In 1992, Robert Borel compiled a 300-page manuscript entitled, Understanding Death: Similarities between the Near-Death Experience and the Esoteric Process of Dying

From that work, Robert created a video trilogy that compares what we know about the science of near-death experiences with esoteric teachings about death in the Ageless Wisdom tradition.  In this blog, Robert introduces the people, readings, and ideas that brought him to his significant work and offers links to his videos for all to enjoy. Thank you, Robert.


 . . . ponder most carefully and sanely upon the so-called enigma of death. It is an enigma to man, but not an enigma to disciples and knowers of the wisdom. During the next cycle . . . death will become a normal and understood process.        

Djwhal Khul Esoteric Healing,  390   Published 1942


Death: The Great Adventure by Robert Borel

Death: The Great Adventure, Part 1 by Robert J. Borel, M.A.

Death: The Great Adventure, Part 2 by Robert J. Borel, M.A.

Death: The Great Adventure, Part 3 by Robert J. Borel, M.A.


Life After Life

In 1975, I discovered a multi-page article in the Sunday newspaper devoted to Dr. Raymond Moody, Jr.’s new book, Life After Life.  The book was concerned with the “near-death experience” (NDE), a term Dr. Moody had coined to describe the experiences of people who had come close to dying, who had come “near death.” These were individuals who had been pronounced dead, and then resuscitated.  I found the article to be fascinating since it related to so many topics that were of great interest to me. I later purchased a copy of Life After Life, and took copious notes as I read through its inspiring pages.

Five years earlier, I had undergone what I later described as a “near-life experience.” My experience was not precipitated by any threat to my physical well-being, but nevertheless seemed very similar to what the people interviewed by Dr. Moody had encountered.  After my experience, I had begun a fervent search to discover what had occurred to me.

Other NDE Authors

Over the years, I continued to read subsequent NDE books by Dr. Moody as well as those by other authors: George Ritchie, Jr., Melvin Morse, Margot Grey, Phyllis Atwater, Dannion Brinkley, Stanislav Grof, Eben Alexander, et. al.  But, along with those by Dr. Moody, it was the books of Dr. Kenneth Ring that most impressed me: Life At Death, Heading Toward Omega, and Lessons from the Light. 


One of the most revealing and rewarding areas of inquiry for me were books pertaining to the Ageless Wisdom—that central, transcendental, universal doctrine found at the heart of the world’s major religious and philosophical systems.  This teaching is known by many names in different cultures: the Perennial Philosophy, the Secret Doctrine, the Mysteries, Vedanta, Prajnaparamita, Kabbalah, Gnosis, Marifa, etc. My favorite term for this universal doctrine is Esotericism, from the Greek esoteros, meaning “inner.”

Esotericism is the secret, concealed, inner doctrine that is reserved for the initiates who have proven themselves worthy to receive it through intense discipline, strenuous sacrifice, and selfless service to humanity.  By contrast, the world religions offer the public, revealed, outer, or exoteric, teaching that provides the uninitiated masses with ethical guidelines and moral injunctions to direct their relationships with their fellow human beings.

Both in general, and particularly regarding death and dying, I was most impressed by the esoteric writings of various Theosophical (theo = “god/divine”; sophia = “wisdom”) authors such as Helena Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater, E. Norman Pearson, James Perkins, Arthur Powell, Charles Hampton, et. al.  I also resonated with the Rosicrucian author, Max Heindel.  But the most relevant and revealing books I found were those by Alice Bailey and the Tibetan Master Djwhal Khul.

Meeting Some NDE / Death and Dying / Esoteric Authors

I have been fortunate to meet some of these authors whose writings have impressed me most and influenced my life’s work.  I believe it was in 1977 that I met Dr. Raymond Moody after a lecture he had given at the University of Texas at Austin, my undergraduate alma mater. (Hook ‘em, Horns!)  On page 9 of Life After Life, Moody says:

. . . I write as a person who is not broadly familiar with the vast literature on paranormal and occult phenomena.  I do not say this to disparage it, and I feel confident that a wider acquaintance with it might have increased my understanding of the events I have studied.  In fact, I intend now to look more closely at some of these writings to see to what extent the investigations of others are borne out by my findings.

(I should note that just as “esoteric” means “inner,” the word “occult” denotes that which is “hidden.”  Both terms describe that inner, hidden doctrine taught in the Mystery Schools of antiquity and in various esoteric schools today.)

After his talk at UT, I went up on the stage and spoke briefly with Dr. Moody.  I presented him with a copy of Esoteric Healing by Alice Bailey.  Much of the central part of the book deals with the esoteric, or occult, teachings on death and dying, which he indicated that he wanted “to look more closely at.”

Then, in 1984, my wife and I moved from Austin to the Bay Area for me to earn my master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies from John F. Kennedy University.  Shortly after arriving in California, I was invited by Dr. William Kautz, the Director of the Center for Applied Intuition at the Stanford Research Institute, to be a presenter at “The Ultimate Journey” conference in Oakland in November 1984.  

Dr. Kenneth Ring had returned from the University of Connecticut to be the keynote speaker at the conference.  Ken was staying near us, and Dr. Kautz suggested that we give him a ride to the conference.  It was a great opportunity to meet my other favorite NDE author, and to discuss our work together.  

I had recently completed a compilation on death from the 24 books of Alice Bailey and the Tibetan Master Djwhal Khul.  It was published in the spring of 1985.  I had entitled it Death: The Great Adventure.

During my time at JFKU, scientist-author, Arthur Young and his wife, Ruth Forbes Young, hosted weekly symposia in their Berkeley home which featured a speaker in some area of the field of consciousness studies.  One week the speaker was Ken Ring, and we had an opportunity to renew our friendship.  When my book was published, I sent Ken a copy which he gratefully acknowledged.  

Two other symposia speakers were Dr. Stanislav and Christina Grof, researchers and authors in the fields of transpersonal psychology, psychedelics, conscious dying, breathwork, etc.  During the break, I had the opportunity to introduce myself and discuss our shared interest in conscious dying.

In 1987, we had the opportunity to spend the night in the home of Marie and Manly P. Hall.  Manly was an esoteric philosopher, avid researcher and bibliophile, prolific author, and commanding speaker who had been involved in many of the metaphysical movements and esoteric events in Los Angeles during most of the 20th Century.  Many of his books have been indispensable in my research over the decades.  These include Death to Rebirth, and his magnum opus, The Secret Teachings of All Ages—a beautifully illustrated, extensive survey of the entire Western Mystery Tradition, published at the age of 27!

 Understanding Death

For some time, I had been impressed by the seeming similarities between many elements of the near-death experience and those experienced during the esoteric process of dying.  In 1992, I began rereading the books in my library pertaining to the NDE, carefully noting the significant elements.  Next, I did the same thing with the esoteric books in my collection.  I then combined the two areas of research to try to discover the actual similarities between these two perspectives on death. Eventually, I had created a 300-page manuscript entitled, Understanding Death: Similarities between the Near-Death Experience and the Esoteric Process of Dying.  

Death: The Great Adventure Videos

So, after decades of offering classes and conference presentations on Conscious Dying, I revised my Understanding Death compilation in 2017.  I then decided to create videos to portray the research contained in that revised manuscript.  Then, in May 2018, I shared my video series, Death: The Great Adventure at our annual esoteric conference.

As the title of my second compilation implies, in my videos I am seeking to help the viewer better understand death by examining the proposed similarities between the near-death experience and the esoteric process of dying. The video series begins with a thorough introduction that examines the two different perspectives on death, and the researchers, authors, and books that support the two vantage points.

One of the most significant points represented in the introduction is the fact that the esotericists recognize that our solar system consists of seven planes of consciousness and matter, which are visually depicted as moving downward from above.  In actuality, they are interpenetrating and occupy the same physical space.  All of these seven planes are each divided into seven subplanes.

Esotericists also reveal that the dying process occurs on the three lower planes of our solar system: the physical, the emotional (or astral), and the mental.  Both the physical and the mental planes are divided into two sections, higher and lower, because of the distinct difference in the rates of vibration of the matter on the two levels.

Throughout my video series one moves upward (or inward) through these three planes until one reaches the moment of soul contact on the higher subplanes of the mental plane.  The soul is also known as one’s higher self. The lower self, or personality, functions on the lower four subplanes of the mental plane and the seven subplanes of both the emotional and physical planes.

By comparing the esoteric group’s observations on the three lower planes to those of the NDErs, we gain a new perspective on the experiences and levels of consciousness that the two groups are discovering during the process of withdrawal.

Then, after reaching the highest levels of the mental plane, and having at least of moment of contact with the soul, or higher self, one experiences a life review.  After this detailed review of the life that has just ended, the individual then begins again the process of reincarnation, and the eventual inhabiting of a new physical body.

Death, if we could but realize it, is one of our most practiced activities.  We have died many times and shall die again and again.  Death is essentially a matter of consciousness.  We are conscious one moment on the physical plane, and a moment later we have withdrawn onto another plane and are actively conscious there.  Just as long as our consciousness is identified with the form aspect, death will hold for us its ancient terror.  Just as soon as we know ourselves to be souls, and find that we are capable of focusing our consciousness or sense of awareness in any form or on any plane at will, or in any direction within the form of God, we shall no longer know death.

Djwhal Khul A Treatise on White Magic, 494 Published 1934


For over four decades, Robert Borel has been helping people to understand what happens when we die.  He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA.   His book, Death: The Great Adventure was published by Lucis Publishing Company in New York in 1985.  It is a compilation on death and dying from the 24 books of Alice Bailey and the Tibetan Master Djwhal Khul.

Robert’s major focus has been on the similarities between the near-death experience and the esoteric (“inner”) process of dying as taught in the Ageless Wisdom Tradition.  In 1992, he compiled a 300-page manuscript entitled, Understanding Death: Similarities between the Near-Death Experience and the Esoteric Process of Dying.  In 2018, Robert created and posted his first 3-part video on YouTube entitled, Death: The Great Adventure.  The material in these videos was drawn from his Understanding Death compilation.