Conflicting Revelations from NDEs
A SPECIAL ENTRY:
I can no longer avoid this topic: revelations from near-death experiencers that conflict with each other. Whose right? Whose off-base? Whom do you believe? How do we regard what those who come back from the brink of death have to tell us?
People have quarreled over this for decades. It has been my lot to find myself in the middle of such controversy, again and again, and to face other versions of it when experiencers come to me and say: "Will you write the Introduction to my book? I need your name so my book will sell." This happens so often, and I have done it myself, that I feel I must finally speak up and clarify what seems to be at play.
First, let's understand a few things. In the eighties and nineties it was far easier for near-death researchers to write about their findings, and for near-death experiencers to write or find ghost-writers to produce a book about their story. A few of these sold quite well. Some became national and international best-sellers. Raymond Moody's book, "Life After Life," opened a mighty big door for millions of people worldwide in the mid- seventies. Because of a major shift in the field of near-death studies that occurred in the last two years, that "door" has opened far more than before - to addressing subjects like consciousness and the brain, brain development and brain shift, different views of the afterlife and out-of-body experiences, and the incredible place where science is now leading us, with findings that were previously impossible to make.
At a time when the topic of near-death and near-death-like experiences, both research and stories, should be "show-stoppers" in what can be conveyed - more amazing and pertinent material than ever before in the history of the field.....no one wants to read about them, agents are refusing to represent such authors, the newest languishes in bookstores; even the International Association For Near-Death Studies (IANDS), in light of decreasing funding, has had to take drastic steps just to keep afloat (and I might say, these steps are working---yeah!). The public seems to prefer shutting this ever-expanding door, saying "I've heard it all." The truth is, they haven't. What they've had enough of is the basic mythology. What they haven't discovered is how the new work in the field deviates from that mythology, and, in doing so, challenges not only the early work but science itself.
Maybe it's the economy. After all, price hikes for gas, food, homes, and almost everything else you can think of, changes everything. Who is going to buy a book when looking for a job is more important? Still, there are a lot of interested buyers "out there." What are they going to buy? Books dominated by chain promoters who could care less about quality and value. Did you know that today, publishers have very little to say about the books they publish, individual covers and titles? Those decisions are now relegated to the advertising arm of the largest bookstore chains. It is these people who tell publishers what manuscripts to take, how they should be rewritten, what cover and title will sell the book. Author's wants are lost in the shuffle. You have to be famous to have a say. That's one of the biggest reasons why so many authors are self-publishing their work. It's the only way they can save the integrity of what they have to offer.
This is not necessarily bad, however. Once your manuscript has passed all these tests, it truly does have a far better chance of promotion and sales, which means more people will read it. Plus, this heart-rending process does weed out a lot of material that really shouldn't go mainstream. Whether a good publisher picks up your work or whether you self-publish, the onus for sales is still on your back. You wind up being the salesperson; it's really up to you.
I say this because both researchers and experiencers run into "wall" after "wall" in trying to get their material out, get books sold, and have the satisfaction of at least "getting the word out" or "completing their promise to God" or in some way "giving the world something to think about that is well worth knowing." Both groups are passionate about this - I kid you not.
This means that, in today's market, intense pressure is put on experiencers to hike or exaggerate their claims or to find reviewers who are willing to do it for them. You find some of this with researchers, but not to the extent that you find with experiencers. Either you are willing to become the "property" of the sales machine and have your work sensationalized, or you have little chance of sharing what you feel driven to share - which puts more pressure on reviewers. Added to this is the religious factor. If your near-death experience follows along and further clarifies tenets common to a particular religious order or denomination, nine chances out of ten, you will have the strength and power of that denomination behind you. The same thing is true with certain tenets of mysticism or spirituality or esoteric traditions. In other words, if you stay within the boundaries of your faith or the philosophy that appeals to you, even without realizing you are doing this, you will have group power to support you.
This happens so often it begins to cause some very deep questioning. For instance, a near-death experience that closely follows the tenets of the Morman church wins favor of church membership and becomes a best-seller. A near-death experience that closely matches evangelical Christianity wins the loyalty of conservative Christians and becomes a run-away best seller. Revelations from a near-death experience that seem to echo the words of best-selling author, Neale Donald Walsh, not only sells briskly but enables the author to "break new ground" in the field - without realizing that other experiencers had the same or similar revelations long before. These earlier offerings came out prior to the Walsh phenomenon, and therefore hardly made a "wave." Messages from new authors are really not new. Raymond Moody continues to draw huge crowds, his first book a perennial best seller, when his work is now subject to challenge and his classical model is no longer recognized as "classical."
Nothing I have said is meant to hurt anyone or poke fingers of blame. It is meant to help us all "get real" and see things as they really are. The near-death phenomenon (which includes the experience, the aftereffects, and the implications) is a valid and real phenomenon that affects millions of adults and children worldwide. Recent research has made clear that the phenomenon is NOT related to anoxia, oxygen deprivation, the dying brain, hallucinations. Findings concerning this phenomenon have now far exceeded earlier work and the mythology that built around it. No single experiencer (no matter how good a speaker or the reach of personal charisma), no single case, no font of wisdom, nor depth of revelations received, even begins to address the subjects the phenomenon covers - things like life after death, is there a god, what happens to us when we die, is there an actual realm or afterlife people go to, what about heaven and hell, suicides, murder, children's cases, angels and demons, is reincarnation real, is religious dogma of value, what about the differences between religions - whose right and whose wrong, animals and what happens to them, is there a purpose to our lives, what about the aftereffects and how they change you - even physically, and on and on.
These are deep, heavy issues, that every single person wants answers to - yet NO SINGLE EXPERIENCER can supply that answer!!! The power of the near-death phenomenon and what it can tell us can best be found in a synthesis, or summary of the many. I have done this in my work - with topics such as "what it feels like to die," "what death is," "what life is really all about." Each synthesis I offer is based on a minimum of 3,000 case studies of individual experiencers. Other researchers have done similar things, in their search for repeating patterns that convey deep meaning. True, just being around an experiencer, or reading experiencer books, can be life-changing. I grant you that. But transferring to any experiencer the role of speaking for everyone else or being the best speaker or having the most to say or holding the record for the most harrowing case or being the most angelic or gifted or blessed or verified or stunning, is tantamount to self-deception. Guess who is fooling who?
It is the sum of the many that speaks so loudly. Although individuals can and do reach into our heart of hearts and inspire and uplift us, it is our job, each one of us, to question, look around, and consider what others have to say, as well. Please, please, get out your copy of "The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences," and open it to pages 358 through 360, and beyond. Read about what happened in China when one person's near-death experience eventually led to the deaths of millions, and about what is happening today in Africa where one person's near-death experience is being used to validate a charismatic teacher's ministry via exaggerations of biblical claims. It's a tricky day when we allow others to determine what is right for us. That can only be determined by you through a process of prayer, meditation, deep thought, testing (questioning), and letting go or surrendering to what many call "The God Within." Findings about the near-death experience can help in this process, but they cannot determine for you what it best to believe.
Because this has become such a big issue, I seldom write Introductions for people any more, and I am far fussier about what I review or endorse. Just sending me a book without prior contact nets the author nothing. Certainly, only the experiencer can ever be the true authority on his or her experience. Among what I look for as a researcher is how the experiencer interprets what happened and what was revealed, and then how that is languaged. Today's "crop" of near-death experiencers are far too willing to come across as blanket authorities on the subject, and they are equally much too anxious to present "one-size-fits-all" answers to life's greatest questions. I understand this in context with what was actually revealed to them; they desire to remain loyal to that. But sharing that revelation and then giving talks and workshops that extend and dramatize that revelation, well, I cringe sometimes and hold extra tight to the chair. I do not desire a confrontation with anyone about this, but I do find myself on occasion saying in my head, "draw me your experience, show me what you mean, is what you are saying now the same as what was revealed to you before?" Yes, downloading occurs - you continue to receive information from "the other side" long after your experience, even years after, but that does not explain "one-size-fits-all" answers to life's greatest questions, especially about death. I get queasy sometimes about what we are telling people, how that affects them, even that all is forgiven after you die. That mantra does not mesh with broad-based research in the field. There is far more diversity than that, and no one way things happen.
Personally, I chose to honor the broad sweep of destiny, of where people's choices lead them and how they most assuredly can change. That's why I could not accept applause the two times I have spoken about my own three near-death experiences. How can you applaud someone for dying and then coming back? You applaud for entertainment. Am I entertainment? Is what sells the best what it is that compliments what we want to hear? Where is the mystery? Where is the thrill, the joy, of touching that mystery?
Near-death experiencers, psychics, and mediums have become big business today - yet none of them can ensure our journey back to Source, or, the reunion of self and soul. They add their light to the subject but they cannot illuminate your way. You do that yourself.
As the economy tightens, life can get scary. I grew up during Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. With so many friends and neighbors dying, the war all around me, I found inspiration in nature, the people of our small community in southern Idaho, and the love that spread out its wonder from every leaf, rock, stalk of celery, and hug. Books were everywhere. Even when folks had hardly a dollar to spare, there were books, radio shows, discussions, debates, questions. We talked to each other and we learned whatever we could - about solutions, about life, about God. Why should it be any different now? --PMH