Dr. Kenneth Ring has done countless studies of people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) and compared their experiences with those of shamans from various cultures. I have brought together several of Ring’s quotes in this regard and offer them here for their clarity and evocative nature.
“The plain of experience entered by NDEers is the same as that accessed by shamans. The key to entering is imagination, not imagination as viewed by outmoded Cartesian dualism (choice is between mind or matter) but a third realm that is objectively self-existent, the cumulative product of imaginative thought itself, an imaginal place. The third realm depends not on sensory perception or ordinary cognition but on certain altered states of consciousness that destabilize and disturb the two above states. The imaginal realm is ontologically real.
“Imagination then becomes a kind of organ of perception, a creative power, that discloses a world of form, dimension and persons which can be directly apprehended. What we apprehend is our own inner spiritual state, our soul. Thus soul and imagination are indissolubly bound to each other.
“The natural language of the soul is the image, as Aristotle stated. Soul is imagination. Imagination is a purely spiritual faculty and exists even after the body has disappeared. At death we are released into imagination and what we see is the soul’s own image which is light; one’s pure soul essence undefiled by character and body. This primordial light is refracted through the prism of the soul yielding an imaginal world.
“The shaman has learned to see with the eyes of the soul and experiences the realm with a fully awakened imagination.”