The Difference Between Faith-Based and Evidence-Based Spirituality
For those of us who are not part of an organized religion but have a strong interest in the research and evidence for life after death, how do we define ourselves when asked about what we believe?
For some, the answer might be agnostic, new-age, or spiritual. For me, spiritual came closest to the truth, though most people equate a person’s identification as ‘spiritual’ with being undecided; believing in a vague and undefined higher power, but going no further in refining one’s beliefs. The term spiritual seemed to insinuate that although I had some belief in a higher power, I haven’t given the subject much thought, much less defined the finer points of astral mechanics. The accepted definition of spirituality is strongly associated with faith and many people who use a faith-based path to spirituality rely on personal and emotional beliefs about their philosophy of life and death as a foundation. Faith based spirituality is a perfectly acceptable path, one that can be extremely rewarding and intensely personal. In many cases, spirituality is also defined through personal development, with keywords of self-awareness, meditation, peace, connection and other types of self-improvement techniques.
Many people don’t realize that spirituality can also be obtained through a different path; one that relies on evidence, logic, skepticism, science and research. What results is a spirituality that is distinctly different from one based on faith or personal development, and it is that distinction that I believe deserves to be defined.
I am certainly not the first or only person to have discovered this alternative way to build a belief system, and yet, this new movement is still anonymous and unrecognized as distinct from the new-age community and faith-based spiritual practices. Spirituality as a catch-all term for what we do and believe doesn’t capture the study and open-minded skepticism that we pride ourselves on.
The problem is, we don’t have a name for what we do or who we are. How do we distinguish ourselves from those who derive their spirituality based on faith or personal development alone?
I have decided to coin the title “Evidential Spiritualist” and “Evidential Spirituality” to create a real distinction for what I, and many others, practice to distinguish ourselves from faith-based spiritualism, or spiritualists who follow the religion of spiritualism.
So with any new term, we need a definition:
The practice of defining spiritual, philosophical, or religious beliefs through study and content analysis of supernatural, paranormal or spiritual experiences of the self or others, scientific evidence and research, or veridical observations relating to the survival hypothesis including, but not limited to; near-death experiences, death-bed visions, after-death communications, mediumship and channeling demonstrations, the philosophy of duality and the study of consciousness, instrumental transcommunication, past-life/pre-birth memories, and certain hypotheses in quantum physics.
Evidential Spirituality is an individual discovery of personal beliefs based on evidence, as follows:
- Spiritual beliefs are not defined prior to study or personal experience but rather defined over time when certain patterns and truths are recognized
- Beliefs may vary from person to person, as the nature of evidential spirituality is highly individualized
- Evidential spiritualists are encouraged to explore the widest possible collection of spiritual beliefs, ideas, philosophies and experiences, including religion and science
- Study includes the eight areas of life after death research as well as exploring personal spiritual experiences
- Evidential spiritualists strive for objectivity through cross-referencing, logic, the study of skeptical and scientific viewpoints, and veridical experiences
- Evidential spiritualists attempt to avoid confirmation bias at all costs and are willing to give up on a belief if enough evidence is found to the contrary, or suspend belief if no evidence is found at all
What are some examples of what you can you learn through the methodology of Evidential Spirituality?
- Gaining evidence that confirms the conscious survival of death
- Discovering the meaning of life
- Understanding the nature of reality and consciousness
- Learning about the possibility and mechanics of reincarnation
- Understanding how the spirit world looks and operates
- What to expect when you or a loved one is anticipating their transition
- Understanding the types of after-death communications that are possible
- Understanding the nature of time
- Discovering the purpose behind soul groups, spiritual contracts, spirit guides and other aspects of spiritual mechanics
- Learning about the science of ITC and research opportunities that exist in the field
- Developing latent psychic or mediumistic abilities
- Gaining insight into a personal spiritual experience such as an NDE, OBE or ADC
- Discovering the relationship between science and spirituality
- Taking control of your own destiny and living a more spiritually guided life
- Developing a better understanding of God and your relationship to All That Is
- Becoming less materialistic, fearful, aggressive or competitive
- Discovering the implications of your past/concurrent lives
Can we learn everything there is to know about the mysteries of spirituality through evidential spiritualism? No. In fact, what we do learn will likely be poor interpretations that we can understand here on earth. However, there is an active interest on both sides of the veil for better human understanding of spiritual matters and whatever we can learn and assimilate can help prepare us to lead better lives here on earth and reduce the fear of death.
Evidential Spirituality: Methodology and Best Practices
Note: you are welcome to modify this methodology as it suits you. This is simply what I’ve learned and used, but feel free to change or improve it.
The Two Components of Study: Research and Self-Directed Spiritual Experience
The research areas that provide the best evidence for life after death together comprise what I call the Eight Areas of Life after Death Research:
- past-life/pre-birth memories
- out-of-body experiences
- near-death experiences
- consciousness and duality research
- deathbed visions
- after-death communications
- instrumental transcommunication
- mediumship and channeling
Each of these areas have been explored in varying extent by the scientific community, and none have been invalidated by testable scientific proof as of yet. The research, particularly in the areas of near-death experiences and past-life memories are exceedingly rich. In addition, some of the newest discoveries of quantum mechanics have also provided valid theories that support the survival hypothesis.
When beginning your research, it is imperative that you study each topic first independently, looking at both the proponent and opponent sides. It requires learning about how neuroscience currently understands (or doesn’t understand) the theory of consciousness, and really looking at alternative plausible explanations for these experiences. Read any scientific analysis you can find in addition to the actual experiences as described by those who have been first or second-hand eyewitnesses. A healthy understanding of the basic principles of quantum mechanics is also handy in order to understand the implications of the newest research being done by Dr. Dean Radin, Dr. Roger Penrose, Dr. Stuart Hameroff, Dr. Robert Lanza and others.
[See also my posts Groundbreaking Research Shows Conscious Intention Affects Quantum States; Scientific Basis for Mind over Matter? and What Science can Teach You about Spirit as a starting point for important concepts in quantum mechanics]
Evidence vs. Proof:
No one who studies life after death research will claim that there is scientific proof for the survival of death. Science is about measurement and currently there is no way to objectively measure experiences in the spirit world in the same way we measure temperature, electromagnetic waves, or gravity. On the other hand, science cannot disprove any spiritual experience, nor can it prove that consciousness does not survive death. Luckily, scientific proof is not the only way we evaluate truthfulness in our society. The best way to evaluate the evidence of life after death is through the standard of ‘Evidence beyond Reasonable Doubt’, which asks you to determine if a reasonable person, given all of the evidence, would agree with a particular conclusion. Lawyers and judges are very familiar with this technique as it is used in every courtroom in nearly every democratic country to determine ‘truth’ when scientific proof is not available. Judicial systems evaluate testimony, cross-reference against a larger body of experience and knowledge, and interpret the evidence before making a final decision.
Ultimately the only person who needs convincing is you, but it is important that you weigh the probabilities, consider the source, and anything that can substantiate the claims. Research authors. Consider the motivations of mediums and channelers. When evaluating claims from hard skeptics and opponents, find out if their scientific claims have been proven or even tested. Learn to separate fact from opinion, even if the opinion is coming from an authority figure disguised as scientific fact. Most importantly, take nothing at face value. Disinformation and skeptical bias (looking at you, Wikipedia) is rampant. It is important to take your time and consider every viewpoint. Don’t jump to any conclusion right away, and if you find strong evidence that makes you reconsider, don’t dismiss it because it doesn’t fit your expected or desired belief. Confidence in your spiritual beliefs comes from due diligence at every step of the evaluation process. Don’t cut corners.
[See also my posts Media Continues to Spread Misleading Information about Near-Death Experiences and Don’t Believe Everything You Read: Scientist’s Claims to Replicate Out-Of-Body Experiences Completely Misses the Mark for examples of disinformation and bias in the media and online.]
Finally, after researching each topic separately, then you must cross-reference. Here are just a few of the types of questions you might consider when cross-referencing information.
- Are the mediums and channelers that you trust describing the nature of the afterlife similar to the near-death experiencers?
- Is the information gained through ITC relevant to information gained in other ways?
- Are life-between-life regression testimonies consistent with children’s pre-birth memories?
- Do people who visit the afterlife through OBEs have similar experiences to those who visit through NDEs?
The key to understanding what spirituality means to you is by assimilating all of the phenomena as a whole after consistent study of the individual topics. We have thousands of people having spiritual experiences every day and what they report over time is emerging as a baseline set of truths. Unlike a religion which tells you what to believe as soon as you walk into the door of the church, temple or mosque, Evidential Spirituality asks you to decide what you believe after both study and experience. Only after you have devoted time to gathering a large amount of data through reading, study and research can you begin to aggregate that data into specific patterns that make sense.
Self-Directed Spiritual Experience:
Research in the eight areas of life after death research is important, but it is not the only way to gain insight into the nature of life after death. The other is participating in certain spiritual experiences yourself. The four activities below are spiritual experiences you can actively participate in, thereby granting a kind of knowing that you will not gain from simply studying the experiences of others.
The Four Self-Directed Spiritual Experiences:
- Out-of-Body Experiences
- Past-life regression
- Instrumental Transcommunication
Each of these activities are self-directed. You can learn how to have an out-of-body experience, attend a past-life regression, start your own research into instrumental transcommunication, or visit a reputable medium. If the results are profound and personal, your spirituality will be bolstered by these personal experiences in a way that cannot be replicated by research alone.
Right about now you might be asking why near-death experiences, death-bed visions and after-death communications are not on the list of direct spiritual experiences. The reason is because these are not self-directed. NDEs happen when we are usually in a life-or-death situation, certainly not something that should ever be self-directed. Death-bed visions are always second-hand reports unless you yourself are experiencing them, in which case your research is about to be first-hand knowledge anyway. Lastly, after-death communications are directed by spirits and are not in any way directed by us here on earth (no matter how much we beg and plead for signs).
Nevertheless, if you have had an NDE or ADC, these powerful personal experiences likely provide a cornerstone to your spirituality which can be enhanced by further study and by participating in one of the self-directed spiritual activities listed above.
Beware of Fraud
The most difficult aspect of relying on second-hand personal experiences for evidence is weeding out the liars and frauds. People who submit NDEs, death-bed visions, after-death communications and out-of-body experiences have little reason to lie as there is no monetary incentive to it (unless publishing a book, see The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven hoax). Statistically, the fact that a large number of experiences are available in each of the eight areas of life after death research helps to minimize the impact of any one delusional or deceptive report. Over time, the outliers will be easier to spot but it is impossible to avoid altogether. This is why there is an emphasis on gathering a lot of data from many sources; it avoids any one source from contaminating the big picture.
Mediums and channelers require far greater discernment. With time and experience, you can begin to tell the honest and the dishonest apart. Mediums who are simply out to gain a buck are easily pointed out for their constant questioning, badgering, cold reading techniques and obvious desire for fame above helping those in need. Channelers who are not really in touch with high level teachers on the other side will spout useless platitudes and recycled new-age word salad meant to make you feel good, but offers little else in the way of original teaching. After two decades, I have only found two channelers that I trust enough to incorporate their teachings. When in doubt, don’t.
Tips for Beginners:
Here are a few tips to keeping your head while being mired in a lot of conflicting testimonies, experiences, and scientific arguments:
- Start with a clean slate.
Do not begin your search for life after death with preconceived notions and beliefs. Make sure you are okay with the possibility that the outcome of your research may not be what you initially hoped for. Promise yourself that if you encounter opponent viewpoints or scientific reasoning that disproves life after death, that you will give it the same consideration and weight as something that supports life after death. Only then can you feel reasonably sure that you final conclusions were as objective as possible.
2. Don’t take everything literally.
Know that life after death experiences are highly personal to the experiencer. The symbols, visions and experiences are likely unique to the individual, however you can derive information based on the structure and context of the experience. There are many people who see Jesus during their NDEs. Others see Buddha, or Vishnu, or even Elvis. Try not to draw too many conclusions from the symbolism.
3. Do not assume the spirit world functions like earth does.
The afterlife does not seem to be an objective reality (up for debate, of course). It is consistently described as a thought-based reality, subject to change. In addition, the spirit world is multidimensional and spirits are not all-knowing (also up for debate).
Note: Although the last two statements are things that I learned after years of confusion and are ultimately my interpretation of the evidence, I bring them up here because it could prevent you from going through the same years of confusion. Here on earth, we are used to living in an objective environment, where we can all agree on what we see (for the most part). From my own understanding, it is important to evaluate the source of the information based on whatever context you can gain from their circumstances.
4. Keep your faith separate from your evidential beliefs.
You might privately have faith in life after death and live your life according to your faith. However, until you have enough evidence, you must keep your faith and your belief separate. I’ll use myself as an example. Privately, I have believed in life after death for a long time now. I don’t allow my unsubstantiated faith to pollute my evidential search for life after death, however. Faith doesn’t require evidence, but in my opinion, belief does. It can be hard to hold two opposing views in your head at the same time, but it is important that you don’t let your faith get in the way of being objective about the evidence. My faith is an emotional component of me, but I have to be willing to let it go if the evidence points in a different direction. That is why it is vital to carefully delineate the two.
Keeping Yourself Objective Through Diversification
Discernment is extremely important as you – the Evidential Spiritualist – study these vast resources to determine what you believe. You can very easily get bogged down in bullshit if you cling to one source or resource to the exclusion of others, or do not examine the merits of any particular experience against the larger body of experiences.
For example, many people may become enamored by a particular spiritual teacher or teaching and then cling to that as the ultimate truth without ever comparing it to other teachings or rightly using it as just one component of an overall study. ‘Abers’, people who follow the Jerry and Esther Hicks philosophy and ‘Tealers’, people who follow Teal Swan sometimes grant their spiritual leader with god-like powers, believing in everything that comes out of their mouths as ultimate truth to the exclusion of everything else.
This is dangerous and anathema to healthy evidential spirituality, which relies on cross-referencing sources to get closest to the truth as possible. As any wall street investor would tell you, “Diversify, Diversify, Diversify!”
That is the beauty of evidential spirituality: we interpret the evidence the best we can, and are free to change our core beliefs as more evidence is revealed to us. Unlike religion, which asks you to follow one book or statement of faith without daring to research alternative viewpoints, evidential spirituality makes the assimilation of diverse knowledge a cornerstone of its philosophy. It also helps to study religion and history to round out your knowledge of how spirituality relates to our experience of being human.
Evidential Spirituality is Not for Everyone
The only drawback to building your spirituality from evidence is time and effort. It easily takes years, if not decades, to read and research much of the spiritual literature is out there, discern what is real and what is garbage; what is truth and what is lie. Additionally, it takes time and energy to devote yourself to the four self-directed spiritual experiences. You won’t do it all, and that is okay.
That is in part why I created this website – in order to help distill much of the information as I learn it, and hopefully save you time by bringing up research and talking points that can get you thinking in new ways about spiritual topics.
Unfortunately, the path of discovery must still be borne by you alone. The whole point of Evidential Spirituality is finding your own interpretation of the evidence that exists and coming up with your own conclusions. There is no shortcut, unfortunately.
I can help you with where to start, however. There are two links in my menu, one is Resources for Afterlife Research and Recommended Reading. Begin in Resources for Afterlife Research with the books listed in ‘General Afterlife Studies’. These books are great starting points that will give you an overview of the evidence and the research in life after death that has been done. From there, you can use this information as a springboard for additional research and for seeking out self-directed spiritual experiences.
For those that desire to follow a faith-based spirituality, there is nothing at all wrong or inferior to that path. The choice is deeply personal, and ultimately any path that leads to greater spirituality is a good one.
If you do choose evidential spirituality, know that it is a life-long personal endeavor that demands much in mental and emotional attention. It could throw everything you previously believed into chaos. On the other hand, evidential spirituality will grant you a foundation of belief that can be extremely empowering, perhaps granting you that holy grail of moving from faith, to belief, to the ultimate in spiritual attainment… the knowing that death is a great illusion that needlessly shadows our life and cloaks our dreams in fear.
Questions for the reader:
- Do you have a system or methodology to studying life after death?
- Do you prefer to study one topic in-depth instead of generalizing?
- Do you prefer a more organic path to spirituality, using feeling, intuition and faith to guide you?
- Have you ever had a personal experience that you have used to gain certain insights? What did you learn?
- Would you consider yourself an Evidential Spiritualist?
24 thoughts on “Evidential Spirituality: How to Build Spiritual Beliefs from Life After Death Research”
Well done Jennifer! I can tell you have given this a great deal of thought. Few people have taken the time to explain a systematic approach to spirituality in terms that are so easily understood.
It is difficult to meaningfully define that sense of purpose I think we all feel as a sort of primal urge to understand ourselves and our world … not the physical world, but our relationship with the greater reality which appears to be our natural environment.
We have an inset on the front page of atransc.org stating “Transcommunication is spiritualism sans religion.” Lisa and I are ordained Spiritualists, partially to better understand the system, but mostly because we have learned the power of community in promoting personal development. The ancient teachers, even to Hermes, understood the natural cycle of seeker-teacher-seeker-teacher. We learn from the act of composing our thoughts to explain a concept, from the reaction of our audience and from hearing our audience’s reply. Spiritualism as a society is a potent means of personal development. It certainly is not a religion.
As I came to understand the implications of ITC, it has become increasingly clear that the way of personal development is not via technology. ITC may represent a contemporary form of revelation about our actual nature, but like mediumship and the mind experiences of OBE and NDE, the trans-information comes to us through the filter of our worldview.
Much of spiritual seeking is learning to cull the cultural contamination in our worldview so that we can sense more clearly. To that end, I would like to suggest to your readers First Sight Theory by James Carpenter. It is something of a difficult read, so I have attempted to digest some of the important points in the Perception Essay (http://ethericstudies.org/perception/). After understanding the importance of seeking, knowing how we think is the first step of the mindful way.
PS: I really like your banner picture.
Thank you very much for your insight and your kind words. I just want to clarify, because I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, most of all spiritualists of whom I have an affinity. I thought spiritualism was a recognized religion? Should I not refer to it as such? I think the seeker/teacher approach is very valuable, as you do say. I think it only becomes dangerous when people stop thinking for themselves, or they end up with a teacher who doesn’t encourage independent thinking but rather cult-like following. Many people feel more comfortable on the path of tutorial from others, and I have myself benefited from many such teachings. As you mentioned, communication with others is key – the power of community is important in order to get feedback for your ideas and open yourself up to new ways of thinking as well. That is also why I started a blog- so I could also benefit from the wisdom of people, like you, who can suggest new and fresh sources of philosophy. I will check out First Sight Theory; I’m not familiar with it. Thank you for the recommendation!
My background in Spiritualism is with the NSAC (nsac.org). It is a religion for very expedient reasons, but it also seeks to be a science and a philosophy. Your approach is not disrespectful of the religion part and certainly supports the science and philosophy parts.
My point is that Spiritualism is not faith-based. The “god” it recognizes is the universal Source it refers to as Infinite Intelligence, rather than a father-god. That is a reasonable interpretation of existence of reality. The challenge for Spiritualists is to avoid turning that concept into a father god, as we are all taught to do in this mostly Christian culture.
At the risk of speaking for others, I will say that a practicing Spiritualist accepts personal responsibility and seeks to understand Natural Law. The unavoidable implications a universal source (we are all one), personal responsibility (what you do now matters here and hereafter) and organizing principles (God is order in reality, understanding of which is spiritual maturity) is an objective system of thought, rather than a faith-based system of belief as religions are usually characterized.
I agree with the dangers of personality cults, but there is an increase in the rate of progression when a person consciously steps onto the mindful way which reduces the danger of a guru syndrome. Personal responsibility requires self-determination and responsibility for that determination and its results. Gurus become wayshowers when they teach as a cooperative community rather than a “listen to me” kind of relationship. For instance, the Katha Upanishad advises that the seeker should find a teacher, but then advises self-responsibility. (http://ethericstudies.org/razors-edge/)
First Sight Theory appears to be gaining respect as the dominant model for parapsychology and psi functioning. It makes sense once we understand that what we sense is based on unconscious perceptual processes governed by worldview. (think cultural contamination)
I think what is beautiful about all paths to spirituality is that when you combine open communication, community, open-mindedness and empathy – they lead to the same place; believing in the universal source, the inter-connectedness of all things, and the base root of existence – love. The guru or seeker/teacher relationship is as old as humanity, and it should be revered – but as you say, many of them (especially the ones who seek popularity and fame) devolve into ‘listen to me’ kinds of relationships. It is my hope that people seeking out teachers can understand the value in being discerning and know when they have given up their self-responsibility. I respect the many traditions and paths that “do it right” and therefore inspire so many people on their way to spirituality and enlightenment. Thank you so much for the interesting conversation – I’m looking forward to reading about the First Sight Theory.
This is a really thoughtful, carefully crafted article. I shared it on Twitter and FB. Thank you for posting it!
Thank you so much for sharing it! I really appreciate that and for your kind compliments!
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Probably the best articulation of my own path and worldview as regards spiritual matters that I have ever read. I look forward very much to plumbing the depths of all you have to offer. I have felt for some time now that the evidence for spirit, particularly that derived from near death experience research, is reaching a kind of critical mass, and that a tipping point may be nearing, after which mainstream science will no longer be able to act as though the evidence for discarnate consciousness is “trivially” dismiss able. When that shift occurs, all sorts of amazing things become possible on a societal level. Its an exciting time to both be alive, and be studying death! 😁
Once again, kudos on your writing. Both content and style are outstanding.
I sincerely appreciate your comment. Thank you for taking the time to write it and letting me know that you have a similar way of progressing your own spiritual understanding. I agree, since the 1970’s, it seems that the prevalence of NDEs and the sheer sincerity of experiencers is slowly changing the way medicine is viewing these experiences, though there is still no real scientific consensus to what causes them. Unfortunately, the large number of scientific ‘guesses’ is enough for many doctors to latch onto one and look no deeper. People who confide in their doctors still hear “it was the morphine” or “it was a hallucination” or the frustrating and unsubstantiated ‘lack of oxygen’ theory. But, as you say, it is getting more and more difficult for science to simply brush these experiences aside – I like your idea of critical mass; a point whereby more doctors and scientists will finally say, “okay – what is really happening here?”. I appreciate the work of those doctors and scientists who have used their talents to probe the alternative explanations and attempt some testing. The AWARE study was the most robust of its kind, but sadly, it wasn’t (in my opinion) well-designed and did not produce the kind of evidence we would have liked to see. It is a start, though. The enhanced communication we now have as a result of the internet makes it possible for people to find out just how prevalent these experiences are and validates what they’ve been through to an extent as well. I think it’s already creating a sea change with younger people; it is up to us to bolster it, support it, and encourage people to have the bravery to consider a position beyond what the blinded scientific authority waves away as nonsense.
Thanks again for your comment and for your compliments, hearing that always makes my day.
Two recently published books you need to read, like, yesterday, if you haven’t already, are, “Near Death in the ICU”, by Laurin Bellg, MD, and “The Self Does Not Die” by a trio of Dutch authors. Both offer many utterly compelling, corroborated anecdotes of veridical obe’s associated with nde’s. This is the sort of data that more and more , as it builds, needs to be shoved in the faces of dismissive reductionists. They won’t cry uncle, but if presented by able, articulate, proponents, this kind of stuff will let them know the battle has been fully joined, and that the facile, handwavy stuff they generally employ simply won’t cut it anymore.
I have a bit of a dream of folks like you and I being empowered to play the role of catalysts in however modest a fashion towards the reaching of the tipping point I mentioned earlier. I’m not entirely sure how, but I feel the internet could really facilitate this.
We shall see what the next phase of the AWARE study yields in the way of data. In the meantime, in addition to perusing the two above mentioned works, as well as NDERF, I like to go to Kevin Williams site, NDE.com (I think), and check out, under the sub heading of obe’s, the many scores of great obe accounts he has compiled there. I remind myself that every single one of them must be illusory for reductive materialism to be true. Needless to say, I don’t buy it. As one observer remarked, “You need to read and or listen to HUNDREDS of these (NDE) accounts, to the point where you can complete the experiencers sentences, or even paragraphs, for them, before you truly realize how much evidence there is.
As a side note, I have had enough success with brief forays into evp to know that it too constitutes a rich trove of data. If you havent, check out Dan Drasins documentary “Calling Earth” for some really good stuff from that domain.
Remember, the saying is that “Science progresses, funeral by funeral”. There is, somewhat lamentably, much truth in this, and it reinforces what you say about the vital role of young people in this challenging quest.
Thank you so much for your book recommendations! I just bought “near-death in the ICU” because I was looking for a book to read today on New Year’s. I totally agree with you with regard to NDE and OBE accounts – is it possible that every single one is illusory? I don’t think so. It just feels improbable. I think many scientists who are looking for a neurological basis behind it have realized that the “hallucination, lie, drugs” excuses don’t work. Honestly, I find it insulting when people like Dr. Susan Blackmore, who has never had an NDE, compare it to a drug experience she had when on cannibis. Who the hell is she kidding? From her experience, she feels she can judge the kinds of life-changing experiences that others have? And yet, people cite her anti-NDE book all the time. I think it’s telling that I have never read, met, or listened to a person who has had a real near-death experience say, “ah, it was all just a dream.” When people have NDEs, they know it was real. Period. That carries a lot of weight for me. All of that sincerity and their need to communicate their experiences is saturating the public mind through the internet, and I’m glad that people like us are at the forefront of helping them, and others, get their message across.
Happy new year!
It’s been a couple days since i read your posting so my first thoughts that i can remember were: I don’t believe that faith based spirituality and evidential spirituality need be either/or. Maybe that’s not what you were pointing towards.
It appears to me that your suggesting critical thinking.
I’m filtering what i take in as a critical thinker, reflexively, but my intention for NDE studies is to strengthen my faith. Though i’ve had some remarkable experiences they were not at the level of intensity to remain fresh like NDE’s. So they are memories now, the insights needing to be kept fresh.
I look for corroboration, and duplicatability, which they can do at the Monroe Institute. When you can duplicate something at will that needs to be acknowledge even when you don’t know the why.
I’ve been helped greatly by Teacher/Guru people. they created accelerated learning environments for those sincere and able to work. They did not remove personal responsibility. No such thing as victims.
I liked your post enough to send it to 2 friends who i thought might appreciate it. They responses to me are below. I pass this along to you. I do not necessarily agree with everything they are saying. But maybe you will find it of use or at least some interest.
B, Is in the Non-dual, adviata camp, which i’m not in complete agreement with.
A: I think you are onto an interesting tack here with evidential spirituality and Jenn is a coherent thinker. For me personally though the important evidence is spiritual or meditative experience / insight. Everything else on her list is fine but not definitive or sufficient to produce transformation. For example reading about NDE’s, studding non-dual philosophy or quantum mechanics, or recovering “past life memories”, can’t themselves produce transformation. They are hearsay evidence, or second hand evidence, or circumstantial evidence. All of that sort of evidence has great value but the only irrefutable, undeniable, inarguable evidence in her list is what she calls “spiritual experiences of the self “, presumably meaning a person’s own awakening experiences of reality.
If a person has complete faith in an after-life based on testimony of NDE’s, or OBE’s, or paranormal experience, one can ask them if it is conceivable the evidence is false or misleading. If it is, and it is bound to be, then one cannot have complete faith based on such evidence…or if one does, it is not true faith but a psychological ploy.
The same is not true for deep waking state experiences or “bardo experiences”. That is first hand direct evidence that is even more reliable, to the mystic, then what one sees and hears (since the physical senses are often mistaken). That’s what I’ve gathered. Those experiences, or cognitions, only exist for the person who has them, and even more restrictively, only during the time they are having them. The memory of a waking state is not a waking state and does not confer the valuable content of that experience.
(This person is not very familiar with NDE events.- Silrak)
Why is a waking sate experience more credible than even our physical senses, let alone other people’s testimony? Many books have been written about this. But I think only people who have had such experiences accept the reasonings given in those books.
B: …it appears that she has missed the most fundamental point of any “real” (i.e., nondual) spirituality–namely, that there is no such entity as “me.” The very entity-ness of “me” is the fundamental illusion–and it is that fact which is most supported by quantum mechanics. All NDEs only occur within the space of “I Am,” and all such phenomena only come and go within that Reality, which is never born and never dies, to begin with.
I value and appreciate the work you are doing. S.
Thank you for your comment, and for sharing the post. I appreciate the honest and critical discussion. To answer your first question, I agree – spirituality doesn’t have to be either/or, but I do think one should keep their investigative side separate from their faith side, at least initially. The reason I say that is because many people start out on their journey with a core set of beliefs and faith in life after death, and because of that they get roped into confirmation bias – they only read things that confirm what they already believe and immediately dismiss anything that doesn’t agree. I believe our ultimate faith can only be strengthened by knowing that we were open-minded and brave enough to be objective. The goal at the end, of course, is to strengthen one’s faith, not just to simply accumulate evidence. To answer your friend’s first point about evidence being not definitive to produce transformation. For many people this is true. That is why the second component of evidential spirituality is self-directed experiences. I should have added the importance of spiritual practices as well, such as meditation. I think I mentioned in the article that reading second hand reports will never produce the kind of intimate personal knowledge that a first-hand spiritual experience can so I am in agreement with his statement. Some people will rely more heavily on the research aspect and some will be more attracted to the self-directed experiences – all ways are fine, and whatever leads us to greater spirituality is positive. While there is a lot of information on the web about transformative spiritual experiences, there wasn’t much that I could find about crafting a well-organized research component which is why I created this post with an emphasis on the research aspect. As for the last point, which I very much appreciate that your friend brought up, i.e. I have missed the fundamental point of any non-dual spirituality. I don’t think this was a case of missing the point but rather ignoring it for a very real-life and practical way of understanding spirituality. Meditation and mindfulness practices teach one to let go of the ego and value the interconnectedness that I know (from qm as well) that is the true reality. However, these types of spiritual practices were not within the scope of my post; rather I wanted to focus on the everyday ego-based world that we live in, and all of the interesting spiritual information that we can obtain by using the equally powerful gifts of logic and reasoning. I think we are all different. Try as I might to engage in so many spiritual practices, I simply feel more comfortable on the research and interpretation path. And its okay – I’ll keep trying to meditate and learn mindfulness, but I also wanted to validate the other ways that people can find spirituality, and part of that is understanding the hard evidence. Its not an inferior path as it has a lot of value, especially when combined with direct personal experiences. In the end, I think the best path to understanding is a well-rounded one. Try everything and expose yourself to as much as you possibly can.
I’m a reader from Sweden, who found your blog when I was searching for exactly this topic. First time I comment here, but shouldn’t be the last one. First:
Why do we have to label everything? We human seems to be so addicted by labeling everything to make a false bobble of comfort. So we always can predict what other might do/think/say etc. I think this is really what divide us people more and create more anger and problems. But if we must label this kind of “faith”, as I share with you I would like to share my view of it.
I assume you live in the US? And because of that, it’s common that people believe in God and often practice some religion? I want to share how it is in Sweden. According to Wikipedia Sweden is one of the worlds most secular country and hold a population where 50-85% is atheists. This is probably correct though neither I or most of the people I know do believe in God. BUT – according to interviews most people do believe in something, and a majority DO believe in an afterlife. I agree with this by just thinking of what most of my friends/people I’ve met think. My mother says she would call herself an atheist if someone ask – But the thing is, we don’t really talk about this in Sweden, at all. We are so busy with living our stressful lives anyway. But this is another story. But my mother DO believe in an afterlife because of own strange experience by the time after her grandmother passed away.
I assume you are familiar with the term metaphysic, just by looking at some of the book you recommend as reading, as Rupert Sheldrake. Some will say that he’s only rabbling just metaphysics or pseudoscience. The interesting part is, why aren’t people so hard of Stephen Hawking or some other famous scientist who claims there is 11 dimensions? Of my understanding, he and others must put this 11 dimension in their theory to make the String theory work. But of what I’ve understand there aren’t really any way yet to prove this. Black holes are the same. The theory of gravity would fall if the black holes didn’t existed. You therefore need to have a “faith” in this theory. Do you see where I’m going with this?
There’re a bunch of physicist, biologists and consciousness researchers out there with really exited theories about everything that should be included in a openminded view. Don’t need to label anything. But I would say for the people that says “You stupid fuck if you’re an atheist you don’t believe in anything” – That ofc you can, you have to have faith in the theories about things we can’t measure yet. If you don’t believe in anything, then you say you have all the answers? Then ofc you can say, I don’t believe in anything I can’t find good enough evidence for, that is just healthy thinking, but then you also should be openminded and LOOK at all the data/research/theories that exist before making up your mind. I think many sceptics don’t do that. It feels like the already made up their mind of what’s existing or not. I would call they hardcore naturalists or materialists, not atheist. It’s not the same. Some “atheist celebrity” sites include famous people who said they don’t believe in good, but are spiritual/agnostic or believe that there are more then just matter (John Cleese, last sentence). “What are your thoughts on all this?
I would consider myself atheist but not materialist, though I believe there are more than matter according to what I’ve read and my own abnormal experience. I also like the spiritual term too, but as you said, some people might assume that I believe in a higher power then. I don’t. I’m not sure if healing by stones and dreamcatchers works and so on. That’s why I hate labels. But I do like your new label a bit. It though would just be better to ask and discuss with each other. It’s not so black and white.
I have a very long list of more to read about the same topic – Non religious ofc. If you want I can send it to you. Sorry for this being this long. Keep up the good work!
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Welcome! I often thought about writing a post describing how using science and evidence alone, an atheist can believe in life after death, even without believing in a god. In my experience, and in the studies I’ve read, at least three quarters of Americans believe in God, though we find it impolite to talk about it unless it is with family or close friends. Most people are part of a religion, but not many people admit to being overly religious. For some reason, people feel that they can’t talk about religion or politics because it might offend someone. For you, as an atheist but not a materialist, you are part of an even smaller minority, but I applaud you for your open-mindedness! Quantum physics holds some very promising theories for the continuance of consciousness, without needing to rely on God or any type of moral authority to do it. I’m excited by those prospects and I see nothing wrong with divorcing the survival of consciousness from the God aspect. Thank you so much for commenting, hope to see you around again!
Thank you for your answer! Interesting to hear about it. I know people from my country that just assume that Americans are “so religious” and very different from us here. It’s wrong to say that Swedes call themselves atheist. Most people here just doesn’t care and are so focused about there own lives and that’s why the label is unnecessary here. We don’t discuss this here either. More because it’s inconvenient and scary topic, not because we’re afraid of offend anybody.
I’m sure I’m a part of a minority. But for me in Sweden, I don’t feel so different from the rest. But I read somewhere that only 8% of the worlds population is considered NOT believe in a God or higher power. Then ofc, the “atheist” label is more necessary. In my country I have never been asked what kind of religion I have, We rather ask, “What do you think/believe?” (If we do discuss it) I don’t like the label in general though, atheist. It seems to has such a negative tone in the rest of the world.
I would rather say “I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in God, but I’m not a materialist though I think that there is more then we can see, and I do think we have some kind of soul so maybe that would make me spiritual, but I’m not sure healing power works, so… that makes me a skeptical? I’m very interested in Quantum physics and from that I see a possibility that life after death is real. So yes I believe in that. I also see a possibility that ghost exist though I had some weird experience. This is too long to say in just a sentence. Maybe the term “Open-minded” is the best really.
Great that you could see that a atheist do can believe in an afterlife too. That term is supposed to only show that you don’t believe in a God or a higher power. It would be great if you could write an article describing how using science and evidence alone.
Really nice to talk to you!
And I forgot to put in the most important part. I’m ofc just like you “Open-minded but sceptical” and I therefore need more then just faith to back up my believes/world-view. Otherwise you can assume anything – “Flying spaghetti monster” as many sceptics a lots of time has used… You need to look at both parts. Both the materialist research and the ones that could tell you something about the opposite!
It’s great info you put together in this blog!
[…] is why I gravitate to articles like the one attached on #EvidentialSpirituality . In it, the writer discusses a point with which I clearly […]
Interesting posts about how it is in Sweden, Erika. I thought most Swedes were Lutherans, although the more liberal type, comparable to mainline protestants in the US. In other words, social justice is more important than doctrinal issues. “Love ye one another”. I am a progressive Lutheran from the US. I don’t attend church except for some holidays, but I do believe in God and life after death. Much of the US is religious to very religious as you pointed out. Much less so on the West Coast, Northeast, or Florida (where I live).
Great post! I love the idea of evidence-based spirituality or evidential spirituality! I’ll be back to read this in more depth when I’ve got some time. glad to come across your blog 🙂
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Thank you so much! I’m so glad you found us! Hope to see you around! 🙋
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If you eant to know about life after death, first make sure you wsnt to live before death rather than passing on. Sources that come from the unknown beyond do not belong where you want to live. Don’t bring them into it. If you want more spirituality, those sources do not offer it. It offers more of whatever it wants which has nothing to do with you and what you want.
What a great post, and what a great website you have. Every piece is carefully written, lucid and articulate, something not so often achieved in this field.
I love the term “evidential spiritualist”. I guess I am one of them too. It is psychic reads and the evaluation of the (huge amount of) evidence that we survive bodily death what has led me to embrace the reality of the spirit world and their “many mansions”. As you know, some of the most brilliant and scientific minds of the yesteryear accepted that very reality following investigations (some even became mediums as well): physicists Oliver Lodge and William Barrett, chemists William Crookes and Robert Hare, mathematician Augustus de Morgan, judge John Edmonds, biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, engineers, medical doctors, lawyers, philosophers… And also many ordinary people who didn’t need the seal of approval of the scientists since they were being overwhelmed by the stunning manifestations ocurring, seance after seance, in the presence of mediums.
So, either renowned scientists or average men and women, many of those Spiritualists from yesteryear, if not all, were also “evidential Spiritualists”, guided by facts and critical thinking, not by faith. You’ll find this trend in old texts (as in James Robertson’s Spiritualism: The Open Door to the Unseen Universe, from 1907, a book I’ve just finished) and likely in modern ones as well (I don’t know much about nowadays Spiritualism though). Those who had sittings with direct voice mediums like Elizabeth Blake or Etta Wriedt, or trance mediums like Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard, were given piece after piece of evidential information, and glimpse after glimpse of the highest reality we are all heading for.
Keep up the good work, Jenn. I guess Jonas is smiling, proudly.
Sergio from Madrid
Thank you! ☺️