A Revolution in Consciousness


 

In the past few decades, we have witnessed an explosion of information about death and the afterlife, generated by an ever-growing number of psychologists and psychiatrists, physicians, hospice nurses and bereavement counselors, near-death experiencers, researchers in parapsychology, and, of course, mediums, who are working toward a better understanding of the world to come. This is one of many signs that the human race is poised to enter a new era, an era I would call a revolution in consciousness. Another sign is that belief in survival after death is on the rise, up to 89 percent according to some surveys.

In Western countries, more and more people believe in a kinder hereafter. Instead of hell they expect joy, reunion with loved ones, and the complete absence of pain and worry. As concepts of the afterlife are inextricable from concepts of the Divine, when one changes, so does the other. Predictably, the fear-inspiring God of old is giving way to a more abstract Supreme Being whose laws are written in the spirit of love, compassion, and forgiveness rather than judgment.

The belief in communication with the dead is also on the rise and to such an extent that it has moved into the mainstream. We already see it dramatized in films and popular TV mystery shows, unrealistic as they may be. The near-death experience, which combines communication with the conviction of postmortem survival, has joined the pool of common knowledge since the groundbreaking work of Raymond Moody in the mid-1970s.

According to all surveys, belief in after-death survival is extremely low among scientists, around 16 percent. So it is ironic indeed that technology developed by science seems to be the launching pad of such a revolution. The connection between the medical technology of resuscitation and the proliferation of near-death returnees is self-evident. The fact is, the shift in consciousness started much earlier, back in the 1800s, with the invention first of the telegraph (1843) and later the telephone, which Alexander Graham Bell introduced to an astonished audience in 1876 at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Bell's presentation publicly demonstrated that a disembodied human voice could be received and heard from an unseen distance (speaking, no less, Hamlet's soliloquy), a startling parallel to communication with the dead. Of all the devices invented in the past century and a half, the telephone is the most involved in afterlife phenomena and the most common symbol in dreams and visions for telepathic contact.

Since then the radio has broadcast sound, and television, sound and images, into almost every home. With these old technologies alone we grew used to the idea of unheard sound and unseen images moving in waves through space. A transmission picked up by an open receiver is very similar to the projection and reception processes of telepathy, although telepathy is generally targeted to a specific recipient and is definitely faster. All these technologies also help make distinctions between the brain and the mind. The brain neither generates nor contains thoughts, feelings, and memories any more than your television set has the starship Enterprise stuffed into it. Both are receiver-transmitter systems.

The Internet has been an even better training ground for expanding our conceptual frameworks, because it transmits information from multiple points that work like inner dimensions. The notion of cyberspace and virtual reality accustoms us to entire dimensions of activity where space is collapsed and distances do not exist — you are at most only one page away from where you want to be — which is analogous to the nonphysical, no-space nature of the afterlife. Like telepathy, information and communication are everywhere at once and respect no barriers.

The Internet has been an even better training ground for expanding our conceptual frameworks, because it transmits information from multiple points that work like inner dimensions. The notion of cyberspace and virtual reality accustoms us to entire dimensions of activity where space is collapsed and distances do not exist — you are at most only one page away from where you want to be — which is analogous to the nonphysical, no-space nature of the afterlife. Like telepathy, information and communication are everywhere at once and respect no barriers.

Technology now allows us to peer into the atom. The atoms that make up the world of matter almost entirely consist of energies, oscillations, and force fields. Matter is hardly solid at all and much less "real" than we realize, a fact known by physicists and naturally by the dead, but not one integrated into the day-to-day sense of reality. That means our bodies are not much different from the energy bodies of people in nonphysical domains. Those people are acutely aware that physical reality is moreover a projection or camouflage system, one from which they often borrow when they construct parts of their own environments. They know that the bodies they inhabit and the places they go are the products of thought projection. What you see, hear, smell, or feel when you make contact with them comes by way of telepathy.

These new technologies together with the news and entertainment industries have further developed our perceptual abilities to take in ever greater amounts of information bytes at ever greater speeds. This helps train us for telepathic encounters, which are commonly transmitted in images arriving at high speeds. Precisely capturing these images is very important to the accuracy of after-death communication.

With the advent of airborne vehicles, our former ideas of distances and how to cross them have been erased. This and satellite shots of our little green-and-blue orb rotating in space have entirely changed our concept of the world we live in. Aware of the fantastic immensity of the universe around us, in which Earth is tucked away in one undistinguished corner, we can now think in terms of light-year distances that are so huge they bend time and space, and we can extrapolate the unbelievable diversity possible within it. No distance, no matter how great, is unthinkable to traverse, and envisioning reaching across the cosmos to hardly imaginable destinations in the centuries to come is no longer pure fantasy. When you really think how far technology has pushed us to open up our conceptual borders, propelled in turn by the media, the idea of exploring the last great frontier and communicating with its residents seems not just to be well within the bounds of realistic possibilities but actually unavoidable in the long run.

Lost in Translation

Again and again those who have dipped into the hereafter report extreme difficulties in describing what happened. As in the dream state, time, space, the sequence of events, emotions, perceptual capabilities, and sensory stimuli are altered in ways that cannot be satisfactorily expressed in languages developed for use in the physical world.

Out-of-body experiences of nontime, simultaneous time, or compressed time and visits from the dead are nearly impossible to convey without resorting to media terminology, such as fast-forwarding, zooming, picture projections (in midair!), semitransparency, and backlighting.

At the most elementary level, those who have left their bodies in NDEs see without using their eyes. How can a person describe that kind of seeing with the languages we now have? How do you describe what it's like to have an energy body but at the same time to feel as though you are a point in space? If you have had an encounter with the dead, how do you describe hearing when no words were actually spoken? And then there are those impossibly gorgeous feeling states that encompass people within layers upon layers of otherworldly emotions and insights, leaving them awestruck and…well…speechless. Words like love and beauty are maddeningly pallid, maddeningly inadequate, for expressing what people perceive in dimensions outside the physical. One near-death experiencer exclaims that "the very best love you feel on earth is diluted to about one part per million" when measured against the "real" love she felt. And this is just trying to convey the first minute or two out of the body!

Because of our present conceptual limitations, the dead generally stop trying to communicate anything of complexity and satisfy the need for contact with a few words of love and encouragement. Or they will enter into our dreams, where our conceptual paradigms are more fluid. If we want to know more, we will have to develop frames of perception that are as broad and as flexible as possible.

Consciousness

Perhaps the two concepts most pertinent to the afterlife are the surviving personality and the Divine. Both concepts continue to evolve and acquire new names as our awareness widens. Although the soul still stands as the most popular term for the surviving entity, with spirit second, the term consciousness is currently taking over. The older terminology of soul and spirit set up unnecessary disjunctures within the self and between this world and the next. A person is not called a spirit while alive, only after death. Similarly, a person can have a soul while alive, yet he or she becomes a soul after passing. Consciousness, by contrast, transcends these disjunctures and maintains the notion of the self as independent of physical identity. You do not have consciousness; you are consciousness, alive or dead.

What consciousness is has baffled scientists for decades. Once they identify it, hard proof of survival after death will quickly follow. I think of consciousness as sentient energy that tends to form constellations of identity, from simple cells to the most complex discarnates. When it focuses in material dimensions, it creates matter. The consciousness of each identity, no matter what the species, whether in the flesh or not, is unique. Yet all seek expansion and fulfillment. Discrete consciousnesses that make up individual selves form larger identities outside the physical, what mystics call oversouls. The oversoul is far more than the sum of its parts. It organizes individual consciousnesses, even giving birth to them. It is then our parent consciousness in a way. We are not lost in this massive superentity, nor are we diminished by it. I do not know enough about the oversoul, but one thing is clear to me: it is an inconceivably vast resource of knowledge, inspiration, and energy. If we were only more practiced in accessing it! Learning about the afterlife will help us do that.

All That Is

And then there is God, the ultimate ineffable. For me the word God is not enough, for it implies a distinct being who is located somewhere else, up far away in rarefied celestial spheres. My God is too immense to be a being and too indwelling to be somewhere else. For me, It is a consciousness of such massiveness that It dwarfs the cosmos. It is forever giving birth, spawning whole universes and reality systems, such as the physical one we are presently in. All thoughts, actions, and things, bodied and disembodied, human and nonhuman, alive and inanimate, visible and invisible, are made from Its tissue. As such, It permeates everything that ever is, ever was, and ever will be, while containing everything tenderly within Itself. Yet It also stands apart. Because It manifests all that is and is manifested in all that is, I use the name All That Is. But then I am trying to force All That Is into a nutshell.

How I experience the Divine is more important to me than what It is. For when I do, it is so engulfing that it soars above all experience known before or since. I hear my own experience echoed by those who have come back from near-death events. Struggling for words, they try to explain a light that is not light but something alive and aware and with which they merge. They try to convince us of the out-of-this-world depth of its love, its compassion, and even its humor. In my view, this knowing light is an aspect of All That Is that can best touch the hearts and souls of human beings.

The dead and some near-death experiencers speak of another manifestation of the Divine, not a being, but a radiant atmosphere that envelops them in the afterlife. I call it the Presence, and it has been palpable to me on and off since childhood. I remember it particularly when as a kid I had climbed to the top of a cherry tree in full bloom. As I gazed up at the glory of those vibrant pink flowers against a sparkling blue sky, the freshness around me intensified, gradually becoming independent of the physical environment. Somehow it came into its own, faintly at first, until it began to shimmer. I knew that it was aware of me and of everything around me, from the sky to each flake of bark. What strikes me most now is the intensity of its intimacy. It is intimately aware of the singular character of every atom and recognizes the importance of every stray thought, seeking always to nurture their potential as they move along their individual pathways through eternity. Through such divine manifestations we get a glimmer of the unfathomable magnitude and immeasurable love of All That Is. We sense the deeper meaning of existence, although we may not be able to make out its exact contours. And we know, finally, that death is not an end but rather a lifting out into that vast, knowing, luminous Presence, in which all things thrive and are made possible.


Excerpted from
The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death ©2012 by Julia Assante. Published with permission of New World Library 

Teaser image by tristrambrelstaff, courtesy of Creative Commons license.