Religious Experience Research Reveals Universalist Principles-Continued
The first near-death experience I ever read was that of the psychiatrist George Ritchie. Dr. Richie happens to be the professor who trained near-death pioneer Raymond Moody. In his elaborate vision described in his book Ordered to Return in which his guide was no less than Jesus himself, he was shown a variety of hellish experiences, some which were on the earth-plane and others in other realms. In all of these places, there were beings of light standing by the lost souls, and these angels were trying to get them to change their thoughts. Ritchie also relates that Jesus told him that he would draw ALL people to himself, echoing that great Universalist passage, John 12:32.
The prolific liberal Christian writer, Methodist theologian, psychical researcher, and committed Universalist Leslie Weatherhead states in The Christian Agnostic, “Hell may last as long a sinful humanity lasts, but that does not mean that any individual will remain in it all that time. The time of purging can only continue until purification is reached. And a God driven to employ endless hell would be a God turned fiend himself, defeated in his original purpose…. but God will never desert the soul.” It should be noted that Rev. Weatherhead was converted to Universalism in theology school as a result of a powerful mystical experience.
Kevin Williams, webmaster of the “#1” NDE website on Google and Yahoo (www.near-death.com), is a committed Universalist. In his book, Nothing Better Than Death, he states that, “Universal salvation is the concept that everyone will eventually attain salvation and go to heaven. This is a foreign concept to most Christians today, although it was not to many early Christians. Many Christians today cannot accept the NDE because it generally affirms Universal Salvation. While it is true Universal Salvation is generally affirmed in NDEs, it is not true that everyone enters heaven immediately upon death. It is well-documented in NDEs people going to hell upon death. However, NDEs show hell to be a temporary spiritual condition, much like Catholic purgatory, not eternal damnation.”
Near-death researcher and experiencer Nancy Evans Bush who is a retired pastoral counselor of the Congregational Church has recently completed the analysis of 31 research studies on negative near-death experiences that shows, in addition to the fact that “good” people sometimes have negative experiences, there is evidence that these experiences are for instruction and that eventually, “a positive experience is likely to emerge.”
This same view is shared by internist and near-death researcher Barbara Rommer who wrote Blessing in Disguise about negative near-death experiences. Rommer reports that negative experiences often change to positive, and it is her belief that if they are allowed to continue, the white light of God and peaceful experiences will and do unfold.
Psychical researcher F. W. H. Myers, in his book Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, notes that in veridical cases indicative of afterlife, there seems to be a, “disintegration of selfishness, malevolence, pride. And is this not a natural result of any cosmic moral evolution?... the student of these narratives will, I think, discover throughout them uncontradicated indications of the presence of Love, the growth of Joy, and the submission to Law.”
A death-bed vision occurs when a person is dying and tells people in the room what he or she is seeing at the point of death. In their book, At the Hour of Death, psychical researchers Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson note that in a cross-cultural study of 1700 people in the United States and India, only one of these cases was hellish. In all cases, the take-away person was an apparition of a dead person, either a dead loved one or a religious figure. This was true, regardless of whether the person was Christian, Hindu, Jew, Moslem, or unbeliever.
While a good many researchers like the Unitarian Sir Alister Hardy, author of The Spiritual Nature of Man and founder of the Religious Experience Research Centre (formerly at Oxford) at the University of Wales Lampeter have had religious experiences themselves, there are a few like the Unitarian William James, author of The Varieties of Religious Experience, who have not. My own commitment to Universalism is based in part on my own two mystical experiences of God but also on the testimony of hundreds of people I have interviewed and the thousands more I’ve read about in the works of the authors I have cited. Although this ongoing research has expanded the known “data” available, in a very real way, I don’t know any more than I knew fifteen years ago when I wrote this conclusion in my book, Visions of God from the Near-Death Experience:
God is love.
We are all connected.
We are all part of God.
God’s plan for the Universe may be beyond humanity’s understanding, but we are a part
Hell is the absence of God.
Hell is the land of the self-preoccupied who have shut out the Love of God and others.
It is never too late to call out to God, even from Hell.
It is never too late to turn to the ones who love you and go toward The Light.
Ken R. Vincent, Ed.D. is the author of:
THE GOLDEN THREAD, GOD'S PROMISE OF UNIVERSAL RESTORATION.