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Written interview with Rudolf Smit and Titus Rivas
#11
(02-10-2018, 02:44 PM)Laird Wrote: In that case, let me kick things off with a few of my own!

To Titus

Correspondents of mine have in the past argued that certain mystical, "nondual" experiences that they have had during which their self "dissolved" prove that, ultimately, the self is just an illusion. The obvious rejoinder to me is: the very fact that you continued to experience something (which, indeed, you recollect!), even if that experience was "nondual", proves that you nevertheless retained your self, because experience is predicated upon an experiencer.

How do you deal with it when people deny the obvious in ways such as this - especially in philosophical matters, but also, potentially (if you care to comment), in areas such as NDE research? Do you think that it is worth trying to untangle a perhaps semantic confusion, or to continue to present your argument in ways that they might better understand, or to simply "walk away" or "agree to disagree"?

Hi Laird, 

Thanks for your response! I really appreciate your comments and questions. 

Regarding this particular issue: I still want to write several articles about it and perhaps even a whole book. I've come to regard pluralism as a key virtue for any type of philosophical or empirical debate. This implies that you make your point, listen carefully to your opponents, respond to them, but also accept the fact that many or even most in the other camp(s) won't agree with you. Our personal intellectual responsibility is simply to make our points, as you're saying, as clearly as possible and leave the rest to "fate". We can't help it if others will stick to theories that we find flawed. So it's a combination of defending one's viewpoints the best one can, and accepting that many others will remain opponents for a long time to come and that one will just have to agree to disagree with them. 

For instance, in the field of NDE research, I've noticed that many dedicated and sincere researchers and authors are very charmed by Advaita-like theories and that some of them even downgrade the importance of the question of personal survival. We'll just have to live with it, I suppose.

What I do find very important, is that personalists such as myself defend our own niche within the theoretical landscape and do not accept it if non-dualists simply deny our existence as scholars with a serious alternative. We have every right to be here, and that is just as much part of pluralism as our own tolerance.
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#12
(02-10-2018, 06:52 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I'm interested to know if and when researchers such as yourselves feel a little skeptical, at least about some cases rather than others. I imagine that, after intensive study of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of cases, you must begin to get a feel for the sincere and also for the, shall we say, embellished?

For myself, a couple of the most convincing were Pam Reynolds and Anita Moorjani while one that gives me an uneasy gut feel is Eben Alexander. It is difficult to pin down why - perhaps it is my natural suspicion of commercial promotion and there seemed to be a lot of that in Alexander's case. I also have a problem with books touting religious confirmation - usually with publishers insisting on the word Heaven in the title. My understanding suggests that NDEs are mostly religiously neutral, certainly not confirmations of any particular religious teaching.

Well, to be honest, we're a bit "skeptical" -  although by now this is not a word I would normally use in the positive or neutral, original sense - about any new case we encounter. We first need to study the facts as they're known and then, if possible, we need to get external confirmation of its paranormal aspects. For myself, it does not matter where the case is from or where it was published, what matters is if it can be substantiated.
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#13
Great interview from two of my favorite researchers, thank you so much. I wanted to comment on what Kamarling touched upon: some NDE's give you uneasy feeling, particularly those with elaborate, intricate "messages from the source" and all that stuff. As I understand it, the other side must be completely outside of the realm of our comprehension, inefable, impossible to describe in human terms. So, when Denison starts narrating her "lengthy conversations with the Source" about the reasons for creating the Universe or the fake dr. PMH Atwater starts describing her wild adventures on the other side I start smelling bs. And they seem to have made a nice chunk of money on their "experience". Dunno, I think that people like that do great disservice to the leggitimate life-changing experiences so many people go through.
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#14
(02-10-2018, 02:44 PM)Laird Wrote: To Smithy: Titus has been queried regarding his perspective on the mind-body question, and has explained that even though he thinks idealism is tenable, he nevertheless identifies as an interactionist dualist. What is your own perspective, and why (and how firmly) do you hold it? How relevant, generally, do you think that your perspective on the mind-body question is to your research in NDEs?

Thanks for this valuable question.

Now, let me be clear: I am not a philosopher - all of that is Titus's cup of tea.

For me it is more like this: if it waddles like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, if it looks like a duck, then it is a duck, period. So when I encounter veridical cases, that after serious scrutiny and support from independent (and reliable) sources, can hardly be anything but true, then I cannot do anything than accept them  - however, with just a small percentage of doubt in the back of my mind, because as so often was and is the case, sometimes - in hindsight - things were and are a little different than originally assumed.

I have been studying these matters since the mid-seventies. Not continuously though, there were years that I did not pay much attention to it. And, honestly, it took me 28 years to switch over from the "joke of the brain" assumption to the almost-certainty that it is much more than that. I now have the almost 100% certainty that mind and body are separate entities that are intemately connected but under particular circumstances can part. As in OBE/NDE, and of course, also at physical death. So, in that regard, I consider myself a survivalist. And naturally, these assumptions influence my research into these phenomena.  But..... as I indicated, a true scientific approach demands to remain critical. Not all that glitters is gold, isn't it?!

I hope this has answered your question.

Smithy
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#15
(02-10-2018, 06:52 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I'm interested to know if and when researchers such as yourselves feel a little skeptical, at least about some cases rather than others. I imagine that, after intensive study of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of cases, you must begin to get a feel for the sincere and also for the, shall we say, embellished?

For myself, a couple of the most convincing were Pam Reynolds and Anita Moorjani while one that gives me an uneasy gut feel is Eben Alexander. It is difficult to pin down why - perhaps it is my natural suspicion of commercial promotion and there seemed to be a lot of that in Alexander's case. I also have a problem with books touting religious confirmation - usually with publishers insisting on the word Heaven in the title. My understanding suggests that NDEs are mostly religiously neutral, certainly not confirmations of any particular religious teaching.

Yes, Kamerling, in the course of time one develops an intuitive feeling that some supposed NDE/OBE's are not what they look like. I am the editor of Terugkeer (= Return or Coming Back) the journal of the Dutch branch of the International Association for Near-Death Studies. Over the years I have received quite a few reports which were indeed a little too fantastic. Perhaps there were true NDE-specifics involved but they got mixed up with all sorts of observations that were over the top. Such stories I rejected, as they did not ring true.

As for Eben Alexander I have the feeling that he is okay. He sounds sincere to me, despite the commercial exploitation of his experience via his books and lectures, and of all that. As long as I have had dealings with people from the USA it has become my understanding that it is quite normal overthere to make money out of almost anything.

Here in the Netherlands there is a tendency to reject the commercial approach when it comes to spiritual matters.
Books about NDE's do seldomly achieve large circulation figures. With the real exception though of Pim van Lommel's book Eindeloos Bewustzijn (English translation Consciousness Beyond Life). Its first edition was only a thousand or so copies because nobody (least of all Pim) thought that many more than that would be sold.
But due to a large interview in a prominent national daily newspaper, it got off like a spear! Now, ten years later, it has been translated into nine languages and sold all over a quarter of a million...
And what do the doubters say? Of course, a commercial ploy, not to be taken seriously... Sigh...

Yes, most NDE's are religiously neutral. That does not take away the fact that some NDE'rs perceive in the "being of light" religious figures such as Jezus, Mohammed, Krishna, whatever... all due to their cultural upbringing. However, so far I have never met NDE'rs who have seen litteral confirmation of their faiths. Actually, some of them abandoned their institutional religion as their experiences did not in any way confirm the teachings of their church. And some of them were even thrown out of their church after they had told their congregation of their NDEs. Why?,  because that experience was nothing but having been in league with the devil... so, out you go!
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#16
(02-10-2018, 08:39 PM)Enrique Vargas Wrote: Great interview from two of my favorite researchers, thank you so much. I wanted to comment on what Kamarling touched upon: some NDE's give you uneasy feeling, particularly those with elaborate, intricate "messages from the source" and all that stuff. As I understand it, the other side must be completely outside of the realm of our comprehension, inefable, impossible to describe in human terms. So, when Denison starts narrating her "lengthy conversations with the Source" about the reasons for creating the Universe or the fake dr. PMH Atwater starts describing her wild adventures on the other side I start smelling bs. And they seem to have made a nice chunk of money on their "experience". Dunno, I think that people like that do great disservice to the leggitimate life-changing experiences so many people go through.

Yes, I too, have my doubts about "exuberant" Ms Atwater. It seems to me that she adds every year a new NDE or her own. Surprise  Nevertheless, she has written some good books. Her "Big Book of Near-Death Experiences" (2007) is pretty factual and hardly going over the top.

(Sorry guys, I will be off for quite a few hours now)
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#17
First, let me say 'Thank You' to all involved in this interview, both for the interesting and thoughtful questions, as well as the detailed responses.

Myself, I appreciate the difficulties and the necessity to go into the technicalities of the NDE and how it can be explained and so on. But for me, it is the impact on society which I think is of importance, how knowledge of such phenomena affects both the individuals who have such experiences, and the broader effect on society as a whole, under the heading "Controversial Cultural Consequences" in the interview.

First, I don't foresee a time when society will hold a single uniform viewpoint on these matters, there will always be a diverse spread of ideas and opinions. However, I think the wider dissemination of the facts about NDEs on the whole must be a good thing. There is so much misinfomation and misunderstanding that educating both the general public as well as the academic world can only be a good thing.

Some doubts were expressed as to whether such knowledge would devalue the present life, and thus prove harmful, in my opinion that must be counterbalanced by the benefits of knowing that this life is not 'all there is', but that it is part of a bigger picture.

On a personal note, as a materialist I experienced a hopelessness and despair (many years ago now, thankfully), and it was the demonstration (in my case) via evidence of reincarnation, that the soul does not die, which helped to give a sense of perspective which helped me to understand that there is a purpose, and uplifted me from that darkness. That seems to be the message of many NDEs too, on returning the experiencer knows that they have a purpose in being here, even if it isn't always clear what that is.
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#18
(02-11-2018, 10:58 AM)Typoz Wrote: On a personal note, as a materialist I experienced a hopelessness and despair (many years ago now, thankfully), and it was the demonstration (in my case) via evidence of reincarnation, that the soul does not die, which helped to give a sense of perspective which helped me to understand that there is a purpose, and uplifted me from that darkness. That seems to be the message of many NDEs too, on returning the experiencer knows that they have a purpose in being here, even if it isn't always clear what that is.

Yes, Typoz, this paragraph of your post does resonate with me. Indeed, during my many years of essentially being a materialist, I had the same feelings: why the bloody hell am I here on earth with the certainty that in the end I would be annihilated completely, thrown into oblivion... What is the purpose of all this when in effect it is all totally insignificant? The usual materialistic mantra is that life is senseless indeed but that it is all up to yourself to make it significant, did not resonate with me. I found it all a dreary prospect anyway...

But like you, when I "discovered" the NDE and also the evidence of reincarnation - which, to my opinion is strong enough - life has become so much more bearable, so fulfulling.  Like you said, this evidence is so uplifting! No more dreary darkness, but the good feeling that we are here to learn, and to fulfil a real purpose...

Thanks you for bringing this up.
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#19
(02-10-2018, 02:44 PM)Laird Wrote: To Vortex: You continue to do this forum such a great service by arranging and conducting interviews such as these, and by bringing such a wealth of knowledge of the issues that you are able to construct interview questions that whilst covering all bases are at the same time more than superficial. What background do you have in the subject matter of this interview in particular that allows you to achieve this?

Thanks, Laird, and hello again to everyone here. Sorry to be a bit late for this discussion - Titus and Smithy has to do without me this far, and they did wonderfully. Well, now I'm here and can participate as well.

To your question, Laird. My knowledge is a combination of three factors:
  • an extensive and attentive reading on the whole range of consciousness-related (and corresponding) texts,
  • a deep and diligent anaysis of what I read which allows me to reach conclusions and formulate notions of my own,
  • a regular discussion of the consclusions I reached and the notions I formulated, as well as their evidential basis, with anyone who can provide valuable insight and crituque while maintaining civility and clarity in debate.
But, without one trait I can claim, all of the above wouldn't be so helpful. It wouldn't be a boasting of any kind to add that I possess a breathtakingly rare virtue of an unrestrained open-mindedness.  Such virtue does not exclude critical and cautious approach to any claim, and it have nothing to do with naive believing-in-everything attitude. It just mean that I can assess almost any issue I encounter without letting my prejudices - and emotional inclinications and outbursts that feed them - to cloud my thinking, and to listen to all sides of controversy without reservation. It does not mean that I am unemotional and have no sympathies and antipathies - personal passions and social leanings are as common to me as for any other human being - only that I, unlike the vast majority of people, can identify my passions and leanings as such, and separate them from my intellectual analysis. In a very few cases where my emotions are strong enough to prevent my objectivity from actualising itself fully- such as, say, claims of innate racial superiority or inferiority made by biological racists - I can openly and honestly acknowledge my subjectivity, and refrain from pretending that my disapproval or approval is objective, while it is not.

And, most importantly, my remarkable (it seems to be sometimes, nearly anomalous...) resistance to emotional overdose allow me to maintain politeness and civility in all situations. My ideas may appear to be highly provocative in the eyes of others - but provocation is not my goal at all, I just defend what I consider to be true even if my position would be as unpopular as possible (as long as I can notice at least a small chance to be heard; overwise, I will simply remain silent). And, in the process of such defense, I will never insult or disparage my opponents (well, except the ones who perceive disagreement with some of their ideas as insult in itself... but here I'm unable to help).

Occasionally, however, I suffer from distressing emotional downs of my own, horrified and heart-broken by people's pervasive prejudices, their inability to understand the world and each other and resulting absurdities and atrocities that are so usual in our life. In such moment, I can't feel nothing but conflicting emotions of fury and anger to people's stubborness and willful stupidity, on one hand, comapssion and pity to their plight, on the other. So many problems could be quite easily resolved, or even avoided altogether, if people were able to genuinely hear and see each other and the world around, instead of insisting on the fulfillment of their deep-rooted, emotionally charged biases mistaken for unquestionable truth!
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