Methods of “Expanding Consciousness” and Christianity

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digital-drugs-binaural-beatThis past Saturday I spent a day at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina. Paul Radamacher, Director of the Monroe Institute in Virginia, played some CDs designed to induce expanded consciousness. That expanded consciousness might be as dramatic as an out-of-body experience, or it could be a slight time distortion. My own experience was of near timelessness–in the last session, which lasted 45 minutes, I felt as if only a minute or two had passed. It was similar to waking up after anesthesia, but I did not fall asleep during that final session (I cannot say the same for the others!). The sense of relaxation was such as I have never felt before. My wish was to be able to talk with my friend Karen B., who died in May of 2010. So I prayed that “With Thy permission, God, could you allow me to see and talk to my friend Karen today?”

Although I did not have an experience of Kar during the sessions, I did have a dream that night. I was walking beside Kar, and I put my arm on her shoulder, which was strong, muscular, again (she had been an athletic woman). We sat down, I looked into her eyes, and she talked about her friends who still lived–I do not remember the content of the conversation, only her love and concern. I prayed, “God, why must she stay dust–could You keep her this way and bring her back to earth?” Kar looked at me with a look of such love and concern that it felt as if my grief was breaking her heart. It was a sense of unconditional love engulfing me.

I do not know whether my experience was just a dream or an actual visitation by Kar. All I know is that I felt comforted when I awoke, and I was thankful to God for allowing such an experience. Mass was especially meaningful as I contemplated the resurrection of the dead.

One question about methods of “expanding consciousness” is whether they are compatible with Christianity. I would say that they are as long as they do not lead a person away from orthodoxy and as long as a Christian is only using the experience as a means to an end rather than as the end itself. Some people worship the experience or the method of gaining the experience, and this is a form of idolatry.  No one should boast about a transcendent experience, but instead use it to build the faith of those with doubts, and in the case of my experience, to give comfort to those people bereaved of Kar and to those people in general who have doubts about an afterlife. Any transcendent experience is a gift of grace by the permission of God, and God should be praised and thanked for His precious gift. Experiences should also be tested by the light of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason to make sure that they are compatible with the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. With these precautions in mind, I would recommend the Monroe Institute’s programs or other programs for “expanding consciousness” for traditional Christians as long as they are used in the proper way, and with the realization that any transcendent experience remains the gift of God’s grace.

Fundamentalists and Afterdeath Communication

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Comfort in Grief

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I listened to a fine talk tonight at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina by Louis LaGrand on extraordinary experiences of those grieving a loved one. Many of these individuals have an experience of the loved one communicating with them, ranging from an intuition of the deceased person’s presence to a full-body apparition carrying on a conversation with the surviving loved one. Many people who have such experiences, which as LaGrand noted, are really “ordinary” rather than “extraordinary” (millions of people have them) are given a cold shoulder by fundamentalists from two camps: the religious and the secular.

Secular fundamentalists who accept materialism as their religion would reject such experiences as subjective hallucinations. No matter what veridical evidence the grieving person offered, the secular fundamentalist would automatically reject it. These secular fundamentalists are often college and university professors who should be open minded, but who would not hesitate to ostracize or even threaten the job of an academic who dares to take these experiences as possibly objective or real. If secular fundamentalists are wrong about exceptional experiences being hallucinatory only, then their entire world view would be undermined. Their religious faith in secularism would be destroyed. And since many secularists are still in adolescent rebellion against an overly rigid religious upbringing, they will insist that any evidence contrary to their own views is invalid, the facts be damned.

The same is true of religious fundamentalists. Protestant fundamentalists, for example, will say, “The Bible says the dead don’t contact us and we shouldn’t contact them. If anything does contact us, it’s probably a demon rather than a loved one.” Of course they ignore Samuel’s vision of Saul rising up from Sheol, but they claim that was a one-time exception due to the permission of God.

The ignorance of Christian fundamentalists lies primarily in their claiming to know more than they really do. How do they know what state human souls are in between death and resurrection? How do they know whether the Biblical injunctions against mediumship and communication with the dead applied to such practices in pagan religious circles? How do they know that God would not give permission to a deceased individual, in certain cases, to communicate with a living person who needs comfort? I have always been impressed by the intellectual pretense and arrogance of fundamentalism, both Christian and secular. Both ignore the possibility that deceased loved ones may indeed be contacting their grieving friends and relatives. Both ignore a potential way through exceptional experiences to comfort the grieving in their loss.