Thanks for the tag Cindy. I’ve come to believe that in such experiences people are experiencing either the full reality of or having a visionary revelation of the reality of what Paul calls “this Present Evil Age.” In this “Present Evil Age” many people are separated from God, tormented, consumed by evil from within and without, even demonized. They could also be experiencing or having revelation of the kingdom of darkness that we are translated out of, the BC Realm (Before Christ).
I’ve often thought that at least the setting of an NDE and some of what takes place may, indeed, be tailored to that person’s belief system. I’m sure if we actually experienced God, our Creator, in an unfiltered fashion, it would be incomprehensible. Even with an expanded mental capacity, so much of what we experience, is filtered through prior experiences and beliefs that I think we would either interpret an NDE based on that and/or the experience, the setting, “props”, “costumes” etc would be altered to help us. I think that may explain at least some of the disparity in the NDEs of people from diverse cultures.
That being said, I really can’t accept that experiencing a “Hell” as a torture chamber is anything from God. I suppose someone could interpret pain they experience in spiritual education as “torture”, but the graphic, “hellacious” descriptions of torture, pain, howling demons etc. is absolutely not from God. As I mentioned before, I think there are many possible explanations for these descriptions of experiences—from complete fabrication (most likely), to embellishment to purely mental (and not OBE) experiences.
Is there anything one can do that would result in decreased lucid dreaming?
I think that you may find exercise helpful. If the exercise is work, then so much the better. Spend as much time as you can working, whether it’s cleaning the house, cooking, caring for the yard, dedicated exercise time, or at a moderately active job. This will tire you in a good and healthy way so that you will sleep more soundly. Try to go to bed at a regular time (say, 10 pm or thereabouts) and get up at a regular time. At your age you should probably be fine with 6-8 hours of sleep a night, but if you genuinely need 10, that’s not so unusual. Just make sure you do get up at a regular time, rather than lying in bed drowsing. That’s probably your dreaming time. And if you don’t exert yourself during the day, most of your sleep time will be spent in light drowsing and dreaming.
The advantages of this are that first, you won’t feel guilty for failing to accomplish things you’d like to do (or at least things you’d like to have done ). Second, you will be healthier and far less prone to depression, tension & nervous irritation – as well as a whole long list of unpleasant symptoms brought on by inactivity. Third, I think you’ll find your sleep sounder and your dreams much easier to forget on waking – even the unpleasant ones. It’s hard to make oneself do these things, but if you can accomplish it, I think it will at least help, and maybe even eventually eliminate the disturbing dreams. These are just observations on sleep and dreams generally. I haven’t had much experience with lucid dreams, so this isn’t specific to them, but I think it will probably help you if you can do this – even if you have to wean yourself gradually from the excessive sleep periods. I hope it does – do give it a try if you can.
I don’t want to distract from the thread farther, so I’ll pm.
Cindy, friend, thanks for your advice. I can’t go wrong with being more active - but it is a challenge. Weaning myself off gradually seems like the only practical solution.
Jason - will PM you back. Thanks.
Anywho, I did a quick search and came across a website where researchers conducted experiments which seem to suggest that NDE’s are lucid dreaming, or, to put it in the words of one neurologist, “NDEs are generated by the same brain mechanisms that cause lucid dreams.”
Given my own experiences, it seems like one possibility. There definitely seems to be strong correlations between LD and NDEs, imo.
I came across this post on the internet, and thought it was very insightful. The writer sought to explain how the brain and our belief system works, and why he feels convinced that religious experiences such as NDEs can have natural causes. He also spoke about his own NDE experience. It’s a bit lengthy, but, I thought it was worth it.
I suggest exploring a book by Richard Abanes (a Christian) called JOURNEY INTO THE LIGHT Exporing Near-Death Experiences.
You can read reviews of it at Amazon, and can purchase from them a used one for $1.99 or a new one for $9.92
I read the first article you linked a couple of days ago and I’ve been thinking about it since. It’s interesting, but I think, not very persuasive. I’m not saying they’re wrong, just that the evidence they present isn’t (imo) very good. A couple of problems . . . first, while there are NDEs while the brain still displays electrical activity, there are many NDEs with medical documentation of no discernible electrical or any activity at all in the patient’s brain. By definition then, the brain isn’t suffering from an overload of CO2 or anything else. It’s turned off – like when you power down your computer and take the battery out. The data is still there (as long as the tissues aren’t without O2 for too long a time), but nothing is happening at all.
Second, these lucid dreamers in the experiment are first coached to have a particular kind of experience, and then they make an effort to replicate the experience in their dreams. I can do that in a daydream anytime I like. It wouldn’t be as real as in a lucid dream, I’m sure, but the thing is – the fact that they can implant a fantasy they’ve been coached to create within their dream doesn’t prove anything regarding people who spontaneously experience this scenario (or another scenario) during periods of cardiac arrest (or even during periods of extreme stress such as immediately prior to and during a car accident). And then there are the NDErs who report accurately on the activity of the medical team, or report meeting (in their NDE) people they know, who have unbeknownst to them, recently died – while they themselves were sick and uninformed.
Anyway, I guess I’m undecided on the whole NDE thing, but I can’t see where this lucid dreaming experiment teaches us anything about the authenticity of NDE’s or its lack. It probably teaches us quite a lot about lucid dreams though, and I’m glad I read it. I’m going to scan your second article now.
Another worthwhile read, CL, and I enjoyed reading it.
I was particularly interested in one of the ‘asides’ that probably has little to do with the writer’s conclusions. The idea that personality is not inherited? Sorry to fixate on that, but it’s total bunk. Personality is most certainly inherited. Input along the way has its effects – no denying that – but personality follows genetics. Ask anyone who has adopted an infant or raised the child of a completely absent father or mother. They get personality traits from BOTH parents; they just do. Separated identical twin studies also confirm this. Not on topic, but it kind of makes me wonder at the quality of the author’s researching skills. It’s a valid point of contention – difficult to prove something like that for yea or for nay, but to just flat say “Our personality is not inherited” is silly.
The author rightly points out that we respond to stimuli to the brain. The thing is though, most of us don’t walk around with suitably designed helmets gently zapping carefully selected portions of the brain. There’s no reason to suspect that otherwise perfectly normal persons who’ve never experienced a supernatural phenomenon in their lives are suddenly seeing a “ghost” – and that this is happening because this or that lobe was falsely stimulated, thus causing a hallucination of some sort. He speculates that this has to be what happens, because he does not believe it possible for a person to truly see a ghost. After all, he knows that ghosts don’t exist. I reserve judgment on ghosts, but the point here is that he’s reading his own belief system back into the data. In his beliefs, consciousness is a product of the brain. If there is consciousness, then it absolutely MUST be a product of brain function, and if that consciousness is aberrant to what he considers natural, then the brain has to be malfunctioning. From his point of view, it makes perfect sense.
Again, I’d give the same objection about the brain essentially being powered down during many medically studied NDEs. This writer had an experience that he seems motivated to discount. (That’s fine – he needs to do what he needs to do.) And it’s possible that he DID have nothing more than a drug-induced hallucination. It doesn’t sound (from what he writes) as though he was ever in danger of his life or that his heart (much less his brain) flat-lined. But from his writing it does sound like the experience troubled him and he has a need to explain it naturalistically. To the naturalist, the brain IS the mind IS the consciousness, and when the brain ceases to function, everything winks out. If the person is revived, then he should remember nothing past the time of the shut-down – not even a hallucination. I’m guessing that in his experience, his brain did NOT cease to function – however a great many people do have experiences while their EEGs are flat, indicating no measurable electrical activity, indicating what medical science considers to be brain death, and solid grounds for asking about the patient’s organ donor card and/or seeking permission from the family to pull the plug (after harvesting any useable organs). If a flat EEG for a given period of time and absent medically induced coma doesn’t indicate irreversible brain death, then a lot of people have been . . . well, let’s not get too macabre here.
Atheists are highly motivated to discount these experiences because their belief system says that they cease to exist once their brain ceases to function. Any activity (true or hallucination) after brain death is cause for trepidation. So they ignore this inconvenient factor: the flat-line EEGs of many NDErs.
For us, it might also be more convenient to discount NDEs because they challenge our belief system with Muslims seeing Muhammad or Allah, Hindus seeing Krishna, etc., Buddhists melting into the collective nirvana, and Christians seeing Jesus. (And of course certain people who believe in it and are perhaps expecting to end up there, experiencing hell.)
People who try to describe their NDEs soon pick up a new vocabulary word: ineffable. It seems the experience genuinely cannot be described with human language. If this is the case, I wonder whether it can be translated into human thought filtered through the apparently inadequate human computer: the brain? If they’ve ignored God, rebelled against Him, been cruel to their fellow human beings, etc., I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that their NDE was unpleasant. But if the NDE cannot be described by human words, I doubt it can be adequately processed by the human mind either. We do a pretty good job of expressing our minds – some better than others. I can’t think of a thought in my head at this moment that I’d describe as ineffable. Hard to explain, maybe, but not completely impossible. Not ineffable.
So, if this is the case, I’d expect each person to interpret his or her visions in an NDE they experienced via their own symbolism – the things familiar to them. I don’t have a problem with people who aren’t Christians meeting with a welcoming presence beyond the veil. Actually, it gives me quite a lot of hope for myself. God’s mercies never come to an end. I think He knows when our intentions are good and when we at least desire to do the best we can with what we have. All names (sounds) will be sorted in the end and we will all know God by His true names and titles. No one comes to the Father except through the Son, but all come through the Son. Why would He send Pagans to hell simply because they innocently worshiped the gods their parents and culture taught them to worship? If they by nature do the things they know to be right to the best of their knowledge and ability considering their circumstances, why would He demand more from them than they were able to give in those circumstances? And if they come back here and interpret their experiences (ineffable – completely beyond human expression) in light of their own culture, I don’t think that’s surprising.
What the NDE tells us, if it tells us anything, is that human consciousness survives the apparent death of the body. People report seeing temporal things they could not see in the circumstances (even people blind from birth have reported accurately, in visual language, what they have seen), hearing things they should not be able to hear – that they weren’t even in the proximity to hear, and knowing things they ought to have no way of knowing – verifiable things, available via video recordings, surgery records, testimony of medical personnel, etc. Atheists don’t like to hear that. They are VERY invested in the idea that consciousness is seated in the brain and the brain only. We are flesh and blood, and spirit does not exist. For them, this is a dangerous idea, and even more dangerous if they perceive themselves to have experienced such a thing. Scarier still when well-known atheists (as has occasionally happened, I’m told) have such an experience and back off ever so quietly from their former beliefs.
So . . . again, an interesting article and I don’t doubt the author’s sincerity – but it’s not especially persuasive to me. I think he’s struggling to explain away his experience – whatever it was.
Aside from not accounting for brain-death experiences (though I could make some lightly educated guesses as to how those would be accounted for, at least partially), what I noticed was that the author seems to reduce religious belief or lack of it down to (apparently) mystical experientiality or the lack of it – except that the author tacitly acknowledges his own capability to actively infer truth in a fashion qualitatively superior to the experientiality. He allows on one hand that even he might, in theory, be rationalizing away an experience to better match his pre-experience set of beliefs; but his whole article is set up to be an argument about the truth of various inferences from data, in a fashion nominally superior to mere rationalization.
The point being that if he’s capable of that, other entities similar to himself can be capable of it, too, and so might be responsibly reaching different conclusions about how the facts of life add up.
That’s kind of an aside; I can see, and generally agree with, why he decided his own particular experience was only a natural by-product, under the circumstances, and he fairly allows that the areas could be intentionally stimulated for actual communication or valid informational purposes by an outside person (including, in theory, a deity).
There is also the advancement of the idea that the consciousness is apart from the brain, that the brain serves as a sort of a filter in which the consciousness resides. In other words, while in the body the brain limits what the consciousness perceives. But once death occurs, the brain is freed up to a greater consciousness that is not bound by the confines of the physical brain.
Support for this would be cases of people who are blind (even from birth) having NDEs where they are able to see colors they never seen before. (There are even cases of people, not necessarily blind, who have seen “colors” that are not in the normal visual spectrum of colors). Likewise, with the deaf NDEs hearing sounds they couldn’t while in the material body.
In most of the NDEs I’ve read about, the person experiences a sharper clarity of mind and sense of awareness even greater than normally experienced in the physical body. Sensations are acute and a sense understanding about their surroundings and knowledge suggests more than just dreaming or even lucid dreaming. They claim that a reality exists that is even more real than what we experience here.
Then there is the phenomenom of cases, especially involving children, where they have encountered dead relatives or family friends whom they never met or seen in pictures, and upon returning are able to identify them when a picture is shown to them.
Or there are cases where a person with an NDE is unconscious and therefore would not be aware of their surrounding, coming back and describing conversations that took place that they shouldn’t have been aware of, even down the hall from the hospital room they are in. Or describing precise procedures performed on them while unconscious during surgery or resuscitation performed while undergoing cardiac arrest.
I can grant that the brain can perform some mindboggling things, but some of the stuff I’ve read just can’t be easily explained. Not that I’m fully bought into the idea of NDEs reflecting spiritual realities, but it is intriguing to study and lends open all sorts of possibilities.
Thanks for reading; and good points everyone. I have to come back to this, but wanted to acknowledge your responses.
Arrrggghh!!! I typed up a decent response to y’all’s replies, and lost it! I know I should have copied it before clicking “preview” but I didn’t this time. I honestly don’t feel like re-typing a post al momento, but, hopefully I will get to it some time. Boooooooooooooooo.
Like I have tried to train my Mom (to no avail): ALWAYS COMPOSE IN A TEMPORARY TEXT FILE SOMEWHERE YOU’VE SET UP FOR THAT PURPOSE, SO YOU CAN SAVE IT AS YOU GO!
Which even I occasionally forget/neglect to do, so I still feel your pain.
CH, I can usually find posts that happens to by hitting the “back” or the forward button. Too late for your lost post I fear but next time . . . .
The work sighting neurological studies is interesting, though I do wonder if the author interpreting as Jason suggests the evidence somewhat narrowly. He does make an important distinction above of course that there is a possible distinction between stray and random (and perhaps damaged or dysfunctional) synapses firing off causing the sensation which the brain interprets as a religious experience which is then filtered through the person’s own understanding, or whether it is rather normally a sign the person reacting to something they are interacting with (since it was extra medically-induced artificial stimulation of those areas of the brain, just as other such stimulation can produce similar feelings and sensations in patients that are normally the result of actual interactions, sensations and events in life), though he reflected a hope that future research would clear some events up.
The problem is I think he might still be defining things to narrowly, or rather defining his idea of what he means by God to narrowly, which together with an imagined ‘natural’ vs ‘supernatural’ division of reality that just isn’t the case with what classical Christianity or creational monotheism in general means by God (nor does it see reality as having a natural realm and then a supernatural realm that ‘breaks in’ and intervenes as it were). He seems to see God as a god, a being among other beings, part of the universe (though a powerful and supernatural one), who can only if he will interact with do so through particular mystic ways, rather then that God as beyond Being, or Being in it’s full reality, the one infinite source of all that is, the uncontingent Ground of all contingent things and reality, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things, and so by this very reason completely immanent to all things. He is not an inhabitant of any natural or supernatural dimension, He is not posed over against the universe, nor rather is He the universe itself, but is beyond the totality of all created being (which comprises all beings such as ourselves, stars, galaxies, or for that matter potential angels, demons, gods etc). He is rather the Being who is beyond being, the inexhaustible source of all reality, the absolute upon which the contingent is always utterly dependent, the unity and simplicity that underlies and sustains the diversity of finite and composite things, Infinite being, infinite consciousness, infinite bliss, from whom we all are, by whom we know and are known, and in whom we find our only true consummation (Hart, D.B. The Consciousness of God, pg. 30). Therefore his hope to divide an experience into a provable mystic ‘supernatural’ interaction in light of the theistic conjecture of who God is (as a opposed to a god, say Zeus, who however powerful was always thought to be part of the universe, of nature, a being among other finite and contingent beings, a god, even the architect creator god of the Deistic view, is a completely different category of thing to the God the theistic and Christianity in particular declares) is fatally flawed from the beginning. God as understood above is not limited to only certain supernatural interactions, as if he were just a being among others, rather everything is Him interacting with creation, and creation interacting with Him, so the very example he gives that he would think can be defined as a ‘natural’ experience, such as being overcome by the beauty and majesty of something which then causes the neurological response (or for that matter such experiences, or for that matter acts of love or compassion that don’t involve such stimulation) would not be the result of God communicating and interacting with us is just wrong in my opinion. The very experience of beauty and wonder, particularly the deeper insight it gives and the growth is very much an experience of God and interacting with Him, to think otherwise is to bring in somewhat Gnostic ideas about reality, and not the Christian one.
He defines God to narrowly and therefore his analysis as well, and brings in a ‘supernatural/natural’ division that isn’t part of Christian conception of reality, in hopes of defining whether such stimulation is the result of God or not, which misses the point of who God is. Such a study might reveal potentially whether someone might be interacting with some other being (say an angelic being etc), though even there I imagine trying to demonstrate how something could convincing be shown not to be purely a neurological effect or a reaction, or vis versa might prove terribly difficult from a purely neurological perspective.
As to NDE I tend towards the somewhat skeptical as to what if anything can be reliably gained from such experiences in terms of what is claimed to be seen in the unseen dimension of heaven, though it might tell much above the brain itself, and beyond that the brain/mind might exist and function beyond (though not on the whole separate) to the observable brain itself. The experiences are as suggested above quite similar to lucid dreaming, and the very trauma of events could likely generate in the coma states such experiences, this would apply even when the person potentially on the edge of death perhaps did interact with the unseen realities. They would still both filter that experience through their perceptions, particularly in their current comatose and traumatic state effecting how they understood what they were interacting with, and then when they finally recover this experience is processed and interpreted by their mind/brain which combines such sensations with the trauma induced lucid dream. Such experiences therefore would seem to me to be highly dubious as providing any reliable information, even the 'Christian ones, in fact in some respects the very traumatic nature of the experiences might suggest that some of the mystic and other experiences to the extent they operate and reflect some experience of God are more reliable to vary extents then NDE’s, though of course we must be cautious.
Of all the NDE books I’ve read, four stand out:
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander
Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani
To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story… by Mary C. Neal M.D.
Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death by Sam Parnia and Josh Young
Erasing Death is the most comprehensive research book on the topic, written by a medical doctor (i.e. who is Hindu, by the way). Proof of Heaven is an excellent rendering by a neurosurgeon, who writes also as an objective scientist. These two books would be at the top of my agenda.
Basically, you can explain near death experiences from the standpoint of Aristotelian philosophy (i.e. in the brain) or Platonic philosophy (a soul independent of the brain and body). And scientists and philosophers will try to align NDE experiences along one of those philosophical frameworks.
There are some alternative renderings. For example, the Lakota tribes know from experience a lot about spirits and the near death experience. And for a Christian view of spirits, I recommend the book The Pipe and Christ: A Christian-Sioux Dialogue by William Stolzman, who is a Roman Catholic priest and Lakota tribal member. But once I was talking to a Lakota elder about a sun dancer (i.e. one of their sacred ceremonies) who committed suicide. His response was that things would be much worse after death, as they need to deal with the same problems there. And he said it was like the Robin Williams movie What Dreams May Come. He said that movie was pretty much like it is. To learn a bit about the sun dance - from a Westerner’s perspective and who ran a dance approved by Lakota elders - see Sun Dancing: A Spiritual Journey on the Red Road by Michael Hull.
Then there’s the experiences of Tiffany Snow, who had a near death experience. She became a contemporary Christian healer and stigmatist. Here is her perspective on what happens three weeks after death at is.gd/zWLzER It should be noted that while she claims to be Catholic, it’s not through the Church of Rome. The Church of Rome doesn’t publicly acknowledge, endorse nor condemn what she learned and shared. But I have dialogued with her husband in the past, who’s a priest in the Old Catholic Church (i.e. they broke from Rome). I did enjoy the dialogue and he was a nice person to talk with.
The Tibetan lamas also have done research into this area. They ended up producing the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Back to your question. Atheistic and agnostic scientists will continue to devise experiments to prove it’s just smoke in the brain. Theistic and those with some conception of God (i.e. Brahma, Allah, Jehovah, etc.), will continue to devise experiments to prove it’s more than smoke in the brain. More publications will be produced from shamans and mystics. Theologians and philosophers will continue to debate and reflect on near death experiences. Experimental Psychologists will try to see if any thoughts, feelings, etc., are influencing what they see and experience. They probably are experiencing a personal hell of their own thoughts, feelings, actions, etc. I personally look forward to what philosophers, neurologists and psychologists come up with in Phenomenology.
Thank you for the recommendations! I listened to a few online panel discussions with medical experts on the topic of NDEs that included Sam Parnia. He does seem to have extensive insight and knowledge about the topic - particularly since he is works in the area of resuscitation science & medicine. Really intriguing stuff.
Edited to include:
For anyone interested, you can access the journal here: resuscitationjournal.com/art … 00-9572(1400739-4/pdf
I have met someone who claims to have went to hell then came back. It has haunted me ever since along with an apparent vision my classmate had right next to me. If someone could help me please do.