Reviewed by Gregory M. Westlake
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns - William Shakespeare
Alan Madge, born in Swansea, Open University academic, poet, and civil servant in the Department of Health, has spent many years researching conscientiously paranormal phenomena, and near-death experiences. For the spiritual scholar, hopeful of life beyond death, this book will be vital, worthwhile reading; fascinating and winning to the general citizenry as well. This elegantly produced volume is methodically conceived into fourteen chapters and an afterword, spread over 226 pages, 18 pages of endnotes, and a useful 6-page bibliography. The book exhaustively explores a broad range of themes relating to the afterlife; from ‘Reincarnation and Religion,’ to ‘Science and its Challenges,’ ‘What Happens When You Die?’ Accessible, intelligible, and easy to read this is an invaluable, important addition to the intellectual library. Madge passionately defends eternity, delivering comprehensive, thorough evidence, and provides a vantage point into mystical, transcendent humanity. A complex, tenuous aspect of reality to investigate, but essential, given the apparent end to mortal existence we all face. The world’s major religions have taught us there is a future, although for the sceptic only, perhaps, oblivion lies in wait. The author Alan Madge has taken task to reassure society, that life is everlasting.
One of the strongest points of the book for me, was the oriental religious awareness embraced within the text. For instance, Tibetan Buddhism.
All substances are part of my consciousness. This consciousness is vacuous, unborn, and unceasing. Thus, meditating allow the mind to rest in the uncreated state (Leary, Metzner, & Alpert, 1964, p.157).
Carl Gustav Jung believed in the transmigration of souls and the super-temporality of the human psyche. The Tibetan Book of the Dead (the Bardo Todrol Chenmo) was his constant companion, stimulating, not only ideas and discoveries, but also, fundamental insights, and served as a portal to another world. When Jung was asked, on BBC, if he believed in an afterlife, he replied: “I don’t believe…I know” (p.12). Jung was aware that the descriptions in the book were similar to various individual’s accounts of their near-death experiences; and, also, respected the concept of the Bodhisattva, one who has achieved Buddhahood, returning to Earth-life to help humanity: Tibetans venerate the perfect soul of the Dalai Lama, or Kundun, as such a being.
The ancient teachings of Tibetan Buddhism relay that life and death are together a constantly changing series of transitional realities known as Bardos. The Four Bardos of life, dying, after death, and rebirth, are described as: firstly, the natural bardo of this life. Secondly, the painful bardo of dying. Thirdly, the luminous bardo of dharmata. Fourthly, and finally, the karmic bardo of becoming. Thus, we read that the continuity of our consciousness after the death of our physical body is a very real possibility.
Madge celebrates the three different forms of reincarnation within Islam, which are Hulul: The periodical incarnation of the Perfect Man or Deity; Rij’at: The return of the Imam or spiritual leader; and the Tanasukh: reincarnation of the souls of ordinary men. He quotes the Sufi poet, Rumi, (1207-73), in his great work Mathnawi, Rumi wrote: “Like the sun, only when you set in the West can you rise again with brilliance in the East” (p.14). For the Sufi road to God, may seem shortened, but as Roland Penrose said, perhaps it may prove wider than long; surely it requires digressions, and unexpected turns.
Of paramount importance would have to be ‘Science and its Challenges,’ even though at present the sum of human knowledge is woefully lacking in terms of a complete model of reality. In recent years the scientific community has been stunned by its confirmations of how complex the conditions must be for the universe to permit life and the evolution of intelligent beings. In the academic fields of physics, astrophysics, classical cosmology, biochemistry, and quantum mechanics discoveries have repeatedly proved life depends on such a delicate balance of qualities, were any of them altered the world would not exist. Roger Penrose states that “‘the accuracy of the Creator’s aim’ would have to have been one part in 10^10^(123) in order for the universe to exist … ‘I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach even remotely, a figure one part in 10^10^(123)’” (Craig, 2003, p.157). Nevertheless, life evolved on our ‘Goldilocks’ planet. Madge includes an absorbing chart mapping the ‘Evolution of the Big Bang up to 200 seconds’ (pp. 64-65). So, Big Bang and evolution theories are the best we have. Perhaps, all will be revealed when we shuffle off this mortal coil, or maybe we will not be around to find out. Although, Peter Fenwick has verified and confirmed that after detaching from our earthly body, many report travelling through a tunnel to “a void, a blackness: a floating, a moving, a going towards the light” (p. 147).
Henceforth, let us explore what exactly happens when you die, with the evidence provided by the research of the penman, Alan Madge; perhaps we experience the purest of all consciousness, and unconditional love. During the early 1970s Elisabeth Kübler-Ross concluded in her research. for The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying, that death occurs in four distinct phases. Phase One: People float out of their bodies, and experience wholeness. Phase Two: People leave their bodies behind, and report a state that can be defined as spirit and energy. Phase Three: A tunnel, or a transitional gate guided by angels to light, warmth, and love. An epiphany of thought. Phase Four: The presence of the Highest Source, past, present, and future, some called it God. Death can be seen as a mirror reflecting the entire meaning of life.
To draw to a close, the author states, “I started out in the hope of finding evidence, as I had never previously been convinced of the evidence of God or any continuity of life beyond the grave. Now I believe in my search God has perhaps found me” (p. 221). He continues, with the enjoyable quote from William James, “If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you must not seek to show no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white” (p. 223).
To wrap up, this volume is a most enjoyable read. On completion, the reader will be much the wiser, due to the author’s strict, orderly attention to detail, and dedication to the theme of the immortality of the soul. So, I can genuinely recommend this tome, as a companion for transpersonal strengthening, and fortification. Thoroughly commended for your consciousness, and appreciation.
Craig, W. L. (2003). Design and the anthropic fine-tuning of hte Universe. in N. A. Manson (Ed.). God and
Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science (pp. 155-177). London: Routledge.
Leary, T., Metzner, R., & Alpert, R. (1964). The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of
the Dead. New York: Citadel Press.
George M. Westlake can be reached at [email protected]
Right now Beyond Death is only available from the author, Alan Madge, he can be reached at [email protected]