REPORT ON NEAR-DEATH CONFERENCE IN DURHAM, NC, SPONSORED BY IANDS
First off, I want to say this was one of the best conferences ever produced by the International Association For Near-Death Studies (IANDS). Almost 200 people came to the October 3/4 affair, many first timers - the setting was intimate and comfortable for gatherings and visits without the usual rush. We met at the Millenial Hotel, across the street from Rhine Institute (famous for its scientific paranormal research), and all within the campus reach of Duke University.
By the way, now that IANDS has moved its headquarters from Connecticut to North Carolina in a cost-cutting measure, we are renting space in the same building as Rhine, an arrangement that is helping both groups. . . not only survive but thrive. We toured the Rhine facility and were impressed. Plus, we may be in larger quarters at Rhine soon, which will enable IANDS to offer smaller events more often, on top of a yearly conference, have a real library, and offer more in the way of educational DVDs, classes, workshops, and so forth. (The new Board of Directors is really moving ahead. If you are not a member of IANDS yet, hop aboard - memberships can be purchased via their website at www.iands.org.)
Back to the conference. The speakers were:
MAGGIE CALLANAN, RN, hospice nurse and best-selling author, spoke twice on nearing-death awareness - the language of the dying (her book "Final Gifts"), and preparing for death (her newest "Final Journeys"). Her stories and her unique sense of humor punctuated her keynote address. Truly unforgettable.
BRUCE GREYSON, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia and long-time editor of "Journal of Near-Death Studies," presented an outstanding overall coverage of the near-death phenomenon, that was so good it must become a DVD available not only for professionals and schools, but for the public at large. I've never seen this done better (not even by Bruce). Hopefully, that DVD is in the works.
BRUCE GREYSON, M.D. along with HAROLD KOENIG, RN, M.D., MHSc, Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University Medical Center, together, and with the aid of Nancy Evans Bush, M.A. as moderator, gave a groundbreaking discussion of findings in the field of theology and medicine as related to near-death experiences. I've personally never witnessed a discussion like this that was this powerful.
COLONEL DIANE CORCORAN, RN, Ph.D, US Army Nurse Corps (ret), tackled the implications of the combat experiences coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of these are blast injuries, loss of limbs, and traumatic stress disorders - resulting in an unusual amount of group and shared near-death experiences (when an entire platoon is gunned down, chances are all involved will have the same near-death experience and talk to each other during while out-of-body). The refusal of the Veterans Adminstration to recognize what is happening and its affects makes one shutter.
Nancy Evans Bush, M.A. delivered a short form of her talk on deciphering, framing, and integrating difficult near-death experiences, because of a time crunch with scheduling. She more than made up for that with her moderator job throughout both days. What she did give was riveting.
JULIE LAPHAM, Ph.D. gave a scientist's insight into the life-changing outcomes and implications of her own near-death experience, and as part of the Panel of Experiencers. But she wasn't alone. This Panel was conducted both days; many who spoke were first timers who had never shared their own story before, with anyone. And let me say these stories, all of them (they went over-long), were the heart and soul of the conference.
YOLAINE STOUT, former teacher, past President of IANDS, life coach, and expert on languaging, gave an exciting talk on her new project, helping people who have had deeply transformative experiences (like near-death) to handle and integrate the aftereffects in a healthy, productive way. She focused on manuals, mentorship training, and outlined a new organization that would partner with IANDS in tackling this important topic.
JOHN ALEXANDER, Ph.D., past President of IANDS, gave a fascinating talk about the similarities between shamanism and near-death experiences.
I did not keep notes on everything that occurred, but here are some highlights that were especially meaningful to me with the work I do.
BRUCE GREYSON: He announced the publication of a very important book. Called "Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation," by Janice Holden, Bruce Greyson, and Debbie James (Editors). It is published by Greenwood/Praeger, Westport, CT, and contains all of the research papers delivered at the 2006 conference in the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX. This is the conference that focused on the major shift that has occurred in near-death studies. Because of four large clinical prospective studies done in three countries, plus a plethora of papers published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, the near-death experience is now the number one choice of scientists worldwide to study consciousness itself. This is a stunning change. Get the book.
Bruce made an important point by saying there is no one way to do research, emphasizing that randomized research with control groups doesn't work. He went on to talk about what has been done in the field, and said that cross-cultural studies are not that reliable, since different researchers had different goals and intentions in doing what they did. There needs to be a more standardized approach. He quoted Kenneth Ring, who said, "The deeper the NDE, the more profound the aftereffects."
The question in research today concerns consciousness - the mind. Is it generated by the brain or is the brain a receiver and transmitter, a place of contact for mind. Although a large contingent of researchers insist brain creates mind, research that verifies the opposite is so extensive, it has been compiled into one book for ready reference. This incredibly important book is now available: "Irreducible Mind: Toward A Psychology for the 21st Century," by Edward E. Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly, Adam Crabtree, Alan Gould, Michael Grosso, and Bruce Greyson. Available from Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers, Lanham, MC: 2007. This one book shows that mind is NOT the same as brain.
YOLAINE STOUT pointed out that there is a group in France who are working on basically the same project she is, including a manual. Theirs is called "Extraordinary Experiences Clinical Handbook," and they can be reached through their website at www.inrees.com. Yolaine already has 35 people signed up to help out, and will be doing research on needs assessment soon. Anyone who wishes to join this effort, find out more about what is being done and how you can help, please e-mail Yolaine at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yolaine, by the way, has her first book coming out later this month. It is entitled "Your Blueprint to Passion: A Spiritual Solution to Depression." I do not have anymore details about this book, except to say that anything Yolaine does is exceptional and really gets to the heart of the matter in the best possible way.
DIANE CORCORAN made a stunning point in saying the military is not open to things like near-death experiences, post traumatic stress disorders, or how to really treat any of them. We now have troups WHO HAVE SEEN MORE BATTLE THAN ANY SOLDIER WHO FOUGHT DURING WORLD WAR II. This is because of constant reassignments. Most blast and head injuries are not reported. If they did report them, the soldier could not get back into battle to help out their buddies AND they would not be able to get back into Veterans Health-Care System. Because of the new, modern armor, the soldiers don't bleed with each injury - again - leaving blast injuries unnoticed, unless the soldier loses a limb.
The "Farms Not Arms" program developed by Gold Star Mother Nadia McCaffrey, is one of the best for treating the deep wounds of these two wars that the Veterans Health Care System is not prepared to treat. Diane pointed out that during wars, group and shared near-death experiences often occur. She talked about several where an entire platoon was shot up, killing everyone. The soldiers saw each other leave their bodies and talked together about their future. Those that would not return knew about their future and told it to those who would revive and live. These types of powerful near-death experiences are almost completely ignored, even put down, by the military.
NANCY BUSH emphasized that we need to broaden our vocabulary to understand near-death experiences. What we have lost as a people in the over-development of the left brain, is a demeaning of the right brain and the value of allegory, symbols, spirituality, matters of the heart and soul and our creative drive. If you study history, you find that horned creatures (which today are considered devilish monsters) were once considered to be our guides. The idea of torture/chaos, death, resurrection were understood as a model of behavior and life experiences that brought us into an entirely new and better mode of being.
The first five books of the Bible were once referred to as "black fire" because the words were written with black ink, but the "white fire," what appeared in-between the words and spaces, THAT WAS THE REAL MESSAGE, a deeper message of stories, songs, feelings. We as a society have forgotten how to read "white fire." We want facts instead of truth. The important things that were once said in poetry are now scrunched into journals and investigative journalism. There is a difficult side to spirituality; we were supposed to deal with suffering and what we could learn from it. We enter into invisible realms through near-death experiences and through the trials of spiritual growth, realms we can scarcely imagine, and discover that each realm is inhabited. Sometimes images from this world move into other ones; demons are natural - they have always existed. The hellish experiences one can have, reflecting horrific images onto spiritual experiences, are the same stuff to be found in movies played to the general public. Hellish near-death experiences are just as important as the heavenly kind, for they tell us a great deal about what we can learn.
BRUCE GREYSON AND HAROLD KOENIG noted that there are too many distractions in the world; the negative is what drives growth. Near-death experiences show us how the world works - not necessarily whether or not there is life after death. Near-death experiences rearrange your priorities - we can decline or grow. Thirty to forty percent of the population today is spiritual, not religious. There is no common point of reference in spirituality. Religion is often used destructively to harm, hurt, or control. But, spiritual definitions are overly broad and diffused, challenging to understand.
Our world is part of our imagination. We have no real way to know what is real. What is real for one person is not real for another. Is this world real? It is just a model. Our brain constructs our world from waves. We actually live in a matrix: we see light waves; it is our brain that creates structure from those waves. There is software now available that enables us to recognize patterns. Qualitative analysis is suited for this, for studying those patterns. We must have studies to help us build a science from symbols. Spiritual is now mainstream, even in science and medicine. The near-death experience gives us a frame of reference we did not have before. It has a profound effect on life and health. Almost all medical schools today have classes on spirituality and health; over 100 also teach classes on the near-death experience.
Thank you, PMH