ARUBA. OCTOBER 15, 1996
Because of my work, I attended a meeting for the Latin-American distributor of NPB (Nellcor Puritan Bennett) in October 1996 at Aruba in the Caribbean Sea. The meeting schedule was for a week with Wednesday afternoon programmed for free-time activities. I chose the ‘Sea Ventures Snorkeling Cruise’ in a very large boat. Recommendation of the Captain was to wear a life vest. I saw my colleagues jumping into the sea and I also jumped into the sea just with snorkel and frog shoes. It was about 2 o’clock p.m. and the boat dropped anchor about 200 meters (approx. 220 yards) from the seashore.
The combined waves with their amplified power, quickly dragged me away from the boat. When I was about 100 meters (approximately 110 yards) from the seashore, the force of the waves began to sap my strength and resilience. I thought I had better stop struggling in those waves as soon as I could, so I headed for a small promontory of rocks that jutted out from the shoreline. It was the closest landing spot I could see, and looked like an ideal resting place. Despite my age of thirty-nine years, I was still very athletic and I was not worried about whether I could make it that far.
In a short while, I was proven wrong. I began swallowing seawater, and noticed that one of my frog shoes was missing. My snorkel was now hanging around my neck, useless. As I looked across the water towards the rocks, they seemed farther away than ever. I was losing my strength and I could hardly breathe. Soon, I simply could no longer keep my head above water. Then I found I was not swimming any more. I was looking down at myself from above! At first, I did not even recognize that it was me. There I was unmoving and floating in the water. I saw my wristwatch on my arm, reflecting the sun. However, even though I thought I was far above the watch, I also seemed to be looking at it from no more than three inches away. I could see the tiny details of numbers and letters on the dial and even the smallest details of the works inside it. I mean, that I really was inside the wristwatch and observing the cogwheels of the watch machinery moving. I understood each movement while observing the battery feeding the mechanisms with energy to the cogwheels. The molecules of the moving cogwheels had like an infrared color, and the pieces that were not moving had like an ultraviolet color. I believe the difference in color was between Kinetic and Potential energy. It was so weird and wonderful. Then I found myself back in the water and inside my body floating somewhat below the surface.
Looking upwards, seeking my ‘self’ which had just been up there. The sunshine dazzled my eyes, beaming with incredible beauty through the seawater. Then, I was looking down without turning my head and I saw the sunlight gradually diffuse as it travelled toward the very bottom. Looking as deep as I could to the ocean floor, I felt it as immensely and powerfully black. Its vast darkness was overwhelming, but also it was very powerfully calming. What overwhelmed me? Moreover, why at the end it changed to a complete peace feeling? It is normal to be afraid of Darkness. That is how it should be; darkness represents the unknown.
When I began to see under the water, towards the seashore I saw a small sunken wooden boat that resembling a buccaneer ship. The ship was probably a fake sunken ship for tourists. Then I looked to the floor of the ocean. First, it was totally black, not a blackness as like lack of light but as a blackness full of life. At that instant, the notion of time and space vanished. I have seen in front of my eyes a macabre parade of natives, pirates, sailors, women, children, drowning (yes, drowning in present tense) in this very place during centuries. Their fear is the dreadful darkness that makes us afraid.
During the parade, I was about 10 feet under the water. I saw them one by one. For example, I heard a person splashing on the surface and beginning to drown. The person was taking in water, gasping, and struggling to go up. I do not know if they fell down from a boat, committed suicide, or was killed, or running away from a battle or a hurricane. I do not know that. I saw them passing in front of and near me, going down to the bottom of the sea. Only after reaching the bottom of the sea, then begins the drowning of another person. Maybe in another time, maybe centuries after the last one I saw. It is so difficult to understand how the vector of time works in this reality. They were not translucent as ghosts. They were normal human beings.
I knew they were natives, sailors, or pirates. I knew not only by their clothing, but somehow, we were connected to each other by our thoughts. I felt each one of them as a part of me. I observed their facial expressions however, I was paying more attention to their feelings, their suffering, and their fear of death. The knowledge was more emotional than visual. I saw about 40 humans drowning.
One person impressed and amazed me most of all. She was a pregnant woman, perhaps European and in a long white elegant skirt. She had long brown hair. Her dress resembles the style from the 1900’s. She was not struggling for her life as the others before and after her. I could understand her thoughts. She was deeply concerned about her baby and not about her life. As her clothes were wet, the shape of the pregnant belly was remarkable. She was hugging with her belly with two hands as if trying to hug her baby. I do not know if her baby was girl or boy. Suddenly we looked at each other and her facial expression and her thought was, ‘What the hell are you here observing?’ How could she see me? Her wonderful eyes and attractiveness stunned me. Feel she could see my soul. I was thinking, ‘Is this really happening to me?’ All the tragedy of human destiny reflected there; the summit of love, life and death together. I thought to myself, ‘Now, I am one of them.’
I started to recall significant moments of my past life. It was like traveling to the past to be the main character of the story and an observer at the same time. I learned so many things about myself that I did not know. Again, in present time, bitter reality overwhelmed me. I was so sad and concerned about my daughters, wife, and mother.
Here was when something incredible happened. I felt surrounded by a luminous warm water that moved the darkness away. Only brightness surrounded me. My fear and sadness became love and joy. I knew I was diving in the Life force and having a mystical encounter. Everything was moving in slow motion while surrounded by drowned peoples’ souls and surrounded by my living family’s souls. I had a desire to hug each one of them. There was love, endless love everywhere. The past, present and future together at the same time. We are like one immense family. Everything made sense to me! I felt a peace I never felt before. I had no fears or worries. In fact, I had a sense of complete acceptance, as if everything were going as it should.
At this instant in time, I found myself in my home in Asuncion. It is like if I was sitting on the top of a ladder like those ladders ‘A’ type. Down on the floor my daughters are playing, ages 5 and 7. I enjoyed so much that moment, the satisfaction of realizing that all was right with them. I do not know how long I was observing that scene. Time and space is so confusing on this side of the reality. (*)
Then, I was in my mother’s house and she was working in a little store she had. I was worry about her reaction when she found out that I drowned. I am an only son, fatherless and did not know how could affect the tragic new to her. (*)
After that, I am in a living room, unknown for me, and talking with Andres who was an appreciated old friend since we were kids who passed away years ago when he was on duty. He was an anti-narcotics police officer. We were told that he was shot during a raid in Pedro Juan Caballero, a city boundary with Brazil. We talked a long time remembering our childhood. He told me his family needed financial assistance since he left a wife and children. He told me that he was thinking to work at night as Security Guard, after finishing his day work as police officer. (**) This amazed me; ‘How could you say that?’ I interrupted him. ¡You are already dead! I stated him. He did not accept it. (Moving his head) He said me: ‘No, happens you just dreamed I had an accident and died. The truth is that didn’t happen.’
The scene is so real. I start to hesitate. I am so confused. In that unclear state of mind, I hear a yell, ‘Are you okay Celso?’ Then again, I clearly hear shouting; it is Jorge’s voice. I grasped to the rock. ‘No’, I reply, ‘Not feeling well.’ He approaches to me. With one hand he is grabbing the frog shoe I lost. From the rock to the beach was not deep water. I walked. He leaves me on the beach and says, ‘I’ll go back to the boat for Help.’
Once in the boat, my colleagues made jokes about me. Juan said I just pretended ‘an accident’ for being the center of the attentions of the group. I only smiled with them. For them, I just was missing for less than 15 minutes. For me, I spent hours and thousands of miles in the most unbelievable of experiences. Even today, I really do not know what happened to me in the sea. I only know for sure that my life was different after that event. In many ways, I changed for better. It is like if a new dimension or portal opened inside me.
(*) I corroborated all my visions the following days. My mother and daughters wore the dresses I saw and they were doing that Wednesday afternoon, things as I exactly saw in the event.
(**) A week later in Asuncion, I visited Andres’ mother’s house. His family were in a money emergency necessity as he was telling me in the event. That coincidence shook my heart as I realized Andres was telling me the truth as when he was alive.
I want to share some thoughts that my NDE generated within me.
About a year after my experience happened, I started wondering about it. I started asking myself some of the following questions:
What was it all about? Why did it happened to me? What did I get from it? How was it important to me? Is there anything in my NDE that the world could benefit from? What important information could humankind get from such experiences? How might it be valuable to humankind, or to the world?
The longer I thought about this, the more my answers evolved and changed.
My first thoughts were about the concept of oneness and endless love, because those were some of the things I felt very strongly during my experience.
Oneness is so different when you experience it, I mean; once you felt it, you don’t need to understand it intellectually. However, once you have felt Oneness this way, you know what it is as a concept too. And you do understand it intellectually. It is like gravity that way. You can study gravity in a scientific way and understand it, but you also just feel it and accept it, naturally. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all understood Oneness this way? What would there be fight about? Why would we envious or jealous? Experiencing Oneness puts us into a state of love. After all, when we love something or someone like a person, a pet, or a flower, we feel at one with it. It’s like our hearts expand and take the thing we love into it.
Why do we fight in our material world? Why do we hate in our material world? It´s because everything is separated. Now try to realize that we and the universe are one. Think, feel and be the universe. We are everything, and we have everything. So, we do not need to WORRY about food, air, money, or anything. Where is the fight? Where is the hate?
Only love remains as an intrinsic property of Life Force.
Particularly amazing for me was to verify that Einstein’s Relativity Theory of space-time is completely testable. You don’t need sophisticated instruments to check it. Your five senses are enough. The vector of time coming from the past, passing through the present, and then, going to the future is only true in our material world. In that non-material world, the arrow of space-time is extremely flexible.
A couple of years later I realized that also is very important how the Universe ( God, Superior Being, Creator or other name you use to define the Infinite Unknown) understands what life is. For the Universe, there are people with bodies that are alive, and people without bodies that are alive. It is that simple. A body by itself does not define the concept of real life force. A body alone is inert matter like a stone or water.
Nearly twenty years after my event, I now think that the most important message an NDE delivers can be found through its after-effects. It seems that one’s consciousness gradually opens to a new reality. It’s a new reality that has always been there but the eyes were blind to it.
Now, the pattern of perceptions of an NDE or a divine encounter is not a magic or supernatural experience. It is a sheer natural event. Everybody can have one. Moreover, I dare to think, everybody should have at least one!
For the sake of world peace and paradigm shifts, everyone should have at least one NDE. Please do not misunderstanding me. I am not suggesting at all that people should be looking for an opportunity to be in a near death situation. That would be ridiculous. I am referring to employ proven practices like the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ of Ignatius of Loyola, or meditation techniques like those from Buddhism or Hinduism. Eastern culture uses the word ‘enlightenment’ to refer to states of consciousness that people can reach through these practices. It is the bringing of light to your inner being, the sacred dances for self-observation and self-understanding of Gurdjieff, mind elevation of Spiritists, ritual songs and dances of Guarani, or others tribes, etc. There are so many ways to reach this awesome encounter with the ultimate truth of life. Tours to pure nature such as a wild forest, a brave sea or a peaceful lake, climbing a challenging mountain or watching a magnificent starry sky are helpful.
The act of contemplation of our wonderful world and the feeling we are part of it, can be a first step towards the pattern of perceptions that Raymond Moody (unfortunately) called a ‘Near Death Experience’. I mean, the experience is not about death or being dead; what you experience is the real eternal life force. Even the ‘dead’ people you find in the afterlife are alive. It is an experience near and about the life force. The life I experienced there, was a far more ‘alive’ feeling than what I feel in my body on earth.
Let me explain with a more detailed analogy my assertion that we need to understand that an NDE or divine encounter is a natural phenomenon.
In the past people with epilepsy were considered as being possessed by bad spirits or demons.
An article about the history of Epilepsy (Epilepsy 44, Suppl. 6/12-14-2003) quotes Oswei Temkin in his book ‘The Falling Sickness’ describing how in ancient Mesopotamia seizures were attributed to ‘the hand of the sin’ or to the ‘god of the moon.’
The Hammurabi Code, dated 1780 BC, dictate that the person with epilepsy could not marry.
In 1400 BC, Hippocrates wrote. ‘The popular superstition, the magicians, the wizards and charlatans, who named the disease sacred, are being attacked. The alleged divine character is only a shelter for ignorance and fraudulent practices.’ They call it ‘divine’ to hide their lack of understanding of it and instead of seeking to understand its natural origins, they prescribe ‘sacred’ rituals (to be performed by them, of course) for relief, which garner money to themselves but do nothing to help.
What do we know now about epilepsy? Epilepsy is the most common brain disorder. Today medications for epilepsy are mainstays in controlling seizures. However, surgical procedures are another dimension in treatment. Nowadays, nobody talks anymore about ‘possessions’ when they talk about epilepsy. We accepted this disease like a natural phenomenon without discussion.
Obviously, an NDE or divine encounter is not a disease or a disorder of health, nor is it supernatural or caused by magic. On the contrary, my view of this tells me that it is a supremely important tool given to us by Nature, for the evolution of humanity. It provides us with a better understanding of reality and of the Universe itself. Still, we do need to learn more about our consciousness capabilities. What kind of potential does consciousness hold for us when it can bring us these experiences? We need to keep studying in order to understand how they happen. Surely, it is not magic or supernatural. I see it as a purely natural capacity inherent in our precious consciousness; a gift from the Universe, a gift for evolution and peace.
Now the question: why would an event of this nature happened to a simple and ordinary person like me?
During the first years, I was thinking my old friend, Andres who had passed away eight years before my experience, had somehow caused it because his family currently needed financial help, and he knew I would be able to get in touch with them and help them. After my experience, I had dreams about Andres about three times. So, to explore this further, I learned how to be conscious in my dreams (Dr. Stephen LaBerge), and in my final dream about him, I asked him about it. ‘Were you responsible for my spiritual experience?’ He replied, ‘No, I only took advantage of the fact that you were visiting my world!’ After that, I never had any more dreams in which Andres showed up. That was the only theory I had come up with, and so the question, of why I had this experience, remains as a great mystery to me as ever.
Now, the question of God: after all these experiences, what does mean God to me? Nowadays I am a humble follower of Jesus of Nazareth and of Spinoza’s ideas. My concept of God is everything I do know and everything I still do not know. How is the image of the invisible God? A poor image can barely represent the wholeness of God. It can take any form recognizable for our mind in order to communicate a message for us, because our mind is limited in the comprehension of something limitless.
In my particular case, God took the form of a luminous warm water. It does not mean that a luminous warm water is God; it is just that for me it became a representation of the concept God because it was with the experiencing of the luminous warm water that I felt the most connection with the eternal, with the source of the life force. Despite this image still being a somewhat poor representation of God, for me it does entail all the overwhelming emotional qualities of the genuine concept of God. It created in me that profound emotion, that feeling that shakes all the molecules of each one of your DNA helixes and changes your life forever. Believe me, once you have had such experience, your life will never ever be the same!
We need to recognize that humans cannot objectively know God. Only subjectively. Any image of God we hold is not God; it is just barely a representation. In consequence, religious wars are completely nonsense. Each person can have a different representation of the same God. It is silly to have religious wars just because we think our imaginary representation of God is the truest and that other´s people imaginary representation of the same God are wrong.
This is the most important message of my experience. Approaching an understanding of the concept of God is the most fundamental step towards tolerance, equality and the world peace.
Attempting to achieve world peace is the best reason to share my Aruba, 1996, spiritual experience.
May God bless us all always!
Thank you for your time.
*My deepest thanks to my friend Judith Shea for her edition, translation and improvements to the text. She convinced me to share my account after 20 years!