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Record Type: Review   ID: 44

Tunnel to Eternity: Beyond Near-Death

Rhodes, Leon

This is a slim book, and it is written in a simple, readable, although highly intelligent, style. This makes it an excellent introduction not only to near-death experiences (NDEs) but also to other exceptional experiences and their import, and most of all, to the life and work of Emanuel Swedenborg. I am familiar with who Swedenborg was and have been discomfited by high-quality scholars who rave about him, and I am impressed that Helen Keller became the person she did in considerable part because of the influence of Swedenborg's writings. I cataloged many volumes of his works when I was in charge of the library of the American Society for Psychical Research. In a very blind fashion, I wondered what all the shouting was about, yet never made the time to read his books. I even own some of them. I confess all this because in a sense it is germane to this review.

Leon Rhodes, a man of many parts, is foremost a Swedenborgian who lives in a Swedenborgian community. Although Moody touched on the relevance of Swedenborg to NDEs in his first book, it is Leon Rhodes (thanks to Ken Ring) who, as both a Swedenborgian and a near-death researcher, has made the connection so clear I can't walk away from it this time. And again, it is Ken Ring who condensed the relevance of Swedenborgianism to NDEs (and, as Rhodes points out, other forms of exceptional experiences), in the following remark he once made to Rhodes: "Near-death experiencers have had a glimpse through the doorway into the afterlife; Swedenborg explored the whole house!" (p. 7). Swedenborg was the quintessential EHEer and primary explorer of what I have called the Experiential Paradigm. Many glimpses of this paradigm are afforded by this book which is based on both accounts of NDErs and Swedenborg's many visits in "eternity." The layout has the elegance of simplicity. Chapter 1, "Discovering the Near-Death Experience," is about death, dying, and the afterlife. It is followed by a description of the components of the core NDE experience in chapter 2. It includes an account of Rhodes' only contact with the afterlife, a most interesting out-of-body experience in which he encountered his deceased father, a Swedenborgian, who delivered a clear message to him without words: An exceptional experience for sure. The third chapter is about the Real World, which is the one we enter when we die to this one. According to Swedenborg, these potential possibilities are realized, not denied or stifled, or cut off. Yet surely we need not wait till we die to experience it. Any "real" life worth its salt is "here, now, always," as T.S. Eliot put it. And so it was for Swedenborg. EHEs are all opportunities to bring potential possibilities to fruition in this life, and perhaps also continuing after death. (Ideally, people would spend their Earth lives potentiating their exceptional experiences and would go on doing the same after death, only in ways unfettered by the barriers of space, time, and mind.) Chapter 4 is titled Death and Near Death. It has several components: a most interesting NDE account, children and NDEs, angels and NDEs, negative NDEs, and living with a changed attitude. The final chapter is Unanswered Questions. Here he brings in other paranormal experiences that can be enlightening and meaningful (i.e., EHEs). He also presents Swedenborg's teachings on the divine plan and the nature of the message of NDEs. The core message he boils down to this: "the experiencers … were liberated by the process most of us mistakenly think of as the end. … People survive death" (p. 88). There is a useful appendix, Swedenborg and the Core Experience, by Wendell Barnett, who, for each of the core components of the NDE, quotes relevant passages from Swedenborg, who has "been there, done that," and much more. I highly recommend this book.

Publisher Information:West Chester, PA: Chrysalis Books, 1997. Pp. xvii + 107. Appendix: Swendenborg and the core experience (compiled by Wendell Barnett): 91-104; Sugg. rdg; 105-107
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