What does Satan look like? This is also something that we can learn from people who have been dead and had a Near Death Experience. From looking at cross-cultural research of near death experiences - people who have actually been there - it is clear that there are many myths about hell and the research of near death experiences gives us important insights into the true nature of Hell and what 'Satan' looks like.
The Hebrew word for hell is “Sheol,” and it takes us in this direction. The root of this word is “Shaal,” which means “to ask” or “to inquire.” In most religions, we find the Lord, God, or some servant inquires. In many accounts of near-death experiences, we also find that a being of light or an angel leads the person through the life-review.
For me, my experience was different. I was alone with myself, and it was me passing judgment on myself. Another near-death experience describes the inquirer in a way that is very similar to my experience, “It was me judging me, not some heavenly Saint Peter.” This is also the view of Moody, who concludes that the judgment comes from within. We also find this perspective on the nature of reality in Buddhism, where Soygal Rinpoche says, “Ultimately all judgments take place within our own mind. We are the judge and the judged.”
This means that from an absolute perspective, the negative life-review is created by our own mind. The fundamental reality of the universe is consciousness beyond the construct of the negative review. Enlightenment, or absolute consciousness, is the ultimate nature of existence, and is free of any construct of the conditioned mind. We also find that near-death researchers agree with this view. Grey explains that, “In all the ‘core experiences’, respondents quite categorically state that there was no sense of judgment, that any judgment came from themselves.” And Fenwick concludes that, “It does look quite possible that in the NDE, as in life, we tend to create our own Heaven or Hell.”
Not only do we create our experience of hell, but there is also evidence to suggest that our environment impacts the negative experience. A German study on near-death experiences found a big difference in the negative experience in the near-death experience between West and East Germany. In this study 29 percent of West German near-death experiencers had a negative experience, while 60 percent of the East German near-death experiencers had a negative experience.
This suggests that both mental and cultural conditioning in a person’s environment does affect the near-death experience. So, if we create our own hell and our environment can have an influence on its negative content, should we then not disregard hell as purely illusion? It could be that hell is merely a religious creation that has no inherent reality of its own.
Well, some people would probably think so, but I truly believe that it is not that simple. It is true that among some other cultures, like Aboriginal and First Nations peoples the research, so far, does not find life-reviews in the near-death experience. This could suggest that the life-review is a conditioning that comes from our Western culture, which would be a very interesting subject for future research.
However, even though these non-Western cultures seem to have a lack of life-reviews, they still have negative experiences. One aboriginal study of near-death experiences by Dr. Nsama Mumbwe of the University of Zambia found no life-reviews. But as Melvin Morse explains, “many of these African people interpreted the event as somewhat evil. Half of the participants in this simple study thought that the NDE signified that they were ‘bewitched’ or about to be.”
So, however we choose to interpret the experience, it looks as if we still do find negative experiences in all cultures. Therefore, I would suggest that the experience is a mental projection and an illusion to the enlightened mind. But unless a person is fully enlightened or only doing good actions, I do not believe that the possibility of having a negative life-review or a negative experience can be completely disregarded.
Grey tells us that, “My view is that this refers to ‘unfinished business’ that has become trapped in the psyche or soul and which continues to cause problems until recognized and overcome.” Now, when the purpose of the life-review seems to be that the person learns, and this teaching of the soul seems to continue after life, my question would be: When do we have no more unfinished business? The answer to me would be when we are fully enlightened.
About the learning part, Moody explains that the point of the questioning seems to be “to draw them out,” and that the Socratic questioning is not to acquire information, “but to help the person who is being asked to proceed along the path to the truth about himself.” Moody uses the words “provoke reflection,” and for me, it is clear that provoking reflection must contain unknown or forgotten events.
One account testifies that, “I experienced the review of my life which extended from early childhood and included many occurrences that I had completely forgotten.” This happened to me as well, especially the incident where I was teasing a girl in 5th grade. I had totally forgotten this event, and becoming aware of it was a shock to me.
Since this is a psychological event, I will look to Carl Jung to try and understand it. He describes the transference of death as the union of the conscious and unconscious. When the soul is “withdrawn from projections and reunites with the body, a bridge is formed for access between the conscious and unconscious, leading to the Self.”
This withdrawal from projection, leading to the unconscious, can be dangerous: “Another danger is that, when integrated, the contents of the unconscious may so enlarge the ego that one runs the risk of an inflation.” Jung further explains about the unconscious: “Because the latter cannot be seen directly, it is always projected; for, unlike the shadow, it does not belong to the ego but is collective. For this reason it is felt to be something alien to us.”
This was an excerpt from Rene Jorgensen's book Awakening After Life, which is available here: