Hollywood and the “Hereafter” – a conversation with author Constance Briggs

Last weekend I finally went to see the movie Hereafter. It’s  been out for a few weeks already and has  been a disappointment at the box office – so I wasn’t surprised to find myself alone in the theater.  It was a little creepy … but I digress.

The movie is a departure for director Clint Eastwood, whose signature films usually include healthy doses of grit and graphic violence.  Eastwood is also known for eliciting stellar performances from his cast. This is certainly the case in Hereafter – the three characters each experience death from a different perspective:  George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a gifted psychic isolated by his ability, Marie LeLay (Cecile De France) is a journalist who is haunted by her own a near-death experience, and Marcus (Frankie & George McLaren) is a young boy who loses his twin brother and seeks answers to his wrenching grief.  The actors fully embody the  emotional lives of these characters, and although some have accused Eastwood of making a “soft” “new-age” film, the subject is treated with gravity and great respect. The viewer (at least this one) is left affected and questioning.

So, curiosity piqued, I asked author and metaphysical researcher Constance Briggs (Encyclopedia of the Unseen World) a few questions about how the film portrays the afterlife and psychic experience. Here’s what she had to say:

Ankhie: The afterlife experiences depicted in the film all conform to what has become the Western standard of bright light and shadowy figures of the departed. Is this a common afterlife experience for all cultures?

Constance: While the bright light is accurate, shadowy figures are not. In fact, I was not pleased at the depiction of the people on the other side in the film. In the “hereafter” there are not a lot of shadowy figures just standing around doing nothing. In fact, there are no shadowy figures! Once on the other side, we see people. We see beings of light! The shadow figures were simply the filmmaker’s vision of what it is like after we die.

If you are asking whether or not all cultures have the same or similar afterlife experiences, the answer is yes. In my research, I found that near-death-experiences are very much alike around the world. In fact, we also find similarities in such old writings a the Tibetan Book of the Dead, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Book of Enoch and others.

Ankhie: It’s interesting that you bring up the Books of the Dead and Enoch – definitely not part of the fundamental Christian canon. There is an interesting implication in the film that scientific proof exists of life in the hereafter – but that it has been suppressed by agents of organized religion and government. Do you think that there is any validity to this theory?

Constance: No, I don’t believe that there is a suppression of evidence…at least not in the US. Remember this was a French Journalist that made that claim in the movie. In the US, there are so many books, TV shows and movies on this subject, that no, I don’t believe that the government wants to keep it a secret. I also do not believe this of the religions here ( elsewhere, I am not certain about). There are even some universities in the US that are actively trying to prove that there is life after death. I do believe that there should be more interest and studies on the subject. I believe that the vast experiences with the other side of people from all walks of life, should be shared on a major scale. I think that we should be working harder to learn more about the “hereafter.” It is obviously there. The evidence is there. I don’t believe that it has to be a mystery. I think learning more about it can help in our evolution. Even Thomas Edison thought that there should be some sort of communication device to link the two dimensions. But, as a people, we are not there yet. The world cannot wrap their minds around the idea that there is a real place, with real people living and existing in another dimension, no matter how many times our worlds cross. We have come so far in our growth as far as technology. However, the majority of people still are not interested enough, or spiritual enough, to move past the point that this doesn’t all have to be a mystery; that we can learn more, if we try.

Ankhie: There’s a heartbreaking scene with the character of Marcus (the young twin) at an open meeting of a spiritualist society – preceded by many failed encounters with people claiming to have access to the other side. Despite these disappointments,  Marcus persists. When finally he is able to sit down with George, the reading begins with broad claims, much as all the other readings do. Why would a legitimate psychic follow the formula that has become a hallmark of frauds? I have my thoughts but wonder about yours…

Constance: People that do this type of work (if authentic), have many different ways and means of opening a communication from the other side. The mediums or readers are attempting to relay information that they are hearing or seeing from another dimension. It’s not easy. There are no set rules or openings. Perhaps the film makers were giving the audience their version of what occurs during one of these sessions.

Ankhie: The pivotal scene in the movie (the scene that brings a resolution to the three story lines) involves publishing and the book industry – which of course made me very happy.  But in fact, throughout the movie, books play a pivotal role – from George’s obsession with (one might even say dependence on) Charles Dickens, to Marie’s manuscript and publisher expectations. Which leads me to the broad question;  how do writing and the printed word play into the history of spirit and spiritualism?

Constance: We have learned, through the written word found in the forms of ancient texts, scriptures and fictional stories that have been passed down through the ages, that there is a hereafter. It is because of the preservation of these writings that we know that the idea of life after death is not a new one, and that the amazing phenomena of seeing apparitions, spirits and of having out-of-body experiences (also referred to as astral travel) is as old as time. It is because of humankind’s need for knowledge and thirst for history, that we know that the hereafter has always existed. Our ancestors knew it, and we have a written account of their ideas and beliefs on the subject.

One of the earliest and most revered books, the Bible, has an interesting story surrounding the subject of life after death, mediumship and after death communication. It is the story of Saul and the Medium of Endor. Through this ancient tale, we learn that the dead can be contacted. There, Saul contacts the deceased Samuel, through the Medium of Endor. In addition to the Bible, the Koran tells the tale of Muhammad traveling to “paradise,” in what seems appears to be an out-of-body experience. Who would think that this type of experience would be found in the Bible or the Koran? They were written and handed down to us for our information. This also is the same situation in the Book of Enoch found in the Pseudepigrapha, where Enoch is taken to heaven and sees angels, spirits in classes, and returns with an enormous amount of information about the other side. There are also the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, both of which serves as guides through the afterlife.
In addition, there is fiction, with Shakespeare being one of the best-known authors to write about the hereafter in his plays, most notably Hamlet and Macbeth. There is a ghost in Hamlet that appears several times. In Macbeth, we find a ghost, prophetic apparitions, a floating dagger and witches. These stories have been handed down through the centuries and have helped to influence people on the subject of the survival of the consciousness after death.

It was during the 19th century that spiritualism first became popular. If it were not for documentation of the events during that time, we would not have the means to compare the spiritualist events of that period with what is happening today. As a result of that door opening, there is a huge amount of books on the topic available today. These books of near-death-experiences, out-of-body experiences, ghostly encounters, after death communication, angels and spirit guides help others with their own personal encounters with the afterlife.

I find that books in general have been empowering in this subject matter and lent strength to those have experienced such things but had no one person to turn to.

Ankhie: So how did writing The Encyclopedia of the Unseen World change or affect the way you think about the hereafter?

Constance: Writing the book itself was an amazing experience; one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I wrote the book with the intent on helping others to learn about this fascinating subject. However, writing the book really opened my eyes to the wealth of information available on this topic. In addition, I believe that there is enough evidence out there to prove that there is indeed a hereafter. I also realized just how many people are having experiences related to the unseen world. Almost everyone that I interviewed had some type of other world experience to share; and if they didn’t have one, then they knew of someone who had.

So tell us readers – what are your experiences with the “hereafter,” and if you saw the movie, what did you think of it?

Further reading:

Encyclopedia of the Unseen World: The Ultimate Guide to Apparitions, Death Bed Visions, Mediums, Shadow People, Wandering Spirits, and Much, Much More by Constance Victoria Briggs

Afterlife Knowledge Guidebook by Bruce Moen

Afterlife Encounters; Ordinary People, Extraordinary Experiences by Dianne Arcangel

Fringe Dweller on the Night Shift; True Stories from an Afterlife Paramedic by Monica Holy

Kids Who See Ghosts; How to Guide Them Through Fear by Caron B. Goode

Messages; Evidence for Life After Death by George Dalzell

People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead by Gary Leon Hill

The Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal by Judith Joyce

The Big Book of Near Death Experiences; The Ultimate Guide to What Happens When We Die by P.M.H. Atwater

The Book of Enoch the Prophet by Robert Henry Charles

Dion Fortune’s Book of the Dead by Dion Fortune

Awakening Osiris; The Egyptian Book of the Dead by Normandi Ellis

The Tibetan Book of the Dead by Graham Coleman

Embraced by the Light, Betty J. Eadie

Fast Lane to Heaven, Ned Dougherty

Life on the Other Side; A Psychic’s Tour of the Afterlife , Sylvia Browne

The Other Side of Death,  Jan Price

Saved by the Light, Dannion Brinkley

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