How Do You Reconcile the Message of NDEs With Terrorist Events?
By Jody, NDERF. 9/16/01 

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In a time where it may seem that the NDE messages of love and compassion appear irreconcilable with recent terrorist attacks on the United States, there is a framework that may be useful for healing. There are many emotions and many questions.  One of the hardest things to reconcile is how to lovingly and compassionately engage in war against terrorists and countries that harbor and train terrorists.  Another problem was, how do you reconcile irreconcilable differences between two different ideologies of life?  One way to heal emotions is to individually collect our own thoughts and write them down.  Everyone will process the events differently.  I realized that my processing came from news input and emotions as viewed through the lens of good and evil.  This writing represents my struggles in reconciliation in hopes that it will help others to find their own path to make sense out of the recent events and come to peace within themselves.

At first blush, I�m not sure you can compare apples with oranges.  But, on closer examination, what I see is an amazing spectrum of human behavior ranging from all that is good and compassionate in humanity, to the unspeakable horror and evil that exists within some people.

Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) represent the collective wisdom brought back when a person is resuscitated after experiencing clinical, physical death.  Most people who experience NDEs come back with remarkably similar impressions of the afterlife.  The messages that we read about talk of such immense �love times one million,� the interconnection of all life, and the all-knowing and all compassionate love of the infinite being.  The other two remarkably similar observations are that there are lessons to learn on earth and these lessons center on the quality of our relationships with other people.  The logical extension is that individual relationships are a microcosm of what we see between nations.   Those who have experienced NDEs (NDErs) talk of �good� and �love� in terms of spiritual growth and our true home.

On the other hand, Dr. Peck, did an amazing expose of evil in his book, �People of the Lie.  (Simon & Schuster, NY, 1985)  He talked about characteristics of evil in individuals and as a group mentality.  The reason that I will spend more time talking about evil rather than the spirituality of good, is that most people, although exposed to evil, have not had the exposure of studying or classifying evil behavior.  Typically, the study of evil is taboo outside religious circles and not a subject of professional discussion in our culture.  A common understanding of the nature of evil is necessary before one can reconcile the message of NDEs with the current terrorist events.

The highlights of �People of the Lie,� can be summarized in a few paragraphs, but by no means does justice to the thoroughness and psychological investigation done by Dr. Peck over the past few decades.  For those with more interest, I would urge them to read the entire book.  For purposes of the discussion, a simplistic definition for evil acts are those that separate, fragment us from God, as opposed to loving acts which are those that bring us closer, in union with God.

Classic evil behavior is characterized as masterful hiding of evil deeds from detection.  Evil is adept at being held non-accountable by deflecting responsibility for individual decisions or actions.  Evil behaviors are such that evil will do anything to survive and has the highly developed skill to hide or mutate to avoid being exposed.  Evil regresses thinking and reduces behavior to emotional knee-jerk responses such as anger, fear, and revenge.  Moreover, evil must always be in control of all situations and so often, will exterminate the budding expressions of creativity, independent thinking, and any form of individual or collective exercising of the will in seeking to express that independent thought.  Evil depends on creating its own version of the world and characteristically lives in a world based on lies.  These lies, at a fundamental level, are core personality traits in all behaviors that mask truth.  Essentially, these people see the world through rose-colored glasses since the evil within them prevents them from seeing the world as it truly exists.  Id. 

One of the psychological categories Dr. Peck describes is that these people are �malignantly narcissistic� and insist upon �affirmation independent of all findings.� Id., at 80.    This brand of narcissism �afflicts the will� and characteristically tends to run in families.  Id..  An interesting observation is that spiritual evolution and de-evolution are both, processes of development based upon exercising the individual will in a long series of choices.  Again, those decisions that reconnect us with each other and ultimately to God, represent positive spiritual growth.  Those decisions that divide and separate us from each other, and ultimately God, represent negative growth.  The most important distinction for this analysis being the difference between evil acts and the people who commit the acts.  For within every soul, one can find a spark of the divine that connects us all.  Id.

Group evil is a macrocosm of individual evil.  Id., pp 212-253.  Groups tend to commit unspeakable horrors on other groups of people.  Although there are people who are normally considered good who are mixed in with those who are not, there is a group mentality that will trigger bad actions even from good people.  One of the causes of this phenomena is that groups are increasingly specialized.  Id., pp 217-18.  Specialization within a group contributes to immaturity, tends to aid ballooning bureaucracy and is amazingly effective for shifting the blame between other specialized groups.  This makes it difficult for groups to accept responsibility for individual actions. 

�In this way, not only does the individual forsake his conscience but the conscience of the group as a whole can become so fragmented and diluted as to be nonexistent. . . . [A]ny group will remain inevitably potentially conscienceless and evil until such time as each and every individual holds himself or herself directly responsible for the behavior of the whole group � the organism � of which he or she is a part.  Id., 218. 

In my own mind, I couldn�t start to parse out what would be an appropriate response to evil until I could deal with my own feelings.  One of the first thoughts that went through my mind when I heard the news about the terrorist acts, was, �Retaliate! Nuke the Bastards!!!  Make them pay for the pain they have inflicted upon the U.S.!�  A day later, when presented with the initial premise of how do you reconcile this attitude with the NDE truths espousing love and compassion for my fellow humans, I still had much the same answer and couldn�t come up with a different response.  However, the question was enough to make me look rationally at what I was feeling and to determine an appropriate response more in keeping with my spiritual value system. 

I dare say, everyone understands that the process was not an easy task.  I felt at odds with what I mentally knew was spiritually right and the emotions of anger, outrage that someone could do this, and fear for my family�s future safety and that of my fellow Americans. 

I was crying when I saw the horrific scenes of the WTC collapsing and people hurt or running in terror for their lives.  I could feel the pain of those who described seeing people jump from the WTC buildings when faced with the decision on how to end their lives.  I could feel the angst of the family members who described phone calls from heroic flight 93.  There was sorrowful pride when they talked of their beloveds sacrificing their lives rather than let the terrorists continue on a course of certain destruction and loss of more U.S. lives.  I was tremendously touched by the outpouring of courage, dedication, determination, assistance, and material goods by all facets of government and all of the individuals in the United States.  America was united and focused on catching the perpetrators.  The shear magnitude and speed of mobilization on the part of the American government and the citizens was staggering.  There were feelings of awe and wonder to see the unprecedented scale of humanity at its best when called upon to act in times of national crisis. 

I was glued to the news on television and also read the internet news.  I looked at the pictures and heard the video streams.  I was amazed that Yassir Arafat, a former terrorist in my mind, would donate blood to help the U.S. victims. I was touched by the world outpouring of prayers and vigils for our dead and wounded.  All e-mail I received from other countries expressed their deepest sympathies and condolences for America.  So many countries denounced the heinous terrorist actions and pledged to help us find the perpetrators. 

On a local front, I was appalled that I heard several stories of persons residing in the U.S. who were happy that we, as a nation had gotten what we deserved.  It made me angry that some U.S. citizens in Houston took it upon themselves to destroy a Muslim place of worship.  I was disturbed that many U.S. citizens of Middle Eastern descent were afraid of being hassled if they went to donate blood.  I was outraged that a teacher could embarrass a United States citizen of Turkish descent by interrogating the student as a terrorist suspect in front of her classmates. 

One of the things that surprised me was the anti-American sentiment.  We don�t usually hear these things via our media.  Part of my anger came from indignation from hearing this news for the first time; part of it was the content of what was said.  I was angered by the number of nations and individual people who expressed condolences for the victims, but not the United States.  Many rationalized the attack was retaliation for the U.S. being such an arrogant world-bully.  I couldn�t believe watching a Chinese fellow calling the kettle black in wake of Tieneman Square and mass slaughter/human rights violations of their own people.  Who�s the bully?  There were people shown partying in Palestine. 

The Afghanistan government issued a statement to the effect that if we attacked them, there would be more terrorist attacks.  The spokesperson, further, could not understand why the U.S. would want to attack such a poor country anyway.  I was angry at the denial and non-accountability.  Nowhere did the statement offer to stop hosting training camps for terrorists, nor any apology for supporting terrorists.  It reminded me of Peck�s observation that evil regresses when responding to accusations.  This was so much a childish response that, �if you attack us, we�ll attack you.�  Nah, nah, nah-nah, nah, nah.  The fact that he could even say there will be more terrorist attacks if you come after us, shows me that they still have ties to the terrorists and are willing to sacrifice more lives on both sides. 

Hussein�s response, likewise, brought feelings of indignation to my chest.  How dare he say that America and the West was the cause of world instability and for the embargo death of 1-1/2 million Iraqis without acknowledging their own national role in the embargo.  How could he use this tragedy to further his own political agenda?  What a classic evil response by shifting the blame and remaining unaccountable for their own actions.  He failed to mention the governmental pig-headedness that would rather see their own people die in large quantities than to comply with international treaties.  Iran�s statement, equally, was a classically evil response.  They immediately blamed Isreal for the terrorist acts, showing that they really do live in a world of lies rather than to see the world as it really is.

I was given reason to pause and refine my initial condemnation of the Middle Eastern viewpoint by reading the questions posed by spiritual leader, Deepak Chopra and by a story related by his son, Gotham.  Deepak Chopra asked many valid spiritually motivated questions, of which there were no easy answers, nor did he try to spoon-feed others with proper answers.  I valued his humbleness and respect that he gave each person to answer and ponder the questions for themselves. 

Gotham relayed a story from his recent visit to a Pakistan area that borders Afghanistan.  The head-master of a religious school treated Gotham with respect and hospitality, as one would expect from one spiritual being to another.  The Mullah spoke, �eloquently and without hostility.�   He talked about �the history of the US and Afghanistan, how during the Cold War, they were allies, united fighting a war against the Soviets.�  The strongest language allowing me to refine my thinking was,

�You gave us weapons and trained our men. You built our roads, fed our people. Do you realize young man that your government helps to create and to fund the Taliban because it was their interest to use Guerilla warfare and terrorist tactics against the Russians? You made us your friend.  But then your Cold War ended and you deserted us.  Because it was no longer in your selfish interest to have us as your allies, you abandoned us, left our people, hungry, and hateful. You turned your friends into foes because you used us like whores.�

When questioned about Mr. Bin Laden. The Mullah replied, "He's an old friend. And a good man." Gotham asked him, "Is he a terrorist?" The reply was, �We don't call him that here."   Apparently, Bin Laden was more than just a terrorist.  He was considered a hero by many in the Middle East.  He represents ideals and lifestyles incompatible with the United States.  To many, he symbolizes core Middle East values.  Bin Laden espouses Fundamentalist Islamic views that they will not rest until all countries, chiefly the United States and Israel, are vacated from all of the Muslim holy places, including Jerusalem. 

Two things occurred in my thinking process when trying to reconcile the message of NDEs with my thoughts and emotions as I observed the variety of scenes described above.  The only framework that I could make sense of what I was seeing and feeling was through the lens of love vs. evil.  Moreover, it was not as clear-cut as to what or who constitutes evil.  I found that reconciliation was easier when I was able to distinguish good vs. evil behavior rather than concentrate on good vs. evil people or nations.  To determine whether the behavior or actions were ultimately good or bad, I went back to the initially discussed definition of whether the action or behavior brings one closer or further away from God.

I quickly realized that it is not spiritual to retaliate as in an eye for an eye, randomized mass murder for randomized mass murder.  Nor is it practical for a world superpower to �turn the other cheek.�  It certainly isn�t spiritual for the United States to withdraw from the world, in favor of isolationism.  Not only would this give the terrorists what they want, but it leaves our allies and the rest of the world open to complete terrorist reign.  Although tempting, withdrawal does not take into account the vast amount of good that the U.S. does for and in other countries.  No, you can�t �Nuke the Bastards,� and the country that harbors them even if you identify the faceless cowards.  This retaliatory response makes us no closer to God than bin Laden�s act of violence, since many innocent people would die.  Uncomfortable though it made me, I was forced to acknowledge that it would be equally wrong for the United States to go after all terrorists if we did not also hold our own government accountable (regardless which agency is responsible) for using or sponsoring terrorism in other countries. 

This line of reasoning made it easier for me to start the reconciliation process by focusing on what would constitute a loving act.  All the while, I am reminded of biblical stories that even the Angels warred in heaven when Satin was cast out upon the earth.  I am reminded that even the body on a cellular level produces white cells to defend the integrity of the whole body against invaders that destroy health and, ultimately, threaten the life of the body.  Even if our response involves a show of force, there are justifiable uses of force when looking at proper responses to individual behaviors and other countries.  We, collectively, as humans need to exercise correct choices to help humanity survive. 

At this moment, the United States is perhaps among the most spiritually blessed people on earth.  For out of the tragedy, the heavens must be witnessing an unprecedented outpouring of love and compassion towards fellow human beings.  We have victims, but we also have heroes numbering in the thousands.  If heavens were at a crossroads and considering there is nothing good left on earth to save from Armageddon, ours and other countries actions and mass outpouring of prayers show otherwise.  Our human and national spirit has shown that a majority of people have taken a giant spiritual leap forward in union with God.  

Opposite, and equally great in magnitude are the darkest of evil terrorist actions that fragment people and cause a tremendous loss of life.  Such actions are calculated to maximize fear.  Even if the attacks were a calculated �holy� war, they fail the spiritual test.  Not only does the bombing cause murder, inflict human suffering on the United States, but consequences will inflict mass pain and suffering on their own people, the Muslim faith, and ultimately, the very existence of their social structure.  This is not a loving act that will bring the fundamentalists closer to Allah.   

It appears that God, again, is used to justify the means of continuing the reign of terrorism.  Sadly, if we target bin Laden, there will just be another to take his place.  This fact makes it easy to determine that future actions should reflect zero terrorist tolerance � anywhere.  To do less, is to allow evil to continue fragmenting and destroying the human race.  

Revenge is another fragmenting behavior.  It is fed by anger and hate.  It is inconceivable and insensitive that so many nations and people would bring up the faults of the United States in such a period of poignant mourning.  Although some criticisms may be true, there is a time and a place to bring up such issues.  Now is not the time to pour salt in the gaping wound of America.  Since some other countries� critiques are calculated to divide and fragment people, they are not spiritual actions.  However proper it may be to acknowledge and change any foreign policies in the U.S., this is an action for the future rather than an immediate response to the immediate terrorist acts.  Again, now is not the time to roll over and withdraw from world affairs.   

Moreover, any actions that the United States or any individual takes, needs to be motivated not from anger, revenge, or hatred.  A spiritual and willful choice is one that unifies and brings mankind closer to God.  The golden rule is to determine what decisions will maximize the most love and growth for all people.  Under this criteria, it makes sense that the priorities should be about security, rebuilding people�s lives, exposing evil, and making evil people accountable for their evil actions. 

To this end, the actions to protect Americans at home by beefing up security at airports and domestically are spiritual actions.  Helping to rebuild New York City is a spiritual endeavor.  Those who commit evil terrorist acts need to be made to stop.  I think everyone can agree that the terrorists and their camps need to be obliterated to keep the United States and others from being victimized.  And in light of the revelation from the Mullah, mentioned above, I would emphasize that ALL terrorist acts or terrorist sponsorship needs to stop.  

As for the need for war, it depends on who and how we fight.  In a traditional war, if there are countries that are 1) willing to admit that harboring terrorists is wrong and are 2) willing to turn all known terrorist and/or information on terrorists over to authorities, then evil is acknowledged and held accountable for its actions through relatively peaceful means.  If there are countries supporting terrorists that react in righteous denial, then our actions should be calculated towards losing the least amount of lives in the least oppressive manner (on both sides) to effectively eradicate the terrorists and their camps.

However, it appears that this war will be very untraditional.  The evil of terrorism is pervasive in just about all nations and the mobile and cellular lifestyle of the small groups of three to five individuals makes them difficult to trace.  It makes no sense to treat American Arabs like we did the Japanese in World War II.  When the FBI is scrambling to get enough interpreters, it is the loyal United States citizens of Afghanistan descent that may save us all. 

Terrorism is too much like a virus that mutates using the infrastructure of its host to infect humanity.  Viruses infect everyone irregardless of different skin colors, religions, or ethnic origins, leaving a wide path of destruction, and weakens the body of humanity.  The cure is to keep the body, mind, emotions, and spirit, healthy so that it easily fights off any hint of disease.  Instead of lashing out blindly at others out of fear and anger, we have been spiritually challenged to come out of our apathetic, daily routine and to take an active part in loving ourselves and others.  We have been asked to keep our eyes open and pay attention to one another.  The most interesting part of this process will be spiritual growth.  For in order to expose the terrorists, we will need to personally confront evil within ourselves, our families, our communities, and our institutions.  Then and only then, will we be able to expose and confront the evil terrorists who choose to live as people of the lie.     

When faced with making choices that will change our world forever, correct choices that bring us closer to God should be our guiding principal.  The NDErs talk of lessons and relationships.  One of my favorite points made by Dr. Peck is when he talks of the relationship between goodness and stress. 

�He who behaves nobly in easy times � a fair-weather friend, so to speak � may not be so noble when the chips are down.  Stress is the test for goodness. The truly good are they who in time of stress do not desert their integrity, their maturity [meaning they don�t regress to childish emotions and behaviors], their sensitivity.  Nobility might be defined as the capacity not to regress in response to degradation, not to become blunted in the face of pain, to tolerate the agonizing and remain intact. . . . [O]ne measure � and perhaps the best measure � of a person�s greatness is the capacity for suffering.�  Id. P. 222.

New Yorker�s passed the litmus test for goodness by weathering stress with the utmost integrity.  It is my hope that a mature United States, although a relatively young nation, can rise to the test and not desert their values, high standards of integrity or sensitivity to the needs of others.  How we respond to such a tremendous national blow is a direct measure of our nobility.  We have remained amazingly intact and can do a lot of good for ourselves and the world by exercising proper choices, love and compassion.  The American ingrained values of life, liberty, and justice for all are new lessons for all of us as these words take on global meaning.  This is the message of NDErs and this is one way to reconcile current world events. 

  E-mail: Jody, NDERF

Copyright1999 by Dr. Jeff and Jody Long


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