Been There: Interview with Subject of Near Death Experience

PureInsight Reporter

PureInsight | March 31, 2003

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and did you believe in God or any kind of religion before your experience?

1A: I grew up in the southwestern part of the United States. Texas and Oklahoma. I was raised in a very conservative Christian family. Very religious, we were in church all the time. But, as I got older, I began to reject it. So by the time I was twenty I began looking at other religions. And by twenty-five, I had given up my quest. I thought all religions were stupid. And I really had no interest personally in religion. I just studied religion as an academic subject and had no personal interest at all.

Q: What do you do at work?

2A: I am a professor of history at the University of Illinois in Chicago. My fields that I teach are history of the Middle Ages, history of religions, and mysticism. Courses like that are what I teach.

Q: So you had near death experience. What happened?

3A: Yes, this was in 1988. I was in London to give a paper at a conference. But at the time, I had very severe asthma and it was a day when the air quality was very bad in London. They were giving warnings repeatedly that people with pulmonary diseases should not go out. But, as visitors, of course you don't get those kinds of warnings. And I was out anyway. And my asthma began to get worse and worse and worse. Before long, I was in very serious difficulty.

I think that an ambulance was called to my hotel. And I was taken to a nearby hospital in London. By the time I got there, my lungs were in pulmonary arrest. My lungs were blocked with mucous so I couldn't breathe. So I was put on a respirator. I was in a coma for two weeks. So, sometime in that two week period, as I was just at the point of death, this happened.

And it was very serious. When I went back to London a year later and talked to the nurses and doctors they told me that they fully expected me to die at any moment. My family back in Oklahoma was contacted about my condition and was told that someone should come and pick up my body and take it back. And the nursing strategy was based on the assumption I would die. So I was in very serious condition. So for one week my lungs were completely blocked. I was in a respirator. But even then sometimes the respirator was shut down because of the blockage of my lungs. And then they would have to put the bag on me by hand and squeeze me by hand, just to keep me alive. After a week, my lungs started working again but there was some other problem. I had a terrible fever and so they put me in cold towels to try to cool my body off. I had some kind of seizure during that time. And so I was still very close to death during the second week. But then, after the second week was over, my symptoms seemed to be better except that they didn't notice that, I think they described it, there was no spontaneous movement. As it turned out, during the two-week period I ended up paralyzed from my neck down and that was a major health problem when I came out of coma. But the experience itself was somewhere in that two-week period. I don't know. I was away (unconscious) so I don't know when.

Q: So, what did you see on the other side? Just describe it for us, what did you feel?

4A: All right. If you study much about near death experiences, you know about the tunnel and all that. I don't remember anything like that. My experience starts deeper into
the death experience as they are typically described. It really revolved around what is called life review. So the first thing that I remembered was just being in a place; it was a featureless place where everything was in the same color, sort of a blue-gray color. Well, it might be the sky, it might be the land; everything was all one color.

Q: So, you didn't see any light, you didn't see any figure, you didn't see anything like a conscious being?

5A: No, I didn't see any of those. But in this place where I was, beside me, over to the right side, was some kind of a being. I never saw the being. I felt the presence of the being. So, I was subsequently feeling the being, but I never got a glimpse of the being. The being had a feeling of being big, powerful. A sense of large, a sense of power. It was always here at my right side. But I never saw it. So for a while I was in this place, with the being here, and then I began what it is typically called the life review. And it was the most moving experience of my life.

Now I often think that if I had heard about this before, I would have thought it would be maybe something like watching a film of my life. But that was not at all what it was. It was the re-experiencing of my life. So, it was being there again. Not a distant watching of a film, but being there again. What was very important in this experience were the emotions that I was feeling and the thoughts that I was thinking at the time. But this experience was not just me re-experiencing it. I was experiencing from three different angles at the same time. My version of my life, the way that I remembered, what I was feeling, what I thought my motivations were, what my thoughts were. That was there. But, at the same time, I was experiencing what other people were experiencing in contact with me, what their feelings were, what their emotions were, what their thoughts were, and that was a shock to me. Actually, feeling what other people feel, so for example …

Q: So the life review started when you were very young, as soon as when you remembered things?

6A: No, what I remember is not continuous life, but selected episodes, like it was back. Re-living it, being in it, feeling everything. But then I felt what other people felt, and that was a shock for me, because, for example, just as in normal life, sometimes people are difficult, being obnoxious to you, being a real pain, and sometimes you might just lash out and say something. It's a kind of mean, but it's OK, they are really provoking you. They have it coming. So, even if you say something mean, in your mind you think that's OK because this person deserves it. But then, if you feel what the other person's feels, it changes everything, you realize the pain you can cause, saying things. They cause pain for people and that the pain is real, is genuine. And by feeling that, I got an entirely different perspective on relationships with other people.

Q: Tell us a few examples.

7A: Well, that's very personal. Well, it had to do with the one I can't talk to. I had been dating a woman. It was just a very difficult relationship. Attraction but yet difficulty and sometimes, in the heat of argument, you might say or do things that are harsh. But at the time, it make sense. But then, feeling what she was feeling and feeling the genuine pain she felt makes it not OK any more. So, what I came away with was that it's not all right to hurt other people intentionally. And I would just say that, sometimes our thinker (mind) will say, that's all right because that they have it coming, they are mean, they are being very difficult. And you lash out and you justify it in your own mind. So re-experiencing that and actually feeling everything that other person's feels just changes everything.

But then there was a third perspective. So there's my memories, my emotions, my feelings about the other persons emotions and feelings, but then I kind of also saw what was really happening. And what I saw there was a degree of self deception that I was living in, I think we are living in, where we deceive ourselves. We think it's all right to do this.

Q: Can you describe more specifically how you got the third perspective?

8A: I can't, because all of these three perspectives were happening at exactly the same time.

Q: So you were seeing all these several directions at the same time from above?

9A: Well, no, I was feeling, not seeing. Feeling all of them at the same time. My feelings, the other person's feelings and what was actually happening. Not what I would tell myself, or my motivations, always good motivations of course. And not what other persons would tell themselves, always good motivations, but seeing the truth, and seeing how much we lie to ourselves, and how we justify doing things that we shouldn't do, but we deceive ourselves into thinking it's all right. So in that higher perspective I really saw that I was not the person that I thought I was. That my emotions were not as good, my motivations were not as good, I had a great degree of self deception that I was living with and I felt I felt terrible, I felt humiliated, I felt like a failure as a person. And I remember there was a judgment made but it was my judgment on my life. I was thinking that I have failed to be like who I wanted to be, who I thought I was. And in the way of being a very negative feeling, I felt is absolutely rank. But the being was there all during this time. And the being sent me this message saying it is all right, you are only human. A mere human? Oh no, not me. I am more than a mere human. So the message was it's not OK. It's not all right the way we normally live, because we are hurting people, we are lying to ourselves, but it is OK because that was being human. It's all about how humans fail, humans make mistakes, and humans deceive themselves. So, on one level, it's all right, that's normal. But at a higher level it is not all right. That we CAN do better. So the being gave me comforting messages of, "it's all right, you are only human, that is what human's do." But I did want to do better. So that part sort of ended there.

The next phase was I was shown, I was given a revelations, about my own birth family, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister and me. And now I understood exactly who everyone was. Why we were the way that we were. And it was a great comfort. Up to that point I had been very angry at my parents. I thought they hadn't done a very good job at being parents. Now I understood they were simply flawed human beings, doing the best they could with their limitations. Same as I had been in that I had just seen about myself. So the anger evaporated. And when it was all over, that the whole part of my life is all right now. I was not angry any more. But the key thing was now I understood everyone in my family. I could accept them.

Q: You understood emotionally? Or you understood their motives? Or their limitations? In what way did you understand them?

10A: I could understand who they were and who their inner selves were. And I could accept it. And I guess I saw a deeper kind of understanding. More into their soul I guess. And now their actions were understandable and acceptable.

Q: Like, give us a little example. Say your brother or something. If there were any fights, what was the reason, why can you see the inner self now?

11A: Yes, my brother was three years older than I am. We had the difficulties brothers would, I was thinking. What I understood was the pain within himself that he was having to deal with. And how, in a way, that limited his abilities. He wasn't completely, uhm, he didn't have completely free will. Because he was reacting to his own pain. So many things he did, once you understand the pain that he felt, now they become understandable. So rather than just my feeling my reaction to his hitting me or being mean to me, I understood that he was a hurting human being. And that made it all right. Not fully, but since I understood, the negative reaction of my part was over. So that was all that concerned my family.

The next phase was, and this is in many ways the most remarkable, I found myself, I don't how to describe this, the words fail, just sort of in the center of the universe, out in the space. And all around me were stars, galaxies, nebula lights and it was all three dimensional as if I were really in the middle of the universe, just floating freely. And it was breathtakingly, completely, beautiful, stunningly beautiful, but the key part for me was I felt a connection, a direct ray of connection between me and every single object in the universe, like we all were one., we all are connected, we all belong together. And I think that was a very moving feeling, of absolutely connectedness with the entire universe, with everything in it. I was part of it. It was part of me. And just one. That sticks in my mind, the stunning beauty and also the connected just to it.

The next phase I felt that I had is that they revealed to me everything, all the secrets of the universe. I now understood everything. I understood why the things are the way they are, that part is hazy to me now. It wasn't mathematical knowledge. It was just understanding, that the universe makes sense. I knew. I knew the truth. Sometimes I feel like I could recall that now on specific issues, I understand what the right things to do, I feel that I can draw upon from that knowledge that was given me. So that was under knowledge. Complete knowledge.

Then the next phase, more or less the last one, was I was given a revelation of the future. Concerning myself, but specially concerning my children. At the time, my son was fifteen, and my daughter was ten. And I was given very specific pictures of what will happen to them in the future. And I came to understand they will need me. That I needed to be here for them. And at that point I remember making a decision I want to go back, if I am needed, I need go back for them. And then, at that point, I started coming back into my paralyzed body at the hospital.

So what I have got out of the whole thing? It's very difficult to describe, but a complete sense that our lives have meaning and purpose. Everything that happens to us, I came to believe is a result of what had shown to me, has meaning, even they are really bad things, have meaning. And that the purpose of our life here is to learn and grow as a individual and what each person learns and grows about, is different, not everybody is the same. But I came to realize that I could accept all, everything that happened to me in my life, even the worst things. It was all right now. Because I understood that, in some way that I couldn't explain, it had meaning and importance.

And the real meaning of life is how we relate with other people. Oh not on a individual basis. And that it's not all right to hurt other people even when you think they deserve it. And we really should try to rise up live up our higher expectations of ourselves and we can do it. And I did understand the universe makes sense. And that I…-

Q: Makes sense in which way?

12A: That we are not just hopeless leaves blowing in the wind that what happens is purposeful. And it's important in our progress and development as individuals.

Q: How do you feel your connection to the stars? Describe them.

13A: Well, I really just felt that there was a ray that I could see and feel, that was a connection, you can imagine a light beam, and narrow as a laser's, a very narrow light beam connecting you to a star. And you feel you belong to that star, and star belongs to you. And that was true for every object in the universe. I can see these rays, these laser beams of connection.

Q: There was a ray. You could see that.

14A: I could see it and feel it.

Q: There was a ray.

15A: Yes, there were white, little thin white light rays, connecting me to everything in the universe.

Q: Regarding the future, you said the future of your children was revealed to you? Just give us one little example whether that was realized or not.

16A: All Right. Well, I was divorced then. My children were living half of the week with their mother and half with me. I was shown that they would have some extreme difficulties. Things would be hard for them. They would need me to be here. I was shown that I will need to go to court to take action to try to help them. So when I came back, I ended up coming back to Chicago. When I finally got out of the hospital, financially it was difficult, because my insurance didn't cover all my costs. I was financially wiped out because of the medial expenses, but I started saving money, putting money away to go to court. And sure enough, two years later, it all happened. Precisely as I had been shown.

Q: You saw exactly which court and the procedure?

17A: Not quite. I was shown exactly the difficulty the problem that my son would have with his mother. And he would leave her and come to live with me. And that I would go to court to get custody and that's exactly what happened. It was stunning. I mean I was convinced it was true. That's why I started saving money. But when it did happen, I did have the money so I could hire a lawyer to go to court. And he came live with me. It was precisely as I had been shown. I was prepared for this.

Q: why do you think the future can be predicted?

18A: Oh, that's interpreting. That's always the difficult thing. I believe that some things in our lives in the future are determined, they will happen. Other things are variable, that depend on our reactions. But, in general, I think the broad path that our life takes is determined. And that what life is all about is then how do we react to the challenge that comes up. The challenge is pre-determined, the reaction is not pre-determined. So we can take an action which is helpful. The challenge is for us to grow as individuals. Or we can retreat, we can run away from it, we can refuse to take the challenge. So I think in broad terms, much of the future is determined. But not everything. That's up to us to determine. And this was what life is all about.

Q: So you talked about several phases. Exactly how was the timing? Do you feel the whole process was very fast or very slow?
19A: Well, there is no way to describe it. What I ended up feeling is that really there is no such thing as time. Time is artificial world that we create. Where I was there was no time. All these phases that I've talked about more or less happened at the same time. And so I came away from the experience believing that time only exists in this world that we are in. Out there, there is no such thing as time. Maybe everything was already over with there. But in this world that we are in, we see life sequentially. And it's necessary for this existence, but I don't believe that's true for other existences. So yes, there is no way to describe it as fast or slow, and even the way I described it does not quite match with it because we can only live in this sequential world. One thing's happening after another, so I have to describe it that way, instead of kind of all at once.

Q: You think all things were revealed by that being on your right hand side?

20A: No, it was revealed by me, but the being was with me, accompanying me and comforting me too.

Q: Would you call that being God or whatever?

21A: I just call it the being, as I never saw it. And all I feel like I could say I could feel the presence. The presence of a being that was large, immense, big, and it was a presence of power. So I don't call it that. Call it whatever you want. But I just say it's a being because that's all it is. To say more would be to change it, because I didn't get the feeling it was God. It could be God, but I didn't get the feeling this is God. I did end up though, with a certainty, and this make no sense as we describe it logically. I ended up with absolutely certainty of the existence of God, but I can't describe it.

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