A few days ago, Walter Hudson had a piece up on “The Folly of the Jedi”.
I have to admit, my first reaction is the one that I’ve learned in about a thousand years of science fiction fandom — okay, it’s only 40, but it feels like a thousand — which is “Dude, it’s a movie. It’s fiction. There is no thousand-generation Galactic Empire.”
I’d fully enjoyed the pleasures of arguing about the Hollywood white-guy communism of Star Trek’s Federation and what The Force might be; the truth is, damn little of anyone’s world-building will stand up to that kind of scrutiny. It’s usually better suited to late night conversations in the con suite while wondering who will pass out next in the bathtub.
It happened though, that Walter had hit on a particular line from the movie. Master Yoda warns Anakin against becoming attached, because attachment leads to fear, and –
Last week on PJ Lifestyle I read with great interest a piece by P. David Hornik titled “What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us.” With “great interest” refers to my long-time fascination with near-death experiences (NDEs), which began in 1994 after a friend gifted me the book Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie.
The book, according to my friend, was a “must read.” As proof, she claimed it was still on the New York Times best seller list after an entire year. (For the record, Embraced By The Light was #1 on the New York Times list in September 1993 and in the top ten for 78 weeks. Subsequently, it became the fifth bestselling book of the 1990s.)
Embraced By The Light, published in 1992, was Eadie’s personal account of her near-death experience after an operation gone awry in 1973.
Then, for more than a decade, Eadie was hesitant to write or speak about her NDE out of fear that people (including family members) would think she was totally nuts, or would not believe her story.
What makes Eadie’s NDE so controversial and intriguing is the title of the book itself. Because, immediately upon reaching heaven, Betty was “embraced by the light,” and that light was Jesus Christ and he made himself known to her.
Betty is then taken on an unforgettable tour of heaven which she describes in great detail. Throughout the book, Jesus teaches Betty His message of eternal and unconditional love. But despite her pleas to stay in heaven, Jesus sends her back to earth because it was “not yet her time.” The book concludes with Jesus’ final message to Betty, “Above all else, love one another.”
Like millions of other readers around the world (the book was published in 130 countries, translated into 38 languages, and to this date has sold over 20 million copies), I was totally captivated by Embraced. This captivation stemmed from my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But Betty’s NDE account, the first one I had ever read, only served as sweet confirmation that the “benign deity” (the phrase used by Hornik in his piece) not only exists, but that we will meet Him face to face “when it is our time.”
Here’s a video of Eadie on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the ’90s, when Embraced was a best-selling book:
In a complete violation of literary tradition, I’m going to start this column with a digression. Kids, don’t try this at home.
Buddhism is divided roughly into three traditions, or “yanas”, a word that basically means “raft”: Hinayana, the “little raft”, Mahayana, the “big raft”, and Vajrayana, the “diamond raft”. Hinayana is also known as Theravada, or “the teachings of the elders” — especially, as you can imagine, by Theravadans. Honestly, the size of your raft isn’t important; all of them derive from the same source, but with one major difference: Theravada or Hinayana uses literary sources in a language called Pali, while Mahayana sources are in Sanskrit.
Pali in turn comes from a language called Prakrit, or more precisely is a prakrit: Prakrit means “common language” or even “practical language.” The comparison with “practical” isn’t a coincidence. English, like nearly every other language you hear in Europe, derives — along with Prakrit and Sanskrit and Pali — from the same source language that was spoken in what is now northern India. Linguists, elegantly, call this language “Proto-Indo-European“, or, familiarly, as PIE.. Who says there’s no poetry in science?
Sanskrit, by contrast, means “ornamented” or “fancy” language. Classical Sanskrit is a literary language that really developed hundreds of years after the historical Buddha lived, and is used for Buddhist literature in the Mahayana tradition. I lean toward the Mahayana tradition, and a good bit of the original translations of Buddhist literature were made by the Victorian hippies from Sanskrit, or from literary Chinese translations of Sanskrit.
The problem is that when Buddha was actually teaching, speaking to pretty much anyone who walked past, he was undoubtedly speaking Prakrit of some sort. Religious texts were in a sort of liturgical language we call Vedic Sanskrit from which Classical Sanskrit derives, but it doesn’t seem to have been anyone’s normal language, just as Latin nowadays isn’t used very often except in Church contexts, and as I say, Classical Sanskrit hadn’t even been invented yet.
Now, Classical Sanskrit is a beautiful, eloquent, expressive language, but things written in Sanskrit tended to be purposefully eloquent. Then you add those Victorian hippies, with their desire for Oriental things to be mysterious and odd, translating the Sanskrit, and you get things that frankly sound like they were composed by total goons. On bhang.