Tymn sets the stage in the preface, when he notes that at age 75, with some health worries, he is aware of his own mortality. But, he writes, "I think I can honestly say I do not significantly fear the idea of death itself. In fact, I find it somewhat exciting." While happy to live in the present, he sees knowledge of the afterlife as a way of simultaneously "living in eternity." He quotes philosopher Alice Bailey:
We can live in the consciousness of immortality, and it will give an added coloring and beauty to life. We can foster the awareness of our future transition, and live with the expectation of its wonder. Death thus faced, and regarded as a prelude to further living experience, takes on a different meaning.
Meanwhile, Tymn observes, "today's hedonistic materialism is a result of a loss of spiritual values, especially a lack of belief in the survival of consciousness after death." I think there's a lot of truth in this, although the sheer abundance of material goods available in our world is another large factor. It's perhaps inevitable that people with access to unprecedented luxuries would become somewhat hedonistic, even if they happened to retain a belief in a spiritual dimension.
Of course, the big question is whether there is good evidence for an afterlife. As Tymn observes in a brief overview of conventional religious beliefs, acceptance of an afterlife on faith isn't very comforting to the modern mind, especially when the afterlife is envisioned as either "a humdrum Heaven or a horrific Hell." And why are revelations in ancient books considered sacrosanct, while more recent revelations of a similar character are dismissed as fraudulent, delusional, or demonic?
This, by the way, is my main objection to Christian writers like Dinesh D'Sousa and Roy AbrahamVarghese, who defend the afterlife on the basis of Judeo-Christian scripture and a highly selective reading of contemporary evidence, limited mainly to near-death experiences. Why are mediumship, reincarnation memories, hauntings, etc. disregarded by these authors? Whatever their rationalizations, the real reason seems to be that such phenomena contradict Biblical teachings or are prohibited by Biblical injunctions. But an open-minded investigator would look at all the evidence, and not be bound by ancient taboos.
Tymn begins the main part of The Afterlife Revealed with a brief history of Spiritualism, which includes famous cases like the Fox sisters and Emanuel Swedenborg, as well as such less familiar names as George T. Dexter, Grace Rosher, and John Scott. Part of the book's appeal is the presentation of cases that even many aficionados may not have read about. Tymn's encyclopedic knowledge of afterlife research allows him to draw on material that more casual researchers have never heard of.
The book proceeds to examine the dying process and its aftermath in step-by-step, chronological fashion -- from deathbed visions (including the remarkably detailed report of Sir Auckland Geddes in 1937), the moment of separation from the physical body, the early stages of postmortem existence, the life review, and the soul's gravitation to the appropriate sphere or plane.
Summing up in a chapter titled "Making Sense of the Afterlife," Tymn considers how best to understand this larger world. "Another perspective on this," he writes,
is to view the earth life like a movie, an illusory life, being viewed by the real self -- the soul. During a movie, we occasionally remind ourselves that we are separated from the movie action, but we then again become absorbed by the action and feel much of the emotion being experienced by the actors. After a very emotionally-charged movie ends, it sometimes affects us for the rest of the day or evening. And so it seems to be with the soul that has a hard time shaking off the earth experiences.
The lingering effects of earthly life account for some of the difficulties in making the transition to the next life, and for the diverse levels of consciousness among the deceased, as revealed by mediumship.
The book offers four appendices covering premonitions of death, the possibility of reincarnation, the issue of suicide, and capsule biographies of noted researchers and mediums. There is an extensive bibliography which runs the gamut from modern books like James E. Beichler's To Die For to older, obscure titles like Stanley De Brath's 1925 Psychical Research, Science and Religion. The breadth of Tymn's sources is truly impressive, and I was left thinking I should make a list of the interesting titles in his bibliography that I haven't yet read. There are quite a few.
The Afterlife Revealed clocks in at a speedy 192 pages, densely packed with information and insights. It's a fine book, a labor of love aimed at lightening the burden of all those who seek a larger meaning in our predominantly materialistic age, and I hope it finds the intelligent, discriminating readership it deserves.