Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Near Death Experiences - Part 2

Now, I thought I'd give this topic a bit of room as I think it has a lot to offer to this discussion. I previously stated that the conclusions that would be drawn from excepting NDE's as a genuine phenomena would mostly support a New Age paradigm. For those of you unfamiliar with NDE accounts I suggest you read a few to start off. If you click on the following link, look under notable NDE's http://near-death.com/ As a resuslt, there is skepticism from two main groups, Atheists and Christians. I will now briefly present arguments that attempt to deal with the areas of dispute.

Firstly, I will deal with some of the objections of Atheists. Now Atheists propose natural, biological explanations for the phenomena of NDE's in line with the theory that consciousness in created by the electro-chemical nature of the brain, therefore ruling out possibility that consciousness can exist outside of the functioning of a suitably developed physical form or that consciousness can directly cause any direct effect on "external" reality, except through the vehicle of a physical form. So the major argument of skeptics is that NDE's are hallucinations of a dying brain, they propose that after the brain stops functioning there is 30 seconds odd of Consciousness left, categorized by the massive release of endorphins producing a state of bliss and the sensations of bright lights.

However, in response to this, one of the most common features of NDE's is that they occur while EEG machines are flat-lined, meaning that there is absolutely no electrical activity at all in the brain, accompanied frequently by the cessation of heart and lung functioning. NDE reports are consistent in that the experiencer comments that their perception was actually clearer then normal, in direct contrast to a dream or hallucination. NDE reports are often quite long, generally beginning with leaving the body, travelling to another dimension and then travelling back into the body in sync with their resuscitation. If the dying brain theory was correct, you would expect resuscitated patients to report a brief period of intense bliss fading into unconsciousness. This clearly is not the case.

Also, there are many doctors and nurses that have witnessed and reported that the resuscitated patients were able to clearly and accurately describe the medical procedures that occured whilst they were flatlined. Also, these patients have frequently described conversations and events that occured in different rooms or different places during this time, providing strong evidence for OBE's. There are also other elements of NDE's which lend strong support to them being a real phenomena, such as: Blind people see during NDE's (I believe people who are blind do not see in dreams, if I'm wrong please, point me out), there have been cases where people have brought back important information from the NDE, I think I remember reading about a scientist who got the breakthrough for a particullarly important invention from his NDE experience.

Now, the other main points often used by skeptics is to point out that experiences similar to NDE's can be produced within the laboratory by either the administration of certain drugs, electromagnetic stimulation to the brain, or the circumstances of tremendous stress on the body as when potential astronauts are subject to extreme G-forces in training. These arguments however seem to assume that understanding the biological functioning of the brain during altered states of consciousness somehow diminishes the spiritual aspect of them.

The thing is that New Age does not deny the obvious fact that the biological functioning of the brain is connected to the states of consciousness. This however, does not necessarily imply that the electro-chemical activity is the creator of these states of consciousness. The New Age view is that the brain is a vehicle for consciousness whilst in the physical form and that causality goes both ways, from the body to the mind, and from the mind to the body. There are of course numerous examples of this being the case. Therefore, the examples where altered states of consciousness bearing resemblence to NDE accounts are produced by physical conditions does not therefore have any implication to the cause of NDE's, as previously stated NDE's occur whilst there is no brain activity. In my opinion it is only due to the misunderstanding of the New Age theory of Consciousness and causality that this is raised in opposition.

The New Age view of the body is as the lowest level of an interconnected system of bodies of various density: Soul (Absolute existence, no form), Causal Body (Mental, still formless), Astral Bodies (Amorphous forms of colour, sound & energy) and finally The Physical Body (Being the most relative level of existence). Administration of hallucigenic drugs therefore has a causal effect on the Subtle Bodies producing a shift in the state of Consciousness. Alternatively, Placebo Effects tricks the mind to believe that it is being administered a real medicince, thus having a causal effect downwards through the subtle bodies into the physical body. From this perspective, when the physical body ceases it's vital functions, the higher bodies literally leave it behind and continue to exist in a different way, most often moving upwards into the Astral Planes, but occasionally also remaining temporarily present on the earth. For a more detailed overview of evidence supporting NDE's check out http://near-death.com/evidence.html .

On the other side of the coin we have conservative Christians that believe NDE accounts to be somehow demonic illusions. I think Kevin Williams the author of http://www.near-death.com/ presents a very good argument against this. In using Christianity's very own teachings against this conclusion we present Matthew Chapter 12, V25 “Every kingdom divided against itself is bought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:....You shall know the roots of a tree by its fruit”. In the context of the verse Jesus is accused of performing miracles by the power of demons. He responds by asking how could Satan drive out Satan by Satan? NDE's accounts present positive Spiritual teachings which show that there are consequences to all of our actions, thoughts and words. These teachings encourage people to show love, compassion, forgiveness, patience & tolerance to others, and to pursue the higher goals in life (creative expresions, pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, appreciation of loving relationships, philanthropic and charitable pursuits & ultimately, spiritual realisation). There are odd cases here and there where people have had trouble grounding themselves back into everyday living after an NDE, however, the majority of people who have had NDE's come back changed for the better (the perfect example is Dannion Brinkley, author of Saved By The Light). To believe that NDE's were somehow evil, is to therefore ascribe the positive teachings in them to also be evil.

If Christians maintain that since the only way to salvation is through Jesus then all satan has to do is to keep people away from Christ, then this creates a massive hole in their doctrines. Firstly, if the above were the case, then life on earth would be meaningless except for serving as a test for where we would spend eternity (I'll also raise this point later when talking about reincarnation), as the New Age paradigm specifically teaches principles which lead to both personal happiness, and overall community wellbeing (contrary to what some people contend, more on this later). If you read through the gospels taking particular note of the red-letter parts, then you will find a significant proportion of it refers to practical teachings on morality, ethics, ie it is not focused entirely on the concept of Salvation. Also, Christians today are very much into self-help, a signifanct percentage of sermons in modern churches are on self-help issues. Christians also maintain that this life does have meaning, and the little things are important.

Secondly, if God is the source of all good, and according to Christians, Satan is the source of all evil, then how could Satan preach love, compassion, forgiveness, self-lessness etc etc ? (this argument applies not just to NDE teachings, but to New Age in general and any non-Christian system of spirituality, psychology, ethics, morality and philosophy, with the exception of Satanism, the modern religion of ego-worship, hate, lust, anger and ultimate selfishness. I will use this argument repetitavely through the course of this blog, & hopefully refine it in the process.) The verse in Matthew has Jesus asking the same question. I am aware that other parts of the Bible say that Satan can perform miracles and healings. Isn't this a case of the Bible being consistently inconsistent?

(Insert: This is an add on to the post. I have received a number of comments regarding the above section so I thought I'd paste in a further explanation on the above points:

The purpose of Religion should not be solely concerned with our destiny after death (although this is important), it should lead to a truly fullfilling and happy life whilst here on earth, both for individuals and society at large. It is clear that following New Age and Eastern Mysticism has lead to many people finding true happiness, and also (depending on your understanding / interpretation of them) following their precepts should lead to one becoming self-less so as to serve others (the greater community), and serve God at all times. As both New Age and Christianity encourage morality, ethics, psychological development and humanitarianism (to different degrees depending on the denomination/sect/ or teachers that you follow), it should be clear that both these belief systems can lead towards a fullfilling indivual and cultural life. For some Christians therefore to denounce New Age as being demonic, is therefore to say that the sole significant aspect of Religion is belief in Jesus for the purpose of Salvation after death and true happiness.

Therefore, I conclude that 1) These Christians therefore do not believe that anyone can be trully happy without Jesus and 2) These Christians think it is not so much important how much much one live by the principles put forth in the Gospels as being the words of Jesus, as much as the following of orthodox christian doctrines and practices and having the outward label of a Christian.

For example, Mahatma Mohandas Ghandi was a Hindu, who lived by the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, following the words of Krishna. Ghandi did however see the moral, ethical, psychological and spiritual teachings in the Gita as being generally in line with the "red-letter" teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, and he believed in the importance of inter-faith harmony, basic New Age premises. Following conservative, orthodox christian teachings, Ghandi would be seen as a follower of "Pagan" religion, therefore not "saved", and would thus be denied "salvation" and Heaven. This would therefore take away the significance of his life that he led, self-lessly serving the greater community in the best way that he could. Ghandi is but one example of non-Christians who have devoted their entire lives to serving God to the best of his ability.

My experience has been that Christianity has way to many philosophical problems for me, and I never found fullfillment in it. I have however found the answers I wanted through Yoga, Vedanta and Spiritualism in particular, along with phenomenal inner bliss. Now, I understand that this isn't the case for everyone, I have heard many cases to the contrary. There are many people who have converted from New Age to Christianity, and vice versa, this in itself does not prove anything. The question then is, how to explain the various experiences that people have had with New Age and Christianity, and the philosophical and theological problems that different people feel can be solved by the various Religions.

Generally christianity proposes that the existence of evil is due to original sin (adam and eve's disobedience towards God in the Garden of Even), however this assumes the existence of the serpent in the Garden as the source of Eve's temptation. As this serpent is generally represented as Satan, this would conclude that the expulsion of Lucifer from heaven happened before the first sin of mankind. Now, whilst Evangelical Christians (and other conservative Protestant demoninations ) do not have a monopoly on Christian Orthodoxy, they are very vocal in their opinions. One popular belief amongst evangelicals is that every single "sin" has a related demon, and that therefore every temptation is a spiritual battle. Satan is portrayed as being consumed by hate and pervesion, seeking to eternally distance mankind from God. And God is portrayed as all-loving, wishing for mankind to return to Him, therefore Satan and his fallen angels/demons are seen as the source of anything which leads people from God (ie Sin).

There is a verse that say's that Satan does disguise himself as good, as "an angel of light" (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15)." However, this proposes that he can therefore pretend to be good, for the ultimate evil purpose of leading mankind into Sin. It doesn't suggest that Satan is in fact loving, compassionate or anything of the such. The overall point of the post was this: NDE's give people hope and faith in the goodness of God, in his Divine Justice, Mercy and Grace, the continuation of life after death, and the importance of everything we say, do and think. They teach positive moral, ethical, psycho-spiritual teachings, the main reason why some Christians denounce them is that they generally support New Age doctrines, rather than literal, Biblical doctrines. Surely the true advesaries in this world are hate, anger, greed, lust, perversion, selfishness etc etc. End of Insert)

So, I'm still just getting started, and thus am still being quite general. But all this begs the question, OK, so what is the overall significance of this? If NDE's are taken seriously, what does it mean? It means quite frankly that the value systems of our entire society could change, for the better. If Science were to lend support to a Spiritual Paradigm, then we would have a new foundation for ethics and morality to to take their place as primary in the consciousness of mankind. Where as previously some Church's used fear and coercion to inflict puritanical notions of sin, guilt and punishment on mankind, and recent secular notions have tended to reject morality and ethics in general and embraced selfish materialistic consumerism in escaping from the inbalance of the past into a new imbalance, the new Paradigm promotes personal responsibility for our actions thoughts and words, whilst freeing us from guilt and fear. Justice & Mercy in balance. It also threatens the exclusivity of many traditional religious systems (not just Christianity, although it may seem like I think that way if you haven't read my earlier posts) who use the threat of Hell to scare their congregation into line.

Ok, I know I'm starting to stir the pot a bit now, so if you have an opinion on this, please share it with me. Post a comment and/or send me an email.

Bye for now.
Peace.

8 comments:

Hope Rivers said...

Hi Jim,

You mentioned the bible being in conflict regarding Satan performing healings and miracles. I don't see the conflict in the whole context of the story.

Satan was a spirit being created by God (before humans) made in the perfect love and in God's image,like human (I have no problem believing that the same creator who made the universe, humans and animals etc could have made other things prior to the universe and life as we know it).

He made us and these angel beings with the capacity to create like himself (God). Satan's falleness came about from his free will. Pride/selfishness came to the fore and corrupted his perfected state of love.(humans did the same)

Now we humans have abilities to heal and prophecise amongst other things like telepathy and psychic abilities and still be imperfect.

I can love, reflect goodness, speak words of love and hope but then in my fallenness have a moment of weakness or ignorance, demonstrate the opposite of love, in fact perfect love isn't even possible when I'm fatally flawed.

When you think just your thoughts alone can contribute to this less than perfect state of being, whilst you may demonstrate perfect behaviour makes you see that every human being is nowhere near the way God has created us to be.

Now if Satan was created in perfection and basked in the light of God for a period before he discovered "self" why wouldn't he too retain a memory of this state of love?

Like corrupted individuals on this planet who commit heinous crimes, they too make choices to do evil whilst knowing about love and mercy at some point in their lives, even if it's from a single act from a stranger or the countless acts from a parent or neighbour, friend, therapist, grandma, child, etc.

In fact one could say if Satan were true and he existed as the bible and even Christ admittedly claimed, he would certainly have abilities to deceive humans creatively.

Hope Rivers said...

In fact one could say if Satan were true and he existed as the bible and even Christ admittedly claimed, he would certainly have abilities to deceive humans creatively.

Sorry typo above, meant to say "if Satan exists as the bible" not "he existed as the bible claimed"

:-)

Hope Rivers said...

Just a quick note, I myself had an NDE and it came about when I went to sleep one night. I speak about it on my site. I have a history of OBE experiences and I wasnt near death for any of them.

If you do your research you'll find there are other NDE cases like mine that didnt arise from a near death situation, so the whole dying brain thing triggering an hallucination is totally false.

Jim Clark said...

Hi Hope. Congratulations, you are the second person ever to respond to my blog, you win the grand runners up prize of..um...uh...well, can I just say that you for taking the time to comment.

I'm not sure if I quite understand your objections to my statements. The Bible verse I mentioned clearly states that good fruit cannot come from a bad tree. These are words that according to the Bible came directly from the mouth of Jesus, and the context was the accusation by the Pharisees that his miracles were performed by Satan. Therefore, the only possible conclusion that I can see from this verse in the context that it was written is that Jesus is saying that Satan cannot perform miracles which have positive effects (good fruit). Following this, only those paranormal phenomena which produce negative results (bad fruit) could be assigned to the agents of evil.

It is indeed true that most people have a combination of posiitve and negative traits. Indeed, the very purpose of real Spiritual pursuits (as apposed to Psychic or Occult pursuits divorced from the greater purpose) is to transform those negative attributes into positives, step by step.

The fact is that many teachings bear both good and bad fruit. My understanding of this is that therefore the teachings themselves have a basis in both truth and falsehood. This very fact enables many Cults to trap people by teaching tried and tested means towards having intense psych-spiritual experiences and then attaching their own doctrines and dogmas with them.

My experience of Christianity reveals it as having both good and bad effects. my very Spiritual search has been to seperate the positive from the negative, to keep the wheat and burn the chaff so to speak.

If indeed this force of evil, Satan was behind non-Christian forms of Spirituality, than you would have to conclude that the only thing Satan needs to do is to stop people from believing in Jesus, and following Christian orthodoxy. If this were the case, than this would invalidate all the red-letter teachings relating to morality, ethics, etc etc ie, becoming like Christ. It would also invalidate this very life by reducing it to a mere test, ie "Salvation" would be the only thing of any signifance.

You mention "If you do your research you'll find there are other NDE cases like mine that didnt arise from a near death situation, so the whole dying brain thing triggering an hallucination is totally false". I'm not sure if you understood me as I intended, I was in fact arguing strongly against the dying brain theory. An OBE doesn't specifically relate to an NDE, they are seperate, yet interconnected topics. An NDE is and OBE, yet an OBE doesn't have to be an NDE. Understand?

OBE's can occur to perfectly healthy individuals in many different contexts. They can be deliberate, spontaneous and accidental, they sometimes happen in cases of extreme trauma, and sometimes they happen naturally whilst in REM sleep.

The primary aspect of NDE's that seperates them from OBE's is that they occur when the physical body shuts down, (as in death), and medical instruments record no signs of brain, heart or lung activity. I do recall that studies of people having OBE's show rapidly changed electrical functioning in the brain and signifant changes to heart and breathing rates.

Thank you for taking the time to discuss these things with me, I hope if it pleases you, you might continue to do so.

Hope Rivers said...

Hi Jim,

I'm not sure what your saying about the only thing satan has to do is stop people from following Jesus? I thought that was evident by the many who don't believe in Jesus, which means he is doing just that.

In regards to the miracle of Jesus and the opposition by the Pharisee's, wasn't Jesus casting out "devils"? Why would satan cast out his own? Jesus was talking about Satan, that was clearly evident, Jesus never implied Satan couldnt perform miracles, in fact the bible speaks otherwise, you've just assumed your interpreation is what must be intended. If you remember the temptation, where Satan promised his kingdom to Christ, I think that clearly spells out his creative powers and abilities.

Don't forget the apostles performed healings and miracles and even some people today, none of these people I would say are flawless and perfect in love and bare only good fruit (in other words in a state of perfection) These clearly bare good and bad fruit as humans are in a fallen state.

The good fruit is more about character.

An evil person will grow in negative traits the more they feed it and a person developing good traits will bare good fruits (ie healthy mindset, positive thoughts, etc.

In regards to NDE well I must have had an OBE with all the NDE components, the only difference was the angel/guide whom I met in my OBE/NDE manifested 12 months later as he promised he would in my OBE and appeared to a lady with a message and identified himself so I would recognise him, again something he mentioned in the OBE/NDE (whatever you want to call it).

Hope Rivers said...

Sorry I misunderstood what you were saying about believing only in "Jesus".

How I interpret the bible is slightly different to what your saying. Believing in Jesus to me, means believing his teachings and preachings, not just in him as son of man.

Believing in his claim to being God also, instead believing him to be merely just an excellent moral teacher or a really crazy man.

Firstly a crazy man wouldnt have the fruit and wisdom of christ and a moral righteous man who is not insane wouldnt claim to being "God" either.

I don't think you can separate any of it. A true believer is not someone who just acknowledges him but someone who walks the teachings, without that component, one can't call themself a true christian or a believer.

There are many people who follow these similar teachings through other religions, its here were we come into conflict with christians who believe everyone besides christians will be condemned to eternal hell.

I personally don't believe that a loving God condemns anyone to an eternal Hell. I believe in eternity, in a place of light and love and a place of darkness void of love. I believe both these places are eternal, I also believe how we live, what we think will create not only our misery and or joy on earth but beyond. But are we locked in the mind state at death forever or do we continue to grow as spirits beyond life?

Well many christians believe the holy spirit within continues it's good works in us in heaven until we reach a perfect state.

The thing is Jim just like your interpretation of the casting out of demons, christians too have varied interpretations of the bible, everyone claiming their own is the correct one, often demonstrating much ego and pride, the very things going against the grain of christs teachings.

Respecting one anothers views is showing "love" better than fighting over who is right and who is wrong, which only bares bad fruit in the end.

Following God would mean following his natural laws, they are one and all for everyone I believe. The law is "love" pure and simple.

Jim Clark said...

Hello Hope,

You raise some good points. Yes that verse in Mathew does refer specifically to the driving out of demons. However, I still the general context of the verse implies that where you see good effects, you know that there is a good cause.

Specifically, where you see someone teaching morality, ethics, uncoditional love, compassion, forgiveness, self-lessness, self-improvement, humanitarianism, worship of God and the pursuit of inner happiness as given by the grace of God, you know these things to be truth, from God.

On the opposite side of things, where you see greed, anger, hate, jealosy, fear, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc you know these things to be not of God.

If Satan is fighting against God, than why would he present positive teachings? Surely, if there was an advesary, then this Satan would be behind the hate, greed, lust etc etc and not behind alternating Religions teaching uncondtional love, self-lessness etc.

If in fact Satan did create Spritual philosophies teachings positive growth, then this would mean that the positive growth wasn't infact that important, and that all Satan has to do is stop people from taking on the outwards signs of orthodox Christianity and he would have succeeded in keeping many souls from "Salvation".

As you mentioned, believeing in Jesus to most Christians means actually living the teachings (showing kindness, unconditional love, compassion, charity, forgiveness etc, striving to become "like Christ" as much as possible, step-by-step transforming our weaknesses into strengths), not merely labelling oneself as a Christian.

Your ideas about Spiritual growth in the afterlife sound far more progressive than what I'm used to, and that's good. However, you mention you believe in two specific, eterall realms of the afterlife. However you mention that spiritual growth is possible in these realms, does that mean that you think that those souls that go to hell can than slowly evolve spiritually?

Question, can you honestly accept the notion that all non-christians will be denied heaven in the afterlife, in particular, say Mahatma Mohandis Ghandi who was a committed Hindu, who followed the Bhagavad-Gita, who clearly devoted his entire life to serving God in self-less acts (KarmaYoga). Can you believe that Ghandi would be denied Heaven?

I have found that the majority of people I have met through Spiritualist Chruchs and and the Ashram where I attend are committed fully to seeking God, and serving others. Surely, these are the very traits that you would describe as being evidence of "believing in Jesus"?

So my point was, NDE's give people hope and faith in the goodness of God, in his Divine Justice, Mercy and Grace, the continuation of life after death, and the meaning and importance in everything we say, think and do. They teach positive moral, ethical, psycho-spiritual teachings, the main reason why some Christians denounce them is that they generally support New Age doctrines, rather than literal, Biblical doctrines. Surely the true advesaries in this world are hate, anger, greed, lust, perversion, selfishness etc etc, not New Age and Eastern Religious teachings?

You mentioned:

"Respecting one anothers views is showing "love" better than fighting over who is right and who is wrong, which only bares bad fruit in the end. Following God would mean following his natural laws, they are one and all for everyone I believe. The law is "love" pure and simple."

I agree fully. That is my whole point. Christianity and New Age are both teaching positive truths in world full of pain, anger, hate, jealosy, ignorance (sin?) etc. One of the very fundamental reasons why I started this blog is so that the conservative elements of some religions can realise that other Religions are not the enemy. Philosophical and Theological disputes should be secondary, unconditional Love for all, should allways be primary.

Thank you for your time, I enjoy the dialogue. If you can, please continue to do so.
God Bless
Jim

Anonymous said...

Christ was not Christian,he was aromatic,He taught unconditional love", love thy neighbor as yourself,look within,look at your own shortcomings. "Original Sin is a myth, Christ was murdered because
like Christ we are all Sons and Daughters of God,by the way you will never convince me that God is so limited in power that he has to send his own son just because he was not perfect in his creation,what nonsense