There’s a whole "science" of collecting the last words of famous folk who are dying. The 19th century playwright and gay activist Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said, "Either the wallpaper goes, or I do." (he did).

Queen Elizabeth I was driving the country slightly mad because she had no progeny to inherit the English throne and she refused to name a successor: When she finally died in 1603, when the priest at her bedside, Archbishop Whitgift, asked her who should succeed her, she is reported to have whispered, "Who else but?" We assume the name she mentioned was the Protestant King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. She died on a Thursday, as did her father and half-sister.

The most famous last words of our time are those of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who is reported to have said to his sister, the author Mona Simpson, "Wow! Oh, wow!" when he died on October 5th, 2011. In the Wall Street Journal, op-ed columnist Peggy Noonan called these "the great words of the year" for 2011.

I think he went out of his body and saw himself lying on the bed. Being an endlessly curious and innovative man, he would have been fascinated by this and also would have realized that this meant he had a soul (an idea that–as a pragmatic scientist–he probably always rejected).

While I had a near-death experience in 2004, I didn’t go out of my body–I obediently followed my dear, dead Siamese cat to the World of the Dead. I haven’t ever left my body for any extended period of time, the way that Whitley and others who have attended the Monroe Institute have learned how to do, but I did leave my body once–for a very short time, while lying on my bed. I didn’t look down and see myself–the moment was too brief for that–but what I remember about it was having an incomparable feeling of joy.

I hope this means that wherever we’re going after we live this life, we will be happy. There are surprisingly few references to hell in the Bible (mostly in Matthew and Mark), despite the emphasis that some so-called "religious" folks put on it. I remember taking a course from a theologian at Chautuaqua who taught at a university who said, "When my students interpret the Bible too literally, I always remind them that the Bible was written by PEOPLE."

This is an important point because it is one of the things that has kept the West relatively peaceful in modern times, at least compared to Islamic countries. Why aren’t Methodists and Baptists blowing each other up, the way Sunnis and Shiites are? Because their religious book, the Koran, was what we would call "channeled," thus you can’t disagree with it and you may feel the need to destroy people who interpret it differently than you do. This concept eliminates the possibility of a religion’s growth, change or reformation. In contrast to this, the Bible is considered to be "divinely INSPIRED."

I’ve always felt that the concept of hell is a human construct. What else could it be? Payback, retribution, punishment–these are all things that HUMAN BEINGS like to wallow in. And anyone who stresses this part of their belief system–instead of the joy and wisdom it brings them–needs to reconsider their religion or at least the way they are interpreting it, because you can’t scare or threaten people into doing the right thing–you can only inspire them.

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  1. A few things. Anne, your
    A few things. Anne, your near death experience is fascinating. I have had an out of body experience in which I saw my deceased dog, she looked, felt, just the same, acted the same, she did appear to need a bath, though. 🙂 When she saw me, she ran around me in big, excited circles, barking, just as she would have in life. I have also had an out of body experience in which I believe I saw my son, before I even knew I was pregnant with him.

    Regarding Islam vs. Christianity and violence; there may not be Methodists and Baptists blowing each other up, however, there are Tea Party “Christians” who have murder in their hearts for anyone who doesn’t believe like them. Religion seems to inspire people to do the most horrible things happily.

    I do agree that the concept of hell is very flawed, a concept of limited humans. I do not understand the concept of infinite punishment for a finite amount of sin.

    As usual, a great journal entry. Thanks Anne.

  2. Fantastic Anne! Always
    Fantastic Anne! Always inspired by you. “Once the mirror of expectation is shattered, the door of perception is open, and there is something there, something alive, looking back at us from where the mirror once stood.” Some dude named Whitely said this. Spectacular… All my love to you 2. ;-))

  3. Anne: We’re on the same
    Anne: We’re on the same wavelength again, and I can see myself following one of my three, adorable, living cats (after they pass), when I go out of body. As far as religion, there’s some quote (but I cannot remember by whom), about the human blood of religious intolerance, soaking the soil of Europa and the Middle East. Their “soil” was never meant for such a purpose! Can’t we all get along? I will pray tonight, that it never comes to anything like that in America…with our Liberty & Freedom, we don’t need it! I don’t believe that we just have the spark of the divine, in us, as humans…but I know we are the literal kids, sons and daughters, of God. You, and I, and all of us, are Gods.

  4. Anne—I found what you had
    Anne—I found what you had to say about the violence in Islam vs. the violence in Christianity challenging on a couple of levels. First of all, though I think the situation is a little better in the so called “Christian world,” we must remember that it wasn’t too many years ago that Croatian Catholics and Serbian Orthodox were murdering each other, and the Serbs were also attempting to commit genocide against the Bosnian Muslims. I actually knew a few of these Bosnian Muslims who were refugees sponsored by a church I worked at as a seminarian. They were quite “western,” and I am sure, no more interesting in blowing anyone up than you or I am.

    Secondly, this thing about the Quran being “chanelled”—-though I wouldn’t put it that way, I understand what you mean. The Muslims DO believe that every word of the Quran is literally the word of Allah, revealed directly to the Prophet. However, what I have been learning as I pursue a degree in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, with a certificate in Christian-Muslim dialogue, has indeed convinced me that the violent extremists of Islam are not following the teachings of their religion any more than were the IRA, the Serbian Orthodox, “right to lifers” who murder doctors who provide abortion, etc….. There are numerous different schools of Islam, and contrary to popular belief, there is a sustained attempt to interpret the Quran for our contemporary world—-and there actually is a basis in the Quran for doing that. Many of the violent acts and attitudes we associate with Islam have more to do with cultural issues. There ARE violent cultures (like the U.S.!) For example, when local tribal councils sentence women to death by stoning for committing adultery, they are generally violating the spirit AND letter of sharia, which maintains there must be four pious Muslim men who have witnessed the “penetration.” How often does that actually happen? Therefore, these sentences are illegal. In a short post it is impossible to go into any real detail, but nevertheless, I am learning more and more each day just how badly the western media and governments have mischaracterized Islam—-either out of pure ignorance, or for the sake of war propaganda.

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