Kenneth Ring, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Connecticut, and an internationally recognized authority on the subject of near-death experiences on which he has written five books and nearly a hundred articles. He is also the co-founder and past President of The International Association for Near-Death Studies and the founding editor of its quarterly scholarly journal, The Journal of Near-Death Studies, now in its thirtieth year. (Biography from Amazon.com)
Kenneth Ring’s The Omega Project (1992) is quite fascinating for what it implies about children and adults who experience “alternate realities,” including–but not limited to–extraterrestrial contacts and near death experiences. A battery of tests sent out to both “experiencers” and “non-experiencers” appears to support his hypothesis that children of sexual/emotional abuse are more prone to UFO contacts and NDEs.
The theory states that children who suffer such abuse learn to dissociate during such incidences, a state where they are not connected to reality and frequently lose track of time and suffer memory loss. Here is a further clarification from counselingsource.com:
Dissociation is an unconscious and generally unanticipated situation in which there is an interruption in the normal connection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of personal identity. Some — but certainly not all — instances of dissociation involve periods of of amnesia. Although individuals who experience dissociative states of various types often have histories of significant abuse and/or trauma, other situations and stressors can and have triggered dissociative episodes. Dissociation is generally regarded as a relatively primitive defense against emotional pain. (Answer provided by Dr George Simon, PhD)
According to Ring, adults who learned to dissociate as children are able to connect to “alternate realities” where such phenomena as alien abduction and near-death journeys into the ‘light’ are possible. This would explain why not EVERYONE who is near death experiences–or remembers experiencing–the classic features of the NDE, such as travelling down a tunnel, reaching an intense and spiritual ‘light’, the life review, and the decision to stay or return, a process often guided by a superior, God-like being or presence. About 1/3 of patients returned from a near death state will report a NDE. Ring’s novel contribution to this topic is the connection he makes between UFO experiencers and “NDE-ers”. I would include those adults and children who see “ghosts”, spirits, fairies, elementals, “little people” and other entities from beyond our known universe.
Not everyone who suffered abuse as a child will have these anomalous experiences, and not all people who have such experiences were abused; however, if you were a victim of abuse, you are predisposed to intuit ‘other worlds’. I have to confess that I still have a few pages to go in The Omega Project, so there will be another post on this topic, but from what I have read so far, Ring does not debunk the existence of aliens, ghosts, God, spiritual beings, or any other odd entity that visits us. Although the UFO experiencer has an experience almost diametrically opposed to the “NDE-er”, both share a common tendency to dissociate, or be able to enter another level of consciousness. Does Ring believe, then, that what so many of us have seen and experienced is actually real?
It appears so. The only difference between the person who sees the apparition and the person that does not is their ability to access an alternate reality where such entities DO EXIST (or, to be more scientific, MIGHT exist). This is fascinating information for me, for Ring does not categorically state that aliens, ghosts and spirits are figments of our imagination; instead, he allows for the reality of what is usually thought of as fantastic or fictional. He also states that such sensitivity is a sort of recompense for the horrors that the abused child had to endure. In other words, the reward for one’s miserable childhood is a kind of second sight, or a key to hidden realms.
In the case of UFO experiencers, such a “pass” might seem completely unwanted; however, most people who claim to have had contact with aliens state that their lives were altered forever for the better. They are more sensitive to their surroundings, have a deeper spiritual understanding, and are even able to access powers to heal themselves and others. In all cases, so-called “paranormal” abilities manifest themselves soon after the experience (telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, etc.).
Criticism of Ring’s work centers on the essential differences UFO experiences and NDEs. To make the claim that all experiencers of anomalous realities–whether seeing or sensing spirits, enduring an alien abduction or moving through a detailed NDE–are heading towards higher levels of consciousness through common symbolic journeys is to ignore the fact that many such encounters are traumatic in themselves, and may have nothing to do with enlightenment or soul perfection. Even though Ring attempts to establish common connections with alien abductees and NDE-ers, his argument falls flat for me on many levels. Yes, there may be predisposing circumstances in one’s life that allow such encounters to happen–or be called into consciousness–but there is something distressing and almost disrespectful about affirming that alien rape is somehow akin to meeting Jesus in the afterlife. Any paranormal investigator will tell you that spirits, ghosts or disembodied fragments of consciousness vary tremendously in character and intention. An exorcist extracting a tormenting demon from a suffering victim is dealing with something inherently different than the voice of your deceased grandmother comforting you when you can’t sleep. To affirm that all such phenomena is connected through a “raising of consciousness” is naive, and perhaps reflects a lack of experience with the truly negative forces that exist in the universe. There are “bad spirits” that will attempt to destroy you, not elevate your spirituality.
What if Ring’s hypothesis were accurate? For some people, a deeper understanding of the hidden realms of consciousness might be a blessing, an emotional and spiritual adventure; for others, it might be overwhelming or frightening. It is, after all, difficult enough to understand and navigate the world of the senses, our everyday material reality, without adding dimensions where ghosts float and alients torment.
—Kirsten A. Thorne