Mod+ 265. DR. GREGORY SHUSHAN ON CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON OF NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES

#2
Do spiritually transformative experiences suggest there is a universal morality?

Yes, the information that comes through evidential mediums and NDErs is very similar, but there are some factors that can cloud the issue:

  1. Not everyone is at the same place in spiritual development and not everyone has the same needs regarding guidance on their life, so different people might get different messages. For example, one person might need to be more loving towards other people, and another person might need to stop trying to please everyone and take better care of herself. So you can find messages that seem to be contradictory when they are just messages for different individuals with different characteristics and different needs.

  2. Spiritual messages have to be constrained by what people are willing to believe. If a spiritual message is too far from what a person or group is willing to accept they will reject it. The people on the other side can't correct every inaccuracy in religious dogma because the message would be rejected by adherents and messenger would be ... you could say ... "crucified".

  3. Not everyone agrees on what "spiritual" means and what a "spiritually transformative experience" is. For example, some materialists have their own definition of spirituality and what they might consider a spiritually transformative experiences might be of a totally different sort than, for example an NDE, and it is not necessarily valid to include materialist spirituality in an analysis of spiritual spirituality.

Also...(reposting because of its relevance here)
One factor is that you have to decide if a spiritual message is a personal message just for you, is a message for some group of people, or is a universal message for everyone.

I think Howard Storm's NDE was a message for Christians.

Christians deserve spiritual encouragement from the other side just as much as anyone else does. It is not realistic to expect all Christians to give up their religion because of what NDErs say. If all NDEs were nondenomenational, many Christians would reject them. I think that we need to be tolerant of Christians and their beliefs and allow them to have Christian NDEs. If they want to start arguing exclusivity, that needs a response, but I don't see the need to discredit an NDE just because it is religious. Howard Storm is able to help many Christians evolve their understanding in a way that a non-denomenational NDEr would never be able to do, so I think we need to appreciate the work he is doing for his co-religionists and not be too defensive about our own beliefs.

If you want to teach someone a lesson you have to maintain your credibility. That means you can't tell them something that will cause them to reject everything else you say to them. This difficulty puts a lot of constraints on what we hear from the other side and is the cause of many seeming contradictions.

Remember, when it comes to consciousness, most religions are closer to the truth than materialist science.
From the transcript...
I will say that when someone starts discussing this question with me from a perspective of total absolute belief, I will usually raise some issues that might seem like a challenge to their whole metaphysical [belief in] NDE…but if someone comes to me really, really skeptical and says there’s no way, this is [all physical], then I will argue even more vociferously that you just can’t say that. I will say that as you indicated all these theories about dying brains, things like hypoxia…or REM intrusion, or the awakening brain, or any of these things, not a single one of them actually works. None of them really addresses NDE in all their similarities and all their differences across cultures. So the differences really challenge the physiological theories. I think that’s where one of the ways my research can contribute to the current debate on the question of whether these are real or not, because scientists really need to address why there are differences across cultures if this is a purely physiological, [epiphenomenal] experience
I would like to hear more from the Gregory Sushan on this topic. What factors challenge metaphysical beliefs? Why do cultural differences contradict a materialist explanation? Halucinations and dreams have cultural differences don't they?
 
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#3
Alex's question at the end of the interview:

Do spiritually transformative experiences, including near death experiences, suggest that there is a universal morality? That there is love as we think of it--a good that we can move towards or maybe even are drawn towards?
 
#4
Regarding cross-cultural differences in the afterlife:
There is a lot known about the afterlife that comes to us from people who have had near-death experiences and have visited the afterlife, and from spirits who have communicated through evidential mediums.
...
Assuming you are an average person at an average state of development, after death you will go to a place in the afterlife that is similar to the environment you lived in during your earth life. An American will go to a place that looks familiar to Americans. A person from a primitive, non-technological society will go to a place that looks familiar to them. This is to help you feel comfortable as you adjust to being a spirit. You will have a body, there will be natural areas and also buildings.
...
 
#5
Do spiritually transformative experiences suggest there is a universal morality?

Yes, the information that comes through evidential mediums and NDErs is very similar, but there are some factors that can cloud the issue:

  1. Not everyone is at the same place in spiritual development and not everyone has the same needs regarding guidance on their life, so different people might get different messages. For example, one person might need to be more loving towards other people, and another person might need to stop trying to please everyone and take better care of herself. So you can find messages that seem to be contradictory when they are just messages for different individuals with different characteristics and different needs.

  2. Spiritual messages have to be constrained by what people are willing to believe. If a spiritual message is too far from what a person or group is willing to accept they will reject it. The people on the other side can't correct every inaccuracy in religious dogma because the message would be rejected by adherents and messenger would be ... you could say ... "crucified".

  3. Not everyone agrees on what "spiritual" means and what a "spiritually transformative experience" is. For example, some materialists have their own definition of spirituality and what they might consider a spiritually transformative experiences might be of a totally different sort than, for example an NDE, and it is not necessarily valid to include materialist spirituality in an analysis of spiritual spirituality.

Also...(reposting because of its relevance here)


From the transcript...

I would like to hear more from the Gregory Sushan on this topic. What factors challenge metaphysical beliefs? Why do cultural differences contradict a materialist explanation? Halucinations and dreams have cultural differences don't they?
these are good questions. I hope you consider emailing him. pls let us know if you hear back.
 
#7
265. Dr. Gregory Shushan on Cross-Cultural Comparison of Near-Death Experiences

Alex Tsakiris of Skeptiko interviews religious scholar Dr. Gregory Shushan on the parallels between near-death experience accounts across cultures.
Well, if one ask my opinion whether NDEs and STEs have some universal moral message, my answer would be: yes and no - it depends on what you mean by "morality".

I recognize two major - and mutually contradictory - meanings of this word; I will call them morality-1 and morality-2.

Morality-1 is empathic lucidity, a deep trait of our psyche which allow us to feel connection with others and understand their significance. It is the need and intention of the positive transaction with other beings, to mutually reinforce happiness and to help overcome suffering. It is the will to bring the bliss of yours to the world and share it with others.

Morality-2 is formal obedience, a docile following the rules which your tribe (whether it actually calls itself a "tribe" or uses some other name, such as "nation", "corporation", "country", "church", "societal order" or "public peace") are enforcing on you without your consent - and expects nothing but submission. Such rules may contradict morality-1 in the most obvious and shocking fashion, including demands to initiate violence in the name of morality-2.

As Diane Corcoran, a President of IANDS, noted (and her words are echoed by other NDE researchers), NDErs have a doulbe effect on experincers: on one hand, they tend to become more compassionate and humanistic; on the other hand, they become much less obedient to formal rules and regulations - including allegedly "moral" ones - forced on them by society. They have a deeper and stronger sense of morality-1, and more liberated from the bonds of morality-2.

Which is a desirable result, I suppose. In the fastly globalizing world, we have to develop some ethical vision which transcends tribal dogma. Otherwise we would be doomed to the cruel and meaningless cultural wars with no end in sight, since no tribal rule-set is superior to another one. And such vision, which might be loosely called "humanistic", is definitely empowered by the blissful transcendence of NDEs and STEs: if you perceived a glimpse of Ethernity, it is much harder not to see through the veil of arbitrary rules - and not to notice the living persons around you.
 
#8
I must confess that, because of the muddiness of the MP3, I missed a lot of this and didn't really connect with it. I'm not sure what Shushan is saying, really. But I'll definitely go with what Vortex is saying about the difference between inculcated and innate morality and the fact that NDEs seem to encourage the latter, although some people have it from birth to some degree or other.

It kinda looks like experiencing an NDE accelerates the process of discovering innate morality: but if you already have it, maybe by not that much.
 
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#10
Well, if one ask my opinion whether NDEs and STEs have some universal moral message, my answer would be: yes and no - it depends on what you mean by "morality".

I recognize two major - and mutually contradictory - meanings of this word; I will call them morality-1 and morality-2.

Morality-1 is empathic lucidity, a deep trait of our psyche which allow us to feel connection with others and understand their significance. It is the need and intention of the positive transaction with other beings, to mutually reinforce happiness and to help overcome suffering. It is the will to bring the bliss of yours to the world and share it with others.

Morality-2 is formal obedience, a docile following the rules which your tribe (whether it actually calls itself a "tribe" or uses some other name, such as "nation", "corporation", "country", "church", "societal order" or "public peace") are enforcing on you without your consent - and expects nothing but submission. Such rules may contradict morality-1 in the most obvious and shocking fashion, including demands to initiate violence in the name of morality-2.

As Diane Corcoran, a President of IANDS, noted (and her words are echoed by other NDE researchers), NDErs have a doulbe effect on experincers: on one hand, they tend to become more compassionate and humanistic; on the other hand, they become much less obedient to formal rules and regulations - including allegedly "moral" ones - forced on them by society. They have a deeper and stronger sense of morality-1, and more liberated from the bonds of morality-2.

Which is a desirable result, I suppose. In the fastly globalizing world, we have to develop some ethical vision which transcends tribal dogma. Otherwise we would be doomed to the cruel and meaningless cultural wars with no end in sight, since no tribal rule-set is superior to another one. And such vision, which might be loosely called "humanistic", is definitely empowered by the blissful transcendence of NDEs and STEs: if you perceived a glimpse of Ethernity, it is much harder not to see through the veil of arbitrary rules - and not to notice the living persons around you.
wow... very nice. when I talk about "morality" on Skeptiko I'm ususally juxtaposing it with this idea that we're just bilogical robots in a meaningless universe. So, while Dr. Shushan is being Oxford-careful about stepping too far beyond science's rigid boundries (understandable) I think it's good to look at how far past that NDEs take us.
 
#12
According to the Skeptiko narrative, the dominant paradigm today is eliminativist materialism, and this is incredibly hard to change because it supports, and is supported by, the state and the military-industrial complex. We're the good guys and we're trying to remind people that they do actually have experiences, emotions, love and morality. If we can do this, maybe the whole evil system will come crashing down.

As everybody here knows, I think every single part of this story is false or misleading, but a lot of people here do buy into this sort of thing.

So how does postmodernism fit into all of this? Even though people have been talking about the death of postmodernism for years now, it's still very influential in anthropology, religious studies, sociology, history, women's studies, literary theory, and many other fields. It says that atheism and materialism are no better and no more true than any other ism. It has no time for the kind of dogmatism and closed-mindedness we hear from many of the skeptics and new atheists. Why would the powers that be allow such ideas to take over the social sciences?
 
#13
Have not listened yet, a great subject.

We also have to consider what love is. It seems many confuse it with personal desire. I can honestly say my conception of love changed dramatically after my own spiritual experiences. I saw all the problems of the world stemming from the absence of it. It is selfless, the heros journey. To my surprise, as I am not a christian, I had visions of the crucifiction that left me in tears. I understood the selfless sacrifice. Incredibly powerful.

Changed my life, my family and friends are my riches and that to me is a true expression of sprituality. It is not about gaining magical powers.

As for cultural perspectives, I have issues with the eastern philosophies view of detatchment. Some do have these higher selfless concepts of love like Buddhism, some even think it is an obstacle! Some seem to only relate it to desire and the spiritual goals are selfish IMO. Not just materialism but detatching from all things, relationships and even emotions has negative effects. Apathy for one. Like sticking your head in the sand, and denying your purpose here which is to contribute. You can see it in India, with all the suffering right outside supposed holy sites. Add karma and you remove compassion, as suffering is deserved from some previous wrong doing. A baby perhaps abandoned on the street would apparently deserve it. It is far too easy to lay blame this way, and removes responsibility or the moral obligation to intercede. At least a loving materialist would not abandon his or her husband or wife and children to seek selfish spiritual goals. You are doing it wrong is all I can say.

It seems contrary to the message of NDE, and contrary to daily life. Ok off to listen.

Edit. Some excellent points in the interview, Great job Alex!
 
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#14
the whole idea that there can be an…objectivity to these kinds of texts…it’s not a very popular - G. Shushan
The comment makes sounds like it a dating choice. My point of view is that it is deep-seeded intellectual prejudice this scholar faces. Science methodology is charged with the task of locating and mapping objective patterns. Bring the patterns forward and then let the analysis begin. "Who knows where they may lead?" -- should be the attitude.
 
#15
"I recognize two major - and mutually contradictory - meanings of this word; I will call them morality-1 and morality-2."

As an NDE and OBE experiencer, that is definitely what happened to me....meaning they gave me a deeper understanding of Morality 1, and a general dismissal of societal "rules", many of which make no sense in light of a greater understanding of Morality1.
 
#16
According to the Skeptiko narrative, the dominant paradigm today is eliminativist materialism, and this is incredibly hard to change because it supports, and is supported by, the state and the military-industrial complex. We're the good guys and we're trying to remind people that they do actually have experiences, emotions, love and morality. If we can do this, maybe the whole evil system will come crashing down.

As everybody here knows, I think every single part of this story is false or misleading, but a lot of people here do buy into this sort of thing.

So how does postmodernism fit into all of this? Even though people have been talking about the death of postmodernism for years now, it's still very influential in anthropology, religious studies, sociology, history, women's studies, literary theory, and many other fields. It says that atheism and materialism are no better and no more true than any other ism. It has no time for the kind of dogmatism and closed-mindedness we hear from many of the skeptics and new atheists. Why would the powers that be allow such ideas to take over the social sciences?
Well, I prefer transmodernism to postmodernism... What is "transmodernism"? A good and short explanation can be found here. I, personally, regard transmodernism as the forth, integral phase of mankind's ascension. It synthesizes the experiential unity of premodernism, social progress of modernism and intellectual relativity of postmodernism, overcoming the blunders and excesses of these three previous paradigms and harmonising their strengths and benefits.

For an example of what I describe as "transmodernism", read a book of Robert Anton Wilson (Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Ralph Abraham, Terrence McKenna and Rupert Sheldrake are also good examples).
 
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#17
Have not listened yet, a great subject.

We also have to consider what love is. It seems many confuse it with personal desire. I can honestly say my conception of love changed dramatically after my own spiritual experiences. I saw all the problems of the world stemming from the absence of it. It is selfless, the heros journey. To my surprise, as I am not a christian, I had visions of the crucifiction that left me in tears. I understood the selfless sacrifice. Incredibly powerful.

Changed my life, my family and friends are my riches and that to me is a true expression of sprituality. It is not about gaining magical powers.

As for cultural perspectives, I have issues with the eastern philosophies view of detatchment. Some do have these higher selfless concepts of love like Buddhism, some even think it is an obstacle! Some seem to only relate it to desire and the spiritual goals are selfish IMO. Not just materialism but detatching from all things, relationships and even emotions has negative effects. Apathy for one. Like sticking your head in the sand, and denying your purpose here which is to contribute. You can see it in India, with all the suffering right outside supposed holy sites. Add karma and you remove compassion, as suffering is deserved from some previous wrong doing. A baby perhaps abandoned on the street would apparently deserve it. It is far too easy to lay blame this way, and removes responsibility or the moral obligation to intercede. At least a loving materialist would not abandon his or her husband or wife and children to seek selfish spiritual goals. You are doing it wrong is all I can say.

It seems contrary to the message of NDE, and contrary to daily life. Ok off to listen.

Edit. Some excellent points in the interview, Great job Alex!
interesting... thx. I continue to feel like a lot of the Atheistic Buddhism is a misguided interpretation. You can't have karma and reincarnation without love... without a moral imperative.
 
#18
Have not listened yet, a great subject.

We also have to consider what love is. It seems many confuse it with personal desire. I can honestly say my conception of love changed dramatically after my own spiritual experiences. I saw all the problems of the world stemming from the absence of it. It is selfless, the heros journey. To my surprise, as I am not a christian, I had visions of the crucifiction that left me in tears. I understood the selfless sacrifice. Incredibly powerful.

Changed my life, my family and friends are my riches and that to me is a true expression of sprituality. It is not about gaining magical powers.

As for cultural perspectives, I have issues with the eastern philosophies view of detatchment. Some do have these higher selfless concepts of love like Buddhism, some even think it is an obstacle! Some seem to only relate it to desire and the spiritual goals are selfish IMO. Not just materialism but detatching from all things, relationships and even emotions has negative effects. Apathy for one. Like sticking your head in the sand, and denying your purpose here which is to contribute. You can see it in India, with all the suffering right outside supposed holy sites. Add karma and you remove compassion, as suffering is deserved from some previous wrong doing. A baby perhaps abandoned on the street would apparently deserve it. It is far too easy to lay blame this way, and removes responsibility or the moral obligation to intercede. At least a loving materialist would not abandon his or her husband or wife and children to seek selfish spiritual goals. You are doing it wrong is all I can say.

It seems contrary to the message of NDE, and contrary to daily life. Ok off to listen.

Edit. Some excellent points in the interview, Great job Alex!
re love... I found this interesting:
 
#19
According to the Skeptiko narrative, the dominant paradigm today is eliminativist materialism, and this is incredibly hard to change because it supports, and is supported by, the state and the military-industrial complex. We're the good guys and we're trying to remind people that they do actually have experiences, emotions, love and morality. If we can do this, maybe the whole evil system will come crashing down.

As everybody here knows, I think every single part of this story is false or misleading, but a lot of people here do buy into this sort of thing.

So how does postmodernism fit into all of this? Even though people have been talking about the death of postmodernism for years now, it's still very influential in anthropology, religious studies, sociology, history, women's studies, literary theory, and many other fields. It says that atheism and materialism are no better and no more true than any other ism. It has no time for the kind of dogmatism and closed-mindedness we hear from many of the skeptics and new atheists. Why would the powers that be allow such ideas to take over the social sciences?
Waaa.
What are you talking about? Most people here are not suggesting that eleminative materialism is the mainstream paradigm. Materialism/physicalism is even mostly restricted to science anyways. Most of your average citizens are propably believing in god. They are not philosophical and they dont care about people like Chalmers, Dennett or whoever you want to pick. They just live their lifes and like it to be a bit mystical.
We are mostly talking about a small part of the whole population here at all times. Like i wrote before, in science you will find materialism quite frequently since the system teaches materialistic knowledge and propoagandates it. But even among those materialists, most still believe that they have feelings, thoughts, whatever. They state that they believe in a paradigm that is stating that matter/the physical is the foundation to everything. I imagine most people would ask what the heck i actually want from them if i would ask them if they believe that their thoughts are a interaction between matter. Those guys just dont spend that many thoughts on that and i highly doubt that they care at all. Its just logical to them. Thats not because they blindly follow some sort of paradigm, its because not everyone wants to wade through the muddy ground of philosophy. They just leave it behind them at some point.

Why do so many people here bother with elemantive materialism though? Because its the paradigm that contradicts psi and all that stuff the most. It states that even the things im experiencing now arent really there. And they state that clearly and rub in in the faces of proponents. And thats just human-like to show a reaction to that. Its also pretty common for humans to go for the enemy that seems to be the most dangerous one. Eleminative materialists are a rather small group, but they are loud and state clearly what they think. Thats all there is to that. Normal materialists that do still believe in feelings and all that stuff are still there. But they are mostly just wobbly and cant be pinned down as good as a eleminative materialist if they even care at all to discuss those things. Because most of them dont want to. They just want to live.
 
#20
interesting... thx. I continue to feel like a lot of the Atheistic Buddhism is a misguided interpretation. You can't have karma and reincarnation without love... without a moral imperative.
I think they all have some misguided interpretations. Sorry i missed the mark as far as the interview went on the religion thing. Those negative effects I mention could only happen if you deny the voice in you heart. I was really glad to hear the thoughts on the indigenous cultures as it is close to my own heart and way. I gave up looking for any answers from any organised religion, I really don't think I need it. I still am interested in them for historical and mythological reasons.

I started listening to that show. That is an interesting style he has got there!
 
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