Thanks to modern medical technology we have a huge number of reports from people who have died and been brought back to life. I am one of them, although my near-death experience (“NDE”) happened when I was very young and I didn’t get the deluxe tour like others did.
It went like this: I was six years old. Someone was cleaning grease off of some ball bearings from a car using gasoline as a solvent, and he had the gasoline next to him in a Coke bottle. For some reason I thought it was lemonade. When he turned his back I grabbed it and gulped some down quickly before I could get caught, and got plenty down my throat before I could stop myself. I vaguely remember him shaking me in horror, “Did you drink that?!” The next thing I remember I was floating above a young boy in a hospital room, the boy had an apparatus attached to his face, and I presume it was me having a close encounter with a stomach pump. Then suddenly a bunch of people surrounded him and started making a fuss and I drifted down a passageway like a cavern with a flat floor and textured walls. The passage made a gentle bend to the right and I could see a beautiful milky-white light shining against the walls. I drifted to the other end of the tunnel and out to the edge of the light, and hung around near the entrance to the passage. There were several other “beings” there, and among them I felt the kind of comfortable feeling one has among close friends when plans have been temporarily interrupted and everyone is just hanging around waiting to get on with it. No words were spoken that I can recall, and my memory of being in the light is little more than a snapshot.
Then I was back in my body, in a hospital room with lots of concerned faces around me. For a few months afterward I would occasionally drift up out of my body while sleeping, and when that happened my thought processes were those of an adult, which I recognized as such even after I popped back into my body. It was very weird. At one point I was being baby-sat somewhere with a bunch of other kids, and they put me and everyone else into cribs to take naps even though we were all 6 or 7 years old. I remember drifting up out of my body and having a conversation with the the child in the crib next to me, who had also drifted up a few inches above his sleeping body. I don’t remember any details of the conversation. Then the child started to wake up and the two merged again, and he looked at me while “me” was still hovering slightly above my body, and the boy started shrieking. I was shocked and confused as I fully woke up myself, with the fading memory of the conversation still in my head. After that I never had any more out-of-body drift-outs.
As an adult, when I became aware that many, many others have had this experience, and that it was indeed something out of the ordinary for most people, I spent some time reading as much as I could about NDEs. It struck me that no matter what religion or belief system one followed, or whether a person even had a spiritual life, the experiences were all very similar, and all appeared to show that person what they needed to see to live a spirit-filled life when they came back. Some have encountered lost loved ones or have been guided through various “dimensions” of consciousness, or have had replays of events in their physical lives (the classic “life passing before your eyes” scenario), while others have been “scared straight” with hellish visions and stark warnings about their lives.
It seems that the Spirit is reaching out to everyone, regardless of their connection to Christian tradition. Also contrary to standard teaching about hell, those who experienced an NDE that featured such a place usually also featured a rescue when that person called out for help.
Regarding my own NDE, there is no way to prove or verify my experience. What could I have possibly brought back with me? Oops, I forgot my camera, I didn’t think to grab it before I zoomed off down that tunnel. How would you prove such a thing?
Absent the ability to provide physical evidence, we’re left to rely on the reports of those who have experienced them and those who have witnessed them. Below is one such witness, a cardiac surgeon who gives his account of a couple of patients who came back after he had been unable to save them on the operating table.
The interviewer missed the significance of the doctor’s comment that the patient had “no neurological deficit.” Brain cells start dying from oxygen deprivation about four to six minutes after the heart stops beating, and generally after 20 minutes without oxygen-rich blood being pumped through the brain there is widespread brain damage and brain-cell death. I believe this is why the doctor emphasized the amount of time the patient was on the table without the heart-lung machine.
The next is one of my favorites. This lady says in a few minutes what I’ve been trying to work my way towards in all these blog posts.:
The Apostle Paul apparently had a near death experience when he suffered a stoning outside a city and was left for dead (described in Acts 14:19-20). Paul described it in the third person in 2 Corinthians 12: 2-4:
I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
That was all he wrote about it. The experience must have blown his mind because the usually loquacious Apostle Paul, author of half the New Testament, couldn’t even begin to describe what he had experienced.
So what can we make of all this? Perhaps its time to wrap up these Salvation posts by going back to basics.
As discussed in a previous post, the Law given to ancient Israel was externally directed: obey, or you will suffer punishment. Jesus redefined Law to be internally directed by a conscious connection to Spirit: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). “On this hangs all the Law and the Prophets,” he says in verse 40. A human spirit that is connected to God’s Spirit, who has no fear of death and absolute faith in the love of God, won’t be interested in doing any of those things the ten commandments warn against. We are now internally directed. Through the power of the Spirit as taught by Jesus we sapient, evolved creatures, born from 3.8 billion years of evolution, can be “born again” as children of Spirit and transcend the evolutionary drives and impulses we inherited as a species of Ape.
How is this applied? Check out Luke 10:25-28, from Jesus himself:
An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Simple. That is the Law now. Not a legalistic criminal law full of commands, but a natural law, like the law of gravity. It is the natural law of those who are connected to Spirit, to the consciousness of the source of this universe and every other, which the Bible repeatedly states is Love itself. God is Love.
How is that connection established? Through an act of Will. Through a declaration of intent. This second birth has to come from us and it has to be our choice. Nothing can do it for us else there will be no transcendence from the instincts of ape. Belief is an act of will. From the Christian perspective it is belief in the power of Jesus, who was Spirit’s incarnation into physical reality. It is belief in the power of the Spirit, which is to say the power of the consciousness of the source and originator of this universe to connect to your own conscious mind and initiate the transformation from being driven from within by the instincts of ape to being driven from within by the power of Love.