It’s been a while. There have been wonderfully overflowing visits from two of my kids and their grown-up kids, and two out-of-town conferences in which I was a speaker, and a steady stream of hometown obligations including issues of local turmoil but also an exciting weekend-long program of which I was the organizer. And somehow, after the publication of Dancing Past the Dark and almost 100 posts on this blog, it felt as though I had run out of things to say about NDEs and anything else of substance.
More probably, what was needed was some time off. Last week, out of the blue, a reader wrote to ask if I was ok, and to say she missed the blog. Bumped me right back into action. (Perfect timing, Marion! Thank you.) So here we are again, and apparently I have not completely run out of things to say.
Among recent comments on the board was this, beginning with something I had paraphrased about the message during my own NDE:
‘You never existed, you will never exist. You’re not real. Nothing you ever knew existed. Nor does anyone you think you ever knew, nor your life, nor where you live. You made it all up.’
I’m not a philosopher; just a simple housewife, but I find this statement to be illogical. If you never existed, how could you even hear this statement? And how could you make something up if you never existed? Doesn’t make sense to me.
Her comment was the third time this summer that someone has asked me to explain that same thing. Interestingly, this summer is the first time anyone has ever mentioned the reality issue. Even more interestingly, that included me. Now, you would think that after five decades of living with this NDE and this message, I would have considered every possible corner and question; but not so. Here came a whole new idea: how could this experience and these memories happen if I didn’t exist to receive them?
She’s right, it is illogical. No getting around that. It is completely illogical. The experience of a person who does not exist (and is therefore unavailable to experience) is as impossible as the sound of a tree falling with no one to hear it. (The oscillations are there, but not the sound.) “I think; therefore I am.” As I was registering thoughts, how could I have believed otherwise? So, then, what have I meant, all those years, in reporting an experience of believing myself unreal?
First, I think we have to consider the bizarreness of the situation. It is easy enough to consider logic, as I am now, sitting comfortably at a computer in broad daylight and in a waking state of consciousness. It is all very normal. But imagine going to bed one evening and awakening in the middle of the night to find yourself spinning into an entirely new galaxy, a new universe, where you are authoritatively instructed by locals that your existence on Earth was imaginary, has no relevance, and is not up for discussion; this new world is the only genuine reality. Their authority is absolute and unquestionable. You have been allowed to believe your existence; but it was never real.
My sense is, first, that emotional shock outweighs clear thinking about implausibilities. And the greater shock was not merely being told about my non-existence, but that my babies were unreal, and my mother, husband, earth, sky, grass. All gone. It was death without the light, without welcome to buffer the losses. Instant Holocaust, I called it.
Second, about “hearing”: Just as with dreaming, hearing in these types of experience is not physical but telepathic, imaginal. Again, in physical terms this is illogical. It does not require ears as receptors, and it does not need to make noise (back to that tree again). The tree is fallen, the message is received.
Third, it is almost impossible to recall, so many years later, how different my understandings were, how young and ignorant I was about anything beyond mainstream Protestant theology in post-War, middle class America. I knew nothing of today’s spirituality, psychic experience, mysticism, Eastern traditions, Jung, Tibetan Book of the Dead. Consciousness was not a field, New Age was not yet on my horizon, and near-death experiences would not be named for another fourteen years. I was without context or insight.
And fourth, like all of us now alive, I am a child of almost four hundred years of increasing materialism and a strictness of reason, in a culture which has come to believe that the only true reality must be physical. (This is a subject for another time, but it goes a long way towards explaining why we have such confusion about God.) From within my NDE, I seemed bodiless, no longer physical; therefore, with my thinking overlaid by materialism, it seemed entirely plausible that I could be unreal. And in a dismantling of the physicality of those people and things I loved, they would be unreal also. The entire argument was an exercise in the mechanisms of scientism.
Are my arguments conclusive? No, they are simply speculation about a mystery, first steps in figuring out yet another aspect of the NDE. I’ll be interested to hear your reactions and other ideas about this “non-reality” business.