Beyond and Back, a delightfully unpretentious docu-drama from the 1970s packed with information, shows that we have not learned much more about the afterlife than was known in the 1970s. The film features authentic stories about afterlife communication (including Houdini speaking beyond the grave), mediumship, and reincarnation, with special focus on near-death experiences (NDEs). Consciousness, the now used term for the surviving personality, is still called the soul.
This film was made in the time before Raymond Moody’s groundbreaking book, Life after Life, a time when near-death experiences were so poorly known that they had not yet acquired a name. What is especially interesting about it is where recounted experiences differ from most of those now recorded. For instance, those who saw the famous Being of Light interpreted it as God or Jesus. Such religious interpretations are undergoing a revival in the present decade primarily because of growing fundamentalism among Christians.
Even more important, however, is that NONE of the experiencers had a choice about whether to stay dead or return to their bodies. Ethnographic studies of near-death experiences in India reveal the same difference; none of the experiencers interviewed were given a choice either. They are simply told by a clerk that they have to go back, usually because a mistake was made. I would interpret this significant difference as caused by changing attitudes about authority versus personal choice. In the 1970s individual authority was not as well accepted as it is today in the post “Me Generation.” Outside authorities were more respected. The same is true in Indian societies.
I have long believed that near-death-experiences do not present choices even for those who seem to have been asked whether they want to stay or go back to their bodies. There are enough reports of people wanting to stay dead who nevertheless return. Because all evidence points to NDEers not really having a choice, we must ask how much then do NDEs really reveal about the conditions of the afterlife as the permanently dead experience them. I have explored some of this in The Last Frontier, and am now researching ethnographic differences among NDEers. Stay tuned for more information on that…
In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the film. It is worth it.
My thanks to Rob Smith for alerting me to this film.