David Sunfellow, Can the Scientific Study of NDEs Reveal the Purpose of Life? |413|

#1
David Sunfellow, Can the Scientific Study of NDEs Reveal the Purpose of Life? |413|
by Alex Tsakiris | Jun 4 | Consciousness Research, Consciousness Science, Near-Death Experience
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David Sunfellow’s decades of study on near death experiences has led him to some clear-cut conclusions about the purpose of life.
photo by: Skeptiko
Satan: Fallen one, I am Satan, I am your god now. There is no escape.
That of course is Kenny from South Park on his trip through hell.
Satan: Feel the delightful pain.
Saddam Hussein: Hey Satan, did you hear the news? A war just broke out up on earth.
Satan: Meet Saddam Hussein, my new partner in evil.
Kenny: Huh?
Saddam: Move over Satan, you’re hogging all the fun. Yeah. Yeah. Man, this is getting me so hot.

The playfulness that South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone show in dealing with hell is truly masterful and it has a direct link to today’s show. Because as you know, beyond the love and light aspect of the near-death experience, which is overwhelmingly the most significantly reported experience, like 80%, 90% of people report that, there are are reports of hellish NDE experiences. And they are significantly under-reported. They’re under-reported by experiencers who are undoubtedly afraid of facing the ridicule and judgement that comes with saying, “Yeah, I was in hell.” People will think, “Yeah, why were you in hell, what have you done wrong that I don’t know about?”
But they’re also under-reported by NDE researchers… if you’re an NDE researcher, do you really want to report the hell thing? What do you do with that? What do you do with the, often very Christian, biblical baggage that comes along with that? Do you, as some do, immediately distance yourself from it, “Oh, that can’t be real in the way that you’re thinking about it… it’s a cultural overlay.” Can we really make those kinds of assumptions? And what is the end game for making those kinds of assumptions for a consciousness that extends into and interferes with the data in the extended consciousness realm.
Well these are some of the issues that we get into on today’s show with the very excellent David Sunfellow.
Alex Tsakiris: …if we’re going to play the game, if we’re going to follow the data, this isn’t the data.
David Sunfellow: Jeffrey Long, his research very much supports the idea that there are these hellish realms. In fact, here’s a quote from him that says, “The most frightening things that I’ve encountered in my life are not from fictional books or scary movies, but from near-death experiences with hellish content.” So he’s not saying there’s no hell, he’s just saying that God is not sending people to hell, which is a common theme among near-death experiencers as a whole.
Alex Tsakiris: I think they’re saying something else. The way I read this data is, “there are a lot of scary movies out there and you may have to watch a scary movie,” that may on your path to help your overall learning and guiding of your soul to where it needs to be, but don’t take the fucking scary movie too seriously. That’s what data comes through, over and over again and says. And that’s what I guess I’m saying about Jeff Long, is yeah, what you said is technical true, but his overall conclusion is that it’s not anything to be feared, it’s part of your soul’s experience. It’s a small movie that you will walk into an walk out of.
This is a deep dive into NDE research and how we might use it to better understand who are we, why are we here and how we should make decisions around those questions.
David is a terrific guest, whose decades of work in this field gives him a unique vantage point to reveal the big picture takeaways from these experiences.
David Sunfellow: My niece one time asked me, “What is it about near-death experiences that you’ve learned something new, I mean, didn’t you already know this stuff?” and my answer was, “I learned to things from near-death experiences that I didn’t learn from the other things. The first thing was a full picture of how all the pieces fit together and the second thing was, the emphasis that near-death experiences give to certain aspects of our life and the main thing that leaps to mind is the idea that the little things in life are the big things.”
Stick around, my conversation with David Sunfellow is coming up next on Skeptiko.
 
#3
Based on reports by NDErs, what evidential mediums have said, and my own experiences communicating with spirits, I believe there are different areas of the afterlife and after death people go to areas where they will be with like minded people. This happens through a process that is more like a natural law such as gravity, than by a law where you are judged by someone else. People who like harming others have their areas and those areas are not pleasant to be in. Eventually those people get a clue and figure out there is a better way to be and they get help to raise their level. So there are hellish regions but no one is condemned to spend an eternity in them.

People may visit these areas during NDEs in order to come back and tell the rest of us about them or because they will benefit from a glimpse of what is in store for them if they continue on their current path.


What is it like in the aftelife?
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/articles-and-links-arranged-by-subject.html#articles_by_subject_like
 
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#4
Based on reports by NDErs, what evidential mediums have said, and my own experiences communicating with spirits, I believe there are different areas of the afterlife and after death people go to areas where they will be with like minded people. This happens through a process that is more like a natural law such as gravity, than by a law where you are judged by someone else. People who like harming others have their areas and those areas are not pleasant to be in. Eventually those people get a clue and figure out there is a better way to be and they get help to raise their level. So there are hellish regions but no one is condemned to spend an eternity in them.

People may visit these areas during NDEs in order to come back and tell the rest of us about them or because they will benefit from a glimpse of what is in store for them if they continue on their current path.


What is it like in the aftelife?
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/articles-and-links-arranged-by-subject.html#articles_by_subject_like
Makes sense to me...
 
#5
David Sunfellow, Can the Scientific Study of NDEs Reveal the Purpose of Life? |413|
by Alex Tsakiris | Jun 4 | Consciousness Research, Consciousness Science, Near-Death Experience
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David Sunfellow’s decades of study on near death experiences has led him to some clear-cut conclusions about the purpose of life.
photo by: Skeptiko
Satan: Fallen one, I am Satan, I am your god now. There is no escape.
That of course is Kenny from South Park on his trip through hell.
Satan: Feel the delightful pain.
Saddam Hussein: Hey Satan, did you hear the news? A war just broke out up on earth.
Satan: Meet Saddam Hussein, my new partner in evil.
Kenny: Huh?
Saddam: Move over Satan, you’re hogging all the fun. Yeah. Yeah. Man, this is getting me so hot.

The playfulness that South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone show in dealing with hell is truly masterful and it has a direct link to today’s show. Because as you know, beyond the love and light aspect of the near-death experience, which is overwhelmingly the most significantly reported experience, like 80%, 90% of people report that, there are are reports of hellish NDE experiences. And they are significantly under-reported. They’re under-reported by experiencers who are undoubtedly afraid of facing the ridicule and judgement that comes with saying, “Yeah, I was in hell.” People will think, “Yeah, why were you in hell, what have you done wrong that I don’t know about?”
But they’re also under-reported by NDE researchers… if you’re an NDE researcher, do you really want to report the hell thing? What do you do with that? What do you do with the, often very Christian, biblical baggage that comes along with that? Do you, as some do, immediately distance yourself from it, “Oh, that can’t be real in the way that you’re thinking about it… it’s a cultural overlay.” Can we really make those kinds of assumptions? And what is the end game for making those kinds of assumptions for a consciousness that extends into and interferes with the data in the extended consciousness realm.
Well these are some of the issues that we get into on today’s show with the very excellent David Sunfellow.
Alex Tsakiris: …if we’re going to play the game, if we’re going to follow the data, this isn’t the data.
David Sunfellow: Jeffrey Long, his research very much supports the idea that there are these hellish realms. In fact, here’s a quote from him that says, “The most frightening things that I’ve encountered in my life are not from fictional books or scary movies, but from near-death experiences with hellish content.” So he’s not saying there’s no hell, he’s just saying that God is not sending people to hell, which is a common theme among near-death experiencers as a whole.
Alex Tsakiris: I think they’re saying something else. The way I read this data is, “there are a lot of scary movies out there and you may have to watch a scary movie,” that may on your path to help your overall learning and guiding of your soul to where it needs to be, but don’t take the fucking scary movie too seriously. That’s what data comes through, over and over again and says. And that’s what I guess I’m saying about Jeff Long, is yeah, what you said is technical true, but his overall conclusion is that it’s not anything to be feared, it’s part of your soul’s experience. It’s a small movie that you will walk into an walk out of.
This is a deep dive into NDE research and how we might use it to better understand who are we, why are we here and how we should make decisions around those questions.
David is a terrific guest, whose decades of work in this field gives him a unique vantage point to reveal the big picture takeaways from these experiences.
David Sunfellow: My niece one time asked me, “What is it about near-death experiences that you’ve learned something new, I mean, didn’t you already know this stuff?” and my answer was, “I learned to things from near-death experiences that I didn’t learn from the other things. The first thing was a full picture of how all the pieces fit together and the second thing was, the emphasis that near-death experiences give to certain aspects of our life and the main thing that leaps to mind is the idea that the little things in life are the big things.”
Stick around, my conversation with David Sunfellow is coming up next on Skeptiko.
hi all... I just received the following email from David (very interesting stuff :)):
One thing I wish I would have said during the interview concerning hellish experiences is that the reality of these experiences tends to be reported in the same way that their heavenly counterparts are reported: the experiences that people have in hellish realms feels far more real to them than the reality of this world. Experiencers also typically report that the positive and negative thoughts and actions of their earthly lives are reflected back to them in the afterlife with far more intensity than they experienced them in this world. Meaning, it's probably a good idea to conduct ourselves in this world with as much awareness as we can. And not get overly serious (more about this below).

We probably should have also mentioned that while hellish experiences tend to be very unpleasant in the beginning, over time, as people strive to understand and integrate them, they turn out to be deeply positive and transformative. That's not emphasized enough. Nor is the over-riding, corresponding lesson: all of the challenges we face in life (including visits to hell) are gifts that are designed to help us become better, deeper, more full-blown beings.

One last point: while I agree with you that NDEs, as a whole, definitely stress the importance of not taking things too seriously; of not getting too caught up in the drama of life (including the drama of hellish realms and experiences), this perspective arises from the first pillar of NDEs that I mentioned: Encounters with The Light. This is a Big Picture perspective. It is absolutely vital that we understand and internalize this. But it is also important to understand and internalize the second pillar perspective, which is championed by life reviews. Cavalier or dismissive attitudes towards life and its challenges, including visits to hell, can also get us into trouble. Strident examples of this include declaring that since the world is a dream, we should cultivate a detached, uncaring attitude toward all the imaginary people, beings, and experiences we have here. My take on this is that the most helpful perspective is one that balances and integrates these two great pillars, which, of course, relates to a bunch of kindred archetypes: balancing the male and female, yin and yang, east and west, light and dark... We apparently need them both to be balanced and healthy.
 
#6
hi all... I just received the following email from David (very interesting stuff :)):
One thing I wish I would have said during the interview concerning hellish experiences is that the reality of these experiences tends to be reported in the same way that their heavenly counterparts are reported: the experiences that people have in hellish realms feels far more real to them than the reality of this world. Experiencers also typically report that the positive and negative thoughts and actions of their earthly lives are reflected back to them in the afterlife with far more intensity than they experienced them in this world. Meaning, it's probably a good idea to conduct ourselves in this world with as much awareness as we can. And not get overly serious (more about this below).

We probably should have also mentioned that while hellish experiences tend to be very unpleasant in the beginning, over time, as people strive to understand and integrate them, they turn out to be deeply positive and transformative. That's not emphasized enough. Nor is the over-riding, corresponding lesson: all of the challenges we face in life (including visits to hell) are gifts that are designed to help us become better, deeper, more full-blown beings.

One last point: while I agree with you that NDEs, as a whole, definitely stress the importance of not taking things too seriously; of not getting too caught up in the drama of life (including the drama of hellish realms and experiences), this perspective arises from the first pillar of NDEs that I mentioned: Encounters with The Light. This is a Big Picture perspective. It is absolutely vital that we understand and internalize this. But it is also important to understand and internalize the second pillar perspective, which is championed by life reviews. Cavalier or dismissive attitudes towards life and its challenges, including visits to hell, can also get us into trouble. Strident examples of this include declaring that since the world is a dream, we should cultivate a detached, uncaring attitude toward all the imaginary people, beings, and experiences we have here. My take on this is that the most helpful perspective is one that balances and integrates these two great pillars, which, of course, relates to a bunch of kindred archetypes: balancing the male and female, yin and yang, east and west, light and dark... We apparently need them both to be balanced and healthy.
I understand your point / concern. I wonder if this is more of a difference in style. my first thought is the quote from Amma "world, what world?" here's someone who works tirelessly for the poor and underprivileged and dedicates her life to god... in the world but not of it. that's the kind of "detachment" that inspires me.
 
#7
If we all have a Soul, a little bit of God within us and I believe we do, surely nothing thrills that Soul more than the information we are getting from, among a few others, researchers like Dr. Jeff Long or David Sunfellow. It is reinvigorating for any older questioner who might at last feel weary of contemporary life as it is commonly and preferably perceived by those strictly of this world.
 
#8
Different people need different advice. If someone is spending too much time obsessing about how their actions will affect them in the afterlife, they might need to chill out and not take is so seriously. Another person who never considers the issue might need to consider it more. Someone advising these two people might be misunderstood because he seems to be giving contradictory advice at different time.
 
#9
#10
Hello David,

it was such a pleasent experience to listen to this Skeptiko interview: thanks Alex and David! I have a question to David, but anyone can feel free to share their view. The life review is a central feature of NDE, and its teachings have important consequences to the way we approach life and other people. I have questions regarding the nature of the life review.

Some (most?) life reviews indicate that the person going through the review, feels intensively how his or her actions and words have affected other living beings. OTOH, there are life reviews, I believe, in which the NDERs objectively observe and evaluate such effects, as if from a higher perspective, without actually feeling the effects. Here is my question: is there any research which would analyze this feeling/not feeling distinction? Or do you have an idea, based on your extensive reading of the subject, what the split might be (such as 80% vs. 20%)?

Best wishes,
Antti Savinainen
Finland
 
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#11
Hello Everyone. Alex asked me to stop by. If you have any questions or comments for me, fire away.
Welcome David, and thanks for joining us here - I feel that those podcasts where the interviewee takes the time to come and talk to us all, are much more productive!

I have been recently re-reading Jurgen Ziewe's book, "Vistas of Infinity", in which he describes a hugely complex afterlife in which people exist in a huge variety of ways - from hellish realms upwards.

I am never really sure whether to accept such accounts at face value, but I suppose his account makes more sense than just a hell - which would be utterly horrible and a heaven - which sounds awfully boring to me!

David
 
#12
“We probably should have also mentioned that while hellish experiences tend to be very unpleasant in the beginning, over time, as people strive to understand and integrate them, they turn out to be deeply positive and transformative.”

I must agree. I could describe my childhood as hellish, but, the older I get, the more I realise I wouldn’t change a thing. My worst experiences were the most positively transformative. I almost feel bad for anyone who always had it easy.
 
#13
Hello Everyone. Alex asked me to stop by. If you have any questions or comments for me, fire away.

For those of you who are interested, here are the links that were mentioned during my conversation with Alex:

My Book's Companion Website

Near-Death Experiences Absolutely, Positively NOT Caused By Malfunctioning Brains

Hellish & Distressing Near-Death Experiences

How To Deal With Skeptics & Atheists
thx for joining us David... and for these links. I have added them to the post.
 
#14
Hello David,

I have questions regarding the nature of the life review.

Some (most?) life reviews indicate that the person going through the review, feels intensively how his or her actions and words have affected other living beings. OTOH, there are life reviews, I believe, in which the NDERs objectively observe and evaluate such effects, as if from a higher perspective, without actually feeling the effects. Here is my question: is there any research which would analyze this feeling/not feeling distinction? Or do you have an idea, based on your extensive reading of the subject, what the split might be (such as 80% vs. 20%)?

Best wishes,
Antti Savinainen
Finland
Great question, Antti! As far as I know, no one has researched this particular topic. Jeff Long would be the person to ask about this. Ken Ring and Bruce Greyson might have some interesting answers as well.

Based on the thousands of NDE I have watched, listened to, and read, and the hundreds of NDErs I have personally interacted with, I would "guess" that the percentage of life reviews where people are able to maintain an objective, emotionally detached perspective are very few in number, perhaps 5 percent. Something like that. Again, this is a guess. It is not based on any formal research.

As to why some people are able to experience a life review and maintain an emotionally detached perspective, two possibilities rush to mind:

1. Their near-death experience may have been a brief and shallow one where they do not have enough time to enter very deeply into the afterlife process.

2. Their near-death experience may have been so deep that the person in question is able to bypass normal human consciousness and immediately identify and merge with God, The Light, their Higher Selves, or whatever spiritual beings may be present. This would allow them to view their earthly experiences through the eyes of these god-like beings who bring to the table two fantastical abilities: They clearly understand everything in the created universe is an illusion (no one is actually hurt) and they are also able to see all the ways that our thoughts and actions (including thoughts and actions that are viewed as violent, horrific, unforgivable from an earthly perspective) unfold over time. These beings are untroubled because they know all is well; everything and everyone is unfolding as it should -- and since there is no time, the transformational process has already happened.

That's my two cents. I can't wait for topics like this to be explored in greater depth. There are so many unanswered questions!
 
#15
Welcome David, and thanks for joining us here - I feel that those podcasts where the interviewee takes the time to come and talk to us all, are much more productive!

I have been recently re-reading Jurgen Ziewe's book, "Vistas of Infinity", in which he describes a hugely complex afterlife in which people exist in a huge variety of ways - from hellish realms upwards.

I am never really sure whether to accept such accounts at face value, but I suppose his account makes more sense than just a hell - which would be utterly horrible and a heaven - which sounds awfully boring to me!

David
Hi David. When it comes to understanding that depth and breadth of the afterlife, here are a couple resources to check out (if you haven't already):

Emanuel Swedenborg

Mellen-Thomas Benedict
 
#17
I understand your point / concern. I wonder if this is more of a difference in style. my first thought is the quote from Amma "world, what world?" here's someone who works tirelessly for the poor and underprivileged and dedicates her life to god... in the world but not of it. that's the kind of "detachment" that inspires me.
Alex, as far as I can tell, there is a kind of detachment that is healthy and necessary, and an escapist type of detachment that leads to all kinds of problems. And we are not a very good judge of what healthy detachment looks like, either in ourselves or others. There are near-death experience stories where people spend their lives engaged in what appears to be selfless, loving actions, but when they cross over and view their behaviors from a higher perspective, they realize, to their horror, that they were primarily motivated by self interest. They dedicated themselves outwardly to wearing spiritual costumes, joining or starting religious movements, and engaging in various altruistic activities as sneaky ways to bolster their egos, gain followers, make money, etc. I'm not saying that Amma is doing this. I'm just saying that outward displays of holiness may not be what they appear to be -- and may also not be received with the fanfare we expect when we leave this world and are confronted with an honest view of what really, deeply motivated us. This is all part of the shadow, developmental topic that I would like to talk about some day.

In our discussion, I mentioned the NDE of Samuel Bercholz, who is a well-known teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. During his near-death experience, he was taken on a mind-blowing tour of hell by "the Buddha of Hell." Among other things, he describes encountering fiery hells and icy hells, which appear to correlate to the two dominant ways human beings interact with life: We tend to get too embedded in the material universe (which is a classic western problem) or too uninvolved (which is a classic eastern problem). The sweet spot, again, appears to be in the middle. How can we be completely engaged in life and also maintain a connection with higher perspectives? That's the big challenge. Bercholz suggests at least part of the answer lies in learning how to be kind. And I would add: also learning how to be genuinely honest.

Anyway, food for thought.

To learn more about Bercholz, go here. I would love to hear an interview with him!

3e6d_86e1.jpg
 
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#19
That's the big challenge. Bercholz suggests at least part of the answer lies in learning how to be kind. And I would add: also learning how to be genuinely honest.
Be kind, rather than nice
Be genuine, rather than frank
Be ethical, rather than virtuous
Tender epoche, rather than doubt
Be a learner, rather than a student
Possess integrity, rather than appearance
Be merciful, rather than charitable
Dream, rather than fantasize
Lead, rather than draw attention
Observe, rather than assume
Risk, rather than suffer 'what could have been'
Communicate, rather than speak
Run, rather than race
Laugh, rather than mock
Joy, whether people are near or absent
Serve, before being asked
Leave a legacy, without trying to do so

These have been my gut feel for some time. The problem is, that I fear I am so miserable at attaining these objectives (and I have no idea the goal), that I am hesitant to even say them.
 
#20
Alex, as far as I can tell, there is a kind of detachment that is healthy and necessary, and an escapist type of detachment that leads to all kinds of problems. And we are not a very good judge of what healthy detachment looks like, either in ourselves or others. There are near-death experience stories where people spend their lives engaged in what appears to be selfless, loving actions, but when they cross over and view their behaviors from a higher perspective, they realize, to their horror, that they were primarily motivated by self interest. They dedicated themselves outwardly to wearing spiritual costumes, joining or starting religious movements, and engaging in various altruistic activities as sneaky ways to bolster their egos, gain followers, make money, etc. ...


I agree with this, but it is complex topic and I would like to add another perspective that might be appropriate in some cases (every case is different). There are some people who really are helping others and their motivation is selfish and they know it. The people you help don't care if you are doing it for your ego or for glory in heaven or for whatever. They just appreciate the help. Helping people is more important than getting recognition in the afterlife so if you are motivated to help people because of your ego, go ahead and help people anyway - just be honest with yourself about why you are doing it. If the celestial bureaucrats don't appreciate your efforts because you didn't have exactly the right motivation who cares? You still helped all those people and you had fun doing it. Imagine all the wonderful feelings you will experience during your life review when you experience all the happiness you gave to other people. The celestial bureaucrats will be scowling and shaking their heads and stamping their feet in frustration while you review all the wonderful things you have done for other people.
 
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