• Gregory Shushan

New book! Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions

Updated: Aug 5, 2018

I'm delighted to announce the publication of my new book, Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions. It's the result of a three-year research project I undertook at University of Oxford's Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion. From genesis to publication, however, was much, much longer. Eighteen years, in fact!

I was originally going to include indigenous religions in my previous book, Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations. But given its scope - ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Mesoamerica - the idea proved a bit too ambitious for a single volume. The research started way back in 2000, preparing for my postgraduate work at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. The foundations for the new book were laid then, with preliminary work done on small-scale societies around the world, as well as developing the underlying theory and method that would enable me to analyze and makes sense of so much diverse material.

Though a thematic sequel of sorts to Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations, the new book takes something of a reverse approach. Instead of exploring afterlife beliefs in relation what we know about NDEs, Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions looks at actual accounts of NDEs from small-scale societies in Africa, North America, and Oceania. Rather than afterlife descriptions in religious or literary texts, my sources this time are the reports of early European explorers, missionaries, and ethnologists.

While the first book focused more on the debate about universal aspects of religious experience and belief, the new book engages more with understanding difference - particularly in light of claims that NDEs are evidence for an actual afterlife.

In future posts I'll write more about how I got interested in all this in the first place, and will highlight some examples of cross-cultural and historical NDEs. I'll also look at the work of some scholars I've found inspiring. And I'll explain why I believe my work challenges many of the assumptions people have about extraordinary experiences and religious beliefs. So stay tuned - and do sign up for the mailing list using the form at the bottom of this page.