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P. David Hornik


March 16, 2014 - 9:00 am


“I went down a tunnel, I saw a light.” It has become such a standard part of near-death-experience accounts that it’s almost a cliché. Near-death experiencers report moving through a (usually dark) tunnel and emerging at a different place, where they may encounter a being of light, deceased relatives, heavenly landscapes, a review of their lives—usually some combination, or all, of those elements.

The tunnel experience is common though not universal. Some NDErs seem to go directly to the other world, without passing through a tunnel. Tunnels seem to be considerably less common in Hindu NDEs. Japanese NDErs report moving along rivers instead of tunnels.

At least in Western NDEs, though, tunnels are more common in cases where NDErs are actually clinically dead. All this suggests that the tunnel is a metaphorical representation of the transition from one world to the other. What is, however, universal is that the world encountered in the NDE is very different from the earthly one—and in the vast majority of cases, a lot better. To such an extent that NDErs—no matter what their earthly responsibilities and attachments—usually want to stay in the transcendent world, and regret—sometimes quite painfully—having to return to the earthly one.  PJ-tunnel-2

The being of light, as I discussed earlier in this series, is without exception experienced as a source of great, unconditional love. In NDEs that include this element, it is, of course, one of the things that make the experience so overwhelmingly positive, and one of the reasons, if not the main one, that the NDEr usually longs to stay in that world and doesn’t want to come back to this one.

Which raises a problem: why the contrast between the two worlds? In one, light, love, peace, and joy reign. In the other—this one—those elements are certainly present, but so is a lot of misery and evil. Since the being of light can only be described as a deity, not infrequently identified by NDErs with God, what is this deity’s relation to the world where so much is wrong?


Some NDErs report having had telepathic interactions with the deity in which such questions were raised. One of them is Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon whose remarkable NDE became the source of his book Proof of Heaven. Alexander writes there that he received an answer:

[The being of light] told me that there is not one universe but many—in fact, more than I could conceive—but that love lay at the center of them all. Evil was present in all the other universes as well, but only in the tiniest trace amounts. Evil was necessary because without it free will was impossible, and without free will there could be no growth—no forward movement, no chance for us to become what God longed for us to be. Horrible and all-powerful as evil sometimes seemed to be in a world like ours, in the larger picture love was overwhelmingly dominant, and it would ultimately be triumphant.


It sounds nice.  Is it enough to put the question to rest?

For one thing, it is not clear from Alexander’s passage if “the tiniest trace amounts” are what exist only in “the other universes” or in our universe as well. The latter possibility, though, seems more warranted by the wording and more logical. If so, phenomena like the atrocities now occurring in Syria, or even larger-scale atrocities like Auschwitz or Treblinka, are hard to square with the phrase “the tiniest trace amounts.”

For another, while there is no doubt that free will is essential to the possibility of meaning for imperfect beings like us, free will, “growth,” and “forward movement” do not apply to more innocent beings. For instance, last December when there was a rare blizzard here in Israel with freezing temperatures, stray cats suffered terribly (in some cases dying). True, we humans here in Israel could do more to solve the stray-cat problem; but we could never solve it completely. In this and all too many other cases, free will is not relevant to the issue of innocent suffering.


In the end—as far as I can make out with my limited understanding—we’re still left with two worlds: one filled with light and joy, where the being of light reigns; and one where, though it is certainly possible to sense and intuit that other world’s existence, he seems too often to abandon his creatures.

The incomprehensible cruelty of this world we currently inhabit is a datum; and the existence of a deity—all the more so in this era of NDEs—is also a datum. Will it ever be possible to reconcile these two seemingly incompatible data? Will ongoing NDE accounts eventually offer light at the end of the tunnel, as explanations keep coming our way? Even if not, the one datum gives strength in coping with the other.

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Top Rated Comments   
Surprised & glad to find an apolitical article. Couldn't sleep so spent the last 2 or 3 hours reading all 5 articles in the series. I particularly liked the last paragraph in the last article.

My parents were atheists and so was I. In my twenties I began to think how could there be creation without a creator. Being of a scientific bent religious mythology never attracted me. Over time an idiosyncratic simple down-to-earth yet satisfying to me theology took shape in my mind. I think it is probably a form of what is called Deism. The commenter Sherab mentioned the delightful sounding word: Tzim-Tzum. Looked it up on Wikipedia. A bit complicated but not contrary to my own simplistic conception.

I figure the occupational hazard of being God is boredom & loneliness. Boredom because what possible challenges & surprises could he look forward to; Loneliness because who could he converse with on anywhere near his level. So, God set the universe in motion with a few simple rules without any further micro management not knowing exactly how it would all turn out. Now he would no longer be bored due to inevitable flaws & accidents bringing surprises in the evolution of the universe. If his laws could, & why not, create living creatures with the potential of evolving into conscious beings such as ourselves, we could ourselves become mini gods capable of communicating with him. Voiila, no more loneliness.

I said from the outset it was simplistic but it is good enough for me.
Fred Glass
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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"The incomprehensible cruelty of this world we currently inhabit is a datum; and the existence of a deity—all the more so in this era of NDEs—is also a datum. Will it ever be possible to reconcile these two seemingly incompatible data? "

Wow, is tonight 'easiest questions night' or what?

God can do anything and knows everything. It says so right on the label.

Here's a quick chance to see what it's like to be god. Pick your favorite video game. If you don't have one, find someone who does and watch them. Have them turn on "god mode" where you're invulnerable. Play the game. Yawn. Absolutely no challenge. BOOOOORING!!! Play again, and again and again. Boring, boring squared, boring cubed..BOORING!!! If you can't relate to video games, play monopoly. You get to start with 500 million dollars. That'll be totally not exciting. BOOOORING!!!

But God cannot be challenged. His only option is to live challenges vicariously. So he creates people. Everybody is good. It's like heaven, people walk around and do Good Things. And smile. Forever. BOOOORING!!!

More people watch action movies than movies of people sitting around being happy.

God created humans as the ultimate reality TV show. He can't be challenged, but he can watch his creations get challenged. He can sympathize and laugh and cry.

"God loves you" Well of course he does. When he stops your show gets cancelled in favor of something else. you get cancelled. Sometimes you're amusing, but the overall script needs you dead for dramatic reasons, so too bad.

But on the bright side, to make up for all the evil humans have to endure to make the shows interesting, God lets people go to heaven as thanks.

There, you asked a question that you despair of getting an answer to. The cruelty is necessary to the plot. God has to exist, because somebody wrote and produced the show. It sure as hell wasn't the actors. Heaven becomes a logical reward, because without a sense of repayment or justice on the part of god, he wouldn't be able to relate to the actors, and he'd turn off the show.

I can keep going all day. The Flood? In the words of Pink Floyd "I've got 18 channels of S**t on the TV to choose from" Cancel all the shows on every channel and start over, keeping just enough to make a restart possible.

I've just given you an internally consistent, logical theology. Any question can be answered by "dramatic necessity to keep things interesting" and it actually works. Misery encountered by humans? You'd be hard pressed to find anybody who wouldn't trade the most miserable life ever to be paid off by millions of years of being an effective billionaire.

We're all just method actors really, really deep into our parts. Otherwise, it would be boring for us too.
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49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Which raises a problem: why the contrast between the two worlds?"

Well, in the previous world, *something* damaged you to the point of near death. In this new world of light and brain opiate induced euphoria, all your cares are gone.

Of course you don't want to go back to where you're bent in half backwards under a car, or lying on an operating table with your chest open like an armoire, or are have 1/3 of the bones in your body shattered from the truck that slammed into your minivan full of kids...

Near death experiences happen when you're NEARLY DEAD from something. OUCH!
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Funny how this "evidence" can only get published in junk journals and crank websites not taken seriously by real scientists.

49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ha, I see what you did there. You slyly called PJMedia a crank website. Naughty, Naughty...
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kevin Williams provided a talkback for my first article in this series, and I'm pasting it in here:

The list of evidence supporting the survival of consciousness is too long to list here; but you can read some of the evidence here:

A. Scientific evidence suggestive of an afterlife:

B. Evidence from quantum theory supporting the survival of consciousness after death:

C. Evidence of an afterlife from near-death research:
Near-death experiences (NDEs) offer the best scientific evidence suggestive of an afterlife. But skeptics and materialists like to dismiss NDEs as being caused by brain anomalies – even though it doesn’t matter WHAT mechanism causes NDEs when determining whether NDEs are real afterlife experiences or not. Nevertheless, brain anomalies have already been ruled out (see A.) Also, the materialists' so-called "CAUSES of NDEs" are actually only the SIDE-EFFECTS of having an NDE.

And if NDEs are nothing more than a final hallucination before total oblivion (as claimed by materialists), then they need to examine ALL the evidence such as:

(1) NDE experiencers can have verified out-of-body perceptions where they see and hear very detailed events and conversations sometimes hundreds of miles away. Google: "veridical near-death" or "George Ritchie".

(2) People born blind (or color blind) can see correctly for the first time in their lives during a NDE. Google: "Vicki Umipeg".

(3) Memories of NDEs are more real than normal memories. Google: " Steven Laureys" near-death.

(4) The level of conscious alertness during NDEs are usually greater than that experienced in everyday life - even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. Google: "Jeffrey Long" "nine lines of evidence".

(5) A vast number of NDEs occur while the NDE experiencer is under general anesthesia - at a time when any conscious experience should be impossible.

(6) The NDE "life review" provides the NDE experiencer with a perfect playback of real events which previously occurred in their lives - even if the events were forgotten or happened before they were old enough to remember. Google "Jeffrey Long" "nine lines of evidence".

(7) NDE experiencers bring back important scientific discoveries. Google "Mellen-Thomas Benedict" or "Lynnclaire Dennis" or "Ralph Duncan".

(8) NDE experiencers report seeing visions of the future which actually occur as foretold. Google "Ned Dougherty" or "Dannion Brinkley".

(9) Children’s NDEs, including very young children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or NDEs, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults. Google: children near-death experiences

(10) NDEs are remarkably consistent around the world and across many different religions and cultures. Google: "NDEs of Hindus" (for example).

(11) NDE experiencers encounter people who are virtually always deceased and are usually relatives of the NDE experiencer including relatives who died before the experiencer was even born. Google: "Jeffrey Long" "nine lines of evidence".

(12) It is common for NDE experiencers to have powerful, life-enhancing, and long-lasting major life changes and aftereffects after having an NDE.

(13) NDE experiencers themselves are practically universal in their understanding that their NDE was a real afterlife experience. Google: near-death aftereffects

(14) NDEs are drastically different from hallucinations. Google: "NDEs are not hallucinations".

(15) NDEs have been documented throughout history including ancient times. Google: Plato Er near-death

(16) Here is a YouTube video of a doctor describing a patient who successfully read a 12-digit number while out of their body:

(17) Other research related to veridical (verified) perception in NDEs exists, such as:

a. Veridical out-of-body experiences (Google: "Charles Tart")
b. Veridical deathbed visions (Google: "Carla-Wills Brandon")
c. Veridical dreams (Google: "Claire Sylvia")
d. Veridical after-death communications (Google: "Bill and Judy Guggenheim")
e. Veridical remote viewing (Google: "Joseph McMoneagle")
f. Shared death experiences (Google: "shared death experiences").

Too many skeptics and materialists who draw materialistic conclusions about NDEs have simply not done their homework.

Kevin Williams
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
This reposting is an excellent resource. Thanks, Fred Glass
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just came back from the site cited above. Surprised to see such widespread interest in this subject. Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised considering that every human being who has ever lived has asked the questions: Where have I come from & Where am I going?
Fred Glass
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
NDEs have been heavily researched and written about since about the early '70s. Yes, a fascinating subject, pertinent to everyone. There are still a lot of people who don't know about this subject, but interest keeps growing.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't worry, everyone will learn about NDE's eventually.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm so impressed with people's ability to fly to heaven and come back with banalities that anyone could say.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly. As a conservative and an engineer I cringe when I re-read what I write. It does look like flowery banalities. But then it did happen to me. Just try to describe the color blue to yourself and you begin to see the problem. Some things exist that contain no transferable information. You can only use a symbol to describe it to someone else who knows from experience what the color “blue” means. I think the tunnel and light are really attached to the experience after awakening. If I try to really remember what actually happened it devolves into “knowings” (a word I had to make up to describe it). But there is no harm in taking the advice I give below if you want to test your atheism. Claiming to be atheist without some intellectual effort to understanding the issues is a bit banal.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some reportedly have died, experienced hell, and returned.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
In my humble and suspect opinion we should all be trying to define and eradicate evil in ourselves with strong intention and vigor. I’m an NDE’r and the dark glass was not there for a short time. My advice is to learn everything you can about time, stress and information. Study these three things in physics, biology and philosophy. Meditate on them to understand what they mean to set up the “tabula rasa” (without having to die). Study Plotinus and about Buddhism, Jainism, the Kabbalah, Christianity and Greek mythology. Define sin and its source. It’s a lot of work but I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to be doing just that. I think space/time and matter/energy are temporary and artificial constructs to allow the spirit to evolve closer to God. But it all could have been an artifact of my brain with insufficient oxygen. Your choice.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Cor 13:12

NDE's are just that; NEAR death and even then those experiencing NDE see through that glass darkly. Our limited understanding can only imagine.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't say that the suffering of the stray cats was evil. To say that, you have to attribute actual malicious intent to the blizzard that hit Israel. Did the storm hit Israel with the express intent of causing suffering? Of course not! The suffering it caused was tragic, but it was not evil.

So, I think the Divine Being you reference has it right when he says that true evil exists in trace amounts. We would think of it as direct demonic influence, evils of a pure source like that for those who believe. While I think those things are possible, I think they are extremely rare. But they have to be present in order to allow us to know good and evil and to choose ourselves between them.

The rest of the evil in the world is what I call human evil. It's the evil that exists because of our human choices. It's the harm we cause each other whether intentional or not, and it can range from the smallest things, a person's smallest thoughtless remark, to the very largest like Pol Pot's purges. It's not pure evil by definition, but the side effect of something someone chose to do, a by-product of freewill.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Life is like a movie that ties your mind into a knot
You have to know how the projector works
To figure out the plot
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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