January 27, 2022

My New NDE Career

By Kenneth Ring, Ph.D.

I am – or perhaps I should say, I was – a retired NDE researcher. I began my work interviewing NDErs in 1977 and eventually published my first book, Life at Death, describing my findings in 1980. I continued my research, lecturing and writing on NDEs until about the time I reached the age of sixty-five around the turn of the millennium. At that point, having authored four more books on NDEs and countless articles on the subject, I accepted a figurative golden handshake for my labors and, having by then returned to my native California, decided to devote myself life out in the pastures. I figured there were other things I wanted to do, apart from loafing, than continuing to prattle on about NDEs. I was tired of being interviewed by breathless TV hosts who would always be asking me the same questions, such as, “So, Dr. Ring, what is it like to die?” One time, in bored exasperation, I simply slid off my chair. At least that got a laugh.

Anyway, at that point I disconnected as much as possible from my life as an NDE researcher, declined all interviews or invitations to speak at conferences, and began to explore and write about other things that interested me. Some books on classical music, one on the lives of contemporary Palestinians, various memoirs, books of essays, and in the last few years, I took up the blogging life. But eventually since I never was entirely able to distance myself fully from NDEs, I was lured back to the field, at least to the extent of renewing my contact with various NDE researchers and came to know new people who were now devoting their lives to researching and writing about NDEs. Still, I was happy to remain on the sidelines. It’s sort of like being a grandfather. One gets all of the pleasures of seeing what others are doing without any of the responsibilities to do anything oneself. After all, when you’re in your mid-80s, what the hell can you do besides watching tennis and yearning for the promised life to come – at least if you take the implications of NDEs seriously, which I do.

But recently, at loose ends, and wondering what I should do next with what remains of my life, I got an idea. Since I now know and think highly of a number of NDE researchers, some of whom are relatively new contributors to near-death studies, I thought I might be able to perform a service by introducing some of them to you in these blogs. So I have suddenly become a soi-disant NDE researcher booster. In this blog, and perhaps in a few to come, if the good Lord grants me more time on this benighted planet, I would like to introduce you to some of these friends of mine and their works.

But I’ll begin with someone who hardly needs an introduction, really, since I suspect many of you are already familiar with his name: Dr. Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist, who for many years has been on the faculty of the University of Virginia. Even if you’re not familiar with Bruce’s work, if you read my previous blog about my early life as an NDE researcher, you may remember seeing a photograph of him and me together, locked in a brotherly embrace, because Bruce has been like a brother of mine for many years. He was a part of the original “gang of four” who helped to established IANDS – The International Association for Near-Death Studies – back in 1981, and not long afterward he assumed the editorship of its flagship journal, The Journal of Near-Death Studies, which he edited for the next quarter of a century. In a recent tribute to him, which I wrote on the occasion of a book launch for his long anticipated personal account of his work as a NDE researcher, I expressed my own view of how I had come to regard Bruce: 

If any of you have ever edited a journal, you know what a selfless and time-consuming task it is. You had to be willing to sacrifice your own career in order to enable other professionals to publish their own works. That’s the kind of person Bruce was and is. Totally dedicated. And while all of us in that original group eventually moved away from involvement with IANDS, only Bruce has remained faithful to it to this day. In my opinion, no one has done more to bring professional recognition to the field of near-death studies than Bruce. I have long held the view that his contributions to the field over more than forty years – his editorship of The Journal of Near-Death Studies, his many excellent and important research studies, the books he has co-edited containing his own articles, all the public lectures he has given, his service to NDErs as a master therapist, and so much more – mean that Bruce is without doubt the most important and influential professional in NDE studies. 

His book, which I alluded to, which was published just last year, is what I really want to call to your attention. In my opinion, it is must reading for anyone interested in NDEs. It is simply called After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond. And since I have appointed myself a kind NDE researcher booster, I will permit myself to quote my own blurb for the book in order to invite you to get ahold of a copy:

In After, psychiatrist Bruce Greyson tells the story of his personal and professional journey from a skeptical scientist to his becoming the most distinguished and important authority of near-death experiences (NDEs) in the field. Drawing on his treasury of forty-five years of research, and studding his account with fascinating cases, Greyson provides an always engrossing and illuminating survey of the basic findings and implications of NDE studies for the general reader. In his book, he shows us why he is regarded as the leading expert to put NDE studies on the map and establish it as a legitimate scientific enterprise. Moreover, he is not afraid to share his insights on spiritual issues that NDE research affords, including the possibility that death isn’t a dead end. Both inspiring and deeply personal, this is a book to savor and the culmination and capstone of Greyson’s outstanding career.


But in the second part of this blog, I want to introduce you to someone who, although he, too, has been studying NDEs for more than forty years, deserves to be better known than he is. Meet my good friend who is blessed with a wonderfully delightful and apposite name, David Sunfellow.

I say he is a good friend despite the fact that we have actually never met, and indeed these days I seem to have quite a few treasured friends whom I only know from seeing their names in my inbox. But David, if you’re not already familiar with him, is somebody you really should know about, especially if you’re interested in NDEs. He, too, is now one of the leading authorities on NDEs.

I came across him several years ago when an NDEr of my acquaintance put me onto him and advised me to check out his website (he actually has several – more about those at the end of this blog). I was impressed and was happy to make contact with him. Over the years, he’s been kind enough to post a number of my blogs, which he reformatted beautifully. The man is an artist (a gifted photographer, among other things) and not just a teckie.

Here’s a nice photo of him in one of his favorite environments:

In this blog, I also want to introduce you to two of David’s books. The first one, published in 2019, is entitled The Purpose of Life: As Revealed By Near-Death Experiences from Around the World. Filled with numerous extracts from NDErs supplemented by David’s own illuminating commentaries, this is a jewel of a book, and ever since it appeared, I have been recommending it to everyone I know who is interested to learn more about NDEs – and this now includes you.

But the book that this blog will be introducing to you was published the following year and is entitled 500 Quotes From Heaven: Life-Changing Quotes That Reveal The Wisdom & Power of Near-Death Experiences. This book is a bit different from his first because most of the excerpts from NDErs are briefer but they still pack a wallop. I read a draft of the book, and at the time I remember writing David that I really felt that I should re-read it every few years in order to refresh my own spiritual life by re-absorbing the insights and wisdom of NDErs many of whom quoted by David were actually friends of mine or people whom I had myself interviewed.

Recently I decided to order this book to do exactly that. As I told David, my plan was to read at least five quotes a day for a hundred (non-consecutive) days over the next year. After all, although NDEs teach us how we should live and what’s important in life, they also help us to feel comfortable with death. And since I am getting ready to leave the building, if not immediately (I hope!), I figured this would also be a good way to prepare myself for my final journey.

Trouble is, I found it difficult to stop at five quotes! Have you ever been able to eat a single peanut and then stop? Of course not, it’s impossible. Same with these quotes. And David understood; even he finds them addictive. So I just kept on reading through the beginning section of his book. And now I am going to share some of these quotes with you,  just to give you a taste for the spiritual treats you will find in this book.

The best thing to do, frankly, is just for you to buy the book and forget the rest of this blog. But I hope by drawing on it here, it will induce you to buy the book and to share it with others who wish to learn from a recognized authority what NDEs have to teach us.

All I’m going to do here is just to copy out some of the stories with which David begins his book, where he recounts some examples of NDErs who return from their encounter with death with the realization that they’ve been they’ve been graced with a sense of total knowledge of the universe. I will begin, however, with a few observations of my own from NDErs I interviewed who had the same experience. And I will continue and conclude by interspersing some further commentaries. My own remarks will be in this font. The excerpts from David’s book will be in a somewhat smaller font, so you’ll easily be able to distinguish my comments from David’s quotes. Ready? Here we go….

I don’t know how many NDErs I myself have interviewed have told me that during their experience they were given a “download,” as it were, of total knowledge, that they suddenly had all their questions about the universe answered, all at once. But I heard such claims often enough to be struck, almost dumb, by them. The mind, at least mine, boggles when trying to grasp what this experience must be like.

I now recall one such incident involving one of my favorite NDErs by the name of Tom Sawyer (yes, his actual name) whom I first met in 1981 and stayed in touch with until his death a few years ago. I wrote a lot about him in my book, Heading Toward Omega. Here’s just a brief excerpt:

You realize that you are suddenly in communications with absolute, total knowledge … You can think of a question … and immediately know the answer to it. And it can be on any question whatsoever. It can be on any subject … The light will give you the instantaneous correct answer and make you understand it.

Another fellow I knew well, whom David also quotes in his book, had this same experience and told me it was like “being plugged into a cosmic computer.”

David, too, quotes a number of such cases in his book.  Here are some of his own examples: 

The Light welcomed me; The Light absorbed me into The Light. So I was part of The Light. Once I was in The Light, I knew everything The Light knew. I knew all about the universe. I knew everything about flowers, plants, asteroids, suns, novas -- everything. I didn’t have a question for The Light. Why? Because I knew all the answers. I had nothing to ask. I was given total and absolute knowledge about ALL things instantaneously! I marveled in ecstasy that I knew everything about everything there was to know in the universe right then and there. It was incredibly energizing to comprehend all that power, from knowledge about physics, astronomy, psychology, medicine, agriculture, meteorology, chemistry -- EVERYTHING about how the physical and spiritual worlds operate. I felt electrifying elation, being “on top of the world”, and so joyful to possess ultimate Truth.

I was given total and absolute knowledge about ALL things instantaneously! I marveled in ecstasy that I knew everything about everything there was to know in the universe right then and there. It was incredibly energizing to comprehend all that power, from knowledge about physics, astronomy, psychology, medicine, agriculture, meteorology, chemistry -- EVERYTHING about how the physical and spiritual worlds operate. I felt electrifying elation, being “on top of the world”, and so joyful to possess ultimate Truth.

I was just there, floating in this pure ecstasy, knowing to the depths of my being everything I had just heard and witnessed. Suddenly, I was being downloaded with information about every question I had ever had. I have always been interested in science, physics, biology, human relations, spirituality, religion, etc. In one instant, I understood all there was to know. I particularly remember understanding all about how electricity works, then physics, then human relationships.

Although most NDErs retain only their memory of this universal knowledge, they typically cannot access it when they return to their body. And yet, some astonishing aftereffects of this experience can and do occur.

For example, Tom Sawyer, who was not well educated and spent his entire working life operating bulldozers and other heavy earth-moving equipment, returned with a prodigious knowledge about quantum physics and well known physicists such as Max Planck whose name was completely unfamiliar to him previously. (All this is described at length in Heading Toward Omega.)

And the man who told me that he felt he had plugged into a cosmic computer, is cited by David in this same context:

[After his NDE] At twenty-six, I started buying books and learning languages. First French, then Spanish. After two semesters, I started on Don Quixote and read Voltaire's Philosophical Letters. Then, I returned to Portuguese [he had previously lived in Brazil]. At twenty-eight, I studied history and philosophy … I went through most of them. They were on history, philosophy, other religions, astronomy, physics, and archeology. Excepting masterworks and classics, I don't read fiction anymore. At twenty-nine, I began excursions into particle physics and electronics. At thirty-two, I started designing oscillators and low-noise amplifiers. One of them is in an orbiting satellite. At thirty-six, I started designing microprocessors. I'm forty-two now. As a professional programmer, I write about 40,000 lines of C-language a year. 

And other NDErs return with entirely new gifts and abilities, such as remarkable musical and artistic talents, though that is a story for another time. For now it is enough to note that when one is ushered, even temporarily, into the house of death, all knowledge can be revealed that can have a lasting effect on one’s life. Even knowing that can and usually does evoke a sense of wonder in the rest of us.

These are merely a few illustrative quotes from David’s book. Remember there are 500 of them in all! The book is really a treasury of NDE wisdom and insights. I can’t recommend this book highly enough to any of you who are drawn to wanting to learn more about these experiences so as to enhance your own spiritual life. And it can be yours for the proverbial song. What are you waiting for?

But if you’re not a reader, or even if you are, I have something else of David’s to offer you. You may want to visit a couple of his websites. Here are two that are particularly relevant to David’s books.

Outstanding Near-Death Experiences (YouTube)


I hope in the coming months to be able to introduce you to more of my NDE researcher friends – new ones whose names most of you probably will be unfamiliar with, but whom you will surely be keen to learn about. 

So I begin and hope to continue with my new NDE career to sing the praises of others before returning to watch more of the Australian Open…. 


  1. I am so glad that you are shining a spotlight on David Sunfellow’s work! His books and the accessible format he chose have been of immense comfort to many of my hospice patients. The same is true for me. When it gets dark in my inner landscape, I often refer to David’s quotes to remember the bigger picture and to instill hope in my heart…
    Maria Cavendish, RN

  2. Hi Ken!

    Always nice to read your blogs. I really appreciate you sharing with us other authors/bloggers to be on the lookout for! I'd never heard of David Sunfellow before today, but I absolutely will be picking up his book "500 quotes from heaven". I like the idea of waking up to a few quotes out of it a day. I feel it would be a nice reminder of who, what we really are, and that things are not as serious as they actually are. It's very easy to get caught up in the stressers of life. Money, Debt, Love, etc.

    Anyway, Ken, Always great to hear from you! Peace and Love!