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Does Pain Accompany Violent Death?

Posted on 25 June 2012, 13:07

Does a person who suffers a sudden, violent death experience pain?  A number of messages from the spirit world suggest that there is no pain, although there are indications that the spiritually-challenged person, i.e., the person who still thinks of himself as only his physical body, can “sense” the pain through his spirit body because he does not realize that he is “dead.”   

What may have convinced renowned author Victor Hugo of the reality of spirits was a mediumistic communication on December 9, 1853 from André Chénier (below), a French poet, who was executed at the guillotine on July 25, 1794.  By means of table raps or taps, Chénier tapped out the remainder of the poem he had been working on just before his execution.  It was in the same style as his work when living.  While there is apparently an opposing view holding that it was more in Victor Hugo’s style, it was recorded that Victor Hugo was not present at that particular séance.  Chénier also communicated new poems in his old style. 


Chénier told of his last moments on earth, seeing the slop basket swaying beneath his head, half-filled with blood from those executed before him, and, suddenly, hearing the creaking sound above his head.  After the sensation that his head was falling into the slop basket, he found himself far above his headless body, his soul body being enveloped in a diaphanous sheath.  He then felt the presence of his mother and mistress.  He observed a luminous line separating his head from his body.  “Death appears to me simultaneously on the earth and in the sky; while my body, transfigured by the tomb, plunges deep into the beatitudes of eternity,” he communicated.  “I see, at an immense distance below me, my other body which the executioner is throwing to the worms, my head rolling in the gutter, my wound gushing blood, my guillotine blade being washed, my scalp hanging at the end of a stick, and my name being execrated by the crowd. (For more about Victor Hugo’s experiences, see my latest book, The Afterlife Explorers, and John Chambers’ excellent book, Conversations With Eternity.)

Although Chénier does not clearly address the pain issue, one might infer that he felt no physical pain.  Pioneering French psychical researcher Allan Kardec asked a communicating spirit if one retains consciousness after decapitation.  “He frequently does so for a few minutes, until the organic life of the body is completely extinct,” was the response, “but, on the other hand, the fear of death often causes a man to lose consciousness before the moment of execution.”  Based on other communications, Kardec explained that “in all cases in which death has resulted from violence, and not from a gradual extinction of the vital forces, the bonds which unite the body to the perispirit are more tenacious, and the separation is effected more slowly.”  Kardec and others have said that the more spiritually evolved the person, the quicker the separation.   

In communicating through South African trance medium Nina Merrington, Mike Swain, who died in an auto accident, told his father Jasper Swain, a Pietermaritzburg, South Africa lawyer, that he left his body an instant before the cars actually impacted.  Heather, his fiancée’s young sister, was also killed in the accident.  As set forth in the 1974 book, On the Death of My Son, by Jasper Swain, Mike told of being blinded by the glare of the sun reflecting off the windscreen of the oncoming car.  “All of a sudden, the radiance changes from silver to gold.  I am being lifted up in the air, out through the top of the car.  I grab little Heather’s hand.  She too is being lifted up out of the car.” 

When they were about 30 feet above the car, they witnessed the collision below them and Mike heard a noise like the snapping of steel banjo strings.  He said that they had suffered no pain. 

There have been a number of other communications suggesting that the individual leaves the physical body before violent death is experienced and thus does not experience any pain.  In her intriguing 2011 book, The Survival of the Soul, Lisa Williams, a popular medium of the present day, offers the words of her spirit guide, Ben, on the subject. Ben told her that when a person is about to die under violent circumstances, his or her spirit team knows about it in advance, although they don’t know the exact moment.  Thus, they have to be ready to “catch the soul when it pops out of the body, before any trauma or shock can hit the body, which is why so many on this side say they did not feel anything at the moment of a fatal accident.”  Ben further explained that the soul will remove itself to protect itself from pain.

Williams tells of a reading in which a person named Chris came through to communicate with his mother. Chris had died in a bike (motorcycle?) accident.  He told his mother that after his body was ejected from the bike and was heading toward a rock wall, he was bracing himself for the impact when he was “tugged out” of his body.  He then watched what happened to his body from above.

In her 1973 book, Peter’s Gate, medium Jane Sherwood relates the communication by a man who had died in a motorcycle accident. “The grey road rose swiftly to meet me and a shattering blow put me out,” the man, who had adopted a nihilistic view of life when alive, said. “Immeasurable time seemed to pass before I came to myself without the accompaniment of pain.  Then I opened my eyes with a shock of surprise because somewhere in my mind was the conviction that I could neither move nor see, but the nightmare had lifted and I opened unbandaged eyes.  I raised a hand to feel my head and was reassured.  The last half-hour terminating in the crash had retreated into a misty past and I saw and contemplated the small distant views of roadsides reeling past, grey skies and spring blur of hedgerows. There had been an accident in which I had been knocked out.  I ought then to be in bed somewhere, perhaps in a hospital.”

At first glance, the above case seems to conflict with the communications suggesting that that a spiritually-challenged person might “sense” the pain, until we remind ourselves that a nihilistic view does not necessarily mean that the person lacked spiritual qualities.  He could have been a morally righteous person who simply didn’t believe.  As William James put it, “If religion be a function by which either God’s cause of man’s cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much.  Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life with its dynamic currents passing through your being is another.”     

In a 1922 book, Our Joe, author Charles S. Mundell tells of communications from his brother Joe (photo below), who was killed during a hunting accident in California.  Joe communicated that he set his rifle down against his leg as he rolled a cigarette.  As he reached for a match, he knocked the rifle over and he remembered nothing else until he awoke in his deceased grandmother’s arms. He recalled no pain.


In his soon-to-be released book, Tell My Mother I’m Not Dead: A Case Study in Mediumship Research, Trevor Hamilton, the biographer of pioneering psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers (Immortal Longings), tells of communications coming from his son, Ralph, after he was killed in an auto accident during 2002.  In one sitting the medium related: “No pain.  The body felt pain but he had left it. He was jammy.”  Not familiar with the word, ‘jammy,” I asked Hamilton for a translation.  He explained to me that it is English slang meaning “lucky” and that it was the kind of word that Ralph would use with his mates.  But Hamilton recognizes that there is nothing evidential in such statements and that they lend themselves to “a rather rosy sense of wish-fulfillment.”  On the other hand, Hamilton gives weight to the consistency in a large number of post-mortem communications, referring to cases cited by Dr. Robert Crookall in his 1961 book, The Supreme Adventure.

In addition to after-death communications, Crookall cites cases of people in the jaws of death who survived and told about it.  He quotes David Livingstone, who was attacked by a lion:  “He shook me as a terrier does a rat.  It caused a sort of dreaminess in which there was no sense of pain or feeling of terror, though I was conscious of all that happened.”  The pain began later. 

Crookall theorized that the violent shaking caused an exteriorization of the “soul body” and therefore a loss of physical sensation.

Crookall further mentions a case which sounds very much like the Mike Swain experience mentioned above, except that the person survived.  One R. H. Ward is quoted: “A car in which I was a passenger seemed to be on the point of…a head-on collision…I felt myself to be actually shocked out of my body.  I had the strange impression that one aspect of myself was several yards distant from the cars, and watching, quite calmly and objectively all that was happening to the bodily aspect of myself, which was still sitting in one of the cars…It mattered not at all to my separate and usually conscious self that my body was likely…to be smashed to pieces; death was quite unimportant, and evidently something which might happen to a quite unimportant part of my total nature.”

A doctor who survived a plane crash reported:  “The moment it became obvious that a crash was inevitable…one lost all apprehension.”  The doctor recalled a “pleasant awareness” while looking down at his body some 200 feet below.

Mountain climber A. C. Benson told of falling into a crevasse when climbing in the Alps.  “My first feeling was amusement,” he said.  “I hung over an immense depth…They tried to haul me up, but could not.  I was certain of death.  I hung like this for twenty minutes and all that time I had no single thought of fear.  I was being slowly strangled by the rope.”

Benson went on to say that he actually felt disappointed upon being rescued.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After we Die, Transcending the Titanic, and The Afterlife Explorers Volume 1., published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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Thanks for this post. My son went missing while scuba diving in the ocean. His body was not recovered.I have wondered if and how much he suffered. Perhapss he, too, slipped from his body, into a fresh breath of air.

Maria Laing, Thu 28 Jun, 02:43

Informative as ever, Mike - and very reassuring for thos whose terminal illness or final moments on Earth are filled with pain.

Howard Jones, Mon 25 Jun, 15:55

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