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Hi Michael,

I'm not necessarily talking about "hellish" NDEs. I am really referring to NDEs that are either mundane or confused or just plain weird. My point being that if one is to criticize psychedelics for producing that kind of experience on occasion, then one must be fair and recognize that NDEs are often like that too.

My wider objection is to the notion that, in a systematic manner, one passes away from the physical and consistently encounters beings of light and a message of overwhelming love and forgiveness, cosmic unity, etc, etc

Many NDEs, even in the West, do not have those features at all. However, this is especially true in the non-western NDEs I've read. Which suggests to me a large amount of cultural conditioning involved in what one experiences NDE.

I am saying that IMO many such mundane, confusing and otherwise non-being of light NDEs get suppressed for religious/political reasons. Can I prove that? No. If NDEs are an exception to all other human activity where censorship and propagandizing is the norm - nay, the rule - then I am wrong. To the extent that hellish NDEs occur, I'm sure that censorship applies to them as well.

In fact, the paucity of research into non-western NDEs kind of demonstrates my point. researchers are satisfied to sell books based of light and love. If they were truly interested in getting at the truth, then by now there would be volumes on non-western NDE research. There are not. Ian Stevenson was able to do paranormal research all over the world. Why have all these prophets of The Being of Light not been able to do so?

Eben Alexander's NDE (if we can call it that) is pretty darn weird. It kind of sounds like a salvia trip.

Also, you have no problem noting that Rawlings probably distorted data and results for propaganda reasons. You are also suspect of Hancock. I agree re; Rawlings and you could very well be correct re; Hancock. However, you then elect to believe other researchers, like Bush, are being straight shooters. Maybe you like Bush because it's a good Republican name ;-) I don't know, but it does seem to be picking and choosing that which feels good.

You asked Saj about a consistent narrative pattern in psychedelics. Well, I've already pointed out that NDEs may not be so consistent either. Psychedelics impact people on an individual level. The message is often highly personal. However, studies have found that there is a highly consistent overarching message that we are spiritual beings, that our problems are very small in the big scheme of things, that we have a spiritual power within us to achieve great things, that life is magical and made of energy, not things, and that good energy produces more of the same and bad energy also multiplies, etc, etc...the same things that NDEs are said to show us. The literature is out there, some of it from major research institutions like Johns Hopkins.. STOP READING EROWID!!!! I'm telling you, 99% of that crap has nothing to do with what normal mature experience with psychedelics. Nothing! It's BS.

Worth reading re; consistent effects of psychedelics:

@ Michael - I wouldn't disagree Hancock can be sensational and/or biased but I think the basic premise of Supernatural - that there are entities above human souls on the food chain and shamans have bargain with them - holds. Gordon White makes similar arguments in Star. Ships for example. It's at the least a major aspect of humanity's religious development.

I think this idea of initiation and communion with other realms is found across many traditions. Both the Vedic tradition and that of the Greek Mystery Schools are now thought to be inspired by psychedelics. Of course both traditions also speak to the potential of paradise if not Re-unification w/ the One.

Regarding a narrative for DMT experiences, I think Strassman produced at least some commonalities in his work. My guess is if we were better able to access the unpopular NDEs - the ones which are no better than confusing dreams, the ones where people meet fictional characters, the ones that are unpleasant - we'd probably end up with a pool not much better - and possibly worse - than the total coherent + incoherent experiences via psychedelics.

But for me it's how the picture of the afterlife fits the other data points we have from the rest of paranormal lit.

Though perhaps, referring back to the Vedic and Grecian Mysteries (+ Neo Platonists) you've suggested in the past, some of us have more work to do in the lower rungs and some of us have managed to live a final life before ascending.

I attended a reading by a "sensitive" recently and that was her take - numerous lives of suffering as allotted partly by Fate and partly by Choice, before we go beyond the physical & the lower spiritual (where the wild things are), and get to find peace in the Highest Realm.

Eric wrote, "My wider objection is to the notion that, in a systematic manner, one passes away from the physical and consistently encounters beings of light and a message of overwhelming love and forgiveness, cosmic unity, etc, etc Many NDEs, even in the West, do not have those features at all. However, this is especially true in the non-western NDEs I've read."

Can you direct me to these non-Western NDEs? The only systematic study I’ve read is of Indian (mostly Hindu) NDEs. As I recall, these were more bureaucratic in nature, with the NDEr often told that a clerical error had been made. Even so, they shared many features with western NDEs, such as an OBE component, a spirit guide who led the NDEr into another plane of existence, an orientation process for the newly deceased, a requirement to return, and an absence of pain or fear throughout. I don’t recall if the bright light or Being of Light was reported, or if there was a life review or reunion with dead loved ones.

Saj wrote, "My guess is if we were better able to access the unpopular NDEs - the ones which are no better than confusing dreams, the ones where people meet fictional characters, the ones that are unpleasant - we'd probably end up with a pool not much better - and possibly worse - than the total coherent + incoherent experiences via psychedelics."

Well, guessing isn’t evidence. I don’t recall *any* documented NDEs in which a person met a fictional character (unless one counts iconic religious figures), and only a handful that were similar to confusing dreams (usually involving a span of time in a dark void). As already established, unpleasant NDEs are rare in the literature.

But here’s the more important point: if it were shown that NDEs do, in fact, cover such a wide spectrum, and frequently include fictional characters, confused and incoherent narratives, and bizarre situations, it would not help to make psychedelic experiences more evidential. It would simply erode the evidential value of NDEs.

Other than veridical observations, the single most convincing aspect of NDEs is that they follow a coherent pattern, first identified by Raymond Moody in his book "Life After Life." It's the recurrence of that pattern in case after case that makes NDEs so persuasive as evidence of an ontologically real experience. If the pattern is only an illusion based on cherry-picked data, and if the reality is that NDEs are as unpredictable and disordered as any stream-of-consciousness fantasy, then NDEs are not good evidence of postmortem survival at all.

In fact, trying to play up the differences among NDEs and discount the common patterns is a common Skeptical tactic, used (for instance) by Keith Augustine in his well-known essay "Hallucinatory Near-Death Experiences."

So this argument, if successful, would not buttress the evidential claims of hallucinogenic experiences; it would simply diminish the evidential claims of NDEs.

Here’s an analysis of Hindu NDEs, which finds both similarities with and differences from Western cases.

Among Hindus, the tunnel experience seems to be less common, though occasionally reported. It’s worth noting that only a minority of Western NDEs feature a tunnel, so there is not necessarily a difference here.

OBEs are less common but not unknown.

There can be a life review, though it is experienced as hearing the key events in one's life read from a book. "In Hindu circles, it is a traditional belief that the reading of a person's akashic record occurs immediately after death. This concept is widely believed by Hindus all over India. However, the panoramic life review, which is commonly mentioned in western accounts, does not appear in accounts from India."

Iconic religious figures and deceased loved ones are sometimes encountered.

Overall, while there are obvious cultural differences, the Hindu NDEs seem pretty similar to Western NDEs, though with a decidedly more bureaucratic flavor.

@ Michael:

I agree w/ your points actually and have to concede we don't have enough data points to totally reject the Love & Light, Divine Plan Theory.

I do wish we could get a better sense of how NDE cases are accepted by proponent researchers. I've gotten some information about the filtering process but I'll see if I can dig up some more details.

I also agree what we'd be left with if the spectrum of NDEs included incoherent and negative experiences over Love & Light is a diminished account of what NDEs are telling us, rather than an enhancement of psychedelic experience veracity. I don't think psychedelic experiences are 100% correct either, there seems to be areas of Order and Chaos both beyond the Veil - yes I realize this sounds very much like something of a Dungeon and Dragons manual! :)

At the very least there is some cause for optimism - NDEs, mystical experiences, and possibly the psychedelic visions of the Vedic people + Grecian Mystery Schools point to something beyond the Chaos -- That at the very least there is something Good (or at least Peaceful) out there & maybe within us even if it doesn't have a Divine Plan for us all. Many psychedelic practitioners, even in the New Age scene, point to something loving and maternal that may or may not be All Powerful.

So even if there's Bad it's not all Bad.

Fair points. Here is summary from a research org that we all know and, I think, respect.

It seems to me that the % of disturbing NDEs is about the same as the % of disturbing psychedelic experiences.

Also, there is a similar pattern between unpleasant psychedelic experiences and unpleasant NDEs in that the unpleasant phase is usually followed by a pleasant final phase.

IMO, psychedelics can cause bad reactions because the transition from "normal" state to the fully psychedelic state is relatively slow. Psilocybin or LSD take an hour to an hour and half to reach full effect. Prior to that there is some confusion and fear as the transition alters one's perception of self and reality. In the NDE, one is instantly fully propelled into new ego (or egoless) state of being. No time to squirm half on and half off.

"Overall, while there are obvious cultural differences, the Hindu NDEs seem pretty similar to Western NDEs, though with a decidedly more bureaucratic flavor. "

As far as consistent features go, some of that is the defining of "feature". If "feature" is defined broadly enough, then it becomes meaningless. If the Being of Light is frequently absent, then how can the being be a "real" thing that is out there waiting for each and everyone? If the tunnel is absent, then how can it be a real thing? If Hindus experience bureaucratic snafus then how can the western "I was sent back because the being wanted me to complete my life's plan" be real?

Unlike Keith Augustine, I don't see these inconsistencies as indicating that NDEs are completely hallucinations; nor that survival of death is false. Rather, it helps prove to me that reality is very plastic and is culturally conditioned to a large degree - which is what psychedelics have also shown me.

Other glaring inconsistencies are ADC accounts of the death process versus NDEs. Michael Tymn's "The Articulate Dead" and similar works contain plenty of ADCs wherein the deceased describes what happened upon dying. It's nothing like an NDE. In my own highly evidential sitting with Georgia O'Connor, one of the two main spirit communicators told what happened at the moment of death. It was not much like an NDE either; only in that there was a sense of freedom from pain and a meeting with deceased loved ones. No being of light was described, no life review, no tunnel.

I think NDEs are highly anomalous events. All of the other areas of spiritual evidence seem to correlate nicely; everything from psychedelics, to shamanism, to meditation practices, to poltergeists,to synchronicities, to ADCs to psi functioning - and all of these seem to make sense (at least to me) in terms of what we know about the nature of reality; the good, the bad and the ugly. NDEs seem to be outliers that are not corroborated by the other areas. And that is another reason I suspect there is some hanky panky going on with the reporting and publishing for mass consumption.

As far as I can see, NDEs are the weakest of evidence for the nature of reality. They are a piece that doesn't fit in the puzzle.

Actually, It is Michael Tymn's "Dead Men Talking" that contains several detailed accounts of the death process from men killed in WW1. Great book. My comments re;the absence of NDE type features being described is accurate, though. And that is not only source of such accounts that lack the NDE features. It's just one that we all know of and can agree on.

"If Hindus experience bureaucratic snafus then how can the western 'I was sent back because the being wanted me to complete my life's plan' be real?"

Some of the Hindu experiences include being told that they must go back because they have "more work to do." See the link in my earlier post.

Nobody insists that any of these features is present in *all* NDEs, only that these features persist in many accounts. The usual analogy is that people who travel from the US to Italy will report some similarities in their trips but also many differences. Some will see Rome, and some will see Venice. Some will go by plane, and some will go by boat. But there are enough overlapping details to establish that Italy is a real place, even if we had no other evidence for it.

Regarding battlefield deaths, I remember Robert Crookall compiling various cases. When death is sudden and violent, it seems to create disorientation and confusion. This is especially true when someone is blown up by a mortar shell or hand grenade. Crookall theorized that the spirit is shocked by the total destruction of the physical body and the abrupt severing of all ties, rather than the gentle release that is preferred. It takes time, apparently, for the spirit to recover from the trauma. For the spirit, this time is essentially a void of unconsciousness, followed by a slow reawakening.

It makes sense to me that a violently disruptive death would have different immediate effects than a peaceful transition.

"As far as I can see, NDEs are the weakest of evidence for the nature of reality. They are a piece that doesn't fit in the puzzle."

I see them as the strongest evidence for postmortem survival other than the best mediumistic studies. I think they fit quite well with other evidence that I would accept as (largely) valid, such as crisis apparitions, possession and obsession cases, hauntings, deathbed visions, spontaneous reincarnation memories, and even between-lives regressions (though anything involving hypnosis must raise some doubts). NDEs may not fit very well with hallucinogenic experiences, but they do align well with what I'd regard as much better evidence.

Here's an 1861 account of the dying process. The patient, Dr. Horace Ackley, found himself floating above his own body. Then "the scenes of my whole life seemed to move before me like a panorama; every act seemed as though it were drawn in life size and was really present: it was all there, down to the closing scenes. So rapidly did it pass, that I had little time for reflection." Understanding that he had died, he said to himself, "Death is not so bad a thing after all." Then two "guardian spirits" welcomed him and led him to a reunion with his deceased loved ones.

A standard NDE in many respects. Except that it wasn't an NDE. Ackley really did die, and he didn't come back. His testimony was communicated by the medium Samuel Paist, more than a hundred years before the publication of "Life After Life."

This example is from "Stop Worrying! There Probably Is an Afterlife," by Greg Taylor, pp. 139-140. In the same section of the book, Taylor discusses the work of (again) Robert Crookall, who compared what he called "pseudo-death" (i.e., NDEs) with mediumistic communications. Crookall found many points in common: OBE (rising up out of the body and floating above it), movement through a tunnel toward a light, reunion with deceased loved ones in "a world so brilliant that I can't describe it," and a panoramic life review (including this description from a medium in 1928: "Like everyone who passes over, he had been through the whole of his past life, reliving his past actions in every detail. All the pain he had given to people he experienced himself, and all the pleasure is given he received back again").

Remember that these descriptions were compiled by Crookall before the term "near-death experience" was even known, and most of the source material predates Moody's work by decades.


I don't know if getting shot or blown up is any less traumatic than being in a car accident or having an unexpected heart attack.

Actually, if you go the link I posted re; psilocybin, you will see that the research at John Hopkins addresses your original question, "What kind of existence do we inhabit? Salvia, after all, can cause terrifying descents into a nightmare world. Is this the true nature of things? Are we doomed to navigate a malevolent and irrational jungle? Is reality basically friendly to us … or unfriendly?

By "reality," I don't mean only the spacetime universe, but the whole shebang – every dimension, plane, and/or level of reality that exists. The whole show, the total picture. Is it ultimately a good place for us, or not so good?"

and then confirms your original conclusion, "Can the above phenomena be reconciled with a more positive view of reality?

I think they can. Here's the case for a basically friendly reality."

I have been primarily objecting to your unfavorable characterizing of psychedelics as faux and negative spirituality by pointing out that some NDEs are negative, confusing, banal, etc.

Check out the John Hopkins link, if you haven't already. The prejudice against psychedelics is unwarranted. As I have said, the % of crazy or bad trips under proper conditions = the % of crazy or bad NDEs. A very low % in both cases. Otherwise both types of experiences yield similar positive results.

Just as one could get caught up in some writer's skewed perspective involving hellish NDEs, one can get caught up in skewed perspectives about psychedelics from anonymous idiot sources on the internet.

\\Eric says, "Eben Alexander's NDE (if we can call it that) is pretty darn weird. It kind of sounds like a salvia trip."//

If you had read and understood The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot Eben Alexander's NDE wouldn't seem weird to you at all.

In a universe where you exist everywhere at once and all the information is infinitely interconnected and "one" and each piece contained the whole and nothing was separate from anything else his deceased sister taking him for a ride on the wing of a butterfly is not that difficult or far fetched. It is simply accessing information. She wanted to show Eben one of her favorite things about heaven.

The physics of heaven is very different from the physics we normally experience here. It is the physics of holographic film.

Mark Horton did almost the exact same thing during his NDE. He thought of Scotland and he was there experiencing everything about the time and place.

Mark Horton's NDE,

Everything is made of information and in heaven you can access any information just by focusing your attention on it. If everything is made of consciousness and information is it so far fetched to think that in another dimension (the place we call heaven) one might be able access that information using the power of thought? And that one's already deceased sister might take you someplace, showing you something that she enjoyed, during your brief sojourn in heaven?

Niels Bohr, the founding father of modern quantum physics said "everything we call real is made out of things that can't be considered as real." We live in a strange Universe where time is relative and although it may appear real and solid to us in actuality most of what we see around us is made out of empty space.

Subatomic particles are nothing like things that we consider to be solid. They are not like little rocks or BBs but instead sometimes appear as a particle and sometimes appear as waves. They are able to appear and disappear and pass right through things we consider to be solid, and are able to instantaneously interact with each other at great distances, and even seem sometimes seem to interact with the people studying them.

Do psychedelics and NDE’s share common ground? I think they share the most important commonality of all, and it’s made plain here by Stan Grof, as he answers the question: “What is your perspective on the concept of God?”

Note how difficult it would be to determine, from his words, whether he were an NDEr or a user of ayahuasca/psilocybin. That is, if it weren’t for his first sentence:

"I have experienced in my sessions many gods—archetypal figures of many forms from different cultures of the world. But when I refer to God, I am talking about an experience which is beyond any forms. What I experienced as God is difficult to describe; as you know, the mystics often refer to their experiences as ineffable. It could be best described as an incredibly powerful source of light, with an intensity that I earlier couldn’t even have imagined. But it doesn’t really do it justice to refer to it as light, because it was much more than that. It seemed to contain all of existence in a completely abstract form, and it transcended all imaginable polarities. There was a sense of infinite boundless creativity. There was a sense of personality and even a sense of humor (of a cosmic variety).”

NDEr or psychedelics user? Without that first sentence, it would be impossible to tell.

Common ground? Yes, and of the most important kind.

Thanks to the US government's kneejerk reaction in banning psychedelics, we are now decades behind where we should be in psychedelic therapy.

This is the true crime. Many people, in particular whose who have not responded to traditional therapies, have been denied this approach, and many have had no option but to take their own lives as a result. And not only psychedelics.

The experimental programme using MDMA for PTSD therapy for Gulf War veterans yielded highly encouraging results. These were cases where the patient had not responded to years of talking therapy, but with *MDMA assisted* talking therapy, the patient was able uproot the source of the trauma in just a few sessions in a therapist supported safe environment: the drug seemed to act in an intelligent way, guiding the person to the source of the trauma and uprooting it, in a way that traditional talking therapy had made no progress with.

What a shame that so many have missed out on this approach due to poor education and misinformation on behalf of the authorities.

As a result, these empowering, healing drugs are left in the grubby hands of backstreet dealers and criminals, leading, inevitably, to their misuse.

For those against the use of psychedelics for therapeutic use: well done guys, what a result. You should give yourselves a big slap on the back for your efforts.

Recently I've been reading the metaphysical propositions of PKD which tie into some of the Information as Fundamental Ground ideas as well as the disparity between experiences suggesting Love/Divine Plan/Light, God, Unity vs Gnosticism, Horror, Chaos.

PKD was, at least for a time, something of a Manichean. He felt Reality was a game between the Programmer-Reprogrammer and the "Dark Counter Player". While he felt, like the Zoroastrians, that the victory of the Programmer was ultimately assured this required a play through where the Present is continually recreated.

If nothing else it sort of makes sense of the weird idea from the second Matrix where Vampires/Ghosts/Werewolves are leftovers from prior iterations of the Simulation. :-)

But it can also possibly reconcile the disparity of experiences. PKD felt b/c the Present is in contention, while All would be Saved there would be states where only some would be. Perhaps those who experience Light & Love are already saved by the efforts of the Programmer/Reprogrammer while others with darker experiences are still souls-pieces on the board.

This also fits in with the Peer to Peer Hypothesis of Marcus Arvan, though much more extravagant an interpretation than even he might be willing to propose.

Is PKD Philip K. Dick or someone else?

Ah sorry yeah Phillip K. Dick. Was using the abbreviation in discussions and then forgot to write his name out here.

An excerpt of the piece where he discusses the Programmer/Reprogrammer can be found here:

If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others

I imagine it's him, as he is associated with neo-gnostic ideas...

Interesting article on blind people and LSD:

"... among the many exceptional and divine things your Athens has produced and contributed to human life, nothing is better than those [Eleusinian] mysteries. For by means of them we have transformed from a rough and savage way of life to the state of humanity, and have been civilized. Just as they are called initiations, so in actual fact we have learned from them the fundamentals of life, and have grasped the basis not only for living with joy but also for dying with a better hope."

—Cicero, De Legibus 2.14.36

“Interesting article on blind people and LSD:”

That really is an interesting article, William. I’ve been wondering about the blind and LSD thing myself.

Also, I have found this article about “hallucinations” and paranormal experiences. What do you all think?

Kamo, the writer of the article on hallucinations and ESP quite evidently doesn't have English as his first language. The following seems to be a key quote from his Abstract: "... we first propose a novel hypothesis that ESP happens because there are two pathways to affect perception, and the essence of ESP is that internal false stimulations are mistaken as external objective stimulations which enter through various senses, while real external objective stimulations are mistaken as perceptions which do not result from various senses when one is in deep hallucinations."

One thing this writer does seem to have is a mastery of ambiguity. My first reaction is that at bottom he is tiptoeing around the claim that ESP is hallucinatory.

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