Some NDE Reflections
Robert D. Brinsmead
Perhaps it is appropriate that these visionary experiences are called Near Death Experiences rather than Post-Death Experiences. I realize that Lommel examines almost exclusively the cases of those people who has suffered cardiac arrest and who appeared to be without any brain function. In other words, the human computer had appeared to have shut down. If the system had really shut down beyond a few short minutes, then there would be no means of reviving the patient beyond a real resurrection of the dead – which of course none are claiming. Did these NDEers go beyond the veil on the other side of death? I remain agnostic on this point. Julia suggested to me that the experience might possibly take place after the left side of the brain has shut down bringing with it the normal signs of death. Yet for a time, there is “life” deep within the right side of the brain where this kind of visionary or spiritual insight exists. Julia did not claim this explains an NDE. Neither do I. At this point, I simply the raise the question, Does it or would it make any difference if there was some truth to this right brain explanation? I don’t think it does.
First, let me draw attention of some of the main features – and the most impressive features – of genuine NDEs. I say “genuine” NDEs, because at first those people who had clearly defined religious dogmas tended to either oppose the content of the NDE reports or remain indifferent to the reports on the grounds that they did not gell with their theology. Later in this development, people of a deep religious persuasion have appeared to have gotten into the act and coloured their claimed NDEs with their own theological colours. That’s why Lommel’s work impresses me the most – he deals with cases where there was a certified cardiac arrest and a shutting down of any recognizable brain function. It is from this kind of context that I can trace out the main contours of these “genuine” NDEs. First, there is a remarkable commonality about these NDEs in that there appears to be no identifiable difference between the NDE of the religious or the non-religious, the believer or the unbeliever, an older person or a child, a male or a female, educated or uneducated. There appears to be no discrimination going on here. No one type of person appears to have any advantage or disadvantage. There is no discrimination among humans in this matter. All appear to report an enhanced consciousness during the NDE – a clarity of thought and a perception of what is important to being human that appears to be the very opposite of confused thoughts and the mental state of dreams, hallucinations or brains scrambled by drugs, lack of oxygen or what not.
The most central and most common feature of the NDE is an enhanced consciousness in respect to what is the most important ultimate reality of human existence – all seem to have a life-changing encounter with a loving presence or reality that is unconditional, totally forgiving, totally accepting, totally welcoming, totally without discrimination, and finally, totally beyond any human ability to capture in words. Everything else said appears to be footnote to this central theme. In these NDEs, no sectarian dogmas seem to come to the fore or count for anything. For instance, the distinctive Christian teachings that are often said to be indispensible to human salvation appear to be conspicuous by their absence. For instance, none seem to “come back” from an NDE proclaiming the efficacy of the blood atonement of Jesus Christ as they only way of of acceptance before God. No pet doctrines of any religious group appears to be highlighted in these NDEs. And most of those who have had an NDE are decidedly less religious, howbeit more spiritual.
There are more features I could discusss, but I shall pass on in order to get to my point about all this. If one picks out the core teaching (and spirit) of Jesus (after the fashion of Thomas Jefferson who said it was as easy as picking out diamonds from a dunghill), it is not far removed from what the NDEers have seen in their enhanced state of consiousness. This has led me to ask the question, Did Jesus, Bhudda and the author of the Tao have an NDE? Well, not necessarily, because I have come to some of the same basic insights or conclusions quite apart from an NDE. In moments of an enhanced state of consciousness, these things stand out quite sharply in my thinking, although most times the vision gets and even remains pretty hazy. But this is not the point I want to get to, so I will hurry on. Suppose it is true that when most of the human brain shuts down like an old computer, a common truth at the centre of human consiousness rises to the surface after all the background noise of the human rat race has been silenced. If I may borrow well-known NT words, there is a light that “lights everyone coming into the world?” Is this light, common to all and the birthright of all, what Jesus calls “the kingdom of God [that] is within you?” – something nearer and dearer to us all than even our breathe. If my spiritual hunch is right, then we don’t have to say, Who shall go across the sea to bring it unto us, or who shall ascend into the deep or up to heaven or have an NDE to bring it unto us (I am mixing an OT and NT saying here), because this Logos/Wisdon/Truth is nearer to you than your own beating heart that you may hear it and do it.
According to Atwater (others affirm the same figures) some 4-5% of humanity have experienced an NDE. About 15 million Americans (800 a day according to Dr. Oz). One of the prominent things that people returning start to emphasize is unconditional love. Now you could be a Mafia don, a Russian gangster, Richard Dawkins, Madelaine Murry O’Hare (sp?), or Hitler, but if you start telling us that you experienced something and now you see that unconditional love is the most important thing in life, well, whatever you experienced, it was true, real and right. No matter how big an … you might be (you fill in the blanks).
But if people all around us are coming back into our midst after having gone over, having seen and been absorbed into God, having experienced that God is love beyond comprehension, having discovered that you do not die (your body does but not your essential self or consciousness), having seen other family members partying over there in some beautiful meadow with real organic plants (J) and non-polluted streams, well, if what they have experienced helps us to answer those great questions we are all concerned about, then lets accept it for what its worth. I for one will listen to anyone who can affirm my personal belief that there is no reason to fear death, that life is about love, and so much more that liberates to engage life for what it should be about.
Atwater, as many others have done, presents the after effects of these experiences and you do want these people for your neighbours, friends and relatives, generally. The fruit is pretty good.
Some NDE experiences from PMH Atwater’s The Big Book of Near Death Experiences.
One from Tannis Prouten of Vancouver BC, “I felt the most wonderful, gentle, loving, warm wave start at my toes and move up my whole body. I felt love…I left my body through my head…I saw small, round, glowing spheres of light….I was a point of pure consciousness…I felt no fear…I saw a light before me..gradually I was enveloped within this most divine, living light. My HOME. The joy, bliss, humility, awe were beyond human capability to bear. The LIGHT was an infinite, loving, accepting Being without form. It had personality. It communicated with me…It was pure truth. I was the light and the light was me. I was still a unique, separate point of consciousness with the same sense of humor and awareness that I always had, but the paradox is that I was more. I had become homogenous with the light. I was all love, wisdom, truth, peace, joy, for all eternity. Human words fail to express this experience. Not only was the message of my true nature conveyed to me…I experienced the spirit of the message- I felt it with every speck of my being. There was absolutely no possibility of hiding, distorting information or lying in communicating with the Light. I fell madly in love with the Spirit of Truth”
Arthur Yensen of Idaho hurt in a car accident, “Gradually the earth faded away…through it loomed a bright, new, beautiful world, beyond imagination….finally, I stood in a glory that could only be heaven…in the background were two beautiful round-topped mountains…the slopes were adorned with foliage of indescribable beauty…the mountains appeared to be about fifteen miles away, yet I could see individual flowers growing on their slopes…to the left was a shimmering lake containing a different kind of water, clear, golden, radiant, and alluring. It seemed to be alive. The whole landscape was carpeted with grass so vivid, clear and green that it defies description….to the right was a grove of trees, composed of the same clear material that seemed to make up everything… I was translucent as were the grass and trees…this was my real home…Everything over here is pure…everything is kept in place by an all-pervading master vibration which prevents aging…everything looks so bright and new”
Ray Kinman, “I could see in three dimensions as if I had no body at all, but was just a floating eyeball. There were no directions or dimensions as we think of them. I as greeted by a being of Light and Love. It seemed to be just a brilliant glow that absorbed me inside itself. Love is far too weak a word to describe this experience. I became Love- my entire being, every strand of my spirit spreading throughout the universe had become Love times a million billion…the intense Love and Peace and pleasure began to overcome me and I was no longer Ray. My ego dissolved but I had the same sense of humor and the same hang-ups…Time ceased to exist. Past and future were completely nonexistent. I was travelling in an intense burning now. Now was everything…I was given a huge message…This is who you really are…I could not tell the difference between myself and the infinite galaxies. I became all-powerful, and all-knowing, yet I was still Ray….then the Being introduced me to another Being of the most incredible Beauty and Love that anyone could comprehend. It was a greater Being of intense Light. It was God. The first being guided me to this Light and let it enfold and swallow me up. I became one with Love times a million, billion, trillion forever and ever. We were made of the same stuff. Every being that had ever existed in all creation was now part of this greater whole Being called God. I was one with all of them, yet I was still Ray- all-powerful little old me…This is who you really are thundered the Light. It looked like a galaxy except the points of light were not stars, they were beings. Every being was singing this incredibly beautiful music”
Haisley Long of Montreal. “The experience was the most beautiful, brilliant thing that ever happened…overcome by the power….a million times more potent than humans can imagine, a power that welcomes you into it. Wave of unselfish love and unlimited knowledge…I wondered how I was able to withstand this. It was like standing in front of a huge star, and being amazed at the power a star can pump out then having the star go supernova and the power jump incredibly, but you’re not fried. It was total ecstasy. More and more waves cam. You just cry and cry, while waves wash you and clean you and remove what little pieces of humanity are left stuck to you…come into contact with Life directly…travelling at the speed of thought through Life’s presence, and coming into contact with God in his natural state”
Tonecia McMillan of Maryland. “Then I was in a very beautiful, peaceful, picturesque place like a meadow. I felt very loved. The colors were brilliant, they were like nothing I have ever seen before. There is simply no comparison- the yellows, greens- so very beautiful, so peaceful”
Stephanie Johnstone of Virginia, “They did not have bodies but were more of an energy that was iridescent. I had no fear. There was a sense of peace, almost as if I was dreaming, but I wasn’t dreaming. There was no pain, nothing physical…I was given a life review…I was told that I had a choice…I could stay or return and complete my life. The choice was up to me. I felt no pressure. I felt that whatever my choice, it would be all right. There was no sense of judgment of myself or others. It was the most overwhelming feeling of unconditional love, so totally accepting. And there was such a sense of freedom.”
Tannis again, “My whole concept of reality had shifted. I now knew there was a greater reality, one more colourful and alive than here. And I knew there was a loving, totally accepting God who is close to me always, with every breath I take”
Atwater on her own NDE, “I can positively affirm that being bathed in the Light on the other side of death is more than life-changing. That light is the very essence, the heart and soul, the all-consuming consummation of ecstasy. It is a million suns of compressed love dissolving everything unto itself, annihilating thought and cell, vaporizing humanness and history, into the one great brilliance of all that is and all that ever was and all that ever will be…You know it’s God. No one has to tell you. You know. You no longer believe in God, for belief implies doubt. There is no more doubt. None. You now know God. And you know that you know. And you’re never the same again. And you know who you are- a child of God, a cell in the greater body, an extension of the One Force, and expression of the One Mind. No more can you forget your identity or deny or ignore or pretend it away. There is One, and you are of the One. The Light does that to you….a single intelligence permeates and enlivens all things…God is a very real, totally living and powerful Presence that, while defying description, is as vital as the next breath, and just as accessible”
Smiley-Jen of Australia, “If I came back with one thing, it is that there is nothing of importance but unconditional love and compassion. I had experienced a lot of tragedies in my life, quite a few sudden and violent deaths of dear friends including murder, which before the NDE I was very angry about. I was quite surprised to learn there is no judgment, that as much as I’d ranted and raved about hating God for letting these tragedies happen, he still loved me, and there was a better way to face such tragedies. During the NDE I learned so much about the essence of love and compassion. I know my life here is to experience opportunities to show that it can still exist under difficult circumstances….my son born by Caesarean was paralyzed by a mistake made by the delivering doctor and died in my arms….while the doctor had an instinct to run from me, I was able to ease his fear and show him love and compassion….Two years ago this week, our beautiful fifteen-year old daughter was hit and killed while walking home. I was able to impart to her friends and authorities that the young driver was in need of understanding and compassion and in so doing, averted the horrible path of blame and anger that had been so destructive in my own life”
And much more.