Friday, July 18, 2008

Near Death Experiences & theories on the afterlife. Part 1

Ok, now to open the can of worms. This will be my first post on a specific topic, and I forsee that it will take quite some time to cover in detail, so as I have been so far, I will be quite general and leave out alot of specifics. Near Death Experiences (NDE's for short) have become increasingly well known in the last century as medical technology has developed, meaning that more and more people are being brought back to life after being declared physically dead (ie no heart beat, breathing or electrical activity in the brain). Also technology has allowed for information to be circulated with far greater ease than any other time in recorded history.

Some of the most significant basic ingredients of a NDE are as follows, the experience of leaving ones body, meeting with non-physical beings which radiate light (I'll refer to them as the Beings Of Light, BOL's), moving through non-physical worlds or dimensions, Heavens and Hells (which correspond very well with the occult concept of an Astral plane) and the life review, the experience of reliving every single experience of ones life in full detail, experiencing the consequences of ones own actions, words & thoughts on others.

Often also, the person having the NDE is given Spiritual teachings by the BOL's which in most cases correspond with New Age doctrines. Whilst from what I've seen there is not 100% consistency, there does seem to be a good deal of common ground between the NDE accounts. There are some obvious exceptions but the majority of books and websites on this topic seem to support this.

Now, as this all supports the New Age Paradigm, there is of course much dispute and opposition to this. Skeptics (generally Atheists) propose that the experiences are hallucinations caused by the dying brain and argue for purely biological processes as being the cause. They point to similarities in the experiences of fighter pilots who pass out under extreme G forces, or the experiences of Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), the ability to reproduce many elements of the experience with electromagnetic stimulation to specific parts of the brain (in particular the temporal lobes), and the common experiences of people in drug induced states (particularly hallucigons like DMT, LSD, Psilocybin and also Ketamine). Skeptics also point to the case that many people who die and come back to life later recall nothing at all, like a black out or deep dreamless sleep, ie a lack of consciousness.

Christians on the other hand present mixed responses. In my own upbringing I was not told of the New Age implications of NDE's, but I was told stories of people who had died, gone to heaven, met Jesus and come back. I was told about how after they died and before they went to heaven they moved around the hospitals and were able to later recall things that had been said in other rooms of the building whilst they were physically dead (a common claim with NDE's). So, first off, some Christians are seemingly unaware that the phenomena is generally used to support the New Age worldview, or choose to ignore this.

Secondly, some Christians choose to agree with skeptics in dismissing NDE's as hallucinations, mostly because of the New Age doctrines that are put forth, also because some (and I use that word cautuosly) Christians do not believe in the possibility of the Soul existing externally from the physical body (This is a major grey area from what I've seen. I would love to hear from anybody willing to let me know where their branch of Christianity stands on this. I do believe that the Bible is not specifically clear on this area of metaphysics, ie the strict definitions of Mind, Spirit and/or Soul. In contrast, Eastern and Occult traditions go very deeply into this area. I do know that some Christians believe that Soul is a combination of Body and Mind/Spirit, and that eternal life relies entirely on physical ressurection. Therefore any account of out of body experiences (OBE's for short) are rejected as either Hallucinations or evidence of Demonic activity.)

Others that I have seen tend to declare some NDE's as real and others as fake depending solely on what doctrines are put forth in them. ie If a NDE account makes no mention of doctrines which are in conflict with Christianity then it is accepted as being real, however if like a significant percentage of NDE's it presents doctrines that are in conflict with mainstream Christian beliefs then it is declared to be either a hallucination, a fantasy of the subconscious or a Satanic delusion. (It must be mentioned here that as there are common beliefs between Christianity and New Age, some NDE's will be presented as evidence for both of these conflicting worldviews.)

Now, I have much, much more to say on this topic, but I think I will leave it here for today and continue very soon. Please, I would love to get some comments, so don't hold back on your thoughts. Also, anyone, if you feel I have misrepresented a particular viewpoint please let me know and I will respond to your thoughts. I am trying to be objective, but it will be very difficult for me to achieve that so please bear with me. I will try to own up to any mistakes I make along the way.

Bye for now.

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