“And death, which alike levels all, alike impresses all with a last revelation, which only an author from the dead could adequately tell.”
— Herman Melville
What You Can Expect To Experience When You Die: Revelations From Some Extraordinary NDErs
By Kenneth Ring, PhD
Actually, it’s misleading to suggest that anyone can tell you what you will experience when you die. Despite the title of this blog, I would never be so presumptuous. But what I can tell you is what some remarkable NDErs have to say about what they experienced once they passed through the portals into the house of death. As you read their accounts, I think you will agree that their revelations are so astonishingly mind-blowing as to leave you speechless with wonder. Be prepared vicariously to enter into a world that is utterly beyond anything you have known on earth. If you can absorb this, I can virtually guarantee it will stun you to learn what may await you — if you are as lucky as some of the people whose experiences you will be reading about shortly.
In writing this narrative of what you can expect when you die, I will be drawing on the testimonies of a number of NDErs, most of whom I know personally, but my chief source will be a German woman named Anke Evertz, the author of a remarkable book entitled Nine Days of Eternity. You will learn a great deal about her story as we proceed. Also, there will be many quotes in this blog from these NDErs, some of them long extracts, for who is more qualified than they to play the role of Melville’s “authors from the dead?”
Now, with this preamble dispatched, let’s begin this long journey into the afterlife.
One of the first things that many people report when they suffer an event that brings about a near-death crisis is a very definite sense that they have left their physical body. Not only that, but they often report that they can see it from an outside perspective. This is what happened to Anke, as she relates in her book:
“Suddenly, as if I’d been catapulted out of my body, I was able to see myself from the outside. One second, I was in my body and the next I’d become detached from it, although I was still fully conscious and alert … I was experiencing it all from a spot some six feet away from my body.”
This experience soon led to a feeling of tremendous exhilaration, freedom and the thrill of being fully alive:
“I felt no connection to my body whatsoever; it didn’t even feel like it belonged to me. It was as if my body itself was home to all the pain, sadness and heaviness of the past few years of my life, whereas I finally felt free of it all, unburdened at last. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so free and light. I was like a bird that’s’ spent its life in a tiny cage and has suddenly been set free … but all the time, l was feeling more alive than ever in my limitless, bodiless state.”
Here, we have to pause to reflect on the meaning of Anke’s initial experience of being in a bodiless state. This aspect of NDEs often does not receive the consideration it deserves because of the emphasis that is usually given to what comes afterward.
But here’s the first thing you need to take in. You are not just your body. You exist in a dual form. There is your physical body, but you learn in an NDE that there is more to you than that. You also are a soul, or, if you prefer, a spirit, and indeed that is what you really are.
This is the first lesson you learn in an NDE.
And here things get complicated because of language, which will force us to take a brief detour from the journey that Anke has just embarked on.
Many people who have NDEs make a point of saying that words can never capture their experience. That it is, in essence, ineffable, something that eludes our ordinary language. Here we have to remember that our ordinary language is body-based. While in your body, you are limited in time and space and feel yourself to be separate from the world outside yourself. But when you are out of your body, you see that this is an illusion. When you are out of your body, you are boundless; you no longer live in time, but in eternity, which is not everlasting time, but timelessness itself. In your body-based consciousness, you can only speculate about the afterlife. When you are out of your body, you just know.
Not everyone who enters into death is aware of leaving their body in the way that Anke did. Some simply find that they have left time and entered eternity, as happened to one of my good friends named Joe Geraci who told me this:
“It was a total immersion in light, brightness, warmth, peace, security. I did not have an out-of-body experience. I did not see my body or anyone about me. I just immediately went into this beautiful, bright light. It’s difficult to describe; as a matter of fact, it’s impossible to describe. Verbally, it cannot be expressed. It’s something that becomes you and you become it. I could say, “I was the peace, I was love.” I was the brightness, it was part of me … You just know. You’re all-knowing – and everything is a part of you … It’s just so beautiful.
“It was eternity. It’s like I was always there and I will always be there, and that my existence on earth was just a brief instant.”
There is a lot to unpack here. To begin with, can you imagine what it must feel like to see your entire life as if it were just a brief flicker in time? But this is what Joe realized when he was able to view his life from the perspective of eternity. Joe also makes it clear that there was no way that mere words could ever convey his experience. When you exist in eternity, you are unbound from space and time and your body, but our ordinary language is constrained by and structured in a spatial and temporal framework. Only when you leave ordinary language at the door can you begin to appreciate the nature of eternity, your true home. Finally, though this is only implied by Joe’s account, you still retain your sense of personal identity, but what you are is so much more than the limited local self you call your ego.
Now we come to the most important thing I have to tell you about the afterlife. This will require a little background first.
Not to brag, but my book, Life at Death, which I published in 1980, is now regarded as the first major scientific investigation of NDEs. It followed directly from Raymond Moody’s groundbreaking book, Life After Life, which gave us the term, “the near-death experience.” In my book, I found quite a few instances, as had Moody, when a respondent indicated that he or she had been aware of a “Presence” or sometimes just “a voice.” But whatever it was, it was something that was able to communicate telepathically to the individual.
At the time, I failed to appreciate just how important this Presence (as I shall call it from now on) was or just what it was. But I can tell you now that it holds the key to the mystery of the NDE. And in what follows, I will attempt to unlock the door to the afterlife. For this purpose, I will first draw on the experience of Anke and afterward on that of another NDEr I know very well.
Here, then, to begin with, is a long extract from Anke as she tries to describe her encounter with the Presence once she becomes aware of it:
“‘Everything is OK, Anke.’ A soft, melodious voice carried through the room.
“Startled, I turned in the direction that I thought the voice was coming from and saw a radiant figure smiling invitingly at me. It was as high as the ceiling and the light it emanated was so indescribably bright that I could barely make out a body. I stood spellbound beside the bed [clearly out of her body] for what felt like an eternity staring at the figure.
“I’d never seen anything so beautiful. This figure made of soft celestial light had the power to change everything it touched…
“The figure, the presence, was more than just light, and more than a spectrum of colors … I sensed that the figure was emanating a somewhat masculine energy. I immediately felt safe and protected because it felt as if he knew me.
“‘All your questions will be answered …’ As the figure came closer still, I could feel myself being drawn into his luminous energy field.
“I had the extraordinary sense that I was no longer bound by structure of material density. It was like an inner liberation, and I felt a happiness that I’d never experienced in my life. I felt completely safe embedded in this energy field, in this unlimited space bound by a great unconditional love … I felt freer and lighter and more alive than ever before.
“I could not only see this light but also feel it and experience it in all my senses. It felt limitless, as if it was coming from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The light brought out in me overwhelming yet glorious feelings and sensations.”
It’s the light of a living, universal consciousness that pervades everything in existence. It makes you feel a complete, pure and unconditional love — none of the emotions we experience as human beings come close to it.
Other people are aware of speeding at a tremendous rate toward the golden light in which the Presence is to be found. This is the kind of experience that happened to a good friend of mine, who became one of the best known NDErs in the early days of my research. I would like to say that it was I who discovered Tom Sawyer (yes, that was his actual name — another story for another day), but it was really the other way around. Tom had discovered me by reading my first NDE book, Life at Death. After that, he made contact with me and came to visit me at “The Near-Death Hotel” in Connecticut. That visit changed both of our lives, and we remained good friends until Tom died several years ago.
Here is what Tom told me about his experience of dying as he sped toward the light:
“Then all this time, the speed is increasing … Gradually, you realize … you’re going [at] least the speed of light. It might possibly be the speed of light or possibly even faster than the speed of light.
“You do realize that you’re going just so fast and you’re covering vast, vast distances in just hundredths of a second …
And then gradually you realize that way, way off in the distance — again, unmeasurable distance — it appears that it might be the end of the tunnel. And all you can see is a white light … And again, remember that you are traveling at extreme speed. [But] this whole process only takes … [say] one minute and again emphasizing that you might have traveled to infinity, just an unlimited number of miles.
“You then realize that you are coming to the end of this tunnel and that this light is not just a brilliance from whatever is at the end of the tunnel — it’s an extremely brilliant light. It’s pure white. It’s just so brilliant. . .
“And then, before you is this — excuse me [he pauses here] — is this most magnificent, just gorgeous, beautiful, bright, white or blue-white light [another pause]. It is so bright, it is brighter than a light that would immediately blind you, but this absolutely does not hurt your eyes at all … It is so bright, so brilliant, and so beautiful, but it doesn’t hurt your eyes. And the next series of events take place — oh, within a millisecond, they take place — more or less all at once, but of course in describing them I’ll have to take them one at a time.
“The next sensation is this wonderful, wonderful feeling of this light … It’s almost like a person. It is not a person, but it is a being of some kind. It is a mass of energy. It doesn’t have a character like you would describe another person, but it has a character in that it is more than just a thing. It is something to communicate to and acknowledge. And also in size, it just covers the entire vista before you. And it totally engulfs whatever the horizon might be….
“Then the light immediately communicates to you … This communication is what you might call telepathic. It’s absolutely instant, absolutely clear. It wouldn’t even matter if a different language was being spoken … whatever you thought and attempted to speak, it would be instant and absolutely clear. There would never be a doubtful statement made.
“The first thing you’re told is, “Relax, everything is beautiful, everything is OK.”
“…You’re immediately put at absolute ease. It’s the most comfortable feeling that you could ever imagine. You have a feeling of absolute, pure love. It’s the warmest feeling. [But] make sure you don’t confuse it with warm in temperature, because there’s no temperature involved. Whatever your senses would feel absolute perfect — if it’s temperature, it’s a perfect temperature. If it’s either an exciting emotion or a placid emotion, it’s just perfect and you feel this and you sense this. And it’s so absolutely vivid and clear.
“Then the thing is, the light communicates to you and for the first time in your life … is a feeling of true, pure love. It can’t be compared to the love of your wife, the love of your children, or some people consider a very intense sexual experience as love and they consider [it] possibly the most beautiful moment in their life – and it couldn’t even begin to compare. All of these wonderful, wonderful feelings combined could not possibly compare to the feeling, the true love. If you can imagine what pure love would be, this would be the feeling that you’d get from this brilliant white light.”
What is this Presence? Raymond Moody called it “a being of light,” and I think that’s still a pretty good generic description of this Presence. But Tom is clear, and so is Anke, that it is not a person, and has never been one. Indeed, the Presence tells Anke: “I’m much more than you think. I’m not a person or an individual entity. I’m part of you … I’m connected to everything that makes you what you are.” What it appears to be is your True Self, which is how Anke sometimes refers to it, though most of the time she just calls it her “nameless teacher.”
What is most stunning to learn about this Presence whatever it be, is that it seems to be omniscient about you. It knows your innermost thoughts, it knows your history, not only from your present life, but has knowledge of the innumerable lives you have already lived. In the deepest and most undeniable sense, the Presence is who you really are.
Not only that, but as it conveys to Anke, it has always been with her.
But just here, we must pause again to clarify a confusion about language. Words like “always” and “never” are adverbs that relate to a temporal dimension of our embodied life. However, the Presence doesn’t live in time, but in eternity. So when he says he has always been with her, he is forced to use a linguistic expression out of convenience that is not accurate.
Her nameless teacher has “always” been there throughout all of her lives. Some sample quotes:
“I’m always there.”
“This light had always been by my side.”
“Just when I felt I’d identified a beginning and end of my current life, my teacher unveiled further glimpses of the countless other lives that I’d already lived, repeating with a smile, ‘I’m always there.'”
“In every one of my incredibly different lives, my teacher’s unmistakable golden light had been by my side.”
This is true for you, too. Each of us has a Presence, a being of light, that has “always” been with us throughout the eternity of our being. We are never alone and never without the Presence’s benevolent guidance. However, it can usually only manifest to us in conditions of bodily extremity, such as when we undergo a near-death crisis.
What follows are some of the teachings that Anke’s Presence conveys to her so that she can better understand the nature of reality from the standpoint of her life as an eternal being:
“Time as we know it in the material world is completely absent — everything is happening right now and therefore all at once. We labor under the illusion that a past and future exist … The soul isn’t subject to space and time.
“Our soul stores all our experiences from previous lives, and it knows our higher purpose and path, our current life plan and its challenges — and the solution to those challenges — that come with it.
“I felt his infinite wisdom, his endless compassion, and all that I imagine goodness to be. But the most wonderful thing was the incredible love he had for me. I’d never felt so loved, and in such an unconditional, appreciative, and personal way.
“[He] began to teach me using the universal language of telepathy … He knew what I was thinking before I thought it, and the answers I received from him were often so extensive, complete and multilayered that understanding them pushed me to the edge of comprehension.
“The first thing he showed me was a review of my life to date. I was shown that even insignificant events had been a piece in a bigger picture and found that I could identify a deeper meaning behind incidents I’d long forgotten about.”
Anke sees everything all at once [no time] as if projected on a large screen and experiences what she felt and thought during these scenes. There ensues a long discussion of her life review, and it’s clear that one has a life plan and a purpose, just as all of us do.
She is shown scenes from the countless past lives that she [and her mother] had spent together. Sometimes her mother in this life is her brother in a past life, etc. Ditto for her father. She sees how they have all been connected … Indeed, all of the people in her life now were a part of this tapestry. “From this perspective, all these individuals were like the cast in the film of my life, in which I played a leading role.”
Every situation we encounter in our lives … is in accordance with a higher purpose … Everything that happens is part of a perfectly formulated plan.
Tom Sawyer’s narrative tells us a very similar story:
“The second most magnificent experience … is you realize that you are suddenly in communications with absolute, total knowledge. It’s hard to describe … You can think of a question … and immediately know the answer to it. As simple as that. And it can be any question whatsoever. It can be on any subject. It can be on a subject that you don’t know anything about, that you are not in the proper position even to understand and the light will give you the instantaneous correct answer and make you understand it. . .
“Needless to say, I had many questions answered, many pieces of information given to me, some of which is very personal, some of which is religiously orientated … one of the religious-orientated questions was in regards to an afterlife and this was definitely answered through the experience itself … There’s absolutely no question in my mind that the light is the answer. Upon entering that light … the atmosphere, the energy, it’s total pure energy, it’s total knowledge, it’s total love, pure love everything about it is definitely the afterlife, if you will.”
Tom concludes this account with a statement clearly implied by what he had already described; it is a recurrent motif in many NDE narratives:
“As a result of that [experience], I have very little apprehension about dying my natural death … because if death is anything, anything at all like what I experienced, it’s gotta be the most wonderful thing to look forward to, absolutely the most wonderful thing.”
We come, finally, to the last of the revelations that Anke’s Presence is prepared to disclose to her. And when you learn what it is, you may be bowled over and stupefied or simply incredulous or possibly dismayed. But like a character in a Hermann Hesse novel, you are about to learn the secrets of this cosmic magician, who has been conducting this tour of the afterlife for Anke. But what Anke now experiences is how the Presence can change his form at will, and how the realities in the afterlife are created. And most astonishing of all, that she can do it, too. She again becomes aware of the Presence’s golden-yellow energy field, and then, for the first time, he shows himself as a human body:
“Never had I gazed into such loving eyes; they made me feel as if they knew me inside out. Whole worlds were reflected in them — they were like a gateway to the universe and far beyond.
“Then, with a slight movement of his fingers, the Presence transforms himself into a little boy, then with a snap of his fingers, we were in a beautiful garden. Then, he snapped his fingers, and a beguiling beautiful woman appeared … although the word ‘beautiful’ barely begins to describe her. She wore a long dress bathed in light with a delicate golden belt. Countless sparking diamonds formed each strand of her long golden-blonde hair. But the most striking thing about her was the large sparkling diamond on her forehead, which shimmered in all colors.
“The woman’s warm-hearted gaze expressed everything that we humans try to put a name to using terms like love, wisdom, and truth. All of this was united in her. ‘Let me show you reality,’ I heard her say as our surroundings transformed once more … We were on a snowy mountain top.
“‘These are all reality,’ Anke. Reality is a creative process that’s continually drawing on itself and creating itself anew in each moment. This continuous re-creation is a playful, curious and wholly conscious process …
So to quote from a famous Beatles’ album, what we learn from “this magical mystery tour” is that the Presence which manifests as the Light and that exudes a LOVE that is beyond compare can appear in any form it wishes. And we can also now understand is that the afterlife is a mind-built world, ever-changing, and responsive to our own background, desires, interests and creative impulses.
Another good example of the ability of the Presence to change forms at will in response to our character and background is provided by the late Mellen-Thomas Benedict (Bio One, Bio Two), whom I first met in 1981. I would later write about him in my book, Lessons from the Light. Here is what he told me:
“The Light kept changing into different figures, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, mandalas, archetypal images and signs. I asked the Light, “What is going on here? Please, Light, clarify yourself for me. I really want to know the reality of the situation.” I cannot really say the exact words, because it was sort of telepathy.
“The Light responded. The information transferred to me was that your beliefs shape the kind of feedback you are getting before the Light. If you were a Buddhist or Catholic or Fundamentalist, you get a feedback loop of your own stuff. You have a chance to look at it and examine it, but most people do not. As the Light revealed itself to me, I became aware that what I was really seeing was our Higher Self matrix.
“We all have a higher Self, or an oversoul part of our being. It revealed itself to me in its truest energy form. The only way I can really describe it is that the being of the higher Self is more like a conduit.”
This helps us to understand that certain features in NDE accounts are not what they appear to be. For example, when people who have an NDE report meeting and being embraced by Jesus, it’s not what it seems. Instead, it’s the Presence that manifests in that form, a form that makes sense to the individual who experiences him in that way. I don’t think there has ever been an NDE in which Jesus identifies himself as such; people just intuitively identify the Presence as Jesus. He knows what moves our hearts.
Another example of how the Presence can transform itself into any one of a number of forms has just been brought to my attention by my webmaster, Kevin Williams. It concerns a very unusual case of multiple NDEs that all occurred at the same time. Here is a brief account that Kevin sent to me:
May Eulett was struck by lightning at the same time as her cousin and a friend. All of them appeared in each other’s NDE (a “group” NDE) and experienced the same thing with the exception of some aspects of their NDE. Here is an excerpt:
“We saw that the sparkling lights were tiny, transparent bubbles that drifted in the air and sparkled on the grass. We realized that each tiny sparkle was a soul. To me, the valley appeared to be Heaven, but at the same time I knew that James and Rashad were seeing it differently. James saw it as the Gulf of Souls. Rashad saw it as Nirvana, and somehow we knew all this without speaking. The light began gathering at the far end of the valley, and slowly, out of the mist, a pure white being began to materialize. I saw an angel with a strong, bright face, but not like you’d usually imagine. She was closer to a strong, Viking Valkyrie. I knew she was the special angel that watches over the women of my family, and I perceived her name to be Hellena. James saw this same being as his late father, a career Naval officer, in a white dress uniform. Rashad perceived the being to be the Enlightened One, or Buddha.”
Soon Anke learns how to create her own reality, as if by magic. She first tries to create a Christmas tree and was astonished to find that she could, just by imagining it:
“A small, beautifully formed Christmas tree stood before me. It was the first thing that had come into my mind … I only had to think of a Christmas tree and there it was (as real as my teacher was).
“It was pure magic. One after another, a multicolored umbrella, a streetlamp, a pond with a rowboat and every animal imaginable all appeared.”
Her teacher says, “You create your own reality with your thoughts.”
Anke is not the only NDEr who has described the wonder of creating your own environment after you die. One of my very good friends is PMH Atwater, who has had three NDEs, and is a very popular author of many very worthwhile books on NDEs. Her latest book, Edge Walker, is her autobiography. In it, you will find this ebullient description of what she discovered during one of her NDEs:
“First, I decided to create and shape a house, a specific type of house. Exact details were fixed in my mind — seeing each part, noting proportions, readying myself to project to what seemed as if a definitive space in front of me. I then released that thought. I held true to my goal and there it was, the same house I had envisioned. I ran to it, at least it seemed as if I did. I kicked the foundation, opened and shut windows, stomped across the green floor of the front porch, fingered the brass doorknob, gave a slap to each of the three porch pillars. As near as I could tell, this was the four-square white house with steeply pitched roof that I had envisioned. Right here. Right in front of me. Real!
“For something animate, I chose to create a large oak tree complete with huge gnarled roots, a canopy of limbs, leaves and birds and fliers of all types. Each detail was pictured in my mind, then I aimed for a particular spot some distance away. Presto! It happened! Not only was the tree beautiful, it was complete with individual leaves, textured bark, and insect holes.
“I proved it! A human such as myself could create from scratch. Thoughts are things!
“On a binge of non-stop creation, cities took form, along with people, dogs, cats, trash cans, alleys, telephone poles, schools, books, pencils, cars, roads, lawns, birds, flowers, shrubbery, rain, suns, clouds, rivers. And everything moved on its own and had breath, noise, language. All manner of activity occurred aside and apart from anything I designed — then went about their own business according to their own pleasure and perception.
“And Jesus: I wanted so much to see him. I wanted to thank him for the role he played in history and the examples he gave for others to follow. His life and mastery of being had deeply affected me. Instantly he was there. No, there was no sense or need to bow down and worship him as if he were some kind of God figure. He was my elder brother whom I had not seen for a long, long time. The mood was joyous. We laughed and hugged. I expressed the thanks held deep within me.”
Our tour of the afterlife must end here, not because there isn’t much more to our lives after death, but because we cannot go further. You have to remember that NDErs like Anke, Joe, Tom, Mellen-Thomas and PMH have only entered the vestibule of the house of death after which they return to their time-bound physical bodies on earth.
We know there is more, that there must be more, and that eventually most of us will find ourselves having to reincarnate after having been shown what kind of life and challenges we need for our soul’s growth after which we find the mother whose womb awaits us. And then, down the chute we go into another life. Life after life.
• Kenneth Ring – Miraculous Returns: Terminal Lucidity And The Work Of Alexander Batthyany
• Near-Death Experience Researcher Kenneth Ring (About)
• Near-Death Experience Researcher Kenneth Ring (Website/Blog)