February 7, 2009 in Features

Messages from near-death experiences

Special to The Spokesman-Review

Guest column

We’re giving readers the opportunity to write about spiritual issues important to them.

Once each month, a guest column will appear in this space. These columns can comment on issues previously raised by our regular columnists. Or they can explore new philosophical ground, or discuss faiths and beliefs that may be unfamiliar to many people.

Submissions should be no more than 700 words. E-mail to rickb@spokesman.com or mail to Faith and Values, The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane, WA 99201.

Thoughts from our regular columnists – Paul Graves, Steve Massey and Donald Clegg – will continue to run on other weeks.

Most of us haven’t died yet. But of those who have, a few have “come back” to tell us what they “saw” on “the other side.”

Near-death experiences have been reported for centuries, but earnest study began with Raymond Moody and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s. Research continues at the Universities of Virginia and Kentucky, and in Australia and Holland.

Most scientists exploring brain function tend toward chemical and physical explanations, suggesting that interrupted REM sleep and predictable hallucinations result naturally as the brain approaches impending death.

But that falls short of explaining all the anecdotes. The International Association for Near-Death Studies (iands.org) and the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (nderf.org) report that some people have “returned” with information about deceased relatives they could not have known, and described the clothing of individuals who were not present when they “died” and equipment in the surgical room that was brought in after they flatlined, etc.

There also are cultural similarities within the records; for example, Japanese people see caves.

Two of the more complete anecdotes belong to Mellen-Thomas Benedict and Nanci Danison.

Benedict’s Web site (mellen-thomas.com) recounts his 1982 near-death experience, a remarkable journey to the “void” and the discovery that “creation is God exploring God’s self through every way imaginable.”

Danison (backwardsbooks.com) reports a similar journey after her near-death experience in 1994, but she discovered that we are light beings occupying a human organism. We remain part of source and can fully merge into source, too.

Both accounts are consistent with the “fresh face of nonduality” as expressed by Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti and other popular writers who are rewording the ancient message of Sanskrit texts suggesting that all elements of the universe, including humans, are still part of the Creator, and ultimately not separate.

They suggest that we can fully experience that unity in an event known as self-realization or enlightenment.

Both Benedict and Danison discovered that we do not ever die, that individual consciousness continues after the body has long since turned to dust. Also, both found that the beliefs we hold at death carry forward with us into the afterlife: Buddhists see Buddha, Christians see Jesus, etc.

Mellen-Thomas reports seeing hell. It was the region where customized stories of human misery were deluding souls; they could escape, but ignored the “star of light” exit.

Danison’s elaborate but very readable story is summarized in her first book, “Backwards – Returning to Our Source For Answers ” (A. P. Lee, 2007), and discussed more formally in her new book, “Backwards Guidebook” (Lee, 248 pages, $15.95). She spent many months taking notes from memory, recording as much as she could recall from her experience.

While occupying these bodies, she discovered, we are stuck with a big veil of amnesia, keeping us from the “higher vibrations” of deeper levels of awareness. When present as a light being, she met, to her immense delight, five others and was able to merge with them, allowing access to “knowings” of many features of the universe and of her past lives – and the future, too.

Yes, there was a “personal life review,” but she was the only critic. Source, the supreme being, does not pass judgment.

Danison returned with a clear message, also reported by other near-death experiencers, which is that “universal love is all that really matters.” She was chagrined to discover that all her hard work as a lawyer, climbing the ladder of professional success, had absolutely no meaning on the other side. Love was the only thing that mattered at all.

Moreover, she experienced personally the pain and suffering she caused through her harsh ways in both her professional and private lives.

One of her more startling discoveries is that “human life is mere creative imagery in (source’s) own mind.” Source can allow horrible things to happen to humans because the events are not real.

Of course, from the human level of consciousness, they are very real. And that is where most of us are. It’s a pretty tough observation, which to me lends credibility: Danison is just telling us what she learned – no sugar-coating.

Such records challenge traditional Christian dogma. For some skeptics, though, they offer hope.

Andy Hoye is a commercial real estate appraiser, a member of The Spokesman-Review Reader Food Panel and a moderator on GoGolf NW.com.

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