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Observations placeholder

Dorothy Counts [1983] - Near Death and Out of Body Experiences in a Melanesian Society – Andrew



Type of Spiritual Experience


The beam of light may equate to a tunnel

Following is the account of a non-Western NDE (from Melanesia) documented by the anthropologist Dorothy Counts.

A description of the experience

Dorothy Counts [1983] - Near Death and Out of Body Experiences in a Melanesian Society – Anabiosis 3; 115-35


Andrew is a young man who lives in the Anem-speaking interior village of Bolo. His death occurred at the small hamlet of Vuvu, which is located about a kilometre from Bolo. His experience, which was well known throughout the Kaliai area, was thought to be especially remarkable because during his vision he saw the spirit of a woman whose death had occurred shortly after his and about which he could have had no knowledge. His experience was also remarkable because, according to local definitions of death, he was dead for several hours. His kin had gathered, pigs for his first funeral feast had been killed and the meat was being prepared for division, and his grave had been dug before he returned to life. Shortly after Andrew's death occurred at Vuvu, the wife of the lay minister of Bolo took some food to the young boys residing in the Bolo men's house. She was returning to her own house when she collapsed and died in the village square. She did not recover and was buried the next day. It is this woman whom Andrew reports meeting during his near-death experience. After Andrew recovered from his illness, one of his legs was withered, and he now walks only with the aid of crutches.

The day I died I was very sick and was sleeping in my house. I died at noon [when, the sun is high] and came back at six o'clock that afternoon [at dusk]. At the time I died there was a woman who hadn't died. She cooked food and distributed it. But when I died my spirit met hers on the road.

When I died everything was dark, but I went through a field of flowers and when I came out everything was clear. I walked on along the road and came to a fork where there were two men standing, one on either road. Each of them told me to come that way. I didn't have time to think about it, so I followed one of them. The man took my hand and we entered a village. There we found a long ladder that led up into a house. We climbed the ladder but when we got to the top I heard a voice saying, "It isn't time for you to come. Stay there. I'll send a group of people to take you back."

I heard his voice, but I couldn't see his face or his body. I walked around trying to see him, but I couldn't. But I saw the dead woman that I had met on the road, I saw her leave me. I wanted to call out, "Hey, come back!" but I couldn't, for this house turned in a circle. I couldn't see the man who talked to me, but I did see children lying [on platforms] over the doors and windows.

As I was walking around, trying to see everything, they took hold of me and took me back down the steps. I wanted to go back to the house, but I couldn't because it turned and I realised that it was not on posts. It was just hanging there in the air, turning around as if it were on an axle. If I wanted to go to the door, the house would turn and there would be another part of the house where I was standing.

There were all kinds of things inside this house, and I wanted to see them all. There were some men working with steel, and some men building ships, and another group of men building cars. I was standing staring when this man said,

"It's not time for you to be here. Your time is yet to come. I'll send some people to take you back. You cannot stay. This woman you saw coming here, it was her time and she must stay. But you must go back."

I was to come back, but there was no road for me to follow, so the voice said, "Let him go down." Then there was a beam of light and I walked along it. I walked down the steps, and when I turned to look there was nothing but forest.

I stood there and thought, "If they have started mourning for me, I won't go 'because the voice said 'Stand there and listen. If there is no mourning and no dogs howling, you go back. But if there is mourning you come back."

So I walked along the beam of light, through the forest and along a narrow path. I came back to my house and re-entered my body and was alive again. I got up and told my father of my experience, for he didn't realize what had happened. I died at noon and came back at six o'clock I spent a long time wandering around this house before they sent me back.

Q: When you were a spirit, did you see your body?

A: No, I didn't see my body, I just came back, and when I got up I was well and told everyone what had happened.

Q: Were you sorry or happy to come back?

A: I wanted to go back there. It's a happy place, and I wanted to go back but I couldn't. See how my leg is crippled here.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps