No discussion of interspirituality would be complete without considering the myths embedded within our past and the importance of studying people’s shared spiritual/paranormal experiences.
In The Coming Interspiritual Age, authors Dr. Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord say spiritual experiences need to be taken seriously. Any universal spirituality would need to include the most common elements found in what they term the Great Wisdom Traditions, such as seeing spirits of the dead, angel visitations, miracles and even the power of prayer.
Other common experiences include astral projection, telepathy, clairvoyance, ESP, near death experiences, the power of healing and even reincarnation, which is most prevalent in eastern religions. These are all conscious events that occur around the world to people of all religious beliefs. Although these types of experiences cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the fact remains that they do indeed happen.
According to recent polls the authors say, “Religious people tend to report only slightly more non-normal experiences than the non-religious (75 percent versus 66 percent, which is statistically insignificant compared to the sizable majority reporting such experiences).”
Scientists encounter great difficulty with such experiences because they cannot be weighed, measured, recorded, replicated and verified. They can only depend on what the experiencer relates, which can be highly subjective – as is also true with a person’s belief in a particular god.
However the authors note, “The scientific data from brain imaging shows that the same area of the brain is used when something is seen outside the body as when it’s experienced in a dream. Likewise, the same part of the brain is involved in thinking of someone and reporting that their presence was felt.”
All of the above appears to be the result of a human’s ‘conscious’ mind. But the writers say scientists are learning that ‘consciousness’ and ‘mind’ might be two separate things.
“The scientific study of consciousness begins with the insight that the brain is made up of myriads of neurological elements and pathways, which appear somehow to be brought into a coordinated unity.”
Consciousness on the other hand is considered an electromagnetic (or quantum) field resulting from the firing of various neurons in the brain. Scientists believe that depending upon the level or frequency of the field, certain digital information is held within it. Some scientists believe this is solely an individual experience while others go a step further and believe in a “collective field shared by all.”
This comes to the fore when speaking of such things as astral travel and near death experiences. Experiencers report that their ‘consciousness’ for a brief time, becomes separated from the body’s physical mind. In such cases, it appears that consciousness is not reliant on the workings of the brain and can become independent of it.
The authors note that debunkers abound in all areas of the paranormal with skeptics more than willing to throw an icy dose of cold water on any and all such experiences. These debunkers have had no such experiences but feel qualified to squash any reports of paranormal experiences.
“Some of the materialist organizations committed to debunking non-normal spiritual experiences suggest that belief in such things is related to education. For example, when an individual of documented high education or intelligence believes in non-normal experiences, it’s believed to be the result of some other kind of flaw such as their personality or emotional makeup.” And the writers add that “holding predetermined purely materialist views is a bias.”
The same is true, they say, of those who report UFOs and alien encounters.
“The public might hope for a useful dialogue between individuals who have had such experiences. But fruitful dialogue doesn’t occur because, as we’ve seen often on television, the scientists, pilot, astronaut, high-level military official, or even former governor recounting such an experience is politely dismissed as having hallucinated.”
Ironically, those same debunkers have no problem with religious beliefs including a god that they cannot prove exists. The authors note that the determining factor in any non-normal beliefs is experience itself. Those who have had paranormal experiences, “mostly continue to believe in the ‘raw feel,’ (of the event) and thus the validity of their experiences.”
Once a person has a non-normal (paranormal) experience, his or her entire worldview seems to change and often their life focus is turned on its heels as well.
“It’s important to pay attention to the literally thousands of cases of individuals who initially doubted the existence of the spiritual realm, or the so-called ‘paranormal,’ who come to take these matters seriously after personal experiences of their own."
The authors write, “Worldwide, nearly six billion of our planet’s more than seven billion inhabitants believe in some kind of a spirit realm.”
Virtually all religious traditions speak of a spirit world or realm, as well as a place where our spirits go when they die. Many believe that our consciousness is interchangeable with the word ‘spirit,’ thus it is our consciousness that goes to either a specific heaven or hell, or melds back into the ‘all’ of existence after death.
All of these beliefs are highly significant aspects in the formation of a world consensus on spiritually based matters. Determining which ones are the most relevant (most widely held) could be a problem.
“We’ll need to differentiate the content in these beliefs that’s negative for the planet – such as exclusive claims one or another of these views are right – from that which is positive for the planet.”
The authors predict that along with continued studies on consciousness, the field of the paranormal would be further studied as well.