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My whole life flashed before my eyes
Who coined this phrase as it relates to the "life review" in the Near Death Experience (NDE)
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I am studying the after-effects of the phenomenon commonly known as the Near Death Experience or NDE for short. I would like to know who coined the phrase, “my whole life flashed before my eyes”.   For those who have written about NDEs, the phrase seems to have two different uses.  


It’s commonly used by those who have had a close brush with death, often without the loss of consciousness. It has no “self-evaluation” component and usually lasts a few seconds. The phrase “my life flashed before my eyes” is often used casually in good-natured humor and non-life threatening situations. This application of the phrase has an urban legend quality.


The second application, of which I have more of an interest, typically occurs in deep, Near Death Experiences. It has been reported by some who have had dire, life-threatening injuries or illnesses and have lost consciousness. The deep NDE may include other components such a the out-of-body experience (OBE), being in the presence of a loving light, meeting deceased relatives, seeing a tunnel and so forth. Occasionally the experience will go through a “life review”, which has an self-evaluative aspect.


So my question specifically is who coined the phrase “my whole life flashed before my eyes” as it relates to the “life review” in Near Death Experience?   Thank you so much!

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I doubt we will succeed in finding a coiner of that phrase. The earliest close cite I found on Google books is from 1831 as follows:

He writhed as each recollection of his former life flashed with an electric jar across his mind, and remained at last like one who has been struck senseless by the lightning.

“A Chapter on Bachelors. Written by One,” An Old Bachelor, The Edinburgh Literary Journal; or, Weekly Register of Criticism and Belles. Lettres, Jan 1831-June 1831, p 181, Ballantyne and Company, 19 Waterloo Place, 1831

This reference qualifies as a paraphrase, I think.

I personally find the phrase “with an electric jar” a bit jarring. It conjures Benjamin Franklin and a key inside of a glass container.

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Glenn said

I personally find the phrase “with an electric jar” a bit jarring. It conjures Benjamin Franklin and a key inside of a glass container.

Would Leyden jar be less jarring? It was invented over 80 years earlier and would give a quick electric arc (flash) when discharged.

BTW, except for the quick timing (i.e. flashed), the phrase is consistent with a combination of Hebrews 9:27 and Revelation 20:12. Concerning the quick timing, how else might a time-limited being describe something happening in a place unlimited by time, that is, eternity?


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