Wednesday 2 November 2022

Near Death Experiences

For some decades now there have been books published about people who have seemingly died but come back to life with accounts of what they have experienced during the period they were technically speaking dead. Like many tales of adventures beyond this physical world they seem to me to combine truth and falsehood or, better put, truth and illusion. I have not made a study of these stories principally because they do not come from saints and sages but ordinary people, and, without casting aspersions on ordinary people, that is not the quarter from which you would expect great spiritual insight. I am not doubting the honesty or integrity of these people nor the validity of the experiences, but how able are they really to process all this in a way to do it proper justice without a deeper spiritual understanding?

As I say, I have not made a serious study of NDEs as they are called but I have read a little about them and they seem to follow a roughly similar pattern. To begin with, the subject leaves his body and finds himself still conscious but outside the corporeal frame. Gradually he is aware of others coming to meet him, deceased friends and relatives who comfort and reassure him. Before this he may have gone down a tunnel or crossed a bridge, obviously symbolic of going from one plane of consciousness to another. He finds himself in a beautiful location bathed in light which does not come from an external source such as the sun but is part of the fabric of the region in which he now exists. Here what are generally described as beings of light take him through a review of his past life though in a completely non-judgemental way. He feels that he is surrounded by love and beauty, and when he is obliged to return to the physical world there is a great sense of loss and regret.

What could be wrong with that? Does it not confirm that we live in a universe of goodness and love and that we shall all be rewarded once we leave this sorry vale of tears? It does, but that is the problem I have with these accounts. They are all sugar and no salt let alone vinegar. Are we to believe that everyone goes to heaven after death, regardless of how they have lived their life, believer and atheist, saint and sinner alike? This is how a God of love would behave, or so goes the modern attitude with its egalitarian ethos. But I find this approach to be one in which quantity rather than quality is determinative, and that is a materialistic approach, quantity relating to matter as quality does to spirit. It is also quite at odds with the teachings of Jesus and the Christian tradition. We might think that actual experience trumps that but what exactly is this experience? Note that nobody actually dies for they all come back. They may appear to die but their experience is interrupted and we cannot know how it would have proceeded in the event of a permanent death.

For what it's worth I do believe these experiences are genuine as far as they go but I also think they give a faulty impression or, at least, an incomplete one. I am sure that we are surrounded by love in the afterworld and when we are judged, as we surely are, that is without condemnation. But it is not without consequence. Nobody gets to heaven, the real heaven rather than some astral version of it, without rigorous purification which I would compare to the episode in C.S. Lewis's book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when the insufferable brat Eustace, who has turned into a dragon, is stripped of his reptilian scales by Aslan who literally digs his claws into Eustace's body and tears them off. This is agonising. Similarly, when we are stripped of our sins there will be pain and suffering. This is the essence of purgatory. Moreover, it is not everyone who goes to heaven. I would surmise that what most of these NDE people experience is not heaven at all but what is known as limbo which is certainly a more ethereal level of consciousness than than that of the physical world but is still outside the true spiritual world.

One must also be careful about the beings of light. As every Christian knows there are many different sorts of spirits, good and bad, and Satan is specifically described in 2 Corinthians as someone who masquerades as an angel of light. That is not to say these beings are demons but the spiritually illiterate, which, to be frank, is what most modern people are, should be careful of accepting anything on the face of appearance alone. The average soul newly transitioned to the next world has not much more understanding of his environment than a baby just arrived in this world. Certainly such a soul would have the benefit of an adult mind but it would be a complete neophyte with regard to the structure of the world and its inhabitants. It would also not necessarily know that the lower levels of the next world are the ones in which lesser beings are most likely to operate. One shouldn't make the opposite error, which some Christians do and assume that all spirits are demons but one should exercise caution and discrimination without having a closed mind.

Death is the most important part of life and we should take it very seriously. It's not like children going away to the seaside for a holiday. There are weighty matters involved. All religions recognise this and the modern spiritual but not religious tendency to wrap it in pink cotton wool is a mistake. Yes, the higher worlds are worlds of love, beauty, glory and magnificence but God is not a fairy godmother. Aslan is not a tame lion. That makes the beauty far more beautiful and the love far more intense but it also means that the soul must become perfect if it is to enter into the realms of glory, and this spiritual perfection is not automatically gifted to everyone regardless but requires hard work and sacrifice. It must be earned. God does bestow his grace on everyone but only the fully opened flower can properly receive the rays of the sun.


Unknown said...

"Are we to believe that everyone goes to heaven after death, regardless of how they have lived their life, believer and atheist, saint and sinner alike? This is how a God of love would behave, or so goes the modern attitude with its egalitarian ethos."

Actually, the idea of universal salvation is of very ancient provenance and not a modern innovation at all - St Isaac the Syrian, Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, Maximus the Confessor, and many more.

St Isaac says even Satan will ultimately be saved.

Tbh, universal salvation seems to me not only morally the most beautiful but metaphysically the most coherent of propositions - Buddhism has a similar attitude of boundless compassion and benevolence, and it would be a poor showing indeed if Christianity was inferior to Buddhism. Thankfully it is not.

The Thomistic idea that the good enjoy seeing the suffering of the bad in Hell is surely one of the most morally hideous ideas ever.

The rejection of universal salvation seems motivated by a sense that my good fortune can only be real if others have bad fortune. But the parable of the Prodigal Son shows that God has a different moral calculus - indeed, the Divine would have to be above such petty and selfish and ignoble considerations, and the more we participate in the Divine the more we will be too.

However, this doesn't mean that there is no Hell and that bad souls don't suffer after death. The most coherent and plausible explanation of Hell I've read is that a soul given to egotism, hate, resentment, and that has closed itself off to Love, will suffer tremendously when finally exposed to God's all encompassing Love.

But only for a time, until those states are refined away. A truly loving God may push his children into the deep end of the pool, but he won't watch them drown when they fail to learn how to swim.

As for Hell, all of us have already experienced it now in this life - we e all had periods where we couldn't stay open to live, but collapsed in hate and resentment.

A good foretaste of Hell would for example be blogger Vox Day - resentment, envy, anger, jealousy, violence, pride, arrogance, a soul completely closed off to Love, charity, mercy, kindness.

Anyone who, after death, faces God in that state of mind will initially suffer tremendously - but only until the refining fires of God's Love pierce his darkness and illuminate his intellect with Truth.

As the Buddhists perceive more clearly but as the great Christian masters also see, goodness depends on an intellect with clear perception. It is ignorance and lack of vision which make bad people.

As for why after death experiences are only reported as happy and good, that's an interesting question.

I seem to recall some people reporting experiencing terror and darkness, and this causing them to reconsider their atheism etc, but I'm not sure.

Also, bad people tend to be more materialist and arrogant and proud, so perhaps less likely to lend credence to after death experiences or report a negative one which may make them reconsider their life's course or reflect badly on them.

Or perhaps a Loving God wants to give us encouragement and hope, and not frighten us.

It is an interesting question, though, that you raise here.

Unknown said...

To be fair though, I didn't represent what you are saying with full accuracy.

I'd agree with you that it makes no sense that everyone after death experiences light and joy no matter the state of their soul at death.

Clearly that can't be the case.

I'd only say ultimately, no matter how amazingly you loved your life, and how dismally I did mine - God in his infinite prodigality and mercy and charity makes sure we end up at the same place.

Only, you get there earlier and more easily.

William Wildblood said...

Your second comment is more to the point. It hinges on whether you can have forgiveness without full repentance and contrition. The conventional near death experience seems to imply that you can. Proper spiritual understanding says you can't. That's the point of free will. My belief is that the post mortem soul goes to an environment/plane of consciousness that corresponds to its inner spiritual state after being purified of its worldly dross. There will be a great gradation of these, many of which might seem like heaven to the soul because they are more 'spiritual' than the physical plane. But they are not the true heaven for which the entry ticket is complete polarisation of the soul to God.

I know some of the early Christian Fathers believed in universal salvation but Jesus doesn't appear to have done so. Nevertheless, one would like to think that almost every soul eventually makes the grade even if it takes a long. long time.

Isbe said...

There are many accounts of negative NDEs that can be found online. Just Google "Negative NDEs" Here is one:

"One of the only clues we have as to what might lie beyond our mortal coil is the phenomenon of near death experiences, commonly referred to as NDEs, wherein someone who has died or is at the edge of the precipitous ledge between life and death is somehow resuscitated and comes crashing back to the world of the living, often with a bizarre story to tell of their glimpse through a cracked window into the afterlife. Yet even with NDEs there are a plethora of different, very often conflicting accounts of what happens when we die. For some, they are ejected from their bodies to float above their corpse. Some frighteningly remember nothing, only a yawning black void as if they were in a deep, dreamless sleep. Others see a pleasant tunnel of light leading off to some mystical realm or even Heaven itself, and many report actually visiting these realms and being met by long gone loved ones and relatives. And then there are tales from those who were met not by a tunnel of light or love, but rather a peak into a terrifying place of suffering that can only really be described as Hell itself."

Don't know what it all means though.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I agree that these accounts are unimpressive - indeed some have more of a 'Nirvana' flavour, or indeed a tranquillizing/ euphoriant drug, than of what I understand to be Christian Heaven. Sweetness, niceness and light, as if Heaven was a palliative re-absorption of the self back into the impersonal divine.

But, insofar as we (subjectively) get what we want in the afterlife (even if we don't enjoy what we want) - then this may well be a foretaste of the kind of afterlife these particular people want - which may Not be the resurrected eternal life as sons and daughters of God - as *friends* of Jesus (as Jesus calls his disciples in the Fourth Gospel, rather than servants).

I would be more convinced if it was clear from the experiences that Jesus was necessary to progression to the afterlife: I would say that if Jesus is Not necessary to the 'process', then we are not dealing with the Christian Heaven, but something else.

It would also be interesting if those who experience NDMs - and who write about them! - became tougher and more courageous wrt the tough choices facing Christians. Appearing on mass media chat shows and documentaries etc is almost a sure sign that the person has not been positively transformed in a Christian direction by their experience.

Rather than people being excluded by their reluctance to work hard and make sacrifices; I tend to believe that not many people, especially nowadays, actually want what Jesus offers us.

Christianity and Heaven are opt-in; and apparently very few people desire the real Heaven. They prefer some version of Paradise, Nirvana or annihilation.

If they wanted Heaven there would be no problem about doing whatever was necessary to proceed there.

William Wildblood said...

I don't think we are meant to know what lies behind the veil, not fully know. There has to be an element of faith because if we really knew we could 'game the system' or might think we could.

William Wildblood said...

I think you are right, Bruce. Many people think a conflict-free zone where you can manifest what you want and everyone is nice is what heaven must be like. But actually that is what the so-called astral plane is like. It's heaven for people who want to remain as they are and not be transformed within by the grace of Christ.

Unknown said...

"I know some of the early Christian Fathers believed in universal salvation but Jesus doesn't appear to have done so. Nevertheless, one would like to think that almost every soul eventually makes the grade even if it takes a long. long time."

Jesus does not anywhere suggest eternal damnation of any soul, and parables like the Prodigal Son and others seem to suggest that God's rewards are not commensurate with human notions of justice and moral economy - indeed, his mercy and compassion seem far to exceed mere justice.

But yes, it can't be "proven" definitively, as what happens after death is not described with any great clarity or fullness.

As for everyone ultimately making the grade, my own personal sense is that anything less wouldn't be consistent with full Love.

No one does bad willingly - we are all somehow trying to do good, even the worst of us.

The most compelling and plausible definition of free will that I've read is the idea that it is the freedom to choose Good from a fully illumined intellect.

The more your intellect is illumined as to the Good, the more clearly you see it, the less you are able to choose anything else - so the more free you truly are, the less choice you actually have paradoxically!

Taoism similarly sees ultimate freedom as choice less ness - the more attuned you are with the Tao, the more choice vanished and the only desirable course of action becomes clear.

Theories of free will that say you can see the Good but choose the Bad seem metaphysically incoherent to me - to hinge on a misunderstanding of what the Good means.

The condition of one who is in sin does not seem to be one of guilt - but one of pity
He is already in his own created Hell, because he does not understand what is Good for him.

To use the earlier example of Vox Day - it's easy to say he's a "bad", but it's obvious he does not clearly see what course of action brings bliss and joy, and crates his own Hell.

A God of infinite Love and compassion will not condemn such a soul, but try and help him infinitely - but his blindness will inevitably create self imposed suffering that cannot be avoided on order to grow into Divinity.

Unknown said...

I think what I'm trying to say is -

The state of being in sin or aligning oneself against God comes from clouded vision - we are truly seeking God, but look for him in the wrong places.

If we could truly see the Good, we would choose it in a heartbeat. We cannot do otherwise - a rational being always seeks the Good.

Now we are meant to evolve towards ever clearer vision of the Good, as we move toward Godhood ourselves. That is why we are here - Earth is a learning experience.

But some of us succeed better at this task, and some of us simply get lose in blind alleyways and dead ends and forgotten dark corners.

A God of infinite love and compassion who created us to evolve towards Him, while part of our learning process is to do so through our own efforts, will not abandon any of us.

If indeed Bruce's notion of a Heaven of struggle and effort and the incompleteness that implies, and not a final consummation of infinite Good where God is finally at the end All in All, is the ultimate Good - then all rational beings, to the extent their vision is unclouded, must desire this.

To think otherwise is to be metaphysically incoherent. (And perhaps motivated by a desire to preserve for oneself a special status, which is after all rather petty and probably a stage that must be overcome on our journey towards Divinity. One imagines the infinite generosity and love of a God is beyond petty considerations of rank)

Assuming it is not Bruce who has the clouded, limited vision :)

But who knows? I think attempts to precisely define Heaven are all rather silly. We cannot fully grasp it in our current state

This Christian vision is quite similar to the magnificent Mahayana Buddhist vision, where all sentiment brings, including animals, and even mountains and rivers, are ultimately enlightened and saved - none are left behind, and none are abandoned to choose a lower state through clouded vision (an "opt-in" Heaven is cruel).

ben said...

Thoughts on this:

- What comes after death isn't a tiered system of reward and punishment according to how good vs naughty a person has been. Choices are made after death.

- Heaven wouldn't be a haven or something boring and dead-end like that, it would be probably not a single place but a state of Good-orientation. Eternal life is a good way of putting it. There could be unlimited development, which entails unlimited improvement in the quality of what it's like to be.

- People who reject this for internal corruption (sin) will suffer for the same reason Gollum suffers: corruption is painful (while also gratifying). Corrupted people will be around other corrupted people and they'll all be scandalizing each other to greater corruption (including intentionally for that greater corruption, and thereby greater gratification).

- Maybe there are other options.

- I'm not sure that the transition from an incarnate, corrupted soul to a resurrected soul would be painful. As far as I'm aware, there's no mention of Jesus' healing miracles being painful for the healed. And I can't remember any mention of Lazarus' resurrection being painful. But maybe it was just omitted.

Another point: it seems important for people not to get pulled into the sin-vortex of these end times. The outrageous, criminal behaviour of modern people doesn't seem like it's going to be addressed with any sort of justice, and so there will be no respite other than in hope for the future and repentance. As well as resentment, there might be a sort of corruption that comes with a feeling of helplessness. Maybe this sin could be called 'helplessness' and repented.

Lady Mermaid said...

While I believe there is truth behind these NDEs, spiritual experiences are clouded by the person's own subjective view. For examples, I've read Protestant NDEs that are a retelling of a Jack Chick tract and Catholic NDEs in which Purgatory and the Virgin Mary are a constant presence. As St. Paul said, we see dimly through a mirror and know in part. Whatever true death is like, it will be a full revelation of reality. I don't think anyone can experience that on this side of the grave.

I agree w/ Bruce that many of these experiences are not heaven proper. I think of them akin to Abraham's Bosom depicted in Dante's Inferno. These people are experiencing what St. Thomas Aquinas referred to as "natural happiness". It's a relief from the sufferings of this world, but a far cry from the true heaven of being transformed into mature children of God.

On the topic of universal salvation, I once seriously entertained it but no longer do. I sincerely pray for all men to come unto salvation as the Eastern Orthrodox do on Pentecost. To quote C.S. Lewis, if I could remove hell I would do so. However, I've seen universalism degrade into a modern liberalism time and time again.

Revelation speaks of the gates to the New Jeruselem not being shut and all welcomed to enter as long as they "wash their robes" or discard their sins so to speak. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen. What would be the point of praying for the dead if their salvation was ultimately guaranteed? Many church fathers hoped for the salvation of all but they never stated it as a dogma. In fact, St. Issac the Syrian was known to pray for the salvation of the devil with tears in his eyes. Why would he bother doing this if his salvation was already settled? Christians made errors in the past of giving up on certain souls. However, simply assuming that all will be well no matter what can be a dangerous error in the opposite direction.

This may be heretical, but I believe that the fate of souls in ultimately in our hands. We can make a difference to our eternal destiny. While there is a risk w/ this type of freedom, I believe it is necessary to become co-creators w/ God. One cannot truly love God if he ultimately doesn't have an option not to.

Daniel F said...

Fr. Seraphim Rose made an extensive survey and investigation of NDEs by ordinary people. He largely relied on accounts that had been published by others, but he researched it as extensively as possible.

Obviously, he attempted to provide the Orthodox perspective on the matter. His conclusions were largely in line with what you are saying: It is more likely that the "beings of light" are seductors and tempters and demons, rather than good beings. Rose actually sees the time of our death, and the moments immediately after our death, as possibly the most dangerous and pivotal moments for the ultimate destination of our souls.

See his The Soul After Death.

The preface and some excerpts form the book are available here:

Unknown said...

Last Mermaid -

"One cannot truly love God if he ultimately doesn't have an option not to."

I'm afraid I find this illogical, and was wondering if you can expand on this a little bit and clarify this further?

When I see something that seems to me "good", I find I am completely helpless in desiring it.

That seems to me intrinsic to the concept of good. In fact, far from having no choice but to desire the good stripping it of value, it seems the definition of value is that we are ineluctably drawn to it.

The "freedom" to will anything is in fact the essence of modern nihilism. Such a freedom, which strips the good of it's ineluctable power to draw us to it, gives us power (seemingly), but strips the world of value and meaning.

That's the bargain the modern world has made - in fact, it came out of medieval theologians wanting so much to preserve God's omnipotence, that they denied God must do good.

I am puzzled at the appeal of the idea that some people make it and some don't - well, I guess on the human level I can understand this. In human terms, we all desire special status, privileges, etc.

But surely, the more Godlike we become, the more compassionate and loving we become, and the less we care about competitive rank - I would imagine - as we enter a world where Love dominates and competitive rank and it's attendant earthly survival concerns fade away.

No Longer Reading said...

Good post.

I don't really know what to make about near death experiences. There are some strange ones as well that I have read about. One was a soldier who experienced leaving his body when a grenade was thrown in front of him. Except that the grenade was a dud, so he wasn't in danger of death at that time.

Then there are some NDE accounts from Asia where people are told that the celestial bureaucracy made a mistake and it's actually not their time to die yet.

As a whole, I would say that they don't have the same solidity as this world. Which isn't what you would expect if they are experiencing something greater than life on Earth. I would agree that what reality there is, is being filtered through the mind.

Unknown said...

I wonder if the desire for competitive rank is a stage on the spiritual life we all must go through and overcome.

We start off as creatures with typical creaturely concerns - mostly focused on pure physical survival, in n which competitive rank has clear value in the struggle for life.

As we grow more Godlike and our vision grows ever larger, Love and compassion take the place of our fears for physical survival.

However, to get motivated to start on this path, it may be necessary to think of the spiritual life at first as competitive - to harness the power of our creaturely perspective on the service of transcending it ultimately.

In this sense, even Thomas's idea that the virtuous souls actually enjoy watching the sinners burn in hell - one of the prime pleasures of heaven, according to him - while hideous morally, may serve a good cause, setting one out on a path where one ultimately transcends this very perspective..

Likewise Bruce's idea that Heaven is "opt-in" - with Bruce, of course, one of the few wise enough to opt for the true and best heaven.

No doubt as one grows in spiritual stature the desire to be "special", one of the "few" elect and elite, is replaced by boundless Love and compassion and the desire for all to be happy.

But as created beings, we cannot start at the end - we have to start where we are.

That's why I love so much the Buddhist idea of "skillful means" - an idea isn't condemned as bad, because it may serve as the pathway to transcend itself in the right context and for the right person.

Even morally hideous ideas like Thomas's may be useful.

William Wildblood said...

Unknown, it's not a question of competitiveness. It's to do with coordinating your soul to God's. There are those who do this and those who don't and of those who do there are those who do so more than others. The problem with the universalistic attitude is that it prefers quantity to quality, the horizontal to the vertical, and ends up saying that a piece of rap has the same validity as Bach. The essence of heaven is that it is exclusive but that is a bitter pill for the modern mentality to swallow. Compassion can never mean a lowering of standards or else we'd all be in heaven now.

Unknown said...

Well, the idea that the Good draws all ineluctably towards it seems rather to position "quality" at the very center of it's vision.

Why do you say that this would lead to saying rap is the same as Bach? Rather, it would lead to saying that anyone who prefers rap to Bach has a clouded vision and cannot see the Good (and, hopefully, we must help him to see better).

The idea that our "will" is primary - that we CAN desire the bad, is what logically leads to monstrosities like saying rap is as good as Bach.

I suppose one might say that universalism is the idea that "vision" is primary, and will follows vision - whereas your idea of an exclusive heaven posits "will" as primary, and denies the Good intrinsically draws us to it.

This second idea is surely the basis of modernity - that the will is primary - and leads ineluctably to nihilism.

If the Good dies not draw us, it isn't Good - And there is no good, and hey, rap is as Bach.

Also, universalism is certainly not a modern innovation - it had many ancient promoters, and if anything has lost much of it's support in modern times, especially in the West (the incubator of modernity).

In the East, 20th century Orthodox theologians like Bulgakov we're supporters of universalism.

Unknown said...

Also, this compassion would not involve any lowering of standards.

The bad man can only enter heaven after he sees the Good and follows it - as he inevitably must if will is not primary - as much as the Good man.

The vision of the Good triumphing over all, and bring the All in All in the end - is surely the final triumph of quality itself.

William Wildblood said...

But look around you. How many people really are drawn to the true Good? You might think all would be so drawn if they knew it but that palpably isn't the case. You can know it if you want to but many actively prefer the false to the true because there is a corruption in their soul. You might optimistically hope that they would overcome that but perhaps that is precisely what this world is for and most don't want to, certainly not enough.

I suppose if you are thinking in terms of aeons, which God does, then universalism might have some substance to it but I am left with the feeling that if free will has to end in a certain result how free is it really?

Unknown said...

Perhaps the idea that the will is primary - the idea of absolute free will - is identical with nihilism. It is to desire "nothingness".

If the Good is not defined as that which COMPELS us to desire it, when we see it clearly, have we not opened the gates to nihilism? To the nothing?

ben said...


Modern people value Good. This underlies their capacity to be entertained by destroying it. They prefer purposive destruction of Good to Good itself. But they really do also value Good.

So, people can know Good and also move away from it.

Unknown said...

Ben, this is metaphysically incoherent.

If you wanted to oppose or destroy something, you are indicating you don't see it as the Good - or that you believe you are accomplishing a higher good by destroying it.

Even a person full of spite, envy, and resentment towards the world, who wants to destroy whatever good he sees in it - and such people undoubtedly exist - is really pursuing what he believes is a higher good, and what he believes is the only path that will bring him pleasure.

His condition is one of delusion.

The idea that one can know the Good, but oppose it - is the basis of modern nihilism.

It makes the will primary, in the sense that it has no lodestar exerting a natural gravitational pull on it. The will then would have no orientation - or rather, it would be oriented towards nothingness. It would have no natural end that it seeks.

This is the modern condition.

In such a metaphysics, one cannot indeed say that rap is not better than Bach! All is personal choice - because no natural end pulls us towards it, our will gives itself its own end, and anything goes.

Nietzsche, who saw the emerging nihilism as the problem of his time, actually said the modern task is to invent ends for the will, since society no longer believed in the Good drawing the will towards it as it's natural end anymore.

But the classic metaphysics I just outlined, where freedom is knowing the Good and following it, not the freedom to will anything, is much more coherent and fits the facts much better.

In reality we are all seeking God, the source of all Good, in all our actions - even suicide, even murder, even destruction.

We just seek him wrongly, in delusion - but he always remains pur ultimate End.

ben said...


Good is objectively real regardless of what people are doing in relation to it. There are those who align with it, those who neglect it, those who directly oppose it.

Many modern, inverted people are purposively opposing it. This can be known by the way in which their thoughts and behaviours are so directly opposed to Good - they must be knowing Good in some way in order to destroy it so effectively. At the same time as this, they can lack a belief in Good as objectively real.

The inversion is only pseudo-inversion because they're able to still *know* Good as Good, while they *believe* whatever nonsense they do.

Unknown said...

I agree with your first paragraph.

Obviously, some people oppose the Good. And I'd even agree with you that they may have some partial knowledge of it as Good.

But if they try oppose it, they are indicating they believe something else is a higher Good. If you partially know the Good but wish to oppose it, you are pursuing what you understand as a higher Good.

The Good is defined as the lodestar of our will, it's natural end, what our will is oriented to - it is incoherent to say we can will anything other than what our will is oriented to in it's essence.

That leaves only ignorance as the true cause of sin - we do not clearly see the Good.

The only logical way out of this, is if you think the will does not have a natural end or orientation, that it is not pointed in any particular direction.

A will that is not pointed in any particular direction, has no orientation - this kind of freedom is in the same class as a spontaneous event. An action based on this kind of will would be arbitrary and meaningless - a mere whim, not a rational act, almost like a random tic or discharge energy.

The moment we act with an end in view, we are indicating what we think is the Good. We can do no other.

Freedom is the freedom to pursue the Good with the clearest vision , as it has been defined in classical metaphysics. When our vision is darkened or disturbed, or we are not in our right minds, we are to that extent "unfree".

It is only clear sight that makes us free. It is freedom to pursue what we are naturally oriented towards.

That is why in many traditions the enlightenment and liberation are considered the same thing - freedom being conditional upon correct vision, not the mere ability to choose anything.

ben said...

"But if they try oppose it, they are indicating they believe something else is a higher Good. If you partially know the Good but wish to oppose it, you are pursuing what you understand as a higher Good."

What they believe or understand about a higher good* has no bearing on The Good.

They're knowing and valuing The Good, to extract gratification from opposing it. This is sorath.

Unknown said...

Correct, Good is independent of what their knowing of it may be. To know it ever more fully may be said to be our main goal.

"They're knowing and valuing The Good, to extract gratification from opposing it. This is sorath."

If so, they believe the Sorathic is the highest Good. They are still seeking God - only, they do not see.

Opposing God is, at bottom, still seeking Him :)

It cannot be otherwise, if our will has a natural end and orientation and is not merely suspended over an abyss of nothing, as modernity would have it.

But coherent metaphysics aside, and back to experience -

I'm sure you've known many people that seemed to you bad or evil - haven't you ever felt that they are really in the end blind? That if you can just make them see, they would change?

My most powerful impression of evil people is that they are lacking some ability to see. And that they are miserable - anger, hate, resentment are terrible emotions to feel all the time. My most powerful desire is to somehow make them "see". And it's so frustrating not to be able to :)

Nevertheless, if the incoherent idea that someone sees the Good but chooses the Bad acts a motivator to embark on the spiritual path, because it opens up the possibility that one is special and superior and will deserve an exclusive heaven, like an exclusive club - because at the beginning of the path love and compassion will naturally be weaker than creaturely feelings familiar from our life in bodies under threat of death - as a first step towards ever more comprehensive vision that ends in boundless compassion and infinite Love, then it is a good thing!

Unknown said...

I guess we can call your metaphysics - volition precedes vision. Or will is primary.

I suppose I would describe my metaphysics as will is not primary - vision precedes volition.

I suppose we will have to disagree on this, but thanks for the conversation

ben said...


You too.

Christopher Yeniver said...

The majority of waking experiences after NDEs is a relief to return to oneself, if not nevertheless explicitly referred to as "oneself," sensations easily being of either side of the spiritual debate. More interesting is the account, which is going to be less likely related by the experiensor, of reluctant return, this combating personality of either leadership into the unknown, service to the higher, and a duty to inform the living.

Lady Mermaid said...

@ Uknown

Last Mermaid -

"One cannot truly love God if he ultimately doesn't have an option not to."

I'm afraid I find this illogical, and was wondering if you can expand on this a little bit and clarify this further?"

I apologize for the late response and clogging up William's thread. To clarify, love is a choice. We see this all the time w/ our personal relationships. In fact, Christian sacramental marriage specifically requires consent to be freely given by both parties. It's not a matter of competitiveness or exclusive rank. Jesus is the only One who has ever walked the narrow gate. It's about giving love freely rather than being preprogrammed to eventually give it no matter what.

He told the Pharisees in Matt. 23 He longed to gather them as a mother hen gathers her chicks but they were not willing. However, He still holds on to hope when He tells them "You will not see me again until you say "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord". I believe our task is to not only save ourselves but to save others around us. We cannot force anyone into heaven, but through love we can build relations and hope they respond. Even simple prayers for the dead can help in expanding heaven, not shrinking it to an exclusive country club.

I think William and Ben covered subject quite well. Again, I apologize for clogging up the thread. However, it was an interesting discussion w/ charity all on sides.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your response, Lady Mermaid.

I think I understand what you're saying, and indeed choosing love and the good is what we're supposed to be doing.

In said...

There is extensive scientific literature on NDE’s. A small but significant minority are actually very negative. So it seems you were arguing from a false premise.

That said I agree with what you were arguing to some extent. Things tend to not be what they seem in this world, and I suppose the dictim as above so as below would suggest that’s the way it is in the next world as well.