I was like most people I know: I looked away from death and avoided as much as possible, thinking or talking about the certainty of the life that I believed was remote.
Until the day of the departure of my father when I was 27 and I had to face it anyways. I have to admit I did it more or less. Several things eased – or disguised – my pain at that time. Concern about my mother and the belief that it is part of the destiny of the children to bid their parents farewell. I settled my heart with the gentle presence of my father next to me for a long time that I accessed by intuition, imagination and the heart. Nowadays, after more than 20 years, I still think of him every day.
I followed the flow of life until one day I had to live the opposite: it was the moment I said good bye to my son Paulo, when he was 28 years old on 28 January 2012. That did broke any reference that I could imagine. No place of departure or arrival, I felt my soul almost suspended. In a tangle of feelings, one of the things I felt was an immense desire to imagine what would be Paulo’s way from that moment on. I looked for some references and started by the book “Proof of Heaven”, in which a rational and skeptical neurosurgeon reports his near-death experience. Talks about his physical and spiritual healing and life hidden in the several dimensions of the universe. A surgeon stating that the world is much bigger than what we can see.
I also watched the movie “Our Home” directed and scripted by Wagner de Assis. The film is based on the homonymous work of Chico Xavier, under the influence of the Spirit André Luiz. Although finding its a poor production, its content helped me a lot to get to imagine what the world of Paulo the time of his departure would be like.
For me, as a mother, it was an important point in my healing process. I knew that I had to find a new way to keep my relationship with him. The first step was to try to imagine his life from that event that changed everything: where would my son be after his farewell? Was he somewhere? Would someone receive him? My father, his grandfather who took care of him so well? Nahim, “almost” like a father for Paulo, that he met in the course of your life? Or so many others of the family who were already there? What would be his moment? What stages would he face after leaving?
The 4 stages of Sukie
I recently found a source that fueled my desire to imagine my son’s ways. It was the book “After Life”, of Sukie Miller psychologist, an enlightened gift from a dear friend. The psychologist joined a team that explored the post-death journey across cultures – Asia, India, Indonesia, Brazil, USA and Africa – for 8 years and it was in doing this that he based his book that was used as an inspiration for my writings and thoughts. A subtle universe, unknown and often frightening. But now it is increasingly difficult to deny the existence of a world beyond ourselves. Sukie Miller calls this ability – to go beyond what is seen – of “vital imagination,” a psychic ability not only to view but to experience another dimension of reality.
This sensitivity – that transcends the senses and approaches the spirit – is also described by the French and Islamic philosopher Henry Cobin and is called “mundus imaginal”. Would it be possible to think that this “vital imagination” could open my heart and mind to be able to fly and meet Paulo in a parallel dimension, although we can not see, it seems extremely real?
In my experience it was. Soon after the departure of Paulo I began to imagine him in the clouds. Each time I flew, from inside the plane I could see the clouds from above, and it brought me a pleasant feeling of sitting with my kid looking and talking. By talking to Sukie Miller, my son was in his first post-mortem stage, the “waiting room”. The psychologist talks about 4 stages that appear in a common way in most post-mortem cultures that she studied. The most interesting is that these phases are described through active journeys, where the spirits move on detailed geographies. Let’s go to them:
The stage 1 is the expected space where they go through the transformation of a physical being into a spiritual being; The Stage 2 is described as the trial phase, where the previous life of the “traveler” is set right and, in some cultures, their particular fate is determined; Stage 3 is the kingdom of possibilities, where the traveler enjoys the outcome of his trial or in cultures where the trial has relatively little weight, just happens to exist in postmortem stops. The last of them, the Stage 4 represents the return or rebirth, where the traveler returns to this life in another body and identity, or reaches the alternative to escape the Wheel of Life and join the universal whole to live in one of the many celestial states which is called Nirvana.
In order to talk about the “waiting place”, there is a fascinating work writen by Paul beard, from the College of Psychic Studies of London that locates this place at the limit that separates the world of the living form the world of the dead and she named it “Summerland”. For Beard, this is a place for rest, of comfort and the opportunity to lose fear and go through the transformation, such as a butterfly leaving the cocoon.
It is up to us to let them go. Everywhere in the world we listen to the same stories: if we really love the ones who are gone we have to let them go and wish them luck in their journey. Usually it is comforting for the ones who stay, to have a task.
The second stage, the trial defines that the traveler abandons the place of waiting and goes to the next step of the journey in which his fate will be defined, although it isn’t very clear in all cultures what or who runs this trial. We know that even the judgment of the one who stays matters a lot and that’s why people who are aware of their leaving, tend to go back to the most important relationships of their lives and forget/detach from previous “debts”.
In this phase of the journey, when the spirit is analyzed and judged for the way he/she led his/her life, the ultimate questions are made: the first one is “ am I going to get more punishments or rewards? And the second one is connected to the meaning of life and the purpose of the existence he/she is about to leave: “have I had an existence that, somehow, got to contribute for a wider reality?
As far as different judgment systems – and there is many- I will bring two references that are rich in possibilities to make us think: The catholic tradition of the judgment system that considers the logic of reward and punishment. And the karmic system, much more complex, that considers a web of intentions, thoughts and actions completely interconnected and believes in learning through incarnations. But independently on the judgment, in almost any culture we can find the belief that there is nothing in a person’s life that doesn’t have consequences in another existence.
The third stage is the one of the possibilities: what are the possible ways to be chosen? Here, the different cultures open new possibilities of perspectives that are not always excluded. And again there are many. We can start with the few ones who believe in the MILKY WAY, such as indigenous in Australia or the Guajiro Indians in Colombia. They believe that the spirits simply fly and go into the MILKY WAY. About this way, the author proposes a very beautiful image: “if the person walks through the fields in a clear night where the stars can be naturally observed, he/she will see, the comforting presence of this road- so distant but shining by the eternal presence of millions and millions of souls.”
Different cultures, different places
There are also cultures that believe that the place of post-mortem is similar to our home in Earth but there, there is Peace. So much difference, right? A proverb comes from this belief: “Earth is the Market and Heaven is Home” And to go on with the beautiful images, there are two very important symbols in the cultures that reflect the post-mortem: The Light, Trees and the Canoe. The light is a recurrent image in every culture. It appears as an uncommon light which is not the sunlight or the moonlight but a light from God. This seems to be the way pointed by different cultures against fear of darkness. For many there is no darkness in Heaven, because God is light. The scenarios of this stage are also filled with shiny trees that embody things such as fertility, growth, change and completeness. And also the CANOE or LITTLE BOAT presence that represents the vehicle for the passage from one world to another.
But we can’t forget religions that emphasize judgment and believe in the idea of heaven versus hell. And it is not only the Catholic religion that believes that. In India, the Sufis describe heaven with lush beauty, with golden walls, silver bricks and the sound of water with tranquilizing effect. But they also rely on the existence of hell with descriptions of spirits being burned on fire in impressive hot scenarios. But there is something that is beyond our comprehension: the lack of time and space. What approaches us most of this post-world reality is when, in intuition and creative processes, we feel the time stop. It’s like we are flirting with this unattainable reality of lack of time and space.
There are few cultures that believe that the spirits are left on their own. In most cultures, the spirits have angels, guides, guardians and companions.
Of all these concepts, however, that one that lead us to believe that the deceased one is left in a certain place; is the concept that brings us most comfort. Because it is the opposite of the fearsome image of a tiny, lonely spirit, wandering through space. The very notion of journey that has a destination in the afterlife carries in it, a sense of no disruption with reality, a journey provided with intention and energy in all this mosaic of possibilities.
Stage 4 reflects on the possible RETURN of these spirits to earth. For most cultures, the return is implicit from the death. The seed of rebirth is contained in death. From this viewpoint, the amount of possible realms of reality increases beyond any measure: not only in the afterlife, the spirit has the chance to do unknown stops and when the spirit returns, it is faced with an endless variety of experiences in life earthly. For Tibetan Buddhists, the reincarnation has the sole function of reassuring the transmission of faith for the spiritual side.
Do you remember when I was with Paulo in the clouds? My last experience was different. In a recent spiritual ritual, I had the opportunity to dance with my son. But not with her figure, I felt dancing with his spirit, in my perception, black, strong and energetic in constant movement. Sometimes I could also see only the blue eyes of Paulo. In this dance, which honestly I cant precise the time, I realized that Paulo is much higher than what I saw here. I looked at him I danced with him and, instead of thinking of it as a loss, I could feel gratitude for the privilege of having traveled with Paul along his 28 years intensely lived with our family he will always be part of.
Sukie Miller closes her book talking about HOPE. It could not be more beautiful. For her, the hope is inherent in the human condition. It is, as an expression of life itself, which enables us to look at the infinite possibilities and feel the paths that bring meaning to our existence. Without borders. Long live the vital imagination. Long live hope.