The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life

Near Death Experience #3

May 18, 2023 Stacey Wheeler Season 2 Episode 6
Near Death Experience #3
The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life
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The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life
Near Death Experience #3
May 18, 2023 Season 2 Episode 6
Stacey Wheeler

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S2 ep. 6 Near Death Experience #3

There's a growing body of evidence on near death experience, which shows its more common than once thought. Is this unusual phenomenon evidence of the afterlife, and ultimately the Soul? In this five-part series we look at the evidence and history of NDEs.  

SHOW NOTES:

REFERENCES:

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife - Eben Alexander

QUOTES:

“…the science to which I’ve devoted so much of my life—doesn’t contradict what I learned up there. But far, far too many people believe it does, because certain members of the scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist.” - Eben Alexander, in his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife

“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.” – Epicurus

"As a psychiatrist, this is the most fascinating aspect to me because I make my living trying to help people change their lives. That's very difficult to do. But here's this experience that in a few seconds, can totally transform someone's attitudes, values, beliefs and behavior. They typically make people more spiritual if I can use that word. They make them more compassionate, more caring, more altruistic, and they become much less interested in physical things—in material goods, in power, prestige, fame, competition.” – Dr Bruce Greyson

“I've seen career military people or policemen who could not tolerate the idea of hurting someone after their near-death experience change careers. I've seen cut-throat businessman who decided that competition was silly after a near-death experience change careers. And they typically go into helping professions." – Dr. Bruce Grayson 

“This does not go away with time. I've talked to people in their 90s, who had the experience as teenagers, and they say it's like it happened yesterday—that they've never been able to go back to their old life.” – Dr. Bruce Grayson

“…when you lose your fear of death, you also lose your fear of life. Because you're not afraid of losing everything, you're not afraid of taking chances and living life to the fullest. And it makes life much more meaningful, and much more fulfilling.” – Dr. Bruce Grayson

"I basically used to have a very conventional, scientific and reductive materialist view that consciousness was created by the brain, and that only the physical world exists," -Dr Eben Alexander

"And what my coma journey showed me... is that consciousness is something that is fundamental in the universe and does not originate in the brain.” -Dr Eben Alexander

"What I experienced was the most extraordinary, memorable, detailed, and ultra-real experience of my entire life.” -Dr Eben Alexander

"In fact, the world we live in, this material world, is more kind of cloudy and dreamlike than what I saw on the other side. That world is sharp, crisp and alive - and very real." -Dr Eben Alexander

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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

S2 ep. 6 Near Death Experience #3

There's a growing body of evidence on near death experience, which shows its more common than once thought. Is this unusual phenomenon evidence of the afterlife, and ultimately the Soul? In this five-part series we look at the evidence and history of NDEs.  

SHOW NOTES:

REFERENCES:

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife - Eben Alexander

QUOTES:

“…the science to which I’ve devoted so much of my life—doesn’t contradict what I learned up there. But far, far too many people believe it does, because certain members of the scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist.” - Eben Alexander, in his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife

“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.” – Epicurus

"As a psychiatrist, this is the most fascinating aspect to me because I make my living trying to help people change their lives. That's very difficult to do. But here's this experience that in a few seconds, can totally transform someone's attitudes, values, beliefs and behavior. They typically make people more spiritual if I can use that word. They make them more compassionate, more caring, more altruistic, and they become much less interested in physical things—in material goods, in power, prestige, fame, competition.” – Dr Bruce Greyson

“I've seen career military people or policemen who could not tolerate the idea of hurting someone after their near-death experience change careers. I've seen cut-throat businessman who decided that competition was silly after a near-death experience change careers. And they typically go into helping professions." – Dr. Bruce Grayson 

“This does not go away with time. I've talked to people in their 90s, who had the experience as teenagers, and they say it's like it happened yesterday—that they've never been able to go back to their old life.” – Dr. Bruce Grayson

“…when you lose your fear of death, you also lose your fear of life. Because you're not afraid of losing everything, you're not afraid of taking chances and living life to the fullest. And it makes life much more meaningful, and much more fulfilling.” – Dr. Bruce Grayson

"I basically used to have a very conventional, scientific and reductive materialist view that consciousness was created by the brain, and that only the physical world exists," -Dr Eben Alexander

"And what my coma journey showed me... is that consciousness is something that is fundamental in the universe and does not originate in the brain.” -Dr Eben Alexander

"What I experienced was the most extraordinary, memorable, detailed, and ultra-real experience of my entire life.” -Dr Eben Alexander

"In fact, the world we live in, this material world, is more kind of cloudy and dreamlike than what I saw on the other side. That world is sharp, crisp and alive - and very real." -Dr Eben Alexander

Support the Show.

Has the show made a difference for you? Click this link for ways you can support the show.

Eben Alexander, in his book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife wrote,

“…the science to which I’ve devoted so much of my life—doesn’t contradict what I 

learned up there. But far, far too many people believe it does, because certain members of the 

scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted 

again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist.”

Welcome to the Soul Podcast. I’m Stacey Wheeler. 

This quote makes it clear how this neurosurgeon feels about the existence of the Soul. And you notice he mentions “the materialist worldview.” Materialism is a philosophical position held by many inside (and outside) of the scientific community. I talked about this in the last episode. This belief holds up the idea that matter is the fundamental substance in nature. That means all things are made of matter and all things can be attributed to matter. Materialism believes that mental states and consciousness are results of material interactions, so can’t be the result of any other source, such as a higher power, or the Soul. 

So, in this quote, Eben Alexander is essentially telling the scientific and skeptic communities they are wrong. And there is a duality to humans. (I’ll share a link to his book in the show notes)

Check it out. In his book you’ll see a scientific mind transformed. Alexander realized being scientific didn’t mean he had to close his mind to the things that can’t be explained with the scientific model. 

And you know, there are many scientific theories that are way more outrageous than the idea that we survive the death of the body. I’ll talk more about those in an episode, later this season. 

If you listened to the last episode, you heard me talk about the materialistic view of science. And how modern science planted its roots in the writings of the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbs. But Materialism is a concept that goes back much further than Hobbs. Around a hundred years after the death of Plato – and about 350 years before the birth of Christ, the Greek philosopher Epicurus was preaching materialist philosophies. And while Plato argued the existence of the Soul, Epicurus argued against it. 

Stick with me now… I won’t linger long on ancient philosophies. This all comes back to the Soul. 

Epicurus believed that, with radical materialism, he could disprove the possibility of the Soul’s survival after death. But he did this with good intentions. You see, some ancient religions had a notion of a place where bad people go after death. These were variations on what we call hell. And Epicurus was a sort-of philosopher-psychologist. He was interested in the human experience and looked at the internal as well as external struggles. Epicurus felt our unacknowledged fear of death and punishment was the primary cause of anxiety, and anxiety was the source of extreme and irrational desires. He felt if he could disprove the prospect of punishment in the afterlife, we could remove some of the fear of death. After all, we’d know nothing and not suffer further if we stopped existing altogether. “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.” We’re born. We live. We die. And we’ll be dead, so we won’t even know. The end.

Surprise, surprise… It turns out fear of death is a universal shared by people of all cultures… except in cultures with a strong belief in reincarnation. In those, fear of death seems much reduced. 

But Epicurus thought we could logic our way out of our fear of death. Epicurus said, 

“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”

His argument was essentially, “Accept the idea that when we die there is nothing more and it will make you happier here on Earth. You won’t know you’re dead when you die -so why worry about it?” 

I’d imagine we’d still have the fear of death itself -or at least the process of dying. 

But Epicurus had good intentions. He believed that removing the fear of eternal suffering would also release us to pursue human desires while here on earth -and that would allow people to enjoy greater peace of mind. Essentially, not fearing an eternity of suffering would free us of deep anxieties. And we’d be able to pursue the pleasures which we are naturally drawn.

Consider that! Looking back to a time long before Christianity, the greatest philosophers of the most advanced societies were struggling to find answers to questions still troubling us. They were trying to make sense of our place in this world. And all the while, the great debates were centered around to the basic issues of fear of death and -perhaps- our role in the universe. 

Have you ever misplaced something, like your car keys or your glasses? You go on an exhaustive search, retracing your steps and thinking of different, unlikely scenarios. Is it here? Is it there? But no luck. And you eventually find it in the most obvious place. I think …sometimes- this is what scientific and philosophical minds do when they try to find meaning. Consider this thing we all seem to feel -called the Soul; maybe we’ve been searching and exhaustively formulating theories… while the answers are right in front of us. 

So, let’s talk about the fear of death.                                         

Dr. Bruce Greyson (who I introduced in the last episode) is a specialist in psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia. He’s been studying NDEs for more than four decades, documenting thousands of cases… and is one of the world's leading experts on the subject.

He says one of the consistent things he sees in people who have had NDEs, is that the experience profoundly changes their lives… and in ways I’d call beautiful.

When talking with Newsweek Magazine about these changes, Dr Greyson said,

"As a psychiatrist, this is the most fascinating aspect to me because I make my living trying to help people change their lives. That's very difficult to do. But here's this experience that in a few seconds, can totally transform someone's attitudes, values, beliefs and behavior. They typically make people more spiritual if I can use that word. They make them more compassionate, more caring, more altruistic, and they become much less interested in physical things—in material goods, in power, prestige, fame, competition.”

...and seeing that there is another side also makes them lose their fear of death. 

And there are other profound after-effects with an NDE. And like the NDE itself, researchers find commonalities in the after effects. 

These are the most commonly reported:

- Loss of fear of death (there is no judgement and there is no hell)

- An increase in spirituality (and a reduction in religious beliefs)

- A decreased value in material things (power, prestige, competition) 

- A call to greater things (...life has deeper meaning, more outgoing, altruism grows)

- An Increase in compassion and empathy

- An Artistic side sometimes emerges

- A sense that love is what matters

Many people who have an NDE, find their perspective is shifted so much that they have a transformation of their personality. 

Let’s listen to Dr. Grayson… 

How profound? Greyson said this,

“I've seen career military people or policemen who could not tolerate the idea of hurting someone after their near-death experience change careers. I've seen cut-throat businessman who decided that competition was silly after a near-death experience change careers. And they typically go into helping professions."

Grayson said these changes seem to be lifelong. He said,

“This does not go away with time. I've talked to people in their 90s, who had the experience as teenagers, and they say it's like it happened yesterday—that they've never been able to go back to their old life.”

People who come back from an NDE seem to quickly understand their place in the world. They consistently report losing their fear of death. They seem to live their lives with greater purpose. They embrace the beauties and pleasures of this life at a higher level. Dr. Eben Alexander is a good example of this. 

He said,

"I basically used to have a very conventional, scientific and reductive materialist view that consciousness was created by the brain, and that only the physical world exists," 

And he added,

"And what my coma journey showed me... is that consciousness is something that is fundamental in the universe and does not originate in the brain.

Hi says, what he experienced “…was the most extraordinary, memorable, detailed, and ultra-real experience” of his entire life.

He also said,

"In fact, the world we live in, this material world, is more kind of cloudy and dreamlike than what I saw on the other side. That world is sharp, crisp and alive - and very real."

These experiences usually leave the person who experienced it, without a fear of death. 

And Grayson talks about this. He said,

“…when you lose your fear of death, you also lose your fear of life. Because you're not afraid of losing everything, you're not afraid of taking chances and living life to the fullest. And it makes life much more meaningful, and much more fulfilling.”

So, with a near death experience, the result is the one Epicurus was hoping for.  We no longer fear death. Rather than losing our fear because we believe this body is all we are, we lose our fear because we see we are so much more than this body. We see we are so much more than this reality. And our existence is potentially infinite. 

I find it useful to see what scientific minds think about ineffable experiences once they’ve experienced them or seen the effects. Is wasn’t long ago that NDEs were scoffed at by the scientific mainstream but the research is gaining more support each year. For those locked into the material mindset -only measurable facts will be enough to appease them… or perhaps having an NDE would change their thinking -like it did for Eben Alexander.                                                                                                                                For researchers who currently study NDEs, perhaps all they hope for is that that they will present a body of evidence so vast that it cannot be ignored. Afterall, how does one prove that we continue after death? You’d have to die, then come back to tell your story, then somehow be able to prove it wasn’t a hallucination or a lie, right? Outside of that, all we can do is bring an abundance of evidence. And evidence matters. 

As long as there are people committed to skepticism against all evidence, there will be a debate about the afterlife -and the Soul.  But scientific minds seem to shift quickly when they experience the ineffable. The quote from Eben Alexander is evidence of the powerful effect an NDE has on a scientific mind. In his case it removed all doubt. Experiencing an NDE will at the very least cause a person to ask themselves hard questions about the nature of their past reality. Experiencing the unexplainable and miraculous can have that effect.  We can be glad that the materialist view isn’t immovable and scientific minds are as human as the rest. It’s from this humanity that we got our first research into NDE… and long before they were called that.

As a side thought -Is it just me, or are we all guilty of putting more weight into the perspective of those with higher education? I’ve noticed a pattern in my life; if a book is written by someone with letter behind their name (MD, RN, Ph.d…) I tend to put more value in what they say.  Similarly, when I see a video of a doctor who reports having an NDE it seems more credible than an average person who’s experienced the exact same thing. 

Considering Eben Alexander and Bruce Grayson,  - I admit a bias to believe them. The bias comes from the idea that a Scientist or medical professional risks professional standing when talking openly about an NDE. They have more to lose than the average person. I’ve tried to put this bias aside when putting this series together -but I realize that bias may be there for some listeners, and I understand the testimony of a neurosurgeon might be more compelling for you than from a bookkeeper in Nebraska. 

But if you notice I lean on more testimonials of scientists and Doctors, that is why. 

And so, we look back at the opening quote from Dr. Eben Alexander, where he said,

“…the science to which I’ve devoted so much of my life—doesn’t contradict what I 

learned up there. But far, far too many people believe it does, because certain members of the 

scientific community, who are pledged to the materialist worldview, have insisted 

again and again that science and spirituality cannot coexist.”

We’re beginning to see more scientific minds and doctors accept that the materialist world view is a box. And scientific theories are starting to break out of that box. We’re seeing schools of higher learning disregard self-imposed walls. Each year, more and more are peering over the other side into the vast expanse of the unknown, like the University of Virginia’s division of Perceptual Studies. 

And open minds and open hearts are asking questions the materialist model won’t allow. As they do, our understanding of our inner world starts to come into focus. 

This esoteric research may never provide scientific proof that NDEs are a view into the afterlife. And it also seems clear that the rigid scientific model can’t prove they are not. But the evidence in favor of NDEs as unexplainable phenomenon continues to grow. And the explanations against have stalled… as there seems to be just a handful of unprovable arguments. 

The research shows that those with an NDE are likely to return more empathetic, with no fear of death, with more purpose, and embracing the notion that this life is about giving and receiving love. Imagine a world where most of us lived that reality. Can you imagine a world filled with people like that?!  …

While researching this topic, I was surprised to find how common it is to have an NDE. I think you’ll be surprised to discover how many people have. I’ll tell you about that in the next segment. I’ll also tell you a friend’s story about his out of body experience… and how he’s carried that experience his whole life, trying to make sense of it.        
So come back for the next to last episode in the NDE series -where we continue to look at NDEs as evidence of the Soul.