Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Istanbul Story + Fire, Brimstone and Seeing the Dead

My Trip To Istanbul

by P. M. H. Atwater

Photo Credit: Thanks to Janet Cunningham.

Pictured Speakers from left to right:

John A. Palmer, former director of research at Rhine Research Center.
Levent Kosova, president of the Bilyay Foundation.
Janet Cunningham, hypnotic regression therapist.
Resat Guner, founder of Izmir Spiritual Investigations Society.
Tarik Arikdal, vice-president of the Bilyay Foundation.
Gary E. Schwartz, director of Human Energy Systems Laboratory.
Jeffrey Ryan, hypnotic regression therapist.
P. M. H. Atwater, researcher of near-death states.

Not Pictured:

Ismet Yalcin, president of Ankara Spiritual Research and Development Association.

Jurgen Keil, studies reincarnation cases scientifically (aka Ian Stevenson).

Konstantin Korotkov, physics professor at St. Petersburg State Technical University.

IANDS brochures are now spread all over Istanbul, at a large university on the Asian side of the city, and in the hands of conference attendees. And I made certain just as many people heard of IANDS in the talks I gave, as well as during the press briefings and media interviews.

The occasion for my being in Istanbul, Turkey, was to present a paper on my research of children's near-death experiences at the First Annual Parapsychology Conference, sponsored by the Bilyay Foundation, an organization committed to bridging science and spirituality. I was one of eleven speakers for the two-day affair, held at the large convention center in downtown Istanbul. Translations were concurrent and done without delays by a fabulous staff of people. Yes, we had submitted our papers beforehand so they could be studied, but many of us, myself included, deviated greatly from our written material. I focused mostly on children's drawings and what we could learn from their stories about them, and on some of the profound differences between child and adult experiencers in how they integrate or deal with aftereffects. The translators kept pace, perfectly.

This conference was extremely important and for many reasons. The Bilyay Foundation, although maybe only 60-some members strong, is unusually active and dedicated in what they do. They insist on research to back up claims of the so-called "paranormal;" their membership work as staff in the sense of volunteering labor, ideas, and talent. The Bilyay Foundation is non-profit, yet they have a "wing" called Ruh ve Madde Yayinlari that, as a publishing company, translates, prints, and distributes books throughout Turkey. Ruh ve Madde Yayinlari earns enough profit to not only clear its own expenses, but undergird many of the costs of Bilyay and its many projects. Smart people! Interestingly, they stay away from best sellers and most personal testimonials (depends on the author's reputation), and focus instead on books that are grounded in research, education, or self-help. To my great joy, they debuted "The New Children and Near-Death Experiences," now in Turkish while I was there. I have never signed so many books, purchased by so many enthusiastic people. And my translator, Tufan, and cover designed, Gulcan, autographed a copy for me. To meet my translators and designers in other countries is a great thrill.

But Bilyay's utter professionalism and vision extended far beyond a conference attended by around 550 people. They arranged a Press Conference for us where we were literally treated as if "rock stars." I've never had so many flash bulbs going off in front of me, nor have I been treated to several hours of non-stop newspaper interviews, later CNN Turkey, and more television and more reporters. My mug wound up on the front page or the feature page of every major newspaper in the country! All of us were treated this way throughout our entire stay. You should see the bundle of newspapers I came home with.

As exciting as this news is, the city itself was the biggest surprise. Allow me to explain. Istanbul has a population of 17 million people, the largest city in all of Europe (half of Istanbul is on the European continent, the other half is in Asia – it straddles the Borporus Straits). That's 17 million people in the daytime. At night, it has 11 million. That means that during its six-day work week, 6 million people are on the road commuting back and forth, on narrow roads in narrow cars and buses – and no one over there has ever heard of road rage! We were all over that city – no one screamed at or cussed another, there was no anger evident or hard words spoken. In a city where you would expect road rage, there wasn't any.

Istanbul was a capital of three empires: Eastern Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. It is the sacred bridge between East and West, the historical center of Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Eastern Christianity, Rumi the poet, Whirling Dervishes, Emperor Justinian and the Council of Nicea (which forever changed the Bible as we know it), and on and on. The energy there is ancient, spirituality runs deep. Turkey is a republic, has a constitution, equal treatment under the law, and is secular. Their "George Washington" is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In this incredible city all things come together. Fundamentalist Muslims live virtually next door to fundamentalist Jews and Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and pagans and, you name it. And they get along. For the most part, all these differing religions, cultures, political points of view, work together in harmony for mutual benefit. This is called a "holon." In case you are not familiar with the term, a "holon" is where opposing forces agree to cooperate with each other to help each other. None of this stuff about changing anyone. They embrace differences. Holons are where we must go as a society, as a world, if we are to survive and prosper in the years ahead. Yes, Istanbul has its problems. Still, in a city of 17 million people, they live surprisingly well.

The visible evidence of holons at work on a daily basis was so striking that it deeply affected me. In near-death circles we speak of harmony, of love, of people getting along with each other. Folks, 17 million people in one city are already doing this and have been for some time. We need to learn from them. They should be our teachers.

Ready for more? People of vision in Istanbul believed the Bosporus, the color of sludge at the time, could be made blue again. Now, imagine for a moment a deep waterway that is a major shipping lane between the Black Sea (and what was formerly part of the Soviet Union) and the Aegean leading into the Mediterranean. Huge tankers ply these waters. By working together for the common good, they exceeded all expectations. Not only is the Bosporus now blue, you can swim in it, eat fish from it, near shorelines you can see the bottom far below. We boated the Bosporus, thanks to the Bilyay Foundation, and ate excellent fish caught that day.

Scientists and spiritual people hold places of honor in Istanbul. Left and right brain hemispheres together in a city that embraces differences to create projects of mutual benefit. Isn't that the revelation we all have when we come back from a near-death experience? Our brothers and sisters of Istanbul, in many ways, are ahead of us. I salute them. And I am forever grateful to the Bilyay Foundation for bringing me there and for their dedication in bridging science and spirituality. They produced a major conference with the type of professionalism and excellence seldom seen anywhere. I cannot praise them enough.

QUESTION #1: "I tried to find "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Near-Death Experiences" and found that it is out of print. Is that true? I want to find out whether the traditional bad NDE trip with fire and demons, etc., whether such experiencers ever saw other people being rescued from the fire by angels, spirits?" -- Glenn

PMH ATWATER'S REPLY: Glenn, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Near-Death Experiences" is indeed out of print. I still have copies available over my website at, and am happy to autograph your copy using the name you state. You pay through PayPal. IANDS (International Association For Near-Death Studies) is selling copies as well. Their website is They are selling theirs a little cheaper than I can, because they are non-profit and qualify for lower mailing rates. Your local library may also have a copy that you could check out and read. I want very much to update the book and bring it back into print. That means a new publisher and a new title. Know any good publishers who might be interested? Let me know if you do.

Whether or not you get the book I wrote, let me speak directly to your question. I have yet to run across any experiencer or written account that described the experiencer witnessing angels or light beings of any kind rescuing other people from fire or other such hellish conditions. What I have found, instead, is something quite remarkable - the experiencer able to save his or herself from such discomfort by calling out to God for help. This happened to Howard Storm (do read his incredible book "My Descent into Death: A Second Chance Into Life"). During the first part of his near-death experience, he found himself in a frightening and ghoulish place with demons trying to tear him apart. He said a prayer he learned as a youth (he was an atheist at the time and that prayer was all he could think of), in essence he was praying for God's help. Immediately he ascended to the light realms and encountered God's love. I won't spoil his story for you, but it is a prime example of how, in some cases, one starts out in hell and ends up in heaven.

I came across this type of scenario many times in my research and gave examples of experiencer accounts in my book "Beyond the Light." Some experiencers spoke of an angel coming to rescue them; others, a deceased loved one. The point is, every experiencer I know of who asked for help got what was asked for. Interesting to me is that those who found themselves in a hellish or frightening environment during their episode, remained there, unless they asked for help or prayed for deliverance. Apparently we must want to be helped and then request it. I have yet to hear of anyone who was denied his or her request. The idea that only the deserving are helped I cannot comment on, for this was not within my research protocol to establish such a judgment.

QUESTION #2: "After my NDE five years ago, you were very generous to answer two questions for me. Your responses have been very helpful. I would like to ask your opinion about something which I find very unnerving. I don't know whether it is happening or is just a product of my imagination.

"My nephew married a few weeks ago. He was born on the day we buried my father, his grandfather. I felt like my father was sitting in the first pew in front of me at the wedding. He was just there for the wedding, and I never felt him around again. Then yesterday, we were at the funeral of a good friend's 26-year-old son who died, probably from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. He had been married only two months. I believe that I saw him sitting on a step directly in front of his family through the whole funeral service.

"I have no one to ask about these things, so if you have a minute, could you please give me your opinion on this?"
-- Nancy

PMH ATWATER'S REPLY: Oh, my, where do I start? Dear one, the dead often attend their own funerals and/or other special family events. That is so commonly reported by so many people worldwide, and has always been, that it is reasonable to expect such a visitation to occur. Some people feel the deceased or smell them nearby, experience a touch; others like me (and you) actually see them.

After my own three near-death experiences in 1977, I could not attend funerals. The reason was simple enough - I'd always see the dearly departed standing there enjoying his or her funeral, or poking fun at people not liked, and I'd start laughing. Now, it isn't cool to laugh during a funeral. I did so a couple of times and really disturbed some people, so I quit going. I didn't want to hurt people's feelings, nor did I want to embarrass myself.

I can say without hesitation that the dead are quite alive afterwards. They just wear a lighter, more gaseous-type body, yet still colorful and solid appearing. And they roam around the funeral parlor during the service - up with the minister, admiring the flowers, standing by their loved ones or glaring at them once they realize how those people "really" feel and "really" think. I've had the dead come to see me as they left, sometimes to say goodbye, sometimes just to soar past my gaze as if to say "I'm leaving." It is common throughout the world for loved ones to be born on the day another loved one dies, or on special days that are memorable to the family. We, in our families, share deep bonds and that connection reveals itself again and again in what we often term "miracles," but they're really not miracles. Our comings and goings in life and death interweave like a sparkling web of wonder. I can see that web when I want to, or in prayer and meditation. It's so awesome to see this and know of our divinity, how "Christed" we are in the sense of our holiness. No matter how foolish we are, how many times we deny truth and act just the opposite of what would best serve the moment, we cannot dim the spark we carry, that divine spark that connects the Many to the All. Please get my book "We Live Forever: The Real Truth About Death." It will feel like your own story and help you to be very comfortable in the new way your life is now. Many blessings,

P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D.