Ever have a near-death experience?
My late father once confided his belief in “universal knowledge.”
He felt that God gave humans finite, physical brains to prevent them from knowing EVERYTHING.
That theme is echoed in the book I’m currently reading: “Forever,” by Bruce Greyson, M.D.
Psychiatrist Greyson has spent 50 years studying Near-Death Experiences (NDEs). No, this isn’t about having a near-miss on the interstate or uttering the southern “I like to died!” expression of extreme embarrassment.
Rather, these are classic cases of people hovering invisibly above their own bodies in the emergency room (read the fine print in your hospital paperwork lest they rent out your body in some opportunistic Airbnb variant!) or traveling through a tunnel toward a bright light.
These are testimonials by people insisting that human consciousness (or “the soul,” if you prefer) can exist separately from our mortal shells.
Although a few NDE experiencers describe horrifying landscapes, most relate vivid images of a heavenly realm. (Sadly, the ones who get all revved up when they misinterpret the phrase “7 Minutes in Heaven” are abruptly rerouted to the aforementioned Bad Place.)
Those who report visiting paradise express consternation that they can’t find adequate words to describe the wonders they’ve seen and heard. Okay, even in everyday life, people are increasingly unable to express a thought without leaning on the words “intersectionality,” “synergy,” “paradigm” or “literally.” But I, like, digress and stuff, dude.
Call it a cliche, but many NDE folks claim they’ve seen their entire life pass before their eyes. This is where the “you can’t take it with you” rule really stinks. Imagine watching every second of “Your Terrible Twos” on Imax, without being able to spring for the tub of popcorn.
A large percentage of NDE experiencers take it for granted that they have encountered God and/or Jesus. Others straddle the fence about the all-powerful, all-loving entity they meet. (“He looked like the traditional Judeo-Christian God. He walked like the traditional Judeo-Christian God. He talked like the traditional Judeo-Christian God. He must be a duck! The Supreme Being is a duck!”)
Many accounts of NDEs end with deceased relatives shooing the participant away, declaring, “It’s not your time yet! It’s not your time yet!” Forget ducks! The afterlife has been taken over by the DMV!
An impressive majority of people who report NDEs experience new-found tranquility and purpose for the remainder of their lives. While in their NDE, they feel an interconnectedness with all mankind, a sensation of being “one with the universe.” Granted, the ones who express it as being “one drop of water in a vast ocean” often wake up on the operating table to learn a mischievous intern has placed their hand in a pan of warm water.
Skeptics scramble to find some scientific way to explain away the NDEs. Surely, they insist, there must be some evolutionary reason that crises trigger such “hallucinations” in the gray matter’s chemistry and wiring. I thought Charles Darwin wrote about “survival of the fittest,” not “survival of the guy who saw his great-grandmother riding a giant butterfly.”
Yes, some people are fakers. Some are misguided. But I’d like to think the evidence for our spiritual component remains strong.
However, if I am blessed to enter heaven, I’m settling for an Uno deck.
I’m not sabotaging everything with that “7 Minutes” misstep. No, sir! Cross my heart and hope to … never mind.
Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”