Peter holds a BA in English from the Univ of Massachusetts at Amherst, and he earned his Master of Divinity at Yale University. He is a man with many roles: husband, father, grandfather, near-death survivor, storyteller, pastor, writer, bestselling author, entrepreneur, public speaker, TV personality, and producer. And he also sees into the souls of people. Peter wrote a book called “Heaven Is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me Death Is Just the Beginning” and it is being made into a movie. He wrote another book called “Two Minutes for God” and is working on another one about mysticism.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- The two amazing mystical experiences Peter had as a child, one with spiritual messages transmitted by a “baby elephant.”
- What Peter learned in his first NDE Life Review about what we call SIN.
- Why death is not an ending, instead it is just the beginning.
- Peter’s incredible story about “coming clean” to his church congregation, and forgiveness.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS PETER:
- How did your first NDE change the ways you perceive the world?
- What do you see and what information do you receive when you see into the souls of people?
- How do you midwife a person into death?
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Peter Panagore: Writer, Teacher, And Public Speaker Who Sees Into The Souls Of People
I hope this finds each of you so very well. I’m speaking to you from my studio in West Orange, New Jersey. I’m delighted to bring you what will be a fascinating and enlightening interview with writer, teacher, and public speaker, Peter Panagore. Peter will be speaking to us from East Boothbay, Maine. Peter holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and earned his Master of Divinity at Yale University.
He is a husband, father, grandfather, two-time near-death experiencer, storyteller, ordained pastor, writer, bestselling book author, entrepreneur, public speaker, TV talent, producer, and more. He also sees into the souls of people. More about that during our interview. Peter’s first profound near-death experience happened in 1980 when he succumbed to exhaustion and hypothermia while ice climbing in Banff Provincial Park in Canada.
His second near-death experience was triggered by a heart attack 35 years later in 2015. He wrote about his first near-death experience and his international bestseller titled Heaven Is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me That Death Is Just the Beginning, which is in development for a feature film. He has another book titled Two Minutes for God: Quick Fixes for the Spirit. He is working on two new books. One is a novel related to the movie and the other is about mysticism for the masses. Peter, you are one amazing, multifaceted, spiritually enlightened man. Welcome to the show.
I am super glad to be here, Irene, and thanks for asking me and for those kind words.
My pleasure. We’re going to have fun. A lot of people are going to benefit from this discussion. This is going to be fantastic. Let’s begin our interview. This is my first question. Please tell us about your childhood and the mystical experiences you had when you were six years old. You were six years old and you’re already getting tuned in.
Some people are born mystics and I seem to be one of them. The first thing that happened to me is I was 5 or 6 years old. My sisters were at Catholic school and I came home from kindergarten. I had a half-day kindergarten. I’m waiting for my sisters to come home. I got permission to climb the little maple tree in the front yard. I’m sitting in the maple tree and there are fresh leaves. They’re two-tone fresh maple leaves. Little light on one side and a little dark on the other. They’re flipping in the wind and the light is coming through.
I was sitting there and my little crook was hiding on my sister. Suddenly, there was a large sound behind me. A voice spoke outside and inside me, and I was raptured out of my body. I was brought into heaven like this entity or this angel pulled me from my body. I could see myself in the tree. I could see myself in the presence. It was like a dark space and there was a certain area that was illuminated. I was still in the tree but no longer in my body. I was in the presence of the divine. It was this voice that spoke to me, this angel. I’ve come to think of it as an angel.
How did it look to you, this angel?
It didn’t have an appearance. It had energy. It was powerful, beautiful, and compassionate. I had no choice. It took me, not that I resisted but I had no agency in this. It didn’t have wings, eyes, or feet. It was an energy.
You knew it was an angel.
Immediately and I knew that it was not only behind me and inside of me speaking to me. It was also the voice of the divine whom I had not remembered meeting before. It was the voice itself speaking through like the angel was Bluetooth to heaven and it was a speaker speaking for the microphone up there. It was also an independent entity. It carried me into the divine presence.
I was by located. I was in two places at once. I could see myself in the tree and in heaven. I was inside my spiritual body in heaven and I was outside seeing these two other locations. The voice said to me with no language. I used language to describe it but there was no language. It was all telepathic, direct contact saying, “You are mine. You belong to me. You’ll always work for me. You are my beloved,” and then it was over.
I’m back in my body again. I’m 5 or 6 years old. I thought, “I got to go tell my mom.” I hopped out of the tree and I ran across the yard. My mom had told me to stay outside because the newborn baby was sleeping in the house. I got in trouble for going in. Eventually, I got to tell my mom that God talked to me and that I belonged to God.
My mom’s response was, “You’re going to be a priest because you were a bad boy. You came inside when I told you to stay outside. You’re going to learn your priestly duties today and you’re going to begin by dusting the dining room. You’re not going to have anybody there to dust for you like I’m dusting for your father.” I was growing up Catholic and Orthodox. This is the early ‘60s. My mom is a stay-at-home mom.
Here you see an angel and your punishment is that you have to do the dusting.
From that moment on, the angel came to me every night and put me to bed.
Did you hear words or was it a perception of a vibration?
It was a perception of a vibration but it would touch me. It would bring me comfort and speak inside of me. It never said anything like, “Tomorrow, you’re going to get a C on your spelling test.” It was more like, “I love you. I’m connected to you. I’m still present with you.” Time goes by, not a whole lot of time goes by, my little baby brother is now living in this very small room in the house that was supposed to be mine then we had a boy. I love my brother.
He’s still infringed.
Right, when I was a baby before or whatever. He’s a great guy. In the middle of the night one night, he’s in the room and I’m a little upset. It’s dark and I’ve gone to sleep. I hear a sweet voice calling my name. I wake up in my bed. I sit up and listen. I hear this voice, “Peter, come to me.” I don’t know this voice but I know this voice. There’s so much compassion and love and the calling of this that I sit up in my bed. I look around the room and the room is supposed to be dark but it’s not dark. It’s a sepia tone.
I can see everything in the room, even though there are no lights on. As I stood up to find this voice, my feet didn’t touch the floor. I looked back over my shoulder and I was still in my bed, curled up asleep. I was not shocked. I was at ease with this as if this was normal to me or I knew this was the case and the voice kept calling, “Come to me, Peter.”
I drifted across the room to the door. The door was open six inches because I was afraid of the dark as a kid. The hall light was off at this time of night. I reached for the doorknob and my hand passed through it. The voice said to me, “Peter, just step through the door.” I passed through the door and I went over to the top of the stairs. There were an L-shaped set of stairs with a landing five steps down.
On the landing was an elephant. I know this sounds crazy but there was a small elephant that was communicating to me telepathically. I drifted down the stairs toward it. When I looked into the elephant’s eyes, the eyes were just black. When I looked into them, they were a million stars inside them and I fell into the eye. Inside the eye of the elephant, there was compassion, power, love, knowledge, and wisdom. I was in this ocean of this wisdom.
I got pulled back out and the elephant, I should say, was dressed in Indian garb, like little tiny mirrors with embroidery. I grew up outside of Boston. I was a Roman Catholic kid with Greek Orthodox. I got nothing to do with Hinduism at all. What do I know from that? Nothing. As I’m floating there, the elephant says to me, “Go down the stairs and go outside.” I knew in my head this was wrong. I’m not supposed to leave the house at night but the love that was being spoken to me gave me the courage to go.
I floated above the stairs and the elephant was using its trunk to like, “Go down the stairs.” I go down the stairs and I get to the landing. I go outside. I pass through the two solid doors, out through the porch, down the stairs, and down the stone side front walk. We didn’t live in Downtown Boston. We lived on the outskirts in a rural neighborhood, about 30 miles out of the city but I lived on a dead end with a wilderness behind us.
Out in the middle of the street, it said, “Go out into the street and look into the sky.” I look into the sky and I see a million stars. The same stars that I saw inside the elephant. When I was staring at the stars, they opened up and they showed me infinity. They showed me the depth of the divine being and it frightened me. In the moment of my fright, I popped back into my body again. I woke up and I thought, “What was that?” I got out of bed and I went around the house, made sure the parents and the sister’s doors were shut, then I searched every room in the house for the elephant and never found it.
I stayed up for hours waiting, trying to find this baby elephant. It wasn’t a baby. It was ancient and it spoke to me. I carried inside me from these two experiences. This knowledge that I always belonged to the divine. That compassion, wisdom, knowledge, intellect, and infinity were much larger and greater than the priests in church or catechism were communicating to us but I learned to keep my mouth shut about it.
You get in trouble. You may have to do a little more dusting.
Besides, what was I going to tell my parents that there was an elephant in the house and I was looking for the elephant all night? I learned very young to keep my mouth shut.
That makes sense. If you weren’t interested enough when you were six, now we come to when you’re a college senior and you had your first near-death experience in 1980 from exhaustion and hypothermia while you were ice climbing in Banff Provisional Park in Canada. By the way, everyone, I read Peter’s book and it’s amazing. It’s fascinating. In your near-death experience, you say you experienced help, forgiveness, and unconditional love. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Yes, the first thing that happened was that I died and was carried by the same angel who came and collected me but I was resistant because I didn’t understand what was going on. I did not want to go. I’d been super frightened all night but levelheaded, trying to drive myself to survive. I get carried into heaven and I am not a physical being. There’s no thing there. There’s nothingness. I have a consciousness. I’m an orb of myself, my seeing, my thinking, and my hearing. Everything is one thing.
As I’m there, to answer your question, a portal opened in front of me and I touched this portal. This portal was flowing living. Once I touched it, I knew it was all living life and this living life flowed into me. In the process of that, I had a life review. The life review showed me all of the pain that I’d caused everyone in my entire life from their point of view. I felt their pain.
I would say that everyone who then crosses over has that experience.
Most people have a life review but not everybody does. Not everybody has a hell experience but I did. I’ve come to the conclusion after many years of living with this and doing a lot of reading. God is compassionate and gives us what we need in a way that we can access it. For me, it reminds me of a Christmas carol with Ebenezer Scrooge’s partner coming back and Marley says, “These are the chains I forged in life.” I had forged chains in life and the change I forged in life was the pain that I gave away. The pain I intended to give away in particular, I experienced all of that pain from the point of view of the person that I gave it to times 10,000.
It turns out that it wasn’t this big. It was always this big. Simultaneous to that, I experienced all my justifications. I saw all of my justifications for causing this pain and I heard inside myself the divine voice that has no sound saying, “I love you. I made you. I know you. Nothing is hidden from me. You’re my creature.”
As I went through this life review of every single thing that I’d ever done in my life, in a sequence of all the pain that I caused and feeling all this pain, I also experienced the divine love of forgiveness. I think this is what happened. It’s because of all the love that I brought with me from life, all of the love that was given to me, and all the love that I’d given away. I had a treasure of love in my heart, which enabled me to hear the love inside me and turn toward it.
As soon as I turned toward it away from myself because I judged myself as guilty. I had done all these things but it wasn’t so much that what I had done was bad. I also saw that all humanity in the whole universe is less than the divine. Its structure is that everything here is broken except for the divine love inside of everything. Everything is fragmented in less than. I didn’t create the universe. It wasn’t my fault that it was built this way. I just lived in it.
God did not judge me. I judged myself in relationship to the divine love, the immense infinite nature of eternal, timeless love. In the ocean, I was swimming in of love. I turned to it and I was utterly forgiven. I was infilled to the point of almost obliteration. I was huge but there was so much love, beauty, joy, compassion, knowledge, understanding, bliss, healing, peace, awe, adoration, wholeness, and knowledge. All of these things were one thing. If you could take all of the love and have all of the orgasms of the history of Earth with the greatest amount of love that ever happened then multiplied it by googolplex, you would not even come close to the infinite oneness of being.
I’ve got two questions about this. I assume that you call sin the ways you’ve hurt other people. It’s not a sin like we’ve done wrong or whatever. After this, you have a whole different interpretation of what sin means.
It means hurting another or yourself.
Did they also help you with the pain others had caused you?
No, I didn’t carry in any of that. Not a drop of that came with me, but I will say that all the suffering I had carried in my life was gone. It wasn’t so much that it was erased and left a little mark on the page. It was as if it had never existed. It was erased 100%. Recalibrating the hard drive, going back to nothing, and rebuilding the whole thing. There was no suffering left.
That’s amazing. This changed your life forever and changed the ways you perceive the world. Now you come back to the Earth plane over here and you’ve had this amazing experience you live. I was so changed by my spiritual awakening. How did this change the way you looked at life? I can still relate to this.
Everything. The first thing is that I stopped being religious. All of my belief systems were erased. I didn’t believe in my American culture, family’s ethnicity, religion, and Bible. I didn’t believe in anything because everything here seemed to me to be less than an illusion, Maya, samsara, everything. It was cartoonish, black and white, and two-dimensional. My inner eye was always oriented to give it the wrong thing. I don’t think it’s above me because it’s not. It’s everywhere.
My eye was always aimed at heaven. My view here is like I’m on Avatar. I know that I live inside my body and everything changed. My whole career orientation shifted. I was going to go to graduate school in architecture and join the family firm and I didn’t do that. I changed my direction. I became dislocated in time.
How did your family deal with all these changes in you? Not adjusting.
I kept it a secret for twenty years but when I got back to my home months later, I asked my folks because they were still alive. I asked my folks about it a couple of summers ago, “I didn’t tell you what had happened to me but what did you notice?” My dad said that they had talked about how different I was. He said, “Peter, it’s not that you weren’t this way before. It’s that you were more this way. You were kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and helpful. Your behavior changed. You lived a different way towards everyone and everyone you met.”
They were pretty upset that I was not going into architecture. I’ve been aiming towards that for my whole life. I was drawing, working in the industry, and all this stuff. “What are you going to do with a Divinity degree? Are you going to be a priest?” “I don’t know, Dad.” I wasn’t going to tell anybody anything because I didn’t want to be thought of as a kook. I didn’t understand what had happened to me. It was 1980. I couldn’t Google it and I couldn’t find any books. I didn’t even know what to call it. All I knew was that nobody around me could see what I could see.
I could see an instant the moment I got back. I could see everybody’s aura. I could see a shimmer about an inch out of the surrounding every single person I met. If I looked into a person’s eyes, I could fall inside them. I could see the light inside them radiating out from them in a perceptible way. It wasn’t just that I could see it. I could feel it from them. I could feel their field. I didn’t know what to do with it. I was completely confused and lost.
When you get back there, you have to tell God you need more of a tutorial. What happened to me with the accident and all, I was totally transformed also. When that voice came into my head, I still didn’t know who that quite was. Can we please get a little bit of a tutorial about what’s going on? We just know things.
It’s the veil. The veil keeps a lot out. I only brought back about 1% of what happened to me. When the voice speaks inside us, it’s speaking to our consciousness and our soul first, then it gets filtered into our body. We’re still getting a limited message.
That makes sense to me. I want to ask you, Peter, you also had a second near-death experience.
Tell us about that. What did that teach you? You’ve been very transient on this planet.
I am very transient. I am not from here. I’m looking at my watch, when do I get to go? After my first near-death experience, it took away all of my fear of death. In 2015, I ran 5K the day before. I was in a yoga class. I was fit and healthy but my family has a congenital heart problem. In the middle of yoga class, I had a heart attack. I took myself out of the class not knowing how bad it would be but thinking, “I’m super fit. This can’t be that bad,” but it was.
I died in the ambulance on the way to the catheterization lab, which was an hour and a half away from where I live, also close to 45 minutes after the initial onset of the incident. I can’t take opiates. I refused to take painkillers to this long ride down. It was like having an elephant standing on my chest. I was like, “I’m having a heart attack. I’m going to be in the back of the ambulance and vomiting. I don’t think that’s a good idea.” “What are you going to do?” I said, “I’m going to meditate,” because I’d been a meditator before my near-death experience.
One of the great things about meditation is that if you practice looking at your pains with your breath and your focus, you can rise above your pain. As long as you’re looking at your pain, it still hurts but you can rise above it and take the pain away. I was meditating the entire time which means I could hear everything that was going on in the ambulance. The paramedic, I hear her calling to the catheterization lab. I’ve been to this hospital a whole bunch because I was a church minister visiting people there.
I hear her say, “We’re losing him on the way. We’re losing him now.” I should tell you this. My son came to the urgent care center. Doc had told him to say goodbye to me like, “Your dad is not going to make it.” I’m in the ambulance. I’m not making it. I’m a little teary about it now but it’s only because I love my kids.
I can relate.
I was joyful. I’ve been waiting for this day for 30 years. I told my wife, “The first chance I get to die legitimately and not take my own life, I am out of here.” Here’s my chance. Today is the day. I open my eyes, I hear her radio in, and I look up at her. She’s like, “She’s awake.” She puts on her game face and now the pain rushes back because I’m out of meditation. I got to immediately go back into managing my pain. I go back inside myself but only now I’m dead.
I’m not in my body anymore. As soon as I turn my mind back inside myself, I’m in the dark space in between. The same angel comes like, metaphorically speaking, rushing down toward me. This entity of energy speaks words of love, “We love you. Come home. It’s time. Welcome. Come back. It’s finally your time. Come to us.” I’m like, “I’m out of here.” I get attached to the angel and I start to go but then to myself, “I have time. I know what’s going on this time. I’m not confused.”
I decide to make sure everybody is okay. I turn around and look down inside my body. I saw my son, who said, “Dad, I love you.” He came in close, looked me in the eye, and squeezed my hand. I realized I see inside him. I see his pain and fear. I realize he’s not ready for me to go. He’s only in his mid-twenties. I think about my daughter, who had left her ex. There was abuse. They had a brand new baby and we had just rescued her. Who’s going to protect the baby? Who’s going to be there to help my daughter? My wife already knew I was going. She’d been prepared for me to take off. She was okay with it but my kids weren’t ready. I turned back to the angel and the angel had receded then came rushing back toward me again. I communicated I’m staying and turned away and went back inside.
The angel said, “You again. You’re giving me a hard time here. I keep coming for you. You keep staying.”
For your audience, the first time I died, I chose to come back too.
It’s like you’re negotiating.
I do believe that Abraham negotiated, whether that was in my head or not. I don’t have any idea but I was given a choice both times. I came back both times for the sake of love. The big thing is that I came back this time and the first time knowing the length of my life is the wink of an eye. On the other side, life is so brief. It’s a second long. I figured that I could endure here that first time and my granddaughter needs me. Now, I see her. I got to pick her up after school. I made a good choice for her sake and for my daughter.
I relate to that, Peter. I understand that. Your book Heaven is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me Death is Just the Beginning is being made into a movie, which is amazing. That’s got to be divinely meant. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that so that we can all queue up and go to see it when it comes out and all of that?
It happened because I did an interview with somebody. Somebody heard this interview and she called me the next day. She’s a near-death experiencer. As we were talking on the phone, I googled and vetted her. I’m like, “This woman is a producer.” We end up being friends. We talk for a year, then one day, she says to me, “Who’s doing your movie?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Nobody.” She says, “I’m doing your movie.” In the middle of that phone call, she called her ex, who they still produce. These people have Golden Globes. They got an arms-length of awards for decades. She got him on the phone. He read the book over the weekend and within three months, we had a great contract.
Where we are now is this fictionalized book that you mentioned has been changed to a more of a memoir style. They wanted me to write a fictionalized version in the second person and create a composite female character of all my girlfriends and my wife so that there could be a romantic interest that would be a counterpoint through line for dramatic effect. I got it to him and they loved it but he’s like, “It’s got to be a memoir. I see that now. I’ve made a mistake.” I’m back to writing again, which is totally cool.
The good thing is that in the other book about modern mysticism, I’m now weaving these two things together. Now it’s more of a memoir. The purpose of the first book was to show the truth that there are lots of people, maybe half the population, who have mystical experiences who don’t want to talk about it in a synagogue, in the mosque, in the church, on the cocktail circuit, or wherever you do because it’s taboo.
I discovered in over eighteen months of traveling around and speaking that half the population that I was talking to, all had visitations of the dead. That visitation of the dead transformed their grief into hope and it was the reason that they were in church in the first place but it was never permissible to talk about it. Where the book is at now is I’m rewriting. I’ve got about 90 pages to go but talking sequels and a $30 million budget. It’s going to be a couple of more years before it comes out but I’m working very hard on it. I love working with these people.
When you come out with your mystical book and when your movie is coming out, come back.
I’d love that.
Please, come back. I’m sure that so many people in our show audience would be very interested, including me.
There’s a lot more to my mystical life than I’ve let out to the public.
I would love to bring that out to people. I know that we’re getting the gist of it but can you explain how you say that death is just the beginning?
Living life is a dead end. The first thing that I realized was that I’d always been this other thing. I’ve always been my consciousness. I am not my body. The beginning for me was when I first walked through the door of death, I discovered that I already pre-existed. It seemed like a new beginning but it’s more than just a beginning. It’s a return home to where I previously was and where I am still. It’s a transition. It’s not an ending. It’s a continuation and it’s an opening toward a better, newer, more full suffering, pre-existence, awash, divine beauty, and love.
Would you agree that this is school and that it is home? That is why we’re here because a lot of people say that we’re here, we come here, we come in a body, we learn lessons and we go back.
I would, except that this is where I’m ignorant. I’m in the ignorant place inside myself. When I was dead, anything I wanted to know, I knew. I saw my granddaughter’s future when I was dead and saw my parents’ future with or without me. That’s why I came back. This may be a school and I say it maybe because there are souls that have learned so much that they end up in the unit of state of being when they die. Once you’re in the unit of state of being, that’s where all knowledge is. My purpose here is to be a channel of love and peace. That seems to have been the origin of my life. It’s a place for souls to come to learn but there are souls who’ve learned so much that the true learning is on the other side.
The way I’m picturing it is souls are here. They’re learning. Some of us are in elementary school or high school. You’ve got your PhD already and you’ve come to help and teach people on the planet. That’s what it’s like. Some of us have graduated and we’re back to help people.
Yes, I would agree with that.
When you say you see into the souls of people, what information do you receive about them?
I see the essence of the goodness of their being. I see the light that is inside them and because I can see the light that’s inside them in the counseling sessions that I do, I listen with the ear of my soul. I look with the eye of my soul and I hear what their struggles are. I understand at a root level how to help them. When you were six years old, you had this experience. It’s not an angel speaking in my ear. I experience the essence of their soul itself non-linguistically. I encourage them to tell me their story so that I can gather more information.
As I hear them speak, I’m able to bring them comfort and peace. One of the problems that we experience as human beings is that we think we are our troubles and suffering. It’s like everybody else. My back hurts, I break my ankle, emotional pain, or whatever it is, I don’t identify with my body and the world.
My job is to help people identify with their higher self and consciousness. When I can help them do that, I’m a channel of light. I channel the light that’s in me that is already in you. I try to make that connection so that you can see that for yourself and give the person hope and an understanding of the temporality of their existence by helping them connect directly to the divine. When you can connect directly to the divine, that’s where all healing begins, even in the midst of suffering.
For instance, a kid comes to you and they have all kinds of problems, like abusive parents, etc. They’re looking for direction. They were in their early twenties. Can you give them direction about steps they should take or you’re mostly getting them in touch with the fact that they have a soul, they’re here to learn lessons, and all of that thing? They’re like, “What do I do next?” Can you help them?
Both of those things, especially in situations of domestic violence and abuse. I spent seven years sitting on the domestic violence homicide review panel for the State of Maine in the Attorney General’s office with a bunch of detectives and social service workers in domestic violence. I am very practical about safety and violence. I do help people reflect and guide them through difficult circumstances in their lives.
Even to help them make career choices and different things. Maybe they’re on the wrong path.
I help them reflect on themselves. I have some training in family systems therapy, behavioral therapy, and a few other things like that. I help people listen to themselves to find their path by hearing what they’re saying. I hear what they say and reflect back to them. I help them think things through. I help a woman do that. In the meanwhile, it also helps her connect with her divine source.
That’s what you do. That must be the focus of your spiritual counseling, would you say?
Yes, that and mysticism. I help people process their mystical experiences.
You also mentor and coach people.
I do. I mentor and coach people through their mystical lives. I’ve had clients for several years at a time. For instance, we will read through mystical books. They’ll read the book, which I’ve already read, and ask me questions. I help them process that information to deepen their spiritual journey. Also, I teach people how to meditate and pray.
I’ve been doing that for years. I consider myself a perpetual student. I’m always a beginner. I read a book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind a long time ago. I approach my spirituality as a beginner every day. I’m always trying to find the source inside myself and I’m able to teach people how to find that inside them. I mentor that in particular.
In this way, you say you’re a channel of divine light. With all of these things, that’s what you’re doing. You’re channeling the light within you to other people, right?
I spent fifteen years on TV and I wrote these stories every day. I used the language of storytelling to weave the light into the language. When I was in front of the camera, I would move myself out of the way and bring the light into my throat chakra and my eyes. I would project it into the mic and send it to the lens. Whatever containment that I would put it in or the story I was telling, it was secondary to trying to channel the light to people directly. The audience responded all the time. They didn’t understand what I was doing. They just knew that they loved what I was doing.
They couldn’t quite interpret what it was but they felt it. Some of that is happening with this show. I do. It’s a blessing. Now I’m fascinated by the fact that you offer end-of-life care because I can’t think of anyone who would be more adept at helping someone to know that it’s not over when it’s over. Tell us how you midlife a person into death. Could you give us a couple of stories of people you’ve midlife into death?
I was a Church Pastor in a harbor town in the State of Maine. I got a call one Sunday afternoon to get over to the hospital for a person who was known as a goodhearted pirate in our town. It’s a big family. I hopped in my boat and I rode across the harbor. I got to the hospital and the nurse who met me was one of our deacons in the church. She walks me into this room and there are 15 or 20 people in this very small waiting room. Everybody is crying.
I know people but I don’t know everybody. I start to deal with this and suddenly, there’s a knock at the door and it’s the nurse. It’s a Sunday afternoon and they’re shorthanded. I won’t mention her name. She says, “We need your help. We’re shorthanded. He’s bleeding out of every orifice. Can you come with me?” She didn’t say this in front of everybody. She’s like, “Peter, come out in the hallway.” I come out in the hallway. She’s like, “You’ve got to put on a gown, gloves, and a mask. You’ve got to come in the room and hold this guy,” because his eyes and nose are bleeding.
She’s like, “Blood is coming out of everything.” I go in the room, I’m all gowned up and he’s in a panic. He knows he’s dying. He knows he’s done bad things in his life and he’s scared of dying. I get in bed with him. I get behind him and hug him. The doctor and the nurses working on him are holding him and I’m whispering in his ear. I’m like, “It’s okay. You’re forgiven. Everything is beautiful. Trust me. Listen to my voice. Look for the light.” He died in my arms.
Before he died, he listened to me and what I was trying to do. I wasn’t out of the closet at this time. Nobody knew that I had died. I was channeling the divine presence that lives inside of me and beyond me and inside of him into his ear so that he could see the light inside himself and know that all would be well in his death. He died in my arms. There were lots of other circumstances for helping the aging process. The fact that they’re dying, processing with their families, and all of the things that you need to go through.
Forgiveness is given, acceptance of circumstances, telling the truth, and all those sorts of things that families need to know for some healing because family dynamics fall apart at funerals and death. If there are stress fractures in your family life, that’s when they’re going to come open and they break open big. It was dealing with family systems, family history, and family pain. I still live in a small town. These days, I don’t get called on very much locally, except in extraordinary circumstances. I counsel people when they know that they’re going to die and I help them reflect on their lives. After I help them with grief, the people survive. That’s what I’m doing.
It’s so important and very necessary. I love your story about coming clean to your congregation and forgiveness. Would you please share that?
In brief, I went to this congregation on the coast of Maine in this swanky resort town. There was fiscal malfeasance in the church that went back a decade. It took us close to a decade to uncover the embezzlement that was going on for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It became a poisonous place that poisoned the entire community and all of the organizations and boards around town. They turned on me because I’m very uncontrollable. I know where I’m from. I know to whom I belong and for whom I work. I am totally out of the box.
Eventually, I pressed with help and I had allies. We found the perpetrator under great threat against me. They tried to destroy me personally, professionally, and my reputation. These are powerful people. These are major oil company executive types and former CIA spies. They were gunning for me because I was pushing on the buttons but we found the perpetrator. We prosecuted and I tried to bring her back into the church again. She was the treasurer and that’s always the treasurer. The church refused to have some reconciliation. They apologized to me and this is how it happened. I was in church one Sunday after all this was over.
This went on for how many years?
It was eleven years and it got worse and worse. I got accused of all sorts of terrible things. It was bad. Eventually, I figured out it was her because my neighbor owned the local general store up the street from me. He was also the president of the water company. I thought, “She’s the treasurer of the water company. I bet there’s something going on there.”
I got him to look at the books, then we could prove it. The people who were powerful in my church, once we found out that she was doing this, they wanted to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. Nobody was ever going to know. It was $200,000. It’s a lot of money but I was like, “There’s no way we’re going to sweep this under the rug and keep the poison inside this community.”
No change. I forced it out into the open. Before I forced it out into the open, I went to Turkey for three weeks. I made a trip to Turkey with my daughter and a bunch of people. When I was out of the country, they tried to ruin me. They tried to defrock me. Long story short, Sunday morning after this is all over, I’ve got my sermon in my hand. This deacon comes up to me and there’s a bunch of deacons in the congregation. Nobody is in the church yet, just these deacons. I’m wondering what the heck they’re all doing here. Nobody is supposed to be here yet.
This guy comes up to me and says, “Peter, I’m here to apologize on behalf of the deacons and the whole congregation for the way we treated you for all these eleven years. It was bad. We apologize. You must have had a lot of faith to put up with us for all these years.” I thought to myself, “I have been lying to these people for eleven years. I don’t have any faith at all.”
I decided at that moment that now I knew that they loved me, trust me, and know what man I am, I’m going to tell them the truth. I climbed into the pulpit. I tossed my sermon like a little drama. I said, “I’m going to tell you something here this morning and it’s not going to be easy for me or you but I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in the Bible. I am not a believer.” Everybody’s face fell. It’s just shocked, then I told them what happened to me.
It was the first time I came out publicly. I said, “This is how I died. This is what happened to me. God is real. Heaven is real. It’s more real than here. This is not where you’re from. How do you think I was able to put up with you for eleven years with what you did to me? It’s because I know where I’m from and I know where I’m going. That gives me incredible strength. I have strength and power that is not mine and I get to leverage all the time.” It was the most beautiful day. I don’t know that everybody believed me but everybody saw how I behaved over eleven years in their presence unshakably. You can’t ruin my belief because I don’t have any. You can’t hurt me because I’m not from here.
It must have had a tremendous impact while they were doing this on your family. You must have been afraid of being fired and losing your income. People were talking about you. They were being nasty and they would probably turn away from you when you would walk in a room or whatever. You went through all of that, I’m sure.
They took me. When I first cut to this congregation and in my very first trustees meeting, I had gone through the books. I’m a smart guy. I’m going to look at the numbers. I go back fifteen years in the books and they do not add up. Year after year, they budget this amount of money and never this amount of money shows up in the books. Why is this discrepancy over fifteen years? How come you guys didn’t fix this? They blew up like an explosion happened in the room. Books flew, spittle in my face, pounding on the table, and red face. It’s my first trustee of things. I was like, “I guess I pushed a button.”
Why were they protecting this person?
It turned out they were protecting themselves.
They were part of it.
The church was set close to the road and the fourth time a car hit the church, they decided back in the ‘80s to lift the church up and move it back. During that period, that’s when fiscal malfeasance started. These people were in charge of that then she came in. I say fiscal malfeasance because I don’t want to say that they were embezzling. I don’t know that but a lot of money went missing because we can’t prove that.
On my first Christmas Eve, this is right after this meeting, I walk into the church and it was packed. There are 350 people in the church because I’m the new minister. I’m the young guy and I got a ponytail. As I walk through the door, one of the deacons leans and whispers in my ears I’m going into my first Christmas Eve service, “We’re going to fire you the first of the year. You’re done.” Everybody is excited and I’m like, “What?”
These four guys call me to a meeting. One is an attorney. He’s imprisoned for embezzlement now. One is a commodities broker. One was a vice president of a major oil company and one was a former operative for the CIA. The first thing the operative says to me is, “This meeting never happened. If you ever say it happened, we’re going to deny it. You’re going to be a fool. We’re going to fire you. You’re done.” That began. I resigned nine weeks into this job. I resigned again eighteen weeks into this job because there was a group of people who were like, “We got a problem here, Peter. We think you can help us fix it. Stay.”
The whole time was poison. They walked out the day that I stood in front of the congregation and told the story against their will of the embezzler, how we had her arrested, and how we were going to prosecute. They stood up, walked out, and never came back in. Thank God. It was bad. They were not just going to defrock me. They were ruining me financially. They were going to ruin me for good in my career.
I got angels on my side.
I get that, Peter. What a story. Can you talk about the new book you’re writing about Mysticism for the Masses? I can’t wait to talk to you about that and to read it.
I wrote two books and I’ve decided what I’m going to do since the producer for this movie asked me to change this book into a memoir, I’m combining the two books. The thesis is this. In the early part of the 1900s, a professor from Harvard Divinity School who was in Scotland before is the founder of American Psychology. His name was William James.
He wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience. In the Varieties of Religious Experience, he gives four characteristics of mysticism. A mystical experience is transient. It has a beginning and an end. It’s passive. You don’t make it happen. It happens to you. It’s noetic. It leaves you with knowledge and wisdom. It leaves you wisdom inside your soul that is ineffable and unspeakable. You know that it’s in there, but you can’t say it.
The example I’ll use is somebody dies and that beloved person comes back, visits the living, and communicates to them directly telepathically love, beauty, joy, and forgiveness. Whatever the message is, it’s telepathic. This person who’s in utter grief now shifts from maybe a belief in the afterlife or not even a belief in the afterlife to knowing that their deceased loved one is still alive in heaven.
That’s a major shift. That’s a type of mystical experience because the after-effect of it is life-changing. You can’t ever say it or express it. It sounds like a Hallmark card when you say it. “Joe still loves me because he is alive in heaven.” Not even close to the experience of Joe coming and communicating that or Saul coming to communicate that.
That’s something that happens when people communicate with deceased loved ones through a medium and they get those messages. It’s very similar to that. It is life-changing and I experienced that. You seek to promote peace, joy, and love. I can’t figure out why, Peter. I’m teasing you. Tell us about those three virtual programs you offer called Not Church, Mystic Tea Zoom, and Near-Death Experience Open Eye.
I was a poor fit inside the church all the way along because I’m a mystic and I’m not a believer. I’m steeped in mythology, metaphor, and symbol. Not Church is on Sunday at 10:00 AM on YouTube and we have a global audience. I deconstruct the Christian Gospels because Jesus sounds like a near-death experiencer to my ear. I’m using myth and metaphor to unpack the mysticism that’s hidden right in plain sight.
If they want to get this through YouTube, they have to put Not Church?
No, you have to put Peter Panagore. You have to search for Peter Panagore. There’s a link at PeterPangore.love. You might be able to find it with Not Church. A bunch of videos would show up, I’m sure.
I want to make sure that they can get it because that’s fascinating. What is your Mystic Tea Zoom?
The Mystic Tea Salon is a follow-up to that. We had 35 people there. We talk about your mystical experiences. As a salon, I’m the facilitator for the salon but there’s wisdom in the group. I have no illusions that I’m some kind of guru. I’m a seeker after God like everybody else. Everybody in our group has had a mystical experience of some kind or other or they’re a seeker after the divine.
We have conversations about mysticism and a safe environment where you can say what you want. The Open Eye has had a name change. It’s Back to Centering Prayer. I teach and practice. It’s a practice group. I’ve been practicing a mashup of centering prayer, contemplative meditation, and Kriya yoga for many years in addition to using Kriya yoga in my hatha yoga practice.
I practice all this mashup spirituality. It’s Mondays and Wednesdays live on Zoom at 8:00 AM Eastern. I do a little teaching. I taught out of the cloud of unknowing. Sometimes I teach out a roomy. I mind the history of mysticism. That’s global. We practice meditation together because here’s the thing. When you practice meditation that’s aimed toward the divine and Jesus said a bunch of these things. He said, “Make your eyes single and your body will be filled with light. When you pray, go into your closet and close the door. Go inside yourself. When 2 or 3 are gathered, I am there.”
There’s this divine presence that happens when there are two people who are gathered together. The divine presence shows up and multiplies. When we practice our meditation in a group, either over the lens, with the microphone, or in the presence of another person, seek heaven first above all things. When you aim your heart at the divine, then the light that I bring and the light that you bring magnify each other. They make both of our meditations deeper.
I’ve been running this now for months and people keep coming back because it works. The depth of their meditation is proportionate to the number of people who show up. The thing about meditation is that it’s global. There are two factors to it. There’s breath and mental focus. If you’re a Sufi and you’re doing the dervish with one arm down or you’re a Zen master, shooting a bow, or a rabbi and you’re at the whaling wall, it doesn’t matter what your form is.
If you’re using your breath, your mental focus, and you’re aiming your heart at the divine, you peel away your faulty self. You peel away layer after layer and create a container for the divine light inside yourself. That radiance shares itself. The only effort with this is the mental focus to get out of the way. Meditation is the practice of stopping the story inside our heads and stopping the duality to rest inside the peace.
When you rest inside the piece repeatedly over the years, every time you meditate, you put a grain of sand in your pile over and over with every single breath. That pile never goes away. It always grows bigger. Your capacity for the divine presence enlarges. When you practice in a group, the whole thing gets hotter, inflamed, bigger, deeper, more peaceful, and more connective. It’s a function of spirituality. All over the world, for centuries, and in all different religions, they meditated together.
That’s fascinating because there are so many meditation teachers and modalities. They’re teaching you to meditate by yourself but you are saying that it’s much more powerful when you’re doing it in a group.
I practiced by myself. These past few months are the first time in my life that I’m able to practice with other people. When I was a divinity school, there were a couple of people I practiced with but I’ve been a meditator on my own for many years. The reason why I stay with the discipline of meditation and it is a discipline is because it works. It brings peace into my day every day. If I’m driving down the road, the guy cuts me off, flips me off, and I don’t meditate that day, I get more agitated. On the days that I do meditate, I’m less reactive. I’m a lot more peaceful.
That’s fabulous. I like that less reactive definition. That makes a big difference. I had an altercation with someone. I should have meditated that day and I would’ve been less reactive.
It’s cumulative too, Irene. The more you practice this, the more capacity you have for the living peace inside you. It’s not just this biological experience because meditation has biological like you can stop the pain with it and have peace with it. It’s the decreasing of the false self, of the egoic self, the ending of duality, and the realization of your true higher consciousness or your true higher self and that becomes your perspective. It becomes who you are.
That’s true. I see that. This is my passion. When it comes to the importance of healing, you say that love is all that matters and the way out is in. Speak to us about that, Peter.
I was just talking about that. The inner world is much faster than the outer world because the inner world is where the story runs inside your head. The ego itself, that’s the veil that prevents us from seeing the divine. When we can quiet that story, even for a moment a day, we begin to understand the depth of the presence of heaven within.
Everything there is is secretly made of love and made of the divine presence, including us. If we’re able to quiet ourselves and look within ourselves, we have access to heaven that is right here. When we see it here, we then see it everywhere. It’s much easier if you want to perceive the divine in another person. Find it in yourself first.
Once you find it in yourself because you are that light, then what you see in the other person is the same light. The light in me sees the light in you. When I see the light in someone, when I see the aura in someone, it’s not me. It’s the light seeing itself. All over the world and in every religion, the way out has always been in the mystics. That’s what the mystics teach everywhere.
That’s fabulous. Everyone now wants to get ahold of Peter Panagore. They want to take some of your offerings, mentorship and to check out their souls. Tell us how to get ahold of you. All the way and spell it out.
Everything, PeterPanagore.love. I’m about to start with New Earth One Network teaching workshops. That’s going to begin in a few months. We’re going to have a lot of workshops on kriya yoga and meditation available there as well.
Let us know and we’ll put that out there for people. They may be very interested in that from the Grief and Rebirth world. Peter, your tip for finding joy in life.
It all has to do with your connectedness with the divine. It all has to do with diving inside yourself. It’s not something that’s external. The joy that I experience in my life is my connection to the Holy. It is the aiming of the oneness of my being, of my whole mind, heart, and soul, at the divine connection. The physical world is full of suffering but heaven is not. The more one attaches to the divine in heaven, the more joy one has, even in the midst of suffering.
That’s a perfect way to segue into thanking you for this amazing, enlightening, and remarkable interview. I’m personally looking forward to reading your new book and seeing the movie based on your other book titled Heaven Is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me That Death Is Just the Beginning. Peter, you have infused this interview with hope and with love. I would like to add heartfelt gratitude for this opportunity to interview you now.
Thank you, Irene.
- Peter Panagore’s Website
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind referenced in this episode
- William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience referenced in this episode
- Peter’s New Earth One Network
- Peter’s book: Heaven Is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me Death Is Just the Beginning and Two Minutes for God: Quick Fixes for the Spirit
- @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram
- Irene Weinberg on Facebook
- Irene Weinberg on Twitter
- Irene Weinberg – Grief, Rebirth + Healing Podcast on YouTube