Chapter 5. Appendix: The Ancient Debate

Excerpts from “Life After Life” by Raymond Moody


The Myth of Our 3-Dimensional Universe

Many people have made remarks to the effect that, “There are just no words to express what I am trying to say”, or “They just don’t make adjectives and superlatives to describe this”. One woman put this to me very succinctly when she said, “Now, there is a real problem for me as I’m trying to tell you this, because all the words I know are three-dimensional. As I was going through this, I kept thinking, “Well, when I was taking geometry, they always told me there were only three dimensions, and I always just accepted that. But they were wrong. There are more”. And, of course, our world — the one we’re living in now — is three dimensional, but the next one definitely isn’t. And that’s why it’s so hard to tell you this. I have to describe it to you in words that are three dimensional. That’s as close as I can get to it, but it’s not really adequate. I can’t really give you a complete picture.”

The Experience of Peace and Calm

Many people describe extremely pleasant feelings and sensations during the early stages of their experiences. After a severe head injury, one man’s vital signs were undetectable. As he says, “At the point of injury there was a momentary flash of pain, but then all the pain vanished. I had the feeling of floating in a dark space. The day was bitterly cold, yet while I was in that blackness all I felt was warmth and the most extreme comfort I have ever experienced…    I remembered thinking, ‘I must be dead.’”

The Dark Tunnel of Death

During a severe illness, a man came so near death that his pupils dilated and his body was growing cold. He says, “I was in an utterly black, dark void. It is very difficult to explain, but I felt as if I were moving in a vacuum, just through blackness. Yet, I was quite conscious. It was like being in a cylinder which had no air in it. It was a feeling of limbo, of being half-way here, and half-way somewhere else.”

Out of the Body

“I was seventeen years old and my brother and I were working at an amusement park. One afternoon, we decided to go swimming, and there were quite a few of the other young people who went in with us. Someone said, ‘Let’s swim across the lake’. I had done that on numerous occasions, but that day for some reason, I went down, almost in the middle of the lake… I kept bobbing up and down, and all of a sudden, it felt as though I were away from my body, away from everybody, in space by myself. Although I was stable, staying at the same level, I saw my body in the water about three or four feet away, bobbing up and down. I viewed my body from the back and slightly to the right side. I still felt as though I had an entire body form, even while I was outside my body. I had an airy feeling that’s almost indescribable. I felt like a feather.”

A young informant states, “It was about two years ago, and I had just turned nineteen. I was driving a friend of mine home in my car, and as I got to this particular intersection downtown, I stopped and looked both ways, but I didn’t see a thing coming. I pulled on out into the intersection and as I did I heard my friend yell at the top of his voice. When I looked I saw a blinding light, the head-lights of a car that was speeding towards us. I heard this awful sound — the side of the car being crushed in — and there was just an instant darkness, an enclosed space. It was very quick. Then, I was sort of floating about five feet above the street, about five yards away from the car, I’d say, and I heard the echo of the crash dying away. I saw people come running up and crowding around the car, and I saw my friend get out of the car, obviously in shock. I could see my own body in the wreckage among all those people, and could see them trying to get it out. My legs were all twisted and there was blood all over the place.”

Seeing the Body

Emotional responses to this strange state vary widely. Most people report, at first, a desperate desire to get back into their bodies but they do not have the faintest idea about how to proceed. Others recall that they were very afraid, almost panicky. Some, however, report more positive reactions to their plight, as in this account:

“I became very seriously ill, and the doctor put me in the hospital. This one morning a solid gray mist gathered around me, and I felt myself get out of my body, and I looked back and I could see myself on the bed below and there was no fear. It was quiet — very peaceful and serene. I was not in the least bit upset or frightened. It was just a tranquil feeling, and it was something which I didn’t dread. I felt that maybe I was dying, and I felt that if I did not get back to my body, I would be dead, gone.”

Pure Consciousness

Dying persons are likely first to become aware of their spiritual bodies in the guise of their limitations. They find, when out of their physical bodies, that although they may try desperately to tell others of their plight, no one seems to hear them. This is illustrated very well in this excerpt from the story of a woman who suffered a respiratory arrest and was carried to the emergency room, where a resuscitation attempt was made. “I saw them resuscitating me. It was really strange. I wasn’t very high; it was almost like I was on a pedestal, but not above them to any great extent, just maybe looking over them. I tried talking to them but nobody could hear me, nobody would listen to me.

“The doctors and nurses were pounding on my body to try to get IV’s started and to get me back, and I kept trying to tell them, ‘Leave me alone. All I want is to be left alone. Quit pounding me’. But they did not hear me. So I tried to move their hands to keep them from beating on my body, but nothing would happen. I couldn’t get anywhere. It was like — I don’t really know what happened, but I couldn’t move their hands. It looked like I was touching their hands and I tried to move them — yet when I would give it the stroke, their hands were still there. I don’t know whether my hand was going through it, around it, or what. I didn’t feel any pressure against their hands when I was trying to move them.”


Perception in the new body is both like and unlike perception in the physical body. In some ways, the spiritual form is more limited. As we saw, kinesthesia, as such, is absent. In a couple of instances, persons have reported that they had no sensation of temperature, while in most cases feelings of comfortable ‘warmth’ are reported. No one among all of my cases has reported any odours or tastes while out of their physical bodies. On the other hand, senses which correspond to the physical senses of vision and of hearing are very definitely intact in the spiritual body, and seem actually heightened and more perfect than they are in physical life. One man says that while he was ‘dead’ his vision seemed incredibly more powerful and, in his words, “I just can’t understand how I could see so far”. A woman who recalled this experience notes, “It seemed as if this spiritual sense had no limitations, as if I could look any where and everywhere”.

The Being of Light

What is perhaps the most incredible common element in the accounts I have studied, and is certainly the element which has the most profound effect upon the individual, is the encounter with a very bright light. Typically, at its first appearance this light is dim, but it rapidly gets brighter until it reaches an unearthly brilliance. Yet, even though this light (usually said to be white or ‘clear’) is of an indescribable brilliance, many make the specific point that it does not in any way hurt their eyes, or dazzle them, or keep them from seeing other things around them (perhaps because at this point they don’t have physical ‘eyes’ to be dazzled).


Despite the light’s unusual manifestation, however, not one person has expressed any doubt whatsoever that it was a being, a being of light. Not only that, it is a personal being. It has a very definite personality. The love and the warmth which emanate from this being to the dying person are utterly beyond words, and he feels completely surrounded by it and taken up in it, completely at ease and accepted in the presence of this being. He senses an irresistible magnetic attraction to this light. He is ineluctably drawn to it.

Sensation of Being Pulled Back

In a few instances, persons have expressed the feeling that the love or prayers of others have in effect pulled them back from death regardless of their own wishes. A woman told me, “The doctor had already said that I was gone, but I lived through it. Yet, the experience I had been through was so joyous, I had no bad feelings at all. As I came back, I opened my eyes, and my sister and my husband saw me. I could see their relief, and tears were pouring from their eyes. I could see that it was a relief to them that I did survive. I felt as though I had been called back — magnetised back — through the love of my sister and my husband. Since then, I have believed that other people can draw you back.”


In the Moonlight

…A strange unreal gospel Science brings,
Being animals to act as angels might;
Mortals we must put forth immortal might
And flutter in the void celestial wings…
Through chemistry she seeks the source of life,
Nor knows the mighty laws that she has found
Are Nature’s bye-laws merely, meant to ground
A grandiose freedom building peace by strife.
The organ for the thing itself she takes,
The brain for mind, the body for the soul,
Nor has she patience to explore the whole,
But like a child a hasty period makes.
“It is enough,” she says, “I have explored
The whole of being; nothing now remains
But to put details in and count my gains.”
So she deceives herself, denies her Lord…

Sri Aurobindo

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