By Clive Lindley-Jones | June 27, 2021 3:31 pm
A Turning Point
This month marks a turning point for Helix House. After a two-year change-over period, which we never expected to include a global pandemic, Clive and Kerstin are now stepping down as owners and directors of the practice. Many of you will have met Yan-Chee Yu over the last five years as a highly innovative Osteopath and who is now the sole owner and director.
Clive and Kerstin will still be seeing a few patients and clients for Osteopathy and Psychotherapy, respectively, but will no longer play an active part in the running and management of Helix House.
Starting in 1982 when Clive and Kerstin moved from London to Oxford, Helix House has grown to be a key point of call for many, sometimes desperate, to find a solution to their physical, biochemical or mental health issues. Since then, what was considered radical and advanced in health care, has often been integrated into standard healthcare thinking. Osteopaths have both become state recognised and Allied Health Professionals. While mental health has crept up in the public consciousness, even members of the royal family emphasise the benefits of self-understanding and healing through Psychotherapy!
Helix House has always aspired to be at the forefront of knowledge, skill and kindness in helping people heal themselves, using the best approaches available. Under Yan’s leadership, we know that this commitment will continue and flourish. But, of course, these have been challenging times for everyone, not least for those in health care trying to do their job under adverse conditions.
We hope you will support Yan as he takes Helix House forward and continues innovating and caring, long into the future. While a lot has changed, there is much still to do. It is time to hand over to the next generation and allow new ideas and insights to take us into future decades.
There has never been a greater need for healing and wisdom as we struggle with the climate crisis, dysfunctional populist governments and the decline of truth and probity in governance, the rise of artificial intelligence, and all the challenges that these will bring. However, in amongst the grim news, real hope is discernible. The greater the challenge, the greater the heroes. As each generation stands on the shoulders of those who come before, people of goodwill worldwide increasingly realise that, while we are all different and separate humans, we are all one being.
Near Death Experiences
Talking of human beings, would you like a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, less concern for acquiring material wealth, a heightened sense of purpose, self-understanding, and desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive?
Yes? Well, what if I told you your best chance is to die first, and just maybe, all of these changes can occur; in no time.
Too good to be true? Yes and no.
For this month, I want to talk about Near Death Experiences (NDE’s). The other day full of renewed fascination after reading Bruce Grayson’s new book After, I asked a friend if he had ever had a near-death experience? Yes, he said he did have a dangerous fall from a cliff once.
What I was asking, but failed to define my terms, was what Dr Raymond Moody, in his 1975 ground-breaking book, Life After Life, first termed a “Near Death Experience” – a hard to explain, often out-of-time, experience that, when over, usually leaves those who had the ineffable experience, with life-changing outcomes in outlook and experience, such as I mentioned above.
When I read Moody’s book back in the day, I was fascinated to hear about these discrete patterns of experiences that cannot be explained under our present materialistic model of consciousness. Later, I read other accounts such as Anita Moorjani’s Dying to Be Me and Neurosurgeon Eban Alexander’s account of his own extensive NDE in his, perhaps unfortunately titled, Proof of Heaven.
If you are familiar with these accounts, you will enjoy Greyson’s expert research; if the concept is new to you, if you can keep an open, genuinely scientific mind, then you may experience some expansion of your current worldview, or… find it all too wacky to even entertain!
David Lorimer of the Scientific and Medical Network comments, “To say that this book is authoritative would be an understatement, all the more so on account of its measured and balanced approach”.
For fifty years, Greyson, who is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, has collected and studied these many hundreds of accounts and in this book makes a convincing attempt at trying to formulate a clear understanding of what they tell us of the human condition. His book asks some deep questions about life and death, about living and the value of compassion and our interconnectedness with one another and about what makes life meaningful and fulfilling and what we may be able to learn about these extraordinary experiences. As Greyson says about this career-long study, “Pretending something didn’t happen just because we can’t explain it is the exact opposite of science…It didn’t answer all my questions, but it did lead me to question some of my answers”.
Consciousness and Death
NDE’s force us to look anew at that ‘hard problem’ of science: consciousness.
The association between the mind and brain is a fact. However, the interpretation that the brain creates the mind is not a scientific fact.
Greyson completes his comprehensive exploration, which is full of extraordinary accounts of those who have undergone such life changing experiences that are so hard to put into words, with a series of lessons he has learnt over this lifetime of research.
- NDE’s are common experiences that can happen to anyone. They seem to occur with 10-20% of those who come close to death, or about 5% of the general population.
- NDE’s are normal experiences that happen to people in exceptional circumstances. Our brain processes these experiences like real experiences, not like dreams or hallucinations. As a result, they report a heightened sense of reality that leaves the experiencer with no doubt in themselves, as to the validity of what they underwent, even when much of it is unexplainable by our present scientific understanding. Most of the biochemical explanations, sometimes posited, do not, according to Greyson, seem to stand up under scrutiny.
- NDE’s usually lead to several profound and long-lasting after-effects.
- NDE’s reduce the fear of death. This paradoxically appears to reduce the fear of living.
- NDE’s lead experiencers to live more fully in the present moment.
- NDE’s raise questions about the relationship between minds and brains.
- NDE’s raise questions about the continuation of consciousness after death.
If, according to Greyson, as many as one in twenty of us have experiences of this life-changing nature, you may wonder why no-one you know has had such an experience. It may be that, as with so many of Greyson’s interviewees, until recently, and still, for very many of the population, such experiences are so hard to explain or even talk about. This is especially so if those they know have no concept of such NDE’s and perhaps scoff at such hard to comprehend out of body experiences.
We now know, that they have been reported on throughout history, but not, of course, in our present scientific language.
Personal and Objective Truth
Greyson, quoting astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, distinguishes personal truth, which may be convincing to you as an individual but which you cannot necessarily prove to anyone else, and an objective truth, which is the kind of truth that science discovers. People from different cultures and different religions have NDE’s whether or not they believe in them.
Greyson uses the idea of psychologist Van de Castle to illustrate the experience of many who have an NDE. “If you get hit by a truck, you know that you were hit by a truck, and no amount of scepticism from others will ever convince you that the truck was only imaginary”.
Finally, as Greyson says, “There is one thing about which I am certain, about which the evidence is overwhelming – and that is the effect of NDE’s on people’s attitudes, beliefs and values. If you take one thing from this book, I would want you to appreciate the transformative power of these experiences to change peoples lives”.
Something to think about!
Measuring Near Death Experiences
If you are curious, Professor & Psychiatrist Bruce Greyson developed this scale to measure the depth of an individual’s near-death experience. The following is a copy of the scale as presented in an article entitled Altered States by Lee Graves in the Summer 2007 edition of the University of Virginia Magazine.
1. Did Time seem to speed up or slow down?
0 = No
1 = Time seemed to go faster or slower than usual
2 = Everything seemed to be happening at once; or Time stopped or lost all meaning
2. Were your thoughts speeded up?
0 = No
1 = Faster than usual
2 = Incredibly fast
3. Did scenes from your past come back to you?
0 = No
1 = I remembered many past events
2 = My past flashed before me, out of my control
4. Did you suddenly seem to understand Everything?
0 = No
1 = Everything about myself or others
2 = Everything about the universe
5. Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness?
0 = No
1 = Relief or calmness
2 = Incredible peace or pleasantness
6. Did you have a feeling of joy?
0 = No
1 = Happiness
2 = Incredible joy
7. Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe?
0 = No
1 = I felt no longer in conflict with nature
2 = I felt united or one with the world
8. Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light?
0 = No
1 = An unusually bright light
2 = A light clearly of mystical or other-worldly origin
9. Were your senses more vivid than usual?
0 = No
1 = More vivid than usual
2 = Incredibly more vivid
10. Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere, as if by extrasensory perception (ESP)?
0 = No
1 = Yes, but the facts have not been checked out
2 = Yes, and the facts have been checked out
11. Did scenes from the future come to you?
0 = No
1 = Scenes from my personal future
2 = Scenes from the world’s future
12. Did you feel separated from your body?
0 = No
1 = I lost awareness of my body
2 = I clearly left my body and existed outside it
13. Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world?
0 = No
1 = Some unfamiliar and strange place
2 = A clearly mystical or unearthly realm
14. Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice?
0 = No
1 = I heard a voice I could not identify
2 = I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin
15. Did you see deceased or religious spirits?
0 = No
1 = I sensed their presence
2 = I actually saw them
16. Did you come to a border or point of no return?
0 = No
1 = I came to a definite conscious decision to “return” to life
2 = I came to a barrier that I was not permitted to cross; or was “sent back” against my will.
A score of 7 or higher is considered an NDE for research purposes. The mean score among a large sample of near-death experiences is 15.
Greyson, B. (1983). The Near-Death Experience Scale: Construction, reliability, and validity. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 171, 369-375.
Greyson, B. (1985). A typology of near-death experiences. American Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 967-969.
Greyson, B. (1990). Near-death encounters with and without near-death experiences: Comparative NDE Scale profiles. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 8, 151-161.