ISHAR and Open Sciences
Skeptical Investigations

 Glimpsing Heaven

I 'll be posting here soon, but in the meantime here’s Henry Brand, aka our own Rabbitdawg, with a review of a new book on NDE-type experiences. Thanks, Dawg!

I don't know if you're familiar with an influential Black Power poet from the early 1970's named Gil Scott-Heron, but he was famous during his day for his poem/song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Today, it would be considered soft Jazz rap, and I kinda like it, but Scott-Heron's point is what's pertinent to this review. The gist of his message is, when social paradigms are changed, they are changed from within. The gatekeepers are ultimately ignored.

I firmly believe that a revolution in the  public's perception of spirituality and the paranormal (among other things) is happening right before our eyes (the SPR Wiki project is one of the cogs in that social change machine). Responsible, professional journalism will be the driving force that will make it happen. Books and websites by scientists are good, but it takes talented writing to bring the message home.

All of this is my roundabout way of bringing your attention to yet another at-first-I-was-a-sceptic-but-now-that-I-have-researched-the-topic-I-am-a-believer book by a pedigreed journalist that I have only just started to read.

Here's the kicker - it's published by National Geographic. And it's paranormal friendly. Admittedly, National Geographic isn't a prestigious peer reviewed organ like Nature, JAMA, or the British Medical Journal, but it does command a great degree of intellectual respect in certain quarters, and it normally tends to have a materialist verve.   The book, Glimpsing Heaven, has a standard cover showing doors opening into the sky (why do they keep doing that?), and the title sounds like so many other books, but author Judy Bachrach is no slouch, as you can see by her creds at the Amazon link. Even though I have only made it past the first chapter, I am hooked.  

She avoids the term near-death experience as much as possible because she considers it inaccurate. The experiencers were actually temporarily dead. Rather, she uses phrases like death experiencers or death travelers. For those of us comfortable with the NDE phrase, this can be a little jarring at first, but I get her point.

The real difference here is how well she drills down with her research interviews.
For example, we're all familiar with the now deceased Pam Reynolds story. Ms. Bachrach takes it deeper. She interviews family and friends and walks away with a richer picture. Did you know that Pam Reynolds suffered a stroke shortly after her stand-down surgery was completed? She recovered nicely. Her psychic and healing abilities were legendary among those close to her, but she never wanted to make it publicly known. This ability was both humorous in hindsight, yet tragic in other ways.    Her daughters remember teenagehood as an affectionate nightmare because they always had to tell the truth, Mom knew what they were thinking anyway. If they tried to sneak out of the house at night, Reynolds would wake up and catch them. They were frequently embarrassed when their Mother would spontaneously embrace a stranger in public, whisper something in the stranger's ear, and then both of them would start crying. Empathy on steroids.  

On the other hand, Pam Reynolds didn't venture far from home unless she had to. She was distressed by the darkness of the thoughts she could read going through the minds of so many passers-by. She wasn't clinically depressed, in fact she was usually cheerful, but she was also fragile. Forever changed by what she called her transcendent encounter with The Knowing.  

Then there was the time when one of her daughters friends lost her purse, Pam inexplicably "knew" it could be found in another girls hall closet underneath some coats. Or the time Pam visited a teenage boy in a hospital while he was in a coma and whispered "I don't know about you, but I want to call the pizza dude and get some slices, because I hate the food here". The boy woke up, smiled and recovered.

This link is to the US Amazon site, where there are significantly more reviews. The UK version isn't available for Kindle yet, and the book only has one three star review. (The reviewer is bitchin' because Ms. Bachrach failed to talk about Muslims, and didn't attempt to offer solutions to current world problems. sigh )

It may take another generation, maybe two, but I doubt it will take much longer for the general public to become more comfortable and outspoken about their paranormal and spiritual experiences, Dawkins and Randi be damned. Journalists, at least successful ones are in touch with the beat of the street. I like to compare the information explosion happening right now with the internet and e-publishing with the invention of the printing press. It might getting off to a shaky start, but as folks discover that they aren't alone, they will seek out more information and the company of like-minded others to share their experiences and thoughts with, and change will happen. I bet the farm on it.

Okay, I don't own a farm, But if I did, I would. :)

Henry Brand  

Comments

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Speaking of Dawkins, this story is particularly amusing and I think the paper itself is satire.
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/science-technology/dawkins-tight-lipped-on-fairies-201008112993

Interesting post Henry. I will keep my a lookout for the book.

Henry, you have weakened my resolve not to buy any more books; this one sounds too good to pass up. So, here I go, back to Amazon. Thanks for this most interesting review.

In a way, Glimpsing Heaven is a 'beginners' book, in the sense that most of us have already heard about the more famous cases Judy Bachrach takes on, perhaps way too many times. There are several interesting cases included that she ferrets out on her own, including a doctor who had an NDE as a child, yet still holds fast to her professional atheism.

The most intriguing aspect of the book (to me) was how Bachrach digs into the personal affects in the experiencer's lives, post-NDE.

Nancy Evans-Bush's thoughts about confronting God more directly when her next trip to The Beyond comes around (she had a deeply distressing NDE) was both poignant and humorous.
I always thought that lightning-struck NDEer Anthony Cicoria (who is famous in NDE circles for his NDE themed piano concerto's) was blessed with his abilities because of his transcendent experience, after perhaps a few lessons. No. His NDE gave him an obsession with music, but it took many, many lessons for him to develop his skills.

The point is, without New-Age puffery or clinical distancing, Bachrach presents a level headed, yet engaging investigation. And I believe her when she emphasizes that what she discovered in her investigation changed her sceptical mind.

Expect to see more articles and books like this in the future from other mainstream sources. You can bet that National Geographic didn't decide to publish this book without careful consideration of how it could affect their credibility as an organization. Yet the dispassionate facts were clearly laid out, so they took the plunge.

I'm convinced that online journalism and electronic publishing are what's going to turn the tide on reductionist materialism doctrinal dominance. There is a hunger out there for spiritual straightforwardness and truth.
The printing press brought us the Age of Enlightenment, didn't it?

I am never sure what to make of NDEs to be honest. I prefer the clearly evidential variety but of course there are not many of those really.

They are of course merely one thread in a body of evidence that supports survival.

"I firmly believe that a revolution in the public's perception of spirituality and the paranormal (among other things) is happening right before our eyes."

I hope you're right. Unfortunately there is no sign that any of this is leaking into the halls of academia in terms of the attitudes of the scientists and intellectuals who through our political system strongly influence public policy. This trend, if it exists, is also in direct conflict with the continued influence of the materialist/nihilist intellectual elite on our educational system, and with the apparent rise of fundamentalist religion. Big science and the universities remain staunchly materialist and toeing the line against heresy.

For instance in the almost zero funding of parapsychology research, or research into any number of other heretical areas that challenge scientific orthodoxy. There is a progressive shrinkage of this work, like in the travesty that the ASPR has apparently become, where a significant bequest is apparently being funneled into a black hole. Or in the channeling of other parapsychology-intended funds into mainstream psychology studies on things like why people have such beliefs (assuming the answer can be found in abnormal psychology).

This revolution in public acceptance of spirituality (if it is real) seems to constitute an ever widening gap between popular culture and the scientific intellectual elite. Kind of like the ever increasing inequality of wealth distribution. Maybe toward a society of two basic classes: the underclass (plebs) and the overclass (aristocrats).

@doubter, Gun's 'n butter make the headline's in war and revolution, but there is always an underlying, sometimes hard to define spiritual component to shore up the successful ones. Here's how I paint the picture...

One of the hallmarks of deep spiritual awakening and insight is that it is often preceded by brokenness. The deeper the break, the deeper the experience. Whether spiritual insight takes place after a physical death and resuscitation, or a psychological/spiritual breakdown, a ripping apart of the old world view must take place. Although the shedding of illusion isn't necessarily painful, it frequently is. The break can happen slowly or quickly, depending on the person or culture.

The gap between the have's and have-not's is undeniably widening. The big difference between today's poverty gap, and the gap of yesteryear is that most of today's have-not's aren't literally starving (I'm speaking of Western society here). Also, most of the lower classes have access to internet communication, at least via a personal smart phone or friends. If that were removed, I promise you violence would follow.

Parallel to the Age of Enlightenment, the Protestant revolution was taking place. This was as much political as religious, because in that era, religion was politics. Openness to Eastern spiritual thought happened later, but this was mostly within the educated classes.
Right now, chaotic social media-fueled revolution is bubbling out all over, and not just in the Middle East. It is also happening in a more or less peaceful form in the West. A tipping point is inevitable. There's widespread frustration over the elite's lies.

In my opinion, we have two classes of 'haves' - political and academic. The academics may occasionally disagree with the politically privileged class, but they aren't going to rock the boat too hard, after all, they have bills to pay too.

Ultimately it may be painful, but turning a social and academic tin ear toward the underlying social fabric will come back to bite the Powers that Be. I want to stress that a peaceful revolution is possible, and social media may be the salvation for that peace, but the spiritual hunger is there. It always has been and always will.
In the mix, I might add that religious fanaticism and heartless technological answers are getting old, fast.

The purpose of my link to The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, despite its age, was the fact that the point of the poem is real. Revolutions happen from within a culture. The leaders are simply spokesmen for the masses.
I don't know exactly how it will play out, but something spiritual and physical is working its way through the system, and I really think I'm being objective when I say this. It'll be interesting to see how the dust settles.

Rabbitdawg said, "There's widespread frustration over the elite's lies."

You can add there, scientist s fudging their data!

Rabbitdawg:
"It may take another generation, maybe two, but I doubt it will take much longer for the general public to become more comfortable and outspoken about their paranormal and spiritual experiences, Dawkins and Randi be damned."

Doubter:
"I hope you're right. Unfortunately there is no sign that any of this is leaking into the halls of academia in terms of the attitudes of the scientists and intellectuals who through our political system strongly influence public policy. This trend, if it exists, is also in direct conflict with the continued influence of the materialist/nihilist intellectual elite on our educational system, and with the apparent rise of fundamentalist religion. Big science and the universities remain staunchly materialist and toeing the line against heresy."

Rabbitdawg:
"Spiritual hunger is there. It always has been and always will.
In the mix, I might add that religious fanaticism and heartless technological answers are getting old, fast."

Those 3 quotations sum up my beliefs exactly. As an old fart I'm venerable enough to remember the days in which young people QUESTIONED AUTHORITY. The new generation of well educated youngsters seems to have EMBRACED authority.

OK, they may reject authority in the guise of Organised Religion - but only to submit to it again in the form of Organised Skepticism and/or Corporate Science. Randi has replaced Jesus; Dawkins has replaced Moses, and Newton's "Principia" plus Darwin's "Origin of Species" form the Old and New Testaments - Holy Books which must not be questioned. (Quantum physics is accepted, but only as an Apocryphal addition to the Scriptures.)

Yet - people continue to experience things which are contrary to the Scriptures of Scientism. And most people - certainly as they get older - have a spiritual yearning. New gadgets and gizmos eventually fail to fill the hole in the soul. (Oops - blasphemous 's' word, there!)

So there will come a time - and I think it will be soon - when young people are going to get back to doing what they're supposed to do, and question EVERYTHING. When that time comes, bright young minds will no more genuflect before Professors of the Public Understanding of Science, Media Skeptics and Pop Scientists, any more than they would submit to the pronouncements of the Pope.

And then we might slowly start to tunnel our way out of this materialist dead end.

The Revolution IS happening. Watch this recent video of Russell Brand, the recovering-addict, British comedian turned revolutionary. He articulates brilliantly the zeitgeist of the failure of democracy and the corporatocracy to reflect the needs of the common people. Brand shouts "It just isn't working!" At the end he is asked what gives him hope and his illuminating answer gave me more hope than I have gotten from any source ever!

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/11/14/russell_brand_on_revolution_fighting_inequality?autostart=true

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