Evolving news on the science, writing and thinking about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Surviving Death – thoughts

So today saw the arrival of the new Netflix series, Surviving Death. I was able to have a good look at it and here are my thoughts on the entire series…yes, I know it is only 9.30am UK time, 1 hour 30 minutes after it was launched, but believe me, I have seen enough to form an opinion.

Episode 1 was on NDEs. It was pretty good. There was Bruce Greyson, Peter Fenwick, some material from the Pam Reynolds NDE among other good stuff. It certainly presented the subject in a reasonable and credible way, and if that was the first time someone came across NDEs, it would certainly make them think. However, there was nothing on any of the clinical studies looking into it. No mention of Sam Parnia’s work (if he was asked to be involved, he was wise to decline). A small mention of the arguments around drugs or hypoxia, but nothing that would float our boats. In truth, there was absolutely nothing new on NDEs. Nada, but it was a good show.

Episodes 2-4- I looked at the episode descriptions and they were all on paranormal experiences around mediumship etc. I skimmed through the shows and didn’t see anything that would interest me. If anything, unfortunately, many will find it off-putting. I have a very specific viewpoint on the subject, and it comes firstly from my experience of growing up with a medium in the family…so I know it is real, and secondly from my Christian perspective, and some experiences that I have had that make me feel it is something that we should avoid like the plague. Now, I am aware there are some who cannot avoid it since it comes to them, but I still prefer to steer clear of it.

Final Episode was on reincarnation. Again, interesting, and there is evidence to support it, but it doesn’t interest me sufficiently to watch an hour of it. This is the life we are living, we should make the most of it and live in the way we are supposed to. Simple stuff really.

Anyway, other than the first episode, I wouldn’t really recommend the series to anyone who is serious about the subject of NDEs. What it has done though is get my thumb out of my exterior and caused me to finish off the book I have been writing on NDEs over the Christmas period. The cover is now on the front page of this site, and it will be available in the next day or so as I make a few last minute changes.

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23 thoughts on “Surviving Death – thoughts

  1. omnihilon on said:

    Good job on finishing your book Ben!

    I too will be checking out this documentary and I too fear that many will dismiss it because of the mediumship stuff, which apparently comes off as a little hoaky. One of the mediums involved hasn’t exactly made a good name for herself in the media either as she previously appeared on Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop Lab series. This doc wasn’t well-advertised at all either and I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix are doing the bare minimum to promote it: it was announced for release on Netflix with the trailer several weeks ago and yet the trailer was only uploaded onto YT the other day, and I haven’t seen any of Netflix’s other platforms (or other movie sites/magazines) advertising it much either.

    Nevertheless, I do hope people do not commit the Guilt/Condemnation by Assocation fallacy with this: one cannot dismiss what folks like Greyson and Fenwick have to say just because there’s some less credulous people in a different segment of the documentary. Their credibility shouldn’t be weakened by this.

    I imagine (pseudo)skeptics won’t be happy with this documentary. I’ve already seen people accusing it of pseudoscience…BEFORE it was released and the vague trailer was all they’d seen. Won’t surprise me if they’re already working on their responses now.


    • I must admit I started watching episode 2 and cringed so much, that I couldn’t watch any more. I think it will taint the NDE episode. Many will watch that and be genuinely intrigued, then go on to watch the rest and start to withdraw, and lump the first episode in with the rest by association. Such is the lot of those of us who follow this seriously. I mention this in my book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • omnihilon on said:

        It is a shame really, even for someone like me who has had experiences and is more open-minded than most when it comes to mediumship. I’m hoping audiences are wise enough not to be so dismissive.

        I have heard reviewers mention how the quality shifts in that sense, and I got the impression that a best-to-worst list of the episodes by theme would be: NDEs, Reincarnation/Past Lives, ADCs and then Mediumship. The academic and sciencey stuff is more prominent in the NDE and Reincarnation episodes, which is where what praise I have seen has come from.

        Liked by 1 person

      • omnihilon on said:

        I’ve also heard they lump in EVPs and ghost hunting with Deathbed Visions and Crisis Apparitions, which was a poor decision.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, any credibility from the first show will be lost. She obviously has an agenda aligned with an obsession for the “spirit world”. It is not healthy.


  2. I will skip then. But same stuff happens in UFO. A serious discussion of the Pentagon and then contactees.
    UFOtwitter was started to avoid the stigma of ancient astronauts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I steer clear of UFO discussions as I want to focus on the areas where I have knowledge and passion for, the intersection between science and NDEs, faith etc. However, I am by no means sceptical of the whole UFO thing, especially given the pilot sightings…they are a bit like the doctors in the ER. However, I do not trouble myself with digging deeper, so have am ultimately agnostic, while erring on the side of “it’s a big universe, probably stuffed with life, so why not?”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Actually some at Pentagon don’t think they are ETI but something maybe related to our consciousness.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. omnihilon on said:

    So far I’ve only seen about 4 or 5 reviews of it on YouTube alone from obscure channels, but they’re all mixed to positive, so not bad so far. Some written ‘reviews’ come off as way too vague and making critical points already addressed in the documentary (or ones that aren’t even that relevant) for me to consider them to be truly genuine. I know the series is in total nearly 6 hours long but still…

    At the time of typing this it’s between a 6.0-7.0 on IMDB but still has no Rotten Tomatoes reviews. Already someone’s labelled it ‘pseudoscience’ because there wasn’t enough skepticism. But then again, I’ve seen others argue there were skeptical points brought up, albeit briefly. You shouldn’t start with the position of going into something with the intent to try and ‘debunk’ it. That isn’t skepticism and that isn’t strictly scientific.

    I imagine many will not pay attention to one of the lines stated in the first episode: “We (still) don’t have enough evidence to tell us (precisely) what happens”. For me, I’d treat this series as more of a ‘basic beginner’s guide’ to stuff like NDEs to spark interest, and then viewers can do further research from there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • omnihilon on said:

      Then again, IMDB isn’t all that reliable for honest reviews either, especially for a subject like this where one can’t really be unbiased. I’ve read plenty of IMDB reviews that offer nothing insightful whatsoever or are from people who blatantly didn’t pay attention or even watch the film/series in question. Here are some examples for this doc:

      “These are just mostly recycled stories and information topics most of the proof shown can easily be debunked by anyone with a science/medical/psychology background.”

      How are they recycled? What is an ‘information topic’? And did they miss the parts where the actual academic experts on these topics and researchers gave their takes, including skeptical points?

      “Typical Netflix BS. Just a bunch of extras playing people in denial. Mediocre, sad watch.”

      Speaks for itself really.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. omnihilon on said:

    John Cleese has been a fan of the UVA for quite some time and he’s advertised the series on his Twitter. This must be the first time I’ve seen him be open about this on his social media:


  6. I think mediums don’t exist, period. Look what happened with Harry Houdini. Before he died, he told his beloved wife, Bess, to try everything humanly possible to bring him back via a medium… he gave her a code word.

    It failed.

    That’s some empirical evidence.


  7. Ben have you been in contact with Sam before? He hasn’t updated his twitter for many months, is he too busy with covid? I have emailed him multiple times about AWARE 2 with no response.


    • Hi Chad, I haven’t had a reply to any of my emails to him either or from members of the research team for over a year. They have gone “dark”. The only public thing I am aware of recently was a podcast that he gave with another ER physician in December. It was mostly focused on improving resuscitation techniques, but at the end he reiterated his oft stated stance on the evidence pointing to the conscious surviving death. We know from his Twitter feed that he was super busy during the first COVID outbreak. I don’t know what things are like in NYC now, but I guess he will be busy again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I mean, isn’t it sort of similar?

      You can’t expect Sam to be at your beck and call, with all respect.


  8. I’ve only watched the first couple of episodes so far, and my general view is “better than expected”. I have however read the Leslie Kean book on which the series is based (same title) and can strongly recommend that. It’s unusually objective in its approach and more in depth (Sam Parnia gets a few mentions, for example).

    Liked by 1 person


    Reason why Sam parnia did not appear was that as per article…

    Parnia was asked to participate in “Surviving Death,” he said, but he turned the producers down because the show made no distinction between scientific research on topics such as the recalled experience of death and the pseudoscience of ghosts and mediums.


  10. Vincent on said:

    I haven’t seen the series yet, but from what I’ve read the science of J. Tucker and I. Stevenson on reincarnation is pretty interesting. Stevenson was even praised by skeptics for his work in terms of objectivity and rigour, much like Parnia. I personally wouldn’t tend to dismiss any form of afterlife study as even in life itself, diversity and multifinality are more the norm than the exception. It could also enlighten phenomena that happen while living.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There are some good counters to Stevenson’s research, check his Wiki — and then, the counters to the counters


      • Vincent on said:

        Indeed, the criticism is mostly based on confirmation bias and translation problems, which are legit risks. The thing I’ll also give them is that he should have kept the obviously debunked cases rather than only the ones that was more probable. But we could say the same thing about people cherry picking cases to discredit him arguing that it would be too long for them to check everything. Imagine having to collect all of it in the first place!

        For the rest, you can’t ask qualitative research based on such a phenomenon to produce the same evidence as controlled quantitative studies. Stevenson made no such claim and people mostly praised his methods. He’s been published in good journals, which is pretty impressive even at the time considering his subject.


  11. Ben,

    Just watched the series. First episode was good, rest was exactly the scope creep around NDEs I hate.

    NDEs are a very specific phenomenon that took many years for the medical community to admit they existed and we are finally making progress with trying to setup a 3rd party referee (science) to see what they may mean.

    However, for some reason (I am a child of the 90s not the 60s so I do not understand this whole New Age thing), you have some people, especially those in the popular media, lumping this with past life regressions, mediums, aliens, the Age of Aquarius, and the Mayan Calendar says the world came to an end, I mean we had a consciousness awakening on December 21, 2012… No wonder serious people run in the other direction. I have no idea how a subject like this got lumped in with those topics, but I hope we are able to separate this phenomena from that nonsense.

    By the way I hope you have a chance to review Greyson’s new book when you have a chance here.


    • It got “lumped in” because the majority of people fall for it and then “those” people making it up make a quick buck, unfortunately.


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