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OUT OF MIND » PERCEPTUAL AWARENESS » OTHER DIMENSIONAL » Is The Afterlife What We Think It Is? A Challenge From Near- Death Studies

Is The Afterlife What We Think It Is? A Challenge From Near- Death Studies

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Is The Afterlife What We Think It Is? A Challenge From Near- Death Studies

Is The Afterlife What We Think It Is? A Challenge From Near- Death Studies FlickrAfterlifeKeoniCabral300x188
There are millions of stories now of near-death experiences from around
the world; each a snippet, a teaser, of what appears to exist on the
other side of death. No other human drama carries quite the power this
phenomenon does to unmask traditions of a “grim reaper,” and reveal
instead an aliveness that continues after our bodies take their last
breath and our brains cease to function.

This aliveness we call an “afterlife,” because in most cases, what
near-death experiencers describe sounds like or certainly seems to be
sparkling luminations of higher, finer aspects to what we know: cities,
gardens, forests, landscapes, roads, rivers, busy people quite alive and
doing things, schools, hospitals, opportunities of varied types to
reassess earthly existence, to forgive, learn, and then advance toward a
goal we can only term “spiritual.”

Because the stories that come from experiencers are so compelling,
I’d like to share a few from my research base. Surely after hearing
them, you will be more than impressed that an afterlife must indeed
exist and that life goes on after we die. Once I have shared these
accounts, though, I intend to introduce others that will stretch what we
think we know about life after death. The concept of “afterlife” may
not be as previously stated or broadly believed.

Afterlife Stories

Arthur E. Yensen died in 1932, at least as near as we can tell he
did, from severe injuries in an automobile accident. The vividness of
what happened next remained fresh in his memory, not only after he
revived, but throughout what later became a long and productive life. As
Yensen put it: “Gradually the earth scene faded away, and through it
loomed a bright, new, beautiful world – beautiful beyond imagination!
For half a minute I could see both worlds at once. Finally, when the
earth was all gone, I stood in a glory that could only be heaven.

“In the background were two beautiful, round-topped mountains,
similar to Fujiyama in Japan,” Yensen continued. “The tops were
snowcapped, and the slopes were adorned with foliage of indescribable
beauty. The mountains appeared to be about fifteen miles away, yet I
could see individual flowers growing on their slopes. I estimated my
vision to be about one hundred times better than on earth. To the left
was a shimmering lake containing a different kind of water – clear,
golden, radiant, and alluring. It seemed to be alive. The whole
landscape was carpeted with grass so vivid, clear, and green, that it
defies description. To the right was a grove of large luxuriant trees,
composed of the same clear material that seemed to make up everything.”

Yensen described the people there as young-looking and lively, yet
possessing a weightless grace in their movements. Their bodies were
somewhat translucent, so was the grass and trees; their clothing
minimal. One man told him: “Everything over here is pure. The elements
don’t mix or break down as they do on earth. Everything is kept in place
by an all-pervading Master Vibration, which prevents aging. That’s why
things don’t get dirty, or wear out, and why everything looks so bright
and new.” Yensen learned how heaven could be eternal from this man
(Atwater, 1994, 53-55).

Muriel E. Kelly, weakened by rheumatic fever and a serious heart
murmur, became very ill and passed into another world. “I found myself
standing on a cobble-stone road with people around me dressed in bright
robes – red, blue, pink. Everything was so bright and sunny. Birds were
singing. Baby angels were smiling and flying around. I saw all different
sizes of angels. The music was hauntingly beautiful.”

Hearing her name called, Muriel turned to see Jesus beside her,
dressed in a white-and-red robe. “He knelt down,” she said, “and gave me
a hug and I hugged him back. He told me we were going somewhere to
talk.” During the course of their time together, Jesus led her to an
apartment building with many doors, and told her which door to knock on.
A voice inside beckoned her to enter. It was her mother, who had died
when Muriel was nine, leaving behind five children. Their reunion was
love filled. “I asked Mama where Daddy was, and Cecil, Willie, John, and
Paul. Mother told me they weren’t there ‘cause it wasn’t their time. I
had no idea what she meant, so she took me to an area where we sat on a
cloud and looked over the whole world. My mother located my dad and
brothers riding in a car. We could see right through it. Dad was
driving, and we heard my brothers and Dad crying, saying, ‘I wish Muriel
was still here. We miss her.’” Muriel began to cry for her earthly
family and wished to be back with them. She got her wish (Atwater, 1999
and 2003, 106-107).

Cecil L. Hamilton told of swimming with his brother. “He had a
problem. I tried to get him out of the water, but in his panic he pulled
me under several times. We both drowned. He died, but I came back.”
While Hamilton was in the grips of death, he suddenly found himself
stepping into a light-filled world. “I noticed everything – sky,
buildings, glass – emitted its own light. And everything was much more
colourful ….a river meandered around. On the other side was a city, and a
road running through it to another city, and another city, and another
and another. Right in front of me but across the river were three men.
They projected themselves to me. They didn’t walk or fly; they projected
over. I didn’t recognise them, yet I knew one was Lynn Bibb.” Hamilton
explained, “I was named after him. He died a matter of weeks before I
was born.”

Hamilton continued with his story: “I knew these three men were
looking out for me, like a welcoming committee to escort me over the
river to the first city. I had the feeling that if I went with them,
there would be no coming back, so I hesitated. The first city was like
first grade. People stayed there until they were ready to go to the next
city – your eternal progression, from city to city. Behind me and to
the left was a strong light source, very brilliant and filled with love.
I knew it was a person. I called it God for lack of a better term. I
could not see it; I felt what seemed like a male presence.”

God and Hamilton engaged in a long conversation, the young man asking
Him about the universe and reasons for everything. Then God questioned
if Hamilton wanted to return to the physical world. “I do want to
return,” he said. God asked why. “I said I would help my mother whom my
father had left with four children and one on the way. God kind of
chuckled and asked for the real reason. I said I would leave the earth a
little better than I found it. ‘Then you may return with some of the
knowledge of the things you have learned, but the rest will be veiled
for a time. Live in such a way that you will not feel bad when you
return here again.’ I woke up face down in the mud of the river bottom
and was ‘lifted’ to the top” (Atwater, 1991 and 2003, 45-47).

Each of these three accounts describes a particular arrangement of
structures, shapes, people, and behaviours that are familiar to us –
adding heft to the belief that the afterlife either reflects our earthly
life or is an extension of it. The testimonies that follow, however,
deviate from what I have just relayed. The focus with them is more fluid
with an absence of structured form. I’ll begin with the near-death
experience of Ray Kinman that he had as a teenager from an accidental

“Now this is very difficult to describe,” cautioned Kinman. “Time
ceased to exist. Past and future were completely nonexistent. I was
traveling in an intense, burning ‘now.’ ‘Now’ was everything. I ceased
to be a noun (person, place, or thing) and became a verb (an action). I
was Ray-ing, instead of Ray. I was given a huge message. The Being told
me, ‘This is Who You Really Are,’ as the Universe opened up to me. I
could not tell the difference between myself and the infinite galaxies. I
became all-powerful and all-knowing – yet I was still Ray. Then the
Being introduced me to another Being of the most Incredible Beauty and
Love that anyone could comprehend. It was a Greater Being of intense
Light. It was God. The first Being guided me to this Light and let it
enfold and swallow me up. I became one with Love times a million,
billion, trillion forever and ever. We were made of the same stuff!
Every Being that had ever existed in all of Creation was now part of
this Greater Whole Being called God. I was one with all of them, and yet
I was still Ray – all-powerful, little old me!

“‘This is Who You Really Are,’ thundered the Light. It looked like a
galaxy except the points of light were not stars, they were Beings.
Every Being there was singing this incredibly beautiful music and
praising God. After some indefinite length of Now-ness, I was told that I
must go back. I was given another message that was very important. I
was told I may return anytime I wished to. Coming back to my body felt
like I was stuffed into a vessel of pain and exhaustion.” Kinman was
very clear that this was not like any drug experience. This was truth –
he was shown the way things really are (Atwater, 2007, 35-36).

Tannis Prouten had a severe anxiety attack that seemed to claim her
life. As she explains: “I felt like ducking as the ceiling was only an
inch from me, then I was outside, moving through very dark, very vast
space.” She saw small, round, glowing spheres around her that she came
to realise were lost souls. Before she could react, “Very rapidly I was
enveloped within this most divine, living, golden-white light, my HOME.
The joy, bliss, humility, awe were beyond human capability to bear. The
LIGHT was an infinite, loving, accepting BEING without form. IT had
personality. IT communicated with me telepathically. IT was pure TRUTH.”

As the intensity of her experience increased, she came to realise: “I
was the LIGHT and the LIGHT was me. I was still a unique, separate,
point of consciousness with the same sense of humour and awareness that I
had always had, but the paradox is that I was MORE. I had become
homogeneous with the LIGHT. I was all love, wisdom, truth, peace, joy,
for all eternity. Human words fail to express this experience. Not only
was the message of my true nature conveyed to me telepathically, but I
experienced the SPIRIT of the message – I felt IT with every speck of my
being. There was absolutely no possibility of hiding, distorting
information, or lying in communicating with the LIGHT. I fell madly in
love with the SPIRIT OF TRUTH! There was no concept of space or time in
the GREATER REALITY. All takes place or exists in the ETERNAL NOW. That
is my last conscious memory of the experience” (Atwater, 2007, 26-28).

Neath-Death Experiences that challenge accepted notions

Many near-death episodes are like these last two, seeming to counter
the idea of biblical, religious, medieval, or even mythological
traditions of an afterlife that features core imagery basic to the
spread of culture and consensus throughout the human family. We have a
long history of such commonalties especially in regards to death, the
greatest of all mysteries, and what happens to us after we die. Findings
in the field of near-death studies, though, are beginning to challenge
not only traditional but non-traditional beliefs as well. Maybe there’s
more to learn from our shared histories than what we thought.

Scenarios are reported that openly defy the idea of an afterlife as
an end point or a dwelling place or a platform for progressive states of
learning. Here are some examples of these exceptions and the questions
they invite:

How can a future sibling exist concurrent with a present one?

Merla Ianello recalls that as a child she saw a guest in her home who
was three or four years old choke to death trying to eat a
plastic-wrapped frozen juice treat called an Ice Pop. She insisted on
naming them “Death Pops” after that, and one day she asked her mother
who the child was. Her mother, staring in disbelief, said, “It was you.”
Merla remembers her mother’s screams and how upset her father was, yet
couldn’t identify with the distressed child because to her that child
must have been really naughty to have caused such a fuss. Even though it
took her years to admit that the child was her, one feature of the
episode was never in doubt – the presence of her little brother Michael
in the kitchen with the rest of the family. She talked a lot about
Michael, much to the chagrin of her mother. You see, Michael wasn’t
conceived until the following year. No mention had ever been made of a
future child nor did the mother even want one. How then could he appear
physically and fully present, even holding an Ice Pop, long before he
was born? (Atwater, 1999 and 2003, 142-144.)

Does the belief of an “afterlife” apply when incarnations are back-to-back?

Rand Jameson Shields was hit on the head by a man diving into a
swimming pool. Dazed, he ventured out into deep water and drowned. “The
ceiling of the sky above me rolled back to reveal an infinite light
universe, the earth below me dissolved away, and I intuitively
understood my soul’s purpose and the nature of the spiritual universe.” A
woman grabbed for him and he was resuscitated, yet during the following
year his soul was pulled away from his body eighty times. “I was made
to physically ‘re-experience’ sixty-eight events from previous lives.
Thirty-four of these experiences were of my most recent life, including
the entire period my soul spent between my last death and my birth in
this life.” Years later he was able to visit one of the towns involved
and uncovered “114 precise pieces of evidence verifying that every one
of my thirty-four unique childhood re-experiences occurred to this man
who died twenty-eight months prior to my birth, to the day. I have not
found one piece of evidence that contradicted any of my past-life
memories” (Atwater, 1999 and 2003, 140-141).

What are we to think about continuous lives, one occurring soon after
the other, rather than an individual taking up residence in some
heavenly realm after dying? Or, the full manifestation of a future
sibling, even participating in a family event, long before the child was
born? Exceptional cases such as these are actually rather commonplace –
like missing twins reappearing, aborted fetuses coming back as older or
grown children, animals as much a part of “the other worlds” as they
are in this one. And, here’s another “wrinkle,” there are group events
that further stretch the time-honoured definitions of an afterlife.

How can four separate experiences be the same – and – simultaneous?

My very first encounters with the near-death phenomenon happened at
St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Idaho. The woman I was visiting had
suffered a heart attack yet revived. She was white with fear when I
arrived and told me that while clinically dead she had floated out of
her body and into a dark tunnel which led toward a bright light. Once in
the light, she saw a landscape of barren, rolling hills filled to
overflowing with nude, zombie-like people standing elbow to elbow doing
nothing but staring straight at her. This so horrified her that she
started screaming and snapped back into her body. She continued to
scream until sedated. As I listened to her, two other people entered the
room, an elderly man and woman, both using canes. Each had suffered
heart failure at the same time in the same hospital, were considered
clinically dead, but were resuscitated. None knew each other before
being rushed to the hospital, nor did they have the same doctor. They
found out about each other thanks to nurses who heard their strange
stories – the same as the woman I was visiting – which also matched that
of one more person. I was unable to see this man as he was still
sedated after screaming uncontrollably. None of these people had the
same religion, background or lifestyle. None had mutual friends or
common interests. All had lived long lives of varying degrees of
hardship and success; two were still married to their original spouse
and had several grown children. The others were divorced. The only
common denominator I could find after asking a lot of questions to them
or to people who knew them, was that their strange encounter at death
strengthened the pain they already felt from deeply-held guilts and
fears about how they had lived and what they had done in their lives
(Atwater, 1988, 14-16).

Why would 20 people have the same experience at the same time in the same place?

Arvin S. Gibson shared with me a case of his where a 20-person
fire-fighting crew called “Hotshots” all succumbed from lack of oxygen
while trapped by a sudden burst of flames near a mountain top. One by
one each of the men and women fell to the earth, suffocated. Each of the
twenty saw each other leave their bodies and float upwards. One, by the
name of Jake, looked down at a fellow crew member who had been born
with a defective foot. As the man came out of his body, Jake said,
“Look, Jose, your foot is straight.” A light brighter than sun shining
on a snowy field appeared. Jake was met by his deceased
great-grandfather, who acted as a guide throughout a long and extensive
near-death scenario. Jake pleaded to stay, as he did not want to revive
in a horribly burned body. He was then told that neither he nor any of
his crew who chose to return would suffer ill effects from the fire.
“This was done so that God’s power over the elements would be made
manifest,” Jake affirmed. After rescue, each crew member confirmed the
mutual event. Some claimed to have talked to each other while
out-of-body. Separately, each of these claims was verified. All involved
had met deceased relatives as part of their scenario, and had to choose
whether or not they would return to earth (Atwater, 2000, 165-166).

‘Seeing’ Beyond the Veil of Death

It is easy to assume that the four people who had matching hellish
experiences met in dying what they had repressed during their lives –
negative emotions that were still “eating away at them.” Such an
assumption would be in keeping with the voluminous writings of Emanuel
Swedenborg, an incredible scientist several centuries back who had also
mastered the ability to “see” beyond the veil of death. It was his
contention that after we died, we entered realms of our own making,
based on our attitudes and beliefs (Atwater, 2000, 233-235, 424). We
could expand on this idea by inferring that, because the hellish
accounts were virtually identical, there could have existed at that
hospital a type of energy (perhaps from previous emotional outbursts)
that the four of them unconsciously activated in a similar fashion to
outpicture their deeply-held beliefs. Possible? Yes, but there is more
to consider.

The group experience of twenty hotshot fire-fighters challenges the
conclusions of Swedenborg and anyone else, myself included, who tried to
tie near-death scenarios solely to the attitudes and beliefs of
experiencers – the idea that “you get what you expect.” What appears to
be obvious may not necessarily be as true as it seems.

There are lots of shared experiences, such as between a parent and
child in the same accident, between friends who die together and
similarly revive, between people who never knew each other but found out
about their mutual episodes years later once they started asking
questions. People on opposite sides of the world can go through the same
thing, at the same or different times, yet their separate lives,
beliefs, feelings do not match nor did they ever – even though their
near-death experiences did. And there are even incidents like what
happened to Nadia McCaffrey.

Nadia was a participant in the original research I conducted with
child experiencers of near-death states (Atwater, 1999 and 2003, 86-88).
Years later, while caring for a woman who was dying, she nearly died
herself following severe seizures. Several days afterward, still in
pain, she called me and we exchanged stories. The upshot was that
Nadia’s seizures had begun at the same moment our granddaughter Myriam’s
seizures had. When Nadia died, so had Myriam (from bacterial
meningitis). The two met each other in spirit as they died. Myriam
enabled Nadia to have another near-death experience, this time one that
clarified and detailed her life’s mission. Myriam had always been unique
in this regard, for she had the ability to force, push, or aid a person
in accessing their own inner truth. Nadia’s first near-death experience
had left her with many questions, especially about her purpose for
being alive. Her second one, thanks to Myriam, filled in the missing
pieces and helped her launch a new type of hospice (Atwater, 2004,

How can this incident be explained? Or any of those I’ve shared? Do
our moments at the edge of death or while clinically dead really unveil
an afterlife? Or, is there something else going on that we miss in our
great hurry or even greater desire to accommodate what is before us and
name it what our traditions claim it to be?

Near-Death Episodes as Growth Events

Two clues, present in almost every case I have worked on, caused me
to toss the notion of “afterlife.” I no longer consider it relevant. To
help you understand why I say this, a presentation of the clues and my
observations follow.

Clue #1 – almost to a person near-death experiencers say “I got what I needed.”

To an extent, Swedenborg was right. What he missed is what people
really meant when they spoke such words, and the broader perspective
necessary to interpret what people experienced and what he himself
actually witnessed. Being literal isn’t always productive. It’s like
trying to see an aura. Aim your gaze a little past what is in front of
you and suddenly you begin to see things you never recognised before. Do
this with the phrase, “I got what I needed,” and you’ll notice as I did
that the near-death experience unfolds in patterning that mimics an
accelerated “growth event.” Life insists on growth and change. If we
block these urges, something will happen to unblock them. That something
is what I call a “growth event.”

A growth event is any kind of sudden, unexpected twist in life that
twirls you around and changes your attitudes and stretches your mind.
Growth events, all of them, give us an opportunity to face our inner
selves and be honest about what we find, to glimpse higher, more
spiritual realities, to expand beyond limiting ideas, to discover the
impossible and experience the “paranormal,” to become in some way

I believe the near-death experience is a growth event, perhaps one of
those that seems “reserved” for people who need a “good shove” in
making life changes. Here is a brief synopsis of what I found that
underscores this:
Most near-death episodes happen during major
junctures or times of unusual stress in the individual’s life, when
guidance or direction would be most helpful.
Young children, relatives and caregivers can be affected as well – to
the degree that it is almost as if the child had the experience for
them. Yet the extent to which the episode transformed the youngster
becomes more apparent as he or she matures, and can be a quiet but
powerful directive in the life path chosen.
Causes and conditions of death can reflect, at least symbolically, the
experiencer’s past or current state of psychological growth.
Greeters on death’s threshold always match (accommodate to) whatever is necessary to alert or calm the experiencer.
As the episode deepens, the scenario’s message parallels almost exactly
the subconscious needs of the individual at that moment in time.
Life reviews and “lecture” sessions cover material either omitted,
ignored, or not yet learned in life by the individual involved. Life
previews alert to what might be the future – for good or ill.
Afterward, the experiencer’s behaviour tends to shift to whatever has
been undeveloped or partially developed – physically in the sense of
brain function/-nerve sensitivity, and psychologically in the sense of
personal growth/maturity – as if whatever traits are missing in the
individual’s maturing process are now being “filled in” (Atwater, 2007,
Whatever the truth of this, and it may never be proved one way or the
other, the need factor is plainly obvious as to the timing, storyline,
and outcome of near-death states – not in the sense of predetermination,
rewards/punishment, or wish fulfillment, but rather, in terms of a
subconscious “agenda” of a higher order.

Clue #2 – the most oft-repeated phrase near-death experiencers say after their episode is “Always there is life.”

This fact struck me. If it is true, and I believe it is, then how can
there be an afterlife? Or a before life? Or anything else but life?
Implied here is that in some form, somewhere, somehow, eternal and
forever, life exists as an ongoing extension of itself, acting upon and
interacting within itself, ever conscious, intelligent, and aware…. life
unending. Indicated as well is that we are that life, existent within
the existence of a forever that can be counted on. These four words sum
up and explain all else. They take us beyond attitudes, dictums, dogmas,
preferences, traditions, even what we can imagine. These four words are
as if a prayer answered.

Once I recognised the import of this, all the experiencer narratives I
had ever encountered or heard from other researchers made sense. If you
allow yourself to step back from all the minutiae – who said what where
and under what conditions – a different picture emerges that transcends
the individual storylines from both adults and children. That
“different picture” describes a vastness to the creation we are a part
of, while focusing in on the souls that we are, as we participate in a
journey of awakening to our real identity and purpose…. what reality
really is.

Tens of thousands of reported cases, not only in the Western world,
but throughout Africa, China, India, the Pacific Rim, Russia, Israel,
Thailand, Korea, Turkey, from jungle dwellers to desert clans, from the
backs of buffalo riders to the canyons of Wall Street, this, the
near-death phenomenon, if viewed as it occurs at the time that it does,
offers a picture of the other side of death that mirrors what quantum
physics seeks to uncover and explain…. that all is consciousness…. and
everything else is illusion. With experiencer estimates running between
four to five percent of the general population worldwide, umpteen
million are involved. The phenomenon is that widespread.

The 12 Heavens and Hells

It is no small thing, then, for us to take a second look at what has
been reported. The concept of heaven and hell changes when we do this.

Near-death states show that once you leave your body in death,
regardless of whatever comes next, you eventually find yourself moving
to or present within an energy frequency you resonate with. What you
find there corresponds for the most part to what you are capable of
responding to, i.e., beings, shapes, forms, activities. These frequency
realms resemble a “layer cake” of many levels, each separated from the
other by degrees of lighter or heavier vibrations. The heavier more
dense vibrations hold what most people call “hell” in that they consist
of negative or lower forms of thought that reside in close proximity to
the earthplane. Apparently you stay within this range of vibration for
as long as it best serves your development as a soul. You do not leave
until you have changed your attitudes, thoughts and feelings, and are
ready for another opportunity to improve and advance. The faster,
higher, more subtle vibrations are what most people term “heaven” and
they also are in close proximity to the earthplane. There is a sense of
benefit here, as if one has found one’s true home. You leave whatever
level of this positive, supportive domain you are in once you have
further advanced as an awakened soul and are more unified in spirit.

I have counted from experiencer descriptions what appears to be the
existence of twelve heavens and twelve hells. Yet, this “layer cake” of
energy frequencies (layered thoughtform realms) seems to be open at both
ends. I have found nothing to indicate otherwise. Claims of souls
forever and eternally trapped or condemned in the heavier levels, or
basking in the glory of ascension in the finer, lighter ones, do not
hold up. When you really study the import of what people encounter on
the other side of death, you come to realise that unlimited
possibilities are available because of the power unleashed from
awakenings. To whatever degree a soul awakens, consciousness expands –
individually and universally.

Yes, “detours” are reported, to places like borderlands or shadow
areas where individuals in spirit form may tarry. It seems that in some
cases where the ego personality refuses to merge with its soul, spirit
can remain “apart” somehow, as if lost, disconnected, confused, or
determined to fulfill a vow or promise before moving on. Spirits like
this are often seen as “ghosts” by those who are still embodied. The
idea, then, of “way stations” is upheld in near-death accounts, places
where spirits reside until helped in some fashion. These “catch-all”
places appear to be necessary diversions so that one can “shake” free of
that which initially hinders. What matters most throughout this entire
arrangement of heaven/hell/borderlands, though, is the resonance factor,
i.e., “like attracts like.” Our religions insist that it is deeds done
or not done that is the final determinate of where we wind up once dead,
yet nothing from experiencer cases fully validates this. Their
testimony indicates something else – that self-acceptance or
self-rejection is what creates our energetic “signal.”

Time and Space, Soul and God

he concept of time and space also changes when we take that second
look. Near-death experiencers are adamant in stating that neither time
nor space exist. They claim that everything on the other side of death
resides in a kind of “NOW” moment devoid of boundaries, limits or
definitions other than that of the relationship between perception and
perceivers. Time and space are seen as purposeful, however. From the
bulk of near-death accounts, time is experienced by individuals as a
type of “doorway” space moves through in sparkling waveforms of
potential. That sparkle comes from light in the process of becoming
dense enough within the “cradle” of space to take on the shapes and
forms of what is termed matter. What becomes apparent from experiencer
testimony, however, is that, in a way few can understand or explain,
time not only enables but protects the manifestation of existence that
space allows, so thought can reproduce itself. It’s consciousness. It’s
as if all of life, every tiny speck of it, all of what we encounter on
the other side of death, every vibratory “wiggle” of it, exists as it
does within a giant brain processing thought… and we are projections of
that thought, and so are planets, asteriods, solar systems, and so

This brings us to another way of considering soul.

Near-death states illuminate the reality of soul, our soul,
everybody’s soul, and establish soul as a power source without form or
gender. Some call it our Higher Self or our Greater Self, and that we as
a soul are immortal, an extension of The Divine. Soul is experienced as
having its own will, and an agenda above and beyond anything we might
relate to from the personality level of our egos. What emerges from this
discovery is the realisation that souls go through learning cycles
similar in purpose to people on earth, and that souls can and often do
incarnate in groups to accomplish specific things of a larger nature.
The soul-level of our being is recognised as possessing perfect memory
and an almost unbelievable grasp of Creation’s Story and our place in
its overall scheme. On this level, which most experiencers consider a
higher level of being, the goal of continued incarnations in human or
other forms, appears to be a furtherance of what can be experienced
creatively as we seek to expand our roles as Co-Creators with the
Creator. Winding our way through the peaks and valleys of humanness
appears to aid in this process. You get a real sense that life and death
and the forms we take on fulfill an even Higher Will for an even
Greater Purpose.

With that said, we can approach the topic of God or Deity.

The greatest discovery the vast majority of near-death experiencers
make after realising there is life on the other side of death, is that
an intelligence beyond what we can fathom exists – there is a Deity. And
that Deity or God is so massive, so powerful, so encompassing, that it
is often described by experiencers as more brilliant and mighty than a
million suns, existent as a Presence without need of name, identity or
definition. The biblical injunction to call It “I AM THAT I AM” suffices
as a reference. All that exists is seen to exist within this allness,
this oneness. It is as if there is only One Mind, yet many thinkers.
This, the One Mind, is often described as spreading out from a webbing
or matrix field of Its Own Consciousness, embracing what exists from the
stirring of Its Own Thought. Changeless as the Supreme Consciousness it
is, The One appears ever changing once projections of Its Thought take
on free will and the endless variation possible in that freedom. Life is
God made visible. The awesomeness of this tends to dissolve any ideas
or previous beliefs anyone ever had about religious dictums or
mythological characterisations. A favourite phrase experiencers come to
use is: We are one with The One.

When reconsidering near-death cases, realise as you do that four
patterns to the phenomenon exist, not just one. The spread that follows
results if you also factor in deviations in experiencer behaviour and
beliefs before and after their episode:
Initial Experience (very few elements): An introduction for the individual to other ways of perceiving reality… stimulus.
Unpleasant or Hellish Experience (frightening scenarios): A
confrontation with distortions in one’s own attitudes and beliefs…
Pleasant or Heavenly Experience (uplifting scenarios): A realisation of
how important life is and how every effort that one makes counts…
Transcendent Experience (limitless expanses): An encounter with Oneness
and the collective whole of humankind… enlightenment (Atwater, 1999,
If you are objective about this spread, what you see here is a
fascinating panorama, not about the existence of an afterlife and the
do’s and don’ts of living, but of what very well could be the movement
of our consciousness as it evolves through the human condition via
stages of awakening. These stages of awakening extend from the first
realisation of something greater, an initial awareness, to
confrontations with the bias of perception followed by opportunities to
cleanse and start anew. This leads to the bliss and the ecstasy of
self-validation and the discovery of one’s worth, until at last the
moment comes when unlimited realms of truth and wisdom are embraced.

It’s all about consciousness, moving in and through our story and
larger types of stories, as the One Mind experiences Itself through
variations in Its Thought. Still, there is more to note here. Present in
experiencer accounts is a deeper sense seldom vocalised that
consciousness itself, by itself, as itself, is also awakening and
expanding. To give this meaning, let me quote St. Teresa of Avila, the
great Spanish mystic and reformer, who, near the end of her life, said:
“The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.” The invitation
here is for us to move past defining concepts and ideas of an afterlife
that are birth-to-death centred, and embrace instead a new vision of
life as an emanation of spirit evolving in its capacity to handle the
power from its Source. Why limit ourselves; experiencers don’t.

About the Author

P.M.H. Atwater, L.H..D., is one of the original researchers in the
field of near-death studies, having begun her work in 1978. To date, she
has published nine books on her findings. Some of her work has been
verified in clinical studies, including the prospective study done in
The Netherlands and appearing in Lancet medical journal, 12-15-01. She
has also conducted the first major study of the new generations of
children that compares objective research with mystical revelation and
prophesy. This was published as Beyond the Indigo Children by Bear &
Co., Rochester, VT, 2005. Continuing her interest in divination, she
has authored three books on Goddess Runes. For a complete biographical
listing and information on how to obtain her books, DVDs and lectures,
please visit her websitewww.pmhatwater.com.


P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D. with David Morgan (2000), The Complete
Idiot’s Guide to Near-Death Experiences, Macmillan/Alpha Books,
Indianapolis, IN.

P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D. (1988), Coming Back to Life, Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, NY.

(1994), Beyond the Light, Birch Lane Press, New York, NY.

(1999), Future Memory, Hampton Roads, Charlottesville, VA.

(1999 and 2003), Children of the New Millennium, Three Rivers Press,
New York, NY; replaced by The New Children and Near-Death Experiences,
Bear & Co., Rochester, VT.

(2004), We Live Forever, A.R.E. Press, Virginia Beach, VA.

(2007), The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences, Hampton Roads, Charlottesville, VA.

The above article appeared in New Dawn Special Issue 7.

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