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Secrets of a Supernatural World : Near Death Revelations of the Ancient World and the Future

We argue that the experimental investigation of the interactions between these multisensory and cognitive mechanisms in OBEs and related illusions in combination with neuroimaging and behavioral techniques might further our understanding of the central mechanisms of corporal awareness and self-consciousness much as previous research about the neural bases of complex body part illusions such as phantom limbs has done. Edge, The use of physics in answering metaphysical questions , Journal of Near-Death Studies, 6 , pp.

Ellwood, Religious experience, religious worldviews, and near-death studies , Journal of Near-Death Studies, 19 , pp. The tense relation prevailing between representatives of conservative religion and other near-death researchers may be illumined by a look at the different functions religion has fulfilled in the past. Religion may be seen as centering on the meaningfulness of the world, on spiritual experience, or on salvation.

In this essay, I sketch the place of these themes in the Great Religions. These themes have inherent mutual tensions that in the case of Christianity cannot necessarily be settled by appeal to the Bible, because different Christian groups have somewhat differing views of the source of authority. Furthermore, the Bible's authority is challenged by the results of modern scholarship.

Atwater with David H. Evans, Near-death experiences , The Lancet, , p.

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Facco and C. Agrillo, Near-death experiences between science and prejudice , Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6 , pp. Science exists to refute dogmas; nevertheless, dogmas may be introduced when undemonstrated scientific axioms lead us to reject facts incompatible with them.

Several studies have proposed psychobiological interpretations of near-death experiences NDEs , claiming that NDEs are a mere byproduct of brain functions gone awry; however, relevant facts incompatible with the ruling physicalist and reductionist stance have been often neglected. The awkward transcendent look of NDEs has deep epistemological implications, which call for: a keeping a rigorously neutral position, neither accepting nor refusing anything a priori; and b distinguishing facts from speculations and fallacies.

Facts can be only true or false, never paranormal. In this sense, they cannot be refused a priori even when they appear implausible with respect to our current knowledge: any other stance implies the risk of turning knowledge into dogma and the adopted paradigm into a sort of theology.

The near-death experience NDE , as an experience of whole-ness, an adventure in consciousness, and a metaphoric encounter with light, links theoretical physics with the occult, the Primordial Tradition, and various religious belief systems. Light as image, vehicle, and first cause ties the NDE to mystical experience. Where science sees mystery, religion sees metaphoric truth; the NDE as spiritual quest and physical encounter beckons to both disciplines for explanation. Karl Jansen's interesting hypothesis that near-death experiences NDEs result from blockade of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor has several weaknesses.

Some NDEs occur to individuals who are neither near death nor experiencing any event likely to upset cerebral physiology as Jansen proposed; thus his hypothesis applies only to a subset of NDEs that occur in catastrophic circumstances. For that subset, the clarity of NDEs and the clear memory for the experience afterward are inconsistent with compromised cerebral function. Jansen's analogy between NDEs and ketamine-induced hallucinations is weakened by the fact that most ketamine users do not believe the events they perceived really happened.

Temporal lobe seizures do not resemble NDEs as Jansen postulated; they are confusional, rarely ecstatic, and never clear, as are NDEs, nor are they remembered afterward. Jansen's hypothesis assumes the standard scientific view that brain processes are entirely responsible for subjective experience; however, NDEs suggest that that concept of the mind may be too limited, and that in fact personal experience may continue beyond death of the brain. The near death experiences NDEs is an altered state of consciousness, which has stereotyped content and emotional experience.

Some features of the experience are trans-cultural and suggest either a similar brain mechanism or access to a transcendent reality. Individual features of the experience point more persuasively to transcendence than to simple limited brain mechanisms. Although nonlocal mind would explain many of the NDE features, nonlocality is not yet accepted by mainstream neuroscience so there is a clear explanatory gap between reductionist materialistic explanations and those theories based on a wider understanding of mind suggested by the subjective experience of the NDEr.

Only wider theories of mind would be likely candidates to bridge this gap. Is there life after death? Theologians can debate all they want, but radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long argues that if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes. Drawing on a decade's worth of research on near-death experiences -- work that includes cataloguing the stories of some 1, people who have gone through them -- he makes the case for that controversial conclusion in a new book, Evidence of the Afterlife.

Medicine, Long says, cannot account for the consistencies in the accounts reported by people all over the world. He talked to TIME about the nature of near-death experience, the intersection between religion and science and the Oprah effect. French, Dying to know the truth: visions of a dying brain, or false memories? French, Near-death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors , The Boundaries of Consciousness: Neurobiology and Neuropathology, , p. Near-death experiences NDEs have become the focus of much interest in the last 30 years or so.

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Such experiences can occur both when individuals are objectively near to death and also when they simply believe themselves to be. The experience typically involves a number of different components including a feeling of peace and well-being, out-of-body experiences OBEs , entering a region of darkness, seeing a brilliant light, and entering another realm.

NDEs are known to have long-lasting transformational effects upon those who experience them. An overview is presented of the various theoretical approaches that have been adopted in attempts to account for the NDE. Spiritual theories assume that consciousness can become detached from the neural substrate of the brain and that the NDE may provide a glimpse of an afterlife. Psychological theories include the proposal that the NDE is a dissociative defense mechanism that occurs in times of extreme danger or, less plausibly, that the NDE reflects memories of being born.

Finally, a wide range of organic theories of the NDE has been put forward including those based upon cerebral hypoxia, anoxia, and hypercarbia; endorphins and other neurotransmitters; and abnormal activity in the temporal lobes. Finally, the results of studies of NDEs in cardiac arrest survivors are reviewed and the implications of these results for our understanding of mind-brain relationships are discussed.

Funk, What survives? Furn, Adjustment and the near-death experience: A conceptual and therapeutic model , Journal of Near-Death Studies, 6 , pp. Most mental health practitioners, and counseling psychologists in particular, possess skills for helping near-death experiencers. What is needed is a conceptual framework that is both familiar to practitioners and highly relevant to that client group.

Cross-cultural counseling in general, and the consideration of world views more specifically, are suggested. The difficulties reported by NDErs are considered analogous to those associated with culture shock.


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The world views of the practitioner, NDEr, and relevant others should be taken into account in the formulation of psychoeducational and therapeutic interventions. Gabbard and S. Twemlow, Do "near-death experiences'' occur only near death? Ten years ago our research on out-of-body experiences suggested that the elements of the near-death experience NDE were not necessarily limited to situations in which survival was threatened.

A decade of continued study has confirmed that theperception of being near death, independent of the actual reality of the situation, is the key determinant of the classical NDE.

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From early in life, the infant's dread of catastrophe leads to the elaboration of extensive psychological defenses against the possibility of extinction. The NDE is simultaneously a manifestation of faith and a catalyst for the development of faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, , pp. This article evaluates Harold Kushner's original and reconstructed perspectives on God and the theodicic problem on the basis of research on the near-death experience NDE and related phenomena.

In response to a personal tragedy, Kushner reconstructed his thinking about God and tragedy from his original Causation-Power perspective to an Inspiration-Love perspective. The Causation-Power perspective posits that God causes human events and that tragic events do not actually contradict God's purpose or will, although tragic events may result from the human freedom to disobey God and suffer punitive consequences. In the Inspiration-Love perspective, human freedom expands to mean that God does not cause all events: God does not cause tragedy, suffers with the sufferer, and can intervene against tragic events only by inspiring people to cope with tragedy and care for others.

Although the research findings are consistent with Kushner's emphasis on love and inspiration, the theme of divine power and purpose is also evident. Hence, Kushner should not have rejected entirely his early Causation-Power perspective. The Causation-Power and Inspiration-Love perspectives seem incompatible and neither alone solves the theodicic problem.

Nonetheless, they do complement one another; a resolution would permit an integrative understanding of God and tragedy. In the early years of near-death research many organized religions rejected the near-death experience NDE as a legitimate expression of religious faith.

More recently numerous religious apologists have laid claim to NDEs as verifying particular theological beliefs. I see this as a healthy competition between religions, and a competition that results from the very success of the near-death research effort. Religious apologists, however, must be reasonably objective in any juxtapositions of religious philosophy with NDE findings. I point out some problems in this regard with Michael Sabom's recent work.

Gibson, Near-death experiences get treatment from a Mormon perspective , The Political Surf, , pp. Gliksman and A. Kellehear, Near-death experiences and the measurement of blood gases , Journal of Near-Death Studies, 9 , pp. Although cerebral anoxia is not thought to be responsible for triggering near-death experiences NDEs , the issue is not so clear in the case of hypercapnia.

Detection of normal blood gases in Michael Sabom's case study seems to be the major reply to suggestions that hypercapnia may have a causal role in NDEs. We argue, however, that routine arterial measures of blood gases are not a reliable indicator of cerebral levels. The individual reporting the experience was in a cataleptic-like state for two days, the experience itself occurring at the end of this period.

Some common features of NDEs, such as encounters with deceased people and being sent back, are present, together with clear evidence that past and present cultural environment shape in part the content of mental experiences. The first 20 years of near-death studies have thoroughly documented the existence of this phenomenon. The field of near-death studies appears to be evolving from a purely academic one to include an applied, clinical component.