“And her eyes opened wide, and she started whispering Jesus’ name … and then she started whispering the names of her dead parents … and she smiled … and moments later she died.”

We hear these stories a couple times a year.  And I want to believe them.  Those who tell us these stories, tell them with such conviction, such sincerity that I believe the stories themselves are true; but did the dying person REALLY see Jesus … and their parents … before they died?

The interpretation of these stories is where I start to question.

“We just know that Jesus was there, in the room, welcoming mom to heaven!”  And I respond, “That’s amazing!  Wow!  You know for certain where your mom is at!”  But I don’t always believe my own words.

It seems like every other year somebody with a near death experience (NDE) has these incredible visions of heaven, they write a book about it and make their millions (See “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” for a more recent contribution).

But what happens if these NDEs are simply concoctions of end-of-life chemical reactions?

Dr. Rick Strassman, while conducting DMT research at the University of New Mexico, proposed that a massive release of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) from the pineal gland prior to death or near death was the cause of the near death experience (NDE).

DMT Inspired Artwork

DMT is a psychedelic drug, producing intense visuals, euphoria and hallucinations; and, according to Dr. Rick Strassman, near death experiences.  In fact, DMT is an illegal drug that you can find on the streets.  So, if you want a near-death hallucination, go ahead and try some.  You can – to some degree – chemically induce a NDE, where you’ll see angels, celestial bodies, heaven … or maybe, if it’s a bad trip, you’ll see the other side.  Philosopher Terence McKenna suggested that DMT is a pathway drug to other worlds, as most people who use DMT hallucinate heaven and hell type experiences.

But, Strassman’s hypothesis that the human body produces massive amounts of DMT near death has yet to proven.  Even if Strassman’s hypothesis that DMT is the hallucinogenic cause of NDE is false, it still is very possible that other chemicals produce visions of the celestial.  We just don’t know for certain, but we hope.

And I imagine hope may be the main drug behind NDE.  We hope that heaven waits at death.  We hope that Jesus is awaiting us, to welcome us into heaven.  We hope that heaven is real.  And that hope may be founded on reality, or mere hallucination; but we still hope.

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