Readers have asked why I decided to write Beyond this Life, a novel of the near death experience. After all, my previous works focused on peacemaking in the nonfiction genre. Yet the transition makes perfect sense, as my desire to write Beyond This Life was fueled by reflections on peacemaking. Reconciliation efforts, I discovered, screeched to a halt when parties did not know their true nature, when they could not answer the question, “Who am I—really?”
When disputants begin to reflect on their deepest essence, they typically slam into walls of uncertainty. They tumble into confusion; their grasp on reality is shaken. They recognize they’re lost: their true nature remains a mystery. They don’t know how they should be treated; they don’t know how they should treat others.
In the best of circumstances, conflict generates a sense of unreality. People wonder, “Why has this happened to me?” They’re haunted by unspoken questions: “What is real? What is the truth in this matter?” As they seek to resolve conflict, they make decisions based on what they consider true and most real. They assess “right and wrong” in the context of their view of reality.
Perhaps nothing anchors an individual’s view of what’s real or unreal as much as their understanding of the nature of a human being. Our personal reality or philosophy rests firmly on a foundation of Self. People view Life from an intimate perspective. They view Life that exists “out there” from the perspective of Self “in here.”
Peacemakers typically discover that parties in conflict have not previously laid a proper foundation when it comes to self-identity. Missing this step, failing to establish core identity, exacerbates the feeling of unreality. A party caught up in conflict feels unmoored: they’re rarely anchored to a reliable knowledge of Self.
In the course of life’s more mundane events, we typically overlook deep questions regarding our innate human or spiritual nature. We leave such reflection to monks sequestered in monasteries or to pontificating philosophers. However, when we become entangled in conflict, our situation changes dramatically. We must assess the validity of our perceptions. Are we viewing events accurately? We are forced to evaluate our assumptions. Are we tracking with reality? Or has our bias led us into the weeds?
As doubts accumulate, a mediator may conduct a “reality check” that helps us sort fantasy or fiction from reality. This may include sculpting away a False Self to reveal our True Self. During this task the NDE can be invaluable, as its lessons shed light on our basic nature.
In the course of “ordinary life,” absent the stress of conflict, people avoid difficult spiritual journeys into self-awareness. They fear unseen forces lurking behind the veil of mystery. They stick with “knock on wood” reality. They choose commonplace assumptions over inquiry.
However, one brief journey jolts people out of a mundane mindset: the near death experience or NDE. Once the veil of mortal life is rent, reality suddenly looks very different. Moments of unusual clarity force a reevaluation: have I been viewing through a distorted lens? During an NDE a heavenly light may purify our vision. While we still may not relish battling dark forces, we find it hard to extinguish their new desire to seek the light.
In many instances, those who glimpse beyond the veil seek to satisfy their new hunger for revealed truth through spiritual direction, a guided exploration of the nature of God in which a person may find light shined on their nature as an immortal soul. The NDE followed by spiritual direction opens doors to supernatural truths that re frame reality. A person views life differently, in a manner more conducive to peacemaking.
What is the primary change or shift in viewpoint? We no longer see our opponent as solely a biological entity to be coerced, manipulated, herded, controlled, drugged, or enslaved to our desires. Rather, we see the person sitting across the table from us as an immortal soul endowed with divine qualities: with the image and likeness of God. We discover someone with whom we can collaborate in a search for mutual benefit. We discover a soul we might be able to love, someone who would also like to sculpt away the detritus of the False Self to reveal Divine Self.
New viewpoints inspired by the NDE lift the parties in a conflict “above the fray.” Parties look down on life’s events from a “birds-eye-view,” from a spiritual viewpoint infused with supernatural reality. These viewpoints cut a path to peace through the thickets of conflict.
Thus, Beyond This Life, a novel of the near death experience, is not a huge departure from my past themes. Beyond invites readers to journey past the mundane. It invites readers to suspend disbelief for a few moments to consider spiritual views that might ordinarily be veiled. It invites readers to find joy in a journey to other realms that may exist just beyond our view. Perhaps during that fleeting journey Beyond This Life the reader will discover new paths to peace. That is my hope.