OK, so I’m back. IANDS–the International Association for Near-Death Studies–just had its 30th anniversary conference. Thirty years. A miracle! Now my challenge is to settle down after all the excitement and that incredibly high energy level and put the interconnectedness into practice.
From my perspective, several trends stand out:
- Distressing near-death experiences, for so long the despised step-child of the field, are increasingly recognized as genuine, though still baffling, spiritual events that must be investigated, engaged, and allowed into the family. The attitude of most conference-goers has changed dramatically. Now they are ready for substantive information.
- As more than one science-centered presentation emphasized, the idea of the nonlocality of consciousness–that is, that mind is more than a product of the brain and is not located exclusively there–has gained good traction among thoughtful and informed thinkers. Three decades ago, that was barely a mirage, though the idea was far from new; now the concept is almost commonplace. It is still mysterious, and I would guess often understood incorrectly, but accepted as a likely truth. Books like Irreducible Mind (Kelly et al) and Science and the Near-Death Experience (Chris Carter) make the point.
- Responses to NDEs and their aftereffects has shifted, over time, from the early “gosh-golly-wow!” reactions to to a more grounded interest in how to integrate the experience into daily life in both individuals and the community. This shift from naive enthusiasm to a more purposeful approach goes with an intensified understanding that as society in general, and the planet as a whole, are being confronted by massive challenges and disruptions on all sides, there is something about near-death experiences that can help humankind deal with the changes. The question, of course, is how.