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ID in Japan?


Shrine gate at Itsukushima shrine, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Dan Smith.

One of Paul Gauguin’s most famous paintings is entitled: “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” Historically, the world’s great civilizations have offered very different answers to these three questions. In this post, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to a fascinating lecture given by Kagefumi Ueno, entitled “Culture and Religiosity in Modern Japan.” Ueno is a “cultural thinker,” who has published several books and spoken at various congresses. Currently, he is Japan’s ambassador to the Holy See in Rome.

As someone who lives in Japan, I found Ueno’s talk deeply insightful and very perceptive. It’s a must-read for people who are interested in Intelligent Design: although Ueno focuses on the profound differences between Japanese religiosity and Christianity, the implications for ID are obvious. To explain why, I’d like to quote a short passage from Ueno’s speech:

For westerners, divinity lies in the Creator rather than in Nature, a product of Him. On the other hand, for Buddhistic-Shintoists, divinity lies in Nature itself, whereas there is no concept of the “Creator” who created Nature (Universe ) from without or from above. Nature was generated by itself, not by an extra-universal force, out of nothing. The divinity permeates through Nature. It does permeate even into humans.

The divinity in the Mother Nature envelops everything – humans, trees, plants, rocks, fountains and so forth. For Buddhistic-Shintoists the Highest Reality does not exist outside of Nature. In other words, the divinity is intrinsic to Nature.

Of course, Intelligent Design is compatible with many different world-views. However, if you believe that Nature is both all-encompassing and self-explanatory, you probably won’t feel inclined to go hunting in Nature for effects caused by intelligent agents. If Ueno is right, then the concept of Intelligent Design will only make sense to people growing up in an environment where monotheism – or at least, a God-Nature dichotomy – is part of the intellectual and cultural milieu, and where people feel free to question naturalism.

I’d like to ask my readers what they think about this. Do you agree or disagree?

Another question that I’m curious about is: how did the notion of Intelligent Design gain a toe-hold in ancient Greece, which was originally polytheistic, like the “Buddhistic-Shintoist” society of Japan? If any students of history can enlighten me on this point, I’d be much obliged.

Judging from the foregoing quote, it might seem that Japan should be very “Darwin-friendly” territory – and certainly, it is true that almost nobody publicly questions the notion of common descent in Japan. However, my impression is that while Darwin is widely respected in Japan as a scientist, the Japanese have not imbibed Darwinism as part of the warp and woof of their thinking, on a popular level. For instance, I could not imagine a Japanese equivalent of Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins. To Westerners, this may seem puzzling, but really, it’s not. Here’s why.

If your world-view is animistic, then you’ll reject Darwinism for the same reason that you reject ID. Both of these accounts of origins invoke the notion of intelligent agency – except that in Darwinism, it’s smuggled in through the back door as an illicit metaphor, whereas in ID, the conclusion that life is the product of intelligent agency is derived through honest intellectual toil.

To see how Darwinism illicitly appeals to the notion of agency, consider the following:

1. In Darwinism, nature is said to select those individuals that are better equipped to handle change. However, only agents can select. Right from the very beginning, the notion of natural selection was explained to the public by likening it to what human agents (e.g. dog breeders) do when they select for certain traits.

2. The workings of natural selection are said to be inherently mechanistic. However, a machine is itself a product of design.

3. Popular expositions of Darwinism commonly invoke the argument that “A Creator would never have done it that way.” In doing so, they are appealing to a notion of what an Intelligent Agent would have done, had He/She designed Nature.

4. Even an avowed atheist like Richard Dawkins, when explaining the concept of evolution to his readers, invokes the metaphor of God’s utility function:

“Utility function” is a technical term not of engineers but of economists. It means “that which is maximized.” Economic planners and social engineers are rather like architects and physical engineers in that they strive to optimize something…

Let us return to living bodies and try to extract their utility function. There could be many, but it will eventually turn out that they all reduce to one. A good way to dramatize our task is to imagine that living creatures were made by a Divine Engineer and try to work out, by reverse engineering, what the Engineer was trying to maximize: God’s Utility Function….

The true utility function of life, that which is being maximized in the natural world, is DNA survival. But DNA is not floating free; it is locked up in living bodies, and it has to make the most of the levers of power at its disposal. Genetic sequences that find themselves in cheetah bodies maximize their survival by causing those bodies to kill gazelles. Sequences that find themselves in gazelle bodies increase their chance of survival by promoting opposite ends. But the same utility function – the survival of DNA – explains the “purpose” of both the cheetah and the gazelle.

What I find odd about this passage is that even though Dawkins’ aim is to argue against the existence of God, on the grounds that “[t]he universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference,” he can only do so by appealing to a theistic metaphor: “imagine that living creatures were made by a Divine Engineer.” Dawkins’ metaphor for evolution is thus inseparably bound up with theism.

Getting back to Japan: if you grow up in a culture where the metaphor of Nature being the work of an Agent is largely absent from the intellectual milieu, then the Darwinist metaphysical framework will seem alien to you, precisely because it borrows its central metaphors from the very Agent-centered monotheistic world-view which it is seeking to supplant. Or putting it another way: a “post-Design” theory will make no more sense to an animist than a Design-based theory.

I imagine it will take several decades before the Japanese start to seriously grapple with the arguments for Intelligent Design, but in the meantime, there is a ray of hope. Ueno, in his lecture, writes that “the proportion of Christians in Japan always remains at a little less than 1 % of the total population”; but according to an article in The Japan Times dated 24 February 2009, the commonly quoted “1%” figure is derived from counting only those who have been baptized and are currently regular churchgoers – some 1 million people. The true number is much higher, according to a poll recently conducted by George Gallup: “Our study indicates that 4% of Japanese adults identify with Christianity.” Readers of Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity will appreciate the significance of this figure: a critical threshold has been crossed. Let us see what it brings.

I’ll finish by quoting the final paragraph of Ueno’s thought-provoking talk:

All in all, my message today is very simple. Allow me to call Buddhist-Shintoism as “Spiritualized Sushi” and Christianity as “Spiritualized Spaghetti”. All I talked about today was that “Spiritualized Sushi” and “Spiritualized Spaghetti” have distinctive tastes. Nevertheless, I added that both of them are “exquisite”. They – both of them – profoundly enrich human lives. Without one of the two, human cultures would have been immensely boring and arid.

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15 Responses to ID in Japan?

  1. Very interesting. You write, “If Ueno is right, then the concept of Intelligent Design will only make sense to people growing up in an environment where monotheism – or at least, a God-Nature dichotomy – is part of the intellectual and cultural milieu, and where people feel free to question naturalism.”

    I whole-heartedly agree with this, up to the last phrase. If you see Western monotheism as a less accurate view than the Eastern one, as I do, then “questioning naturalism” is not so much a valid problem as a symptom of the false dichotomy inherent in Western monotheism.

    I’ll stop there, as I only read to the “Do my readers agree or disagree line.” I’ve off away from my computer now, but will try to return to the rest of the post later.

  2. Dr. Torley, exactly how do a people, who believe that ‘nature’ is all that there is, cope with the fact that all of ‘nature’ (space-time, energy matter) is now known to have come instantly into being at the Big Bang? For even if they were to grant that transcendent intelligence is ‘natural’, this would still present a rather sticky dilemma for them to deal with in their worldview, would it not?

    related notes:

    The Japanese find death a depressing experience – From an item by Peter Hadfield in the New Scientist (Nov. 30th 1991)
    Excerpt: A study in Japan shows that even in death the Japanese have an original way of looking at things. Instead of seeing ‘tunnels of light’ or having ‘out of body’ experiences, near-dead patients in Japanese hospitals tend to see rather less romantic images, according to researchers at Kyorin University. According to a report in the Mainichi newspaper, a group of doctors from Kyorin has spent the past year documenting the near-death experiences of 17 patients. They had all been resuscitated from comas caused by heart attacks, strokes, asthma or drug poisoning. All had shown minimal signs of life during the coma. Yoshia Hata, who led the team, said that eight of the 17 recalled ‘dreams’, many featuring rivers or ponds. Five of those patients had dreams which involved fear, pain and suffering. One 50-year-old asthmatic man said he had seen himself wade into a reservoir and do a handstand in the shallows. ‘Then I walked out of the water and took some deep breaths. In the dream, I was repeating this over and over.’ Another patient, a 73-year-old woman with cardiac arrest, saw a cloud filled with dead people. ‘It was a dark, gloomy day. I was chanting sutras. I believed they could be saved if they chanted sutras, so that is what I was telling them to do.’ Most of the group said they had never heard of Near-Death Experiences before.
    http://www.pureinsight.org/node/4

  3. “The divinity in the Mother Nature envelops everything – humans, trees, plants, rocks, fountains and so forth. For Buddhistic-Shintoists the Highest Reality does not exist outside of Nature. In other words, the divinity is intrinsic to Nature.

    Of course, Intelligent Design is compatible with many different world-views. However, if you believe that Nature is both all-encompassing and self-explanatory, you probably won’t feel inclined to go hunting in Nature for effects caused by intelligent agents. If Ueno is right, then the concept of Intelligent Design will only make sense to people growing up in an environment where monotheism – or at least, a God-Nature dichotomy – is part of the intellectual and cultural milieu, and where people feel free to question naturalism”

    Hmmm, VJ. Thanks for posing a very interesting question!

    Responding, I would begin by asking the person who holds this idea, “How do you know that the divinity in the Mother Nature envelops everything?” Did she tell you so? Then she must have a mind, as you do? Or else you are part of her mind? I would further ask, how would you know if it is not true?

    One effect of the good-evil dichotomy in ethical monotheist faiths is that we can distinguish what is not part of God. So we argue all the time about what God wants or does, and whether you can even tell, and so forth. But in any event, if we are theists at all, we think we have received a message from a mind that is not our mind.

    Thus my question: How did your Japanese lecturer come to know what he says is true?

  4. Response to O’Leary:

    “Responding, I would begin by asking the person who holds this idea, “How do you know that the divinity in the Mother Nature envelops everything?” Did she tell you so? Then she must have a mind, as you do? Or else you are part of her mind? I would further ask, how would you know if it is not true?

    One effect of the good-evil dichotomy in ethical monotheist faiths is that we can distinguish what is not part of God. So we argue all the time about what God wants or does, and whether you can even tell, and so forth. But in any event, if we are theists at all, we think we have received a message from a mind that is not our mind.

    Thus my question: How did your Japanese lecturer come to know what he says is true?

    That’s a very good, and pertinent, question, Denyse, and well-written. I can’t speak for either the lecturer or as an expert in the nuances of Eastern thought, but I’ll tell you what I think.

    Eastern thought doesn’t deny the existence of the spiritual/conscious aspect of the universe – it doesn’t embrace materialism. The difference is that in Eastern thought the spiritual is diffuse and immanent throughout all of nature, not segregated into a personal entity such as God. Every human being partakes of the spiritual, and we experience the spiritual embedded as a part of our material being. We don’t have a soul – a bit of spirit separate from our material being, but rather spirit pervades our being.

    This difference can be perhaps illuminated by considering the notion of what happens at death. The Western view is that a personal soul continues to exists somehow as a coherent entity, and goes to exist next to, so to speak, the grand spiritual entity which is God. The Eastern view is that the soul returns to the universal spirit, like throwing a drop of water back into the ocean. The individuality, which was an illusion of being part of the material body, is gone.

    So we have a consciousness which can know the world through our experience, but we don’t receive knowledge from some greater mind. And our knowledge of the world is necessarily tentative, held with a understanding of its limits. Eastern thought would never say that our beliefs can encompass Truth, with a capital T. Rather, as the Taoist saying goes, the Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao. Trying to grasp Truth with words is like trying to grasp water – truth is encountered, so the extent it can be, by letting go of one’s attempts to understand with the intellect. Eastern thought emphasizes practices which help quiet the mind so that the person can experience one’s spiritual nature, and the nature of nature, more directly.

    The intellect is very valuable for its purposes, but it’s not the tool for contacting spiritual truth. Eastern thought finds, I imagine, the logical exercises of Western theology trying to prove that God exists, or that God has certain attributes, as counter-productive – signs of the unenlightened ego trying to grasp at the ungraspable, and thus really missing the point.

  5. ba asks, “Dr. Torley, exactly how do a people, who believe that ‘nature’ is all that there is, cope with the fact that all of ‘nature’ (space-time, energy matter) is now known to have come instantly into being at the Big Bang?”

    Actually, the Eastern religions do not believe that nature is all there is. Re-read what Ueno wrote: it has phrases like “divinity lies in Nature itself”, “the divinity permeates through Nature, …even into humans, “the divinity in the Mother Nature envelops everything”, and “divinity is intrinsic to Nature.”

    None of these say that that “‘nature’ (space-time, energy matter)” is all there is. Rather it is saying that the spiritual – divinity is the word he uses – exists concurrently with nature, not outside of it. Do you see the difference?

  6. I just read the whole essay by Ueno – interestingly, he focused on the same topics that I wrote about in #4. Anyone really interested in this topic should go read the whole essay.

  7. Aleta you state:

    If you see Western monotheism as a less accurate view than the Eastern one, as I do, then “questioning naturalism” is not so much a valid problem as a symptom of the false dichotomy inherent in Western monotheism.

    and this:

    The intellect is very valuable for its purposes, but it’s not the tool for contacting spiritual truth. Eastern thought finds, I imagine, the logical exercises of Western theology trying to prove that God exists, or that God has certain attributes, as counter-productive – signs of the unenlightened ego trying to grasp at the ungraspable, and thus really missing the point.

    You’ve provided no coherent reason why you should find Eastern philosophy more persuasive. Is it just your personal taste? You say you find the eastern worldview more ‘accurate’, but apparently though the Chinese and Japanese had fairly stable cultures for centuries, the eastern mindset was so ‘wishy washy’ in its foundation that it could not gather the strength to bring the scientific method to maturity, which I remind you happened in the distinctly Judeo-Christian culture of Europe and America. Thus how in the world can you consider a worldview to be ‘more accurate’, as towards the truth of how reality is actually constructed, if that worldview is deficient of the ability to enlighten our minds to the truth in the first place???

    as for your quip:

    ‘unenlightened ego trying to grasp at the ungraspable’

    God has in fact invited all of us “unenlightened egos” to grasp the ungraspable:

    Steven Curtis Chapman – Great Expectations
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLKrxg1QDng

    refrain:
    I’ve been invited to come and…

    Believe the unbelievable
    Receive the inconceivable
    And see beyond my wildest imagination
    Lord, I come with great expectations

    notes:

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    further notes:

    Near-Death Experiences in Thailand: Discussion of case histories By Todd Murphy, 1999:
    Excerpt: We would suggest that the near-constant comparisons with the most frequently reported types of NDEs tends to blind researchers to the features of NDEs which are absent in these NDEs. Tunnels are rare, if not absent. The panoramic Life Review appears to be absent. Instead, our collection shows people reviewing just a few karmically-significant incidents. Perhaps they symbolize behavioral tendencies, the results of which are then experienced as determinative of their rebirths. These incidents are read out to them from a book. There is no Being of Light in these Thai NDEs, although The Buddha does appear in a symbolic form, in case #6. Yama is present during this truncated Life Review, as is the Being of Light during Western life reviews, but Yama is anything but a being of light. In popular Thai depictions, he is shown as a wrathful being, and is most often remembered in Thai culture for his power to condemn one to hell. Some of the functions of Angels and guides are also filled by Yamatoots. They guide, lead tours of hell, and are even seen to grant requests made by the experient.
    http://www.shaktitechnology.com/thaindes.htm

    ,,I don’t know Aleta, I use to be drawn to the ‘mystical’ nature of Eastern thought,,,(Was a big Kung Fu fan when I was younger 8) ),,, but now that I’ve learned a little more I find nothing solid to its philosophy whatsoever, just a bunch of ‘smoky’ sayings that sound enlightened and deep but don’t actually deliver the goods), moreover I find the comprehensive Near Death studies to warn me that there is something seriously amiss with eastern thought!!!

  8. Alete I agree with you, anybody seriously knowledgeable about Oriental religion, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism knows that (or should know) whilst there is the traditional belief of Divinity being enwrapped in nature, it is not limited by it or the physical cosmos itself.

    Actually neither animism nor more obviously polytheism are incompatible with ID (I don’t have the time to flesh all this out). Actually a panentheistic or transcendalist pantheism and other variants (and hence Oriental religion and animism) would be compatible in science with vitalism or neo-vitalism as it is now known, indeed a panentheistic outlook would insist upon neo-vitalism. Although neo-vitalism (which reached its popular zenith in Europe in the interwar period, predominantly among the German embryologists) in science is now considered so beyond the pale, so dismissed that even ID scientists and academics don’t appear to go there, dare to go there – they face enough ridicule and mainstream rejection as is. Yet it’s not so simple, neo-vitalism may well be rearing its head again and has never been effectively refuted (other than the wilder claims), just brushed under the carpet, misrepresented and forgotten about. This is a whole other thing, a big controversy very much misunderstood and taboo, a radical approach to problems and mysteries in the natural sciences that need to be looked at anew (in fact there are some scientists doing exactly that).

    I would if anything expect scientists in Japan and the East in general to be more sympathetic to ID than their Western colleagues precisely because their religious culture is not necessarily averse to it. If scientists in Japan and elsewhere in the East are dismissive of ID it is only because they are imitating knee-jerk their Western colleagues (scientific materialism was imported into the East from the West) and have failed to discriminate between good science and bad science (or is that bad philosphy masquerading as science?) from the West, and I don’t just mean materialist theories of natural evolution. There has it would appear, been a general failure to discriminate among the scientific communities in the Orient unfortunately, itself an interesting topic worthy of discussion re the SSK aspects. Scientific materialism is a Western construct after all not an Eastern one.

    bornagain, your fatuous comments on Eastern religion which you pretend to have studied seriously, are predictably laughable. You don’t know what you are talking about. It’s not like you could tell me even the very basic bread and butter differences and similarities between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism’s outgrowth and merger with Bon shamanism. Never mind even a superficial history of Oriental religions and its noted scholars and relevant commentaries and exegesis. I don’t think anybody is going to come to bornagain to ask for his opinion on Yog?c?ra and its complex interrelation with other branches of Buddhist exegesis such as Sautr?ntika, Prajnaparamit?, Tath?gatagarbha, Sarvastiv?da – something heatedly debated to this day. Scholars spend their lives studying a single aspect of a single Oriental religion or a single tradition and there are so many splintered schools of thought here, and then on top of this scholars disagree on so much here inclusive of phenemonology, ontology, essentialism, metaphysics, even the exact use of language. But bornagain knows better, they don’t know nothing. bornagain has studied Oriental faith really seriously as he demonstrates by what he writes on the subject (no not really I’m being facetious) so take his knowing word on the subject – it’s all just so “wishy-washy” as if he would know. Yeah okkaaaaay.

    Once you know a man’s type as Emerson wrote, he is so predictable in every way. bornagain77 is 100% predictable but he wouldn’t know why.

    On a thread a few days ago (the ID in the UK Alister Noble one), I wrote about the need for ID to expand worldwide, and said it would if anything receive less resistance in the East where there hasn’t been the same excessive dead hand of scientific materialism casting its black pall everywhere. In fact I wrote on that thread re ID:

    We should look even further afield to the East, Japan, S Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, India (where there is a natural hospitability to ID), even China.

    And then this thread came along!

  9. zephyr:

    I agree on many of the things you say, and I do think that ID must be open to constructive contributions from all positions.

    And you can count me among those interested in neo-vitalism.

  10. zephyr,
    But alas you falsely accuse me of claiming to be deeply knowledgeable in Eastern mysticism, when I in fact stated the extent of my education in Eastern mysticism was to be a fan of the Kung Fu TV series when I was younger, and that I was drawn to the mystical nature of that Eastern mindset. As well I said I find the few sayings, that I have heard said to me as if possessing deep wisdom, to ‘not deliver the goods’;. That the sayings would be ‘empty’ of true value I do indeed find ‘wishy washy’, and indeed very suspicious of any philosophy claiming to reveal foundational truth,, if that is not ‘refined’ enough for you so be it but please do not rail on me for lack of a deep knowledge of eastern mysticism I did not claim to possess in the first place. But, in defense of the validity of the criticism which I leveled against the Eastern mindset, I listed just a few of the Near Death studies of the far east that, if you take Near Death Studies seriously as I do,

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    ,,,then from the empirical evidence alone, of the consistently ‘shocking and even horrid’ Near death experiences from the far east, should immediately cause you, or anyone else who values such evidence, grave concern as to just how much purchase you should grant these ‘eastern ways’ into your mind. If you want to say ‘the fruit’ of eastern mysticism does not lead to such horrid experiences fine, but do so with empirical evidence that counters that which I have thus far presented!

  11. This has been an interesting discussion. May I make just a few quick comments?

    Zephyr, I’m fascinated by your claim that scientists in the East would be, if anything, more receptive to ID than scientists in the West, who have been thoroughly brainwashed in materialist philosophy. I think this is a lead that should be pursued. By the way, could you please provide us with a good link to some articles on neo-vitalism, for this thread? The last vitalist philosopher I’d heard of was Driesch, until you mentioned the neo-vitalist movement. I’d be very interested in checking it out.

    Bornagain77, I am somewhat familiar with reports of Near-Death Experiences in Asia, and I know that they’re not exactly cheerful. I seem to recall reading some New Guinean reports too, where people on the other side were busy building boats or something.

    However, rather than blame Eastern religion as such for the absence of features reported in Western NDEs (such as the encounter with a Being of light), I would be inclined to ask a few more general questions:

    (1) Does the lack of geographic uniformity undermine the credibility of NDEs as a source of reliable information about the afterlife?

    (2) Assuming that there exist good independent reasons for treating Western reports of NDEs as veridical (e.g. reliable reports of observations made while clinically dead – can you provide a few links to the best accounts, bornagain77?), are there any Eastern reports of NDEs for which similar scientific evidence exists of observations made by subjects while in the disembodied state?

    (3) Are Western and Eastern NDEs really the same phenomenon, if they have so many points of dissimilarity? There are some huge differences, as the following link shows: Hindu near-death experiences .

    (4) What about NDEs in Africa, Latin America and the Arctic regions? How do they compare with Western and Eastern reports?

    (5) What were NDEs like in the Middle Ages and in ancient times? Where do they fit along the happy-melancholy continuum? Carol Zaleski has done some useful research here:
    Medieval Otherworld Journeys .

    (6) How many axes are needed to classify and categorize all these NDE reports? Is one axis enough? Do we need two, three, four, or even more?

    I should add that in Japan, very few people are thoroughly familiar with Buddhism, so I think it’s unlikely that this has spiritually corrupted them, as you suppose. I should add that the Japanese version of Buddhism is quite different from the agnostic, “no-self” version originally preached by the Buddha in India. Many Japanese believe in a kind of “Greater Buddha,” who might be considered Divine but who is not a creator of the cosmos. And as far as Japanese moral instruction is concerned, I’d say it’s far better than what most children in the West would get these days.

    My two cents.

  12. Dr. Torley you ask:

    ‘Does the lack of geographic uniformity undermine the credibility of NDEs as a source of reliable information about the afterlife?’

    No, in fact it greatly reinforces the conclusion that the ‘cultural influences’ of the dominant religion of the region have a major impact on the ‘pleasantness’ of the Near Death Experience:

    ‘Several studies (Pasricha, 1986, Schorer, 1985-86) & Kellehear, 1993) have indicated that the phenomenologies of NDEs is culture-bound.,,, Culture-bound expectations (whether conscious or unconscious) about death are, in turn, most often, but not always, derived from it’s religious traditions,,,’

    you then ask,,,

    ‘(2) Assuming that there exist good independent reasons for treating Western reports of NDEs as veridical (e.g. reliable reports of observations made while clinically dead – can you provide a few links to the best accounts, bornagain77?)’

    Yes:

    The Day I Died – Part 4 of 6 – The Extremely ‘Monitored’ Near Death Experience of Pam Reynolds – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045560

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience (NDE) – Pim von Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994599/

    Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their Near Death Experiences (NDEs). 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth. (of note: This ‘anomaly’ is also found for deaf people who can hear sound during their Near Death Experiences(NDEs).)
    http://findarticles.com/p/arti....._65076875/

    You then ask,,,

    are there any Eastern reports of NDEs for which similar scientific evidence exists of observations made by subjects while in the disembodied state?,,,

    Dr. Torley, the Pam Reynolds’s NDE was a extremely monitored NDE, that was only possible because of access to exceptional ‘western’ Drs., Thus I expect the best examples of Eastern NDE’s, (if any of those unpleasant experiences may be considered best), to be derived under less than ideal conditions, yet there is a fairly comprehensive study here for less than ideal conditions:

    Dr. Satwant Pasricha Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India, findings of a survey of NDEs conducted in a region of southern India. A population of 17,192 persons was surveyed and 2,207 respondents were interviewed for identification of NDE cases. Twenty-six persons were reported to have died and revived; 16 (62%) of these having had NDEs. Thus the prevalence rate of NDEs is found to be less than 1 in a thousand for the general population of India. Whereas the rate in America is commonly given to be 5% (1 in twenty) for the general population.
    http://medind.nic.in/imvw/imvw17843.html

    Of note, there were no ‘Being of Light’ encounters for this India study such as this following ‘typical’, ‘Being of Light’, deep NDE for western cultures:

    In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045544

  13. Dr. Torley you then ask:

    Are Western and Eastern NDEs really the same phenomenon, if they have so many points of dissimilarity?

    Let’s see Dr. Torley, do you hold that consciousness lives on after death? or do you think these are dreams?

    you then ask,,,

    (4) What about NDEs in Africa, Latin America and the Arctic regions? How do they compare with Western and Eastern reports?,,

    I have a few from Melanesian:

    Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in a Melanesian Society by Dorothy E. Counts:
    Excerpt: “When you were in your village you claimed to be an important man. But in this little place you have been eaten up by a knife, a dog, and a pig. And now fire will utterly destroy you.” When the loudspeaker had finished, a fire blazed up and destroyed the remains.
    http://anthropology.uwaterloo......Death.html

    some from Tibet:

    A Comparative view of Tibetan and Western Near-Death Experiences by Lawrence Epstein University of Washington:

    Excerpt: Episode 5: The OBE systematically stresses the ‘das-log’s discomfiture, pain, disappointment, anger and disillusionment with others and with the moral worth of the world at large. The acquisition of a yid-lus and the ability to travel instantaneously are also found here.
    Episode 6: The ‘das-log, usually accompanied by a supernatural guide, tours bar-do, where he witnesses painful scenes and meets others known to him. They give him messages to take back.
    Episode 7: The ‘das-log witnesses trials in and tours hell. The crimes and punishments of others are explained to him. Tortured souls also ask him to take back messages to the living.
    http://www.case.edu/affil/tibe.....4&amp

    I listed the Japanese one earlier, which I actually found to parallel, the ‘becoming one with divine nature’ theme that Aleta described:

    The Japanese find death a depressing experience – From an item by Peter Hadfield in the New Scientist (Nov. 30th 1991)
    Excerpt: A study in Japan shows that even in death the Japanese have an original way of looking at things. Instead of seeing ‘tunnels of light’ or having ‘out of body’ experiences, near-dead patients in Japanese hospitals tend to see rather less romantic images, according to researchers at Kyorin University. According to a report in the Mainichi newspaper, a group of doctors from Kyorin has spent the past year documenting the near-death experiences of 17 patients. They had all been resuscitated from comas caused by heart attacks, strokes, asthma or drug poisoning. All had shown minimal signs of life during the coma. Yoshia Hata, who led the team, said that eight of the 17 recalled ‘dreams’, many featuring rivers or ponds. Five of those patients had dreams which involved fear, pain and suffering. One 50-year-old asthmatic man said he had seen himself wade into a reservoir and do a handstand in the shallows. ‘Then I walked out of the water and took some deep breaths. In the dream, I was repeating this over and over.’ Another patient, a 73-year-old woman with cardiac arrest, saw a cloud filled with dead people. ‘It was a dark, gloomy day. I was chanting sutras. I believed they could be saved if they chanted sutras, so that is what I was telling them to do.’ Most of the group said they had never heard of Near-Death Experiences before.
    http://www.pureinsight.org/node/4

  14. I have none for Africa, though I suspect they will be somewhat similar to the ‘primitive’ Melanesian study,,,

    Latin America, if it is a Christian culture will be found to be pleasant Being of Light experiences”

    you then ask:

    (5) What were NDEs like in the Middle Ages and in ancient times? Where do they fit along the happy-melancholy continuum? Carol Zaleski has done some useful research here:

    I haven’t studied this but will look at your reference, I do have this video though, which mentions a fairly old painting depicting a NDE:

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    you then ask:

    (6) How many axes (axis) are needed to classify and categorize all these NDE reports? Is one axis enough? Do we need two, three, four, or even more?

    Well Dr. Torley, if people are not having a very pleasant ‘heavenly’ western NDE and seeing the ‘Being of Light’ (God) upon the ‘near death’, but are instead having drab, unpleasant, to absolutely horrifying NDE’s as all non-Judeo Christian cultures I’ve seen have (save for the children of those cultures, as well as those people in those cultures who have had strong ‘western’ contact) then I would say you can definitely divide it into two distinct categories.

    Dr. Torley as far as I can tell from the best evidence I can find, it is very important to have some kind of foundation in the Judeo-Christian belief system, despite what some westerners may say of their NDE’s, since I find an extreme rarity of encounters with the “Being of Light’ in foreign cultures. Perhaps you are not aware of the stark level of contrast, but Judeo-Christian NDE’s are by far the most desirable experiences a person could wish for their afterlife!

  15. Dr. Torley,
    I would also like to tie in one more piece of evidence to the ‘extremely loving, all knowing, Being of Light’ that I find to be extremely unique to Judeo-Christian NDE’s (of note, those adjectives preceding Being of Light, drastically fail to capture what people try to describe):

    I would like to tie in,,,

    The Shroud of Turin:

    “The shroud image is made from tiny fibres that are (each) 1/10th of a human hair. The picture elements are actually randomly distributed like the dots in your newspaper, photograph or magazine photograph. To do this you would need an incredibly accurate atomic laser. This technology does NOT exist (even to this day).” – Kevin Moran – Optical Engineer

    “the closest science can come to explaining how the image of the Man in the Shroud got there is by comparing the situation to a controlled burst of high-intensity radiation similar to the Hiroshima bomb explosion which “printed” images of incinerated people on building walls.”
    Frank Tribbe – Leading Scholar And Author On Shroud Research

    Even with the advantage of all our advanced space-age technology at their fingertips, all scientists can guess is that it was some type of electro-magnetic radiation (light) which is not natural to this world. Kevin Moran, a scientist working on the mysterious ’3D’ nature of the Shroud image, states the ‘supernatural’ explanation this way:

    “It is not a continuum or spherical-front radiation that made the image, as visible or UV light. It is not the X-ray radiation that obeys the one over R squared law that we are so accustomed to in medicine. It is more unique. It is suggested that the image was formed when a high-energy particle struck the fiber and released radiation within the fiber at a speed greater that the local speed of light. Since the fiber acts as a light pipe, this energy moved out through the fiber until it encountered an optical discontinuity, then it slowed to the local speed of light and dispersed. The fact that the pixels don’t fluoresce suggests that the conversion to their now brittle dehydrated state occurred instantly and completely so no partial products remain to be activated by the ultraviolet light. This suggests a quantum event where a finite amount of energy transferred abruptly. The fact that there are images front and back suggests the radiating particles were released along the gravity vector. The radiation pressure may also help explain why the blood was “lifted cleanly” from the body as it transformed to a resurrected state.”
    http://www.shroudstory.com/natural.htm

    If scientists want to find the source for the supernatural light which made the “3D – photographic negative” image I suggest they look to the thousands of documented Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s) in Judeo-Christian cultures. It is in their testimonies that you will find mention of an indescribably bright ‘Light’ or ‘Being of Light’ who is always described as being of a much brighter intensity of light than the people had ever seen before. All people who have been in the presence of ‘The Being of Light’ while having a deep NDE have no doubt whatsoever that the ‘The Being of Light’ they were in the presence of is none other than ‘The Lord God Almighty’ of heaven and earth.

    You’ve probably seen this before Dr. Torley, but if not you may find this video very interesting:

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life! – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5070355

    further note:

    Turin Shroud Hologram Reveals The Words ‘The Lamb’ – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4041205

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