Children of any age can have a near-death experience. That
includes newborns and infants. What they describe, once they are able to
verbalize, can be quite shocking to parents who are unfamiliar with the
startling reality of near-death states.
With a research base of 277 child experiencers, I can say
that the vast majority (76 percent) of children’s scenarios are rather simple,
featuring only three or fewer elements-things like loving nothingness, friendly
darkness, a special voice, an out-of-body experience, or a visitation of some
kind. The closer the child is to puberty, the more apt he or she is to have a
longer, more involved episode. Still, kids’ cases run the gamut from hellish
to heavenly, regardless of age. The youngest to have a terrifying experience was
only nine days old. This baby girl was traumatized by ghoul-like beings who
threatened her when she “died” during surgery. The event haunted her
throughout her growing years until the age of twenty-eight, when she had a
second near-death experience that explained the first one.
We all thrill to “out-of-the-mouth-of-babes” stories
that inspire and uplift us, yet in our joy we fail to view what happened to the
child from the child’s eyes-nor are we alert for aftereffects.
Don’t let children’s usually brief scenarios
fool you-the key is intensity. In over two decades of research, I have found
that it is the intensity of the experience, not necessarily the content, that
has the greatest impact. The simplest episodes, if intense enough, engender the
full range of psychological and physiological aftereffects-no matter the
With that in mind, let’s take a moment to
compare child experiencers with adult experiencers. Remember, the intensity, and
the aftereffects are the same, yet the different way kids deal with the
phenomenon can be quite surprising.
Fifty-seven percent of child experiencers went on
to enjoy long-lasting and happy marriages. Adult experiencers, on the other
hand, had tremendous difficulty forming or maintaining stable relationships
afterward; 78 percent of their marriages ended in divorce.
Both groups in my study reported unusual
increases or decreases in light sensitivity: about 75 percent with kids; close
to the adult range of 80 to 90 percent. 73 percent of the adults went on to
experience electrical sensitivity, but not many children did-only 52 percent.
This may reflect adults’ access to technological equipment, rather than a true
deviation. Older experiencers are four times more likely to become vegetarians
than the younger crowd-even near-death kids snub their veggies.
Parent-sibling relationships tend to be strained
for child experiencers. Additionally, kids are more likely than adults to suffer
socially and to report having regrets about what happened to them. An astounding
number of children would go back to the “Other Side of Death’s Curtain”
after their experience, even if that meant suicide. Child experiencers, whether
still young or grown, seldom see a counselor, and receive less help if they do.
This is not true with adult experiencers-contrary to how loudly they may
protest. Because the disparity between children and adults in this area is so
enormous, it begs further comment.
One-third of the child experiencers in my study
admitted to having serious problems with alcohol within five to ten years after
their experience. Almost to a person, they claimed that undeveloped social and
communication skills were the culprits, along with an inability to understand
what motivated the people around them. Their world view, as it turned out, had
altered significantly from their peer group and family members, making it
difficult for them to “fit back in.”
There’s another aspect to the issue of
alienation that, for the child, may be even more profound. Completely aside from
any abuse or peer pressure from family or friends, and whether or not parents
are supportive, the major factors in a child’s experience appears to be who or
what greeted the youngster on The Other Side of death. What parent, no matter
how wonderful or loving, can compare with the Holy Spirit? What person, friend
or foe, can interest a child who has visited the bright realms and become
buddies with an angel? Connecting with such transcendent love, and then abruptly
losing that connection, can be very confusing, even devastating. Many kids
expressed guilt-ridden laments like: “I’m really bad. The bright ones left
and I can’t find them anymore. It’s all my fault they’re gone.”
We tend to forget how personally children take
everything, and the extent to which they blame themselves if things go awry. Nor
do we notice how large things loom for them-their near-death experience can
define their entire world. Because many are unable to make “before and
after” comparisons, the fact that “here” is not the same as “there” is
often too foreign a concept for them to grasp.
Children reason differently. Unaccustomed to considering
cause and effect, they tend to act on impulse; hence the high degree of
alcoholism, and an attempted suicide rate of 21 percent. It seems perfectly
logical to a child that the way to rejoin the light beings met in death is
simply to die and go back.
This is not recognized by them as self-destructive. Their
logic says: “I was in this beautiful place while I wasn’t breathing. It all
went away when my breath came back. I need to stop my breath so I can return.”
Parent/child bonding is initially quite strong. These kids
want to be with their families. That bonding brings them back again and again.
Common assertions are: “I came back to help my daddy,” or “I came back so
Mommy won’t cry.” The parent/ child bond doesn’t begin to stretch thin, or
break, until after the child revives. That climate of welcome or threat they are
greeted with directly impinges on everything that comes next.
To understand children’s cases, we must keep in mind
that kids are tuned to different harmonics than adults. Concepts of life and
death leave them with puzzled faces. “I don’t end or begin anywhere,” a
youngster once told me. “I just reach out and catch the next wave that goes by
and hop a ride. That’s how I got here.”
This child, like other young experiencers, speaks in the
language of “other worlds,” one that is less verbal and more akin to
synesthesia-multiple sensing. This enables them to perceive “reality” as a
series of layered realms, unhampered by physical boundaries. They easily giggle
with angels, play with ghosts, and pre-experience the future. Parents generally
find such behavior cause for panic. Yet what seems worrisome may have a simple
explanation: near-death states expand and enhance faculties normal to us,
allowing access to more of the electromagnetic spectrum-the typical range of
human perception is a mere one percent.
Growth in Intelligence
As a child’s mind begins to shift from what happened to
them, their intelligence quotient rises. Here are a few sample percentages from
my book, Children of the New Millennium (Three Rivers Press, 1999), which
details my research with child experiencers:
• Mind works differently-highly creative and inventive:
• Significant enhancement of intellect: 68 percent.
• Mind tested at genius level (overall/ from birth to
age 15): 48 percent.
• Mind tested at genius level (subgroup/those under age
6): 81 percent.
• Drawn to and highly proficient in math, science, or
history: 93 percent.
After a near-death experience, a child’s learning
ability reverses. Instead of continuing with the typical developmental
curve-from concrete details to abstract concepts-a child returns immersed in
broad conceptual reasoning styles, and has to learn how to go from abstract back
to concrete. One first-grader returned to school after drowning and being
resuscitated. While his peers continued with their reading of “See Spot
Run,” he wanted to know about Greek mythology and why Robinson Crusoe was
written. His teacher was stunned, but he just blinked his eyes and headed for
The most oft-repeated phrase from those I interviewed was:
“I felt like an adult in a child’s body.”
Even those who did not test out with extraordinarily high
IQs (which averaged around 150 to 160; several were 184 and above) evidenced
uniquely creative and intuitive minds, numerous faculty enhancements, an
unrelenting curiosity, and exceptional knowledge soon after reviving. Some were
gifted with foreign languages. Adult experiencers also returned more intelligent
than before, and many became intuitive problem solvers. All of this occurred
without genetic markers of any kind to account for what
Overall, child experiencers are natural computer whizzes.
Many become physicists and inventors once grown, or masters of the arts and
humanities; some are professional psychics. Older teenage and adult experiencers
are most often drawn to healing, counseling, and ministerial roles afterward.
Not so the kids-at least not the majority. But mention math or science, and
they’re all aglow. History intrigues them, along with anything to do with
times past, as if it might apply to who they were before in past lives.
Most (85 percent) of the kids with the greatest
acceleration in mathematical ability also acquired an intense and passionate
love of music. In the brain, math and music functions are located next to each
other. Children’s near-death states seem to activate both of these regions, as
if they were a single unit.
The child who returns from a near-death episode is a
remodeled, rewired, and refined version of the original. The changes children
undergo are more dramatic than those of adults-not, I suspect, because their
aftereffects are different, but because they are still in the process of basic
brain development when the episode occurs. They are hit with a life-changing
experience at a time when they are most vulnerable to the power of such a shift.
How many children are affected? Thanks to a poll taken in
1997 by U.S. News & World Report, the estimate for near-death experiencers
in the United States has jumped to 15 million people. That translates to about
one-third of those who brush death, nearly die, or who are pronounced clinically
dead but later revive. However, this estimate only addresses adults.
Melvin Morse, M.D., in his pioneering book, Closer to the
Light (Villard Books, 1990), puts the figure at around 70 percent for children.
Thus, under the same circumstances, children are twice as likely as adults to
experience a near-death episode.
Modern resuscitation techniques and new medical
technologies are bringing back from the edge of death more and more people-
especially kids-who return ideally suited for this high-tech world. It’s as if
the very citizens we need to thrive in our new global village are being created
right under our noses.
Even more amazing is that the Millennial Generation is
being born this way. Today’s crop of kids compares almost trait-for-trait with
what happens to children after a near-death experience.
In Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to
2069 (William Morrow, 1991), historians William Strauss and Neil Howe identify
the Millennial Generation as the group of children born between 1982 and about
2003. These young people comprise the fourteenth generation since the United
States became a nation. They are the most wanted, nurtured, and educated group
of individuals we’ve ever produced, and the most protected by law. Unusually
smart and assertive, they are as creative and intuitive as they are
technologically adept. They score higher on IQ tests than any other generation
on record-a twenty-four- to twenty-six-point hike; a significant percentage of
them test between 150 to 160 or higher. But they receive their greatest scores
in non-verbal intelligence. They are creative problem solvers and intuitive
innovators. This jump is so high that changes in the gene pool cannot possibly
account for it. Neither can education, as test scores in the area of rote
schooling rose only slightly-a puzzle for educators.
Something of note is happening to the human family-these
anomalies are global-and it is happening now!
Increasing numbers of children are born “advanced.”
Increasing numbers of children are becoming “advanced.” Increasing numbers
of adults, through near-death states or because of an intensely impactual
transformation of consciousness, are also becoming “advanced.”
Because this is true, I no longer consider near-death
states a separate phenomenon, but part of the larger category of consciousness
transformations. I call such episodes “brain shifts” because they appear to
cause a structural, chemical, and functional change in the experiencer’s
brain, not to mention alterations in his or her nervous and digestive systems,
attitudes, and sense of self.
Brain shifts can result from any manner of otherworldly
occurrences. Some are turbulent: religious conversions, near-death episodes,
kundalini breakthroughs, shamanistic rituals, sudden spiritual transformations,
certain types of head trauma, and being struck by lightning. Some brain shifts
are tranquil: the slow, steady application of spiritual disciplines, mindfulness
techniques, meditation, vision quests, or the results of a prayerful state of
mind in which the individual simply desires to become a better person.
Major characteristics displayed by people who have
undergone or who are going through a brain shift include physiological changes
in thought-processing (a switch from sequential or selective thinking to
clustered thinking and an acceptance of ambiguity), insatiable curiosity,
heightened intelligence, more creativity and invention, unusual sensitivity to
light and sound, substantially more or less energy (even energy surges, oftimes
more sexual), reversal of the body clock, lower blood pressure, accelerated
metabolic and substance absorption rates (decreased tolerance of pharmaceuticals
and chemically-treated products), electrical sensitivity, synesthesia (multiple
sensing), increased allergies or sensitivities, a new preference for vegetables
and grains (and less meat, for adults), and even changes towards a more youthful
appearance-before and after photographs can differ significantly.
Psychological changes include losing the fear of death,
greater spirituality (and less “religiosity”), greater abilities in abstract
and philosophical thinking, bouts of depression, disregard for time, greater
generosity and charity, expansive concepts of love (while at the same time they
are challenged to initiate and maintain satisfying relationships), exaggerated
inner child issues, lower competitive attitudes, greater conviction of a life
purpose, rejection of previous limitations and norms, increased psychic ability
and future memory episodes (pre-living the future), charisma, childlike sense of
joy and wonder if adult, greater maturity if a child, detachment and
dissociation, and a hunger for knowledge and learning.
The Greater Plan
In reconsidering near-death states, I now regard adult
episodes as a growth event, an opportunity for the experiencer to make course
corrections in his or her life; a second chance. I see childhood episodes as
evolutionary events-part of a quantum leap in the development and growth of
humankind as a species; a second birth. The larger category-transformations of
consciousness-I have come to recognize as the engine that drives evolution, that
which advances us.
Beyond all the stories and revelations experiencers share
(and some are quite spectacular), is “a larger presence and a greater plan.”
My three near-death experiences, occurring in the first three months of 1977,
opened the door to this vision. The thousands of people I have interviewed and
studied since then reflect the same awakening: We are co-creators with our
Creator, advancing with Creation itself.
Most repeated from near-death experiencers are these four
words: “Always there is life.” If they are right, and I believe they are,
then how can there be an afterlife? A before-life? A death?
Kids describe life as “the stream we flow along,”
while negotiating the currents and eddies of its spread. It is the “homey
home” of our visions and the ever-present reality of each moment. Life is all
there is. Children are really quite wise, and we would be wise to listen to