Julia Assante, Ph.D., is the author of The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death. In this comprehensive work, she probes what happens when we die, approaching with scholarly precision historical and religious accounts, near-death experiences, and after-death communication. She then presents convincing evidence of discarnate existence and communication with the dead and offers practical ways to make contact with departed loved ones to heal and overcome guilt, fear, and grief.
She took time to answer some questions about her new book and the fear of death.
What makes you say that the fear of death is running our world?
Julia Assante: I look at how the fear of death is produced in our society from the stance of a professional social historian. In The Last Frontier, my primary focus is on the media and the health and beauty industries, including pharmaceuticals and insurance, which most directly impact us on a daily basis. Together they have pathologized death. I also look at governmental institutions, education, our constant-growth economic policy, and the sciences.
All these exploit the fear of death, usually for profit, by disseminating visions of an unsafe world and the body as a time bomb. The result is that we live in relentless anxiety of imminent attack, whether by terrorists, war, disease, aging, accidents or natural disasters. We are taught that death is the number one enemy, that life is always superior to death, no matter how devalued that life may be. Religions inculcate fear differently, by threatening punishment after death or in the next life. Because of our fear-based orientation, we have lost all natural trust in a benign universe and in the body’s ability to heal itself. With that trust restored, we would live longer, healthier, and infinitely happier lives.
You claim that getting rid of the fear of death is the best thing that could happen to humans. But isn’t fear of death normal? Isn’t it a survival instinct?
JA: A certain amount of fear or — I should say — avoidance of death is normal. If we didn’t have some attachment to the body, we would leave it at the first sign of threat, like a baby rabbit. Survival is a strong inclination, but not as strong as we would like to believe. If the so-called survival instinct genetically existed, absolutely nothing could induce a person to go to war. What’s more, people elect death for reasons of altruism or belief.
The fear I’m talking about is socially constructed. We are taught that death is the ultimate enemy, to be fought to the bitter end. We envision death in only negative terms — the Grim Reaper, a skull and crossbones. Our associations with it are just as horrendous. Terms like the dead, death knell or deathbed, grave, tomb, coffin, corpse, even funeral are taken as macabre and sinister. Such dark attitudes never occur to other animals. The fear of death traps us in a playing-it-safe existence in which we no longer actualize our natural audacity to live up to our own ideals.
What sort of changes do you see if we lose our fear of death?
JA: First, we would be in a position to truly grasp immortality. Then everything changes. Our inner awareness of what is really important for the planet and all its residents, now and in the future, would resurface. Dying would no longer be the end but a small turning point in the life of the eternal self. Studies show that people who have lost this fear have measurably increased mental, intellectual, and psychic capacities. They become more reflective, more spiritual, more altruistic, and more sensitive to nature and the environment. They also develop a hunger for knowledge. Prejudice and a “them-versus-us” mentality give way to concern and compassion for others. The desire for success and material gain recedes, as does the need to compete. People feel, instead, a sharpened sense of personal life purpose, typically involving service. Imagine a world populated by people like this!
You are an academic. What brought you to write a book about the afterlife?
JA: I am an academic, which is why this book includes research. But I have also been a professional medium, with 35-years of experience to draw on. The inspiration came when Michael, a man very close to me, died while I was in graduate school. I was with him in intensive care and was able to watch him leaving his body, coming back during resuscitation and then leaving again.
After his death, communication was spectacular, lasting over an hour at a time. We had real dialogue, we argued, we laughed. Although I had long been talking with the dead, I never realized it could be that compelling, that deep and involved. It changed my life. Just as important was seeing what it did for Michael. He went from panic to euphoria when he realized someone could still see him and hear him. So many of the dead have an urgent need to communicate, a need we deny. Many of us also deny their very existence.
I understood the overwhelming significance of communication for both the living and the dead and felt a strong need to write about it. Since Michael’s death, I’ve had nearly constant appearances in my personal life. Some communicate so clearly that I can type what they are saying word for word while they are saying it. The dead help me enormously and I help them when needed.
Isn’t your ability to talk with the dead extremely rare?
JA: Not at all. Everybody talks to the dead secretly anyway, even atheists. But we are taught to disbelieve in the validity of it. According to surveys, somewhere between 42 percent and 72 percent of people polled had spontaneous after-death communication, and this is not counting deathbed visitations, which are very common, induced communication and communication through mediums and with children. Seventy-five percent never mention the experience because of fear of ridicule. If these polls are representative of the general population, at the very least, more than half of the population is aware of having contact with the dead. Many more have it without realizing it.
After-death communication is largely a process of telepathy, an innate human ability. In The Last Frontier, I explain all this and give point-by-point directions on how to use those inborn tools to make direct contact with the departed on your own.
How do we know that after-death communication is not just wishful thinking or fantasy?
JA: Statistical studies show that people are not wishing for an encounter when they happen spontaneously. In encounters when people do not know of the death of the discarnate visitor, wishful thinking can be ruled out. I have in mind here a mother who encountered her dead teenage daughter before the police informed her of her daughter’s fatal car accident. That’s not wishful thinking! What the dead do and say almost always takes us by surprise anyway, which shows that they are independent of our thoughts. Wishful thinking does not save lives, but warnings from the dead do. Fantasy won’t instantly heal a person of post-traumatic stress disorder, but a visit from the dead can. Something else that cannot be attributed to wishful thinking is the all-over body sensation of tingling that I and others feel when the dead are present.
Isn’t communication with the dead dangerous?
JA: Only in the movies! From untold thousands of after-death communication testimonies collected by researchers, not one records a harmful incident. Visits from the dead are respectful and almost always intended to help the living. Even the dead who were criminal in life appear out of remorse rather than malice. The antiquated notion of deranged earthbound spirits preying on the living is just plain poppycock. Fear of communication is partly the result of the biblical injunction against necromancy, which was punished by stoning. The injunction arose not to protect the living from the dead, but because the dead were considered elohim, meaning gods or divine spirits.
Since the Yahweh cult did not tolerate other gods, communication with divine spirits was outlawed, as was ancestor worship.
Another source of fear is the feeling that contact with the dead will pull you over to the other side. That is about as logical as believing that talking to someone on the phone from North Dakota will automatically transport you there, never to return. If this feeling were based in fact, statistically, more than half of the American population would be dead. Certainly no medium would be left alive.
What then are the benefits of after-death communication?
JA: The instant alleviation of grief is number one. Knowing that relationships between the living and the dead continue to grow and contact is normal transforms the way we die and the way we live. Contact also brings us face-to-face with immortality, a life-changing event. More specifically are the messages we get from the dead, the reassurances, encouragement, warnings, asking for forgiveness or giving it — the list is long. If allowed, the dead will help us reset our values to build a better world. As communication develops we will be able to tap into the greatest resource of knowledge imaginable about anything you can name, science, the arts, history, including the nature of reality itself.
How can a person overcome grief?
JA: Some amount of mourning is natural and necessary. Still, nothing alleviates grief more than contact with our departed loved ones. Formerly, bereavement counselors recommended an abrupt break with the departed. Now they recognize that maintaining close ties, in whatever form, speeds recovery and lessens grief’s intensity. If we better understood the afterlife, we would know that death is not what separates us, fear and ignorance are.
When I feel grief, I focus on where the person I’m grieving for is now, and the grief stops cold. Strong waves of grief often signal the presence of the dead. In The Last Frontier, I explain how to turn those waves into elation by using them to launch communication. Grief also surges when we recall our loved one’s last moments in the flesh. Those memories are all too often painful and seared into our brains.
If we remembered that people return to full health and wholeness almost instantly after death, we would realize that what we think of as their last moments are for them usually just a bump on the path, remembered (if at all) like getting over an illness. Obsessive grief, however, is an unfortunate way many attempt to stay connected to the departed, because they don’t know any other way. Relationships with the departed don’t stop at death. In fact, they will grow and thrive, if we let them.
You say that heaven and hell don’t exist. How do you know? Isn’t that what’s in the Bible?
JA: From tens of thousands of after-death communications, no one has reported hellish situations or conventional heavenly ones to the living. Some may be tortured by remorse, temporarily confused, or hallucinate a hell based on their personal expectations. Reconciliation with the living and self-understanding — not punishment — soon free them. The notion of heaven and hell as fixed places is a later Greco-Roman Christian adaptation that developed in response to the failed promise of an apocalypse and the Second Coming. It is not in the Bible. The biblical afterlife, Sheol, received everyone, the “saved” as well as the “damned.”
If there were such a thing as reincarnation, why don’t we remember our past lives?
JA: Like most memories, past-life memories are just under the surface. Children, especially before the age of 5, frequently have conscious recall of other incarnations. Their recall can be outstanding, with verifiable accuracy into the ninety percent range. Memory occasionally includes the full use of a language, such as Aramaic or ancient Chinese, which these children could not possibly have known in their present lives. If children do talk about their past lives, parents usually either ignore them or accuse them of lying. Even in countries in which reincarnation is taken as fact, recall is discouraged. In time, we automatically censor such memories. But they can be easily retrieved with light suggestions.
If there were life after death, wouldn’t science have proved it by now?
JA: If science put 0.1 percent of the money spent on developing atomic bombs (over ten trillion dollars), we would already have proof. The problem is not lack of technology, but rather ideology. When science began pitting its materialist explanations of the universe against religions’ nonmaterial ones, it could no longer endorse a belief in an afterlife, the linchpin of all religions. The few scientists who might want to research the issue of postmortem survival risk ridicule, loss of funding, and their professional positions. Scientists also ignore the mountains of evidence for survival that already exist, in part because the evidence so far has not met their standards for scientific proof of replicable, clinically controlled tests.
Why do you claim that we are on the verge of a revolution in consciousness?
JA: Ironically, science is doing the most to propel this revolution. Research on consciousness itself, nonlocal realities, of which the afterlife is one, and the nonlocal mind is surging. With regard to life after death, since the advent of near-death experience (NDE) studies in the 1970s, interest in proving the existence of an afterlife as well as in investigating its real nature has dramatically risen among researchers, the media, and the general public. NDEs have demonstrated that the mind not only operates outside the body but operates with greatly enhanced abilities, a finding of colossal significance to the survival question. Charting this exotic domain is now within our reach, a project that I carry forward in the Last Frontier.
The hard sciences inadvertently support after-death survival by their view of reality as a multiverse, in other words, a reality composed of a nearly infinite number of universes, unperceived by us. Quantum mechanics and astrophysics further support it by showing that matter hardly exists in the universe. What little there is comes from atoms. But the ratio of matter to space in each atom is about the ratio of a tiny pea to a football field. What separates us from discarnates and their dimensions is theoretically that pea.
The most momentous change was the invention of the humble telephone, which accustomed us to speak across great distances with disembodied voices, a startling parallel with after-death communication. With radio and TV, we are now used to unheard sound and unseen images moving in waves through space at impossible speeds, a process exceptionally close to the process of telepathy. The Internet has been an even better training ground for expanding our conceptual frameworks and priming us to interact with other dimensions, because it transmits information instantly from multiple points that mimic inner dimensions. Cyberspace and virtual reality habituates us to dimensions of activity where space is collapsed and distances don’t exist, a strong analogy to nonphysical, no-space dimensions, such as the afterlife.
Lastly, we are now aware of the fantastic immensity of the universe, an immensity that necessarily broadens our concept of reality and the Divine. Given these unprecedentedly rapid changes that are expanding our consciousness, it seems to me that the revolution has already begun.
Why should we worry about the afterlife? We’ll find out soon enough.
Knowing something real about the afterlife, rather than relying on what religions and traditions tell us, takes the fear out of living and dying and replaces it with wonder. It makes dying immeasurably easier, while opening the pathways for after-death communication. Understanding the afterlife means understanding eternity. When we truly understand eternity, our day-to-day stresses seem impossibly petty and we let them go. The result is a longer, more robust life, lived with courage and purpose. Just as important, knowledge of the afterlife gained before we die eliminates confusion, suffering, or even hallucination after death caused by false expectations and misconceptions. Besides, exploring the afterlife, our last frontier, is the greatest adventure of all.
For more information on Julia Assante, visit www.juliaassante.com.
Published with permission of New World Library.