05/07/13 NDE Class Notes


Previous Class Notes & Materials


05/07/13 Class Notes
By David Sunfellow

As always, the class began with a few moments of silence. Then we watched this interview that Marie Osmond did with NDEr Dr. Mary Neal…


To learn more about Dr. Mary Neal and her near-death experience, go here.


Christophor Coppes Compares NDEs To The World’s Five Major Religions


Christophor Coppes has written a new book called, “The Essence of Religions.” In that book, Coppes compares the world’s five major religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — to near-death experiences. His conclusion?

“My conclusion is that while the essences of the beliefs in these religions can be found in NDEs, not all essences of NDEs can be found in each of the religions. Consequently, the beliefs and spiritual insights of those who have had near-death experiences seem to be more universal than each of the religions, individually.”

Since I have not yet read Coppes book, I can’t comment on how well he did tackling this extraordinarily complicated topic in a meer 150 pages. Commenting as a lay person, not a religious scholar, I suspect the conclusion that Coppes reaches is almost certainly true. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. And on this count, I noticed a very big issue that Coppes apparently overlooked. In the Appendix, Coppes includes a chart that compares the five major religions to NDEs. One of the core qualities associated with NDEs that is completely missing from Coppes chart is the fact that many NDErs report that God, in whatever form He/She/It appears, is profoundly personal. This is significantly different from some faiths, like Buddhism, that generally rejects the idea of a personal God. Which got me to thinking: while many, many NDEs feature a personal God of some kind, are there any statistics indicate what percentage of NDErs actually encounter a personal God?

To find out more about this, I contacted Dr. Jeffrey Long, author of “Evidence of the Afterlife.” Dr. Long runs the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) website, which boasts the world’s largest database of near-death experiences. Since the publication of his first book, which included many important statistics about NDEs, Dr. Long has revised the questionnaire that NDErs fill out on his website. The revised questionnaire has been designed, in part, to answer questions like mine. So I asked Dr. Long what he had discovered so far. Based on 208 responses, Dr. Long indicated that no one reported discovering that there was no God. On the other hand, 93 people, or 44.7 percent of the NDErs who responded, indicated that they became aware that a Supreme Being existed. And from the narrative responses, Dr. Long was able to determine that this Supreme Being “is a very personal and profoundly loving God and not an abstract distant God. The love they feel in association with God is absolutely personal.”

Dr. Long said that he felt these early statistics were “remarkable.” I agree. He plans to present these new findings in his next book, tentatively called, “Evidence of God.”

Back to Christophor Coppes. While I’ll have to wait until I have read Coppes’ book to offer more substantial comments, the back cover contains these comments from Dr. Raymond Moody and Dr. Pim van Lommel:

“Christopor Coppes’ new book on near-death experiences with respect to world religions is a major contribution to this field and much needed at this time.”

— Dr. Raymond Moody

“This book became a very special book, because above all Christophor Coppes writes about the changes after an NDE. He has succeeded in contributing in a clear way to the notion that the content of an NDE and the resulting changed insight in life and death is universal.”

— Dr. Pim van Lommel

Here are the charts that are included at the end of his book. Click on each one for a larger view. To order a copy of Coppes’ book, go here.




The History of “The Formula”

After sharing the items above, the rest of our time together was spent with me talking about where “The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth” came from. Here’s the gist of what I shared…

I’ve been on the spiritual path all my adult life. While I have never believed mainstream religions had the answers to life’s big questions, I did think their founders might. I also thought humankind’s most celebrated saints, sages, and mystics might have some reliable answers.

But over time, I realized that all human beings — including the most genuinely inspired among us — were exceedingly fallible. Revelations of all stripes are inescapably filtered through the mind, emotions, life experience, cultural conditioning, psychology, biology, shadow issues, woundings, and overall development (or lack thereof) of the person who receives them. Simply put: while human beings possess the ability to access the deepest truths of existence, we usually do not possess the ability to understand and embody those truths in all their glory. Instead, we see some aspects of the Divine, and are blind to others. We can’t help ourselves. Regardless of the depth of our revelations, we are hamstrung by our personal limitations and imperfections.

In 1994, I thought I had a solution. Instead of relying on individual revelations, along with the interpretations that individuals gave those revelations, what about seeking truth as a group? What if groups of people — or, better yet, humankind as a whole — worked together to discover the truth of our existence? Together we could hold up our personal and collective revelations and see if they held water. Do they work? Do they have holes? Are pieces missing? Can they be improved, filled out, deepened?

Remember the parable of the blind men and the elephant? Five blind men were all gathered round an elephant, each touching a different part of the elephant’s body. The blind man who touched a leg, thought the elephant was like a tree; the one who touched an ear, thought the elephant was like a giant leaf; the one who touched the trunk, thought the elephant was like a snake, and so on. None of them perceived the elephant as it actually was, because they were only touching parts of the elephant, not the elephant as a whole. Perhaps all human revelations work the same. They are pieces to a cosmic puzzle that require a collective effort to be fully understood.

With these ideas motivating me, I started a non-profit organization called “NewHeavenNewEarth” or “NHNE.” Whereas other organizations were built around promoting specific teachers, masters, gurus, religious traditions or philosophical perspectives, NHNE was primarily interested in “The Truth,” whatever that might be. Using the power of the internet, we spent years examining, and often debunking, all kinds of ideas, practices, people, claims, movements, philosophies. As the founder and president of NHNE, my own beliefs were often put to the test, too. Not surprisingly, many of them didn’t survive. You can go here and here and here and here to read a few blow-by-blow accounts.

After 11 years of trying to answer life’s big questions, I concluded that it wasn’t possible: First, because we, as a species, were simply too young and undeveloped to fully comprehend the depth, breadth, and ultimate purpose of life; and second, because evolution was moving at such breakneck speeds, in such unexpectedly dramatic directions, that no one, including our brightest scientists and most inspired mystics, could accurately predict where it was taking us.

You can read all about this epiphany (one of three) here.

About the same time I concluded that life’s big questions couldn’t be answered, I starting paying close attention to a man named Ken Wilber. Wilber, who was an intellectual savant (someone who read, and remembered, thousands of books, and could see how everything he read connected to everything else), had another idea. Beginning with The Big Bang, he began assembling all of human knowledge into a comprehensive system of thought referred to as “integral theory.”

Here’s how “integral theory” is described on Wilber’s flagship Integral Life website:

“Integral theory weaves together the significant insights from all the major human disciplines of knowledge, including the natural and social sciences as well as the arts and humanities. As a result of its comprehensive nature, integral theory is being used in over 35 distinct academic and professional fields such as art, healthcare, organizational management, ecology, congregational ministry, economics, psychotherapy, law, and feminism. In addition, integral theory has been used to develop an approach to personal transformation and integration called Integral Life Practice (ILP). The ILP framework allows individuals to systematically explore and develop multiple aspects of themselves such as their physical body, emotional intelligence, cognitive awareness, interpersonal relationships, and spiritual wisdom. Because integral theory systematically includes more of reality and interrelates it more thoroughly than any other current approach to assessment and solution building, it has the potential to be more successful in dealing with the complex problems we face in the 21st century.”

— from An Overview of Integral Theory

To make a long story short, I was so taken with what Wilber was doing, that I spent four years exploring the integral world. This included building integral websites, starting and facilitating three online communities, participating in various integral social networks, and leading a very active integral group in Sedona for one year.

At the end of it all, I learned a very important lesson: You can identify all the parts that an airplane needs to fly, but unless you can put those parts together correctly, and turn them all on, the plane still won’t fly.

In other words, as astonishingly deep, comprehensive, and powerful as integral theory and practice was, the formula that Wilber and his people came up with hadn’t gone far enough. While they had created an impressive system that included the most important elements of human life, as far as I could see, they over emphasized some critical parts and under emphasized others. Many critical parts were also overlooked when it came to practicing them in daily life.

Here are some of the holes I saw:

• Wilber’s model was excessively intellectual. Because of this, it tended to attract intellectually inclined people who smugly dismissed less intellectually inclined people. It also had a hard time translating it’s powerful ideas into forms that average people could put to work in ordinary lives.

• While the need to cultivate a personal relationship with God was acknowledged, it was not, as far as I could tell, practiced by the leaders of the movement, or the movement at large. In practical application, this meant that turning to a personal God for help, support, and answers was a largely alien concept. Instead, people were encouraged to lean on one’s own abilities — primarily one’s intellectual abilities — to solve problems, make decisions, and chart one’s course through life. The idea that we are each born with specific purposes, and have various kinds of spiritual forces assisting us in our journey through life, was also regarded as quaint (the kind of things that children, and adults at lower, mythical levels of development, believed).

• While the importance of interpersonal relationships was acknowledged, the lion’s share of attention was on inner work, personal growth, and contemplative approaches to life. Relationships, in other words, were not placed front and center in the integral model. They were important, but not central. While various aspects of individual work appeared in “core modules,” relationships were assigned to “auxiliary modules.”

• While the need to identify and work on shadow issues was given a prominent place in the integral model, the critical insight that shadows emerge primarily in relationships with others — and must also be worked with in that area — was largely overlooked. Shadow work tended to be framed as inner work, rather than work that was done inwardly AND outwardly with help from others who could see the shadowy aspects of our natures better than we could — and visa versa.

• Finally, many of the people who were drawn to the integral movement regarded Wilber and his ideas as infallible. While Wilber did not see himself, or his ideas, in this way, many of his followers found it very difficult to practice the kind of genuine inclusiveness that integral theory and practice called for. I found this particularly distasteful, since new impulses cannot emerge in an environment that thinks it has all the answers.

These are the holes I personally experienced in the integral model when I was involved with it. I’ve written about some of these issues here and here. You can also see them illustrated in The Integral Life Practice Chart that was used when I was involved (click the chart below to see a full-sized view):


I, of course, was not the only one that saw significant weaknesses in Wilber’s integral model. Other integral pioneers, in particular those associated with Esalen, challenged Wilber’s model and created other systems that attempted to address the weaknesses they saw. Here’s one example: Integral: Esalen, Ken Wilber & Integral Life Practice. Other alternative, integrally-informed voices can be found on the Integral World website.

After wrestling with the holes I mentioned above, and trying unsuccessfully to offer some course corrections, I left the local integral group I helped start, shut down the integral networks I created, and stopping following and interacting with the integral world as closely as I once had. I didn’t leave everything behind though. Instead, I took what gifts I could from Wilber’s system (which were many), and went back to the drawing board.

That’s when I realized that near-death experiences had become a global phenomena. And, more to the point, that near-death experiences not only included all the core elements that Wilber had identified, but they put the pieces together in a way that addressed all my concerns. Going back to the airplane analogy, all the parts of the plane were present, they were put together in the proper way, they were turned on, and, as a result, the plane actually flew!

What do I mean?

I mean miracles happened. People were raised from the dead — literally. Lives were completely transformed. Answers were not only flowing directly from the Divine into millions of ordinary people all over the world, but, thanks to the internet, they could also be collected, analyzed, and shared. It was, in other words, no longer necessary to build world views on the revelations of individual trailblazers, ancient or modern. Instead, for the first time in human history, we had a tidal wave of inspiration flowing in from all over the world — men and women, children and adults, believers and non-believers, atheists, academics, scientists, doctors, plumbers, and soldiers all served as messengers of the Divine.

Generally speaking, I think spiritual paths are more or less powerful depending on how close they come to modeling the core truths of life — truths that exist independent of human belief systems, religious traditions, and philosophies.

Or, said another way, spiritual paths are more or less powerful depending on how connected they are to the Divine, and how able they are to embody It.

The more a particular system includes and embodies universal truths, the more powerful it is. The integral world has a lot of power, because it has collected many of life’s core truths and put them together into one of humankind’s most comprehensive world views.

But it’s system is not based on direct revelation; it does not give modern near-death experiences (and their metaphysical brethren, such as shared-death experiences, after-death communications and channeling) a central role at the table; and, when it comes to Wilber’s version of integral, it is exceedingly dependent on Ken Wilber. Without his savant-like abilities to gather information, synthesize it, and then explain it, the integral world would not be as well established as it is today.

Not so for near-death experiences. While these experiences honor and include everyone, including Wilber’s massive contributions, it goes much further, and deeper. It’s alive, unfolding, and directly connected to the Source of life Itself. And It is expressing Itself, all over the world, through MILLIONS of people, not just one gifted individual or group of individuals.

The path presented by near-death experiences also passes one of life’s greatest tests. If a major crisis erupts in our life — our spouse or child dies, or we contract a deadly illness, or we loose all of our earthly possessions — does our path provide us with all the tools we need to deal with this crisis calmly, decisively, and effectively? The path championed by NDEs passes this extreme test in flying colors! All aspects of our nature — human and Divine, developed and undeveloped, past, present, and future, along with all the other beings we share the universe with — are seen and included.

Once I realized that I was looking at a new phenomenon in human history, I began trying to identify the core truths presented by near-death experiences and wrestle them into a comprehensive path that everyone — intellectuals and non-intellectuals, alike — could use to transform our lives. I read books. Visited websites. Watched hundreds of first-person video testimonials. Built networks to track and study NDEs that also allowed me (and many others) to meet and support people who had NDEs here and here and here and here and here and here. Created websites to showcase the best-of-the-best NDEs here and here. Got to know who’s who in the NDE movement. Organized gatherings with some of the world’s most prominent NDErs.

I also put what I was learning to practice in my daily life.

With the help of my partner, Alexandra, and some extremely insightful dreams that identified the heart and soul of NDEs and how they could be used in our personal lives, I began adding NDE puzzle pieces into a world view I had been developing and fine-tuning for decades.

One of the most profound discoveries I made pertained to how near-death experiences champion two different, yet complimentary forces. The life review process reveals our weaknesses and shortcomings, while encounters with The Light (and Its representatives) makes it crystal clear that every single human being, regardless of our actions and stations in life, are absolutely, wholeheartedly and unconditionally, loved. You can read more about this life-changing dynamic here (pdf).

My relationship with Alexandra was especially helpful because for the first time in my life I was with someone who was able to mimic this powerful process. Alexandra could see, articulate, and help me work on developmental and shadow issues while also seeing, affirming, and connecting with the more divine aspects of myself. And I did the same for her.

During our class time, Alexandra shared how a spiritual experience had changed her life when she was 21 years old. But afterwards, she had great difficulty integrating it in her life. Many, many people who have spiritually transformative experiences struggle with the same thing. In the years and decades that followed, there were aspects of Alexandra’s life that evolved, deepened, and flowered. At the same time, there were other areas that stagnated, or got progressively worse. It wasn’t until we got together and she was able to combine the tools she had collected in her own life with the tools championed by The Formula that everything started coming together. The breakthroughs she experienced were so dramatic that Alexandra told the class she felt our relationship had “saved her life.”

While all of this was happening, I was taking notes, waiting for the right time to put everything together into some kind of article, essay, or book that I planned to call “The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth,” or “The Formula.”

That’s when Alexandra suggested that it might be a good idea to create a chart to illustrate The Formula. The moment she said that, the lights went on, and I jumped to work. A couple days later, version 1.0 was born (pdf).

A few weeks later, while an epic storm was blowing through our relationship, I had a dream in which Alexandra came to me with another chart. This one was a worksheet that had been designed to help us use with The Formula. While I didn’t see what was on the worksheet in the dream, when I awoke, I quickly created one, with Alexandra’s help. We introduced that new worksheet in the class.

So that’s a brief introduction into how The Formula came to be, how it has been working in our lives, and how it is evolving.

The current version of The Formula is not a space shuttle. Rather, it is something akin to a Wright Brothers’ “flying machine” — an early, awkward, tinker-toy-like prototype. It can fly well enough to get off the ground, but isn’t steady and can’t yet stay airborne for long periods of time. It needs to be polished. Developed. Improved upon.

Which brings up one last critical point: Because The Formula is not the product of one individual mind; because it requires interactions, testing, and feedback from other human beings, it has not emerged in the world as a full blown spiritual path. Instead, it is alive and evolving. Even as I write these words, important aspects of The Formula are expanding and clarifying themselves. New insights are also emerging from near-death experiences themselves, which are continuing to grow in numbers and become deeper, more illuminating, and more powerful.

While imperfect, what we have in The Formula is a living blueprint; a magical place where life’s core truths have coalesced into a form that can be used, right now, to transform lives.

In future classes we’ll be going through The Formula step-by-step, explaining what each circle, and it’s corresponding points mean and how they all work together.


To learn more about Ken Wilber, integral theory and practice, and related topics, go here:

Ken Wilber Describes His Savant-Like Abilities
What Is Integral? (pdf)
An Overview of Integral Theory
• The History of Integral Transformative Practice
• Integral: Esalen, Ken Wilber & Integral Life Practice
Wikipedia on Integral Theory
Wikipedia on Integral Thinkers & Supporters
Integral Rising
Pulse on Integral


Future Classes

Our next NDE class will take place on Tuesday, May 14th from 7:00 PM until 8:30 PM at St. Andrew’s (see below for directions).


A Newly Emerging Spiritual Path

“Unlike spiritual paths that arose from the ideas and inner experiences of lone, isolated human beings, the path presented by near-death experiences is emerging as a direct, grassroots revelation that millions of people from all over the world are receiving and sharing. If we explore this newly emerging path deeply enough, we discover that all religions, philosophies, and cultures are honored; that science and spirituality are celebrated; that both the human and spiritual side of our natures are cherished and embraced. In short, near-death experiences present us with a universal, all-inclusive, perfectly integrated spiritual path that revolves around three core truths: 1. We are all one; 2. Love is the essence of life; 3. We are here, in this world, to become perfect embodiments of the divine.”

“The Formula”

“The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth” or “The Formula” was introduced in David Sunfellow’s two-part YouTube presentation called “How Near-Death Experiences Are Changing The World.” The goal has been to identify the universal truths presented by near-death experiences and wrestle them into “a formula” that we can use to transform our lives. Version 1.0 can be download here (pdf). The Formula’s Circling Worksheet can be downloaded here (pdf).




Donations & Discussions

The materials created for this class are available, free of charge, to whomever is interested. If you would like to support this work, you can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking here. If you would like to participate in conversations with other people who share an interest in this work, we encourage you to join The Mustard Seed Venture Network. This ongoing, evolving, cutting-edge work is co-sponsored by NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE) and The Mustard Seed Venture.


St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
100 Arroyo Pinon Drive
Sedona, AZ 86336
(928) 282-4457


2 Responses to “05/07/13 NDE Class Notes”

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