Gee but it’s great to be back home.
Home is where I want to be.
I’ve been on the road so long my friend.
And if you came along
I know you couldn’t disagree.
It’s the same old story:
Everywhere I go,
I get slandered,
I hear words I never heard
In the Bible.
Paul Simon’s lyrics actually apply remarkably accurately to me, although the slander, libel, and cursing that I received in California came via anonymous emails rather than from any face to face confrontations. Nothing new, though. Absolutely nothing new.
The astoundingly prolific Jeffrey Mark Bradshaw has produced an essay that many of you might find both helpful and interesting:
The Latter-day Saint writer C. D. Cunningham has written a lucid and clarifying essay that I commend to your attention:
Some of you will also, I think, be interested in this timely essay that has been written by a Latter-day Saint friend of ours:
“Stop Calling Concerned Parents Haters: Many parents have sincere concerns about sexually explicit and violent books in schools. A new open letter disregards these, perpetuating a dishonest narrative accusing these parents of being motivated by hatred and fear of minority groups.”
As the title of this blog post is intended to suggest, the material below is a sequel to an earlier entry that I published here as “A River Ran Over Her.” Mary C. Neal, a UCLA-trained orthopedic surgeon, published a book some years ago in which she recounted the out-of-body and near-death experiences that she says occurred in the wake of a kayaking accident in a remote part of Chile. To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again seemed to me both honest and plausible when I read it shortly after its publication. So, coming across its sequel at the recent national meeting of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) — 7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy-Filled Life (New York: Convergent, 2017) — I was curious to read it. I already shared some passages from it in that earlier blog entry. Here are a few more:
Like everything else, the structure was brilliant but not blinding, nor did its radiance cast shadows. I wonder if these could have been the clichéd “pearly gates”? Although the bricks did not look to be literally made of pearl, I could imagine that someone might use that analogy to describe the lustrous play of iridescent light emanating from within each block, from the core of their existence.
I looked beyond the arch and into the center of the dome, where I could see a great deal of activity and many, many beings bustling about. They were too many to count and were moving along different pathways, going in and out of other structures. Was I seeing the heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in scripture? Maybe. These other buildings were tall and just as ethereal as the domed structure. They too seemed to radiate love from within their core. (17-18)
I’m struck by the heavenly “busyness” that Dr. Neal reports. Many Latter-day Saint accounts are very similar on that score.
Like those who had greeted and guided me, these “people” struck me as ageless, healthy, vibrant, and strong. (18)
I experienced a profound sense of universal understanding. Finally, everything just made sense. All I had to do was think of a question or subject, no matter how complex, and I immediately understood the answer. I not only understood the answer, but I understood the basis for the answer. I was able to observe the complexity of the universe, and yet I understood its truth. (18)
At one point, Dr. Neal mentions a remarkable experience reported by “Katie,” who was sitting at the deathbed of her fiancé only a few minutes before he actually passed away. A part of her experience was this:
One of the things he said was that it all makes sense in the end. (37)
Here, though, is another comment from Mary Neal herself, regarding a brief second near-death experience that, she says, occurred during convalescence from the original drowning accident down in Chile:
As with my earlier experiences, these struck me as being more real than real. Colors were more intense than those found on Earth. Smells and sounds effortlessly filled my consciousness, and God’s pure love infused everything. (47)
While we talked, I asked Jesus a lot of questions, although I’m unable to recall many of them now. In reply, I felt that I was receiving a complete understanding of the divine order of the universe and our interconnectedness. Everything struck me as logical, interwoven, and magnificent. (48)
Memories of having “understood everything” are not uncommon among accounts of near-death experiences. For an example that will perhaps be particularly significant for Latter-day Saints, see Jeff Bradshaw’s ““One Peep at the Other Side”: What Did Hugh Nibley’s Near-Death Experience Teach Him about the Purpose of Life?” which also picks up the commonly reported experience of heightened perception and sharpened mental acuity during a time when brain function should, if anything, be reduced. Compare Mary Neal’s report on page 13, which I mentioned in my prior blog entry: “I felt conscious and then more conscious. I had a heightened clarity and intensity of consciousness, and I felt more alive than I had ever felt.”) And compare this:
I used to think of myself as a physical being capable of spiritual experiences, like feeling loved or feeling moved by “soulful” experiences. What I discovered when I stopped being a “physical being” was that my capacity for experiencing everything around me — including and especially the profound love of God for me — radically expanded.
Actually, I have never felt more alive than when I left my body far behind. (30)
There’s more in 7 Lessons from Heaven, of course. But that is as much of it as I feel allowed to share.