Dr. Harold A. Widdison earned a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a MBA from Brigham Young University. He received his Ph.D. in Medical Sociology in 1979 and taught at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona for thirty-one years before retiring in 2003. Dr. Widdison became interested in the subject of death, grief, and bereavement two months before his marriage when his father suddenly died in a car a accident. He later created and taught one of the first courses on these subjects in a university setting. He also had several family members share their experiences with him one uncle had an NDE (near-death experience) on the operating table and an adopted daughter had a visit from her dead grandfather. Together with Dr. Craig Lundahl, Dr. Widdison documented their research in their classic NDE book entitled, The Eternal Journey. Dr. Craig Lundahl is chairman emeritus of the Department of Social Sciences and emeritus professor at Western New Mexico University. He is one of the pioneer NDE researchers and the author of A Collection of Near-Death Research Readings. Meticulously researched and exhaustively compiled, The Eternal Journey divulges mesmerizing eyewitness descriptions of the hereafter’s City of Light, incredible portraits of existence in the ensuing dimension, and enlightening information on angels in this world and the next. Dr. Widdison’s latest book, Trailing Clouds of Glory, is the result of seven years of interviewing, researching and collecting of first person accounts. The following is an excerpt of their book The Eternal Journey which deals with the various dimensions of the afterlife.
Information gleaned from individuals who have visited or been permitted to see the next world suggest that this otherworld has two major divisions. The first division has been named “Cities of Light” by Raymond Moody, Betty Eadie, Melvin Morse, and others. The other division has been variously labeled “a realm of bewildered spirits” by Moody, a place “devoid of love” by George Ritchie, a place of “earthbound/lingering spirits” by Eadie, and the “sphere of wasted, elusive, and misused opportunities” by Joy Snell.
Individuals who have had an extensive visit to the otherworld report that its structure is very complex. In the previous chapter it was noted that individuals acquired new senses in the spirit world, one of which is the ability to “know” others’ thoughts and desires. This enhanced sense seems to be a factor in the ultimate placement of each individual in the spirit world.
There is evidence that a type of judgment occurs at the time of death. This judgment involves a review of a person’s life and results in their placement in the spirit world.
Sometime after the judgment the person is assigned (in many cases this assignment is self-imposed) to a specific place or level in the other world – a place where his or her spirit feels most at ease. Eadie “understood that there are many levels of development, and we always go to that level where we are most comfortable.” This observation is supported by Barbara Ross, who “died” while being operated on after an automobile accident.
“My father looked like he had looked the last time I saw him, pretty much in the prime of his life, calm and in control. Grandmother looked harassed and harried, kind of tense. I remember her being that way before she died. I got the feeling that she wasn’t at as high a level of spiritual development as my father was. She had come from a different part of the afterworld, from a group of people who were unsettled as she was, less distinct in their appearance, and not as much in control as my father. He was benign and calm, like he had been in life.”
Arthur Ford, after meeting many friends and relatives, wondered why some were missing. When asking about them, he began to experience less light and a haze, less brilliant colors, a heaviness of his body, and earthly thoughts. This impressed him to believe that he was being shown a lower sphere, where he saw those he asked about.
There is evidence of multiple levels in the otherworld. For example, one individual saw every man and woman in the otherworld organized into several different grades. Another individual discovered that:
“There were spheres above, whose occupants could and did visit us, and we could always recognize these higher natures by the virtues which possessed them, and were apparent to us as they passed beside us. But we could not visit their spheres until we had perfectly qualified for it.
“And there were of course spheres below us, where those who had not repented of their evil ways still had to work out their redemption.
“Those in the lower spheres could not have been happy in this higher kingdom until they qualified themselves by a change of heart and mind.”
This individual went on to observe that although individuals in each sphere are aware of the others’ existence, they cannot see, let alone visit, without significant preparation.
“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.”
In addition to the placement of individuals at judgment, the next world is efficiently organized to help individuals adapt to their new home. Infants are taken to a place where they are nurtured and taught and where they mature. 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. Daisy Dryden, the young ten-year-old child mentioned earlier, had been conversing with her six-year-old brother, Allie, who had died of scarlet fever six months earlier. Daisy could not travel into the spirit world, but Allie could and would supply Daisy with some answers to specific questions. For example:
Mrs. W., who had lost her father a short time previous, wanted to know if Daisy had seen him, and brought his picture to see if she could recognize him. Daisy told her she had not seen him and that Allie, whom she had asked about him (Mrs. W.) had not seen him, but that Allie had said he would ask someone who could tell him about him.
In a moment Daisy said, “Allie is here and says, ‘Tell Aunty her father wants her to meet him in heaven, for he is there.'”
Mrs. W. then said, “Daisy, why did not Allie know at once about my father?”
“Because,” replied she, “those who die go into different states or places and do not see each other at all times, but all the good are in the state of blessed.”
“Still others are being prepared to enter the City of Light.”
When told that a very close family friend – Dr. John Macgregor – was still working hard as a physician, the individual assumed he was working with people on Earth.
“Oh, you’re quite wrong,” he said. “We have hospitals here full of injured and crippled souls – the result of their hard faring on Earth – who need nursing back to health and building up into full stature before they can start their work up here.”
The reports of many individuals who have been permitted to see or visit the next world tell us that it is located right here on our physical Earth. If our spirit eyes were to open, we would discover we are surrounded by those who have preceded us in death. But not everyone goes to the same location in the next world. We will be acutely aware of everything we have done or failed to do in our lives. We will also know the lives of those around us and they will know ours. Therefore we will seek out those who “think” the same way we do, who “value” the same things we do. We will gravitate toward those we feel at ease with, who are like us. Judgment is more a process of self-evaluation than the product of a heavenly tribunal. The next world is segmented into spheres organized around qualities of love, service, and personal preparedness.
When Lorenzo Dow Young apparently died, he was met by a heavenly messenger who was to be his guide. Lorenzo asked for permission to speak to his wife and sister before he left (they were grieving his death) but was told no. His guide said, “Now let us go.”
“Space seemed annihilated. Apparently we went up, and almost instantly were in another world. It was of such magnitude that I formed no conception of its size. It was filled with innumerable hosts of beings, who seemed as naturally human as those among whom I had lived. With some I had been acquainted in the world I had just left. My guide informed me that those I saw had not yet arrived at their final abiding place. All kinds of people seemed mixed up promiscuously, as they are in this world. Their surroundings and manner indicated that they were in a state of expectation, and awaiting some event of considerable moment to them.
“Again my guide said, ‘Now let us go.’
“In a moment 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.
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.’ He then said, ‘Come!’
“He then brought me again to this Earth. When I saw my body lying on the bed I did not want to enter it again for I felt so happy out of it that I could not bear the thought of entering it again, but he said, ‘Enter,’ and I had to obey.”
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.
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.
Eadie and Ritchie, as well as the Swedish scientist Emanuel Swedenborg, each observed multiple levels in the hereafter. Howard Storm had an extensive experience in which he also observed multiple levels in the otherworld.
The Native American chief White Thunder, during his visit to the world of spirits, was shown by his spirit guides “various areas of the spirit world – some containing happy spirits and others peopled by unhappy evildoers.”
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.
“Who are they?” Herr Pettersson asked (referring to the preachers)?
“They,” his guide answered, “belong to the church of the First born, and they have been sent here to be ministering spirits to those who shall yet becoming heirs of salvation.”
“I am afraid,” stammered Herr Pettersson, “that I do not comprehend you. Are we not in heaven? How can the world of salvation be preached here?”
“No brother!” the guide replied, “We are not in what mortals call heaven! This is Hades.”
Pettersson was ultimately permitted to visit “heaven” and its indescribable beauty. While there, he discovered that heaven also has multiple levels, and inhabitation of each level is contingent on one’s diligence on Earth and in heaven.
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.