What happens at the point of death? The question is much more easily asked than answered. Basically, there is not any particular point of death in those terms, even in the case of a sudden accident. I will attempt to give you a practical answer to what you think of as this practical question, however. What the question really means to most people is this: What will happen when I am not alive in physical terms any longer? What will I feel? Will I still be myself? Will the emotions that propelled me in life continue to do so? Is there a heaven or a hell? Will I be greeted by gods or demons, enemies, or beloved ones? Most of all the question means: When I am dead, will I still be who I am now, and will I remember those who are dear to me now?
I will answer the questions in those terms also, then; but before I do so, there are several seemingly impractical considerations concerning the nature of life and death, with which we must deal.
First of all, let us consider the fact just mentioned. There is no separate, indivisible, specific point of death. Life is a state of becoming, and death is a part of this process of becoming. You are alive now, a consciousness knowing itself, sparkling with cognition amid a debris of dead and dying cells; alive while the atoms and molecules of your body die and are reborn. You are alive, therefore, in the midst of small deaths; portions of your own image crumble away moment by moment and are replaced, and you scarcely give the matter a thought. So you are to some extent now alive in the midst of the death of yourself – alive despite, and yet because of, the multitudinous deaths and rebirths that occur within your body in physical terms.
If the cells did not die and were not replenished, the physical image would not continue to exist, so now in the present, as you know it, your consciousness flickers about your ever-changing corporeal image.
In many ways you can compare your consciousness as you know it now to a firefly, for while it seems to you that your consciousness is continuous, this is not so. It also flickers off and on, though as we mentioned earlier, it is never completely extinguished. Its focus is not nearly as constant as you suppose, however. So as you are alive in the midst of your own multitudinous small deaths, so though you do not realize it, you are often “dead,” even amid the sparkling life of your own consciousness.
I am using your own terms here. By “dead,” therefore, I mean completely unfocused in physical reality. Now your consciousness, quite simply, is not physically alive, physically oriented, for exactly the same amount of time as it is physically alive and oriented. This may sound confusing, but hopefully we shall make it clearer. There are pulsations of consciousness, though again you may not be aware of them. Consider this analogy. For one instant your consciousness is “alive,” focused in physical reality. Now for the next instant it is focused somewhere else entirely, in a different system of reality. It is unalive, or “dead” to your way of thinking. The next instant it is “alive” again, focused in your reality, but you are not aware of the intervening instant of unaliveness. Your sense of continuity therefore is built up entirely on every other pulsation of consciousness.
Remember this is an analogy, so that the word “instant” should not be taken too literally. There is, then, what we can call an underside of consciousness. Now, in the same way, atoms and molecules exist so that they are “dead,” or inactive within your system, then alive or active, but you cannot perceive the instant in which they do not exist. Since your bodies and your entire physical universe are composed of atoms and molecules, then I am telling you that the entire structure exists in the same manner. It flickers off and on, in other words, and in a certain rhythm, as, say, the rhythm of breath.
There are overall rhythms, and within them an infinity of individual variations – almost like cosmic metabolism. In these terms, what you call death is simply the insertion of a longer duration of that pulsation of which you are not aware, a long pause in that other dimension, so to speak.
The death, say, of physical tissue, is merely a part of the process of life as you know it in your system, a part of the process of becoming. And from those tissues, as you know, new life will spring.
Consciousness – human consciousness – is not dependent upon the tissues, and yet there is no physical matter that is not brought into being by some portion of consciousness. For example, when your individual consciousness has left the body in a way that I will shortly explain, then the simple consciousnesses of atoms and molecules remain, and are not annihilated.
In your present situation you arbitrarily consider yourselves to be dependent upon one given physical image: You identify yourself with your body.
As mentioned earlier, all through your lifetime, portions of that body die, and the body that you have now does not contain one particle of physical matter that “it” had, say ten years ago. Your body is completely different now, then, than it was ten years ago. The body that you had ten years ago, my dear readers, is dead. Yet obviously you do not feel that you are dead, and you are quite able to read this book with the eyes that are composed of completely new matter. The pupils, the “identical” pupils that you have now, did not exist ten years ago, and yet there seems to be no great gap in your vision.
This process, you see, continues so smoothly that you are not aware of it. The pulses mentioned earlier are so short in duration that your consciousness skips over them merrily, yet your physical perception cannot seem to bridge the gap when the longer rhythm of pulsation occurs. And so this is the time that you perceive as death. What you want to know, therefore, is what happens when your consciousness is directed away from physical reality, and when momentarily it seems to have no image to wear.
Quite practically speaking, there is no one answer, for each of you is an individual. Generally speaking, of course, there is an answer that will serve to cover main issues of this experience, but the kinds of deaths have much to do with the experience that consciousness undergoes. Also involved is the development of the consciousness itself, and its overall characteristic method of handling experience.
The ideas that you have involving the nature of reality will strongly color your experiences, for you will interpret them in the light of your beliefs, even as now you interpret daily life according to your ideas of what is possible or not possible. Your consciousness may withdraw from your body slowly or quickly, according to many variables.
In many cases of senility, for example, the strongly organized portions of personality have already left the body, and are meeting the new circumstances. The fear of death itself can cause such a psychological panic that out of a sense of self-preservation and defense you lower your consciousness so that you are in a state of coma, and you may take some time to recover.
A belief in hell fires can cause you to hallucinate Hades’ conditions. A belief in a stereotyped heaven can result in a hallucination of heavenly conditions. You always form your own reality according to your ideas and expectations. This is the nature of consciousness in whatever reality it finds itself. Such hallucinations, I assure you, are temporary.
Consciousness must use its abilities. The boredom and stagnation of a stereotyped heaven will not for long content the striving consciousness. There are teachers to explain the conditions and circumstances. You are not left alone, therefore, lost in mazes of hallucination. You may or may not realize immediately that you are dead in physical terms.
You will find yourself in another form, an image that will appear physical to you to a large degree, as long as you do not try to manipulate within the physical system with it. Then the differences between it and the physical body will become obvious.
If you firmly believe that your consciousness is a product of your physical body, then you may attempt to cling to it. There is an order of personalities, an honorary guard, so to speak, who are ever ready to lend assistance and aid, however.
Now this honorary guard is made up of people in your terms both living and dead. Those who are living in your system of reality perform these activities in an “out-of-body” experience while the physical body sleeps. They are familiar with the projection of consciousness, with the sensations involved, and they help orient those who will not be returning to the physical body.
These people are particularly helpful because they are still involved with physical reality, and have a more immediate understanding of the feelings and emotions involved at your end. Such persons may or may not have a memory of their nightly activities. Experiences with projection of consciousness and knowledge of the mobility of consciousness, are therefore very helpful as preparations for death. You can experience the after-death environment beforehand, so to speak, and learn the conditions that will be encountered.
This is not, incidentally, necessarily any kind of somber endeavor, nor are the after-death environments somber at all. To the contrary, they are generally far more intense and joyful than the reality you now know.
You will simply be learning to operate in a new environment in which different laws apply, and the laws are far less limiting than the physical ones with which you now operate. In other words, you must learn to understand and use new freedoms.
Even these experiences will vary, however, and even this state is a state of becoming, for many will continue into other physical lives. Some will exist and develop their abilities in different systems of reality altogether, and so for a time will remain in this “intermediary” state.
For those of you who are lazy I can offer no hope: Death will not bring you an eternal resting place. You may rest, if this is your wish, for a while. Not only must you use your abilities after death, however, but you must face up to yourself for those that you did not use during your previous existence.
Those of you who had faith in life after death will find it much easier to accustom yourself to the new conditions. Those of you who do not have such faith may gain it in a different way, by following through in the exercises I will give you later in this book; for these will enable you to extend your perceptions to these other layers of reality if you are persistent, expectant, and determined.
Now consciousness as you know it is used to these brief gaps of physical nonexistence mentioned earlier. Longer gaps disorient it to varying degrees, but these are not unusual. When the physical body sleeps, consciousness often leaves the physical system for fairly long periods, in your terms. But because the consciousness is not in the normally physically awake state, it is not aware of these gaps and is relatively unconcerned.
If consciousness vacated the body for the same amount of time from a normally physically awake state, it would consider itself dead, for it could not rationalize the gap of dimension and experience. Therefore, in the sleep state, each of you have undergone – to some degree – the same kind of absence of consciousness from physical reality that you experience during death.
In these cases, you return to the body, but you have passed over the threshold into these other existences many, many times, so it will not be as unfamiliar to you as you may now suppose. Dream-recall experiments and other mental disciplines to be mentioned later will make these points quite clear to all of you who embark upon the suggested exercises.
Now, you may or may not be greeted by friends or relatives immediately following death. This is a personal matter, as always. Overall, you may be far more interested in people that you have known in past lives than those close to you in the present one, for example.
Your true feeling toward relatives who are also dead will be known to you and to them. There is no hypocrisy. You do not pretend to love a parent who did little to earn your respect or love. Telepathy operates without distortion in this after-death period, so you must deal with the true relationships that exist between yourself and all relatives and friends who await you.
You may find that someone you considered merely an enemy actually deserved your love and respect, for example, and you will then treat him accordingly. Your own motives will be crystal clear. You will react to this clearness, however, in your own way. You will not be automatically wise if you were not so before, but neither will there be a way to hide from your own feelings, emotions, or motives. Whether or not you accept inferior motives in yourself or learn from them is still up to you. The opportunities for growth and development are very rich, however, and the learning methods at your disposal very effective.
You examine the fabric of the existence you have left, and you learn to understand how your experiences were the result of your own thoughts and emotions and how these affected others. Until this examination is through, you are not yet aware of the larger portions of your own identity. When you realize the significance and meaning of the life you have just left, then you are ready for conscious knowledge of your other existences.
You become aware, then, of an expanded awareness. What you are begins to include what you have been in other lives, and you begin to make plans for your next physical existence, if you decide upon one. You can instead enter another level of reality, and then return to a physical existence if you choose.
Your consciousness, as you think of it, may of course leave your body entirely before physical death. (As mentioned earlier, there is no precise point of death, but I am speaking as if there is for the sake of your convenience.) Your consciousness leaves the physical organism in various ways, according to the conditions. In some cases, the organism itself is still able to function to some degree, although without the leadership or organization that existed previously. The simple consciousness of atoms, cells, and organs continues to exist, after the main consciousness has left, for some time.
There may or may not be disorientation on your part, according to your beliefs and development. Now I do not necessarily mean intellectual development. The intellect should go hand in hand with the emotions and intuitions, but if it pulls against these too strongly, difficulties can arise when the newly freed consciousness seizes upon its ideas about reality after death, rather than facing the particular reality in which it finds itself. It can deny feeling, in other words, and even attempt to argue itself out of its present independence from the body.
Again, as mentioned earlier, an individual can be so certain that death is the end of all, that oblivion, though temporary, results. In many cases, immediately on leaving the body there is, of course, amazement and a recognition of the situation. The body itself may be viewed, for example, and many funerals have a guest of honor amidst the company – and no one gazes into the face of the corpse with as much curiosity and wonder.
At this point many variations in behavior emerge, each the result of individual background, knowledge, and habit. The surroundings in Which the dead find themselves will often vary. Vivid hallucinations may form experience quite as real as any in mortal life. Now, I have told you that thoughts and emotions form physical reality, and they form after-death experience. This does not mean that the experiences are not valid, any more than it means that physical life is not valid.
Certain images have been used to symbolize such a transition from one existence to another, and many of these are extremely valuable in that they provide a framework with understandable references. The crossing of the River Styx is such a one. The dying expected certain procedures to occur in a more or less orderly fashion. The maps were known beforehand. At death, the consciousness hallucinated the river vividly. Relatives and friends already dead entered into the ritual, which was a profound ceremony also on their parts. The river was as real as any that you know, as treacherous to a traveler alone without proper knowledge. Guides were always at the river to help such travelers across.
It does not do to say that such a river is illusion. The symbol is reality, you see. The way was planned. Now, that particular map is no longer generally in use. The living do not know how to read it. Christianity has believed in a heaven and a hell, a purgatory, and reckoning; and so, at death, to those who so believe in these symbols, another ceremony is enacted, and the guides take on the guises of those beloved figures of Christian saints and heroes.
Then with this as framework, and in terms that they can understand, such individuals are told the true situation. Mass religious movements have for centuries fulfilled that purpose, in giving man some plan to be followed. It little mattered that later the plan was seen as a child’s primer, a book of instructions complete with colorful tales, for the main purpose was served and there was little disorientation.
In periods where no such mass ideas are held, there is more disorientation, and when life after death is completely denied, the problem is somewhat magnified. Many, of course, are overjoyed to find themselves still conscious. Others have to learn all over again about certain laws of behavior, for they do not realize the creative potency of their thoughts or emotions.
Such an individual may find himself in ten different environments within the flicker of an eyelash, for example, with no idea of the reason behind the situation. He will see no continuity at all, and feel himself flung without rhyme or reason from one experience to another, never realizing that his own thoughts are propelling him quite literally.
I am speaking now of the events immediately following death, for there are other stages. Guides will helpfully become a part of your hallucinations, in order to help you out of them, but they must first of all get your trust.
At one time – in your terms – I myself acted as such a guide; as in a sleep state Ruburt¹ now follows the same road. The situation is rather tricky from the guide’s viewpoint, for psychologically utmost discretion must be used. One man’s Moses, as I discovered, may not be another man’s Moses. I have served as a rather creditable Moses on several occasions – and once, though this is hard to believe, to an Arab.
The Arab was a very interesting character, by the way, and to illustrate some of the difficulties involved, I will tell you about him. He hated the Jews, but somehow, he was obsessed with the idea that Moses was more powerful than Allah, and for years this was the secret sin upon his conscience. He spent some time in Constantinople at the time of the Crusades. He was captured, and ended up with a group of Turks, all to be executed by the Christians, in this case very horribly so. They forced his mouth open and stuffed it with burning coals, as a starter. He cried to Allah, and then in greater desperation to Moses, and as his consciousness left his body, Moses was there.
He believed in Moses more than he did Allah, and I did not know until the last moment which form I was to assume. He was a very likable chap, and under the circumstances I did not mind when he seemed to expect a battle for his soul. Moses and Allah were to fight for him. He could not rid himself of the idea of force, though he had died by force, and nothing could persuade him to accept any kind of peace or contentment, or any rest, until some kind of battle was wrought.
A friend and I, with some others, staged the ceremony, and from apposite clouds in the sky Allah and I shouted out our claims upon his soul — while he, poor man, cowered on the ground between us. Now while I tell this story humorously, you must understand that the man’s belief brought it about, and so to set him free, we worked it through.
I called upon Jehovah, but to no avail, because our Arab did not know of Jehovah – only of Moses – and it was in Moses he put his faith. Allah drew a cosmic sword and I set it afire so that he dropped it. It fell o the ground and set the land aflame. Our Arab cried out again. He Saw leagues of followers behind Allah, and so leagues of followers appeared behind me. Our friend was convinced that one of the three of us must be destroyed, and he feared mightily that he would be the victim.
Finally, the opposing clouds in which we appeared came closer. In my hand I held a tablet that said: “Thou shalt not kill.” Allah held a sword. As we came closer, we exchanged these items, and our followers merged. We came together, forming the image of a s-u-n, and we said: “We are one.”
The two diametrically opposed ideas had to merge or the man would have had no peace, and only when these opposites were united could we begin to explain his situation.
To be such a guide requires great discipline and training.
Before the event just mentioned, for example, I had spent many lifetimes acting as a guide under the tutorship of another in my daily sleep states.
It is possible for example to lose yourself momentarily in the hallucinations that are being formed, and in such cases another teacher must bail you out. Delicate probing of the psychological processes is necessary, and the variety of hallucinations in which you may become involved is endless. You may, for example, take the form of an individual’s dearly beloved dead pet.
All of these hallucinatory activities take place usually some short time immediately following death. Some individuals are fully aware of their circumstances, however, because of previous training and development, and they are ready after a rest, if they desire to progress to other stages.
They may, for example, become aware of their own reincarnational selves, recognizing quite readily personalities they knew in other lives, if those personalities are not otherwise engaged. They may deliberately now hallucinate, or they may “relive” certain portions of past lives if they choose. Then there is a period of self-examination, a rendering of accounts, so to speak, in which they are able to view their entire performance, their abilities and weak points and to decide whether or not they will return to physical existence.
Any given individual may experience any of these stages, you see; except for the self-examination, many may be sidestepped entirely. Since the emotions are so important, it is of great benefit if friends are waiting for you. In many instances, however, these friends have progressed to other stages of activity, and often a guide will take the guise of a friend for a while, so that you will feel more confident.
Of course, it is only because most people believe that you cannot leave your body that you do not consciously have out-of-body experiences with any frequency, generally speaking, in your lifetimes. Such experiences would acquaint you far better than words with some understanding of the conditions that will be encountered.
Remember that in one way, your physical existence is the result of mass hallucination. Vast gulfs exist between one man’s reality and another’s. After death, experience has as much organization, highly intricate and involved, as you know now. You have your private hallucinations now, only you do not realize what they are. Such hallucinations as I have been speaking of, intense symbolistic encounters, can also occur in your sleep states, when the personality is at a time of great change, or when opposing ideas must be unified, or if one must give Way to another. These are highly charged, significant psychological and psychic events, whether they happen before or after death.
Occurring in the dream state, they can change the course of a civilization. After death, an individual may visualize his life as an animal with which he must come to terms, and such a battle or encounter has far-reaching consequences, for the man must come to terms with all portions of himself. In this case, whether the hallucination ends with him riding the animal, making friends with it, domesticating it, killing it or being killed by it, each alternative is carefully weighed, and the results will have much to do with his future development.
This “life-symbolization” may be adopted by those who gave little thought to self-examination during their lifetime. It is a part of the self-examination process, therefore, in which an individual forms his life into an image and then deals with it. Such a method is not used by all. Sometimes a series of such episodes are necessary… .
One of Ruburt’s students wondered whether or not there was any kind of organization in the immediate after-death experiences. Since this is a question that will come into many minds, I will deal with it here.
First of all, it should be obvious from what I have said so far that there is no one after-death reality, but [that] each experience is different. Generally speaking, however, there are dimensions into which these individual experiences will fall. For example, there is an initial stage for those who are still focused strongly in physical reality, and for those who need a period of recuperation and rest. On this level there will be hospitals and rest homes. The patients do not yet realize that there is nothing wrong with them at all.
In some cases, the idea of illness is so strong that they have built their earthly years about this psychological center. They project ill conditions upon the new body as they did upon the old one. They are given various kinds of treatment of a psychic nature, and told that the condition of that body is being brought about by the nature of their own beliefs.
Now, many individuals do not need to pass through this particular period. It goes without saying that the hospitals and training centers are not physical in your terms. They are often, in fact, maintained en-masse by the guides who carry out the necessary plans. Now you may call this mass hallucination if you will. The fact is that to those encountering that reality, the events are quite real.
There are also training centers. In these the nature of reality is explained in accordance with an individual’s ability to understand and perceive it. The familiar parables, for some, will still be used at least initially, and then these individuals will be gradually weaned away from them. In these centers there are certain classes in which instruction is given for the benefit of those who chose to return to the physical environment.
They are taught, in other words, the methods that allow them to translate emotion and thought into physical actuality. There is no time lag, as there must be in the three- dimensional system, between the initiation of such thoughts and their materialization.
All of this occurs more or less at one level, though you must understand that I am simplifying the issues here to some extent. For example, some individuals do not undergo any such periods, but because of development and progress during their past lives, they are ready to begin more ambitious programs.
Now I have spoken of such development earlier. Some of my readers, not being perhaps aware of any psychic ability of their own, might think then that they are in for a long and protracted period of after-death training. Let me hasten to tell you that all such ability is not necessarily conscious, and that much of it takes place during the sleep state when you are simply not aware of it.
You may after death utterly refuse to believe that you are dead, and continue to focus your emotional energy toward those you have known in life.
If you have been obsessed with a particular project, for example, you may try to complete it. There are always guides to help you understand your situation, but you may be so engrossed that you pay them no heed.
I will cover the subject of ghosts separately, rather than in this chapter. Suffice it to say that large fields of emotional focus toward physical reality can hold you back from further development.
When consciousness leaves the body and is away for some time then the connection is, of course, broken. In out-of-body states the connection still holds. Now it is possible for an individual who has died to completely misinterpret the experience and attempt to reenter the corpse. This can happen when the personality identified himself almost exclusively with the physical image.
It is not common. But nevertheless, under various circumstances, such individuals will attempt to reactivate the physical mechanism, becoming more panic-stricken when they discover the body’s condition. Some, for example, have wept over the corpse long after the mourners have left, not realizing that they themselves are completely whole – where, for example, the body may have been ill or the organs beyond repair.
They are like a dog worrying a bone. Those who have not identified their consciousness with the body completely, find it much easier to leave it. Those who have hated the body find, strangely enough, that immediately after death they are quite drawn to it.
All of these circumstances then may or may not occur according to the individual involved. However, after leaving the physical body, you will immediately find yourself in another. This is the same kind of form in which you travel in out-of-body projections, and again let me remind my readers that each of them leaves the body for some time each night during sleep.
This form will seem physical. It will not be seen by those still in the physical body however, generally speaking. It can do anything that you do now in your dreams. Therefore, it flies, goes through solid objects, and is moved directly by your will, taking you, say, from one location to another as you may think of these locations.
If you wonder what Aunt Sally is doing in, say, Poughkeepsie, New York, then you will find yourself there. However, you cannot as a rule manipulate physical objects. You cannot pick up a lamp or throw a dish. This body is yours instantly, but it is not the only form that you will have. For that matter, this image is not a new one. It is interwound with your physical body now, but you do not perceive it. Following death, it will be the only body you are aware of for some time.
Much later and on many levels, you will finally learn to take many forms, as you choose, consciously. In one manner of speaking you do this now, you see, translating your psychological experience your thoughts and emotions – quite literally but unconsciously into physical objects. You may find that when you imagine yourself as a child after death – that you suddenly have the form of the child that you were. For a certain period of time, therefore, you can manipulate this form so that it takes any appearance that it had when it was connected with your physical form in the immediately previous physical life. You may die at eighty and after death think of the youth and vitality that you had at twenty and find then that your form changes to correspond with this inner image.
Most individuals after death choose a more mature image that usually corresponds to the peak physical abilities, regardless of the age when the physical peak was reached. Others choose instead to take the form they had at the particular point when the greatest mental or emotional heights were achieved, regardless of the beauty or age that characterized the form.
You will feel comfortable with the form that you choose, therefore, and you will usually use it when you want to communicate with others you have known; though for such communications with the living, you may instead adopt the form you had when you were known to the individual you want to contact.
These after-death environments do not exist necessarily on other planets. They do not take up space, so the question, “Where does all this happen?” is meaningless in basic terms.
It is the result of your own misinterpretations of the nature of reality. There is no one place therefore, no specific location. These environments exist unperceived by you amid the physical world that you know. Your perceptive mechanisms simply do not allow you to tune in to their ranges. You react to a highly specific but limited field. As I mentioned earlier, other realities coexist with your own at death, for example. You simply divest yourself of physical paraphernalia, tune into different fields, and react to other sets of assumptions.
From this other viewpoint, you can to some extent perceive physical reality. However, there are energy fields that do separate them. Your entire concept of space is so distorted that any true explanation is highly difficult. Give us a moment.
As your perceptive mechanisms insist that objects are solid, for example, so they insist that such a thing as space exists. Now what your senses tell you about the nature of matter is entirely erroneous, and what they tell you about space is equally wrong – wrong in terms of basic reality, but quite in keeping of course with three-dimensional concepts. In out-of-body experiences from the living state, many of the problems are encountered, in terms of space, that will be met after death. And in such episodes, therefore, the true nature of time and space becomes more apparent. After death it does not take time to go through space, for example. Space does not exist in terms of distance. This is illusion. There are barriers, but they are mental or psychic barriers. For example, there are intensities of experience that are interpreted in your reality as distance in miles.
After death you may find yourself in a training center. Now theoretically, this center could be in the middle of your present living room, in physical space, but the distance between you and the members of your family still living – sitting perhaps, thinking of you or reading a paper – would have nothing to do with space as you know it. You would be more separated from them than if you were, say, on the moon. You could perhaps change your own focus of attention away from the center, and theoretically see the room and its inhabitants; and yet still this distance that has nothing to do with miles would be between you.~ SETH Speaks: The Eternal Validity of The Soul, Chapter IX, Session 535, June 17th 1970
¹ That’s how SETH called Jane Roberts, as she was an incarnated male when they interacted on Earth as living souls.