by Dr. Alberto Villoldo: As children, many of us are told that in order to get into Heaven, we must be good – and that if we’re not, we could end up in Hell…
This European concept of eternal reward (or punishment) does not exist in indigenous cultures.
The Shaman understands that on the other side of life there’s only life; that death is simply a doorway through which each of us must pass on our journey home. Shamanic wisdom tells us that after death the physical body goes back to the earth, our knowledge returns to the mountains, and our essence or soul returns to the stars.
We even have maps for this journey beyond death, describing the three stages, or opportunities, for us to embrace our luminous nature.
Stage 1: The brain shuts down, the electromagnetic field created by the central nervous system dissolves, and the Luminous Energy Field – also known as the aura or soul – disengages from the body. The eighth chakra envelops the other seven chakras and forms an orb, which squeezes through the central axis of the luminous body to become one with Spirit again.
This encounter with Spirit has been described as dawn breaking on a cloudless morning; a state of primordial purity; immense and vast. If we have prepared for this moment before our death, we surrender readily, and are lovingly enfolded by it.
Stage 2: The forces of nature manifest in their pure essence and coalesce into balls of energy. We have a second opportunity to recognize our luminous nature, to see that we are not separate from the dazzling light and energies around us. Those who miss this opportunity may experience enlightenment briefly, like a flash of blinding light, before they slip back into unconsciousness.
Stage 3: We observe that we still have a form, that we are a man or woman, that we can be young and unaffected by disease. But the dawn of consciousness has passed, and we are now in the twilight of the day. The colors are not as sharp or well defined, even though our awareness is tremendously heightened.
Shamans learn the journey beyond death through Spirit Flight (sometimes called an out-of-body experience in the West) and meditation. They believe it is important to learn the path to infinity now, while we still have a body to which we can return. The oral traditions of indigenous people abound with stories describing the challenges one might face in the journey toward the light.
While these maps are useful in death, they are more important to help us understand the mystery of being alive. Once we understand the continuity of life throughout eternity we attain freedom. Death ceases to stalk us, and we discover a self that dwells in infinity.