Today I am pleased to present and interview with Dr. Stafford Betty, one of the leading scholars on the subject of what life after death is like in the afterlife.
Dr. Betty is giving away one of his books to the reader who leaves the best comment. The lucky recipient will get to choose from Dr. Betty’s novel, “The Imprisoned Splendor,” or his non-fiction book, “The Afterlife Unveiled: What the Dead are Telling Us About Their World.”
I’m pleased to announce that the winner of the book giveaway is Erin W.!
1. Dr. Betty please give us some background on what drew you to study the afterlife in such depth?
I’ve always been impressed by how short our life on earth is, and how long by contrast what follows is. I didn’t just conclude this at a logical level; I felt it “in my bones.” Thus it seemed important to understand what we’ll meet on the other side of death.
2. Why do you believe that an afterlife exists?
Wow, where do I start?
There are eight major categories of evidence: spirit communication through mediums (mediumship), visions of the dying, near-death experiences (NDE), remembered past lives of little children, apparitions, poltergeists, spirit attachment or possession, and electronic voice phenomena (EVP).
Take the near-death experience: We now know that powerful NDEs occur when the brain is clinically dead. The Dutch researcher Van Lommel asks: “How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG?”
Evidence is mounting that our brains don’t produce consciousness; rather they channel it. And, when it is no longer useful, as at death, it [the body/brain] is discarded. It [the body] is the soul’s instrument. It is not us.
Now let’s take an example of a life-changing apparition seen by “Hugh.” He’s an astrophysicist by profession, or was until he retired a few months ago. Here is his account:
Twenty-eight months ago I lost my wife to breast cancer. She wasn’t quite fifty, and I adored her. She was a devout Catholic with a special devotion to St. Francis. She was a member of a lay order of St. Francis, and her quiet dedication to Franciscan ideals was an inspiration to all who knew her. But my scientific education had emptied me of all spiritual convictions.
I was a materialist, an atheist. Why Carrie agreed to marry a confirmed old reprobate like me I will never know. That was eight years ago.
Anyway, a few days after she died I was alone in the house. Well, except for her little dog, a corgi.
Suddenly — it was late afternoon and the lighting was dim — I looked up and saw my wife standing in front of me. She was surrounded by a soft golden light. And behind her stood a monk in a brown habit. I took him to be St. Francis. They both looked at me and didn’t speak. The dog meanwhile started yipping and whining at them. He was tremendously agitated. Then they faded away.
The whole thing didn’t last more than five seconds. But it completely changed my life. I went from a guy who scoffed at all talk of an afterlife to a guy who hadn’t the slightest doubt that his wife had survived death and was still alive. Oh, I know what some will say — that I hallucinated the whole thing. And I can’t prove to them I didn’t. But I know, I KNOW.
Examples like this are legion.
3. Can you describe the afterlife to readers? What is life like there?
This is what my two books are about. The novel describes in great detail the afterlife setting, and the non-fiction book summarizes the afterlife in forty-four generalizations–what the research tells us we are all headed for. And it isn’t what you find in the Bible!
Here are the first four generalizations of what awaits us after death:
A. Our present ideas about heaven and hell are illusory. Hell is hellish, yes, but it’s not a place of physical pain, nor is it everlasting, nor is it a place where there is not help. And heaven is not one place but a spectrum of worlds stretching from the lowly joys of souls newly arrived to spheres of unimaginable bliss and perfection for souls far more advanced.
The afterworld is not some fantastic vision of infinity where souls are locked in poses of permanent rapture gazing at the face of God. And no one floats on a cloud while playing a harp. Rather it is a place with landscapes and seas and houses and cities reminiscent of our own world. It is an objectively real material world, but made of matter vibrating much more rapidly than our senses can pick up.
There are gardens, universities, libraries, and hospices for the newly dead–but no factories, fire stations, sanitary landfills, or smokestacks.
There are no dirty jobs to do. “We have no traffic, and our roads are covered with the thickest and greenest grass, as soft to the feet as a bed of fresh moss. It is on these that we walk,” says the spirit of Msgr. Hugh Benson communicating through the English medium Anthony Borgia. He is describing a relatively low zone of the afterworld sometimes called Paradise or Summerland. It resembles a glorified earth.
B. The afterworld begins at the earth’s surface and extends outward. Earth is the nucleus of the entire world system that the spirits describe.
The spirit world begins very near the earth and extends millions of miles beyond,” writes the spirit of Leslie Stringfellow, a Texan who died at 20 and communicated through his parents. It “surrounds yours on all sides, like the atmosphere does the globe, and every nation has its counterpart in spirit, surrounding it, in connection with that part over or nearest its earthly place of residence.” Many spirit communicators tell us that their world “envelopes and interpenetrates the physical world.”
C. Spirit realms vary from culture to culture. Stringfellow described what he called “foreign trips”: “We went yesterday for the first time to a part of the Spirit World occupied by Turks and Hindus.”
We should not expect the Eskimo’s afterworld to look like the Maori’s.
The laws governing their worlds will be the same, but the appearances will vary. Nor should we expect Sunni and Shia Muslims to be living comfortably side by side in the same sector of the afterworld—or Han Chinese entrepreneurs and Tibetan peasants. Physical violence is not possible in the afterlife, but old habits of mutual suspicion and animosity don’t disappear just because we die. Progress takes time, both here and over there.
D. Earth’s slow “vibrations”—we don’t have a scientific understanding of what this word means, but it turns up everywhere in spirit communications–dumb down our ability to sense the presence of spirit, including the Divine.
A quickened “vibration,” such as we find in the afterworld, or what we shall call the astral, greatly increases one’s sensitivity to spirit. The Divine is no closer to the astral world than to our own, but spirits can discern or intuit the Divine more cleanly.
4. Does Hell and punishment exist in the afterlife?
Yes. All of us are accountable for our actions and for the habits we’ve developed over the course of a lifetime (or lifetimes). We will feel the suffering of our victims as it were our own. That is hell.
5. Can you tell us about Summerland and Shadowland?
Summerland is described under question number one above. Here’s what the spirits tell us about the Shadowlands:
There are hellish regions in the astral, and large populations that make their home there. The Shadowlands is a vast world of many conditions. The landscapes vary from sordid city neighborhoods to parched, gray scrubland to dark, lifeless deserts. The vivid clarity of higher realms is missing. Instead there is a dull overcast. Temporarily lost or confused or stubbornly unrepentant souls populate these regions. Disturbing noises and howls are sometimes mentioned.
The worst of these souls aggressively seek to harm vulnerable humans on earth. An advanced spirit calling himself Imperator, writing through the famous British medium Stainton Moses, tells us that these aggressors band together to “resist progress and truth, and fight against the dissemination of what advantages humanity.”
Other souls are enslaved to their addictions and become earthbound. For example, an earthbound spirit who was an alcoholic is still pestered by the craving for alcohol. So he hangs around bars on earth and “drinks through” other alcoholics he temporarily possesses, making it all the more difficult for his victim to conquer the habit.
Other earthbound spirits, Hatch tells us, are “thrilled by the poison of hatred. . . . for the purpose of gratifying their hostile passion they will attach themselves to you temporarily [if you lose your temper],” thus making it all the more likely you will storm and rage the next time you are provoked. Spirits surround us, and they are not all our friends.
“Missionary spirits” minister to souls in the Shadowlands. Residents can free themselves if they are willing to face up humbly to their errors and crimes and repent them. Some do; and most, perhaps all, will eventually. But many jeer at their would-be helpers and seem to prefer their dull or chaotic lives over the challenges of higher worlds they are frightened of.
No spirit is condemned forever to the dark regions. But God—whom spirits often refer to as supporting them or mystically present to them but never as visible in some anthropomorphic sense–will never interfere with our free will. Acting through higher spirits seeking to lead the “stumblers” out of their self-imposed exile, God will invite tirelessly, but will never force. One gets the impression that, at least for the moment, many spirits actually prefer their dimmed-down world to the higher Light-filled worlds they were created for, and that someday they will choose to enter.
6. What options exist in the afterlife? If they don’t reincarnate – what can spirits do to “grow spiritually” on the other side? Are there “jobs” they can take on?
The astral world, assuming you are not caught up in the Shadows, is limitlessly varied, with plenty of jobs to do. It’s not a place where you lean back and cruise, not if you want to progress.
The Creator places souls in the difficult environment of earth because He (She, It) loves them. He wants to see them grow in wisdom, love, and power. He knows that the only way to bring out the best in a soul is to challenge it, in the same way that a good teacher challenges her students.
Ultimately the Creator wants us to become as much like Himself/Herself as possible, to grow into near divine-like stature. Soul-building, or character development, is the whole point of our sojourn, both on earth and beyond, say the spirits. The use we make of our free will is absolutely crucial to our progress at all levels.
The astral world provides opportunities for every wholesome interest or avocation–from science to music to theology to astral architecture to homebuilding. It is a joyful, endlessly fascinating place, full of challenges, for those mature enough to value it.
Children of all ages are raised in the afterworld. They are not magically transformed into adults just because they died prematurely. One of the noblest professions in the astral is nurturing and educating spirit orphans. Great numbers of spirits are engaged in this satisfying form of work.
Human dilemmas turn up in the astral just as they do on earth. A former judge on earth, named Hatch, was constantly being called on to help fellow spirits out of their emotional predicaments. His skills as an arbiter, learned on earth, served him well on the Other Side.
7. Do people choose to reincarnate? If so, why?
There is no easy answer to this question.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a moderating voice. “Some believe in it [reincarnation],” he said, “many do not, and the general attitude may be taken to be that, as the doctrine cannot be proved, it had better to be omitted from the active politics of Spiritualism.”
He then goes on to say, “On the whole, it seems to the author that the balance of evidence shows that reincarnation is a fact, but not necessarily a universal one.” What seemed true to Doyle in 1924 seems even more true today. Most modern accounts reaching us from the Other World mention it.
Mattson, the Lutheran minister, says,
It’s an interesting fact that most persons grow faster spiritually while incarnate. The incarnate energy is denser. That makes it more possible for you, while embodied in flesh on earth, to take hold of a particular problem area and shape it into a more constructive pattern. Your period of incarnation on the physical plane is thus a very important period of education. It contributes to your own spiritual evolution and that of all humanity. You can elect not to return, and many do, after they have achieved a certain spiritual development. But the physical plane is a “school” for learning and development, and so most souls do desire to return for a series of incarnations.
A return to earth might resemble the experience of a teacher starting a new term after summer vacation—not always a prospect to be relished! In one of his more memorable passages, Hatch tells us,
What strange experiences one has out here [in the astral]. I rather dread to go back into the world [earth], where it will be so dull for me for a long time. Can I exchange this freedom and vivid life for a long period of somnolence [in the womb], afterwards to suck a bottle and learn the multiplication tables and Greek and Latin verbs? I suppose I must – but not yet.
8. Do Christians have a monopoly on heaven, and do atheists (or non-Christians) go to hell?
No to both questions:
No one is “saved” by faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, as Protestant Christianity teaches, and deathbed conversions have no impact on the quality of life in the world to come. And no one is damned because he believes in the Trinity, in spite of Islam’s warning.
Character alone counts, not beliefs. Good atheists are not disadvantaged, though they are not likely to remain atheists once they come over! (Many spirits speak of God or use some equivalent term, though their references are almost always vague.) Correct beliefs are helpful insofar as they encourage good lives. And they often do. But they are not what determines one’s place in the afterlife. As far as I’ve been able to tell, spirits are unanimous on this point.
9. Where can readers get more information about you or contact you?
What questions do you have for Dr. Betty? Did you learn anything surprising about the afterlife? If you had an NDE what was your experience?
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Stafford Betty earned his Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University, where he concentrated on Asian religious thought and Sanskrit. Today he is a professor of religious studies at California State University, Bakersfield, and has evolved over the last twenty years as their death-and-afterlife specialist.
In 2011 he published two books on the afterlife. In the first, The Afterlife Unveiled, he brings together information about the world to come that has reached us from spirits who once lived on earth, and who utilize mediums to get their message across. The second, The Imprisoned Splendor, is a novel set in the afterlife. Betty’s earlier publications focused on the philosophy of religion. He has published seven books and dozens of article, some in top-tier philosophy journals. He has traveled to India four times, most recently in 2010 to deliver the keynote address at a convocation of Vedantins in Udupi.
Photo: Fotolia Leonid Tid#40792259