The following is an excerpt from Making Sense of Nonsense by Dr. Raymond Moody —
Since 1965 I have interviewed thousands of people about their profound near-death experiences. In 1975 I published Life After Life, a book about my research, which sold more than twenty million copies all around the world, so I am known to the public mainly as a psychiatrist who studies life after death. Life after death is among the biggest questions of human existence, and many people take the subject very seriously, for it touches on strong, deep, heartfelt feelings that affect almost everybody. Why, then, they ask me, did you write this book about nonsense?
Nonsense and the idea of a life after death may seem far, far apart. In reality, however, you can’t have one without the other. Nonsense turns out to be the missing piece that always before blocked serious investigation of the afterlife. This book supplies the missing piece in the form of a new way of thinking about things that are nonsensical and unintelligible. Therefore, this book is also a major breakthrough on genuine rational inquiry into life after death. Let me explain.
When I was a child, my favorite subject was astronomy and my favorite authors were Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll. I spent lots of my free time gazing through a telescope and reading Alice in Wonderland and Horton Hears a Who. As a bud-ding astronomer, I soon realized that the universe we live in doesn’t make perfect sense. For instance, what size is the universe? Surely it comes to an end somewhere in some kind of wall. But doesn’t there have to be something on the other side of a wall? The only other possibility, though, seems to be that the universe goes infinitely into outer space, with no end, and that makes no sense either.
When I was about eight years old, I realized that we live enclosed in a shimmering sphere of unintelligible nonsense. Meanwhile, Dr. Seuss, Edward Lear, and Lewis Carroll convinced me that nonsense is something truly wonderful. We are not confined to saying meaningful things like “The dog is sleeping peacefully by the fire” or “This hat costs thirty dollars” or “The moon is 240 thousand miles from the earth.”
We can also say things like “Those five spumsy chaddlers almost plittered that little flifster into monunction” or “Holiness numerically sings the vestigial lipstick of spontaneity” or “That cannibal you men just ate was the last one in this county.”
When I was about twelve years old, I realized that there are different types of nonsense, which later turned out to be a pivotal realization that shaped my thinking about near-death experiences. It served me well when I went to college and majored in philosophy, too, for nonsense is a core concept of Western philosophy, especially modern analytic philosophy. It was as a philosophy major reading Plato that I first encountered near-death experiences.
Early Greek philosophers understood full well that people sometimes report spiritual experiences when they are revived from close calls with death. Plato wrote about the famous case of a soldier who apparently died in battle but spontaneously revived at his funeral. The soldier told amazed spectators that he had left his body and went through a passage-way into another world. Plato thought that such accounts indicated a transcendent world beyond death.
Another Greek philosopher, Democritus, thought differently about experiences like those. Democritus had figured out that things in the world are composed of minute, indivisible particles—atoms—that are too small to be seen. Democritus wrote that the experiences of people who recovered from apparent death were caused by residual biological activity in the body. He said that there is no such thing as a moment of death; dying is a process.
The debate about near-death experiences has not progressed much since then. Some claim that near-death experiences are evidence of life after death. Others claim that the experiences result from oxygen deprivation to the brain. This book explodes that old framework of debate by setting out an entirely new way of thinking. Specifically, this book solves the primary problem that previously prevented real advances toward answering the question of life after death.
David Hume (1711–1776) was a renowned philosopher who refined our concepts of causation and inductive rea-soning. His famous skeptical works helped shape what we know as the scientific mind. In an incisive analysis, Hume pinpointed the real problem of inquiring into the afterlife.Hume said (Essays and Treatises on Various Subjects, 226, 229):
By the mere light of reason it seems difficult to prove the Immortality of the Soul…
Some new species of logic is requisite for that purpose,
and some new faculties of the mind that they may enable us to comprehend that logic.
Hume was right. In reality, we can’t solve the afterlife problem with the logic we have and the mind we have. The logic you are using right now as you read this is based on literal meaning. In that logic, “There is life after death” is self-contradiction. After all, “death” just means “the final, irreversible cessation of life.” Hence, saying that “there is life after the final, irreversible cessation of life” is just meaning-less.
This book solves Hume’s problem by setting out a new logic—a logic of nonsense. Learning these new rational principles will actually activate previously hidden powers of your mind. At the end of this book, all these new logical principles and new powers of the mind will come together. Then we will be able to shine astonishing new light on life after death and other big questions of science and religion.
What do the whimsical writings of Dr. Seuss have in common with near-death experiences?
The answer is that nonsense writing and spiritual experiences seem to defy all logic and yet they both can make a powerful personal impact. In this book, New York Times bestselling author Dr. Raymond Moody shares the groundbreaking results of five decades of research into the philosophy of nonsense, revealing dynamic new perspectives on language, logic, and the mystical side of life. Learn more about Making Sense of Nonsense here.
Raymond Moody, M.D., Ph.D. is the bestselling author of eleven books which have sold over 20 million copies. His seminal work, Life After Life, has completely changed the way we view death and dying and has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.