Is near-death experience research scientifically respectable? What’s next for NDE research?|276|

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Interview with Dr. Alan Hugenot about the future of near-death experience research.

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Controversy brewing.

Interview with Dr. Alan Hugenot a near-death experiencer, IANDS board member, and nationally recognized expert in mechanical engineering, about the future of near-death experience research.

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Alan Hugenot to discuss his near-death experience, and the future of near-death experience research:

Alex Tsakiris: So what is near-death experience research doing to advance the ball? And if we can’t call out [NDE researchers] like Dr. Sam Parnia and critically analyze his work … if we can’t say whether that’s going to move us forward, then I don’t think we’re making progress.

And that’s brings me to the second part of that Sam Parnia quote I find really troubling [he said]: “When you die you’ll see Jesus and be full of love and compassion…if your father tells you that.” So, he doesn’t want to go on that third rail. So, he wants to put down what people might see in that spiritual realm. But, we are not in a position to do that! We’d love to placate the atheist/scientific community, but really, if we’re going to be honest, what the near-death experience science tells us is all that stuff is on the table.  What we do have to do is find a way to [deal with] the idea that people do see Jesus. They [also sometimes] see Buddha. They see Krishna. They see spirit beings. That’s part of the experience… We can’t side-step this to placate the atheists…

Dr. Alan Hugenot: Here’s what I have to say. When I had my near-death experience I went and I arrived with a being of light. And I wrote it down as soon as I came back. The being of light did not identify he or she or itself as being male, female or otherwise. It was definitely a personal being. It did not identify itself as Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Jesus, Allah or whatever…none of that. It did not identify itself as being any of that. And a very interesting discussion I had with a gentleman, Sam is his name. That’s the name he’s chosen to have. He tortured himself using the Lakota Sioux vision quest of hanging himself by his muscles from a tree, and spikes in his chest. He did all of those things because that made sense to him. And he passed over to the other side. He literally had a near-death experience by scaring himself out of his body through too much pain. And he met up with the Light. And he said, “Who are you?” And the Light said, “Who do you want me to be?” And that was his experience. And so taking his experience and my experience where the Light doesn’t identify itself, what Sam’s really saying there is if you think it’s Jesus, it’s Jesus. If you think it’s Buddha, it’s Buddha…whatever you think, that’s what the Light is. But the truth is, the Light is just a being of light.

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Read Excerpts From The Interview:

 

Discussing the various accounts in near-death research, Dr. Hugenot talks about his experience with a ‘being of light’ and how that fits into other interpretations of who the being represents–[20min.18sec-29min.55sec]

Alex Tsakiris: I love talking about Schrodinger and Einstein and Niels Bohr and all the rest of them. And it’s awesome. But it’s a history of exactly where we are now of just treading water and telling everyone how dumb they are, and how quantum physics has already proven all of this. Meanwhile, the band keeps playing the same old song. I think IANDS is doing awesome work. I think Dean Radin’s work with the double slit experiment is phenomenally impressive and it really gets to the heart of your point: how quantum physics has known this for 80 years and yet they choose to do the shut-up and calculate thing and totally bypass it. And Radin has gone and said, hey wait a minute guys…you want more proof? I’ll prove it to you right here. But I don’t like skipping past–we were talking about near-death experience science. And then we say, well, you don’t like our near-death experience science? That’s okay. We’ll roll this out and we’ll show you something else. This is what I do all the time, Alan. I talk about this stuff all the time. So I can see the advantages of saying it’s consciousness in general. It’s non-locality. I think all that stuff is true. I think it’s proven in a number of different ways. The placebo and nocebo effect proves it. Hypnosis proves it. Self-directed neuroplasticity proves it. We’ve proven it all over the place. But the challenge is you’re a board member of IANDS. So what is near-death experience doing to advance the ball? And if we can’t call out people like Sam Parnia and critically analyze his work because it’s the cutting edge. It’s what’s gotten some funding. If we can’t say whether that’s going to move us forward or not, then I think we’re not making progress. And that’s brings me to the second part of that Sam Parnia quote that I find really troubling: “When you die you’ll see Jesus and be full of love and compassion…if your father tells you that then you’ll see Jesus.”

Hey, this is really the question–he doesn’t want to go on that third rail and he now wants to talk about putting down Jesus, and what people might see in that spiritual realm. We are not in a position to do that. We’d love to placate the atheist scientific community, but really, if we’re going to be honest, what the near-death experience science tells us is all that stuff is on the table; that we do have to find a way to wrangle in the idea that people do see Jesus or Christ consciousness. They see Buddha. They see Krishna. They see spirit beings. That’s part of the experience. So we can bifurcate that and say, okay did you leave your body and were you able to see that? But once we incorporate that in, we have to go there don’t we? We can’t side-step with this placating the atheists with the Jesus thing.

Dr. Alan Hugenot: Here’s what I have to say. When I had my near-death experience I went and I arrived with a being of light. And I wrote it down as soon as I came back. The being of light did not identify he or she or itself as being male, female or otherwise. It was definitely a personal being. It did not identify itself as Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Jesus, Allah or whatever…none of that. It did not identify itself as being any of that. And a very interesting discussion I had with a gentleman who–[Shakir] is his name. That’s the name he’s chosen to have. He tortured himself using the Lakota Sioux vision quest of hanging himself by his muscles from a tree, and spikes in his chest. He did all of those things because that made sense to him. And he passed over to the other side. He literally had a near-death experience by scaring himself out of his body through too much pain. And he met up with the Light. And he said, “Who are you?” And the Light said, “Who do you want me to be?” And that was his experience. And so taking his experience and my experience where the Light doesn’t identify itself, what Sam’s really saying there is if you think it’s Jesus, it’s Jesus. If you think it’s Buddha, it’s Buddha…whatever you think, that’s what the Light is. But the truth is, the Light is just a being of light.

Alex Tsakiris: The truth is we don’t know, Alan. The truth is we can’t say that.

Dr. Alan Hugenot: The truth is I can say what I saw.

Alex Tsakiris: But it just isn’t good science to generalize that and say therefore, the being of Light is whoever we want it to be. There are people who have reported–it’s been very public–seeing Jesus; feeling Jesus’ wounds; having that being tell them they are Jesus. I interviewed Pastor Howard Storm, well-known near-death experiencer; very open guy but very overtly Christian in terms of his understanding of the experience. Are we going to go and tell those people that’s somehow not true and that your experience is more authentic because it was this generalized experience?

Dr. Alan Hugenot: Here’s what I want to say to that. I don’t want words put in my mouth. What I want to say is this: all of the religions are partially right, and they can’t all be completely right because they all disagree. Now that’s a very scientific viewpoint. All of the religions, talking about the other side and afterlife and all of that are partially right. What happens overtime is if someone comes back and says well, okay, I went over and saw the Light and the light was like this… it was if he was dressed in white robes. Well then they’ll write that down and pretty soon it becomes he was dressed in white robes. And that he was he. And all the experiencer was saying was it was as if this being of light, if he was a he, was dressed in white robes. He was in this beautiful white light, but it will become interpreted by those on this side who have not gone there and done that, that he was dressed in white robes. And that’s how you get all these religious beliefs that are–this is how it must be. And we have thousands of different religious viewpoints in the world, all of them thinking that they’re absolutely right. And they can’t all be absolutely right from the scientific viewpoint. So I’m not trying to generalize and I’m not trying to say they’re wrong. What I’m trying to say is we need to look at all of the religions and see where they agree.

One of the chapters in the book I wrote is showing that; how all of the religions come from the same root. And how they all have that added on, and I will call them speculations, just trying to explain it to somebody else. One time I was listening to a guy and he said, “We all signed contracts before we came here.” Well I didn’t see any contacts on the other side. That’s a great way to explain it; that we came here with a life plan that we’re trying to carry out. And that’s what he’s really trying to say with the contracts, but I don’t think there’s finely written contacts that are filed in God’s file drawer somewhere. That’s a whole lot of speculation that’s become doctrine to some people and they think well that’s how it must be. Well no, that’s how someone tried to explain it and someone else tried to explain what the first person had tried to explain. If you’ve ever gone to a party where four people are whispering in each other’s ear, you whisper in one guy’s ear and the fourth person doesn’t have the same message at the end. And that’s what happens over generations with scriptures and doctrines and religion. They get to where they’re saying, it’s got to be baptism by immersion and the other is saying no it doesn’t have to be baptism by immersion, it’s baptism by sprinkling. And this is a big argument over nothing. And that’s how it is with religions.

Alex Tsakiris: Well maybe…

Dr. Alan Hugenot: They’re not all wrong. They’re right on the central core and then they all differ a whole lot on the unimportant stuff.

Alex Tsakiris: Maybe, but I think a lot of people including myself would be very uncomfortable when we apply the word ‘science’ to what you were just talking about. That’s just your interpretation of what’s happening. So I think what we’re all struggling with–

Dr. Alan Hugenot: Science is not a written code somewhere that this is the way the world is. Science is a method of finding out the truth and you do that by collating all of the facts. And so what I was just doing with religion is very-much science–trying to take all the facts and try to make them all fit together. That’s what science is. You have to try and take in the stuff that agrees and the stuff that disagrees and try to come up with a new paradigm, a new view of how all that could fit together and that becomes your new hypothesis until you get a new fact. And when you’ve got a new fact you’ve to squeeze that one into the existing hypothesis. And what’s happening in the materialist’s world is they’re refusing to look at the data of all the metaphysical parts of the world.

 

Citing notable skeptics who placate the notion of extraordinary experience, Dr. Hugenot asserts a willful disregard toward compelling mediumship research he has conducted for over a decade–[31min.19sec-37min.55sec]

Dr. Alan Hugenot: Once the consciousness must exist outside of matter, there’s nothing left. And so everyone who’s not incorporating the implications of quantum electrodynamics is missing that boat. I wanted to quote something here at the end of an article that just came out yesterday in The Atlantic by Gideon Lichfield. At the end he’s quoting Susan Blackmore: “Susan Blackmore the arch-skeptic feels similarly. She concluded in her email to me: ‘By scolding those who persist in the false and unhelpful black-and-white comparison between NDEs as true, wonderful, spiritual, versus NDEs that are just a hallucination of no importance. The truth is, it seems to me, that NDEs can be wonderful, life-changing experiences that shed light on the human condition and on the question of life and death.’” So, are we making a shift? I think we’re making a shift. We’re making a shift in August of last year. Michael Shermer who writes for Skeptic magazine and who is a skeptic for Scientific American, he had quite an experience at his wedding and he described it in the August issue. It was absolutely unworldly, and it was an anomaly–

Alex Tsakiris: Alan, I just interviewed Dr. Michael Shermer a few weeks ago. There is absolutely no change in his position. And when I interviewed him what I talked to him about was his 2003 article on near-death experience researcher Dr. Pim van Lommel where he completely distorted the conclusions of van Lommel’s work in order to support his pet theory that it could all just be explained by brain stuff. So Shermer hasn’t moved at all and I think if you carefully–

Dr. Alan Hugenot: Well he has–

Alex Tsakiris: No he hasn’t. I just talked to him. And I think if you talk–so he published this thing about his–this is what these guys do, and it’s the classic co-opted strategy. It’s the ‘oh yeah, I’ve had an extraordinary experience, and don’t worry guys, we’ll get around to explaining that inside our model and then it won’t be supernatural, it won’t be paranormal, it’ll be normal.’ I’ve interviewed Blackmore as well. I interviewed her five years ago and she said she doesn’t have a clue on near-death experience research because she doesn’t stay current on it. But she still throws out these little things and I think if you really parsed what she’s saying, and if you really pushed her on it, she would say the same thing as Shermer. She’d say all this stuff to placate the people who’ve had a near-death experience, and then she’d say but don’t worry we’re going to explain away what’s really going on in your brain.

Dr. Alan Hugenot: I like what Dean Radin says. He says, “That’s their job.” They’re not going to do anything that’s going to threaten their job. But they’re moving. The shift is happening.

Alex Tsakiris: Maybe. We’ll see. And maybe you guys will lead the charge over there at IANDS. I sure hope so. I just we’d be a little bit more on-point with our near-death experience science and really directing where that goes because I think we jump around and say, oh near-death experience science will lead the charge. And we go, oh no, over here Dean Radin and IANDS will do it; over here Mario Beauregard and his ideas will–I mean, near death experience we need to have a clear path forward in terms of where that science is going and if we leave it in the hands of the likes of Dr. Sam Parnia, it’s going to be co-opted and we’re going to be on that treadmill going nowhere for the next 20 years. That’s my prediction.

Dr. Alan Hugenot: Well, I think that my prediction, Alex is sort of the opposite of yours. Seventy percent of people believe that there’s an afterlife and they have reason to believe that. And the work I do now in mediumship, that’s been my subject for the last nine years. I’ve been studying mediumship very heavily and I bring through Spirit all the time with absolute evidence. I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. Of course, the materialists will say I pick it up from some kind of [?–35:43] coherence in an Akashic record, a holographic universe. I picked it up from–off the surface of things. It’s been decohered onto the surface and I’m just picking up these vibrations. Of course they don’t believe in ESP either but they’ll say that what I’m doing when I bring through somebody’s departed grandmother from 1894, and I have her name and I know what she looked like; and then they’ll bring me the picture and I [know] her nickname and everything else…And I bring that through because I’ve learned how to do this, and I’ve spent thousands of dollars traveling the world to learn how to do this for ten years. When I bring that through and the Noetic Society’s testing me and everything else to see how it’s done, they’ll turn around and say, well you’re just reading their minds with ESP. And then this week they’ll turn around and say, well ESP doesn’t work either. And so how do I get that information? How do I stand there in front of a congregation and pull in somebody’s grandma from 1894? Tell you what her hair looks like, what her name is, what her nickname is, what she died of, and then bring a message through to the sitter that’s sitting there and I say, “Your grandma says I love you though I never knew you.” And then the person confirms that grandma died before she was born. How do I do that? I’m amazed myself at how I do it. When these kind of things come into my head, my thought process is Alan where are you getting this? It’s so from left field but of course it’s coming from somebody else. It’s coming from Spirit. That’s what our 2012 study from the Noetic Society shows: that mediums are receiving something through their feelings, their ears or their eyes. [Science] is going to have to come along with us one of these days because each of those materialists–they’re putting their head in the sand like an ostrich or their putting the blinders on and go I’m not going to look at the data you people are developing. I won’t do it. That’s the problem. But 72 percent of people do believe in this stuff because they’ve had personal experiences. And I’m seeing more and more of it all the time.

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