On March 9th and 10th the second international conference on Near-Death Experiences, organised by Sonia Barkallah of S17 Productions, was held at The Palais de Congress, Marseille.
It was a privilege to be able to attend, meet French researchers and to present a paper to such a massive audience of approximately 2000 people. This highlights just how many people are becoming interested in this very important subject.
The interconnectivity of life was made apparent as soon as I arrived in Marseille. The first of a few synchronicities occurred when I got off the plane in Marseille. The lovely lady who met me at the airport and took me to the hotel, Meilya Devlin, was from Marseille but she told me she had lived in the UK for about 10 years. It transpired that of all the places she could have lived, she had lived in Swansea – where I live! A big thank you to Meilya for being so kind to me and for translating into French the few sentences that I spoke at the beginning of my presentation.
It was great to meet up with Dr Raymond Moody, Dr Eben Alexander, Dr Jeffrey Long and Jody Long again and hear all of their excellent presentations.
Once again when Eben described his NDE there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience – that’s the second time I’ve cried listening to his experience.
Thankfully the venue had headsets available so that all of the talks could be translated (for me into English and for others from English into French).
Before my presentation I was really daunted by the size of the venue and the amount of people present. When I got up on the massive stage it seemed to take forever to walk over to the podium in front of such a huge audience. Then my nerves just disappeared and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think the thing that really made it worthwhile to me was what happened after. Over lunch a husband and wife came to talk to me – luckily they could speak English. They both said that my talk had been a revelation to them. The lady had previously had a distressing spiritual experience but had never really understood it as she was not close to death at the time. I had described in my presentation about distressing spiritual experiences that can occur in the absence of life threatening circumstances. To see the looks on the faces of both the husband and wife was so rewarding for me, they both had tears in their eyes and it was as if they had just let out a huge sigh of relief. It was as if the final piece of a jigsaw had just been found for them. This just reiterates to me how important it is that we research the distressing NDEs further. There are clearly many people out there who really don’t understand them and would welcome support in coming to terms with them. I also spoke with a man who had experienced a hellish NDE. He only spoke French and my French is not good so I was unable to understand what he was trying to tell me but he is going to send me an account of his NDE and I will get it translated. I’m looking forward to reading about his whole experience.
There were many debates about NDEs and the very important therapeutic benefits were also discussed by Dr Eric Dudoit, Eliane Lheureux from the Department of Medical Oncology and Palliative Care. They discussed how NDEs can be used as therapy for patients. Dr Olivier Chambon spoke a few times throughout the conference and particularly mentioned the work of Dr Kenneth Ring and how he valued the life review aspect of NDEs and used this in his work.
Dr Jean-Pierre Postel and Dr Jean-Jacques Charbonnier and Annie Babu discussed their own work in the clinical area. Dr Jean-Pierre Postel is conducting research similar to my own. He has put images generated by a cell phone which is concealed in a gift wrapped box and also images concealed in envelopes. In some OBE cases it is reported that physical barriers such as the ceiling disappear as was reported by Patient 10 in my study (he said the ceiling disappeared). Dr Postel’s research is one way of exploring this further but is could also give further information regarding the transmission of images in a telepathic way. If no one in the clinical area is aware of these images yet patients correctly identify the image then this could indicate that telepathy does not have a role to play in OBE cases. However, all of this kind of research is still quite new so I would estimate many years of data collection before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Dr Postel described the case of an OBE he had investigated. (Please bear in mind that I am reporting this from my memory and I didn’t take notes at the time so this may not be 100% accurate in the way I am reporting it. The proceedings of the conference will be available in DVD format in the future so this can be checked again by watching Dr Postel himself describe it). The blind female patient recalled an OBE – her eyes had been damaged in a previous accident so she was blind from the time of the accident. She recalled being in the emergency room and having an OBE where she viewed the staff attending to her removing her jewellery and putting them into the pockets of their tunic. On recovery she asked for her jewellery but it was not amongst her possessions. She instructed the staff to look in the tunic pocket of the staff who had attended to her when she had been admitted and the jewellery was found. During the time that she was experiencing her OBE her medical notes had documented that she was blind and her retinas had been destroyed. This case features in the DVD called False Start made by Sonia Barkallah (the organiser of the conference).
It was so great to meet Xavier Rodier. He was such a nice person and his English was much better than my French so we were able to understand what each other was saying. He is a great example of an NDEr. At the age of twenty four, he was a very successful, self-taught company manager. He was accomplished and happy in his role, then his life was transformed forever after having a revealing experience during a NDE. He then started a new life, returning to study to become first an auxiliary nurse, then a trained nurse, and obtained a degree in pediatric nursing. To date he is the only
nurse in France to have had completed his state diploma with a dissertation on work with NDEs: Nurses dealing with situations of NDE accounts – IFSI Émile Roux, AP-HP, 1996. I am so grateful for Xavier for giving me a copy of his work, I will be getting a friend to translate for me. Xavier Rodier is back at university pursuing a doctorate in psychology. I wish him continued success with his studies and hope we can keep in touch.
Many of the audience members were nurses, doctors and physiotherapists who all acknowledge how important it is to address NDEs in healthcare. I spoke to a psychiatric nurse called Catherine Louvel who was inspired by the conference to undertake her own research project with NDEs. It is so wonderful to see that others are so inspired. I wish her luck, I’m sure her work will be very successful.
There were many short DVDs of people speaking about their NDEs and these were fascinating to watch in between the different talks and the whole conference flowed extremely well.
There was a DVD of an interview with philosopher John Martin Fischer of UC Riverside, California who was granted $5 million from the Templeton Foundation – he said that the money would be divided up and used in various different ways. Approx 1.25 million would be devoted to NDE research. Excellent news!
One really interesting talk was given by a practitioner called Bernard Dubreuil who discussed how he had accidentally discovered a way of relieving phantom limb pain in patients who had amputated limbs. While treating a patient (who was lying face down and could not see what he was doing) he slowly massaged the area where the limb would have been had it not been amputated. It was highly effective and the patient commented immediately. Bernard then began to tickle where the man’s foot would have been and the man started pulling away as if being tickled for real. He then tried pinching where the heel would have been and the man yelped and pulled away which indicated that the patient was in some way able to feel what Bernard was doing despite the limb not being physically present.
It was so lovely to talk to members of the audience too and the whole two days had a very positive and uplifting energy. I would have been so much easier if I could speak French as there were so many people I wanted to speak to in greater depth but I could not understand them and they couldn’t speak English. I met Corinne Musitelli who works as a teacher and as translator for Sonia. She also runs a centre that facilitates talks on NDEs in Dijon, France. She spoke very good English so it was very helpful that she was able to explain so much for me.
There was a lady who had a very deep and intricate NDE many years ago – her book has been published in French her name is Nicole Drone. I asked her to describe a bit of her experience and she gave such a good answer (someone translated for me). She said that to translate such a deeply intense spiritual experience into her own language was virtually impossible so to try to further translate the experience into English would diminish it even more. What an important point she made.
I also spoke with Rajaa Benamour from Casablanca, who spoke much better English than I did French. She had a really fascinating NDE which she described during one of the debate sessions. Her NDE occurred when she had a bad reaction to an anaesthetic. When she was talking to me she explained that she was wearing sunglasses indoors because since her NDE (like many NDErs I have spoken to) she had developed light sensitivity and the light was hurting her eyes.
Her NDE wasn’t described in full as I suspect it may have taken the full two days of the conference to communicate all that she experienced. She is in the process of writing a book on her experience but she estimates that it will be in three volumes because of the depth to which her experience took her. What she experienced was incredible. Her description sounded as if she had tuned into the collective unconscious and experienced the birth of the universe. She also experienced things at a quantum level. Since her recovery she has acquired intellectual abilities she did not have before and she has begun studying quantum physics at university level. What was really interesting to me is that her tutor from the university (I think he was a Professor of Physics) was interviewed for the conference. He stated that Rajaa had come to him with some papers she had written about quantum physics and he was shocked by her knowledge as she had not previously studied this. He went on to say that this knowledge could not have been attained through undertaking a booster course in this subject. In fact in some of Rajaa’s papers he did not understand what she had written but later discovered newly published papers which supported her work. Rajaa continues to study quantum physics. I hope her book is translated into English because I was really fascinated when listening to her account.
It was also very interesting to speak with Dr Nobumi Matsuda, a lovely ophthalmologist from Japan who had come to France for the conference. He told me that his grandfather had a NDE and had actually been pronounced dead but regained consciousness in the funeral parlour. When he spoke he said that he had been dead and that he’d been in a beautiful place with trees and streams. I can’t recall any more details of what he told me as I didn’t take notes and it was totally sensory overload for the whole two days. But I did remember the next bit – he said he had been sent back to life as he was too early and his house was still being built and it would take another month to complete. The man lived for another month then died as predicted during his NDE.
It was most interesting to see how all of these scientists, from different parts of the world, having studied NDEs for so long are coming to the same conclusions that death is not the end.
I want to say a big thank you to Sheherazade and Laurent Fruchart who were very kind to me and translated for me and drove me back and forth between the venue and hotel. On the first evening, it was such a gift to go to dinner and sit at the same table as them and Dr Cristina Lazaro and Professor Pedro Castejon from Murcia, Spain. The five of us had great fun that evening – and lots of good wine!
I feel really honoured to have been invited to participate in the conference and it was so exciting to meet so many people who share the same interests as me. It is an experience I will always be grateful for and something I will always remember. A big thank you to Sonia Barkallah for inviting me to attend.