“Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” By now you will have ‘heard’ these words, the final utterances of Steve Jobs before he passed away. Job’s sister, Mona, revealed as much while giving a public eulogy. The words made headlines around the world, which can be put down to both the fascination with Steve Jobs the man, and the natural human fascination with - or oftentimes terror of - death.
Yet there was something else in those headlines, wasn’t there? It was something silent, implicit, almost - but not quite - written. Ironically, that silence spoke of the forbidden country where few in modern mainstream media dare to venture: the spirituality of death. No doubt most of the general public were thinking exactly what I was thinking when I read the words. What is it that Jobs was feeling, perceiving, seeing in those final moments of his earthly existence? Was it something transcendental, spiritual, or dare I say, divine?
Most importantly why is it that newspapers could not bring themselves to allow this aspect of Steve Job’s death bed utterances to be openly discussed? How has it come to this point where the spiritual has become so denied, so absolutely taboo, even where it is so blatantly, poignantly present?
A brief history of the mind/body/spirit split
The answer is all of historical, paradigmatic, cultural, political, educational, and finally cognitive. I will not bore you with an extended philosophical digression here. Instead let it suffice to say that in the wake of the scientific ‘enlightenment’, which accelerated around the seventeenth century. The process can be traced to even earlier times, including influences from the ancient Greeks; and most notably the advent of the scholastic movement in Europe beginning around the twelfth century, where new universities sprung up. Between 1500 and 1850 classification, analysis and experimentation became the key ways of knowing in western science and education. More recently, the development of scientific thinking in education, coupled with the widespread use of computers, has directed the cognitive processes we humans most typically express towards abstraction and visual-spatial processing.
Meanwhile, science, including cognitive science, has come to deeply distrust introspection and first person knowing. In particular, any reference to spiritual and psychic experience have effectively been deemed taboo. Finally, the separation of Church and state has meant that politics has also disassociated itself from the spiritual, and educational curricula have generally mirrored that trend in most countries and regions.
In this way, mainstream science and education closed the doors to spiritual experience, and politics and education became bereft of intuitive knowing. In Discover Your Soul Template I use a rather unflattering phrase to describe this development: “the zombie delusion”. Human beings cut off from their spiritual foundations are like zombies, walking around as mere shells of their full human identity.
This is how we have come to the point where even a public newspaper cannot allow itself to be seen to acknowledge spiritual experience. Modern mainstream culture has become a spiritual desert.
Near Death in Hong Kong
Many of course are working to correct the fissure that lies at the heart of the mind/body/spirit dissociation that is now the norm in modern societies. This includes here in Asia, where I currently live.
Three weeks ago I had the pleasure to attend two public talks, given over consecutive weekends, by three veteran researchers of the Near Death Experience (NDE): Pim van Lommel, Peter Fenwick, and Erlandeur Haroldsson. These are distinguished men of science, and I must say the talks were excellent. All three displayed a profound knowledge of both scientific thinking and spirituality.
However, what impressed me most about the men was the gentle but persuasive manner in which they expressed their understandings, and engaged in debate. I have long argued that the confrontational nature of academic discourse is counterproductive to coming to a deep understanding of spiritual knowledge. Much spiritual awareness emerges only when the mind is relaxed, and the demands of the ego to “know” have been released. In these three researchers I found wonderful examples of researchers who are able to communicate without intellectual violence.
Three members of The Mind Agency (a group of dedicated consciousness researchers in Hong Kong) Doug Seiden, Mark Greene and I, were fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with the three men before and after the talks. I also arranged a lunch with them, and other members of the Mind Agency attended: namely Gino Yu, Kelly Larson, and Jeffery Martin. We all got to share a great deal of knowledge and understanding.
From right to left: Doug Seiden, Jeffery Martin, Kelly Larson, Pim van Lommel, Peter Fenwick, Erlandeur Haroldsson, Gino Yu, and me (Marcus Anthony)
Consciousness Beyond Life
At the lunch, Pim van Lommel was kind enough to give me a copy of his book Consciousness Beyond Life. This is an excellent volume for those wishing to have a reader-friendly overview of the scientific research into near death experiences. It is a comprehensive volume, and I cannot hope to discuss any more than a few salient points, but here I will share just a few.
The one factor that stands out above all else is the resistance of mainstream science and medicine in its lack of willingness to acknowledge or discuss NDEs. Van Lommel states that getting funding for scientiifc research of NDEs is extremely difficult for this reason. Hospital patients who have had NDEs also find it extremely difficult to talk about them, especially to doctors. This is exemplified perfectly by an incident which occurred at an NDE conference at an American university hospital in 1994. Van Lommel writes:
After a few presentations a man in the audience stood up and said. “I’ve worked as a cardiologist for 25 years now, and I’ve never come across such absurd stories in my practice. I think this is all complete nonsense, I don’t believe a word of it.” Whereupon another man stood up and said, “I’m one of your patients. A couple of years ago I survived a cardiac arrest and had an NDE, and you would be the last person I’d ever tell.”
During NDEers, many report an experience of consciousness which is very similar to what I call Integrated Intelligence (which has been the basis of much of my own research and writing). NDEers are often able to communicate telepathically with others, both living people, and spiritual beings. They can sense the future, and sometimes see it quite explicitly.
Most notably, Integrated Intelligence permits an intuitive knowing which transcends space and time, and allows an intuition of the deeper meanings of life. The following is a classic example.
I was immersed in a feeling of total love. It was crystal clear to me why I’d had cancer. Why I had come to this world in the first place. What role each of my family members played in my life, where we all were within the grand scheme of things, and in general what life is all about. The clarity and insight I had in that state are simply indescribable. Words seem to diminish the experience – I was in place where I understood that there’s so much more than we can fathom in our three-dimensional world. (p. 34)
Such knowledge can even transcend one’s individual life. Here we touch upon the idea of the Akashic Field, that there is a potential to access universal knowledge. The following extract by the same NDEer as above, articulates a cognitive process that I call Integrated Connection. This is one of the seven core cognitive operations of Integrated Intelligence.
…in a split second, I gained access to a wealth of knowledge, a complete knowing and understanding. All knowledge. Universal knowledge. I understood the origins of the cosmos, how the universe works, and why people do what they do. Their positive actions, but also why they hurt one another, deliberately or not. Wars and natural disasters, everything has a purpose, a reason. It all makes sense. I understood the past, the present, and the future. I saw evolution. Everything and everyone evolves and develops together. I saw and understood – without any judgment – the connection, the coherence, the logical and sometimes major consequences of every single act. (pp. 34-35)
Significantly NDEers come to see the effect that their actions have had on those around them, and how this is central to the meaning of life. That meaning is almost always reported to be about the expression of love. But perhaps most profoundly, they see the effect that their thoughts have on others. This is something that I have seen quite clearly in my own life, as my Integrated Intelligence developed. When we judge, blame, hate and generally project at another, this affects the consciousness field of the other person. I have seen very clearly how people’s lives are greatly influenced by such projections, and sometimes even affected in catastrophic ways.
The end of Steve Jobs?
Let us now return for a moment to the end of Steve Job’s earthly journey. What is the significance of his final words, the “Oh wow” moment of his passing? Research into NDEs shows that death bed visions are very common. People often experience visions of dead loved ones and spiritual entities as their final moments draw near. Peter Fenwick, in his talk in Hong Kong, was at pains to emphasise that the way we choose to pass from this world is vitally important. Steve Jobs must have intuited this, because he passed away at home, in the presence of his family and loved ones. This allows for a loving and peaceful transition. Too often an ignorant medical establishment sees the prolonging of life as the prime value in medical intervention, and this is sometimes provided at the expense of the patient’s human dignity and spiritual well-being.
Would Steve Job’s have had his “Oh wow” moment if he had been stuck in a hospital bed attached to machines and in an impersonal, detached, “scientific” environment? Far too many people die this way, and it is simply tragic. Death need not be a desperate battle to prolong our last breath and “rage against the dying of the light”. In fact the light may shine brightest after life, as so many NDEers report. What a sobering irony that is to consider!
The research presented by Pim van Lommel, Peter Fenwick and Erlandeur Haroldsson shows that there is a wealth of scientific knowledge now available about near death experiences. This knowledge is too important for the wider scientific community to ignore. I truly hope that a broader cross-section of society can be exposed to it. In the race for more money and more sophisticated machines to make our lives more comfortable and amusing, we are creating a world not unlike Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World, where we are becoming anesthetised not only to necessary physical and emotional discomfort, but also to our connection with the human spirit. Death is potentially our greatest journey. But are we just too distracted to realise this?