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Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon--Survival of Bodily Deathby Raymond A Moody
Synopses & Reviews
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.
Yet, despite all this interest it remains true that it is very difficult for most of us to talk about death. There are at least two reasons for this. One of them is primarily psychological and cultural: The subject of death is taboo. We feel, perhaps only subconsciously, that to be in contact with death in any way, even indirectly, somehow confronts us with the prospect of our own deaths, draws our own deaths closer and makes them more real and thinkable. For example, most medical students, myself included, have found that even the remote encounter with death which occurs upon one's first visit to the anatomical laboratories when entering medical school can evoke strong feelings of uneasiness. In my own case, the reason for this response now seems quite obvious. It has occurred to me in retrospect that it wasn't entirely concern for the person whose remains I saw there, although that feeling certainly figured, too. What I was seeing on that table was a symbol of my own mortality. In some way, if only pre-consciously, the thought must have been in my mind, "That will happen to me, too."
Likewise, talkingabout death can be seen on the psychological level as another way of approaching it indirectly. No doubt many people have the feeling that to talk about death at all is in effect to conjure it up mentally, to bring it closer in such a way that one has to face up to the inevitability of one's own eventual demise. So, to spare ourselves this psychological trauma, we decide just to try to avoid the topic as much as possible.
The second reason it is difficult to discuss death is more complicated, as it is rooted in the very nature of language itself. For the most part, the words of human language allude to things of which we have experience through our own physical senses. Death, though, is something, which lies beyond the conscious experience of most of us because most of us have never been through it. If we are to talk about death at all, then, we must avoid both social taboos and the deep-seated linguistic dilemmas, which derive from our own inexperience. What we often end up doing is talking in euphemistic analogies. We compare death or dying with more pleasant things in our experience, things with which we are familiar.
Perhaps the most common analogy of this type is the comparison between death and sleep. Dying, we tell ourselves, 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 Athenianjury.
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.
This same analogy is embedded in our own contemporary language. Consider the phrase "to put to sleep." If you present your dog to a veterinarian with the instruction to put him to sleep, you would normally mean something very different than you would upon taking your wife or husband to an anesthesiologist with the same words. 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 may be, 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 inlife 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.
First published in 1975, "Life After Life" presented more than 100 case studies of people who experienced "clinical death" and were revived. This anniversary edition features a new Introduction, a Foreword by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a new Preface by Melvin Morse, M.D., and a new bibliography.
In Life After Life Raymond Moody investigates more than one hundred case studies of people who experienced "clinical death" and were subsequently revived. First published in 1975, this classic exploration of life after death started a revolution in popular attitudes about the afterlife and established Dr. Moody as the world's leading authority in the field of near-death experiences. Life after Life forever changed the way we understand both death — and life — selling millions of copies to a world hungry for a greater understanding of this mysterious phenomenon.
The extraordinary stories presented here provide evidence that there is life after physical death, as Moody recounts the testimonies of those who have been to the "other side" and back — all bearing striking similarities of an overwelming positive nature. These moving and inspiring accounts give us a glimpse of the peace and unconditional love that await us all.
About the Author
Raymond Moody, MD, PhD, is a world-renowned author, lecturer, and psychiatrist whose seminal work, Life After Life, changed the way we view death and dying. He is widely acknowledged as the world's leading expert on near-death experiences.
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