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Permeable Membrane

by on April 26, 2015

                                                         Permeable Membrane

                                                             by Marco M. Pardi

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  The comments sections for all previous articles have been opened for use.  I will certainly look forward to your comments. 

“Communion with the transcendent powers….is not a feat that can be achieved by anyone; it is a mystery peculiar to the one elected, and is therefore through and through personal in character.” Theodore Roszak (1933-) The Making of the Counter-Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition. 1969

“Our science is a drop, our ignorance a sea.” William James. 1895. The Will to Believe: And Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (New York: Longmans Green, 1907), 54.

Since I began my work in Thanatology in the early 1970’s I have taught, written, and given public presentations on the topics therein.  Quite often, especially when examining the phenomena surrounding the process of dying, I have been asked if I personally experienced any of these phenomena.  I almost always deflected the questions, steering more toward the process of analysis.  And, in every instance – as now, I make very clear, as I have in other pieces on this site, that I do not believe anything.  I define belief as acceptance without question.  I have never functioned on that level.  No experience described below “changed my life” or anything about the way I function.

To address the question of my personal experience: Yes, I have experienced several phenomena associated with what I call disincarnate existence, the greater context of the membrane within which we live. I will recount several, but by no means all, here.  I have altered names where I felt it appropriate.  I wrote of my first remembered experience in Zep Tepi, an earlier entry on this site and a late chapter in Reflections, also on this site. I shall arrange the following episodes in chronological order, not order of importance.

Some may see these experiences as imaginary, unique, “unscientific”, or – worse yet, proof of a god.  After reading thousands of such reports and interviewing hundreds of people reporting them,  I reject such claims.

A frequent question is: Do non-human animals sense disincarnates?  The quick answer is Yes. But, like human animals, some are sensitive and some appear not to be.  Were I to discuss my experience and understanding of this I would need to write another article.

Although all my life I had had various episodes of sensitivity to what seemed to be the disincarnate spirits of the deceased, there had been only one which could be ascribed to anyone I knew.  Thus, I was surprised but not alarmed one evening in 1965 in Firenze, Italy.

I was visiting a woman who had been my childhood tutor there in 1950.  My grandfather, with whom I had been close, died in Roma suddenly in 1950.  (I described that in Zep Tepi.) That evening in 1965 I stood alone on her balcony, the light from the dining room behind me.  I had just completed 4 years in an American Air Force combat unit and was in a very uncertain frame of mind.  As I came to realize that the shadow I was seeing on the building across the street was me, I felt that such a phenomenon was impossible given the weak light behind me.  Yet, it seemed to enlarge and to sharpen very brightly. As I slipped into a wondering state of mind, I became fully aware of a person standing next to me but I was quite alone.  At that moment I felt an arm slide around me and hold me close, and I “heard” my grandfather’s voice assuring me that things would be all right and that I would go on to a successful life. I have no idea exactly how long that certainly short episode lasted. But, it was precise and to the point. Some may attribute the experience to stress and I would agree, but not in the way they intend. Yes, I was experiencing the stress of life uncertainty and, I think, it was precisely for that reason that my grandfather came to assure me.

The episode, with its tactile and inner auditory – perhaps even visual – components was, to me,impressive.  One night in 1973 I sought to regain that communion, and I walked the streets of Firenze until well after dawn. To my knowledge, I did not succeed that time.

In March of 1972 I was teaching at a college in Florida. Very early on a Saturday morning two colleagues came to my house and explained that they were on their way to a Spiritualist community two hours away.  A third member of the original party had to suddenly cancel, and they wondered if I would join them.  Never having seen one of these sessions, I agreed.

Upon arrival, the Spiritualist told my colleagues she could sit for them but would not have time for me. I was fine with that; the little community was already worth the trip. But, as I was turning to walk into a park across the street, she suddenly said, “No. I have something to tell you. I will see you after I finish with these two.”  That was fine, too. I had no idea what all this meant and wandered to the lakeside in the park. Each of my two predecessors took nearly an hour.  I’m not normally someone who can sit idly, especially in Florida heat and humidity. I was tiring of the wait. Suddenly, I felt as if I had received an injection of muscle relaxant. The environmental discomfort evaporated; the growing irritation dissolved completely. I had an incomparable feeling of well-being and, as I was reveling in it, I at first thought I heard my own mind’s voice saying, “I’m all right now. I’m happy. Everything’s fine.” But then the voice said, “You will be fine, too. I am going now and it is wonderful. I am released. You will be fine, but you must stay for now. Don’t be sad.”  On some level, I knew this was not me talking to myself. But, I was so taken by the feeling of euphoria, I did not think deeply about it.

When my turn came the Spiritualist began by telling me of the presence of people whom I had known were dead, citing names and descriptions perfectly.  She then said, “Your grandmother’s here” and proceeded to describe some complex surgical procedures that had been done on her just a few days before.  To my knowledge, my grandmother was very much alive, albeit in a nursing home. The Spiritualist seemed to realize I just was not making the connection, and dropped it.

Immediately upon my return my housemate met me in the driveway with a packed suitcase. “I got a phone call while you were away. Your grandmother suddenly died this morning. You’ve got to go.” The extent to which I was shocked reflects the extent to which I had been naïve throughout that entire episode. I had utterly missed the connection.

My NDE/ADC experiences did not, to my knowledge, alter my views about existence. Nor did they change my personality, that I know of.  They did, however, leave me with some very fundamental questions.

In the mid 1970’s, while teaching Anthropology at a Florida college, a female staff member and friend of mine (“Elke”) asked my help in moving her from one residence to another. On the evening I was to go and help, another friend, formerly a Special Forces medic, dropped by my home for dinner. We agreed that he would help, and I prepared dinner. As I sat down to eat I was suddenly overcome by a need to lie down and rest. I went to my bedroom and did so. The following describes, from two perspectives, what transpired.

His perspective: He finished his meal and, seeing it was time to go, came to get me. Knowing I had been in a specialized Viet-Nam era military unit, he stopped at my bedroom door and loudly called my name. Getting no response, he turned on the overhead light. I was lying on my back (which I never do). He kicked the foot of the bed and shouted my name. No response. He pulled me to a sitting position. No response. “I just thought you had some martinis or something”, he later said. I had not had anything of the kind.  He went ahead to help “Elke” move.

My perspective: I laid down and immediately “came aware” with a sense of rapid motion into a black void.  I “realized” I had no body and, as I was reassuring myself that I was whole and had done this many times before, I happened to glance “back” and saw the Earth as one would see it from distant space. Quite comfortable with this sight, I became aware of a “person” (sexless and ageless) in the void with me and that this “person” was “dead” and needed guidance in where to go. As we drew close together I saw what was either a small, bright orange light close ahead or a large, bright orange light far away. The void made distance impossible to measure, or perhaps irrelevant. I perceived a “duty” to guide this person toward the light; it was the place for the person to go.

The best analogy here is bowling.  In the same way that one gives a ball direction and momentum, and then stops before entering the alley, I began, through direct mental contact, to encourage the person toward the light. At no time did I “say” that the person was “dead”; that was utterly irrelevant. In the same instant that I began, the person began encouraging me to come along. “Come on! Come on, you know it’s good! You know it’s better! You’ve been there. You know it’s good. Come on!” Just as in bowling, I perceived an invisible point beyond which I should not go. As I listened to the friendly pleading of the person I never once thought of anything secular; I did not have even a glimmer of earthly life, loved ones, or “responsibilities”. I said only, “It’s not my time. It’s not my time.”

The person went to the light. I, with no memorable sense of reentry, awoke on my bed.  I laid there for a few minutes, collecting myself.  In a few minutes, as I was preparing to go to “Elke’s”, the phone rang. “Elke” told me that she had just received a phone call that her mother, who had been living half the state away, had suddenly collapsed and died less than an hour before. I had never met “Elke’s” mother. However, two years later, when “Elke” moved in with me, a Spiritualist told her that her mother had tried to take me with her.

I found the Spiritualist claim difficult to fully accept.  However, this entire episode raised questions: Does the “you’ve been there many times before” support reincarnation? If so, is reincarnation merely haphazard, or is it purposeful? Does knowing that it is “not my time” mean that a part of me knows when it is “my time”, and that I can access that? If the Spiritualist was correct, does that mean that people transitioning can still attempt to exercise powers they consider important, even to the extent of exerting enough influence upon another as to draw him near death?

For some years I had been teaching what was the first fully accredited U.S. college course in Death & Dying. Subsequently, Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross invited me to Montreal, Canada in 1976 to participate in the 1st International Seminar on Palliative Care. I told her fully of this episode. She was baffled, introduced me to Raymond Moody, and was excited by the implications inasmuch as it was NOT ME dying.

In December of 1980, I was lying on my bed reading one evening, with the radio playing in the background. That same, now recognizable feeling of a sudden and urgent need to “go to sleep” came strongly over me. However, not being confident that I would stop at the invisible boundary this time, I insisted (to whom I do not know) that I would go only on the condition that I would leave my foot behind. That seeming agreed to, I slipped quickly into the void, finding myself catching up to several others who were gathering about and lifting a slightly glowing figure. We reassured the person that everything was fine and that “he” (sexless) should go to the light, which was much whiter this time and seemingly shining from above us. As we pushed up from the black void and into the glow of the light the figure went on into the light.

I “awakened” on my back, my right foot feeling like an anchor. As I wondered who might have died, the radio announcer cut into the music with the news that John Lennon had just been shot. I found this confusing, even embarrassing.  I had liked the music of the Beatles when they first came out. However, I was by no means a “fan”. Yet, I could not escape the conclusion that I, and others like me, had been called to support Lennon in his transition.

Again, the obvious question: Many people die, including several “close” to me. Do I do this routinely and just not remember it? Is this why I chose to specialize in Death & Dying for so many years, and to be associated with it in a variety of other, unusual ways? Since then, several seemingly qualified psychics and mediums have answered my first question by affirming, with no prior information, that I do indeed do this constantly, and have always done so, regardless of what I may consciously remember.

In December of 2000 my brother, a physician, and I moved our mother to his home for her to spend her last days.  Although she had been an Alzheimer’s patient for quite some time, she had recently been diagnosed with aggressive cancer. Her oncologist suggested an outside longevity of 2 – 3 months.

I spent about 10 days with her at my brother’s home, noting only a very minor decline in her ambulatory function. On the evening of December 25th, my brother and I agreeing that no significant changes appeared imminent, I drove the 400 miles to my home. On December 26th, well rested, I was at my computer at 1:00 pm (13:00hrs).  Quite alert as I caught up on work I had put aside, I felt again the familiar need for urgent sleep.

In broad daylight I was “asleep” as soon as I laid down. In fact, I seemed to immediately awaken within what is called a “lucid dream”. I found myself at a bus station in a large northern city (my mother was born in New York City but raised in Europe), getting on a bus behind an elderly woman. As she turned slightly to put her fare in the collection box I saw it was my mother. Her fare accepted, she turned to go down the bus aisle. I then put fare money in the collection box but it rejected it. At this time the bus driver, a large, older woman, turned to me and explained that I had foreign currency and she could not accept it. I noticed then that the bus driver was stone blind.

Without “saying” anything, my mother turned and led me off the bus and into a money changing station.  She communicated to me that she knew how to do it. I started to follow her through a series of three turnstiles through which she progressed effortlessly. I, however, was stopped at the second, which would not accept the money I had exchanged in the first. I found myself barricaded in the middle of the series of turnstiles as I watched her go, without looking back, onto the bus and leave. I awakened and found only a few minutes had passed.

Moments later the telephone rang and my brother told me to get back down there immediately, as she had only “4 – 6 hours to live”.  This was somewhat surprising given her state when I left.  But, in light of the episode I had just had, I was more surprised that she was still alive at all. I raced back down to his home and found, instead of the somewhat ambulatory and conscious person I had left, a living corpse on a bed, complete with urinary catheter. Her breath was shallow and rattling. Her eyes were slightly open only because she had no muscle tension in her eyelids. This was a body which was continuing on only the most basic motor functions.  She was comatose for several days.

We took turns with her and, during the night of Jan 3rd, 2001, as I sat with her, the body simply did not draw a next breath.  I interpret this episode to mean that the spirit can leave the body, 9 days in this case, before the mechanical functions cease.  I interpret the event I experienced as being her spirit telling me of its departure, and of the reality of my staying here. Perhaps there are implications here for loved ones who sit in vigil beside someone dying.  My brother was sharply affected by her physical death. I had already said my goodbyes years before when she had careened headlong into Alzheimer’s.  And, I was more recently spiritually comfortable for having had the experience that I did.   

I have recounted only a tiny percentage of the experiences I’ve had, not mentioning those co-experienced with “Elke” and with my non-human companions.  I have had many pleasant experiences, and many not so pleasant. I do not know how I “got this way”.  I am not, as Alan Watts called it, a “skin encapsulated ego”. I do not know if this permeability can be acquired.  I do know that, like so many others like me, speaking of it more often than not brings trouble.  Of any ten people, I expect four to “Praise Jesus!!”, four to pompously claim scientific skepticism – when they know nothing of science but much about scientism, and two to privately say they are glad to meet someone like them.  In any case, there it is.


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  1. Tabu Walker permalink

    It is precisely these types of personal experiences that I know to be true because the person believes it to be that tells me there is more to our human existence than what is currently understood. I am unable to box myself in any dogmatic beliefs of society because I know there is so much more out there that cannot be understood by the biological and organic cavity that are our bodies. What we are is much greater and is much more vast that can be understood through the constraints of a human life. I think we come here to learn and experience. To have some sort of faith not in the religious sense but the peaceful knowing that we are more despite it all. Thanks Marco! I always love these kinds of writings from you!



    • Thank you so much, Tany. I have been very pleased in following your progression through the many difficulties you have faced and overcome. Geography separates us, our membranes do not. Marco


  2. Your first episode with “Elke” is the one you recounted to me all those many years ago. Your recounting here is very much the same as it was then. It was my first encounter with the NDE phenomenon, and it has stayed with me intact for all these years. It made my own NDE much easier to understand and accept.

    Having been to that special peace once, I can only imagine how difficult it would be to return to Gaia once again, should the opportunity ever arise to enter that light. It was only the “words” of my guide which sent me back the first time; I wonder if that guide might have been you.


  3. Thank you so much, Rose. I am deeply touched by your recollection and especially by the possibility you raise. We are impermeable only so long as we continue to see ourselves that way, and it may well be that you and I have been joined for much longer than our focus bound minds know. Marco


    • My NDE took place only a few years after we met, and the silhouette I saw of my guide certainly could have been yours. Until now, I have never allowed myself the possibility that it might be you. Given the ease of our acquaintance, it would not surprise me at all to learn that our energies have met many times along the eternal time line. We are more than we appear to be; even if we never meet again in this lifetime, we are eternal. Forgive my poetic license; fools will be fools. Rose


      • Quite possibly, Rose. Almost without exception the psychics and mediums I have met over the years have said, with nothing but flat affect from me, something on the order of: “You have guided many, many people through the veil and continue to do so.” Time has no meaning in any of this, and I have to sometimes remind myself of that when I feel tired.


  4. It is quite comforting to read about such events from someone so respected the credibility of these accounts is not questioned in the least.


  5. pouryabakhtiyar503 permalink

    I would certainly agree with the comment above me, I find it to be that people who have these experiences just keep it to themselves and don’t allow others to partake in or visualize such meaningful moments, and this snowballs to the sheep that these experiences don’t exist. I would be concerned if it weren’t for the fact that they are sheep and it doesn’t really matter, but I don’t doubt that some sheep are sheep because they think they are and you sharing something like this will allow them to exit their mentalities and look beyond. All that to say that you sharing experiences like these are reassurances that there is more than what we see with our eyes and that is vital for people to know to escape their ignorance.


    • Thank you, Pourya. It was clear to me in first knowing you that you had much going on within, much awareness as you observed others in discussion. And, much realism in knowing what to share and with whom. You rightly guard against careless exposure, but I suspect you sometimes wish you did not have to..


  6. Oh, how did I miss this ? I simply loved reading it and I can definitely identify with many of your experiences.
    What you experienced with departed souls is what is sometimes called `soul retrieving` (but this is only semantics of course).
    I have also had experience of this , and for some reason to me it seems to happen mainly with young girls I don`t know. They seem kind of lost and as I see some small light, I encourage them to go there telling them they will be able to play again with family and friends.
    It is amazing how for you it happens with people close to you and every time in such precise manner.
    Let me thank you Marco for sharing with us such personal projections beyond our human membrane. 🙂


    • Thank you, FOAL. It seems clear to me that people like us find each other, either in this form or the next. I hope to read of your experiences, and how they have shaped your life and views. The wisdom from FOAL certainly tells me much already, but I’m always hoping for more. Marco


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