Richard Eyre is the co-author of Teaching Your Children Values and is a popular national expert on the family.
|Publisher:||Shadow Mountain Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.88(d)|
Read an Excerpt
"From God, Who Is Our Home"
Let me begin with an experience that I hope will share some insight as to why I chose to write on this subject and that will set a personal context for some questions about our origin and our eternal souls.
We were living in England during a particularly busy and challenging time of our lives. Both my wife, Linda, and I were involved in projects that required extensive travel and that were taxing emotionally as well as physically. We were desperately trying to juggle the demands of our work with the needs of our children and family. The last thing that would have occurred to us at that juncture was having another child.
Yet it did occur to us. It kept occurring to both of us that we should try to become pregnant again and add a child to our family. At first I tried to ignore it; Linda did too. It was just incongruous with reality. It didn't fit with where we were in our lives. I couldn't imagine where the feeling was coming from. Certainly not from within methere was nothing logical or practical about it, no one had suggested it, we didn't even know anyone else who was pregnant or who would put the thought into our minds. But the thought that we should have another babynowwouldn't go away, and the thought felt like it was coming from outside of us, from some intelligence or presence that was not our own. It troubled Linda even more than it did me. Thethought of a new baby on top of everything else she was dealing with right then simply overwhelmed her.
We had asked God for each of our other children, prayed and asked that we could conceive when it seemed that the timing and the situation were right. This time we found ourselves doing just the opposite, essentially explaining to God that the timing and situation were wrong and asking Him to remove this feeling, or at least to allow us to conclude that it was nonsense. When that didn't happen, we felt we had to become more open and more sincere in our prayers, trying to summon our faith and to ask God to let us know His will. We decided to set aside some time one Sunday afternoon to focus on the issue and to pray together for an answer.
The answer that came was unexpected and remarkable. It completely removed our anxiety and replaced it with calm. There was light and clarity within that calm, and we understood that the promptings we had been feeling came from God. Within the answer to that singular prayer, God told us, through an unmistakable feeling deep within our souls, that there was an existing spirit in a spiritual place awaiting entry into mortality and into our family, and that the entry should happen now. Furthermore, He told us about that spiritthat he was a spirit of remarkable peace and calm, that he would be an easy baby, that the nature of his comfortable and serene spirit would actually ease our burdens rather than increase them and would draw our family (and our priorities) closer as we came together to care for and love this new child.
I'll never forget the feeling as concluded that prayernor will Linda. We had knelt down feeling troubled, concerned, confused about a prompting that we couldn't understand or accept. We got up feeling completely at peace, reassured as to what to do, and certain in our souls that there was a spiritual place and that in that spiritual place was a particular, unique person who was preparing to join us, a person whose nature we already knew.
There is a brief postscript to this story about still another level of assurance we received that Sunday afternoon. We had asked our eldest child, Saren, who was seven, to play with her younger brother and sister upstairs so Linda and I could be alone for our prayer. She wanted to know what we were praying about, so we simplified, "About whether to have another baby." After our prayer and within the peaceful aura of our answer, we called up the stairs for Saren to come down so we could thank hershe'd kept everything relatively quiet for nearly two hours. She came down with a twinkle in her eye and three pieces of paper in her hand and a grinning little brother and sister behind her." We prayed too," she said, "and we marked our votes on these papers." She handed me three homemade ballots, each with two crayon-drawn squares, one labeled "Yes" and one "No" Each of them had an "X" in the yes box.
The longer-range postscript is that our son Talmadge joined our family ten months later and was (and is) all that God had promised us he would be.
A Two-Way Eternity
Polls show that more than 95 percent of Americans (and the figure is similar in most other parts of the world) profess a belief in God or some higher power, and that between 70 and 80 percent (depending on how the question is phrased) believe there is a spirit or soul in human beings that continues to live after the physical death of the body (see George Gallup and D. Michael Lindsay, Surveying the Religious Landscape, Morehouse Publishing, 1999).
Where did that soul in which most of us believe come from? If we are spiritual beings, where did our spirits originate? Did they flare into existence at the moment we were physically conceived or born? Or did they have a spiritual beginning and come from a spiritual place?
Many conclude that a spirit that goes on beyond death must have had a beginning that predates birth. To some, this suggests reincarnationa soul that recycles through different bodies and different lives, even perhaps through different species. Others are repelled by this idea, feeling that they have always been who they are but that they may have come from some other place, "not in entire forgetfulness," as Wordsworth wrote.
Most of us, at times, have glimpses of almost-memory, fleeting sensations that there is more to us than our few years here on earth, feelings of haunting familiarity with things or people we have just encountered. Some call these feelings déjà vu, and many wonder if they are evidence of life before life.
The more one ponders, the more the idea of a one-way eternity (or a spiritual existence extending into the future but not into the past) seems illogical. If there is a spirit within us, it makes sense to suppose that it came from a spiritual place. It is that spiritual place, that "premortal" or "prephysical" existence, that this book is about.
We all want to know of life after life because it increases our faith. Knowing of life before life can do the same, perhaps even more so. If one writes of a near-death experience and a place beyond, we are reading about what happened to him. If another tells us about experiences before birth, we are reading about what happened to each of us. If we believe that we came from another place, and from God, everything expandsfrom our perspective to our own self-worth. We begin to see purpose and meaning in life's experience, and our hope in life hereafter becomes balanced by our faith in life before.
Questions of Eternity
The question of life after life fascinates us. Some who have had near-death experiences have felt their spirits leave their bodies and move toward a better, brighter place. Some of those have written books about this beginning of afterlife, and the books have become bestsellers.
Little wonder that we have intense curiosity about afterlifewe're all headed for it. And accounts of people who at least started to experience it can bolster our hope and our faith.
"What happens to us after we die?" "Why are we here?" These are perhaps the two most asked, most pondered, most personal, most important questions ever asked (and always asked) by mankind.
Their answers (or various attempts or starts at answers) are found throughout the spiritual and the secular, in Bibles and in bestsellers, in sermons and in seminars, in scripture and in self-help.
The questions are ponderous, powerful, and personal because within them we seek a framework in which to live. But they are incomplete (and unanswerable) without a third question, which is: "Where did we come from?"
How can we grasp what and who and why we are without knowing from whence we came? Even in earth time the present and future can only be well grasped or well planned in the context of the past.
As a management consultant, I often tell that to clients. If you think only of the future, never connecting it to the past, you will repeat certain mistakes and fail to notice opportunities. Knowing your past helps you to know yourself and to understand where you can go. I use a boating analogy: The best way to keep a straight course is not to look in front of you. Instead, you look back at your wake and keep it straight. This works on a lake ... or in life ... or in eternity.
Questions of This Life
In closer focus than the three great questions of eternity are the wide array of questions we ask about this lifequestions that affect our perspectives and our priorities, our faith and our future.
* Why do some things seem so familiar when we see them for the first time?
* Why are some children within the same family so completely different from each other?
* Where do our gifts, our inclinations, our talents, and our propensities come from?
* Why is there such difference and division among religionswould not God lead us all in one way?
* Why do most people feel such need, such drive, for independence, for ownership, for control?
* Why are we so attached to nature and to animals? Why does the beauty of the natural world appeal to us so instinctively?
* Why do some things (and some people) "ring true" to us and feel right, while other things feel wrong?
* Why are we instantly drawn to some people, almost as though we've known them forever?
* Why are we "moved" and "touched" by some things when we have no intention of becoming emotional?
* Why is there such suffering, such cruelty in the world? Could any of it serve a purpose?
* Why is there such inequality and apparent unfairnesssome who have so much, some so little?
Only in the context of a spiritual future and a spiritual past are such questions even approachable. One phase of ongoing life establishes the needs and parameters for the next phase, and our individual freedom of choice both requires and creates the broadest diversity. Without an eternal context there are only the comfortless nonanswers of chaos and chance.
With thought and with belief, we realize that all these and a hundred other questions about ourselves and about our lives are really subquestions of the three eternal questionswhence, why, and whither. And of these three, the most fundamental, the first in sequence, and the one that brings most light to bear on the other two is whence.
A Third Alternative
Among the 70 to 80 percent of Americans who believe in a soul that continues to live after the body dies, nearly half believe in reincarnationthat their spirit preexisted in a different body and will continue to exist in still another body, perhaps with intervals and a final destination in heaven (Gallup and Lindsay, Surveying the Religious Landscape, 28, 32).
The other half seem to believe in some form of heaven as the spirit's destination but have no belief in a life before, apparently assuming that this spirit originated at their birth.
In other words, the two options, it seems, for those who believe in an eternal soul, are that our spirits either jumped from one life form to another until they got to us or they suddenly sprang into existence at the moment we were born or conceived.
Most people, I believe, are not fully comfortable with either option. Reincarnation, while it "answers" certain questions, essentially requires that we share our personalities with a lot of other people, past and present. It makes us less our own. And the notion of our spirits just flaring instantly into existence seems simplistic, shallow, and inadequate in light of all the nuances and complexities of who we each are.
There is a third alternativethe one this book asks you to consider. It is that our spirits lived long before they inherited our bodiesnot in other persons but in another place, in a pre-mortal realm where we each developed and became who we are and from where we foresaw this physical life as a continuing phase in our experience and our spiritual progression.
Hope and Worth
Why is life after life so much more talked and written about than life before life? Here are two possible answers and a counter thought to each:
1. It seems more natural and legitimate to predict, project, preview, and prognosticate the future because it hasn't happened yet. Predictions and conjecture are about the future. When dealing with the past, we're accustomed to having a history of remembered and recorded facts. Still, when there is no documented history of a particular period, we don't assume it didn't happen; we look for clues and insights, and we try to reconstruct it.
We should do the same for our spiritual past. To those who believe in a spirit or soul, the best assumption is that it has a pasta past we should look for and be vitally interested in. We won't find our spiritual past in dusty relics or archeological digs. We will find it deep within our own souls, unlocked and encoded only by our personal faith and prayers. And we should not expect too much detail. Our life on this earth has a purpose, part of which has to do with developing independence and faith, a process that would be undermined by a full memory of who and what and where we were before. But faith is strengthened by knowing we existed before and knowing there is a purpose in our being here.
In the spiritual sense, then, our past is very much like our futureknown only through faith and predicted (or remembered) only by spiritual vision.
2. Some would say that thinking about and believing in life after life is more important and more valuable because it gives us hope. Yet believing in and understanding life before life can give us worth. Believing that we're more than a genetic coincidence, that we brought with us personalities and characters and gifts we developed in a place before, and that we are children of God sent here for a purpose ... these beliefs can give us a self-respect and a sense of spiritual identity that can ennoble us and add dimension to our hope for a life to come.
What could be more important and more valuable than these two eternal "bookends" of hope and worth?
Table of Contents
|Preface: Trailing Clouds of Glory||vii|
|1||Questions of Eternity||1|
|2||Our Spiritual Sense||17|
|3||Our Spiritual Compass||51|
|Intermission: Kilimanjaro and Kolob||67|
|4||Our Spiritual Past||93|
|5||Answers for Mortality||119|
|Postscript: Continuing the Quest||175|
|Reading Group Guide||177|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My wife and I have both read this book and we agree that there is value for all people to read this book, no matter what religious or philosophical background. Eyre's points ring true in our minds and hearts and the minds and hearts of those to whom we have lent the book and discussed its points. I have lent it to a Catholic and I have discussed it with a Hindu. Both have found similarities to their own beliefs within the fundamentals of the points of this book.