The Distant Shore - the follow-up to Colm Keanes No. 1 bestseller Going Home - is packed with a wealth of new Irish stories about life after death. The book features over 70 original interviews with people from all corners of Ireland, north and south.
Some have briefly died, only to be revived by resuscitation techniques. Reunions with deceased family and friends, and encounters with a `superior being, are described. The book also examines new evidence concerning near-death experiences. In a further departure, the book features astonishing premonitions of future events.
Visions of dead family members are also described. This book was inspired by the huge response to Colm Keanes No. 1 bestseller Going Home - a groundbreaking book that remained a top seller for many months. Containing new material and insights, The Distant Shore is indispensible reading for those wanting to know what happens when we pass away.
Colm Keane has published 18 books, including best-sellers Padre Pio: The Irish Connection and Nervous Breakdown, Going Home, Forewarned, The Distant Shore. As a broadcaster, he won a Jacob’s Award and a Glaxo Fellowship for European Science Writers. Among his other books are The Jobs Crisis, Death and Dying and the Stress File.
Once again, Halloween, or rather the Eve of All Saints, is upon us. The shops have filled up with ghosts, ghouls, vampires and monsters of all kind, many derived from Hollywood. Looking around, it would seem that to kit out the kids for Halloween must cost almost as much as confirmation.
What we have today is, of course, very much a commercially driven event. But it hails back, not only to ancient festivals, but also to the feast day of the Church celebrating the saints, known and unknown. The folklore surrounding the eve of the feast, when it was thought the dead often walked, has been quite eclipsed by the images of modern consumer culture.
All of this fake fantasy should not hide from us the serious realities, the very mysterious matters that lie behind the surface of reality. It does not do to be too sceptical: de occultis non judicat ecclesia, the Church has not decided about ghosts and the ghostly, as Sir Shane Leslie used to observe. We need to steady our minds about the mysteries of life and death.
Colm Keanes book is a successor to his first exploration of the theme of near- death experiences. Readers of this paper will already have had a chance to read extracts from his book and to see for themselves how he approaches the matter.
In some ways, his interviews give credence to many old traditions, such as the one that a dying or drowning person sees their whole life flash before them. But a major theme that emerges from both books is a sense of reassurance that many experience. Though in the shops for Halloween, this is a serious minded book and touches on many vital issues.
Readers might also like to be reminded of an important and widely praised book on these themes by David Hay, dealing with the biology of the human spirit, which shows that religion is an essential part of what it actually means to be human.
But these are near death experiences - what really lies beyond is a mystery of mystery and of religious faith. Christians believe in the continuation of the person, whatever the critics of faith may say.
Visions of the life to come have a long tradition, going back to The Vision of Adamnan by an Irish precursor of Dante, and the experiences that originated the pilgrimage at Lough Derg. From the dawn of humanity, many would argue man has been conscious of the continuity of life.
Other mysterious matters are addressed in the reissue of a quite remarkable book, the classic Strange Things, which draws upon the folklore researches of the great Fr Allan McDonald of Eriskay among his Catholic parishioners in the West Highlands.
He assisted a lady involved in the investigation of second sight in the Highlands; and though the first part of the books will appeal to all those interested in the Gaelic folklore of these islands, the second part is a critique of the same ladys dubious activities. Here, J. L. Campbell, one of the most accomplished of Highland scholars, is joined by Trevor H. Hall, a writer famous for his debunking of various ghost stories and hauntings. This part is less attractive. Here, and elsewhere in Halls books, I have detected a tendency not to be quite frank about the full facts of any matter he investigates, while giving an impression of disinterested impartiality.
Strange Things deals not so much with the mysteries of death, but with the unexplored talents of many, not with the supernatural as the religious understand it, but with quite natural, but unexplained mental talents.
John Dunnes exploration of Irish folklore deals with the legendary eruptions of so many of our lakes, and with the folklore tales and legends surrounding them - the Lakes of Killarney for instance, before turning to deal with lake monsters so called, that is with the pookas and piasts of tradition, and other mysteries and curiosities. It is lightly written and would make a fine book to take on a leisurely tour of Ireland.
In England recently, Churchmen have been trying to draw people back to celebrate All Saints more than Halloween. This would change the nature of the festival, perhaps rightly.
The feast reminds us that there is a community of all the living and the so-called dead, which the Church calls the community of saints.
Whatever the explored mysteries of life, or the perils of the soul after death, eternal life promises rewards far richer than the tacky plunder of trick or treat. The true meaning of Halloween and of All Saints needs to be restored to our childrens imaginations
- The Irish Catholic, 28 Oct 2010