This ongoing blog series will discuss the elusive topic of life after death. Through first-hand accounts as well as knowledge from the ancients we have a pretty good idea of what happens after death. Through the weeks and months, we will explore topics ranging from the death experience itself to the various worlds that exist in the afterlife. We will begin the series by discussing a nearly universal experience, the life review.

“I am here, make no mistake.

It was I who spoke before, and now I speak again.

I have had a wonderful experience…

What has happened was for the best; it was inevitable”  –The World Unseen

Although most would agree that death is inevitable, the existence of an afterlife is a topic that has been widely debated for hundreds, even thousands of years. Cultural beliefs around death typically include the belief that death of the physical body is not the end of existence. Even the earliest humans maintained belief in an eternal part of each human. These beliefs reduce the fear of death and dying. Stories of individuals who have experienced death and returned to relate the experience are widespread. These individuals either experience a short period of physical death and return to their bodies to tell the tale of their near-death experience, or they pass away and are able to relate their afterlife experiences to those still living through psychic means.  Regardless of how messages regarding the afterlife are relayed, when viewed together a relatively coherent picture of this new state of beginning emerges. The presence of a life review is nearly ubiquitous in near-death and afterlife experiences. During these life reviews, the individual has the opportunity to re-experience all of the situations, events, and relationships that made up his or her earthly life. The mechanism and timing of the life review may vary, but the experience is universally transformative. Understanding the life review is important as it may help better understand the meaning of human life.

Description of the Life Review

Dr. Raymond Moody (2011) has written extensively on near-death and shared-death experiences. He described the life review as, “an intense review of one’s earthly life. It may be a panoramic view of the individual’s entire life, or just significant fragments”. These reviews seem to be compulsory and can happen immediately after the death of the physical body, or long after an individual has passed away. In other words, there may be no way to opt out of the life review, but it does not seem to occur until the individual is ready to witness his or her life from this perspective. As Erik Medhus related, regarding his life review, in the book My Life After Death: A Memoir From Heaven, “I wasn’t given the option to do or not do my life review. I was just told it was going to happen and that it would help me understand who I was and how to forgive myself”. The life review process can be both a positive experience, allowing a person to re-experience the loving and joyful moments of his or her life, as well as a difficult experience, where one finally faces the true consequences of his or her mistreatment of the self or others. The life review itself may seem to happen in the blink of an eye, or it can feel as if the review is a long, painstaking process, spread out over a long period of time. Individuals may have varying degrees of control over the process, with some reporting the ability to move backward and forwards through their timeline, experiencing any eventuality that may have occurred. The life review experience is not only visual. It is a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experience. Individuals report being completely immersed in the scenes of their lives. Often they can hear, smell, touch, and fully experience life as it is replayed. However, this experiencing is very different than what one might imagine from the in-body perspective. This alternate way of experiencing is explained in Witness From Beyond By A. D. Mattson (1975), “After death, we see with the inner sight that is always within all earthly people. It is the same sight that is used when you sleep at night”. One does not typically perceive being alone during the life review. He or she is often accompanied on this journey by benevolent beings that assist in understanding and assimilating the life experiences. There are also many accounts of shared death experiences, where living people are included in the death and life review experience of a loved one. One woman reported that at the passing of her husband she was a witness to his life review, even experiencing his other romantic relationships. Another woman, who was able to experience the life review with her son after his passing, was later able to recognize friends and locations that her son had known in his life, even those with which she had previously been unaware. As we have shown, there are as many life review experiences as there are individual accounts of the life review itself, and each review experience is crafted perfectly to allow the subject of the review to integrate the lessons of the life lived into the larger plan of existence. Experiencing a life review allows a person to better understand why life events occurred, and how the natural laws of the physical universe, cause and effect, and free will, played out in their physical experience. Several researchers have offered theories to explain afterlife and near-death experiences. Several studies have been conducted to determine what is happening in the brain when an individual has a near-death experience. These researchers have identified specific brain states that may be responsible for the life review. During drug-induced death experiences, theta brain rhythms are activated, these rhythms facilitate early memory retrieval. Moody (2011) explained that out of body experiences, near-death experiences, and afterlife communication may be facilitated by the concept of a participatory universe. The author states, “This participatory universe [is] defined as one in which life and mind are woven into the fabric of the universe. In theory, they say, memories are stored all around us.” (loc. 1063). The nature of this fabric allows for memories and sensations to be experienced in an instant during a life review. Regardless of the mechanism, thanks to numerous accounts of near-death, shared-death, and afterlife experiences we can begin to understand what happens after death, and the importance of the life review in the process of moving from physical life to afterlife experiences. Erik Medhus said, “I couldn’t know it then, but my ordeal on earth was getting me ready for what was to come”

Major Components of a Life Review

Lack of External Judgement

“My child, your judgment will take place whenever you desire; and from your own words, I can tell you that it has already begun… As to the Judge, well, she is here; for you, yourself are judge, and will mete out to yourself your punishment. You will do this of your own free will by reviewing all the life you have lived and, as you bravely own up to one sin after another, so you will progress” –The life beyond the Veil. Spirit Messages Received and Written Down by the Rev. G. Vale Owen

Many believe that at the end of life they will face judgment from a higher being, perhaps God himself. This belief can often lead to a fear of death. Some live their lives in false holiness, believing that by attending church, paying tithing, or expressing some other outward expression of goodness they will receive rewards in heaven. These individuals are not aware that God does not wish to punish. In the end, the only judge, jury, and executioner is the self. Although many individuals experience a great deal of remorse during the life review, the purpose of the exercise is not to judge the life lived as good or bad, or right or wrong. The true purpose is one of learning and deep understanding. It is an exercise created to, in a sense, wash away the sins of the past, and allow the soul to move into the next life with new skills from the lessons learned. After death, there is a necessary detachment from many things that seem to be important in life. This circumstance intrinsically facilitates an atmosphere of acceptance. The plans, dreams, hopes, and goals of life become meaningless; now all meaning is derived from the eternal existence of the soul, and the connection to all that is.  Billy Fingers offers this advice, “I was an incurable drug addict who wasn’t even capable of making a living. Who would have thought that I would be ready for becoming the universe? Well, that just shows that you can never judge anyone’s life, yours included” –The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

Multi-perspectival viewpoint

Often in a life review, the experience of not only feeling one’s own emotions but also the emotions and thoughts of others. Erik Medhus states:

“Not only could I feel the emotions they had in response to my actions, but I could actually see things from their perspective. It was like I was them. I got everything down to the smallest detail, like how many times that person blinked and how many times they swallowed in their lifetime- all experienced simultaneously. That’s how detailed it was” –My Life After Death: A Memoir From Heaven.

Billy fingers adds, “When you watch your hologram you get to see everything- who loved you, who hated you, what they did for you, and what they did to you when your back was turned” (p. 49).

The Assistance of “Higher” Beings

The life review is not an easy process, in fact, it can be quite upsetting. The difficulty is somewhat mitigated by the presence of benevolent beings. The being may manifest in many different forms, or remain formless. There may be the experience of a  multitude of heavenly hosts, or a single illuminated presence. Often the being is experienced as God, Christ, or another religious figure. The being, or beings involved, shower the soul engaged in the life review with unconditional love and understanding. There are also accounts of the being, or beings, offering a running commentary about the events that are being witnessed or relieved.   

The “Book of Life”

After the first stage of life review, where one experiences the actual events of life, there is often a secondary review that enables the person to understand the life plan that was created prior to incarnation. Many individuals refer to this plan as a way to reference what the soul wanted to do, create, and experience against what actually happened. As Frances relates in the book Testimony of Light:

“Somewhere in the depths of my mind two ‘blueprints’ are brought forward into my consciousness. These are so clear the I can (literally) take them out, materialize them and study them. One is the perfect Ideal with which my spirit went bravely into incarnation. The other is the result of only a partially understood Plan…in fact, my life as it was actually lived”

The author goes on to state that, in her case, these two books were very different. She describes the humbling experience of realizing that there was so much more than she could have accomplished in her life.  In the book The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, Billy Fingers relates that his “book of life” was written, not in words but projected like “an oscillating rainbow”. The author understands this book as a blueprint of the “dramas that change you” and states that, although there is a general plan, there is also a great deal of freedom. He emphasizes that, although this plan was created, it is not set in stone. In other words, there is no right or wrong way for life to turn out. Billy states, “Some endings are happier, some not so happy, but it’s not just the happiness percentage that matters. It’s the music of it. Most people’s lives don’t have enough music” (p. 49).  Even if there is not an actual book, the knowledge of a life plan that was created before birth is often reported.

Conclusion

This paper has described the process of after-death life review, and discussed key themes. It began by giving a general description of what happens during the life review and why this process is an important step in the evolution of the soul. It then focused on a few key components of a life review beginning with the lack of external judgement. It proceeded by describing the multi-perspectival point of view present in the life review. Then it gave a description of the higher beings that often assist in the life review process. Finally, it looked at the descriptions of a life blueprint, or book of life, that is often a part of the review itself, or introduced directly after the life review. Those that have a life review experience and return to their physical body are forever changed. They report that fear of death is no longer present, as well as feelings of acceptance and unconditional self love. Perhaps by understanding what happens when we die we can better understand the purpose of life, and how both our physical life and the afterlife are holons that are integral parts of the human experience.

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