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EHENET: Plan for a Database of Exceptional Human Experiences: A Plea for Cooperation
Rhea A. White
The Exceptional Human Experience Network is collecting published and unpublished accounts of exceptional experiences, or EEs. EEs take many forms. We have classified them into eight broad categories, each with many specific examples. (For definitions of the classes, see the Dictionary of EHE-Related Terms; for a list of types of experiences, see the List of Potential EEs/EHEs).We are especially interested in accounts that relate these experiences to the rest of the experiencer’s life: We want to know the antecedents or triggers of the experience, the concomitants of the experience: physiological, psychological, physical, spiritual; and the aftereffects, if any.Information based on the aftereffects indicates that EEs can serve as a catalyst for realizing one's full human potential.
One or more EEs can initiate a process whereby the experiencer's sense of identity and worldview is transformed in a potentiating and life-enhancing direction. When that happens, the experiences become exceptional human experiences, or EHEs. Ideally, we are collecting what we term "EHE autobiographies," or telling one’s life story primarily in terms of one’s exceptional human experiences, not only providing as many details as possible concerning each one but also trying to relate them to each other.We think EHEs are very important. Possibly at a collective level they are preparing the ground for the recognition of a whole new paradigm about the nature of the universe and the role of human beings not only in it, but as an aspect of it. We call it the Experiential Paradigm. Several groups of people should be interested in obtaining accounts: researchers, therapists, writers, the media, and perhaps most importantly, experiencers themselves. Because our society tends to scoff at such experiences, dismiss them as delusions, fabrications, or as evidence of an unsound mind, and ridicule and sometimes even ostracize those who have them, many experiencers discount their own experiences. Having an opportunity to read accounts of others who have had similar experiences can be both validating and instructive.
But it is not sufficient simply for the EHE Network to collect these experiences for our own edification, stimulation, and use. These experiences were meant to be shared, whether or not the persons involved want to be listed by their real name, a pseudonym, or a code name. It is not essential to reveal an experiencer's identity, but it is very important that an experience be shared, for the experiencer and for countless others. The best way to share and search exceptional human experiences would be in the form of an electronic database that would contain both structured and unstructured information. Modern computer technology makes such a database feasible. It would enable us to call up the text of experiences not only by type but by activity at time of the experience, concomitants of the experience, and any aftereffects. We could find out if people tend to be engaged in a physical activity or an abstracted state, for example. We could find out if seeing light or feeling deep peace or experiencing strange electrical effects is an aspect of several different types of EHEs. We could find out if people tend to change their identity after an experience and how this affects persons close to them. Some experiencers may have advice to offer on how they solved some of the changes and problem situations related to having an exceptional experience. A database of experiences need not be simply a repository of all types of exceptional human experiences, although that is an important aim in itself. It could also be used as a tool to find out more about EHEs in general or by specific type. If people contribute enough experiences, we would be able to get a better notion of which types are common and which are reported rarely. Then we could make concerted appeals to obtain more accounts of the latter.
Also, being able to search across a large number of different experiences might turn up commonalities rarely if ever discerned. We might be able to glimpse the outline of a continuum, or at the least, clusters of related experiences.We feel such a database would be a welcome tool for many different users. A pool of experiences that could be called up by keyword could be used by researchers, writers, and students needing examples of specific types of experience. Most important, though, would be the value of such a database for the experiencers themselves. When people have an EE, say an out-of-body experience, a precognitive dream, an encounter with an apparition or a UFO, or a transformative dream or mystical experience, sometimes they cannot even name it. It makes them feel isolated, strange, odd, maybe even sick or crazy. But once they can name their experience, learn that others have also had similar experiences and read some of their accounts, and begin to share their own experience with others, it can become a valuable transformative experience (i.e., an EHE) that gives them a deep sense of connection with new aspects of themselves, with others, and with other forms of life, and even with the universe itself. This is why we want this dream to become a reality.We have a name for this proposed database of experiences: EHENET. However, at this writing (September, 2000), the database is only a vision of what could be.Setting up and maintaining such a database requires extensive funding. We would like to make the available on this Web site. Although we have created a database format for EHENET, we cannot progress without two essential commodities: experiential accounts with permission to use them and funding for the considerable clerical and professional work involved.What we need most is funding for two full-time workers, one professional and one clerical, to gather and process the experiences. They would be responsible for collecting both published and unpublished accounts, obtaining permission for using them, entering the experiences in database format, checking for accuracy, maintaining a list of code names, entering information regarding the triggers, qualities, and aftereffects into database format, and requesting additional information from the experiencers, where necessary. The professional would be responsible for contacting other researchers and organizations who collect experiences to solicit material for the database.
We would reciprocate with these researchers and organizations by giving them access to the entire database. (The purchase of the necessary software and hardware would be their responsibility, however.) He or she would also place requests for experiences in various publications and on-line bulletin boards and give talks about the database. The clerical person would be responsible for entering data, storing hard copies, and disseminating information to experiencers, students, educators, writers, and researchers. A detailed outline of the job descriptions and the work to be carried out is available to potential donors.
In the interim, we are maintaining file cabinets of experiences arranged by type. We are also maintaining a computerized list of names, addresses, and code names of the experiencers and sources (if published) of the experiences we have collected. Approximately 200 experiences are in electronic format. We are collecting written accounts of experiences and EHE autobiographies. They can be sent by mail to the EHE Network, 414 Rockledge Road, New Bern, NC 28562 We also plan to set up an entry form on this Web site. In the meantime, people may contribute on our email discussion board, EHESHARE, or on our Web discussion board. When contributing an experience please indicate whether or not we have your permission to include it in our database, EHENET, or use it as an example on our web site or in published articles or books. Contributors should also indicate whether or not they want us to use their real name, a pseudonym, initials, or simply a code. Please send us your experiences and get your friends and relatives to do the same.
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