Hi Kyriacos. When it comes to dealing with skeptics, you may find this reference page on NHNE's Formula website helpful:
The problem here is that NDErs "KNOW" God first hand. And Skeptics are basing everything on their stubborn inability to experience another human being's experience. They can't get beyond their own voice. The ones I have debated (Oprah [not her but who her minions have pitted me against], Donahue, Larry King twice, CNN Medical News, etc) are sad and depressed people who consider themselves "experts" by their own decree. A few atheists like me (before my NDE) have a direct experience of the numinous and then easily "come out" because we get something we never had before called "Humility!"
Hi Barbara. You make an important point. What I've noticed, repeatedly, is that when people are "locked" into an atheist mindset, all the evidence in the world doesn't move them from this position. The page I referenced above for Kyriacos to take a look at is a good example. If you examine the information on this page carefully, the evidence for the existence of consciousness beyond this reality is overwhelming. And it comes from many different places. And yet, I've had skeptics look over this page and not be budged an inch by the tsunami of incredible information. Ditto for personal conversations I've had with atheists. The best case scenario with such people is that they will agree to disagree, which, in my experience, is also a rare occurrence. They usually feel that they are right and you are sadly, grievously deluded. End of discussion. All of this leads me to believe that we are primarily dealing with a developmental issue here. And perhaps some deeply entrenched shadow issues. Either the truth can't be seen because a person hasn't developed the necessary consciousness to expand beyond materialistic viewpoints, or people are rigidly clinging to atheist viewpoints because they have hidden issues with God, themselves, their parents, or what have you.
Whatever the reasons and motivations are for people to adopt atheist positions, one thing is clear: when atheists encounter the deeper realities of life themselves, either through having an NDE or other kind of spiritually transformative experience, their atheist days are over. You're a good example of this. Howard Storm is another one.
Barbara, a quick question. When you debated atheists and skeptics and mentioned that you had been an atheist before your NDE, what did these folks say about that?
The only time having been an atheist before my NDE comes in to play is in Youtube titles. Seems I get more views because that is sometimes the headline that the web person puts up. But this idea goes no where with atheists or skeptics. Mostly, they show little respect or politeness toward me or other NDErs trying to be understood.
I did a TV show in Toronto as the "expert" with several other NDErs and the skeptic was a Magician. I don't understand at all what kind of credentials being a magician gives someone to debunk a bunch of really nice people who nearly died but that's what the media does -- ridiculous things like that. He wouldn't stop talking, interrupting and just generally being obnoxious while these people where so vulnerable, trying to express what they experienced. I finally told him (on camera) to stop talking and give the others a chance. The audience went wild applauding and cheering.
This is show biz.
You know the Larry King story, Introducing me as "Was she out of her body or out of her mind?"
In a church in South Florida, I was lecturing and a man got up and started screaming that I was the work of the devil.
My first husband told One of the participants at the Clinical Approaches for the Near-Death Experience conference (that I co-chaired) that he didn't believe I had an NDE but he did believe that I believed I had one! (Try working with that!) That was reported during the conference to Ken Ring, Bruce Greyson and Raymond Moody who then reported it to the group of researchers and clinicians. The conclusion was that we really had our work cut out for us. That was in 1983.
The change that I see now is that we can do a TV show without them bringing in a debunker. (they use to promise me there would be no debunker when I would agree to do a TV show, and then bring them on once I was in front of the camera.) (I have no respect for most of the media -- they are interested in ratings -- not the truth.)
My conclusion (after 30 years of trying) from my family rejection and working with the media is to give up, let the next wave of researchers and experiencers chip away at it. I've never changed anyone's mind once their mind is locked. What we have done is hopefully helped those who have had experiences to believe it themselves. And BTW, Many of us quietly, including myself, go through times when even we don't believe it. We question our sanity. Here's how I work with my own questions about my sanity.
I know my after effects. I am totally different then I was before.(This is why most of my writing is about the after effects.) Didn't Jesus talk about by their fruits you will know them? Our fruits are profound, unmistakeable and dramatic.
I know how much pain I was in before my NDE. I was a total victim from child abuse and then my first husband took over where my mother left off.
I was given the gift of seeing my abuse through the eyes and heart of Something so much greater than anything here in this reality. This incredible Being started me on a journey with so much unbelievable help from "the other side." Amazing synchronicities that led me to my real self -- the me before the abuse-- who I would have become without all the abuse. I can remember who I was and how I felt before my NDE and who I am now and that proves to me that something incredible, something out of this world helped me -- touched me -- Loves me. So the skeptic in me is convinced -- but try to convince a hardened mind locked (sometimes depressed and wounded) skeptic would probably take them having an experience too because "believing" is just words -- "knowing" takes a direct experience.
Having the strength, fortitude and grace (the grace didn't come from me, it is a gift from God), that it took to get me this far still hasn't changed some of my adult children's minds. They are entrenched in their father's beliefs and can't see me, the real me -- so how can I expect the mind of a skeptic to change.
I'm so sorry if I sound negative. I don't mean to -- but this is my experience.
Barbara, I continue to be deeply grateful to you for the long, hard battle you have fought FOR ALL OF US! I'm not sure why you were given such a heavy load to carry, and called to carry it during a time when NDErs were not only being doubted, shunned, and mocked but also committed to mental institutions. What a journey you have had! Thank you for all that you have done, both for the times you have broken down barriers and also for the times you have been rebuffed, rejected, and attacked. All of these experiences have moved the bar forward for the rest of us. And let's not forget that you did this during a time when there was not only very little support for NDErs, but also very few NDErs to talk to. You have my eternal gratitude.
A couple more things: thank you for all the fantastic stories you've shared with us. They are EXTREMELY helpful. I love them and am deeply grateful for them.
And thank you, as well, for being so transparent and honest. As you well know, honesty, coupled with humility, are two attributes that are sorely missing in many NDErs and their stories. When people don't tell the whole truth; when they sugar-coat their experiences; when they try to spin things this way or that to make themselves (and their experiences) look better than they really are, they hurt all of us. The journey is hard enough without people making it more challenging by making the path look easier than it really is. That adds one more level of darkness and confusion to the journey. So thank you for being real, for sharing both the light and the darknesses; your successes and challenges. What a bright star you are!
One quote I think needs attention here is from Dr. Carl Whitaker, who was, among other things, one of family therapy's early pioneers. He said, "Part of the problem is the theoretical delusion that science is curative--that enough knowledge, enough information, the right kind of facts will bring about the resolution of life's doubts, the resolution of all distress."
People aren't necessarily swayed by facts or information. They usually have constructed a world of meaning based upon the prejudices that were fed to them, and their own interpretations of their own experiences, which may not include trust, support, encouragement, or love. When something challenges this world of meaning, it is not accepted gladly and with thanks. Too much is at stake. It means that parts of their lives lived under the old meaning would now be meaningless, and that is hard to take from a stranger. There is also often fear of criticism; fear of being ridiculed for changing one's mind about things. As NDEers often note, not all the people in their lives love to hear about their change. It's uncomfortable, just as it is for families where an addict suddenly comes full force into recovery.
We can't even get people to believe the facts when they are in their own long-term interest, like the facts that human beings are changing the world's climate and initiating many physical and cultural problems that we as yet don't know how to handle. The facts are there, but changing our behaviors to accommodate them means, to some people, that we will have to give up our privileged place in the world, and that is part of the self-image they rely on.
St. Thomas Aquinas was the champion of reason before the Renaissance. Yet, when he had his supernormal experience (probably an STE) he quit writing and speaking. When asked why, he simply said, "All that I have learned is as straw to me now." Meaning, he suddenly knew that there was no way to explain what he had experienced, and trying to do that was just hopeless and would come nowhere near the reality that he had been fumbling towards in reason.
I remember hearing Michael Shermer, the skeptics go-to guy on almost any topic, have a debate with Dean Radin and Kenneth Ring on a radio program. They cleaned his clock. I was almost embarrassed for Shermer, who, as we know, grew up in a fundamentalist religion and finally escaped that knowledge vacuum and left Pepperdine University where he had gone to become a minister. But, getting free of shallow dogma set him up to reject anything that could not be materialistically proven to him. I expected after Radin and Ring finished with him on the air that he would retire in shame. But, he's still doing the same stuff he always did. He can't give up decades of his life's meaning even if he is publicly proven 100% in error.
What's left then? Well, people aren't interested in people who have the facts "all together." They are interested in people who can help them get it together. It's the manner in which we speak and write, not the subject or the data we produce that help others to grasp even the smallest bit of what is experienced in supernormal experiences--that at the core of reality is love, acceptance, absolute peace, and joy in measure that can not be fathomed in our day to day existence. How would we get that across to people? Diagrams? Movies? Shelves of books? Maybe--sometimes. But, the real currency of this transaction is the interpersonal interactions that people who have enlightenment can bring.
As they act out non-judgment, and model acceptance, and actually manifest love and respect, they are giving the world the only real proof that God exists in any way that is accessible to them without trying to arrange an NDE, or an ADC, or an STE for them, which is impossible. Their experience with the people of enlightenment is more productive than their experience with the stories of enlightenment.
I know Kenneth Ring, among others, has documented that people are often changed by hearing other people's stories of NDEs, and that is indeed the case. But, if the person who is telling the NDE story is not someone we want to identify with and trust, then there is no reason for people to listen in the first place.
I have met several famous NDEers after reading their stories, and honestly, some of them are simply narcissists who have something else now that they think makes them special. If I were new to this whole thing, some of these NDE "stars" would make me question the whole idea that there is anything transformative about almost dying, and therefore why bother to investigate it further?
So, we do what we do, and try to balance the Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermers of the world without vilifying them as people. God is OK without being recognized. That doesn't thwart anything important. What is more important is for us to recognize that God is playing hide-and-seek in all of us, even Richard and Michael. He is there, and we have to acknowledge Him there, and in ourselves, if we want' to be true to our own experience. That's the best reasoning I can come up with.
Beautiful post, Graham. I especially appreciated this comment:
"...the real currency of this transaction is the interpersonal interactions that people who have enlightenment can bring. As they act out non-judgment, and model acceptance, and actually manifest love and respect, they are giving the world the only real proof that God exists in any way that is accessible to them without trying to arrange an NDE, or an ADC, or an STE for them, which is impossible. Their experience with the people of enlightenment is more productive than their experience with the stories of enlightenment."
A direct, personal encounter with The Divine will also do the trick. You mentioned Michael Shermer. In 2014 even the skeptic's skeptic had a paranormal experience that shook him up. An article, written by him, appeared in Scientific American of all places:
You also wrote:
"I have met several famous NDErs after reading their stories, and honestly, some of them are simply narcissists who have something else now that they think makes them special. If I were new to this whole thing, some of these NDE 'stars' would make me question the whole idea that there is anything transformative about almost dying, and therefore why bother to investigate it further?"
Amen to this, too. This subject has been discussed many times on this network. Spiritual experiences do not automatically transform people into loving embodiments of The Divine. So, yes, some of these folks are not making it easy for skeptical people to take spiritual experiences seriously.
Bottom line: with all the progress that has been made in recent decades to encourage science and material-minded people to acknowledge the deeper spiritual realities of life, we still have a long ways to go. We also still have few spiritual champions that have integrated their deeper natures enough that their godlike, loving, non-judgmental natures leave skeptics wanting more of what they have. And, of course, even if we had more genuine Christlike figures running around, they would still be rejected by people who's minds and hearts aren't developed enough to recognize them.
What are we to do?
I try to keep my efforts focused on becoming a more loving person myself, answering whatever calls are given to me (which sometimes includes wrestling with atheists when they pop upon my path), and remembering that the whole wild, wonderful, and sometimes deeply annoying circus is unfolding perfectly just the way it is, narrow-minded atheists and all.
That Michael Shermer was graced by an ADC is truly news indeed. His long history of giving lame "explanations" for anything not synched up with materialism has really been annoying. A skeptic is someone who holds conclusions at bay. Cynics, on the other hand, will always conclude that chance, fraud, or misunderstanding is ALWAYS the cause of "anomalous experiences." Shermer has always met the criteria for this later category until now.
Now, what does he do with his experience? Does he investigate to see if others, like him, have had these synchronistic events in their lives, and open himself up to still further revelation, or does he stick it in his mental "junk drawer" marked "I don't know what to do with this, so I will just put it away."
I'm rooting for him. If Michael Effing Shermer can be convinced, or at least peeled open a bit, maybe there is hope for the rest of humanity.
Many thanks to his wife's grandfather, also. "Vielen dank, Grossvater."
I know this is not a new idea but---
We are here to grow, to help ourselves heal, to become all we that we are and recognize the God in us and each other. All else is commentary on this original idea.
Atheists and skeptics have built some extra hurdles in getting there.
(And thanks for the comments about some NDErs being narcissists! I walk away from some conferences I have participated in shaking my head and wondering "huh?")
Glad to know you better Graham!
I shared some of this thread with Ken Ring and here is his feedback. (He also said that he recently had eye surgery and can not respond to what he wrote but gave me permission to share it here.)
Barbara, thanks for sharing this message from Ken. Like you, Ken is a national treasure. And, yes, the book he recommends, which just came out, is a formidable collection of verified paranormal phenomena connected with NDEs. It probably won't change the mind of any ironclad skeptics, but it makes their core arguments look increasingly shallow, foolish, and grossly uninformed. Here's some more information about the book:
The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Deat...
By Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, Rudolf H. Smit, Robert G. Mays, Janice Miner Holden
Are near-death experiences (NDEs) just elaborate hallucinations produced by a dying brain? Or the exuberant fantasies of attention-seeking narcissists? As the accounts in this book abundantly demonstrate: Neither!
This book contains over 100 reliable, often firsthand accounts of perceptions during NDEs that were later verified as accurate by independent sources. These near-death experiencers were everyday people from all over the world — many of whom were clinically dead, unable to see or hear, and yet able to perceive new vistas of a world beyond the senses and even beyond death.
The Self Does Not Die is a trailblazing effort to present the most confirmed cases of consciousness beyond death ever compiled. In these cases, the authors have gone back to the original sources, the people involved in each case, whenever possible, rather than relying on secondhand sources. In so doing, they have assembled a unique collection of empirical data that any scholar worthy of the name must take into account.
By carefully studying and describing many convincing and corroborated cases, during cardiac arrest and other cases, the authors conclude that there are good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not always coincide with the functioning of our brain: Enhanced consciousness can sometimes be experienced separately from the body.
This book is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about this fascinating subject with its implications about the very nature of human consciousness and its survival of physical death. It has the potential to radically change the currently still widely accepted materialist paradigm in science.
My apologies to Kenneth Ring. I mis-remembered the radio program. It was Dean Radin and Russel Targ, on the program with Michael Shermer that I heard. That's a big difference, of course, but both men are terrific thinkers and researchers. I'm sure Dr. Ring would have done an equally excellent job in that venue.
I've been referring to a Dr. Ring and his books during a talk I've done several times now on supernormal experiences, so I guess I had his name on the brain.
I just finished creating a page on NHNE's Formula website that includes the lion's share of this conversation, along with a list of NDErs who were atheists before they had a near-death experience. If you can think of other NDErs that should be included in this list, let me know. And thanks for the fantastic conversation. Many people will benefit from it!