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Departing Visions: An Interview with Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon

Posted on 23 September 2014, 10:30

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Carla Wills-Brandon (below) for the September issue of The Searchlight, a publication of The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies (  Here is an abridged version of that interview.


A licensed marriage and family therapist, Carla Wills-Brandon is the author of twelve published books discussing topics ranging from relationships, healthy intimacy, sexual healing, self esteem, sexual trauma, addiction and recovery to grief, death, afterlife research and spirituality.  Her latest book, Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope from the Afterlife, discusses heavenly visions the dying often encounter before physical death occurs.  These comforting encounters strongly suggest the personality, soul, or consciousness continues after death.

Wills-Brandon has worked with individuals impacted by the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, the bombing of the World Trade Center, Holocaust survivors, and veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  She has researched nearly 2,000 after-death encounters over the past 30 years.  I recently put some questions to her by e-mail.

How did you become interested in the subject of deathbed or departing visions?

“I’ve had contact with the Spirit World most of my life, and this began with a deathbed or departing vision when I was just 15. My mother, smart, funny and a Marilyn Monroe look alike, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer at age 33. The illness then traveled to her liver and pancreas. I was at a ‘Sly and the Family Stone’ concert, when I suddenly felt really sick. I found an ambulance on the concert grounds, crawled in and promptly fell asleep. When I returned home I discovered my mother had been taken away by ambulance at the exact time I’d crawled into one. This empathetic experience was quickly shoved away because I had no one to talk about it with. Several weeks later, my mother made her transition. I woke up at the exact moment of her physical death and knew she had moved on. A phone call from the hospital minutes later validated this, but again, there was no one who would listen to me. Decades later I would learn four other family and friends also awoke at the exact moment of her crossing. As a practicing clinician in the field of psychology I tried to talk to several of my peers about this, but was brushed off again. There were numerous other Spirit World contacts after that, but I quickly learned not to talk. One year while in London presenting a paper, the IRA threatened to bomb the tube line I was on, so everyone was evacuated. Once above ground, I spotted a musty old used bookstore where I found an old book by Sir William Barrett on deathbed visions. Thrilled, I sat on the floor and read the whole work cover to cover. I wasn’t nuts!”

Of all the departing visions you have heard about, does any one or two really stand out above the others?

“I have witnessed and heard so many departing visions accounts. It really is hard to choose. That said, one of my very favorites comes from Robin Abrams. I have her full account in my first of three books on this topic, One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed Visions. Briefly, Robin comes from a family of three siblings and is was close to her parents. Her father became ill and it was decided he needed more help than the family could offer. It’s important to know that he still had his intellect and sensibilities. While he was in a nursing home, Robin’s brother was murdered. This was a tragic event, but the family decided to not tell the father about this. They also instructed the staff at the facility to not let him watch television, listen to radio or look at a newspaper. One day Robin and her remaining sibling went to visit the ailing man. He said, ‘I think it’s so wonderful that all of my children are here. But wait, (the murdered brother) isn’t here. He’s over there!’ The father knew his son was in the Spirit World.

“Another great account comes from a Greek woman. Her mother was transitioning and close to making the move to the next life. Suddenly she started talking about all of the Greek relatives who had come to visit and demanded her daughter begin to put a party together. Though other living family members were in the room, the daughter realized her mother was talking in Greek to physically deceased family! Interestingly, I’ve found those preparing to move on, who do report visitors from the Spirit World will speak the language of their youth, be it English, Spanish, French, German, Polish or Hebrew or Swahili!”

Outside of yourself, Drs. Erlendur Haraldsson and Peter Fenwick, I can’t think of any other living researcher studying departing visions. Do you know of any?  Do you feel the area is neglected or is it too difficult to find people who have had these experiences?

“When I first started investigating departing visions 30 years ago, the only decent research I could find was that of Sir William Barrett in the early 1900s, followed by Drs. Karl Osis, Erlunder Haraldsson and Peter Fenwick. Thank goodness for their ground- breaking work! These were the shoulders I stood upon. Individuals looking at after-death communications or near-death experiences continue to try incorporating these visions into their own research by describing the experience as an extension of their area of interest, but the experience is different. After the publication of my first couple books on departing visions I was flooded with accounts from around the world, including China, Israel, Holland, Italy, South Africa, Germany, and Russia. To say I was amazed and a bit humbled is an understatement. In most cases I was the first person these experiencers had ever shared their accounts with. After this I tried to find investigators, hospitals or mental healthcare organization interested in partnering up with me on research. Sadly, I came up empty. So here I was, sitting with all of these amazing accounts with nowhere to go. Those years were incredibly frustrating. More than a decade later interest has exploded. In my most recent book, Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support and Hope from the Afterlife, I actually discuss the research of investigators in England, Ireland, Holland and Italy. Along with this I also include data being collected by a veterans administration in California.  Hospice now openly discusses such experiences with those transitioning and their families. Departing vision accounts have also been picked up by major newspapers. In spite of this, more work is needed to get the message out.”

A number of people have reported “soul mist” or some cloudy or vapory substance leaving the body at death.  Have you encountered many of these reports?  If so, can you give a general summary of these observations?

“I love this topic and feel it really needs more public attention. People from every walk of life, living around this magnificent globe of ours, have witnessed the pure essence of consciousness leaving the body as physical death draws near. Unfortunately, few experiencers will talk openly about this. It’s become more acceptable to be at a party with friends or family and openly share about afterlife contact or near-death experiences, but the departing vision still appears to be the stepchild left on the bench. When it comes to announcing, ‘I saw my father’s spirit leave his body and it looked like a glowing mist!’ the eyeballs continue to roll while concern for sanity is politely voiced. The Ancients described such accounts in historical literature, and even my one time, ‘You just die and become worm food,’ scientifically-minded clinical psychologist husband witnessed a pastel colored mist leaving his own father’s dying body. Since I was a child I’ve had spirit contact and in my second book on this topic, A Glimpse of Heaven: The Remarkable World of Transformative Experiences, I share my experience with spirit mist. For me, such encounters are chalked full of intense love. It’s an indescribable feeling. A surgery team out of Sweden composed of a number of hard core atheists witnessed a brilliant bluish white mist come out of their dying patient’s body and then float away. In a newspaper report several stated they’d had no belief in an afterlife or spiritual matters, but added this had turned their lives upside down. Witnessing this incredible Spirit mist forced them to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about life, death and the dying process. History has shown us the Ancients knew our physical body housed a Soul and thankfully modern Spiritualism continues to validate this.

Are you continuing your research in this area?  Any other books planned?

I’m constantly researching because personally, spiritually and professionally I believe departing visions provide powerful validation for the continuation of the Spirit. Unlike afterlife communications or near-death experiences, departing visions come to both the one preparing to exit this dimension, and those who will remain. For the physically dying, visitations from deceased relatives, friends, and other world guides ‘check’ any fear of death. Research has also shown that difficult patients calm down while pain levels decrease. Believers and atheists can have similar experiences.  Reunions with those individuals who are already in an afterlife existence can also be emotionally healing. My mother-in-law was visited by her mother who physically perished in Auschwitz. With this, years of grief melted away just before she transitioned. Receiving a ‘glimpse’ of the afterlife validates the notion that we take ourselves to the next level and that spiritual growth or unfoldment continues. The personality is retained. For those who remain, but are visited during dream or awake time by the departing Spirit of a physical dying loved one, the experience can be life altering. Highly death-phobic individuals, materialistic in their thinking and emotionally distressed, often begin their own personal spiritual exploration after encountering a departing vision. Also, the same visitation can occur within a group. As I mentioned, I wasn’t the only one to awake from a deep sleep as my mother shed her earthly remains. There were five of us in different locations who felt her reassuring touch as she moved on to the Spirit World. Today, when departing friends or relatives stop by in Spirit form to say all is well, I’m once again reminded that the bonds of love are never severed. My mission is to help make discussion of departing visions as common as near-death experiences.”

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 is published by White Crow Books.

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Next blog post:  Oct. 6


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Purgatory is for real

Posted on 08 September 2014, 10:04

It is difficult to generalize when it comes to traditional Jewish thought relative to the afterlife, as there are different schools of thought, one school not even believing in an afterlife, another school believing in it but not concerned with it, and still other schools with varying degrees of concern.  One school holds that after death only the very righteous go to Gan Eden (Garden of Eden).  The average person goes to an intermediate state, apparently Sheol, for punishment and/or purification, while the wicked go to Gehenna, a place of eternal punishment (although some Jews see Gehenna as the intermediate state).  This intermediate state is referred to by Catholics as Purgatory.  Catholics point to 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Matthew 5:25-26, and 12:31-32 to support their belief in the doctrine of Purgatory.  Although they do not clearly state it, these passages all suggest a realm where one purges his sins before being admitted to Heaven. 

The Protestant Reformation attempted to do away with the idea of Purgatory.  In fact, it was the primary issue giving rise to the break with the Catholic Church.  Martin Luther rebelled against the corruption involved with buying indulgences to shorten one’s sentence in Purgatory.  Rather than attempt to make sense of it, Protestantism found it easier to offer a black and white afterlife, Hell or Heaven, even though the “righteous” soul does not fully experience bliss of Heaven until after the Resurrection and the “wicked” soul does not fully realize his punishment until that time.  Perhaps the “staging area” is Purgatory for them, unless they happen to be in a deep sleep until that day of awakening.

If Albert Pauchard is correct, the Catholics got it more right than the Protestants, but the Catholics got it all wrong in thinking of Purgatory as something very akin to Hell except for the fact that it is not eternal.  “Purgatory is not a fancy, it is a reality,” Pauchard communicated to his sister Antoinette through a medium, shortly after his death, at age 56, on July 3, 1934.  He went on to explain that it was not a place of punishment for faults committed, but rather a place one has created for him- or herself based on his or her mindset and earthly deeds. 

Pauchard lived his entire life in Geneva, Switzerland. The Introduction to a 1952 book, The Other World (recently republished by White Crow Books), does not say much about him other than that he had served as librarian, vice-president, and president of the Geneva Society for Psychic Studies, that he had mediumistic abilities, and that he devoted his life to perfecting himself, serving God and his fellow man.  His “Purgatory” is nothing new in spiritualist literature, more a matter of giving a name to the “lower” planes, realms, spheres, or levels that a soul encounters after death in its spiritual evolution. But Pauchard’s explanation of his own experiences in the purgatorial realms is informative and intriguing. 

“I shall tell you exactly how things happened,” he communicated.  “I was conscious of retiring from my physical body.  It was a more or less unpleasant moment.  Just as if all my blood was being withdrawn first from my limbs, then from the rest of my body, in order to concentrate in my heart.  A slight pang, quite a physical one.  Then, the departure from my body and an immense relief.”

Initially, he experienced a state of serene bliss, one of complete relaxation.  “In the beginning I was more or less conscious of the presence of dear ones around me.  Of loved and familiar faces.  I felt as though after a very long journey I was received with joy by my family.  But all that as from ‘afar’ and through a mist.”  He walked about and met many old friends and some new ones. “So that I had the impression of having lived here already a long time.” However, when he again turned his attention toward his sister, he realized that only three or four terrestrial days had elapsed since his departure from the earth realm.

Purgatory is not a “place,” Pauchard explained, but a “state of consciousness.”  “Perhaps you already understand that here it is a matter of another dimension, and in the beginning, the hardest work consists in adapting oneself to it.” 

Subjective conditions there, he further explained, give the impression of being objective and take tangible, symbolic forms. “Something rather difficult to explain in order to make you grasp it, is the fact that a whole sphere of life which you call ‘subjective’ is not purely subjective to us.  The reason for this is that we live in a four-dimensional world which is constituted of more living realities than on earth.  The intensity of joy and moral suffering is multiplied more than a hundredfold, and impressions which on earth are more or less vague take an objective and symbolic form here…So it happens that here we sometimes come fact to face with a great desire or fear of the past, which has taken an objective form…Cruelty, for instance, creates horrible forms, which threaten and pursue those who have brought them forth.  On the other hand, higher feelings bring us into the presence of delicate and luminous forms which they take on by themselves.  Besides, feelings and emotions of a certain kind attract their likes and bring together those who have cultivated them, for their mutual joy or mutual discomfort, according to each case.  So that there forms around us a world created according to our own nature.” 

Pauchard said that he had met all kinds of people there. “One sees everybody as they really are, and each individual spends a more or less long period in his or her own particular purgatory.  You will be the first to understand how intensely one desires to warn those on earth when seeing this.  Because a little goodwill, the slightest effort, even without success, makes such an enormous difference in the results over here.”

Pauchard said he met a man who had been rich all his life but then lost the greatest part of his wealth due to misfortune.  Still, he had enough left to lead a comfortable life.  But he was overwhelmed by a feeling of poverty, so much so that his health suffered and he passed over due to influenza.  “At present, out here, he walks about in rags! He hides for shame when he sees somebody approach him.  I wish I could, and how I wish I could tell him that he is poor only in imagination.  But his hour of understanding has not come yet…”  The moral of it, Pauchard explained, is that if one yields to a feeling of misery on earth, he creates it there and must support it until it becomes absolutely unbearable.

He added that he observed many people there who understand nothing of their condition, unaware that they have passed from the earth life.  One such man, he noted, had prided himself on being an intellectual and had rejected the idea that humans live on after physical death.  “He was a theoretician,” Pauchard said. “He continues theorizing here.  He is not even aware that physical wants and conditions have vanished…He sees around him his study and bedroom and simply goes on in the old way as he did on earth.  As to his Purgatory, he has not yet gone through it.  There is still no room for it in his being.  His incessant and rather superficial intellectual activity must first wear out a little.”  Pauchard thought he should try to awaken the man and inform him of his condition, but his guide informed him that there was no point in it as the man would ignore him, just as he would have ignored him in the earth life.  In earth time, some don’t “awaken” to their true reality for many years. The more enlightened awaken within hours or days. 
It is a matter of “spiritual purification,” Pauchard told his sister, again stressing that it is not punishment.  He further told her that the purification can take place while she is still on the earth plane, thereby avoiding much or all of the purgatorial state. “There is nothing arbitrary in it, and no punishment,” he counseled her.  “They are only the natural consequences of causes which, long ago, you yourself set in motion, and which therefore must be liquidated by you…It must also be said, that the more willing and desirous a soul is of understanding, the sooner its trial is over, and much can be done in this respect already on earth by an attitude of true aspiration to see clearly.”

Beyond the purgatorial realms, Pauchard ended, there is a world entirely independent of man.  “Those whose souls are serene can see it – and the beauty of that world is wonderful to behold.  To venture a description is out of the question, because your mind would bring it all down to some beautiful terrestrial scenery.  Do not forget the mysterious Fourth Dimension!...One must have lived here for some time and reached a certain degree of development to become conscious of it.”

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 is published by White Crow Books.

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Next blog post: Sept. 22




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Fallen Soldier Convinces His Famous Father of Life After Death – On September 14, 1915, Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge, the youngest of six sons of Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, as well as the former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, was killed in WWI action in Flanders. Read here
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