William Douglas Horden [above] is the co-author of the recently published The Toltec I Ching. He has spent 40 years researching the ancient divinatory systems of China and Mexico, and describes himself as steeped in the shamanic worldview, having lived with the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and numerous other indigenous communities over the past few decades. He currently lives in Roseburg, Oregon and Coatepec, Mexico.
William’s account of a near-death experience in 2003 is filled with remarkable insights into the nature of the soul, personality, and the spiritual cosmos. I have taken the liberty of reproducing his entire account here; you can also read it on his own blog at theTolteciChing.com.
Near Death Experience: Journey of Two Souls
I was fully awake when my heart stopped beating and my last breath passed my lips.
In the Spring of 2003, a genetic time bomb went off and my body’s time came to an end. The moment of death was upon me at age fifty-three and I found it a curious thing indeed. People around me grew quite excited but an untroubled calm came over me, carrying me further and further away from the scene, as if moving me to an invisible but familiar place just sideways to where my body lay. The sirens of the ambulance were soft and melodic, the questions of the emergency room doctors sounded like a different language.
Minutes after they placed me on the emergency room table and fit an oxygen mask over my face, I felt my heart stop beating and I sighed my last breath. There was the briefest pause while my personality puzzled that I did not gasp for breath nor seem concerned that my body had just died—and then it was suddenly cradled in my higher soul and I was catapulted, for that is the only word for it, catapulted, wide awake, out of my body and into the Sphere of Universal Communion.
My whole life, it turned out, had been practice for the moment of dying: my higher soul stepped forward, speaking reassuringly about how it had been through this so many times before. While my lower soul, this lifetime’s personality, went mute in the face of the vast Unknown, my higher soul catapulted into It with one last sigh of joy and gratitude, What a glorious Creation!
I was fully awake when I entered the Sphere of Universal Communion.
How do I know that is it’s true name? I don’t. I’m not even sure it’s possible for it to have a single true name. But the Sphere of Universal Communion is what I saw and what I felt and it’s the only true name I can imagine, the only one I can use to describe it at all.
It appeared to me as a sphere of light, but light that is aware. Light that is awareness. Not something so much seen—since we have no physical eyes without a body—as sensed. Something like the warmth of sunlight even when your eyes are squeezed shut. But with the additional sense of someone present, close by, their attention resting on the edges of your awareness gently. An aware light that is both the substance and the medium of communion within its own spherical spatiality. An aware light that creates and sustains the possibility of shared awareness on a universal basis. Within its infinite spatiality.
I was fully awake when I realized I was myself a sphere of communion.
A sphere of aware light.
Surrounded by an infinite number of other spheres of aware light.
So, as I experienced it, the Sphere of Universal Communion is an infinite space of aware light that is occupied by all the individual spheres of aware light that ever have or ever will exist. As if it were the One Mind, occupied by all the individual Ideas it ever has or ever will conceive. Or the timeless, dimensionless, Oversoul, occupied by all the individual souls that ever have or ever will enter the realm of time, space, and personality. As I said, I do not pretend to know what it’s true name is, but the relation between the Whole and its parts—and between parts and parts—this I know and can still see with diamond clarity.
What can I still see of that bodiless state?
Each of us, as an individual sphere of communion is the embodiment of two complementary halves: Understanding and Memory. While Understanding is the principal characteristic of the higher soul, Memory is the principal characteristic of the lower soul. Understanding is our individual portion of the limitless Knowledge of the One Soul, the evolving insight we possess into the Way of the One, our individual spark of immortality. Memory, on the other hand, is the accumulated impressions of all the lifetimes we recall, the sum of all the personalities we have yoked to our soul, our enduring storehouse of mortal treasures.
Each of us, as an individual sphere of aware light, then, dwells in the Sphere of Universal Communion, a unique fusion of soul and personality, Understanding and Memory. After the death of the body, the higher soul catapults back to the Sphere of Universal Communion. If it is not yoked to the lower soul at that time, then it returns without any memory of that lifetime. It has Understanding, perhaps greatly evolved by its experiences of that lifetime, but no direct Memory. The personality, likewise, must be yoked to the soul at the moment of dying if its Memory is to accompany it to the Sphere of Universal Communion. Otherwise, it wanders without Understanding, lost and confused among all the other disembodied personalities, unaware that they no longer have a body and are only reliving the Memory of their past lifetime.
It is for this reason that it is so important to unite the higher soul and lower soul during this lifetime, before the moment of dying arrives.
I was fully awake when I realized that whenever another sphere of aware light came into contact with me, there was an immediate and spontaneous exchange between us of our respective Memory and Understanding. This is why I say we are individual spheres of communion within the Universal Sphere of Communion. Because when we come into contact there, all that we know and all that we are passes uninhibited between us in a natural and open communion of shared being. Spheres of aware light touch and so exchange the totality of their experience and assimilate one another’s experience into their own.
So I have come to believe from those experiences that all the individual spheres of communion are reflective of one another.
I was fully awake when all the individual spheres of communion came into contact with one another at the same time, breaking through every dam of individuality and flooding us all in the totality of our shared being. This is why I suspect its name is the Sphere of Universal Communion—because when all the individual spheres of aware light periodically come into contact at the same time, every individual awareness that ever has or ever will exist is spontaneously and immediately At-One with the One. I cannot say what it is that periodically draws all of us together at the same time but, cause aside, its effect is the complete and overwhelming experience of every drop of awareness in the ocean suddenly merging into the single sea of awareness.
So I have come to believe from those experiences that all the individual spheres of communion are relative to the Sphere of Universal Communion.
How have I come to believe these lessons?
Through my first-hand communion with other individual spheres of communion—and my first-hand communion with the Sphere of Universal Communion.
My body was dead for two minutes but for me, the time passed as if it were many years.
Other individual spheres of aware light, many of great depth of Understanding with the Memory of thousands of lifetimes, generously taught me lessons to bring back and place into the stream of time. Such is the work of the great-souled ones, who care mightily that this era of transformation is one of metamorphosis and not one of atrophy.
There is one last thing I have come to believe since returning to this realm of the body and its five senses—
Although it is much more difficult to perceive here than in the Sphere of Universal Communion, we are no less individual spheres of communion here than we are there. Once I had experienced what it feels like to recognize myself as a sphere of aware light in the bodiless state, I found I had become sensitive enough to perceive myself as that same sphere of communion here with a body. And sensitive enough to recognize that everyone else is a similar sphere of aware light, as well.
Moreover, although it is more difficult to perceive the spontaneous and immediate exchange of Understanding and Memory that occurs when we individual spheres of communion come into contact here, it occurs nonetheless, even if not in our conscious awareness.
I have, in other words, been a wayfarer with a body and been a wayfarer without a body and have not ever found any essential difference.
So what I have come to believe moving from birth to death to rebirth is this: just as learning to live is actually preparing to die, it is clear that preparing to die is actually learning to live.
It’s been nearly seven years since I died and I have been reticent to speak about it too soon, for fear of coloring my account with the profound emotions of the experience. I have, of course, dedicated the remainder of this lifetime to giving expression to the lessons I learned in the Sphere of Universal Communion.
The Toltec I Ching is the first published work of that project.
In The Toltec I Ching, William has developed a fresh new approach to the ancient art of divination. The book recasts the I Ching in the symbology of the Native Americans of ancient Mexico and includes original illustrations interpreting each of the hexagrams. Its subtitle, 64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World, hints at its focus on the ethics of the emerging world culture. Information, excerpts, sample pages, selections of its indigenous images by co-author Martha Ramirez-Oropeza.
For more of my posts about near-death experiences see this index: