Why Study NDE's?
by Jody

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If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would see things as they are � INFINITE           
                       by William Blake

            I remember when I first got interested in near death experiences.  It was mainly to comfort others who had lost a loved one.  Raymond Moody�s book, �Life After Life,� was such a wonderful healing tool.   Since that time, my perspectives have broadened.  I quickly became aware that there is much more happening with NDE�s than comfort in a time of intense loss.  With the realization that life on earth is a continual progression, I am surprised that NDE�s are such a big deal.  To me, it all seems self-evident even without validation from others.   Within the NDE community, it was like a homecoming to find there were others with amazingly similar beliefs and the willingness to test those beliefs against the backdrop of a vast array of experiences.  Through this process, I have come to appreciate the depth of knowledge and expansiveness of the subject.  There is something in the study of near death experiences for everyone, no matter where they are in the process of becoming closer to God.

Man�s fascination with immortality and what happens after death is the ultimate mystery of life.  The study of near death experiences spans a surprisingly wide spectrum of areas that touch the very core of human existence.  In short, there is something for everyone.  I have seen everything from hard-core scientific studies, to people who need to validate their near death experience with others, to self-improvement, to personal growth, counseling, and support groups.

Researchers try to validate whether there is life after death.  They define the experience and try to reproduce the results using the scientific method.  Psychologists can find ample material for behavioral changes.  Depending on how you look at the behavior changes, the stages can be labeled as anything from societal evolution to religious experiences.  The point being, the study of NDE�s is much like the blind men describing the elephant.  This subject matter is so vast, that it will take many perspectives from all angles to try to describe the infinite. 

M. Scott Peck, M.D. talks about four stages of spiritual growth in his book, � Further Along the Road Less Traveled.�  These stages of growth are knowledge of oneself through focus on different levels of the ego.  Much like a little child who focuses on self, then siblings, then realizes that he is part of the world instead of the world being a part of him.  The focus of self changes as we evolve through Maslow�s seven hierarchy of values.  We focus on self first with base needs like food and shelter and transcend to the highest level which is focus on others with unconditional love and altruism.  It is fascinating that most people report that an NDE facilitates a change in consciousness whereby a person moves from one stage (however one defines a stage) to another stage.

My interest is in social/spiritual stages.  So, to me, Peck�s stages have a lot of meaning.  The first stage is getting in touch with oneself.  Peck describes it as being the �single most painful experience a human can have.�  The trigger for this realization is usually a traumatic and sudden experience, such as those typical of a near death experience.  Incidentally, the number one named figure in the NDE accounts is Jesus.  The second stage is one where a person lives by a strict set of guidelines.  He calls this the �formal/institutional� stage because people in this group tend to look to society for structure in their lives.  This structure can be anything from a fundamental religion, to the military, to a prison.  The main idea is that a person perceives the need for structure in their lives and looks to society or external sources to fulfill that function.

The third stage is the �skeptic/individual� stage.  These persons represent the truth-seekers.  Many times you see the scientists fit into this group.  When a person starts to live outside of the societal box and starts to question the very societal fabric that has been ingrained upon us since birth, we start to create our own reality based upon those observations.  The fourth stage represents the �mystical/communal� consciousness.  I find it interesting that there are high numbers of psychically gifted individuals.  The people in this stage structure their world in terms of everything being connected.  This approaches a universal consciousness.

There are so many people who have had NDE�s or who are in the NDE community who are in this fourth stage of development.  There are very few places in society for fourth stage people to associate with, yet here is fertile ground for making universal connections.  The local chapter of IANDS is a wonderful group of people to validate and act as support for others.  It is a forum for growth on any level and provides an arena for learning, exploring ideas, and change: whether that change is on an individual spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical level; Or change that expands to society, ideologies, or our institutional structures.  The study of NDE�s helps us to perceive the ultimate mystery � universal truths that are infinite.

Copyright1999 by Jody Long


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