Afterlife Beliefs

What Happens When We Die?

  • Notes (by Gayla Groom) from Science Set Free Podcast with Rupert Sheldrake, titled What Happens When We Die.

  • Rupert Sheldrake quotes in double quotation marks.

  • “When we die we may continue to dream, but because we’re dead we can’t wake up.”

  • “That means that the kind of after-death experience we might have depends on what kind of person we are, what kind of fears we have, what kind of beliefs we have, what kinds of things we expect… and what our religious faith is.”

  • “If we’re used to praying regularly then in our dreams or in our after-death life we may be able to go on praying, and that would enable us to contact a spiritual realm beyond the more limited realm we’re confined to in this post-mortem dream state.”

  • “Purgatory is [said to be] a realm of continued development or existence after death, where there is still change and development but it’s an intermediate state because one can go beyond it.”

  • In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, there’s an intermediate stage, bardo, where people pass through continued development and then they are reincarnated.

  • There are two types of subtle bodies: 1) etheric (the morphogenetic field, shapes the bodies, maintains health) and 2) astral body (dreambody).

  • Tibetans think you can work on dreams now — dream yoga or dream practice — lucid dreams, gain control of your dreamings, “like practicing for when you’re dead”, whereas in normal dreams you may be “buffeted by psychic forces beyond your control”.

  • Are people in dreams projections of ourselves? “How big is ourself? Does ourself actually include our relationship with other people?”

  • In dream groups and workshops, dreams are sometimes shared. Two people meet in their dreams, there’s some kind of “telepathic overlap in the dream state”. And it’s not just a projection; they are actually meeting in the dream.

  • “If, when we’re dreaming while we’re alive, we enter a dream realm which is one where the normal rules don’t apply — the rules of dreaming apply but not the rules of physical life — and if the dead are in a kind of dream world then these dream worlds could overlap. They’re not in the normal space-time continuum. So it may be that in our dreams we can actually meet ancestors who are now dead and we can actually have communications with them. and it may be that they’re not just projections of our own waking life or our subconscious mind but they have an autonomous existence in the dream world that we can actually encounter and interact with.”

  • “And this encounter with the dead through our dreams in our dreams might not just be with our own ancestors.

  • “It could also be with other people who are dead who we can relate to.

  • “I’m thinking particularly of the saints.

  • “Saints are dead people. You can’t be a saint while you’re alive, at least in the Christian tradition. You’ve got to die first before you can become a saint.

  • “And the saints are people to whom in the catholic … tradition you can pray and ask them for help. So one is actually forming a relationship with a dead person through praying to a saint.”

  • The Virgin Mary, Saint Anthony, Saint Jude, might be in millions of dreams every night.

  • People dream of Ganash, the elephant-headed Hindu god, even though he is not ‘real’ he has “mythological power”, “luminous power”, is a “manifestation of god”.

  • Dreams could include interactions with dead people, and archetypal figures.

  • Distinction between ‘praying for’ and ‘praying to’. Requiem prayer = praying for.

  • The idea of rest in peace is related to a fear people have always had of the dead coming back to haunt them, or being displeased with them from beyond the grave.

  • And perhaps many dead people who exist in the dream world do feel neglected.

  • Thus, the importance of rites in helping to rest in peace, and of honoring ancestors, including ceremonies and national ceremonies to acknowledge including people (such as veterans) who may not be acknowledged by their descendants (who might be atheists, for instance, who believe there is no afterlife).

Death and the Afterlife: What You Must Know Before You Die

  • “Mind is king in the afterlife dimension. We on earth do not really know how powerful the mind will be when we cross over. Transmitted information from the highly credible sources reminds us that the afterlife is governed by the ‘mind’. In afterlife travel for example, we only have to think of a place anywhere to go — any place on earth or in the afterlife and we get there instantly by the power of the mind.

  • “When we cross over we will still have free will which is critical to our continuous refinement. We will still be in a position to continue to refine in mind, ‘body’ and spirit. We will still have the potential to raise our ‘vibrations’ of the soul to graduate to a higher realm where there will be higher levels of ecstatic experiences far more intense than the one we initially entered.”

The Tibetan Buddhist and Spiritualist Views of After-Death States

  • “One factor that helps the soul achieve the freedom of conscious control and spiritual travel during the afterlife is acceptance of death. Those who have not accepted death will resist the process of dying and introduce conflict into the bardo stages. This is why it is important for people to take care of any unfinished business as they near death so they can let go of life completely.

  • “In Brahmanical Hinduism, there is a stage of life called the forest dweller or vanaprastha stage in which the older individual who has finished raising a family is supposed to begin letting go of pleasures and attachments to life in preparation for death. However, in the West the goal is to keep spending money and maximize enjoyment up to the end of life. This makes it difficult for many to make a graceful transition into death. Intense attachment to the material world makes it difficult to do spiritual travel both during life and after death.

  • “It also usually helps to have faith in something beyond the material world at the time of death. Those with a strong faith in Jesus or another religious figure will be more calm and relaxed as they enter the bardo realms. While the religious person can look forward to heaven at the time of death, the spiritual traveler who has been trying to do spiritual travel all his or her life can also look forward to death in certain respects. This is because the opportunity for exploration and spiritual travel will hopefully be greatly expanded after death when the physical body and its needs will no longer be a major distraction. Of course the areas the spiritual traveler wishes to explore are the heavenly areas and beyond, and in that sense, he or she has much in common with other more conventional religious people.

  • “Both have a distinct advantage over the secular individual because they expect to enter into a positive afterlife (heaven), and expectations have great power in the inner worlds. This expectation combined with love and devotion towards some religious ideal can propel the religious individual towards a heavenly state just as the practice of spiritual travel does. The secular individual with no faith or expectation of heaven is more likely to flounder after death and get stuck in some intermediate gray area surrounded by thoughts and emotions from the past waiting for something to happen.

  • “A brief mention of ethics is appropriate when discussing the state a person enters at death. In general, both the state of mind of a soul and the world it inhabits is presumed to be the result of its past thought patterns and actions (karma). Trauma and intense pain whether experienced by the soul, or inflicted on another during life will tend to fragment the self and make conscious control after death difficult. Violence, cruelty, and hatred expressed towards others in life will almost certainly have a limiting effect on the soul’s freedom both in the after death state and in subsequent existences. This is true even for souls who have become proficient in spiritual travel during their life. Unethical actions during life seem to separate the soul from the knowledge and wisdom attained while living, and leave it helpless to experience the results of its actions in the afterlife.

  • “Interestingly enough, some of the Western ideas of heaven and hell can be accounted for by the Tibetan notion of the second bardo. The saint or righteous soul will find itself in places of bliss, happiness, and light based on the kinds of thoughts it was in a habit of thinking, while the evil person will lead an existence of fear, anger, and torment in the afterlife. However, the second bardo is a temporary transitional state that actually precedes the longer term experiences of heaven, hell, or rebirth in the physical world which can occur following the third bardo.

  • “…The central conclusion of the data provided by the spiritualists and trance mediums is that dead people have scarcely more insight and wisdom in death than they had while alive. Such a proposition emphasizes the importance of learning spiritual skills such as spiritual travel while alive instead of hoping for spiritual redemption and transformation after death. Though the spiritualist’s view differs from Buddhism in the specifics, it supports the contention that people should not wait until death to begin learning since such a delay can result in a very limited and routine afterlife.”

The Tibetan Book of the Dead and NDEs

  • The Tibetan Book of the Dead, whose actual title is ‘The Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State’ or ‘Bardo Thodol’, is traditionally believed to be the work of the legendary Padma Sambhava in the 8th century A.D. The book acts as a guide for the dead during the state that intervenes death and the next rebirth. He is considered to be one of the first persons to bring Buddhism to Tibet. The Bardo Thodol is a guide that is read aloud to the dead while they are in the state between death and reincarnation in order for them to recognize the nature of their mind and attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

  • “The Bardo Thodol teaches that once awareness is freed from the body, it creates its own reality as one would experience in a dream. This dream occurs in various phases (bardos) in ways both wonderful and terrifying. Overwhelming peaceful and wrathful visions and deities appear. Since the deceased’s awareness is in confusion of no longer being connected to a physical body, it needs help and guidance in order that enlightenment and liberation occurs. The Bardo Thodol teaches how we can attain Nirvana by recognizing the heavenly realms instead of entering into the lower realms where the cycle of birth and rebirth continue.”

Dreams That Prepare Us for Our Own Death

  • Craig Hamilton Parker: “Many spiritual systems believe that life should be lived as a preparation for death. For many people, this process of spiritual preparation works on an unconscious level. Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist (1875-1961) believed in a spiritual survival beyond physical death. His conviction was strengthened when he observed that dreams behaved as if the psyche will continue to exist after death. In particular, the common denominator of the dreams of the dying does not seem to be simply an end of earthly existence, but transformation into a continuing other form of life.

  • “Jung proposed that death dreams are linked with a primordial set of archetypes, and through their analysis it is possible to conclude that life will continue after death. Jung also maintained that the belief in an afterlife means a great deal to most people and helps them to live this life more harmoniously. For those who see death as the absolute end of life, death is a great catastrophe. Those, however, who believe in eternity often regard death as a joyful event.”

This Boy Died, Went to Heaven, Then Came Back to Tell Us What He Experienced

  • “What happened in that higher state of being is not a religious experience, it is beyond our understanding of concept. Your surroundings after you die are a reflection of your consciousness in this life. If you grow up in a religious household, constantly interacting with religious symbols and figures, those ideas are embedded into your consciousness and get reflected back to you when you die.”

  • “You see what you believe. You are a powerful creator, more than you realize. Consciousness does not cease to exist after the physical body dies, and what happens after depends on you.”

Spirit Guide Commentary on NDE Research Results

  • “Heaven is just a continuation of experiences. There really are no levels in heaven. It only has to do with how you choose to connect with your oneness.

  • “After death, people gravitate into homogenous groups according to the rate of their soul’s vibrations.In the afterlife, each person lives in the kind of a heaven or hell that they prepared for themselves while on earth. Nobody sends us anywhere. We are sorted by the high or low vibrations of our soul. Everyone goes where they fit in.

  • “As a person goes to heaven they cross over with the consciousness they have had of their oneness and of their spiritual being on earth. Once one is in heaven one experiences much of that thought that they had. If one believes that they are going to sleep until the resurrection of the body, one will experience that in heaven, though we cannot say for how long because there is no time in heaven. But all spirits are given the choice of moving from a consciousness that would prevent them from growing closer to their oneness, no matter what that soul or spirit was on earth. It is true that as one first crosses over one will experience a consciousness of what they experienced on earth but will be given a choice to move in to their true spirit and a choice to move closer to their oneness.”

A Thinking Person’s Guide to Discovering God

  • Rupert Sheldrake: “If God is light, then God is also the electromagnetic field that is the basis of light, and all the things that we can see through that light. God’s nature or image in the Christian tradition is that of the Holy Trinity: the Father, or the ground of all being; the Son or logos, the source of all form pattern and order, as well as words; and the Spirit the principle of movement, energy, and activity.”


  • Arjun Walia: I personally believe that reincarnation is real, but I don’t think it’s the only option for what takes place after death. I believe it is one of many possible paths for the soul. I believe some souls can reincarnate, as we’ve seen above, into another life. I also believe some can reincarnate onto other planets, as beings we would consider to be alien. Furthermore, I believe reincarnation is just one option for a soul. Other possibilities include the option to travel to other dimensions and experience a life there, or to completely forgo reincarnation and experience life in the non-physical realm, free from a physical body. Perhaps a soul must continue to reincarnate until certain lessons are learned to move to another ‘level?’ Who knows. Perhaps there is an origin from which all souls stem? So many questions, so many possibilities, and reincarnation could be one of many.