Life After Death and Near Death Experiences
We cannot be reconciled to death as long as we think of it as an ending. Some concept of immortality seems to be the only solution to what otherwise creates a sense of despair. By immortality we mean that consciousness in some form survives death. Even though the physical body may be gone, there is still continuity of consciousness.
Faith is Needed
An element of faith is needed to make such a concept acceptable. The Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, expressed this need in a short but beautiful phrase." The faith waiting in the heart of a seed promises a miracle of life which it cannot prove". It is this faith in a miracle which we cannot prove in a manner acceptable to science that has sustained humanity throughout history. Although often veiled in superstition and augmented by dogma, the teaching of the continuity of existence has come down to the present from the accumulated spiritual wisdom of the past and as an element of faith has chiefly found expression in the burial rites of all the great religions.
Who Am I?
Within ourselves we know that we are more than flesh and blood, more than an animal living to eat, sleep, and perpetuate our species. We ask, deeply and sincerely "Who am I inside this body". From a mixture of anguish and hope comes the human plea: "Is there a continuing existence for me. The very nature of such questioning and the depth of consciousness from which it arises together supply the beginning of the answer. We know ourselves to be more than a body; therefore we are willing to examine questions about continuing existence.
Although it is still difficult to prove the continuing existence of human consciousness, evidence for this concept is growing as the result of research within the disciplines of science into ESP (extra-sensory perception) and specifically into out-of body experiences. The growing field of investigation into near death experiences (N.D.E.'s as they are termed) has added further and very interesting evidence. It has been found that many persons have become aware of themselves outside the physical body which is still on the bed or in the case of near death experiences on the operating table or in the wrecked car Such experiences show us that the range of consciousness which we consider 'normal' can be extended. but what is the essential nature of consciousness itself ?.
The Indwelling Spirit
Ancient teachings affirm an indwelling spirit which existed before birth and will continue to exist after death. They also include a belief that one is, in ones essential nature, that indwelling spirit and is on an evolutionary journey which requires many lives in which to develop one's spiritual potential. All of us have therefore passed through the gates of birth and death many, many times.
What might be called empirical evidence for this concept of many lives or reincarnation is provided by purported memories of past existence. While these cannot be proved in any objective sense, they often appear to be quite genuine.
The Field of Consciousness
Although we know that we are more than just our body, it is difficult for us to realise that all around and through physical matter, other grades of matter exist Nowadays with X-rays and television, it is easier for us to accept the reality of an unseen world. Science is dealing with ever-widening concepts of the nature of matter and energy and we are better able to grasp ideas that include invisible as well as visible forces.
Death and Sleep
To examine death is to remove it from the heavy atmosphere of grief which so often surrounds it. Death is not very different from sleep. When we go to sleep, consciousness is temporarily withdrawn from the body, but we continue to have emotional and mental adventures which we often remember on waking. In our dream state, we plumb depths and reach heights that indicate realms of consciousness beyond those experienced in our waking hours.
In death when the body is abandoned permanently, the consciousness begins a journey into realms much more exalted than those entered while asleep. Some clairvoyants can actually see the life-force leave the body as a fine silver stream or a silver cord from the crown of the head. When this happens the link between the physical and the superphysical is permanently broken.
Where Do We Go?
At death we go to a world of light where we experience increasing freedom as consciousness is progressively released from the heavier vibrations of the gross physical matter. A process of purification then takes place before the soul can go into the deep and blissful state which it has earned.
During earth life the soul has become identified to a greater or lesser extent depending upon its evolutionary maturity with the desire of the physical world which remain after death and may even be temporarily intensified. But they must now be left behind before the soul can complete the next stage of its journey Perhaps an analogy would help to explain to explain this. We know that when salt is extracted from the sea water, as the water evaporates it leaves a residue which is not pure salt but which contain impurities that have to be removed. We might say that something like this takes place when the soul leaves the body, it still has to go through a process of purification. Time is needed for this, especially if the emotions have been intense and not of a constructive character Gradually, however, the refining process takes place and in this new freedom, the soul begins to appreciate the radiant world which is its new habitation.
What Shall We Experience?
Investigations carried on by trained clairvoyants indicate that the vocations and avocation's of the physical life remain vital when the soul has gone on to the astral or emotional plane. What we do here -our choice of companions and occupations, our processes of thought and emotion-these are the material of our soul must extract the good and discard the dross during its stay in the emotional world.
The emotional body like the physical, is perishable and must eventually be cast off. Purified and refined the soul begins to appreciate the vibrations which come from higher levels of consciousness. Awake to a new glory of life, we enter the world of the mind and here pursue the refinement of life's experience.
Were we deep thinkers or were we concerned only with the trivia of daily existence? What motivated our life on earth? The answer to these questions determines the level of the mental world at which we begin to extract the essence of our life efforts.
The grosser elements of our personal nature cannot enter the heavenly realm in which we will next assimilate and synthesise our faculties enjoying the fruits of our happiest and best experiences- the heaven for which we have longed. There we meet in joy and serenity the loved ones who are part of our existence. Purged and refined we reap a time of rest and renewal before we again enter a new physical body to pursue once more our evolutionary journey.
Most important to remember is that we are creating now that heaven experience. Such is the power of thought.
Near Death Experiences
In recent years the testimony of hundreds of people who have experienced 'clinical death' has been collected and published by medical researchers, the best known being Dr Raymond Moody and Dr Elizabeth Kubler - Ross.
The experiences of people who were revived and lived to tell what happened to them when they were "dead" were mostly, described as the passing through a dark enclosure before their consciousness refocusses and they become aware of themselves in a hard to- define spiritual body from which they watch in a detached way their physical body being revived on the operating table or rescued from the wrecked car. Many then found themselves in a world of light and freedom in which they met a "being of light" which epitomised perfect understanding and perfect love. Often they experienced an incredibly vivid instant review or replay of their lives and understood that they must return to complete the unfinished business of this incarnation. Many were reluctant to do so all testified that the experience completely changed their lives. They no longer had any fear of death and understood that from this time on their mission was to cultivate love for others and to go on learning to the end of the incarnation.
Helping At the Moment of Death
One important suggestion made by students of the ancient teachings is that those present at the moment of death assist the departing soul by allowing the transition take place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
Imagine how it must feel to slip quietly from a pain-racked body to find yourself thought perhaps slightly bewildered at first-even unaware that the realm of consciousness which you have been so long accustomed. As it is explained in The Tibetan Book of the Dead and in another texts dealing with the subject, this adjustment is made more difficult if those who loved the dead person prolong their grief and sorrow. A great step forward has been taken in recent years with the establishment throughout the world of Hospices where loving care and confidence are given to the dying by specially trained staff.
The Greater Journey
In order to appreciate the full and beautiful significance of such a teaching about life after death, it is necessary to grasp the idea that we are all embarked on a journey. We are individual sparks of the One Flame, the source from which we came and to which we are returning. We have lived many lives, we have died many deaths. Each life has been like the seasonal life of a plant, with every flowering giving renewed hope of final perfection.
The physical aspects of the journey provide opportunities for experiences which we refine and synthesise in the emotional and mental world into greater capacities and powers with which to pursue our journey. Our heaven is therefore of our making; it is not an eternity but rather a period of time determined by our own needs. Each earth life brings us closer to the journey's end when that which is called in the Bible "the stature of the fullness of Christ" is attained. Then the individual soul will have freed itself from the round of births and deaths and as described in the glorious phrase of Sir Edwin Arnold in The Light Of Asia, it will follow the example of the Enlightened Ones and like the dewdrop "slip into the shining sea", one at last with its Divine Source.