The International Institute for Near-Death Studies

History and Founders

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The pioneering work of psychiatrists Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Raymond Moody, Jr. and George Ritchie brought near-death experiences to public attention in the 1970's. During the years that followed, research studies by Kenneth Ring, PhD, Michael Sabom, MD, Bruce Greyson, MD, and others extended the early findings and stimulated additional interest in the field.

To meet the needs of early researchers and experiencers, IANDS was founded in 1978 and incorporated in Connecticut in 1981. It was the first organization in the world devoted to the study of near-death and similar experiences and their relationship to human consciousness. Today its varied membership represents every continent but the Antarctic.

A Brief History of IANDS

Below is an idiosyncratic history of IANDS, as told by the recollections of all its presidents to date. It was published in our newsletter, Vital Signs, 1999 No. 4.

The Early Founding of IANDS, by John R. Audette, M.S.

(see also the full article, The founding of IANDS and the importance of NDE research, by John Audette)

In the spring of 1975, John Audette introduced Dr. Raymond Moody, then a medical resident, to Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and helped facilitate the exchange of information between them concerning their independent research into NDEs. After the publication of Life After Life that year, Moody became an overnight celebrity and there was a virtual explosion of public interest in the subject. Soon after, other researchers began to contact Moody to ask questions and to seek assistance in designing research efforts of their own. Near-death experiencers began to write in search of more information. Members of the clergy and the interested public began to contact Dr. Moody as well, with questions, invitations to speak and so on. Letters and phone calls flooded the Moody residence from all over the world.

Sensing the critical need, Audette suggested that Moody spearhead the formation of an international association that would bring together researchers, experiencers and the general public in further pursuit of their common interest in NDEs. All the researchers known to Moody at the time were contacted and invited to a meeting to discuss the formation of an association that would further the scientific study of NDEs and that would also serve as a support group of sorts for experiencers, as well as a clearinghouse of information for the public at large.

This meeting took place in November, 1977 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Present were Dr. Moody, Dr. Ken Ring, Dr. Bruce Greyson, Dr. Michael Sabom, John Audette, Dr. Sarah Kreutziger, Dr. Beverly Belk, Dr. Donald Mueller, John Egle (publisher of Life After Life), Gina Weiss, MS, Sue Palmer, and a few other interested persons. At this meeting, the Association for the Scientific Study of Near-Death Phenomena was organized as a vehicle to assist researchers, experiencers and the interested public.

Through a process of collaboration and teamwork that spanned several months in late 1977 and early 1978, the formal organization was co-founded and co-created by Audette, Moody, Ring, Greyson and Sabom. In 1978, the Association held its first board meeting in St. Louis. At this meeting, bylaws were drafted, as well as articles of incorpation and the application for tax exempt status with the IRS. For the following three years, Audette oversaw the activities of the Association as Executive Director from his home in Peoria, Illinois.

In 1981, the Association was relocated to the University of Connecticut, Storrs, where Ring was on faculty.

Audette recalls that "those early days were interesting and exciting, filled with the promise and potential of what might come in the future." In commenting on his original motives for conceiving IANDS, he remarked "I believe that the NDE presents an extraordinary and powerful tool in the quest to enlarge our collective understanding of death and what comes after death."

"From the outset," he continued, "I believed that the scientific study of NDEs, by virtue of the conclusions independently reached by a number of different researchers, had enormous power to unify religions and cultures through the universal cornerstone insights they provide."