‘The undiscovered country?’

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn No traveller returns,

The title is taken from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in which he contemplates life and death and whether he is up to the task of avenging his father.

Shakespeare uses this passage to illustrate Hamlet’s confused state of mind as he ponders how, or even if, he can carry out this task. He is clearly not thinking straight because the play opens with him being visited by the ghost of his father and that is a return of sorts.

If Hamlet had read Plato he would have known of the story, recounted in the tenth book of The Republic, in which the warrior Er, killed in battle, returns to tell of the nature of the afterlife, and the consequent importance of wisdom and justice to the long-term health of the soul.

Many people over the years have taken Plato’s tale of Atlantis at face value and tried to establish the exact location of the famous city. “Atlantis discovered” is a regular headline in the press but it is curious that many believe the myth of Atlantis to be a true story and yet nobody, as far as I know, has tried to establish the veracity of the myth of Er.

Why is that? Are we so enthralled by Scientific materialism, the only valid belief system acceptable to the modern mind, that nobody dares to think the unthinkable – what if it were true?

In 1975 Dr. Raymond Moody, a psychiatrist, published this book called “Life After Life” He interviewed 150 people who had experienced what he called Near Death Experiences. (The book went on to sell more than 13 million copies) The conclusions drawn from the book suggest that the myth of Er was no myth.

Since that time many other medical professionals, particularly those who deal with cardiac arrest and other trauma, have made similar studies and reached similar conclusions. Cardiologist Dr Michael Saborn has written three books on the subject of which this is the first. In his books he gives many examples of people who have had a near death experience or NDE

One of the most famous cases is that of Pam Reynolds …

This has been the subject of much debate and pseudosceptics are particularly venomous in their attacks on Saborn and anyone else who accepts the possibility of the truth of the story.

Here is that story according to Wikipedia

And here is Pam Reynolds in her own words, after a short introduction by Saborn-
(The second part includes Saborn and others talking about the case)

One of the fiercest critics of this particular case is Gerald Woerlee but his web page doubting the Pam Reynolds story is no longer available.

His regular web page is here.

Others such as Michael Prescott or Ian Lawton take a more measured and open minded approach and come to different conclusions from those of Woerlee.

Dying on an operating table with all medical instruments indicating death and then being resuscitated is one thing but for the patient to then tell what happened to them during their ‘death’ is extraordinary.
But it happens and has happened frequently as this comprehensive resource shows.

Within that web site, Dr. Jeff Long decribes the typical NDE-

“NDEs are quite varied, but the consistency of the NDE elements (OBE experience, tunnel, light, meeting other beings, etc.) is striking. There is no plausible biological explanation of NDEs. There is no other human experience so dramatic, shared by so many people, and so relatively consistent in its elements. The preceding suggests faith in the validity of NDE accounts is the most reasonable conclusion from the evidence.”

The OBE or out of body experience is not new.

Here is St.Paul’s account of his visit to heaven (in 2Cor.12)

[1] It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
[2] I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
[3] And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
[4] How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Another account of a journey to the post-mortem world is found in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History in which he tells of Drythelm’s ‘death’ and awakening the following day.

And in this book, Dr. Carol Zaleski researches medieval NDEs and makes comparison with modern accounts.

“Dying is an integral part of life, as natural and predictable as being born. But whereas birth is cause for celebration, death has become a dreaded and unspeakable issue to be avoided by every means possible in our modern society. Perhaps it is that in spite of all our technological advances, we may be able to delay it, but we cannot escape it.

We, no less than other, non-rational animals, are destined to die at the end of our lives. And death strikes indiscriminately — it cares not at all for the status or position of the ones it chooses; everyone must die, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown.

Even good deeds will not exclude their doers from the sentence of death; the good die as often as the bad. It is perhaps this inevitable and unpredictable quality that makes death so frightening to many people.

Especially those who put a high value on being in control of their own existence are offended by the thought that they too are subject to the forces of death.”

[Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross]

Last word must go, as usual, to Hamlet/Shakespeare –

“There are more things in heaven and earth…….. than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

There is a great deal more to say about this, especially how research into the more bizarre aspects of quantum theory appear to validate the idea of reality being nothing more than an illusion, the implications of which are that life and death are illusions also.

Part2 will follow when I understand this……….

JD‘s profile and a list of his posts can be found in the left sidebar at this site.

2 comments for “‘The undiscovered country?’

  1. April 24, 2011 at 20:03

    This is a topic, JD, which will make many run a mile but if there was ever a day to run it, it was Easter Day. There’s something there. I can’t define it, not having died and yet it needs to be looked at and thought about.

  2. April 25, 2011 at 00:19

    There is a lot to be explored but that is only possible if people keep an open mind and are not blinkered by there current understandings.

    “There are more things in heaven and earth…….. than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Yes… when people open their mind, what they see can be quite challenging.

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