THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE: A STAIRCASE TO HEAVEN? 339 / feel that just understanding near-death experiences will be our first step at healing the great division between science and religion that started with Isaac Newton almost three hundred years ago. Educating physicians, nurses, and ourselves about what people experience in those final hours will shatter our prejudices about the ways we think about medicine and life. 41 In other words the very advance in medical technology is simultaneously providing the means to revolutionize itself. Melvin Morse says: / find it ironic that it is our medical technology that has led to this plethora of near-death experiences.... There have been near-death experiences throughout the centuries, but it has only been in the last twenty years that we have had the technology to resuscitate patients. Now they are telling us about their experiences, so let's listen to them. This to me is a challenge for our society... Neardeath experiences, to my mind, are a natural, psychological process associated with dying. I'm going to boldly predict if we can reintegrate this knowledge into our society, not only will it help with dying patients, but it will help society as a whole. I see medicine today as being devoid of spirit.... There is no reason why technology and the spirit cannot exist side by side. 42 One of the reasons I have written this book is to show I believe what Melvin Morse says is possible: Technology and the spirit can and must exist side by side, if our fullest human potential is to be developed. Wouldn't a complete, and completely useful, human science have the courage to embrace and explore the facts of the mystical, the facts of death and dying as revealed in the near-death experience and in this book? Bruce Greyson, one of the leading figures in near-death research, says: Science must try to explain the near-death experience because therein lies the key to its own growth.... History tells us that only in trying to explain phenomena which are currently beyond our reach will science develop new methods. I believe the near-death experience is one of the puzzles that just might force scientists to develop a new scientific method, one that will incorporate all sources of knowledge, not only logical deduction of the intellect, and empirical observation of the physical, but direct experience of the mystical as well. 43
340 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING Bruce Greyson has also said he believes near-death experiences occur for a reason: "Based on my watching near-death experiences for a number of years, I think that we have these experiences in order to learn how to help others." Kenneth Ring sees yet another extraordinary possibility and meaning to the near-death experiences. He asks why so many people are now having such experiences and going through spiritual transformation at this time. For many years one of the bravest pioneers in the field of near-death research, he has come to see the near-death experiencers as being "messengers of hope," speaking of a higher and more noble spiritual reality, and calling us to change urgently every facet of how we live now; to end all war, all divisions between religions and peoples, and to protect and save the environment: / believe ... that humanity as a whole is collectively struggling to awaken to a newer and higher mode of consciousness,... and that the near-death experience can be viewed as an evolutionary device to bring about this transformation, over a period of years, in millions of persons. 44 It may be that whether this is true or not depends on all of us: on whether we really have the courage to face the implications of the near-death experience and the bardo teachings, and by transforming ourselves transform the world around us, and so by stages the whole future of humanity.