Death and Dying – part 4

As one approaches death, one makes this review. People cite this as a common phenomenon, that they look back over their life, do an accounting, and they realize that they are held accountable for the quality of their life.

Robert: Hello, and welcome to Inner Sight. We’re continuing with our series called Death and Dying, and our purpose is to see if we can assuage the fear of death. Our basic premise is that we could lead more productive lives if we could eliminate fear and of course, death is one of humankind’s greatest fears.  I’d like to begin with a quote, “Death is life with knowledge, growth, beauty. It’s home, serenity, peace. Death is life. It really is life.”  I don’t like to sound overly optimistic about such a topic, but that comment was made by a woman named Veta, after her near death experience. What is a near death experience? 

Sarah: Not having had one, I don’t know that I can speak with any authority, but my understanding is that there are, in a sense, two kinds of death. There are clinical deaths when all the vital signs of heart rate and pulse disappear, and then there’s irreversible biological death, when the organs have deteriorated beyond a certain point and cannot function. After the clinical death, when the vital signs seem to have disappeared, still, resuscitation or revival is sometimes possible. But after the irreversible biological death, obviously one cannot be brought back into the body.  Near death experiences happen when a person appears to be dead but there is still a link between soul and body that has not been completely severed. 

Dale: Yes, I would agree with that. There is also what they call out of body experiences, which is very similar to a near death experience, but it usually occurs in cases where someone is falling asleep or they’re so relaxed they just suddenly pop out of their body. That’s not necessarily a death situation, but we will talk about that a little later. 

Robert: Is the near-death experience something that happens to only a few people, or is it fairly common? 

Sarah: My understanding is that these types of experiences that are called NDE’s, near death experiences, have gone on throughout history. There has been mention of such experiences happening to people who’ve come very close to the brink of death, and then for some reason or another, have turned back to the world and to the body, and have told of their experiences. The work of a pioneering physician named Raymond Moody, who wrote a book titled Life After Life, which was published in 1975, really began the upsurge of interest in NDE’s. I think there’s also been some academic research, which Dale might know more about. 

Dale: We interviewed George Gallup a few years ago and he said that he had conducted a poll on this and he found that at that time, at least 15% of the American adult population had had an unusual experience at the moment of death or near death. He was quite convinced that these people were telling the truth. So, let’s say there’s approximately 13 million people that have had something unusual like that, an out of the body experience. It’s quite common and it’s being recorded more and more because they’re beginning to collect this evidence. 

Sarah: Yes, it’s become an academic field of study as I understand it. If I’m not mistaken, one of the major areas of research was done at the University of Connecticut and Dr. Kenneth Ring was one of the pioneers in that near death experience field of study. So, there’s research and there’s case studies being compiled that have given a lot more knowledge to the whole phenomenon and grounded it in a more scientific approach. 

Dale: Yes, there’s an organization, in fact, called the International Association for Near Death Studies, IANDS, and they have collected a lot of data and evidence from the stories that people who have had near death experiences have told. There’s been a lot of study and analysis made from all of these and it’s extremely interesting what they’ve come up with. 

Sarah: In fact, Dale did an interview with Dr. Kenneth Ring some years ago and also with a few people who had had NDE’s. 

Dale: Yes, we’ve talked to several people who have had some very interesting near-death experiences. They’ve had what they call a core experience and they’ve gone very deep and they’ve met these beings of light and so forth, and it’s just been a wonderful experience for these people.  

Robert: I think also that at one time this used to be dismissed as hocus pocus, but what I’m understanding from both of you is that we no longer can dismiss these experiences because millions of people are reporting it right now and there are books being written about their experiences. I suppose that’s a lot due to the latest technological advances with science, of people being brought back to life on the operating table once they’ve died. 

Dale: Yes, because the technology today has improved and the emergency medical team is usually on the scene very early, whether it’s in an operating room or emergency room or an ambulance coming to a place of trauma, they’re able to stabilize the body more quickly now, so the soul can have a more viable vehicle in which to return. This is happening more often now and because the emergency medical team is on the spot more quickly, it is adding to all the phenomena that’s been occurring. 

Sarah: I suppose it’s also a credit to the advancements in medical science in general, that can treat severe illnesses and injuries in ways that weren’t possible 10, 20 or 30 years ago and bring people back. In fact, one thing that comes to mind is they now know how to rescue a drowning victim who has been plunged into cold water and been submerged for perhaps 20 minutes or more. The fact that the temperature is so cold lowers the body’s vital signs and somehow staves off death and the person could be brought back to a reasonable, decent standard of life, after regaining consciousness. 

Dale: But you mentioned earlier about this being hocus pocus. Some in the medical field have said that the people who’ve had these experiences were only hallucinating, and it didn’t really happen as they said it did, but according to Dr. Ring, if you analyze all the evidence together, not just each case individually, then it becomes very convincing and you can’t help but think that this is true and really happening. It’s not the result of drug inducement or something like that.  

Robert: One thing that would confirm the credibility would be the idea that there are certain common denominators amongst all the near-death experiences. Are there certain themes or similarities? 

Sarah: Well, there are. That’s what’s so fascinating. They seem to transcend cultural, religious, geographical, linguistic, and racial differences, all of which are overridden by these similarities. One is the meeting with some presence that they refer to as a being of light. Some people interpret it to be an Angel, or even to be God. It’s a lighted presence that radiates unconditional love, acceptance and understanding of the person. Another is the sense of a review of the life, which I find fascinating. You know how people, when they come near death say, “my life passed before my eyes?” Well, apparently it really does, in a scroll-like fashion from what these people say. For example, one person that I read about in the news just recently, who plunged hundreds and hundreds of feet in a parachute that didn’t open, said just this thing, that his life passed before his eyes. As one approaches death, one makes this review. People cite this as a common phenomenon, that they look back over their life, do an accounting, and they realize that they are held accountable for the quality of their life. But at the same time, there’s this sense of profound and unconditional love, so that one is in a way bolstered or strengthened to be able to face oneself and make this judgement. It makes me think that this last judgment we hear about is the judgment that we render of ourselves. There’s no harsher judge than oneself, probably. 

Dale: Yes, and if I may cite one or two cases here from some of the people that we had interviewed. One of them was Veta and the opening quote was hers, when she said her revelation after having this experience was that death is life.  To her it was such a beautiful experience. She was in a car accident and was thrown from the car and she had excruciating pain in her back. When she exhaled, she suddenly left her body, and she found herself hovering over the scene, where she had been lying. Then she could see her body, “not my body, but that body,” she said, so at that moment she began to distinguish the difference between that body lying on the ground and her own self.  From where she was hovering above the scene, she could hear the people talking, and she could see the whole scene. Then suddenly she was higher up and she said, “I expanded. I did not have a specific identity. I belonged to the whole.” So, once you leave the limitations of the physical body, this is the kind of experience that one enters into, a tremendous expansion. Then she felt overwhelming, deep feelings of peace, love and excitement and she was all dimensions without a pattern, but she was always moving towards a magnificent light, where she then had what Sarah just mentioned, a life review. She described it like a movie reel, a movie of her life, and not only the past and present, but also the future. She saw what would happen if she chose to stay in that state and not return to her physical body. She would be leaving her husband and her daughter behind and suddenly she realized that she had to return because there was this overwhelming sense of responsibility for her family. This drew her back into her physical body again. 

Sarah: What’s interesting is that so many people who have NDE’s say that they are given a choice. They apparently have the free will to return to the body or not, and I find that interesting, that it’s left up to the soul to decide where the responsibilities lie. With the family, community and work on Earth or on the inner level. 

Robert: So once again, the concept of free will carries on even to the next life. 

Dale: Yes, every soul, every person in the world has a plan, has something to do in this life, a mission. Veta had another near-death experience a few years later and at that time she met her father who had recently passed over. She heard again that she had the choice of staying or returning to physical life and it was again a sense of responsibility for her children that kept bringing her back even though she wanted to go to that light and wanted to experience that love. She told her father, “Daddy, I cannot stay. I have to go back.” And she did. 

Sarah:  It’s been said by one spiritual philosopher that at the solemn moment of death, everyone, even when the death is very sudden, sees the whole of his life marshalled before him in the minutest detail, and that this single instant is enough to show the whole chain of causes that have been at work throughout the person’s life. He sees and now understands himself as he is, evidently unadorned by flattery or by self deception. He reads his life as a spectator would, looking down on the arena he is leaving, and he feels and knows the justice of all the suffering that has overtaken him. Well, this is an experience that a lot of people who have had near-death experiences mention, the accountability that one has to render at the moment of approaching death and the rightness of one’s life, the rightness of what has happened, all of the ups and downs, the defeats and the joys of life. All of it is seen in a light, evidently, that gives it meaning and significance and a sense of proportion to life that enables the soul to move on. 

Robert: From what I’ve read, people who have a near-death experience seem to lose their fear of dying. Why is that? 

Sarah: Well, I think they gain a sense that life goes on beyond the material plane in a way that gives them utter conviction of the continuity of life, that we are not just encased in a very vulnerable physical body that’s 90 some percent water, but that we exist on planes that are separate from the physical vehicle and not subject to its mortality. In fact, the physician Elizabeth Kubler-Ross spoke to this. She is very well known for her studies of the dying process and all of the stages accompanying it.  She herself evidently had a near-death experience. Dale interviewed her one time and she told this hilarious story, which, as I recall, had to do with Swiss chocolate and too much coffee, and it led to a near death experience. 

Dale: No, she hadn’t drunk the coffee yet, but was just smelling it. She was sitting at the table with her sister one day in Switzerland, and suddenly she felt this sensation in her body that she was dying and that was exceedingly exciting to her because here she was, the death and dying lady, which they used to call her in the hospital, and now she was going to have to go through this beautiful experience and was going to record it all and get down every detail. She left her body, and she described it as like a skier jumping off a ski jump and she said it was an exhilarating experience, wonderful and overwhelming. She made the comment that after she came back, she was lying on the table, head down, and she never uttered a word to her sister, who was there trying to revive her. This experience nevertheless left her with a tremendous feeling of love. She saw the light and she said that once you have seen that light, you can never, ever be afraid of death. It’s the most glorious, the most beautiful, the most indescribable experience. You’re totally engulfed in unconditional love beyond anything human beings can even conceive of. So, it’s that kind of love that people have had in these near-death experiences that they come back with and that just overrides all fear of death. 

Robert: Is it possible for someone who’s very much alive and not experiencing danger to have a near-death experience? 

Sarah: Well, in fact, that is what Dr. Kenneth Ring says, that these really shouldn’t be referred to as near-death experiences but, as he calls them, mystical experiences. They are a transcendent kind of experience that apparently happens to people, not just when they are at a moment of near death, but perhaps at a point of personal crisis or in some situation in life that has brought them to a point where they have to move beyond their normal resources for coping with life. It’s a transcendent experience that propels them into this new sense of life, as existing beyond the normal accepted material realm.  They realize that life continues and that it exists and in fact is more expansive and more complete beyond the material realm. 

Robert: In closing, what would you say is the most significant aspect of the near-death experience? 

Dale: Dr. Ring says that we should look at these experiences in the totality and the collectiveness of them. He thinks that this is creating an advancement in human consciousness, all of these experiences together, and I tend to agree with him. It’s a tremendous bonus for all of humanity. 

Sarah: The other thing I think that’s so important to take away is the sense that this being of light is in fact, according to Dr. Kenneth Ring, the soul. It is one’s higher, permanent, eternal self that they are seeing. There is much more to us than what we think. 

Invitation by Robert to listen as Sarah closes with the Great Invocation

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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