How Real Is The Near Death Experience?
Since I have made it plain on this site that my path is ACIM, this question is pertinent. If the body is an illusion and the universe is an illusion, is the NDE an illusion? The Course uses ultimate terms for “reality.” To the Course, Heaven is the only reality. All else is illusion. In this sense, the NDE is an illusion too, though a very different one than our daily world in the body. Since we are minds (spirits) rather than bodies, the Course has no difficulty in accepting that the mind (spirit) can be “apart” from the body since the body is never real anyway. At the event that we call physical death, the mind (spirit) of the person is still just as it was when it believed itself to have a body. It still has its lessons to learn and still retains its illusions. Nothing has happened except the inherently illusory body has been dropped. Many NDE-ers have gone all the way into death of the body, as measured by this world. They come back with quite a story and some personal changes. Those who worship the Ego and believe there is no life after the death of the body always try to find a way to disparage NDEs. That includes skeptical scientists who think there is no consciousness after the death of the body. The NDE is a big threat to them. But how “real” is it? That depends on how you view reality. From the point of view of those who think life in the body is real, NDEs are at least that real! But the Course would not call our life here on earth “real.” It is an illusion, a dream. So for the Course, NDEs are an extension of the illusion but in a different dream state. The worlds of Light the NDE-ers experience are very interesting but they are just as illusory as the so-called physical universe we live in now. Minds without bodies seem to create other bodies, astral bodies, celestial bodies, all as illusory as the physical bodies and all preserve some sense of separateness which is illusory. What about the all pervasive love they feel in these states? From the point of view of the Course, the physical body is the greatest barrier we have erected to the awareness of Love’s presence which is our natural inheritance. When the body is gone, it may well be that the mind is flooded with the love it was hiding from in the body. But minds can be wrong-minded or right-minded. Wrong-minded minds will surely continue in their wrong-mindedness after the body is dropped, and they may create wrong-minded dream worlds to appear to inhabit. Purgatory or hell states will be just as real for them as the celestial beings experienced by right-minded minds. What about the life-review that NDE-ers report? The Course would have no difficulty with that. We are told that we are responsible for our learning and that lessons we did not complete have to be retaken. What about meeting Jesus in these dream states? The Course would tell us that Jesus is now a symbol of the Love of God present within the mind of the sonship.
What we know now about such “symbols” is that they PARTICIPATE in the reality they symbolize. They are not “nuda signas,” mere illusions. They have great power in the mind. Jesus as a symbol for the Love of God is active within the mind of the sonship regardless of the illusions of the sonship. When NDE-ers claim to encounter this Being of Love that they identify with Jesus they are doing just that in the mind. They are not meeting the historical Jesus but the Jesus who is an active symbol of the Love of God.
What about the other beings NDE-ers claim to experience, like dead relatives, friends or high beings? The Course has no trouble with the idea that disembodied minds meet other disembodies minds, and the illusion of separateness continues, so you can meet Aunt Sofie or Cousin Johnny. They are there in this new dream state that the mind has created since dropping their physical bodies. But even so-called “high beings” are as inherently illusory as us as separate beings. As long as there is the appearance of individuality and separateness, we are still in the dream.
What about the report from NDE-ers that there are levels in the worlds they experience, some higher to God than others? The Course makes it very plain that there are no hierarchies in illusory states. What we can say is that those minds who have almost finished learning their lessons create a different dream world than those who are just beginning their lessons. This would account for all the so-called levels in spirit (mind).
What about the so-called transformative effects of the NDE? It is true that when they return to the body they often “remember” more of who they are as a mind rather than just a body and they often return with the memory of Love’s Presence which broke in on them when the physical body was dropped. I have yet, however, to meet an NDE-er who was moved by his experience to come back into the body as an enlightened person. They still have lessons to learn and they still come back as egos. They are now happy egos and they do have a sense of Love’s Presence which helps them to be more loving in their daily lives. They also appear to have after effects that are interesting and which appear to be side effects of realizing that they are spirits (minds) rather than bodies. Like minded spirits (minds) can join and often NDE-ers return with a mind connection to disembodied spirits they have met in their NDE. So they may be able to talk to Uncle Fred even after returning to the body. For many NDE-ers, the experience breaks the illusion that we are bodies living in this world. They now at least have experienced that they are minds (spirits), not bodies, and that our “life” on the earth is just one phase of existence. That is quite a lot for any one experience to give to you, so we should not disparage the NDE just because it is not ultimate reality. It is a different dream from the earth, but a dream non-the-less. It can move people to learn their lessons faster while on the earth and it can make people more loving. By themselves NDEs do not provide a full theology and it would be illusory for people to try to create a theology out of them, but ACIM gives us a much fuller picture. Even the Course does not try to give us a full systematic theology. It aims at taking down the barriers we have made to the awareness of Love’s Presence so that we may hear the inner Voice (in mind) of our teacher, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus, the active symbol of God’s love. Let us be content with that for now.♥♥♥♥