Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.
Whosoever has never arrived at pondering on these four things:
What is above?
What is below?
What was before the world?
What will be after it?
It would be better that he had never been born.
Babylonian Talmud, Haguigah, ll6
Finally! Something I’ve been experiencing all my life and have written about for 45 years has become acceptable to the academic world. ‘Non-ordinary realities’. Otherwise known as ‘extended realities’ or, the one I prefer ‘exceptional human experiences’ (EHE). And, what’s more, you can now study them through ‘cognitive empathic engagement’, in other words getting actively involved.
Oh how I wish that had been the case during my two university stints. My first uni report back in the 70s said ‘has very strange ideas, should not be allowed near children.’ Inconvenient to say the least as I was undertaking a teaching degree at the time. I’d insisted on doing a thesis on The Seven Principles of Spiritualism. I had great fun seeing all the well known mediums of the day and exploring reincarnation and the continuous existence of the human soul in depth. But the university didn’t see it that way. My thesis went into a plastic bag but, as I told my lecturer, the contamination would be mental and spiritual not physical. (I was right, he later became a healer.) We’ll pass rapidly over my second foray into academia but suffice it to say I was doing an MA with astrology in the title but the practice of astrology was banned in the university. As were non-ordinary realities. Tricky.
‘I think perhaps the most important problem is that we are trying to understand the fundamental workings of the universe via a language devised for telling one another when the best fruit is.’ Terry Pratchett
So I found it rather bizarre to be watching an on-line lecture on ‘transformational encounters with non-ordinary realities’ last week given by Dr Fiona Bowie for the very same course. Seventy-one attendees were apparently totally gripped by this ‘new’ view of the world. Different university, and time has moved on. But it set me thinking. Again. I know there are other realities. Not only do I spend a great deal of time in them when working with crystals and past life therapy but I’ve had three near-death-experiences of my own. I’ve regressed hundreds of people into other lives and taken them into the multi-dimensions of consciousness. And, as I said, I’ve been writing about these experiences for years. Even my novel Torn Clouds includes what Dr Bowie referred to as ‘the terror that comes in the night.’ Night terrors, paralysis and visitations are now being studied by anthropologists and ethnographers. Yeah! About time. There are accounts going back to Egyptian times, and in the 7th century Venerable Bede wrote about a transformational encounter near-death-experiences and many ‘miracle healings’ (see the end of the blog for a taster.) If ecclesiastics could accept them back then, surely there must be room in today’s world. Personally I find everyday reality far more bizarre than extended ones.
I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it. Terry Pratchett
Maybe the time has finally arrived?
Exceptional human experiences
When I wrote my Book of Psychic Development I got tremendously excited by finding that, in the US at least, what had previously been regarded as the product of vivid imagination was now being called ‘exceptional human experience.’ That meant that near-death-experiences, remote viewing, lucid dreaming, out-of-body-experiences, telepathy, and so on were, whilst still being labelled anomalous and rare, now considered to be of value rather than mere hallucinations. They were recognised as life changing, life enhancing, enriching and worthy of study. Here’s an extract from my intro to EHEs:
‘We believe that by valuing these experiences in new ways, and sharing them we all gain meaningful insights into ourselves and our world. When these insights occur and we find a way to grow in a way that enables us to integrate and internalise them, what was an anomaly becomes an Exceptional Human Experience.’
‘What particularly stirred my interest was a report that leading-edge researchers in the field of neurobiology have found that, during NDEs, the neurochemical DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is naturally synthesised in the brain, probably in the pineal: a gland that has long been metaphysically associated with the ‘third eye’ and psychic experiences. DMT has been dubbed ‘the Spirit molecule’ and it has been hypothesized that it releases the soul at death for its journey to the post-death dimension. It could be that small amounts of endogenous, naturally occurring, DMT in the brain are what allows the soul to go travelling and return.
Naturally occurring DMT, in the form of ayahuasca and other etheobotanic substances (plant material), is what shamans have used for aeons of time to journey to other realms. DMT is officially classified as an hallucinogenic – and, therefore, to science is the stimulator of unreal, illusory experiences. But are they illusory? Or is it, as some scientists now believe, a stimulator for an Exceptional Human Experience that is a life altering moment, a stepping onto another path be it in this world or another. Is it that certain early humans (or even all of them under certain stimuli such as drumming, chanting, incantations and ‘magical brews’) naturally had the ability to journey out of their body? Their artwork and pictograms would certainly indicate this could be so.
And, after all most shamans were either chosen after a NDE or underwent a death as part of their initiation. I ask myself was it my own near experience at the age of 5 that kept my psychic abilities alive, stimulated by another NDE in childbirth and then again at menopause. Did these replenish the supply of endogenous DMT in my system and give me access to dimensions of which other people are unaware? After all, as a child I constantly had out-of-body experiences and psychic visions. Do I have within myself a natural neurochemical looking glass? My psychic awareness tells me that the answer is a resounding yes.’
And it continues to do so – and, hopefully, more will be revealed as scientists study it in increasing depth. I’ve been looking at the whole area again for a book connecting crystals, chakras and kundalini. It will be out in the summer so you can take a peek at the new research then.
But in the meantime, here’s what Terry Pratchett, who is more familiar with non-ordinary realities than most people, has to say about the difference between magicians, who we can now call shamans, and scientists:
Magicians and scientists are, on the face of it, poles apart. Certainly, a group of people who often dress strangely, live in a world of their own, speak a specialized language and frequently make statements that appear to be in flagrant breach of common sense have nothing in common with a group of people who often dress strangely, speak a specialized language, live in… er…
Terry Pratchett, The Science of Discworld (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen)
I love it! One of my few successes during my MA was in persuading a lecturer that ancient Egypt was a shamanic religion and that many of the texts are records of shamanic journeys by Pharaoh or his priests. We’ll be looking at how they journeyed to the stars in a future blog. But in the meantime here’s what Terry Pratchett had to say about another EHE, telepathy:
To a telepath the human head is a din. It is a railway terminus with all the Tannoys talking at once. It is a complete FM waveband – and some of those stations aren’t reputable, they’re outlawed pirates on forbidden seas who play late-night records with limbic lyrics. Equal Rites
So true – until you are properly trained and can switch it on and off at will, which was why I wrote The Book of Psychic Development. It helps you to hone your metaphysical gifts. Then you can go exploring and enjoy all those extended realities in safety.
Possibly? You turn up when people are possibly going to die?”
OH YES. IT’S QUITE THE NEW THING. IT’S BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE.
I’M NOT SURE.
Samuel Vimes conversation with Death, The Fifth Elephant
So, is death fated nor not? Is it written in the stars? Or is there an uncertainty principle at work. From my experience, I’d say it was the latter. Quantum physics makes a lot of sense to me when I don’t have to find the words to explain it. Back in the early 80s I went with my friend and fellow astrologer Howard Sasportas to hear Margot Grey speak on her near-death-experience. ‘Oh I’ve had a couple of those,’ I said to Howard. ‘But the doctor who delivered my daughter was a Sufi and said that although he understood it was probably best not to talk about it as most people wouldn’t understand.’ I followed his advice for many years. I didn’t realise how common such experiences were until Margot’s talk was later followed up by conversations with Drs Peter Fenwick and Sam Parnier who were studying the phenomena. Now there are many books out there. And ones about meeting people just before or after their death at some distance away. And one’s about the soul’s purpose (something I’ve also written on, see The Book of Why). Everyone discovering this for themselves feels like it’s something new. But it’s not. As we’ve seen with the Venerable Bede, it’s ancient. There’s a great Egyptian story about a father who comes to admonish his son just after his death. And the first world war poet Wilfred Owen appeared to his brother on a ship off the South African coast moments after he died in France.
My first near death is hazy. I was only five at the time and I remember being on the ceiling looking down. But this was a common occurrence for me. I spent very little time in my body. My second was much more memorable. Again I was on the ceiling looking down, I saw a nurse come in, check my pulse and rush out shouting for help. I meanwhile was watching a split screen. On one side there was me on the bed and the nurse. On another I was with what I can only describe as a being of light. He showed me a life review. Another screen showed what my life would be like if I continued to live but I promptly forgot most of that when I was back in my body. At the time. I keep recognising bits of it all these years later. The being of light told me that I could leave my body and carry on in another reality. Somewhere I would much rather be as life hadn’t been too great in the one I’d been inhabiting. But the being also told me that if I left I’d eventually have to come back and do it all over again to get to that same point. So I reluctantly decided to return. Not the most positive way to make a decision!
Since then I’ve accompanied several people through their death and sneaked up the tunnel of light with them, but have always been turned back. But it has given me an absolute knowledge that we do continue in some other form. And that we do have choices we can make and many other dimensions to explore both in our current bodies and out of them. I’m no longer afraid to speak out about what I’ve seen. It’s why I’m here.
Let me leave you with this thought from the Vice-chancellor of the Unseen University:
“Well, we are wizards,” said Ridcully. “We’re supposed to meddle with things we don’t understand. If we hung around waitin’ till we understood things we’d never get anything done.” Terry Pratchett Interesting Times
Chap. XII. How one in the province of the Northumbrians, rose from the dead, and related many things which he had seen, some to be greatly dreaded and some to be desired. [Circ. 696 a.d.]
At this time a memorable miracle, and like to those of former days, was wrought in Britain; for, to the end that the living might be roused from the death of the soul, a certain man, who had been some time dead, rose again to the life of the body, and related many memorable things that he had seen; some of which I have thought fit here briefly to describe. There was a certain householder in that district of the Northumbrians which is called Incuneningum,841 who led a godly life, with all his house. This man fell sick, and his sickness daily increasing, he was brought to extremity, and died in the [pg 326] beginning of the night; but at dawn he came to life again, and suddenly sat up, whereat all those that sat about the body weeping fled away in great terror, only his wife, who loved him better, though trembling and greatly afraid, remained with him. And he comforting her, said, “Fear not, for I am now in very deed risen from death whereof I was holden, and permitted again to live among men; nevertheless, hereafter I must not live as I was wont, but after a very different manner.” Then rising immediately, he went to the oratory of the little town, and continuing in prayer till day, forthwith divided all his substance into three parts; one whereof he gave to his wife, another to his children, and the third, which he kept himself, he straightway distributed among the poor. Not long after, being set free from the cares of this world, he came to the monastery of Mailros,842 which is almost enclosed by the winding of the river Tweed, and having received the tonsure, went apart into a place of abode which the abbot had provided, and there he continued till the day of his death, in so great contrition of mind and mortifying of the body, that even if his tongue had been silent, his life would have declared that he had seen many things either to be dreaded or coveted, which were hidden from other men.
Thus he related what he had seen.843 “He that led me had a countenance full of light, and shining raiment, and we went in silence, as it seemed to me, towards the rising of the summer sun. And as we walked we came to a broad and deep valley of infinite length; it lay on our left, and one side of it was exceeding terrible with raging flames, the other no less intolerable for violent hail and cold snows drifting and sweeping through all the place. Both sides were full of the souls of men which seemed to be tossed from one side to the other as it were by a violent storm; for when they could no longer endure the fervent heat, the hapless souls leaped [pg 327] into the midst of the deadly cold; and finding no rest there, they leaped back again to be burnt in the midst of the unquenchable flames. Now whereas an innumerable multitude of misshapen spirits were thus tormented far and near with this interchange of misery, as far as I could see, without any interval of rest, I began to think that peradventure this might be Hell, of whose intolerable torments I had often heard men talk. My guide, who went before me, answered to my thought, saying, ‘Think not so, for this is not the Hell you believe it to be.’
“When he had led me farther by degrees, sore dismayed by that dread sight, on a sudden I saw the place before us begin to grow dark and filled with shadows. When we entered into them, the shadows by degrees grew so thick, that I could see nothing else, save only the darkness and the shape and garment of him that led me. As we went on ‘through the shades in the lone night,’844 lo! on a sudden there appeared before us masses of foul flame constantly rising as it were out of a great pit, and falling back again into the same. When I had been led thither, my guide suddenly vanished, and left me alone in the midst of darkness and these fearful sights. As those same masses of fire, without intermission, at one time flew up and at another fell back into the bottom of the abyss, I perceived that the summits of all the flames, as they ascended were full of the spirits of men, which, like sparks flying upwards with the smoke, were sometimes thrown on high, and again, when the vapours of the fire fell, dropped down into the depths below. Moreover, a stench, foul beyond compare, burst forth with the vapours, and filled all those dark places.
“Having stood there a long time in much dread, not knowing what to do, which way to turn, or what end awaited me, on a sudden I heard behind me the sound of a mighty and miserable lamentation, and at the same time noisy laughter, as of a rude multitude insulting captured enemies. When that noise, growing plainer, came up to me, I beheld a crowd of evil spirits dragging [pg 328] five souls of men, wailing and shrieking, into the midst of the darkness, whilst they themselves exulted and laughed. Among those human souls, as I could discern, there was one shorn like a clerk, one a layman, and one a woman. The evil spirits that dragged them went down into the midst of the burning pit; and it came to pass that as they went down deeper, I could no longer distinguish between the lamentation of the men and the laughing of the devils, yet I still had a confused sound in my ears. In the meantime, some of the dark spirits ascended from that flaming abyss, and running forward, beset me on all sides, and with their flaming eyes and the noisome fire which they breathed forth from their mouths and nostrils, tried to choke me; and threatened to lay hold on me with fiery tongs, which they had in their hands, yet they durst in no wise touch me, though they assayed to terrify me. Being thus on all sides encompassed with enemies and shades of darkness, and casting my eyes hither and thither if haply anywhere help might be found whereby I might be saved, there appeared behind me, on the way by which I had come, as it were, the brightness of a star shining amidst the darkness; which waxing greater by degrees, came rapidly towards me: and when it drew near, all those evil spirits, that sought to carry me away with their tongs, dispersed and fled.
“Now he, whose approach put them to flight, was the same that led me before; who, then turning towards the right, began to lead me, as it were, towards the rising of the winter sun, and having soon brought me out of the darkness, led me forth into an atmosphere of clear light. While he thus led me in open light, I saw a vast wall before us, the length on either side, and the height whereof, seemed to be altogether boundless. I began to wonder why we went up to the wall, seeing no door in it, nor window, nor any way of ascent. But when we came to the wall, we were presently, I know not by what means, on the top of it, and lo! there was a wide and pleasant plain full of such fragrance of blooming flowers that the marvellous sweetness of the [pg 329] scents immediately dispelled the foul stench of the dark furnace which had filled my nostrils. So great was the light shed over all this place that it seemed to exceed the brightness of the day, or the rays of the noontide sun. In this field were innumerable companies of men clothed in white, and many seats of rejoicing multitudes. As he led me through the midst of bands of happy inhabitants, I began to think that this perchance might be the kingdom of Heaven, of which I had often heard tell. He answered to my thought, saying, ‘Nay, this is not the kingdom of Heaven, as you think.’
“When we had also passed those mansions of blessed spirits, and gone farther on, I saw before me a much more beautiful light than before, and therein heard sweet sounds of singing, and so wonderful a fragrance was shed abroad from the place, that the other which I had perceived before and thought so great, then seemed to me but a small thing; even as that wondrous brightness of the flowery field, compared with this which I now beheld, appeared mean and feeble. When I began to hope that we should enter that delightful place, my guide, on a sudden stood still; and straightway turning, led me back by the way we came.
“In our return, when we came to those joyous mansions of the white-robed spirits, he said to me, ‘Do you know what all these things are which you have seen?’ I answered, ‘No,’ and then he said, ‘That valley which you beheld terrible with flaming fire and freezing cold, is the place in which the souls of those are tried and punished, who, delaying to confess and amend their crimes, at length have recourse to repentance at the point of death, and so go forth from the body; but nevertheless because they, even at their death, confessed and repented, they shall all be received into the kingdom of Heaven at the day of judgement; but many are succoured before the day of judgement, by the prayers of the living and their alms and fasting, and more especially by the celebration of Masses. Moreover that foul flaming pit which you saw, is the mouth of Hell, into which whosoever falls shall never be delivered to all eternity. This [pg 330] flowery place, in which you see this fair and youthful company, all bright and joyous, is that into which the souls of those are received who, indeed, when they leave the body have done good works, but who are not so perfect as to deserve to be immediately admitted into the kingdom of Heaven; yet they shall all, at the day of judgement, behold Christ, and enter into the joys of His kingdom; for such as are perfect in every word and deed and thought, as soon as they quit the body, forthwith enter into the kingdom of Heaven; in the neighbourhood whereof that place is, where you heard the sound of sweet singing amidst the savour of a sweet fragrance and brightness of light. As for you, who must now return to the body, and again live among men, if you will seek diligently to examine your actions, and preserve your manner of living and your words in righteousness and simplicity, you shall, after death, have a place of abode among these joyful troops of blessed souls which you behold. For when I left you for awhile, it was for this purpose, that I might learn what should become of you.’ When he had said this to me, I much abhorred returning to the body, being delighted with the sweetness and beauty of the place which I beheld, and with the company of those I saw in it. Nevertheless, I durst not ask my guide anything; but thereupon, on a sudden, I found myself, I know not how, alive among men.”
Now these and other things which this man of God had seen, he would not relate to slothful men, and such as lived negligently; but only to those who, being terrified with the dread of torments, or ravished with the hope of everlasting joys, would draw from his words the means to advance in piety. In the neighbourhood of his cell lived one Haemgils, a monk, and eminent in the priesthood, whose good works were worthy of his office: he is still living, and leading a solitary life in Ireland, supporting his declining age with coarse bread and cold water. He often went to that man, and by repeated questioning, heard of him what manner of things he had seen when out of the body; by whose account those few particulars which we have briefly set down came also to [pg 331] our knowledge. And he related his visions to King Aldfrid,845 a man most learned in all respects, and was by him so willingly and attentively heard, that at his request he was admitted into the monastery above-mentioned, and received the crown of the monastic tonsure; and the said king, whensoever he came into those parts, very often went to hear him. At that time the abbot and priest Ethelwald,846 a man of godly and sober life, presided over that monastery. He now occupies the episcopal see of the church of Lindisfarne, leading a life worthy of his degree.
He had a place of abode assigned him apart in that monastery, where he might give himself more freely to the service of his Creator in continual prayer. And inasmuch as that place was on the banks of the river, he was wont often to go into the same for the great desire he had to do penance in his body, and oftentimes to plunge in it, and to continue saying psalms or prayers in the same as long as he could endure it, standing still, while the waves flowed over him, sometimes up to the middle, and sometimes even to the neck in water; and when he went ashore, he never took off his cold, wet garments till they grew warm and dry on his body. And when in the winter the cracking pieces of ice were floating about him, which he had himself sometimes broken, to make room to stand or plunge in the river, and those who beheld it would say, “We marvel, brother Drythelm (for so he was called), that you are able to endure such severe cold;” he answered simply, for he was a simple and sober-spirited man, “I have seen greater cold.” And when they said, “We marvel that you choose to observe so hard a rule of continence,” he [pg 332] replied, “I have seen harder things.” And so, until the day of his calling hence, in his unwearied desire of heavenly bliss, he subdued his aged body with daily fasting, and forwarded the salvation of many by his words and life.
 Exceptional Human Experience Network, http://www.ehe.org/display/splash.html
 The phrase ‘neurochemical looking glass’ is taken from p.3 Breaking Open the Head by Daniel Pinchbeck (Flamingo, London 2004). Pinchbeck experimented with just about every psychedelic drug and etheobotanic substance known to ancient and modern man, not a research method I’d personally recommend, but his book makes fascinating reading for those who quite naturally visit the realms he describes and who can compare their experience with his. My thanks to the lovely Stephen Gawtry of Watkins Books for the introduction to this book.
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