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The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Deathby Julia Assante, Larry Dossey (Foreword by)
Knowledge of the afterlife can trigger dazzling transformations in body, mind, and spirit. It unleashes our authentic selves, radically resets our values, and deepens our sense of life purpose. From it we discover that the real nature of the universe is the very essence of benevolence. In this comprehensive work, Julia Assante probes what happens when we die,
Knowledge of the afterlife can trigger dazzling transformations in body, mind, and spirit. It unleashes our authentic selves, radically resets our values, and deepens our sense of life purpose. From it we discover that the real nature of the universe is the very essence of benevolence. In this comprehensive work, Julia Assante probes what happens when we die, approaching with scholarly precision historical and religious accounts, near-death experiences, and after-death communication. She then presents convincing evidence of discarnate existence and communication with the dead and offers practical ways to make contact with departed loved ones to heal and overcome guilt, fear, and grief.
* Winner of a 2013 Nautilus Gold Award in the category of grieving / death & dying
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“Social historian Assante, who is also a medium, has penned what may be the most important book on the enigma of death since the groundbreaking work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross....An outstanding read.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Throughout history, the fear of death has caused more suffering for human beings than all the physical diseases combined. You are holding in your hands the cure for this suffering. Some books transform lives. This one may transform a planet.”
Larry Dossey, MD, author of Healing Words and The One Mind
“A convincing glimpse of nonlocal reality, which may be the essence of our immortal being.”
Deepak Chopra, author of Spiritual Solutions and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
“The Last Frontier presents a brilliant combination of three categories of evidence for survival of consciousness after death the science, the history, and personal experience....Exceptionally well grounded and accessible, it offers an important contribution to our understanding of death, dying, and beyond.”
Dean Radin, author of The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds
“Unveils the afterlife as a realm of unlimited possibility, expanded awareness, and ineffable love.”
Dianne Arcangel, author of Afterlife Encounters and coauthor (with Raymond Moody) of Life After Loss
“Julia Assante helps us to approach death in ways that enlarge life, and to grow our ability to step between worlds and have timely and helpful contact with those who are living on the other side....She succeeds magnificently in a venture that is of urgent and essential relevance to all of us.”
Robert Moss, author of The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead and Dreaming the Soul Back Home
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The Last Frontier
Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming our Fear of Death
By Julia Assante
New World LibraryCopyright © 2012 Julia Assante, PhD
All rights reserved.
Can Survival after Death Be Proved?
The question of whether or not survival after death exists is an anomaly of modern times. To a large degree doubting survival or rejecting it altogether is the long-term result of the Enlightenment, when science began carving an identity for itself in opposition to religion. It took a few more centuries before scientists in the predominantly Christian West would dare to question an afterlife openly and even longer before they would adopt the stance of its being little more than religious drivel. Such a stance was tantamount to denying the existence of God and the central tenet of Christianity, the resurrected Christ. By the turn of the last century, the question of survival had become a legitimate and robust area of inquiry, preoccupying some of the most prominent scientists, scholars, and political figures of the time, from Nobel Prize–winning physicists to prime ministers.
By the dawn of the atomic age, the split between science and religion had become severe. Science 's chief distinction from religion was its reliance on materialist explanations for how reality works, in which spiritual forces, primarily divine will, play no role. A second major distinction was its refusal to consider survival after death, the linchpin of all religions. In those heady days of atomic bombs and sending men to the moon, scientists believed that they alone could uncover the true nature of the universe, promising rational explanations based on objectivity and proof rather than on religion's subjectivity and faith. Human nature, which is too untidy for pure science to objectively observe and mathematically describe, was left to the softer sciences. Even there, the materialist view seeped in. Archaeologists, for example, founded "New Archaeology." Although they still studied man-made cultures, they gave archaeology a scientific gloss by reducing the human saga to dreary strings of statistics and plotted climatic shifts. The cultural monuments of myth and ritual were treated like poison.
The notion of objectivity itself suffered a crushing blow when physicists discovered that the observer influences the outcome of tests at the most fundamental level of existence, the quantum level. Heinz Pagels, former president of the New York Academy of Sciences, stated, "There is no meaning to the objective existence of an electron at some point in space ... independent of actual observation. The electron seems to spring into existence as a real object only when we observe it.... Reality is in part created by the observer." Until observation, then, it is not a "real object"; it has no objective existence or location in space or time. It seems, then, that we live in a subjective universe that sits on the razor's edge of matter and nonmatter.
I would not argue, as some do, that spirituality is the province of religion rather than science. To me, spirituality and materiality are not opposites; both are manifestations of the inner workings of reality, the study of which belongs to everyone. There is plenty of room for the desanctification of spirituality, just as there is for the dematerialization of hard-core positivist views of reality. On the other hand, the idea that hard science should have the last word is popular, and many today look to it for unequivocal answers about survival after death. This odd expectation supposes that the afterlife can be proved as an abstract law of nature, perhaps formulated mathematically and discovered at work inside an atom or at the core of a dying star or hidden somewhere in the massive, brooding stew of dark matter. Yet no one would expect science to provide proof for other invisible, unquantifiable aspects of reality, such as love. Although love cannot be proved, few scientists would deny its existence.
So far evidence for survival has come from the softer sciences, psychiatry and psychology, as well as medicine and biology, with specific, potentially revolutionary hints in neurobiology, quantum biology, and genetics. Survival evidence has been steadily mounting over the past century, largely because of medical advances that allow for more resuscitations. There is also much more awareness among physicians, more and more of whom are admitting to a belief in life after death, and especially among hospice personnel, so that more phenomena involving near-death experiences and nearing-death awareness are recorded and better documented than ever before. In addition, technology and engineering play a significant role in documenting the presence of the dead in sound and image.
In part I, we will look at the evidence from a number of standpoints. First, we'll explore the now-defunct materialist view of the universe. Materialists are people who believe that if you can perceive something with the physical senses or at least measure it, it's real. If you can't, it's imaginary. Hence, the brain is real, but the mind is not. A person in a body is real, but one without a body is not. We will then move on to the more conventional routes taken in search of proof: near-death experiences, after-death communication, and reincarnation. Given that the evidence is mostly composed of individual, somewhat isolated phenomena that do not submit to the scientific criteria required for proof, objective observation and replicability, later in this chapter I will briefly define the slippery line between proof and evidence as well as the especially tough problems parapsychologists face. In the interest of "objectivity," all of part I is based on the findings of other researchers, not my own. My job in this section is to present the evidence and evaluate whether or not it meets the standards of proof.
Typically, proof of survival is held to standards that are rarely met in other areas of research, the hard sciences included. Much of what the hard sciences present as proven is more extrapolation from a set of effects than fact. If this and that are observed to happen, why they happen is deduced. From these deductions, a workable hypothesis is formed and then tested. We don't know for sure, for instance, if there was ever a Big Bang, that stunning first moment in no-space, no-time, when something infinitely smaller than an atom exploded into what 13.7 billion years later would become the universe; nor do we know whether wormholes or even black holes actually exist. There has been no direct observation of these cosmic identities. The assumptions that they do exist derive from a set of discernible conditions that can best be explained — in the current state of our knowledge — by a bang or hole. The sorts of things astrophysicists and nuclear physicists now consider as probable conditions of reality also include equally fantastic notions such as the God particle (the Higgs boson), the many-worlds interpretation, string theory with its eleven dimensions — some of them "compactified" so we don't see them — the zero-point field theory, and the hidden-worlds theory, which all read like the wildest science fiction and make any theory of postmortem survival look as dull as dishwater.
These theories derive primarily from quantum mechanics, a branch of physics that describes what goes on at the subatomic level. Most support the supposition that our dimension is constantly interacting with other dimensions whose existences are so far not directly detectable. And we're close to proving it! If you think I'm kidding, consider the newest baby on the block, and she is a genuine showstopper — an actual physical object called the quantum computer. Because the quantum computer is based on the many-worlds interpretation, it helps to know what that theory is. The many-worlds interpretation claims that for every subatomic event, the universe in which that event takes place splits to create a second universe. This ceaseless bifurcation of universes, each one as complete and as real as the one you perceive now, results in so many worlds that their total approaches infinity. We humans do not notice when we and our universe split any more than we realize that versions of ourselves exist in an astronomical number of these different dimensions at the same time. Furthermore, you can be alive in one universe and dead in another.
The many-worlds interpretation of reality, also called the multiverse interpretation, is today the most widely accepted among leading cosmologists, quantum field theorists, and other scientists, including such geniuses as Stephen Hawking and the Nobel laureates Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, and Steven Weinberg. Although it seems logical that the concepts of multiverses, parallel worlds, and other spacetime dimensions would rapidly lead to discussion about afterlife dimensions, no one has as yet stepped on that bridge, as far as I know.
Formerly, physicists thought that these other universes could not affect our own. But David Deutsch, a leading proponent of the theory, says they do so all the time. And it was he who thought up the quantum computer. At least for now, the computer need not contend with all the nearly infinite number of universes out there but deals with only 256 of them. So when you submit something to it for calculation, it will compute that calculation in 256 dimensions, meaning 256 different universes, on 256 different computers, simultaneously. Consequently, what could take a conventional computer many millions of billions of years to find out would take a quantum computer about twenty minutes. Theoretically, in the future it should be able to compute in 10 universes at once, that is, the number ten followed by five hundred zeros. Because the quantum computer is beginning to work, many scientists now believe that the multiverse interpretation is no longer just an interpretation of how reality works but a fact.
Since there is no law in physics that prevents time travel, some of the greatest minds in science are beginning to consider interaction between different time dimensions of past and future with the here and now. Because the multiverse theory, string theory, and the hidden-worlds theory specifically propose invisible, interactive dimensions adjacent to our own, they may very well lay the foundations for future investigation of that other, all-important dimension called the afterlife.
The zero-point field theory is leading to a new way of looking at communication. The old view was mechanical or chemical: subatomic particles and atoms attract or repel by virtue of forces, mainly electromagnetic; molecules, cells, and genes, by virtue of something like chemical hooks. Now some scientists think that what is really going on has to do with frequencies of quantum waves. These waves are believed to be spread out through time and space into infinity and to connect every point of the universe to all other points. Such a conceptual breakthrough is a prerequisite for the investigation of consciousness as well as telepathy, the existence of which has been proved ad nauseam in clinical trials. The notable systems scientist and philosopher Ervin László has dared to propose that the zero-point field is actually consciousness permeating our four-dimensional universe. He is not the only one in the sciences arguing that consciousness, not materiality, is the primary reality. All in all, these current theories seem to be preparing the way for scientific investigation of the afterlife.
Proof or evidence?
Does the evidence we have now from near-death experiences, after-death communication, and reincarnation constitute proof of survival? If we consider it objectively, what has been garnered so far does satisfy most scientific standards:
When considering a phenomenon, we can definitively state that something real is happening because of its effects.
We can extrapolate a finite number of hypothetical causes from these effects, most of which can be easily discarded as untenable.
Of the hypotheses that remain, the one that best and most elegantly explains all the observable effects of a given phenomenon turns out to be the existence of organized consciousness outside the realm of matter — in other words, life after death.
Unfortunately, deductions made by individual researchers from different fields have not been coordinated, nor are they individually or collectively considered sufficient reason to invest in a large-scale study of perhaps the most pressing issue we face in life. By contrast, we have invested some ten trillion dollars, the entire output of the nineteenth century, on developing the atomic bomb. We also have no problem sinking billions into the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator sponsored by several governments. Compare this high-level coordination and mind-boggling expense with the small-scale, uncoordinated, usually private and unfunded investigation of life after death.
Can science prove life after death? Absolutely. If only 0.1 percent of the money and expertise that went into the atomic bomb were available we would have that proof within a few years. The problem is really science 's ideology: there is no life after death. A scientist pursuing this line of investigation runs the risk of ridicule and loss of funding and even position.
Despite this, consciousness itself has become a big topic in many scientific circles, especially neurobiology. Symposia convene to discuss what it is and how it can be applied. In fact, the development of a conscious computer has already been thrown onto the table. One researcher has even combined living brain tissue with electronics in order to locate consciousness. Wouldn't it be better to study consciousness where it operates unhindered by matter — during manifestations of the dead? If my own body can register the presence of discarnates so dramatically, then surely science, especially the applied sciences, can come up with something sensitive enough to register nonrandom electromagnetic patterns in the atmosphere where an encounter is taking place.
Even if an instrument could reliably detect intelligence, we still have to find ways to distinguish the intelligence's identity from a personality, say, inhabiting one of the zillions of multiverses in which the dead still have no official existence. That means we have to communicate with it, get it to identify itself. This too has often been done, as you will find in the chapter on after-death communication (chapter 4).
Proof of identity presents a conundrum that we will look at fairly closely in the pages to come. If what a deceased person gives as proof of his or her identity can be verified by records or by testimony of the living, the fact that the sources of verification already exist in our world disqualifies the information. So, if I were to drop dead in the next few minutes and start communicating with you tomorrow, giving you my full name, the date and place of my birth, my professional publications, and my private particulars, such as while I was writing these very words I was sitting on a red velvet couch at a friend's house on the rue Daval in Paris with a dog named Lulu by my side, critics could throw it all out, because you, the receiver of this information, could have uncovered it by "normal" means, as unlikely as that might be. Others propose that you could come by the same information by less normal means, such as clairvoyance. You might have picked it up telepathically from the living, the dog perhaps or, better, her owner, and not from the dead. So whatever information already exists in our physical world is suspect, for it can be acquired either normally or psychically. Therefore it does not prove the existence of the dead. If, on the other hand, I were to tell you about my experiences in the afterlife, giving you information that does not exist in your physical present, there would be no way to verify it. Hence, it also is not proof. That's the conundrum. And critics love it.
Skeptics like to claim that because accounts of the afterlife as told by near-death survivors and the deceased differ from one another, they can't be true. The expectation of uniformity in the afterlife is naive, a by-product of the human need for reassurance. Fixed canonical versions of the afterworld are also necessary for religious leaders. How could leaders maintain authority if they waffled about what is to come? First of all, traditional conceptions of the afterlife are culturally constructed and change ceaselessly as society changes, even within the same religion, as chapter 6 explains. Secondly, what near-death survivors and the dead tell us about the afterlife varies according to the speaker's personal experience. Say you live on another planet with technology that enables you to communicate with various earthlings from different times and places. If one were to tell you about home in 70 BCE on the island that we now know as Manhattan and the other about home in 2084 ce Manhattan, it would be hard to believe they were talking about the same place. What if instead you were to speak with people in one time period but from different geographical areas, such as the Sahara, the Himalayas, the Amazon, and modern Manhattan? Which area would you designate as representative of Earth? The irreconcilable diversity might even lead you to believe that planet Earth is just a figment of the imagination.
Excerpted from The Last Frontier by Julia Assante. Copyright © 2012 Julia Assante, PhD. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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Meet the Author
Julia Assante, PhD, is both a mystic and a scholar. She has been a professional intuitive, medium, and past-life therapist for over four decades, offering workshops throughout the United States and Europe. Her accuracy in telepathy has been clinically tested at Columbia University. As a scholar, she has taught at Columbia, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Münster (Germany) and given talks at universities worldwide.
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For once, this author has really explored ALL aspects of the death process. From talking to people with near-death experiences to the doctors who explain what really hapenes to the body "at the end" to what religous scholors have to say about the afterlife, this book leaves no stone unturned in the quest for real anssers. A must read for all who wonder "Is hell real or can I really go to Heaven and what is the experience really like? I couldn't put it down!
This is not an easy summer read but well worth your time and thought. With the largest generation facing death, which I for one was sure would have had a cure by now, this book is a must. Ms Assante uses both science and annecdotal evidence to draw her picture of "the Last Frontier." This is a rich meal for the mind and soul. You read, digest and go back for more.
I want to share I am impressed with this book, The Last Frontier. My academic background (doctoral trained phenomenologist) and personal engagement with non-positivist approaches to studying phenomena (Tarot, Yi Jing), and recently engaged in developing my ability to contact guides or the recently departed, are similar to Julia Assante, which is why I choose this book among many of the current market offerings. Assante’s book opened a research pathway/approach I never seriously considered: the weaving of contemporary physics/astronomical constructs, the longitudinal perspective of the sociology of death, near-death experiences, and contact with the deceased. It was encouraging to read her work and to see someone who has melded disciplines, and successfully in my assessment, and transform the intuitive, experiential knowledge from anecdotal evidence into the rigors of academic inquiry and language. Though as Assante continually points out, there is still a lot of work to be done, and she acknowledges the possibility that future investigations might change her current understandings, she broached the topic of interdisciplinary research. This attitude has inspired me to delve deeper into the integration of the intuitive, experiential evidence with the rigors of the academic side of phenomenological investigations. My heartfelt thank you for Assante’s book and for her taking the risk to write this book, given her engagement with the academic communities. I also want to congratulate Assante from not descending into an obtuse, vague, uncritical, solipsistic monologue about contacting the deceased; and studiously avoiding and imitating the accepted “occult” versions of death and the deceased. As mentioned before, this is why I choose Julia Assante’s book.