Report On 2008 Near-Death Conference In Durham, NC
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REPORT ON NEAR-DEATH CONFERENCE IN DURHAM, NC, SPONSORED BY IANDS
By PMH Atwater
Thursday, October 16, 2008
First off, I want to say this was one of the best conferences ever produced
by the International Association For Near-Death Studies (IANDS). Almost 200
people came to the October 3/4 affair, many first timers -- the setting was
intimate and comfortable for gatherings and visits without the usual rush.
We met at the Millenial Hotel, across the street from Rhine Institute
(famous for its scientific paranormal research), and all within the campus
reach of Duke University.
By the way, now that IANDS has moved its headquarters from Connecticut to
North Carolina in a cost-cutting measure, we are renting space in the same
building as Rhine, an arrangement that is helping both groups. . . not only
survive but thrive. We toured the Rhine facility and were impressed. Plus,
we may be in larger quarters at Rhine soon, which will enable IANDS to offer
smaller events more often, on top of a yearly conference, have a real
library, and offer more in the way of educational DVDs, classes, workshops,
and so forth. (The new Board of Directors is really moving ahead. If you are
not a member of IANDS yet, hop aboard -- memberships can be purchased via
their website at <http://www.iands.org>.)
Back to the conference. The speakers were:
MAGGIE CALLANAN, RN, hospice nurse and best-selling author, spoke twice on
nearing-death awareness - the language of the dying (her book "Final
Gifts"), and preparing for death (her newest "Final Journeys"). Her stories
and her unique sense of humor punctuated her keynote address. Truly
BRUCE GREYSON, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at
the University of Virginia and long-time editor of "Journal of Near-Death
Studies," presented an outstanding overall coverage of the near-death
phenomenon, that was so good it must become a DVD available not only for
professionals and schools, but for the public at large. I've never seen this
done better (not even by Bruce). Hopefully, that DVD is in the works.
BRUCE GREYSON, M.D. along with HAROLD KOENIG, RN, M.D., MHSc, Co-Director of
the Center for the Study of Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke
University Medical Center, together, and with the aid of Nancy Evans Bush,
M.A. as moderator, gave a groundbreaking discussion of findings in the field
of theology and medicine as related to near-death experiences. I've
personally never witnessed a discussion like this that was this powerful.
COLONEL DIANE CORCORAN, RN, Ph.D, US Army Nurse Corps (ret), tackled the
implications of the combat experiences coming from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most of these are blast injuries, loss of limbs, and traumatic stress
disorders - resulting in an unusual amount of group and shared near-death
experiences (when an entire platoon is gunned down, chances are all involved
will have the same near-death experience and talk to each other during while
out-of-body). The refusal of the Veterans Adminstration to recognize what is
happening and its affects makes one shutter.
Nancy Evans Bush, M.A. delivered a short form of her talk on deciphering,
framing, and integrating difficult near-death experiences, because of a time
crunch with scheduling. She more than made up for that with her moderator
job throughout both days. What she did give was riveting.
JULIE LAPHAM, Ph.D. gave a scientist's insight into the life-changing
outcomes and implications of her own near-death experience, and as part of
the Panel of Experiencers. But she wasn't alone. This Panel was conducted
both days; many who spoke were first timers who had never shared their own
story before, with anyone. And let me say these stories, all of them (they
went over-long), were the heart and soul of the conference.
YOLAINE STOUT, former teacher, past President of IANDS, life coach, and
expert on languaging, gave an exciting talk on her new project, helping
people who have had deeply transformative experiences (like near-death) to
handle and integrate the aftereffects in a healthy, productive way. She
focused on manuals, mentorship training, and outlined a new organization
that would partner with IANDS in tackling this important topic.
JOHN ALEXANDER, Ph.D., past President of IANDS, gave a fascinating talk
about the similarities between shamanism and near-death experiences.
I did not keep notes on everything that occurred, but here are some
highlights that were especially meaningful to me with the work I do.
BRUCE GREYSON: He announced the publication of a very important book. Called
"Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation," by
Janice Holden, Bruce Greyson, and Debbie James (Editors). It is published by
Greenwood/Praeger, Westport, CT, and contains all of the research papers
delivered at the 2006 conference in the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center,
Houston, TX. This is the conference that focused on the major shift that has
occurred in near-death studies. Because of four large clinical prospective
studies done in three countries, plus a plethora of papers published in
numerous peer-reviewed journals, the near-death experience is now the number
one choice of scientists worldwide to study consciousness itself. This is a
stunning change. Get the book.
Bruce made an important point by saying there is no one way to do research,
emphasizing that randomized research with control groups doesn't work. He
went on to talk about what has been done in the field, and said that
cross-cultural studies are not that reliable, since different researchers
had different goals and intentions in doing what they did. There needs to be
a more standardized approach. He quoted Kenneth Ring, who said, "The deeper
the NDE, the more profound the aftereffects."
The question in research today concerns consciousness - the mind. Is it
generated by the brain or is the brain a receiver and transmitter, a place
of contact for mind. Although a large contingent of researchers insist brain
creates mind, research that verifies the opposite is so extensive, it has
been compiled into one book for ready reference. This incredibly important
book is now available: "Irreducible Mind: Toward A Psychology for the 21st
Century," by Edward E. Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly, Adam Crabtree, Alan
Gould, Michael Grosso, and Bruce Greyson. Available from Rowman &
Littlefield, Publishers, Lanham, MC: 2007. This one book shows that mind is
NOT the same as brain.
YOLAINE STOUT pointed out that there is a group in France who are working on
basically the same project she is, including a manual. Theirs is called
"Extraordinary Experiences Clinical Handbook," and they can be reached
through their website at www.inrees.com. Yolaine already has 35 people
signed up to help out, and will be doing research on needs assessment soon.
Anyone who wishes to join this effort, find out more about what is being
done and how you can help, please e-mail Yolaine at ystout11@....
Yolaine, by the way, has her first book coming out later this month. It is
entitled "Your Blueprint to Passion: A Spiritual Solution to Depression." I
do not have anymore details about this book, except to say that anything
Yolaine does is exceptional and really gets to the heart of the matter in
the best possible way.
DIANE CORCORAN made a stunning point in saying the military is not open to
things like near-death experiences, post traumatic stress disorders, or how
to really treat any of them. We now have troups WHO HAVE SEEN MORE BATTLE
THAN ANY SOLDIER WHO FOUGHT DURING WORLD WAR II. This is because of constant
reassignments. Most blast and head injuries are not reported. If they did
report them, the soldier could not get back into battle to help out their
buddies AND they would not be able to get back into Veterans Health-Care
System. Because of the new, modern armor, the soldiers don't bleed with each
injury - again - leaving blast injuries unnoticed, unless the soldier loses
The "Farms Not Arms" program developed by Gold Star Mother Nadia McCaffrey,
is one of the best for treating the deep wounds of these two wars that the
Veterans Health Care System is not prepared to treat. Diane pointed out that
during wars, group and shared near-death experiences often occur. She talked
about several where an entire platoon was shot up, killing everyone. The
soldiers saw each other leave their bodies and talked together about their
future. Those that would not return knew about their future and told it to
those who would revive and live. These types of powerful near-death
experiences are almost completely ignored, even put down, by the military.
NANCY BUSH emphasized that we need to broaden our vocabulary to understand
near-death experiences. What we have lost as a people in the
over-development of the left brain, is a demeaning of the right brain and
the value of allegory, symbols, spirituality, matters of the heart and soul
and our creative drive. If you study history, you find that horned creatures
(which today are considered devilish monsters) were once considered to be
our guides. The idea of torture/chaos, death, resurrection were understood
as a model of behavior and life experiences that brought us into an entirely
new and better mode of being.
The first five books of the Bible were once referred to as "black fire"
because the words were written with black ink, but the "white fire," what
appeared in-between the words and spaces, THAT WAS THE REAL MESSAGE, a
deeper message of stories, songs, feelings. We as a society have forgotten
how to read "white fire." We want facts instead of truth. The important
things that were once said in poetry are now scrunched into journals and
investigative journalism. There is a difficult side to spirituality; we were
supposed to deal with suffering and what we could learn from it. We enter
into invisible realms through near-death experiences and through the trials
of spiritual growth, realms we can scarcely imagine, and discover that each
realm is inhabited. Sometimes images from this world move into other ones;
demons are natural - they have always existed. The hellish experiences one
can have, reflecting horrific images onto spiritual experiences, are the
same stuff to be found in movies played to the general public. Hellish
near-death experiences are just as important as the heavenly kind, for they
tell us a great deal about what we can learn.
BRUCE GREYSON AND HAROLD KOENIG noted that there are too many distractions
in the world; the negative is what drives growth. Near-death experiences
show us how the world works - not necessarily whether or not there is life
after death. Near-death experiences rearrange your priorities - we can
decline or grow. Thirty to forty percent of the population today is
spiritual, not religious. There is no common point of reference in
spirituality. Religion is often used destructively to harm, hurt, or
control. But, spiritual definitions are overly broad and diffused,
challenging to understand.
Our world is part of our imagination. We have no real way to know what is
real. What is real for one person is not real for another. Is this world
real? It is just a model. Our brain constructs our world from waves. We
actually live in a matrix: we see light waves; it is our brain that creates
structure from those waves. There is software now available that enables us
to recognize patterns. Qualitative analysis is suited for this, for studying
those patterns. We must have studies to help us build a science from
symbols. Spiritual is now mainstream, even in science and medicine. The
near-death experience gives us a frame of reference we did not have before.
It has a profound effect on life and health. Almost all medical schools
today have classes on spirituality and health; over 100 also teach classes
on the near-death experience.
Thank you, PMH
PMH Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D. (Hon.)
An international authority on near-death states, PMH Atwater is the author
of 10 books, her writings have also appeared in numerous magazines and
newspapers. She has lectured twice at the United Nations and guested on tv
and radio talk shows such as Sally Jessy Raphael, Larry King Live,
Entertainment Tonight, Regis & Kathy Lee, Geraldo, and The Shirley Show in
Canada. Recently she was awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the
National Association of Transpersonal Hypnotherapists and the "Outstanding
Service Award" from IANDS (where she has also been a 2 term board member).
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