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Knowing if you are dead or not

Posted on 21 April 2014, 9:59

There have been numerous messages and signs from the spirit world indicating that many spirits are slow in recognizing that they are “dead,” some floundering in an “earthbound” stupor for a long time, however time is measured in that realm. This phenomenon was popularized in the hit movie, The Sixth Sense, a decade or so ago, when the Bruce Willis character apparently didn’t know he had died. 

Emanuel Swedenborg, (below) the brilliant 18th Century scientist who learned to leave his body and explore the afterlife realms, may have been the first to mention this phenomenon.  He said that he had met newly departed souls in something of a stupor, unaware they were “dead.”  This seemed especially true of people who had “denied the Divine” when alive in the flesh.  When they finally came to realize that they had left the physical body behind and were existing in a different state, they were, he said, “acutely embarrassed.”


Now and then I have discussed this phenomenon with people who do not believe in an afterlife.  They usually scoff at the idea that one cannot know he or she is “dead.”  I then ask them if they know that they are “alive” when they are dreaming during a deep sleep.  A puzzled look usually results. 

According to a number of esoteric teachings arising out of spirit communication, the magnetic currents hold the spirit body close to the physical body during earthly life and continue to some degree after death depending on the degree of spiritual consciousness achieved by the individual while alive in the flesh. That is, the more spiritual consciousness the person develops, the quicker the magnetic currents are destroyed.  Conversely, the soul who has not developed much spiritual consciousness will be slow in breaking the magnetic bonds, thus lingering around his or her physical remains in the “earthbound” condition, indefinitely, not completely comprehending the fact that he/she is “dead.” 

Allan Kardec, a distinguished 19th Century French educator and psychical researcher, likened the “earthbound” condition to somnambulism, as in sleepwalking, when the somnambulist who is thrown into a magnetic sleep cannot believe that he is not awake. “Sleep, according to their idea of it, is synonymous with suspension of the perceptive faculties, and as they think freely, and see, they appear to themselves not to be asleep,” he further explained.

“The moral state of the soul is the condition which determines the ease, or the difficulty, with which the spirit disengages himself from his terrestrial envelope,” Kardec continued.  “The strength of the affinity between the body and perispirit (spirit body) is in the exact ratio of the spirit’s attachment to materiality; it is, consequently, at the maximum in the case of those whose thoughts and interests are concentrated on the earthly life and the enjoyment of material pleasures; it is almost null in the case of those whose soul has identified itself before with the spirit life.”

If I am interpreting various metaphysical teachings correctly, the “magnetic currents” should not be confused with the so-called silver cord, the connecting link between the physical body and the spirit body.  The silver cord will have been severed at the time of physical death, liberating the spirit body, but the magnetic currents can still keep the spirit body close to the physical body. Moreover, cremation does not undo the gravitational pull of a materialistic life, but it at least mitigates the pull.

“Mind interprets our sensed world and environment using reason, the cumulative result of real experiences of the material four-dimensional world placed within a specific mental framework or worldview,” offers James E. Beichler, Ph.D., (below) a retired physics professor, in his book, To Die For.


As Beichler sees it, when consciousness is less evolved and the mind is more focused on the material/physical world of common four-dimensional space-time alone, those making the transition from this life to the afterlife in the non-material but still physical five-dimensional space-time may be faced with a very big gap, thus not recognizing that they are dead.  If the person had achieved a higher level of consciousness while occupying the material/physical body, “then the mind would already have memories of five-dimensional experience and would then merge with less difficulty into its new state of being,” he explains, adding that this mind can remain stuck in its four-dimensional material reality without any real material existence because it does not have any reference points in the higher-dimensional non-material world. 

In other words, the mind separates itself from the material/physical organ (the brain) and then attempts to orientate itself based upon the consciousness (both spiritual and knowledgeable about the world) that it has achieved during the time it occupied a material/physical shell. If the consciousness is more highly developed, through both spiritual awakening and through learning more about the true reality of existence, the mind quickly awakens to its new and true reality. But if that consciousness is not well developed – if it is still grounded in the material world – this “handicapped” mind does not quickly “awaken” and may not realize that the physical body has been shed. 

“The mind/consciousness complex [that survives bodily or material death] retains its identity (the personality still remains) after a manner in the fifth dimension, in so far as self-identity is not a material but still a physical quantity or quality,” Beichler further explains.  “However, the extent to which the complex is ‘conscious’ or mindful of its own existence, its being, would depend upon the extent to which it was ‘conscious’ or aware of its five-dimensional connections before the death of the four-dimensional [material] body and what is perceived by the mind as ‘self’ while the body still lived and functioned.”

Indications are that there are many degrees of awakening and consciousness in the spirit world and that many souls go back and forth over the threshold of awareness, just as most of us do in watching a good movie.  We get so wrapped up in the emotion being experienced by the actors that we forget temporarily that it’s not real.  We might even leave the movie theatre still feeling the emotion, though for the most part back in the real world.  In effect, our consciousness in partly in this world and partly in the unreal one we watched on the movie screen.  I recall being so wrapped up in the “24” weekly television series a few years ago that, while on a trip, I made sure I got back to my hotel in time to see what happened to Jack Bauer, the star of the series.  I kept telling myself that it’s not real and I shouldn’t care or go out of my way to see that segment, but the unreal was still somewhat real to me in spite of my reasoning mind.

We live in a paradoxical world, the biggest paradox being that the unreal has become the real and the real the unreal.  Consider, for example, that movie actors – people merely pretending to be real people – are celebrated as gods of some kind simply because they are good at pretending, an otherwise negative characteristic, while the real people they pretend to be go unrecognized.  Consider also that athletes – play warriors – are much more admired and celebrated than real warriors.  A gold medal in the Olympics is valued much more highly than a Medal of Honor earned on the battlefield.  A player falling on a fumbled football in the Super Bowl will be remembered much longer than a combat soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect others.  Ironically, even the real warriors seem unaware of the paradox, as men in uniform are often seen lined up at athletic events waiting for the autographs of play warriors.  The real warriors are paying homage to the play warriors. How crazy is all that?

Just as this conflict between mind and consciousness can take place in the physical world, it can continue in the spiritual world as we struggle with the material universe’s magnetism.  I suspect that the majority of spirits in this in-between state, are fluctuating back and forth over that threshold of awareness, “earthbound” at times and free from the “earthbound” condition at other times.  However, those who were totally self-centered and materialistic in the earth life might be in a bad dream or nightmare for a time, with little or no fluctuation. 
Beichler’s model explains many of the characteristics and properties of the near-death experience. For example, noting that not all experiencers undergo a past-life review, he concludes that those who have a highly-developed consciousness – one that has kept pace with the development of the mind – may not need a life review as they probably reviewed their lives when alive in the flesh.  At the other extreme, there are those not advanced enough in their conscious evolution to appreciate a life review, and still others who may not accept a life review because they deny their death and sense nothing at all.  “In other words, people’s minds seize upon the most familiar surroundings when they enter the new environment of the five-dimensional universe,” Beichler writes,  “but can still reject the experience completely depending upon their mind set and mental priorities at the time of death.”

The bottom line here seems to be that the more you come to understand about the spirit world and spiritual matters in this life, the better off you will be when you first enter that life.  If nothing else, you will understand that you are no longer in the physical world.       

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014


I am with Annie. Let’s deal with what really happens…and the theories can come later…when we are in a better position to understand the explanations.

Tricia, Wed 7 May, 10:25

Mike’s article sparked our interest, especially in light of our experiences in a rescue circle. We come across the situation all the time. Some ‘lost souls’ are unaware they are dead. Others suspect something, but do not know what to do about it. Perhaps we look at these people in a slightly different light, more practical than theoretical. Our ‘job’ is simply to assist in a rescue. We are not required to explain to the ‘in-betweeners’ why they are where they are or enter into any kind of reasoned debate. We just provide a link between ‘here’ and ‘there’, to enable our spirit guides to conduct the ‘lost souls’ on their journey.

Annie, Tue 6 May, 13:17

Bob’s last paragraph says it all. Preparation for and the knowledge of a future existence is what we should all be aiming for. My motto these days seems to be ‘I am all about the evidence’ and I am satisfied that the evidence shows very clearly that another existence is indeed there for us and that what we do here matters.

tricia, Fri 25 Apr, 10:14

A section of Mr. Tymn’s blog introduces the intriguing concept of “magnetic currents” that envelope both the physical and spiritual body while a person is alive on Earth.  Based on the divine teachings that were transmitted through deep-trance medium Beatrice Brunner by two spirit teachers, Joseph and Lene, I would like to confirm Mr. Tymn’s interpretation and also add to our understanding of this concept of “magnetic currents” and their relationship to the spirit’s transition to the afterlife.

  In order to understand these “magnetic currents,” we have to understand od.  Od is one of the most wonderful things in God’s Creation.  This odic or etheric force is found in every living thing; where there is life, there is od.  It is not a material but a spiritual substance, one that is always associated with spirit.  Therefore, our spirit body is the carrier of od, and during our lives the odic energy of our spirit body is transferred to our physical body via the silver cord.
  Angel-Sister Lene adds this: “Without the spiritual etheric energy that covers and surrounds everything, it would be impossible for you to live.  This energy can vary greatly, however, even between people.  One person can be enclosed in very coarse etheric matter; another in less coarse matter; and yet another in very fine matter.”

  Now we come to the point in Mr. Tymn’s blog where we can see a connection between what Lene calls “fine” or “coarse matter” and the strength of the “magnetic bonds.”  According to these teachings, the odic energy or vibrations surrounding us can be either fine or coarse and dense, depending on our overall personality, our extent of spiritual knowledge and our acceptance of the afterlife.

  This odic body is also closely linked to our soul.  Here’s Lene again: “For its part, the soul draws upon the energy of the etheric body.  The latter, in its turn, is dependent upon the divine spark, the spark of life, the soul of the person concerned.  They are interconnected in the closest possible way.”

  Therefore, it is of no surprise that, as Mr. Tymn rightly said, “...the more spiritual consciousness the person develops, the quicker the magnetic currents are destroyed.”  In other words, the finer or higher the quality of odic vibrations around a person, the easier it will be for that person to make the transition into the afterlife.

  On the other hand, the heavier or denser the odic vibrations, the harder it will be for the spirit to make the change.  Mr. Tymn supported this conclusion by stating: “Conversely, the soul who has not developed much spiritual consciousness, will be slow in breaking the magnetic bonds, thus lingering around his or her physical remains in the ‘earthbound’ condition.”
Lene even mentioned the story of a spirit who was so earthbound in his thinking that he appeared in the afterlife clutching the odic equivalent of the key to his cashbox!

  Lene continues with this piece of spiritual reality: “People, we can say, ‘wear’ their spiritual development - they carry it with them at all times.  This fact enables the divine messenger spirits - let me make this very clear: messenger spirits from God - to assess people’s development whenever they come before them.” [Yikes!]

  In summary, these magnetic currents or bonds can be considered as odic vibrations which are absorbed by the spirit body from the physical body upon death.
  The denser the odic vibrations that are absorbed into the spirit body upon physical death, the tighter these magnetic bonds.  These bonds are loosened only when the spirit changes his attitude, accepts life after death and is, therefore, open to spiritual guidance.

  Based on Spirit Teacher Joseph’s quotation below, I can only conclude that the opposite is true: the finer the odic vibrations surrounding the spirit body, the looser the magnetic bonds of od.  The looser the bonds, the easier it is for the spirit to remove them and then continue his ascent.  In this case, the spirit, while on Earth, accepted life after death, increased his spiritual knowledge and adopted a way of life that was pleasing to God, thereby resulting in a finer odic energy around him.

  To end my comments, I’ll leave you with that quotation of Joseph’s which appeared in The Spiritual World Journal of 1969, p. 273.  Advice we should all consider.  We have work to do.

  “It is far better for souls to re-enter the heavenly realm with some spiritual understanding, for then they can be guided more easily.  Their surroundings will not seem strange to them, and they will approach the angelic beings with confidence.  They will not experience the same degree of shock as those who had no belief or interest in life after death.  A virtuous soul will rejoice at the sight of relatives and friends who have gathered to greet him.  If he arrives with a certain amount of spiritual knowledge, many things will seem familiar to him and he will be able to communicate freely with the angels.  Knowledge previously gained can only be to his advantage.”

Bob Landro, Thu 24 Apr, 21:51


When we dream we sometimes have no concept of time and we often feel confused because the dream isn’t like our normal waking experience. I can imagine someone not understanding they are dead and thinking what is happening to them is just a dream.

Jon, Wed 23 Apr, 10:31

A friend of a friend recently told me about her elderly mother’s last days in the flesh.  The lady woke up one morning a few days before she died, looked around with surprise, and said, “Well, I’m still here.  I thought I was going to wake up dead!”  The daughter thought the idea of “waking up dead” was hilarious, but it didn’t sound particularly strange to me!

Elene Gusch, Tue 22 Apr, 21:00

I have always been baffled by the concept that people cannot know that they are dead.  Assuming they are fully conscious, how do they explain that they no longer eat, drink, and have bowel movements?  It would seem that not having a BM in a week or so and seeing your hand go through walls and people would be a wake up call of some sort. But considering Einstein’s comment about the infinite abundance of human stupidity, then that might explain it.

Bob, Tue 22 Apr, 19:00

My colleague Archie Roy gave me information through a medium, who knew nothing about his circumstances, in which he said that during the latter part of his life, when a memory loss condition took hold he was in and out of the next ‘place’ during that time. That made sense to me as he knew immediately where he was as he had acclimatised himself to it during that time.

Tricia, Tue 22 Apr, 17:38

I have commented in my books that dreaming is like an OBE state in that we travel through time and space without restriction - sometimes randomly but sometimes wilfully. When first we wake we just assume we are still alive but it takes a few moments to become fully conscious and aware of our surroundings. I can imagine that becoming mortally dead is a somewhat similar experience.

Dr Howard A. Jones, Mon 21 Apr, 11:10

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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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