Profound Mysteries at the Edge of the World
by Juliette Jones
“Love and death are the great gifts given us. Mostly they are passed unopened.”
—Ranier Maria Rilke
Each of us must find a way to live with the certainty of physical death and to be with the idea of dying. In the modern world, where our Western culture has largely lost touch with the mysteries of super nature and our cosmological roots, death is portrayed almost exclusively as the Grim Reaper.
In the past thirty years, the hospice movement has made positive strides to bring the subject of death into the open and to promote a more enlightened view of death and dying. Still, the material cultural archetype remains such that many people wish to avoid the subject of death and find even the idea of death threatening or frightening.
The repression of death awareness is unhealthy and robs people of real life and the opportunity for human growth and spiritual development which, in turn, paves the way for many forms of social pathology. Denial, while it clearly serves as a protective mechanism for what the ego is not ready to face, requires a tremendous expenditure of energy which might have purpose in other ways.
Spiritual genius has always encouraged the pursuit of truth as a path to wisdom and spiritual insight. Sooner or later, most of us will encounter the death of something or someone we love. A willingness to be with the truth of death, which can bring profound grief and psycho-spiritual suffering, could shatter the limit of what we feel the ego can endure and bring us face-to-face with the transitory nature of the purely human experience. Yet if we are willing to be open to this unacceptable state of affairs, it is possible that we can be shown something beyond what the ego perceives as the limits of reality.
“We have no idea how deep the connection between us and reality goes.”
For those willing to walk this path, death can open the gate to a part of us that is not transitory—to a greater reality of self hidden behind space-time and form—and reveal an illumined vision of who and what we are which inevitably awakens us to a new view of our earthly sojourn.
My first encounter with physical death took place early in life when I came upon the death of a deeply loved pet. When I reached out to touch her soft fur, I found the shell of her body had turned hard and cold. In despair, I called out for my father, who rushed to my side, and immediately assessed what had happened. “Where is she?” I begged to know. His eyes were soft but penetrating, as he responded, “I don’t know.”
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, what took place was an authentic “Buddha Moment,” as it set the stage for an integral part of my course in life. I was shocked to hear that my father, who clearly knew the answers to many important questions, could not answer the most important question that I sensed I would ever ask. I found myself making a vow that I would someday come to know the answer to this mystery.
My childhood was filled with lucid dreams, paranormal events and numinous transpersonal experiences, all of which contributed to the foundation of my spiritual view. It was my great fortune to have a mother who realized the nature of such experiences, as she came from a family line where second-sight and other varieties of supernatural insight was commonplace and accepted as a natural part of the physical life. Through her, I came to understand the value of having someone with gnosis to assist in processing and integrating transpersonal experience.
Anthropologist, Hank Wesselman believes that each of us has a biological-energetic “program” on our DNA—on our genetic “hard-drive,” so to speak—and when this program is “double-clicked,” higher functions coded into the personal mind-body matrix can be awakened. When this happens, conscious awareness expands dramatically in response, allowing us to experience that direct personal connection with the sacred realms that define the mystic. According to Dr. Wesselman, there are a variety of ways this “program” might be triggered which include the following:
Congenital ability (present from birth)
Transcendent experiences (e.g. NDE)
Life crisis, serious illness or trauma
Temperature extremes (e.g. sweat lodge, fever)
Intensely physical experiences
“A willingness to approach edges, to live on the edge, will increase the probability that a person will approach a spiritual edge—the intersection point between the world of matter
and the world of spirit where extraordinary breakthroughs in consciousness can occur.”
Four decades after making my childhood vow, I found myself in the employ of hospice as a clinical spiritual counselor. By that time, I had spent most of my adult life reading, studying and traveling as a spiritual seeker. At the onset of my career with hospice, I didn’t realize that the people I was destined to serve would become some of my greatest teachers.
The bedside of the dying is a sacred intersection at the edge of the world. It’s a place where the dimension of time shortens, then disappears—a place where the veil between this world and higher dimensional reality waxes, often opening and closing before the final curtain.
Staged in this humble setting, remarkable experiences take place. Angels deliver messages (literally), powerful mind-rocking synchronicities shatter weak explanations of “coincidence,” and visions reveal information the dying individual could not possibly know which can be objectively corroborated. This and much more occurs.
IANDS has published a PDF brochure titled NDE’s and Nearing Death Awareness (NDA) in the Terminally Ill which gives a solid clinical description of what is called Nearing Death Awareness (Callahan and Kelley, 1992). I think there should be a clearer distinction between the phrase “Nearing Death Awareness” and the experience that precedes the permanent cessation of physical life. I realize there is clearly overlap, but some of this experience could be better differentiated by use of the phrase “Before Death Experience,” or BDE.
A BDE would almost universally include the manifestation of a deceased relative or a sacred being, either in a lucid dream or a fully conscious etheric vision. The figure beckons the individual to come forth into the next world. This might be through a gesture, telepathic message or strong transmission of profound love. This experience is extremely common, and if you ask any hospice nurse, she (or he) will tell you that she has heard this many times.
“The mention of angels is inclusive in Scripture. Depending on the Bible translation searched, these celestial beings are referred to from 294 to 305 times in the Bible. References to angels occur at least 116 times in the Old Testament and 175 times in the New Testament.”
Grim Reaper or Angel of Light?
BDE’s and other types of transpersonal experience, once integrated, are likely to mediate grief or the fear of death. Recent surveys have shown that as many as one in two of us has encountered an involutionary transpersonal experience at some point in our lives. As the conscious Transformational Community grows, the life-limiting superstition of materialism will consequently lose ground.
“Once I experienced that (transpersonal experience), it started to profoundly change the
nature of my life, and after that of who I thought I was, because up until then I had
identified with that which dies, and as long as you identify with that which dies there is
always fear of death because it’s the fear of cessation of existence. I realize now that
although I didn’t know the form that I would take after death; I knew that there
was something about the essence of my awareness that was outside of death.”