It happened twenty years ago but I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was driving with a few of my long-time students on a road outside Jerusalem when another car violently crashed into ours. We all suffered severe injuries, but I was the only one declared clinically dead.
Right after the impact, I didn’t realize my state. All I knew was that I couldn’t breathe. My lungs began filling up with blood and I almost lost consciousness. Then, the ambulance arrived. While we were on our way to the hospital, I had only a vague sense of my surroundings, conscious one moment, and unconscious the next.
My Out-of-Body Experience
Once at the hospital, I was asked to sign a paper. They took my arm and I scribbled something. Afterward, I experienced a total blackout. I could, however, somehow see the doctor trying to resuscitate me. He aggressively raised and flexed my leg, pressing it very hard against my torso. He later explained to me that although I was technically dead, he had tried to stabilize my blood flow that had unsettled due to internal bleeding in my liver.
I had never met the doctor before, and I would not until after three weeks of recovery in the hospital. Interestingly, I clearly saw him pushing my leg. I did not see him with my eyes. I was seeing myself and what was happening to me from outside my body. Yes, this is what people commonly refer to as an “out-of-body experience.”
What Is an Out-of-Body Experience?
Since I’m a teacher of Kabbalah, my students have since asked me: If I didn’t see the doctor with my eyes, what did I see him with? Also, what exactly is an out-of-body experience? Is it connected to spirituality?
I did not see the doctor or my surroundings with my eyes, but with an internal sense. However, I do not connect this internal sense or my out-of-body experience to spirituality. Such experiences are mere psychological, non-coincidental impressions that are processed by our brain and manifest in a supranormal form.
After surgery, when I was recovering and going in and out of consciousness, I saw blurry, colorful images, but no concrete shapes. Yet it was clear to me that all this had nothing to do with spirituality. When people grasp images as if they are from outside, they actually see a resemblance of what they have learned, heard and processed throughout their lives.
First of all, there is no such as a thing as “clinical death” according to the wisdom of Kabbalah. Death is death, and there are undeniable scientific signs to measure it through the physical human functions or the lack of them.
The body exists only for the sake of wrapping the soul. The material body dies and disintegrates, but the soul lives on by clothing into a new body to continue the spiritual cycle until its full correction.
Only while we’re alive in this world is our spiritual advancement possible. So what happens when you die? Very simply, if we do not make efforts to develop a soul in our lifetime, we keep reincarnating. As explained by Kabbalist Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) in his article From My Flesh I Shall See God, “The connection between the body and the soul is only that in the former, things happen to it naturally and by themselves, and in the latter they happen through work and joint relation between the spiritual and the corporeal.”
I remember when I came to Baal HaSulam’s son, Rav Baruch Ashlag (Rabash), who was my teacher for over a decade, one of my first questions to him was: “How does a person who has attained spirituality relate to life and death?” He answered: “I see that today you came to my lesson in a nice, new, white shirt and later you will change it. You know that you will have to change your shirt. This is exactly how a person living in his soul views his body: he knows that the time will come when it will have to be changed.”
So why do we make such a big deal about dying? From a Kabbalistic perspective, it is not important whatsoever. If we invest in our spiritual development and the correction of our soul, we remain alive after “taking off” the physical body in the same way we remain alive after we take off our shirt. It’s a sort of corporeal laundry; we just get rid of dirty clothing.
Unraveling Humanity’s Google
If a person does not develop his soul during his lifetime, it means that he did not prepare for the second stage of his existence, which is life above the corporeal egoistic desire, the self-aimed desire to enjoy. This desire renews itself and appears in different ways, undergoing an upgrade from one incarnation to the next. It gets a new opportunity to develop until it acquires what, according to Kabbalah, it was created for: the attainment of the soul—connection to the spiritual world—while still in this world.
When the material body dies, the remaining desire is called a Reshimo (from Hebrew roshem – a record or reminiscence), a sort of code that includes everything a person consisted of, a kind of spiritual DNA passed on from generation to generation. It is the particle from which we eventually develop a soul .
Baal HaSulam explains this in his article, The Peace: “Thus, in our world, there are no new souls the way bodies are renewed, but only a certain amount of souls that incarnate….Therefore, with regard to the souls, all generations since the beginning of creation to the end of correction are as one generation that has extended its life over several thousand years….”
This collection of spiritual information is “humanity’s Google ,” so to speak, a system where we are all connected. Through Kabbalah, we can open, explore, understand and use that system, entering its “control room,” a heightened sense of balance and harmony with our surrounding reality.
Moreover, Kabbalah states that reaching such a unified and harmonious state is the reason we’re alive: the purpose of our existence. Its attainment grants us the perception of our eternal soul and the connections between us, and sensations of unbounded tranquility and bliss, without departing from this material existence.
Freedom from Fear
What I felt in my near-death experience, and what many people have reported to feel, does indeed exemplify a certain sense of freedom from the corporeal body. While in that limbo between life and death, I thought about my state and felt it vividly. I did not feel fear or pleasure, only a sense of transition to a new state. I did not care about whether I died or stayed alive, and had no perception of good or bad. I only felt the sensation of some flow taking me wherever it wanted, here or there, and that nothing depended on me.
Fear is experienced only when a person is strongly attached to life and gets frightened by the unknown. However, on the verge of death, when the five senses are shut down, you become free from the corporeal body; there is no sense of belonging to it.
However, such feelings of freedom are temporary, limited and miniscule compared to the boundless sensations of fulfillment, connection and delight that come from attaining our eternal soul.
The wisdom of Kabbalah invites anyone who so desires to embark on the journey of the soul’s discovery during our lifetime. Moreover, both Baal HaSulam and The Book of Zohar (a principle Kabbalistic text), pointed specifically to our era as the one when more and more people would increasingly question the meaning of their lives, becoming ready to make steps toward their soul’s attainment, learning and using the wisdom of Kabbalah for this purpose.
The author, Dr. Michael Laitman is a Professor of Ontology, a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah, and an MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics.