The Near-Death Experience:

A Staircase to Heaven?

WE HAVE BECOME very familiar now in the West

with the near-death experience, the name given to the range

of experiences reported by people who have survived an incident

of near or clinical death. The near-death experience has

been reported throughout history, in all mystical and shamanic

traditions, and by writers and philosophers as varied as Plato,

Pope Gregory the Great, some of the great Sufi masters,

Tolstoy, and Jung. My favorite example from history is the

story told by a great English historian, the monk Bede, in the

eighth century:

About this time, a noteworthy miracle, like those of olden days,

occurred in Britain. For, in order to arouse the living from spiritual

death, a man already dead returned to bodily life and related

many notable things that he had seen, some of which I have

thought it valuable to mention here in brief There was a head of a

family living in a place in the country of the Northumbrians known

as Cunningham, who led a devout life with all his household. He

fell ill and grew steadily worse until the crisis came, and in the

early hours of one night he died. But at daybreak he returned to

life and suddenly sat up to the great consternation of those weeping

around the body, who ran away; only his wife, who loved him

more dearly, remained with him, though trembling and fearful. The

man reassured her and said: "Do not be frightened; for I have

truly risen from the grasp of death, and I am allowed to live

among men again. But henceforth I must not live as I used to, and

must adopt a very different way of life"... Not long afterward, he

abandoned all worldly responsibilities and entered the monastery of



More magazines by this user
Similar magazines