racism is at work here.

The scientists/doctors looking into NDEs are white. I think they are more likely to take the NDE account of someone white like them, seriously. There is still a stereotype of shuckin' and jivin' and superstitions and voodoo and all of that.

Not only that, but the people that write pro-NDE books are, for the most part, trying to sell belief. They find, "Look, this dull educated average white person just like your neighbor next door reports one of these experiences", to be a more convincing pitch than, "A scary uneducated black man, the kind you lock your doors against and avoid, but see on the news dealing crack, says he had an NDE...." So they filter out some available AA accounts.

Conversely, when an educated and sophisticated black person - the kind that a writer would be more comfortable using in a sales pitch - has an NDE, he is more reluctant to report it for fear of being pushed back into the stereotype that he worked so hard to overcome.

There are, no doubt, other cultural factors at play as well, as already pointed out.

However, that Native Americans, people from India, people from Arabic lands, etc do all report NDEs with similar elements, tends to lend evidence to the racist hypothesis being more explanatory, IMO, than the cultural one in this situation.

Well, as a black person/African American (who is old enough to remember when I was colored and/or a Negro), I'll add my two cents: My paternal grandfather was preacher and he could tell the most convincing ghost stories -- among southern black folk ghosts were often referred to as "haints" (don't know the origin of the word nor if there is an official spelling, but it sounds just like it reads). And it wasn't just the man-of-the-cloth who talked about haints; many claimed to have seen them and spoke about them with the deepest belief. A haint might appear out of nowhere and appear almost as anything: a fiery red head woman whom you just ran over with your car ... or a man as tall as a telephone pole -- without a head -- running across a field ... or some kind of animal with the biggest eyes in the world. I'm sure that similar "haints" exist the stories of many around the world.

The existence of haints aside, the point of this anecdote is simply that, from my experience of having lived around and known quite-well many black and white folks (up and down the socio-economic ladder), I would say that black people are GENERALLY more likely to discuss NDEs/psychic experiences/etc. amongst each other and employ conventional Christian religious terminology in describing such experiences. If you describe certain things using conventional Christian religious terminology it seems that such descriptions will, generally, be glossed over and/or dismissed. I, too, have noted that among all the NDE-related videos I've seen I can only recount seeing one black person (a woman). I don't have any data but I'm pretty sure plenty of "black folks" have these experiences ... but just as many black people will note that they've never been contacted by Nielsen for tv/radio ratings or interviewed by a pollster perhaps there are, as noted by someone else, cultural factors at play ... and culture is always at play, it seems, usually in very subtle ways. For example, it's been noted often that white doctors often interact differently with their black patients (see, for example, I don't raise this point to say that doctors are actively racist, but to say that doctors are human and may employ behavior that's so much a part of our cultural air that the doctor doesn't believe it applies to him/her. That's human nature.

So, as has been noted, there may be a bias against seeking out or giving credence to accounts from black people particularly if that black person isn't as, so to speak, pure as caesar's wife (i.e., if a particular black person in any visible way conforms to any of the pernicious stereotypes then his/her account is likely be dismissed and/or seen as the result of a superstitious and unscientific mind). I would not be surprised at all that more NDE experiences of black folks would be found if someone made a concerted effort to find them. Now, I don't really care whether anyone does conduct a study and not saying that anyone should; but it might be interesting.

Carl, thank you! You beautifully explained a side of the issue that I saw, but didn't know how to put into words.

For me, this is something that cries out for a study. Perhaps IANDS should try to expands their horizons.

Dawg, I understand where you're coming from. I am aquainted with the poster and the forum you refer to and I was talking about his view.

Sorry this is off topic,

also, sorry if you saw this already but it looks like it might be of interest....

"Self publishing writer becomes million seller"

""With the most famous authors in the world charging $9.95 for e-books, I saw an opportunity to compete, and so I put them in the position of having to prove their books were 10 times better than mine."

"He has written a self help book for others to copy his achievement called "How I sold 1 Million e-books in 5 Months".

Whether politically acceptable or not it seems to boil down to there being a real possibility that African Americans actually experience very few NDEs compared to Caucasians. It seems more likely that it is due to social and cultural factors in reporting and interpreting NDEs, but only an extensive research study could solve the issue. If the incidence of NDEs is in truth much less, then one possible explanation promoted on another forum is that the collective unconscious minds of particular racial/cultural groups actively produce the experiences in response to their own current needs.

This theory is also used to account for the scarcity of reincarnation memories and birthmarks in America and Europe as opposed to South Asia. And the apparent lower incidence and great differences in content for NDEs in the historical past and in other races and cultures.

I don't think this concept holds much water, but unfortunately it can't be entirely dismissed either. It is probably better to focus on the veridical aspects of actual NDEs and their generally transformative nature. What they tell us about the nature of human mind and spirit simply must be applicable to all of humanity. I hope this isn't just whistling in the dark.

I vaguely recall that Michael Sabom's first book, Recollections of Death, included some African-American NDErs. Could be wrong, though; it's been a while since I read it. IIRC, Sabom was working in the rural South when he compiled his data for that book.

Thanks for the link, offtopic. I'm a long, long way from selling a million ebooks, but it's good to read about John Locke's spectacular success.

Maybe there are less African American NDE's because they are a much smaller percentage of the North American population than white folks? Maybe black folks die more frequently from accidents because they live in areas that are less quickly served by ambulances and EMT crews? It takes ambulances long to get to the places black folks live? Maybe black folks go to the hospital less than white folks because of financial considerations? Maybe they die more at home because of a reluctance to go to the doctor?

NDE's have become more common because the technology to do resuscitations have become more common but that technology might not be as available to blacks because it takes longer to get to the ER and they wait longer to see the doctor past the point to where they can be resuscitated. That "wait and see" before calling an ambulance or going to the ER after a cardiac arrest, even just a few minutes difference, might just be enough to account for the difference in the number of African American NDEs.

Art, lotsa folks are uncomfortable with it, but the fact is African American NDE's do happen, as well as many other types of Transcendent experiences, yet they go largely unreported for various reasons related to our culture in the West. After all, published reports are fairly abundant in native African societies.

Carl wrote a wonderful analysis in his post (June 22nd, 7:08 AM) where he speaks more from experience, rather than from a vague philosophical viewpoint. Kinda made me squirm inside just a little, but it made sense.

I'd love to see a study done.

I'm not usually a Larry Dossey fan, but I just read his Amazon review of Carter's "Science and the Near-Death-Experience." As book reviews go, it's a tour-de-force. He virtually summarizes the book point for point, and in so doing, has created something almost as persuasive as the book itself.


Near the end, Dossey quotes from Neal Grossman's foreword to the book. And I'm reminded of how impressed and even moved I was by it. I think what Grossman has written goes right to heart of the entire skeptical endeavor.

If you haven't read it yet--or even if you have--enjoy.

"There is a message hidden in all this [NDE] research, and it is a message that successful academics do not wish to hear. The message is universal love. Every near-death experiencer is convinced that the purpose of life is to grow in our ability to give and receive love. And NDE researchers...have come to this same conclusion, but academic life is the opposite of loving. Both science and academia are organized around the same principles that structure the corporate world: success in one's career depends a little on talent, but mostly on competition, self-promotion, and so forth, that is, on personality traits that have little to do with curiosity, intelligence, or intellectual honesty, to say nothing of love. Those who have been most successful at this -- the ones who control the journals, decide who gets funding, decide who gets tenure -- hold power in science and academia because of personality qualities that are opposed to the message of universal love. They believe, and need to believe, that the purpose of life is to `win,' to be successful and influential in their field of study. Many academics would be horrified to learn what all near-death experiencers have learned. A successful life is not measured by fame, prestige, wealth, or number of publications; it is measured by how we treat one another, by our ability to live according to the golden rule, and by growth in our ability to feel compassion for others....One of the reasons this research is resisted with exceptional fierceness is because the message of this research -- the message of universal love -- is threatening to the power structures that govern science and academia."

That is the fight every where, Bruce. The love of power versus the power of love.

It goes much deeper that academia and the corporate world; though those are stages where we often see the war being waged.

We all know which wins in the final chapter, but the power lovers want to take as many down with them as they can. Deception is their main tool and they work to hide the trut to the greatest extent possible.

Lighten up moment...
Totally off topic, having nothing to do with anything other than the fact that this is one surreal, hilarious video. Twenty seconds long, and impossible not to replay!

Busted! Cat gets caught speaking dog & starts meowing to pretend it wasn't.

hat tip: Daily Grail newsfeed

"Busted! Cat gets caught speaking dog & starts meowing to pretend it wasn't."

What a strange cat. I love how one of the commenters explains it:

"These days, if you don't speak´╗┐ a second language, you're fucked."

I dunno. Are we sure that cat video wasn't faked? I've never heard a cat make a noise like that ...

Doubter, I know who you maybe talking about, and I don't think that particular poster is actually a skeptic (if you push the notion that he is, he'll reluctantly defend himself as not being one) but he just has some complex and confusing non-materialists theories.

What bothered me about him was his strong assertions of his case with regards to African American NDEs despite the fact he is working entirely with anecdotal evidence (if it is even that, the evidence being the purported lack of African American NDEs). Never mind that NDE statistics regarding race are scarce and we should be trusting that instead of the observation of what appears to be a lack of African American NDEs, it seems he just wants to bolster his case no matter what.

I remember things got messy when he tried to make a comparison to how you never see African Americans going camping, some members went as far as to call him a racist at that point and he didn't have anything empirical (such as statistics) to present his case, he continued to strongly insist his case was made by looking at photos of people camping and how there aren't any black people around.

"Black persons, percent, 2010 (a)" 12.6%

"I dunno. Are we sure that cat video wasn't faked? I've never heard a cat make a noise like that ..."

It's obvious to my wife (BunnyCat) that it's faked. She should know :)

We've got Photoshoping, so we figure that this was "audio-shopping". Heck, it was well done and kinda funny tho...

"It's obvious to my wife (BunnyCat) that it's faked. She should know"

Are you saying that because she hangs out with a RabbitDawg, she can spot a phony CatDawg?

The comments to this entry are closed.