We often think of the afterlife as consisting of every possible environment. Yet in fact the range of habitats seems to be somewhat limited. If we can judge by reports -- both from near-death experiencers and mediums -- the most common environment, overwhelmingly, is a garden. Meadows and fields are also frequently reported. Houses are usually described as occupying large plots, rather than being built close together. Cities do make an appearance, but they are encountered far less often than rustic environments.
Completely absent, as far as I can tell, is the desert. I know of no NDEs or channeled information suggesting that discarnate souls live in desert conditions -- despite the fact that, on earth, there are many people who love the desert and wouldn't live anywhere else.
Perhaps a more surprising omission is the ocean. Certainly for living people, the ocean exerts an undeniable fascination. Herman Melville took note of this in the famous opening pages of Moby-Dick.
If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs -- commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall northward. What do you see? -- Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster -- tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?
But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand -- miles of them -- leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues, -- north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?
Many relaxation exercises ask you to imagine yourself lying on a beach and listening to the gentle rhythm of the surf. It's clear that in many people's minds the seashore is closely associated with bliss. Personally, if I were asked to describe an ideal paradise environment, I would think of an unspoiled stretch of tropical shoreline, the kind of spot that might be found in Hawaii or Tahiti.
Yet I know of no NDEs that take place on the beach or near an ocean. The same is true of channeled communications. In fact, in Helen Greaves' channeled book Testimony of Light, the communicator explicitly says at one point that while she has found a variety of delightful locales in the afterlife, she has not seen the sea. At that point her guide allows her to visit the ocean on earth -- which seems to suggest that this particular environment cannot be found in the afterlife. Lakes and streams are not infrequently reported, but as far as I know, the ocean never is.
If the various accounts of the afterlife were purely the product of fantasy, one might reasonably expect some of those fantasies to include the desert or the ocean. As far as I can tell, none of them do. Perhaps this argues that there is an underlying reality to these reports.
This still leaves the question of why the desert and the sea have been omitted from the geography of the next world. The only tentative answer I can suggest is that both environments involve wide open spaces, and perhaps in a world consisting of consensual thought forms, it is simply not possible to have a great deal of open, essentially undeveloped space. Perhaps the natural tendency is for people's imaginative projections to fill up that space with life and activity, so that a vast expanse of sparsely vegetated land or a huge stretch of open water cannot be established, or at least cannot be maintained for long.
Whatever the reason, it's surprising to think that there could be any limitations on environments constructed out of the raw material of thought.