To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...
"Hamlet" -William Shakespeare
The 1997 mass suicide of the Heaven,s Gate cult and their unusual expectations prompted me to give a lot of thought to the afterlife then. The cult believed that their mass suicide would enable them to hitch a ride on the alien space craft they imagined followed Comet Hale-Bopp.
I refer to "Heaven's Gate" as a cult only because of the few numbers in the group. I am bearing in mind that all religions started out small and would, in their beginiings, qualify as cults.
What most of us believe exists in the afterlife, if we believe at all in an afterlife, is usually based on a religious teaching. Our expectations can range from Pearly Gates to flying saucers behind comets to nothingness.
The late anthropologist Joseph Campbell, when interviewed by Bill Moyers in the 1988 PBS TV series, "The Power of Myth", stated that religions were like software. You can communciate with your computer with any number of operating systems software, whichever one works for you is OK.
The Near Death Experiences (NDE's) I researched for this essay were all in English. Therefore many accounts implied a religious experience that was of a Western Christian nature. I cannot imagine a Hindu of a Muslim meeting Jesus in his NDE any more than I can imagine a devout Catholic meeting Buddha in his.
At this point let me clarify what I mean when I use the term "Psychic Experience". By "Psychic Experience" I mean an experience that does not use what we would normally think of as our corporeal senses. I do not exclusively mean what is commonly called Extra Sensory Perception or E.S.P.
The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in his book "Being and Nothingness" points out that there is no more "phenomena" in E.S.P. than in any other form of temporal activity. I completely agree with Sartre about this. What's the big deal about E.S.P?
There is no less a miracle in hearing a song or smelling a rose than there is in predicting an airline disaster or knowing a loved one is in danger. They are all inexplicable phenomena.
If we were to completely disregard faith and rely on the facts in order to initiate a scientific inquiry into an afterlife then we will soon find ourselves at a dead end. If you will pardon the pun.
The closest thing we have to facts are the accounts of people who have survived Near Death Experiences.
By "near death", I mean individuals who were pronounced clinically dead and then returned to life. Since I am trying to be as scientific as possible I will assume that "clinically dead" means dead, gone and out of here.
Some 60% of N,D,E survivors do not remember anything whatsoever of their experience which means that they could not or would not remember. It can also mean that they DO remember and that what they found after death was nothingness. Most N,D,E's were unique to the individual but many had similarities. The most common were as follows:
THE TOP REASONS PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE DECEASED.
My research comprised of randomly selecting and reading the first hand accounts of a few dozen survivors from the many testimonies available. Due to this random sampling technique I may have left out a few less common similarities but I feel the above list will suffice to make my point.
The thing I find most striking about the testimonies is their unmistakable resemblance to dreams. Floating, traveling from place to place instantly, seeing deceased loved ones, communicating as if by telepathy and of course the dream-like symbolism. All the accounts I read seemed to be told as if one were describing a dream. Indeed many thought at the time that they were dreaming.
When dreaming we do not use our eyes to see. We do not use our ears to hear or our feet to walk, we do not use any of our corporeal facilities to experience the dream world. Dreaming is a purely psychic experience.
The feelings and visions reported in NDE's are pure psychic experiences, exactly identical to the psychic experience of a dream. It makes sense that if one were to leave their body they would not have the use of their corporeal senses. Therefore they could only recall the experience to themselves and others in the familiar setting of a dream. Some reported feelings of exiting the body, of moving backwards away from the body, or of the self observing it's body from a distance. These are all in symbolic form the "knowledge" that one has or is being separated from their bodies.
I am not saying that people who experienced NDE's were only dreaming. What I am saying is that the only way they could "recall" a non-physical world experience would be in the symbolic form of a recalled dream. Meeting deceased relatives, friends, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, even Elvis in the afterlife seems to be consistent with what the people expected they would find when they died. In other words some would expect to meet their ancestors, a devout Christian expects to meet Jesus, Higher Source members expected to meet aliens and so on. Let us not forget that Joseph Campbell said, in effect, that all religions work.
If there is an entity that awaits us in the next world then we could not see him without our bodies to provide the eyes. Each person returning from such an encounter would have to provide a face and a body for the entity in order to recall it later. Hence the variety of descriptions given to the "entity" by NDE survivors who met Jesus, Muhhamed, dead friends or relatives and so on.
The white light some recall seeing was interpreted differently depending on the individual. Some thought it was heaven, others eternity or God or even themselves. I believe the white light was symbolic of God, eternal peace or an eternal reward such as heaven. White and light in most cultures in this world are symbols of goodness in these cases eternal good.
As stated Earlier some people had no recollection at all of their NDE's. Perhaps they could not translate the experience into empirical terms or perhaps they actually found nothing.
Even if no one ever reported an NDE it makes sense to me that if there is a form of human awareness after death it could not incorporate the use of the body's sense organs. Therefore any awareness experienced after death could only be interpreted as a dream. That is, any Self awareness as we know it. In my opinion awareness is not likely to be at a level higher than as if in a dream.
Finally I am really going to go out on a limb and suggest that what you think you WILL find after death is what you will think you HAVE found when you get there.
I will leave the reader with this view of death adopted from Carlos Costeneda's book, "Journey to Ixtlan". I have always found this Native American story to be quite poetic.
I should warn you that just reading this page is very dangerous. You may die before you finish it. You see, your death is always standing there right behind you. He waits for you.
As Carlos Costeneda relates it, your death is always stalking you, waiting just behind your left shoulder. If you turn your head suddenly you can see him as a black shape, a shadow. He waits to tap you on the shoulder and take you. your death waits until you are weak, sick or injured and unable to resist him then his time has come and you must go with him.
Alas, Costeneda points out, there is good in having your death always with you. You can use him as your adviser and death is your wisest adviser.
When you are troubled or sad and things are bad for you just turn to him and tell him all your troubles and how trying they are. He will listen.
Then he will tell you, "It is OK. Things aren't that bad, so don't worry yourself. It is not important. "The only thing you really have to worry about in this life", he will tell you, "is my touch."
-R. Carrozza © 1997, © 2016