A WONDERFUL STOCHASTIC EXPERIENCE:
A Broader Scenario Befitting the Evidence Before Us
I encountered science at an early age, and liked it immediately.
The first consciously remembered glimmerings occurred in 1946 when my fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Richardson, generously gave me a small black book titled The Pocket Guide to Science, copyrighted in 1924, when cosmology and quantum physics were still brand new. Perhaps he saw something in me of which I was unaware—I simply remember taking to that little book like a duck to water. Its chapters bore titles like The Story of the Stars, What is Life?, and The Story of the Mind. Each chapter presented dozens of simple questions (Is it true that light has weight?), each followed by a short answer (According to the Einstein theory it has, and there is every reason to believe this is really true. Of course the weight is very small. An ordinary electric lamp would have to burn about two million years to produce one ounce of light.). To this day I bless Mr. Richardson for that treasured little gift. I kept it in my lift-top school desk and often had my nose in it, entranced by its revelations when I should have been paying attention to classroom doings. Today it sits on the top shelf as honored centerpiece of my personal library.
I encountered spiritual wonderment at an even earlier age and didn’t know what to make of it.
My interactive encounter at age three with hundreds—thousands—of immaterial human spirits, and my brief telepathic communication with them, is detailed in my book Renewal. Here at age eighty-five I still remember that strange experience as clearly as if it happened this morning. At the time, as a young child, I felt no motivation to delve into it—but ever thereafter a keen sense of a spiritual reality other than my experienced daily reality remained prominent in mind. From that day to this, eighty-two years later, I don’t think as much as a week has ever passed without the remembrance of that life-changing experience popping into my mind, to be pondered and reconsidered all over again. I suspect that was its purpose—it happened, by someone’s intent, to awaken my lifelong curiosity. Someone who? I don’t know, but I do well remember four imaginary playmates who were vitally real and very important to me until sometime in my second or third year, when they gradually faded from consciousness…
I encountered religion at an equally early age, and by age six had become a closet skeptic.
My father was a dedicated believer in the fundamentalist doctrines of the Church of Christ. My mother was a devout believer of the Baptist Church’s equivalent fundamentalism. The two sets of similar doctrines differed on one prominently fundamental point: the Church of Christ held musical instrumentation to be an insult to God, so all their hymns must be sung a capella. The Baptists, by contrast, adored pianos and organs with their hymns, as did my play-by-ear mother who had become church pianist in her young teens. She often conducted joyful playings and singings on the old upright Baldwin in our living room—my father often happily joining in.
Observing this, somewhere between ages four and six I became consciously aware of four things that would, eventually, greatly influence my life. One, these home singalongs seemed a tad inconsistent with my father’s professed religious beliefs—a circumstance I noticed as a mild hypocrisy without knowing to call it that. Two, my parents obviously could not both be right in their contradictory beliefs on this matter of whether God favors or loathes a piano in church, but I didn’t know how to ask God in a way that might elicit a straight answer.
Three, I reasoned in broader context that their respective churches also could not both be right, ergo at least one of them had to be wrong. Even, I thought, maybe both. And four, if either church could be wrong about the piano issue, what else might be wrong in the stuff they were telling me in Sunday school? Several teachings various adults had earnestly placed before me on Sunday mornings seemed pretty farfetched even to my pre-school mind—not to mention that I had no idea what a virgin was—nor did it escape my notice that these would-be teachers didn’t seem to welcome my childish questions about their claims. I sensed wrongness. About all these doubts I nevertheless had sense enough to keep my mouth shut—but I never forgot.
With this sort of anemic intellectual grounding I grew up, went to college, chanced upon a course in European history and thus passed a different kind of milestone. I became well informed indeed of how Christianity had been spread from Rome throughout Europe, not by its natural appeal or sweet persuasion, but arbitrarily by the bloody sword—convert or die. I sent the Baptist church a letter instructing them to remove my name from the rolls because, while I didn’t know what I was, I certainly was not a Baptist. A year later I declared myself an atheist. A few years after that I realized I really didn’t qualify as an atheist because, not knowing what the true facts are, I was by default agnostic. My only certainty in all this uncertainty was that I clearly remembered—frequently and unbidden—what could only be called a spiritual experience so long ago at age three. There things lay for quite a few of my decades.
I encountered near-death experiences soon after Raymond Moody’s groundbreaking book Life After Life came off the presses—and awakened in me an indescribable new wonderment.
That introductory book triggered a prolonged avalanche of deep reading in the field of near-death and spiritually-transformative experiences (NDE/STEs). It also awakened new questioning about my own childhood experience that was, unquestionably, spiritual. But this time, as a mature adult, there was a profound difference. After reading hundreds of NDE/STE reports, all saying consistently the same things in different earnest voices, I concluded there could be no slightest doubt that the thousands of accumulated reports constitute a database of evidence fully as valid as any evidence in our incomplete-but-accepted knowledge of quantum physics. I felt I must reconcile these unique NDE/STE learnings with the best available scientific understandings, for both present clearly definable evidence representing two equally valid understandings of reality.
I then spent most of the last half of my life feeling driven to achieve a level of understanding that would integrate evidence-driven science with evidence-driven spirituality. Along the way it became obvious that science’s offhand rejection of every least hint of metaphysical evidence, as if it equated with dogmatic religion, reveals a blind side—a longstanding bias that distracts scientists from their professed belief in objectivity. Regardless what institutional science does or does not bless and believe, if the testimonials of both science and NDE/STEs constitute equally valid evidence, how can I understand both in unified perspective? Where is their interface?
The modern institution called science—which is actually a far-flung large group of individual scientific persons—treats the term “spirit” as an “S-word,” an epithet, a throwback to medieval Catholicism that inhibited Copernicus, persecuted Galileo and burned poor Bruno at the stake. Science will never forget—nor seemingly will it ever move on. Modern science’s blind eye glances over “religion” and “spirituality” and sees the same thing, while its collectively closed mind rejects both without another thought. The fact is, a non-material spiritual reality—as fully real as non-material quantum physics and frontier cosmology—is the heart of what near-death experiences unquestionably, undeniably, factually, reveal to anybody who will take the time to look, and this fact is not subject to opinion. If science refuses to acknowledge any and all types of metaphysical evidence—and indeed what is non-material quantum physics but precisely that?—then science simply has a problem of catching up.
Over forty-plus years of extensive reading, rational inference, logical speculation and contemplation unquestionably grounded in the best possible scientific precedents, I’ve built up a structure of reasoned conclusions about merged science and spirit which I’d like to share here in summary—immediately following a few illustrative facts from both fields of evidence.
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NDE experiencers state their absolute certainty that God exists because—thousands of them attest—they met and experienced God, a spiritual being of light. They say God has a personality which they—consistently and collectively—describe as omnipotent, all-loving, all-knowing, and sometimes displaying a sense of humor. Science has quite well proven, in multiple ways, that in the beginning a big bang emerged through an infinitely tiny dot—a so-called “singularity”—and brought with it a primal plasma of energy. That energy was of sufficient quantity to build this entire universe, even after some ninety-eight percent of it was forfeit through matter-antimatter annihilation soon after the big bang—hard to believe, but science affirms it’s absolutely true. Not accepting the big bang’s multiply-confirmed reality would be as blind as not accepting the utterly consistent reports by thousands of people who survive a near-death experience.
NDErs attest that life is eternal, because not only did they personally experience vibrant fully-conscious life while unquestionably outside their physical body, they met and interacted with other spirits, including deceased relatives, who likewise were vibrantly conscious and alive. They say we mortal humans are immaterial spirits temporarily inhabiting material bodies that have evolved through Earth’s normal planetary processes; that as spirits we choose to do this; that we have purpose for coming here to experience a mortal lifetime one or more times; and that our purpose has to do with personally growing in spirit, particularly by helping other spirits who, like ourselves, are here by choice. Science has well proven—here too in multiple ways—that evolution is the primal process that has guided everything that naturally happened since the big bang. “Everything” includes, among other things, the self-organization of all galaxies, stars within galaxies and planets within star systems; the transition from non-living minerals to self-reproducing life, at least on planet Earth; and apparently unlimited speciation of countless life forms as plants, animals, and combinations of these—all as natural processes of this universe.
NDErs and Science alike insist that time is an illusion, that the apparent temporal passage we mortals experience does not really exist as we perceive it. NDErs attest that while consciously existing out-of-body they could will themselves to travel, at virtually instant speed, anywhere on Earth as well as anywhere in the universe, and that time had no bearing on distance, they no longer “felt” time—it was nonexistent. They also say they experienced a “veil” between this material universe and the immaterial place, a veil that prevents Earth-embodied spirits from remembering understandings they possessed while in spirit form only. Spirits on that immaterial side of the veil can see and hear everything occurring on this material side, but it’s like a one-way mirror—we mortals cannot see the other way through. Science insists that nothing can travel at, or faster than, the speed of light. Light speed thus is a good candidate for the veil that apparently “separates” this material universe from the immaterial realm experienced by NDErs.
The collective NDE/STE database presents an enormous treasury of first-person-derived facts that, together, constitute a very logical story of colossal, divinely triggered, cause-and-effect. However, this story cannot be considered complete until focused research and analysis have been applied and correlated its apparent findings with the apparent findings of science. Science through its disciplined scientific method has discovered dynamic and highly creative natural processes. However, because it refuses to consider any evidence other than replicable third-person evidence, science is necessarily estranged from the spiritual origin and enchantment these natural processes reveal when objectively correlated with the understandings derivable from NDE/STEs, because science unthinkingly interprets these as equating with religious dogmatism.
Any effort to correlate and merge these disparate scientific and spiritual facts necessitates some speculation in precisely the same way science uses positive speculation. Good examples of speculation are Einstein imagining a rider inside an elevator in space, and Murray Gell-Mann envisioning unseeable quarks as components of the protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei. Variant speculations will occur in different ways to different people, but speculation is precisely true of science’s century-old efforts to understand quantum physics; to this day it is understood that the classical macro-physics of cosmology cannot be reconciled with the so-called standard model of micro-quantum mechanics. With all the foregoing as qualifiers, consider now my speculative model for unifying scientific and spiritual knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
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After reading hundreds of testimonials by the thousands of near-death experiencers who state—over and over again, in their own differing but absolutely consistent wordings—how they met God and returned to tell about it, the rational observer becomes rationally convinced, with great inner certainty, that God exists, that God is real. On rational grounds, the age-old claims of Creator God’s existence are true and God’s reality fits nicely with all the other known facts. There can be no proof that God does not exist, and there is no possibility of establishing such proof, for the non-existence of God can never be better than surmise which is inherently less rational than conclusion based on the evidence presented by near-death experiences (NDE).
On identical rational grounds based on NDE evidence, there can be no doubt that human life is eternal, that our lives have existence apart from these Earth-derived bodies within which we seem so inseparably integrated, or that the human spirit lives on elsewhere after the body dies. Thousands have experienced it and, revived, returned to tell us the details.
It is at least as rational to posit that God created the big bang as it is to hypothesize that the big bang had no cause—that “it just happened,” as science maintains. Indeed, positing God as a cause of the big bang effect is, a priori, more rational than the uncaused-effect claim that now so poorly represents science. Unarguably given that from birth to death we all live lives replete with cause and effect, we must stand in amazement that any rational scientific mind can accept the magical existence of a big-bang effect that “just happened,” as scientists so often say, “without any cause.” Notwithstanding that Nobel laureates affix their over-proud reputations to it, what is the difference between that credulous belief and credulous belief in a virgin birth or original sin?
Let us therefore postulate that in what we call “the beginning” God sent forth a portion of GodSelf as the primal energy we call the big bang. God surrounded this inflating primal-energy creation with an unobservable boundary that science calls the edge of our expanding spherical universe. Why God did all this is unknowable. One may reasonably speculate that God wished to create a situation in which God would have interesting experiences, and become more. This reasonable speculation may reasonably stand until a better unprovable idea comes along.
Our curiosity and incomplete understandings of the nature of God can be improved, however incompletely, through inferences derived from observation of God’s creations. Since ancient times and to the present moment, philosophers and theologians have reasoned that God is in everything that exists in this universe and that everything existing in this universe is an aspect of God. This three-thousand-year-old unitary one-in-all-in-one perspective, known as monism, is fully as rational as a presumption that the big bang’s primal energy was a portion of GodSelf sent forth by God, and it is more rational than any presumption that the big-bang creation of this universe was an un-caused effect.
Such speculation is reasonable. It not only is reasonable, it positively glows in the swamp of scientific and religious unreason that surrounds us. In comparable context, the highest order of complexity that so far has naturally emerged out of that original primal energy through universal evolutionary processes—the reasoning, speculating, brain of humankind—may be characterized as an emerging Image Of God—i.e., a temporary avatar-like lesser manifestation of the infinite divine intelligence we call God. This mammalian human brain-and-body combination we recognize to be naturally evolved out of elements of the planet Earth and inhabited, as follows, by whichever particular GodSparkSpirit chose that body for its mortal lifetime.
In the beginning, God also sent forth another portion of GodSelf as individual sparks, later to become known as spirits or souls, each of which was infused with a subconscious mandate: Go forth, by your own choice, as often as you choose, exercise your free will, and become more, and then return home to Me. You may use your free will, as you choose, to 1) accomplish your own spiritual growth in terms of ethical understandings and actions, and 2) to help your fellow spirits do the same. God also infused these GodSpark/soul-spirits with a linear illusion they would perceive and call time, and subjected them to a veil of forgetting so they would not remember originating from Godself. They would perceive themselves to be “on their own” in a temporal experience of passing time. Except in extraordinary circumstances they wouldn’t even perceive the veil, much less remember where they came from.
God infused the primal big bang energy with purpose. This infusion may be regarded as A Godly Algorithm because, ever since the big bang, it has guided the evolving, unfolding universe in a manner that clearly is algorithmic in nature. This guidance displays several properties which, proceeding from initial disorder, rise randomly to complex order in which conscious free will supplants instinct. These properties may be recognized as:
1) evolution, i.e., continuous never-ending change of the big bang’s primal energy;
2) evolution proceeding by undirected chance in which God does not intervene;
3) evolution producing gradually rising complexity—notwithstanding random side steps and backslides, also by chance, along the way;
4) the original primal energy evolving to become self organizing gaseous nebulae, galaxies, star systems, planets, and the periodic table of the elements manifest as chemicals, compounds, ores and minerals in near-endless forms;
5) inanimate minerals emerging in an unknown way(s) to become simple life which, instinctively and willfully, seeks to survive and reproduce itself;
6) life speciating as plants and animals which further emerge in near-infinite ever-changing species and lifeforms with ever-increasing complexity;
7) all species evolving toward the greater complexity of a brain or brain-equivalent with quantum processes that enable a potential to perceive self, known as “consciousness.”
8) a higher evolutionary phase known as culture in species that attain a sufficiently high level of consciousness, evidenced as free will in higher mammals and in various birds and fish.
We observe that indeed, through the long history of the universe, our galaxy, our sun and our Earth, these things are precisely what has happened. Archives and textbooks are full of them.
9) a God-like responsibility to conduct oneself as steward-protector of the Earth, its finite resources and all its many lifeforms. Homo sapiens is the only species to attain this level so far.
We observe that about half of Homo sapiens have attained this level of ethical maturity so far. Whether the immature half will achieve mature consciousness and ethical responsibility in time to avoid causing civilizational collapse remains an open question at this writing.
Consciousness and instinct correlate inversely, with instinct being highest and consciousness lowest in the least-evolved life forms, versus instinct being lowest and consciousness highest in the most-evolved, most complex lifeforms. In contrast, rising consciousness correlates directly with rising responsibility of the lifeform possessing it. Thus lower-evolved creatures submit their reproduced young to random dispersion and chance, whereas higher-evolved creatures directly care for and nurture their young. Homo sapiens, the most complex lifeform evolved so far, has commensurately great responsibility to protect and promote the wellbeing of its own kind as well as all other, less-complex, lifeforms.
Responsibility at the most advanced levels of evolved human consciousness may be expressed as a twofold mandate:
Help others—in order to personally grow in spirit and to assist others who need help; and
Attain knowledge—pursuant to increased understanding—pursuant to increased wisdom—which will better enable one to help others.
These Godly Algorithmic mandates may be seen as the path whereby evolving human spirits may grow toward the all-encompassing love which is one of the divine attributes of GodSelf.
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These informed envisionings summarize my wonderful stochastic experiences fortuitously begun at a tender age three. If it’s not quite all correct, I am certain it points in the right direction—a well-reasoned scenario befitting the evidence of thousands of near-death experiences. It directly addresses my concern that the fascinating “how” of near-death experiences, describing the sequential phases that happened while the experiencer was out-of-body, receives more attention than the collective implications of NDEs, which have more to do with “why” we’re here and our purposes for being here, such as helping others and growing in spirit. The former enables us to learn the entertaining details of NDEs, but the latter—the why—is what truly matters if the Knowledge we attain from NDE/STEs is to be translated into Understanding and Wisdom.
I fervently wish more people would weigh in with their own learned speculations on the matters discussed here, for we as a threatened species on planet Earth presently have great need of widely opened minds. We evolved spirit/animal combos have enormous responsibilities that must be attended with crisis priority. Otherwise, our own over-populating, over-consuming, over-polluting shortsightedness will soon bring down on our distracted heads a catastrophic global overheating with potential to terminate God’s Great Experiment on this formerly pristine blue-green planet. What a sad prospect. Our greater purpose is to become better than this.