To many, the academic classification of ''near-death studies'' may not seem a viable or trustworthy pursuit (this reviewer was wary herself), but if we are to candidly engage the entirety of human being, such neglect is irresponsible and short-sighted. Philosophy and religion professor Mark Fox goes as far to say that reports of many near-death experiences (commonly referred to as NDEs) may well ''demand a response which goes to the very heart of the West's understanding of what it is to be human, and what it is for human beings to die.'' His intention is to create a junction at which the various tracks of study on the subject made by neuro-scientists, theologians, social scientists and near-death researchers can dialogue their particular findings -- incorporating their insights and creating a shared avenue for future study. Fox forthrightly reviews and engages the radically divergent views of writers ranging from NDE researchers Raymond Moody and Kenneth Ring to Orthodox theologian Seraphim Rose and Catholic scholar Carol Zaleski. He's especially interested in widening the theological implications of NDEs in regard to our ideas about death, and he isn't afraid to ask tough questions (such as how the experience of the ''self'' leaving the body can be ''reconciled to the Christian belief that life after death comes by way of a final bodily resurrection''). If we follow such experiences to their logical end, death might be seen as gain in the way it expands and deepens our understanding of life.
An Eighth Day View:
This dramatic and sustained response to decades of research into near-death experiences (NDEs) is the first book to credibly bridge the gap between the competing factions of science and spirituality. Neither a religious argument touting NDEs as hard evidence for God, nor a scientific rebuke to religious interpretations, it balances investigation of these much-reported yet baffling phenomena, and brings fresh urgency to the study of our hopes for a life beyond.