deathbed vision
   A term used to denote a" visual or " compound hallucination occurring shortly before dying. Deathbed visions have been known and described since ancient times. The first systematic study of these phenomena was carried out between 1924 and 1926 by the founder of the Society for Psychical Research, the British physicist William Fletcher Barrett (1844-1925). It was also Barrett who introduced the term deathbed vision in 1926. In a study conducted between 1959 and 1973 by the " American Society for Psychical Research, represented by the parapsychologists Karlis Osis (1917-1997) and Erlendur Haraldsson (b. 1931) among tens of thousands of individuals in the United States and India, deathbed visions were found to occur in 50% of the population under study. Reportedly, these visions tend to involve either deceased loved ones, other individuals, or mythical or religious figures. In the literature, visions depicting an otherworldly messenger are addressed as " afterlife-related hallucinations and as hallucinatory near-death experiences. Because of their alleged role in summoning or escorting the individual from this world to the afterlife, such figures are also designated as deathbed escorts, deathbed apparitions, or " take-away apparitions. They are sometimes described by the dying person as an unusual light or energy. Deathbed visions may also depict scenes associated with an afterworld. Such scenes typically involve radiant lines, luminous gardens, buildings of great architectural beauty, and symbolic transitional structures such as doors, gates, bridges, death-coaches, rivers, and boats. The afterworld scenes may be populated with angels or humanoid figures. They tend to be reported as being executed in glowing, bright colours. Sometimes celestial music is reported as well. When visions of such scenes replace the whole sensory environment, they are referred to as " total hallucinations. When they are accompanied by a compelling sense of objectivity, they are said to have a high degree of "xenopathy. Deathbed visions may resemble "ecstatic experiences (i.e. 'the psycho-physical condition that accompanies the apprehension of what one experiences as the ultimate reality') in that they may summon up feelings of great peace, and/or a feeling of unity with God or with Creation. The duration of such deathbed visions varies. About half of those reported by Osis and Haraldsson lasted 5 min or less. Some 17% lasted between 6 and 15 min. Three quarters of the individuals under study died within 10 min after their vision, and almost all of them died within hours afterwards. Pathophysiologically, deathbed visions tend to be conceptualized either as "release phenomena, or as " reperceptions. To suspend judgement on the issue of whether the perceived otherworldly figures exist or not, it has been proposed to use the neutral term " idionecrophany to denote any sensory experience that involves an alleged contact with the dead. It has also been suggested that the experience of a 'clear light of death' may be associated with the massive release of the neurotransmitter dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
   References
   Barrett, W. (1926). Death-bed visions: The psychical experiences ofthe dying. Wellingborough: Aquarian Press.
   Moody, R.A. (1975). Life after life. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
   Osis, K., Haraldsson, E. (1977). At the hour of death. New York, NY: Avon Books.

Dictionary of Hallucinations. . 2010.

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  • take-away apparition —    Also known as deathbed apparition and deathbed escort. All three terms are used to denote human, humanoid, or mythological beings, often seen in a radiant light, which may appear in a * deathbed vision. The term take away apparition stems from …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

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