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NDE Analysis

by on December 31, 2016

                                                                      NDE Analysis: How it is done                                                                                                                           by Marco M. Pardi

“A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.”  Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Stray Birds 1941.

All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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The field of Communications teaches us that when a subject is presented in a public venue the presenter must assume the audience is comprised of varied levels of interest, experience, and conclusions based on assumptions each audience member has made about the subject. Therefore, in the same way that physicians practice “defensive medicine” it is incumbent upon the presenter to craft the presentation such that potential questions will be obviated and criticisms will be rendered impotent.  This is perhaps more important in a subject such as the analysis of Near Death Experience reports.

In this vein I refer to the subject title to make clear this presentation is neither to debunk or to validate the reports themselves; it is to elucidate the methodology of analysis.  As such, it will be familiar to readers in the Scientific community, the Intelligence community, and the practice of Law. When speaking of the provider or the analyst I will use the male pronoun for simplicity.  Where the terms “spirit” or “spiritual” are used they should not be taken to imply the existence of a chief spirit, or “god”; it is simply to acknowledge the vastness of personhood beyond the molecular boundaries of the skin.

As is so often the case, print and electronic media portrayals of NDEs and associated phenomena cast a simplified, ritualized, and incorrect image of the event(s).  They encourage the reader to go straight to “the good stuff” with little or no analysis of the experiencer or of the analyst/provider of the reported experiences. The undisciplined, often frankly religious outcomes then unfairly cast the entire subject in serious and often undeserved doubt.

Throughout my career(s) I have been engaged in analysis of research outcomes and, more importantly, analysis of proposed providers for eventual research outcomes, this in the context of approving or disapproving funding and other support for the proposed provider.  The term provider can refer to the person delivering a first person account, or to a person delivering that account as received from another person.  I have also been an analyst/provider of research based on my own intake and examination of data.  And so, we begin analysis with the provider, in this case beginning with a person providing the report(s) on the experiences of another or others. 

  1. Who is this person? What is this person’s documented history with the subject of NDEs and associated phenomena? What related publications have issued from this person? Has this person demonstrated Critical Thinking skills which enable him to address any question of bias? For example, I have an extensive media publication presence in which I have consistently stated my examination of these phenomena, my acceptance of them as valid, and my reasons for this acceptance. Moreover, I am on record as teaching well received college courses in Critical Thinking dealing with this very topic.  Still, I’m quite willing to listen to and address any question of potential bias.

     2. What is the funding source for this person’s presentation? On several occasions I             have examined print/video publishing firms with rather generic names only to                   find they are wholly owned or heavily subsidized outlets for particular churches.              This must certainly raise the question of bias inasmuch as these organizations                  scrupulously examine and edit anything issuing under their financial support. The          materials must seriously be considered as agenda driven, even guiding the                          audience straight to the collection plate.

The same must be said for the ordained priests of the Church of Science (Scientism) who, like the men in Plato’s cave studying their shadows, refuse to turn and see the light of Reality.  As early as the 1920’s the realization of quantum mechanics laid bare that the archaic Newtonian architecture of their model had reached its asymptote.  Reality is to be visualized on a kinetic scale of Probability, not a static scale of Certainty.  Rightly fearful of certain censure and loss of funding were they to entertain non-material concepts, they continue to evangelize the doctrine of the infallibility of the Experimental Method.  Ironically, there have been hundreds of studies done which satisfy even the most rigorous standards of the Intelligence community and the legal profession. Yet it is recognized that one cannot march a person into a laboratory and order them to have an NDE.

Fearing that consideration of mind as only mediated, and not generated by brain would open the door to theological invasion, the priests of scientism wrap themselves in the cloak of materialism.  I have known several near-the-top of their field scientists who are privately satisfied with the veracity of the NDE and related phenomena and are quite able to separate these from theistic interpretations, but who would never acknowledge this publically for fear of the certain censure and withdrawal of funding they would undoubtedly incur. But, again, what about the true believers in the Dogma of Materialist Science?  Can such a person overcome the likelihood of bias in examining and presenting an essentially non-material phenomenon?

Turning now to the First Person presentation we must apply the same rigor, with some additional considerations.  First, of the thousands of accounts I’ve read and/or heard from people no two accounts were identical.  In fact, suspicion should be raised when reports hew too closely to the ritualized model espoused by media.  There are several possible components reported in the NDE accounts though, again, there is no strict order to them or requirement they all be there.  I will look at some of them, but let’s start with what many feel to be the most contentious of the claims: Seeing or being in the presence of God.

With few exceptions, experiencers introduce their account with, “There are simply no words to describe it.”  They then immediately go on to use words to describe it.  At this point we must freeze-frame and understand we are looking at a person in three iterations: Pre-experience; during-experience; and, post-experience.

Starting with the Pre, under what form of socialization did they assemble their interactive matrix of lexicon, beliefs, and perceptions?  Even cultures which actively reject the concept of a personalized god introduce the concept as one they are rejecting.  But trying to correct for exposure to a concept is like telling the jury to disregard that last remark.  Basic experience tells us the likelihood of encountering a person who has never heard of the concept of a god is too small to reasonably calculate. And, even atheists say, “Goddamnit!”  

So can it be surprising that a post-experience mind, still in awe of the during-experience state in which it felt itself to be in the presence of something indescribably greater than mankind, loops back to the pre-experience state, draws upon its reservoir of concepts and descriptive morphemes, and retroactively labels that something as “God”?  I am not presenting this to dispute whether the person did or did not encounter a god, or the god; I am presenting it as an example of the depth and seriousness of academic analysis rarely if ever presented in popular literary or visual media accounts.  Those people in search of something to bolster their faith take heart while those people disinclined toward faith too often dismiss the entire NDE phenomenon on the basis of this poorly presented component.

As I have written elsewhere, the Gold Standard in NDE analysis is: Information which could not have been obtained through any other source. The “veridical experience”. Using that standard we may examine each of the other reported components of the Near Death Experience. There are many hundreds of documented cases of people feeling disembodied and becoming accurately aware of events and conversations going on around them even while documented with no brain activity in hospital settings. But these are by no means confined to operative procedures in hospitals. Yet, it must be recognized that many surgeons tremble at the thought their patients are watching over their shoulder.  Hence the recent practice of placing a computer monitor in a hard to reach/see location in the O.R. and claiming that, despite a wealth of other accurate reports from a patient, if they did not mention the “magic word” on the monitor the whole experience was fantasy.  This approach was clearly designed to invalidate such experiences and itself has no validity whatsoever.

Reports of meeting with other pre-deceased relatives are also commonly dismissed. But when those include loved ones the pre-experience person did not know had died and/or deceased siblings about whom they were never told they cannot be dismissed.

Another common element is time distortion. Experiences which to the Post-experience person seemed to last an hour may in fact have passed in only a minute or two.  The converse is also true. Yet reporters do not say time passed slowly, or quickly. They say time was irrelevant.  The irrelevancy of time is not itself a veridical experience but it is supportive of the narrative of being in a non-corporeal state.  We measure time through changes in our physical selves and the physical things around us.  A deep meditative state comes closest to this suspension of the perception of time. 

Finally, I was asked years ago by senior administration in the agency for which I worked to facilitate meetings for employees who had experiences described as or related to NDEs.  As I did so the need arose to bring in outside people, a task quickly overcome by the very stringent security measures in the agency.  I managed to move the meetings off site, opening them to pre-screened outsiders with the understanding of confidentiality.  In the screenings I conducted I occasionally encountered people who had what we know as Transcendent Experiences, or more commonly, Spiritually Transforming Experiences.  On more than one occasion a person expressed disappointment that their experience was not an NDE.  However, I was able to turn that person’s perception to the fact they had experienced what so many seek through drugs, yoga, meditation, asceticism and other measures.            

In conclusion, we need not spread our cheeks for every storyteller who comes along, but neither should we dismiss out of hand the entirety of the phenomena simply because the presentation falls short of critical criteria in one or more markers. It is demonstrably possible to analyze reports of NDEs regardless of the possible flaws of the reporter or the experiencer.

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments
  1. You know all the details of my NDE (if that’s what it was), so I feel no need to reiterate them here. The whole thing felt like a dream, except I have been told that I lost both breath and heartbeat. Everything about it was so stereo-typical that it’s hard to know the truth of it, but I swear it was real.

    Nothing about what happened to me felt spiritual in any way, but I can understand how someone of a more religious bent could interpret it in that way. For me, the light I saw felt like a portal, the people milling around it were unfamiliar, and the guide just that.

    There are several other experiences which mimic the NDE, and I’m not sure how one decides which one has happened. Everything we experience is filtered through everything else we have ever experienced, and is thus tainted by the attitudes and perceptions of both the provider and the analyst of the information given. Add to this the reality that every such experience is different, and it becomes a gargantuan task to provide any sort of objective analysis.

  2. Thank you, Rose. Yes, I’m familiar with your NDE, and accept it as such. The fact that you, like me, did not perceive it as spiritual in the theistic sense simply clarifies that you are free of such predispositions. And, yes, the transcendent experiences can be mystifying, and I view much of your writing as an expression of that. Indeed, the compulsion to write can be viewed as a desire to live in that moment. I’m so glad you will continue.

    • Yes, I admit to my “compulsion to write”, it is a trait I am pleased that we share. You know that I am a believer in OBE, PDE, and NDE occurrences, the difficulty being in the determination of which, if any, has actually happened. My first question is how can the analyst be objective when the subject matter is, by it’s very nature, subjective? Other than those examples you gave in the body of your work, is there some “check list” which helps with that determination? Here I think of the sort of list which says, “If you exhibit X number of these symptoms…” I’m not trying to be argumentative or obtuse; I am trying to learn.

      • Very good questions, Rose. I like to stay with the externally verifiable incidents, such as I mentioned. However, the review of an experiencer’s prior enculturation does have potential for bias.

        I’ve never made a checklist, as such. But I think there is one out there and I will find it for you.

  3. Ray Rivers permalink

    Thanks Marco – I often ask myself why, about research, knowing full well that pure research by definition sometimes creates its own answers to that question – and sometimes not. Whether there is an afterlife in heaven or that other place, or somewhere else, is a question which will occupy some of us more than others for as long we exist as humans. The question of there being a reward or punishment in the next world, or more interestingly another existence, is a hope and a dream for many. I am content to wait until my own judgement day to find my answer. But I am glad that researchers like you press on but my expectations are low.

    If these accounts of NDE are nothing more than a phenomenon associated with the the subconscious – last grasps of a collapsing mind in a dying body – then that is at least something to look forward to. If they prelude to something more significant, I’ll just have to wait and see. At the least the topic is a wonderful place for fantasy and fiction to dwell – as in the ’90’s film ‘Flatliners’ or the more recent series ‘The OA’, or going back to that classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life”.

    • Thanks, Ray. Over many years, and many interviews and analyses with others and with myself I’ve come to accept the reality of non-corporeal existence – but without any of the theistic notions put in by religion.

      The collapsing mind idea is one which springs from the failure to separate brain and mind, and this separation has been shown through countless analyses of the various phenomena, each including externally verifiable information.

      But, no need to just wait. You can explore this with deep meditation. In fact, your musical talent suggests you would easily accomplish this.

      • Ray Rivers permalink

        Thanks – good point – I used to meditate regularly – time to get back to my TM.

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