Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Survived...Beyond and Back


Bio Channel has emerged as an interesting place on which to watch real life stories, beyond biographies of famous people or celebrities. The requisite paranormal show phenomenon for cable stations has not bypassed Bio, and what this station offers is refreshingly interesting and relatively free of hype and sensationalism. When you watch a typical documentary type paranormal show, like say The Haunted on Animal Planet, you ge t the creepy music and sound effects with the scary low angle shot of the house with the clouds speeding by at dusk, as if the invisible entities are just waitingfor the sun to set for their time to get jumpy.

I have two top choices from the Bio Channel (now that newer episodes of Ghostly Encounters are not being aired--another favorite that I wish would come back, with those calm, sensible Canadians telling their stories). The first is Celebrity Ghost Stories and the second is I Survived...Beyond and Back, which takes a life or death situation beyond the death part and gives us a glimpse of the brief experience of the afterlife described by those who are featured. I've already written about Celebrity Ghost Stories. I still stop whatever I'm doing to watch it because, again, most of these celebrities know how to communicate to an audience. I would say that I believe what I'm hearing from them in all but one or two cases--who my intuition tells me, with their waning career opportunities, were just trying to get more face time on television. Most of the stories, however, sound pretty believable.

I Survived...Beyond and Back is the answer to the afterlife evidence questions many of us have. It is the ideal format for a serious look at near death experiences (NDEs) without a host, without drama, without experts giving background knowledge. It is just the story as told by the person who experienced it and one or two other people who were involved. A few location shots, hospital shots, and occasional real video or news footage related to the story enhance the person's first-hand account. In addition to graphic frames providing some transitional information and further details, the only enhancement is the graphic image and sound of a heartbeat and flatline with a clock ticking off the amount of time since the person's hear stopped. In a few cases, it goes beyond the 5 minutes that usually mean brain damage is likely to have occurred, with one case even going to more than 20 minutes without a heartbeat. Some people awake to find themselves being readied for the morgue.

Most describe a pleasant experience, a life review, a conversation with a relative or friend who has died, a being of light or sometimes God--all the traditionally reported experiences. Most say they were told it was not yet their time and they are sent back to their bodies (kicking and screaming in some cases), which they relate to the feeling of being slammed into a concrete block. Ouch. The question that ocmes to mind is if it is not yet their time, why did they have this experience in the first place? To be witnesses for the rest of us? To let us know what we all might experience?

One man featured on the show described a hellish experience (I've written about Howard Storm's hellish experience in an earlier post). But, obviously, he got out of hell alive to tell about it and to describe the "happy ending" besides coming back to his body. I wonder if he would have been featured at all on the show if his story about hell would have been without some hope. Some critics of paranormal television shows suggest that they are sometiems designed and edited to present a good vs. evil storyline and that anything paranormal or non-physical is related to evil and that it is neceassary to use religous means to counteract it. I'm not saying that this man didn't have the experience he did, and I personally was relieved to hear that he felt there was some chance at redemption or some guardian "cavalry" -- he believed it was God -- to come to the rescue. I'd like to see more people who've had hellish experieences appear on the show to compare stories--and I'd also like to know that there would be the same chance of escape for anyone who is in the scarier side of death. (Yes, religions offer their own prescription, and then they fight about it on this side of the veil, so I think what some of us are looking for is a kind of confirmation from someone who's been there).

These kinds of experiences have been reported throughout the ages. Otherworld Journeys by Carole Zaleski (Oxford University press, 1999) describes reports of NDEs from the middle ages and modern times. In reading Ram Dass" Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I've wondered how such a detailed look at the afterlife could have been compiled and described by the Tibetan Buddhists, for whom preparation for death is the main purpose of life. Perhaps they, too, got their information from such experiences. A paper I read about NDes in Tibetan culture talks about accounts of people called delogs who have been dead for several hours or days and who come back to life sontaneously with stories about their journeys to the "otherworld."

This show makes sense, especially for Americans and our typically death-denying culture, since we all will die. And if we come to the point in our lives where it is imminent, will we be mentally ready to know what may come after? Will we be shocked to find out what comes after? Some who believe that NDEs are a product of the brain (I've read literature that illustrates a case in which there was no brain activity at all and the blood was drained from the body during an operation), insist that there is no way to know, and many scientis refuse to believe what cannot be proven by known physical science. Some go so far as to express their belief that death is the end of life completely and there is nothing beyond. Yet others, like Gregg Braden and a number of quantum physicicsts ocnsider the possibility that our consciousness does not reside in our bodies, but in a universal energy field, the Divine Matrix. And like the film The Matrix, our consciousness is connected to a body--the one we are using now. (Sounds like a SIMs avatar). Psychics speak of the silver cord connecting our consciousness to our body, so that those who have out-of-body experiences, like NDEs or deliberate OBEs (which are also known as astral travel), remain connected to the body by the silver cord. If that is not connected to the body, there is no way for the conscious body to return to the physical body.

I'm excited to see more of these programs that allow people to talk about death and their experiences. It signals a readiness for more programming that addresses what may occur beyond death, and the consideration that ghost stories may not be just "scary stories" but a possibility of missing hte bus to the next level. (On my first day of first grade, we were sent outside to play after lunch. Apparently a bell rang and the next thing I knew, everyone had gone inside and a couple of boys and me were standing outside confused about what just happened and where everyone went. We searched around for an adult to tell us what to do and where to go. Perhaps it is a similar state of confusion for people who have not considered what the death experience will be like).