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Psychology, the Near-Death Experience, and The Isolation Crisis

Posted on 05 October 2015, 9:43

As a boy growing up during the 1940s, I knew the names of everyone on my city block – at least eight houses in each direction from the house I lived in and on both sides of the street.  As I pedaled my bike up or down the street, the neighbors might be sitting on their porches or working in their gardens and I would greet them by name or they would greet me or wave to me. My mother could often be found on the sidewalk talking with a neighbor from across the street or down the street.  With a couple of exceptions, people on the block knew each other and talked with each other. 

In my present home, in which I have lived for nine years, I know the immediate neighbors on each side of my house, but that’s it.  I don’t even know what the neighbors two houses away from mine look like.  I recall a situation a few years ago when I was leaving my home in my car during a heavy rain.  A young girl from across the street was battling the wind and rain, her umbrella collapsing in wind as she headed for school two blocks away.  Fifty or 60 years ago, I would have felt comfortable in stopping and offering to drive the girl to school, but I dared not stop for her in this day and age as she most certainly had been taught by her parents not to accept rides from strangers, even those who live across the street.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

What changed?  Television, of course.  During the 1950s, when television became popular, people left their front porches and gardens, drew the blinds, and planted themselves in front of the TV set, seemingly never to go outside again unless leaving for work or to go shopping.  I thought about this a few days ago while reading Psychology and the Near-Death Experience, authored by Roy L. Hill, Psy.D.,  (below) and recently released by White Crow Books.  Part of the book discusses what Hill calls “The Isolation Crisis.”

 roy_hill 

According to Hill, a clinical psychologist, isolation has reached epidemic proportions in Western society, primarily the result of television but also due to other electronic communication.  “Living in the virtual world keeps people from feeling lonely while avoiding social risks,” he explains. “Thus, the over-use of electronic communication and entertainment may be viewed as a trouble-free defense against isolation.  Television has been designed for us to feel as though we are sharing in real friendships and exciting lives.  A laugh track, for instance, helps viewers feel like they are sharing humor with an audience.”

Dependence on television, Hill states, is the single most consistent predictor of civil disengagement – not poverty, morality, education, or intelligence.  With television, there is little time for anything else, except, of course, the Internet.  Hill notes that the typical American spends 2 1/2 hours a day surfing the Internet for personal use. 

This escape into electronic communication and entertainment results in a certain spiritual emptiness.  “From a spiritual perspective, many people in society are steadily abandoning their mission to love each other by doing for each other,” is the way Hill puts it, after citing various studies indicating a significant decline in clubs and organizations, church attendance, volunteer work, public meetings, and other social and civic activities.

While electronic communication involves more social interaction than television, Hill does not see the mundane communication usually associated with texting as a substitute for face-to-face interaction.  “Chatter only creates an illusion of interconnection,” he opines, adding that chronic text users usually feel emptiness as soon as they are done texting.  He sees texting as “a Band-Aid solution that temporarily staves off isolation in order to fill an unfillable void.”

Hill asks why so many people adopt movie stars and athletes as their heroes   As previously observed in this blog, movie actors are no more than “pretend” people and athletes are “pretend” warriors.  Yet, we treat these pretend people as if they are gods of some kind, while giving no special recognition to the people they pretend to be.  I still have a vivid recollection of seeing a number of military men lined up to get the autograph of a football player – in effect, the real warriors paying homage to the pretend warrior.  “From the existentialist position, people create fictional associations with celebrities as a defense against isolation and meaninglessness,” Hill explains it.

In reading Hill’s book, I was continually surprised by his boldness.  Rather than beat around the bush as so many professional men and women do in their efforts to straddle the fence and remain “scientific” when discussing the near-death experience (NDE), Hill keeps nothing secret about his beliefs – more convictions than beliefs – favoring God, an afterlife, and spiritual influences around us, based primarily on the lessons coming from the NDE.  He admits early on that scientifically minded readers will likely groan with discomfort at what he writes.  “To the science materialist, the near-death experience represents just another repackaged religion, although with a low bent,” he offers.  “The central problem is not spiritual superstition, as I see it, but the limited conceptual understanding of the human brain.  There appears to be a scientific hubris surrounding the human aptitude for discovery.  Not everything in the universe is observable or measurable by present day science.”

Hill examines the existential considerations surrounding the NDE, suggesting that NDE research has provided us with a purpose by informing us that this life is just part of a larger reality and not the meaningless march toward nothingness that materialists succumb to.  He examines the empirical support for the NDE, calling upon Dr. Jeffrey Long’s nine lines of evidence, including out-of-body experiences, meeting deceased relatives, life reviews, people blind since birth being able to see, profound life changes and other commonalities reported by NDErs.  While recognizing that the debunker will reject all nine lines of evidence, basing their arguments primarily on certain brain chemicals being released, Hill argues that no one has demonstrated a causal link between chemistry and the NDE.

Still, the “old guard” scientific community resists the evidence. “Adherents of the old paradigm cling to their professional work like a mother clings to her child,” is the way Hill sees the resistance, going on to say that “the field of psychology, pushing toward acceptance in the broader scientific community, has likewise remained silent on the concept of the soul.”  The field still adheres to the old nature and nurture determinants of human behavior, too often ignoring spirituality. 

There was, of course, one major exception, Hill notes, that being the renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung.  As Hill interprets Jung, the greater awareness of consciousness creates greater awareness of the soul.  “Increased awareness, in turn, connects a person with the Source,” Hill explains. “From the NDE experience, this oneness means integration with God’s divine nature.” 

Citing a number of NDE cases and often quoting the experiencers, including Howard Storm, Dr. Eben Alexander, Anita Moorjani, Dr. George Ritchie and others, Hill goes on to make a case for the existence of the soul, the interconnection between Spirit and God, oneness of being, unconditional love, communication with spiritual beings, spirit influence on humans and after-death communication. 

As a prison psychologist, Hill is very familiar with the mindset of the psychopath.  He explains that while the average person experiences feelings of guilt and ideas for self-correction after doing something wrong, the psychopath revels in every moment.  “The psychopath is incapable of correcting thinking or behavior because he or she lacks concern, compassion, or remorse,” he states, adding that therapy and counseling generally have no effect on changing the psychopath.  He notes that tattoos of ghoulish creatures are common among psychopaths, an attempt to express symbolically the evil that burns inside. 

As I read Hill’s book, I could visualize his materialistic peers, those belonging to the nature or nurture school of psychology, reading his words with raised eyebrows.  However, I was able to read the book with a smile and a nod.


Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.

Next blog post: October 19      


Comments

It is interesting to see how disparaging adjectives are creeping into anything to do with the afterlife/next life, even on the side of those who accept the evidence for an afterlife/next life.

Since I disagree with some of his claims - and this is based purely on the absence of confirmatory evidence - I am therefore a “science materialist”. 

(The graphic affirmation below has gone mad.  It is rejecting the replication even though it is correct.  Try again!!  And again.  And again!))

Sad stuff.

Leslie Harris, Tue 20 Oct, 00:36

Mike,excellent book review and comments! I wonder if you, Dr. Roy Hill or another NDE researcher has studied any psychopaths who have had a NDE and what psychological,mental,emotional or other changes, if any, the NDEr may have experienced as a result.

Boyce Batey, Mon 19 Oct, 23:05

Great piece Michael. Totally in agreement. I think that isolation and the desire to be associated with fame (or infamy) is also related strongly to the recent phenomenon of whacky individuals shooting up schools, theaters, churches, etc.

Also, the study of psychopathy has become a hobby of mine. I believe I have even surpassed the dilettante level of understanding. Agreed that psychopaths are disturbed - even evil - souls. The psychiatrists in their attempt to avoid spirituality miss some key components and effects of the disorder; an incomplete understanding of the individuals involved due to a willfully incomplete understanding of what it means to be alive.

Erich Avedisian, Wed 14 Oct, 18:54

I think the mainstream of the population has always been receptive to this type of idea. We have a small quantity of zealot-materialist skeptics who get disproportionate notice, but the mainstream of humanity still believes in things they can’t see. I talk pretty freely with people about this kind of stuff, and they are almost invariably receptive. It’s not interesting data that people are repelled by; it’s dogma presented inflexibly.

You seem to have two articles smashed together here—one about the effects of TV and modern culture, the other about spooky things, and I don’t see how they fit together.

Michael D, Thu 8 Oct, 13:40

Mike:
Good piece.  I have a sense that the tide is turning. People instinctively understand that materialism is a dead end. It may take 50 years, or a major tragedy, but I’m optimistic about the long term shift. We’ll see!

Michael Schmicker, Tue 6 Oct, 01:51


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