For a long time, distressing, disturbing or so-called hellish NDEs bothered me. That small portion of me that still harbored my Christian fear wondered if it was possible that Hell really did exist, and possibly I was going there. I didn’t understand why, if Hell supposedly didn’t exist (as is generally believed in new-age and spiritualism circles), did people have these experiences at all? It was difficult for me to understand the purpose of these experiences until I learned that what we perceive as darkness is as necessary as the light for our personal growth while on Earth.
Negativity, painful experiences, loss – these are important catalysts for growth and expansion. This precisely the reason for our experience as earthly beings, with our illusion of disconnection from source and our fear of death. Although it seems cruel to say, difficulties and pain in our lives are great teachers and are just as necessary as the wonderful, joyful, ecstatic moments of pure light and happiness. It is said that in ‘the afterlife’, or non-physical dimension, there is no pain, fear, anger, jealousy, and all of the other so-called negative human emotions. However, without the possibility of experiencing doubt and fear, there is little opportunity for our soul to grow in the same way that it does when here on Earth, with all of its difficulties and hardships.
Think about it this way: if you sprain your ankle jumping off your porch, your body produces pain so that you know not to walk on that foot, and to make sure you rest and heal. You also learn not to jump off the porch again. You have learned something that will aid you in the future. Of course, this is a really simplistic example. Let’s take it further. I know that this is a very delicate subject, but let’s look at the death of a loved one. This experience is one of the most painful things we can endure. However, the parent, for example, that loses a child to a drunk driver may then go out and create an organization that aims to stop drunk driving. They may now have a great compassion for other parents who lose a child in this way. The greatest struggle in our lives is an opportunity to grow, learn and turn this negativity into something positive for the greater collective.
In the case of distressing NDEs, these are also a catalyst for change in the life of the person who experiences them. Take, for example, Howard Storm. His hellish NDE is very well known. If you aren’t familiar with his story, check out this video.
This is framed in a Christian perspective, and I chose that for a reason. Howard Storm came back from his NDE and completely changed his life. Besides being a nicer person, and more compassionate, he abandoned his career and became ordained. I believe that NDEs don’t occur more frequently now just because our medical science has become better at resuscitating people; I believe that spiritually, the veil between the worlds is being allowed to relax, in order to help us to shift out of the dogmatic religious structures of the past, and into a more fluid, personal understanding of spirituality.
We are in the midst of a paradigm shift, and yet NDEs are tailored toward the person experiencing them. Howard Storm may not have responded to an NDE that was filled with light and love. He may have waved it off as a lack of oxygen and gone back to his materialistic, atheistic life.
What about the Christian theme of his NDE? Obviously, this is what he needed in order to make the greatest change in his life. Religion is not the enemy. It is perfectly possible to experience great spirituality through the lens of religion. Religion is simply a flavor of the truth; the words and rituals may be different, but what we consider God, is the same. Howard Storm may not have responded to becoming a spiritualist, or a Buddhist, or Jewish. He describes how he was brought up with Christianity, so perhaps this is what he would be most comfortable with and would grant him the best way of experiencing God and the unity consciousness.
Thus, Howard Storm saw Jesus and conversely, he saw Hell – and this imagery allowed him to experience the greatest transformation upon his return to earth.
When you really begin to read about hellish NDEs, you tend to notice that these are people who may not have been moved by anything less. Many times, they do have a background that includes a former belief in hell. Even if they professed to be athiest in their current life, belief systems are very strong and can affect us even if we think we have rejected them. God, our spirit guides, our higher selves, whatever you want to believe is guiding our experience when having an NDE knows exactly what type of imagery and experience will help us most, and that is what is seen.
That being said, most people do not have overtly religious NDEs. The experience is one of love, compassion, empathy and overwhelming acceptance. For the collective consciousness, this helps us understand that there is not one correct religion nor do we need to be religious in order to experience the love of the unity consciousness. The overriding message to the rest of us is that we are all loved and that love is not dependent on the religion (or lack thereof) that we practice.
My mother and step-father are both Catholic. They feel good experiencing God through the lens of religion. They revere Jesus and this relationship feels right to them. As long as they do not denigrate the beliefs of others, I have no problem with this and even encourage it. I often wonder if they will see Jesus when they die because they expect to. If one of them had an NDE, they might see Jesus and come back strengthened in their religion, or they may not see Jesus and come back understanding that religion is not necessary for experiencing God. What they experienced would depend on what scenario would create the most positive change in their lives.
The point I am trying to make is this: NDEs are not an accident. They are gifted to those who most need it. Undeniably, they are transformative experiences. I have never heard a person who has had an NDE proclaim that what they experienced was an illusion, or the product of a dying brain. To have an NDE is to believe in life after death completely. Releasing the fear of death is profound in itself, and is transformative. However, what is experienced in the NDE, I believe, is exactly what needs to be experienced by that person in order to maximally benefit upon their return to earthly life. This includes the rare hellish or distressing NDE.
Just like sometimes we need to get burned before we learn not to touch the fire, sometimes we need fear to propel us to truly transform our lives in positive ways. That is why I believe hellish NDEs exist.
We create what we believe; if we truly feel that we will burn in hell, when we die we may initially experience that version of our belief. But that is never a permanent situation. As soon as we seek help and call out for it; there will be guides that will help us understand how these beliefs are created this reality and help us to see a new reality, free from judgement and fear. Most hellish NDEs that I have read also include this redemption – the initial experience is hellish, but once the experiencer calls out to God, they are ‘saved’ from the negative experience. This is by design, and is a far more intense experience. When the experiencer returns, the redemptive aspect is what is stressed, and therefore allows this person to transform their own lives, regardless of how they lived previously. For these people, a positive NDE might not have had the same effect. For the rest of us, we can feel assured that help is never far away, and available to us regardless of how much we feel we have ‘sinned’ and may not deserve it. For those that believe in Hell, it provides this assurance that we can be forgiven, which is extremely powerful for those who have been raised with the idea that forgiveness can only come from God and for those who fear that forgiveness is not freely given. If you have been raised to believe that some sins (such as denouncing the holy spirit) is a one way ticket to Hell with absolutely no forgiveness possible, then this particular NDE narrative is particularly powerful and tranformative.