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Mission of the Thanatology Certificate Program>

Our goal is to provide professional training that will assist Thanatology Certificate Program students in achieving, aside from personal benefit, an ability to provide appropriate information, guidance and comfort to others as a coach and guide in the process of conscious living and dying. In the aftermath of death, a trained thanatologist may also provide guidance and comfort to the survivors of the deceased.

Students may also enroll in any single course, thus allowing people to explore their areas of deepest interest.  We invite you to review our Thanatology Recommended Reading List to get a sense of the kinds of study and reflection we encourage in these courses.

Thanatology Program  and Individual Course Enrollment Steps

1. We recommend that you read program information and course descriptions in the program outline below, and also look at some of the readings offered in our Online Library , to get a sense of how this program or a particular course would meet your needs.

2. Read Introduction to Distance Learning

3. Review Computer-related Requirements for Online Programs

4. Complete parts 1 & 2 of  Thanatology Certificate Program admission application.

   Our Thanatology admissions forms are being revised.  Please apply for admission (and enroll in your courses) through our OPEN ENROLLMENT PROCESS program. Click here for the OPEN ENROLLMENT PROCESS admission form.

On receiving acceptance notice:

5. Suggested step:  Order textbook(s) for the course(s) you intend to take, so that you books will arrive sooner.  (Book titles linked to Amazon are shown below each course description on this page)

6. Enroll in specific course or courses and pay tuition.  We suggest that students interested in completing the entire program begin with  Thanatology 500X.

7. Begin coursework.  Please use the COURSE ASSIGNMENTS link on the left-side menu of the WorldU home page to go to your assignments.


Program Outline: Courses and Resources

in the Online Thanatology Program:


Thanatology 500X:
Orientation to Conscious Living and Dying

Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program,
20 Clock-Hours)

Susan Storch, RN, MA, has generously – in the spirit of thanatology practice – provided the E-book text which serves as the basis for the course. This excellent handbook focuses on the essentials for orienting to and understanding the conscious dying process. Her decades of devoted nursing and hospice care for the physically dying is reflected in her handbook, along with the wisdom she has sought out and assimilated related to the deathing process and its profound spiritual implications and opportunities. Our mutual mentor, Dr. Benito Reyes, saw conscious dying as liberation and freedom indeed – especially when we have prepared for it. His own well-practiced, fully accepting and engaged act of conscious dying is a good example for us all. Susan Storch completed her M.A. in Consciousness Psychology at World University along with certificates in Thanatology and Spiritual Ministry. She has put the knowledge gained in all three of these endeavors to maximum servicefull use, in combination with her RN expertise.

The course text,   Dying Into Freedom: A Nurse’s Handbook to Conscious Dying,  by Susan Storch, RN, MA, is available free of charge in PDF format:  click here .  (If your computer needs a PDF reader,  click here  to download one. Most desktop and laptop computers already have a PDF reader installed.)

Thanatology 502X:
Evidence of the

(MODULE 1 of the
Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program,
30 Clock-Hours)

A study and assessment of Threshold-of-Death Experiences and Near-Death Experiences as reported from cultures throughout the world. A survey of descriptions of After-Death Communications reported in the spiritual and thanatological traditions of various cultures and the literature of Near-Death Experiences and mediumistic communications. Corroboration from para-psychological research.

Thanatology 504X:

Conscious Living and Dying

(MODULE 2 of the
Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program,
30 Clock-Hours)

A consideration of the Socratic-Platonic injunction to “Practice Dying” within the context of Philosophy as the Love of Wisdom and living a mindful, examined life incorporating the practice of ethical, caring behavior. An East-West perspective on ethics and human values as guides for truly conscious and insightful living and dying. Perspectives of “Books of the Dead” and other philosophical and spiritual teachings on afterlife states and insights into how to die well. A consideration of the concept of karma and rebirth. Philosophical implications of testimonies from Near-Death Experiences.

  • Required Texts and Documents:

Online course introduction Practice Dying ; online readings on the World University website; assigned readings on linked websites.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth and Kessler, David. Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living . NY: Touchstone Books, 2001. ( Click on title to order from Amazon. )

Reyes, Benito F. Conscious Dying . Ojai: World University, 3rd Edition, 1993. (The above listed book is available at World University in Ojai; please order at the time of registration)

Thanatology 506X:

Human Relations in Conscious Living and Dying

(MODULE 3 of the
Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program,
30 Clock-Hours)

How does one behave in the presence of death – personally, with the dying, the family, relatives, friends, medical persons, the general public? How should one behave? Issues involving inheritance, wills, insurance, bequests, living memorials, funerals and disposition of the body. How to summon loving kindness in the midst of crisis and pain.

  • Required Textbooks:

Lynn, Joanne Lynn, M.D., Harrold, Joan, M.D. HANDBOOK FOR MORTALS : Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Sapienza. Jerral, URGENT WHISPERS : CARE OF THE DYING (A Personal Reference Manual for Friends and Family Assisting a Loved One at the End of life), Eugene, Oregon: Life Learning Excellence, 2002.

Thanatology 508X:

Bereavement and the Transformative
Power of Good Grief

(MODULE 4 of the
Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program,
30 Clock-Hours)

Knowledge and techniques for dealing with grief and bereavement. Types of loss and bereavement; coping strategies. Transformation and empowerment through the exercise of good grief.

  • Required Texts:

From the perspective of the caregiver FOR the person who has lost:

Rando , Therese A., GRIEF, DYING, AND DEATH: CLINICAL INTERVENTIONS FOR CAREGIVERS , Champaign, Illinois: Research Press,1984.

And from the perspective of the person who has lost:

Rando, Therese A.,, HOW TO GO ON LIVING WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE DIES , New York: Bantam Books, 1988.

Moody, Raymond A.,, and Dianne Arcangel, LIFE AFTER LOSS, CONQUERING GRIEF AND FINDING HOPE , New York: Harper Collins, 2002.

Thanatology 510X:
Thanatological Guidance and Care

(MODULE 5 of the
Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program,
30 Clock-Hours)

Training in the process and techniques of providing guidance and care to those in the process of dying. Understanding death. Contemplating death. Expecting death. Facing death. Undergoing death. Types of death. The role of the caregiver. Taking care of the caregiver.

Kough-Hainer, Mo. What About Me? – A Guide for Caregivers .

(The above listed book is available from Mo Kough-Hainer at P.O. Box 1857, Ojai, CA 93024 or for $4.50 including tax and shipping.)

Thanatology 512X:

Electives in the field of Thanatology

(MODULE 6 of the
Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program,
30 Clock-Hours)

Electives may be fulfilled through the following methods, when appropriate and upon approval:

  • transfer credit;
  • prior life experience under the conditions set forth by the California Education Code as administered by the BPPVE;
  • elective courses offered in the Thanatology Certificate Program and Spiritual Ministry Certificate Program (see descriptions below);
  • conferences-seminars presented by World University or other approved learning sources;
  • special individual or collaborative learning projects under the direction of a mentor;
  • appropriate, documented work with persons in the dying process.

To arrange electives please contact John Griffin , Officer in Charge of Vocational Programs

Thanatology Electives:

Spiritual Ministry 580:
Communication Skills for Emotional Support

(May be taken as part of MODULE 6 of the Vocational Thanatology
Certificate Program for
30 Clock-Hours
of credit)




A structured, intensive introduction to the skills involved in communicating more consciously, cooperatively, compassionately and successfully. We will give special attention to the task of providing emotional support through deep acknowledgment of another person’s experience.

THIS PRACTICE-ORIENTED COURSE NEEDS TO BE TAKEN IN PARTNERSHIP WITH ANOTHER PERSON, YOUR “PRACTICE PARTNER.”  Your Practice Partner can be anyone who enrolls for this class, or anyone you know who agrees to read the primary textbook and do the exercises with you on a weekly basis.

  • Required Text:  Rivers, Dennis.   The Seven Challenges: A Workbook and Reader About Communicating More Cooperatively .   Available free of charge as an Adobe PDF file ( click here to download ).   Also available as a paperback for $14 plus shipping ( click here to order )


 Course Resources:

Course Readings & Online Library

World Univ. Faculty


Tuition and Fees for Vocational Certificates in  Spiritual Ministry  and Thanatology,  both onsite and online.

Beginning October 1, 2012, students enroll in the vocational certificate programs by applying for admission, and then enrolling (and paying for) one course at a time:

Tuition per 30-vocational-certificate-hour course paid at time of enrollment in each course


Total Tuition for a 6-course program


Certificate Fee (due on completion of 6-course program)




[1020.020]  Details of Installment Payment Options:

No longer available or needed after 10-1-2012 because our new one-course-at-a-time enrollment and tuition payment structure, described above in [1020.010].

[1020.030]  Payment Options for Vocational Certificate Programs

Please see the one-course-at-a-time enrollment and tuition payment structure, described above in [1020.010].




Recommended Reading List for Prospective Thanatology Students


Callahan, Maggie, and Patricia Kelley, FINAL GIFTS: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.

Currie, Ian. You Cannot Die: The Incredible Findings of a Century of Research on Death ,   Somerville House Books; (January 2003)   (Click on title to review/order from Amazon.)   May be out of print but used copies are available on the page for this book.

Doka, Kenneth J., CHILDREN MOURNING, MOURNING CHILDREN, Washington: D.C.: Hospice Foundation of America (1-800-821-8312), 1995

Dowling-Singh, Kathleen, THE GRACE IN DYING: How we are transformed spiritually as we die, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.

Foos-Graber, Anya, DEATHING, York Beach, Maine: Nicolas-Hays, 1989.

Hanh, Thich Nhat, THE MIRACLE OF MINDFULNESS: A Manual on Meditation, A Zen Master’s Method of Meditation, Concentration, and Relaxation., Boston: Beacon Press, 1975.

Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, ON CHILDREN AN DEATH, New York: Macmillan, 1993.

Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, THE WHEEL OF LIFE: A Memoir of Living and Dying, New York:: Scribner, 1997.

Levine, Stephen A., GRADUAL AWAKENING, New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Levine, Stephen A., HEALING INTO LIFE AND DEATH, New York: Doubleday, 1987.

Levine, Stephen A., WHO DIES?: An investigation if conscious living and conscious dying, New York: Doubleday, 1982..

Levine, Stephen A., A YEAR TO LIVE: How to live this year as if it were your last, New York: Bell Tower/Harmony, 1997.

Madrid-Null, Mary Helen. Critical Incident Stress Management (from Sessions with Mary Helen; a short paper written for the “pocket.” Utilized by the Alberta Fire Academy for Alberta Canada.) Internet Publishing ( Tanha Digital, 2001.(Copies available upon request.)

Mitchell, Jeff, and Grady Bray, EMERGENCY SERVICES STRESS: Guidelines for preserving the health and careers of emergency services personnel. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

Moody, Raymond, A., REFLECTIONS ON LIFE AFTER LIFE, Covington, Ga.: Bantam-Mockingbird Books, 1977.

Moody, Raymond, Jr. MD.,with Dianne Arcangel., MS, LIFE AFTER LOSS ; CONQUERING GRIEF AND FINDING HOPE, New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

O’Toole, Donna, GROWING THROUGH GRIEF: A K-12 Curriculum to Help Young People Through All Kinds of Loss, Burnsville, NC.: Rainbow Connection, 1989.

Rando, There A., HOW TO GO ON LIVING WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE DIES, New York: Bantam Books, 1988.

Rando, Therese A., GRIEF, DYING, AND DEATH: CLINICAL INTERVENTIONS FOR CAREGIVERS, Champaigne, Illinois: Research Press, 1984.

Rinpoche, Sogyal, THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING, San Francisco: Harper, 1994.

Reyes, Benito F., THE PRACTICE OF CONSCIOUS DYING, Ojai: World University of America, 1990.

       CONSCIOUS DYING, Psychology of Death and Guidebook to Liberation, Oja:, World University of America, 1986.

       CYBERNETICS OF CONSCIOUSNESS, Ojai: World University of America, 1986.

Reyes, Dominga, MEDITATIONS, 365 DAYS WITH SATHYA SAI BABA, no copyright date, World U, Ojai

Ring, Kenneth, LIFE AT DEATH: A Scientific Investigation of the Near Death Experience, New York: Coward, McCann, Geoghegan, 1982.

Ring, Kenneth, and Evelyn Elsaesser Valarino, LESSONS FROM THE LIGHT: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience , New York: Insight Books/Plenum Press, 1998. (Click on title to review/order from Amazon.)

Salerno, Evelyn, Joyce S. Willens, PAIN MANAGEMENT HANDBOOK, An Interdisciplinary Approach, St. Louis: Mosby, 1998.

Siebert, Al, THE SURVIVOR PERSONALITY, Why Some People Are Stronger, Smarter, and More Skillful at Handling Life’s Difficulties…and How You Can Be, Too, New York: Perigee Penguin/Putnam Book, Berkley Publishing, 1993, 1996.

Sogyal Rinpoche. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Harper San Francisco, 1994. (Click on title to review/order from Amazon.)

Stevenson, Ian.  Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation . (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1974.)  The seminal work on children’s spontaneous past life memories, and essential reading for anyone seriously interested in research of this phenomenon. These are full-blown cases, not summaries, and the best way to get a taste of Stevenson’s full methodology and detailed reporting. (Click on title to review/order from Amazon.) Some used copies may be available on the page for this book.)

Tatelbaum, Judy, THE COURAGE TO GRIEVE: Creative Living, Recovery, and Growth through Grief, NewYork: Harper & Row, 1980, 1989.

Worden, J. William, GRIEF COUNSELING AND GRIEF THERAPY, Third Editon, A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, New York: Springer Publishing Co., 2002