For Chapter 4, click here.
As the rock group The Police say in their song of the same title, “We are spirits in the material world.” While the hope of an afterlife certainly fuels our fascination with near-death experiences, we miss much of their significance if we take them only as interesting information about what will happen to us when we die.
Most of us have a number of years left in our lives here on earth before the afterlife will become a present reality for us. For us, the greatest significance of NDEs, as well as Swedenborg’s and others’ descriptions of the afterlife, is in what they mean for us here and now. If we think of the material world as an expression of the spiritual world, all these descriptions of the afterlife can take on this kind of here-and-now meaning for us.
If we read accounts of NDEs simply out of fascination for the descriptions of the spiritual world, it will not necessarily touch our hearts and lives. But if we think of them as patterns for our life here we are presented with a deep and lasting challenge. The Book of Revelation speaks of a city descending to earth out of heaven from God. Our knowledge of the spiritual world provides a blueprint: a plan that we can use to build communities based on mutual love and understanding right here on earth.
This community-building must start in the soul of each one of us. By starting on a spiritual path and taking the steps described one way in this book, and other ways in others, we lay the foundations for the heavenly city in ourselves. As each of us finds our own spiritual path, we will also be reaching out to those around us and forming a spiritually-based community, built on mutual love and understanding. This, I believe, is the direction we are being shown by those who have experienced the spiritual world and come back to tell us about it.
(Note: Links are not necessarily to the edition listed)
- Basford, Terry K., ed. Near-Death Experiences: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1990.
- Book of the Dead. The Egyptian Text. New York: Dover, 1967.
- Brinkley, Dannion. Saved by the Light. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
- Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
- Dryden, S. H. Daisy Dryden: A Memoir. Boston: Colonial Press, 1909 (third edition).
- Evans-Wentz, W. Y., ed. The Tibetan Book of the Dead. London: Oxford University Press, 1960.
- Ford, Arthur. The Life Beyond Death. New York: Putnam, 1971.
- Gallup, George, Jr. Adventures in Immortality: A Look Beyond the Threshold of Death. New York: McGraw Hill, 1982.
- Grey, Margot. Return from Death: An Exploration of the Near-Death Experience. London: Arkana, 1983.
- Greyson, Bruce, and Charles P. Flynn, eds. The Near-Death Experience: Problems, Prospects, Perspectives. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas, 1984.
- Grof, Stanislav, M.D., and Joan Halifax. The Human Encounter with Death. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977.
- Kavanaugh, Kieran, ed. John of the Cross, Selected Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1987.
- Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, M.D. On Death and Dying. New York: MacMillan, 1969.
- Moody, Raymond, Jr., MD. Life After Life. New York: Bantam, 1975.
- Moody, Raymond, Jr., MD. Life After Life (Video). Cascom International, 1992.
- Moody, Raymond, Jr., MD. Reflections on Life After Life. New York: Bantam Books, 1977.
- Morse, Melvin, M.D. Closer to the Light. New York: Ballantine, 1990.
- Plato. Republic. New York: Random House, 1964.
- Rhodes, Leon S. “The NDE Enlarged by Swedenborg’s Vision.” Anabiosis Vol. 2, No. 1 (June 1982), p. 15-35.
- Rhodes, Leon S. Tunnel to Eternity: Beyond Near-Death. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1997.
- Ring, Kenneth. Heading Toward Omega: In Search of the Near-Death Experience. New York: Morrow, 1984.
- Ring, Kenneth. Life at Death, A Scientific Investigation of the Near-Death Experience. New York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, 1980.
- Ritchie, George G., M.D. Return from Tomorrow. New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1978.
- Sagan, Carl. Broca’s Brain. New York: Random House, 1974.
- Sigstedt, Cyriel Odhner. The Swedenborg Epic. London: Swedenborg Society, 1981.
- “Silencing of Survival Instinct May Explain Near-Death After-Effects,” Brain/Mind: A Bulletin of Breakthroughs, Vol. 20, No. 18 (May 1995), pp. 1, 6.
- Swedenborg, Emanuel. Arcana Coelestia. London: Swedenborg Society, 1984–1995.
- Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2000.
- Swedenborg, Emanuel. The Heavenly City: A Spiritual Guidebook. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1993.
- Swedenborg, Emanuel. Journal of Dreams. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1977.
- Swedenborg, Emanuel. The True Christian Religion. London: Swedenborg Society, 1988.
- Zaleski, Carol. Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
(Note: This is the Conclusion and bibliography to my book Death and Rebirth, first published in 2005 and currently out of print. This text and associated artwork are copyright 2005 by Lee Woofenden.)
Thank you so much. It is all finally beginning to make sense for me. I look forward with hope and inspiration for more articles.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I’m glad you’re finding our blog enlightening.
Godspeed on your spiritual journey!
Thanks, Lee, for this articles. I have been looking for some NDE researchs in the last few months… Reading your texts is truly illuminating. I assume you are familiarized with the investigations of Kevin Williams in http://www.near-death.com (although there are some NDE’s that confirm the possibility of reincarnation, which you rejected in a previous article, but that’s another subject). Anyway, we are on The Way.
I understand and share all the things you pointed out here, but unfortunately there’s still “a conflict between Rational and Irrational, between Good and Evil”, like it’s said in Apocalypse Now, and it’s that some “religions” aspire to have the absolute truth in their doctrines. They reject universalism and ecumenism. For me that’s ‘spooky’, and it’s the reason why so many people now reject God (well, not God, but THAT vision of God). You know, I’m spanish, and here in Europe only old folks and priests talk about Jesus. I think it’s normal… catholics, evangelical/protestants, JW’s and some others have discredited the christian faith by trying to control the minds of the believers and imposing their faith showing unbiblical teachings that have nothing to do with Jesus.
We need to act following our conscience, like Pope Francis said. “Sin” appears when we love badly. We need to think, ponder, study, learn, fall, raise, wake up and have dreams. We need to taste life in order to find what’s good and bad. Unfortunately, not all christians, or muslims, or buddhists, or whatever-you-want-to-call-them are open minded to a deeper, wiser and mature spiritual path like this. And in modern civilizations that is a dreadful thing because people is scared to believe in ‘something deeper’. There are two reasons for that:
1) The “modern” church is still anachronic, with their sex-restrictions, “pre-historical” language and their patriarchal system. To believe in God, in our modern society, and specifically in Spain, where church is associated with Franco’s dictatorship, is like being an anachronical fascist. That’s an impediment. What can we do, then?
2) Materialistic and scientific teachings have irrupted in our lifes and they prevent us from seeing beyond reality. It’s not so easy to belive in God in our modern times. And if we do so, we need, like Michael Morwood said, to “have a deeper spiritual faith” (I recommend you his book “Is Jesus God?”), like you propose in SIEL.
By the way… I’ve read all your articles related to sex (masturbation, pornography, premarital sex, etc.). Congratulations! I think we shall live our sex life with freedom and love. I reject that an “eunuch” dressed in black points at me and says: “you, immoral boy, are impure because you have sex with your non-married girlfriend. You are going to hell”. What The Heck! That’s the problem with religions. They need to adapt to modern times (and I’m not saying to adapt God… but to be coherent with reality and modern societies). That’s the only way to grow spiritually. Having those anachronic doctrines only makes us be restricted, complexed and square-headed human beings. Are you with me?
Another question… about Hell. You said in all your articles that we freely choose hell. But if someone hates hell and wants to reach God but he is “chained” to his passions and materialistic desires… isn’t there a contradiction? What happens to that person that wants to avoid hell but he/she can’t help to do bad things? If someone freely chooses heaven being a terrible person… Is he/she allowed to enter heaven? If not… then, his/her choice is not being respected. What happens there?
Regards from Madrid!
Thanks for your extensive thoughts and references. There’s a lot here, and I won’t be able to respond to all of it. But here are a few thoughts and responses:
On your last point and question, I see that you posted another comment (here) about that in response to a different article. I’ll respond to that shortly. Meanwhile:
Our choice for heaven or hell is not a mere intellectual one. It is a “kinesthetic” one, meaning it is expressed in the way we live our life. Many people have theoretical idea in their head about who they think they are and what sort of person they imagine themselves being. But the way we live shows the actual choices we have made. As Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.”
People who live self-indulgent, greedy, and power-hungry lives hate heaven, with its atmosphere of thinking of others first and serving others’ needs first. People who live thoughtful, loving lives of useful service to others find hell distressing, with its atmosphere of always putting oneself first. Each sorts him- or herself out to the area of the spiritual world that matches his or her own character.
Even if a good person isn’t perfect, it’s what’s in the heart that counts, and what the person does his or he best to express in life, even if we humans may never fully achieve our best ideals. We all have our vices, and we all stumble at times. But the overall pattern of our intentions and our life will guide us either toward heaven or toward hell, according to where we put our primary focus and energy. And in our second stage after death, covered in this series, we’ll leave behind our worst remaining vices and contradictions as we make our way toward our final home in heaven.
About the unfashionableness Christianity (and other religions) in Europe and various other parts of the world:
I believe this is the inevitable result of the long, slow corruption of Christianity into something that Jesus and his disciples would never have recognized as the religion of Jesus Christ. And I have come to believe that institutional Christianity as it has existed for most of the past 2,000 years will have to die out before any genuine Christianity can take root and grow in our world. Here are a few articles along these lines:
What’s dying in contemporary culture today is not the Christianity that Jesus Christ founded and taught, but an interloper that has claimed the name “Christian” for itself while teaching doctrines that neither Jesus Christ nor anyone else in the Bible ever taught. As far as I’m concerned, it can’t die off fast enough.
As far as sexual mores and practices, not only non-Christians, but even many Christians, and especially Catholics, are simply ignoring what the church teaches on the subject of sex and marriage. As I say in the articles, I am all in favor of loving, faithful, monogamous marriage, and I continue to believe that is the ideal. But the idea that anything that is not that is evil, evil, evil simply isn’t realistic. And it’s not what’s portrayed in the Bible either, despite a few hard-and-fast sounding statements in the Bible taken out of context.
We are all on a pathway and a journey. You don’t get to the top of a mountain in a single step. You climb your way there through many experiences some good, and some not so good, and all of them learning experiences if we’re paying attention.
More plainly, I believe that many people today who are engaging in sex and various sexual practices outside of marriage are still headed toward good, loving eternal marriages, even if the pathway to get there may go through many twists and turns.
Besides, some sexual practices, such as masturbation, simply are not forbidden, condemned, or even mentioned in the Bible. The strictures against them were made up by human beings over the centuries, and have little or nothing to do with what the sourcebook of Christianity actually says.
Hi i was wondering what do you think is the best evidence that shows that sweedenborg was right and divinely inspired ? because recently ive have been having what i would say is crisis of belief as part me keeps thinking what if sweedenborg isnt right or what if he made it up ?
The best evidence, in my view, is reading Swedenborg’s writings and considering whether the things he says there ring true to your mind and heart. Get a copy of Heaven and Hell and read it. Then make up your own mind.
In the realm of more objective evidence, there are several credible reports of Swedenborg having knowledge that he could only have had by supernatural means. You can read them in one of the major biographies of Swedenborg, The Swedenborg Epic, by Cyriel Odhner Sigstedt. Here is a link to the relevant chapter if you want to read it online:
Chapter 31 – Astonishment in Sweden
I’m sure skeptics would find ways to reject all of these accounts. But they were well-attested at the time they occurred. For people who don’t reject the reality of the spiritual world altogether, they do provide a reasonable basis for concluding that Swedenborg had access to reliable information from the spiritual world.
Thanks for that lee its just ive had this nagging feeling saying loads of people have said they know god and know what the afterlife is like and that little bit was saying why would sweedenborg be the one who knows it all
but then i think to myself that sweedenborg is so logical and is massively backed up with near death expieriences and also everything he says about this universe and t the spirit world totally agrees with quantum physics.
I also have compared what sweedenborg says to what i used to think and fear e.g edgar cayce, psychics, even near death prophecies and what Swedenborg tells of everything solves what they say for example i know from swedenborg that when people say they have seen the future in a near death expierience its just symbolism for spiritual change and never meant to be literal .
That’s why I say that reading Swedenborg and considering whether what he says makes sense to your mind and heart is the best evidence for the truth and reality of his experiences and his teachings. Not that Swedenborg was perfect, mind you. He did get a few things wrong. But they are minor compared to the grand, overarching system he presented to the world in a way that no one before him or since has done.
I’ve spent my life reading and studying Swedenborg’s writings and comparing it not only to all of my experience in this world, but also to every other religion and philosophy that I’ve learned something about. Not that I’m an expert on any of them. And some of them are pretty good. But so far I haven’t found anything that even comes close to Swedenborg in finally making sense of the Bible and Christianity, and in making sense of the universe and our place in it. Not even close.
That is why I have great confidence in the things I speak about here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. (Anything I’m speculating about I label as such.) That’s why I feel perfectly comfortable saying to people: “This is how it works. This is the truth of the matter.” As you read what Swedenborg wrote and compare it to your experience and to what your heart is telling you, you’ll gain that confidence over time as well. Trust takes time to build. Give it time. Do the work. Your doubts will gradually fade, and your faith will grow.
I should add, for those reading in, that I have laid out my view of Swedenborg’s writings, and some of my reasons for giving credence to what he says, in this article:
Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?
What do you make of when near death experiences say they were sent back because it was not their time, to me this implies that our time of death is set .
It does scare me a little to think that those i love could have their time of death set for Tommorow. I know they would be safe and happy in the afterlife but it worries me to think there time of death is set in stone
Nothing is “set” until it happens, including death. This is not the same as saying that God doesn’t know when when we’re going to die. See:
If God Already Knows What We’re Going to Do, How Can We Have Free Will?
About NDEs in which people are sent back because “it isn’t their time,” there are many possible factors involved. The greatest factor is that God and the angels see that this person still has significant spiritual work to do here on earth.
I understand that god being out of space and time knows when we are going to die .
But can we know our time of death ( if you havent got a terminal illness that is ) ?
Secondly . The reason i say about ndes was i saw on a website regarding this subject that said that . The expierencer being told its not their time indicates that the time of our death is set in stone which is why i ask .
It worried me cuz it made me think if our time of death is set in stone then god must cause that person to die no matter if their Healthy or not, rich or poor, good or bad etc
Well . . . I disagree with that website. Within the arrow of time, nothing is set in stone until it actually happens.
I think we can have a sense of when we might die. And some people have a clear sense of when they will die, especially as their time comes close. Swedenborg predicted the day of his death several months before it happened. But that is unusual. For most of us, the time of our death is unknown. And that keeps us moving forward with our life.
Thats a relief because i know only gods divine providence can provide life and death, so if our death was set in stone then god must cause it , but this is against what i know god is like ,
I know god dosent cause a person to die wether they are sick, healthy, young , old , spiritual or not that is not the god i know in my heart.
When a person dies young with their whole lives ahead of them it wasnt anything that god or spirits did is it ?
No. If you look at the death certificate, you’ll see a cause of death. Usually there is a specific physical or biological cause. Heart failure, an accident, a bullet wound, and so on. These are not things that God and the angels do, but things that the physical world, and sometimes other human beings, do to us.
Thank you for these lee it just bothered me that people die young sometimes with no apparent cause i could not imagine god ever doing anything like that.
And regarding NDEs and the not your time aspect. Is it a case of people not understanding it correctly as in thinking because of what is said that our time of death is set in stone ?
Let’s say you’re learning karate, and you think you’re ready for the black belt, so you begin the testing process, but before you get very far your instructor says, “It’s not your time yet. Go back to your training.” Does this mean that the time you will get your black belt is set in stone? No. Just that your time is not yet, and you need to spend more time working on it in order to achieve it.
as not everyone who has an accident or falls unconscious has a NDE
Is it a case as well by saying its not your time god and the angels show those that their is more to life than this world and that they want them to learn about this other world.
Yes, that is a common purpose and result for NDEs. People who have had one commonly have a whole new perspective on life, knowing that it continues after death in a realm immeasurably greater than this material realm.
Hi Lee by now im sure your at your wits end and are thinking of blocking me from the site 😂😂
What do you make of The literalist christian view that NDEs are a satanic illusion as of course the literalist view dosent match up with NDEs?
And what do you make of NDEs that say that reincarnation is a possibility and say they saw people planning their lives ?
Why would I block you from the site for asking questions and keeping the conversation going, and interesting, here? 🙂
Of course literalist Christians can’t accept NDEs, because literalist Christians believe that we stay in our grave until some future resurrection day. Also, many of them believe that we will be resurrected and live on this earth, and that only angels and devils live in the spiritual world. So since NDEs regularly convince people that we will live in the spiritual world immediately after death (which is the actual truth), literalist Christians have to reject them as falsities and satanic illusions. It is primarily because of their physical-minded and “fleshly” (to use the biblical term) beliefs that they reject NDEs.
About some people saying that their NDEs presented reincarnation as a possibility, or reality, that’s no different than some people saying that their NDEs showed that the old Christian view of heaven as a place where St. Peter stands guard at the Pearly Gates is how things really are. People tend to see what they want to see, especially in the spiritual world. And even angels won’t argue with people about their existing beliefs, which wouldn’t accomplish much. Instead, angels will use those beliefs to motivate people toward living good lives.
Hi lee in my head i was thinking i ask so many questions that im sure your sick of them aha