But anyways, on to the post.
Part of the meaning behind the blog name regards the well-documented phenomenon known as the “Near-Death Experience.” Probably the best known commonality among the reports of these kinds of experiences is the feeling of moving, generally through a kind of tunnel, towards a glorious and loving “Light.” I am really drawn to this image and I find it to be one interesting way to conceptualize a life lived for God. Of course few people would describe life as “floating;” there’s too much hard work, turmoil, and pain involved for that to hold. But “walking” towards the Light – that adds a little realism to the picture, like it takes a little effort. Hence, blog name. And post name.
One of the earliest researchers into the Near-Death Experience, and generally the person credited with popularizing and legitimizing the phenomenon, is Raymond Moody. In Life After Life he constructs a “composite” telling of a typical Near Death story. Almost no stories contain all these elements, but each element is common across the experiences:
A man is dying and, as he reaches the point of greatest physical distress, he hears himself pronounced dead by his doctor. He begins to hear an uncomfortable noise, a loud ringing or buzzing, and at the same time feels himself moving very rapidly through a long dark tunnel. After this, he suddenly finds himself outside of his own physical body, but still in the immediate physical environment, and he sees his own body from a distance, as though he is a spectator. He watches the resuscitation attempt from this unusual vantage point and is in a state of emotional upheaval. After a while, he collects himself and becomes more accustomed to his odd condition. He notices that he still has a ‘body,’ but one of a very different nature and with very different powers from the physical body he has left behind. Soon other things begin to happen. Others come to meet and to help him. He glimpses the spirits of relatives and friends who have already died, and a loving, warm spirit of a kind he has never encountered before – a being of light – appears before him. This being asks him a question, nonverbally, to make him evaluate his life and helps him along by showing him a panoramic, instantaneous playback of the major events of his life. At some point he finds himself approaching some sort of barrier or border, apparently representing the limit between earthly life and the next life. Yet, he finds that he must go back to the earth, that the time for his death has not yet come. At this point he resists, for by now he is taken up with is experiences in the afterlife and does not want to return. He is overwhelmed by intense feelings of joy, love, and peace. Despite his attitude, though, he somehow reunited with his physical body and lives. Later he tries to tell others, but he has trouble doing so. In the first place, he can find no human words adequate to describe these unearthly episodes. He also finds that others scoff, so he stops telling other people. Still, the experience affect his life profoundly, especially his views about death and its relationship to life.
Common elements that Moody finds are:
- Ineffability (the inability to describe the experience adequately in words)
- Feelings of Peace
- A strange, sometimes beautiful noise
- A dark tunnel
- The feeling of being “out of body”
- Meeting deceased loved ones
- Meeting a Being of Light
- A Life Review
What I find fascinating is that there seems to be so many commonalities from these experiences across cultures and religions. Although the “sameness” of the experience might be overstated by Moody (more recent studies have probably muddied the waters a little bit), there is no denying that many people have described what happens when they “die” in remarkably similar ways. What you do with that is up to you I guess, but it is an intriguing bit of research.
In regards to the Being of Light, read this account by Betty Eadie in The Near-Death Experience: A Reader:
I saw a pinpoint of light in the distance. The black mass around me began to take on more of the shape of a tunnel, and I felt myself traveling through it at an even greater speed, rushing toward the light. I was instinctively attracted to it, although again, I felt that others might not be. As I approached it, I noticed the figure of a man standing in it, with the light radiating around him. As I got closer the light became brilliant – brilliant beyond description, far more brilliant than the sun – and I knew that no earthy eyes in their natural state could look upon this light without being destroyed. Only spiritual eyes could endure it – and appreciate it. As I drew closer I began to stand upright.
I saw that the light immediately around him as golden, as if his whole body had a golden halo around it, and I could see that the golden halo burst out from around him and spread into a brilliant, magnificent whiteness that extended out for some distance. I felt this light blending into mine, literally, and I felt my light being drawn to his. It was as if there were two lamps in a room, both shining, their light merging together. It’s hard to tell where one light ends and the other begins; they just become one light. Although his light was much brighter than my own, I was aware that my light, too, illuminated us. And as our lights merged, I felt as if I had stepped into his countenance, and I felt an utter explosion of love.
It was the most unconditional love I have ever felt, and as I saw his arms open to receive me I went to him and received his complete embrace and said over and over, “I’m home. I’m home. I’m finally home.”
Maybe Something Unbelievable is waiting for us in the end. Maybe God is waiting to meet us and ready to fulfill all of our desires – to make us ultimately happy.
Or maybe it’s the last gasp of an oxygen depleted and CO2 infused brain inside the head of a bewildered ape.
National Geographic picks the latter. I’d like to think it’s option A. And for the record I think other evidence for Out of Body Experiences, etc. destroy the “carbon dioxide theory.”
But that’s just me.