I have always believed in life beyond this one, in ‘heaven’. It was a theoretical concept that gave hope but no substance. It became more real as I experienced living in the presence of God here and now, and has been fleshed out by reading or listening to accounts of people who have had near death experiences (NDE’s). I am not in a hurry to go, but I am looking forward to it. I am sharing some of the things that have helped or interested me which I have gleaned from others’ stories. This is just my understanding, and is not a comprehensive review. Do follow these accounts and others up yourselves, I will give references at the end.
The next world is not the same as this one, but when we try to imagine or describe it we can only use words and concepts that work here. Whatever we say cannot fully communicate that other reality. As St. Paul said, ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face’ (1 Cor 13.12). There is no top or bottom, it is a place of vibration not of matter and yet things can be perceived as if physical. There are different ‘regions’ with portals between so one description does not cover all, and those who go have not had the same experience. But this is some of what it is like.
It is more real than here, as if this is the dream and that is the substance. There is often an experience of light and of music. And it is immediate. Seeing and hearing are not separate, you can hear the beauty and see the joy, the music, as if you become part of it while remaining distinct. Any thought is immediately known although perception is beyond words. And so the unconditional love that envelops and fills everything is known and felt in a way we can never experience here. This is why so many do not want to return. Love can be seen as the basis of everything, there and here.
Not all who go and experience this love and acceptance are believers, and those who are return with their beliefs changed and expanded. Dr Eben Alexander was brought up as a Christian but through his work as a scientist and neurosurgeon came to believe that our consciousness was a product of the brain and therefore could not survive death. Not only was his consciousness present and aware throughout his NDE, the outer regions of his brain that are believed to give rise to consciousness were completely destroyed by meningitis, so showing him that consciousness is primary. In his NDE he experienced the message (not in words, but the powerful sense of it going through him like a wind) ‘You are deeply loved and cherished forever. You will be taken care of. You have absolutely nothing to fear.’
Some are frightened when they arrive as it is so different and often unexpected. Many are met by loved ones or pets, or by religious figures who reassure them. Some meet angels which Eben Alexander saw as shining orbs of light. A lot go through some form of life review which happens in a blink although covering everything. It is not so much seen as experienced, and not only does the person re-experience their own feelings, they also experience the feelings of those they have affected including those they have hurt. Some interpret this pain as the judgement seen in references from the bible. We experience what we have done directly and so in a sense we judge ourselves.
Jeff Olsen was shown that there is no judgment, just love, and things that we perceive as wrong are perfect for our soul’s growth. There are no mistakes. ‘Look how much we love you. Honour your divinity. Honour your choices. Your will is my will and I will honour your choice.’ His perception was that the teachings of main stream Christianity can undermine this by dependence on a saviour outside ourselves, and by the threat of hell, so God’s love doesn’t feel unconditional. When things happen that he finds difficult he looks for the divinity in the people involved and asks himself ‘Why did I create this?’, and ‘What am I to learn from it?’.
Some do have a hellish experience. As it is all vibration people are attracted to the region where they resonate. PMH Atwater who has researched over 5,000 NDE’s has found that this does not seem to correspond with their lifestyle or beliefs. It may reflect something in the person’s deepest self and seems to address the growth of their soul and what they had yet to learn as it transformed their lives when they returned. But it is not a permanent state. There are heavenly beings present to encourage understanding and growth and to minister love so that as it is received people can change and so move on. (For those of you aware of the bible’s use of ‘eternal’, the Greek word is aionios and my understanding is that it means according to God and God’s timetable, not everlasting.)
Almost everyone experienced God, Deity or Source as an all-powerful presence or sense, whatever their previous religious beliefs or lack of them, although these did influence their terminology. This was an experience of universal spirituality. Some children saw God as a kindly father or grandfather type but adults usually perceived God as a brilliant sphere of light. Eben Alexander experienced God as an infinite, dazzling inky-black core filled with the sound ‘Om’ (at the time he was unaware that this is a sacred sound in some religions). He felt a bit like a foetus in a womb, nourished by and part of this Being, or state of being, yet at the same time distinct and miniscule in comparison. Again the communication was without and beyond words but the ‘voice’ was personal and possessed the qualities we possess although in greater measure. It knew him deeply.
What of us passes over? It is our consciousness or pure essence, and love. Anita Moorjani says that we lose all the layers and labels we have developed, our gender, culture, race, religion and beliefs. We are not these things, we are greater than them – ‘You do not realise how powerful you are’. She didn’t feel as if she had physically gone anywhere but as if she had expanded and had awakened, and she had unlimited perception. Time was not linear, she could see past, present and future together and her life intricately woven into what she had known so far. There was a huge sense of liberation, feeling more alive than ever before, knowing things she did not before, and engulfed by love, joy, ecstasy and awe.
She realised that she was a magnificent, beautiful being of the Universe, and was loved just because she existed, as are we all. Beyond that, she could see that we and all things in the universe and beyond are connected, everything is alive and infused with consciousness. Everything belongs to an infinite Whole and we are all facets of that unity and have an effect on the collective Whole. We have lived and will continue to live before and beyond our time on this earth.
As well as learning about life beyond this world, there was realisation about life and our purpose here. It wasn’t complex, and did not vary between individuals. We should and could live our lives here fully and fearlessly. But our overriding purpose here is to love. All were changed by their experience although it took a while to integrate. There was a loss of fear, more intuitive gifts and sometimes physiological changes as well as more spiritual and scientific understanding. Some like Jeff Olsen could communicate at a deeper level with people on both sides.
If heaven is so real, and we have come from there, how come we forget? Part of the answer seems to be that in order to live our lives fully here we need to be grounded in this reality. But knowledge of these experiences can help us to live life here with the perspective of heaven, to choose to love, and to not fear death but to know that it leads us home.
Dr Eben Alexander : Proof of heaven
Dr Eben Alexander : The map of heaven
P.M.H. Atwater: We live forever
Anita Moorjani: Dying to be me
Anita Moorjani: What if this is heaven?
Jeff Olsen: I knew their hearts
Jeff Olsen: Beyond mile marker 80
All of these authors have given talks which you can follow on YouTube.