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True Encounters with World Beyond
By Hans Holzer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1997 Apsera Ad Astra Inc.
All rights reserved.
The Nature of Life and Death
WHAT IS MAN? WHY IS MAN? HOW IS MAN?
To fully understand the existence of ghosts, one needs to come to grips with the nature of life—and death. Ghosts, apparitions, messages from beyond, and psychic experiences involving a loved one or friend who has passed away all presuppose that the receiver or observer accept the reality of another dimension into which we all pass at one time or another. A die-hard (if you pardon the pun) committed to pure material reality, even atheism, will not be comfortable with the subject of this book. But the subject of ghosts just won't go away. They have always been with us, under one designation or another, depending on the time period, culture, or religious orientation of the people to whom the experiences have occurred.
This is certainly not a matter of belief "in" a reality other than the ordinary three-dimensional one. It is, to the contrary, an awareness that we all have within us another component that passes on to the next stage of life fully intact in most cases, and somewhat disturbed in some. For everyone, except the skeptic, the evidence of this is overwhelming. For the skeptic all of this will always be unacceptable, no matter how concrete the grounds for believing. Above all, the nature of life and death requires a full understanding of the nature of man. One must come to this from an unbiased point of view, unafraid of the philosophical consequences of making adjustments in one's attitude toward life and death.
Although humans have walked on the moon and will soon reach for the stars, we have yet to learn what we are. After millions of years of existence on this planet, we are still unable to come to grips with the most important question of all: What is man? Why is man? How is man?
To toss the problem of man into the lap of religion by judging it to be the whim of an omnipotent creator is merely to beg the question. Even if we were to accept uncritically the notion of instantaneous creation by a superior force, it would leave unanswered the questions that would immediately arise from such a notion: Who created the creator?
To go the other end of the scale and ascribe our existence to a slow process of natural evolution in which particles of matter—chemicals—were mixed in certain ways to form larger pieces of matter and ultimately reached the stage where life began sounds like a more sensible approach to the puzzle of our existence. But only on the surface. For if we were to accept the theory of evolution—and there is good enough evidence that is valid—we would still be faced with the very problem religion leaves us: Who arranged things in this way, so that infinitesimal bits of matter would join to create life and follow what is obviously an orderly pattern of development?
Whether we are theistic or atheistic, materialistic or idealistic, the end result, as I see it, seems to lead to the same door. That door, however, is closed. Behind it lies the one big answer man has searched for, consciously or unconsciously, since the dawn of time.
Is man an animal, derived from the primates, as Dr. Desmond Morris asserted in The Naked Ape? Is he merely an accidental development, whereby at one point in time a large ape became a primitive man?
To this day, this hypothesis is unacceptable to large segments of the population. The revulsion against such a hypothesis stems largely from strongly entrenched fundamentalist religious feelings rather than from any enlightened understanding that knows better than Darwin. When religion goes against science, even imperfect science, it is bound to lose out.
On the other hand, the less violent but much more effective resistance, by scientists, doctors, and intellectuals, to the hypothesis that supports man's spontaneous creation by a superior being is so widespread today that it has made heavy inroads in church attendance and forced the religious denominations to think of new approaches to lure large segments of the population back into the fold, or at least to interest them in the nonreligious aspects of the church. But the professionals and intellectuals are by no means alone in their rejection of traditional views. A large majority of students, on both college and high school levels, are nonbelievers or outright cynics. They don't always cherish that position, but they have not found an alternative. At least they had not until ESP (extrasensory perception) came along to offer them a glimpse at a kind of immorality that their scientific training could let them accept.
To the average person, then, the problem of what man is remains unsolved and as puzzling as ever. But this is not true of the psychic or esoteric person.
An increasing number of people throughout the world have at one time or another encountered personal proof of man's immortality. To them, their own experiences are sufficient to assure them that we are part of a greater scheme of things, with some sort of superior law operating for the benefit of all. They do not always agree on what form this superior force takes, and they generally reject the traditional concepts of a personal God, but they acknowledge the existence of an orderly scheme of things and the continuance of life as we know it beyond the barriers of death and time.
Many of those who accept in varying degrees spiritual concepts of life after death do so uncritically. They believe from a personal, emotional point of view. They merely replace a formal religion with an informal one. They replace a dogma they find outmoded, and not borne out by the facts as they know them, with a flexible, seemingly sensible system to which they can relate enthusiastically.
It seems to me that somewhere in between these orthodox and heterodox elements lies the answer to the problem. If we are ever to find the human solution and know what man is, why he is, and how he is, we must take into account all the elements, strip them of their fallacies, and retain the hard-core facts. In correlating the facts we find, we can then construct an edifice of thought that may solve the problem and give us the ultimate answers we are seeking.
What is life? From birth, life is an evolution through gradual, successive stages of development, that differ in detail with each and every human being. Materialistic science likes to ascribe these unique tendencies to environment and parental heritage alone. Astrology, a very respectable craft when properly used, claims that the radiation from the planets, the sun, and the moon influences the body of the newly born from birth or, according to some astrological schools, even from the moment of conception. One should not reject the astrological theory out of hand. After all, the radiation of man-made atom bombs affected the children of Hiroshima, and the radiation from the cosmos is far greater and of far longer duration. We know very little about radiation effects as yet.
That man is essentially a dual creature is no longer denied even by medical science. Psychiatry could not exist were it not for the acknowledgment that man has a mind, though the mind is invisible. Esoteric teaching goes even further: man has a soul, and it is inserted into the body of the newborn at the moment of birth. Now if the soul joins the body only at or just before the moment of birth, then a fetus has no personality, according to this view, and abortion is not a "sin." Some orthodox religions do not hold this view and consider even an unborn child a full person. It is pretty difficult to prove objectively either assertion, but it is not impossible to prove scientifically and rationally that man after birth has a nonphysical component, variously called soul, psyche, psi, or personality.
What is death, then? The ceasing of bodily functions due to illness or malfunction of a vital organ reverses the order of what occurred at birth. Now the two components of man are separated again and go in different directions. The body, deprived of its operating force, is nothing more than a shell and subject to ordinary laws affecting matter. Under the influence of the atmosphere, it will rapidly decompose and is therefore quickly disposed of in all cultures. It returns to the earth in various forms and contributes its basic chemicals to the soil or water.
The soul, on the other hand, continues its journey into what the late Dr. Joseph Rhine of Duke University called "the world of mind." That is, to those who believe there is a soul, it enters the world of the mind; to those who reject the very notion of a soul factor, the decomposing body represents all the remains of man at death. It is this concept that breeds fear of death, fosters nihilistic attitudes toward life while one lives it, and favors the entire syndrome of expressions such as "death is the end," "fear the cemetery," and "funerals are solemn occasions."
Death takes on different powers in different cultures. To primitive man it was a vengeful god who took loved ones away when they were still needed.
To the devout Christian of the Middle Ages, death was the punishment one had to fear all one's life, for after death came the reckoning.
West Africans and their distant cousins, the Haitians, worship death in a cult called the "Papa Nebo" cult.
Spanish and Irish Catholics celebrate the occasions of death with elaborate festivities, because they wish to help the departed receive a good reception in the afterlife.
Only in the East does death play a benign role. In the spiritually advanced beliefs of the Chinese, the Indians, and the ancient Egyptians, death was the beginning, not the end. Death marked the gate to a higher consciousness, and it is because of this philosophy that the dreary aspects of funerals as we know them in the West are totally absent from eastern rites. They mark their funerals, of course, but not with the sense of finality and sadness that pervade the western concept. Perhaps this benigness has some connection with the strong belief in a hereafter that the people of the East hold, as opposed to the Western world, which offers, aside from a minority of fundamentalists to whom the Bible has spelled out everything without further need of clarification, faith in an afterlife but has no real conviction that it exists.
There is scarcely a religion that does not accept the continuance of life beyond death in one form or another. There are some forms of "reform" Judaism and some extremely liberal Christian denominations that stress the morality aspects of their religions rather than basic belief in a soul and its survival after death in a vaguely defined heaven or hell. Communism in its pure Marxist form, which is of course a kind of religion, goes out of its way to denounce the soul concept.
Not a single religious faith tries to rationalize its tenets of immortality in scientifically valid terms. Orthodox Catholicism rejects the inquiry itself as unwanted or at the very least proper only for those inside the professional hierarchy of the church. Some Protestant denominations, especially fundamentalists, find solace in biblical passages that they interpret as speaking out against any traffic with death or inquiry into areas dealing with psychic phenomena. The vast majority of faiths, however, neither encourage nor forbid the search for objective proof that what the church preaches on faith may have a basis in objective fact.
It is clear that one step begets another. If we accept the reality of the soul, we must also ask ourselves, where does the soul go after death? Thus interest concerning the nature of man quite easily extends to a curiosity about the world that the soul inhabits once it leaves its former abode.
Again, religion has given us descriptions galore of the afterlife, many embroidered in human fashion with elements of man-made justice but possessing very little factuality.
Inquiring persons will have to wait until they themselves get to the nonphysical world, or they will have to use one of several channels to find out what the nonphysical world is like.
When experience is firsthand, one has only one's own status or state of being to consider; waiting for or taking the ultimate step in order to find out about the next world is certainly a direct approach.
Desire to communicate with the dead is as old as humanity itself. As soon as primitive man realized that death could separate him from a loved one and that he could not prevent that person's departure, he thought of the next best thing: once gone, how could he communicate with the dead person? Could he bring him back? Would he join him eventually?
These are the original elements, along with certain observed forces in nature, that have contributed to the structure of early religions.
But primitive man had little or no understanding of nature around him and therefore personified all forces he could not understand or emulate. Death became a person of great and sinister power who ruled in a kingdom of darkness somewhere far away. To communicate with a departed loved one, one would have to have Death's permission or would have to outsmart him. Getting Death's permission to see a loved one was rare (e.g., the story of Orpheus and Eurydice).
Outsmarting Death was even more difficult. Everyman never succeeded, nor did the wealthy Persian merchant who ran away to Samara only to find Death there waiting for him. In these examples Death was waiting for the man himself, and it was not a question of getting past him into his kingdom to see the departed one. But it shows how all-knowing the personified Death of primitive and ancient man was.
The West African form of contact with the dead, which the people of Haiti still practice to this day, is speaking through the water; again it is a question of either avoiding the voodoo gods or bribing them. Communication with the dead is never easy in primitive society.
In the East, where ancestor worship is part of the religious morality, communication is possible through the established channel of the priest, but the occasion has to warrant it. Here too we have unquestioned adherence to the orders given to the living by their forebears, as a matter of respect. As we dig deeper into the religious concepts of eastern origin, we find such a constant interplay between the living and the dead that one understands why some Asians are not afraid to die or do not take the kind of precautions western people would take under similar circumstances. Death to them is not a stranger or a punishment or a fearful avenger of sins committed in the flesh.
In modern times, only spiritualism has approached the subject of the dead with a degree of rationalism, although it tends to build its edifice of believability occasionally on very shaky ground. The proof of survival of the human personality is certainly not wanting, yet spiritualism ignores the elements in man that are mortal but nonphysical, and gives credit to the dead for everything that transcends the five senses. But research on ESP has shown that some of these experiences need not be due to the spirit intervention, although they may not be explicable in terms of orthodox science. We do have ESP in our incarnate state and rarely use the wondrous faculties of our minds to the fullest.
Nevertheless, the majority of spiritualist beliefs are capable of verification. I have worked with some of the best spiritualist mediums to learn about trafficking with the "other world." For the heart of spiritualist belief is communication with the dead. If it exists, then obviously spiritualism has a very good claim to be a first-class religion, if not more. If the claim is fraudulent, then spiritualism would be as cruel a fraud as ever existed, deceiving man's deepest emotions.
Assuming that the dead exist and live on in a world beyond our physical world, it would be of the greatest interest to learn the nature of the secondary world and the laws that govern it. It would be important to understand "the art of dying," as the medieval esoterics called it, and come to a better understanding also the nature of this transition called death.
Having accepted the existence of a nonphysical world populated by the dead, we next should examine the continuing contacts between the two worlds and the two-way nature of these communications: those initiated by the living, and those undertaken by the dead.
Excerpted from Ghosts by Hans Holzer. Copyright © 1997 Apsera Ad Astra Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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