March 27, 2020

Are We Having a Collective NDE?

By Kenneth Ring, Ph.D.

If you’ve been following my blogs, you may remember that in my first one, "An NDE Researcher Ruminates about Death in the Time of COVID-19," I drew on some correspondence with a graduate student who wondered whether because of the widespread nature of this virus we were undergoing what she called a "collective NDE." So imagine my surprise when last night I received this note from a woman who herself had survived an NDE:
I was inspired to write you because I thought of you directly as it started to dawn on me that we might be living through a collective near-death experience.
I had my NDE at sixteen and was transformed forever, and now as I am listening to people describe their experience with this "pandemic time" I can't help but feel like millions of us are having similar processing experiences, life reviewing, atemporal experience, waves of spiritual connection -- and it seems like we will move to the other side of this profoundly affected as such. Purpose is emerging, importance of connection... etc.
Having had two such inquires recently both of which used the same expression, "a collective NDE," got my attention and caused me to exercise what’s left of my brain in a little reflection.

As my most recent correspondent indicated, NDEs have the power to bring about a profound transformation. My research and that of others have offered abundant evidence that NDEs tend to lead to radical changes in one's values and behavior such that NDErs become more loving and compassionate and decidedly more spiritual. So if the very specter, horrifying as it is, of possibly widespread death and certainly even the worldwide fear of death were to usher in a planetary NDE, so to speak, might we reasonably expect that humanity -- at least those who survive -- would be similarly transformed?

It is a comforting thought to suppose that when this black cloud of the virus finally lifts, we might, as a species, reap the benefits of the light of a collective NDE.

To me, personally, it is a slender reed of hope to cling to since it is entirely possible, and perhaps even more likely, that all the survivors of this ordeal will reap is a collective case of PTSD, owing to the pervasive trauma that this virus can be expected to inflict on us. Even so, there is plenty of evidence that trauma, even seemingly soul-destroying ones, can nevertheless lead to astonishingly positive personality changes and spiritual growth. So it is at least conceivable that when humanity emerges from its current trauma, it too may find itself in a nascent state of spiritual renewal with an undeniable sense of deep connection to all the peoples of the earth who together will then have to fashion a planet where love for one another and all life must reign.

A utopian dream perhaps, but in these dark dystopian days, it is at least something to think about. And if this kind of transformation should come about, we will have reason to give heartfelt thanks. In the meantime, I plan to cling to that slender reed of hope, and maybe if enough of us do, the dream will one day become the reality of our lives.


  1. Thanks for writing this Ken! I really enjoyed these musing and having some of my own too. This leaves so much good food for thought in regards to the nature of hope in grim times. And also how folks with NDE experience process events in times of pervasive "opportunity" to be next to death. Love reading your blog! Allison, From Bloomington, IN.