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Excerpt from "Answers About the Afterlife"

The Best Way to Understand the Afterlife

by Bob Olson

The best way to understand the afterlife is through personal experience. What this means is that you will come to understand the afterlife much better by having personal experiences rather than listening to a lecture, watching a documentary, or reading a book about other people’s experiences.

Personal Experience vs. Vicarious Experience

Personal experience is where we proactively go out and have an experience that involves all or most of our senses. This might be getting a reading of spirit communication with a medium, having a past-life regression with a hypnotic regressionist, or having an out-of-body experience at the Monroe Institute. This might also involve having an experience that does not involve a practitioner, such as doing daily meditation, visiting a spiritual place like Machu Picchu, or practicing inspired writing. The key is to be actively involved in these personal experiences as opposed to hearing, watching, or reading about someone else’s experience vicariously.

Vicarious experience is where most of us begin our spiritual journeys—by learning about the experiences of others. We learn through other people’s stories, books, lectures, workshops, sermons, online videos, websites, TV shows, documentaries, feature films, and the like. Listening to someone talk about her near-death experience is a vicarious spiritual experience. When someone tells us about their experience, we can’t touch it, taste it, smell it, or see it with our eyes. We can only imagine that experience in our minds.

It’s more advantageous to personally experience a past life during a hypnotic regression (personal experience) than have a psychic tell you about one of your past lives in a reading (vicarious experience). One is a direct multisensory experience; the other is something you must imagine. And direct personal experiences are the only path from believing (where we accept what someone else tells us is true) to knowing (where we know from personal experience that something is true).

What makes mediumship a personal experience is that it is a conversation with your loved ones in spirit. So even though a medium is conveying the messages and you can’t hear or see your loved one, you are having a personal experience because the messages coming through, causing you to have an emotional, visceral experience. When a stranger tells you accurate information from your loved one in spirit that they could not possibly know, you are affected mentally, emotionally, and physically because you know these messages are coming from your deceased loved one. If you’re not affected in this way, the reading might fall more on the side of a vicarious experience.

Now vicarious experiences have precious benefits too. I’ve learned a great deal from interviewing people who have had near-death experiences. In fact, these interviews have helped me fill in the details whenever my personal experiences only gave me the big picture. The insights gained from those who have had near-death experiences and after-death communications are priceless, so I’m not suggesting they don’t have their place when investigating the afterlife—they most certainly do.

Three Paths toward Understanding the Afterlife

I recognized early on in my investigation of the afterlife that I was being taken down a path through three stages. The first stage was where I began, which I call the path of the skeptic. In this stage, I was skeptical because I lacked evidence, so I chose to believe in nothing until I found evidence to believe otherwise.

Then I progressed to the path of the believer. Here, in the believing stage, we accept as truth the beliefs of other people. This is where religion resides because people believe what their religious leaders teach them as true. And this is the stage that comes from vicarious experience. It’s a valuable stage in itself and is the only stage that some people ever realize. But it’s also a stepping-stone toward personal experience because it teaches us the possibilities for personal experience. If we don’t know what to look for, we might never see it when it crosses our path.

At some point along my journey, I stretched into the third stage, the path of the knower. I knew at a deeper level the answers to my spiritual questions. This knowing was true for me even when my “knowing” was in conflict with what other people claimed was true. And what I realized once I attained my first knowing is that knowing can only come from personal experience. So skepticism comes from a refusal to believe. Belief comes from vicarious experience. And knowing comes from personal experience.

The Transition from Believer to Knower

When one experiences knowing for the first time, it feels more like a remembering than a learning of something new. This transition from believer to knower is similar to the transition from believing you can ride a bicycle (while your mom or dad holds on to it) to suddenly realizing they are no longer holding on to the bike and you are actually doing it on your own. And once you truly “know” how to ride a bicycle, you never forget it—the knowing stays with you forever.

Suddenly, your questions about life’s purpose or why bad things happen to good people or the reason for divine coincidences are just there—you suddenly know the answers. And with this knowing comes a deep sense of inner peace.

This is what spiritual growth is all about. You can pursue new spiritual experiences with greater confidence and mindfulness. Then one day, the answers about life and death will come from within you. And that is a most peaceful and joyful place to be.

* * * * *

Bob Olson, author of Answers About The Afterlife: A Private Investigator's 15-Year Research Unlocks The Mysteries Of Life After Death (BobOlson.com), is a former skeptic and private investigator who began investigating evidence of life after death after the passing of his father. This event ignited questions that he never before considered, so he decided to use his skills as a private eye to investigate the afterlife. Olson's expertise in this field led him to create BestPsychicMediums.com, BestPsychicDirectory.com, and AfterlifeTV.com. He also has a course for psychic mediums at www.PsychicMediumWorkshop.com.

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