In her 1917 book, How I Know that the Dead Are Alive, Fanny Ruthven Paget offers one of the most vivid and detailed near-death experiences ever recorded. While not clearly stating her illness, one might infer that Paget, a resident of Houston, Texas, suffered from severe pneumonia for several days during 1911.
“All about and above me I could see nothing, but fancy my astonishment if you can, when looking down, I saw my body resting peacefully on the bed, representing what is commonly called a ‘dead person’,” Paget recalled. “I could not move my eyes from it; it fascinated me as it lay in the cold whiteness, robed in a gown of lavender silk, with dainty laces and ruffles…The deep blue ‘windows of the soul,’ the eyes, were at half mast; the soul being absent the light was gone; the lips slightly parted wore just a suggestion of a smile; the left hand rested lightly on the breast – the engagement ring scintillating as brightly as ever; the right, which no doubt had been lifted unconsciously at the shock of impact, had fallen a little apart from the body and lay, palm upturned. How peaceful it looked!
“Thus every detail of the clay image fastened itself upon my consideration as I viewed it dispassionately, realizing that it was a cast-off garment for which I had no further use. However, I felt a protective kindliness toward it; it had been a faithful servant, executing my every wish and whim and now that I had passed beyond the range of its services, it pleased my fancy to robe it in the white, pearl-be-decked dress, the wearing of which had meant so much to me in quite a different way.”
Paget then concerned herself with her fiancé in another town and found herself being propelled by a vibratory sensation to his sleeping body. “As I looked upon him I saw the shadow body more distinctly than the physical. Viewed from the other side of life, the ‘shadow’ body seemed the original and the physical the duplicate, the soul the real, the body the unreal. Within and interpenetrating all was a light, which I had not before perceived as being a part of the spiritual anatomy. This light penetrated from within, both the shadow and physical bodies, maintaining through and about the body an aura or illumination which enveloped it; clothing it, as it were, in a magnetized illumination. How wonderful this three-in-one life-manifestation seemed, especially when we generally recognize only the one – the physical!”
Talking to the Living
Moving closer to her fiancé, Paget attempted to converse with him, but he slept on, even though his soul, which was not sleeping, responded joyously and tried to help her penetrate his physical consciousness as he moaned and turned restlessly in his sleep. After a few moments, he cried out, “Fanny, Fanny,” and sat up in bed, wide awake. As he turned on a light and reached for his glasses and a magazine, she tried to communicate, but he did not react to her words. “I am dead, that is why he cannot hear and see me,” she thought, further recalling that she felt more alive than she had ever felt. “There was something pitiably painful about being so near one beloved, seeing him plainly and hearing him distinctly, even knowing that he was thinking of me, and yet having him utterly ignore my presence, and above all knowing that he would never recognize me again – never hear my voice no matter how ardently I called, while I was the same in every way minus the physical body.”
Then she perceived that her vibratory environment did not harmonize with his. “Mine was the vibration of perpetual motion – his more like a ‘dead sea’ into which these vibratory currents ebbed and flowed, and it seemed such an easy matter to move out of the ‘deadness’ into the ‘ebb and flow’ that I waited and watched a long time before I realized that he would make no effort to do so.”
Realizing that she would not be able to penetrate his physical consciousness, she bade him farewell and attempted to move on; however, the vibratory force seemed to restrain her. “Persistently the force held me, as though inviting me to further considerations of earth interests, but I had none. My material possessions were disposed of as I desired; there was no life-work I was leaving incomplete; I had no children, no one depending on me; nothing held me to the earth. My desire had been to go beyond it and now that I had done so, I was well pleased and wanted to go on to the joys I felt awaited me beyond the influence of earth. Yet the force held me, try as I would to pass beyond it, until, instead of struggling against it I tried to understand it – to wrest from it its reason for thus detaining me, feeling that there must be some reason for such marked persistence. Almost instantly the lesson sank into my consciousness and I realized that the long arm of mundane interests can reach into the Beyond and hold its victims within the shadow of earth – pitting its magnetism against the promise of higher things.”
She then felt herself moving in an undulating way within the propelling vibration and was suddenly enveloped in oppressive heavy darkness, feeling alone in eternity and waiting in awesome uncertainty. She perceived that the darkness was really within her and could be eliminated only from within. “There were loved ones and many others welcoming me and rejoicing that I was with them.” Her spirit guide, who identified himself as Meon, was also there. She now felt light and carefree.
Meon then told her to follow him, “and with a soft, bluish light playing about and enveloping us, we floated out on the undulating waves of space.” As they were propelled by vibratory waves, they encountered a “red darkness” where she found herself among many others. “I was listening, trying to hear what they were saying but the vibrations were evidently not in harmony, so I could not hear distinctly, and after a long time of vain effort I turned to Meon, and asked ‘What place is this?’” Meon explained that they were in a place still very much within earth’s magnetism, or spiritual gravitation. Paget asked why the souls were detained there and Meon informed her that some desire it while others were not yet strong enough to progress beyond that point. “Earth interests hold them,” he explained.
“There was no bar to their going on but they did not want to; some did not know they could not give up the earth life,” Paget related. “In this dark earth-magnetized region disembodied spirits lived the mundane existence much as the psychic lives the spiritual while yet in the mundane – one in progression, the other retrogression. Disembodied spirits living the mundane life do so at the expense of human beings in the earth life, while the mundane person living the spiritual life is obeying the law of evolution and progression.”
Paget observed spirits of love and mercy attempting to help those souls stuck in this “hellish” realm, but most of them had not yet acquired “spiritual hearing” and did not respond to the offers of assistance. There were some, however, who heard and struggled up from the vortex. Meon informed her that no soul was irretrievably lost, no matter how many aeons it may remain in the darkness.
Paget began to wonder if this was to be her new abode, but Meon assured her that it was not. “Did not the Christ descend into this place before his ascension?” he addressed her concern.
“Far out beyond the red-fringed darkness I could see light, in which rainbows seemed to play, pale as the dawn, of a gray-weird loveliness, coming and going as though flirting with the darkness, for to embrace it would be to destroy,” she continue on. “For delicate beauty it seemed I had never seen anything more fascinating or alluring than this kiss of the dawn and the darkness in the Soul world – it was like kissing death goodbye.”
The Dawn World
They passed into what seemed to be another world. Paget called it the “Dawn World,” since it seemed that the light began to neutralize the darkness. “There were houses, flowers, trees, everything was so life-like it amazed me. I almost fancied I had returned to earth.” The inhabitants conversed with her, but they did not seem to realize that they were in the “after life,” as they were not entirely free of earth’s magnetism. Paget witnessed some of them going earthward, as though drawn by something of paramount importance. “While there seemed no doubt that these people once inhabited the earth, I saw no one I had ever known in this life. They had possibly progressed there out of the darkness and would go back to help those less fortunate into the higher condition which they had attained.”
Meon and Paget vibrated onward in ever increasing light. “So enchanting was this riding on vibratory waves of space in a gentle undulatory way, that I felt like going on forever, and forever, never tiring, never stopping, but after abandoning myself to the witchery of it for some time, I perceived the vibrations changing, merging into a quivering sensation, even more exquisite, and then, as if part of it, my feet came upon something different, something firm and reliable.”
She now found herself in a city of light, one of whiteness, boundless in expanse. “It seemed I had reached the limit of my ability to float in space. It seemed that I was heavier than my surroundings in some way. Everywhere were the most exalted souls I had yet seen. Some came forward and greeted us, addressing Meon as though he were one of them, and then, together, we entered into a building immeasurable in space and height, the veritable soul of architectural magnificence. The material had the transparency of glass of a variegated whiteness, into which colors, harmonizing in the most delicate way, were coming and going, ever changing. Electricity seemed to be the power which held it all together, as the electric blue would merge into violet and play incessantly, in a serpentine way, into which almost imperceptible yellowish streams seemed to flow. It was self-illuminated…It seemed that all the wisdom of all the ages was mine as I stood there. Life and death gave up their mysteries, and I no longer wondered but observed as one who understood. The machinery of earth existence was operated and regulated by and through the power of this plane. It was actually in contact with the earth. No happening on earth escaped the observation of the great spirits who seemed to have nothing else to do but watch over the beings of earth, to teach them, to lift them up through darkness, watch over reincarnations, create teachers and place them where they were most needed. With these teachers they were in direct communication at all times and knew exactly what was going on through some form of wireless telegraphy or telephony, perhaps, but they communicated as though there were no distance.
“They seemed to draw the highly evolved souls of earth up to them mentally, and these cooperated consciously, responding unerringly. It was marvelous to watch the process or rather processes, as there were many phases of this supervision. There were coming and going all the time. I saw many go out and disappear into the depths, all rejoicing in their work, the uplifting of humanity. The souls were countless, the space immeasurable, yet there was no confusion – it was system idealized, each recognizing his mission and doing it. Truly, it was the Christ principle manifested, for they were laboring for others, not themselves.”
Meon took Paget even higher, where the influence of earth was not felt. A great soul came forward and asked her if she would like to return to earth. She said she would like to return only if she could do good by telling others what she had experienced. The being warned her that many would not believe her and that she might suffer from her efforts, but Paget said she was up for the challenge.
A Life Review
Paget then felt alone with bowed head. She then saw a little light vibrating directly before her. It began shaping itself into something. “It was not unlike a moving picture.” She began to see figures and a small girl emerged. She soon realized that the young girl was herself and she was reliving her life on earth. She saw herself reveling in her grand passion, music, which held her in bondage as she grew in the joy and mastery of it. “How the little, white fingers, too small to span an octave, subconsciously caught fragments from the ‘choir invisible’ and imprisoned them on the piano!
She saw herself grow through college and into a proud, self-centered woman. There appeared before her three roads, one labeled “Good,” one “Evil,” and the other, the center, was unlabeled. She found herself on the center road, which had many more people than either of the side roads. “These roads were guarded by invisible creatures, according to the indicated propensities of each, who were always calling to those who traveled in the center, in an endeavor to influence them to more determined tendencies. Ever and anon there were paths leading from the center to the outer roads and from one outer road to the other, showing how easily one can change ones course at will.”
Paget then saw the young woman dreaming of becoming a great singer, the compensation being the homage of the world. “I saw her holding to heart in enchanted fancy, as the only thing worth while, the emptiest of all life’s coveted cups – Fame.” There was no one to remind her that ‘by ambition fell the angels.”
The “movie” of her life continued on to the time she came down with a severe case of laryngitis and lost her singing voice. She saw herself cursing God and being enveloped by a shadow-stained covering of materialism. She saw both her parents pass into the spirit world, leaving her alone, fighting the bitter fight. She saw even the most trivial matters in her life review. “Its faithfulness to detail was perfectly marvelous. Nothing was hidden, nothing slurred over. It was all there. I was standing face to face with my earth life just as I had lived it, awaiting its condemnation or justification.”
When the life review ended, Meon stood waiting. He told her that the purpose of the review was to build an edifice on the ashes as she returned to earth life.
‘Meon and other spirits were hovering about me. I could feel the electrified essence, which had manifested its presence everywhere during my voyage, drawing itself away – letting me go, as it were. Then the burden of physical life was full upon me and what a misfit I was!”