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“I thought I was dreaming”

How does a deceased person experience the world beyond if, during their earthly life, they had the firm conviction that everything ends with death? In the following lecture, a deceased man describes how he thought he was in a dream for a long time and was unable to accept that he had died.

Personal account given by Jakob through the medium Beatrice Brunner, 7 July 1965
Jakob: God bless you. Dear brothers and sisters, my name is Jakob. I shall tell you what happened when I returned to the spiritual world and how my attitude changed there.

During my life on earth I could not believe in God – I could not find him. I had little sense of responsibility and could see no purpose in life. My lack of belief led me to make many mistakes in my life.

Even after I had arrived in the spiritual world, I could not give up my lack of faith. After I had left my earthly garment behind and opened my eyes in the new world, I felt no different. I still felt exactly like a human being. There was only one thing that made me feel that I had died. I was surprised to see that my surroundings had changed; they were not as they had been in my earthly life. The people, too, were different. However, that was not enough to assure me that I had really died and was now a spirit. Because I thought I was dreaming. For me, everything I experienced was only a dream. I told myself that I was dreaming. Although I did indeed have to live with other brothers and sisters and experienced much with them, I assumed that it was all only a dream. I made the others aware of this and said to them, “Why are you so worried? You are all dreaming, just as I am, but this dream will pass, and you will all wake up, just as I will.”

The others answered that this was no dream; they had been in this state too long already for that to be true. But their attempts to convince me were futile, and I kept a little apart from them. I could not bear to listen to their moans and complaints. I did not like it at all, but I was sure that this dream would soon come to an end.

In this dream – as I thought it to be – we all lived together in a house, but I left the house because I did not want to hear the complaints of the others. I sat outside and dozed for a while. Then I went for a walk, and made my observations in the neighborhood. The fact that everything looked the same to me as it had done during my human existence confirmed my belief that I was dreaming. There were trees and animals as well. I was able to think and had a body with hands and feet. What else could this be but a dream? So I went on believing that I was only dreaming.

Then I had a closer look at my surroundings. A woman came up to me weeping and crying. She shook me and asked, “Can you tell me where my child is? We were both drowned, you know, but now I find I am still alive. Where is my child? I cannot find my child. Who took him from me? Have you seen my child? Help me look for him!” And I answered, “You are dreaming! You did not drown, otherwise you would be dead, and you must admit that you are alive. You are standing on firm ground, so you must be alive. You can see houses, animals, trees, and bushes, just as nature produces them, only for the moment we are seeing everything as though in a dream.”

She replied, “I wish it were a dream! But I know for certain that I was on a ship with my child and my friends. A storm came and the ship sank. I know that we drowned.” I laughed and told her to calm down, saying that she would soon wake up from her nightmare. However, she refused to listen to me and reproached me, saying it was time I realized that this was not a dream but reality. She added, “Can you not see that all the people here are strangers? If we were still living on earth we would meet our friends and relations, we would still have our own homes. But where are our homes? Neither of us can find them.” All I could say to that was, “Well, one does have strange dreams, as you know.” But she had already left me.

For a while I watched her to see where she went and what she was going to do. She was still crying and calling for her child, asking all whom she met, “Have you seen my child? I have lost my child. He died with me. Where is my child?”

Then a woman I did not know went up to the weeping mother and I could hear her say, “Do not worry, your child is safe.” The unhappy mother sank to her knees, begging, “If you know where my child is, then give him to me, for I am his mother.” But the unknown woman said, “For the time being you cannot have your child, because he is in his own heaven.”

Did I hear correctly? “In heaven” she said; I heard it distinctly. There was certainly no sign of heaven where I was. Heaven could not be so ordinary, I thought. I was dreaming after all! I heard this stranger saying to the mother, “When you have calmed down and can believe what people tell you, then I shall bring the child to you. You will be allowed to see him but not to keep him.”

I could hear what the stranger was saying quite well, but to make sure, I came closer to her. I had by now become a little uncertain, and I felt that this dream was going on a little too long. Moreover, I kept seeing the other people, and I found I could talk to them. On a closer look I did find a difference in the surroundings. There was something unfamiliar about the people and the houses here, and the whole environment struck me as being strange. Admittedly, I could touch my body, and I could think just as I could on earth. There were also many things I could remember. Still, I could not understand that life could continue in this way after one had died – that one would awaken in an unfamiliar place and that this would now be one’s new home. It was a village after all, just like other villages on earth.

I listened to the stranger talking to the mother, “If you calm down and stop crying and believe what people tell you, then you may have the child with you for a short time.” The mother immediately promised to calm down and to do everything she was asked if she could see her child again. I heard the woman say, “Then follow me, because first you must be told about certain things. You have left the earth, and you are now in a new world.” When I heard these words, I no longer felt sure where I was: “Is it possible that I have died? But if so, how could I talk to the other people here? And why do they look exactly like human beings? Could this be another world?” Hitherto I had not believed either in God or in life after death, and I simply could not accept that I should now have to change my mind.

Meanwhile the two women had entered the very house where I had been offered a home.

I still felt that all this was only a dream, but after listening to this conversation about having entered into a new world, I began to look at things a little more carefully. I did not go into the house, but instead I walked around nearby. Again something happened that demanded my full attention.

Someone came along shouting with joy and singing, “I am so happy! I am the happiest being alive!” He came up to me, shook hands with me and said, “Can you be as happy as I am? I can shout for joy and leap into the air; I am well again! I have got my legs back again!” I asked him, “What do you mean? Why do you say that you have got your legs back again?”

“It is true!” he answered, “I was in the war, and both my legs were shot away, and from that moment my life on earth was a misery. I could only push myself along on the ground. In order to earn money, I joined up with some other disabled and sick people. We then went to the fairs together. I had been given a cart, and in this cart I traveled with my other brothers, with the other disabled and sick people. We went from one fair to another. We took our barrel organ and played it and put a hat on the ground, and that is how we earned a little money. Sometimes we did very well, but it was still a miserable life to have to push yourself along the ground or to let yourself be carried. Nevertheless, I was one of the lucky ones, because I had been given a cart. I was able to earn money through the pity I had aroused. But then I became ill and died. I am glad now, for just look at this miracle! When I was a human being my legs were shot away, I had to live without legs; but now that I am in the new world both my legs have been restored! I can jump again and do what everybody else does. Oh, I am happy! I want to thank God and serve him faithfully, because he has given me back my limbs.”

He went on, “When I was living on earth I did not believe in God; I kept saying: ‘If there were a God, he would not permit wars between the nations on earth. If there were a God of love and justice, there could not be such misery in the world.’ I could neither believe nor pray. As far as I was concerned, there was no God and no life after death. What a surprise lay in store for me!” While he spoke, he kept shouting for joy: he was so happy he wanted to jump, dance, and sing with me. I was rather taken aback by his conduct, and my thoughts were confused. He said that he had been in the war and that his legs had been shot away; now he had his legs back, and he wanted to thank God, who had given them back to him. “Yes,” he said, “I shall do absolutely everything I can to express my thanks for the great goodness and mercy that has been shown to me. I am ready to atone for what I did wrong in my life. I shall do everything that God asks me to do. I shall thank God who has restored me to health.”

He talked to me with joyful urgency, and probably because I looked more and more surprised he asked, “Don’t you believe me?” I confessed, “So far I have not believed, perhaps for the same reasons that you did not. Moreover, until now I thought I was only dreaming, since everything here is so like it is on earth.” He replied, “I don’t mind what your feelings are on the matter, whether you think you are still in a human existence or not. All I know is that I am alive, and that is important for me. I don’t mind what I see or who I meet. I take things as they come, I believe everything, and I am happy. All I want is someone who can teach me to pray. I want to give thanks to God, who made me well again.”

With these words he left me, but he had hardly finished saying that he was looking for someone to teach him to pray when someone came up to him. In this world where I thought I was dreaming, there were many spirits I did not know. The one who was now approaching called out to him, “Listen, brother, wait! You called me.”

This made me curious, and I wanted to hear what was said. The stranger began, “You want to pray,” and pointing to me he continued, “you told him you wanted to thank God for restoring you to health and giving you your legs again.” I heard the other one confirm that this was indeed the case. “Yes, I want to go on my knees and thank him. Take me to him, and you can ask anything you like of me. I am willing to believe that there is a God of justice.” The stranger answered, “If you want to pray, come with me.” With that, both of them went away, I do not know where. At any rate they did not enter the house. They went so quickly that I could not follow them, but from now on I decided to listen more carefully to the conversations around me. I even tried to meet others now, while previously I had avoided any contact. Because I still firmly believed I was dreaming, the talk of others wearied me, and I could not believe them. Now, though, I had become a little more careful in what I thought and listened whenever I could in order to find out with more certainty where I was.

After a while I met someone who seemed to be talking to himself all the time, so I followed him for a bit. He would bend down, look at the ground, pick up some little stones or break off a blade of grass or a twig and examine everything very carefully. He would then turn a stone around in his hands for a long time and kiss it. He did the same with the twig, and in between he kept calling out, “Oh, I am so happy! I am so glad! Oh, I am so grateful!” As he went on talking to himself like this, he kept on touching different things and looking at them most carefully.

I went up to him and asked, “What are you talking about? What is it that is so new? Do you imagine that you are in a new world? As you can see there are stones here, too, and you can even find bushes and grass and anything you want to see. Have you not seen all these things on earth?” He looked at me with astonishment and said, “Who are you? How long have you been here?” I said, “I am not sure. Do you know I have the feeling everything here is simply a dream.”

The other one answered, “Yes, I also have the feeling it might only be a dream.” I nodded, “I am sure it is only a dream.” But the other one did not mean that and asked, “Were you not in the war?” I replied, “No, I did not have to go to the war.” Then he continued, “If you had been in the war you would not be talking like that. I lost my eyesight in the war, and after that nothing was the same. Blind, unable to work, my life became intolerable to me, and I longed for death. Now I have achieved that goal.” He was laughing as he continued, “Now I can see again! My sight has been restored! This is something to rejoice about. Are you not glad?” – “I told you,” I replied, “I still have the feeling that everything here is only a dream.” He then replied, “You must be very foolish if you have not realized that you have entered eternity. I saw it at once, even though I still have a long way to go, because I did not believe in God when I was on earth.” I confessed to him that I did not believe in God either.

Suddenly I realized: “I did not believe in God, but I could see and I could walk, and I was able to work until I became ill, and life was not a hard battle for me, while others around me went hungry. I had an easy life, and I could not believe. Now these two have found their faith, one because he has had his sight restored and the other because he can walk again – they are able to believe.” The one whose sight was restored continued, “Something must be wrong with you, otherwise you would be able to believe.”

Yes, he must be right, I thought, and aloud I said, “I think I must awaken from my dream, though after all this I will also have a long way to go.” Then I remembered the other one who wanted to learn to pray. Would I have to cry out as well: “Who will teach me to pray? I want to believe!”? Now I could see why the one who had been blind was so happy, and I understood his feelings as he turned a stone over and over to look at it, and how he felt so much pleasure in caressing a blade of grass or a twig. He could see again! Now I could understand that everything was beautiful to him, that a new world had opened up for him. The new world that had opened for him and that he could really see was still closed to me. I began to wonder whether it was not time for me to see as well.

At last I was alone again, and he was about to enter the nearby house, the house that was also to be my home. I had come to hate staying there and having to listen to everyone’s story, believing that everything was just a dream. Should I go in again? I was still hesitating, but was just about to enter when someone else came along, and I thought that he, too, was a newcomer to this strange world. I spoke to him and asked, “I suppose you are also a stranger here?” He agreed and then said, “Strange! I can definitely remember seeing my dead body, and I was there when they carried me to the grave, so I must have died.” I corrected him, “They only carried your body to the grave. You yourself are still alive, only now you are in a new world.” – “Funny,” he repeated, “that’s just it! I would not have thought that. Everything here looks just the same as it does on earth.”

Then, turning to me, he said, “You know, I realize that I am now in a different world, and I accept that I deserve to be in a place where I feel like a stranger, knowing nobody, and where no one wants to be bothered with me. Nevertheless, I feel convinced that there must be other regions or countries in this universe that are more pleasant.” – “Yes, I think so, too,” I agreed, “there are surely more pleasant places, more pleasant cities, more pleasant villages – most definitely.”

He then confessed to me, “You know, if there really is a God, and if he is going to call me to account, then I have nothing to hope for. I have so much on my conscience that I would like to crawl away with shame. I would rather it were not true that life goes on after death.” Then I said, “As for me, I don’t even know how long I have been here. Until now everything has only been a long dream for me, but now I have awakened from my dream. I awoke from it the moment I began to take an interest in my neighbor and felt some involvement in his fate, and was prepared to listen to his point of view. Now you are giving me fresh confirmation that we are really living in a different world.”

My spirit brother repeated his worries, “If there is a God, and if he is going to judge me, then I have nothing good to hope for. I wonder whether it would not be better for me to try and find somewhere to hide in this world. So far no one has bothered very much about me. True, in the beginning I saw some strangers around me, but they stood before me silently and had no time for me.” The same had happened to me; I could see them, but they stood there silently. I felt as if I had suddenly arrived at a strange place where I had come for a holiday and where I had to look for accommodation and find my way around. That is what I thought it was like, but he was saying that his greatest wish was to crawl away.

I drew his attention to the large house and added, “Come in with me. That’s what I’m going to do. I feel braver now. I think that there we shall find out more about this world in which we live. I am sure that if we listen to what the people say we shall learn more.” But he refused, saying, “I’m not looking for conversation. Other people only make me feel ashamed, because instead of believing in God I did a lot of harm to my fellowmen. I have so much on my conscience that I dare not say, and I am sure that I shall soon be punished for my misdeeds. I had better not go into that house.”

He then drew my attention to the surroundings, “There are woods nearby where I shall be able to hide. I do not want to learn anything from anybody.” Since he was convinced that he would be able to hide, I said, “Yes, try that, but if you do become bored, you can always come to see me. I shall be here.” I still tried to persuade him to enter the house with me, but he would not be persuaded. He turned around and disappeared.

I was not left alone after his departure; instead there was a great deal of activity around me. Lots of people were approaching the house, whilst others were leaving it. Of the latter, some looked sad and worried, while others were happy and glad. In this respect things are much the same here as they are in human life. One lives together with people who are happy and cheerful as well as those who are always unhappy, discontented, and miserable. The spiritual world in which I had opened my eyes contains both kinds, too.

Now I looked for those spiritual brothers and sisters who were also about to enter the house. I wanted to find someone pleasant. I was prepared to wait, for after all I had already taken a long time to decide to become more interested in this new life. Eventually someone came along who evidently also felt a stranger here. He looked around as if he were searching for something. I went up to him and asked, “Are you looking for someone?” He replied, “Yes, I am looking for someone who can show me the way.” – “Where do you want to go?” I asked. “I know where I want to go, but I don’t think I shall get there or be shown the way.” I said, “Surely you know that you have died and that you are now living in the spiritual world? As far as human beings are concerned you are now dead, and they are no longer bothered about you. But you are alive, you know that.” He replied, “Yes, I realize that life continues. As a human being I did not believe in life after death. I laughed at those who spoke about the beyond, and I also laughed at those who believed in God and Christ and prayed to them. Now here I am, and those whom I laughed at will not bother about me,” he said sadly, “I did not want to have anything to do with them, so I hardly think they will welcome me.”

He confessed to me that his conscience was troubling him because of his unbelief, that he had encouraged others not to believe, and that he had been angry with those people who went to church. He had even punished children because they prayed. Now he said, “It is quite clear to me that God rules this world, and in view of all our misdeeds neither of us can look forward to a comfortable life here. After all, what more do we deserve? I shall accept my fate with fortitude. I shall try to make amends as far as I can and defend myself. On my way here I have already thought of a number of excuses in my defense.”

So we agreed to enter the communal house. No sooner had we entered the first room, where many spiritual brothers and sisters were engaged in conversation, than someone – evidently of higher rank – approached, took me by the hand and said, “Wait a moment, you do not have to join this group, we have appointed a different room for you.” Then a second spirit joined us and took my companion aside and said to him, “You cannot come in here now, you must first go into this room.” So we were separated. The spirits who had separated us were obviously in charge of the spirits in that house.

As far as I was concerned, I already suspected what was going to happen to me. I was led into an empty room, which was not very large. My guide said I would have to wait – another brother would be coming. I had a strong desire to be out of this room again, because now I felt anxious and worried. However, I soon saw there was no escape, for a distinguished-looking spirit was already standing before me. I was struck by his severe expression. He began by saying that my “dream” had lasted a very long time indeed, but that now it had finally come to an end. I would have to account for everything that I had done wrong in my life and would have to make amends for those of my misdeeds that were sins in the sight of God.

The unfamiliar spirit who had led me here then departed, and I was left alone with this stern being. I could not sit down – I stood there in this room, and he stood facing me. He then began to talk about my life, stopping whenever he reached a point where I had done something wrong. All my former thoughts and ideas, in fact everything was recalled to consciousness. I was deeply ashamed. My guilt was undeniable; there was no point in justifying myself. Apart from my lack of faith in God, I had also grievously offended against the spiritual laws.

My whole life unfolded before my eyes; the spirit said it was impossible to speak of the punishment I deserved: I could never make amends for everything. God, however, was merciful and would remit part of my punishment. When he said this, I already began to feel a little bit better. He continued, “That shows you God’s goodness. Even so, there is plenty for you to make good, and it will take you a long time. First we must instruct you in the spiritual laws. We want to tell you about the plan of salvation and redemption, and you are to learn more about God’s creation. We shall explain as much to you as we think will be good for you. Then you will be able to join the other brothers and sisters in the large room, where all receive instruction together. As soon as that is completed you will have to undergo your period of affliction and purification. You will be taken to the place where you will suffer the affliction you deserve, and you will find it very uncomfortable. That is where you will have to begin to reduce your burden of guilt, here in the spiritual world, in the kingdom of God. Your faith in God must become more secure. However, you will be granted a comforter to be by your side and to pray with you. In this way, you will be able to come closer to God in prayer; you will then also be able to change your attitude somewhat. And, depending on your willingness to fulfill your tasks according to God’s will, you will be able to make steady progress.”

Thus, I was instructed, and then I had to undergo my period of purification. But in this time of purification I came closer to God. The divine spirit who taught me to pray gave me the strength to believe, and in time faith in the rule of God took a deep hold on me. Just as I had once been able to live without faith, I now became strong in faith. After all, I now lived in the world of reality, under the sovereignty of God – here, there is nothing more to doubt. The angel who had taught me to pray said, “Although your faith has now become strong, it is by no means certain that you might not lose it again. If it does not take a firm hold of your spirit, it can wither away.”

This I could not quite understand, but the divine spirit continued, “For those spirits that stay here it becomes clear that they are under God’s rule – even if it sometimes takes a while. They know that God sends his ministering angels to his children to smooth the way for them.” He spoke of reincarnation and the tests that everyone would have to undergo. Only in a fresh life on earth could one prove whether or not one’s faith had really become firmly rooted.

I promised to remain true to my faith. I asked not to be sent back to live as a human being too soon; I first wanted to make sure that faith had taken root in my soul and that I was strengthened in the virtues that are both necessary and required in a new life on earth.

I was obedient; I did everything I could to satisfy my spiritual teachers and guides. Thus, I began my ascent from the stage of unbelief, until I reached the stage of belief. I would like to retain this stage, not only now in the spiritual world but also in the fresh life that is facing me on earth. Through faith, I would like to become strong in all the aspects needed to be able to live a life pleasing to God.

Slowly and steadily through God’s goodness and mercy I made progress in the spiritual world. Slowly, by working hard for God’s plan of salvation and by being willing to make amends, I ascended. I obey God’s holy spirits and pray that my faith may remain firmly established. When I accompany people, I pray that their faith may be strengthened and that God’s laws may become clear to them. In my view, those who truly believe are able to live lives that are well pleasing to God.

I have been called upon to talk to you during this hour about my early experiences in the spiritual world so that you may learn from it. Think about what I have been saying.

Now the time has come for me to leave you. Your spiritual brother and teacher [Joseph] sends you God’s blessing. May God protect you in distress and danger. May he strengthen your faith in him and in Christ the Redeemer. God bless you.

Personal account given by ascending spirit Jakob, received in German through the medium Beatrice Brunner in the hall on Münchhaldenstrasse in Zurich, 7 July 1965

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