Combat soldiers and NDEs

Here is a 45-minute webinar produced by the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) about the near-death experiences of soldiers.

The webinar was intended to introduce the near-death experience phenomenon to mainstream media. It was also intended to draw attention to the IANDS Conference coming up over Labor Day weekend 2015 in San Antonio, Texas.

If you have not studied NDEs, the video is a good introduction to what they are. The panel includes two nurses, who are IANDS leaders, and a Vietnam veteran who had an amazing NDE.

The webinar gives insight into the dilemma which continues to flourish — soldiers who have NDEs face a stone wall of resistance. Imagine while being in combat having a profound reality-defying, out-of-body experience where your consciousness is suddenly in deep space looking back at Planet Earth.  Is this real or is it insanity?

Then imagine coming back into the body and being confronted with an institution that does not want to hear about your experience. What would it feel like if your doctors would rather fill your body with drugs than consider or even acknowledge the life-changing experience you just had? What would it be like to have to deal on your own with this encounter with different dimensions?

IANDS intends to change that situation by instructing medical professionals on how to recognize signs of a classic NDE.


To me, there’s an interesting bonus topic regarding NDEs in the military. It’s a topic that probably won’t be openly discussed any time soon, possibly even at IANDS.

NDEs  sometimes create stunning perceptual changes in the people who have them. Some come back with new perceptual skills they did not have before. Many NDErs come back extolling the virtues of universal love. Many have radical personality changes. For soldiers who have been trained to kill, becoming non-violent all of a sudden creates massive conflict.

Some soldiers who have NDEs in combat do their hospital time to recover and are then expected by the military to go back out and fight. The military does not recognize profound spiritual epiphany as a good reason to sit combat out. This leaves the soldier in quite a challenging situation.

It reminds me of the females in the military dealing with being raped or sexually harassed. Who listens to them? Who believes them? Who supports them? They are treated more as an annoyance to the group agenda.

Beyond the personal challenge a soldier faces after having had a near-death experience, a collection of NDE stories among soldiers could imply that warfare is not the way to go. Considering how much money we pour into warfare, it would make sense to study the phenomenon more seriously.

Near-death experiences among soldiers creates a personal crisis for the soldier that has profound implications for all of us — if we would just listen to what these experiencers have to say.


Martin Manley checks in then checks out

Martin Manley at 44

Martin Manley at 44

I didn’t know Martin Manley until after he’d died. Never heard of him when he was alive.

On August 16 I read in a Facebook group about a guy in Kansas who’d taken his life and left behind what amounted to a huge suicide note in the form of a website. Apparently he had been experiencing some serious memory issues and in looking at his future decided that he would rather end his life on his 60th birthday than degenerate. He chose to get out while the gettin’ out was good.

In his website he meticulously outlined his decision-making process about selecting his end game. It’s a fascinating read, not for any sensational reason, but because in it he discusses at length a topic that rarely gets discussed at all, which is controlling our own destiny about death. Can someone choose when to die?

As I was reading it I wondered why Martin had to present his story as he did — sneaking it onto the web just before he pulled the trigger. It meant, of course, that he deliberated his destiny alone. (I read that he’d worked on his site for a year before going live with it.) Why couldn’t he gather with a few folks in a  church or support group and discuss his thought process about ending his life?

The answer I came up with is that some well-meaning but in my opinion misguided person would have had him committed as a suicide risk. Then he likely would have been drugged. We’re not allowed to discuss topics like this — seriously contemplating our suicide — without someone judging us as already looney tunes.

I’m definitely not advocating suicide, and Martin wasn’t either, even though he took that route. However, I think we should be much more free about discussing life-and-death issues. Ultimately, conversations about suicide segue into a plethora of quality of life issues. For Martin, part of his apparently strong desire to die now was that he had no trust in or respect for the health care industry for seniors. He felt too alone and too vulnerable, as I read it. The frank discussion of his fears opens up many issues about how we mistreat and demoralize people through some of our social paradigms.


A friend of mine is in her early 60s and her husband is in his early 80s. She sometimes fantasizes about life without him and life for herself when she reaches his age. A few months ago we discussed whether or not society would ever become more supportive of voluntary choose-your-death options. She made the point that the Baby Boomers are entering retirement and by sheer numbers could eventually overwhelm the resources of the medical establishment.

Despite some well-entrenched social ideas — suicide is a ticket to hell, modern medicine creates miracle cures (despite the crippling costs it charges), life is precious and should be prolonged no matter what — my friend believes that bunches of people won’t want to tough it out in a lifestyle where they’re glued to walkers or bed or medical machinery.

Living into old age no matter what may not be some people’s idea of time well spent. This is especially true for those who have no family left or who don’t have a support community. The burden on society will be unprecedented. She believes that this situation may fuel a new look at end-of-life options, but that’s years off.


Way back in my twenties I had two ideas for works of literature. The first is eerily like Martin Manley’s website. I wanted to write a novel in which my main character explained his frustrations with a world devoted to hate, war-mongering, materialism, and highly conditional love. It would ultimately be a suicide note in book form. This was during a phase of my young writer’s life when I still felt — as do so many artists today — that we eventually get to what’s right by exposing all that’s wrong, often to the point of overkill. It was also before I understood that what I wrote affected my mood and outlook on life!

The other idea was a novel called Suicylum System. It was about a radical psychologist who created an assisted-suicide facility. They would guarantee to help put someone into a gentle death, but before that happened, the clients were required to participate in a support group program. During that time they were treated to unusual high amounts of pleasure of all kinds, a process intended to re-shape their outlook on life and change their minds about aborting their lives. For me this stemmed from my belief that many people who are suicidal do not fully know their options and would benefit from a radical shift of thinking.

Suicylum System was a positive telling of the book-length suicide note project. In the latter case, society was stepping up to the plate to deal with social unrest in a positive way.


I am exposed to many culturally unusual sources of input. For example, I like to attend local IANDS meetings where people gather who have had or who are interested in learning about near-death experiences. A ubiquitous belief among these people is that death is only physical. Consciousness is eternal. Our body dies, and we go on. Mainstream science has not pursued very seriously if this is true or not. Yet if it were ever proven so be so, I believe that it would have a profound impact on our cultural beliefs about choosing when to die.

As it is now, suicide is something like those back room abortions from decades ago. You cannot check into a clinic and have a nice death. If you want to leave physical life, you have to find another way to do it, which is usually illegal and often messy. If we had a clear scientific idea that consciousness survived death, would we be more willing to let people go peacefully instead of how Martin went?

Among some of the books and speakers I have heard on after-death communication, there appears to be an emerging view that suicide is not universally or necessarily the fast pass ticket to hell as it is often portrayed. Circumstances vary widely, of course. Those who intent to inflict pain on those they leave behind (from suicide bombers to suicidal revenge) or to escape a life catastrophe they created (like the warden in Shawshank Redemption) fare worse than those who have health issues like depression, mental illness, or terminal diseases.

Spirits (as channeled through mediums) appear to have a much different perspective on suicide than flesh humans do. Even those who took their (physical) lives say that. For example, a spirit might witness a human “take their own life” in a manner that may not legally be considered suicide here, like through alcohol, drugs, smoking, malnutrition, ignoring physical health issues, voluntary violence, etc.

Meanwhile, an interesting possibility that some mystics discuss is a woo-woo form of life-termination. Here people through meditation could voluntarily separate from their bodies while in trance. While this may strike the rational mind as spiritual tall tale fodder, it does still bring up the philosophical question about if it could be done, would it legally be suicide?

I may have missed it, but I did not see any mention from Martin that he considered the possibility that he might have blown himself into another dimension — that he could kill his body but he couldn’t kill his consciousness.


The response to Martin Manley’s end-of-life scenario, especially as expressed in various comments printed along with articles and blog posts, struck me as judgmental and short-sighted. Words like selfish, narcissistic, vile appeared frequently. People seemed to get juice out of ridiculing or condemning him.

Others judged him as not truly Christan. A “true Christian,” the logic goes, would trust more in God/Jesus to fix a life gone sour. A true Christian would not insult the deities by trashing life via suicide. What I saw in many posts was the sentiment, “I’m not going to be a bad ass like him because my faith in Jesus makes me superior.”

Others lamented what a sad, lonely man he must have been, often tacking on their own posthumous advice on what he should have done to wake up from his moral demise. I was saddened by the lack of compassion offered him in so many venues.


Martin Manley apparently contracted with Yahoo to have his site up for 5 years, the maximum a person could buy ahead. The day after Martin took his life and the day after his site went live, Yahoo apparently pulled the plug saying that it violated their terms of service, with no other details provided. By then, other mirror sites had been set up by other parties so the site has a life (and more publicity from some people’s disgust with Yahoo.)

Some people have applauded Yahoo’s decision to kill the site. They considered Manley a narcissist and felt that the site might encourage copycat suicides. They also felt it might be too painful for people to read — people who have either had a close brush with suicide or people suffering from depression.

I would prefer that we start facing what’s going on in our world and addressing why so many want to leave it.

Out-of-the-closet woo-woo

Last night I went to an IANDS group in Saratoga, California and listened to author Luis Minero speak about out-of-body experiences. He’s lost count of the times that he has detached his consciousness from his physical body and explored different dimensions of reality.

The sensation of mine that I am most eager to share with you is how utterly normal out-of-body experiences were for this man. Normal. Ordinary. No big deal to do — but a very big deal how significant it is to be able to do it. When you know about how to do it, the world opens up in incredible ways.

In the meantime, just earlier that afternoon I finished reading Proof of Heaven, the new best-seller written by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander about his extraordinary near-death experience, as if any near-death experience isn’t extraordinary!

One of the themes quite regularly repeated throughout his book is how — before his NDE — Eben politely listened to his patients talk about their paranormal experiences, but through the veil of all his medical training, he knew that his patients were misguided. According to his best knowledge, the primo information that the scientific-medical community has put forth, their brains were incapable of what they all told him happened to them. He essentially ignored them. Flat out didn’t listen — until it happened to him.

My dominating thought through receiving all of this input is why aren’t the mainstream media spending more time with this stuff? The news and newspapers drone on with all the regular soap opera and melodrama, often increasing our fear of death and sensitivity to conflict, and yet here not very far away in a book or at a meeting at a church are examples of out-of-the-closet woo-woo in the very public eye.

Paradigms are wobbling and may soon fall. It’s an exciting time to be alive. Weird is the new normal.