The heavenly neuroscientist piece last week — scroll down — elicited more feedback than is good for this site or its writer.
To those of you who offered to send me review copies of your latest books, thank you, but I am already inundated with books to read and review. They now constitute a year’s work waiting in the wings, which is my absolute cut-off point.
Most of the comments were from folk who had actual knowledge of the subject — mysticism and out-of-body experiences — so were enjoyable and instructive to go through. A few were less than entranced. In particular, Toby Young’s baffled piece in The Spectator magazine.
I’m aware a writer has to have a strong point of view to pen 1000 words for a major cultural magazine, but virtually to dismiss an honest account of a mystical experience by parading an atheist philosopher, a Lib Dem and Giles Fraser is somewhat disappointing.
Poor Toby wails, “But it wouldn’t be life as we know it.” Be careful what you wish for. Does he really want to continue opening free schools and writing for the Speccie for all eternity?
He goes on, “Indeed, there would be no ‘we’ to experience life. Our personal identities would perish along with our bodies and, while it wouldn’t be the lights-out death that atheists generally believe in, it wouldn’t be much better.”
Actually, it would. The transition that Dr Alexander experienced was to an expanded, greater state of being. Although he had to come back to his reviving body — or we wouldn’t know about it — the sense of an exalted self remained with him.
His remembered experience was also clouded by the pull of his still vital body back on Earth. It was what is called a “showing” not the totality that is to come.
When Toby Young left school as a boy and went up to Oxford as a man, he left his old life behind, including his parents and his childhood. Would he now wish to go back, or is he glad he followed the Old Testament advice and “threw off childish things”?
All spiritual experiences represent a growth of the soul, which may or may not be immediately apparent to the subject. As for the other people in one’s life, they age and die too, so a long Earthbound life leaves the elderly bereft of contemporaries, close relatives and friends. The world also changes radically and becomes almost alien. Ask any pensioner.
We are temporary forms in a life-filled universe whose reach is far beyond anything we can imagine. Better to be a spiritual adventurer than a stick-in-the-mud atheist, terrified of any existential growth and exploration of the outer limits of existence. The “self” doesn’t get swallowed up, it becomes larger and more able in every way.
As someone who has experienced the foothills of this path (described on this site), I can reassure Toby that it is an infusion of life, not a diminishment, and a welcome indication of glories to come.
You, me, we’re cardboard cut-outs compared with the life of the Spirit.
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
The Mystic in the 21st Century is coming soon.
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