Heaven and hell—are they real places, or are they fantasies invented to inspire good behavior and overcome our fear of dying? In this book Stafford Betty, a university professor and international expert on afterlife research, answers these questions. He allows deceased human beings speaking through authentic mediums to describe their actual worlds. And what they tell us would revolutionize the world’s religions if they would listen.
Our brothers and sisters in the afterlife are not “resting,” as Christian theology often asserts. They live in a world of infinite possibility, and their wills are as free over there as they are here. They are busy beings, and some are climbing toward higher realms while others languish. Suffering in the afterworld, not just joy, can be intense; it exists to awaken souls to their errors so they will enter into the happiness of those higher spheres, where corruption can’t enter. Professor Betty explores those heavens, those places where love reigns unchecked—as well as those unhappy places where it doesn’t.
The religions we’ve fashioned here on earth could all use an upgrade. They are moons that derive their light from the central sun. This book is about that sun.
Praise for Heaven and Hell Unveiled
Does religion have anything to offer humanity in the 21st century? Many authorities think not. They see religion’s tired old dogmas as irrelevant and oppressive. This book unveils a different kind of religion, one that reaches us from the world of spirit. Stafford Betty presents this radically new perspective with great skill and eloquence. Heaven and hell are real states, and the spirits who experience them first hand reveal their true nature, likely to surprise you more than a little! Betty’s innovative, provocative, scientifically grounded research will be good news for all seekers. Even earth’s religions may take a lesson or two from our spirit friends. If they don’t, then the “authorities” may be proved right.
Stanley Krippner, Ph.D.
Alan Watts Professor of Psychology
Professor Stafford Betty is something of a maverick when it comes to religion and spirituality. Unlike most academics, he doesn’t beat around the bush on topics that others find too risky, too unconventional, or too “unscientific” to discuss or even consider. He has done extensive research in such subjects as mediumship, past-life studies, near-death experiences, and death-bed visions, separating the wheat from the chaff in his efforts to reconcile these phenomena with religious doctrine and with accepted scientific truths. With the help of reputable spirit sources, he shows us a reality that makes far more sense than that offered to us by either orthodox religion or mainstream science.
Michael Tymn, Editor of The Journal for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies and author of The Afterlife Explorers:Vol. 1
C. S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul.” If you are curious about what lies beyond death, and especially what will be expected of us once we get there, Heaven and Hell Unveiled will serve you well. Written in clear language, it’s a refreshing departure from the complex guess-work of theological reasoning, relying instead on what individuals —“dead” individuals—have actually experienced and reported. This book goes straight to the source for information about “heaven” and “hell” and tells us what we are likely to find when we die.
Larry Dossey, MD. Author of One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters
About the author
Stafford Betty earned his Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University, where he specialized in Asian religious thought and Sanskrit. Today he is a professor of world religions at California State University, Bakersfield, and has become an acclaimed expert on the afterlife. In 2011 he published The Afterlife Unveiled, the first of his afterlife books, and The Imprisoned Splendor, a novel set in the afterlife. More recently he published Heaven and Hell Unveiled: Updates from the World of Spirit, and When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying? Afterlife: The Evidence. Three more books are pending and under contract, including Ghost Boy, a novel for middle-graders about a clairvoyant boy, and a futuristic novel The War for Islam. He regards a novel, The Severed Breast, published by White Crow, as his best work. It tells the story of the apostle Thomas’ travels through India to win Hindus and Buddhists to Christianity. Stafford’s many scholarly articles and essays can be found at academia.edu. He writes and speaks with clarity and regularly addresses conference and radio audiences.
Suicide is an act that usually carries with it a grim entrance into the next world and is universally frowned on in spirit literature. Why is this? The answer surprised me when I first read it, but it now seems obvious.
Medium Maurice Barbanell asked his spirit guide Silver Birch, “Did the Great Spirit intend that some human beings should ‘die’ before they fulfilled their plan of life?” Silver Birch answered:
The plan is always that you should enjoy a full expression of earth so that you shall be equipped for the greater life of the spirit. . . . If fruit drops from the tree before it is ripe it is sour. All life that is forced to quit its body before it has achieved its maturity on earth is unprepared for the world of spirit.
Premature quitting of the body includes much more than suicide, of course. Accidents, fatal diseases, war casualties, and starvation are tragedies, but they aren’t within one’s control; they aren’t self-inflicted. But suicide is by definition self-inflicted and is always within one’s control. The spirit of Betty White told her husband that suicides break a solemn law because they deprive their conscious selves of a natural growth that life in a physical body can best provide. She says:
. . . the more quantity [physical experience] one attains in the obstructed universe [of a physical planet], the more beautifully he will be able to go on in the unobstructed universe [of spirit]. Indeed, just that accumulation of quantity is the reason a long life is desirable. That is why we have to look on suicide as cowardice. The suicide is the fellow who is not willing to accumulate as much as possible.
But it’s not always that simple. The motives for suicide vary greatly; many factors are at work in determining conditions in the afterworld. In certain conditions euthanasia, for example, might be acceptable; and the motive behind the death of a desperately unhappy adolescent would be completely different from that of a Wall Street financier jumping out of a window following a stock market crash. Motive dictates conditions. And whatever the conditions, help is always available. Spirits are well aware of all these complicating issues.
We’re going to look at three examples of suicide to learn how spirits look upon them. The first reaches us from the spirit of Mrs. Coombe-Tennant by way of the famed medium Geraldine Cummins. The spirit is telling her son about a friend of hers named Eveleen and her son, L., both of whom are presently (in 1957) with her in the afterworld:
She [Eveleen] has now in this [spirit] life slowly and painfully realized how much she injured L. in his early years through her possessive love for him. It has indeed been her purgatory to see how much she contributed to the ruin of his life on earth, and how unhappy were the consequences for him after his death. His suicide led to his being plunged into darkness and isolation here for a very long time. L. had as well inherited the instability of abnormal possessiveness from his mother. It was not expressed in the desire for property, money, but in other ways and in a self-centredness. But I cannot go into those details now. It is sufficient to say that your Aunt Eveleen’s possessive love even led her subtly to antagonize the boy L. against his father. His father was idealistic, devoted to spiritual things, so L., disliking his father largely through his mother’s jealous influence, became a materialist when he was a man. Later in life he developed a passion for a very beautiful married woman, who also was spiritually minded and of course rejected his passionate possessive love. All this—her spirituality, his father’s spirituality, failure to possess this woman, drove him to unbelief and gave him a tortured mind. Eventually he took to drugs and, as you know, killed himself. . . . He took into this life [of spirit] his crude ego that hated and hated and [his experience of] denied love. So he suffered much. Poor Eveleen sometime after coming here had to perceive, as we all have to, the consequences resulting from her life on earth. She saw how much she was responsible for her son’s ruined life on earth. She has been very brave about it and, though her reception by L. was grim, she sought him out and tried to help him out of his hell of her and his creation. She has done much to improve things for him.
Note the quality of L’s retribution. He was “plunged into darkness and isolation for a very long time.”
Now compare his fate to the next case, which reaches us from Imperator speaking through the medium Rev. Stainton Moses in 1873. Moses asks Imperator how his “friend,” a suicide, is getting on in the afterworld. Imperator, I should tell you, is never one to sugar-coat the truth. Perhaps he speaks more harshly than necessary.
He begins by telling Moses that his friend’s “spiritual state is low.” “Is he unhappy?” asks Moses. Imperator replies:
How should he be blest? He lifted sacrilegious hands against the shrine in which the All-Wise had placed his spirit for its progress and development. He wasted opportunities and destroyed, so far as he was able, the temple in which dwelt the Divine spark, which was his portion. He sent forth his spirit alone and friendless into a strange world where no place was yet prepared for it. He impiously flew in the face of the Great Father. How should he be blest? Impious, disobedient, willful in his death, heedless, idle, selfish in his life, and yet more selfish in bringing pain and sorrow on his earthly friends by his untimely death—how should he find rest? . . . The fostered self-hood dominates him, and makes him ill at ease. Selfish in his life, selfish in his earthly end, he is selfish still. Miserable, blind, and undeveloped, there is no rest for such as he till repentance has had its place, and remorse leads to regeneration.
The medium then asks Imperator if there is any hope for his friend. “Yes; there is hope. Already there stirs within him the consciousness of sin. He sees dimly through the spiritual gloom how foolish and how wicked was his life. He begins to wake to some faint knowledge of his desolation, and to strive for light.”
In both this and the previous case, “selfishness” and “self-centredness” are crucial factors in their decision to end physical life. Imperator calls selfishness “the plague-spot of the spirit, that which wrecks more souls than you dream of. It is the very paralysis of the soul.” But in both cases help is available and gladly offered. However, recovery is usually slow. “Characters are not so easily changed,” Imperator says, and seldom does “the fire of purification work so rapidly.” Imperator then tells Moses to “pray for strength to minister to him.” The spirit of AD Mattson, the Lutheran theologian speaking through the medium Margaret Flavell, also encourages prayer.
Suicides, he says, “are greatly helped by the prayers and supportive thoughts from those still on earth. They are also aided by those [spirits] from the higher planes who are dedicated to help them grow spiritually.”
We might get the impression from these two cases that suicide almost always leads to grave and extended suffering. According to Jon Klimo, a specialist who has studied the fates of suicides in the afterworld, not all suicides face a future so grim. Some, he tells us, can pass through [the lower] astral plane so quickly that they do not even really notice it.” The spirit known as Seth adds that there are no “special ‘places’ or situations or conditions set apart after physical death” that the suicide has to experience. He elaborates:
I mention this here because many philosophies teach that suicides are met by a sort of special, almost vindictive fate, and such is not the case. However, if a person kills himself, believing that the act will annihilate his consciousness forever, then this false idea may severely impede his progress, for it will be further intensified by guilt.
For the rest of this chapter we’ll be looking at the case of an adolescent boy who took his life but escaped the extremes of gloom and self-torture we’ve just beheld. His story will show us, at the very least, that there isn’t a single rule that covers all cases.
“This is a book about the life, suicide, and afterlife of my son, Stephen. He took his own life when he was fifteen years, three months, and fifteen days old, because he felt it hurt more to live than to die.” Thus begins Stephen’s remarkable story, partly narrated by his mother, Anne Puryear, and partly by Stephen himself from the Other Side. Puryear, a medium, tells us she received the message by dictation, but only after many months of futile waiting while sitting with notepad in hand or in front of her typewriter. Eventually her patience paid off. “I would hear a voice inside my head, talking to me. . . . I spoke to him out loud; he usually spoke to me telepathically. Occasionally, he spoke out loud so clearly that I turned in the direction of the voice.” Later she adds, “I could hear the words inside my head—words that I wasn’t forming or thinking, that moved my own thoughts aside.” For several years before Stephen began his dictation she had been listening to her “spirit guides,” and they spoke to her in the same way as Stephen. Nevertheless, at the beginning she battled “doubt and skepticism” over the source of the voice. Sometimes Stephen tried to convince her he was real by recalling to her some event from his life. Finally, and decisively, she could no longer doubt.
Those of you who worry that Puryear might have imagined in her distress the communicating presence of her son should bear in mind that Stephen has been dead for quite a few years before he begins communicating the rich and detailed narrative you are about to read. He took his life in 1974; her book was published in 1992. Hysteria as the explanation of the voice is out of the question. Moreover, Puryear is a gifted spiritual counselor who co-founded, with her husband, the Logos Center in Phoenix, Arizona. She lectures widely (I’ve heard her) and is considered an expert on teen suicide. She is someone we can trust.
Also, bear in mind that Stephen is no longer a fifteen-year-old boy when we hear from him. He has died, lives as a spirit, and has been in school “every day.” His teachers have a wisdom that we know little of. It’s time to turn over the narrative to him. He is always speaking directly to his mother, often in answer to a question:
What you need to hear next is about suicide and what happens to those who kill themselves. . . . The day I died, here’s what was happening. Remember, I see it now from a clearer perspective than when it happened. . . . I was in a depressed state from the wrong diet, loneliness, and being uprooted from my schools and friends. I was depressed because I didn’t feel I was worth much. No matter what I did all my life, I could never please Dad. I felt guilty for skipping school. You know how much I had always loved school and the teachers and my friends. Now I hated it every day. . . .
Mom, you just weren’t enough then. You were busy. You were my mother. Part of being my age and growing up was to pull away a little anyway, to become a little independent. . . . I just knew that how much you loved me and how good-looking you thought I was didn’t mean much. I actually thought that you loved me no matter how fat I was and wouldn’t tell me how awful I really looked. . . .
I turned right around and didn’t go to school when you let me off. I sneaked back home. I ate and watched TV and felt worse and worse. I decided not to be humiliated more. I would be gone when you got home. I decided to go to the woods and spend the night where you couldn’t talk to me. I might even kill myself. . . .
I had brought a rope along, not to hang myself especially, but I always brought a rope camping. Remember, Dad taught us that. So I began to plan and practice certain knots with it. Then I wrote a few things, then I would think.
I climbed up the tree. It was getting late in the afternoon, dusk, almost time to start getting dark. I sat on the limb and let the rope down to touch the ground, then shortened it so that my body wouldn’t touch the ground when I jumped. I might jump and hit the ground if it weren’t just right. So I climbed up on a higher limb. That ought to work for sure. I knotted the rope around the tree limb, so it wouldn’t come undone. Then I put the other end around my neck with a perfect slip knot. . . .
I was scared then and started to cry . . . I’m sitting there with the rope around my neck, wanting to be stopped, and yet not wanting to be a coward by backing out. I don’t think at the time I had any thought that someone might come and find me. . . . I was pretty far back in the woods and nothing could have stopped me than. . . .
First I was going to jump. I stood up. It looked so far down, it scared me. I started crying. So I sat down. I kept trying to make myself do it and couldn’t. Then I forced myself and jumped. Not a real jump, just a kind of slide and easing-myself-over-the-limb jump. I died instantly. I did feel a moment of pain. I’m not going o tell you I didn’t. There was a moment of blinding pain. The pain only lasted for a little bit and it stopped.
I felt like I was floating up. I was like an air bubble under the water. It felt like I had dived into deep water and was coming up, but I could breathe in the water. I floated up out of my body and it felt like there was somebody at each elbow, but I couldn’t see anybody. And I looked around and there were kind of misty-like forms, but I couldn’t see them very clearly. I floated above my body. I looked down. I could see the top of a head, and then I kind of floated away and could see this body hanging there by the neck. For a moment I couldn’t figure out who it was. It didn’t look familiar.
When I realized it was me, panic took over. I mean panic. Instead of being excited that I was out of my body and was still alive and could see and think, I suddenly realized how mad you and Tom were going to be. I had this moment of feeling like a kid that had done some bad thing and was going to be caught and punished for it. I didn’t realize that there was no way you could punish me for this. I had created my own punishment. I started to really cry; tears filled my eyes and I sobbed. I hurt so bad, and my heart was pounding—I felt like I still had a body. I felt just like I always did, except that I wasn’t touching the ground. I was suspended in the air somehow, without falling.
And as I looked around, the forms around me began to become clearer. I saw grandfather H. I didn’t even remember him except from his pictures, and there he was. I saw your grandfathers. I saw a lot of people that I’d only seen pictures of in the albums. I saw a couple of friends of mine—not real friends, but acquaintances that I had known, and I remembered that they were dead. I saw a whole lot of people I didn’t know, but I felt like I knew them from somewhere. I was confused and didn’t know what to think. I was sad, but I was also surprised, and I was kind of excited. I guess I stopped crying. Some of them came up to me and hugged me. Others said, “Hi, Steve.”
All I could see were the people. I felt so much better. Then when I looked, I could see the body hanging there. It gave me a terrible feeling each time I saw it. It grossed me out. I didn’t want to look at it. It was strange. I knew it was my body, but it didn’t look like my body. I had my body, it seemed. It was confusing.
Panic set in again. Then this cold feeling all over. Maybe I was going to throw up. Then I began to feel I was going to sleep. I just felt myself moving upward and away. Kind of a swishing sound. I just moved upward and away and I fell asleep. There was a lady there helping me, a sweet and kind lady dressed in white, who held my hand.
The next thing I knew, I woke up and it was daylight, and I felt so good. I just felt wonderful. I looked around and there was kind of a misty look everywhere, then it got clearer. I looked closer. I was lying down on my bed, and there was a window. I could see the sun outside. And I tried to remember where I was. You know how you wake up in a strange room or someplace and you don’t know where you are? I couldn’t remember where I was. I had some vague thought come to me that I had seen somebody hanging in a tree, and I fell back asleep. . . .
I kept waking up and getting afraid and then very gently going back to sleep. Someone came and sat by me. I could hear them talking to me, then I’d go back to sleep. . . .
Mom, I know this isn’t easy. I know how it hurts and how sad it makes you. Just kind of breathe deeply and relax. I remember waking up again and this really nice lady was sitting beside me. I thought at first she was a nurse. She had on a white dress. Just a sweet, nice lady. She didn’t say her name, but she talked to me quite awhile. I felt like I knew her. She said, “Would you like to go for a few minutes and see your mother? She has just been told what happened to you. She’s hurting a lot.” And I said, “Yeah, how do we get there?” She said, “Just come with me,” and she took my hand and it seemed like the next time I was in the living room standing beside her as you sat on the couch, and two men sat across from you.
I was so shocked, I didn’t say anything for a second, and then I said, “Mom, Mom! It’s me, Steve. Mom! You won’t believe what happened!” You didn’t answer me. You didn’t even look over. I thought you were too busy talking to them to see me. I didn’t want to interrupt you, so I saw Tom and said, “What’s wrong, Tom? Tom, what’s wrong?” He didn’t look at me or answer either. I looked around. There were Andrea and Debbie, and Tom’s kids. I turned to Andrea and said, “What’s wrong, Andrea?” She was crying and she didn’t answer me either. The woman very gently put her arm around me and said, “They can’t see you. They can’t hear you. But we brought you here to see your mother and be with her.”
I said, “Am I dead? I am dead, aren’t I?” And she said, “That’s what they would say.” I said, “Oh, NO!” Suddenly I felt so embarrassed to be there, because I felt that you and Tom could see me, and how irritated and angry you must be. Then somehow, even though you weren’t crying, I could feel your hurting inside, your heart inside my heart. I had never hurt so bad, ever. Not even when I jumped from the tree.
Then I remembered again the pain and jumping off the tree. It had been like standing by a cold pool and dreading jumping in the cold water. Thinking I had to, then doing it and feeling the shock of the cold water when I hit.
Then the pain stops and you get used to the water. Only this pain wasn’t stopping. I wished I could go back and not jump. I must have been crazy. . . .
I felt sick. I wished I could kill myself to stop hurting. Funny statement, huh? Here I am “dead” and wishing I could kill myself. Not so funny in this dimension, by the way. No matter how much you hurt or how bad you feel, you can’t kill yourself here. I hated what I had done to you. I never realized how much I loved you and you loved me. I never realized how much I loved my home and the girls and Bob. I wanted to be back. I screamed at you, “Mom! Mom! I’m here! I’m here, Mom! Look! I’m not dead! I’m here!” . . .
I hurt so bad. I forgot that no one could even hear me. The lady could, though, and said, “Steve, let’s go now.” I said, “No! I want to stay.” . . .
The lady asked me again if I was ready to leave. I didn’t want to go. I said, “Where is my body? I want to see my body.” She nodded and I followed her. There was something on a stretcher. Tom came out and they pulled the cover down and there I was. Yuk. It grossed me out. I looked awful. My hair was all messed up and my skin was strange looking. It didn’t look like me at all. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking like that. Suddenly I had a thought! What if I jumped back into my body and then I couldn’t be dead? I would just sit up and walk into the house and say, “Fooled you, I’m alive.”
I tried it. I went over and tried to squeeze into my body, but I kept slipping out. I finally made it but nothing happened. I could see and hear just like I was in it, and I could sit up, but the body didn’t move. I tried and tried. I tried pulling my hand up, getting under my shoulders and pushing myself up. I couldn’t budge the body. I couldn’t even lift my own hand.
I turned around and said, “Help me.” The men in the ambulance didn’t hear me but the lady did. “Please help me get back in my body,” I begged her. “I can’t do that,” she said. . . . Steve, you can’t undo what you’ve done. You can’t use this body anymore. There is nothing I can do. There is nothing you can do here. Come with me and we’ll get you settled and talk about all this.” . . .
“Why are you here?” [he asked her]. Are you and angel? If you aren’t an angel, then why are you here? Are you dead?”
“I guess people would say I’m dead,” she laughed, “But don’t I look alive? You will discover that dead doesn’t mean what you have always thought. And I’m here because my job is to help young people like yourself, who come
here to visit a little too early, get adjusted and acquainted. I am not an angel, but there are angels here.” . . .
I looked around and it wasn’t all that different from where we lived except that it wasn’t familiar. There were trees and birds and streets and houses and people everywhere. Some were friendly and happy, some spoke to us, some walked by without speaking, others waved. There were kids my age and every age, playing and running and walking with their friends. There were some old people, but not many. . . .
I was miserable. I tried to act happy, but there were things I needed to take care of back home. This was not where I was supposed to be and I knew it, even if the lady didn’t, and I was going to find some way to get back. . . .
I followed you. You grabbed a shirt of mine on the bed and tucked it under your faced and cried and cried. I held you, but I still couldn’t really feel you and you couldn’t feel me, and that made me crazy. I really was dead. Dead.
Dead was supposed to be dead. I could hear and see and do everything I had ever done. I was not really dead. I knew I wasn’t, but everyone else thought I was. What could I do? This was awful. You were crying because you thought I was dead. I’m hugging you and trying to tell you I’m not, and you don’t even know it.
I am explaining all this to you, Mom, because it’s important to understand the unbelievable pain and frustration I felt. . . .
It was a very difficult time for me. Back in my new room, I asked to go see Dad and the lady said, “Let’s wait a bit. Let me take you somewhere.” We walked down the hall of this house where my room was until we came to a big building. We entered a large room, like a library. There were tables and people sitting around reading and looking at things. . . . I spotted a book on life after death. When I picked it up, it had a funny feeling to it, like little electrical things on my hand. I opened it, and as I looked at the words, I could read them and feel them go inside my head. It was the strangest feeling, like the words would become pictures in my head. I could read and see and hear at the same time. The book was about the changes when you died and how you need to prepare yourself for what it’s like not to have a body. At the time, I thought it was a strange coincidence to find that specific book. Now I know it was part of what I had to learn if I were to grow. It was no coincidence at all.” . . .
As I got to know the lady who helped me over and took such loving care of me, I found out a lot about her. She was a mother. All her own children had been killed in a fire, and then her husband left her before she died. On this side, she was able to reconnect with her children and then, out of the agony she had experienced, volunteered to be trained to help young people like myself. Her role wasn’t just to meet me when I died. As I began to make choices which could end in a suicide, she was assigned to me to try and help me choose differently [well before I died]. She did all she could, but I was beyond listening. She was there to help me once I made the final decision. I know you will think this strange, but I never called her by name nor asked her name. I didn’t need to.
One of the reasons I waited so long to help you get this book out was that you weren’t ready to bring it through with all this information. We wanted you to feel very sure it would discourage, not encourage, anyone to take their life. Plus the world wasn’t quite ready for it—it is now. I needed time to prepare. You needed time to grow and get out of the relationship with Tom. And you needed time to heal.
Stephen provides much more detail about his life on the Other Side than there is space to tell here. The full account can be found in his mother’s book Stephen Lives! I think three points need to be underscored. First, Stephen feels a seering regret for what he’s done; he is fully aware that he’s made a mistake, and that feeling will stay with him for a very long time. While disclosing to his mother all the disappointments that led him to the “crazy” deed, he never tries to excuse himself. He wishes he could undo the deed. Second, neither hell nor heaven awaits him. Instead, a motherly spirit tries to guide him step by step. She becomes his first otherworldly mentor. He was, after all, a child. The grim harvest that awaited the adult suicides we looked at earlier would not have suited Stephen. We see him suffering profoundly, but not unjustly. Third, he tells us that spirits hovered around him as he gave up the body. Not just the “sweet lady,” but others too. And they continued to guide and teach him once the deed was done. In other words, we see expressions of love for the suicide in the world of spirit. And Stephen becomes in time a teacher in his own right. His mission is to serve those of us on earth who might be tempted to a folly similar to his. He too is motivated by love.
As we will see in the next chapter, loving service is the highest calling of the religious life in the afterworld.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published May 2014
Size: 229 x 152 mm