Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

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hawkgrrrl
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Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by hawkgrrrl » 18 Dec 2009, 11:07

A friend posted a very interesting discussion at Mormon Matters about Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and their impact on people: http://mormonmatters.org/2009/12/17/the ... pretation/
A while back, I read a short story written by someone who had an NDE. I found this story in A Thoughtful Faith, a compilation of Mormon Essays.

A Personal Revelation by Allen R. Barlow

[This is an excerpt from a short story containing autobiographical elements. The author and his wife had a crisis of faith that had led them to pray for guidance; when no answer came, they stopped praying and left the church. Then, he experienced an after-death experience and conversation with his deceased grandmother.]

"Grandmother," I tried to say, "I am so glad you're here. I have so many questions." But instead I heard a voice, my voice, murmuring, "Now we'll see if they can justify it all." It sounded fierce and demanding. It shocked me. But this sort of thing happened each time I tried to speak in that place. My words and the tone of my voice emerged quite changed from my conscious intent.

Concern replaced Grandmother's faint smile. "Why have you come before you are whole?"

I tried to rephrase my prior statement: "Well, I am hoping to get some questions answered." But my voice was still uncooperative. "I'm as whole as I'm going to get. If I'm less than I should be, it's His fault, not mine, and I mean to tell Him so," it asserted. "I'll see him now if you please."

This little speech made me uncomfortable, but Grandmother seemed amused. "Will you indeed?" she asked. "Brave, if not bright. Come with me. I'll show the way."

We entered a celestial park that was radiant and glorious like Grandmother. I walked in silence, concerned about the difficulties my speech was causing me. "Grandmother, everything I say is coming out distorted." But alas, what actually emerged was, "Grandmother, I can't protect myself here. There is nowhere to hide."

"Quite true," was her reply. "You are perhaps too used to the facades and veneers of mortality. Here in eternity, there can be none of that. Mind and spirit have become one. You are what you are. You say what you feel." What I was was plainly not much compared to her dazzling radiance. And it was true that my feelings really did match my spoken words. I was feeling supremely frustrated at the lack of control I had on this conversation.

"Grandmother," I ventured, "didn't you find religion confusing down there? The various tenets of the church. All of them absolute, they assure me, yet so many based on dubious history." Predictably, it didn't come out that way at all. Instead I said: "Freedom is a miserable thing, don't you think? So painful."

"Painful, to be sure," she said. "To those who really know it, it gives moments more painful than death or birth. But don't say miserable. Say breathtaking or better yet, exhilarating. There is no growth without it. And growth is life."

"But did it have to be so confusing?" I attempted to say. Instead, my irritated voice exclaimed, "Look, all I wanted was just to be shown a clear path. I could have managed the rest just fine."

She laughed, "The rest is virtually nothing. Haven't you seen that? Making the path is mortality: hacking your way through the brush of temptation and persecution, stumbling up the hills of uncertainty, scaling the cliffs of ignorance, quenching your thirst at the springs of love. These are the very things that bring you to The Goal."

"But even the goal is ill-defined, isn't it?" I tried. Instead, my bitter voice said, a glib saying. "It's so easy, isn't it? Make a path. And where should it go? Hey, no problem. We'll send down a hundred prophets (all of them with suspect credentials) to clearly explain it to you. And they will point a hundred different directions and then you take your pick. What? Not enough help? Tough break. That's all there is. No maps on this trip. No compasses either."

"I expected better of you than that," she said sadly. "A person of your advantages. Life's goal is plainly to draw near to God and to become like Him. That cannot be a novel concept to you. You must have heard it all your life. Which of the prophets did not teach it? And how shall you accomplish it without learning and loving? No compass? Who can doubt the validity of his path when he feels that inner peace that can come in no other way? The Goal and its direction have always been quite clear."

I vainly attempted to defend myself: "Of course I know all that. But what about ordinances and the 'one true Church' and priesthood and such? Why is that so confusing?" But again, my words were transformed: "Come on. People need a detailed plan. If they would have just made the steps plain and the leaders' authority unquestionable, we good ones would have unfailingly followed them."

"So, there's the root of it," she said. "You think the answer is more valuable than the ability to work the problem. It's not true. Simple obedience is a necessary element in life, but it's no virtue in and of itself. Only as a forerunner to understanding can it aid the purpose of life. When God asks obedience of His children, it is for their own protection as they begin to explore new and unfamiliar realms. But we must grow beyond it as He did. God's power comes from within. He has learned all things. And so must we. This checklist you ask for has no power of exaltation. An enticing idea, but vain."

We walked on in that glorious place, and my wounds were already beginning to heal. Its beauty penetrated me to the core.
"Grandmother, does God really answer the prayers of mortals?" I was getting more in tune with this place; my words came out, "Why wouldn't He answer my prayers?"

"Be grateful that God doesn't base his interactions with us on our often confused perception of our needs. He loves us too much for that, and gives greater gifts. To those who truly seek Him, He grants not what they ask, but what they need. In your specific case, I don't know. Let me speculate. He may have felt it time to dispel your confusion about the things in life that matter most. Let us suppose he had answered your questions in just the way you wanted. Would it have made you love your fellowman more? Increased your integrity? Enlarged your creativity? Improved your ability to discern truth? Or would you have become yet more narrow with such a revelation, celebrating the correctness of your belief, and becoming ever less empathetic toward your fellow men's struggles with life's perplexities?"

I held my peace for a change, afraid of what my words might say. "Small wonder then," she continued, "that He seems to favor comforting, strengthening, and inspiring over clarifying factual curiosities."

At length we came to a bridge that spanned a wide chasm. I felt True Joy for the first time. "Come," said Grandmother. "He dwells on the far side. We will tell Him your tale."

Despite my overwhelming desire to remain, I attempted to say, "I understand now, Grandmother. Is it not possible for me to return for a while that I may become whole?" My voice came out, "I'm beginning to understand . . ."

"An unusual request. Most who have glimpsed this place would rather stay than return, even if they can only loiter about the edges. Still, since you ask," she gazed into the brightness on the other side of the chasm for a time. "It is well. He approves. Go and be thou whole."

I began my descent. "What will you tell them of this place?" she asked.

"I cannot say. But plainly I am no prophet." This time my words emerged unaltered.

[end of excerpt]

So, what do you think of NDEs? What strikes me is their universality (see the linked post). They seem to have the same elements. But that consistency doesn't make it clear what they are - a physical experience, a religious one, something hard-wired into the brain?

Did you like the story?

Arthur
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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by Arthur » 18 Dec 2009, 14:14

I really like this story, for the following reasons.

1. You said I'm your friend.
2. You linked to my post.
3. I think it really highlighted some important aspects of my own search for "truth." And that is, every time I've had a problem with the LDS Church, maybe even a "dealbreaker," when I really searched my heart I realized that the problem was really with me. Not with the Church, my parents, or anyone else. Human beings are very good at deflecting. But I realized that if and when I stand before God to account for my actions, I'm not going to be able to deflect anything. I'm not going to be able to trick Him or twist or parse my words confusingly. There will be no "it depends on what the definition of the word is is." I'm not going to be able to blame anyone else. This NDE really highlights this fact. Whether or not it was an "authentic" experience is really secondary. The experiencer's walls were all completely broken down into their true sources.

After reading Man's Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl, something within me changed. I realized that man (and woman) can do anything. If man can get through the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, seeing every atrocity there, and losing family members, and still get through on the other side believing in the goodness of man and believing in God... then man can do anything. And by extension, I can do anything. Mortality gives us a chance not to ASK the question "What is the meaning of life?" but to ANSWER the question. And I choose how to answer. As soon as God steps in, even to answer part of the question, even to offer PROOF that He exists, He's taking away our agency to create meaning ourselves. Proof that God exists would be proof that He doesn't love us- or trust us.

Once I got through all that, I realized that God isn't going to judge me based on whether Joseph Smith was a liar. He won't judge me based on whether I was gullible or tricked by some scientific sleight of hand. He will judge me based on what I have done with what I have, and whether I loved others. He will not judge me based on whether I obeyed a rule, but whether I UNDERSTAND the rule. And if we really understand the rule, we will want to not only obey it but go BEYOND it.

Believe it or not, this made me love the Church even more. Because now the perceived "problems" of the Church all melted away. That NDE basically says the same thing, to me.

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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by swimordie » 18 Dec 2009, 17:02

Thanks, HG!! That was cool.
Arthur wrote:As soon as God steps in, even to answer part of the question, even to offer PROOF that He exists, He's taking away our agency to create meaning ourselves. Proof that God exists would be proof that He doesn't love us- or trust us.
Absolutely love this!!
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by Brian Johnston » 18 Dec 2009, 19:33

I love reading about NDE experiences. I just love them! I devoured this topic many years ago. I don't really care what they prove or disprove. They just are what they are.

They are experiences that are common throughout humanity (across all cultures and history), and they always seem to be very profound and meaningful. They give me a lot of hope about life and about people. They seem to bring out the best in people that have them, and also tend to inspire a lot of people who get to hear about them second hand.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by Cadence » 20 Dec 2009, 12:44

I have always been intrigued by NDE's, but like other events they cannot prove the existence of an afterlife. The non believer would say it is just the way the brain works to cope with traumatic situation. It is interesting to note a couple of similarities between these experiences. First most people tell how someone was there to meet them. Some go on a small journey others do not, but they generally have some kind of guide. Some say it was Christ. some a family member or some other messenger. The second point is it is not a constant. The Buddhist or Muslim never sees Christ, thus coming back to state their conversion Christianity. They see someone from their earthly experience. Could be Allah or some other religious figure. Not really sure what it all means but obviously these experiences are never to convert you to another religion.

Like small miracles that happen they seem to be of most benefit to the person who experiences them.
Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction--faith in fiction is a damnable false hope. Thomas A. Edison

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by Tom Haws » 20 Dec 2009, 21:49

Valoel wrote:I love reading about NDE experiences. I just love them! I devoured this topic many years ago. I don't really care what they prove or disprove. They just are what they are.

They are experiences that are common throughout humanity (across all cultures and history), and they always seem to be very profound and meaningful. They give me a lot of hope about life and about people. They seem to bring out the best in people that have them, and also tend to inspire a lot of people who get to hear about them second hand.
Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Thanks, HG, for sharing a good one. I could do this every day. Love 'em. Love 'em. Love 'em.
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
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Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by Brian Johnston » 22 Dec 2009, 13:59

There are enough accounts given of people who have seen, heard or came to know things during an NDE (while out of body) having no purely materialistic way for them to know, that it is very convincing to me that we are not just biological meat machines and that consciousness is not confined to the brain or body alone. [epic run on sentence, lol]
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by Curt Sunshine » 22 Dec 2009, 17:01

[epic run on sentence, lol]


Rookie!! 8-)
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by HiJolly » 05 Jan 2010, 14:30

Excellent!

Tom has a thread here somewhere that discusses NDE's. I personally think they are somewhat misnamed. They're more like an experience of being caught up into heaven, in most cases up to the third heaven.

There is no death, there is only change. David O. McKay described death as no more dramatic than "Walking from this room into the next".


HiJolly
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Re: Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Post by Tom Haws » 05 Jan 2010, 19:51

HiJolly wrote:Tom has a thread here somewhere that discusses NDE's.
Here it is: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=725
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
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Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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