Travel in the Spiritual Worlds
Examples of Spiritual Travel During Near-Death Experience
The concept of near-death experience was developed by Dr. Raymond Moody Jr. in the 1970's. It was based on interviews with over a hundred (and later more than a thousand) patients who described the phenomenon of leaving their body during a medical crisis where they came close to death.
The vast majority of the people Moody interviewed had no heartbeat or respiration during the near-death experience, and a few also had no measurable brain-waves at the time. The experiences were based on first-person interviews with the patients as well as the medical staff that were present during the event. Moody considered it important for his study that medical personnel experienced with emergency medicine were present to verify that the patients were thought to be dead during the period when their NDEs (near-death experiences) occurred.
There are two general phases to the NDE. The first phase consists of the person's soul leaving the body and viewing the lifeless body and its surroundings (usually a hospital room or accident scene). The second consists of the soul entering and passing through a psychic tunnel which ends in another world. Here the dying person sometimes meets a "being of light" and reviews their past existence with the aid of this being. At some point the person is told that it is not time to die or makes a conscious choice to return to life, and the soul returns to the physical body.
The NDE is often a unique experience in the lives of those fortunate souls who undergo the experience because it exposes the individual to out-of-body experience usually for the first time in their lives. The realization that there are parallel dimensions of experience that do not require a body or a set of physical senses is a great shock to many. This is even true for those who calmed faith in God or an afterlife but never really fully believed the claims of their religion. The experience of profound happiness and increased awareness that can accompany the NDE further challenges the limitations on identity that they had come to accept as givens in their formerly exclusively material existence. The certainty that often develops about the afterlife and its potential for happiness tends to far surpass the tenuous faith that accompanied their religious belief system.
They discover a new world and a transitional state that we might describe as a "bardo" (in-between or liminal state) in Tibetan Buddhism. The bardo of the NDE in sometimes spiritually transformative in the same way mystical experience is transformative. Each can result in a kind of spiritual rebirth for the individual. A common response to the NDE is a vastly decreased fear of death and many even look forward to leaving the physical world because they see the world to come in such positive terms. The Out-of-body portion of the NDE is a good introduction to spiritual travel but the individual must understand that their experience is only an introduction to a much larger range of experience. This initial NDE experience can be used as a foundation to motivate a spiritual search that involves learning about and experimenting with spiritual travel.
There are about ten stages to the common near-death experience outlined by Dr. Moody. Not every person experiences every stage and it is common for a person to experience only four or five out of the ten. We will list the stages briefly.
The first stage is "hearing the news". This occurs when an accident victim or patient in a hospital hears someone say "I think we have lost him" or "He is dead" or words to that effect. This statement describing the person's death is many times the last sensory event a person experiences before the onset of the NDE.
The second stage of an NDE is "the noise". This is an unusual auditory sensation experienced by the individual as he or she leaves the physical body, and sometimes as he travels through "the tunnel" (described later). It is described variously as "a buzzing sound", "a loud click", "a banging sound", "a beautiful majestic musical sound", or "Japanese bell-like wind chimes". Such sounds are many times associated with a feeling of movement through space.
The third stage is "the dark tunnel". There is a sensation of being pulled or drawn through a dark tunnel at great speed. The tunnel is also described as "a corridor", "a black valley", "a well", "a sewer", or "a cylinder". One person in the tunnel said, "I was moving beating all the time with this noise, this ringing noise". Another said, "I went through this dark black valley at super speed". The tunnel sometime has a light at the far end which the person moves toward.
The tunnel is sometimes perceived as a transitional experience - as a place between two places or worlds. It overwhelms the senses like a roller coaster, and the person in the tunnel is usually completely involved in the experience and can think of little else.
The fourth stage is "being out of the body". This is a complex stage with many elements. The descriptions listed below will hopefully give the reader a sense of how this feels.
The fifth stage is "meeting others". This usually occurs either in the tunnel or shortly after the end of the tunnel is reached. The others that are met are usually dead relatives or dead friends. The people are usually supportive and happy, and sometimes the individual helper is only sensed rather than seen. The others are also sometimes called guardian spirits or spirit-helpers.
The sixth stage is the "the being of light". This being asks the person to reflect on their life and acts as a guide. He or she is described as composed of white or yellow or clear light that has an "unearthly brilliance". The being is supportive and compassionate and helps the individual review their life.
The seventh stage is the "review". The review consists of a series of pictures or snap shots in two or three dimensions of the person's past life on earth. They may be very detailed or show just the highlights of the life. More important events are examined in greater detail but the whole process proceeds very quickly. Some describe having great intuition and understanding concerning their own behavior and the reactions of others to that behavior.
The eighth stage is "the border". At some point, the dying person understands that it is not their time to die and they must return to their physical body. They see or sense a barrier and have the feeling that if it is crossed, they will die. People undergoing NDEs do not cross the border and thus return to life. It is described as a door or threshold or line which separates those who can return to life from those that cannot.
The ninth stage is "coming back". People describe returning in various ways and some do not remember returning but wake up later and remember the NDE.
The tenth stage is "telling others". Individuals in many cases find it difficult to talk about the experience, and difficult to readjust to their normal lives following the experience. They also find that many of their friends and relatives do not believe that the experience was real. It is characterized as a dream, a fantasy, or an illusion. Some people change religions, jobs, or enroll in a different program at school. Many emphasize the profound effect the NDE had on them.
These are the common stages of an NDE.
There has been considerable effort put forth in the scientific community to reduce NDEs to physical changes in the brain and nervous system thus denying their spiritual causes. The Reductionist Arguments Explaining Near-Death Experiences page discusses these arguments in some detail.
As mentioned in the introduction, near-death experience does not meet our full set of criteria for spiritual travel since it is almost never voluntary (except for failed suicide attempts) and much of the experience is beyond the control of the individual.
The descriptions of spiritual travel that occur during near-death experience are extremely detailed. People who have NDEs are many times able to describe the precise conversations of relatives who were in other rooms of the hospital during the experience.
Doctors and nurses are many times surprised when a patient tells them the exact medical procedures that were used to try and resuscitate him or her. The injured person usually has great concentration while out of their body and can remember the procedures in detail. Such enhanced memory is consistent with the heightened concentration and clarity that is associated with spiritual travel experience.
In an effort to show the common qualities of the NDE and mystial experience, two theologians were quoted in an article by Bruce Greyson, the editor of the Journal of Near-Death Sudies:Walter Pahnke, a minister and psychiatrist, and William Richards, a theologian and psychologist, delineated nine aspects of mystical experience based on the work of William James and British philosopher Walter Stace: a sense of cosmic unity or oneness, transcendence of time and space, deeply positive mood, sense of sacredness, noetic quality or intuitive illumination, paradoxicality, ineffability, transiency, and persistent positive aftereffects. All nine of these features are commonly reported as part of the NDE. (Source: http://www.newdualism.org/nde-papers/Greyson/Greyson-_2007.pdf)
As an introductory example of an NDE, Anita Moorjani describes her experience after she woke up following a 30 hour hybrid coma-NDE experience caused by advanced cancer:On the following day, I was able to tell my family what happened in the other realm, and I also described a lot of things that had taken place while I was in the coma. I was able to relay to my awestruck family, almost verbatim, some of the conversations that had occurred not only around me, but also outside the room, down the hall, and in the waiting areas of the hospital. I could describe many of the procedures I'd undergone and I identified the doctors and nurses who performed them, to the surprise of everyone around. (Dying To Be Me, by Anita Moorjani, Hay House Inc., 2012, P. 81)
Here are some examples of NDEs in which individuals experience the out-of-body stage in some detail.
- A Child's Description of a Powerful Near-Death Experience.
- A fourteen year old describes an intense NDE he experienced when he was eleven. In a bad accident, he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle, and was taken to the hospital. These experiences were chosen by Dr. Moody to counter the criticism that only adults who were "socialized" had near-death experiences. The criticism was an attempt to prove that NDEs were false and only a product of social conditioning. However Dr. Moody countered these criticisms by giving examples that show that children also have NDEs.
- Another Young Child's Description of a Near-Death Experience.
- A nine year old girl describes an NDE she had which occurred during her appendicitis surgery. She had complications during the surgery and had to be resuscitated.
- Entering into the Sacred Light during a Near-Death Experience.
- This is a beautiful and lengthy NDE which contains many mystical elements, and much detail about the physical events observed by the experiencer while in the out-of-body state.
- A Woman Experiences a "Being of Light" during a Near-Death Experience.
- This experience shows the power and intense love that radiates from the "Being of Light" during a Near-death Experience.
- Being Guided to a Blissful World of Light during Near-Death Experience.
- A young boy has a near-death experience in the operating room at a hospital and is transported to a blissful realm.
- A Physician Perceives a Wide Variety of Heavenly Experience Including Flocks of Angelic Beings while in a Coma.
- A neurosurgeon claims that he had a profound experience of the afterlife while in a comatose state that has many of the elements of an NDE although his heart and respiration apparently never ceased completely.
- A Swimmer Almost Drowns and Describes his Near-Death Experience.
- A swimmer lost his strength and describes his near-death experience when he almost drowned in the middle of a lake.
- A Women Describes her Near-Death Experience, and Watching from a Distance the Efforts by Nurses to Revive her.
- A women with heart trouble is able to describe in precise detail both leaving the physical body, and the efforts by nurses to revive her while she was out of her body during a near-death experience.
- Carl Jung's experience of "objective reality" during his NDE
- Dr. Carl Jung, one of the 20th century's most renowned psychologists describes a complex NDE that happened in 1944 when he broke his foot and had a heart attack. His grand vision focuses on his being out of the body, speaking with others, leaving behind his earthly attachments, and especially on the difficulty of returning to the physical body after his experience of freedom from bodily existence.
It is interesting to note that though Jung spent his entire career analyzing the symbols in his own and other's dreams to get insight into the unconscious mind, his description of his NDE seems entirely "asymbolic" and objective based on his own description. Somehow the NDE seemed to completely reverse his means of gaining deeper knowledge of the psyche by exchanging the murky, slow, subjective process of understanding dream symbols with the clear, unambiguous, "objective" method of understanding that he experienced during his NDE.
In Gary Lachman's biographical work, Jung the Mystic, he states that Jung believed that with his visions of 1944 (i.e., his NDE), 'he had reached a "completed individuation" '. Since the primary goal of Jungian analysis is "individuation", this is a very strong statement from Jung on the value of NDEs and more generally spiritual travel. (Jung the Mystic, Tarcher-Penguin publishers, New York, p. 199)
When such a central figure in the history of Psychology as Carl Jung presents a total reversal in his approach to exploring and understanding the human psyche, it underscores the uniqueness of the NDE and the special kind of insight that can arise from experiencing this form of spiritual travel. (Link information is from Jung's Biography: Memories, Dreams, Reflections)
Introduction | The Geography of Spiritual Travel | The "Travel" Analogy | Leaving the Body in Spiritual Travel | Spiritual Travel Versus Dreams | Sacred Light | Sacred Sound | Psychic States | Spiritual Travel in Western Religious Scripture | The Self in Spiritual Travel | Returning to the Physical Body | Near-Death Experience | Navigation During Spiritual Travel | Spiritual Matter | Method and Techniques To Induce Spiritual Travel | Shamanism and Spiritual Travel | After-Death Experience | Spiritual Travel as a Rehearsal for Physical Death | Beyond Spiritual Travel | Conclusion
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