Many of us inherited a faith that had a lot to say about life after death. But as our faith shifted and evolved we were left increasingly unsure whether these beliefs had any basis in reality, or were just fairly tales.

Well, it turns out science has an increasing amount to say on the subject. So, we interviewed Dr Bruce Greyson, a self proclaimed “skeptical scientist”, who as well as being a very well respected psychiatrist, has also spent the last 50 years pioneering near death studies. He went into this field confidently expecting to find a physiological explanation for what people were claiming to have experienced as their bodies were shutting down. But what he discovered challenged all his preconceived ideas.

Interview starts at 17m 02s

Image used with permission

BOOKS

After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal About Life and Beyond

QUOTES

“We’re all in this together. There’s no difference between me and you. And what I do to you, I’m doing to myself as well. I feel the consequences of what I do to everybody else. In a sense, this is the Golden Rule, which is actually part of every religion we have; basically, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But near death experiencers typically say – for them – it’s no longer a guideline we’re supposed to follow, but they realize it’s a law of the universe.”

“[Near death experiences] are normal experiences that happen to normal people in abnormal situations.”

“People typically come back with much more of a sense of ‘spirituality.’ They care about relationships, not things. They become much more compassionate, much more caring, their behaviour’s much more altruistic, they tend not to care about things of this life – material possessions, power, prestige, fame, competition. And this may sound like it’s a good change, but it can actually wreak havoc in people’s lives if it’s very unlike the way they were living beforehand.”

“One of the most consistent things people say after a near death experience is that they are no longer afraid of dying – death no longer frightens them. They’ve been there and they know that it’s a pleasant experience. It’s not something to be afraid of.”

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  1. June M Schulte Jun 26, 2021

    Thank you, Nomad. This was a particularly meaningful podcast for me, because I had a NDE as a young child. I had measles and chicken pox concurrently, my fever spiked to 106ºF, I convulsed and went into a coma for about 3 hours. Bear in mind as you read this that I was just 2 1/2 years old and my parents were not church goers. When I woke in hospital, I told my parents, my uncle and the doctor that I had seen God in pink mist and God said I could come home.
    Contrary to Dr Greyson’s assertion, I have no cognitive memory of that event. Perhaps I was a bit too young to create that sort of memory. However, it definitely stayed with me on a non verbal and non visual level. I have a memory from just before my 3rd birthday of being out in our back yard alone while my mother made grape jelly in the kitchen. She could see me from the kitchen, and I was free to roam out there. I recall looking up through the leaves on the trees to the sunlight and feeling joy at knowing that I was accompanied by Light. In later years, when I did happen to attend a church service, I just knew somehow that the God being described was or was not akin to the God I knew.
    This all came to the fore for me at age 11. It was Christmas time and we had spent the day with extended family. While we children played, the adults had apparently replayed some of the old family stories around the table. As we drove home, my parents discussed some of them. I sat in the back seat hearing for the first time about my NDE and what I had said when I awoke. So there I sat in the back seat, essentially doing theology: “There *is* a God! Who knows about me. And cares about me. I could have died, but God let me live for some reason.”
    Fast forward to my adulthood. I attended a number of churches: Baptist, Federated, Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and finally Episcopal. I discovered a deep sense of calling to “fill the empty plates” of people searching for God. I spent 6 years in the ordination process and was a postulant for priesthood when I discovered I could no longer pray easily. Instead I followed the Peace and stepped amiably out of the process into a kind of abyss for about two years. Then the calling deepened into spiritual guidance. I have now been offering spiritual guidance for 25 years and receiving it for 33 years.
    Despite many struggles that I have experienced with church administration, and my doubts about doctrine and other queries, and despite having several years at a time when I had no sense at all of the Presence of God, I have never doubted the existence of a loving Being.
    I want to address something you wondered about in your conversation after the interview. You wondered why it is God lets evil and suffering happen and doesn’t just make it so it’s all bliss. The answer I would give is that it’s because of Love. Out of perfect Love we are given free will, even though God knows we’re going to mess it all up. We are not created in our embodied state so that we can be in bliss and just follow God. It’s as the poet William Blake said it: “And we are put on this Earth a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of Love.” I’d say it’s that we are given the freedom to choose Love or to reject Love. Because, without that choice, wouldn’t our existence be some kind of enslavement?
    I want to thank you ever so much for this podcast, because it has reaffirmed some things for me, I was especially intrigued by the description of the mind being independent of the brain and, in fact, that the brain serves our survival; yet when the brain is poorly functioning the mind is freed, and it seems can continue on even when our body and brain cannot. Perhaps it is the mind or perhaps it is the spirit, or perhaps they are one and the same. How freeing! Hearing this podcast reaffirmed that being drawn to silence is vital for me. Unknowing, the Via Negativa, contemplation is my best way of prayer.
    I have been a contemplative all my life (at least since age 2 1/2). My family was poor and my parents had a lot of personal struggles. My siblings and I had it very hard at times, moving at least once every year to a new school system where my siblings struggled to get decent grades. Yet I sailed through school. Despite having attended three first grades (in one year) and four high schools, I graduated 3rd in the class. For I knew, underneath it all, that I was not alone, and that my true family was something greater than the family I lived with, and this offered me an abiding sense of consistency and continuity. You might say that, while I had no cognitive memory of the NDE, I was “rewired” in the sense of having an inner template ~ a deep and companioning comprehension of Love.
    Peace be with you. ✨ June

    • Thanks so much for sharing this, June.
      What a fascinating story. It’s so interesting that even though you don’t have a cognitive memory of your experience, it’s still shaped your life in such a positive way.
      I’m so glad to hear that you found the podcast helpful, that’s great to hear.
      Thanks for taking the time to get in touch.
      Tim

    • This was good to read, June. In what capacity do you share spiritual guidance now?

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