The Legitimacy and Justice of the Near Death Experience

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is my first research essay for my academic career. It is perhaps a bit controversial, but so am I. Enjoy.

Submitted: January 03, 2017

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Submitted: January 03, 2017

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The Legitimacy and Justice of the Near Death Experience
 
 
Upon encountering the expression "Near death experience" for the first time; thoughts of perplexity, amazement, skepticism, or even fear are provoked almost immediately within the imaginations of those confronted with these terms. For others, it only produces hilarious laughter at the mere suggestion that there could conceivably be anything at all even possible after "lights out". Whatever the case may be, it is evident that the conceptualization and history of these freak occurrences are not fully understood, if at all; in the general population. This is rapidly changing, thanks to the hard work and expertise of survivors, foundations, scientists, doctors and support groups devoted to the explanation and exploration of the ineffable near death experience (NDE).  
 
According to the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS), the Gallup Organization and aggregate near-death research studies have estimated that, as of 1982, some 13 million adults reported NDEs in the U.S. alone; not counting the experiences reported by American children and all foreigners regardless of age (iands.org). Fast forward over three decades and that number has exponentially snowballed into an amount that can't be tallied just as the glittering stars of the sky cannot be, for sheer volume. 
 
With such a high percentage of these otherwise seemingly sane, credible people amongst us reporting these stories throughout history; how is one to more fully comprehend the implications of these subjective events that appear to have no definite, conclusive, scientific proof; yet a plethora of powerful, albeit anecdotal testimonies insisting upon the existence of things that we do not believe in? Furthermore, we must also ask ourselves; how could each and every single one of these reports be absolutely, positively wrong? How can we know what is true and what is false in this case? Can we simply sweep this issue under the rug and not explore the validity or absurdity of these allegations once and for all? For survivors of near death experiences, this is unfortunately not a matter of choice. Patiently peeling back the layers until a greater understanding emerges is what we aim to accomplish in every major problem that we face. This issue is literally a life and death matter that can remain obscured no more. 
 
In a majority of experiences, people report being met by deceased family members, seeing a bright light, and/or undergoing a life review; often also reporting an overwhelming sense of peace and love (neardeath.com). Kevin Williams, author of "Nothing better than Death", published an article stating, "The ancient religious texts such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bible, and Koran describe experiences of life after death which remarkably resemble modern NDEs." (Williams) There are also void experiences recorded, where one finds themselves "nowhere", often describing an inky black environment with an almost tangible and comfortable silence. Additionally, there are also reports of an NDE of the hellish variety; where the experiencer finds him or herself in an acute state of distress and terror. These experiences are by far the smallest percentage reported (neardeath.com). Like fingerprints, no two experiences are the same; yet the narratives tend to follow a similar model en masse (Explore). 
 
Where in the world should one begin to research this controversial topic; why, the near death experience channel? The multitudinous NDE universities, libraries and museums that are so prevalent in our macrocosm? The worldwide web? That infamous internet, come to find out; is unconditionally filled with outrageous, often extremely radical and unreliable data that will only leave us running around like chickens with our heads cut off and no closer to the truth than when we first began. We may as well implore Mr. Google himself to teach us how to find Bigfoot or to locate and train Nessie to wash dishes and juggle oranges. This leads us to the most trustworthy source of all that has revealed itself through trial and error as superior to every other: the independent reports directly collected from experiencers volunteering their stories for analysis. Eureka! We've struck oil! We will heretofore investigate and examine two particular cases that stand out as far as the interests of this essay are concerned.
 
More than a few highly educated, famous, and/or culturally influential individuals have contributed to the growing body of work being done on NDEs; by way of simply sharing their own near death experience stories with others (Near-Death, Hollywood). Taking into account an impossibly complete spectrum of experiencers including the likes of Chevy Chase, Elizabeth Taylor, and the late American President Ronald Reagan, it is safe to assume that NDEs are not in the slightest sense exclusive to the so-called freaks and outcasts of society. One unusually distinguished psychiatrist by the good name of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung immediately comes to mind and strikes all of the pins of the aforementioned criteria. His reputation conventionally precedes the mention of his name, yet for the sake of Pete I will state a few descriptive facts about the man whom helped shape the way we think about modern psychology, and near death experiences, so profoundly today. 
 
Dr. Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst born in 1875 whom founded analytical psychology, to say the very least (Young Polly pp 24-30). In 1944, Jung suffered a massive heart attack and was taken to a hospital in Switzerland in a state of emergency. Carl was declared dead as a result of the attack yet reported a near death experience after he was finally resuscitated (Afterlife). In his autobiography entitled: "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", Dr. Jung describes to us in vivid, unmistakable detail drawn from a glittering lexicon of colorful language what he testifies happened to him when his body's heart stopped beating in Switzerland:  
 
"I had reached the outermost limit, and do not know whether I was in a dream or an ecstasy. At any rate, extremely strange things began to happen to me. It seemed to me that I was high up in space. Far below I saw the globe of the Earth, bathed in a gloriously blue light. I saw the deep blue sea and the continents."  
 
"Then came the Red Sea, and far, far back - as if in the upper left of a map - I could just make out a bit of the Mediterranean. My gaze was directed chiefly toward that. Everything else appeared indistinct. I could also see the snow-covered Himalayas, but in that direction it was foggy or cloudy. I did not look to the right at all. I knew that I was on the point of departing from the Earth."  (Jung pp 289-290)
 
While what Dr. Jung encountered is typical for an NDE, what precisely happened to him and where he claimed to be when his body showed no signs of life as we currently recognize them remains an inexplicable enigma that has yet to become fully interpreted by science alone. Exhaustive descriptions of his out-of-body rendezvous and enlightenment in the presence of otherworldly entities bear witness of the powerful imagery and genuinely evocative nature of a near death experience and are representative of what the majority of reports received worldwide reveal (Near-Death Research).  
 
A major paradigm shift is suddenly and automatically thrust upon these individuals, effectively cementing profoundly new beliefs within those that encounter them. Often this will drastically rearrange strongly held ideals and suppositions within the individuals once they are recovered enough physically to begin to process what they encountered while seemingly separated from the body that most had once identified as the fullness and totality of their true selves. The reconciliation of what had been believed about death before death de facto, versus afterwards is often a primary motivation for major changes in the lives of divers experiencers bar none.  
 
 
"Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people." (Dr. Eben) 
 
Dr. Eben Alexander, a renowned academic neurosurgeon, spent over thirty years of his life acruminating his personal hard-copy, scientific position and worldview (Eben Bio). Not unlike the overwhelming majority of his fellows perched condescendingly from the heights of the pyramids of shibboleths germane to the modern medical arena, Eben Alexander once described himself as a staunch atheist and by extension did not believe patients for one second when they had reported a near death experience to him. An uninvited illness resulting from an infection he suspects he picked up on a business trip to Tel aviv, Israel would come to change the course of his life, and his asservations regarding an afterlife, forever (Eben Bio).
 
Just before sunrise on November 10, 2008,  Dr. Alexander unexpectedly found himself suffering with acute pain and was taken to Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia. There he lay comatose as a result of an acquired spontaneous E. coli meningitis infection located in his spinal column (AANS Neurosurgeon). What he claims to have encountered over the next seven days while unconscious in a hospital bed is tremendously distinct from what his family members and attending medical staff reported to have witnessed his body to be doing over the same period of time; which was merely laying there not moving or responding to stimuli. His body did eventually recover, with the first signs of consciousness returning as he regained the ability to open his eyes seven days after the onset of the meningitis infection. The resulting transformation that spontaneously occurred within the man whom returned from the coma were abrupt, utter, and stark when contrasted with the known attributes of the same, purely physical man whom was delivered unto the hospital just seven short days prior. 
 
"My coma taught me many things. First and foremost, near-death experiences, and related mystical states of awareness, reveal crucial truths about the nature of existence. And the reductive materialist (physicalist) model, on which conventional science is based, is fundamentally flawed. At its core, it intentionally ignores what I believe is the fundament of all existence — the nature of consciousness." (AANS Neurosurgeon)
 
This is coming directly from the lips of a man whom admitted that hitherto this point he had behaved in an entirely dismissive fashion when faced with patients describing eerily similar experiences routinely throughout his career as a neurosurgeon. At first glance this appears scrupulously hypocritical. At second glance as well. What could possibly have caused such an extravagant metamorphosis in the school of thought for such a highly educated specimen of by-and-large academically superior caliber? In other words: Why on God's green Earth would Dr. Alexander, peradventure; be compelled to immediately share obviously controversial enterprises, thus obligating the risk of total loss of the respect and authority that he had once spent a lifetime of arduous toil and effort building and corroborating? 
 
This ambiguity appears to mercilessly beg the question: Why should we believe Dr. Alexander when he himself, having obtained the utmost in therapeutic training this planet has to offer, failed to rationally accept the testimony of others when they made him aware of what happened to them when they died under his medical supervision? His newfound faith in the validity of their depositions is proven contingent upon the premise that he also coincidentally later underwent a near death experience of his own. Bizarrely, this is both fortunately and unfortunately not the case for the majority of people on the planet, presenting us with a paradox that requires further exegesis than most people are willing or able to undergo on a day-to-day basis. 
 
Shall we now thusly proceed to toss out all unsupported, presently unverifiable data into the raging burn pile of mental rubbish and ultimately remain ignorant and unconvinced of any and all truth located within the very backbone of this matter? Certainly not. Giving up altogether will not help to solve the burning questions that erupt with curiosity and an unquenchable desire to uncover the truth regarding our human lives and mortal deaths. 
 
Although, the intense frustration inevitably produced while exploring this topic has often halted even the most inquisitive of seekers from continuing their quests and just chalking all of their hard-earned research into an understandable, yet worthless container filled with "who knows or cares" material, never to be seen or heard from again. Barring a complete explanation unconditionally falling out of the next birthday piñata showering us all with knowledge and wisdom concerning NDEs, conveniently tying up all aspects of this massively complex problem into neatly trimmed packages ready for us to eagerly unwrap; we are forced to continue the search for the necessary articles conducive to intelligent comprehension and scientific discovery regarding the analysis of this presently misunderstood and "un-know-able" conundrum. 
 
Nevertheless, whatever it is that we will come to discover is actually presenting itself to our comrades when they reportedly are declared dead and "come back" is undeniably powerful enough to, like ice to a flame; simply melt characters made of stone and form them into pliable new creatures that resemble nothing of their former personalities in any recognizable fashion. 
 
What have we here, then, are merely elements of an organization that so far cannot be proven or disproven unequivocally; yet have rebelliously manifested themselves with more remarkably viable ability and potential to change our lives and who we are than all of the king's horses and all of the king's men could ever hope to make ready to us today. The answers that we seek are so often contained within the caves that we fear, disregarding the fact that we may or may not believe that caves even essentially exist because we have never seen one for ourselves. The existing evidence that we now have about what happens after death is weighted against our skepticism, quietly yet persistently whispering, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" 
 
This brings us to perhaps what appears to be the end of the road as far as we can see regarding the scientific method of determining what is and what is not. What we do know is, that despite the plural sciences and the cumulative sum of anecdotal information we have failing to provide enough supporting evidence to either officially confirm or deny the legitimacy and justice of the near death experience as a "real" encounter measurable by physics and the laws of nature as we know them tentatively at present; ironically, the twain cry out not for the permission of either scientists nor testifiers in order to organically materialize. 
 
Thank God the sun never required our approval or endorsement to faithfully rain light particles down upon us or we may never have as a species evolved the neurological pathways necessary to give rise to the critical thought crucial to rationalizing its rudimentary function and existence within our solar system in the first place. Furthermore, the continual emergence of these allegations throughout history serves rather to humiliate and to rebuke the entire notion that our current human understanding of the nature of our existence is complete and self-righteous. Perhaps mankind has gotton a bit big for his britches? Yet he who exalts himself will be humbled (Nelson)
 
By: Glinda Bustamante
 
Further study: Carl Sagan, a respected professor of astronomy, theorized that near death experiencers are perhaps "reliving birth memories" (Conversations with Carl Sagan, page 71-72). 
 
 
Works Cited Page 
 
1.) Afterlife, Near-Death Experiences and the. “Carl G. Jung's Near-Death Experience.” Carl G. Jung's Near-Death Experience, Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife, www.near-death.com/experiences/notable/carl-jung.html. 12/28/2016.
 
2.) Afterlife, Near-Death Experiences and the. “Near-Death Experiences of the Hollywood Rich and Famous.” Near-Death Experiences of the Hollywood Rich and Famous, Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife , www.near-death.com/experiences/rich-and-famous.html. 12/28/2016.
 
3.) Alexander, Eben. “Dr. Eben Alexander.” Eben Alexander   Proof of Heaven, Ebenalexander.com, www.ebenalexander.com/books/proof-of-heaven/. 12/31/2016.
 
4.) Alexander, Eben. “My Experience in Coma.” AANS Neurosurgeon, AANS Neurosurgeon, 27 May 2012,   www.web.archive.org/web/20120527094428/http://www.aansneurosurgeon.org/210212/6/1611. 12/31/2016.
 
5.) “Common Questions about NDEs.” Common Questions about NDEs, IANDS, 18 May 2015, www.iands.org/resources/education/faqs.html. 12/29/2016.
 
6.) “Dr. Eben Alexander.” Eben Alexander   Bio, Ebenalexander.com, www.ebenalexander.com/about-dr-alexander/bio/. 12/31/2016.
 
7.) “Explore the Extraordinary.” About Near-Death Experiences, International Association for Near-Death Studies, Inc., www.iands.org/ndes/about-ndes.html. 12/29/2016.
 
8.) Jung, C. G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York, Pantheon Books, 1963. 1/1/2017.
 
9.) Nelson, Thomas. “BibleGateway.” Matthew 23:11-13 NKJV - Bible Gateway, Bible Gateway, 1982, www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2B23%3A11-13&version=NKJV. 1/1/2017.
 
10.) Williams, Kevin. “Hell and the Near-Death Experience .” Hell and the Near-Death Experience, Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife, www.near-death.com/science/research/hell.html. 12/28/2016.
 
11.) Williams, Kevin. “Near-Death Experiences Have Been Known Throughout History.” Near-Death Experiences Have Been Known Throughout History, Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife, 2014, www.near-death.com/science/evidence/ndes-have-been-known-throughout-history.html. 12/27/2016.
 
12.) Williams, Kevin. “Near-Death Experience Research Conclusions.” Near-Death Experience Research Conclusions, Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife, 2016, www.near-death.com/science/research-conclusions.html. 12/27/2016.
 
13.) Young-Eisendrath, Polly. “The Cambridge Companion to Jung.” Wikipedia, Cambridge University, 2010, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung. pp 24-30
 
14.) Photographs/Images: https://carljungdepthpsychology.wordpress.com/ 12/28/2016, http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/oprah-and-neurosurgeon-eben-alexander-proof-of-heaven  12/28/2016.
 
15.) Further Study: Sagan, Carl. “Conversations with Carl Sagan.” Edited by Tom Head, Google Books, University Press of Mississippi Jackson, 2006, www.books.google.com/books?id=gJ1rDj2nR3EC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=carl%2Bsagan%2Bnear%2Bdeath%2Bexperience%2Bconversations&source=bl&ots=pksp0M8JUX&sig=BLonF9vmF4-KVuGlpFEf48dmXIk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwipoMvUhqTRAhVX4GMKHV1WCbwQ6AEIIjAB#v=onepage&q=carl%20sagan%20near%20death%20experience%20conversations&f=false.
 
From the Author:
 
"I have personally read and studied over 4,000 unique,  independent reports of near death experiences disclosed in almost every territory around the globe, translated from a myriad of languages; not to mention combing through a multitude of periodicals and books diligently searching for answers, details and ultimately: truth. I have become quite literally obsessed with this topic for nearly 8 years. I could be referred to as a lay NDE guru." 
 
"I have dedicated a significant portion of my life to not only confirming or denying the legitimacy and justice of the near death experience story, but to also deeply evaluating, processing, characterizing, and synergizing the data from all angles with the ultimate goal of answering one personal burning question that has relentlessly haunted me for nearly 8 years: Where do people go when they die?" 
 
"Obviously our body remains here, property of Earth until it slowly vanishes from sight through the erosion of time and the natural law. But the person that we knew, that we loved, that we ate Cheetos with; where in the world, or where ever; are they? Do they even still exist? Perhaps these questions are not entirely unique to my interior dialogue. According to my years of study, I am far from alone."
 
 -  Glinda Bustamante
 
This research essay is dedicated in loving memory of my beloved brother
Aaron Frank Horelica (March 15, 1987- February 11, 2009) 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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