While people of different beliefs from all over the world believe in an afterlife, many of them can’t seem to agree with each other or accept views other than their own. Yet, men have talked about the supernatural since the beginning of time. Recently, authors like Bill Guggenheim, Dr. Raymond Moody, and Dr. Eben Alexander have written books that explore the existence of the consciousness after death.
When science cannot easily explain how things happen, such as paranormal activity, people question whether the phenomenon is true. As in religion and politics, many attribute different meanings to the words and then argue about who is right. Do angels exist? Do they differ from spirit guides? If everything is energy, where do people go when they die? If the Wise Men followed the star in the East, did they use astrology?
Christians believe in life after death. So do metaphysicians, and Muslims. Why, then, is there so much controversy and skepticism of other people’s views? If there is an afterlife, should we doubt near death experiences? For some, the question becomes one of whose experience is authentic. Is it the person with whom they agree? In the Western world, for instance, many doctors give little credence to alternative medicine. But what about the similarities between descriptions of the nervous system and the chakras or the meridians? All of these methods deal with physical anatomy and the vital life energy that stems from the brain, spinal cord, and organs.
Another example is the similarity between the halos seen on early paintings of religious figures and the concept of angels having wings or humans having auras. People sometimes say they have “bad feelings” about emotions or events, and spiritual healers say that “blocked energy” causes disease. Do both of these mean the same thing?
In Hello from Heaven, authors Bill and Judy Guggenheim discuss their research on ADCs, forms after death communication that occur spontaneously, without the help of mediums or other forms of assistance. After interviewing over 3,000 people about their firsthand experiences, the Guggenheims estimated that somewhere between 50 and 100 million people had experienced episodes they interpreted as being messages from loved ones.
In the 1970s, Dr. Raymond Moody brought the phenomenon of near death experiences, or NDEs, to the national awareness with his first book, Life after Life. After four decades or study, Dr. Moody still says that, based on what his patients have told him, he has no doubt the people he has interviewed have experienced a glimpse of the afterlife.
Late last year, the concept of the NDE gained greater exposure with the publication of Dr. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven. A skeptical neurosurgeon who contracted a deadly form of meningitis before slipping into a coma, Dr. Alexander wrote about his brief look at the near death experience. As in all accounts of the supernatural, however, skeptics challenged Dr. Alexander’s claims.
While no one knows for certain the answer to any of these questions, well-respected writers and philosophers have spoken of life after death for centuries. Edgar Cayce, an early 20th century Sunday School teacher known as the Sleeping Prophet, not only believed that people communicate with the astral realm, but he also believed in reincarnation. Emanuel Swedenborg, eighteenth century Swedish theologian, philosopher, and scientific investigator, spent much of his life attempting to explain the supernatural and heavily influenced the work of writers like William Blake and Henry James, as well as mystics like Raymond Moody and Edgar Cayce.
In 1890, the Swedenborg Society summed up their mentor’s teachings in the following statement:
“There are two worlds, a spiritual world where angels
and spirits are, and a natural world where men are.”
Although all of these stories of the supernatural have common threads, they also vary in details. Nevertheless, one common truth lies at the heart of all of these great teachings, from Buddha and Jesus to Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. Living beings are all part of one great force, and love is the glue that holds them together.
Mobbs D, & Watt C (2011). There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences: how neuroscience can explain seeing bright lights, meeting the dead, or being convinced you are one of them. Trends in cognitive sciences, 15 (10), 447-9 PMID: 21852181
Feinsod M, & Langer KG (2012). The philosopher’s swoon–the concussion of Michel de Montaigne: a historical vignette. World neurosurgery, 78 (3-4), 371-4 PMID: 22381306
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