My Trip to Hannover, Germany
MAY 22-26, 2008
On Friday, May 23, I presented my paper on "Near-Death States: The Pattern of Aftereffects," at The First International Congress on Ecstatic States, held at the Medical School Library in Hannover, Germany. For those of you who wish to read my paper you can download a pdf file of it here.
About two hundred or so attended this Congress - the majority either psychiatrists or psychologists, professors, and medical people. Many were from Poland, England, Holland, Russia, the U.S., and from various places in Germany. There was a full day of workshop speakers, nearly two dozen of them, mostly male. Of the eight keynote speakers, I was the only woman. The lack of women presenters became an issue on the last day with the professional women in attendance insisting on knowing why they were left out. The answer from the main organizer: "I never gave it any thought." Apparently, women's lib hasn't quite made its mark in Germany yet.
As part of my introduction, Dr. Torsten Passie told the audience that "older people do not give power-point presentations, they just talk"....I guess in reference to me. So, when I stood at the podium, I told everyone that "I am here to represent older people, after all I am soon to be 71, and I will now give my talk." That comment brought the house down, everyone laughed so hard. My presentation was thorough, spirited, and given with great vigor, so much so that people continued to laugh and enjoy themselves. When I was through, they would not let me sit down. Question after question was asked, enabling me to make an important point: psychological techniques do not work with most near-death experiencers, and this is especially true with child experiencers. I gave them a full list of suggestions for techniques that are more successful, methods like Inner Life Mentoring, developed by Dr. G. Scott Sparrow and Vision Quest/Art/Music Trips, developed by Dr. Michael H. Brown (both are referenced in my paper). Compliments to my talk continued through the Congress; my books sold rapidly - those that sold out were "The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences," "The New Children and Near-Death Experiences," "Future Memory," and "We Live Forever." I am amazed at how little the people actually knew about near-death states; some, nothing at all.
This Congress was important for many reasons. Finally, in a professional setting, people could talk about ecstatic states of consciousness, what they are, how to achieve them, what can come from them, and various cautions. There were several doctors who discussed the ecstasy that can come from sexual intercourse, and how that orgasmic release can be directed via intention to move past pleasure to achieve higher states of spiritual transcendence. This point was also made with the use of various drugs, disciplines, rituals, chanting, music, incense, and so forth. A dramatic case was shown through live-action video of a man dying of cancer who was panic-stricken with uncontrollable fear, regrets, and worries. He had lost a great deal of weight. In this pilot program, the doctors used the drug Ecstasy in managed amounts along with counseling to help the patient work through his fear and face what needed to be faced in a more open and relaxed way. In two months, he had regained his weight, his cancer was in remission, and he was released from the hospital - positive about whatever remained of his life and reunited with his girlfriend. The change in this man was incredible. The program using Ecstasy to treat end-of-life issues is called MDMA. Most of the sessions held were like this - cutting-edge research, experiments, new theories, doctors determined to open up their practices to embrace and include ecstasy, bliss, spirituality, and the transcendence possible when one reaches higher states of consciousness.
I was provided a room at Hotel Mercure, about a mile north of the Medical Center, which turned out to be a long walk back and forth when you're tired. Fortunately, Drs. Eugene Taylor and Stanley Krippner had mercy on me and asked me to come along on several of their taxi rides. Dr. Taylor's talk on William James and a "science of religion" was timely as concerns the new book I am now writing; so were the words of Dr. Krippner. I really felt I was at the epicenter of some of the finest minds in the world and I took full advantage of that. By the way, merely a block away was the Max Planck Institute. Although I could not visit the Institute, I felt humbled to be close to such an amazing place in the field of physics.
Thanks to some new friends, Martena, Marco, Edward, and Constantin, I was able to briefly visit the city center of Hannover on Sunday and walk along huge sidewalks, wider than streets, and filled with buildings and churches which fascinated me - notably a large Lutheran Church which had the sign of the devil on its tower. Come to find out, that symbol-sign was put there to "ward off the devil" in olden times and was kept there as an historical artifact. You see very little traffic in Hannover, not that many cars because of the high price of gas (they pay nearly twice per gallon as we do in the U.S.). That means folks get around on bikes, motor scooters, by foot, or on the rail. I did not see an overweight German while I was there, even though those folks really love to eat - and lots of meat. Still, they were slender. After walking around as much as I did, I could understand why. Across from my hotel was what they call a "city forest." I had to walk through a residential area to reach it; but, lo and behold, there it was, a real, large, beautiful forest complete with forest rangers - in the city!!! Not that many people spoke English, but I got along okay, mostly because of Marco and Martena.
There were many challenges for me on this trip: not knowing times of the various speakers (the program book was no help), only the keynote addresses were translated, the high cost of everything (food costs were unbelievable), having to use Euros (no one will touch American dollars any more), and confronting gender prejudice - can you believe this? My sponsors had to dredge up a name for me since women in Germany are not allowed to go by initials for a name. This meant my passport name did not match the name on my plane tickets. Yup, I had trouble getting through custom checks. Maybe the women objecting to the gender of the speakers at the Congress really had a point. There is gender bias in Germany - that exists nowhere else I have traveled thus far! I arrived home sans luggage. It got hung up in Amsterdam somewhere. I have faith we will be reunited soon.
Blessings to all, PMH