The Turning Wheel


Our experience of life, and living, is that it is punctuated with events which ultimately seem to teach us various life-lessons.  Some of these are gained from experiences of profound loss and grief, others from moments of joy, bliss and ecstasy.  Death, the final transition, and it’s meaning in our lives can be difficult to understand and to come to terms with.  Why are we born seemingly only to die?   Why do accidents, which frequently claim lives, happen?  Why are we afraid of dying, or, why do we not really think about it all that much?  What is our final destiny?  Do we go on, or do we cease to exist after physical death?

While there are many people who already have a relationship with the afterlife, there are many who do not and one of the reasons I write this blog is because I want to encourage people to not only reimagine or reframe their relationship with death, but to do that with the afterlife as well.   Belief and knowledge of the afterlife has been documented through history, is evidenced across cultures and religions, eastern and western, and has been debated over and wondered at by people around the globe.  Books have been written about it, artists, poets and musicians have been inspired by it, and movies, telemovies and documentaries have been produced about it.

There is a scene in the series, The Tudors, where King Henry at the end of his life wonders about death.  The scene was inspired by the work, An Ecclesiastical History of the English People, in which the author Saint Bede recounts a story relating to King Edwin of Northumbria (AD 627).  The King was in discussion with his counsellors about whether to accept Christianity, which incorporates an afterlife, when one of his advisors makes mention of their ignorance of their final destination.

The advisor makes an allegorical statement, likening ‘life’ to a sparrow flying into a lighted hall at one end before flying out the end at the other.  While inside the sparrow is safe from winter’s tempest which rages outside, but after a short time the sparrow disappears, flying through the hall before “… passing from winter into winter again.  So this life of man appears for a little while”, he declared, “but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all”.

Yes, our life appears for a little while and it does feel at times that we are passing through it as though on our way to another destination, but of what is to follow we do know.  And the reason we know is because so many people, myself included, have had near-death experiences.  These events have taught them that physical death is the putting off of the physical body, which like a shell encloses us while we exist as embodied beings, while we live our life in the flesh.  When death occurs we do not cease to exist, we transform into something which doesn’t require a physical body any more.  But then what?  Ah, now that is the question.


Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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