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copyright ©, registered, Nov. 1996 by Ed Riess, 7962 Quebec Court, Cincinnati, OH 45241-1359
This work is dedicated to David, my caring and intelligent older brother, who died before I was mature enough to properly appreciate him and return his friendship.
CHAPTER 1 - A PARTIAL SOLUTION TO WORLD-WIDE PROBLEMS.......................................................4 CHAPTER 2 - CRIME AND THE MOTIVATIONS OF CRIMINALS...............................................................15 THE PROBLEMS OF CRIME.........................................................................................................................................15 THE MOTIVATIONS FOR CRIME....................................................................................................................................19 WHAT WE ARE UP AGAINST......................................................................................................................................21 ONE POSSIBLE ANSWER.............................................................................................................................................24 CHAPTER 3 - THE RELEVANCE OF NDES........................................................................................................25 CHAPTER 4 - THE NDE ON TRIAL......................................................................................................................28 TYPICAL ACCOUNTS OF NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES.......................................................................................................28 IMPORTANT DETAILS ABOUT THE NDE........................................................................................................................28 SORRY, BUT THE NDE IS REAL !!.............................................................................................................................31 RESULTS OF SCIENTIFIC NDE RESEARCH.....................................................................................................................45 CHAPTER 5 - THE NDE, SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION.............................................................................48 WHAT DO SKEPTICS SAY?..........................................................................................................................................56 CHAPTER 6 - SUMMARY.......................................................................................................................................59 “SO, THE NDE IS REAL. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME?”....................................................................................67 APPENDIX - A FIRST DRAFT PROTOTYPE REHABILITATION PROGRAM............................................70 WEEK ONE.............................................................................................................................................................70 WEEK TWO............................................................................................................................................................77 REFERENCES............................................................................................................................................................85
CHAPTER 1 - A PARTIAL SOLUTION TO WORLD-WIDE PROBLEMS
Finally, objectively, and due mostly to the advances of modern medical resuscitations,
humankind has glimpsed a larger piece of “the big picture”, or the nature of reality for humans. A generation ago, science offered evidence only to disprove man’s precious beliefs and traditions. Today, as physicists observe anti-matter, and astronomers determine that we’re specks among fifty billion stars, in a galaxy that is one of fifty billion others, there is now strong evidence for a superphysical reality. Doesn’t that sound like a headline from a tabloid newspaper? This superphysical reality has been experienced by millions of individuals. Their encounters with this “realm” have been labeled Near Death Experiences, or NDEs. Because NDEs are so evidently real (and if readers suppose that they’re not, they should read Chapter 4 first) and because they seem to relate so meaningfully to our earthly existence they deserve more than casual notice. Admittedly, it’s not a simple matter to accept the facts that comprise this evidence, and that this reality exists. Some aspects of NDEs are very foreign to our thinking. For example, despite the latest findings of modern physics, what they suggest about space and time still stretch the imagination. However, it’s also not a simple matter to ignore these facts. Once they’re appreciated it further becomes difficult to ignore their implications. These implications are so momentous, it seems that they should be capable of enhancing societal evolution and world peace. The idea that these implications have such importance may seem a grandiose concept, and stating that NDEs are almost certainly real might seem extreme. However, after considering the evidence, it’s common for people to adopt a bigger picture of our world and the human condition. It begins to seem conceivable that some of our world’s problems would disappear after persuasive exposure to NDE information.
“Persuasive exposure” is complex, however, a task not unlike that faced by Galileo. For this reason, a book-sized justification is thought to be necessary to “make the case(s)” that the information available from NDEs: (1) with an extremely high degree of certainty, is real and valid; (2) very likely accurately reveals some aspects of the basic nature of reality to mankind and, generally, how people should live their lives and deal with others; and (3) can be used to advance the evolution of society, particularly in the areas I think most provocative and within reach: crime and rehabilitation. These three elements of NDEs are non-obvious. In fact, this vision of NDE usefulness requires a kind of abstract insight for its understanding. To the non-experiencer, the reality of NDEs isn’t as clear as a photograph of a round Earth taken from the moon. To the experiencer, however, the NDE is as real or more real than everyday life, and as trustworthy as their indisputable experiences with their physical world. For many experiencers who’ve had car wrecks or heart attacks and found themselves drawn to another world, many issues become intuitively “right” or “wrong”. “NDEers” are often aware of things as if infused with knowledge; they “know” that all people are simply members of one large human family, and that ethnic cleansing, political torture and religious wars are crimes that are insupportable. They “know” that a person’s value is not related to race, ethnicity, or sex, and that ignorance of these generates many of our world’s problems. As already suggested, the evidence for NDE authenticity is strong. Sources of this evidence are current, and in today’s language rather than an ancient variation of Greek or Hebrew. New sources are available constantly, and not restricted to the study, interpretation and corroboration of ancient writings. Data have come from thousands of documented NDEs, had by experiencers hailing from all countries, walks of life, philosophies and religions. Among them are persons familiar to us such as Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska who lost a foot to a grenade in Viet Nami, Debra Winger who had an NDE as a teenager ii, and Jordan’s King Hussein, when an anticoagulant prescribed in 1984 for his heart caused him to hemorrhage iii. To emphasize this point, the evidence is not drawn from areas which normally generate people’s various and often disparate philosophies; areas including history, tradition, parents, teachers, or the writings and doctrines of religions. This present information seems reliable, and generally more universal.
Nevertheless, this evidence doesn’t prove conclusively that NDEs are absolutely real, at least as we seem to understand them. Rather, it’s more accurate to say that the likelihood of their being real, and being what they appear to be, is exceptionally high. From this, it follows that its implications for our lives, vis-à-vis our attitudes and behaviors, should be taken seriously, and as guidance that is pointing in the right direction. Though much remains unknown, it’s better for mankind to limp in the right direction than run in the wrong direction. Yet, despite available evidence, many people will remain skeptical. They include scientists who can’t conceive of a reality outside of our known physics, and fundamentalists of many religions who mistrust what differs from their beliefs. One could say, “what they are not up on, they’re down on.” Working toward public acceptance of near death experiences is the fact that about five percent of Americans have had an NDE or NDE-like experience iv, so an established base of “the NDE educated” already exists. Yet for this to have a more meaningful influence on society, the public at large must become better educated about them. For many experiencers, as well as for some NDE researchers, hearing daily international news is especially disconcerting. For them, it’s a bit like witnessing consistent child abuse in the home of an aristocratic neighbor, being ignored when reporting it, and powerless to stop it. For them, the inability to reduce injustices in our world is a nagging frustration. But without such knowledge, the level of awareness in our “thin veneer” of civilization is too low for mankind to “know better”. The cultural environments in much of the world are too poisonous; the hatreds too strong. If mankind learned what NDEers know, perhaps many of the world’s problems would evaporate. That’s where education is required. Simply telling the world’s population to believe that NDEs are real is as unrealistic as asking people to believe in alien abductions without personal evidence. After twenty years of serious independent study, perhaps government-level studies of NDEs would be useful. As recently made public, the CIA spent years studying the use of psychics to improve our ability to wage war. Our tax dollars have supported the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) which listens for aliens. Our space probes have (questionably, yet supposedly honestly) looked for evidence of intelligent life on our moon and Mars. (Some feel the three-dimensional “face on 6
Mars” indicates that intelligent life created it.) It’s at least as sensible to ask our governments to spend time and money researching what could help to educate the world to live in peace. NDEs deal with issues such as life after death, the meaning of life, spiritual realities, and other subjects usually addressed by religion. However, NDEs are not about religion in the sense that their effects generally enhance spirituality, and not one’s degree of being religious. Separation of church and state is not an issue. In a more “official” study, perhaps other nagging questions could also be addressed. We might find answers to ethical questions pertaining to euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment, reincarnation, and even a multitude of other laws, policies, doctrines and dogmas that currently guide people’s lives and leave them divided. NDE research delves into areas of science, theology, religion, and metaphysics. You might expect an author on NDEs to be a scientist, or scholar well versed in comparative religion and philosophy. I am none of these. As a physicist needs no expertise in alchemy to study nuclear fusion, an NDE researcher needs no lengthy background in traditional beliefs. Instead, I am a twenty-five year veteran electronics engineer with an unofficial minor in psychology, and skills in several unusual hobbies. Only science and “validatable” evidence have ever captured my interest for any length of time and ultimately left me impressed. After years of my own studies, details about NDEs have left me very impressed, indeed. This material should be sufficiently complete to be challenging to the most rigid skeptic, and thought provoking for the most orthodox believer. One reason for this is that portions of a large number of NDEs can be validated by comparing experiencers’ observations with events that could not have been witnessed from the vantage points of the experiencer’s bodies, as was the case with this writer’s wife and others known personally. When exposed to such phenomena, all experienced by sane and respectable people, ignoring or “writing off” the lot of them is naive. More on the validating evidence can be found in chapter four. I’ve conversed with many people unaware of the impressive details of NDEs. I’m conscious of the hurdles that many must clear before seeing their value. For this reason, I ask that readers reserve judgment until later sections are digested. In
fact, as already indicated, if the reader feels this thesis improbable enough to warrant discarding it out-of-hand, reading Chapter 4 first may prove mind-changing. As for this book’s purpose, I’d like to state what it is not. The purpose is not to entertain; not to offend or harm any person; not to make the author famous, aggrandize his ego, or make him a guru. It’s not to be the first in a series. And, it’s not to start a new movement. Instead, this treatise has been written to relate evidence and argue for its use. As ostentatious as it may sound, and without apology, the evidence indicates that with nearly absolute certainty, the near death experience is a real and valid phenomenon that reveals mankind’s true relationships with other human beings, and even with the “higher power” (or God, The Great Spirit, Allah, or Yahweh); Outside of having a personal experience, NDE information is likely the most authoritative source of spiritual knowledge (although certainly not the only) that has ever been available, and it could be the strongest unifying force for mankind in all of history. Rather “deep”, isn’t it? It wasn’t easy for me to come to these conclusions. For much of my life, I was an agnostic who had felt “put off” by organized religion. My tendency was to critically doubt anything outside of my seven semesters of physics. But impressive events in my own life, including a nearly-definite unsolicited contact by my deceased brother, and several close associations with believable and/or corroborated paranormal incidents, led me to acknowledge the near certainty of a spiritual existence. A decade after these, much persuasive evidence aroused my interest in NDEs. I eventually felt that if as much certainty existed about the projected doubling of a certain stock, most people would mortgage their homes to buy it. The apparent sense and practicality of NDEs, as they relate to mankind, aroused visions of their usefulness. As with Martin Luther King, I slowly developed a “dream”, and hence this text to explain it. But first, the essence of this dream. To understand the dream, suppose that the evidence presented in chapter 4 is a “given”. Based on this, I propose the development and refinement of a unique education and rehabilitation program for criminals and ex-convicts to attempt to reduce crime in America.
This is a logical effort, given the facts. It’s more realistic than the world-saving desires of many “new” NDEers; even a small-percentage improvement in crime commission would be considered successful. There are strong reasons to test the effects of NDE research on society. Among these related just to crime, one reason is that in 1995, American black teenagers had a 50% chance of being killed before their twenty-first birthday. Another is that in 1992, there were 6.6 million violent victimizations in the United States. A third is that in the same year, one in four American households were victimized by at least one crime v. To put this in NDE jargon, the perpetrators weren’t aware of their true roles in the apparent plan for humans. The reasons for first directing this effort toward criminals include: (1) incarcerated or paroled criminals are part of a captive audience (sic); (2) the outcome can be quantified, and; (3) the results would be newsworthy and could help to further the effort. The first test of this idea was on October 16, 1989 when then Professor Howard Storm, Chairman of the Art Department of Northern Kentucky University, related his near death experience to roughly 100 Dayton Ohio juvenile detention home inmates. They understood the remorse he felt when he was shown a review of his life, fraught with intimidation and selfishness. Their tendency to believe his story increased when one inmate stated openly that Howard wasn’t “lying” and that he’d had a similar experience. When the talk was over, four others from the audience privately told Howard that they’d also had NDEs. No official study of these inmates was made. However, from the dozens of questions they posed, it’s certain that their interest was serious; witnessing their rapt attention gave me the impression that properly presented NDE information could significantly advance the rehabilitation of criminals. From a more academic viewpoint, the sciences of criminology and psychology suggest a sound theoretical basis for this kind of rehabilitation program. Criminals tend frequently to have a similarity of beliefs that support their crimes, and a similarity of justifications for committing their crimes, including the feelings or facts that:
- their own and their victims’ lives are of little importance; - no one cares about them; - they have little reason to respect themselves; - they have little of importance to do or think about; - death probably ends conscious existence; and - life has cheated them and unfairly granted advantage to others. These negative attitudes and characteristics of criminals are sometimes countered by simple tenets that appear, from NDE information, to be nearly unquestionable. These include the following six points. 1) Every person is of great importance in the grand scheme. 2) Every person has others, on some level, who care about him or her. 3) Each person’s essence is not only respectable, but worthy of reverence. 4) Each person’s life and how he or she lives it are of great importance. 5) Consciousness and purpose continue after death. 6) Our life situations have specific purposes and opportunities. Because of the concentration on spiritual elements, there’s a similarity in this proposal to various religious programs which involve acceptance of a specific religion. One example of such a program is the remarkable work of Charles Colson which is based on Christianity. In an NDE-based program, rather than promoting beliefs based on faith, only information which comes from medical and scientific research is included. Related to this is the main crux of this entire proposal: Ultimately, this more scientific approach seems more likely to be accepted as factual and authoritative by a greater number of people. It strengthens the reasons for a criminal to behave in a more socially constructive manner. Let’s look more deeply at these tenets of NDEs. 1) Every person is of great importance in the grand scheme. Every person is purposefully here and has real importance, both to self and “the plan” that is glimpsed in NDEs. People with low self esteem profit from this knowledge as something to work from in building their confidence. 2) Every person has others, on some level, who care about him or her. These include guides and very likely loving deceased relatives, whose contacts are termed “after death communications”. “ADCs” have been found to be about six times more common 10
than NDEs. The apparent communication from the writer’s deceased brother, already mentioned, is one such example. See a book by Bill Guggenheim and his ex-wife Judy Guggenheim, titled Hello From Heaven! vi which reports on over three hundred such cases drawn from interviews conducted with more than two thousand ADC experiencers. Fifteen of these were reportedly supported by evidence to show unmistakable interventions. This writer’s mother-in-law and wife also had verified ADC experiences. 3) Each person’s essence is not only respectable, but worthy of reverence. Our spiritual essence (our “soul”, perhaps) is the surviving essential part of us that transcends this life; the part that remains conscious after we leave our bodies and looks upon them with detachment. No one is unworthy of respect on this level. 4) Each person’s life and how he or she lives it are of great importance. Without knowledge that this is true, many people, especially those without present caring family members, often feel that there is nothing of importance in their lives to do or think about. With a kind of twisted logic, following from this is the feeling that the consequences of one’s actions are equally unimportant. The opposite seems to be true, of course, and NDEers who have life reviews learn this most poignantly. 5) Consciousness and purpose continue after death. Those who think in terms of reward and punishment find difficulty relating to concepts of earthly-schoolrooms and after-death education and work, yet these are commonly indicated. 6) Our life situations have specific purposes and opportunities. NDEers who’ve experienced life reviews return with an understanding of the purposes and backgrounds of the incidents in their lives. Rather than these incidents being random or unfair, they’re characteristically seen as important to those purposes. A seventh and general facet of imparted knowledge leaves an anti-crime impression on the NDEer; namely that Negatively impacting another’s life is wrong. The negative impact of a person’s actions will evidently be experienced by the perpetrator, commensurately painfully, to educate him to the consequences of his actions, during or following the death process. The material on the life review in Chapter 4 speaks further about this phenomenon. The evidence for these principles, along with the noticeable life transformations caused by NDEs, comprise the plan’s foundation. Apparently, a broad-scale program 11
using scientifically supported spiritual concepts has not been attempted. On a small scale, as with the detention home and with a local drug rehabilitation program, NDE information has been presented, but its results have not been assessed and published. The program’s design is geared only toward the positive effects it can offer society. In contrast to an entrepreneurial venture which would be patented and protected for private gain, its details are unrestricted, with encouragement for involvement by others who can take it further, especially those more experienced and capable in the field of criminology. Success of the idea and carrying it to a logical pinnacle of usefulness are the sole motivations. Lastly in this introduction, to attempt to couch NDEs in a proper perspective, consider this hopefully relevant comment about human rationality. Throughout history, mankind has endeavored to become more civilized and to have ever greater knowledge and understanding. Astronomy revealed our position and size within the universe, but it, and all other sciences, left unanswered the ultimate questions of life. Only religion and philosophy offered explanations, and their disagreements have been notable; mankind has been plagued with “mythconceptions”. But now, scientific exploration has accumulated evidence for some of these answers; evidence that at least points beyond the hill, if not yet to the distant horizon. Is it not rational to examine it with the fitting excitement of a scientist? The nature of our reality is a touchy issue. Our cultures and traditions are persistent; our investments great. To consider other possibilities is disquieting for some; anathema for others. The “enlightened” and proudly “not superstitious” risk professional integrity with academic peers if they reveal interest in controversial topics like a spirit realm. But progress is made by opening new frontiers. NDEs are one example, with attendant proof of some facets, and “merely” considerable evidence for others. Congenitally blind people demonstrably “see” during their NDEs. Events physically invisible and inaudible are witnessed and corroborated. Others’ thoughts are sensed and validated. Events like these that are studied are shown to have validation at statistically significant rates. What more do rational beings need to pay attention to the likelihood that some answers to these questions of life are staring us in the face?
If the reality of at least some NDEs was put on trial, the circumstantial evidence would be overwhelming. Questioning their meaning would be rational; denial of their existence would be arrogant, if not absurd. This doesn’t mean that we understand the mechanisms by which the blind “see” under these conditions, or by which the typical NDEer can see, hear, and sense the thoughts of others, or consciously apprehend hours of information within seconds or minutes of seeming unconsciousness. However, as Sir William Crookes didn’t comprehend the existence of electrons when he discovered X-rays, we needn’t comprehend the means by which these things happen to acknowledge and learn from them. Mankind goes to great lengths to solve life’s riddles. We support research into theoretical physics to investigate matter. We erect huge directional antennas to listen for intelligent communication from other sources within our galaxy. We send pioneers into space to learn about our world, and praise their efforts as when President Clinton bestowed honor on the victims of Challenger 7 and “...all those that teach us our place in the cosmos.”, acts that NDEers and NDE researchers also do for us. We practically prove the “Big Bang” theory of the universe’s creation without seriously considering the source of the power that could generate such mass and energy from a pinpoint. Many have faith in their solutions to some riddles. In 1995, the Los Angeles Times reported that 90% of Americans believed in God, and 50% of them attended church. For these, NDE research provides additional reason to have faith in life after death, a spirit reality, and a caring creator. That’s affirming, but the NDE implications take us beyond a “feel good” mentality. They thrust us into a “get responsible” position where we’re shown accountability and obligation. If half of these phenomena are real and mankind doesn’t attempt to utilize their findings for the advancement of civilization, it will likely be delaying recognition of the Rosetta stone of human life. We’re all making a kind of trip, with some of us thinking we have a sufficient road map for the journey. When a seemingly more universal road map is found, some data of which is strongly supported by scientific investigation, we should feel bound to investigate further and test its universality. How better can we counter two of civilization’s most divisive influences - cultural and religious dissension? At some point in the future, a majority may begin to see the NDE as a phenomenon offering opportunity. NDEs may more likely be the “cutting edge of societal evolution”.
They are what may best reach those who have nothing to do, nothing to hope for, and nothing to lose. The world is perpetually hurting. Only knowledge and the quelling of ignorance can significantly ease the pain. Pursuing that end is one of our major responsibilities. So, this book is dead serious (no pun intended). The strong belief is that much can be done with this material, although much effort will be required to accomplish it. As global conditions change (for the worse, as many NDEers predict) or if crime increases, more reason may be seen to resort to a spiritually transforming catalyst for their mitigation. When more people feel the heat, perhaps they’ll see the light.
CHAPTER 2 - CRIME AND THE MOTIVATIONS OF CRIMINALS
The Problems Of Crime
In my studies of crime and the justice system, one reference which seemed to provide a good perspective was Crime In America by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark vii. From his statistics were the following, describing crime in the late 1960s. Several million serious crimes are annually reported to police ranging from car theft to murder, yet only about one in nine resulted in a conviction. For reported murder, perhaps three in four were convicted. For reported burglaries, convictions totaled one in twelve. In cities, where less than half of all burglaries were likely reported, about one in 150 of the probable total of burglaries resulted in a conviction. Robbery, involving taking of property with force or threat of force, resulted in only one conviction in twelve. These are low success rates by any measuring stick. (Of course, the amount of crime that would have been committed in the absence of a justice system is unknown and would be many times higher.) Today, America has an even larger problem of crime, and it’s now a frequent topic of the daily news. In 1995 there were approximately 1,100,000 inmates of federal and state prisons. These were people who had been caught early enough in their careers to have remained behind bars; this number didn’t account for the released criminals who continued their lives of crime, and it also didn’t account for first-time criminals still unknown to the justice system. What’s more, it didn’t include those who had been released because of prison overcrowding. Further, it said nothing of the great numbers of youth who were predicted to have been in the early stages of criminal careers. All tolled, these contributors were a significant percentage of America’s population. In 1995, this number of federal and state prison inmates was higher than for the previous year by 90,000, an increase of over eight percent. At this rate, (an increase partly due to policy decisions, of course), the doubling time for the prison population would be fewer than nine years, a doubling rate far faster than the exponential
population growth. Statistics like these may be the reason that the twentieth century has been called the Century of Violence, due more to the violence between people that has made our streets and parks dangerous than its two world wars. And, it’s not just our streets. There is more criminal activity at all levels of society. In 1992, domestic violence was a crime that could be found in one of every four households in America. This means that the average person was likely to know several people guilty of this terrorism and yet be unaware of it. Less common but just as hidden behind masks of respectability are child molesters, rapists, murderers and white-collar criminals. Exposing these people usually shocks those acquainted with them. These are incidence statistics. When rehabilitation is examined, the failure of the justice system seems even worse. In the late sixties, when there was perhaps one conviction in every fifty serious crimes (including estimated unreported crimes) only one in four went to prison, and most of those committed subsequent crimes. Rehabilitation was the only real chance to reduce crime and increase public safety, but the opposite continued to happen. At that time, 95% of expenditures in the corrections effort was for custody of criminals, buying iron bars, stone walls and guards. Only five percent was for health services, education and the development of employment skills. Nearly all federal youth center inmates were school dropouts; their incarceration generally prevented their continued education, which for most was their last chance for achievement. This nearly ensured their return to crime. Much of that crime was, and still is, aggravated by the inhumanity of prisons and the failure to rehabilitate those they confine. Today, conditions are somewhat improved due to what is being termed “new technology”. The 1994 Crime Law encourages innovations to improve community policing, prisons, and alternative facilities which include drug treatment courts and boot camps for non-violent offenders. The former includes outpatient treatment for those who comply with abstinence rules, and sanctions for those who don’t. The National Institute of Justice funds research in these areas and focuses on crime prevention, with methods that influence the behaviors of individuals in households, organizations and community groups. Included under this umbrella are a plethora of new programs such as Operation Weed and Seed which is to “weed out” violent crime, gangs, drug use and trafficking, and “seed” or restore these neighborhoods through social and economic revitalization. There’s the Comprehensive Communities Program which pays cities with high drug-related crimes to develop 16
problem control strategies. There are: the Interagency Gun Demonstration Program; the PACT or Pulling America’s Communities Together program; the SafeFutures Program geared to address the needs of youth “at risk”; and even the Tribal Strategies Against Violence program. Then there are the programs available from the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, The Interior, and a host of public and private programs from foundations and other consortiums. The point is that grand efforts are being made to combat crime. There seems to be no shortage of them. (Many of these had been tried earlier and found to be failures before the 1994 Crime Bill re-introduced them.) However, due to the magnitude of today’s crime problems, these and other advancements have seemed to accomplish little. There are more people addicted to drugs. There are many more guns on the streets, many among children. There are drive-by shooting, car-jackings, ATM hold-ups, credit card frauds, cellular phone and remote garage door code imitations, telemarketing scams, and computer invasions, to name a few, which are crimes that weren’t committed or available for commission thirty years ago. There is a greater incidence of date rape, elder abuse and gang crimes. There is greater exposure to violence on television and in movies. In short, perhaps some problems have been solved, but new crimes, the increase in population, the increasing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”, and other influences, have all made our lives more dangerous. Society isn’t evolving very well, at least compared to the growth in knowledge and technology. The intention to exact vengeance permeates our corrections system less than in earlier times, but increases in violence have bolstered hard-liners as the public becomes more desperate to increase its feeling of security. Not enough people yet realize that “balancing the scales” is a meaningless form of retribution, and punishment without rehabilitation only increases the incidence of crime. In addition to punishment, which the penal (penalty) system is to provide, there must be “penitence”, which is the supposed purpose of the penitentiary. The motivation to reject crime must come from within the individual, and from genuine remorse or repentance. Only true rehabilitation can produce this. Penitence has rarely been the product of the penitentiary. At least many of America’s criminals have “empty” lives characterized by frustration and despair. They perceive their lives to be so lacking in opportunity and charity that they harbor anger toward society’s insufficiencies rather than remorse for their own. For example, inside the federal system, seventy percent of 17
the inmates are never visited by a relative or friend, so they conclude that no one cares for them. As a result, after exiting prison, other’s lives are even less important to them, making them a greater threat to society. Prisons generally contribute to crime. Using prisons to punish exclusively causes more criminal activity, and is really a crime in itself. This mentality generates more cracks in society for people to fall through. It’s also extremely expensive. In a 1996 NPR interview, Scott W. Henggeler, a psychiatrist with The Medical University of South Carolina and the director of The Family Services Research Center, stated that the solution of the present juvenile justice system, which costs the state $40,000 per juvenile per year, is to throw together deviant, drug-using peers, and that “It’s little wonder that the kids come back worse”. When released, “they will perpetrate more crime”. If they’re sent to prison for adults, the cost is $400,000 for ten years. He added that “It’s expensive, we know it doesn’t work”, that the present system, exists “for political reasons” and “doesn’t do the kids any good”. “Political reasons” seems to apply, and the public seems to simply want revenge. Prisons are a kind of segregated community with isolated subcultures. They do little to train prisoners for release. The ex-convict is expected to be suddenly responsible for his or her food, clothing, shelter and employment, while at the same time being handicapped by a criminal record. It’s usually necessary for ex-convicts to rely on others until life becomes more stable. Half-way houses provide part of this function. But, having insecurity and a desire for pre-prison possessions, crime offers great attractions that can result in a return to crime and prison. Parole officers can’t provide sufficient supervision and guidance. Ideally, from the time a person is charged with a crime, the corrections system should work toward the day that the person will return to unrestricted community life. When possible, rehabilitation is the supposed goal of the justice system, using education and vocational training which can transfer knowledge and generate the ability to contribute to, and be part of, society. The concept of rehabilitation assumes that rational people, facing life with perceived opportunity rather than despair and injustice, will not injure others. The products of rehabilitation should be people who understand that society is best served by behaviors that don’t injure its members, and that a just society provides purpose and opportunity to those members. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have such a virtuous society, so present rehabilitation systems offer a limited solution. That is precisely the reason that the
lessons of life inherent in NDE information might achieve rehabilitation superior to present systems. Few corrections programs accomplish rehabilitation and concentrate on deterring younger offenders from lives of crime. It might be more profitable to begin with preschool and primary school children in high crime areas, and focus on children who have no parents, have been abused, are not in school regularly, or who aren’t learning. Other targets could be older offenders found in child care centers, health services, Head Start, youth centers, camps and athletic leagues. A useful test of an NDE-based program would be to add it to present programs and compare the results. This would test its abilities to counteract the irrepressible feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness of much of this generation.
The Motivations For Crime
It seems to me that the motivations for human crimes are power and sex, with money and ego as subsets of these. Historically, money has been the greatest motivator of crime, with seven of eight known serious crimes (as of the late 1960s) involving property. viii But other, less obvious motives exist. Some criminals crave the “high” that they experience from the danger associated with their crimes, and/or the fear expressed by their victims. More elaborate motivations can be found in the writings of “experts”. Some experts derive motives based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with criminals having the same desires for “things” as non criminals, but being unwilling to procure them without cheating. Others limit criminal’s motivations to weakness, immaturity and/or self deception. Still others say that criminal behavior is a mental illness. A few say that crime is a disease. Certainly, some crimes are driven by hatred and prejudice; others out of desperation to survive. To some, “survival” is supporting their addiction. If these ideas are accepted, the criminal seems to be one or more of the following: greedy, selfish, egocentric, full of hate, mentally ill, lacking in conscience and willing to enhance his life by depriving others, or immature in his inability to delay
gratification. Certainly for some, physical and mental deficiencies may be factors, leaving them with poor hearing, poor attention, voices in the head, brain damage, limited memory, or altered perception. Remember that the thesis here is that information about NDEs can make a difference to criminals and would-be criminals; clearly, not every person in these categories can respond to NDE information with reason and understanding. However, a significant percentage having one or more of these characteristics may be far more responsive. As for the crimes themselves, some are “created” by senseless laws (like those which make a great offense of smoking marijuana, an act which may be more benign than drinking) and corrupt police (like the epidemics of corruption which existed in New York and Philadelphia) which destroy respect for the justice system. To many, the law is an oppressor, and the police the enemy. In his book, Ramsey Clark elaborated on the conditions which spawn crime. His comments seem to beg for something as transforming as a near death experience when he calls for "a genuine revolution in human conduct - in the way men manage their affairs, deal with one another, and regard themselves.” He asserts that we have to “... change human attitudes” [and]... condition violence from ... people’s character.” Regarding environmental influences, he adds, “what must be seen is the dehumanizing effect on the individual of slums, racism, ignorance”; “...our greatest need is reverence for life.” Clark asserts that “The solutions for our slums, for racism and crime itself in mass society, are basically economic....If we are to control crime, we must undertake a massive effort to rebuild our cities and ourselves, to improve the human condition, to educate, employ, house and make healthy.” But with today’s economy, we can’t even begin with elimination of the slums. There isn’t enough money and productivity to do it quickly. Elimination of racism and ignorance, the revolution in human conduct, the need for a reverence for life - these are also unattainable by these methods; but, these may be achievable as a product of the kind of education one receives in an NDE, or learning about them. An NDE-based program geared to accomplish these ends is a tall order, and one that requires education and time. Beginning on a small scale with a detained and captive audience, such a program can be assessed and improved. It targets a critical group since, according to Clark, a most important fact is that 80% of all serious crime is committed by people who are repeat offenders. They begin their careers as teenage 20
high school dropouts, three fourths of whom come from broken homes. Half of all persons released from prison return to prison, and of these, many return repeatedly ix. If he’s correct, this program may be our “best chance”. Emphasis on rehabilitation may seem extreme, with insufficient attention paid to punishment, but there is an aspect of the near death experience which supports this thinking. More will be presented later in Chapter 4, but for the present, the following comment is pertinent. NDEs throw a different light on criminal punishment and detention. If the life review portion of the NDE awaits every human being, everyone will experience a kind of “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” penalty, except permanency. In a life review, the experiencer is shown the full impact of his actions from the standpoint of each person affected in the chain reaction, whether the effects were positive or negative. This implies that pain and suffering will be felt as fully as was felt by victims, making this tantamount to full and equal punishment with understanding of the errors. This could mean that punishment at the hands of others is redundant. Ideally, of course, such an experience would be best for society if it occurred immediately after the crime (or before the crime!) and not during the spiritual experience which apparently and usually occurs only after death. Short of that, education about such experiences could prove beneficial if convincingly presented. The purposes of prison, then, may best be limited to detention, preventing continuation of the criminal behavior, and rehabilitation, the nature of which should be education and treatment designed to prevent recidivism (the relapse into criminal behavior). That would greatly change the present purposes of our prisons. The education of society would likely be necessary to sell that idea and make incarceration so constructed. It’s better to educate than incarcerate.
What We Are Up Against
Consider the difficulties that many humans have in their environment. These people grow with little ability to discern rationality and sensibility until much of their young minds are set. This opens the doors to mental programming by adults and peers who themselves have had little chance to sort out life’s complexities and operate with wisdom and fairness, free of neuroses and addictions. Too often, programming and abuses produce varying degrees of biases, neuroses, insecurities,
nationalism, ethnocentrism, fanaticism and even mental illness. That’s “nature” for perhaps the majority of humans. As for attributes which produce crime, a major influence is the assortment of compulsions that commonly cause unhealthy pursuits of drugs and sex. Without people “knowing better”, or even having a real choice, their minds take on characteristics that shape their behaviors and characters, creating many of our social problems. Sexual compulsions are a major factor in many crimes, many of which stem from the “normal mental wiring” that causes attraction to others. Compulsions can be so overpowering, especially for male adolescents, that the concepts of relationship and love can be, and frequently are, distorted. It takes both intelligence and luck to guide children through this morass. The “natural sex urge” becomes a detriment and handicap that can be so uncontrollable that many people risk safety and reputation in its pursuit. Sex can be beautiful, and it can be an absolute curse. Some consider sexual predators to be the most difficult criminals to rehabilitate; perhaps dealing with them offers the greatest challenge to an NDEbased rehabilitation program. To illustrate potential problems that stem from ignorance of “truths that would set us free”, a comment by an expert is repeated here, almost in its entirety. Directed at President Clinton’s January 1996 State Of The Union message proposing to combat street gangs, remove drug dealers from public housing, and ensure that criminals serve 85% of their sentences, an NPR commentary by criminologist Richard Moran said that such crime prevention measures don’t work. He then identified what is probably the greatest cause of street crime. xxxii Professor Moran says that “Our current approach to crime prevention is based on the assumption that criminals are rational; that they consider the likely consequences of their behavior before deciding to commit a crime. As a result, raising the cost of crime through long prison sentences has become the central strategy of our war on crime. “But a recent book by Richard Wright and Scott Decker raises serious questions about our reliance on the rational criminal as a basis for penal policy. In his (their) study of burglars in St. Louis, the authors demonstrate that the decision to commit a crime is not the result of offenders calculating the cost and benefits of crime, and deciding that the risk of imprisonment is worth the anticipated benefits; rather, 22
burglars focus primarily on the rewards of crime, and, believing they will never get caught, rarely think about the consequences of arrest and imprisonment. The St. Louis burglars were caught up in street life. They committed crimes under intense emotional pressure to obtain money quickly. ”Although they often talked in terms of survival, the financial pressure they felt was not to pay the rent or purchase food, but the desperate need for cash to keep up with street culture. Life on the street is oriented towards the cash-intensive pursuit of getting high; keeping the party going. A regular job could not satisfy the need for large amounts of ready cash, and so most burglars won’t even consider working. “Indeed, Wright and Decker suggest that once a person is immersed in street life, there is little the threat of imprisonment, the conservative approach, or job creation, the liberal approach, can do to influence their behavior. Involvement in street culture, with its emphasis on drugs, sex, exaggerated masculinity, and living for the moment, is what fuels street crime. Unless we can find a way to prevent young boys from falling victim to the lure of the street, we might as well forget about the next generation of inner city youths.” (Emphasis mine.) The “lure of the street” loses some of its luster in the light of “NDE theory”. Living for the moment can be counteracted by the feeling that each person’s life is important; exaggerated masculinity can be countered by the increase in self respect that this fact generates. The emphasis on drugs and sex can be diminished with self discipline, based on understanding the importance of living with purpose and knowing the importance of treating others responsibly. The relevance of this information to influencing such overwhelming problems seems clear. It is begging to be applied. Indeed, many experts are essentially saying that there are no answers that can work. During a later NPR commentary, implying the hopelessness felt for programs proposed during the 1996 presidential campaign, Moran quoted himself saying, “Moran’s law of criminal justice is, ‘Any program or policy that you pass will either have no effect, or it will have an effect opposite to the one intended’”. He later added, “All programs work best where needed the least”. During one of his broadcasts, Paul Harvey quoted a high-level justice department official as saying that the only effective crime deterrent is spiritual revival. In a very real sense, for those who have them, NDEs are spiritual revivals. 23
One Possible Answer
This treatise asserts that with a mature program that presents the realities of near death experience information, significant rehabilitation of criminals and a reduction in crime are realistic possibilities. Needed is a curriculum similar to the prototype program appearing in the Appendix of this book. Further asserted is that properly presented NDE information can be effective in making prisoners and ex-convicts penitent for their crimes and aware of their apparent true responsibilities to others. Criminals’ main justifications for crime can be countered when they begin to believe that all human lives are important and that they are alive for a purpose, which purpose is extremely likely to be: to learn responsibility and caring for other human beings for as long as one is alive. That’s the simplest-terms message of the NDE. Many believe that world problems are so great that significant improvement is hopeless. But that has been said prior to many great advancements throughout history. In many respects, society has come a long way. In America, the concept of civil rights has changed to become almost universal in just one generation. In medicine, numerous diseases such as smallpox and polio can be completely controlled. In two decades, acceptance of smoking has been replaced by realizations of its dangers, and a new view of cigarette companies began in the mid nineties. Persistence by dedicated human beings does change the battlefield. Dare to think of what can be accomplished if the truths of NDEs become known by half the world’s population. During a trip to the United States, Pope John Paul stated that intolerance and fear of difference is the cause of cultural and ethnic problems and wars. Under the influence of accepted NDE information, cultural and ethnic biases cannot be sustained. With public exposure and acceptance as fact, quantum changes in attitudes may be inevitable. They are certainly desirable.
CHAPTER 3 - THE RELEVANCE OF NDES
As an engineer, I regularly receive several technical journals. In one, the May 1995 issue of designfax x, the Editor-In-Chief wrote a piece titled “Out on a Limb” wherein he spoke of companies that claim they’re “built on solutions” and developing their products by listening and responding to the needs of their customers. He commented that this does not spawn “new” development, and may be useful only if the company is updating a present line or addressing a new market. He asks, “...did customers know they wanted television before it was invented? Then why the hell are we asking them what they want now?” He predicts that asking customers about their needs will only bring about the next generation of products such as digital televisions or wrist-worn telephones, not new developments or products of the future. Large companies, he says, are afraid to take the risks of forging ahead into uncharted territory, and that “small outfits working out of their garages” are the unknown companies doing that job. He says that design teams in large companies aren’t creative due to prevailing fears and risks. This is analogous to other problems in life. History has recorded that many useful and popular items, including the telephone, were created only to find that initial acceptance was low due to lack of public understanding of their effectiveness and practicality. I expect that NDEs are another such instance, and that their importance will ultimately be realized by most people. This may require fifty years, added to the existing twenty years of NDE research. With impetus for life’s answers, which may be critical in a world that could descend into chaos, desperation could summon its benefits for humanity in far less time. Presently, most of humanity depends on inexpensive energy, the availability of supermarket supplies, running water, transportation and the chemicals that fuel it, fire and police protection, and not the least, an economy that can support a relatively low unemployment rate. We rely on the continuation of these “necessities”. In the 1970s, a perceived loss of a small percentage of our oil caused a rise in fuel costs and the temporary partial control of fuel sales. Shortly thereafter, I became aware of a video tape xxxiii made by Prof. Albert A. Bartlett of the Department of Physics at the University of Colorado, complete with Ross Perot-style 25
charts and graphs, indicating that our civilization was beginning to run out of available oil resources. Predictions by others were based on oil reserves and rates of usage that dated from the 1940s and 1950s. Dr. Bartlett claimed that the exponential rise in oil consumption, approximately doubling each of four decades, was not being noted by anyone speaking publicly about energy, and that actual reserves would be depleted before the end of the century if the usage rate wasn’t slowed. He warned that early steps were needed to prepare for this eventuality so that our economy would not stop due to lack of power. The rate did slow, largely due to OPEC’s increase in oil prices, and his latest video tape, made in 1993, revised this figure to sometime between 2005 and 2010. Of course, it isn’t certain that his prediction is accurate, but his plotted points are from accepted and published data. Even if oil companies reveal only a portion of their known holdings, for business reasons, limitations will still be applied sooner than the public expects. It was eminently clear from his quoted experts that the majority of the other’s predictions of oil depletion were grossly inconsistent, and on several occasions, absurd. The point of this relates to a phrase used earlier. We have a thin veneer of civilization holding together our society. If larger disruptions occur, and needs of many more people are not met, a pertinent question will be: How many more people will attempt to forcibly take what they want from those who (still) have it? Food, shelter, and fuel are our major necessities, and two of those are outside the control of most. In such an eventuality, the resulting deprivation and suffering may require more commitment and patience than was ever required during World War II, greater than our social advancement can produce absent an awakening to a higher ethic. Such an ethic is the essential message of near death experiences, a unifying force that conceivably could help to minimize the chaos of such a catastrophe. How much foresight, patience, resolve, initiative and energy will be available for maintaining the quality of our lives? The answer will always depend on the strength of our motivation, and the belief in its source. How relevant, then, is the NDE to our society? To the degree that something as strong and spiritual as the NDE can be accepted as a working hypothesis, not out of faith, but for the reasons that are given in Chapter 4, it is extremely relevant. It can help to ensure a great reduction in social evils such as abuse of children, spouses, the elderly, our planet and its resources; social ills like racism, prejudice, slavery, murder, theft, rape - you name it. More people would consider crimes to be unthinkable; unacceptable. The non-pathological, at least, would be inclined to grant freedom and security to others, and disinclined to maintain unfair conditions that stem from 26
misguided culturalism, religion and nationalism. As always, education is the best, and perhaps only, solution. Very realistically, we may soon face a choice to go one way or the other. (In fact, many NDEers claim to have learned that rough times are pending). The world economy may suffer a loss of confidence that would produce a world-wide depression, and for many, energy will rise to an unreachable premium. It’s possible that mass starvation in “civilized” areas of the world could reach levels currently existing only in the poorest locales. Some would survive by resorting to violence. Others would be inclined to meet the challenges through exhaustive, positive efforts. To avoid the potential violence, most of the survivors will have to be in the second category. The NDE provides the feeling of purpose necessary to overcome such tragedies. Many people pulling in the same direction can be a powerful and inspiring force. Considering the possibilities for future difficulty, the NDE and its messages of hope, caring, spiritual reality, and a real and meaningful plan for mankind, has unparalleled relevance. Finally, even if such catastrophes never occur, if NDE-based rehabilitation can reduce and prevent a significant percentage of crime, it’s relevant enough.
CHAPTER 4 - THE NDE ON TRIAL
Typical Accounts Of Near Death Experiences
Until the awesome and deeply moving stories of NDEs are common knowledge, it will always be appropriate to include some of them in any book on the subject. As is the case for anyone involved in near death studies, I’ve had the privilege to hear numerous accounts of NDEs that have not been widely told or recorded. For several years, through national advertising, I made available tape recordings of a nationally known NDEer named Howard Storm whose NDE had a negative or hellish encounter that preceded a positive experience. Through the 800-NDE-WORD phone number which people could call for these low cost tapes, I received dozens of calls from experiencers who were eager to relate their stories to me on the phone or through tape recordings or letters. What follows are portions of some of these accounts exactly as I was given them. [Include cases from my records - not included at this time due to the time required to retrieve them, and the fact that they can be “thrown in” later.]
Important Details About The NDE
For most people, knowledge of near death experiences has been acquired only from the readily available sources of NDE information. These sources include hundreds of national and local television and radio programs, tabloid newspapers, magazine articles, and popular books authored by a handful of experiencers. They have informed the public that NDEs exist, but have been largely unsuccessful in presenting them as more than a superficial curiosity. Particularly for television talk shows, producers have tried to present “both sides” of the issue by including a skeptic who argues for reductionist interpretations of the experience. Like a confused jury in a technical court trial, the public sees the experts disagree over authenticity. As a result, the common perception is that all aspects of NDEs can probably be attributed to biological processes.
One example of this occurred during a national TV appearance by Howard Storm. He related details of his profound NDE and was badgered by a skeptic who admitted, after the show, that he didn’t really hold such strongly negative opinions, but was invited to appear for the purpose of presenting counter arguments. But whatever impressions people retain from these sources, one dominant aspect builds public interest within those willing to consider NDEs seriously. That aspect is the fact that NDEs convey a view of death that is different from more common perspectives. Rather than seeming grim and devastated, the “positive” experiencers who claim to have experienced the first stages of dying relate the experiences as painless and accompanied by indescribable beauty, love and peace. As a group, they are not only fearless of death, but rather look forward to it with longing and anticipation. Their collective agreement about this, and the fact that this confidence doesn’t diminish with time are powerful indications that non-experiencers can expect a comparable destiny. It also powerfully suggests that deceased loved ones had similar fates, no matter how horrible their deaths may have been observed to be. If strong evidence can be compiled for these experiences, great comfort can obviously be derived from such findings, sufficient reason by itself to search for validation. Let’s review the main aspects of NDEs. Be aware that they range in complexity from brief out-of-body views of operating rooms or accident scenes, along with awareness of the nearly always experienced peace, added knowledge and heightened sensing abilities, to lengthy, detailed experiences requiring hours to recount just their general aspects. Those in the latter category contain information most suggestive of the deep meanings and implications of NDEs, although many offering evidence for their reality come from experiences throughout this range. Noteworthy also is the fact that these aspects are not peculiar to just NDEs. Occasionally, they are available to those who practice disciplines that evoke similar conscious experiences such as kundalini yoga, meditation, and even baptism that involves long periods of immersion which produce the initial stages of drowning. A synthesis of common aspects of detailed NDEs could produce a catalog of events that might read like this: Usually, but not always following a traumatic stimulus, a person having an NDE begins to feel a sense of peace and well being which remains or increases in intensity during the experience. Soon after feeling this peace, the person sees his or her body 29
(remarkably even if the person is blind when in the physical body) yet not necessarily immediately knowing that the body is his or hers. With more acute sensing capability, the person hears, sees and senses the physical environment including people’s actions, conversations, and often even thoughts. The person may be confused, or may realize a detachment and that it’s connected with a physical dying process; yet whichever is the case, the person is ultimately aware that what’s being observed is very real and not a dream or hallucination. At some point, the person may perceive a dual awareness in that another reality may be seen, either along with the physical reality or replacing it entirely, and that willingly or unwillingly, there is something drawing him or her into it. This other reality will usually have the character of a tunnel or a void, and usually will seem like a peaceful environment, although at times, the person will encounter beings at some distance who will seem fearsome, or as in the case of some negative near death experiences, beings who will be physically and violently confrontive. In this latter category, experiencers have related these events as being hellish, absolutely real and sometimes excruciatingly painful, ending only when desperately, or even prayerfully, requesting help. Following entrance into the other reality, at some point the person senses or sees a presence which communicates telepathically. This presence is often described as a light, or a being of light. A clear and explicit telepathic dialog takes place leaving the person with complete understanding. The person is often asked questions about his or her life, and a review of that life is often shown in detail, not only from that person’s perspective but also from the perspective of those with whom the person interacted. From this interaction, the person often understands the sources of problems in his or her life, allowing a new sense of self forgiveness and acceptance. Especially during this period of communication, it becomes clear to the person that in this other reality, time and space have no meaning, as inexplicable as this may seem. The person may interact with other presences or beings, some of whom may be deceased loved ones. The person’s interaction with at least some of these beings often includes ecstatic feelings of being totally loved, accepted and understood. The person is told that it’s not yet time for permanent passage into the other reality, or is sometimes given a choice to either stay or return to the physical life. Often, thinking of one’s loved ones, the person makes the decision to return. Upon making this decision, or sometimes simply unexpectedly, the person is abruptly returned to the body.
After re-entering the body, the person immediately loses all awareness of the other reality. Bodily sensations associated with that body return, including pain if the body has suffered trauma. The person finds it difficult to convey his experience to others, and often finds that the poor description offered is not believed and even taken as evidence of mental instability. NDEs which include the major and more detailed characteristics of this description are often referred to as core experiences. One researcher defines these characteristics, in more basic terms, as peace, body separation, entering the darkness, seeing the light, and entering the light. these attributes.
To gauge the implications of the near death experience, which
will be done later, it’s best for our purposes to concentrate on those which contain
Sorry, But The NDE Is Real !!
The “apology” is aimed at the first of two groups of skeptics which has attempted to explain the NDE as strictly a physiological event, and therefore akin to a dream or hallucination created by one or more of several bodily or brain functions. The other is the group which acknowledges that NDEs are real, but concludes that they are probably evil and intended to misguide “believers” among various religions. Although near death experiences are a matter of historical record, it’s difficult to determine their specific characteristics from reports made before the middle of the twentieth century. Rather than being scientifically documented, these reports appear as definite or probable other-world journey stories in Oriental, Mesopotamian and Greek mythology, in the works of Homer, Plato and Vergil, in religious writings such as the Christian Bible (in 2nd. Corinthians 12, 1-4) in Jewish literature, in Dante’s The Divine Comedy, in Shamanism, and in Gnosticism. Before the scientific investigation of such experiences, it was clear that something interesting was happening, but their reality and nature were more uncertain than they are today. In recent decades, as has been stated earlier, resuscitation techniques have improved and the percentage of people in the United States that has had a near death experience had risen to about five percent by 1982. That’s not an insignificant percentage, and it translated at that time to over eight million people, very likely including at least one acquaintance of every reader. Dr. Raymond Moody’s book Life
After Life began to educate the public about this phenomenon, and the debate about the reality of the NDE, which had been known to exist from the writings of Dr. Elizabeth Kübler Ross, Dr. George Ritchie and others, began in earnest. Since then, a great deal of material has been accumulated and studied. Two levels of research can be examined, one built on the rigors of the scientific method, and the other which examines specific facts from these experiences and considers the possible explanations for them. Both of these strongly support the theory that near death experiences are objectively real and not the sole products of psychology or physiology. Ironically, the research which involves the more rigorous and scientific treatment, although quite strong in its implications, is not as irrefutable as the more mundane and simplistic evidence. Let’s consider this one first. In this latter category, there is a plethora of documented cases in which the experiencer, after the NDE had ended, told others about observations made while supposedly separated from the physical body. These observations have included physical environments that were not visible from the location of the experiencer’s body, prohibiting the normal senses from being useful, and often have taken place while the person was, from all appearances, unconscious, or “clinically dead” at the time. Some of the best of many validated experiences come from the documented cases of Dr. Michael Sabom, a formerly skeptical cardiologist who interviewed a number of his own resuscitated patients for the purpose of finding evidence that they had not experienced an NDE. He was greatly surprised to quickly learn that two of his patients recalled experiences similar to those described by Moody. This persuaded him to study the phenomenon for five years in two Florida hospitals. In an attempt to perform a “clean” study, he and a colleague limited their investigation to subjects found through medical records alone, eliminating in the process subjects who were anesthetized or possibly emotionally or mentally disturbed. Of the seventy eight subjects who were victims of cardiac arrest, coma or accident, thirty four reported mystical or autoscopic (or out-of-body) experiences. (“Autoscopy” means “self-seeing”). Of additional interest is the fact that these reports were made during normal medical questioning during which the subjects were simply asked whether they could recall any experiences while unconscious. xii In another study, recounted by Moody, Sabom concentrated on thirty two patients who claimed to have watched their resuscitation from an out-of-body perspective. He 32
carefully compared their reports with twenty five “medically smart” resuscitated patients and found that 92% of those in this latter category had made major mistakes in describing their resuscitations while none of the patients reporting near death experiences made mistakes in describing theirs. xiii The statistical significance of this result should escape no one. Numerous other examples appear in the writings of several NDE researchers. Moody speaks of a seventy-year-old Long Island woman who was resuscitated after a heart attack. Although she had been blind since her teens, the woman was able to describe the instruments that had been used on her, even though they hadn’t existed when she was sighted. She was even able to describe the colors of her surroundings down to the blue suit worn by the doctor who had attended her. xiv Kimberly Clark-Sharp, a Seattle nurse and NDEer met a woman who had suffered a cardiac arrest while in her hospital. The woman had had an autoscopic experience during which she had “floated” to a third floor outside ledge and noted there a tennis shoe with specific wear damage. Kimberly was asked to locate the shoe to validate the patient’s experience, and the shoe was found exactly as had been described. xv At the fifth annual North American Conference of IANDS, the International Association For Near Death Studies, held at West Hartford, CT in 1995, University of Connecticut psychology professor and one-time IANDS president Kenneth Ring, related the nearlycomplete results of an inquiry into the nature of NDEs among the blind. This single study offers some of the most compelling evidence for the reality of NDEs that has ever been conducted. It was begun in February 1994 with the assistance of a Lesley College graduate student named Sharon Cooper and involved contact with twelve affiliates of the American Association For The Blind, as well as various national, regional, state and local organizations. After requesting responses from blind persons who may have had, or may have believed that they’d had, an NDE, or even an out-of-body experience, forty-three blind people responded, thirty-one of whom met the criteria for the study. One member of the blind person group was found through Kimberly Clark-Sharp and was included in the sample. The study was centered upon three questions. 1) Do blind people have NDEs, and if they do, are they the same as for sighted people? 2) Can blind people see during these experiences? 3) If they do see, can the NDEs be corroborated on the basis of independent evidence? 33
Of the original sample, fourteen had been blind from birth, twelve had lost sight before age five, and five had limited perception and were “legally” blind. The remaining eleven had had one or more out-of-body experiences, with the usual case being multiple OOB experiences. Some were blinded by the event which caused their NDEs. Of most importance was the fact that twenty of the blind people had had an NDE, and Vicki, the blind person furnished by Kimberly, was one of these. Vicki’s NDE was perhaps the most interesting since she had begun outside-utero life in 1950 as a 1 lb. 14 oz. 22-week-term infant who had suffered total blindness in her air lock incubator. It’s useful to repeat some of the components of this experience as they were related by Dr. Ring. Vicki had had two NDEs, the first due to illness and the second due to a car crash. The NDEs were the only times in her life that she’d been able to relate to vision. During her post-crash surgery, she was suddenly aware of being near the ceiling and seeing a body, at first being unsure that it was hers. She recognized the waist-length hair and her distinctive wedding ring. She heard a male doctor say that if she returned to consciousness she would likely be in a vegetative state. She tried to scream at them with “every ounce of strength” saying “I’m right here! I’m fine! Can’t you hear me?” She had a sense of upward motion, floated through the ceiling and finally to the roof, recounting that “objects were like nothing”, and that “It’s like the roof just melted”. She was aware of city lights, other buildings, and the street below. She indicated that seeing was overwhelming and even disorienting to her, and had a degree of unpleasantness. She was aware of “different shades of brightness” and afterwards wondered if that was what people experienced as color. Ring commented that the statements about her quality of seeing lend a sort of plausible authenticity in that someone not accustomed to sight would be confused by the initial rush of new information, yet would be able to discriminate objects or persons through familiarity with tactile stimulation or verbal construction. Other accounts within the study offered similar evidence for the capability of sight among the blind. Without reproduction of their details, the results of the inquiry that were available were generally as follows: 1) Do blind people have NDEs? Yes - the reports do show that they are virtually identical to those reported by sighted people. 2) Do the blind see during this experience? Overwhelmingly, they can see. Fifteen of the twenty NDEers said that they unequivocally could see during some aspect 34
of their experiences, and four were not sure and would respond by saying something like “Well, I’ve never seen, so I don’t know what it’s like to see, but I seem to know these things.” One person of the twenty denied being able to see. Also of interest is the fact that of the eleven people who’d had spontaneous OOBs, nine had claimed that they’d been able to see during these experiences, one was not sure, and one had reported being unable to see at that time. Ten of the fourteen who had been blind from birth or near birth reported being able to see during these experiences, seeing things from both this world and “the other world”. 3) Corroboration was difficult and only questionably possible in a few cases. Only one case offered strong confirmation. Ring concluded his lecture with a comment and four questions. The comment was to the effect that at least one team of researchers is attempting to replicate these findings (in Italy) and that confirmation will provide further, and very provocative and powerful evidence to support the authenticity of the NDE, by which he meant that we’d have more data that would make it difficult for people of skeptical persuasion simply to write off these experiences as hallucinations or some sort of complex fantasy. He added that he thought that this shows that not only the blind, but even those who have no history or concept of vision can, and do have classic NDEs of the form that Raymond Moody reported in 1975, and that at least in some cases, they reported these experiences even before Moody’s book was published. The four questions, and their generalized answers were as follows: 1) “Can we accept these self reports at face value?” Ring commented that since the overwhelming majority of respondents gave similar reports, and that these dovetail so well with the accounts that many sighted persons have given of their NDEs and OOBs over many years, the fact that there’s such concordance is very strong evidence for the veracity of the narratives, despite the seeming paradoxical implications that under some conditions, the blind can apparently see. He added that there’s no reason to doubt that these reports are sincere and truthful. 2.) “...In what sense can it be said that the blind see during these experiences, since obviously, their vision isn’t mediated physically?” Or, “Is it seeing?” Ring commented that this requires close attention, and cautions, in that the blind use verbs more generously, broadly, and with greater latitude than sighted people. He stated that these are language-mediated events, and that particularly for those blind from birth, it’s not as certain that their descriptions are a mere analog of physical sight, and that some of what they refer to is instead a knowing, or awareness. 35
Throwing aside a bit of caution, I tend to think that from the descriptions of many NDEers, both blind and sighted, details and perspective suggest that sight during NDEs is more like physical perception, or normal “seeing”, than a “knowledge about” details, since descriptions include such things as instrument readings and positions of equipment and people that seem to involve a perspective and location; similarly, “hearing” seems to be more like physical hearing than “knowing what is said” since conversations seem to be explicit to the words spoken, and since thoughts of people, also perceived, are understood and distinguishable from spoken words. 3) “Is it possible that any conventional theory can explain our findings?” Ring admitted that it’s tempting to resort to some kind of esoteric or paranormal perspective to understand them, but that we need to look at alternative explanations, including even the long-studied skin-based sensitivity, although this possible awareness cannot possibly explain all of the findings. It is a challenging phenomenon that is presently left to science to explain. 4) “If these findings are valid, then what do they imply about life after death?” Ring stated that at death, not only the senses, but the limitations of the senses are completely transcended, a statement supported by the opinions of blind people that they will see after death. In addition, people seem to become perfected, with conditions such as handicaps and added weight removed when “there”. There is a sense in these data that death restores us to our perfected selves, inviting us to think in fresh ways of the apparently unlimited potentials of human consciousness and understanding once we are finally free of the human body. As I’ve indicated, it seems difficult to “top” the findings of this study. There are those accounts with which this author is personally familiar, not the least of which is that of my wife who was accidentally shot in the early 1970s and who witnessed many minutes of detailed activities involving actions and conversations, in several parts of her house, of police, life squad members, a woman friend, and her then husband, many of which she was able to verify after her experience. Another is the experience of an acquaintance who teaches employees at the GE Aircraft Engines plant in Cincinnati who suffered severe injuries during an explosion while in Viet Nam. While undergoing and observing from the ceiling his post-injury operation, on a hospital ship he had never seen, he observed and then followed an orderly carrying his belongings, including his gun, out of that room, down a few corridors, and into a storeroom, to which he was able to lead others after his ordeal. Many more cases
could be cited to add to this list, but little would be gained if these are understood to be typical. So, what can be derived from these second category NDEs? We have to be careful to not draw conclusions that go beyond what the facts indicate, despite the strong suggestions inherent in them regarding life after death and the seeming universality of the experiences. At the least, however, we can draw two very specific and definite conclusions. Firstly, after reviewing the large number of cases which verify that NDEer’s observations were of real events, it is possible to say with certainty that these people were either (a) out of their bodies and observing objective phenomena with operational senses of at least sight and hearing, or (b) they were psychically aware of objective phenomena as if they were in the observation positions they claim to have occupied, whatever the means by which information was planted within their consciousness and became part of their awareness. The first of these suggests that consciousness and even sensate awareness existed separate from their physical bodies, and the second suggests that some kind of psychic capability reliably conveys detailed observational information during such an event. Either one of these speaks volumes about the incompleteness of normal physics in explaining our reality. Secondly, after interviewing many NDEers and witnessing their collective sincerity, it’s not difficult to think it likely that since their observations are so accurate, perhaps also is their testimony that, like these verifiable portions of their NDEs, the remainder of their experiences are also not dreams or hallucinations, a concept strongly supported by the very consistency of these other more mystical aspects of their experiences. A simple example of this is the fact that NDEers who experience spiritual events tend to adopt very similar philosophies after their experiences, no matter whether they entered their NDE incidents as atheists or highly religious people of any faith. These experiencers say that they do believe in God and have an appreciation for “the spiritual”, but in a way that is different from the more narrowly defined spiritual practices and doctrines that are characteristic of most religions. Instead, they explain real spiritual truth as being concerned with treating other human beings with love and respect, and not at all with doctrine and denominations. To take this further, several important aspects of NDEs seem to be not influenced by situations present in the experiencer’s life. Documented cases of NDEs cover circumstances of combat, attempted rape and murder, electrocution, near-drownings, 37
hangings, suicide attempts, etc. as well as a broad range of medical conditions. As both Ring and Sabom report, the lack of influence on these important aspects by circumstances in people’s lives remains valid for people of various occupations, social backgrounds, personalities, education levels, incomes, prior beliefs, prior knowledge concerning NDEs, or regions of residence, and note that studies have been made on NDEs occurring in South America, India, England, Continental Europe and Japan. Sex and race also show no relationship to these aspects of a person’s NDE. Most surprising is the fact, already mentioned, that this holds true for religious orientation as well.xvi Again, the significance of these facts should be clear. If NDEs were the result of dreams and/or hallucinations, the chance that the entire group of reported results would agree on these items of spiritual importance would be vanishingly small. So, based on this second category of research, a strong case is made for the validity of the near death experience. This evidence, along with the following indications of what the NDE is not makes these experiences compelling in the extreme. In the other category of research, NDEs have been studied to determine if their characteristics can be explained by one or more physiological or psychological phenomena. A certain amount of overlap exists among these phenomena, and some of them may actually be operative during NDEs. The question of significance is whether or not they individually or in concert can account for all of the validated aspects of the NDE. If they can, the importance of the NDE is greatly reduced. If they can’t, then either the present understandings of psychology, physiology and neurology are lacking, or the spiritual aspects of NDEs are real, and their information has at least some validity. Each of the theories has been addressed in an attempt to correlate the symptoms of each condition with characteristics peculiar to the near death experience. The proposed theories include the memory of birth; the temporal lobe seizure, hypoxia/ischemia, stress, and neurochemical imbalances; hypercarbia; hallucinogens; fear; mental or emotional conditions; autoscopic hallucination; subconscious fabrication; prior expectations; dreams; semiconscious perception; and coincidence. Let’s look at the evidence against each of these explanations. The first of these, the birth memory, is a proposed explanation of the NDE by astronomer Carl Sagan. He writes, “...every human being ... has already shared ... the sensation of flight; the emergence from darkness into light; an experience in which, at least sometimes, a heroic figure can be dimly perceived, bathed in radiance and glory. There is only one common experience that matches this description. It is called birth.”
One respondent to this explanation is Carl Becker, philosophy professor at the 38
University of Hawaii, who asserts that pediatric research shows that a baby doesn’t remember being born and doesn’t have the faculties to retain the experience in its undeveloped brain, and that in addition to that, an infant’s perception is insufficient to see what is happening at birth. Additionally, infant’s eye movements are rapid and disorganized, and vision would be blurred by tears in any event. Possibly of most significance is the fact that, during birth, a child’s face is pressed against the wall of the birth canal, not directed outward to lighted objects and people. A 1988 project undertaken by an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at the University of Chili was devoted to finding correlations between the NDE and several brain dysfunctions. He and another assistant professor developed a hypothesis based on research that was, as with many other medically based research efforts, purposely restricted in scope; in this case to neurobiology. Notwithstanding this restricted domain, it can be useful to investigate these possibilities because they may reveal processes that begin and/or direct aspects of NDEs; so, for understandable purposes, the researchers made a presumption that limited their model; in particular, they adopted the position that all thoughts and perceptions that accompany NDEs are hallucinations or dreams. This study focused on five identified brain processes or conditions including Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE), hypoxia/ischemia, stress, and two neurochemical imbalances, along with current understanding of the language system of the brain, to form hypotheses that would explain near death experiences. They claimed that the NDE is derived from “...the abnormal functioning of ... portions of the central nervous system”
and from this they developed a starting-point model for explaining the
NDE neurophysiologically, ignoring metaphysical and psychodynamic possibilities. They speak of “epileptiform activity ... producing a life review and complex visual hallucinations”, and that, as one aspect of the limbic activity (usually associated with memory, mood and emotion) becomes involved, there is “normal retrieval of stored information.” Their conclusion is that “The life review in the NDE can be understood as an abnormal retrieval of episodic memory contents by the dysfunctional limbic areas ...” and that “Out-of-body experiences (OBEs), which appear frequently in TLE ... can be considered as being complex visual hallucinations ”. They hypothesize that in the kind of imagery of past events that they presume to be operative, “... the individual always see(s) himself or herself from a ‘bird’s-eye view’ and does not have the actual somesthetic, visual, and auditory perception as in the actual episode.”
Their bibliography is long and their coverage of recent discoveries in neurophysiology is impressive; nevertheless, their elaborate theories about how brain problems could cause the “main experiential components” is limited to the presumption that near death experiencer’s views of the physical world and encounters with deceased and living acquaintances, many of which provide the corroborative evidence that validates their experiences, are completely invalid. Thus, their study cannot be “the whole story” although, as mentioned, some of these mechanisms may be operative during the NDE and may offer medical insights about what our brains are doing during these experiences. Their neurophysiology research is apparently respectable and probably employs the latest discoveries in brain functioning, about which I am unqualified to comment. From the standpoint of the breadth of NDE characteristics, these theories which find bases of support from known and demonstrable brain phenomena cannot account for the extraordinary and paranormal (or not yet scientifically explainable) aspects of the NDE. The most sensible-seeming perspective of such a study is that it may indicate possible brain activity during an NDE which could be either causative or associative. However, like the proverbial white crow hypothesis where it only takes one to disprove the thesis that all crows are black, it takes only one incident where at least part of an NDE observation is validated to show that it’s not all hallucinatory. As has been recently mentioned, there are many such cases where there is clear evidence that what was seen was real and previously outside the experiencer’s knowledge, as is the case with Sabom’s study in which the autoscopic descriptions by cardiac patients of their resuscitation procedures were accurate, and where at least some of these patients could not have “physically” seen what they described from the vantage points of their bodies. Similar thinking has arisen from the work of an early Canadian neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield who made surprising discoveries about brain functioning while treating his epileptic patients. While mapping the cortex areas of his patient’s brains, a now common practice which helps the surgeon avoid damaging the brain during surgery, he found that when certain regions of the exposed cortex of conscious patients were stimulated with a lightly charged electrode, the patient would sometimes report vividly experiencing an incident from an earlier time. The detail of the stimulated memory was so complete that the patient experienced the sounds and other stimuli as if they were happening at that time. This occurrence has led a number of neurologists to speculate that this phenomenon is responsible for feelings of reality that an NDEer experiences. Of course, this possibility was studied by Sabom who concluded that 40
such a generalization doesn’t conform to the facts. For example, his findings indicated that the senses of taste and smell are not stimulated during an NDE, but are stimulated during an epileptic seizure. Another example is an aspect common to a seizure termed forced thinking. This aspect is characterized by “the crowding of random thoughts and ideas into the mind of the patient in an automatic and obtrusive way”. Forced thinking is not present in NDEs. So, from these alone, as suggestive as it is, stimulated memory cannot be the operative mechanism of the NDE. In the mid 1960s, while doing assigned reading in neurophysiology, I was intrigued by Penfield’s work from the standpoint of memory data compression. It seemed questionable that brain physiology exclusively, with its billions of cells, and its interconnecting arrays of neurons, dendrites, and synapses, could lay down digital or analog memory sufficient to enable recollection of large quantities of information, “accumulatable” in multiple sequential time periods, and do so in a fraction of a second. We may not recall detail from a twenty-year-old incident, but if brain probing can stimulate such a smorgasbord of detail, the logical conclusion is that much of this information is still stored. Because modern computer storage media, including CDs, cannot approach this density, a storage mechanism with such capacity is difficult to imagine. Does the brain grow new synapses as information is collected? Are new brain cells modified or grown in eye-blink time? Can even holographic models compare in capability to the processes of memory? With whatever physiology it is building, it seems capable of implanting details of perceived events and allowing access of those data milliseconds after they occur. Mammals can’t grow cells to close a wound in so short a time period. Man is still left with little more than speculation to explain brain processes, especially the brain’s most complex one, consciousness. This and the dozens of other bodily processes and capabilities (such as the capability of eyesight) should “give pause” to even the most arrogant atheistic scientists who attempt explanations of their origins by gradual evolutionary variations that provide advantages to progeny. Arrogance tends to deny the possibility of an operational intelligence that cannot be visually identified or proven in the lab. Such intelligence, it seems, fitted into a theory of evolution, leaves too much unexplained to satisfy the theoretician. Even Darwin was aware of the difficulties with his theory. For example, a partly-evolved eye would be small advantage to its owner. There’s a large gap between a lightsensitive organ and one with imaging optics. 41
One aspect of Penfield’s work is even more interesting and is spoken about in a 1992 book by Calvert Roszell titled The Near Death Experience. xix He refers to a 1986 paper by Melvin Morse
in which Morse found case histories in a textbook by Penfield where
electrical stimulation of an area in the temporal lobe, just above the right ear, had elicited reports by patients that they seemed to be leaving their bodies. What’s more, stimulations of nearby surrounding areas led to claims of visions of deceased relatives, friends or of God. Added to that were claims of having experienced a life review and hearing majestic music. These histories seem to support the physiological origin of these aspects of NDEs, but again, the corroborated details of experiencers’ perceptions require more than what has been recorded in their brains. It is an exciting and provocative clue to associative processes that may provide insight and hard information to our understanding of the NDE. Similar reports of brain-probe-induced autoscopy are being reported by William Southerling, a neurologist in Los Angeles who may successfully compile demonstrable proof of out-of-body perception. Hypoxia, a condition in which the brain is starved for oxygen, is considered by some to be a likely cause of NDEs. Hypoxia is known to be a trigger for seizure activity in the limbic system. Preceding these seizures, there can be triggering of memory events. What’s more, hypoxia can elicit visions. In fact hyperventilation and breath retention can lead to visionary experiences, a state purposely created by early baptism experiences, as mentioned earlier, and even Indian Yoga practices. However, Sabom again produces evidence that at least some NDEs occur when there is no lack of oxygen and no excess of carbon dioxide as these were measured at the time of one patient’s cardiac arrest and subsequent NDE. Sabom further comments that hypoxia is characterized by reduced cognitive abilities, a state that is opposite to the clarity of remembering and thinking that NDEer’s demonstrate. As just stated, Sabom’s measurements of blood oxygen and carbon dioxide in one patient also preclude excess carbon dioxide, or hypercarbia, as being a cause of NDEs. That patient even reported a description of the blood test involved in making this determination. What’s more, hypercarbia often produces bright geometric figures or patterns, forced thinking, and hallucinations characterized by horror. xxi Work has been done to determine whether hallucinogens can produce NDEs. Indeed, it has been shown that drugs can induce genuine mystical experiences. Several researchers have provided evidence that in a controlled setting, drugs can induce religious experiences that are essentially indistinguishable from spontaneous religious 42
However, even if hallucinogens can stimulate an NDE, what’s
important are the facts that they are not the only possible causes of NDEs, and they do nothing to show that NDEs are simply psychological or physiological occurrences. Another identified cause of NDEs is fear, or response to the threat of death. A case in point involves a son of a friend and co-worker who, as a youth, fell from a tree and witnessed his fall as an event which lasted several minutes. During his descent, a lady in white talked to him reassuringly and instructed him to place his head and neck in a particular position to avoid breaking his neck upon impact. The report of his account included a comment by his doctor to the effect that his landing could have broken his neck if his head had not been so positioned. Another more commonly referenced case is that of a Swiss geology professor who fell about seventy feet while mountain climbing in the Alps. His and thirty other cases in which people survived falls were cited in nineteenth-century “euthanasia” books, which were forerunners of the hospice movement that originally attempted to show that dying need not be painful.
Professor of psychiatry Russell Noyes, Jr., and clinical
psychologist Roy Kletti, both of the University of Iowa, consider this a variation on the “depersonalization” syndrome in which, under such circumstances, people experience “vivid, racing thoughts, detachment from the body and surroundings, feelings of unreality, lack of emotion, an expanded sense of time, freedom from pain, calm objectivity, narrowed focus of attention, and sharper vision and/or hearing”; that this “... phase is sometimes followed by life-review elements and then in some cases by a stage of transcendent or mystical experience”.
Kletti and Noyes acknowledged that
these joyous aspects go far “beyond the mere numbing of depersonalization”.
Mental and emotional conditions can be linked to several aspects of brain functioning that are common to NDEs, and therefore their causes seem to be possible attractive explanations for them. Daniel Carr, a neuropsychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that the brain’s morphine-like “natural painkillers” may be responsible for the NDE. Sabom, however, found that the effects of one representative substance, B-endorphin, explain neither the complete absence of pain and discomfort, nor the sudden return of pain at the conclusion of the near death experience. Stimulations such as the sting of a needle and physical contact are still perceived in patients not experiencing NDEs. And, as just implied, if the chemical inhibitor effect were responsible for these losses of pain, its effects would wear off gradually rather than suddenly. Further, these natural painkillers produce a loss of
alertness and clarity of thinking which is the opposite of the states reported consistently by NDEers. Sabom’s work has helped to dispel several other theories that have been proposed. One theory involves autoscopic hallucination. In this condition, a person perceives his double, often as a haunting phantom image of the head and shoulders. This is far from the pleasant experiences reported by NDEers. The images are perceived as being unreal and mimicking of the person’s own body gestures. Autoscopic hallucinations occur in cases of schizophrenia, brain trauma, epilepsy, temporal lobe dysfunction, and even alcoholism, making the near death experience seem even more likely to be unique.xxvii A second very simple theory is that NDEs fulfill prior expectations where people’s fantasies are produced to satisfy conscious or subconscious wishes. A third and equally simple theory is that NDEs are simply dreams. Sabom found nothing in subject’s imaginations to support the details reported in NDEs, and as for dreams, he found that they differed most notably in that the sense of reality consistent with NDEs is generally not true for dreams.
Semiconscious perception is one of the most commonly offered explanations for the NDE because hearing has been shown to function during unconsciousness, and even nearly to the point of death. It has been speculated that sounds from the environment, including speech, are heard and translated into mental images. Sabom has referred to studies involving hypnotic regression where it has been shown that language heard in altered states of consciousness is not translated into visual images. More importantly, I think, is the fact that NDEers can easily distinguish between overheard speech and that which can be seen visually during their experiences. Coincidence is another explanation offered when NDEers report events which have been verified to have happened. Considering the single study of Sabom where resuscitations were described with essentially complete accuracy by NDEers, when a control group of more medically aware individuals could not achieve anything close to that degree of accuracy, the case for coincidence becomes absurd. At the 1990 international conference of the International Association For Near Death Studies (IANDS) in Washington, D.C., Dr. Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist and past president of the organization, addressed the assemblage. “...What we’ve learned in the past fifteen years, with all these tools, has been very little about what causes people to have NDEs. We’ve seen a lot of theories proposed, for example that NDEs are a type of toxic psychosis; that they’re related to insufficient oxygen to the brain; 44
that they reflect impaired brain physiology; that they are drug-induced psychoses; that they are dissociative hallucinations; that they reflect mental illness; that they’re a fantasy or defense mechanism; or projection of wishful thinking; that they result from denial of the threat of annihilation; that they’re a symptom of temporal lobe dysfunction; and that they’re an artifact of endorphin release. None of these fine physiological theories account for all the common features of an NDE, and many of them, in fact, have been flatly contradicted by the data that we now have.” This collection of proposed explanations is the basic set of theories to which skeptics cling. What can be said about them is simply this: all of them fail to account for the accurate and compelling information that NDEers can verify. One single example of many is the already-mentioned experience of this writer’s wife who was accidentally shot in the chest seventeen years before I met her. This NDE is the experience that is closest to me, and interviews with her and her family verify the detailed events she clearly saw while her body was convulsing and separated by walls from events she later accurately described.
Results Of Scientific NDE Research
The NDE is a difficult phenomenon to study in the laboratory. The reason for this is nearly obvious: the NDE cannot be observed objectively. Only the reports of near death experiences and the effects they seem to have had on the experiencer, can be observed. Troubling to scientists is the fact that these reports come exclusively from the memories of NDEers. That which they remember may not exactly match what they experienced, and what they relate may be changed or be limited by what they remember. Nevertheless, a great deal of information has been derived from these reports and from the behaviors of experiencers. A comprehensive explanatory listing of these items appears in a “Scientific Commentary” by Greyson, appearing at the end of Full Circle by Barbara Harris
which records much of the history of NDE research. Some
of the findings of his and others, only some of which have been mentioned earlier, include the following facts, reproduced as they appear in her book. NDEs can be rated by how many specific aspects were experienced in the four categories of “(1) a Cognitive Component which includes time distortion, thought acceleration, life review, and sudden 45
understanding; (2) an Affective Component, including feelings of peace, joy, and cosmic unity, and an experience of a brilliant light; (3) a Paranormal Component, including enhanced vision or hearing, apparent ESP, precognitive vision, and an out-of-body experience; and (4) a Transcendental Component, including encounters with an apparently unearthly realm, a mystical being, and visible spirits and a barrier or ‘point of no return’ that, had the NDEr crossed it, would have precluded his or her return to life.” Children have essentially the same kind of near death experience that adults report. What’s more, characteristics of the NDE such as the frequency with which people report NDEs and the type of experience that they report are found to be independent of age, sex, race, religious and educational background, previous paranormal or mystical experiences, prior expectations of death, prior knowledge about NDEs, type of approach to or brush with death, the level of consciousness prior to the NDE, blood oxygen level, blood carbon dioxide level, endorphin level, and mental health. It’s interesting to note, however, that people who expected to die had fewer Cognitive experiences; drugs reduce one’s chances of having an NDE; and thinking oneself to be near death may be as much of a stimulus to having an NDE as actually being near death. Despite the fact that near death experiences seem similar to hallucinations or dissociative states, its “aftereffects are uniquely profound, pervasive and permanent, totally unlike the aftereffects of any phenomenologically comparable experience.” Although suicide was presumed by some to become more attractive to people hearing about NDEs, the opposite has been demonstrated many times. And, as Ring found, NDEs increase spirituality, concern for others, and appreciation of life. NDEs decrease the “fear of death, materialism and competitiveness”. A decade ago, very little evidence existed to support the theory of star formation. With the aid of the Hubble telescope, we have seen the evidence of stars forming from gaseous clouds in the Eagle nebula. Science progressed from having no visible evidence to having clear and strong evidence, publicly reported in November 1995. Similarly, decades ago, mankind had very little of the enormous body of evidence validating NDEs. Today, one could take NDE testimonies into a courtroom and show stronger documentation than that used to win death penalties. It should by now be clear that NDEs are real. Of greater importance becomes the question of what is to be done with knowledge of them. Bruce Greyson, continuing his address mentioned above, added the following. “But I want to focus in this hour, not on the causes, or the, quote, reality, of the NDE, but on the more interesting question, and the more readily answered question, ‘So what?’.
This is the aspect of the NDE in which we’ve made our great progress over the past decade and a half. Many researchers, some of whom you’re hearing speak at this conference, have established, in study after study, the sweeping transformations in attitudes, beliefs, and values that often follow NDEs; such things as decreased materialism, and competitiveness, increased altruism and spirituality, decreased fear of death, and with that, decreased fear of life, and for some NDEers, consequent problems, reconciling their new concepts of themselves with their old lives. Even after you’ve been through a transcendental experience, been touched by unconditional love, experienced unlimited knowledge, you still have to deal with the physical world and its mundane problems.” He spoke of the problems this may cause for experiencers such as necessary changes in lifestyles, careers, and relationships; that family and friends don’t necessarily understand, or want the NDEer to change, and as a result, reject or ridicule the NDEer. After experiencing transcendental knowledge and unconditional love, a person’s values and priorities can change dramatically. For you, the reader, what would be, or for some readers, what is most important after such an event?
At this point, the
CHAPTER 5 - THE NDE, SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION
reader may wonder, “Why does a discussion of spirituality and religion belong in a book on NDEs and crime?” The answer is this: we simply can’t escape the fact that NDE information relates to matters of religion and philosophy. The “data” speak of life after death, of right and wrong, of love, the purposes of life, angelic beings, reunions with “dead” relatives, God, and the nature of our reality. These are at the cores of our religions and philosophy curricula. We also cannot ignore the fact that consideration of these matters invites an assessment of all cultural traditions and beliefs. From that, we can’t avoid the implications that if NDE information is “right”, then some beliefs are “wrong”. But that’s the very potential, the opportunity, and the very necessary result of all discoveries. Science will continue to refine old beliefs, and cause the downfall of some, like alchemy and a flat Earth. Examining ourselves in light of new information is a necessary process of growth. The pain involved can be great, and the willingness to do so can be absent. Among friends and family, it can cause disharmony. But facing new information honestly can put an end to the dissension and prejudice that divide families and even whole nations. Society cannot simply adopt an attitude of acceptance for all beliefs and behaviors. Islamic fundamentalist that machine-guns tourists, cults subjecting Tokyo subway passengers to nerve gas, and terrorists bombing innocents in Oklahoma are obvious examples on which most would agree. But widespread consensus on women’s rights in Iran, female circumcision in parts of Africa, and pre-arranged marriages is more difficult. Without trusted bases for judgment, these and the more “mild” injustices and disagreements, matters which similarly divide humanity with their more tolerated and subtle beliefs, may flourish forever without new impetus for change. Throughout history, mankind’s beliefs have been challenged by discoveries. When the Earth’s shape was found; when its position in our solar system and its minor galactic position were determined by astronomy; when its age was established from geology; when ten thousand other findings enlightened the thinkers, and then the masses, mankind advanced. 48
Similarly, NDE information is both advancing our knowledge and raising new questions. This is particularly true in science, where broadly accepted theories have effectively excluded the paranormal, and in religion, where broadly accepted doctrines have formerly excluded alternative thinking. Generally, NDEs strongly support the position of religion that the spirit reality in which it believes, really exists. If it exists, it has specific qualities, or has a specific nature, and that is simply the truth of it, for all of us. The truth about it has been elusive, however, and mostly a matter of faith. How are we to best discover it? We have to begin with the assumption that all people are subject to the same reality. We all live on the same Earth and have the same biological base, needing air to breathe, food to fuel our bodies, and similar climates to survive without artificial help. Except for the people who have reportedly transcended the process of physical degeneration, we all die. Similarly, whatever the “plan” under which we live, which plan is the basis of why we exist, how we came to exist, what our purposes are, etc.; that plan probably applies to all human beings. What is true for one is likely true for all, with some envisioned exceptions. For example, if reincarnation exists, then one could not conclude that all people reincarnate because, depending on its purposes and its results, it could be required for only some. Or, as is reported in some religions, Jewish people are the chosen or more advantaged group in the eyes of the monotheistic God, in which case non Jewish people are less favored for some reason(s), and that would simply be the fact of the matter (unless variations would exist depending on the percentage of “Jewish blood” or heritage one had, or whether that applied to the Jews of a specific time period, or whatever; clearly, such speculations can get as complicated as one’s imagination perceives such scenarios to be, and this very plethora of interpretations helps explain the myriad of religious divisions that exist today). If one considers the great diversity of religious ideologies, and supposes that there is basically one reality or one truth, then at best, only one belief or way of thinking could be exactly correct, leaving the remainder to have at least some error. Many members of major religions feel that their ways of thinking are correct. In extreme cases, they believe that “God is on their side” and prefers them over others, and sometimes even supports their suppression of others.
It’s interesting that of all the information that’s found from studying near death experiences, there seems to be nothing that ever supports vengeance, hatred, prejudice, or enslavement of one group of people by another. The fundamentalist that shouted “God is great!” while machine-gunning a crowd is worshipping a god that’s different from the unconditionally loving God that experiencers describe. So, how did at least some of mankind become so misguided? Might we speculate about this, in case it’s useful? It’s easy to imagine that the philosopher Holbach may have been correct when he stated “If we go back to the beginning, we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; ... and that custom respects and tyranny supports them in order to make the blindness of men serve its own interests.” Early man may have fashioned his idea of his god(s) from his dreams, or the desire to have more or less rain, sunshine, wind, lightning, crop production, or animals for food. There may have been a god for as many things as needed to be explained. He certainly had fear of the unknown, and when things went well for him, he probably expressed gratitude to his god(s). Presuming that god(s) controlled things, and that he desired a continuation of favorable happenings, this may have led him to attempt to have the god(s) favor him. This desire may have caused him to offer the god(s) what he assumed would be pleasing, thinking that if he offered something valuable, perhaps that would make the god(s) appreciative. The only choices of things known to be valuable would include food and life. So, sacrifices of food and living things would be given, but likely not just for “consideration” or favor. Since it’s easy to expect that unfavorable happenings would be considered punishment, sacrifices would also be made to obtain forgiveness. The blood of an animal could suffice, but if the desired favor weren’t met, a more important sacrifice could be thought to be required such as the blood, or life, of a friend or family member. Apparently for this reason, some ancient people sacrificed their own children. If that is the real basis of our background of religion, then it’s likely that the influences that shaped and narrowed this broad concept would be the visions and prophecies of religious teachers. There have been several of these, and their works became the bases of major religions, with plenty of history written about each for the curious. Today, each of the major religions has found increasing difficulty in promoting its faith, and three major reasons seem to be responsible for this. First, there is greater understanding of things which formerly were mysteries. We know that thunder is not 50
God’s voice and that lightning is not his spears thrown at us in anger. The second is existence of the group of faith-questioning natural occurrences such as earthquakes and floods that do us harm. The third is the greater independence we all have; many humans, at least, no longer struggle for existence. For example, unknown to most people in first world countries is famine. Medical science has cured or now controls many diseases. Comforts are provided beyond the dreams of our ancestors. Rather naturally, it seems, prosperity causes declines in religion. In short, people don’t feel that they need religion as much nowadays. We could add a fourth item to this list, which some would think deserving of mention; namely that in the name of religion, damage has been done. The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre is but one of many examples of horrendous religious cruelties that could be cited as generally having done harm. But, religion has fostered some of the best of mankind’s advances in civilization and selflessness, too. The real culprits are ignorances, biases, and beliefs in untruths. Unfortunately, they are still integral parts of some world religions. The “dark ages” are not entirely gone. As already implied, in contrast to depending on faiths and creeds, the information which issues from near death experiences is scientifically based evidence that gives us reason to have faith in an existing plan for humanity, stronger than has ever before been commonly available. That information is more powerful than an old and popular argument for the existence of God, related in the following hypothetical story. One day, while walking through a field, Dr. Paley stubbed a toe against a watch which he retrieved and examined, noting that it consisted of a complicated arrangement of wheels, springs, jewels and a balance, all neatly combined in a case fitted with a crystal. On closer examination he discovered that each piece of its intricate mechanism moved according to a definite schedule, making the hands move about the dial according to a fixed routine. He concluded that since he’d never seen a watch made, it had no maker, and that out of the bowels of the earth there came together gold, iron and glass and that these refined themselves, fashioning themselves into springs, wheels and a crystal, assembled themselves into this case, wound themselves and began to tick. A friend hearing of his conclusion called him a fool and told him that the existence of the watch is positive evidence of a watchmaker.
There’s an obvious problem to this analogy because the watch is not made from living tissue that has demonstrated the proclivity to evolve. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting concept that suggests recognition of the complexity of life and nature. It’s probably safe to say that God’s existence is a certainty for NDEers. Their experiences are a kind of spiritual awakening that has surprising similarities to religious conversion experiences (as opposed to religious conversions characterized by mere statements of faith). An interesting comparison is made between these two types of “illuminating transformations”, referred to by the NDEer and researcher Phyllis Atwater in her book Coming Back To Life xxx. She considers the problem of appropriate labeling to be one of semantics, and more a result of the opinions of others than any real differences xxxi. Her chart of differing semantics used to describe the same basic elements is reproduced here. Point Of View Basic Element The experience What it represented or illumination What it was A life force Words spoken Words felt Opinion of self The return Heaven Angel Message from God A Gift from God Chosen of God A mission to fulfill as God’s Chosen Messenger Home Light Being Conversations Telepathy Children of God, or Light Workers Unfinished business to complete or a job yet to do Religious Conversion Baptism by The Holy Spirit A new covenant, born again Spiritual Awakening Light of God Enlightenment or awakening
Much could be said about the ramifications of this similarity. Even more could be said about the various major religions and their parallels to, or disagreements with the NDE. However, it’s felt that this is the “business” of each individual, and that, as with the issues of certain victimless crimes, one’s beliefs should be of no concern to others unless they become sources of injury. One reason for this policy is the position that it’s not possible to judge whether one’s beliefs are complimentary to, and perhaps even best for his or her life’s purposes. However, this doesn’t reduce each individual’s accountability to the truth, insofar as one is able to determine that truth. 52
For example, Nazis and religious persecutors weren’t “in the right”, no matter what they believed. As stated before, this enormous body of evidence is indicative of the likelihood that our nature of reality can be best determined by studying NDEs. The information from these experiences could be the closest mankind can get to having instructions for living and ordering life’s priorities, and gaining knowledge about our reality. Without the advantage of such unifying concepts, of course, an entire spectrum of beliefs exists. For people on one end of the spectrum, life seems to be a series of random opportunities and tragedies. To them, it seems that if one way of thinking and living were to be “the will of God”, there would be a more trustworthy method of knowing God’s will or making an intelligent, conscious choice. Representing this outlook is a phrase Werner Erhard was fond of saying, that after speaking your requests to the stars, one could only conclude that the Universe has a benign indifference to humanity, and indeed all of life. Coincident with this is the thinking that inexplicable tragedies such as earthquakes or floods would not occur in a world in which God were truly interested. Despite these considerations, some people make assumptions about nature, stating that nature is beautiful and perfect without the influence of man. “Nature’s way” is considered proper, or almost pure; many have a feeling of reverence when they consider its supposed order and self regulation. But, viewed differently, “nature” is not so grand. It lacks much of the harmony that we’d like to see in our own families and society. Rather than being benign, passive and continually serene, nature is often violent and dangerous, frequently threatening life with earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, filling many of its inhabitants with fear, pain and suffering. This is the norm for just the natural disasters that affect humans and other earthly inhabitants. Consider the food chain and how the growth of most aware life is advanced by the consumption of another, all attended by fear, pain and at least momentary suffering. Fear must permeate the lives of many of these creatures to avoid predators for as long as possible. Survival is often a matter of skilled barbarism. For those less successful, frequent hunger is a painful reality. The point is that what people believe about nature in particular, and many aspects of life in general, may be illusions begging for scrutiny to be seen for what they are. 53
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the true believers who yield to their faiths without questioning the sensibility or ethics of their doctrines. To them, accepting the seeming chaos of life is simply part of inscrutable justice inherent in the “merciful” plan of God. When faced with the evidence for a different spiritual reality, some believers think that the entire group of near death experiencers is being purposely and systematically deluded by the devil. Oddly, the broad scope of life seen by many NDEers having the more mystical experiences, supports the thesis that our earthly lives are beautiful expressions of the plan of the Universe, or the plan of God, when seen from the other-world perspective, and that a somewhat fluid combination of free will and destiny direct our lives in their myriad directions. An interesting aspect of the information derived from near death experiences is that the plan that is suggested to exist is remarkably consistent in the reported cases, and is reported to apply equally to all humans, no matter their sex, beliefs, or race. It suggests that there is but one truth for all of us. (The word “race” may be a misnomer here because, as Bucky Fuller stated in his book Critical Path, there is evidence that all human beings are members of the same human race, with variations that have resulted from environmental and mutative influences only). Understand that most NDEers don’t just believe these things. They seem to know them. In a manner of speaking, they even become these things as they so deeply permeate their ways of life. Their NDEs become truly spiritual awakenings for them. Further, they maintain that their experiences are indescribable in our limited languages, and full of ineffable love and acceptance, beauty and knowing. After reading accounts of scores of experiences which are characterized by such phrases, the depth of this begins to “sink in”. For the sake of mentioning several implications of NDE information that are germane to the topics of spirituality and religion, we can suspect that a number of things are probably true. Here’s a short list of them, in no particular order. They result from my own limited research, and are not the outgrowth of rigorous academic study. 1) Death is not the end of our vital consciousness, but instead is a removal of many physical and consciousness limitations.
2) All living persons have access to further spiritual evolution after death, irrespective of their former beliefs and behaviors. 3) Our physical environment is very real, but also an illusion to the extent that it confines us and makes us unaware of the existence of other physical realities (if they exist) and/or non-physical realities, including the spirit world which has, at least, far fewer time and space constraints. 4) There apparently are opportunities to learn the results of our errors in behavior, as well as our proprieties, through reviews of them, following death. Learning these results involves experiencing the full measure of the results of treatments of others, first-hand, and as such could be considered tantamount to reward and punishment. People apparently finish this life closer to, or farther from the good, however, depending on what they’re ready for. 5) Life experiences run the gamut from meaningless to purposeful. Generally speaking, we can use them as means and opportunities for contributing to or taking from others, and for accumulating a large variety of knowledge, such as the real levels of importance of various aspects of our lives, how our thoughts and actions affect ourselves and others, and academic disciplines such as physics, psychology, medicine, theology, or engineering. 6) All significant lives are essentially spiritual entities linked to a creator, and to a very real extent linked in at least a cause-and-effect way, to each other. Our thoughts and actions are to varying degrees important and do “matter”, or “make a difference”. 7) No holy war, or aggression against another or others because of religious differences, is proper. 8) As with physical beings, there are spiritual entities that are ignorant and misguided and these promote the opposite of good, prolonging the process of spiritual evolution and human suffering. 9) It is right and proper for all living persons to contribute positively to spiritual evolution and the improvement of conditions on Earth. 10) Consciousness can continue into death uninterrupted. Because of the lack of a specific point of transition, it is “about” the point of death that one can see deceased relatives, spirit beings who may be guides (which are often assumed to be God, Jesus and other divine beings) and other planes of existence. 11) Many people have out-of-body experiences. In that state, they can hear and see our present reality (i.e. people, events, sounds, etc.) and be unaware of their own reality until something normally impossible happens (such as not being heard or not being able to touch animate or inanimate objects).
12) Everyone and everyone’s life is important. We’re all part of the same reality which is not to be feared. We have a time to live and purpose to our lives. With limited knowledge, we humans often act foolishly. We’re constantly being observed by spirit beings, or the events of our lives are in some way discernible. Many spirit beings are harmful. They can view our existence and environment, but we normally can’t view theirs. 13) We maintain our personal identities after death. We don’t lose the sense of the separate self or merge with a universal or collective consciousness.
Remember that these are simply conclusions from my own research. Extensive research must be conducted to determine if these can be strongly supported. Still, they seem to be reasonable conclusions from consistent information. As the daily byline from the Peebles Ohio newspaper states, “What can we reason but from what we know?”
What Do Skeptics Say?
In 1990 my wife and I attended a publicized meeting of a local “skeptics” organization. We arrived just before the meeting was to begin, so had no chance to meet and talk with other attendees. The meeting began with a short talk by a large, dark-haired and spectacled man who was almost effervescent about magazine and newspaper articles he was reading aloud. These articles spoke of events directed by people’s faith and beliefs, such as the death of a child who was denied medical help by a Christian Scientist parent, the promise that city crime would be reduced by a critical mass of Transcendental Meditation mantra-chanters, or the pilgrimage of thousands to a site where Mary was to appear. Some in the perhaps fifty-person audience were almost giddy in their enthusiastic response. After this opening of characteristic arrogance and sarcasm, another man presented a more narrowly-focused and lengthy exhibition on the ignorance of a superstitious mankind. No one near us seemed troubled by any of the reports or assertions; indeed they appeared pleased.
This talk was followed by a comment and question period moderated by the same large man who had introduced the speaker. Members of the audience began to add quips of their own. Their criticism of the spiritual and paranormal was complete, leaving no possibility for the extraordinary. I was moving closer and closer to feeling compelled to speak. There was no need to stand in that small room to be noticed by everyone. I have wished since then that I’d “packed” a microcassette recorder. Near the end of this show-finishing comment period, I raised my hand, as had others, for recognition. In a slow, even, and I might say even dignified manner, I told the group that with the great evidence that existed for several kinds of paranormal events, ranging from the statistical significance of psi phenomena studied by Dr. Rhine at Duke University to the strong evidence for the reality of near death experiences, I couldn’t understand how they could ignore those publicized events and presume them false. I mentioned my personal knowledge of events such as an instance of verified telepathy between a U.S. soldier in Vietnam and his fiancé in Rochester New York, and the ghostly appearance to a friend of her mother at the exact time of her death. For several minutes I was given silent and serious attention. That period was followed by one of the most memorable experiences of my life. In a cascade of response, several people in the audience, in succession, blurted out paranormal stories of their own, to the great displeasure of the large man in the front who was now being interrupted by his eager audience. A woman to my right said that she’d seen a ghost and wanted to tell everyone about it. Another person admitted to also seeing a ghost. Others, all now directing their attention to my wife and me, were competing to tell us of their own experiences. Some began to ask for comments from me, and I would limit my responses to something like “That’s interesting.” After five or ten minutes of this new direction, the moderator succeeded in closing the meeting with barely a topical closing, and my wife and I prepared to leave. As we rose and walked the few steps to the room’s rear door, at least a quarter of the audience followed us down an L-shaped hallway toward the main elevators, asking questions and making supportive comments along the way. Feeling disinclined to stop and field questions in a narrow hallway, and very aware that I had disrupted a meeting of otherwise zealous agnostics, we headed the group down the packed elevator to the lobby and disengaged from them with a parting wish that they include such events in their discussions. Most apparent from this interaction was the excitement displayed by this audience over the prospect of learning more of the truth about our existence. Seemingly equally apparent was their initial desire to comfort themselves by feeling that they “had it all 57
figured out”, possibly helping them to avoid feelings of uncertainty, fear, or perhaps even religion-engendered guilt. Whatever the psychological basis, this was a group that was searching for something, and inherently thoughtful about life. So, this is what at least one brand of skeptics seems to say: We hate to appear foolish, we want to be right, and we really don’t know what’s true, but we’re interested if you have evidence. In other words, these people weren’t really closed-minded - (they didn’t have “psychoschlerosis”, or hardening of the mind). Perhaps deep in their belief structures they tended to embrace the awe-inspired cosmic respect of Buchminster Fuller (expressed in his “Ever Rethinking The Lord’s Prayer”) and Albert Einstein, who wrote “Religion without science is blind; science without religion is lame”. (In any event, that applies to this branch of science.) When we’re honest with ourselves and others, we admit that we don’t know everything.
CHAPTER 6 - SUMMARY
Some of the earlier facts are briefly repeated here. However, it should be understood that this chapter cannot substitute for reading the preceding evidence for the reality of near death experiences. After millennia of evolving and slowly learning about ourselves and our world, mankind has objectively learned about a superphysical reality, of which we apparently are a part. This reality has been seen and experienced by millions of individuals who have had NDEs, or near death experiences. They have received information that few have formerly been privileged to learn, and carry back with them to this life without having the misfortune of being judged insane. Nowadays, with the application of scientific investigation, it has been found that the information available from NDEs: (1) with an extremely high degree of certainty, is real and valid; (2) very likely accurately reveals some aspects of the basic nature of reality to mankind and, generally, how people should live their lives and deal with others; and (3) can probably be used to advance the evolution of society, particularly in the areas that may be most within reach: crime and rehabilitation. From these, from my independent study of the literature, and from my personal interactions with “NDEers”, I assert that the presently available information about NDEs can be used to advance the evolution of society, most immediately and realistically in the areas of crime and rehabilitation, and further, that the details of near death experiences could be a stimulus for worldwide social transformation. The evidence for NDE authenticity is strong, current, extensive, and in today’s language. It has come from thousands of documented NDEs from all countries, walks of life, philosophies and religions. Famous NDEers include Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska, Debra Winger, and Jordan’s King Hussein. Helping to validate the evidence, and adding credibility to this book’s proposition that NDE information can promote criminal rehabilitation, is the fact that about five percent of Americans have had an NDE, or an NDE-like experience, forming a base of support for dispensation of information. 59
Despite the fact that NDEs deal with issues such as life after death, the meaning of life, spiritual realities, and other subjects usually addressed by religion, NDEs are not about religion in the sense that their effects generally enhance spirituality and not one’s degree of religiosity. This means that NDE information does not constitute a religious movement, and it is not to generate a following, preach a doctrine, suggest a faith, collect money, encourage gatherings, or require anything of anyone. From the nature of NDE information, it’s conceivable that NDEs could yield answers to ethical questions pertaining to euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment; even reincarnation, the origin of civilization, and a multitude of doctrines and dogmas that currently guide people’s lives. NDE information is so persuasive that it’s tempting to claim that, with almost absolute certainty, the near death experience is a real and valid phenomenon that reveals mankind’s true relationships with other human beings, and even with the “higher power(s)”. It’s further tempting to claim that NDE information is likely the most authoritative (although certainly not the only) source of spiritual knowledge that has ever been available, and that it could be the strongest unifying force for mankind in all of history. The reasons for directing this effort toward criminals include the facts that (1) incarcerated or paroled criminals are part of a “captive” audience, (2) the outcome of an NDE-based rehabilitation program could be quantified, and (3) the results would be newsworthy and could help to further the effort. The NDE information is seen as a force to counteract criminal’s attitudes that (1) their own and their victims’ lives are of little importance, (2) no one cares about them, (3) they have little reason to respect themselves, (4) they have little of importance to do or think about, (5) death probably ends conscious existence, and (6) life has cheated them and unfairly granted advantage to others. In an NDE-based rehabilitation program, rather than using characteristics of religionbased programs which promote beliefs based on faith, only information which comes from medical and scientific research is included. Ultimately, this more scientific approach seems more likely to be accepted as factual and authoritative by a greater number of people. This is the crux of this entire proposal; it strengthens the reasons for a criminal to behave in a more socially constructive manner.
Progress is made by opening new frontiers. In this frontier, congenitally blind people demonstrably “see” during their NDEs. Events physically invisible and inaudible are witnessed and corroborated. Other’s thoughts are sensed and validated. Each of these occurs at statistically significant rates. It’s rational to think that some answers to questions of life may be staring us in the face. Rehabilitation is the only real chance to reduce crime and increase public safety, but the opposite continues to happen. Major improvements have been made, but corrections efforts have received the lion’s share of expenditures. Too little has been available for health services, education and the development of employment skills. A large percentage of federal youth center inmates are school dropouts and their incarceration prevents their continued education, which for most is their last chance for meaningful achievement. This pattern fosters a greater return to crime, much aggravated by the inhumanity of prisons and their failure to rehabilitate those they confine. Additionally, facts suggest that “balancing the scales” is a meaningless form of retribution, and punishment without rehabilitation merely increases the incidence of crime. Using prisons to exclusively punish causes more criminal activity, and is a crime in itself. People familiar with poverty, slums, racism, ignorance and other causes of crime, identify a need for change in human attitudes and character, and a reverence for life. Such radical changes require radical influences such as religious experiences, or changes in philosophy, the latter which can be produced with effective and persuasive education. No increase in police protection can achieve this result. The life review aspect of many NDEs throws a different light on criminal punishment and detention. If this review awaits every human being, everyone will experience the “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” principle by intimately feeling the results of their actions upon others. The purpose of prison, then, is more sensibly limited to detention, preventing continuation of the criminal behavior, and rehabilitation, the nature of which should be education and treatment designed to prevent recidivism. The guiding phrase is that it’s better to educate than incarcerate. In today’s society, information from NDEs is extremely relevant and can help to ensure a reduction in social evils such as abuse of children, spouses, the elderly, our planet and its resources, and other social evils like racism, prejudice, slavery, 61
murder, theft, and rape. When people intimately understand NDE information, they tend to consider most crimes unthinkable; unacceptable. The nonpathological, at least, become inclined to grant freedom and security to others, and disinclined to maintain unfair conditions that stem from misguided culturalism, religion and nationalism. For most people, knowledge of near death experiences has been acquired from the most readily available sources of NDE information. These sources include national and local television and radio programs, tabloid newspapers, magazine articles, and popular books authored by experiencers. These do not provide a detailed or balanced introduction to NDEs. They have informed the public that NDEs exist, but they have been unsuccessful in presenting them as more than a superficial curiosity. NDEs convey a view of death that is different from more common perspectives. Rather than seeming grim and devastating, people who claim to have experienced the first stages of death relate the experience as painless and accompanied by indescribable beauty, love and peace. NDEers are fearless of death, and look forward to it with longing and anticipation. Collective agreement about this, and the fact that this confidence doesn’t diminish with time, are two powerful predictors that nonexperiencers can expect a comparable destiny. It also powerfully suggests that deceased loved ones had similar fates, no matter how awful their deaths may have been observed to be. If strong evidence can be compiled for these experiences, great comfort can obviously be derived from such findings; sufficient reason in itself to support validation efforts. NDEs span a range of complexity from brief separations of consciousness during which one may have a brief view of an operating room or accident scene, to detailed experiences requiring hours to recount. NDEs are most commonly accompanied by an awareness of peace, added knowledge, and heightened sensing abilities. Those with greater depth and detail contain information that is most suggestive of the deep meanings and implications of NDEs. A person having an NDE feels a sense of peace, usually following a traumatic stimulus, after which the person sees his or her body (even if normally blind) yet not necessarily knowing that the body is his or hers. With acute sensing capability, the person hears, sees and senses the physical environment including people’s actions, conversations, and often even thoughts. The person is ultimately aware that what’s observed is very 62
real and not a dream or hallucination and may perceive a dual awareness where another reality may be seen which seems to be drawing him or her into it. This other reality will usually have the character of a tunnel or a void which will seem like a peaceful environment unless the person undergoes a “negative NDE”, sometimes described as being hellish, absolutely real and sometimes excruciatingly painful, ending only when desperately, or even prayerfully, requesting help. Some time after entrance into the other reality, the person senses or sees a presence, often described as a light or being of light, which communicates clearly and telepathically, imparting complete understanding. The person is asked questions about his or her life, and a review of that life is often shown in detail from the perspective of the self and many of the persons with whom the person interacted. The person often newly understands the main sources of personal problems in his or her life, allowing a new sense of self forgiveness and acceptance. At some point, it becomes clear that in this other reality, time and space have no meaning. The person may interact with other presences or beings, some of whom may be deceased loved ones. The person’s interaction with at least some of these beings often includes ecstatic feelings of being totally loved, accepted and understood. The person is told that it’s not yet time for permanent passage into the other reality, or is sometimes given a choice to either stay in this other reality or return to the physical life. Often, thinking of one’s loved ones, the person makes the decision to return. Upon making this decision, or sometimes simply unexpectedly, the person is abruptly returned to the body. After re-entering the body, the person loses all awareness, but often not the memory of the other reality. Bodily sensations return, including pain if the body has suffered trauma. The person finds it difficult to convey the experience to others, and often finds that the description offered is not believed, or is taken as evidence of mental instability. Moody’s book Life After Life began to educate the public about this phenomenon, and the debate about the reality of the NDE, which had been known to exist from the writings of Dr. Elizabeth Kübler Ross, Dr. George Ritchie and others, began in earnest. Mostly due to the increased number of resuscitations, the percentage of people in the United States that had undergone a near death experience had risen to about five percent by 1982. Many studies have been attempted to determine the reality and possible explanations for NDEs. One method has involved attempts to verify the stories related by 63
experiencers, a task which involves a certain amount of care since NDEs are languagemediated events rather than repeatable laboratory experiments. These stories included observations made by experiencers while supposedly separated from the physical body. These observations have included physical environments that were not visible from the location of the experiencer’s body, prohibiting the normal senses from being useful, and often have taken place while the person was unconscious, or “clinically dead”. In one study, recounted by Moody, cardiologist Michael Sabom studied thirty two patients who claimed to have watched their resuscitation from an out-of-body perspective. He carefully compared their reports with twenty five “medically smart” resuscitated patients and found that 92% of those in this latter category had made major mistakes in describing their resuscitations, while none of the patients reporting near death experiences had made mistakes in describing theirs. Other studies similarly confirmed reports of out-of-body observations, and without repeating them here, the conclusions to them can be stated as follows: Firstly, after reviewing a great number of cases which verify that NDEer’s observations were of real events, it seems entirely reasonable to say with certainty that these people were either (a) out of their bodies and observing objective phenomena with operational senses of at least sight and hearing, or (b) they were psychically aware of objective phenomena as if they were in the observation positions they claim to have occupied, whatever the means by which information was planted within their consciousness and became part of their awareness. The first of these suggests that consciousness and even sensate awareness existed separate from their physical bodies, and the second suggests that some kind of psychic capability reliably conveys detailed observational information during such an event. Secondly, after interviewing many NDEers and witnessing their collective sincerity, it’s easy to think it likely that since their observations are so accurate, perhaps also is their testimony that, like these verifiable portions of their NDEs, the remainders of their experiences are also not dreams or hallucinations, a concept strongly supported by the very consistency of these other more mystical aspects of their experiences. NDEers tend to adopt very similar philosophies after their experiences, irrespective of their beliefs prior to their NDE incidents. They say that they do believe in God and have an appreciation for “the spiritual”, but in a way that is different from the more narrowly defined spiritual practices and doctrines characteristic of most religions. They explain real spiritual truth as being concerned with treating other human beings with love and respect, and not at all with doctrine and denominations. 64
To take this further, the form and content of NDEs seem to be not influenced by situations present in the experiencer’s life. As both Ring and Sabom report, this lack of influence by circumstances in people’s lives is valid for people of varied occupations, social backgrounds, personality, education level, income, prior beliefs, prior knowledge concerning NDEs, or region of residence. Note that studies have been made on NDEs occurring in South America, India, England, Continental Europe and Japan. Sex, race and (as mentioned) religious orientation also show no relationship to the nature of a person’s NDE.xvi Again, the significance of these facts should be clear. If NDEs were the result of dreams and/or hallucinations, the chance that the entire group of reported results would agree on items of spiritual importance would be vanishingly small. This enormous body of evidence suggests that our nature of reality may be best determined by studying NDEs. The information from these experiences could be the closest mankind can get to having instructions for living and ordering life’s priorities, and obtaining knowledge about our reality. From these same attempts at determining the reality of NDEs, investigation into all of the known proposed possible explanations has shown that they are insufficient to explain their characteristics. These possible explanations offered by researchers have included the memory of birth; the temporal lobe seizure, hypoxia/ischemia, stress, and neurochemical imbalances; hypercarbia; hallucinogens; fear; mental or emotional conditions; autoscopic hallucination; subconscious fabrication; prior expectations; dreams; semiconscious perception; and coincidence. An explanatory listing of research items supporting the hypothesis that NDEs are real appears in a “Scientific Commentary” by Bruce Greyson, appearing at the end of Full Circle by Barbara Harris
, a book which records much of the history of NDE research.
Some of the findings of his and others include the following facts (some of which repeat earlier information). NDEs can be rated by how many specific aspects were experienced in the four categories of “(1) a Cognitive Component which includes time distortion, thought acceleration, life review, and sudden understanding; (2) an Affective Component, including feelings of peace, joy, and cosmic unity, and an experience of a brilliant light; (3) a Paranormal Component, including enhanced vision or hearing, apparent ESP, precognitive vision, and an out-of-body experience; and (4) a Transcendental Component, including encounters with an apparently unearthly 65
realm, a mystical being, and visible spirits and a barrier or ‘point of no return’ that, had the NDEr crossed it, would have precluded his or her return to life.” Children have essentially the same kind of near death experience that adults report. What’s more, characteristics of the NDE such as the frequency with which people report NDEs and the types of experience they report are found to be independent of age, sex, race, religious and educational background, previous paranormal or mystical experiences, prior expectations of death, prior knowledge about NDEs, type of approach to or brush with death, the level of consciousness prior to the NDE, blood oxygen level, blood carbon dioxide level, endorphin level, and mental health. It’s interesting to note, however, that people who expected to die had fewer cognitive components; drugs reduce one’s chances of having an NDE; and thinking oneself to be near death may be as much of a stimulus to having an NDE as actually being near death. Despite the fact that near death experiences seem similar to hallucinations or dissociative states, its “aftereffects are uniquely profound, pervasive and permanent, totally unlike the aftereffects of any phenomenologically comparable experience.” Although suicide was presumed by some to become more attractive to people hearing about NDEs, the opposite has been demonstrated many times. And, as Ring found, NDEs increase spirituality, concern for others, and appreciation of life. NDEs decrease the “fear of death, materialism and competitiveness”. Even though these topics are usually what religion is concerned with, this is not a religion. As mentioned, it doesn’t matter what one thinks about NDEs or whether or not one thinks they’re true. NDE research is simply a collection of facts about people’s extraordinary experiences, many of which are usually important and even profound enough to be classified as spiritual experiences. It’s evidently necessary that the big picture of life is kept hidden from us, at least most of the time, to prevent erosion of the free wills with which we live. What many NDEers have learned from their experiences has allowed them to let go of much of the anger and emotional pain that they, like most of us, have accumulated 66
during their lives. As a result of their experiences, these people approach life differently, with new understandings and motivation to make changes in their lives. They feel that they’ve learned why we are here on Earth and what parts of their lives are most important. They feel they’ve been privileged to learn what they have learned. The message of the NDE is that our job is to grow in our ability to live with love and respect for others - to live according to “the golden rule”. This implies that, intrinsically, each person is no less and no more important than anyone else, no matter that person’s sex, color, age, mental ability, status, or sexual preference. This means that if you make someone a victim, it is an absolutely wrong action, and it will be part of your experience to feel that pain for which you’re responsible, after you die, or during a near death experience if you have one before you die. You will feel your victim’s fear, pain, loss, suffering, and even the pain and suffering felt by the victim’s relatives, friends and acquaintances. The evidence simply indicates that it’s extremely likely that NDEs are absolutely real and that we will all experience every good, and every pain that we caused.
“So, the NDE is real. What does this have to do with me?”
At the 1990 international conference of the International Association For Near Death Studies (IANDS) in Washington, D.C., Dr. Bruce Greyson, quoted above, said the following: “One way of measuring the progress that we are making in educating care-givers, and their bringing the awareness of NDEs into the mainstream of American culture, is by the nature of the questions that our critics ask. In the early period of near death studies, in the 1970s and the early 1980s, the most commonly heard challenge was something to the effect of, ‘Is this for real?’ As we enter the 1990s, few people still question whether near death experiences really happen to people who are facing death. Now, the most common question is ... ‘OK, they’re real, but, so what?’ This is progress. It reflects an evolution in the minds of our skeptics from an attitude of not accepting the reality of NDEs, to an attitude of accepting their existence, but questioning their importance or relevance. But this also reflects a change in the minds of the researchers as well, as we’ve come to focus on the experience itself less and less, and more and more on the meaning and after-effects of the NDE.”
This talk was given fifteen years after Raymond Moody had published Life After Life, the book that had brought NDEs to public awareness. Since then, thousands of experiences had been analyzed, characterized, and compared to others, and many of them had been partially corroborated by witnesses attesting to the accuracy of experiencers’ recollections. The vast majority were moving accounts of transforming experiences that individually were compelling, and as a group were suggestive of universal truth seeming to impinge on philosophy, ethics, religion and everyday life. NDE researchers guardedly hinted at possible implications for our lives. Experiencers develop deeper awareness and self understanding, seeming to operate on a higher level of consciousness. They share an attitude about love and life that is characteristic of enlightenment. Their thinking is often global, cross-cultural, and spiritual. By 1982, about eight million Americans had had an NDE. Bruce Greyson stated that focus was shifting to the meaning and after effects of the NDE. In fact, several researchers have proposed that the current focus of NDE research be expanded to move into a logical extension of this new focus; namely the possible practical applications of NDE research. This is not entirely new. In fact, two of the published principal objectives of IANDS relate to this step, as they hope: “3. To further the utilization of NDE research findings in such settings as hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and funeral establishments and in death education concerned programs.”; and with NDEs and their implications.” “5. To sponsor international symposia, conferences, and other programs
The second of these two relates to what is being proposed here, but it’s clear that the world hasn’t been ready to accept it. The U. N. has yet to convene an international conference on near death experiences. So, the question, “What does this have to do with me?” is a logical one, leaving people to wonder what there is to do with this information. In my opinion, the answer largely depends on a person’s life’s activities. For example, philosophers, theologians, and scientists certainly have new and pertinent material to study. And generally, others who have digested this material will always have the appropriateness of their treatment of others to think about. 68
In short, in light of evidence for the schoolroom nature of our planet and for the lessons we’re apparently here to learn, the general question is simply, “Are we living our lives responsibly?” We can examine the information and evaluate ourselves. We must collectively give up more of our impediments to having the world “work” better. For example, if we live in the Middle East, we must recognize the futility of seeing only as enemies the people who are our neighbors, the ancestors of whom had issues with our ancestors. If we live to embrace one race or sex superior to another, we can admit to the absence of support for this in the other realm, and infer that all human beings are deserving of all of which we feel deserving. There should be no need to become agonizingly specific. We can imagine ourselves in the shoes of another and see our impact upon them. Our responsibilities are probably as large as our levels of influence. Whether parents or world leaders, NDE information makes our free-will choices more clear. Given the broad range of potential impacts, we can’t afford the arrogance of presuming that NDEs have nothing to offer us. Remember: the smartest people learn from other’s experiences and can avoid the traumas those cause to themselves; it’s the more ignorant and hard-headed that must “learn the hard way”. It seems clear that one of our tasks as human beings is to positively contribute to our planet’s civilization. The more that we’re aware of this, the more we’re responsible. For people with NDE awareness, this task is better defined.
APPENDIX - A FIRST DRAFT PROTOTYPE REHABILITATION PROGRAM
In chapter one, the term “persuasive exposure” was used to label the task of convincing criminals that they were part of the grand plan for humanity. This task is difficult, requiring skill and understanding. In short, it requires good salesmanship. I have never felt qualified as a salesman, and further have had little experience dealing directly with criminals. Therefore, a superior program developed by an experienced psychologist and criminologist will replace the following prototype. This prototype is written to encompass a two-section presentation, with the two sections separated by a one week time period.
When you learned that Santa Claus wasn’t real, it probably made you angry. But when you learned the truth, you no longer had to worry about whether you were good enough to get toys for Christmas, or worry about being asleep when Santa arrived. You found out the truth, but then you were upset about it. I’ve heard about some kids feeling so disillusioned, so deceived, that they began to doubt everything their parents told them. But they were better off knowing the truth, weren’t they? Someone famous once said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will tick you off”; (at least that’s very close to what he said). The reason it will “tick you off” is that you will realize that you may have been wrong about something. You may even have wasted time doing something, or even thinking a certain way. But what will set you free is the fact that you won’t bother doing what you’ve been doing, or you won’t keep thinking the way that you were thinking about something. Has anyone ever told you that someone has mellowed? It means that they’ve changed, doesn’t it? To “mellow”, someone usually has to learn things that often “come with age”, and also give up some of the ideas of youth, or perhaps even immaturity of middle age. What do you suppose these people learn? What ideas might they finally give up? 70
When people age, they usually become wiser, and the things which are important to them change. They realize that taking the same chances that they took when young, are stupid. When I was young, and dating a very attractive third cousin, I wanted to impress her and drive my car onto the ice of a small lake back home. Usually by the time the tractors were used to clear the ice, you could be sure that the ice was thick enough to hold your car. But this time, it was earlier in the season, and when she figured out that I wasn’t positive that the ice was thick enough, she thought I was too stupid for words. She at least may have saved us from a big inconvenience. I “wised up”. After that, I wouldn’t think of trying that again if I wasn’t sure. So people get wiser with age. The Germans have a saying: We get too soon old, and too late smart. A mellowed man may realize that he should have treated women differently when he was young. A woman may realize that living forever isn’t an option after all, and wish she’d cut down on drinking, or smoking. A man may have decided that he didn’t need to be so tough, or be so concerned with his ego, or his image. He may realize that he doesn’t need other people’s approval after all. In a sense, these changed ideas help to make them free. If people are really free, they aren’t at the mercy of other people’s opinions. Life should “work”, or “work well” for everyone, right? So, why doesn’t it? Maybe as a lot of people have, you have the opinion that nothing in life seems to make sense. Maybe it seems that there’s no good reason to live your life any differently. If that’s true, and if that’s how you feel, is it because you don’t see much that’s absolute, or that there’s anything to really believe in? If someone found some believable absolutes, would you be interested in hearing about them? I’m talking about absolutes that I can show you. These are things about life that have been found out and basically verified. And it doesn’t really matter if you believe them or not. No one is suggesting that you have to believe them. They are interesting, though, and they fill in some gaps. Some people thought they were important enough to put together a seminar about them, so that you can know 71
about them. That’s what this seminar is about. You can make up your minds about them yourselves. It won’t buy you anything if you believe them, or if you don’t believe them. So, this is a seminar about some facts of life. Some of you already know these facts, and may have your own evidence that they’re true. It’s important to talk about them because they can help people to make decisions. It’s likely to make them more mellow, and wiser. Let’s look at some facts of life that we think we know. We know about relationships, right? We know what it takes to get what we want. We know we can trust some people, and we know we can’t trust others. We know we’ve been fooled in the past, and we don’t want to be fooled again. We know about money, drugs, danger, competition - you name it; right? We have all learned some facts of life. But many times we’ve learned different facts different from what others have learned. We’ve learned what we know from our information sources. Our sources for these facts have either been other people, or they’ve been our observations. We get information from others directly, or we watch the small amount of life’s big picture that we can see from our own small corner of the world. That includes watching the “larger” world that we can see on television and in movies, and hear on the radio, and learn by reading books and magazines. But think: when we learn from others, we’re learning from people who have learned from other people in their lives, and from their own observations. The problem is, those other people learned what they know in the same way. Obviously, there’s a limit to how much of this “learning” can be correct. There’s a limit to how well we’ve been able to know who’s right, and what is right, and which things in our lives are more important than others. So, what does this mean? It means that our own knowledge, our own answers that we find to life’s questions, are only as good as the wisdom, or the smartness of others, and the wisdom or smartness of ourselves in judging who’s right. We all tend to think that our answers are the right answers even though all of us, at the beginning of our lives, were totally ignorant, and totally helpless. That includes the people we look up
to; the people we get our answers from. Unfortunately, that often even includes our parents. By now, you may be wondering why I’m telling you all of this. I already told you that you don’t have to believe any of it. So, what’s the purpose of throwing all of these words at you? If you bear with me for a minute, I think you’ll understand the point. To repeat, it’s often hard to know when we have the right answers. It’s hard to have enough confidence and knowledge to live some way that’s good for everyone. That’s why our history is full of war and injustice. That’s why many of us carry on the tradition of being victims, and architects of pain and suffering, hatred, inequality, ignorance, superstition and fear. Because of this general ignorance, mankind has many cultures, religions, and prejudices. They cause him to hate, to fight, to deny opportunity to others for reasons that are artificial and downright stupid. Seen only in this way, the overall picture of the world is pathetic and depressing, and to many, hopeless. It’s no wonder that many people conclude that the events in their lives are random and that life has no purpose. These people conclude that if there is a God, he’s indifferent to our problems and couldn’t care less. Man hasn’t known what to believe. At times, some have had many gods; some have had one god. Some have worshipped and feared the sun, the moon, lightning and statues. Many have dominated and been dominant, enslaved others, and justified their most unethical actions. Based on the levels of our understanding, we’ve lived our lives in ways that we thought best for ourselves. But we’ve never automatically known what things are really true, and what things are the most important, even though by now we’ve progressed so far in medicine, psychology, science and technology. In our own lives, we’ve mostly wanted independence, respect and pleasure. For many, that has meant drugs, sex, and living for the moment. That gets us back to a question we asked earlier. If someone found some believable absolutes, or information about a real plan and purpose to our lives, would you be interested in hearing about them? If you are interested, you’ll probably benefit from learning about them. We’re going to tell you what some people have discovered. For those of you who know that these facts are true, you might verify that what we’re talking about is real. And during this
process, it might benefit you because it might help to explain more of what this information really means. So this is the first part of an education program. The topic is something that, probably, each one of you has heard about. About five percent of you, or about one out of twenty, have probably gone through the kind of experience that we’ll be talking about. For that five percent of you, this will be very, very real. It will “hit you where you live” because you’ll know without a doubt that the information is true. For all others, those who’ve only heard about this from television shows and magazine articles, it should be more than interesting. It will add to your understanding about this world that we all live in, and make you think about yourself and how you fit into it. The information we’re talking about usually is learned from an unusual experience. The experience we’re talking about is known as a near death experience, or NDE. This doesn’t include the simple “close call” when your car spins out on ice and you almost hit a tree. It also doesn’t include your simply going unconscious when you fall and hit your head. These usually don’t cause you to experience anything more interesting than having a headache. Instead, the near death experience, as the perhaps five percent of you know, refers to a kind of trip that you take. It usually happens when you’re body is in danger of dying, like when you’re in a car accident or having an operation. During this trip, some conscious part of you leaves your body for some length of time. When you’re out of your body, you find that you can travel away from it, and that you can see and hear just as you do normally. In fact, your senses seem so normal that for awhile, you usually don’t realize that you’re not in your body. These experiences are not new. They seem to be new because modern medical resuscitations, where people are “brought back to life”, have been common procedures only recently. For the first time in history, many thousands of people have “come back” from being nearly dead. It seems that when we finally die, all of us will have an experience like this, but at that time it’ll be a full death experience. At that time, if we all really experience the same thing, you’ll know for sure if it’s real. If and when you have this experience yourselves, you’ll know which things were the most important for the purposes of your lives, and which had little importance. Don’t you think it could be useful if you learned some of these things now?
In this program, you’re going to hear someone talk about their near death experience. You’ll also have a chance to ask questions about their experience, so while you’re hearing the story, you may have questions, and you may want to take notes to remember them. After a question and answer period, this first program will end. We’ll return for a second program one week from this time. In this second program we’ll see a video tape made by Dr. Raymond Moody, the man who discovered that these experiences were very common. He’s the person who coined the term “near death experience” or NDE. Following that, we’ll take a look at these NDEs and what they apparently mean to our lives. We’ll look at the implications for all of us, as indicated by tens of thousands of reported near death experiences. Before we begin, I want to make a few things very clear. Even though NDEs are concerned with life and death, even though they tell us generally why we’re here, and something about our spiritual sides, and how we can live our lives more effectively, you should understand something. You should understand that even though these topics are usually what religion is concerned with, this is not a religion. As I mentioned, it doesn’t matter what you think about it or whether or not you think it’s true. It’s simply a collection of facts about people’s extraordinary experiences; experiences that are usually very important and even profound enough to be classified as spiritual experiences. It’s not to take away from, or replace any religion that you may have now. And, it’s not to make you religious if you are not now religious. OK? The reason you’re hearing about NDEs is that it’s useful to society, of which you are a part, to make you aware of this information. We live in a time when knowledge about most sciences is quite mature, and yet we’re in the dark ages regarding life and what is real for human beings. For most of history, mankind has been groping in the dark, advancing slowly due to ignorance and superstition. When there’s evidence that can increase our understanding of our reality, we should study it and learn what we can, expecting a benefit. So, here’s your chance to hear about that reality. Here’s a chance to see the bigger picture. We’re going to begin with that talk by a near death experiencer. You have the opportunity to hear for yourself one example of the many thousands of reported NDEs. [Introduction of the NDEer speaker for the day.]
[Question and answer period.] You’ve just heard one near death experience in more detail than you’ve probably ever heard, even if you’re one of the five percent, or one out of twenty who has your own NDE to tell. You should realize that these experiences are so profound and so different from normal conscious reality, that you’ve heard and understood only a small fraction of the depth of _________’s near death experience. And, for each fact that is learned during these NDEs, many more questions come to mind as you realize that there are more pieces to the puzzle than you ever realized. Next week we’re going to present the second program on near death experiences. We’ll watch Dr. Moody’s video tape and talk about what these experiences mean to all of our lives. You’ll probably begin to see your life and your relationships a bit differently. In fact, just being alive may take on a different meaning, and you may see new possibilities for yourselves. And you won’t have to do anything for this to happen. Your expanded awareness is enough for this to happen. You begin to realize that we’re all in this together, and more things about your life may begin to make sense. In the twenty years that people have begun to hear about NDEs, many people have studied them and written books and articles about them. We have some of these, and we’ll be leaving some of them for you to read. More will be made available if you want them. Remember this: the only purpose of this programs is to contribute to your lives. You can take advantage of it without doing anything but thinking seriously about it. If you are one of the five percent of Americans who have had one of these experiences, which is what the Gallup Poll group found, you may feel that you’re ready to tell your friends about it, and that you won’t have to be worried about being labeled “crazy”. Start to realize that you’re here for a purpose, and that your life, and that means this life, is important. So save your questions and allow yourselves the chance to think about these things before next week’s program. [Closing good-bye.]
Hello, again. Have any of you had an NDE since we saw each other last week? (Pause for some possible laughter and relaxation) Would any of you like to talk about an NDE that you’ve had, or known about? (Pause - if no response, ask “Have any of you known about such an experience that a friend or family member had? If “no”, I’d say something like “That’s a surprise. When a friend spoke to about a hundred people in the Juvenile Detention Home in Dayton, Ohio, five people told him that they’d had an NDE themselves, one of which interrupted him to tell him so during his talk.”) You’ve had a week to think about what for most of you is new information about life. This week we’re going to provide more details about near death experiences; more evidence that indicates that they are real, and more details that show how they relate to the lives of all of us. From these programs, you’ll probably begin to understand that all human beings; all Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Blacks, Whites, Orientals, Mexicans, are like family members in a very large family. If you really see the big picture, you’ll note that we have many things in common. We all feel another’s love, and most of us desire relationships with others. We all want happiness. Most of us want to feel useful and needed. We all live and breathe. We all eat food. We all get rid of processed food in the same disgusting way. We all have to sleep. We all get sick; we all get tired. We all have needs in common, like being respected and being cared about. And there are other ways that we’re all the same. But instead of these ways making us feel like we’re similar, they make us feel like we’re alone, and separate from everyone else. One of these things is pain. We have physical pain like toothaches and headaches. But we also have emotional pain. We like to be tough, but no matter how tough we are, we all feel emotional pain, and that pain always feels very personal. Now, here’s a secret about emotional pain: it turns into anger. (Pause) Spend some time with that one. That’s a big one. Instead of allowing ourselves to feel hurt, we tend to become self protecting and become angry.
Here’s another big one. You can feel emotional pain with someone, and if that’s not resolved, if it’s not expressed, or if it’s not healed, it can turn into general anger toward other people, and even all of society, or life itself. (Pause) Can you remember feeling anger toward just about everyone and everything? People commonly feel that simply by feeling very frustrated. When we have emotional pain and anger, we often tend to feel isolated and separated from others. We don’t think about the fact that we all feel these pains, and we all have the needs they leave us with. Instead, and this is what’s important about this, we feel alone. Feeling alone can have tragic consequences. It can make us feel isolated and therefore self protective. In the extreme, it can make us feel like we’re all alone against the world, and that taking care of ourselves means that no one else matters, and that everyone is just “out for themselves”. Extreme concentration on this feeling can cause a person to justify just about anything. What we’re going to concentrate on here is that near death experiences show us that even though we may feel alone, we’re not as alone as we might think. You might have some idea about that from the NDE story you heard. We’ll talk more about that later, but first we’ll watch a video tape about NDEs. The tape is an easy tape to watch and lasts about an hour. [Playing of the Moody video tape “Life After Life”.] Did you find that interesting? That tape makes people think about their families, their lives, and what we’re all doing here. (Pause) Do you have any questions about what you just saw? [Questions and answers related to the Moody video tape - Allow at least several questions, taking at least fifteen minutes to discuss them; attempt a smooth segue to the following material.] So, maybe you get the idea that we’re not really alone, and that we’re not just living a life that makes no sense and ends in nothingness. It seems that our consciousness, our thinking selves, aren’t locked into our heads, and that we’re really some kinds of amazing persons, or spirits, and we all have an important future that most of us have been kept from knowing about.
But, you may wonder, if that’s true, why is that our reality, and how did we get where we are? Why weren’t we told about this so we’d know who we are, and what we’re living for? I wish we had the complete answer to that. What we do know is that if we knew all of these answers, if we could see that other world as clearly as this one, we wouldn’t be living our own lives and making our own choices. We’d be living as if one of our parents were watching every move we made, and that would make us like robots. Our life decisions would be based on what we thought this parent figure would think about what we were doing. We wouldn’t be totally free. And, if we weren’t free, we wouldn’t learn what we’re apparently supposed to learn from making mistakes, and we wouldn’t do what’s right because we wanted to do what’s right. So it’s evidently necessary that the big picture of life is kept hidden from us, at least most of the time. Rather than being separate individuals, living our lives as if nothing mattered, we instead are affecting the lives of everyone we contact, and these interactions become a permanent part of our continuous existence, or what you might call our higher selves; “higher” because these higher selves are aware of both our human and our spiritual existence. But that might still leave you wondering how things turned out the way they did. Let’s look at what each of us experienced when we were young. For a moment, think of our backgrounds. When we were very young we began to experience emotional pain. We felt this pain when we didn’t get what we needed and wanted. We needed attention. We needed to be held. Soon we needed to be accepted. We wanted to play, and we wanted to feel safe and secure. I’ve known a lot of people who felt emotional pain from a young age. I had my share too, but I was luckier than many others. If we were lucky, the only fears we had were fears that we wouldn’t be fed and get attention. We were warm enough when it was cold outside, and cool enough when it was hot; we got our diapers changed and we were held. If we weren’t so lucky, we probably weren’t given enough attention, or we weren’t held, and when we cried we were left alone. At some point, we decided that no one cared for us. In the environments of abuse, neglect, alcoholism and mental illness, many of us felt alone and isolated, and many of our early problems were caused by these situations. But 79
here’s the important part - They were absolutely not our faults. Feeling alone and not cared for may have left us with the feeling that there was no sense to life and nothing important for our lives. But what we can tell you from NDE research is that despite all of these things, people who have NDEs get an understanding of why many of these things happened. They understand that we’re all basically the same, and “we’re all in the same boat”, even though many of us have advantages and disadvantages not shared by others. But most importantly, they understand the real importance of their lives and the lives of others, even if bad things happened to them. I personally know many cases where this is true, and many recorded experiences of others indicate that it’s true for them too. This understanding has allowed many NDEers to let go of much of their anger and emotional pain. These people approach life differently and have new understandings and motivation to make changes in their lives. Without this knowledge that we derive from NDEs, we often respond to feeling fear and alone in the best way that we know. For a lot of us, one way we try to feel safe is to seem stronger and more powerful than others. We want to be seen as dangerous and threatening because it increases our chances of avoiding pain; of being hurt. In fact, it feels good to do this, and it gets us attention that feels like respect, which everyone wants. Just as it is in school, we get respect when we project ourselves as individuals, and not the same as everyone else. But think of the many people that express their individuality by acting and looking like their friends. We can’t admit to ourselves or anyone else that we just want to be accepted, liked and cared for. We can’t admit that, because that sounds weak. It sounds needy, and it sounds powerless. We don’t recognize that we’re simply trying to avoid emotional pain. We don’t quickly learn that our relationships with others become more real and satisfying when we’re just ourselves. In a near death experience, all that is false becomes obvious. The real truths are seen. An NDEer gains an understanding, or a knowing that we’re all pathetically living our lives in varying degrees of ignorance, and responding to pressures that result from our needs and backgrounds. That knowing includes the understanding that no matter how we live, or how little satisfaction we get from our lives, the essence of us, the “who we really are”, is the same.
From these NDE stories, think about what the person was saying about human life. Think about the new understandings these persons are given. Think of how we all have egos and want to feel important and respected; how we all have human feelings and want to be accepted and cared for. Think of how much we try to avoid the pain of living. We work hard at these things. We hurt others to get respect and avoid being dominated by others. We have so much pain that we drug ourselves to feel good. We want respect so much that we try to appear better, richer, tougher and more important than others. To do this, some of us have stolen, fought, or terrorized. Some of us have dominated, used and controlled women. And this is not just true of us, here and now. It is and was true for our parents, our grandparents and all of our other ancestors. Does this help to clarify why we are in these life situations? To the NDEer, these kinds of things become clear by experiencing them. To justify these things, we have some even more common attitudes. For many of us, other’s lives just don’t matter because we feel victimized by our families, or even all of society. We feel that no one cares about us anyway, so there’s nothing wrong with thinking only of ourselves. Again, the near death experiencer sees this, understanding this as an observer who is outside of himself and outside of human life. This overview is very consistent from one experiencer to another and provides a true picture. So, there’s strong evidence that we’re all very similar. When I use the word evidence, I mean scientific evidence, and I want to stress several things about this evidence at the start. Let’s go over some important details to put this into perspective. This information talks about death; your death; my death. It talks about what is reported, in thousands of cases, by people who have either been dead or on their way to being permanently dead. Because so many have experienced this, and because NDEs are at least part of public knowledge, movies such as Ghost and Flatliners have been made. As in the latter movie, some people have had no measurable brain activity for at least several minutes. As you’ve seen, some have had no heartbeat for several minutes, and some have had death certificates made out for them and they’ve been delivered to the morgue. All of these people have come back to life and became as alive as you and I, except that they have seen things, heard things, and learned things that were taught to them about their lives and what happens to us at death. We know that these things aren’t hallucinations because (1) despite people’s original beliefs, the NDEs are so similar, (2) many parts of them have been verified, and (3) medical evidence argues 81
against their being hallucinations. They have learned why we are here on Earth and what parts of their lives are most important. They feel they’ve been privileged to learn what they learned. My opinion is that anyone who hears the true facts about these experiences is also privileged. It can save us a lot of time. As you have heard from the tape, parts of many near death experiences have been verified scientifically. Some of what NDEers have reported that they saw and heard, is information that they could not have known if their consciousness had been confined to their bodies. NDEers often report that they moved around and viewed activities in places far away from their bodies, and their observations consistently checked out with those they viewed. This was true with my wife, who, during a previous marriage, accidentally shot herself in the chest and found herself near the ceiling, painlessly watching the life squad work on her convulsing body, watching the police interrogate her husband in another room, and observing everything that was going on in and around the house, until she returned to her body and experienced great pain from her wounds that were caused by a hollow point bullet. This was also true for a manager at GE who told me about a grenade attack in Viet Nam that nearly killed him. From a position above an operating table on a medical ship, he watched doctors operate on his comatose body, and he followed an orderly who carried his belongings down several hallways to a storage room, all of which he had never seen before. After his recovery, to the surprise of the medical staff, he was able to describe these details and take them to the room where his belongings had been stored. Let’s look at the characteristics of the near death experience, as they are described in an article written by Dr. Moody. [Readings from an article which appeared in the May/June 1988 NEW AGE magazine.] [Questions and answers related to the Moody article.] It’s time for the final part of this program which concentrates on the implications of near death experiences. For people who’ve had them personally, most of these are practically obvious. For those who intelligently learn from others’ experiences, rather than wait to “learn things the hard way”, the information may be understood, but the implications may not be as obvious. For this reason, some of these implications will be stated as guidelines for living the way that NDEs imply that we should live.
When considering these guidelines, remember that an important part of NDEs, when they extend far enough for people to have it, is the life review. The life review is characterized by people intimately feeling not only their own pains and pleasures that they experienced during all of the experiences of their lives, but the pains and pleasures that they caused in others, just as if they were the other persons who had felt them. This includes everything that people feel from human interactions - physical pain and pleasure, and emotional pain and pleasure, from which the experiencer understands his life with an impact that is greater than the intensity and clarity that would be produced by any kind of punishment and reward. This provides the teaching. This closes the loop. So, what should this mean to intelligent people who hear these details? The basic message of the NDE is that it’s our job to grow in our ability to live with love and respect for others, granting to them the freedom, respect and dignity that is within our power to extend to them. A juvenile adage essentially expressing that saying, is the golden rule, or “treat others as you would like to be treated”. This implies that intrinsically, each person is no less and no more important than anyone else, no matter that person’s sex, color, age, mental ability, or sexual preference. This further means that when you make someone a victim, it is an absolutely wrong action, and it will be part of your experience to feel that pain for which you’re responsible after you die, or during a near death experience if you have one before you die. You will feel your victim’s fear, pain, loss, suffering, and even the pain and suffering felt by the relatives, friends and acquaintances of that victim. The evidence simply shows that it’s extremely likely that NDEs are absolutely and completely real, and that it’s extremely likely that you will experience every good, and every pain you caused. Can you imagine what was in store for Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin when they died? Since NDEs indicate that Earth is like a schoolroom for us, and that learning to interrelate with others in a caring way is the fundamental lesson to be learned, for our own good, it means that not learning the lessons retards our own progress in this overall plan. Related theories, with their own evidence, suggest that what we don’t learn and accomplish during this chance to “get it right”, must be experienced again and again, until we do “get it right”. How many times do you want to suffer the difficulties of this life? Is that not a kind of hell, if indeed that is what happens to us? For those who’ve seen the movie, you’ll have your own “Groundhog Day”.
This program is now finished. What more can be said without becoming repetitious? Copies of the program content, as well as books and articles on the subject of NDEs will be available from people within your organization. We hope this information will be a positive influence in your lives and your happiness. We hope that it inspires you. And, we appreciate the time that you’ve spent learning about near death experiences.
Vanity Fair, January 1992, page 98 Bob Kerrey’s Odyssey, by Peter J. Boyer Ibid. iii The New York Times, April 22, 1984, Section 6, page 24, King Hussein’s Delicate Balance by Judith Miller, Cairo bureau chief iv Gallup, George, Jr., with William Proctor. Adventures in Immortality: A Look Beyond the Threshold of Death, New York, 1982. v U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, NIJ Research Plan, 1995-1996, pages 5,10 vi Guggenheim, William 3rd, and Guggenheim, Judith A., Hello From Heaven! A new field of research confirms that life and love are eternal, published privately by The ADC Project, P.O. Box 916070, Longwood, FL 32791-6070, U.S.A., (407) 862-1260; later published by Bantam. vii Crime In America by Ramsey Clark, 1971, Pocket Books, pages ix, 8, 24, 39, 50 viii Ibid, page ____ ix Ibid, page ____ x designfax, May 1995, page 6, pub. by designfax, P.O. Box 21640, St. Paul, MN 551210640 xi Heading Toward Omega by Kenneth Ring, 1985, page 26 xii Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation New York, 1982 by Michael Sabom, Pages 181-185 xiii The Light Beyond by Raymond Moody Jr., MD, 1988, page 139 xiv Ibid., page 171 xv The Near Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, by Bruce Greyson, M.D. and Charles P. Flynn, Ph.D., 1984, Pages 242-3 xvi Heading Toward Omega by Dr. Kenneth Ring, 1984, Pages 45-8 xvii Broda’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science, Carl Sagan xviii A Neurobiological Model for Near-Death Experiences, Juan C. Saavedra-Aguilar, M.D., and Juan S. Gómez-Jeria, Lic.Q., Journal of Near-Death Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4, Summer 1989 xix The Near Death Experience, Calvert Roszell, page 23, 1992, Anthroposophic Press xx M. Morse, P. Castillo, D. Venecia, et al. “Childhood Near-Death Experiences,” American Journal of Diseases of Children 140 (1986): 1110-1113 xxi The Near Death Experience, Calvert Roszell, page 27, 1992, Anthroposophic Press xxii Smith, Huston (1964), Do drugs have religious import? Journal of Philosophy, 41, 520 xxiii Grof, Stanislav (1972). Varieties of transpersonal experience. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 4, 45-80. xxiv Otherworld Journeys, Carol Zaleski, page 99, 1987, Oxford University Press xxv The Near Death Experience, Calvert Roszell, page 31, 1992, Anthroposophic Press xxvi Otherworld Journeys, Carol Zaleski, page 116, 1987, Oxford University Press xxvii ibid., page 170 xxviii Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation New York, 1982 by Michael Sabom, Pages 166-68 xxix Full Circle: The Near Death Experience And Beyond, Barbara Harris and Lionel C. Bascom, Pocket Books, 1990, Pages 253-270 xxx Coming Back To Life: The After Effects Of The Near Death Experience, P.M.H. Atwater, Ballantine Books, 1988, Page 118 xxxi ibid., page 130 xxxii Richard Moran, Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Mt. Holeyoke College, South Hadley, MA; later quote on June 6, 1996 during Morning Edition
Albert A. Bartlett, Department of Physics Professor, Box 390, Boulder CO 803090390; 1983 and 1994 tapes supplied by University of Colorado at Boulder Television, Boulder CO 80309
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