Unification News for December 2001
The Lowdown on the Hereafter
John R. Williams
Who can turn down juicy insights about life after death? I’ve seen the movie "Ghost" about 15 times—a few times at home and about a dozen times with students from the former Soviet Union in the early ‘90s when I was on staff to host their visits to the United States. "Ghost" was our attempt to educate them about the spirit world. (Even with every line memorized, Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown still cracks me up.) Now there’s "Where Dreams May Come," mentioned by Mrs. Kim as having accurate references to the afterlife. This is not to mention the other movies church leaders have recommended as helpful or the many books—the old favorite Life in the World Unseen, Wanderers in Spirit Lands, and Dr. Lee’s recent books. And of course there are all the things learned and experienced at the Cheong Pyung Lake workshops. This stuff is all utterly fascinating.
But am I the only one who finds these various accounts of the spirit world to oftentimes be contradictory and confusing? The spirit world painted by Dr. Lee and DaeMo Nim doesn’t always fit the picture we are given from other recommended sources. For example, Daemo Nim speaks of most people going to hell, yet Anthony Borgia’s spiritual universe and even the afterlife where the character played by Robin Williams ends up in the "Dreams" movie doesn’t look so bad at all. Another example is the contrast between the Cheong Pyung Lake method of vigorous physical activity and deprivations to expel possessing spirits, while Edith Fiore in The Unquiet Dead tells of quietly talking to clients under hypnosis and inviting the intruders to leave, which they rather easily do. How can we make sense of all this? I must confess that my response over the years has been to tune the whole subject out in frustration, and stick with the bare bones explanation given in Divine Principle, knowing that I was far from comprehending its implications.
For this reason I am grateful that a fellow Unificationist, Kerry Pobanz, has finally pulled together an absorbing and comprehensive explanation of the essential points about the spirit world, in the book, The Spirit-Person and the Spirit-World: An Otherdimensional Primer (HSA Publications, 2001). The chapters are laid out in a convenient question and answer format and cover the gamut of key topics, such as: The relationship between the physical and spiritual selves and the characteristics of the "silver cord" said to connect them, how we travel in the other realm, how we exist in both worlds at the same time, where the spirit world is and how it is set up (did you know there were three "basements," like the New Yorker?), the nature of communication there, how people grow after earthly life, who else inhabits the spirit world besides humans (it ain’t just angels), the consequences of suicide, sexuality in the spirit world and all about earthbound spirits. There are insights familiar to Unificationists—returning resurrection, indemnity, angels and the Fall, and so on—as well as novel ideas, such as the existence of nature spirits (Santa’s elves!) and where UFOs fit in to all this.
Pobanz has certainly done his homework—you should see the bibliography! (Then you’ll understand why it took him 10 years to write this.) Here the profound insights of Reverend Moon are elaborated with like perspectives from Jesus, St. Paul, Rudolf Steiner, Yogananda, as well as ordinary folks who survived near death experiences and those who went to Daemo Nim’s workshops. In other words, one moment we hear the 17th century prose of Emanuel Swedenborg, then we hear from contemporary psychologist Edith Fiore, then we swing back to Thomas Acquinas and over to best-selling psychic Betty Eadie. There are quotes from Young Oon Kim, Benjamin Franklin, Muslim mystics, you name it. Pobanz references scriptures, movies, channeled books, friends’ stories—whatever helps. And you’ll find quotes from Reverend Moon that you probably have never heard before.
Father has suggested that among the most essential things to teach contemporary people is the knowledge of the spirit world. Truly, as Pobanz’s book demonstrates, it is a potent and effective way to teach all the practical basics of the Divine Principle within a theme that is compelling to everyone and that no one knows enough about. I know one Sunday School teacher using it with her seventh and eighth graders; they read a chapter and then the group discusses it each week. How could they not be interested?
And speaking of Sunday School, most adults’ understanding of the next life remains at the same level it was when they last heard about it in church sometime in elementary school. Though it is wonderful that most Americans believe in the afterlife and sense that where we go after death has a lot to do with motivation and love, there remains a serious deficiency of understanding about the more sobering realities. This book goes a long way to mature people’s understanding. At the same time, learning the realities of the afterlife—the "facts of death"--is like learning the facts of life when we were kids. We couldn’t help but be interested—after all, it’s part of our God-given purpose of life—but at the same time a part of us doesn’t want to find out too much just yet. There’s something about the idea that babies come from Mommy’s tummy that we may have wanted to hang onto, just like we’d all like keep spirit world more than a little vague. The Spirit-Person and the Spirit-World is guaranteed to make readers more grown-up about where they are going after they "graduate" from this life and what they need to be and have when they get there.
One of the most compelling chapters is the one on earthbound spirits and here Pobanz’s organized treatment of material really shines. I’ve never seen the topic so well explained, with all the various types differentiated, all with riveting examples. Pobanz explains how certain spirit persons get earthbound due to ignorance, confusion and regret, attachments to people or things, physical addictions, revenge, religious fanaticism (watch out!) and a sense of unfinished business. He describes the emotional suffering of these "stuck" spirits, whether they be immobile and forced to relive their death over and over, or wandering like ghosts and poltergeists or attached to people on earth. He does a fascinating and detailed treatment of such things as the difference between obsession and possession, what the possessing spirits experience while invading another’s body (trapped, bored and frustrated) and how they influence the living. One memorable point was the comparison between the physical immune system and the aura. Both protect us from invasions by destructive forces—either disease or possession—and once they are compromised, it takes a lot of effort to repel the invaders and fortify them again. Pobanz reminds us that suicides, violent crimes, addictions, amnesia, homosexuality and gender identity confusion, physical and mental illnesses are all caused or aggravated by earthbound spirits. To our relief, he finishes by describing the methods to use to release these unwanted influences.
Another notable chapter is the one on personal growth in the spirit world where Pobanz takes on the formidably popular notion of reincarnation and convincingly demolishes it beyond resurrection. For this reason alone the book represents a quantum leap in understanding about spirit world, by finally articulating Father Moon’s revolutionary insights in an accessible way.
You might be wondering, how accessible? Can you give this to your dear Uncle Fred who has heart problems so that you can educate him before he dies? The book assumes a belief in the afterlife in general and an openness to Reverend Moon’s wisdom in particular, though it introduces all Unificationist references as if the reader is not very familiar with them. The book seems perfect for Uncle Fred if he is a man of faith who is not overly attached to his own religious doctrine and not hostile to the Divine Principle perspective.
All this said, the reader should know that this is not always easy reading. Be warned that Pobanz’s fondness for high falutin’ academic prose--"ontology," "interiority" and "insalubriously," for example--can be intimidating at first glance and sentences can be lengthy and paragraphs long. But the occasionally dense prose is mitigated by the many subheadings and short chapters—some only a few pages long—and excellent summaries at the end of the chapters. Besides, Pobanz’s engaging curiosity and warm heart shine through the academic gloss.
More importantly, the book is not easy to read in the same way any good spiritual material is not easy—it challenges us to think deeply about how we are living our lives, how we will feel when this life is over, and the legacy we are leaving behind to our family and the world. In fact, as I mentioned before, you may think you’re finding out more than you wanted to know. The explanations, the examples, the implications are only too clear. Its easier to pop "Ghost" into the VCR yet again and get some popcorn, but this book offers real substance that provokes the kind of healthy reflection that will have you returning to it again and again.
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