Minutes of Meeting

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May 8, 1994

Alumni Hall Room 101

University of Dayton

Speaker: Jerry Kotler

Topic: Eschatology and the Near Death Experience

Hosts: Harold & Sophie Rubenstein

PRESENT: Eileen Moorman, Acting Chair; Bert Buby, Corinne Coleman, Steve Coleman, Glenn Duckwall, Phyllis Duckwall, Shirley Flacks, Phil Hoelle, Sophie Kahn, Stephen Kahn, Eleanor Koenigsburg, Harry Koenigsberg, Beth Kotler, Lorraine Kotler, Jerry Kotler, Arch McMillan, Ruth Precker, Harold Rubenstein, Sophie Rubenstein, Louis Ryterband, Harold Silverman.

Eileen called the meeting to order at 7:55 PM. In honor of Mothers Day, she thanked all the mothers, and the fathers who contributed to their becoming mothers. Harold and Sophie Rubenstein delivered the devotional which was a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures about Hannah, mother to the prophet Samuel. As a result of being unable to conceive, Hannah prayed to God, promising to give her child to the lord if she became pregnant. Subsequently, she bore Samuel.

After Bert stated that he had a date conflict with the June meeting, the members decided to schedule Bert's presentation at the July 10 meeting while retaining Eric's presentation at the June 12 meeting. It was also decided that the scheduling of an August picnic would be considered at the June meeting. Bert announced the death this morning of Father Bill Cole (see accompanying article).

Jerry began his presentation at about 8:10 PM by stating the fact that scientific discoveries have often followed the development of new measuring instruments. For example, the atomic nature of matter was confirmed by means of newly developed X-ray techniques and Newton's theories were confirmed by observations of the planets with the newly developed telescope. The prevailing views of nature of religious institutions have often been challenged by these scientific discoveries. For example, the Catholic Church's view that the earth is the center of the universe was challenged by Gallileo's theories which were in turn confirmed by the use of the telescope. The religious view of determinism has been shattered by the theories of Heisenberg.

Today, religion is facing another great challenge from science. The field of eschatology deals with death, after death, and the soul. Data in this field has been accumulated by psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, and others concerning the Near Death Experience (NDE) that often accompanies resuscitation of people who have died. It has been found that NDE's occur in 40 to 50 percent of people who are revived. Research in this field has discussed NDE experiences in the following stages:

  1. Peace and the sense of well being
  2. The out-of-body experience
  3. The Tunnel (or darkness) experience
  4. Seeing the light
  5. Entering the light
  6. The life review
  7. The decision to return
  8. After effects
After an NDE, it has been shown that people feel called to a more spiritual purpose in their lives and are less concerned with status. The following specific changes have been noted:
  1. Spiritual rather than religious concerns
  2. Feeling inwardly close to God
  3. Deemphasis of the formal aspects of religion
  4. Conviction that there is life after death
  5. Openness to the concept of reincarnation
  6. Desire for the unity of religions
  7. Desire for a universal religion
Jerry also noted that persons who have had an NDE have a diminished fear of death. There are three traditional perspectives regarding tragedy and suffering:
  1. Atheistic-materialist
  2. Theistic-sovereign
  3. Theistic-consoling
The "Being of Light" experience discussed in stages five and six above is consistent with, at different times, perspectives 2 and 3 but not 1.

Jerry raised the question of how the clergy responds to the movement to explore NDE's. He stated that clergy view this movement either as a cheap Satanic trick, or they thank the proponents for providing a new pastoral tool. Jerry suggested that clergy who oppose the movement may be more concerned with their own job security since those who have had an NDE claim that formal religion is rarely mentioned by the "Being of Light." Jerry mentioned that experiences similar to NDE's have been cited in various ancient religious traditions, e.g., the Jewish Kabalistic tradition.

Jerry concluded his formal presentation at about 9:20 PM by speculating what would happen to humanity if everyone had had an NDE:

  1. There would be a heightened interest in all forms of education.
  2. There would be a significant drop in attendance at houses of worship.
  3. There would be an increase in volunteerism for all sorts of causes.
  4. There would be a decrease in the incidence of crimes that hurt others.
  5. There would be no more religious wars.
  6. Hostility between people would cease to exist.
Steve asked why people would not want to commit suicide if the NDE indicated that the afterlife was so wonderful. Jerry replied that, in one case he was aware of, the "Being of Light" informed the person having an NDE that suicide is a violation of God's law. Steve asked whether the NDE experience is explainable in terms of natural psychological phenomena. Beth asked about the relation of NDE's to other supernatural experiences and Jerry replied that he was not well informed about this issue. Eleanor wondered whether the experiences were just dreams, and Jerry replied that the vividness of the NDE experiences exceeded that of dreams. Bert made some observations about the treatment of NDE's in a religious context; for example, religious people are oriented to reviewing their life journeys. Harold asked why the atheistic-materialist perspective is not consistent with the NDE experience.

Jerry stated that over the past six years he has concluded (with the aid of scientific studies) that the soul exists and that it transcends life. Jerry feels that much can be learned by exploring the boundary between religion and science utilizing scientific methods. Beth asked whether adults can remember NDE's from former lives. Shirley asked whether the NDE experiences can be suggested to an individual by reading or absorbing other media. Arch asked whether NDE research might serve to contribute to the ecumenical movement. Eileen compared the NDE experience to that of mystics. Mystics have experiences very similar to an NDE without having to die and come back to life. However, Eileen does not believe in reincarnation and feels it is inconsistent with Christian and Jewish belief which stresses the uniqueness of the individual.

The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Kenneth Rosenzweig

Secretary

IN MEMORIUM - FATHER BILL COLE

Bill Cole died on Sunday, May 8 after a long illness. Bill was an early member of the Dialogue and remained active in it for many years. He was a former Chair of the Theology Department at the University of Dayton. Bill was 70 years old and was survived by his mother from St. Louis.
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