Every now and then, one stumbles on a little gem of a book, and my latest find is by Mark Fox, titled "Spiritual Encounters with Unusual Light Phenomena:Lightforms," published by the University of Wales Press in 2008. ISBN 978-0-7083-2157-7.
Fox uncovered a treasure trove of about "400 accounts of unusual experiences of light, nearly all unpublished and gathered over a period of more than thirty years." (p.3.) These accounts were included in a 6,000 strong collection of accounts held by the University of Wales, Lampeter, in Wales.
A man named Alister Hardy gathered the material together from public appeals for such material, and the collection is today managed by the Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC.)
Hardy collected accounts of experiences "...of that continuing sense of spiritual awareness which many people feel makes a difference to their lives," (p.24.) as well as one-off experiences.
He received accounts involving "lights" which could be fitted into a number of categories, including near-death experiences, angelic experiences, lights which seemed to be UFO experiences, and apparent Marian apparitions. A small number (10) featured more than one witness. There are also some very odd accounts such as one in which "...the subject and her companion found themselves casting shadows on the ground, as if a strong light was present and shining on them from behind but where no light could be discerned." (p.68.)
Fox analyses the date provided in the almost 400 cases and noted that "...over 50 per cent of the number of experience of light in the entire archive occurred at a time of crisis..." (p.72.) One of the patterns which emerged was that "Many accounts which contain the features of the emerging pattern of crisis/positive feelings/positive fruits..." (p.91.)
Fox poses the question "Could it, in fact, be the case that the reported lights somehow ease or resolve individuals' crises and produce the good fruits that so often ensues? In other words, could it be that these lights that subjects encounter somehow represent-or in some sense create-turning points that resolve their personal crises and transform their lives, redirecting them in new, more positive, and often spiritually enriched ways?" (p.98.)
In a recent post on the blog http://uf0s-scientificresearch.blogspot.com I mentioned I had come across a woman who underwent a UFO related mystical experience., and a feeling of one with the Universe. Fox's book has examples of mystical experience which include:
While in prayer, a person "...became suddenly aware of light rays about me...I actually felt that I was in tune with the entire Universe." (p.102.)
Another individual "I was suffused with an awareness of the entire oneness of the universe." (p.119.)
Yet a third, "For a few moments I really did feel at one with the Universe." (p.261.)
Lights seen during near-death experiences:
The term "near-death experience" was first used by Raymond Moody in 1975 in his book "Life after life." The collection of accounts in Fox's work, which seem to be NDE's was gathered by Alister Hardy before 1971. So these NDE accounts have been untouched by all the post-1975 research into NDEs, and hence represent cases "...that cannot have arisen from the attention that was focused on them in the last quarter of the twentieth century and on into the twenty-first." (p.7.)
An account from the Second World War recounts "...found myself travelling down a long dark tunnel. I felt no fear, only a sense of peace. There was a brilliant light at the end...a pair of gates were opening soundlessly...I was being returned and drawn back down the tunnel..." (p.128.) A classic post 1975 NDE.
Analysis and explanation:
Part three of Fox's book seeks to analyse the material in a number of ways. He sub-divides the accounts into those occurring at time of crisis; ones which involve positive feelings; the colours of the lights, and so on.
Fox then looks at possible explanations for the observations of these lights. He finally notes the landmark article by Dewi Rees, from the 1971 British Medical Journal, which I first came across in the 1970's. This was titled "The Hallucinations of Widowhood." Then Fox looks at the "abreaction/rebound" as applied to soldiers with what today would be called Post Traumatic Distress Disorder.
The question is posed as to "...whether or not these unusual episodes of light are evidence of some kind of mental dysfunction...?" (p.179.) He thinks not.
Oliver Sachs' work on migraine auras is reviewed but Fox concludes "...it appears that migraine auras too cannot adequately explain the vast majority of accounts of light in the RERC archive." (p.184.)
A lengthy examination conducted of temporal-lobe transients, concludes that "...meaningful experiences to be had as a result of TLT is able to account for some fragmentary episodes involving unusual lights." (p.191.)
In the end Fox arrives at the conclusion that "...no single theory that we have examined so far has been able entirely to explain the phenomena under investigation. We are left, then, with a mystery." (p.196.)
"Reading through the accounts that make up this study it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the pattern which many experiences follow may be telling us something. That there are dimensions to reality that extend beyond the physical, perhaps; dimensions and realities that may be able, on occasion, to interact with our own." (p.196.)
At the beginning of this post I spoke of finding "gems." Here is another gem" from this book (p.176.)
"Perhaps, then, we should simply conclude that encounters with light after death are just one subset of a much larger group of post-mortem experiences such as those uncovered by Rees that include sensing the presence of the dead, hearing them, or even feeling their touch."
An important point I think, in looking at the UFO phenomenon is tat you cannot separate it from other aspects of the paranormal. I have, for example, come across an alien abduction that had some of the elements of an NDE. I was looking for NDE experiences in Australia in the early 1980s and found the following.
1979 Melbourne Victoria 11pm
"A man named Mark retired to bed one night . Shortly after closing his eyes he lost all sense of sound and feeling and found himself travelling in a tunnel through space. Looking forward he noted a light at the end of the tunnel. In a room, on a table, he was medically examined by three beings...When they introduced a "scanner" to check him over he "freaked out" and woke up in his own bed..."
Other Australian abduction cases have similar elements to mystical experiences. In a 1974 abduction in New South Wales, a man named Peter experienced "a euphoric feeling" during the event.
An excellent book.