Case Study II. The Shared-Death Experience

Study of the special phenomenon of the so-called shared-death experience, abbreviated SDE, in which basically healthy people undergo the same mystical experience together with a terminally ill person.

While one thing is already known about the near-death experience, this is true to a much lesser extent of the shared-death experience. Yet the latter experience may be at least as fascinating as the former. On the shared-death experience, American pioneer on the study of near-death experiences Raymond Moody writes the following passages:

“Skeptics assume that NDEs are caused by brain failure, which ceases to function at the moment of death – it would not be much more than that. This theory, also called the dying brain hypothesis, holds that the phenomena of an NDE are simply hallucinations evoked by our brains at the moment they almost stop functioning. But what if you are having such an experience when you are not dying? What if you feel like you are exi-ting, seeing deceased family members, going through a mysterious tunnel and seeing a flashback to life, while you are not on the verge of death? What does it mean if you are in perfect health and yet experience all those things?” (Moody & Perry, Een blik in de eeuwigheid, p. 76).

“If you look at it superficially, NDEs could be caused by electrochemical chaos in the brain. NDEs, however, are an entirely different matter, for they involve people who are present at the time of someone’s death, who witness certain elements that are clearly and significantly similar to those of an NDE. Yet those people themselves are not dying at the time and are not even sick – which patently throws a spanner in the works for the standard way in which this extremely important issue is discussed.” (Moody & Perry, Een blik in de eeuwigheid, pp. 80-81).

Research on SDEs could strengthen the evidential value of the totality experience! Indeed, the explanation that the deteriorating brain is the producer of such mystical experiences – regularly advanced by atheists and other skeptics – becomes considerably less likely in SDEs than in an NDE, where the person in question is indeed often dying. SDEers, on the other hand, are usually alive and well and in perfect health.

Psychotherapist William Peters, also founder (in 2011) of the Shared Crossing Project, seems to be the first who, together with some team members, wants to continue Moody’s research on the SDE. They want to make people aware of the reality of the SDE and educate about it. According to Peters and his colleagues the SDE has a transforming and healing impact on the people who undergo it. On their website we read, “We apply the insight and wisdom of shared inter-sections to positively change lives (and deaths!) through our innovative educational programs for the general public and end-of-life profes-sionals. We also conduct research, build communities and support people wherever they are in relation to aging, decline and death.” The mission of the Shared Crossing Project is “to positively change relationships with death and dying through education and awareness about shared crossings and their healing benefits. We want to bring people together in a community to support open exploration and discussion of this important topic in a safe place.”

In 2022, Peters published the book At Heaven’s Door. What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach About Dying Well and Living Better, a groundbreaking study that scientifically examined a variety of SDE cases. The Shared Crossing Project is clearly an initiative that aligns with the mission and vision of the Maieutics School, albeit that the latter school advocates a more philosophical and thus broader approach. The Maieutics School does not limit itself to the shared-death experience, but takes the experience of doubt and totality as its starting points. From there it aims to investigate and reform society in numerous areas.