When Raymond Moody’s spiritual findings were published in his 1975 book Life After Life, a wonderfully interesting new world opened for me and many others whose interest in spirituality naturally finds its most meaningful expression through science rather than religion. The founding of IANDS (International Association of Near-Death Studies) soon thereafter was icing on the cake, because it enabled a new institutional focus for research and information sharing that probably would not have happened without it.
Remarkably, after just a few decades of paying closer attention to the fascinating phenomena Moody brought to public notice after centuries and millennia of not much noticing, a majority of the world population are at least aware of near-death experiences, including even the hard-case skeptics who “know” they can’t possibly be real. Through ordinary, incidental publicity, a great many people now conclude—on rational grounds independent of scripture—that God is very, very real and infinitely loving, that our lives continue in spirit form after our earthly bodies die, and that there is a far greater reality (Heaven, Valhalla, Unified Field, whatever) within which our evolved universe resides, nested like a Russian doll but veiled off, seemingly separate.
The sheer volume of these reports constitutes intrinsic evidence that the phenomena they so consistently describe are real and true. That absolute consistency prevails within and across the several huge and growing databases of NDE reports now accumulated. As evidence of non-material realities, these databases represent veracity at least as bona fide as the equivalent “evidence” of statistical probability, deductions, assumptions and surmise on which science infers the non-material reality of quantum dynamics in all its infinitely small details.
It has been of great interest to me, all these years, to be an observer of this old-but-new field’s phenomenal growth in span and depth of research, along with parallel observation of my own personal growth in span and depth of understanding. My own felt experiences of seeking and inner growth, like those of so many other longtime IANDS members, confirm Ken Ring’s assertion that the simple act of reading hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the accumulated reports by near-death experiencers can and do lead to the reader’s spiritual transformation as fully as those who have personally experienced NDE/STEs. The evidence is convincing.
At age 85 I hold this conviction based on nearly a half century of deep interest and seeking at the interface of science and spirituality, which in my considered opinion are but two apparent faces of the same unity. I think all these years of reading and thinking would, alone, have been quite sufficient for the transformed perspective I feel, even had I not been gifted with several extra boosts. These include definably spiritual experiences I encountered unexpectedly at ages 3 and 72, plus a lifelong series of dramatic, very meaningful lucid dreams that have both shaped my quest and kept it focused. It thus is as a personally involved long-time observer in the broad field of NDE/STE phenomena reporting and research that something over a decade ago I reached what feels to me like a deeply profound conclusion:
I think our traditional focus on the “how” of NDE/STEs—i.e. “what happened”—should be balanced with more consideration of the “why.” Knowing what we do about the details of NDEs, let us ask: So what? The positive benefit of this knowledge for individuals has been obvious from the start, but—in broad context of the human situation—what difference is all our new knowledge making for the benefit of humanity? How should we be responding to the lessons all these NDEs are teaching us?
Three straightforward examples from the NDE database amply illustrate the point. 1) From thousands of writings about life reviews, we learn unequivocally that God does not judge our choices. This lesson alone dispenses with the Abrahamic religions, all three of which place God’s harsh judgement at the very core of their doctrinal reason for existing. 2) I have read many NDE reports that speak of the mind/soul’s decision in choosing the parents to whom it will be born. They inform us that a mind/soul entering an infant body may enter, leave and re-enter multiple times during the ten months between sperm-swimming-toward-egg and a few weeks postpartum. This lesson thus directly or by logical inference supports the reality of reincarnation in which so much of humanity has believed for millennia, and further illustrates the needless waste of the abortion acrimony which so deeply harms our social cohesion as a people.
3) Again focusing on the life review, I marvel at how often I keep running across reports in which God asked the experiencer “What have you brought me?”—or words to that effect, meaning what good have you done for your fellow humanity in this lifetime so far. From this repeating lesson I conclude that our foremost purpose in living a mortal lifetime is to help others, and, logically, to properly prepare ourselves to do so. Combined with similar allusions that we should inform our minds and use our time wisely to benefit our fellow spirits, my understanding condenses to this simple expression of life purpose:
1: Help others; and 2: attain knowledge…that may increase understanding…that may result in some wisdom…so that the learner may better help others.
When I began truly delving into NDE reports in the 1980s I wondered: What are these thousands of reports telling us about our larger purpose for having chosen to live these mortal lives? I’ve wondered about purpose for my whole life. As individuals and collectively, where should we be directing our ethical priorities, our intentions and energies? This larger context within which the treasure of NDE reporting comes to us receives little attention, even as countless books are written about the fascinating details and their benefits for individuals.
People who study NDEs are very well informed on how NDEs unfold. We know all about out-of-body experiences, the tunnel the light and the love, the life reviews, the temporary total knowledge, the go-or-stay line, the abrupt return… Profound as they are, these familiar things may be thought of as the “gee-whiz factor.” We all understand how fascinating they are to read about, as deficient as that may be compared to actual personal experience of an NDE. But there is a great deal more to this human story and, in a broader context, much larger concerns. Here too examples come easily to mind, but these examples are fearsome.
Example One: Our human civilization is already well into the early ravages of a drastically warming planet. Our daily carbon pollution of our atmosphere is fast increasing, not declining, and absolutely promises to destroy most of what we hold dear within the coming century and a half. All our glaciers and ice caps are melting, our oceans are rising, droughts are increasing and deserts are spreading even while floods ravage areas the size of Pakistan. Age-old weather patterns, even our seasons, are changing irretrievably and forever. Unless our carbon pollution is reversed—not just stopped but reversed—we are on course to collapse human civilization all over the earth. We know exactly what to do to reverse this awful course, but ruling majorities worldwide continue to present responses grossly deficient to turn around the warming in time to avoid calamity. Our few descendants who manage to survive will call us crazy—and selfish. I invite readers to look at good current science presented at the website https://bigthink.com/starts-with-a-bang/global-warming-21st-century/
Example Two. Human population is the driver of global warming. Worldwide population is already three to four times larger than the carrying capacity of our planet’s resources, and unavoidably rising consumer demand is using up those resources at a rate which will see many consumed, used up, before this century is out. Our vast aquifers—all of them—are being fast depleted, whole rivers are used up before they reach their terminus, and it is now hard to find water clean enough to drink—un-polluted by agricultural runoff, industrial chemical discharges and human sewage. As we steadily build over all fertile hinterlands surrounding our growing cities, growing and transporting enough food to feed overflowing urban populations becomes more problematic every year. And yet human population is poised to grow another full twenty-five percent, from eight to ten billion hungry mouths, within the next mere thirty years or so. Unless our out-of-control population growth is reversed, this too is on course to collapse what we call “civil” society, most likely within the lifetimes of grandchildren alive today.
Listing more of the numerous bad examples would be an exercise in depression. This writing’s purpose is positive: to focus on options that could improve our dire situation—and Help Others. Considering the magnitude and inertia of the two examples cited, it’s hard to be optimistic that we’ll find the moxie in time to save our existing civilization. Some combination of technology and political willpower could still do it in the diminishing time remaining—before ocean rise is measured in yards and daily temperatures are above 100 degrees F. fully half the year. Do you think we shall overcome? Our problem is existential, it is enormous, and, certainly, we need all the options we can think of, especially some lying outside the small boxes that get all the talk these days—such as a third-option economy that ensures basic economic rights to every last citizen in a way that ideological capitalism, socialism or communism could never hope to do.
I think greater in-depth public understanding of near-death experiences is or could be such an option, and I find hope in the prospect. Needless to say, this statement has implications for IANDS policy as well as personal choices—yours and mine. The oldest, longest-surviving human “knowledge” consists of myths and legends—the age-old stories that originated long before people began writing down the happenings we call history. With much to say about heroes and bravado, much of our oldest stories also speak of mysteries and a spiritual world with which mortals interacted. Many of those old stories have come down to us in retellings that transform ancient realities into myth—the way many scientists view NDEs today…without bothering to read the reports.
I believe our potential to apply our NDE/STE knowledge more effectively for the benefit of mankind has barely begun to be realized, and I believe it devoutly. All these matters and more are addressed in considerable detail in my book RENEWAL: Old Stories, a Godly Algorithm and Choices for the Earth Today (to order: see fixypopulist.com). I would love to hear from fellow spirits who agree (or disagree on reasoned grounds) with the matters raised in this article. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.