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Resurrection and Reincarnation

The apparent contradictory concepts of reincarnation and resurrection can be resolved by a very interesting theory developed by Peter Novak, author of The Division of Consciousness: The Secret Afterlife of the Human Psyche and The Lost Secret of Death: Our Divided Souls and the Afterlife. His compelling theory, which he calls the “Division of Consciousness Theory,” is based both on modern science and ancient scripture. It explains for the first time how each of these ancient perspectives might be true simultaneously.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Division of Consciousness
  2. The Science of the Division
  3. The History of the Division
  4. The Christian Connection

1. Introduction to Division of Consciousness

Novak’s research uncovered extensive data from both scientific and scriptural sources that all pointed to the same promising yet highly disturbing conclusion – that the human psyche does survive physical death, but often divides entirely apart in the process into separate conscious and unconscious components. Novak suggests that the traditional “reincarnation” and “resurrection” hypotheses can, at long last, be reconciled by factoring the dissimilar scientific qualities and functions of the conscious and unconscious minds into the equation, pointing out that scriptures from a great number of different traditions already reflect just such a divided, “binary-soul” vision of the afterlife.

Basically, Novak’s theory states that the soul body and spirit body separate after death. The soul body is discarded and the spirit ultimately reincarnates with a new soul body. After a large number of reincarnations, the spirit has discarded a large number of soul bodies. At the time of the “Final Judgment,” a doctrine held by all Middle Eastern religions, the so-called “resurrection” will occur. Novak theorizes that at this time, all the discarded soul bodies will reunited with the spirit body. The result will be a world of highly enlightened people knowing all their past lives and their associated life experience and knowledge. Thus, reincarnation and resurrection are not mutually exclusive concepts according to Novak’s theory.

Not only do elements of both classic psychology and modern sociological research support such a hypothesis, but eerily similar concepts appearing in Biblical, Persian, Egyptian, Gnostic, Greek, Hawaiian, Chinese, Native American, Swedenborgian, and many other traditions raise the intriguing possibility that this peculiar and unfamiliar “Division Theory” may actually be a millennia-old case of deja-vu.

If this extraordinary hypothesis is proven to be true, it will revolutionize the entire field of religion. A number of respected scientists, theologians, and philosophers are already convinced Novak’s “Division Theory” will do just that.

The following are excerpts from Peter Novak’s book reprinted by permission from Peter Novak.

2. The Science of the Division

Early this century, our scientists discovered and proceeded to map out the basic characteristics and functions of the conscious and unconscious halves of the human mind. But for nearly a century, those psychological discoveries have quietly contained an unnoticed surprise of incalculable significance to the world of theology and life-after-death research. According to the commonly accepted tenets of modern scientific theory, if the human psyche actually was to survive and continue to function after death, but did so in a divided state, then the two surviving components of the psyche would, due to their very natures, encounter entirely different conditions after death, conditions startlingly similar to those described in Eastern and Western traditions:

The conscious would completely lose all traces of its memory, but it would also remain free to go on to new experiences (in effect, reincarnating). Its partner, meanwhile, would undergo a memory-review, and then become trapped in a dreamlike, unconscious heavenly or hellish netherworld.

In short, modern science has found that the conscious and unconscious each possess the very characteristics necessary for them to perfectly reproduce the millennia-old afterlife scenarios of Eastern and Western traditions, but only if they divided apart at death.

A bizarre coincidence? Perhaps. But an after-death division would also explain a number of extremely peculiar details routinely reported by researchers investigating near-death experiences, past-life regressions, and ghost reports.

3. The History of the Division

Such an after-death split was widely recognized in ancient times, being mentioned in Gnostic scriptures as the division of the soul and spirit, in Egyptian texts as the detaching of the “ba” from the “ka“, in Greek teachings as the rending of the “thymos” from the “psyche“, in Hindu doctrine as the withdrawing of the “vital spirit” from the “reasonable soul“, and in Zoroastrian works as the separation of the “urvan” and “daena“.

Such an after-death division of dual souls also appears in ancient Chinese religion as the splitting of the “p’o” and “hun”, in Native American tradition as the cleaving of the “ni” and “nagi”, and, more recently, in Swedenborgian theology as the parting of one’s “inner and outer elements”, and in Edgar Cayce’s readings as the divide between the soul and spiritual forces (this same fundamental dicotomy is also reflected in the philosophies of Kant, Blake, Hegel, Tillich, Schopenhauer, Buber, and Sartre).

Just as with today’s conscious and unconscious, each of the above traditions held that one of the two soul-units was more willful, objective, and intellectual, while the other was more responsive, subjective, and emotional. And in each case, the two soul-units encountered radically different afterlife conditions after separating.

4. The Christian Connection

Numerous passages within the recovered Nag Hammadi scriptures make it clear that such a division-based doctrine was not only present in the early stages of Christianity, but constituted the very heart of the mysterious Gnostics’ theology.

As did the cultures surrounding them, the Gnostics viewed man’s inner being as bipartite in nature, differentiated into two entirely different elements – soul and spirit:

“…without the soul the body does not sin, just as the soul is not saved without the spirit. But if the soul is saved when it is without evil, and the spirit is also saved, then the body becomes free from sin. For it is the spirit that quickens the soul….” – The Apocryphon of James 11:38-39, 12-1-6

For the Gnostics, death specifically meant having these two parts divide apart, having one’s inner being sliced right down the middle at death:

“For such [death] is the judgment which had come down from above. It has passed judgment on everyone; it is a drawn sword, with two edges, cutting on either side.” – The Gospel of Truth 25:35-26:4

“On the day you were one you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?” – The Gospel of Thomas 11

They were even under the impression that Jesus himself underwent such a division at his death:

“‘My God, my God, why, O Lord, have you forsaken me?’ It was on the cross that he said these words, for it was there that he was divided.” – The Gospel of Philip 68:26-29

To be “divided” was spiritual doom, while being “undivided” meant spiritual salvation:

“If he is undivided, he will be filled with light, but if he is divided, he will be filled with darkness …” – The Gospel of Thomas 61

The story of Adam and Eve was inextricably linked to their ideas about death, seeing the separation of Eve from Adam as a profoundly seminal “First Division”, the tragic origin of death itself:

“When Eve [the soul] was still in Adam [the spirit], death did not exist. When she separated from him, death came into being. If he again becomes complete and attains his former self, death will be no more.” – The Gospel of Philip 68:22-26

This division and its reparation are themes these Gnostic scriptures return to again and again, often using the term “woman” to indicate “soul”, and “man” for “spirit” :

“For they [the soul and spirit] were originally joined to one another when they were with the Father before the woman [the soul] led astray the man [the spirit], who is her brother. This marriage has brought them back together again and the soul [the woman] has been joined to her true love, her master [the man, the spirit]….” – The Exegesis on the Soul 133:4-9

Repairing this ancient division was expected to restore the souls of the dead to life:

“If the woman [soul] had not separated from the man [spirit], she would not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this, Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning, and again unite the two, and to give life to those [souls] who died as a result of the separation and unite them.” – The Gospel of Philip 70:9-22

This “Reunion of the Two” is a common theme in the Gnostic scriptures. But instead of always calling them “soul and spirit” or “Adam and Eve”, they sometimes portray the two in terms very reminiscent of science’s “conscious and unconscious”:

“When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female … then you will enter the Kingdom.” – The Gospel of Thomas 22

To firmly unite these two, they thought, would make a person like Christ himself:

“Jesus said, ‘If two [the soul and spirit, the conscious and unconscious] make peace with each other in this one house [body], they will say to the mountain, `Move away’, and it will move away’ … ” – The Gospel of Thomas 48

Given Novak’s extensive research on this subject and the evidence he provides to support it, his Division Theory should be considered to be one of the best theories ever devised to explain the mysteries of reincarnation and resurrection.

Categories
God Is With Us Religion

Chapter 6: Resurrection Appearances of Jesus as After-Death Communication

By Dr. Ken R. Vincent

HomeChapter 7Chapter 16
DedicationChapter 8Chapter 17
ForewordChapter 9Appendix A
Chapter 1Chapter 10Appendix B
Chapter 2Chapter 11References
Chapter 3Chapter 12About Ken
Chapter 4Chapter 13Resources
Chapter 5Chapter 14Permissions
Chapter 6Chapter 15Acknowledge
God Is With Us Index

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract and Keywords
  2. Introduction to Jesus’ Resurrection and ADCs
  3. Paul’s ADC with Jesus
  4. Peter’s Description of Jesus’ Resurrection as Spiritual
  5. Resurrection ADCs of Jesus in the Four Gospels
  6. Resurrection ADCs of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles
  7. The Nine Categories of Jesus’ Resurrection Appearances
  8. Ancient ADCs of Jesus Compared with Modern ADCs of Jesus
    a. He Appeared to Individuals
    b. He Appeared to Small Groups and Large Groups
    c. Sometimes Jesus’ Former Friends Did Not Recognize Him
    d. Sometimes People Touched Jesus
    e. In One Account, Mary Magdalene was Asked Not to Touch Jesus
    f. Jesus Appeared and Disappeared Instantly and Walked Through Locked Doors
    g. Jesus Broke Bread, Served Breakfast, and Ate!
    h. Jesus Used His Psychic Powers – To Predict Where To Catch Fish
    i. Jesus Converted People (Like St. Paul)
  9. Veridical Cases of ADCs
  10. Aftereffects of ADCs
  11. Conclusion
  12. References

1. Abstract and Keywords

ABSTRACT: Scientific research into after-death communication began at the end of the 19th century. During this early period, psychical researcher James Hyslop and theologian Rudolph Otto wrote about the resurrection of Jesus as a visionary/spiritual experience – as opposed to a physical, “bodily” resurrection. More recently, liberal theologians and religious experience researchers have also favored this view. The purpose of this article is to:

a. Underscore the fact that the resurrection of Jesus as an after-death communication is solidly based in the only first-hand account of Paul and the verified secondary accounts of Peter and James (1 Corinthians 15:5–8) in the New Testament.

b. Demonstrate that, although a physical resurrection is implied by the Gospel writers because of the empty tomb, the appearance stories of Jesus are more in accord with the phenomenology of modern after-death communications by Jesus, other divine figures, and ordinary people.

KEYWORDS: resurrection, Jesus, after-death communication, visions, apparitions

2. Introduction to Jesus’ Resurrection and ADCs

Easter is a day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus; it is an occasion much more significant than their celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Resurrection literally means “rising from the dead and coming back to life.” Emory University professor Luke Timothy Johnson (1998, p. 11) has gone so far as to call the resurrection the “grounding for the entire Christian life.”

Was Jesus raised in a spiritual body or a physical body? In most traditional Christian churches, listeners will hear of a physical, bodily resurrection; in fact, a 2005 Newsweek (2009) poll found that half of Americans believe in a physical resurrection. This inference is based on the stories of Easter morning in the four Gospels, which relate that Jesus’ body was not in the burial tomb when Mary Magdalene (present in all Gospel accounts), accompanied by one or more women (in other Gospel accounts), arrived there. This view has been perpetuated by millions of Christians since the 4th century who learned to recite from the Apostle’s Creed the phrase, “… resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”

Interestingly, the same 2005 Newsweek poll (2009) showed one-third of Americans think that Jesus’ resurrection was a spiritual one! My purpose is to present this view as the authentic one, first, because it is more consistent with the New Testament accounts, and second, because it is most compatible with scientific research into spiritually transformative experiences over the past 125 years. As a religious experience researcher myself, I am convinced that mystical religious experiences are a normal part of a healthy, non-psychotic human life and that the religious experiences of Jesus represent the same phenomena as those of all people, despite time or culture.

In the early 20th century, philosopher and psychical researcher James Hyslop (1908, p. 383) and theologian Rudolph Otto (1950, pp. 222–229) began to see the resurrection of Jesus as a visionary/spiritual experience – what is now called an after-death communication (ADC). More recently, liberal theologians (Funk & the Jesus Seminar, 1998, pp. 449–495) and religious experience researchers (Wiebe, 1997, pp. 106–107; 121; 212-222) have favored a spiritual resurrection over a physical resurrection.

“An after-death communication (ADC) is a spiritual experience that occurs when someone is connected directly and spontaneously by a deceased family member or friend” (Guggenheim & Guggenheim, 1996, p 15).

Guggenheim and Guggenheim (1996) acknowledged that Jesus and his mother Mary are the best-known ADCs but elected not to make the comparison for fear of offending Christians (p. 11). Obviously, I have included Jesus, his mother Mary, and other divine beings, as that is the purpose of this paper.

3. Paul’s ADC with Jesus

In the New Testament, Paul has the distinction of being the earliest writer, as well as the only writer to give a first-person account of Jesus’ resurrection. Paul’s ADC with Jesus occurred about four years after Jesus’ death, and he wrote about this experience about 20 years later (White, 2004, pp. 150, 172). Paul was not a follower during Jesus’ lifetime but became one of the most influential Apostles, having enormous influence over the direction of early Christianity, especially in the West. Paul’s letters also provide the only verified second-hand reports of the resurrection – those of Peter, an early disciple of Jesus, and James, the brother of Jesus, whom Paul had met. These are Paul’s own words:

“He (Jesus) appeared to Cephas (Peter) and to the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than 500 brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8 NRSV)

About 80 years after the death of Jesus (White, 2004, p. 252), Luke – widely accepted to be the author of the Acts of the Apostles – tried to suggest that Paul’s experience of Jesus was somehow different from the appearances of Jesus to his former earthly companions. Luke clearly explained that he was a compiler of stories that were handed down to him (Luke 1:1-3). Luke’s accounts of Jesus appearing to Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 9:3–9; Acts 22:4–16; Acts 26:9–18) are somewhat contradictory, but in all three accounts Paul saw a “light from heaven” and heard the voice of Jesus. Although this experience sounds like a modern ADC (Fox, 2008, p 41-43), it does not square with Paul’s own first-person account that:

a. He had “seen Jesus our Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:1 NRSV).

b. “God … was pleased to reveal his Son to me” (Galatians 1:15-16).

c. “He [Jesus] appeared also to me” (1 Corinthians 15:8b).

Paul stated definitely that his ADC from Jesus was identical to that of the others (1 Corinthians 15:5–8 NRSV). Paul was equally adamant that resurrected bodies are spiritual in nature:

“It is sown in a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44 NRSV).

He emphasized the point that:

“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50 NRSV).

In other words, Paul knew nothing about a physical resurrection of Jesus. Many years after Paul’s letters were written, the writers of the Gospels implied a physical resurrection of Jesus because of the empty tomb. In reality, the empty tomb adds nothing (Funk et al., 1998, p. 463), as no one saw Jesus revive and walk out of the tomb, and no one saw anyone remove Jesus’ body as was later claimed (Matthew 28:11–15).

4. Peter’s Description of Jesus’ Resurrection as Spiritual

Written about 50-65 years after Jesus’ death under the name of Peter (White, 2004, p. 274), the First Letter of Peter also presents a spiritual resurrection. It states:

“He [Christ] was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18b NRSV).

5. Resurrection ADCs of Jesus in the Four Gospels

The Gospel of Mark is the earliest, written about 40-45 years after Jesus’ death (White, 2004, p. 233). Its original ending had no resurrection appearances but ended with the mystery of an empty tomb. Much later, resurrection stories were added to Mark that appear to be a synopsis of those in the other three Gospels (Funk et al., 1998, pp. 465-467).

The Gospel of Matthew, written 50-60 years after the death of Jesus (White, 2004, p. 244), has a pre-resurrection story at the time of Jesus’ death stating that:

“The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:52–53 NRSV).

The writer of Matthew had Jesus appear first to Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” who took hold of his feet and worshiped him. The second ADC of Jesus was placed in Galilee where he appeared to his 11 disciples:

“When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” [emphasis added] (Matthew 28:9-10, Matthew 28:17 NRSV).

The Gospel of Luke, written 60-70 years after the death of Jesus (White, 2004, p. 252), told of two of Jesus’ Apostles meeting Jesus while walking on the road to Emmaus. Luke said that their “… eyes were kept from recognizing him.” After talking to Jesus and inviting him to supper, he broke bread, they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. Later he appeared to the Apostles and asked them to touch him. Luke reported that Jesus stood among the disciples suddenly, saying:

“Peace be with you,” and the disciples were startled and terrified and “thought they were seeing a ghost.” Then he ate a piece of fish (Luke 24).

The Gospel of John, written 65-90 years after the death of Jesus (White, 2004, p. 310), includes many other appearance stories. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, she did not recognize him until he spoke her name. Unlike the Gospel of Matthew in which Mary Magdalene touched Jesus, Jesus told Mary not to touch him. Jesus later appeared suddenly in a locked room to all the Apostles but Thomas. Because Thomas doubted their story, Jesus appeared again to the Apostles while Thomas was present and asked Thomas to touch the wound in his side. Later, Jesus appeared to seven Apostles who were fishing in the Sea of Tiberias; they hadn’t caught anything, and Jesus – using his psychic ability – told them where to cast their nets. They then recognized him, and Jesus served them fish and bread (John 20-21).

6. Resurrection ADCs of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles was written 80 years after Jesus’ death (White, 2004, p. 252). It states that Jesus appeared to people for 40 days, after which he ascended to Heaven on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1). (This is curious because there is a previous Ascension story in Luke [Luke 24:50–53].)

What is the purpose of placing the Ascension story 40 days after Easter, if Jesus was raised up to God on Easter Day? A problem exists only for those advocating a “physical body” scenario. Using Paul’s view – which is the modern view – that Jesus’ resurrection was an ADC, no explanation is needed because spiritual beings can appear at will from the afterlife whether the percipient is an ancient who viewed heaven as “above the earth” or a modern who views heaven as “another reality.”

7. The Nine Categories of Jesus’ Resurrection Appearances

In summary, I have identified nine categories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances in the accounts of the New Testament:

a. He appeared to individuals.

b. He appeared to small groups and large groups.

c. Sometimes Jesus’ former friends did not recognize him.

d. Sometimes people touched Jesus.

e. In one account, Mary Magdalene was asked not to touch Jesus.

f. Jesus appeared and disappeared instantly; he walked through locked doors.

g. Jesus broke bread, served breakfast, and ate!

h. Jesus used his psychic powers – to predict where to catch fish.

i. Jesus converted people (like St. Paul).

All of these behaviors exhibited by the resurrected Jesus have been reported throughout history. Turning now to modern accounts of after-death appearances of Jesus, other divine figures, and ordinary people, such accounts demonstrate that all of the above nine behaviors exhibited in the New Testament are present in modern-day accounts by non-psychotic individuals and verified by modern religious experience researchers.

8. Ancient ADCs of Jesus Compared with Modern ADCs of Jesus

a. He Appeared to Individuals

The following is a 20th century account by a British woman:

“All at once I felt someone near me, a Presence entered this little room of which I became immediately conscious. This feeling or second sense could be very frightening, but I was not afraid or alarmed. I saw in my mind our Blessed Saviour, and the picture of Him has never left me.” (Maxwell & Tschudin, 2005, p. 115)

b. He Appeared to Small Groups and Large Groups

Post-death visions seen by more than one person – whether the vision is a religious figure or an ordinary person – are well-documented (Guggenheim & Guggenheim, 1996, pp. 285-300; Kalish & Reynolds, 1973; Myers, 1903, pp. 62-65; Wiebe, 1997, pp. 15-88). In a study of 434 residents of Los Angeles, including persons of Black, European, Japanese, and Mexican origins:

“… slightly over 2% reported post-death encounters that were part of the reality of another person present at the time” (Kalish & Reynolds, 1973, p. 219).

In a study of 400 mystical experiences that involved light, 2.5% involved multiple witnesses (Fox, 2008, p. 64).

In the following account, a woman and her husband-to-be shared a vision of Jesus while they were walking in the moonlight:

“Then the figure emerged, a most brilliant sight. We were both speechless, but not afraid, it was so beautiful. The figure, Jesus Christ, glided onto the centre of the road while we were on rough pavement … We still remember every detail, but our views on religion have deepened; although, still, we are not too religious.” (Maxwell & Tschudin, 2005, pp. 77-78)

c. Sometimes Jesus’ Former Friends Did Not Recognize Him

On the Road to Emmaus:

“Their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16).

Modern people have also experienced visions of Jesus in disguise (Migliore, 2009, pp. 137–139).

The following is a woman’s vision of Jesus while she was meditating:

“I went forward, alone, toward an old man who stood at the very end of the rose-covered arches. I stopped before him. He asked me if ministry was what I really wanted. I replied affirmatively. He then used his thumb to make the sign of the cross on my forehead, my hands, my feet, my lips, and over my heart – in that order. Then he said, ‘Go in peace.’ I wondered who he was. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, ‘Don’t you know me?’ With his words, the illusion of the old man fell away, and I realized that he was Christ” (Sparrow, 1995, pp. 150–151).

d. Sometimes People Touched Jesus

In one account, a woman touches Jesus’ hair (Sparrow, 1995, p. 32). Ordinary people also come back from the dead, and their loved ones report having touched them:

“After the sudden death of my husband about nine years ago, I had several experiences, which proved to me that there is a life after death. I am not a Spiritualist, nor a Churchgoer, but I try to follow Jesus, and I am a great believer in meditation, as a way to God. After his passing, I both saw and spoke to my husband and held his hand. This hand was strong and not at all ghost-like, nor was his appearance. I was alone at the time, so no medium there to act as a link. Probably this is not a detail to prove God’s existence, but to me, it indeed did.” (Hardy, 1997, p. 47)

John Hick (2006, p. 34) noted that other holy figures have appeared to their followers and provided an account of a young Hindu embracing Lord Krishna. In a study of 293 widows and widowers, W. Dewi Rees found not only that slightly less than half of them had contact with their deceased spouse but also that 2.7% actually touched them (Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008, p. 121).

e. In One Account, Mary Magdalene was Asked Not to Touch Jesus

This next modern visionary account is of a woman’s dead husband:

“Not long afterwards, I awoke shaking violently from head to foot. He had appeared to me, radiant, smiling, his usual happy self. I had impulsively gone forward to greet him, saying, ‘Do you know – I’ve just been having a dream.’ Something stopped me before I touched him – he was there, completely himself, but of a different ‘substance.’ I drew back, as it were, looking in through a frame, to another dimension. I stopped, and said to him, ‘I know, I understand.’ This experience, following his death, has given me great comfort…” (Hardy, 1997, p. 47).

f. Jesus Appeared and Disappeared Instantly and Walked Through Locked Doors

Modern visions of Jesus include his appearance to Charles Finney, a 19th century minister:

“There was no fire or light in the room; nevertheless, it appeared as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me that it was a wholly mental state; it seemed that I saw him as I would see any other man.” (Bucke, 1991, p. 288)

g. Jesus Broke Bread, Served Breakfast, and Ate!

In Visions of Jesus, Phillip Wiebe (1997, p. 43) recounted a modern story of Jesus offering wine.

In his book, Long March to Freedom, Tom Hargrove (1995, pp. 277, 334) described his experience of being held captive by the FARC in Colombia. In the book, Tom briefly described his vision of Jesus, and he was kind enough to send me an expanded account of this encounter:

“Terribly depressed, I went to El Templo on May 26. Alone by my broken cross of bamboo, I started to cry. Then something strange happened. Was it a religious experience or a hunger-induced hallucination? I don’t know. But I thought I saw an ephemeral, bearded man walking from the woods to El Templo. I described him in my diary as having a Kris Kristofferson beard, and wearing jeans, red plaid flannel shirt, high leather boots – the lace-up kind.

“The man came closer, and his face seemed exactly that of the stereotyped Jesus whose portrait hangs on Sunday School walls. He laughed, and told me to sit on a log.

“‘I’m sorry I was crying,’ I said.

“‘You can cry here whenever you wish,’ the man replied.

“Then somehow, he opened a liter bottle of Gallo Hearty Burgundy and poured two crystal goblets of red wine.

“We drank, then he said he must leave, but maybe we could visit again. He added (I wrote in my diary), but I might include him more when I’m having fun after I leave here.

“That ephemeral man walked back into the forest, and I was alone again. I had never before and have never again had such an experience. What made it still stranger was (that) I have never remotely thought of Jesus dressed in jeans, red flannel shirt, and lumberjack boots.” (Tom Hargrove, personal communication, August 23, 2002)

When I questioned Tom, he said:

“If Jesus had been dressed in robes and sandals, I would be less inclined to think it’s real. It’s the only story that I have a hard time telling. It didn’t change me, but it sure enough impressed me. I guess it did make a big difference to me.” (Tom Hargrove, personal communication, August 23, 2002)

h. Jesus Used His Psychic Powers – To Predict Where To Catch Fish

In this example, Jesus’ Mother Mary also appears to have had psychic powers. After giving a talk on the scientific study of the paranormal a few years ago, a colleague (personal communication, October 31, 2001) came to tell me of her grandmother’s vision of the Virgin Mary. In Galveston’s Hurricane of 1900, her grandmother’s family fled to the third floor of their house as the water rose almost to that level. Her grandmother prayed the rosary, and the Virgin Mary appeared to her and told her they would be spared. The water then began to recede.

i. Jesus Converted People (Like St. Paul)

According to one account, a Jew had an encounter with Jesus, after which he converted to Christianity and went on to become a bishop (Rankin, 2008, pp. 101-102). A modern account involves an atheist who saw Jesus and then became a believing Christian (Maxwell & Tschudin, 2005, pp. 104-105). Mark Fox (2008, pp. 41-42) cited a Hindu who had a vision of Jesus and then converted to Christianity.

The following account is from a woman who was worried about the fate of her dead brother because he had not become a Christian. Five months after his death, she reported:

“I looked up off to my right, my brother was there with the Lord! They were life-sized very very real, very solid and distinct and three-dimensional. They were very close, shoulder-to-shoulder, and I only saw the upper portion of them. Leon (her brother) was facing me, the Lord was wearing a robe and facing him, and they were both smiling. My brother appeared younger than when he died and looked very healthy. Nothing needed to be said – Leon was with the Lord and that’s all I wanted to know.” (Guggenheim & Guggenheim, 1996, p. 309)

This story echoes the great Universalist passage:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL people to myself” [emphasis added] (John 12:32).

9. Veridical Cases of ADCs

The validity of an ADC is greatly enhanced when the experience can be verified by others. These “veridical” cases of mystical religious experiences occur when more than one person sees the vision at the same time or when the vision imparts information that would not or could not have been known to the person who experienced the vision (Fox, 2008, pp. 57-77; Maxwell & Tschudin, 2005, p. 78; Myers, 1903, pp. 40-42).

10. Aftereffects of ADCs

To me, the most impressive aftereffect of any mystical/religious/spiritual experience – including ADCs – is how they have changed people’s lives for the better (Hardy, 1997, pp. 101-103; Hay, 1987, p. 157; Hick, 2006, pp. 51, 206; Maxwell & Tschudin, 2005, pp. 36-44; Yao & Badham, 2007, p. 45). Mother Teresa heard the voice of Jesus asking her to serve the poor in India (Rankin, 2008, p. 206). When Martin Luther King was wavering about his commitment to the Civil Rights movement, he heard the voice of Jesus giving him reassurance and courage to go on (Marsh, 2005).

The next two 20th-century accounts are from David Parke, a Unitarian Universalist minister. The first occurred after his wife had a stillborn child:

“Late at night, under a soft October rain, a Christ-like presence entered my life that night as if to say, ‘David, your baby is with God, and you and your bride will recover from this loss, and you will become parents again.’ In faith, I saw in my mind’s eye my unborn son rising on a sunbeam to Heaven. I never doubted that God in Christ came to me and spoke to me that night.” (David Parke, personal communication, January 22, 2010)

His second experience took place the following year when he was a young divinity student at the University of Chicago:

“Then mid-way through my first year, the crucified Christ appeared to me in my dormitory room. For those few moments – I do not know for how long – Jesus Christ crucified occupied my entire personal horizon. His tragic visage and piercing eyes penetrated to the bottom of my soul. He did not speak. I did not speak. Although unspoken, the message was clear:

“I come from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Your life is your own, but it is also God’s. Do not be diverted by self-indulgence and concern for the opinions of others. You are called to minister – and to minister is to suffer as I have suffered. Give yourself to those who come to you in brokenness. Listen to them. Heal them. Love them. You can do less, but more than this you cannot do. I am with you always.”

“You will understand, friends, that other than my own birth and the birth of my children, this was the most important moment of my life.” [emphasis added]. (David Parke, personal communication, January 22, 2010)

11. Conclusion

Based on the evidence of modern accounts of ADCs of Jesus, other divine beings, and ordinary people, it is apparent that the resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Gospels resemble the modern ones. Modern liberal biblical scholars, such as the Jesus Seminar, see the empty tomb story as a later development (Funk et al., 1998, p. 462).

Recent scholarship into spiritually transformative experiences – including ADCs – indicates that they are quite common in the general population in the U.S., Europe, and China (Argyle, 2000, pp. 47-59; Fenwick & Fenwick, 2008, pp. 120-121; Yao & Badham, 2007, pp. 184-192). Although ordinary people appear to their loved ones – usually only one or two – Jesus has continued to appear throughout the ages both to those who love him and to others.

Although ADCs of Jesus, other divine figures, and ordinary people – both ancient and modern – do not prove afterlife, they definitely point to it and show a continuity of experience that is part of the phenomenological reality of humanity. This phenomenon is a source of great comfort to me, and I hope it is to other people who are skeptical of a physical resurrection.

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