By Kevin R. Williams, B.Sc.
The near-death experiences of the rich and famous are particularly interesting. They’re rolling in the money, and they’re known all over the world. They’re often very beautiful, very articulate, and very talented in what they do. With this in mind, why would such a person reveal to the world that they died and came back from the dead? What would be their motive? Money? They’re already rolling in that. Fame? They’re already famous. In fact, by telling the world they rose from the dead, don’t they risk losing their fame and fortune – not to mention their reputation. People who reveal such things about themselves are frequently thought to be crazy. So why would a rich and famous person subject themselves to such possible negative press when they have so much to lose? The only rational reason is that they are telling the truth. It really did happen to them. Just like near-death experiencers who are not rich and famous, they are imbued with a “mission” to share with the world an important message: we are eternal souls having a human experience; and love is the answer to everything. The following is Peter Seller’s neaqr-death experience as documented in Jean Ritchie’s excellent book, Death’s Door.
Peter Sellers (1925–1980) was the comic genius of a generation of actors. He brought brilliant characterizations to numerous films, including The Mouse That Roared (1959), Dr. Strangelove (1964), The Pink Panther (1964), and Being There (1979). He was known for his enthusiastic way of totally absorbing himself in his characters, even carrying roles offstage. He also suffered from sad moods between films. While he knew his characters thoroughly, he said that he really did not know who he was. Then Peter Sellers, the brilliant, confused actor, had a near-death experience.
Seated in a Hollywood mockup of a limousine’s back seat while shooting his last great film, “Being There”, he told Shirley MacLaine about his NDE, astonished that she did not consider him “bonkers.” In 1964, during the first of a rapid series of eight heart attacks, when his heart stopped and he was clinically dead, he had an out-of-body experience and saw the bright, loving light. In her book, Out on a Limb, Shirley MacLaine recounts Sellers’ experience: “Well, I felt myself leave my body. I just floated out of my physical form and I saw them cart my body away to the hospital. I went with it … I wasn’t frightened or anything like that because I was fine; and it was my body that was in trouble.” The doctor saw that Sellers was dead and massaged his heart vigorously, Meanwhile: “I looked around myself and I saw an incredibly beautiful bright loving white light above me. I wanted to go to that white light more than anything. I’ve never wanted anything more. I know there was love, real love, on the other side of the light which was attracting me so much. It was kind and loving and I remember thinking ‘That’s God'” Peter’s out-of-body soul tried to elevate itself toward the light, but he fell short: “Then I saw a hand reach through the light. I tried to touch it, to grab onto it, to clasp it so it could sweep me up and pull me through it.” But just then Sellers’ heart began beating again, and at that instant the hand’s voice said: ‘It’s not time. Go back and finish. It’s not time.'” As the hand receded he felt himself floating back down to his body, waking up bitterly disappointed.”
What effect did his near-death experience have on Sellers? In the book Peter Sellers: The Authorized Biography by Alexander Walker, the author states, “The repeated act of ‘dying’ became for Peter Sellers the most important experience of his life. Sellers said of death, ‘I’ll never fear it again.’ Family and friends found him more spiritual and reflective than before. He began to trust spiritualists over all others. Most (if not all) decisions were based on advice received from Maurice Woodruff, his clairvoyant and astrologer. The experience of resurrection intensified Sellers’ spiritual concern and friends discerned the start of a new introspectiveness, a sense of his not ‘being there’ in spirit, though present in body.” His wife Britt Ekland found it unnerving that her previously restless husband had now become so quiet. He was now “sitting still over lengthy periods, saying nothing, but staring at her with his thoughts turned inward.” He returned to England for an extended convalescence, but soon reverted to old habits and bought his 84th car, an expensive Ferrari.
According to Walker, a couple of years before the NDE, Peter had played an earnest priest in “Heavens Above”, and developed a serious interest in Christianity (although he was born Jewish). During this time, following his father’s death in 1962, Sellers was drawn to long, serious discussions about life’s meaning with a neighboring vicar in London, the Rev. John Hester, “to try to reconcile the world of plenty he inhabited with the emptiness of soul that oppressed him.” After his NDE, he deepened his quest for spiritual truth, continuing his discussions with Rev. Hester, coming close to joining the church. In later years he practiced yoga, saying once that “Yoga has given me a tranquility I wouldn’t have thought possible.” The NDE strengthened Sellers’ conviction that he was a reincarnated soul whose power of mimicry sprang from memories of past lives. But in his current incarnation, at least, he felt lost. He did not know who he was and why he was on this earth. He explained to Shirley MacLaine: “I know I have lived many times before … that experience confirmed it to me, because in this lifetime I felt what it was for my soul to actually be out of my body. But ever since I came back, I don’t know why I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to do, or what I came back for.”
According to Walker, spirituality gave Sellers some peace, but did not still his restless drift. In 1977 he complained that his yoga practice did not stop his heart disease: “After all, what did it do for me? I obeyed all the instructions. I said my prayers regularly. I did all the exercises for peace, tranquility, and happiness. And all that happened was that I got steadily worse.” Although Sellers’ NDE awakened him to a deepened spirituality, it did not usher in a major, lasting change in his soul’s makeup. The brilliant actor still felt lost. On July 24, 1980, at the young age of 54, Sellers collapsed from a final heart attack – only this time, it was his time to go.