The NDE and its Interpretation

December 17, 2009
By

I’ve delayed publishing this essay for several months due to the fact that, the more I seem to learn about this subject, the more I know that I don’t know. I suppose it’s that way with anything. However, it’s a subject that I think is absolutely remarkable in its implications. You’ve seen them on talk shows, the radio, best-selling books, and now the Internet: people who claim to have had a near-death experience (NDE). We’ve known about NDEs for years now, and, though they were once seen as “fringe science,” due to sheer numbers of experiencers, psychologists, neurologists, and theologians have been forced to begrudgingly confront, explain, and study the NDE.

My interest in the near-death experience began a few years ago as I, with great interest, poured over the subject of consciousness and alterations thereof. Consciousness in itself is an amazing mystery, and sometimes it seems that we’re no closer to explaining it now than we were when Descartes sat befuddled at his desk.  However, the mystery of the NDE struck me as even more interesting, as it seems to incorporate elements of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.

What is an NDE?

A near-death experience is generally characterized as a striking alteration of consciousness associated with a subject being near death.  These experiences range from out-of-body experiences, or OBEs (the sensation of being out of one’s own body, often floating above one’s self), seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, seeing religious figures or family members, even to seeing future or past events in history. Experiencers often receive meaningful information in the NDE, sometimes they see and hear things that seem inexplicable (such as veridical information about events happening simultaneously with their death) and the vast majority view their experience as positive.

How prevalent are NDEs?

It’s hard to pin down an exact estimate (NDE experiencers often don’t share their stories for many years, and reluctantly share them with researchers), but research has suggested that 4-15% of Americans have had an NDE (anywhere from around 12 million to around 45 million people).  A large study in the Netherlands, interviewing those who had experienced cardiac arrest, found that 18% reported at least one common aspect of an NDE.

What are some common characteristics of NDEs?

Raymond Moody, the first psychologist to scientifically study the NDE, published his best-selling Life After Life in 1975.  He found that NDEs were curious in that many of them shared very common elements:

  • hearing sounds such as buzzing
  • a feeling of peace and painlessness
  • having an out-of-body experience
  • a feeling of traveling through a tunnel
  • a feeling of rising into the heavens
  • seeing people, often dead relatives
  • meeting a spiritual being such as God
  • seeing a review of one’s life
  • feeling a reluctance to return to life
  • Later, researchers such as Kenneth Ring, Bruce Greyson, and George Ritchie expanded on Moody’s work in subsequent studies and books.  The scientific world was reluctant to accept the NDE, often based on the subjective nature of the experience, and its philosophical and metaphysical implications.  However, the field has grown considerably, and as the number of people who have experienced NDEs grows, science is finding it harder and harder to ignore.

    Is the NDE a biological or physical phenomenon?

    Well, this is where things get tricky.  Again, science has been reluctant to study the NDE.  When Moody wrote Life After Life, NDEs were filed strictly in the same cabinet as UFO abductions and Bigfoot sightings.  Feeling in the public is mixed, but it does seem that everyone knows someone who knows someone who has had an NDE.  And let’s not pick on the scientists too much:  it’s hard to make testable predictions based on subjective experience.  The mind has been known to do strange things under stress, and is also known to be notoriously unreliable in terms of understanding objective reality.  Human beings are known to hallucinate from time to time, we dream in unreal worlds every night, and when under the influence of certain chemicals we see things that don’t seem to be there for anyone else.  There are indeed materialistic interpretations of the NDE:

    1. The NDE is like a dream, a fantasy created by the brain.  People see what an NDE is “supposed” to be like on television and during times of great stress, it retreats into this fantasy world.
    2. The NDE is caused by a release of a certain chemical in the brain.
    3. The NDE is caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain.
    4. The NDE is caused by the brain, from some unknown process.
    5. NDEs are fabrications from people who just want to make money.

    This last option is a major concern, as there have been people in recent years who have capitalized on their NDE.  Notably, we may have heard of Betty Eadie, whose book Embraced By The Light was a #1 New York Times bestseller.  Certainly there are men and women who have made quite a bit of money by reporting NDEs!  However, even more overwhelming are those who do not make any money off their experience, and often find themselves ostracized, ridiculed, or dismissed for relating their experiences to their faith groups or family.

    So are NDEs the result of something biological?  From the International Association for Near-Death Studies (emphasis added):

    In a scientific age, it is only natural that people want to understand the biological or psychological origins of experience, and a variety of neurological and chemical explanations have been proposed as the cause of NDEs: lack of oxygen, excess of carbon dioxide, seizure activity in the temporal lobe, the effect of drugs such as DMT or ketamine, hallucination, psychological avoidance of death, normal shutting down of brain activity, and a dozen or more other possibilities.

    No scientific explanation so far has satisfactorily accounted for all aspects of NDEs or their effects. For example, numerous patients who were being clinically monitored and were known to be well oxygenated have later reported having an NDE during that time; drugs are not a factor in all NDEs; the characteristics of sleep disorders and NDEs are not identical. Hallucinations are highly individual and produce confusion and hazy memories, exactly the opposite characteristics of near-death experiences, which tend to share characteristics and be remembered vividly for decades as being “realer than real.” For every medical cause that has been put forward, there are reasons the NDE researchers say, “Not quite right.”

    Further, despite reports that scientists have been able to induce NDEs through the use of drugs or electrical stimulation to the brain, none of the reports has been altogether convincing. The reports have been based on a partial similarity to a limited aspect of NDE, or they have involved very few people—sometimes only a single individual—in an experiment that does not really replicate a full NDE, or the aftereffects do not coincide with those of a true NDE. After decades of investigation, researcher and psychiatrist Bruce Greyson, MD, has reported, “No one physiological or psychological model by itself explains all the common features of NDE.”*

    Thousands of documented NDEs challenge mainstream Western thinking and belief systems. Expectations about an afterlife may be challenged, and some people abruptly develop radically new interests and abilities after an NDE. One subject of debate is whether consciousness (mind) resides exclusively in the physical brain. For example, many people who have had an NDE accurately report events that occurred around their bodies when they were unconscious or even clinically dead—in at least one case, when clinical monitoring clearly showed no brain activity. Some NDEs have revealed family secrets, such as the existence of a never-mentioned sibling.  According to the prevailing belief system of industrialized societies, these things are scientifically impossible.

    It seems that finding an explanation for all NDEs is difficult. Pim van Lommel presents a thorough examination of the various medical theories of NDEs, and why none of them quite fully explains the NDE, here.

    What is the effect of NDEs on experiencers?

    An interesting fact about NDEs is that they tend to be transformative and positive for the experiencer. Though there is often a period of depression immediately following the NDE (often due to the contrast between the feelings of joy in an NDE and the monotony and cruelty of daily life), NDE experiencers tend to be much better off in the long run:

    There is one common element in all near-death experiences: they transform the people who have them. In my twenty years of intense exposure to NDErs, I have yet to find one who hasn’t had a very deep and positive transformation as a result of his experience. – Raymond A. Moody, M.D.

    There are after-effects generally associated with NDEs, including, but not limited to, decreased fear of death, increased charity and spirituality, increased curiosity and philosophical outlook, and an increased sense of meaning and purpose in one’s own life. These effects are not positively correlated with hallucinations, dreams, or intoxication.

    What do you think, Arthur?

    After reading many accounts of near-death experiencing, I’m convinced that they are authentic (though subjective) experiences.  For me, this is the most important part of NDE research:  NDE experiencers are overwhelmingly convinced that their experiences were real. To almost all NDE experiencers, they didn’t see a vision of their dead parents, they saw their dead parents. They didn’t have a hallucination of Christ, they didn’t have an open vision of Christ, they saw Christ. The NDE challenges a reductionistic, materialistic world-view so convincingly, that it’s almost comical reading the accounts themselves and the scientific attempts to explain them.  You don’t have to take my word for it, there are huge databases online filled with literally thousands of self-reported NDE accounts.  Some meaningful quotes from the NDERF database:

    “Reality” seemed so unreal and boring compared to what I had just experienced and I was disappointed to be back. – Marta G.

    I knew during the experience that is real, I knew directly after, I know now and will always know. – Veronica W.

    I know it was real. The feeling of being in the light is like nothing that could be recreated – Robert L.

    I have never had a dream that was so vivid so I can’t believe it was a dream it was like a dream only 1000 times more real than life itself. – Linda G.

    I cannot explain it actually, but I know I really went there and saw Jesus I know. I know, I know. Period. I know. – Linda K.

    If NDEs are authentic experiences, what does this mean for Mormonism?

    This question continues to fascinate me.  The NDE can be threatening to some Latter-day Saints, when information retrieved from “beyond the veil” seems on its face to contradict LDS teachings.  Often NDE experiencers report that God “didn’t care” what Church they associated with, that there is “no sin,” that human souls reincarnate, or that all religions are equal in God’s eyes.

    A quick search of NDERF’s database of NDEs turns up some interesting quotes about the LDS Church and Mormonism, from first-hand NDE accounts.

    What was the best and worst part of your experience? The best was talking with our Lord Jesus Christ and finding out truths that the ancient theologians conveniently forgot to put into the scriptures. I also know and it was confirmed to me the missing points could be found in three books that have never been revised or changed. They have only been translated once and revealed only once. Those three books are: The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrine and Covenants. – William S.

    I became a Mormon in 1998, but left that Church again in 2003. The Mormon Missionaries told me that I was sent to “Spirit Prison” how they call it, because I was not a Mormon at the time of my death and that the only way to avoid another frightening death would be to become a Mormon myself. So I did. I worked in the Mormon Temple to “save the dead”, because they told me that I could help those other trapped spirits out of that world and I could help them to get to heaven by spending time in the Mormon Temple and doing the ordinances for them. I believed them and worked as an Ordinance Worker in the Temple for 2 full years (amongst elderly people – I was 23). I now feel like they used my NDE to put pressure on me to join their Church. I am glad I am no longer part of it. I am now just spiritual and free. – Dominique S.

    I told some of my friends that were Mormon. They believed that I was probably hallucinating. After that, I have told no one until now. – Beth L.

    My parents, in Utah, who were temple workers, a temple for the Mormon church, had my name written on the prayer list of names prayed for by those attending the temple that day for all the temples in the western United States that day. Prayer is a tangible force, a power for good here on this earth! Many people ask me what was the 1st thing I thought or felt when I came out of my coma, about 3 weeks after the accident. What I felt, was the incredible feeling of power by being thought of by many and them praying for my recovery to God. I could feel his love and compassion for me, and I believe this communication led to my incredible experience with Christ in that heavenly garden. I now no longer hope that there is heaven and that Christ’s life experience and atonement are real, Now I know! – Derry B.

    Many Latter-day Saints have experienced an NDE themselves, and were able to reconcile LDS theology with their NDE.  Betty Eadie speaks at firesides about her experience, and remains a faithful Latter-day Saint (though she has de-emphasized at times her religious affiliation when telling others of her experience). Many have drawn links between “classical” NDEs and early Mormon Visions. Lee Nelson has released a series of books called Beyond the Veil, that feature many Latter-day Saint NDE accounts. Even FARMS has published at least one article comparing NDEs and visions in the Book of Mormon.

    When I was a missionary, I tracted into a young Hispanic woman who, in broken English, immediately insisted that we listen to her own account of her near-death experience. I remember with embarrassment, because, though I listened as politely as I could, in my mind I casually dismissed her story as a hallucination, because her Evangelical interpretation of the experience seemed to contradict the LDS Gospel that I was trying to teach her. I feel ashamed now that I could be so callously dismissive of what I now think could have been a genuine experience with Diety. Maybe this just makes me human.

    But as for me, now, the NDE is a a fascinating part of my faith.  The more I read about NDEs, the more convinced I am that they might actually represent an authentic experience. Of course, I’ve never experienced one myself, and due to the traumatic circumstances that seem to trigger them, perhaps I don’t want one, either. Materialistic attempts at explaining the causes of NDEs seem to fall very short, especially considering how ferociously the experiencers seem to defend the reality of their experience. But even if the NDE turns out to be a completely physical phenomenon, isn’t it strange that natural selection has provided a mechanism whereby millions of people see lucid, immensely joyful, loving visions of Jesus, deceased family members, other religious figures, God, or angels as they die? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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    81 Responses to The NDE and its Interpretation

    1. Matt W.
      December 17, 2009 at 8:57 am

      My friend Kevin has a great review of NDEs here.

    2. Hawkgrrrl
      December 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

      One of my Sunday School teachers when I was a teenager had an NDE before her conversion to the church. She was convinced that joining the church was consistent with her NDE.

    3. December 17, 2009 at 10:02 am

      #1. Matt – I appreciate the link. Unfortunately, it seems that your friend Kevin wrote the article as a review of a book that deals, only in part, with NDEs. Not really a review of NDEs per se. Though he does make a strong argument that we shouldn’t base our faith in God on “what science can’t account for,” which I agree with wholeheartedly.

    4. December 17, 2009 at 11:21 am

      I have no answers, but I have some questions. I assume that these experiences happen in all cultures. (Do they, in fact?) How do they compare cross-culturally? Do Christians report meeting Christ, Buddhists the Buddha, Muslims Mohamed, etc.? Who do atheists meet? Also, not all people who briefly “die” report these experiences. If the experiences are something that happens “objectively,” why do they happen to some “dead” people but not to others?

    5. December 17, 2009 at 11:33 am

      #4. Kuri. I can only answer what I know. Cross-culturally, there are similarities in “core experiences.” For instance, many NDE experiencers report reaching some kind of “border” that they can’t cross… they know if they cross it, they will die. However, the exact manifestation of this border varies (a river, a gate, a treeline, a road, etc.). I’ve seen some studies that show the “tunnel” phenomenon is more of a Western feature of NDEs. As far as “who do atheists meet,” generally there isn’t much correlation between religiosity and the NDE. The most commonly-met religious figure is Jesus, but the majority of NDE accounts have come from Western, Christianized countries. In non-Western NDEs Buddha can be met, or other religious figures familiar to the person. Many atheists do meet a “God” figure (often God is described as a very intense, white or red light), and some find it incredibly upsetting to their world-view. There is information on the NDERF website regarding these issues, and you can see the sources of information and statistics on NDEs.

    6. Kevin Christensen
      December 17, 2009 at 11:40 am

      NDEs are fascinating. One of the most interesting findings is that those who listen to and read about NDE experiences tend to show the same positive after-effects. The best book I read on the topic is Carol Zaleski’s Otherworld Journeys, which attempts a cross-cultural looking, comparing Medieval and modern accounts. I wrote the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies article linked. Around the time I did that, another LDS scholar from Provo wrote a good paper comparing Joseph Smith’s vision to NDE accounts. I’m personally convinced that Brigham Young had an NDE at Winter Quarters in Iowa, when he reported seeing Joseph Smith in a dream, and later, other details which I think must have come during that event. When Heber C. Kimball reported Jedidiah Grant’s near death vision in conference, he reported that Grant’s first words to him on being revived were, “Why, it was just as Brigham has told us many times!” If you read the “Spirit World” chapter in the Brigham Young Priesthood manual, and follow up on some of the quotes, it becomes very evident that Brigham taught things that he could have only learned through personal experience. They have been attested since, but not in the Bible nor even in the much more detailed accounts of Alma in the Book of Mormon. It’s also very significant that LDS have been comfortable interpreting NDEs and publically reporting them within the context of our faith from the very start.

      In 1999, the IANDS conference was held in Salt Lake City, and I managed to travel there to attend. Two favorite moments… Listening to Howard Storm’s account, and realizing that he was a modern day Alma. When I was young I had a lingering small question about the similarity of Paul’s and Alma’s accounts. Now I see that where they are similar, they are thoroughly typical, and should be similar. I also remember the oral account of a Jewish girl who had been raised to believe that there was no spirit, that you lived a good live to be an ethical person in the here and now. Her first thought on finding herself on the other side: “I HATE being wrong!”

      Kevin Christensen
      Pittsburgh, PA

    7. December 17, 2009 at 11:49 am

      Thanks so much for the attention and info, Kevin. I hope to attend an IANDS conference in the future. I’d like to do graduate study in NDE research, but in Psychology circles unfortunately it’s easy to get black-listed if they find out you do “fringe” research. The more I know about academia, the more I realize how small-minded and dogmatic it is, and institutionally so.

      Not that it’s always a bad thing, but there are many psychologists that could do research on NDEs (and fill in some badly-needed research and information on the subject) that are afraid of shooting their careers in the foot.

    8. Dexter
      December 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

      Arthur, I just wanted to thank you for writing this post. I found it to be very interesting and informative, and frankly, I am partial to posts focusing on what we don’t know as opposed to what some claim to know. I too think consciousness is extremely fascinating.

    9. December 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      #8. Well, I don’t want to diss science or the scientific method. Nor do I think science shouldn’t try to explain the Universe we live in. That having been said, I think it’s interesting when science tries to “explain” a subjective experience. As I said, I’m a psychology student, so that’s basically all we study.

    10. jmb275
      December 17, 2009 at 12:15 pm

      Great post Arthur! I’m naturally a skeptic (for better or worse) so I’ll provide that disclaimer upfront. I think we have to be very careful that we don’t let our desire to let NDEs confirm (or reject) our faith run away with our good reasoning. Just because science cannot provide an adequate explanation for something doesn’t mean that supernatural powers are involved. Neuroscience is a burgeoning field, but is still small, and the human brain is still rather poorly understood. Also, my questions surrounding NDEs are very similar to kuri’s (in #4). Don’t get me wrong, I am not asserting that NDEs aren’t from God, I’m just not ready to surrender the phenomenon to supernatural powers.

      Having said this, I view such experiences as gifts. They are gifts to the individual, and as you mentioned, appear to lead to greater happiness, awareness, and more understanding (much like the numerous visions had by prophets since the beginning). In this light I believe they are powerful for the individual and I’m grateful that we have evolved in such a way.

      Where I make the distinction is in the ability of said “gifts” to indicate something to me about objective reality. As you mentioned, we are notoriously bad at understanding objective reality. For me, NDEs, like visions, say less about objective reality, and more about the individual.

    11. December 17, 2009 at 12:45 pm

      I think we have to be very careful that we don’t let our desire to let NDEs confirm (or reject) our faith run away with our good reasoning. Just because science cannot provide an adequate explanation for something doesn’t mean that supernatural powers are involved. Neuroscience is a burgeoning field, but is still small, and the human brain is still rather poorly understood.

      I think it’s also important to note that ideas along the lines of “Science can’t explain NDEs, therefore NDEs prove the existence of God/the supernatural” are essentially “God of the gaps” arguments. NDEs might prove to be an exception, but science has had a habit of eventually filling in such gaps.

    12. mh
      December 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

      arthur, I love this topic, and loved george ritchie’s book ‘return from tomorrow’. lance richardson wrote a book ‘the message’ of his mormon nde, and ’90 minutes in heaven’ is the story of a baptist? pastor’s nde. the author’s name escapes me, but it was a fantastic read.

      richardson indicates that family members may serve a function similar to the holy ghost in providing inspiration. i’m really intrigued by this idea.

    13. Hawkgrrrl
      December 17, 2009 at 1:01 pm

      I think it’s a valid question whether these experiences have any sort of external reality (e.g. the spirit leaves the body and goes . . . somewhere) or whether it’s something hardwired into the brain to happen when we are dying. Either way, I find it fascinating.

    14. Dexter
      December 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm

      Regarding 8 and 9,

      I didn’t feel you were disrespecting science. I am glad you didn’t take the view that God must exist or the church must be true based on NDEs. I enjoy a post where such conclusions are avoided. I feel that religion is all about manipulating the unknown and pretending to know what the unknown is. In ancient times, unexplainable (at the time) events like eclipses were used to convince the masses about god. Today, I think many religions use unexplainable feelings (burning inside, euporia) to try and convince people that god is trying to communicate some truth to them. I find it refreshing to point out difficult to comprehend experiences or feelings (like NDEs) while admitting that they could be from some external source or they could be produced by the brain.

    15. December 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm

      #10. and #11. Yes, and that’s why I call the NDE a component of my faith, rather than a foundation of my faith.

      That having been said, there’s a difference between using God as an explanation for something scientific (using an example from Matt’s link, saying God keeps the planets in motion), and taking people’s subjective experience at face value. I’m not sure subjective experience is accessible by the scientific method. We approximate and decide on “what is reality” by taking a majority consensus. That’s really all we have at our disposal. And if the “scientific method” were a machine that runs itself objectively without human beings, then we could use it to determine what REALLY is reality. But we don’t have that machine and we can’t even really invent it without causing logical parodoxes. We can only examine our minds by using our minds. Even when we create a device to examine our minds, we created that device using “our” logic, so it’s just an extension of our mind.

      So I think we’re on shaky ground to begin with when we try to look for “causes” of subjective experience. One of the most fascinating things about NDEs, for me, is how non-experiencers project their beliefs onto the NDE (Mormons, atheists, Evangelicals, whatever). “Oh, you just hallucinated.” “You were possessed by demons.” “You were in Spirit Prison.” I would much prefer to just take people’s accounts at face value, and the vast majority say “it was absolutely real, and nothing you say can tell me otherwise.” If there were more dissent amongst experiencers, I would look at it much more skeptically, but I encourage anyone who is on the fence about it to read the accounts of the experiencers themselves.

    16. Martin
      December 17, 2009 at 4:37 pm

      I too found this post very interesting. I’ve heard/read accounts of people having what they claimed to be “profound spiritual” experiences under other conditions where their bodies/brains were compromised, such as when having a stroke, tripping on LSD, being injured in an accident, etc.. It’s not so much what they experienced but how they felt that catches my attention, since it sounds similar to the NDE experiencers. Things seemed more real than reality, they felt profoundly spiritual, etc.

      I find these accounts disturbing. How can the destruction of brain cells as they’re swamped with blood translate into a “profoundly spiritual” feeling? It suggests that spiritual experiences (assuming they’re real) register via physical mechanisms in the brain. If other things other than true spirituality sets off those mechanisms, it sure casts in doubt the irrefutability of spiritual witnesses, doesn’t it?

      The thing I find most compelling is the NDE accounts where a person can describe observable and verifiable things that they can’t possibly have witnessed due to being unconscious or even dead. Most described these things as though watching from a perspective than their own bodies (eg., from besides or above their own body).

      My mother was involved in a serious car crash where she felt she had been removed from the vehicle and observed the accident from above before being returned to the interior of the vehicle, completely unhurt. The way she described it, it sounded like an out-of-body experience (though not an NDE). On the other hand, the fact that she was completely unhurt (which was truly remarkable) suggests she could have been physically transported away. Regardless, it seems like the most scientifically plausible explanation for her experience would be that something about the accident (stress, adrenaline, or head-smacking) triggered the spirituality sensor in her brain, right?

    17. jmb275
      December 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

      That having been said, there’s a difference between using God as an explanation for something scientific (using an example from Matt’s link, saying God keeps the planets in motion), and taking people’s subjective experience at face value.

      I think you’ve nailed it! I do try to take people’s experience at face value. It is real for them, even though it may or may not have been objective reality.

      I think it’s a valid question whether these experiences have any sort of external reality (e.g. the spirit leaves the body and goes . . . somewhere) or whether it’s something hardwired into the brain to happen when we are dying.

      A very valid and important question. Sometimes, however, it feels too much like taking on religiosity as a whole. No matter how psychologically advanced we become, and regardless of how great our scientific explanations become, there are always going to be believers who simply feel that science has it dead wrong. They will stare science in the face and reject it outright. We’ve seen this over and over again in history. For many, even if NDEs turn out to be completely a function of the brain, and provide no information about external reality, they will see value in the experience itself. Yet others will become firm deniers, and others still will simply flippantly discard the experiences.

    18. December 17, 2009 at 5:21 pm

      #17. Exactly. It won’t cause people to “change sides,” it just causes people to dig in deeper in their trenches.

      EXCEPT… the experiencers themselves. Because apparently, at least one source of statistics (NDERF) says that 98% of people are convinced that their NDE is real. So the best way to “change sides” so to speak, is to have an NDE.

      But I think it would take nothing short of a miracle to PROVE that the NDE is a physical phenomenon. Because it is, at its core, completely subjective. If we can find a chemical that triggers an NDE in every sense of the term, there’s no way to tell if the chemical is triggering a hallucination, or an authentic experience! Perhaps the chemical is actually “cleansing the doors of perception” to use Leary-speak, releasing your mind from its physical constraints. An “authentic” NDE would be functionally equivalent to a “hallucinatory” one – for the experiencer!

      I can’t think of a way out of this loophole… so I just choose to take accounts at face value.

    19. William S
      December 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm

      Arthur,
      I loved your article. For those of you reading this, I am the William S. spoken of above. I have had not one but three NDE’s and I remember each of them vividly. Arthur, I understand your statement about psychologists not wanting to step out on the limb and “shoot” their career in the foot, so to speak. Sometimes, it isn’t the academic community that can take it out on you, it can be family as well as community that can look at you as if you are wierd and “nuts”. Been there and done that. I know I’m not crazy, I know what I experienced, I know that I met our Lord Jesus Christ and I know the comversation was real. You talked about a barrier, yes there is one. It is different with each person on what they perceive as their barrier. Mine happened to be a staircase spirialing upwards behind a filmy white veil. I knew that if I went through that veil I would not return to earth, to my family or be able to finish the mission I have to do on this earth.

      I also have a very powerful gift that was magnified from my NDE’s. I was born intuitive (I hate the word psychic). My NDE’s magnified what I sensed 10 fold. I have seen aura’s my whole life and I’m 55 years old. I help the police to solve murders. I don’t talk to deceased spirits but they do show me images of their life or death, if they were murdered. It can be a bit unnerving sometimes. But I know I am helping families to heal and to give them closure. I’m like Arthur said above, I’m one of those that do not choose to go on TV shows and earn money for my gifts. To do so would make me no better than the “fake psychics”. Many of them are fake and are only deceiving people for money. I won’t do that. Ever!!!

      I just thought I would write a comment on what I thought of the article and for any additional information.

      Thanks,
      William S.

    20. Tyler S
      December 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm

      I liked your approach to the topic. I wonder about the term NDE though, it may be a misnomer since many who have such experiences are fully dead, and not just nearly dead. Did the research distinguish much between those who had experienced full brain death and those who experienced partial brain death?

    21. December 17, 2009 at 10:10 pm

      Thanks William for making an appearance. I had been studying NDEs quite a bit, and then my wife’s grandmother mentioned when her father died. She said that on his deathbed he claimed to see family members, and then he approached a river, and he knew when he crossed that river, he would die. I was stunned. Here was an NDE that happened years and years ago, in my family, that exhibited the same “border” trait that NDEs tend to have. Very interesting. I also wonder about what you think is an enhanced “intuition.” A significant percentage of those who have NDEs report this same kind of intuition upon returning. My question to you is, as a Latter-day Saint: is this “intuition” the same kind of feeling or perception that most members of the Church refer to as the Holy Ghost? Or do you feel that it is a different type of perception, unrelated to the Holy Ghost?

      #20. Tyler. This is tricky, as “death” isn’t really a single event. It’s really a gradual process. There are NDEs that have been reported during brain death. You might want to check out Pim van Lommel’s article on NDEs, which goes over the death process and how NDEs fit into it: http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_consciousness.htm .

      I don’t know how it fits in, but a couple people question why ALL people resuscitated don’t report an NDE. I should have addressed that above. There is one account in particular in which doctors reported a patient who immediately awoke after an operation and went into detail about a hellish NDE, then lost consciousness. Upon waking, he had no recollection of the NDE at all. This can be found in the “exceptional NDE accounts” section of the NDERF site. Obviously, we can only interview those who have “come back” from clinical death. People who are actually (permanently) dead cannot tell us what they saw. If you ascribe to a “the spirit leaves the body and goes to Heaven” hypothesis of NDEs, you could easily rationalize the fact that not everyone experiences an NDE by postulating that the spirit leaves the body at different times. In Betty Eadie’s book Embraced By The Light, she mentions that she learned in Heaven that sometimes the spirit leaves the body BEFORE clinical death, in order to spare the patient from suffering. Sometimes the spirit lingers a little bit after. So a dualistic, spiritualistic view of NDEs can accept the fact that some people go through clinical death and then revive without their spirit leaving the body, like a coma.

    22. December 17, 2009 at 10:35 pm

      But I think it would take nothing short of a miracle to PROVE that the NDE is a physical phenomenon.

      Actually, it would be pretty simple. You mentioned Bruce Greyson. He does the following:

      Dr. Greyson’s research design involves putting unexpected visual targets in the operating room that can be seen only from above the operating table. An open laptop computer is placed above the operating table that randomly selects 12 images as it cycles through all of them. Before the operation starts, Greyson administers a battery of psychological tests and goes over a consent form, and then during the post-op phase he asks about how the procedure went and eventually asks the patient to guess what picture was being displayed on the lap-top. He also interviews them 6 months after the operation, because sometimes they remember things that happened during the procedure only after some time has passed. Greyson noted that there are very tight procedural controls on what he can say to the patients and also what types of patients can be allowed into the experimental pool.

      So far as I know, no one has ever described what was on the laptop.

    23. December 17, 2009 at 10:37 pm

      Forgot to link.

      Also left out important information:
      Greyson is doing this research at the University of Virginia with patients receiving cardioverter-defibrillator implantations (a device that can monitor the heart rhythm). During the implantation operation, the doctors must induce a cardiac arrest in the patient to make sure the device is working properly, thus this operation provides a high percentage chance of invoking an NDE.

    24. December 17, 2009 at 10:50 pm

      #22. How does that constitute proof that NDEs are not an authentic spiritual phenomenon? It only gives evidence that a person having an out-of-body experience cannot (or does not) see an image on a laptop, in this controlled experiment. If THAT constituted proof of anything, our textbooks would be quite different indeed.

    25. December 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm

      #22. How does that constitute proof that NDEs are not an authentic spiritual phenomenon?

      It doesn’t; I never said it did. I don’t think that can be proven. (“You can’t prove a negative,” etc., and so forth.) But Greyson’s experiment could prove that NDE is a physical phenomenon. So far, it hasn’t.

    26. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
      December 17, 2009 at 11:37 pm

      I was bleeding to death once and it seemed like I was watching myself react to the situation from like third person or something, everything happened in super slow motion, I didn’t feel anything, I had the life flashing before me thing and there was like some religious message but i’m pretty sure that was shock?

    27. James
      December 18, 2009 at 3:30 am

      “Many Latter-day Saints have experienced an NDE themselves, and were able to reconcile LDS theology with their NDE.”

      Arthur intriguing post!!

      One of my freinds had a near death experience and was excomunicated over it. I have asked her to post on this hopefully she will. She told her bishop that she saw and spoke to Jesus and felt that she had now a direct relationship with him. He said that couldn’t have happened only the prophet or those who have had their calling election made sure could see him. They held a church court for her which she didn’t attend and was excomunicated.

      The story would make an interesting post on its own.

    28. December 18, 2009 at 9:19 am

      #25. So if NDE experiencers can report seeing something that would otherwise be impossible to see, that would constitute proof of the reality of the NDE? Because that HAS happened numerous times. Greyson wasn’t trying something new, he was trying to REPLICATE what had happened in the past. For instance, in the case of Pam Reynolds, who, under general anesthesia, with a brain aneurysm, with her eyes taped shut and earplugs clicking 96 dB pulses in her ears, was able to describe very accurately a saw that was being used to cut her skull open, and what the nurses were saying at the time. There are people who have described conversations that happened in waiting rooms while they were on operating tables. Even at least one account that describes what a person’s family was eating for dinner on the third day of their coma. I don’t think that constitutes proof though. Proof is hard to come by in science. We can only find evidence that makes a case or theory stronger or weaker.

      Not because you can’t “disprove a negative.” In this case a “negative” would be something that does not exist, and therefore there is no proof that it doesn’t exist. I don’t think that applies. We have the firsthand accounts of thousands of people who say they had an NDE. To me, that’s not a “negative,” it’s just a subjective experience, and therefore inaccessible by the scientific method. You can’t scientifically prove that love exists either. Would you say it’s because you “can’t disprove a negative?” No. You just can’t prove or disprove whether people are having a certain subjective experience, unless you’re them.

    29. December 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

      #29. Unfortunately I have a hard time accepting that story second-hand. There are hundreds of accounts of people who had NDEs, who were Mormons, who were not in any way excommunicated or punished. I have a hard time imagining a bishop excommunicating someone over JUST that. I think it’s more likely that there were other, better reasons. And since your friend never bothered to show up at her Church court, she’ll never actually know what those real reasons are. But, maybe you’re right. Stranger things have happened.

    30. December 18, 2009 at 10:35 am

      #25. So if NDE experiencers can report seeing something that would otherwise be impossible to see, that would constitute proof of the reality of the NDE?

      No, that would be evidence, not proof. Each of the cases you describe can, at least on the face of them, be easily explained through less extraordinary claims. Replication under tightly-enough controlled conditions, on the other hand, would constitute proof. (Borrowing from Stephen Jay Gould’s definition of scientific fact, I define “proof” as evidence so strong it would be perverse to disbelieve it.)

      You can’t scientifically prove that love exists either.

      Sure you can, if your science is sophisticated enough. All you need to do is understand the physiological processes of love and then examine an individual to see if those processes are present.

    31. December 18, 2009 at 11:08 am

      #30. This is moving into philosophy but I’ll bite anyway, because I’m supposed to be studying for a final. As I said before, if science were objective, and ran without humans, then you could PROVE subjective experiences like love. But it’s not, so you can’t. When you say “all you need to do is understand the physiological processes of love,” all science can do is look at the PHYSICAL CORRELATES of the subjective experience that people self-report as “love.” But there’s no objective way to PROVE that this correlation is causation. All science can do is say, “When people report feeling love, this part of the brain is activated.”

      Now if you assume materialism and naturalism a priori, as you seem to do, then you might have a basis for saying that a physical correlation is identical with a causation of subjective experience, and you could even deny that qualia exist. But you can’t say that this is objective proof because it presupposes 1) logic and 2) materialism, and therefore any argument or proof is going in a circle. I encourage you to read Avshalom Elitzur’s recent paper on the correlation of mental states and qualia, where I think he makes an intense case, if not for the duality of consciousness, then at least for the inability of science to ever prove anything but correlation. http://cogprints.org/6613/1/Dualism0409.pdf

    32. Hawkgrrrl
      December 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

      I read a great short story that was written by a DAMU Mormon who had an NDE that changed his life. I posted an exerpt from it over at StayLDS for anyone who is interested: http://www.staylds.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1079

      I am intrigued about the fact that these experiences are so repeatable and consistent across cultures and eras, although one’s personal interpretation of the same differs.

      I find William’s statement about the increase in intuitive abilities to be interesting as well. Those types of abilities seem to transcend religious constructs and seem to be more about one’s connectedness to humanity (IMO).

    33. December 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm

      But there’s no objective way to PROVE that this correlation is causation. All science can do is say, “When people report feeling love, this part of the brain is activated.”

      I’m not sure why you’re talking about “causation” here. I’m not arguing whether love is “caused” by physical processes. I’m arguing that love can be described and detected (“proved to exist”) by science if we know what to look for and have the proper equipment to do so.

      Now if you assume materialism and naturalism a priori, as you seem to do, then you might have a basis for saying that a physical correlation is identical with a causation of subjective experience, and you could even deny that qualia exist.

      Yes, I’m a “vulgar materialist” (and proud of it). (And so is God, if the Doctrine and Covenants [131:7] is any guide.) I plan to stay that way unless or until something non-material is proven to exist.

      I encourage you to read Avshalom Elitzur’s recent paper on the correlation of mental states and qualia, where I think he makes an intense case, if not for the duality of consciousness, then at least for the inability of science to ever prove anything but correlation.

      Philosophy is a sometimes enjoyable intellectual enterprise, but one can learn more about the real world by looking through a microscope for half an hour than one can by spending a lifetime studying philosophy.

    34. December 18, 2009 at 1:50 pm

      Dr. Elitzur isn’t a philosopher, he’s a physicist. But it’s cool. I hear you loud and clear.

    35. December 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm

      Dr. Elitzur isn’t a philosopher, he’s a physicist.

      Whatever his degree is in, he makes a philosophy argument, not a physics argument.

    36. Dexter
      December 18, 2009 at 3:01 pm

      Am I the only one who read William S’ comment?

      William, can you share some examples of this intuition you have used to help solve crimes?

    37. December 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm

      I mentioned him in #21 though it got buried. But I’m also still curious as to whether he feels his “intuition” is related to the Holy Ghost, or if it’s some different kind of perception?

    38. William S
      December 18, 2009 at 5:11 pm

      Arthur and Dexter,
      In some ways, yes, intuition can be related to the Holy Ghost, but that is to a certain point. First off, I was born intuitive, I’ve sensed things, events, empathic feelings of those around me for as long as I can remember. As I said above that I’ve seen auras my whole life as well and I’m 55 years old. I just thought everyone could see them, not necessarily the case. When I said my abilities became stronger with each of my NDE’s, that I wasn’t joking on, at all. I have offered the use of my abilities to the Police on several occasions and helping families to learn about the status of a lost loved one.

      The spirit “signature” if you will, is very different in a living person than someone that has crossed over. It is difficult to explain how that is, but for lack of better words, the spirit is not restricted. Recently (within the last 3 years) in the county I live in there was a cold case of a young woman that had been murdered 26 years before. The university I attend, one of the classes was a forensic class and the professor was able to obtain the file on this cold case. The professor also happens to be a warden at our local state prison. The class was doing farily well for a 16 week course. The professor became aware of my abilities through another professor. I was invited to become an unofficial member of the group examining this case.

      I asked that I be shown nothing about the case, I didn’t want to see the police report or see photographs that had been taken 26 years before, only a picture of the victim and some of her jewelry. I told the family information about this young woman only they knew and no one else. I also described the site of her murder and that her body was moved. I even described a general description of the person I could see who did this.
      I was later taken out to the murder site, it had been changed so I had to be taken to where her body had been found. This young woman had been shot in the throat with a shotgun after she was already dead. Her death was by strangulation. I could see in my mind what transpired, vehicles involved (only symbolicly). Many things I was being shown in images in my mind are also very symbolic. It’s deciphering the symbols that is the hard part.

      I found out after that meeting, I had validated 98% of the police report, but I also said the case would be closed very quickly. It was in 4 months after this. The man that killed her was a former boyfriend and he did kill her just as I had seen in my mind. BTW, I didn’t live anywhere near this area at that time and knew nothing about it. The former boyfriend is now serving a life sentence without parole.

      This is just one of many that I have done. I could write a lot more, but I have a dinner engagement with my wife at the church for a branch Christmas party. If more people would like to ask some more indepth questions, I would be happy to do so, you can contact me through Arthur and I give him permission to give them my e-mail address. Thank you and sorry for such a long tome.
      William S.

    39. December 18, 2009 at 5:44 pm

      William,

      You might want to contact the James Randi Educational Foundation. They offer a million dollar prize to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal power in a controlled test. If you’re uncomfortable taking money for what you do, I’m sure you could arrange to have the money donated to charity rather than delivered to you.

    40. Hawkgrrrl
      December 18, 2009 at 6:11 pm

      William S- thanks for your time – very fascinating stuff!

      I was able to do a guided meditation a few years ago that dealt with the body’s energy fields (Chakras), and I definitely believe that there is more going on with human energy than can be seen by most people.

    41. Sali
      December 19, 2009 at 8:23 am

      William I am absolutely fascinated by your experience. Unfortunately I am new here and not sure how to contact Arthur to receive your email address. I, like you, was born with an increased intuition, although not to the extent that you have experienced it. I would love to discuss this with you more, but I don’t wish to hijack this thread.

      This is a subject that I have looked at intensively, and I tend to flip flop between views depending upon what I read, but that is a common thing for me concerning any subject. I know four people who have had NDEs, my Grandmother, Aunt, and two friends. They all describe it as a real experience. I guess I take the view that our brain is the means by which we experience spiritual matters. I have no problem with that as we are in a physical body. I do find it difficult to believe they are ‘chemical’ experiences as they are just so similar in content.

    42. December 19, 2009 at 8:50 am

      You can get a hold of me at my spam address. emotionpicture at hotmail dot com.

    43. William S
      December 19, 2009 at 7:54 pm

      Kuri,
      Thank you for the information, and yes I am very uncomfortable with taking money for my gift that I was given from Heavenly Father. In fact, I won’t take money for it, period. I don’t care if it is a million dollars, I won’t do it. My gift is a gift and to only use it for the purpose it was given is all the payment I need. To receive money for it would make me no better than the storefront chalatans you see in Vegas or any other big city.

      Gifts are meant to be magnified, by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is like the parable of the 10 talents in the scriptures. The foolish man buried his talent and didn’t magnify it, I don’t do that, I use it. Now if my talent was medicine, singing, etc. those can be used to support you, and you can magnify them in that manner. Intuitive abilities, don’t fall into that catagory as far as I’m concerned. Let me say this much, another one of my gifts is teaching, that is why, even at my age now I’m becoming a teacher and going to college. I’ll have a double bachelors degree in Dec. next year. I’m magnifying that gift, it will provide me an income. Yet I use my intuitive abilities in many ways.

      I use it with students on how to better teach them, besides the police and cases. In fact, I have one student who is this big tough football player. Most of my students know about my ability, some think I’m a bit weird, but they like me anyway and I like them. This one student came to me and asked me about his aura. I turned away from the class and I told him what I was reading in his aura about his personality, etc. One of his buddies asked him what I ssia, he wouldn’t tell him, he told him it was private and it will stay as such. This young man is very sensitive and is also intuitive as well. He has been afraid to express it, and he is selective on who he does tell. He puts on this persona of the big tough jock, but he is really the opposite. He was having trouble in some of his classes, I offered him help and I’ve tutored him several times and his grades have come up dramatically.

      I’m not wandering off the subject, I’m making a point. To be honest with you, to contact the James Randi Foundation, to me it would be doubting my talents and gifts, which I don’t, and that I’m more interested in the money. I’ve been tested to many times, with each case I’ve worked on, and for me to come up with evidence for the police to use and it be accurate and it helps to close a case, then that is all I have needed to do and all the payment that I require. Personally, I don’t care for the “Amazing Randi”, which was his stage name. True intuitives can not do the ESP tests at all. Their gifts will defy these standardized, controlled tests, and, honestly most will fail on purpose, because they don’t want the stigma, the “fame” that would come out of it, or the money even if they direly needed it.

      I’ve written another tome, :). I hope that answers your question and I could have caused more questions to be asked as well. Thats ok.

    44. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
      December 19, 2009 at 11:45 pm

      I found some “aura goggles” at D.I. once for ten bucks.

    45. December 20, 2009 at 12:37 am

      William,

      You wouldn’t actually be required to take the money, you know. You could say “No thanks.” And it wouldn’t be an “ESP test,” guessing cards or whatnot. It would just be you doing what you already do, but within mutually-agreed upon parameters that would prove that what you say happens is actually what does happen.

      I can understand that you’re leery of publicity and so on, but I wonder if that isn’t “hiding your light under a basket.” Passing the test would be a literally world-changing event in a very positive way. It would cause millions of people to rethink their secularized worldviews.

    46. Peter
      December 20, 2009 at 2:49 am

      I think science will always fill in the gaps of “how.” Even if all of our wildest religious dreams turn our to be true and we become Gods, we’re still going to use physics to do it all. The “why” will always be metaphysical or philosophical. Even in heaven.

    47. William S
      December 20, 2009 at 2:11 pm

      Kuri,
      All I can say is, “I’ll think about it”. I can see your point, but I also look at it in another point of view. I don’t necessarily have to convince the “masses”, so to speak. Like missionairies, we seek out those that are ready to hear the gospel. Many times, my mission on this earth, through the use of my abilities have also led to discussions about the saviour and on how families can be together forever. I don’t hide the fact that I’m intuitive, many people know it, and yes they do think I’m a bit nutty. I don’t care what they think. Just like Bro. Joseph after he saw the first vision, he was persecuted and ridiculed for what he witnessed.

      I’m also not one to seek the “limelight”, my light shines brightly, Not as bright as say the beam at the top of the Luxor Hotel/Casino in Vegas, but it shines just the same. From my NDE, my light is to shine on those that choose to see it. Just as when Jesus walked the earth, many did not see him for who he was, “The Son of God.” I am a messenger, a vessel of our Heavenly Father. I seek not fame, or glory of this earth. I also seek not wealth. I was born wealthy, yet I don’t have it now, not by my fault, My parents were wealthy, what has happened to their wealth over the years, I don’t know. I just inherited 2 houses and 2 1/2 acres when my dad died in February.

      I’m happy with what I have, I am pursuing my dream and a prophecy of becoming a teacher. My abilities work wonderfully when I’m teaching, it helps me to reach students when others can’t. The principal, guidance counselor’s don’t send the students to me, the students come to me themselves. I’m empathic, I sense what is bothering them, yet I offer my ability to listen, to feel their hurt and to give them guidance.

      That is all I have ever asked for. To be of service to my Heavenly Father to his children that are willing to listen. Alas, I’ve written another tome. I hope you understand my reluctance to contact the Randi Foundation. If I chose to contact them, I will, but that is up to the Lord, not me. Have a very Merry Christmas.

    48. Dexter
      December 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

      Shame on you, William. You could give a charity a million dollars but you refuse to do it. You claim God gave you a gift but you refuse to use it to share with those who are less fortunate? You say calling the foundation would show you doubt your gifts. I’d say not calling shows you doubt your gifts.

    49. December 21, 2009 at 11:17 am

      #48. William claims that he DOES use it to share with those who are less fortunate. It’s obvious that he’s decided how best to use what he feels are “gifts.” You could also develop a talent, Dexter, and use it to make $1,000,000, then give it all to charity. Why don’t you?

    50. Dexter
      December 21, 2009 at 11:26 am

      If I could I certainly wouldn’t hide behind the ruse of God not wanting me to use it for money.

      And I disagree that he has decided how best to use his so-called gifts. He can choose to use them however he wants, because they are his, but that doesn’t make them the best choices.

    51. December 21, 2009 at 11:28 am

      #50. I’m telling you that you can. You could start learning classical piano right now. Or writing songs. You could be developing a cubist-art-painting talent. Those things sell for millions. You’re just wasting your time that you could be using to give to charity. Shame on you.

    52. Dexter
      December 21, 2009 at 11:32 am

      Oh please. You don’t think there’s a distinction between the average person trying to make money in whatever form he chooses and donating to charity and someone who claims to have super natural powers but choosing not to call a foundation that offers a million dollars to someone who can prove they have such powers? Shame on your weak arguments.

    53. December 21, 2009 at 11:49 am

      I’m just saying leave the dude alone. I happen to write songs myself. After a few years trying to “make it big” I realized (and saw with my own eyes) that “Celebrity Status” and having millions of dollars generally ruins people. And if not them, their children. Now I write songs for my friends and family, and play locally, and get a ton of satisfaction out of it. I think I’m doing the “best good” with my talents. I don’t see the difference between a supernatural talent and a regular one.

      So no, I don’t see a distinction at all. He’s already helping people and getting a lot out of it. How would being on the Enquirer for the next 50 years help him? And who are you to say what’s objectively “better” anyway? You’re just some random on the Internet. You don’t know William or anything about him other than what he’s shared with us. I have no idea how I – or you, or anyone else – can say “shame on you” to a person without even knowing him. What are you, a school teacher from the 1920s?

    54. Dexter
      December 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm

      If you don’t see a distinction, I’m sorry, but it is pretty clear. And I love how you presume he would become a celebrity or be on the enquirer. You don’t think the foundation would allow him to take the test under the condition of anonymity and that any funds he may be entitled to go to charity? I’m sure they would happily agree to both of those conditions.

      You are the one who said he was doing the “best good” with his talents. You can make objective claims but I can’t?

      Leave the dude alone?

      So you can give me advice but I can’t share my opinion?

      I will not pat someone on the back who claims to have special powers from God. Do you have any idea how dangerous that idea can be? I think it is immoral to claim to be God’s special child with special powers, and I won’t congratulate anyone who claims to have those powers. Do you know how many people have been led into danger or death by people who claim to speak for god?

      Further, you asked, how can I say “shame on you” to a person without knowing him. I didn’t know any of the 9/11 hijackers but I can say shame on them. And it is interesting that they thought they were doing the will of god.

    55. December 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm

      #54. I’m just taking his words at face value and trying to be non-judgmental. I know of millions of lives that were led into danger or death by people who claimed to speak for God. I also know of millions that were led into danger or death by people who told them there was no God. I’m not sure how one is more dangerous than the other.

      But all I’m saying is relax, dude. It’s just the Internet.

    56. Dexter
      December 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm

      Dude, I’ve been perfectly relaxed this entire time, dude.

      I agree that evil and danger has been peformed by believers and non-believers alike. But I think when people are manipulating god’s will to motivate or persuade it can be more dangerous than a man simply using his power or stating his own opinion.

      Put shortly, the 9/11 hijackers wouldn’t have done what they did without the component of faith in doing god’s will and an after life. To me, this is a perfect example of how manipulating god’s will can be more dangerous than those who try to motivate or persuade without invoking god.

    57. brjones
      December 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm

      Without touching on the tone of any of the comments above, I personally think it’s fair to express some skepticism about William’s claims. I understand that some people want to take his comments at face value, which is fine. But I don’t think it’s inappropriate to express skepticism when someone makes incredible claims. I also have to say that I don’t think it’s entirely unfair to criticize William for refusing to meet a challenge like the one given by Kuri and Dexter. If Williams’s claims are valid, then there are many, many more people who could be helped by having knowledge about and access to his gift and those of people like him. It seems a fair criticism to level that raising awareness of such a monumental power is a responsibility that he has and that he is shirking. Where much is given much is required, and all that. Secondly, there is obviously widespread skepticism about such powers, and it always seems odd to me that people who profess to have such powers refuse when given the opportunity to prove their existence in an objective environment. Obviously that doesn’t mean he’s lying, or even deluded. As I said, it just seems odd to me, and frankly, it leads to heightened skepticism, and deservedly so, I think.

    58. December 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm

      Arthur,

      I think the comparison with your songwriting is a bit apples and oranges. I mean no personal offense, but unless your songs are tremendously brilliant, unless you’re another Mozart or Beethoven, it simply doesn’t matter much to society as a whole if they go unheard. A talent such as William claims, on the other hand, would be world-changing if it could be proven to exist.

      That said, having pointed out the existence of the JREF offer, I do intend to leave William alone. I doubt he can do the things he thinks he can, but I worry that it would be cruel to force him to confront this fact through a test such as JREF’s. We’re all entitled to our own illusions, as long as we keep them private.

    59. December 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

      #56. And I disagree. I can definitely understand your point, and I think people who claim to be speaking in God’s name can be dangerous. But I disagree that it’s somehow worse than what Mao, Stalin, and Lenin all did in the 20th Century. Personally, I have no idea how someone who lived in the 20th Century could even still believe that leading people “in God’s name” is more dangerous than not, in terms of sheer numbers. Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Lenin could have killed more than 100 million. Seriously, over 100 million. And that’s being generous and not including Hitler. In the name of the “workers” or of “communism” or whatever, stamping out all religion in the name of the dictator or party. So if you say that a guy who believes he’s doing God’s will is TRULY more dangerous, you need to state why you think that, and why 100 million people isn’t enough to convince you. But that’s not the point of this discussion. I don’t think you can judge atheists or even Communists by what these men did. It’s just not good logic.

      More immediately, I appreciate William’s comments on the site, and think that he’s doing what he thinks is right. I appreciate your comments too. I just don’t feel like what William is doing is somehow morally equivalent or even comparable to the terroristic murder of thousands of people. Sorry, I just can’t make that leap. I don’t even know how what William is doing (trying to aid the police solving crimes using “intuitions”) is a stepping stone to flying a plane into a building full of thousands of people.

      Sorry if you’ve interpreted my posts as dismissive. I’m not intending to be dismissive, I just think we can have a civil discussion with one another without constantly comparing each other to the 9/11 hijackers.

    60. December 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm

      #58. I agree and appreciate your comments (and tone). Then again, my life has been changed by (even local) music in big, objective, quantifiable ways, so I’d have to disagree with you on that point. As far as William’s talent goes, maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn’t.

      The problem as I see it with Randi’s challenge is that so far, the challenge hasn’t been necessarily scientific. If psychic intuition is real but sporadic or subtle, the challenge will never find that out and will always prove it “false.” Scientific trials usually set an alpha level (0.05 or whatever), and calculate how likely a result could be obtained by chance, and I think that’s a better (though still flawed) system.

      For instance, antidepressants work for some people, but not others, and not too much more than a placebo in many cases. Randi’s challenge would “fail” every antidepressant we’ve ever developed.

    61. December 21, 2009 at 1:44 pm

      If psychic intuition is real but sporadic or subtle, the challenge will never find that out and will always prove it “false.”

      I wouldn’t think so. I’d think it would get sporadic or subtle “positives.” So far, it’s gotten only “negatives.”

      Scientific trials usually set an alpha level (0.05 or whatever), and calculate how likely a result could be obtained by chance, and I think that’s a better (though still flawed) system.

      That’s only statistical trials, though. There are other types of science experiments that expect uniformly positive or negative results.

      For instance, antidepressants work for some people, but not others, and not too much more than a placebo in many cases. Randi’s challenge would “fail” every antidepressant we’ve ever developed.

      Randi’s method only requires one positive (or two, since they now require a preliminary test), so (although they wouldn’t test them, because the method is inappropriate) I think it would generate many positives, some true and some false.

    62. Dexter
      December 21, 2009 at 1:52 pm

      Arthur, you continually misunderstand. Why are you mentioning Hitler? I stated, “But I think when people are manipulating god’s will to motivate or persuade it can be more dangerous than a man simply using his power or stating his own opinion.” And you think you can count Hitler on your side of the debate? I never said the evil men had to truly believe, I said when people manipulate god’s will to motivate or persuade…” Whether Hitler was an atheist or not, he used religious rhetoric to convince the masses to turn a blind eye to the holocaust. Hitler said, “I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord’s work.” Hitler also said, “Human culture and civilization on this continent are inseparably bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he dies out or declines, the dark veils of an age without culture will again descend on this globe. The undermining of the existence of human culture by the destruction of its bearer seems in the eyes of a folkish philosophy the most execrable crime. Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent Creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.” And do you think the holocause could have happened without thousands of years of hateful propoganda against the jews being taught by the religious? I think not. We could argue the numbers game forever and never reach an accurate amount, I would guess. But my point is not that we need to root out all people who claim to speak for god and leave alone evil men who do not claim to speak for god. My point is, we should be wary of those who claim to speak for god. History teaches this is a dangerous road. But that is only one of many dangerous roads. But most roads don’t have such an easy warning sign. But this one does. If someone claims to speak for god, run the other way, or, at least, be very skeptical. Let me put it this way. I would be more wary of my son’s teacher telling him that “cheating on your exam is wrong because god told me” than if he said “cheating on your exam is wrong.” Obviously, this is a rather benign example but you can imagine how I would feel if someone were to try to teach something more controversial in the name of god.

      Now, as far as William is concerned, I respect his comments as well. But I won’t congratulate him. And I never compared his actions to those of the hijackers. My comment about the hijackers was more to the general issue of the dangers that can arise from those who maniulate god when teaching others. I don’t think William is doing this at all. But approving of people teaching the will of god in one sphere is a tacit approval that others can teach whatever they want in the name of god in other spheres. I think it is immoral in any sphere.

    63. December 21, 2009 at 2:14 pm

      #61. I don’t know what test that could be, then. Some sort of qualitative study? I don’t know of a scientific test that Randi could use that didn’t use some kind of p-value and an estimation of likelihood of reaching that result if the null hypothesis is true. When doing clinical trials of medications, scientists NEVER use simple “positive” or “negative” results or qualitative studies. In any case, from what I’ve read about Randi’s preliminary setups for his Challenge, he uses p-values, which indicates a statistical trial. And the p-value he chooses has been 0.018, 0.005, and even 0.000001 at least once, which is very large considering most scientists stick with 0.05 or 0.01. Randi has never accepted a Challenge at just the 0.05 level, which is what science usually accepts for a statistically significant outcome.

      So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not sure what you mean by “a positive result” in terms of scientific testing, and I’m not sure how that would translate into a test. For instance, in William’s case, if William were to try to guess the circumstances of an event he was previously unaware of. If he got 6 out of 10 facts correct, would that be enough? You have to have some kind of statistical likelihood of getting it right.

    64. December 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm

      #62. Again, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’ve experienced wonderful, beautifl, life-changing things from heeding the advice of people who SAID they were speaking for God. Jesus being the main one. I couldn’t advocate ignoring someone like Jesus just because of someone like Hitler. Maybe that’s just where we’re different.

    65. December 21, 2009 at 3:07 pm

      Hmm, in regards to #63, I should correct myself. I did a little research and found out that due to a critical article regarding the Challenge (http://www.dailygrail.com/features/the-myth-of-james-randis-million-dollar-challenge), Randi has decreased the statistical expectation to one-in-100 for the preliminary challenge, and one-in-100,000 for the main challenge.

    66. December 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

      Arthur #63,

      Well, I was thinking more along the lines of telekinesis — either the spoon bends or it doesn’t — but of course that’s not relevant to what William does.

    67. December 21, 2009 at 5:54 pm

      Right. Uri Geller and all that. Proof positive that there are many who do deceive and make money off so-called “psychic powers.”

      Kuri, you might find a certain book interesting (it’s not philosophical, I promise). It’s called Outside the Gates of Science by Damien Broaderick. He’s a committed atheist, but he presents a pretty good case for psi (in this case remote viewing and precognition amongst other things), and cites many scientific studies that have been done with significant results. In addition, since he’s a “vulgar materialist” as you say you are, he devotes several chapters to naturalistic explanations of psi, and how it increases chances of survival in the wild, etc. Pretty good book, and his references and statistics are quite rigorous. It’s entertaining too.

    68. Dexter
      December 22, 2009 at 2:23 pm

      You said “I couldn’t advocate ignoring someone like Jesus just because of someone like Hitler.”

      I agree to disagree with you. I would advocate ignoring them both.

      Did Jesus not command Moses to commit genocide? Did he not command Moses to kill all the Midianite boys no matter how young? Did Moses not, at Jehovah’s request, command his generals to kill all the boys (after they spared them) and all the non-virgin women and to take all the young girls as slaves?

      Anyway, we are getting off topic. Despite our differences on speaking for god and such I really enjoyed the NDE post.

    69. December 22, 2009 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks Arthur, I’ll look for the book. I should clarify that I don’t hate philosophy. (In fact, I’ve spent far more time discussing metaphysics than I ever have looking through microscopes.) But (except for those invaluable branches that have taught us how to reason rigorously and logically, and without which there could be no effective science) I regard it primarily as entertainment, not as a way of learning anything factual about the world.

    70. December 22, 2009 at 3:13 pm

      Beg pardon? We should ignore Jesus, a man who lived from 4 BC – 33 AD, because, when he was a divine being in Old Testament times, he commanded Moses to commit genocide?

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    71. Dexter
      December 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm

      Yes. I don’t trust people hell bent on committing genocide. Do you?

    72. December 22, 2009 at 3:22 pm

      Then your problem isn’t with people who speak for God, your problem is with God. If Jesus could speak to Moses as a divine being, then He is God. Or at least an angel.

      Unless you think that he was some sort of demon. I guess you could believe that too if you wanted.

    73. Dexter
      December 22, 2009 at 3:29 pm

      My problem is not with god. My problem is with people speaking for or about god. Obviously, I don’t believe jehovah would want to commit genocide and then be such a prince in the new testament. Thus, I don’t believe the bible, among a million other reasons. It is not credible. I believe it is wrong to speak for god because whenever humans do that they are just attempting to make their words more authoritative. If god exists, he would know better than to let humans speak for him. If god does not exist, he has no words that humans need to communicate to other humans. Either way, whenever someone speaks for god they are lying, mistaken, or deluded.

    74. December 22, 2009 at 3:32 pm

      Gotcha.

    75. William S
      December 22, 2009 at 3:58 pm

      Ok Everyone, TIME OUT. I want to address some points made. If it is concerning the Randi Foundation and their “test”, so to speak, there must be an inate reason why people like John Edward, Betty Edie, James Von Prough and others have not taken the “test”. Intuitive abilities can not be explained by “exact science”, there are to many variables. It is like trying to study people that have had NDE’s. Way to many variables, each experience is different, although the underlying base is still the same.

      As I said, I have had my abilities since birth, only enhanced since my NDE’s. People make think I’ve had it fairly well with using my abilites. The actual effect has been the opposite. My abilities scared the heck out of my parents. I am not even going to begin to try and count the number of beating (and I mean that, I’m not lying, I have no reason to lie) I have gotten for doing what came natural. I was told as a child that I was in league with the devil for having my abilities. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to fully accept them as gifts from Heavenly Father. It has taken me years to build up my self-esteem in regards to who I am and what my gifts are.

      I do appreciate each and everyone of your comments. I don’t doubt my abilities, that I am very sure of. I just don’t need nor want to have that kind of recognition. I just don’t understand how helping the “less fortunate” comes into this. People turn to me when the police have no where else to go. I sense things the police haven’t checked or missed in their first examination of a case. In many ways I’m a private person, that is why I haven’t put my last name down. As I said, I don’t hide my abilities under a bushel, the Lord guides the people who need my abilities when they need it and not before. I don’t seek out cases, people bring them to me.

      Intuitve abilities, like I said are extremely hard to put statistical evaluations to, just like NDE’s. To many variables. There are people in the world that don’t even realize they are intuitive. However, using your abilites is like playing the piano, it takes practice and keeping journals. It’s not something someone is going to wake up one morning and say, “I’m Psychic”, I’m going to go predict the future today.” This is something they have known their whole life and many times didn’t talk about because of the negative “press” that it can cause from non-believers. Now if this starts another big conversation, Arthur you may have a bigger article than you started with.

      I am an individual, a child of God. I’ve been gifted with what I have. I use it in the way Heavenly Father wants me to use it and to help those that need it. A true intuitive is this way and not one that hangs a sign over a door that says: “Psychic” Let me tell you past, present and future.” That is what I consider to be Bull-hocky. That is a fake, not a real intuitive. I’ve tested them and they got nothing right. I have only had one intuitive I tested and I instinctly blocked her. I knew she was an honest intuitive because the first thing she asked me was why I was blocking her. She actually got quite a bit right and sensed other things I needed to know. This lady didn’t have a shop or own a “psychic” business, she didn’t want it. She used her abilities for other things, in the way the Lord guided her. Just as I do.

      I’ve written another tome, again, thank you for the comments and suggestions. Please understand I don’t care to go that direction and never have had that desire.

    76. December 22, 2009 at 4:47 pm

      Well, it’s like Oscar Wilde said. “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

    77. William S
      December 22, 2009 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Arthur. I can agree with your statement.

    78. Snowman
      January 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm

      I would like to get in touch with William S…………….. How might I go about this??

    79. HiJolly
      January 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm
    80. Maku70
      July 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      I am a 31 year old excommunicated LDS trying to make my way back into the Church,. I once served in many callings, served a mission, and I used to have a passive assurance that I would be going ‘to the good place’. At some point I got caught up in a materialistic world, gave up thoughts or appreciation for anything spiritual. I had an experience some weeks ago when I woke up and the words came into my mind: ‘you are going to die, and there is going to be NOTHING’. These past few weeks I have been praying, reading and researching like never before. I am grateful you chose to touch on this sensitive topic with fairness and balance..This site has been of particular interest because of its integration of NDES and LDS theology.  I believe the stories and experiences mentioned are valuable for many reasons. I am only at the beginning of my new journey of discovery and faith. Reading these accounts helps me feel more at peace and full of love for all fellow humans, and indeed all living things. No matter what ultimate truth is to be found after life, experiences of love and light shared by so many, helps me to cope with my current life, here on earth, and find meaning and purpose. Thank you again. M. A Tremblay, Saskatchewan Canada.

      • Dan Wotherspoon
        July 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

        Best to you in your journey! Glad you’re enjoying this website/blog. Your post here on such an old thread alerted me to it, and I’m glad. Thinking now that NDEs might make an important subject for a future MM podcast. I’ll start working on putting one together. Hopefully it will get some traction and we can do it in the coming few months.