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The Review vs. the Judgment

September 20, 2010

T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

Kees has asked a question on full-life Reviews vs. the Judgment that would be best answered by giving some examples of the former.

A full-life Review happens sometimes during a near-death experience, sometimes immediately before and sometimes immediately after death. It is to the Judgment as a trailer is to a movie. The full-life review gives us a sample of the film, but not the whole thing.

Here the unnamed teacher of Betty Bethards discusses the relationship between the two.

“All people are given a glimpse of this past life as they cross over. After such time as they are ready to really review it in depth and to learn from the experience, then they are shown it in segments [i.e., as the Judgment].

“But upon first crossing over, your whole life will flash in front of you, much as a drowning man will say he saw his whole life flash in front of him. This is true of all people. But only when you’re ready to grow from the knowledge will it be given to you in depth, as your understanding is ready.” (1)

Here T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) undergoes his Review after being killed in a motorcycle accident. It more or less sneaks up on him, beginning slowly and then moving ever more swiftly.

“At first my mind was entirely occupied with my predicament [of awakening after death] and the past did not concern me, but, as I wandered, now one, now another vision flashed across my mental retina. A ribbon of road, boys on bicycles, my cottage, and soon these discrete memories began to coalesce into a continuous series of past experiences.

“Before long I was racing back along the years faster and faster, helpless to stay the record and obliged to feel as well as to remember as my past unrolled back to the earliest childhood memories, I had come to a stand while this disquieting survey held me and as it checked at the unconsciousness of the infant my own consciousness flickered out. At the very moment of oblivion I gasped with relief and just had time to think: this is really the end.” (2)

Philip Gilbert died in a bicycle accident, as a young man. Immediately after, he experienced the Review:

“I lay quiet and pictures came before me of myself as a little boy, and you [Philip is speaking to his mother] always there and my room and its nursery rhyme curtains. But somehow I saw all round, you and me and everyone at once. Then I drifted to my school and to Lausanne – we were in a boat on Lake Geneva that time when your hat blew off. Then I was at sea and in that nightclub at Alex. [Alexandria] – all through my life!” (3)

Wellesley Tudor-Pole watched the death of “Major P.” After the major had died, Tudor-Pole, a medium, heard him describe his Review as it occurred.

“I can see myself as a child, as a boy, as a man, and it is as if I were watching myself on a stage, when suddenly all the threads of the past gradually gather themselves together and shoot past me as one whole through the doorway in which I am standing, and into the beyond.” (4)

Winifred Coombe-Tenant

Winifred Coombe-Tenant was one of the best of British mediums. She served as a channel for many members of the Society for Psychical Research and aided them in their research.

After passing over and while still retaining the visage of an old woman (we recapture our youth after death, as we will after Ascension), Coombe-Tenant witnessed her life. She describes her Review as “a slow-motion picture in this film of memory.” (5)

“There was I, the very old woman, a spectator of my small child self, entering into her emotions, throbbing to her tears, uplifted by her small joys. Those little dramas enacted by my past child-self were all reassuring to me, the spectator, after the lonely passage of death.

“Somehow I felt that what should have been the experience of everything being dead, breaking up, nothing was dead, nothing lost. There was the moving spectacle of childhood in this unrolling film – more, of course, learning my letters, lessons, youth, the social training of my period, my sisters being launched. Then my coming out, the hair being put up, long dresses, shyness, gawkiness, grotesque, historical costumes – a costume play!” (6)

Unlike in the Judgment, where it is impossible to remain unattached, one can watch the Review with detachment, as Combe-Tenant asserts:

“The old woman can only write of it now because she has been watching it scene by scene, living again its varied emotions, its keen anxieties, its palpitating wonder, its fears, its hopes, and yet remaining detached, the spectator in the stalls.” (7)

Through watching it, she became aware of where her life changed and why.

“That phase in my life [when my eldest son died] was like the tragic climax at the end of an act in a play. As I viewed it again, I was deeply caught by its conflicting emotions. But I, the spectator, could perceive the change it and the [First World] war wrought in my personality, There had been one change before that in 1908, [the death of her infant daughter Daphne] in my first grave loss through death. But actually I became sensible of the great change in myself in 1918.” (8)

William James

How many people have read William James’ The Variety of Religious Experience? Here is the author of that book describing his full-life Review with rapt wonderment. We can only guess how he felt about the Judgment, which would have allowed him to slow these events down and examine them and all their impacts at his leisure.

“It is impossible to tell how long this [review] takes in earth terms, but the inner dimensions of the experience are equally beyond description, for there is nothing in life to compare with the depth, breadth, complexity or intensity of such a psychological multievent.

“I could compare it to the tracking of a million lights simultaneously crisscrossing a night sky while a startled observer on earth watches hypnotized, dazzled, feeling each light’s distant flicker in the reaches of the universe, while at the same time knowing that each flicker – and each other flicker – originated in his own thoughts and existed within them and in the sky simultaneously.” (9)

So far our informants have reported having their Reviews after death, but they also happen before death, as Henry Boyce informs us.

“Before the end, I entered into a curious time in which I seemed to be always awake, lying there in blinding light, seeing pictures of my life all the time from the very beginning. They wouldn’t stop coming – that was what was so maddening about them. “(10)

Sigwart, a First World War German soldier, concluded that he was dying because he had had his Review: “Then suddenly I saw my whole life before me and I knew that the end was near!” (11)

Dr. Raymond Moody

But, unlike Sigwart, Dr. Raymond Moody, author of Life After Life, did not die after his, although he expected to.

“I rapidly became very ill and I felt much worse. I was lying in bed and I remember trying to reach over to my wife and say that I was very sick, but I found it impossible to move. Beyond that, I found myself in a completely black void and my whole life … flashed in front of me. … I went from grammar school to high school to college, then to dental school, and then right into practicing dentistry.

“I knew I was dying and I remember thinking that I wanted to provide for my family. I was distraught that I was dying and yet there were certain things that I had done in my life that I regretted and other things that I regretted that I had left undone.

“The flashback was in the form of mental pictures … but they were much more vivid that normal ones. I saw only the high points, but it was so rapid it was like looking through a volume of my entire life and being able to do it within seconds.

“It just flashed before me like a motion picture that goes tremendously fast, yet I was fully able to see it and able to comprehend it. Still, the emotions didn’t come back with the picture, because there wasn’t enough time.

“I didn’t see anything else during this experience. There was just blackness, except for the images I saw. Yet I definitely felt the presence of a very powerful, completely loving being there with me all through this experience.” (12)

So when we say our whole life flashed before us, we’re describing the full-life Review that happens in a near-death experience, immediately prior to death, or immediately after. While the subject matter is the same as that of the Judgment, the Review happens quickly and cannot be slowed down. Moreover, we can watch the Review with detachment, but not the Judgment.


(1) Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, medium, There is No Death. Novato, CA: Inner Light Foundation, 1976; c1975, 11.

(2) T.E. Lawrence through Jane Sherwood, medium, Post-Mortem Journal. Communications from T.E. Lawrence. London: Spearman, 1964, 16.

(3) Philip Gilbert in Philip Gilbert through Alice Gilbert, medium, Philip in Two Worlds. London: Andrew Dakers, 1948, 89.

(4) “Major P.” in Wellesley Tudor Pole, medium, Private Dowding. The Personal Story of a Soldier Killed in Battle. London: Neville Spearman, 1966; c1917. , 88.

(5) Winifred Combe Tenant in Geraldine Cummins, Swan on a Black Sea. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965, 44.

(6) Ibid., 42.

(7) Ibid., 44.

(8) Ibid., 45.

(9) William James through Jane Roberts, medium, The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher: The World View of William James. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1978. , 120-1.

(10) Henry Boyce to E.B. Gibbes in Geraldine Cummins, They Survive. Evidence of Life Beyond the Grave from Scripts of Geraldine Cummins. Comp. E.B. Gibbes. London, etc.: Ride and Co., n.d. , 42.

(11) Sigwart in Jospeh Wetzl, trans., The Bridge Over the River. Communications from the Life After Death of a Young Artist Who Died in World War One. Spring Valley: Anthroposophic Press, 1974. , 10.

(12) Dr. Raymond A. Moody cited in Paul Beard, Living On. How Consciousness Continues and Evolves After Death. New York: Continuum, 1981. , 34.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2010 2:23 pm

    an enlightening piece again, steve. thanks.

    btw, i seriously wonder where you find the time and energy to write so many pieces like this each day. the research, looking for the right pictures, the writing…how does it all fit in one day? what’s your secret?

    • September 20, 2010 2:58 pm

      I wonder about that myself, Kees. I think part of it was being a refugee decision-maker and researching and writing one or more decisions a day. You couldn’t do that job and resist it. And, if you didn’t resist it, things just flowed.

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