Article | Near-Death Experiences and Spirituality by Greyson

Greyson, Bruce. “Near-Death Experiences and Spirituality.” Zygon 41, no. 2 (2006): 393-414.

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES AND SPIRITUALITY by Greyson – flattened my annotated copy

Annotation Summary for: NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES AND SPIRITUALITY by Greyson
 
Page 1, Underline (Custom Color: #4c4ccc):
  Content: “Some individuals when they come close to death report Abstract. having experiences that they interpret as spiritual or religious. These so-called near-death experiences (NDEs) often include a sense of sepa­ ration from the physical body and encounters with religious figures and a mystical or divine presence. They share with mystical experi­ ences a sense of cosmic unity or oneness, transcendence of time and space, deeply felt positive mood,  sense of sacredness, noetic quality or intuitive illumination, paradoxicality, ineffability, transiency, and persistent positive aftereffects. Although there is no relationship be­ tween NDEs and religious belief prior to the  experience, there are strong associations between depth of NDE and religious change after the experience. NDEs often change experienced values, decreasing their fear of death and giving their lives new meaning. NDEs lead to a shift from ego-centered to other-centered consciousness, disposi­ tion to love unconditionally, heightened empathy, decreased interest in status symbols and material possessions, reduced fear of death, and deepened spiritual consciousness. Many experiencers become more empathie and spiritually oriented and express the beliefs that death is not fearsome, that life continues beyond, that love is more important than material possessions, and that everything happens for a reason. These changes meet the definition of spiritual transfor­ mation as “a dramatic change in religious belief, attitude, and behav­ ior that occurs over a relatively short period of time.” NDEs do not necessarily promote any one particular religious or spiritual tradition over others, but they do foster general spiritual growth both in the experiencers themselves and in human society at large.”
 
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  Content: “Raymond Moody, the psychiatrist who coined the term near-death experience in 1975, de­ fined them as “profound spiritual events that happen, uninvited, to some individuals at the point of death” (Moody and Perry 1988, 11).”
 
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  Content: “Moody identified fifteen ele­ments that seemed to recur in NDE reports: ineffability, hearing oneself”
 
Page 3, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “pronounced dead, feelings of peace, hearing unusual noises, seeing a dark tunnel, being out of the body, meeting spiritual beings, encountering a bright light or “being of light,” panoramic life review, a realm where all knowledge exists, cities of light, a realm of bewildered spirits, supernatural rescue, border or limit, and coming back into the body (Moody 1975).”
 
Page 3, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “four recurrent aftereffects: frustration upon relating the experience to others, broadened or deepened appreciation of life, elimi­ nation of fear of death, and corroboration of out-of-body visions.”
 
Page 3, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “four compo­ nents: cognitive, affective, paranormal, and transcendental features.”
 
Page 3, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “The first, cognitive features reflecting changes in thought processes, includes distortions in the sense of time, acceleration of thought processes, a life review or panoramic memory, and a sense of revelation or sudden understanding.”
 
Page 3, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “The second component, affective features reflecting changes in emotional state, includes a sense of peace and well-being, feelings of joy, a sense of cosmic unity, and an encounter with a brilliant light that seems to  radiate unconditional love.”
 
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  Content: “The third component, paranormal phenomena, includes extraordinarily vivid physical sensations, apparent extrasensory perception, precognitive visions, and a sense of being out of the physical body.”
 
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  Content: “The fourth component, transcendental features reflecting apparent other­ worldly phenomena, includes apparent travel to a mystical or unearthly realm or dimension, an encounter with a mystical being or presence, vis­ ible spirits of deceased or religious figures, and a border beyond which one cannot return to earthly life.”
 
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  Content: “One plausible physiological model attributes NDEs to decreased oxy­ gen (hypoxia) or to complete lack of oxygen (anoxia), because that appears to be the final common pathway to death (Whinnery 1997).”
 
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  Content: “Another frequently cited physiological model attributes NDEs to medi­ cations given to dying persons.”
 
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  Content: “NDEs have also been speculatively attributed to a number of neurotrans­ mitters in the brain, most frequently endorphins (Carr 1982), although other models implicate serotonin, adrenaline, vasopressin, and glutamate”
 
Page 5, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “1989). NDEs have been speculatively linked to a number of anatomic locations in the brain,”
 
Page 5, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Psychological models also have been proposed attributing NDEs to psy­ chological defense mechanisms, depersonalization, wishful thinking, ret­ roactive confabulation, and expectation”
 
Page 6, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “In evaluating proposed explanations for NDEs, it is necessary to consider those features of NDEs that are similar to those of mystical experiences.”
 
Page 6, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Many of the experiential features of mystical experiences in general are similar to those of NDEs.”
 
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  Content: “Prot­ estant theologian Judith Cressy (1994) has compared typical NDE phe­ nomenology and aftereffects to the lifelong mystical experiences of medieval Roman Catholic mystics St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross and concludes that they shared ecstatic out-of-body travel, visions of God, clair­ voyance, loss of fear of death, and healing transformations.”
 
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  Content: “British theologian Paul Badham also concludes that the NDE “shares many of the character­ istics of the deepest religious experiences known to humanity” (Badham 1997, 10) and that modern resuscitation techniques have made  available to ordinary people mystical enlightenment that formerly was available to people only on rare occasions.”
 
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  Content: “A sensory phenomenon that is particularly common to both NDEs and mystical experiences is the sense of seeing a bright light of unusual quality.”
 
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  Content: “Walter Pahnke, who was both a minister and a psychiatrist, and Will­ iam Richards, a theologian and psychologist, delineated nine aspects of mystical experience, based on the previous work of James (1902) and Brit­ ish philosopher Walter Stace (I960): a sense of cosmic unity or oneness, transcendence of time and space, deeply felt positive mood, sense of sa- credness, noetic quality or intuitive illumination, paradoxicality, ineffabil- ity, transiency, and persistent positive aftereffects (Pahnke and Richards 1966). All nine of these features are commonly reported as part of the NDE (Pennachio 1986).”
 
Page 7, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Perhaps the most important feature common to both mystical experi­ ences and NDEs, however, is the transformative impact of the experience.”
 
Page 8, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Clearly, the pro­ found transformative aspect of NDEs suggests that we need some explana­ tion that goes beyond the physiological models we have so far and even beyond the psychological experience associated with coming near death.”
 
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  Content: “One skeptical view of the NDE is that it represents essentially a religiously inspired illusion: The crisis of impending death triggers a series of hallucinations in keeping with an individual’s religious belief system and expectations concerning an af­ terlife. As psychologist Kenneth Ring put this hypothesis, “Believing is seeing” (1980a, 3).”
 
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  Content: “In a cross-cultural study in the United States and India, psychologists Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson (1977) did not find any straightforward relationship between religiousness and deathbed visions, although they did find that an individual’s belief system influenced the interpretation of the experience.”
 
Page 9, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “neither the likelihood nor the depth of a near-death experience was systematicallyrelated to individual religiousness. Non-religious people—including self-professed atheists—were just as likely to have Moody-type experiences as were the conven­tionally devout. Similarly, there was no obvious relationship between religious affiliation and near-death experiences among my respondents. (Ring 1980a, 4)”
 
Page 9, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Ring found, as did Osis and Haraldsson (1977), that the interpretation that was placed on the experience by the individual was markedly influenced by his religious belief system.”
 
Page 10, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “These changes that often follow NDEs meet the definition of spiritual transformation as “a dramatic change in religious belief, atti­ tude, and behavior that occurs over a relatively short period of time” (Schwartz 2000, 4).”
 
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  Content: “Ring found that NDErs did not attend church more often than they had prior to their experiences or participate in other modes of formal religious worship: Rather, there is a heightened inward religious feeling that  is often indicated which does not seem to require a conventional religious format for it to be manifested. Instead, near-death survivors will describe themselves as feeling closer to God, as more inwardly prayerful, or as having a greater awareness of God s presence. This personal sense of God is sometimes so strong that conventional religious obser­ vances seem irrelevant or unnecessary. (1980a,”
 
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  Content: “the humanitarian and ethical teachings of the great religions: respondents will stress the importance of love, caring and compassion for others. In fact, if there was a single value which seemed to epitomize the comments of near-death survi­ vors in this respect, it was their increased emphasis on the need for unconditional love or acceptance for others. . . near-death experiencers emerge from their con­ frontation with death convinced, as a group, that there is a life to come and that it will be beautiful, peaceful and joyous. This is a striking effect statistically, and, again, it is found chiefly for experiencers; near-death survivors who do not have an experience tend to show no change in their belief patterns here. (p. 4)”
 
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  Content: “British philosopher David Lorimer (1990) presented NDEs, and par­ ticularly the moral assessment that takes place in the life review, as provid­ ing an experiential basis for moral order based on “empathie resonance” with other people, meaning the direct perception of an intrinsic intercon- nectedness and interdependence of all living beings.”
 
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  Content: “This experience, he reported, leads to a new appreciation of the Golden Rule— “whatever you wish that men would do unto you, do so to them” (Mat­ thew 7:12 RSV)—as not just a prescription for moral conduct but also an accurate description of the interconnectedness of the universe.”
 
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  Content: “Lorimer concluded that the ego-shattering effect of NDEs reveals the illusion of separate individual egos by inducing direct experience of cosmic unity.”
  Comment: is this statement connected to relational ontology?
 
Page 12, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Asked an open-ended question about the most sig­ nificant change resulting from the NDE, the single most common response (31 percent of respondents) was “spirituality” or “spiritual growth.””
 
Page 13, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “a sense of spirituality or inner connection to God gained in the NDE took precedence over subscribing to religious doctrine.”
 
Page 13, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Sabom (1998), after completing a rigorous study of 116 NDEs and then observing NDEs and their aftereffects in his own patients over twenty years as a cardiologist, found that NDEs produced a stronger faith and a higher level of commitment to traditional religious practice, which he thought, in turn, affected their medical outcome. Although he originally had approached the study of NDEs as a skeptical medical scientist, expect­ ing to find that these experiences were misfirings of a dying brain, he even­ tually  concluded that they were instead powerful spiritual experiences whose underlying message was consistent with divine revelation from more tradi­ tional sources.”
 
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  Content: “Mainstream theologians have had little to say about near-death experi­ ences.”
 
Page 14, Underline (Custom Color: #3f217f):
  Content: “Whatever the reason for the disinterest in NDEs among theologians, the result is that most of what has been written about the implications of NDEs, discussed below, has come from psychologists who argue that NDEs should have relevance to theology.”
 
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  Content: “Ring argues, in concert with Lorimer (1990), that for NDErs the Golden Rule is no longer just a commandment one is taught to obey but rather an indisputable law of nature, as inevitable as gravity. They know it is the  way the universe works because they have experienced it first-hand in suffering directly the effects of their actions upon others. Though they do not feel punished or judged for their mis­ deeds, they do receive back as part of their life review everything they have ever given out, measure for measure.”
 
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  Content: “Working independently of Moody, he reported a similar phenomenon and concluded that the expan­ sion of consciousness at death implied separation of the soul from the body and that the continued fellowship with God reported by many NDErs reinforced New Testament teachings (Hampe 1979). That conclusion is shared by British theologians Paul and Linda Badham (1982, 89): “What appears to happen is that the soul leaves the body and begins to move on to another mode of existence.””
 
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  Content: “However, whereas some religious scholars view NDEs as proof of spiri­ tual capacities in humans and of divine grace, others see them as Satanic deceptions that contradict Christian teachings.”
 
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  Content: “Fox (2003) points out ways that NDEs appear to contradict traditional Christian beliefs in the afterlife.”
 
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  Content: “First, NDEs suggest a separation of a disembodied soul from the physical body at the point of death, which seems to contradict the Christian belief in resurrection of an embodied soul.”
 
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  Content: “Second, NDEs imply that survival of death is a universal human birthright rather than a gift of grace.”
 
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  Content: “Third, a judgment at the time of death appears to contradict belief in a far-off judgment day when Christ returns. (However, Fox did note that there is a belief going back at least to the third century in two judgments: first a “friendly warning” at death and later the earth-shattering finality of the judgment day.)”
 
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  Content: “Fourth, the divine being of light is often encountered by non-Christians, who do not identify it as Christ.”
 
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  Content: “Finally, all NDErs seem to go to the same place after death, regardless of whether or not they were “saved,” “born again,” or baptized.”
 
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  Content: “In fact, Ring argues, the unconditional love NDErs report in their expe­ riences does not gloss over their sins or excuse their future behavior (Ring and Valarino 1998). Quite to the contrary, NDErs experience first-hand”
 
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  Content: “in their NDEs the painful consequences of their sinful behavior and return to earthly life as confirmed disciples who understand from their experi­ ence that their behavior does indeed matter far more than they could have imagined.”
 
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  Content: “The empirical data sup­ port her view that all NDEs do not lead to immediate transformation; but, whereas all NDEs do not lead to radical changes, those that do transform do so through a process that is characteristic of other spiritual encounters.”
 
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  Content: “Ring (1984) develops a hypothesis of NDEs as “spiritual cata­ lysts” fostering spiritual awakening and development. He argues that this spiritual catalysis is linked particularly to the later stages of NDEs in which one transcends space and time, communes with a divine light, and is over­ come with peace and joy.”
 
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  Content: “Ring speculates that, with increasing resuscitation technology enabling more and more individuals to return from the brink of death, the cumula­ tive impact of their uplifting testimonies may foster the spiritual evolution of the collective consciousness of humanity.”
  Comment: This is similar to “Bob’s Big Idea” in which Robert Kegan speculates that the medical technology that has allowed human beings to live longer is making it possible for more people to reach the 5th order of consciousness. This is necessary, because, without it, humans will eventually kill each other off with weapons of mass destruction. see this post 
 
Page 19, Underline (Custom Color: #4c4ccc):
  Content: “these experiences should foster spiritual growth by leading us to question some of our basic assumptions about mind and brain, about our relationship to the divine, and about the universe and our role in it. This may prove to be their primary relevance to theology.”
 
 
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Steve Thomason