Millennial Hospitality

Wow! I hardly know where to begin! The book, Millennial Hospitality, is an astounding story! Written by former US Airforce weather observer Charles James Hall, it details his few years spent at the USAF Desert Center Air Base in Nevada.

During his time there in the 1960′s he encountered extraterrestrial beings who were using the Nevada desert as a base, coming and going on a regular basis. But he was not told initially that he would encounter these beings. He found out only by hearsay that former weather observers stationed there had had terrifying encounters with something out on the ranges where they had to go to make their weather observations.

A long time after his years out there in the desert, the author began to record his experiences. He mainly was doing this to provide an account for his own children. When his wife discovered that he was writing these stories down, and began reading them, she insisted that he get them published. The couple decided to self-publish these stories. So far they have five books printed.

These stories are well-told; they are gripping accounts of the initial terror he experienced when encountering the unknown. They are written in very simple language. Reading them is like reading perhaps junior-high level writing. But they are entirely gripping stories, well-worth reading. The only criticism I have is that they are a bit hard to access. My local library had no copies. I had to order this first book online; I will order subsequent books as I finish them.

I heard about these books from an interview the author had on the Coast to Coast AM radio program. George Noory, the host of this overnight program, had also enlisted a person who specialized in debunking alien encounter stories. After the interview with Charles Hall, she said he was entirely authentic. There was nothing in his story which caused her to doubt him.

This first book is published as fiction. After hearing the interview with him, and the subsequent discussion, this surprised me a bit. But I suppose he might have to pose these stories as fiction in order to evade security concerns, I don’t know. He stated that he had received no restrictions on writing down what he experienced at Desert Center. Nothing he learned was classified in any way. I guess publishing them as fiction also allows readers to just enjoy the stories for what they are, and not have to try and get their heads around what incredible accounts these are.

This first book details his growing exposure to these alien creatures. At first he refused to believe what he was experiencing. He was somewhat terrified by these encounters as had been his predecessors. He kept putting them off as mental apparitions. “I’m just seeing things out in the desert in the middle of the night.” But the longer he was there, the more he began to realize that there was something very real about these beings.

Because he treated these visions as not real, and didn’t freak out about them, he had more of them, over a longer time period, than had his predecessors. And the fact that he did not overreact, or try to attack the aliens, they began to respect him and their encounters with him. He began to get orders from the Pentagon in Washington to allow these encounters. Apparently these beings had reasons for wanting human encounters. And they had agreements with high-level military regarding these.

Because this first book deals only with the very initial encounters, I am very anxious to read more. I know from his interview that he discovered a whole lot of interesting things about how these aliens live, how their societies are structured, family dynamics, and so on.

This is certainly the most detailed account I have encountered about alien beings. I have absolutely no trouble believing they are among us. I am fascinated in discovering details about them, and want to know more!!

I highly recommend these books to anyone with similar curiosity.

Eagles

Saw an eagle soaring high over the city yesterday! A sign of spring? I don’t know whether there are any eagles wintering in Calgary.

But watching this majestic bird soaring brought incredible feelings of hope to me! And it caused me to think of a dream I had quite some years ago involving an eagle. In the place my wife and I were in at that time, we phrased this dream as receiving eagle medicine. I viewed the eagle as my totem. It was a way in which the Creator spoke to me. It was a way to get in touch with some of my spiritual qualities.

Eagle medicine speaks of nobility, of integrity, of seeing big pictures, of seeing the big picture.

If I find my journal account of the dream I will share it here. But right now I want to share one other encounter with an eagle. It happened close to the time I received the dream. I was on a trip, driving solo to Washington to visit family. On highway 22 south of Calgary there is a very slight pass which the highway crosses. As I drove up this pass, rain turned to wet snow. Near the top it was almost white-out conditions. Driving quite slowly for safety, I had a brief glimpse of a bald eagle flying very near the ground, swooping toward the highway and my car, and then up and out of sight into the driving snow. This happened so quickly and was over so fast that I had to doubt what I saw. But the more I thought about it, the more certain I was that I had seen, for a second or two, an eagle! It had appeared almost headless, due to the white colour of its head. This distortion contributed to my confusion and doubt over what I had seen. But when I realized that I would not have seen its head clearly, due to its colouring, I realized that I actually had glimpsed an eagle.

Would an eagle have been out flying in a blinding snow storm? I do not know much about their habits. But this snow was quite localized. It had been rain until the road rose toward the pass. Perhaps the eagle had been pursuing some prey and flew briefly into the snow.

And of course, I believe that the eagle was sent to appear to me for my own encouragement! This was a heavenly vision sent to me as a gift. And I continue to be truly grateful for this wonderful gift. It has stayed with me for many years.

Ruthie Foster

My goodness!! Went to hear this little Texas girl with the big voice the other night. I have heard her gospel/blues renditions three or four times in the past few years. And every time is awesome! Ruthie has such a big, big voice I can hardly believe it every time I hear her. As my wife says, it’s like her voice comes right up out of the earth and exits through her mouth.

She ended her concert the other night with a long-time favourite, “Death Came Knockin’”. The chorus of this song is, “Hallelujah! Done, done my duty!” Sounds to me like an acknowledgement of someone who has come to earth to accomplish certain things, and is aware of that fact. When it comes time to die, they just buckle up their shoes and get on with it! I done, done my duty. I have accomplished what I came here to do. Hallelujah! I can let go of this life, and get back to my natural home.

I love the concept! That is certainly how I view life, our earthly life. We come here to do some thing, some task. When it is done we can be released of this life, strip off this body like a wetsuit, and return to where we belong.

And Ruthie Foster captures that idea in her signature song.

I urge anyone reading this: if you ever have a chance to go see this woman in person, do it! Do not hesitate for a moment! She is worth hearing, especially in person. She is an amazing presence on stage. Her voice is unparalleled. Truly entertaining!

Zealot

Efforts have been made by scholars for over two millennia to pare away the pious stuff in the Bible and get at the true nature and life of Jesus. This author makes yet one more try at doing that. And does a credible job, one which is an entertaining read.

Zealot: the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan, 2013, is the full name of the book and author.

One of the ways in which Aslan makes the book quite readable is to not footnote everything. He then has a copious notes section at the back of the book which those interested readers can check for sources, other viewpoints, or for further research. Indeed, his book seems extremely well researched. He seems to have taken into account many divergent viewpoints in coming up with his own version of events.

I greatly appreciated this feature of the book (no footnotes), although I must not have paid much attention when beginning to read. I was caught by surprise at the extensive notes! 54 pages worth! But it certainly made the book a more flowing read; it was quite a pleasure, actually.

I certainly did not find myself agreeing with all of Aslan’s points. Thinking back over the book, I would say the point I most strongly disagreed with is that of Jesus being a mostly poor, likely illiterate, peasant labourer from Nazareth. From things I have been reading more recently the picture is emerging of Jesus being fairly well-educated, learning from scholars in Egypt, perhaps India, including Greek and Hebrew scholars closer to home. Being a carpenter, Joseph likely was fairly well-to-do for his place and time.

But there was much, much to like in this book. (And I must say that I don’t read only books that I agree with!!!) One is the overall picture of life in first-century Palestine. The author lays out in very readable, entertaining ways the multitude of forces at work at that time. It certainly gives me a much clearer idea of what life was like for Jesus when he was growing up, and for the people around him.

Another feature of the book I appreciated was the image of James the Just, brother of Jesus. James became leader of the believers in Jerusalem. He was killed around 62 C.E., for disputes with the priestly rulers of the temple. James very much seems to have carried on Jesus’ message and been an able leader of the earliest church.

He also is the most likely author of the epistle of James in the Bible. Reza Aslan says, “That would make James’s epistle arguably one of the most important books in the New Testament. Because one sure way of uncovering what Jesus may have believed is to determine what his brother James believed.” (p 204). Some points where Jesus and his brother agree is, 1) the “. . . passionate concern with the plight of the poor”, in James’s epistle. 2) Another point is James’s “. . . bitter condemnation of the rich.” (p 204). 3) Jesus and James also seem to be “. . . in agreement [over] the role and application of the Law of Moses.” (p 205). “The primary concern of James’s epistle is over how to maintain the proper balance between devotion to the Torah and faith in Jesus as messiah.” (p 206).

While Peter is often held up as the primary leader of the first Church, James almost certainly deserves that title. There is no evidence of Peter ever being a leader of the Church in Jerusalem. It was not until after his move to Rome that Peter became recognized as a Church leader. So, while James was the leader in Jerusalem, Peter was becoming the leader in Rome. Of course, once Jerusalem was destroyed and its inhabitants scattered, James’ role, and that of his successors, diminished, and Rome gradually came to be seen as the center of the Church.

Fascinating stuff! As I said above, an articulate picture of the earliest days of the Church emerged from reading this book.

One of the most powerful moments for me in reading this book came in the Author’s Note at the beginning. Reza Aslan explains how he found Jesus as his Saviour at the age of 15. Born into a lukewarm Muslim home in California after being displaced from their native Iran,

“. . . our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God. That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980′s being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.

Jesus, on the other hand, was America. He was the central figure in America’s national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American. (p xviii).

He became very evangelical and fervent in his new-found faith. In college, however, as happens to so many of us, he began to have doubts about the biblical account. Initially, “. . . like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying.” (p xix). As he continued academic work in religious studies he found himself increasingly drawn to the life of the historical Jesus. So now, in addition to discovering some life in the Muslim faith of his forefathers, he also finds himself fascinated with the life of Jesus. “. . . two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ. My hope with this book is to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.”     (p xx).

What really touched me in his Note was that Reza Aslan travelled such a similar path to my own. The only difference is that what took him probably five years or less, has taken me four decades to realize! Along with Aslan I find myself increasingly questioning the biblical stories and more and more attempting to model my spiritual life on that of Jesus himself. Jesus is worthy of following; the Church’s portrayal of him not so much.

I encourage anyone interested in the earliest bases of the Christian faith to read this book. It is certainly enlightening.

Oh, those fundamentalists!!

Awhile back I was having a good conversation with a friend of mine who I would describe as a conservative, evangelical Christian. I am sure that he put me in a similar category, at least until I made some sort of comment about no longer taking the Bible as my primary source of truth. “WHAT?!!!”, he practically shouted in reply!

And having grown up in a conservative religious environment, I readily understand his reply. But the way I used to view scriptures is no longer adequate for me. And for a number of reasons.

And the main reasons for this switch are taken from the Bible itself! My most recent epiphany is the example of Jesus. Where did Jesus get his “truth”? How did he hear God speaking? What was Jesus’ claim to authority for the things he taught? Jesus certainly knew the scriptures. He was able to engage the scriptural experts in their debates. The Bible contains a story of him amazing some of those experts at a young age with his wisdom and grasp of scriptural truth.

Another reason is the biblical assertion that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, that he does not change. If that is actually true, why do we think he no longer speaks to us like he did 2000 years ago? Did he cease speaking with the publication of the scriptures?

The Hebrew scriptures were written down in their present form approximately 500 years BCE. Prior to this, there was undoubtedly some form of written scripture, certainly including the “law”, and probably including all or most of the first five books of what Christians refer to as the “old” testament. The word of God came primarily, in those days, through the mouths of prophets. Through Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the other prophets whose words have been preserved in scripture, God was speaking.

Once all these scriptures were gathered together into one document, and written down and copied from generation to generation, the words of the prophets mostly dried up. We have very little record of God speaking during the 500 years between the writing down of the Hebrew scriptures and when Jesus appeared on the scene.

What had grown up instead was a tradition of debating, studying, learning, and teaching those scriptures. This pattern was very well established by the time Jesus came around.

After the time of Jesus there was another time period of documents being written down to preserve the teachings of Jesus and the events of his life and those of his earliest followers. This time period of writing began around 2-3 decades after Jesus’ life and lasted till about 7-8 decades after. This time period holds true for those documents which were eventually included in the Christian scriptures, a decision that occurred some 3 centuries after the events of Jesus’ life. There were many documents written during these 300+ years which were not included in the Bible we have today. And indeed, even that decision was not unanimously accepted, either at the time, or later. As late as the 1500′s, the time of the protestant reformation, there was still some debate occurring about which writings should or should not be included in the Bible.

And the debate continues! Did God cease speaking when the scriptures were finalized into the form we have in the Christian Bible today?

Every time a question arises about truth, the biblical ones among us immediately ask whether it agrees with the Bible. There seems to be a sense that a danger exists if a new idea does not agree.

All my life, lived in a church setting and hearing countless sermons and bible studies, I have heard the call to follow Jesus. Be obedient to God and his word. Don’t hold back in living the life of a Christian.

Well, I must ask myself, what happens if following Jesus, God, his word, leads me into areas that conflict directly with the scriptures? Do I follow God, or do I follow the Bible? How do I reconcile this discrepancy?

Several principles seem applicable here: number one is that I think that the conflict does not occur with scripture itself. I believe that it occurs only in the way scripture is being interpreted. So if something I say seems to go against what scripture says, ask yourself whether it actually, really does, or whether my “truth” is only another way to see the scripture. My own thinking on this matter is that if I encounter a truth which does not fit with what scripture is saying then it must be my understanding of the Bible which is suspect. It may not fit with the way scripture is being interpreted by organized religion but if my experience of truth is firm and sure then I have to question how scripture is being taught.

Another principle is that of being obedient. If I am a true follower of Jesus, am I not to follow his example of taking my cue for truth from my relationship with God’s Spirit as did Jesus? How many times does scripture record Jesus as spending time in solitude? Never is there evidence that he carried with him a copy of the Bible and used it to reference his teachings, the wisdom he was passing on to his followers.

Another principle is that of trust. Do I really trust God? Or do I expect him to lead me into falsehood and deception? Looking at the way I discerned truth in my more fundamentalist days I see myself as having put a whole lot of trust in my intellect and in the intellect of those around me. So much of what I lived was what I figured out from scripture as being truth, or what teachers and writers I “trusted” were expounding as being truth. If it made sense to me then I incorporated it into my belief system.

Therefore a large part of the shift within myself that I sense happening, is that of moving from a world formed largely from my mind, to one formed more from my heart.

I feel completely safe on the path I am following. I trust God implicitly and completely. I believe he would never lead me astray. I am not impulsive. That is, I do not immediately jump into new ways of living and believing without a lot of contemplation and prayer. I am careful about what I do, how I live, what I believe in. This caution has meant long years of struggling with new ideas. It has meant that my own spiritual journey has been a long and arduous one. I don’t always know whether this cautious approach to life has been good or not! But I am reassured that I am on a good path. And I accept that this is part of my personality, it is part of who I am, so why fight it?

I see others who are much quicker to accept new ideas and move into them without as much caution. I admire these folk. But this is not me. It has taken me decades to move to the point in my life I find myself. Some move into similar places in a matter of years or months. And that is okay with me. I think that the way the world is evolving we will find more and more people moving quicker and quicker into new understandings of truth. I do not mind that. In my mid-sixties, I have greatly enjoyed my life and the spiritual path I have walked thus far. I can only imagine that the path ahead will continue to be as exciting, as exhilarating, as I have experienced to date.

May the dialogue continue!!!!

Held Hostage

I just finished reading a most remarkable story. It is published under the title, A House in the Sky. Written by Amanda Lindhout, it is her story of being held hostage for over a year in Somalia.

Amanda grew up in Alberta, so it adds interest to read about landmarks with which I am familiar. And the story is incredibly well-written. It is a fabulous job of storytelling. It reads like a suspense novel; so much so that at times it was difficult to believe that someone actually underwent the horrendous experiences being related.

Amanda does not dwell on the horror; she rather allows the reader to experience it from a distance. In fact, the means Amanda used to retain her sanity and her spirit is demonstrated by the book’s title. She was able to build a “house in the sky” in her mind, one attempt at maintaining her will to live and her incredible spirit. Though she understandably considered suicide while in the depths of the brutality, she was able to develop the ability to remove her mind from the horrors of her situation and maintain some semblance of sanity and psychological health.

And the book is not at all bleak or only dark. The first half of the book deals with her craving to travel and experience the world. She grew up in a very dysfunctional family, but came out of that environment with a zest for life. She wanted to experience the wider world, and set about to do that. She would waitress in high-end bars and restaurants, earning high tips, which she diligently saved for her travels. While working she would research places to go, and gather her travel resources.

Then she would quit her job, and go! After a few years of this she began to develop her skills for writing and photographing her travels, selling her stories freelance. This is what eventually took her to Somalia. She and another journalist were kidnapped and held for over 400 days, beaten, tortured, treated very brutally by Muslim extremists.

And most incredibly, Amanda came out of this experience with her spirit whole. In fact, she has established an organization to help educate women and children in Africa, and returns there frequently to oversee this effort. I was quite blown away by how mentally healthy she was after coming through this absolutely horrific experience.

I highly recommend this book. Read it and be encouraged by the strength of the human spirit! This book is a real page-turner, holding the reader’s interest right through to the end.

What If . . .

I recently finished reading a book by Shirley MacLaine, called, What If . . . : A Lifetime of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses, and a Few Things I Know for Sure. I found this to be a delightful read. Fairly light, compared to lots of what I read. But Ms MacLaine asks a lot of the same questions I live with. And speculates on a lot of the same things I do.

Shirley MacLaine muses on a broad spectrum of topics. From her career in Hollywood to celebrities she has known, politics to the mundanities of life, from religion to spirituality, she asks “what if . . .” She is non-judgmental, light-hearted, irreverent at times, thought-provoking.

I quite enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone wanting a lighter look at what this world and life are all about.

Soul Regression stories

Oh man! This is a post which brings together numerous threads in my life! I will begin with getting some regrets out of the way! This is a review of a book edited by Michael Newton, whose other books helped propel me on my own journey of transformation and new understandings of truth. I read his other two books (his two main ones) before beginning this website, always intending to review those books online at some point. Months ago I actually began a review of them, but never finished; they still sit on the shelf above my computer desk! (For interested readers, the names of those two Michael Newton books are, Journey of Souls, and Destiny of Souls.) In those books Dr Newton outlines his life’s work in the field of soul regression hypnotherapy. He includes many case studies to illustrate the profound healing found by so many through this therapy.

The subject of this particular review is a further book titled, Memories of the Afterlife: Life-Between-Lives, Stories of Personal Transformation. The book consists of case study stories by members of the Newton Institute, trained in the methods pioneered by Michael Newton. Dr Newton edits the book, inserting notes about each of the cases presented.

As with Michael Newton’s work, these stories illustrate the deep transformation that often accompanies a soul regression experience. The stories are absolutely phenomenal! Anyone with the least bit of interest in this field will be well served by searching out a copy of this book and perusing it.

There are a wide variety of types of cases, undergone by a wide variety of types of people. People from all walks of life, at all stages of emotional and spiritual maturity, with all sorts of presenting problems, receive deep healing and insight into themselves and their state in life. Insight from not only past-life regression, but especially from between-lives regression creates a lasting impression, propels one along the journey of life. People who find themselves stuck in some way in their own search for answers often find incredible growth from the knowledge and experience provided by soul regression hypnotherapy.

An interesting sidelight: the therapist with whom I did my initial soul regression sessions is featured as one of the authors of this book! Rifa Hodgson of Vancouver is the person whom I sought out after first being exposed to the idea of soul regression. (Readers interested in my own journey in this regard can get more information in the Out of Winkler section of this website, especially chapters 13, 14 and 15.)

Since there is so much information on the incredible transforming power of soul regression hypnosis available today, I am going to focus the remainder of this review on an idea Michael Newton touches on right at the end of Memories of the Afterlife. This is a question I have pondered myself, and had not come up with satisfactory answers.

The question involves the possibility that by getting involved in this field we are somehow “playing god”. Is the information gleaned from these experiences truly helpful in the long run to the clients? What is the bigger picture at work here?

One of the bits of information discovered through decades of soul regression hypnosis sessions with thousands of clients, therapists have discovered a lot about how the afterlife actually is. This information, these glimpses into the afterlife, are experienced truth, not just beliefs formed from whatever sources. The many sessions from many people have provided Dr Newton and his colleagues a very consistent picture of what the spirit world looks like, how it operates, the experience we can expect upon our earthly death. (By the way, this is not always consistent with prevailing doctrine from organized religion!)

One of the bits of information which has been discovered is that when we are born into this world, we undergo a sort of amnesia. We forget our spiritual origins; we forget our true home, our true nature. Prior to incarnating upon earth, we undergo a process of decision making involving what sort of life we are entering, what sort of tasks we are undertaking to learn during this particular life-time. Included in this decision are the particulars of where, when and to whom we will be born.

During a soul regression session these details are often uncovered. We are often taken through the decision-making process we experienced prior to being born into our current life. Dr Newton asks the question, “If amnesia exists at birth to block our soul life on a conscious level, are we not tampering with a divine ethical plan by using hypnosis to break these blocks?” (p 310)

I myself have undergone training to become a soul regression hypnotherapist. As part of the training, of course, I have done a number of practicum sessions on willing guinea-pig clients. Most of these have been phenomenal experiences, both for me and for the client. “Wow!!!” is a frequent initial response when bringing a client up out of hypnosis. It is absolutely impossible to imagine how wonderfully transforming such a session can be, without actually going through it for yourself.

But I have also experienced a couple sessions where I seriously questioned the benefit the client received. They were not entirely satisfactory experiences, either for myself, or for the client. These few sessions are what caused me to ask myself the questions posed by Dr Newton in this footnote. Was I “playing god” by seeking to guide these clients into an experience of their own afterlife existence? Was my lack of success an indication that I shouldn’t be messing with this sort of thing? As a result I radically backed off from offering these sessions to the public. I wanted to know whether soul regression was “okay” with the divine, whether this was a helpful form of growth and insight for people, whether my own involvement was something to question, whether I was doing it “right”, whether I needed more training to be more effective, etc.

Thus it was with a sense of relief that I read that Michael Newton himself has asked himself similar questions. And his answers to this dilemma are what I myself had pretty much come to, even if in a questioning way! Was my line of reasoning correct? Was I seeing things accurately, was I getting the big picture, the whole issue?

The answer, you see, has to do with the actual nature of the hypnosis sessions. When we as therapists guide our clients into their regressive state, our main involvement is in the guiding. Once our client has been led into a state of deep relaxation, into a state-of-mind where they are able to connect with their deepest memories, it is almost as if we step aside and allow the spirit guides and counsellors to take over and lead the session from there. We are not in charge. The client, together with their own spirit guides and wise ones, seek out the information the client needs in order to live their current life. Which truths of their spiritual nature they experience, and their place in the heavenly scheme of things, depends on what they need to know for their current material life. “If we are not supposed to know about these truths, no amount of hypnosis, meditation, channeling, etc, could remove these blocks. In my view, each person in a deep altered state of consciousness sees what they are supposed to see as determined by their personal guides. Some people are more blocked than others, depending on [various] factors.” (p 310) This has been my own experience both as a client and as a therapist. I agree heartily.

Another factor is raised by Dr Newton, perhaps more of a question for us to ponder. “Why are amnesic blocks about our afterlife lessening in the twenty-first century from the use of advanced methodological discoveries in hypnosis? We live in a world more overpopulated today than ever before, resulting in a diminished identity of the individual. Add to this the greatest prevalence of chemical dependency of all time. Drugs cloud the progress of the soul. Perhaps this is the reason our guides and spiritual masters are allowing more information to be released about our spiritual past than ever before in human history.” (p 310)

I would go along with this, and even further. I believe that there is a great spiritual transformation taking place upon the earth. And I believe that soul regression is one of the manifestations of this. Millions of people on the planet are awakening to their true nature as spiritual beings. Soul regression is one way this transformation is taking place.

Isn’t this an exciting and fascinating time to be alive? Even more, isn’t this why those of us alive on earth today agreed to come at this particular time, and to the particular place where we were born and raised? Out of Winkler indeed!!!!

 

Reunions

Old friends,

Old friends

Sat on their park bench like bookends;

Newspaper blowin’ through the grass

Falls on the round toes

Of the high shoes

Of the old friends.

 

Can you imagine us years from today

Sharing a park bench quietly?

How terribly strange to be seventy.

 

Old friends,

Memory brushes the same years,

Silently sharing the same fear. . .

 

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was,

A time of innocence,

A time of confidences.

Paul Simon

During the past while, I have had numerous experiences of reconnecting with old friends, friends dating back to disparate times of life, and different places.

These visits have been very interesting, at several levels! There are many wonderful memories, of course. We have shared life very intensely at times with a great variety of wonderful people.

But these visits have caused me to consider some things about life. While we share life with people, especially when we share life intensely, we are exposed to the same things; similar ideas shape our experience. We share ideas, thoughts, beliefs, events. We bounce our reactions off each other. We grow together, change together. Even if we do not always agree on things, we are still being shaped together by our environment.

Then comes a parting of ways, whether geographically or ideologically.

Coming together again after many years can sometimes be jolting! We discover that we have grown in different directions than our friends have. They’ve experienced different environments than we. These varying environments have shaped each of us in different ways. We have been exposed to different ideas, from different sources. Even the same global events can be viewed very differently from varying perspectives. We form different opinions. The choices we make in life can be very disparate.

I have experienced several of these reunions, with varying reactions. Sometimes it seems as if we old friends have grown so radically different that there is no basis upon which to reunite in any sort of happy way. Or we may be able to relate to each other, and visit with each other, but must necessarily avoid certain subjects upon which we have diverged.

With other friends it seems there is a restoration of the closeness of friendship, despite obvious differences of ideology. We can accept each other, even knowing that we disagree on some core issues. We can once again visit together, share ideas, discover the other’s path over the intervening time, and learn from each other.

And then there are other friends who we discover have also grown. Their growth path may be different than ours, but there is evidence of flowering and change. And there is a recognition that we are more similar than we are different; it takes little effort to reconnect as we did of old.

What do these various types of reunions say about life? How much are we products of our environments?!! What causes some to get “stuck” in old ways of being, living, thinking, and believing? What happens to inquiring minds along the paths of life? Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way?

Most importantly, how do we view each other? Do we accept the other, even when they may be in a radically different space? Do we attempt understanding? Or do we try to change their minds, get them to think “rightly” (presumably meaning think and believe like we do!)? Are we open to where they have gone in their own thinking and faith? Do we attempt to learn from them? Do we attempt to listen to what Spirit is saying to us through them? Or do we hunker down into our own “right” thinking and believing?

I don’t necessarily have answers to all these questions! But I think it is important to keep them in mind, maintain an open mind, as we encounter old friends and reconnect. These words are merely a reflection of my own experience this past year. I still haven’t figured out all the reunions; I am mulling over many of them. Other reunions have provided delightful new memories!

Paul Simon, one of the preeminent poets of my generation, penned the words of the song, Old Friends on the Bookends album oh so many years ago. It is remarkable that he was able, at a young age, to articulate what it feels like to age, and to get old alongside friends. He is now experiencing “. . . how terribly strange to be seventy!” And I am nearly there! How many more “old friends” will I encounter in the coming years?

Long ago it must be,

I have a photograph;

Preserve your memories,

They’re all that’s left you.

Raymond Moody

It was with tremendous fascination that I read Dr Raymond Moody’s first book, Life After Life, stories of near-death-experiences (NDE’s). Published in the mid-seventies, this book was absolutely ground-breaking, in society, but also in my own life. It started me down the path to exploring the truths about the afterlife. These initial (for me) truths were provided by those who had experienced death and come back to tell about it. Dr Moody had documented hundreds, if not thousands, of peoples’ NDE’s. The utter consistency of these experiences was compelling. I had no doubt whatsoever about the veracity of their reports. Thus began a life-long interest in NDE’s. Although I would not describe myself as obsessed with these accounts, I did avidly read them whenever I encountered them.

So when I heard about a subsequent book written by Raymond Moody, I had to check it out! His new book, Glimpses of Eternity: Sharing a Loved One’s Passage from this Life to the Next, 2010, narrows its vision to one aspect of NDE’s, people who experience part of someone else’s NDE. Almost always this is a loved one accompanying the person who is dying. As the person’s body expires, sometimes there are mystical elements associated with this transition.

Again, as with his first book, Dr Moody is collecting stories of what he has come to call “shared death experiences”. And he documents the common elements of these experiences. No one person has experienced all seven of the common elements,           but “. . . a person having a shared death experience will most likely have a few of them–or perhaps even only one.” (p 76).

These seven elements are: change of geometry, mystical light, music and music sounds, out-of-body experience, co-living a life review, encountering unworldly or “heavenly” realms, mist at death. Moody expands on each of these, sharing many stories of people who experienced these various things.

In addition to telling many stories of shared death experiences, Moody also discusses this phenomenon in historical literature. He supposes these experiences (including NDE’s) have occurred all through history, but only recently has there been an effort to document them in any sort of systematic way.

One fascinating conclusion Dr Moody has come to through this study of shared death experiences is that they offer much more concrete proof of an afterlife than do NDE’s. There were many who, upon being exposed to the phenomena of NDE’s, were quick to explain them away as “. . . hallucinations, a phenomenon tossed up by biochemical and electrical failures in the dying brain.” (p 72). He discusses this as a safety net for those unable to accept something so radically different from their accepted belief system.

“However, shared death experiences do not offer any such safety net. . . . these people were not dying or even sick, an obvious fact that throws a major monkey wrench into the standard way of debating this highly important issue.” (p 72,73). In addition, NDE’s could be explained away as being one person’s experience, and thus subjective. Shared death experiences, on the other hand, were shared experiences, and not so easily shuffled aside.

Moody admits to being mystified by these experiences he has collected and documented. “There is no settled language to explain these experiences. But nonetheless they exist. It is as if the other side somehow opens up and invites us to take a closer look.” (p 73). Being mystified is not a negative, in Moody’s eyes. “I think it is good for mankind to have a hearty dose of the unexplained.” (p 165). These experiences are life-changing for those who undergo them. And while there is an inbuilt mechanism demanding explanations, it is good for us to have mystery in our lives. “We are a long way from explaining shared death experiences, a lack of explanation that I find a good thing. What the world needs now is an unexplainable mystery, one that offers great hope.” (p 166).

This mystery encourages us to surrender ourselves to the ineffable. Moody quotes Joseph Campbell, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” (p 164). And Carl Jung, “The seat of faith . . . is not consciousness but spontaneous religious experience, which brings the individual’s faith into immediate relation with God.” (p 165).

This is a fascinating little book, worth a read by anyone even remotely interested in the afterlife, the spiritual dimension to which we all are heading sooner or later!