From the publisher’s website: This book contains 12 accounts of personal experiences from the world beyond. They come from deceased human beings who transmitted their individual story through the deep trance medium Beatrice Brunner during the years 1961 to 1969. In a vivid manner they describe their initial experiences and encounters in the next world. These reports are impressive testimonies of the continuation of life after death.
Beatrice Brunner (1910-83) was a German-speaking Swiss trance medium. Over a period of 35 years (1948-83) she produced some 2,500 lectures, including 91 reports said to derive from departed individuals. A selection of twelve such reports, received between 1961 and 1969, have been transcribed into faultless English from the German-language tape recordings and published by ABZ Verlag, Zürich. Typically an account gives some indication of what life was like before death, initial experiences after it, and how spiritual progress has been made since. The focus is firmly Christian, but earthly religious affiliation is irrelevant; it is the quality of the life which was lived that is important, and divine justice ensures that sins and good deeds are weighed. Even atheists are allowed entry, and they soon see the errors of their ways when it becomes obvious that God exists and is the supreme ruler. If their admittance comes as a surprise, even more so is the existence of gnomes and elves living alongside humans described in one narrative.
So what is it like in this place? All arrive on equal terms, as status on earth is irrelevant here – in fact an easy past life can prove to be a disadvantage as it means more work to catch up spiritually. This is a world of balance and karma (though not a term that is used). An increase in earthly prosperity has it appears actually created a change in afterlife conditions. In the old days, when more people had nothing, arriving in the hereafter was to find comparative luxury. The humbler circumstances prevailing during life meant that more ‘spiritual purification’ could be achieved prior to death. With conditions for many improving though, that pre-mortem process is less available, requiring greater effort after it. Having been pious in life is not enough to guarantee progress in the afterlife if it was in form only; there has to have been sincerity behind it. The degree of sincere devoutness the person had on earth, and the amount of adversity faced, influence the speed of advancement in the Hereafter. One gets credit for having remained true to one’s faith in difficult circumstances, or enduring extreme poverty and hardship, or even having had a lot of children.
It can take time for the newly-arrived to adjust, but there is guidance on offer to help smooth the transition (assisting others conferring credit). Once the adjustment is made, the emphasis is on work. This is not the sort of afterlife where one relaxes with a cigar and a glass of whisky. At first life can be rather tedious, often with plenty of manual labour, though there is a suggestion that things get better as one grows spiritually and has atoned for past sins. There may be a Swiss work ethic reflected here, with Brunner unable to contemplate a heaven where souls simply sit around idle and the means of sustenance are provided without effort. The work is much the same as on earth, as it is obligatory to learn skills. It is also necessary to learn foreign languages, the afterlife not having apparently overcome the language barrier. Fortunately labour is not the sole occupation, as time is set aside to worship God. One spirit attends an appearance by Jesus which sounds much like a celebrity arriving to greet fans, and for some reason Jesus has guards to look after him.
With that sort of exception it sounds a dull place, with a rigid hierarchy, a surprisingly authoritarian emphasis on receiving permission to do things, and a requirement for obedience. Everybody we meet is parochial, with little appetite for exploring further afield, even though the territory, we are informed, is vast. There is also a strange obsession with one’s appearance, hard work and therefore progression enabling nice clothes to be acquired and the higher spirits looking, well, divine. Those who refuse to work wear drab tatty garments and are ignored by the grafters. Others cling resolutely to the earth for a time, unwilling to give up its pleasures even though they can only enjoy them second-hand, until they realise how futile it is. Everybody gets with the programme eventually.
Development thereafter is a personal task, and it is common for those newly arrived to be told that they cannot meet relatives, or only for a brief period, as they must all pursue their own individual paths. The wishes of individuals themselves count for little in the grand scheme. There is even a reference to being ‘re-educated’, which has a sinister ring. It is not a straightforward picture of heaven as a place of unconfined joy. Mixed in with the idea of upward progress is that of reincarnation, returning to the living world to undertake further learning (going from aristocrat to shepherd in consecutive lives, for example).
The publisher has done a good job with the book’s production but less well with the provision of supplementary information. There is an introduction, but it mainly deals with general issues of mediumship, much of it in a Biblical context. An epilogue indicates that Brunner is extremely influential in the German-speaking world: her lectures have been published in Geistige Welt, the oldest Christian Spiritualist paper, since 1948, and there is a very attractive centre in Zürich in which the recordings are played. Both enterprises are managed by an organisation called Pro Beatrice. However there is little information on Brunner herself, there is no indication why these twelve accounts should be particularly noteworthy, nor how they relate to the many lectures she gave.
It is entirely possible that Beatrice Brunner was able to tap into the afterlife, and the people there were able to channel testimonies through her that will help those whose turn is yet to come to be prepared. The general consistency of the witnesses would be the result of their world’s reality. On the other hand there is never any information that would help to identify them as having lived, and it is entirely possible that the consistency is more the result of Brunner’s own views on what the afterlife should be like.
While it always pleasant to think that our consciousness survives death, these reports do not come across as a particularly appealing view of the hereafter. The communicators talk about ‘coming home’, ‘for the true life is the life of the spirit’, yet it is hard to see how its strictness can compare favourably with the earth life left behind for anyone who has not previously suffered extreme privation and who can therefore anticipate being fast-tracked. It doesn’t feel like a place to look forward to for the rest of us if these descriptions of it are a reliable indication.
NB This volume was published in 2013. It was republished the following year in ebook form by ABZ Verlag as Life after Life: A Selection of Individual Experiences in the Beyond.
Pro Beatrice’s website: http://www.probeatrice.ch/index.php/en/