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

Every now and then I go back and look at them, and I am astounded at their number and at how difficult it is to just explain away many of them.
It seems as if we have some kind of built in mental mechanism that erases things that aren’t directly involved with the material reality.
Hello Pam, I suspect we self talk our material experience, and in so doing we edit out things that do not appear to conform to linear logic. Now and then I find myself in the process of contradicting an intuition on the grounds that it violates a 'rational' explanation of how things should be or go. So I think that this reflexive edit function also applies to memory as well.

However I think also that we can cultivate a habit of mind that acknowledges and accommodates those 'odd' things - partially by affirming that they are properly part of one's life.

I am interested that you used the term "how difficult it is to just explain away many of them". Why would you want to do that? Coming up with what may seem to be plausible 'explanations' is not meaningful if the theories are wrong - and even so, its more often a case of saying such and such is "just" this or that - as if we are comforted by the proposition that what just happened is nothing of interest - look away - there's nothing going on here folks.

The woo stuff seems to seep through where it can - when the self talk has eased off, or when the clangorous of intellectualising has momentarily stilled - and then it all seems so anomalous, begging to be forgotten or explained away.

I am one of the many who are plagued by 11:11 - albeit in frequent bursts followed by periods of respite. I might, for example, catch 11:11 on a clock for days in a row triggered by a sudden impulse to break from what I am doing to grab my phone or look at a clock. But then I'd also run into a bunch of 11:11 time stamps over a few days as well. I used to keep records on instances on my phone, but after several months doing so seeming to be pointless. The list was getting so long.

This 11:11 thing seems to be pretty common, and other people get different number or letter combos. You can 'explain' some of these away as just 'co-incidences', but not, I think, the barrage that comes daily for ages. Its more like some agency is having a game. Last year, when I was keeping records, I was intently writing (work related) and did not want to stop - and then I had a sudden pang of anxiety about needing to know the time - which wasn't true - I didn't, and I knew I didn't. But I grabbed my phone as if I had no control over my hand. I had to see it was 11:11 and I had only 60 seconds to do so and time was awasting - that was the urgency - and it wasn't coming from me.

Earlier this year I was taking an unusually late train from Katoomba into Sydney and I was sitting on the platform way too early to catch the 11:38. Its not unusual for me to arrive with 10 mins to spare, and never 30 mins or so. But here I was, for reasons not recalled, sitting on the platform quite happily listening to a podcast, knowing full well I was way early. Suddenly I had to look at the time -and not my phone clock, which is usual. but the platform clock which was showing 11:11:11. No idea why the platform clock has to show seconds - the timetables are not that precise. The game showed me a subtle side.

I see that woo stuff happens routinely, but we register it often if we are sensitive, and rarely if we are full of distracting and numbing internal jabbering. If you are having a lot of stuff happening perhaps considered celebrating it as a person of natural sensitivity. Remember that the Earth is routinely penetrated by cosmic radiation, and we never know it without machines that measure it. I believe we are routinely penetrated by woo things and some of us know it because we are the natural mechanisms sensitive to register it - some more sensitive than others. Its not part of our materialistic discourse - but it should be part of our metaphysical discourse.
 
Let’s repeat that last sentence:

“Things don’t happen to me without my consent; they happen because I created, co-created, or agreed to experience them."

While this is a tough pill to swallow, the blessing in adopting this perspective is that it gives the power back to us. We are no longer victims of outside forces. When we encounter challenging situations, we can turn to the deeper parts of ourselves to find out why. And what to do about them.
I wanted to repeat again, and add that the agent that does the assenting is not the 'I' we think we know to be us. Also there is the obvious objection that who would assent to being the victim of vile crimes. It is easy to reject this proposition because it seems to so flagrantly affront what should be clear moral logic. Some will see this as worse than 'blaming the victim'. This cannot be left undiscussed.

There's also school of thought that some enter physical incarnation driven by a lust or desire so strong that the idea of 'informed consent' would seem moot at best. If it happens its at a deeper level than that line above might suggest.

From my personal life experience I am like others who have an acquired disability that radically transforms one's lived experience. I can see how I co-created what happened to me, and I can see I am richer for the experience. But others may be affronted by this idea, on their own, or on others' behalf.

It is a deeply challenging idea, David, and while I agree with you, you haven't expressed the idea as one who evidently knows from personal experience. This matters. There's nothing worse than hearing this kind of idea from somebody who has no experiential skin in the game.
 
And even that's a problem because NDEs also tell us, point blank, that the system is designed to be beyond human comprehension. We're not supposed to be able to remember who we are, where we are really from, and how everything works. That's a foundational rule of the game.

If we’re not meant to know, why are some people (or many) confronted with these greater reality experiences? Experiences that, it would seem, are designed to provoke lifelong questioning.

Is it just an accident when a person sees a UFO, or a ghost, or has an NDE? I don’t think so. Whatever it is, it comes for people, and it turns their world upside down.

Experiences may drift into the past, but the ‘why’ of it never stops haunting a witness.
 
It is a deeply challenging idea, David, and while I agree with you, you haven't expressed the idea as one who evidently knows from personal experience. This matters. There's nothing worse than hearing this kind of idea from somebody who has no experiential skin in the game.
I disagree with this Michael. Maybe David learned this lesson in past lives? I know we’re meant to forget a lot of it, but maybe some deep knowing is retained? Perhaps certain things are retained for certain purposes in certain lives?
 
I am one of the many who are plagued by 11:11 - albeit in frequent bursts followed by periods of respite. I might, for example, catch 11:11 on a clock for days in a row triggered by a sudden impulse to break from what I am doing to grab my phone or look at a clock. But then I'd also run into a bunch of 11:11 time stamps over a few days as well. I used to keep records on instances on my phone, but after several months doing so seeming to be pointless. The list was getting so long.

This 11:11 thing seems to be pretty common, and other people get different number or letter combos.
Just to prove your point Michael - for some reason, now that I read (and liked) Bryan's latest post above, I felt like clicking on his name to see some info about him (I didn't remember him from old discussions here on Skeptiko, and in fact I see he's a new member). Look at the screenshot of what I saw :). This is very typical for me. Incidentally I am plagued by 11:11 and by 11 in general. Thing is, it's not only about looking at the clock for me, which would be far easier to dismiss as coincidence (although I no longer think that it's just coincidence), it's about key, factual events in my own life and family life and lots more. Truly bizarre.
20190608_141338.jpg ,
 
Thing is, it's not only about looking at the clock for me, which would be far easier to dismiss as coincidence (although I no longer think that it's just coincidence), it's about key, factual events in my own life and family life and lots more. Truly bizarre.
No way its coincidence. Its some kind of synching that is telling us there's a connection between the inner/metaphysical domains and us that is pervasive and persistent. The 11:11 (and related stuff) is actually small beer compared to some stuff I have encountered - that's just a regular reminder that its there and its influencing our lives and even our conduct.

I don't have the time here to relate more specifics about how this influence can be even more influential, I half want to say intrusive after my experiences. It is powerful and benign. If it wants you to go there and do that you will pretty much have to comply. I may dig out my account of one series of events and see if the attach files function actually works.
 
No way its coincidence. Its some kind of synching that is telling us there's a connection between the inner/metaphysical domains and us that is pervasive and persistent. The 11:11 (and related stuff) is actually small beer compared to some stuff I have encountered - that's just a regular reminder that its there and its influencing our lives and even our conduct.

I don't have the time here to relate more specifics about how this influence can be even more influential, I half want to say intrusive after my experiences. It is powerful and benign. If it wants you to go there and do that you will pretty much have to comply. I may dig out my account of one series of events and see if the attach files function actually works.
Yes, I agree that it's no coincidence and that there's something very real influencing our lives and even our conduct (so much for our supposed "free will" !!! I like to believe we have some of it, but these things show that it's pretty limited and subject to interference and manipulation) , however the nature and purpose of this "connection between the metaphysical and the physical" is obscure to me. I disagree that it's always "benign", although mostly it has been, in my case (but some syncs have been truly spooky, eg a young colleague suddenly and unexpectedly dying on a specific, very "meaningful" date for me, coinciding with the date of the violent death of a key person in my life, around which lots of syncs have constellated).
Are "they" (I don't know exactly what "they/this" may be, obviously) playing with us, like we do when we dangle a piece of string in front of a cat, while hiding our hand, so that he can't understand who's moving it? Are "they" simply reminding us that there's agency behind the veil, nothing more ("the medium is the message")? Or are at least some of these syncs leading us to some answers? If so, how come these answers are often contradictory? Are there different/conflicting agencies with different agendas behind this phenomenon? And, more importantly, why is it all so cryptic??
Of course I could also show examples of gazillions of baffling syncs here, some of them are extremely personal though. But again, the phenomenon is real for me, I have no need to prove it to others (anymore), it's what it really ultimately means that's bugging me.
 
An interesting discussion! I know how we like to get things neatly sorted and defined but I do feel that there is much we do not know about the next world and may only understand when we get there… perhaps we can then meet and compare notes ☺
 
I think people who haven't had the experience don't understand what it is like to experience it so their ideas about non-duality may be wrong.
this may be a semantics thing. I think non-dual experiences are more common... I'm with jeffrey martin on this.


Regarding hierarchy, the only situations in which I have heard about anything like "authority" pertains to undeveloped spirits, but above a certain level I only hear use of terms like "advising", "choosing", and "guiding".
Near Death Experience Research Foundation
lots of examples of hierarchy.
 
Are "they" simply reminding us that there's agency behind the veil, nothing more ("the medium is the message")? Or are at least some of these syncs leading us to some answers? If so, how come these answers are often contradictory? Are there different/conflicting agencies with different agendas behind this phenomenon? And, more importantly, why is it all so cryptic??
Of course I could also show examples of gazillions of baffling syncs here, some of them are extremely personal though. But again, the phenomenon is real for me, I have no need to prove it to others (anymore), it's what it really ultimately means that's bugging me.
Its a puzzle to me as well. Way back an inner plane teacher told me he wasn't here to tell us things, but to teach us how to think. What seems to be contradictory isn't in the end - but it can take years to get that - decades in some instances - but the other side doesn't do time, so they don't give a damn.

Its cryptic because there's really no option. If we are told all we get is information that is of no use. If we nut it out for ourselves what we think is useful. Its like some learning only comes from lived experience and no amount of telling without the experience matters. My constant theme is that there is no informational silver bullet that transforms behaviour. If you struggle to make sense of something the question becomes embedded in your life experience, so when the 'answer' dawns on you its a holistic awakening, not just an intellectual one.

Like you I am beyond wanting to prove or argue. I love talking about the theme, and I will use personal experiences to back up my remarks. I will discuss, but not argue. And I don't give a damn if non-experiencers do not believe what I say is what happened to me.

What it ultimately means is something we may ultimately know.

Are "they" simply reminding us that there's agency behind the veil, nothing more ("the medium is the message")?

I think there's more to it than 'just' the reminder. But the fact that there's active intentional agency interacting with us routinely is pretty bloody major. There's nothing 'just' about it.

Or are at least some of these syncs leading us to some answers?
Now and then something twigs for me. Sometimes I think I must be slow witted. I think about this stuff most of the time. I try to live my life in a way that is spirit informed, and now and then some pretty amazing things happen to suggest I am pointed in the right direction.

But then, life is complex and there is no simple formula that has universal application. I have a powerful sense of a guiding hand in my life, but whose ever hand it is is into tough love, rather than any sense of indulgence or reward. As I wrote this a thought plunged into my head to say "You get exactly what you need."

So I am thinking that since good answers only beget great questions the best we can hope for is that we are being pointed in the right direction and get the odd kick in the pants when it is necessary. There's a wisdom to not indulging us in our desire to know or be patted on the head. If we are honest we know we are loved. If we do not dare confess that, getting to that point is a developmental challenge. If we know we are loved we have to surrender the doubts that we have won and cling to. We are so often defined by those doubts rather than by what we affirm as true.

I don't want to sound like some metaphysical hippy wanker, but there really are no 'answers'. There are narratives we create to give conscious articulation to ourselves and others of what we understand at any given time. As we grow in awareness those narratives change - but they are always humble and miserable offerings. That is to say that 'truth' has no objective delineation - its always a state of subjective awareness. We can only ever say what is true for us.

Living in uncertainty is a Skeptic's life, but few, I think, appreciate that this is an existential challenge, not just an intellectual one. Uncertainty becomes the soft edged and loving nature of reality - especially if you know you are embraced and loved in spirit.

it's what it really ultimately means that's bugging me

Don't be bugged, be inspired.

Way back in the 1980s I came across Tom Peters, who was a bit of a management super star. He wrote on the theme of 'excellence', and he said something that transformed my mentality. Reality (business) is sloppy and messy. And so it is, and yet, we are educated to imagine it in neat and tidy ways. Ideas do not exist as sharply defined forms that abut each other with well defined edges - more like a bag of marshmallows - vaguely cubic and all squished together. Nothing I have learned since suggests to me that any other human endeavour is any different. Some may be in the business of producing hard edged things that slot together nicely - but making those things is wildly creative and chaotic.

We are lucky we get that crazy attention. Dig it.
 
An interesting discussion! I know how we like to get things neatly sorted and defined but I do feel that there is much we do not know about the next world and may only understand when we get there… perhaps we can then meet and compare notes ☺
Hey Andrew, form my perspective nothing is neatly sorted and defined - and can never be. There's a lot of information about the 'next world', and yet, you are right, we won't understand until we get there. Check out
https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1...VFbysKHds4DeAQxA0wIXoECA0QBw&biw=1280&bih=651
 
The nihilist is confronted with the prison bars of Planck finite-ness. One can argue the reality/nihility of a truncated beginning to our Universe, or a limit to the extent to which its inflationary footprint has reached. But one cannot argue the quantum Planck limits of time, energy, space and gravity. Our observable Universe is served up to us in digitized packets.

The appearance of quarks arising from the M-froth carry with their appearance, Huffman protocol overhead just like are used in data transference Lossless communications. Why would a phenomenon which is supposedly foundational, or 'the last turtle at the bottom of the stack', need to adhere to an accuracy protocol or any form of packeting/quanta? It is the standard to begin with, it is not simply accurate, it is the target. One either is the wave, or surfs the wave, but one cannot be both. These are the cleverly decorated prison bars which contain us. This realization is much akin to the guy in Star Trek who went insane because he crawled to the end of their world's 'horizon' and found the sky to be nothing more than a tactile dome.

In answer to your question Michael, I suppose the best word I can ascribe to mankind's dealing with this as an ontology, is 'subception'.

We are at face-value monist materialists who are subconsciously attempting to convince ourselves of an intent-based model, through the anachronism of ascribing to reality, characteristics much similar to that which we nascently understand - to be computation and simulation. Monist nihilism is neither a theory, nor is it a scientific hypothesis, as it bears none of the disciplines of scientific hypothesis. It is simply a necessary placeholder, the threshing board against which we exorcise our nihilism. It is the Null.

The least scientific thing one can do is to actually believe the Null.
nice... love the idea of "subception" (now this I've looked if up :) Subception, short for Subliminal Perception, is a process emphasized by Carl Rogers in which a stimulus is experienced or responded to without being brought into awareness).

I think about this from another direction that kind of gets me to the same point.

I contemplate the vastness of my day-to-day material reality. no need to go plank scale I can just go youTube. there's a virtually infinite number material realities on display. conversely, there are a relatively limited number of inputs into my consciousness. From a statistical standpoint my experience is statistically insignificant to the larger whole. but this nihilistic conundrum is impossible to accept. so my consciousness (voice inside my head) has constructed a model which suggests that otherwise. my mind keeps telling me I'm the center of the universe. youTube is telling me otherwise :)
 
I think Jeffrey Longs research helps to demonstrate that there is a higher level of consciousness, not necessarily that God as defined by us actually exists. In a great deal of these accounts people simply encounter other people, oftentimes in a “Heavenly” realm, and then later conclude, “of course there is a God! I saw Heaven!”

Other people encounter a being of light or any other number of beings which appear to be operating on a “higher level than them and conclude, “this must be God. Of course God exists, I just saw Him.” Particularly if this being is loving, since we are told that God is loving, it becomes all that much easier to say, “of course God exists.”

For others, just the mere fact that they survived death is enough to make them go, “of course there’s a God! I literally died and passed on to the other side!”

Of course none of these scenarios actually mean that God as we tend to think of it actually exists. I’m biased in this analysis because I tend to think that we are all part of ONE consciousness which has lots of parts, personalities, and levels But we are all a part of it. For all we know we may be encountering what tons of afterlife researchers and mediums etc refer to as our “higher selves” during these NDE’s and thus move to conclude that this MUST be God. “Certainly God as I’ve been told as God is definitely exists because I died and met a very loving and powerful being in white when I was dead!”
from what I remember of my interview with him that's not what jeff long found.
 
With all apologies to Dr Long and his wonderful and highly important and valuable research, this is an extraordinarily overconfident and hyper-simplistic proposition concerning a topic that we aren’t even close to understanding. Of course there’s no way to know that everybody is meeting this same being.
wow... great point. pump the brakes :)
 
I disagree with this Michael. Maybe David learned this lesson in past lives? I know we’re meant to forget a lot of it, but maybe some deep knowing is retained? Perhaps certain things are retained for certain purposes in certain lives?
Hi Steve. I appreciate your POV. I am not challenging him in terms of his experience, or right to say what he said. My point is that what he said can be readily converted into moral outrage. There are participants on this forum who may have been victims of terrible crimes, and to suggest that they 'assented' to that offence can be deeply confronting - and led to a rejection of the proposition because the reflex is to be repelled by it.

The idea is an important one. But if proposed by a person who has not had to grapple with the reality of assenting to trauma it can seem like its just a good idea from people whose lives haven't been through dark shit. That doesn't work these days. I have a modest entitlement to back David's assertion because I have had to face that idea myself. But I worked to provide services to young people who had been sexually molested by multiple family members and strangers. How do you think it would go down with a person so traumatised? You agreed to your father, brother and uncle raping you from aged 8 to 14?

We don't know who is reading these posts - as member or guests - and I don't want to redirect the discussion about the politics of trauma. But when a theme of this nature is proposed it must come with necessary sensitivity. I am prepared to back it from my perspective. A rape victim (of whom there are many) may not be so generous - because of how David's statement could be read.

It is absolutely necessary to acknowledge that the idea is challenge, as David did. But unlike him, I work in a field in which those sentiments can be profoundly misunderstood - and that includes this forum. The simple reality is that we live in an age when deep trauma is being acknowledged, and we must be sensitive, in the way we convey deep and important ideas, to the risk of being misinterpreted.

David expressed a powerful idea that has a deep foundation to it. Its one I support because I am familiar with that foundation. We simply need to acknowledge a duty of care to those who may not immediately find it engaging as a philosophical idea.
 
fantastic post... thx so much!

the fact that large numbers of NDErs encounter a Being THAT THEY DEEPLY BELIEVE is their creator (and the creator of everyone and everything else) -- a distinct, all-knowing, all-powerful Being who knows them and loves them with an intensity that is completely transformative.
agreed... this can be confirmed by anyone who reads the accounts on the nderf website.



To be fair, the NDEs that Jeff is using mostly come from the West and he doesn't provide a country-by-country, religion-by-religion breakdown of where his statistics come from. We need that and I hope he publishes it some day.
great point... have you ever ask jeff about this?
 
Beginning with Jeff's first book, Evidence of the Afterlife, which is based on 1,200 NDEs from around the world, it includes these two quotes:

“The results of the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) study… finds that what people discovered during their near-death experience about God, love, afterlife, reason for our earthly existence, earthly hardships, forgiveness, and many other concepts is strikingly consistent across cultures, races, and creeds. Also, these discoveries are generally not what would have been expected from preexisting societal beliefs, religious teachings, or any other source of earthly knowledge.”

Evidence of the Afterlife was published in 2010.

In 2016, he published his second book, God and the Afterlife. His second book was "based on the largest near-death experience study in history, involving 3,000 people from diverse backgrounds and religious traditions, including nonbelievers."

Does Jeff shy away from the conclusions he reached in his first book? No. He doubles down:

"Remarkably, the content of near-death experiences is strikingly consistent. Even after rigorously studying NDEs for over fifteen years, I still marvel at how amazingly similar these experiences are regardless of the experiencers’ age, cultural beliefs, education, or geographical location. By comparing these accounts, we begin to see a coherent picture of this other world.

We also need the kind of fantastic research that Gregory Shushan has been doing. He's been examining ancient and indigenous cultures to see if they had near-death experiences and, if so, did their experiences mirror modern NDEs?
so david, I don't want to keep pounding on the christian thing, but of course I'm going to :) I mean how do you square this with your "primacy of christianity" thing... i.e. "Jesus is just a teeny tiny bit more special than those other guys/gals."
 
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