Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Near Death Experience and Me

The Near Death Experience changed my life.  I often say now that it is my religion.
My experience strangely came merely from reading dozens of accounts immersively. As a practicing Mormon, I had struggled for a couple of years with the implications of the Colorado City polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and the September 11 attacks (and the light they put the Old Testament Joshua in). By 2003 I had been largely broken down of all religious loyalties and partisan allegiances, and my most angry phase (stewing when I drove past LDS buildings) had passed. Through all this and continuing afterward, I was active in the church.
I had heard snippets of George Ritchie's NDE while growing up, but I had a strange sense that I ought not read NDE accounts--that it would be merely for idle curiosity and would not be good for my spiritual growth.
Suddenly on October 27, 2003, the switch flipped, the occasion arrived, and I dove into reading dozens of NDE accounts in a matter of days.
I was fully immersed, and I felt like I was personally in heaven. I felt like the whole meaning of the scriptures was suddenly clear to me, like I had read them all these years, and now suddenly I knew what they were getting at. I knew the meaning of judgment. I knew the meaning of good and evil. I knew the sensitivity of the human spirit. I knew (finally!) experientially what was the holy spirit and what was the evil spirit. This began on a Monday, and by Friday, I walked past the McLaughlin Group on PBS TV and my spirit shrank from the raucous discussion. I was amazed at that moment to see how immersed I had been in the light and that with no intellectual judgment, I was spontaneously reacting as a pure heart to the evils of the world (in a very small way). It was an amazing time. Afterward I would walk around and drive around like some stoner amazed at everything and thinking to myself, "Wow! Has he seen what I have seen? Has he felt what I have felt? Does he know what I know?"
I knew my head was in the clouds. I wanted to plant my feet on the ground. So I started to read and to visit churches. I read Bhagavad Gita, Didache, Tao Te Ching, the Gospels, Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You, Thoreau's Walden, a bit of Emerson, etc. I realized I had become a pacifist. I decided to stay a Mormon all my life. But nothing would ever be the same again. Once you see all things new, you can forget to some extent, and you can backslide, but nothing ever is the same again.
And since then I have dabbled more and more in the Sermon on the Mount and the gospels and gradually more and more put my money where my mouth is as a Jesus follower. I'm not really a Jesus follower. I'm just a crazy mystic. But Jesus is the best expression I have found of what I saw, felt, and knew. So I call myself sometimes a Jesus freak. And yet it's hard to really describe what I am or what I see. Other than that Love is the All. And that is very much the legacy of the NDE.
I like how Kevin Williams explains what happened to me:
Imagine the universe - your reality - as though there is nothing else. God and heaven are fantasies of weak minds. For the sake of the analogy, label this kind of reality as a bubble which you had lived all your life - in a bubble - the universe - the only reality. You are certain there is nothing outside of this bubble. Period. Anyone who said differently was either lying, on drugs, or crazy. Then, something inspires you to read a well-known fairy-tale book just out of curiosity. As you read it, the fantasy tale starts to make sense to you. It begins to reveal secrets to you which you know are true that have never been expressed before. You begin to think this information comes from a reality you never experienced before. It is speaking to your very soul and makes complete sense to your heart and mind. You no longer believe it is a fantasy book, but the very words of God. You can't put it down until you read the whole thing. While this is going on, something is happening to your bubble but you keep reading. When you finish it, you realize that you just read the secrets of the universe but the whole world thinks it is a fairy tale book. When you are done and look up from the book, you realize that the bubble is gone. It popped. And now you are living in an entirely different world - even though it just looks the same. But more importantly, a different person is now in your body. The one who was in it before is gone. Now, you want to put on your white robe and sandals and climb the mountaintop to shout the Gospel and wait for Jesus to come.
And even after you return to your senses, you never view reality the same way again.


Wes Ashworth said...

Thanks for posting this, Tom.

Thomas Gail Haws said...

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi Thomas
I just finished reading Anita Moorjani's NDE when she was battling cancer. She explains NDE and after in her book "Dying to be me"