In mass killings, the whole number of people does not move into the afterlife as a group, but each individual person arrives alone, usually to be greeted by family and friends. But the first steps on reaching the other side vary depending on the person's beliefs and conduct during his or her life on earth.
Those who were sceptics and had no belief in an afterlife have a hard time on arrival, finding themselves confused and in a misty limbo. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) was one such atheist, and here is his account of the first moments after his death in a motorcycle accident in 1938.
''A shattering blow, darkness rent with interludes of throbbing agony and finally merciful cessation of pain; nothingness. Out of the void came first a mere point of self-awareness, lost and found again and spreading gradually into an indefinite impression of being; a sensation of neither darkness nor light, an uneasy greyness filled with growing apprehension. Soon I should need to drag myself out of this numbing stupor, to find out where I was and what was happening in this waste of greyness. But having flickered, consciousness went out again and I slept.
There came a time when I could no longer drowse my fears away. The sense of identity grew stronger and with it came a tumult of emotions and hurried anxious thoughts. Unwillingly I had to awake to a formless world of which I seemed the only inhabitant. Yet I thought I heard voices but could distinguish no words; I felt the shadows palpitate with movement and could see no one. I was aware, too, of waves of sorrow washing up around me and trying to drown my feeble consciousness. Becoming aware of my body I found myself on my feet, surprised to find movement so light and easy, but I was afraid to venture far in any direction because of the shadowy obstacles I sensed around. I fumbled in the dimness, seeking a way out of the grief that enveloped me. Where was I? Even if I had become blind and deaf, surely there must be someone around to help me? I tried calling, but there was no response. What had happened?
At first my mind was entirely occupied with my predicament and the past did not concern me, but as I wandered now one, now another vision flashed across my mental retina, A ribbon of road, boys on bicycles, my cottage, and soon these discrete memories began to coalesce into a continuous series of past experiences,. Before long I was racing back along the years faster and faster, helpless to stay the record and obliged to feel as well as to remember as my past unrolled back to the earliest childhood memories. I had come to a standstill while this disquieting survey held me and as it checked at the unconsciousness of the infant my own consciousness flickered out. At the very moment of oblivion I gasped with relief and just had time to think: this is really the end.
It was not ! .......The dimness lifted a tittle, and a world of vague outlines was developing out of the mist; meadows, I thought, hedges and trees. Perhaps the blurred outlines in the distance were houses? A town perhaps, people. .......I found myself drifting towards it and thus got my first indication of the way movement here is affected by thought.
I came upon a convenient bank and rested. As I sat there it became possible to think more clearly and to take stock of my position. All my known and familiar world was gone and if this was a nightmare I still had to abide the awakening. The startling impression that this was death became insistent, but if I had accept that idea, what became of my conviction that death ended it all? For I was certainly alive, if you could call it living, and it even appeared that my surroundings were taking on more substance and I myself more vitality. So any expectation that his was just a particularly persistent nightmare became unlikely. I felt my body, firm flesh. How odd! I tried to speak but only a throttled ghost of a sound came forth. I arose and walked and realised afresh how light and resilient my limbs felt.
After weeks or months of walking about, sitting, and experimenting with my new powers of motion, the cloud of depression and despair began to lift from my mind and a desire for action began to stir. But what to do in this desert? So my steps were drawn to a small town ahead. There were people going about their business.....I decided to accost someone and ask for information but the passing faces had in them no signs of friendliness so I wandered on oppressed by my loneliness. .....Sitting there and trying to decide on my next move I began to get the feeling of a friendly presence near me. ''You need help?'' asked a voice. ''I do indeed,'' I replied.
The man said: ''You have go yourself into a very unhappy region and as I can see that you do not belong here, I should like to help. You must have been in a wretched state of mind before you came here and that accounts for waking in this part of the world. We must get you into a happier condition before we can help you much.''
He took me quietly over an ever-brightening landscape and explained as we went that my newly developing senses had to be given time to adjust to their new world. Eventually he said:''I shall take you, with your permission, to a kind of sanatorium where I work. There they will go on helping you and giving you the right conditions for health.' '
''All this is very intriguing, if uncomfortable,'' I said. ''It isn't going to be the effortless sort of heaven one would have expected if one hadn't been so stupid as to expect nothing at all.''
''Is that what you thought?'' he asked. ''It seems very stupid now, as you say. But it helps to explain your difficulties before I found you.''
I have been given a small room full of lovely colours and light and here I can be assured of solitude.''
There Lawrence's friend and guide helped him probe into his past life, and fully experience the new life in the eternal existence beyond.
In contrast to Lawrence's first encounters in the afterlife, the account given by Lutheran Pastor Alvin D. Mattson to his daughter commencing almost five months after his death in October1970, is quite different. He had taken an interest in Psychical Research and Parapsychology during his lifetime, and shared his knowledge with his congregation and students, so knew what to expect on reaching the other side. He died in hospital five days after rupturing an artery in his stomach.
''Now I will tell you how it was. The last few days before I passed, I was coming and going, coming and going. I was definitely aware I was conscious of going to other countries and other places (out-of-body travel to Montana, Illinois, Iowa and England he told his son Al in another communication), but I really didn't want to go. I wanted to stop where I was. That was the physical body holding me. I would come back and I would tell you where I'd been. I was very aware of you (his daughter Ruth) and Al (his son ) there with me in the room. It was good to have you there. I needed you.
There was this tug between going and staying, and going and staying. As I went more and more, I loathed more the coming back. I felt regretful to leave, but I felt shut in when I got back. But not truly shut in because I wasn't properly in my physical body. I was partially in and partially out. My body became a very uncomfortable vehicle. It became very clumsy. My feet were so clumsy. I didn't feel as if I could move my feet somehow. They were like heavy clogs. They didn't feel like feet.
Then the rest of me began to feel heavy like that, and it was an effort to lift my arm up. If was an effort to turn my head. I began to feel as though I didn't have enough effort. But it was so easy to go out and be out there. There was no effort to do that. Then I thought that I really must stop this business of seesawing. I looked up in the air, and I saw something like a seesaw. And it was HARD to put myself down and it was easy to stay up.
I felt there was much I'd left undone, but it was pointed out to me there wasn't much I could do with a body like that anymore.
Suddenly it became clear to me that I had to make a decision. We all have to make a decision, really, whether we are going to struggle or whether we're going to let go. This is why people are afraid of death. The people who lack positiveness fear death even more because they dither, 'Shall I or shan't I?' I wanted to be left alone to die.
Then I had this magnificent, wonderful vision. There were the gates....there was this beautiful gate opening, and there were all of my family coming backward and forward to greet me.
I said, 'Do you always have to go through gates like that?' and they said, 'No, this is because this is what YOU have always thought, and will have what you have imagined. You built this, your entrance of light. You can have St. Peter if you like.' Then I saw them. They came back. My family (still alive on earth). They came back, and I looked at them. I no longer saw them as I'd seen them - like my children. They were no longer my children. They were souls that I had been blessed enough to provide bodies for. And I cried and I said to myself, 'Lord, thank you, I'm ready to go.' They tiptoed in and they looked at me. I didn't see them with my physical eyes, I saw them blurred.
They said, 'Are we holding you back?' They were asking, 'Shall we go and leave him or shall we stay?' I couldn't really tell them whether I wanted them to stay or go. I just thought it was beautiful to have them there. I looked, and as I began gradually to leave them I had the most beautiful passing, a most BEAUTIFUL passing. I was conscious all the time. I thanked God for the body that I'd had, the opportunity I'd had, the children, and the gladness of the fact that my family (in spirit) and my (deceased) wife were there waiting for me. And yet you know, just a little bit of me said, 'Now come on AD, come on now, make up your mind, stop drifting.'
And I felt some hands take me and lift me. And someone said, 'Come on, stand up, what are you lying down there for? You don't want to stay there all day, do you?'
Well, the rest seems to be just light and sound and music, and the looking back, and the sending my love, and going around to the back of my children and just putting my hands on them, I went.
I think I must have slept a bit because I don't remember; I remember coming through the gates and hailing Peter and a few other people, and suddenly I was in the most beautiful garden, sitting in a chair. They were all saying, 'Let him have a rest. He must rest. He must have sleep.'
And I was saying to myself, 'Rest, sleep - I've done enough of that. I want to get going.' But I didn't Somebody must have hypnotized me because I slept and I rested. People came and went. I smiled at them and thought how beautiful they all were. They didn't have any faces. They were just a lot of light. Ruby (his sister who had died in 1935) came and blessed me. She said, 'Now look, they're having your funeral service. Do you want to go and look at it?' I said, 'Well, I don't know. I'm very comfortable..'
But my mind was made up for me, because my dear wife (also in spirit) said to me, 'Well, I'm not going to miss it.' And we went. It was all done ery simply and very beautifully, just as I'd wanted it.
I then went out into darkness, into the most beautiful soft, enveloping darkness. The man I have learned is my guardian said, 'Come on, come on,' and when he says that it raises you and lifts you. I then had a nice, long sleep in a most beautiful bed in an arbour. And there was my lake and there were fish, but nothing like my cabin. It was most beautiful, light and airy.
Accounts reviewed from ''Post-Mortem Journal: communications from Lawrence of Arabia through the mediumship of Jane Sherwood.'' The C.W. Daniel Company Limited, originally published in 1964 and
''Witness from Beyond: After-Death Communications received from the noted theologian A.D.Mattson through the distinguished clairvoyant Margaret Flavell Tweddell, edited by Ruth Mattson Taylor. Hawthorh Hardcover Edition, 1975.
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