Here is an eloquent account of an NDE by a member of the
Saybrook community. Should any of you want to cite it, I will try to get
permission. But there is no problem sharing it with no name attached.
Although I had believed in a reality beyond the tangible world since
childhood, it was largely a matter of faith. Faith became knowing when
a window to another dimension, or plane of awareness, flew open for me
September 10, 1984. On that eventful day my life changed dramatically, both internally and externally.
On a vacation trip a year earlier we were involved in an automobile
accident. The rear-end collision had resulted in an undetected injury
to my neck, which caused discomfort and increasing numbness of my left
arm and hand. I found, I could relieve the pain and pressure in my neck
by dangling my head over the edge of
the bed before going to work in order to be able to type. This is what I was doing on that fateful morning when I slid off the bed and landed on the back of my neck. As my body hit the floor, I felt an excruciating pain - as if my spinal cord had been cut by a knife - followed by a lightening-like sensation surging down my spine and exiting through every nerve ending - then nothing - no sensation, no movement! I lay crumpled on the floor the way I had fallen and could not move. A horrible realization dawned upon me: I am paralyzed!
Following the shock of this discovery, I began to assess my situation.
As a former anatomy/physiology instructor I had enough medical knowledge
to conclude that I had sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury with loss
of function and sensation below the neck, and was quadriplegic. At the
prevailing level of medical technology, we simply didn't know how to mend
mangled spinal cords. Since I could still breathe unassisted, I
deduced that the lesion must be below C-3 (third cervical vertebra). I was fully conscious and painfully aware of my predicament. This fall happened around 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning. Everyone had already left
for the day. I was alone. No one was expected to be back before evening. Fears, couched in questions and answers, assailed me: Will I still be alive by then? It didn't matter. who wants to live in a body that doesn't function? And my worst fear of all: What if I was comatose and could not object to being kept alive through mechanical means? The horror of that possibility engulfed me. An intense rush of self-pity
overwhelmed me. What awful fate had befallen me!
Then some aspect from deep within stepped forth and took charge as if
to say, "Stop your sniveling! You can't wipe your nose; you will
choke. This is not the time to feel sorry for yourself. Use what little
time you have left to
put your inner house in order!" It was as if the CEO of my intrapsychic board of regents had spoken. This appeared to be a sensible suggestion. I was surprised to learn that the emotions did not have to run the show,
that a higher wisdom could be in charge. Heeding its directive, I had to concede that I was probably about to die.
How does one prepare to die - consciously? Not some day when I'm old,
but now, perhaps in a matter of hours? As my bodily functions and sensations
diminished, perceptions became keener. Never before or since
have I been able to think so clearly and rapidly. It was as if the central nervous system were an organ through which mind operates in the physical plane. Now the veil of matter was lifting and I had direct access to mind,
unencumbered by limiting neural pathways. I perceived myself more and more from outside of my body confines. It felt as if my life force was being withdrawn through the crown of my head and was gathering above me.
This process took several hours. I became the observer and the observed.
For instance, I could dispassionately observe that the circulation was
cut off in my left leg (I had landed in a heap with my weight
compressing the left leg). I watched it turn pale, then waxen-looking, as if it belonged to a corpse. All at the same time, I felt deep sadness for it, boundless gratitude for having carried me through life, and the
joy of dancing and skiing on it. In this expanded reality everything was happening simultaneously with great intensity. It was trans-temporal: I was in linear time as well as beyond it.The thought occurred to me to do
a "general confession with an act of contrition" as I had been taught in my Catholic childhood: to ask for forgiveness wherever I knew I had wronged someone, and to extend mine where I harbored resentment. As soon as I had that intention clearly formulated, my memory banks opened up in a way I had never experienced before. Suddenly I had access to past experiences in a multi-sensory way. I not only saw the events of
my life pass before me, but sensed the wider implications of every act, in a holographic progression. I was acutely aware of how I and others felt at the same time. For example, I knew each and every child in my
first grade class again. I could clearly see the wispy pig tails of the little girl in front of me, was fascinated by the intricate Norwegian design of a boy's sweater; I was hearing the teacher's voice while knowing what impact he had made on each of us - far beyond the lessons we had studied in class. And so it went through the many days and years of my life.
I was amazed at the mental acuity at my disposal. Everything I had ever
learned was stored knowledge available to me, in glorious technicolor,
with surround sound, complete with smells and tastes, accompanied by feelings.
It was incredible -- a holodome of my personal journey! When I reached
the end of my life review, a dizzying perceptual ride through several
decades, I felt great relief. I saw it as a life rich in meaningful experiences:
some happy, many painful, but an eventful life with many challenges and
opportunities for soul growth. There were some unhealed relationships
into which I poured all the love and good will at my disposal, trusting
that my intentionality would direct it to its destination. Then I began
to say my good-byes. This was
truly wrenching as I was very much attached to the people I loved. With deep love and caring I took my leave from those near and dear to me. As the circle of love expanded, I was amazed to see how many people had
influenced my life and made their contribution. I began to understand how interconnected we all are. At that moment, it was easy to love the whole world and everybody in it.Gradually I reached a point of relinquishment where I concluded - it was a good life! If I had to do it over, I probably wouldn't do any better. This was very comforting. A tranquillity and stillness began to permeate my entire being. I was at peace. All fear of death had vanished.
The sun was high on the horizon now. My breathing was shallow and very labored. Death would be a welcome visitor. My last conscious thought was, "Into your hands I commend my spirit, oh Lord!"What I am about to relate next needs to be prefaced. No one says it better than the mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, when he describes spirit slipping into a stillness at death, rather like falling asleep, and experiencing inexpressible Divine things of infinite wisdom; of seeing countless things, of which not even a ten thousandth part could be described in human words because they would not fit into concepts that have matter-centered content. (Heaven and Hell, #411; George Dole translation).
After having surrendered my life into the Lord's keeping, the scene shifted.
Awareness of the room where I had lain on the floor faded. I was somewhere
else! Trying to orient myself to my surroundings, I perceived myself as
being far out in space. Far below I could see our beautiful planet, the
Earth, glistening and turning gracefully. I sensed that I was not alone.
There were presences about me, very benevolent beings. I did not perceive
them as having form, but they were identifiable by their inner qualities,
which radiated from them and permeated the realm, giving it a shimmering
purplish-golden glow. It was a wondrous place, or state of being. My impression
was of swirling currents of pure compassion, of radiant love, of infinite
wisdom, of aliveness and vitality that sustained worlds without end. These
qualities were as palpable as tangible objects are in our world, not abstract
or elusive. I felt wondrously safe there. I was home! I also felt warmly
welcomed and was given to understand that my life task was accomplished.
What joy! The thought of spending eternity there filled me
with an ecstasy that's unimaginable from where I had come. Then a drama was staged for my education and benefit.
Our world was shown to me. It had points of Light as well as places of
darkness. There were many changes occurring rapidly all around the planet.
This appeared to me as energy vortices twirling, picking up momentum,
colliding with others, changing direction and velocity, regrouping and
reforming, gradually learning to cooperate for the benefit of all; until
eventually they moved with grace and beauty, in harmony with one another.
implication was: there is and will be much chaotic whirling of energies about the planet Earth. There is need for souls there who can be stable elements, points of stillness, while the winds of change and transformation blow about. I intuited an invitation, "Will you be one of them?"What? Go back into that crumpled body that's beyond repair? I didn't want to leave the wondrous purple/gold shimmering realm, nor the company of those magnificent beings! But it was not polite to say NO to God or to His Emissaries, was it? So I gave my consent to return for an extended tour on planet Earth. Mine would be a bit part in the supportive cast that could be played, if need be, from a wheelchair.No more than I had given my consent to return, when I became conscious of being on the floor of my room again. The door was being opened. Against all odds, someone came by at noon and found me. I was rushed to a hospital that specialized in treating spinal cord injuries. After many months in traction, a spinal fusion, rehabilitation, the ministrations of many kinds of healers, and the loving support of kindred spirits, my recovery exceeded the most optimistic medical prognosis.
Has looking through that window beyond finite consciousness made a difference
in my life? The first and most immediate change was in my attitude regarding
death. If I believed in a life after death before, now I knew that consciousness
lived on. Moreover, I had experienced the transition from three-dimensional
to multi-dimensional reality; it will be an adventure to be looked forward
to, not an event to be feared, when this "tour of duty" is successfully
completed.I also live with a greater sense of purpose, knowing that each
of us has a vocation of destiny or life purpose - to do that which is
most meaningful for us to do at a given time and circumstance. Life is
a gift, not a given. We are to respond to the demands life places on us,
meet its challenges, to the best of our ability using our innate resources.
We have a mandate to become all that we can be. We each play a part in
the symphony of life. The orchestra of planet Earth is practicing its
hymn to the universe. There may still be
discordant notes to be heard, but we are getting more attuned to each other and to the Conductor. It will be a glorious sound when everyone knows and plays their part in concert with others.
Since that glimpse into another dimension in 1984, there has indeed been
much swirling of energies about the planet. Awareness has shifted and
consciousness expanded in many ways. Collisions of thought streams and
belief systems were and are inevitable until we see from a cooperative,
not a competitive, perspective. As more and more of us access that greater
reality within, fear will lessen; not only the fear of death, but also
the fear of each other, and bridges of trust will be built.It became obvious
that experiences beyond finite reality are not the purview of a select
few, but the common destiny and heritage of humankind. Direct experience
of the sacred is our birthright. There have been and still are spiritual
giants among us who have pointed the way. We tended to
worship their pointing finger, instead of being on our way to where it was pointing. At the core of their message we find Love and Wisdom.
The peripheral details of these experiences, and the message inherent in them, vary according to individual perception. The translation of the sacred and infinite into finite language will also be colored by cultural idiom.As windows in consciousness open and our perceptual boundaries expand, let us not erect new ones by seeking validation for our experiences through conformity with the near death or sacred experiences of others. The divine spark in each individual is unique; therefore, the experience of each one is valid, albeit different. Just as the description of my experience is uniquely mine, so are the descriptions of others' experiences uniquely theirs. I tend to take these accounts less literally than I once did, but look for the spirit contained in the message. What emerges is, "There is a wondrous life to be lived - here and beyond - as we love and serve each other!"