Dreams? Hallucinations? Keys to understanding the conscious state? Or real glimpses of an afterlife? The experts disagree on the phenomena known as near-death experiences. But the people who have them tell remarkably similar stories of otherworldly encounters that have changed the way they live. Robert Helm, for one, suffered a brief cardiac arrest during knee surgery on Nov. 7, 1979. Now 59 and retired near Trent River, Ont., east of Peterborough, from a career in broadcasting, Helm told Associate Editor Nora Underwood that a hospital light triggered memories of a fantastic adventure when his heart was stopped. His report:
I woke up in the recovery room saying out loud, ‘I must remember, I must remember.’ But I couldn’t remember what it was I was supposed to remember. I was desolate. It didn’t make any sense to me, and at the same time I felt better than I’d felt for a long, long time. I was, of course, rather ill, but that didn’t deter me from feeling good, happy, positive. They wheeled me down a corridor and I saw the ceiling light and it triggered a memory. All of a sudden, I started to remember this experience and it just absolutely blew me away. I was conscious of a tunnel with an intense
light at the other end. I was going towards it at a really blinding speed. The walls of the tunnel were blurry at first, but then I noticed they were what appeared to be planets or stars. There was a sound, which was the sound of all the orchestras in the world playing with an intensity that was awesome. I became frightened but, almost immediately, a kind of presence reached out telepathically—nothing I could see or feel, but like a voice in my head— that said, ‘Take it easy, everything’s OK.’ It had an immediate calming effect on me.
Entity: I got up to the light and I went through it to an area of pitch blackness. I was really terrified, but that only lasted an instant. Suddenly, I became aware that I was sitting on a rock in the middle of a lake in the most beautiful location I have ever seen. Slowly, this fight—golden and green, glorious, warm colors—formed itself into a landscape with lots of trees and big boulders. While I was sitting there, the entity who had reached out to me before said, ‘That’s really something, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Where am I? Am I dead?’ He said, ‘No, they just don’t need you there for a while.’
Next, I found myself on a street. It was a magnificent boulevard with buildings made of some sort of opalescent material and it was
absolutely spotless. There was a street sweeper working there. I said, ‘This is a magnificent street.’ And he said, ‘I like to keep it looking well and I enjoy my work.’ Then we went on to another place. There was a band of angels singing. I was a total agnostic. I had no belief in angels or any kind of heavenly being. They were female angels singing the most lovely music. I met one of the ladies and I was very I attracted to her. But I real;|o ized my attraction was a jp physical one and that was ■M1 ^e wrong thing to do.
Then, we went to an art gallery. It was sort of a multilevel gallery containing art and music and sculpture. Each of these disciplines was in a form both traditional and completely out of my understanding. There were sculptures you might find in Italy and others you might find on Venus.
Joy: We went to a library, with stacks going up to the ceiling and going on and on. My guide said, ‘You know, when you go back'—and I thought, back? I’m going to have to leave? It’s the only time I’ve been happy in my life— ‘you’re going to have to make an attempt to get into this material.’ I asked him if I had to go, and he said, ‘Yes, you have work yet to do and they need you back there.’ I said, ‘I’ve got all this guilt over the time wasted.’ He said, ‘Like this?’ and I was so overwhelmed with guilt I thought I would die. And he waved his hand and all the guilt was replaced by a feeling of such joy. He said, ‘You can do this yourself.’
The last place we went was to a room, with a wonderful computer that had something to do with destinies. There were several people operating the thing and one of them was Albert Einstein. He said, ‘Would you like to run this?’ and I was so overwhelmed by the fact that he would take time to talk to me that I said, ‘Sure, but I don’t know how to.’ He said, ‘You just have to do as well as you can. Go ahead, try.’ And so I did. And instinctively I did a pattern over the keys and I knew that what I had done had helped someone immeasurably. Then the entity said, ‘You’re going to have to go back.’ Here I was, this logical fellow, and the greatest experience of my life had occurred when I was unconscious. I thought I was insane. I told several people and none of them, with the exception of my wife, Edith, believed me. I knew from the outset that I had changed. Nothing seemed to be as impossible as it had before.
I’m not afraid of dying. I may be afraid of the way of dying, but I’m not afraid of death. It is, without a doubt, the most wonderful experience I’ve ever enjoyed. The process of birth is quite traumatic. The process of dying, having gotten through the actual pain to the body, is a release. This is the hell. □
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