How an Empiricist Caught the Spirituality Bug
Updated: Aug 12, 2021
Up till around 10, I paid attention to my occasional flashes of intuition. While being driven to youth soccer games, for example, I would get a gut feeling that I would score on the days that I indeed scored. I would get pumped in the car on the days I felt these bits of clairsentience. The intuition took an unsettling turn one day after waking up with a God-awful feeling that something bad would happen at school. During school, a classmate collapsed unconscious. The EMT's were called, and she was taken to the hospital. She turned out okay, but on the day we had no idea what happened to her. It was traumatic enough that I didn't want to experience bad premonitions any more, so I shut down my attention to my intuition.
As the school years progressed, my education diverted away from the intuitive creative and more toward the rational cognitive. We learned how to write expository essays where we supported our arguments with concrete evidence. We learned about the scientific method where emotionless empiricism is valued. I did very well in school and my friends tended to come from the same advanced classes I was taking. I wound up in the debate club because nearly all my friends joined. To win a formal debate, you need to appeal to logical reasoning more than the other team, or at the least appear to to the judge. My partner and I won my first tournament, which was unheard of for someone, me, who joined the team halfway through the school year.
I went to a summer debate camp at the University of Michigan. My debate coach had sway in the debate community and got me into the second highest lab, that is group of debaters with the second highest ability. I was in way over my head. We each had to do research for everybody in the lab. Whatever my topic was, I was lost. I was in the stacks of the graduate library searching for books related to my topic when I pulled out Raymond Moody's, Life after Life.
I believe this was the cover design. The version is the stacks was close to the original printing. Later versions of course have a more modern look.
I read it cover to cover. I don't remember much about what I researched or anything else debate-wise, but Life After Life stuck with me ever since.
I went off to college and majored in the soft sciences, psychology and linguistics (the scientific study of language, i.e., not being a translator). There I learned research design, statistics, p-values, p-hacking, t-tests, chi square tests, ANOVA's, MANOVA's, etc.. I aced two logic classes and wrote a million expository essays. I continued to do well in school and got a scholarship to graduate school in linguistics. I got my MA, and something felt off. Though I succeeded at the cognitive emphasized by my education, I felt like my life was missing something.
Ove the next 25 years, I dabbled in the creative, taking art classes and fiction writing. It felt better, and I had some skill. I was still locked into the rational cognition of my education. though. I dismissed my intuition in childhood as either self-fulfilling prophecies (goals in soccer) or coincidence (girl in school). I started having recurring dreams that proved to be premonitions of future events. I had nightmares of planes crashing, which stopped after 9/11 when I saw the Pentagon in flames from the metro train. I also had dreams of driving into Los Angeles from a distance. Later, I would move to LA. I still regarded these dreams as coincidence. Strange coincidences, but logic and rationality would rule out anything connecting dream with future realities.
At 49, I found a bunch of IANDS (International Association of Near Death Studies) videos on youtube of people talking about their near death experiences. Remembering Raymond Moody's Life After Life book, I binge-watched dozens of videos. I believed the earnestness of the presenters, but I couldn't get past the rational empirical paradigm of inquiry that my education had trained me with. I wanted to believe that the experiences are real and something like them awaits me when I pass. But could they be brain induced? Then I heard Tricia Barker's near death experience in which she witnessed her stepfather get a candy bar while she was out of body and later that got verified. Her veridical experience convinced me that NDE's are bang on real, since then I've uncovered many others that leave no doubt for me.
The rational, cognitive, and empirical are wonderful forms of inquiry for navigating the physical world we live in. We need them in the same way that we need our five senses to survive here. The veridical experiences, however, showed me that there really is a non-physical and that other forms of inquiry are necessary to navigate it. The container of the empirical hence removed, I opened myself up to other possibilities. I've since experienced several physically impossible events that if I weren't open to the non-physical, I never would have experienced. I went to a gentleman who heals, Rob Wergin, and saw my shirt and pants move after he worked on me as if he were still there working on me. If I were in the container of the rational, cognitive, and empirical, I never would have sought him out in the first place, and the physically impossible experiences would have passed me by.
The non-physical has opened up for me. Dimensions of possibilities await those who open themselves to the experiential, intuitive, and spiritual.