Please take note: militant atheists, that tiresomely vocal subset of their more courteous fellow atheists, commonly equate these old folk superstitions—originated among poorly educated backcountry peoples—with all religious beliefs and all believers in general and at every social level. Over-generalization to such ludicrous extreme is not surprising, for it is the way of extreme mindsets in all contexts. To their militant discredit, these critics rarely bother to make qualitative distinction between lowbrow folklore and sophisticated but quietly held religious convictions of ordinary good citizens, including many scientists, who deserve more respect.
Ongoing ideological blasts from Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Susan Blackmore, to name a few hornblowers, treat NDE/STE experiences not only as simple gross superstition but extend equal contempt to superbly educated postdoctoral theologians and respected scholarly researchers across the western world, as well as the upright citizens and kindly aging members of the Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic congregations right down the street who donate generously to periodic food drives for the homeless whose numbers seem to so inexplicably keep increasing in their communities.
My own ears heard Dawkins on a radio talk show label as “nitwits” all peoples who hold religious beliefs on faith of any sort. That seems a tad arrogant, regardless whether their sincerely held beliefs be right or wrong. The atheist fanatic and the fundamentalist religious fanatic are equal partners in deception of themselves and others by virtue of claiming to know with certainty that which is of certainty unknowable. They both live on faith. Worse, most of both tribes exhibit the missionary instinct—an obviously felt need to convert others, to suck them into their own beliefs. Barely visible in all this rancor, the sincere agnostic is the only truly honest person in town, quietly saying I Don’t Know.
Holding absolutely no religion’s doctrinal beliefs as my own, on faith or any other basis, I still think it sub-par that such locked-in contrarian mindsets as Dawkins et al find it so easy to maintain their dismissive broadbrush mistreatment toward anybody they think isn’t bright enough to believe as they believe—a hypocritical charge they routinely level at religious and spiritual believers of every ilk who aren’t, like themselves, irretrievably materialistic…
…and as cocksure certain as any tent-revival evangelist of their righteous rightness in their right opinions and for-certain knowledge, on faith, that God. Doesn’t. Exist. Bygod.
Meanwhile, in a few hundred professional articles and books, I have seen these know-it-alls attribute near-death experiences variously to oxygen shortage, neurochemical responses to trauma, imperfect anesthesia, stresses of a dying brain, and a dozen more guesses at why a physical brain in process of shutting down might “imagine” it sees, hears and experiences the elaborate details commonly related in NDE reports.
That they’re guessing about these made-up options is as obvious as the fact that they obviously cannot know that the reality they so adamantly, ideologically oppose isn’t real. The only people who can know are those who’ve actually been there and, in a first-person experience, personally experienced it.
Saddest of all, the militant skeptics are missing the beauty of the thing. Consider the near-death experience of Howard Storm. Formerly an avowed atheist, Storm was militantly outspoken in his certainty of a purely materialistic world and his disdain for all religions and spiritual beliefs which he regarded as superstitious fantasy. His “conversion” occurred during his NDE, as a result of experiencing the loving light and being disturbed by what he saw of himself in a life review—all while knowing that he was out of his body but still fully conscious, alert and alive. Faced with the instruction that he must “go back” and continue his earthly life, Storm protested and pleaded to be allowed to remain in the most wonderful circumstance he could remember experiencing. His opposition crumbled after spirit guides explained the following reasons for doing so:
- The universe and world we live on, and the societies we live among, are some of the infinite manifestations of God. Whether we find beauty or ugliness in them depends on how we direct our minds and our thoughts.
- Every aspect of creation is fascinating, and one of our foremost opportunities in living a lifetime here is to explore our world with wonder and enjoyment.
- Mistakes are a normal, acceptable aspect of living a human life. If he made a mistake, he should try to learn from it and not make the same mistake again.
- Love and assistance from the spiritual realm come to any person who simply becomes quiet inside and asks for help.
The perennial hard-case skeptics perceive NDEs as threatening their own faith—for faith it surely is, the same kind they so sarcastically disparage. Such endless gropings for alternatives—any alternative at all—that would validate their faith-based belief that mind and consciousness are “somehow” created by the physical brain remind me of William of Occam’s simplistic faith that “the simplest answer is usually the correct answer” (except when it’s not). In my readings on physics, evolution, cosmology and comparable frontiers over the years, I’ve noticed the trusting scientific invocation of Occam’s razor at least once in almost every tome. Sometimes twice. Let it be known everywhere henceforth:
Occam’s odds on default truth were then and still are now exactly no better or worse than yours and mine: 50/50—i.e., the simplest answer is either the truth—or it’s not. 50/50.
Call it an evolved folk custom. Occam’s simplistic, and silly, assumption seems to be the default preference of the scientific establishment in general, even in the mysterious non-material realm of quantum physics, quarks, dark energy, dark matter, etcetc—except when the conversation moves over to non-material matters of a spiritual nature, where Occam’s disciples grow silent. I find both non-materialities to be indistinguishable.
We do not ask the blind about a painting, nor invite the deaf to a songfest. Blindness and deafness are not merely of the body: There are souls too that are blind and deaf. You can’t discuss the ocean with a well frog—he’s limited by the space he lives in. You can’t discuss ice with a summer insect—he’s bound to a single season. You can’t discuss the Way with a cramped scholar—he’s shackled by his doctrines.
Chuang Tzu (369-286 BCE)
Considering this closed-minded contrarian lot in full daylight, however, does help us understand why scientists in general can so casually lump NDE/STE reports in with everything else that’s called superstitious, religious, new agey or spiritual. Unexamined mindsets locked in by years of indoctrination and reinforcement determine how ostensibly open-minded scientists can manage to so willfully ignore what has now become one of the world’s largest—and most underexploited—databases.
There it sits, awaiting broader attention and deeper mining by many more researchers than it gets—a goldmine of credible evidence consisting of many thousands of reports by people from every walk of life, each earnestly telling with great sincerity about this really strange but very important thing that so unexpectedly happened to them…
…credible evidence that, indeed, God exists. Yes, Topsy, there is evidence of Heaven… or, more accurately, another whole supra-universal realm of reality to which humanity over the ages has given many and diverse names, one of which happens to be “Heaven.”
Like many people, I prefer to conclude such things based on evidence and using the mind’s full reasoning abilities. Reason feels to me like one of the many aspects of the image of God, whereas the faith-based way of knowing things has never felt like an adequate way of knowing anything at all. Several types of evidence on which good reasoning may be based have been presented under the rubric of spiritually transformative experiences. Other types follow in the next section.
* * *
PART III: FIRST-PERSON, MANY-PERSONS
If you know that all crows are black, and a lifetime’s experienced observations leave not the slightest doubt in your mind that all crows are black, but then…
…if you suddenly see a white crow, you will know with the certainty of the ages that not all crows are black. The paradigm will be overturned, and you will know.
Chapter 5. Experiences of the First-Person Kind
Dreams and correlations
My motivation for writing this book arises out of informed concern that fast evolution of our own making is catapulting us toward massive changes to our worldwide climate and disastrous effects that are certain to wreak havoc on human civilization around the globe.
Our headlong pursuit of materialistic wealth, the resulting profligate consumption of energy and resources via the entrenched driving mechanisms of capitalism and materialism seem unstoppable. They are causing the ecological relationships between living things and the environment to degrade at a pace not seen for over a million years. As things have developed to the present moment, it is reasonable to worry that we are on track to render the planet uninhabitable for ourselves and most other forms of life, and will in fact do so if we don’t change our ways. It is increasingly apparent that we will be unable to change the inertia of our self destructive actions unless we can change the way we look at the world—in other words, our species-wide mindset.
How in the world does one persuade over seven billion people to change their minds, and to do so quickly, when the subject is quite possibly our own species’ life or death? How can I effectively add my solitary voice to the growing chorus of responsible people who understand the dangers ahead and are trying to generate meaningful responses?
Close in the background of these concerns is my personal experience of eight significant dreams and two wide-awake contacts that I can only describe as spiritual in nature. They have so deeply influenced the way I have come to think that, in them, I find hope of contributing to the efforts to quickly change from our destructive path to…a different path. If this be foolhardy so be it, for this feels to me far more important than personal feelings, or reputation, or indeed caring a whit how crazy I may be thought by people who have not personally felt my ten very unusual experiences.
I perceive these ten experiences as paranormal occurrences that punctuate my long life. They stand out. Aside from these (to me) remarkable experiences, my life has been otherwise filled with ordinary days of ordinary endeavor and nights of normal sleep with normal dreaming. Other than these special experiences, my life seems to me relatively ordinary and not that different from anyone else’s life.
These experiences, however, were certainly not ordinary – each one “got my attention.” Cumulatively, they have influenced my life profoundly. The first occurred when I was a very young pre-school child, and it was a real zinger. The others began in young adulthood. They accumulated gradually, every few years, without overmuch notice by me, though I did remember each one—in-detail—as something special.
Then in midlife I began feeling, inexplicably, a growing urgency. I didn’t understand it at all, but along with it I felt driven to read, to attain knowledge. Over the past quarter century my reading of the scientific, spiritual and environmental topics in this book intensified enormously. In many years averaging a book a week, I gradually gained unique understanding of an interconnectivity I previously had not perceived at all.
My most recent paranormal experiences, a dream and a “contact,” occurred within the past decade and were, like the first, deeply meaningful to me. Unlike earlier experiences, though, both of these had immediate influence on my thinking and actions. I moreover began remembering that childhood experience and all the dreams with new intensity. I made no effort to recollect all this stuff, it just came, all unbidden, into my conscious attention. Taking stock, it began to feel apparent that I had received a series of gifts that were telling me something important—as indeed several did, quite literally.
Ultimately I set about writing this book because I felt I had to. Not so long ago, while fully intending to spend my retirement years writing other things, this particular writing came to feel compellingly integral to my sense of purpose for being here, for living this lifetime. The sense of purpose itself was indeed one product of these experiences. My planned array of in-work short stories and plays thus trumped, I laid them aside for later if there is a later. I have come into a new sense of personal responsibility that feels intimidating in its dimensions, and this too arrived only in my seventh decade. I don’t claim to understand a whit of this, but it has a force I believe no one could deny.
Brief descriptions of the ten experiences follow. I presume it sheer coincidence that the first and the last happen to be of a “contact” nature—bounding the eight cogent dreams, like bookends. I share these very private experiences here only because I deem them essential background to the veracity of this book. They may hopefully serve that purpose for readers inclined to seeking, who wonder why they feel a curious urge to know. Those who are turned off by anything they regard as paranormal hoodoo probably won’t have read this far anyway. At the least, I hope thoughtful readers will better understand why I have gone to all the effort it took to write this book. For years I searched for such a book to read, finally concluding I must write it myself because no one else was going to.
Two definitions apply:
“Lucid” Easily understood; clear; sane; rational; shining.
“Cogent” Forcibly convincing; powerful appeal to the mind; not easily resisted. I have used this adjective to describe my dreams, though the term “lucid dream” is more popularly used when dreams “feel real” and are well remembered after waking. Whereas my two wide-awake spiritual experiences were lucid, my eight dreams were cogent.