Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually Awakening people. I’ve done 630 Something of them now. And if this is new to you and you’d like to see previous ones, please go to batgap.com and look under the past interview’s menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it there are PayPal buttons on the website, and there’s also a page about other ways to donate other than PayPal. My guest today is William Peters. William is the founder of the Shared Crossing Project, whose mission is to positively transform relationships to death and dying through education and raising awareness about shared crossings and their healing benefits. As the Director of the Shared Crossing Research Initiative, William and his team collect and study extraordinary end-of-life experiences, shared crossings. William is a global leader in shared-death studies and end-of-life phenomena. He has developed methods to facilitate the shared-death experience and to assist experiencers in meaningfully integrating their experiences. William is a psychotherapist at the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara, where he specializes in end-of-life counseling as a means toward psycho-spiritual evolution. He served as a hospice worker with Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. His work is informed by his two NDEs (near-death experiences) and a variety of shared crossings. William has presented at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicines Annual Conference. His research has been published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and is approved and awaiting publication in Omega Journal of Death Studies. William’s book, entitled At Heaven’s Door: What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach about Dying Well, and Living Better was published recently by Simon and Schuster. I just listened to the whole book, loved it, and he has a couple of websites, which I’ll link to from his page on batgap.com, WilliamPeters.info, and sharedcrossing.com. Welcome, William.
William Peters: Thanks, Rick. Really good to be here.
Rick Archer: Good to have you. I really enjoyed your book; it was really sweet because, I don’t know, it was all about shared crossings and how people kind of tuned into the experience that their loved ones are having as they died or had died. What also really hit me was just the love people have for each other, how precious life is, and how much a mother loves a son or husband loves a wife, for all these different relationships that we have. That came through really beautifully in the book, I thought.
William Peters: Thank you. That is kind of the main teaching in my research. My working with people who’ve had these experiences is that there’s this bond that stretches from this life to the beyond through death. As you said, it’s about love at the end of the day. I mean, it sounds trite. But at this moment, when one of our loved ones is leaving us, that is the bridge that can connect us and that’s how these shared-death experiences tend to happen. That’s the working hypothesis, that there is this bond, this relational bond imbued with love that serve to make these possible. I say that tentatively because there are those of us who are adepts at this, that is to say that I can be at a bedside and there are many others who can just attune to that field, if you will, that opening of the veil and observe the phenomena that we’ll discuss in the shared-death experience.
Rick Archer: As you indicated in the bio that I just read, and as I often say on the show, there’s definitely a spiritual relevance to this whole topic, and, of course, most spiritual traditions, if not all, address it. You have the Tibetan Book of the Dead and you have what the Hindus to say about dying and the Christians say about it. Anybody who’s interested in spirituality has some idea or some orientation to this whole topic. It usually involves the fact that you don’t die. I heard an interesting quote last night from, I was listening to a talk by Deepak Chopra, and he said, how did he put it? He said, life is not the opposite of death. Birth is the opposite of death. Life is a continuum along which births and deaths continue to happen.
William Peters: Well said. That’s why those of us in this field have trouble with the term afterlife, because there really is no afterlife. As Deepak articulated well, life is constant. It continues through human death. The Tibetans had this down in their Dhammapada, which was the Tibetan Book of the Dead, really talking about different Bardos that we go into. These are these transitional states. In fact, if you take that perspective, then a human life itself is a kind of Bardo state.
Rick Archer: Yeah. It’s just a phase, it’s a segment of our life. Most people would think of it as their entire life. I was born in 1949, died in such and such, or will die and such and such, but really, those are just kind of milestones on a much longer journey in my opinion.
William Peters: I think you’re right. I mean, this is certainly what the Eastern spiritual traditions assert. Not so in the modern world where a physicalism and scientific materialism are the dominant paradigm, especially in medical sciences. That’s where you see a lot of the, I think the trouble of the conflict at end of life is that paradigm, which is clinging to this life, and engaging in ways that want to extend life. That’s what, we have a wonderful medical system, I want to be clear about that. They can really do a great deal of curing and healing and diagnosing, but at the time of death, it gives people a great deal of peace to know that, if they know that, they’re going to die in this human life, but they will go on. There you see a struggle with Eastern spirituality in the modern medical system right there.
Rick Archer: The Gita uses the analogy of dying as being like, and being reborn, as like a change of clothing, or something. Imagine if you went through your whole day thinking, oh, my God, tonight, I’m going to have to take off my clothing and put on my pajamas. Oh, that’s tragic. It would seem absurd. And we don’t want to be, we don’t trivialize death or be glib about it. I mean, obviously, it hits people pretty hard. But at the same time, like you just said, in the predominant Western paradigm, death is curtains, that’s the end, kaput. If you really buy into that then your, seems to me, entire life, and especially later in your life as death approaches, is adversely influenced by that perspective. I would guess. I mean, I don’t have that perspective. But it could be a whole lot of unnecessary wailing and gnashing of teeth, it seems to me.
William Peters: I think you’re speaking to a truth that we see at the end of life. I mean, I’m an end-of-life counselor. I’m a psychotherapist who specializes in grief and bereavement, and with the most disappointing and sad and unnecessary experience I have as a counselor with my bereaved patients, is how traumatizing the death of their loved one was for them to observe. The over medicalization to the, you see this a lot with persons with cancer. That is this continued effort to treat even though the literature suggests that these chemo treatments and radiation are not going to extend life significantly, but they will really impair quality of life. That’s a real hard one as a therapist, working with surviving loved ones because they’re like, I didn’t know what I didn’t, I couldn’t get them to stop. All this has its root in this sense that we have to keep life, human life, alive for as long as possible. That leads to all these extraordinary means, which come from a good place if that’s your paradigm, hey, more of life is better. But as we’re talking about here, there’s a whole other reality, and one that the shared-death experience and a lot of spiritual experiences speak to. The sense that human death is just a transition.
Rick Archer: You probably know the statistics, but I’ve heard this, statistics about the percentage of medical expenditure in the course of a person’s life, and how the preponderance of it is towards the very end, and it’s being spent on maintaining a life that the person really isn’t enjoying. They could be bedridden and miserable and in pain, all kinds of stuff, and we’re sort of dragging it out for an extra month or two. Then, we have these astronomical national health care costs that we don’t know how to pay for, and that we don’t have any kind of universal means of paying for. The whole thing is, I mean, talk about a paradigm having ramifications as it ripples through all the different areas and impacts. This is a big one. The paradigm that when you die, you’re done. It has huge economic and social and emotional consequences.
William Peters: I couldn’t agree more. Yes, and you’re absolutely spot on with those statistics. In the last six months of life, of human life, the Medicaid just pours out. I don’t have the exact numbers, but it’s a significant amount of funds, that, as you indicated, as well, do not yield any quality of life, and often not an extension of any life at all.
Rick Archer: The funny thing is people who have NDEs say when they cross over, albeit temporarily, it’s like, whoop, dee doo, I don’t want to go back. This is wonderful, and you talk to people who have had NDEs and have come back, and they say, well, I’m looking forward to dying, not that I’m in a big hurry, but when it happens, it’ll be great. All this angst and expenditure and suffering and everything, we’re essentially postponing a kind of a glorious transition.
William Peters: Yes. I’m a near-death experiencer myself too, having had two of them. I can speak to what all of us near-death experiencers say, and that is that our fear of death is largely alleviated. Many of us, not me, but many near-death experiencers, when they’re in that space, do not want to return but are often told, it’s not your time you need to return. But so yes, if this wisdom could be circulated through our medical systems and larger culture, then I think we’d have a much better relationship with end-of-life. The other thing is that we’re missing so much in terms of the quality of heartfelt connection and dialog that the opportunity at the end of the life to be with your loved ones and say, thank you for having shared this life with me.
Rick Archer: We’re missing that? Because regardless of whether there’s life after death or not, people can have those conversations. How do you mean we’re missing that?
William Peters: They can, but that requires typically a commitment to express to your medical care providers that you don’t want to continue extraordinary means to stay here. Now this is the purpose of hospice and palliative care that you can basically say, I just want to be comfortable. I don’t want to put any more effort medically into extending my life, and then you have that chapter in your life, which can either be from days to weeks, hopefully, months, if you’re wise about it. Then you can be with your loved ones, you can gather up and you can have those conversations. But the statistics are clear. Far too many people are going on hospice way too late. When you go on hospice late, if you’re in a hospital, you are basically trying to extend your life in some way or do some sort of curative interventions. In a hospital, it is really difficult to have that type of connection. There’s statistics that say that I think two thirds of all North Americans would like to die at home, and yet, about a third, maybe a little more, it’s increasing, thankfully, are unable to have that end-of-life setting. They’re in a medical setting, and that’s not where they want to be. This is all part of this transformation that thankfully, we are in as a culture. We are waking up to the value of hospice and palliative care at the end of life, but we still don’t have the spiritual teachings that my research and others suggest are not only possible, they’re probable if you prepare. If you know you’re going to die, which we all do, that seems like, can you believe I just said that if you know you’re going to die (laughing) we can get prepared for it. I mean, we all make financial plans. You don’t start making a financial plan late in life; you kind of do it when you have the opportunity to earn some income and start planning. Well, end of life and death and dying requires the same preparation. You can do advanced care directives and such, but my work focuses on how do you prepare spiritually, psychologically, emotionally for this great event that is human death, and know that if you do so, there are these amazing experiences, mostly mystical, transcendental, that are healing, not just for the dying, but for the loved ones and caregivers.
Rick Archer: We’ll talk about that a lot today. But I just have, there’s another one, which is the legal one, and you just alluded to it. Let’s say that Irene and I were to somehow suddenly have a stroke or something and be unable to communicate. If we hadn’t made some legal arrangement that we didn’t want heroic efforts to keep us on life support or something like that, would we be legally obligated? I mean, would with the other one of us have the option to say, pull the plug? Or would doctors be legally bound to try to keep us alive if we hadn’t made a legal sort of thing?
William Peters: There’s the legalities of that. Technically, there’s supposed to be a health care agent. The healthcare agent has full power to determine the medical care, in this case with your wife. If she had that document signed, and there were your specifications, your preferences for what you wanted, then she could deliver those, but
Rick Archer: If nothing is signed,
William Peters: Honestly, it’s a little bit state by state. Typically, a partner, if you’re married, that person can determine, make those decisions. Typically, that’s where it goes. What happens though, is that if you go into a trauma situation, a medical crisis, the hospital will do what it knows how to do. That’s prolong human life, so prolonging human life is what they’re going to do. You’ll have to really cut that off, and interrupt. There’s other documents, there’s what we call a POLST, physician’s orders for life sustaining treatments, that’s something that everybody should have. You should carry that in your car or with you, give it to your local hospital because that is the patient stating exactly what they want when they’re in a life-threatening situation.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. I just wanted to stick that in there. Let’s talk about you a little bit, your first near death experience, is that a good place to start?
William Peters: I’d say that’s pretty good place to start because I think that’s what put me on the trajectory to do the work I’m doing now.
Rick Archer: Alright, so describe that.
William Peters: Seventeen years old, growing up in San Francisco Bay Area, I went up skiing with some friends at Lake Tahoe, nearby skiing area, skiing down the mountain, typical day, catch an edge, get catapulted into the air, and take a really hard fall and basically fracture my spine. Low back injury, and immediately, I’m catapulted out of my body. The next thing I see after some kind of darkness, I have an observing self there, if you will, but I’m just seeing darkness and no sensation. Then the lights come on, and I’m moving away from my body. See my body on the ski slope, then see beautiful Lake Tahoe. Then see San Francisco Bay, Colorado Rockies. I mean, I can see it like a movie right now. It’s not a movie that ever goes away. Then I have a satellite view of planet Earth, and I’m very much at peace. I mean, this is comfortable, enthralling. At the same time this is going on, I’m seeing a review of my life in kind of snippets, video snippets. I’m getting a teaching on karma, quite frankly. The karma is that every thought, every action, every spoken word, impacts those around me. I’m seeing scenes as a child, pushing somebody off their bike and then him crying and going into his house and crying and his mother getting upset and then his mother getting upset with the husband. So, do you see the ripple effects of my actions? Eventually, at this point, I’m fully in this beautiful solar system. I mean, the galaxy is gorgeous, hyper alive, brilliant colors,
Rick Archer: You went out to the point of seeing the whole galaxy?
William Peters: Yeah, I can see, I mean, I don’t know, if I saw the whole galaxy. When I say I see, I could see as much of the galaxies I could see. It was clear to me that it was infinite on all sides. I couldn’t see the ends, but it was beautiful. It doesn’t look, didn’t look a whole lot different than the way it looked when you are looking into the stars at night, except you’re in it. You’re ensconced with it all around you. Then there’s this tunnel that I went in, and the tunnel was kind of translucent and ribbed. I could still see the solar system outside the tunnel. Everything changed when I saw the light. When I saw the light, then I realized, I’m dying, and I’ve been here hundreds if not, thousands of times. It was like, oh, I’m here again. I’m like, Oh,
Rick Archer: By here, you mean on earth, or you mean into this kind of cosmic
William Peters: No, I’m at the end of human life. I’m in this phase that comes after human life. This is the end of the human life. I’m now in another dimension, and I had not done what I had somehow thought I was going to do in this human life. I immediately started pleading. I grew up Catholic, so when I looked at that light, to me, it was God. I started pleading directly with God; God, don’t let me die. God, I didn’t complete what I incarnated to do in this life. I slowly went into that light, very warm, very comforting, very loving, and I’m enjoying it there. But I have in the back of my, no the front of my mind, really, I have to go back. After some time in that light, not fully in the light, just on the edge of the light. The light is big and voluminous and lovely. I feel a push back from that light, and I start moving away from the light heading back to the direction of Earth. I hear telepathically, make something of your life. With that I just reverse the trip. They talk about this silver cord astral line, if you will, that you travel. I didn’t. I had a sense, I didn’t see that, but I was wondering, well, how am I going to get back in my body? It was, there was, this kind of inherent knowing. I wasn’t doing anything. I was just returning and getting pulled almost like a zip line. It had a frequency sound to it. Then I saw planet Earth, and then I thought, oh my gosh, how am I going to get to Squaw Valley, USA where I was skiing? Eventually I got there, landed in my body. It was like a thud. I could feel the coldness of the snow on my back, but I had no feeling in my body. I pled like, oh, God, don’t let me be paralyzed, and then I felt the energy, the vitality, come across my body, similar to like being under a warm shower, just kind of rippled across. I said, thank you. But as you know, as I’ve reflected later, I wish I had asked, as if I had the power to receive what I was asking for, please don’t let me live in chronic pain because the fracture in my back completely debilitated me. I was, I lost my ability to be athletic. I never really ran again and couldn’t sit for many years of my life and had trouble walking. This is now 42 years ago. I’m significantly better. But it was a tough go.
Rick Archer: How’d you get off the mount? Do they bring you down a toboggan?
William Peters: This is either stupidity of a 17-year-old or just, I skied down.
Rick Archer: I heard you say later that if something had happened 1/32 of an inch more it would have damaged your spinal cord, and you would have been paralyzed. Somehow you skied down and didn’t do that.
William Peters: It was a painful ski ride down. But at 17 years old, I wasn’t going to tell any of my friends that I was in pain. That wasn’t cool.
Rick Archer: Did you ever see one of those
William Peters: I stopped skiing. I did stop skiing after that.
Rick Archer: Did you ever see one of those Powers of 10 movies where it zooms out and out and out and out and out and then zooms back in? Do you ever see one of those?
William Peters: No.
Rick Archer: You should google that or search for it on YouTube. There’s a number of different versions of it, but they go and they zoom out by powers of ten, and it speeds up and up and up and up. Then they zoom back in, and then they zoom in by powers of ten. You end up going down to the core level, subatomic level. It just kind of shows you the span of creation. Humans are actually kind of in the middle, in terms of the relative size of things. Anyway, those are well worth watching. I watched one of those one time when I was teaching a meditation class. I played it for the class, and I literally couldn’t talk afterwards because I couldn’t zoom in again. I had zoomed out with the movie, and I was, I was zzz’ed, I couldn’t kind of get back in the focus again, it was so powerful. Anyway, a little bit of a diversion there.
William Peters: So, that’s my NDE. That’s my first NDE. I didn’t think about that experience at all. I had no context. It just didn’t, I say no context. It just wasn’t, the NDE wasn’t around me. I didn’t hear anything about these experiences, even though it was 1979. Raymond Moody had written his book in 1976, Life After Life, really bringing the near-death experience to the general public, and it was out everywhere, but not in my culture. I mean, I was in high school and then going to college and just wasn’t aware of it.
Rick Archer: You didn’t tell your friends or anybody that you’d had this NDE?
William Peters: No, not at all. Here’s the thing, Rick, I don’t even think I remembered it. It almost, for a long time, lived as a state-specific experience, and while I was in the human realm, as we are, most of the time, I just didn’t even think about it. The first time I really thought about it was when I was channel surfing. I think I must have been in my mid 20s, which would have been, I was 17 when I’d had it, maybe early 20s. I was at my parents’ house. I was channel surfing. I heard somebody say, traveling down a rib tunnel. That’s the words I kind of channel served through that. Then it got me, traveling down a rib tunnel. There were some graphics in the background as well that were a little bit helpful. So, I went back to it, and I listened to this person tell his experience, which was very similar to mine. He then approaches the light, he goes into the light, and my body just lights up energetically. I just go, whoa, I had that. I didn’t know anybody that had that. I’m just like, oh, my gosh. I did then go up and share it with a family member because there’s only one other family member in the house, and I was excited. But this person didn’t know what to make of it and just kind of said, do you want to have dinner? A kind person, but it kind of killed the conversation. That experience went back in me. I did not think about it. But the experience really did affect me in ways that I was unaware of at that time, and have later come back and said, oh, yeah. Now the chronic pain was something for sure that was altering me a great deal. Like trying to make sense of this existentially and in my Christian Catholic faith, what kind of a God would allow this to happen. A little bit narcissistic, but when you’re that age, those are the types of questions you are asking when your friends are out having fun and doing sports and I’m in pain, and I can’t really do that. I had an experience that I want to share and that is when I was, I guess 22 or so. I went on a trip to Europe, which we frequently did between our summers between, in college years. I went with some friends and was in Greece, and we wanted to go up behind the Iron Curtain up to Budapest. But there was this spot on the map, which is Yugoslavia where there were no, our Let’s Go Europe, which was the travel guide of that era, did not have any information about traveling through Yugoslavia, but we decided to do it. We went to Yugoslavia, took an overnight bus, and I awakened after a nighttime in this, a whole night in the bus, and when I pulled the blinds back on the bus, what I looked out and saw was women, Muslim women, with burkas on. All I could see was their eyes and their hands extended. This caught me. You know you wake up in that kind of hypnagogic state where you’re just coming to, and what I felt in these women’s eyes and then their expressions was desperation. They were hungry, and that really touched my heart because they were touching something in me. We were connecting at a place where I was desperate too. I was desperately in pain and in search of meaning in my life and understanding, and it was a bridge that I just somehow, I didn’t have the words for it. I may not even have the words for it now. But I do know after that encounter, I mean, I literally was staring at these women who were begging, and I was weeping because I was feeling something in them that I hadn’t owned in my own self. That was profound. Within that moment, I made a commitment to myself to live and work with underprivileged people. lt was my own 22-year-old, simple minded way of saying, I need to be around these people, I need to learn something from them. I probably wouldn’t have said it that way, the way I am now. But as it turned out, I went to work in Central and South America after graduating and worked with an organization, the Jesuit International Volunteer Corps, which was, it’s a Catholic, liberal arm of the Catholic Church, really doing what they call liberation theology work, which was more of a political movement, about working in human rights and working with the underprivileged. Not a whole lot of religion, proselytizing, from what, from the people I was working with. But it did put me in touch with refugees, and oppressed people, starvation and a lot of pain and suffering. I learned a lot there. I did see a great deal of death and dying in a certain way. That was, that moved me a great deal too. I’m sharing this because it was the near-death experience, I think that set me on this course. Later, I would come back from Central and South America, and would take my first job in the Tenderloin of San Francisco. They hired me because I was fluent in Spanish, and there was a rush of immigration from Central and South America. Being fluent in Spanish, they hired me, but what happened really, was that what we now call the AIDS epidemic, happened. When that happened, I found myself working directly with a lot of young, actually, not just young, a lot of gay men of all ages, actually, who had contracted the HIV virus. At this time, we knew very little about the virus, whether it was contagious, or what have you. But I felt comfortable and drawn to working with these men, and I was hearing about some amazing spiritual experiences. One I’ll share with you now, what I talked about in the book quite a bit. This is the experience where Brad, who’s kind of a, I want to say, is almost like a death midwife or a psychopomp, somebody who really knows how to be with the dying and help the dying go from this life to the next. He probably wouldn’t describe himself this way, but when he was talking about his many experiences, now that I’ve studied the field, I go, oh, my gosh, he was kind of a psychopomp. Because he was working, he was living in a homeless encampment with primarily gay men. They were just ushering each other out of this life because they were just dying one by one. I mean, it was a gruesome situation. I was providing food for them, as well as others. I wasn’t the only provider of food, but I was also helping with emotional and spiritual support. On one morning, Brad comes into my office, and he is just beleaguered and wiped out. I go, Brad, what’s happened? And he said, Randy died last night. I said, Randy. Well, I mean, I’m sorry. I know he has been struggling for some time. I said, but I’m so sorry. And he says, yeah, I’m sorry, too. But it was so beautiful. When he said it was so beautiful, I said, beautiful, tell me more. And he said, well, when Randy died, we, the community was surrounding him, and he rose out of his body up a cylinder of light. At the top of that light above us, he looked at all of us, and he was young, and radiant, and happy. He thanked all of us for caring for him, and then he traveled further up that light and disappeared.
Rick Archer: Did everyone see that, or just Brad?
William Peters: I actually went the next day. I said, can I come and talk to your brothers? Brothers is what he called them, and he said, sure. I went down to the encampment, and I was trying to get that sense that you’re asking me right now, Rick. Two of them, Brad introduced me, they’re a little bit cautious about this guy who’s coming down to visit. And I, and they, and two of them said, yes, there was amazing light and we saw Randy go. I said, could you share a little bit more? And they’d say, well, it’s kind of private. I got that, but I had a good relationship with Brad, and Brad shared quite a bit with me about the experience and the impact.
Rick Archer: Just out of curiosity, when you say encampment, was it under a highway overpass or something like that, or was this a more adequate setup for these people?
William Peters: In this time, it was in an area called South of Market in San Francisco, which like I said, South of Market is really nice now. But at this time, it was not a good part of town. It was a burned-out building. They were on the second floor. I remember having to go up. It wasn’t a finished building at all, it was as if the building was somewhat abandoned, actually. I walked up the stairs of concrete, and there they were. They had tents and sleeping bags, and there’s a kind of a fire pit in the middle. I would say there was about a dozen to 20, but most of them were out during the day, which is kind of a typical behavior for homeless populations. They go out, they get food, they get their supplies, they get the things they need, and they come back at night.
Rick Archer: They were just dying in there, or were they finally getting into hospitals or something?
William Peters: Well, this is a good question because I think a lot of them, in this case, Randy died right there. I asked Brad about that, and he said, sometimes they, we die here, and we prefer that. Sometimes they go to the hospital. But, keep in mind, AIDS at this time, we’re talking, very late 80s, early 90s. It was scary. It wasn’t a pleasant experience to go to a hospital, if you had AIDS. They put you in a quarantine room, there was, it was hazmat suits the whole thing. I think, and I respect this, we talked earlier about what is a good death and surrounded by loved ones. I think they got, these communities got very comfortable in a certain way, as comfortable as you can, with death and dying. They became very proficient of, at supporting the dying. Now, I will say I also knew that they did have means to treat pain. I was aware of that. I didn’t know the specifics of it, but there was a market they were tapping into. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but Brad did tell me, we have ways to treat pain. I mean, they’re very much autonomous communities in a certain way.
Rick Archer: Which is interesting. So, this kind of lit your fire in terms of looking more into this phenomenon of shared death experiences.
William Peters: Yes. And, like I said, I’d heard about them through Brad and others, but there was no language for this type of experience. I will say that my grandmother on my paternal side died a few years later, and when I was with her, she was doing something we now know in the literature. It’s well identified as pre, having pre-death visions or visitations. I walked in and her hands were extended, and she was having a very, she’s gesticulating in an energetic conversation. Now, this was a woman who was 93 years old, who was mostly unresponsive the other times I visited her, but on this occasion, she was actively engaged in the conversation. I took down names and took notes on the names of who she was talking to. These are all pre-deceased relatives of hers and friends. I talked to my uncle who was at that time the elder in the family who could help me go back and make sense of this. He said, oh, my God, these were people from her life 40 years ago. That was something that got my attention. Soon after that, I signed up for Zen hospice. Now I’m leaving out one key event and that is, after I was, had the experience with Brad as a social worker, I then had another experience, my second near-death experience. That was I had contracted a rare blood disease called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia. It’s basically a low platelet condition, and you are, it can be fatal. You can drown in your blood essentially. I was in the ICU; I went into the ER room. They put a fall alert on me, and then I fell asleep, apparently because the next thing I remembered I was floating above the ICU. I was listening to conversation. This is a really important realization, one that I go back to frequently, trying to figure out what I, what was my consciousness like. I realize now that I was a free-floating consciousness that did not know that I was connected to anybody in that ICU. I didn’t have an identity as William at all. What I, so for a while I surveyed the scene. I mean, I was listening to nurses talk and listening to the janitors, or watching the janitors do their late night clean up. This was like two o’clock in the morning, so like five o’clock, wee hours in the morning,
Rick Archer: But not just in your own room. In other rooms down the hall and stuff you were tuning into
William Peters: Absolutely. Tenth floor of Kaiser Hospital Oakland. That’s where the ICU was, and I was moving about. I was kind of interested in kind of the elevator, that was the only interesting thing you get, I was just watching all this. At one point, I was over the top of the nurses, and they were talking about their cases. They talked about one person in bed one who was an elderly man with, had some sort of hemorrhage that was likely not going to make it through the night. Couple, then they go to this guy in bed three, and he’s a really young guy. He’s in great health, doesn’t seem to have that many issues. Doesn’t really have much of a medical history in Kaiser at all. We don’t know what, he’s got Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia, crashing platelet condition. I go over and look at that guy, and I realized, that’s me. That’s what I make the connection. That’s me. Then I go back to surveying the floor, and I don’t even come back to my, I don’t come back to my room until the doctor is tapping on me saying Mr. Peters, Mr. Peters, and I realize, oh, he’s talking to me, and I’m looking down at this doctor from above. Then I have this question. Whoa, do I answer? Can I answer? And I am sitting with that, if I answer, will I go into my body, or how will this all work? I decide to answer. As I’m answering, I feel the energy come back into my body, very similar to the experience I had on the ski slope. So, this is the re-embodiment. As I’m doing that, I opened my eyes, start talking, my voice comes out of my voice box. I hear it. Everything’s new. Now I’m hearing much more vibrantly, in a certain way, opened my eyes. Now I’m looking at the doctor, into his eyes and face, which is a significant contrast to observing things from above. That is a near-death experience an out-of-body experience, very well known, but it’s very different than my other near-death experience because I’m really close, I haven’t left this earth realm, if you will. So that’s a very important experience. All these lead to my fascination, curiosity about death and dying, end up in Zen hospice. And at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, a large, old public hospital serving the mostly indigent populations. With an open bed, open ward with 24 beds just spread out with only curtains. It gave me an opportunity, as with all the volunteers there at Zen hospice to be very close to people as they’re dying. There was a lot of transitioning going on. I had the one experience I refer to in the book is with Ron. Ron has been largely unresponsive for the last few weeks. I’ve been reading to him every day, in the afternoon when I’m there, because we know in hospice that hearing is the last sense door to go. You assume that they’re hearing you. As I’m reading to Ron, I popped out of my body, and I’m suspended above my body next to Ron’s. I’m looking down at my body, and I’m still reading as far as I can tell. This is a parallel universe. I did not stop reading. I see Ron there in his bed, but there’s Ron next to me on the right, and he is, he’s happy, he’s almost elated. It’s almost like he’s invited me in. And he says, check this out, as if to say, this is where I’ve been hanging out. This is very similar in terms of location in consciousness, if you will, to my second near-death experience that I had in the ICU. Very familiar to me. That’s how I really got into this, Rick. Now we can talk more about the specifics of our study. But that’s my life story up to this point.
Rick Archer: Okay. Are you or have you been into Zen, or the name of this thing was just the Zen Hospice, and you happen to be involved in it?
William Peters: As a result of living with chronic pain, I was looking for spiritual practices, any kind of practice, but it became spiritual practice to help me cope with my pain. I had been at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in the early days, this is before the whole center was there. There were just these mobile units, if you will. I was there occasionally, I mean, Jack Kornfield, would teach on Monday nights. I had this practice already, and I had been doing longer retreats at that time, not the super long, but 10-Day retreats to really learn the practice, and I had a really strong practice at that time, probably more than I have now. I was probably an hour and a half every day. I was into the Buddhist way of being with life, that kind of, authentic presence and sensing and feeling, not just myself and hospice. I was really drawn to how do you sense and feel the experience of another so that you can truly attend to their needs?
Rick Archer: Do you think that having a near-death, out-of-body type experience makes one more inclined, are likely to have more of them? Like how if you dig up some ground and then put the dirt back, and then dig it up again later, it digs up a lot easier than a place which has never been dug? You know what I mean?
William Peters: I definitely think that once you’ve had a near-death experience, you can, you have, not that you’re going to have another one, but you can have them more easily. If you’re in a traumatic situation, you may be, you’ve already left your body once, if your body is under stress or trauma, you already know how to leave it. I think that may contribute to the ease in which I had during the Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia in the ICU, my second near-death experience. I kind of think I just, it was easy for me to leave my body, so I did. It was more comfortable. It was a wonderful experience. I’d been there before. We do see, when we, we haven’t gotten there yet, but for the shared death experience, which is analogous to if not identical to in terms of capacity of phenomena the near-death experience, that 41% of the people in our study, who’ve had the shared-death experience will have more than one.
Rick Archer: Now I take it you have, how many would you say you’ve had now since you’ve been putting your focus on this?
William Peters: Well, I mean, you see me rolling my eyes back. I probably had a couple dozen. I’m one of those people who, well, maybe I should give a definition for the shared-death experience, just so that we know what we’re talking about. A shared experience occurs when somebody is dying, and a loved one caregiver and sometimes just a bystander reports that they shared in the journey from this human body, human life, into a benevolent afterlife. Another dimension, which is called this is for my research, almost always referred to as the afterlife. I don’t like the term as we’ve talked about, but that’s what the research reveals to us. That’s how it’s referred to. In these experiences, there are a couple, a few motifs. One is this sense of journey. The experiencer says, the dying was on a journey, and I got to hitch a ride or take a peek at it or witness some of the phenomena there. The other thing, and we’ve talked about this of the very beginning of this interview, was the bond, the relationship is so key. That doesn’t mean you have to be super close over a long period of time. A lot of hospice workers will have these experiences because the dying may feel very connected to that hospice care provider. Oftentimes because their family may either not be there may not be able to comfort them in a way that makes sense, they may be holding them here in a certain way. Whereas a hospice worker, if they’re doing their job, is giving them unconditional love. That’s a different bond that can develop very quickly. Those are kind of the features we see. And then, like I said, the third kind of substrate of the SDE, is the phenomena very similar to the near-death experience. When we say that the most dominant feature in the shared-death experience is seeing the dying, you actually see the dying in this transition. That happens in I think, 51% of our cases. You also see, 16% of our cases see, an elevated spirit being defined either as an angel or avatar or a spirit guide, something like that, but it’s seen, and there’s, I’ll talk about more about this too. There’s also a particular type of elevated spirit being that I’ve coined the term the conductor. It seems like this force, if you will, is managing the transition. The third type of being you’ll see in this afterlife space is a deceased loved one. If it’s your mother dying, you might see her sister or your grandmother, her mother. Other loved ones appear. So those are the, in the seeing of the beings, is really affirming and encouraging and uplifting for the shared-death experiencer because they realize that their loved one is being cared for. They, we, have this welcoming party there to greet them, and they’re getting the sense of, oh, my gosh, I’m losing my beloved, but look who’s receiving them on the other side. There’s these elevated spirit beings and deceased relatives, and it’s all well-organized, and they’re going towards the light. We see the light, similar to the NDE, the light is there, and the journey is heading towards that light.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there’s a number of things in there that are really cool. I mean, the well-organized part is interesting. It’s like it’s not some kind of haphazard Grand Central Station kind of scene on the other side. There are people who are specifically qualified to meet you and to guide you, and who show up at the right time. Things like that. Then another point that comes to mind, as you said, all that, is that the shared death experience doesn’t, you don’t have to be in the room to have it. Like I told you earlier before this interview about the experience I had when my father died when he was in Denver, and I was in Iowa, but something happened. So, you could be on the other side of the world, and you have this experience all the sudden. Probably more things too, but those are the two things that jumped out at me as you were talking.
William Peters: Yeah, so you identify something that’s in our research too that was quite surprising. That is that the shared-death experience can happen at bedside or can happen remotely. I knew of these remote experiences. What I didn’t know is that in our research, two thirds of these experiences would be remote. That is both encouraging, if we can’t get to the bedside of our loved ones, but it also says a lot about what’s going on here because a lot of times these remote experiences, in most of these cases, they may not even know that their loved ones die. But you get, as you know, I would love for you, Rick, to share your experience if you feel comfortable because what’s so powerful about it is, it comes out of the blue, and you’re not even thinking about it. This notion that you may be making it up, or that you may be having grief hallucinations, or some sort of stress induced psychosis, which is what a lot of the folks in the scientific medical community attribute both the near-death and the shared death too. So, share your case and we can unpack it a bit.
Rick Archer: Well, my father was a sensitive guy. He was a professional artist, and World War II hit him really hard. He had what would now be understood as rather severe PTSD. He had epilepsy, he was an alcoholic, and he was taking his epilepsy drugs along with alcohol. He was really kind of suffering, but at the same time, still a very creative sensitive guy. He had an organic garden in the 1950s, and he was always doing sculpture and painting, all kinds of stuff. Good things, I don’t want to just paint a bleak picture of him. He took me on boy scout camping trips, skiing, all kinds of wonderful things. But he was suffering. And I learned to meditate in 1968. He died somewhere in the late 70s. I must have been meditating for 11 or 12 years or something. I was used to having blissful experiences sometimes. But one day, I was like, almost in ecstasy. It was like this amazingly blissful day, what is going on? Why am I feeling this way? Then sometime, maybe 12 hours after he had died, I got the word that he had died quite suddenly. I thought, huh. My impression was that I was somehow partaking in the freedom and bliss that he was experiencing, having been released from this kind of tortured life that he had been living because many people do report that when they cross over, it’s wonderful compared to what they had been experiencing. That’s just my theory about it. That was my interpretation of why I was feeling that way. That’s it in a nutshell.
William Peters: Beautiful. Thank you. I mean, you’ve now read my book about the shared-death experience? Do you think it fits one of the shared-death types that I brought up?
Rick Archer: Yeah, you can probably remember more clearly than I, a particular case that it might align with, but it made sense to me. I mean, obviously, a skeptic could attribute all kinds of other reasons to it and think I was foolish for drawing this connection. But that’s just the way it felt to me.
William Peters: From where I sit as a researcher in this that sounds like a remote shared-death experience, and those feelings you had of euphoria and peace, those are what we have reported in these remote experiences. Oftentimes, it begins with a bit of nausea or an upset. And so, oh, something’s going on. What’s going on? The experiencer will have, will say, they don’t know where this comes from initially. Then all of a sudden, they’ll start feeling better. They may have some sort of reminder; they may be visited in a certain way by this person. They may see their face, or they may smell them, or they may have something that happens in their sensory field, that lets them know that this person, something’s happened to them. They probably don’t know that they’ve died, but they do know something. It has something to do with this person. In some cases, they don’t,
Rick Archer: I mean, I didn’t even think of my father the whole day. I was just having this blissful day. It could have been something else, but that was just my interpretation. I had a similar thing when my mother died, although it was right there in the hospital. She also had a little, a difficult life in many ways. It just kind of jives with my, with so many stories I’ve heard that when people die, in general, it’s a big relief for them. It’s a blissful, profound thing rather than a miserable thing in any way.
William Peters: Yes, that’s what we have learned as well, is that these sublime feelings that, we hear all the time, ineffable. Those feelings I don’t have the words for. I’m just wondering, did you have a sense of heightened consciousness of any kind?
Rick Archer: Oh yeah. It was, when I say blissful, it wasn’t, it was a kind of, generally if a person’s meditating and they have a blissful thing, it’s not just some sense, essential experience. It’s more like an inner bliss that’s a heightened consciousness.
William Peters: Yeah. Because we often hear in our research about, I think it’s about, give or take, around 38% of the people will say that they had this sense of unity consciousness, a sense of connection with everything, a sense of knowing kind of the greater design of the universe, if you will. Like they had an, they finally understood what the purpose of their life was, or human life. And they believe. I love it when people say, I wish I could go back there because I have more questions now that I wish I’d asked up there. Which is so honest because when you’re in that state, and I’ve been there, when the questions we have are answered and understandable and the veil, if you will, is ripped away and you see clearly what when we’re in this human body and form, there’s a lot more that’s not available to us.
Rick Archer: Well, in a way you can go back there because regular spiritual practice can kind of develop this kind of condition as an abiding state rather than just an occasional flash.
William Peters: We do have people who, experiencers who do, well, I will say this, most of these experiences identify as spiritual, not religious, and they definitely take on more practices. Maybe not to go back to that state, but they just think it’s important to bring that, this type of way of being in the world, a more spiritual way of being, more attuned with the world around them, more living in love and more in healthy relationship with themselves and others. We definitely see that as an after effect of these experiences.
Rick Archer: Good. I could think of a question to ask you right now, but maybe there’s something kind of in the back of your mind that you feel like would be the next thing to talk about here.
William Peters: I’m wondering, should we try a video here or is that? What do you think?
Rick Archer: Sure. You have you have a couple of video clips you’re going to play, and these are people who have had shared-death experiences. They are talked about in your book. We’ll just put these videos in.
William Peters: Maybe I’ll do it right now. Hopefully, the video works out well, but this is Amelia. Amelia is going to be sharing a story. A really sad story because her 10-year-old son is diagnosed with cancer. They go through a three-year cancer journey, trying, as we know, as most people do, to try and stay alive. Eventually, Amelia is going to be talking about this scene where she is in bed with her now 13-year-old son, Tom, as he’s dying. This is just, she’ll give context. But just moments before he dies, this is what she experiences.
Rick Archer: This is the one who when he was young, he kept saying, Mommy, I’m going to die before you do. I’m going to live a very short life and stuff like that. This is the kid, right, that said that?
William Peters: Exactly correct. He had a sense that he was going to pre-decease his parents, and he would be jumping up and down in his bed, actually, not the least bit concerned about this. He was, later he’d say, be singing, Mommy, I’m going to die before you Mommy, I’m going to die before you, which for Amelia is like, what? It was thought that the kid was playing. This is another thing we see in my research on end-of-life experiences is that pre-death premonitions are far more prevalent than we know. We just have this habit of discounting them.
Rick Archer: This kid obviously had it years before, and it was before he was ever diagnosed with any illness. He was perfectly healthy. But he just knew it. Correct?
William Peters: Yes. All right, let’s see if we can do this. Now it should go to full screen.
Amelia: Tom was sleeping, he couldn’t move downstairs, he was sleeping on a sort of hospital bed, and I was snuggled up next to him. He was just breathing very, very gently, just a very gentle breath. My head right next and so I could hear his breath. I closed my eyes. It’s hard if you close your eyes, and you try and imagine something, like if I close my eyes now and I try and imagine the sea, I have to conjure it up. I can do it. You’re using something in your brain, you’re using a cognitive thing, aren’t you? If you close your eyes now and try to imagine something, you’re using a bit of your brain to think, I’m going to see the sea and you go to somewhere that you’ve seen. And then you see yourself, but you have to, you can almost feel your brain working. I can, to do that. But this wasn’t like that. I closed my eyes, and it was there. It was like closing your eyes, and as you close your eyes simultaneously somebody switches on a video, but it was just there. I hadn’t asked for it to come there. I didn’t expect it to be there. I certainly wasn’t thinking about anything spiritual. I wasn’t praying or anything. I was just utterly focused on Tom’s breathing. And so just closed my eyes and there instantaneously immediately was this video, like a scene so clearly, that I can remember it so clearly now. It was a woman walking towards what I thought was me. I didn’t think of Tom. Because I wasn’t really thinking, Tom. When I was watching her, I completely wasn’t thinking about Tom which is why when I came onto it, it was, Tom, what was I doing? Because I just saw her, and I just remember watching her like I watch a film. I thought, she’s a beautiful young woman. She’s so beautiful. I remember thinking actually, I must remember this. I must remember this. I must remember that she’s beautiful. She had a pale face and sort of slightly pointy chin. Her face was like a heart and very pronounced cheekbones. She wasn’t anybody I recognize though I wish I could say I think it was. She had dark hair that was sort of like women wore in the 70s. She was wearing a gown, and it was one that kind of crossed over. It had like a tie, a proper gown, it was in white. I think she might have been holding something in her hand, but that I just, I couldn’t remember at the time, I think. I wished I’d looked harder. I just wonder if she was holding something. The main thing I remember thinking about her, gosh, she needs to get somewhere. She’s urgent, she’s purposeful. I remember thinking, she’s not running. She’s not late. It’s not like she’s late for a meeting, like out of breath, or it was just like, she had a look in her eyes like, I must be there at this time. It was sort of somehow really important to me that I knew that she had to be at a certain place at a certain time. That she was going to make sure that she got there. Then I looked what she was walking through. It was a tunnel, I find it really difficult to describe that tunnel because it was dark, but there was light shining through it. It wasn’t like if I looked at the walls of that tunnel, it wasn’t brick or cement, it was like air. But it was solid. The only way I can kind of think of comparing it to would be like a cloud. When you see a cloud, it looks quite solid, a dark storm cloud. But you can see the sun behind the cloud trying to break through. I knew there was a white light outside the tunnel. Out of the corner of my eye, I could almost see this incredibly intense white light. I knew that white light was really good. I knew when I looked at the dark tunnel, and I thought, oh, it’s a dark tunnel, but I knew everything was okay because it was this intense white light outside and coming through it. She was just coming closer and closer to us, I think. I open my eyes, and it all just disappeared.
William Peters: I have another one after this too.
Rick Archer: That’s quite interesting.
William Peters: What I really love about Amelia’s case here is, and this for all the spiritual folks who have meditation, mindfulness practices, she says, I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t doing anything. But she did say something else that is really important. I think this is an enabler of these experiences. She says, I was focused on Tom’s breathing. So, you focus, we know this from spiritual traditions. I’m a Vipassana meditator, I’ve been focusing on my breath for almost three decades. That brings us into ourselves, it calms, quiets our mind and makes us more receptive to phenomenon around us. She begins with this, and then this beautiful young woman appears. This woman seems to have some urgency and some sense that she needs to do something here. This is this role we often see of this being showing up that is, I call it the conductor, the one who is in charge of facilitating, in this case, Tom’s transition from his human body into this next dimension. Also, I don’t know if she got to it in this particular video, but she talks about heading towards a light and a tunnel and all that. This is common as well.
Rick Archer: This whole thing about this beautiful being being in a hurry, this was the being that was coming to meet Tom when he crossed over, and she was just sort of tuning into that being. Is that what it was?
William Peters: That’s exactly right. That’s what if you, if we were to, obviously this is condensed video. But what Amelia is getting is that this beautiful woman has come to get Tom. What a beautiful experience it is for Amelia to know that, yeah, she’s losing her son, but yet there’s this beautiful woman that’s there to receive her son. Now something else happens. Amelia’s sister walked into the room, Sharman, right at the time of Tom’s death, and she reports seeing Tom rising out of his body. This is another phenomenon we see which is often called ‘soul spirit leaving the body’, that’s the way we identify it when we’re coding the research. But this is also, we see this in about I think 12% of our cases, not a lot, but when you see it, it’s so profound that you can see some, often described as a ghostly or translucent figure of the body leaving, typically at the chest, heart chakra, throat chakra, crown third eye. That’s where it seems to elevate out, and it gives the experiencer the sense of, oh, that person, their soul spirit consciousness is leaving and they’re observing the process. Let’s do one more because it’s really a good one too. I want to share, I go back to sharing screen here, let me see how that goes. This is going to be Mark. Now Mark’s case is with his father dying. Now Mark is remote. Mark happens to be in New Jersey. He is reclining in the passenger seat as, after a long week in the wilderness. He knows his father’s in a hospital, but he doesn’t know his father’s dying. So here we go.
Mark: We knew he had pancreatic cancer. By this point, my dad’s in the hospital. And we’re, I’ve been out in the woods for two weeks, and I was driving back up to the farm that that I lived at with my friend Brian Gooding. Super tired. I hadn’t slept much in two weeks. I just put the seat back in the chair, and as soon as I did that, it’s like I could feel my father. I was like, I need to check in on him, and so I sent myself, I send my spirit to the hospital, where I knew he was, and I get there. He was just a wraith of a man. I remember going to him, his bedside and speaking to him saying, Dad, why don’t you just let go. Mom’s going to be alright. All us kids are going to be alright; you can go. There’s nothing holding you here anymore. He looks at me, and there’s no surprise in his face that I was actually there talking to him. But the puzzlement was in his face, as he said, I don’t know how, he says, I don’t know how. In the Philosophy 1 class I took with Tom, at the very end of the class, he walked us through particular meditation. The only time you are allowed to use this particular meditation, again, is if you are, if there’s, if it is life and death. What you do is you bring that person to the light. I knew right away, as soon as I was there with my dad, that that’s exactly what I needed to do. I picked him up, and he was as light as a feather. There’s almost nothing to him. I started that meditation, walking down this particular trail. And then a certain point, turning, step up these stairs and walking towards the light after I climbed the stairs. His ethereal body has, was becoming stronger and stronger to the point where like, I was able to set him down, and he walked with me. We’re walking side by side. I took him to the light. As we got close, my father and my grandmother had a really, really close and beautiful and amazing magical relationship. She passed away in 1978. As we got close to the light, there’s like a door where the numinosity of the light coming out of there was just unbelievable. And my grandmother steps out of that light. She’s standing there, the look of joy on his face when he saw my grandmother was just like the look, I hadn’t seen in his face in years and years and years. He just went and hugged her and hugged her, and my uncle came out of the light at that point. I had one uncle that had passed at that point, and he joined the fray and the three of them were just, the joy was just unbelievable. None of them touched me. They were very, very, very, very clearly that I wasn’t part of that group. That my job was done like I brought my dad there. Now like they had it was really how it felt. They didn’t speak to me either. Then my dad, he just turns it looks me, and it’s this huge smile on his face, and he just said, I didn’t know that it was this easy. Then the three of them turn and walk into the light and the next thing I come to, and I’m in the seat of my friend Brian’s truck and we’re just pulling into the farmyard. I was exhausted, and also very, feeling incredibly emotional from this experience I just had with my father. I said, I’ve got to go to bed. I went to bed, and then I woke up the next morning, and the phone rang. It was for me, and I answered the phone. It was my brother. He said, Dad passed away. And I said, yeah, I know.
Rick Archer: Interesting. It seems like it was making him emotional to talk about it.
William Peters: Mark is a really, is a spiritual, he has a spiritual practice, more in the Native American tradition. But quite articulate about what he saw, how he was called there to help his father, and heading towards the light. Then, as I said before, it’s common to see the deceased relatives as well.
Rick Archer: It’s cool that he played an active role in ushering his father. I guess, usually people have a more passive role where they’re just observing the situation, but he actually got to sort of be helpful there.
William Peters: Yeah. Great, Rick, let me talk about that. Because there are really four types or modes of participation for a shared experiencer. The first one is a sensing remotely. The experience that you had with your father would fit into that category, you sense or feel something. Starts with, could be, uncomfortableness, nausea, then all of a sudden, but it heads into other feelings, usually comfortable, peaceful, blissful, even. That’s kind of what we have in the sensing realm. We also have a type of mode of experience, we call it the sensing-at-a-distance type. Where, if the death is a traumatic death, the person will feel some of that. We have a couple dozen cases where a comment, well, let me just give an example that will illustrate this perfectly. Sarah wakes up in the morning, early, and she’s sweating. She has a fever, she starts vomiting. Her family says, what’s going on? She goes, I don’t know. We’re taking you to the ER. She goes, Yeah, okay, I get it. Yeah, let me get my stuff. Let me get ready. She’s getting ready. And then she starts feeling a little better, she goes, hey, wait a minute, this seems to be passing. Then she goes, wait. Then she gets a call a half an hour later, and it’s her sister. Her sister says to her, Sarah, I have very sad news. Your niece died this morning of a drug overdose, accidental drug overdose. At first, you kind of wonder, could this be made up? What’s the connection here? But like I said, the pattern is really clear to us, you do the research, for cardiac arrest with loved ones, there’s often a sense of heart attack type sensations, and drug overdose we see, and we see a lot of other ones too around traumatic deaths, around drownings, as well. It’s kind of a huh-huh, a touch of difficult breathing. This is what we call a sympathetic shared death experience. It’s in that sensory, that first type of shared experience. The second mode of participation for a shared-death experiencer is what we call witnessing phenomena. Observing or witnessing death related phenomena. This is the most comments, about 85% of our cases. None of these are, these are all, they’re not exclusive, you can be in more than one category here. But this is basically seeing what we call the near-death phenomena. It’s the seeing the deceased relatives, it’s the light, it’s the life review, it’s being out of your body. It can be, oh, that unity consciousness, if you will, expansive consciousness, sublime feelings. This is the most common that you actually witness and experience with that person who’s transitioning. The third mode of participation is what we call accompanying. This is when you actually meet the dying in this space, this afterlife space. You progress along this journey with them. Usually, it’s a sense of heading upward. Mark has this accompanying for sure. But he also has the fourth type of mode of participation, which is called assisting and that is he gets called in, it appears that he’s called in to assist the dying, to orient the dying. And Mark gives it, so beautifully describes this because what we see in this type of experience is the shared death experiencer comes into the space, sees the dying, reminds them that they’re dying, and then orients them and when they orient them it’s almost always orienting them to the light. Then you begin this journey upward to the light, and in Marks case, common with most of these assisted type SDEs is that you see deceased relatives or elevated beings, and they take over. It’s like a handoff that you the loved one are giving to these guides or family members in the next dimension. So that’s it. That’s kind of the four types that we see.
Rick Archer: It’s interesting. How about some of these assisters on the other side? How much more can you say about them from your experience, the conductor or the guardian angel or whatever?
William Peters: Yeah, this is the front edge, if you will, the forward edge of our research. I’m fascinated by the conductor. The conductor can appear in a variety of different ways. It can be seen in the way that Amelia’s, the beautiful woman appeared, as one who’s clearly there with a sense of intention. As Amelia used the word urgency, we see that quite a bit. Sometimes the conductor is not seen, it’s just felt. There was an experience, I actually had this with my father. I’ll share this. I go into much greater detail in my book. But after my father died soon after, I was basically meditating there with him with his body. All of a sudden, I find myself, no, I’m saying this wrong. Before he dies, I am there, and I am with my family around the bed. All of a sudden, I find myself in this other space where I see some family members. I see my grandmother, and I see my aunt. I also see this kind of stairway of light coming down. I’m asking, why isn’t that light connecting to him to take him up, and I’m acting like I know what’s going on here. To me that light was the bridge that my father was going to walk up. I had seen it before in other shared death experiences myself. I knew something about this. I’m wondering, why is the light just stopping short of my father? Why won’t you take him? And both my aunt and my grandmother avert their eyes, their attention, in a certain way, and point me in the direction, up above my father’s body, out in front of them into the darkness. I move my attention, and I connect it with where their eyes have directed me. I immediately feel that connection in my heart space, and I start, I go, I feel the force of this being, whatever that is, and I start weeping. I just go, that’s the conductor. What they’re telling me is, he’s in charge. I use he because that’s what it felt like to me. It’s not always a ‘he’, to be sure, like Amelia didn’t have a ‘he’ with that. The gender is not that important here. But it was a ‘he’ in my father’s case. It was so powerful. I got the sense that, oh. I took comfort in the fact that, okay, I get it, there is something much greater going on here. Sometime later, a matter of minutes really, my father died. There was something going on that the conductor was organizing. I don’t understand how that all works. But in my mind, there is this force, which I’ve identified as the conductor that’s coordinating this great event of human death.
Rick Archer: Have you ever looked up the statistics of how many people die in the world every minute, for instance?
William Peters: A great one. I don’t know. Did you look it up?
Rick Archer: No, I just wondered, maybe Irene could look it up. Could you look up? How many people die in the world every minute? You google that? I’m just thinking either there must be a lot of conductors, you know, which is not unusual. I mean, there are a lot of trains in the world and conductors on those. It’s just must be, in a way it’s kind of a busy place on the other side with all kinds of comings and goings. People getting born people dying. There’s this whole kind of operation to keep it all coordinated.
William Peters: Yeah. And oftentimes we’ll see, the experiencers will tell us that there are large welcoming parties almost like coming into a coliseum or a big theater. It seems like for my own simple mindedness, that this death, human death and the arrival of a soul spirit consciousness from the human realm is kind of an event.
Rick Archer: 106 people, point six, I’d hate to be that point sixth of a person. It’s like how many people fall off the Grand Canyon every year? Well, two and a half. But about 106 people a minute. So that’s me, a couple, almost two, almost two every second. Another thing says 120, so it’s about two every second.
William Peters: Yeah. It’s fascinating. Like I said, I get the sense that the arrival of a soul spirit from the human realm is an event, it’s a big thing. It’s like it’s a coming home. Maybe it’s no different than the other side where the birth of a child and how communities and families get all excited for the birth of a child. I mean, it’s, I think this fits with more of the Eastern traditions understanding of our cycling through lives.
Rick Archer: I mean, imagine if you put yourself in their shoes, if this person whom you loved and you haven’t seen in 20, or 30 years, is going to show up, you’d want to have a big welcoming party. Put up some banners and ribbons and balloons, and yes, like, oh, boy.
William Peters: Yeah, and saying that I want to be careful that the time space continuum either doesn’t exist, or is completely different up there. Got to be real mindful of that. Don’t want to anthropomorphize too much here.
Rick Archer: Right. Yeah, that’s a whole other interesting, have you, you must have listened to and read a whole lot of different other sources of information related to this, the near-death experience books that are out there, and out-of-body experience books and talked to a bunch of. I know you did an interview with Eben Alexander. I mean, there’s Michael Newton’s books. Have you sort of made a study of this and really kind of explored all the literature?
William Peters: Yes, I’ve done a pretty exhaustive study of the literature. The good news is that most of the literature points to a similar understanding of this transition at the end of life. We’ve basically talked about it here. Eben and I are, we’ve talked, with some frequency about our experiences, both NDEs and my experience of SDEs. We’re like, we just kind of feel like, well, yeah, of course, that’s what happens at the end of life. It’s different, and manifests in different ways. You bring your mind with you, so whatever your mind is, the state of your mind, obviously, creates some of that reality you step into. But generally, it all seems to add up. Now one of the things we’re trying to figure out, and there’s really great research done by Gregory Shushan, about the NDEs and cultural experiences. That’s something I’m really interested in. I mean, when I lived in Central and South America, I lived in Guatemala and Peru, and worked with indigenous cultures. I had conversations with the shaman or religious leaders. One of the things that made sense to me was, the way I understood them, was that they’re far more adept, and comfortable as a practice with journeying all the time. They’re journeying all the time. But it’s a different type of journey in the sense that they journey and come back, they journey and come back. Of course, there are shamans that specialize in being psychopomps, those who help the people on this side transition into the next dimension. Shamans in most of these villages that’s one of their roles, one of their many roles, to escort the dying into their next incarnation, if you will. I think we are very limited in the west in understanding the shared death experience and the near-death experience because of our material view, our physicalist kind of way of looking at the nature of reality, if you will.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I think so too. I think that the inadequacy of the materialist physicalist paradigm is becoming more and more painfully obvious, and things are crumbling more and more around us. It’s like if we’re not going to shift the paradigm voluntarily, we’re going to be kind of compelled to shift it because it’s just not working.
William Peters: No, it’s not adding up and as more and more research comes out, like the shared-death experience research. I mean, you can’t discount the near-death experience. Some will try and discount it for being a what they call a fear-death experience. A physiological response to a body under stress that creates all these chemicals in your brain that replicates in some predictable pattern in what is the near-death experience. Well, you throw that completely out with the shared-death experience because as your case indicates, you didn’t even know your father was dying. There’s no stress in you, there is no physiological process happening for you, and you’re having a shared-death experience. We see this happen all the time, shared-death experiences that, like I said, two thirds happen remotely, and they can be full blown experiences that replicate the NDE. There’s no stress here, there is no physiological response to harm to the body.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and both of these, remote shared-death experiences and with out-of-body experiences, often had by people who are under anesthesia, or in a coma or some such thing, there’s all kinds of verifiable evidence. I mean, they see things and other parts of the building or up on the roof of the building and report it later on. There’s no way they could have known those things. I think people who are skeptical of this kind of stuff, just brush that off and don’t want to think about it. But if you’re open minded enough to listen to it, you realize that this is pretty solid verification. Obviously, you can’t easily set up a controlled experiment, where you’re going to make this happen because nobody wants to go into a coma voluntarily. Even if they did, they wouldn’t necessarily have the experience. But given the numbers of people who have these things, they’re happening all the time around the world and being reported in many cases.
William Peters: Agreed. I mean, it’s very difficult to research these types of experiences. I’ve had some people in the medical sciences say, well, we’re really not ever going be able to validate this or verify it, unless we can do these types of controlled studies, and well, there’s no way that’s ever going to pass an internal review board. There are just, but I think a lot of this is just resistance to even looking at this.
Rick Archer: Yeah, the Galileo effect. I won’t, we won’t look through the telescope because it violates, what you say we would see if we looked, violates our religious philosophy, and so we’re not going to look. Another thing is that people are so busy, and people in scientific fields are so siloed into very narrow niches of study and endeavor. They just don’t have the time and the bandwidth. Also, there very often would be professional or economic consequences if they were to openly take these kinds of things seriously. And so, just, I’m not going to deal with it. I don’t need the trouble. I’m busy enough.
William Peters: Absolutely. There is not the interest to take these experiences up. I mean, I didn’t really have the choice. I did have the choice, but I mean, I had so many of them. I didn’t even want to go into this field. Honestly, I resisted for so long. Actually, the final piece of my story would be that it wasn’t until I met Raymond Moody in 2009 at a conference and he was talking about these, the shared-death experience. I thought he was going to talk about the near-death experience. I didn’t even know the shared-death experience existed. He’s talking about the shared-death experience and defining it the way that I have already, basically similar to the NDE, except it’s by a caregiver, a loved one who’s healthy in mind and body. When I heard this, we finally had a label for it, and I took it up. I’m glad I did. But I can tell you, there is a great deal of resistance to what I’m talking about, even in hospice care. Even when hospice nurses and caregivers at the end of life know these experiences happen, there is still a good deal of resistance. I mean, I think that’s breaking down, and that’s the reason I wrote the book and do the research. We, our research is now in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. That is one of the leading journals in the world on end-of-life care. So, the literature is out there, and our hope is that more and more people will take this. Whether you’re working in the field or you’re just a consumer, that means you’re dying, or you’re a caregiver for a loved one, that you will demand that your health care providers know that you want to have this experience and know that you want to do the things to facilitate it.
Rick Archer: I like science. I was never good at it in school, but I really enjoy watching science documentaries, and listening to science podcasts and things like that. I really respect it. I’m kind of fascinated with the ability of science, or an inability, to deal with spirituality. Because I think that spirituality, and the kinds of things you’re talking about here, I mean if science really wants to understand how the universe works, then it has to take these things into consideration. If the scientific method were absolutely purely applied by scientists, these things would be getting taken into consideration. Scientists are human beings, and as such, they fall short of pure science when they do science because they bring their biases into it, which is what science is supposed to circumvent. There’s so much blindness in politics, refusal to look at things in politics and economic motivations, and the whole thing gets muddied. But I guess I’ve made the point. On the other hand, I think science can help spirituality a lot, because spirituality can get very ungrounded and woo-woo, and sort of fly off into flights of fancy. And, if we bring a bit of an empirical attitude toward it and insist that what we believe has some kind of experiential verification of some sort that can actually be experienced and not just believed, then, in that sense, a scientific attitude will help spirituality. I think maybe we’ll as a culture evolve toward a time when we don’t differentiate the two; they kind of merge into a collaborative cooperative venture that somehow takes full advantage of both objective and subjective means of gaining knowledge.
William Peters: I love what you’re saying, and I wish science would be doing more of that the way it’s practiced. I mean, I love skeptics of the work I’m doing. I love when people question well, what if it’s not, couldn’t it be hallucinations or stress-induced something or other? I love those conversations, but let’s not discount these experiences because, for reasons of your science, for your beliefs, and I think there’s a really important reason for this. That is that these experiences are so healing to people, that they come back, and they realize that their loved one is alive and well in a benevolent afterlife. That is super important because they know that everyone is, that this dying person transitions in a good place, and they say they’ll see them again, which is also a wonderful experience that you know that your relationship will continue at some point. And their fear of death is alleviated. There’s so many positives, that we need to make space for these experiences.
Rick Archer: There’s a section towards the end of your book, the last couple of chapters, where you talk about things, the kind of things you just said that, sort of the implications or benefits of opening up to this perspective. I want to make sure we spend adequate time covering some of those points. Hopefully, you’ll just do that off the top of your head because I don’t even remember what all the specific points were. I remember when I listened to them, those chapters, I thought, oh, we got to really cover some of this stuff. A few questions came in. So let me just get a few questions down here. This one is from Suki John, or maybe John Suki in London? And his question is, is it possible, or her question, is it possible to find out what you’re here to accomplish? In other words, like you said, when you were 17, I’ve got to go back. I haven’t accomplished what I’m supposed to do. How can a person find out what it is they’re supposed to do?
William Peters: That is a great question, and that was one of the next things I was going to say. Very timely. Experiencers report that they have a sense for what the human life is about. Generally, they see it as sitting inside the larger context of their existence, and because of this, they realize there’s a purpose they, for their human life, and they really get about living it. We see with experiencers that they often change primary relationships or at least work to improve them a certain way. We see them living more into their integrity, becoming more spiritual and less materialistic. Their values about compassion and care and love and honesty, and truth telling and right relationship. All this gets heightened as a result of their shared-death experience. By the way, this is analogous to the near-death experience as well. So yes, great question. Huge benefit.
Rick Archer: I suppose a follow up question to that would be, well, I haven’t had a shared-death experience, and I don’t want to have a near death experience, how can I find my life’s purpose without having to go to those extremes?
William Peters: Well, I think you’re kind of one of the experts on that, Rick. I mean, you have all these, wonderful leaders in spirituality and consciousness. I think that’s the path there. I’ll double down on that and say that, as I’ve said before, most of these experiencers in our research, and I’m one of them, have turned increasingly as we do, from this experience, into spiritual practice, because that’s where we can reconnect with the truth that we found out on this journey to the other side.
Rick Archer: I would also refer Suki to my interview with Steven Cope. He wrote a whole book about finding your dharma, and he actually has a sequel to that book coming out or has come out. They’re of course many other people I’ve interviewed who might touch on this, but that would be one that specifically related to that point. Here’s one from Geeta Shamanna, in London, another person from London. My question is, I spoke to my father, five days before he died. I was in London, and he was in India. As our call was coming to an end, we were suddenly enveloped by deep stillness. I experienced that profound stillness for about three minutes, after which we said goodbye. We didn’t get to speak again, and my very last interaction with him was this stillness. Is this a shared death experience?
William Peters: Beautiful question, Geeta. This is great because what we find is one quarter, about 24%, of our shared-death experiences, happen minutes, hours, and in some cases, a day or two before or after the actual physical death. You might be saying, well, why wouldn’t that be another non-ordinary end-of-life experience? Well, because the pattern is really discernible. And that feeling that you’re experiencing there Geeta, that euphoria, that peace, that is part of the shared-death experience. I would suggest that I’d have to learn a little bit more, but that would fit in what we see. Definitely. And similar to yours, Rick, as well. I mean, that kind of remote and having those feelings of bliss and euphoria.
Rick Archer: Yeah, in her case, it was five days beforehand. But in my case, it was kind of simultaneous, unbeknownst to me. Anyway, yeah. Like you said a minute ago, time isn’t linear. On the other side, and I don’t think it’s linear on this side, either. It just seems to be because we’re wired to make it seem because it makes it easier to live life, makes it easier to schedule plane flights and things. But probably was definitely, ‘probably was definitely,’ what kind of a phrase is that? [laughing] There must have been something going on with her and her father that they both tuned into this thing. He might, she didn’t give us details, but he might not have even known he was about to die, and yet, they both had this experience.
William Peters: Yes, I would say I concur with that completely. I would just encourage her to really lean into that experience and know that that was a shared honoring of her father’s imminent transition.
Rick Archer: Here’s another Indian person. This one is in Dallas. Sreenath is this person’s name. How come only some people feel the near-death experience? And we could also say shared-death experience, while most of us do not.
William Peters: That is a mystery. We can talk a little bit about what we’ve learned in the research about who has these experiences and who doesn’t. What we can tell is that mindfulness practices help. That’s why I highlighted that with Amelia’s case when she, that sense that she was really breathing with Tom as he was dying. There is something about being in these flow states, these more receptive states when you’re attuning to the dying, and to what’s going on around the dying, that you seem to facilitate these experiences. Now, that being said, I worked in Zen Hospice, and we were working all the time with this Buddhist, practices of being attuned, and present, and not every, I didn’t hear of anyone else who had these experiences. So, I don’t, I can’t say that that’s going to guarantee it. I will say this, that I developed methods to enable the SDE because there was such a demand to know how to have this. The, just so you know, the three things I think matter most is, one is you need to know that these experiences happen, and not just a shared-death experience, but a whole host of other end-of-life experiences. When you know that they happen, that means you’ll be more receptive to them when they come. Said differently, you won’t distract yourself or push yourself away if all of a sudden you feel a shift in the time space continuum in the room, or light starts coming in in a different way, where you start feeling pressure and elevation in the sense of pulling gravitationally on your chest upward. Rather than go, ooh, what’s that and contract, you’ll say, oh, and you’ll let go into it. Then you’ll have the experience. First is awareness of the experience, normalize them. Second would be, it really helps to do our spiritual psycho-emotional work if you will. Address any unfinished business in our lives, both intrapersonally and interpersonally. We do in our trainings, life reviews, and look at regrets and do reconciliation practices, forgiveness practices. That really cultivates the soul for this journey. Then we really step into the fact that Death and Dying is going to happen, how to say goodbye, you practice saying goodbye. Thank you, I love you, goodbye. Then the last thing is I teach protocols which, too long for this interview, and really take some time when we’re teaching them in the trainings. That is teach the person who’s dying, that when they’re going through this transition, leaving their human body, I have methods that allow that person to remember to, in a certain sense, turn around and call back to their departed loved, to their surviving loved ones, their caregivers, and loved ones and invite them into that space, where they are. There’s a whole series of exercises, not a whole series, but a couple of practices that we do to enable that. I will say thankfully, that our, this is a pathway program. If you’re interested in it, it’s on our website, but it really allows people, empowers them to know that there are things they can do if they really want to have this experience. In the cases when they don’t have it what we’ve heard over and over again, is they end up having other mystical experiences at the end of life. So often, I didn’t have the shared-death experience, but a day later, I was dreaming, I had a dream where my father was right there next to me, and he was telling me he was okay, and he thanked me. I’m like, okay, so you didn’t have the SDE. But you had a post-death visitation or vision. All this preparation, I always say the real goal is to prepare for a conscious, connected and loving end-of-life experience that enables the mystical experience at the end of life.
Rick Archer: One thing that comes to mind that I feel like I ought to say because it came to mind is that I interviewed this guy some years ago who later on, had an accident where he slipped on some rocks and injured his caustics or something, so he was experiencing a lot of pain. He ended up committing suicide, and he had a rather cavalier attitude toward it. It was sort of like he was fully convinced that we don’t die, and he left a suicide note saying, okay, well, look for a kid who has such and such markings on his body or something. That might be me coming back, and he had it all planned out. I just want to make the point that in my opinion, and let’s see what you think, just because we believe that we don’t die when the body dies, shouldn’t make us feel like it’s no big deal if we off ourselves. We should probably, unless there’s severe suffering, and I do believe that maybe these, what do you call it, where they, euthanasia programs that they have in Switzerland, and even some US states, are a wise thing in some cases, but it should kind of be a last resort because there’s, we’ll die when we’re meant to perhaps. I don’t know if I’m being politically incorrect here, but we shouldn’t necessarily be too quick to take it into our own hands. You know what I mean?
William Peters: Yeah, I agree with what you’re saying. I don’t think anybody who’s having these experiences, whether it’s the near-death experience, or the shared-death experience, is saying that because of that experience, they can choose to end their life any sooner than it would under natural circumstances. I will say that the experiencers are more at peace with death and dying, so they’re probably not going to take on extraordinary means at the end of life. They’re not going to, if they got cancer, and the doctor says, well, there’s not much more we can do, I can give you chemo or radiation to keep it at bay. I think most of the experiencers will say, you know what, I’m just going to let my life go its natural course, thank you very much. I’m not afraid of dying. Now I want to die on my own terms and gather up the people I love in my life and just do it the right way or however they want to die. I think there’s that middle path there, not clinging to life, yet not clinging to the afterlife.
Rick Archer: Right. Okay, good. Here’s a question from Lesley Mack in Massachusetts. Do you know anything about ancestors who are ‘well’ versus ‘not well’? I don’t completely understand how to navigate this issue when engaging in mediumship work. I don’t know which people on the other side are the wise guides. You know what she means by that question? I think I got it.
William Peters: I think I understand the question. I can tell you that in my research we don’t see beings that appear on the other side, either deceased relatives, elevated beings whatever, that are negative. In other words, they’re not there to help assist positively in the transition. We don’t, I don’t see that. I would say that’s more of a question for somebody, either a shaman who can do communicate with the other side or a medium. There are ways to get in touch. I’m a big fan of quality mediumship.
Rick Archer: Lesley, my guest last week, Lauren Robertson, might be able to answer your question, and you can easily get in touch with her through Facebook. She’d be happy to answer your question. Okay, question number five. Here we go. This is from Prachi Dixit in Torrance, California. I know of someone who actually announced their date and time of death and passed at that moment healthy. Is it possible for people to be that spiritually advanced?
William Peters: Wow, that is a great question. That’s out of my purview. Rick, I’d say that’s from your understanding and study of great spiritual masters, I have heard of that, being able to have some sense of when you’re going to die. I mean, the Dalai Lama has said that the fruit of a good spiritual meditation practice is knowing about two years in advance that you’re going to die, not the specific time and date. But he has said that. That you, that good monks will have a good sense of pre-cognitive insight as to their time is coming.
Rick Archer: I had a really dear friend, whom I taught to meditate actually, when she was in high school, and she was living here in my town, and she knew she was going to die. She made arrangements with a friend of hers to have some money put away and made other sorts of arrangements. One day, she was driving to the next town to go teach at the college there. It was starting to snow, and she crossed a bridge, and the bridge was icy, and she lost control and went head on into a big truck. But she just knew it to the extent that she was actually making arrangements. As a young mother, she must not be 30 years old. She had had a child a month before and or a little bit, very previously. But she just saw it coming.
William Peters: This is, I just want to invite your viewers, listeners, if they have questions about end-of-life experiences and they’re wondering where they are, what type they are, we have a whole set of resources on the SharedCrossing.com website that people can look at. They can even see videos similar to what I showed here today of other shared-death experiences. Like any of this stuff, pre-death premonitions, pre-death visions and visitations, post-death visions, visitations, synchronicities, no one’s asked about synchronicity, but there are amazing synchronicities that happen at and around the time of death like clock stopping at the time of death and dogs howling and birds doing interesting behaviors. I used to be so reticent to explore this stuff because it seems so woo woo and yet when we do the research, you find that, now you’re telling me that this person’s birthday was March 4, and you see around when they died on that clock, and every clock in your house, every oven, every digital display said three four on it. How does that happen? You just hear these stories, and they’re mind benders. I always say we are energetic bodies, beings, and I think the way that our deceased loved ones can communicate with us is often through energetic means. They can work with electricity and such. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I think it works. I’ve seen I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of cases that the best, easiest explanation is that this is some sort of communication from across the veil.
Rick Archer: I know Mark Twain was born when Halley’s comet was here, and I forget the story. Maybe somebody can look this up, but he, I think he predicted that he was going to die when Halley’s comet came back again. And he did.
William Peters: Wow. Yeah, the mystery is so important. I mean, I just think at the end of the day, I mean, I don’t, I hope I don’t come off as sounding like, it’s like this or that. I mean, I have this data, I have a point. I think that’s there’s a profound pattern here that I’m presenting to the world in a way that I think is helpful. I want people to know this. But at the end of the day, it’s a mystery. It is just a great mystery here. And to say this as well. Everything that I’m picking up in our research is right on the initial stages of the afterlife. I can’t say too much more beyond that. You mentioned Michael Newton’s work, which I’ve studied greatly, and I am actually a regression therapist as well, so I’ve gone back into the space between lives with people. There’s a great deal of patterning there that suggests some form and structure to the space between lives. It can be an afterlife, but space in between lives. It’s compelling, but it’s still a mystery. I think we just have to be so careful about what we claim to be truth.
Rick Archer: You don’t come across as dogmatic. I think we both say we’re really confident that something, you continue after you die, but we’re not saying you better believe this or you’re going to hell or something. It’s just our conviction based upon everything we’ve learned. There’s a, have I told you, or did you watch my interview with Father Nathan Castle?
William Peters: I know Father Nathan Castle, but I didn’t see the interview.
Rick Archer: About a month ago or so. He was real interesting. Just for the benefit of the listeners, he’s a Catholic priest. I won’t tell the whole detail, you can watch my interview with him, but he began to have experiences of helping people who had died perhaps years before in many cases, but who were kind of stuck. He helps them move on, he kind of gets them through a certain stage, and then the conductor comes, or somebody comes and says, okay, you can come now. So that’s a fascinating thing related to what we’re talking about here today.
William Peters: Spiritualism has, a whole deal, a whole forming cosmology for that transition, and if you’re quote unquote stuck in your transition, there are people who are types of mediums called transport mediums. This is more Spiritism than spiritualism. But it all comes from the Allan Kardec tradition out of Europe. Anyway, there’s a lot of models and paradigms that look at this and provide support and methods for helping people in their transition.
Rick Archer: Here’s a question from my friend in Melbourne, Australia. She asks, what key advice would you give to lay people who are about to start or in the very beginning of their death midwife training? Parentheses, she said, this is a volunteer hospice or home role supporting a person passing away as well and as peacefully as possible. What advice would you give to lay people who are interested in becoming a death midwife?
William Peters: I think it’s a, I appreciate that question. And I, first off, really see the death midwifery or death doulas, as they’re often called, now, increasingly, is a role that’s growing as a profession, and it’s much needed. What I would say to anyone who wants to do that is, there are a number of great training institutes around. Get good training but do it in a few different ways. Make sure you get solid understanding for the physical medical process of a body breaking down, study the psychological and spiritual aspects of dying. Increasingly there are schools that are sprouting up grassroots to offer this. If she has questions, you can reach out to me on SharedCrossing.com. Just contact us and I have some referrals to people to do that. But the most important thing is to really be curious about what’s happening. I think if you come in with an open heart and a curiosity about helping, when I train people in my trainings, what I say the first thing you do is stop at that door before you go into that room. Commit yourself to service to them. Realize that your role when you walk in there is to attune to what the dying and their caregiver and the caregiver loved ones, because the family is suffering too with it when they’re, when someone’s dying, attune to the needs of them, and make yourself available. It’s such a wonderful thing just to give yourself over in service. It’s really easy actually, if you just come in without an agenda and attune to the dying in that deepest, most authentic, and I say spiritual way. Feel and sense into them and ask what do they need? Ask them and ask the other beings that are often present, the conductor, if you will, and others that are there to help this beautiful transition
Rick Archer: Nice answer. I mentioned earlier that there were some kind of philosophical or cultural or, also some kind of broad picture kind of points towards the end of your book. I think we’ve covered some of them. But are there some things along those lines that we haven’t covered yet that we want to cover before we wrap it up?
William Peters: I think actually, Rick, at the beginning, we talked about the limitations of the current medical establishment and dealing with end-of-life. I really want to be clear, there’s so many good people within that institution, if you will, the palliative and hospice care doctors, and nurses in particular. Nurses are just huge in this because they provide most of the care. I think, increasingly, I think what we’re talking about is what needs to happen. There needs to be a greater understanding for the spiritual aspects of dying. If there’s one thing that we need to assert, is that yes, there’s a physical body dying, but there’s a spirit, a consciousness that needs to be tended to whether you believe that that goes on or not to an afterlife, what have you. There’s a bunch of spiritual emotional needs that need to be met, and they’re not going to be met with medical interventions. They can be met with kindness, compassion, authentic connection, and really dialoguing about end-of-life more frequently. If there’s one thing I would ask your listeners to do is, go out after this, after their time with hearing our interview and talk to their friends about this. Ask them, have you had these experiences? Are you aware of this? Are you aware of any spiritual experiences, end-of-life? What I have found is that most people will be surprised how many people have had profoundly spiritual experiences at the end of a life as a caregiver or loved one, and don’t share it. They just don’t share it. Because for some reason, our culture, the modern culture hasn’t made space for it. Those are the pieces that I see that need to happen to change the way in which we die in our modern culture. This will likely not be a top-down change. This will likely be consumer driven as patients and caregivers of patients who will demand, hopefully lovingly and kindly, that our end-of-life institutions respond to the spiritual needs. A lot of that goes to that there’ll be a lot more dying at home without any medical interventions, just comfort care.
Rick Archer: I bet that there are a lot of doctors like Pim Van Lommel, who’s a cardiologist, Dutch cardiologist that studied, that talks a lot about near-death experiences, but a lot of doctors in roles like his who don’t talk about it, because they don’t want to be ridiculed by their peers. It could be one of these things where at a certain point there’ll be a tipping point or a phase transition. All of a sudden, it’ll become culturally acceptable a lot quicker than we think, like things have in the United States, gay marriage, for instance, or some various things that have just undergone this fairly rapid transition. The way tipping points work or phase transitions, they can be quite sudden, and you don’t realize how close you are to them. For instance, when you boil water, you can be just a couple, a degree or two, beneath the boiling point and doesn’t look like much is happening and just a little bit more heat, and all of a sudden, it turns to steam, it’s boiling. There could be societal changes like that, too. The way we understand things, the way we, the things we accept, the things we believe, and so on.
William Peters: I couldn’t agree with you more, and I’m seeing a steady progression to that tipping point. I think the way it might happen, Rick, is that some major influencers in our culture will speak out in this situation, say, I had the shared-death experience. I mean, this was the gift of Eben Alexander to our culture is that there had been lots of near-death experiences previous to Eben’s and there was gaining acceptability. But when he wrote his book as a neurosurgeon, trained at Harvard, an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard, actually. When he told his story, as he says often, and I just had an interview with him a couple weeks ago, he said, it’s not so much me, he had the credentials, he says, but my story resonated with people. They knew that it was true. I just had, I was believable and trustable, and that’s what really pushed it forward. Anita Moorjani, then came out after that, and so there’s, I think you can look at a similar pattern with the shared-death experience. It can happen a lot quicker because you don’t need to brush with death to have a shared death experience. There are lots of influencers. I know some of them who’ve had these experiences, but they’re telling you, they’re not ready, they’re still reticent to come out and share because they don’t want, there’s a risk, to come off as woo woo or, ‘out there’ in some way. But it will happen. I just hope it’s sooner than later.
Rick Archer: Kim Kardashian if you’re listening.
William Peters: Exactly.
Rick Archer: I forget who I, where I heard this metaphor, but it’s like, changing public opinion or changing, there’s certain things which they’re like a big, heavy weight or block on a frictionless surface. You can run up against them at full speed, smash your shoulder into them, and you’re not going to move them much, but you’re going to hurt your shoulder. Or you can just start leaning into them and just keep pushing, and because they begin to gain momentum. What you’re doing is like that, maybe what I’m doing is part of that, where there’s a lot of people are doing this, and it’s just like, we’re pushing that big, heavy block, and it’s just starting to pick up speed. Eventually it really gets clipping along.
William Peters: I hope so. I believe what you’re talking about in terms of this gentle pushing, cajoling, and you don’t know what, when is that force that we’re applying in a gentle way, when is actually going to move the boulder. When is it going to actually start the spin in the wheel that will then take on an inertia of its own?
Rick Archer: I think it’s moving. It’s just a question of when will it reach adequate speed. This boulder we’re talking about, it’s not only about getting people to accept life after death more commonly, but the, humanity’s very continuation is at stake for a number of reasons. A lot of things have to change in order to avert catastrophe. I kind of feel like the spiritual enterprise, broadly speaking, is the most fundamental and pivotal influence in bringing about that change. There’s just kind of this little race between that influence bubbling up enough, and all kinds of dire consequences if we don’t correct some things.
William Peters: I think you alluded to this in the beginning. I think it’s in everyone’s interest for us to change the manner in which we look at end-of-life. The transformations that come when you embrace the spiritual end-of-life are really meaningful, and they ripple throughout our culture. Death is something that we’re all going to experience and our loved ones too. It’s a place where we can really know that any type of investment of our time and our study and whatever into learning how to die more consciously, is going to yield positive effects for ourselves and for our loved ones and for our culture at large. We need a new paradigm around death and dying. We can’t be doing this spending a good deal of, quite frankly, public funds to support people with interventions to prolong life that’s not yielding anything. We need to pull back on that and look at a more conscious way of dying.
Rick Archer: That’s a good wrap up point. Great. Thanks.
William Peters: Well, thank you, Rick, really enjoyed our time together.
Rick Archer: Thank you, me too, had a lot of fun. Thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching. We have quite a few interviews scheduled now. If you look on the upcoming interviews page on batgap.com you’ll see what’s coming up. There’s a little thing on the right side of each one of them that where you can add it to your calendar and get a reminder, so you can catch the live one when, while we’re actually doing the interview. You can send in questions and so on. Okay, thank you and thank you, William. Let’s stay in touch.
William Peters: Thank you, Rick.