A Divinity School Student’s Secret
When I was a young Divinity School student, I hid out in the books of the ancient mystics, isolating myself in their words, in a search for myself. I felt different than my classmates. When they were sitting in chapel every morning for an hour for three years, I chose to sit alone in our library to read and take notes and meditate or hide in the bowels of the library practicing yoga where no one would see.
I had a secret: One day in March, years earlier, on the side of an icy mountain, I had died. I went ice climbing on the world-famous Lower Weeping Wall, along the Saskatchewan River and Ice Fields Parkway in Banff Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada. My climbing partner was an experienced ice climber, but I was a novice. On our descent, we became trapped on the side of the mountain. As the sunset, exhaustion, and hypothermia overcame us. I died on the side of that mountain.
Headshot by Robert Mitchell
Instantaneously the Angel of Death carried me to Heaven, to a place of non-being and no thing, an infinite illuminated greater darkness, of timelessness, and telepathically talked with the Supreme Being. I had passed through a Divine Fire Purgative Love*—a hell of my own making—and received undeserved forgiveness from the Merciful Abundance of Love.
The Knower of All lit up the full story of my life. Nothing was hidden in shadow, and so I saw my true self—an everlasting soul-creature created and called into being by name by Creator. My orb-like, genderless, body-less consciousness was then infilled, overwhelmed, and overflowed with an ecstatic unspeakable oneness of joy, beauty, truth, love, knowledge and more.
I expanded to the actual size of myself no longer confined or conformed to the biological body I left behind. (*I use Catherine of Genoa’s words because they best describe my experience of having the “chaff burned from the wheat kernel of my soul cleansing me of unnecessary burdens and allowing an infilling of oneness.”)
When I said I could not stay because my parents needed me, Creator instantly swept me to see all of the earth and every human being living on it to show me why I should stay. I saw Truth. I saw all creatures and every human being living unknowingly under a veil of blindness even as the Eternal Infinite Intensity of Love absorbed me, and yet somehow I remained an everlasting consciousness unto myself.
The Voice said to me, “In the way that I Love you Now, I have always Loved you, and will always Love you, Eternally. I Love each human being with My Same Infinite Merciful Universal Love, and because of My Love, because of My Being, all was well, all is well, and will be well with every living human being when each leaves living in blindness, just like you were, and comes Home to Me, just like you have.* Your suffering ended and healed into holy wholeness when I brought you into my Light, and so will all of my beloved children. Just as you are my dear, and now know My Love, in the same way, I love every soul living on earth. Fear not for the well being of your parents, though they suffer now, all will be Eternally well for them, too. Stay here with Me. All will be healed of suffering and brought (*God spoke similar telepathic words to Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416 C.E.)
Upon seeing my parents’ faces of woe, I asked the Divine Incomprehensible if I could go back for the sake of love. My parents needed me. The Voice welcomed me to stay but said I could leave, if I asked. I asked if I went back if I would and could return to this heavenly bliss of infilling oneness. “Yes, you can come back,” the Voice replied, “but you won’t live your life.”
The Same DNA Body But Spiritually Transformed
I entered the same DNA body I had left behind, with the same memories and relationships, but as a completely different person. I knew I inhabited my body. I knew I was not my body. I knew I belonged to God alone. I regretted coming back immediately. I felt like an alien who had crash-landed on a strange new world in another star system, marooned among the strange inhabitants, with no way off the planet, desperate to blend in and hid, and more desperate to go back Home. A year later, I abandoned my acceptance for graduate school in architecture and quit the plan to join the family firm.
I sought my answers where I could find them, at Yale, by creating my course of study using campus-wide resources—in the books of long-dead mystics. I learned that much more important than book knowledge is the steady and lifelong practice of meditation and prayer, based in the truisms, “Seek and you will find. Make your eye single. Seek Heaven above all things.”
The ancients had learned to glimpse through the veil of blindness, by opening themselves and becoming available to Divine Ecstatic Visions of Heaven, and not one of them was a near-death experiencer, as far as I could tell.
If they could reach a Unitive state of beingness, I could, and I have over forty years of practice, and you can too, because the veil of blindness is thin, and the ancients left valuable tools behind. The techniques work. I am living proof that with the effort we can train our minds and hearts to gain a glimpse the Light Love, through the practice of single-mindedly opening the inner door, and let the Light that waits on the other side to shine through us. Meditation polishes the lens of the heart, dissolves the false self, and makes room in the vessel of the body for the flow of Light.
What is this Light? To know the Light, you must see it for yourself. There is no way around this. We help each other on our spiritual paths by we walk alone. Words never capture the essence of the Ineffable. Words can only point toward it. Humans use story, myth, symbol, and metaphor when we speak of the Light. It is the best that we can do.
The Light Above is the Light Within and is not made of photons; it is not the natural light that we see with our eyes and process into meaning in our brains, although light is an apt metaphor.
Think of our star as the source of all light in the center of our solar system radiating individual photons of light each of which is both particle and wave, without mass or volume, and each equal to the other, from the same Star, light from Light, coming from the Source of Light–illuminating all.
When we see or sense living light in another person, or radiating from them, we detect the Light Itself seeing Itself. After all, aren’t we made in the image of God? Photons make images.
I am in you, and you are in me because we are in and of the Oneness. So when we love each other, when giving away love and gather love together, it is Love Loving Itself though us. We share love and love is how we know God.
An Invitation for You: Cultivate Your Spiritual Practice
Do you want to feel safe and beloved? Do you want to cultivate your spiritual transformation? Do you want to open up to the possibility of an ecstatic mystical experience that comes through Grace? Then begin your practice of prayer and meditation today. Go and seek and never stop. My practice is prayerful yoga combined with sitting meditation and a single prayer that I’ve said ten thousand times. What’s your practice?
Deep practiced prayer focused on the Oneness makes a person radiate. I saw this from myself with the eye of my soul that I carried back from heaven, in the monasteries where my teachers, the Abbot Thomas Keating and Theophane Boyd, both lived, wrote, lead, and taught.
In those two monasteries, I met living monks who radiated Light because they practiced prayer, just as the ancient mystics had said. I wanted the same thing—I want the same gift—because the Voice given mission that I am on in this life is to communicate the Message of Radiant Love available to all.
Prayer makes us radiant. It opens the channel and polishes our lens. You may notice that I use mediation and prayer interchangeably that is because to me they are the same thing, and so is my practice of yoga. Prayer works, and as I said before, nobody needs an NDE to be transformed by the Almighty Love.
The Love Light is in everything all the time, everywhere, and in everyone in all of this universe. To see Light, first believe, and then turn your eye inward. Meditate. Pray. Never stop seeking. You will find what you seek. But don’t take my word for it. I’m not asking you to believe anything I say, except I ask you to try for yourself, and to love those around you. Both will change your life—love by opening your heart, and meditation by making your eye single, turning it inward. The Transcendent and Imminent Light will give you strength, courage, hope, faith, love, humility, and charity to face all of life’s sufferings and joys.
I am here to help—that’s my job.
And Finally, A Few Words of Gratitude
Please allow me to take a moment more for Drs. Raymond Moody and Kenneth Ring. When I was in my third year at Yale, while writing my final and lengthiest paper on mysticism, Dr. Moody’s book, Life After Life, with its foreword written by Dr. Ring, fell into my hands. I read the book and then the foreword, and discovered that Dr. Ring was a professor working just up the highway from me at the University of Connecticut.
I called UConn, got his office phone number, and called him minutes immediately. He answered. I quickly introduced myself as a Yale Divinity student and wondered if I could spare five minutes to hear the story of my death from hypothermia while ice climbing, and my of my return, and if, after listening he might tell me if I had had a what Dr. Moody called a near-death experience.
Dr. Ring listened politely to my story, and then replied, “Yes, I think you may be a Near Death Experiencer.”
Oh Joy! What had had happened to me had a name! There were others like me! I kept my secret.
It took a considerable church embezzlement scheme, community wide suffering and work, and fifteen years more of secret prayer and private study, with public preaching, all while tending to the suffering and the dying, while hiding out in plain sight as a believing Christian clergy person in a national denomination before I was ready and willing to tell my stories of the Afterlife.
I humbly thank the two of you, Doctors Moody and Ring, from the depth of my soul and with the presence of my mind, You two gave me hope in my darkest hour that I was not alone in all the world.
To find out more about Peter’s remarkable story, his bestselling book, Heaven Is Beautiful, his ministries of counseling and teaching, a list of his upcoming speaking engagements, and his fifteen years on daily broadcast TV and FM, just click PeterPanagore.love .
Find out more about Peter’s NDE and the many ways he offers his wisdom:
Other books by Reverend Peter B. Panagore: