I have been reading near death experience researcher Bruce Greyson’s new book After, which brings the reader up to date with many new experiencers and relevant studies of the phenomenon from its inception in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I was reminded of how often those of a logical, scientific background as well as, you know, the average person, can hang on to their doubts for decades, despite the avalanche of otherwise inexplicable visions and projections of those who are clinically dead.
While Greyson suffers the fate of the slowly recovering scientist, accumulating ‘anecdotal’ evidence until it threatens to engulf him, I have also in the last year read some memoirs of the bereaved seeking out and finding mediums and psychics who give them the solid evidence they need and yet, despite the contacts, clinging to their grief and doubt, as if they were winter coats worn on a warm day.
Why do we cling to doubts, especially those that reinforce the materialist worldview? Is there a comfort zone in allowing mortality to decide our fate by ending our adventure in life’s carnival of risky joyrides, fearful shocks and anxious deliberations? For many it comes down to this: we are born, we live and then we die. Anything else is wish fulfillment fantasizing. Their certainties gives them a firm foundation to meet the various challenges life offers, one of which is the obvious: every beginning must have an end, even if it’s hiding somewhere. He who is born must inevitably die.
For the devoutly religious and the independent seeker of spiritual truths life comes as a gift of infinite mysteries, one of which is eternal life. Some believe, some know and many are prone to doubts. Doubts that rattle the cages of their belief systems. Chronic suffering and random insults of injustice that challenge their notions of a benevolent universe. The religious rely on some version of ‘God’s mysterious ways his wonders to perform’, the spiritual seeker that we choose our lessons, either carelessly or wisely, and that the part of us who does the choosing is hidden from our everyday consciousness, much like the God of the devoutly religious.
Materialists, the religious and the spiritually minded, regardless of their certainties or more fluid knowingness, are challenged by creeping doubts that nibble at the edges. Maybe mind doesn’t end at the brain, maybe God only cares for that other religion, maybe eternity is some tawdry repetition of all the chess moves you learnt here. Those doubts can becalm the waters of our cruise and leave us treading the waters of who cares anymore? Yet all of us learn, somehow or other, maybe just waiting till the panic subsides, to absorb the process and move on.
Myself, – I was gifted with the extinguishing of doubt sometime in the 1990’s. It was as mysterious a process as any in what I like to call the inner journey. Many mystics throughout the ages have commented on the sudden shocking descent of Grace into their lives. Reading of their experiences, as I had, I felt as if I’d joined some club. I knew beyond doubt that life was unending, incarnation was plural and that the spirit evolves through its many struggles to some pinnacle of fulfillment that could be seen as graduation. I assumed, without consciously knowing, that I had accumulated the experiences needed for such while out of the body and in several past lives. My lucid dream count at that point was low but insistent. Later it would burst forth without apology into daily life and become the book Eternal Life And How To Enjoy It, dragging me out of that private mystical closet and forcing me to broadcast my insights in any media that would support them.
On that journey I began to notice how many of us, moving along the path of gradual illumination, allowed the shadows of doubt to slow us down and hold us back if things were getting a little too exciting. Casting off of cultural restrictions and outmoded beliefs can be as exhilarating as it is scary. With all these holes in my old boat, how can I continue to float? You watch, horrified, as the boat disintegrates about you, eventually sinking, leaving you standing on the waters you once thought oppressive, impassable and threatening.
Then, out of sheer desperation, you begin to walk on them, just like the prophets of old. As you move on to some free-form flying, you recognize the usefulness of doubt as you accelerated giddily towards the leap, the plunge, the parting shot: it kept you balanced as you took your baby steps. As it does for the others you will inspire and guide.