The case of Mellen-Thomas Benedict
The real dimension of subjective psychic experiences
As with all intrinsically subjective experiences (including dreams, OBEs and other non-ordinary states of consciousness), even for NDEs it is virtually impossible to ascertain whether and to what extent the testimony faithfully reports what has been consciously experienced by the protagonist. This is particularly true for the case reported here, in which, by the explicit admission of the protagonist, the experience was largely reconstructed over a period of time following the one in which the NDE took place. Moreover, Benedict himself declared to have read and assimilated, in the months preceding his experience, a large number of texts on religious, philosophical and spiritual topics, also concerning non-ordinary states of consciousness.
As highlighted in the section on the human psyche, it is always appropriate (and in research activities it becomes mandatory) to make a distinction between what is identifiable as real and what is the result of imagination or fantasy, and therefore invented, perhaps unconsciously. This also applies to experiences of a subjective nature: if a person reports that she/he had an experience that is as real to her/him as or more than reality, I must be able to believe that what she/he tells really corresponds to her/his experience, even if I considered it as a hallucination, because otherwise her/his entire story would lose interest and value, except perhaps in the context of narrative inventions. One of the most interesting elements of Benedict's experience is the subjective, and at the same time felt as universal, aspect of what is perceived in the dimension of the afterlife. This consideration can be extended to various other aspects of NDEs: it is as if what in this life is part of the imaginary or fideistic sphere of our psyche, in the otherworld could become real. In other words, everyone could find there what they believe, hope or fear to find. Therefore any judgment regarding the reality of this experience is suspended: I just hope that all of Benedict's story is based on his good faith.
Mellen-Thomas Benedict is an artist (see his website http://mellen-thomas.com) who, in 1982, survived a state of apparent death, which lasted for an hour and a half, due to cancer in terminal phase. In that condition he found himself outside his body and his experience began. Here is his testimony, quoted from the second chapter of the book The Near-Death Experience: A Reader by L. Worth Bailey e Jenny Yates. (Source: www.near-death.com).
In 1982 I died from terminal cancer. The condition I had was inoperable, and any kind of chemotherapy they could give me would just have made me more of a vegetable. I was given six to eight months to live. I had been an information freak in the 1970's, and I had become increasingly despondent over the nuclear crisis, the ecology crisis, and so forth. So, since I did not have a spiritual basis, I began to believe that nature had made a mistake, and that we were probably a cancerous organism on the planet. I saw no way that we could get out from all the problems we had created for ourselves and the planet. I perceived all humans as cancer, and that is what I got. That is what killed me. Be careful what your world view is. It can feed back on you, especially if it is a negative world view. I had a seriously negative one. That is what led me into my death.
I tried all sort s of alternative healing methods, but nothing helped. So I determined that this was really just between me and God. I had never really faced God before, or even dealt with God. I was not into any kind of spirituality at the time, but I began a journey into learning about spirituality and alternative healing. I set out to do all the reading I could and bone up on the subject, because I did not want to be surprised on the other side. So I started reading on various religions and philosophies. They were all very interesting, and gave hope that there was something on the other side. On the other hand, as a self-employed stained-glass artist at the time, I had no medical insurance whatsoever. So my life savings went overnight in testing. Then I was facing the medical profession without any kind of insurance. I did not want to have my family dragged down financially, so I determined to handle this myself. There was not constant pain, but there were black-outs. I got so that I would not dare to drive, and eventually I ended up in hospice care. I had my own personal hospice caretaker. I was very blessed by this angel who went through the last part of this with me. I lasted about eighteen months. I did not want to take a lot of drugs, since I wanted to be as conscious as possible. Then I experienced such pain that I had nothing but pain in my consciousness, luckily only for a few days at a time.
An OBE waiting for death
I remember waking up one morning at home about 4:30 am, and I just knew that this was it. This was the day I was going to die. So I called a few friends and said goodbye. I woke up my hospice caretaker and told her. I had a private agreement with her that she would leave my dead body alone for six hours, since I had read that all kinds of interesting things happen when you die. I went back to sleep. The next thing I remember is the beginning of a typical near-death experience. Suddenly I was fully aware and I was standing up, but my body was in the bed. There was this darkness around me. Being out of my body was even more vivid than ordinary experience. It was so vivid that I could see every room in the house, I could see the top of the house, I could see around the house, I could see under the house.
A conversation with the light
There was this light shining. I turned toward the light. The light was very similar to what many other people have described in their near-death experiences. It was so magnificent. It is tangible; you can feel it. It is alluring; you want to go to it like you would want to go to your ideal mother's or father's arms. As I began to move toward the light, I knew intuitively that if I went to the light, I would be dead. So as I was moving toward the light I said, «Please wait a minute, just hold on a second here. I want to think about this; I would like to talk to you before I go». To my surprise, the entire experience halted at that point. You are indeed in control of your near-death experience. You are not on a roller coaster ride. So my request was honored and I had some conversations with the light. The light kept changing into different figures, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, mandalas, archetypal images and signs. I asked the light, «What is going on here? Please, light, clarify yourself for me. I really want to know the reality of the situation». I cannot really say the exact words, because it was sort of telepathy. The light responded. The information transferred to me was that your beliefs shape the kind of feedback you are getting before the light. If you were a Buddhist or Catholic or Fundamentalist, you get a feedback loop of your own stuff. You have a chance to look at it and examine it, but most people do not.
The Higher Self
As the light revealed itself to me, I became aware that what I was really seeing was our Higher Self matrix. The only thing I can tell you is that it turned into a matrix, a mandala of human souls, and what I saw was that what we call our Higher Self in each of us is a matrix. It's also a conduit to the Source; each one of us comes directly, as a direct experience from the Source. We all have a Higher Self, or an oversoul part of our being. It revealed itself to me in its truest energy form. The only way I can really describe it is that the being of the Higher Self is more like a conduit. It did not look like that, but it is a direct connection to the Source that each and every one of us has. We are directly connected to the Source. So the light was showing me the Higher Self matrix. And it became very clear to me that all the Higher Selves are connected as one being, all humans are connected as one being, we are actually the same being, different aspects of the same being. It was not committed to one particular religion. So that is what was being fed back to me. And I saw this mandala of human souls. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I just went into it and, it was just overwhelming. It was like all the love you've every wanted, and it was the kind of love that cures, heals, regenerates. As I asked the light to keep explaining, I understood what the Higher Self matrix is. We have a grid around the planet where all the Higher Selves are connected. This is like a great company, a next subtle level of energy around us, the spirit level, you might say.
The beauty of souls
Then, after a couple of minutes, I asked for more clarification. I really wanted to know what the universe is about, and I was ready to go at that time. I said, «I am ready, take me». Then the light turned into the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen: a mandala of human souls on this planet. Now I came to this with my negative view of what has happened on the planet. So as I asked the light to keep clarifying for me, I saw in this magnificent mandala how beautiful we all are in our essence, our core. We are the most beautiful creations. The human soul, the human matrix that we all make together is absolutely fantastic, elegant, exotic, everything. I just cannot say enough about how it changed my opinion of human beings in that instant. I said, «Oh, God, I did not know how beautiful we are». At any level, high or low, in whatever shape you are in, you are the most beautiful creation, you are. I was astonished to find that there was no evil in any soul. I said, «How can this be?». The answer was that no soul was inherently evil. The terrible things that happened to people might make them do evil things, but their souls were not evil. What all people seek, what sustains them, is love, the light told me. What distorts people is a lack of love.
The revelations coming from the light seemed to go on and on, then I asked the light, «Does this mean that humankind will be saved?». Then, like a trumpet blast with a shower of spiraling lights, the Great Light spoke, saying, «Remember this and never forget; you save, redeem and heal yourself. You always have. You always will. You were created with the power to do so from before the beginning of the world». In that instant I realized even more. I realized that we have already been saved, and we saved ourselves because we were designed to self-correct like the rest of God's universe. This is what the second coming is about.
The river of life
I thanked the light of God with all my heart. The best thing I could come up with was these simple words of totally appreciation: «Oh dear God, dear Universe, dear Great Self, I love my life». The light seemed to breathe me in even more deeply. It was as if the light was completely absorbing me. The love light is, to this day, indescribable. I entered into another realm, more profound than the last, and became aware of something more, much more. It was an enormous stream of light, vast and full, deep in the heart of life. I asked what this was. The light responded, «This is the river of life. Drink of this manna water to your heart's content». So I did. I took one big drink and then another. To drink of life Itself! I was in ecstasy. Then the light said, «You have a desire». The light knew all about me, everything past, present and future. «Yes!» I whispered. I asked to see the rest of the universe; beyond our solar system, beyond all human illusion. The light then told me that I could go with the Stream. I did, and was carried through the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt and heard a series of very soft sonic booms. What a rush! Suddenly I seemed to be rocketing away from the planet on this stream of life. I saw the earth fly away. The solar system, in all its splendor, whizzed by and disappeared. At faster than light speed, I flew through the center of the galaxy, absorbing more knowledge as I went. I learned that this galaxy, and all of the universe, is bursting with many different varieties of life. I saw many worlds. The good news is that we are not alone in this universe!
As I rode this stream of consciousness through the center of the galaxy, the stream was expanding in awesome fractal waves of
Eternity beyond the truth
As I passed into the second light, the awareness came to me that I had just transcended the truth. Those are the best words I have for it, but I will try to explain. As I passed into the second light, I expanded beyond the first light. I found myself in a profound stillness, beyond all silence. I could see or perceive forever, beyond infinity. I was in the void. I was in pre-creation, before the Big Bang. I had crossed over the beginning of time – the first word – the first vibration. I was in the eye of creation. I felt as if I was touching the face of God. It was not a religious feeling. Simply I was at one with absolute life and consciousness. When I say that I could see or perceive forever, I mean that I could experience all of creation generating itself. It was without beginning and without end. That's a mind-expanding thought, isn't it? Scientists perceive the Big Bang as a single event which created the universe. I saw that the Big Bang is only one of an infinite number of Big Bangs creating universes endlessly and simultaneously. The only images that even come close in human terms would be those created by supercomputers using fractal
The cycle of universes
The ancients knew of this. They said Godhead periodically created new universes by breathing out, and de-creating other universes by breathing in. These epochs were called yugas. Modern science called this the Big Bang. I was in absolute, pure consciousness. I could see or perceive all the Big Bangs or yugas creating and de-creating themselves. Instantly I entered into them all simultaneously. I saw that each and every little piece of creation has the power to create. It is very difficult to try to explain this. I am still speechless about this. It took me years after I returned to assimilate any words at all for the void experience. I can tell you this now; the void is less than nothing, yet more than everything that is! The void is absolute zero; chaos forming all possibilities. It is absolute consciousness; much more than even universal intelligence. Where is the void? I know. The void is inside and outside everything. You, right now even while you live, are always inside and outside the void simultaneously. You don't have to go anywhere or die to get there. The void is the vacuum or nothingness between all physical manifestations. The space between atoms and their components. Modern science has begun to study this space between everything. They call it zero-point. Whenever they try to measure it, their instruments go off the scale, or to infinity, so to speak. They have no way, as of yet, to measure infinity accurately. There is more of the zero space in your own body and the universe than anything else! What mystics call the void is not a void. It is so full of energy, a different kind of energy that has created everything that we are. Everything since the Big Bang is vibration, from the first word, which is the first vibration.
The exploration of the divine Self
The Biblical «I am» really has a question mark after it. «I am? What am I?». So creation is God exploring God's Self through every way imaginable, in an ongoing, infinite exploration through every one of us. Through every piece of hair on your head, through every leaf on every tree, through every atom, God is exploring God's Self, the great «I am». I began to see that everything that is, is the Self, literally, your Self, my Self. Everything is the great Self. That is why God knows even when a leaf falls. That is possible because wherever you are is the center of the universe. Wherever any atom is, that is the center of the universe. There is God in that, and God in the void.
As I was exploring the void and all the yugas or creations, I was completely out of time and space as we know it. In this expanded state, I discovered that creation is about absolute pure consciousness, or God, coming into the experience of life as we know it. The void itself is devoid of experience. It is pre-life, before the first vibration. Godhead is about more than life and death. Therefore there is even more than life and death to experience in the universe! I was in the void and I was aware of everything that had ever been created. It was like I was looking out of God's eyes. I had become God. Suddenly I wasn't me anymore. The only thing I can say, I was looking out of God's eyes. And suddenly I knew why every atom was, and I could see everything. The interesting point was that I went into the void, I came back with this understanding that God is not there. God is here. That's what it is all about. So this constant search of the human race to go out and find God... God gave everything to us, everything is here – this is where it's at. And what we are into now is God's exploration of God through us. People are so busy trying to become God that they ought to realize that we are already God and God is becoming us. That's what it is really about. When I realized this, I was finished with the void, and wanted to return to this creation, or yuga. It just seemed like the natural thing to do.
Black holes and light
Then I suddenly came back through the second light, or the Big Bang, hearing several more velvet booms. I rode the stream of
As I rode the stream on and on, I could eventually see a huge light coming. I knew it was the first light; the Higher Self light matrix of our solar system. Then the entire solar system appeared in the light, accompanied by one of those velvet booms. I saw that the solar system we live in is our larger, local body. This is our local body and we are much bigger than we imagine. I saw that the solar system is our body. I am a part of this, and the Earth is this great created being that we are, and we are the part of it that knows that it is. But we are only that part of it. We are not everything, but we are that part of it that knows that it is. I could see all the energy that this solar system generates, and it is an incredible light show! I could hear the music of the spheres. Our solar system, as do all celestial bodies, generates a unique matrix of light, sound and vibratory energies. Advanced civilizations from other star systems can spot life as we know it in the universe by the vibratory or energy matrix imprint. It is child's play. The Earth's wonder child (human beings) make an abundance of sound right now, like children playing in the backyard of the universe.
I rode the stream directly into the center of the light. I felt embraced by the light as it took me in with its breath again, followed by another soft sonic boom. I was in this great light of love with the stream of life flowing through me. I have to say again, it is the most loving, nonjudgmental light. It is the ideal parent for this wonder child. «What now?» I wondered. The light explained to me that there is no death; we are immortal beings. We have already been alive forever! I realized that we are part of a natural living system that recycles itself endlessly. I was never told that I had to come back. I just knew that I would. It was only natural, from what I had seen.
I don't know how long I was with the light, in human time. But there came a moment when I realized that all my questions had been answered and my return was near. When I say that all my questions were answered on the other side, I mean to say just that. All my questions have been answered. Every human has a different life and set of questions to explore. Some of our questions are universal, but each of us is exploring this thing we call life in our own unique way. So is every other form of life, from mountains to every leaf on every tree. And that is very important to the rest of us in this universe. Because it all contributes to the Big Picture, the fullness of life. We are literally God exploring God's Self in an infinite Dance of Life. Your uniqueness enhances all of life.
The return into the body
As I began my return to the life cycle, it never crossed my mind, nor was I told, that I would return to the same body. It just did not
So I went through the reincarnation process expecting to be a baby somewhere. But I was given a lesson on how individual identity and consciousness evolve. So I reincarnated back into this body. I was so surprised when I opened my eyes. I do not know why, because I understood it, but it was still such a surprise to be back in this body, back in my room with someone looking over me crying her eyes out. It was my hospice caretaker. She had given up an hour and a half after finding me dead. She was sure I was dead; all the signs of death were there – I was getting stiff. We do not know how long I was dead, but we do know that it was an hour and a half since I was found. She honored my wish to have my newly dead body left alone for a few hours as much as she could. We had an amplified stethoscope and many ways of checking out the vital functions of the body to see what was happening. She can verify that I really was dead.
Am I alive?
It was not a near-death experience. I experienced death itself for at least an hour and a half. She found me dead and checked the stethoscope, blood pressure and heart rate monitor for an hour and a half. Then I awakened and saw the light outside. I tried to get up to go to it, but I fell out of the bed. She heard a loud clunk, ran in and found me on the floor. When I recovered, I was very surprised and yet very awed about what had happened to me. At first all the memory of the trip that I have now was not there. I kept slipping out of this world and kept asking, «Am I alive?». This world seemed more like a dream than that one.
Within three days, I was feeling normal again, clearer, yet different than I had ever felt in my life. My memory of the journey came
Reflections on the experience
The following are some considerations elaborated by Benedict as a result of his experience.
The mystery of life has very little to do with intelligence. The universe is not an intellectual process at all. The intellect is helpful; it is brilliant, but right now that is all we process with, instead of our hearts and the wiser part of ourselves. The center of the Earth is this great transmuter of energy, just as you see in pictures of our earth's magnetic field. That's our cycle, pulling reincarnated souls back in and through it again. A sign that you are reaching human level is that you are beginning to evolve an individual consciousness. The animals have a group soul, and they reincarnate in group souls. A deer is pretty much going to be a deer forever. But just being born a human, whether deformed or genius, shows that you are on the path to developing an individual consciousness. That is in itself part of the group consciousness called humanity.
I saw that races are personality clusters. Nations like France, Germany and China each have their own personality. Cities have
More than that, I began to see that each one of us humans are soul mates. We are part of the same soul fractaling out in many creative directions, but still the same. Now I look at every human being that I ever see, and I see a soul mate, my soul mate, the one I have always been looking for. Beyond that, the greatest soul mate that you will ever have is yourself. We are each both male and female. We experience this in the womb and we experience this in reincarnation states. If you are looking for that ultimate soul mate outside of yourself, you may never find it; it is not there. Just as God is not there. God is here. Don't look out there for God. Look here for God. Look through your Self. Start having the greatest love affair you ever had... with your Self. You will love everything out of that.
I had a descent into what you might call hell, and it was very surprising. I did not see Satan or evil. My descent into hell was a descent into each person's customized human misery, ignorance, and darkness of not-knowing. It seemed like a miserable eternity. But each of the millions of souls around me had a little star of light always available. But no one seemed to pay attention to it. They were so consumed with their own grief, trauma and misery. But, after what seemed an eternity, I started calling out to that light, like a child calling to a parent for help. Then the light opened up and formed a tunnel that came right to me an insulated me from all that fear and pain. That is what hell really is. So what we are doing is learning to hold hands, to come together. The doors of hell are open now. We are going to link up, hold hands, and walk out of hell together. The light came to me and turned into a huge golden angel. I said, «Are you the angel of death?». It expressed to me that it was my oversoul, my Higher Self matrix, a super-ancient part of ourselves. Then I was taken to the light.
Levels of reality
Soon our science will quantify spirit. Isn't that going to be wonderful? We are coming up with devices now that are sensitive to subtle energy or spirit energy. Physicists use these atomic colliders to smash atoms to see what they are made of. They have got it down to quarks and charm, and all that. Well, one day they are going to come down to the little thing that holds it all together, and they are going to have to call that... God. With atomic colliders they are not only seeing what is in here, but they are creating particles. Thank God most of them are short-lived milliseconds and nanoseconds. We are just beginning to understand that we are creating too, as we go along.
As I saw forever, I came to a realm in which there is a point where we pass all knowledge and begin creating the next fractal, the next level. We have that power to create as we explore. And that is God expanding itself through us. Since my return I have experienced the light spontaneously, and I have learned how to get to that space almost any time in my meditation. Each one of you can do this. You do not have to die to do this. It is within your equipment; you are wired for it already. The body is the most magnificent light being there is. The body is a universe of incredible light. Spirit is not pushing us to dissolve this body. That is not what is happening. Stop trying to become God; God is becoming you. Here.
The mind is like a child running around the universe, demanding this and thinking it created the world. But I ask the mind: «What did your mother have to do with this?». That is the next level of spiritual awareness. Oh! My mother! All of a sudden you give up the ego, because you are not the only soul in the universe.
One of my questions to the light was, «What is heaven?». I was given a tour of all the heavens that have been created: the Nirvanas, the Happy Hunting Grounds, all of them. I went through them. These are thought form creations that we have created. We don't really go to heaven; we are reprocessed. But whatever we created, we leave a part of ourselves there. It is real, but it is not all of the soul. I saw the Christian heaven. We expect it to be a beautiful place, and you stand in front of the throne, worshipping forever. I tried it. It is boring! This is all we are going to do? It is childlike. I do not mean to offend anyone. Some heavens are very interesting, and some are very boring. I found the ancient ones to be more interesting, like the Native American ones, the Happy Hunting Grounds. The Egyptians have fantastic ones. It goes on and on. There are so many of them. In each of them there is a fractal that is your particular interpretation, unless you are part of the group soul that believes in only the God of a particular religion. Then you are very close, in the same ball park together. But even then, each is a little bit different. That is a part of yourself that you leave there. Death is about life, not about heaven.
I asked God, «What is the best religion on the planet? Which one is right?». And Godhead said, with great love, «I don't care». That was incredible grace. What that meant was that we are the caring beings here. The Ultimate Godhead of all the stars tells us, «It does not matter what religion you are». They come and they go, they change. Buddhism has not been here forever, Catholicism has not been here forever, and they are all about to become more enlightened. More light is coming into all systems now. There is going to be a reformation in spirituality that is going to be just as dramatic as the Protestant Reformation. There will be lots of people fighting about it, one religion against the next, believing that only they are right. Everyone thinks they own God, the religions and philosophies, especially the religions, because they form big organizations around their philosophy. When Godhead said, «I don't care», I immediately understood that it is for us to care about. It is important, because we are the caring beings. It matters to us and that is where it is important. What you have is the energy equation in spirituality. Ultimate Godhead does not care if you are Protestant, Buddhist, or whatever. It is all a blooming facet of the whole. I wish that all religions would realize it and let each other be. It is not the end of each religion, but we are talking about the same God. Live and let live. Each has a different view. And it all adds up to the Big Picture; it is all important.
I went over to the other side with a lot of fears about toxic waste, nuclear missiles, the population explosion, the rainforest. I came back loving every single problem. I love nuclear waste. I love the mushroom cloud; this is the holiest mandala that we have manifested to date, as an archetype. It, more than any religion or philosophy on earth, brought us together all of a sudden, to a new level of consciousness. Knowing that maybe we can blow up the planet fifty times, or 500 times, we finally realize that maybe we are all here together now. For a period they had to keep setting off more bombs to get it in to us. Then we started saying, «We do not need this any more». Now we are actually in a safer world than we have ever been in, and it is going to get safer. So I came back loving toxic waste, because it brought us together. These things are so big. As Peter Russell might say, these problems are now soul size. Do we have soul size answers? Yes! The clearing of the rain forest will slow down, and in fifty years there will be more trees on the planet than in a long time. If you are into ecology, go for it; you are that part of the system that is becoming aware. Go for it with all your might, but do not be depressed. It is part of a larger thing. Earth is in the process of domesticating itself. It is never again going to be as wild a place as it once was. There will be great wild places, reserves where nature thrives. Gardening and reserves will be the thing in the future. Population increase is getting very close to the optimal range of energy to cause a shift in consciousness. That shift in consciousness will change politics, money, energy.
What happens when we dream? We are multi-dimensional beings. We can access that through lucid dreaming. In fact, this universe is God's dream. One of the things that I saw is that we humans are a speck on a planet that is a speck in a galaxy that is a speck. Those are giant systems out there, and we are in sort of an average system. But human beings are already legendary throughout the cosmos of consciousness. The little bitty human being of Earth/Gaia is legendary. One of the things that we are legendary for is dreaming. We are legendary dreamers. In fact, the whole cosmos has been looking for the meaning of life, the meaning of it all. And it was the little dreamer who came up with the best answer ever. We dreamed it up. So dreams are important.
After dying and coming back, I really respect life and death. In our DNA experiments we may have opened the door to a great secret. Soon we will be able to live as long as we want to live in this body. After living 150 years or so, there will be an intuitive soul sense that you will want to change channels. Living forever in one body is not as creative as reincarnation, as transferring energy in this fantastic vortex of energy that we are in. We are actually going to see the wisdom of life and death, and enjoy it. As it is now, we have already been alive forever. This body that you are in, has been alive forever. It comes from an unending stream of life, going back to the Big Bang and beyond. This body gives life to the next life, in dense and subtle energy. This body has been alive forever already.