From the September 2012 E-Block.
For our next entry, I selected a book said to have an extended collection of NDE accounts; namely, Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry's Evidence of the Afterlife. Long heads his own institute devoted to the topic of NDEs (the Near Death Experience Researcher Foundation), and collects NDE experiences as part of his efforts.
The good news, then, is that this time we had plenty of stories to evaluate. The bad news is that in not one case did we have one with elements we could evaluate for the purpose of this series. In other words, there was no story in which someone saw Jesus with nail holes in his hands, or wrists. There was evidence given of knowledge of present situations (e.g., someone seeing themselves on an operating table), but none given of knowledge of past events.
So, what are we left with? As was the case last time, we are left with a chance to make a few miscellaneous observations.
- One NDE experience offered this commentary:
It was like going home at last, at last. A feeling of belonging, of meaning, of completeness.
We should note that a "feeling", here, is not as objective an indicator as we might like. However, it is nevertheless of interest that this is fully in accord with our thesis of hell as a life of exclusion and meaninglessness.
Long also reports that NDErs "may dramatically describe their strong attraction to the light [that they see during their experience] and their emphatic desire to approach or merge with the light." This, too, coheres with our model of heaven and hell, with the caveats we expressed in the last installment, like no NDErs successfully approached or "merged with" said light.
- Some NDErs describe a "life review" which (ironically!)
sounds a great deal like a scene from the Chick tract we examined last
issue, This Was Your Life! They speak of seeing every important
event, including a first birthday or first kiss. Of particular interest
is this description:
...[you will] experience your emotions and others that you hurt,
and feel their pain and emotions. What this is for is so you can see
what kind of person you were and how you treated others from another
vantage point, and you will be harder on yourself than anyone to judge
Again, with the prior caveats in mind, this bears a striking resemblance to a thesis I offered in the recent e-book on hell:
A second image comes from the Voyager incarnation of the Star Trek series. One of the crew members, accused wrongly of murder, was sentenced by a planet’s justice system in which the death penalty was considered too cruel. Rather, mind-altering technology was used so that the crew member would periodically relive the murder, from the point of view of the victim. (The pain of being murdered was not clearly involved in this; the main focus was apparently on the experience.)
The Biblical perception of justice makes punishment equitable to the crime (reaping what you sow). A Hitler would be shamed more than (say) a robber baron by the degree of his deeds; but also, they might be compelled to relive the experiences of their victims. Thus, for example, Hitler might be compelled to endure, from the point of view of the victims, each and every one of the millions of deaths he caused, in an endless, eternal loop. (That can be fair since the victim will remember it eternally also!)
- Long notes the story of Betty Eadie, but does not discuss it much. It occurs to me that hers may be the sort of detailed account (like Colton Burpo's) I have been looking for, and may be especially interesting (and likely to suffer disproof) given Eadie's Mormonism.
- Here is a description that deserves a contrast:
....I felt as though I had never been more alert. My mind was fast, even though I physically was unconscious.
Compare this with our commentary on the nature of the afterlife in the OT (link below), in which the afterlife is a “sleepy” (but not “sleep”) state.
Of course, the NDErs description is merely an impression, and a subjective one at that. He says his mind was fast, but what kind of test did he endure to indicate this? Later, Long quotes another NDE researcher as saying that NDErs often describe their mental processes as "remarkably clear and lucid." But in what way? Could these persons now do advanced calculus with ease? Or could it simply be that they were lacking in their state a good deal of the mental clutter associated with daily conscious life? Alternatively, has something changed from the period of the OT, such that the afterlife is no longer a "sleepy" state? Without more data, it is impossible to say.
- One story offered by Long reports an alleged extended talk
with "God," though how this NDEr determined that they were talking to
God is not stated. The message from "God" professes a quite simple works
salvation, and relates that how good or bad one was will in turn affect
how one "feels" in the afterlife.
Even apart from consideration of Christianity, this account seems like an oversimplified version of popular conceptions of heaven. It is enough reason to be suspicious of either its authenticity, or its accuracy. Another NDEr professes to have received a message of pantheism.
- In contrast, one NDEr explicitly states that when they were shown the bad things they had done in life, their response was to fall down on their face "in shame." Though this is in accord with our thesis, the account regrettably contains no more verifiable data than the one we noted previously.