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Cities of Transparent Gold
By Greg Taylor of The Daily Grail

Over the past two decades, 'Near Death Experience' (NDE) researchers such as Raymond Moody, Kenneth Ring and Melvin Morse have unveiled some of the mysteries of consciousness as a person faces death. What their data shows is that underlying each personal experience is an archetypal progression, whereby people from many different cultures and backgrounds experience essentially the same stages: a rushing, whooshing or buzzing sound, an Out-of-Body experience, travel through a tunnel, a meeting with 'the Light', experiencing a life review and so on.

Certainly each experience never conforms directly to the archetype, but all tend to partake of at least one aspect if not several - although often presented in different ways. For example, during their out-of-body travels, many people often find themselves reaching a river that needs crossing, or alternately a bridge, or in some case a fence, wall or door. A similar example is the 'heavenly abode' that many NDErs are given access to - in some cases a beautiful garden, for others a land in the clouds, and also sometimes a heavenly city.

I'd like to concentrate here on the experiences relating to a 'heavenly city', as there is a curious aspect to many of these particular anecdotes which suggests something extraordinary. Often these 'cities of light' have a particular quality - they are 'crystalline' - or more directly, made of transparent gold.

Take for example the well known case of Dannion Brinkley's NDE, related in his book Saved by the Light. After being struck by lightning while on the telephone, Brinkley experienced many of the archetypal elements of the NDE. After meeting with the 'being of light', he then relates that:

Like wingless birds, we swept into a city of cathedrals. These cathedrals were made entirely of a crystalline substance that glowed with a light that shone powerfully from within. I was awestruck. This place had a power that seemed to pulsate through the air. I knew that I was in a place of learning. I wasn't there to witness my life or to see what value it had had, I was there to be instructed

The research of Professor Kenneth Ring of the University of Connecticut has contributed greatly to our understanding of Near Death Experiences. Ring found that different elements of the experience could be associated with the 'depth' of the NDE. One interesting detail was that some experiencers 'travelled' to a city of light, sometimes also called a 'city of knowledge'. In Ring's book "Heading Towards Omega", he describes two such accounts in separate NDEs:

...the first thing that I saw was this street. And it had such a clarity. The only thing I can relate it to in this life was a look of gold, but it was clear.

and...

...the building I went in was a cathedral. It was built like St. Mark's or the Sistine Chapel, but the bricks or blocks appeared to be made of plexiglass. They were square, they had dimensions to 'em, except you could see through 'em and in the center of each one of these was this gold and silver light.

Ring lists these two experiences without linking the similar theme -- that the city is made of a 'transparent gold' (not literally, but the best 'rational' description of an ineffable vision). This in itself is interesting enough, but perhaps even more so if we consider the Revelation to John in the Christian Bible. John is taken by one of the seven angels to view the 'Holy City'. John says:

...the Spirit took control of me, and the angel carried me to the top of a very high mountain. He showed me Jerusalem, the Holy City, coming down out of heaven from God and shining with the glory of God...the city itself was made of pure gold, as clear as glass.

Not to mention Enoch describes similar structures in his narrrative while exploring the heavens. In terms of the city locales found during the death experience, 17th Century mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg had this to say about the experience of the newly dead:

So they are taught by their friends about the state of eternal life, and are taken around to different places, into different communities. Some are taken to cities, some to gardens and parks; but most are taken to splendid places because this sort of place delights the outward nature they are still involved in.

Interestingly, it's not just the NDE field which has presented these curious cases. In his exploration of the time between lives using hypnotic regression Dr Michael Newton found that some groups of people report seeing great crystalline castles as well. But was the revelation to John a near-death experience, or the astral journeying of a mystic? Perhaps they are one and the same, as some mystical explorations tend to report similar visions.

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