By REV. GARY W. DUNCAN, M.S., M.A., CSM/OCP
When I was twelve years old, my brother – a Funeral Director – began introducing me into the business. Over the next several years, he taught me anatomy and physiology, principles of mortuary science as well as other aspects of the profession. By the time I was twenty-one, I had completed my mortuary apprenticeship, but decided to leave the profession and pursue a degree in psychology.
Working in the funeral business gave me a rich understanding of the dying process, people’s experiences at death and personal experiences preparing the body for burial. It was here that I became acquainted with a phenomenon I call “the watchers.” Both my brother and I, at times while preparing the body, would feel the soul of the departed watching us. It was as though there were three people in the preparation room rather than two.
The other interesting phenomenon I became acquainted with during this time was the many stories of deathbed visions. Families would often talk about the last hours or days before their loved ones died. It was during these times that family or friends who had died would visit the dying person and within hours or days, and sometimes a week or so, the person would die. Some dying people would see a closed golden or brilliant white door, and later report the door had opened, and soon they would be dead.
Working with the Dying
These experiences and stories stayed with me as I completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees in both psychology and counselling. I eventually set up a counselling and psychotherapy practice in the state of Ohio and within six years I was in an internship at the Cincinnati Health Department’s STD Clinic. During the first year at the STD clinic, I began working with the first AIDS case in the Cincinnati area, and eventually worked with others who were diagnosed with the disease.
At the time, there was no treatment for AIDS, so I began helping people with this disease go through the dying process. Working with those dying of AIDS, I encountered much fear and anxiety regarding dying, death and the afterlife. I immersed myself in Eastern and Western literature on death, and began attending a local near-death experience group to find a solution to my client’s fears and anxieties. After accumulating a large body of information, I created guided imagery to take my clients into the light. This imagery was targeted to reduce their fears and anxieties. However, what occurred on their inward journeys were profound mystical experiences, in which they encountered deceased relatives and loved ones. I was simply awe-struck by this outcome.
Discovering Some Souls Do Not Cross Over
The stories I heard in the local near-death experience group helped me craft the guided imagery, but I also learned all souls do not go into the light at death. One of the men in the group was Howard Storm, an atheist, who had a hellish negative near-death experience in which he was lost in an agonising darkness taunted by shadowy creatures. He came to realise he was dead and after saying prayers his mother taught him in childhood, he was immediately escorted into the light by a light being. According to P.M.H Atwater1 about 15% of adults have had near-death experiences similar to Howard Storm. It soon became obvious the guided imagery I created not only helped my clients reduce their fears and anxieties, but I was taking them on an inward journey directly into the light, avoiding the hellish experience Howard Storm encountered. Decades later, Howard published his near-death experience in the book My Descent into Death: A Second Chance at Life.2
A few years later, while working with The Monroe Institute, an organisation using sound frequencies to produce out-of-body experiences, I learned that they had helped a confused soul move into the light. An Institute facilitator using this technology connected with a man whose ship had sank in the early 1800s. This man was still in the water holding onto a wooden part of the ship, but unlike Howard Storm this soul did not know he was dead. The facilitator eventually convinced the man he was dead. He was told to look up and he would see a light. He reported he did see the light. The facilitator then convinced the man to let go of the wood and go toward the light, which he finally did.
During this period, I began teaching a course in parapsychology at the University of Cincinnati, and soon the Psychology Department was sending me referrals of people who were having unusual experiences, primarily hauntings. I set up a small research team and began investigating these phenomena. I discovered these hauntings were caused by souls who had not gone on into the light at death because of various reasons. Some of these souls died a violent death, some saw the light but decided not to go into it because of unfinished earthly business, while others appeared to be lost or addicted to earthly pleasures, and some were just astral shells.
There were some souls that appeared to have gone into the light, but their astral image was left behind imbedded in what Eliphas Levi called astral light.3 Astral light is the spiritual substance emanating from the upper and lower astral planes that interpenetrates physical reality. Astral planes are areas in spiritual reality manifesting intense feelings and emotions. The upper astral plane expresses positive feeling and emotions and the lower expresses negative feeling and emotions. When souls die a violent death, or sudden death, their soul image is fused into the astral light with intense emotions coming from the lower astral plane. These ghostly images are astral shells and have no soul essence or spiritual identity. These astral shells, as in most ghostly encounters, re-enact over and over the drama the soul experienced at death, which is usually traumatic.
A few years later I encountered a totally different soul experience called twin souls. In this case, a soul named George decided not to go into the light, but remain in the hinterlands between the earth plane and the light waiting for his twin soul named Jean to die.4,5 According to George, as twin souls they needed to merge back into one soul and that can only be possible after Jean dies. Once Jean dies, she will be like George in spirit form, and they can both go into the light together, and eventually merge back into one soul.
Up until this point, working with these unusual cases, I found myself becoming more open and receptive to souls who had died. With George, I could feel his presence and energy at times all around me – he would come into my meditations, and I could see him clearly. These experiences were laying the foundation for what was to come, which would change my life forever.
Messages from the Other Side
The major shift happened when an old friend died, an Episcopal Priest, I had known for years. I was distraught for weeks after his death. My melancholy mood suddenly lifted when in the middle of his memorial service he spoke to me. He said in his voice as though he was speaking to me in life, “This is Wayland, thanks for coming, I’m okay, I’ll see you later.” I was stunned! This was the first time anything like that had happened to me. I was now spiritually open and could not go back to the way I was.
A few years later my father was diagnosed with lung cancer and it had metastasized to the brain. I made a decision to set aside specific career goals and instead listened to his concerns about the dying process and his inevitable death. I eventually asked him if any of his loved ones, who had died, visited him. He said his mother visited him several times. I knew at that point he would be joining her soon, and he did two weeks later.
That following Memorial Day, my life partner and I visited my mother, and we all went to the cemetery to decorate my father’s grave. I was alone looking at his gravesite, reflecting on the many things we had done together in life, then like the experience I had with Wayland, my father spoke to me. In life, when he wanted to get my attention, he would address me by my middle name, which is “Wayne.” In his voice, he said, “Wayne I’m not there. Wayne I’m not there.” After that day, I only visited the gravesite once, when my mother died. I will never visit it again because he told me he was not there.
These afterlife encounters opened up a portal between the earth plane and the light, and the landscape in-between. This portal has allowed me to connect with the deceased in the afterlife, in ways I had never thought possible before. Realising the fullness of the afterlife has added richness to my life, and given me a direction for my own spiritual journey. The experiences with Wayland and my father have opened a vast horizon, working with other departed souls.
Helping Souls Go Into the Light
After the Memorial Day encounter with my father, my personal armour was shattered, leaving me open to other afterlife experiences. About a year later, my life partner and I were visiting my mother when another life expanding experience flooded into a nightly dream. I had read several biographies of the actor James Dean, and had visited his hometown in Indiana. While at my mother’s, I had a dream of the late actor. Suddenly, the dream motif shifted, and I found myself in a grayish sepia-tone room. The room looked like a concentration camp cell with dingy bunk beds, two beds high. On one of the beds was Paul, a childhood and adolescent friend who died of an overdose a few years earlier. Besides me, he was the only one in the room. He looked gaunt and dishevelled lying on the bed. He looked up at me and said, “Gary, where am I?” I told him he was dead and that surprised him.
During meditations, I worked with Paul helping him move out of the place he was in. Together we created a new home for him that was bright and sunny, overlooking a beautiful green valley. Paul continued to be with me for the next several years. At times, I could feel his presence and he would come into my meditations, to work on earthly issues, primarily his drug and alcohol addictions. Then one day he told me he was moving on, and thanked me for helping him. I saw Paul in my inner world or inner vision walking toward the light and disappeared. I haven’t felt his presence, nor has he visited me in my meditations, since that day. I feel he is now in a better place in the afterlife.
Shortly after Paul left, another experience came into my meditations; it was my mother. She died a few months previously, and I thought my father was there to welcome her into the light. However, this was not the case. My mother was a very religious woman who tried to help many people in need, but she thought she was doomed to hell because of certain thoughts she had. She never revealed what those thoughts were. In the meditation she said, “Gary Wayne, I’m lost.” She repeated that over and over. Like my father using my middle name, my mother always referred to me as Gary Wayne. I immediately came out of the meditation. I could not see her, but I felt her presence and heard her voice.
Knowing she was lost in some darkness she had created out of guilt regarding her thoughts, I began helping her move on. Over the next several weeks during meditation, she would come to me. I told her my father and her mother was waiting for her in the light. I told her to look for a white door with light shining all around the edges. It took her a while to find the door and slowly over the next few weeks I helped her move closer and closer to the door as her fears slowly abated. I continued to reinforce that my father and her mother were just beyond the door, and all she had to do was to open it and go through. I finally convinced her to put her hand on the levered door handle, and that was the last time I heard her or felt her presence.
Being open to the afterlife has allowed other souls who have died to contact me. During the 2009 Christmas holiday season, another old friend entered my awareness. While sitting watching the fire in the fireplace a shadowy figure crossed the living room, and then in my inner awareness an image of Greg popped in, with a strong feeling of his presence. Somewhere in the centre of my mind he spoke to me about our last encounter, which wasn’t pleasant. I had known Greg for thirteen years from the time he was fifteen. His brother and I were life-partners for nine years, and finally broke-up. After the break up, Greg and I remained friends. However, Greg’s wife was in contact with my ex, which created insurmountable problems. So, I decided the only way to deal with the issues was to cut off all communication with Greg and his wife.
In spirit, Greg told me he was devastated by my decision to cut off all communication because he felt we were like brothers, and this caused him to go through a severe depression. In the afterlife, he could not move on until we dealt with this unfinished business. During meditation, Greg would come to me and we went through a process of forgiveness. After forgiveness, he told me it was time for him to move on. Like the experience with Paul, I saw Greg walking toward the light and disappeared. I have not felt his presence since that day.
Growing up in the racist South, I was influence by racism all around me. One night in a house on our property adjacent to the main house, I was playing an old piano. The door unexpectedly opened and there stood a black man whom at first I didn’t recognise. After a few moments, I recognised him; it was James, a former high school basketball player that came to our school during integration. At the time, I had no black friends and felt very uncomfortable with him being in my presence.
However, over the next few weeks, James would drop by at night, and we would play the piano together. I was still uncomfortable with him, but I tolerated the situation. One night, full of bourbon and a strong dose of racism from a white neighbour, I was drunk, and ready for a confrontation. When I came home, I heard the piano playing, opened the door and there sat James at the piano with a big smile. A horrible confrontation ensued, and I ran James off our property with a cacophony of racial slurs. Weeks later, I felt horrible guilt and shame over the encounter, but never saw James again.
Then in November 2011, he returned. I was reflecting on various students I have taught over the years. I was thinking about an African American student, I had helped work through a bad divorce. Suddenly, another African American replaced his image, a man I had long forgotten: James. It was as though his energy was all around me. I simply couldn’t shake it. It felt like one of those experiences where you feel a person’s presence, or they pop into your mind, and shortly afterwards they call you on the phone.
The feeling was so intense. I looked on the Internet to try to find him because I wanted to apologise for what I did over forty years ago. I had no luck, but the feeling persisted. For two days, I felt possessed to find him. Finally, on the third day, I located his sister. She told me he married a woman in Scotland, had two daughters and died there in 1986 of Lou Gehrig’s disease. I was stunned!
Knowing he was dead, I decided to use imagery I had learned from my Theosophical training. In the imagery, I created a room in my inner world in what Henry Corbin6 would call the imaginal realm, between the physical and the spiritual world. I decorated the room to my personal taste and specifications. I focused on the last image I had of James, and asked him to knock on the door to the room. Suddenly, there was a knock, I opened the door and there stood James as I last remembered him. James and I sat facing each other in deep conversation in front of a burning fire in the fireplace. Over the next two years, we worked things out and ended with forgiveness. The last time I saw James, he was walking toward the light and disappeared.
Reflections on These Soul Encounters
Why did these souls come to me? It is apparent all these souls wanted me to know something specific about their situation. Wayland and my father wanted me to know they were okay. Paul and my mother wanted me to help them out of the dire situation they had created for themselves. Greg and James wanted to bring closure to unfinished business between us.
My interaction with these souls has totally changed my life, and has confirmed all souls do not go into the light at death. There are many ways to contact the deceased. My experiences are just a sampling of the experiences people have. One thing I know without question is there is no death, just a passage from one world into another. Keep in mind that whatever we physically acquire during this lifetime remains in this lifetime. At death our souls disconnect from our physical bodies and move on, taking none of the things acquired in this lifetime. Remember, we are just passing through here, so think about the kind of impression of yourself you want to leave behind.
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- P.M.H. Atwater, The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences, Hampton Roads, 2007, 26.
- Howard Storm, My Descent into Death: A Second Chance at Life, Harmony, 2005.
- Eliphas Levi, Transcendental Magic, Samuel Weiser, 1972, 63, 66-67.
- Gary W. Duncan, “Twin Souls Merging, Another Look”, New Dawn 142 (Jan-Feb 2014).
- Jean A. Cline, Gary W. Duncan & Daryl I. Coston, Twin Souls Merging, Jillett Publications, 2007.
- Henry Corbin, Mundus Imaginalis or the Imaginary and the Imaginal. An Annuel of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought; http://hermetic.com/moorish/mundus-imaginalis.html
REV. GARY W. DUNCAN began his career in the funeral business, became a polymer chemical researcher, a behavioral/social science researcher, a psychotherapist for 21 years and 12 years in the natural health business. He has taught at various colleges and universities, and studied mystical and esoteric traditions for over 40 years. He is an ordained Gnostic Catholic Priest, spiritual director, published author (Twin Souls Merging), lecturer, spiritual/esoteric philosopher, consultant and Wellness Educator. Rev. Duncan can be reached for lectures, workshops and phone or Skype consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.twinsoulsmerging.com
The above article appeared in New Dawn 143 (March-April 2014)
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