The Uncarved Block
I used to only believe in what I could see, hear, touch, taste and smell. I used to only believe what could be proven by logical scientific reasoning. Sometimes I think that was a part of why I became so depressed that I decided to eliminate myself. I never expected anything other than a cessation of my being. I expected nothingness. When I died, I died as the uncarved block.
Most of those who have an experience with death receive some form of validation of their faith. Their beliefs are generally supported by their experience. There are those who say this invalidates the entire nature of the near-death and death experience. How can everyone be right? Perhaps everyone is.
Well, maybe with the exception of me.
I believe that part of the reason why my experience with death followed the path it did was based on some inner beliefs that were part of my make-up. In departing from life, I travelled down a jungle river in a horrible little raft while the jungle burned. People called out to me to help them but I could not help them. Looking back, I think of that as the manifestation of my helplessness. When I killed myself I felt I was of no use to anyone and of even less use to myself. My frustration during that part of the experience reminded me that I could do something, but I had chosen not to. Later, on the other side of the famous light, I crossed into a very dry and barren wasteland. Without faith or belief in anything I had turned my soul into a desert.
A similar storyline follows many death experiences. There is a confrontation with an enlightened being, usually connected to one's faith or religion, who questions your passage. For me it was a vision of a future version of myself. Reflecting on the meaning of seeing myself as the "gatekeeper" leads me to wonder if somehow I knew what I would look like and who I would be when I passed on from this world. After my experience I let my hair grow long and grew a goatee, simply because that was how I appeared to myself in death. Of course, that version of myself had almost completely gray hair. I'm not quite there yet.
Is Someone Pulling The Strings?
Sometimes I am asked a question. It seems to be a simple question, but it lacks a simple answer. The question pertains to the existence of God. "Did you at any time during your experience with death see or feel the presence of God?"
The answer is not "yes" or "no." The experiences others have had with death have generally validated their belief system, including some form of contact with God, a messenger "representing" a supreme being of some kind, or a sense of that God's presence. I had no real belief system when I died. The nature of death is that it seems to depend upon personal reality to determine its course. If you believe in a God, and one is supported by your personal reality, then that God or gods will hold dominion over your passage.
Some have reported a renewal of faith through their death experience. Yet you will never find a person raised in a Christian community who is only exposed to Christian beliefs encountering Allah in death. You will never find a person raised in and exposed only to Islamic beliefs encountering Hindu gods. You won't find an ancient Greek exposed only to the gods of Greek mythology walking through the halls of Valhalla. One's personal reality simply does not know how to process this information. One encounters what they expect to encounter through what they have been exposed to, either consciously or unconsciously. In short, everyone is right.
To some, this seems a cop out. To others seeking validation of their beliefs and their deity as "the one true God," it is not even an answer. Yet, to reflect upon this, I realize something important. A truly loving and benevolent God would want this. A true God would appear to "His people" in the form and manner in which they would accept Him. A true God would support and validate your beliefs, not demand that you accept His.
Signs and Symbols
To truly die as an uncarved block is impossible. Although I died with an absence of faith and a total disregard for anything other than the scientifically proven, other thoughts and ideas manifested themselves in my subconscious. I was not a blank slate. I had already been through much turmoil in my life. Much of that turmoil sent me spiralling into depression and eventually suicide. At the same time, it caused the rise of questions, doubts and hopes that built chaotic structures throughout my subconscious and my personal reality. They eventually became a blueprint for what I encountered in death.
My "death pre-show" was a bit longer than most, most likely the result of my method of death. Consumption of handfuls of pills and a large quantity of alcohol guaranteed my death, but the process was not quick. The jungle river was a sign of my own learned helplessness. Upon my return, the mantra of Give everything you can to everyone you know took over my life.
"The light" is common to every death experience I have heard or read about. It seems to not vary very much from one experience to another. The perception of it can change from one person to another, but generally it is a static element of death. It is likely the gateway from one life frame to the next, the experience of the body dying and the soul passing forward.
For me, the other side of the light was an endless desert. It wasn't even a pretty desert. Nothing grew there at all and the land was cracked and brittle, barely holding itself together. I believe it was the nature of my soul at the time, empty and dead. Part of why I felt compelled to return was related to the desert. There was nothing else for me on the other side.
Most reports contain mention of meeting a person or being of some kind on "the other side." My experience was odd in that respect, since the person I met was myself and he was sitting on a ridiculous metal folding chair. I tend to think of it as the antithesis of a "throne." Coupling the anti-throne with the desert was a key statement about the nature of my life up to that point. I did not realize the man in the folding chair was me at the time. He looked familiar but I didn't know why. It only came to me later after when I grew my hair long. In him I saw a symbol of strength and wisdom and he became an inspiration to me in rebuilding my life. "There is more you need to do. Go where there is no snow. You will know her when you see her. You will have no doubt and the sky will turn to gold. You already know what to do. This will be the hardest thing you ever do."
Part of the whole "God" question corresponds to my encounter with myself in the desert. What form would a supreme being take in order to speak to an unbeliever? The man in the desert had many faces before settling on an elder version of mine. It was searching for a face I would listen to. The suicide must confront himself, for he has committed a crime against himself. Perhaps there is no God other than what we create through the constructs of our faith. Perhaps God shuns disbelievers. Perhaps he assumes a suitable form. There are many interpretations. Life, death and God are not simple "yes" and "no" questions. That would defeat the entire purpose of all three.
Special thanks to GrouchyOldMan for asking the questions in just the right way, leading me to the writing of this.