My Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life by Howard Storm–Book Review and Personal Response

howard-storm-paintingMy Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life by Howard Storm is a fascinating book.  Storm’s experience is unusual, not simply because of his descent into hell and rescue from hell, but also for the many answers he receives to important questions while in his near death state.

During my NDE, I did not experience a hell like state, but I understand how reliving and retelling such an experience would probably be traumatizing.  I admire Storm’s bravery for telling his story openly and for reminding us all of the importance of living a life of service to the world.

One of the biggest life changes I experienced after my NDE is the desire to live in service for others, and Storm describes the importance of service in this beautiful quote,

“The best way to grow spiritually is in service to others.  We will find purpose and development in relationships to other people.  We imagine that we are isolated from others but the opposite is true.  How we interact with others is our soul journey.  What we think we are is not who we are.  How we live lovingly with our brothers and sisters is who we truly are. If you want to grow spiritually, examine how you are expressing love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, patience, and faithfulness toward others.”

Christ:  Howard Storm discusses his profound encounter with the deep love of Jesus during his NDE.  In fact, Jesus is the one who rescues Storm from hell.  After a long stay in the hospital and several months of recovery back at home, Storm recounts a moment where he is called to visit a church for the first time in a long while.  His description of this experience in church is touching.

When Storm enters a church near his home, he sees images of angels and the heavens and immediately falls to the ground in awe and praise. This is not the type of church where people behave in this way.  Storm’s innocence and intense, overwhelming emotion reminds me of how many NDErs deeply desire unification and communion with God in the way we experienced this connection on the other side. His  pure, open, and humble desire for this type of connection with the divine is moving.  This particular section of the book is also slightly amusing because of his wife’s reaction to his public display.  She expresses embarrassment and threatens not to take him to church again.  Luckily, the minister reaches out to Storm and becomes his friend.  Several years later, Storm becomes a minster.  Personally, I would have enjoyed hearing sermons from an NDEr.

Though I did not see a religious figure during my near-death experience, several years ago in a healing cathedral named El Santuario de Chimayo outside of Santa Fe, I felt the loving presence and energy of Jesus Christ.  In that sweet moment, I felt the weight of all of my rebellion against authority figures and churches who did not embody Christ’s love melt away.  I no longer saw Jesus as a part of these people who were abusive, judgmental, sexist, cruel, or otherwise toxic as representative of the true energy and love of Christ. I saw Jesus as a calm, humble, healing, loving force who wants to remind us to be like little children and love each other and our world in simple, straight-forward ways.

Toward the end of his book, Storm reflects on the challenges of working as a minister in a Christian church and writes,

“The biggest challenge that I have found in pastoring a church has been raising the consciousness of the congregation toward compassion for people beyond the boundaries of the church.  The work of the church is not simply to comfort the members of the church; rather, the work of the church is to be like Christ to the world….For reasons that I do not fully understand, I have found this difficult for many Christians to appreciate.”

Answers to Major Questions:  I recommend this book for several reasons.  Storm’s descriptions of how he prays for healing in his life are lovely anecdotes.  However, the most powerful and interesting moments in the book come in his descriptions of the answers he receives to several important questions.  During his NDE, when Storm asks God about war, he learns that heaven’s wish for us is that we never to go to war and to avoid it through loving others aggressively and caring for all people.   This quote from the book sums up part of the reply he experiences from God.

“People have tried to hide their base desire for domination and exploitation through collective pride under the banner of nationalism.  This primitive tribal instinct has blinded you from seeing the divine within other people.  God loves all people as God’s children and wants every one of you to see every person as a child of God.  You are to resist and oppose evil in others and in yourselves by every means possible.  You are to find ways to resist evil by good means rather than killing.” 

Storm continues to ask questions about why wars are allowed to happen, and God replies that we are given free will and says,

“Wars happen because of the spiritual sickness of people.  We are to care about all people and be willing to help heal the spiritual sickness before it leads to the desire to kill.  The way to prevent war is to love aggressively and care for all people.  Sufficient wealth, food, and resources exist for every person in the world.  Wars result not because there is a scarcity of resources, but because of our desire to possess the resources to the exclusion of others.  God loves every man, woman, and child on this planet more than we love our own children.  God wants all people to have food, shelter, meaningful work, and an opportunity to be creative: to learn the truth, have freedom from fear, have self-esteem, be procreative, live in community, find complete joy, trust in God, and become the wonderful people that God created us to be.”

Storm has particular points about the greed in the U.S. and the possible directions our country could take in the future.  This section is a bit chilling, and I certainly hope there are a cumulative mass of people who care deeply for the world in a way that surpasses their own need for gratification.  Power over others seems to be the root cause of much of the sickness in society.

Storm also asks God which religion is the “right” religion and he  is surprised by the answer that there is no right or wrong religion.  Only the religions that promote love for God and others are of value.  Within very loving religions, there might be narcissists, sociopaths, and child abusers leading congregations, temples, or other gatherings dedicated to spiritual matters.  For example, the essential teachings of Christianity can be completely distorted by non-loving individuals.   God communicates to Storm that…

“…our cultural bias is collective egocentric pride.  Since we are finite creatures raised in specific cultures, we are shaped by our culture.  To know God, we have to surrender our individual and collective pride/ego if we are ever to know God’s love.  Too often we claim God’s love for our closed group.  We exclude everyone outside the group as being outside God’s love.  This is opposed to God’s will.  God loves everyone beyond anything we can imagine.”

I could continue to keep typing out all the beautiful, thought-provoking quotes from this book, but if you are interested in Storm’s extensive time spent in heaven and the knowledge he brought back, you will simply have to read his wonderful book.  You will hear about the many lessons from his NDE, including the knowledge that God is always with us and loves us more than we can comprehend and that God wants us to share our journey and emotions with heaven.  I agree with Storms points that self-examination and awareness is an important part of the journey as well as sharing love and truth with others.  May you be blessed and find blessings in this book if you feel called to read it.

See Howard Storm’s website for more of his paintings.