From Publishers Weekly
Ellwood's earnest study takes on the thankless task of applying rational, objective analysis to the near-death experience. The difficulties of the undertaking are everywhere apparent; after all, the only witnesses capable of comparing a near-death experience to the real thing are unavailable for comment. Evidence must be taken where it can be found in the testimony of the haunted, the out-of-body travelers, the miraculously cured. Given the anecdotal nature of these reports, Ellwood (Psychic Visits to the Past) is obliged to try to sift the reputable from the patently invented by assessing her subjects' integrity a hopelessly unscientific, near-impossible job. One form of evidence used by psychic witnesses is the attainment of normally unavailable knowledge (foreign languages, the personal affairs of the deceased). Ellwood agonizes over whether that knowledge comes through actual after-life contact or through telepathy, thereby pitting the psychics against the dead in the most unlikely of scholarly battles. The result of these valiant but doomed efforts is that Ellwood concludes she can neither prove nor disprove near-death theories, and contents herself with organizing the most plausible into abstract categories: "gradualist," "projectionist," "initiatory." Diehard New Agers drawn by the mystical, visionary aspects of near-death will find it hard going to reach this rather unsatisfying conclusion. It's a shame that the near-death experience should be so dryly served. Still, more dispassionate readers may find it a moderately successful and clearly written overview.
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