During the 20th century, medical science has uncovered evidence of life after death, which long remained in the realm of religious circles but is now becoming mainstream. One of the more significant Near Death Experiences comes from Howard Storm, a former atheist. Whereas most reports concern of going to a light at the end of a tunnel, initially Howard's experience was not pleasant - he first encountered a dark realm that we would probably call hell. It was his own hell, the hell he created from the way he lived his life. Not only is his experience similar to several accounts of the afterlife by Emanuel Swedenborg, but he also covers other topics, such as reincarnation and extraterrestrials. Before his experience he was a hedonistic atheist, and morality was just a cover to manipulate others to get what he wanted. He is the author of the book, My Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life. Below are some videos of interviews, which I collected and decided to compare with what we know from the visionary experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg of the 18th century.
PARTS I AND II - THE CHAINS WE FORGE IN LIFE, AND RESCUE
Howard begins this interview with the statement, that if you want to know anything, can be known if you ask Jesus. If you are in need of something, simply ask God - for the Father is willing to give good gifts. As a child Howard went to church, and describes church as "far removed from reality." He became disillusioned with the hypocrisy of the church, and became a "realistic materialist" and followed a philosophy of rugged individualism. He developed an external form of morality, but would try to get away with what he could without getting caught. Became a complete hedonist and atheist.
Throughout his writings, Swedenborg speaks of those who are externally moral, but in appearance only. External morality for sake of appearance, with no spirituality, is not true morality. For without God, everything in life becomes centered on the selfish ego, and morality is done to gain favors from others or to escape punishment. In external appearance many people behave similarly, but internally their intentions are different. It is the intentions that matter, and those who are here for their selfish ego only are bound for hell, while those who love God and others are bound for heaven. In the spiritual world Swedenborg saw a final judgment occur on many Christians, who " appeared exteriorly as Christians from external morality, but interiorly they were not Christians, from having no spiritual life." (The Final Judgment, n. 22). When speaking of the sixth commandment, do not murder, he says "By murders of every kind are meant also every kind of enmity, hatred, and revenge, which breathe destruction; for in these murder lies concealed, as fire in wood beneath the ashes. Infernal fire is nothing else. It is from this, that one is said to be on fire with hatred, and to burn with revenge. ...These kinds of murder lie inwardly concealed in man, from his birth; but even from infancy he learns to veil them with the civility and morality in which he ought to be with men in the world; and so far as he loves honor or gain, he is watchful lest they should show themselves. So is formed man's external, while those are his internal. Such is man in himself. Now as he lays aside the external with the body when he dies, and retains the internal, it is plain what a devil he would be unless he were reformed." (Doctrine of Life, n. 67-68) Those who are in outward morality only, "are the farthest of all from wisdom; they in truth are devils, because they live for themselves alone, or if for others it is only for the sake of themselves." (Marriage Love, n. 18) Those who follow a theology of justification by faith alone, and consider morality only for sake of civil laws, are likewise deceived.
While on travel with some art students, Howard Storm suffers from a perforation to the stomach and is rushed to a hospital, where he suffers in intense pain for several hours as they could not find a surgeon. At night he is told the surgeon would arrive in the morning, at which point he decides to give up as he cannot take the pain any more. He falls unconscious, and when he awakes he is standing beside his bed. Not believing in God or the afterlife, he begins to think that the hospital put a manikin of himself in bed as a joke, rather than accept the fact that he is looking down at his own cadaver. He realizes that he is not only without pain, but he is in a body with heightened senses and sharp vision. He tries to speak to his wife and another person in the hospital, but they fail to hear him at which point he starts to get quite angry. This is a common experience in NDEs - many not only have an out of body experience, but can clairvoyantly describe the events around them, even outside the room. This is an aspect of the NDE that skeptics choose to ignore.
The Near Death Experience provides evidence that Swedenborg's account of the afterlife is correct: that death is merely the shedding of the external body, and we pass from one life to the next. Those who think we fall asleep or cease to exist until we literally rise from the dead in the grave are incorrect, and deceived by fundamentalistic literalists who have no understanding that within our body is a spiritual form that lives after death. This spiritual body Swedenborg describes in detail, and confirms Howard's account that it is a body with heightened senses:
"As regards the life of souls or recent spirits, in general, after death — it has been made evident by many experiences that when a man has come into the other life he does not know he is in it, but thinks he is still in the world, and indeed in his body — insomuch that when told that he is a spirit he is struck with wonder and amazement; both for the reason that he is in every respect like a man, as to his senses, desires, and thoughts, and because while he lived in the world he had not believed that there is a spirit, while some have not believed that a spirit could be like this.After not being heard by anyone, Howard then hears voices outside the room calling his name. As he walked out of the room, he entered this dim and dark hallway. He walked down a long dark path, and the group started to become more hostile. Became completely dark, until he was surrounded by a mob. A world of hopelessness, no love. They were not "demons," but merely the same kind of people who lives a life as he had lived. In rejecting God, one rejects all that God gives us: love, life, hope, happiness. In the end, they wish to satisfy their self ego, and dominate and torment others. He felt like a "new fish" in prison. There is no horror movie or sado-masochistic imagination that can compare with it. It was accompanied by a verbal assault, physical assault, and laughter.
"Another fact is that a spirit has much more excellent faculties of sense, and much more excellent gifts of thought and speech, than while he lived in the body, so much so as to be beyond comparison — although spirits do not become aware of this until reflection is given them by the Lord.
"Men should beware of the false notion that spirits are without the faculties of sense, which are far more exquisite than in the life of the body, as I know from thousands and thousands of experiences. But if they will not believe, because of their suppositions concerning the spirit, let them have it in mind when they come into the other life, where actual experience will make them believe. Not only have spirits sight, since they live in light, and good spirits, angelic spirits, and angels in so great light that that of midday in the world can scarcely be compared to it" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 320-322).
Swedenborg confirms that in the other life, we will become associated with those who are most like us:
"...every man has an internal and an external; and his internal makes the man, which is called the spirit, and which lives after death; and the external, in which by outward morality he acts the hypocrite, is buried; and then, on account of his denial of God, he is condemned. Every man as to his spirit is consociated with his like in the spiritual world, and is as one with them; and it has often been given me to see in societies the spirits of men still living, some in angelic societies and some in infernal; and I have also been permitted to converse with them for days, and have wondered that man himself while he lives in his body should know nothing about this other life. From this it was manifest that whoever denies God, is already among the condemned and after death is gathered to his own." (True Christian Religion, n. 14)What about the dark hallway, a path that led to a place of darkness? Swedenborg describes a variety of paths in the world of spirits, some leading to heaven, others to hell:
"That way means truth is from the appearance in the spiritual world, where also are ways and paths, and in the cities, streets with rows of dwellings, and spirits go in no other direction than to those with whom they are consociated by love. It is for this reason that the quality of the spirits there in regard to truth is known from the way which they go, for all truth leads to its love, inasmuch as that is called truth which confirms what is loved." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10422)The world of spirits is the area people first enter after death, after which one will go one of two ways. Heaven, hell, and the world of spirits between is source of human morality:
"There are also with every man two gates, one of which leads to hell, and is opened to evils and falsities therefrom; the other leads to heaven, and is opened to goods and truths therefrom. The gate of hell is opened to those who are in evil and its falsity, and only through chinks from above something of light from heaven flows in, by which inflowing a man is able to think, to reason, and to speak; but the gate of heaven is opened to those who are in good and its truth. For there are two ways which lead to the rational mind of man; a superior or internal way, through which good and truth from the Lord enters, and an inferior or external way, through which what is evil and false enters from hell; in the middle is the rational mind itself, to which the ways tend. Hence as far as light from heaven is admitted, so far man is rational, but as far as it is not admitted, so far he is not rational, however he may appear to himself." (Heaven and Hell, n. 430)As for the "mob" that assaulted Howard Storm, Swedenborg had seen some of these in detail: all in hell are in the form of the evil they lived by in their life, which may explain why they kept a distance in the shadows in order not to be seen:
"In general, their faces are dreadful, and void of life as those of corpses; the faces of some are black, of some fiery like little torches, of some disfigured with pimples, warts, and ulcers; with some no face appears, but in its stead something hairy or bony; and with some teeth only are seen. Their bodies also are monstrous, and their speech is as the speech of anger, or of hatred, or of revenge; for every one speaks from his falsity, and his tone is from his evil; in a word, they are all images of their own hell. It has not been given me to see what is the form of hell itself in general; it has only been told me that as the whole heaven in one mass represents one man (n. 59-67), so the whole hell in one mass represents one devil, and may likewise be presented in the image of one devil (see above, n. 544). But in what form the hells are in particular, or the infernal societies, it has often been given me to see; for at their entrances, which are called the gates of hell, for the most part appears a monster which represents in a general way the form of those who are within." (Heaven and Hell, n. 553)In many passages he describes how those in hell torment each other:
"But the form and the order imposed by the Lord on the hells is such that all are held in restraint and in bond by their lusts and fantasies, in which their very life consists; and this life, because it is a life of death, is turned into dreadful torments, so severe that they cannot be described. For the greatest delight of their life consists in being able to punish, torture, and torment one another; and this by arts unknown in the world; whereby they know how to induce exquisite suffering, just as if they were in the body, and at the same time dreadful and horrid fantasies, with terrors, and horrors, and many such torments. The diabolical crew take so great pleasure in this that if they could increase and extend the pains and torments to infinity, they would not even then be satisfied, but would burn yet again to infinity; but the Lord withholds their endeavors, and alleviates the torments." (Heaven and Hell, n. 695)After having been tormented and torn apart by this diabolic mob, Howard Storm hears an internal voice from within telling him to pray to God. As he tries to remember he mixes up the prayers he remembered from Sunday school. As he began to murmur prayers that he remembered, they got upset, yelled obscenities, and told him there is no God, nobody can hear you, and we are going to really hurt you. This encouraged him to remember more, as for the first time he was able to repel them. Then he remembered the song in Sunday school, "Yes, Jesus loves me." The shadowy figures around him could not bear to hear him talking about God, and they withdraw into the darkness. In many passages Swedenborg describes how they have an utter hatred of God, for God is the exact opposite to the desires of the selfish ego. But what should be known, is those who follow God in the other life are completely protected from evil:
"The hells there cannot possibly come near to heaven, nor evil spirits to any society of heaven, because they are in a terror of God. For when evil spirits approach a heavenly society, they suddenly fall into anguish and torment; and they who have fallen into these a few times, do not dare to approach. Their not daring is what is meant in the internal sense by a terror of God. Not that God or the Lord terrifies them, but because they are in falsities and evils, and thus in the opposite to goods and truths; and the falsities and evils themselves cause them to fall into anguish and torment, when they approach goods and truths." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4555)Swedenborg himself describes how they attempted to attack him, but were unable to do so:
"If evil spirits perceived that they were with man and that they were spirits separate from him, and if they could flow into what is of his body, they would try to destroy him in a thousand ways, for they hold man in deadly hatred. And since they knew that I was a man in the body, they were in continual effort to destroy me, not only as to the body, but especially as to the soul — for to destroy man and any spirit is the very enjoyment of life of all those who are in hell; but I was continually under the protection of the Lord. From this it may be evident how perilous it is for man to be in living company with spirits, unless he is in the good of faith." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5863)At some point Howard Storm realizes that he is alone, but is in a gory mess. He then yells out, "Jesus save me." Jesus then appears as a small white light, but comes down lifts him up, heals him and they embrace. He experiences a love that he never felt before, and they hug each other. They shoot up like a rocket, and he hangs on for dear life...sees they are going up toward a light, the light of heaven where God dwells.
As he looks at it, he realizes he spent all his life denying that God exists, that there is no heaven. He then thinks to himself that he is such a piece of filth, such a piece of garbage, he is making a terrible mistake bringing him there. Then Jesus said, "We don't make mistakes, you do belong here." At that point they stopped moving. Then he realizes he heard what I thought because he had not said anything. Then he thought, "Do you know what I am thinking?" He then said, "Not only do I know what you are thinking, I know everything that you ever thought." Then he thinks of all the stuff he did - when he went to the bathroom as a teenager to relieve himself, all the times he wanted to break someone else's neck. Then all of a sudden, he thinks a very vivid image of a naked woman. And at this point, he hears Jesus laughing, as he thought that was so funny. At this point Howard thinks, this is not good, I can't hide anything from you. And Jesus said, "Well, you know, I know it all. I know everything." At that point Howard got comfortable, for he knew that Jesus loved him, and accepted him for who he was.
Then Jesus said he wants him to meet some people. Some other beings of light came, and said they had recorded his life, and wanted to show him his life. As it progressed, and it showed how he turned against others beginning in his teenager years, how he began to withdraw and become more manipulative to get what he wanted, he knew that he made Jesus and the angels sad. In the life review, Jesus and the angels were interested in how he interacted with other people, if there was love and compassion. To this Howard remembers the saying, love the sinner but hate the sin. But he began to see every sin he committed was harmful to himself. He sees one scene, where he comforted his sister. Which made Jesus happy. Jesus then asked him if he had any questions?
On this point, to Swedenborg it was shown that Jesus Christ is the Divine God-Man, who dwells in the center of heaven as a bright light which lightens all of heaven. While in his visions, he was constantly guided by this light in an internal perception to reveal the hidden spiritual meaning of scripture. Swedenborg also explains how the life review takes place in the spiritual world: each person has an exterior and interior memory. Whereas one's external memory dies with the body, the internal memory remains which can be examined in the other life:
"Whatever things a man hears and sees, and by which he is affected, are without the man's knowledge inserted as to ideas and ends in his interior memory, and remain in it, so that not anything perishes; though the same things be obliterated in the exterior memory. Such, therefore, is the interior memory that particulars are inscribed on it; and indeed the very least particulars which the man has ever thought, spoken, and done, even what has appeared to him as but a shadow, with the minutest particulars, from earliest infancy to the last of old age. The memory of all these things the man has with him when he comes into the other life, and he is led successively into full recollection of them. This is his Book of Life, which is opened in the other life, and according to which he is judged. Man can scarcely believe this, but still it is most true. All the ends, which have been in obscurity to him, and all the things thought; also all that were spoken and done therefrom, to the smallest point, are in that Book, that is, in the interior memory, and whenever the Lord grants, are made manifest before the angels as in clear day. This has several times been shown to me, and has been attested by so much experience that not the least doubt remains." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2474)
PART III - A MILLION QUESTIONS
Howard Storm now has the opportunity to ask whatever question he wants. First question: why did you create us?
Answer: the world is God's garden, and he created you to bloom in that garden and be beautiful. God make everyone of us unique and special, to be beautiful in your own way.
Swedenborg described it in this way: as God is Love itself, the essence of love is to make someone else happy outside of oneself. So that is the other purpose of creation: to make us all happy, to share in loving others.
Other question: if he went back, what would I do with my life?
I was a bit struck with the simple answer to this question. Being an artist he thinks he would build Jesus a shrine. Jesus says he would rather he did not do that. Howard then asks Jesus what should he do when he comes back. Jesus answers, "Love the person you are with." Then what? Jesus then says, "That's it, love the person you are with." Howard cannot believe that's all he should do, and asks Jesus how will that help. Jesus then said because doing that you will change the world - when you love another person, that person will then love others as well. Howard is skeptical, as the world is full of evil. To which Jesus responds, my angels outnumber those who are on earth. Howard still think it won't work, to which Jesus says, this is God's plan, and it will succeed. The answer is so simple, and it is in line with what Jesus declared to be the greatest commandment in scripture: Love God, and love others.
Interviewer asks Howard if reincarnation is an option. Howard does not see it that way: there will be much to life and experience beyond death. He was told that our form of life on earth is one of the lowest grades of spiritual development in the universe. The interviewer asks what about evidence of reincarnation? Howard says we will share our lives with others. Consciousness is permeable - even Howard has a memory of a life of a Jewish girl in the holocaust, that he picked up as a part of his experience. We will all be able to share our life experience with others. And this is exactly in line with what Swedenborg said concerning reincarnation: it is a way of sharing similar lives through shared memory. But we are physically born once. See Christianity, Reincarnation and Emanuel Swedenborg and The Origin of the Soul, the Group Soul and Reincarnation.
The universe is teeming with life, and Howard was shown other universes that are beyond our comprehension. Howard asked Jesus will we be able to travel to other planets in the future? Jesus told him, "You will not need to. You will be able to communicate with them in the future without moving."
PART IV - A LIFE IN CHRIST
Evil cannot bear the existence of God, because evil only accepts self gratification and the selfish ego. Evil is that which rebels against God. In this modern age, the interviewer then asks why so many people regard mentioning the name of Jesus as offensive, where he should not be mentioned. Mentioning Jesus is taken to be intolerant by a self proclaimed tolerant society. Howard asks why are people so offended by the mentioning of Jesus? Is there a truly an atheist, or is it people who are somehow angry with God, yet deep down everyone wants God? Interviewer thinks many become religiously pedantic without truly loving others. Many who are religious are self-righteous, and use religion to make themselves better than others.
Howard Storm was shown that there is indeed intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. The interviewer had brought this up with others who were opposed to this idea and thought it was theologically incorrect. He may be referring to those who classify UFOs and extraterrestrials as demons. Howard's comment on this is that religious people tend to place artificial limits on God.
Howard had seen that not only angels but dark forces interact with us while we live on earth. Thus those who do good will become a target.
How does depression effect the soul? Howard sees depression as spiritual warfare. We should be self-analytical, examine our traumas, fears and behaviours. There are those who self-examine themselves, and then there are many who do not.
ON EXTRATERRESTRIALS AND OTHER LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE
Howard asked, "Are there other worlds?" The response was not only is the universe full of life, but there are other dimensions containing other universes, and even those are filled with other inhabited worlds. Our world, however, is on a lower level of spiritual evolution, and for these other extraterrestrials it was not necessary for God to become incarnate in human form. On these other worlds, their societies and lives are in accordance with God's commandments, which is love of God and love of the neighbour. They also have a tendency to accept Jesus for who he is. On other planets there is not such a depravity of sin, nor do they give in to temptation to do evil as much as here. Howard then asked to see what other intelligent beings looked like. Images were then paraded in from of him, beginning with those who looked human like us. From the human form, they began to get more stranger and stranger, until they became unrecognizable as human beings, and "very weird" as he puts it. What is important here is our spiritual being, we are beings of light, and it is important what we truly become in the afterlife. All of us are different forms of love.
And for the curious, here is a photograph of a claimed extraterrestrial from "Clarion," taken by an Italian Maurizio Cavallo (for a review of this contact see the web site of Paola Harris). There is another case of extraterrestrial contact in Italy which is covered in the blog post UFO Secret: The Friendship Case, Voltaire, and Germain.
If we compare this with the extraterrestrials described by Swedenborg in Heavenly Arcana and Earths in the Universe (extracted from the former work), Swedenborg only describes extraterrestrials that are human-like or closely resemble us. For the most part the other extraterrestrial races he encountered were not as materialistic as we are, and tended to communicate telepathically.
THE FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES
Mentions here that Christians are the heirs of the message of God revealed through his incarnation in Jesus Christ, and that they have largely failed. The angels are arranging a new spiritual awakening, and if people do not wake up the "slate will be wiped clean." And this does not mean the end of the world, but rather, something will happen where the population of the United States of America will go down from 260 million people to a few tens of thousands. More than any other nation the United States have been blessed by God, with power and wealth to be agents of transformation. However the U.S. has not fulfilled God's expectation of what we should be doing. There is too much focus on wealth and money and not enough on spirituality. Howard mentions that when one speaks to foreigners about what they think about the United States of America, for the most part they mention America as exporters of violence, conquest and domination, as well as sexual immorality. From the highest nation of the world we can become the lowest, instead of the richest we may become the poorest. Howard is not so clear on what will happen as he was shown possibilities. Within a couple of hundred of years, with the intervention of God and the angels, there can be a great and bright future for the earth. There is no sitting on the fence - you are either for or against God. Being indifferent is against God.
On this point, I find this particular prophecy concerning the future of the United States in line with former judgments of nations or religions which have departed from God's will. For in order to progress spiritually, there are two things that are holding back Christianity in general: one is a belief in a trinity of three beings, and the other is justification by faith alone. The reason I see a future judgment may play out on the United States is it is primarily a Protestant nation, and justification by faith alone pacifies the will away from doing what is good, and away from serving others through love. As for what kind of disaster which may affect the United States, see An Extraterrestrial Prophecy which describes an asteroid plunging into the Atlantic Ocean, which was also foreseen by Hildegard von Bingen as a judgment on a continent that contains tribes from many nations - an accurate description of America. Moreover, when the spiritual sense of the Apocalypse was opened to Swedenborg, he saw that much of the subject concerned a judgment upon the Protestant church, which had deviated from the original gospel. Although Swedenborg thought everything was fulfilled in one year in the spiritual world, what he may have been seeing was the future judgment on the United States of America. Many would of course disagree with this characterization, and view the U.S. as a means of complete freedom and individualism - which is true, but the gift of power and wealth of America should be turned for the common good.
THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD
Howard is surprised by what he saw for the future of this world: there were no visible signs of technology. People's relationship with each other and God were so interconnected that humans now controlled the weather of the planet. Everybody in the world was telepathic. People would raise food by meditating about it. People lived in small communities, each putting a different emphasis on different areas of knowledge - music, science, worship, relaxation. They lived in total harmony with the planet. Emphasis on raising children properly. There was no longer any fear of death. People ate and dressed simply, with very little possessions. There was much happiness, little suffering - no diseases as people could heal each other by laying on hands. Only suffering people had was that of separateness, but the community would try to bring that person back through love and prayer.
This was a surprise for me as well, but look how far we have come in 200 years. But for people to become telepathic? Does this mean some extraterrestrial intervention in the future?
THE NATURE OF GOD AND HEAVEN
Howard asked, what was heaven like? Anyone who truly knew what heaven was like would realize this material life was so inferior to the life to come. Heaven contains everything that was, is and yet to be: one can spend an eternity in heaven just experiencing new things. Heaven is layered like an onion. The outer part of heaven seems like the physical world, as that is the entry point. As one goes deeper and deeper into heaven, it has different rules of physics and different properties. At the very center or core of heaven is God. At the center of heaven people are invited to participate with God in the ongoing act of creation. They become part of the song of creation. The universe is vibratory states of space created by the song of God. The angels and Jesus would always refer to God as "the One." In this life we have this feeling of separateness of God, but in the other life we realize that we are not separate. Heaven and hell are not far away, they are here, very close, in another dimension outside of time and space.
Swedenborg confirms much of this in his description of the afterlife, and confirms that there are different "layers" or levels in the spiritual world. The outermost level, which is very similar to the material world, he describes as the "world of spirits," where the soul remains until it is decided whether a soul goes to heaven or hell. There is also a distinct difference between the spiritual and celestial heaven, and it is in the highest heaven where love to God becomes primary over that of truth, which is the focus of the middle heaven. This Swedenborg describes in Heavenly Arcana and Heaven and Hell.
There are obvious similarities between the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and the accounts of those who have had a Near Death Experience. Howard Storm is one witness among many. Back in the 18th century Swedenborg was a lone witness to the spiritual world for 27 years, but now we have a host of witnesses who have come close to death that tell us that indeed, this material life is only just the beginning. But for those seeking any revelation, I would stress just one simple point out of all this: love the one you are with. Then you have the answer to everything.
NEAR DEATH MUSIC VIDEO
Just came across this interesting video, "The Day" by Moby, which presents a similar scene to what Howard Storm experienced, showing the battle between good and evil: