All throughout history, our species has experienced breakthroughs from what we call the spiritual world. Shamanism is a prime example of this, and all around the world, from time immemorial, this type of spirituality (or relationship), with a wider world beyond the senses, has been lived out. In fact shamanism is going strong all over the world to this day, even in first world countries.
Within the Catholic tradition there is a thread of spirituality called “Private Revelation”, which is not the same as public Revelation, that which is revealed through the scriptures and for Catholic’s, tradition. In order for this type of breakthrough from the other side to even be considered, it has to be in accord with the Catholic faith. For instance at this time there has been alleged apparitions going on in Medjugorje that have persisted since 1980; the longest event of this kind to have happened in church history, as far as is known today. The message is basically one of conversion, living the gospel and loving one another, as well as request for prayer for the world and a deeper inward life. There are also warnings if mankind does not change its ways. The sacraments are important there; confessions are many and the church is always full when Mass is celebrated. There are also reports of miracles, the sun dancing, deep spiritual conversions and dramatic physical healings. The church has not pronounced on this, but Catholics are free to attend and millions have and not only Catholics. Atheists have been converted by going there, so something is going on. This apparition is part of a long tradition in the Catholic Church, which will most likely always be with us. Catholics are not bound to believe in any kind of private revelation, since the scriptures are considered enough if read, prayed over and studied. The central message of these events is scriptural. If they weren’t, then they would not be accepted. There is also Fatima, which had the miracle of the Sun, witnessed by 75,000 people and afterwards, even though it was raining before the ‘Miracle of the Sun’, when it was over, everyone was clean and dry. “O Secular” a leading atheist newspaper at the time, had an article about it, as did other news journals.
Today, these kinds of events are no longer limited to shamans, or to Catholics mystics, or for that matter, to any mystic from other diverse religious traditions. For there are many today, due to modern medical procedures of resuscitation, who have experiences (NDE’s) and then came back with a message for mankind. This causes many believers some discomfort, since these experiences people seem to have at the time of death, do not really fit into any kind of neat, set, theological sequence. It also does not line up with the current understanding of what happens at death, from a reductionist point of reference either (which is the most widely held belief by perhaps most men of science). No these experiences seem to be upsetting everyone, believer and non-believers alike.
There are two ways of dealing with this. One, from the believers’ camp, is to make them all demonic, or some of them, the ones that go against ones faith, or perhaps is thought to….that way they don’t have to be dealt with. The other from the reductionist camp, is to try to use simplistic interpretations, which do not even begin to cover the whole complexity of these experiences, which people have when they have a near death experience. For if the near death experience is in fact a normal part of dying and actually telling us something about what happens at death, then a lot of apple carts are about to be overturned in the future. The studies of this kind of phenomena are increasing and the material that is coming out is becoming more and more convincing to more people. One such book that just came out is titled: Consciousness Beyond Life; The Science of the Near-Death Experience by Pim van Lommel. M.D (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Consciousness-Beyond-Life/Pim-van-Lommel/e/9780061997914)….which is by far one of the best books I have read on the subject and would encourage those who are interested in this phenomenon to purchase it. It is in hard back, for I think this book is a keeper.
I have not had an NDE, and because of that my belief in a larger reality beyond the senses is based on faith, not actual experience. Though I have had enough experience to lead me deeper into my faith. Those who have this kind of revelation (for that is what it is), are in a vastly different place than I am, for faith has an element of hope in it that is not based on experience, but on trust. Believers often don’t know what to do with those who have died and have had a profound spiritual experience and came back. The experiencer usually has views about life that are much broader than what is normal for the non-experiencer…. of being outside this world of boxes (Carl used this term when he returned from his NDE), into a realm beyond time and space. It is a shame that traditional churches don’t have a place for these people, who have in fact much to teach us.
I blog at a site called NDE space. The people there are ‘strange’ in a good way, flakey even, again in a very, very, good way; open, loving, eccentric (again in an excellent way), and having them as friends would enrich anyone’s life. Is it possible…. is it true… we survive death? When I die, I will be surprised if I actually survive into another reality, since my mind cannot picture any world but this one, so I go on faith…..to actually talk to others who have been in the other reality can be a dizzying experience and deeply healing as well. There is too much going on for there not to be something to it.
Old paradigms die, and the one dying today, a slow painful death, is materialism and also that narrow orthodoxy, that refuses to look at what is happening to those millions around us that have died and come back; many of which have something important to say. Much of what they say goes along with what is said in the scriptures (all of them), as well as what is being transmitted through private revelations, though with a heavy dose of Catholic jargon.
Raymond Moody has a book out called Glimpses of Eternity (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glimpses-of-eternity-raymond-moody/1029346230), which deals with NDE’s that are also experienced by loved ones….. Whole families together see the light, or the death room seems to expand into a light filled reality. Yes I know it is mind boggling. It is truly amazing to read about these events that point to reality that is broader and more expansive than we could ever realize….well those of us who have not had an NDE. These events are common, but the collective consensus reality will not look at them, well in the recent past no, but I believe that is changing, though it will be a while longer before it becomes more main stream, and believe me it will become common knowledge, it is already happening. Each will have to decide what to do with it. Close down and hide, or perhaps having the courage to strike out into uncharted territory.