This article is the second in a series exploring a number of erroneous beliefs that can combine to mislead us about who we are and what is most important in our lives. I picture these illusions as existing in layers that mutually support and reinforce each other, with the superficial layers obscuring those beneath. In this article I will recount events in my life that radically reoriented my view of the world and started me on the path that has resulted in this blog and this series of articles. I include these events here as an introduction to several more of these misconceptions.
The story of the events that follow has been abstracted from my page called: Who I am and the purpose of this site (found in the header, above). If you have already read it, you may want to skip the next section (The Story) and proceed to The Implications.
It was 1992. I was driving north on Highway 19 from Albany, Georgia, headed to my job as a staff physician at a medical clinic in Leesburg. On impulse, I had turned on my car radio to a talk show, something completely out of character for me. A woman was being interviewed about a book she had just published. Just as I was about to turn the radio back off, she began recounting a tale of how she felt herself float up out of her body when she was bleeding to death, unattended, while hemorrhaging from a surgical wound in a recovery room.
I could not believe what I was hearing! The story hit me like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, as my mind flashed back to over twenty years earlier. I saw myself having coffee with a co-worker in the civil engineering office at Wright Patterson AFB, while the rest of our team was out in the field. I had joined the Air Force about two years earlier when I found out I was about to be drafted, to avoid being sent to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. At Wright Patterson, I was a lowly Airman First Class assigned to the civil engineering department as part of my training. Mary, the civilian co-worker I was sharing coffee with, was a sweet little white haired lady who was about to retire. She and I had easily become close friends within days of my arrival at Wright Patterson.
I had asked her why she had to use a cane and walked with such a limp. Mary pulled her chair close to mine and quietly began a story she said she would never tell anyone else, and added that she had no idea why she was feeling so compelled to tell me. She told me how during surgery to replace her left hip a few years earlier, while still under anesthesia, she suddenly found herself floating up and out of her body as she heard her surgeon screaming obscenities and she watched a nurse pounding on her chest. She told how she then floated away from this chaotic scene down a dark, warm, incredibly peaceful tunnel toward a bright light. A man, who she was sure was Jesus, took her by the hand as she emerged from the tunnel and asked if she would agree to go back to her body in the operating room. As soon as she said yes, she woke up in an intensive care unit where she later found out she had been transported after her surgery. Since this story conflicted so completely with my scientific training prior to joining the Air Force, it made no sense to me and I had just filed it away in back of my mind as a curious mystery.
In the two decades that had elapsed since my one conversation with Mary about her experiences during her operation in 1970, I had not heard or read about any other people leaving their bodies when their hearts had stopped. As I sat in my car after pulling off the road, I heard Betty Jean Eadie telling nearly the exact same story from her book Embraced by the Light . How could this be? What are the odds that both of these women, whom had absolutely no contact with each other’s story in any way, would have nearly identical hallucinations with such eerily similar details? And while they were both clinically dead, no less! This was so incredibly unlikely to be just a coincidence that it would be like I had grabbed a handful of Scrabble tiles, tossed them up in the air, and had them land in a nice, neat row spelling my own name.
Why did the similarity of these stories shock me? The answer to this question is important, but it will take some careful explanation. It is well worth digging into, though, since it leads directly into some of the false assumptions profoundly impacting the quality of our lives (the main point of the first article). I will begin my approach to it through a synopsis of some of my core beliefs about the world and how it all works that were shattered when I happened across the second NDE story while listening to my car radio in 1992.
My early education thoroughly grounded me in the scientific view of the world. I completely accepted the scientific vision of the universe as an enormously complex mega-machine. In this view, the complexity of everything that existed could be best understood by analyzing the behavior of the sub-atomic particles and forces that made it all up. Once you attained this understanding, you would know everything there is to know about it. This analytic approach to our world was not only very seductive in its precise logic, its power was confirmed by its successes in producing such modern marvels as our cell phones, personal computers, and interplanetary spacecraft, to name just a few.
Implicit in this scientific view of the world was the conviction that nothing beyond the physical plays any part in the events of our world. It sees our lives completely limited to a world that follows precise physical laws and composed of only that which we perceive with our five physical senses. For centuries, scientists have been more and more successful in producing marvelous technologies, while also finding less and less need to include any role for a spiritual influence. The consideration of anything beyond what could be physically measured was considered “unscientific” and many scientists believed such ideas were nothing more than unfounded speculation at best, or foolish superstition at worst.
Even though I was totally immersed in this scientific worldview, there were so many characteristics of the universe it left unaccounted for that I always found it to be inadequate as a complete explanation. Obviously, the large number of religions and other metaphysical beliefs of our modern societies showed that the majority of the world’s inhabitants agreed with this conviction, even if their teachings about the spiritual realm often conflict with each other. The way I have always seen things, the awesome beauty of the world’s landscapes, the incredible complexity of its flora and fauna, as well as the scientifically unexplained source of the unity and lawfulness of its components, absolutely demands that we recognize the existence of a guiding force that transcends it all. This, of course, is the realm of everything spiritual, the subject of religious doctrines and the region of any potential afterlife fate we might experience.
While most of us accept the existence of both of these images – the physical world and its spiritual source – the mental accommodations we must make to accept them both simultaneously are very subtle. We usually just take their compatibility for granted, but I will now put them under a microscope, so to speak, and ask how we can believe in a spiritual reality that is both invisible to us and which is believed to operate in completely different manner than the physical? I think the answer lies in an imaginative divide we place between the physical and the spiritual that I will call “the unbridgeable chasm.” The “chasm” is the almost complete divide between our awareness the material world on one hand, and our ability to understand an invisible, spiritual world on the other. In this understanding, the spiritual reality is something we expect to directly experience only after we die. We commonly accept that there are a few limited effects of the spiritual we can observe in our daily lives. There are the unpredictable “acts of God” in our weather, an occasional miracle, and the divinely inspired ancient teachers who wrote our sacred scriptures. For the most part, though, we understand that we directly experience only physical phenomena, and must take our ideas of the spiritual completely on faith.
In keeping with this imagined separation, we see death as a one way passage from the physical realm into a spiritual afterlife. Before our death, we completely identify with our body. After our death, most of us believe we become a “soul” that exists as a spiritual essence for eternity. This has important implications. Not only must we wait until after we die to be totally certain about what our after-death reality will hold for us, what really matters most about our present actions and behavior is how they might impact our after-death experience.
The reason the two NDE stories were such a shock to me directly involves how we imagine that this nearly impenetrable division exists between the physical and spiritual realms. The cause of this shock had two components. The first was how compelling the uncanny similarity of the messages were. I knew beyond any doubt that no physical mechanism could account for these two stories being almost identical. The second part was how this conclusion completely contradicted some of the most important assumptions that underpinned my view of the cosmos. I was shocked because I was witnessing evidence of a spiritual influence in the physical world that I never expected to see physically demonstrated in this life.
If the NDE stories contain reliable guidance, the meaning of death is very different than what most of us have always believed. During the NDE events, while the nervous system and brain have come to a complete stop, conscious awareness continues. In addition, when awareness returns to the physical body, memories gathered during this out of body experience are retained. If this is truly happening, the one way door from “life” to “after death” does not exist; our death is not an irreversible transformation from one state to another.
Who we are is also very different than we may have thought. Our conscious awareness or “soul” is actually the animating life force of our body and is only temporarily attached to it during this life we are living. Our essence is actually that of an eternal, spiritual being and what we are experiencing in our lives is an amalgam of both our spiritual essence and our mortal form. We exist as both simultaneously. And if I am a spiritual being, so is everyone else, and this implies that everyone we have loved and lost in this life are not truly gone, they are just out of contact with our current awareness.
Much hangs in the balance of whether these implications hold true or not. If these stories are reliable, we do not have to wait until after we die to know the truth about what is going on in this cosmos of ours. A more certain “knowing” should replace a more tentative faith in spiritual concepts. Past anxieties about our potential afterlife fate should give way to a more profound sense of peace, knowing that a benevolent spiritual influence is guiding it all. For most of us, our present self image of a weak, defective nature should be replaced by our awareness of the potential power of a spiritual essence that completely transcends the limits of the physical.
I do not expect you to be shocked just reading about what I experienced, since just hearing it from me won’t be compelling in the way it was for me. But the NDE stories point the way to an incredibly powerful method that anyone can use to validate and confirm their message. Can you see how the lack of a physical explanation behind the uncanny similarity of the two NDE stories provides a marker for the nonphysical connection that must be present? These stories require that an otherwise unobservable source must exist if we are to explain their similarity. This same formula has the potential for us to use to study many other aspects of nonphysical, spiritual phenomena, to not only confirm they are real, but to also investigate their nature.
The method for exploring invisible connections between physical events that I saw within these NDE stories suggested that these kinds of answers should already be available if we look in the right place with an open mind. When I began my search, I found answers I never would have expected in my wildest dreams. In addition, the confirmations I found are not based on philosophical analysis or logical arguments, they are supported by repeatable, objective observations. Ironically, the tools that make these potent insights available to us have been developed by the group that has been the most vocal in proclaiming that spiritual beliefs are nothing more than elaborate superstition – the scientific community.
These reliable answers are only now coming to the fore because it is relatively recently that the methods of science have been refined enough to make them available. They are answers to questions I never imagined could have been reliably answered in this life, and the answers paint a picture of a much more benevolent cosmos than I had ever dared to imagine. Instead of a nearly impenetrable wall between matter and spirit, we find that spirit is always intimately involved in every aspect of our world.
For the benefit of readers who lack a background in science, in the next article I will provide a brief overview of some of the methods used in the scientific research I will be reviewing. I will keep it simple, but that should be all that is needed to quite comfortably follow where we are headed.
Other, related articles that you may find interesting:
The first article in this series:
Is the world real or is it an illusion?
An article that addresses the limits of the scientific view of our world in more detail:
Five of the biggest mysteries facing modern science
Return to the Home Page
I enjoyed your article and your story. Here is my own experience.
I was raised in the ways of the church to believe that we become a soul when we
die. I was also taught to pray for souls who died without first becoming “children
of God”. This teaching actually unintentionally instils a fear of death because we
must strive to be “worthy” before we die.
I first began to question this belief after reading about Edgar Cayce. Then I
started reading about N.D.E.s on the Internet. The more I read, the more I
became convinced that the church was wrong. I learned that if a soul is eternal
then it has no beginning as well as no end so it must have existed before the
body. I searched for information on Reincarnation and my old beliefs no longer made sense to me.
Yes, the past anxieties about life after death (life in the departed realms as the
church call it) did eventually give way to a sence of peace for me.
Keep on writing.
Thanks for your kind remarks. Your experience points out one of the most important of the possible illusions I am addressing in this series of articles. I agree that many religious belief systems actually magnify this fear-producing illusion. This fear, if it truly is just an illusion as you and I believe, produces all sorts of unpleasant spin-offs in our lives that we would benefit from getting away from. A couple that come immediately to mind are a fear of the natural aging process and an excessive attachment to the accumulation of wealth.
To my way of thinking, the most potent source of this illusion is the natural concept of death that we see all around us. We see plants, animals and other people dying all the time. Except under extremely rare situations (like the NDEs), they never come back to life. Who they were in our experience never comes back. Death sure looks pretty permanent and that is very scary. Even religious belief systems that teach of a life after death are not much re-assurance for many of us. Part of the reason is that there are so many different and conflicting systems, it makes it hard to know what to believe and have complete faith in. In my observation, the vast majority of people in the world today hold firmly to the beliefs they were raised with. These observations lead me to question the appropriateness of what most people believe. If there is just one very accurate religious belief system, why is it adhered to by only a minority of the earth’s residents, and how would we know which one it is?
I say all this not wishing to denigrate what anyone believes. I am just giving voice to natural questions that I believe many of us have in the back of our minds even if we don’t think about them much. I also suspect this is what is at least partially behind the modern trend for people to be leaving the fold of traditional religions and looking to find a more personal spirituality. Many traditional religions do accentuate and heighten this natural fear of death we have been discussing, and this may be another factor behind their slowly declining membership.
I am hoping to provide a way out of this illusion in this series of articles, at least for those who are open to the kind of approach I am advocating. Your willingness to help me by sharing your personal experience is much appreciated.
Hi Chuck, Darling!! I am here with you…just wntcha to know!!
I really need to tell this story. Since back in mid-2010, when I was a “regular” on Heavenletters forums…well, a lot has happened. In late-2010, my wonderful/blessed job was eliminated, no one was hired to take my place/my corporate office absorbed my duties due to the economic climate. Being an apartment manager, it automatically followed that I was required to vacate my home, leave my oh-so-marvelous friends/neighbors/residents of long-standing and move. I left my beloved Austin to move to an island off the Texas coast where I had lived before. It was necessary to donate and sell three-fourths of my beautiful belongings and clothes in order to fit in the vehicle provided for moving.
Within a month/so of arriving, I was hospitalized with a blood count that registered 4!! My insurance had expired a few days previously. I had not been to a doctor in twenty years – I had always been robustly healthy. There was also a heart-breaking altercation and, consequently an alienation with one of my daughters.
In the spring of 2011 my firstborn grandchild, the daughter of my other daughter, committed suicide. I could not even go to her out-of-town funeral because I had gotten sick again. This time I was diagnosed with cancer. I had surgery. I was interacting with that daughter from my hospital bed, trying to “be there” for her. God was certainly there for me – and the most angelic hospital staff. And of course, I can interact with my granddaughter whenever…but it’s not so easy for her mother.
The little “cottage community” I moved to in this little fishing village was in need of a business manager. God chose me for the job!! I have friends here from long ago, when I was much younger…and I have some new friends/neighbors/residents now, too. I can hear the waves at night when my windows are open. It/She/the beach sounds like a Mother’s Sigh.
My life is very simple and modest. BUT…guess what?? I’m STILL the same lively Bonnie I always was. My faith in my Creator never waivered. I still have my God-given sense of humor. In fact, in the midst of the ordeal… I told “whoever”: ”If this is a “Job Experience”, y’all have me mixed up with somebody else!!” I did NOT do anything to deserve this, just as Job didn’t. So I pray for my “friends”, just as Job did.
Keep the faith…
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I feel the urge to add, that the “scientific vision of the universe as an enormously complex mega-machine” is not an old one. It’s pretty new in human history to my opinion. And I want to add further, that we live in a patriarchy for thousands of years now, the matriarchy almost completely vanished on earth. This might be a reason, why our world is focused on powerstructures, fight and nothing but physical science. Would be interesting to me, if you might have reflected on this point?
Maybe spiritual beliefs did grow on the soil of the matriarchat. I see two forces on earth, the female and the male force. And what you do now, is to connect us to this spiritual (female force) side again and with the knowledge of the new science (male force) in a brand new way I reckon.
Chuck, I was wondering, what was so exciting to you even life changing that you heard about this second NDE. Now I know. You opened a door to me that was closed before. I haven’t seen that the spirit is continously here in the Body and out of the Body and that the Spirit also carries the memories and our cogitation. So this is real – the Spirit is a real Thing. And if the Spirit is the leading force in my life and the Spirit exists within and out of the Body there must be so much new to explore and to discover. I’m wondering, what you discovered so far…
The idea of the universe as a sort of mega-machine does seem to be only a few centuries old. It is almost as if mankind has been pursuing a huge thought experiment involving this metaphor. The experiment is in trying to conceive of our existence in a context in which nothing “spiritual” has any significant influence on physical events.
I like the way you point to a much larger context in which this scientific approach to the world has been playing out. If it is accurate to portray an intellectual and physical approach to the world as male, while portraying an emotional and spiritual approach as feminine, then we can say we have been following a more “male” approach for thousands of years. The predominant cultural systems could be said to be patriarchal. In this schema, it would also seem reasonable to view our recent scientific views as a kind of culmination of a nearly exclusively male oriented view.
I think we are at a point where we need to consolidate the gains of our exclusively physical approach while also re-integrating a spiritual understanding of our lives as a self-aware species. We now have firm physical evidence of a spiritual aspect of our lives that is always active and vitally important. Yes, spirit is a real thing, not just a construct of our imagination nor just an entirely different dimension we cannot now experience within our lives! If this series of blog articles get this point across to even a few people that would not otherwise consider it, the work I am doing in this writing will be well worth the effort.
You are right when you suggest that I have not yet been sharing everything in these blog articles which I have feel I have discovered after being exposed to the NDE stories. My approach has been to start by exploring and conveying the basics as thoroughly as possible. I believe everything else of importance follows naturally from these basics. There is much more to come.
Thanks for your insightful and supportive comments, Uta.
The idea of the universe as a “mega-machine” is older than many may think. It goes at least as far back as the ancient Greeks who originally proposed the atomic theory of the universe. Greek philosophers such as Democritus believed that the universe was made of indivisible particles called “atoms,” and that all phenomena could be explained as the many and varied interactions of these atoms.
This is one of the underpinnings of the materialist view or philosophy of the universe–though it has been heavily refined in recent centuries due to the great advances in technology and an unprecedented ability to probe physical reality both on the sub-microscopic level and on the macrocosmic, cosmological level.
The idea of the universe as an exclusively material reality that operates like what today we would call a machine does indeed have ancient roots in the history of both Western and Eastern thought. In other words, the debate between materialists and those who posit a deeper, spiritual realm has been going on not just for a few centuries, but for several millennia–in fact, since the dawn of civilization and recorded history.
You make a very good point, Lee. I would completely agree with you that mankind has been exploring the possibilities of a spiritual reality and what it means for as long as we have been leaving written records. It seems also that anthropologists find evidence of these concepts being explored even much further back in our history. To me, this is evidence that what it means to be human includes experiences that cannot be comfortably fit into a material box.
Thank you for reminding me that the belief of an exclusively material reality has ancient roots. When I was commenting to the scientific view of the world as a mega-Maschine I was only making a reference to the technological progress of the last 200 years, which has brought so many new developments with it so incredibly quickly and is constantly evolving based on a purely materialistic view of the world. The negative sides of nuclear waste, the exhaust, the destruction of the rainforests, the ethical considerations, etc. are questioned far too little.
Dear Chuck, I have to say thank you. You give such a nice scientific answer. As I read my comment again, I do not understand now why my view of this scientific worldview was so important to me but I am glad, you understood very well, what I was trying to say.
Love and hugs, Uta
Thank you, too, Uta. It is my pleasure to share my journey. It is even better to have such wonderful and supportive comments about my work. But even those who disagree with any conclusions are very helpful to the effort. We will sort through it all together. I firmly believe that there is only one reality that is the basis for each of our lives and all the experiences contained within. If this is so, we have a firm basis for agreement for all of our ideas. As we work on these things and share our different viewpoints, we will zero in on greater and greater truth. Inaccuracies will fall away and solid insights will prosper and be retained.
Love to you and all who participate here,
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this is really amazing. I have deep respect that there are still so many unsolved things on earth. For example how it is possible a new human being comes into being out of only two cells, a male and female one? How come arising liver cells or eye cells or a hand is built with a blood circulation, and different muscles and nerves and and and.. This is a wonder to me. Who makes this incredible complex program and how does it work so absolutely perfect, this program must be highly intelligent. Much more intelligent than we as human beings are.
You declare, that there is the multi variety and beauty in our earthly life which is not to explain only with our scientific atom theory. And we already know a lot about evolution. Life has to adapt to constantly. But how come life force is there ongoing? There is a life energy on earth in a constant change and visible in every living thing on earth. This energy, I imagine, is used and transformed by us in scientific inventions as electricity. Don’t we always need electricity or any other force for our human inventions? The living creatures on earth don’t need electricity. Life energy is invisible but it does exist and is high intelligent, or did I miss something, am I wrong with this view? I am just pondering.
If an awareness exists beyond our earthly life within our bodies, this is a huge cognition for humans, isn’t it? It is mind-blowing!! As far as I can see, this is a widely confirmed fact, is’nt it?
I had an accident with a car whith 17. I was near to death for about 4 days. I was lying in a coma, with a heavy brain injury. My life was hanging by a thread. When I woke up again, I was in a quiet and peaceful mood, I felt very well for many month. A trained healer from the Church of Mary Baker Eddy prayed many hours during my time in coma. I think she has helped me, but I also believe that my consciousness has perceived new areas that are otherwise closed to us, I can not imagine that I have experienced nothing. When I awoke again I had lost my memory of my past life entirely. I believe, I and of course my awareness, was far away. Despite my memory and speech difficulties I have completed a good graduation at school six months later, even significantly better than before. Which is also amazing.
With the age of 36 I had a mystical experience with Jesus that has left me with an incredible deep love in Jesus and God. This has changed my life. My perception of the world and what is important to me has changed and foremost a knowing that Jesus and God do exist. It’s like an energy that we have around us and that lives in you. This energy lifts us up to God.
Thanks Chuck, that you have made me to write this all.
All the best to you!
I am always fascinated to hear first-hand reports of what some call near death experiences. It sounds like this accident when you were 17 completely changed your life. It also sounds like your mystical experience when you were 36 was an extension of what began when at age 17. What completely changed my life were just hearing about two stories of near death experiences with a twenty year gap between them. Everything contained in this blog and so many other things in my life would not have happened if I had not heard these two near death experience stories exactly as I heard them. The manner in which I encountered them showed me there was truth in them that could not be denied. I count all these changes as blessings, and if I am hearing you right, your experiences were blessings for you also.
You say that there exists a life energy that is invisible and highly intelligent and ask if I agree with this. You are not missing anything; I completely agree with this statement. This article makes the argument that “something” exists beyond the physical, and this something must exist to explain how the world unfolds in the way we see it unfolding. To me, it is not a big step to saying that this invisible something is life energy and the action of this energy is intelligent in the highest degree I could conceive.
I think it is quite possible to make a solid logical argument to support this contention by just considering what science has demonstrated to be true about the human body. We know that the human body is composed of atoms and molecules and compounds that are constantly changing. We know that old atoms are constantly being released from our body and new atoms are being incorporated into its structure. We can accurately say that our body is not the same body it was even a few minutes ago. And, within a period of just a few years, virtually every atom of your body has been replaced by a new atom. So, following this reasoning, who we are cannot possibly be these physical atoms of our body that are coming and going. Something guides these atoms into certain spots in our body and maintains the structure that we recognize as our body. Something is precisely guiding all these physical components, and it is totally illogical to try to explain this controlling influence as due to a physical force. Since who we are is both singular and continuous, despite the physical flux of our body’s immense number of components, then who we are is something beyond the physical. This something is invisible and highly intelligent. To me, this argument alone proves that who we are is a form of invisible life energy.
Yes, I agree Uta, that this idea, that an awareness exists beyond our physical bodies, is a huge insight. If completely accepted, it does change everything. I also think that it is the door to answering many of the questions that modern science has so far failed to answer.
I gratefully accept your thanks for having written this article, it was my pleasure and you are most welcome,
With love, always,
thank you, this is a great answer to my stumbling thoughts. I had a feeling, that my thoughts are leading me in the right direction, but I couldn’t see clearly, why. You sure have a broader perspective in this case. You have a look from some floors above mine, but I climb up now ;).
And now a new question arose. You say
“Since who we are is both singular and continuous, despite the physical flux of our body’s immense number of components, then who we are is something beyond the physical. This something is invisible and highly intelligent. To me, this argument alone proves that who we are is a form of invisible life energy.”.
Does this mean, you think, we are not our physical body? Or from another view, do this mean you believe that our physical body is life energy too?
Thanks for responding Chuck!
Thanks for your kind remarks and helping me to clarify my meaning for other readers through your questions 😉 I think it is a natural extension of my analysis, above, to conclude that we are indeed something different than our physical body. I believe our body and brain act like a sort of computer interface that allows a non-physical intelligence to operate in a physical world. I would liken our true (invisible and immaterial) self to a computer operator and our brain to the computer program that allows the computer operator to access the power of the electronic circuitry within the computer.
I think who we really are is a spiritual entity that is only temporarily attached to and limited by our body. Yes, I think who we are is a portion of life energy that is a limited extension of the one life energy that has created everything. These reflections go far beyond the content of this article, but I believe the contents of the articles definitely lead in this direction.
Thanks, again, for your comments and questions,