This I Believe
It is not surprising when beliefs and values tend to correlate with culture, religion, education, and even social class. It is when millions, with a full range of disparate backgrounds, share beliefs that have no correlation to these influences, that something surprising and quite persuasive is suggested.
These “millions” are people that have had an out-of-body or Near Death Experience. Their opinions are identical on issues like race- and gender-equality, and survival of death. They claim that their experiences were more real than normal consciousness. Blind experiencers described things they couldn’t have seen, and patients near death, during surgery, accurately described unfamiliar instruments and activities. Experiencers claim that all human beings are equal members of a single human race and equally important parts of a grand scheme that includes a spiritual reality.
So strongly do experiencers believe this that they have no fear of death, believe in life after death, and commonly shift from organized religion to personal spiritual practice. They claim that prejudice, violence, and inequality of race and sex are contrary to our collective purpose. George Gallup confirmed that 2- to 3-percent of Americans have had an NDE and share these beliefs.
As a skeptical engineer, I had to eventually accept the evidence that such experiences couldn’t be produced by drugs or brain processes. Now, after eighteen years of reviewing NDE research, what I believe is that all human beings are part of this grand scheme. I fantasize about some small percentage of experiencers, testifying to these truths, providing a powerful, newsworthy force for human unification, producing a world realizing an increase in intercultural understanding, safety, and hope for a free and peaceful future.
The meaning of NDE’s eluded most people in 1984 when The New York Times wrote about King Hussein’s near death experience. The same was true in 1992 when Vanity Fair described Senator Bob Kerrey’s out-of-body experience in Viet Nam.* Today, we find science accepting the reality of NDE’s in a 2001 article in The Lancet titled, “Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands”. We read,
With lack of evidence for any other theories for NDE, the thus far assumed, but never proven, concept that consciousness and memories are localised in the brain should be discussed. How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG?
Then, in that same paragraph,
… blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience. NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation. **
Human progress toward social and intellectual evolution has been poor. Civilization could benefit if all people confronted the evidence for this interrelationship of human beings juxtaposed with their own religious or philosophical beliefs. In this dangerous world, embracing this apparent reality for humans could ultimately be our best chance to save us from ourselves.
*Vanity Fair, Jan. 1992 page 98, Bob Kerrey’s Odyssey by Peter J. Boyer, and, The New York Times, Apr. 22, 1984, Section 6, page 24, King Hussein’s Delicate Balance, by Judith Miller, Cairo bureau chief, respectively).
**THE LANCET • Vol 358 • December 15, 2001, (http://www.zarqon.co.uk/Lancet.pdf).
Other references are available from the International Association for Near Death Studies, (http://www.IANDS.org).
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