Upcoming Interview: Dr. Gregory Shushan... please submit questions

#3
He mentioned in one of his talks that his research is more anthropological in studying the nde phenomenon in culture as opposed to proving the existence of an afterlife and that it's neutrality in that regard would make it equaIly interesting for sceptics or atheist as proponents I'm sure you will probably address this - I also wondered what his position is on the afterlife and how nde science correlates with other paranormal areas of study
 
#4
He mentioned in one of his talks that his research is more anthropological in studying the nde phenomenon in culture as opposed to proving the existence of an afterlife and that it's neutrality in that regard would make it equaIly interesting for sceptics or atheist as proponents I'm sure you will probably address this - I also wondered what his position is on the afterlife and how nde science correlates with other paranormal areas of study
thx
 
#6
Hey Alex

I think the instances of NDEs in traditional cultures is of great interest - but whether they are generated misadventure or intentional acts is of particular interest. If the study is genuinely anthropological I can't see the validity of the assertion that NDEs might be the 'source' of religion, because that would require a wider anthropological inquiry into other forms of experience - such as encountering spirits, shamanism and so on.

The book was published by OUP in Aug 2018 and retails here for AUD$107.45 (that's the cheapest I can get it). So its plainly a serious academic work that is not intended for popular publication.

I think there is a risk here that Shushan will not be up to questions too far beyond his academic field. This what I'd want to know:
1. What triggered his interest in this kind of inquiry in the first place?
2. Why did he think this was an interesting inquiry to undertake? What was the question he was seeking to answer?
3. Did he place NDEs in any kind of category - eg did he look at misadventure only (unplanned and unintended) or did he also look at intentional acts to alter consciousness through extreme physical deprivation?
4. How did indigenous communities view NDEs generally and the experiencers themselves? Were experiencers accorded any special status - positive or negative? Honoured or tainted?
5. Did he look at other kinds of experiences - visions, spirit visitations and the like - as a contextual basis for how the NDE was regarded within a community?
6. Were the NDEs confirming or challenging of traditional values and beliefs?
7. What portion of the communities retained their traditional values in tact and what had adapted to, or adopted, external faith traditions (Christianity, Islam for eg).
8. Was there any significant difference in the 'messages' given relative to the degree of adherence to tradition versus adapted/adopted faiths? For example did a NDE confirm an adoption of Christianity or favour traditional faiths? This might be important because missionary Christianity can reject and deny indigenous animism - and favour values and practices that are inimical to the welfare of indigenous people.
9. Were there instances of NDEs that involved only indigenous and traditional entities and others that involved clearly Christian forms?
10. Do indigenous cultures have traditions concerning NDEs in a sufficiently explicit way that tells us there is a long history - and if so does this involve only high status people (shamans and chiefs) or anybody in a community?
11. Is there evidence that NDEs from 'ordinary people' are valued - or is it only high status people whose experiences are reported and remembered?
12. Is there any dominance of male versus female experiencers - and any indication that gender matters in terms of content and value assigned?
13. How has this research impacted Shushan on a personal level?
 
#7
++++++
Hey Alex

I think the instances of NDEs in traditional cultures is of great interest - but whether they are generated misadventure or intentional acts is of particular interest. If the study is genuinely anthropological I can't see the validity of the assertion that NDEs might be the 'source' of religion, because that would require a wider anthropological inquiry into other forms of experience - such as encountering spirits, shamanism and so on.

The book was published by OUP in Aug 2018 and retails here for AUD$107.45 (that's the cheapest I can get it). So its plainly a serious academic work that is not intended for popular publication.

I think there is a risk here that Shushan will not be up to questions too far beyond his academic field. This what I'd want to know:
1. What triggered his interest in this kind of inquiry in the first place?
2. Why did he think this was an interesting inquiry to undertake? What was the question he was seeking to answer?
3. Did he place NDEs in any kind of category - eg did he look at misadventure only (unplanned and unintended) or did he also look at intentional acts to alter consciousness through extreme physical deprivation?
4. How did indigenous communities view NDEs generally and the experiencers themselves? Were experiencers accorded any special status - positive or negative? Honoured or tainted?
5. Did he look at other kinds of experiences - visions, spirit visitations and the like - as a contextual basis for how the NDE was regarded within a community?
6. Were the NDEs confirming or challenging of traditional values and beliefs?
7. What portion of the communities retained their traditional values in tact and what had adapted to, or adopted, external faith traditions (Christianity, Islam for eg).
8. Was there any significant difference in the 'messages' given relative to the degree of adherence to tradition versus adapted/adopted faiths? For example did a NDE confirm an adoption of Christianity or favour traditional faiths? This might be important because missionary Christianity can reject and deny indigenous animism - and favour values and practices that are inimical to the welfare of indigenous people.
9. Were there instances of NDEs that involved only indigenous and traditional entities and others that involved clearly Christian forms?
10. Do indigenous cultures have traditions concerning NDEs in a sufficiently explicit way that tells us there is a long history - and if so does this involve only high status people (shamans and chiefs) or anybody in a community?
11. Is there evidence that NDEs from 'ordinary people' are valued - or is it only high status people whose experiences are reported and remembered?


12. Is there any dominance of male versus female experiencers - and any indication that gender matters in terms of content and value assigned?
13. How has this research impacted Shushan on a personal level?
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
thx michael from what I've read so far he's covered these questions beautifully
 
#8
Alex,

Maybe I would ask Gregory in what way academic research can ever move beyond viewing this phenomenon as something anthropological/social and move on to directly consider its significance to us all. Maybe you should also ask him what his own beliefs are - does he expect and NDE when he dies, and what does he expect after that?

David
 
#9
Looking forward to this one. Again, here learning - and not even totally sure what questions to ask yet.

One hunch I carry is that, because of the higher prevalence of violent NDE's in ancient times, and fewer peaceful (hospital) ones - ancients ended up with a much more ruthless depiction of the afterlife, which was consequently reflected in the dark & judgemental nature of ancient God-religions. But a summary of indigenous NDE's may serve to falsify that notion.

A question I would add:

Is there a set of ancient/indigenous profiled NDE's which tend to cancel out or falsify modern profiled NDE's? Do all the advanced beings agree by culture? For instance,

1. where a being of light states in many cases that there is no reincarnation, and yet many cases cite where a being of light said that we indeed do reincarnate?

2. where an advanced being says in many cases there is no God as we think about it, yet there are also many cases where people meet god or a being states that God indeed exists.

3. where an advanced being in many cases says that the purpose of life is to learn and grow, yet many other cases they contend that learning and growing is not really the purpose of our being here.

What are the disagreements among these indigenous versus modern 'celestial entities'? And forgive me, as I equivocated between 'ancient and indigenous' here a bit.
 
Last edited:
#10
Alex,

Maybe I would ask Gregory in what way academic research can ever move beyond viewing this phenomenon as something anthropological/social and move on to directly consider its significance to us all. Maybe you should also ask him what his own beliefs are - does he expect and NDE when he dies, and what does he expect after that?

David
I definitely get your point... but I also think he's an amazing job under the circumstances.

Good questions :)
 
#11
because of the higher prevalence of violent NDE's in ancient times, and fewer peaceful (hospital) ones - ancients ended up with a much more ruthless depiction of the afterlife
from what I've read so far this doesn't seem the case... which makes it even more interesting.

Is there a set of ancient/indigenous profiled NDE's which tend to cancel out or falsify modern profiled NDE's? Do all the advanced beings agree by culture? For instance,
one thing so far this question is much more complicated then it might seem. he's really done an awesome job of pulling this all apart. the big takeaway is that the most important aspects of the NDE seem to remain.

1. where a being of light states in many cases that there is no reincarnation, and yet many cases cite where a being of light said that we indeed do reincarnate?

2. where an advanced being says in many cases there is no God as we think about it, yet there are also many cases where people meet god or a being states that God indeed exists.

3. where an advanced being in many cases says that the purpose of life is to learn and grow, yet many other cases they contend that learning and growing is not really the purpose of our being here.

What are the disagreements among these indigenous versus modern 'celestial entities'? And forgive me, as I equivocated between 'ancient and indigenous' here a bit.
good questions... again, I think he's done an awesome job covering this in his book. I hope I can get some of it out through the interview.
 
#12
Alex
A question
In my limited understanding of indigenous cultures there seems to be a stronger connect to the tribe and a smaller connection with the individual ego, is this expressed in ND experiences or are they similar to "western" NDE's?
 
#14
Alex
A question
In my limited understanding of indigenous cultures there seems to be a stronger connect to the tribe and a smaller connection with the individual ego, is this expressed in ND experiences or are they similar to "western" NDE's?
I recall reading, a few years back now, that the idea of the individual is more about a person being a particular expression, rather than a separate one - as we have come to mis-see individuality. Distinction and singularity still function within close knit groups.

Where the notion of individuality might apply here is in terms of whether an experience in a tribal community is openly spoken of, and explored, as something that has shared meaning and significance - and to what degree experiences are related to the individual on a personal level.
 
#15
Sure, but it would be interesting to see what he says.
Perhaps the question could be framed in terms of thoughts about how this research might be applied - if Gregory has framed a wider perspective he is prepared to talk about. Is his interest in NDEs related to a contemporary cultural question? If Alex draws out what got him into researching this question in the first place that might lead to thoughts about how his research is useful.

But we have to accept that the notion of usefulness might simply be more ideas on the table - if the research question is essentially driven by curiosity rather than any kind of notion of utility. Not all research in this field has a 'use' outside the field - and this is reflected in the price put on the books - anticipating only an academic readership.

I think Alex has to walk a line between deeply interesting research and any desire to make it 'useful' to people who are into NDEs in a contemporary sense - beyond what the research finding are in and of themselves. But then, maybe Gregory is right into this too, and the need for caution is unnecessary.
 
#16
Having just had a look at the title of the book with a lot more care I think we might be a bit more careful in what we ask for. Near Death Experience in Indigenous Religions is not the same thing as near death experience in indigenous cultures. Does the book deal with NDEs that arises a part of formal religious experiences - from initiations onwards - or does it deal with NDEs in general within the context of an indigenous religious tradition?

Does the author define a NDE in the same way contemporary researchers do in Western cultures? For example for us NDEs tend to be the product of misadventure rather than intentionally induced. Is there a distinction between an ordeal as part of an initiatory vision quest and what we would call an NDE? Would the same apply to radical states precipitated by consumption of entheogens?

This raises the question whether there are NDEs in Abrahamic tradition as well as the Vedic/Hindu/Buddhist, Tibetan, Taoist - maybe blurring the lines between what is or is not an 'indigenous' religion. Has Gregory done a comparative study of our familiar Abrahamic tradition - or just looked at 'indigenous' religions as localised traditional beliefs/practices with varying degrees of influence/contamination from non-indigenous influences?

Does he look at indigenous religions as essentially animistic traditions - a kind of purist quest - or whatever amalgamation they have become through invasion and missionaries?
 
#17
Is he aware of anyone who brought back superior knowledge that lead to major changes in business / science / religion because it was based upon verifiable, testable assertions?

Are the aspects of the experience that are difficult to put into words the same across different societies? That is, what remains unspeakable is of the same condition / situation /or category everywhere or instead its the memory process itself that is imperfect?
 
#18
Alex
A question
In my limited understanding of indigenous cultures there seems to be a stronger connect to the tribe and a smaller connection with the individual ego, is this expressed in ND experiences or are they similar to "western" NDE's?
good one. thx.
 
#19
Is he aware of anyone who brought back superior knowledge that lead to major changes in business / science / religion because it was based upon verifiable, testable assertions?
good questions. I'm pretty sure he's going to say yes to the first part, it will be interesting what he says about the second

[
 
#20
He mentioned in one of his talks that his research is more anthropological in studying the nde phenomenon in culture as opposed to proving the existence of an afterlife and that it's neutrality in that regard would make it equaIly interesting for sceptics or atheist as proponents I'm sure you will probably address this - I also wondered what his position is on the afterlife and how nde science correlates with other paranormal areas of study
Good point. I think this is a common approach taken by academics. Kripal talks about this in his books, he calls it "making the cut". I believe it's a formal approach to research known as "phenomenological research" and is quite standard in some humanities fields. The anthropoligist Jack Hunter talks about it some. Diana Pasulka also talked about this when she talks about just looking at the phenomena without making judgments about whether it's real or not. Toward the end of the Pasulka interview, Alex called her out a bit when she said she wasn't sure if craft had ever visited. Alex called her out and said something to effect of "of course we know--if there's artifacts that exist, it's game over on that question." But I'm not so sure that's the case --- I think there's something to be said for having the discipline to leave space open for phenomena that we can't imagine ... And when a person makes a judgment, which of course is anybody's prerogative to do, it forecloses other perhaps more whimsical interpretations. Just my two cents.
 
Last edited:
Top