I have a bucket of random thoughts to this.
Two months ago, I saw two broadcasts in the Swiss TV, LANG=de_CH about near-death experiences, the first being a kind of report, and the second a talk. The first of the videos isn't available anymore (only to buy on DVD/VHS) and few wordings and a link to literature remains. I can try to give a brief conclusion.
At most, the broadcasting station, which is a federal, not a private station, is serious, tends to higher culture and quality, but when it comes to religion - well... . Now the Swiss is, afaik, mostly protestantism, at least the German speaking part of it; two of the first popular heretics origins from the Swiss, Zwingli and Calvin. But not all of the religious people believe in near-death experiences. My impression was, that the report couldn't decide, whether to support the claims of NDE or not. They hadn't much material, some witnesses from hearsay, and hadn't much against, but mixed it - for my feelings just to keep the interest high. If you debunk such a claim in the first minutes you can stop the video after 5 Minutes. After the report, there was a talk which is today still available, but might vanish in near future: Talk with Judith Hardegger and sociologist of religion, Hubert Knoblauch, again, language de_CH., duration about 30 min.
I don't remember much from the video. People, talking about a tunnel with light, of cause. And an experiment, but which was planned, at least not yet finished: Since people often experience such NDE when being in a surgery, and often claim, that they leave their body (out-of-body experience, OOBE) and floating at the top of the room, looking down towards their body, the experimenter placed some kind of beamer at the top, which displayed simple figures in a random way, so that they could only be seen from above, and that the doctor and other people wouldn't know what was displayed, but a floating ghost would be able to see them. Or not. Which would show, that they weren't really out of body, floating around.
Now I try to summarize the talk. It is a different video, but the scientist had just seen the other video.
It's not my opinion, which I report, but the opinion of the sociologist, which I try to repeat in condensed form:
- His viewpoint is not natural sciences, but sociological, psychological. He is interested in what the people think it is, how they feel, and how deeply impressed they are.
- since 60 years there are studies going on (in the Swiss, and nearby, in Freiburg/Germany), but without much[sic!] evidence.
- Whether the people are dead or not is normally not clear. Death by heart is the normal criteria, rarely: by brain.
- The experience of time does not fit to the experience of time for people awake (Doctores), but is more like in a dream. A long journey in a dream may only last a few minutes in real sleep.
- Not everybody who was declared to be death, but 'came back' has NDE, and not everybody who has NDE was clinicly death.
- Nearly 1/3 of the experiences isn't about light and wonderful feelings (2/3), but about pain and horror.
- People in the western world 'experience' to fly to heaven, while people in China tend to move into the earth, which is congruent to the culture, which surrounds the people.
- People today in the swiss 'meat' relatives during their NDE, like mother, grandmother and so on. A farmer in the 13th century meats his whole village and Karl der Große. Friar in the 8 Century meet their whole cloister. This reflects pretty much the trend to individualism during that time in our culture.
Former experiences talk about an old, wise man - today, people experience a white light. The stories are getting more abstract.
- he becomes a bit angry about the question, whether this isn't prove, that all this is hallucination. I couldn't follow how he countered that.
- He emphasized, that in contrast to religious believes, there is a continuation of identity and a continuation of feelings, of felt body awareness.
- most western people today don't connect their experience with religion, but mystic and transcendence.
- There are comparing studies of West- and East-Germany. More bad experiences in the former DDR (socialistic, atheistic staate), but not comparable to the pictures from hell, which where often found in the US.
- He would like to do much more research, but would need money to do so.
There were more arguments made, so if you speak german, watch the video and correct or complete me.
In sum, it was a differentiated view on the facts, and afaik a honest presentation of the known facts, as far as he knows them. Weak, in the absence of natural science, but aware of this weakness.
One thing bothered me often: The acceptance of the term NDE. The people did not die. They survived, and their living went on. So why name it 'near death'? He is on the one hand aware of this fact, and tells it that way himself, but few sentences later he says, that, while it isn't objectively near death, the people experience it as such. But since no living being had experienced the death nobody can, not even subjectively, claim to have knowledge, how close to a real death experience it is. It's just a projection, an illusion. But I guess that's the strength of the talk: While this person has a different opinion about the conclusions of the facts, he doesn't mud the water but is a reliable source of his observations.