WHAT IS THE AFTERLIFE?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In philosophy, religion, mythology, and fiction, the afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the Hereafter) is the concept of a realm, or the realm itself (whether physical or transcendental), in which an essential part of an individual’s identity or consciousness continues to exist after the death of the body in the individual’s lifetime.
The notion that there is a life after this one on Earth is a widely held belief that predates recorded history. While cultures like that of the ancient Egyptians believed existence continued in “the Land of the Dead,” the more modern Christian beliefs offer an afterlife in Heaven as a reward or in Hell as a punishment. Even more recent ideas suggest that life might continue in another dimension or plane of existence – perhaps even on another planet.
Whatever the ideas, it’s clear that humans want to believe – perhaps even need to believe in life after death.
There is no definitive proof, of course, that a life after death exists. But there are some rather compelling anecdotes that suggest there might be: remarkable cases of claimed reincarnation or past-life recall, for instance. There are also countless cases in which the recently deceased have appeared briefly to family members and friends to tell them that they are well and happy in another world.
Perhaps the most intriguing “evidence” are the stories related by people who have gone through the “near-death experience.” It’s estimated that 9 to 18 percent of people who are near death have a near-death experience. Although mainstream science suggests that these experiences are nothing more than the result of certain brain activity under extreme stress or hallucinations brought on by drugs or medication, perhaps these accounts shouldn’t be so readily dismissed. If they are real, after all, they hold the only clues we have as to what life in the hereafter might be like.
The Tunnel and the Light
One of the most common experiences at the beginning of an NDE is popping or floating out of one’s body and then floating or flying down a long tunnel toward a bright, white light that many describe as “loving.”
- “In front of me I saw a small light in the vast distance. The light started to get larger. It became more brilliant and it stopped in front of me. I felt an intense love, which came from the Light. I know without a doubt that this beautiful intense loving Light was God. The Light started to communicate with me; but the communication was telepathic, it was not verbal. The Light asked me if I wanted to come with it. At this point I completely understood the nature of the question and the consequences of my answer. If I choose to continue with the Light I knew that I would die and never return to earth. I thought about this and replied that I thought that I still had important things to do back there (on earth). At that point the Light began to recede. I found myself waking up on the bed of my dorm room.” [A Near Death Experience in 1964 – Anonymous]
- “I saw nothing but absolute, total blackness. In this capacity, though, I was looking at absolute nothingness or darkness, but my eyes were not straining. I had the desire to look around inquisitively. What is this place? Where am I? Instantaneously, this darkness took the shape of a tunnel. It was perfectly level, however slightly ambiguous in that it was straight before me and it was cloud-like. It was very vast, as opposed to small and confining, and was anywhere from a thousand feet to a thousand miles wide. I was very comfortable and inquisitive. It was cylindrical. If you took a tornado and stretched it out straight, it would be similar to that…”
- “All was panic. The water was very cold. My heavy winter clothes were making it difficult to stay afloat. I continued to struggle mightily, thinking “I’m only nine. That’s too young to die.” The longer I was under the ice, the less significant time became. It was as if time had no meaning. Everything happened sequentially but simultaneously. I became very tired. I noticed that I could no longer feel the cold. My hearing was heightened. I could hear the movement of the water. I could hear the traffic on the bridge overhead and behind me. I could see clearly, even though it was dark and I was under the ice and moving downstream. Then, a complete calm and serenity overtook me. I was at total peace. I began to come into an awareness that all was not over. I could sense a light. It was brilliant, but caused no discomfort when looking at it. In fact, I gained strength by looking into the light. I then sensed a presence. I had the knowledge that this was Jesus, and he was assuring me that everything was fine. I felt total love from this presence. I was home. More so than I was ever home before. I was presented with a sense that all questions were to be answered if I stayed.” [Near-Death Experiences – Rob]
A Place of Beauty and Love
The most frequent descriptions of the afterlife portray an unimaginably beautiful land of color, light and music.
- “I can remember a beautiful place with beautiful colors, beautiful music…”
- “When I was a little girl, I thought I would really like to know what Heaven was like. I decided that I would pray to God very hard and maybe He would show me. I prayed very hard for quite some time, until gradually there came a buzzing sound in my ears. The sound got louder and louder until it was all I could hear, and then suddenly everything became very quiet. I couldn’t even hear the sounds you usually hear when everything is “silent.” I was in a velvety blackness, but it was not like being in a dark room (I sensed there were no walls or floor or ceiling). Even though I didn’t know what was going on and it was dark, I felt perfectly safe and “stood” there wondering what was going on. Then I saw a pin prick of light far ahead of me. I tried to look at it more closely and see what it was and as I looked it got bigger and bigger. As it grew I felt better and better. I felt totally known, but totally accepted and loved. It was the coolest feeling; words can’t even come close to describing how nice it felt. I was relaxed and very happy. Then I was inside the light, which was I guess what being inside a cloud would look like. I felt so loved! I loved it right back and also I felt that just beyond the light, which I sensed acted like a veil or curtain in this case, I was being observed by people who knew me or knew of me and were smiling. I wanted to see them, whoever they were. The light knew what I was thinking and so did the people, and I was aware of this and didn’t mind. Then I thought that I could “get used to” how wonderful it felt to be there.” [Body Death – Anonymous]
- “And then I saw, infinitely far off – far too distant to be visible with any kind of sight I knew of – a city. A glowing, seemingly endless city, bright enough to be seen over all the unimaginable distance between. The brightness seemed to shine from the very walls and streets of this place, and from beings which I could now discern moving about within it. In fact, the city and everything in it seemed to be made of light, even as the figure at my side was made of light.” [Heaven and Hell: Dr. George Ritchie’s
Obviously, all NDErs get sent back to the land of the living, or they wouldn’t be around to tell us their stories. But quite often they are given messages to return with.
- “When I was 12 years old, my appendix burst. I was rushed to the hospital. Our family doctor and the emergency medical staff rushed me into the operating room. As I lay on the table, a priest was ushered in to give me my last rites. I was scared. Then they put me under to work on me, I felt cold. It was dark, but suddenly I felt warm. I heard a voice from somewhere talking to me. It was like I jumped into the middle of a conversation. The voice said, ‘It’s not time for you yet… I have big plans for you.’ My mind flooded with ideas, plans, concepts. Then the voice said, ‘Time to go back. Tell them be good to each other. Help them.’ Then I felt a huge push, back down to where I was laying on the table. I woke up on the operating table in the middle of my surgery.” [Body Death – Anonymous]
- “When I was about 11 years old, I was taken to the hospital for a routine tonsillectomy. As far as I was concerned, I had nothing to worry about and I wasn’t expecting any problems. I was near death and never knew it. I can remember a nurse putting a mask over my face and telling me it was ether. She said to take deep breaths and count backward from 10. The next thing I remember I was in a large swirling whirlpool like things and there was a loud buzzing. The buzzing sounded kind of like brrrrrr brrrrr brrrr, over and over. It was as if I was not within myself but a spectator and I was watching my body being pulled deeper and deeper into this swirling void. I can remember asking myself over and over, ‘Why does this have to happen to me?’ The next thing I knew I could see a kind of light at one side of this whirling void and in it was the face of one of my dead aunts. My aunt told me to go back and the next thing I knew I awoke in my room and the surgery was over.” [Body Death – Anonymous]
- “There was a standing figure in the light, shaped like a normal human being, but with no distinct facial features. It had a masculine presence. The light I have described seemed like it emanated from that figure. Light rays shone all around him. I felt very protected and safe and loved. The figure in the light told me through what I now know to be mental telepathy that I must go back, that it was not time for me to come here. I wanted to stay because I felt so full of joy and so peaceful. The voice repeated that it wasn’t my time; I had a purpose to fulfill and I could come back after I completed it.” [17 Near-Death Experience Accounts from Beyond the Light – Robin Michelle Halberdier]
Nora M. Spurgin, for one, believes that life continues after death in another dimension.
- “There is a spiritual dimension of the universe the invisible spirit world- which serves as the environment for our spirits. Our spirit is the internal counterpart to our physical body, and the spirit world is the invisible counterpart to the physical world. This world is located not up in heaven, but in a different dimension, inter-penetrating the physical world and the universe. While on earth we exist in both worlds at once, in effect connecting the two. For this reason, people on occasion can have visions and communicate with the dead.”