As 2013 starts to fade into demonstrably unreliable memoryville, I’m sure the answer to that headline’s question for most remains no. It’s fascinating but when you think about it, last year ended up being a banner one in terms of exposing our insanely irrational cultural biases toward Gnostic spiritual concepts of any variety. Right off the bat, you had the Hancock/Sheldrake TED debacle and maybe nothing shifted in 2012, but when pretty early on you accidentally catch a discussion about Near Death Experiences on the Katie Couric Show of all places, it strikes you that maybe something did get tweaked ever so slightly beneath the surface. Of course the reason NDE’s were actually being talked about on ridiculously mainstream cultural markets like this had to do with money and the mass amounts of it Eben Alexander’s book on the topic managed to rake in. Everyone wants a piece of that action no matter how risqué. The most disappointing aspect to all of this had to do with the way the book was marketed and how it transformed the comments on most of the internet coverage I read into the classic dull as fuck and absolutely dumbshit argument between scientific atheist types and religious people. The ignorance in both camps is astounding. For the record, he didn’t want to name the book Proof of Heaven, it was his publisher’s marketing concept and man was it a good one. I’m sure I’ll say this a billion more times before I die, but I sat through over a decade of church services and I have a college degree in psychology. NDE’s never came up in either of those places. Not once.
Near death experiences piss off both religious nuts and high strung scientific atheist freaks as they threaten the established cosmological order of both worldviews. Since I’ve read a ton of near death accounts over the years (and I’ve never read Eben’s book), let me let you in on a little secret: people don’t come back from NDE’s talking about having a chat where Jesus tells them that muff diving heavy metal women go to hell and abortion is murder. They don’t come back talking about how girls can’t get into paradise if they show flesh in public or fuck around on their husbands. Never heard one say you shouldn’t work on the Sabbath. I looked to try and find the article where Eben talked about chatting with Christ or Buddha. Couldn’t find it. Instead, he visited faerieland and cavorted with a sibling who passed away before they’d ever met. He realized this in the waking world after the fact which to him was quite spontaneously emotionally powerful. Yeah, that weird.
For the scientist/atheist camp the idea that inner states of consciousness have any sort of meaning or value goes against everything they’ve been raised to believe. Shit is straight up batshit (for religious people, it’s the devil). The fact that this message was coming from a neuroscientist claiming that it happened during a state of non-existent brain functioning was the twist here. How can that be? I don’t know, figure it out douchetards. That’s what I’ve been saying for years. You put the internet on my fucking phone. Not studying it isn’t going to help Jack and shit and Jack’s on his way out of town. Now, another thing I’ll be saying until I’m dead is that trying to pretend there isn’t an insane bias against the idea that altered states of consciousness have any kind of value or meaning is like pretending there is no racism and that homophobia isn’t a thing. Absolutely and demonstrably untrue. The Graham Hancock TED insanity showed that. Eben’s Esquire attack piece maybe even more so. I’ve got to give the people who marketed that book credit. Normally religious people ignore the crap out of new age-y spiritual fare but this got them taking these ideas into consideration in a way I haven’t seen before.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize there’d be a huge market for an article taking this dude down and thus re-bolstering the fragile egos of all these materialist snorefests. Click bait. Tons of people wanted an excuse to shuffle Eben’s story to the back of their minds where near death experiences used to exist – banished to the mental realm of things they never have to think about in any profound detail. So Esquire picks up on this obvious goldmine and hires a dude called Luke Dittrich to do an intentional smear piece on the good doctor. In predictable fashion he completely inappropriately targets his professional record solely to attack the person and not the idea. Let’s ignore the fact that this is NDE book number one million and five so the story’s pretty universal by this point.
The suits at Esquire know they’re onto such shameless click baiting gold that they even devised a scheme whereby you’d actually have to pay to read the shit sandwich on their website. Hey, it got me to click until the point where I saw they wanted money. That’s why this stuff works, it involves both people who agree with the article and all those passionate rage clickers equally. We have to stop being this stupid. I’m sure the Esquire bros made a ton of scratch, but here’s the problem. Their story was total bullshit. Oh, wait, that’s not really a problem is it, because the media didn’t bother to report on the fact that the story was bullshit so the damage was already done, which is how these things normally work. Fortunately, the fine people at IANDS looked into it. They’ve been dealing with this infuriating bias crap for years. Take a gander at some of their findings, where they actually did things like interview witnesses and stuff:
“To me the Dittrich article is shoddy and irresponsible journalism—shoddy because of Luke Dittrich’s and his Esquire editors’ evident failures:
failure to consider alternate explanations (rainbow), failure to check with the cited witnesses (Phyllis and Betty Alexander), failure to verify information with additional witnesses (Holley Alexander, Michael Sullivan and others), failure to check with medical experts (on the likely cause of coma), failure to check again on crucial testimony of the sole cited witness (Laura Potter), failure to read the book carefully (Dr. Wade’s statement about Alexander’s coma), failure to verify conclusions via other witnesses (Holley Alexander and Sylvia White), failure to exercise care in asserting erroneous facts (use of drugs was not mentioned in the book), failure to exercise care in quoting and interpreting recorded remarks (Dalai Lama), and failure to exercise common sense in interpreting the meaning of statements (Dalai Lama).”
Go read the whole article here and take a gander at that last line for a minute. Motherfucker intentionally skewed a quote from the Dalai Fucking Lama to make it mean the exact opposite of what was intended. Whole thing’s on video so this isn’t debatable. That is some coldhearted money grubbing shit and let’s think about this one in a little more depth for a second because it gets pretty heavy meta. This is an article that intentionally distorts information for the sole purpose of turning a profit accusing a guy of distorting information for the sole purpose of turning a profit. We’ve gotten that lame as a species. Maybe Eben did fib a bit. What about all the people who say the exact same thing and don’t get paid dick? Now what?
One last thought on the matter. Maybe his brain wasn’t actually entirely dead and that’s why consciousness didn’t extinguish like we for some reason we think it would based on exactly zero scientific evidence but rather a dogmatic view of how we think consciousness should work? Yeah, good point. Gotcha. Maybe. So, how do you explain the tons of other NDE’s where people perceive events going on in distant locations which end up being verified? Yeah, it’s happened a ton, which is one of the inexplicable aspects of the phenomenon. Oh, you didn’t do your homework? Exactly.