The Great Beyond

by Robert Gregory Browne

When I was fifteen years old, my uncle had a heart attack and died.

A few minutes later, a stubborn doctor brought him back to life.

When he was asked about those few minutes, my uncle refused to talk
about them. I sensed that whatever happened to him “out there” must
have scared the hell out of him.

This was the beginning of my fascination with the near-death experience.

NDE is not uncommon. Millions of people around the world claim to
have experienced it, most of them reporting the usual trappings we’ve
all heard about:

Out of body travel. Tunnel. Bright light. The presence of long-departed loved ones.

Many tie this to a religious experience, but these elements cross
all cultural and spiritual boundaries. Scientists have suggested that
what NDE survivors go through is merely a kind of death dream caused by
chemicals in the brain, but it seems odd to me that most survivors
dream pretty much the same thing.

It also seems odd that many of the survivors are able to report what
doctors and loved ones have said in the room – after they were
clinically dead.

Based on my uncle’s refusal to talk about his trip to the great
beyond, however, I’ve long had the feeling that the experience as
described is not universal. For some of us, there is a darker version
of the journey. A scarier version.

And that idea, of course, attracted me as a writer.

When I think of my book, KISS HER GOODBYE, which comes out in paperback next month, I look at it as
essentially a crime thriller. It’s the story of an ATF agent whose
daughter is kidnapped and buried alive, and the unusual lengths a
desperate father has to go to in order to save her.

All the elements of a crime thriller are there, but I also wanted to
give the reader a slightly different experience, one that allowed me to
explore some of the questions about near-death and the afterlife.

These are questions we all think about from time to time. What’s out
there? How will it affect me? Will it be painful? Exhilarating? Scary?

Most people are frightened by it. Call me weird, but I think of
Death as simply another step in the adventure, wherever it may lead.
And while I don’t look forward to any pain associated with dying, I do
think Death itself will be an amazing journey.

But that’s me.

I’m curious to know what you think. What’s waiting out there for you?

15 thoughts on “The Great Beyond

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Great question, Rob. I was raised with no religion and never thought anything at all about an afterlife until I had my first yoga class and in the middle of a meditation I suddenly understood God and Eternity.

    I think the miraculous thing about yoga is that it gives you the experience of being pure energy.

    I think it will be WONDERFUL not to have a body… as much as my body gives me (and others) a lot of pleasure, being corporal is a very heavy way to exist. I would rather move on to realms of pure energy, and I’d be fine if that were to happen tomorrow.

    My big fear is that reincarnation is what actually exists and I have several more turns on this Wheel of Karma, due to unrelenting – um – desire.

    And on the other hand – even if there is nothing after this – we’re not going to know about it, so why worry?

  2. Zoe Sharp

    Rob – what a fascinating subject. I’m sure you’ll get some equally fascinating answers.

    I’d like to believe there’s an afterlife, but I’m left with a sneaking suspicion we pass this way only once, that life short and precious, and so often utterly wasted.

  3. Tammy Cravit

    As a rabbi friend of mine likes to say, “the only sane response to the inevitable is relaxation”. I figure that I have no rational way to know what comes after we die, so I approach life as though that’s true. If I’m wrong, I’ll go into whatever comes next with the knowledge that I made the best use of the life I had. And if I’m right, then at least my time on this earth won’t have been wasted.

  4. pari noskin taichert

    Rob,This keys in on what I was facing so wholely last week . . . and I still don’t know how I feel. I hate the idea of consciousness leaving–ceasing; that’s the thing that upsets me most since I adore this life so much (yeah, I’m attached . . . though I do get those glimpses Alex refers to).

    When I’m not attached, I think about what my mother-in-law said about death. It was around the time my mom had died and I was struggling to make sense of that loss.

    Zane said, “I think about the incredible transformation a caterpillar goes through in becoming a butterfly. The caterpillar can’t know what’s in store when she weaves that cocoon. Death is similar. We’re all that caterpillar.”

    That concept gave me tremendous solace.

  5. Rob Gregory Browne

    Pari, I LOVE the caterpillar metaphor.

    Many years ago I actually went through past-life regression hypnosis to research material I was preparing for a screenplay (the screenplay never got written, but the book did. My third, which I just pushed through…)

    It was an interesting experience. And the therapist, a rather new agey type, told me that I was on my last life on earth. That I had learned all the lessons I’d needed to be taught and would be moving on to the next step when I died.

    Yet, oddly enough, here I am again. I guess she was wrong… 😉

  6. R.J. Mangahas

    I really don’t know what lies beyond this life for me, if anything at all. It’ll certainly be interesting to make that discovery. I’d like to think of the possibility that I would be reunited with loved ones who have gone before me, or is that just too simple?

  7. j.t. ellison

    Matter can’t be destroyed, so there must be something more. But who knows??? I’m with Tammy, don’t leave any stone unturned, no desire unquenched, and love like there’s no tomorrow.

  8. R.J. Mangahas

    Alex,you make a very interesting point there. When my fiancee died four years ago, a friend said to me that she really hasn’t left me. She’s just not around physically anymore but her spirit is. So maybe it’s not a true separation.And now that I think back on it, I guess there is that level of truth to it.

  9. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I am so very sorry to hear that, RJ, how devastating.

    I don’t know much about anything, really, but I am struggling to grasp and sometimes coming close to that core principle of Hindu, New Age, world spirituality – that ANY feeling or idea of separation is the tragic and painful illusion of what we know of as reality.

  10. R.J. Mangahas

    Thanks for that Alex. It was a very hard period in my life when I lost her. However, I think it was her memory that kept me writing (she was one of my biggest supporters). I’m also in a wonderful relationship now with a woman who is a writer and cartoonist, and somehow I can’t help but think my fiancee might have pushed me in that direction. It’s really hard to say.

  11. Michael Haskins

    Rob, have you been reading my proofs? In my novel, the one due out this month and the sequel I’ve just finished, one character is a Jesuit who sees and talks to angels. Some think him crazy, but sometimes he says or does things that can be explained, unless it’s the angels. I leave it up to the reader. But I chose the character, Padre Thomas,because if angels exist then there’s something after life. Organized religeon has spoiled it, but most of us have an inner faith and, if we follow it, I think it helps make us better. Is that important for the next adventure? I think so. What a great post! Hope to see you in Thousand Oaks in July.


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