Barbara Harris Whitfield, www.barbara-whitfield.com, is the author of many published articles and five books, The Power of Humility (2006), Full Circle: The Near Death Experience and Beyond (1990), Spiritual Awakenings: Insights of the NDE and Other Doorways to Our Soul (1995), and Final Passage: Sharing the Journey as This Life Ends (1998). She is a thanatologist (the study of death and dying), popular speaker, workshop presenter, near-death experiencer, and therapist in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. She has been on the board of Directors for the Kundalini Research Network and was on the faculty of Rutgers University’s Institute on Alcohol and Drug Studies for 12 years. Barbara spent six years researching the aftereffects of the near-death experience (NDE) at the University of Connecticut Medical School. She was a member of the executive board of the Kundalini Research Network and has sat on the executive board of the International Association for Near-Death Studies. She is a consulting editor and contributor for the Journal of Near-Death Studies. The following article is the first chapter from her book Final Passage where she gives her testimony of the NDEs she experienced and the profound aftereffects that followed.
1. Healing: Barbara’s Story
My work with dying people probably would have never come about if I hadn’t died myself. I know that sounds strange. How many of us die and get to come back and talk about it? Not many — we may think — but that’s not true. In 1984, a Gallup poll reported that one in every nineteen Americans has had an NDE. And these first numbers include only adults. Since that time we have acquired data on childhood NDEs, and they are almost as prevalent as adult experiences.
I want to share my own NDE with you, most importantly to tell you about what we call the life review. Our research shows that only in about 20 percent of NDEs is there a life review. Since my NDE over twenty years ago, I have focused my heart and my life on the knowledge I received from the life review.
Some NDErs report seeing their life review as if they are watching the pages in a book. Others describe it as a film. My life review appeared as a cloud filled with thousands of bubbles. In each bubble there was a scene from my life. I had the feeling I could bob from bubble to bubble, but overall it had the feeling of a linear sequence in which I relived all thirty-two years of my life.
During a life review, many of us experience not only our own feelings, but the feelings of everyone else — as though all other people participating in our lifetimes are joined. We can feel, then, how everything we’ve ever done or said affected others. The sense is that we don’t end at our skin. It is an illusion that we are separate. This deep review of our life shows us that at a higher level of consciousness we are all connected.
This new perspective totally changes our values and attitudes about the way we want to live. Materialism decreases and altruistic values become greater in most NDErs’ lives. Almost all of us talk about a sense of mission. If we were spiritual before, the shift in values and attitude is not as apparent as it is in someone like me. I had become an atheist when I numbed out at an early age. Subsequently, my changes have been obvious and profound.
2. A Need for Surgery
I was born with a deformity — a curvature in my lumbar spine called scoliosis. It never bothered me until 1973 when it suddenly became the focus of my life. The pain emanating from my lower back became overwhelming, and the drugs I was given to control it numbed everything out. I was hospitalized four times in the next two years, each time for two weeks and with traction and injections of Demerol to help alleviate the pain. Looking back on it now, like many other NDErs I believe that my life had gotten off track and my back pain was a metaphor for my life.
In 1975, at the age of thirty-two, I was admitted for the fifth time to the hospital. I underwent surgery — a spinal fusion. I awoke after the five-and-a-half-hour operation in a Stryker-frame circle bed. This strange bed looks like a Ferris wheel for one person. There are two big chrome hoops with a stretcher suspended in the middle. Three times a day the nurses would place three or four pillows over me and then another stretcher on top of them. They would strap these two stretchers together with me in the middle, like a human sandwich, and turn the bed on. It would rotate me up and then it would slowly move me around onto my belly. The pillows made it more tolerable because I was very thin. I had lost more than thirty pounds over the two years of pain and using Valium as a muscle relaxant. The surgery on my spine prevented me from any movement at all. I couldn’t move. The bed moved me. The reason for using this bed, and for rotating me forward and face down, was to drain my lungs and allow the skin on my back to breathe so I wouldn’t develop bedsores. I remained in this bed for almost a month, and then I was placed in a full body cast from my armpits to my knees.
About two days after surgery, complications set in and I started to die. I remember waking up in the circle bed and seeing this huge belly. I had swelled up. The swelling was pulling my incisions open and it hurt. I called for my nurse, and then I started screaming.
People in white came rushing in. It was a dramatic scene like you see on television. I had no idea what was going on because I hadn’t become a respiratory therapist yet. It seemed like everybody was pushing carts and machinery, throwing things back and forth over me. They hooked me up to all kinds of machinery, tubes, monitors and bags.
3. Barbara Whitfield’s First Near-Death Experience
Everything that was going on was loud and overwhelming. I lost consciousness.
I awoke in the hall in the middle of the night. The lights were dim. It was quiet. I looked up and down the hall and didn’t see anyone. I remember thinking that if they caught me out of the circle bed I’d be in trouble, because I wasn’t supposed to move. So I turned around to go back into my room and found myself looking directly into a public-address speaker. This isn’t possible, I thought. I remembered seeing the speaker when I was admitted. It was mounted on the ceiling at least three or four feet above my head. I moved into my room and looked down into the circle bed and saw — me. I heard myself chuckle because she looked funny with white tape around her nose holding in a tube.
I was out of pain. I felt calm — incredibly peaceful — in a way I had never felt before. So I hung out with her for a while, but I knew that wasn’t me.
Next, I was in total blackness. I don’t know how I got there. I was floating in darkness with a gentle sense of movement. I knew I was moving away from this life. I had left this life behind.
Then I felt hands come around me and pull me into lush warmth. I realized it was my grandmother. I used to call her Bubbie. She was pulling me close to her in a wonderful embrace. She had been dead for fourteen years, and I had never before thought of her existing beyond her death. But I knew I was with her.
I suddenly realized that what I had believed in the past might not be real. Maybe my belief systems were really messed up. Maybe this was real and everything else had been an illusion. As I was thinking about how off base my beliefs had been, and as I realized that my grandmother holding me was real, I felt like I released a load of toxic pain . And as I experienced that release, there was a sudden replay of every scene my grandmother and I had shared during our nineteen years together in this life. It wasn’t just my memories of her — it was also her memories of me. And our memories became one. I could feel and see and sense exactly what she was feeling, seeing and sensing. And I knew she was getting the same thing from my memories. It was both of us together, replaying everything that we meant to each other. It was wonderful.
I can still replay each memory today, and they are as vivid as when they happened twenty-three years ago in my NDE. One of my favorite scenes is when we were cooking together. I was three or four years old. We were alone in her kitchen, but the whole family was going to come for dinner, so there was expectancy in the air. My Bubbie pulled over a heavy wooden chair from her kitchen table to the stove and picked me up and put me on it. She stood behind and very close to me to help and protect me. One at a time, she would put a little bit of mixture in my hand, and I would form it into a ball and drop it into this huge pot of boiling water. The pot was almost as tall as I was on the chair. The pungent smell of fish saturated the already humid air. I would put my hands to my nose and yell Yuk! And she would laugh. After we finished, she pulled the chair with me on it into the middle of the kitchen. I screamed and laughed because it felt like she was taking me on a ride. She wiped my hands with a wet cloth, but I smelled them and yelled Yuk! again. I watched her take a lemon and cut it in half. She rubbed a lemon half on my hands and then wiped them with her already stained and wet apron. Then she looked at me with such love in her eyes and said, Don’t move. Bubbie will be right back. She came back with her hairbrush and brushed my hair for what seemed like a very long time. It felt so good. Then she made me long curls, twisting each lock of my hair around her fingers. When she was finished, and she lifted me down to the floor, I ran into her bedroom and looked in the mirror. I looked just like Shirley Temple.
When the whole family sat down for dinner that evening, she told everyone I had made the fish. My aunts looked at me, very impressed. And as they tasted it, they nodded their heads in approval and told my mother what a good cook I was.
After our memories ended, I stayed with my grandmother for a while. I loved her so much. Then I started moving away. I had no control over what was happening, but it felt all right that I was moving away from her. I understood that she would be waiting for me to return again, and that this place she was in was eternal. So was I. My life had been a brief moment in eternity, and I had no concerns or doubts that as this bigger eternal reality unfolded it was perfect. Besides, the one I had just endured for thirty-two years was so painful and constrictive. This new reality felt like it would continually expand and flow.
At that time I wouldn’t have called where I was a tunnel, but later, as a researcher, I realized that tunnel is the closest word we have on this plane. Whatever it was that I was moving through started off totally black. Then I became aware that there was energy churning through the blackness. As I watched the energy move, shades of gray to almost white separated from the churning. Out of the darkness Light was coming, and the Light was moving way ahead of me. The Light and I were moving in the same direction, but it was far, far ahead.
My hands were expanding. They felt like they were becoming infinitely large. A gentle breeze was wrapping around my body, and I could hear a low droning noise that beckoned me. This unusual sound was taking me to the Light.
Suddenly I was back in my body, back in the circle bed, and it was morning. Two nurses were opening my drapes. The sunlight was startling. It hurt my eyes. I asked them to close the drapes. I tried to tell my nurses and then several doctors that I had left the bed. They told me that it was impossible and that I had been hallucinating.
4. Barbara Whitfield’s Life Review
About a week later I again left my body in the circle bed. I had been taken off the critical list, but I was still debilitated and sick. I had been rotated forward onto my face. I was uncomfortable. I seemed to have been left in that position for too long. I reached for the call button, but it had slipped away from where it was clipped on the bed sheet. I started to call, then yell, then scream frantically, but my door was closed. No one came. I wet the bed. I became hysterical. I separated from my body.
As I left my body, I again went out into the darkness, only this time I was awake and could see it happening. Looking down and off to the right, I saw myself in a bubble — in the circle bed — crying. Then I looked up and to the left, and I saw my one-year-old self in another bubble — face down in my crib — crying just as hard. I looked to the right and saw myself again in the circle bed, then to the left and saw myself as a baby — back and forth about three more times, then I let go. I decided I didn’t want to be the thirty-two-year-old Barbara anymore; I’d go to the baby. As I moved away from my thirty-two-year-old body in the circle bed, I felt as though I released myself from this lifetime. As I did, I became aware of an energy that was wrapping itself around me and going through me, permeating me, holding up every molecule of my being.
It was not an old man with a long white beard. It took me a long time to use the word God. In fact, I never used any word until I saw the movie Star Wars and heard about The Force. By then, I was already reading quantum physics, trying to figure out how I could explain what had permeated me and was me . . . and you . . . and all of us. Now it was here, and it was holding me. It felt incredible. There are no words in English, or maybe in this reality, to explain the kind of love God emanates. God was totally accepting of everything we reviewed in my life. In every scene of my life review I could feel again what I had felt at various times in my life. And I could feel everything everyone else felt as a consequence of my actions. Some of it felt good and some of it felt awful. All of this translated into knowledge, and I learned — oh, how I learned! The information was flowing at an incredible breakneck speed that probably would have burned me up if it weren’t for the extraordinary energy holding me. The information came in, and then love neutralized my judgments against myself. In other words, as we relived my life, God never judged me. God held me and kept me together. I received all information about every scene — my perceptions and feelings — and anyone else’s perceptions and feelings who were in the scene. No matter how I judged myself in each interaction, being held by God was the bigger interaction. God interjected love into everything, every feeling, every bit of information about absolutely everything that went on, so that everything was all right. There was no good and no bad. There was only me and my loved ones from this life trying to be, or just trying to survive.
I realize now that without this God force holding me, I wouldn’t have had the strength to experience what I am explaining to you.
I — we at this point, for we are one, a very sacred one — God and I were merging into one sacred person. We went to the baby I was seeing to my upper left in the darkness. Picture the baby being in a bubble and that bubble in the center of a cloud of thousands and thousands of bubbles. In each bubble was another scene in my life. As we moved toward the baby, it was as though we were bobbing through the bubbles. At the same time there was a linear sequence in which we relived thirty-two years of my life. I could hear myself saying, No wonder, no wonder. I now believe my no wonders meant No wonder you are the way you are now. Look what was done to you when you were a little girl.
My mother had been dependent on drugs, angry, and abusive, and my father wasn’t there much of the time and did little to intervene. I saw all this childhood trauma again, in my life review, but I didn’t see it in little bits and pieces, the way I had remembered it as an adult. I saw and experienced it just as I had lived it at the time it first happened. Not only was I me, I was also my mother. And my dad. And my brother. We were all one. Just as I had felt everything my grandmother had felt, I now felt my mother’s pain and neglect from her childhood. She wasn’t trying to be mean. She didn’t know how to be loving or kind. She didn’t know how to love. She didn’t understand what life is really all about. And she was still angry from her own childhood, angry because they were poor and because her father had grand mal seizures almost every day until he died when she was eleven. And then she was angry because he left her.
Everything came flooding back, including my father’s helplessness at stopping the insanity. If my father was home when my mother exploded into one of her rages, he would close all the windows so the neighbors wouldn’t hear, and then he would go outside and visit with them. Again I witnessed my brother’s rage at my mother’s abuse, and then his turning around and giving it to me. I saw how we were all connected in this dance that started with my mother. I saw how her physical body expressed her emotional pain. I watched as I grew up and left my parents’ house when I was eighteen. By that point I had watched my mother undergo twenty-six operations, twenty-five of which were elective. I saw myself as a child praying for a doctor who could help my mother. One part of her body or another was always in pain. She had two spinal fusions on her neck, two or three on her lumbar spine. Both knees, both elbows and one wrist were operated on.
As my life review continued, I again experienced my mother starving herself because she was told she had gotten chubby. Then she had to have several surgeries for intestinal problems and constipation, and during those stays in the hospital they would tube feed her because she was so thin. She even had her toes shortened. They called it hammertoe surgery. The real reason was because she had a huge collection of high-heeled shoes that were size four and one-half. (She always insisted on wearing spike heels even with her bad back.) Her feet were growing (as all of ours do as we get older) but she wanted them to remain a size four and one-half. I watched myself with her in a bubble as her orthopedic surgeon said, Florence, you have two choices. Get shoes a half size bigger or shorten your toes! He was laughing, but she chose the surgery. She was in plaster casts for six weeks, taking even more painkillers and sleeping pills.
I also saw her go through psychiatric hospitalizations. During one of these, around 1955, I couldn’t visit her for three weeks. I was about eleven and was sure I had done something wrong. In one bubble I could see myself finally being allowed to visit her. I looked big for my age and my five-foot-two-inch frame towered over her four-foot-eleven one. She weighed about eighty-eight pounds. I was chunky. She lived on black coffee, sedatives, painkillers and tranquilizers. I loved to eat.
In the bubble I was pleading with her to cooperate with the doctors so she could come home. She said, Oh, honey. This is like a job. I don’t need to be in here, but Daddy has three (health insurance) policies so I make us money when I’m here. Blue Cross pays all the medical expenses, and we get to keep the rest from the other two policies. I could now feel her saying that and she meant it. She believed it. I continued watching and realized that nothing could have helped my mother because she had no real understanding about why she was there. I could hear myself saying, No wonder, no wonder. And then the benevolent energy that was holding me would hold me tighter and with even more love.
We continued watching my mother in pain, always seeing doctors and always receiving prescription pain killers, sleeping pills and tranquilizers. My only feelings during this time were ones of loneliness. I felt so alone when she was in the hospital. Then I watched her abuse me when she was home. I could now feel that she abused me because she hated herself. I saw myself down on my knees by the side of my bed, praying for a doctor to help my mother. What I didn’t realize as a child, but was understanding in the life review, was that she didn’t want anyone to help her. She thought her job in life was to have doctors and be a patient. And she enjoyed being taken care of in the hospital.
I saw how I had given up myself in order to survive. I forgot that I was a child. I became my mother’s mother. I suddenly knew that my mother had had the same thing happen to her in her childhood. She took care of her father during his seizures, and as a child she gave herself up to take care of him. As children, she and I both became anything and everything others needed. As my life review continued, I also saw my mother’s soul, how painful her life was, how lost she was. And I saw my father, and how he put blinders on himself to avoid his grief over my mother’s pain and to survive. In my life review I saw they were good people caught in helplessness. I saw their beauty, their humanity and their needs that had gone unattended to in their own childhoods. I loved them and understood them. We may have been trapped, but we were still souls connected in our dance of life by an energy source that had created us.
This is when I first realized that we don’t end at our skin. We are all in this big churning mass of consciousness. We are each a part of this consciousness we call God. And we’re not just human. We are Spirit. We were Spirit before we came into this lifetime. We are all struggling Spirits now, trying to get being human right. And when we leave here, we will be pure Spirit again.
As my life review continued, I got married and had my own children and saw that I was on the edge of repeating the cycle of abuse and trauma that I had experienced as a child. I was on prescription drugs. I was in the hospital. I was becoming like my mother. And at the same time, this energy holding me let me into its experience of all this. I felt God’s memories of these scenes through God’s eyes just as I had through my grandmother’s eyes. I could sense God’s divine intelligence and it was astonishing. God loves us and wants us to learn and wake up to our real selves — to what is important. I realized that God wants us to know that we only experience real pain if we die without living first. And the way to live is to give love to ourselves and to others. We are here to learn never to withhold our love. But only when we heal enough to be real can we understand and give love the way love was meant to be.
As my life unfolded before my eyes, I witnessed how severely I had treated myself because that was the behavior shown and taught to me as a child. I realized that the only big mistake I had made in my life of thirty-two years was that I had never learned to love myself.
And then I was back, but not in my body. I was behind the nurse’s station. I saw a metal circle with pillows tossing behind glass. They were the pillows I had urinated on when I separated from my body. I was watching them in a dryer.
I heard two nurses talking about my case and about how my day nurse was so upset after she found me that they had sent her home early. Then they were saying that I was going to be in a body cast for six months, even though they had told me six weeks, because my doctors thought that I couldn’t handle knowing. So they were not going to tell me the truth.
Then I was back in my body, back in the circle bed. The same two nurses came in to check on me and I said to them, I left the bed again.
No, honey. You’re hallucinating, they said.
I was not on painkillers at this point, so I insisted, No, I’m not hallucinating . I left the bed.
No, you’re hallucinating. You can’t leave the bed, they said.
Please call my day nurse and tell her I’m okay, I responded. Tell her I’m not angry with her. I know she was sent home early. And don’t lie to me by telling me I’m going to be in a body cast for six weeks. Tell me the truth. I know I’m going to be in a body cast for six months. And you should have washed those pillows before you put them in the dryer. I don’t care for myself, but I care for the next patient.
5. Following My Heart
A month after I came home from the hospital, my parents came over to visit me. They had taken care of my children for the month I was in the circle bed, so I understood why they couldn’t visit me in the hospital. However, I couldn’t understand why they weren’t coming to my house. I spent every day in bed. I weighed eighty-three pounds and the body cast weighed thirty pounds. I wondered when they were coming so I could tell them about my experience. Finally they came, and I blurted out how much I loved them and that everything that had happened to us was all right. I think I even told them that I forgave them.
They looked at me like I was really strange and quickly left. After that, I insisted on seeing a psychiatrist, hoping he would understand what I had experienced. The doctor I saw didn’t understand. No one understood NDEs back then, so I realized that I couldn’t talk about it. I spent the six months in the body cast, thinking about my NDE but not trying to tell anyone. Once I was out of the cast and went through some physical therapy to regain my strength, I decided to put the NDE away and follow my heart.
First, I volunteered to work in the emergency room of the hospital where I had been a patient. I had many opportunities there to be with and touch dying people. I felt real when I worked there. And everyone else was real, too. In a setting where life and death are on the edge every moment, only truth is spoken. My personal life, however, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. My husband, my friends and most family members were caught up in their own games. No one seemed to be communicating honestly. There was so much denial of feelings. I can’t deny that I too had been a part of it – part of the materialism and part of the numbness. But now I was different. It wasn’t their fault. I had changed. The only place I felt real besides the hospital was on a college campus.
I became a respiratory therapist working in the emergency room and the ICU, and my patients were telling me about their experiences as they were dying. And the ones who returned to their bodies told me about their NDEs. I started writing about all this, in those days calling my topic the emotional needs of critical-care patients. Surprisingly, I was being invited to speak at professional conferences and being published in respiratory therapy journals. The emotional needs of patients was a new and hot topic in healthcare in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Finally, I became a researcher and could look for the answers I so longed to find. Because my research was conducted at a university medical school, all kinds of new knowledge were available to me. I could frame and reframe not only the hundreds of experiences I was studying, but also my own personal one. The story of my NDE is in this book so we can have a foundation for the way I participated in and describe the other stories you are about to read.
6. Processing My Life Review
The NDE is never over if we invite it to continue to affect us. It can continue to grow in our lives if we nurture it. It continues to interpret for us what we are doing here, what life may be all about.
Before my NDE and life review, I knew I had been abused physically and emotionally by my mother and neglected by both parents. I remembered most everything. The problem was that those memories of abuse did not arouse any emotional reactions in me. In order to deal with the emotional and physical pain, I had numbed myself not only as a child going through pain, but also as an adult remembering it. I protected myself with my own emotional Novocain, so I couldn’t feel anything that had happened in my childhood. Unfortunately, the numbness continued in my adult life. Once I experienced my life review, I could remove the Novocain from my past and re-glue the pieces of my life together. I could begin to learn about all the new feelings that were coming up.
Psychiatry calls emotional Novocain psychic numbing. It is a common approach used by children to get through painful times. Once we grow up we have the choice of staying numb or remembering and working though all those buried but painful numbed-out memories. In my life review I also saw the beginnings of abuse in the way I was reacting to my children. For me it wasn’t just a choice of numbness or healing. I needed to break the chain of abuse. I needed to save my children from what I had been through.
7. Starting to Wake Up
I learned in my life review that the only thing that is real is love, and the only way to share love is by being real. Being real happens when we acknowledge our feelings and continually share our truth. When we feel our feelings and are real, we share our truth out of love. Then our relationship with God and our self is healthy.
My parents and the rest of my family and friends certainly weren’t the exception to the rule when it came to not understanding my new attitude. I facilitated support groups for the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) for twelve years and the biggest problem NDErs talk about is that no one understands us. We experience a profound change in our values and attitudes and need to talk about it in a support group. It is as though we had lived our lives in black and white and were suddenly shown colors. We no longer fear death. And this is just the first of many paradoxes: Because we don’t fear death, we don’t fear living. We love life in a whole new way. We are more willing to take risks to help others. We work with the dying because we get as much as we give by helping.
Our research also shows that a history of childhood trauma, abuse and neglect is more frequent among NDErs than among the control group. Many people I have interviewed who have had an NDE came from an abusive childhood steeped in addiction. We all have the same story. We talk about how every time our parents started drinking or taking pills … they were gone. Even if their bodies were still there, they were gone. And so we grew up numb. Because our parents had numbed out, so did we. But our NDEs brought us back. They reminded us of who we are. And to maintain our real selves we have to learn to feel our feelings, share our truth and give our love. I wrote in detail about the childhood abuse factor in my last book, Spiritual Awakenings. Childhood abuse or trauma has always been of interest to me because of my own history, and because I hear about it so often in support groups or when I give talks. Now it has been demonstrated statistically in the research .
I also wrote in Spiritual Awakenings that we should not blame anyone, but instead we should break the chains of abuse. When we die — if we re-experience our lives from everyone else’s perspective as well as our own — there is only information and feelings, perceptions and knowledge. We really can’t judge or blame others because we suddenly understand from where we and everyone else is coming. We only judge here in this earthly reality. Over there, with God, I was just learning about this. The knowledge of what had happened was pouring into me, and I was saying my no wonders! over and over again. I came to believe that God doesn’t judge but wants us to learn so we won’t make the same mistakes again. My experiences showed me that God wants us to extend love, not fear. If I can understand my childhood, and I can name, express and let go of the emotions I have held in since I was a little girl, I won’t repeat my past. My parents repeated their pasts because they didn’t know any better. Before my NDE and my life review, the old way of conflict and numbness controlled me. Suddenly, I was catapulted out of time and embraced by a whole different way. Just as fast, I was back here wanting to forge new ground. I have had a great opportunity and now I want to share it. But I don’t blame, and I certainly don’t want to judge anyone, including my parents.
And now, almost twenty-three years later, my parents have died — my dad in late 1992 and my mom in early 1994. My life review had set the scene for the way I helped my father die and the way I observed my mother die. In fact, my life review, what I learned in it and, even more importantly, what I experienced in it — that a divine energy connects all of us — have since orchestrated all my relationships. With each person I have attended in the dying process, I have also witnessed this spiritual energy. I have given talks for hundreds of hospice workers, and almost everyone agrees that this energy is present. Hospice workers often tell me their stories of God’s loving energy being present during a client’s death.
In all of the stories in this book, I feel connected to this energy through my heart. The prayer within my heart is constant and is the background music orchestrating my experiences. When we are connected to God’s loving energy, it is the most powerful force in the universe.
Chapter One excerpt from Barbara’s book Final Passage
All content copyright 2003, 2004 Barbara Harris Whitfield.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
 What I gave up was my old ineffective and even ignorant belief system, which A Course in Miracles calls the ego, and which is also called the false self by Charles Whitfield and the self-psychologists.
 Hallucinations are usually experiences of seeing things or hearing voices that are really not there, in this reality. We will see something scary, for example, in the physical space we are in. By contrast, near-death and other transcendent experiences happen in other realities or dimensions. We may begin here, but the experience quickly moves to other realities. Also, hallucinations are usually agitating and often transient in memory, whereas transcendent or near-death experiences are usually peaceful and benevolent, and we do not forget them.
 See Kenneth Ring and C. Rosing, The Omega Project, The Journal of Near-Death Studies 8, no. 4 (1990): 211239, and B. Whitfield, Spiritual Awakenings: Insights of the Near-Death Experience and Other Doorways to Our Soul (Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, 1995).