One of the readers of my books recently sent me an email which struck a chord with me. This lady, who is grieving the loss of a husband and life companion for 55 years, says that she believes in the afterlife but asks one very crucial question – Where is he now?
Isn’t this the question any bereaved person asks? Isn’t this the question we all ask ourselves when we think of the transition we call death? And yet, no matter how frequently it is asked, it is question that does not make sense.
From the little we seem to understand about the mystery of the survival of personality to bodily death, the afterlife is not a “place”. Therefore, the question “where is he now?” is not appropriate and cannot be answered.
When trying to describe the afterlife, we have to rely on the descriptions that have been provided to by great many spirit communicators, speaking to us either directly – through the phenomenon of direct voices or through electronic voice phenomena – or through gifted mediums. It is interesting to note that not only – if you look at the substance of what is being said – these descriptions are much in accord with each other – no matter if they were given through a medium’s automatic writing in the 1890’s Victorian England or from a voice speaking from a radio in contemporary Italy – but they are also consistent with what is being said by near-death experiencers.
All those who have experienced the afterlife – either because they have left their body behind or because they have temporarily peeked into this other realm during an NDE – do not talk about a “place”. Rather, they talk about a state – more precisely a state of mind.
In order to begin to understand that, we have to remember what I said in the introduction of my book “Adventures in Psychical Research” – that moment of insight in which I realised that “We are not bodies, with a consciousness that we lose at death. We are consciousness, with a body we lose at death.”
We identify ourselves with our body, but that is very wrong. Our body changes from a year to the next, from a day to the next. In fact our body now is a completely different object from the one it was only a second ago. We are not our bodies. “We” are what is with us from the day we were born, what never changes: our awareness, our thoughts, perceptions, memories, our personality. In a word: our consciousness. We also believe that such consciousness – our mind – resides in the physical brain, and that it depends on the brain functioning. But this is also wrong, as amply demonstrated – among many other things – by Near-Death Experiences.
In a way in which we do not being to understand, our mind exists independently from our body, and is strongly related to, but independent from the physical brain. When our bodies die and our brains stop functioning, our mind “detaches” from anything physical and, quite simply, goes on existing. The transition we call death is so imperceptible, in terms of the continuity of experience, that many do not realise they have actually died until a certain time after the event.
So, the afterlife can probably be best described as a dream. A very special dream, though. A dream which feels more real than our day-to-day reality, and a dream over which we have complete control. Spirit communicators tell us that, in this special reality, it is enough to think about a place, an environment, an activity, a set of circumstances, and these immediately “materialise” and become a living experience. That is why – we are told – souls find themselves in an environment that mirrors their beliefs and expectations concerning the afterlife. There is always great light, and great warmth, marvellous colours and beautiful landscapes. And that is why, especially for the initial period after passing, souls remain engaged in the kind of activities they were engaged in during life on earth. Artists keep doing their arts, scientists keep studying the mysteries of the universe, etcetera. Until the moment in which they feel an attraction towards the higher, less material, more spiritual dimensions of the afterlife, and naturally sore towards this purer, brighter, blissful light.
In this incredible dimension in which we are able to create reality with our thoughts we still have limitations, though. We cannot, for example, communicate easily with the loved ones we’ve left behind. We are still with them, in many senses. We are still aware of what is going on in their lives. We still love them. But only occasionally and very briefly we manage to break the barrier between dimensions and make ourselves seen/heard/perceived. Innumerable examples of after-death communication tell us that this does happen, but rarely and for very short periods of time.
These nonmaterial dimensions of experience are not a place, then. But – we are told – they don’t have a time either. Speaking about an “initial period” after passing is just our way to express a concept that makes no sense in the afterlife. This, incidentally, is exactly what NDErs tell us: time as we perceive it in the material dimension is just an illusion. In the other reality, everything happens at once. There is no time and there is no space.
As I write these notes, I realise that I sound like a spiritually enlightened guru. I speak with the assuredness of somebody who’s figured everything out, or who has directly experienced what he’s talking about. This could not be further from the truth. I, like anybody else who has studied these matters, am deeply puzzled, uncertain and confused. In these few paragraphs I have colossally simplified concepts which are in reality very complex and nuanced. Anybody wishing to look into these crucial question in more depth is strongly advised to read the excellent and excellently researched book “The Afterlife Revealed – What Happens When We Die” by Michael Tymn.