What kind of Question is this? Are you Nuts? You might as well as ask a windy person, say, what’s the answer to: what’s the ultimate goal in life? why are we here? what’s the meaning of life? and so forth. Don’t you all find it rather Sisyphean to ask such question considering how all those before you weren’t able to find an “answer” to this intractable philosophical, theological inquire.
However, a bestseller book called “Life After Life” just might shed some dim light on this thousands-of-years old, corner-stone question to mankind, bring us closer to the “Holy Grail,” and give us more meaning, value, and hope to our everyday living.
“A man . . . hears himself pronounced dead by his doctor. He begins to hear an uncomfortable noise, a loud ringing or buzzing, and at the same time feels himself moving very rapidly through a long dark tunnel. After this, he suddenly finds himself outside of his own physical body . . . and sees his own body from a distance, as though he is a spectator. . . . Soon other things begin to happen. Others come to meet and to help him. He glimpses the spirits of relatives and friends who have already died, and a loving, warm spirit of a kind he has never encountered before—a being of light—appears before him. . . . He is overwhelmed by intense feelings of joy, love, and peace. Despite his attitude, though, he somehow reunites with his physical body and lives.”
This passage from Raymond Moody’s bestselling book Life After Life is a composite near-death experience. Near-death experiences are more common than one might suspect. Several investigators each interviewed a hundred or more people who had come close to death through physical traumas such as cardiac arrest. In each study, 30% to 40% of such patients recalled a near-death experience.
When George Gallup, Jr. (who contributed an essay to this volume) interviewed a national sample of Americans, 15% reported having experienced a close brush with death. One-third of these people—representing eight million people by Gallup’s estimate—reported an accompanying mystical experience. Some claimed to recall things said while they lay unconscious and near death.
Moreover, a near-death experience may change people in different ways than a drug trip. Those who have been “embraced by the light” become kinder, more spiritual, and more devout in their life-after-death belief. And even if the near-death experience is hallucinatory, might it not also be a genuinely mystical, authentic, and rare opportunity for spiritual insight? Skeptics reply that these effects stem from the death-related context of the experience. When near death, people worldwide often report intuitions of another world.