There’s common protest against near-death experiences as an authentic description of the afterlife that goes like this: “If the afterlife was real, wouldn’t all near-death experiencers describe the same place?”
At first glance, this may seem like a reasonable assumption. If another world exists after death, it’s natural that we would expect all humans to travel to the same afterlife. There are a lot of erroneous assumptions built into such a simple idea, though. The first assumes that the afterlife is a place, like earth. The second assumes that the afterlife is so homogenous that all humans would describe exactly the same experience. We certainly wouldn’t expect this even of travelers to a different country on earth. Third, it assumes that “this side” and the “other side” are two distinct, separate and singular planes that together make up the whole of reality.
In reality, descriptions of the afterlife, particularly from near-death experiences, are all personal and unique. Descriptions of the afterlife through spirit communicators are also quite divergent, and may even be contradictory. At times, you may even find a particular NDE or spirit communication to be silly or non-sensical. Raymond Moody, the famed author of Life After Life and coiner of the term ‘near-death experience’ wrote a lesser known book about spiritual encounters with Elvis Presley. It would seem, for a certain generation, that seeing Elvis in your NDE is preferable even to seeing Jesus.
For the new afterlife researcher, finding common ground in afterlife descriptions from NDEs and spirit communications may seem impossible, with few similarities to provide any insight into what the afterlife looks like, feels like or how it operates. A year or two into my own research, I, too, had serious doubts. I found the symbols, environments and experiences so unique that I started to believe that such experiences must be dreams or hallucinations. Spirits communicating through mediums described afterlife environments that were not only different in function and geography, but some spirits even held different opinions on such fundamental questions as reincarnation, free will and the nature of God. NDEs seemed completely dissimilar from each other, and even more distant from the afterlife described by spirit communicators and life between life hypnosis. What I didn’t know then – and what I hope to help new afterlife researchers understand now – is that the fundamental nature of reality not only supports such unique experiences and divergent beliefs, but does so on the basis of a set of fundamental, predictable constants.
Consciousness is Fundamental
Thanks to advances in quantum physics and philosophy, science and spirituality of late have been converging on the idea that consciousness is fundamental, and therefore the true nature of reality is mental, not physical. In philosophic terms, this concept is known as reductive idealism, or nonduality.
Note: There are several prominent philosophers who espouse idealism, but I would highly recommend the books and videos by Bernardo Kastrup and Rupert Spira for anyone interested in exploring this concept further.
If reality is fundamentally mental, the so-called ‘afterlife’ is simply a return to a more natural state of reality, where events and environment change at the speed of thought. According to William Buhlman, OBE expert and instructor at the Monroe Institute, Earth is likewise a mental plane, but slowed down to the point where thought must precede physical action to initiate change. If causality flows like water in the afterlife, it flows like ice here on earth; at a glacial pace and not without a lot of effort.
Multiple spiritual texts over the last century describe reality as unified consciousness that is artificially divided into a continuum of vibrations, or densities. The creative force in such a paradigm is thought and the material of construction is information. The reason why we are here on earth, according to Buhlman and others, is to learn how to control our creative impulses through thought. If we were given God-level power to control reality using our thoughts as the unrestrained, untrained beings that we are, chaos would soon erupt through the universe. Consider that moment in Ghostbusters when the demonic being Gozar prompts the crew to “choose the form of your destructor”. They try to quickly clear their minds to avoid inadvertently materializing an adversary, but Gozar announces the choice is made. As a giant marshmallow man in a sailor suit begins trampling New York City, Ray sheepishly admits he couldn’t help himself; the image of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, a beloved icon of his childhood, just ‘popped in there’.
The afterlife planes have varying levels of thought responsiveness, and we gravitate to the level that corresponds to our spiritual maturity and skill. Since incarnating humans are generally unskilled at controlling our thoughts, the afterlife planes closest to earth are also slowed-down. This is to avoid the disorienting experience of bouncing around to different environments propelled by our ‘monkey minds’, to borrow a phrase from Buddhism. This leads us to another interesting facet of the nature of the afterlife: consensus realities. Confirmed by out-of-body experts, as well as several higher-level spiritual teachers speaking through channelers, consensus realities comprise the lowest levels of the afterlife and are likely the first afterlife environments we will discover after death. These are highly diverse, slow-changing environments molded by centuries of human expectation. Every religious afterlife can be found here, along with their adherents. Some spirits are ignorant that they occupy a highly curated environment inside a much larger reality. When reading spirit descriptions of the afterlife from spirits suspected to be inside a consensus reality, it’s important to understand that they may be convinced that their ‘version’ of the afterlife is the only one that exists. Over time, as Seth explains in Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts, the true situation is explained to them.
Consensus realities can range from normal earth-like cities and suburbs, to perfected versions of earthly locales, to sublime natural settings of pristine beaches, forests and mountains. In the more exquisite realms, spirits describe unearthly beauty with colors unknown to humans, bubbling brooks that sing, music that creates colorful patterns, and structures of such grand design, it could only have been created through the imagination of the most creative architects. Consensus realities offer spirits opportunities to participate in activities they may not have had the chance to experience on earth, while encouraging the practice of creating objects through intention and focus. Frederick Meyers, co-founder of the Society for Psychical Research speaking through medium Geraldine Cummins, called this level the ‘Plane of Illusion’, for souls play out their earthly desires here until they grow bored and desire to progress toward more challenging spiritual activities.
Besides differentiating in density or thought-responsiveness, the afterlife also differs by temperament. Since these are mental worlds, they are highly influenced by mood and emotion and reflect back the personality of the perceiver. Therefore, negative spirits will find themselves in less savory environments, ranging from the depressing to the downright depraved. Evidence for this can be found both in the out-of-body experiences described by Jurgan Ziewe and in a myriad of spirit communications both modern and from the last century.
A new afterlife researcher looking for some stable description of the afterlife will quickly become dismayed by the diversity of descriptions of the afterlife environment until he or she understands these important factors:
- Less-evolved spirits will likely find themselves in one of an endless variety of consensus realities in the afterlife. Their environment will match their temperament and beliefs about the afterlife. No two spirits describing their reality may describe the same environment.
- Spirits may not realize how diverse their realm is; and may believe that the afterlife environment they inhabit characterizes the whole of reality.
- Spirits do not become all-knowing in the afterlife, and until they learn of the true nature of the thought-based environment, may parrot to mediums the same erroneous beliefs and opinions they held during life.
- Mediums nearly always color information they are channeling based on their own beliefs. Spirits have been known to complain of distortions. In fact, a medium is often evaluated not just on their ability to communicate with spirits, but how well they can ‘get out of the way’ to enable pure communication.
The afterlife is less a place, but more a state of mind. When evaluating descriptions of the afterlife by spirit communicators, it’s best to consider their relative level of spiritual maturity, their cultural and religious beliefs and their temperament. Thus, descriptions of the afterlife that once seemed wildly divergent will become almost predictable.
Near-Death Experiences in Afterlife Research
For many, near-death experiences are the gateway to afterlife research. They are relatively common, and the experiences themselves are often highly engaging and intense. Veridical NDEs are superlative evidence for life after death. However, a word of warning is in order for new afterlife researchers who use NDEs to determine the nature of the afterlife. NDEs are curated experiences meant to aid the experiencer when they return to earth, not act as afterlife tourism. The reality they espouse is highly distorted and symbolic. The content is usually extremely meaningful to the experiencer, but may not necessarily be as meaningful in a general context. Lastly, NDEs are often interpreted according to cultural and religious belief. Where one person may interpret a being of light in the afterlife as a neutral figure, another may interpret that being as Jesus. Seth, in Seth Speaks, describes taking on the role of a religious figure in order to help rectify the internal conflict of the spirit of a Muslim man disturbed by his admiration of the Jewish patriarch, Moses and his subsequent fear of judgement. Although this did not occur during an NDE, the point is the same. “Objective truth” means little in a realm guided by subjective perceptions, therefore guides prefer to work within our belief systems to communicate effectively with us. In light of this information, it doesn’t seem to strange after all that some diehard Elvis Presley fans met up with ‘The King’ in the afterlife.
When interpreting near-death experiences for the purpose of afterlife research, it’s best to remember the following:
- NDEs are designed to be maximally transformative to the experiencer, and will use imagery and symbolism to that effect. NDEs can be highly religious, hellish, even downright strange. It’s best to avoid taking the content literally.
- The best way to infer general information about the afterlife from NDEs is by looking at common elements such as the non-judgmental nature of life reviews, the ability for experiencers to connect with deceased loved ones, or the telepathic nature of communication.
- Since NDEs are temporary trips, the spirit is not usually limited to a consensus reality like those who transition after death are. NDEs are guided and purposeful, and may take place in a far higher aspect of reality than souls would normally inhabit.
- Many aspects of NDEs are difficult to explain in human language and concepts. There will likely be some degree of distortion since the memory is both processed by the brain and must be explained in the context of human experience.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the reasons behind the different, even conflicting descriptions of the afterlife, it’s worth remembering that there are also many important similarities. NDEs tend to be overwhelmingly positive experiences, describing an intense sensation of love and acceptance. Lifetime actions are often judged only by the soul itself, and there seems to be no punishment for wrongdoing other than the desire to seek out experiences that will balance one’s life experiences. Even distressing NDEs tend to be redemptive in nature, and often result in a life more well lived on the return to earth. The environment of the afterlife seems to be even more interesting and diverse than earth, with a near-infinite variety of realms and experiences to explore. Friends and family are universally described as appearing healthy and youthful and reunions are joyous occasions indeed, starting even prior to death as many describe in their final weeks and days. Afterlife researchers like to try and nail down all of the particulars of the afterlife environment, but ultimately the aspects of the afterlife that all spiritually transformative experiences tend to agree on are wonderful and exciting all on their own.
In this post, I purposely avoided including excerpts from various spiritual texts backing up my statements. I’m not attempting to prove my conclusions, but merely trying to provide some context based on the way I interpreted the a lot of different material over many years. I would encourage everyone interested in afterlife research to put the time into reading the sources yourself. Only through exposing yourself to as many different types of spirit communications, NDEs and other transformative experiences can you begin to draw conclusions and see the overall patterns that begin to emerge. I would recommend the books by Dr. Stafford Betty as a place to start your journey. These are: The Afterlife Unveiled, Heaven and Hell Unveiled, and When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying.
One final note: Researching the experiences of others is important to developing your spiritual beliefs, but not more important than turning inward and seeking the vast wisdom that lurks just below our everyday consciousness. When you pose questions then meditate with an open mind, the answers will appear in the patterns of life, nature, events and even directly through your intuition. I will often ponder a spiritual question for months or years, only to have the answer unfold through synchronicities and coincidences. The mind governs logic, but the heart governs intuition. With heart and mind in sync, you can both sense and make sense of your spiritual truth.