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Extraordinary Spiritual Experiences Among Combat Veterans

My work has provided me with an opportunity to work with individuals like Dr David Hufford, a trailblazer in the scientific research of various types of spiritual phenomena. His work is unique in the way he examines personal experiences and places them within a scientific framework. This approach allows for analysis and it contextualizes these experiences within the fields of folklore, science and spirituality.

He has shared with me his work on EXTRAORDINARY SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES (ESEs) AMONG COMBAT VETERANS. It explores several ESEs which include near-death experiences, sleep paralysis and after-death communications. The study aimed to understand how common these experiences are among veterans and how well health providers can recognize and respond to them.


The findings are eye-opening and have significant implications for Veterans and Military departments, as employers

So let’s look at the research

1. The research focus and getting to Know the Veterans and Their Experiences:
The research began with conversations with veterans about their backgrounds and spiritual experiences. The focus was on three types of experiences: near-death experiences (NDEs), after-death communications (ADCs), and sleep paralysis with a presence (SPP).

2. Health Providers’ Understanding of Spiritual Experiences:
The aim was also to understand how well health providers could recognize and understand these experiences. Providers were presented with six different scenarios, including experiences of grief, nightmares, and flashbacks, as well as NDEs , ADCs and SPP.

3.  Who Took Part?

The participants included veterans and a mix of military and non-military health providers. The group was diverse, with social workers, psychologists, nurses and counsellors all taking part.

4.  Everyday Spirituality Among Veterans:

A specific scale was used to gauge how often veterans felt spiritual in their daily lives. It was found that veterans who had experienced two or three types of spiritual experiences were more likely to interpret their everyday experiences through a spiritual lens.


Prevalence of Near-death Experience (NDE) 17/45 (37.7%):
Out of 45 subjects, 17 met the specific criteria for a near-death experience (NDE), as defined by the Greyson NDE Scale. This means they answered questions like “Did you feel separated from your body?” with responses that indicated a clear NDE. All 17 of these experiences occurred during combat, and the Army and Marines were disproportionately represented among those who had NDEs.

Prevalence of After-Death Communication (ADC) 26/45 (58%):
Using a widely recognized question to identify after-death communication (ADC), it was found that 58% of the veteran sample had experienced ADC one or more times. This is significantly higher than reported in general population studies. Among these 26 subjects, 6 reported being “in touch” with a deceased comrade, and the most frequent descendant reported was a “grandparent.” The feelings evoked by the ADC varied, including comfort, happiness, anxiety, and fear.

Prevalence of Sleep Paralysis with a Presence (SPP) 14/45 (31%) (1 or more times):

By using a specific question from a 1991 survey, it was found that 31% of the veterans experienced sleep paralysis with a sense of a strange presence in the room.

Prevalence of Having Had One or More ESE: More than twice as many subjects reported having had one or more of the Extraordinary Spiritual Experiences (ESEs) surveyed. Specifically, 14 had none, while 31 had one or more

How Health Providers Respond to Spiritual Experiences: It was found that health providers weren’t very familiar with these spiritual experiences, especially NDEs. When asked how they would respond to these experiences, the answers varied. Some said they would treat the experience, others said they would refer the patient to a specialist, and some said they would reassure the patient.

How Do Providers See Themselves? It was found that both military and non-military providers didn’t see themselves as very religious, but they did see themselves as quite spiritual. This was similar to what the veterans and the general population said about themselves.

Understanding and Responding to Spiritual Experiences: It was found that health providers were more familiar with common symptoms like grief, nightmares and PTSD flashbacks than with spiritual experiences such as NDEs. This suggests that health providers need more training to recognize and respond to these spiritual experiences.

The providers in the study were almost certain to refer veterans to a psychiatrist. It was found that they were very unlikely to reassure these individuals. Interestingly, only one respondent chose to refer a veteran to a chaplain for the after death communication experience. The providers viewed the ESEs as more severe and pathological than common traumatic grief reactions, recurrent nightmares, or PTSD flashbacks.


These findings provide a detailed insight into the spiritual experiences of combat veterans, revealing a higher prevalence of these experiences compared to the general population. The results highlight the complexity and diversity of these experiences and their significant presence in the lives of those who have served in combat.

This study has opened up a new frontier in our understanding of the spiritual experiences of combat veterans. It has shed light on the prevalence of extraordinary spiritual experiences (ESEs) among veterans and highlighted the need for greater awareness and understanding among health providers.

The findings are striking. Nearly 4 in 10 veterans reported having a near-death experience, and more than half reported after-death communications. These numbers are a wake-up call, showing us that these experiences are not rare, isolated events, but a significant part of many veterans' lives.

However, the study also revealed a gap in knowledge among health providers. Many were unfamiliar with these experiences and unsure how to respond. This is a crucial finding, as it highlights the need for more education and training for health providers. Veterans who have these experiences need to feel understood and supported, not dismissed or misunderstood.

So, where do we go from here?

The first step is to raise awareness. We need to share these findings with the wider medical community and the public. We need to start conversations about these experiences and break down the stigma and misunderstanding that often surrounds them.


Next, we need to invest in education and training for health providers. They need to be able to recognize these experiences and understand their potential impact on a veteran’s mental and emotional health. They also need to know how to respond in a way that is supportive and respectful.

Finally, we need more research. This study has provided a valuable starting point, but there is still so much we don’t know. We need to explore these experiences in more depth, understand their causes and effects, and investigate how best to support veterans who have them.


In conclusion, this study has taken us on a fascinating journey into the spiritual lives of combat veterans. It has shown us that these experiences are more common than we might think, and it has highlighted the need for more understanding and support. As we move forward, let’s keep these findings in mind and strive to create a world where all veterans feel seen, heard and understood.


Final Thoughts
This study has revealed that these profound ESE experiences are more prevalent than we might think. However, many health providers are unfamiliar with these experiences, highlighting a need for more awareness and education. This study is a wake-up call, showing us that these spiritual experiences are a significant part of many veterans’ lives and calling for more research and understanding. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a world we don’t often see and a reminder of the importance of supporting and understanding our combat veterans.




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Sheila Pryce Brooks

About Sheila Pryce Brooks

Sheila Pryce Brooks is an expert in sleep paralysis and extraordinary spiritual experiences. She is passionate about illuminating the overlap between sleep paralysis, spirituality and science through research and education and she has since dedicated her life to helping others manage and transcend sleep paralysis and other extraordinary spiritual experiences.


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