IF THERE IS A LIFE AFTER DEATH, WHAT IS IT LIKE? HERE ARE SOME “EYEWITNESS” ACCOUNTS FROM NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCERS — AND THEY’RE NOT ALL POSITIVE
THE NOTION THAT there is a life after this one on Earth is a widely held belief that predates recorded history. While cultures like that of the ancient Egyptians believed existence continued in “the Land of the Dead,” the more modern Christian beliefs offer an afterlife in Heaven as a reward or in Hell as a punishment.
Even more recent ideas suggest that life might continue in another dimension or plane of existence — perhaps even on another planet.
Whatever the ideas, it’s clear that humans want to believe — perhaps even need to believe in life after death.
There is no definitive proof, of course, that a life after death exists. But there are some rather compelling anecdotes that suggest there might be: remarkable cases of claimed reincarnation or past-life recall, for instance. There are also countless cases in which the recently deceased have appeared briefly to family members and friends to tell them that they are well and happy in another world.
Perhaps the most intriguing “evidence” are the stories related by people who have gone through the “near-death experience.” It’s estimated that 9 to 18 percent of people who are near death have a near-death experience. Although mainstream science suggests that these experiences are nothing more than the result of certain brain activity under extreme stress or hallucinations brought on by drugs or medication, perhaps these accounts shouldn’t be so readily dismissed.
From various cases of near-death experience (NDE), here is a glimpse of life after death.
THE TUNNEL AND THE LIGHT
One of the most common experiences at the beginning of an NDE is popping or floating out of one’s body and then floating or flying down a long tunnel toward a bright, white light that many describe as “loving.”
- “In front of me I saw a small light in the vast distance. The light started to get larger. It became more brilliant and it stopped in front of me. I felt an intense love, which came from the Light. I know without a doubt that this beautiful intense loving Light was God. The Light started to communicate with me; but the communication was telepathic, it was not verbal. The Light asked me if I wanted to come with it. At this point I completely understood the nature of the question and the consequences of my answer. If I choose to continue with the Light I knew that I would die and never return to Earth. I thought about this and replied that I thought that I still had important things to do back there (on Earth). At that point the Light began to recede. I found myself waking up on the bed of my dorm room.” [A Near Death Experience in 1964 – Anonymous]
- “I saw nothing but absolute, total blackness. I had the desire to look around inquisitively. What is this place? Where am I? Instantaneously, this darkness took the shape of a tunnel. It was perfectly level, however slightly ambiguous in that it was straight before me and it was cloud-like. It was very vast and was anywhere from a thousand feet to a thousand miles wide. If you took a tornado and stretched it out straight, it would be similar to that…”
- “All was panic. The water was very cold. My heavy winter clothes were making it difficult to stay afloat. I continued to struggle mightily, thinking, I’m only nine. That’s too young to die. The longer I was under the ice, the less significant time became. Everything happened sequentially but simultaneously. I became very tired. I noticed that I could no longer feel the cold. My hearing was heightened. I could hear the movement of the water… the traffic on the bridge overhead and behind me. I could see clearly, even though it was dark and I was under the ice and moving downstream. Then, a complete calm and serenity overtook me. I was at total peace. I could sense a light. It was brilliant, but caused no discomfort when looking at it. In fact, I gained strength by looking into the light. I then sensed a presence. I had the knowledge that this was Jesus, and he was assuring me that everything was fine. I felt total love from this presence. I was home. I was presented with a sense that all questions were to be answered if I stayed.” [Near-Death Experiences – Rob]
A PLACE OF BEAUTY AND LOVE
The most frequent descriptions of the afterlife portray an unimaginably beautiful land of color, light and music, as described by these witnesses.
- “I can remember a beautiful place with beautiful colors, beautiful music…”
- “When I was a little girl, I thought I would really like to know what Heaven was like. I decided that I would pray to God very hard and maybe He would show me. I prayed very hard for quite some time, until gradually there came a buzzing sound in my ears. The sound got louder and louder until it was all I could hear, and then suddenly everything became very quiet. I was in a velvety blackness, but it was not like being in a dark room (I sensed there were no walls or floor or ceiling). I felt perfectly safe and ‘stood’ there wondering what was going on. Then I saw a pin prick of light far ahead of me. As I looked it got bigger and bigger. As it grew I felt better and better. I felt totally totally accepted and loved. Words can’t even come close to describing how nice it felt. Then I was inside the light. I felt so loved! I loved it right back. I felt that just beyond the light, which I sensed acted like a veil or curtain, I was being observed by people who knew me or knew of me and were smiling.” [Body Death – Anonymous]
- “And then I saw, infinitely far off — far too distant to be visible with any kind of sight I knew of — a city. A glowing, seemingly endless city, bright enough to be seen over all the unimaginable distance between. The brightness seemed to shine from the very walls and streets of this place, and from beings which I could now discern moving about within it. In fact, the city and everything in it seemed to be made of light, even as the figure at my side was made of light.” [Heaven and Hell: Dr. George Ritchie’s Near-Death Experience]
- “Suddenly I was aware of being in the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. I felt whole and loved. My sense of well-being was complete. I heard celestial music clearly and saw vivid colored flowers, like nothing seen on earth, gorgeous greenery and trees.” [17 Near-Death Experience Accounts from Beyond the Light – Jennine Wolff]
- “Gradually the Earth scene faded away, and through it loomed a bright, new, beautiful world — beautiful beyond imagination! I stood in a glory that could only be Heaven. In the background were two beautiful, round-topped mountains, similar to Fujiyama in Japan. The tops were snow-capped, and the slopes were adorned with foliage of indescribable beauty. The mountains appeared to be about 15 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. I saw twenty people beyond the first trees, playing a singing-dancing game. As soon as they saw me, four of the players left the game and joyfully skipped over to greet me. Their bodies seemed almost weightless, and the grace and beauty of their easy movements was fascinating to watch. Both sexes had long, luxuriant hair entwined with flowers, which hung down in glossy masses to their waists. Their only clothing was a gossamer loin cloth with a loop over one shoulder and a broad ribbon streaming out behind in graceful curves and curlicues. Their magnificence not only thrilled me, but filled me with awe. The oldest, largest and strongest-looking man announced pleasantly, ‘You are in the land of the dead. We lived on Earth, just like you, ’til we came here.’ He invited me to look at my arm. I looked, and it was translucent; that is, I could dimly see through it.” [17 Near-Death Experience Accounts from Beyond the Light – Arthur E. Yensen]
- “I found myself in a place of such beauty and peace. It was timeless and spaceless. I was aware of delicate and shifting hues of colors with their accompanying rainbows of ‘sound,’ though there was no noise in this sound. It might have felt like wind and bells, were it earthly. I ‘hung’ there – floating. Then I became aware of other loving, caring beings hovering near me. Their presence was so welcoming and nurturing. They appeared formless in the way I was accustomed by now to seeing things. I was aware of some bearded male figures in white robes in a semicircle around me. The atmosphere became blended as though made of translucent clouds. I watched as these clouds and their delicate shifting colors moved through and around us.” [17 Near-Death Experience Accounts from Beyond the Light – Alice Morrison-Mays]
- “I stood there in this gorgeous meadow and I remember that the light there was different from the light here on Earth. There was a goldenness to this light. The sky was very blue. I don’t recall seeing the sun. The colors were extraordinary. The green of the meadow was fantastic. The flowers were blooming all around and they had colors that I had never seen before. I was very aware that I had never seen these colors before and I was very excited about it. I was thrilled to death of the beauty that was incredible. I could see a soft light glowing within every living thing. It was not a light that was reflected from the outside from a source, but it was coming from the center of this flower. Just this beautiful, soft light. I think I was seeing the life inside of everything.”
- “The world that I had entered was now as solid and real as the world that I had left behind, but the light was still visible. It was a living light. It had vitality and feeling. It was focused in every living thing just as the sun can be focused to a point with a magnifying glass. There were colors, too, not only the colors that I had known on Earth, but many octaves of color. Permeating the colors and patterns was sound, countless octaves of sound. It was as though the colors could be heard. It reminded me of bagpipes. Filling the entire region were the droning sounds. Octave upon octave of invigorating, vitalizing sound. It was very subtle, practically imperceptible, but immense; it seemed to reach to infinity. Superimposed on this vast life-giving hum was the melody, which was created by the individual sound of every living thing. Light and sound, color and geometrical patterns were all combined into a totality of harmonic perfection.”
MEETING LOVED ONES
Very often, the dead are greeted by friends, relatives and even pets who have passed on before them, offering familiarity and comfort.
- “I hear a bark, and racing toward me is a dog I once had, a black poodle named Pepe. When I see him, I feel an emotional floodgate open. Tears fill my eyes. He jumps into my arms, licking my face. As I hold him, he is real, more real than I had ever experienced him. I can smell him, feel him, hear his breathing and sense his great joy at being with me again. I put my dog on the ground and step forward to embrace my stepfather, when a very strong voice is heard in my consciousness. ‘Not yet,’ it says. I scream out, ‘Why?’ Then this inner voice says, ‘What have you learned, and whom have you helped?’ I am dumb-founded. The voice seems to be from without as well as within. Everything stops for a moment. I have to think of what was asked of me. I cannot answer what I have learned, but I can answer whom I have helped. I feel the presence of my dog around me as I ponder those two questions. Then I hear barking, and other dogs appear, dogs I once had. As I stand there for what seems to be an eternity. I want to embrace and be absorbed and merge. I want to stay. The sensation of not wanting to come back is overwhelming.” [17 Near-Death Experience Accounts from Beyond the Light – Bryce Bond]
- “I noticed that as I began to discern different figures in the light — and they were all covered with light — they were light and had light permeating all around them — they began to form shapes I could recognize and understand. I could see that one of them was my grandmother. I don’t know if it was reality or projection, but I would know my grandmother, the sound of her, anytime, anywhere. Everyone I saw, looking back on it, fit perfectly into my understanding of what that person looked like at their best during their lives. I recognized a lot of people. My uncle Gene was there. So was my great-great-Aunt Maggie, who was really a cousin. On Papa’s side of the family, my grandfather was there. They were specifically taking care of me, looking after me.” [Beyond Brain Death: Pam Reynolds]
- “Immediately I was in the most beautiful serene place I had ever been. My grandfather, another person whom I had known in a previous life, and a guardian were ready to help me with the transition. They told me of the accident, showed me the site. It was my time to come home, they said. The overwhelming love and happiness of that place was so inviting.” [Moving Heaven and Earth: Karen Schaeffer]
WORKING, LEARNING, GROWING
Apparently, folks don’t just lie around on clouds all day in the afterlife. It could be a station where we gain more knowledge for personal growth.
- “Learning and growing seem to be what it’s all about there. I’ve been told by the other side that you have to make a prime decision over there. You have to face up to yourself and do something about it, otherwise you’ll just flounder and you won’t progress spiritually. That seems to be a very important issue, to recognize yourself, your positive qualities and your negative ones, and try to do something about it. I’ve also been told that they have tasks, jobs to do over there.” [A Description of the Afterlife: George Anderson]
- Enormous buildings stood in a beautiful sunny park that reminded me somewhat of a well-planned university. As we entered one of the buildings and doorways, the air was so hushed that I was actually startled to see people in the passageway. I could not tell if they were men or women, old or young, for all were covered from head to foot in loose-flowing hooded cloaks which made me think vaguely of monks. But the atmosphere of the place was not at all as I imagined a monastery. It was more like some tremendous study center, humming with the excitement of great discovery. Everyone we passed in the wide halls and on the curving staircases seemed caught up in some all-engrossing activity; not many words were exchanged among them. And yet I sensed no unfriendliness between these beings, rather an aloofness of total concentration. Whatever else these people might be, they appeared utterly and supremely self-forgetful — absorbed in some vast purpose beyond themselves. Through open doors I glimpsed at enormous rooms filled with complex equipment. In several of the rooms, hooded figures bent over intricate charts and diagrams, or sat at the controls of elaborate consoles flickering with lights. Somehow I felt that some vast experiment was being pursued, perhaps dozens and dozens of such experiments. And something more… In spite of His obvious delight in the beings around us, I sensed that even this was not the ultimate — that He had far greater things to show me if only I could see. And so I followed Him into other buildings of this domain of thought. We entered a studio where music of a complexity I couldn’t begin to follow was being composed and performed. There were complicated rhythms, tones not on a scale I knew. Why, I found myself thinking. Bach is only the beginning! Next we walked through a library the size of the whole University of Richmond. I gazed into rooms lined floor to ceiling with documents on parchment, clay, leather, metal and paper. Here, the thought occurred to me, are assembled the important books of the universe. Immediately I knew this was impossible. How could books be written somewhere beyond the Earth! But the thought persisted, although my mind rejected it. The key works of the universe, the phrase kept recurring as we roamed the domed reading rooms crowded with silent scholars. Then, abruptly, at the door to one of the smaller rooms, almost an annex: Here is the central thought of this Earth.” [Heaven and Hell: Dr. George Ritchie’s Near-Death Experience]
- “I then went to 12 beings of greater knowledge. They were in front of me and stood in a row. They were not human. They had no feelings of anything like judgment or authority, but seemed strong in themselves. They seemed taller than me and they wore silver white robes. They had white skin, large heads and large eyes. I do not remember them having mouths. Above them was a spirit. It was like a star as we see one from Earth, but in size it appeared the same size as the heads of the beings. The spirit went to my left and hovered above the first being. I remember it was like a video of knowledge that sprung from the beings hands, which were held in front of them. Each being had something to relate. They opened the knowledge they had when the spirit moved above them.” [The Orb of Love: Brian Krebs]
- “I was shown a diagram. I could see that it represented choices. A choice led to other choices which lead to other choices. I began receiving ‘all knowledge,’ or at least that is what it felt like. They were there teaching me. This didn’t come to me as words like you and I speak. More as complete thoughts. When I think, it is generally in words and pictures; this is how I received the information. As complete words and pictures in my mind. As I could form a question in my mind, I had the answer. Not just the answer to that question, but the why and how and the answer to every other question that the answer would bring up. Everything in the entire universe fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Everything made sense. I remember thinking, I have to remember this.“
- “The Light gave me knowledge, though I heard no words. We did not communicate in English or in any other language. This was discourse clearer and easier than the clumsy medium of language. It was something like understanding math or music — nonverbal knowledge, but knowledge no less profound. I was learning the answers to the eternal questions of life — questions so old we laugh them off as clichés. ‘Why are we here?’ To learn. ‘What’s the purpose of our life?’ To love. I felt as if I was re-remembering things I had once known, but somehow forgotten, and it seemed incredible that I had not figured out these things before now.” [After the Light – Kimberly Clark Sharp]
Next page: Other dimensions; negative experiences
THE SEND BACK
Obviously, all NDErs get sent back to the land of the living, or they wouldn’t be around to tell us their stories. But quite often they are given messages to return with.
- “When I was 12 years old, my appendix burst. I was rushed to the hospital. Our family doctor and the emergency medical staff rushed me into the operating room. As I lay on the table, a priest was ushered in to give me my last rites. I was scared. Then they put me under to work on me. I felt cold. It was dark, but suddenly I felt warm. I heard a voice from somewhere talking to me. It was like I jumped into the middle of a conversation. The voice said, ‘It’s not time for you yet… I have big plans for you.’ My mind flooded with ideas, plans, concepts. Then the voice said, ‘Time to go back. Tell them to be good to each other. Help them.’ Then I felt a huge push, back down to where I was lying on the table. I woke up on the operating table in the middle of my surgery.” [Body Death – Anonymous]
- “When I was about 11 years old, I was taken to the hospital for a routine tonsillectomy. As far as I was concerned, I had nothing to worry about and I wasn’t expecting any problems. I was near death and never knew it. I can remember a nurse putting a mask over my face and telling me it was ether. The next thing I remember I was in a large swirling whirlpool-like things and there was a loud buzzing. It was as if I was not within myself but a spectator and I was watching my body being pulled deeper and deeper into this swirling void. I can remember asking myself over and over, Why does this have to happen to me? The next thing I knew I could see a kind of light at one side of this whirling void and in it was the face of one of my dead aunts. My aunt told me to go back and the next thing I knew I awoke in my room and the surgery was over.” [Body Death – Anonymous]
- “There was a standing figure in the light, shaped like a normal human being, but with no distinct facial features. It had a masculine presence. Light rays shone all around him. I felt very protected and safe and loved. The figure in the light told me through what I now know to be mental telepathy that I must go back, that it was not time for me to come here. I wanted to stay because I felt so full of joy and so peaceful. The voice repeated that it wasn’t my time; I had a purpose to fulfill and I could come back after I completed it.” [17 Near-Death Experience Accounts from Beyond the Light – Robin Michelle Halberdier]
Nora M. Spurgin, for one, believes that life continues after death in another dimension:
- “There is a spiritual dimension of the universe, the invisible spirit world, which serves as the environment for our spirits,” she says. “Our spirit is the internal counterpart to our physical body, and the spirit world is the invisible counterpart to the physical world. This world is located not up in Heaven, but in a different dimension, inter-penetrating the physical world and the universe. While on Earth we exist in both worlds at once, in effect connecting the two. For this reason, people on occasion can have visions and communicate with the dead.”
Spurgin explains much more of this existence at Insights into the Afterlife.
Not all NDEs are beautiful and joyful. Sometimes, they can be a nightmare:
- “I do not know if I had a near-death experience. What I do know is that I had the same nightmare repetitively for a long time after the accident. I was viewing a procession line from above. The room was absolute darkness with the exception of a man that glowed in pure white light. The light seemed to come from within rather than shining on him. The procession line went off into infinity. The man was clearly the judge. A person would come up, get on their knees and beg for mercy. They would repeat over and over, ‘Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. I haven’t done anything wrong. Please don’t kill me.’ Eventually the man would lash out, and the impression I have is of chopping off the head. Then that person would fade and the next would come up and do the exact same thing. Now, 18 years later, I don’t remember if this was just an ordinary nightmare or actually occurred at the time of the accident with follow-on nightmares.” [Body Death – Anonymous]
- “I was forced by a mob of unfriendly and cruel people toward some unknown destination in the darkness. They began shouting and hurling insults at me, demanding that I hurry along. And they refused to answer any question. Finally, I told them that I wouldn’t go any farther. They became much more aggressive and insisted that I was going with them. A number of them began to push and shove me, and I responded by hitting back at them. A wild orgy of frenzied taunting, screaming and hitting ensued. I fought like a wild man. All the while it was obvious that they were having great fun.” [Saved from Hell – Howard Storm]
- “I was in hell. There was a low murmuring all around me, as if I were in the midst of a huge group of grumbling people. Before me, suddenly, stood a huge black door. The air began to glow and shimmer with oppressive heat. I watched as the door opened upon a vast, flaming oven. I felt myself drawn like a magnet into the center of the flames, although I was terrified to go in. There were hundreds of others already there, roasting to death, but not dead. Once I was inside, the door slammed shut behind me. The worst, most dreadful feelings sloshed around inside me like so much poison. ‘Is this actually what hell is?’ I asked aloud. I passed my hands through blue-tipped flames. The fire itself was cold, and it did not hurt me. From nowhere, a thought flashed through my mind: Death, where is thy sting? God, even in the midst of this holocaust, was truly in control of everything. I began to laugh, and the others laughed with me. Our laughter bounced off the walls of the oven and echoed over the roar of the flames.” [Absent from the Body – Don Brubaker]
- “People want more than one life. Because they don’t like the one they have now. Or maybe they are just afraid to die. I’ve had a near-death experience. Saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing. I was just dead!” [Body Death – Anonymous]
Illusion or reality? Is there a life beyond this one? Unfortunately, there’s really only one way to know for certain.