In this article we will survey other various work and research into death and the afterlife. Each of these can be investigated in your own time if you are interested.
It is particularly interesting to see how each of these mirrors the others in relating similar death and afterlife experiences.
We will begin with more information about the ‘life review’.
Additional Experience and Research of the Afterlife and Near-death Experiences (NDE)
Additional Material on the Purpose of the “Life Review”
The ‘Life Review’ bares a marked resemblance to the afterlife judgment scenes described in the sacred texts of many of the world’s great religions; but with one crucial difference:
“NDEers universally report that they are never judged by the beings of light, but feel only love and acceptance in their presence. The only judgment that ever takes place is self-judgment and arises solely out of the NDEer’s own feelings of guilt and repentance. Occasionally the beings do assert themselves, but instead of behaving in an authoritarian manner, they act as guides and counselors whose only purpose is to teach. This total lack of cosmic judgment and/or any divine system of punishment and reward has been and continues to be one of the most controversial aspects of the NDE among religious groups, but it is one of the most oft reported features of the experience.”
“[This] does not mean that the beings of light prescribe no values. After Near Death Experiences they stress two things. One is the importance of love. Over and over they repeat this message, that we must learn to replace anger with love, learn to love more, learn to forgive and love everyone unconditionally, and learn that we in turn are loved.”
“It appears that in the minds of the beings of light, compassion is the barometer of grace, and time and time again when NDEers wonder if some act they committed was right or wrong, the beings counter their inquiries only with a question: Did you do it out of love? Was the motivation love?”
“After arriving in the realm of light NDEers appear to enter a state of heightened or metaconsciousness awareness and become lucidly honest in their self-reflections.
And when they are confronted with the multitude of relatives, fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, and friends acquired during their “different incarnations on earth, ” they are at a loss as to whom to love especially and thus learn to give “a divine and equal love to all.”
“As a sixty-two year-old businessman who had an NDE during a cardiac arrest puts it” ‘One thing I learned was that we are all part of one big, living universe. If we think we can hurt another person or another living thing without hurting ourselves we are sadly mistaken. I look at a forest or a flower or a bird now, and say, that is me, part of me. We are connected with all things and if we send love along those connections, then we are happy. ‘”1
Professor Gary Schwartz – University of Arizona
“Gary E. Schwartz is a parapsychologist, author and professor at the University of Arizona and the Director of its Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health. Schwartz researches the veracity of mediums and energy healing.
Schwartz received his PhD from Harvard University and was a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale University as well as Director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center and co-director of the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic from 1976-1988. He is the Director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona.”2
Dr. Schwartz has authored over 450 scientific papers, two books and co-authored two other books.
Dr. Schwartz led a team studying a group of mediums.
He validated the idea that consciousness lives on after we die.
The mediums typically were able to produce more than eighty pieces of information about deceased relatives, from names and personal oddities to the actual and detailed nature of their deaths.
Overall, the mediums achieved an accuracy rate of 83 per cent – and one had even been right 93 per cent of the time.
A control group of non-mediums were only right, on average, 36 per cent of the time.
See http://psychology.arizona.edu/users/gary-schwartz for more information.
Dr. Raymond A Moody, Jr.
“Raymond A. Moody, Jr. (1944-present) is a philosopher, psychologist, physician and author who obtained a PhD in psychology from the University of West Georgia, where he later became a professor in the topic.”3
“Moody began documenting [afterlife experiences and] accounts by other people who had experienced clinical death and discovered that many of these experienced shared common features, such as the feeling of being out of one’s body, the sensation of traveling through a tunnel, encountering dead relatives, and encountering a bright light.
In 1975, Moody published many of these experiences in his book, Life After Life, in which he coined the term “near-death experience.” 4
See http://lifeafterlife.com/ for more information.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004)
“Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the [now famous] five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance).
She was a 2007 inductee into the American National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was the recipient of twenty honorary degrees and by July 1982 had taught, in her estimation, 125,000 students in death and dying courses in colleges, seminaries, medical schools, hospitals, and social-work institutions. In 1970, she delivered The Ingersoll Lectures on Human Immortality at Harvard University, on the theme, On Death and Dying.”5
She conducted similar research into near-death experiences and duplicated Dr. Moody’s findings.
Dr. Sam Parnia and associates
“Sam Parnia is a British Assistant professor of Medicine at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine where he also is director of research into cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and he is director of the Human Consciousness Project at the University of Southampton. Parnia is known for his work on near-death experiences and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”6
Dr. Parnia examined a wide variety of professional scientific studies into NDEs and found many commonalities among them.
“Parnia and others have suggested that a mind that is mediated by, but not produced by, the brain, is a possible way to explain NDE.”7
See http://www.bioethicsobservatory.org/2015/07/consciousness-after-clinical-scientific-study-published/8863 for more information.
Dr. Pim van Lommel
“Pim van Lommel (born 15 March 1943) is a Dutch author and researcher in the field of near-death studies. He studied medicine at Utrecht University, specializing in cardiology. In 2007, the first (Dutch) edition of his bestseller Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience, was published.”8
Dr. van Lommel conducted the largest hospital based study of NDEs.
“The NDE is an authentic experience which cannot be attributed to imagination, psychosis or oxygen deprivation. After such a profound experience, patient’s personalities underwent a permanent change. In Van Lommel’s opinion, the current views on the relationship between the brain and consciousness held by most physicians, philosophers and psychologists is too narrow for a proper understanding of the NDE phenomenon. The author provides examples and ways that our consciousness does not always coincide with brain functions; that consciousness can even be experienced separate from the body.”9
Dr. Kenneth Ring – Prof. Psychology at Univ. Of Connecticut
“Kenneth Ring (1936-present) is Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut, and a researcher within the field of near-death studies.”10
Dr. Ring was one of the first NDE researches to use statistical analysis and standardized interviewing techniques to study the phenomenon.
He argues in favor of a holographic explanation of the NDE in his 1980 book Life at Death.
Dr. Ring believes NDEs are ventures into the more frequency-like aspects of reality based on the tendency of experiencers to describe the world beyond as a realm composed of ‘light’, ‘higher vibrations’ or ‘frequencies’.
He reports people witnessing real events that occurred during the time of their clinical death.
Dr. Joel Whitton – Toronto psychologist
Dr. Joel Whitton hypnotized patients and regressed them to the between life state. His work was based upon 13 years of research and more than 30 medical case histories.
“They… reported all the classic features of the NDE, passage through a tunnel, encounters with deceased relatives and/or “guides, ” entrance into a splendorous light-filled realm in which time and space no longer existed, encounters with luminous beings, and a life review.
According to Whitton’s subjects the main purpose of the life review was to refresh their memories so they could more mindfully plan their next life, a process in which the beings of light gently and non-coercively assisted.”11
Dr. Whitton found the “interlife” or the life between lives, to be divided into four stages:
Stage One: Transition after Death
“Just about everybody speaks of passing through a tunnel and emerging into a blinding light. Some report splendid palaces and beautiful gardens. Far from being sad or frightened, the dead are engulfed with happiness and love.”
Stage Two: Court of Judgment
“Without exception, people speak of appearing before a board of judgment, consisting of three elderly wise beings. For some people, appearing before the board is sheer hell – they cannot make excuses for misdeeds or failings on Earth. They must face up to their wrongdoing. Emotional suffering they have inflicted on others is now felt by them. Part of the process of self-assessment is a rerun of their past life, in every detail. The judges act as loving teachers helping the souls to realize that every experience promotes personal growth. Then the judges put forward views such as ‘In your next life it would be wise to be a farmer, to marry have a large family’ or ‘You must learn to work more closely with others.’”
Stage Three: Planning
“The souls put the recommendations of the judges to use in planning their next life. Some subjects plan their next life in incredible detail – they choose their parents, the city they will live in, the schools they’ll attend and the person they will wed. Sometimes the planning is done in consultation with other souls with whom bonds have been established over many lifetimes. Mothers and children, for example, attempt to work together to plan lives that will allow them another chance to be together. Some plan in a more general way – making an outline of what they hope to experience. Other people make no plans for their life ahead. Some want to experience an unplanned life, to test their growth and artistic capabilities. Still others are sad souls who don’t want to return to life but are catapulted into a life they don’t want.”
Stage Four: A last visit before the judges, who check on the souls’ readiness for the return to Earth.
“This is usually a formality. It appears to happen close to returning to Earth.”
Dr. Brian L. Weiss, MD
Dr. Weiss is a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School and Chairman Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami.
“As a traditional psychotherapist, Dr. Brian Weiss was astonished and skeptical when one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas that seemed to hold the key to her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks. His skepticism was eroded, however, when she began to channel messages from “the space between lives,” which contained remarkable revelations about Dr. Weiss’s family and his dead son. Using past-life therapy, he was able to cure the patient and embark on a new, more meaningful phase of his own career.”12
This website (http://www.near-death.com/ ) features a list of 51 different proofs for the reality of NDEs.
See http://www.near-death.com/science/evidence.html for more information.
Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol)
The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State) is an 8th century text by Padmasambhava, an 8th century Indian Buddhist master.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes NDEs at length.
It also features the ‘life review’ and repeatedly stresses the dreamlike nature of the afterlife realm.
“Some ancient tales have come down through the centuries that tell of various gods and demons who guard the gates, so to speak, of other levels of reality and stages of consciousness. Astral levels are neatly laid out, numbered, and categorized. There are tests to pass before entry. There are rituals to be acted out. Now, all of this is highly distorted.
Any attempt to so rigorously and precisely express inner reality is bound to be abortive, highly misleading and in your terms sometimes dangerous; for you do create your own reality and live it according to your inner beliefs. Therefore, be careful also of those beliefs that you accept.”13
Egyptian Book of the Dead
The Egyptian Book of the Dead (Book of Coming Forth by Day) is approximately 2500 years old. The Egyptian Book of the Dead also describes NDEs at length and features the ‘life review’ as well.
One important and unique aspect of judgment in the afterlife according to this text is the ‘Weighing of the Heart” ritual. The dead person’s heart is weighed on a pair of scales against a feather, which embodies truth and justice. At this point, the deceased heart would bear witness, owning up to sins committed in life. If the scales were balanced then the deceased had led a good life.
The Aborigines refer to the afterlife as the ‘Dreamtime’, again, stressing the dream-like nature of the afterlife realm.
Patanjali’s Yogic Sutras
These are 2000 year old yogic writings of the Indian sage Patanjali.
They also feature the ‘life review’.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1699-1772)
Swedenborg was a Swedish mystic, scientist, philosopher, theologian, and revelator born in 1688.
Portrait of Swedenborg by Carl Frederik von Breda
He became skilled as an out-of-body visitor to the ‘land of the dead’.
He noted in the spirit world one no longer needs to eat food, but added that information takes its place as a source of nourishment.
He was astonished to find that in heaven there are also spirits from other planets.
He said that although human beings appear to be separate from one another, we are all connected in a cosmic unity. Moreover, each of us is a heaven in miniature, and every person, indeed the entire physical universe, is a microcosm of the greater divine reality.
Plato’s Wanderings of the Soul – The Republic – Book X
Book X of the Republic contains a detailed account of a Greek soldier, Er, who came alive just seconds before his funeral pyre was to be lit and said he had left his body and went through a “passageway” to the land of the dead.
The story features the ‘life review’ as well.
Er’s story was as follows:
“When his soul left his body it raveled in company with many others, and they came to a certain weird place where there were two chasms in the earth next to each other, and two other chasms opposite them in the sky. Between the chasms sat judges who, when they had delivered judgment, told the just souls to take the right-hand path and continue on upwards towards the heavens; and they attached marks of their judgment onto them in front. The unjust were ordered to take the left-hand path and proceed downwards; on their backs was the record of everything they had done. When Er came in front of the judges they said that he was to become a messenger to people on earth about the other world, and they told him to hear and observe everything that happened there. He then watched the departure of the souls on whom judgment had been passed, some going into the heavenly opening and some into the opening in the earth. From the other two chasms there came, rising out of the earth, disheveled and grimy souls and, down from the heavens, souls who were pure and clean. This cross of arriving souls seemed to have come from a long journey; they were pleased to find a meadow to rest in and they set up a camp there as for a festival. Those who knew each other exchanged greetings, while those who had come from above met those from below and each told of their experiences. Those from below lamented and wept as they remembered all they had suffered and seen during their infernal thousand-year journey, and those from heaven spoke of the incredible beauty and delight of their experience.”
“For every wrong a person has committed he must pay the penalty in turn, ten times for each, that is to say, once every hundred years, this being reckoned as the span of a man’s life. He pays, therefore tenfold retribution for each crime…and those who have done good and been just and god-fearing are rewarded in the same proportion.”
“After seven days spent in the meadow the souls set out again and came on the fourth day to a place from which they could see a shaft of light running straight through earth and heaven, like a pillar, in color most nearly resembling a rainbow, only brighter and clearer; after a further day’s journey they entered it. There in the middle of the light they saw extended from heaven the extremities of its chains; for this light chains the heavens, holding together all the revolving firmament, like the under-girders of men-of-war. And from the extremities they saw extended the spindle of Necessity, by which all the revolving spheres are turned…”
“[The world axis at the center of the shaft of light is likened in Plato’s myth to a spindle. Around it he placed a series of eight rings to represent the orbits of the planets…Er and the souls are transported in a flash down the shaft of light to the bottom and then clockwise to its highest point where they encounter Lachesis. In the presence of Lachesis, the souls drew lots to decide in which order they were to choose future lives from a large selection laid out on the ground in front of them. This is the moment, Plato says, that justifies a lifetime spent in the study of philosophy, for one’s whole future depends on how wisely one chooses. The general rule is that people who have enjoyed orderly lives on earth and the delights of heavenly existence are less cautious than those who have recently emerged from torment. They are liable to choose the life of a great dictator or a glamorous career that ends disastrously and leads them into the nether regions. In contrast, the hero Odysseus, tired of adventures and suffering, picked for his next round the life of a quiet, ordinary citizen. Others continued the habits of their previous incarnations. When each soul had selected the kind of life he wanted, he was allotted a guardian angel to help him fulfill his choice, and the party continued on around a third part of the circle to the throne of the next Fate, Clotho, where their decisions were formally confirmed. Another third of the circle brought them all before the third Fate, Atropos, who spun the threads of their destinies so as to make them irreversible.]
“And then, without turning back, each soul came before the throne of Necessity, and passing before it waited till all the others had done the same, when they proceeded together to the plain of Lethe through a terrible and stifling heat; for the land was without trees or any vegetation. In the evening they encamped by the River of Oblivion, whose water no pitcher can hold. And all were compelled to drink a certain measure of its water; and those who had no wisdom to save them drank more than the measure. And as each man drank he forgot everything. They then went to sleep and when midnight came there was an earthquake and thunder, and like shooting stars they were all swept suddenly up and away to be born. Er himself was forbidden to drink, and could not tell by what manner of means he returned to his body; but suddenly he opened his eyes and it was dawn and he was lying on the pyre.”
“[On their journey from the meadow to the thrones of the Fates, the souls returning to earth entered the light that streams through the universe and looked along its axis, which resembled the shaft or spindle of a spinning wheel. Around it there revolved a series of sphonduloi, or “whorls,” turning upon the spindle like a nest of bowls.] [This vividly reminds me of the Anu from Besant & Leadbeater]
There were eight whorls in all, fitting one inside the other and showing their rims on the surface like so many circles, so that they formed a single whorl with a continuous surface around the shaft which is driven right through the middle of the eighth.
[The surfaces of the whorls thus form a continuous plane as eight concentric rings around a shaft. Details are then given of their relative widths, color tones, speeds, and types of motion.]
“The first and outermost whorl had the broadest rim; next broadest was the sixth, then the fourth, then the eighth, then the seventh, then the fifth, then the third, and narrowest of all was the second. The rim of the largest and outermost was of many colors, the seventh was the brightest, the eighth received its light from the seventh, and also its color, the second and fifth were like each other and yellower than the rest, the third was the whitest, the fourth reddish and the sixth second in whiteness. The whole spindle revolved with a single motion, but within the movement of the whole the seven inner circles revolved slowly in an opposite direction to that of the whole; and the eighth moved fastest, the seventh, sixth and fifth moved at the same speed and were the next fastest, the fourth whorl was the third in speed, moving as it appeared to them with a counter-revolution, fourth in speed was the third and in fifth place was the second. And the whole spindle turns in the lap of Necessity. And on top of each circle stands a siren, which is carried round with it and utters a note of constant pitch, and the eight notes together make up a single harmony.”
“In the myth of Er, Plato tells a good story while imparting under the veil of allegory the traditional code of number behind the order of the universe and the canon of music. At the same time he instructs on the benefits of philosophy, the advantages of leading a good, moderate life, and fate of the soul after death. Thus he concludes the Republic with a parable summarizing the important features of his doctrine, both the esoteric and the opening proclaimed. Of most immediate interest to everyone is his account of the soul’s passage through the labyrinth of the afterworld and how best to negotiate it. The crucial moment is when it comes to choosing the pattern of one’s next life. Once that choice has been made, it is unalterable, one’s career proceeds accordingly, and rewards or punishments duly follow. The best way of spending this life, says Plato, is in cultivating sound philosophy and the habits of justice, so that when the time comes to pick a new career, one is trained to make a wise choice. We are not told which form of career is the most favorable, but that the choice should be governed by love of justice, which leads the soul upward. Specifically to be avoided are:
“The temptations of wealth or other evils, and descending to the life of a tyrant or some other type of malefactor, committing intolerable evils and suffering worse oneself. Rather we should learn how to choose the moderate path and avoid as far as possible, in this life and the next, the extremes on either side. For this is the surest way to human happiness.”
Although many of the details in the journey of Er were obviously not meant literally, but refer to the geometric diagram that illustrates it, the general pattern of events was in accordance with Plato’s own convictions. His recipe for a successful cosmic career is said also to be that which produces the greatest amount of happiness in this present life. It is:
“To believe the soul to be immortal, capable of enduring all evil and all good, and always to keep our feet on the upward way, pursuing justice and wisdom. Thus shall we be at peace with God and with ourselves, both in our life here and when, like victorious athletes collecting their prizes, we receive our rewards; and in both this life and the thousand-year journey which I have described all will go well with us.”14
- Talbot, Michael, The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991
- Talbot, Michael, The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991
- Roberts, Jane, Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1972
- Michell, John, The Dimensions of Paradise, Inner Traditions, 2nd edition 2008