© Ian Lawton 2019

The afterlife. It has fascinated us ever since our primitive ancestors started to ponder their mortality. We are all going to experience it at some point, whatever it might or might not be. Moreover, despite the fashionable trend towards scientifically-inspired materialism in intellectual circles in the West, which rejects anything beyond the apparently ‘physical’, a huge majority of the world’s population do still believe that some part of them will survive their supposed ‘death’.

Since writing was invented this fascination has spawned myriad attempts to fathom and describe the mysteries of ‘what lies beyond’, and in recent decades these haven’t been limited to purely religious or esoteric texts. The simplest search will reveal hundreds of books with the word afterlife in the title. So what has motivated me to produce yet another? There are two main reasons.

It is widely accepted in spiritual circles that sometimes someone departing our earthly world can become ‘trapped’ in what we might call the ‘near-earth’ plane. They might die so suddenly they don’t even realise they’re dead, or they might continue to identify strongly with their former life due to a sense of unfinished business, or they might simply be unable to conceive of any other form of existence. As a result they might be perceived by some human sensitives as ‘ghosts’.

Prior to 2012 I’d always tended to assume – as I suspect do many spiritual people – that this only affects a small minority of the human population, and that in any case there’s plenty of help on hand for such unfortunates. That was before I started to read about the experiences of a variety of brave pioneers who’ve learned to deliberately take themselves ‘out of body’ (OOB) as part of my research for volume one of this series, Supersoul. These indicated that far, far more people departing our earth are trapped in this way than I’d previously appreciated, and that some are so emotionally deranged they find themselves in genuinely hellish-type realms of the type I’d previously dismissed as the fabrications of those who wished to exert religious control over their followers. I also learned that many OOB explorers are engaged in regular rescue missions to clear the huge backlog of spirits that have built up over millennia, working with spirit helpers from other realms. There was even a suggestion that this is particularly important now in order that their confused energies don’t disrupt the ‘shift in consciousness’ that many people believe has been progressing on and around our planet for some time.

The OOB reports referred to above also revealed that our expectations of what will happen to us after death have a significant bearing on what we experience, and that as a result huge numbers of departed spirits find themselves in an almost infinite variety of ‘heavens’. For some this might be an almost exact recreation of the environment they enjoyed on earth, even if it’s just a small flat in a city or a semi-detached in suburbia; for others it might be a church or temple in which they can continue to worship their religious icons; for others still it might be a beautiful earth-like vista involving seas, mountains, forests, meadows or any combination thereof. It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it – each to their own, enjoying themselves for eternity with no pressures or worries, especially after all the trials and tribulations of earthly life? Until we recognise that these are all just another form of illusion, and that their inhabitants are also effectively trapped because they remain blissfully unaware of the far broader possibilities for progression that exist beyond their sphere of attention.

Of course for centuries various religious, spiritual and esoteric texts have tried to prepare their followers for what happens after death – such as the well-known Tibetan Book of the Dead, with its warnings about the ‘realms of hungry ghosts’ and so on. However they tend to use arcane language, and to rely heavily on complex and obscure symbolism, rendering them somewhat impenetrable except to more committed seekers. So my first clear objective for this book is to put together a state-of-the-art framework that provides a realistic view of the pitfalls that can potentially prevent people from progressing in a healthy way in the afterlife – this time in modern, simple language, and based on the latest available research.

Admittedly while I was planning it several colleagues expressed doubts about this enterprise, mainly because they felt I would be scaring people unnecessarily. I thought about this long and hard but came to the conclusion that, while this is a possibility, it’s outweighed by the benefits. After all, if you’re sensible you wouldn’t travel to a potentially dangerous country on earth without trying to arm yourself with maps and advice about the do’s and don’ts in advance. The same is perhaps even more true of the afterlife realms. So for those who don’t want to leave it to chance my aim is to provide the best routemap our current knowledge can provide.

Although in the last century we’ve managed to split the atom, put a man on the moon and even decode the human DNA sequence, in many ways we’ve gone backwards spiritually. I am not for one moment suggesting there haven’t been great leaps forward in our spiritual understanding, and an increasing move away from the binding dogma of orthodox religion, in certain circles. But partly because of the rise in supposedly scientific materialism, and partly because of an increasing obsession with possessions, celebrity and so on, the vast majority of the population of the Western world in particular is probably now more ignorant about death than at any time in the past. For most people it’s the great taboo, swept under the carpet, not thought about or discussed – even though we know it’s something we’ll all have to face sooner or later.

We have already seen that this ignorance can leave many departed spirits trapped and confused. But there’s another aspect that’s equally concerning. In the modern world we encourage those left behind to fully express their grief – and it would be completely inhumane not to sympathise with the yawning void left by the death of a loved one, especially if they pass suddenly or before their time. Yet in due course we’ll find departed spirits themselves telling us that prolonged, intense grief exerts a huge energetic pull, holding them back and preventing them from moving on properly away from this plane. This is a basic fact about death that modern Western society seems comprehensively unable to appreciate.

More than this, though, there seems to be a general underestimation of what awaits us after death. Many people tend towards a vague idea that the afterlife will be a place where they can meet up with their loved ones again, hopefully in a reasonably pleasant environment. But the evidence suggests that this falls way short of what truly awaits us, and of the potential for progression to planes of existence against whose wondrous experiences the pleasures of our earthly world pale by comparison.

By contrast, but with similar effect, while many modern converts to the idea of reincarnation do accept that the afterlife experience involves learning and growth, they still regard the human experience itself as the ultimate proving ground – the corollary being that we need to return to earth again and again to truly progress. But what if this highly popular view reverses the true picture? What if the challenges of the human experience only scratch the surface of the almost limitless opportunities for progression and growth in other, less restricted planes?

So the second objective of this book is to stress that in no way should we be scared of death, at least not if we’re properly prepared. Instead we should celebrate the potential it brings, and even look forward to it with relish as a new beginning. As for sadness about those we’re leaving behind, all the evidence suggests that genuinely close relationships of whatever nature do survive the ultimate test of time.

We have already mentioned the work of pioneering OOB researchers, and a significant portion of this book is based on evidence gleaned from their journeys. Near-death experiences (NDEs) are similar, and we will use some material derived from these too, but because they typically involve a single experience they tend to include a fair degree of subjectivity. By contrast OOB pioneers train themselves to repeatedly visit the very realms we’ll all move into after we pass on, making every effort to analyse and compare their experiences and to learn from any initial misinterpretations. That surely puts them in prime position to find out what’s really going on. What is more they tend to use relatively modern language and idioms far more suited to our culture and understanding than religious and esoteric texts written centuries ago. Indeed I’d suggest that the proliferation of OOB pioneers in the last half century has put them at the absolute forefront of consciousness exploration – and I can but agree with one of the leading practitioners, William Buhlman:[1]

I contend that the discoveries of out-of-body explorers are far more important than we can even begin to imagine. In fact, they represent a true quantum leap in the evolution of our species. These explorers may be so advanced that our current physically immersed states of consciousness cannot acknowledge, much less comprehend, the sheer magnitude of their discoveries… All existing human discoveries pale in light of this new knowledge. I find it amusing that every day we swim in a magnificent ocean of multidimensional energy while our sciences are still examining the grains of sand on the beach.

Some people have suggested to me that these pioneers can hardly have proper experience of the afterlife realms precisely because they’re not really dead, and their access thereto must therefore be restricted. I discuss exactly why this represents a comprehensive misunderstanding of the OOB experience, and why much of the time the term ‘out-of-body’ is itself a misnomer, in chapter 10.

In fact the evidence suggests that we all go OOB every night when asleep, as we’ll see in chapter 26. Although some people will remain effectively unconscious during these periods, others will be up to all sorts of activities in the afterlife planes. What is more many of us regularly remember vivid dreams that are clearly realistic and not just the brain processing information from the day just completed, and these are almost certainly reflections of our OOB journeying, even if distorted and incomplete. Sometimes we also wake up with important ideas impressed upon us – particularly if we’re involved in some sort of research or creative endeavour – which we might take as evidence of the background work that other parts of our consciousness are engaged in.

Nevertheless, in general this book deliberately isn’t based on any personal OOB travels of my own. What most interests me, indeed where my skill sets most lie, is in comparing the experiences and research of many others, then extracting the consistent elements and analysing them. To a significant extent this is what I did with the ‘interlife’ experience in The Big Book of the Soul, it’s what I did with various reports of OOB experiences when researching Supersoul, and I’m doing the same again here except from a different perspective. In fact I’d suggest that it’s only by extracting these consistent elements from pioneers’ reports that one can hope to reach any even vaguely objective conclusions, and to provide descriptions that are hopefully less clouded by the more personal, subjective aspects of their experience.

However there is another key source of information and evidence for this book. For some decades now spiritualist mediums seem to have concentrated primarily on connecting with the departed in order that those left behind can gain comfort. The contrasting aim of most modern ‘channellers’ is to communicate the wisdom of ‘wise’ entities who purport to tell us much about the true nature of reality, about the human condition, and so on. Indeed I have used the wisdom of sources such as Seth, Abraham, Neale Donald Walsch’s ‘god’ and others extensively in my other books, most notably in The Power of You.

Yet there was a time when mediums and channellers regularly attracted ordinary discarnate humans who, although not claiming to possess any special wisdom, had enough experience of the afterlife realms to pass on a reasonable idea of the lay of the land. Indeed many were fervent in their desire to educate a woefully ignorant human race, and in the first half of the twentieth century a plethora of absolutely invaluable reports were obtained – many of them rarely if ever mentioned in more modern books. The situation has changed little, and we remain woefully ignorant. Especially given the widespread consistencies between this older channelled material and more contemporary OOB reports, and indeed with a smaller number of more modern channelled sources, I take the view that it’s high time to bring it back centre stage and to build on it.

If we are to continue to describe ourselves as civilised and educated people, we might think it high time that we temper our contemporary focus on the material world with a desire to learn more about our ultimate fate when we shuffle of this mortal coil. Nor does the excuse that ‘we can’t possibly know what will happen so it’s best not to worry about it’ retain any validity. But we won’t move forward if all we do is return to religious dogma, or to the supposed esoteric wisdom of the past. Instead it surely behoves us to open our hearts and minds to the wondrous possibilities that await us after death, by embracing the state-of-the-art material on the afterlife realms provided from both sides of the divide in the last century or so.

It is only right that I point out that collating all this material has represented a serious personal challenge. Thousands of the most difficult hours of my entire researching life have gone into this book. Nor has it merely been an exercise in collation so that readers don’t have to individually refer to the countless books I’ve used as source material. A massive amount of sifting and sorting has been involved, because every single source’s map of the afterlife planes is at least slightly different – and sometimes markedly so – necessitating a significant amount of difficult interpretation on my part. Indeed the challenge of trying to incorporate the consistent elements of all this material into a universal framework has been so huge that it sometimes felt insurmountable. So, in fairness to myself, it would be quite wrong to perceive me – as some have in the past – as merely a reproducer and collator of other people’s work. What is more, without the quite unique and original framework of Supersoul Spirituality that I’ve developed over recent years, much of this afterlife material would have no proper context.

All that having been said I can merely lay this book in front of potential readers, and trust that my extensive efforts to present the most comprehensive, evidence-based map of the afterlife currently available have not been entirely in vain.

[1] Buhlman, The Secret of the Soul, chapter 7, pp. 118–19.