Gate of Life
You lie on the
operating table and
suddenly you feel yourself floating away from your body. You experience
a moment of confusion, but there is no fear. In fact, a strange sense
of calm washes over you as the weight of the mortal world slips away
and you drift up and up and up. Below, you see your body and the people
crowding around you. They seem panicked, and you want to assure them
that you’re okay, but you feel called elsewhere. The
room – and your body – grows distant as your
shifts. You are in an entirely different place. There are shapes, but
everything is indistinct, cloaked in shadow. And then you perceive a
brilliant white light some distance away. You feel drawn toward this
light. Familiar voices are calling your name and your entire being is
overcome with a sensation of perfect elation and peace…
death experience (NDE) is a
phenomenon that has been reported from the teachings of ancient Tibet
to the medical journals of the modern West. In near death experience,
the body undergoes some crisis or trauma that brings it to the very
brink of death. The heart may stop, independent breathing may cease
and, in rare cases, brain activity may cease altogether for a brief
period. During this time, those experiencing near death feel themselves
float out of their body. They may spend some time near their physical
shells, observing people and events with a detached curiosity. Many
individuals who report such an out
of body experience in connection
with an NDE are often able to give accurate descriptions of individuals
and procedures that they would have had no other way to observe.
Out of body experience can
independent of NDE. What makes NDEs special – and remarkable
– is that the individual’s experience does not stop
The near death experiencer seems to travel beyond the world of the
living to an entirely different realm. Many people believe that this is
the realm of spirits or an in-between realm that functions as a kind of
way-station for spirits before they move on to another portion of the
afterlife. Virtually all who experience near death report seeing a
brilliant white light, and this often seems as if it is shining at the
end of a tunnel. The experiencer is drawn toward this light. Some
attribute an intelligence to this light, while others perceive the
presence of a benevolent guide assisting them in their journey. The
faces and names attributed to these higher beings will vary according
to the individual’s own cultural and religious background.
others report being greeted by deceased friends and family members,
especially parents and spouses who have gone before.
True death may be the next
transition once the individual follows the light to its source.
However, near death experiences are part of the paranormal
because the individual dies, but because they come back to tell of
these strange visions. The subtle body or point of consciousness that
is projected during this experience reintegrates with the physical
body, often having been turned away from the light by a higher force
informing the individual that it is not their time. When reintegration
occurs, all bodily functions resume as normal and the individual
returns to life.
People who undergo a near
death experience almost universally come back
changed. Nearly all lose their fear of death, and this is reflected in
a new appreciation for life. Those who have a near death experience are
also more serene in the face of obstacles, seeing difficulties in life
no longer as tragedies but as tests or learning experiences. In
addition to developing a new and positive attitude toward life and
living, many return with previously undemonstrated psychic abilities.
They may become empathic or
They may get visions of the future. Others may return with the ability
to heal themselves and others with the power of thought alone. All of
these newly awakened sensitivities often lead the experiencer to
develop a more spiritual attitude, deepening their convictions in their
previous religion or leading them to develop a new, more universally
accepting spiritual path. The transformational qualities of a near
death experience are somewhat humorously demonstrated by the case of
Natasha, a five-year-old black macaque housed at an Israeli zoo. After
nearly dying from a severe case of stomach flu in the summer of 2004,
Natasha began to walk upright exclusively, mimicking humans. Aside from
speculating on possible brain damage, Natasha’s handlers had
explanation for the monkey’s change in behavior after her
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An Interview with
Michelle Belanger, author of Walking the Twilight Path
The title of your new book is Walking the Twilight Path.
How exactly do you define such a path?
The twilight path walks in
between: between life and death, between darkness and light, between
the realm of spirits and the world of the flesh. Because it dares to
approach the issue of death and personal mortality, the twilight path
may initially seem like a dark path. But it is really a path of
balance, for in the process of coming to terms with the reality of
death, we cannot help but learn to appreciate the precious gift of
life. It is a path I recommend for anyone who feels a strong pull
toward the world of spirits and for anyone who seeks a deeper
understanding of the relationship between death and life.
2. For most, death is a rather
macabre topic. What draws you to this darker subject?
I was born with a
defect that could only be corrected through a series of risky
surgeries. During at least one of these operations, I had a near death
experience. This had a significant impact on me. First, it changed my
views on death and mortality. I was no longer afraid of dying, since I
knew through experience that some portion of us survives bodily death.
Being free from this fear, I was also more inclined to live life to its
fullest. I think this is one of the reasons that I’ve
accomplished so much in my thirty-five years. If I get it in my head to
do something, like record a music CD, I do it. I do it because I can,
and I do it because I might not have the opportunity to do it again,
and that opportunity is something precious I know not to waste.
It’s not about dwelling morbidly on the fact that everything
eventually comes to an end: it’s more about realizing that
an inevitable end demands that we live in the present with as much
conviction as possible. How terrible is it, really, to realize that the
brevity of life makes every moment precious? I think there’s
profound wisdom in the realization, and I may never have discovered
that wisdom if it weren’t for my own brush with death.
Death is probably the number one fear for most humans. Why should we
not be afraid of this transition?
If we believe that the soul
beyond the end of the physical body, death loses a lot of its sting. As
much as many people fear it, death is still a natural and necessary
function. It clears the way for new growth, allowing the world to
constantly regenerate and change. We see this lesson all around us in
the natural world. Things grow in spring, ripen in summer, and are
harvested in the fall. Then, during winter, the land becomes barren.
That cold sleep of winter inevitably gives way to spring, but all of
the seasons are part of an integral cycle. The cast-off leaves and dead
plant matter of one growing season become the fertilizing mulch of the
next. When we apply this to humans, there’s no denying that
deaths are tragic, but most of the tragedy exists for those who are
left behind. For the dead, death is a transition and a release. It
allows them to embark upon a new cycle, refreshed and renewed. Although
it can be very intimidating to stand on the threshold of that change,
the change itself is liberating.
Is there something about this time of year, the time of Samhain and the
Pagan New Year, that makes approaching the “threshold of
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Candles for Nights of Halloween Magic
Novelty candles make fun and
festive decorations for holidays and other occasions, and the most
fanciful novelty candles are found at Halloween. As figural candles
(such as black cats, red devils, skulls, and the like) are also used in
American folk magic, the availability of Halloween candles suggests
many possibilities for imaginative spell working. The following are
some magical suggestions for Halloween candles.
A Template for
We’re all on a journey. A journey to heal ourselves, to
out what life is all about, to discover the mysteries. It’s a
challenging journey with fits and starts, dead-ends, even getting
totally lost at times, forgetting where we are and picking ourselves
up, asking, “Now where was I before that
happened?” Wouldn’t it be nice if someone gave you
a guidebook? Or at least a map? Anodea Judith,
author of Wheels of Life, illuminates the path of
Seasons of Tarot: Autumn
Although all seasons bring about their own types of changes, those of
autumn seem the most spectacular and profound to many. Whatever the
season, changes are about letting go of the past and facing the future.
Tarot expert Barbara Moore shares a couple of tarot spreads designed to
help you embrace and understand change during this season of
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