Can we agree on what science is? Is it fundamentally a methodology? If so then mysticism and magic must be acknowledged as sciences. Is it the beliefs based on accumulated fruits of inquiry into the nature of human reality? If yes then the question is what is the dominant paradigm at any given time and can we predict how it will change? I would ask another question. Does it matter at all what 'science' thinks about anything? For most of us who benefit from the technological consequences of science we care a great deal about what is thought. But seeking the opinion of 'scientists' on the natural and reality of spirituality makes as much sense as asking a taxi driver's opinion on bioethics in the anticipation that they will have an opinion worth anything [yes, I do understand that these days that might be a safe bet]. My point is that scientists generally have no sufficient understanding of spirituality to make the general category of 'science' useful. If we reframe the question to ask whether some scientists [engaged in relevant research] will have an impact the answer might reasonably be 'Yes'. I think we need to move from general categories of assumed uniform competency. For example there was a time when, if the subject of religion was raised, a bishop would be wheeled out as an expert on religion. That is, of course, preposterous nonsense, but in a culture conditioned to the notion that Christianity was the only valid religion it made perfect sense.
John Dewey made the very good point that there really is no such thing as Religion, only religions and the religious. I suggest, in the same manner, that there is no such thing as Science, only sciences and scientists. So let us reframe the question further. Is there [to be] a science that transforms how we think about spirituality? I think there will be. I think that our intellectual culture will finally overcome the trauma and bias that arose from the impact of Christianity on our culture and we will return to rational disciplined inquiry into the nature of human reality, sans dogma and the conceits and delusions of political and commercial interest. At least that is my happy place to go to.
As far as I know, the first clinician to make use of NDE material in this context was a New York psychologist named John McDonagh. In 1979, he presented a paper at a psychological convention that described his success with several suicidal patients using a device he called "NDE bibliotherapy." His "technique" was actually little more than having his patients read some relevant passages from Raymond Moody's book, Reflections on Life after Life, after which the therapist and his patient would discuss its implicatins for the latter's own situation. McDonagh reports that such an approach was generally quite successful not only in reducing suicidal thoughts but also in preventing the deed altogether.
Since McDonagh's pioneering efforts, other clinicians knowledgeable about the NDE who have had the opportunity to counsel suicidal patients have also reported similar success. Perhaps the most notable of these therapists is Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist now at the University of Virginia, whose specialty as a clinician has been suicidology. He is also the author of a classic paper on NDEs and suicide which the specialist may wish to consult for tis therapeutic implications. (14)
Quite apart form the clinicians who have developed this form of what we migh call "NDE-assisted therapy," I can draw upon my own personal experience here to provide additional evidence of how the NDE has helped to deter suicide. The following case ...
I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.
This next quote shows that Einstein's beliefs were not merely based on faith but were shaped by his experiences working as a scientist.
On the other hand, however, every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.
Did Einstein Believe in God? by John Marsh provides a very detailed discussion demonstrating the fact that Einstein believed in God. Marsh writes:
To sum up: Einstein was – like Newton before him – deeply religious and a firm believer in a transcendent God.
Einstein chopped and changed his views on a number of occasions, at times he confirmed his atheism and at other times he claimed deism, and he always openly rejected an intervening and personal God, although one person who was close to him who was his chauffeur, made statements that Einsten always used to sing songs he had written himself, to God.
Fair enough, erickh, and I am in a similar boat myself. But what if gnosis isn't gnosis, but more a person's gloss on gnosis? I mean, the broad outline of NDEs is similar, but in the particulars, there are differences. An Eben Alexander sees one thing, and an Anita Moorjani, another. Broadly speaking, the two experiences are reasonably congruent, but nonetheless there are differences.
Now: either the experience is the same but filtered differently, or it's actually somewhat different and experienced differently. We can never be 100% sure that either Alexander or Moorjani shared the same experience. That difference is what causes me to retain a little agnosticism.
I wonder how much the near death experience has given rise to religiosity and spirituality in the first place. Presumably over the eons people have been having these experiences of 'extended' consciousness and reporting an afterplace/life or heaven and also reporting out of body experiences objectively verifiable by others that have impressed those around them. This mix of subjective experience and objective data would be transformational on a cultural level esp. in less materialistic times. These days the 'data' doesn't seem to survive the 'its just your subjective experience' argument. And perhaps is weakened also by different subjective NDE experiences.