Dr. Gregory Shushan, Making the Case For Cross-Cultural NDEs |422|

#21
At least 90% of the hell NDE's I have found for example, to reside on the 'well I think I died, but I had this traumatic event or passed out when I was in a state of abject despair and there were demons on the other side' side of the story spectrum. Or they are related by fundamentalist Christians with a keen interest in pushing their sect's message. Situations where accounts are not trustworthy.
Jeff Kripal's 'Changed in a Flash' furthers his argument that what is experiences of NDEs is/must be filtered via the experiencer's consciousness/imagination. That is to say that we must not take the NDE description as being objectively real, but a reality 'projected' through the experiencer's consciousness/imagination. Kripal uses the movie projector as a metaphor - the light is real, but the image/film/filter/consciousness has only subjective reality in the same way that our perception of reality is not a representation of what is objectively true - even though our cultural discourse and habit of thought insists we say it is.

The only experience of 'reality' we can have is subjective. That applies to the NDE as well. That does not mean this diminishes the 'reality' of the experience. Our experience of reality is always subjective and unique - but sometimes it is shared. The fact is that what we call 'consensual reality' is a tiny part of our life experiences - but we are induced to switch the most part off, or invalidate it, so that we are left only with the 'shared' bit as being okay.
 
#23
I don't think it is necessary to find a common purpose or theme in every NDE. Some NDEs will be truly accidents (sometimes, "It's not your time" really means "It's not your time") some NDE's will have a message for just the experiencer, some will have a message for a group, some will have a message for everyone.

For example, Anita Moorjani said the message of her NDE was "be true to yourself" She was so busy taking care of other people she neglected herself. Lot's of people need to hear that message from a spiritual authority. But not everyone. Some people only think of themselves and need to hear the opposite message.

Different messages for different groups might sound inconsistent if you don't realize that different people in different circumstances will need different advice.

The message brought back by Eban Alexander, "Heaven is real" is a message that everyone should hear.
 
#24
I don't think it is necessary to find a common purpose or theme in every NDE. Some NDEs will be truly accidents (sometimes, "It's not your time" really means "It's not your time") some NDE's will have a message for just the experiencer, some will have a message for a group, some will have a message for everyone.

For example, Anita Moorjani said the message of her NDE was "be true to yourself" She was so busy taking care of other people she neglected herself. Lot's of people need to hear that message from a spiritual authority. But not everyone. Some people only think of themselves and need to hear the opposite message.

Different messages for different groups might sound inconsistent if you don't realize that different people in different circumstances will need different advice.

The message brought back by Eban Alexander, "Heaven is real" is a message that everyone should hear.
Yeah...I always get frustrated because I want to know where my life is going and what the purpose of life is. It's difficult to find that when you get all this different information. If it's just subjective, then what if you never experience anything like this? How will I know where to go from here?
 
#25
If it's just subjective, then what if you never experience anything like this? How will I know where to go from here?
Just live, Chris. Live life honestly and fairly with respect to your fellow humans. Live a life such that if it were played back to you as if it were a movie in the presence of a Spiritual audience you would not be ashamed of it. And live it to the very end regardless of life's ups and downs learning a little more about all things each day.
 
#26
Yeah...I always get frustrated because I want to know where my life is going and what the purpose of life is. It's difficult to find that when you get all this different information. If it's just subjective, then what if you never experience anything like this? How will I know where to go from here?
Well you have a rather unfortunate choice.

1) You can go to the materialists or to any number of religions and be told The Truth. Of course, there is no reason to expect that is the real truth, but they will tell you with great conviction.

2) You can come here and see the facts laid out as well as can be, listen to people who have spent years studying aspects of the problem and see what you think.

3) You can just get on living, and at the end you will either find something out, or just be extinguished.

I know which I prefer!

David
 
#27
Yeah...I always get frustrated because I want to know where my life is going and what the purpose of life is. It's difficult to find that when you get all this different information. If it's just subjective, then what if you never experience anything like this? How will I know where to go from here?
If you were supposed to know the purpose of your life you would know it. The point is what do you do with your life when you have choices. What choices do you make? What do you learn from your choices after you make them? I think we are here to learn from the consequences of our actions. We are not here to follow a script. People learn best by solving problems and having experiences. That is what life gives us.

I also try to live my life knowing that at the end I will have a life review where I experience how I influenced other people from their perspective.

It's not perfect but the golden rule is a good first approximation: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

But you are not expected to be perfect, We learn from mistakes too - sometimes more than when we get it right.
 
#28
It seemed to me that Gregory's position on the nature of NDE's is close to that of Skeptiko - inasmuch as we have a position. I.e. we are not generally accepting of materialism or of the teachings of any particular faith. See here on Gregory's blog:
Skeptiko Interview and Discussion Now Live!
"Dr. Gregory Shushan’s research into near-death experience across cultures
rankles skeptics and believers."

This is how Alex Tsakiris of Skeptiko website headlined my recent interview. I like this description because it shows that I've been successful in treating this subject with as much objectivity as possible. If it were uncontroversial, there would have been little point in doing the research in the first place!



Click here to go straight to the interview page!

The interview touches on a wide range of subjects surrounding near-death experiences across cultures, from problems with interpreting historical accounts to the kinds of objections I've encountered in my work.

Hardline skeptics refuse to accept even that there is such a thing as a "near-death experience" that transcends cultures. They believe (and I use that word deliberately) that all experience is not just culturally influenced, but culturally constructed. This means that pre-existing beliefs about an afterlife "create" accounts of NDEs, rather than vice versa. The idea that extraordinary experiences such as NDEs can generate new beliefs across cultures is viewed as nonsensical. Along with the work of scholars such as David Hufford, James McClenon, Allan Kellehear and others, my research disproves this "hard constructivist" stance once and for all.

On the other hand, those who believe that NDEs are evidence of an afterlife are often unhappy to learn that NDEs can differ widely across cultures. They want to know that their own idea of the afterlife is the correct one: that they will enter a tunnel, meet a particular being of light, have a life review, and so on. They don't want to hear about the fact that in many NDEs in different cultures there is no tunnel per se (though there is darkness and light), that the identity of the "being of light" differs by individual (and is not universal anyway), and that life reviews are rare.

Both camps must go through various mental gymnastics to preserve their beliefs - and usually that involves refusing to see similarities as similarities, or refusing to acknowledge difference. Because if there is such a thing as NDEs across cultures, house of cards #1 falls. And if NDEs vary between cultures, house of cards #2 falls. This means that both stances require denying evidence. In my recent book I present such evidence - including dozens of historical examples of people in indigenous societies stating that they based their afterlife beliefs on NDEs. I also summarize over a hundred examples of indigenous NDE accounts, and explore how they were integrated into the ritual and belief systems of many societies. I also explore the reasons why NDEs were seen in negative terms in other societies, or were even unknown.

And these issues are apart from the use of similarities between NDEs to support theories that NDEs are "all in the brain" - as well as theories that they're actually evidence of an afterlife!



Click her to go to the discussion!

The implications of both the similarities and differences between NDEs across cultures are explored in this interview - and, of course, in my books and articles.

When you've finished the interview, you can head over to Skeptiko's forum and join in the discussion about it. I'll pop in on occasion to answer questions.
 
#30
It seems to me if you look carefully at a report of an NDE and consider what the experiencer saw, was told, or merely assumed, it is possible to sort cultural differences into certain categories:

  • Differences due to interpretation by the experiencer. A man in a robe might be interpreted as Jesus, Moses, Krishna, or Mohamed. A light might be interpreted as God, or the sun. These are actually similarities in the phenomenon they only come up as differences because of the experiencer's interpretation.
  • Differences that are not due to interpretation by the experiencer: The difference between a road and a tunnel is not a difference of interpretation. (You'd have to check with the experiencer to see if the "road" was really above ground)
    • For the types of differences that are not due to interpretation by the experiencer, one can ask: is there a logical reason for the difference (assuming the afterlife environment is flexible and can be created to conform to the experiencers earthly environment). Maybe someone who lived in the wilderness without technology and never traveled more than a few miles from their home never saw a tunnel and would be frightened by one and therefore is given a road to take him to the afterlife realm. (If he traveled by road it might seem reasonable for him to assume the afterlife ream was in an earthly location.) And it doesn't seem practical to send such a person back with a mission to write a book and try to change the world, a mission to influence his tribe is more realistic.
  • Differences in the content of messages or experiences due to cultural / religious beliefs of the experiencer. If a person is told something that gives him a bad case of cognitive dissonance, or culture shock, it could be harmful to the experiencer or cause him to reject the message he is supposed to receive. For this reason what the experiencer is told and what they see during their experience might be constrained.
I think it would be interesting to see if there are any differences that seem totally arbitrary and cannot be explained as an assumption by the experiencer or explained by some constraint imposed by the life experiences, beliefs, and earthly environment of the experiencer.

As someone who believes NDEs are genuine afterlife experiences, those types of arbitrary differences would be the most interesting to me.

In my opinion a hundred NDEs where Christians see Jesus don't tell us much. When Jews and Muslims do it is significant. (I am not Christian and in these NDEs Jesus is not tellling non-Christian experiencers to "convert or else..." In the Gospels, Jesus says very clearly and unambiguously that love is paramount and I think that makes Jesus a good spokesperson for the other side whom anyone can relate to.)
 
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#31
I think it would be interesting to see if there are any differences that seem totally arbitrary and cannot be explained as an assumption by the experiencer or explained by some constraint imposed by the life experiences, beliefs, and earthly environment of the experiencer.

As someone who believes NDEs are genuine afterlife experiences, those types of arbitrary differences would be the most interesting to me.
Seemingly arbitrary differences of experience are conveyed by nonsense:


In my opinion, I believe raymond moody will reveal the kind of nonsense remembered by experiencers is indication of an advanced society of which we are a part of. Taking this a step further, the best explanation for life here is that we are in a living emulation.

That makes this world a kind of purgatory, once you add in the notion of hierarchy.

However, when thinking of own egoic survival, its clear whatever survives doesn't appear to be human as we understand the idea.
 
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#32
I have to confess, up front, I haven't finished listening to the show. What I have heard suggested to me that Greg should have a conversation with Jeff Kripal (Changed in a Flash). Alex will get this instantly. We run a risk on Skeptiko of getting deeply engaging speakers on and then burying their content their specific content over time as other interesting things come up.

Here's a suggestion - the Skeptiko dinner party. A forum involving Greg, Jeff and 2 other guests talk NDEs free form for 2 hours. Alex moderates. What do you think?
 
#33
I have to confess, up front, I haven't finished listening to the show. What I have heard suggested to me that Greg should have a conversation with Jeff Kripal (Changed in a Flash). Alex will get this instantly. We run a risk on Skeptiko of getting deeply engaging speakers on and then burying their content their specific content over time as other interesting things come up.

Here's a suggestion - the Skeptiko dinner party. A forum involving Greg, Jeff and 2 other guests talk NDEs free form for 2 hours. Alex moderates. What do you think?
nice, but very hard... everybody is busy
 
#34
However, when thinking of own egoic survival, its clear whatever survives doesn't appear to be human as we understand the idea.
I think you're on the right track with that. Though I would add the caveat that I feel fairly certain that after-life environments will be very, very varied and there might be in some 'lower' environments greater ego attachment to being human than in 'higher' environments. The capacity to reside in some environments might be highly conditional on the extent to which an 'individual' has lost (human) egoic attachments.
 
#35
Good interview, Alex. The doctor's last stated opinion is that Near-Death studies will lead to an extension of the "Natural" world, as opposed to "Supernatural" categorization. If empiricism is truly emerging from a materialist mindset in order to accomodate anecdotal NDE cross-cultural accounts, it's also entering into meta-physical explanation by definition. So I believe that Supernaturalism is an apt characterization of the survival hypothesis, given the transcendent, ineffable, and Divine attributes associated with NDE's (and mysticism generally). Btw, cultural or individual variations of thematic phenomenology in NDE can be attributed to confabulation, which seems to exist to funnel down the ineffable into coherent apprehension for the experiencer.
 
#36
I think it would be interesting to see if there are any differences that seem totally arbitrary and cannot be explained as an assumption by the experiencer or explained by some constraint imposed by the life experiences, beliefs, and earthly environment of the experiencer.
There are several NDE accounts of veridical knowledge (temporal and spatial) outside the purview of the experiencer. Especially compelling are meetings with deceased relatives previously unknown to the experiencer (e.g. grandparents, unknown siblings, even future progeny!). These lie outside life experience constraints.
 
#37
I think you're on the right track with that. Though I would add the caveat that I feel fairly certain that after-life environments will be very, very varied and there might be in some 'lower' environments greater ego attachment to being human than in 'higher' environments. The capacity to reside in some environments might be highly conditional on the extent to which an 'individual' has lost (human) egoic attachments.
IF this life is a lesson, its to learn that we are ignorant. That we are not gods.

You have to try hard NOT to find disagreement in afterlife research. Some basics match, that's about it! And here an entire website filled with near complete unanimity. An example of of what I am talking about is found on afterlifedata.com.

Here is a thought: by creating categories to fall in via the grayson scale we are automatically throwing out a ton of data that would likely contradict each other. The scale was designed to find verisimilitude rather than crafted from a priori knowledge -- as it should be, no?

Furthermore, why should we expect similar experiences? A true skeptic has no prior conclusion. We all want a resting place. I doubt greatly we will find one.
 
#39
Once you've had an NDE or an OBE, there is no doubt the experience is real.
Excellent report Judith. I have not had an NDE nor an OBE. I have five friends now, who have had NDE's... and they all concur with your sentiment here. I just keep my disciplines in place and rule nothing out just yet. But the evidence is not hollow, and it does have a directional inertia.
 
#40
IF this life is a lesson, its to learn that we are ignorant. That we are not gods.

You have to try hard NOT to find disagreement in afterlife research. Some basics match, that's about it! And here an entire website filled with near complete unanimity. An example of of what I am talking about is found on afterlifedata.com.

Here is a thought: by creating categories to fall in via the grayson scale we are automatically throwing out a ton of data that would likely contradict each other. The scale was designed to find verisimilitude rather than crafted from a priori knowledge -- as it should be, no?

Furthermore, why should we expect similar experiences? A true skeptic has no prior conclusion. We all want a resting place. I doubt greatly we will find one.
My suspicion is that this life is about nothing so simple as learning a lesson. Maybe is is a higher dimensional process with some of the following objectives:

1) To test out various physical scenarios - i.e. we may be partly in test-pilot mode, not simply learning.
2) To learn knowledge about the physical world which simply isn't known out there. We tend to make the assumption
that everyone out there understands the total reality completely. This may not be the case, and indeed maybe it is a mistake to postulate infinitely powerful beings out there. Just because some/most religions claim there is an infinitely powerful being running the show, doesn't mean this is so!
3) To practice certain skills. This is distinct from learning, I think.
4) To try to hold this physical world together - not because it is all there is, but maybe because it is a very useful construction!
5) Maybe reality is growing all the time, and we need to pick up skills to take charge of new worlds!
6) Maybe people find vacationing on earth fun! If life is rough for you, that might seem unreasonable, but just as you might play a character in a video game who was having a really hard time, so pain and suffering experienced here may seem less important after we leave this life.

David
 
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