Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife

Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife, by Raymond Moody, MD, and Paul PerryBy Raymond Moody, MD, and Paul Perry
HarperCollins Publishers, HarperOne, 2012 Click to Buy this Book!

Paranormal is the autobiography of Raymond A. Moody, Jr., MD (b. June 30, 1944 in the small town of Porterdale, Georgia). It is the thirteenth book he has published, with five co-authored by Paul Perry, author of Transformed by the Light. Dr. Moody is a psychiatrist who is best known for his first book Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon – Survival of Bodily Death. First published in 1975 when Moody was 31-years old, this book definitely spoke to the new consciousness of the time, for interest in such subjects as the paranormal, the occult, “out-of-body” experiences, and karma and reincarnation had increased enormously in the early 1970s. Life After Life “… Climbed onto every bestseller list in the world, where it stayed for more than three years. Why this took place can be answered in one word: vacuum. Up to this point the subject had been considered one that belonged to the world of religion, and therefore it had received little if any examination by medical science. Hence, there was no real scientific examination of the possibility of life after life.” However, this statement does not take into account the major contributions that had been made at the beginning of the 20th century through the lifework of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) and many others — including groups of physicians — within the streams of Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science. During the 1970s many of the books by Rudolf Steiner that had been translated into English appeared in public libraries and in book stores, including Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, copyright 1947, that contained, e.g., chapters on “The Continuity of Consciousness” and “Life and Death,” and Occult Science – An Outline, copyright 1969, with subsections from Chapter VII titled “Man’s Life After Death,” and “The Way to Supersensible Cognition.”

The above citations are not intended in any way to diminish the value of the independent, groundbreaking work of Dr. Moody, who originated the term near-death experience (NDE), but only to point out that there had not been a “vacuum” in these areas, but a lack of academic and public knowledge about the accessibility of the literature of Anthroposophy and Spiritual Science and the new evolutionary impulses in the advances of consciousness that these movements facilitated. Part of the great value of Life After Life, with its personal accounts of NDEs, is that it became a popular and well-known book; profound experiences of a shift in consciousness to a real spiritual existence following severe crises of suffering were conveyed to readers in friendly everyday language; the deepest questions about death began to be answered, and hope was offered for possible further contact and communication with loved ones who had died.

Paranormal offers something of the psychoanalytic self-evaluation that might be expected of a psychiatrist, but it is largely an informal life review for purposes of revealing Dr. Moody’s painful struggle with the disease of hypothyroidism, called myxedema, and how this affected his life, yet more importantly – as some readers will wonder from the beginning – how this may have affected his work. The Introduction describes Dr. Moody’s suicide attempt in 1991 with an overdose of Darvon, a result of the fact that his long-misdiagnosed illness had reached an unbearable stage. “From my late twenties until now I have lived with a disease called myxedema. This is a difficult affliction to diagnose. Simply stated, with this disease the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroxine, a hormone that acts in our body something like the volume dial on a radio. The result of this disease is a variety of peculiar symptoms that can lead to myxedema madness, in which the afflicted person gradually loses his mind.” His life was saved through a phone call made to Paul Perry, who apparently kept Dr. Moody on the phone long enough for the police and then the Emergency Medical Technicians to reach him. The generally short Chapters that follow the Introduction detail his life: the death of his beloved grandfather, his early interest in astronomy, his discovery of Plato’s The Republic while a student at the University of Virginia, the recognition of his gifts when he was invited to participate in the honors program in philosophy at UVA, his graduation from UVA with a doctorate degree, his entrance into the Medical School of Georgia in 1972, the circumstances of the publication of Life After Life while he was in the third year of medical school, and — a partly humorous touch — his love of the Donald Duck comic books by artist Carl Barks, who “replaced my grandfather.” His principal lifework had been strongly influenced by his friendship with George G. Ritchie (1923–2007), best known for the book Return From Tomorrow. “Thanks to George Ritchie,” writes Moody, “I knew how to perform hypnosis. A hypnotist himself since the age of twelve, Ritchie enrolled me in a class at the International Association of Clinical Hypnosis after privately teaching the arts of hypnosis to me himself.”

Many questions regarding other aspects of spirituality and psychic phenomena arose after lectures on NDEs that Dr. Moody — by this time famous — gave in various cities, and after repeated queries about reincarnation he decided to experiment with past-life regression through guidance into a deep hypnotic trance by a hypnotherapist. He concludes in Paranormal that the past lives he experienced in the trance state were probably “stories” that had been created by the subconscious mind by way of answering the questions put to it, although the stories, augmented by emotions of nostalgia, seemed to contain some thin traces of veracity. It can actually be proven, in the most superficial experimentations with hypnosis, including stage performances, that a transfer of thoughts from the hypnotist to the subject and vice versa can occur, and real dangers are possible through an unknown transference of dark impulses and forces from one unconscious mind to the other. What happens in such experimentations, and in Dr. Moody’s work with mirror-gazing at his ancient-Greek influenced psychomanteum in rural Alabama (which he called the “Dr. John Dee Memorial Theater of the Mind”) – a means by which grief-stricken subjects might contact the dead — is that a false result accompanied by euphoria can occur that is nonetheless phenomenal, or in other words, it proves something. (See the reference, Manifestations of the Unconscious, below.)

Chapter Eighteen describes how the author established the psychomanteum and treated subjects who agreed to participate in his “Reunions Experiment.” He worked with each subject for a full day using hypnotic methods and devices, such as a bed with music emanating from a speaker that could be felt “via bone conduction throughout the body.” After the all-day sessions he would escort the subject into the mirror-gazing booth and turn on a dim electric light. “I would tell the subject to gaze deeply into the mirror and relax, clearing his or her mind of everything but thoughts of the deceased.” What occurred for many subjects was an “apparition” of the dead person who stepped out of the mirror looking exactly as in physical life, with a body that appeared to be of material substance. One grandmother stepped out into the gazing booth and warmly hugged her granddaughter. “Roughly 25 percent of those who came seeking reunions had them after they had left the gazing booth and returned home or to their hotel.”

A European lecture tour during which Dr. Moody spoke to physicians and audiences about the work at the psychomanteum went well and he was “delighted at the positive response.” However, he became exhausted and his thyroid level plunged to a dangerous low. He explains that the smaller and smaller doses of the dwindling medicine for myxedema that he took until he could acquire new supplies, combined with weather far colder than Alabama, led to a serious breakdown near the end of his tour and after his return home. His physical condition, together with his descriptions of the psychomanteum in response to his father’s queries, caused his father, “a well-respected physician in Georgia,” to have him admitted to an institution for psychiatric treatment. After the institutionalized care, and back on full doses of medicine, Dr. Moody recovered.

What must be ruled out by the spiritual scientist is the fact that, through these experiments, transference of experiences of the “apparitions” or hallucinations of the dead — who do not lawfully appear in full physical or materialistic manifestations — may have occurred, passing from the subconscious mind of the physician, who is burdened with a pathological condition, to the subjects, who may then have formed and retained in memory false or grossly distorted visions of their deceased relatives. According to Rudolf Steiner, and in harmony with the requirements of the evolution of consciousness in our time, communications with the dead must take place in full consciousness, through disciplined, consistent, loving endeavor in prayer, meditation, and visualization of the loved one. Then a reply from the deceased one may come in the form of a symbol or a picture, perhaps of some object that was significant in the former life. This is probably the most common way that the dead are able to communicate. Gradually, through increased development in recognition and “hearing” skills, communications with the dead may improve in accuracy and quality.

Familiarity with symbolism, which gradually develops along the fully-conscious path of spiritual perception as set down in Anthroposophy, appears to be lacking in regard to the inappropriate illustration on the book cover of Paranormal, which depicts a human figure upside-down and with his back to the viewer.

In anthroposophical medicine the glandular system is the touch-point where the etheric or “formative forces” body asserts its dominance over the astral body, the body of wishes and desires. The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland, situated just under the larynx, is connected with the planet Jupiter, the planet that enables, through constant individual effort, the transformation of personal thinking, connected with desires, into selfless and lofty thoughts that will serve to benefit the cosmos or spiritual world.

In the Conclusion of the book, in answer to a question, Dr. Moody replies: “I feel good about God. I have a relationship with God and talk to him all the time. But what I really don’t know, from a rational point of view, is whether life after death is in his plan or not… I love God. I have a trusting relationship with him, but he hasn’t told me anything yet about an afterlife…” – Review by Martha Keltz

References: Manifestations of the Unconscious: Dreams, Hallucinations, Visions, Somnambulism, Mediumship – A lecture by Rudolf Steiner, 1918. An Esoteric Cosmology, Lecture V, Yoga in East and West, by Rudolf Steiner, 1906. An Occult Physiology, Lectures by Rudolf Steiner, 1911.

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