A MASS AWAKENING
Written By: By David Sunfellow
Typically, near-death experiences have been studied from the standpoint of the experience itself: What people experience when they cross the threshold between life and death; how their experiences are similar and how they differ; are these experiences real or simply the product of a human brain responding to severe stress. Less has been said about the impact of the experience itself on the lives of the people who have had near-death experiences, and even less about what it might mean for our race that MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of our members are presently passing through this life-changing experience.
While other researchers have been busily trying to analyze the experience itself, Kenneth Ring, the author of LIFE AT FIRST, HEADING TOWARD OMEGA and THE OMEGA PROJECT has been seeking to understand what the experience itself might mean. His observations are penetrating, thought-provoking and gripping.
Before we summarize Ring’s research and perspectives, let us first take a look at the near-death experience itself. Dr. Raymond A. Moody, author of the near-death experience classic LIFE AFTER LIFE, constructed the following hypothetical description of the experience that contains the main elements common to most such episodes.
"A man is dying and, as he reaches the point of greatest physical distress, he hears himself pronounced dead by his doctor. He begins to hear an uncomfortable noise, a loud ringing or buzzing, and at the same time feels himself moving very rapidly through a long dark tunnel. After this, he suddenly finds himself outside of his own physical body, but still in the immediate physical environment, and he sees his own body from a distance, as though he is a spectator. He watches the resuscitation attempt from this unusual vantage point and is in a state of emotional upheaval.
"After a while, he collects himself and becomes accustomed to his odd condition. He notices that he still has a ’body,’ but one of a very different nature and with very different powers from the physical body he has left behind. Soon other things begin to happen. Others come to meet and to help him. He glimpses the spirits of relatives and friends who have already died, and a loving, warm spirit of a kind he has never encountered before--a Being of Light--appears before him. This being asks him a question, nonverbally, to make him evaluate his life and helps him along by showing him a panoramic, instantaneous playback of the major events of his life. At some point he finds himself approaching some sort of barrier or border, apparently representing the limit between earthly life and the next life. Yet, he finds that he must go back to the earth, that the time for his death has not yet come. At this point he resists, for by now he is taken up with his experiences in the afterlife and does not want to return. He is overwhelmed by intense feelings of joy, love, and peace. Despite his attitude, though, he somehow reunites with his physical body and lives.
"Later he tries to tell others, but he has trouble doing so. In the first place, he can find no human words adequate to describe these unearthly episodes. He also finds that others scoff, so he stops telling other people. Still, the experience affects his life profoundly, especially his views about death and its relationship to life."
Near-death researchers now know that most near-death experiences are remarkably similar. Regardless of gender, race, social class, education, or religious persuasion, most people tend to share the same essential experience. But what about AFTER the experience? Do near-death victims also share similar transformations in their personal lives? According to Ring, they do indeed. And what’s more, Ring is convinced that the transformations people experience in their personal lives "seem to be propelling humanity toward the next stage of its collective development." How? What kind of changes take place in the lives and consciousness of people who share this experience? And how do these changes suggest that the race as a whole may be undergoing a mass awakening?
According to Ring, people who experience a near-death experience tend to share the following changes:
CHANGES IN SELF-CONCEPT AND PERSONAL VALUES:
-- A heightened appreciation for life
-- A greater responsiveness to the beauty of the natural world
-- A greater focus on living in the moment
-- Concerns about past grievances and worries about the future diminish
-- Greater feelings of self-worth
-- Greater acceptance of themselves as they are (greater acceptance of themselves is typically traced back to the overwhelming sense of love and acceptance they felt "from the Light")
-- Increased concern for the welfare of others
-- Increased tolerance, patience, and compassion for others
-- An increased ability to express love
-- An emphasis that sharing love is the primary value in life
-- A stronger desire to help others
-- Increased insight into human problems
-- Deeper understanding of other human being
-- Unconditional acceptance of others
-- While people oriented values tend to rise, concerns for material things and material success tend to plummet
-- The need to make a good impression on others declines
-- There is an increased interest in understanding life
-- There is increased interest in spiritual and religious concerns
-- More effort is made to deeply understand oneself
CHANGES IN RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL ORIENTATION:
-- Near-death survivors describe themselves as more spiritual, not necessarily more religious
-- They feel closer to God
-- Formal, more external aspects of religious worship tend to be less important and less emphasized
-- They express an unconditional belief in life after death
-- They express an unconditional belief that "the Light" will be there for everyone, regardless of one’s belief (or lack of belief) about what happens at death
-- There is a greater openness to the idea of reincarnation
-- There is a belief that a single spiritual reality underlies all the world’s religious traditions
CHANGES IN PSYCHIC ABILITIES AND AWARENESS:
-- There tends to be an increase in telepathic abilities
-- An increase in clairvoyant experiences
-- An increase in precognitive experiences (especially through dreams)
-- Greater awareness of synchronistic events and experiences
-- An increase in out-of-body experiences
-- An increased ability to enter states of consciousness that tend to produce paranormal insights and experiences 
What does all this mean? Here’s is what Kenneth Ring has to say:
"With resuscitation technology likely to improve and to spread in use around the globe, it appears inevitable that many more millions will undergo and survive near-death experiences and thus be transformed according to this archetypal pattern.
"It may be that this high rate of transcendental experience collectively represents an evolutionary thrust toward higher consciousness for humanity at large? Could it be that the near-death experience is itself an evolutionary mechanism that has the effect of jump-starting individuals into the next stage of human development by unlocking previously dormant spiritual potentials? Indeed, are we seeing in these people, as they mutate from their former personalities into more loving and compassionate individuals, the prototype of a new, more spiritually advanced strain of the human species striving to come into being? Do these people represent the ’early maturers’ of a new breed of humanity emerging in our time...
"I am not one who foresees the emergence of a new, cooperative planetary culture as a necessary consequence of the kind of evolutionary shift in consciousness I detect. Rather, I see that shift as a potential of the human species that is beginning to manifest, but whether it takes hold and transforms the earth depends on many factors; not the least is the extent to which many of us consciously align with these trends and seek to awaken. Clearly, nothing in the collective human potential emerging from the spawning grounds of transcendental experiences precludes the possibility of our planet’s self-destructing.
"...the near-death experience seems to be holding out a powerful message of hope to humanity that even, and perhaps especially, in its darkest moments, the Light comes to show us the way onward. It is up to each of us whether we shall have the courage and the wisdom to follow where it beckons." 
In conclusion, it is obvious that something remarkable is taking place in the realm of near-death experiences. There is the direct, life-changing impact these experiences have on the people who experience them, and then there is the indirect impact their experience has on others. Those of us that know someone who has had a near-death experience are affected by their story and presence, and those of us who don’t know someone personally who has had a near-death experience can’t escape the daily mass media coverage. Not only has the topic of near-death experiences made it into the mass media, but the mass media has become unusually preoccupied with the subject. Best-selling books, talk shows, news shows, and televisions specials all prove that the public at large is deeply fascinated with the subject--which may itself be be a sign that the kind of evolutionary leap Ring is predicting is, indeed, taking place...
[1,2,3,4] From an article by Kenneth Ring entitled, "The Near-Death Experience," that appeared in "Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision", The Putnam Publishing Group, 1993.
For more information about near-death experiences, and spiritual awakenings in general, you can visit Bob Manrodt’s SACRED TRANSFORMATIONS Web site: http://www.well.com/user/bobby/
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