Is There Life After Death?

Is There Life After Death?

The following is excerpted from Life After Life, the international bestseller by Dr. Raymond Moody. Originally published in 1975, this seminal work introduced millions to the concept of life after death and has continued to draw new readers with the fascinating and powerful ideas contained within.  Learn more about the book here.

Sunset
Photo: Latrach Med Jamil
WHAT IS IT LIKE to die?

That is a question which humanity has been asking itself ever since there have been humans. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to raise this question before a sizable number of audiences. These groups have ranged from classes in psychology, philosophy, and sociology through church organizations, television audiences, and civic clubs to professional societies of medicine. On the basis of this exposure, I can safely say that this topic excites the most powerful of feelings from people of many emotional types and walks of life.

Perhaps the most common analogy…is the comparison between death and sleep. Dying, we tell our-selves, is like going to sleep. This figure of speech occurs very commonly in everyday thought and language, as well as in the literature of many cultures and many ages. It was apparently quite common even in the time of the ancient Greeks. In The Iliad, for example, Homer calls sleep “death’s sister,” and Plato, in his dialogue The Apology, put the following words into the mouth of his teacher, Socrates, who has just been sentenced to death by an Athenian jury.

[Now, if death is only a dreamless sleep,] it must be a marvelous gain. I suppose that if anyone were told to pick out the night on which he slept so soundly as not even to dream, and then to compare it with all the other nights and days of his life, and then were told to say, after due consideration, how many better and happier days and nights than this he had spent in the course of his life—well, I think that…[anyone] would find these days and nights easy to count in comparison with the rest. If death is like this, then, I call it gain, because the whole of time, if you look at it in this way, can be regarded as no more than one single night.’¹

Photo: Nathália Rosa

Others prefer a different, but related analogy. Dying, they say, is like forgetting. When one dies, one forgets all one’s woes; all one’s painful and troubling memories are obliterated. As old and as widespread as they maybe, however, both the “sleeping” and the “forgetting” analogies are ultimately inadequate in so far as comforting us is concerned. Each is a different way of making the same assertion. Even though they tell us so in a somewhat more palatable way, both say, in effect, that death is simply the annihilation of conscious experience, forever. If this is so, then death really doesn’t have any of the desirable features of sleeping and forgetting. Sleeping is a positive, desirable experience in life because waking follows it. A restful night’s sleep makes the waking hours following it more pleasant and productive. If waking did not follow it, the benefits of sleep would not be possible. Similarly, annihilation of all conscious experience implies not only the obliteration of all painful memories, but of all pleasant ones, too. So upon analysis, neither analogy is close enough to give us any real comfort or hope in facing death.

There is another view, however, which disavows the notion that death is annihilation of consciousness. According to this other, perhaps more ancient tradition, some aspect of the human being survives even after the physical body ceases to function and is ultimately destroyed. This persistent aspect has been called by many names, among them psyche, soul, mind, spirit, self, being, and consciousness. By whatever name it is called, the notion that one passes into another realm of existence upon physical death is among the most venerable of human beliefs.

Sunset
Photo: ekrem osmanoglu

In short, we am faced with two contrasting answers to our original question about the nature of death, both of ancient derivation, yet both widely held even today. Some say that death is annihilation of consciousness; others say with equal confidence that death is the passage of the soul or mind into another dimension of reality. In what follows I do not wish in any way to dismiss either answer. I simply wish to give a report on a search which I have personally undertaken…

My hope for this book is that it will draw attention to a phenomenon which is at once very widespread and very well-hidden, and, at the same time, help create a more receptive public attitude toward it. For it is my firm conviction that this phenomenon has great significance, not only for many academic and practical fields—especially psychology, psychiatry, medicine, philosophy, theology, and the ministry—but also for the way in which we lead our daily lives.

 

  1.  Plato, The Last Days of Socrates, trans. Hugh Tredennick (Baltimore: Penguin Books, toso), p. 75.

 

Read more in Life After Life.

 

Dr. Raymond Moody

DR. RAYMOND MOODY

Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D. is the world’s leading authority on the near-death experience. For nearly 50 years he has researched, interviewed, written and lectured on the subject of what lies beyond this life and what happens to those left behind.

He is also the bestselling author of eleven books which have sold over 20 million copies.

 

To read an except of another of Dr. Moody’s works, please see our previous post Past Lives and Living Again

 

Dr. Moody is available on a limited basis for private consultations — find more information HERE.

2 Comments

  1. Nancy Chakovan

    Dear Dr. Moody,
    In 1976 I opened a tiny second hand bookstore on St. Simons Island, in Georgia. Soon after I opened a small publisher, Mockingbird Books, the original publisher of Life After Life, moved in the back of the same building, and soon I was working mornings for them before opening my store……..answering mail, packing books etc.
    The mail was the most exciting part. I was in my mid 20’s, and the biggest doubter in the world about the subject of Life After Life, but I found your first two books both fascinating and somewhat convincing. But opening the mail…..oh my. Often there were 10 or more lengthy mostly hand written letters from all over the world……many sharing their very detailed personal life after life experience, and most also adding that they had never told anyone about it before, for fear of being thought crazy. Seeing these letters day after day completely convinced me of the experience, and truly changed my whole outlook on life. So thank you…..I have always felt a connection to you because of this experience.
    I loved working for John Egle and admired his sincerity and intelligence and his strange creativity and probably most, his open mind. A year or two after I started working for him we discovered we had the same birthday. He almost dropped everything he was carrying when we somehow realized this, and he said he should have known. Then he told me that it was also your birthday, and also Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s birthday too…….and she thought that the 3 of you had worked together in past lives. ……….. and here’s a funny side note to this. Elizabeth Kubler Ross came into my store (before I knew her birthday) and we immediately hit it off, way before I realized who she was ……we were just comfortably talking. So when she told me who she was I said I had to call John and let him know, for I knew he had never met her in person. He came down immediately . She couldn’t stay long, but they did have time for a very friendly talk for 20 minutes or so.
    John and his wife Mary moved out west, to Albuquerque I think, and we stayed in touch sporadically. A couple of years ago I wanted to get in touch with him again, and found he had moved to Kansa City, and then I found his obituary. When I saw it I thought, now he really knows, he really knows the truth or not of all this, and I hope his experience was as awesomely beautiful as the people who wrote you and told you their stories said. It makes me smile to think so.
    Bless you for all you’ve done.

  2. Peggy Peterson

    I have read Dr Moodys work since the first book in 1975 and it has made a mighty impact on my life and outlook ever since. Thank you for this post! I’m a disciple for life!

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