A Guided Tour of the Afterlife

With Jesus Christ

 

Art by

Peter Teekamp

With a start I noticed that we were moving. I hadn't been aware of leaving the hospital, but now it was nowhere in sight. The living events of my life which had crowded round us had vanished too: Instead we seemed to be high above the earth, speeding together toward a distant pinprick of light.

The distant pinprick resolved itself into a large city toward which we seemed to be descending. It was still nighttime but smoke poured from factory chimneys and many buildings had lights burning on every floor. There was an ocean or a large lake beyond the lights; it could have been Boston, Detroit, Toronto, certainly no place I had ever been, but obviously I thought as we came close enough to see the crowded streets, one where war industries were operating around the clock.

I noticed a certain phenomenon repeatedly - people unaware of others right beside them. I saw a group of assembly-line workers gathered around a coffee canteen. One of the women asked another for a cigarette, begged her in fact, as though she wanted it more than anything in the world. But the other one, chatting with her friends, ignored her. She took a pack of cigarettes from her coveralls, and without ever offering it to the woman who reached for it so eagerly, took one out and lit it. Fast as a striking snake the woman who had been refused snatched at the lighted cigarette in the other one's mouth. Again she grabbed at it. And again ... With a little chill of recognition I saw that she was unable to grip it. Like me, in fact, she was dead.

In one house a younger man followed an older one from room to room. 

"I'm sorry, Pa!" he kept saying. "I didn't know what it would do to Mama! I didn't understand."

But though I could hear him clearly, it was obvious that the man he was speaking to could not. The old man was carrying a tray into a room where an elderly woman sat in bed. 

"I'm sorry, Pa," the young man said again. "I'm sorry, Mama."

Endlessly, over and over, to ears that could not hear.

Several times we paused before similar scenes. A boy trailing a teenaged girl through the corridors of a school. 

"I'm sorry, Nancy!"  

A middle-aged woman begging a gray-haired man to forgive her.

"What are they so sorry for, Jesus?" I pleaded. "Why do they keep talking to people who can't hear them?"

Then from the light beside me came the thought: 

"They are suicides, chained to every consequence of their act."

Gradually I began to notice something else. All of the living people we were watching were surrounded by a faint luminous glow, almost like an electrical field over the surface of their bodies. This luminosity moved as they moved, like a second skin made out of pale, scarcely visible light.

At first I thought it must be reflected brightness from the person at my side. But the buildings we entered gave off no reflection, neither did inanimate objects. And then I realized that the non-physical beings didn't either. My own un-solid body, I now saw, was without this glowing sheath.

At this point the light drew me inside a dingy bar and grill near what looked like a large naval base. A crowd of people, many of them sailors, lined the bar three deep, while others jammed wooden booths along the wall. Though a few were drinking beer, most of them seemed to be belting whiskies as fast as the two perspiring bartenders could pour them.

Then I noticed a striking thing. A number of the men standing at the bar seemed unable to lift their drinks to their lips. Over and over I watched them clutch at their shot glasses, hands passing through the solid tumblers, through the heavy wooden counter top, through the very arms and bodies of the drinkers around them.

And these men, every one of them, lacked the aureole of light that surrounded the others.

Then, the cocoon of light must be a property of physical bodies only. The dead, we who had lost our solidness, had lost this second skin as well. 

And it was obvious that these living people, the light-surrounded ones, the ones actually drinking, talking, jostling each other, could neither see the desperately thirsty disembodied beings among them, nor feel their frantic pushing to get at those glasses. 

Though it was also clear to me, watching, that the non-solid people could both see and hear each other. Furious quarrels were constantly breaking out among them over glasses that none could actually get to his lips.

I thought I had seen heavy drinking at fraternity parties in Richmond, but the way civilians and servicemen at this bar were going at it beat everything. I watched one young sailor rise unsteadily from a stool, take two or three steps, and sag heavily to the floor. Two of his buddies stooped down and started dragging him away from the crush.

But that was not what I was looking at. I was staring in amazement as the bright cocoon around the unconscious sailor simply opened up. It parted at the very crown of his head and began peeling away from his head, his shoulders. Instantly, quicker than I'd ever seen anyone move, one of the insubstantial beings who had been standing near him at the bar was on top of him. He had been hovering like a thirsty shadow at the sailor's side, greedily following every swallow the young man made. Now he seemed to spring at him like a beast of prey.

In the next instant, to my utter mystification, the springing figure had vanished. It all happened even before the two men had dragged their unconscious load from under the feet of those at the bar. One minute I'd distinctly seen two individuals; by the time they propped the sailor against the wall, there was only one.

Twice more, as I stared, stupefied, the identical scene was repeated. A man passed out, a crack swiftly opened in the aureole round him, one of the non-solid people vanished as he hurled himself at that opening, almost as if he had scrambled inside the other man.

Was that covering of light some kind of shield, then? Was it a protection against ... against disembodied beings like myself? Presumably these substance-less creatures had once had solid bodies, as I myself had had. Suppose that when they had been in these bodies they had developed a dependence on alcohol that went beyond the physical. That became mental. Spiritual, even. Then when they lost that body, except when they could briefly take possession of another one, they would be cut off for all eternity from the thing they could never stop craving.

An eternity like that - the thought sent a chill shuddering through me - surely that would be a form of hell. I had always thought of hell, when I thought of it at all, as a fiery place somewhere beneath the earth where evil people like Hitler would burn forever. But what if one level of hell existed right here on the surface - unseen and unsuspected by the living people occupying the same space. What if it meant remaining on earth but never again able to make contact with it. I thought of that woman who wanted that cigarette. To want most, to burn with most desire, where you were most powerless - that would be hell indeed.

Not would be, I realized with a start. Was. This was hell. And I was as much a part of it as these other discarnate creatures. I had died. I had lost my physical body. I existed now in a realm that would not respond to me in any way ...

There were two other things distinctly unique about the beings of this realm. Since hypocrisy is impossible because others know your thoughts the minute you think them, they tend to group with the ones who think the same way they do. In our own realm of the existence, earth, we have a saying, "Birds of a feather flock together." The main reason that they stick together is because it is too threatening to be with beings with whom you disagree when they know it.

One of the places we observed seemed to be a receiving station. Beings would arrive here oftentimes in a deep hypnotic sleep. I call it hypnotic because I realized they had put themselves in this state by their beliefs. Here were what I would call angels working with them trying to arouse them and help them realize God is truly a God of the living and that they did not have to lie around sleeping until Gabriel or someone came along blowing on a horn.

We were moving again. We had left the Navy base with its circumference of seedy streets and bars, and were now standing, in this dimension where travel seemed to take no time at all, on the edge of a wide, flat plain. So far in our journeying we had visited places where the living and the dead existed side by side: indeed where disembodied beings, completely unsuspected by the living, hovered right on top of the physical things and people where their desire was focused.

Now, however, although we were apparently still somewhere on the surface of the earth, I could see no living man or woman. The plain was crowded, even jammed with hordes of ghostly discarnate beings; nowhere was there a solid, light-surrounded person to be seen. All of these thousands of people were apparently no more substantial than I myself. And they were the most frustrated, the angriest, the most completely miserable beings I had ever laid eyes on.

"Lord Jesus!" I cried. "Where are we?"

At first I thought we were looking at some great battlefield. Everywhere spirits were locked in what looked like fights to the death, writhing, punching, gouging. No weapons of any sort, I saw as I looked closer, only bare hands and feet and teeth. And then I noticed that no one was apparently being injured. There was no blood, no bodies strewed on the ground. A blow that ought to have eliminated an opponent would leave him exactly as before.

If I suspected that I was seeing hell, now I was sure of it. These creatures seemed locked into habits of mind and emotion, into hatred, lust, destructive thought-patterns.

Even more hideous than the bites and kicks they exchanged, were the sexual abuses many were performing in feverish pantomime. Perversions I had never dreamed of were being vainly attempted all around us. It was impossible to tell if the howls of frustration which reached us were actual sounds or only the transference of despairing thoughts. Indeed in this disembodied world it didn't seem to matter. Whatever anyone thought, however fleetingly or unwillingly, was instantly apparent to all around him, more completely than words could have expressed it, faster than sound waves could have carried it.

And the thoughts most frequently communicated had to do with the superior knowledge, or abilities, or background of the thinker. 

"I told you so!"

"I always knew!"

"Didn't I warn you!' were shrieked into the echoing air over and over. With a feeling of sick familiarity I recognized here my own thinking. In these yelps of envy and wounded self-importance I heard myself all too well.

Once again, however, no condemnation came from the presence at my side, only a compassion for these unhappy creatures that was breaking his heart.

What was keeping them here? Why didn't each one just get up and leave? I could see no reason why the person being screamed at by that man with the contorted face didn't simply walk away. Or why that young woman didn't put a thousand miles between herself and the other one who was so furiously beating her with insubstantial fists? They couldn't actually hold onto their victims, any of these insanely angry beings. There were no fences. Nothing apparently prevented them from simply going off alone.

Unless - unless there was no alone in this realm of disembodied spirits. No private corners in a universe where there were no walls. No place that was not inhabited by other beings to whom one was totally exposed at all times. What was it going to be like, I thought with sudden panic, to live forever where my most private thoughts were not private at all? No disguising them, no covering them up, no way to pretend I was anything but what I actually was. How unbearable. Unless of course everyone around me had the same kind of thoughts - Unless there was a kind of consolation in finding others as loathsome as one's self, even if all we could do was hurl our venom at each other.

Perhaps this was the explanation for this hideous plain. Perhaps in the course of eons or of seconds, each creature here had sought out the company of others as pride and hate-filled as himself, until together they formed this society of the damned.

Perhaps it was not Jesus who had abandoned them, but they who had fled from the light that showed up their darkness.

There were beings arguing over some religious or political point, trying to kill the ones who did not agree with them. I thought when I saw this:

"No wonder our world is in such a mess and we have had so many tragic religious wars. No wonder this was breaking Christ's heart, the one who came to teach us peace and love."

We were moving again. First he had shown me a hellish realm, filled with beings trapped in some form of self-attention. Now behind, beyond, through all this I began to perceive a whole new realm. Enormous buildings stood in a beautiful sunny park that reminded me somewhat of a well-planned university. As we entered one of the buildings and doorways, the air was so hushed that I was actually startled to see people in the passageway.

I could not tell if they were men or women, old or young, for all were covered from head to foot in loose-flowing hooded cloaks which made me think vaguely of monks. But the atmosphere of the place was not at all as I imagined a monastery. It was more like some tremendous study center, humming with the excitement of great discovery. Everyone we passed in the wide halls and on the curving staircases seemed caught up in some all-engrossing activity; not many words were exchanged among them. And yet I sensed no unfriendliness between these beings, rather an aloofness of total concentration.

Whatever else these people might be, they appeared utterly and supremely self-forgetful - absorbed in some vast purpose beyond themselves. Through open doors I glimpsed at enormous rooms filled with complex equipment. In several of the rooms hooded figures bent over intricate charts and diagrams, or sat at the controls of elaborate consoles flickering with lights. Somehow I felt that some vast experiment was being pursued, perhaps dozens and dozens of such experiments.

And something more ... In spite of his obvious delight in the beings around us, I sensed that even this was not the ultimate, that he had far greater things to show me if only I could see.

And so I followed him into other buildings of this domain of thought. We entered a studio where music of a complexity I couldn't begin to follow was being composed and performed. There were complicated rhythms, tones not on a scale I knew. 

"Why," I found myself thinking. "Bach is only the beginning!"

Next we walked through a library the size of the whole University of Richmond. I gazed into rooms lined floor to ceiling with documents on parchment, clay, leather, metal, paper. 

"Here," the thought occurred to me, "are assembled the important books of the universe."

Immediately I knew this was impossible. How could books be written somewhere beyond the earth! But the thought persisted, although my mind rejected it. 

The key works of the universe, the phrase kept recurring as we roamed the domed reading rooms crowded with silent scholars. 

Then abruptly, at the door to one of the smaller rooms, almost an annex: 

"Here is the central thought of this earth."

"Is this heaven, Lord Jesus?" I ventured. 

The calm, the brightness, they were surely heaven-like! So was the absence of self, of clamoring ego. 

"When these people were on earth did they grow beyond selfish desires?"

"They grew, and they have kept on growing."

The answer shone like sunlight in that intent and eager atmosphere. But if growth could continue, then this was not all. Then ... there must be something even these serene beings lacked. And suddenly I wondered if it was the same thing missing in the lower realm. Were these selfless seeking creatures also failing in some degree to see Jesus? Or perhaps, to see him for himself? Bits and hints of him they surely had; obviously it was the truth they were so single-mindedly pursuing. But what if even a thirst for truth could distract from the truth himself, standing here in their midst while they searched for him in books and test tubes ...

I didn't know. And next to his unutterable love, my own bewilderment, all the questions I wanted to ask, seemed incidental. Perhaps, I concluded at last, he cannot tell me more than I can see. Perhaps there is nothing in me yet that could understand an explanation.

It is this realm which removes forever the concept that we stop learning or progressing in knowledge when we die. I could call this realm the realm of research, or the mental realm or the realm of intellectual, scientific and religious knowledge. All would be correct.

This is the realm where I believe the souls go who have developed the greatest interest in a particular field of life's endeavor, the ones who want to keep on researching and learning more in their particular fields. This gives hope to all people who want to keep learning and have established enough wisdom to realize we have just begun to scratch the surface in any field when we are on the earth's level of development.

I became aware that the Christ was watching some souls in their study of the universe's religions and saw he did not judge any of them. They too were not judging the religions which they were studying but were interested in the many different ways the beings of the universe had attempted to come to understand their Creator. I suddenly realized how wrong it was for any of us on earth to judge another's approach to God or to feel we have the only answers. The moment that realization came into my mind it was followed by his thought placed in my mind:

"You are right, for if I, LOVE, be lifted up, I shall draw all humanity unto me. If you come to know the Father, you will come to know me. If you come to know me you will come to know that LOVE includes all beings regardless of their race, creeds or color."   

"Hell is a state of being we create by being away from God until we choose to return to him. It is a state totally devoid of love." - Sandra Rogers, near-death experiencer

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Last modified: October 21, 2004