30 April, 2014


I had a good chuckle reading the articles on "Heaven is for Real." In case you missed it, this is a movie about a young boy who says he came back from the dead, after going up to heaven and meeting Jesus. Here's an article from The Mirror (UK):

And he told his parents how – while the surgeons were fighting to save him – he visited heaven, sat on Jesus’s lap, patted his rainbow-striped horse and was serenaded by winged angels.

The reactions from Christians doubting his story because it goes against the Christian ideas of the afterlife, and the atheists calling it a pre-schooler's fantasy, are predictable.

Interestingly, scientists have long looked at these stories of people who have had "near death" experiences, in which they experienced something pretty close to what young Colton experienced in his hospital bed. They floated up. They could see their relatives crying. They went off into different transcendental states (depending upon which religion they were raised in.) Then they came back.

Children with past life memories have long been a staple of Indian reality TV. Children have been known to go to states other than the ones in which they were born, pick out homes, and tell stories about their past lives in that household. So Colton's claims of learning about past secrets of this life are rather tame, in comparison. You could say either that Colton is a precocious child who became good at learning about hidden family secrets, or else he did in fact meet his dead sister who returned to tell him about the miscarriage which killed her. 

Either way, none of this contradicts anything the Hindus and Buddhists have long believed—namely, that life is a much longer continuum than this little short snippet we get to witness in our lifetimes. The Hindus believe that life is tied by an universal soul, and we "reincarnate" back into different forms over many lifetimes, while Buddhists believe that people are "re-born", and may be carrying the burden of past karma, or action, which can affect the way circumstances work out in this lifetime, but all difficulties are a special opportunity to practice compassion and patience on the journey towards final liberation. 

The problem with the empirical Abrahamic religions is that they think the Jesus the little boy saw is a "real" Jesus, someone who now has to be "proven" to own a rainbow striped horse. The ponderous burden of existence of the rainbow-striped horse suddenly takes on great weight as acrimonious atheists and realists and Christians of all stripes battle it out, as if Jesus's existence depends upon proving or disproving the rainbow striped horse.

But as all deeply religious people know, the winged angels and rainbow-striped horse, and Jesus's blue eyes, are all "real", and they all "exist". They don't have to stand there in full 4 D for us to appreciate their realness on this material (and transcendental) plane. While you can't put the winged horse into a test tube and check out its DNA, you can be assured that Colton did, in fact, see the horse.

That some of the people will conceptually confuse the heaven of Colton's experience with a "Real Heaven" with shape and form and human-friendly accoutrements (and a winged angel or two) that's up there somewhere, waiting with open doors, is the limitations of human understanding. The experience of "heaven"--or the experience after death--may be different for everyone. Jesus may be black with black eyes and black curly hair to a young child dying in Africa who's' just gotten a glimpse of him. Atheists may experience the moment close to death in very different ways. Buddhists have large volumes of books on what happens to the human being after death. Even if there's no "Real Heaven" with winged angels, that doesn't mean Colton's experience of it wasn't vividly felt and experienced.

Death, or near death experiences lead people to see the many dimensions of knowing that we as human beings are not aware of (or have been trained as rationalists to ignore.) The fact that young Colton knows about his great-grandfather Pops and can pick him out from the photographs doesn't mean his father lied—perhaps one day they were going over the photographs when he was baby and he heard his father say: "look, this is my grandfather," and he remembered that. Or maybe in fact it is a knowledge he's gleaned purely from the other dimension of the Universal Mind in which knowledge is so purely available, and which he somehow had access to. Both of this is plausible, and Hindus and Buddhists wouldn't refute the last option.

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