NOTE: The following account and correspondence concerns an experience that occurred to a Christian Scientist. Today many would refer to this as a "near-death" experience. It is wonderfully Scientific in its detail.
The following brief paper has been prepared for you with the idea of giving you some details of an actual experience I had with what is called "death," some years ago, and my condition immediately after "dying." At the time I was drowned in Lake Chautauqua my so called physical or material body was down at the bottom of the lake for at least half to three quarters of an hour, possibly more, which precludes the possibility of my life being present, based upon the functioning of the so called physical or material body. But, having a good working knowledge of Christian Science and being developed spiritually I was actually able to prevent myself from being "put to sleep" at all and later on was able to "come back" so to speak. Therefore, I am sure that the Master, Christ Jesus, meant just what he said, (John 8:51) "I tell you, if anyone observe my teaching, he will never experience death," or be "put to sleep," as I understand it.
Of course, it is difficult to set forth the details of my experience so as not to be misunderstood. It is for this reason that I am reluctant to talk about it at all. And because of the fact that, as Mrs. Eddy says, (S&H.468:13-15) "Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material, he is spiritual." Any belief of either living or dying as physical or material person is simply an illusion or dream. Strictly speaking, there isn't anything much to the experience I am going to relate except that I was having a dream about myself at the time which was considerably different from the usual mortal dream or "state of self-deception" as Mrs. Eddy calls it. (S&H. 403:15) What I am going to tell actually happened. Nevertheless, considering it from the standpoint of absolute Christian Science, it wasn't a true experience any more than the dream of living in the flesh is. The following experience is given for your kind consideration.
The Experience.
In the first place, a situation was brought about that involved me in a storm on Lake Chautauqua and I was drowned. My swimming instructor, being an excellent swimmer, tried to rescue me, but he was not able to do so. After a desperate struggle in the water, going down the last time, I came to the conclusion that any further physical effort on my part was useless, therefore I "gave up the ghost," so to speak, and became resigned to my fate. The suggestion then came to me that because of the impossibility of my so-called physical or material body functioning properly, I was "dead" and should "go to sleep." The suggestion was logical, but I sensed that there was something sinister back of it. Therefore, I began to question both of these suggestions and refused to accept the conclusion that I was "dead" and should "go to sleep." Thinking it over I came to the reverse conclusion that I was "alive" and would "keep awake." Now, the instant I did so, a "voice" spoke to me although I did not see anybody.
This "voice" was distinct like that of some other person. From the tone of the "voice" and the way it talked, I definitely sensed that it was something evil, insidious and malicious. It spoke to me in rather a bored way at first, yet masterful. It began in a gentle way to convince me that I was "dead" and should "go to sleep." I objected and took issue with it. Soon this brought about a very "violent argument" between the "voice" and myself. It was at this stage of affairs that I began to use my Christian Science with telling results. Three things enabled me to get the best of the "voice" finally: (1) knowledge of spiritual realities, (2) realization of my at-one-ment with God, and (3) exercise of my God-given dominion and control in my own behalf. When the "voice" became convinced that it could not make me believe that I was "dead" and should go to "sleep" then something else happened. The "voice" changed its tactics altogether.
Now the speaker or the "voice" took me on a personally conducted tour, so to speak, of certain events of my past life. Just like a moving picture, I saw some six or seven events of my past life involving me enacted again. Nothing good I had done was shown me. Only events that were brought about by premeditated evil thinking on my part, were shown. And as I once again saw or lived through each experiences I suffered untold terrible anguish and pain on account of the part that I had played in each one of them. All during this time the "voice" was talking to me and commenting on the part I had played in them. The "voice" was trying to fix the responsibility on me for the evil results and I was trying to get out of it. After some three or four of these experiences I began to wonder why nothing good was shown me because I knew that I had done lots of good up to that time. In fact, I knew that I had done much more good than evil. Then it dawned on me that the "voice" was just trying to build up a case against me. Soon I began to question the whole procedure.
Again I took issue with the "voice" and this brought on the second "violent argument" which I won as I did the first, by using my Christian Science. When I won in this instance, the "voice" stopped talking to me altogether and I had no more hallucinations of my past life. There was a hush and everything was quiet. I knew that I had conquered what is called "death" and I had an enormous wonderful sense of absolute peace and dominion which is impossible to describe in words. And while I was perfectly satisfied with my condition then, nevertheless, I began to think about different things and began to wonder what I was to do next. I thought about my people and the sorrow it would cause them for me to remain "dead." I wondered what they were doing at the time, and what was being done to try and rescue me, and I wondered just what my position was down at the bottom of the lake. I thought about these things just like one normally does. Then I decided to ascertain the facts.
I knew that my so-called physical or material body was down at the bottom of the lake because I was then still seemingly in it, although I was no longer seemingly "connected" to it or it to me. I thought about looking it over to see just how it was situated and the very instant I came to the conclusion to do so, instantly I was outside of it, looking at it. I saw it then as one does any object in consciousness." Then I thought about those who were probably trying to rescue my body. The very instant I came to the conclusion I wanted to see what they were doing on the top of the lake, I was there. I saw very clearly what they were doing and heard what was said or rather shouted to each other. In the distance on the shore I saw a crowd of people assembled. I wondered if any of my people were there. The very instant I came to the conclusion I wanted to be there to see, I was there. My people were not there but others I knew were and I saw and heard what went on there at the time.
As my people were not in the crowd which had gathered on the shore, I figured that they must be home. The very instant I came to the conclusion I wanted to be home with them, I was there in the room with them. I saw everything they did and heard everything they said. Then I tried to make myself known to them so as to assure them that I was not really "dead" but they didn't know I was even there. They were talking about me coming home for lunch, etc. They had no knowledge about me being drowned at all. Then it struck me just how much of a shock it would be when they found out what had happened to me. It made me terribly sad and I had an almost overwhelming desire to get away from the whole business. I thought about going to Mars to see if it was inhabited because I have always been curious about it. Nevertheless I prevented myself from coming to the conclusion that I wanted to be there, so didn't go. Then I began to wonder if it was possible for me to "come back," so to speak.
I realized that I ought to "come back" if it was possible for me to do so. Was it really possible? If so, just what should I do? What was to be my method of procedure? In order to be able to give serious consideration to the problem I came to the conclusion I wanted to be absolutely free from all personal and materialistic considerations. The very instant I came to the conclusion I wanted to be free from them, I was free from them. Then, not visiting or being at any so-called location or place, I was what seemed to be simply an enormous big sphere or ball of pure white light. How big I cannot say because it seemed that I was right in the very center of it and that it extended equally in all directions out to infinity. It was a steady, brilliant pure white light that was wonderful and beyond description. I have never seen such perfect whiteness either before or after this experience. In this condition I began to seriously consider the problem.
First of all, I took account of my situation. I realized that I had conquered "death" because I had used my knowledge of Christian Science and that I was indeed very much alive and perfectly conscious. I knew for sure, in the final analysis that nothing had interfered with my thinking because I was able to think just like I did before the experience. I knew that my "arguments" had been successful because they were scientific and based upon Principle or God. I knew that I was really only an "individual consciousness" without any personal, private, physical or material body. Then I realized that while the so-called physical or material body seemed to be mine, it really wasn't me at all. And I also realized that said body presented the problem of concurrent jurisdiction. Now that I had nothing to do with said body, it was lifeless. Therefore, I must have given it the only life it ever had. And it was right to suppose that if I had once given it life, so to speak, that I could do it again if I could dominate that which claimed concurrent jurisdiction.
I realized that I didn't really have any mortal mind or physical or material body. And I realized that the only Mind I had was immortal Spirit, and that the only body I had was metaphysical or spiritual, the perfect embodiment of immortal Spirit. I realized very clearly the mental nature of everything including the so-called physical or material body. It was perfectly evident that the physique was an erroneous mental product produced by an erroneous sense of things and that as it was really mental it could be dealt with mentally. I figured that as far as what was called my physical or material body was concerned, it was a matter altogether of dominion and control on my part over whatever else claimed to be able to run it or not to run it, contrary to my wishes. In this connection I knew I would have to deal with the "voice" or so-called mortal mind, because I already had had a "violent argument" involving it. Therefore it was necessary for me to "work" so that I might be sure that I was the master.
For many years this so-called material body, which mortal mind said was mine and was me, did what I told it to do generally speaking. Now, because I didn't have anything more to say about it much, it was "dead" and soon would decompose and disintegrate. I figured that if I had once gotten the best of the "violent argument" with the "voice" and had been able to definitely silence it, then I must be more powerful, bigger and better than it was. I knew that this was so because of my actual at-one-ment with God. So, I reasoned that I did have the necessary dominion and control and really was the master. My plan was to completely dominate and control the situation so as to take charge of that specific illusion or dream of material sense, said to be my physical or material body, and once again present myself as a human being so as to make my presence known to those requiring the illusion. Therefore, my plan worked out with the idea of "coming back," I started in to pray scientifically and very earnestly so as to be ready for my next move.
At the time, I was some distance away from my so-called physical or material body. I decided to approach it in three or four deliberate moves, and did so. In close proximity to said body, I contemplated it for a few minutes. Then I moved in, so to speak. At once the "voice" started talking to me again. And now the "voice" seemed very much concerned indeed. It tried to assume the role of being the waster and put me on the defensive. Nevertheless, I was the master and I put it on the defensive. This brought about the third "violent argument" which was the worst of all. It was perfectly awful. It was terrible! Hell broke loose! It is impossible to describe this battle at all. I just can't do it. And when I began to get the best of the "voice" it stopped arguing and began to make direct suggestions to me. Faster and faster they came. Stronger and stronger they became. Soon they were coming with the rapidity of machine gun bullets. I was face to face with aggressive mental suggestion raised to the Nth degree, so to speak.
Nevertheless I was good myself. I became more and more active, and more insistent, and more powerful in stating the facts of being, Finally, I literally beat the "voice" into submission and silence. I do not know how else to explain it. Then I had full and complete dominion and control. I made my so-called physical or material body jump up from the bottom of the lake some two or three feet. Those who were looking for me were some distance away, but they saw me, the storm being over, and they came over and rescued me at once. They took me ashore, rolled me over a barrel and commenced the regular methods to revive me. After working on me for some time and getting no results, they decided to give me up. Then the "voice" started in to talk to me once again. I took issue with it right away and this brought on the fourth "violent argument" which was comparatively easy for me to win. Also those who had been working on me, started in to work again. This time I realized I had to start my so-called physical or material body to function again and I did so. I gave a cough and started in breathing once again. It was not long until I felt perfectly normal.
In Conclusion.
Being of a scientific turn of mind I decided to check up on my experience so as to satisfy myself that I was not suffering altogether from what might be called hallucinations during the time I was "dead." I proved that I did visit the places I was at, while my so-called material body was at the bottom of the lake, by checking up on everything I saw and heard. My swimming instructor, an MD from Univ. of Pennsylvania, said that I must have been dead because it was a physiological impossibility for me to live under such conditions. He said that my experience proved that "death" did not "end all" to those who know enough to live although he didn't even pretend to be able to explain what took place. He did say that "death" and "sleep" were evidently closely related, if not the same thing, and that I certainly had overcome both by being mentally developed along certain lines not generally understood. He also said that my experience proved that consciousness was not dependent on physical conditions. Altogether this experience was rather weird. Not being "bound" to a so-called physical or material body was a distinct advantage in many ways and a distinct disadvantage in many other ways. However, I never would have "come back" if it had not been for the fact that I wanted to spare my people the great sorrow my "death" would probably have caused them. What will I do next time? Will there be a next time? Who knows? As I see it now, the best thing to do is to prevent a recurrence of such an experience if possible. Certainly what was possible for me to do, others can do and more besides. Christian Science has opened up a field of unlimited possibilities that are little dreamed of even by serious-minded people and advanced thinkers.
In the final analysis it must be perfectly evident that, there is no death at all. And, it must also be perfectly evident that man could only "pass on in belief, in a dream" because the real man is altogether spiritual and he is actually the perfect expression or reflection of the infinite, immortal Spirit. And certainly there is no place for the infinite to go from or to. It is, as Mrs. Eddy says, "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all." (S&H. 468:l0-11)
Dear Mrs. ............
Yes, I must have unintentionally omitted that part of my experience about being free from the belief, claim, or suggestion of a location or place just before I started to "come back" so to speaks when I last had the pleasure of discussing my experience with you in person. At the time of my experience, this phase of it seemed so perfectly natural and normal that it did not impress me as certain other phases of it did. Nevertheless, as time has gone on and I have given more serious thought to my experience, this phase has come to mean more to me and to impress me more and more. Now to me that particular phase of my experiences being absolutely free from a so-called location or place with its attendant illusions of personal and material characteristics, is more truly representative of man's real condition than is the dream of living in the flesh and in a material world. But mankind seems to have accepted certain false beliefs, claims, or suggestions, which have driven mankind to certain evil or erroneous conclusions which are the basis for the whole dream of "the world, the flesh and the devil." Therefore, it still seems that we are condemned to "till the soil," or improve our sense of things, until nothing is found in consciousness that is evil or erroneous at all.
My experience proved to me conclusively that I was an "individual consciousness" or a "specific mentality" and nothing else. And as pure awareness I was without any personal or material characteristic at all. I didn't have any "ghost-body" or anything like that in any way comparable to the so-called mortal concept of me. I did not have any (matter-like) head, arms, legs, etc. My real body or consciousness was then, from the materialistic point of view "without form and void." Nevertheless, I was a definite entity and could see and hear perfectly (not smell, taste, or feel) at all locations or places, but could not make myself known. My ability to think was better and my emotions were stronger.
Now, while existing in the state of pure awareness, without any so-called physical or material body, I seemed to be absolutely all alone in the state or condition I was in then. I did not see or hears or in any way know of others who are supposed to have "passed one. This was disappointing to me and is something I do not fully understand. Perhaps if I had "passed on" further I might have come to some sort of recognition of them. I do not know nor am I at all certain that I might have done so. I say this because, I am sure that the state of pure awareness I was in then, could be maintained indefinitely by me. It was the most perfect, natural and normal condition I was ever in, and was devoid of all personal or material characteristics. Now, if recognition is dependent upon personal and materialistic factors or elements, then it is impossible to know those in a state of pure awareness. And it is impossible for those in that state to know others "after the flesh." Question -- Is it possible for those in a state of pure awareness to come to know others in the same state, except as they come to know themselves?
Dear Mrs. ...........
I was pleased to hear from you once again. As you have requested me to do, I have written up the experience I had with what is called "death" for you in the form of an article which I am enclosing for your kind consideration. And I will do my very best to answer your questions satisfactorily. If I do not make myself perfectly clear or if there are any other questions you would like to ask me, please do not hesitate to call on me again.
I only found myself free from evil suggestions and mortal or material limitations, when I demonstrated the fact that I was free from them. Yes, it was only because of my belief in human relationships and their attendant sympathies and responsibilities and love that I "came back" so to speak. I did it for those I loved and not for myself. As I see it the resurrection is simply the awakening to the divine or true facts of being. And to the extent that one does wake up, just to that extent is one delivered from the limitations of material sense. The divine demand is to always "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (Eph.5:14) The reason probably others did not see me when I was present without a so-called physical or material body was that they needed the illusion as evidence of my presence. Strictly speaking I didn't again assume a false sense of body but I did effect dominion and control over the illusion said to be my physical or material body for evident reasons. It was my freedom from a false sense of body that enabled me to do what I did. I suppose that the Master, Christ Jesus, had to make himself known to his friends because they wouldn't believe even the so-called physical or material evidence he presented of his presence, after he was supposed to have died. Yes, it is always possible to demonstrate the divine or true acts of being and so prove that one is really free from all the limitations of mortal or material sense. The action of others in getting the so-called body in shape to function again was helpful although I was the one that gave it life again, so to speak. It was not physically resuscitated at all. In regard to those who have "passed on" please see that last paragraph of my article. Remember, Christ said (Matt. 28:20) "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Indeed, much can be said about future conditions which I think should be kept for another time.
Mrs. Carrie H. Sandberg, C.S.
Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Boston. Mass. September 15 1933.
Dear Mrs. Sandberg,
I was pleased to hear from you this morning and to receive a copy of Mr. Peter V. Ross' new lecture for which I thank you very much. And, as you see, I am answering your letter at once and will send it to you by Air Mail so that you will be sure to get it before you leave there for New York City.
Your visit to Boston must have been full of many very happy experiences. I know you were glad to see Dr. Colby and his good wife, and Miss Coulson, and the others you visited. Of course, I am pleased too that you had the opportunity to talk with my teacher, Mr. Frank Bell, and to go into my experience with him somewhat.
Yes, I ran into the person mentioned by you the other day on the street and finally persuaded him to talk a little. Being ignorant and superstitious it was difficult to get him to say anything and he was very reluctant to talk to me at all. He said he saw me sitting in the seat and then where I was there was a sort of a light and a mist or cloud formed and then the seat was vacant and I had completely disappeared. He said he felt very queer about what had happened and kept turning around and watching the seat where I had been sitting. After the car had gone some few blocks he said he turned around to look again and saw a cloud or mist forming in the same seat and then a sort of a light and then I was back again sitting in the seat just like I had been doing. He said he thought he must be going crazy and was seeing things until one of the others on the car, who had seen what took place, mentioned it to him as he was getting off and this reassured him that he wasn't crazy. He said he spoke to one who was sitting near me and who got up and changed his seat some distance away, as he was getting off and that this man was too scared to speak or wouldn't say anything. He said another man, in getting off, said that it was certainly hot and that he thought the heat was getting him because he was seeing things. In a way I am sorry it happened and so shall be careful in the future.
Now what is called "death" is certainly an "enemy" of mankind and it must be mastered and overcome. However, before death can be actually destroyed it is necessary to effect longevity so that the individual may have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and the power from on high that makes this individual the master of death. In other words, it is necessary to extend or prolong human life until the individual is ready to "step out" himself and demonstrate a better sense of things. One should not be forced into anything but should always be able to take the initiative. It is well to take the "sting" out of death but not so that it can be more easily experienced by somebody. For a long time false theology has been teaching people how to die but the "sting" of death has always been the great stumbling block and has held people back. Shall we make it easier now for people to die by taking the "sting" out of death? God forbid that we should do so.
Further correspondence.
I wish to call your attention to another point which has appeared and been voiced, in the name of Christian Science. I am sure I will not be misunderstood when I say Life is the eternal mandate of Mind, just as our textbook declares. There is no provision of any kind for death, or what is called passing on, or any seeming death, any more than there is for disease and sin.
It is necessary for us to understand this. It would be a matter of regret if we should discover after a while that some thought of ours concerning this belief had in some way hampered somebody's demonstration over it.
The beliefs of false theology recur in human thought. They need to be recognized. The suggestion that there is anything good or normal or proper in the passing on of any person, is old theology, and is based upon utter misconception of God and man. It is unreligious, unscientific, un-Christian, and utterly untrue.
To say that someone has done good work and has gone to his reward is the utterance of magnetism, and should be so recognized, and totally denied, and if necessary, audibly denounced.
To say that someone has finished his work, and there is a reason for that person's passing, is a travesty of Christian Science.
The legitimate end of a finished career is not death, but ascension and there is no other legitimate outcome, and no other outcome is a complete demonstration of Christian Science.
This is a point I have felt impelled to touch upon, but I think it right to be kept entirely within your own thought, and that you should not speak of it outside but merely begin to understand and demonstrate more fully the Life which is eternal.
September 23, 1918
Mrs. Eddy's remarks to Dr. and Mrs. Frank L. Riley upon their visit to Mrs. Eddy in November 1897.
"Having lost our oldest son three years previous, and the subject of death was still a source of wonderment in our thought. [Mrs. Eddy related:]
Now in regards death! Supposing you are sitting in that chair and I am here conversing, (pointing to chairs opposite each other), and an archer should come to that window and put an arrow into your heart; you would experience a sudden shock or commotion within, nothing more.
You would try to continue our conversation, but I, believing the arrow had killed you, could no longer converse with you. So you would arise from your chair, leaving no body in the chair, and go amongst those you could converse with, while I would have to bury my belief of you which was still in the chair.
"This is word for word as Mrs. Eddy gave it to us and is wonderfully helpful, especially just now when our boys are fighting for the right and freedom from bondage of human will."
Mrs. Florence E. Riley, 1825 N. Bronson Ave., Hollywood, Calif.