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Experiencing a Pre-Death Life Review

Posted on 15 July 2024, 8:34

A number of people have reported a “life review” during a near-death experience (NDE) – seeing every second of their lives flash before them in what might be called a timeless moment.  A man named Tom Sawyer had an NDE in 1978, one in which he recalled living every thought and attitude connected with decisive moments in his life and seeing them through the eyes of those affected by his actions. Popular NDE author PMH Atwater reported that she saw every thought she had ever had, every word she had ever spoken, and every deed she had ever done.


Physicist and author Dr. James Beichler speculates that a person who has a highly developed spiritual consciousness – one that has kept pace with the development of his mind – may not need a life review as the person has reviewed his or her life while in the flesh. Although I don’t know how developed my spiritual consciousness is, I attempted such a life review one night recently when I had a difficult time sleeping, hoping that it is a time-saver after I transition to the larger world. My focus was on the negative experiences rather than the positive. Those I left for another sleepless night.

Fortunately, I couldn’t recall any murders, thefts, or whatever else that might be classified as a felonious act. The word “bully” wasn’t really in my vocabulary when I was a kid during the 1940s, but one of the first things I recalled was acting like a bully with another kid my age. It was over a ridiculously trivial matter. If my after-death life review is like Tom Sawyer’s, I will feel myself being punched in the nose by my own fist. But hopefully the remorse I now feel for my one “bully” act is enough to avoid seeing it in a life review.

I recall rationing during World War II, in particular Super Suds, a laundry soap. My mother said that the amount allowed by the government was not enough for our laundry, and so I somehow cheated the system and managed to get two boxes of Super Suds at the store. I don’t recall how I did it, but I can still picture my mother’s joyous expression when I brought two boxes home. I need to feel more remorse for that one. What if some other person didn’t get his or her one box because I got two?

Being a practicing Catholic during my youth, I abstained from eating meat every Friday. However, there was one Friday when I attended a baseball game and couldn’t resist having a hot dog. As I munched into it, I wondered how many days I’d have to spend in the fires of purgatory because of my lack of discipline. Now that meat is permitted on Friday, I’m hopeful that all prior sins in this regard are pardoned.

In the fifth grade at Catholic school, each class contributed to a stage program. Ours was a tribute to singer Al Jolson and involved singing “Way down upon the Swannee River.” We all had to darken our faces with burnt cork, just like Jolson. There was nothing racist about it that I could see then or now, but today it would be considered by some to be a terribly racist thing. As I see it, applying current standards to past activities stages of spiritual evolution is part of the insanity we are now experiencing, and I’m confident that it will not come up in my life review.

“Culturism” was more common than racism where I grew up and various relatives and friends had derogatory names for people from three or four European countries. I do remember choosing not to use any of those names and fully respecting natives of those countries. Perhaps I can get points for that in my review.

Fewer Temptations

Without television, we had fewer temptations in those days.  We weren’t exposed to carnal scenes or foul language at home, or even in the movies that we attended once a week.  I wonder if those responsible for popularizing such influences today will see the effects of it all in their life reviews. Then again, perhaps it has just provided challenges and learning experiences.   

Jumping ahead to my adult years, I recall climbing a coconut tree on private property and pulling off a coconut for personal consumption. I don’t think I considered it as thievery at the time, but, in retrospect, it might be called that. I still have that theft memorialized in a photograph and hope the statute of limitations has run on it. 

I further remember visiting my parents and using their car to go to the grocery store. Not being able to find an open parking stall in the parking lot, I decided to take advantage of my father’s handicap placard and pulled into a stall reserved for the truly handicapped.  I justified my act by reasoning that I had Achilles tendonitis at the time, a result of too much competitive running. Also, there was another handicap stall available.  That violation remained with me for a day or two, but I don’t know if that was enough remorse. It may be that during a real-life review I will see a handicapped person unable to find a parking stall, then driving out of the parking lot and having a serious accident, all because I had used the parking stall he would have had were it not for my selfishness. 

I remembered the time that I copied something protected by copyright law and passed it on to several friends. Shame on me.  Also,  I recall renting a movie at a Blockbuster store and then lending it to a friend to see the movie, thereby cheating the store out of a possible rental to my friend.  When I heard that our Blockbuster franchise was closing, I wondered if I had contributed to it.


Perhaps the most difficult dilemma for me and many others is where to draw the line on exterminating low-life creatures, i.e., house pests.  I’ve swatted hundreds of flies over my lifetime and ended the lives of thousands of ants and termites.  Add in some cockroaches, mice, rats and geckos, the latter especially rampant on the walls here in Hawaii.  If, as Tom Sawyer experienced it, I have to feel the effects of eliminating those creatures, I’m really in trouble. I’ll be eaten alive during my review.  I consider it every time I hear my wife scream and then arm myself with a flyswatter, all the while weighing the unsanitary effects of allowing the creatures to run about or fly free about the house against eliminating them.  A friend told me that his wife, apparently a mystic of some kind, talks to the creatures and becomes friends with them, but I am not gifted in that respect.

I often look back on my competitive running days with much fondness, but Gina, my wife, does not share in my memories.  She reminds me that after we both came home from our jobs in those earlier years, she was laboring away with household chores, especially cooking, while I was out running around the streets for my daily workout. I should have been home helping with the cooking, cleaning, child care, whatever. Because I couldn’t run on a full stomach, it was necessary for me to do the workout before the evening meal, not after, so it more or less boiled down to giving up the activity completely or continuing in my selfish ways.  There was really little room for compromise, but since Gina apparently recognized how important that activity was to my mental and physical health,  she never pushed it and I remained ignorant of my selfishness until later years. I was a victim of my ancestors’ mindset that women did all the cooking. I don’t think my father even cooked toast.  If, in my self-judgment, I am faced with justifying my pursuit of sport for an hour a day, I hope my higher self agrees with the way I did it.  Otherwise, I could find myself on a treadmill to hell.

There are things I have not mentioned or have forgotten, so I may face a life review in spite of attempting to do it before death.  But what’s the point of saving time if there is no time in that realm?

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  July 29

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Deathbed Soul Mist: More Witnesses

Posted on 01 July 2024, 8:13

If I Could rewrite Chapter III of my 2011 book, The Afterlife Revealed, I would include comments made by Charles L. Tweedale, an Anglican minister, in his 1909 book, Man’s Survival After Death.  The title of Chapter III in my book was “Giving up the Ghost” and dealt with deathbed phenomena including a discussion of the so-called Silver Cord, along with a “misty body” forming over the dying person, and the separation of the spirit body from the physical body. I offered a number of observations, including those by such pioneering researchers as British physicist Sir William Barrett, South African psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Laubscher, on up to more current observations by American Dr. Raymond Moody, the psychiatrist who named the “near-death experience” and brought it to public attention, and Dr. Peter Fenwick, whose book, The Art of Dying, co-authored with his wife, Elizabeth Fenwick, provides an in-depth account of deathbed phenomena.


Beginning on page 88 of his 1909 book, later updated through 1947, Tweedale, Vicar of Weston (top photo), tells of the passing of his wife’s mother, Mary Burnett, which occurred on July 29, 1921. His wife, Margaret, daughter Marjorie, and a Mrs. Proud were all sitting at the dying woman’s bedside. The Tweedale report adds a factor not evident from most other accounts – that the building up of the spirit body and separation from the physical body do not necessarily take place during the final minutes of the person’s life. In the case he reports, there are some 16 hours between observation of the phenomenon and actual death of the physical body.

“The time was past midnight, and the room was brightly illuminated by a lamp,” Tweedale wrote. “Suddenly my daughter Marjorie saw a small cloud of grey smoke, which she describes as something like the smoke from a cigarette, hovering over the form of Mrs. Burnett as she lay in bed. At first it appeared to be about three or four inches in diameter, and it floated in the air a few inches above the bed-clothes and directly over the abdomen of the unconscious woman. Amazed at the sight, my daughter hastily directed the attention of my wife and Mrs. Proud to this strange phenomenon, and all three standing around the bed and close to it distinctly saw the cloud of smoke and observed it carefully. It gradually grew in size until it became as large as a dinner plate (I use their exact words). Then to their increasing amazement the upper part of the smoke cloud turned to a rich purple light – they describe it as King’s purple – and this cloudy disc of purple light hovered steadily in the air a few inches above the recumbent form.

“Soon to their further astonishment, a beautiful halo began to form around the head of Mrs. Burnett. It was at first pale in color, but gradually deepened to a rich purple, which stood out in conspicuous contrast to the white pillow. It stood off from the head about three inches, and was about four inches broad, the color becoming deeper on the outside edge, while the inside of the halo was fainter and more transparent. The outer edge was irregular, or serrated, as if divided into a number of lights or flames. As soon as this wonderful thing had well established itself the deep purple light began to surround each eye of the unconscious person and outlined the nose and finally surrounded the mouth. During all this time the big disc of purple cloud hovered in the air over the dying woman, and this disc or cloud of purple light, together with the halo and lights on the face, continued to be visible to the three witnesses for nearly twenty minutes, during which time they continued to observe the phenomena with the closest attention.

“My wife several times passed her hand through the hovering cloud of purple light without displacing it or meeting any resistance, but on closing her eyes the cloud and halo ceased to be visible, showing that they were objective and external to her eyes.”

Tweedale goes on to say that the death of Mrs. Burnett did not take place until some 16 hours after the cloud was observed by the three women, all of which time Mrs. Burnett lay unconscious. He concluded that “the cloud which hovered above the body was undoubtedly a manifestation of the Spiritual Body in process of being released from the Mortal Body” and that while hovering over the body a “psychic cord” connected the two bodies, and that the spirit body was released when the cord was severed.

My 2011 book provides a number of similar deathbed observations, but Tweedale’s is more detailed and more specific on the time factor. Several prior blogs have discussed the phenomenon and based on the number of comments, the subject matter has been the most popular. The prior blogs can be found in the archives for October 4, 2010 and June 11, 2012. Many of those commenting have provided their own observations of what has been referred to as “soul mist.”

Another Bedside Report

One very similar case set forth in my book is translated from the German journal,  Zeitschrift fuer Parapsychologie.  It also has a time factor. A clairvoyant man who preferred to remain anonymous reported sitting at his dying wife’s bedside and seeing an “odic body” take form over his wife’s physical body.  It was connected to the physical body by a “cord of od.”  The arms and legs of this odic body were flailing and kicking as if struggling to get free and escape.  Finally, after about five hours, the fatal moment came at last.  “There was a sound of gasping,” the man reported.  “The odic body writhed to and fro, and my wife’s breathing ceased.  To all appearances she was dead, but a few moments later she began to breathe again.  After she had drawn her breath twice, everything became quiet.  At the instant of her last breath, the connecting cord broke and the odic body vanished.”

The clairvoyant man also told of being able to see “layers of cloud” drifting into the room as his wife was dying.  At first, he assumed it was cigar smoke from an adjoining room and jumped up to express his indignation.  “Overcome with wonder, I looked back at the clouds,” he reported, commenting that he was completely aware and definitely not imagining what was taking place.  “These floated silently toward the bed and enshrouded it completely.”  He then saw a vaporous body form above his wife’s physical body, attached to her body by a vaporous cord.  Soon after his wife took her last breath, he observed the cord break and the vaporous body disappear. “I must leave it to the reader to judge whether I was the victim of a hallucination brought on by grief and exhaustion, or whether perhaps my mortal eyes had been privileged to catch a glimpse of the spirit-world in all its happiness, repose, and peace,” he ended the report.

Dr. Bernard Laubscher, a psychiatrist, (bottom photo) was told by different caregivers that they had observed misty vapors and lights around deathbeds. Some of them reported a ribbon-like cord stretching from the back of the “phantom’s” head to the body below. As Laubscher came to understand it, the vaporous material has the same makeup as ectoplasm, the mysterious substance given off by physical mediums before materializations (left photo as photographed by Dr. William Crawford with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher, although not a deathbed photo). It acts as sort of a “glue” in bonding the physical body with the spirit body, and the more materialistic a person the denser the ectoplasm and the more difficulty the person has in “giving up the ghost.”

What was called ectoplasm, or teleplasm, by some of the pioneering researchers was called od, or odic force, by many German researchers, including Johannes Greber, a Catholic priest (middle photo) who became a psychical researcher and then parted ways with the Church because of the conflicts between what came to him through two young trance mediums and the teachings of the Church.  The former made much more sense to him than the latter.  In his 1932 book, Communication with The Spirit World of God, Greber quotes many of the supposedly advanced spirits who communicated with him through the two trance mediums.

Condensed Od. 

It was explained to Greber that the physical body is nothing but od condensed into substance, and that such is also the case with animals, plants, and minerals.  The growth of those bodies and their taking material shape, Greber was told, are subject to the laws of odic condensation.”  The communication continued:  “The od representing the vital force of the body always remains associated with the od of the spirit and hence with the spirit itself. It is the motive power for the body at the disposal of the spirit, just as your terrestrial motive powers are at the engineer’s command.  If then the supply of motive power for the body is diminished below the point required to maintain life in the body, the spirit departs from the same and corporeal death ensues, just as the engineer abandons his engine when he cannot keep it running for lack of power.”

Greber was further informed that od flows through all parts of terrestrial bodies and radiates beyond them to a certain distance. It has been called the odic body, astral body, fluid body, and spiritual body. This radiation has been referred to as the aura and can be seen, Greber was told, by so-called clairvoyants endowed with the gift of seeing spirits. It was further stated that it has color, which varies for each creature, running from the deepest black through billions of shades to the most resplendent white.  “You mortals cannot even conceive of the variety of these colors,” Greber quoted one spirit communicator.

The explanation continued:  “...every created thing leaves behind it an odic trace of its existence uniting the day of its coming into being with the last day of its life. . . Such a band is formed by the od of every creature on its way through life.  It is by a trail like this that migratory birds return to their old haunts and that the swallow comes back to the same eaves under which it built last year’s nest.  The odic sensitiveness of these creatures is extremely delicate, but is active only so long as they are in good health, for because of the weakening of their odic powers, sick animals lose the odic sensitiveness necessary to enable them to follow their own or another creature’s trail.”

It was further explained that there are many degrees of odic condensation or materialization, from that visible only to a clairvoyant to the complete materialization of spirits.  It all depends on the amount of od available to the spirit world. A complete materialization requires so much od than no one medium is capable of supplying it, and the spirits must draw od from others in the room.  This is why partial materializations, such as a hand only, are more common.

The spirit is the source of life but the shaping and the scope of our lives are determined by the odic force associated with the spirit, referred to as “vital force,” the messenger continued to explain to Greber.  This force manifests itself by vibrations of the od.  Every manifestation of the intellectual life, every thought, and all volition are expressed in corresponding odic vibrations, set in motion by the spirit, as the bearer of the od.

The skeptic says, “Well, I was present at my mother’s deathbed and I saw no such thing.”  It may be that it oozed out of the mother’s body hours before the skeptic arrived, or the skeptic was not gifted with eyes that can see soul mist. Some people can hold their breath under water for five minutes or more, while others can’t hold it for a minute.  Our physical abilities vary considerably.  There are enough witnesses to soul mist to strongly suggest that the phenomenon exists.  Shouldn’t science be more interested in it?   

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  July 15



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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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