Near-death Research and the Experience of Divine Light and Music
The cumulative evidence now overwhelmingly supports the view that divine light and music are an integral part of the visionary and auditory experience of those who have had near-death experiences. More important, the evidence suggests that these experiences are not culturally, religiously, or intellectually preconceived or imagined, but exist a priori as universal, eternal spiritual realities. The work of NDE researchers such as Pim Van Lommel with young children asserts that the experience of Light is not culturally or religiously transmitted nor a projection of the subconscious. In short, the experience of light and celestial music is the underlying fundamental unity of the inner spiritual worlds.
The implications of these findings are vast and potentially far-reaching. These conclusions suggest that we are in the process of a major paradigm shift, the likes of which has not occurred since the religious and cultural transformations in 16th century Europe, prompted by the publication of the Gutenberg Bible. We are entering what some have called a golden age of spirituality in which all faiths are seen as facets of the same truth, and where apparent theological differences in religions are ultimately transmuted into an experiential unity.
With the first widespread publication of the bible in European languages, providing people with direct access to the words of the Torah and the gospels came a renaissance of spiritual growth. In our day, the widespread knowledge of inner spiritual dimensions of reality has been made apparent by the research into NDEs—research that is now available for all to explore and digest. Following the research into near-death phenomena, entire new fields of knowledge have emerged. The study of NDEs prompted the concept of nonlocal or unified consciousness, which allows us to understand much better a wide range of special states of consciousness. These include “mystical and religious experiences, deathbed visions (end of life experiences), perimortem and postmortem experiences (nonlocal communication), heightened intuitive feelings (nonlocal information exchange), prognostic dreams, remote viewing (nonlocal perception), and the mind’s influence on matter (nonlocal perturbation).” Some of the emerging implications from these findings suggest that while there may be many spiritual and religious paths to Truth, the spiritual reality behind them is essentially one. The great explorers of inner space have corroborated this truth through their own experiences of divine light and music despite significant differences in language, culture, and degree of evolution. The consensus of the greatest mystics of the world’s traditions, regardless of time, culture, age, ethnicity, or prior spiritual training, corroborates evidence of a scientific nature, supporting their personal experiential findings.
There is not one light for Christians, a different light for Jews, yet another light for Muslims, and still another light for Hindus and Buddhists. There is a single universal all-encompassing Light, which exhibits three attributes: love, life, and intelligence or wisdom. These three attributes repeatedly appear in NDEs. (We will address later in this chapter the visions of light in normal circumstances.) Specifically, such appearances of light generally occur in the seventh stage of more advanced near-death experiences.
Researchers have outlined the stages of NDEs as follows:
2. In the second stage, they experience feelings of deep peace and quiet and the loss of all physical pain.
3. In the third stage, they usually find themselves separated from their body. Here they can view their body from somewhere above it. Their sense of hearing and sight is greatly heightened, and they can often see through things and move through walls without limitations. These “new senses” operate beyond the limitation of the time-space continuum. Through this new extrasensory perception, they now begin to be aware of another reality.
4. In the fourth stage, they find themselves moving in a dimensionless space through a dark tunnel, sometimes accompanied by the sound of bells or rushing of water.
5. The fifth stage is reached when they sense a non-earthly environment and often a dazzling astral landscape with gorgeous colors.
6. In the sixth stage, people often meet deceased ancestors whom they clearly recognize.
7. The seventh stage is reached when they see some light at a point in the distance and are magnetically drawn to it, enveloped by it, and then embraced by it or met by some being of light which then guides them further.
Dante in his epic The Divine Comedy speaks of this last stage of the journey: “I have been in that Heaven that knows his light most, and have seen things, which whoever descends from there has neither power, nor knowledge, to relate.”
P. M. H. Atwater noted in her book that many children and adults have an element of light in their account. She also believes that a new generation of children are incarnating who will be more empathic and compassionate as a result of their Near Death Experiences.
The Attributes of Love, Life, and Wisdom
The same inner light experienced by the great saints, sages, and mystics is, in both intensity and degree, witnessed by those who undergo NDEs. It is also, in most cases, identified as or with God, and as the source of love, and substance of Life. Many who experience NDEs see this same eternal “ringing radiance” as the source of perfect wisdom or super intelligence.
As the light enters into and embraces the inner spirit, the person often experiences a sense of deep, profound transformation. After the NDE, this transformational catalyst often results in significant lifestyle and character changes with far-reaching effects. Along with this powerful transformational catalyst comes a new acceptance of oneself and interest in the meaning of life. Life itself takes on a higher purpose, filled with ever-increasing amounts of joy and peace never known before. This element of lasting transformation distinguishes the experiences of inner light from other non-light meditative experiences, and is well-documented in the extensive work of Dutch cardiologist Pim Van Lommel.
The vast field of near-death studies has accomplished a great deal in validating these phenomena as real and not hallucinations or drug-induced. Yet surprisingly, very little direct research has explored the meaning of the visionary experiences of light and sound, which figure prominently in many NDEs. In trying to understand these experiences coherently, we have chosen to view them through the eyes of a cross-section of those who have actually experienced them. For our purposes, these experiences can be generally classified into six broad themes or categories:
2. The Light is experienced as all-embracing unconditional love and wisdom.
3. Human life is an expression of the infinite continuum of Light, appearing and reappearing through countless lives and bodies (reincarnation).
4. Spiritual evolution is the highest purpose of human life.
5. The process of evolution is a self-reflective process free of external judgment.
6. The Light is the central element in reshaping and changing people’s lives.
Excerpted from Let There Be Light by Arthur Stein and Andrew Vidich, which was released in August 2016 through Integral Horizons.