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Imagine being able to smell colors, see music and hear numbers....to look at the air and know the coming weather, or to know the health of people, animals and plants in an area just by sifting a handful of dirt through your fingers. These gifts were natural to author PMH Atwater, who thought all children could feel and sense things as she did. Born in South Idaho Falls near the lip of the Snake River Canyon, PMH seems to have been destined to lead an extraordinary life. She had five fathers and two mothers, and recalls playing with fairies and having tea parties with God. Her imagination and talent weren't often appreciated. She remembers an extremely traumatic first grade year, when I often sat in a front corner of the classroom with a pointed Dunce hat on my head.

Despite the trauma, PMH grew up to become successful in both intuitive and analytical fields, working as a professional astrologer, hypnotherapist, psychometrist, bank analyst, secretary, writer and reporter, as well as being a housewife, mother, prize-winning cook and Sunday school teacher. And, after dying three times in 1977, she became a near-death survivor.

Since being hit with what she calls a heavenly sledgehammer nearly twenty years ago, she has worked seven days a week researching and writing about the near-death phenomenon. She is a Board Member of the International Association for Near-Death Studies and a recognized authority on the subject. While she supports the current media coverage being given bestselling authors Dannion Brinkley (Saved by the Light) and Betty Eadie (Embraced by the Light), Atwater feels the public is being surfeited with The Myth of Amazing Grace, and isn't getting much of what needs to be said about dying and returning to life. So, with the recent publication of her third book, Beyond the Light What Isn't Being Said About the Near-Death Experience, she's said it. With the identification of six types of experiences, a detailed examination of both positive and negative after-effects and an extensive resource section, Beyond the Light stands as the definitive guide to the near-death experience.

As Joseph Chilton Pearce (author of The Crack in the Cosmic Egg) states, ...This brilliant analysis of a controversial subject displays an extraordinary intelligence, knowledge and intuitive insight....if heard, it could lift the issue into the clear realm of a scientific objectivity that could revolutionize our concepts of self and world.

Self-described as pushing 60, PMH has astounding energy and is still delightfully child-like (My grown son calls me whenever he feels down and needs a lift). Daily prayer and meditation are non-negotiable; as she emphatically states, I would not start my day without it. I won't do it...I won't for any reason allow this time to be preempted. According to her, There is no source more powerful, practical or usable. That's where my strength and energy come from. And it has taken enormous energy to conduct the exceedingly fastidious research she began in order to make sense of her own experiences.

Atwater has clarified four distinct types of phenomenon, and distinguishes two other related experiences. The Initial or non experience, characterized by a loving nothingness, the living dark, or a friendly voice is often had by those who need the least amount of shakeup in their lives. The Unpleasant or Hell-like experience may involve an encounter with a threatening void, stark limbo or hellish purgatory, or elicit hauntings from one's past. It is usually had by those who have suppressed guilts, anger or fears and who expect to be punished after death (Atwater found one in seven experiencers reported a hell-like episode). The Pleasant or Heaven-like experience, characterized by scenarios of loving family reunions, reassuring religious figures of light beings or affirmative and inspiring dialogue, is often had by those who need to know how loved they are and how important life is. The Transcendent experience exposes one to other-worldly dimensions and may include revelations of greater truths. It is usually given to those ready for a mind-stretching challenge or to those who would be most apt to utilize the truths revealed to them. The two related phenomenon include the near deathlike experience and anomalies. The near deathlike experience occurs when one experiences near-death phenomena without an accompanying life-threatening event. Anomalies include such things as pre-arranged out-of-body meetings, angels, walk-ins and encounters with aliens.

Atwater has found that, all four types of experiences may occur to a single individual during one episode, may occur in varying combinations or can spread out across a series of episodes. She has postulated that the four distinct experiences may actually be phases of an evolving consciousness, and sees each stage as a model of what happens as consciousness begins to awaken to itself (Initial Experience), untangle false perceptions (Unpleasant or Hell-like experience), recognize true values and priorities (Pleasant or Heaven-like experience) and embrace its oneness within The All (Transcendent experience).

Regardless of the type of experience, says Atwater, there is an overall pattern which is typical not only of the thirteen million American experiencers, but of people all over the world. Everywhere on earth, near-death survivors report roughly the following:

A sensation of floating out of one's body
Passing through a dark tunnel or encountering some kind of darkness, usually accompanied by a sensation of acceleration
Heading toward and entering into a light at the end of the darkness
Being greeted by friendly voices, people or other beings
Seeing a panoramic review of the life just lived
Discovering that time and space do not exist
Reluctance to return to the earth plane
Disappointment at being revived; feeling a need to shrink or squeeze to fit back into the physical body.

Such an awesome, life-shaking event seems magical, but Atwater's own years of re-entry and countless conversations with other survivors and their families have led her to a different conclusion. She says it takes seven years for a survivor to reintegrate and that The experience is not magic, even though it may seem so. Being a near-death survivor does not automatically make one superhuman, enlightened or holy. The near-death experience enhances, enlarges and accelerates that which is already there for the individual. It tends to act like a giant washing machine in the way it cleans up and scrubs out one's psyche. We are not saved by having a near-death experience, even from ourselves.

After-effects from the event can be negative as well as positive. Atwater summarizes the likely re-entry scenario: After the initial lightshow, there comes inspiring upliftment and enthusiastic vigor, then a letdown at the frustration of trying to apply new wisdom atop old prejudices; depression, the surfacing of repressed or suppressed guilts and fears, confusion and disorientation followed by feelings of being overwhelmed or abandoned.

Yet, once a survivor has managed to reintegrate, there are some interesting rewards. Physiological changes include a younger appearance, a playful vigor, enhanced metabolism, increased overall health and lowered blood pressure and pulse rates. Heightened sensations and synesthesia (multiple sensing), as well as the ability to see airborne water molecules and movements of energy is common. Many survivors show a new preference for open doors, windows and shades; some acquire an ability to merge into things. Atwater describes being sent by her employer to troubleshoot a large, computerized switching system in a New York City hotel, whose engineers had been unable to determine the cause of persistent malfunction. I checked out every plug and cable, interviewed operators and hotel staff, then, when no one was watching, I'd open the doors to the main cabinets and merge with the circuit cards and the power system so I could sense and feel whatever pulse might be amiss. I handed in a fifty-point report and thought no more of it. Several months later, my boss asked me to come to his office. With head bowed, he muttered, Thanks to your report we fixed the unit in two days and haven't had a problem with it since. Uh, but promise me you will never ever tell me how you figured out what was wrong. That said, he jumped up and ran out the door, refusing to look me in the eyes. I worked for this company as a telephone systems analyst for nearly three years, doing field investigations, writing technical manuals, and training switchboard operators, with no prior background whatsoever. I instantly knew that equipment as well as if I had been its inventor and I understood circuitry and power flows.

Some survivors acquire the ability to hear plants and animals speak or voice their needs, or may hear voices and music in the air. Interestingly, only one of over three thousand Atwater interviewed could continue listening to rock music. Virtually all of the others could no longer tolerate short, choppy beats and craved the longer, pure sine wave of classical music, chimes, bells, crystal bowl instruments and other melodious, natural sounds. Increased sensitivity to light and sound is nearly universal among survivors, as is the often humorous, though sometimes problematic sensitivity to electrical equipment. A near-death survivor's body energy almost always interferes with electronic equipment, light sources, security systems, power lines, magnetic fields and microphones, etc. Atwater theorizes that there is a correlation between exposure to etheric light and these intriguing physiological after-effects. She feels that it's the intensity of the light, not length of exposure that seems to determine the prevalence of physiological after-effects.

Atwater's personal after-effects include being more analytical, more goal oriented; now I look ahead and plan. I was a producer behind the scene, now I'm on-stage. I'm happier, more joyful. I always knew how to love, to serve, work and sacrifice, but now I have interpersonal skills and it's easier for me to make friends. And, as is apparently common, her brain hemisphere dominance has switched. She went from being 100% feeling oriented to being more intellectual. My memory has improved markedly, my mind is now intense, disciplined, careful and conservative.

The near-death experience seems to have a fascinating effect on the brain. It may well be that the brain is restructured, that neural pathways are rewired, rerouted or revitalized. Atwater notes that the near-death phenomenon seems to stimulate the brain hemisphere that was not previously dominant. There is also an observable movement in the brain, toward data clustering and creative invention, as if the experiencer were developing a more synergistic type of neural network. Her theory that the brain undergoes physiological and structural changes during an episode is now being verified by the scientific community. She further theorizes that the near-death experience is a piece of the evolutionary puzzle: People need to be more flexible, to be able to thrive on change, to have brains that can reason and intuit with equal skill, to have bodies that can adjust to fickle climates and to have energy levels that can mix and merge efficiently with technological equipment...at this exact moment in history when we need people who can increase their intelligence and extend their faculties and enhance their perception without lengthy training...here we have a grass-roots movement, unplanned and without leadership, of people discovering who they really are and responding to the need for change.

Some of her findings address the explanations voiced by the medical community, that experiencers are tricked by the chemicals in their own brains, that their experiences may have been drug-induced or created by an abundance of oxygen. In fact, most reports of near-death experiences come from people who were either not given drugs until after their experiences were over or not at all. Research has repeatedly shown that drugs actually impede the phenomenon. And the consistent detail, clarity and long-term recall demonstrated by near-death survivors doesn't fit the pattern of temporary hallucinations induced by oxygen. As for chemicals in the brain phantomly fabricating the whole thing, there is no doubt that chemicals play a role, but again, long-term after-effects and abilities defy the effects endorphins and other brain chemicals would have over such a time frame.

Most near-death survivors report being asked two simple questions that do have profound meaning and consequence: Whom have you served? Whom have you loved? Atwater provocatively asks each of us, Stop right now. Pretend it's your turn.

How will you answer those two questions?


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