Believe me, I never intended to become a “Near Death Experience” survivor, much less to have had it happen three times over the course of my life, but then I suppose anyone who encounters “near death,” encounters it by accident. On the whole people don’t generally plan on dying, even though we know that eventually we’ll have no choice but to add it to our schedule.
It goes without saying that I didn’t actually die—or I wouldn’t be here to tell you about my three trips into “the afterlife;” and obviously, no NDE survivor has actually died and stayed that way—a simple truth that justifies all the skepticism and conjecture surrounding the subject. But we NDE survivors can be a fairly emphatic bunch, given the powerful redefinitions of reality that our otherworldly perceptions have created in our lives. We (who didn’t necessarily choose to become believers) can be prone to dismiss the skepticism of non-experiencers in much the same way as they may dismiss our “paranormal” assuredness.
I make an effort not to do this, because despite having survived three of them myself, I don’t necessarily believe that NDEs are the definitive look into the “next world” that some of us insist on, as much as they are a preview of the potential that may follow this life—for each one of us. I make a special effort to leave my NDE memories as they are, or as they originally were, without further elaboration. I hold to this principle not because newly arising details in those memories don’t seem true and deeply meaningful, but because I know how unreliable the memories maintained (or often generated) by our human physiology can be.
I don’t think that NDEs are really a reliable description of what we should expect after this life, as much as they are a reflection of our spiritual lives (—what may be missing in our current lives), and a door into the truth about how complex all of Life really is. After all, each near death survivor can only report their magical passages from the limited point of view of a human living life on this Earth—not as a fully disinterred, extra-dimensional spirit.
Since the publication of my first book, How to Survive Life (and Death), I’ve also found myself becoming something of an accidental expert. It’s resulted in my spending countless hours in the library and online, pouring over spiritual accounts, ancient wisdom, and neuroscientific explanations. In my travels, I’ve read and heard hundreds of other survivors compellingly heartfelt NDE stories. I’ve even witnessed firsthand some of the miraculously synchronistic gifts of insight and intuition that have been received by this unique group of human beings—and for me this word, unique, has become the operative in describing what’s really going on in the expansive, extra-dimensional world of Near Death Experience.
With my three different experiences myself, and all the stories I’ve come to know, to me the one unavoidable characteristic these experiences share in common is how perfectly tailored they are to each survivors experience of Life. Many NDE events correspond to a set of common motifs. In my three cases they were an out-of-body perspective of my own death, an interview or ‘life review,’ and a forced return back to this life (against my will); but many experiences include encountering the light at the end of the tunnel, an “Elysian” field populated with beloved deceased relatives and friends, a view of the Earth from deep outer space, and other commonly uncommon scenarios. But always, my NDEs aren’t quite like yours may be, and in every case, the nature of the motifs themselves, as well as the narrative details, are uniquely custom-formed to suit the experiencer’s life. As it turns out, even the surprises aren’t really that much of a surprise.
In researching the commonalities of these experiences, one almost immediately discovers that the changeable contents of NDEs are often determined in large part by the predominant religious and cultural expectations of the experiencer. Western Christians meet a Christian God or Jesus, or witness angels in traditional heavenly landscapes. Hindus may meet, and be guided by Yamaraja, the god of death, and be introduced to The Akashic Record that details their karma from life to life. Buddhists often meet Yama, as their guide into the afterlife, who may lead them into a surrealistic exploration of the bardos—the different levels of Life between lives. Jews of different types experience their own particularly appointed, expectation-based hereafters, and so on. Islamic doctrine states that (due to the spiritual limitations of our human form) humans cannot accurately know anything of the afterlife, Muslims tend not to have (or to report) near death experiences. That’s a belief that as an experiencer of three very diverse experiences, I tend to share.
There are a few characteristic features of NDEs that tend to remain consistent: being enfolded within a brilliant, pure white or golden light; “seeing” beings of light; experiencing different ‘sensory’ realms and perspectives; and having a kind of ‘life review’ take place. These aspects tend to be consistent, yet their form, content, and interpretation can be vividly unique to each experiencer. To me, the most important consistency in my stories, and in all the stories I’ve ever encountered, is the experience of the continuing connection and expansion into what I call the field of Divine Consciousness.
You see, in all three of my events (despite not being physically aware of actually having a body), I never stopped experiencing Consciousness (which I now capitalize as a force of Divinity). Like most NDE survivors, I realized a complete and total merging into a greater conscious sense of intuitive, omniscient intelligence, accompanied by an indescribable non-physical sensation of loving wholeness and belonging-to. It’s this continuing expansion into “mind” (possibly exclusive of brain), manifesting into varying spiritual dimensions that informs my understanding of what NDEs really are.
God bless the scientific, materialist skeptics, many of whom base their doubts in the explorations of neuroscience, and the mysteries revealed in the systematic, technological investigation of the brain and its many functions. The challenges they face are that—aside from the fairly direct operations of our physiological machinery, and the organization and distribution of data concerning feelings, facts, and perceptions—they still can’t fully describe exactly what the brain is, or everything it can actually do; nor have they been able yet to really wrap their heads around what Science calls “The Hard Question,” that is, how does conscious intelligence arise out of simple matter?
I think that materialists are absolutely right in their assertion that NDEs are abstract perceptual phenomenon resulting from the brain not being completely dead. After all, this is a pretty abstract Universe (floating around out here in outer space), and abstraction often leads us to our most accurate and dearly held truths; and more importantly, I don’t believe any NDE survivor would suggest that their brain (as we experience it) completely died, a well-known exception being the wonderful Dr. Eben Alexander, a neuroscientist who is understandably compelled to investigate all the academic imperatives. The rest of us would simply acknowledge that we went on “thinking,” and “seeing” in what we call the afterlife (as did Dr. Alexander).
This is simply because despite the implied “physiological death” of our human brains, our mind itself does not die—instead, most of us experienced a kind of incorporation into a greater mind, into an expansive, organizing, Consciousness-based intelligence—a kind of matrix of potential experience. This is another important consistency common to all NDE survivors, despite their religious and cultural associations.
Our brain, as the organ that interprets our experience can only speak to us through the ideas and imagery we know and can express as humans. As a material machine, the brain is a real mystery, but that mystery opens up a lot if we think of the brain as being a spiritual machine. If the brain is actually connecting us to a field of Divine Consciousness as human physiology dictates (rather than generating all experience out of new material), then the ideas and images of all experiences—including the near death variety—conform to the typical pattern recognition that enables us as humans to organize the worlds we experience, and to report on them.
In the near death state—free of the constraints imposed on us by human form, our consciousness is free to expand and be expressed in Divine Consciousness as our karma requires, and allows. Good karma can deliver heavens to you, bad karma can send you into hells.
We can be conceived of then as (I believe our spiritual selves to be) packages of timeless karmic data—amorphous kinds of energetic information clouds with feathered edges that exist projecting back from our physical embodiments into our past, and forward into our futures, overlapping and interacting with other such packages in a timeless, unseen field of pure, unrealized potential. In near death, we enter this unrealized field of Divine Consciousness unconstrained at last, and perceive what our karmic form memories, and our imaginations, uniquely manifest for us. Many of these perceptions will still conform to the pattern recognitions of our changing forms as we report on them as humans.
From this opening-up into extra-dimensional, spiritual potential, the current scientific evidence begins to cascade into place. As wholly energetic phenomena—as quantum packages of karmic data—the changing states of “our selves” can best be described by thermodynamics—as energy simply changing forms; as well as by quantum mechanics. The medium (the “ether” apart from Time and Space) that we exist in can be described as the quantum, Planck, or “Zero Point” fields, hosting the attractor energy patterns of nonlinear dynamics, where each conscious receiving/transmitting/projecting energy participant manifests shared and personalized realities from the field of Divine Consciousness common to all Life in the Living Universe, as in Dr. Karl Pribram and David Bohm’s Holonomic Brain Theory (the holographic universe). Our shared patterns of life are relatable to Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphogenetic field” theory of like physical forms sharing quantum energetic information, and spontaneously generated in unison along the lines of Dr. Stuart Hameroff and Dr. Roger Penrose’s proposal for the collapse of “mind” energy waves into matter at the quantum level of infinitely small quantum tubules. (Forgive my haphazard simplifications of these complex scientific theories).
That paragraph of scientific possibility only goes so far to describe what’s behind the scenes we relate as the memories of our experiences. The actual language of words and images (archetypes) we use can be described by Dr. Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, a framework of shared, extra-dimensional data that fits into all of this abstract theory very well. We draw on our shared wellspring of descriptive imagery to relate to one another the uniqueness of our experiences.
Add to this the latest discoveries of neuroscience given us by way of The Blue Brain Projecta major Swiss-based study that digitally recreates the biology of the human brain as accurately as humanly possible. It’s most recent investigations into the synaptic neural connections at work in our perceptions of the world we live in (as detailed in Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience) utilize the mathematical field of algebraic topology to create a more accurate mapping of this activity. They’ve revealed a previously unnoticed, remarkably ‘spiritual’ reality—the spontaneous neural formations that determine our perceptions, while only measured (or considered) in terms of three dimensions, actually take place in up to eleven dimensions.
No wonder MRIs come up short. No wonder the manifold workings of the human brain remain so mysterious. This is evidence that comes as no surprise to people who are informed by spirituality as well as by science.
With this in mind, we can see that the contents of our Near Death experiences may simply be based on the interaction of our personal ‘karmic energy packets’ of quantum information within the transpersonal, nonlocal field of Divine Consciousness (Brahman to a Hindu, emptiness to a Buddhist, The Kingdom of God to a Christian), resulting in our participation in dimensions populated by other energy beings and states coexisting there (our “next world”), and perfectly customized to the data contained by each experiencer’s karmic self—our souls.
Then, the imagination and illusions that we experience here in this life on Earth (what the Hindu Vedas refer to as maya, or “The Play of Life”) don’t end at our physical death—as our near death peeks behind the curtain demonstrate so spectacularly. Some people may behold heavenly landscapes, talk intimately to an estranged, long-lost relative, ride a golden butterfly with the spirit of their unborn sister, witness interactive timepieces from their past, chat with Jesus, or experience a variety of momentous (or even mundane) scenarios—much of which can be witnessed in psychic episodes here in this life—and all of which is entirely true to the experiencer.
And what always does hold true in Near Death Experiences (as it did in the three I survived myself), is that each one was custom-designed by my own spiritual, karmic information, expressly for me to realize, expressly for me to learn from.
By this simple, Divine process, every moment of every life we live is working for our spiritual evolution in the very same way.
The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond, based on lessons (learned the hard way) by a three time near death survivor is now available everywhere – but ask for it it at your local bookstore! How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying) is due out early 2018, from Llewellyn Worldwide.