In general, there are three major responses to esoteric issues in the field of spirituality. They are represented by three groups: the believers, the skeptics and the explorers. It is good to be aware of the mental proclivities of these groups.

Life on this planet depends on the state of mind with which people approach it. They are in different states of mind depending on their inner development. That development depends, in its turn, on the cultural background, the environmental conditioning and the genetic inheritance. It has also been noticed that such a development is significantly affected by past life residues in the individual; this last item is well brought out by Gina Cerminara by her scholarly presentation in the book “Many Mansions”. As a result of all these, human beings show significant differences in their psychology – in terms of facing difficulties in life, managing relationships, in their capacities and weaknesses and in their spiritual aspirations. Based on these differences, we can broadly classify people into three groups in regard to their response to spiritual matters. We can call them the Believers, the Skeptics and the Explorers. It is good to examine their disposition to the esoteric side of life. In the process, we become aware of our own responses and learn what is going on in us. This self-awareness would bring in a natural austerity in our daily life.

The Believers
There is a general tendency in people to belong to a belief system in order to have satisfaction and security – these are the two primary things by which the ego sustains itself. As a result, people develop emotional attachment to the system they adopt and, hence, end up having conflicts with those belonging to other systems. It can even take them so far as to have war between nations. The emotional attachment prevents them from investigating into esoteric matters without bias. They would see rather what they want to see than what there is. They allow their minds to be enslaved by the system and so they become incapable of open-minded investigations. This leads to unawareness of the conditioning that controls their psychology. They would find it very difficult to release themselves from the slavery as it would lead to a feeling of acute insecurity in them.
Strangely, those who call themselves non-believers are also in the same boat because they are as much emotionally attached to their conclusions as the believers are to theirs. Put simply, it is like this: The theist believes there is God and the atheist believes there is no God! So, both are actually believers; only, their beliefs are different; their state of mind is the same.
The agnostic says, “Prove it to me. I will believe”. Here, of course, there seems to be some difference, but there is the unawareness that the rational mind (the intellect) has serious limitations in its perception of matters in the esoteric realm. To make such a mind sit in judgment over spiritual matters would be a serious mistake. It would almost sound like the agnostic is saying, “The truth has to wait to be true until I approve of it.”!

The Skeptics
The skeptics are of two types. The first type may be called the tempered skeptic and the second one the hard-boiled skeptic. The tempered skeptic does not merely put himself emotionally against the issue on hand. He or she is sincerely interested in discovering the truth while being alert about not being carried away by beliefs and disbelief. In other words, such a person can be open minded and look into the matter without bias. Also, the tempered skeptic is aware of the adage “One believes what one wants to believe”. This is precisely where the believers fall off the course. So, the tempered skeptic indeed helps the inquiry and makes sure it does not go awry.

The hard-boiled skeptic, however, tries to put down everything, as his main stand is one of adamant disapproval. He trashes all proofs, sometimes even before he gets to hear them! His main tools are the ‘explain away’ attitude and the tendency to use the word ‘coincidence’ indiscriminately. He is totally unaware of his self-obstructive approach and so he can never conduct an open-minded investigation into any issue, even those brought up by insightful and intelligent people.

The Explorers
Again, there can be two types here also. The first type may be called the enthusiast and the second one the scientist. Both are explorers and are really interested in moving towards the truth. The difference between them is that the enthusiast is aware that, in spiritual investigations, the intuition is superior to the intellect. Patience and wonderment are his strength. The scientist, on the other hand, relies only on the report of the five senses and the intellect. He can get carried away in producing statistical charts and the like and deriving conclusions from them. While that approach is certainly very valuable in material issues, they cannot go far in spiritual matters.

All in all, it would seem that the tempered skeptic and the enthusiast are the ones who have a healthy attitude towards discovering what lies beyond the apparent. They move towards the same convergent point, although from different directions. Strangely, such an approach brings about a natural austerity in the person and helps him or her move ahead in their journey of spiritual discovery. It also affects one’s daily life to the point of bringing in intuitive orderliness – not an orderliness based on belief systems with their Dos and Don’ts.

The Near Death Experience
One of the most profound spiritual experiences is known these days as the Near Death Experience (NDE). That experience takes the people who die for a short time into a realm of expansive consciousness where they sense their true Self. Thousands of cases have been recorded and researchers have attempted to bring together the NDE messages to see if they have meaningful spiritual pointers. Also, we come across responses to NDEs from various people along lines of the categories mentioned in this article. If you are a tempered skeptic or an enthusiast, you will find this topic very absorbing. Gradually, as you go deeper and deeper into it, you will move into a peaceful state of mind because of the perspectives that open up into the afterlife. You find harmony setting in in your close relationships as well as in the other aspects of life.

The place of NDE in the general movement of self-awareness is covered in the book “In Quest of the Deeper Self” details of which can be obtained from the website

Author's Bio: 

Gopalakrishnan T. Chandrasekaran was born in Madras (now Chennai), India. He received his doctoral degree in Coastal Engineering from the North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA in 1978; served on the research and teaching faculty of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, the North Carolina State University and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Kuwait.

Aside from his professional involvements, he was interested in the philosophic issues of life for the last forty years or so. This led him to the messages of Ramana Maharishi, Lao Tzu, J Krishnamurthy, UG Krishnamurthy, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Eckhart Tolle, Marcus Aurelius and similar Masters. His book entitled “In Quest of the Deeper Self” is the outcome of his reflections on those and his wish to share the outcome with others.

Gopalakrishnan is a member of the International Association for Near Death Studies, Durham, NC, USA. He lives in Kodaikanal, a hill town in the southern part of India, with his wife Banumathy. Blog: