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The City of Light and the Near-Death Experience

aerial view of building during golden hour

Fifty of the near-death experiences I profile on this website which I gathered statistics on, 17% of them experienced a city of light. This City of Light has been described by various experiencers using such adjectives as: golden, beautiful, unearthly, fairy tale-like, indescribable, beyond anything that can be described, so superior to anything on Earth, colorful, brilliant, heavenly, endless, crystalline, grand, paradise, and galaxy-like.

1. The City of Light

Emanuel Swedenborg

These cities of light are said by experiencers to represent an entire world, made of light and love, radiate with multi-colored lights, with transcendental music, filled with light beings, made of glass, built of the purest light, multi-dimensional, built by God, whose light of the city is God, the city of God, resembling New Jerusalem, the heavenly city in the Book of Revelation.

Within the city of lights, experiencers have seen glowing crystal cathedrals, domes, towers like European castles, and houses like never seen on Earth.

This city of light experienced by some Christian experiencers have been identified to be the New Jerusalem, a heavenly city described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. According to Revelation, this city comes down from heaven to the Earth sometime in the future. Because the Book of Revelation is highly symbolic, it might be that this city described in the Bible is also symbolic.

A golden city with towers and domes:

Just a little ways off I could see a bridge with someone standing on it. Beyond the bridge, I saw a golden city with towers like European castles. The whole city seemed to be shining with light that shot up into the sky like a giant searchlight. I could see that some of the domes of the city were red, others were gold, and a few were blue. The gates and walls of the city seemed to be made of bright blue, red, and violet lights. (Randy Gehling)

A city of crystal cathedrals:

Like wingless birds, we swept into a city of cathedrals. These cathedrals were made entirely of a crystalline substance that glowed with a light that shone powerfully from within. I was awestruck. This place had a power that seemed to pulsate through the air. I knew that I was in a place of learning. I wasn’t there to witness my life or to see what value it had had, I was there to be instructed. (Dannion Brinkley)

A beautiful unearthly city:

Jesus took Emanuel back to heaven and showed him a beautiful city. Emanuel said this was a very beautiful city with houses he has never seen anywhere in the world. There was a lake there and he was told he could not go across it. (Emmanuel Tuwagirairmana)

A beautiful fairy tale city:

I remember the scene was shown to me in a fairy tale city and setting – somewhat like I had always wished for in my life while alive. It was so beautiful. (Sherry Gideon)

A city that represents a world:

As I found myself at the top of the hill, I saw that over on the horizon and just a little bit lower on the horizon, there was a city. I realized in some way that this was more than just a city, that what I was seeing actually represented a world. I wondered, “Was that the world I just came from or the one I am going to? (Jayne Smith)

A multi-colored crystal city:

In the distance I saw a sight so magnificent and astounding – a city made up of what seemed to be glass or crystal! The lights were of many colors that radiated from it. Never have I ever seen such a sight! I began walking toward the city in a daze of unbelief! So many questions raced through my mind. I had to know where I was. What was happening to me? I reached the front of the city and saw a double door that looked to be about thirty feet or so in height and width! (Ricky Randolph)

Souls are seen being prepared for the city of light:

Those living on the higher realms of the city radiate the brightest light, being so resplendent that their glory must be cloaked so others of lower degree can look upon them. Visiting the higher levels is possible, but the spirits of lower realms must be prepared or covered so they can stand in the presence of greater glory … Some new arrivals are taken to a place of orientation where they rest, adjust to their new condition, and prepare to take their place in the city of light. (Craig Lundahl)

2. Dr. George Ritchie’s City of Light experience

George Ritchie saw an endless, brilliant, city of light and love:

“And then I saw, infinitely far off, far too distant to be visible with any kind of sight I knew of- a city. A glowing, seemingly endless city, bright enough to be seen over all the unimaginable distance between. The brightness seemed to shine from the very walls and streets of this place, and from beings which I could now discern moving about within it. In fact, the city and everything in it seemed to be made of light, even as the figure at my side was made of light.

“At this time I had not yet read the Book of Revelation. I could only gape in awe at this faraway spectacle, wondering how bright each building, each inhabitant, must be to be seen over so many light-years of distance. Could these radiant beings, I wondered, amazed, be those who had indeed kept Jesus the focus of their lives? Was I seeing at last ones who had looked for him in everything? Looked so well and so closely that they had been changed into his very likeness? Even as I asked the question, two of the bright figures seemed to detach themselves from the city and start toward us, hurling themselves across that infinity with the speed of light.

“Now this was surprising because this was the first realm in which the inhabitants could see the Christ and me. Even more amazing, they exuded light almost as brilliant as the Christmas the two beings approached us, I could also feel the love flowing from them toward us. The complete joy they showed at seeing the Christ was unmistakable.

“Seeing these beings and feeling the joy, peace and happiness which swelled up from them made me feel that here was the place of all places, the top realm of all realms. The beings who inhabited it were full of love. This, I was and am convinced, is heaven. As marvelous as I thought the previous realm was, after glimpsing this new realm we were seeing, I began to understand for the first time what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 13 when he wrote: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

“I do not infer that the wonderful souls of the fourth realm did not have love because they did but not to the degree that the souls of this realm had reached.

“But as fast as they came toward us, we drew away. Desperately I cried out to him not to leave me, to make me ready for that shining city, not to abandon me in this dark and narrow place.” (Dr. George Ritchie)

3. David Oakford’s City of Light experience

A heavenly city in the clouds where souls leave to come to Earth and where souls go for after death for rejuvenation. Note: David Oakford uses the name Gaia, the real name of planet Earth. For ease of reading, I have replaced his references of Gaia with Earth.

“We started to head back toward Earth. We went to a place in the shadow of Earth. It was a great city in the clouds. The city had these beautiful white buildings as far as I could see. I saw spirits living there all of which had vibration but no real physical body. These inhabitants went to and from the buildings – going to work and play too. I saw a place where spirits went to get what I thought was water. There were no vehicles there. Spirits seemed to get around the same way my being and I got around, by flying.

“The city had no boundaries that I could see. This was a place full of life of all kinds. There was nature there, many pure plants, trees, and water just like on Earth but more pure. Nature there was absolutely perfect. It was untainted by human manipulation. This place was just like Earth only without the problems and negativity. I felt that this was what is called heaven in Earth terms.

“I saw spirits going to and from Earth and the city. I could tell the development of the spirits going to and from by the energy they emanated. I could see that animals came to and from Earth just like humans do. I could see many spirits leave Earth with guides and could see spirits returning to Earth without guides. The being told me that some of the spirits passing were the ones that were doing the work with humans on Earth . I could make out the type of spirits that were doing the work and the spirits that were coming to the great city to become replenished to eventually go back to Earth to experience and further evolve. I could feel the emotions of the ones coming back for replenishment. I could feel that some of them were sad, beaten and scared, much like I felt before my being came to me.” (David Oakford)

4. A multi-dimensional City of Light

a. Jan Price’s multi-dimensional city of increasing glory:

“Taking form before my eyes was the skyline of a great city. I could see three different dimensions of it simultaneously. The first had a dinginess pervading the atmosphere. There was a gloominess, and everything was gray, even the inhabitants, though I sensed that somewhere beneath the discoloration pulsed life and beauty. It brought to mind the lowest levels of existence in the world from which I’d come. Evil walked the squalid streets with malevolent bearing. No one here was up to, or expected, any good.

“The second dimension was of the same panorama, but brighter and more colorful, and had a familiarity. Hope lived amid despair. There were neighborhoods with neat houses holding reasonably contented folk; shabby rows of dwellings housed those more discontented. Expansive lawns separated palatial homes from those of less grandeur. Within each sector was happiness and horror, love and hate, joy and sorrow -the dualities of life on a less that harmonious plane. It was a life accepted by many in the land I’d left behind as the only way life could be. Some knew better, more than just a few, and the hope that lived amid despair would at some time blossom into a better way of life.

“Last in the trinity was a city of light, like unto John’s holy city in the Book of Revelation. I saw the same skyline as before, but this time it was pure gold – with colors like precious gems, transparent glass, crystal clear. All who walked through the city brought glory and honor into it. Harmony and order prevailed, and the residents lived joyfully, creating that which brought forth beauty and fulfillment- a place of perfect peace, the peace that passes understanding.” (Jan Price)

b. Dr. Craig Lundahl’s City of Light research

Dr. Craig Lundahl is one of the pioneers in NDE research. Together with Dr. Harold A. Widdison, their research is documented in their classic NDE book entitled, The Eternal Journey. This book divulges mesmerizing eyewitness descriptions of the hereafter’s city of light. Information they gleaned from experiencers suggests that the afterlife has two major divisions. The first division has been named cities of light by Dr. Raymond Moody, Betty Eadie, Dr. Melvin Morse, and others. The other division has been variously labeled a realm of bewildered spirits by Moody, a place devoid of love by Dr. George Ritchie, a place of earthbound/lingering spirits by Eadie, and the sphere of wasted, elusive, and misused opportunities by Joy Snell. Here are some examples from their book:

Heavenly cities of increasing glory:

“In a moment we were at the gates of a beautiful city. A porter opened it and we passed in. They city was grand and beautiful beyond anything that I can describe. It was clothed in the purest light, brilliant but not glaring or unpleasant. The people, men and women, in their employments and surroundings seemed contented and happy. I knew those I met without being told who they were. My guide would not permit me to pause much by the way, but rather hurried me on through this place to another still higher but connected with it. It was still more beautiful and glorious than anything I had before seen. To me its extent and magnificence were incomprehensible.”

This man visited three unique places, a place where people were yet to reach their assigned place, a city of light, and a second city of even greater grandeur beyond the previous city of light. He pleaded with his guide to remain and was told he was “permitted only to visit these heavenly cities, for I had not filled my mission in yonder world; therefore I must return and take my body.” (Dr. Craig Lundahl)

More Heavenly Cities of Increasing Glory

John Powell had a similar experience when, in his words:

“A personage came and said, ‘Come!’

“My spirit left my body and went with my guide who took me to the next planet. Here I beheld the inhabitants. The houses and trees were beautiful to behold. I was so amazed and delighted that I requested my guide to permit me to stay and dwell there, for all things were far superior and in advance of this world that I had come from.

“He answered, ‘No,’ and said, ‘Come.’

“He then took me to the next kingdom which so exceeded the first in beauty and glory that I was again amazed and requested permission to stay. I cannot command language to describe the beauty of the inhabitants and scenery, but my guide said, ‘No, come!’

“He then took me to the next kingdom which was far more beautiful in glory and order than the former two. The beautiful flowers, trees, gardens, people who were dressed in pure white, and so pure that I was overwhelmed with joy and most earnestly implored my guide to allow me to stay, but he said, ‘You cannot go any further, for this is next to the throne of God.'” (Dr. Craig Lundahl)

Even more heavenly cities of increasing glory:

“Herr Pettersson was also permitted to visit the spirit world and discovered, much to his surprise, that even the worst in heaven exceeded the best on Earth.

“To Herr Pettersson the world of spirits resembled the material world. There were many countries, or kingdoms. There were cities and villages, temples and palaces, flowers and animals of great beauty and variety. The people were very busy. Some were preaching on street corners and in assembly halls, and all had great congregations.

“But no matter what level or city a person qualifies for, each city is so superior to any on Earth that it is indescribable, and each succeeding realm is indescribably better than that immediately below it. It seems that the assignment to a specific city is contingent on the actions and attitudes of the individual while on Earth. The key that opens the gate to a specific city of light is the ability to dwell in the light of that city, and this evidently depends on behaviors during Earth life.” (Dr. Craig Lundahl)

5. Edgar Cayce’s tunnel with levels of increasing glory

The following is Edgar Cayce‘s description of how he journeyed through a tunnel with levels of increasing glory:

“I am conscious of a white beam of light, knowing that I must follow it or be lost. As I move along this path of light I gradually become conscious of various levels upon which there is movement. Upon the first levels there are vague, horrible shapes, grotesque forms such as one sees in nightmares. Passing on, there begins to appear on either side misshapen forms of human beings with some part of the body magnified. Again there is change and I become conscious of gray-hooded forms moving downward. Gradually, these become lighter in color.

“Then the direction changes and these forms move upward and the color of the robes grows rapidly lighter. Next, there begins to appear on either side vague outlines of houses, walls, trees, etc., but everything is motionless. As I pass on, there is more light and movement in what appear to be normal cities and towns. With the growth of movement I become conscious of sounds, at first indistinct rumblings, then music, laughter, and singing of birds. There is more and more light, the colors become very beautiful, and there is the sound of wonderful music. The houses are left behind; ahead there is only a blending of sound and color. Quite suddenly I come upon a Hall of Records. It is a hall without walls, without ceiling, but I am conscious of seeing an old man who hands me a large book, a record of the individual for whom I seek information.” (Edgar Cayce)

6. Cities of colorful light and beautiful music

Cities of light with beautiful music:

“In the bardo of becoming, as well as many other kinds of visions, the mental body will see visions and signs of different realms. A small percentage of those who have survived a near-death experience report visions of inner worlds, paradises, and cities of light with transcendental music.” (Lingza Chokyi)

Cities of colorful light:

“A long way off there was a pinprick of light. I moved toward it, slowly at first, then faster and faster as if I were on top of a train accelerating. Then I stopped and stepped fully into the light. I noticed everything – sky, buildings, glass – emitted its own light and everything was much more colorful than what we see here. A river meandered around. On the other side was a city, and a road running through it to another city, and another city and another and another … The first city was like first grade. People stayed there until they were ready to go to the next city – your eternal progression, from city to city.” (Cecil)

Cities built of light:

“Darryl, [a] man who was electrocuted when his home was struck by lightning, found himself moving toward lights. As he drew closer to the lights he realized they were cities and that the cities were built of light.” (Dr. Craig Lundahl)

Golden cities:

“Others have reported seeing children playing in big golden cities and seeing busy people in cities, from which it is possible to infer there is more than one city in the spirit world.” (Dr. Craig Lundahl)

7. A City of Light resembling a galaxy

A galaxy-like city of lights:

“In its total energy configuration, the galaxy looked like a fantastic city of lights.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)

A galaxy of light beings:

“We started going faster and faster, out of the darkness. Embraced by the light, feeling wonderful and crying, I saw off in the distance something that looked like the picture of a galaxy, except that it was larger and there were more stars than I had seen on Earth. There was a great center of brilliance. In the center there was an enormously bright concentration. Outside the center countless millions of spheres of light were flying about entering and leaving what was a great being-ness at the center. It was off in the distance … Everywhere around us were countless radiant beings, like stars in the sky, coming and going. It was like a super magnified view of a galaxy super packed with stars. And in the giant radiance of the center they were packed so densely together that individuals could not be identified. Their selves were in such harmony with the Creator that they were really just one.” (Howard Storm)

8. Emanuel Swedenborg’s “heavenly communities”

Souls visit various heavenly cities to determine their residence:

“So they are taught by their friends about the state of eternal life, and are taken around to different places, into different communities. Some are taken to cities, some to gardens and parks; but most are taken to splendid places because this sort of place delights the outward nature they are still involved in. Then they are intermittently led into thoughts they had during their physical life about the soul’s state after death, heaven, and hell, until they also come to resent their former utter ignorance of things like this, and resent the Church’s ignorance of such matters” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Swedenborg’s writings about the cities of light:

“Two hundred years ago Emanuel Swedenborg was writing about the same common elements found in NDEs. In his writings he frequently mentions the feelings of ineffability and also the peace and joy. He speaks of a light which he calls the Sun of Heaven. He tells us stories of those who meet their friends or relatives who had died before them. He speaks of the review of the person’s life, the cities of light, and the realm of frustrated spirits. He even speaks about the out-of-body experience before there was any public knowledge of such a thing.” (Emanuel Swedenborg website)

Swedenborg’s discussion of how a soul’s destination to a particular heavenly community is determined:

“Taken all together, they [our desires] make up a kind of kingdom. Thus they are in fact organized within a person, even though people are completely unaware of their organization. To some extent, however, this is made known to people in the other life where they have an outreach of thought and affection that depends on this organization. This is an outreach into the heavenly communities if the strongest desire is made up of desires of heaven, but an outreach into hellish communities if the strongest desire is made up of desires of hell.

“This has been made clear to me by observed experiences over and over again. The whole of heaven is divided into communities on the basis of differences in the good that comes from desire. Every single spirit who is raised into heaven and becomes an angel is taken to the community where his or her desire is, and once there they are where they belong, so to speak- as though they were at home, where they were born. An angel senses this, and makes close friends with others like themselves.

“When they leave and go to another community, there is a certain constant resistance. This is the effect of their longing to return to those who are like themselves, which means to their own strongest desire. This is how close friendships are formed in heaven. The same holds true in hell, where people also form friendships on the basis of desires which are opposed to heavenly ones.

“Paths are visible in the spiritual world. Some lead to heaven, some to hell; one to one community, one to another. Good spirits travel only along paths that lead to heaven, to the community which is involved in the particular good that comes from their own desire. They do not see paths leading in other directions. Evil spirits follow only paths that lead to hell, to the particular community there which is involved in the evil that comes from their own desire. They do not see paths leading in other directions; and even if they do, they do not want to follow them.

“All souls arrive at the type of community where their spirits were in the physical world. In fact every person is bonded to a particular heavenly or hellish community-an evil person to a hellish one, a good person to a heavenly one. A person is guided there step-by-step and eventually gains entrance.

“When evil people are involved in the state of their more inward elements, they are turned by stages toward their own community. Eventually they are turned straight toward it before this state is completed. And once this state is completed, they hurl themselves into the hell where there are people like themselves.

“The separation of the good from the evil happens in various ways. Broadly, it happens by taking the evil ones around to those communities they were in touch with through their good thoughts and affections during their first state. In this way, they are taken to those communities which were persuaded by their outward appearance that they were not evil. Normally, they are taken on an extensive circuit, and everywhere they are exposed as they really are to good souls. On seeing them, the good souls turn away, and as they turn away, the evil souls who are being taken around also turn their faces away from the good ones and turn toward the region of hellish communities, which is their destination.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

9. The Biblical “heavenly city”

A city built by God:

“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

Choosing the city of God instead of reincarnation:

“If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

An eternal city:

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

The New Jerusalem – the city of God:

“I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God.” (Revelation 3:12)

Earth becomes a city of God:

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:2-3)

A crystal city of light:

“… the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” (Revelation 21:10-11)

The light of the city is God:

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the Earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:22-27)